Sunday, December 21, 2014

The New Cuba Policy: How did we get here? Pt. 1

"How did Obama convince Big Business, human rights groups, lawmakers Cubans themselves to go along him?" - Question posed by Pam over twitter on December 19, 2014 

What ails America? A bad case of ethical relativism.
This blog entry seeks to begin to answer the question above which is based on some assertions raised in a Politico article titled "Obama’s heavy lift on Cuba." The short answer to Pam's question is "no, he didn't convince them," and the previously mentioned article is a misrepresentation of what is taking place, but below is a longer explanation of how we have reached the present moment, and it does not begin with President Obama.

First, let it be clear as a principled practitioner of nonviolence, a violent war is not an option to be entertained. However, as Mohandas Gandhi once explained, "Complete civil disobedience is a state of peaceful rebellion, a refusal to obey every single state-made law." Therefore the teachings of Sun Tzu in The Art of War can also, to a certain degree, be applied in nonviolent conflicts and in political campaigns. Recognizing this, two key principles that Sun Tzu lays out are 1) the importance of knowing yourself  and your adversary in a struggle  2) Having thought out how you are going to win in a struggle before you start it. This is a multifactorial analysis that will be divided into three parts: 1) Where is the United States today? 2) A brief history of totalitarian networks and how they interact with the corporate world 3) Castro, Kissinger, Carter, Clinton, Obama and the Long Game

An analysis of where the United States is today
To understand oneself one needs to take a hard look at not only American democracy but democracy in the West in general in 2014.  It is in the midst of a profound crisis that the late Pope and now saint John Paul II identified in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor and repeated in a visit to the Italian parliament on November 14, 2002 stating:
"I warned of the "risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgement of truth impossible" (No. 101). In fact, as I noted in another Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus, if there exists no ultimate truth to guide and direct political life "ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (No. 46)."
For example the Organization of American States (OAS) has a democratic charter that should bar a Stalinist dictatorship such as Cuba from participating, but in 2009 the relativism and democracy were joined together in a way Pope John Paul II, perhaps had not envisioned, Cuba was welcomed to come back into the OAS and either the Charter was violated or the definition of democracy was manipulated in the service of a political agenda.  Nevertheless, the Castro regime refused to join the OAS. The Summit of the Americas original democratic ideals are being violated in order to include Raul Castro, a communist totalitarian dictator as a co-equal participant at the hemispheric gathering who has confirmed that he will be attending.  Canada that has a much better record than the United States on human rights has dropped its principled opposition to Cuba participating at the 2015 Summit of the Americas on December 17, 2014.

Václav Havel at  a 2002 lecture in Miami at Florida International University explained that within an environment of coercion such as a totalitarian communist regime words and language are turned upside down and rendered meaningless:
The easy thing to do is to accept this language, to believe in it or, at least, to adapt to it. It is very difficult to maintain one’s own point of view, though common sense may tell you a hundred times over that you are right, as long as that means either revolting against the language of the powers-that-be, or simply refusing to use it. A system of persecutions, of bans, of informers, of compulsory elections, of spying on one’s neighbors, of censorship and, ultimately, of concentration camps is hidden behind a veil of beautiful words that have utterly no shame in calling enslavement a “higher form of freedom,” of calling independent thinking a way of “supporting imperialism,” or labeling the entrepreneurial spirit a way of “impoverishing one’s fellow humans” and calling human rights a “bourgeois fiction.”
 In terms of language hasn't the United States already arrived there with political correctness that is nothing more than cultural Marxism?

Disturbing antidemocratic trends in the United States
The unilateral actions taken in lifting sections of the Cuba embargo are in line with trends that predate the Obama Administration. The centralization of power into the hands of the President granted by Congress over the years has reached a level never imagined by the drafters of the Constitution. Furthermore, the degree to which hundreds of millions of United States citizens have their phone calls, e-mails, and travel monitored, recorded and archived for the review of government officials reads like something out of Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 not The Federalist Papers. Individual rights and liberties have been eroded not only by the President but accompanied by actions of both the Congress and the courts. Finally the president has been granted the power by congress to indefinitely detain, and if necessary extrajudicially execute anyone he thinks is a potential threat to the United States, including citizens. Within the White House the Obama Administration unilaterally generates kill lists. Torture is being defended as a legitimate practice despite Ronald Reagan having signed the Convention Against Torture making it illegal in the United States.

