Tag Archives: Fidel Castro

Normalization? Sure, but first things first

Donald Trump has placed yet another bargaining chip on the table as he gets set to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

He said he wants to “normalize” relations with the reclusive Marxist regime.

OK, then. Where do we start with that?

Let’s recall the conservative outcry that erupted when President Barack Obama raised the Stars and Stripes over the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

Why, we cannot have normal relations with them Cubans. Look at the way they treat their citizens, not to mention that they promote terrorism abroad, they said. That communist Fidel Castro promised to be a reformer when he took over the country in 1959, but he damn sure didn’t live up to that promise, they howled. He made things worse!

Never mind that the Cubans never posed a direct military threat to the United States, particularly after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991. Yes, we had that Cuban missile crisis in 1962, but President Kennedy took care of that with a blockade and the threat of a “full retaliatory response” if the Soviet Union used those missiles to attack any nation in this hemisphere.

So, what will the current president demand of the North Koreans?

What’s more, are we going to hear howls from the right wing about the North Koreans’ treatment of its citizens? Or about how the government starves its people while spending billions on a military apparatus that now includes nuclear weapons?

And what about the North Koreans’ direct military threat to this country, and to the South Koreans, and to Japan?

I do believe as well that Kim Jong Un’s regime has been sponsoring terrorism abroad, too.

I am all in on normalizing relations with North Korea. Any effort to create a U.S.-North Korea bond, though, carries more preconditions than U.S.-Cuba relations did.

To think the president says he doesn’t need much “preparation” in advance of his meeting with Kim Jong Un.

He needs to rethink that bit of idiocy.

Let’s avoid righteous rebuke of Russians

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I feel the need to stipulate a couple of things that might seem to contradict each other.

First, I shudder at the notion that Russian computer geeks hacked into our vast cyber network to seek to influence the outcome of the 2016 president election. It galls me in the extreme to believe that Russians might have engineered the election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States.

Second, it’s time we put all of this into some historical context, which is that the United States of America isn’t squeaky clean in this regard. Far from it. Indeed, we’ve interfered as well with other countries’ political processes.

Some examples come to mind:

* 1963: South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated in a coup with backing by U.S. diplomats.

* 1961: U.S.-trained troops stormed ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in an effort to overthrow Fidel Castro. The invasion failed, the invaders either were killed or captured. President Kennedy took full responsibility for the failure.

* 1973: CIA-led insurgents managed to overthrow the government of Marxist Chilean President Salvadore Allende.

* 2003: U.S. troops invaded Iraq with the expressed purpose of “regime change” in Baghdad. They drove Saddam Hussein from power, then found him hiding in that “spider hole.” Saddam was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and was hanged.

The anger at the Russians’ interference with U.S. political processes is taking on the air of righteous indignation that we would do well to rein in. The United States of America has gotten involved, too, in other nations’ internal affairs.

No equivalency between phone call and comments about Castro

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Mike Pence knows better than to attach a false equivalency to two events.

One of them involved comments from U.S. officials about the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro; the other involved a phone call from the leader of a nation — with which the United States has no diplomatic relations — to the president-elect.

The vice president-elect said this morning he cannot understand why the phone call is getting all the criticism while praise to Castro is overlooked.

Please, Mr. Vice President-elect.

Donald Trump’s 10-minute conversation this past week with the president of Taiwan has smacked decades of U.S. diplomatic protocol right in the face. The People’s Republic of China has filed a formal complaint, declaring that the “one-China policy” that the United States has followed has been compromised egregiously by Trump’s congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.

Meanwhile, according to Pence, the death of Castro has drawn some muted praise of the late Cuban dictator from Obama administration officials. Even the president himself has delivered remarks that some have interpreted as complimentary.

The Taiwan-China dustup, though, is far more serious.

Taiwan’s very creation came at the end of a bloody civil war in China that the communists won. The nationalists who once governed China fled to Taiwan in 1949 to set up a new government. The United States recognized the Taiwan version of China until 1979, when it declared it would recognize the PRC.

