Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

Obama en Miami: ¿dónde está la verdad?

In Politics on November 14, 2013 at 11:41 am

 

Por Carlos Alzugaray Treto[1]

Entre los días 8 y 10 de noviembre el tema de las relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos fue nuevamente objeto de manipulación por varios medios de prensa. El motivo fue una visita del Presidente Barack Obama a la ciudad de Miami que tuvo lugar en la tarde del viernes 8 de noviembre con fines de recaudación de fondos para las próximas campañas electorales para Senadores en Estados Unidos. Según la bitácora de actividades del Primer Mandatario que se puede encontrar en el sitio web de la Casa Blanca, Obama llegó a Miami a las 3:45 pm para desarrollar las siguientes actividades: visita a un evento del Comité Nacional de Partido Demócrata a las 4:25 pm cerrado a la prensa; y breves intervenciones en dos funciones públicas de recaudación de fondos a las 6:20 y 7:45 en residencias privadas que sí estarían abiertas a la prensa. Como se ve una visita breve, focalizada en temas de política doméstica

En condiciones normales, estas visitas no tendrían mayor trascendencia. De hecho el Presidente Obama llegó a Miami procedente de Nueva Orleans, donde había estado con semejantes propósitos y en esa ciudad no se generaron muchas noticias. No sucedería así con el periplo miamense. El propio día 8 la agencia EFE rompió el hielo con el siguiente titular: “Obama se reúne en Miami con disidentes cubanos Fariñas y Soler”[2]. Sin embargo, poco tiempo después, el boletín electrónico especializado The Hill, una fuente imprescindible para seguir los principales acontecimientos políticos estadounidenses, se refirió a la misma actividad en un artículo de Justin Sink con el siguiente titular: “Obama: E.U. debería ser ‘creativo y reflexivo’ en su política hacia Cuba”[3].

EFE ponía énfasis en el llamado “encuentro” e insinuaba que fue una larga entrevista, citando al anfitrión, Jorge Más Santos, Presidente de la Fundación Nacional Cubano-Americana, quien, según la agencia, “manifestó que la reunión de los disidentes cubanos con Obama es ‘una gran señal de apoyo de la Casa Blanca’ a la oposición”.

The Hill, por su parte, reportaba que el Presidente había dicho que seguirá “actualizando” su política hacia Cuba y que se observaban cambios en la Isla. Como antecedentes de esa actualización se refirió a la flexibilización de los viajes a la Isla y al realizado por los cantantes Beyonce y Jay Z a la Habana con las nuevas licencias, tan criticado por sectores de la derecha cubano-americana de Miami. También informaba que las palabras de Obama tuvieron lugar en una función de recaudación de fondos (la tercera del día en Miami) en presencia de los Senadores demócratas Bill Nelson (Florida) y Michael Bennett (Colorado). No mencionaba ni a Berta Soler ni a Guillermo Fariñas, era como si no hubieran asistido.

Estos sólo fueron los cables iniciales. Al día siguiente hubo disímiles reacciones de los medios de prensa. Algunos destacaron en sus titulares fundamentalmente la noticia de la presencia de Fariñas y Soler en el evento, como lo hicieron El País (Obama se reúne en Miami con la disidencia interna de Cuba) y El Nuevo Herald (Primer Encuentro del Presidente con Opositores Cubanos: Obama se reúne en Miami con Guillermo Fariñas y Berta Soler). Ninguno de los dos reportajes, firmados por Mayé Primera y Juan O. Tamayo respectivamente, hizo referencia directa alguna al discurso público del Presidente, citando solo a Más Santos, Soler y Fariñas. Ambos periodistas dan la impresión de que lo único que hizo Obama en la casa de Santos fue reunirse con éstos y darles su apoyo.

El periódico La Opinión de Los Ángeles no sólo se hizo eco de esta versión de la noticia (Obama se reúne con disidentes cubanos en Miami) sino que le añadió un amplio reportaje de reacciones de los principales personeros del llamado “exilio”, reforzando con ello la idea de que había sido un encuentro histórico y que significaba que la Administración apoyaba a la “disidencia cubana”, como si eso fuera “un palo periodístico”. Solo al final del largo reportaje se refirió a que Obama estaba en Miami para recaudar fondos añadiendo: “A lo largo de su estadía en Miami, Obama ha manifestado la necesidad de que el Gobierno de Estados Unidos actualice sus políticas en relación a Cuba y señaló que no tiene sentido que las medidas puestas en marcha hace más de 50 años sigan siendo efectivas en la era de internet.”

Sin embargo, un buen número de medios consideraron que lo más importante eran los pronunciamientos del Presidente sobre Cuba en la reunión de marras en el que se refirió a la necesidad de actualizar la política hacia la Isla de manera “creativa y reflexiva.” Entre estos estuvieron ABC de España (Obama cree que EE.UU. debe revisar su política hacia Cuba); El Diario del Sur también de España (Obama empieza a ver ‘cambios’ en Cuba); Univisión de Estados Unidos (Obama afirma que EEUU debe revisar su política hacia Cuba); Progreso Semanal de Estados Unidos (Obama: Estados Unidos debe actualizar sus políticas hacia Cuba); y Associated Press de Estados Unidos (Obama: EU debe continuar actualizando sus políticas hacia Cuba[4]). Aunque algunos de estos medios se refirieron a la presencia de Soler y Fariñas, obviamente esa no era la noticia.

