Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Cuba: What are the names of the 53 prisoners?

Monday, January 5th, 2015

On December 17, Pres. Obama read his Statement on Cuba Policy Changes. In it, he mentioned,

In addition to the return of Alan Gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.

No specifics, just “a substantial number of prisoners.”

Later it was revealed by the White House that, out of the untold number of political prisoners in Cuba (where in 2014 the number of arrests totaled 8,012), 53 were to be released as part of the deal. As Jason Poblete points out,

The 53 are part of a deal that included impregnating (through artificial insemination by having his sperm collected at prison in the U.S. and then flown to Cuba at U.S. taxpayers’ expense) the wife of a spy serving two life sentences for murder. U.S. taxpayers also paid to fly the spy to Cuba, where he was received as a hero, and the U.S. government paid about $3.2 million to Alan Gross.

Following the Statement, I have been trying to find the list of the 53 names. I set out right away, even asking on Twitter after my (failed) initial search,

The names, as far as I could see, are nowhere to be found. I thought perhaps I could not find them due to the fact that I have very limited resources through which I can conduct research. However, none of the dozens of Latin American or Spanish news sources I constantly consult had any information at all on the names, which is very unusual.*

As it turns out, I am in good company:

Reuters reports,
In U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap, mystery surrounds the unnamed 53

Cuba’s most prominent dissidents say they have been kept in the dark by U.S. officials over a list of 53 political prisoners who will be released from jail as part of a deal to end decades of hostility between the United States and Cuba.

For years, dissident leaders have told the United States which opponents of Cuba’s communist government were being jailed or harassed, but they say they were not consulted when the list of prisoners to be freed was drawn up or even told who is on it.

The lack of information has stoked concern and frustration among the dissidents, who worry that the secret list is flawed and that genuine political prisoners who should be on it will be left to languish.

“We’re concerned because we don’t agree with the silence, because we have a right to know who they are. Who are they?” said Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White dissident group, which marches in Havana on Sundays to demand the release of prisoners.

“There are not just 53 political prisoners, there are more, and we are concerned that the U.S. list might have common criminals on it,” she told Reuters in Havana.

Reuters also brings up another interesting question, in view of Obama’s wording “a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team,”

It also is not clear if some prisoners were kept off the list because the Cuban government refused to release them.

Mary O’Grady is also asking, Where Are Cuba’s Political Prisoners?
Fifty-three of those jailed by the Castros were supposed to have been freed in the Obama deal.
She couldn’t even get an answer from the State Department:

I asked the State Department this last week. State referred me to the White House. White House officials declined to provide the list of names citing “concern that publicizing it would make it more difficult to ensure that Cuba follows through, and continues with further steps in the future.”

Bottom line: The U.S. government cannot confirm that they have been released and is not certain they’re going to be released, even though the three Cuban spies have already been returned.

O’Grady points out,

If Mr. Obama is serious about selling U.S.-Cuba detente, a little less obfuscation would be nice. The U.S. has not confirmed the identity of the intelligence asset who it says had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and was also traded for the Cuban spies. Mr. Obama said the Cuban, before his arrest, had supplied key information to the U.S. that led to the nabbing of those spies, as well as three others.

Press reports and intel experts I talked to say the “asset” is Rolando Sarraff. But a debate is raging in the intelligence community about whether Mr. Sarraff, who has not been heard from since his arrival on U.S. soil, is all he’s cracked up to be by Mr. Obama. Another possibility is that his résumé was embellished to cover up for what was essentially a trade of the convicted spies for Alan Gross, the U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who was arrested by Cuban state security in Havana in 2009.

Considering how the Communist regime has a history of touting the release of prisoners for propaganda purposes, this secrecy around the names of 53 people is extraordinary enough that, by now, my question is, is there a list?

The lack of transparency equals lack of accountability. Just what one would expect from the Obama administration.

* Note: Unusual enough that I can not recall a news item in ten years of blogging where two weeks’ research turned out nothing.

