Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bolivia, Evo Win Big in Energy Deal

Agreements have been reached with foreign oil companies to provide Bolivia with up to 82% of effective taxes from the sale of Bolivian oil. The move basically signals acceptance of nationalization in the energy sector by major players like (Spain's) Reyspol and (Brazil's) Petrobras.

Reports suggest an interesting profit-sharing mechanism whereas Bolivia's take will be a 50% royalty tax on its output at the San Antonio and San Alberto fields. Petrobras will be able to use part of the other half of output revenue to meet production and investment costs, while the remainder will be divided as profit between Petrobras and Bolivia's state-energy firm YPFB (who will also gain a seat at the decision-making table). The contract envisions that as Petrobras invests more and growth ensues, it will receive more.

The fates of several refinaries and the natural gas sector have not yet been decided under the last minute deal. Still the deal means that billions of dollars will flow to the Bolivian people in coming years (possibly up to $4 billion a year soon - a 12% budgetary increase).

The deal is being praised on the streets of Bolivia, accepted by the Western world and even Petrobras' stock price went up. Not a bad deal it appears.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lula of Brazil Triumphs - Now Turns to the Left

With a 61% share of the vote Sunday, Lula of Brazil appears to have his mandate. Having placated the Wall Street bond traders who control much of the developing world's domestic policies, he seems set to move decidedly to the left. You won't hear this in the Western press, but those in Brazil have been hearing the direction the wind is blowing in Brasillia. Consider the following from Brazzil magazine - a centrist, if not right-wing English rag:

While many on the left remain critical of Lula for the limited reforms of his first term, his very victory has consolidated a shift in the country's possibilities for deeper social transformations.

As Francisco Meneses of (institute for social economic analysis) IBASE notes, "Brazil under Lula is aligning itself with the Southern bloc of nations, not subverting its interests to the United States."

(and from another article) Even before voting had ended, one of Lula's top ministers, Tarso Genro, announced the end of the "Palocci era", a reference to former finance minister, Antonio Palocci, whose stewardship of the economy won him many friends in business and many enemies in the PT and the government in general.

Two other heavyweights - Lula's chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, and the PT president, Marco Aurélio Garcia - made similar comments later in the day and said it was now time to pursue economic development. Reports in the press claim that the Central Bank, which currently enjoys virtual independence, will be brought back under political control.

This would mean that the next chairman of the Central Bank would be subordinate to the finance minister. The current chairman, Henrique Meirelles, reports directly to Lula and not to the finance minister, Guido Mantega. Meirelles is unlikely to stay on should his status change.

Observers here believe Mantega has a strong chance of remaining as finance minister in Lula's next administration. Mantega was often critical of Palocci's policies and is likely to want to make changes to the economic policy.

There are certainly lots of changes which need to be made, such as tackling the huge deficit caused by the public employee pension scheme, interest rates which are among the highest in the world, an exchange rate which is hitting some sectors while benefiting others, and an inefficient and unfair tax system.

It is doubtful whether Mantega is the kind of person who would attempt to tackle issues like this. He simply does not have the conviction or strength of Palocci and is more likely to become a "yes man" for a powerful minister like Rousseff who represents the old-style PT.

This wing is in favor of a state intervention in the economy, government spending rather than saving, and is distrustful of the free market, multilateral institutions like the IMF, and anything to do with the United States.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Don't interfere in Nicaragua vote, OAS tells U.S.

Sat Oct 21, 8:49 PM ET
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Election monitors from the Organization of American States told Washington on Saturday not to meddle in Nicaragua's presidential election, which polls show Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega could win.

The OAS said remarks this week by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Ambassador Paul Trivelli on their concerns about an Ortega win ran counter to its plea in September for foreign governments not to intervene in the November 5 vote.

"Given the separate declarations by Carlos Gutierrez and Paul Trivelli about the Nicaraguan electoral contest, the OAS Mission feels obliged to reiterate the spirit and the text of the aforementioned declaration," the OAS said.

More from Democracy Now

Action: Join your name to a letter from Quest For Peace to the people US Ambassador.

