Maggie Alarcón

Archive for the ‘Cuban Embargo’ Category

Ya es hora

In Blockade, Cuba/US, Cuban Embargo, Travel, US on October 21, 2015 at 2:59 pm

hourglass

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

Era de esperar, la Habana lentamente se vuelve el lugar del momento en este hemisferio. Al igual que el ritmo de las olas de los mares, la Habana es un contínuum, un todo compuesto de muchos momentos en la historia; juega un papel – similar al de un actor – con el fin de entretener, hacer un planteamiento y crear una ilusión a la vez que permanece inmóvil.

En este caso la ilusión ha sido creada por personas que están bajo la impresión de que las cosas en la isla mágicamente han cambiado luego de los sucesos del 17 de diciembre de 2014 y que esa es la razón por la cual tantos vienen de visita a la isla.

Semanalmente desde principios de este año 2015, desde que se produjeron las primeras rondas de conversaciones bilaterales, miembros del cuerpo de la prensa, del Congreso, del Senado, a distintos niveles de gobierno, de las artes, el mundo de la ciencia, intelectuales, hombres y mujeres de negocio andan por toda la ciudad contemplándola boquiabiertos en un estado absoluto de fascinación.

Esto no debería sorprender a nadie. Era de esperar. La Habana históricamente ha sido un lugar mágico desde la época de Humphrey Bogart y Lauren Bacall o cuando el Buick del 56¨ era el carro del año. Por tanto, ahora que está en boga y resulta tan fácil llegarse a Cuba, ¿por qué no hacerlo?

No quiero que me malinterpreten. Estoy feliz de que tantos procedentes de los EEUU estén dando esos primeros pasos y se anden montando en aviones y viniendo de visita. Lo que me resulta simpático es como todos creen que ahora de repente “no hay problemas” con venir cuando lo único que ha cambiado en la isla es que la bandera estadounidense ondea delante del Malecón habanero luego de 56 años de ausencia. ¡Eso es todo! En lo que a lo demás respecta, el cuartico está igualito!

Así que recomiendo que la próxima vez que se pregunten algo respecto a Cuba y la Habana, no se vayan pensando que las cosas han cambiado en la isla y que es por eso que ahora pueden viajar de visita libremente y ver por uno mismo.

No estaría mal que se aseguren que en los próximos 15 meses se den pasos para garantizar que esos viajes puedan continuar, digamos que hacienda algo como eliminar el bloqueo estadounidense contra Cuba, ¿no creen que ya sea hora?

El tiempo pasa….

Cuba y Estados Unidos: ¿Una nueva era?

In Cuba/US, Cuban Embargo, Politics on January 19, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada

El 17 de diciembre, al liberar a los cinco antiterroristas cubanos que guardaron prisión por más de 16 años en Estados Unidos, el presidente Barack Obama reparó una injusticia excesivamente prolongada y al mismo tiempo dio un golpe de timón a la historia.

Reconocer el fracaso de la política anticubana, restablecer las relaciones diplomáticas, suprimir todas las restricciones a su alcance, proponer la eliminación completa del bloqueo y el inicio de una nueva era en las relaciones con Cuba, todo en un solo discurso, rompió cualquier vaticinio y sorprendió a todos, incluyendo a los analistas más sesudos.

La política hostil instaurada por el presidente Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), antes del nacimiento del actual mandatario, había sido la norma que aplicaron, con matices casi siempre secundarios, administraciones republicanas y demócratas y fue codificada con la Ley Helms-Burton, sancionada por Bill Clinton en 1996.

En los primeros años la practicaron con bastante éxito. En 1959, al triunfar la Revolución cubana, Estados Unidos estaba en el cenit de su poderío, ejercía indiscutida hegemonía sobre gran parte del mundo y especialmente en el Hemisferio Occidental, que le permitió lograr la exclusión de Cuba de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y el aislamiento casi total de la isla que pudo contar solo con la ayuda de la Unión Soviética y sus asociados en el Consejo de Ayuda Mutua Económica (CAME), que integraban los países del Pacto de Varsovia.

El derrumbe del llamado “socialismo real” creó en muchos la ilusión de que también llegaba el final para la revolución cubana.

Imaginaron el advenimiento de un largo período de dominio unipolar. Embriagados con la victoria, no apreciaron el sentido profundo de lo que ocurría: el fin de la Guerra Fría abría nuevos espacios para las luchas sociales y colocaba al capitalismo frente a desafíos cada vez más difíciles de encarar.

La caída de muro de Berlín les impidió ver que, al mismo tiempo, en febrero de 1989, estremecía a Venezuela el levantamiento social llamado “el caracazo”, señal indicadora del inicio de una nueva época en América Latina.

Cuba logró sobrevivir a la desaparición de sus antiguos aliados y su resistencia fue factor fundamental en la profunda transformación del continente. Hace años era ostensible el fracaso de una política empeñada en aislar a Cuba, pero que terminó aislando a Estados Unidos como reconoció su actual secretario de Estado, John Kerry.

Una nueva relación con Cuba era indispensable para Washington, necesitado de recomponer sus vínculos con un continente que ya no es más su patio trasero. Lograrlo es fundamental ahora pues, pese a su poderío, Estados Unidos no puede ejercer el cómodo liderazgo de tiempos que no volverán.

