Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Babalu - A Miami Cuban BLog

In order to fully comprehend the state of U.S. - Cuban relations, one must also pay attention to those voices that are opposed to the restoration of normal diplomatic relationships between the two nations.  Many Cubans living in the United States, particularly those older Cubans who came here in successive waves of migration, from Mariel to Pedro Pan to individual wet-foot/dry-foot landings, vehemently oppose restoration of diplomacy until the Castros and any vestiges of their regimes are gone and "democracy"returns to the island.

It's doubtful that there are any Cubans still alive who can remember when Cuba enjoyed real democracy, since Batista and his predecessors clearly never practiced that form of governance.

One place to hear the voices of the opposition is in one of the oldest blogs in English, called Babalu.  Include it in your reading for a view from the other side.

Cuban Five Case

Policy Paper on the Cuban Five case.

"The case of the Cuban Five is one which reflects abysmally on the U.S. juridical system. The Five, Gerardo Hernandez, Luis Medina, Antonio Guerrero, Ruben Campa and Rene Gonzalez, were members of the Cuban Intelligence Service sent to penetrate Cuban exile organizations that were carrying on terrorist activities against Cuba.  Once sufficient evidence of those activities had been gathered, the idea was to invite representatives of the FBI to come to Cuba and provide them with that evidence – in hopes that the U.S. would then take action to put a stop to these activities."

That didn't happen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cuban 'Medical Diplomacy'

Contrary to the official United States position, that Cuba is a State Sponsor of Terrorism, clear evidence shows that Cuba conducts its foreign policy by asking for friendship and mutually beneficial relationships with governments and people from  the rest of the world.  And it avoids the huge mistake of trying to militarily and economically enforce its ideas of how to govern upon other nations.

Granted, there was once a time when Cuba offered such military support as it could muster, to countries in far away places.  Now the Cuban government practices what others have called 'medical diplomacy', trading the services of doctors, nurses and other well-trained medical troops to bring healing hands to nations and regions that desperately need them.

In return they receive such aid as might be available to the counterpart country:  oil from Venezuela, food from throughout Central and South America, sugar purchases and, once, direct subsidies from Russia -- and direct payments for the thousands of medical personnel willing to work in clinics and hospitals in poor and remote areas of the world.

In the meanwhile, the U.S. uses its Agency for International Development (USAID) to destabilize Cuba economically, politically and spiritually.  Cuba is the only country in the world where AID is used in this way.

Cuba is also the only country in the world where [most*] American citizens are required to apply to the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) for permission to travel to Cuba legally.  These restrictive licenses severely limit what travelers are able to do while in Cuba, and they allow OFAC to impose large and punitive fines on any traveller who violates the license in any way.  To my knowledge, no other country imposes this on their citizens.

As a practical matter, thousands of Americans already go to Cuba every year. But they must use subterfuge to do it by traveling first to another country and then travel to Cuba from there.  The Cuban government cooperates by not stamping U.S. passports at its borders.

It is long overdue for the President and Secretary of State to remove the State Terrorism label and to end the economic embargo that robs opportunities from both sides -- the U.S. and Cuba.

It's also time to remove the onerous travel restrictions that prevent me and millions of other good citizens from going there to see for ourselves what's going on.

Sign the petition at the White House website:

Allow all American citizens to travel to Cuba under the same terms as to any other country

* American citizens who have family in Cuba can travel there free from the restrictions that govern the rest of us.  How unfair is that?

Another good Cuba blog

"The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has spent more than $200 million on these programs since 1996. They are explicitly designed to influence internal affairs in Cuba and boost freedom. And no matter how noble the cause might be, the programs are at odds with development work in most parts of the world."

"Into the Cuckoos Nest (May 2, 2013) , from blog "Along the Malecon"

"Douglas Dillon, under secretary of state during the Kennedy administration, helped set the tone in 1960 when he said it was Washington's duty to cause "rising discomfort among hungry Cubans."
The strategy continued in the 1970s, according to "Cuba Under Siege," which quotes a CIA officer as saying:
We wanted to keep bread out of the stores so the people would go hungry."  

"Piece by piece, in backpacks and carry-on bags, American aid contractor Alan Gross made sure laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment were secreted into Cuba. The most sensitive item, according to official trip reports, was the last one: a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track."

"US AID Contractor Work in Cuba Detailed", Desmond Butler, AP.  February 13, 2012

C'mon, Mr. Kerry, c'mon Mr. Obama, do what's sensible.
Allow all Americans to travel to Cuba under the same terms as to any other country.

Sign the Petition

Thursday, May 9, 2013

People to People Exchanges

Here are the 52 pages of regulations governing the travel of Americans to Cuba.  No such regulations govern or restrict the ability of Americans (from the land of the free) to travel to any other country, with the possible exception of the other two countries in the world also designated as sponsors of state terrorism.

These rules, however, apply only to Cuba.  They severely limit the things that may or may not be done by a traveler holding any one of the eight general and fifteen specific licenses that must be fully documented when making a request for one.

In addition, most travel to and from Cuba must be booked with one of the many "OFAC-authorized Travel Service Provider[s] (TSP[s]".  These companies charge exorbitantly high fees and charges for what ought to be an almost insignificant fare for the brief flights between Miami and Havana.  

As an example of the restrictive nature of the regulations, I refer readers to the paragraphs beginning on page 22 for ".... certain educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program .... which category also includes those people wanting to engage in People-to-People exchanges.

Here is a link to a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor that focuses on the so-called people-to-people exchanges.  It's an easier read than the dense legalese of the regulations.

Cuban citizens have an easier time traveling to the United States than U.S. citizens have traveling to Cuba.

Land of the free?  Indeed not.

End it now.