Friday, May 25, 2018

Luis Posada Carriles, R.I.P.

He certainly was one of “a group of fighters who dedicated their best years to fighting the Fidel Castro regime,” as a Miami television station put it when he was featured on its recent “Legends of Exile” series. He was also someone willing to put his life on the line, and to use violence in service of his ideals, and to direct his violence against civilians – tourists in a hotel at the wrong place at the wrong time, or young Cuban athletes on a plane returning from an international competition – which made him a terrorist too. While many scoffed at the Bush Administration’s failed attempt to nail him on immigration charges, this was more than any U.S. Administration attempted to do. He lived out his retirement in Miami, finding social acceptance in a segment of the community consisting largely of lifelong sedentary revolutionaries who admired a man of action and had no moral qualms about his tactics. He died last Wednesday.

Coverage here from the New York Times, Granma here and here, the Herald, and 14yMedio.

Odds and ends

·      I wrote recently that state employment in Cuba had dropped by more than half million. Actually, it’s double that. See this article by Prof. Ricardo Torres, showing that the state shed 998,000 jobs between 2009 and 2016.

·      Physician Carlos Lage became a vice president of Cuba’s Council of State and served as a quasi-prime minister until 2009 when he and a few others of his generation lost their political footing and were expelled from office. 14yMedio looks at his life now, practicing medicine again at the PoliclĂ­nico 19 de Abril.

·      Financial Times on Cuba’s drive for foreign investment.

·      It may be that no te importe tres pepinos, but here’s a Twitter thesaurus of Cuban slang.

·      Billboard on the weekly paquete as a music promotion platform.

·      Granma’s “Today in History” feature on the sinking of a German U-boat in Cuban waters during WWII.

·      The new U.S. threats to sanction foreign companies that do business with Iran recall the extraterritorial U.S. sanctions in the Helms-Burton law, former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt explains, while calling on Europe to resist.

·      Prof. Larry Press rounds up the information on the public record about the views of Cuba’s new President on Internet development.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

And now, a China health mystery

I don’t doubt that U.S. personnel assigned to our embassy in Havana suffered some kind of harm.

But the Trump Administration’s handling of this matter has seemed political to me. Consider yesterday’s news about a U.S. diplomat in Guangzhou, China who suffered symptoms “very similar and entirely consistent with the medical indications that have taken place to Americans working in Cuba,” according to Secretary of State Pompeo.

What was done in response? The State Department issued a straightforward health alert to inform the public about the China incident. It noted that the cause of the diplomat’s symptoms is unknown. The Department did not change its China travel advisory, which tells U.S. travelers to exercise caution due to arbitrary arrests. No U.S. official has referred to “attacks” in China.

The Cuba advisory, on the other hand, is at a higher level on the State Department’s scale – it urges Americans to “reconsider” travel anywhere in Cuba, even though the incidents affected only U.S. diplomats and only in Havana. (Canada saw some of its diplomats affected in Havana; it informed the public but made no similar warning to Canadian travelers.) As in China, the Department has no idea what happened in Cuba, but that doesn’t stop U.S. officials from referring constantly to “attacks” in Cuba. Whereas Cuba’s offer of investigative assistance was treated at arm’s length, Secretary Pompeo announced that our Chinese friends “have responded in a way that is exactly the right response,” and “We’re working together to resolve it.”

Apart from the disparity in numbers, the two situations are similar: communist country, same symptoms, cause unknown. One is being handled normally, with actions that fit the situation and the lack of evidence. Cuba is handled differently because, let’s face it, the Trump Administration has essentially made Senator Rubio the Undersecretary of State for Cuba.