Cuba’s dissidents and the new normal

As Professor Carlos Eire recently pointed out to NPR, most of the dissidents in Cuba feel betrayed by President Obama’s recent announcement regarding Cuba policy. Truth be told, however, most of these same dissidents, with a few notable exceptions, had previously made statements against the embargo and US non-recognition of Cuba’s government. Many of the the high-profile critics of the castro regime almost unanimously favored “normalization” between the two countries.

It becomes clear that once the clashing cymbals of the news media heralding the new era of relations between the two countries quiets down, as if often the case with announcements made by this president, the reality of “normal” begins to set in. Things in Cuba are already back to “normal” and the repression continues, except now the one country that marginally said anything about it will be silent for the sake of normalcy.

Moving forward these dissidents must accept that, in the eyes of US policy, being arrested and imprisoned for expressing opposition to the dictator of Cuba is considered normal. That being paid $20 a month by the Cuban state for work that would be much more valuable in a free market is normal. That the arbitrary enforcement of laws which keeps the citizenry constantly off-balance is normal.

To me it’s almost as if these people hadn’t thought their positions out to their logical conclusions. It is difficult for me to criticize the people who are brave enough to openly defy the castro brothers but it should serve as a reminder to all of us about one of the most important life lessons we hear from the time we are children, “be careful what you wish for.”

If these dissidents were literally and figuratively on an island before, well now they are on another planet. We here at Babalu have always been clear-eyed about what “normalization” means. We’ve written millions of words, read by millions of readers, trying to do the impossible in a war of words against the nation’s left wing media, starting with the despicable New York Times but also including CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS.

Tonight Barack Obama will sleep in his comfortable bed, as normal. The journalists who have been actively amplifying the calls for these changes will set their alarm clocks to go to work in the morning as normal. And Cuba’s people will sleep without hope of the new era they were promised. Everything will be back to normal.

Polls about policy toward Cuba.

This morning I was greeted by a news story stating that 64% of Americans back the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. My first thought was what percentage of those have ever had a spontaneous thought about Cuba much less studied the matter to form an opinion?

Over at Hot Air Noah Rothman tackles this exact issue. Here’s the money quote that stood out to me:

“…That is just one element that serves to demonstrate how thoroughly the national political press has failed to educate the public on the issues relating to Cuban-American relations. If you are not self-educated on the myriad obstacles preventing the immediate normalization of relations between these two countries, you could be forgiven for thinking that America’s present policy toward Cuba is arbitrary and unthinking. The fact that the press prefers this oversimplified narrative is evident in that that so many appear to share it.”

Read the whole thing HERE.

My prescience will be proven…

Almost five years ago I wrote a piece for this here blog predicting what would happen if the US unilaterally changed course on Cuba policy. Very soon you will be amazed by my ability to see the future. Am I psychic? Hardly. I’m awake and paying attention.

Visions of a post-embargo Cuba
By Henry Louis Gomez, on February 25, 2010, at 10:38 am

It seems that the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is the constant thread of the narrative here at Babalu Blog and wherever the issue of Cuba and its dictatorship is discussed. It feels like every day someone new comes along and says, “well it hasn’t worked in fifty years so isn’t time to try something new?” The purpose of this post is not to discuss the origins or intent of the embargo, we’ve discussed that ad nauseam, but rather to look into our crystal ball and see what a post-embargo Cuba would look like without the regime first making any significant changes to its economic and political systems. In other words, giving the castro brothers exactly what they have been asking for since the Soviet Union collapsed.

The first implication of lifting the embargo is that Cuba will be legally open to U.S. tourists for the first time in half a century. Now it’s interesting to ponder the fact that the castro regime’s creation myth begins with Cuba as a tourist playground for wealthy Americans who frolicked on Cuba’s beaches and gambled at tables of Cuba’s casinos while a dictator oppressed the Cuban people during the 1950s. Certainly it was not U.S. tourists that “liberated” Cuba from Batista. But now somehow American tourists possess some magical power to bring about change, at least that’s what embargo opponents would have you believe.

