Showing posts with label Cuba. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cuba. Show all posts

February 25, 2019

Rubio, Pence and Evangelicals Attacked Cuba’s Vote on The New Constitution So It Most Be Good For Cubans





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Cubans were asked Sunday to send an overwhelming message of approval for the country's communist system as its founding generation of geriatric former guerrillas cedes the public spotlight to a new class of middle-aged bureaucrats.
Voters were expected to overwhelmingly approve the draft of a new constitution that preserves the single-party socialist system and centrally planned economy while making some updates. The new constitution recognizes private and cooperative businesses alongside state ones, creates the posts of prime minister and provincial governor, and introduces the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus to the justice system.
The only open question was how overwhelming the "yes" vote would be. The current constitution was approved by 97.7 percent of voters in a referendum in 1976, the peak of a system dedicated to displays of national unity achieved through a blend of consensus-building and coercion.
Forty-three years later, Cuba is one of the world's last communist nations, its economy is faltering, its population shrinking and the percentage of "no" votes is expected to be small but significant when results are released Monday.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel's government waged a non-stop campaign promoting a "yes" vote and tarring those voting "no" as counterrevolutionaries and enemies of the state.
"I came to vote for the constitution of my country, for the rights we Cubans have to defend, for continuity and our revolutionary process," said one voter, Januarys Molina, 34.
Aside from a few independent websites, all Cuban media is state-run and the airwaves were filled with messages urging people to approve the new constitution for the sake of continuity on the island. In recent days, those messages were mixed with words of support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as tensions rise between Cuba's main ally and the Trump administration, along with Latin American allies who support the Venezuelan opposition and its attempt to force aid into the country.
"We're living a moment of imperialist menace," Diaz-Canel told reporters after voting Sunday morning. "What they're applying in Venezuela can be applied in any place in the world."
Diaz-Canel's predecessor, 87-year-old Communist Party head Raul Castro, was shown voting in footage on state TV that didn't include comments to state media on the scene.
The largest block of "no" votes could come from the growing ranks of evangelical Christians in Cuba, who object to language that eliminates a requirement for marriage to be only between a man and woman, paving the way for a future legalization of gay marriage.
Cuban dissidents reached out to the growing number of people who have internet access on the island, urging them to vote "no" or boycott the vote altogether.
Both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Vice President Mike Pence attacked the vote as illegitimate in Twitter statements Sunday.
By The Associated PressHAVANA

By EFE (Last Yrear)
LGBT Community in Cuba Defend Theeir Cause 🇨🇺🏳️‍🌈
Without massive rallies but with a lot of passion, LGTBI activists in Cuba use fashion design, social networks and photos of symbolic weddings in the landmark Plaza de la Revolucion in order to raise awareness about the new constitution that will open the way to gay marriage on the island.
Though activists defending the rights of this community have been working for over a decade - with sometimes more, sometimes less government support - their projects notably increased after the contents of a draft of the new Magna Carta became known, and which will be debated starting this Monday in a three-month referendum process.
"When I saw two women dressed as brides, kissing each other and having their wedding pictures taken on the Malecon esplanade and in the Plaza (de la Revolucion), I said to myself, something's going on here," Darily, a Havana woman who was "pleasantly surprised" when she saw the "positive reaction" of most onlookers, told EFE.
The photo shoot, organized by activists of the theater group El Ciervo Encantado (The Enchanted Deer), was one of the "eye-catching" activities intended to make visible the debate on Article 68 of the new constitution, which will be the subject of a referendum next February.
The updated Magna Carta modifies the concept of marriage, now defined as a "voluntary union between a man and a woman," to a "union between two persons," which opens the way to the legalization of same-sex marriage and responds to a historic demand by the Cuban LGTBI collective.
Constitutional reform includes among its more noteworthy changes the elimination of the term "communism," though in practice Cuba's political system will continue as usual.
Despite the generalized acceptance of same-sex marriage by the Cuban Parliament, its legalization has provoked widely divergent opinions among the islanders.
For Lolita, "love is free" and gay marriages ought to be something quite "natural," while for Alexander, a biketaxi driver, it's all the same to him because "people do what they want with their lives."
"In Cuba there are few physical areas where people of different ideologies can come together. But to some extent, social networks have filled that gap," EFE was told by Yadiel Cepero, administrator of the Facebook group called Structuring an Agenda of Sexual Diversity in Cuba.

