Let Us Talk

May 7, 2009

The Middle East Goes To Cuba: Qatar To Build Luxury Hotel In Cuba

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Well, if America wants to be a major player in the redevelopment of Cuba then we better start talking with Cuba in a meaningful way real soon before the rest of the industrial world beats us to it.  Do American businesses want to do business with Cuba?  Of course they do, they don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities to bring Cuba into the 21st century and all the money to be made doing so.

Here in America we have been conditioned to believe that Castro’s Cuba is all bad and that Cuba is automatically our enemy without knowing why Castro’s Cuba look at America as a fiend – it’s not just about communism.

Before the Cuban Revolution that led to the overthrow of U.S. backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Havana was the original Sin City.  Havana was Las Vegas, before there was a Las Vegas.

Because gambling, liquor, prostitution, etc were all illegal in the United States, rich and famous Americans were looking for a place where they could revel and paint the town red without going to jail. They discovered Havana and since it is a tropical paradise and only 90 miles from Florida it became wealthy Americans’ winter destination and airlines and cruise lines offered grand tour packages to Havana.

American mob bosses benefited from Cuba’s President Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt regime and bribed them and created a glamorous playground for the rich. They created a prohibition haven, a place of safety from prosecution overflowing with dazzling nightclubs and mojitos flowing all day, outrageous cabarets, dancing girls, all-night bars, backstreet brothels, fancy hotels and resorts, gambling, music, drugs, sex and scandal.  Affluent Americans and movie stars did not disappoint the mob investors; they went to Havana in droves to whoop it up!

Many Cubans were outraged by the reveling and debauchery and Castro who was a young revolutionist became popular and his philosophy became widely accepted. When Castro overthrew Batista he had a new vision for Cuba and Americans were banned from travel to his tropical paradise.

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba quickly deteriorated when Castro nationalized many of the U.S. owned industries in Cuba. Each time the Cuban government nationalized American properties, the American government took countermeasures, resulting in the prohibition of all exports to Cuba on October 19, 1960.

In March 1960 President Eisenhower had quietly authorized the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow Castro. Consequently, Cuba began to consolidate trade relations with the communist Soviet Union which lead to the United States breaking off all remaining official diplomatic relations.

On January 3, 1961 the US withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Cuban government and closed our embassy in Havana.

So here we are 48 years later and Cuba and Qatar have signed an agreement to build a $75 million, 450-room resort on a cay south of the island.

Cuba and Qatar will spend 14 months negotiating financing details for the five-star “Gran Paraiso” or “Great Paradise,” said Ghanim Bin Saad al-Saad, president of state-owned Qatar Diar Real Estate Investment Company, construction will take another year and a half with a goal to open in 2015.

The resort is planned for Cayo Largo Sur, a strip of white sand, coral reefs and warm, calm waters 105 miles south of Havana that is already home to a cluster of high-rise hotels. The Gran Paraiso will also include 60 retreat villas that could be expanded in the future.

Tourism is Cuba’s second-largest moneymaker behind nickel exports.

A record 2.35 million foreigners visited last year, mostly from Canada and Europe. That was a 9.3 percent increase over 2007.  Foreign arrivals are up another 2 percent so far this year despite the global economic slowdown.

America should not continue to snub Cuba.  Even though we’ve not been friendly neighbors, Cuba really hasn’t done anything harmful to America. Cuba is very close to us geographically and we should have a respectable relationship with them. Sending the CIA to Cuba to overthrow Castro was not an endearing thing to do. 

If we continue our relationship with Cuba as is, out of necessity Cuba might befriend nations that are adversarial towards America.  We don’t have to be their BFF but we should be cordial and reopen trade with them.  Why not?

Will America come out and play with Cuba?

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April 23, 2009

Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney Irrevocably Linked To Water-boarding

waterboarding  A Senate Intelligence Committee document has revealed that when Condoleezza Rice was Bush’s National Security Adviser she personally verbally approved the CIA’s request to use water-boarding to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to water-boarding in July 2002.  This is the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to approve use of water-boarding. 

The report gives a detailed timeline of how the CIA’s violent “enhanced interrogation” techniques was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.  The timeline also shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While there have long been suspicions that the White House was involved in the decision, the actions have until now been blamed on the CIA and unnamed officials at the Pentagon.

The report describes a meeting between Dick Cheney, then-CIA Director George Tenet and Dr. Rice in July 2002. The Secretary of State “advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation” of alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah, the report said.

In 2003, the CIA briefed Dr. Rice, Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft — the then Attorney General — on the use of water-boarding and other methods including week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of stress positions. The Senate report says that officials “reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy”.

CIA memos released by President Obama’s administration last week revealed that Mr. Zubaydah was water-boarded at least 83 times in the course of one month and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who claimed to have planned the September 11 attacks was water-boarded183 times in one month.

