Tag Archives: Obama Cuba trip

​The Cost of Obama’s Cuban Rapprochement

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The Harvard Crimson, by David Liebers and Michael Silva

As President Obama stepped off Air Force One to begin his historic visit to Havana, he seized the opportunity to fire off a tweet: “¿Que Bola Cuba?” His message, which in Cuban-Spanish slang roughly translates to “What’s popping?” or “What’s good?” was surely intended to ingratiate and serve as an opening olive branch to his hosts. The irony—that the majority of Cubans would never see his message thanks to repressive internet censorship—was entirely lost on the president.

This dissonance summarizes the mood of the two-day spectacle. President Obama, the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, intended to lay the foundations for renewed cooperation between the two countries. The challenge for the President was to balance the diplomatic goal of demonstrating a workable political relationship with Raul Castro, while paying lip service to the issue of the dictator’s human rights abuses.

Predictably, the results proved awkward. During a joint press conference with President Obama, Raul Castro scolded reporters for asking about human rights violations and lambasted U.S. economic policy. Soon after the conclusion of the visit, an official organ of the state-controlled Cuban media used racially vulgar language to insult the President of the United States. The no-strings-attached commitment from President Obama to lift the embargo emboldened Castro to criticize the U.S. and redeploy his communist message.

Even more embarrassing, as our President posed for photos in front of a Che Guevara mural and tweeted about his trip, thousands of political prisoners—including members of the Ladies in White movement—detained for no reason other than their peaceful opposition to political repression, rotted in jails across the island.

The current Cuban regime has made brutality towards political dissidents a regular part of its operation. Raul Castro denies the presence of political prisoners, yet the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reports 2,555 detentions in the first two months of this year, after more than 8,600 in 2015. Members of opposition political parties are regularly subject to machete attacks, and refugees stopped by Cuban coastguard risk extrajudicial killing. Despite all this, U.S. leadership seems to have fallen for Castro’s propaganda.

President Obama says he wants to “bury the last remnant” of the Cold War. But his visit will have the opposite effect. It ensures prolonged communist rule in Cuba by extending an economic lifeline and legitimacy to the Castro regime. Seduced by the chance at being the leader who would liberate the Cuban people from the “failed” U.S. embargo, President Obama chose to cement his place in history rather than to stand with those who risk their lives to fight for basic freedoms.

The symbolic power that the United States holds to those standing up to totalitarianism is not easy for those of us born here to understand. But for pro-democratic freedom fighters—whether across the communist bloc in the 1980s, or today in Cuba—American solidarity has been a source of strength. There is no other nation so steadfast in its defense of freedom of expression, basic human rights, and democracy. Like the authors of this piece, one of the left and one of the right, Americans across the political spectrum ought to support these principles. The symbolic power of the U.S. in standing for human rights has eroded in this abandonment of Cuban pro-democratic dissidents.

The pain was real for Cuban-Americans who watched as the leader of the free world befriended the dictator they risked their lives to flee. One such Cuban, Natividad Silva, an 85-year-old retired pharmacist and the grandmother of one of the authors of this piece, fled Cuba in 1962 when the Castros confiscated her small business and life savings. She began fearing for her life as peaceful dissidents around her in Havana were incarcerated, tortured, and killed. Her story is by no means unique. It is shared by the millions of Cuban immigrants in the U.S. and the hundreds of refugees who continue to flee the Castro regime each month.

President Obama turned a blind eye to human rights violations and made the political calculation that his reversal of American policy towards Cuba would represent another jewel in his foreign policy legacy. In doing so, he abolished America’s unique role as a beacon of freedom to the pro-democratic Cuban opposition and to dissidents in totalitarian states around the world.

Surprised? Despite US overtures, not much has changed in Cuba

Damas2

The Hill

One month after President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, the island’s leaders have made clear how they want the new relationship to grow — not very fast.

Last week’s seventh Communist Party Congress was a clear indicator that Cuba’s leaders aren’t going to move at the same pace as the Obama administration.

Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney involved in Cuban issues, said Cuba’s leaders have been consistent in their message since Obama began to normalize relations nearly a year and a half ago.
“It’s amazing how people aren’t listening to them,” he said. “Cuba is irrevocably a socialist nation.”

Supposed to be held every five years, the party plenary is usually gaveled in when the government feels a need to remind Cubans of the rules of the island’s political game.

The latest party featured a surprise appearance by former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who had earlier blasted Obama’s trip.

It also voted Raúl Castro back as the head of the Cuban Communist Party, meaning he could hold the party position — at least as powerful as the presidency — even if he keeps his word and steps down as the official head of state in 2018.

Raúl Castro reminded the gathering that the United States is still “the enemy.”

