Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cuba

Why Hillary Clinton cried

Turning Back the Clock on Cuba

Counter Punch

May 30, 2008

Dubious Presidential Advice on Latin American From the Council on Foreign Relations

By ROBERT SANDELS

The Council on Foreign Relations issued a report in May on what the next president should do to improve US Latin America policy. The report (U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality) was written by a task co-chaired by Charlene Barshefsky, former US trade representative, and Gen. James T. Hill, former head of the US Southern Command. It has received considerable enthusiastic approval. How could it not when it contains the line, "If there was an era of U.S. hegemony in Latin America, it is over" [1]

What do they mean "if"? Anyone capable of doubting that there was an era of US hegemony is a fool, and anyone who thinks it is over is misinformed.

Starting off smartly on the wrong foot, the authors assert that the problems facing US diplomacy in Latin America are not our fault.

"Recent strains in the US - Latin America relationship," argues the report, "although real, are less a result of alleged U.S. policy failings than a product of deeper changes...."

It is not so much that the recommendations flowing from this deeply flawed assertion are uniformly bad - many are admirable - but rather that the report is poisoned at the outset by its unquestioning acceptance of the hegemonic premises whose damage to the region the report purports to repair.

Adopting orphaned premises

The report could only have been written in the form it is in by adopting the hoary mythology that US policy has been benign, though possibly bumbling at times. Where is the evidence to support the assertion that the United States has had a "long-standing focus" on democracy; or the claim that US objectives have been the promotion of "prosperity, and democracy throughout the hemisphere"? Democracy promotion has never been a US policy, in Latin America except as a cover for hegemonic ambitions, as the long history of interventions, invasions and subversions amply demonstrates.

Without the democracy-promotion fallacy as a cover, many of the report's assertions are revealed as justifications for continuing US interventionism, albeit on a more sophisticated level than we have seen under recent administrations. Praising by way of faint damnation, the report offers this zinger of understatement: The US focus on "free and fair elections," has been "insufficient" in dealing with "fundamental concerns."

When it looks at individual countries, the report offers little in the way of historical context to explain current tensions. It fails to ask, for example, the reasons for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's hostility toward the policies of the US government, contenting itself with repeating Bush administration talking points about the "authoritarian" Chavez.

"Since being elected in 1998," says the report, "he has used oil profits to fund high-profile public projects and welfare programs while ruling by decree and systematically eradicating checks on his own power. More worrying in the regional context, he has also embarked on a campaign to alienate Latin America from the United States and promoted foreign policies that could destabilize the region (such as pushing for recognition of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia [FARC] as a political rather than terrorist organization)."

There is no mention here that Chavez has repeatedly renewed his authority through democratic elections and referendums; no mention that his limited power of decree was legislatively approved; no mention of Washington's support for the coup attempt against him in 2002, which might help explain his antipathy toward the current United States government; no mention that his regional policies, far from destabilizing the region, have been in support of democratic elections that have challenged US-backed ruling elites in places like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua; and no mention that Latin America's alienation from the United States might be a good thing in a region working toward unity and independence.

On other important issues, the report is silent or given to mumbling.

There is no discussion of the long history of US attacks on sovereign states up to and including the endless war against Cuba. For the Council on Foreign Relations, history begins only after a Fidel Castro or a Hugo Chavez reacts against US aggression.

How they can help us

The report talks a great deal about how the United States might help Latin America, but it is essentially a report on how Latin America can help the United States. The region is more important to the US than ever, the forward begins. "[It] is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States."

US energy security is one of the four critical issues identified in the report. The others are poverty, public security and human mobility (migration). All four are interpreted to one degree or another as to how they threaten or otherwise affect the United States.

The report complains that the rise of resource nationalism presents "a difficult challenge for both the United States and Latin American countries." Resource nationalism refers to the trend toward taking control of oil and other resources out of the hands of foreign corporations and, through nationalization or other means, putting them to national use.

"Since 2001," the report says, "President Chavez has sought to use his nation's vast energy wealth for public programs and for his own ambitions by strengthening government control over the state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), limiting foreign ownership of joint ventures, and demanding higher royalty payments from foreign oil companies."

Because of Venezuela's use of Venezuelan oil for Venezuelan purposes, the report suggests, the impact on future supplies could "have problematic implications for the United States." The sentiment here seems to be that Venezuelans are using up our oil.

Perhaps that could be offset, though. Brazil could increase its oil exports, which could "substantially benefit...the United States."

Then, there is natural gas: "Latin America's natural gas resources also have the potential to play an important part in U.S. energy security in the coming years."

Maybe Peru could export liquid natural gas to the United States. But, once again, resource nationalism gets in the way: "Potential Bolivian exports to Chile and the United States have been held up by anti-Chilean sentiment and resource nationalism."

IMF to the rescue

To repair the damage done by the disaster economics of the Washington Consensus, the report recommends, well, the Washington Consensus. The report advises Washington to help Latin American nations work with the multilateral organizations that implement the Washington Consensus, such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But, these are instruments of US policy not of Latin American integration and independence.

The report does not discuss the history of how the Washington Consensus exacerbated poverty and dependence or the reality that the multilateral financial institutions are no longer welcomed in most of Latin America and have little money left to affect changes anywhere. Yet, the council wants Latin America to embrace these discredited institutions.

Citing economic policies (structural adjustment, debt repayment, privatization) thrust on the region through the Washington Consensus, the report ignores the wholesale ransacking of national assets and the squeezing of taxpayers to repay loans contracted by corrupt regimes coerced by US agents, and concludes with masterly obliviousness, "these measures have had less of an effect on job creation and poverty alleviation than was initially indicated."

Besides papering over the failures of the Washington Consensus, the report downplays the failures of Plan Colombia, of which it can only say, "important progress has been made." Still, the report offers Plan Colombia as a model for Mexico, perhaps taking as fact Gen. Hill's ludicrous claim that Plan Colombia's success "has been absolutely startling."[2] Nor does the report reflect on how seriously Colombia's US-approved incursion into Ecuador in March has damaged relations between Colombia and its neighbors.

This "startlingly" successful program, the report argues, should now be extended to Mexico under Plan Merida, a US-financed amplification of President Felipe Calderon's bloody militarization of his war on drug lords and civil protest.
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insert bold tags
Unintended irony

The report points out the negative economic effects on the region of unequal wealth distribution, of race-based economic and social exclusion and of race- and class-based exclusion from health care. All of these are characteristic of contemporary US society, but the report does not draw the same conclusion for the United States as it does for Latin America, namely that these defects "have potentially problematic implications for democratic development."

To be sure, many of the recommendations - if read without considering context - are laudable. Latin American governments, for example, really ought to reform their tax systems by adopting more distributive schemes that rely less on regressive value-added taxes (VATs) and more on progressive- income and corporate-profit levies.

But, to suggest that there is any US "expertise" to support such efforts is absurd. Just look at the inverted system of progressivity in the US tax code, the thicket of lobbyist-procured tax breaks for the richest percentiles, the wealthy-farmer subsidies and the relentless transfer of wealth from wage earners to rentiers for an idea of how good the United States is at tax reform. Latin American governments should politely tell the Council on Foreign Relations, "Please, don't help us!"

In a council meeting releasing the report, American University scholar Robert Pastor raised the same point. "I think those four issues that you laid out are not issues that I would say the United States has much to teach Latin America."[3]

Cuba: turning the clock back

This report is supposed to show how the next president can face Latin American realities. The section on Cuba, however, wanders off into many of the same fantasies that have driven Cuban policy for half a century. At best, these recommendations call for a timid retreat to milder policies that were in play prior to the passage of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, which, besides further tightening the blockade (embargo), gives Congress the final power to judge Cuba's behavior.

The council's task force would like to end, though only partially, the nearly total ban on US citizens traveling to Cuba. It goes only so far as to suggest reinstating the less stringent travel rights that existed pre-Bush. The report does not attempt to justify the original reasoning behind the travel restrictions and does not ask questions about the trumped-up grounds of "trading with the enemy."

The report also wants to reduce the severity of the blockade by revoking the Helms-Burton Act, which in itself would not change Cuba policy but simply hand it back from Congress to the executive branch. It does not recommend repealing the entirety of the anti-Cuba legislation, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act or the Torricelli Act. Since none of the current presidential candidates favors eliminating the blockade, the report's major recommendation on Cuba rings hollow.

In sum, the report's timid recommendations outline a return to the somewhat milder Cuba policy that set in after President John F. Kennedy's failure at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and his failed Operation Mongoose terror project. Richard Nixon, who, as vice president, recommended the invasion to then President Dwight Eisenhower, established a softer Cuba policy as president than the one recommended by the task force

Some of the proposals concerning Cuba actually reinforce Bush's hard-line approach. Both Bush and the Council on Foreign Relations want the next president to work more effectively with partners in the Western Hemisphere and Europe to press Cuba on its human rights record and democratic reform, the two major propaganda points endlessly cited as justifications for the war on Cuba.

Rather than pledging to leave Cuba's future to Cubans, the report suggests that the next president promise, "The United States will pursue a respectful arm's-length relationship with a democratic Cuba."