July 23, 2018

Castro Wants Changes to The Constitution Including Gay Marriage and Term Limits for President





 Cuba’s former President Raul Castro applauds as he sits next to Miguel Díaz-Canel during a previous session of the island’s National Assembly. The National Assembly, Cuba’s parliament, met Saturday and approved the Council of Ministers that will serve under Díaz-Canel. Ismael Francisco Cubadebate via AP

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article215287740.html#storylink=cpy


  

After leaving the Cuban government at age 86, Raúl Castro is proposing a new constitution that would limit the age of future presidents to 60 at the start of their first terms.
The constitutional reforms, discussed Saturday by the Cuban parliament, also would erase the word “Communism” from the document and open the way for same-sex marriage, according to official TV broadcasts of the gathering.

 AF_one Approaching Airport in Habana with President Obama on board (2016 File)

But the proposed constitution repeats that Cuba’s socialist system is “irrevocable” and says the Communist Party is the only legal party and holds a “vanguard” role in the country’s affairs.   
Castro and his late brother Fidel ruled Cuba until well into old age. Miguel Díaz-Canel, 58, succeeded Raúl Castro as head of the government in April. Castro has often spoken about the need for a “generational change” in the government leadership, and the need to enforce term limits on future presidents.

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba from 1959 until 2006, when he suffered a grave health emergency and passed the reins of power to Raúl.
Raúl Castro, who is still in charge of the Communist Party and heads the commission that wrote the draft of the constitutional changes, seems to be taking steps to avoid a long run at the top by another president.
The draft restricts presidents to two terms and says they must not be older than 60 at the start of the first term. The proposed new system of government also calls for a division of powers at the top.
The draft’s proposals for the posts of president, vice president and prime minister have sparked speculation about the powers that Díaz-Canel might really have.
The issue appears to be sensitive, and the secretary of the Council of State, Homero Acosta, spent time explaining to parliament that the president would not be a “ceremonial” figure, especially because it will be the president who will nominate the prime minister to the parliament.
It’s not a matter of “a ceremonial, figurehead president, but a president with [real] functions in the government,” Acosta said.
Nevertheless, the president will not be directly in charge of the Council of Ministers — which would be run by the Prime Minister — nor the Council of State, which Raúl and Fidel Castro and Díaz-Canel have headed.
Although U.S. analysts doubted preliminary reports published in the official news media, it has now been confirmed that the draft says the president of the parliament, the National Assembly, will also preside over the Council of State — making that person very powerful.
The Assembly, if the draft is approved as is, also would have the power to interpret the constitution — a role held by the highest courts in most other countries.
The official web page Cubadebate also reported Saturday that the new constitution would define marriage as “the consensual union between two people, regardless of gender.” That’s been one of the demands by LGBTI groups on the island and Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela, who heads a sex education center in Havana. 
Acosta underlined that the language of the Constitution must be flexible, and that several laws will have to be changed in order to implement the constitutional reforms.
Other aspects of the draft have been less surprising.
The president will continue to be elected by parliament and not directly by voters — a change that many Cubans wanted.
And the new constitution will recognize private property but “retains the essential principles of socialist ownership by the people over the basic means of production and central planning as a principal component,” according to the official Granma newspaper.
The draft constitution must be approved by the National Assembly and will be submitted later to a referendum.  

May 8, 2018

Mariela Castro Will Propose A Same Sex Marriage Law in Cuba





 Havana, Cuba






 Mariela Castro, a Cuban lawmaker and daughter of Communist Party chief Raul Castro, says she will push for gay marriage to be included in a constitutional reform process expected to begin in July.