¿Cómo interpretar todo esto? Lo que sucedió en realidad es que Jorge Más Santos organizó en su casa una cena de recaudación de fondos que duró entre 40 minutos y una hora, en la cual habló el Presidente. El discurso de Obama, que fue dado a conocer por el Federal News Service al día siguiente, deja claro varias cosas.

Lo primero, evidentemente, es que el Presidente no fue a Miami a reunirse con Soler y Fariñas, como El Nuevo Herald, El País y La Opinión, quieren hacer ver. Fue a recaudar fondos para el Comité Demócrata de Recaudación de fondos para campañas senatoriales, que encabeza el Senador Michael Bennett (Colorado). A esas actividades asistió naturalmente el demócrata Bill Nelson de la Florida pues el otro senador de ese estado es el republicano Marco Rubio. Ambos, Bennett y Nelson fueron mencionados en el discurso por nombre y alabada su trayectoria. A los llamados “disidentes” los mencionó genéricamente.

Lo segundo, ¿por qué fueron invitados estos cubanos que se mueven entre la Habana y Miami con tanta facilidad pero que evidentemente no son fuertes donantes? Por una sencilla razón, fueron el anzuelo o señuelo que la Casa Blanca y Más Santos quisieron utilizar para atraer a algunos donantes más difíciles de convencer para que abrieran sus billeteras. Esta es la vieja táctica comercial de “bait and switch”[5], atraer al cliente con un producto llamativo y de bajo costo para después venderle otra cosa. Fueron pues dos invitados de piedra o “tontos útiles” según uno prefiera llamarles. Demostraron una vez más que son instrumentos de los círculos políticos norteamericanos que los usan para lo que les conviene.

Téngase en cuenta que en estas funciones, a las que el Presidente no puede dedicarle mucho más de 40 minutos o una hora de su apretada agenda, los comensales que pagan miles de dólares por asistir, tienen que compartir el tiempo entre ellos. Generalmente, los ayudantes del presidente se aseguran que los que más donan sean los que agarren quizás uno o dos minutos más con el presidente. El encuentro real dura segundos, lo que permite decir “Buenas tardes”, “Es un placer conocerlo”, “Sí, como no, me acuerdo de usted”, y “Gracias por llamarme la atención de ese problema¨.

Tercero, el discurso de Obama estuvo dedicado fundamentalmente a cuestiones domésticas: energía y necesidad de trabajar con el congreso para aprobar programas. Quizás le haya dedicado a Cuba un 25% del tiempo.

Téngase en cuenta que el contexto de Miami no es propicio para separarse del concebido guión de más mano dura y nada de concesiones o negociaciones. Incluso, hubo una época en que cuando los candidatos presidenciales iban a esa ciudad y hablaban de Cuba, cierta claque enardecida, partidaria precisamente del padre de Jorge Más Santos, el tristemente célebre Jorge Más Canosa, gritaba: “¡Guerra! ¡Guerra!”. Pero esos tiempos ya han pasado.

Pero veamos que dijo Obama, que la mayoría de los medios consideraron más noticia que el “no encuentro”:

  1. “Hemos comenzado a ver cambios en la Isla”. Es cierto que lo dijo de una manera en que se insinuaba que era resultados de sus políticas pero vale recordar que no hace un año le dijo a una televisora hispana que no veía cambios. Así que se puede anotar como un hecho positivo.
  2. “Y tenemos que ser creativos. Y tenemos que ser juiciosos. Y tenemos que continuar actualizando nuestras políticas.” Lo justificó argumentando que cuando Fidel Castro llegó al poder él acababa de nacer y que no se podía esperar que las mismas políticas funcionaran en la época de Internet y Google. No obstante, afirmó que el objetivo es el mismo, o sea, el cambio de régimen. Esto, por supuesto, no hace más que generar desconfianza entre la mayoría de los cubanos que no queremos injerencias foráneas en nuestros asuntos internos, como es natural. Aún teniendo en cuenta esto último es un cambio hablar de creatividad, medidas juiciosas y de seguir actualizando la política.
  3. Muchos despachos noticiosos asociaron varias frases del presidente en torno a la polarización existente en Washington como un obstáculo a la actualización de la política hacia Cuba, pero del texto del discurso eso no está claro. Parece referirse más a otras medidas. Aunque es cierto que las leyes Torricelli y Helms Burton aprobadas por el Congreso en 1992 y 1996 limitan la “creatividad” de su Administración. Así que si el Presidente lo que tenía en mente era conminar al Congreso a que lo apoye en la actualización de la política hacia Cuba, bienvenida esa iniciativa.

Dándole el beneficio de la duda, hay un giro de discurso novedoso con Cuba que permite avizorar que el Presidente está considerando otras medidas más positivas. Sus declaraciones contradicen dos importantes aspectos que son sustentados por lo más recalcitrante del lobby cubano-americano, en el cual se incluyen los Representantes Ileana Ross Lehtinen y Mario Díaz Balart, pero también los Senadores Marco Rubio y Bob Menéndez (este último de su propio partido), que en Cuba no hay cambios y que no hay que aflojar la política de mano dura. La política de Obama de flexibilizar los viajes de norteamericanos a Cuba es objeto de particular desdén y crítica. Este grupo tampoco está interesado en una política “creativa” y “juiciosa”. Para ellos, la política hay que mantenerla tal y cómo está y, si es posible, darle marcha atrás a algunas de las iniciativas de Obama.

