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."

Klobuchar on US-#Cuba Relations and Business

The following came from an editorial in the Star Tribune:

In March, 2015, "Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, introduced the “Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015.” If passed, it would repeal or amend the long-entrenched laws that have restricted trade between the two nations during the Castro regime’s repressive rule. The bill’s introduction comes on the heels of President Obama’s historic use of executive power in December to re-establish diplomatic relations and ease travel restrictions. But congressional action is needed to end the embargo. Klobuchar’s bill is a sensible start toward making that happen."

Senator Klobuchar on US-#Cuba Relations

The Senator's new book, "The Senator Next Door: A memoir from the Heartland," to be published this week, is an "Anti-Trump Book." In it, she discusses her support of the Iran nuclear deal, and says she is optimistic about the prospect of bipartisan action to lift the trade embargo against Cuba, especially if U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba are eased. She is quoted in a USA Today Article, "Klobuchar Sees Iran Ire, Cuba Consensus," by Susan Page, August 20, 2015, as saying, "Once those tens of millions of Americans come into Cuba, the impetus for more foreign investment, from hotels to telecommunications to food ... that is going to make a major difference.... My fear is if we wait to long, pretty soon those American tourists will be sleeping in Spanish hotels and eating German food."

Klobuchar Sees Iran Ire, Cuba Consensus, USA Today Article

For those who fled #Cuba, a struggle to understand, Alan Gomez USA Today Aug. 20, 2015

The tide seems to have changed in the media regarding the US-#Cuba relationship.  We hear much more now about the polls supporting the move, and much less about the exile groups in Miami that have always been so vocal against any relationship with the island.  Of course, we still have Marco Rubio espousing that old feeling.

But we knew that even though the polls say even the exile community had slowly begun to change its mind, there had to be plenty of raw feelings against it.

This article, posted in USA Today reflects that concern. The writer's mother is not a rabid opponent, but expresses her true inner conflict at the sudden change.  Yet, in the end, she states she's ready to return.

I took my wife back to her home town in Cuba last year, which she had left without her family at age six.  We went to her former home in the Vista Alegre neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba, and the new occupants, (the house was divided in half and two families occupy it) let her in. All she recognized was the tile floor. It did not leave her with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  And the driveway was now filled with a three story multi-residential building. Yet, even my wife is very positive about the new moves, and we welcome the ability to help her family more and to visit often. We've done so almost ten times since 2010.

A couple of quotes from the article:

"Voices: For those who fled Cuba, a struggle to understand

Alan Gomez, USA TODAY 12:36 p.m. EDT August 20, 2015

MIAMI – After returning over the weekend from Cuba, where I saw the American flag fly atop the U.S. Embassy in Havana for the first time in 54 years, I handed my mother a little gift.
U.S. officials at the flag-raising ceremony gave out small pins with the American and Cuban flags crossing in unison. A tiny trinket, but one I thought she'd appreciate since she fled that communist country in 1965 and has never returned. My mother, neither quiet nor shy, looked down at the pin in her palm for a few moments, closed her hand and walked away without saying a word.
She wasn't angry or depressed. She wasn't exuberant, either. Instead, her reaction embodied what I've seen as a conflicted response from the older Cuban-American community in this country as it grapples with a world that's changing so quickly around it.

'It felt weird," she said after I pressed her. "I love both of those flags, but seeing that left me confused.'"

"Gomez is a Miami-based correspondent for USA TODAY."

For Those Who Fled Cuba - A Struggle to Understand - USA Today Article

Inside the Crazy Back-Channel Negotiations - US-#Cuba ... Mother Jones Article

This is the most complete, well-written article I've seen on how the U.S. and Cuba reopened a relationship.

The article opens with : 

"On a rainy day last December, President Barack Obama gathered a small group of senior officials in the Oval Office and placed a telephone call to Raúl Castro. Sitting on a couch to Obama's left were National Security Council aides Benjamin Rhodes and Ricardo Zuniga, personal emissaries whose 18 months of secret negotiations were about to culminate in the first substantive conversation between the presidents of the United States and Cuba in more than half a century."

We can't quote the article, and it makes no sense to summarize it. Just read it. It's good.

Inside the Crazy Back-Channel Negotiations - US-#Cuba ... by Mother Jones

Also, see this group of more historic US-#Cuba photos.

