Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"How can we help President Obama?"

The seven-member delegation from the House of Representatives returned from Cuba yesterday after three of the members had a meeting with Fidel Castro at his home.

The group got high-level attention – the Fidel Castro meeting, four hours with Raul Castro, and coverage in Cuban media.

The meeting with Raul Castro had an “emphasis on the possible future evolution of bilateral relations and economic ties, following the taking office of a new U.S. Administration,” according to the Foreign Ministry’s communiqué.

If there were specific messages delivered in one direction or another, they haven’t been divulged, except that the delegation supports normalization of relations and the Cuban side reiterated its willingness to enter dialogue with the United States as long as its independence and sovereignty are respected. I suppose the delegation’s impact will be determined by the discussions it has with the Obama Administration, which has expressed willingness to enter some kind of diplomacy with Cuba but has made none of the decisions that would be necessary to get talks started.

“We came back carrying an expectation that we would talk to the people who can in fact make change,” Rep. Marcia Fudge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “They want very much for us to extend a hand of friendship.”

The delegation leader, Rep. Barbara Lee, told reporters in Havana that “all the issues necessary to normalize relations” were discussed.

Rep. Laura Richardson said that Fidel Castro asked, “How can we help President Obama?” But in a commentary following the meeting with the legislators, Fidel Castro referred to a statement by Rep. Bobby Rush – whom Fidel called “an inexhaustible spring of knowledge and maturity” – to the effect that President Obama can improve relations with Cuba, but Cuba should help Obama. Fidel said he asked Rep. Rush about the meaning of that, and he noted that since Cuba is not an aggressor and does not threaten the United States, Cuba has “no option that would permit it to take the initiative.”

The Herald’s coverage of the delegation’s press conference is here; Politico’s is here; AP’s is here; a critical look from the Herald’s Myriam Marquez is here; IPS coverage from Havana is here.


Anonymous said...

I am reposting my comment (with additional stuff) on the previous item because it is very relevant to this post.

FC in his last reflection is telling the Cuban people that Cuba may need to change to advance the Socialist Revolution in the USA by assuring the reelection of a progressive President and progressive politicians in the Congress. This would not be the first time he tells the Cuban people that there will be a significant ideological change for a larger world goal. Some examples of this in the past have been:

1. Support for the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that was seen in the Third World as an imperialist act.

2. Acceptance of Soviet planning of the Cuban economy after the debacle of the 1969-70 sugar harvest.

3. Ordering the PCC militants not to interfere and to attend the Pope John Paul II's events in Cuba after decades of repression of all religious activities.

The question that remains to be answered is: are the Cuban people willing to continue their sacrifices so President Obama can get reelected? I suspect that the answer is no. The follow-up question would be: can the repressive apparatus continue doing their thing to attain this new goal of the Cuban Revolution?

Let's remember that one of the most emblematic Cuban institutions is CUBALSE that stands for Cuba Al Servicio del Extrajero (Cuba at the Service of the Foreigner). For those that do not know CUBALSE, it is a company formed in the 1960s to provide goods and services to foreigners living in Cuba. These goods and services included foodstuff, housewares, cars, housing, etc that were not available to the average Cuban.

By the way it is interesting the choice of the three that met with Fidel Castro. Barbara Lee is an obvious choice since she was the head of the delegation. She has sterling leftist credentials. Bobby Rush has long ties to the Cuban Revolution as the founder of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. Laura Richardson is a less obvious choice but it is obvious that FC disrespected her by his joke on the relation between global warming and the prominence of the Port of Long Beach. (According to Wikipedia she had trouble paying some mortgages. She may get special attention, and maybe even assistance from Cuban intelligence.) The obvious cognitive dissonance is that this Congressional delegation did not meet with Dr. Biscet's wife nor with Vladimiro Roca. It would have been interesting that African Americans in power would meet with African Cubans out of poer . I can only hope that they did some behind the scenes pushing for the release of the political prisoners, and a lessening of the official hostility toward those that disagree with the Cuban government.

