Tag Archives: Raul Castro

Cuba’s fake opening

For those of us who had our doubts about the Obama “opening” to Cuba, Fidel Castro’s son, a photographer, has confirmed the worst in an interview with a Chilean radio station. Alex Castro, the regime’s official photographer, went to Chile to present his photographic books at an international book fair.
Alex, however, accuses his uncle, Raúl, and his buddies, who took over from his father in mid-2006, of bureaucracy, moving too slowly toward change, and extensive corruption. Furthermore, Castro hints that he wants to defect and that he would go to Miami to show his pictures there if an American visa is forthcoming.
Alex follows several other second generation Castro offspring x-wives and lovers who have flown the coop. Alex is the second son of Fidel Castro y Dalia Soto del Valle. He has published a number of photograph books about his father. But he refused to answer a question about the details of the transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl, other than to say that it arose from changes the latter have made and had come come about for “various reasons.” Raúl was longtime head of the military under Fidel and there is a growing suspicion the Havana dictatorship is turning into the traditional Latin American military regime.
One of the many ironies in the interview is that Alex says Raúl has failed to follow the example of Communist Vietnam. That is “difficult [because] there are no other [political] parties, “ he said. “It’s likely to be that we don’t follow the Vietnamese path in five years but take 40 to 40 years the way we are doing things.”
“The way we change things in our socialist system”, although he added that he recognizes that “many things have changed”, is being done “without submitting the population to shock treatment.”
Castro was equally pessimistic about the future of foreign investment in 84-year-old Raúl’s Cuba. He said he would like to have seen great progress in the negotiations for such investments with the prospect for important gains for the Cuban people with ”large companies.” But he pointed out that the majority of these negotiations are going with the Cuban state not with any equal partners in the virtually nonexistent private sector.
In his opinion, Castro said, these negotiations won’t produce much. These are big companies “in trade or industry or large chains of hotels” that cannot negotiate except with similar enterprises and those do not exist in Cuba. “They don’t exist now in Cuba and they aren’t going to come about. Some people can get rich but they aren’t going to be millionaires”, he said.
Castro referred to elements in the current regime which are “hard-line and blind”. He said that power is wielded only by a small group, all of whom are “conservatives” who oppose any fundamental changes.
He said relations with the Vatican are better “at this moment”. But he said while relations :”have been lit”, “we nevertheless understand that instead of a war, the Church and the government want to improve relations, the same as with the Americans” and for the moment don’t go further than that.
Laughing, in an aside on his three divorces, he said that each one of his ex-wives “gave him a haircut”. That came through a division of assets, the feeling of responsibility, and they left him with little, he said between guffaws.
Without doubt, Castro’s comments about the slow movement toward change indicate “[there are] forces even more conservative than Raúl, in a highly personalized regime such as Cuba’s,” according to Sebastián Arcos, deputy director of the Institute of Cuban Studies at The International University of Florida in Miami.
American businessmen coming up against these barriers – like their Canadian and European colleagues during the last several decades – are going to find it slow going in Cuba. The promise of new markets and trade, one of the things for which the Obama Administration excused its dealings with a regime still jailing political opponents, isn’t likely to come about. Except – of course – if the American taxpayer picks up the tab with new credits which a bankrupt Cuban economy certainly cannot justify. Obama’s recent request for lifting the Cuban embargo, now only a shadow of its former self, may be the first step in that direction.

