Guess who is coming to dinner with Raul Castro?

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(My new American Thinker post)

As the world turns, we are watching some rather amazing things in year 8 of “hope and change”:

First, kids are killed in Aleppo and those lives don’t seem to matter to anyone, especially anyone at the Obama White House;

Two, Russian planes are taking off from Iranian bases;

Third, Cuban dissidents are in jail rather than doing the wave at a baseball game; and,

Fourth, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif is starting off his tour of Latin America with a stop in Havana. (By the way, Raul Castro will greet this visitor at the airport. Unlike President Obama, who was greeted by a low-level Cuban official, the Iranian visitor will get to shake hands with Raul.)

Is this how we were supposed to be respected around the world? Or is this the smart foreign policy that we were promised?

Let’s take a look:

Iran’s foreign minister kicked off a Latin American tour Sunday in Havana, saying the Iran nuclear deal has “removed obstacles” for closer ties between his country and the region.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will visit Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela, reported the Tasnim News Agency.

Zarif said he plans to sign oil, energy and maritime transport agreements during his tour.

But the visit is raising concerns with a key Republican lawmaker.

“The timing of Zarif’s trip is significant as Iran could use many of these rogue regimes to circumvent remaining sanctions, undermine U.S. interests, and expand the drug trafficking network that helps finance its illicit activities,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in a statement.

“Tehran’s classic playbook is to use cultural centers, new embassies or consulates, or cooperative agreements on various areas to act as façades aimed at expanding Iran’s radical extremist network.”

Save for Chile, the countries Zarif is visiting align with the region’s ideological left and tend to have difficult relations with the United States.

So the Iran nuclear deal has removed obstacles for Iran to develop relations with anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America? Nobody told me that that was one of the objectives of the deal. I always understood that it was to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon rather turn it into an international power using its new found wealth to cut deal with cash starved regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

Don’t you love this new smart foreign policy? I can’t wait to see Javad do the wave with Raul in Cuba! It will be fun to watch Raul in Cuba and Madero in Venezuela explain baseball to their new friend!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Prague 1968 and memories of something called communism

 

(My new American Thinker post)

We read about Putin and Russian troops threatening neighbors.   It’s enough to remind us of another time when the then USSR invaded the then country of Czechoslovakia.   It happened this weekend in 1968:

On the night of August 20, 1968, approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring”–a brief period of liberalization in the communist country. Czechoslovakians protested the invasion with public demonstrations and other non-violent tactics, but they were no match for the Soviet tanks. The liberal reforms of First Secretary Alexander Dubcek were repealed and “normalization” began under his successor Gustav Husak.

It was the second time that USSR tanks under the banner of The Warsaw Pact had crushed democratic impulses in Eastern Europe.    It also happened in Hungary in 1956 when Soviet tanks actually fought with people in the streets.
As a kid, we heard the stories of Cuban political prisoners.  Our family dinner table was a classroom with my parents telling us about communism or reading the latest letter from Cuba.

I grew up admiring the men and women who risked their lives to fight for freedom. Some of these men were Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary, those who tried to cross the Berlin Wall, the guerrillas who fought Castro in The Escambray Mountains and those who tried reforms inside the Soviet bloc.

On August 21, 1968, the Rascals were riding high with a song called “People got to be free“.

It was a pop hit in the US.  It was reality in the streets of Prague.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

August 1968: The week that Soviet tanks crushed the Prague Spring

(My new American Thinker post)

As a kid, we heard the stories of Cuban political prisoners.  Our family dinner table was a classroom with my parents telling us about communism or reading the latest letter from Cuba.

I grew up admiring the men and women who risked their lives to fight for freedom. Some of these men were Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary, those who tried to cross the Berlin Wall, the guerrillas who fought Castro in The Escambray Mountains and those who tried reforms inside the Soviet bloc.

On August 21, 1968, the Rascals were riding high with a song called “People got to be free”.

