House lawmakers who wanted to assess aviation security were blocked from visiting Cuba

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The Hill

Several House lawmakers claim they were blocked by the Cuban government from traveling to the country, where they planned to assess aviation security and passenger screening at airports.

The delegation, led by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), planned to visit the island this weekend to evaluate the potential national security risks associated with resuming commercial air service to Cuba.

The Obama administration earlier this year announced an agreement to re-establish scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba as part of an effort to normalize relations with the former Cold War enemy. Six commercial U.S. airlines will begin flying to Cuba this fall, the Department of Transportation announced this month.

Travel to Cuba is permitted under limited circumstances, including for official U.S. government business.

But members of the Homeland Security Committee said their visas were not approved for their planned trip.
Adding fuel to the fire is an announcement on Friday that National Basketball Association hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal will serve as a U.S. Department of State Sports Envoy to Cuba from June 25 to 28.

“At a time when the Obama Administration is rolling out the red carpet for Havana, the Cuban government refuses to be open and transparent with the peoples’ Representatives,” McCaul said in a statement on Friday. “Sadly, it appears to be easier for Cubans to come to the United States than for Members of the House Homeland Security Committee to get to Cuba.”

Other lawmakers who were planning to visit Cuba include Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

“The Administration is eager to have as many people as possible visit Cuba – except for those who are attempting to examine Cuban security infrastructure,” said Katko, chairman of the transportation security subcommittee. “We still don’t know if Cuba has the adequate body scanners and explosive detection systems in place, whether it has the technology to screen for fraudulent passports or ID, whether or how aviation workers are screened, and if Federal Air Marshals will be allowed to fly missions to Cuba on commercial flights.”

The Homeland Security Committee held a hearing last month with Department of Homeland Security officials on those concerns, but GOP committee leaders said they still had unanswered questions.

Another hearing on Cuba air travel was scheduled for earlier this week, but it was postponed, and lawmakers received a closed-door briefing from officials.

Venezuela: Mass Famine Is Imminent as Neighbors, Washington Stand By

nohaycomida

PanAmPost

It’s Not about the Price of Oil: 21st Century Socialism Destroyed Venezuela’s Economy and Distribution Networks, Causing an Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis

A humanitarian crisis, the likes of which have never been seen in the Western Hemisphere, is brewing in Venezuela and it will be inevitable in a few weeks.

Much has been written recently about the crisis in Venezuela. During the last week, the world’s leading media outlets have amply reported the shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies in the country. Unfortunately, despite some great reporting by various journalists, the true extent and the reasons for the country’s desperate situation have not yet been clearly understood by the media and the international community.

The majority of those reporting on Venezuela still believe the current crisis has been caused by the collapse in the oil price. If that were true, other countries dependent on their oil export revenues, such as Nigeria, should be facing a similar situation. That is not the case. Nigeria is suffering a severe economic downturn, but it is far from suffering the extreme shortages of food and medicine that Venezuelans now face.

Apparently the world has forgotten that food lines first appeared in Venezuela in early 2014, when the price of oil was still over USD $110 per barrel. Venezuela first suffered an extreme shortage of toilet paper in 2013, nearly two years before the collapse of the oil price

Also, even now, with oil below USD $50/barrel, Venezuela has an export income larger than that of Peru, a country with identical population and where there are zero reported shortages of any kind.

The estimate for Venezuela’s export income this year would place it at an amount almost equal to that of Colombia, a country with nearly double the population of Venezuela. Thus, it is incontestable that the decline of oil income is not the cause of the tragic situation in which Venezuelans find themselves.

Venezuela No Longer Has a Functioning Economy

The fact is that Venezuela, while still pumping oil, no longer has a functioning economy. Seventeen years of nationalizations and confiscation of private industries, farms, cattle ranches, distribution companies, sugar mills, and even shopping malls have completely destroyed not only the local production, but the distribution networks necessary for the normal functioning of the economy.