So what would a Cuba full of American tourists look like? Not too different than Cuba today. How can I say that with such certainty? Well because Cuba plays host to more than 2.3 million international tourists annually today, far more than ever went to Cuba during the 50s. The fact is that hotel capacity is currently limited to about 2.5 million visitors per year so the influx of American tourists will only increase the total number of visitors marginally. What it will do however is drive the price of hotel room nights up as demand temporarily outstrips supply.

So you’ll have a few more tourists visiting Cuba with all of them paying a premium to do it. What will they do there? Well certainly they’ll be staying at all-inclusive resorts like this one where the employees are selected by the regime and paid a fixed wage of roughly $20 a month by law. They’ll also be taking “cultural tours” like this one and enjoying the Jet Skiis and motorboats. They’ll be photographing all of the pre-castro landmarks (because nobody ever comes back from Cuba showing off their snapshots of Soviet Era apartment blocks) and getting drunk. The point here is that all of this already taking place yet the much ballyhooed people-to-people exchanges have not resulted in any significant change in the day-to-day lives of the Cuban people.

Additionally, American tourists will find Cuba’s resorts and hotels to be substandard when compared with other Caribbean destinations. At least that’s what Canadian and European tourists have found. They shouldn’t be surprised that facilities are not maintained and service is shoddy, after all it is a communist dictatorship.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuban-Americans, still voting Republican after all these years

As we approach the midterm elections in November and, more importantly, the Presidential election in 2016 there will, as always, be media speculation about which way the Cuban-American vote will break. That’s because Cuban-Americans have been a reliably Republican bloc in a swing state.

The mostly liberal media has been feeding the public a narrative that Cubans are changing their political views and especially their views about U.S. policy toward Cuba for literally decades. I can only assume that they believe that if they wish for it enough it will eventually happen.

After Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012 there was an immediate media reaction to exit polls that claimed that the Obama won among Cuban-Americans or that it was a virtual dead heat.

Pedro Roig, senior research associate and lecturer at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, has recently published a study of 2012 election results 38 very Cuban South Florida Precincts. He concludes:

The voting results demonstrate that Republican candidate Mitt Romney won the geographical area south of SW 8th Street to SW 56th Street (Miller) and west of SW 87th Avenue to SW 117th Avenue with 60.77% of the votes. This is an area with a predominantly Cuban-American community.

Immediately after the election I did my own analysis of 111 precincts in the most 10 most Cuban zip codes in Miami-Dade County. I concluded then that:

When aggregated, Mitt Romney won these 111 precincts 58.5% to 41%. This is in a county Obama won 67.6% to 37.9%.

According to the Census, the population of these 10 zip codes is 92% Hispanic and 70.4% Cuban Hispanics. It can be easily argued that non-Cuban Hispanics brought down Mitt Romney’s numbers in these precincts, since non-Cubans statewide (and nationwide for that matter) went for Obama in a big way. We can deduce therefore that 58.5% is a floor or the minimum amount of support that Romney got from Cubans in these zip codes.

At the time I estimated that Cubans broke for Romney 6-to-4. That’s decisive but less so than previous GOP candidates. I think the next Republican candidate needs to do better in courting Cubans, articulating a clear foreign policy based on freedom and democratic principles (not just for Cuba) and explaining why rewarding the Castro regime is not in America’s best interest. I know one who just might fit that bill.

Cuban rafters rescued…in Guatemala

Central American news outlet is reporting that 23 Cuban rafters were rescued near the northeast of that country. It’s reported that there were twenty men and three women ranging in age from 19-50. They were rescued when their raft was damaged after encountering inclement weather. Unfortunately the rafters are being detained by the Guatemalan immigration authorities and “together with Cuban diplomats they will determine the legal process to undertake.” Why would a sovereign nation allow foreign diplomats from the country these people were trying to escape determine what legal process to take about citizens?

Quote of the day

From Enrique Del Risco, referring to an email from the recently deposed editors of Cuba’s “Espacio Laical” (Lay Space):

Al principio me recordó aquella frase de Borges: “Quienes dicen que el arte no debe propagar doctrinas suelen referirse a doctrinas contrarias a las suyas”. Pero de atender con cuidado a ese fragmento la Iglesia cubana se divide entre quienes están con el gobierno y quienes no quieren nada con la oposición.

