Cuba and the lessons of socialism

(My new American Thinker post)

Over time, I have learned two lessons about socialism: first, it does not work, and second, some people just don’t want to believe that it does not work.

The story of Cuban communism, or socialism, is a good case in point.

I’ve run into people over the years who praise the Cuban health care system or the so-called improvements in education.

Every time I challenge them, they refer to some report from the Cuban government or something a college professor told them.

It is refreshing to see someone again tackle the myths of Cuba, the self-proclaimed island paradise that is more like an island prison with a couple of bearded brothers sitting on top.

So thumbs up to Vanesa Vallejo, a Colombian economist and columnist:

Almost 60 years later, the results of the Castro dictatorship are appalling. Millions of Cubans have been forced to flee the island. Thousands have died defending their political ideas, while many others have spent decades in prison, or have been persecuted and harassed by Castro’s security services.

In the economics, the picture is no less devastating. The destruction of private property and free trade have had no other effect than to tear down the country’s productivity. And the few areas that look prosperous, such as tourism, only serve to ensure, using foreign currencies, the continuity of the regime’s coercive apparatus.

Castro’s followers insist that the terrible results Cubans face are compensated by an alleged welfare state that guarantees all kinds of social benefits to its citizens. In addition, they say Cuba is a true socialist utopia that, despite the opposition of the “empire,” serves as an example for the rest of Latin America.

To support their opinion, they mention its health and education systems, and even the achievements of its athletes. The blame also falls on the “embargo,” with accusations that the United States prevented the paradise island from being even more idyllic.

One of the challenges of dismantling the myths of “Fidel’s paradise” is the absence of reliable statistics. There is no independent validation for the extraordinary coverage and quality indicators of health on the island, which progressives often use for propaganda.

It would be very naive to believe that in a country where there is no free press, and where people cannot express themselves against the government without going to jail, a serious audit of the figures of the health system are allowed.

The last point is critical.  There is no objective report of any of Cuba’s health care or anything else.  What you get is a summary written by the people who don’t allow you to challenge anything.  There is no free press demanding government documents.  There are no investigative reporters or any other reporters since every one works for the state media.

Change will eventually come to Cuba.  We are off to a rough start because the Obama approach has done nothing but to consolidate the people running everything.  Nevertheless, change will come someday, and the truth of the Castro regime will be revealed.  It will be an embarrassing moment for the many carrying Castro water all of these years.

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

So Raul Castro is now dictating our aviation rules?

(My new American Thinker post)

Let’s add another chapter to the one-sided U.S.-Cuba deal.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has just sent a letter to President Obama demanding a few answers to some rather troubling questions:

During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Deputy Administrator, Dr. Huban Gowadia, confirmed that there are currently no federal air marshals on commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.

This admission contradicts earlier claims by your administration that the federal air marshal agreement was finalized and they would be on commercial flights.

Simply put, your administration has been caught in a bold-faced lie that has put American lives at risk.

Who decided that U.S. flights to Cuba would not have carry air marshals?

So why are there any flights? Shouldn’t we tell passengers to Cuba that these flights do not carry an air marshal? Why was this hidden from U.S. citizens flying to the island on the assumption that the aircraft is operating under normal aviation rules? All of this comes after we heard that the U.S. has not vetted Cuban airport workers and security procedures.

Frankly, the whole thing is embarrassing and further evidence that the Obama administration is either totally incompetent or determined to do a deal with Cuba at any cost.

Let’s hope that this topic comes up in the first Clinton-Trump debate.

Mr. Trump is signalling a shift by saying this:

We are also going to stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression.

The President’s one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro regime. But all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next President can reverse them — and that is what I will do, unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people.

Let Mrs. Clinton defend the Cuba deal, or at least explain to U.S. voters what she thinks of flights without air marshals or not U.S. vetting of safety procedures at Cuba’s airports. She should also comment on the embargo.

In 2012, Governor Romney lost Florida by 30,000 votes out of 8 million. President Obama never said to Cuban-Americans that he was negotiating to restore relations with the Castro regime. Instead, he took a hard line.

Let’s hear from Mrs. Clinton today now that we know a few things about this U.S.-Cuba deal that were never disclosed in the rush to put an embassy in Havana.