You want a complicated relationship? There you have it.

What if China decides to retaliate against the United States by launching, say, a trade war? What if the PRC decides to yank its ambassador out of Washington? What if the PRC goads Taiwan into declaring its independence from China, giving the Chinese a pretext to launch a military attack against the nation it considers to be a “renegade province”?

There can be no equivalence attached to saying some mildly nice things about a dictator and the serious breach of protocol that the president-elect has committed.

Castro created an unintended legacy

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The late Fidel Castro wanted to create a legacy in his island nation of Cuba.

He led what he called a “revolution” in the late 1950s. Castro promised to bring democracy to Cuba. He brought instead a reign of repression and terror.

In the process, though, El Comandante created another legacy. He helped form a lasting political movement in the United States of America. When thousands of Cubans wised up to the misery that was coming to their nation, they fled Cuba for the U.S. of A.

Most of them settled initially in south Florida. The Cuban expatriates then coalesced into a formidable political bloc. They were — and remain — fervently anti-communist to the core.

Their numbers continued to grow through the early and mid-1960s as more Cubans fled the island. Their families expanded in this country. The expats then taught their children and, later, their grandchildren about the hideous rule that Castro had brought to their homeland.

They became involved in U.S. politics. They got elected to high public office. A couple of Cuban descendants — U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas — sought the Republican Party presidential nomination.

Indeed, the bulk of the Cuban-American political community leans heavily to toward the GOP. Their influence has helped inform Republican Party policy toward Cuba for nearly six decades.

This bloc of voters also fought successfully — until recently — against efforts to restore diplomatic and economic relations between the United States and Cuba.

The Cuban commies who mourn Castro’s death likely won’t bring up this part of the tyrant’s legacy. I have just done so here.

Don’t go to Castro’s funeral, Mr. President

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I won’t spend a lot of time and space making my point here, so I’ll get right to it.

President Obama shouldn’t attend Fidel Castro’s funeral in Cuba. Stay away, Mr. President. Now I’ll offer a brief explainer as to why.

When the president announced plans to normalize relations with Cuba, he did so apparently over Fidel’s expressed displeasure.

In fact, when the president visited Cuba in 2015, the then-former Cuban strongman didn’t see the president. Instead, he issued a statement that was quite critical of the effort to end the economic embargo the United States slapped on Cuba shortly after Castro seized power in 1959.

I get that the president wants to express sympathy to Castro’s family. Fine. Send them a letter. Place a private phone call.

El Comandante wasn’t too keen on improving U.S.-Cuba relations. He had his reasons, I suppose. Whatever they were, they don’t matter any longer.

Just stay home, Mr. President. Send an emissary. Maybe two or three of them. Our head of state, though, need not take part in the commemorating the death of a despot.

Good riddance, El Comandante

FILE - In this July 11, 2014 file photo, Cuba's Fidel Castro speaks during a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in Havana, Cuba. Social media around the world have been flooded with rumors of Castro's death, but there was no sign Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, that the reports were true, even if the 88-year-old former Cuban leader has not been seen in public for months. (AP Photo/Alex Castro, File)

It’s been said of prominent world leaders that single acts result in what would be written about them in their obituary.

For Fidel Castro, such an act that no doubt will appear in obits around the world must read, “… who took the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.”

The Cuban dictator is dead at the age of 90. He outlasted 10 American presidents in one of the more peculiar political standoffs of the past century.

But it was a two-week span in October 1962 that remains the lynchpin of Castro’s reign of the island nation that sits just off the tip of Florida. He allowed Soviet engineers to build missile launch platforms in Cuba capable of sending nuclear-armed missiles against the United States or anyone else in the hemisphere. U.S. spy planes spotted the installations; President Kennedy got wind of them. The president then went nose-to-nose with Castro and his Soviet benefactors.