Ya que el Presidente habla de cambios y creatividad, y confiando en que fue sincero, me permito hacerle desde la Habana las siguientes sugerencias:

  1. Elimine a Cuba de la lista de estados promotores del terrorismo; después de todo es en la Habana donde el Gobierno colombiano y las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia han negociado y alcanzado acuerdos de paz muy significativos. El poco creíble argumento de que Cuba está en la lista por sus relaciones con la FARC se caerá cual mustia hoja de parra.
  2. Acceda a la demanda unánime de América Latina y el Caribe de que se invite a la próxima Cumbre de las América de Panamá en el 2015 al mandatario cubano Raúl Castro, hoy Presidente pro témpore de la Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericano y Caribeños (CELAC). No se puede pensar en nada más juicioso que reconocer una realidad: Cuba forma parte de América Latina y el Caribe y es uno de los actores más reconocidos en la diplomacia continental por parte de los demás países de la región.
  3. Como resultado de estas dos medidas que fomentarán la confianza mutua entre ambas partes, acepte la propuesta cubana de iniciar conversaciones para la firma de un acuerdo bilateral de lucha contra el terrorismo. En ese marco, explore la posibilidad de que ambas partes encuentren una solución mutuamente aceptable de carácter humanitario para que los ciudadanos de ambos países que actualmente cumplen condenas en el otro por realizar actividades al servicio de los dos gobiernos sean liberados y puedan regresar a sus respectivos países para reunirse con sus familias. Me refiero por supuesto a los 4 agentes anti terroristas cubanos que todavía se encuentran en establecimientos penitenciarios estadounidenses y al contratista de su país que se encuentra bajo custodia cubana.
  4. Si tanto resultado han dado sus políticas de flexibilización de viajes, continúe ampliándolas. Otorgue licencias más abarcadoras como le han sugerido varios grupos de lobby contrarios al bloqueo, incluso el cubano-americano Cuba Study Group.
  5. Finalmente, trate de que sus principales asesores o Usted se reúnan con la mayor variedad de cubanos posibles, no sólo con sus preferidos. Estos preferidos le dicen a los funcionarios norteamericanos lo que quieren oír pues no les interesa lo que se piense de ellos en Cuba. Fíjese si eso es así, que uno de ellos, Fariñas, se retrató con Luis Posada Carriles, el Bin Laden latinoamericano, el mayor terrorista asesino de cubanos inocentes; y la otra, Soler, afirma que la Cuba de Batista, durante la cual se torturó y asesinó a mansalva, “era una joyita”.

Puede haber muchos, pero sugiero cuatro candidatos que no son funcionarios gubernamentales propiamente dichos, son reconocidos por sus contrapartes en Estados Unidos, y tienen fundado prestigio dentro y fuera de Cuba. El Presidente de Estados Unidos que en el 2008 argumentó que había que hablar con todo el mundo, se beneficiaría de hablar con estas personas, pues todas son promotoras del cambio: Mariela Castro, que tanto ha contribuido a cambiar la perspectiva de los cubanos sobre las comunidades LGBT; Miguel Barnet, escritor y antropólogo cuya Biografía de un Cimarrón, traducida al inglés y a otros idiomas, narra la historia de un esclavo fugado de sus amos en el siglo XIX; Eusebio Leal, el Historiador de la Ciudad de la Habana, reconocido mundialmente como uno de los mayores expertos en la restauración de monumentos arquitectónicos; y Rafael Hernández, editor de la revista Temas, una de las publicaciones más abiertas y diversas de Cuba. Por cierto, asegúrese que sus funcionarios le den la visa a este último pues se la han negado 3 veces a pesar de que entre el 2010 y el 2011 impartió cursos sobre Cuba las Universidad de Texas, Harvard y Columbia y es coautor de varios libros de colaboración entre académicos cubanos y norteamericanos.

Con estas cinco iniciativas, el Presidente demostrará si es verdad que va a enfocar la política hacia Cuba con “creatividad” y “juicio” y, lo que es más importante, comenzará a despejar los velos de desconfianza que separan a ambos países.


[1] Embajador, Doctor en Ciencias Históricas y Profesor Titular Consultante del Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y sobre Estados Unidos (CEHSEU) y de la Cátedra del Caribe de la Universidad de la Habana. Miembro del Consejo Editorial de la Revista Temas y de la Sección de Literatura Histórica Social de la Asociación de Escritores de la Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC).

[2] Berta Soler y Guillermo Fariñas son dos de los ciudadanos cubanos que gozan, fuera de Cuba, del dudoso mérito de ser considerados “líderes” de la llamada “oposición¨ al gobierno cubano. Dentro de la Isla, o son desconocidos o son vistos con desconfianza por su tendencia a manipular las relaciones con embajadas extranjeras en función de su beneficio pecuniario personal. Ninguno de ellos participa en alguno de los foros de debate público que se promueven desde distintas esferas (Centro Cultural Martin Luther King, Último Jueves de Temas, Revista Espacio Laical o los conocidos programas de la televisión cubana: Mesa Redonda y el Triángulo de la Confianza). Se desconoce cuáles son sus posiciones ante temas candentes de la realidad cubana sobre los cuales se delibera en estos espacios.

