The legacy of Obama in Cuba: Cuban lives DON’T matter

cuban lives matter

Guillermo Martinez in the Sun Sentinel:

Do Cuban lives matter to Obama?

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas has met with President Barack Obama at least twice. Together they discussed the lack of personal freedom in Cuba.

That was before President Obama went on a well-deserved golfing vacation while Fariñas was in the fourth week of a hunger strike in Cuba. By the time this column is printed, Obama will be visiting the destruction caused by the floods in Louisiana —and Fariñas may be dead.

In December 2014, Obama decided he wanted his legacy to show he had improved relations between Cuba and the United States. Since then, the United States has given many benefits to the Cuban government.

American tourists are traveling to Cuba in ever-growing numbers. Cubans escape the island and come to seek refuge in the United States, only to return to the island after a year and a day. Some go to see relatives while others go to enjoy a break from the tough life they have endured in the United States.

They all take money to Cuba. This money does not end up in the pockets of ordinary Cubans. All the money American tourists and Cubans who come and go freely to the island bring ends up in the hands of the Cuban Armed Forces – charged by the Castro regime with the responsibility of collecting and spending, as they see fit, all the dollars that flow to the island.

Since Obama opened the doors to more exchanges with Cuba, the Cuban government has repaid the American president by making life harder for all those on the island who dare oppose the regime.

Dissidents are beaten, repressed and jailed with increasing frequency.

Nobody knows precisely how many are beaten or jailed, but most international human rights organizations say the number has more than doubled in the nearly two years since Obama decided to improve relations with the Castro regime.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro turned 90 years old this past week, and his brother Raul rules in much the same ruthless manner as his brother. He has made it clear he will not respond to American acts of rapprochement with any acts of kindness or making things easier for the people of Cuba.

It is an uneven deal the one Obama and the younger Castro brother agreed to in 2014. In it, the Americans give and Cuba takes all it can while at the same time it increases internal repression.

That is the legacy of President Obama in Cuba.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Social networks respond to Randy Alonso: I-am-not-ex-Cuban

Mario Penton Martinez in Translating Cuba:

Social Networks Respond To Randy Alonso: I-Am-Not-Ex-Cuban

#YoNoSoyExCubano: Milkos Danilo Sosa Molina, a young Cuban resident in Miami responds to Randy Alonso.

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 19 August 2016 — A recent comment by official journalist Randy Alonso has generated a number of protests on social networks.

The well-known Cuban TV host questioned the nationality of the Cuban athlete Orlando Ortega, who won silver medal competing for Spain at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

On the Roundtable program, which he moderates on Cuban State TV, Alonso dedicated a segment to Cuba’s performance in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and spoke about the “controversial elements” in that sporting event, mentioning the case of “the ex-Cuban Orlando Ortega who is going to compete for Spain, and other cases of athletes who have jumped from one country to another.” The journalist placed his speech in the context of a supposed controversy “that today animates the international sports scene, tempered by the growing influence of money.”

In conversation with14ymedio, Milkos Danilo Sosa Molina, a young Cuban who lives in Miami, said he was “outraged” by the moderator’s words. “Nobody has the right to deny the nationality of a single person because they do not want to live in their own country,” he said.

Molina calls on young Cubans abroad to use the hashtag #YoNoSoyExcubano (I Am Not Ex-Cuban) in response to what her considers Randy Alonso’s “unacceptable attitude.”

“They consider us to be Cubans for some things and not for others. They want Cubans to be only those who think like them and live in Cuba, but the odd thing is that to enter your country they consider you a Cuban and demand that you use a national passport. In this way they get hundreds of dollars out of you,” he comments.

Other social network users on Facebook, such as Norges Rodriguez, following the logic of Randy Alonso, have questioned the nationality of Henry Reeve and Maximo Gomez for having left their country and fought with foreign armies for the freedom of other countries. Fernando Alvarez wrote #YoNoSoyExCubano, I was born in Cuba, I am and will be 100% Cuban wherever I am!”

The Roundtable is a television program that began in December 1999 amid the Cuban government’s campaign for the repatriation of Elian Gonzalez. It airs Monday through Friday and was a favorite of Cuban president Fidel Castro, who regularly spoke for hours on the program.

This newspaper tried to access the program mentioned in the official website of the Roundtable, but it has been removed from the YouTube platform in the United States at the request of the International Olympic Committee for violating copyright. Cuban television commonly uses audiovisual content belonging to third parties without paying for the services.

