Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another Year Wasted

As 2012 closes, we have seen another year go by and another 365 days wasted by Washington politicians as the official line about Cuba has remained the same... idiotic.

Cuba remains inexplicably on our list of terrorist nations.  We still fund programs aimed at subverting its government.  And the U.S. remains virtually isolated internationally in regards to the embargo, which has not only failed at its objective, but continues to put constraints on Cuba's economy and its people making everyday life more difficult than it need be.  And let's not forget that the deadly Wet-foot/Dry-foot policy remains in effect despite all of the talk of immigration that has gone on.

Let's hope that the new year brings new ideas and attitudes and we begin to see actual changes in not only rhetoric but policies.  As we all know, time has come for Washington to get over its Cuba complex and find the strength to do the right thing. END THE EMBARGO AND RESPECT CUBA.

Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Obama Inspired Me

  A lot of people were inspired by candidate and then President Obama.  I was one of them.  After watching him gain momentum in the primaries in 2008, thanks to his position on the war in Iraq, and then defeating Hillary Clinton and Senator McCain, I watched him squander the most political capital that a person could hope for.

   I watched again and again, issue after issue, the president not only cede negotiating positions to the Republican party,  but never even had starting points in negotiations that his supporters imagined he would.  The key word here is "imagined".

   I had never imagined that we were on the brink of a true universal health care system.  I just thought he might at least bring it up.  I never imagined that he would truly bring U.S.troops home from Iraq.  I just didn't think he would actually try to extend the deadline that Bush had set.  The one thing that I did expect him to do he did.  He did allow unlimited travel to Cuba by people with relatives there.  But unfortunately, he has maintained all of the programs that we spend millions of dollars on to undermine the Cuban government.  I think it would be easier than most people think to go a lot farther and establish relations with Cuba since the times of Kennedy.  There would be no personal political risk, which of course is the main calculation in the minds of politicians like him.

   But what we are witnessing this week should turn the stomachs of decent people.  The absolutely unbalanced military pounding being applied to the Palestinian people in Gaza.  Hamas apparently has a military wing because its chief was assassinated by an Israeli air strike earlier this week, but I've not seen any images of an actual Palestinian military.  Rockets and some machine guns can hardly be called a military in today's world and anyone who tries to claim that the fight is balanced is simply lying.

   Watching Obama's administration answer the questions of violence by Israel by stating that they stand by Israel's right to defend themselves, as if  the violent occupiers have been sucker punched and become victims by the people they seem to be determined to occupy.  It's disgusting and disgraceful.  It's also why Israel acts as disconnected to reality as the Obama administration when the United Nations votes to condemn the embargo of Cuba... another embarrassing stance that Obama decides to stick with.

   Obama inspired me and these are events that reinforce my certainty.  He inspired me to finally un-register from the Democrat party, which I had already believed for some time had not been a good fit for me.  He also inspired me to vote for the Green party candidate for president on November 6 of this year.

   He has done so much as president to have left me quite inspired.  Hopefully others will be inspired too.  For that I say to President Obama, "Great job."   

Monday, September 10, 2012

When Our Shit Stinks

(Forgive me in advance for the profanity)

   Our shit stinks.  The U.S. government, not the Constitution, but the people who have the responsibility of governing are embarrassingly hypocritical.  They all profess their love and belief in democracy.  They all invoke democracy and open government every chance they get.  They all use it as an issue to judge other countries.  And almost everyone is obviously full of shit.

   A great example of the utter disregard for the idea of democracy is what happened at the Democrat's convention.  When delegates were voting on and amendment for the party platform,  the event went past the boundaries of absurdity.  What the amendment itself contained isn't the issue here.  What is the issue was how the vote actually happened.  A voice vote of yeas and nays was held and a two thirds majority was needed for passage of the amendment.  When the vote was made, apparently the desired result wasn't clearly the winner.  So the vote was held again.  For a second time, their was no clear two thirds winner.  Incredibly, the vote was done for a third time.  Both the yeas and nays grew louder with each vote, but not even on the third vote was there a clear majority.  I suppose that the mayor of Los Angeles decided that continuing to vote would just increase the embarrassment of the situation, so he declared the yeas the winner, just as the teleprompter prompted him to, and the amendment was adopted.  What a slap in the face for democracy!  Their shit stinks.

   Why is it that we have another party which through state legislatures attempt to make it more difficult for people to vote?  How can these people keep a straight face when they talk of the importance and strength of democracy, yet actually pass laws which are based on a disdain for voter participation?  These "gentleman" are hypocrites.  They don't give a damn about democratic process.  They are interested in manipulating the election system in ways that help their own party.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Their shit stinks.

   Both parties file law suits in state courts against some candidates from other parties trying to prevent them from earning a spot on the ballots.  Whether or not the legal arguments have merritt, the two ruling parties have deep enough pockets to drag the court process on long enough to make it financially impossible to continue for the other candidates to continue.  The two parties do what they can to restrict the context of whatever democracy we might have.  Their shit stinks.

   In the election of 2000, Ralph Nader was called a spoiler as the Democrats tried to rationalize Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush.  Well, many people who preferred Nader's ideas, voted for Gore because the idea of voting for a better candidate from a third party seemed like an impossible choice since everyone knows that there are only two parties that can win a presidential election.  The way I see it, the spoiler for the American people was Al Gore and the Democrat party.  Had they stepped out of the way, maybe Ralph Nader could have become our president.  And why not?  Is the Green Party not allowed to beat the Republican Party?  While Al Gore was busy trying to appear like an "alpha-male" for the news media, the party itself was making sure that Ralph Nader wouldn't be able to embarrass the "legitimate" participants in the debates.  So Ralph Nader was kept outside of the debates, marginalized by the "free press" as somewhat of a joke, and we ended up having the Supreme an interesting thing about our "independent" judiciary in that Bush vs. Gore decision is the fact that all of the judges who supported state's rights actually voted against the state court's decision and those judges supposedly in favor of more federal power over the states voted in support of the state's decision.  Even our Supreme Court's shit stinks.

   So everyone make sure you're registered to vote.  It's an important election.  Most people will go and exercise their one moment of democracy and cast their ballot for the lesser of two evils once again.  We'll try and protect the little we have and hope for the best.  Probably President Obama will win reelection and Mitt Romney will fade away soon after.  Maybe one day we will get a chance to vote for a candidate who is able to rise to a level above our shitty political games and our potential will not continue to be squandered.  Good luck.  (And remember to flush...our shit stinks too.)


Saturday, August 4, 2012

After I landed in Havana

   After my (in)direct flight from Tampa to Havana, the clock started ticking.  I only had a week before I had to return.  My wife was waiting for me and my grandfather at the airport.  I was extremely happy to see her since she and my two kids had gone three weeks earlier.  Everything in the airport went smoothly.  I hadn't exceeded the pounds permitted in my baggage, so there were no charges.  But since my last time in Cuba, I noticed that the airport had been redone quite nicely.  When I got to my mother-in-law's house in Regla, my kids spotted me and wouldn't let go!  I'm glad they hadn't forgotten me especially since every time I tried to talk to them over the phone while we were apart they seemed much more interested in getting back to whatever they were doing and didn't have much to say!  They were having to much fun.

   From that point on, things were rushed.  My grandfather came along for two reasons.  He's 90 years old and in pretty damn good shape.  His brother is 96 years old and isn't so he wanted to get to see him since he had the opportunity.  The other reason is that his grandmother had built a chapel back in the 1880's in Pinar del Rio and he wanted to go there while he is still able.  He hasn't been to the chapel in over 60 years and nothing was going to stop him from going there now.  He had contacted the priest prior to the trip so he knew my grandfather was coming.  Oh yeah, the priest turned out to be a relative.  Now I'm not religious at all, not even a bit (I'm pretty sure the term is atheist). I understand that religion is important to some people so for my grandfather, going to the chapel was fantastic. 

   The plan was originally to leave the first morning, Sunday, and drive straight to San Juan y Martinez in Pinar del Rio and go to the chapel.  But the priest wanted us to give him two days to clear the path to the chapel first, which was overgrown with marabu.  So instead we went to Las Terrazas, where the late musician Polo Montanez lived.  We stayed the night there and headed off to Vinales the next morning.  We stayed the night there and caught some of the baseball game between the U.S. team and Cuba.  Basically my kids wanted to be in the pool in both places and we didn't get to see much, but what we did see was beautiful.