[3] En inglés: Obama: U.S. should be ‘creative and thoughtful’ in Cuba policy

[4] En inglés: Obama: US must continue updating Cuba policies

[5] Literalmente: señuelo y cambio.

Spring is in the air

In Alan Gross, CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5 on April 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Spring is in the air. It is a constant much like Pi, happens every March 21st whether it’s snowing or raining or bright and sunny.  Its striking  that on this same date,  March 21st, was also the birth of Benito Juarez, known as the Benemerito of the Americas, title bestowed on him by the people and government of Colombia on May 1st of the year 1865, because of his unrelenting struggle to free Mexico and gain independence.

While president of Mexico, Juarez had a maxim that lives on today in the Mexican nation: “Among individuals and nations alike, respect for the rights of other people is what constitutes peace”. This statement always comes to mind when I think of the place Cuba has held in the region since its independence from Spain in the XIX century.

Cuba’s rights as a nation have never been respected by other nations or individuals, ever.  After the island garnered its independence from Spain the Paris Treaty left the island at the bequest of the Government of the United States and it remained so till 1959 when the Revolution of Fidel Castro triumphed establishing a socialist government in the country. Although the Cuban Revolution brought about much needed change on a social level, educating the uneducated, bettering conditions outside of the capital and establishing universal health care as the main government strategies to help its people, the country still depended because of an embargo imposed by the US on the next best option, the Soviet Union, and again, Cuba depended on someone else and much of its sovereignty was put on hold. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union as a country and a concept, Cuba was left stranded economically, politically and even socially.

Those were very difficult times, but the social benefits that still existed on the island were still stronger than the hardship and the Cuban people continued in their strife to advance, even if alone. The embargo against the island continued as it does today, but the rest of the world began to slowly open up to Cuba, and not just because of His Holiness John Paul II desire that this be so.  Cuba had proven over the years that it had something to offer and that sovereignty and independence were not to be gambled with. Cuba has never been a satellite of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, although the relationship with it  and with Hugo Chavez was strong. The difference between the two moments in time is simple: during the first forty some years of the Revolution the country had to build itself up from scratch, by the time Chavez and his oil and social justice powered revolution came to power, Cuba already had sufficient bargaining chips to stand on its own and level the playing field. No longer were the stakes as lopsided as they had been in the past.

The Soviet Union is no longer around, neither is Chavez,  and his Revolution looks to be walking on unsteady ground, which is sad not only for Cuba on a personal and national note, it is also sad for the rest of Latin America as a whole. For no matter what one may opine on President Chavez, he did put the continent on the forefront and he did bring much needed changes to both the nation of Bolivar and the rest of the region. Yet the one thing that has not changed, the one thing that remains the same, is not just spring on the 21st of March. The one thing that remains the same is that on April 30th, well into spring, the secretary of state of the United States will have to submit his recommendation to the president on whether to keep Cuba on the list of terrorist nations or not.  Keeping Cuba on the list means no chance on earth of giving the president even the slightest chance of moving forward on bettering relations. Relations which if were to compare to a tennis ball, are now, and have been on the White House´s court for a number of years now.

More recently during the last Congressional visit to the island when President Raul Castro told US Congress members that a sit down with all cards on the table was in the offer.

It is true, Cuba has Alan Gross in jail. But he is being detained because he came down with an agenda to help undermine the Cuban government or regime, however you want to put it. Cuba has the same although slightly different situation in the US. Five Cuban intelligence agents are still in prison in the US. But their crime was never trying to undermine the US government to which they not only had no access, they also had no intention of doing, and quite frankly it would have been the most foolish of intentions.

The Cuban Five were in the US collecting information from US based paramilitary terrorist organizations in Miami which have been plotting, conspiring and bringing about terrorist acts against the Cuban people for over 50 years. They not only plot against Cuba and its people on the island, they also plot and have achieved to harm, destroy, terrorize and kill those who, whether Cuban or not, have the interest in forging better more rational relations with the island.  These terrorist groups have names, Omega 7, Alpha 66, Vigilia Mambisa, Brothers to the Rescue  and others. They have henchmen and they have leaders, one of which is infamously well known in Miami as one of the cities proud citizens, Luis Posada Carriles, a man who has more blood on his hands than most have running through their veins.  The Cuban Five infiltrated the US under false identities, this is true. They also infiltrated these terrorist organizations under false pretenses  But they did all of this in order to protect Cuba and those who want a normal life between Cuba and the US. News flash: they also, did most if not all of this, with the acquiescence of both the US government and the FBI.

Exchanging them for Alan Gross may not seem like the logical thing to do, but not on the US side, after all, Gross was accused of something he did do and something which is illegal not only in Cuba and the rest of the world, it is also illegal in the US: in theory, you are not allowed to openly try to topple foreign regimes in the United States of America. Heck, even Alan Gross accepts responsibility for his actions and recommends he be exchanged for the Cuban Five.

