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Qué Lástima! Countdown Begins a Year Out from Raúl Castro’s Retirement 

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Mimi Whitfield and Nora Gámez Torres report: A year from now — on Feb. 24 — something is expected to occur in Cuba that hasn’t happened in more than 40 years: a non-Castro will occupy the presidency.

The coming year will be one of definitions in Cuba. But right now there is only uncertainty — not only about how the transition will proceed but also about the future of Cuba’s relationship with the United States with President Donald Trump at the helm.

In 2013, Raúl Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, the parliament, that he planned to retire from the presidency of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers on Feb. 24, 2018. His heir apparent became Miguel Díaz-Canel, a party stalwart who at the time was promoted to first vice president of both councils.

File photo of then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro attending manoeuvres during the 19th anniversary of his and his fellow revolutionaries arrival on the yacht Granma, in Havana

When Castro retires as president, the Cuban Constitution also calls for him to relinquish his post of commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces. A Cuba without a khaki-clad Castro commanding the Revolutionary Armed Forces is something many younger Cubans have never experienced.

Díaz-Canel’s ascension next Feb. 24 — a date that has long had resonance in Cuba history — is not assured, but most observers believe that a new National Assembly that will be seated then will rubber stamp him as Cuba’s next president and he will replace the 85-year-old Castro.

Even with a successor, Castro is still expected to retain consider clout. He has said nothing about stepping down as chief of Cuba’s powerful Communist Party and Cuba’s military leaders are solid Raúlistas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Heartache for the Global Left: The Great Man Progressives Loved to Love 

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CNN mourns: Fidel Castro Ruz, the political personality, has died. Fidel Castro, the historical persona, has been born. He passes from the present into the past, to serve as an enduring historical subject of debate and dispute, about whom dispassion will be impossible for years to come. Fidel Castro was not a man about whom one is likely to be neutral.

NRO‘s Andrew Stuttaford writes:

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Fidel is a metaphor. He is a Rorschach blot upon which to project fears or hopes. A prism in which the spectrum of colors refracted out has to do with light that went in. He is a point of view, loaded with ideological purport and political meaning. A David who survived Goliath. A symbol of Third World intransigence against First World domination.

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But it is also possible to discuss the historical “essences” of Fidel Castro. He emerged out of a history shaped by a century of Cuban national frustration, heir to a legacy of unfulfilled hopes for national sovereignty and self-determination, aspirations that put Cuba on a collision course with the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


Fidel Castro Inspired Millions with His Promises of Justice and Progress but Presided Over an Oppressive State

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With Fidel now dead, many believe Raul will move more quickly toward reforms.

Fidel Castro burst on the world scene in 1959, spawning the very image of a revolutionary with his scruffy beard, rifle and cigar, ruling Cuba for a half-century while rankling 11 U.S. presidents and helping bring the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Mr. Castro, who was suffering from undisclosed illnesses, died at 90 years old, his brother, President Raul Castro, announced Friday.

Mr. Castro, nicknamed the “guerrilla prince” by one of his many biographers, animated millions in Cuba and across the world with his promises of democracy, social justice and economic progress. Early in his reign, Mr. Castro forged an anti-Washington stance, allying with the Soviet Union and supporting guerrilla movements from Latin America to Africa.

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But by the time he formally resigned in 2008 as Cuba’s president and handed power to his younger brother, Raúl, he had come to embody all the contradictions of his movement.

Mr. Castro pursued egalitarian ideals of free health care, housing and education, while outlawing free speech, jailing dissidents and banning fair elections. He played world politics with the skill of a grandmaster, but embraced an ideology that ultimately failed. He overthrew one dictator in 1959 only to become Latin America’s longest-ruling one, 49 years.

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He sought to free Cuba of its dependence on sugar and make it a wealthy country, only to bankrupt the island and make it dependent first on the largess of the Soviet Union, and then of Venezuela. But Venezuela’s economic crisis has curtailed aid to Cuba.

When Mr. Castro stepped down, many had hoped the more pragmatic Raul would quickly launch economic and political overhauls to ease Cuba into the global economy and introduce a more democratic system. But he has only taken a few hesitant steps in that direction. Instead, the elder Castro developed a second career as a Cassandra-like commentator, raging against the U.S. and frequently predicting an inevitable nuclear war. Read the rest of this entry »


Cuba’s Fidel Castro Dies

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Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former Dictator and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90.

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost 50 years before Raul took over in 2008.

Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, his brother Raul has announced.

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The Washington Examiner‘s Daniel Chaitin writes:

…The U.S. was among the first to formally recognize his government, cautiously trusting Castro’s early assurances he merely wanted to restore democracy, not install socialism.