The top Latin American story of 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Without a doubt, Pres. Obama’s December 17 Statement on Cuba Policy Changes was the top news of 2014 on Latin America.

Read the rest of my article at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Cuban dissidents meeting at the 14ymedio office, the online newspaper of blogger Yoani Sanchez (fourth from right)

Arguing with idiots about #Cuba

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

A. J. Delgado has a great post (complete with Big Lebowski gifs), Arguing with idiots about #Cuba (h/t Babalu). Here’s a sample,

“But we do business with other repressive regimes.” 
Hm, I’m aware.

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 9.04.59 PM

But…

a) The “America might as well trade with Cuba because we do with X, Y, Z” is simply hogwash. Do eight wrongs make a right? Also:

– Is a single ONE of those nations in the Western Hemisphere? No. (Hard truth: we do care more about what happens in, say, England, than in Tibet. Sorry.)

– Do we have strong cultural and historical ties with any of those nations, dating back over 200 years? No.

– Did any of those nations confiscate over $1 billion dollars in US property at the time, done by the very same regime/family in power now? No.

b) More importantly, though, we’re bound by reality. Are some of our oil-supplier partners not exactly good guys? Sure. But our economic realities prevent us from ignoring that market. Ditto with China. Cuba, however, we can realistically shun.

c) Speaking of China (which anti-embargo proponents love to bring up, thinking it’s their pièce de résistance), China is not a fully Communist model in its economic approach. Unlike Cuba, a surprising amount of private enterprise and ownership is allowed. And, a surprising amount of the wages paid to factory workers, for instance, end up in the workers’ pockets. Meanwhile, Cuba has been busy passing legislation this year (no doubt in anticipation of the Obama-deal) dictating the government will keep over 90% of a worker’s wages derived from a foreign company. In any event, thanks to this business, the Chinese government is now the most well-funded tyrannical regime in history. Is that something we want to do again? Just askin’…

On the China issue, Noah Rothman points out,

First, as The Federalist’s Sean Davis pointed out, the parallels between the extension of diplomatic relations to Cuba and similar overtures toward China and Vietnam are misguided. The American interest in “opening” China was primarily political; exacerbate Sino-Soviet tensions, bifurcate the communist world, and provide America with a freer hand to prosecute the Vietnam War.

China under Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping engaged in dramatic market-oriented economic reforms in the 1970s, and there was no “normalization” of relations between Beijing and Washington until 1979 – well after Kissinger and then Nixon had famously visited the reclusive communist giant in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Reforms first, normalization second.

Moreover, the suggestion that the opening of bilateral diplomatic ties and business relations between America and China helped to transform the People’s Republic into a human rights paragon overnight is complicated by the 1989 massacre of peaceful pro-Democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. Even today, despite a booming and markedly capitalist economy, China remains one of the world’s leading human rights abusers.

No, Cuba is not China.

No, you can’t have free markets without free peoples.

No, objections to Obama’s “normalization” are not caused by our “outdated Cold War perspective”.

Yes, those who oppose the embargo were vociferous about South Africa’s apartheid, even when Cuba’s communist regime is blatantly racist, and practices a de facto apartheid medical system.

But, as A.J. is aware, when it comes to Cuba, you can’t cure stupid.

Parting question, has anyone found the list of the 53 political prisoners that were supposed to be released yet? I’m still looking.

The last 2014 Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, December 29th, 2014

LatinAmerARGENTINA
Argentineans Hoard Disappearing Tampons
Fixed Exchange Rate Constrains Import Dollars, Pharmacies Lack Essentials

Argentine president hospitalized for sprained ankle. Not sprained, fractured.

Not sure if this was before, or after she broke her ankle, but it’s the weird photo-op of the week: Argentina president adopts young Jewish boy as godson to prevent him from turning into werewolf
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchhner adopted Yair Tawil as her godson, due to an Argentine folktale that says the seventh born son in a family will turn into a werewolf, and eat unbaptized babies.

