Posts Tagged ‘changes in Cuba’

The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?

August 4, 2015

from Counterpunch

Just two weeks after the historic re-opening of embassies and re-establishing of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and not a moment passes without a Cuba “advocate” talking about “trade” and “travel”. These two words represent two different human phenomena that have gone hand-in-hand since the dawn of antiquity. Due to the enmity exacerbated by a Cold War policy these inalienable rights to travel and trade, guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, have been effectively violated and strictly prohibited for American citizens regarding the island since 1962.

President Obama’s policy of engagement has opened the floodgates for what seems to be the inevitable process of normalization. A tsunami of tourists, commerce coalitions, export specialists, celebrities, and congressional junkets has inundated Havana and other Cuban cities with its newcomers finding it to be so much more complex and vibrant than one has been led to believe by manipulative politicians and a servile media all these years stateside. Now, everyone is interested in going to see for themselves and trying to establish a foothold in a nascent mixed economy.

But what exactly does the media, newly minted cubanologos, and our elected officials mean when they utilize such verbiage?  The American public is being bombarded by a message of promoting “trade” with Cuba. Granted, this is a decidedly positive change from where we were less than a year ago but the manner in which these terms get bandied about clearly demonstrate how much farther we need to go.

This Monday the New York Times Editorial Board published an editorial entitled “Growing Momentum to Repeal Cuban Embargo” in which it stated: “It is time for Congress to help make engagement the cornerstone of American policy toward Cuba.”

It continues by mentioning a new bipartisan bill in Congress introduced by representatives Tom Emmer (R-MN 6th) and Kathy Castor (D-FL14) that would “lift the embargo.” It also calls legislation introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, a bill ” that would allow regular commerce with Cuba.”

Unfortunately, neither bill pretends to “lift the embargo” nor, “allow regular commerce” with Cuba. In fact, they aren’t even two bills. They’re one in the same, to the letter.

Senator Klobuchar’s S. 491 The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015 is exactly what it calls itself. In many news outlets it has been misrepresented as an end to the embargo since it was introduced in February.

It is….sort of…., for some.

This bill seeks to strike certain sections of the different pieces of legislation enacted throughout the past 54 years that have codified the United States policy of economic strangulation against the Republic of Cuba. The elimination of said sections are meant to allow for more exports to the island under the loosening of several restrictions along with striking the sections encouraging the president to penalize other countries for doing business or investing in the island. It also will allow Americans to travel more freely to Cuba.

But is this promoting trade?

It does not allow for Cuban exports to be imported to the United States. Neither does it strike the extraterritorial requirements for a transitional government. It doesn’t take away the barriers for Cuba to become a member of the OAS and the International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc. so the island can count on the financing it will need for mega-projects like the Mariel Economic Zone. Boondoggles like Radio and TV Marti and the State Department’s “democracy promotion” programs will, by law, still have to be created, funded, and executed putting American diplomats at odds with their Cuban counterparts. It doesn’t touch the Cuban Adjustment Act or even address the recent immigration crisis brought upon by Cubans sensing an end to the infamous “wet foot/dry foot” policy and willing to risk their lives to take advantage of it. There are so many things that are important that this legislation doesn’t address. It’s a good start but hardly a triumph for the forces of normalization. The bill hardly promotes trade according to the original sense of the word.

Curiously, the NYT posted an image of a map showing Cuba and Florida with arrows going to and from the island across the Straits to its northern neighbor. Trade is a two-way street and it only happens when conditions in both places allow it. What these highly touted measures are establishing is a one-way street that neither “lifts the embargo” nor allows “regular commerce” with Cuba.

How will US grain exporters fare when they try to make their case for increasing exports when the same representatives from Brazil will say that they have a similar product but come from a country that accepts Cuban rum, tobacco, and other imports? Since 2008, the evidence shows a steep decline in U.S. agriculture exports to Cuba as Midwestern farmers have lost market share to Brazilian farmers and corporations. Just because we have an embassy there now doesn’t mean that Cuba is going to go out of its way to do business with us when there’s no chance of reciprocity. The recent goodwill between both countries will only go so far.

Cuba has a finite capacity to produce pharmaceuticals that, potentially, could be vital to millions of sick Americans. Vaccines against lung cancer, diabetes, and other potentially fatal diseases have been developed by the island’s biomedical initiatives and are universally lauded for their innovation and dissemination. In order to increase that capacity the island’s biomedical industry would need financing and mechanisms put in place so the final product could be offered in the U.S. If these laws truly “lift the embargo” and allow for ” regular commerce” then millions of sick Americans could regain some hope that they might have access to Cuban services and products. These hopes will not be answered by Senator Klobuchar’s original bill. These illnesses will not be alleviated by swapping out exports for “trade” in Representative Emmer’s H.R. 3238 Cuba Trade Act of 2015.

The very fact that these bills are getting traction and attention is encouraging but the language being used to promote a transforming Cuba policy needs to be more accurate. These bills are chipping away at the embargo and should be considered, debated, and, hopefully, passed. But let’s not pull a rotator cuff patting our selves on the back for lifting the embargo.

Normalization is a process that will eventually lead to a much-needed reconciliation between both nations. U.S. exports and business interests along with tourists, celebrities, legislators, and humanitarian groups traveling to the island have a role to play but they cannot be the only ones to dictate the pace of renewed bilateral relations. The road to reconciliation will be a two-way causeway of ideas, resources, and opportunities. Our legislative efforts and the media exposure given to such measures should reflect that.

Benjamin Willis is an activist living in New York who has worked with the Cuban American community in bringing about engagement during the Obama era. His book reviews are available in the International Journal of Cuban Studies. He is Co-Director of the United States Cuba NOW PAC.

Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance

July 27, 2015

Barack Obama, at the Summit of the Americas, wanted to bury the past. Argentinean president Cristina Fernández disagreed. Cuba was at the Summit, she proposed, not because of negotiations but because Cuba has fought more than sixty years with unprecedented dignity. That fight itself is not most notable; its explanatory philosophical traditions are needed and significant. Cuba’s history makes them believable.

1.

Dignity, some say, involves knowing oneself as an end. When we possess dignity, we have value, not as mere instruments toward further purposes, however noble, but in virtue of humanness.