Falta aún mucho para alcanzar esa nueva relación. Ante todo es preciso eliminar completamente el bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero como reclaman con renovado vigor importantes sectores del empresariado estadounidense.

Pero normalizar relaciones supondría sobre todo aprender a vivir con lo diferente y abandonar viejos sueños de dominación. Significaría respetar la igualdad soberana de los estados, principio fundamental de la Carta de las Naciones Unidas, que, como muestra la historia, no es del agrado de los poderosos.

Con respecto a la liberación de los cinco prisioneros cubanos, todos los presidentes de Estados Unidos, sin excepción, han utilizado ampliamente la facultad que a ellos exclusivamente otorga el Artículo II, Sección 2, Párrafo 1 de la Constitución. Así ha sido durante más de dos siglos sin que nada ni nadie pudiera limitarlos.

Ese párrafo constitucional faculta al presidente a suspender la ejecución de las sentencias y a conceder indultos, en casos de alegados delitos contra Estados Unidos.

En el caso de los cinco sobraban razones para la clemencia ejecutiva. En 2005 el panel de jueces de la Corte de Apelaciones anuló el proceso contra ellos –definiéndolo como “una tormenta perfecta de prejuicios y hostilidad”- y había ordenado un nuevo juicio.

En 2009 el pleno de la misma Corte determinó que este caso no tenía relación alguna con el espionaje ni la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos. Ambos veredictos fueron adoptados con total unanimidad.

Respecto al otro cargo importante, el de “conspiración para cometer asesinato” formulado solo contra Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, sus acusadores reconocieron que era imposible probar semejante calumnia e incluso intentaron retirarla en mayo de 2001 en una acción sin precedentes, tomada nada menos que por los fiscales del expresidente George W. Bush (2001-2009).

Hacía ya cinco años que Hernández esperaba alguna respuesta a sus repetidas peticiones a la Corte de Miami para que lo liberase, o accediese a revisar su caso, u ordenase al gobierno presentar las “pruebas” utilizadas para condenarlo o accediese a escucharlo a él o a que el gobierno revelase la magnitud y el alcance del financiamiento oficial a la descomunal campaña mediática que sustentó aquella “tormenta perfecta”.

El tribunal nunca respondió. Nada dijeron tampoco los grandes medios de comunicación ante la inusual parálisis judicial. Era obvio que se trataba de un caso político y sólo podría resolverse con una decisión política. Nadie más que el presidente podría hacerlo.

Obama mostró sabiduría y determinación cuando, en vez de limitarse a usar el poder para excarcelar a cualquier persona, enfrentó valerosamente el problema de fondo. La saga de los cinco era consecuencia de una estrategia agresiva y lo más sabio era poner término a ambas al mismo tiempo.

Nadie puede desconocer la trascendencia de lo anunciado el 17 de diciembre. Sería erróneo, sin embargo, ignorar que aún queda un camino, que puede ser largo y tortuoso, en el que será necesario avanzar con firmeza y sabiduría.

 

“Crime” & un-just Punishment

In Blockade, Cuba, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Culture on September 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Years ago Vanessa Redgrave used the podium of the Oscars on Oscar Night to demand the rights of the Palestinian people. I remember how my mother pointed out to me that there stood a gutsy woman with principles who wasn’t going to allow an opportunity like that one pass. It was back in the early 1970’s and many more like her followed suit using the podium to voice their opinions on political and social matters.

Not that long ago, during the Bush Jr.  administrations invasion of Iraq, the Academy having learnt its lesson, prohibited any artist-presenter from using Oscar night to say anything other than what appeared on the teleprompter. This brought about an appearance of ribbons of peace on the lapels of those who were against the invasion and ribbons in red white and blue donned by those who supported the idea and or the troops.

People in the US have learned that certain podiums are simply considered inappropriate for certain outburst s of opinions.

Is this correct?

Well, no. Not everyone is in favor of establishing guidelines regarding freedom of speech. But there is an issue of ethics in the Amy Vanderbilt sort of way. One would never expect it to be appropriate to shout out in favor of the use of condoms and abortion rights in the middle of a televised wedding for example, although your right to express yourself should never be prohibited.

Last week marked the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of 5 Cubans, known in Cuba as Heroes and incarcerated in US federal prisons wrongly accused of acts that garnered them sentences from two life sentences to 15 years.

The Cuban government organized a live concert at an open air esplanade where over 30 artists performed honoring these men and demanding that they be set free. People in attendance had yellow ribbons tied to their wrists, around their necks as scarves or on their lapels.  Ribbons were also tied to the many flag posts that separate the esplanade from the US Interest Section in Havana. Yellow ribbons indicating as they do in the US that Cubans want the Cuban Five back home where they belong.

Nearing the end  of the concert was a performance by one of Cuba’s foremost musicians, Robertico Carcassés who is the director and pianist of Interactivo (Interactive) a jazz fusion band which by all accounts is the Suma Cum Laude of musical and artistic excellence.

During the presentation, Carcassés stepped aside from his piano and began to improvise lyrics. During this improvisation he turned around and faced the US Interest Section and requested the Cuban Five be released. He also demanded an end to the 50+ year embargo the US has against Cuba and the internal embargo Cuba has against Cuba. He requested freedom of information on the island, facilitation rights in order to acquire a car and direct voting rights in order to elect a president. He also requested freedom for  “Maria”. (Street term for marijuana).

