Despite all of Raul Castro's changes in the past years, and his apparently reasonable connection with Obama, Fidel always has his own opinions, which he reflected in a harsh letter.

New York Daily News and other sources report on the letter:


"Fidel Castro blasts Obama’s trip to Cuba in harsh letter: ‘We don’t need the empire to give us any presents’"

"....In a 1,500-word bristling letter titled "Brother Obama," published Monday in Cuban state media, Castro, who did not meet with Obama during the visit, recounted decades of U.S. aggression against his country and told Obama to stay out of Cuba's affairs."

For full article:  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/fidel-castro-blasts-obama-trip-cuba-harsh-letter-article-1.2579926

Here is the letter in English from Cuba's publication, Granma:

"Brother Obama
The kings of Spain brought us the conquistadores and masters, whose footprints remained in the circular land grants assigned to those searching for gold in the sands of rivers, an abusive and shameful form of exploitation, traces of which can be noted from the air in many places around the country.
Tourism today, in large part, consists of viewing the delights of our landscapes and tasting exquisite delicacies from our seas, and is always shared with the private capital of large foreign corporations, whose earnings, if they don’t reach billions of dollars, are not worthy of any attention whatsoever.
Since I find myself obliged to mention the issue, I must add - principally for the youth - that few people are aware of the importance of such a condition, in this singular moment of human history. I would not say that time has been lost, but I do not hesitate to affirm that we are not adequately informed, not you, nor us, of the knowledge and conscience that we must have to confront the realities which challenge us. The first to be taken into consideration is that our lives are but a fraction of a historical second, which must also be devoted in part to the vital necessities of every human being. One of the characteristics of this condition is the tendency to overvalue its role, in contrast, on the other hand, with the extraordinary number of persons who embody the loftiest dreams.
Nevertheless, no one is good or bad entirely on their own. None of us is designed for the role we must assume in a revolutionary society, although Cubans had the privilege of José Martí’s example. I even ask myself if he needed to die or not in Dos Ríos, when he said, “For me, it’s time,” and charged the Spanish forces entrenched in a solid line of firepower. He did not want to return to the United States, and there was no one who could make him. Someone ripped some pages from his diary. Who bears this treacherous responsibility, undoubtedly the work of an unscrupulous conspirator? Differences between the leaders were well known, but never indiscipline. “Whoever attempts to appropriate Cuba will reap only the dust of its soil drenched in blood, if he does not perish in the struggle,” stated the glorious Black leader Antonio Maceo. Máximo Gómez is likewise recognized as the most disciplined and discreet military chief in our history.
Looking at it from another angle, how can we not admire the indignation of Bonifacio Byrne when, from a distant boat returning him to Cuba, he saw another flag alongside that of the single star and declared, “My flag is that which has never been mercenary...” immediately adding one of the most beautiful phrases I have ever heard, “If it is torn to shreds, it will be my flag one day… our dead raising their arms will still be able to defend it!” Nor will I forget the blistering words of Camilo Cienfuegos that night, when, just some tens of meters away, bazookas and machine guns of U.S. origin in the hands of counterrevolutionaries were pointed toward that terrace on which we stood.
Obama was born in August of 1961, as he himself explained. More than half a century has transpired since that time.
Let us see, however, how our illustrious guest thinks today:
“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” followed by a deluge of concepts entirely novel for the majority of us:
“We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans,” the U.S. President continued, “Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa. Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners.”
The native populations don’t exist at all in Obama’s mind. Nor does he say that the Revolution swept away racial discrimination, or that pensions and salaries for all Cubans were decreed by it before Mr. Barrack Obama was 10 years old. The hateful, racist bourgeois custom of hiring strongmen to expel Black citizens from recreational centers was swept away by the Cuban Revolution - that which would go down in history for the battle against apartheid that liberated Angola, putting an end to the presence of nuclear weapons on a continent of more than a billion inhabitants. This was not the objective of our solidarity, but rather to help the peoples of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and others under the fascist colonial domination of Portugal.
In 1961, just one year and three months after the triumph of the Revolution, a mercenary force with armored artillery and infantry, backed by aircraft, trained and accompanied by U.S. warships and aircraft carriers, attacked our country by surprise. Nothing can justify that perfidious attack which cost our country hundreds of losses, including deaths and injuries
As for the pro-yankee assault brigade, no evidence exists anywhere that it was possible to evacuate a single mercenary. Yankee combat planes were presented before the United Nations as the equipment of a Cuban uprising.
The military experience and power of this country is very well known. In Africa, they likewise believed that revolutionary Cuba would be easily taken out of the fight. The invasion via southern Angola by racist South African motorized brigades got close to Luanda, the capital in the eastern part of the country. There a struggle began which went on for no less than 15 years. I wouldn’t even talk about this, if I didn’t have the elemental duty to respond to Obama’s speech in Havana’s Alicia Alonso Grand Theater.
Nor will I attempt to give details, only emphasize that an honorable chapter in the struggle for human liberation was written there. In a certain way, I hoped Obama’s behavior would be correct. His humble origin and natural intelligence were evident. Mandela was imprisoned for life and had become a giant in the struggle for human dignity. One day, a copy of a book narrating part of Mandela’s life reached my hands, and - surprise! - the prologue was by Barack Obama. I rapidly skimmed the pages. The miniscule size of Mandela’s handwriting noting facts was incredible. Knowing men such as him was worthwhile.
Regarding the episode in South Africa I must point out another experience. I was really interested in learning more about how the South Africans had acquired nuclear weapons. I only had very precise information that there were no more than 10 or 12 bombs. A reliable source was the professor and researcher Piero Gleijeses, who had written the text Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976, an excellent piece. I knew he was the most reliable source on what had happened and I told him so; he responded that he had not spoken more about the matter as in the text he had responded to questions from compañero Jorge Risquet, who had been Cuban ambassador and collaborator in Angola, a very good friend of his. I located Risquet; already undertaking other important tasks he was finishing a course which would last several weeks longer. That task coincided with a fairly recent visit by Piero to our country; I had warned him that Risquet was getting on and his health was not great. A few days later what I had feared occurred. Risquet deteriorated and died. When Piero arrived there was nothing to do except make promises, but I had already received information related to the weapons and the assistance that racist South Africa had received from Reagan and Israel.
I do not know what Obama would have to say about this story now. I am unaware as to what he did or did not know, although it is very unlikely that he knew absolutely nothing. My modest suggestion is that he gives it thought and does not attempt now to elaborate theories on Cuban policy.
There is an important issue:
Obama made a speech in which he uses the most sweetened words to express: “It is time, now, to forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope. And it won’t be easy, there will be challenges and we must give it time; but my stay here gives me more hope in what we can do together as friends, as family, as neighbors, together.”
I suppose all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States. After a ruthless blockade that has lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?
Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.
I also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.
Fidel Castro Ruz
March 27, 2016
10:25 p.m."