WWF: Cuba is Only Sustainable Country in World

Not surprisingly to those who’ve followed Cuban environmental policies, of the nations of the world, only Cuba has passed.

A report published by the World Wildlife Foundation(WWF) says that the only country in the world with "sustainable development" is Cuba.

WWF includes in its report a graph that shows two features: the human development index (established by the United Nations) and the "ecological footprint" which shows the per-person energy and resources consumed in each country.

Not surprisingly to those who’ve followed Cuban environmental policies, only Cuba has passed in both arenas, which is enough to be designated a country that "meets the minimum sensitivity criteria".

The study's authors credit the high level of literacy, long life expectancy and low consumption of energy for this success.

"For 20 years we've lived our lives in a way that far exceeds the carrying capacity of the Earth," said Carter S. Roberts Speaking of the countries that did not pass, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund on presenting the report.

The Living Planet Report 2006 was released globally Monday from Beijing, China, and carries data indices that indicate the Earth's well being.

Go to WWF Living Planet Report 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

RSF Cuba Report: No Censorship on Internet

An internet kiosk in Cuba

The virulently anti-Castro French organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a report today detailing Cuban's access to the internet. While the report ignores the amazing strides Cuba is making in IT and glosses over other inconvenient facts, it still manages to contradict much of what the mainstream media and RSF had written before about Cuba and the internet (ie. that it is "heavily censored").

Price, not politics, prohibits easy Web access in Cuba, report says
By Frances Robles
Miami Herald

On a monthlong assignment to Cuba, the French journalist hopped from Internet cafe to cafe on a hunt: determine to what extent the government censored the Net.

The results were surprising: her report, released Thursday by Reporters Without Borders, says Internet cafes at hotels and the post office allowed mostly unfettered access to Web sites, even those considered "subversive." But prices were excessive and security warnings popped up when the names of well-known Cuban dissidents appeared on the screen.

"I was surprised I could visit all Web sites," the journalist - who used the pseudonym of Claire Voeux to write the report so she would be able to return to Cuba - said in a telephone interview from France.
But even Reporters Without Borders was surprised to learn that the Cuban government does not block Web sites it considers hostile, such as The Miami Herald's. Only once during her monthlong stay did Voeux find a site - a Mexican page about a post-Castro Cuba - blocked.

Internet is widely available in hotels, but Cubans are prohibited from entering tourist hotels (wrong - I saw everyday Cubans enter the most prestigous of hotels without question). At the post office, two services were available: a national "intranet" service which provided e-mail access and cost $1.50 an hour, and an unrestricted international web that cost $4.50.
The Cuban government argues that the U.S. trade embargo keeps the nation from purchasing the fiber optic cables it needs to offer broader access to the Web. Cuba currently depends on satellites, which offer spotty and slow service to privileged Cubans who have access at work or have the $4.50 an hour it costs at post office Internet facilities.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

US Anti-Terror Agency to Divert Resources... to Cuba??

Below is a composite of various reports:
A task force of US agencies has been formed to strengthen enforcement of the embargo on Cuba. As announced, it will strongly pursue those who violate the current US bans on travel, trade, remittances or investment.

This comes 2 years after a report to Congress revealed that the enfocement institution - OFAC - the Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money, documents show.

The announcement was made by a Cuban-American US District Attorney, who noted in a press conference that the objective of these actions is to "isolate" the Cuban government and "speed up" the destruction of the Revolution.

Persons who violate the blockade regulations could receive prison terms of up to 10 years and fines ranging from $250,000 to $1 million in the case of corporations.

Cuba policy watchers have speculated that the announcement was meant to appease hard-liners in the Cuban American community who support restrictions on Cuba.

"Maybe it'll make a difference if they actually make this a higher priority than other issues," said Philip Peters of the Lexington Institute, a public policy group in Arlington, Va. "What is clear is the impact is on people in Miami and families in Cuba and that this task force doesn't have a prayer of really affecting the finances of the Cuban government in a decisive way."

Silvia Wilhelm, executive director of the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights said the regulations would not result in a speedy transition.

"It is very, very sad when our government sends a message to a community that we're going to keep hurting your family by keeping these provisions in place that do nothing but separate Cuban families," she said.