The catch is that, under current law and policy, it is up to the United States to determine whether Cuba is democratic. Moreover, since US policy after the 2001 Summit of the Americas links democracy and capitalism, the unacknowledged agenda of the council appears to be destruction of Cuba's socialist revolution. [4]

Robert Sandels is a writer and member of the Cuba-L Direct team. where this essay originally appeared.

Bibliography

[1] Council on Foreign Relations, U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality, 05/15/08. All quotations are from the online uncorrected version.

[2] U.S.-Latin America Relations: Report of an Independent Task, Federal News Service, 05/14/08.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Summit of the Americas Information Network. The final declaration says democracy is "fundamental to the advancement of all our objectives," which include "hemispheric integration and national and collective responsibility for improving the economic well-being and security of our people." Further, any "interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state's government in the Summit of the Americas process." Accordingly, it would seem that the Bush regime, which fought to get this language in the declaration, could be kicked out of future summits after the 2002 stunt in Venezuela or the US-engineered expulsion of Haiti's President Aristide in 2004.

USAID Reveals Its Plans for Subversion in Cuba

Ahora.cu

Viernes, 30 de Mayo del 2008 / 12:38:45

José "Pepe" Cárdenas and officials in charge of attacking Cuba have brazenly revealed in Washington how they are to squander the $45 million assigned to subversion in Cuba via "experienced" institutions, preferably European and Latin American ones.


By Jean-Guy Allard

In its new plans for destabilizing Cuba, the USAID is to promote the clandestine dispatch of electronic materials to the island via European and Latin American intermediaries, which will undertake the dirty work that it cannot legally do: to send agents into the country under cover of so-called humanitarian licenses in order to make on-the-ground evaluations, and to guarantee their collaborators that their activities will never be divulged, over and above the Freedom of Information Act.

Forced by the General Accountability Office to fabricate a certain image of decency in the distribution of taxpayers’ money that it has squandered to date without the least accountability, the USAID (the so-called Agency for International Development), called an assembly at its Washington headquarters on May 14 to discuss the distribution of the $45 million assigned by the Bush administration to bring down the Cuban revolutionary process.

For three hours, from 9:00 a.m. to midday, behind closed doors and in a conspiratorial atmosphere in line with the operations planned, José "Pepe" Cárdenas, USAID chief for Latin America, and a former Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) director, headed a clique of federal official "specialists" on Cuba:

• His right-hand woman for the island, Elaine Grigsby, director of the Cuba Program;

• Amadjan Abani, from the USAID Aid and Acquisitions Office;

• Anthony Christino III, from the Department of Commerce Industry and Security Office;

• Clara Davis of the OFAC (the State Department Agency that monitors and punishes exchanges with Cuba).

Outstanding among the organizations present, some already notorious and others less well-known, but likewise dedicated to appropriating millions from the State Department, and whose representatives peopled the room, bent on getting a slice of the cake, were:

The pseudo Czech NGO People in Need; Global Partners, IBMC, Loyola University, Jackson State University, the Mississippi Consortium for International Development, the International Resources Group, the Panamerican Development Foundation, Partners of America, the Alliance for Family, the Trade Council of Hungary and the millionaire TV Martí.

No diplomat – not even the Czech agent Kolar – was present.

In what is equivalent to confessing authentic espionage operations against Cuba and in Cuban territory, "Pepe" Cárdenas, the former CANF director who replaced the supremely corrupt Adolfo Franco, insisted on the need to identify NGOS in third countries that can channel USAID’s resources for subversion.

He stressed the need to dispatch to Cuba, via such intermediaries, "propaganda pamphlets, cell phones and modern communications equipment," as well as "to train Cubans resident in third countries."

Highlighting the philosophy behind the significant expansion of the USAID’s Cuba Program, Cárdenas announced that its budget of $13 million in 2007, "shot up" to $45 million in 2008.

He then moved on to the new geography of this monumental squandering, noting Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Puerto Rico as countries most inclined to develop this clandestine operation.

However, Grigsby, supposedly his most faithful collaborator, commented that, in her experience, it would be difficult to find partners in Latin America.

As a good instructor of what clearly constitutes an intelligence operation, Cárdenas spoke of the convenience of using East European countries that have had recent transition experiences.

However, he did not go into details as to the degree of collaboration or complicity that U.S. intelligence clearly enjoys with government officials from the countries that he mentioned.

Replying to one question, Cárdenas forgot that he had already recommended "institutions experienced in carrying out this type of program," such as the NED, the NDI, the IRI, Florida International University, Freedom House, and his CIA agent Jaime Suchlicki…

And, of course, his buddy Frank "Paquito" Calzón’s Center for a Free Cuba.

"SECRET" OPERATIONS: ACCESS TO BE DENIED

With a language corresponding to an espionage operation, the former CANF director confessed that it is difficult to introduce materials into Cuba and thus implied that the work "had to be done in a clandestine manner."

Grigsby compounded the top secret nature of the designated tasks by stating that if applications for the declassification of documents should be made via the FOIA, USAID would only issue a "general summary" and would keep secret details of each NGO’s program, given that these concern "secret materials."

Clear as water.

In this same collective confession, Anthony Christino III spoke of the need to send computers and software to Cuba, for which his services would issue licenses.

For her part, Clara Davis, the pearl of the OFAC, proposed travel licenses, making it clear that so-called humanitarian licenses are to be utilized for infiltrating agents under the cover of projects linked to public health, the environment and "specific" initiatives.

She also referred, openly and crudely, to the "interest" in promoting travel to Cuba in order to undertake "on-the-ground evaluations" utilizing general licenses.

Davis noted that the largest entry of money into Cuba is done via the Churches, an intentional reference whose aim was to damage the excellent relations existing between the Churches and Cuban state.

ELECTIONS WILL DETERMINE THE FUTURE

In another confession in this lengthy succession of confidences, Grigsby pointed out that a further expansion of the subversive budget would depend on the November elections.

According to observers on the ground there is no doubt that the victims of this new turn in funding subversion in Cuba will duly adjust their accounts to the administration.

The organization that has handled the squandering of federal funds on fraudulent operations evidently called its meeting in order to be seen to be falling into line in the wake of the GAO reprimand.

Nevertheless, significantly enough, the USAID publicized the day and time of its assembly, but omitted to say where it was, so that those interested had to call and ask. The strategy worked. Very few new faces appeared for this sharing out of an already divided cake.

In its report, the GAO disclosed how USAID top officials managed to conceal the whereabouts of $65.4 million handed out over 10 years to friends in Miami and Washington.

José Cárdenas was a senior CANF director from 1986. He was successively director of "research and publications," spokesman for the organization, and chief lobbyist when the Mafia organization had a luxury "embassy" in Washington.

He is, of course, close friends of Ileana Ros Lehtinen and her two accomplices the Díaz-Balart brothers.

The CANF, created by the CIA under Ronald Reagan, spent a fortune funding the operations of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, a fact that Cárdenas obviously knows.

He is equally aware of the already strident lamentations of the Miami capos, left in a somewhat precarious situation by the reorientation of USAID’s methods to the benefit of its traditional European correspondents.

[Translation by Granma International]

How to travel to Cuba on a General License

Friday, May 30, 2008

Engaging Cuba, 50 Years Later

The Washington Post

By Marcela Sanchez
Special to washingtongpost.com
Friday, May 30, 2008; 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Probably no event could stand as better proof of a U.S. foreign policy failure than the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, to be marked on Jan. 1. Nineteen days later, a new U.S. president -- the 11th since Fidel Castro toppled Fulgencio Batista's regime -- will inherit that policy.

Judging by the presidential candidates' statements last week, only Sen. Barack Obama suggests a change. Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain promote mostly more of the same: a continuation of the trade embargo and other restrictions, combined with support for dissident forces within the island.

In a speech in Miami last Friday, Obama pledged to immediately lift President Bush's 2004 restrictions on family travel and remittances, adding that "there are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban-Americans." What's more, he became the first U.S. presidential candidate in decades to leave open the possibility of starting a dialogue with the Castro brothers "without preconditions." Although Obama said such talks would come only "at a time and place of my choosing," he seems willing to go well beyond Clinton or McCain in reaching out to Cuba's rulers.

This "softer" stance would have meant political suicide in South Florida not long ago, but things are changing. According to Florida International University's 2007 Cuba poll, a majority of Cuban-American voters still supports a military intervention to overthrow the Castro government. But at the same time, a majority also favors undoing Bush's restrictions (52.1 percent) and establishing a dialogue with representatives of the Cuban government (60.1 percent).

That may seem like a contradiction, but Hugh Gladwin, director of the Institute for Public Opinion Research, which conducted the poll, says that "a lot of people are so sick of the current situation that they want anything that would change it." If change is indeed the key word, then the Obama campaign has gotten the message.

Frustration within the Cuban-American community grew particularly strong during the nearly eight years of tough talk by the Bush administration, which many Cuban-Americans now feel was purely political pandering. Bush claims to have dramatically stepped up U.S. efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Cuba through a bottom-up approach that supports civil society groups on the island. And in strict terms, he put more money into his Cuban freedom agenda and even created a new bureaucracy to run it.

