Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear President Obama

                                                                                                                   January 30, 2011

Dear President Obama,

As usual, the state of Florida is expected to have another close election. I'm sure that although you "aren't paying attention" to the GOP primary, behind the scenes you must be getting a few good laughs in. It may be obvious to some people that the GOP finds itself trapped by not only appearing to be the party that puts ordinary people second to business interests, but by having to appeal to a part of the population that is the least informed and also the most selfish people in our country. Your party traditionally stood for things that were more progressive. Although that was the tradition of the Democrat Party, recent times have shown that this party too is extremely cozy with some of the same interests as the GOP. The lack of enthusiasm for your presidency can be explained by the hopes that were in many ways dashed by what your administration has done, or not done. I won't trouble you anymore with that kind of political analysis, I'm sure that you have plenty of professionals who can tell you the same types of observations.

What I'm interested in providing you is a perspective on how you may be able to make inroads in my state, Florida. As you are aware, Rep. Castor is not like the representatives that are around in South Florida. She also stands out when compared to your party Chairwoman. She has taken a bold stance supporting a new type of relationship with Cuba. She has been able to do so comfortably because in this area people are able to see through the stale rhetoric that permeates the South Florida air. For many years, the business community in the Tampa Bay area has been interested in forging a relationship with Cuba. If you have been paying attention, you already know that Tampa's City Council sent a friendly letter to Cuba, and was able to do so over the objections of one councilman who unfortunately is tied to the past. Since your administration gave the OK for direct flights from Tampa, there have already been new flights added to the schedule at TIA. There is much enthusiasm for travel to Cuba and the increase in the number of arrivals from the US shows that.

Recently, the Senator from your home state traveled to the island and stated called for more constructive engagement between the two countries. You can choose to ignore that the Cuban government has also expressed its willingness to engage with your administration, but by doing so you are showing a lack of incentive, a lack of desire to take the bold steps that people believed and hope that you are capable of. We can have the issue of Alan Gross remain as a stumbling block, or there can be an honest effort by your administration to find a solution to this problem.

I understand that the thought of driving the hard liners wild and giving them a talking point during a campaign year may be a bit unsettling for a candidate. But I believe with all of my heart that they are a lot louder than they are effective. The winds of change, both here and on the island are making the hard liner position marginalized. There have never been such displays of division within their own districts as when their representatives attempted to limit their abilities to visit their families. It is clear that the hard line position is weakened and now may be a better time than ever to completely marginalize it.

Many of the people that take a tough stance on Cuba, and in my humble opinion an incorrect one, will never support you. They have dismissed your party since the era of President Kennedy and I see pandering to them as futile. Perhaps pandering is too strong of a word, so I would suggest appealing to the people who would prefer a future which differs from the unfortunate past which has been hurtful for too many people on all sides. Changing the indefensible policy towards Cuba will happen. The question is when and who will be the president who shows the courage to take that step.

I feel that you are the one president, the one person who has it in you to take that step. What better time than now, or when the bumbling GOP figures out which candidate will challenge you. Putting them on the defensive on an issue such as this perpetual political football, would show the kind of courage that so many Americans once dreamed that you were capable of showing. Let your opponents spin in circles trying to defend a policy that almost everyone agrees is outdated and has proven to be incapable of achieving its goals. Whether an American is supportive of Cuba's right to determine its own path or just can't figure out why Vietnam is a trading partner and Cuba isn't, it is becoming openly criticized by people of all political stripes as a bad policy.

