Tag: Cuba

You really want equality?

Oh how communists pedal the ideal of equality. And how fools lap it up

For those who believe income inequality is a major issue with capitalism, Cuba provides a perfect example of how socialism and communism conquered this problem. The communist Castro dictatorship has achieved income equality in Cuba by ensuring — at the point of a rifle — everyone is equally poor and miserable. The probabilities of any Cuban reaching any economic class higher than impoverished without being an elite of the communist party or having political connections to those in power on the island are slim to none.

While some may believe income equality is a monumental and nearly impossible task, Cuba’s Castro dictatorship has shown that is quite easy. All you need to do is have the state confiscate all the money, property, and assets of the population and turn everyone into a pauper.

Everyone is equally poor, except of course, those in power who are doing the confiscating. They get to live like kings, jet-set around the world, hang out with celebrities, and enjoy yacht vacations on the Mediterranean. But if you really want to stamp out “income inequality” and make the masses economically equal, that is the price you will have to pay.

Income equality? A very idealistic notion, but, in communist nations like Cuba, well, equality of destitution is the reality

Cuba has income equality.  Verifying this requires a careful look at the data.  Most sources – for example, Brookings – cite a per capita income of about $240 per year.  Wikipedia cites about $22,000 per year, so be careful with your information sources.  The government employs 78% of the workers, so there is little opportunity to get an income very different from the average.  How can people survive on a salary of practically nothing?  Thanks to the government, Cubans get free food and medicine.  They get subsidies for virtually everything they might buy.  As a result, someone getting no salary is only slightly worse off than someone with a relatively high income.  In all practicality, Cuba has as close to income equality as a society can provide.

Cuba also has abject poverty and child prostitution.  Before the 1959 revolution, Cuba exported $780 million (1959 dollars) of goods, mostly food.  Now it imports 70% to 80% of the food that it consumes.  The result is that Cubans risk their lives in shark-infested waters to escape.

See equality works, and all it will cost you is any chance of prosperity, and liberty. 

ESPN should stop soft-selling what Colin Kaepernick did and continues to do

If you listen to ESPN, you might get the distinct impression that former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is no more than an activist who is being punished by the NFL owners for raising the issues of race, and police brutality in America. In fact, it seems that most ESPN commentators are convinced that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed by the entire NFL. Some continue to paint Kaepernick’s continued unemployment, it was Kaepernick, by the way, who opted out of his contract in San Francisco. He is unemployed because he chose to be. He chose to test the free agent market rather than stay with the 49ers. Some players are even saying that owners who do not sign Kaepernick are cowards.

While there is no doubt that some owners are fearful of the media saturation, and negative feedback from fans if they sign Kaepernick, it is unfair to label them cowards. In fact, some owners who are not, and will not sign the QB might have a more simple reason. It just might be that Kaepernick is hated for his actions. Yes actions. No, despite the narrative, Kaepernick did not simply choose not to stand for the national anthem. That was simply the first act in his transition into social justice warrior. In fact, this is how Kaepernick described his decision to snub the flag.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” All because he kneeled during the national anthem last year. 

It is one thing to kneel during the anthem to raise awareness or begin a conversation, as Kaepernick’s defenders claim he was doing. It is quite another to smear law enforcement in such an irresponsible and egregious fashion. But, it seems Kaepernick is all about the narrative.

The problem with this narrative, of course is that it is not true. America is the most tolerant and racially diverse nation on earth. Obviously Kaepernick has been over indulging in the social justice Kool-Aid. His statement goes along with the Black Lives Matter mantra that police are “hunting down” young Black men. Again, such a claim is completely false and reckless.  But BLM is a group deeply rooted in Marxist philosophy. You should really go read their mission statements. If you are anti-family, anti police, anti-individualism, you will love these nuggets of delusion.

Kaepernick it should be noted began to embrace the social justice warrior act after he began dating Nessa Diab, a devoted Leftist who is a full-blown SJW

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s conversion to social activism coincided with his romancing of a hip hop DJ of Egyptian descent who has frequently spoken about perceived racial injustices and “Islamaphobia” in the U.S.

Kaepernick reportedly began dating Hot 97 DJ and MTV host Nessa Diab in July 2015. A few months later, his social media posts began to reflect the Black Lives Matter and Muslim activism of Diab.

“History!” Kaepernick wrote on Instagram Oct. 15, when he marked 50 years since the Black Panther Party was founded.

