Trumpinator says he agrees with Marco Rubio on Cuba policy


Let’s see if this “agreement” in principle turns into any real change in policy.

Sounds good.  Sounds great.

But the proof is in the pudding, and that pudding is just a recipe at this point in time.

May the pudding turn out well, and may it also be stuffed into a nice pastelito.

From Eljeral (Miami Herald):

President Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday that he shares Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s views on Cuba.

“We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way, lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba because we have very similar views on Cuba,” Trump told journalists.

“Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the Cuban people, Americans,” he added in reference to the support of Cuban American voters.

Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and First Lady Melania on Wednesday night, after the president received Lilian Tintori, the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Tintori.

The comment suggests a possible change in Cuba policy since Rubio was one of the staunchest critics of former President Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba, especially in the area of human rights.

Continue reading HERE

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Reports from Cuba: Cuban Doctors and Nurses in Exchange for Angolan Oil

Obama’s executive actions makes him complicit in the slavery of the Cuban people.

“Also, on January 12 a US government program, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, was cancelled, easing fears that our physicians will abandon their overseas missions.”

By Juan Juan Almeida in Translating Cuba:

Cuban Doctors and Nurses in Exchange for Angolan Oil


Juan Juan Almeida, 14 February 2017 — In a memorable address on December 18, 2008 in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil, Raúl Castro referred to what we now know as Operation Carlota, saying, “We told the Angolan people we will only take with us the remains of our dead.” But he lied.

The Cuban military mission there did some farming and planted a seed that is only now bearing fruit. Initially, the mission provided support, earning the regime international prestige and increasing its political capital. Witness for example, the vote against the US embargo in the United Nations’ General Assembly. Now, General Castro, who is also president of Cuba, is counting on a good harvest: Angolan oil.

Below are the names of thirty people who were flew on KLM or TAAG Angolan Airlines on January 26 of this year from Havana to Luanda with the express purpose of trading medical services for Angolan crude oil.

Mariluz Simales Cruz, nursing

Larisa Peña Roja, biology

Ángel Alexis Calas Ortiz, nursing

Isabel Chala Castaneda, MD, hygiene and epidemiology

Margarita Saltaren Cobas, nursing

Alfredo Saltaren Cobas, biological sciences

Erenis Serrat Morales, clinical laboratory

Jorge Luis Vargas Mendoza, hygiene and epidemiology

José Alexander Campos Castillo, pharmacy

Mario Oscar León Sánchez, comprehensive general medicine, intensive therapy

Eladia Cuenca Arce, clinical laboratory

Paula Pompa Márquez, microbiology

Isabel María Oliva Licea, transfusion medicine

Andrés Aguilar Charon, chemistry education

Dioenis de la Caridad Campoamor Hernández, health care technology

Martha Alfreda Zamora González, immunology

Agustín Rodríguez Soto, professor of stomatology

Geisy Pérez Pérez, nursing

Marlenis Sánchez Tuzón, MD, clinical laboratory

Lazara Josefina Linares Jiménez, clinical laboratory

Yunia Delgado Peña, nursing

María Libia Paneque Gamboa, professor, Uniología Institutos Médicos

Dimey Arguelles Toledo, nursing

Katiuska Garboza Savón, professor, clinical laboratory

Victoria Priscila Moreno Zambrano, clinical laboratory

Maria Cristina Varela Alejo, pharmacy

Gliceria Alicia Díaz Santa Cruz, health care technology

Dania Victoria Rodríguez Hidalgo, nursing

René Camacho Díaz, professor, maxillofacial surgery

Yaimy Royero Martínez, surgical nursing

“In politics, money talks. It has the first and the last word. The medical missions in Venezuela won’t be cancelled. Speculation is that the price of oil will rise and, if that happens, the income we receive from that program should also rise,” explains an official from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health who, as is always the case, fears government reprisal and prefers to remain anonymous and out of sight.

“The Angola mission,” he points out, “is a different sort of thing. They are not sending doctors to be doctors but rather to be instructors. They are going there to teach classes, not to see patients.

