GUESTS: Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, editor of Fausta’s Blog AND Jorge Ponce, Cuban American writer and contributor to Babalu Blog. Click to listen:
On this day in 1898, US and Cuba politics came together because of the “Maine”:
“A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard……..
Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting.
On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.”
Cubans finally celebrated independence on May 20, 1902.
On February 3, 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere (chaired by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)) held a hearing entitled: “Understanding the Impact of U.S. Policy Changes on Human Rights and Democracy in Cuba.”
The first panel to testify before the Subcommittee was made up of: Roberta S. Jacobson, (Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State) and Tomasz Malinowski (Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State).
The second panel was made up of: Ms. Rosa Maria Payá (Cuban Christian Liberation Movement and Daughter of Slain Dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas), Ms. Berta Soler (President, Cuban Ladies in White), Ms. Miriam Leiva (Human Rights Activist and Independent Journalist, Havana, Cuba), and Mr. Manuel Cuesta Morúa (Spokesperson for Progressive Arc and Coordinator of New Country, Havana, Cuba).
Among the news that came out at this hearing was an announcement by Mr. Morúa that Cuban human rights activists planned to host parallel summits in Havana and Panama for Cuban-Americans and Cubans to air their visions for a democratic Cuba. He indicated that he had met with Cuban-Americans from Miami, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela stated recently that the doors “are open” for Cuban dissidents to potentially attend a key forum during the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Panama in April 2015.
Another news of interest is the differentiation made by the panelists from the U.S. State Department between “the restoration of diplomatic relations” and the “normalization of relations” between the United States and Communist Cuba.
Ms. Berta Soler was the only member of the second panel that spoke in support of TV and Radio Martí.
According to the State Department’s Malinowski, the Cuban Government has undertaken 140 new detentions of human rights dissidents since December 17, 2014.
Senator Rubio’s questions for the first panel are found in slots 49:51 through 58:46 and slots 1:50:48 through 1:55:30. Senator Menendez’ questions are found in slots 1:14:39 through 1:21:37, and slots 2:01:51 through 2:06:26.
The testimonies of the second panel start at slot 2:11:00, while the question-and-answer session starts at slot 3:12:20.
To listen to the hearing, click on http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/understanding-the-impact-of-us-policy-changes-on-human-rights-and-democracy-in-cuba (Note that the hearing starts at slot 23:50).
A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a bill on January 29, 2015, to lift the U.S. embargo. This proves that the enemies of restoring freedom and democracy to Cuba come from both sides of the aisle.
With the above in mind, Cuban Government officials threw the first punch when they confiscated the holdings of U.S. businesses shortly after Fidel rose to power in 1959 – which originally were valued at $1.8 billion, and which at 6 percent simple interest translates to nearly $7 billion in 2014.
Statements made in the U.S. media outlets indicating that the purpose of the U.S. embargo was regime change are nothing more that the Castro propaganda machine in full swing. Even President Obama has fallen victim to this propaganda by repeating the Castro mantra in his speeches.
You would think that any opening with Cuba would entail the compensation of the $7 billion owed to U.S. businesses. After all, if the President of the United States cannot look after its own citizens, then who will? Obama did not make these property claims a condition precedent to the normalization of diplomatic relations with the rogue, Castro regime. He should have!
President Obama is about to find out why it is not wise to negotiate with dictators from a position of weakness. There have been many Cuban-Americans who have criticized the President for the unilateral concessions made to the Cuban Government and with getting very little in return. They rightly have argued that the big winner in these negotiations has been Raul Castro.
Well, Dictator Raul Castro demanded the U.S. Government on January 28, 2015, for the return of Guantanamo Base. But, even more outrageous, Raul demanded that the U.S. Government compensate the Cuban Government for the losses caused by the U.S. embargo – which, according to a Cuban official on September 10, 2014, amounted to $1.1 trillion.
Delusional, right???!!! So, Raul wants to be rewarded for stealing from U.S. business owners. Indeed, these claims would be delusional to anyone with a logical mind!
President Obama’s reasoning for his Cuba opening was to enhance his legacy. With Raul’s demands announced today, I don’t think that the President would want to be remembered for this initiative. In fact, “History Will Not Absolve Obama” for putting his alleged interests over the interests of Americans.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker glorified the Obama/Raul pact during a recent NBC interview. On the day that it was announced on December 17, 2014, she pointed out that she was seated next to the Vice-Premier of China, who turned to her and told her “great, bold move!” May I point out that the Chinese leadership does not have the best interests of the United States in its official pronouncements. While they may sound good at face value, their ultimate meaning is usually anti-American.