Unfortunately, very little was accomplished. The Cuban American National Foundation, one of the most influential anti-Castro groups, found in a March report that less than 17 percent of the funds earmarked for Cuba through the U.S. Agency for International Development were used for direct assistance. "The remaining 83 percent was used to cover operating expenses of grantee organizations, off-island transition studies and U.S.-based activities," the foundation said.

You could level a criticism against Obama's top-down approach for thinking that he could talk the Cuban regime into changing. McCain has in fact slammed Obama for proposing a dialogue, which he said would send "the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators." That retired President Fidel Castro signaled his support for Obama -- calling him, in a column published Monday, the "most progressive" of the candidates -- doesn't help matters either.

Republicans too criticize Obama for what they see as an inherent contradiction: pushing for engagement while easing, but not lifting, the embargo. But such criticism ignores a basic tenet of diplomacy. Sanctions can provide the leverage to negotiate with your enemies. And what's more, sanctions used as a tool for continued isolation have clearly had their chance -- and failed. As Anthony Lake, Obama's senior international affairs adviser, pointed out in an e-mail, "a refusal to talk seldom produces results."

The reality is that Obama's proposal is not that innovative (Latin Americans have been trying a similar approach for a long time, clearly with limited success) and criticisms of his proposal simply miss the point. The Obama campaign is acknowledging something that others have either missed or have evaluated differently, and this is that the Cuban exile community now encompasses more diverse views and, as a whole, is frustrated with the status quo.

While Cuban-Americans have solidly supported Republicans in the past -- presidents, governors and representatives in Congress -- Obama and the Democrats are better off offering a real alternative from the strict hard line of the past. The time is right for it.

If Obama ends up winning the presidency, January may in fact mark another momentous occasion: the irreversible erosion of a stubborn foreign policy approach based on the perceived single-mindedness of the Cuban-American constituency.

Marcela Sanchez's e-mail address is desdewash(at)washpost.com.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yes, Mr. President...


"Yes, Mr. President, the Cubans are already responding to you. They say that what they have a lot of... I don't know... it is a word which starts with a C and ends with an E."

[JG: Or maybe you can add an S: It means COJONES.]

Cuba's dual currency to be eliminated

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana

7:01 AM EDT, May 27, 2008

Raul Castro's government will eliminate the dual-currency system that is the bane of so many Cubans but it may take a while, the head of parliament's economic commission said.

The remarks by Osvaldo Martinez during a visit to Madrid represented the state's latest acknowledgment that the existence of two currencies has produced social strains and a class divide on the communist island.

"The government's policy is elimination of the dual currency, which in some way hurt the national self-esteem, but we need a minimum of monetary reserves for a normal exchange rate, price and wage reforms and greater economic efficiency," Martinez said Sunday in an interview published in El Pais newspaper.

Cuba uses a convertible peso known as the CUC, which is tied to the U.S. dollar, and a Cuban peso known as the moneda nacional.

Those with access to remittances or jobs in tourism, restaurants or the thriving black market earn CUCs, which are worth about 25 times the peso. State workers and pensioners are paid in pesos, which must be converted to CUCs to purchase most goods.

The Cuban government has not eliminated the peso because it lacks sufficient foreign reserves to back and circulate only CUCs.

The U.S. dollar, which circulated in Cuba from the mid 1990s to late 2004, was removed by ailing former President Fidel Castro because of the growing class divide. Now whenever a dollar is converted into CUCs, the government charges a 10 percent tax.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Sunset...


... is always more beautiful in La Habana.

Grandpa's Pride And Joy


Lilly Grace
At
18 Months

The Insane Cuba Embargo

Real Clear Politics

May 27, 2008

By Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- For nearly five decades, the United States has pursued a policy toward Cuba that could be described as incredibly stupid.

It could also be called childish, irresponsible and counterproductive -- and, since the demise of the Soviet Union, even insane. Absent the threat of communist expansionism, the refusal by successive American presidents to engage with Cuba has not even a fig leaf's worth of rationale to cover its naked illogic. Other than providing Fidel Castro with a convenient antagonist to help him whip up nationalist fervor on the island -- and thus prolong his rule -- the U.S. trade embargo and other sanctions have accomplished precisely nothing.

Now, with Fidel ailing and his brother Raul acting large and in charge, the United States has its best opportunity in years to influence the course of events on the island. George W. Bush, as one might have expected, won't do the right thing. It will be up to the next president.

Raul Castro is 76, just five years younger than his more charismatic brother, and since assuming the presidency he has acted as if he knows he doesn't have much time to waste. In short order, he has repealed restrictions that prohibited Cubans from buying personal computers, cell phones and other consumer goods -- items that Fidel feared might facilitate sedition or, at a minimum, promote counterrevolutionary comfort and lassitude.

It's true that these measures are largely symbolic -- on an average salary of about $17 a month, most Cubans can't dream of buying a computer, and in any event the Cuban government still strictly controls access to the Internet. Likewise, any Cuban who owns a cell phone can't use it without paying the astronomical rates demanded by Cubacel, the government cell-phone monopoly.

But at the same time, Raul has encouraged the first stirrings of debate in the government-controlled media (which are the only media) -- something Fidel never would have allowed. Rumors that the government will soon permit widespread private ownership of automobiles, and perhaps even allow an aboveboard private market in real estate, seem much less implausible than they would have just six months ago.

I've been to Cuba as a journalist 10 times, and friends on the island -- including some harsh critics of the Castro regime -- say that there is real optimism about the prospects for change.

Bush's response has been a cold shoulder. In remarks a few days ago, the president did little but state the obvious fact that Raul Castro is not, and never will be, a believer in democracy. He dismissed the recent measures as "empty gestures at reform," and then proceeded to make an empty gesture of his own: He said he would change U.S. policy to allow Cuban-Americans to send cell phones to their relatives on the island, which is something many families already do.

Raul Castro is not going to transform Cuba into a free-market democracy. But he gives every indication of moving at least some distance down the path that China's leadership has taken, toward becoming a free-market, one-party autocracy. That's certainly not a perfect outcome, as shown by recent events in Tibet. But it's impossible to deny that the Chinese people enjoy far greater personal freedom than they did, say, 20 years ago. Why wouldn't Washington want to encourage Havana to become more like Beijing?

That would require actual engagement with the Cuban government, though, and Bush doesn't intend to allow anything of the sort.

On Friday, Barack Obama appeared before the Cuban American National Foundation -- one of the most powerful and most strident of the Miami-based anti-Castro groups -- and said that if he were elected president, he would conduct "direct diplomacy" with Cuba's leadership. Earlier in the week, John McCain spoke to an audience in Miami and essentially vowed to continue Bush's hard-line course.

Obama's into-the-lion's-den performance may win him some points for bravery, but may not get him a lot of votes in south Florida. He has the right idea, however. The United States can attempt to influence any changes that eventually take place in Cuba, or it can harrumph from the sidelines. Several of Cuba's leading dissidents have urged the White House to end the decades-old trade embargo and the draconian restrictions on travel to the island. Bush pays no attention to those on the front lines of this struggle.

Stubbornly sticking with a policy that has achieved nothing in nearly 50 years is a pretty good definition of insanity.

eugenerobinson@washpost.com

A great editorial on Cuba from the Palm Beach Post

Palm Beach Post

McCain policy on Cuba puts votes over families

Palm Beach Post Editorial

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Against all logic and compassion, John McCain believes that the United States can punish Cuba's leaders by punishing the Cuban people and their relatives in this country.

Speaking in Miami last week, Sen. McCain called for no change in the Cuban embargo, America's least successful foreign policy of the last 50 years. He used the anniversary of Cuban Independence Day to pledge his allegiance to the shrinking but still potent right-wing Cuban-American lobby that has done more to keep the Castro regime in power than to displace it. That's one reason why Fidel Castro could pass control of the country to his brother, Raul, without more of a public clamor for change, despite the regime's repressiveness.

The exile lobby has been bad for the U.S. but good for politicians who grovel before it. In 2000, George W. Bush got an estimated 80 percent of South Florida's Cuban-American vote. With reelection approaching in 2004, Mr. Bush figured that he could double down on the issue. He restricted family visits by Americans to one just every three years, not annually. He cut remittances, the shipment of money from Americans to relatives in Cuba.

Mr. Bush got his second term, but some of his supporters in 2000 abandoned him because he had gone too far, which he had. Yet Sen. McCain would stay out on that fringe, even though as a candidate in 2000 he criticized the embargo. Two days after Sen. McCain's speech, Sen. Obama supported keeping the trade embargo in place but lifting the family travel and money limits. It would be in America's best interest to also end the trade embargo, but any change would be better than no change.

Sen. McCain misreads the past on Cuba as well as the present. "One day," he said, "America will again have warm relations with a Cuban government that represents the sovereign will of its people, one that represents their fundamental human and political rights." If Sen. McCain believes that such a description applies to the dictatorship that Fidel Castro overthrew in 1959, he's rewriting history. Fulgencio Batista assumed power in 1952 through a military coup and over the next seven years jailed political opponents, turned Cuba over to the Mafia and enriched himself financially before fleeing as Castro's rebels were sweeping into Havana.