“This is predicted to be Cuba’s most profitable economic endeavor, more than tourism or remittances from overseas. We are talking about a massive shipment of doctors and other medical personnel as part of an exchange agreement that will guarantee favorable crude oil prices.

“Also, on January 12 a US government program, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, was cancelled, easing fears that our physicians will abandon their overseas missions.”

Court Denies Last Appeal of Political Prisoner Leopoldo López

By Sabrina Martin, PanAm Post:

Venezuela’s Top Court Denies Last Appeal of Political Prisoner Leopoldo López


After serving three years out of a 14-year prison sentence, the future just got much bleaker for political prisoner Leopoldo López.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court closed the case for good, having ratified the sentence given to López, meaning he will have to carry out the rest of his 14-year sentence pending further international pressure to have him released.

This Thursday, February 16, Venezuela’s highest judicial court dismissed an appeal filed in August by López’s defense lawyer, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez. He explained that, faced with the court’s decision, they will now have to turn to an international approach.

“The TSJ reiterates the injustice, the illegality that has been this process,” he said.

The court dismissed López’s appeal as “manifestly unfounded,” according to an excerpt from the ruling.

Gutiérrez said the appeal had been introduced “with strict adherence to jurisprudence” and claimed the courts “break with the rule of law and its jurisprudential line.”

López was sentenced on September 10, 2015 to 13 years and nine months in prison. The conviction is the maximum for crimes of public instigation, conspiracy to commit a crime, property damage and arson.

On August 12, 2016, the Venezuelan Court of Appeals ratified Lopez’s ruling, claiming that he should remain in prison for that full time period.

The Popular Volunteer Party has called for a demonstration in response.

Source: Diario Las Américas

Visit Free Leopoldo HERE, for more information.


Eduardo Cardet to be tried in a few days, faces three years in prison

Dr. Eduardo Cardet
Dr. Eduardo Cardet

From Marti Noticias:

Doctor Eduardo Cardet, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement  (Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación )has been in prison since the end of November, awaiting trial.

He has been charged with “atentado con agravante,” which translates literally as “aggravated assault,” but in essence means nothing more than being a threat to the Castro regime.

He was arrested immediately after returning from a visit to the U.S., where he met with “the wrong people” and freely expressed his delight at the death of Fidel Castro.

His wife revealed on the Cuba al Día program on Radio Martí that Dr. Cardet’s trial will take place on monday, February 20, and he could be sentenced to three years in prison.

She also said that the trial had been moved from the town of Velasco, where Dr. Cardet lives, to a municipal court in Gibara.  According to her, this change in location will make it much harder for supporters of Dr. Cardet to attend the trial or to gather near the courtroom.

Dr. Cardet’s plight has attracted attention from various international human rights organizations –including Amnesty International — but thus far the Castro regime has made no response to any of their pleas for the release of the dissident.

Reports of violence in Baracoa

It’s unusual to read of such lawlessness in Cuba. Images of police quickly squashing any opposition gatherings or protests are common on social media, however it seems a street gang is challenging the regime for control of the streets of Baracoa. What gives?

Loosely translated from Diario de Cuba:

Baracoa neighbors denounce the emergence of violent gangs, despite the militarization of the city


Vecina de Baracoa tras el paso del huracán Matthew. (AP)
Vecina de Baracoa tras el paso del huracán Matthew. (AP)

Residents in Baracoa, a town devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, are alarmed by the rise of violent gangs despite the militarization of the city, and are calling on authorities for a solution.

“After the passage of the Hurricane, a gang known as “Los 300″ formed in Baracoa, dedicated to rape, stealing, and beating people, including members of the brigades that are dedicated to recovery”, says a fearful neighbor asking for discretion over their identity. “If they find out that it was I who gave details, perhaps they can pass something to me or to my family”.