Friday, October 06, 2006

U.S. Refuses to Classify Alleged Bomber as Terrorist

The young Luis Posada Carriles being brought to jail in Venezuela after the plane bombing in 1976. He would later mysteriously excape jail (most believe the CIA and Venezuelan intelligence service - DISIP - sprung him).

National Public Radio
Tom Gjelten

Morning Edition, October 6, 2006 · Thirty years ago Friday, a Cuban airliner blew up in mid-air, killing all 73 people aboard. U.S. officials later concluded that a violently anti-Castro Cuban exile named Luis Posada Carriles helped plan the bombing. But Thursday the Justice Department refused to classify Posada, who is in jail for immigration violations, as a terrorist.

Listen to the excellent entire story in rear audio

So we had a (in)decision yesterday:

The same US Department of Justice that refuses to classify Luis Posada Carriles officially as a a "terrorist," decided to keep Posada in jail - for now. The lawyer's objections to his release was based on the fact that Carriles is "an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks on tourist sites."

So "admitted masterminds" of plane bombings are not terrorists. Very interesting side-step the Administration is performing. They certainly don't want a trial, as that would expose the CIA's knowledge and perhaps complicity of the events. But we also can't set him free, as that may seem a tad hypocritical to those paying attention (and trust me, all Foriegn Ministers were). So the solultion is eloquent - hold him in immigration charges until we find a submissive enough country. So far, we've had no takers for obvious reasons.

Mexico: U.S. Helped Create Migrant Flow

Here is an essential viewpoint very rarely, if ever, presented in the mainstream media regarding the immigration debate. You can also check a piece by (right-wing) columnist Andres Oppenheimer why the proposed border wall is a gigantic waste and deception.

Labor demands of two world wars, NAFTA inequities drew workers across border
National Catholic Reporter, September 22, 2006

As Congress considers building a 300-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to “protect” us from the country that is also our second-largest trading partner, history reminds us that we share much of the responsibility for today’s immigration flows.

The advocates of more restrictive immigration laws often argue that Mexico is exporting its poverty to the United States, saying that Mexico should not look to us to solve its economic problems. The reality is, however, that inconsistent immigration policies over the past century combined with significant U.S. involvement in shaping Mexico’s economic policies have much to do with the current immigration crisis.

In the late 1880s, U.S. employers began recruiting workers from Mexico to fuel the growth of the railroad, agriculture and mining industries. A government worker recruitment program was established in 1914 to respond to the labor shortages during World War I. With the onset of the Great Depression, huge numbers of Mexican workers were deported, only to be recruited again in 1942, this time in response to the labor needs created by World War II.

A century of these immigration patterns has created deeply rooted family and social networks that have continued to attract more migrants from Mexico over the years. This dynamic has taken on a life of its own, one that cannot be simply brought to an end, nor is it ultimately in our own best interest to do so.

As we continue to invest more and more resources in an effort to keep migrants out, the pull factors on this side of the border have not subsided. The Department of Labor is projecting a significant labor shortage over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, leaders of key industries, including construction, meatpacking, agriculture, hotels and restaurants, speak frankly about their dependence on immigrant labor, much of it undocumented.

To be sure, Mexico bears great responsibility for failing to create jobs that would provide alternatives to migration. Instead, it has eliminated vital support programs for family farmers, failed to design a coherent industrial development policy and been unsuccessful in curbing widespread corruption.

However, over the last 25 years, the United States has helped shape Mexico’s economic policies -- policies that benefited some within Mexico but ultimately contributed to deeper and more widespread impoverishment. In 1982, for example, Mexico experienced a devastating debt crisis made worse by falling oil prices. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank, in which the United States plays a major role, helped design an economic recovery plan that required Mexico to dramatically slash public spending, privatize state enterprises and lower barriers to foreign trade. The results were a drop in health and other living standards, increased unemployment, a steady decline in real wages and growing poverty and inequality. After the peso crash of 1994, the United States helped broker a bailout package that resulted in skyrocketing interest rates in Mexico, leading to a deep recession and increased migration rates northward.

