Here we go.....
Hold on to your false teeth. It's going to be a wild ride!
This "reform" announced yesterday by the Castro regime --on the same day as the "historic" reversal of U.S./Cuba relations --is probably the first of many to come, all driven by the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Castrogonia.
Yes, yes, yes, as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would say. Yessss!
Present occupant of the White House, behold the first fruit of your historic policy change.
My question for King Raul: does this law apply to the prostitutes who service tourists?
Cubans working for foreign firms to keep only 8% of the wages paid by employers
HAVANA TIMES — Cubans working for firms with foreign capital on the island received a bucket of cold water Tuesday when a new resolution published in the official Gazette fixes their salaries at only 8% of what the joint venture or foreign companies must pay the government in hard currency for their services.
The announcement published by Granma daily quotes Vice-minister of Labor and Social Security, Zamira Marín Triana, as saying the new wage involves a “significant increase” for workers.
Ever since the government announced in October that prospective employees of foreign companies at the Mariel Special Development Zone would be receiving nearly 40% of their real wages before taxes, workers of companies operating with foreign capital on the rest of the island were expecting to receive a higher cut of the wage paid by their employers to the State.
It is the custom in Cuba that if a foreign firm wants its employees to be productive they must pay them an additional amount of hard currency under the table, since the amount they officially receive after the government takes the lion’s share is not a living wage.
Te lo dije, lo tuyo es mio. Mil gracias Obama
"Democrats for Communism - We will be like Che!"
(A play on the slogan schoolchildren in Cuba are forced by the regime to repeat constantly: "Pioneers for Communism. We will be like Che [Guevara]!")
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Post Revolution Mondays:
Cuban democracy has taken so long that now it seems we Cubans can wait for a little longer. President Obama, with his historical Cuban speech, is indeed recognizing the future rights of a leftist dictatorship that in turn never recognized the rights of Cuban citizens.
Yet, his Cuban counterpart, General Raul Castro, dressed in military uniform instead of his much more accustomed expensive suits, delivered a simultaneous speech so solemn that he sounded like in a funeral. It was obvious that this was his fraternal farewell to Fidel Castro, who cannot be part anymore of the Cuban equation in the new era opened today. I dare say that Fidel Castro has died and that the apocalyptic announcement may take place in the 56th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1st.
Next, we’ll see in Cuba the masquerade of new investments and markets and local licenses for business and more access to internet and even an electoral reform, but private property will remain a myth and no fundamental freedoms are conceivable for Cubans while only one Communist Party keeps monopolizing all political life, with the State Security from the Ministry of the Interior as the real source of governance of a model based on secrecy and, of course, impunity to repression.
After decades of fostering terrorism, the Caribbean dictatorship is paving the path to a dynastic “dictatorcracy”, with second and third generation Castros perpetuated in position to lead this process without ever worrying about consulting the popular will. Thus, the Cuban self-transition from totalitarianism to State capitalism is under way with a new geopolitical ally: the United States of America. As such, Cuban democrats must re-schedule their expectations to live in a normal Cuba. This is the main consequence of the “normalization” of relations between the gerontocracy of the Revolution Square and a White House pushed both by the corporations and by the pro-Castro bias of the free press.
As for the Cuban exiles, thank you very much for what you’ve done for this great nation, yes, but your President Obama has just mentioned that effective Cubans are only the 11 million still under Castro’s rule on the Island. So, our world-wide free diaspora will remain excluded of their own nationality, at most invited to collaborate by sending their billions of dollars every year in remittances. What’s more, the Cuban Adjustment Act from 1966 is likely to be ineffective soon, so that the Cuban immigration will lose its special status in USA and the first deportations of illegal Cuban newcomers are conceivable to stop the stampede.
Last but not least, Cuban “civil society”, as Obama stated, seems no more interested in political opposition to the government and ultimately, in peacefully struggling to legally attain power. Reduced to the field of dissidence, their pro-democracy actions are limited to a digital catharsis that is perfectly tolerable for the new status quo of post-Castroism.