All of this is really not news to most Cubans. The internal blockade as many refer to it on the island has been an issue that goes back in time. It speaks against red tape, stupidity, and restrictions. A change to the electoral system is something that some, not that many in reality, also have issues with. In my personal opinion, the idea is beautiful but was only good on paper and stone, it died along with the Greeks as have the many columns they once built; true democracy simply doesn’t exist – at least not for now – anywhere in the world. But again, he has the right to dream.

The following day he and his band mates were called to the Cuban Institute of Music and were informed that Carcassés actions the night before had been inappropriate, self serving and were not in line with what the concert had been designed for.  This may or not be true, and it definitely is a matter of opinion. He was then informed that he would not be allowed to perform live till further notice.

Going too far?

If one agrees that a live concert honoring Five Cuban men who have dedicated the better part of their lives to protecting their home land against acts of terrorism,  is not the place for one individual to voice concerns ranging from authorization to buy a car to changing the voting process in Cuba, one also has to bear in mind that prohibiting an artist from performing goes beyond inappropriate, it is downright insane.

Yes , he could have chosen a different place to voice his opinions, yes,  some of those opinions may not necessarily be the most important issues that are wrong with the Cuban Revolution. But in the end, when you come right down to it, the punishment doesn’t  fit the “crime”.

Roberto Carcassés is a 41 year old musician not a politician. He is a man with an enormous following inside and outside of the island, he is living proof that the system of musical education in Cuba is as good as any anywhere in the world, and last week, he not only voiced his personal opinion on aspects within the country that he believes need be mended, he also turned around faced the US Interest Section in Havana and called for an end to the embargo and the freedom of the Cuban Five.

In my book,  when  someone like him does what he did,  and gets the word out on issues that are close to the Cuban peoples hearts, he doesn’t deserve a reprimand, heck! he deserves a medal.

… to err os human, to forgive divine http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2013-09-18/cuban-troubadour-singers-concert-ban-lifted

Breaking down Barriers

In Arts, Blockade, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Politics on April 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

I truly love New York. I was there when the City was christened with the term “The Big Apple” and way before the t-shirt and mug craze of the heart everywhere.

The thing is though, that my love for the City stems from its pulse. It´s magical and I don’t mean the hustle and bustle of endless lines of bright yellows and the tallest MTA buses ever known to mankind. In my case it’s the people. New York City has a magic that comes from the people that inhabit the City. They are, well, just different. Ruder and cruder than those from the Midwest, faster and blunter than the South, more fashion obsessed and obsessive than the West Coast; they are difficult and easy in the same proportion depending on your perspective. Putting it simply, a New Yorker wants it when they want it because they want it.

I guess it is precisely because of this that it had to take a native from Brooklyn  to start a commotion that has blown away all other news on Cuba this past week. When Beyoncé and her husband Jay Z came down to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary it took little time for people on the island to find out, in spite of the fact that not a single Cuban news outlet gave word of the event till it was just unstoppable.

It wasn’t a tough guess that the Cuban American congressional lobby was going to lash out at this with all its might. And it did. Representatives Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ross Lehtinen both voiced concerned over the trip and began demanding that the Treasury Department inform if the couple had travelled legally (under an issued licence) or not. Normally what would have happened, as it has in the past, would have been a statement by the couples press rep in a public press conference or directly to both members of Congress and that would have been that.

Not this time.

For years I have been personally waiting for someone, anyone, of a certain social public clout to come down to Cuba, have a good time, and then go back to the US and make a shtick about it.

Well,  Jay Z did it. He not only came down with Beyoncé on a valid OFAC licence but he went all out and responded to anyone interested by writing a rap on the whole issue.

It took a New Yorker,  a hip hop artist in the true sense of being a New Yorker, to start the ball rolling and get everyone involved.

In the words of Cheryl Contee published today in The Guardian “Jay-Z’s rap struck a chord because America is ready to drop the Cuba embargo. Let’s hope President Obama is listening.”

A walk in the Park

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Blockade, CAFE, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, US on December 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm

 

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

I loved growing up in New York City. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island each borough has its own appeal. You didn’t even have to leave the island to enjoy life at the fullest and for very little money.

My mother used to take me to Little Italy for fresh canolli and then expect me not to be fat. She would romp around with me over on the Lower East Side hunting for good material to go and sew in Queens over at a fiends home.

Central Park was the place to ride a bike in the spring and summer on Sundays and Shakespeare in the Park was the way to end the days, learning about Tragedy and Comedy and Love through the minds and the voices of some of the greats, was the main course after throwing a Frisbee all afternoon and stuffing our faces with the best hot dogs in town.

School was easy. It was a drive down the FDR in the morning and a stay by the water. It was a time where gum and Marlboros were the forbidden fruits at UNIS (our Alma Mater back then). Where running in the halls was a mayor “no, no” and water fights in the stairwell could get you expelled. Metal detectors weren’t  part of the scenario back then. Ironically, Punk Rock and the rise of Heavy Metal were.

I still miss those days and had always been dreaming of someday having a child and being able to have him or her relive my life back then.