Mexico is paying a heavy price for that bailout today. In rescuing private banks and investors, Mexican taxpayers were burdened with a debt that equaled more than 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2004, diverting precious resources away from investment in education, health care and job creation.

Also in 1994, NAFTA brought the promise that free trade would allow Mexico to export goods instead of people. Unfortunately, that has not happened. A 2004 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that at least 1.3 million Mexican agricultural jobs have been lost, while well-paying jobs in domestic manufacturing have disappeared. Overall, Mexico’s growth rate under NAFTA has been just half of what is needed to generate enough jobs for its growing labor force, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Real wages are lower today in Mexico than when NAFTA began, and the percentage of Mexicans living in poverty is higher than it was in the late 1970s.

Unlike other economic integration models, NAFTA did not consider the existing disparities between Mexico and the United States. The European Union, for example, established development funding for its poorer member countries prior to including them in the trading block. This was done to establish a more level playing field in the region and reduce the possibility of widespread displacement of workers and farmers in the poorer countries. When NAFTA came into effect, tens of thousands of Mexican businesses were simply unable to compete with U.S. companies and collapsed. Similarly, small farmers in Mexico were severely undercut by cheap, highly subsidized grain imports from the United States.

Unlike NAFTA, the European Union also allowed for labor mobility, recognizing that increased flows of capital and goods across borders also brings greater streams of people and workers. Rather than building walls and militarized zones to keep workers out, it incorporated plans to provide for safe, regulated flows of EU member migrant workers across borders. On the U.S.-Mexico border, in contrast, well over 3,000 migrants are reported to have died in the attempt to find a job in the United States since NAFTA came into effect. The actual number is likely to be much higher since many border crossing deaths go unreported.

The lessons from 12 years of economic integration and migrant deaths are clear: We cannot continue to reap the benefits of increased trade with Mexico while ignoring the social costs of building an integrated regional economy. The benefits and the costs of that integration must be shared by both countries.

Erica Dahl-Bredine is the Mexico Country Program Manager for Catholic Relief Services.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bolvia President Morales on "No Fly" List

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales, Saddam Hussein and 14 of the 19 dead September 11 hijackers are among the names on the U.S. no-fly list designed to stop terrorists boarding planes, 60 Minutes said on Thursday.
While the list includes such unlikely would-be terrorists as Nabih Berri, Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, many others were not on the list, 60 Minutes reports. It noted the 11 British suspects recently charged with plotting to blow up airliners with liquid explosives were not on it, despite being under surveillance for more than a year.

Moment of Truth for US Over Cuban Plane Bomber

Thirty years ago tomorrow, the worst act of terrorism in modern Western Hemisphere history occurred off the coast of Barbados. Today, a judge will decide whether to go along with the recommendation from a magistrate to release the terrorist from detention in immigration prison. The media seems set to report on the decision, as some good pieces appeared in the Washington Post and ABC News today.

Oct 5, 2006 — By Anthony Boadle

"We have an explosion. We are descending immediately. We have fire on board!" the co-pilot of the Cuban airliner radioed the Barbados control tower before his crippled DC-8 plunged into the Caribbean sea on October 6, 1976.

The recording of Tomas Rodriguez's last words is repeatedly played on Cuban TV 30 years later as a reminder of what Cuba says was an act of terrorism that the United States, applying double standards, prefers to sweep under the carpet.

Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and one of the two anti-Castro Cuban exiles accused of plotting the bomb attack from Caracas, has been held in Texas since May, 2005 for illegally sneaking into the United States.

But Havana expects the man it labels "Latin America's bin Laden" to soon walk free because he has become a political hot potato for the Bush administration.

A Texas magistrate has recommended that he be released because he had not been designated a terrorist and cannot be held indefinitely on immigration charges. The U.S. Justice Department has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, the United States denied his extradition to Venezuela, Cuba's ideological ally, because it said he might face torture. He escaped from a jail there in 1985 while on trial for his role in the plane bombing that killed all 73 people aboard, including the junior Cuban fencing team.

Cuba's communist government is angry that U.S. authorities have held Posada merely on immigration charges and not linked him to a trail of violence that includes deadly bomb blasts in Havana hotels and assassination plots against Fidel Castro.

