Because he was told a more senior person was in the next room waiting for him:
The handshake with Obama doesn’t help the Cuban regime. If anything the fact that the US President approached Castro makes it more difficult to paint him as an enemy of the Cuban state. It’s combative hyperbole by US elected leaders that gets the geriatric revolutionaries on high alert, and gives them an villain to rally support against. Case in point, Ileana Ros-Letinen’s tirade during today’s hearing with Secretary of State John Kerry:
Ros-Lehtinen: Mr. Secretary sometimes a handshake is just a handshake but when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raul Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. In fact, right now, as we speak, Cuban opposition leaders are being detained and they are being beaten while trying to commemorate today which is International Human Rights Day. They will feel disheartened when they see these photos.
Kerry: Ladies and gentlemen today is about honoring Nelson Mandela. And the president is at an international funeral with leaders from all over the world. He didn’t choose who is there. They are there to honor Mandela. We appreciate that people from all over the world and from all different beliefs and walks of life who appreciated Nelson Mandela and/or were friends of his came to honor him. And I think as the president said – I urge you to go read his speech or if you didn’t see it or haven’t read it – as the president said in his speech today honoring nelson Mandela he said `we urge leaders to honor Mandela’s struggle for freedom by upholding the basic human rights of their people.
Ros-Lehtinen: And would you say Raul castro is upholding the basic human rights…
Kerry: No, absolutely not. And you know my position on that.
— Yoani Sanchez (@yoanifromcuba) December 10, 2013
Then again, Ileana is about as out of touch with Cuban reality as Fidel, and he’s hopped up on painkillers all day.
Aside from them and a couple of old-timers from small exile groups (rounding out los cuatro gatos), almost everyone else in Miami who isn’t seizing the opportunity to take partisan pot-shots at the President sees the event for what it was: a courteous gesture by Obama while paying respects to the Great Conciliator and nothing more (see common sense prevail in Miami Herald article here, and Miami New Times comments section here). Even pro-embargo lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone sees no there there. In fact, they chose to see past the image and focus on what really matters, what the President said during his speech during Mandela’s service:
There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
I’ve written before about the Cuba Study Group’s Reconciliation Project, which aims to study and debate how reconciliation processes in deeply divided countries have been successful, and the lessons that can be learned for Cuba.
Their second conference just took place in Miami, with the participation of key players in the processes of reconciliation in South Africa, Germany and Ireland. Ricardo Herrero, deputy executive director of the CSG, summarizes it nicely in the Miami Herald:
• Reconciliation requires forgiveness and justice.
To the extent that we are unable to heal because we continue to dwell on our pain, we are rendered incapable of crafting a new future. Forgiveness requires that we not allow the future to be doomed by the past. The violence caused by both sides needs to be remembered and addressed, but without degenerating into revenge. Requiring that change bring about justice before anything else only serves to delay the very process of change, thereby causing greater injustice.
• Reconciliation is not a linear process.
Reconciliation cannot consist of a series of predetermined sequential changes. On the contrary, each of the cases explored show that all changes must all be allowed to happen as opportunities present themselves, because they illuminate one another. As Valdés stated, “It does not matter how the Cuban puzzle is put together, what is vital is that all the pieces be on the table.”
• Reconciliation cannot be a competition of wounds.
Reconciliation cannot turn into a competition of whose wounds are deeper. The most important shift in identity through this entire process is to divest oneself of the identity of victim. The pain of victims must be respected and remembered, yet we are ill-served if we allow it to become an obstacle to paving a better future.
• Dialogue is more important at the onset than trust.
As we saw in Ireland, a critical component of a successful conflict resolution process is the absolute need for inclusive “good faith” dialogue involving all parties with all issues raised on the agenda. While trust will not be there at the start of talks, it may and likely will develop during or beyond the process. The critical thing is to have trust in the process, and trust that each party is serious about creating a better future. “To bring about change one must empower one’s opponents and not paint them into a corner,” said Dettke.
A while ago, I was having lunch with two very experienced political operators, and naturally the conversation turned to the Cuba issue. “It’s a puzzle” they said “lots of smart people with decision power know that Cuba policy simply doesn’t make sense. Many of them are even proponents of the isolationist policies who privately agree hasn’t worked. Yet they can’t break the inertia”. It is a puzzle to me as well, I answered. So many people acting out of the worst possible impulses, afraid to cede an inch, distrustful and isolated, and half heartedly insisting on goals and preconditions the other side has no interest or incentive to meet.