   The third morning we finally headed to San Juan y Martinez.  We met the preist there at the church in that city.  He's the person who had the keys to the chapel and had the path cleaned up to make the trip possible.  The scratches on his arms from the marabu showed us that plenty of work had been done.  We followed him to a house where we waited for him to get a truck and a chorus to sing during a mass he was to give for my grandfather.  We hopped in the truck and made our way 12 kilometers up a hill that would have been impossible to scale with a regular car.  And when we got to the top, my grandfather was finally able to see the chapel that he hasn't visited in over 60 years.  As he said, "mission accomplished"!

   The preist gave a mass and the chorus sang.  After that, he asked my grandfather to say a few words which was pretty difficult since he was pretty chocked up and emotional.  Like I said before, I'm not at all religious, but it was truly a beautiful moment seeing the happiness of my grandfather.  There is a plaque on the wall dedicated to his grandmother who died in 1925 when he was only three years old.  Things got cut a bit short because a storm was coming and we had to make it back down the hill and the chorus had their instruments with them and wouldn't want them to get destroyed in the rain.

   We made it back to the church in San Juan y Martinez, dropped the preist off, got some gas, and then we were off to la Ciudad Pinar del Rio.  We ate lunch at the top of the tallest building in the city.  (Our taxi driver most certainly made his commission for bringing us there which was fine by us since that was his only chance during the trip to bring us to a place that didn't bring us a menu with prices!)  Then we were off to La Habana.

Cuba "Experts" at the Hilton Miami Downtown

This is a response to the meeting of Cuba "experts" at the Hilton Miami Downtown.

Of course Cuba is facing a difficult economic situation. Twenty years ago, the collapse of its trading partners, a loss of about 90% of its trade, was devastating. Everyone on the planet is aware of this. Contrary to its biggest adversaries' predictions, it survived. Part of the survival mode included a tightening of society which supplied adversaries ammunition in their attempts to discredit the revolution. Despite the island's adversaries public confidence in Cuba's demise, their uncertainty lead them to push through the Torricelli Act and subsequently the Helms-Burton act in order to stack the deck against Cuba's survival. They failed.

Fast forward 20 years and the Cuban revolution continues. In the mean time, the ties with Latin America have strengthened as population after population has elected governments which are rejecting the idea of being the backyard of the United States. All over Latin America, people and leaders never miss an opportunity to praise Cuba for its steadfast determination not to return to its neo-colonial status. No longer do the nations of the world make up excuses to support the embargo that the US chooses to maintain against Cuba, so much so that the policy itself has become one of the main points of contention in the hemisphere which could end up being the end of regional organizations and alternative organizations have already been created without the participation of the United States. The isolation of Cuba is actually becoming the isolation of the United States. (To be clear, I'm not saying that countries are going to embargo the US, but that they are much less concerned with the hypocritical positions that it takes. The diplomatic influence is at an all time low and is likely to remain that way.)

The reason these "experts" must compare Cuba with China or Vietnam is that they have a need to analyze Cuba simplistically. They aren't involved in the process, they haven't much influence over it, and they have a dogmatic opposition to Cuba's political establishment. Many of the "revelations" of these "experts" have already been spoken about in Cuba and they are merely regurgitating them. They seem unable to imagine other possibilities for Cuba's future. Why must it be only this or that?

The need for Cuba to adjust itself to today's realities is a given. Why wouldn't Cuba maintain a high level of control over its major industries? Why would it need to micro manage the tiniest parts of its economy? Why wouldn't Cuba determine the rules for foreign investments and partnerships in the country? Cuba's transition from its former model to whatever it becomes doesn't have to be prescribed from outside. Should Cuba hasten its transition? Some may believe so. But I believe that the caution that Cuba is proceeding with is partially due to its knowledge as a witness to the terrible disaster that occurred in the former Soviet Republics thanks to a shock therapy.

Oscar Espinosa Chepe is correct when he says that the situation is "delicate and difficult". He cites the lack of materials as a problem. Isn't the extra-territorial nature of US laws a large factor in obtaining many materials? Of course it is, but that's the point of the laws, make it difficult for Cuba.

Joaquin Pujol says that many of the self-employed were not working in state jobs, were possibly students, or were already self-employed but illegally. Quite possible. But he fails to take in to account the people who are not self-employed but are employed now in the private sector. Who are they? If they had been unemployed before, they now aren't. If the had state jobs before, they are probably earning more now than before. And if they were students, well they have now joined the workforce. What's his point other than to downplay the positive aspects of the reforms?

As for Vegard Bye, he simply thinks in the China or Vietnam scenario showing his lack of depth for Cuba analysis.

If this article is meant to be about the economic model, it is strange how it ends up talking about the political one. The idea that solid economic situations are directly due to "liberal democracies" seems to be oblivious to the crisis in Europe and the United States, both considered meccas of liberal democracies, both suffering from near economic implosions within the capitalist system, and both suffering from discontent among workers that dwarfs the examples of discontent that we are supposed to imagine are on the verge of a "Cuban Spring" on the island.

This is in response to the following article:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Direct Flight. Tampa-->La Habana

   A little over a week ago I finally got the chance to take advantage of the new direct flights from Tampa to Havana.  At the airport, everything went smoothly and the fact that I didn't have to drive for four hours to Miami before travelling to Cuba made things much more enjoyable. 

   We left pretty much on time and the flight was just barely over an hour.  Just as we were approaching the island, I could see through the window a tremendous cloud which looked sort of like a giant wall.  It was something that would have made a good picture.  It was beautiful.  As we were about to fly in to the cloud the plane turned to the right and started circling.  The pilot announced that there was a storm over the airport in Havana so we had to circle for a little while before we would be cleared to land.

    After about thirty minutes, the next announcement by the pilot was that we were being directed to Miami to land and wait for the storm to pass before being able to land in Cuba.  The ultimate irony.  My first direct flight from Tampa to Havana and I still had to stop in Miami!

  As time permits, I'll describe more of my trip, which was fantastic but a bit on the short side.  One week isn't long enough.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Imperialism, "That's Just Tough."

   The United States.  This is the country that the word democracy is probably spoken more often than in any other place on earth.  It is used as an idea to make us feel as if we the people can determine the course of our destiny.  It is used as an excuse for poor relations with some other countries.  But it is also something that is not respected in the least bit. 

   The government in Washington pretends to promote democracy around the world and even defend it.  Reality is much different.  Washington has interfered with governments around the world overthrowing elected leaders and maintaining governments willing to overlook the wishes of their own peoples to serve the economic interests of the U.S.  It's not a conspiracy theory, it is fact.  There are countless examples to support this assertion.

   Let's go to the words of Duane Clarridge, a former CIA agent, who explains clearly the special right to intervene which the United States feels that it has.  Here is a back and forth between he and another man about U.S. involvement in the overthrow of Salvador Allende and the support for Pinochet:

John Pilger: "It is a time in which almost everybody, in the present situation, regards as a dark time, in which the CIA played a major role."

Duane Clarridge: "That's right.  They played a major role in overthrowing what's his name."

JP: "Uhh, what's his name was Salvador Allende."

DC: "Yeah fine.  OK"

JP: "He was democratically elected."

DC: "Right, OK."

JP: "Is that OK?  To overthrow a democratically elected government?"

DC: "It depends on what your national security interests are."

JP: "Are you denying that Pinochet caused huge suffering in that country?"

DC: "Huge I don't buy.  That he committed crimes, I agree."

JP: "But it's worth it?  Is that what you're saying?  That his crimes are worth it?"

DC: "Yeah. Sometimes, unfortunately, things have to be changed in a rather ugly way."

   Now at this point, isn't it obvious that Washington puts democracy well below its real interests?  The overthrow of Allende isn't a strange case.  It is just one of many examples.  Back to the exchange...

On El Salvador, here's Duane Clarridge:

JP: "According to the truth commission..."

DC: "Oh come on John.  If this is where you're going, you're wasting my time.  That's all bullshit.  Those people all had agendas. "

JP: "So it's bullshit that the Salvadoran military were murdering tens of thousands of people?"

DC: "I bet you can't count more than two hundred in the whole 10-12 years."

   I bet that either he imagines a much different history than the people of El Salvador.  Maybe he does so to sleep better at night.  But given his attitude towards other countries, he probably doesn't lose sleep due to anything that the U.S. has done.