It was a pop hit in the US.  It was reality in the streets of Prague:

“On August 21, 1968, more than 200,000 troops of the Warsaw Pact crossed into Czechoslovakia in response to democratic and free market reforms being instituted by Czech Communist Party General Secretary Alexander Dubcek. Negotiations between Dubcek and Soviet bloc leaders failed to convince the Czech leader to back away from his reformist platform. The military intervention on August 21 indicated that the Soviets believed that Dubcek was going too far and needed to be restrained. On August 22, thousands of Czechs gathered in central Prague to protest the Soviet action and demand the withdrawal of foreign troops. Although it was designed to be a peaceful protest, violence often flared and several protesters were killed on August 22 and in the days to come.”

Alexander Dubcek’s mistake is that he called for reforms:

“On January 5th 1968, the party’s central committee nominated Dub?ek to succeed Novotný after the Czechoslovak Party Central Committee passed a vote of no confidence in Novotný.

What happened next must have come as a great surprise to the communist leaders in Moscow. Dub?ek announced that he wanted the Czech Communist Party to remain the predominant party in Czechoslovakia, but that he wanted the totalitarian aspects of the party to be reduced. Communist Party members in Czechoslovakia were given the right to challenge party policy as opposed to the traditional acceptance of all government policy. Party members were given the right to act “according to their conscience”. In what became known as the ‘Prague Spring’, he also announced the end of censorship and the right of Czech citizens to criticise the government. Newspapers took the opportunity to produce scathing reports about government incompetence and corruption.

Dub?ek also announced that farmers would have the right to form independent co-operatives and that trade unions would have increased rights to bargain for their members. Crucially, however, Dub?ek stated that Czechoslovakia had no intention of leaving the Warsaw Pact. Between July and August 1968, he met senior Moscow politicians on the Slovakian-Ukraine border to reassure them that they had nothing to worry about and that what he was trying to achieve would have no bearing on the Warsaw Pact and its ability to compete with NATO. He repeated the same message to all members of the Warsaw Pact on August 3rd 1968.

However, Dub?ek was informed by Moscow that they had discovered evidence that West Germany was planning to invade the Sudetenland and that the Soviet Union would provide Czechoslovakia with the troops needed to protect her from invasion. Dub?ek refused the offer but he must have known that this would count for nothing.

His reassurances about not leaving the Warsaw Pact were ignored and on August 20th/21st Soviet troops (with token forces from other members of the Warsaw Pact) invaded Czechoslovakia. Dub?ek was arrested by released after talks in Moscow. Dub?ek claimed that the talks had been “comradely” and that he was abandoning his reform programme. As a result, Dub?ek remained as First Secretary until April 1969 when he was appointed Speaker of the Federal Assembly until he was expelled from the Communist Party in 1970. Following his expulsion, he was banished to Bratislava where he worked in a timber yard.”

 

Prague ’68 followed Hungary ’56.  It was another signal by the Kremlin that it would not tolerate dissent in any of its satellites.

The Soviet control over Eastern Europe began to crumble in the 1980s.

First, the USSR economy fell apart and no doses of Perestroika did anything to fix it.   You can’t be an economic superpower if your tractors don’t work.

Second, the West stood strong led by every US president from Truman to the first Bush.   It was a good example of bipartisanship and serious leadership.

Third, the Poles in the 1980s completed what the Hungarians and Czechs started.  They revolted and succeeded in bringing down the Soviet empire.

Ironically, it was workers who brought down the “workers’ paradise.

It was many years ago and there are other issues on the table.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember today Alexander Dubcek and all of the men and women who stood up to Soviet tanks.

And speaking of the U.S. embargo on Cuba?

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(My new American Thinker post)

The story of the U.S. embargo against Cuba goes back several administrations.  It was created to punish the Cuban government for stealing U.S. properties on the island without compensating U.S. citizens who owned them.  The embargo was later strengthened in 1996, when Cuban Migs shot down a plane carrying representatives of “Brothers to the Rescue,” a Miami-based organization identifying Cubans in rafts in the Florida Straits.

