Monday, April 13, 2009

Obama Does the Bare Minimum on Cuba

You would have to be deaf, dumb and blind to not realize that Cuba has become THE issue facing Obama in Latin America, particularly in the run-up to the Summit of the Americas next week in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A drumbeat of Latin & Carribean leaders and organizations have made clear they see Cuba as issue #1 in proving whether the US foreign policy attitude towards the region has really changed. After all the noise, there was no question Obama had to do something before the summit.

Today's announcement of the lifting of travel and remittance restrictions for Cuban-Americans (only), as well as some other minor things, will be scoffed at by the region, who demands the wholesale normalization of relations, not only with Cuba, but also Venezuela, Bolivia and others. Many Republicans (include Richard Lugar) and even most of the well-know "Cuban dissidents" will be disappointed - insisting, rightly, that the rights of US citizens to travel and buy things from somewhere should not depend on whether we like socialism or not.

In addition to the paltry actual policy change, the attitude of the announcement will be poorly noted in the region. Obama's spokesman really went out of their way to frame this shift as part of the same old same old. The rhetorical goal is "changing Cuba" by "opening up space" between the Cuban people and Govt. They now expect Cuba to "respond meaningfully" to this minor correction of a Bush-era mean spirited anti-family policy.

This prioritization of one class of Americans (Cuban) with full rights and the rest of us, without, needs to be condemned. So does the policy of having 2 sets of Cubans - Communist Party member and non. Did that policy work well in Iraq? I thought I might be able to send some "humanitarian" goods to my doctor friend in Havana now - but he is/was a UJC member. This Administration wants to have it both ways.

I am glad to see that US telecom companies will be able to connect the undersea fiber optic internet cable b/w the US and Cuba. But the stuff about allowing US satellite TV to operate in Cuba seems designed to provoke and ignorant of the fact that a key issue for Cuba is the presence of US propaganda (TV Marti) that is allowed to illegally penetrate the country via Direct TV.

"Certain telecom devices" will be allowed to be donated also. That is good - but it is too bad that the trouble of a "license exemption" will be needed. I hope that all groups wanting to donate to Cuba are treated the same. But it does not look like that is in the cards, as the prohibitions will remain on sending anything to charitable, religious or educational groups "administered or controlled by the Cuban Government." Seems as how the US can create a definition to include most of those groups that way, the vast majority of aid will still be banned. The real attempt here seems to be to create a class of organizations dependent on donations from the US.

The "Fact Sheet" and the Briefing both included calls for Cuba to reduce the "usurious" fees Cuba charges on all dollar exchanges. How absurd. The 10% fee is for changing dollars into Cuban currency (not remittances directly) and is hardly usurious. Never-mind, that in Miami, private businesses take up to 40% of the total amount as a "processing fee" ($20 on a $50 remittance).

And jeez, Obama needs a new spokesman. that guy is clueless. He didn't even know that Cuba is not in the OAS and won't be present at the Americas Summit.


Blogger jsb said...

So you still oppose the rights of Cubans to CHOOSE to own a satellite dish. Who the hell are you to decide for them?

6:48 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

What about satellite radio? There's no Radio Marti on XM. Would you support lifting the ban on owning satellite radios?

5:55 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Satellite dishes and shortwave radios are in the Bush Plan for Transformation - they are tools to be "used" by a longtime hostile power with the purpose of regime change. Until that changes, Cuba has to take measures. The US has arrested people for setting up satellites for people to watch Al-Manar TV - the Hezbollah station. The US also arrests people who pirate satellite TV or radio. But when Cuba arrests people for piracy and watching terrorist propoganda TV, that is a problem?

I have said it a million times to you JSB, when the US drops its media subversion war, I will back the rights to watch satellite. Satellite radio is fine - in fact I'm sure it is already bootlegged on the island.

11:30 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

And the internet?

Dictatorship cracks down on Internet usage

Apparently not satisfied with Cuba being only the 4th worst place in the world to be a blogger, the Castro dictatorship has cracked down on one of the few ways most Cubans can use to access the Internet.

Cubans, including superstar blogger Yoani Sanchez, had been able to buy access cards that they then could use at Internet cafes located in tourist hotels. But reports are now that Cubans are now barred from buying the cards.

Another Cuban blogger, Claudia Cadelo, told, said now Cubans "have to ask a foreigner to buy the car, and then enter the hotel with them to get access with a laptop, via wi-fi, from the lobby."

Come on, man. Cubans are smart enough to sort through the "media subversion", dude. Do you think you're smarter than the average cuban? Let them choose what information they want access to.

10:13 AM  

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