So, welcome to the real thing. Cuban democracy, like heaven, can wait. Like hell.
When asked if the president had any plans to visit Cuba after his unilateral concession to the repressive Castro dictatorship, Obama's Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied that President Obama is apparently looking forward to some fun in the sun in apartheid Cuba:
“I certainly wouldn't rule out a presidential visit. Like many Americans, he has seen that Cuba is a place where they have a beautiful climate and a lot of fun things to do. So, if there's an opportunity for the president to visit, I'm sure he wouldn't turn it down.”
Some more thoughts and reactions on President Obama's astounding unilateral concession to Cuba's vile and oppressive apartheid dictatorship.
Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:
Obama's Legacy: Normalizing relations with an Abnormal Regime
Listening to President Obama today after learning the good news that, after more than five years unjustly held hostage, Alan Gross was finally free, and that Cuban political prisoners were freed was nevertheless a sobering and worrisome exercise for a number of reasons.
First the news that three spies who had spied on military installations and congressmen on American soil, that had plotted terrorist acts in the United States, and were implicated in the February 24, 1996 murder of three American citizens and one American resident were freed in a swap to return to Cuba sends a terrible message.
Regime hardliners have won, thanks to the Obama Administration's actions today. Kidnapping an American and holding him for ransom for five years has paid off. Moderate elements within the dictatorship, seeking to transition Cuba into a responsible member of the family of nations, will have to continue to remain silent and wait.
Secondly, despite smuggling arms to North Korea in violation of international sanctions in 2013; murdering opposition leaders and organizing a Stalinist show trial to cover it up; and projecting itself into the internal affairs of Venezuela did not negatively impact the desire of the Obama Administration to "normalize" relations with this rogue regime.
Continue reading HERE.
Capitol Hill Cubans:
Obama's Announcement: Issues of Credibility, Geo-Political Vision and Executive Overreach
President Barack Obama has just announced a series of changes to Cuba policy, pursuant to a deal with dictator Raul Castro for the release American hostage, Alan Gross.
These policy changes are in addition to a prisoner exchange, in which three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States have also been released.
(Please see our statement regarding the prisoner exchange here.)
These policy changes raise serious questions regarding the President's credibility and geo-political vision. They also represent an abuse of his executive authority under U.S. law.
As regards credibility --
Just last year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee:
"[The Castro regime] has been attempting to trade Alan Gross for the five spies that are in prison here in the US, and we've refused to do that because there's no equivalency."
Yet, that -- in fact -- is what the Obama Administration has done today.
As regards geo-political vision --
President Obama has placed democracy in the Western Hemisphere on the chopping bloc.
In his remarks at noon, Obama cited China and Vietnam as examples of why the United States should normalize relations with Cuba.
So what exactly is the model that Obama seeks for Cuba?
Is it the "China model" whereby U.S. business helps to build the most lucrative dictatorship in human history?
A "Vietnam model" of state capitalism under an iron-fisted rule?
"Burma model" whereby reforms achieved through pressure are rolled back as soon as sanctions are lifted?
Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and their puppets revel in such models. But none should have a place -- geographically or politically -- in the Western Hemisphere.
In this hemisphere, every nation (except Cuba) made a commitment to representative democracy in 2001.
Today's announcement sends a message to the Western Hemisphere's wanna-be authoritarians that the U.S. now (once again) views such models as acceptable in the Americas.
Globally, it has sent a blueprint to the other nations on the U.S.'s state-sponsors of terrorism list (Iran, Sudan and Syria) of how to have that designation removed -- take an American hostage.
Continue reading HERE.
If U.S.-Cuba normalization doesn't free the Cuban people, it will fail
As a hisorical moment, there is no disputing the profundity of today's announcment of a new era in U.S-Cuban relations.
But for the chatter and debate it has sparked, most have it has failed to address this essential question: How will normalization of relations, and everything that will allow, without first concessions by Havana, free the Cubans of Cuba?