Daytona Beach Declared March 25, 1956 Batista Day

Today, March 25, 1956 was declared Batista day in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Following was posted in the Daytona Beach News Journal this morning:


"TODAY IN HISTORY 

1956: Cuban President Batista honored in Daytona Beach


Cuban president Fulgencio Batista was honored with a parade and banquet on March 25, 1956, as Daytona Beach declared it “President Batista Day.” The Cuban dictator lived in Daytona Beach during his years of exile in the 1940s and said he considered Daytona Beach “my second home.” Batista asked to return to Daytona Beach after his ouster in 1959 but was denied entry to the United States. His wife and children, however, lived here briefly after fleeing the revolu­tion. He sold his Halifax Avenue home to Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in 1964."

Photos Not Part of Newspaper Article

When Will 10% Penalty on U.S. Dollar Conversion in #Cuba Really Happen?

You may have seen part of the discussions between President Obama and Raul Castro, both trying to stick to their guns while being conciliator,y to a point.

I always take Canadian money when I go to Cuba, but was trying to find out whether the elimination of the 10% penalty against converting U.S. Dollars still existed or not.

Today, in Cuba's national publication, "Cuba Debate" was a long, long, speech by Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, talking about this issue. He announced that, yes, the penalty will be eliminated. But, he explains that the penalty, "has served to compensate the Cuban financial institutions for the risks and costs the use of the dollar has generated and generates until now. I must say that only after it is established with correspondent international banks the possibility of our banks using the US dollar in our operations, and that such operations are carried out with complete normality, will take effect the decision of the elimination of the tax."

Really, he relives the entire history of the embargo and everything else that's been an issue over the years.

So, if you are intending to travel to Cuba any time soon, you may want to take something other than U.S. dollars.