The reform is expected to encompass a wide range of modernizing changes to Cuba’s 1976 constitution, which was designed for a Soviet-style command economy. The communist government has been slowly introducing market reforms and trying to encourage more interaction with the global economy.

Homosexuality was persecuted in the years after the 1959 revolution led by the Castro family but Cuba has ended anti-gay policies and forbidden workplace discrimination. Mariela Castro has become a prominent gay rights activist.

She told reporters Friday that she would ask that the new charter and accompanying laws allow gay marriage.

August 11, 2017

Hearing Loss By Diplomats at US Embassy in Cuba







 The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device.

In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. 

Some of the diplomats’ symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.

The U.S. officials weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on May 23. She did not say how many U.S. diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms.”

The Cuban government said in a lengthy statement late Wednesday that “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory is used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.”

The statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of the incidents on Feb. 17 and had launched an “exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government.”

It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”
The ministry said it had created an expert committee to analyze the incidents and had reinforced security around the U.S. embassy and U.S. diplomatic residences.
“Cuba is universally considered a safe destination for visitors and foreign diplomats, including U.S. citizens,” the statement said. 

U.S. officials told The Associated Press that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved. The FBI and Diplomatic Security Service are investigating.

Cuba employs a state security apparatus that keeps many people under surveillance and U.S. diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. Like virtually all foreign diplomats in Cuba, the victims of the incidents lived in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government.

However, officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russia, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command.

Nauert said investigators did not yet have a definitive explanation for the incidents but stressed they take them “very seriously,” as shown by the Cuban diplomats’ expulsions.
“We requested their departure as a reciprocal measure since some U.S. personnel’s assignments in Havana had to be curtailed due to these incidents,” she said. “Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats.”

 The Photographer's handle name here is Steve. The photograph shows the American Embassy on the right and the large much taller building on the left which appears to be the Russian Embassy. People that visit this area in Cuba know that the Russian Embassy is in the same neighborhood but it's so interesting to see how close they are in this non-official picture. I have not been to Cuba myself so I don't know the real distance between the two structures. I don't think the distance in feet or yards is not as important as to know the Russians are close to the US embassy and there might be an intensity of micro waves hitting the structure and inhabitants of that structure. It is general knowledge this goes on in most embassies. So the question is who was responsible but regardless, Cuba is the official host and official blame taker because one takes responsibility for the safety of people invited to your house.
U.S. diplomats in Cuba said they suffered occasional harassment for years after the restoration of limited ties with the communist government in the 1970s, harassment reciprocated by U.S. agents against Cuban diplomats in Washington. The use of sonic devices to intentionally harm diplomats would be unprecedented.

AP

June 24, 2016

The History of Guantanamo Bay 1901-Today



                                                                       


March 21, 2016

President Obama Visit to Cuba Cauterizes a Fissure of History


90 years after a sitting President’s visits Cuba, President Obama made the trip Yesterday

People gather on the street in Old Havana. U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the historic area shortly after his arrival late Sunday afternoon.
People gather on the street in Old Havana. U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the historic area shortly after his arrival late Sunday afternoon. 
Mary Alice SalinasKatherine Gypson


Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to travel to Cuba in almost 90 years, will cap his visit with a direct address to the Cuban people outlining his vision for the future U.S.-Cuba relationship.
The White House said Obama's three-day visit, and his televised speech in Havana on Tuesday, represents a new beginning in the relationship between the former Cold War enemies, expanding on the formal restoration of their diplomatic ties eight months ago.
“Diplomacy, including having the courage to turn a page on the failed policies of the past, is how we’ve begun a new chapter of engagement with the people of Cuba,” Obama said during an appearance at the U.S. State Department several days before his departure.
Signature foreign policy
Obama has positioned the re-establishment of relations with Cuba as one of the signature foreign policy achievements of his administration, arguing the decades-old U.S. policy of isolating Cuba had failed.
FILE - President Barack Obama meets with members of his economic team at the White House, Washington, March 4, 2016. Obama leaves for a historic three-day visit to Cuba on Sunday.
FILE - President Barack Obama meets with members of his economic team at the White House, Washington, March 4, 2016. Obama leaves for a historic three-day visit to Cuba on Sunday.