Ninety percent of confiscated and nationalized companies and farms no longer produce anything. SIVENSA, a private steel company formerly with over USD $1 billion in sales, mostly for export, now has negligible production. A country that during the 1980s boasted about having Latin America’s highest levels of production of cement, which it exported to the USA, now has a shortage of cement, even with insignificant construction levels. For most of the 20th century, Venezuela was among the world’s largest coffee producers. Now, the coffee that Venezuelans drink, if they can find any, comes from Nicaragua.

In addition, a draconian system of price controls that forces most local businesses to sell their wares at a loss has halted any attempts by local entrepreneurs to keep their businesses alive. Thousands of businesses have been closing every week.

While the government intentionally tried to substitute private operators with government companies, which were almost always run by corrupt army officers who know nothing of the industries they were entering, shortages of every kind, not just of food and medicine, began to occur. Currently, there are no tires, no car batteries, no auto parts to be found, except through good connections with the military or in the black market.

The distribution fleets of Venezuela’s largest companies have been depleted to the point of no longer being worthy of the word “fleet.”

In 2004, Hugo Chávez dismantled the old 10,000 strong Caracas Metropolitan Police and other police forces in the country. Since then, crime has skyrocketed, but now it has reached a level unthinkable in civilized societies.

At the Caracas Country Club, the country’s most expensive, and formerly most exclusive neighborhood, home to dozens of ambassadorial residences, there are now at least three kidnappings per week. Entire swaths of Venezuela’s largest cities, particularly in poor neighborhoods, are now ruled by gangs under the control of no authority.

There’s No Capital in the Country with the World’s Highest Inflation Levels

Inflation has reached a level close to 1,000%. Prices fluctuate on an hourly basis. In a country that had a GDP of half a trillion US dollars in 2012, the total amount of lending that the entire Venezuelan banking system can offer, due to devaluations and bank regulations, now amounts to merely US$ 170 million. It would now take a pool of banks to finance the construction of a 20 unit apartment building

As a result, credit has become non-existent and companies without access to capital have closed in ever larger numbers. These are businesses that were essential suppliers of key products, such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices.

This week, after days of widespread looting around the country by desperate citizens going hungry, trucks have been assaulted by organized mobs waiting at the edge of roads for any sign of a delivery carrying anything edible. This has further disturbed the already precarious distribution system for basic goods as truckers prefer not to work rather than risk losing the main asset for their livelihood.

All this will only get worse unless there is an immediate change of government in Caracas. Venezuela desperately needs the immediate dismantling of all regulations devised by the communist clique ruling the country and their inept Cuban advisers.

Maduro’s Incompetent Regime Has to End

Even if the Maduro government were to try a 180 degree change and embrace capitalism overnight, the regime lacks the knowhow to improve and rebuild the country’s supply chain, and provide the needed security to achieve it.

The Maduro government, full of corrupt army officers, drug dealers, and communist apparatchiks, simply cannot even begin to tackle the problem they created

At the PanAm Post we warned about the consequences of Maduro’s actions nearly three years ago

Now, what we can see is much worse than even we imagined.

The leaders of all countries in the hemisphere, except for Castro’s Cuba, are meeting now in Washington DC. These leaders will be remembered as those responsible for the first mass famine in the Americas, and the world will not forgive them.

President Obama’s Irrational Cuba Policy

winnerloser

PanAmPost, by José Azel

Effective US Policy Must Involve Dismantling Cuba’s Totalitarism

The argument has been repeated ad nauseam: The 55-year-old policy of sanctioning Cuba failed to change the nature of the Cuban regime and thus a new approach was needed. In his December 17, 2014 speech announcing the new Cuba policy, President Obama reiterated variations of the “policy failure” theme eight times.

Supporters of the President’s engagement approach repeat the failure argument at every opportunity. In philosophy and logic this is called an “argument from repetition” that seeks to establish proof by repeated assertions.

The core statement is, of course, empirically true that economic sanctions have failed to change the nature of Cuba’s totalitarian regime. But then the “failure” argument turns “eristic” or anti-logic; it aims to dispute another argument rather than seeking truth.

