HAVANA — President Raúl Castro declared victory for the Cuban Revolution on Saturday in a wide-ranging speech, thanking President Obama for “a new chapter,” while also reaffirming that restored relations with the United States did not mean the end of Communist rule in Cuba.
“I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”
In a televised speech that lasted less than an hour at the end of Cuba’s legislative session, Mr. Castro alternated between conciliatory and combative statements against the United States and the rest of the world.
He emphasized that Cuba would accelerate its economic reform, prioritizing an end to the country’s dual-currency system. But he also said that changes needed to be gradual to create a system of “prosperous and sustainable communism.” Read the rest of this entry »
“U.S. policy toward Cuba has been a blatant failure,” says Hidalgo. “It has not brought about democracy to the island and instead provided Havana with an excuse to portray itself as the victim of U.S. aggression…The 114th Congress should pick up where the president left off and move to fully end the trade embargo and lift the travel ban on Cuba.”
Cato scholars comment on the unexpected policy change:
- “Obama’s Historic Move toward Cuba,” by Juan Carlos Hidalgo
- “The Cuba Opening: American Foreign Policy Meets Reality,” by Ted Galen Carpenter
- “President Obama Right to Call for Trade with Cuba: Half Century of Failed Embargo Is Enough,” by Doug Bandow
- “Republicans in Congress Really Like the Cuba Embargo,” by K. William Watson
- “Time to Trade with Cuba: Regime Change through Sanctions Is a Mirage,” by Doug Bandow
- PODCAST: “Castro Regime May Undermine Reforms,” featuring Juan Carlos Hidalgo
- PODCAST: “An End to the Counterproductive Cuban Embargo,” featuring Ian Vásquez
“I think this is not sort of rocket science, Sony made exactly the wrong decision. What you do is…you put it out on the Internet for free. So it’s a gesture, but also it doubly screws over Pyongyang.”
Mike Gonzales: ‘Nobody in Cuba sees the United States as a former colonizer, namely because the United States never colonized Cuba’Posted: December 18, 2014
Mike Gonzales continues: “When I came into office, I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy,” Obama said, proving once again that last month’s midterm shellacking seems to have had an odd effect on our president. Rather than make him humble, rejection at the polls has liberated him to do all the things he wants in his “legacy.”
“The Castros are still in power not because of the embargo, but because they practice state terror.”
His rationale for acting was instructive, too. In essence, for 15 minutes Obama reeled off a list of talking points one could hear anywhere from the Left Bank of the River Seine to, say, any dusty classroom in Cuba. The only thing missing was the picture of Che so omnipresent in Paris or Havana. The image his platitudes sought to create was the following: the embargo, not Communism’s internal insanity, has left Cuba a pauperized police state; our relations have been frozen by ideology, not principles or national interests; and the United States used to be Cuba’s colonial power.
Now, the one thing all these views have in common is that they are A, untrue, and B, favorite talking points of the international Left.
President Obama Versus Reality
Obama: “I was born in 1961, just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the Cold War and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between the two countries.” Read the rest of this entry »
Havana (CNN) — Church bells rang out Wednesday afternoon in Havana, marking a major moment in history — Cuba and the United States are renewing diplomatic relations after decades of ice-cold tension.
Word of the massive change was met with passionate opinions and some protests in the United States. And tearful celebrations erupted in the streets of the island after President Raul Castro announced the news in a televised address.
“With the main obstacle for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations eliminated, the only unknown is the next step. Is the Cuban government planning another move to return to a position of force vis-a-vis the U.S. government? Or are all the cards on the table this time, before the weary eyes of a population that anticipates that the Castro regime will also win the next move.”
– Yoani Sanchez, a well-known Cuban blogger
But there was uncertainty and some anger amid the joy.
Dissident Cuban blogger Yusnaby Perez tweeted that his neighbor asked him whether a change in U.S.-Cuban trade relations would mean that he could finally afford to buy meat.