Conceived as such, dignity is hard. We are urged to “get the most out of yourself … in a job that is spiritually fulfilling, socially constructive, experientially diverse, emotionally enriching, self- esteem boosting, perpetually challenging and eternally edifying”. In such an age of “higher selfishness”, personal choice is all important.[i] Human meaningfulness does not motivate. Indeed, it is hardly believable.

But Cuban philosopher and revolutionary, José Martí, made “radical respect for human dignity” the goal of his 1895 independence war against Spain. The Montecristi Manifesto, political statement of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, “declares [the Party’s] faith [that it can know] . . . the reality of the ideas that produce or extinguish deeds and the reality of the deeds that are born from ideas . . . so that no man’s dignity is harmed and . . . all Cubans perceive it … as based in a profound knowledge”. Remarkably, a political movement was giving priority to an ancient and fundamental philosophical question: how to know what it means to be human.

2.

Cuban history makes such motivation believable. Cuban presence in Angola, according to historian Richard Gott, was “entirely without selfish motivation”. Cuba sent 300,000 volunteers between 1975 and 1991, more than 2,000 of whom died, to push back and eventually defeat apartheid South Africa. In Pretoria, a “wall of names” commemorates those who died in the struggle against apartheid. Many Cuban names are inscribed there. No other foreign country is represented.[ii]

The United States claimed that Cuba was acting as a Soviet proxy but according to US intelligence, Castro had “no intention of subordinating himself to Soviet discipline and direction.” He criticized the Soviets as dogmatic and opportunistic, ungenerous toward Third World liberation movements, and unwilling to adequately support North Vietnam. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoire 25 years later that Castro was “probably the most genuinely revolutionary leader then in power”[iii]

US Intelligence even identified the real motivation for Cuba’s costly involvement. Castro, it was reported, “places particular importance on maintaining a ‘principled’ foreign policy . . . [and] on questions of basic importance such as Cuba’s right and duty to support nationalist revolutionary movements and friendly governments in the Third World, Castro permits no compromise of principle for the sake of economic or political expediency.” In 1991, Cuba’s “great crusade” led Nelson Mandela to ask, “What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”

Cuba’s internationalism continues. Cuba began exporting doctors in 1963, when Cubans traveled to the newly independent Algeria. After Hurricanes George and Mitch devastated Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala in 1998, Cuba sent 2,000 doctors and other health

professionals. They were replaced by other Cubans willing and able to work where no health services previously existed. After Hurricane Katrina, Cuba offered to send, at no cost, 1,586 medical personnel and 36 tons of emergency medical supplies to the United States, an offer that was turned down.[iv]

In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Few have heeded the call [to fight ebola], but one country has responded in strength: Cuba.” Cuba responded without hesitation, sending more than 450 doctors and nurses, chosen from more than 15,000 volunteers, by far the largest medical mission sent by any country.

3.

Visitors to Cuba ask why. Tour guides at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences, which offers full scholarships to foreigners who could not otherwise train as doctors, explain that Cubans believe in sharing what they have, not what they have left over. The answer elicits scepticism, even derision: a nice idea but not realistic.

It is realistic because pursuit of dignity has practical significance. Or so argued Martí. Even before him, in the early nineteenth century, radical Cuban independence activists rejected European (liberal) philosophy emphasizing individual freedoms. They faced three empires –the UK, the US and Spain – and the “necessary evil” of slavery. Dignity –and how to know it –was politically urgent. Having experienced imperialism, they knew its dehumanizing logic.

Martí urged Latin American children to know dignity. His famous children’s journal, The Golden Age, offers image after image of faraway places. He taught them that to know and respect themselves as human ends, they must experience sameness between themselves and others far away. Looking outward, not inward, one builds and feels human connection, a source of knowledge going beyond “the Yankee or European book”.

Explained philosophically, internationalism is a practical, not moral, obligation. Martí believed human beings are causally interconnected, both with the physical environment and with cohabitants of that environment. He believed in science: Human beings are part of nature, and we depend upon nature, including other human beings. On such a view, there is no mystery about why a poor country would pursue internationalism: We live better, and freely, when others live better, and freely.

4.

In 1998, Fidel Castro said that Cuba’s humanist project explains Cuba’s resistance to the US financial, commercial and economic blockade. He cited the power of ideas, specifically about dignity and its practical significance. At a 2003 academic conference, Castro added that the threat of increasingly sophisticated weapons requires ideas: “Sow ideas, sow ideas, and sow ideas; sow awareness, sow awareness and sow awareness”.

Some will shake their heads. But to give my discipline its due, philosophers have argued for more than half a century that understanding is limited by expectations rooted in background beliefs. This means that when we don’t believe something possible, we do not see the evidence suggesting it is possible. The upshot is that challenging accepted philosophical ideas, which people rely upon unself-consciously for day-to-day deliberation, is necessary for progressive politics.

Philosophers of science argue that we only find empirical evidence to support theories if we first, to some degree, believe such theories, even without sufficient evidence. This means that theoretical innovation, and commitment to such innovation, is a prerequisite for new discoveries, or even for the questions that might motivate such discoveries.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Cuba’s successes, well-documented, do not inspire alternative paths toward human development. They are not believed. James Wolfensohn, ex-president of the World Bank, acknowledged Cuba “has done a great job on education and health” and that “it does not embarrass me to admit it”. Nonetheless, “The island continues to be ignored by both development theorists and the technocrats” designing programs to promote human development. [v]

The reason may be fear. Cuba resisted the US embargo for sixty years. It defied predictions of its imminent collapse after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. And when Fidel Castro stepped down in 2006 because of illness, Cuba again defied predictions— this time of internal squabbling and chaos. Julia Sweig, US Rockefeller senior fellow, noted a “stunning display of orderliness and seriousness” and concluded that the Cuban Revolution “rests upon far more than the charisma, authority and legend of [Raul and Fidel Castro].”

The “far more” is at least partly philosophical, a vision of who we can be, and know ourselves as, as human beings. It predates Martí but was most radically realized by Martí, who thought political liberation does not long endure without spiritual freedom. For him, this meant acquiring the sensitivity and humility to be able to respond to beauty, whether in ideas, people or events. For only with such responsiveness can we know the unexpected, which may be humanness.

5.

Cuba’s philosophical traditions, closer in many ways to Eastern than to European philosophy, make plausible a competing conception of what is humanly possible, contradicting the now deeply entrenched belief, almost impossible to challenge in the North, that freedom is about having, not being.