Disguising the enemy

It apparently isn’t enough that the Obama Administration is going out of its way to try to reset relations with some of our longstanding enemies, but the State Department is muddying the picture.
It is what the French call deformation professionelle, the tendency to judge problems solely on the basis of your professional skills. If you are a lawyer, you want to litigate them away, a physician, you want to prescribe medicines to wipe them out, a surgeon to cut them away, and if a diplomat, to bargain them away – whatever the sacrifice and cost to reach a “successful negotiation”.
It’s not enough that Washington has made a deal with a bankrupt Cuban regime, actually throwing them a line of support when their last Sugar Daddy, Chavez of Venezuela and his heirs, can no longer afford to give them oil. At the very moment, the agreements were being initiated, Raul Castro, ageing dictator once-removed, was throwing new political prisoners in jail.
There’s a good deal of ballyhoo about how Cuba has now opened up to foreign [that is U.S. if the embargo is lifted] investment, and will turn into another China. What’s forgotten is that our allies, including the Canadians, have had open sesame to the Cuban economy and its supposed markets for decades but unable to do much because of the restraints of the Castros’ incredibly incompetent Soviet economic policies. Now, of course, in sheer desperation, some small business ownership is being permitted. And soon there will be a few more luxury hotels and boutiques only available to foreigners and Cubans with dollars remitted from their kith and kin in the U.S.
If all that weren’t enough, now the cookie-pushers at State have decided to mask the continuing human rights cruelties of the regime with whom they have chosen to sup. In this year’s annual report by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – or J/TIP [read slavery in non-diplomatese], Cuba was removed from the “Tier 3” blacklist. There was the claim, even though the Department’s own trafficking experts laid out evidence to the contrary, that it had made notable improvements in its sorry record of kidnappings and imprisonment without cause.
The State Department’s own Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau completely refuted these claims that Havana is making any progress toward decency. Nor is there any attempt to show the incredible lengths to which the regime goes to indenture its citizens. The Castros’ highly touted extension of medical services – again of questionable quality – to other Latin and African nations is not as presented a voluntary activity by its medical community but a carefully disguised penal servitude for its medical students and graduates in which the Cuban regime rakes in most of their earnings. Meanwhile, an epidemic of dengue fever has broken out in the city of Trinidad on the south coast of the Island, a UNESCO Heritage site and tourist mecca, apparently as a result of a virtual breakdown in sewage facilities.
The careful exposure of the very complexity of the Cuban tyranny, developed over a half century, which has impoverished the nation and driven much of its elite abroad, is all the more necessary if the President’s grandiose initiative to improve relations is to have meaning. Instead, it is impossible to find a single concession that the Castros have made in return for the offer of respectability that the Obama Administration has given them with the diplomatic interchange.
Unfortunately it is one more instance of the inability – or is it unwillingness – of the Obama Administration to defend American interests and those of subjugated peoples such as the Cubans – in its foreign relations. No one asks for the Johnny-one-note of on human rights of Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, but there is some limit to what the U.S. should tolerate when it extends the prize of diplomatic relations to a foreign regime.
A new Administration in 2016, whatever its party and personal affiliations, will have a huge diplomatic mess to clean up.

Whose Embassy?

The Obama Administration’s Cuban romance is rapidly turning into a nightmare – at least for those of us who believe in the old fashioned concept of the sanctity of embassies and their functioning.
Requesting another $6 million plus to expand the current “American interests section”, in all but diplomatic protocol an already existing U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, John D. Feeley, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in support of the request. Hopefully, in the closed session, the Senators got more information. The public testimony was, to say the least, a little wanting. Freeley repeatedly said he had not been a party to the negotiations himself and could not, at least in open session, reveal more than the opinions of the American negotiators but not the progress of his boss as chief negotiator.
But Feeley did say some startling things: American negotiators are still arguing about the expansion of local personnel, that is, whether those employees will be only those openly proffered by Raul Castro’s secret police. It is still not clear whether the U.S. would be able to bring in its own equipment [obviously including security protective devices] for any expansion of the mission’s facilities. The question of returning American criminal fugitives who have taken refugee in Habana has not been settled. Opened? Cuba, which has been caught red-handed [pun intended] twice in the last 18 months smuggling heavy weapons to North Korea around the UN embargo, has nevertheless professed to end any state terrorist activities. [Ostensibly this mea culpa has been accepted by Colombia and Spain, although, here again, Freeley wasn’t too sure.]
Given that within 48 hours of the announcement by the Obama Administration that it was proceeding toward opening full-fledged relations with Havana, there were new arrests without trial of Cuban democratic activists who are likely to remain incarcerated for unknown periods, one has to ask exactly what Washington is getting out of this deal. Beyond, of course, a new center for Cuban infiltration, subversion and espionage in Washington for, if you will pardon the smirk, “reciprocity”.