María Isabel Rodríguez recalls an incident that occurred about a month ago: “a boy of about 20 years old was murdered by the gang. Some young people returning from a party discovered the body in the early morning hours. They made a video just before the police arrived.”

DIARIO DE CUBA obtained the video, which shows the body of a young black man, lying on the floor apparently with stab wounds in the arm and left side. It has not been published due to the graphic nature of the images.

Rodriguez says, “We demand that the special troops deployed here in the municipality, and the Ministry of the Interior put an end to the wave of violence”.

Residents of Baracoa and the other territories affected by Matthew in Guantanamo have complained about the strong presence military that apparently has been directed to control access to these locations, to prevent protests, and to monitor the places of distribution of food and building materials. Dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists have denounced harassment and threats against them to prevent them from reporting on what is happening.

Continue reading in Spanish HERE.

And from Twitter:

Translation: Cubanoselmundo: #Cuba violence emerges in #Baracoa despite the militarisation of the regime #actualidad

Guess why American tourists are not flocking to Cuba?

jm070915_COLOR_Cuba_Tourism_Dissidents (1)

Ha, ha, ha…. From our esteemed Schadenfreude bureau:

Americans are not traveling to Cuba in great numbers.  Not yet, anyway.

But they’re not staying away because of ethical or human rights issues.

The island’s apartheid system and its political repression have nothing to do with it.

Americans are holding back on travel to Castrogonia because it is too expensive and it requires jumping through more hoops than usual.

And the reason Castrogonia has become so expensive is not just due to supply-and-demand issues, but to the greediness of the Castronoids who run the entire tourist industry and foolishly think that Americans are aching to travel to the island slave plantation at any cost.
Unbelievably Racist Vintage Valentine's Day Cards (2)

From Skift:

Cuba Isn’t Working Out as a Very Popular Destination So Far

America, did you miss the travel industry’s memo declaring Cuba the hottest new destination?

Apparently. Service to the long-time U.S. foe began in September, but after just five months the largest carrier to the island, American Airlines Group Inc., cut daily flights by 25 percent and switched to smaller jets on some routes. Meanwhile, Silver Airways Corp. reduced weekly flights to six Cuban cities and JetBlue Airways Corp. downsized its planes so as to match lower-than-expected demand.

“It’s going to take a really, really long time for [Cuba] to become a Caribbean destination that’s as popular as some of the other ones,” Andrew Levy, the chief financial officer for United Continental Holdings Inc., told Bloomberg News in November.

While the rest of the Caribbean is hopping with the U.S. winter break crowd, Cuba has some unique problems. The big one is that airlines, with no real idea about demand, were overly ambitious when they jousted for the limited routes allowed by U.S. regulators. With a mandate for only 110 daily U.S. flights—20 into Havana, the most popular destination—the carriers tumbled over each other last year to get a piece of the pie, leaving the island oversubscribed.

The air rush into Cuba “wasn’t based on demand but speculation. They had no history to look at,” said Karen Esposito, general manager of Cuba Travel Network, which specializes in tours to the island. Now they do.

Silver Airways described additional obstacles, pointing to the complications accompanying U.S. travel arrangements to Cuba, along with too much capacity from larger carriers. Still, spokeswoman Misty Pinson said, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline “is optimistic about the future growth potential in Cuba.”

Former President Barack Obama announced an opening of relations with Cuba in December 2014, calling previous U.S. policy, which sought to isolate the communist government, a failure.

But with liberalization has come a painful lesson in capitalism—for tourists, anyway. The new interest in Cuba led to rapid price inflation (as much as 400 percent) for state-run hotels, taxis, and other traveler services—before any U.S. commercial flights had begun. Some rooms now cost as much as $650 per night, serving as a major deterrent to Americans hunting for novel warm-weather destinations.

Even the costs of classic car rides and dinners at popular paladares, private restaurants run by families, have in some cases tripled, Insight Cuba says. Prices have begun to moderate this year for the first time since 2014, the company said this week. But beyond the high prices lie additional difficulties for U.S. tourists.