But 31 of his last 42 posts have strong social justice connotations, often featuring quotes from radical Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, Black Panthers founder Huey Newton and cop killer Assata Shakur. During a Sunday news conference about the flag flap, Kaepernick dressed in a black hat with a large, white “X” and a T-shirt that featured photos of Cuban despot Fidel Castro and Malcolm X.

You can peruse Kaepernick’s Instagram here . You can see the transition for yourself. Of course, what ESPN will not tell you are the other things Kaepernick has done to alienate himself, well except for Will Cain, who actually looks at all the offensive stands Kaepernick has taken

Cain is correct here. Kaepernick did not kneel and then explain his positions in a calm rational way. He instead stayed in the hole he was digging and went right back to shovelling and in the process exposed himself as just another ignorant sjw trying to play a victim by bashing the country that gives him liberty. Liberty he clearly does not grasp, or appreciate. Instead he donned a Castro T-shirt and started to rant about government oppression? Talk about the irony of ironic ironies

The August evening the nation first noticed Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem at an NFL game, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback held a postgame news conference, as is typical league policy. At that news conference Kaepernick wore a T-shirt emblazoned with photos from a 1960 meeting between Malcolm X and Fidel Castro.

So after his first notable protest against what last week he called the “systematic oppression” of minorities in the United States, and saying he wants “freedom for all people,” Colin Kaepernick put on a T-shirt that featured a supportive image of one of the 20th century’s most enduring oppressors.

This absurd contradiction between what Kaepernick said and does was only a distant annoyance to me because, although I was born into Cuba’s imprisonment, I don’t often write about Kaepernick or his team. This wasn’t my fight.

Yes,, the writer actually KNOWS about the brutality and evil of Communism. He, unlike Kaepernick KNOWS about oppression

Some facts:

Cuba for more than five decades under the Castros has stifled practically any and all dissent. According to Human Rights Watch, “Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment.”

Now go to Google images of the Ladies In White protesting on Cuba’s streets. Kaepernick, the poster child for protest among NFL players, should do this. He would see images of women — white, black, mothers, daughters, sisters — systematically violated in one form or another by Castro’s thugs.

They are harassed, spat upon, pushed and even bloodied simply because they are fighting to do in Cuba what Kaepernick does on an NFL sideline without fear or physical repercussion — just before he wears that Castro shirt to his postgame presser.

And yet, Kaepernick wore a shirt honoring Castro? What type of social justice is that? What is Kaepernick advocating exactly? Does he even know? Or is playing the victim to addictive for him to embrace facts?  Armando Salguero pressed Kaepernick in a teleconference

So I ask Kaepernick how he can protest oppression then ignorantly don a T-shirt featuring an oppressor?

After first denying he wore a Castro T-shirt at all, Kaepernick finally told us all why he loves him some Castro

And that’s exactly the moment Kaepernick shows how lost he truly is. Because in the next breath, Kaepernick, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, explains to me, the guy born in Havana, how great Castro really is.

“One thing Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here even though we’re fully capable of doing that,” Kaepernick said.

Is this real life?

First, Cuba does not have the highest literacy rate. Second, don’t be surprised if the same people who report Cuba’s admittedly high literacy rate are related to those who report its election results — the ones in which the Castros get 100 percent of the votes.

Third, could it be Cuba doesn’t have to invest a lot in its prison system because, you know, dungeons and firing squads (ElParedon) are not too expensive to maintain?

You can go read the whole piece here Kaepernick exposed himself as another dimwitted useful idiot who swallows the brainwashing the Left excels in. America bad! Castro good! America bad! America racist! And so on. Gee why would an NFL owner not want this sparkling gem of ignorance on their team? Hmmm

Then there are the other vile things poor victimized Colin has done. Things like wearing sock depicting police as pigs. Kaepernick, who is woke, explained himself, and spat on law enforcement once again

Kaepernick released a statement Thursday on his Instagram account explaining why he wore the socks:

“I wore these socks, in the past, because the rogue cops that are allowed to hold positions in police departments, not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust. I have two uncles and friends who are police officers and work to protect and serve ALL people. So before these socks, which were worn before I took my public stance, are used to distract from the real issues, I wanted to address this immediately.”

Sounds like one of those “some of my best friends are…” defenses to me. Again, kaepernick threw all police under his Social Justice Warrior Victim Bus. But, he did not stop there did he?  Nope!

And NFL owners might not want this loudmouth on their team? How racist of them! How dare they not want this agitator in their locker room? I would bet most coaches, and players also would rather punch Kaepernick in the mouth than have him on their team. Of course if they were to do such a thing, or even express such sentiment, the media would go after them. Yes, the same media that has basically white washed Kaepernick’s verbal idiocies.