The Cuban missile crisis ended when the other side “blinked” after Kennedy ordered a complete naval blockade of the island and he did that after advising the nation in a televised address that any strike from Cuba against any nation in the hemisphere would be met by the full force of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Castro led a “revolution” in 1959 that overthrew a hideous dictator. Cubans thought they were being liberated from repression. They were mistaken. Castro’s repression was every bit as severe. His fellow Cubans suffered economic deprivation, loss of human rights and dignity, imprisonment, loss of liberty across the board.

Despite all that, the continued economic sanctions imposed by the United States stopped making sense a long time ago, especially after the Soviet Union evaporated in 1991. The Cubans themselves never did pose much of an economic or military threat to this nation.

President Obama finally moved to end the embargo and restored a semblance of normal relations Cuba.

Still, Fidel Castro’s legacy will not be a glowing one.

Obama’s remarks in response to Castro’s death were appropriately neutral. As the Washington Post reported: “We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said in a statement. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Enormous impact? Powerful emotions? Singular figure? Yes to all of that. Indeed, in the Little Havana area of Miami, they’re celebrating Castro’s death. I certainly would call that a “powerful emotion.”

So it is that this individual finally has departed the scene.

My feelings are a bit mixed. I am glad the United States has lifted its economic sanctions against Cuba. Still, the world is better off without Fidel Castro.

So long, El Comandante.

Commies are getting a taste of dissent

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Cuba’s ruling communists are getting a snoot full from the proletariat.

They’re unhappy with the way the commies are governing the country and are beginning to speak their minds. Even the commies themselves are griping openly.

The discontent comes in the wake of President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, where he talked out loud about the virtues of freedom of expression and how everyone deserves the chance to express their grievances over the way the government is doing its job on the people’s behalf.

According to The Associated Press: “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.'”

How about that?

Dissent isn’t a bad thing, at least that’s how it’s viewed in societies that allow it.

Such open grumbling has been virtually unheard-of in nations such as Cuba, where the communists took over a government run by an iron-fisted dictator. The revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro promised “change” in Cuba. They delivered it, all right … except that it looked a lot like the old way, only under the communist banner rather than the fascist banner waved by the preceding governing authority.

The U.S. president brought attention to the need for greater freedom. Cubans responded enthusiastically to his message.

Now, even the communists who run the place are griping about what a lousy job they’re doing.

Ah, change is in the wind in Cuba.

Perhaps …

 

Pipe down, Fidel; your time is up

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Fidel Castro apparently holds a grudge.

The former strongman/dictator/supreme leader of Cuba isn’t quite so keen on President Obama’s recent visit to the nation.

While many of Cuba’s current leaders — such as Fidel’s brother, Raul, the country’s current strongman/dictator etc. — have expressed pleasure at Obama’s visit, ol’ Fidel isn’t quite so enamored of the idea.

He lambasted President Obama’s visit, saying that Cuba doesn’t need gifts from “the empire” to succeed.

Obama didn’t visit Fidel while he was in Cuba. Perhaps if he had he could have charmed the irascible revolutionary leader who came to power in 1959 and only recently handed the reins of government over to his kid brother Raul.

Fidel Castro’s ironfisted rule outlasted 10 U.S. presidential administrations. All of them, until the current president, had decided to maintain the economic and diplomatic embargo on Cuba.

I agree with Fidel that the embargo was useless and irrelevant during the last quarter-century of its existence. Its practicality disappeared along with the Soviet Union in 1991; in truth, it really wasn’t a viable option for the United States predating that event.

It’s weird, though, to wonder why Fidel Castro isn’t yet willing to bury the hatchet in his on-going conflict with the United States.

Settle down, El Comandante. Life is going to get better in your nation now that we’ve resumed travel, trade and communication with Cuba. For that, you should be grateful.

 

Anti-Cuba lobby still flexes its muscle

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The anti-Castro/Cuba lobby in the United States has been outsized for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps we are witnessing this week the latest manifestation of that muscle-flexing as President Obama tours the tiny island nation and gets skewered by those on the right for doing what many others of us think is the right thing.

Which is to normalize relations  with the communist regime.