Armando Hart, minister of culture during Cuba’s famous literacy campaign (1961-2), now a renowned philosopher, writes that anyone who cares about global justice in the 21st century should consider the damage done to the world by European philosophy.[vi] European philosophy, as argued by Simón Bolívar, among others, presents a naïve (at best) view of human freedom, ignoring those disqualified from the “human” part of human freedom. Worse, though, it does not allow for alternatives. We need those alternatives.

Cuba’s long struggle, and the ideas that explain it, offers such an alternative. Cuba’s ideas could be known. But it takes effort. Martí scholar, Pedro Paulo Rodríguez writes that even Latin Americans do not sufficiently acknowledge the philosophy grounding their region’s innovative development direction.[vii]

History inspires imagination, as Fernández suggests. And as Eduardo Galeano wrote, imagination allows us to interpret the world as what it might be, not what it is. At least occasionally, though, we need moral imagination in order to discover it. For we have to believe alternatives are possible, and needed, including philosophical ones, in order to pursue them. If we take seriously Cuban, and Latin American, history, we will benefit. But if we consider the possibility, unexpected for some, that Cuba’s resistance is morally unprecedented, offering options for human development, we will gain even more.

6.

As relations between the US and Cuba thaw, Cuba changes. Some hope it will not change much but they often miss the real reasons. In what Charles Taylor describes as the “age of authenticity”, in which personal choice is paramount, some philosophers, especially feminists, emphasize relationships and emotional sensitivity. They urge connectivity as an antidote to liberal individualism, and a source of radical knowledge. Cuba’s philosophers, especially Martí, broke that trail in this hemisphere long ago. Cuba should not turn from its philosophical traditions, urgently needed in the North.

Notes. 

[i] cited in Taylor, Charles, A secular age (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2007), 473-479).

[ii] Gleijeses, Piero, Conflicting missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959–

1976 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2002) 300-327.

[iii] Gleijeses, Piero, Visions of freedom: Havana. Washington, pretoria and the struggle

for southern Africa (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2013) 306, 373, 521, 525, 526

[iv] E.g. Brouwer, Steven, Revolutionary doctors (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011)

[v] Cited in Saney, Isaac, Cuba: A revolution in motion (Blackpoint, NS: Fernwood, 2004).

[vi] Ética, cultura, política (Havana: Estudios Martianos, 2006) 174

[vii] Rodríguez, Pedro Paulo, Pensar, prever, server (Havana: Ediciones Unión, 2012) 177

Susan Babbitt is associate professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada and author of José Martí, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Global Development Ethics: The Battle for Ideas (Palgrave MacMillan 2014).

Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance

Let Cuba be Cuba

July 22, 2015

jose marti 5

by Michael Steven Smith

Washington DC
July 20, 2015

“The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support (of the Cuban revolutionary government) is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship…Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba…A line of action which…makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government. “. Secret memorandum of Lester D Mallory, deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, April 6, 1960

A brass band played the Cuban national anthem this morning as I watched the Cuban flag being raised in front of the Cuban embassy for the first time since 1961 when the United States government cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Getting them restored was a great victory for the Cuban people and their government, although relations between the two countries are far from normal.

The United States still spends $30 million a year to subvert the Cuban government, illegally keeps a chunk of their country at the prison camp known as Guantánamo, and enforces a crippling commercial, economic, and financial blockade which has had the intended effect of stunting Cuban economic development by an estimated 1.1 trillion dollars in order to demonstrate to the world that there is no alternative to capitalism. But the Cubans despite the problems have shown that there is.

“Regime change ” is still part of American law. I was one of 500 people invited by the Cubans to celebrate the victory and re-dedicate ourselves to completing it.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the overflowing crowd packed in to the 1916 elegant limestone mansion on Embassy Row. He said that “In 1959, United States refused to accept the existence of a fully independent small and neighboring Island and much less, a few years later, a socialist revolution that was forced to defend itself and has invited, ever since then, our people’s will…. only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much harm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo and the respect for Cuba’s sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today.”

He expressed the resolve of the Cuban people and concluded by saying that “to insist in the attainment of obsolete and unjust goals, only hoping for a mere change in the methods to achieve them will not legitimatize them or favor the national interest of United States or its citizens. However, should that be the case, we would be ready to face the challenge. ”

Why was Cuba finally recognized? After the Cuban revolution of 1959, United States successfully isolated the Cuban people from the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Any government that did not go along with America’s policy paid a heavy price.

The democratically elected governments of Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and most famously Chile, the other 9/11, were replaced by US friendly dictatorships. Cuba was thrown out of the Organization of American States. Che Guevara call the organization the Ministry of Colonies.

But last year the head of the Panamanian government told the United States that it and the other Latin American countries wanted Cuba back in at the next meeting and if United States didn’t like it they didn’t have to come. That may have been the turning point. United States threw everything it had at Cuba.

Even before the revolution, they supported the Batista dictatorship, giving it arms, training it’s secret torturing police, and supply and its army. 20,000 Cubans lost their lives in the revolution That was just a start.

In 1959 many Cubans worked seasonably, lived in a grass thatched hut and , was illiterate, unhealthy, and died young. This all changed with the revolution. The large American owned landed estates were broken up and the land was redistributed to the peasants who worked it; many of them had fought in the revolution.

The American owners were told they would be paid for the land according to how much they listed its value for tax purposes. The Americans turned down the offer and closed the oil refinery, threatening to stop the Cuban economy, which would run out of gasoline. So the Cubans nationalized the oil refinery, then the phone company, then the bus company, and the nickel mines, and on and on.

This became the Cuban socialist revolution. To reverse it, the United States relied on terrorist groups helped by the CIA and centered and trained in Florida. They unleashed several thousands of CIA trained counterrevolutionaries in the infamous and failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

When the Cubans began their literacy campaign the terrorists killed the teachers. They burned down the sugarcane fields. To cripple the tourist trade they placed bombs in hotels. They bombed a Cuba commercial airplane, killing 73 people including the entire young Cuban fencing team.

They introduced dengue fever into the island which killed a lot of children. More biological warfare was used against the Cuban pig population. A half a million pigs had to be destroyed. Altogether 3098 people were killed in 2011 were injured.

A Congressional committee asked Cuban counterrevolutionary the infamous CIA agent Felix Rodriguez if he ever tried to assassinate Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar. Rodriguez said, “no sir, but I did try to kill the son of a bitch with a high-powered rifle. “.