Now,  Secretary John Kerry has to decide if Cuba, an island that has never committed a terrorist act against the US or any other nation for that matter, should remain on an infamous obscene list.  Cuba deserves to be treated with the same respect it does its neighbors and colleagues in the world arena, it doesn’t set standards, it doesn’t disrespect others rights to decide, it thus, should be commended for its desire, as put by Juarez , to establish peace.

Unlike the unvarying Cherry Blossoms in DC and Pi, let’s hope Mr Kerry’s decision breaks one constant this Spring.

Respect for democracy begins at home

In CAFE, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Politics, US on June 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm

By Arturo López-Levy

Originally published in The Havana Note

Article 1 of the United States Constitution recognizes Congress as the first branch of US democracy, with the executive and judiciary following behind. Bicameralism was a central concept of the 1787 constitutional pact. It was seen as a republican “remedy” against potential abuses of legislative despotism. If the House was conceived to express the direct mood of the people, James Madison envisioned the Senate as a high chamber of “enlightened individuals” that would operate with “more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch”.

But a conspicuous gap has emerged between the founders’ design and the reality of some of today’s Senators. Poll after poll shows that the public holds Congress in low esteem. In the view of many Americans, some Senators not only reflect a polarized public but also contribute to making the system dysfunctional by abusing procedures, such as the unanimous consent rule, in pursuit of personal or parochial gains or to settle personal vendettas, rather than to defend national interests.

The Cuban community’s representation in US politics has been remarkable over the last decade. No place is this more evident than in the Senate. Although the 1.8 million Cubans living in the US only represent 4 % of the Hispanics and less than 0.6 % of the US general population, they have managed to elect three Senators since 2004. The first was Mel Martinez, a moderate republican from Tampa who served as HUD secretary during the first term of George W. Bush. Second was Robert Menendez, a congressman from New Jersey who was appointed by the state governor and successfully ran for reelection in 2006. After Martinez’s retirement in 2010, Florida elected Marco Rubio, a former speaker of the state House.

One might disagree with Senator Martinez’s positions, but his posture was appropriate for the high office he held. On the verge of a constitutional crisis in 2005 over President Bush’s controversial judicial nominations, and the threat by Majority leader Bill Frist to use the so called “nuclear option” against the democratic minority, Senator Martinez joined the bipartisan “gang of fourteen” and helped to diffuse the conflict, thereby acting with the “coolness” and long-term perspective the framers foresaw. During his service on the strategic Judiciary Committee, Martinez placed country above party and developed a congenial relationship with other members (including Senator Biden) that eased partisan tension and gained him the respect of his colleagues.

Unfortunately, the other two Cuban American Senators have not emulated Mr. Martinez’s respect for the institution. During the current 112thCongress, Senators Menendez and Rubio have abused their powers to filibuster, with unusual frequency and unwholesome motives, in order to hold up nominations to the judiciary and several positions in the Foreign Service. Such behavior makes one wonder whether the two Cuban American Senators understand the gravitas the framers embedded in the Advice and Consent function of the institution in which they serve. It also raises concerns over how the Cuban American right-wing political culture, characterized by incivility, dishonesty and vengefulness, pollutes the halls of Congress and contributes to a further decline in voter confidence.

Since Mr. Rubio arrived in the Senate, he has tried to micromanage the Treasure Department policy regarding licenses for travelling to Cuba. Wasting hours of the Senate’s precious time, Mr. Rubio has read, again and again, promotional materials about educational travel to Cuba by various US institutions interested in participating in President Obama’s people-to-people diplomacy, second-guessing the decisions of US officials who are acting in full consistency with the laws of the land and the regulations of their agencies.

Since the White House began implementing its own Cuba policy, supported by the majority of the Cuban-American community and the US public, Mr. Rubio has embarked upon a McCarthy-style crusade against the State Department that is damaging our nation’s policy towards the entire Latin American region. In the last three months, Mr. Rubio has held-up the nomination of three ambassadors (Jonathan Farrar to Nicaragua, Adam Namm to Ecuador, and Mari Carmen Aponte to El Salvador) as well as the nomination of Roberta Jacobson for assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. As a result of Mr. Rubio’s pitiful bickering, US diplomatic presence in the region has been seriously handicapped, creating political opportunities for our adversaries.

In the case of Farrar, the former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana who simply carried out the policy of the State Department, Senator Rubio’s McCarthyism sent a chilling message: Ignore the Constitution and do not implement the policy of the Diplomat in Chief; Cuban-American right-wing politicians, not the State Department, will decide your promotion.  The same must be said about Mari Carmen Aponte. Mr. Rubio blocked her confirmation as the first Puerto Rican US Ambassador, despite the support of the entire US community in El Salvador where she had been serving under a recess appointment. The reason, he argued, was that more than twenty years ago, she had been sentimentally involved with someone who had links to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and who was also an FBI source.

It is reasonable to expect that Senator Menendez, as a senior Cuban-American legislator, would guide his junior colleague toward a more mature stance. But the opposite is true. Rubio is Menendez’s “A +” pupil. In 2009, Menendez was responsible for holding up the nominations of Dr. John Holden and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, both world renowned scientists, because of an issue totally unrelated to their careers: Menendez was simply retaliating against President Obama’s policy that allows unrestricted Cuban American travel to Cuba.

