Archive for May 13th, 2012

The Macho Violence of the Cuban Exiles

May 13, 2012
Free Cuba! Torch a Travel Agency!!
The Macho Violence of the Cuban Exiles

You can disagree with violent anti-Castro dogma, but such dissent could also get you killed – or your business torched as happened on April 25 to Airline Brokers Co. Some Cuban exiles apparently take free speech so seriously that they punish those who use it in “inappropriate” ways.

Miami has witnessed countless incidents for five plus decades where those who consider their own views on how to bring freedom to Cuba as so pure and irreproachable, that anyone who challenges their doctrine merits a bomb, a bullet, or an accelerant.

Ironically, these extremists don’t do their macho violence in Cuba. They choose safer places. Orlando Bosch and his cohort Luis Posada Carriles said they were trying to free Cuba when they masterminded the bombing of the Cuban passenger plane over Barbados in 1976. If you believe in freeing Cuba, so their logic goes, you become free to kill all 73 on board. How this helped to free Cuba – well, you know.

By fighting for freedom in Cuba – or claiming to – you get a license from God to destroy and intimidate in the United States or anywhere else. Indeed, in Miami hundreds of bombings, shootings, and arson have occurred – all this mayhem in the name of that glorious cause of freeing Cuba. Although no one has yet actually explained how a fire or shooting in Miami helps liberate Cuba.

Instead, the majority of this “liberating” violence has targeted civilians in the United States. Did killing Cuban UN diplomat Felix Garcia in New York in 1980, and bombing and torching movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles (where my “Fidel” film was supposed to open in 1970) because they didn’t like the movie they hadn’t even seen help free Cuba? In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a bomber put a charge on the wall of Marazul Travel – an agency providing legal travel to Cuba. Three Molotov cocktails got tossed into Marazul offices. Travel to Cuba became a sin against the religion of “fighting for freedom in Cuba.”

From the 1960s through the 1980s, “Bombs Away” could have referred to Miami rather than a video game about space aliens. And this “violence against people who disagree with violence in the United States will free Cuba” equation continues.

On April 25, 2012, fifty three plus years after the Cuban revolutionaries took power, God’s licensed terrorists burned the offices of an airline charter company ostensibly because it flew pilgrims to Cuba. How such actions advanced their cause of freedom for Cuba remains a logical mystery – or perhaps simply a pretext for baser motives.

The targets for violence have shared two qualities: 1) they disagreed with the dictates laid down by the extremist wing of exiles who demanded everyone submit to their views or suffer the consequences; 2) they had no chance to defend themselves.

The most recent “sinner,” who offended the self-anointed arsonists owned Airlines Brokers Co. Vivian Mannerud told Miami’s Channel 10. “It’s not that it’s burned. It’s pulverized.” She stared at the ashes that once housed her charter company. “I have never seen a fire pulverize things. I’ve seen it in pictures of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.”

Investigators aided by dogs trained to recognize the odor of accelerant determined that the fire was “deliberate.” So, the arsonists did a professional job, just as their predecessors, the bombers and shooters did in their countless acts of murder and mayhem in Miami, New York, San Juan and Washington, DC – all to free Cuba, of course.

In March, the Miami Archdiocese, which had received bomb threats in 1998 during a previous Pope’s (John Paul II) visit to Cuba, contracted with Mannerud’s company to transport several hundred of the faithful from South Florida to the island. Was this the motive? Or did it relate to a sin of her father who started the charter company in 1982 and had testified in the trial of Eduardo Arocena of the Cuban Nationalist Movement and its “action arm” Omega 7. The jury convicted Arocena.

If the Cuban Five network had remained in Miami they might have infiltrated the group that torched Mannerud’s company and tipped the police to the caper. But those anti-terrorists remain in federal custody, while arsonists roam the Miami streets and a bomber, like Luis Posada Carriles, has a publicized painting exhibition in a Coral Gables bank.