I have the child, he is in grade school. He lives with me here in Havana. I tell him about UNIS, and Central Park, and Shakespeare and the hot dogs on 5th Avenue. He wants to visit my home town, I think he somehow knows how close the City is to me. What he doesn’t know is that my dream of having him there is slowly slipping away.

Cuba is a place full of problems and troubles. It is a small island with hardly any natural resources to speak of. It has been enduring a fifty year old economic blockade which has made life very difficult for everyone on the island. Especially children. Schools don’t have the best food for lunch and snacks, teachers often have to create impromptu teaching materials, uniforms don’t come easy. Even a pencil can be a thing to worry about. The school buildings are in much decay for the most part. At times, playing in the yard can be more of an obstacle race against holes and torn down fences than anything else.

It is also a country where children and Jose Martí are taken very seriously. Marti once said that children were born to be happy, and in Cuba this is a maximum that at times can be almost infuriating. You can’t scold your child on the street without expecting to someone to come up to you and softly intervene, at times simply hoping that your anger will subside with the tone of the persons voice. Kids are often seen running amok anywhere in town and far from being reprimanded, someone will always be at hand to say, “forgive them, they are young!”

Yet,  it is still a country where many parents fear for how well they are feeding their children, how good an education they may be getting, how far in the world they will actually go.

For all of the troubles we go through, there is one thing we have as a guarantee: Cuban mothers will never ever have to go through what those families in Newtown Connecticut are going to have to deal with.

I’m not sure how much Cuba could teach the US on this and other issues, but something tells me there are more cards on the table than meets the eye.

Cubans: Republican victory would hurt U.S. relations

In Blockade, Cuban Embargo, Politics on November 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

By Kate Thornton

Originally published in The Brown Daily Herald

HAVANA — In the seaside neighborhood of Vedado in Cuba’s capital city of Havana, a tall, heavily-guarded office building houses the United States Interests Section. Officially part of the Swiss embassy, the U.S. Interests Section takes the place of what would be the American embassy if the country had official diplomatic relations with Cuba. Outside the building stands the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Platform, where Fidel Castro has given speeches, and 138 flagpoles once used to hide an anti-Cuba billboard on the embassy building. There are also two slogans written in red: “venceremos” — we will overcome — and “patria o muerte” — homeland or death.

There is a long history of conflict between the United States and Cuba, beginning publicly with the Cuban Revolution of 1959, during which leaders denounced U.S. imperialist involvement in Cuba’s politics and economy since the 1800s. Since 1962, the U.S. has maintained a full trade embargo on Cuba, which Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called “the principal cause of the economic problems of our country” in September.

Cubans look at the American election with acknowledgement of its importance and the potential impact it could have on the island-state. Most Cubans interviewed said they are disappointed with President Obama’s last four years in office, but they see him as the lesser of two evils.

Some Cubans said they fear that American policy toward Cuba, not a central issue in the domestic campaign, would be worse under Republican candidate Mitt Romney, whose affiliation with his party reminds them of the aggressive politics of former president George W. Bush. Regulations on remittances and travel to and from the United States are the two most important issues at stake for Cubans in this year’s U.S. election, and the potential lifting of the half-century economic blockade between Cuba and the United States in the backs of people’s minds, according to multiple sources.

The best of the worst

Many Cubans interviewed said they hope for an Obama victory — not because of what he can offer to Cuba, but because they see him as a better option than Romney. Obama’s reelection offers the potential of flexibility in the U.S.-Cuban relationship, whereas Romney and his conservative values represent a return to hard-line Bush-era foreign policy, multiple sources said.

Obama’s caution and lack of aggression toward Cuba has amounted to a “soft nothing,” said Margarita Alarcon, a Cuban journalist who lives in Havana but spent a large part of her childhood in the United States. Compared to the Bush administration, which oversaw a tightening of the American embargo on Cuba, Obama’s last four years have been a relief, she said.

Obama’s next four years could bring about a slight improvement, whereas Romney’s would only deteriorate relations, said Aurelio Alonso, an investigative sociologist at Cuban cultural center Casa de las Americas. “Even if (Obama’s next term) doesn’t change things for Cuba,” Alonso said, “Obama is less bad than Romney, and that’s enough.”

Alonso, unlike most Cubans, said he has been able to watch the presidential debates live. He said he noticed a trend between the two candidates when they talk about their stances on domestic and foreign issues.

“Obama makes promises he won’t be able to accomplish, but (Romney) makes promises that from the beginning he knows he does not want to accomplish.” If he were an American citizen, Alonso said he would rather vote for Obama.

“The United States is the most important country in the world, even if it doesn’t want to be,” said Yusimi Rodriguez, a writer and former journalist for the communist party’s official Havana newspaper, Tribuna de la Habana, adding that it gives an inherent importance to Tuesday’s election.

Rodriguez said she thinks the Cuban national press has helped contribute to the generally negative sentiment among Cubans toward American politics. The state communist party controls television and most print journalism like the communist party’s official daily publication, Granma. Granma frequently features articles on the less flattering side of the American reality, like the handling of Hurricane Katrina or, more recently, the state of California’s private prisons.