Delegates reappointed Machado Ventura, 85, known as an enforcer of communist orthodoxy, as party secretary. And the Congress’s 1,000 delegates voted for changes in the Cuban constitution that strengthened the party and barred the island’s nascent private sector from the “concentration of wealth.”

Still, Cuba’s leaders have to balance their devotion to orthodoxy and the aspirations of the Cuban people, many of whom treated Obama as a rock star during his visit.

Some of Cuba’s resistance to change has been passive — it simply hasn’t taken advantage of most of the opportunities Obama offered to increase partnerships and trade, still limited by the U.S. economic embargo that only Congress can end.

Cuba has agreed to re-establish direct U.S. flights to the island and to allow American hotelier Starwood to refurbish and run three Havana hotels.

But outside of the tourism sector, which Cuba opened to foreign companies when the Soviet Union collapsed, not many deals have been made.

“If the Cuban government sees that an opportunity will likely generate new revenues for its tourism sector, that is likely to be entertained,” said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Kavulich said if an offer “is not perceived to create revenues or has a political context to it,” like Obama’s move to allow Americans to help Cuban entrepreneurs, “progress is not going to be made.”

Kavulich’s company website has countdown clocks on how much longer Raúl Castro and Obama will remain in power in their respective nations. He said members of Congress, lobbyists and advocates must realize that the nature of U.S.-Cuba relations will depend less “on the next occupant of the White House … than what Cuba has accepted or rejected.”

To change Cuba, speak up for democracy again and again

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The Washington Post Editorial Board

President Obama’s visit to Cuba last month laid down a marker. The president hailed the island’s entrepreneurs, met with dissidents, and encouraged openness and democracy in the presence of President Raúl Castro, who rules without any. The regime’s answer has now been delivered at the just-concluded Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party: a loud “no way.”

The four-day conference, held in Havana, ratified the old guard’s hold on leadership. Mr. Castro, 84, was reelected as first secretary of the party, and the delegates cheered a farewell speech from a frail Fidel Castro, 89. Party members seemed eager to snuff out any lingering glow from Mr. Obama’s visit. Raúl Castro referred to the United States as “the enemy” and warned “we have to be more alert than ever.” The Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, called the president’s visit “an attack on the foundation of our history, our culture and our symbols.” He added, “Obama came here to dazzle the non-state sector, as if he wasn’t the representative of big corporations but the defender of hot dog vendors, of small businesses in the United States, which he isn’t.”

Obviously, Mr. Obama discomfited the regime. Despite some market reforms and economic tinkering in recent years, the authoritarian system the Castros have built still dominates state and society. The brothers’ intention is to make it impossible for Cuba to undergo the kind of transformation that is an ostensible goal of Mr. Obama’s policy.

According to the Associated Press, on April 8 one of Cuba’s most well-known advocates of economic reform, Omar Everleny Perez, was fired from his University of Havana think-tank position for allegedly sharing information with Americans without authorization. Mr. Perez was a consultant to the Castro government when it launched some market-oriented reforms. He confirmed his dismissal, saying it was not because of his contacts with foreigners but because he wrote critically about the slow pace of economic reform. “Sometimes they don’t like what you write or think,” he said.

Exactly. This is why the authorities relentlessly harassed Oswaldo Payá, a champion of democracy who was killed in a suspicious car wreck in 2012 along with a colleague, Harold Cepero; why regime thugs still assault the Ladies in White, relatives of political prisoners who demonstrate weekly; why they rough up other dissidents and free thinkers.

In all the enthusiasm in the United States for more tourism, cultural exchanges and investment in Cuba, there have been far too few demands for more democracy on the island. A lesson of Mr. Obama’s visit, and the Communist Party’s overheated reaction, is that the mere mention of democracy and freedom is a powerful tool. Mr. Obama put it simply in Havana, declaring that “citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear.” Those rushing to Havana lately must not forget to articulate this message, again and again.

Obama’s mess: Cuba’s thanks

winnerloser

Trib Live

Weeks after President Obama’s trumpeted visit to Cuba, the sour notes are still blaring from the communist isle.

The latest discord comes from Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who called Mr. Obama’s ill-advised fence-mending visit “an attack on the foundation of our history, our culture and our symbols,” Fox News Latino reports. To a regime locked in time and ideology, Obama’s mission was nothing more than to “dazzle the non-state sector,” Mr. Rodriguez insisted.

President Raul Castro, who, incidentally, will retain Cuba’s Communist Party’s highest post for another five years, recently called the United States “the enemy” and warned Cubans to remain vigilant against U.S. initiatives that undermine the communist revolution, Reuters reported.

And that followed the vitriol of Fidel Castro, who, just days after Obama’s sojourn, rejected the notion that his country needs anything from the U.S. and insisted that the U.S. embargo won’t soon be forgiven.

