Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not a rumor this time: Fidel Castro is dead

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro is no more. Below is a piece I wrote for al Jazeera:

Havana, Cuba - Fidel Castro, a titan of the Cold War who defied 11 American presidents and thrust Cuba onto the world stage, is dead at age 90.

Cuban state-run television said the former long-time president died at 10:29pm local time on Friday. Castro's brother and current president, Raul Castro, confirmed the news.

Al Jazeera's Latin America Editor Lucia Newman, reporting from Santiago, Chile, said Castro's death hardly came as a surprise.

"He has been a larger-than-life figure who inspired a revolutionary movement all over the world, especially in Latin America," she said.

"As time went by, we had been hearing less and less from Fidel Castro. We all knew he had been ill for a decade and was not seen since August after his birthday, which was celebrated across the country.

"His death is going to have an enormous emotional impact on Cubans. It does really feel like the beginning of the end of the Castro era."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hillary Clinton: Embargo "needs to go"

Below is a draft of a Hillary Clinton speech about Cuba, according to a stolen email posted by Wikileaks.
The email came with this introduction by Dan Schwerin, Clinton's director of speechwriting:
Team, attached please find a draft of HRC's Cuba speech for Friday in Miami. We make the case for lifting the embargo and pursuing a strategy of engagement, and then stepping back to offer a vision for U.S. leadership in the Americas and a broader contrast on foreign policy with the Republicans. In this draft we don't hit Rubio or Jeb by name, so that's one question to consider. HRC is excited about this one and thinks we're in a pretty good place, so that's encouraging. Would be great to hear any comments or concerns on Thursday morning. Also, most of you have met our new speechwriter Megan Rooney, who wrote for HRC for four years before going to work for President Obama. I am super excited to have her on board and I'm sure you'll soon love her as much as I do. Later this evening she'll be sending around an Urban League draft. Thanks as always Dan
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
REMARKS ON CUBA
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
MIAMI, FLORIDA
FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2015

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here at Florida International University. You can feel the energy here. A place where people of all backgrounds and walks of life work hard, do their part, and get ahead. That’s the promise of America that has drawn generations of immigrants to our shores, and it’s a reality right here at FIU.

Today, I want to talk with you about a subject that has stirred passionate debate in this city and beyond for decades, but is now entering a crucial new phase. America’s approach to Cuba is at a crossroads, and the upcoming presidential election will determine whether we chart a new path forward or turn back to the old ways of the past. We must decide between engagement and embargo. Between embracing fresh thinking and returning to Cold War deadlock. And the choices we make will have lasting consequences not just for 11 million Cubans, but also for American leadership across our Hemisphere and around the world.

I know that for many in this room and throughout the Cuban-American community, this debate is no intellectual exercise -- it’s deeply personal. For those who were sent as children to live with strangers during the Peter Pan airlift… for families who arrived here during the Mariel boatlift with only the clothes on their backs… for son and daughters who could not bury their parents back home… for all who have suffered and waited and longed for change to come to the land, “where the palm grows,” as Jose Marti put it. And, yes, for a rising generation less burdened by the legacy of history and eager to shape a new and better future.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Democracy spending down, but controversy remains

Made in USA
Cuban officials earlier this week complained about a U.S. government-funded leadership program for Cuban youth.
"We have insisted once again on the need to end programs aimed at provoking internal changes on the island, which would be an essential step toward normalizing bilateral relations," Josefina Vidal, Cuba's director of U.S. affairs, said Friday during a Q&A session on Twitter.
I wrote about the leadership program when it was announced in 2014 (see "New program targets Cuban youth"). World Learning said in a statement sent to Martí Notícias that the program ended in August. But that didn't stop Cuban students from rallying against it earlier this week. A headline in Granma declared: "Cuban university students condemn subversive U.S. schemes."
Funding for U.S. democracy programs targeting Cuba peaked at $44.4 million in 2008 under George W. Bush, according to the Government Accountability Office. The programs continue today despite the two countries' efforts to normalize relations.
The State Department plans to spend $15 million on such programs during the 2017 fiscal year, which starts today. That is down $5 million from fiscal 2016.
The State Department says:
The FY 2017 request will support fundamental freedoms and respect for human rights. Programs will support humanitarian assistance to victims of political repression and their families, strengthen independent Cuban civil society, and freedom of expression.

Nearly $5 million to unnamed contractors

See interactive graphic
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Radio & TV Martí, reported spending $9,327,638 for artists, writers, journalists and performers in fiscal 2016, which ended on Sept. 30.
More than half, or 52 percent, went to unnamed foreign contractors. That's a greater share than in 2015. Since the fiscal year just ended yesterday, it's likely that not all the contracts have been reported.


Vendor NameAction Obligation ($)
MISCELLANEOUS FOREIGN AWARDEES$4,889,712.39
APPLIED MEMETICS LLC$534,734.00
BERT KLEINMAN PROGRAMMING INC$139,500.00
INFORMA UK LTD$134,000.00
WASHINGTON VIDEO NEWSWIRE, LLC$117,402.08
DETTMER, JAMIE$102,323.87
REZAEI, KAVEH$83,200.00
MELTO, JODY$83,200.00
GROWCOCK, BRYAN$81,120.00
ALPERT, BRUCE$80,080.00
VAN DAM FALK, CAROL$78,000.00
MUNEZERO, ROSINE$75,000.00
ORLANDO GONZALEZ ESTEVA$72,920.00
VIDEO CONTENT, LLC$72,800.00
STEPHENSON-REYNOLDS, DUSTIN$72,800.00
DIERKING, PHILIP$72,800.00
BALLSAL TV PRODUCTION CORP.$70,876.00
RUDEL JR, RICHARD WILLIAM$67,051.20