“I don’t remember ever having read an article that spoke well of the United States,” Rodriguez said. “Not in the official press.” But she said that the articles she read did not lie, and despite her acknowledgement of their bias, she has a low opinion of the United States. “It’s not a lie that the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s not a lie that there are people in jail here (in Guantanamo) who have not had justice.”

The last 55 years of American policy toward Cuba, instead of weakening the revolution, have convinced Cubans that Americans are “all a bunch of crazy warlords,” Alarcon said. Cubans see the American electoral process — with the intense media coverage and back-and-forth insults between candidates — “as a circus,” she added. “They have no respect for it whatsoever.”

Hope lost

Obama’s message of hope, change and “Yes, we can” resonated with many Habaneros in the 2008 election, Alarcon said. But there is less support for Obama on the island this year: Many have grown apathetic toward U.S. politics from the lack of change in his last four years in office.

“I think, like most people from my generation, the idea of a candidate like Barack Obama as president in the United States was something unreal,” Alarcon said. She said she saw Obama — a member of her own Vietnam generation — as a real vehicle for change.

While campaigning in Florida, Obama promised to undo restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba put in place by former President George W. Bush, which restricted remittances to $300 every three months and family visits between Cuba and the United States to once every three years. In his first year in office, Obama eliminated all restrictions on remittances and visits between family members.

“What Cubans here are worried about is exactly what he took care of,” Alarcon said. But on a bigger scale, she said, Cubans want the United States to lift the embargo.

“Nothing has changed here,” said Ania Gonzalez Diaz, a painter who sells photography in Old Havana. She, like many others, thought the embargo could be lifted during Obama’s presidency, but said she now thinks that all American politicians are the same. “For me (the election) is not important at all.”

“I was one of the people who thought that by being the first black president, he would bring about enormous changes,” Rodriguez said. But she said she has been disappointed. “You think that if you’re black, then you have to identify with black people, you have to identify with the oppressed, and with that you are going to make changes, but in the end it’s not like that.”

Alarcon said that while some of her expectations like immigration reform and universal healthcare have also been unfulfilled, she is optimistic about the next four years if Obama is reelected. “I still think he’s a breath of fresh air compared to what we had before,” she said. “I still think he wants to do good.”

Cuba’s New Migration Law: Raul Castro’s First Political Reform

In Blockade, Cuban Embargo, LGBT, Politics on October 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

 

By Anya Landau French
Originally published Oct 16, 2012 by The Havana Note

 

After literally years upon years of rumors that the Cuban government was planning to implement migration reforms, today, finally it did indeed publish significant changes to Cuba’s migration law in the Gaceta Oficial (see the file attachment at the end of this post). After several years of economic reforms, some of which came ever so slowly and others of which seemed to cycle out rather quickly, such as new rules for property sales, these changes to Cuban migration law represent the first substantial political reform enacted by Raul Castro’s government.

On the one hand, this is a huge step forward for both the Cuban government and the Cuban population. The elimination of the ‘tarjeta blanca’, or white card policy, which required Cubans to be invited abroad and receive authorization to go, and the new broad right to a passport, spelled out in black and white, represents a new level of trust that hasn’t existed between the Cuban population at large and its government in many years. The new migration policy also doubles the time a Cuban may live abroad without relinquishing citizenship (and possessions left behind) to 2 years, and then after that, one must seek additional months at a Cuban consulate.

On the other hand, there are several caveats, some obvious and inocuous, and others that, depending on how broadly they are used by authorities, still mean that several categories of Cubans may not benefit from these changes, or will at the very least, have to wait to benefit. Those Cubans include those who have civil or other obligations, such as mandatory military service (something not required in the U.S., but required in other countries, one example being Israel).  Then there are those whose departure – particularly en masse – could cause a serious brain drain in a country that invests substantial resources in and highly values its human capital particularly in social, medical and scientific fields. That means doctors will still need to serve the population (or in places like Venezuela) before emigrating. And here there is a reference to the U.S. policy of offering Cuban doctors the opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. from wherever they may be posted abroad. I’ve heard the Cuban doctors abroad program described as either a conscription where the doctor has no choice or as a volunteer-with-extra-pay assignment. The U.S. considers it a conscription, and will admit any Cuban doctor who reports he or she has been conscripted into service abroad. The Cuban government considers the U.S. immigration policy toward its doctors to be a full scale effort to rob Cuba of its qualified and necessary workforce.

But the most crucial exclusions are for national security and public interest – these could leave a lot of room for interpretation. A highly visible test of these exclusions will be the next time Yoani Sanchez wants to go abroad. The Cuban government may keep her grounded and use a familiar refrain about Sanchez and her ilk being created and funded by foreign entities bent on the destruction of the Cuban state; or, and this would be the more strategic choice, one demonstrating a deeper commitment to freedom to travel, just wave her on through. It’s not hard to imagine, after all, that the Cuban government’s harassment of Sanchez has helped fuel the international interest in her affairs.

The vast majority of Cubans will not find themselves caught in one of these exclusionary categories, and I expect that we’re going to see those with money, or with family abroad who will pay for their trip, taking advantage of this welcome change. This will of course complicate matters for U.S. officials who will have to consider many, many more temporary entry visa requests. I expect it will cause the U.S. to renew its request for more visa officers in Havana – or at least publicly – which will cause Havana to request reciprocity in Washington, DC, at which point everything will gum up as it often does. Over the last couple of years, the U.S. appears to be keeping its promise to halt any further progress on bilateral relations until Cuba releases Alan Gross from a Cuban military hospital where he is serving out a 15 year prison sentence.