How that is answered -- will a Cuba with relations with Washington build a thriving democracy or will it become another China? -- will ultimately determine the failure or success of the change that is coming.
The interests of the Cuban people were absent from most of today's discussion, instead focusing on less vital questions like the how would the "hard-line" Cubans in Miami react and when could Americans start planning their Varadero beach vacations.
Absent was consideration of how the Obama-Castro thaw would improve the lives of the Cuban people, who for almost 56 years -- because of the Castros and not because of a so-called "embargo" or the lack of normal relations with the U.S. -- have suffered some of the worst oppression and deprivations in history.
Will normalization, as Obama suggested, lead to freedom for the Cuban people? That is really the only question that matters.
In his speech, Obama said he was convinced that greater diplomatic, economic and other engagement between the U.S. and Cuba, and the eventual lifting of the "embargo," would pay off with benefits for the Cuban people, and that that hope was enough open a new era in relations between Washington and Havana. And without the Castro regime making any concessions in return.
Continue reading HERE.
The American Spy Traded in the U.S.-Cuba Diplomatic Breakthrough
The unidentified United States spy being swapped as part of a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and Cuba is almost certainly a former cryptographer in Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence who worked secretly for the CIA until he was arrested on espionage charges in the mid-1990s, according to a former U.S. intelligence officer and other sources.
Rolando “Roly” Sarraff Trujillo was “an expert on cryptography for the Cuban Ministry of Interior who was arrested in 1995 and sentenced to 25 years in jail,” said Chris Simmons, a former Defense Intelligence Agency specialist on Cuba.
“I know of all the Cubans on the list of people in jail and he is the only one who fits the description” of the unnamed asset in question, Simmons added. “I am 99.9 percent sure that Roly is the guy."
The agent, U.S. officials said, was exchanged for the remaining three members of the so-called “Cuban Five,” a group of operatives arrested in Florida on espionage charges in 1998. Another element of the agreement, which ended the decades-long feud between the U.S. and Cuba, was Havana’s decision to free Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor imprisoned on the island since 2009 on charges of trying to subvert the state.
In a speech on Wednesday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that a spy of “Cuban origin” was being released. But neither Cuba nor the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI) would identify the operative in question or comment on Sarraff Trujillo.
DNI spokesman Brian P. Hale said in a prepared statement that the asset being released spent 20 years in a Cuban prison for his work for the U.S. Many of the details of his cooperation are classified, but Hale said he was “instrumental in the identification and disruption of several Cuban intelligence operatives in the United States and ultimately led to a series of successful federal espionage prosecutions.”
Indeed, according to Hale, the spy “provided the information that led to the identification and conviction of Defense Intelligence Agency senior analyst Ana Belen Montes; former Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers and his spouse Gwendolyn Myers; and members of the Red Avispa network, or ‘Wasp Network,’ in Florida, which included members of the so-called Cuban Five.”
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition also reported that its sources believe that Sarraff Trujillo was the spy. “Just as a matter of elimination,” it’s Sarraff Trujillo, Simmons said.
A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who also worked in counterterrorism operations in the Balkans and Iraq, Simmons runs a website called Cuba Confidential. On May 27, 2012, he wrote on his site that in 1994 Sarraff Trujillo was persuaded by a DGI colleague, José Cohen Valdés, to steal information that he could use to facilitate his defection to the U.S. Sarraff Trujillo, according to Simmons, gave him the info to pass along to Langley. “Cohen planned to bring Sarraf Trujillo and another individual with him in a mass defection,” Simmons wrote.
Apparently, the plan didn’t work out.
Continue reading HERE.
"We have executed, we execute and we will continue to execute."
Ernesto "Che" Guevara
Enough irony to make your head spin.
Via the AP in NBC6 South Florida:
"A Slap in the Face": Pilots' Families Balk at Cuban Prisoner Swap
The South Florida families of pilots fatally shot down by Cuba in 1996 are speaking out against the Wednesday release of three members of the convicted spies known as the “Cuban Five” in a prisoner swap — among them one who had been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder over the shootdown.