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

Rouhani meets Fidel & Raul

 

(My new American Thinker post)

We just learned that Iranian President Hassan Rouhan visited Cuba. My guess is that he is not scouting any Cuban pitchers for an upcoming Iranian baseball league.

This is from the Global Times:

Cuban leader Fidel Castro and visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talked about bilateral cooperation and challenges on Monday, according to a government statement.

“In a fraternal exchange, the distinguished visitor expressed satisfaction with his visit to Cuba and made clear his admiration for the struggle, achievements and assistance of the island to other nations,” said the statement.

The two leaders also discussed the “complexity” of the international situation.

“Fidel and Rouhani agreed on the analysis of food production in a world threatened by climate change, the relentless growth of the world population and dangers that threaten the preservation of peace,” it said.

The pair concluded the friendly meeting with a sincere wish for collaboration between Iranian and Cuban people, it added.

Rouhani met with Castro at the latter’s residence in western Havana prior to a meeting with his brother and President, Raul Castro.

Rouhani arrived in the Cuban capital earlier in the day for a short visit to boost economic cooperation between Tehran and Havana.

He kicked off the visit after participating over the weekend in the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Venezuela.

Admiration  for the struggle, achievements, and assistance of the island to other nations? Wonder if he called for the U.S. to return Gitmo and pay reparations for its isolation of Cuba?

The Rouhani trip comes at an interesting time in U.S.-Iran and U.S.-Cuba relations.

The Iran nuclear deal has emboldened Tehran. Just check out what Iranian boats are doing in the open seas. It looks like the lesson of the Iran nuclear deal is that the U.S. is a paper tiger that will actually pay for the return of hostages. And, will not retaliate when its Navy ships are confronted in international waters.

The U.S.-Cuba relationship is looking more and more like a one way street benefiting the communist regime, even from the Washington Post:

If you think the president’s policy will “empower” the fledgling Cuban private sector, as opposed to the overbearing state, think again. Easy money from expensive visas is a relatively minor example of the regime’s so-far successful efforts to reap direct benefit from the new relationship with the United States.

Even more important is the fact that the Cuban armed forces own the country’s dominant tourism companies, and those firms are expanding their role in anticipation of an American influx.

So Fidel, Raul, and Rouhani are celebrating U.S. weakness. The word is out that President Obama is down to 120 days and it’s time to get whatever you can.

So far, Iran and Cuba are doing just that! Iran gets closer to a nuclear bomb and the Castro regime gets an infusion of U.S. cash that no one was willing to lend to them.

Remember the one about people following the strong horse? A strong horse we are not at this point in the presidency of “hope and change”!

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

Fidel Castro arrived in New York in the middle of the 1960 presidential election

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Fidel Castro arrived in New York on this day in 1960:

“In September 1960, Castro led a delegation to New York City to address the United Nations General Assembly. He and his entourage caused an immediate sensation by deciding to stay at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem. While there, Castro met with a number of African-American leaders, including Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam and the poet Langston Hughes.

On September 26, Castro delivered a blistering attack on what he termed American “aggression” and “imperialism.”

For over four hours, Castro lambasted U.S. policy toward Cuba and other nations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The United States, he declared, had “decreed the destruction” of his revolutionary government.

Castro’s visit and lengthy public denunciation marked the final breaking point in relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

In January 1961, the Eisenhower administration severed all diplomatic relations with Cuba.”

Cuba also became a hot topic in the Kennedy-Nixon debates.   Kennedy took a very tough posture toward Castro.

Unfortunately, President Kennedy did not support the men of Brigade 2506 at The Bay of Pigs.   It turned into a huge victory for the Castro regime and the invasion was followed by severe repression against anti-Castro Cubans in the island.

The Missile Crisis followed 18 months later!

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

The Cuba deal was about Obama, not to benefit the US or the Cuban people

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It was about 22 months ago that President Obama announced a change in US policy toward Cuba.    What do we have for reversing the policy of every president, from John Kennedy to George W Bush?

What did US citizens get out of this?

Will they be compensated for the millions of dollars that the regime stole?    It is estimated at $ 7 billion!   So far the answer is no!