“The airlines are also competing with limited hotel availability,” Popper said. And “you cannot pay for a room with a U.S. credit card, so you have to actually bring the cash. You’re going to be carrying around $2,500 to $3,000 in cash just to pay for the hotel room. And then you need to carry more cash to pay for other things you want to do.”

Cuba-curious Americans must also compete for winter lodging with sun-seekers from Canada and the U.K., who face no bureaucratic hurdles in booking their holiday.

Continue reading HERE

Cuban defector attains his American dream

The privilege of United States citizenship. He’s elated.


Cuban defector Erislandy Lara, wife Yudi, earn U.S. citizenship

Junior middleweight world titleholder Erislandy Lara gave himself the nickname “The American Dream” after defecting from Cuba, where he was a star amateur.

On Thursday, Lara and his wife, Yudi, became United States citizens after completing their eligibility requirements and taking an oath of allegiance to the country.

Lara first went from Cuba to Germany, where he turned pro in 2008. He came to the United States in 2009 and has lived here since.

Ray Spencer/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
Ray Spencer/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

He was elated at becoming a citizen.

“When I arrived in the United States in 2008, my main goal was to become a citizen of this great nation,” Lara said. “It brings me great joy to know that I am now a legal citizen of the United States of America. It’s been a long journey to get where I’m at today, and I couldn’t have done it without my beautiful wife Yudi. Together, we fulfilled all the legal requirements that were mandated to become a U.S. citizen.”

The 33-year-old Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs), who settled in Houston, where he lives and trains, won a vacant interim 154-pound world title in 2013 by knocking out Alfredo Angulo and defended it by lopsided unanimous decision against former titleholder Austin Trout later that year.

Lara was later elevated to a full titleholder and has successfully defended the belt five times, most recently by fourth-round knockout of faded former titleholder Yuri Foreman on Jan. 13. He knows his success would not have been possible had he not come to America.

“Living in here in the States has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family.” Lara said. “With hard work, and the help of many good people around me, I’ve been able to provide for my loved ones. My goal is to continue my boxing career with my core team, and someday, God willing, become a boxing Hall of Famer.”

Statue of monstrous Castronoid cretin erected in Havana



Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a close friend of dead dictator Fidel Castro.

A very close friend.  So close, in fact, that Fidel gave him a very nice house in Havana, a house stolen from a Cuban family.

“Gabo” — as he was known — wrote beautiful prose and won the Nobel Prize for literature, but he was a hypocrite who lacked a moral center.

And he is the undisputed king of “magical realism,” a literary approach to reality that most Europeans and North Americans consider convincing proof of the fact that all Lateeeeen-ohs are quasi-medieval dolts who lack the ability to think rationally.

In many ways he can be compared to Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher who was a Nazi.

Heidegger is as widely respected in intellectual circles as Gabo.  Both are giants, perhaps even demi-gods to many in the self-anointed thinking class.

Their names tend to be uttered with the utmost reverence, in the same way some Catholics invoke the names of their patron saints.

Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger

Both of them are the subject of intense scholarly research, and invoked constantly.

Aaaaah, but there’s a catch, isn’t there?

Are those who revere moral monsters any less monstrous than the monsters they revere?

’nuff said…..

Havana now has a statue of Gabo.  Whoopee…. Yeah…. Exactly what the Cuban people need.

A monument to yet another monster.

May some dissident Cuban performance artist give this Latrine his due by using this tacky statue as a latrine.


From Pravda, U.K. (The Guardian)

A life-size bronze sculpture of the Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez was unveiled Thursday in Havana, an homage to the writer and to Cuba for its support of the peace accord with leftist FARC rebels.

The sculpture portrays the writer holding books and a rose, dressed in the traditional suit known as a liqui liqui that he wore to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

“We want to pay homage to Gabo who is so intimately linked to Havana, the Caribbean and Cuba,” Colombian ambassador to Cuba Gustavo Bell told AFP, using a nickname for the late author.