Normally, if the United States’ priority were to have some sort of positive impact on the ground in Cuba, it might be a good idea to react with cautious optimism over these migration reforms and take steps within our power to encourage its broad use. But with the administration’s back up against the wall over its failure to secure the release of Alan Gross,  and just weeks before a U.S. presidential election, in which the media insist that Florida’s electoral votes remain pivotal, I doubt there will be much enthusiasm in Washington for Cuba’s new migration law. There’s a certain irony in that, given that Cuban Americans in Florida are precisely who will welcome this first big step forward toward the reunification of the Cuban family.

 

Update: If you want more details and you read Spanish, Cafe Fuerte has delved in to more specifics here.

Correction: This post originally lumped together some of the exclusions for entry into and exit from Cuba. The exclusions concerning terrorism, drug trafficking and participating in activities that are intended to subvert the internal political, social or economic order are exclusions on entry into Cuba.

Attachment Size
101612 ley de migracion cubana.pdf 204.7 KB

Damocles entre Cuba y EEUU

In Alan Gross, Blockade, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Politics on October 9, 2012 at 10:22 am

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Judy Gross, visitó a su esposo Alan hace unas semanas. Pudo verlo  en tres ocasiones durante su corta estadía en la isla. Luego de estos encuentros y a su regreso a los EEUU,  la Sra. Gross hizo declaraciones públicas a través de su abogado. En las mismas planteó que su esposo estaba en una situación de salud muy precaria y que debería ser puesto en libertad por razones humanitarias.

Alan Gross, diabético e hipertenso, ha perdido mucho peso desde su encarcelamiento. Reside en un hospital militar en la Ciudad de la Habana y comparte su espacio con otros reos en condiciones similares (todos cubanos). Está bajo una dieta estrictamente controlada y es monitoreado a diario por los médicos del hospital. Su pérdida de peso es probablemente debida a dos factores fundamentales: la dieta estricta para tratar y controlar su diabetes e hipertensión y la afectación emocional obvia que produce el hecho de estar encarcelado, sea uno quien sea.

Gross ha dicho públicamente que su situación puede dar un vuelco radical si los EEUU y Cuba hicieran lo que Israel y Palestina el año pasado: canjear a 1000 por un preso.  Él,  (Gross),  ha dicho públicamente que su libertad sería tan sencillo como canjearlo por los Cinco Cubanos presos en los EEUU.

El gobierno cubano por su parte ha sido cauteloso ante la posibilidad de promover abiertamente una acción tal y lo que ha hecho es hablar de promover conversaciones abiertas con los Estados Unidos respecto a hallar una “solución” a la situación.

La directora del departamento de EEUU del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba, Josefina Vidal, dijo la semana pasada que Cuba ha enviado múltiples mensajes al Departamento de Estado proponiendo sostener conversaciones y ofreciendo una solución al dilema. Los EEUU hasta el momento han respondido a la prensa a través de un vocero que “no cree que Cuba quiera hablar sobre el tema de Alan Gross.”

En una entrevista radial, Judy Gross dijo que su gobierno “tiene una responsabilidad moral” por haber enviado a su marido a Cuba. (Arturo López –Levy in THN)

Sin embargo, el Departamento de Estado no ha dado respuesta alguna y lo que vemos hoy es la noticia de una reacción de miembros del Congreso de esa nación, exigiendo la liberación inmediata de Alan Gross por razones humanitarias.

Esta jugarreta es de doble filo, socava la posibilidad de un paso positivo,  a la vez que disminuye la probabilidad de que ambas naciones lleguen a un consenso sobre el tema y mejorar las relaciones bilaterales, y no es más que la prueba que la jugada está en manos de EEUU y que este simplemente no quiere jugar. En buen cubano: “quieren trancar el dominó.”

Al presidente Raúl Castro, le falta poco para andar gritando a los cuatro vientos que su gobierno está dispuesto a dialogar con el gobierno de los EEUU sobre todo lo que concierne a ambas naciones, sin restricciones, sin quid pro quo. Una vez más, como en el caso de Alan Gross, la respuesta ha sido cero, nula, silencio total.

La realidad es esta: por un lado tenemos a Alan Gross, que vino contratado por una empresa para entrar de manera ilegal a la isla equipamiento electrónico que en Cuba es considerado ilegal. Hizo esto porque ese fue el trabajo que le encomendaron y por el cual le pagó US AID. En el caso de Cuba, esta acción iba dirigida a “promover” la democracia. Mi pregunta es esta: ¿Quien le dijo a los EEUU que queríamos que nos exportaran su forma de gobierno? ¿Fueron acaso los nativos y yo no me enteré de la reunión? ¿Fueron las Naciones Unidas o su Consejo de Seguridad? No, para nada. Los que lo piden a gritos son en su mayoría miembros del cabildeo legislativo y político Cubano Americano, que lamentablemente tiene las riendas en las manos cuando de la política de EEUU hacia Cuba se trata.