Within months, Castro was imposing radical economic reforms. Members of the old government went before summary courts, and at least 582 were shot by firing squads over two years. Independent newspapers were closed and in the early years, homosexuals were herded into camps for “re-education.”

In 1964, Castro acknowledged holding 15,000 political prisoners. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled, including Castro’s daughter Alina Fernandez Revuelta and his younger sister Juana.

Still, the revolution thrilled millions in Cuba and across Latin America who saw it as an example of how the seemingly arrogant Yankees could be defied. And many on the island were happy to see the seizure of property of the landed class, the expulsion of American gangsters and the closure of their casinos.

Castro’s speeches, lasting up to six hours, became the soundtrack of Cuban life and his 269-minute speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 1960 set the world body’s record for length that still stood more than five decades later.

As Castro moved into the Soviet bloc, Washington began working to oust him, cutting U.S. purchases of sugar, the island’s economic mainstay. Castro, in turn, confiscated $1 billion in U.S. assets…(read more)

“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening,” President Raul Castro said.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ernest Hemingway’s Cuba Home to Get $900,000 in U.S. Improvements

Ernest Hemingway's home near Havana, Cuba, is expected to soon receive an infusion of badly needed building supplies from the United States. An American foundation restoring the legendary writer's home in Cuba on Saturday, June 20, 2015, signed an agreement with the Cuban government to -- for the first time -- import construction materials directly from the United States to aid the preservation efforts. (CNN)

Ernest Hemingway’s home near Havana, Cuba, is expected to soon receive an infusion of badly needed building supplies from the United States. An American foundation restoring the legendary writer’s home in Cuba on Saturday, June 20, 2015, signed an agreement with the Cuban government to — for the first time — import construction materials directly from the United States to aid the preservation efforts. (CNN)

HAVANA (AP) — A U.S. foundation will ship nearly $900,000 in supplies to build a state-of-the-art facility to preserve Ernest Hemingway’s books, letters and photos – the first major export of construction materials to Cuba since President Barack Obama loosened the trade embargo on the island.

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The Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation has been trying for years to help Cuba stop thousands of pages of documents from slowly disintegrating in the baking heat and dripping humidity of the sprawling homewhere the American writer lived and worked outside Havana from 1939 to 1960. Officials with Cuba’s National Cultural Heritage Council, which runs the Finca Vigia, have been enthusiastic about building a conservation laboratory but said they didn’t have the funds or supplies to do it.

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High-quality building materials are virtually impossible to find throughout much of Cuba, with homeowners forced to buy paint and water pumps stolen from government agencies and pay overseas travelers to bring items as large as sinks and kitchen cabinets in their checked luggage. In state-run hardware stores, a request for an item as mundane as a box of screws can provoke peals of laughter from salesclerks.

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The foundation’s proposal to send four shipping containers with as much as $862,000 of materials ranging from nuts and bolts to tools and roofing was approved by the U.S. government in May, after Obama created a series of exemptions to the embargo. The exceptions include permission for Americans to export supplies donated for the purpose of supporting the Cuban people in fields such as science, archaeology and historical preservation. Read the rest of this entry »


The Secret Life of Fidel Castro

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A former security agent shows the leader lived large while preaching revolutionary sacrifice

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: For 17 years Juan Reinaldo Sánchez was part of the elite team of Cuban security specialists charged with protecting the life and privacy of Fidel Castro.But in 1994 his loyalty came into question when, with a daughter already living abroad, a brother jumped on a castro-cigarraft for Florida. Castro fired him.

“The Obama administration has just removed Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism amid sharp criticism from exiles. Their concerns are sensible: Though Castro is now rumored to be feebleminded, the intelligence apparatus he built—which specializes in violence to destabilize democracy and trafficks in drugs and weapons—remains as it has been for a half century.”

Sánchez was imprisoned for two years and tortured. In 2008 he defected to the U.S., making him the only member of el maximo lider’s personal escort ever to flee the island.

“When a Canadian company offered to build a modern sports-facility for the nation, Castro used the donation for a private basketball court. Wherever he traveled in the world, his bed was dismantled and shipped ahead to ensure the comfort he demanded.”

Last month Sánchez died, weeks after he published “The Double Life of Fidel Castro,” an English-language version of “La Vida Oculta de Fidel Castro,” first published in 2014 in Spain. The timing of his demise has some wondering if the long arm of the dictatorship did not reach out to exact revenge for his tell-all about his former boss. The official cause of death has been reported as lung cancer.

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The legend of Castro as a great revolutionary who sacrifices for his people is preserved by keeping the details about his life a state secret. Sánchez’s account shows the real Castro: vengeful, self-absorbed and given to childish temper tantrums—aka “tropical storms.” “The best 51DScWyGj2L._SL250_way of living with him,” Sánchez wrote, “was to accept all he said and did.”