The fate of Americans who had their property stolen in Cuba in the hands of the Obama State Dept.

With the inordinate amount of generosity towards Cuba’s corrupt and criminal Castro dictatorship already exhibited by the Obama State Department, it does not look good for Americans who have legal claims on property they legally owned in Cuba stolen at gunpoint by the Cuban regime.

Todd Moss in The Miami Herald:

Cuba stole Americans’ property; will the U.S. sell them out?

riviera hotel cuba

As Cuba “celebrated” Fidel Castro’s birthday this weekend, what was the wish he wanted? Despite an historic agreement a year ago, progress is stymied. The Cuban government owes American citizens $8 billion. The Cubans insist the United States owes them $300 billion. This Miami Herald headline “Cuba denies it’s negotiating with U.S. on compensation claims” shows just how far apart we are on the issue of restitution for property seized by Castro’s regime: The two sides can’t even agree if the negotiations have begun or not.

As officials from both sides begin to address the thorny issue of claims and counterclaims that go back more than half a century, will the little guys get sold out?

After the 1959 Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro seized private property, first for political retribution and later as part of the communist economic system. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes, their farms and their businesses. The U.S Department of Justice has certified nearly 6,000 claims by U.S. citizens and corporations against Cuba totaling $1.9 billion, or about $8 billion with interest. (The law does not cover thousands of Cuban Americans who received U.S. citizenship post-confiscation, but they also hope for some kind of restitution.)

With the U.S.-Cuba thaw and the restoration of diplomatic relations, claimants saw a ray of hope. American and Cuban officials have now met twice to discuss property claims. Both sides are keen to find a resolution, both because of the legal implications and to remove a major psychological hurdle between the two nations.

About 900 of the claims are by corporations, representing about 90 percent of the total value. The largest claimant is, in a strange twist of history, retailer Office Depot, which holds the rights to a nationalized electricity company. Starwood Hotels is another sizable claimant, yet this did not stop the company from recently signing a joint venture with the Cuban military to refurbish and operate two hotels.

The Starwood deal may first appear like good news that companies are not letting past claims stand in the way of investing today. Yet it also suggests that some of the bigger firms can negotiate directly with the Cubans. So where will this leave the 5,000 individual claimants with no such leverage?

This leaves the fate of claimants in the hands of the State Department negotiators and what deal they can reach with the Cubans.

Continue reading HERE.

Activists in Cuba call on Obama to help save the life of dissident on hunger strike

Obama’s Cuba policy is designed strictly to support members and friends of the Castro family and perpetuate Cuba’s brutally repressive apartheid dictatorship. In the case of hunger-striking dissident Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas, he unfortunately falls into neither category.

Via the Cuban independent news agency 14yMedio (translation by Translating Cuba):

FANTU Activists Ask Obama to “Save the Life” of Guillermo Farinas

Guillermo Farinas on hunger and thirst strike.

A group of activists from the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) have sent an open letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to “save the life of Guillermo Fariñas Hernández” who, as of Sunday, has been on a hunger strike for 32 days. The missive is addressed to the leader as “president of the country which is a beacon of human rights in the world.”

Seven members of the opposition organization which is led by Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, are asking Obama to “use his political wisdom to take any action” that would avoid the death of the dissident. However, they clarify that the letter is not asking the US president to do “something tied to politics.”

The opponents explain that “Fariñas Hernández’s strike is against violence, he has not called for the overthrow of the government.” Instead of them, with his prolonged fasting the activist from Santa Clara is demanding “the end to the oppression by some against others because of the way they think or how they choose to honestly obtain their income.”

Which, according to the signers, “is not to risk a life on a hunger strike, because it is the very essence of the democratic governments of all countries in the world.”

Guillermo Fariñas has been very critical of the process of normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States that began during the administration of Barack Obama.

Since December 17, 2014, when the diplomatic thaw was publicly announced, Fariñas has labeled the actions of the US president as a betrayal of Cuban dissidents.

Must-read of the Day – I’m Cuban and no, I don’t want to go visit Cuba

In memory and honor of her recently departed grandmother, Cuban-American Liana Miller writes why she has no interest in visiting Castro’s Cuba:

I’m Cuban and no, I don’t want to go visit Cuba

I’m incredibly bothered by the hype behind visiting Cuba. First it was Beyonce and Jay Z’s controversial vacation. Then the Obama’s. Then the Kardashian Klan. And now, Jet Blue is offering $99 flights to Cuba to everyone. I’ve overheard many conversations saying, “Oooh I’m going to Cuba now before it gets expensive!” While I can empathize with the opportunistic thinking, I can’t help but feel horrified by the ignorance.

chloe kardashian in cuba
Wait…like seriously…?