Now, regarding Secretary Pritzker, it’s understandable why she would favor the Cuba opening. In 2011, the Forbes 400 list of America’s wealthiest showed her as the 263rd richest person in the U.S., estimated net worth of US $1.8511 billion, and the world’s 651st richest person. In 2009, Forbes named Pritzker as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. In Secretary Pritzker’s eyes, the Cuba opening has dollar signs attached to it.
Compare Secretary Pritzker’s ecstasy to the views held by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under former President George W. Bush – Carlos Gutierrez.
During an “Ask The White House” forum on October 24, 2007, Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez gave the following response to a question regarding the benefits of a Cuba opening:
“We believe that open economies create opportunity and growth. When people are allowed to invest, make business decisions, be entrepreneurs and have a wide range of consumer choices, economies and people flourish. Though China does not have a full, market economy it does exhibit much of the behaviors and benefits of an open economy. In China, people can open a business. They can invest. There is a tremendous amount of choice for consumers. A Chinese worker can get paid directly for their work. The Cuban people don’t enjoy the same opportunities. And, though millions of dollars have poured into Cuba from Canada, Europe and other points around the globe, it has not benefited the average Cuban. More investment and money spent in Cuba means more money lining the pockets of the Cuban dictator and his cronies. Instead of comparing Cuba with China, we should compare Cuba to other countries that are similar, such as North Korea.”
We and the free world miss you, Carlos Gutierrez!
To listen to the NBC interview with Secretary Pritzker, click on
We finally hear from Fidel regarding his reaction to the Obama/Raul Pact. He indicated that he always supports “a pacific solution to the conflicts.” ???!!!
It’s refreshing to have unbiased reporting on President Obama’s new Cuba opening and its future ramifications for the U.S. foreign policy. So, by now, you guessed right that the reporting has nothing to do with the New York Times, CNN, or MSNBC.
Bret Baier of Fox News will report on this matter on Saturday, Jan. 24th and Sunday, Jan. 25th, at 8:00 PM ET.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) broke ranks with his fellow Democrats on January 15, 2015, and criticized President Obama for negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program.
President Obama reacted to Senator Menendez’ challenge by saying that as a former senator himself, he understood how outside forces — like special interests and donors — can influence senators to act.
But Senator Menendez did not take the President’s characterization with his hands down. Instead, he told the President he took “personal offense” to his assertions, and argued that he has worked to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions for many years and was not motivated by political considerations.
Then, the Senator issued a statement that should make freedom-loving Cuban-Americans proud of him. He said that “”I do not believe in negotiating out of weakness, I believe in negotiating out of strength. I think weakness invites provocation, I think strength avoids it.”
With senators like Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio and the rest of the Cuban-American congressmen, together with a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Congress, there is hope that the United States would look after its own interests by keeping the embargo against Cuba.
A man, a president, a politician, and just about anybody else who cannot keep his word cannot be trusted to look after the welfare of others. If you are president of the United States, you cannot be trusted if you keep flip-flopping on your promises to them. The “audacity of hope” becomes nothing more than empty rhetoric!
President Obama suffers from a credibility problem. Back on October 25, 2014, he said “I am president, I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself.” Then, on February 14, 2014, he said “I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”
Subsequently, on November 20, 2014, he rolled out immigration reform through executive action.
For years, Obama promised millions of Americans with health insurance that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan” under his health care overhaul. He did not keep his promise.
And, as a candidate for president, Obama vowed to Florida voters that his policy toward Cuba would “be guided by one word: Libertad.” He indicated that while he favored engagement, there would be no quid of normalization until there was a quo of democratization: “Don’t be confused about this.” “I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: If you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That’s the way to bring about real change in Cuba.” And, once again, he has not kept his word to the freedom-loving Cuban-Americans and Americans.
As President Obama gets ready to deliver the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015, a group of 78 signatories have sent him an open letter praising him for his new Cuba policy, and urging him to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
Among the signatories, you’ll find the usual suspects within the Cuban-American community: both Fanjul brothers and Saladrigas. But, I want to highlight one in particular: Joe García.