BOLIVIA
Venezuela and Bolivia Challenge OAS on Supporting U.S. and Cuba
The OAS permanent council convened to support the rapprochement between the two countries began five hours late due to disagreements over the draft declaration, distorting the image of unity that the majority of the member states wanted to promote

Spanish Tourists Spend the Most in Bolivia

BRAZIL
Providence, Rhode Island is suing the Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras over investor losses due to a corruption scandal.

Unlike other class actions, some of the company’s senior executives have also been named as defendants.

Dilma Rousseff’s Christmas may not be so merry
Humiliation at the World Cup, a flailing economy and an oil scandal made 2014 a tough year for Brazil.

CHILE
Red Alert Due to Forest Fires Still in Effect for Chile’s Valparaiso Region

COLOMBIA
Colombia to Grow Faster Than Peers Even as Oil Tumbles

CUBA
The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations

US to pay freed Cuba prisoner $3.2m
American Alan Gross, freed last week after five years in a Cuban jail, is to receive $3.2m (£2m) from the US government.

Americans back normalizing relations with Cuba, but has anyone examined the costs?

Obama, Cuba, and Iran

Cuban dissident voices & Pope Francis’ deaf ears
The wives of imprisoned critics of the Castro regime deserved better

Exiles, U.S. betrayed

The Cuban Archipelago

U.S. ending Cuban sanctions more proof of weakness, say Iranian media

TOP 10 LIES IN OBAMA’S CUBA SPEECH

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Dominican Charged in Scheme to Sell Massachusetts’ Driver Licenses to Illegal Aliens

ECUADOR
Boston Investment Company Sues Ecuador Over Bond Default

EL SALVADOR
Salvadorian Who Went Missing in War Reunites with Family 32 Years Later

GUATEMALA
The One Latin America Winner From U.S. Economic Boom: Currencies

LATIN AMERICA
Latin America in 2014: elections, football and environmental conflict
US-Cuba relations dominated the news in December, but elsewhere voters seemed resigned to the status quo

MEXICO
Abducted Mexican priest found deadThe coffin with Father Gregorio Lopez’s body is loaded into a hearse
[Father Gregorio Lopez] A Mexican priest who was kidnapped earlier this week is found shot dead in the south-western state of Guerrero.

Merry Christmas but Lest We Forget, MEXICO STILL MOURNS

NICARAGUA
I’m not the only skeptic: Doubts deepen over Chinese-backed Nicaragua canal as work starts

So far the company, the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd, or HKND Group, of telecoms entrepreneur Wang Jing, has identified only $200 million in funding.
. . .
Supporters point to Monday’s start as evidence that the plan is on schedule. But key feasibility studies on the canal have been pushed back to next April, and excavation work is not due to begin until the second half of next year.

PANAMA
Panama Buys More Time for “Temporary” Price Controls
Sunset Provision Extended, Expanded Product List in the Offing

PERU
Peru evacuates Amazon village after raid by indigenous tribe
At least 39 people taken to Puerto Maldonado as officials search for motive behind latest bow-and-arrow attack by members of Mashco-Piro tribe

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rican Economic Activity Index Drops 2.1%

VENEZUELA
Diosdado’s Crocodile Tears
New York Times Op-Ed Scapegoats United States for Venezuela’s Ruin

Why checks and balances? Check out Venezuela today.

The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela: Leopoldo’s letter

Argentina: Top Gear hot water

Merry Christmas!

Confirmed: US Sperm For Spies program

Nicaragua: Where’s the Canal money coming from?

Did Obama give in on Cuba so Uruguay would take 6 Gitmo alumni?

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
The Interview. Yes, The Interview

Last-minute shopping: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

Podcast:
The Opening to Cuba: What do Cuban Americans Think?

Last night’s podcast

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

I was Rick Moran’s co-host in last night’s podcast. discussing The Opening to Cuba: What do Cuban Americans Think? with Silvio Canto, Jr.

Related to the topic,
The Real Cost of Castro Inc.