Sorry, but Kaepernick has made his own bed, and continues to wallow in it frankly. He has the talent to play, no doubt. He was a fun player to watch. I used to enjoy his on the field deeds, and, if I owned an NFL team, I would have signed him had he stopped his ignorant diatribes after the anthem protest. But now? Hell would freeze over numerous times before I would sign a player that spews such ignorant and despicable things. Kaepernick is not the victim of hate, he is a purveyor of hate! Maybe the Castros will take him in. Maybe they can put him in charge of their “social justice” for dissidents program. Heck, maybe Kaepernick can even explain to the Cubans in prison for daring to question their government what a real victim he is?

Democrat Governor Of New York Bans State Travel To North Carolina While Encouraging Visits To Cuba

NY Gov. Cuomo Bans State Travel To North Carolina But Encourages Cuba Visits – Washington Free Beacon

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New York’s Democratic governor banned state travel to North Carolina this week, citing its residents’ supposed lack of equal protection under the law, weeks after he announced efforts to facilitate travel from New York to Cuba, which is ruled by a repressive communist dictatorship that routinely imprisons political dissenters.

“In New York, we believe that all people – regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation – deserve the same rights and protections under the law,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in announcing a ban on “non-essential” state travel to North Carolina.

The move came in response to a new North Carolina law that restricts gendered restrooms to people of their respective biological sexes.

New York will no longer sponsor official travel to North Carolina, but Cuomo himself has recently undertaken official travel to Cuba, and teamed up with JetBlue airlines to encourage travel to the island nation, where the government has imprisoned and tortured transgender people.

Attitudes towards gay and transgender individuals on the island have liberalized in recent years, but many say they are still “harassed and detained by police,” according to a January report from Public Radio International. “They also say they can’t get jobs.”

One transgender individual described her attitude:
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And even with US and Cuba relations normalizing now, she still can’t bring herself to ever go back home.

“I suffered too much trauma in Cuba. It would cause me too much panic to return there. I wouldn’t go back, even for a short visit.”

Her resolve hardens when she looks down at her arm. The self-inflicted scars left from her life in Cuba’s prisons are a permanent reminder of a time when she could not be free — could no [sic] be herself.

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And Now, A Song In Commemoration Of Obama’s Visit To Communist Cuba

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Traitor John Kerry Rewards Cuba For Remaining A Communist Dictatorship For Over Half A Century

John Kerry Reopens Embassy In Cuba, But Tensions Remain – CNN

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Secretary of State John Kerry came to Cuba on Friday and raised the American flag above the U.S. Embassy for the first time in 54 years.

“Thank you for joining us at this truly historic moment as we prepare to raise the flag… symbolizing the restoration of diplomatic relations after 54 years,” Kerry said at the ceremony, addressing the crowd in both English and Spanish.

Kerry’s visit marks the symbolic end of one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. But signs of mistrust linger, and beyond the pomp and circumstance lies a long road back from more than half a century of diplomatic animosity.

On Thursday, Cuban state media put out an article in the name of Fidel Castro, writing on the occasion of his 89th birthday, in which he made no reference to the historic resumption of U.S.-Cuba relations but instead waxed on about the damage the American embargo has caused Cuba and the anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Japan.

The rhetoric from the leader of the Cuban revolution, and the face of anti-U.S. resistance, is not unexpected. But it underscores the long-standing tensions at play as Washington and Havana work to thaw the decadeslong chill in relations.

Even Kerry’s brief visit reflects the complexities of opening a new chapter of engagement with the Cuban government.

He is accompanied by a number of U.S. lawmakers who have advocated normalizing diplomatic and economic relations with the island. Several Cuban-Americans also are part of the delegation.

Dissidents not invited to embassy opening

But anti-Castro dissidents won’t be at the U.S. Embassy ceremony marking the restoration of ties. Instead, Kerry will meet dissidents and human rights activists at another flag-raising, this one closed to press at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission, along with a broad cross section of Cuban entrepreneurs, journalists and artists.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, blasted the decision in a foreign policy speech delivered in New York Friday morning.

“As a symbol of just how backward this policy shift has turned out to be, no Cuban dissidents have been invited to today’s official flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Havana,” Rubio said. “Cuba’s dissidents have fought for decades for the very Democratic principles President Obama claims to be advancing through these concessions. Their exclusion from this event has ensured it will be little more than a propaganda rally for the Castro regime.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and also the son of Cuban immigrants, said it was “shameful” that Cuba could bar dissidents from the ceremony and said the U.S. flag should not fly in a country that does not value freedom.