Funding the Castros’ tyranny

The amateur ideologues of the Obama Administration have fallen into another snakepit with their tacit endorsement of the notorious Cuban dictatorship. That’s despite all the nonsense about a blossoming Cuban economy if Washington just relents.
In reality, Washington is buckling in its opposition to one of the world’s most hideous regimes. Now its death throes will be perpetuated for Cuba’s 12 million people with the help of such deep thinkers as Sen. Rand Paul who dreams despite all the evidence in China and Vietnam to the contrary that contagious capitalism will bring down a police state.
Even more shameful is the helping hand – which Pres. Barack Hussein Obama acknowledged – of Canada and the Vatican in this new Obama enterprise. For half a century Canadian nickel interests and the always anti-American wheat lobby have blackened Ottawa’s reputation with its support of the Castros. At the Vatican, whose help Obama also acknowledged, there are echoes of the Church’s tacit support of Franco and other cruel dictatorships, as well as Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s ambiguous relationship with Argentine totalitarians as Jesuit Father Provincial in his native country before mounting the papacy. [Nor is this gesture likely to help stave off the growing influence of Evangelical Christians on the old Roman Catholic monopoly of Christian believers throughout Latin America.]
Despite all the talk of the regime moderating , Raúl Castro holds more than 57,000 political prisoners. And his dungeons have sucked in more new victims in the past year than the five previous years. Conditions are as bad as in the worst days of the Soviet Union and the East Eruopean Communist Bloc, producing hunger strikes in a noble if feeble effort against solitary confinement, beatings, restricted family visits and denial of medical care. There is no redress except for American citizens like the naïve and very lucky Alan Philip Gross who had maximum U.S. support for his release on trumped up charges, but only after five years..
The fiction that Cuba has anything to sell or that investments there could pay off has been refuted by decades of failed efforts by the Europeans – especially Spain – to circumvent the now tattered American embargo. Little Cuba has no hope of repaying some $25 billion it already owes these ambitious “investors”. Prepare yourself for the coming suggestion that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank [with the U.S. carrying its quarter or more of support] to “amortize” these bills.
The destruction of a thriving if troubled Latin American society in the 1950s came with the help of the same cheering section of the current White House strategy [notably The New York Times]. When Cuba left the real world a half century ago, it ranked fifth in the Hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in ownership of cars and telephones with a 76% literary rate. [The fact that it was 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita gives the lie to the Castros’ claims of creating a new medical miracle.] Cuba’s prosperity then was largely paid for by a guaranteed sugar import quota in the U.S., its principal industry and income producer, and tourism for a glamorous if corrupt nearby tourist capital in Habana..
Now Cuba comes back into the world not only with its sugar industry in ruins, but in a world with a half dozen “new” sweetener competitors [including highly subsidized U.S. domestic beets], no possibility of a guaranteed American market, and a world drowning in subsidized sugar programs. [This week the U.S. has hauled Mexico up on a charge of dumping its subsidized sugar in American markets in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the North American Free Trade Agreement.]
After decades of Communist repression and mismanagement, Cuba has reached a desperate crisis. Its Venezuelan ally which had provided subsidized energy in exchange for Castro assistance in setting up its own police state can nolonger foot the bill for Cuban energy.
That was the situation when Obama and his speechwriters rushed to fill the gap.
Now greedy American exporters – supercharged with their own program of an annual $14 billion in corruption-ridden agricultural and export subsidies – will be bidding with their Canadian taxpaying counterparts for supplying the starving country. Any extension of aid – private or government – will end up in the hands of the regime in its effort to survive by continuing to exploit an impoverished population.
Not only did Raúl Castro not make even the nominal concessions he has made in the past toward a liberalization of the regime, but so-called “reforms” permitting small scale private enterprise are a sham.
To the extent Obama can carry out his tactics despite formidable opposition in the Congress, his strategy will only intensify the implosion when it comes in Cuba. Rather, the American government should be preparing for that day, not the least for the tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees who will flow toward Miami. Fifty years of dealing with the problems of another small Caribbean tropical island, Puerto Rica, a third Cuba’s size, have taught us just how difficult those problems will be.