At first it reminded me of that favorite saying from Borges: “Those who say that art should not propagate doctrines are usually referring to doctrines contrary to their own.” But upon careful reading of that fragment, the Cuban Church is divided among those who are with the government and those who do not want anything to do with the opposition.

Gag-inducing Travel Tips from Sarah Hall

Ziva posted an item that was emailed to the staff at Babalu by long-time contributor, Mora. In the email Mora described at gag-inducing and boy was she ever right.


This woman, Sarah Hall, describes her decision to go to Cuba as a spur of the moment lark:

I like places that are a little hard to get to. I woke up the day after my birthday and thought to myself, “by next weekend I need to be in Havana.” So I grabbed my iPad and booked the trip.

In a couple of short sentences Hall not only destroys the idea that anyone is being prevented from going to Cuba thus invalidating one of the big libertarian arguments against the sanctions the US has on Cuba, but also demonstrates that she’s one shallow thinker. She didn’t bother to contemplate why it’s “hard to get to” despite being 90 miles away. She didn’t think for even a minute about the 5 decades of suffering the Cuban people have endured at the hands of the Castro brothers or millions that have fled the place where she would vacation or the tens of thousands who have died trying to flee. No, it was her birthday and she wasn’t going to be denied this exquisite experience to see the animals at the zoo.

She goes on to describe some of what she experienced:

A picture perfect combination of beauty and decay; architecture that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world; vintage cars perfectly maintained by their owners.

Ahh, how nice it is to be the omnipotent tourist that gets to vicariously enjoy decay and then fly home to Manhattan. There are plenty of poor countries one can visit and see decay. Most of the time when people return from such places they talk about how sad it is or how eye-opening it was. In the case of Cuba we see this romanticized vision so often that it makes me wonder if they aren’t drugging the visitors upon their arrival. The difference between Cuba and these countries is that Cuba was once a new country, a country on the rise. The decay she witnessed ALL came at the hands of the people she doesn’t even deign to mention. Ignorance is bliss and this lady is truly ignorant.

Cuba is one of the last places where you can get lost: your cell phone doesn’t work and you can’t really get on the internet. From the moment you land until you get back on the plane, you are completely and perfectly in the moment.

Such a lovely euphemism for being completely and intentionally cut off from the rest of the world. Desirable of course when you’re the co-owner of a “creative services firm” in New York but not so good when you are trying scratch out an existence in a dictatorship. So glad that this prison for 11 million could serve to deprive Ms. Hall of all the pressures inherent to living in a modern and connected society. Their sacrifice is for your enjoyment, Sarah.

So the bottom line according to Sarah Hall is that if you truly want to get away, go to Cuba. I wish she’d go and stay permanently. Let’s see if a few months trying to feed herself using a ration book to buy goods for which there are no rations and riding around on overcrowded and makeshift buses and working for $20 months a month changes her opinion.

The age of Tweet Fisking is here.

Longtime readers may be familiar with the expression “fisking”. It’s basically a point-by-point refutation of a news item or opinion column. Since the mainstream media goes to considerable lengths to sanitize Cuba’s castro dictatorship we spend a lot of time refuting their assertions. But the age of Twitter means these “journalists” or “Cuba Experts” are now accessible. So introducing the Tweet Fisk. Today we take Daniel Serwer to task for his column Politico. “Serwer is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a scholar at its Center for Transatlantic Relations. The piece is entitled, “The Dangers of a Cuban Collapse.”



On Rubio’s Resurgence

Recently I was commenting on Facebook about how conservatives have thrown Senator Marco Rubio overboard because he took it upon himself to try to forge an immigration reform compromise. I lamented the fact that he was being called a traitor and RINO despite his having accrued conservative ratings from the American Conservative Union (the people who put on CPAC every year) of 96, 100 and 100. My PJ Media editor saw my comments and asked me to write about in depth. Here it is:

Has Marco Rubio Been Resurrected?
An objectively incorrect litmus test damaged him in the first place.

Two weeks ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave an impassioned speech about Cuba and Venezuela on the Senate floor. This was his response to a floor speech by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who had recently visited Castro’s Cuba and predictably came back with rave reviews of the Potemkin village.