"For the only person that we had responsible for what happened to be let go — it’s a slap in the face to my dad," Marlene Alejandre-Triana said at a news conference.
Alejandre-Triana's father Armando Alejandre, a Vietnam veteran, was one of four pilots killed when Cuban MiGs shot down their two small, private planes in February 1996 in international waters off Cuba's northern coast. They had been flying missions for Brothers to the Rescue, an exile organization that sought to aid migrants at sea and also dropped propaganda leaflets.
One of the agents known as the "Cuban Five," Gerardo Hernandez, had been serving a life sentence on a murder conspiracy conviction in the shoot-down.
He and two other members of the Cuban Five — Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero — were released Wednesday as part of the prisoner swap and flown back to their homeland, ending what their appeals lawyer called "an arduous experience."
The families of the pilots said they were given no warning of the release.
“We simply cannot understand how this could have happened, especially in the case of Gerardo Hernandez. This was the only modicum of justice we had,” said Maggie Alejandre-Khuly, sister of one of the pilots who was killed.
The Cuban Five were all convicted in 2001 of being unregistered foreign agents, and three also were found guilty of espionage conspiracy for failed efforts to obtain military secrets from the U.S. Southern Command headquarters. Hernandez, meanwhile, had been serving two life sentences plus 15 years on a murder conspiracy conviction stemming from the Cuban air force's 1996 shoot-down.
Continue reading HERE.
Geez. It didn't take very long.
Less than twelve hours after the present occupant of the White House announced his deal with Castrogonia, American relic hunters are itching to plunder the island.
All of the nifty pre-1959 relics preserved by Cubans are about to be snatched, most probably at a grossly unfair price.
Call them tomb raiders. Call them relic hunters. Call them carpetbaggers. Call them anything but principled.
Even conservative-leaning Fox News seems to be salivating.
There is so much neat stuff to be snapped up in Castrogonia. Stuff left behind by the maggots (gusanos) who fled.
So, if you are a Cuban who left behind everything you and your family owned, forget about any compensation or reparations.
And, if you are a Cuban who stayed and worked hard to preserve relics from the pre-Castro past, get ready to be swindled.
Much like a gang-raped co-ed at the University of Virginia, God help you if you dare to complain.
You deserve the abuse. You deserve to lose everything. You are a selfish lout who left a wonderful utopia because you didn't want to share your stuff with the less fortunate. Or you are an imbecile who chose to stay in a Third-World hellhole.
Get ready for looting that will make the Nazis look like slackers, as the Castro dynasty and their henchmen get ready for the windfall of their dreams.
They will charge their pound of flesh for these treasures, you know.
That is, if today's Executive Order manages to survive all challenges.
From Fox News:
Cuba's million-dollar Mercedes-Benz
With normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba on the horizon, you can be sure there are plenty of treasure-hunting car enthusiasts chomping at the bit to head to Havana and bring back some souvenirs
Pre-revolution cars from the 1950s and earlier famously haunt the streets and alleys of the Caribbean nation, as new car-starved locals tirelessly try to keep them on the road as taxis and daily transport.
Among the plentiful Fords and Chevrolets are some rare, luxurious cars once owned by the many successful capitalists that fled the island after Fidel Castro came to power.
Finding them is a favorite pastime of many visitors, including photographer Piotr Degler, who recently set out to discover a million-dollar Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe supposedly left to rot by the side of a road under a banana tree.
Degler documented the search in his Carros de Cuba 2015 calendar, which features a dozen shots of cars and people he came across curated from the more than 25,000 he took on the trip. After journeying nearly 2,000 miles, and speaking to countless locals, he finally found the elusive Mercedes sitting there, half buried in rubbish, its doors ajar and body decayed.
Degler captured the moment, one that may not last much longer now that Cuba’s doors are set to open to America once again. Although it looks too far gone to be saved, if someone could manage to restore it, the car is literally worth a million dollars or more.
If you're not up for the challenge, or would prefer a picture of it just how it is, Degler’s large format calendars start at $80.