This “is a tribute, a show of gratitude from the Colombian people to the Cuban people for accompanying us in the peace process,” Bell said.

Havana hosted four years of peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC.

Garcia Marquez, who died in 2014, was a personal friend of deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro and lived in Havana for a period in the 1980s.

The statue stands 1.80 meters (5 feet and 9 inches) tall and is a “living sculpture” that shows Garcia Marquez descending a staircase.

The statue was created by Cuban sculptor Jose Villa Soberon, whose other works around the city include life-size renderings of the Beatle John Lennon and Mother Teresa.

The truly proper Gabo sculpture
The truly proper Gabo sculpture

The Mexican left campaigning in Los Angeles?



During my work days in Mexico, many of my Mexican friends would joke with me about “el 33” or Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution. It goes like this:

Article 33 of Mexico’s constitution establishes the right of the president to detain and deport “any foreigner” and prohibits foreigners from participating “in any way” in the political affairs of the country.

So my Mexican friends and business colleagues would jokingly hint at throwing “el 33” at me whenever I had something critical to say about the Mexican political class. It was an ongoing thing and lots of fun.

Over the last few days, Sr. Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador, known south of the border as AMLO, was campaigning in Los Angeles and criticizing President Trump. This is from Reuters:

Calling California “a refuge and blessing for immigrants,” Lopez Obrador declared “Long live California” as hundreds of supporters at Plaza Olvera cheered.

“When they want to build a wall to segregate populations, or when the word ‘foreigner’ is used to insult, denigrate and discriminate against our fellow human beings, it goes against humanity, it goes against intelligence and against history,” the veteran politician added.

His visit to Los Angeles came as thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Mexico to protest against Trump.

Three weeks into his administration, Trump has vowed to move ahead with construction of a wall on the border, repeatedly insisting that Mexico would pay for it, while also signaling a new push to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants out of the United States.

“If the Mexican government does not put before the United Nations in the coming days a complaint about the violation of human rights, then we will do it ourselves,” Lopez Obrador said.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Trump have been at loggerheads over the stance Trump first took against Mexico while campaigning for the U.S. presidency last year.

This is wrong in so many ways.

First, it is a slap at the U.S., not to President Trump. Where are the Democrats who keep screaming about Russia messing with our elections?

Second, where is the governor of California calling on AMLO to stop it and go home? More to the point, is California that far gone that no one objects to a foreigner criticizing a U.S. president on our soil?

Third, someone should remind AMLO that Mexico’s treatment of Central Americans and other illegal immigrants has already come under investigation.

It is outrageous to have a man running for president in Mexico flying to the U.S. and sticking himself in our politics.

President Trump should call on Sr. AMLO, and his supporters, to go home!

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

Read more:
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“Fake News?! Hostile, Hateful U.S. Media?!”..What’s Trump talking about during his press conference? Those fine folks always treated me like a ROCK STAR!”





“In his latest book The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro–my American warrior blood-brother Humberto Fontova once again performs the ultimate we the people duty of spotlighting cockroaches for a better America!” (Ted Nugent)



Miami lawmakers praise Trump’s new labor pick

By @PatriciaMazzei in the Miami Herald:

Miami lawmakers praise Trump’s new labor pick, a local

Even before President Donald Trump announced Alexander Acosta as his new secretary of labor pick, a Miami Republican lawmaker started singing Acosta’s praises.

NBC News reported Thursday — ahead of Trump’s White House press conference announcing his choice — that it would be Acosta, the dean of Florida International University’s law school and former U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. Acosta would be Trump’s first and only Hispanic Cabinet member.

The still-unconfirmed news prompted immediate support from U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

I am excited to learn of Alex Acosta’s nomination for Labor Secretary. He has an impressive record of achievement, having served on the National Labor Relations Board, as well as receiving presidential appointments to both U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida and Assistant Attorney General during his career. Alex has also been an exemplary Dean of one of the best law schools in the state, leading FIU to earn the highest bar passage rates in Florida for three years in a row. He is a man of great principle, integrity, and courage, and I am confident he will do an excellent job serving our nation.