The “patriots” have no plans to “free Cuba,” only rhetoric with phrases like “return Cuba to freedom” (non-existent in Cuba before the revolution), and “get rid of the dictatorship” (which some of them supported under Batista). But decades of violence in the United States has hurt this country, but had no effect on Cuba. Ironically, the macho perpetrators even deny their deeds, but nevertheless get honored for doing them and accept the honors.

They can’t explain how destroying a Coral Gables travel agency helps free Cuba. “The money visitors spend in Cuba supports the Castro regime.” As if bombing travel agencies stops travel!

Reach beneath the unconvincing rhetoric and into baser motives. Do the violence makers make their living from violence? After the April 25 fire, did Coral Gables business neighbors of the Airline Charter Co. receive visits? “Hey, you got a nice store here…” You know the dialogue from the Sopranos. Except Cuban exile criminals cover their shakedowns with “patriotic” rhetoric.

I feel certain, however, that Miami area elected officials have strong feelings against this act of terrorism despite their deafening silence.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP and his FIDEL are distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. He is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow.

On the History of the US Economy in Decline by Noam Chomsky

May 13, 2012
Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 by

A Rebellious World or a New Dark Age?

On the History of the US Economy in Decline

The Occupy movement has been an extremely exciting development. Unprecedented, in fact. There’s never been anything like it that I can think of.  If the bonds and associations it has established can be sustained through a long, dark period ahead — because victory won’t come quickly — it could prove a significant moment in American history.

The fact that the Occupy movement is unprecedented is quite appropriate. After all, it’s an unprecedented era and has been so since the 1970s, which marked a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society, and not always in very pretty ways. That’s another story, but the general progress was toward wealth, industrialization, development, and hope. There was a pretty constant expectation that it was going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.

I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s — although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today — nevertheless, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that “we’re gonna get out of it,” even among unemployed people, including a lot of my relatives, a sense that “it will get better.”

There was militant labor union organizing going on, especially from the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are frightening to the business world — you could see it in the business press at the time — because a sit-down strike is just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. The idea of worker takeovers is something which is, incidentally, very much on the agenda today, and we should keep it in mind. Also New Deal legislation was beginning to come in as a result of popular pressure. Despite the hard times, there was a sense that, somehow, “we’re gonna get out of it.”

It’s quite different now. For many people in the United States, there’s a pervasive sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. I think it’s quite new in American history. And it has an objective basis.

On the Working Class

In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you’re a worker in manufacturing today — the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression — and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren’t going to come back.

The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing. There were other factors. It led to major changes in the economy — a reversal of several hundred years of progress towards industrialization and development that turned into a process of de-industrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued overseas very profitably, but it’s no good for the work force.

Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise — producing things people need or could use — to financial manipulation. The financialization of the economy really took off at that time.

On Banks

Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. That changed dramatically in the 1970s. Until then, there had been no financial crises since the Great Depression. The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.

And it was egalitarian.  The lowest quintile did about as well as the highest quintile. Lots of people moved into reasonable lifestyles — what’s called the “middle class” here, the “working class” in other countries — but it was real.  And the 1960s accelerated it. The activism of those years, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent.

When the 1970s came along, there were sudden and sharp changes: de-industrialization, the off-shoring of production, and the shift to financial institutions, which grew enormously. I should say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was also the development of what several decades later became the high-tech economy: computers, the Internet, the IT Revolution developed substantially in the state sector.

The developments that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to the concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn’t benefit the economy — it probably harms it and society — but it did lead to a tremendous concentration of wealth.

On Politics and Money

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

The parties dissolved in many ways. It used to be that if a person in Congress hoped for a position such as a committee chair, he or she got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, they started having to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead, a topic studied mainly by Tom Ferguson. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector (increasingly the financial sector).