If relations are fully normalized, American tourist dollars would pour into companies owned by the Castro regime, since tourism is controlled by both the military and General Raul Castro, warns the Cuba Transition Project (CTP).That means rum, tobacco, hotels and resorts are all owned and operated by the regime and its security forces. Cuba’s dominant company is the Grupo Gaesa, founded by Raul Castro in the nineties and controlled and operated by the Cuban military, which oversees all investments. Cuba’s Gaviota, run by the Cuban military, operates Cuba’s tourism trade, its hotels, resorts, car rentals, nightclubs, retail stores and restaurants. Gaesa is run by Raul’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

The number of foreign companies doing business in Cuba have been cut by more than half since the 1990s, to 190 from some 400. Reasons include: Being forced to partner with army-controlled groups; hire workers through state agencies; and the freezing of bank deposits. Complaints have poured in from former senior executives at Dow Chemical, General Mills, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Bacardi, American Express Bank, PepsiCo, Warner Communications, Martin Marietta Aluminum and Amex Nickel Corporation. Iberia, Spain’s national airline which at one time accounted for 10% of foreign commerce with Cuba, killed its Havana routes because they were unprofitable.

Carlos Eire was not in the podcast, but you should read how he’s Dealing with anti-Cuban-American vitriol on Christmas Eve

Confirmed: US Sperm For Spies program

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Disgraceful.

Babalu named it, Obama’s Sperm for Spies program:
Cuban spy serving life for murder was allowed to send sperm to wife in Cuba

Yes. They threw in a baby with the bath water.

Gerardo Hernández, who was serving two consecutive life sentences since he was the

head of the spy ring known as the Wasp Network, was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder for his role in the Brothers to the Rescue incident that left four Cuban-Americans dead.

was able to impregnate his wife through artificial insemination by having his sperm collected at prison in the U.S. and then flown to Cuba at U.S. taxpayers’ expense (emphasis added):

The plan was hatched with the help of US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), his office confirmed to help ensure the release of ailing US aid worker Alan Gross

The US Justice Department, which ought to change its name to the No-Justice Department, confirmed,

“We can confirm the United States facilitated Mrs. Hernandez’s request to have a baby with her husband,” spokesman Brian Fallon told CNN.

In exchange, Alan Gross was not allowed to attend his mother’s funeral when she died last June.

Yesterday I said, “There will be more coming from these – up to now – seemingly unrelated stories.” Little did I know a baby was in the deal.

UPDATE
CUBA SIGNALS THAT EXTRADITION OF US FUGITIVES OFF THE TABLE



Did Obama give in on Cuba so Uruguay would take 6 Gitmo alumni?

Monday, December 22nd, 2014


Lame duck Uruguayan president and former Tupamaro terrorist José Mujica brags, according to an AFP and EFE report at La Tercera (link in Spanish), that he asked the Obama administration to release three Cuban spies in exchange for Uruguay accepting six Gitmo detainees.

Mujica indicó also indicated that negotiations with the U.S. government “are far from closed. They depend, among other things, on various decisions outside our reach.”

Paul Mirengoff asks, THE CUBA APPEASEMENT AND THE LATEST DETAINEE RELEASE — IS THERE A CONNECTION?

Although no one seems to dispute that Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla, urged that the Cuban spies be released, the U.S. denies that their release was ever part of the negotiations, which have been going on for many months. It would appear, then, that either Mujica or the Obama administration is lying.

However, the truth may be that Mujica asked for the release of the Cuban spies and the administration signaled that this would be taken care of as part of a larger deal with Cuba. In this scenario, the Obama administration could deny that the release of spies ever became part of the give-and-take of negotiations. Again, it seems likely that releasing the Cuban spies is something Obama wanted to do anyway, for purposes of accommodating the Castro regime.

If Obama’s recent transactions with Uruguay and Cuba are viewed collectively, here is the “bill” to the U.S.: (1) the release of six terrorists with no assurance (not even a paper one) that they won’t immediately return to the fight against the U.S., as so many have; (2) the release of three Cuban spies; and (3) the granting to Cuba’s Communist tyrants of as much legitimacy and economic help as Obama has the power to confer.