Other US leaders: Former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba in 2011.
Sources: Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, U.S. Library of Congress, University of Virginia’s Miller Center, U.S. Department of State-Office of the Historian
"The old approach – trying to isolate Cuba, for more than 50 years – clearly didn’t work," Susan Rice, the president's national security advisor, said Thursday. "We believe that engagement, including greater trade, travel and ties between Americans and Cubans, is the best way to help create opportunity and spur progress for the Cuban people."
Obama and the first family are to visit cultural sites in Old Havana in the first hours after they arrive in Cuba late Sunday afternoon.
On Monday, he holds talks Cuban President Raul Castro, then meets with Cuban entrepreneurs to discuss business ties between the U.S. and Cuba. A state dinner at the Revolutionary Palace is scheduled for Monday evening.
Obama's speech to the Cuban people, the highlight of his trip, will be an opportunity to look back on the two countries' complicated history, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor, told reporters in an advance briefing.
Speech to lay out vision
The president's address on Tuesday morning will "lay out his vision for how the United States and Cubans can work together, to how the Cuban people can pursue a better life,” Rhodes said.
Obama also plans to meet with members of Cuban civil society, including human rights activists, despite objections from the government in Havana.
The White House said the list of people invited to meet with the president during his visit was “non-negotiable.”
People line up on the sidewalk while waiting for a bus, on the outskirts of Havana.
People line up on the sidewalk while waiting for a bus, on the outskirts of Havana.
The Cuban government recently released some political prisoners and has taken small steps to open up Internet access. But a 2015 Human Rights Watch report found the Cuban government “continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights.”
The report found detentions have increased since the diplomatic thaw began, with arrests increasing from 2,900 to 7,188 in the first full year after the administration announced the resumption of relations. The thaw in relations could be an opportunity for the Cuban government to look at its internal laws on censorship, Internet freedom and freedom of assembly.
Continuing concerns about Cuba’s human rights abuses have prompted some Republicans on Capitol Hill to strongly criticize the Obama trip. Speaking of Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother, Cuba's revolutionary hero Fidel Castro, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday, “This is a regime that provides safe harbor to terrorists and fugitives."
Ryan said he doubts whether Obama will adequately bring up the need for reforms in Cuba. He also reminded reporters that despite Obama's attempts to announce new commercial deals, the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba is “still intact and enforceable," almost 60 years after it went into effect.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce echoed those concerns in a statement declaring any easing of economic sanctions “will further prop up a communist regime in Cuba that has a long record of brutal human rights abuses.”
Workers make repairs on a road in Havana.
Workers make repairs on a road in Havana.
Only a majority vote by Congress can lift the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba, and such a move is highly unlikely while Republicans hold majority control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, there have been signs that some lawmakers may be receptive to the president’s policies.
Five Republican lawmakers are traveling to Cuba with Obama, and at least 15 Senate Republicans have publicly backed a loosening of restrictions on Cuban travel and trade.
Senator Jeff Flake, a member of the presidential party in Cuba, told VOA: “It’s always bothered me that, as Republicans, we talk about engagement and travel and commerce as something that will nudge countries toward democracy. But with Cuba we tend to say, ‘No, no, it won’t work there.' But it will work. It is working.”
Push to make changes
Analysts say the presidential visit may help push the Cuban government to make changes.
“The Cuban people need to be in the driver’s seat for this thing to work, and the Cuban people are participating more freely in their economy,” said Marc Hanson of the Washington Office of Latin America, a human rights advocacy group. “They need to be able to participate in their politics as well.”
"I have everything, because I've learned to live without anything," reads a sign near Calabazar, on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba.
“I have everything, because I've learned to live without anything," reads a sign near Calabazar, on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba.
About Cuba
Geography: The Caribbean island, slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, lies 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Key West, Florida.
Government: Communist. Fidel Castro led a successful 1959 military coup, toppling U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista and assuming control of the island nation. When he stepped down in 2008, younger brother Raul Castro became president. 
Population: Almost 11.4 million. Cuba's population skews old, with 13 percent 65 or older compared with 8 percent worldwide. Its under-15 age group accounts for 17 percent of islanders versus 26 percent globally. 
Life expectancy at birth (2013): 79 years in Cuba; 62 worldwide
Literacy: Universal
Economy: Socialist system in 2011 began introducing reforms such as enabling some private ownership and sales of real estate or permitting Cubans to buy cellphones and electronic appliances. Reforms also brought cuts in government jobs and approval for new retail service work, fostering entrepreneurship. About 476,000 Cubans have registered as self-employed.  
GDP contribution by sector (percent): agriculture, 4; industry, 23.5; services, 73. The chief crop is sugar cane, followed by tobacco for hand-crafted cigars.  