Declines in freedom and rights alongside rising debt
The United States is not number one: in press freedom (46th), private property rights (17th), and its overall human rights rank is (19th) prosperity (10th) and its national economy has been eclipsed by China making it second place. The United States is more than 18 trillion dollars in debt and climbing. An interesting comparison is that in terms of public debt the United States places as 35th most indebted country in the world with Zimbabwe in first place but Sweden is down at 85th with a more responsible fiscal policy.  The situation of the United States is so dire that on Amazon there is a book on how to come to terms with the end of America by Aaron Clarey titled "Enjoy the Decline: Accepting and Living with the Death of the United States."

Fruits of engagement with totalitarians
Incidentally, over the past twenty years China has expanded its influence throughout the Western Hemisphere. The ironic part is that the expansion first began in the United States, with its policy of engaging Communist China. It had no moral authority to call on Latin American countries to do any different.  According to The Economist the steady decline in human rights internationally over the past eight years is linked to an ascendant communist China.  The United States normalized relations and engaged in trade with both China and Vietnam making both countries richer but the political rights of their citizens in both countries have been in decline over the past decade. Equally disturbing are that the torture practices mentioned above were copied from the Chinese communists. Engagement has not only failed to lift human rights standards in China and Vietnam but helped to degrade them in the United States.

The example of Burma
In Burma where a multilateral sanctions policy succeeded in pressuring the military regime to free Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010 and allow her to run for parliament in 2012 the sanctions have been lifted and real reforms have now stalled.  Suu Kyi had warned at the time of her election in May 2012 that it would be premature to lift sanctions, but by September 2012 she was advocating lifting sanctions. In May 2013, President Obama said the U.S. goal in keeping some sanctions, while gradually eliminating others, is "to ensure that the democratic transition becomes irreversible." The United States went ahead anyway and lifted additional sanctions in 2013 following a first round of loosening sanctions in 2011. The European Union permanently lifted its sanctions on the Burmese military junta also in 2013.  The Obama Administration had chalked Burma up as a success but is now scrambling with a deteriorating human rights situation there. Eerily similar to ongoing action in Cuba but with the difference that military junta released political prisoners and recognized the political opposition's electoral victories prior to Obama lifting most sanctions.

 Next: The New Cuba Policy: How did we get here?  Pt. 2

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Václav Havel's advice to President Obama and to Cubans

Three Years Later: Missing Havel's Moral Stature
Service for Václav Havel on third anniversary of his passing
Three years ago today Václav Havel passed away and today he remains greatly missed. In large part, sadly, this is due to the lack of anyone else on the international scene with his moral stature and consistent solidarity with the victims of repression world wide. For example, ten days prior to his passing Havel signed on as one of the members of a new International Committee to Support Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Chinese dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Murdered over international airspace on February 24, 1996
Yesterday, watching the spectacle of the Obama Administration orchestrating the unveiling of its change in Cuba policy while trying to obfuscate that it had been blackmailed by the Castro regime into releasing a man convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down in order to obtain the freedom of Alan Gross, an innocent man brought to mind an observation made back in 2009 by the late Czech president.

Families of four men murdered on 2/24/96 speak out yesterday
Havel believed that moral actions, no matter how small or futile they may appear at the time can have profound consequences for both freedom and a just society. It is because the world is not a puzzle to be solved but incredibly much more complex that decisions of right and wrong made by each person have such great weight.

Back in 2009, President Barack Obama had backed out of meeting with the Dalai Lama due to an upcoming trip to China, Havel offered the following reflection on October 12, 2009 at the Forum 2000 conference:
I believe that when the new Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize postpones receiving the Dalai Lama until after he has accomplished his visit to China, he makes a small compromise, a compromise which actually has some logic to it. However, there arises a question as to whether those large, serious compromises do not have their origin and roots in precisely these tiny and very often more or less logical compromises.
The New York Times in their October 13, 2009 issue in an article titled Vaclav Havel, Still a Man of Morals and Mischief: reported that in an interview that was supposed to be about the revolutions that overturned communism 20 years earlier that President Havel raised the question asking if it was true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama? Havel replied:
“It is only a minor compromise,” Mr. Havel said of the non-reception of the Tibetan leader. 'But exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems. “This is actually the first time I really do mind something Obama did,' Mr. Havel said. He minded it “much more” than Mr. Obama’s recent decision not to station elements of a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic, a move that several Central European politicians criticized but that Mr. Havel noted was ultimately “an internal American decision.”
Unfortunately, the failure of American diplomats, to reach Alan Gross for 25 days following his kidnapping by the Castro regime in December 2009 sent a signal to the dictatorship that they could do what they wanted with this man. Over the next five years they used him as a bargaining chip demanding the release of Cuban spies who had engaged in espionage, planned to carry out terrorist acts and were implicated in the murder of American citizens.Yesterday the hardliners in the regime achieved their objective.