Just a week ago, Menendez was shamefully blocking President Obama’s nominee to a seat on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senator never presented one substantive complaint against Judge Patty Shwartz, who is rated by the American Bar Association as “unanimously well qualified”. The people of New Jersey know that Mr. Menendez was pursuing a self-indulgent political vendetta. Judge Shwartz’ companion of two decades, James Nobile, was the officer in charge of a public corruption unit that investigated Mr. Menendez and issued a subpoena against him in 2006. Only after massive pressure from his own party and powerful editorials against his action by the Washington Post and the New York Times, Menendez drop his block against Judge Shwartz’s nomination.

These behaviors, unworthy of the US Senate, should give pause to voters. The press must seriously scrutinize the moral capacity of these two Senators to honorably fulfill their constitutional duties of Advice and Consent especially in regards to the President’s policies towards Cuba. Senator Rubio’s lies about his parents’ immigration to Miami- reported by the Washington Post- and his hiding behind an artificially created clash with Univision as a pretext for not engaging in a televised debate about immigration are not isolated misdemeanors. The actions of Senators Menendez and Rubio are typical reflections of the authoritarian political culture that caused Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba. By bringing this culture of deceitfulness, revenge and corruption into the US Senate, these elected officials are demeaning the very kind of freedom they claim to want for Cuba. They have forgotten that respect for democracy must begin at home.

Dawn Gable contributed to this article.

NLG confers honorary membership on Roberto González/ GNA Le otorga membrecía honoraria a Roberto González Sehwerert – 03/12/2012

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, National Lawyers Guild, Occupy Wall Street, Politics, Social Justice, US on March 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

National Lawyers Guild honors ailing Cuban lawyer, urges Obama administration to permit Cuban Five brother visit

Contact:

Nathan Tempey,

Communications Coordinator

communications@nlg.org

(212) 679-5100, ext. 15

New York

The National Lawyers Guild made Cuban lawyer Roberto González an honorary member today in recognition of his contributions as an human rights defender and, in particular, his efforts in the case of the Cuban Five.

“Roberto’s career and his steadfast support of his brother are emblematic of the Guild’s basic principle that human rights are more sacred than property interests. We are proud to count him in our numbers,” said NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian.

Roberto González is a member of the legal team representing the Cuban Five, a group of political prisoners which includes his brother, René González, who was released five months ago after over 13 years in prison. Since his release, René González has been forced to serve time on probation in the United States rather than being allowed to return home to Cuba, despite the fact that  Roberto, his only sibling, is gravely ill with cancer in a Havana hospital.

René González recently petitioned the court to allow him to return to Cuba for two weeks to visit his brother. The NLG calls on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to show the compassion that has been so lacking from U.S. relations with Cuba by allowing his immediate return for at least those two weeks.

Over the course of the trial and imprisonment of the Cuban Five, the Guild filed three amicus briefs in support of efforts to have their convictions reversed. The most recent, filed in 2009, was one of a record number of 12 amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to review the convictions. The Guild’s brief focused on the prosecution’s biased method of eliminating prospective jurors, in violation of the seminal ruling in the case of Batson v. Kentucky. This violation of due process was exacerbated by the overwhelming hostility to the Cuban government in Miami and the charged political atmosphere surrounding the case, which made finding an impartial jury locally virtually impossible.

For more information on the case of the Cuban Five visit http://www.freethefive.org/.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

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El Gremio Nacional de Abogados de los Estados Unidos de Norte América honra a abogado cubano, insta a la administración del presidente Obama a que permita que el hermano lo visite.

Nueva York

El Gremio Nacional de Abogados le confirió al abogado cubano Roberto González Sehwerert el titulo de miembro honorario en reconocimiento a sus contribuciones como defensor de los derechos humanos y, en particular, por los esfuerzos realizados por este en el caso de los Cinco Cubanos.

“La trayectoria de Roberto y el compromiso inconmovible a su hermano son emblemáticos de los principios básicos del Gremio donde estipula que los derechos humanos son más sagrados que intereses materiales. Nos sentimos orgullosos de contar con él como uno de nuestros miembros,” dijo la directora ejecutiva del Gremio Nacional de Abogados  Heidi Boghosian.

Roberto González Sehwerert es miembro del equipo legal que representa a los Cinco Cubanos, un grupo de presos políticos que incluye a su hermano René González Sehwerert, quien fuera puesto en libertad supervisada hace cinco meses luego de haber cumplido 13 años de prisión. Desde su puesta en libertad, a René González Sehwerert se ha visto obligado a cumplir el tiempo de probatoria legal en los Estados Unidos en vez de habérsele permitido regresar a Cuba, a pesar del hecho de que Roberto, su único hermano, se encuentra gravemente enfermo de cáncer en un hospital de la Habana.

René González Sehwerert recientemente le presentó una solicitud a la corte para que le permitiera visitar a su hermano. El GNS le hace un llamado a la Secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton a que muestre compasión algo que tanto ha faltado en las relaciones entre Cuba y los Estados Unidos y le permita regresar inmediatamente a Cuba para permanecer ahí por lo menos durante dos semanas.