120 Years of Rocky US-Cuba Relations, in Pictures - Mother Jones

Timeline of key dates in US relations with #Cuba, AP Story

The Associated Press published an article on August 14, 2015 of the history of the U.S. disagreements with Cuba, through the new accords.

Fidel Castro's rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba on Jan 1, 1959. The United States soon recognizes the new government. But relations begin to sour as Americans criticize summary trials and executions of Batista loyalists. In 1960 Cuba nationalizes U.S.-owned oil refineries after they refuse to process Soviet oil. Nearly all other U.S. businesses are expropriated soon afterward."
From WSJ Article cited below

John Kerry becomes the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, flying to Havana on Aug. 14, 2015, for a ceremonial flag-raising outside the newly rechristened embassy."
together with great photos

Timeline of key dates in US relations with Cuba - AP Story

Also, see this article with photos and videos of the festivities:  WSJ Article on U.S. Flag Being Raised at Embassy in Havana Cuba

"#Cubans Unusually Open to Call For Democracy" - AP Article

The Associated Press posted an article about the flag-raising, by Anne-Marie Garcia and Michael Weisssenstein, in which they say that Cubans are making pro-democracy statements, without requesting anonymity.

The article also states that the Cuban government official news television stations showed the entire speech of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerr, in which he promoted democracy, and the entire-speech was published in the official newspaper publication, Granma.

This photo is from the following site, and has the following caption:


In 1960, the United States enacted a trade embargo on Cuba. The following year, it closed its Cuban embassy, formerly ending diplomatic relations between the two countries. Above, an American flag is rolled up as the US embassy in Havana prepares to close. AP

Link to this and another article:



"To Invest or Not Invest in #Cuba", by Blogger Montener -Translated to English, with Comments

Blogger Carlos Alberto Montener has posted an interesting analysis of investment in Cuba post thawing of U.S. and Cuba relationship. The date of the blog is January 14, 2015, the day the U.S. flag was again raised at the newly reopened Embassy in Havana.

[Photos are from Cuba Libre Today personal archives]

A building near El Prado.  Not an unusual site

This is a translation (by Google and me) of excerpts of his article [Brackets indicate our additions or comments]:

1. A thaw was announced simultaneously by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro on December 17 2014, describing various steps taken by both governments in the direction of reconciliation, have created an atmosphere of triumph about the economic future of Cuba full of good expectations.
2. According to polls, a majority of U.S. citizens support the measures in the United States and in Cuba, and there are reasons to believe that a substantial percentage of Cuban exiles also support them.
Don't walk under balconies.  You never know what will fall when

3. As part of that approach, it is expected that some or many foreign companies may explore the possibility of investing in the island, utilizing the remarkable human capital available in Cuba. Cuba has over eight hundred thousand university graduates and a generally healthy and educated population.

4. The Cuban government, after 56 years of continuous exercise of power, seems firmly in control of the situation….

5. Following the election of Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela in late 1998, the oil-rich country has transferred to Cuba huge amounts of resources. …

6. After a quarter century of the disappearance of the communist bloc, the government of the Castros, along with North Korea, has proved the exception to the rule, in that they have maintained control without sacrificing the principles of Marxism-Leninism and single party rule, although cautiously trying to modify its productive apparatus.

7. In the spirit of "reforms-within-a-system", in April 2010 Raul Castro introduced what is known as Guidelines, which outlined the main points of the reform, creating opportunities for foreign investment and "employment".


1. The country needs to rebuild its infrastructure almost entirely. Everything is obsolete or in ruins: the aqueducts and sewers, power grids, Internet, bridges and roads, telephone communications, homes and buildings.
This building is on El Prado, a prime walking street.

2. There is much fertile ground for local food production. Cuba imports 80% of food consumed by people and animals. Before 1959, the proportions were reversed.

3. The sugar industry, which before the revolution was the backbone of the economy, producing six million tons per year on average, has been reduced to two.

4. Tourism is a very promising field. The island has dozens of beautiful beaches, [many of which already have all-inclusive resorts at which Europeans and others have enjoyed for years; there are quite a few pristine, available beaches on which newer, more up-to-date, elegant resorts could be built.]

5. Considering the number of researchers in the field of medicine, today totally underutilized, Cuba could be the perfect partner of major international pharmaceutical industries, both to develop new medicines and to produce them.