The Obama administration granted permission to a U.S. hotel management company to manage some hotels in Cuba.  This is from Capitol Hill Cubans:

A few days before Obama’s historic March trip to Cuba, U.S. hospitality firm Starwood, which operates Sheraton, Westin and other prominent hotel brands, received authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department to run several hotels on the island in apparent violation of U.S. laws.

All of the hotels are properties that were confiscated by Cuba’s communist regime without compensating private owners and are currently owned by the Cuban military, which means all profits generated by any commercial venture will finance the regime’s repressive apparatus.

Furthermore, the Cuban government will assign hotel workers their jobs and employees will have no labor rights. U.S. law prohibits American companies from operating under these conditions in other countries.

In an announcement celebrating the unusually swift Treasury authorization to do business in Cuba, Starwood Chief Executive Officer Thomas B. Mangas said “with Cuba’s rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire U.S. hospitality industry has watched Cuba with great interest, and we are thrilled to lead the charge and bring our sophisticated, high-end brands into the market at this inflection point.”

Somehow, Starwood beat out several other American companies that have been trying to obtain U.S. government approval to do business in Cuba, according to a mainstream newspaper. Among them is Marriott International whose CEO actually accompanied Obama on his trip to Cuba earlier this year.

As a Cuban-American who came here as a kid with my parents, I’d love to see U.S. businesses start ventures in Cuba and bring capitalism back to the island.  At the same time, this is not what the Obama administration is doing with these deals.

First, we are doing ventures not with Cubans, but the Cuban military, which is basically a subsidiary of the Castro family.  Cubans will not participate in these ventures except as employees paid in worthless pesos after the Castro family keeps the dollars, or hard currency.  It’s hard for me to believe that a U.S. CEO would participate in such a racket and abuse of people.

Second, these properties were confiscated from U.S. citizens.  Who represents them?  Isn’t that what the president of the U.S. is supposed to do?

The Obama administration should call on Congress to end the embargo or it should live by the law.  Is that asking too much of this administration?

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Is Obama closing Gitmo to prepare his post?presidency?

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(My new American Thinker post)

Over the last couple of years, President Obama has made a nuclear deal with Iran, put a U.S. Embassy in Cuba and continues to release terrorists from Gitmo, as reported by USA Today:

Rep. Ed Royce, the California Republican who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the released detainees “hardened terrorists” who will be a threat for years.

“In its race to close Gitmo, the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that put American lives at risk,” Royce said in a statement. “Once again, hardened terrorists are being released to foreign countries where they will be a threat.”

The Pentagon, in a statement, said an inter-agency review board considered their potential threat to security and unanimously approved six of the 15 for release, A consensus was reached on release of the remaining nine.

There are 61 detainees remaining at Guantanamo.

Are we safer? How can you put terrorists back in the game and assume that they will pursue a peaceful path?

So why is President Obama doing this?

My theory is that he is planning his post presidency. He wants to be an American version of Nelson Mandela, a man who travels around the Third World and left-wing precincts.

How do you get a standing ovation in those corners? Mr. Obama can say that he ended wars, closed Gitmo, ended the isolation of Cuba and signed a nuclear deal with Iran. All of these positions are extremely popular in the anti-U.S. corners of the world!

I ask again: how are any of these actions good for the U.S.? They are not, from a nuclear deal with Iran to throwing dissidents under the bus in Cuba to releasing more terrorists that attack us around the world.

Sadly, there is no one in the Democratic Party willing to stand up and tell President Obama to stop it.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Sanders turned out to be a big fake

 

(My new American Thinker post)

Senator Sanders’ socialist nonsense was always followed with the footnote that Sanders was genuine and a true believer, i.e. the crazy leftist uncle in the attic who actually believes that Marxism works if you give it a true chance.