This cycle resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the top tenth of one percent of the population. Meanwhile, it opened a period of stagnation or even decline for the majority of the population. People got by, but by artificial means such as longer working hours, high rates of borrowing and debt, and reliance on asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. Pretty soon those working hours were much higher in the United States than in other industrial countries like Japan and various places in Europe. So there was a period of stagnation and decline for the majority alongside a period of sharp concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve.

There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact.  Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn’t really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There’s a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.

The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.

Plutonomy and the Precariat

For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it’s been pretty harsh — and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less — the .1% — it’s just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they’re concerned, sure, why not?

Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won’t run through the corruption, but it’s pretty astonishing.

In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs — the Plutonomy and the rest.”

Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” — hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) — was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.

So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat — in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.

If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long, hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.

Toward Worker Takeover

I mentioned before that, in the 1930s, one of the most effective actions was the sit-down strike. And the reason is simple: that’s just a step before the takeover of an industry.

Through the 1970s, as the decline was setting in, there were some important events that took place.  In 1977, U.S. Steel decided to close one of its major facilities in Youngstown, Ohio. Instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from the company, hand it over to the work force, and turn it into a worker-run, worker-managed facility. They didn’t win. But with enough popular support, they could have won.  It’s a topic that Gar Alperovitz and Staughton Lynd, the lawyer for the workers and community, have discussed in detail.

It was a partial victory because, even though they lost, it set off other efforts. And now, throughout Ohio, and in other places, there’s a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sometimes not-so-small worker/community-owned industries that could become worker-managed. And that’s the basis for a real revolution. That’s how it takes place.

In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, something similar happened. A multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. Evidently, it just wasn’t profitable enough for them. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don’t think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.

And there are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them are major. Not long ago, President Barack Obama took over the auto industry, which was basically owned by the public. And there were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done: reconstitute it so that it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership, and continue on its traditional path.

The other possibility was to hand it over to the workforce — which owned it anyway — turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that’s a big part of the economy, and have it produce things that people need. And there’s a lot that we need.

We all know or should know that the United States is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation, and it’s very serious. It not only affects people’s lives, but the economy.  In that regard, here’s a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple of months ago and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, the same distance as from Washington, DC, to Boston. It took two hours.  I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the train from Washington to Boston, but it’s operating at about the same speed it was 60 years ago when my wife and I first took it. It’s a scandal.

It could be done here as it’s been done in Europe. They had the capacity to do it, the skilled work force. It would have taken a little popular support, but it could have made a major change in the economy.

Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rail for the United States, which could have been done right in the rust belt, which is being closed down. There are no economic reasons why this can’t happen. These are class reasons, and reflect the lack of popular political mobilization. Things like this continue.

Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

I’ve kept to domestic issues, but there are two dangerous developments in the international arena, which are a kind of shadow that hangs over everything we’ve discussed. There are, for the first time in human history, real threats to the decent survival of the species.

One has been hanging around since 1945. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve escaped it. That’s the threat of nuclear war and nuclear weapons. Though it isn’t being much discussed, that threat is, in fact, being escalated by the policies of this administration and its allies. And something has to be done about that or we’re in real trouble.

The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps towards trying to do something about it. The United States is also taking steps, mainly to accelerate the threat.  It is the only major country that is not only not doing something constructive to protect the environment, it’s not even climbing on the train. In some ways, it’s pulling it backwards.

And this is connected to a huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world, to try to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax. “Why pay attention to these scientists?”

We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.

It’s not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures.  It’s inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

CNN: Transcript of Vidal’s interview by Blitzer

May 13, 2012

CNN: Transcript of Vidal’s interview by Blitzer

Here is the transcript of Wolf Blitzer’s interview of Foreign
Ministry Official
Josefina Vidal on CNN, May 10, 2012. It is really important that
Josefina Vidal
was able to speak to U.S. citizens on national television.

I am especially pleased that she explained that every time one
supposed obstacle
to negotiations is removed, another is waiting to take its place.

That has been the constant situation for decades and Cubans (as well
as all the
people who have studied U.S.-Cuban relations) know that is true and
cannot be
fooled by the next maneuver to do it all over again.

