Tag Archives: Obama

Obama final gift to Castro: Stop slave doctors from seeking political asylum in the US

On Thursday January 12, less than two weeks after thousands of Cuban soldiers marched in front of Cuban dictator Raúl Castro chanting: “Obama! Obama! With what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and make you a hat out of bullets to the head,” Obama handed Raúl his final gift just eight days before his presidential term ends. There is no doubt that Obama’s love affair with the Cuban dictator is only one way and unconditional.

At the same time that he signed an agreement with the Cuban regime to end the “wet foot dry foot” policy, Obama also eliminated the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed slave doctors forced by the Cuban regime to serve in foreign lands seek political asylum in the United States.

For decades, the Castro brothers have sent thousands of doctors to serve in remote areas of Venezuela, Brazil and other countries, in exchange for hard currency. Those governments pay the slave traders in Havana directly and the Cuban dictatorship pay the slave doctors only a small portion of what they get and pocket the rest.

Thousands of slave Cuban doctors have fled the countries where they were sent and come to the US. They will not be able to do that anymore after Obama’s decision yesterday.

It is ironic that the US first Afro-American president is helping  Cuba’s slave traders to continue their shameful exploitation of Cuban professionals.

Lets hope that the upcoming administration will reverse Obama’s final gift to Raúl Castro.

Official Statement from the Obama Administration

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

Cabinet Room

12:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports. Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind. All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

Continue reading Official Statement from the Obama Administration

After everything he has done for them: Cuban troops chant: We’ll make Obama ‘a hat out of bullets to the head’

The Miami Herald

In a particularly absurd display of military might and tropical folklore, Raúl Castro presided over a military parade in Havana on Monday to honor his dead brother and mark the 58th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

But instead of railing against the Republican winner of the U.S. presidential election, who has already taunted and threatened the Cuban government with his infamous tweets, the theme was anti-Obama.

Apparently everybody loves a winner, and Raúl Castro is no exception. He’s ready to ditch President Barack Obama, who opened up to Cuba like no other U.S. president before him.

The parting is ugly.

Listen to the war chant the marching troops were shouting in the parade:

“Commander-in-Chief, command us. Command over this land. We are going to make war if imperialism comes. Obama! Obama! With what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and make you a hat out of bullets to the head.”

Nothing like a little santería jargon — una limpieza, a cleansing! — to go with the fatigues, rifles and a threat to do the U.S. president harm.

Even by Cuba’s Kafkian standards, threatening to shoot an American president in the head is way out there. Too reprehensible for words. But the ungrateful display is even more remarkable because Obama has been nothing but a friend to Cuba, unilaterally lifting so many trade and travel restrictions that it worked to his political detriment at home.

Obama’s grave crime against Castro: The American president is more popular in Cuba than Raúl — and his visit last March awakened great hope and expectations in the Cuban people, who welcomed Obama with joy and displays of solidarity with the United States. Cubans heard Obama’s message that there could be a better Cuba if they believed in it, worked for it, embraced change and America’s peace offering.

Continue reading After everything he has done for them: Cuban troops chant: We’ll make Obama ‘a hat out of bullets to the head’

Donald Trump crackdown looms for Cuba as repression continues after Obama outreach

The Washington Times
President Obama’s historic move to normalize relations with Cuba hasn’t slowed repression by the Castro regime, and the incoming Trump administration is likely to take a tougher stand on restricting tourism, recovering stolen U.S. assets and demanding human rights reforms by Havana, analysts say.
In the two years since Mr. Obama announced a thaw in the United States’ half-century policy of isolating the island nation, the administration has paved the way for increased engagement, approving such measures as daily commercial flights, direct mail service, cruise ship ports of call and the reopenings of long-shuttered embassies in Washington and Havana.
But Mr. Obama’s policy has not been fully embraced on Capitol Hill and is vulnerable to reversal under the Trump administration, though the president’s aides say his detente is already bearing fruit in Cuba and beyond.
“We’re seeing real progress that is making life better for Cubans right now,” said White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. “Sustaining this policy will allow for further opening, further travel, further U.S. business opportunities.”
But critics say the U.S. money now flowing to Cuba is being pocketed directly by the military and the Cuban intelligence services, not benefiting Cuban entrepreneurs. They also say the government of President Raul Castro has become more repressive since the formal resumption of diplomatic ties with Washington.
“This year, they’ve had over 10,000 politically motivated arrests,” said Ana Quintana, an analyst on Latin America at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “During President Obama’s visit [in March], there were 498 people arrested in those three days.”
Judging by the standards Mr. Obama laid out in December 2014, she said, “the policy has been a failure.”
“It was originally intended to help the Cuban people by providing greater freedoms,” Ms. Quintana said. “It’s been diluted, because they found that they’re not going to get the concessions from the Cuban government that they expected. The vast majority of people who have benefited from this have been the Cuban military and the Cuban government.”
President-elect Donald Trump is likely to take a less rosy view than Mr. Obama of the U.S. engagement with Cuba, say those familiar with his team’s thinking. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for “turning a blind eye” to Cuba’s human rights violations and denounced Mr. Obama’s initial deal with Havana as a “very weak agreement.” Several anti-Castro Cuban-American conservatives are part of Mr. Trump’s transition team.