It remains laughable that Americans can travel to North Korea but not to Cuba, even if the trip goes through a third country. Over the last year, polls indicate that a majority of Cuban-Americans favor easing the embargo. For the first time, Miami-Dade County's three Cuban-American GOP congressional hard-liners - Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen - have strong Democratic challengers. Midwestern Republicans want to sell Cuba farm products, which could make Cubans think of Americans in a different light.

Sen. McCain criticized Sen. Obama for being unrealistic about Cuba. How realistic is it for Sen. McCain to stick with failure?

---

JG: A great editorial. The one thing that struck me as very true were the two key phrases:

1) “two days after Sen. McCain's speech, Sen. Obama supported keeping the trade embargo in place but lifting the family travel and money limits. It would be in America's best interest to also end the trade embargo, but any change would be better than no change.”

2) “the exile lobby has been bad for the U.S. but good for politicians who grovel before it.”

YES WE CAN have a good foreign policy toward Cuba which does not grovel before a tiny hard line and extremist minority in Miami.


Anyone who grovels before that group will end up as a washed up politician like Bill and Hillary.

They fight to Visit Cuba

Boston Globe

Vermont residents challenge U.S. travel laws to Cuba. A group of Vermont residents, [See the Boston Globe video] are suing to change U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba that limits visits to the Communist island to one every three years.

By Maria Sacchetti

Globe Staff / May 28, 2008


WESTFORD, Vt. - Through tears at a sun-bleached airport in Cuba, she promised her ailing grandparents she would not be gone for long. Soon she would return with her new American husband for their blessing.

But after Yurisleidis Leyva Mora landed in America in 2006, she was stunned to discover that the Bush administration's tightened travel restrictions barred her from returning to Cuba for three years.

She worried that her grandparents might not live that long, so Leyva Mora and her law student husband sought their own solution: They spearheaded a lawsuit against the federal government, saying the restrictions violate their constitutional rights and discriminate against people of Cuban descent.

Testimony in their love-story-turned-lawsuit begins today with a hearing in federal court in Burlington, and it is drawing attention from Cuban exiles in Miami and nationwide as the first legal challenge to the restrictions adopted in 2004.

The four plaintiffs, who also include a music teacher and a school superintendent who fled Cuba in the 1960s, say the lawsuit is about family, not politics.

"It shouldn't be this way in this country," Leyva Mora's husband, Jared K. Carter, a third-year student at Vermont Law School, said in an interview. "When the government's in the business of interfering with families, there better be constitutional ramifications, if the Constitution stands for anything."

The US Justice Department has urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it is baseless and interferes with foreign policy. Department officials did not respond to requests for comment, but in court documents they said the plaintiffs have no constitutional right to travel abroad.

The lawsuit has thrust this rural state with a socialist streak and miles of loamy farmlands into the center of the contentious debate over US-Cuban relations, which more typically simmers in the courtrooms and coffeehouses of exile epicenters like Miami. The economic embargo against Cuba is nearly 50 years old, but from 1999 to 2004 the US government allowed Cuban-Americans to visit an extended web of relatives at least once a year.

In 2004, under pressure from hard-line Cuban exiles who wanted to stem the flow of dollars to Cuba, President Bush limited visits to every three years and to immediate family only, excluding aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Supporters of the lawsuit reflect the complexities of today's debate over Cuba: The American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, Florida, and Vermont and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York have signed on to support the lawsuit. But the Cuban American National Foundation, a foe of the Cuban government, also praises the effort.

Francisco Hernandez, the Miami foundation's 71-year-old president and a dissident who said he would be thrown in jail if he returned to Cuba, called the restrictions absurd because family visits could promote democracy in Cuba. But he said with a sigh that Vermont might be a safer place for the debate than southern Florida.

"It probably is better that it happened this way," he said. "It has a much better chance in someplace like Vermont."

In the lawsuit, Leyva Mora, 23; Carter, 27; and two others, 51-year-old school superintendent Armando Vilaseca and 49-year-old Maricel Lucero Keniston, a music teacher, say the restrictions are ripping apart families.

In an interview at Vilaseca's farmhouse in Westford, a tiny town of dandelion-dotted fields near the Canadian border, Leyva Mora said she was unaware of the travel restrictions when she left Contramaestre, Cuba, in April 2006 to marry Carter in the United States. The two had met on a beach in Cuba; she was working at the carnival, and he was researching national parks for a nonprofit. After a whirlwind courtship, they fell in love and planned to marry.

It took more than a year for Carter to bring her to the United States, where they married and planned to return to Cuba to renew their vows. But when they sat down late last year at their computer to apply online for US government permission to visit Cuba, a warning flashed that recent visitors were banned for three years.

Instead, they will throw a wedding at the end of July in Maine, his home state, and perhaps send a video to Cuba. His mother and sister helped her pick out a wedding dress.

In Cuba, her mother and sister are heartbroken. She can afford to call them only once a month. She mailed them pictures of her in the dress, but mail takes a month to arrive. "I feel very alone here," she said.

The couple have decided against exchanging wedding rings until they can marry before her family in Cuba.

For Cubans who arrived in the United States long ago, the 2004 travel restrictions are straining family relationships that they had only just begun to rekindle.

Maricel Lucero Keniston - who lives in Springfield, Vt., and sings in a band called Black Beans - went home in 1997 for the first time since she was 10 to visit relatives she left behind in Santiago de Cuba.

"All these memories just came flooding back at me," she said. "I cried all the way home."

Vilaseca, superintendent of Franklin West School District, was born in Cuba and raised in a vehemently anti-Castro household in New Jersey. He moved to Vermont for college, married, and decided to make it his home.

But after decades of negative stories about Cuba, Vilaseca decided in 1999 that he wanted to see it for himself. His father warned his son that the government would try to brainwash him.

Instead, Vilaseca said, he found the family he had left behind in 1964, when he was 8 and boarded a flight with his parents to Miami. An aunt and cousins welcomed him into their homes, told him stories about his parents' wedding. "They took me in, like families do," he said.

Both Vilaseca and Lucero Keniston were struck by their families' urgent need for supplies and felt compelled to help after they left. Vilaseca sends about $1,000 to relatives a year, to help build a roof on his aunt's home, to aid his godson and his cousins. Lucero Keniston brings relatives bottles of vitamins, aspirin, and packages of Alka-Seltzer when she can visit.

The last time Vilaseca went to Cuba was last year. By then, his aunt Gladys Casdelo was dying of cancer. He hoped to visit again, but just in case, they said goodbye.

A month after they filed the lawsuit, she died.

Medicines from Cuba arrive in Chengdu

Granma International

CHENGDU, May 26.—A consignment of 4.5 tons of serum, medicines and sanitary materials donated by Cuba has arrived in this capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan to treat those injured in the May 12 earthquake.

The medical consignment arrived at Chengdu-Shuangliu International Airport and, in the afternoon, was received at the People’s Hospital No 1 by directors of the institution and members of the Cuban Henry Reeve medical brigade, PL reports.

The presence of 35 doctors and paramedics from the island and the consignment received this afternoon are part of the emergency aid dispatched by the Cuban authorities in the wake of the consequences of the devastating earthquake that hit Sichuan.

Surgeon José Rodríguez, director of the brigade, explained that the Cuban doctors and nurses will concentrate on tasks assigned by the Chinese medical staff of two rooms exclusively dedicated to the wounded evacuated from the disaster area.

"We had to give delicate and extensive treatment to an 11-year-old boy seriously injured in the earthquake and tomorrow, we will probably have to follow up that treatment in the operating room," he said.

According to a report from the Ministry of Public Health, approximately 30,000 seriously injured inhabitants from the districts affected are still in hospitals.

In the hotel in which they are staying, not far from the hospital, the Cuban brigadistas felt an aftershock registering 6.4 on the Richter scale, the strongest to date.

Translated by Granma International

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Endorsement: Obama, with great reservations

The reason for this blog is to discuss Cuba news and opinions, and to disseminate the great things about Cuban culture, since I was born there. That is very clear to all.

If the Cuba issue did not exist, I would have no reservations about endorsing U.S. Senator Barack Obama, but Cuba does exist, although it is constantly denigrated for having freely chosen to follow the Socialist path, something which die hard capitalists hate with a passion.

Obama is way above Bush, Clinton or McCain. He is much more progressive than those three individuals and so he deserves the votes of the American electorate in November.

But he did make one major blunder in going to speak before the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami this past May 23rd. He declared that he would continue to support the failed Cuba embargo/blockade. That the senator would seek the support of an organization that is 100% reactionary, retrograde and ultra right wing is baffling to most people. It goes against the grain of his clear thinking and great eloquence.

As of right now, I am considering writing-in ‘None of the Above’ when I vote in November, but I may grant him my vote, with great reservations, despite of his statement regarding the Cuba embargo. The alternatives are plainly awful.