Unrabidly yours,

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

Whatever the case, dialouge is preferred to childish tempers and simplistic notions of 'good and evil' pontificated by the rabid right - who have no understanding of history.

Let cubans decide not miami (or the us taxpayer)

Anonymous said...

it is this dialogue that so scares them. if this evolves into normalization they will have lost their political power in the US, they would have lost any input into a post castro cuba, they would have lost for the final time. speculation that the regime will fall a year after normalization is pure fantasy.
anyone who discredits or diminishes the potential for dialogue is showing their true gusano colors

Anonymous said...

The source of political power of the Cuban American community is its economic power. Both US political parties court them not for their votes (the Democrats have won South Florida consistently) but for their money. (Remember that Ms. Lewinsky testified that one of her sessions with Pres.Clinton coincided with his telephone call with a prominent Cuban-American businessman. Was it Fanjul?) Their influence in post-Castro Cuba would also be proportional to the need of the Cuban govenrment for their money. Unfortunately you don't get money for nothing, and these group of Cubans would not "invest" in Cuba unless the Cuban government takes care of their historical grievances.

The Cuban-American community also has a certain political power that arises from the fact that Cuban-Americans are concentrated in certain congressional districts, and their common ethnic identity and political history makes them coalesce into pivotal voting blocks. This is more pronounced in Tallahasee that in Washington but it is there.

It is rather sterile to keep insulting them. Politics is the art of the compromise. It is time to have everybody's back scratched rather than engage in name calling and empty rethoric.

By the way I am taking the anonymous 11:03 AM comment as an indicator that Havana agrees with my assesment of Fidel Castro's last reflection. (I may be delusional but it entertains me!)

Unrabidly yours,

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

but it is the political and economic power of those cuban americans you speak of that has been so damaging. the cuban govt will not allow them to reimpose hegemony under the guise of american benevolence once again.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:56PM,

It is not incumbent on the Cuban government to oppose the Cuban- American purposes. That is the sovereign right of the Cuban people after an open and free discussion of the alternatives. So the Cuban government should stop its limitation on free speech under the excuse of defending Cuban sovereignty. If the Cuban people favor annexation to the US (which I do not favor), that's their sovereign right, and the government role should be limited to implementing that decision with respect for the rights of the minority. But for too long there is no separation between the Cuban government and the will of Fidel Castro and that is not healthy. Not in Cuba, not anywhere.

So let's stop talking about the desires of the Cuban people when everyone knows that there is no real way for those desires to be expressed freely.

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

I guess the Comandante doesn't have someone to edit his reflections. He said in this last reflection that Ron Dellums is the mayor for Oklahoma (I guess Oakland sounds like Oklahoma) that has a population of 400,000. (Right population for Oakland, but not for Oklahoma).

Rabidly factchecking!

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

it is entirely the right of the existing government to impose who will and will not enter their country. the hypocrisy and double standard is just staggering.
the vast majority of the cubans in cuba express their support for their government every day, or is your opinion of them so low that they are incapable of deciding for themselves, so you will decide for them. what arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:06 PM,

I am not sure if you were replying to me but I think we agree that the Cuban people should decide their own future. My point was that there is no open and free dialogue about alternatives in Cuba. Why couldn't the Miami Cubans present their points of view in Cuba to other Cubans in a free and open manner when Ricardo Alarcón and Mark Thiesen can sit down to discuss their differences in a frank and direct manner? The Cubans in Cuba could tell the Miami Cubans that they are loco and go on with their way of doing things, and let the conversation be restarted between others in the future. Then they can go on with their lives with no consequences. Unfortunately that's not allowed in today's Cuba. When was the last time that any opponent of the Cuban government was allowed to present his views in one of the Roundtables? Their views are presented by the government in a rather manipulated fashion. Cubans are smart they can figure for themselves if someone makes sense of not.

So let a free and open dialogue occur even of completely wrong headed views and opinions! The Cubans can figure out who's right and who's wrong. They are not children that need to be protected from bad influences. They can fend for themselves.