Well, these conferences are precisely the type of creative thinking that can break the inertia. If we understand the reconciliation process, then we can offer the Cubans a workable plan towards national healing.
The AP just announced that the Cuban government is cracking down on “privately run cinemas and video game salons that have mushroomed on the island recently, saying Saturday that the businesses are unauthorized and proprietors must halt such entertainment immediately.”
This is a stupefyingly dumb move. 3D movie theaters and video game parlors are exactly the kind of small businesses that people are most likely to defend if shut down. What’s the point in denying people a few hours of distraction from how bad their lives suck? Does the government really prefer to have these people wandering around and loitering in the streets?
Coming hot off the heels of the their recent ban on private sales of imported goods, which forced scores of Cuban entrepreneurs to liquidate their inventories and many to close up their shops, it’s almost like Cuban officials are going out of their way to piss of the public. If there are less intelligent way to kick-start a moribund economy and address the demands of a desperate people, I haven’t heard of it.
Most Cubans in the island don’t know democracy, so it’s no surprise that they don’t rise up en masse to demand it. But for three years now, hundreds of thousands have acquired a taste for money, with many making enough disposable income to spend on things like 3D movie theater tickets. You’d guess the Castro government would think twice by now before taking what people have earned away from them (see the 1.8 million life-long enemies they’ve made 90 miles away) -but then again, the Castros and their cronies only know one way to run things, and its usually to the ground. Their failed revolution will be no different. The Cuban government’s embargo on its own people will bring about its own demise before the useless US embargo ever does.
One gets the sense that Sen. Marco Rubio’s office staff is getting tired of dealing with pro-embargo types like lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone breathing down their necks.
Read the letter by “Marco Rubio” to The New York Times below. It is la-zy. Like an afterthought the staffer threw together right before heading to G-town to drown in cheap bourbon with his buddies.
I mean, if you’re going to go after the writer of a Tourism column for crying out loud, argue that Cuba can be an inhospitable country, where foreigners can face jail time for traffic altercations, where a wrong turn in glitzy Old Havana can lead you down roads that look like Damascus, where customer service is often subpar, where the food in many hotels is kinda meh, where you can’t find a juicy sirloin steak at any paladar, where internet connectivity at most hotels is 56K, and so on…
Instead, this guy throws two old talking points together – human rights violations, and the government not allowing tour companies to facilitate visits to dissidents – and calls it a day. As if the average reader of a newspaper’s Tourism section cared more about a country’s internal opposition than whether they can get free wi-fi in their rooms.
Please hardliners, try harder. Try like if you really give a shit. Don’t make the pro-travel, anti-embargo blog do all the hard work for you.
The writer is a Republican senator from Florida.
Two recent stories hint at just a fraction of the millions of taxpayer dollars the US burns through each year enforcing or defending wasteful porkbarrel projects that achieve absolutely nothing other than keep certain Miami-based government teat-suckers employed and prove which Cuban-American hardliner has the biggest cock in Capitol Hill.
1. The Washington Post reports on Aero Martí, a TV Martí aircraft that costs an annual $5.6 million to operate, and is used to transmit “la TV que no se ve” (“the TV that can’t be seen”) to a whopping 1% of Cubans on the island (on a good day!). Thanks to sequestration, that plane is now sitting in a Georgia hangar being twice as useless to the tune of an additional $6,600 a month in storage fees.
2. The Miami Herald reports that the State of Florida has given up on trying to enforce 2012 state law that banned public hiring of firms doing business in Cuba. Now the FDOT has to pay Brazilian firm Odebrecht $500,000 in attorney’s fees, on top of the millions the State of Florida has already wasted in trying to pass, enforce, and defend in a court, a law that everyone knew was unconstitutional to begin with, but backed anyway because it was an election year.
These media outlets and policy makers owe the victims of these brutal dictatorships an apology.
You interpret the economic liberalisation evident at street level as an indication of a desire for fundamental change. It is true that these reforms are welcomed, especially the dramatic increase in remittance flows that have injected fresh hard currency into the bottom strata of a perennially cash strapped economy. But until the law relating to foreign investment and commerce is revised and the security service changes its modus operandi for enforcing these laws, Cuba will remain extremely risky for non-bilateral foreign business and foreign executives should be under no illusion about the great personal risks they run if they chose to do business there. As businessmen emerge from their awful experience and tell their individual stories perhaps the real reasons for this concerted attack against business’s and individuals that have historically been friends of Cuba will become a bit clearer.
Why the heck not? Aren’t we already counting fugitives as terrorists?
Because that would be stupid, that’s why.