Chinese Premier thanks Cuban, Japanese medical teams in quake relief


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R Front) meets with members of the Cuban medical team at Huaxi Hospital in Chengdu, capital of southwest China''s Sichuan Province, May 24, 2008. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

CCTV International

CHENGDU, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday thanked medical staff from Cuba and Japan for their assistance in China's earthquake relief.

"On behalf the Communist Party of China, the Chinese government and the people, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to you," Wen said while visiting the Cuban medical team in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Wen said he believed the medical personnel, sent by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, to support China's earthquake relief, will finish well the task with their expertise.

The team members expressed their willingness to assist the relief work, saying they will endeavor to cure those injured in the disaster.

Wen also visited the Japanese medical team, asking them to convey the Chinese people's regards to the Japanese people.

"You come to help us when we are in the hardest time, and we feel grateful for the Japanese government and the people," Wen said.

Tajiri Kazuhiro, head of the team, said they have started to work, and they will support China's earthquake relief with utmost efforts.

Editor:Du Xiaodan

Source: Xinhua | 05-27-2008 16:01

No one loves an oversize bully

That is exactly what the United States has become under the administration of George W. Bush. Two perfect examples are his actions on Iraq and Cuba policies.

It will take at least ten years to undo the damage that this guy has done to the reputation of the United States of America.

In Iraq, based on lies and misinformation, he launched an unconstitutional war, but there he shares blame with the U.S. Congress, which went and still goes along with the war under Democratic leadership.

In Cuba, he continues to promote the genocidal, cynical and inhuman embargo/blockade of the Caribbean island. No one in the world community of nations, other than some tiny islands in the Pacific and the Israeli Zionists support him. See the big 184-4 at the top of Cuba Journal.

In just 237 days, 13 hours and 56 minutes we will all be able to say:

GOOD BYE! GOOD LUCK! GOOD RIDDANCE!

Monday, May 26, 2008

After "Che," Guevara's son dreams of film made in Cuba


Camilo Guevara, son of Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara

May 26, 2008, 10:00 P.M.

VIENNA (AFP) — As a new US-made film about Che Guevara picked up an award at Cannes, his son Camilo has expressed hopes that a Cuban director might also one day make a film about his father.

"That would seem right to me," he told AFP, a few days before the opening in Vienna of an exhibition showing photos of Che Guevara, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the legendary revolutionary's birth.

"But a large-scale production for such a major figure loved by the Cuban people requires a lot of resources and it would be very expensive," he said.

Camilo Guevara was contacted by US director Steven Soderbergh when he made his biopic "Che," starring the Oscar-winning Puerto Rican-born actor Benicio del Toro.

Although the film received mixed reviews at the Cannes festival last week, it nevertheless won del Toro the Best Actor prize.

Guevara has yet to see the completed film. But he added: "If it stays true to the spirit of Che, there's no problem."

The 2004 Brazilian film "Motorcycle Diaries," which followed the young Che's 1952 travels through Latin America with his friend Alberto Granado, took some artistic licence, said Camilo Guevara. One scene showed Che swimming across the Amazon river to reach sick patients.

"Historically speaking, Che swam in the Amazon river but never crossed it. In the film, it's an important scene because it shows his selflessness and we don't have anything against that," he added.

"(There are) Europeans who know his work well but there are many who don't know it and to identify with him, it's useful to discover his mind."

"It's easier then to join his image as a thinker and as a reformer, you don't just display him on a T-shirt, you experience him from within," he said.

Even in Cuba, "there is still much to do, even if Che is still very present," noted Camilo Guevara, who heads the Che Guevara Studies Center in Havana.

The centre's mission is to publish Che's complete unedited works, uncensored and without interpretation.

"Another step will be to publish a more critical edition," said Camilo Guevara.

Vienna's WestLicht photo gallery opened Monday an exhibit exploring the world's continued fascination with Che through photographs, ahead of what would have been the revolutionary's 80th birthday on June 14. He died in 1967.

Images from the revolutionary years taken by Cuban photographers are displayed alongside originals of Alberto Korda's cult portrait, showing a handsome but somber Che Guevara, wearing a beret with the golden star.

The photo was taken on March 5, 1960 at a commemoration ceremony for the victims of an explosion on a munitions supply boat in the port of Havana -- later blamed on the United States.

It is considered the most widely reproduced photo in the world and is still featured today on T-shirts, bags and posters.

"Korda only worked the camera, but it's yankee imperialism that made this picture," noted Camilo Guevara.

"This somber face obviously has something to do with the hundreds of dead, the many mutilated, a barbaric act funded and organised by the United States government," he noted.

The picture only gained cult status years later after it was published in Europe by French weekly Paris-Match on August 19, 1967. Then it appeared in a pop-art version by Ukrainian artist Roman Cieslewicz on the October 3 cover of French cultural magazine Opus International.

Che Guevara's violent death six days later, executed on the orders of the Bolivian government after he tried to spread the Cuban revolution there, turned him into a martyr and ultimately an idol for the protesting students in 1968.

In Latin America today of course, a new generation of left-wing leaders have come to power in a number different countries.

"I think he would feel happy and hopeful," said Camilo Guevara. "It's the only part of the world where you find regimes changing at the moment."

A very clear understanding of the problem

MSNBC has a very interesting message board titled “Some see oil bubble, others see trouble.”

It has 26 pages of comments by the citizens, (or illegals?) I enjoy reading people’s opinions, even if I do not agree with what they are saying. And so, I also have my opinion.

I say that the current oil bubble has been caused and fueled by 1) the typically true usual suspect: Capitalist Greed of the plain vanilla type. 2) George W. Bush and his administration who have prostituted themselves by getting in bed with the oil companies and the so-called “investors,” who in reality are speculators who belong to the group described in number one.

I give the best reasoning and the best clear understanding of what the real problem is to the comment by urlemmings in his/her post #21 in page two. Here is what he/she says, (in black bold:)

We should seize the oil companies for the good of the
nation.

We need caps on how much companies can make.

Capitalism will ruin this country and has.

“An economy based on the consumption of fixed
resources will consume itself.”


Of course, no one will pay any attention to this person. They will call him/her a socialist or a communist, but he/she has described very succinctly what is happening in capitalist USA.

Cuba says will meet domestic sugar demand in 2008

www.guardian.co.uk

* Reuters
* Monday May 26 2008

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, May 26 (Reuters) - Cuba will meet domestic demand for refined and raw sugar this year, the official media said over the weekend, after importing 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of low-grade refined sugar from Brazil and Colombia in recent years.

"Sugar Ministry specialists assured me all the raw sugar for the domestic economy, as well as refined, was secure, that it has already been produced," Cuba's top sugar reporter Juan Varela Perez said at the weekend on his regular radio spot.
Varela said Cuba had refined much more sugar than during the previous harvest without giving any figures.

Cuba consumes a minimum 700,000 tonnes of sugar per year, and 400,000 tonnes are destined for China.

Provincial radio reports indicated output this season was around 1.4 million tonnes so far, compared with just under 1.2 million tonnes the previous harvest.

"Cuba has produced more than 200,000 tonnes more than the last harvest," Havana radio reported at the end of last week.

Relatively dry May weather has allowed many mills to remain open, with around 20 still grinding.

May marks the start of the hot and rainy season. Yields drop and harvesting become more difficult.

The Cuban harvest is more than 80 percent mechanized and rains hamper cutting machines and trucks entering plantations.

How much more sugar Cuba can produce will depend in large part on the weather, but local experts said it would be relatively little.

Varela said it would be impossible to meet this year's plan, which he said was at 86 percent, again without providing figures.

The plan target appears to be around 1.6 million tonnes, based on Reuters' soundings of local industry sources.

Nevertheless, this year marks the first increase in sugar production since the industry was downsized in 2003-2005 from 156 to 66 mills and more than half its plantations put to other uses.

Higher sugar and ethanol prices led to a decision last year to once more invest in the decapitalized and aging industry where all but eight mills were built before the 1959 revolution. (Editing by Walker Simon)

Fidel Castro responds to Barack Obama in a new 'Reflexiones del compañero Fidel' (En Español)

Granma's translation in English

Reflexiones del compañero Fidel (Reflexions of Comrade Fidel)

La política cínica del imperio (The cynical politics of the empire)

No sería honesto de mi parte guardar silencio después del discurso de Obama la tarde del 23 de mayo ante la Fundación Cubano-Americana, creada por Ronald Reagan. Lo escuché, como hice con el de McCain y el de Bush. No guardo rencor hacia su persona, porque no ha sido responsable de los crímenes cometidos contra Cuba y la humanidad. Si lo defendiera, les haría un enorme favor a sus adversarios. No temo por ello criticarlo y expresar con franqueza mis puntos de vista sobre sus palabras.

¿Qué afirmó?

"A través de mi vida ha habido injusticia y represión en Cuba, y nunca durante mi vida el pueblo ha conocido la verdadera libertad, nunca en la vida de dos generaciones ha conocido el pueblo de Cuba una democracia no hemos visto elecciones durante 50 años¼ Nosotros no vamos a soportar estas injusticias, juntos vamos a buscar la libertad para Cuba," les expresa a los anexionistas y continúa: "Esa es mi palabra. Ese es mi compromiso. "es hora de que el dinero estadounidense haga que el pueblo cubano sea menos dependiente del régimen de Castro. Voy a mantener el embargo" "

El contenido de las palabras de este fuerte candidato a la Presidencia de Estados Unidos, me exonera de la necesidad de explicar el porqué de esta reflexión.