JP: "What right have you, when I mean you I mean the CIA, the United States government, or any foreign power,  what right do you have to do what you do in other countries?"

DC: "National security interests."

JP: "But that's a divine right, isn't it?  Because the people you do it to have no say in it."

DC: "Well, that's just tough.  We're going to protect ourselves and we're going to go on protecting ourselves cause we end up protecting all of you.  Let's not forget that."

   Yeah, let's not forget that little myth that helps us justify in our minds our disrespect for others and the atrocities we support.  Because without that myth, we'd have to wonder why on earth the United States even bothers talking about the need for democracy or the use of it as a pretext for continuous interventions in other nations

DC: "We'll intervene whenever we feel it's in our national security interest to intervene.  And if you don't like it, love it.  Get used to it world.  We're not going to put up with nonsense.  If our interests are threatened, we're going to do it."

   Over the past couple of decades the examples have continued.  Haiti (twice), Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador, and Paraguay(probably, but it is still early since the ouster of Lugo) have all suffered coups and coup attempts.  Cuba has been the victim of attempts of subversion for a half of a century.  Other nations such as Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Brazil have all been pressured by Washington and had to deal with attempts by the media to influence their elections.  Beyond this hemisphere there are many more.

   Another thing about national security interests, are these the interests of the American people, or are they the interests of those who have the attention of the government so much so that ordinary people's interests aren't even considered?  My suspicion is that given the total contempt for democracy, policy makers couldn't care less about acting in the interests of the American people.  They act completely undemocratically with so much disdain for those who try to participate in democracy in other countries that that disdain carries over in to our own country.

Our politicians don't speak like Duane Clarridge, if they did I'm sure that most people would be quick to find other politicians to replace them.  But Mr. Clarridge isn't running for any office so he doesn't worry too much about his words sounding appallingly arrogant.  This is an imperialist attitude.  These are imperialist actions.  For those who desire a better world, these are very frustrating.  Most American people do believe in democracy and wouldn't want to be preventing others from having their own.  Our leaders appear before cameras and speak in ways that try to convince us of all sorts of odd threats that most often times are baseless and even false.  They have to lie to us, with smiles on their faces, to keep employing subversive tactics around the world.  If they were to tell us things like Duane Clarridge does, they would find out that their smiles wouldn't be enough to persuade us that they are supporters of democracy.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mr. President, Thanks for the Response

I called the White House a while back to let the administration know my opposition to the move in Congress to bring back the Bush era restrictions on travel.  The operator kindly took my comment and information.  Last week I got an email letter from President Obama.  This is what it said:

Dear Jimmy C: (Note: It didn't say Jimmy C. This is the only change I've made to the letter.)

Thank you for sharing your perspective on American foreign policy towards Cuba. I appreciate hearing from you.
The promotion of democracy and human rights in Cuba is in our national interest and is a key component of our Nation's foreign policy. Measures that decrease dependency of the Cuban people on the Castro regime and promote contacts between Cuban Americans and their relatives in Cuba are means to encourage positive change in Cuba.
My Administration has taken steps to reach out to the Cuban people. Cuban Americans should be able to visit and assist loved ones in Cuba, and that is why I have eased restrictions on family visits and remittances. Cuban-American visitors are our country's best ambassadors for promoting freedom in Cuba.
To increase interaction and the flow of information directly to the Cuban people, I have authorized opening telecommunications links between Cuba and the United States and allowing for the export of donated personal communications devices. We have also helped the Cuban people by expanding the list of humanitarian items that Americans can send to Cuba, as well as expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donors and donees.
I believe these initiatives benefit our Nation and help support the Cuban people's desire to determine freely their country's future. For more information on this and other important policy issues, I encourage you to visit
Again, thank you for writing.


Barack Obama

Well, I appreciate that the president took time out of his busy schedule of campaigning and running the country, but there are a few points that don't sit well with me.

During my phone call, I didn't express anything about the overall policy towards Cuba.  My comments were strictly about the efforts of a certain congressman trying to restrict travel to the island.  But since he decided to bring it up, let's talk about our policy towards Cuba. 

By stating that the United States has a policy of promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba, I have to ask, is it the United States' policy to only accept as democracy political systems that we like?  Cuba has elections and although their system differs from ours, what exactly makes it unacceptable?  Is it unacceptable that candidates in the Cuban process don't have to raise incredible amounts of money to have a chance to win an election?  Is that to be considered a violation of free speech since our Supreme Court says so?  My goodness, do you not know how many Americans feel so hopeless about our own electoral system?  It's really hard for me to believe that your biggest donors don't drown out my voice on important issues. 

Speaking of free speech, which I would imagine could fall in the human rights category, have you any idea how much Cubans complain about things?  A visit to the island would certainly help you rethink your view that speech is limited on the island.  

Contacts between Cubans in both countries are very important and there is no doubt that the decisions you made regarding unlimited travel and remittances have been very positive.  But why not let all Americans travel without having to obtain a license to do so?  Wouldn't it also be positive for Americans to meet Cuban people and vice versa?  What makes Cuba so different that Americans can't just go there if they wish to?  It really is ironic when so much is made about the difficult process that Cubans need to go through to travel abroad. 

If you, Mr. President, feel that you promote policies that decrease the Cuban people's dependence on their government, and since that desire is shared by the Cuban government itself as we can see by the changes occurring in Cuba now,  wouldn't increased travel by Americans help foster your goals?  Wouldn't travelers help by spending their money in the new entrepreneurs' restaurants, lodging, and various other services that they've created?  Of course it would.  But I understand the politics of the issue and the forces that you are up against.  Trust me, if you were to make groundbreaking steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba, those forces holding our politicians hostage to their hateful desires would shrivel up and disappear to the point that no one would have to worry about them anymore.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by saying that your administration has taken steps to reach out to the Cuban people.  You've got me confused there.  Believe it or not, the majority of the Cuban people are not too happy about your administration's decision to continue to back the embargo of their nation.  There are plenty of problems in Cuba that are not the making of our country, but the largest impediment to the full development of their nation is the embargo and Helms-Burton.  I'm sure that you already know this.  You've even spoken of the ineffectiveness of our policies...before you became candidate and President Obama.  I'm not asking you to tell me any national security secrets, but I'm willing to guess that Cuba isn't really a threat to our national security, is it?

Once again, thanks for increasing the scope of what can be sent to Cuba.  But how come, if your interested in expanding communication and equipment to the people of Cuba, Ericsson was fined for repairing such equipment and sending it to Cuba?  It seems that obstacles remain in place under your administration.

Yes, the Cuban people should determine their future just as everyone should, but they should be able to do so without constantly living with a nation like ours trying to determine it for them.  So, with that, I'll end this by saying that it is hard to know that here we are faced with choosing a president who is no doubt friendlier to the situation of families, but is still unwilling to take honest steps towards positive relations with Cuba, which is just as legitimate a nation as ours.


Jimmy C

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cardinal Ortega...Hard to Digest in Miami

   It burns people to admit that there are independent thinkers in Cuba who receive attention besides the chosen ones who rely heavily on support from US government programs and groups in Miami. What people try to do is paint anyone with any ideological similarities or dialogue with the Cuban government as pawns of the government. There are many people inside and out of Cuba who don't support the ideas and policies of Washington and Miami who don't have any stake in anything on the island and show solidarity with Cuba and its people. And there are others who hate the fact that family members on the island are forced to live under the embargo. {Me for example ;) }

   It's not so. Sure their are people who scream loudly in support of the status quo on the island who do so out of convenience...self-interest is powerful and a universal phenomenon. But are we supposed to pretend that there aren't many people who despite the problems that people face on the island support their government? That's utterly dishonest. Even someone not ideologically 100% in line with every decision taken by the Cuban government can be nationalist and feel that they'd support the imperfect situation as opposed to looking for outsiders to determine their country's affairs. Nationalism...also a powerful and universal phenomenon.