No longer should it be considered political expedience to treat Cuba as some sort of terrible enemy. In many news outlets, on many occasions, the hypocrisy of the policy is talked about. I understand the twisted politics of this issue and I'm trying to show a way that it can become untwisted. How would it feel to have Republicans in the House and Senate wind up supporting you on this issue during a campaign year? They would either have to change their positions and look like they are more concerned about party politics or just simply admit that the Democrat candidate is correct on at least this issue. How many farmers in "red" states may be very satisfied with open trade with Cuba? I'm sure there are enough to cause a bit of uncertainty for the GOP. How about the oil industry which is usually a Republican leaning constituency? They are aware that our policy is the major obstacle to their participation in oil exploration in Cuban waters. Even environmentalists would be a bit more comfortable knowing that the two countries would be working on plans together in the case of an accident. You could make a campaign stop in Key West, whose representative is so stubbornly irrational on this issue, and upstage her by explaining that it is beneficial to do more than just threaten foreign oil companies, and cooperation in this area would provide more protection for their beautiful islands and livelihood. The Tampa Bay area would be yours. You would like make inroads for the Democrat party within the South Florida Cuban community.

This is not necessarily a plea to your humanitarian side, but a fundamental explanation of how a bold political strategy may help you. But of course, there are many humanitarian reasons to do away with this poilicy. Your campaign can consider this a political tool and have a drasticly positive humanitarian effect as a result.

Please take all of this in to consideration and perhaps you will go down in our history books as one of the better presidents we've had.
Jimmy C
A Tampa resident

Sunday, January 29, 2012

U.S. Hypocricy Needs to Change

   For all of the money and effort spent by the folks in Washington to create an opposition movement in Cuba, and all of the pressure put on the nation of Cuba by the laws enacted by Washington, Cuba continues to advance in peace.  Cuba remains on the U.S. terrorist list, yet no evidence can be found that Cuba has supported terrorism, nor has it been an aggressive nation.  It is acknowledged by military and intelligence officials as not posing any threat to the U.S.  Record numbers of Americans are traveling to the island explaining upon their return that the image of Cuba presented to us in the press doesn't match what they experienced.  Within the community of Cubans living in the United States, there is a growing support for changing the policies that have endured for over a half of a century.  The business community in the U.S. has been openly speaking of the advantages of opening more trade with Cuba.  Many cities in the United States have sent delegations to Cuba expressing good will and hopes that things can change so that relationships can be expanded.

   In spite of all of the positive attitudes that exist, the official line of the United States is to continue to state that Cuba must change its form of government and that Cuba must respect human rights.  It is none of the business of Washington to determine what kind of government Cuba should have.  The complaints about human rights in Cuba is a talking point which has nothing to do with Cuba's reality.  Washington complains of arrests of supposed dissidents while protesters are routinely arrested in the U.S.  This is pure hypocrisy.  The supposed dissidents who are arrested on the island have been shown to be working with the U.S. government which openly considers itself an enemy of Cuba's government.  Is a nation supposed to allow some people to work to undermine it on behalf of an enemy government?  Of course not.  What is truly absurd is that the protesters in the United States who are arrested are never found to be working for a foreign government.  Their dissent is natural.  Their dissent is born from a feeling within the United States. 

   It is not considered a human right in the U.S. to have a home or shelter.  If it were, the U.S. would be a massive violator of human rights.  Homelessness is rampant here and increasing.  Also not considered human rights are medical care and education.  These are considered commodities that are to be bought by those who can afford them. 

   Cuba has a different perspective.  There are no homeless people in Cuba.  Cuba has taken all possible measures to ensure that people have a place to call home, even if the conditions aren't what the average citizen in developed countries would expect for themselves.  Medical care is provided for free for the people of Cuba, even the so-called dissidents.  Higher education is also available for no charge by anyone who decides to pursue it. 

   The disconnect from reality by our politicians serves nobody well.  It simply helps perpetuate the ignorant status quo of Cuba policy in Washington.  Hopefully the positive forces that have been growing within the United States can force their way ahead of the extremist interest group which is headquartered in Miami.  When the thoughtful voices are taken seriously, there will undoubtedly be positive engagement between Washington and Havana for the benefit of everyone.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gingich: The History Professor

   As I've explained before, the anti-Cuba rhetoric during Florida campaigns is the same as it always has been.  Newt Gingrich is attempting to set the bar of ignorance even higher than it usually is.  He suggested that he, as president, would bomb Cuba if he thought the situation called for it.  He was supposed to be a history professor at one point in his career.  One would think that a history professor would have some sort of grasp of history, but in the case of Gingrich, apparently not.