Or will Castro be forced to return the killer of a New Jersey state trooper enjoying life in the island for almost 2 decades?   So far the answer is that they are talking about it!

What did the Cuban people get?  So far nothing!   It’s the same old repression and torture that they’ve had since this corrupt regime took over and destroyed the island.

Indeed, some Americans will get to travel to Cuba and enrich the Castro family.       Overall, this does not look like a good deal for anyone who loves freedom.

The best explanation is at the editorial page of The Washington Post:

If you think the president’s policy will “empower” the fledgling Cuban private sector, as opposed to the overbearing state, think again. Easy money from expensive visas is a relatively minor example of the regime’s so-far successful efforts to reap direct benefit from the new relationship with the United States. Even more important is the fact that the Cuban armed forces own the country’s dominant tourism companies, and those firms are expanding their role in anticipation of an American influx.

Who has benefited?

First, President Obama now has a post presidency story that he can tell anti-US audiences around the world.     He can say that he ended wars, signed a nuclear deal with Iran, closed GITMO and opened relations with Cuba.  It will bring anti-US audiences to their feet but won’t do much to help the US.

Second, the Castro brothers can now remind the world that President Obama is as weak as they come.   In other words, they got everything they wanted without having to make concessions.

What about the Cuban people?   They are now ruled by a dictator who just got a cash infusion from the Obama policy.

What a disgrace like so much of the Obama foreign policy.

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

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.

Guillermo Fariñas & The Papa Che

Farinas

Cuban Human Rights Dissident Guillermo Fariñas is near his death after conducting a hunger strike with the intent of forcing the Cuban Government to stop harassing dissidents. Considering that the Papa Che played such a crucial role in President Obama’s Cuba opening, my question is why has he not interceded to save the life of this honorable Cuban?!!!

But when I look around the atrocities that radical Islamic terrorists have carried out against Catholics and Christians, I ask myself about the moral leadership and advocacy that the Pope Che has exercised?!!! Nowhere to be found!!!

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.

Cuban-American Offers Thanks to Tampa Mayor Buckhorn

Buckhorn

So often, people judge others based on their party affiliation. Republicans talk to you only if you are a party loyalist. Democrats are also guilty of the same sin. And, yet, there are people who judge others based on their principled stance on key issues ranging from the second amendment to U.S./Cuba relations.

And this explains why when I come across U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), I thank him when he criticizes President Obama’s Cuba policy. And, I find it despicable when U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) joins President Obama on the historic visit to Cuba.

Actions and values do matter.

The Tampa Bay Times ran an article this week putting down Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (Democrat) for being out of the step with many around Tampa Bay who are lobbying Cuban officials to set up the first Cuban Consulate in their cities. (See: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/on-cuba-buckhorns-out-of-step-with-many-around-tampa-bay-and-hes-ok-with/2287842).

Mayor Buckhorn could cares less about the incoming criticism, as he will not betray the core principles that he stands for. He stands with the cause to restore freedom and democracy to Communist Cuba. He honors a CIA agent who played a key role in the capture of aChesino Guevara, and he’s flown missions with Brothers to the Rescue.

Senator Menendez and Tampa Mayor Buckhorn remind me of a famous quote by German poet Bertolt Brecht: “There are men who struggle for a day and they are good. There are men who struggle for a year and they are better. There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still. But there are those who struggle all their lives: These are the indispensable ones.”

To me, Senator Menendez and Tampa Mayor Buckhorn belong to the “indispensable” category to bring back a Cuba Libre.

I’ve honored Mayor Buckhorn by penning a letter-to-the-editor to remind readers that he belongs to the “one of kind” politician. See: http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/letters/wednesdays-letters-bay-area-leads-in-job-growth/2287841.

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.

Castro’s Cuban version of ‘perestroika’ is not working, either

 

 

(My new American Thinker post)

Down in Cuba, Raul Castro made two announcements.

First, he said “adios” to the minister of the economy. For the record, the Cuban minister of the economy is nothing but a figurehead who does whatever the Castro brothers tell him to do. And;

Second, he reminded Cubans that the troubles in Venezuela will bring more hard economic times.