   I'm not a big defender of the Church or any other religious institution, but it's obvious the slanderous accusations that Cardinal Ortega has endured, and will continue to, simply for not walking the line that the people in Miami require to be considered an independent thinker. Ironically, in this country (US) in which there are so many opinions expressed (even if they are ignored by our representatives), the most intolerant group of people are possibly the people who hold prominent positions in Miami, a place that has killed off and violently attacked more people in a shorter amount of time for simply not being hard-lined against revolutionary Cuba than almost any other group. Why these people are even pandered to by our Calle 8 coffee sipping politicians and candidates defies logic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jose Azel...Picapleitos

Jose Azel, trying to explain why the U.S. embargo is justified, resorts to the argument about the expropriations of property by the Cuban government after the revolution. His libertarian theories about private property are fine if this were an honest ideological debate.  But there is no honest debate by the right wing anti Cuba folks.  They skip explanations of history as they criticize every action and decision made by the Cuban government.  They either don't care about the reasons for the Cuban revolution and conveniently ignore them, or they are just ignorants posing as intellectuals propagating on behalf of the ex-plunderers of the Cuban people who never had many rights protected by anyone until Batista was removed and their sovereignty was finally achieved. 

And speaking of property rights, here's a question: Of the expropriated land that you are so concerned about, how much of it was ill gotten, prior to the revolution, by picapleitos? I never hear about that. The people who scream about expropriations by the revolution do so as if time began on January 1, 1959. To them, discussing the absolutely corrupt situation that existed before that date is out of bounds.

How many Cubans who had their land virtually robbed through twisted legalities in a neo-colonial Cuba have ever been included in the discussion about expropriation and why so many of them are easily justifiable in a nation trying to undue a few centuries of wrongs? Never. So cry us a river and try to use your pseudo intellectual abilities to defend a horrific, uncosncionable embargo.

Thomas Paine, two centuries before the Cuban revolution's expropriations, and a century before Karl Marx, wrote about agrarian reforms that he felt were necessary in the newly founded United States to correct the injustices of land acquired prior to its independence.  Trying to fix century old injustices is never perfect, but hooray for those who have the courage to try and do the right thing.

Read more here:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Truth in Advertising

This is my response to Ray Walser's opinion about what the U.S. should be doing about Cuba.:

"Time for truth in advertising" Definitely. I particularly liked the dig at "left leaning think tanks, maybe in reference to the one that just visited the island and has very different ideas than you, the right leaning opinion piece writer. Truth in advertising means we would need the drowning out of the numerous lies about and misleading labels that are put on the island. A good place to start would be removing Cuba from the list of terrorist countries. Even the advertisers can't really explain truthfully why Cuba is on that list.

We may also have to look at the effects that the embargo has had (and still does) on the economic and political situation in Cuba. We can't pretend that all of Cuba's woes are their own fault. Speaking truthfully, even the Cuban government doesn't blame everything on the embargo. They recognize their mistakes and seem to be adamant about changing them. Truthfully, we can't say as much about our government.

Bush's policy was solidarity with Cuba? Really? Ask anyone in Cuba, who didn't prosper from the wasteful government handouts that are part of the Cuba policy, if they felt like Bush was showing any type of solidarity. (You may need to take a trip to the island like the CATO institute to actually talk to regular Cubans though to find out, but truthfully, that would probably go against your excellent standard of ethics .)

Funny thing about the comment about being barred from travelling, especially coming from an individual who pretends to have such fairness in mind, you couldn't make a trip to the island without permission from Washington. You seem so worried about allowing people to travel, one would imagine that you would have been totally truthful about that.

Speaking as if you don't believe that economic reforms are actually taking place, you sound like someone who yourself has no access to the news or internet. If you do have access to the internet, you can look up Freedom House's report on the economic changes and what Cubans think of them. Go ahead, there is a marvelous thing called Google that can help you find the report by the Washington funded group Freedom House. You might be surprised.

And Obama's position up until now has been pretty much the same as Bush's, except for a little solidarity with the people in this country who didn't appreciate not being able to visit their families whenever they wished or needed. He still speaks shackled by the same lack of political courage as most all of his predecessors.

There are plenty of people waiting for "truth in advertising", but unfortunately we are in the midst of an election year, when truth is one of the most elusive things of all.

Read more here:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Montaner Specializes in Nothing

   Carlos Montaner never fails to offer readers a confused perspective of relations in Latin America and of course Cuba.  Since his main target of his ill will is Cuba, it's only natural that Venezuela is also an object of his hate.  Venezuela's relationship with Cuba has been beneficial for both countries.  Since Cuba was facing the world almost entirely on its own after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the helping  hand extended by Venezuela was something which all Cubans on the island have appreciated greatly.  Every single Cuban knows that life would be a lot more difficult without a partner like Venezuela and since the election of Hugo Chavez, more and more countries in Latin America have increased their ties with the island nation.  Even the United States' closest friends in the region are firmly opposed to the policies that Washington stubbornly maintains in attempts to eliminate the Cuban government and replace it with one of its own choosing.

   How absolutely irrelevant is Mr. Montaner's point that a majority of Venezuelans don't want a political model based on Cuba's.  Venezuela isn't Cuba, so why would they?  Besides that, Cuba's system is itself going through changes and nobody can honestly say what it will ultimately look like.  He makes his presumptions, and despite those, he's can't seem to wrap his dishonest mind around the fact that Hugo Chavez remains very popular in Venezuela.  Just a few months ago he was basically predicting that Chavez' opponent in the upcoming election would be  Maria Corina Machado.  How wrong he was! 

    Now he goes out on a limb by stating that the opposition is controlled by the Cubans.  Anyone who pays any attention at all understands that the opposition in Venezuela is closely aligned with Washington's interests and at times is even funded in part through "democracy organizations" in the United States.  Trying to figure out where Carlos Montaner comes up with his nonsense is a delightful exercise!  It comes from his inability to accept how things really are and his hatred for the Cuban revolution.  His wish is for a quick end to anyone and anthing that is helpful to Cuba and by extension, the Cuban people.  So he continues to wish.

   He wishes that if when Chavez is no longer the Venezuelan head of state , even if the next person is pro-Chavez, that they will just stop being so friendly with Cuba.  In all of my visits to Cuba, everyone who has mentioned the Cuba-Venezuela relationship has expressed their deep gratitude towards Hugo Chavez.  If Carlos Montaner really has the best interest of the Cuban people in his heart, he wouldn't overlook their sentiments on the issue.  But alas, he doesn't care one bit about what the Cuban people on the island think.  He just pretends to speak for them.  He is out of touch.  Delusional may even be a better description for Mr. Montaner as he suggested that Salvador Allende and Manuel Noriega were "evicted".  One was simply taken away by the U.S. military after an invasion and the other was overthrown by a U.S. backed coup.  The way in which he said it is to make the reader imagine that the people were fed up and threw out their leaders.

   Cuba is very dependent on the oil it receives from Venezuela.  Nobody denies this.  But unless Hugo Chavez' health takes a turn for the worse, he will probably be around long enough to see who will be the president of the United States in 2017, Raul Castro's retirement, and a Cuba which is much more energy independent if the companies drilling off the Cuban coasts are correct in their assessments.  That will surely cause this man, Carlos Montaner, to renew his efforts at fictional writings with even more vigor than ever.  But things could become even more troubling for Mr. Montaner if the U.S. finally finds a way to reverse course as it latches on to an actual event enough to change its rhetoric and course as far as Cuba policy goes. 

   Carlos Montaner finished his most recent piece by saying "Cuba specializes in losing."  After 50+ years of not being able to do away with the Cuban revolution, Mr. Montaner, what do you specialize in?  Nothing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jaime Suchlicki Reaches, Stretches, and Invents

   Faced with the dilemma of not being able to ignore that actual changes are
happening in Cuba, the pro-embargo, right-wing extremists are having to
come up with ways to twist the realities into fairy tales to try and justify their
 refusal to understand that they are the ones clinging to ideologies that are
incorrect and outdated, not the Cubans on the island.  Jaime Suchlicki is
claiming that the possible coming change to some obstacles Cubans face to
 travel might actually be a plan for a new Mariel type situation. 

   These people are basically allowing their confused thoughts to be read by

   Now faced with the dilemma of watching their talking points against Cuba
disappear before them, they resort to implying that the Cuban government has
sinister intentions behind positive steps.

   They suggest that economic reforms, which have capitalist market oriented
characteristics, are a clever plan devised to squeeze more out of the people
through taxes and fees. Now, the likely changes in travel restrictions/ hurdles
is a plan to create a mass migration out of the country.

   Suchlicki thinks that if Cubans are allowed to travel more easily to the US,
then the US will be forced to deny visas. Wake up Suchlicki. The US already
denies countless visas, which in turn causes some to feel as if they should test
their luck and find another route and just claim asylum.