6. Given the prestige (now somewhat diminished) of its health system, Cuba, potentially, is a great place for medical tourism and to establish links with American insurance systems. [Havana is very close to Florida]. [currently, while the doctors are skilled and plentiful, there are virtually no modern medical facilities, instruments, etc., but as the author says, with investment, that could change. We at Cuba Libre Today have been inside hospitals, polyclinics and pharmacies in Havana and are familiar with the lack of instruments.]

2012 When more little businesses were allowed to open.
7. By the time relations are actually normalized, and travel is facilitated and significantly increased, Cuba will become an ideal place for retirement tens of thousands of Cuban-Americans and Americans who receive a monthly average of US $1,800 US dollars.

8. Cuba receives about three million tourists a year and has eleven million inhabitants. In a few years, it could receive eleven million tourists and achieve the classification of paradise. A few bold and intelligent developers could transform the Isle of Pines, south of Cuba, into a Caribbean Mallorca. Mallorca, in the Mediterranean, which receives 20 million tourists every year. The United States has 300,000 luxury yachts that could visit Cuba and refuel at sea there and think.
2012. New Business.

9. If relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to deepen, it is possible to provide a Free Trade Agreement that would allow Cuba to export without restriction to the richest market in the world.

10. Due to its geographical position, Cuba is an ideal place to distribute sea and air freight as a hub to North and South America.

11. Cuban-Americans, as happened with Taiwan concerning China, Cuba could transfer its expertise in business, relationships and capital they have created, which would integrate the island into the commercial and business world of the United States.

12. The country, as happened in post-communist Europe, would be the paradise of the most popular American franchises of fast food: MacDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and so on.

13. So could the department store chains: Zara, Corte Ingles, Macys, Sears and the rest of the best known establishments.


1. The government of Raul Castro does not want a regime change; rather he wants to “improve” the communist model launched in 1959. According to the statement made and published, the expected pattern is not even the Chinese or Vietnamese, but a ‘Military State Capitalism’, where the Government retains control of the 2500 largest companies in the country, which operate directly through the military apparatus or in partnership with foreign capitalists. Cubans do not have access to the means of production, other than small service companies (paladares, [dwellings that offer rooms for rent], hairdressers, etc.).

2. The government of Raul Castro does not believe, as Deng Xiaoping proclaimed in 1992 that "to get rich is glorious." Raul and Fidel still believe that capitalism is an evil expression of the worst human tendencies and despise those who practice it. In Cuba, entrepreneurs are not encouraged, but repressed. Capitalists can be circumstantially necessary, but always under the strict control of the political police to prevent ideological contamination of the people and the excesses they are capable of happening. The government continues to maintain the supremacy of central planning on the market and the virtues of frugality and non-consumption.

3. If an employer wants to assess country risk before investing in any place, review Moody and Standard & Poor. According to these companies’ risk assessments, Cuba appears in the most dangerous zone. There is a lengthy history of default or just default and refinancing of obligations that have subsequently proved futile. They could not afford them due to a serious problem: Cuban society is very unproductive because of the collectivist economic system imposed on it and because of the size and priorities of public spending decided by the government.

4. The Cuban State lacks substantial reserves and has barely enough income to survive month to month. This determines that it has few resources to undertake large public works that are needed, and thus will require international loans to face them, which becomes a serious problem because of its lack of reliable credit.

5. not exist in Cuba impartial courts which go to settle a civil dispute, much less criminal. There is an absolute legal helplessness in any conflict with the government or a state enterprise. The government, according to their needs, aims, arbitrarily imprisons or frees any citizen, including foreign entrepreneurs who have entered litigation. In other words, the opposite of a genuine rule of law. That circumstance can testify, among dozens of people, the Panamanian Simon Abadi, Max Marambio Chilean or Canadian Sarkis Yacoubian.

6. The foreign businessmen residing in Cuba living under the "not-so-discreet" surveillance of the security forces, always in search of the mythical paranoid and sinister CIA. Many Cubans and simple potential friends or neighbors officials dare not linked to foreign employers for fear of losing the confidence of the government, or are required to report in writing on each voluntary or involuntary sustained contact with them.

7. Cuba has not solved the important problem of the currency. Officially, the dollar is changed approximately alongside the Cuban [convertible] peso (the pesos used by tourists, although there is an additional 20% surcharge on exchanging U.S. dollars – still, as of our visit to Cuba last week – although the exit tax has disappeared]. In the parallel market [pesos cubanos, which is the peso earned by workers and used in bodegas to purchased necessary items with the ‘libreta’, ration book) is 24 pesos for 1 dollar. Cuban peso charge, but the government will sell in dollars, which generates a large dissatisfaction and an obvious sense of injustice.