El propio José Hernández, uno de los directivos de la Fundación Cubano-Americana al que Obama elogia en su discurso, era el propietario del fusil automático de calibre 50, mirilla telescópica y rayos infrarrojos capturado por casualidad junto a otras mortíferas armas, durante su transportación por mar hacia Venezuela, donde la Fundación proyectó asesinar al que esto escribe en una reunión internacional que tuvo lugar en Margarita, estado venezolano de Nueva Esparta.

El grupo de Pepe Hernández deseaba volver al pacto con Clinton, a quien el clan de Mas Canosa traicionó, ofreciéndole mediante fraude la victoria a Bush en el 2000 porque había prometido asesinar a Castro, algo que todos aceptaron gustosos. Son rejuegos políticos propios del sistema decadente y contradictorio de Estados Unidos.

El discurso del candidato Obama se puede traducir en una fórmula de hambre para la nación, las remesas como limosnas, y las visitas a Cuba en propaganda para el consumismo y el modo de vida insostenible que lo sustenta.

¿Cómo va a enfrentar el gravísimo problema de la crisis alimentaria? Los granos hay que distribuirlos entre los seres humanos, los animales domésticos y los peces, que de año en año son cada vez más pequeños y más escasos en los mares sobreexplotados por los grandes arrastreros a los que ningún organismo internacional fue capaz de frenar. No es fácil producir carne a partir del gas y el petróleo. El propio Obama sobreestima las posibilidades de la tecnología en la lucha contra el cambio climático, aunque está más consciente que Bush de los riesgos y del escaso tiempo disponible. Podría asesorarse con Gore, que es también demócrata y dejó de ser candidato, porque conoce bien el ritmo acelerado en que se incrementa el calentamiento. Su cercano rival político aunque no aspirante, Bill Clinton, experto en leyes extraterritoriales como la Helms-Burton y la Torricelli, puede asesorarlo en un tema como el bloqueo, que prometió erradicar y nunca cumplió.

¿Cómo se expresó en su discurso de Miami el que sin duda es, desde el punto de vista social y humano, el más avanzado candidato a la postulación presidencial en Estados Unidos? "Durante 200 años" —dijo— "Estados Unidos ha dejado en claro que no vamos a soportar la intervención en nuestro hemisferio, sin embargo debemos ver que hay una intervención importante, el hambre, la enfermedad, la desesperación. Desde Haití hasta Perú podemos hacer algo mejor las cosas y debemos hacerlo, no podemos aceptar la globalización de los estómagos vacíos¼ " ¡Magnífica definición de la globalización imperialista: la de los estómagos vacíos! Debemos agradecérselo; pero hace 200 años Bolívar luchó por la unidad de América Latina y hace más de 100 años Martí dio su vida combatiendo contra la anexión de Cuba a Estados Unidos. ¿Dónde están las diferencias entre lo que proclamó Monroe y lo que dos siglos después proclama y reivindica Obama en su discurso?

"Tendremos un enviado especial de la Casa Blanca, como lo hizo Bill Clinton" —expresó casi al concluir— "vamos a ampliar el Cuerpo de Paz y les vamos a pedir a más jóvenes que hagan que nuestros vínculos con las gentes se hagan más fuertes y quizás más importantes. Podemos forjar el futuro, y no dejar que el futuro nos forje a nosotros." Es una bella frase, porque admite la idea, o al menos el temor, de que la historia hace a los personajes y no al revés.

Los Estados Unidos de hoy no tienen nada que ver con la declaración de principios de Filadelfia formulada por las 13 colonias que se rebelaron contra el colonialismo inglés. Hoy constituyen un gigantesco imperio, que no pasaba en aquel momento por la mente de sus fundadores. Nada cambió sin embargo para los indios y los esclavos. Los primeros fueron exterminados a medida que la nación se extendía; los segundos continuaron siendo objeto de subastas en los mercados —hombres, mujeres y niños— durante casi un siglo, a pesar de que "todos los hombres nacen libres e iguales", como afirma la declaración. Las condiciones objetivas en el planeta favorecieron el desarrollo de ese sistema.

Obama en su discurso atribuye a la Revolución Cubana un carácter antidemocrático y carente de respeto a la libertad y los derechos humanos. Es exactamente el argumento que, casi sin excepción, utilizaron las administraciones de Estados Unidos para justificar sus crímenes contra nuestra patria. El bloqueo mismo, por sí solo, es genocida. No deseo que los niños norteamericanos se eduquen en esa bochornosa ética.

La revolución armada en nuestro país no habría sido tal vez necesaria sin la intervención militar, la Enmienda Platt y el coloniaje económico que esta trajo a la isla.

La Revolución fue producto del dominio imperial. No se nos puede acusar de haberla impuesto. Los cambios verdaderos pudieron y debieron originarse en Estados Unidos. Sus propios obreros, hace más de un siglo, lanzaron la demanda de las ocho horas, hija de la productividad del trabajo.

Lo primero que los líderes de la Revolución Cubana aprendimos de Martí fue creer y actuar en nombre de una organización fundada para llevar a cabo una revolución. Siempre dispusimos de facultades previas y, una vez institucionalizada, fuimos elegidos con la participación de más del 90 por ciento de los electores, como es ya costumbre en Cuba, y no la ridícula participación que muchas veces, como en Estados Unidos, no llega al 50 por ciento de los electores. Ningún otro país pequeño y bloqueado como el nuestro habría sido capaz de resistir tanto tiempo, a base de ambición, vanidad, engaño o abusos de autoridad, un poder como el de su vecino. Afirmarlo constituye un insulto a la inteligencia de nuestro heroico pueblo.

No cuestiono la aguda inteligencia de Obama, su capacidad polémica y su espíritu de trabajo. Domina las técnicas de comunicación y está por encima de sus rivales en la competencia electoral. Observo con simpatía a su esposa y sus niñas, que lo acompañan y animan todos los martes; es sin duda un cuadro humano agradable. No obstante, me veo obligado a varias delicadas preguntas, aunque no pretendo respuestas, únicamente consignarlas.

1º ¿Es correcto que el Presidente de Estados Unidos ordene el asesinato de cualquier persona en el mundo, sea cual fuere el pretexto?

2º ¿Es ético que el Presidente de Estados Unidos ordene torturar a otros seres humanos?

3º ¿Es el terrorismo de estado un instrumento que debe utilizar un país tan poderoso como Estados Unidos para que exista la paz en el planeta?

4º ¿Es buena y honorable una Ley de Ajuste que se aplica como castigo a un solo país, Cuba, para desestabilizarlo, aunque cueste la vida a niños y madres inocentes? Si es buena, ¿por qué no se aplica el derecho automático de residencia a los haitianos, dominicanos y demás países del Caribe, y se hace lo mismo con los mexicanos, centroamericanos y suramericanos, que mueren como moscas en el muro de la frontera mexicana o en aguas del Atlántico y el Pacífico?

5º ¿Puede Estados Unidos prescindir de los inmigrantes, que cultivan vegetales, frutas, almendras y otras exquisiteces para los norteamericanos? ¿Quién barrería sus calles, prestaría servicios domésticos y realizarían los peores y menos remunerados trabajos?

6º ¿Son justas las redadas de indocumentados que afectan incluso a niños nacidos en Estados Unidos?

7º ¿Es moral y justificable el robo de cerebros y la continua extracción de las mejores inteligencias científicas e intelectuales de los países pobres?

8º Usted afirma, como recordé al inicio de esta reflexión, que su país advirtió hace tiempo a las potencias europeas que no admitiría intervenciones en el hemisferio, y a la vez reitera la demanda de ese derecho, reclamando al mismo tiempo el de intervenir en cualquier parte del mundo con el apoyo de cientos de bases militares, fuerzas navales, aéreas y espaciales distribuidas en el planeta. Le pregunto, ¿es esa la forma en que Estados Unidos expresa su respeto por la libertad, la democracia y los derechos humanos?

9º ¿Es justo atacar sorpresiva y preventivamente sesenta o más oscuros rincones del mundo, como los llama Bush, sea cual fuere el pretexto?

10º ¿Es honorable y cuerdo invertir millones de millones de dólares en el complejo militar industrial para producir armas que pueden liquidar varias veces la vida en la Tierra?

Usted debiera conocer, antes de juzgar a nuestro país, que Cuba, con sus programas de educación, salud, deportes, cultura y ciencias, aplicados no sólo en su propio territorio sino también en otros países pobres del mundo, y la sangre derramada en solidaridad con otros pueblos, a pesar del bloqueo económico y financiero y las agresiones de su poderoso país, constituye una prueba de que puede hacerse mucho con muy poco. Ni a nuestra mejor aliada, la URSS, le fue permitido trazar nuestro destino.