   The problem the US will face is not a propaganda campaign pointing to the fact
that visa applications are denied, but what will be done about the silly law we
have allowing political asylum to any Cuban, whether a pizzeria employee/award
winning actor or a mother who can't obtain a visa simply to see her grandchild
in Miami for a week.

The tangled web is one that we designed ourselves. It's our problem to fix and
taking the advice on how to do it by the ones who've led us in to this mess over
the course of five decades isn't a bright idea.

(Note:  Jaime Suchlicki is Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor and Director,
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.  Distinguished?  Thanks.  Now he is also a funny guy, with an interest in fictional observations.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Dark Corner

   Is it "here we go again"?  Have the monsters who've been silent for about a decade decided that the urge for terrorism was too strong to ignore?  Was this act the first of what may be more until Miami once again has more bombings than the Middle East as it did one year during the 1970's?  Will the guilty be found?  Who will cooperate?  Who won't?  These are important questions that may only be answered in time.

   Given that we are in a war on terror, surely the people who did this must be against us since they obviously aren't with us.  Ask the former President Bush who put it in those terms as he stated that the U.S. would search every dark corner of the globe for terrorists.  There seems to be a dark corner in South Florida that needs to have some light shined upon it.

   We know that there are individuals walking freely down the streets of Miami who have openly said that these types of acts are legitimate.  We know that Luis Posada Carriles sleeps like a baby and has no regrets, even though he has said (although his lawyers now advise him against talking about it anymore) that he has been involved in violent acts of a similar nature.  He is considered one of the masterminds of the most infamous acts of terror in our hemisphere.

   Let's say for a moment that President Obama is true to his word and really favors increased engagement between Cubans and Americans.  Would an attack on a business that helps facilitate his policy be offensive enough to him that he would want law enforcement to get to the bottom of this?  I would think so.  The fire could have been an attempt to intimidate those who are seeking more exchanges with the island.  It could also be an act of desperation on the part of some folks who feel that they have been losing ground in the battle of public opinion as more and more people feel that a change to the wrong-headed policy the U.S. has to change.  Either way, burning down offices is definitely the act of someone who should be brought before the law and dealt with accordingly.  They are dangerous and shouldn't be free to wander among the peaceful public.

   This act cannot be ignored and it seems like it isn't.  The press reported that the FBI and ATF were on the scene including a counter-terrorism agent.  They will have their hands full.  There are plenty of people in Miami who they may want to talk to and look into.  They can even question those who have heralded some of the most violent people as patriots, like the deceased Orlando Bosch.  Even some congress people, both former and present, have relationships with same of those who have advocated violence, like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz Balart brothers.

   This could be a turning point, more powerful then the Elian Gonzalez incident when the American public got to see how incredibly illogical some elements in Miami actually are.  Not only are there people willing to keep a boy away from his father like they were involved in some sort of imagined chess match against Fidel Castro, but there are people willing to blow up and burn down businesses right here in our cities simply because they feel like they can.  Too many years have gone by and too many criminals have been ignored and this is what happens.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Miami Herald Smells Itself

   The Miami Herald's editorial board decided to refer to an invitation for Cuba to attend the next Summit of the Americas as inviting a skunk to the party.  Of course, the stench of a skunk is that which the Herald's editorial board gives off.  It is consistently anti-Cuba in almost every line it writes.  It twists reality into its own desired form of fiction and chooses to ignore the obvious.  What's interesting is the poll it has on the web page asking if Cuba should be invited to the next summit and 55% responded "yes".  People can still think despite the Herald's stench.

   "The failure of presidents attending the Summit of the Americas to issue a final declaration because they could not agree on whether to invite Cuba to the next meeting represents a disappointing breakdown of the consensus..."  An interesting beginning to the opinion piece.  The Herald makes it seem as if the people at the summit just couldn't come up with a unified statement about Cuba's possible future attendance.  But what actually happened is that only the United States and Canada opposed Cuba's attendance.  All others agreed that Cuba should be present, some going as far as saying this would be the last summit of its kind if Cuba were not to be invited to the next. 

   "This failure calls into question the very nature of the OAS. How can a coalition of countries ostensibly devoted to promoting and strengthening democracy invite Cuba to a meeting of like-minded countries?"  What the Herald fails to remember, or cares to include, is that the OAS voted in 2009 to lift Cuba's suspension which began in 1962.  Besides that fact, Cuba has repeatedly explained that it has no interest in re-joining the OAS.  The Cuban government has stated that if invited, it would likely attend the Summit of the Americas.  Is not democracy the expression of will of the majority?  If so, then the U.S. and Canada, by refusing to accept the will of the participants, are showing their disdain for any "democratic" process which is not under their control.  Yes, that is the mark of hypocrites, not supporters of democracy.  But that scent of hypocrisy is masked by the skunkish stench that the Miami Herald exudes.

   Since it is clear that the U.S. policy towards Cuba is one that lack in both credibility and support among the nations of the summit, Washington (and Canada) find themselves more isolated than ever before.  The Herald pointed out correctly that the issue of decriminalization of drugs also became an issue that was difficult for Washington to handle at the summit.  Of course the stench from the Herald permeated the way in which it described the issue.  The Herald claims that the legalization of drugs was what certain participants were pushing.  A different approach to the way the failed War on Drugs is a bit more accurate.  Cuba recently stated that legalizing drugs would be irresponsible and the U.S. State Department also gave Cuba a lot of praise in it annual International Narcotics Strategy Report.  Hey, why not have Washington allow an invitation for needs more allies on this issue!

   "If nothing else, the Cartagena summit gave Washington an agenda for the next such meeting. It’s not scheduled to take place until 2015, but it’s not too early to start planning for it."  The Herald smelled itself for so long that it finished its opinion with this line.  The skunk of a news outlet doesn't realize that others have already began planning.  They may not have another summit if they are ignored and Cuba isn't invited.  Start planning Washington.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ozzie...You're Out! (Not Really)

   Ozzie Guillen got caught in a pickle.  His quotes about Fidel Castro from a Time magazine article got him in trouble.  Of course, he's protected by free speech, but he happens to find himself in Miami.  He failed to parrot the hard line denunciations of Castro, and although he really didn't say he was a supporter of him, he said enough to make some new enemies in South Florida and they want to destroy him.

   Ozzie Guillen won't be destroyed. Probably his new enemies will not be satisfied by anything he said after the comments he made about Castro. But after all, he is a baseball personality and not a politician, so what he does for his team may in the end be more important than his comments (he is known for making outlandish comments anyway).

   The unfortunate thing is that the Marlins have a fear of a increasingly smaller part of the Miami population. It has been shown in surveys that the younger generation and newer arrivals don't have such an extreme position on the issue.  Probably the best example is his own player, Gaby Sanchez, whose father is from Cuba and himself born here.who said "He looked very sincere to me. We just have to move forward and keep going. We've just got to go out there and play baseball and have another good game against the Phillies and win."

   This is baseball! These are baseball people not politicians. The political groups live for these types of situations and although, in Miami, they blurred the lines between baseball and Cuba politics, it still is only baseball. 

   Play ball.  (And end the embargo)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Where To Begin? (Simple)

I'll keep it short and sweet due to a lack of time...

This is my response to Fabiola Santiago's attempt to diminish the Pope's visit to Cuba.

"Where do we begin?" asks Fabiola Santiago. That's a good question. But to answer it, one must be serious in their search for an answer.

A good place to start would be asking if those who were rescued at sea had visas from the U.S. or have they ever applied for visas? And if they had, then the next question is how many were denied visas from the same country that would welcome them after they decided to not go through the normal immigration process and would simply consider them "political refugees" simply to perpetuate the idea of repression.

Another place we can begin is considering to stick with the fact that those who decided to go to Spain after being released from jail sentences in Cuba, did not have to go. They could have stayed in Cuba as did some of the ex-prisoners. Not only did the man who committed suicide choose to go to Spain, but apparently, and unfortunately, he discovered that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

We can begin by not only imagining that the 50+ year old embargo either doesn't exist or is about to force Cuba to change into what Washington and Miami wants it to, but by asking what are the effects of the chosen policy on the lives in Cuba. And what unnecessary hardships do the people face thanks to the far reaching policies of the embargo, the Torriceli Act, and the Helms-Burton Act?