"The Bush administration wants to avoid a trial at all costs because someone will ask about the role of the CIA, and its director in 1976 was George Bush Sr," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly.

Alarcon said in an interview this week that declassified U.S. documents show the Central Intelligence Agency had prior knowledge of a plan by Posada and fellow anti-Castro militant Orlando Bosch to "hit" a Cuban civilian airliner.
"The CIA recruited, trained, financed and eventually unleashed him (Posada) on the world," said Peter Kornbluh, senior researcher at the National Security Archives, a public interest group located at George Washington University that obtained the declassified CIA documents on the plane bombing plot.

"Posada is a litmus test for President Bush's declaration that no nation can be allowed to harbor terrorists," Kornbluh said.

"I can't believe this self-confessed terrorist will walk the streets of Miami a free man," Eliana Alfonso, whose father died on the airplane, said in Havana.

"We suffered like the families of those who died in the Twin Tower attacks," she said.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fidel To Lead Cuba Again, Herald Backtracks

Jesus Diaz, powerful publisher of the Miami Herald, resigned yesterday. But not before he backtracked by rehiring 3 "journalists" he had fired a week earlier for not reporting the money they received from the US Government to report anti-Castro propaganda. The surprises never cease to amaze when you're a Cuba-watcher.

Also, on Tuesday a poll was released in Miami that said 88% of Cuban-Americans in South Florida believe the era of Fidel Castro is over. If you would have asked a month ago, the same percent probably thought he was dead. Instead, yesterday, it was announced Fidel will be returning to power. So the eternal question again arises; Why are the Cuban-Americans so out of touch with reality and why whould we then let them set our Cuba policy, rather than true experts, who mostly correctly predicted the current stability of the Revolution? Why do we continue a failed policy based on wrong assumptions (that Cuba is in crisis mode)?

Is it because their trusty beacon of free press (Miami Herald) has been preventing the truth from coming out for years, under (ex) Publisher Pedro Diaz? If he flipped his wig over this satirical (but still very anti-Castro) article, what else has he not let through the doors? The new owners (McClatchy) appear to be saying the days of a biased publisher deciding the news are over. Lets hope the editors are better and the Cuban people of south Florida begin to find out what is really happening on the island 90 miles away.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Venezuela's Oil Wealth Funds Gusher of Anti-Poverty Projects

A decent piece on the largest anti-poverty effort in the developing world. There is no secret to what Venezuela is doing. It just requires the political will to give true power to the people.

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, October 2, 2006

Hugo Chavez's revolution came to the hillside slum of San Juan one recent night in the glare of a solitary lightbulb and with puddles from a recent thunderstorm still underfoot.

Two dozen people clustered on a rooftop to debate the money and power that suddenly seemed within their grasp -- everything from home construction to bank loans, street repairs, and after-school and vacation recreation programs for children.

It was the first meeting of San Juan's communal council, an example of a new grassroots governing structure that is spreading across Venezuela. Like thousands of other such newly elected councils, the San Juan group will soon be given previously unheard of sums of money by the central government in what Chavez calls "a revolution within the revolution."

While the Venezuelan president has caused international controversy with his angry denunciations of the Bush administration, this is where the rubber meets the road for Chavez's radical rhetoric. He is spending billions of dollars on anti-poverty programs, in what experts say may amount to the largest such effort in a developing nation.

And in a gamble that turns part of his own government's power structure on its head, he is handing a large degree of authority over these spending programs to thousands of these elected local councils.

"The issues in these neighborhoods are very old fights -- water, land, decent housing," said Andres Antillano, a professor of social psychology and criminology at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas who has been an adviser to many neighborhood groups.

"For many years, the only relationship with the state was the police. They came here and put everyone against the wall," Antillano said. "Chavez has chosen to gamble on legitimizing these issues. The communal councils are a very serious attempt at grassroots organizing."
The government initially budgeted $857 million for social spending in 2006. But as oil money floods in, officials keep increasing the amount. It now stands at $7 billion, although many experts view that figure as a guesstimate of money being spent on the fly.