Para cooperar con otros países, Estados Unidos sólo puede enviar profesionales vinculados a la disciplina militar. No puede hacerlo de otra forma, porque carece de personal en número suficiente dispuesto a sacrificarse por otros y ofrecer apoyo significativo a un país con dificultades, aunque en Cuba hemos conocido y han cooperado con nosotros excelentes médicos norteamericanos. Ellos no tienen la culpa porque la sociedad no los educa masivamente en ese espíritu.

La cooperación de nuestro país nunca la hemos subordinado a requisitos ideológicos. Se la ofrecimos a Estados Unidos cuando el Katrina golpeó duramente la ciudad de Nueva Orleans. Nuestra brigada médica internacionalista lleva el nombre glorioso de Henry Reeve, un joven nacido en ese país que luchó y murió por la soberanía de Cuba en la primera guerra por nuestra independencia.

Nuestra Revolución puede convocar a decenas de miles de médicos y técnicos de la salud. Puede convocar de forma igualmente masiva a maestros y ciudadanos dispuestos a marchar a cualquier rincón del mundo, para cualquier noble propósito. No para usurpar derechos ni conquistar materias primas.

En la buena voluntad y disposición de las personas hay infinitos recursos que no se guardan ni caben en las bóvedas de un banco. No emanan de la política cínica de un imperio.


Fidel Castro Ruz

Mayo 25 de 2008

10 y 35 p.m.


-----

JG: This is a very good reflection on Fidel's part. I was greatly disappointed about the speech of U.S. Senator Barack Obama before the right wing Cuban American National Foundation in Miami. Before that speech, I viewed him as a ray of hope in the process of reforming our failed Cuba foreign policy.

He has now shown that he is a typical run of the mill American presidential candidate who goes begging to Miami for the votes of the gusanos.

Before that speech I had a magnetic Obama bumper sticker on my car. I removed it on Friday after I read what he said. I will not support nor vote for any American politician who supports the genocidal and inhuman Cuba embargo/blockade. In November, I will either write in "none of the above" when I vote for president, or I may choose not to vote at all. Clinton or McCain are equally bad choices as they are typical candidates of American imperialism in regards to Cuba.

U.S. Senator Barack Obama, maybe due to his relative inexperience, has chosen to ignore the lessons of history.


-----

Press Reports in English:

AP: Castro criticizes Obama plan to keep US embargo

REUTERS: Castro calls Obama speech "formula for hunger"

POLITICO: Castro blasts and praises Obama

KAIT, AR: Castro criticizes Obama plan to keep US embargo

In my humble opinion, the best English report is the one from Reuters.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Obama flip flops on Cuba embargo

Here is what he said in 2004: “I think it is time for us to end the embargo on Cuba.”

What he said in 5/23/2008: “As president, I am not going to take off the embargo.”

Politicians: They are all just the same. Just a bunch of Blah! Blah! Blah!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Is Clinton hoping that Obama is assassinated?

In one of the most disgusting statements ever offered by a presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said the following thing today:

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

The question: is she hopping that U.S. Senator Barack Obama is assassinated, so she can then be the nominee of the party?

Are we being witnesses to nomination by assassination?

This woman is one of the most disgusting politicians the United States has ever had.

Source: Boston Globe

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Here is what a prominent black newspaper, The Black Star News of News York had to say about her remarks:

Somehow we at The Black Star News are not surprised to read today that Senator Hillary Clinton told a newspaper’s editorial board, in a not very subtle way, that she remains in the presidential race where she has no chance of winning on the hope that Senator Barack Obama could be assassinated.

Reacting to Clinton's comments today, New York City Councilmember Charles Barron had this to say: “Hillary Clinton must have lost her mind. For her to even make the implication about an Obama assassination. That is insane for her to say that. There are enough crazy people out there who would want to so something like that…and for her to encourage it? Someone should make a citizen’s arrest of her for conspiracy.”

We wholeheartedly agree with Barron's sentiment and we suggest Senator Clinton should be held responsible by all decent Americans if any harm comes to Senator Obama. We believe that if this woman has a shred of dignity and self respect –if not for her, for the sake of her daughter Chelsea—she should apologize to the American people, withdraw from the race and join a monastery.

Burger King Corp. and Coalition of Immokale Workers to work together


Lucas Benitez, left, of the CIW and Amy Wagner, Senior Vice President for Global Communications of Burger King, sign agreement to work together to improve farmworker wages, working conditions, while Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) looks on.

WASHINGTON – May 23, 2008 - The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Burger King Corp. (NYSE:BKC) today announced plans to work together to improve wages and working conditions for the farmworkers who harvest tomatoes for the BURGER KING® system in Florida.

BKC has agreed to pay an additional net penny per pound for Florida tomatoes to increase wages for the Florida farm workers who harvest tomatoes. To encourage grower participation in this increased wage program, BKC will also fund incremental payroll taxes and administrative costs incurred by the growers as a result of their farmworkers' increased wages, or a total of 1.5 cents per pound of tomatoes.

BKC also joins other fast-food industry leaders and the CIW in calling for an industry-wide net penny per pound surcharge to increase wages for Florida tomato harvesters.

Together, BKC and the CIW have also established zero tolerance guidelines for certain unlawful activities that require immediate termination of any grower from the BURGER KING® supply chain. The BKC/CIW collaboration additionally provides for farmworker participation in the monitoring of growers' compliance with the company's vendor code of conduct.

John Chidsey, chief executive officer of Burger King Corp., said, "We are pleased to now be working together with the CIW to further the common goal of improving Florida tomato farmworkers' wages, working conditions and lives. The CIW has been at the forefront of efforts to improve farm labor conditions, exposing abuses and driving socially responsible purchasing and work practices in the Florida tomato fields. We apologize for any negative statements about the CIW or its motives previously attributed to BKC or its employees and now realize that those statements were wrong. Today we turn a new page in our relationship and begin a new chapter of real progress for Florida farmworkers.

"For more than 50 years, BKC has been a proud purchaser and supporter of the Florida tomato industry. However, if the Florida tomato industry is to be sustainable long-term, it must become more socially responsible. We, along with other industry leaders, recognize that the Florida tomato harvesters are in need of better wages, working conditions and respect for the hard work they do. And we look forward to working with the CIW in the pursuit of these necessary improvements. We also encourage other purchasers and growers of Florida tomatoes to engage in dialogue with the CIW in support of driving industry-wide socially responsible change."

Lucas Benitez of the CIW added, "The events of the past months have been trying. But we are prepared to move forward, together now with Burger King, toward a future of full respect for the human rights of workers in the Florida tomato fields. Today we are one step closer to building a world where we, as farmworkers, can enjoy a fair wage and humane working conditions in exchange for the hard and essential work we do everyday. We are not there yet, but we are getting there, and this agreement should send a strong message to the rest of the restaurant and supermarket industry: Now is the time to join Yum! Brands, McDonalds, and Burger King in righting the wrongs that have been allowed to linger in Florida’s fields for far too long."

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (IL-D): “I applaud Burger King for announcing today that it will be providing an extra penny per pound to the tomato pickers of Immokalee, Florida and establishing a zero-tolerance policy for worker abuses in the region. Today's announcement is a major step forward in improving the wages and working conditions of the Immokalee workers. I call on other purchasers of the region's tomatoes and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to join Burger King and do the right thing for these workers.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I): “I have been to Immokalee and seen first-hand the conditions for farm workers there, perhaps the most exploited workers in America. I am very pleased that Burger King has agreed to help the tomato pickers who have worked for too long for too little. I know that this has been a long and hard road for Burger King, and I believe the American people will appreciate what they are doing. I hope now that other corporations will join Burger King, McDonalds and Yum Brands in doing the right thing.”

The CIW has ended its campaign against BKC and its franchisees and will work with the company to further foster improvements and sustainable changes throughout the Florida tomato industry. The CIW and BKC will also work together toward development of an industry-wide vendor code of conduct and increased worker wages through encouragement of full buyer and grower participation.

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JG: This is certainly great news. I am very happy for the CIW!

Disappointing Obama echoes Bush, Clinton and McCain

Are there any differences in Cuba policies between capitalist Democrats and Republicans?

If you looked for answers in today’s Obama speech, then you, like me, will be disappointed.

It was the typical hatred of Cuba and the typical and tired ‘give-me-your-vote’ spiel.

"The road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, and it must lead to elections that are free and fair. We will stand up for freedom in Cuba."

The same thing was said by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Daddy, Clinton, and Bush Sonny.

I do realize that I am a extremely small minority, a Cuban-American who supports the right of socialist Cuba to continue on its chosen path, one which is much better than the corrupt capitalism which nine presidents before Obama sought to reimpose on Cuba.

FYI Obama: Cuba achieved freedom on January 1, 1959.

Michael Parmly: Persona Non Grata

The Cuban government should declare Michael Parmly – the head of the United States Interests Section in Havana who also has a part time job as a mule extraordinaire – a persona non grata and order him to leave the island within 72 hours, or if he is not currently in the island, deny him admission if he tries to return.

The actions that this person has engaged in are an affront to all responsible and honest diplomats in the community of civilized nations, of which the US is not a part of.