   Not only is he imagining some sort of right of the United States to intervene in Cuba, but he doesn't even have a grasp of current bombing campaigns by the U.S. and the outcomes of those campaigns.  He is one of those ignorant people who actually believes in the idea that bombs and war create peaceful situations.  This is not 1960, a time when the governments of Latin America were easily pressured by Washington to go along with trying to isolate Cuba.  The year is 2012, and he should be aware of the strong bonds that Cuba has with the rest of the world, especially Latin America.  Surely, Mr. Gingrich would try to claim that after bombing the proud people of Cuba, they would greet us with flowers!

   By making such stupid remarks, it becomes obvious that he is simply pandering to the twisted right wing crowd in South Florida who can't for a single moment realize that Cuba does not belong to them.  It isn't a U.S. territory, it isn't a colony, and it certainly isn't a client state of the U.S.  It is a sovereign nation, which by international law, allows it to determine it's own affairs.  The power brokers in Washington may hold on to a belief in the Monroe Doctrine, but they should be aware enough to realize that it is an imperialist doctrine rejected by the countries in the hemisphere.  Imagining that it should or could be imposed is a grave error which only makes relationships with our neighbors more difficult.

   In a few days, the Republicans will have their primary election in Florida and they will rush off to the next pandering battleground state.  Their arrogance, ignorance, and flamboyant stupidity is on display for all to see.  With almost every action and word they speak, they affirm Fidel Castro's description of them:  "The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is - and I mean this seriously - the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been."

Read more here:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Bread

   There is nothing more stale than the customary pandering to the extremists in Miami during the election cycles.  There are more politicians repeating the same nonsense about Cuba to the usuals on Calle 8 than there are empty plastic coffee cups in the trash cans in Miami.  It is the same usual routine; drink coffee at the Versailles bakery while rubbing elbows with the defenders of terrorists like Orlando Bosch an Luis Posada Carriles.  Each and every candidate explains how he or she will be Castro's biggest enemy.  Each and every candidate explains how he or she has the secret plan to finally bring down the Cuban revolution.  Each and every candidate knows full well that their words are more useless than all of the covert and overt actions perpetrated by the U.S. against Cuba combined.  Only the delusional dinosaurs of Calle 8 are mesmerized and believe the rhetoric.

   Here's an excerpt from The Milwaulkee Sentinel dated October 24, 1960.  "Castro is destined to go- whether or not Nixon or Kennedy becomes the new president.  The embargo on exports is merely the beginning of contemplated moves moves with intervention blueprinted as the ultimate measure."  That is an article from the time of the presidential campaign between Nixon and Kennedy.  As we can see, this is not new rhetoric!  History can show us that predictions from the U.S. have been wrong for over 50 years.

   Here we are in 2012, new actors, excuse me, politicians have descended upon the world of Miami.  The strange town that suffers from the Kennedy syndrome although he has been dead for almost a half of a century.  They somehow hold on to the idea that they maintain some sort of significance on the island of Cuba.  They are so far out of touch that they don't even recognize that they are becoming a minority in their own stronghold, Miami, the retirement home of ex-Latin American thugs and terrorists.

   The only breath of fresh air comes from Ron Paul, who the media has treated as a circus act which only hurt his chances in the race.  I think his economic policies would be disastrous, but his policy of not interfering with the internal workings of other countries should be a more common position in American politics.

   So after the elections of 2012, the street sweepers in Miami will be busy once again cleaning up the countless anti-Castro political propaganda as this issue remains unresolved.  Not the issue of Castro, which should not be the business of American politicians, but the issue of the embargo which isolates the U.S. from the rest of the world.  Please, let's demand more than just stale bread.  Let's find the strength to end the terrible policy of the embargo against Cuba and normalize relations so that the people in both countries can work together for a better future.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hard To Handle

For decades, the right wing Cuban community in the United States has comfortably and confidently controlled the politics and discussion in the United States in regards to Cuba.  They have had the benefit of interests that coincided with the power structures in Washington and parts of corporate America, and with this alignment, they have maintained an unfortunate stranglehold on the issue of Cuba. 