“A flag representing freedom and liberty will rise today in a country ruled by a repressive regime that denies its people democracy and basic human rights. This is the embodiment of a wrongheaded policy that rewards the Castro regime’s brutality at the expense of the Cuban people’s right to freedom of expression and independence,” Menendez said in a statement.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the opening of the embassy a “sad day” in an interview Friday with CNN en Espanol.

“It’s a sad day for me because we did not get anything, no freedom, the dissidents were not invited, not even a change in the regime, they have the economic control. The American flag up but no changes to the Cuban people, it’s a sad day for me,” Bush said, according to a CNN translation.

But Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who joined Kerry as part of the American delegation, welcomed the Embassy reopening.

“The United States will be able to do much more to protect and serve U.S. citizens in Cuba and encourage a better future for the Cuban people with an American flag flying over our embassy in Havana,” he said in a statement.

U.S. officials shrugged off the fact that dissidents were only invited to attend the second ceremony, chalking it up to “limited space” at the Embassy flag-raising, which they termed a “government-to-government movement.” But it reflected attention to the sensitivities of the regime.

When Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez visited Washington to reopen the Cuban embassy, he underscored the differences that remain. Standing next to Kerry at the State Department last month, Rodriguez made clear the full normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba would be impossible as long as the blockade remains.

President Barack Obama has eased some travel and business restrictions, but only Congress can lift the 53-year-old embargo, something that is unlikely to happen with Republicans controlling both chambers through the end of his term.

“Where we go from here has to do with what (happens) in the next 16 months, while the President is in office, if he is able to consolidate what has already been done,” said Julia Sweig, a Latin America expert long at the forefront of Washington’s Cuba policy debate.

“That happens by using his executive authority to open up new opportunities for travel, trade and investment. And the Cuban government needs to do the same,” she said. “This could neutralize remaining opposition in Congress and make it impossible for the next president, if it is a Republican, to reverse it.”

There are other areas where the administration is already pushing the limits.

Take tourism. While only Congress can officially lift the “ban” on tourism, the Treasury Department has taken a liberal view of what “tourism” means when it provides licenses to travel to the island. The parent company of Carnival, Princess and several other cruise lines plan to launch “people-to-people” visits to the island by ship. Other tour companies are offering vacation packages to Cuba for Americans loosely labeled as “cultural experiences.”

Sweig said there are other business sectors that could benefit from the same treatment.

“The difference between yes and no on any sector is a political decision by the White House,” Sweig said. “They don’t’ have to wait for Congress.”

Senior administration officials said they are examining what more the President can do to support the Cuban people and Cuban entrepreneurs but said he would be cautious about going too far, too fast.

No plan to gut embargo

The officials said that the President’s calculus in carving out certain sectors – health, agriculture, telecom and information – was that they could be justified within the President’s executive authority as humanitarian in nature and opening Cuba to the outside world.

But Obama will not do an end run around Congress and gut the embargo, they said, something Republican lawmakers opposed to the new policy have accused him of.

“These are areas we think can help bring about improvements in the lives of average Cubans even if they bring some benefit to a government we disagree with,” one senior official said. “We are making exceptions to the embargo but still keeping the premise of it.

The official continued, “The question of whether you want basic manufacturing to sell to Cuba is a very different question that goes to the heart of a law which Congress passed.”

The United States is also looking for the Cuban government to take steps to improve the relationship. The administration hopes to convince the Cuban government to extradite some American criminals currently taking refuge on the island, such as Joanne Chesimard, better known as Assata Shakur, and William Guillermo Morales.

Castro granted Chesimard, a convicted murderer wanted by the FBI, political asylum in Cuba, where she has remained ever since escaping from a life sentence in 1979 from a New Jersey prison. Morales, a member of a militant Puerto Rican separatist movement, planted a bomb at a New York military installation and faced 89 years in prison when he escaped from police custody while in a hospital in New York.

Washington also wants to settle property disputes for Americans that were living in Cuba when the two countries cut off ties.

In addition, the U.S. wants to increase existing, albeit modest, cooperation between Washington and Havana on areas such as counternarcotics, migration, environment and global health. With American diplomats now free to travel across the island, officials hope they will get a better sense of the needs of the Cuban people and how the United States can help.