If a person chooses to ask the questions so often avoided yet so obviously vital, then that person may end up like the catholic quoted in this article, questioning her faith. Why? Because those who choose not to acknowledge the situation as it really is, are actually the ones who are still adrift in the turbulent waters of the politics of Cuba, Miami style.

Read more here:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flattery from the State Department

   I don't usually post entire reports or articles, but this is an exception.  It is the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy  Report by the United States Department of State.  I'll follow the report with some comments of my owns.

2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR)
March 7, 2012

A. Introduction
Cuba is located between some of the largest exporters of illegal drugs in the hemisphere and the U.S. market. Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) frequently attempt to avoid Government of Cuba and U.S. Government counter drug patrol vessels and aircraft by skirting Cuba’s territorial waters. Bilateral interdiction efforts and GOC intensive police presence on the ground have limited the opportunities in or around Cuba for regional traffickers.
The goals of Cuba’s counternarcotics enforcement effort are to reduce the available supply of narcotics on the island and to prevent traffickers from establishing a foothold. The Cuban Border Guard (TGF) maintains an active presence along Cuba’s coastal perimeter, primarily to deter illegal emigration, but also to conduct maritime counter-drug operations and coastal patrols. Cuba’s domestic drug production remains negligible as a result of active policing, stiff sentencing for drug offenses, very low consumer disposable income and limited opportunities to produce illegal drugs, either synthetic or organic, in quantity. Cuba’s counternarcotics efforts have prevented illegal narcotics trafficking from having a significant impact on the island.
Cuba is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
In 2011, Cuba continued “Operation Hatchet,” their multi-agency counternarcotics strategy. Led by the Ministry of Interior, “Operation Hatchet” includes the efforts of Cuba’s ministries of Armed Forces, Judicial, Investigations, Public Health, Education and Culture, and the Border Guard. The combination of forces is intended to reduce supply through vigilant coastal observation, detection and interdiction, and reduce demand through education and legislation. The Cuban government’s extensive domestic security apparatus and tough sentencing guidelines have kept Cuba from becoming a major drug consuming country. The Government of Cuba did not publicize new counternarcotics legislation policy initiatives or related budget increases supporting such measures in 2011.
Cuba continues to demonstrate a commitment to fulfilling its responsibilities as a signatory to the 1988 United Nations Convention based on adherence to the Convention’s Articles. Cuba criminalized drug related offenses as outlined in Article Three; including 39 judicial agreements with partner nations regarding judicial proceedings and extradition. Furthermore, in accordance with Article Nine, the Government of Cuba continued to exhibit counternarcotics cooperation with partner nations. The Cuban government reports having 32 counterdrug bilateral agreements and two memoranda of understanding (MOU) for counterdrug cooperation. Cuba regularly participates in international counternarcotics conferences, such as the United Nations’ Heads of National drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), and submits quarterly statistics on drug interdictions and seizures to the United Nation’s International Narcotics Control Board.
The Cuban government is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its Protocol Against Illicit Manufacturing of Trafficking in Firearms and The Barbados Plan of Action of 1996. Cuba is not party to the Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement which opened for signature in 2003. The 1905 extradition treaty between the United States and Cuba and an extradition agreement from 1926 remain in effect. In 2011, these agreements were not employed to hand over fugitives. Instead, bilateral arrangements were made to have the fugitives detained and deported from Cuba and directly placed in the custody of the receiving nation for further prosecution.
2. Supply Reduction
Major transshipment trends did not change from 2010. During calendar year 2011, the GOC reported a total of 9.01 metric tons of illegal narcotics interdicted (including 8.3 MT in wash-up events), a 360% increase from the previous year’s 2.5 (MT). Government anti-drug forces reported disrupting three smuggling events and captured six traffickers (3 from the Bahamas and 3 from Jamaica). Statistics on arrests or prosecutions were not made available.
There were no significant changes in Cuba’s overall counternarcotics strategy or operations in 2011. Domestic production and consumption of illegal drugs remained very limited, and Cuba concentrated its counternarcotics supply reduction efforts by preventing illegal smuggling through Cuban territorial waters, rapidly collecting reported narcotic wash-ups, and preventing tourists from smuggling smaller amounts of narcotics into the country. The Ministry of Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior’s combination of fixed and mobile radars, coupled with visual and coastal vessel reporting procedures make up an effective network for detecting illegal incursions of territorial air and sea by narcotics traffickers. The Cuban government attempts to interdict vessels or aircraft suspected of narcotics trafficking with Cuban assets. At sea, Cuba has had increasing success. Cuba continues to share go-fast vessel information with neighboring countries, including the United States, and has had increasing success in interdicting go-fast vessels. In 2011, Cuba reported 45 real-time reports of “go-fast” narcotics trafficking events to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). TGF’s email and phone notifications of maritime smuggling to the U.S. have increased in quantity and quality, and have occasionally included photographs of the vessels suspected of narcotrafficking while being pursued.
Overseas arrivals continue to bring in small quantities of illegal drugs mostly for personal use, although the extent of this problem remains unknown. The Ministry of Interior conducts thorough entry searches using x-rays and trained counternarcotics detection canines at major airports. Government officials detained 20 tourists, compared to 123 in 2010, for attempting to smuggle small quantities of narcotics into Cuba.
To combat the limited domestic production of marihuana, Cuba set up “Operation Popular Shield” in 2003 to prevent any domestic development of narcotics consumption or distribution of drugs, remained in effect and netted over 9,830 marijuana plants and 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, compared to 9,000 marijuana plants and 26 kilograms of cocaine in 2010.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The combination of extensive policing, low incomes, low supply, and strict drug laws (involving up to 15-year prison sentences) have resulted in very low illicit drug use in Cuba. There are nationwide campaigns aimed at preventing drug abuse, and the quantity of existing programs for the general population appears adequate given the very low estimated numbers of persons addicted to drugs in Cuba. The National Drug Commission, headed by the Minister of Justice, with representatives from the Attorney General’s office and National Sports Institute, remains responsible for drug abuse prevention, rehabilitation and drug policy issues in Cuba.
According to the Cuban government, the Ministry of Health operates special drug clinics, offering services ranging from emergency care to psychological evaluation and counseling to treat individuals with drug dependencies. There are no programs specializing in drug addiction for women and children. The Government runs three substance abuse clinics that cater to foreigners, and the Catholic Church runs a center to treat addiction in Havana.
The Cuban government occasionally broadcasts anti-drug messages on state run media and operates an anonymous 24-hour helpline. In addition, Cuba reports the dangers of drug abuse are a part of the educational curriculum at all levels of primary and secondary schools.
4. Corruption
Cuba has strong policies in place against illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, and laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Cuba reports a zero tolerance for narcotics-related corruption by government officials and claims there have been no such corruption occurrences in 2011.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
Cuba and the United States share a mutual interest in reducing drug flows in the vicinity of the island, and in 2011, Cuba maintained a significant level of cooperation with U.S. counternarcotics efforts. Although the United States does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, there are respective Interests Sections in Havana and Washington, DC. In Havana, the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) has a USCG Drug Interdiction Specialist (DIS) to manage and coordinate counternarcotics efforts with Cuban law enforcement officials. The United States does not provide any narcotics-related funding or assistance to Cuba.
On a case-by-case basis, the USCG shares tactical information related to narcotics trafficking and responds to Cuban narcotics related information on vessels transiting through Cuban territorial seas suspected of smuggling, or tactical information on drugs interdicted within Cuban territory. Cuba also shares real-time tactical information with the Bahamas, Mexico and Jamaica. Bilateral cooperation in 2011 led to multiple at-sea interdictions.
The Cuban government presented the United States with a draft bilateral accord for counternarcotics cooperation, which is still under review. Structured appropriately, such an accord could advance the counternarcotics efforts undertaken by both countries.
D. Conclusion
Cuba continues to dedicate significant resources to preventing illegal drugs and illegal drug use from spreading on the island, so far successfully. The technical skill of Cuba’s Border Guard, Armed Forces and police give Cuba a marked advantage against DTO’s attempting to gain access to the Caribbean’s largest island. Greater communication and cooperation among the U.S., its international partners and Cuba, particularly in the area of real-time tactical information-sharing and improved tactics, techniques and procedures, would likely lead to increased interdictions and disruptions of illegal trafficking.

My thoughts......

   Being a U.S. government report, this certainly is quite flattering towards Cuba.  In our press, as well as in Cuba, much is made about the topic of corruption in Cuba, of course in different ways with different intentions, but it is interesting to take note that there was no corruption in Cuba during 2011 as far as narcotics go. 