8. The salaries are very low (about $ 24 monthly), which determines the absence of a potential of 11 million consumers. Cubans have the lowest purchasing power per capita in Latin America. [The lowest paid receive $10 per month; college educated young person with 3 – 5 years in the workplace, $17; professors with years of experience, $25 - $35; computer technicians with 10 or more years experience, $35 - $40; Doctors are now receiving additional benefits, and may earn $50, plus extra benefits.]

9. The banking system is inadequate and primitive. Deposits in dollars, as has happened in the recent past, can be frozen at the discretion of the government.

10. The bureaucracy is slow and uncertain. Officials are hesitant to make decisions and instructions are sometimes contradictory.

11. The hiring of workers is made by a state company that charges investors in dollars, but pays the workers in pesos cubanos. In the transaction, the Cuban state gets 94% of salary. This practice violates international agreements signed with the ILO.

12. For over half a century, Cubans have come to steal from the state to survive, selling on the black market things they steal. These habits are transferred to the private sector, especially because they have lived under intense propaganda campaign against the capitalist exploiters. They know that socialism leads to disaster, but believe that capitalism is an activity of hungry wolves.

[We at Cuba Libre Today have long thought that the companies that could do very well at the outset are paint companies and other household supply companies. Of course, everyday people who work for the government, as opposed to taxi drivers and others who can obtain tourist money, still doesn't have money to buy paint and things like that, but those who operate paladars and casas particulares do.  I have a relative who has constant problems with the toilet.  I offered to bring replacement parts.  She said, "you don't understand, the toilets here predate replacement parts. And we cannot find toilets, even if we have the money."]


1. A substantial part of the policy of reconciliation between Obama and Raul Castro depends on the lifting of the embargo. Although there is great pressure from the White House and polls show that most Americans want the sanctions to be removed, there is no guarantee that will be achieved during the current presidential term. Nor can anyone predict what will happen to the relations between the two countries if the next election the Republican candidate wins. Two of the most prominent, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have criticized President Obama for his new Cuban policy.

2. The cancellation of the 1996 Helms-Burton law is one of the key requirements for Cuba to approach the IDB, the IMF, or the WB. Without these credits, which require membership of these bodies by Cuba, the island will not have access to loans to rebuild the costly infrastructure that the country needs. It is a very slow process that will take a long time.

3. Cuba relies heavily on subsidies from Venezuela. The current Cuban president still follows the ideals implemented by Chavez, goes through a bad time which could lead to its destruction and replacement by an unfavorable "Cuban" government. The disappearance of “Chavismo” in Venezuela would be an economic and political catastrophe for Cuba. Today's President Maduro’s popularity is below 20%.

4. The political stability of the Cuban regime until now has depended control of Fidel and Raul Castro. Fidel has just turned 89 and Raul in June reached 84. With them the generation of the revolution is liquidated and given way to more young people, led by the heir chosen by Raul Castro, the engineer Miguel Diaz-Canel, 55. What will happen then? Can the regime transmit authority to a new chosen person within the one-party communist model without the warlords who until now have given shape and meaning to the government? Will uncontrollable ambitions of other candidates, presumably young soldiers, determined to take over arise? Nobody knows. Cuban history, however, has seen bloody and violent regime takeovers.

5. It will be very risky to invest in properties that were confiscated from their rightful owners in the early years of the revolution. Both the United States and Spain are willing to go to court to defend their rights and have hired lawyers for this. Originally, the victims of the confiscations were American or Spanish, but over time have been added Cuban-Americans and Hispanic-Cuban. U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate and the Spanish Parliament have legislated regarding this. 

6. ……. Predictability is that Americans affected, along with Cuban-Americans, may try to cripple any help or intended benefit from the U.S. to Cuba until Cuba returns the properties that were theirs or they are compensate for the properties.

7. Although there is a clear possibility of making money in Cuba in the tourism sector, it is difficult for the U.S. hotel industry, almost all present on the Exchange, subject to American law and union pressure, to collaborate with Cuban counterintelligence facilitating eavesdropping and covert filming inside the hotel facilities, like today at Melia Hotels and other European chains, violating even Cuban law itself that supposedly defends the inviolability of privacy. American lawyers are very clear about the high price they had to pay the German companies that were associated with Nazism, as with Volkswagen and Bayer.

