Tag Archives: Raul Castro

Pipe down, Fidel; your time is up


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.


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 conference 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.


Anti-Cuba lobby still flexes its muscle


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.


A new day begins in U.S.-Cuba relations


Republicans are hyperventilating over President Obama’s visit to Cuba.

They need to chill out. They need to stop trying to put words in everyone’s mouth and stop trying to read others’ minds.

Barack Obama is paying a visit to the communist-run island nation because it’s the right thing to do, given that the two nations have restored diplomatic relations that had been severed for five decades.

A particular Republican who can’t seem to catch his breath is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, one of three men running for his party’s presidential nomination. He has written an essay that accuses the president of turning his back on the dissidents who’ve been holed up on prison cells throughout the nation.

Again, young man, don’t seek to know what’s going on behind closed doors when the president meets with Cuban leader Raul Castro.

Yes, I agree that Obama should have scheduled a visit with dissidents in Cuba. Those who disagree with the commies in charge are denied basic human rights that we all believe are inherent throughout the world.

Unless it can be proved beyond a doubt otherwise, I will continue to hold out hope that when the doors are closed and when no one else is listening that Barack Obama will tell Raul Castro something like this:

“Mr. President, the fate of political dissidents here is of grave concern to my country. As their president, I must insist that you give them the freedom to speak their minds, even if it brings criticism of your government.

“We’ve just established relations with you, but you and your government colleagues have known all along about the opposition American presidents and our Congress get every single day. It doesn’t weaken our government; it strengthens it!

“I believe it will have the same effect here.”

I get that communist regimes do not view political dissent the same way free governments do.

Still, I happen to be one American — among many others — who is happy to see this rapprochement occur. It’s been overdue for many years.

May it bring change to our former enemies.

POTUS should meet with dissidents


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 knows¬†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


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?


Gov. Abbott sheds the dogma … and heads to Cuba


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.


Cuba thaw makes perfect sense, Sen. Rubio

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is a Cuban-American cut from the cloth that prevented the United States from establishing a relationship with Cuba.

He’s among a shrinking core of Cuban-Americans — living mainly in Florida — who think of Cuba as a pariah state that poses an imminent danger to the United States of America.

They are wrong. So is the young junior senator from Florida.


Of course, perhaps it is helpful to note that Rubio is likely to run for the Republican Party presidential nomination next year, so he’s got to find as much to criticize the current Democratic administration as he can locate.

I guess Cuba fits the bill.

Well, the overtures that both President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are making perfect sense in this changing world.

Cuba’s got a horrible human rights record. So do many of the other countries with which we have diplomatic relations. Cuba once was known to have designs on becoming a dominant player in the Western Hemisphere. Those designs were washed away with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Is Cuba a terrorist haven? Does it sponsor international terrorist organizations?

Come on, Marco. Let’s engage this former enemy and persuade the government in Havana to join us in making life more comfortable for the millions of Cubans who’ve been deprived of economic wellness partly because of a pointless U.S. economic embargo.


Take Cuba off terrorist-sponsor list

I’m trying to remember the last time I read anything in the media about terrorists tied to Cuba.

Am I missing something? Has there been an instance involving a terror group caught plotting something evil ever being linked to the Cuban communists?

It’s the apparent absence of any such linkage that gives President Obama reason to remove Cuba from the list of nations involved in sponsoring international terror.


Let’s get real.

Cuba is a third-rate country that is just now starting to get its legs under it as the United States moves toward normal relations with the Marxist dictatorship. The county doesn’t pose the kind of threat this president and all his predecessors — Democrat and Republican — said existed going back to Fidel Castro’s takeover of the Cuban government in 1959. That was when Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States.

Obama and Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, met today at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. They shook hands and chatted a bit in private. Perhaps the topic of this terror watch list came up.

The world is full of nations that pose an intense threat to the United States with regard to sponsoring terrorist acts.

Cuba isn’t one of them. Remove the nation from the watch list, Mr. President.


Obama set to meet Castro

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are going to attend a meeting together this weekend.

They’ll shake hands. They’ll talk to each other. They’ll likely exchange an idea or two about the changing relationship between their two countries. And much of the world will be hanging on every look, gesture and spoken word.

Is this a big deal? Yes. But perhaps not for reasons that some have given for it.


This won’t be a meeting between equals.¬†Obama is head of state of the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power. Castro heads a third-rate, Third World nation that folks once thought posed some sort of threat to the United States of America.

Cuba never really did pose that threat. What danger existed essentially evaporated right along with the Soviet Union in 1991. Still, U.S. and Cuban relations remained frozen in time.

That’s changing now that Obama and Castro have agreed to proceed toward normalization. The economic, travel and diplomatic embargoes are going to end in due course. Cuba will get to become an actual neighbor of the United States.

The leaders will meet at the Summit of the Americas. They shook hands briefly at a memorial service for the great Nelson Mandela a couple of years ago. This meeting is supposed to signal the start of a new relationship.

Yes, critics chide Obama for ignoring Cuba’s human rights issues. Sure thing. As if we don’t have diplomatic ties with other nations around the world with dubious human rights reputations. Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China — they all come to mind. I believe it was President Reagan who followed what was called a policy of “constructive engagement”¬†with South Africa when that nation was operating under its apartheid policy that denied its black¬†majority any rights of citizenship.

This meeting is long overdue. The Cuban Missile Crisis has receded into history. Raul Castro’s brother, Fidel, has retired from his lifetime job as president, is in frail health and appears to no longer be the commanding presence in the island nation.

The time arrived long ago for the nations to establish a formal relationship.

It’s good that Barack Obama and Raul Castro are going to that important step together.