Plato used the term eristic to mean seeking victory in argument, without concern for the truth, and Schopenhauer asserted that eristic arguments possess no objective truth, only the appearance of truth. To argue eristically is to argue for rhetorical victory without being concerned with the truth. In philosophy, anti-logic or eristic argumentation is used to silence an opponent by making his position seem contradictory.

If truth in the Cuba policy debate is to be found, it must be free from the anti-logical argumentation of “old policy failure” that the President and his supporters repeatedly invoke.

Yes, as the President claims, economic sanctions have failed to change the nature of the Cuban polity and Cuba’s totalitarian regime is still in place. By the President’s logic, an effective policy would have to be one that succeeds in dismantling Cuba’s totalitarianism. In the President’s formulation, the yardstick for a successful policy is whether the Castro regime survives it or not.

It follows then, that he expects his new Cuba policy to work. That is, diplomatic engagement, ending economic sanctions and making concessions are all designed to bring down the Castro regime. This logic is implicit in the statements regarding the failure of the old policy and the expected success of the new one.

In the realm of logic, the President cannot avoid claiming that his new policy aims to change the nature of the Cuban regime, given that he has discarded the old policy on the basis that it failed to do just that. If the goal is not to change the totalitarian nature of the regime, then it is necessarily a policy that favors the Cuban regime in some dimension.

Also, unless the President and his supporters believe that this stratagem has escaped the attention of the Castro regime, we can assume that General Castro recognizes the new policy as one that aspires to end his regime.

This begs a question that exposes the fallacy of the President’s logic: Why would the Castro regime go along with a new policy designed to bring about its demise?

The Castro clan is not suicidal. They will only go along with changes that they can manage to their benefit and no more. Marketplace reforms will be firmly restricted so as to not lose control. This is the unequivocal message of the VII Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in April 2016, in which the Cuban leadership virulently denounced the Obama approach.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was explicit:

“President Obama’s recent trip to Cuba was at least in part “a deep attack on our ideas, our history, our culture and our symbols.”

Additionally, General Raul Castro referred to the United States as “the enemy,” claiming, “Only US methods have changed, not its goals…”

And, to certify that nothing in Cuba’s polity has changed or will change, Fidel Castro made a Greek tragedy-like Deus ex Machina appearance in the last day of the Congress endorsing his brother’s governance.

The anti-logic misfortune of the misguided new U.S.-Cuba policy is not just that it will not succeed in bringing about an end to the dictatorial regime. The tragedy is that by siding with oppression and not with liberty, the policy has dis-articulated the hopes of freedom for a new generation of Cubans.

Is anyone surprised?: Baltimore Tourist Says Racism Exists in Cuba

RACISM1

AFRO

Myra Queen, who knows what discrimination looks like having grown up in a segregated section of Baltimore during the 1950s and ‘60s, said she saw subtle patterns of racism play out during a recent trip to Cuba.

Queen, 66, said she noticed during her weeklong trip that most of the staff waiting on her in restaurants were White. So were the people behind the counter at her hotel, despite the island’s large Black population.

Jeffrey Smith of California who was also on the trip, observed that Afro Cubans are almost invisible on the island, saying they are seen, but not necessarily heard.

“It just harkens back to the ‘60s when we were cooking and cleaning in hotels and not given management positions,” Smith, 55, said.

Queen and Smith were part of a 23-member group that was in Cuba from June 4-11, thanks to a cultural exchange through Morgan State University. DeWayne Wickham, founding dean of the university’s School of Global Journalism and Communication, takes Black journalists, students and professionals to the island twice a year to learn about Afro Cubans and their connection to Black Americans.

Wickham, formerly a USA Today syndicated columnist, has arranged the trips through his Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies since 2000. He said the mainstream media wasn’t covering Afro Cubans and their issues to his satisfaction, so he took matters into his own hands.