The success of the president’s visit depends largely on making the opening with Cuba irreversible, said William LeoGrande, an expert on Latin America and former dean of American University's School of Public Affairs.
LeoGrande, the co-author of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, said Obama has to show that his engagement with Cuba "brings results, so that the next president, whomever he or she may be, will look at what Obama has done with Cuba and say, ‘This works. It’s in the national interest. It works better than the old policy and so there’s no reason to go backward.' "
Long process
While the president’s visit will mark a key turning point in the U.S.-Cuba relationship, it will be just the start of a long process of recovery for the nation after decades of isolation, Hanson said.
"Reforms with Cuba will help create a relationship with Cuba where the Cuban people get to play a larger role in their own destiny and the Cuban government is willing to open up more space for people to do things,” he added.
The White House has just announced it is easing restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba.
The regulatory changes allow for “people-to-people” visits to Cuba, eliminate a ban on Cuban financial transactions going through U.S. banks and allow Cuban citizens to earn salaries in the United States.
First lady Michele Obama will meet with female Cuban students during her time in Havana and the entire first family will attend a baseball game before they leave late Tuesday for a three-day visit to Argentina.
VOA’s Senate Correspondent Michael Bowman contributed 
to this report.
This is a posting from VOICE OF AMERICA

July 21, 2015

CUBA 1st Country to Eliminate Mother to Child HIV



                                                                         
                                                                           


Cuba has officially become the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child.

Margaret Chan, director-general for the World Health Organisation, described the small Caribbean island’s achievement as:
...one of the greatest public health achievements possible.

Cuba’s success is the first step in a potential victory of the fight against HIV and AIDS. Its milestone is important on several fronts in the global health governance work towards an AIDS-free generation.

It also resonates in the Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases as well as in the sustainable development goals to reduce the global threat of HIV and AIDS.

What lies behind Cuba’s success

Cuba’s health system is described as being a model for the world, despite a lack of resources and financial assistance. It provides access to health care for its entire population of more than 11 million and provides assistance, including provision of doctors, to other developing nations.

The healthcare system is linked to research and development, providing constant innovation in treatment and care. It is based on preventive medicine, instead of a curative model, which is more costly and less effective.

The main drivers in eliminating mother-to-child transmission were:

* the combined efforts of the Cuban government;
* its political tenacity in working to stop the halt of the virus; and
* the efforts of Pan-American Health Organisation in ensuring Cuba adhered to its programmes to stop the progression of transmission.

Their success story is partly as a result of the Pan American Health Organisation’s access to medicines programme which increases mothers' access to anti-retroviral drugs in the region.

In partnership with the WHO the organisation implemented two strategies: the Global Elimination of Congenital Syphilis strategy and the 2011 Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among mothers and children.

