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Cuba Tag

Fidel Castro, darling of the left, brutal dictator in reality, died overnight. The reactions, needless today, have varied. In Little Havana in Miami, there was dancing in the street. In the real Havana, celebrating his death would likely result in a lengthy prison sentence, so no dancing for them. In the left-wing political circles, there was praise for this communist revolutionary. In the U.S. media, it was like -- let's remember he instituted free health care! Here are some reactions:

On October 14, 2016, Obama issued a "presidential policy directive" in which he laid out a multi-pronged approach "to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible."  In this directive, Obama directs the Director of National Security to share intelligence with Cuba and to cooperate with Cuban intelligence. Members of Congress are concerned that U. S. intelligence will be shared by Cuba with Iran, particularly in light of Iran's recent assertion that it will "open a new chapter in relations with Cuba." The Washington Free Beacon reports:
Obama administration efforts to bolster the sharing of critical intelligence data with Cuba is likely to benefit Iran, which has been quietly bolstering its foothold in the country with the communist government’s approval, according to conversations with members of Congress and other sources familiar with the matter.

Cuba has received their first U.S. cruise ship in the last 38 years as the two countries relax their tense relationship. Carnival's Adonia landed at Havana Bay with 700 passengers at 9:30AM Eastern time. It will also make stops at Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The ship included Cuban passengers who escaped the Communist regime under Fidel Castro. "I'm just thinking of that day when we left (Cuba) and shaking like a leaf," said passenger Ana Garcia. She left the island 48 years ago. "I'm blessed to be here today and hoping for a better tomorrow for Cuba and my Cuban brothers and sisters," she continued.

Marco Rubio may be out of the 2016 presidential race, but he's making news for a photo op with Felix Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a former CIA operative who famously helped capture the communist revolutionary, right-hand man to ruthless dictators, and mass murderer Che Guevara. (Rodriguez denies actually killing Guevara -- see below.) Telesur reports:
At an event in Miami commemorating the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba Sunday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio paid homage to the 2506 Brigade, which led the assault. Organized by the CIA in 1961, the disastrous invasion was soundly defeated by the Cuban military and its people. The former Republican presidential candidate took the opportunity to pose for a photo with Felix Rodriguez, former CIA agent who was a leader in the planning of the Bay of Pigs.

The U.S. reopened its embassy in Cuba yesterday, which also happened to be Fidel Castro's 89th birthday. Castro used the occasion to insist that the United States owes Cuba millions of dollars over the trade embargo. Yahoo News reported:
Fidel Castro to US: You owe us millions Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday Thursday by insisting the United States owes Cuba "many millions of dollars" because of the half-century-old American trade embargo. Castro spoke out in an essay published in local media a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a historic visit to Cuba to reopen the US embassy as part of the countries' restoration of diplomatic relations. The trade embargo that the United States slapped on communist Cuba in 1962, three years after Castro seized power by ousting a US-backed regime, remains in effect despite the thaw. President Barack Obama wants Congress to lift it, although US officials say this will take time and is not an automatic part of the restoration of ties, as it requires congressional action. Many Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, oppose the idea, insisting Cuba has to improve its human rights record and make other democratic reforms.

Yesterday, Cuba's flag flew over its Washington, D.C.-based embassy for the first time in 54 years. Relations between the U.S. and Cuba aren't totally normalized, but yesterday's embassy openings are being cautiously hailed as the beginning of a new era in our relationship with the struggling country. Although "formal diplomatic relations" have indeed been restored, President Obama has elected to keep in place---with minor tweaks---both business and travel restrictions, as well as the economic embargo that has defined our relationship the past half-century. It's halfway between a symbolic move, and full-on reversal. (Is the reversal coming? We could start a pool.) More from Reuters:
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the reinauguration of the embassy, a milestone in the diplomatic thaw that began with an announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro on Dec. 17.

Back in December, the Administration announced that they were engaged in secret talks with Cuban officials about shifting away from the "diplomatic mission" model and toward full diplomatic relations between our two countries; and today, President Obama announced that on July 20, the United States will open an embassy in Havana, Cuba, and take what he says are the first public steps toward normalizing relations that have been hostile since the 1960s. Via Fox News:
"This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas,” Obama said. “As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the reestablishment of embassies,” Obama said. “Since then our State Department has worked hard with our Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal and later this summer Secretary (John) Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.”
Although the President does have the authority to open embassies and establish relations, it is the Senate that will eventually have to screen and confirm Obama's pick for the Ambassadorship. You can count on this being a divisive issue from now until the day a hypothetical ambassador is confirmed---a move that some Republicans say won't be made absent the resolution of major issues regarding diplomatic and overall human rights in Cuba. Florida Senator and presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has been an outspoken critic of Obama's soft handed policy, and lashed out against when he calls "unilateral concessions" to the Castro regime:

On January 21, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will be the first diplomat since the Carter administration to set foot on Cuban soil with the goal of restoring diplomatic relations that haven't existed since the height of the Cold War. From Bloomberg:
Jacobson’s arrival will kickstart negotiations that could eventually expand to include everything from demands for compensation by Cuban-American exiles and U.S. companies to improved human rights. While the U.S. and Cuba have met for years to discuss lower-level issues such as counter-narcotics and migration, her visit is the first to test Obama and Castro’s pledges to bolster relations. The U.S. will review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror and make a decision within six months of the Dec. 17 announcement that relations would be normalized, an administration official said in advance of the trip, speaking on the condition of not being identified because of diplomatic protocol. The State Department will review evidence and intelligence to determine if Cuba is sponsoring terrorism, though the determination won’t impede normalization, regardless of the outcome, the official said.
Although formal ties were severed in 1961, the U.S. maintained its old embassy as a way of maintaining communications with the Castro regime. President Obama has plans to reopen the embassy, but will have to secure funding from Congress to do so. Cuba's status as a state sponsor of terrorism tops the list of concerns for American lawmakers who oppose the normalization plan. State Department officials have said that determinations regarding Cuba's terror listing "will have no impact" on the administration's efforts to reestablish diplomatic relations, and that the two issues "are proceeding on separate tracks."