We’ve learned a couple of things about Mr. Sanders since he endorsed Mrs Clinton:

1) He threw his supporters under the bus by supporting a candidate who represents everything that he spoke about, from crony capitalism to connections to Wall Street; and,

2) Mr. Sanders likes expensive homes just like the rich folks do. Mr. Sanders just bought his third home and we don’t think that he will be turning any of them into shelters for the homeless or to accommodate refugees from the Middle East. My guess is that he will also take advantage of all of those tax breaks that he ran against during the campaign.

According to NPR, Sanders is turning off a lot of his supporters:

Bernie Sanders may have found a new place to take a break from the political arena after buying a vacation home last week. But some of his former supporters were questioning his socialist authenticity.

Sanders recently purchased a lake-front home in North Hero, Vt., his home state. The $575,000, four-bedroom home includes 500 feet of Lake Champlain beachfront on the east side of the island, according to the Vermont newspaper Seven Days.

The purchase makes this Sanders’ third home, and after the news broke of his recent purchase, the Internet became a breeding ground for complaints.

Socialist authenticity?

In fact, this is how a lot of socialists live, from Cuba to North Korea to the American left, who love public education but send their kids to rich private schools like the Obama, the Clintons, the Kerrys, the Gores and so on.

I am not surprised that Mr. Sanders would bash rich people in front of fickle students and then buy a huge home to relax. He is actually a lot more typical of rich socialists than his supporters realize. It’s a shame that his supporters had to learn that the whole message was a fraud this way.

As my late father once said after watching a Sanders rally: “At 18 you believe this trash, then you grow up….”

That’s right. Bernie’s home is a teachable moment for the thousands who bought into his distributionist nonsense!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Rio and the poor side of town

 

(My new American Thinker post)

As the world celebrates some rather amazing athletic skills, Rio’s slums are war zones where drug cartels fight for territory and profits.

This is from Simon Romero, who’s spending some time reporting  from the poor side of town:

But in the shadow of the Olympics, a slow-burning war between drug gangs and the nation’s security forces is taking place. As the casualties mount in the favela where Richard lives with his family, the Games seem — to them and thousands of others in some of Rio’s poorest areas — like they are taking place in some distant city.

In a flare-up of fighting over the last week, more than 200 police officers stormed into Alemão’s labyrinth of alleyways. Calling their operation Germânia, the European region of warring tribes that was once largely subdued by the Roman Empire, the police fatally shot two men, while a top counternarcotics official was wounded…

Some of the 70,000 people who live in Alemão, outside the gaze of the television crews focusing on Rio’s wonders, nurtured hopes of a calm as the Summer Games got underway. But then came the gunfire on Tuesday, followed by more battles on Wednesday and an outpouring of desperation and rage.

Am I the only one who sees a little bit of Chicago in all of this? I mean the helplessness of people living in areas without investment, growth, or opportunity.

Brazil is frustrating to watch for a couple of reasons:

a) This is one of the top 10 GDPs in the world. It’s hard to believe that you can see this poverty in a country that manufactures aircrafts and has done a masterful job in using ethanol to move cars; and,

b) Most of the nation’s problems are a tribute to crony capitalism. In the end, it does not create prosperity but it sure makes a few people really rich.

The world will say goodbye to Rio soon. The slums will go back to being Rio’s poor side of town.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Remember the stimulus that did stimulate?

 

(My new American Thinker post)

It was 35 years ago that President Reagan signed ERTA or The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.  It took a couple of years, but it was “Morning in America” when President Reagan was reelected in 1984.

ERTA kept a promise that Mr Reagan made in 1980:

The ERTA included a 25 percent reduction in marginal tax rates for individuals, phased in over three years, and indexed for inflation from that point on. The marginal tax rate, or the tax rate on the last dollar earned, was considered more important to economic activity than the average tax rate (total tax paid as a percentage of income earned), as it affected income earned through “extra” activities such as education, entrepreneurship or investment. Reducing marginal tax rates, the theory went, would help the economy grow faster through such extra efforts by individuals and businesses. The 1981 act, combined with another major tax reform act in 1986, cut marginal tax rates on high-income taxpayers from 70 percent to around 30 percent, and would be the defining economic legacy of Reagan’s presidency.