These effectively increased governments' political will to engage with HIV-positive citizens.

These regional initiatives controlled the spread of the disease. It showed success and consistency in their approach to stem risky behaviour which could increase transmission.

Within the country there were three major drivers that broke the infection chain for transmission. A decision was taken to provide additional HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners; women were offered caesarean deliveries instead of natural deliveries; and breastfeeding was substituted.

Cuba also initiated a nationwide HIV screening program during 1985 and 1986. HIV screening is still required for expectant mothers. Voluntary screening is also encouraged. As a result, over 23 million HIV tests have been performed. HIV-positive females receive AZT as a matter of priority from 14 weeks of gestation.

The global picture

Each year about 1.4 million infected women across the globe fall pregnant. Without anti-retrovirals, these women have a 15% to 45% risk rate of transmitting HIV, either during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding. If anti-retrovirals are provided, the risk drops to 1% of transmission.

Currently seven of the 10 pregnant women across the globe have access to anti-retrovirals to prevent viral transmission. This is an increase in access to anti-retroviral medication in low and middle income countries and should result in increased prevention of transmission of the virus.

Of the 22 countries which account for 90% of the new HIV infections, eight have reduced new infections by more than 50% since 2009, with an additional four creeping closer towards this milestone.

Lessons southern Africa can learn

What Cuba’s success story means is two-fold. First, it is possible to eliminate mother to child transmissions, within measure. Second, the intervention and assistance of a regional organisation is effective in reducing transmission and providing access to anti-retrovirals.

Southern Africa, which has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, should take heed. The spread of the disease remains at the forefront of the development agenda for the heads of state in the Southern African Development Community or SADC.

If the SADC could mimic or adopt the same level of success that the Pan American Health Organisation has, this could significantly decrease mother to child transmission in the region.

The SADC secretariat should facilitate and co-ordinate regional issues and health care. But it is only mandated to assist with policy making that is approved by member states.

The secretariat has a HIV and AIDS unit, which assisted with a strategic framework. And most member states have adopted national policies or strategic development plans to address the country specific problems.

But co-ordination of policy is only executed once the SADC member states agree to implement the policy. A separate plan, the Pharmaceutical Business Plan, which was developed to address the need for regional provision and management of medication, has not been renewed.

Despite significant policy attention and the development of a regional cross border HIV and AIDS initiative, it remains to be seen how the region will fare in its struggle to reduce the epidemic.

Efforts to increase access to anti-retrovirals are continually hampered with problems of stock outs, limited political will and logistical difficulties. South Africa and Zambia, two prominent countries in the region, have experienced medication stock-outs. The need for a strengthened regional presence is evident.


This article was originally published on The Conversation by 

January 30, 2015

Raul Castro says No Ties without Giving Up Guantanamo


                                                                   
 

Cuban President Raúl Castro seemed to throw some pretty big hurdles in front of efforts to establish normal diplomatic relations with the United States.
In a speech at a summit of Latin American countries, President Raúl Castro said a rapprochement with its northern neighbor would not make sense without three conditions: 1. The lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. 2. The return of the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay. 3. Compensation for "human and economic damage" the Cuban people have suffered.
Back in December the U.S. and Cuba announced they had intentions of normalizing diplomatic ties. President Obama loosened some U.S. restrictions on travel and business and Cuba agreed to release dozens of political prisoners.
Last week, the two countries held historic diplomatic talks in Havana. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reported, both delegations came out of it saying the talks were constructive and respectful and were going well.
NBC News reports that Castro's speech on Wednesday at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica broadens the list of Cuban demands.
The U.S. has said Guantánamo is not part of this negotiation and only Congress has the power to fully lift the embargo on Cuba.
So what does this mean? One analyst the Associated Press spoke to seems to think that this is Castro simply setting expectations on the island.
"John Caulfield, who led the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until last year, said the tone of Cuba's recent remarks didn't mean it would be harder than expected to reach a deal on short-term goals, such as reopening full embassies in Havana and Washington.
"In fact, he said, the comments by Mr. Castro and high-ranking diplomats may indicate the pressure Cuba's government is feeling to strike a deal as Cubans' hopes for better living conditions rise in the wake of Obama's outreach.
"'There is this huge expectation of change and this expectation has been set off by the president's announcement,' Mr. Caulfield said."
Update at 10:02 a.m. ET. A Bit Of Guantánamo History: 
The shorter version is that the U.S. took possession of the sliver of land after it helped Cuba gain independence from Spain during the Spanish-American War at the end of the 1800s.
Through controversial politicking, the U.S. was given a perpetual lease to Guantánamo in 1903.
Through the estrangement, and much to chagrin of the Castro regime, the U.S. has kept a base in Cuba. It cuts a check every year and every year, the Cuban regime refuses to cash it.
EYDER PERALTA