Rubio dismantled Harkin’s rosy assessment of the hemisphere’s longest-running and bloodiest dictatorship. Many observers described it as Rubio’s finest demonstration of his oratory skills, and a speech that might put him back in the good graces of the conservative Republican base.

Marco Rubio has touched the third rail of conservative politics — immigration reform. He was the most visible of a group of Republicans that attempted to forge a compromise to help solve the problem of the estimated 12 million illegal aliens living within our borders. The issue is so toxic within the Republican Party that many simply wrote Rubio off despite the fact that the initiative didn’t go anywhere.

I never thought I’d see the day when a Republican would have to rehabilitate his conservative image after committing the sin of agreeing with the likes of Jack Kemp, Bill Kristol, Lawrence Kudlow, and Steve Forbes, not to mention Ronald Reagan. But that day has indeed arrived, much to my befuddlement.

Continue reading…

More on the (un)Affordable Care Act

With every day that passes the questions about President Obama’s signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, are mounting. We’ve all heard the White House talking points that there’s an incredible amount of interest in signing up for the new healthcare plans being offered under the law and that the volume of visitors is what’s causing the technical problems. That is pure spin. The fact is that very, very few people are signing up for the plans and technical difficulties are only partly to blame. A partial roundup of recent media items about the Unaffordable Care Act, the dearth of buyers and the perverse incentives it unleashes on the market is below the fold.

Read more

It’s time to stop calling it Obamacare.

In 2009 when President Obama and a Democrat majority in Congress were jamming a new and onerous bill through without the normal due process Republicans disparagingly nicknamed the measure “Obamacare”. The logic was understandable, their animus toward the President and his ideas made them want to make it personal. Plus they had a precedent.

During the 1990s, First Lady Hillary Clinton headed up a Clinton Administration task force to explore alternatives for changing the healthcare system in America. Wary conservatives, who understand that all such attempts coming from the left always end in socialization, branded the task force’s ideas as “HillaryCare.” Ultimately Republicans won the House of Representatives in 1994 and HillaryCare was confined to ash bin of history.

The fact is that the nickname “HillaryCare” worked to some extent to delegitimize the Clinton healthcare initiative. President Clinton himself had been elected with a plurality of only 43% and of course his wife was completely unelected. Additionally, from the moment the Clintons reached prominence Hillary has always been a polarizing figure. The idea that this matronly looking woman knew what was best for us seem ludicrous to most Americans for who the memory of Ronald Reagan was still very fresh.

So it’s no surprise that opponents of President Obama chose to designate his pet project with a similar nickname, Obamacare. But at this point that nickname doesn’t help Republicans win the public debate. For one thing Obama was elected by a majority and he came into power with very high personal approval ratings. People wanted to like him. Most people want to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly when they have a compelling personal story like the one that crafted for the previously unknown Obama.

The Obamacare nickname gives the impression that what Republicans really hate about the “Affordable Care Act” as it was actually called, is the fact the Obama championed it. It makes the healthcare debate into a petty partisan one rather than a monumental ideological one.

As I’ve written previously, the big problem with the Affordable Care Act is not the technical glitches in the various websites consumers are supposed to use to get quotes and buy health coverage, those things will eventually be remedied, but rather that the costs of the policies are much higher than most Americans are expecting. The truth about the “Affordable Care Act” is that it’s the biggest lie a politician has ever told American voters. Health care costs can only go up for most Americans under the law.

For these reasons I think all of us who oppose President Obama would be smart to change the way we talk about the “Affordable Care Act”. The solution is simple: “The Unaffordable Care Act. This nickname speaks directly the problem with the legislation. Examples of how the law makes healthcare more expensive abound, everything from caps on Flexible Spending Accounts to the medical devices tax to the new 1.9% tax on married couples who earn more than $250,000. The Unaffordable Care Act requires that all health insurance policies cover more things, like maternity coverage (even if you are couple with a post-menopausal woman). All of these things are costing Americans more and more money during a time where the economy is particularly weak, mainly as a side effect of the Unaffordable Care Act itself.

So let’s be smart about this and forget that word we’ve become so fond of and realize it’s doing more harm than good. Let’s focus the debate where we can win it, the actual results of this disastrous legislation.