Perhaps the most important driver of warming ties between the two countries, however, will be the American and Cuban people. Officials say that the increase in Americans traveling to Cuba has been positive, with Cubans interacting with regular Americans for the first time in more than 50 years.

“They see we don’t have horns and a tail,” one official said. “And Americans are getting a more nuanced view of Cuba than cigars, mojitos and old cars.”

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Obama’s deal with Cuba looking more foolish all the time

Obama is Charlie Brown, Raul Castro is Lucy!

Via Daily Signal:

President Obama’s change of policy on Cuba looks worse with every passing day.

Remember the 53 political prisoners that Obama promised would be released? Three weeks later, the State Department could not confirm even one had been let out of prison. That became abundantly clear during an awkward, five-minute standoff between State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and reporters on Jan.5. Only after this embarrassing exchange did Washington and Havana rushed to say that “some” of them had been let out.

Why did Psaki pussyfoot around the issue? Earlier, administration officials had told the Wall Street Journal’s Mary O’Grady that to push Cuba’s communist leaders on the release of the 53 would only upset them. As O’Grady put it, “in other words, the Castros are sensitive boys who throw despotic tantrums when their absolute power is questioned. Asking them to keep their word is apparently a trigger.”

Liberals ALWAYS trust dictators to play nice, talk about stuck on stupid!

Senator Rubio Slams Commie-Loving Obama Over Irresponsible Cuba Deal (Video)

Marco Rubio: Cuba Deal Part Of Obama’s ‘Long Record Of Coddling Dictators And Tyrants’ – Business Insider

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) fiercely criticized President Barack Obama on Wednesday for moving to ease US-Cuba relations.

“It’s absurd and it’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” Rubio said in a Fox News interview.

Rubio, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, was reacting to the White House’s decision to beginning normalizing relations with the Cuban government following a prisoner swap between the two countries. Like Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who also slammed Obama Wednesday, Rubio warned that the deal will encourage other countries to kidnap Americans.

“It puts a price on every American abroad. Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States,” he said.

In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Rubio further said the deal will help the Castro regime in Cuba become “permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.” The US has placed an economic embargo against Cuba since Fidel Castro overthrew the previous government. His brother, Raúl Castro, now leads the country.

“This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said. “But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

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Rubio also released a lengthy statement vowing “to make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense. ”

View his full statement below:

“Today’s announcement initiating a dramatic change in U.S. policy toward Cuba is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all cost.

“Like all Americans, I rejoice at the fact that Alan Gross will be able to return to his family after five years in captivity. Although he is supposedly being released on humanitarian grounds, his inclusion in a swap involving intelligence agents furthers the Cuban narrative about his work in Cuba. In contrast, the Cuban Five were spies operating against our nation on American soil. They were indicted and prosecuted in a court of law for the crimes of espionage and were linked to the murder of the humanitarian pilots of Brothers to the Rescue. There should be no equivalence between the two, and Gross should have been released unconditionally.

“The President’s decision to reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba is inexplicable. Cuba’s record is clear. Just as when President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Castro family still controls the country, the economy and all levers of power. This administration’s attempts to loosen restrictions on travel in recent years have only served to benefit the regime. While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear. Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism. It continues to actively work with regimes like North Korea to illegally traffic weapons in our hemisphere in violation of several United Nations Security Council Resolutions. It colludes with America’s enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear. But most importantly, the regime’s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime. That is why even more than just putting U.S. national security at risk, President Obama is letting down the Cuban people, who still yearn to be free.

“I intend to use my role as incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee to make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense. Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy. When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe.”

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Related articles:

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Menendez Blasts Obama On Cuba – Philadelphia Inquirer

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), whose parents immigrated from Cuba and who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a blistering critique Tuesday of the Obama administration’s decision to release Cuban spies as the Castro regime freed American Alan Gross from imprisonment.

“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” Menendez said in a news release. “There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation.”

Menendez added, “Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.”

Gross was an American contractor who was serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba. He was trying to bring internet service to the country.

dministration officials have said the simultaneous releases were not part of a “swap” but part of a larger agreement. Menendez was not convinced.

“Let’s be clear, this was not a “humanitarian” act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” Menendez said in his statement.

Menendez, a hard-liner on Cuba policy, will give up the gavel on the foreign relations committee in January. He has butted heads with Obama over several foreign policy flare-ups.

He did call Gross’ return “a moment of profound relief for Alan Gross and his family.”