Jane Franklin,


Obama’s $15 Million Dinner with Clooney;
Report: Interview with Josefina Vidal,
Cuban Foreign

Aired May 10, 2012 – 17:00 ET


Happening now, new
evidence that al Qaeda’s most dangerous branch may be more capable
than ever of
attacking the United States
with new bombs and more coming terrorists.
Plus, will there be a breakthrough that could free an American
prisoner in Cuba
Alan Gross. I’ll press a top foreign official to reveal exactly what
wants from the United States. This international
tug of war playing out right here in the SITUATION ROOM.
An American jailed in Cuba tells me
he now feels like a hostage. We’re following up on my exclusive
interview with
Alan Gross (ph) who’s desperate to be reunited with his family.

Also, the Castro and Obama governments, they are sparring over
Gross’ fate.
I’ll press a top Cuban official to tell us what it would take to let
American go home free.

The Cuban government is urging U.S. officials to sit down and talk
about the
fate of the jailed American Alan Gross (ph) who tells me he feels as
he’s being held hostage in Cuba. Stand by for my exclusive, very
rare interview
with a top Cuban foreign ministry official in Havana. She spoke with
me from
Havana, but first, some


BLITZER (voice-over): An international negotiation is seemingly
playing out on
CNN. It started Friday when Alan Gross (ph), an American imprisoned
in Cuba for
last two and a half years called into the SITUATION ROOM.

Military Hospital.
It’s a secured facility.

BLITZER: During my 25-minute interview with Gross, we touched on
topics, including his health.

GROSS: I lost about 100
pound, and I exercise as much as I can. My hip is
starting to give me a little bit of a problem.

BLITZER: The Maryland contractor who’s now
serving a 15-year prison sentence says he was in Cuba in the lengthy
Jewish community to the internet as part of the U.S.-funded aid
program. The
Cuban government disagreed, charging Gross with smuggling an illegal
and being a threat to the security and independence of the state.

GROSS: It was laughable, and if I weren’t in this situation, I would
laughing about it, because I’m about as much of a threat to the
security in the
state as the chair that I’m sitting on right now.

BLITZER: Gross is now pleading with the Castro regime to let him fly
to the
United States
and see his cancer-stricken 90-year-old mother. The government hasn’t
officially responded to his request. Instead —

GROSS: They offered to send a plane to Miami
to bring her here. My mother does not live in Miami. My mother lives
in Texas.
She’s not allowed to travel. That’s
baloney. I — I’m trying to catch myself so I don’t use a stronger

BLITZER: Shortly after that interview, the Cuban representative in
Jorge Bolanos (ph), sent CNN a letter refuting some of Gross’ claims
quote, “Gross is in good, physical conditions. He receives
medical care, balanced meals, regular consular access, visits by
friends, and
political and religious personalities.”

He added, “Mr. Gross violated Cuban laws by implementing a U.S.
program aimed at attempting
against Cuba’s
constitutional order. He is not an activist who came to Cuba to
the Cuban people. He is a professional paid for by the U.S.

Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, fired back in an interview with

Gross was not
an intelligence agent. Mr. Gross worked for a development group that
helping Cubans, principally, in their small Jewish community in Cuba
to have
access to the internet. and Mr. Gross, in our view, is being held
justification and has been detained already far too long.


BLITZER: The letter I received from the top Cuban diplomat here in
Bolanos (ph) clearly suggested to me that the Castro government is
in a prisoner swap exchanging Alan Gross for members of the so-called
“Cuban five”. They’re serving lengthy prison sentences in the United
after being convicted on spy charges. I’ve been reaching out to both
Cuban and
U.S. officials
to try to clarify their positions and to also try to keep the lines
communication open.