Reagan’s tax cuts were designed to put maximum emphasis on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship and creating incentives for the development of venture capital and greater investment in human capital through training and education. The cuts particularly benefited “idea” industries such as software or financial services; fittingly, Reagan’s first term saw the advent of the information revolution, including IBM’s introduction of its first personal computer (PC) and the rise or launch of such tech companies as Intel, Microsoft, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Compaq and Cisco Systems.

In the end, “Reaganomics” proved to be an electoral success even if deficits were a bit uncomfortable for many of us.  I agree with The Tax Foundation that it was a “watershed event in the history of federal taxation,”  I just wish that spending had been controlled more.

Unlike the Obama “stimulus,” the Reagan plan put its faith in the private sector and US businesses. The Obama stimulus was focused on helping their supporters, including unions and many very wealthy supporters, as John Lott wrote in 2004.

And this is why we remember the stimulus that stimulated in the 1980’s!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Airports and the agony of watching CNN

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(My new American Thinker post)

Over the last week, we traveled to a niece’s wedding and had a chance to spend some time with my recently widowed mother. It was the kind of family quality time that we all yearn for except for having to watch CNN at hotel lobbies and airports.

On Tuesday night, the day that so many at CNN thought that Mr Trump had issued a call for NRA people to eliminate Mrs. Clinton, the panels at CNN were somewhere between silly and hysterical.It was the kind of selective outrage that we’ve come to love from liberals who went mute when far worse things were said about President Bush or VP Cheney.

At one point, I looked around the gate and nobody was watching…. wonder why? I got so fed up that I was following the Rangers-Rockies game on my phone!

On Wednesday, I reconnected with the world and found that CNN had dropped to 3rd, which is a fancy way of saying that you are last in the cable news business. In other words, there are only 3 so 3rd means last.

According to TV Newser, it was something like this:

Primetime:
FNC: 2.035
MSNBC: 1.407
CNN: 807

So even MSNBC, the laughingstock of cable news unless you think that President Bush knew of the 9-11 attack in advance, beat CNN by quite a lot.
My guess is that people watching MSNBC are so far gone that they are not even hearing the anti-Trump bashing. On the other hand, CNN reaches a lot of people at public places and most of them just looked at the phones and prayed that the flight was not delayed.

Maybe Mrs. Clinton will defeat Mr Trump. It goes without saying that Mr Trump has not helped himself much since clinching the nomination in Indiana, or over 90 days ago.

At the same time, there is a point where media bias is so obvious that even the people forced to watch CNN at airports just look the other way and find something else to do with their lives.

Let’s look at the treatment of Mr. Mateen, the gay-basher, Taliban-sympathizer father of the Orlando terrorist. He showed up feet away from Mrs. Clinton at a rally, then endorsed her, and everybody at CNN was looking to blame it on staff. On the other hand, David Duke endorsed Mr Trump and you’d think that it was the end of the world as we’ve known it!

Then there is the latest email dump! Many in the media defend Mrs. Clinton by saying that it was “staff” again. Whose staff are they? They work for Mrs. Clinton, who happened to be Secretary of State at the time that this was going on.

Trump has work to do but his enemies in the media are showing so much bias that a backlash in coming, and perhaps already underway.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Venezuela: Food on one side and shortages on the other

 

 

(My new American Thinker post)

Like me, my friend Jose Nino was brought by his parents to the U.S. to live in freedom. He was born in Venezuela and me in Cuba. He came in the 1990s and I came in the 1960s. I guess that people who escape socialist nightmares have a lot of memories in common, from empty shelves to repression to the fear that the knock on the door means that your father is headed to a political prison.

Jose updated us this week about the plight of people in Venezuela. This is what he wrote:

Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have left the country since Hugo Chavez assumed power in 1999. Naturally, their common places of destination — Colombia, Panama, Spain, United States —  enjoy significantly higher degrees of economic freedom than Venezuela currently does.