Unfortunately, the consequences for Cuba and the Americas with these moral compromises by the Obama Administration will be "big and dangerous ones" generating new problems and challenges.  Make no mistake the message to enemies of the United States yesterday was crysstal clear: Take an American hostage and hang on to him for years until your demands are met and you'll get what you want. It sets a terrible and dangerous precedent.

Thankfully, Vaclav Havel has words of advice that he gave in a message to all Cubans inside and outside of the island when he spoke to them at Florida International University back on September 23, 2002 that remain timely and relevant today:
Our world, as a whole, is not in the best of shape and the direction it is headed in may well be quite ambivalent. But this does not mean that we are permitted to give up on free and cultivated thinking and to replace it with a set of utopian clichés. That would not make the world a better place, it would only make it worse. On the contrary, it means that we must do more for our own freedom, and that of others.

The Christian Liberation Movement's statement on US Cuba Policy

 Declaration of the Christian Liberation Movement
Today the government of the United States in the person of its President Barack Obama and the Cuban regime, represented by General Raúl Castro, made statements announcing several steps for the normalization of relations between the two governments.

Given the importance of the subject, the Christian Liberation Movement wants to express:

1- We understand the discretion that diplomacy requires on the issue of release or exchange of prisoners, but regret the secrecy achieved in core subjects for all Cubans as is the recognition of a
over half a century long tyranny by one country, that embodies democratic values as foundational to that nation. We remind the United States that it should maintain consistency between these principles and the actions of their political representatives.
2- The Christian Liberation Movement does not advocate isolating Cuba and this means that any attempt at rapprochement and cooperation on the part of any foreign nation in favor of the freedom and the rights of the Cuban people, should consider
all Cubans as equal. The power which holds the Cuban military junta has been sustained with repression, death and the exile of thousands of Cubans. Recognizing this political oligarchy as the sole interlocutor, is to accept and fall into the exclusionary logic that for 57 years has suffered the Cuban Nation.

3- Sovereignty is the ability of a people to decide on their present and future, this translates democratically into free and pluralistic elections. To carry out these elections in an atmosphere of absolute respect for the liberties and political rights is the only interpretable signal of real change towards democracy. Neither the influx of capital, or tourism, or any economic concessions are sources of political freedoms. The examples of China and Vietnam make this clear. 

4- The Christian Liberation Movement was born from the need for the people to regain their power of decision-making. Our proposed solution has been since 1988 to hold a referendum. Our reference remains and will continue to be the legitimate right of the Cuban people to lead through the ballot box any expectation of change. Neither the US policy or the policy of any country or institution in the world has been part of our strategy. The rescue of the rights of the people of Cuba is our aim. We call that more than change, Liberation.
Let no one speak for Cuba, authentic solidarity is expressed recognizing and supporting that all Cubans are consulted in a free referendum that returns the sovereignty to the people.

Tony Diaz
Secretary General

Regis Iglesias

Eduardo Cardet
National Coordinator

In name of the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movment

December 17, 2014

Original text in Spanish

Declaration of the Cuban Resistance on US Cuba Policy Shift

December 18, 2014

The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance and the National Civic Resistance Front "Orlando Zapata Tamayo" declare:

1. We welcome the release of Alan Gross, as we also clarify that the end of his kidnapping constitutes the exchange of an innocent American citizen for three convicted criminals imprisoned in the United States, for among other things: espionage against the US and acts of terrorism against its citizens. This was not a humanitarian measure on the part of the Castro dictatorship.

2. The Cuban resistance affirms that freedom, respect for human rights and the establishment of democracy in Cuba are not negotiable.

3. While the Castro brothers remain in power in Cuba, there will be no real change. To achieve the end of the unjust kidnapping of Alan Gross did not necessitate making concessions to the Castro dictatorship or release spies jailed in the United States for participating in the murder of Brothers to the Rescue activists.