In 1967 Rodriguez and another Cuban counterrevolutionary Gustavo Vilolldo worked with the American installed Bolivian dictatorship and succeeded in assassinating Che Guevara as Michael Ratner and I demonstrated in our book “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder”.

Nonetheless, the Cubans have achieved some remarkable goals. Their population is100% literate. Education is free. So is health care. People are healthy and live longer than they do in United States. Cuban art, music, and dance is fantastic.

The “lack of freedom “and “repression" by the Cuban government is wildly exaggerated by American propaganda. The fact is that there is more participation by the Cuban population in the running of their country than there is by the American population in the running of ours.

What’s next? Obama could ease off on the economic sanctions if he wanted to. The problem United States has with Guantánamo could be solved simply: give it back. The US could stop trying to subvert the Cuban government and stop paying and directing a lot of the so-called “dissidents". Americans could be allowed to travel freely to Cuba and see for themselves the real situation there.

It has been assumed by American policymakers since Thomas Jefferson that Cuba was part of the American orbit, the madura fruta, the ripe fruit,that should fall into America’s lap. The Cubans have resisted this. They need all the solitary they can get. Our movement in the United States should say with one voice, in the words of Sandra Levinson, the Director of New York City’s Center For Cuban Studies, who was there in Washington,”let Cuba be Cuba. ”

By Michael Steven Smith

Michael Steven Smith is the co-host of the WBAI Radio show “Law and Disorder” on the net at laws disorder.org. He and Michael Ratner wrote the book “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder”. The book was recently published in Cuba and Argentina.

Europe Was Too Slow in Bridging Cuba Ties

July 21, 2015

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Cuba does not need Europe and does not see it as a priority, which the EU’s ‘Common Position’ on Cuba does not help, Spanish political expert Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

The European Union was too slow to bridge ties with Cuba because of its “Common Position” agreement on the country, Spanish government RTVE television journalist Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

According to Medem, Spanish businessmen are very worried because there are now new economic players in Cuba. Meanwhile, the European Union remains behind the US in repairing its relations with Cuba.

“The EU was too late again because it created a ‘Common Position’ on Cuba, following the US, and now, as Washington and Havana are again opening embassies, Brussels is still discussing whether this ‘Common Position’ should be abandoned,” Medem said.

According to Medem, Spain performed very poorly since the premiership of Jose Maria Asnara, who insisted on the “Common Position” in Brussels, thereby closing the doors for talks with Cuba. The situation only slightly improved under prime minister Jose Luis Sapatero.

Medem sees integration with other Latin American countries as the best option for the island’s development. According to him, Cuba does not see the EU as a priority.

“Today Cuba has a broader spectrum of diplomatic relations than ever before, and Europe presents neither political, nor economic, nor geostrategic interest,” Medem added.

Medem brought up the example of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, who visited Cuba in November 2014, but was “humiliated” by not being received by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Cubans’ Rejection of Rubio Demonstrates Their Independent Thinking

July 21, 2015

A recent New York Times profile of Marco Rubio accurately describes the junior Senator from Florida, and member of the three-ring circus that is the Republican Presidential primary field, as Cuba’s “least favorite son.” The piece quoted a Havana resident as saying Rubio is “against Cuba in every possible way… Rubio and these Republicans, they are still stuck in 1959.” Presumably this view was representative of others that Times writer Jason Horowitz encountered while conducting his research in Cuba. This should not come as a surprise. Rubio is a reactionary fanatic who demagogues incessantly about the evils of the Cuban government. He supports illegal and immoral policies that cause vast damage to the Cuban economy and needless suffering by the Cuban people.

But Rubio cannot accept that Cubans’ nearly unanimous rejection of his right-wing politics might mean he is badly mistaken in his Manichean view of the Cuban socioeconomic system. Rubio wears Cubans’ disapproval of him as a badge of honor. For Rubio, Cubans are incapable of independent judgement. If the Cuban people are against him, it means they must be brainwashed by the evil Castro regime.

“If that’s the line the Cuban government has taken against me and is trying to indoctrinate their people in that way, it shows that we’re on to something,” the Times quotes Rubio as saying. But instead of acknowledging Rubio’s refusal to accept Cuban popular opinion as evidence of his megalomania, the Times accepts his delusional dismissal of his critics.

The Times notes that Rubio “has been identified in the state-controlled newspaper here as a ‘representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia’.” This claim is not analyzed; it is supposed to be self-evident, hyperbolic slander. In reality, Rubio has always marched in lock-step with the Cuban-American community in Miami that portrays Castro as diabolical and advocates for regime change and the overthrow of socialism. That much is beyond dispute. Is calling the Cuban-American community a “terrorist mafia” an exaggeration?

Terrorists operate freely in and around Miami. The Omega 7, Comandos F4, Brigade 2506, Alpha 66 and other groups have openly declared their intention to use violence to topple the Cuban government while training on U.S. soil. Many have carried out machine gun raids on coastal villages and attacks on Cuban fishing boats. Among many in the reactionary Cuban-American population, terrorist leaders are revered as “freedom fighters.”

In its obituary of Orlando Bosch, described by George H.W. Bush’s attorney general as “an unreformed terrorist,” the New York Times noted that “his supporters called him a hero, holding rallies for him and lobbying to name a Miami expressway after him.” The Miami city commissioners even declared an Orlando Bosch Day. Luis Posada Carriles, Bosch’s partner in planning the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, which killed 73 people including the medal-winning Cuban fencing team, lives freely in Miami to this day. He has marched with the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White and Gloria Estefan, and taught courses at local colleges.

If it is not exactly precise to say Rubio is a “representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia,” he does represent the hard-line of refusing to normalize relations with the Cuban government and maintaining punitive policies that harm the Cuban people – positions shared by both terrorists within the Miami Cuban-American community and a broader segment of that community that don’t actively participate in terrorism but support those who do.

The Times‘ piece notes that a sign on the road in Cuba read “Blockade: The Worst Genocide in History.” A man sitting next to a sign with revolutionary slogans said of Rubio: “He wants to kill us! He’s our enemy!”

Rubio defended himself by saying it was “sad” the government tried to say he intended “to starve the Cuban people.” Rubio says such views of him are evidence of the “information blockade that the people in Cuba are facing,” thereby exonerating his opposition to President Obama’s moves to normalize relations.