8. If one invests in a country associated with a dictatorial government that exploits workers and businesses, it is very possible that when the opportunity arises, these businesses linked to the Cuban government will be charged in court for the confiscation of 94% of salary by changing dollars for weight and other violations of the rules of the International Labour Organization. The claims of the workers will be heavy and there are American firms willing to file them for a percentage of what will eventually be received.

9. Finally, two articles of the Cuban Constitution outline the nature uncompromisingly communist regime and become a permanent threat against foreign investors. Article 5: The Communist Party of Cuba, ‘Martiano’ [following Jose Marti], and Marxist-Leninist, which is vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and the state. Article 62: None of the freedoms recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and the laws, nor against the decision of the Cuban people as to the construct of socialism and communism. Violation of this principle is punishable.

The blog, in Spanish, is located at http://www.elblogdemontaner.com/invertir-o-no-invertir-en-cuba-esa-es-la-preguntacuba-en-su-nueva-etapa-analisis-foda/

[Finally, we at Cuba Libre Today acknowledge the Weaknesses and Threats stated by Mr. Montaner, but we are very optimistic for great improvements in the Cuban economy as the result of the recent and hopefully upcoming changes. Investment on a small scale makes sense. We are also sure that large American companies, like those discussed in the article, WILL happen.  I saw business people form the U.S., probably making inquiries about investment, on my last trip to Holguin, Cuba, a week ago.] 

Holguin, #Cuba Prepares for Pope's Visit

We were in Holguin, Cuba this past week. This small city is near the northern coast, above Santiago de Cuba. While popes have visited Santiago several times, none has ever visited Holguin.  Soon, Pope Francis will visit both cities after an initial stop in Havana.

The highway between the airport and the city is being replaced with a modern thoroughfare. The Pope will fly from Havana to Holguin, so he will have to travel on this highway into the city.

I cannot fathom that the highway will be finished in time for the Pope's visit a month from now. While they have made much progress, I strongly believe there's just too much more to do.
Highway Between Airport and Downtown Holguin

Various streets within the city are closed for renovations.  A number of buildings are being painted and spruced up.  My taxi driver said, "It's silly to make the outside look nice, when water is pouring through the roof and walls of these buildings."

The stage where the Pope will speak is already set up, outside, adjacent to the not-very-elegant Hotel Pernik, where I stay when in Holguin.

A number of articles have been posted on the visit.


Pope Francis to stop off in Cuba on way to United States in September

" Pope Francis has added a stop in Cuba to his planned trip to the United States this September, a visit that will highlight his role as a peace-broker between the two countries and offer a boost to their efforts to mend relations after 50 years of rancor.

Francis will make a Cuba landing in late September before his previously scheduled stops in Philadelphia, New York and Washington, where he is expected to meet with President Obama and address Congress.
Whatever his plans, Francis will almost certainly be received warmly by a Cuban public that has shown a great deal of enthusiasm for papal visits in the past, if less so for the habit of disciplined church attendance.
With near-universal support among ordinary Cubans for reconciliation with the United States, Francis will give an important political boost to the only significant independent institution on the island — Cuba’s Catholic Church — and its role in nudging communist authorities toward broader reforms."

#Cuba Dissidents Not Invited to US Embassy Event - AP Article

The U.S.'s previous involvement of Cuban dissidents has caused issues with the new open relationship between he U.S. and Cuba. Friday, August 14, 2015 is the day that the U.S. will officially raise its flag at the new U.S. Embassy in Cuba. But, this time, 
The AP article says it like this,  "Cuban dissidents, so long the center of U.S. policy toward the island, won't be invited to Secretary of State John Kerry's historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday, vividly illustrating how U.S. policy is shifting focus to its single-party government. Kerry intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day, officials said.
The Cuban government labels its domestic opponents as traitorous U.S. mercenaries. As the two countries have moved to restore relations, Cuba has almost entirely stopped meeting with American politicians who visit dissidents during trips to Havana.
That presented a quandary for U.S. officials organizing the ceremony on Friday to mark the reopening of the embassy on Havana's historic waterfront. Inviting dissidents would risk a boycott by Cuban officials including those who negotiated with the U.S. after Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente on Dec. 17. Excluding dissidents would certainly provoke fierce criticism from opponents of Obama's new policy, including Cuban-American Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio."
The article goes on to say that a possible compromise is being discussed. A "small group will meet with Kerry at the U.S. chief of mission's home in the afternoon, where a lower-key, flag-raising ceremony is scheduled."
"Dissident Yoani Sanchez's online newspaper 14ymedio has received no credential for the U.S. Embassy event, said editor Reinaldo Escobar, who is married to Sanchez."
Aug. 12, 2015 6:46 PM EDT