Durante el curso del juicio y el encarcelamiento de los Cinco Cubanos, el Gremio ha presentado tres documentos de apoyo (amicus) en apoyo a los esfuerzos realizados tal de revertir las condenas. El más reciente, presentado en el 2009, formó parte de un número record de 12 amicus instando a la Corte Suprema a que revisara las condenas. El documento presentado por el Gremio se centra el método parcializado empleado por la fiscalía de selección del jurado, en violación medular del dictamen en el caso de Batson v. Kentucky. Esta violación de producirse un juicio imparcial fue exacerbada por la desmedida hostilidad hacia el gobierno cubano en Miami y la atmosfera políticamente cargada alrededor del caso, hecho que hiciera hallar un jurado imparcial virtualmente imposible.

Para más información sobre el caso de los Cinco Cubanos visite: http://www.freethefive.org/.

El Gremio Nacional de Abogados se fundó en 1937 y es la organización legal más grande y antigua en los Estados Unidos. Su sede principal se encuentra en Nueva York y cuenta con representaciones en cada uno de los estados de la nación.

How a Nuclear War Would Start in the Middle East

In History, Israel, Politics, US on January 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

 

 

By Jeffrey Goldberg

from The Atlantic

How would a nuclear exchange in the Middle East come to pass?

There is always a chance, of course, that the mullahs in Tehran would decide, while sitting around one day cursing the Jews, that since they now have a nuclear weapon, why not just drop it on Israel and be done with it? I’ve always believed that, all things being equal, it would be better to see atheists in charge of nuclear weapons, rather than religious fundamentalists. Men who profess belief in the glories of the afterlife might not mind their own nuclear obliteration quite as much as I would like. And it is also true that the Iranian regime is rhetorically genocidal, describing Israel, and Jews, in Hitlerian terms: as cancer and tumors in need of eradication.

But the mullahs are also men interested in keeping hold of temporal power, and it seems unlikely that they would immediately deploy their weapons against the Jewish state. But, as I point out in my Bloomberg View column this week, it might not matter. Put aside all the other good reasons the current Iranian leadership shouldn’t be considered appropriate stewards of nuclear weapons. The main threat posed by a nuclear Iran is that, based on its past behavior — and assuming it will be even more adventurous and provocative once it has gone nuclear — it will almost inevitably trigger a crisis that will escalate into a nuclear confrontation with Israel:

The experts who study this depressing issue seem to agree that a Middle East in which Iran has four or five nuclear weapons would be dangerously unstable and prone to warp-speed escalation.

Here’s one possible scenario for the not-so-distant future: Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, launches a cross-border attack into Israel, or kills a sizable number of Israeli civilians with conventional rockets. Israel responds by invading southern Lebanon, and promises, as it has in the past, to destroy Hezbollah. Iran, coming to the defense of its proxy, warns Israel to cease hostilities, and leaves open the question of what it will do if Israel refuses to heed its demand.

Dennis Ross, who until recently served as President Barack Obama’s Iran point man on the National Security Council, notes Hezbollah’s political importance to Tehran. “The only place to which the Iranian government successfully exported the revolution is to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Ross told me. “If it looks as if the Israelis are going to destroy Hezbollah, you can see Iran threatening Israel, and they begin to change the readiness of their forces. This could set in motion a chain of events that would be like ‘Guns of August’ on steroids.”
Imagine that Israel detects a mobilization of Iran’s rocket force or the sudden movement of mobile missile launchers. Does Israel assume the Iranians are bluffing, or that they are not? And would Israel have time to figure this out? Or imagine the opposite: Might Iran, which will have no second-strike capability for many years — that is, no reserve of nuclear weapons to respond with in an exchange — feel compelled to attack Israel first, knowing that it has no second chance?

 The nuclear experts I respect most, including Bruce Blair, of Global Zero, and David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, both call a Middle East in which Iran possesses a small number of nuclear weapons a dangerously unstable place. Here is what Albright told me Monday about Iran’s particular challenges in an escalating confrontation — the no second-strike conundrum: “In a crisis, you don’t want to go first, but you don’t want to go second, either. It ends up in an unstable situation. Miscalculations can result in nuclear weapons being used. Iran may feel it doesn’t have second-strike capability and so would, in an escalating crisis, feel it has to use what it has first.” Iran, he explained, will be hampered, for many years after it crosses the nuclear threshold (assuming it is allowed to cross), by a small arsenal of comparatively modest bombs.

“Our estimate of their warhead design, based on internal documentation from  the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is that they would be building low-yield fission weapons of a few kilotons each” — “Fat Man,” dropped on Nagasaki, was roughly a 20-kiloton bomb — “because they’re forced to miniaturize to make it smaller for delivery,” Albright said.

The Israelis, on the other hand, have a much larger arsenal than the Iranians could hope for for many years, and much more varied and sophisticated delivery systems. It is, from any angle, a hellish problem. Albright believes that the Middle East with a nuclearized Iran (and a nuclearized Israel, and, presumably, Iran’s regional adversaries, including Saudi Arabia, seeking their own nuclear weapons) would be much more unstable than South Asia. “The governments of Pakistan and India don’t necessarily see each other as mortal enemies. The relationship between Israel and Iran would be worse.”

 

"Silly game, the best move is NOT to play..."