December 18, 2014

Obama ,The Pope and a Change of Castro’s in Cuba Bring Overdue Change



                                                                            




This is a day that has been too long in coming. We sent soldiers to both Viet-Nam and Korea. WE had about 100,000 casualties between the two conflicts. We have relations with Vietnam and would love to normalize relations with North Korea. We never fought militarily with Cuba never had a single soldier die or injured in battle with them yet even though they are the closest nation on water to us and not standing that we had nothing to loose and everything to gain it took this long. Why? The The wealthy Republicans in Congress that don’t care how much this can cost the uS annually and the families, Who cares about them? When was the last time the GOP cared about food stamps or if children went without food here? NEVER This was a well orchestrated campaign from Cubans that moved here when things got hot in Cuba and brought their money and started living great lives here that they didn’t want the poor cubans to have. They form a great block as a GOP constituency because these guys knew dirt on politicians, these were the guys from  bay of pigs. These were the cubans that were CIA informants on Cuba and other of their countryman here on the land. They developed through money and lending money for business for Miami a net like the Grandfather’s. They we’re in control. Typical anti communists would continue to dream for a war against all communists at anytime and they almost got us to eliminate the rest of the world as they eliminated us. They hated Kennedy for not giving them air cover on the Bay of Pifs invasion. 

There are stories going around with many experts saying that Cubans with the CIA killed Kennedy. Anybody who has study those events find so many peculiar things. We even find Bush Walker, the father working as an intelligence analyst for the CIA (When Kennedy was shot) even though he alway said he never worked for the CIA prior to becoming the Director. When memos are shown with his name on them he’s said “it most be another George Bush.” Funny if it wasn’t that it killed the president of the US and his Brother ex attorney general and probably the next President of the US But today things get a detente with Cuba and since both governments have wanted this it seems is going to be good for both countries. About time that those poor families that could not leave Cuba reunite with thir own.

Today is a great day while the Russians are scrapping  for food the Cubans are eating their mangoes and coconut milk. Black beans and pork to soup of chicken without the chicken in Moscow. Thats how things are and now they have been made better for our neighbors like next to us and it will be good for Florida when we are able to start selling what they need. Adam Gonzalez


          



Barack Obama and Raúl Castro have thanked Pope Francis for helping broker a historic deal to begin normalising relations between the United States and Cuba, after 18 months of secret talks over prisoner releases brought a sudden end to decades of cold war hostility.
The two presidents spoke simultaneously on Wednesday to confirm the surprise reversal of a long-running US policy of isolating Cuba, detailing a series of White House steps that will relax travel, commercial and diplomatic restrictions in exchange for the release of Americans and dissidents held in Havana.
Though a formal end to the US trade embargo requires legislation in Congress, both Obama and Castro said they believed such executive action was sufficient to significantly open up relations between the two countries and allow travellers and trade to flow relatively freely.
“In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalise relations between our two countries,” said Obama in an address from the White House cabinet room. “Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”
President Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in 2008, was only slightly less expansive, calling on Congress to formally lift the embargo but saying he believed Obama could substantially “modify its use”.
“This decision of President Obama deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people,” said Castro in an address on Cuban television. “The progress attained in the interchange show it is possible to find solutions to many problems. As we have repeated we should learn the art of coexistence in a civilised manner with our differences.”
The former defence minister welcomed the release of three Cuban intelligence agents held in the US and recalled a promise from Fidel that they would return. It was the only mention of his sibling, who retired in 2008 in poor health and remains largely out of the public eye.
Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino were among five Cubans jailed for spying on anti-Castro groups in Florida. In exchange for them, Havana released a Cuban man described by Obama as “one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba”. The man, who was freed after nearly 20 years in prison, is said to have been responsible for revealing the “Miami Five” and other prominent Cuban agents. The Cuban government also released 53 political dissidents as part of the deal. 