   Throughout the report, there is plenty of evidence that Cuba is a country which strives to prevent and combat the scourge of drugs.  It seems to be covering all of its bases with policies to help addicts, punish offenders, and combat trafficking. 

   The most important part of the report is in the conclusion.  "Greater communication among the U.S., its international partners and Cuba, particularly in the area of real-time tactical information-sharing and improved tactics, techniques and procedures, would likely lead to increased interdictions and disruptions of illegal trafficking." 

   I would assume that a new and open relationship between Cuba and the United States would not only be beneficial in fighting against the drug trade, but huge gains could be made by both countries in other fields such as health care.  There are drugs that are inaccessible to many Americans due to the imposition of the embargo.  And there are certain medical equipments that could be obtained in Cuba that are now not able to be obtained.  The embargo is an impediment, not only to Cuba's development and its people, but it deprives Americans of life saving medications. 

   It's time to move beyond the counterproductive, special project for the Miami right wing, policy towards Cuba.  It's time to not only revisit things such as the Cuban Adjustment Act, but the embargo, Helm-Burton, and Torriceli Acts.  It's time for Washington to open up.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Differing Similarities

   Having the Pope visiting Cuba next week will be a positive experience for the Catholics who live there.  Not only will it be an experience for only those who live on the island, but a number of people from the United States will be travelling there to witness the event.  Many of these plans are being arranged or aided by the Catholic Church in Miami and Archbishop Wenski of that city.

   Of course as all things relating to Cuba are politicized, the media and certain personalities have done what they can to politicize the Pope's trip.  The usual extremists in South Florida have expressed their dismay with the event, powerless to do anything about it.  They are also powerless when it comes to convincing many of the Cubans on this side of the straits that they shouldn't want to travel to the island.

   In the weeks leading up to the Pope's visit, all that these individuals and the press have been able to do is attempt to create more bad publicity for the island than they usually do.  The most interesting and absurd event took place the other day when a group of individuals decided to enter a church in Havana and stay there demanding the Pope's attention.

   Perhaps realizing the unlikelihood of having the Pope as an audience, their demands evolved.  They decided on demanding the release of individuals that they and other "dissident" groups like to consider political prisoners.  The weakness of their case is that the individuals who they call "political" prisoners are actually people who have committed violent acts and are not considered "prisoners of conscience" by anyone serious.  If these people committed violence for political aims, most places would consider them terrorists!  But having so few issues to rally behind, these folks decided to make this their cause.

   After refusing to leave the church for some days despite the church officials asking them to, the church asked the authorities to intervene to bring this situation to an end.  Nothing terrible happened to these people, they left the church in a matter of a few minutes and didn't face any sort of prosecution or anything.  Everything went peacefully and the situation was over. 

   Here is where things are interesting.  This event was treated in our press as if there was some sort of outrageous reaction by the church and the police involved.  Like I said, things ended peacefully.

   According to the Miami Herald, "The operation to end the occupation of the Minor Basilica of the Church of Our Lady of Charity in downtown Havana was specifically requested by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, according to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, Orlando Marquez.

A statement released shortly after the dissidents were extracted from the church and published Friday in Granma, the Cuban’s Communist Party’s paper and website, said the 13 repeatedly refused to evacuate despite “unilateral’’ requests from church officials and others.
“For this reason” the cardinal asked government authorities to “invite” the occupants to leave the church, the statement said, adding that the Cardinal was assured the dissidents would be safe once outside the church.

The group, which entered the church Tuesday, was demanding the release of political prisoners, Internet access, free speech and discussion of a road map for building the rule of law in Cuba.
The statement said that the eviction took place at 9 p.m. Thursday and lasted 10 minutes.

“The 13 occupiers were invited to leave the church and offered no resistance. The officers who executed the operation had assured the church that they would not carry weapons, would move the 13 people to a police station and then would take them home. Authorities also gave assurances that they would not be prosecuted,” the statement said."

   This became a major story over the course of a few days.  Let's take a look at another situation and how it was handled in England recently.

  According to the Guardian, "Police and bailiffs moved in to begin clearing the Occupy London encampment in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Activists protesting against the financial and banking elite were told by bailiffs that they had five minutes to pack their tents and leave or they would be obstructing a court order.

Dozens of activists started clearing away tents and belongings, but others began building a barricaded enclosure using wooden pallets and debris.

Hundreds of police officers with riot helmets ready by their sides and dozens of bailiffs in yellow vests waited alongside rubbish lorries and watched the eviction."

   Ok.  If people are engaged in civil disobedience, they are often times expecting this sort of outcome.  But why is it that the show of force by the police in a country that is not Cuba not questioned in the same manner that the police in Cuba are?  Comparing the two situations, we know that the police in Havana treated the people who refused to leave in a manner that appears to be a lot less intimidating that the way the London police chose, but we are supposed to feel that somehow the police in Cuba are oh so repressive and horrible.  Seems like that's the image that our press tries to create for us as we read about Cuba. 

   This is an example of how our press chooses to report on Cuba.  Rarely are things put in to context, as if Cuba existed in a bubble and there would be no way to compare its actions and decisions with those of other countries.  Given the number and size of the protests that have sprung up all over the world during the past year, it seems ridiculous to compare the small number of actions in Cuba by mainly people who are in constant contact with the U.S. Interests Section's officials and news agencies which are historically hostile towards Cuba.  These things lend credibility to the idea that much of the information we receive about Cuba through our press and government officials are designed to misinform us about the situation in Cuba.  This is something more easily done by limiting our ability to travel to the island and see things for ourselves.  Many of the athletes and groups of travellers who have been able to get to the island, come back with a much different perspective than what they had expected.  They get to see Cuba as it is, with its blemishes and imperfections, but also for its positive aspects also.  This must be what those people who so vehemently oppose opening travel and relations fear the most, losing control of the ability to dominate what we know about Cuba.



Read more here:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Needed "Adjustment" to the Cuban Adjustment Act

   Joe Cardona, in the Miami Herald, asks the question "Time to revisit the Cuban Adjustment Act?"  I have an answer for him.

   Go ahead and revisit the Cuban Adjustment Act. While you're at it, eliminate it.

   The reason people like Mr. Cardona and Rep. Rivera want to tinker with it is because the results are embarrassing. People take advantage of it. Why wouldn't they? They can avoid the hassles of going through the normal immigration process; some waits for visas for some countries are over twenty years.  Sure, they fudge a little bit when they say that they are seeking asylum, but that only bothers the anti-Cuba group because what these "refugees" do show the Adjustment Act to be preposterous. Actual people who have sought asylum don't happily travel back to the place of their persecution, as the Cubans here do. It's not a secret that these people weren't fleeing persecution, it's obvious enough. Plus the situation causes others to see the unfairness of the immigration policy that allows this option for Cubans only.

   The "chatter" around the coffee shops in Miami about this issue shows that there exist great divisions within the Cuba community. We have the old guard, who is stuck on Kennedy's decision not to launch a war during the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. On the other hand, we have the growing number of people who came to the U.S. for economic reasons, not political ideology. They are younger, fresher, and have a much more close connection with the island. That is why they support more openness and a large number don't support the hurtful policies of the U.S. They are some of the same people who suffered the effects of the economic strangulation of their homeland which the old guard supported wholeheartedly, and still does. So naturally, they are less concerned with what image is projected by the Cuban Adjustment Act, they simply used it to their advantage.

   The pro-embargo, pro-isolationist, pro-living in the past, pro-provocation crowd now wants to remedy the situation. Why? How? Not by recognizing that the people claiming political asylum are actually coming for economic reasons, but by leaving in place the opportunity for the mirage to continue so they can continue to claim that there continues to be a flow of persecuted people from Cuba. They want to clean up parts of the mess that their propaganda has produced so they want to impose restrictions to travel for those who have taken advantage of the law.  It certainly has become hard for them to claim that these people are real asylum seekers when the supposed refugees return so quickly and so often without the slightest fear of running into a problem.