Reaction from Capitol Hill's Cuban American members after Christmas came early for the vile and repugnant apartheid dictatorship of the Castro brothers thanks to President Obama. Apparently, it pays to be naughty (and repressive, and murderous) when you're on Obama's gift list.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL):
“Although the freedom of Alan Gross is welcome news, it’s important to remember that Mr. Gross should have never been imprisoned in Cuba by the Castro regime in the first place. The manner in which the White House has negotiated this prisoner swap is a slap in the face to the families of the Brothers to the Rescue and poses a threat to our national security. President Obama has unilaterally released three convicted Cuban spies who were responsible for the deaths of three American citizens and one U.S. resident: Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, whose planes were unjustly shot down over international waters on direct orders of the Castro brothers.
“Ever since Gross had been unjustly imprisoned, several high ranking Administration officials reiterated to Congress and to the American people that there was no equivalency between the Cuban Five and Alan Gross and reaffirmed that no swap would take place. Furthermore, this agreement between Obama and Castro leaves out one important aspect: the Cuban people. The reality is that since the Obama administration first eased restrictions, the situation on the island has gotten worse with an increased level of arbitrary detainments. The Castro dictatorship should be answering to its own people to whom it has denied basic rights for over five decades.
“The liberalization policies aimed at easing trade and remittances to Cuba is another propaganda coup for the Castro brothers, who will now fill their coffers with more money at the expense of the Cuban people. It is quite possible that this unilateral action by the President without Congressional consultation is in violation of the following U.S. laws: Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996, Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and the Trading with the Enemy Act. The White House attempts to normalize relationships with Cuba without the approval of Congress may be in direct violation of Helms-Burton that specifically states that all political prisoners must be released and free and fair elections must be held before establishing a diplomatic relationship. This misguided action by President Obama will embolden the Castro regime to continue its illicit activities, trample on fundamental freedoms, and disregard democratic principles.”
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL):
"Alan Gross should never have spent one day in prison and we are glad that he will finally be reunited with his family. However, the way that his release was achieved is outrageous and proves that once again, President Obama is the Appeaser-in-Chief who is willing to provide unprecedented concessions to a brutal dictatorship that opposes U.S. interests at every opportunity.
“The three remaining Cuban spies who President Obama is releasing were convicted for spying on U.S. military installations, and one was convicted for his role in the shoot-down of an American civilian aircraft in international airspace, which murdered three innocent Americans and one U.S. resident. Their early release is an egregious miscarriage of justice. In addition, providing diplomatic relations and further weakening sanctions attempt to legitimize and provide hard currency to our hemisphere's worst human rights abuser. President Obama's actions are an unconscionable betrayal of America's fundamental values and a profound insult to the oppressed Cuban people.
“The unjust imprisonment and inhumane treatment of Alan Gross demonstrates the utter depravity of the Castro regime, as well as the severe repression that has afflicted the Cuban people for decades. President Obama's decision to allow the Castro regime to blackmail the United States and abandon our pro-democracy principles is an outrage. These changes to policy will further embolden the Cuban dictatorship to continue brutalizing and oppressing its own people as well as other Anti-American dictatorship and terrorist organizations”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):
“Today’s announcement initiating a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost.
“Like all Americans, I rejoice at the fact that Alan Gross will be able to return to his family after five years in captivity. Although he is supposedly being released on humanitarian grounds, his inclusion in a swap involving intelligence agents furthers the Cuban narrative about his work in Cuba. In contrast, the Cuban Five were spies operating against our nation on American soil. They were indicted and prosecuted in a court of law for the crimes of espionage and were linked to the murder of the humanitarian pilots of Brothers to the Rescue. There should be no equivalence between the two, and Gross should have been released unconditionally.