It’s a curious thing to watch the head of state of the world’s most powerful nation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of a dirt-poor Third World state. Then to have that tinhorn lecture the leader of the Free World about whether the United States should keep possession of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay gives the Cubans a dubious and overstated standing — and then to have critics pounce on Obama for taking it!

To what do we owe this strange juxtaposition?

I believe it’s the power of that Cuban-American community that resides mostly in Florida.

The community had its birth in the late 1950s when Cubans fled their nation that had been taken over by Fidel Castro and his gang of communists. They took up residence in Florida and began immediately pressuring the U.S. government to do more to destroy Castro.

President Eisenhower heard them. He formulated plans to invade Cuba and then handed the keys to the Oval Office over to President Kennedy in January 1961, who then launched the Bay of Pigs invasion.

It didn’t turn out well for our side. The Cubans squashed the small force, took prisoners and then crowed about how the big, bad U.S. government was intent on destroying them.

Then we had that missile crisis in 1962. JFK took care of it by blockading the island, forcing the Soviet Union to “blink” and remove the offensive missiles.

By 1991, the Evil Empire had vaporized. Cuba was left without its major benefactor.

Still, five decades after the revolution, Cuba has remained a communist dictatorship. Fidel Castro handed the power over to his brother, Raul, who welcomed President Barack Obama to his nation.

Is Cuba a nation to be feared? Do we tremble at the thought of normalizing relations with this tiny nation? No. Why should we? We’re the big kids on the block. Heck, we’re the biggest kids on the planet!

Our politicians, though, have been told to fear Cubans by that overblown Cuban-American community.

So here we are. The president of the United States is making history simply by visiting an island nation that sits within spittin’ distance of our southeastern-most state.

Sure, the Cubans must do more to improve human rights on their island. The president should tell them so.

I don’t know why we should sweat so much over whether Raul Castro listens to us. He and that backwater government he runs can’t do us any harm.

My own sense is that normalization of relations with Cuba by itself is going to do more to bring reform to a nation that needs it in the worst way. Soon enough, the Cubans will see what the rest of the world really looks like.

They also are likely to see how their giant neighbor just over the horizon relishes the fruits of liberty.

Then they might start demanding it from their leaders.

 

Gov. Abbott sheds the dogma … and heads to Cuba

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is using his office the right way while steering away from some of the dogma we’ve been hearing from those in his party about a particular issue.

Abbott is going to Cuba next week on a mission to promote Texas-Cuba trade.

Abbott is a proud Republican. But unlike some of his GOP brethren, he is putting common sense and what I call “enlightened self-interest” ahead of posturing.

Some prominent Republican politicians — namely Texan Ted Cruz and Floridian Marco Rubio, who are running for president — have called the re-establishment of relations with Cuba virtually a pact with Satan himself. These two Cuban-Americans still seem to fear the island nation that is governed by dedicated communists.

Why, how can President Obama grant those commies any favors while they still have one of the world’s worst human-rights records? That’s part of the mantra we’ve heard from some on the far right about this sensible diplomatic initiative.

Gov. Abbott often has joined some on the far right on a whole host of topics with which to criticize the president.

Not this time. Good for him. Better still, good for the state he governs.

The Texas Tribune’s Aman Batheja reports: “Texas was once a leading exporter to Cuba in a quiet partnership that helped produce hundreds of jobs and millions in revenue for the Lone Star State. Even following the implementation of the U.S. trade embargo more than 50 years ago, the relationship continued to thrive for decades.”

That stopped in the early 1960s when the United States ended all relations with Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s takeover of the island nation’s government. The deep freeze in U.S.-Cuba relations lasted through eight American presidencies; meanwhile, Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, have remained in power.

President Obama made the right call to restore relations. The Cold War is over. Cuba presents no threat to the United States. It’s still dirt poor. Yes, it’s still run by communists, but Cuba is far less of a threat to U.S. interests than, say, the People’s Republic of China, a nation with which we’ve had relations since 1978.

Texas has a lot of goods and commodities it can sell to Cuban interests. Let me think … what can we sell them from, oh, this part of the state? Oh, how about some beef, or maybe cotton for starters?

Travel safely, governor.