Public works projects are everywhere, ranging from subway lines in Caracas and Valencia to bridges over the Orinoco River. New medical clinics -- mostly staffed by Cuban doctors provided under Chavez's oil aid program to Fidel Castro -- are within reach of almost everyone in this nation of 25 million people. Illiteracy, formerly at 10 percent of the population, has been completely eliminated, and infant mortality has been cut from 21 deaths per 1,000 births to 16 per 1,000.

Another initiative that could change the lives of millions of poor Venezuelans is a new program aimed at increasing land ownership.
Over the past year, 57 cooperatives of land surveyors have been formed to scour Caracas' hillside slums, measuring the sprawling neighborhoods that previously were merely blank spaces on official maps.

Ivan Martinez, director of the Urban Land Committee titling office for Caracas, said that more than 200,000 titles had been given out, involving about 1 million people.

"People now can get basic services," he said. "We can hook them up to water, electricity. We can help rebuild their houses. It's a huge change."
The result of all this spending has contributed to a red-hot economic boom, with gross domestic product growing at 9.3 percent last year and 9.6 percent for the first half of this year. And there's plenty more money to spend -- central bank reserves are at $36 billion, and other government rainy-day funds hold an estimated $15 billion. Inflation is 14 percent, a relatively moderate rate by traditional Venezuelan standards, and is held in check by subsidized prices at state-owned stores and by government price controls.
Entire article

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cuba: Council on Foreign Relations Gets it Right

Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba's vice minister of foreign affairs, addresses the media on the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba at the foreign ministry in Havana October 2, 2006. REUTERS/Claudia Daut (CUBA)

Below we have the centrist Council on Foriegn Relatins and an ex-Vice President of the virulently anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) laying the gorundwork for a changed policy of US engagement with Cuba. The embargo is a moral failure, costing the Cuban people $4 billion this year, and our policy of funding "dissidents" is based on fallacies. The recent events surrounding Fidel's illness have proven this once and for all.

U.S. Engagement with a Post-Castro Cuba
October 2, 2006
Philip Peters

If Cuba’s government were teetering, if Cuba were in economic crisis, and if Cuba’s dissidents constituted a broad-based political movement, then a U.S. policy that shuns engagement with Cuba might make sense.

But none of these conditions describe Cuba today. As the post-Castro era comes into view, the misperceptions that guide U.S. policy are also becoming clearer.

When Fidel Castro delegated duties to other officials, the Administration seemed to assume that systemic change would follow. President George W. Bush even promised to “take note of those, in the current Cuban regime” who would disrupt the Cuban people’s “effort to build a transitional government.” But there was no transition, and a de facto socialist succession may already have been accomplished.

To achieve its goal of “hastening the end of the dictatorship,” the Administration relies mainly on economic sanctions and aid to Cuban dissidents. Neither measure promises a decisive impact.

Cuba’s economy has recovered through growth in tourism, energy, and minerals, and through aid, trade, and credits from Venezuela, China, Russia, and others. The result is 8 percent growth, according to the CIA. In this environment, our go-it-alone sanctions do not affect Cuban decision-making, but they do choke off all kinds of contact with American society, and they hurt Cuban families whose relatives face new limits, and in some cases a complete ban, on visits and cash assistance.

Cuba’s dissidents are brave democrats who have paid a high price for their views. But they are few, not well known in Cuba, and weakened by internal divisions and penetration by Cuban security services. Contrary to outsiders’ perceptions, they have never claimed an ability to mobilize the public. This was never clearer than in August, when Miami-based anti-Castro Cubans were met with silence when they called for the dissidents to lead a civil disobedience campaign.

The Helms-Burton Act [1996 legislation that tightened the embargo] dictates the U.S. diplomatic posture: It bars the President from easing any sanctions until deep reforms are accomplished, and says that even if Cuba reforms, there will be no U.S. response if Raul Castro remains in government.

Add it all up, and we have a policy that makes America inconsequential in the short run and irrelevant in the long run. Its regime-change rhetoric is, as a Texan would say, “all hat and no cattle.” There would be no cost and many benefits if the President were to engage as he does with other nondemocratic countries.