Similar to the racial injustices in the U.S., unless you’ve been personally affected by Cuban communism, I can understand why you don’t feel as outraged as I do that the embargo has been lifted. Yes, this scenario is woven with complicated diplomacy and politics. But here’s a simple breakdown of the logic behind the embargo:

When a child behaves poorly, you put them in time-out and ignore them. Eventually, after skipping out on dinner and dessert, they finally feel desperate and change their ways. Oppositely, if a child behaves poorly, but you give them money and attention and attempt to hug them, their behavior is positively reinforced. So it goes with Cuban relations.

It’s not “cute” that Cuba is stuck in the 1960’s. It’s not “relaxing” that there is no Internet or phone service. None of this is by choice. (And if you see any friendly Cuban in a tourism promo trailer telling you otherwise, understand that they have been brainwashed.) Cuba has been a prison for decades.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Five nights in Cuba’s tourist apartheid

Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba:

Five Nights in Cuba’s Tourist Apartheid

Entrance to Memories Flamenco Beach Resort.

On a cloudy afternoon in early July, I went with my daughter to the reservation office in the basement of the Habana Libre hotel, to reserve for mid-August five nights in a hotel in Cayo Coco, in the north of Ciego Avila province, some 360 miles from the capital.

I started saving the money for it in September of last year. A tourism representative suggested the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort. The price was absolutely prohibitive for an ordinary Cuba: 1,188 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), which, when adding the cost of transportation, was nothing less than 1,290 CUC for five days of sun and beach.

On the day of departure, at four in the morning, we were there will two pieces of hand luggage and a briefcase, waiting for the bus that would take us to Cayo Coco. They told us to come to the parking lot of the Roman Fonst Sports hall, adjacent to the interprovincial bus terminal in the Plaza de la Revolution municipality.

In the dark, some twenty sleepy people ate a hurried breakfast before boarding the bus. With a punctuality rare in Cuba, the bus came to pick us up at five in the morning.

The driver, a skinny guy with a military-style haircut, recited the instructions like a prayer. “You cannot eat inside the bus. We will make two stops along the way. And those who want to urinate let me know, to stop the vehicle, as there is no bathroom on board.”

The man was in a bad mood or was simply a hurry. The bus, belonging to Gaviota, an emporium of military capitalism in Cuba, rolled down the national highway at the speed of a Formula One car.

“Sir, we want to live to enjoy our short vacation,” commented a pair of married doctors who had spent two years working in the intricate landscape of deepest Brazil.

At least for domestic tourism, or because they are cutting back, Gaviota doesn’t include a tour guide on the trip. “What for? It’s assumed Cubans should know by heart their own country,” said the assistant driver, shrugging his shoulders.

Looking out the windows from inside the bus, the landscape of the Cuban countryside is lamentable. Bony cattle wandering around hungry, the invasive marabou weed overrunning wastelands, and little islands planted in cane and bananas.

On the outskirts of Jagüey Grande the famous citric cultivation plan created by Fidel Castro no longer exists. Thousands of acres are covered in grass without a single orange grove to be seen.

“I’m not saying oranges have to cost two pesos a piece. Three years from now, given the chaos in agriculture, getting an orange will be has hard as it is not get a piece of beef,” commented Joel, owner of a small family restaurant who rented a room for three nights in Cayo Coco.

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Obama’s Cuba FAIL: The total failure of Obama’s policy of embracing and supporting the apartheid Castro regime

Capitol Hill Cubans points out the complete and utter failures of Obama’s Cuba’s policy.

Obama’s policy has FAILED to “empower” Cuba’s private entrepreneurs:

Wasn’t Obama’s Cuba Policy Supposed to “Empower” Private Entrepreneurs?

To the contrary, it has “empowered” the Cuban military to take absolute control of the island’s tourism industry.

It has led to the eviction of “self-employed” Cubans from key tourism areas, the imposition of price controls and the confiscation of goods.

As a result, there has been a net decrease in the number of “self-employed” Cubans.

Read the story below about the Cuban military’s business coup in Old Havana very carefully.

(We also forewarned this last month — see here.)

This means that every tourist that travels to the island overwhelmingly and directly benefits the Castro regime’s repressive apparatus.

