1865: Abraham Lincoln shot

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Sadly, President Lincoln was killed at Ford’s Theater on this day in 1865.

Everything about Lincoln reminds me of my late great uncle, Joaquin Ramos.  He was my grandmother’s younger brother and a very well educated man who was an attorney, law professor and even served as a district judge.

He also had this bookcase full of history books.   I’m sure that he read all of them.

It was Tio Joaquin, as we called him, who told me about President Lincoln when I was a little boy in Cuba.  So I always think of him whenever anything about Lincoln is in the news.

Obama and human rights in Argentina & Cuba

President Obama was in Cuba and Argentina this week.

We understand that Argentina suffered through a period of human rights abuses.   We get it and the people of that country have every right and reason to go back and investigate it.

President Obama mentioned it in a press conference.   He offered to declassify some documents about the role that the US may have played in that period.

Don’t you wish that he had been that vocal in Cuba?   Or discuss publicly the island’s human rights record and the numbers of Cubans missing or who died crossing The Florida Straits to freedom?

President Obama walked with President Macri by a monument to remember the 20,000 victims, of which 10,000 are still considered missing.

Argentina is a nation of 41 million people, or four times bigger than Cuba.   They claim 20,000 victims!

How many victims in Cuba?    executions?  political prisons?  drowning leaving in a raft?

Over the years, I’ve consistently criticized human rights abuses, whether they came from the right or the left.

For example, I applauded Mr Pinochet’s economic reforms in Chile but was critical of some of the human rights violations that came with it.

It’s a shame that President Obama did it in Argentina and not Cuba.    It makes you wonder why he went to Cuba in the first place!

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

Time to choose: The trip or the the dissidents?

The White House continues to say that President Obama will select the dissidents.     However, he is still scheduled to go, as we see in news reports.

Does President Obama really want to choose the dissidents’ list?    He can draw up a list and make it a condition for the trip.

Is President Obama really serious about dissidents in the island?    Is he willing to walk away from the trip?

The time for choosing is here.

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

February 22: Remembering George Washington

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A couple of  years ago, I wrote this post about George Washington’s birthday or February 22, 1732.    You can see the full post here.

My late great-uncle, or Tio Joaquin as we called him, was one of those men who got to live a lot of the history that we’ve read.

He was born in the 1890s or when Cuban was still a Spanish colony. The US and Spain got into a war in 1898 and Cuba finally achieved its independence in 1902.   Unlike most of Latin America that became independent in the first 30 years of the 19th century, Cuba remained the last Spanish outpost in the New World until the end of the century.

He remembers the day that Cuba became an independent country. He lived through the Great Depression or when the price of sugar collapsed in the 1930s. He saw the Machado dictatorship that followed the economic turmoil, the Batista uprising, the establishment of a republic in 1940 and communist takeover of 1959.

He saw it all and died in Cuba in the 1980s. He chose not to leave because he didn’t want to be a burden to his nephews (my father and two uncles) starting a new life in the US.  He used to say that the communist were not going to convert old folks like him and Aunt Clara.

He was a huge fan of US history, specially Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

He told me something that I will never forget. Let me paraphrase it for you:

“The US was very lucky to have a man of Washington’s character at every turn of the young nation’s history. He earned the respect of the rebels with his integrity. He was the man trusted by those colonists embarking on a constitutional experiment. And he knew when to leave when his two terms were up. Did you ever hear of a man walk away from a position of power? He could have been president for life but he left.”

It was a history lesson that I did not quite understand as a kid in Cuba.

I understand it today as we celebrate the man’s life on his birthday.

A Babalu PSA: Rabies Alert

Ted Cruz Declares His Candidacy for President
Ted Cruz Declares His Candidacy for President

So finally the Miami Herald mentioned Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy in the main page of their online edition.(!)

(I wouldn’t know about the print edition because I confess I haven’t looked at that fish wrap since April of 2000.)

And it goes something like this:

A Cuban, a Canadian, a white supremacist and a Chihuahua with rabies walk into a bar and the bartender says: “What will it be, Mr. Cruz?” … Then, he turns around and tells all the white trash in the bar to run for the hills.

It came in the form of a cautionary opinion hit piece by Andres  Oppenheimer warning Republicans, because you see, the well being of the Republican party is his primary concern, bless his heart, that if you sleep with dogs , you wake up with fleas. As we all know, it’s in the Miami Herald’s rich journalistic tradition to look out for the Republican party and to denigrate Cubans using canine metaphors.

Here’s the money quote: (emphasis mine)

The Canadian-born son of a Cuban father and a U.S.-born mother, Cruz — a first-term Republican senator from Texas — is one of the most rabid critics of President Obama’s executive action to regularize the legal status of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, most of them Hispanic.