When running against Carlos Curbelo for Florida’s 26th district, Joe García expressed his support for keeping the U.S. embargo. But his actions spoke louder than his words, and the Cuban-American community did not believe him. So, this community rewarded Carlos Curbelo with their votes. And they did the right thing.
You see, now that he is not a U.S. representative and does not need the Cuban-American votes, García has shown his true colors by signing the above letter that calls for the lifting of the U.S. embargo “to reflect 21st century realities.”
Cuban-Americans elected in Carlos Curbelo an honest and ethical man. They elected a representative who supports the U.S. embargo, and who means it.
On the other hand, Obama and García are like Puerto-Rican Poet Lola Rodríguez would say “de un pájaro las dos alas” (the two wings of the same bird). Both are individuals who don’t keep their promises.
To read the letter, click on http://www.supportcubancivilsociety.org/letters/2/
The White House has announced that it will have as their guest at the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015, Alan Gross.
We can be certain that President Obama will mention his new Cuba opening as a major accomplishment of his administration. He will brag about how this initiative will bring the “audacity of hope” to the Cuban people.
But the majority of Cuban-Americans from the Historic Exile (1959-1979) are on a war path with the President. In fact, some (myself included), consider the new opening as a Second Bay of Pigs. It represents a betrayal to the aspirations of the free world to restore freedom and democracy to Cuba.
And to represent those freedom-loving Cuban-Americans, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will have as his guest at the president’s address Rosa María Payá, the daughter of Oswaldo Payá, a prominent dissident who died in an automobile accident in 2012 that she, and others around the world, allege was caused by Castro government officials.
And, now, you know why many Cuban-Americans look up to Senator Marco Rubio. He’s got their backs!
And House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) just announced that he will have as his guest on Tuesday Cuban, human-rights dissident Antuñez and his wife Iris. Antuñez spent more than 17 years in a Cuban jail for proclaiming that communism was an error and a dystopia.
There has been an outpouring of support for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo’s staff in Paris, which is most often expressed by holding up “Je Suis Charlie” signs. But the free-world is wondering what kind of “Je Suis” sign President Obama wants to hold up. He has been missing in action since the Paris March was held on January 11, 2015. Not even for 24 hours, the President could not become Charlie – which speaks volumes for his lack of moral and political leadership.
And, then, to add insult to injury, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris during the January 11 march, but did not attend it. This slight takes away all explanations offered by the White House that this unfortunate incident was just a mere oversight. It wasn’t!
To have to listen to Eric Holder refer to the Charlie Hebdo’s jihadists as “lone wolves,” is to get a clue of how this White House addresses the threat of radical Islam. It doesn’t, or, it doesn’t want to.
Let’s get this straight. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo killings. The kosher-grocery shooter professed allegiance to the Islamic State. These guys were not “lone wolves.” Everyone understands this logic, except those at the White House!
The President repeatedly has shown an ambivalence about the war on radical Islam. In fact, he’s forbidden members of his Cabinet from using this phrase when acting in their official capacity. This is problematic on many fronts.
When you are tasked with an assignment, you must know what the end-game is. Once you know this, you can develop a plan with the necessary steps to achieve the end-game. The same holds true in the military. The end-game is called the strategy, the plan are the tactics.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared forcefully last week that France was at “war with radical Islam.” The French now have a clear strategy of what it is that they aim to defeat.
Compare the French strategy with that of President Obama. According to him, the United States is at war with “terrorists who commit heinous acts.” So, who are we at war with? The FARC from Columbia? The Basque’s ETA? The narco-terrorists? There are many groups in the world that qualify as terrorists. But the fact that President Obama and his leadership have refused to articulate publicly that the United States is at war with “radical Islam” makes it impossible to defeat the enemy. Moreover, the President is actively focused on releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees, most of whom (17.3 percent) have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in their fight against the West and the United States. No wonder that the POTUS is so unpopular with the military brass!
According to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These are dangerous times that we live in. History will not be kind with the President’s lack of decisiveness to confront our Nation’s enemies!
And for those in the Cuban-American community who are angry at the President’s new Cuba Policy, you will now understand why the President made all kinds of unilateral concessions to Dictator Raul Castro.
To the President, the Cuban deal was nothing more than extending an olive branch to a head of state who had every right to be mad at the past, alleged transgressions of the Empire!