#Yoani Sanchez on President Obama's Visit to #Havana, XCuba

Yoani Sanchez has posted a thought-provoking statement about Obama's visit.  She is a well-known Cuban dissident living in Havana.

"Obama Is Surrounded By Symbols To Win The Hearts Of Cubans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 March 2016 – He arrives on the Island on Palm Sunday, will attend a baseball game, and has already spoken by phone with the most popular humorist on the Island. Barack Obama’s plane has not yet landed and already he has stolen the hearts of a legion of admirers through a series of symbols. A meal in a paladar (a private restaurant), a phrase from José Martí in his major speech, and a mention of Cachita, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, would complete his upcoming gestures of enchantment.
On Saturday night Cuban TV broadcast a video in which the humorist Pánfilo called the White House to talk to the president of the United States himself. A masterstroke of the Obama administration, it thus placed itself miles away from Cuba’s powers-that-be, who lack any talent for laughter. Through the character of this old man who is obsessed with his ration book, the president of the United States addressed the Cuban people and did so in their own language.
This morning, for a few hours, people will put aside conversations about high food prices and complaints about the collapse of transportation, aggravated by the security measures that plague the city. On the streets there is a resurgence of jokes starring Pepito, the mischievous child of our folktales, who emerged from his long silence to laugh even about the great visitor’s mother-in-law.
Symbols are a part of Obama. For black and mixed-race Cubans his coming is a reminder of how remote the arrival of the Cuban president seems to some of them. Cuba’s historic generation, white and rancid, has ruled for more than half a century over the destiny of a people whose skin tones span the racial spectrum. In the poorest neighborhoods, the occupant of the White House has many fans, and in those same areas the popularity of the Plaza of the Revolution is taking a nose-dive.
The man who today will descend the airplane stairs with a firm step, trotting as usual, will present a strong contrast to the gerontocracy that dominates Cuba. In a country with a serious demographic problem, where the majority of young people dream of emigrating, this leader born after the events of the Bay of Pigs is read like fresh page in a history book with too many volumes dedicated to the past.
He is also coming, with his family, to a nation where we never knew who Fidel Castro was married to and where, for decades, his children were never officially presented in public. He will visit the cathedral in Havana and for his major speech on Tuesday they have chosen a historic theater, one of the few places on the island where ideology has not been able to remove its purely cultural connotations.
However, with each symbolic chord Obama touches in the popular imagination, he assumes a responsibility. The expectations are overflowing because Cubans want to cling to any hope that makes them believe the future will be better. The dreams of economic relief, the end of food shortages and improvements in the country’s infrastructure, are at their highest point this Sunday but have a short expiration date.
People want Saint Obama to work miracles. They have placed candles on his altar and said a prayer that he will bring them the prosperity promised by others for more than half a century. For many families, the most anticipated marvel is summarized in it being easier to get a plate a food, a desire expressed in the street with every possible rhyme that joins Obama’s name and the popular word for food: jama.
Thousands of parents across the country are putting on the shoulders of the visitor the responsibility of convincing their children not to leave on the rafts of despair. They believe that he will be able to stop this incessant flow that is bleeding the country, if only he manages to persuade them that a new Cuba is just around the corner. For the nine migrants who just died trying to cross the Straits of Florida, it is a chance that comes too late.
The marvel others are expecting from Obama is connectivity, as if in Air Force One the United States president will have brought the fiber optic cable that will lift the Island from the precarious state of its internet access. The man who has used social networks intensively in his political career is seen as someone who can do a great deal to sneak Cubans into cyberspace.
In the prisons, thousands are waiting for the president of the United States to achieve an amnesty. Opponents of the current government project major openings in political spaces and room for expression. In the hospitals, patients await the arrival of resources to upgrade deteriorating emergency rooms, and in the Cuban countryside expectation of access to machinery and seeds bears the face of Uncle Sam.
Obama arrives in Havana on the first day of Holy Week. Awaiting him is the glory of his popularity and the cross of excessive hopes."
This is the source, in English quoted above:

https://generacionyen.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/obama-is-surrounded-by-symbols-to-win-the-hearts-of-cubans-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

Looking Into the Eyes of #Cuba's Elderly - On The Verge of Change - National Geographic Article

Looking Into the Eyes of Cuba’s Elderly, on the Verge of Change 

by Alexa Keefe (on Oden Wagenstein)

As printed by National Geographic in August, 2015.