So, how does this newspaper stuff work anyway? Does the Herald call Oppenheimer and ask him to write an opinion piece on Cruz because he’s Latino Hispanic a Spic and Oppenheimer is also a Latino Hispanic a Spic and he can get away with saying he’s “rabid” without the risk of being called racist? Or is it that Cruz’s candidacy isn’t important enough to get an opinion hit piece by a real opinion journalist?

I mean there are so many more pressing issues going on for this niche Latino Hispanic  Spic commentator to expound upon. There’s the food shortages and long lines for essentials in Venezuela, the anti-government demonstration and unrest in Brazil,  the scandalous and suspicious  suicide  murder government hit of Alberto Misman in his own birthplace, Argentina, lots of stuff. But…I guess warning the Republican Party about evils that can befall it by associating with such a “rabid” Cuban-American trumps all these very Latino issues.

Oh well, like they say…you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…

Here’s my cautionary opinion hit piece: If you’re Cuban, please don’t buy the Miami Herald. If you need to wrap your fish or line your bird cage that badly, do it with one of those free real estate magazine things they give way at Publix. Or ask for paper and not plastic and use cartucho, por favor.

1994 and a few lessons from lifting the Vietnam trade embargo

It was 21 years ago today that President Clinton and the US Congress lifted the Vietnam trade embargo:

“President Clinton lifted the embargo primarily to encourage cooperative efforts between the U.S. and Vietnam to discover the fate of American prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA) who had remained unaccounted for after the war.

He also believed that improved business relations between the U.S. and Vietnam would benefit the economies of both nations.”

It’s a mixed record on the MIAs and terrible on the economy.

Vietnam is still a very poor country.   It is a basically a destination for large companies looking for very cheap labor.  “Made in Vietnam” means something made by a poor soul earning nothing while some party leader “wines & dines” with a foreign CEO!

Vietnam’s human rights record is dismal, as reported by the US State Department:

“The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party,the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), led by General Secretary Nguyen PhuTrong, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, and President Truong Tan Sang. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in 2011, were neither free nor fair.

Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Security forces committed human rights abuses.

The most significant human rights problems in the country continued to be severe
government restrictions on citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to
change their government; increased measures to limit citizens’ civil liberties; and
corruption in the judicial system and police.

Specific human rights abuses included continued police mistreatment of suspects
during arrest and detention, including the use of lethal force as well as austere
prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention for political activities; and denial
of the right to a fair and expeditious trial.

Political influence, endemic corruption, and inefficiency continued to distort the judicial system significantly.

The government limited freedoms of speech and press and suppressed dissent;
increasingly restricted internet freedom; reportedly continued to be involved in
attacks against websites containing criticism; maintained surveillance of dissidents;
and continued to limit privacy rights and freedoms of assembly, association, and
movement.”

How do you say “Comite de la Defensa de la Revolucion” in Vietnamese?

The Vietnam experience confirms one thing.  You won’t bring freedom or prosperity as long as you maintain a communist party elite running the country or doing business with foreign investors.

Lifting the Vietnam embargo was great for the few in power in that country.   It has not helped or been very helpful for the people in that enslaved country.

Let’s remember that when we hear that “tourists” and “dollars” are going to help the people of Cuba.

 

 

 

Hopelessnes And Change For The Worse

I haven’t been paying too much attention to current events these past few weeks. Frankly, The Obama administration’s decision to “normalize” relations with Cuba left me with the desire to crawl into a cave with a few bottles and hibernate.

So as I start to come out of my temporary exile in the blissful cave of ignorance, I am confronted by the sobering news from the land of my permanent exile as I come across a story about the arrests of Cuban dissidents who were attempting to participate in #yotambienexijo this past Monday.

And the story in UK’s The Guardian had a picture of twenty-nine Cuban dissidents meeting in Yoani Sanchez’s 14ymedio offices.

Twenty-nine..29?!

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Twenty-nine brave disciples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr…and Sisyphus.

That made me feel good.

For a second.

You see, these Democracy activists look pretty good for folks that just got thrown under the bus of fellow traveler Barack Obama.

And…if you know anything of how things work in the island of despair, at least three of the activists in this photograph are state security informants, if not security officers. But all are slaves.

So for the foreseeable future, since the Obama administration has decided to sanction  56 years of oppressive hopelessness and stagnation  in the name of hope and change, the only pressure that the sociopathic tyrannical [c]astros have on them to change their evil ways will come from whatever futile acts of civil disobedience these pacifists are allowed to carry out. Because as we see from this article, the [c]astros control everything through intimidation and violence by choosing who and when gets to push the boulder up the mountain just to see it roll back down again.

I miss my cave.