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

The point is, the miami folks are supporting a policy of hostility towards cuba, and they have stated quite clearly that the precondition to talk with cuba is to have ALL castros kicked-out from power (and many want them in a nice pine box) as a precondition to talk.

In that conditions it doesn't have any sense to engage with the cuban exile in a dialogue.

The cubans promoted an open and free dialogue few years ago (the nation and the emigration, If i recall) and it was a quite constructive experience. Of course the hard liners never showed up.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:08PM,

The hardliners were never invited because they rightly feared that they would end up in an unmarked grave. The Nation and the Emigration participants were hand picked by the Cuban government. It was an invitation only affair. Those that spoke up were never invited back. I am sure that if an invitation goes out to the so called hardliners today to a meeting that would include them, government officials, and dissidents you would get a decent turnout. Throw in a live feed on official TV, and boy you have great ratings!

Well you got me out of my igloo. Talk to you soon!

Vecino de NF

PS It might be a good idea if everyone signs with a handle.

Anonymous said...

There were several meetings with that name, and even online discussions hosted by the MINREX if I remember correctly.

And don't delude yourself, the so called opposition is hardly in a place that can represent themselves, not to talk about the general population. In practice they are NOT a force within cuba, but an artificial construct.

Of those "dissidents" there are very few that honestly believes in what they do. For the most part dissidence is just a good business and they don't deceive the cuban people. Proof of that is the pathetic support they have within the cuban population, even when the people is pretty upset with the country situation.

leftside said...

Fidel: Cuba has “no option that would permit it to take the initiative."

This get to the heart of the matter right now. Obama is going to announce getting rid of a relatively minor policy that Congress basically ended a few weeks ago. That is the smallest possible change Obama could have made at this point - despite the enormous pressure that has been building. And now the narrative from the US will be that it is Cuba's turn to make a move. Never-mind that Cuba indeed has no policies that negatively affect America or Americans, while the US has many that affect Cubans. The US expects Cuba to fundamentally change their economic, social and political systems while economic and political subversion still carry on. This narrative has to be shot down before there will be real progress. If I know one thing, it is that Cuba will not sacrifice one inch of its independence, sovereignty and dignity in response to US pressure.

Anonymous said...

"Never-mind that Cuba indeed has no policies that negatively affect America or Americans..."

Huh??? You mean Americans are not negatively affected by Cuba's harboring of escaped cop killers, the murder of Americans on the Brother to the Rescue flights, the violent "revolutionaries" and assorted American criminals and fraudsters living the good life under Cuban government protection? And how about the massive confiscation of U.S.-owned properties by the regime? And Americans, like everyone else in the world, have a right and duty to oppose dictators wherever they raise their ugly heads, especially in a neighboring country.

Anonymous said...

"You mean Americans are not negatively affected by Cuba's harboring of escaped cop killers"

US is harboring terrorists and criminals fron the very begining. Call it reciprocity.

"the murder of Americans on the Brother to the Rescue flights"

That were in violation of international treaties, flighting over Havana that is even close to the commercial air trafic. Besides they were warned that they will be shutted down and they press forward.

"And how about the massive confiscation of U.S.-owned properties by the regime"

For what US didn't accept compensation like everyone else did.

The only way to solve the bilateral conflict is to seat and talk about the differences, calling for regime change won't solve anything without popular support.

Anonymous said...

hypocrisy is the standard one must use when anti-castro types speak of cuba. they condemn when the Cuban government reacts against repeated incursions of its airspace, illegally, by Brothers. But they sure won't tell you the history, the many times the Cuban govt warned international authorities,the FAA, the US govt, before finally taking action. the assumption is the cuban side has no right to exercise national rights as any other country in the world would.
when US-Cuba has extradition treaties then talk.
US govt prohibited companies from accepting compensation, they want control, not a buyout, so they continue to use this red herring.
the embargo against cuba includes an information ban, and that's another reason why its scares them to have the travel restrictions lifted; let the Americans come and see for themselves let them learn about the good and bad of Cuba.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight:

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to Cuba and were given an absolutely INCREDIBLE opportunity when invited to meet with Fidel Castro - and didn't utter a single word about political prisoners or human rights?