See this great article, for an interesting discussion on the elderly in Cuba, and its great photographs, based on visits by Oded Wagenstein to the island. 



Looking Into the Eyes of Cuba's Elderly - On The Verge of Change

Hey #Cuba, Let's Play Ball! - USA Today Dialogue Between Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas 8/20/15

USA Today published a little give and take, between a "liberal Democratic strategist," Bob Beckel and a "conservative columnist," Cal Thomas on August 20, 2015, titled "Hey #Cuba, Let's Play Ball!"

You may expect that the conservative columnist would be opposed to the new US-#Cuba relations, but that's actually not how it turns out, although he does reflect much hesitation. The two share a bit of common ground in this entertaining give and take.

Bob opens the article discussing history, but also stating, "remember that Washington briefly recognized [The Castro government] after it overthrew the corrupt government of President Fulgencio Batista in 1959." He then talks about the Bay of Pigs fiasco, before saying, "It is long past time to try a different approach."

Cal responds, "Unlike many conservatives, I am cautiously supportive of the renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Congress has the final say on when, or if, sanctions should be removed. They should be lifted, if at all, in increments and conditioned on progress on human rights."

Bob shifts to the embargo, saying it "has devastated Cuba's economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leading to severe poverty and food shortages." He says the new changes are "a good beginning."

Cal says, "... communism is what caused the most harm to the Cuban economy, but I'm a believer in light overcoming darkness. While increased tourism will boost the Cuban economy, visitors will be able to share information about the U.S. and the world. These could contribute to a movement that will someday free Cuba from the Castro brothers."

Bob recites the current upswing in polls in favor of the moves.

Cal talks about Nixon opening the door to China, and then says, "Cuba is one of the last relics of the Cold War. Not having diplomatic relations for more than half a century has not brought freedom to the island. You're right; it's time to try something different. You can't have a positive influence on nations if you don't talk to their leaders...."

Answering a question from Cal on what he sees as benefits of the new relationship, Bob says, "First, both our economies will benefit, Cuba's more than ours. ... Second, Cuba's allies - especially Russia and Venezuela - will lose influence in the Caribbean region, which they established because of close ties with Cuba. That alone is a long-range benefit to the United States."

Cal cites Marko Rubio's personal history and reservations.

Bob responds that this is "Cold War thinking." "Cuba has more to fear from this new relationship than we do when it ones to maintaining its dictatorship. Perhaps the most important benefit to come out of this will be the enhancement of our national security."

When asked why he says that, Bob points to the Cuban missile crisis, and says with Cuba as an ally, that could never happen again.

Cal retorts that Cuba is "not going to be an 'ally' anytime soon." "The best policy going forward is to watch the government's behavior and use new diplomatic relations and the possibility of a gradual lifting of sanctions as a wedge to enhance freedom and a better life for the Cuban people."

Bob turns the topic to baseball, stating that there is a lot of talent there, and that he sees an expansion team being created. And he's excited about the possibility of importing Cuban cigars.

Cal responds, "I knew we would get to your real motives," and states how Kennedy ordered as many cigars as Pierre Salinger could get his hands on before putting the embargo into effect. Cal closes with, "Maybe baseball diplomacy will help open the prison doors and contribute to a freer press and competing political parties. But I think without regime change in Cuba, the Washington baseball team will win its first World Series since 1924 before all these things happen."

Armando Valladares Points to #Cuba Offenses in Arguing Against Normalization - WSJ Article

Armando Valladares, U.S. former Ambassador to the U.N. Commission On Human Rights, and author of the 1986 book "Against All Hope," has written an editorial, titled, "Obama's New Cuban Partners, My Old Jailers," published in the Wall Street Journal on August 21, 2015.

Lately, we've heard much more positive language in the media about the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, but, of course, there still are many former exiles and former prisoners who want to be heard on their opposition.

In the article, Valladares describes his being imprisoned for criticizing the government and not complying with demands to support the government.

He says he was jailed in Cuba, "not for what I said, but for what I wouldn’t say: 'I’m with Fidel.' I spent eight of my ensuing 22 years in Castro’s jails naked and in solitary confinement because I refused to wear a prison uniform. I was a conscientious objector, and the regime wanted to mark me as a common criminal."