Continue reading Donald Trump crackdown looms for Cuba as repression continues after Obama outreach

Trump vows to end U.S.-Cuba ‘deal’ unless Havana makes better one

trump-bay-of-pigs-1026

Reuters

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said in a tweet on Monday he would end the United States’ “deal” with Cuba unless a better one was made, reflecting his campaign pledge to reverse President Barack Obama’s moves to open relations with the Cold War adversary.

“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 deal,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Trump’s tweeted as Cubans prepare to commemorate Fidel Castro, the communist guerrilla leader who led a revolution in 1959 and ruled the Caribbean island for half a century. Castro died on Friday.

On Saturday, Trump, a Republican, said in a statement that his administration would “do all it can” once he takes office on Jan. 20 to boost freedom and prosperity for Cubans after Castro’s death.

The statement sidestepped whether Trump would follow through on a threat made late in his White House campaign to reverse Obama’s diplomatic thaw with the island nation, leading some to view it as a softening from his campaign rhetoric toward the country.

Castro’s death has led some Cubans to worry that Trump will shut down the U.S.-Cuban trade and travel ties that have begun to emerge in the past two years since Obama’s historic declaration.

Cuba has always fiercely resisted what it sees as U.S. attempts to change its internal political system but the government has stayed mostly quiet on Trump, waiting to see whether the president-elect converts his harsh rhetoric into a real policy change.

List Shows Obama Administration Got Gifts From Iran and Cuba

winnerloser

The Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration’s annual gift haul in 2015 included trinkets from friendly allies — as well as two new “frenemies”: Iran and Cuba.

The State Department published its disclosure of gifts to U.S. officials from foreign government sources in the Federal Register on Wednesday, and the list for the first time included offerings from Havana and Tehran. The year 2015 is the latest accounting available.

That’s the year when the U.S. removed Cuba as a state sponsor of terror before the two countries restored diplomatic relations. Iran remains on the terror sponsor list, but ties between the two countries warmed somewhat following negotiations and implementation of an international nuclear deal.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated on the nuclear agreement with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, received a book from Mr. Zarif valued at $400, according to the annual accounting. The disclosure said the volume was retained by the government for official display. Former Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, a lead negotiator in the nuclear talks, also received gifts from Iranian counterparts.

Rules allow U.S. officials to accept gifts valued at more than $375 only if refusing them would cause embarrassment to the offering government or to the U.S. Such gifts must be reported and transferred to the government, under U.S. rules. Gifts from foreign governments to U.S. officials less than $375 in value don’t have to be reported or transferred. Gifts greater than $20 in value are not allowed from any source other than foreign governments.

In 2015, Mr. Obama received an assortment of gifts from his Cuban counterpart, President Raul Castro, including cigars, Cuban music, a Guyabera shirt, four bottles of spirits, a humidor and some perfume.

As part of the warming relations with Cuba, Mr. Obama met with Mr. Castro in Panama in 2015 and made a historic trip to Cuba in March 2016.

Among the inventory of artwork, linens and books were a bronze sculpture to Mr. Obama from Saudi Arabian King Salman, valued at more than $500,000; a basket of chocolates to First Lady Michelle Obama from Moroccan officials valued at more than $800; and a set of bone china cups presented to the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency — from an undisclosed foreign donor.

Mr. Kerry received a gift from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov when he went to Sochi in 2015, though it wasn’t listed in the federal register because it was valued at less than $375.

Mr. Lavrov presented Mr. Kerry with a Victory Day shirt and two gift bags of potatoes and tomatoes. Russia had celebrated the 70th anniversary of Victory over Europe day the week before and the U.S. and several of its allies didn’t send high level delegations in a what was seen at the time as a snub. The potatoes echoed a gift of Idaho potatoes Mr. Kerry had previously given Mr. Lavrov.