Por otra parte, Cuba tiene a cinco hombres presos injustamente en los Estados Unidos. No eran espías, ni intentaban derrocar al gobierno de los EEUU. Simplemente estaban protegiendo a su patria de los actos perpetrados por individuos radicados en los EEUU, específicamente en el Sur de la Florida y Nueva Jersey.

¿Acaso no ven la diferencia, o será que nada más la vemos Judy, Alan Gross y yo?

El gobierno de los Estados Unidos en el pasado ha puesto en libertad a inculpados que han hecho mucho daño a esa nación. Los Cinco Cubanos no le hicieron NADA a los EEUU; en última instancia le hicieron bienes y evitaron males.

Lamentablemente, todo apunta a que una solución en un año electoral será imposible. A menos que ocurra un tsunami de apoyo nacional e internacional, algo que agite al gobierno de los EEUU, el caso de Alan Gross y de los Cinco se convertirá en la espada de Damocles en el conflicto entre los dos países, peor aun de lo que lo ha sido el bloqueo en toda su triste historia.

Oidos Sordos…

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, US on September 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

 

Margarita Alarcón Perea

 

El ministro religioso y líder de la Nación del Islam en los EEUU visitó Cuba como parte de una gira que está haciendo por el Caribe.

El 19 de septiembre sostuvo un encuentro con los familiares de los Cinco Cubanos presos en cárceles norteamericanas y durante el mismo manifestó su total apoyo a la causa por la liberación de estos hombres y dijo que haría todo lo posible por difundir el caso dentro de los EEUU, lugar “donde hay que librar la batalla para liberarlos”, dijo el líder religioso.

Farrakhan se reunió el 20 de septiembre con Esteban Lazo Morales vicepresidente de la República de Cuba y luego esa misma tarde con el Presidente Raúl Castro.

Durante el encuentro de cerca de una hora con Raúl Castro hablaron sobre los efectos nocivos que había tenido y tiene el bloqueo económico, político y comercial impuesto por el gobierno de EEUU contra el gobierno de la isla de Cuba y su pueblo. “El [el presidente cubano Raúl Castro] quiso que le dejara saber al mundo que Cuba está lista para hablar con las autoridades apropiadas dentro de los EEUU y que todo lo que divide a los dos países sería puesto sobre la mesa sin precondición alguna.”  dijo Farrakhan durante una conferencia de prensa en la Habana.

La visita de un hombre como Farrakhan que goza de gran prestigio dentro de la comunidad negra masculina en los EEUU pero que no está exento de controversia tanto él como la organización que dirige, inicialmente provocó desatención en los medios extranjeros y dudas para aquellos que no entendían porque Cuba iba a desear verse unida a una organización tan radical dentro de los EEUU, para muchos considerado el tema como “una papa caliente.”

La respuesta está en el encuentro con Raúl Castro.

El Presidente Castro desde que asumiera la presidencia Barack Obama ha estado declarando públicamente que el gobierno de Cuba está dispuesto a conversar sobre cualquier y todo tema con el gobierno de los EEUU, y ningún medio norteamericano se ha hecho eco de esto. Han pasado cuatro años, lo ha dicho publicamente año tras año, al menos una vez por año, y nada, cero, silencio absoluto. Ahora, ha aprovechado la  visita de Farrakhan a la Habana para pedirle a esta figura histórica controversial, que le sirva de emisario ante el mundo.

El Washington Post editó, de su única cobertura sobre la visita del Ministro Farrakhan a Cuba, la parte del mensaje de Raúl Castro. Hasta el momento solo las agencias cablegráficas y Al Arabiya a través de un cable de Reuters ha sido el medio que ha divulgado la noticia.

Puede que no venga por la vía más idónea para el gobierno y el pueblo de los EEUU, pero lo cierto es que por primera vez en la historia de las dos naciones, el presidente de la isla le ha extendido –de manera verbal- la mano a su más grande e histórico rival.

David hace por guardar la honda; Goliat insiste en la necedad.

Judy Gross’ Message “from Washington al Mundo”

In Alan Gross, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on September 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

 

By Arturo López-Levy

Originally published in The Havana Note

Mauricio Claver-Carone hosts a satellite radio program by the name “From Washington al Mundo” covering international affairs. But don’t expect any diplomacy there. The program is merely his platform from which to insult the American foreign policy establishment. For example, in his August 6 show, Claver targeted Vali Nasr, the Dean of the School of Advanced Studies of Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert on the Middle East, calling him “a useful idiot” or an agent of Teheran for not advocating a regime change policy and promoting negotiations with Iran. Mr. Claver and his guest Shahriar Etminani agreed that the nuclear issue is mere “noise”.

In another episode, Claver denounced Washington’s engagement with Beijing. On April 17, Claver hosted Thadeus McCotter or “the smartest member of Congress” by Claver’s reckoning. The host and the guest shared their belief that as long as the Communist Party is in power, China remains the same. The United States should apply a Cold War policy to China because the war has never ended. According to Claver’s logic, the 40- year Nixon-Kissinger model of “unconditional” and “nonchalant” engagement with China is a case of “myopia”. It should be replaced by a “confrontational” approach. After Tiananmen Square, the United States should have applied to China a policy similar to our fifty year failure against Cuba: the embargo.

