Monday, March 28, 2016

Castro to Obama: Butt out of Cuban politics

Fidel Castro. Photo: CubaDebate
When Barack Obama visited Cuba, he declared, "It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind."
Not so fast, Fidel Castro said in a column published today in Granma.
The former president's advice to Obama: Mind your own business.
Castro wrote:
My modest suggestion is to reflect and do not try now to develop theories about Cuban politics.
The past can't be forgotten, Castro wrote, "after a merciless blockade that has lasted almost 60 years."
He asked:
And those who have died in the mercenary attacks on ships and Cuban ports, an airliner full of passengers detonated in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and strength?
Castro said the Cuban people aren't about to give up "the rights and spiritual wealth earned with the development of education, science and culture."
He also said Cubans are fully capable of producing the "food and material wealth we need with the effort and intelligence of our people."
We do not need the empire to give us anything.

Friday, March 25, 2016

New State Department program targets Cuban youth

Barack Obama. By Ben Heine
Just three days after Barack Obama left Cuba, the State Department today announced a $753,989 community internship program targeting "young emerging leaders from Cuban civil society."
Non-profit organizations and educational institutions are invited to submit proposals. The deadline is May 20. The first awards are expected to be given in late July or early August.
The State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs plans to manage the program, aimed at financing two- to four-month professional development programs "which will fuel the participants’ development of action plans for nongovernmental community activities in Cuba."
The announcement states:
"Cuban civil society is not formed into well-established organizations that would typically be found in a society with a strong democratic tradition. Through participation in the program, participants will develop a set of leadership tools and skills to manage and grow civil society organizations that will actively support democratic principles in Cuba."
The announcement is below:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The United States Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) announces a Notification of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to support the Community Internship Program for Cuban Youth. Subject to the availability of funds, WHA intends to issue an award in an amount not to exceed $753,989 in FY2015 Economic Support Funds for a project period of three years. The anticipated start date for this activity is August 2016 and WHA intends to support one award as a result of this NOFO.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Barack Obama and the fate of Cuba

"Obama to Lay out Vision for Cuba in Historic Havana Speech." That was the headline of an Associated Press story published Wednesday. Here's how former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray reacted on Facebook:
Since when a President of a foreign government visits a country and explains to the people his vision for their country? Unless, of course, he considers himself the Emperor of the Universe with a right to sermon (sermonear) his listeners. There is another possibility, Obama is announcing his campaign to become President of Cuba en 2018.
Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser who has helped engineer the diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba, made clear in the story that Obama isn't trying to impose his will.
Ultimately he will make clear that that's for the Cuban people to decide. We have great confidence in the ability of the Cuban people to do extraordinary things.
Barack Obama speaks to Cuban President Raúl Castro from the Oval Office on Dec. 16, 2014. White House Photo by Pete Souza.
Yet even as Obama makes his historic journey to Cuba, others in the U.S. government remain intent on shaping the destiny of Cuba.
The U.S. Agency for International Development continues operating democracy programs in Cuba that the Cuban government regards as illegal. In January, USAID announced $6 million in grants to "provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners and their families, and politically marginalized individuals and groups in Cuba."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ladies in White hopes for meeting with president

Laura Labrada Pollán
Laura Labrada Pollán's faction of Las Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, has requested a meeting with President Barack Obama during his visit to Cuba on March 20 to March 22.
Labrada Pollán is based in Havana. Her mother, the late Laura Pollán, helped found Ladies in White in 2003.
Berta Soler leads a second Ladies in White group in Havana.
Below is Labrada Pollán's letter, in Spanish:

10 de marzo de 2016

Excmo. Sr. Barack Obama:
Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América

Quisiera darle la más cordial bienvenida a nuestro país y desearle una feliz estancia en esta tierra, que desde ya puede sentir como suya.
Cuba y los Estados Unidos de América comparten una larga historia de amistad, que no se han podido borrar de la mente de ambos pueblos durante más de 57 años de dictadura en mi país. Ya es hora que nuestros ciudadanos se encuentren a mitad del puente y lo que ellos sientan no pueda ser separado por ningún gobierno o grupo.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Barack Obama will meet with Cuban dissidents

The State Department on Friday blamed "scheduling issues" for the cancellation of John Kerry's previously announced visit to Cuba and says the secretary will travel to the island with Barack Obama later this month.
Earlier news reports had said Kerry had decided not to travel to Cuba in advance of the president because Cuban officials were supposedly refusing to allow him to meet with Cuban dissidents.
See below for transcript of today's briefing with State Department spokesman John Kirby:

MR KIRBY: Hey, everybody. Happy Friday to you. Got a couple things at the top then we’ll get on going there.

First, a call readout: This morning, Secretary Kerry spoke by phone with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez about President Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba. Both ministers reiterated their commitment to making the visit a success and to ensuring that the path to normalization continues in the positive direction that it’s already taken. The Secretary told the foreign minister that the President is very much looking forward to the trip and to meeting with a wide array of Cuban officials and citizens to include members of civil society. Secretary Kerry expressed his own disappointment, of course, that scheduling issues prevented him from making a trip ahead – a trip to Cuba ahead of the President, but that he expects to be accompanying President Obama on this very historic occasion.