“It’s important to take Black journalists to Cuba because the stories we find are the stories that too often seem to be ignored [and] overlooked by White journalists when they get there,” Wickham said. “It’s not mean spirited, it’s that their life experiences don’t drive them toward those stories.”

Several members of the delegation talked about racism on the island with Esteban Morales Domínguez, a leading Afro-Cuban intellectual and Nancy Morejón, an Afro-Cuban poet, essayist and critic.

Domínguez, author of “Race in Cuba: Essays of the Revolution and Racial Equality,” called racism a cultural problem that many people deny exists.

He said he is trying to push the Cuban government to compile and release a list of employees in the island’s lucrative tourism industry by race and by job. Domínguez compiled a 2008 report for the Cuban government that showed between 62 percent and 72 percent of the island’s 11 million population was Black. But his report also revealed that the overwhelming majority of scientists, civic and public leaders and professors at the University of Havana were White.

Tourism is an important cash cow for Cuba. A record-setting 3.5 million tourists visited the island in 2015, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. Growth from American visitors to the once-forbidden island is expected to keep growing as well. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved regularly scheduled flights for six U.S. airlines to several Cuban cities — routes to Havana will be announced later on this summer. The service, expected to begin this fall, follows policy changes President Barack Obama announced at the end of 2014 that ease travel and trade restrictions to the island.

Travel and tourism accounted for 494,500 jobs on the island or nearly 10 percent of total employment in 2014, a report from the World Travel and Tourism Council stated. However, Domínguez contends that Blacks in the tourism industry are relegated to jobs in the kitchen and in housekeeping—away from tourists. Management positions and other important jobs within that industry usually go to Whites, he said.

“We must erase this difficulty inside the population,” Domínguez said. “Blacks and Whites must have the same opportunity.”

Cuban officials did not respond to AFRO requests for comment.

Racial issues are very delicate subjects on the island, and the effects of centuries of colonialism and slavery still remain, Morejón said. However, Morejón takes exception to outsiders criticizing Cuba.

She singled out Cornel West, who with 59 other Black American intellectuals signed a statement in 2010 that was critical of the communist Cuban government. The group denounced what they said was the Cuban government’s increased civil and human rights violations against Black activists who speak out against racism.

Morejón dubbed West a “victim of a great campaign against the Cuban government.”

“Cuba is not a paradise at all,” Morejón added. “But Cuba is not hell.

Not as good as they thought: FedEx Downsizes Cuba Ambitions in Amended Flight Request

master_cl2249

The Wall Street Journal

FedEx Corp. won’t be flying a big cargo plane into Havana anytime soon.

The express delivery giant dropped its bid to operate to Cuba’s capital and is now requesting U.S. regulatory clearance to fly five times a week between Miami and the smaller resort town of Veradero in the province of Matanzas.

In a downsizing of its near-term ambitions, the company also said it would use a Cessna 208 aircraft, which is far smaller than the Boeing 757 it initially proposed for the Miami-Havana route.

Using Varadero as the base for FedEx’s initial operations “would be the more optimal use of its resources under current Cuba marketplace conditions,” it added in the amended application.

A company spokeswoman declined Friday to elaborate on those market conditions or the reason behind the changes. The company reiterated its “strong interest’’ in providing all-cargo transportation service between the countries.

The decision comes amid heated competition for U.S. passenger flight routes to Havana. The Transportation Department last week awarded six U.S. airlines rights to secondary Cuban airports but said it would wait until the summer to apportion flights to the capital after receiving three times more requests than the 20 available daily slots.

FedEx said Friday it plans to provide trucking service from Varadero to Havana, the special development zone in Mariel and Santiago de Cuba. Veradero’s Juan Gualberto Gomez International Airport is roughly 70 miles east of Havana.

The company requested a start date of Jan. 15, 2017 in Thursday’s amended application, citing “the complexities of setting up operations in Cuba with ground and customs clearance capabilities.”