That is astonishing. These men and women had an absolutely incredible, unbelievable opportunity and they just completely bungled it up.

leftside said...

First off, 3;36, none of us knows what was or was not said behind closed doors. I would find it unlikely that the subjects never came up during the trip. But it is a little naive to think that some kind of "incredible, unbelievable opportunity" was wasted even if they did not state the standard concerns. Fidel and the Cuban people knows exactly what the objections of certain forces in the US are. Fidel would have explained their position and that would have been the end. There was no opportunity wasted, because there is no opportunity for external forces to change Cuba's laws.

Anonymous said...

It's our collective responsibility as human beings to confront injustice in this world - wherever it rears its ugly head. It's unfortunate that these folks lost such a brilliant opportunity.

We know it wasn't uttered by way of the interviews these men and women have been giving. In fact, everything I've read - meaning their statements to the media - amounted to simply fawning over Fidel Castro.

I had higher hopes - it's not everyday U.S. Congress persons are invited to meet with either Fidel or Raul Castro. It could have been a historic, watershed moment.

Still, one must keep hope alive - there's always a tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

anon 355; do you have any idea how the media works? interviews are based on parameters, and no doubt lots more was said that will never be reported.
it would be like saying fidel missed a wonderful opportunity not to bring up the cuban 5, the hundreds in gitmo still, all the human rights abuses in USA. (now that should poke the bear)
oh yeah, enough mierda re human rights; you're talking civil rights. human rights is food, housing, health, education. cuba has them, too bad you yanks don't.
political rights, cuba don't have much. but go read abraham maslow. then figure it out.

Anonymous said...

"human rights is food, housing, health, education. cuba has them, too bad you yanks don't."

Well, first of all, I'm not a "yank" as you put it. Not sure where that comes from.

Second of all, regarding basic human rights - you are absolutely correct:

Food - My family doesn't receive nearly enough from the Cuban government and so we resort to the black market, and are constantly being harrassed for its use as a tool to feed ourselves.

Housing - I don't know what Cuba you have visited but most live in deplorable housing conditions.

Health - Preventative care in Cuba is indeed excellent - neighborhood clinics are well attended, etc. God forbid you should have to go to a hospital for any sort of surgical procedure however - that is of course unless you're a government stooge or have enough money with which to bribe those government stooges to get into a hospital reserved for foreigners or government types - ala Hospital Hermanos Almejeiras.

Education - One: I don't like my children being indoctrinated by way of praising cold blooded killers the likes of Che Guevara. My children were forbidden to ever utter the words: "to be like Che" and that, my friend, got them into heaps of trouble. Ditto higher education - if the CDR doesn't believe you're a good little party member, you can kiss that university education goodbye.

So don't come at anyone with these ridiculous altruistic ideas of what Cuba is when you haven't the slightest idea of what it "is" to live as a CUBAN.

I'm tired of bigoted individuals such as your self who see us as nothing more than a bunch of dumb "spics" who need to be bossed around and force fed by a brutish dictator because we are perceived as not having the capacity to govern ourselves.

Sorry "anonimo," I've had enough of that garbage and it's time to call out people such as yourself for what they are - bigoted, prejudice pricks who wouldn't for a day - go and live in Cuba for themselves as one of us - not a tourist with easy access to chavitos and plane tickets out of the island.

It's really easy for someone like you to play armchair quarterback and talk about how wonderful it is that we have absolutely terrible - yet free hospital care - or that we are given the opportunity of a free higher education - as long as we support the party - - - all the while, you're living somewhere else, completely out of touch with the realities that our people continue to grapple with each and every day.

For those of you reading the posts on this website who are Cuban - I'm going to put this bluntly: It's time to reject these sorts of individuals and shout them down clearly, and loudly. We're in this fight alone and we cannot for a single moment, expect any support from either foreign leaders or foreign citizens. We have been forsaken, and it's up to each and every one of us to seize the reigns and forge our own destiny.