Other dissidents worried that their concerns will now be overlooked.
Yoani Sanchez, a well-known Cuban blogger, decried what she described as a carefully plotted victory for the Castro regime in the swap of detained U.S. contractor Alan Gross for Cuban spies imprisoned in America. Read the rest of this entry »
Rich Lowry writes: …His surprise unilateral change in the U.S. posture toward the Castro dictatorship came without even the pretense of serious promises by the Cubans to reform their kleptocratic, totalitarian rule.
The trade of Alan Gross, the American aid worker jailed in Cuba for the offense of trying to help Jewish Cubans get on the Internet, for three Cuban spies is understandable (we also got back one of our spies, and Cuba released several dozen political prisoners as a sweetener).
“If tourism were the key to empowering and eventually liberating the Cuban people, the country would be a robust democracy by now. About a million Canadian tourists go to Cuba every year. In total, more than 2 million tourists visit annually, and yet the Castro regime is still standing.”
The rest of Obama’s sweeping revisions — diplomatic relations and the loosening of every economic sanction he can plausibly change on his own — are freely granted, no questions asked. It is quid with no pro quo. Even if you oppose the isolation of Cuba, this is not a good trade.
After waiting out 10 other U.S. presidents, the Castro regime finally hit the jackpot in Obama, whose beliefs about our Cuba policy probably don’t differ much from those of the average black-turtleneck-clad graduate student in Latin American studies.
“The Cuba embargo is condemned as a relic of the Cold War. But the root of the matter is the Cuban regime that is itself a relic, an inhuman jackboot left over from the era when people actually professed to believe in workers’ paradises.”
Every dictator around the world must be waiting anxiously for a call or a postcard from Obama. The leader of the free world comes bearing gifts and understanding. He is willing to overlook human-rights abuses. And his idea of burnishing his legacy is to clinch deals with his country’s enemies. Read the rest of this entry »
“Is there no tyrant or anti-American center in the world that Obama will not appease for nothing in return? If you get something in return I’d be willing to listen. I haven’t seen anything.”
Pierre Salinger, Autumn 1992: Cigars have been a part of my life. My smoking habit began in my youth, helped me write my own adult history, and now, cigars are in my dreams. Even though the world is rising against smoking, and particularly against cigars, I still feel they are part of my daily world and I have no incentive to stop smoking them.
My cigar smoking started when I was young. I entered the United States Navy in the early days of World War II and when I reached the age of 19 I became commanding officer of a submarine chaser in the Pacific Ocean. But to run a ship that had 25 sailors and two other officers, all older than me, posed a deep psychological problem . How could I convince them that I was a man of authority? Even if the quality of those big cigars was mediocre, they accomplished their purpose–they made a 19-year-old boy really look like the commander of the ship.
When I returned to San Francisco after the war, I went back to a job at a daily newspaper where I had briefly worked before entering the Navy. I kept on smoking my cigars while I wrote articles. But the cigars were still bad cigars, and they obviously smelled bad. There was a wonderful woman journalist working for the newspaper who hated the smell. She decided to take up a collection among my fellow workers. She handed me $19.32 and told me it was her contribution for a better quality of cigars. Better cigars, better smell.
Despite the self-interested largess of my colleagues, I still did not advance to the cream of available cigars in those days, the imports from Cuba. Actually, I would have to wait until I was almost 35 years old before I started to work for a rising young American politician named John Kennedy, who liked to smoke Petit Upmann Cuban cigars. Working around him, I felt I had no choice but to upgrade my smoke of choice to a Cuban. I’ve smoked them ever since.
Shortly after I entered the White House in 1961, a series of dramatic events occurred. In April, 1961, the United States went through the disastrous error of the Bay of Pigs, where Cuban exiles with the help of the United States government tried to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Several months later, the President called me into his office in the early evening.
“Pierre, I need some help,” he said solemnly.
“I’ll be glad to do anything I can Mr. President,” I replied.
“I need a lot of cigars.”