Obama’s pick as ambassador to Cuba has ‘0% chance’ of approval, union says

delaurentis

The Guardian

While Havana welcomed the move, Republican senators pledged to block any ambassador nomination, citing lack of progress in democracy and human rights
Barack Obama has a “0%” chance of getting his nomination for ambassador to Cuba approved by Congress, according to the union representing US diplomats.

The president this week announced Jeffrey DeLaurentis as his choice to become the first American ambassador to Cuba in more than half a century, aiming to put the seal on his detente with the communist island nation.

But while Havana welcomed the move, Republican senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have pledged to block any ambassador nomination, citing a lack of progress in democracy and human rights.

Asked to rate the chances of DeLaurentis being approved, Ásgeir Sigfússon, spokesman for the American Foreign Service Association, said: “I would say 0%. With Marco Rubio on the Senate foreign relations committee, it’s never going to happen.”

Rubio and Cruz are both sons of Cuban immigrants. “They have sworn to do anything they can against the normalisation of relations,” Sigfússon added. “He might not even get a hearing.”

It is therefore a seemingly futile gesture on Obama’s part, Sigfússon said. “The president is exercising his right to be a late lame duck president trying to do everything he can. It’s symbolic. He drove through the normalisation of relations and gets to claim he’s the one who did it.”

The US and Cuba severed diplomatic ties in 1961, deep in the cold war. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba made a surprise announcement in December 2014 that they had secretly agreed to restore diplomatic relations, including reopening embassies in each other’s countries. Obama made a historic visit in March, and commercial flights resumed last month.

Obama called the naming of an ambassador a “commonsense” step toward more productive relations and said DeLaurentis – currently the top diplomat at the US embassy in Havana – is the best person for the job.

“There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance US interests in Cuba than Jeff,” the president said in a statement. “Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba.”

He added: “Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an ambassador.”

On Wednesday, Gustavo Machín, deputy director for US affairs in the Cuban foreign ministry, described the news as “welcome” but said he will use a bilateral commission meeting in Washington on Friday to push for more.

“The Cuban delegation will point out the lack of advances in the economic, commercial sphere,” Machín said in Havana. “We consider the measures adopted by President Obama’s administration are positive but still insufficient and limited.”
Obama should also use his executive power to further narrow the trade embargo imposed on Cuba after its 1959 revolution, Machin said. “If the president could … allow investment in telecoms, why can’t he authorise investments in other areas?”

Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington, José Cabañas, was given the rank of ambassador last year.

But the battle over “our man in Havana” is already under way. Rubio said: “Just like releasing all terrorists from Guantánamo and sending US taxpayer dollars to the Iranian regime, rewarding the Castro government with a US ambassador is another last-ditch legacy project for the president that needs to be stopped.

“A US ambassador is not going to influence the Cuban government, which is a dictatorial and closed regime. This nomination should go nowhere until the Castro regime makes significant and irreversible progress in the areas of human rights and political freedom for the Cuban people, and until longstanding concerns about the Cuban regime’s theft of property and crimes against American citizens are addressed.”

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the state department and foreign operations, took a different view. “[DeLaurentis] is a career diplomat who is universally respected by his peers, and by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, for his intellect, his integrity, and his thoughtfulness,” he said.

“The decision to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba has been widely supported, and the number of Americans traveling to Cuba is increasing dramatically. We need an ambassador who knows Cuba, who is respected by the Cuban government, and who will stand up for US interests and values. Jeff is that person. The Cuban people have their ambassador in Washington. The American people need their ambassador in Havana.”

Since diplomatic relations were restored on 20 July last year, DeLaurentis has led negotiations with Cuba on issues including the billions of dollars in US claims against Cuba for properties that were confiscated during the revolution.

The Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, said earlier this month that, if elected, he would undo Obama’s efforts at rapprochement unless Cuba permits religious freedoms and releases political prisoners.

After a logjam last year that left numerous would-be ambassadors in limbo, the situation has much improved with eight awaiting confirmation, of whom five are expected to be approved this week, according to Sigfússon.

Rubio says administration lied about security on Cuba flights

marcorubio1

Fox News

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is accusing the Obama administration of “lying” to Congress about the security on U.S.-Cuba commercial flights — saying officials have failed to follow through on a commitment to place federal air marshals on board those routes.

In a letter to President Obama on Monday, the Florida senator noted that at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Transportation Security Administration official Huban Gowadia confirmed there are no air marshals on board commercial flights to Cuba.

Yet at a May 17 Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, Department of Homeland Security official Seth Stodder said an air marshal agreement was being negotiated and flights would not begin without one.