“He should have been released immediately and unconditionally five years ago,” Menendez said. “He committed no crime and was simply working to provide internet access to Cuba’s small Jewish community. His imprisonment was cruel and arbitrary, but consistent with the behavior of the Cuban regime.”

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U.S.-Cuba Policy Overhaul Sends Shockwaves Through Miami Exile Community – Miami Herald

The political ground shook in South Florida on Wednesday when President Barack Obama announced plans to restore full diplomatic relations with Communist Cuba.

Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community, reacted with a collective shock. Hardline opponents of the Castro regime lambasted the president for what they called a betrayal.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a Republican whose father was a pilot in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue mission, called the Democratic president a sellout.

“The Cuban exile community that has made a foundation out of standing firm against the Castro government has been, in essence, sold out,” he told the Miami Herald. “Those that have lost themselves to the straits of Florida, that have drowned, I feel that their memory has been sold out. The Brothers to the Rescue pilots – those American citizens – that were blown up, their memory and their families’ misery has been sold out.”

Maggie Khuly, the sister of Armando Alejandre Jr, one of the four Brothers to the Rescue members shot down, said the families of the failed mission’s victims were outraged.

“I was expecting this, but I can’t believe it,” Khuly told the Herald. “No one [in the federal government] had the decency of telling us anything.”

People across the city tuned in to watch Obama address the nation at noon. In Cuba, Raúl Castro spoke at the same time.

Several people gathered around a television set showing CNN at a waiting room at Doctor’s Hospital in Coral Gables to watch reporting from Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, where a small group of hardliners were protesting. Early on, though, there were more reporters than demonstrators.

Then, Obama spoke.

“Wow. Wow. Wow,” an unidentified woman said when the president finished.

“Maduro is screwed,” said another, referring to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a Castro ally. The crowd remained as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, appeared on the screen and criticized Obama from Capitol Hill.

The day began with the news that Cuba had freed American political prisoner Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds – and that the U.S. would swap three imprisoned Cuban spies in exchange for a U.S. intelligence officer detained on the island.

“We’re giving them a lot of stuff in payment for the exchange of a hostage,” Khuly told the Miami Herald. “What about human rights? It’s just incredible. I’m extremely disappointed in the president.”

Commissioner Bovo also called the move bad precedent.

“I don’t know what that does for other Americans traveling in Venezuela, in Nicarague – name your country – where now, literally, if want to extract something from the U.S., take a prisoner, trump some charges, and send them to jail,” he said.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a Wednesday morning interview with the Herald that he was on his way to a phone briefing by the White House on the upcoming announcement. He said he didn’t know enough to critique the White House plan, but was critical of normalizing relations.

“The Cuban government hasn’t done anything to deserve this,” said Gimenez, who was born in Cuba. “If it’s going to happen, I hope there will be positive results.”

Miami police said it was monitoring local reaction in case Obama’s announcement drew crowds or protests. Police Chief Manuel Orosa said resources would be deployed as needed “to keep everything under control and let people demonstrate peacefully.”

The department placed all personnel on alert but did not activate any special plans. Orosa said police would pay particular attention to Spanish-language talk radio in case calls go out for rallies, either for or against the policy changes.

Despite criticism of the policy overhaul, there was widespread relief over Gross’s release after five years.

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement welcoming Gross, a Washington resident, back to the country. Gross was arrested in December 2009 while working as a subcontractor with the United States Agency for International Development to help a small Jewish community in Cuba.

The statement thanked advocates who signed petitions and wrote letters to elected officials to keep them from forgetting about Gross’s imprisonment.

“We wish Alan Gross a full recovery from the ill health that resulted from his unjust and inhumane incarceration and we send our warmest wishes to his family who has suffered such great distress during this terrible ordeal,” the statement said.

“Last night, Jews around the world kindled the first light of Chanukah, celebrating a historical victory. Tonight, as we kindle the second Chanukah candle, we know it will burn that much brighter for us in gratitude for the release of Alan Gross and for all those who championed his cause for so long.”

Local public figures also applauded Gross’s release.

“On the first day of Hanukkah, #AlanGross is released from a Cuban prison. What a great gift for his family,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, a Cuban-American Democrat, posted to her Twitter account, @KathyFndzRundle.

Annette Taddeo, the former chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, linked to an ABC News story about the release. “Happy #Hannukkah indeed!” wrote Taddeo, who is Jewish, on her account, @Annette_Taddeo.

Miami Herald staff writers Douglas Hanks and Charles Rabin contributed to this report.

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