And Josefina Vidal is joining us now from Havana. She’s the head of
North American Affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Are you
prepared to tell
us what you want in exchange for the release of Alan Gross?

having me
in your program. We have conveyed to the U.S. government our
willingness to
have a dialogue to try to solve all our problems and to normalize
between our two countries. In this specific case we have made clear
to the U.S.
as you said that we are ready to have a negotiation in order to try
to find a
solution, a humanitarian solution to Mr. Gross’ case on a reciprocal

I am not — we are not advancing any specific formula. It has to be
with the U.S. government
because the U.S. government
has a direct responsibility on the situation for the situation of
Mr. Alan
but again, we have been waiting for a response on the side of the
on this specific matter.

BLITZER: So there are no active discussions or negotiations underway
right now
between the Cuban government and the U.S. government to try to free

VIDAL: We have conveyed to the U.S.
side that we are ready to sit down to talk and to have a negotiation
on this
matter, and as I mentioned already to you, we have been waiting for
a response.
We are ready to do that.

BLITZER: Is there, from your perspective, is there a linkage between
release of Alan Gross and the release of what’s called the “Cuban

VIDAL: Again, we are not advancing a specific solution, a specific
formula. It
has to be discussed among us, but definitely Cuba has legitimate
humanitarian concerns related to the situation of the “Cuban five”.

BLITZER: What do you say in response to what the Secretary of State
Clinton told CNN?

VIDAL: You know Mr. Gross was not working in Cuba as a volunteer,
aid worker. He
was detained in Cuba because
of conducting a well-financed program by the U.S.
government aimed at provoking changes in Cuba,
attempting against Cuba’s
constitutional order. So Mr. Gross when he was retained was a
under a contract by the U.S.
government fulfilling this, trying to implement this program
financed by the —
by some U.S.


VIDAL: But he was — he was, of course, in violation —

BLITZER: What evidence do you have that he was doing that?

VIDAL: He was convicted for violating Cuban laws, attempting against
constitutional order is not just a crime
in Cuba.
It is also a crime in the United
States and in many other countries and this
is the reason why he was convicted because of attempting against our
independence, our constitutional order.

BLITZER: Mr. Gross told me that when he brought all of the equipment
in the
people at the airport, the authorities saw the equipment and they
said you have
to pay duty on it, 100 percent. He didn’t want to pay 100 percent so
they just
said pay $100 and you can bring the equipment in, but they inspected
all of
those cell phones and all of the satellite phones, whatever he was
bringing in
and allowed him to bring it into the country. As a result, he says
he doesn’t
understand why he was arrested.

VIDAL: It has been written in some media reports Mr. Gross misled
authorities about the kind of equipment he was introducing into the
without the proper authorities and he also misled members of the
Cuban- Jewish
community about the purposes of his trip to Cuba
and what he was doing in Cuba.

BLITZER: Alan Gross says his 90-year-old mother is dying from cancer
in Texas
right now. She
can’t travel. She can’t get on an airplane. He would like to spend
two weeks
and he promises he would come back to Cuba if you let him say
in effect to his mother. What’s wrong with that?

VIDAL: In the case of Mr. Alan Gross he has started to serve his
prison terms
three years ago, and the conditions under which he is now do not
allow him to
go outside of Cuba.

BLITZER: Even for humanitarian reasons to visit his 90-year-old
mother who has
cancer and is dying? Are you open at all to letting him say good-bye
to her?

VIDAL: In the case of Mr. Gross, we have guaranteed for him a good
treatment as
he himself told you. He’s in good shape. He receives specialized
treatment, balanced meals. He receives visits, regular consular
access and
visits by friends, by religious and political leaders from the U.S.
and other
countries and we have facilitated for their families and friends all
the visits
they have requested so far.


BLITZER: I also asked Josefina Vidal about other issues involving
relations. I told her what I’m hearing from my U.S.
sources about what Cuba
could do to improve the relationship. Stand by for part two of this
exclusive interview

BLITZER: The case of the jailed American, Alan Gross, is a new thorn
the United States and Cuba after a
half a century of tensions. I spoke about the prospects of improved
relations with Josefina Vidal, the head of North American Affairs
for the Cuban
Foreign Ministry.