 
So, what to do? Not attack. There’s plenty of time for war. Right now, the focus should be on convincing Iran, through sanctions, and a     promise, if it gives up its nuclear ambitions, to rejoin the international community. Will this work? Probably not, but it has to be pursued. Here’s Bruce Blair on the efficacy of a preemptive attack: “The liabilities of preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program vastly outweigh the benefits. But certainly Iran’s program must be stopped before it reaches fruition with a nuclear weapons delivery capability.” I would argue that it needs to be stopped before delivery systems are in place. The chance is small, but not vanishingly so, that an Iranian nuclear weapon could be delivered by sea or land, not by air.

 

Give Guantánamo Back to Cuba

In Blockade, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, History, Politics, US on January 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm
 
Originally published in The New York Times
 
By JONATHAN M. HANSEN

IN the 10 years since the Guantánamo detention camp opened, the anguished debate over whether to shutter the facility — or make it permanent — has obscured a deeper failure that dates back more than a century and implicates all Americans: namely, our continued occupation of Guantánamo itself. It is past time to return this imperialist enclave to Cuba.

From the moment the United States government forced Cuba to lease the Guantánamo Bay naval base to us, in June 1901, the American presence there has been more than a thorn in Cuba’s side. It has served to remind the world of America’s long history of interventionist militarism. Few gestures would have as salutary an effect on the stultifying impasse in American-Cuban relations as handing over this coveted piece of land.

The circumstances by which the United States came to occupy Guantánamo are as troubling as its past decade of activity there. In April 1898, American forces intervened in Cuba’s three-year-old struggle for independence when it was all but won, thus transforming the Cuban War of Independence into what Americans are still wont to call the Spanish-American War. American officials then excluded the Cuban Army from the armistice and denied Cuba a seat at the Paris peace conference. “There is so much natural anger and grief throughout the island,” the Cuban general Máximo Gómez remarked in January 1899, after the peace treaty was signed, “that the people haven’t really been able to celebrate the triumph of the end of their former rulers’ power.”

Curiously, the United States’ declaration of war on Spain included the assurance that America did not seek “sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control” over Cuba and intended “to leave the government and control of the island to its people.”

But after the war, strategic imperatives took precedence over Cuban independence. The United States wanted dominion over Cuba, along with naval bases from which to exercise it.

Enter Gen. Leonard Wood, whom President William McKinley had named military governor of Cuba, bearing provisions that became known as the Platt Amendment. Two were particularly odious: one guaranteed the United States the right to intervene at will in Cuban affairs; the other provided for the sale or lease of naval stations. Juan Gualberto Gómez, a leading delegate to the Cuban Constitutional Convention, said the amendment would render Cubans “a vassal people.” Foreshadowing the Cuban Missile Crisis, he presciently warned that foreign bases on Cuban soil would only draw Cuba “into conflict not of our own making and in which we have no stake.”

But it was an offer Cuba could not refuse, as Wood informed the delegates. The alternative to the amendment was continued occupation. The Cubans got the message. “There is, of course, little or no real independence left Cuba under the Platt Amendment,” Wood remarked to McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, in October 1901, soon after the Platt Amendment was incorporated into the Cuban Constitution. “The more sensible Cubans realize this and feel that the only consistent thing now is to seek annexation.”

But with Platt in place, who needed annexation? Over the next two decades, the United States repeatedly dispatched Marines based at Guantánamo to protect its interests in Cuba and block land redistribution. Between 1900 and 1920, some 44,000 Americans flocked to Cuba, boosting capital investment on the island to just over $1 billion from roughly $80 million and prompting one journalist to remark that “little by little, the whole island is passing into the hands of American citizens.”

How did this look from Cuba’s perspective? Well, imagine that at the end of the American Revolution the French had decided to remain here. Imagine that the French had refused to allow Washington and his army to attend the armistice at Yorktown. Imagine that they had denied the Continental Congress a seat at the Treaty of Paris, prohibited expropriation of Tory property, occupied New York Harbor, dispatched troops to quash Shays’ and other rebellions and then immigrated to the colonies in droves, snatching up the most valuable land.

Such is the context in which the United States came to occupy Guantánamo. It is a history excluded from American textbooks and neglected in the debates over terrorism, international law and the reach of executive power. But it is a history known in Cuba (where it motivated the 1959 revolution) and throughout Latin America. It explains why Guantánamo remains a glaring symbol of hypocrisy around the world. We need not even speak of the last decade.

If President Obama were to acknowledge this history and initiate the process of returning Guantánamo to Cuba, he could begin to put the mistakes of the last 10 years behind us, not to mention fulfill a campaign pledge. (Given Congressional intransigence, there might be no better way to close the detention camp than to turn over the rest of the naval base along with it.) It would rectify an age-old grievance and lay the groundwork for new relations with Cuba and other countries in the Western Hemisphere and around the globe. Finally, it would send an unmistakable message that integrity, self-scrutiny and candor are not evidence of weakness, but indispensable attributes of leadership in an ever changing world. Surely there would be no fitter way to observe today’s grim anniversary than to stand up for the principles Guantánamo has undermined for over a century.

Jonathan M. Hansen, a lecturer in social studies at Harvard, is the author of “Guantánamo: An American History.”