To continue to serve overseers Fidel and Raul as a bunch of plantation slaves is without any dignity. We thought we had, in Fidel, the answer to ending the Batista dictatorship and what did we get? Something ten times worse - made all the worse by the support some percentage of the ignorant masses continue to offer the regime - AT OUR EXPENSE.

It's time to say basta ya - que viva Cuba libre - Patria y vida!

Am I bitter? You're damn right I'm bitter, and as a Cuban man, I have every right to be. Don't lecture me about human rights when you yourself most likely grew up in a land where basic rights were respected, while my family and I were relegated to the status of second-class human beings.

Take your version of human rights and shove it up your culo - no tengo el menor interes en tu version de derechos, humanos.

Anonymous said...

anon 926
ahh, pobrecito, que lastima por ustede.

im sorry i called you a yank, from now on gusano is what you shall be known as. and how the hell do you know who i am? i have lived in cuba, not as a tourist. i've also lived in many other third world countries and i'm sick and tired of your types denigrating what cuba has achieved in human rights compared to the horrors of what others do not have -- thanks to your style of predatory capitalism that you want to impose on cuba.

food -- people do go hungry in cuba, well duh. people go hungry in USA, people starve to death in third world countries, which cuba is unless you didn't notice. cuba tries its best to feed its people and no child starves. i wish the black market wasn't needed, i've used it many times to get enough food. but don't condemn the cuban government for what it is trying to do. what is your alternative; let those who can afford it buy and those who can't starve; like in many third world countries?

housing -- i lived in a very nice house in altahabana; i've lived in a very terrible house in centro. i know cubans who built their own apartments. some housing is good, some bad. but stop the that all housing is terrible. go live in the slums of kingston, jamaica. pero no llores

health -- cuba has better health care than any comparable third world country of its size and economic condition. of course there are shortages, thanks to the embargo. but its better than nothing, which is what millions in USA have. my sister in law had kidney stones, when to her hospital, in havana she's real cuban, not gusano, and was treated immediately and with a high level of professionalism. not the best, had to compromise, but they took care of her. so again, i'm so sick and tired of people saying oh the health care isn't as good as people think. but at least it's there and available for everyone. i assume you want those that can pay for it to be first in line. while millions others go without
and i've been to hospitals in holguin and matanzas where people get surgery daily, under terrible conditions, but they get it. so STFU that only govt higher ups get access. it is such a stupid, ugly lie.

education - another big duh. they teach cuban history in cuban schools, re castro and che. they also teach math and science, or is that from a communist viewpoint. i know so many who got free education in languages, medicine, bio-tech,, etc. it's education moron, how anyone can condemn that is sickening. oh, i guess they don't teach american history in america; or do they leave out all the great americans who were indian killers, slave owners and worse. again you fill your hate with lies, i know many non party members who went to university for free, are NOW going to university for free.

cuba has tremendous problems to overcome, it is a terrible system in many ways but the govt provides human rights to its citizens. get your culo out of your head and see the rest of the world and compare.
i'd prefer to work with the system to better it; you apparantely just want to destroy.

you say you are in this fight alone. What fight? shouting and screaming from the outside isn't fighting, it's cowardice. and so many cubans non-cubans are tired of listening to your weeping like a little baby. aqui es su chupa chupa -- disfrute!

you are bitter, so take your bitterness elsewhere, it is so tiresome. it is the bitterness of you gusanos who think because you are cubans who lost, you are entitled to all the lies and anger you can muster. and that no one else but you losers are entitled to an opinion, particularly one that differs from your warped reality. miami anyone. and i am sosorry, because you are losing again

whether im cuban or not is immaterial; i do know the country better than you though. i have lived there as a cuban, during the worst times of the special period. so don't lecture me on what it's like, you know nothing of my experiences.

i see the cubans who live in cuba as wonderful people surviving and hoping for a better life, all the while your types want to make it more miserable for them. do you care it is USA aggression, terrorism, embargo that has made life so much more terrible for the cubans. or are you in favor of it all

i don't see you as an ignorant spic. i just see you as pathetic. entonces gusano, vete pa carajo. nada mas