Cuban Five poster in Havana
A man walks in front of a banner of the Cuban Five which says ‘End the injustice’. Photograph: Alejandro Ernesto/EPABut the surprise breakthrough came principally after a phone call, said to last 45 minutes to an hour, between Obama and Castro on Tuesday finalized the release of Alan Gross, a Ugovernment aid contractor held for five years in Cuba, which accused him of being aspy. Gross, who the US insists was released on “humanitarian grounds” unrelated to the exchange of spies, was flown back to Washington on Wednesday accompanied by Senators Patrick Leahy and Jeff Flake and congressman Chris van Hollen.

Speaking in Washington on his return to the US, Gross said he hoped that the US and Cuba can now move beyond their “mutually belligerent policies”.
“Five and a half decades of history show us that such belligerence inhibits better judgement. Two wrongs never make a right. I truly hope we can get beyond these mutually belligerent policies and I was very happy to hear what the president had to say today,” he said.
Gross said he had the utmost respect for the Cuban people and said he was pained “to see them treated so unjustly”.
“In no way are they responsible for the ordeal to which my family and I have been subjected,” Gross said, describing the vast majority of Cubans as “incredibly kind, generous and talented”.
But even as Gross was en route to the US, it became clear that a far larger negotiation had been underway since private talks began in Canada in June 2013.
These were supported closely watched by Pope Francis, who personally wrote to both leaders and hosted a crucial secret summit at the Vatican this autumn, which they credited with helping clinch the deal.
“His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me and to Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case and to address Cuba’s interests in the release of three Cuban agents, who’ve been jailed in the United States for over 15 years,” said Obama.
Nevertheless, the deal brought immediate and fierce criticism from Congress, where many senior figures in both sides believe Obama has struck a poor deal, with few concrete commitments toward political reform from Havana.
“The White House has conceded everything and gained little in return,” said Florida senator Marco Rubio. “We are getting no commitment on freedom of the speech, elections, no binding commitment on opening up the internet or even the semblance of a transition to democracy.”
“This entire policy shift is based on a lie and illusion, that more access to money and goods will translate to more political freedom,” added the Republican presidential hopeful.
Democratic senator Bob Menendez, outgoing chair of the foreign relations committee, said: “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
A full end to the US trade embargo of Cuba would require legislation in Congress, something for which there has been virtually no appetite until now, but the White House hopes that by using a series of executive actions to minimise its enforcement, it can provide a breakthrough that will encourage political reform in Cuba and soften political opposition in the US.
“I’m not expecting transformation of Cuban society overnight,” said Obama. “[But] we can’t keep doing the same thing for five decades and expect a different result.”
“We fully expect we will continue to have strong differences, particularly on democracy and human rights ... [but] engagement is a better tool than isolation and nowhere is that more clear than Cuba,” added a senior US administration official in a White House briefing call for reporters. “By opening up we will able to promote freedom.”
Castro, who has introduced economic reforms but retained tight political control, said Cubans had stayed loyal to the revolution and its social justice ideals despite numerous challenges and would continue to do so. “We carry forward, given the difficulties, with the actualisation of our economic model to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism.”

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