It is small wonder why socialist countries are marked by large diasporas.

As the economist Milton Friedman sagaciously observed, people “vote with their feet” when government policy becomes too oppressive and makes earning a living next to impossible in their country of origin.

The 35,000 Venezuelans that made their way over to Colombia effectively casted a vote of no confidence in Venezuela’s irrational, political system. Instead of waiting in an endless line to buy goods or rely on a black market that has become increasingly co-opted by the government, these brave individuals decided to exercise their liberty as consumers and go to a country with a modicum of economic freedom.

More than just a series of economic transactions, the aforementioned movement of people is a veritable form of civil disobedience. Tyrannical regimes despise a citizenry that votes with its feet and take its talents and purchasing power abroad.

Many seem to overlook that the fall of Berlin Wall was not so much a top-down decision made by political elites, but rather an organic uprising spurred by individuals that were frustrated with the totalitarian status quo. It was the determination of the countless individuals who saw through the illusion of socialism that led to the ultimate collapse of one of the most totalitarian systems that the world has ever seen.

Now it’s Venezuela’s turn to knock down its proverbial Berlin Wall and let economic freedom and the rule of law be the order of the day.

We know that people are seriously lacking food in Venezuela. They rush over to Colombia to look for the basic foodstuffs, from milk to cereals. There are scenes of people confronting soldiers screaming “we want food“.

As this human tragedy unfolds, the world watches. Leaders look at each other wondering who will take the lead and call for some multinational action. Where is the OAS or the UN when we really need them?

Of course, the world looks to Washington and they see a president obsessed with calling Trump “unfit”, releasing Gitmo detainees or issuing memos on transgender bathrooms.

Wonder if Venezuelans think that the detached Obama is fit to be the leader of the free world?

We are not suggesting a U.S. intervention but something has to be done to save the people of Venezuela from this misery. The U.S. could play a huge positive role but it takes leadership, or exactly the ingredient lacking at the moment.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Down in Brasilia, not far from Rio

(My new American Thinker post)

As the readers may know, Brasilia is the capital city of Brazil. It was a city literally built to avoid conflicts of jealousy between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the two monster metropolitan areas.   The idea was finally turned into reality in 1956, although construction began many years before.

As athletes win medals in Rio, Brazil’s politicians in Brasilia have been engaged in their own contests in the form of the corruption trial of President Dilma Rousseff.   Yesterday, the Brazilian Congress voted to impeach the leftist president and begin a full trial.

This is from Reuters:

With the eyes of the world on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, senators in the capital Brasilia voted 59-21 against the suspended leftist leader in a raucous, 20-hour session presided over by Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski.

A conviction would definitively remove Rousseff from office, ending 13 years of leftist rule by her Workers Party, and confirm that interim President Michel Temer will serve out the rest of her term through 2018.

Rousseff’s opponents needed only a simple majority in the 81-seat Senate to put her on trial for manipulating government accounts and spending without congressional approval, which they say helped her win re-election in 2014.

A verdict is expected at the end of the month and will need the votes of two-thirds of the Senate to convict Rousseff, five votes less than her opponents mustered on Wednesday.

Acting President Michel Temer will serve out the rest of President Rouseff’s term if she is convicted.

Beyond the dramatics of a corruption trail, there is some economic reality to deal with. Mr. Temer is hoping for a conviction so that he can formally take over and address the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

Temer wants the trial behind him so that he can address public spending and reform a very generous pension system. Temer, who is well liked by the business sector in contrast to the leftist Rouseff, wants to restore confidence in the world’s 8th largest GDP.

So there are two major events going on down in Brazil: Rio and the medals plus an unprecedented political crisis in the federal government.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

And the Cubans keep leaving Cuba

 

(My new Amerian Thinker post)

So far, opening Cuba to Americans is not keeping Cubans in the island or changing much of anything.