There will be more coming from these – up to now – seemingly unrelated stories.

The “normalized” Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

On Wednesday, December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama read a Statement on Cuba Policy Changes. One could parse the fallacies, starting with “the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba,” when in fact the change is in the relationship with the Communist regime oppressing the people of Cuba. Cuban opposition leaders decry the move, clearly seeing it as a betrayal since the know that engagement won’t automatically promote freedom

Opposition leaders from throughout the island have agreed on four immediate demands to put before the government: the release of political prisoners; the end of repression against human rights and pro-democracy groups; the ratification of international covenants on human rights; and the recognition of Cuban civil society groups.

Nothing in the December 17 Statement refers to those demands.

Apparently 53 political prisoners are to be released; I’ll be most obliged if anyone could send me a link to the list of their names and the date(s) of their release, since I have not been able to find it.

The Liberal Fallacy of the Cuba Deal
Don’t get me wrong: I support the normalization of relations. But believing it can remake the regime in Havana is the worst kind of American exceptionalist fantasy.

The fantasy that U.S. policies and actions can reshape another country has been with us for far too long. The ability of the United States to change any country’s internal economy or politics is extraordinarily limited, as our most recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan show, yet again.

Mariela Castro, Raul Castro’s daughter, clarified,

Change must come from within Cuba: Only Cubans can save Cuba.

As things stand right now, the odds have vastly improved for Cuba to “transition” into a profitable Communist regime, like China’s. Or perhaps, even more likely, the Viet Nam outcome,

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely.

Obama is trying to cement his legacy. Human rights (and true democracy) be damned.

Obama on video flaunting Cuban cigar hours after capitulating to Cuba


More ABC News Videos | ABC World News

As an aside, the Castro regime has availed itself of santería imagery to instill fear at home (even having members of his entourage pluck dead chickens at the Waldorf Astoria in 1960). Obama’s announcement came on St. Lazarus day, a saint in Cuban santería, as Val Prieto points out. When it comes to symbolism, Obama handed the Castros an ace in the hole.

Roundup:
Drudge:


CASTRO: CUBA STAYS COMMUNIST!

1960 article from The Economist: On The Rocks

Blogs:
In Cuba Policy Debate, Theories Don’t Cut It

Castros Pull It Off, Again? Some Preliminary Thoughts

Will Obama roll out the White House red carpet for Raul Castro?

‘Disturbing to say the least': Something’s VERY wrong with this photo of Alan Gross

Krauthammer: Liberalization Won’t Work in Cuba

Details of the Unilateral Executive Cuba Deal

What Part of Keeping Cuba Isolated Has Not ‘Worked’?

Obama’s New Cuba Policy: Eating With Raul

Rand Paul Rand-splains Cuba to Marco Rubio

Castro’s Hipster Apologists Want to Keep Cuba ‘Authentically’ Poor
The thawing of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba has elicited a lot of patronizing, asinine fretting about the imminent “Americanization” of Cuba.

The WaPo sees the light on Obama and Cuba

Thoughts on Cuba

Odds & Ends: Cuba

Democracy in Cuba is a long-term project. One of the arguments from those who want to lift the embargo is that capitalism will bring democracy to Cuba. What this argument fails to take into account is that Cuban society from an ethics standpoint has de-evolved. Since Castro has taken over, Cuban society has regressed. Through its loss of freedom and the economic rations, the Cuban people have adopted a “survival of the fittest” mentality. In terms of daily life, this means that the Cuban people have to steal either materials, or food, or money in order for their family to survive. Their thought is that the consequences be damned, I have to do this for my family to survive. For foreign companies that want to do build factories and or businesses in Cuba, be prepared to deal with employees who will steal.