Promises, shmomises:
An air of secrecy surrounds the fate of 53 political prisoners whom Cuba agreed to free in its historic deal with the United States last month, as Washington and Havana’s refusal to publicly identify the dissidents is fueling suspicion over Cuba’s intentions... ...[O]fficials said a prisoner release was not a precondition for renewing diplomatic ties. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that not everyone on the list has been set free yet, but it was always understood that they would be released “in stages.”... The lack of transparency is contributing to a growing sense of concern that Havana will not follow through on its promises.
If there's "a growing sense of concern," it's certainly not on the part of Obama administration officials, for whom this quid pro quo was almost certainly for show. As in many of its "negotiations" with countries hostile to the US, the appearance of getting something in exchange for what we were giving up was only a thin veneer, because the administration was determined to capitulate.

Rand Paul may have drawn first blood in the War on the War on Obama's Cuba Policy©, but it's Marco Rubio who is set to finish this thing with his reputation intact. Today, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) appeared on ABC's This Week and nailed fellow Republican and Senate colleague Rand Paul (R-KY) to the wall over Paul's support for Obama's plan to open up relations with Cuba. From Mediaite:
“If he wants to become the chief cheerleader of Obama’s foreign policy, he certainly has a right to do that,” Rubio said on This Week. “I’ll continue to oppose the Obama foreign policy on Cuba because I know it won’t lead to freedom and liberty for the Cuban people, which is my sole interest here.” Paul and Rubio mixed it up this week after they came out on different sides of Obama’s surprise détente with Cuba. Rubio has been the most vocal opponent of Obama’s normalization of relations with the Castro-run island country, while Paul has suggested this was tantamount to isolationism. Host George Stephanopoulos asked Rubio he would support Paul if he became the GOP’s 2016 nominee. “I anticipate supporting whoever the Republican nominee is and I’m pretty confident that the Republican nominee for president will be someone who has a pretty forceful view of America’s role in the world as a defender of democracy and freedom,” Rubio replied.

Last night on Special Report with Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer commented on the economic aspects of Obama's new policy on Cuba. Dr. K is skeptical and frankly, who could blame him? From National Review:
Krauthammer: Liberalization Hasn’t Worked in Vietnam or China, Won’t Work in Cuba “In the early days of the Cold War, the very early days, there was a semi-tongue-in-cheek proposal that, instead of having bombs on the B-52s, we ought to fill them with nylons and drop them over the Soviet Union. As a result, there will be a revolution, they’re going to become capitalists.” “This is exactly the same idea for Cuba,” he continued. “It hasn’t worked for Vietnam or China, if your objective is to liberalize it. And the bulk of the benefit is going to go to the military and the repressive apparatus. That’s the argument against normalization.”
Here's the video: It certainly does seem like there's more to the Cuba story, doesn't it?

As the son of parents who left Cuba for a better life in America, this is a subject Rubio cares about deeply. He's also extremely well versed in the history of America's relationship with Cuba as you'll see in the videos below. Watching these videos, though, I can't help wonder whether Obama's new Cuba policy will be the spark that launches Rubio's presidential campaign. I've never seen him more impassioned and he now is the leader of the opposition in an area, foreign policy, for which he was not known. One of Rubio's main concerns is the precedent it sets for any government which might think it can use hostages as a bargaining point. Susan Jones of CNS News reports:
Rubio: Obama's New Cuba Policy 'Puts a Price on Every American Abroad' Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he's glad that American "hostage" Alan Gross has been released from a Cuban prison after five years, but he opposes the process by which his release was secured -- "because it puts a price on every American abroad." "Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States." As part of the deal to free Gross, the United States will release three Cuban spies: "They're not just benign Cuban spies," Rubio -- the son of Cuban exiles -- told Fox News on Wednesday. "These Cuban spies were involved in providing information to the Cuban government that led to the murder of U.S. citizens in the infamous shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft back in 1996. "These were airplanes that used to patrol the Straits of Cuba to find people on rafts and save their lives. The Cuban government shot them down over international waters and they did so largely based on information that at least one of these spies provided them.
This video shows an appearance Rubio made on Fox yesterday morning:

Can't say this was on anyone's near term radar. The NY Times reports U.S. and Cuba, in Breakthough, Resume Diplomatic Relations:
The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, American officials said Wednesday. In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast. The contractor, Alan Gross, boarded an American government plane bound for the United States on Wednesday morning, and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who have been in an American prison since 1981. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who has been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap but released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

A poll released this week suggests that a majority of Cuban-Americans living in Miami favor ending the Cuban trade embargo. A finer reading calls those results into question. The poll, conducted by Florida International University (FIU) professors Guillermo J. Grenier and Hugh Gladwin for the Cuban Research Initiative, finds that 52% of all Cuban-Americans and 51% of Cuban-Americans registered to vote favor ending the 54-year long embargo that restricts all imports of Cuban goods and most exports to the communist island. 2014 FIU Cuba Polll Favor Embargo section Though, since the study has a margin of error of 3.12 points, a 52-to-48 spread is a virtual tie. Professors Grenier and Gladwin have conducted the FIU Cuba Poll every year since 1991. Its respondents are 1,000 randomly selected Cuban-Americans above age 18 living throughout Miami-Dade County.
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