BLITZER: What do you think of President Obama and his efforts over
these past
three and a half years to reach out to try to improve relations
between the
United States and Cuba?

VIDAL: This is our position, I mean, for many years the Cuban
government has
been conveying to the U.S. side our willingness to have a
political dialogue with the United States to solve all our
historical problems
and to move on in order to have a productive, beneficial
relationship for the
benefit of our both people, and this is our position. We have
related (ph) that
to the U.S.
government and we are continuing — are willing to have the
possibility to see
that future for our two countries.

BLITZER: Is there any dialogue under way right now between your
government and
the Obama administration?

VIDAL: We have had talks in the last two or three years. As soon as
the new
president, President Obama took office, some level of official
dialogue that
suffered a lot during the previous administration that was
established and we
have had our biannual migration talks and we have talked — we have
conveyed in
those meetings the position I just described to you about Cuba’s
willingness to
— for the best of our two countries, to find a civilized —
(INAUDIBLE) with the United States.

BLITZER: Are you hopeful? Are you optimistic that the relationship
will improve
over these next few months?

VIDAL: We are always hopeful. We have been waiting for that moment
for more
than 50 years, but we are still strong believers that the future is
for the good and the benefit of the U.S.,
of Cuba,
of our both mutual national interests and for our people.

BLITZER: Based on my conversations with very high U.S. officials,
Ms. Vidal, I
tell you that if you were to make a gesture and release Alan Gross,
he served
already two and a half years that would go a long way in setting the
stage for
an improved U.S.- Cuban relationship.

VIDAL: In that regard I have to be honest with you, Wolf, and tell
you that we
see this statement as a new pretext by the U.S. side in order to —
not to
move on, on our bilateral relationships. We have seen all over our
history that
any time one pretext disappears, there is another one ready at hand
in order to
try to justify not to normalize the relations with Cuba.

BLITZER: It sounds like a relatively easy situation for you, test
the United
send Alan Gross home and see what happens. If there’s no
improvement, what have
you lost ?

VIDAL: As I mentioned to you in the beginning of our interview, this
something that Cuba cannot do unilaterally, because there is a
by the United States government for the situation of Mr. Alan Gross,
so this is
a topic, this is a matter, an issue that has to be discussed
directly between
and the United States in order to look for a solution.

BLITZER: And you’re saying the U.S.
is not ready to discuss Alan Gross’ situation with Cuba? Is that
what you’re

VIDAL: We have been waiting for a response and a reaction by the
United States
government to what we have conveyed about our willingness to sit
down, to have
a conversation and to initiate a negotiation on that matter.

BLITZER: We will continue this conversation, Josefina Vidal. Thank
you so much
for joining us and we will continue to talk. We’ll stay in close

VIDAL: It is my pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.


BLITZER: And we’ve received State Department reaction to my
interview with
Josefina Vidal. Let me read the statement that they gave us. “We
reject the
suggestion that this is a matter for negotiation. Alan Gross is
imprisoned and his case is not related to the ‘Cuban five’. Josefina
statements only seem to reinforce Alan Gross’ view that he is a
hostage of the
Cuban regime.”
The statement goes on. “The continuing imprisonment of Alan Gross is
deplorable, it is wrong, and it is a violation of human decency as
well as
human rights. We raise this issue with the Cuban government at every
opportunity. We call on people around the world to raise this issue
with the
Cuban government because Mr. Gross deserves to come home.”
The U.S.
statement adds “we will continue to use every appropriate channel to
the Cuban government for Mr. Gross’ release so he can return to his
where he belongs. To date, the government of Cuba has presented no
proposal for Alan Gross’ release”, that statement coming in from the
Department. By the way, the full interview with Josefina Vidal we
posted on our
…. [The interview of Josefina Vidal concludes and the program


May 13, 2012

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