The democratic process in Cuba will take at least three generations. The first generation will need to fight for their democratic rights. This will either be a violent or a peaceful revolution. The second generation, once it has secured those rights, will need to have those rights protected through constitutional means. The third and subsequent generations will need to be vigilant in protecting those rights. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, Cuba will have a democracy, if they can keep it. In that democraticization process civil society will need to be re-established. The re-establish process needs to include a religious component.

Boycott Cuba, Conservative Hellhole
Why, again, are we celebrating a country run by elderly, militaristic white Hispanic men?

Cuba’s Maximum Wage, Or What Life Is Like When You Follow Gawker’s Economic Policy

¿Qué Ofrece Raúl Castro?

ARGENTINA
Will the Pope butt in? Argentina calls on Britain to discuss Falklands sovereignty after US and Cuba deal
ARGENTINA President Cristina Kirchner has today called on Britain to discuss the Falklands’ sovereignty in light of an historic deal between the US and Cuba.

BRAZIL

Edição 2405

24 de dezembro de 2014

No es facil

Estados Unidos e Cuba reatam laços diplomáticos – mas é cedo para comemorar

CHILE
Emanuel heading to Chile for holidays, despite possible criticism

COLOMBIA
Colombia Farc truce follows killings
Colombia’s Farc begins an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire, hours after the army said that the left-wing rebels had killed five soldiers.

ECUADOR
Ecuador Ends Environmental Cooperation with Germany

JAMAICA
Jamaica Urged To Take Lead In Renewed Cuba Relations

PUERTO RICO
Cuba’s Tourism Gain Will Be Puerto Rico’s Loss Says Analyst

URUGUAY
Uruguay’s Mujica Shows U.S. Letter De-Linking Ex-Guantanamo Inmates from Terrorism

VENEZUELA
Venezuela is done for; it is not me saying it, it is Raul Castro

Another thing is that the way Raul Castro has dumped Venezuela for the US tourism dollar. Now that Venezuela is bankrupt, the only quick fix available for Cuba is to open its tourism to US visitors, and to Miami Cubans eager to come back and buy back, say, their ancestral home. Raul Castro, for all practical purposes, told us today that Venezuela is done, that he cannot leech much more from it, and that he dumps us without ceremony. We are broke and not even the most idiot of chavistadom can pretend to ignore that for much longer.

But what worries me the most about the whole Raul-Obama deal is that a wind of impunity is blowing through the Caribbean. Thousands of Cuban criminals that supported the Castro horrendous dictatorship are now going to go Scott free. Sure, a couple of them will be somehow sent to trial, scapegoats for decades of tyranny and errors. But it looks like the Castros are now going to die peacefully in their bed while the cult to Che will grow even stronger as throngs of lobotomized US tourists will be driven to the high places of Che crimes.

Current occupant of the White House imposes sanctions on Venezuela, no one pays attention

US-Cuba: A Historic Decision

How Venezuela’s Collapse Helped Thaw Cuban-American Relations
The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez helped keep the Cuban regime propped up, but that’s not possible in an era of low oil prices

The week’s posts and podcast:
Cuba: Raul gets richer

Cuba: Q & A

Cuba: US law and dissidents’ objectives

Ecuador: Selling it to China

Cuba: What is the regime going to do?

Cuba: #AlanGross released – is Obama ending the embargo in exchange? UPDATED THROUGH THE DAY

Argentina: Cristina aims for The People’s Cube

Puerto Rico: NY Yankees’ Jorge Posada scammed out of $11million

Elsewhere

Uruguay: Send more Gitmo alumni!

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
Whose “outdated Cold War perspective”?

Brace yourselves: Obama to end the embargo after Gross’s release

Podcast
A look at Venezuela, Cuba and other US-Latin America stories of the week



Cuba: Raul gets richer

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

The Communist elite will profit; the Cuban people will remain oppressed.

(Emphasis added)

Mary O’Grady asks, Who Benefits if the Embargo Is Lifted?