“You and your administration’s lack of concern for the American people’s safety — as evidenced by allowing commercial, non-charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba to commence without the presence of federal air marshals, and lying about it to Congress — is further proof that you are putting your legacy ahead of the safety and security of the American people, including the people of Florida,” Rubio wrote.

Rubio, who is locked in a tough re-election race, said Gowadia’s revelation contradicts earlier claims by the administration that an agreement to include air marshals was finalized.

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

Rubio, along with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, introduced legislation earlier this month — the Cuban Airport Security Act — that would stop flights to Cuba until a study was completed regarding the security measures at Cuba’s airports.

Commercial flights to Cuba began at the end of August, and Rubio called it “astonishing” that this was allowed to happen “under the false pretense that there would be federal air marshals on board.”

“You have created an opportunity for our worst fears to become reality, just as they did on September 11, 2001,” he wrote.

Rubio asked Obama when he expects the Cuban government to sign the agreement on air marshals, what the TSA is doing to mitigate security risks, and if any White House official instructed the TSA to allow flights before “appropriate security procedures” were in place.

He also requested copies of the draft federal air marshal agreement with Cuba.

In a statement to FoxNews.com, a TSA spokesman said while it does not comment on particular security arrangements, the agency is working with Cuba to ensure there is a federal air marshal presence on flights when necessary.

“Based on several years of security assessments and routine public charter air service between the United States and Cuba, TSA is confident that all commercial flights from points of origin in Cuba to the United States meet international standards and additional security measures that are required by the United States Government,” the spokesman said.

American Airlines, one of the airlines running flights to and from Cuba, objected to the assertions in Rubio’s letter.

“We don’t speak about security, but the safety of our passengers, our people, and our equipment is of the utmost importance and we do not use use airports that do not meet the highest standards of safety for scheduled or chartered flights,” a spokeswoman for American Airlines told The Miami Herald.

This Traitor Belongs in Jail, Not Free in Cuba

anabelenmontes

The Wall Street Journal, by Devin Nunez

Montes spied on her own country for Castro, doing much damage, yet Obama may soon liberate her.

The Obama administration is reportedly in secret negotiations with Cuba that would result in the release from federal prison of one of the most damaging American spies in U.S. history. Such an extraordinary gesture would be preposterous for many reasons.

Ana Belén Montes, who is serving a 25-year sentence as part of a 2002 plea deal, was a U.S. Justice Department official with a top-secret security clearance when she was approached by Cuban intelligence agents in 1984. At the time the Cuban regime ran a pervasive spying program against the U.S., as it still does today, though then it often acted in conjunction with the Soviet Union. A devoted sympathizer of radical Latin American regimes, Ms. Montes quickly agreed to spy for Havana, thus beginning a 16-year-long betrayal of the U.S.

As I conveyed in a July 12 letter to President Obama, it is difficult to overstate the damage caused by Ms. Montes’s treachery. In May 2012, Michelle Van Cleave, the former head of U.S. counterintelligence who oversaw completion of the damage assessment on Ms. Montes, told Congress that her activities likely “contributed to the death and injury of American and pro-American forces in Latin America,” and that she compromised other, broader intelligence programs.

Nevertheless, press reports indicate that the Obama administration is considering releasing Ms. Montes to the Castro regime as part of a prisoner swap for American fugitives from justice now sheltered in Cuba.

This exchange would be part of the administration’s campaign to normalize ties with Cuba, which has included restoring diplomatic relations, loosening sanctions and removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Hopes that the Castro regime would reciprocate by granting basic freedoms to the Cuban people and releasing political prisoners have gone unfulfilled.

The abundant incentives that President Obama offered to get Iran last year to sign a nuclear deal have already shown how far this administration will go to curry favor with hostile powers. As we saw in 2014 with the trade of five dangerous Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl—now arraigned on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in Afghanistan—this president has odd ideas about what constitutes a beneficial prisoner swap. Even so, releasing Ms. Montes cannot be tolerated.

In the past, the U.S. has deported or traded captured foreign spies, but it is extremely rare to trade American citizens who have betrayed their country. Doing so would be especially egregious in these circumstances. The American government should not pay the Castro regime a bribe, in the form of a released American spy, in hopes of advancing normalization.

Ms. Montes’ release would send a dangerous message that convicted spies may be able to secure a deal through the foreign government that employed them. Potential traitors to this country should know that betraying America will bring harsh penalties, without exception or the potential for a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in, but some things in life are worth going to prison for,” an unrepentant Ms. Montes wrote to a relative, the Washington Post reported in 2013. If releasing American traitors from prison is the cost of “normalizing” relations with Cuba, then clearly that price is too high.

Mr. Nunes, a Republican from California, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

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.