Raul said this about the hard times ahead:

“Rumors and forecasts of an imminent collapse of our economy with a return to the acute phase of the Special Period … have started to appear,”

Castro said according to a copy of his speech provided by the country’s official news agency Prensa Latina.

Foreign journalists are barred from the assembly.

He was referring to the years after Cuba’s biggest benefactor, the Soviet Union, collapsed. During that time, in the early 1990s, Cubans had to cope with widespread power outages and food shortages.

“We cannot deny there will be some impact, including worse than currently, but we are prepared and in better conditions than then to revert it.”

In many ways, this is reminiscent of perestroika in the late 1980s, or Mr Gorbachev’s efforts to revive the USSR economy. In other words, talking reform is not reform, unless you are willing to make structural changes in a communist system,

This is how Peter Boettke, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University, explained thefailure of perestroika:

One of the main reasons perestroika failed was because it wasn’t tried.

During his six years in power, Gorbachev introduced at least 10 programs for the “radical restructuring” of the Soviet economy, not a one of which was implemented.

Instead, economic reform was limited to inconsistent and incoherent half-measures.

The law on individual economic activity, the law on state enterprises, and the various price-reform proposals, for example, amounted to nothing more than half-measures incapable of producing the desired economic results even if they were implemented in an ideal environment.

Conceptually, economic reform is a fairly simple matter.

Private property in resources must be established and protected by a rule of law; consumer and producer subsidies must be eliminated; prices must be freed to adjust to the forces of supply and demand; responsible fiscal policy should be pursued that keeps taxation to a minimum and reins in deficit financing; and a sound currency must be established.

Introducing such reforms — even within Western economies — is anything but simple.

And the major problem is not just a conceptual one of designing the appropriate sequence or plan of reform.

In other words, communist economic systems cannot be reformed. They have to thrown into the garbage and replaced with real free markets, the rule of law and a respect for private property. Gorbachev did not do that in the USSR and Castro is not doing it in Cuba.

Why is Castro not allowing full market reforms in Cuba? The answer is simple greed. The Cuban economy, and the Castro family’s ownership of it, has turned these two bearded revolutionaries into filthy rich men. Add to this the billions stolen from U.S. citizens (estimated today’s value is US$ 7 billion) and Cubans and this is a racket of unprecedented proportions 90 miles south of Florida!

Reforms mean that the Castro family would have to share its wealth with Cubans. Sorry — that’s not going to happen no matter how many times President Obama and Raul Castro do the wave in Cuba.

How do you say perestroika in Spanish? Same as in Russian!

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

The Russians are coming…to Cuba?

(My new American Thinker post)

Guess what happens when you go to a ball game and legitimize a Cuban dictator? Raul Castro turns around and gives the Russians a big piece of business — the air traffic control system in the island.

This is from Sabrina Martin of the Pan Am Post:

The largest Russian manufacturer of electronic devices for civil aviation will be in charge of creating a new air traffic control system for Cuba.

The news comes days after the Cuban government refused visas to US congressmen who were traveling to the island to inspect and certify the conditions of airports before regular flights between Cuba and the United States can resume.

The Russian company Azimut signed a contract with the Cuban state company Aviaimport to transfer technology, information, and research in civil aeronautics for air traffic control on the island.

The deal includes the delivery of the source-code and the execution of tests. Likewise, the Russian company will offer training for the Cuban employees who will be in charge of the system’s operation.
The agreement between the state-owned firm and Azimut will last until June 2017 and the system is expected to be implemented in 10 international airports in Cuba.

Currently, Cuban airports use an ORACLE-based system, acquired from Canada in 2000, which officials deem outdated.

It’s worth noting that six airlines were authorized by the US government to operate 155 weekly flights for almost 20,000 passengers between five US cities and nine Cuban destinations.

This is a slap in the face to U.S. businesses who bought into the idea that the Obama-Castro deal would open new markets. At the end of the day, Raul Castro selected the Russians, and all of the potential security challenges that it brings.

He also denied visas to a U.S. House delegation that wanted to check the Cuban airport security systems. Wonder why? The decision to bring in Vlad Putin answers that question!

Russia is back in the Middle East and Cuba. We can thank Obama for that!

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