Here’s the reaction from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

And from U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

Sen. Marco Rubio on the nomination of Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary

Press Release from the office of Senator Marco Rubio:

Rubio Applauds President Trump’s Nomination of Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary

FEB 16 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement today regarding President Donald Trump’s nomination of Alexander Acosta for secretary of labor:

“I know Alex Acosta well, and he is a phenomenal choice to lead the Department of Labor. Whether it was his distinguished service as U.S. attorney in Florida’s Southern District or as dean of Florida International University’s school of law, Alex has succeeded in all endeavors he has taken on, and managing the Department of Labor will be no different. I look forward to his confirmation hearing, where I’m confident he will impress my colleagues and secure the support necessary to be the next secretary of labor.”

Cuban-American Alexander Acosta nominated as Secretary of Labor

An excellent choice.

Via The Washington Examiner:


Trump taps dean Alexander Acosta, Florida law school dean, as new Labor nominee

By SEAN HIGGINS (@SEANGHIGGINS) President Trump named R. Alexander Acosta, dean of Florida International University Law, to be the next secretary of labor. He would replace fast-food businessman Andrew Puzder, who withdrew from consideration Wednesday afternoon.

“Acosta … has had a tremendous career,” Trump said in an afternoon press conference. “He has been a member of the National Labor Relations board and he has been through Senate confirmation three times.” Acosta did not attend the press conference, reflecting the whirlwind speed with which the administration turned to him.

Trump’s stressing that Acosta had previously been through Senate confirmation illustrated his frustration over the failure of Puzder’s nomination and the president’s desire to avoid the same fate with Acosta.

It was a theme echoed by his Senate allies. “Mr. Acosta’s nomination is off to a good start because he’s already been confirmed by the Senate three times. He has an impressive work and academic background. We will schedule a hearing promptly after his nomination papers arrive in the Senate, and I look forward to exploring his views on how American workers can best adjust to the rapidly changing workplace,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Acosta would bring a wealth of legal experience to the job. He was an assistant attorney general for civil rights during President George W. Bush’s administration and was a U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. He served on the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003. He also was a law clerk for Samuel Alito before Alito was named to the Supreme Court.

As a U.S. attorney, Acosta prosecuted several high-profile cases including those of notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff for fraud, terrorist Jose Padilla and members of the Cali drug cartel. He participated in a case against Swiss bank UBS that resulted in $780 billion in fines for helping its clients evade taxes. The case resulted in the first-ever incidence of a Swiss bank turning over the names of its clients.

Continue reading HERE.

There are few things more “America First” than fixing what Obama broke in Cuba

The current U.S. relationship with the unlawful dictatorship that seized power in Cuban fifty-eight years ago is an aberration, a break from the nature of our historical friendship with Cuba.

Spain and Cuba in the Independence of the United States via Amigospais-guaracabuya:

“Because of its geographic situation and its safe harbors, even before 1776, the island had legal and illegal commercial relations with the thirteen colonies. But from that year on it became the Spanish strategic center for operations on the continent against England. For that reason the Cuban merchant from Havana, Juan de Miralles, was the first Spanish representative to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Appointed by the governor of Cuba, don Diego José Navarro, Miralles developed very close relationships with some of the members of the Congress and with George Washington.”

Cuba militia fought for our independence in Florida an Louisiana, and and helped finance our War of Independence.

It is time for the U.S. to put the well-being of the Cuban people before financial interests, or the hope of some utopian daydream that supports a murderous tyrannical dictatorship.

By Ana Quintana in the Ripon Forum:

Continuing Unilateral Concessions Towards Cuba is not in the U.S. Interest

President Obama spent the last two years of his administration attempting to convince the American people that a new course for Cuba policy was in order. In spite ofQuintana_Ana-2-268x300 the Cuban government’s continued crackdowns against peaceful dissidents and hostility against the United States interests, he argued that it was time for America — not Cuba — to change its behavior. That is exactly what President Obama did. Via executive orders and without significant congressional support, his administration embarked on a new policy aimed at legitimizing the Castro regime.