That is later than U.S. passenger airlines plan to arrive on the island nation. American Airlines Group Inc., the largest U.S. airline by traffic, said this week its first Cuban-bound flights will depart Sept. 7 to Cienfuegos and Holguin.

FedEx noted in the amended application that it remains the only all-cargo applicant for U.S.-Cuba scheduled air services. The shift in planned operations, however, suggests tourism, not trade, will take off sooner as the U.S. loosens decades-long travel restrictions to Cuba.

FedEx delivery rival United Parcel Service Inc. confirmed Friday it hasn’t filed an application yet.

“UPS continues to assess the opportunity to provide services to and from Cuba. As trade lanes open and demand for delivery services increases, UPS will take appropriate action to meet the needs of our global customers,” it added in a statement.

Cuba’s Healthcare System Is A Shambles, Why Are We Partnering With Them?

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The Daily Caller, by Humberto Fontova

Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services signed a healthcare cooperation deal with Castro-regime because: “Cuba has made significant contributions to health and science.”

Or so HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said on Monday in a statement. “This new collaboration is a historic opportunity for two nations to build on each other’s knowledge and experience, and benefit biomedical research and public health at large,” she added.

Tell that to Tuvalu, President Obama and Secretary Mathews-Burwell. Tuvalu is a group of Pacific islands (big atolls, actually) north of Fiji and east of New Guinea formerly belonging to Britain, when they were known as the “Ellice Islands.” Tuvalu is not known as a particularly advanced place scientifically-speaking — and yet its natives recently gasped while witnessing the medical practices of a place even more primitive in its medical practices: Cuba.

“Cuba’s contribution to medical education in the region has been welcomed by many Pacific countries,” according to a recent story from Radio Australia (the Aussie version of NPR, hence pinko in outlook). “But some are finding that doctors who’ve studied in Cuba need extra training when they return home.”

Back in 2008, Tuvalu fell for Castro-regime/United Nations/Mainstream Media propaganda mantra about Cuba’s free and fabulous healthcare and eagerly sent 22 promising Tuvaluan students to medical school in Cuba.

But upon their return with those medical degrees—whoops! Radio Australia explains the problem:

“The (Tuvaluan) government is concerned about their level of practical training … So the Education Department is planning to send the returning (from Cuba) Tuvalu doctors to Kiribati (a nearby primitive island) for a special internship, as the department’s pre-service training officer Atabi Ewekia explains.”

In brief, the incompetence of Cuba-trained doctors is such that they will be essentially “de-programmed” in a medical school where two generations ago medicine was probably the province of witch-doctors with bones through their noses.

Now thanks to Obama, the U.S. taxpayer will pay for the Cuban trainers of those Cuban doctors who so desperately needed de-programming to share their “significant contributions to health and science” with U.S. health professionals and researchers.

Two generations ago, by the way, Cuban doctors were among the most respected on earth — and not by political hacks, pompous frauds and communist agents (i.e. mainstream media) as are Cuban doctors today.

In 1958 Cuba had the 13th lowest infant-mortality on earth –– ahead of France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Castro’s Cuba, on the other hand, is ravaged by diseases long-eradicated in Cuba (Dengue, Cholera) and of her “doctors” fortunate enough to escape the overwhelmingly majority flunk the exam given in the U.S. for licensing as doctor’s assistants.

The U.S. media’s veritable “go-to-person” on Cuban healthcare (besides Michael Moore) is Gail Reed. The Huffington Post proudly carries Reed as a contributor and recently quoted her on the very issue at hand:

“This (the HHS-Cuba deal) is a win-win for Americans and Cubans!” gushes Reed. “We’re now one step closer to a safer, healthier future for people in both countries.” The Huffpo describes Gail Reed as: “Founder of Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba, a U.S. non-profit promoting cooperation among the U.S., Cuban and global health communities, where she is currently Research Director.”

CNN, another media fan of Gail Reed’s “impartial expertise,” calls her “a Medical Expert.”

Over at MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell, who often interviews Reed, describes her as: “international director of the nonprofit group Medical Education Cooperation.”