In reality, the claims by the Cuban government, and people such as the man interviewed, have merit. The Cuban government says the “US genocidal blockade” is responsible for “severe adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of the Cuban people.” They justify their language by stating: “the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide by virtue of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and as an act of economic warfare according to the declaration regarding the laws of naval war adopted by the Naval Conference of London of 1909.”

While genocide is a legal term that should be examined by the proper legal authorities such as the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court, the Cuban government clearly has a legitimate case it could make. Serious study of the consequences of the embargo lend credence to the “severe adverse effects” that the Cuban government describes.

In 1997, a nonprofit charitable organization undertook a year-long research effort to assess the impact of the American policy of embargo on the health of the Cuban population. Their findings conclusively verified the arguments the Cuban government has been making since the embargo was implemented in 1960.

“The American Association for World Health has determined that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens… It is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering – and even deaths – in Cuba,” states their reportDenial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health & Nutrition in Cuba.The study also found that “a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all its citizens.”

So it is hardly an exaggeration for a Cuban to say Rubio wants to kill him, or to believe that the policy Rubio ardently advocates qualifies as genocide. But the Times doesn’t bother to examine whether the policies Rubio supports are inhumane and potentially criminal. Rubio defends himself by saying that people are “scared” to oppose the Cuban government line, and that they don’t know any better because they country is “dominated by government-controlled media.”

The Times acknowledges that Cuban have a “uniformity of opinion” about Rubio, but attribute this to the popularity of Granma, the official paper of the Communist Party. One man interviewed by the Times tells the reporter he is informed, and points to a story “linking the C.I.A. to a notorious Cuban-American extremist suspected of blowing up a Cuban airline filled with passengers.” This is implicitly another example of the embellishment and exaggeration of the Cuban government, spreading fantasies and conspiracy theories to turn its people against the United States.

The article most likely mentioned was “United States Considers Posada Carriles Probable Author of Terrorist Act,” published in Granma on June 4, 2015 (about a month before the Times profile of Rubio.) The article, by a Cuban news service, reprints an article that appeared in the Miami Herald the same day.

In fact, there is extensive documentation of the article’s claims on the National Security Archive’s Web site that states unequivocally that “the CIA had concrete advance intelligence… on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner.” A section of the site titled “The CIA Connection” includes multipledocuments implicating Posada.

It was previously mentioned that Posada – who nearly 20 years ago acknowledged responsibility in the pages of the Times for hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist – enjoys sanctuary in Miami and is active among reactionary Cuban-American political groups.

So, rather than allowing Rubio to speculate on how the Cuban government allegedly manipulates Cubans into hating him, the Times might ask if it may have something to do with Rubio ignoring the fact that one of his own constituents is implicated in the murder at least 75 innocent Cuban civilians?

It seems the Cuban public is much more informed about the terrorist activities by the CIA and extremists it was affiliated with than the American public, who will not find out from the Times that the allegations printed by Granma are substantiated by official declassified U.S. government documents. Neither will the Times hold to account a Presidential candidate who allows an unrepentant terrorist to enjoy safe harbor within the state he represents in Congress.

Cubans despise Rubio because he is a belligerent, war-mongering fanatic who panders to a reactionary base that demands the continuation of the most punitive policies of economic warfare in modern history. Instead of allowing Rubio to state unchallenged that he considers this a point of pride, the New York Times – the most prestigious paper in the vaunted American Free Press – should ask what is wrong with the United States itself that someone so contemptuous of humanitarianism, international law and world opinion can be a considered a serious candidate for President? And what might that say about which people are really indoctrinated by their government and media?

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.

US / Cuba Relations: What Would Constitute Normal?

July 15, 2015

President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961.  Fifty-four years later, on Monday the 20th of July, the United States and Cuba will advance toward normalization of diplomatic relations.  Presumably, the US will no longer treat Cuba as its enemy and treat the island simply as its next-door neighbor.  Maybe …

The raising of the flags at the embassies on the 20th of July is much anticipated.  But what does this all really mean?  After more than 56 years of trying to destroy the Cuban Revolution through US sponsored terrorism, an invasion organized and launched by the CIA, biological warfare, an economic and commercial blockade, clandestine infiltrations and a permanent propaganda campaign against Cuba, what would constitute “normal” relations between Washington and La Habana?

The word normal derives from the Latin normalis.  In the context of US-Cuba relations it refers to civilized diplomatic behavior, according to historically established philosophical precepts: norms or rules of peaceful conduct between nations.

What rules of peaceful conduct by the United States towards Cuba may we expect from now on?  Which normative rules could be considered normal and which abnormal?

It’s normal for two neighboring countries, separated by a mere 90 miles of water, to have diplomatic relations.  It’s not normal for the United States to impose an economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba.

It’s normal for the US to have an embassy in Havana and for Cuba an embassy in Washington. It’s not normal for the US embassy in Cuba to function without an ambassador, simply because some in the Senate oppose it.

It’s normal for US citizens to travel to Cuba, but it´s not normal to prohibit tourists from the US to travel to the island.

It’s normal for US citizens to travel to Cuba and engage in “people to people” contact, but it’s not normal that the Office of Finance and Assets Control (OFAC) limit it to only group-travel through licensed organizations, thus making travel to Cuba prohibitively expensive and inconvenient for many Americans.

It’s normal for Washington to permit businesses in the US to engage in commerce with private individuals in Cuba, but it’s not normal to make it illegal to do business with state enterprises on the island.

It’s normal for the United States to want a second consulate in Cuba to better serve the public, but it’s not normal that it uses its diplomats to intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs.

It’s normal for the United States to support a process of legal and orderly immigration from Cuba, but it’s not normal for Washington to maintain a Cuban Adjustment Act as a tool to stimulate an illegal, dangerous and disorderly immigration of Cubans to the United States.

It’s normal for the United States Embassy in Havana to provide an open-door policy for Cubans.  It’s not normal for its diplomats to organize, direct and employ as salaried dissidents a few Cubans of their choosing.

It’s normal for Washington to contribute to the entertainment of the Cuban people with radio and television programs.  It’s not normal for it to maintain a multi-million dollar budget to fund Radio and TV Marti as propaganda instruments.

It’s normal for Washington to want a reputation as a great defender of human rights.  It’s not normal for the United States to imprison without due process or civil rights dozens of persons in Guantánamo, as well as torturing them in Cuba.