He has carried money to the mercenaries that the U.S. government has inside the island trying to illegally subvert the established order freely chosen by the Cuban people.

THROW THE BUM OUT!

The Cuban American National Foundation does not represent or speaks for the Cuban people

Today, U.S. Senator Barack Obama speaks before the representatives of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) in Miami.

CANF was a creation of Ronald Reagan. His capitalist government created it because the United States has an intense and innate HATRED toward any government that is socialistic in nature. When a socialist government comes to power, the intense capitalist exploitation of the people comes to an end. That is what happened in Cuba, when the Cuban people overthrew, by force of arms, the corrupt government of General Fulgencio Batista, who came to power via coup de etat. The United States government never repudiated that undemocratic way of coming to power, despite their constant claims and attempts to fool you into believing that they are in favor of "freedom and democracy." Don't you beleive it. A capitalist government is only interested in ONE THING: how much money they can take from you via their usual scams and frauds.

A word about Senator Barack Obama. I personally believe that he would be an improvement over George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton. But we have to realize that politicians say one thing when running as a candidate and then, many times, do the opposite when they are in office.

During the presidency of Jimmy Carter, there were noticeably improvements in relations between Cuba and the United States, because Carter was and is a man of honor and ethics. The jury is still out on Barack Obama. I believe that he will follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter and Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy. We will have to wait to pass judgment on his actions.

If Senator Barack Obama continues to support the genocidal and inhuman blockade/embargo against the Cuban people, then he may not be any different than the Clinton's or the Bush's.

We will have to wait. We know his words. What we really need to see are his actions, if he is elected president.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain's Mambo: Misreading the Cuba Vote

Time

Thursday, May. 22, 2008

By TIM PADGETT/MIAMI

John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, no doubt believes he scored a 10 with his hard-line Cuba policy speech in Miami earlier this week. But presidential candidates, like figure skaters, are often judged on the originality of their moves —and in that regard McCain may be staring at lower marks in the crucial swing state of Florida than his campaign appreciates.

McCain got the jump on Barack Obama, who is slated to speak to the Cuban-American National Foundation in Miami on Friday. But while Obama is expected to outline a more nuanced approach to Cuba, McCain's visit to Little Havana and his speech to more conservative Cuban-Americans were rote repeats of the routine every White House hopeful performs in Miami: cafe cubano at the Versailles restaurant followed by equally caffeinated bellowing about his anti-Castro bona fides and the Cuba-policy cowardice of his opponent, in this case Obama. President Franklin Roosevelt "didn't talk with Hitler," McCain argued, attacking Obama's recent suggestion that if elected President he would open a dialogue with communist Cuba's leader, Raul Castro, as well as leaders of other hostile nations such as Iran.

The McCain mambo, not surprisingly, got robust applause at the town hall meeting he addressed. But outside those walls the response was more subdued. If McCain is vulnerable to the charge that his presidency would effectively be a Bush third term, he might want to explore Florida beyond the echo chamber of the older Cuban exile community. He's likely to find a growing number of younger, more moderate Cuban-Americans who no longer believe the 46-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba will topple the Castro regime and who yearn to hear candidates discuss matters besides Cuba, like the alarming lack of accessible health care among Latinos. "Waving the bloody shirt of anti-Castro politics is going to be less effective" in this election, says political analyst Dario Moreno of Florida International University in Miami. "The Cuba issue is losing its saliency."

Even moderate Cuban-Americans want to see the Castros gone and democracy returned to their ancestral island. [JG: This statement is subject to great debate. The great majority of the Cuban people living in the island know what kind of "capitalist democracy" the Miami crowd wants, and they totally reject it.] But most resent President Bush's policy of letting them visit their relatives in Cuba only once every three years (although Bush announced on Wednesday that he'll allow Americans to send cell phones to Cubans now that Raul Castro has permitted his citizens to own them). And when recent surveys show that even a majority of Miami Cubans, of all people, favor relaxing the restrictions — in an FIU poll 55% backed unlimited travel to Cuba — it's probably time for U.S. politicians to drop the one-string embargo banjo and pick up a new instrument for effecting change across the Florida Straits.

That's especially true when you look at what's happening in the three major Miami congressional districts this year. For the past two decades the G.O.P.'s hold on those seats has been unassailable thanks to the hard-line Cuban-Americans occupying them. But this week the Cook Report, a Beltway guide to state and local elections, changed its "rating" on Florida's 21st congressional district from "solidly Republican" to "likely Republican" — a sign that Democratic challenger Raul Martinez is a genuine threat to eight-term Republican incumbent Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Martinez, in fact, has so far been able to match Diaz-Balart in fund raising — and new reports that Democratic voter registration growth is significantly outstripping that of Republicans in Miami bodes ill for the G.O.P. in the 18th and 25th districts as well.

What's more, for a candidate who sells himself as the foreign policy sage in the field, McCain at times sounded more like the diplomatic neophyte he accuses Obama of being. McCain, for instance, insisted that he could and would get the hemisphere and the world on board with our failed Cuba policy. But after half a century it's fairly clear by now that while our allies may strongly disapprove of Cuba's politics and human rights record, they view their economic and diplomatic engagement with Cuba as no more out of line than our economic and diplomatic engagement with iron-fisted regimes like China and Saudi Arabia. In fact, if McCain were as serious as he declared about improving U.S. relations with Latin America, he would realize that the region's lingering grievances about our high-handed approach to the hemisphere are often tied to our perceived Cuba hypocrisy.

Presidential candidates, of course, typically spout the same macho rhetoric on Cuba because they believe it's essential to winning Florida, which in turn is essential to winning the White House. But the state — especially the growth of its non-Cuban Latino community, which is often irritated by all the attention thrust on Cuba — has changed more than McCain and the G.O.P. seem to realize. The Democrats, of course, haven't been much more clued in themselves in recent years. But Obama has already signaled that when he gives his own speech in Miami, he's likely to challenge at least bits of the status quo — he supports letting Cuban-Americans visit Cuba and send remittances to relatives there whenever they want, for example. In a Miami Herald op-ed article last summer, Obama insisted that those family ties are "our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy" in Cuba, and suggested he would be more willing than the Miami hard-liners to normalize relations with the Castro government. So despite the Hitler analogies, Obama at least seems willing to bet that the peninsula is ready for a more original approach to dealing with the island.

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JG: Obama is not a perfect candidate, but he would be an improvement over Bush and McSame.

Cuba says Bush cellphone speech "ridiculous"

Thu May 22, 2008 2:43pm EDT

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba dismissed as "ridiculous" on Thursday President George W. Bush's speech announcing that U.S. residents can send cellular telephones to Cuban relatives and said it was time for Bush to go.

"It was a decadent show, a speech irrelevant and cynical, an act of ridiculous propaganda," Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque said in a press conference.

"Let him retire and leave the presidency," he said.

Bush, who leaves office in January, opened a small crack in the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba on Wednesday to allow the sending of cell phones to family members on the island.

Perez Roque did not specifically discuss the cell phones, reserving his comments for Bush.

He called Bush "an exhausted leader" who was "packing his bags to go to his ranch in Texas -- discredited, a politician overwhelmingly rejected in his country."

Perez Roque also called on the U.S. to explain the behavior of its top diplomat in Cuba, U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly, whom the Cuban government this week accused of delivering money from an anti-Castro exile in the U.S. to dissidents in Havana.

Since making the accusation on Monday, the government has shown videos and e-mails and played tapes of Parmly speaking with dissident Martha Beatriz Roque, recipient of the money from a group founded by Miami businessman Santiago Alvarez.

Alvarez, currently in U.S. jail on weapons charges, is a colleague of Luis Posada Carriles, accused of masterminding a 1976 Cubana Airlines jet bombing that killed 73 people.

The evidence, said Perez Roque, showed that Parmly and others at the Interests Section had broken laws in both countries by helping opponents of the Cuban government.

Two Miami Residents Join Lawsuit Against Travel Restrictions To Cuba

Local 10

POSTED: 12:48 pm EDT May 22, 2008

MIAMI -- Two people in Miami are joining in a lawsuit against the Bush administration over its restrictions on family travel to Cuba.

The American Civil Liberties Union is helping with the suit.

It's a real-life drama, not a soap opera. And it's also a real-life heartache for Martin Baltizar who may not, under U.S. law, visit his 85-year-old mother in Cuba until 2010. Baltizar's mother has leukemia.

It's the same situation for Beth Boone and her 3-year-old son who met his grandmother last November.

"It was a visit filled with joy and love and now we can't go back for three more years," Boone told Local 10's Glenna Milberg.

Baltizar and Boone have now joined a lawsuit filed by Cuban-Americans in Vermont last march challenging the Bush administration's Cuban family travel policies.

Since 2004, the more restrictive rules limit visits to once every three years to immediate family only. There are no exceptions in cases of illness or death.

The ACLU calls the law not only cruel, but unconstitutional and insists it does little to further the cause of democracy in Cuba.

"The conflict with Cuba is not a blank check to violate international human rights and to try to break up families. The United States should not be in the business of breaking up families," said the ACLU's Howard Simon.