All true. But for the past 34 years Havana resident Gail Reed has also been married to an officer of Cuba’s KGB-founded-funded and mentored Directorio General de Intelligencia named Julian Torres Rizo. The partnership of this future Huffington Post, CNN, NBC and Business Week correspondent with Castro’s secret police began in 1969 when as a member of the (DGI-created) Venceremos Brigades, Reed began visiting Cuba alongside Bill Ayers’ concubine Bernadine Dohrn.

 

Flights To Cuba Now Departing (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper)

byotp

ValueWalk

Cuba Is Still BYOTP

Marketplace Radio takes a look at the challenge of filming movies and television shows in Cuba, focusing specifically on Showtime’s “House of Lies” starring Don Cheadle. The episode is titled “No es facil” – “It’s not easy.” The title appears to be a description of doing business in Cuba, and also of filming a show about doing business in Cuba. As Marketplace’s Adrienne Hill and show creator Matthew Carnahan explain:

Camera equipment was shipped from Germany because it couldn’t be sent directly from the U.S. Even basic supplies – “there’s not hammers and toilet paper, and things that people need.”

Journalists have stopped reporting on the privations of socialism in Cuba. But Hugo Chavez was a great admirer of Fidel Castro and the society he built, and he wanted to give Venezuelans the same thing. And of course he did:

Venezuela’s product shortages have become so severe that some hotels in that country are asking guests to bring their own toilet paper and soap, a local tourism industry spokesman said on Wednesday….

Rest well, Comandantes Castro and Chavez, while your people dream of toilet paper. And hammers. And soap.

Cop killers hiding in Cuba have been reassured they will not be sent back to the U.S.

CharlieHill

Associated Press

Two American fugitives who fled to Cuba after they were accused of killing police officers said Friday that Cuban officials have assured them that detente with the United States will not lead to their extradition.

The United States and Cuba held a second round of law-enforcement talks last month dedicated partly to resolving the fate of scores of fugitives after more than a half century with almost no cooperation. The talks are part of a series of U.S.-Cuba negotiations aimed at normalizing relations after the two countries declared an official end to Cold War hostilities on Dec. 17, 2014.
The discussions have raised U.S. law enforcement hopes that fugitives living in Cuba for decades will return to the United States to face trial or serve prison under plea deals.

Charles Hill, a black militant wanted in the 1971 slaying of a New Mexico state policeman, told The Associated Press that Cuban government contacts had recently reassured him he was at no risk of extradition. Nehanda Abiodun, another black militant wanted in a 1981 armored car robbery that left two police offers and a security guard dead, told the AP she had recently received a similar promise.

Cuba is home to dozens of people wanted in the United States on charges ranging from Medicare fraud to killings committed in the name of black and Puerto Rican revolution movements in the 1970s and ’80s. Cuba has asked the United States to return a smaller number of people, including Luis Posada Carriles, the alleged mastermind of a series of terror attacks against Cuba, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all 73 people on board.
Cuba’s head of U.S. affairs told the AP shortly after the declaration of detente that Cuba was entitled to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, a sign that people the country once saw as fellow revolutionary fighters will remain safe. The most prominent is Assata Shakur, who is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists. She broke out of a prison where she was serving a conviction for murdering a New Jersey state trooper. She was regularly spotted in Havana after fleeing to Cuba but has not been seen here in public in recent years.

Hill said he had contacted his Cuban government handlers about three weeks ago after seeing reports that progress was being made in negotiations that could lead to his extradition.

“My people assured me that no, that’s not going to take place,” Hill said. “I said what’s the status and they said there’s no problem.

“The future is very difficult,” he said. “I don’t know, but I think the Cuban government is going to maintain their position. I feel very tranquil.”

Abiodun said Cuban agents recently told her she’s still safe on the island.

“I feel good,” she said. “I have been assured that my safety is secure.
“I am very, very thankful for their generosity, not only for me but for other comrades that have unfortunately had to leave the United States because of political oppression.”