It’s normal for the United States to have an embassy in Cuba, even a large one, located in prime real estate on the famous Malecón overlooking the bay in Havana.  It’s not normal for the United States to occupy, against the wishes of the Cuban people, a large swath of Cuban territory in the province of Guantánamo.

It’s normal for the Pentagon not to invade or send military drones to Cuba. It’s not normal that Washington earmarks a $30 million budget for fiscal year 2016 for a project whose declared purpose is to remove the government of Cuba from power.

It’s normal for Mississippi to be one of the 50 states of the US.  It’s not normal for Washington to assume that it has jurisdiction in Cuba as well.

It’s normal for the US to do business with Cuba, but it’s not normal for the US to intervene in her internal affairs.

It’s normal for Washington to condemn terrorism.  It’s not normal that it protect in Miami dozens of terrorists, including Luis Posada Carriles, who have committed heinous crimes against civilians in Cuba.

The US blockade against Cuba is a relic of the Cold War whose days are numbered. President Obama’s new Cuba policy, announced on the 17th of December, is a chronicle of the blockade’s death foretold. And it unleashed a torrent of enthusiasm from American businessmen who want to make money by investing there.  Businessmen will pressure the Congress to lift the Helms-Burton law that codified parts of the blockade.

But let’s not be naïve.  In order to truly say that relations between the US and Cuba are normal, Washington must understand that Cuba does not belong to it, that it is a violation of international law for the US to try and foment regime change in a foreign country and that Cuba must and ought be respected for what it is: a sovereign nation.

President Obama’s Cuba policy is a seismic shift in strategy for the United States.  “The old policy did not work.  It is long past its expiration date”, said Obama, in his most recent State of the Union speech before Congress. “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”

What is the end game for the United States regarding Cuba?  What it is it that US Presidents wished had worked?  Clearly, the major premise of Washington’s Cuba policy was always regime change.  It failed, and the Cuban Revolution remains strong.  That is why President Obama said, that Washington should “try something new”.  Perhaps business can do what isolation could not.  Engagement is the new strategy to try and topple the Cuban Revolution.

Cuba is ready for Washington’s policy of engagement.  Just as she learned to build trenches to defend the island from invasion, terrorism, biological warfare and a brutal blockade, Cuba will now help the bridges that American businesses will cross to invest there.  But Cuba will also be wary.  To be sure, Cuba knows that Washington’s end game remains regime change.  Cuban laws have always regulated foreign business ventures, and American investment in Cuba will be no different.

Cuba welcomes better relations with the United States and hopes to advance toward normalization.  But unless and until the government of the United States has a political metanoia and cancels its desire to dominate Cuba, as it she were its vassal state, normal relations in the true sense of the word will not come to pass.

José Pertierra is an attorney in Washington, DC.

Next Steps in the Normalization of US-Cuban Relations: Thoughts From the Cuban Five

July 7, 2015

_1-cohnmarjorie2015_0702co_1(Marjorie Cohn with René González and his wife, Olga. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)

By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout | News Analysis

Now that United States and Cuba are preparing to open embassies in each other’s countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries?

During a recent visit to Cuba I posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, two of the “Cuban Five” – five Cuban men who traveled to the United States in the 1990s to gather information about terrorist plots against Cuba and then became celebrated Cuban heroes during their subsequent incarceration by the United States.

Their reply? End the embargo and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

“We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal,” González said, arguing that the normalization of relations won’t happen overnight. He added:

We were occupied by US troops in 1898. From then on, we were a subject of the US government and especially the US corporations. Then came the Revolution, which tried to correct that imbalance. Then came a different stage – of aggressions, blockade and policies against Cuba, which has lasted for more than 56 years. You cannot expect that establishing normal relations … [for] the first time in history is going to be an easy process.

Guerrero noted that the US had taken one major step toward normalization already by removing Cuba from its list of countries alleged to support terrorism but noted that the next step toward normalization will require a much larger step – ending the US embargo, which in Cuba is more commonly referred to as the “blockade.” Normalization, González said, will require “the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade. Everybody knows how damaging it has been for the Cuban people. It’s a small island. For 50 years, it has been asphyxiated by the biggest power in the world. It had a cost on the Cuban people, on their economy.”

The Illegal Occupation of Guantánamo Bay

González also listed the return of Guantánamo to Cuba as necessary for normalization. After the blockade is lifted and Guantánamo is returned to Cuba, he told me, “I believe the process will take speed.”

González rightly pointed out that the US occupation of Guantánamo is illegal. The United States gained control of Guantánamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the US Army after its intervention in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain. Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its Constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of US troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantánamo Bay.

The 1903 Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” A 1934 treaty maintained US control over Guantánamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to “coaling and naval stations.”

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – which has been documented at the prison. The United States thus stands in violation of the 1934 treaty.

Moreover, the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a norm of customary international law, allows one party to a treaty to abrogate its obligations when there is a fundamental change in circumstances. Using Guantánamo Bay as a prison and torturing detainees is a fundamental change in circumstance, which constitutes grounds for Cuba to terminate the treaty.

The Diplomatic Importance of Freeing the Cuban Five

The United States and Cuba would not likely have announced this week their plans to reopen embassies in each other’s countries if President Barack Obama had not successfully negotiated the full release of the Cuban Five in the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17, 2014. That deal, to work toward normalization of relations between the two countries, had eluded Obama’s 10 predecessors over a 55-year period. It will likely be Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement.

A part of the deal that had enormous symbolic significance to the people of Cuba was the freeing of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino – the three members of the Cuban Five who were still imprisoned at the time of the agreement. On December 17, 2014, the three men were granted clemency and returned to Cuba. The other two members of the Cuban Five – René González and Fernando González – had previously been released in 2011 and 2014, respectively, after serving their full sentences.

The case of the Cuban Five garnered international condemnation in particular because the five men had traveled to the United States to gather intelligence on Cuban exile groups for a very legitimate reason. Since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, terrorist organizations based in Miami, including Alpha 66, Commandos F4, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro government. The most notorious was the in-air bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 persons aboard, including the entire Cuban fencing team. These groups have acted with impunity in the United States.

The Cuban Five peacefully infiltrated these organizations. They then turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working to combat terrorist plots in the United States against Cuba, the US government arrested them and charged them with crimes including conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. Although none of the Five had any classified information or engaged in any acts to injure the United States, they were convicted in a Miami court in 2000 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years collectively.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals unanimously overturned their convictions in 2005, ruling that the Five could not get a fair trial in Miami due to the pervasive anti-Cuba sentiment there. Nevertheless, the 11thCircuit, sitting en banc, upheld the convictions, and Hernandez’s life term was affirmed on appeal.

Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

The Cuban Five endured years of harsh conditions and wrongful imprisonment before their release. After being arrested, they were immediately put into solitary confinement and held in “The Hole” for 17 months. Solitary confinement amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, according to United Nations special rapporteur Juan E. Méndez.

“I believe they expected to break us down,” González added. The US government “used the CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] and randomly classified everything,” which “allowed them to prevent us from looking at the evidence,” González said. “So they put us in “The Hole” and then put the evidence in another hole.”

Yet, González noted, “Sometimes you have to react as a human with your dignity. And they went after our dignity. And we had to defend it. We were more committed. We were more encouraged to go to trial, and that’s what we did.”

“For us,” González said, “going to trial was great. We wanted to go to trial every day because we wanted to face them and expose the truth of terrorism against Cuba and how the government of the United States supported those terrorists.”

“They decided to behave like thugs.” he told me. “And then you have to resort to your moral values, again to your human dignity and defend that.” González said, “We always knew what we were doing there. We knew that we never intended to make any harm to the United States at all, to the US people. We were very clear on that. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in the whole evidence that would show hatred toward the United States or the US people or an intent to damage anybody. We knew that we were defending human life. And going to prison for defending the most precious thing which is the human life – it makes you strong.”

Surviving Prison Through Poetry and Art

I asked González and Guerrero how they survived prison for all those years. “Our humor never went down,” González said. “We played chess from one cell to another by yelling. We did poetry. Sometimes we had fun just reading the poetry through the doors.”

Guerrero also began writing poetry in prison.

“I started writing poems without even having paper,” he said. “A poem came to my head after they arrested me … And I cannot explain how because I wasn’t a poet. And then I started writing poems.” Guerrero never imagined that his poems would be published, but he shared them with the other prisoners and shared them with people in court. He couldn’t believe it when his first book of poems, Desde Mi Altura (“From My Altitude”), was published.

Guerrero also became a painter in prison. “The penitentiary is very tough,” he said. “So one day I went to the art room … that was another way to free my mind.”

I was thrilled when Guerrero gave me a copy of his newly published book, Absolved by Solidarity, a collection of his paintings depicting the different stages of the trial.

The Five Return to Cuba

When I asked what it was like when all the members of the Cuban Five were back in Cuba together, Guerrero said: “It’s a sense of joy. It’s a sense of victory. It’s a sense of returning to the place where you belong to. And it feels great.”

González added: “My little daughter was four months when I was arrested. I came to Cuba two days before her 15th birthday. I have a grandson now which is a beautiful boy.”

Both González and Guerrero said they had thought they would never see Hernandez in Cuba again because he was serving a term of life imprisonment. “My biggest fear was he would die there,” González said. “And let’s not fool ourselves. The US wanted him to die in prison. And the prosecutor wanted him to die in prison.”

“We know how hard it is to take him from those appetites,” he added, “and we managed to do that. It speaks a lot about Cuba, a lot about the Cuban people, because the Cuban people together as one did everything possible for the Five and it’s just pure joy.”

The Way Ahead

In the days ahead, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will rely most of all on the United States’ willingness to act out of respect for Cuban self-determination. “The only thing we want is respect,” Guerrero said. “Let’s try to build something now – good for you, good for us – with respect in the middle. … The point is, we don’t know if the interest of the American government is really to be respectful and friendly to the Cuban government.”

Guerrero said that even if millions of American tourists come flooding in to visit Cuba, he cannot conceive of Cuba becoming a capitalist country and forgetting about the Revolution. “Somebody may bring drugs, or somebody may bring a lot of money and try to buy things,” Guerrero said. “We are not accustomed to that. But we are ready to deal with that and create our security and our understanding. They will be received with peace, with love.”

González added that the Cuban people don’t have hatred or resentment toward the American people specifically. “We don’t blame the American people for the faults of the their government,” he said. “We know they are people like people anywhere. I believe that all of us have more in common than things that divide us. … And I hope sincerely that this new relationship with the US will allow Americans to come here and share with us this beautiful island.”

In June, the Cuban Five visited Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years by the apartheid regime. Hernandez wrote in the guest book, “It has been a great honor to visit this place together with some of the brave compañeros of Nelson Mandela,” who were “a source of inspiration and strength for the Five Cubans to withstand the more than 16 years in US jails.” Hernandez added that Mandela’s legacy is one “the Five will honor for the rest of our lives.”

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31697-next-steps-in-the-normalization-of-us-cuban-relations-thoughts-from-the-cuban-five

Cuba willing to continue human rights talks with EU

June 27, 2015

convergencia

Cuba reiterated its willingness on Friday to participate in further meetings with the European Union (EU) to discuss human rights on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual respect.

A report published by Cuban Foreign Ministry confirmed the island’s decision to “continue these exchanges, based on the recognition and respect of the conceptual differences and the willingness to address any topic, on an equal sense of balance, reciprocity and mutual respect.”

The statement, posted on the website http://www.cubaminrex.cu, refers to the meeting between diplomats from Cuba and the EU, who met on Thursday in Brussels discussing the basic principles of human rights for the first time.

This is part of an ongoing negotiation aiming to reach a political and economic collaboration agreement between the Caribbean island and the European bloc.
The meeting was a “technical dialogue” that took place in a “friendly and professional” environment, according to the official document.

Cuban representatives asked to discuss issues such as racial discrimination, vulnerable groups’ human rights, including migrants, religious and ethnic minorities, and protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile the European bloc considered that the first bilateral meeting on human rights showed a common commitment to “deepening relations” and supporting respect for human rights.

The venue, date and agenda of the next meeting will be defined through diplomatic channels according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

A year ago Cuba and the EU began a process to normalize bilateral ties.

The Caribbean island is the only Latin American country without a political and economic collaboration agreement with the European bloc.

EU relations with Cuba are currently governed by the Common Position; a document adopted by the EU in 1996, conditioning the relations with Havana to certain requirements of “democracy and respect for human rights”.

Cuba rejected this document as an “interference in its domestic affairs”.

