Tag Archives: Cuba

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.

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 morningĀ 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 formĀ 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.

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 …

 

About those human rights abuses …

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U.S. foreign policy abounds with hypocrisy.

We support some nations while opposing others, citing issues in those nations we oppose that are commonplace in the nations with which we are friendly.

I bring to you … Cuba.

President Barack Obama is visiting the island nation, becoming the first U.S. president to set foot in Cuba since Calvin Coolidge.

His foes back home keep yammering about the human rights abuses that the communists in Havana are guilty of committing. Why, we can’t allow Americans to travel freely there; we can’t commence trade with Cuba; we can’t let our guard down.

What’s the deal, then, with other nations with which we have reasonably healthy relationships?

The People’s Republic of China? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Vietnam?

Sure, we have differences with many nations around he world, including those I’ve just mentioned.

But the communists who run governments in China and Vietnam treat their citizens badly whenever they speak out against their leaders. The SaudisĀ refuse toĀ grant full rights of citizenship to roughly half of their citizenry; I refer, of course, to women. What’s more, the Saudis are known to execute criminals in public.

My point is simply this: Let’s stop the griping about Cuba’s human rights record, suggesting that it’s a disqualifier for U.S.-Cuba relations. Yes, let’s keep the pressure on Cuba to do better.

We can bring the change we want thereĀ by engaging them fully.

 

Hey we may be friends, but we’re not that close

arm raising

Talk about an awkward moment.

It happened today at the end of a joint press conferenceĀ with President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro.

The picture attached here tells it all.

Castro sought to raise President Obama’s hand in some sort of show of bilateral solidarity.

Obama would have none of it. He managed to avoid grasping Castro’s hand and when the Cuban president raised the U.S. president’s hand, he ended up grabbing his wrist.

President Obama’s hand went limp.

It was really a strange sight. Don’t you think?

I suppose President Obama might have taken offense at the scolding Castro delivered to American reporters who had the temerity to ask him about human rights abuses in Cuba. Or maybe it was Castro’s insistence that the United States give back the land it owns at Guantanamo Bay.

Or … maybe it was that it’s just a bit too early in this rebuilt relationship to grasp hands and lift them jointly in a show of unity.

The nations have some distance yet to travel before they get to that point.

Thus, I believe President Obama — without saying a word — delivered a message of his own to his Cuban hosts.

 

POTUS should meet with dissidents

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It’s probably way too late to change the itinerary now, but President Obama might want to give it a shot when he lands in Cuba this week.

He’ll be the first U.S. president since The Flood to visit the island nation.

I’ve been supportive for years of efforts to renew relations with the communist dictatorship. To that end, I have applauded Obama for finally taking the step to reopen embassies in our two countries.

I do wish, though, he would have insisted on meeting with Cuban dissidents while he’s on the island. It’s those dissidents who’ve been the subject of the opposition to U.S. efforts to do what should have happened at least two decades ago, when the Soviet Union disappeared from the planet.

None of us knowsĀ what the president will tell Cuban leader Raul Castro when the men meet in private. My hope is that he gives him a scolding as it relates to his government’s treatment of those who oppose it. If the Cuban commies are intent on restoring their nation’s status as a world player, they need to atone for their shameful treatment of political dissenters.

Still, the visit is a welcome turn in U.S.-Cuba relations.

If only the president could arrange to meet with those for whom he says he will fight.

 

Give Cubans the dickens, Mr. President

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Critics of President Obama’s upcoming visit to Cuba ought to chill out for a moment or two.

They’re raking Obama over the coals because, they say, he’s lending “legitimacy” to the dictators who are running the island nation. They’re a bunch of commie Marxists who don’t deserve a visit from the head of state of the world’s most powerful nation, they say.

Hey, let’s take a breath.

The president is going there to continue the normalization of relations between the nations. The Cold War is over. We won. Cuba no longer presents any kind of threat to this nation. Its benefactor, the Soviet Union, receded into the dustbin more than 20 years ago.

What shouldn’t be lost is the opportunity that the president will have to tell Cuban President Raul Castro of the concerns the United States still has over the communists’ treatment of their citizens. Obama says he’ll bring it up directly. Face to face. Man to man.

Let us also be mindful that the two men will be able to speak outside of earshot of prying media representatives. Does anyone ever really with utter certainty what two leaders ever say to each other when no one is listening?

The president insists that the visit will keep the normalization process moving forward. Part of that movement must depend on assurances that the Cubans are going to do better at recognizing the rights of all human beings — and that should include their own citizens.

Look at it this way as well: Did the Texas Republican governor, Greg Abbott, just visit with Cuba on a trade mission aimed at boosting commerce between Texas and our nation’s former enemy?

Where was the criticism of that visit?

 

JFK murder conspiracy theorists will come out … again

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Wait for it.

It’s coming. I almost can guarantee it. New “information” about what a late CIA director knew about President Kennedy’s murder in 1963 is certain to ignite more speculation — as if there needs to be more of it — over whether someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald had a hand in the crime of the century.

John McCone, who died in 1991, reportedly withheld information from the Warren Commission — appointed by President Johnson — that might have shown that Oswald had help in killing JFK.

Stop, already!

Oswald did it. Of that I remain convinced.

And, yes, he almost assuredly acted alone. He was a Marxist, former Marine, lone wolf nimrod who was pretty good with a high-powered rifle. He was good enough with the weapon that he fired three shots from the School Book Depository Building in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 and killed the 35th president of the United States.

McCone, though, didn’t tell the Warren Commission about the CIA’s repeated attempts to kill Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and overthrow his communist government. The commission was unable to ask probing questions of witnesses about whether the Cubans had a hand in JFK’s murder.

Readers of this blog know that I am no fan of conspiracy theories. I’ve rested quite comfortably for the past nearly 52 years believing that Oswald did the terrible deed all by himself.

I also continue to believe that the never-ending conspiracy theories are the work of people with (a) too much time on their hands and (b) who just cannot abide by the notion that a loser such as Oswald could take down the Leader of the Free World.

Let’s just accept that he did.

Pope Francis set to make some uncomfortable

Pope Francis at St Peter's

Pope Francis speaks like a humble man.

His message, though, is lofty beyond imagination.

He’s landed in Cuba, where he’ll tell the communist rulers of the island nation to give the Catholic Church there freedom to preach the word of Jesus Christ.

Then he’ll come to Washington, where he’ll speak to a joint session of Congress and will tell lawmakers that the world mustn’t worship capitalism and, yes, it must deal with global crises, such as climate change.

Pope coming to the U.S.

The Holy Father’s critics call him a Marxist. There’s been some talk that a few Republican lawmakers will boycott the speech on Capitol Hill. That would be a mistake, just as it was a mistake for Democrats to stay away when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint congressional session to argue against the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.

The earthly leader of a great Christian denomination needs to be herd by legislators who help govern the world’s greatest nation, even if he says thing that make them uncomfortable.

The good news, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that the congressional chamber will be full.

Indeed, it’s not every day that the pope comes to Washington.

Welcome to the United States of America, Your Holiness.