“The President’s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable. Cuba’s record is clear. Just as when President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Castro family still controls the country, the economy and all levers of power. This administration’s attempts to loosen restrictions on travel in recent years have only served to benefit the regime. While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear. Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It continues to actively work with regimes like North Korea to illegally traffic weapons in our hemisphere in violation of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions. It colludes with America’s enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear. But most importantly, the regime’s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime. That is why even more than just putting U.S. national security at risk, President Obama is letting down the Cuban people, who still yearn to be free."
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ):
“Today’s policy announcement is misguided and fails to understand the nature of the regime in Cuba that has exerted its authoritarian control over the Cuban people for 55 years. No one wishes that the reality in Cuba was more different than the Cuban people and Cuban-Americans that have fled the island in search of freedom. In November, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights & National Reconciliation (CCHR) documented 398 political arrests by the Castro regime. This brings the total number of political arrests during the first eleven months of this year to 8,410. This is a regime that imprisoned an American citizen for five years for distributing communications equipment on the island. Releasing political prisoners today in Cuba is meaningless if tomorrow these individuals can be arrested again and denied the right to peacefully pursue change in their own country.
“It is a fallacy that Cuba will reform just because the American President believes that if he extends his hand in peace that the Castro brothers suddenly will unclench their fists. A majority of democratic activists on the island, including many that I have met with, have been explicit that they want the U.S. to become open to Cuba only when there is reciprocal movement by the Castro government. They understand that the Castros will not accede to change in any other way.
“The United States has just thrown the Cuban regime an economic lifeline. With the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, Cuba is losing its main benefactor, but will now receive the support of the United States, the greatest democracy in the world. This is a reward that a totalitarian regime does not deserve and this announcement only perpetuates the Castro regime’s decades of repression.
“Today’s regulatory changes, which are clearly intended to circumvent the intent and spirit of U.S. law and the U.S. Congress, present a false narrative about Cuba that suggests that the U.S., and not the regime, is responsible for their economic failure. Cuba’s economic struggles are 100 percent attributable to a half century of failed political and economic experiments that have suffocated Cuban entrepreneurs. In Cuba, private business is controlled by the Cuban government, with the benefits flowing to the regime’s political and military leadership. Cuba has had political and economic relations with most of the world, but companies choose not to engage because of political, economic and even criminal risks associated with investment on the island, as exhibited by the arbitrary arrests of foreign investors from Canada, England and Panama in recent years.
“To suggest that Cuba should be taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism is alarming while Cuba harbors American fugitives, such as Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists for murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and despite Cuba’s colluding with North Korea to smuggle jets, missile batteries, and arms through the Panama Canal."
U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ):
“What should be a joyous moment to celebrate the overdue homecoming of Alan Gross today has been marred by the actions undertaken by the Administration to secure his release. The President’s announcement today detailing plans for a loosening of sanctions and initiating discussions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba is naïve and disrespectful to the millions of Cubans that have lived under the Castro’s repressive regime; and the thousands of human rights defenders that have fought tirelessly and at times with their lives to bring about democratic change to Cuba.
"Any notion that the Administration’s engagement with Cuba will encourage a form of Cuban glasnost is a dangerous miscalculation. Cuba has not changed in 50 years and is unlikely to change if its repressive government is given more room to breathe. In turn, the Administration has risked allowing the Cuban regime to continue its repressive policies towards the Cuban people as it has over the last half century.
"Now more than ever it will be incumbent upon the Cuban government to uphold the Inter-American Democratic Charter and respect the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of speech and assembly, and proceed with free and fair elections. Moreover, while I may welcome the release of over 50 political prisoners, little has been said for the countless others that remain inside a Cuban prison or the fact that the same 50 plus prisoners freed today could very well be imprisoned again tomorrow for exercising the same human rights of free speech that unjustly placed them inside prison the first time.
"I am disappointed in the actions taken by the President today. However, it is Congress that must and will ultimately decide if and when the sanctions against Cuba will be lifted.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX):
“We rejoice that Alan Gross’ wrongful imprisonment by the brutal Castro regime has finally come to an end, and that he will be able to spend the holidays with his loved ones. But make no mistake, although we are glad Alan is now free, the agreement the Obama Administration has entered into with the Castro regime has done nothing to resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it has made it worse.
“Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama. But they remain in control of a totalitarian police state modeled on their old state sponsor, the Soviet Union. Their government can continue to detain individuals like Alan Gross indefinitely without process—as the many political prisoners still languishing in the Castros’ prisons can attest. They retain their close, long-standing ties with hostile nations, notably Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. They will continue their support for terrorist organizations from FARC to Hezbollah and Hamas.
“The President spoke today about a new era for relations between American and the Cuban people, but these circumstances do not bode well for either. We have seen how previous Obama administration attempts at rapprochement with rogue regimes like Russia and Iran have worked out, with our influence diminished and our enemies emboldened. Now they are revisiting this same disastrous policy with the Castros, blind to the fact that they are being played by brutal dictators whose only goal is maintaining power. And if history be our guide, the Castros will exploit that power to undermine America and oppress the Cuban people. First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba – this is one more very, very bad deal brokered by the Obama Administration.”
By Cederistin Dominguez in Translating Cuba:
The Privilege of Living in Cuba
14ymedio, CEDERISTIN DOMINGUEZ, 10 December 2014 — The independent press that usually criticizes the Cuban government using human rights as a pretext should come out into the street today, December 10. Our children, especially those in primary school, will be playing, jumping and doing pirouettes in all Havana’s main plazas. Representatives from the United Nations, the foreign press and especially the national press will enjoy a great time there, watching the carnival of happiness and color that the children will give them spontaneously and voluntarily.
How do I know? Well, because I have lived in Cuba my whole life, and I know our children, and they are very prone to playing on the tenth of December… Why this day? Well, I don’t know, the truth is that now that you ask me it is a little strange. . . It’s cold, it rains and it is a school day.
What I do know is that it coincidentally matches the world day of human rights and at least our children will not be bored in cages learning mathematics, physics or Spanish. After all, we are barbarians in all that.
But while I do not “cover the sun with a finger,” I also criticize what is badly done. For example, a very pretty activity that they should do more often with the children is acts of repudiation. The last time my boy told me that an old lady almost died while they were dragging her son and that they crushed a pile of people. Those things are very important so that children learn to behave and don’t turn out later to be like those vulgar youth who are rather critical of Raul.
Over there, those strange countries have even prohibited parties and governments from using children for politics. And they call that democracy? Here there is democracy and how. Check it out, even the newborns and fetuses, although they are unaware of their own existences, are already defending the revolution on the national news.
That is what our enemies will not pardon us for. The traitors are determined only to see the little specks in the eye, no different from the whole world’s, and from that they make a huge problem. So what if those children, when they grow up, will not be able to elect their own government, so what if they earn a laughable salary, so what if half of them by age 25 will no longer be here (having gone into exile), so what if they are expelled from their universities or their jobs if they think differently, they will not be able to associate or meet or access the internet, yadda yadda. The same old song as always… The good thing is that the people are aware that all that is false.
Look, why don’t they talk about the beauty of the choreography that the children are doing? Much more open and improvised than that of the Chinese or North Korean children. Here each child throws a ball, jumps or laughs when he feels like it… That is a the painful truth, but of course, that is not what they see… What interests them is all that bunch of nonsense that the neighbors from the north and the Europeans have put in their heads. That’s why we suspended the meeting that we had planned for these days with those evil freaks.
Okay, I am going to grab my raincoat and go out for a walk because today for sure they will sell sweet cookies in the street, and I have to take advantage…
Translated by MLK
We're not clairvoyants or prophets. We just deal with the facts.
Eleven months ago, when Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Vatican, a Babalu post asked: "Will Pope Francis Bring About the Release of Alan Gross?"
Here's a quote from that post:
How's this for a scenario?: Pope Francis gets Alan Gross freed in exchange for the four Castro spies, and, on top of that, orchestrates the restoration of US/Castro diplomatic ties, along with the lifting of the embargo. And it will all make Obama look so righteous and compassionate rather than weak, all because of the glow lent to the whole deal by Pope Francis's halo.