President Obama appeared to be trying to prove his own revolutionary bona fides when he announced on Wednesday new diplomatic relations with the military dictatorship and plans to make it easier for Americans to travel to the island and engage in commerce with Cubans. He repeatedly linked the isolation of the Cuban people to U.S. policy, as the regime teaches Cuban children to do. He complained that the embargo strives to keep “Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.” In a reference to the limited access that Cubans have to telecommunications, he said “our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe.”

Even the humblest Cuban peasant would split his sides laughing if he heard those statements, which none did because they do not have access to anything other than Cuban state television—speaking of isolation. Cubans know that the island is not isolated from foreigners. According to Cuban statistics in 2013 there were 2.85 million visitors to the island of 11 million inhabitants. These included European, Chinese, Latin American, Canadian and American tourists and investors. In the first six months of this year, according to The Havana Consulting Group, there were 327,000 visitors to Cuba from the U.S.

The isolation (news flash Rand Paul) is caused by the police state, which controls and surveils foreigners’ movements, herding most visitors into resort enclaves. Foreign journalists who vocally oppose the Communist Party line are not allowed into the country.

More visitors won’t do anything to reduce Cuban poverty. The regime pockets the hard currency that they leave behind and pays workers in worthless pesos. Foreigners who decide to reward good workers without state approval can face prison.

It’s true that the Cuban people lack access to technology, but Mr. Obama’s suggestion that it is because of the embargo is a howler. Carlos Slim , the Mexican telecom monopolist and global player; Telefónica , the Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider; Vietnam’s Natcom; Ireland’s Digicel and countless other companies can do business on the island. But they can’t provide Internet access in homes because the state prohibits it.

The Real Cost of Castro Inc.

If relations are fully normalized, American tourist dollars would pour into companies owned by the Castro regime, since tourism is controlled by both the military and General Raul Castro, warns the Cuba Transition Project (CTP).

That means rum, tobacco, hotels and resorts are all owned and operated by the regime and its security forces. Cuba’s dominant company is the Grupo Gaesa, founded by Raul Castro in the nineties and controlled and operated by the Cuban military, which oversees all investments. Cuba’s Gaviota, run by the Cuban military, operates Cuba’s tourism trade, its hotels, resorts, car rentals, nightclubs, retail stores and restaurants. Gaesa is run by Raul’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

The number of foreign companies doing business in Cuba have been cut by more than half since the 1990s, to 190 from some 400. Reasons include: Being forced to partner with army-controlled groups; hire workers through state agencies; and the freezing of bank deposits. Complaints have poured in from former senior executives at Dow Chemical, General Mills, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Bacardi, American Express Bank, PepsiCo, Warner Communications, Martin Marietta Aluminum and Amex Nickel Corporation. Iberia, Spain’s national airline which at one time accounted for 10% of foreign commerce with Cuba, killed its Havana routes because they were unprofitable.

Jackson Diehl:

The economic benefits of engagement are minor, while the possibility that continued sanctions could be used to engineer regime change — or at least meaningful political concessions — is far greater.

At this point, the best the Cuban people could hope for is the Viet Nam outcome.

Cuba: Q & A

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Question:
As Obama makes history over Cuba, will the Castros be the real winners?

Answer:
From Raul Castro, “We won the war.”

Bonus,
Little known fact:

During the administration of Gerald Ford, a remarkable two-year diplomatic initiative was undertaken by secretary of state Henry Kissinger and his assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, William P Rogers, to normalise relations with Cuba. Had the talks succeeded, the US embargo would have been eliminated, with diplomatic relations between the two countries fully restored as early as 1976. If nothing else, Kissinger wanted to add the notch of Cuba to his diplomatic belt. After China, Kissinger assumed Cuba would be a cakewalk. “Little did we know,” sighed the late Rogers when I interviewed him.

But the potentially historic talks sputtered in December 1975 when Castro decided to intervene in the Angolan civil war. To their everlasting shock, the US team came to the inescapable conclusion that Castro was ready to sacrifice a rapprochement with his most important neighbour to pursue a bizarre military adventure halfway across the globe.

From that arm of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy . . . The Guardian.

UPDATE
Linked to by The Devil’s Excrement. Thank you!