Over 90% of tourists in Cuba frequent Old Havana. The other 10% don’t leave the Cuban military’s all-inclusive beach resorts.

From The Miami Herald:

Cuba historian confirms military taking over operations

In the early 1990s, with Havana in ruins and Cuba mired in a devastating economic crisis, the island’s government granted historian Eusebio Leal Spengler and his office broad and rare powers to return Old Havana to its former glory.

Continue reading HERE.

Obama’s policy has FAILED to accelerate real reforms on the island:

Wasn’t Obama’s Cuba Policy Supposed to Accelerate Castro’s Reforms?

To the contrary, it has stifled any “reforms” in Cuba.

As we argued in November 2014 — one month before Obama’s new policy announcement — lifting sanctions would stifle any real reforms in Cuba, for the regime would solely focus on strengthening its state monopolies and the repression required to suppress change.

That’s exactly what’s happening today.

From Reuters:

Cuba sticks to modest reform plan despite poor results

Cuba on Tuesday published policy guidelines for the next five years that signal no new domestic initiatives although it upgraded foreign investment to “fundamental in certain sectors.”

Continue reading HERE.

Obama’s policy has FAILED to improve or advance U.S. interests in the Latin American region:

Wasn’t Obama’s Cuba Policy Supposed to Advance Regional Interests?

To the contrary, it has given Castro’s allies a green-light to fulfill their authoritarian ambitions without consequence.

(We forewarned about this in Congressional testimony on March 2014 — see here.)

After all, the Obama Administration is now too busy coddling Latin American dictators, rather than preventing new ones.

(Also note how Castro’s advice to Ortega was to not provoke “serious measures” from the United States. A lesson for those who ingenuously argue Castro wants the embargo as an “excuse” for his failures.)

By Obama’s former Ambassador to Nicaragua, Robert Callahan, in The Miami Herald:

The death of democracy in Ortega’s Nicaragua

How much more can he get away with? What must Daniel Ortega do before the United States and other democracies finally act, or even speak, against his demolition of Nicaragua’s democracy?

Continue reading HERE.

Hope and Change in Obama’s Cuba: Preserving the dictatorial status quo

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Cuba: Change for the preservation of the dictatorial status quo

More things change the more they remain the same

Reforms seek to preserve central planning. Eusebio Leal loses autonomy to military

The Associated Press broke the “news” on August 16, 2016 that the Castro regime would sacrifice the well being of Cubans in order to hang on to power. The communist dictatorship remains committed to maintaining a centrally planned economy, it also will not permit property or wealth concentration, and will “gradually” advance internet service:

“Cuba’s ruling Communist Party released a new set of economic guidelines Tuesday that emphasize the slow-moving and limited nature of the country’s reforms amid a sharp national economic downturn. The guidelines “recognize the objective existence of market relationships,” but they also restate Cuba’s commitment to a centrally planned economy. The 274 rules say concentration of property and wealth will not be permitted and promise to advance internet service only “gradually, according to our economic possibilities,” in one of the world’s least-connected nations. They update a document that laid out President Raúl Castro’s vision of economic reform at the Cuban Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress in 2011.”

This should not surprise anyone. Five years ago when the so-called reforms were initially announced I made the following conclusion that remains true today.

“If there is one lesson over the past 52 years it is that political considerations have priority over economic considerations in order to preserve the regime. When it is convenient to decentralize in order to survive the regime will do that as it did in the early 1990s and as it appears to be doing today. At the same time when things improve and regime survival depends on the re-centralization of economic control at the expense of economic growth as was the case in the late 1990s and through the 2000s they will do that as well, but the important consideration is that the Cuban people are tired of this regime and want change.”

Since 1959 the Castro regime has carried out numerous changes in the service of two goals: entrenching the communist dictatorship in power and perpetuating its rule. Now the regime continues to consolidate economic control in the military. The latest victim in this trend is Eusebio Leal Spengler and his Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH) that according to The Miami Herald “rescued at least one third of the buildings in the historic heart of the Cuban capital and won lavish international praise” in the 1990s during the special period. Leal had autonomy but that has been upsurped by the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), a holding company controlled by the Cuban military.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba’s U.S.-backed apartheid dictatorship violently arrests dozens of peaceful dissidents in another Sunday of repression

The U.S.-backed apartheid dictatorship of the Castro family in Cuba unleashed another wave of violent repression on the island yesterday when peaceful dissidents attempted the 67th Sunday of protest marches in the TodosMarchamos (we all march) campaign. More than three dozen dissidents were viciously beaten and arrested by State Security agents as they tried to march and make their way to church services.