U.S. Presidential Candidates Spar Over Hot Topic - Ending Cuba #Embargo, #bloqueo

"Lifting the [#Cuba] #Embargo doesn't set back freedom; it advances freedom," says Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail at Florida International University in Miami this week.

Miami may be a dangerous place politically to make such a statement, Rubio's home ground, where many Cuban exiles and their families stand by the long-entrenched hard line against any connection between the U.S. and Cuba. But FIU is the place to make such speeches. We of Cuba Libre Today were at FIU when Yoani Sanchez, famous dissident blogger and Havana, Cuba resident, spoke there, to not-too-much criticism from the Cuba exile community.

Anticipating Clinton's promotion of eliminating the blockade, Rubio said, "President Obama and Secretary Clinton must learn that appeasement only emboldens dictators and repressive governments and weakens America's global standing in the 21st century."

The quotes and the rest of the story come from Bill Barrow's Associated Press (#AP) article, "
In swing state Florida, Clinton calls for Cuba embargo’s end," printed on August 1, 2015.

"MIAMI — Drawing a sharp distinction with her main Republican rivals in Florida, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday called on the GOP-run Congress to end the trade embargo the U.S. has imposed on Cuba since 1962.

The Democratic presidential favorite said an open economic relationship would do more to bring “dignity and democracy” to the island nation than continuing the hardline isolationism that lasted through five decades of Republican and Democratic administrations, including her husband’s two terms.
Clinton acknowledged that she previously supported sanctions in Cuba, but she told an auditorium of students, faculty and others at Florida International University that she changed her views during four years as Obama’s secretary of state. ....

Clinton accused Republican presidential candidates — without calling them by name — of approaching Cuba and Latin America 'through a Cold War prism.'

'They have it backwards: Engagement is not a gift to the Castros; it’s a threat to the Castros,' Clinton said. 'An American embassy in Havana isn’t a concession; it’s a beacon. Lifting the embargo doesn’t set back freedom; it advances freedom.'"

The article also quotes Clinton as saying, "We cannot afford to let out-of-touch, out-of- date, partisan ideas and candidates rip away all the progress we’ve made."

The article quotes presidential candidate Jeb Bush as saying, it is “insulting to many residents of Miami for Hillary Clinton to come here to endorse a retreat in the struggle for democracy in Cuba.”
The article continues: 

"U.S.-Cuba relations have long been a flashpoint in Florida politics. The generations of Cuban-Americans who were born in Cuba and fled shortly after the Castro-led revolution in the late 1950s generally supported a hard line, including the embargo that keeps American businesses from trading with Cuba and blocks Americans from traveling in the country and spending money there as tourists.

For decades, south Florida politicians and presidential candidates vying for the state’s electoral votes reflected those views, regardless of party. Clinton’s husband was among them, even as he quietly attempted to engage Fidel Castro in the 1990s.

Now, says Florida pollster Fernand Amandi, an expert on Cuban-American public opinion, that once solid voting bloc is 'a community in transition,' giving Clinton an opening."

The article states that outside the Cuban-American community, "a majority of adults in the U.S. support normalizing relations with Cuba. A Pew Research Center survey conducted July 14-20 found that nearly 73 percent of Americans approve of establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, while 72 percent support ending the trade embargo...."  And it states that even Republicans support of the actions has increased since first implemented, and exceeds 50% in support.

Is Clinton's promotion a political death-knell, at least in the Miami community?  We'll see. Plenty have nothing good to say about Clinton, and this is a hot topic for her opponents to pin on the negative list. We at Cuba Libre Today agree with eliminating the Blockade.

Photo from PBS version of the AP article, which gives credit and states as follows: "Democratic U.S presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes a speech on Cuban relations at Florida International University in Miami on July 31, 2015. Clinton on Friday called for the U.S. Congress to end the U.S. economic embargo in Cuba and said she would make it easier for Americans to travel to the Communist-led island if she were president. Photo by Joe Skipper/Reuters."