   The hard liners like to have and tout the statistics showing that there is a steady steam of asylum seekers leaving Cuba.  For this reason they want to leave the Cuban Adjustment Act in place.  They just can't figure out how to explain that these asylum seekers can freely and willingly return to the place of their supposed repression. It's quite a pickle that these hard liners have gotten into! As they evolve their rationale for maintaining the embargo and all of the silly policies and government handouts that go along with the provocative policies against Cuba, such as Radio Marti and the numerous "democracy programs" that they prosper from, they choose to ignore the obvious, that the policy is wrong.
   How weak their position is if all they can come up with is continuing the Adjustment Act but not allowing people to travel back if they want to. Just let the "refugees" test their luck. If they really believed that they would face a problem upon their entrance to the island and choose to go anyway, then that is their choice. But as we can see they don't worry to much about that possibility since they are often eager to return for visits.  And who wouldn't want to visit and help their relatives that they moved away from.

   What these people like Rep. Rivera and Mr. Cardona don't have the strength to admit is that the whole political asylum thing is a myth. The policy should be abandoned.  In doing so we shouldn't retroactively punish those who took advantage of this foolish policy created to create an illusion. We should simply stop pretending that Cubans are any different than the rest of the people trying to relocate to find a better economic situation. We should grant asylum to the people truly seeking it for real reasons, from anywhere, but maintaining this special law just for Cubans is beyond ridiculous.
   As for the Cubans in this country, the quickest way to contribute to a better situation between your new home and your homeland is to register to vote and clear out these disgruntled relics in our government and elect some people who are genuinely concerned with improving relations.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Ruthless Dictatorship"

   The editorial section today in the Miami Herald, once again blessed us with a gem of an opinion.  This time the opinion was offered by one of the writers/ editors at the Miami paper, Fabiola Santiago.  She goes on about the Mass held this past Sunday in Havana by Cardinal Jaime Ortega and how he included prayers for the health of Hugo Chavez and his recovery after removing a cancerous tumor.

   I'm not going to comment on people's religious beliefs.  To each his own.  I really couldn't care less about if or what religion a person decides to follow.  But I will say that the suggestion made by Fabiola Santiago, that "Sometimes, as happened Sunday in Havana, that prayer reaches our ears in Miami and rattles our faith, breaks our hearts." if hearts are broken because of a prayer for someone's health to be bettered is heartbreaking to some in Miami, it is a reminder of the lack of respect for humanity that some in Miami's right wing Cuban community show.  These twisted individuals who feel that giving the key to Hialeah to the air plane bomber, Luis Posada Carriles, is a good thing, somehow feel that praying for the health of Venezuela's president is offensive and heart breaking.

   These right wing, anti-Cuban people are not in the least concerned about the well being of the people of Venezuela.  They really couldn't care less about the leadership of Venezuela or any other country as long as they would lend a hand at isolating the Cuban people.  But since Hugo Chavez decided that solidarity with the Cuban people would be his country's path, he is now an enemy of the powerful anti-Castro elite in South Florida. 

   She finds it cynical that such a mass would take place on the island based on the idea that decades ago "all but prohibited religious worship".  Even if this were the case then, it isn't now and religious worship does take place, so much so that the Pope will be visiting Cuba later this month.  As opposed to opening her mind and accepting the way things are now, she traps herself by the outdated logic prevalent in those that search for ways to rationalize the United States' policy of trying to isolate Cuba.  Countless errors have been made in Cuba since 1959, just as mistakes are made by every government in the world, but there has been nothing more harmful to the Cuban people than the laws supported by the extremist in Miami.  They have been willing to find any mechanism possible to attempt to cause as many hardships for ordinary Cubans over the past five decades, ironically professing their love for those same victims of their policies. 

   "Sometimes a prayer sounds less like a prayer and more like a political move."  This is how Fabiola Santiago describes the prayers offered for Chavez.  Yet she imagines that if the Pope were to decide to visit the so-called dissidents, the ones who have countless connections with the anti-Cuba group in Miami and U.S. government officials, that it wouldn't be a "political move" meant to please the spectators in South Florida.  Political is the description offered by Mrs. Santiago of Cuba's government as a "ruthless dictatorship" who, according to her and others in Miami, causes the suffering of the Cuban people.  She fails to recognize even once the effects that the embargo and all of the corresponding laws have on the "suffering" Cuban people.  Under what she describes as a ruthless dictatorship, the Cuban people go to sleep every night peacefully knowing that not one child on the island goes without a place to call home.  Under the "ruthless dictatorship", health care is a right, not a commodity, which all people have including the actors/dissidents who receive their financial support from groups who are openly enemies of the system which guarantees that right.  Under the "ruthless dictatorship", people can study as long as they'd like, free of charge, because the "ruthless dictatorship" puts an enormous emphasis on education and, like health care, doesn't view education as a commodity.

   Just to be clear, the definition of ruthless is having or showing no pity or compassion for others.  The tens of thousands of Cuban doctors who have gone to the farthest corners of the earth on international missions can be considered functionaries of some sort of the "ruthless dictatorship".  The children who suffered from health problems from the meltdown at Chernobyl and were saved and offered free care by Cuba's medical system may find it interesting that some folks consider the Cuban government ruthless. 

   To me, ruthless is a term better used to describe those who fatten themselves up thanks to the inability to fight the gluttonous urge to indulge on the foods so plentiful in countries not blockaded by more powerful ones, while they point to the fact that such food choices aren't readily available on the island, choosing to conveniently ignore one of the reasons for the situation, their own policies.  Ruthless is a man with half of a chin, who walks freely in Hialeah although he helped mastermind the blowing up of a civilian airliner and says that he sleeps like a baby.  Ruthless are those who are willing to intentionally separate families, by outlawing travel to Cuba. 

   But then again, ruthless is nothing more than a term used by Fabiola Santiago to describe something that she doesn't like.  She can use it however she wants to, but too many people understand the true meaning of the word to find sympathy for the people she speaks for, the extremists in Miami.


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Monday, February 27, 2012

Humanitarian Plea

Rene Gonzalez' lawyer has filed a motion to allow him to travel to Cuba for two weeks to be with his sick brother.  He is currently serving probation after being released from prison where he spent over a decade after his questionable trial in Miami.  There have been many suggestions that he, along with the other five Cubans who were collecting information on violent groups in Miami, could be part of an exchange for the American, Alan Gross, who is currently serving a fifteen year sentence in Cuba for crimes he committed while working as a contractor for U.S. government programs.  But the U.S. has so far been unwilling to entertain the idea of working something out.

Rene has so far complied with the terms of his probation and there is no reason to believe that he is a threat to the United States.  The fact that he is being forced to remain here to complete probation after which he will undoubtedly return to Cuba, makes it seem like a decision based on spite.  But for now, that's besides the point.

The case of Alan Gross.  The U.S. government has not only demanded that Alan Gross be released, but has also stated that he should be released at the very least on humanitarian grounds.  He has two family members who are currently sick and if he were to have to spend the entire fifteen years in prison, there is a good possibility that he would miss the opportunity to be with them ever again.  On a personal level, it's hard to think about the pain that they feel knowing that this possibility exists. 

Now we have an unfortunate situation where Rene's brother is very sick and according to his doctors, is not responding to treatment and his condition continues to worsen.  His prognosis is not good and he has been hospitalized for the past couple of weeks.

Surely there is someone in the court system or administration that is capable of seeing that there are humanitarian grounds for letting Rene Gonzalez travel to be with his brother.  If they are able to see the humanitarian side of the Alan Gross situation, they cannot be blind to the urgent humanitarian response that Mr. Gonzalez should be afforded.  What would be lost by showing goodwill?  Nothing at all.  There is much to be gained. 

Rene Gonzalez can hardly be considered a flight risk.  Sure, it would be easy to stay in Cuba if he were allowed to go.  But keeping in mind that the goal of the Cuban people is to see all five Cubans return, it would be counterproductive to that goal if Rene Gonzalez would decide not to return.  All five have served there time honorably, and Mr. Gonzalez has met every requirement of his probation up to this point.  It can be expected with certainty that he would return as required after the two weeks with his brother.  And there is no doubt that that his family would appreciate the chance to be together during this tough time.

The cases of the Cuban 5 and of Alan Gross are  not at all related.  They were convicted of different crimes, under different circumstances, and in different places and times.  The only thing that those cases have in common is that the governments on both sides would like them to  be returned.  Some people on both sides have conceded that there are humanitarian concerns.  Hopefully the court in Miami sees and agrees with the reasons for allowing Rene Gonzalez the two weeks with his brother.  His plea should be granted and he should be with his brother for at least this small window of time.