But on his September 13 show, Claver really outdid himself. Claver, who is also the main pro-Cuba embargo lobbyist in Washington, had prepared himself for a coronation but ended up a jester. His special guest was Judy Gross, the wife of the USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross who is imprisoned in Cuba. Mrs. Gross basically rebuked one by one all of the mantras of the pro-embargo lobby about a potential solution to her husband’s predicament. In a call to the State Department, she advocated for the immediate beginning of negotiations between the Cuban and the US governments to address Alan Gross’ imprisonment. She argued persuasively in favor of the US government taking its “moral responsibility” for sending her husband to Cuba. Mrs. Gross traversed Claver’s minefield of manipulation by refusing to join him in his statements against the Obama Administration’s steps toward engagement such as allowing people to people travel to Cuba since January 2011.

Mrs. Gross’ message in “From Washington al mundo” should be the compass of a national and world advocacy campaign for her husband’s release. Alan Gross is an American Jew. Americans and Jews all over the world have the commitment to care for a brother in faith and fellow citizen. Everything should be done, particularly a responsible negotiation with Havana, for Alan Gross’ release. At the same time, the campaign should take public distance from the US embargo or the USAID program under the Helms-Burton law. As Jews and Americans, we don’t have any committment whatsoever to the agenda of property claims and political revenge of the Cuban pro-embargo groups. There should be negotiations regarding Gross between Cuba and the United States, therefore we need to put pressure on Havana and Washington. Mr. Claver and those who share his “confrontational approach” to Iran, China, or Cuba should sail on their own.

The US government is responsible for the USAID programs, which have severe design problems, including the lack of a request for the informed consent of the Cuban Jewish Community for Gross’ actions. Gross was not a spy, but he was working in a secret program under section 109 of the Helms-Burton law to circumvent Cuban state monitoring of internet access in the island. Those in the State Department and USAID who sent Gross to Cuba knew that the American law he was working under is considered a violation of Cuban sovereignty not only by the Cuban government but also by the overwhelming majority of the United Nations and most of Cuban civil society, including all the main religious communities.

No matter how much we despise the communist censorship of internet, according to international law, the protection of the Cuban cyberspace is the responsibility of the Cuban State. Given the history of terrorist attacks by Cuban exiles against the island, sometimes with the tolerance of the US government, at best, and its complicity at worst, it is logical that the Cuban authorities would consider any attempt to undermine its control over its cyberspace as a serious threat to its sovereignty and national integrity.

Nothing between Cuba and the United States escapes the context of a fifty years old embargo. This policy was described by Pope John Paul II, as “illegal, immoral and counterproductive”. For decades, Cuban technological development has been forestalled by restrictions on trade with the largest market in the world, just ninety miles from its shores. Different from the USAID programs in other countries, including communist Vietnam, where the agency is cooperating with the government to create nonpartisan access throughout libraries, in Cuba there is a U.S. sponsored attempt to guarantee selective access to opponents and independent civil society actors while denying the sale of technology and access to the government and those who support it.

Gross’ predicament is aggravated by the powerful interests on both sides of the Florida Straits that favor the confrontational status quo between Cuba and the United States. Before the November elections, there is little incentive to negotiate some settlement of Alan Gross’ situation, which is implicitly connected- in the minds of Cuban officials- with the “Cuban Five,” a group of agents condemned in Miami under charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Havana realizes that Gross’ imprisonment is drawing a lot of new attention to the cause of the Five and the many irregularities and deviations of American justice standards of their Miami trial.

In South Florida, pro-embargo hardliners have largely profited from the arrest of the Five and Gross. Although the five agents mainly infiltrated violent anti-Castro groups and did not cause any damage to US national security, the reiteration of news about the five Cuban “spies” has provided ammunition for those interested in denouncing Cuba’s alleged offensive designs against the United States. For the hard line exiles, Alan Gross’ incarceration has been a major asset in their campaign against Obama’s minimal engagement. That is why Claver and the Cuban American Representatives and Senators have argued vigorously against any negotiation. Curiously, Radio Marti, a radio station paid by the U.S. government but controlled by the Cuban American radical exiles reported Mrs. Gross’ interview with Claver but deliberately ommitted her petition to the United States government to answer positively to Havana’s negotiation offer. Such manipulation of Mrs. Gross’ opinions is cruel and shameful. The pro-embargo forces should take responsibility for Mr. Gross’ ordeal, which was partially caused by their policies of regime change.

Simultaneously, those in Havana who despise a rapprochement with the United States, wanting to delay the unavoidable economic reform, use the Five as a rallying flag to stimulate popular support, gaining time for elite accommodation without an immediate political opening. Likewise, the release of the Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada by a Texas immigration judge contrasts with the severely bias trial endured by the Five in Miami and feeds perfectly into Cuba’s nationalist narrative of defiance and resistance against foreign imposition and US double standards in the human rights discourse.

Therefore, a solution of the Gross case should be part of a general improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States. If Obama wins a second term, he will have the flexibility he now lacks. He should rapidly negotiate the release of Gross and enter into history as the president, who promoted a rational redesign of a five-decade-old mistaken policy of isolation against Cuba. Secretary Clinton should not leave Foggy Bottom without flying the extra ninety miles to bring Gross back home. That would be the best response to Judy Gross’ wise and moving message “From Washington al mundo”.

Dawn Gable contributted to this article.