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said the thaw of U.S. relations with Cuba has increased his hope that Cuba will facilitate the transfer home of Americans accused of violent crimes, including Hill.

He called fleeing the country a cowardly act on Hill’s part and said that “if any country can afford him a fair trial, it is the United States.”

Kassetas said he would expect Hill to face federal charges in connection with a 1971 hijacking of a plane that brought him to Cuba, along with murder charges at the state level. Hill denies killing State Police Officer Robert Rosenbloom during a traffic stop.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said Thursday that he wants to “leverage the re-opening of relations with Cuba to finally bring Charlie Hill to justice.”

The Democratic senator for New Mexico traveled to Cuba in March with President Barack Obama and said he met with Cuban officials to discuss the possibility of returning Hill to the United States. He said the case was brought up during two past dialogues on law enforcement issues.

“I have heard reports that Charlie Hill wants to return to the United States,” Udall said in an email. “And I would encourage him and his attorney to work with law enforcement and the United States government to facilitate the transfer.”

Hill’s lawyer, Jason Flores-Williams, said Hill was confident about his client’s ability to stay in Cuba but the new era of U.S.-Cuba normalization had created some uncertainty.

“With the normalization of relations we have concerns that the U.S. may be, as they have in the past in Latin America, using monetary leverage to try to get in so that they can appease the law-and-order forces in America currently via the extradition of Mr. Hill,” he said.

A spokesman for the FBI in Albuquerque declined to comment on Hill and prospects for his return.

Venezuela crisis evokes memories of Cuba’s ‘Special Period’

VENEZUELA-MADURO

 

BBC News

The crisis in Venezuela shows little sign of easing up.

Inflation is among the highest in the world, there are long queues for basic goods and the atmosphere on the streets is becoming increasingly agitated.

Meanwhile politicians on both sides are so hostile to each other, a political solution remains remote.

For years, the opposition in Venezuela has claimed the country was “becoming another Cuba” but such claims were rarely given much credence, or dismissed as hyperbole.

But the BBC’s Will Grant, who has lived in both countries, says there are growing parallels to a specific point in Cuba’s past.

Suffering and austerity

Etched into Cuba’s collective memory is its infamous Special Period.
A reference to the years just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is a time forever synonymous with suffering, austerity and hunger on the communist island.

Without its wealthier benefactors in Eastern Europe, Cuba struggled to provide enough food for its people.

The stories from those days are legion. People remember selling family heirlooms to buy food and even stray cats ending up in the cooking pot.

Whether the tales are apocryphal or not, Cuba was certainly on its knees economically, and largely remained that way until a leftist former soldier took power in Venezuela.

Once Hugo Chavez became the president of Venezuela, which has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, things quickly started to look up for Cuba.

Mr Chavez aligned closely with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and began to fill the gap that the Soviets had left behind.

Troubled ally
These days, though, Venezuela is the more troubled of the two socialist allies.

What’s gone wrong in Venezuela?

Having lived in Venezuela at the height of Mr Chavez’s power, when oil was worth more than $130 a barrel, and having last visited Caracas in April 2013 when Nicolas Maduro was elected president, it was quite a shock to see for myself how quickly things have deteriorated.

While the place was always chaotic, run by a sort of live-television ad-hoc form of policy making, I have never seen it quite like this.

We encountered the first queue, snaking back for over a block, almost as soon as we emerged into the west of the capital from the airport.

It did not take long to see lots more.

As in Cuba, the government subsidises and controls the prices of certain basic goods.

Now, with inflation spiralling, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans spend their days waiting outside stores for bread, flour, baby milk, cooking oil, nappies and toilet paper.

Worse still, many join those queues based on rumour alone, in the forlorn hope of finding those products on the shelves only to be turned away empty handed after hours in the blistering sun.

Blessing in disguise

Needless to say, in such circumstances, tempers can easily fray.

Continue reading Venezuela crisis evokes memories of Cuba’s ‘Special Period’