Such speculation is not far-fetched.
Well, guess what? Unfortunately, today's events have proven that such speculation was in fact correct.
Yeah. The "embargo" has not been lifted yet.... but the current occupant of the White House has turned the circumventing of congress into a rare art form. Just wait.
Hate to say "I told you so." Those moments always involve a most exquisite and intolerable kind of pain.
WHITE HOUSE: POPE FRANCIS PLAYED KEY ROLE IN CUBA NEGOTIATIONS
Pope Francis and the Vatican were involved in the negotiations with Cuba, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on background.
“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal thorough a letter that he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro, calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who have been imprisoned here in the United States and also encouraging the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” the official noted.
The Vatican also hosted the United States and Cuban delegations to discuss the political exchange of prisoners and “improving their relationship” going forward.
In March, President Obama spoke about Cuba with Pope Francis during his visit to the Vatican and has continued to work with the Vatican during the process.
According to an administration official, Pope Francis was “aware” that Obama was considering a change in the policy against Cuba and reached out to the president. The official noted that the personal appeal was a “very rare” occurrence with the administration which lent “greater momentum” to the negotiations.
“The support of Pope Francis and the support of the Vatican was important to us,” a Senior Administration official explained, pointing to the pontiff’s history with Latin America.
The Obama administration also informed Pope Francis of the big diplomatic step between the two countries.
“The Vatican welcomed that news,” the official noted.
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
If The New York Times Really Cared About Cuban "Entrepreneurs" and "Reformists"...
Yesterday, The New York Times published its seventh editorial criticizing U.S. policy, while whitewashing Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship.
As we noted, this latest editorial was particularly discombobulated.
Amid his trademark contradictions, misrepresentations and omissions, NYT editorial writer Ernesto Londoño argues that lifting U.S. sanctions would help Cuba's "entrepreneurs."
Of course, he provides no facts -- or evidence -- of how exactly that would happen.
Even worse, Londoño doesn't practice what he preaches.
For example, he raves about Cuba's "small business, such as bed-and-breakfasts."
These are known in Cuba as "casas particulares"
However, if Londoño really wanted to help Cuba's "entrepreneurs" -- why didn't he stay at a "casa particular" during his recent two-week trip to Cuba?
Instead, he stayed at the 5-star, luxurious Hotel Saratoga, owned by the Cuban military -- and under the watchful eye of Castro's secret police.
This is also were insensitive celebrities like Jay Z, Beyonce and Naomi Cambell party in Havana.
As an additional nugget, a minority stake in Hotel Saratoga that was owned by its developers, Britain's Coral Capital, was recently confiscated and its executives arbitrarily imprisoned for almost two-years.
(Read about Coral Capital's ordeal here.)
But there's another lingering question from his latest editorial.
He talks in abstract terms about the "old-guard" vs. "reformists" in Cuba.
Once again, he doesn't define who these are -- other than to suggest that among the "reformists" are some "leading economists."
So let's add some facts.
Cuba's so-called "old-guard" is the powerful 14-member military junta that controls the island with an iron-fist.
The "reformists" are apparently some powerless economists that Londoño met during his trip.
(Note how he altogether skips "democrats" as a category -- meaning those courageously fighting for democracy in Cuba.)
Londoño believes -- again, abstractly -- that lifting U.S. sanctions would help these "reformists"
Yet, all foreign trade and investment in Cuba -- according to Castro's 1976 Constitution -- must be transacted with the "old-guard's" monopolies.
So how would funneling billions upon billions of dollars in U.S. trade, tourism and investment through the "old-guard" help the "reformists"?
To the contrary -- it would put the "reformists" at an even greater disadvantage -- not to mention Cuba's "democrats."
(Another fact that Londoño overlooks is that the most successful transitions of the 20th century were those where the "democrats" have prevailed -- i.e. Czech Republic, Estonia -- not those where so-called "reformists" prevail -- i.e. Russia, Romania. But we'll leave that for another post.)