4. We confirm once again that despite the appeasement and submissiveness of this administration, Cuba will be free due to the effort of the Cubans.

With, by and for the Homeland,




Signers in solidarity with the Declaration inside of Cuba:

1. Raúl Luis Risco Pérez Nuevo Partido Revolucionario Cubano Pinar del Río
2. José Díaz Silva, Opositores por una Nueva Republica
3. Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya Movimiento Independiente Opción Alternativa
4. Damaris Moya Portieles, Coalición Central Opositora
5. Juan Carlos González Leiva, Consejo de Relatores de Derechos Humanos
6. Segundo Rey Cabrera González, Comité Cubano pro Derechos Humanos de Cuba
7. Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina Alianza Democrática Oriental
8. Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks
9. Jorge Luis García Pérez Antunez, Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica “Orlando Zapata Tamayo”
10. Egberto Ángel Escobedo Morales, Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica “Orlando Zapata Tamayo”

Original document in Spanish

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obama's Legacy: Normalizing relations with an Abnormal Regime

Barack Obama and Raul Castro
Listening to President Obama today after learning the good news that, after more than five years unjustly held hostage, Alan Gross was finally free, and that some Cuban political prisoners were to be freed was nevertheless a sobering and worrisome exercise for a number of reasons.

First the news that three spies who had spied on military installations and congressmen on American soil, that had plotted terrorist acts in the United States, and were implicated in the February 24, 1996 murder of three American citizens and one American resident were freed in a swap to return to Cuba sends a terrible message.

Regime hardliners have won, thanks to the Obama Administration's actions today. Kidnapping an American and holding him for ransom for five years has paid off.  Moderate elements within the dictatorship, seeking to transition Cuba into a responsible member of the family of nations, will have to continue to remain silent and wait.

Secondly, despite smuggling arms to North Korea in violation of international sanctions in 2013; murdering opposition leaders, organizing a Stalinist show trial to cover it up; and projecting itself into the internal affairs of Venezuela did not negatively impact the desire of the Obama Administration to "normalize" relations with this rogue regime.

Third, President Obama in his address gave the impression that the economic embargo had been completely lifted and that is not the case. However, he did make the case against the policy of sanctions on Cuba and for "normalized" relations.

The president makes the argument that the goal of the embargo was the "enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba." However that was never the case. The economic embargo from the beginning was to contain the Castro regime and prevent it expanding through the rest of the hemisphere while at the same time increasing the cost for the Soviet Union during the Cold War to maintain it.

Over the past 55 years that policy succeeded with two exceptions: the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua in 1979 and the arrival of Hugo Chavez to power in Venezuela in 1999. Both exceptions occurred under Administrations that carried out policies in order to end the isolation of Cuba, normalize relations and end the embargo. Both the Carter Administration (1977 - 1981) and the Clinton Administration (1993 - 2001) gave openings to the Castro dictatorship that it was able to exploit to the detriment of the national interests of the United States.

The Obama Administration will be the third presidency to follow down this road. That the White House has stated that it will cooperate with the Castro regime in areas of counter-terrorism and drug trafficking is extremely troubling.

First, the Castro regime has a long track record in sponsoring, promoting and carrying out acts of terrorism. It published a manual that views terrorism as a legitimate form of struggle.

Secondly, the Castro regime has a record going back decades of being deeply involved with international drug traffickers. Sharing intelligence with them is not recommended.

Thirdly, the Administration has indicated that it will review the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. One hopes that the mistakes made by the Bush Administration in taking North Korea off the list are not repeated with Cuba. The belief that removing North Korea from the terror sponsor list would improve its behavior did not manifest itself after the fact. Rewarding the hardline and rogue elements in the Castro regime is unlikely to improve the dictatorship's behavior to the contrary it may worsen.

On February 24, 1996 Fidel and Raul Castro gave the orders to shoot down two planes of Brothers to the Rescue in international airspace and murdered four who were on board the two planes. This was an act of state terrorism that had been planned out in a conspiracy that included members of the WASP spy network of which three were released back to the Castro regime yesterday.

My prayers tonight go out to the families of Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, and Armando Alejandre Jr. who saw Gerardo Hernandez, the one man brought to justice for their murdered loved ones and sentenced to life imprisonment, freed in a political maneuver of the Obama Administration today. Meanwhile their continuing demands for justice have gone unheeded.