[Order Juan Reinaldo Sánchez’s book “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo from Amazon.com]

The book is timely. The Obama administration has just removed Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism amid sharp criticism from exiles. Their concerns are sensible: Though Castro is now rumored to be feebleminded, the intelligence apparatus he built—which specializes in violence to destabilize democracy and trafficks in drugs and weapons—remains as it has been for a half century.

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Sánchez witnessed firsthand Castro’s indifference to Cuban poverty. The comandante gave interminable speeches calling for revolutionary sacrifice. But he lived large, with a private island, a yacht, some 20 homes across the island, a personal chef, a full-time doctor, and a carefully selected and prepared diet. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Cuba Downgraded from ‘State Sponsor’ to ‘State Suggester’ of Terrorism

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“In its current state, Cuba can barely sponsor a roll of toilet paper, or replace a broken headlight on a 1957 Chevy, much less sponsor actual terrorism. It’s time our foreign policy recognizes this.”

— President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON (PunditPlanet) The White House announces President Barack Obama is removing Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, and adding it to the new list of “state suggesters of terrorism”, whey they say reflects Cuba’s lack of resources to be a meaningful threat to neighboring nations.

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“The last thing I sponsored was a medianoche sandwich, on a paper plate, and a bottle of Fanta. That was in 1989. We’re broke. Sponsoring terrorism is just not an option.”

— Raul Castro

This is a critical step in President Barack Obama’s effort to normalize relations between the two countries, and provide much-needed economic relief to the impoverished nation, suffering from years of decay under communist dictatorship.

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“I have tried to get a volunteer terror projects going on Twitter, and Facebook, but they keep deleting my accounts. I can ‘suggest’ terror, I just can’t finance it.”

— Raul Castro

The new designation reflecting President Obama’s pledge to help support Marxist regimes, regardless of their ongoing human rights violations. According to biographers, policy advisors, and fellow sympathizers on the academic left, this fulfills a long-held personal ambition for the president.

“Even if I did have a few thousand pesos for a car bomb, or some black market Korean bio-weapons,  I’d probably save it for a dentist appointment, or just buy some new sandals, and a pack of gum.”

— Raul Castro, lamenting Cuba’s economic misfortunes

Since his college days a Columbia University, Obama has explored various ways to try give economic and ideological support to murderous communist regimes and militant Marxist dictatorships in Latin America, but, as one insider complained, “U.S. foreign policy was always a barrier,” adding “Obama always hated the Truman and Kennedy tradition of pro-American, anticommunist rhetoric.”

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“America is a strong and prosperous nation. It’s our obligation to help restore Cuba’s economic vitality, so that the modest resources required to be a credible sponsor of terrorism can once again be an achievable goal for the Castro regime.”

— President Barack Obama

“Obama has always viewed this as a tragic error, out of sync with the sympathies of the modern left, leaving a stain on the Democratic party’s post-war trajectory.” Now that he’s president, the insider concluded, “Obama is finally in a position to promote Marxist ideology, both rhetorically, and materially”.

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“Getting off this ‘terror sponsor’ list may piss off a bunch of elderly Cuban-Americans in Florida, but who cares? We can still torture their friends and relatives left behind in Cuba. A pair of pliers, a blow torch, a car battery. It doesn’t cost much to have a few laughs, and keep our opponents in line. Obama understand this.” 

— Spokesman for Committee for the Defense of the Revolution

“In its current state, Cuba can barely sponsor a roll of toilet paper, or replace a broken headlight on a 1957 Chevy, much less sponsor actual terrorism. It’s time our foreign policy recognizes this. It’s our obligation to help restore Cuba’s economic vitality, so that the modest resources required to be a credible sponsor terrorism can once again be an achievable goal for the Castro regime,”  the president said this morning from the rose garden, in a brief statement to the press.

“Obama always hated the Truman and Kennedy tradition of pro-American, anticommunist rhetoric. Obama has always viewed this as a tragic error, out of sync with the sympathies of the modern left, leaving a stain on the Democratic party’s post-war trajectory.”

— White House insider

“Sponsor terrorism, are you kidding? The last thing I sponsored was a medianoche sandwich, on a paper plate, and a bottle of Fanta. That was in 1989. Sponsor terrorism? I wish! Even if I did have a few thousand pesos for a car bomb, or some black market Korean bio-weapons, I’d probably save it for a dentist appointment, or just buy some new sandals”, said Raul Castro.  Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] After Fifty Years, Anti-Castro Cuban Exiles Still at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

In the early 1960s, hundreds of anti-Castro Cubans took refuge on the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Half a century later, two dozen of them still live here…

 


Bells Ring in Havana, Anger Erupts in Miami

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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.

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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 »