Experts have said that water-boarding is so horrific that even the most hardened terrorists have not been able to stand it for more than a minute without begging to talk.

(more…)

April 20, 2009

President Obama Takes A Picture With Hugo Chavez…

CB Trinidad Americas Summit Obama  Saturday during a UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez hunted down President Barack Obama and gave him a copy of the book titled ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

It seems that Chavez (a known media hog) wanted to be in President Obama’s presence to get some media attention since Obama was the king of the show and the media was pretty much ignoring Chavez.  President Obama, being the statesman that he is, politely accepted the book. 

president-obama-hugo-chavez-4-17-09  Prior to that, on Friday, at the opening of the Summit, Chavez went out of his way and “bum-rushed” President Obama with a camera crew and literally ‘pilfered’ a handshake.  As you can see from the picture, the handshake was clumsy and the expression on President Obama’s face was one of tolerance.

What was our President to do?  Have his Secret Service detail knock over Chavez and start an international incident?  I think not.  President did the right thing.  He was cordial to Chavez.  After all, isn’t the purpose of these Summits to allow these heads of states to mix and mingle? 

As President Obama said, “Venezuela is a country whose defense budget is probably 1/600th of the United States. They own CITGO.  It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chávez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States.”

As Sun-Tzu, the famous Chinese general and military strategist said, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

It was predictable and amusing to see Republicans crawl out from under their decomposing non-productive rocks and leap at the chance to try to turn a simple photo op into an event of biblical proportions.

When Gingrich was asked what was the downside of President Obama speaking to Chavez, Newt said, I don’t think there’s any down side to talking to him, but I think being friends, taking a picture that clearly looks like they’re buddies, hurts in all of Latin America.”

Wow, a picture makes them look like ‘buddies’ and will hurt all of Latin America.  Okay Newt and republicans, you win.

Let’s get serious for a minute.  President Obama went to Trinidad and Tobago to work and work he did. 

During the Summit President Obama articulated a broad new agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean and gained momentum in his attempt to repair relations with countries in the region who are some of America’s biggest critics.  

Obama outlined what he is learning about the world from the leaders in general and that he will use what he has learned in  Europe, Turkey, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago to foster a better working relationship with the nations of the world.

Obama implicitly acknowledged some of the criticism by the Latin American and Caribbean countries about America not being a good neighbor — just a military force in the region.  Obama said that he felt the United States could learn a lesson from Cuba which for decades has sent doctors to other countries throughout Latin America to care for the poor. That policy of being a good neighbor who is there to give a helping hand in times of need has made Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro gain support and respect in the region.

“It’s a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is just drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence,” Obama said.

Obama also said that he is willing to open dialogue with Cuba but he wanted to see some action from Cuba first, not just words. Obama mentioned Raúl Castro’s recent statement that his country was willing to discuss human rights issues with the United States. In response Obama said that Cuba should free political prisoners, reduces its tax on cash remittances to the island and grant new freedoms to its citizens as a next step in thawing relations with the United States.

During the summit, Obama presented a broader U.S. agenda for Latin America than under the Bush and Clinton administrations, which focused primarily on trade and counter-narcotics programs.

President Obama pledged to work closely with Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada on climate change, public security threats, and bottom-up approaches to economic relations, development aid and lending.

Although Obama heard criticism over heavy-handed U.S. economic policy and political interventions of the past, the anti-American tone did not reach the pitch it did in previous summits. Obama spoke only briefly in a series of closed-door meetings, saying he wanted to listen to the hemisphere’s other 33 democratically elected leaders gathered here.

Nicaragua’s Ortega, a longtime U.S. critic, called Obama the “president of an empire” but said he found him open to doing things differently than his predecessors. “I want to believe that he’s inclined, that he’s got the will,” Ortega said.

Asked Sunday what he had learned in T&T, Obama said, “Even the most vociferous critics of the United States also want to make sure that the United States’ economy is working and growing again, because there is extraordinary dependence on the United States for exports, for remittances. And so, in that sense, people are rooting for America’s success.”

April 16, 2009

President Obama Visits Trinidad and Tobago

caribbean-so-america-western-hemisphere

In advance of his trip to Trinidad and Tobago, President Obama wrote an op-ed that ran today in 15 Caribbean, Latin American and United States newspapers, promising the other nations of the western hemisphere “a new day” in their relationship to its most powerful member the US of A.

“Choosing a Better Future in the Americas” appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, both of which serve substantial Cuban American readerships, in El Nuevo Herald – an American Spanish language newspaper, and in newspapers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and the Trinidad Express of Trinidad and Tobago, where Obama will attend the Summit of the Americas Friday April 17 through Sunday, April 19.

Michelle Obama will not be accompanying the President.  She’s staying home with Malia and Sasha who are home on Spring break.

Below is the op-ed in its entirety:

Choosing a Better Future in the Americas
by President Barack Obama

As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice. We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future.

Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.

In advance of the Summit, we have begun to move in a new direction. This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. In particular, the refusal to allow Cuban Americans to visit or provide resources to their families on the island made no sense – particularly after years of economic hardship in Cuba, and the devastating hurricanes that took place last year. Now, that policy has changed.

The U.S.-Cuba relationship is one example of a debate in the Americas that is too often dragged back to the 20th century. To confront our economic crisis, we don’t need a debate about whether to have a rigid, state-run economy or unbridled and unregulated capitalism – we need pragmatic and responsible action that advances our common prosperity. To combat lawlessness and violence, we don’t need a debate about whether to blame right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents – we need practical cooperation to expand our common security.

We must choose the future over the past, because we know that the future holds enormous opportunities if we work together. That is why leaders from Santiago to Brasilia to Mexico City are focused on a renewed partnership of the Americas that makes progress on fundamental issues like economic recovery, energy, and security.

There is no time to lose. The global economic crisis has hit the Americas hard, particularly our most vulnerable populations. Years of progress in combating poverty and inequality hangs in the balance. The United States is working to advance prosperity in the hemisphere by jumpstarting our own recovery. In doing so, we will help spur trade, investment, remittances, and tourism that provides a broader base for prosperity in the hemisphere.

We also need collective action. At the recent G-20 Summit, the United States pledged to seek nearly half a billion dollars in immediate assistance for vulnerable populations, while working with our G-20 partners to set aside substantial resources to help countries through difficult times. We have called upon the Inter-American Development Bank to maximize lending to restart the flow of credit, and stand ready to examine the needs and capacity of the IDB going forward. And we are working to put in place tough, clear 21st century rules of the road to prevent the abuses that caused the current crisis.

While we confront this crisis, we must build a new foundation for long-term prosperity. One area that holds out enormous promise is energy. Our hemisphere has bountiful natural resources that could make renewable energy plentiful and sustainable, while creating jobs for our people. In the process, we can confront climate change that threatens rising sea levels in the Caribbean, diminishing glaciers in the Andes, and powerful storms on the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Together, we have both the responsibility to act, and the opportunity to leave behind a legacy of greater prosperity and security. That is why I look forward to pursuing a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that will help us learn from one another, share technologies, leverage investment, and maximize our comparative advantage.

Just as we advance our common prosperity, we must advance our common security. Too many in our hemisphere are forced to live in fear. That is why the United States will strongly support respect for the rule of law, better law enforcement, and stronger judicial institutions.

Security for our citizens must be advanced through our commitment to partner with those who are courageously battling drug cartels, gangs and other criminal networks throughout the Americas. Our efforts start at home. By reducing demand for drugs and curtailing the illegal flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our border, we can advance security in the United States and beyond. And going forward, we will sustain a lasting dialogue in the hemisphere to ensure that we are building on best practices, adapting to new threats, and coordinating our efforts.

Finally, the Summit gives every democratically-elected leader in the Americas the opportunity to reaffirm our shared values. Each of our countries has pursued its own democratic journey, but we must be joined together in our commitment to liberty, equality, and human rights. That is why I look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere can take its seat at the table consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And just as the United States seeks that goal in reaching out to the Cuban people, we expect all of our friends in the hemisphere to join together in supporting liberty, equality, and human rights for all Cubans.

This Summit offers the opportunity of a new beginning. Advancing prosperity, security and liberty for the people of the Americas depends upon 21st century partnerships, freed from the posturing of the past. That is the leadership and partnership that the United States stands ready to provide.

President Obama’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago (T & T) is also a good time to revisit the relationship between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago that goes way back.

During the War of 1812 the Corps of Colonial Marines was a military regiment composed of runaway slaves and free blacks. The Corps was formed to help the British fight a war against the United States. The United States had declared war on Britain because the British had been seizing American ships and forcing the sailors into servitude and because the Americans wanted to take Canada from the British.

Once the British reached American soil in 1812, many slaves ran away from their owners and went to meet them, hoping that the British would free them. The British told these runaways that if they en­listed in the British military and fought against the Americans, they would be freed and could return to England as soldiers or receive their own land in other British colonies once the War was over. This new regiment of runaway slaves was called the Colonial Marines.

In 1814, British Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane landed in Georgia. He issued a proclamation that stated “all those who may be disposed to emigrate from the United States” should join British ships and enlist in the Colonial Marines. Approximately 1,500 slaves ran away from their owners and joined the British. These new soldiers were given the same pay and rations as the white British soldiers.

The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814. It declared peace between England and the Unit­ed States. The War of 1812 was over. Many slave owners demanded that their slaves be returned. The British refused. They said that the slaves were on board British ships and those British ships counted as “British soil” which meant that the slaves were free.

Once the British sailed away from the United States, many of the Colonial Marines were relocated to the British colony of Trinidad where they settled as free citizens and their descendants still live today.

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