-Xinhua/ANA

Lifting the embargo on Cuba: Why we need to act now

June 26, 2015

cuba si

By Scott D. Gilbert

The latest survey results are stunning. According to a poll by USF Sarasota-Manatee, slightly over 91 percent of respondents want the Cuban embargo lifted. The longer the government takes to comply with this decisive mandate, the more Americans, as well as Cubans, will suffer the consequences.

Virtually every U.S.-Cuban policy expert and political analyst knows that sooner or later the embargo will be consigned to history. But the operative words are “sooner or later.” If it’s later, U.S. businesses, both corporations and smaller companies, will continue to miss out on rich investment opportunities that promise significant returns for themselves, their shareholders, their employees, and their communities.

To be sure, it’s not just corporate behemoths that stand to gain from a level playing field. As of this writing, family farmers and ranchers have also joined with those demanding an end to the embargo, especially smaller rural stakeholders that depend on exports to survive. For them, Cuba is an untapped market, made all the more promising as Cuban spending power, projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 4.6 percent through 2020, continues to increase.

Despite U.S. trade missions to the island and somewhat looser constraints on trade, the myopia that keeps the embargo in place is costing everybody money. Everybody, that is, except foreign business interests that, absent American competition, will invest all the more fruitfully, as long as the embargo tilts the competitive odds in their favor. It’s no accident that France’s President François Hollande led a large trade mission to Cuba, while representatives from Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia have likewise paid visits.

“It’s impossible to deny that diplomatic detente between Washington and Havana has accelerated the process of normalization between Cuba and Europe,” said Salim Lamrani, a Cuba expert at France’s University of La Reunion.

While some in the U.S. nurse old political wounds, these foreign competitors are already planning investments in real estate, infrastructure projects, agriculture, Internet technology, telecom, pharmaceutical, automotive, financial services, and more. Each area represents fertile ground for American interests as well, once the embargo is lifted. And every day that goes by until then reflects increasingly lost opportunities stateside.

Ironically, while the long-overdue thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations has encouraged and even accelerated foreign investment in Cuba, the vast majority of U.S. businesses, still shackled by the embargo, cannot compete in that marketplace.  This is not about leveling the playing field for American companies; it is about just letting them onto the field.

The embargo is a vestige of an archaic foreign policy. Arguably, it was a failed policy from the get-go, accomplishing nothing except to deepen the suffering of average Cubans who themselves had little or no participation in the political activities that rankled the U.S. for six decades.

At this point we should be beyond arguing the historical merits of the embargo.  Indeed, the majority of Cuban Americans – the children and grandchildren of the émigrés who came to the U.S. in the 1960s – support lifting the embargo.

Some memories never fade; some wounds never close. But supporters of the embargo need to consider how little they have to gain, and how much the eleven million people on the island stand to lose, if the embargo drags on.

The U.S. has enough to do to fight today’s battles without needlessly prolonging yesterday’s.

Gilbert, Esq., heads Reneo, a Washington-based legal-strategic consulting firm.  He waged a successful pro bono legal campaign to free Alan Gross, who was imprisoned for five years in Cuba.

TheHill.com.blog

UNUSUAL CUBA ADS ON US TV

June 22, 2015

_1-Five_Key_Human_Rights

By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs4401.html,

A different kind of publicity regarding Cuba has begun to reach
U.S. TV viewers, who, for more than half a century, have received
only slanderous criticism about political life on the island.

It is not that the mainstream media have changed their hostile
orientation, but the mere fact that some of them have allowed
–albeit paid– a different kind of publicity than
the one demanded by the US power elite since the triumph of the
popular revolution in 1959, is an encouraging sign for US
citizens and, of course, also for Cubans.

A new bipartisan coalition (Republican and Democrat) called
“Engage Cuba”, constructed of entities interested in developing
ties with Cuba, has emerged in line with the official
announcements of the governments of Washington and Havana in
December 2014. It has launched a campaign in major US media,
criticizing the archaic bans denying US citizens their
constitutional right to travel to and do business with Cuba.

The 30 second ad, produced by the advertising firm Shorr Magnus
Johnson, began airing on Tuesday, June 16, on cable television
services Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

The text points out that Americans are free to travel anywhere
in the world –with the exception of Cuba– and that
an estimated 5.9 billion dollars in annual US exports from the
United States are currently blocked by the outdated prohibition
–more in keeping with the Cold War– which prevents
trade with Cuba.

In the words of James Williams, president of the Engage Cuba
coalition,“Public polls show that Americans are saying,
‘We are tired of the Cold War-era policy that won’t
let us trade or travel to Cuba. We want our government to let us
play a role in this significant period of transition.’
That’s why we’re launching Engage Cuba.”

Engage Cuba had a role in negotiating the landmark deal that has
enabled the Cuban Interests Section and the future embassy of
Cuba in Washington to receive indispensable banking services for
the current process of normalization.

The coalition supports draft legislation known as Freedom to
Travel to Cuba Act (S. 299), submitted by Senators Jeff Flake and
John Boozman (Arizona Republicans) and Patrick Leahy (a Vermont
Democrat), which already has forty co-sponsors in the Senate.

Engage Cuba’s membership includes organizations and enterprises
in all sectors and major business groups like the National
Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers,
the Consumer Electronics Association, the Council of the
Americas, and the American Society of Travel Agents.

Also members of Engage Cuba are civil society organizations like
Third Way, CubaNow, Cuba Study Group and the Center for Democracy
in the Americas.

In addition, Engage Cuba is working directly with leading
companies sharing the goal of removing the travel and trade ban
on Cuba, such as Procter & Gamble, Cargill, Caterpillar, Choice
Hotels, and the Havana Group, among others.

“There is a growing number of bipartisan agreements, more than in
the previous 54 years of the policy of isolation, which has hurt
our own businesses and farmers,” said Steven Law, who was head of
the office of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell/ A
aside from being the chair of the American Crossroads, McConnell
now serves as Senior Advisor to Engage Cuba. “The future of a
commitment with Cuba has come, and it’s time for Congress to help
manage the transition of that policy.”

“One of these days, our legislative branch of government
is going to have to start functioning,” says Luke Albee, a
senior adviser to Engage Cuba who served as chief of staff to
U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Patrick Leahy. “There is no
better way to help make this happen than to change our archaic
Cuba policy. It is in our national interest. And it is fair for
the United States and for the Cuban people.”

It is unquestionable that US citizens are among the most misled
and misinformed in the world. Their right to know the truth has
been systematically blocked and manipulated.


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