They have benefited from government subsidies to create expensive radio stations with no audiences and countless other programs that benefitted nobody except a select few, who have neither the interests of Cubans on the island nor in this country in mind.  They have crafted special immigration laws for only themselves, which are viewed as unfair by many others, and have in fact been a dangerous enticement for people living in the island who either want to emigrate to the U.S. to reunite with family or have bought in to the idea of the American dream, which seems to be increasingly elusive for most people in this country.

They have had the luxury of a news media whose reference to them as exiles has painted a picture in the minds of many other Americans of a people forced from their homeland and banished forever, something that is actually not the reality.  The original wave of Cubans (post 1959) was of mainly well off people who left willingly, with the belief that soon they would return after the pesky bearded guys returned things back to "normal" or were replaced by someone who would do so.

Remnants of the Batista regime set up shop in South Florida.  Immediately, they did everything imaginable, from blockades to invasion to terrorism to try and inflict damage on the Cuban revolution, and by extension, the Cuban people suffered.

As time has gone on, much has changed and now, probably more than ever, changes are outpacing the old guard and their minions in Miami.  The Cuban community in this country has many more people here now that favor engaging with their fellow Cubans on the island.  Many of the newer arrivals suffered a great deal due to the politics of the original South Florida power brokers, the ones who long for a return to the days of pre-revolutionary Cuba.  People are now making it known that they want greater connections with people on the island.  There was incredible outrage within the Cuban community in South Florida when travel was greatly restricted under the Bush administration.  When an attempt by Diaz-Balart  to return to those restrictions was being kicked around in congress, it became obvious once again that the Batista crowd was on the wrong side of history.  The measure was dropped, exposing a growing lack of political relevance of the Diaz-Valart brand.

Not only is the Cuban community changing, but there is an increasing desire on the part of businesses and cities which would benefit from a new relationship with Cuba.  From Tampa to cities in states all over the nation, opinions pieces are carried in local media highlighting how their respective areas can benefit from an openness in U.S. policy.  Flights are now departing from many cities across the country that touch down in Cuba and they are carrying American passengers.

Cuba remains the only country for which Americans need permission from our own government to travel.  Americans are tired of it.  There is pent-up desire to travel to the forbidden island and there are many options now available that fit under one of the few categories permitted by the Treasury Department.  People are going and many are coming back with positive experiences.  Educational trips and cultural exchanges are occurring more and more often.

"I think a lot of Americans have these stereotypes — that it's a communist
country, that you don't really have any rights and people don't really like
Americans," Cohen said. "All that kind of stuff was totally untrue in our eyes."

These are the words of a college baseball player who just finished playing some games against Cuban teams on the island.

All of the changes are very positive.  The fact that the hard liners are less able to control so much on behalf of such a bitter few is very welcomed.  That's not to say that they aren't trying to hold there ground, it's just they aren't able to.  It's very hard for them to handle this new reality.  Many will simply remain in denial, the same type of denial that led there choice to leave Cuba to be twisted in to there insistence that they were exiled.  They will denounce ever step towards better relations and every honest gesture on the part of Cuba or the U.S. as having some sort of conniving move that is meant to deceive people.

Quoting Jose Manuel Palli in his analysis of the housing reforms in Cuba, "Here in Miami, we tend to discard anything we hear from Cuban officials as misleading propaganda, when in most cases we end up confirming later that what they said is exactly what they meant to say or do. "  A brutally honest description of how the "exiles" are usually in denial.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pope's Visit and the Choices That the Cubans in Miami Face

This is my comment to the opinion by one person's take on the Pope's Visit to Cuba which was in the Miami Herald.  As usual, the opinion tries to belittle the Pope's visit with the typical condescending tone of the anti-Cuba crowd, which is finding itself more marginalized by the day.