So what has changed? Only that more Cubans are fleeing to the U.S. to escape their country’s repressive government and claim asylum benefits, which they fear will run out as U.S. “detente” evolves.

Contrary to the administration’s presumptions, the Castro regime — and its inevitable heirs — will never accept or respect U.S. capitalism and the freedom it enables. Chalk up another foreign policy fumble by an administration that’s become renowned for dropping the ball.

Dissent erupts inside Cuba’s Communist Party over secrecy of future reforms

FILE - In this April 19, 19, 2011 file photo, members of the Cuban Communist Party attend the 6th Congress in Havana, Cuba, when President Raul Castro was named first secretary of Cuba's Communist Party, with his aging brother Fidel not included in the leadership for the first time since the party's creation 46 years ago. Days after President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in March 2016, party leaders are under highly unusual public criticism from their own ranks for imposing new levels of secrecy about the future of social and economic reforms.  (AP Photo/Javier Galeano, File)

Fox News Latino

Days after President Barack Obama’s historic visit, the leaders of Cuba’s Communist Party are under highly unusual public criticism from their own ranks for imposing new levels of secrecy on the future of social and economic reforms.

After months of simmering discontent, complaints among party members have become so heated that its official newspaper, Granma, addressed them in a lengthy front-page article Monday, saying the public dissatisfaction is “a sign of the democracy and public participation that are intrinsic characteristics of the socialism that we’re constructing.”

The article did little to calm many party members, some of whom are calling for a Communist Party congress next month to be postponed to allow public debate about the government’s plans to continue market-oriented reforms for Cuba’s centrally controlled economy.

“The base of the party is angry, and rightly so,” party member and noted intellectual Esteban Morales wrote in a blog post published before Obama’s visit. “We’ve gone backward in terms of democracy in the party, because we’ve forgotten about the base, those who are fighting and confronting our problems on a daily basis.”

Across the country, Cuba’s ruling party is facing stiff challenges as it tries to govern an increasingly cynical and disenchanted population.

Struggling to feed their families with state salaries around $25 a month, many ordinary Cubans see their government as infuriatingly inefficient and unresponsive to the needs of average people. The open anger among prominent party members in the middle of sweeping socio-economic reforms and normalization with the United States hints at a deeper crisis of credibility for the party that has controlled virtually every aspect of public life in Cuba for more than a half century.

The article in Granma appeared less than a week after Obama won an enthusiastic response from many ordinary Cubans by calling for both an end to Cold War hostility and for more political and economic freedom on the island. The unsigned article shared the front page with Fidel Castro’s sharply worded response to Obama, in which the 89-year-old father of Cuba’s socialist system said, “My modest suggestion is that he reflect and doesn’t try to develop theories about Cuban politics.”

Many Cubans are skeptical of free-market capitalism, wary of American power and cannot envision a society without the free health care and education put in place by the 1959 revolution. Party member Francisco Rodríguez, a gay activist and journalist for a state newspaper, said Obama’s nationally televised speech in Old Havana, his news conference with 84-year-old President Raul Castro and a presidential forum with Cuban entrepreneurs represented a sort of “capitalist evangelizing” that many party members dislike.

Rodríguez told The Associated Press that Obama’s well-received addresses to the Cuban people had nonetheless increased pressure on the 700,000-member Communist Party to forge a more unified and credible vision of the future.

“Obama’s visit requires us, going forward, to work on debating and defending our social consensus about the revolution,” Rodríguez said.

Continue reading Dissent erupts inside Cuba’s Communist Party over secrecy of future reforms

Cuban activist interrupted a live ESPN broadcast from Havana and was arrested

ESPN’s Sportscenter sent Bob Ley down to Cuba to report live from Havana.

While Ley was reporting the results of the game between the Tampa Rays and Cuba’s National Team, he was interrupted on the set by a political protester, who began throwing pamphlets in the air and spreading his message over the airwaves.

Ley tried to push the protester out of view, but it was to no avail and he would get out of the way immediately and send the feed back to the game.

The protester and a companion were arrested by Castro’s police a few minutes after the incident, broadcast live around the woorld.

The violent arrest minutes later by Castro’s goons:

The Obama-Castro press conference

raulpress

The Obama-Castro press conference in Havana was a bad joke.
Obama welcomed Raul Castro’s criticism about human rights in the US!
Incredible but true.
It was a sad spectacle to see Barack Obama, standing like a statue, being lectured about human rights by a criminal dictator who has been oppressing, torturing and murdering his own people for 57 years!
I had to go vomit and couldn’t watch the end, but I’m sure didn’t miss much.

Here is the criminal who lectured Barack Obama today about human rights, preparing to murder a campesino in the Sierra Maestra:

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