“How many, Mr. President?”
“About 1,000 Petit Upmanns.”
I shuddered a bit, although I kept my reaction to myself. “And, when do you need them, Mr. President?”
I walked out of the office wondering if I would succeed. But since I was now a solid Cuban cigar smoker, I knew a lot of stores, and I worked on the problem into the evening.
The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 a.m., and the direct line from the President’s office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately.
“How did you do Pierre?” he asked, as I walked through the door.
“Very well,” I answered. In fact, I’d gotten 1,200 cigars. Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.
The embargo complicated my life. The only time I could get a few Cuban cigars was when I traveled abroad with the President to countries like France, Austria and Great Britain. But then, in late May 1962, I went alone to Moscow for the first time. I met for two days with Nikita Khrushchev, talking face to face with the Soviet leader. As our meeting came to end, Khrushchev turned to me. Read the rest of this entry »
Bobby Ghosh writes: Many Americans and Cubans believe that it is the tight noose of the US embargo that keeps the island nation deep in poverty. This narrative suits the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro, because it gives the grim brothers a ready excuse for their inability to give their subjects decent economic opportunities.
“For a microcosm of the Castros’ failure as managers of the Cuban economy, look no further than the tourism industry….for 20 years most tourist services and imported products in Cuba have been priced in an artificial currency created by the regime to bilk foreigners.”
But the noose is pretty loose: Most of the world does business with Havana. Although much is made of Cuba’s special relationship with Russia and Venezuela, it trades with most of the countries that would be considered close US allies. With a halfway competent government, Cuba could be a fairly wealthy nation, able to brush off the American embargo as a minor inconvenience.
For a microcosm of the Castros’ failure as managers of the Cuban economy, look no further than the tourism industry. The island—blessed as it is with gorgeous beaches, warm weather, fantastic music, and terrific rum—gets nearly 3 million foreign tourists a year. Nearly a million come from Canada, with the UK, Italy, Spain, and Germany all accounting for large groups. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — With President Obama announcing major shifts to diplomatic relations with the island nation of Cuba, it’s going to get easier to find the one of the country’s most renowned exports:
In the changing relations, the “number of steps to significantly increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba,” will increase, diplomatic officials told reporters Wednesday.
American citizens will be also authorized to import additional good from Cuba.
The ease of travel and commercial restrictions may soon result in more Cuban cigars in the country. Relaxed commercial restrictions may facilitate the ability to do exports by making the general process easier, as well as more travelers from Cuba bringing back the famed smoking sticks. Read the rest of this entry »
December 17, 1972 — Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans takes a spacewalk outside the command module during the trans-Earth coast to home. He is retrieving film cassettes, a mapping camera, and panoramic camera. The total time for his EVA was one hour, seven minutes, 18 seconds.
The soft, gentle and voluptuous curves of traditional automotive design made a radical right turn in the late 1960s, when cars like the Alfa Romeo 33 Carabo concept by Bertone introduced the rising wedge line. The look was futuristic, cool, and first embraced by a handful of production Italian exotics. But soon the entire automotive industry caught on, and from the 1970s through the mid-1980s, nearly every new sports car had a pointy nose and pop-up headlamps. Here are 20 of the most memorable — a group of cars that envisioned an angular future….(read more)
The world response was shameful. As during Iran’s Green Movement protests in 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, so five years later Obama all but ignored what was happening in Hong Kong: He chose to expend a minuscule drop of the moral authority of the American president to make a point about the value of democracy.
Michael Auslin writes: The tents are gone and the streets are cleared. The thousands of students and older citizens peacefully trying to make their voices heard have gone back home. And the best hope for ensuring that Hong Kong’s fragile and evolving democracy does not flicker out has been extinguished.
What the Chinese government, and its proxy in Hong Kong, gained from the protests should not be underestimated.”