Diario de Cuba has the report (my translation):

Dozens of Ladies in White and activists arrested before initiating #TodosMarchamos march

todosmarchamos 67 2016-08-21

Since Thursday, government forces began deploying a massive operation against the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana, which intensified Sunday and ended the day with denying the 67th march of #TodosMarchamos.

Besides the leader Berta Soler and former political prisoner Angel Moya, only seven women and one activist were able to reach the headquarters in Lawton, said Ramona Luisa Toscano to DIARIO DE CUBA.

Five Ladies in White and two men finally attempted to leave the house but were violently arrested.

“The repression was strong, they came down on them with blows. It was full of people here,” said Toscano, referring to the mobs that gather every Sunday to carry out acts of repudiation. They were joined by police and State Security agents, although the number of assembled dissidents were few.

So far, according to statements by Ladies in White who remained behind to watch over the headquarters in Havana, 25 women were arrested, “some of them as they came out of their homes and another at the corner of the house in Lawton.”

“No one was able to reach Miramar,” said Toscano.

Meanwhile, the independent unionist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo said through his Twitter account that in the province of Matanzas, more than a dozen Ladies in White were arrested to keep them from attending regular Sunday mass.

In Jovellanos, Sissy Abascal and Annia Zamora were released after being detained for 4 hours in a patrol car. Similarly, in Colon, Caridad Burunate, Maira Garcia, Yenisleydis Millo, Maritza Acosta, and Asuncion Carrillo were prevented from reaching the church .

The website ReportaCuba reported intense police surveillance deployed since Thursday against independent journalists Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca and Eralidis Frómeta, who made public the images and uniformed patrols around their homes.

Video of the Day – The making of a Cuban Frita

firta cubana abuela mami

Unlike the Cuban sandwich, the Cuban Frita is nowhere near as well known outside of Miami. Nevertheless, the relative obscurity among non-Cubans of this Cuban version of the hamburger to does not in any way detract from its incredible deliciousness.

For those of you who have never seen or tried a Cuban Frita, you can watch this mouth-watering delicacy being prepared. There is no doubt you will add this to your list of things to do the next time you visit Miami.

Courtesy of Abuela Mami:

Frita Cubana from El Rey de las Fritas

Making a juicy Frita Cubana! A traditional Cuban Hamburger.

Posted by Abuela Mami on Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Reports from Cuba: The 10 most outstanding prospects remaining in Cuban baseball

Luis Alvaro Fernandez in Diario de Cuba:

The 10 most outstanding prospects remaining in Cuban baseball

Ciego de Ávila prospect Luis Robert

“Baseball in Cuba will not stop, there will always be new talent,” said Luis Tiant, the Cuban pitcher boasting the most wins ever to have played baseball in the Big Leagues, during his most recent visit to the Island, as a guest invited to the Cuba vs. Tampa Bay exhibition game.

Tiant pitched for four teams in the Big Leagues over the course of 19 seasons (1964-1982), where he recorded 229 wins, a 3.30 ERA, and struck out 2,416 batters in 3,486.1 innings. During his visit to Havana in March the Boston Red Sox star made it clear that there is talent, and it is just a question of continuing to uncover it.

Followers of Cuba’s leading pastime are no longer as attracted to it, and many think that the demonized and beleaguered Cuban league will never shine like it once did. I still think that the problem is not outside, but inside, hence the recent upsurge of players who are still reaching the MLB.

The deficient attention shown athletes, blundering management, and a lack of uniformity and organization have been stifling the roots of a sport that is part of the national culture.

Cuban baseball opportunities remain reserved for so-called “safe ballplayers:” those that the Government thinks will not leave the country, and will continue in its second-rate amateur baseball league.

Thus, young rising stars are seldom – almost never – allowed to don the national uniform at international games, out of fear that they will defect, lured away by the dream of playing in the Majors.

Why were talented players like Norel González, Ariel Martínez and Raidel Martínez – among the best today – not chosen to play in the Can-Am League, but selected to play in the exhibition game against the US on the Island?

The answer is simple. Sports policy in Cuba remains the main obstacle that continues to hamper the development of talent. Hence, there is no progress, and athletes end up leaving the country to compete at the highest level of baseball.

Here is a list of 10 current prospects, who have been virtually forgotten by Cuban baseball managers, even though they are still blossoming as players:

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