On the contrary, it looks like more and more Cubans are heading out by whatever means they can find, from Ecuador to Nicaragua to Mexico or crossing the Straits of Florida.

We can call this movie: Obama in and Cubans out!

According to Sarah Rumpf, this is an exodus with capital letters:

August 14 will mark the one-year anniversary since Secretary of State John Kerry went to Havana, Cuba to preside over the official reopening of the American embassy, followed by a visit by President Barack Obama this past March. The Obama administration has proudly touted the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba, but it’s been a failure by a very visible metric: the number of Cubans fleeing the island nation to come to the United States.
So far this fiscal year (since October 1, 2015), 44,353 Cubans came to the U.S., a figure that is already higher than the 40,115 Cubans who arrived during fiscal year 2015, reports el Nuevo Herald (in Spanish). This figure includes those who traveled through airports, by sea, or by land — those in the latter category usually start in Ecuador or Guyana, before making their way up through Mexico.
This recent surge of Cuban immigration actually started during the prior fiscal year. The 40,115 Cuban immigrants during fiscal year 2015 nearly doubled the 23,752 who arrived during fiscal year 2014.
The number of Cubans who made their exodus by sea is also showing a substantial increase: 5,485 so far during fiscal year 2016 (since October 1, 2015), compared to 4,473 during the entire fiscal year 2015.

None of this was supposed to happen. Of course, the Affordable Health Care Act wasn’t supposed to be unaffordable either and wars were not to break out again after Obama ended them.

What we see in Cuba is a combination of bad and very bad decisions.

First, the Obama administration assumed that Cuba would change just because we put a flag in Havana and legitimized the regime. In fact, the opposite happened. Repression is up and Raul Castro does not show show up at the airport to greet President Obama. We heard from the Obama White House that his visit to Cuba was historic. On the other hand, Raul Castro decided to stay in rather than make history. So much for respect!

Second, the Obama administration, and frankly a lot of others, assumed that Cubans would start buying office supplies, tractors, air conditioners, tablets, and other consumer goods just by allowing U.S. companies to go to the island. They forgot about important stuff like purchasing power, the most undeveloped consumer market in Latin America and Cubans driving 1950s cars.

So here we are. The Americans are told to go to Cuba but the Cubans in the island are leaving.

As the song goes: “You say goodbye and I say hello”!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Olympics? Brazilians are busy with politics!

 

 

(My new American Thinker post)

The Olympics start next Friday.  We trust that everything goes well, although there are many reasons to worry, from crime to infrastructure to even terrorism.  Let’s hope that the accomplishments of the athletes, and nothing else, is the big story from Rio.

On the political front, Brazilians are watching one amazing telenovela.  The latest is about Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president of Brazil who is now a target of the investigation over bribery at Petrobras, the oil monopoly.

This is from The New York Times:

Lawyers for Mr. da Silva said in a statement that he was innocent of the obstruction charges, saying that he had “never interfered” in the Petrobras investigation.
The charges stem from testimony by Delcídio do Amaral, a former senator in the Workers’ Party who was arrested in November after he was heard in a secret recording describing an elaborate plan for Nestor Cerveró, a former Petrobras executive ensnared in the scandal, to flee Brazil on a private plane.

We will follow the events and see where the trial goes.  In the short run, there are a couple of problems:

1) Lula, as he is known by supporters, was planning to run for president in 2018.  Obviously, his plans will have to wait for the determination of this trial.

2) Brazil’s political system has been exposed as one gigantic case of crony capitalism.

3) All of this political bickering is making Brazilians even more cynical about their politicians.  After all, it wasn’t long ago that Lula was the darling of most citizens, in part because of the economic boom that coincided with his two terms.  Like President Clinton, President Lula had some rather amazing good timing when it came to economic growth.

Lula’s out of luck.  He now faces real charges of corruption, as well as a public furious with the economic slowdown.

So let’s hope the Olympics goes well, because politics isn’t!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.