"From afar, by choice, the Cuban community in South Florida can do a few things.  They can, under current law, send money and packages of helpful goods to their families on the island.  Many do already and the gestures are always welcomed. 

Also, they can become more vocal in their desires to build on the connections they have on the island by insisting that those who represent their districts do not support the hurtful policies that have a huge hand in some of the difficulties that the Cubans  on the island experience.  Cuba's economy should be able to grow without the unnecessary obstacles posed by the embargo and Helms-Burton.

They can let it be known that the politicians such as Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen, and Rubio represent a shrinking minority of folks who don't want life to be better on the island. 

One thing that they cannot do, nor ever will be able to do, is determine how Cuba decides to conduct its affairs.  One can agree or disagree, but no one outside of Cuba can make a sovereign Cuba do anything that it doesn't feel is in its interest.  Not even the Pope, who I'm sure won't be imposing himself on anyone.  He will simply be lending his spiritual support to those who feel they would like it."

Read more here:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dishonest Complaints

   Here in the U.S., there is the constant search for reasons to claim that Cuba is oppressive.  One of the common, yet more recent disingenuous complaints is the lack of Internet access for the people in Cuba.  We are supposed to believe that Cuba is a totalitarian country which relies on controlling the information that the people get.  I'm not going to go off in to a diatribe about how even though we here in the U.S. are supposed to enjoy the fact that we have a free press, but there is plenty of evidence that large numbers of people remain completely uninformed or flat out incorrect in what they believe to be fact.  That's a whole other discussion.

   What I will point out are some statistics about Internet access in the U.S.  It is an eye opener, especially for those of us who do have high speed Internet access at home and even on our phones.  As is pointed out in an article on "Counter Punch", "Naively, it has been assumed that the same conditions present in the developed industrial countries are also present in the rest of the less wealthy world. Yet, there is a digital divide that is not a function of politics, but of income."  Income.  It is quite simple.  The more income one has, the more access to these wonderful things is possible.  The same is true for countries.  The U.S. has amassed more wealth than any other nation.  In spite of this, in the Mecca of anti-Cuba rhetoric, Florida, 33% of households do not connect to the Internet via broadband.  In the country, 64% of people earning $25,000 or less don't connect via broadband.  6% of people earning $100,000 or more don't.  See the income factor?  In Latin America, less than 7% are connected via broadband.  I'm willing to bet that the poor aren't the lucky ones.  Has anyone here complained about this fact?

   Who are we trying to kid?  Are we supposed to imagine that Cuba's economy is somehow equal to the U.S. economy?  Is Fidel supposed to wave a magic wand and make the required infrastructure appear on the island?  The Cuban economy has struggled along, especially since the demise of the Soviet Union, yet not one person has been evicted from there home.  They may not have access to broadband, but there is no law preventing the people who are fortunate enough to pay the price from connecting to the Internet.  It is slower, and to us that would be nerve wrecking!  But the fact remains that Cubans are not prevented from using the Internet.  In a certain way, Cubans suffer the same problems that many Americans do.  Lack of income.   The less developed nations will always be a step or two behind the developed countries, but we should stop and ask ourselves if the inflammatory rhetoric in this case about Cuba is really worthy of our attention.  It is in my estimation that this, like so many issues, aren't presented to us honestly.  And if the politicians in this country were really concerned about Internet access on the island of Cuba, they would stop impeding Cuba's economy.  They would end the blockade of the nation and allow its economy to grow at a natural pace as opposed to being forced to participate in the world economy with two hands tied behind its back.  But our politicians haven't yet found the courage to do the right thing and admit its errors in its policy towards Cuba.  So for now we'll be forced to hear the usual nonsensical rhetoric and wait for Cuba to not be off limits to us and the much of the world be off limits (by our own doing) to Cuba.

(This is a link to the CounterPunch article I quoted> It is very informative.)