Hong Kong police finished clearing out the last remaining protest site this week after allowing two and half months of peaceful demonstrations. For a brief while in the beginning, back in late September, it looked as if things could get violent — that Hong Kong students in 2014 could wind up suffering a fate close to that of their predecessors in Tiananmen Square in Beijing back in 1989. Yet the Hong Kong police, despite a few volleys of tear gas, refrained from physical confrontation.
“First, they crushed the movement peacefully, thereby avoiding the international opprobrium that would have come in the wake of a violent suppression…”
Not so the mysterious groups of thugs who harassed the students and attempted to break up some of their encampments. Whether directed by China or not, those ruffians clearly had the backing of the mainland authorities, as well as of Hong Kong’s Beijing-picked leader, who made clear throughout the months of protest that his primary loyalty is to the Communist party of China, and not the people of Hong Kong.
“Second, they successfully encouraged or used small groups of thugs to intimidate the protesters and sympathetic onlookers….”
So many weeks later, it is hard to remember that the demonstrations began over a simple point: the right of Hong Kongers to democratically choose their chief executive in elections starting in 2017, as seemingly promised by Beijing back in the 1984 agreement with Great Britain that paved the way for the handover of the colony in 1997.
“Third, they neutralized global criticism. Most importantly, in winning the confrontation, they have shaped perceptions of Hong Kong’s future, erasing any doubt over China’s ultimate control of the city.”
Yet the agreement’s language was vague enough that Beijing could manipulate its implementation despite later promises to allow free elections — and, really, what could anyone actually do to prevent the Chinese from running Hong Kong however they liked? Read the rest of this entry »
George Will writes: Intellectually undemanding progressives, excited by the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) — advocate of the downtrodden and the Export-Import Bank — have at last noticed something obvious: Big government, which has become gargantuan in response to progressives’ promptings, serves the strong. It is responsive to factions sufficiently sophisticated and moneyed to understand and manipulate its complexity.
Hence Democrats, the principal creators of this complexity, receive more than 70 percent of lawyers’ political contributions. Yet progressives, refusing to see this defect — big government captured by big interests — as systemic, want to make government an ever-more-muscular engine of regulation and redistribution. Were progressives serious about what used to preoccupy America’s Left — entrenched elites, crony capitalism, and other impediments to upward mobility — they would study “The New Class Conflict“, by Joel Kotkin, a lifelong Democrat.
The American majority that believes life will be worse for the next few decades — more than double the number who believe things will be better — senses that 95 percent of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the wealthiest 1 percent.
“The fortunes of those Kotkin calls ‘the new Oligarchs’ are based ‘primarily on the sale of essentially ephemeral goods: media, advertising and entertainment.'”
This, Kotkin believes, reflects the “growing alliance between the ultra-wealthy and the instruments of state power.” In 2012, Barack Obama carried eight of America’s ten wealthiest counties.
“In 2013…Houston had more housing starts than all of California.”
In the 1880s, Kotkin says, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad revenues were larger than the federal government’s revenues. That was the old economy. This is the new: In 2013, the combined ad revenues of all American newspapers were smaller than Google’s; so were magazines’ revenues. In 2013, Google’s market capitalization was six times GM’s, but Google had one-fifth as many employees. The fortunes of those Kotkin calls “the new Oligarchs” are based “primarily on the sale of essentially ephemeral goods: media, advertising and entertainment.”
“Since 1945, government employment has grown more than twice as fast as America’s population. The Founders worried about government being captured by factions; they did not foresee government becoming society’s most rapacious and overbearing faction.”
He calls another ascendant group the Clerisy, which is based in academia (where there are now many more administrators and staffers than full-time instructors), media, the nonprofit sector, and, especially, government: Since 1945, government employment has grown more than twice as fast as America’s population. The Founders worried about government being captured by factions; they did not foresee government becoming society’s most rapacious and overbearing faction. Read the rest of this entry »
Brett Arends reports:
…There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.
It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.
The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.
“Make no mistake. This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale.”
As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.
To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.
This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade. Read the rest of this entry »