From lobbying Congress to lift the embargo to increasing commercial opportunities for the Castro regime, the Obama Administration’s Cuba policy overwhelmingly benefited the Cuban government at the expense of the Cuban people. Arguably, it was designed that way from the beginning. Indeed, President Obama’s announcement on December 17, 2014, made no mention of tens of thousands of dissidents imprisoned, the political opponents murdered, or the catastrophic repression of the past half century.

Diplomacy is dependent on the right words, and the immediate results of Obama’s words were the clear impression of his capitulation. While Cuba received the diplomatic recognition, the promise to be removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, the promise for increased commercial opportunities, and the return of their three convicted spies, the U.S. was left empty-handed.

America got nothing in return for its decision to normalize relations with Cuba, and the human rights situation on the island has not improved.

Proponents of the Obama Cuba policy point to the increasing numbers of American visitors and his three-day trip to the island as markers of success. While tourists sipping mojitos and staged photo ops may make for good headlines, it makes for terrible policy. Despite the promises of change, the Cuban government has not loosened its grip on power. In 2016, nearly 10,000 politically motivated arrests occurred. Nearly 500 alone occurred during the 72 hours that Obama and his family spent on the island. A few of those arrested even had appointments to meet with the American President. Religious persecution also increased tenfold from 2014 to 2015, going from 220 cases to 2,300 particular violations occurring. In the meantime, the concessions for Havana kept churning out of Washington over the past two years.

A well-funded lobbying campaign of corporate interests has supported these efforts. The agriculture lobby has been particularly keen on seeing the embargo lifted so they can secure financing for their exports. What they fail to mention is Cuba’s long history of failing to repay its debts. Despite being close Cold War allies, Russia was forced to waive over $35 billion of Cuba’s debt. Mexico waived almost $500 million, and Cuba still owes the Paris Club $15 billion. This does not include the close to $8 billion Americans are owed as part of the 5,913 claims certified by the Department of Justice. Since the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act was approved in 2000, American businesses have been able to sell agricultural products to Cuba as long as they are paid for with cash. Any reasonable person can see the logic behind requiring cash upfront from a country that is unwilling to pay its debts.

When looking at the future of our Cuba policy, timing is everything, Cuban leadership is physically fragile. Nearly three months after the death of Fidel Castro, questions are increasing about the future of Cuba after 85-year old Raul Castro steps down in early 2018. A power struggle is occurring within the incoming leadership, and it is unknown as to who will take over.

The Cuban government has not improved its behavior towards the United States either.

President Donald Trump’s position on Cuba is quite clear. In November, he said “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the deal.” His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, also promised to “press Cuba to meet its pledge to become more democratic and consider placing conditions on trade or travel policies to motivate the release of political prisoners.”

Needless to say, the leverage is fully on the side of the Trump Administration. It must capitalize on the momentum and the Cuban government’s need for continued relations with the U.S. Cuba’s sole benefactor, Venezuela, can barely afford to feed its people, let alone continue pumping oil money onto the island. President Trump should start by reverting regulations that overstretched the law. Low-hanging fruit in this regard are regulations that allowed U.S. companies to override the law and go into business with the Cuban government. He should rescind the regulations allowing for licensing deals, financing, and banking transactions with state and military entities. There are specific criteria governing the nature of our relationship with Cuba, and we must comply with those statutory requirements. The executive orders and directives issued by former President Obama are inconsistent with U.S. law.

America got nothing in return for its decision to normalize relations with Cuba, and the human rights situation on the island has not improved. The Cuban government has not improved its behavior towards the United States either. We must pursue a Cuba policy that enables and fosters a democratic transition and ends the rule of the Castro regime. There are few things more “America First” than fixing what Obama broke in Cuba.

Specializing in Latin American issues, Ana Quintana is a policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy.