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Cuba

Cuba won't abandon communism, Raúl Castro says

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MEXICO CITY — With shouts of “Viva Fidel!” Cuban President Raúl Castro said on Saturday that the easing of tensions with the United States did not mean he was going to jettison the communist ideals that his brother brought to the island a half-century ago.

In a speech to the Cuban parliament, during which he honored the return of three Cuban spies who were part of a prisoner swap with the United States, Castro thanked President Barack Obama for his decision to reestablish diplomatic relations.

But he reiterated the principles of the communist revolution and suggested that change would not come quickly to Cuba.

“We must not expect that in order for relations with the United States to improve, Cuba will abandon the ideas that it has struggled for,” he said.

Castro’s speech highlighted the tricky road ahead for relations between the two longtime antagonists. The Cuban detente may not mean rapid economic or political change on the island. But it has already reshuffled the deck politically in Latin America.

Castro said on Saturday that he would attend a regional meeting with the U.S. president and other leaders in Panama in April. When Obama walks into the Summit of the Americas, the man considered the imperialist-in-chief by some Latin American leaders is likely to face a much warmer crowd.

With his decision last week, Obama swept away a decades-long grudge held not just by the aging communist regime but by some of the staunchest U.S. allies in the region.

“This makes it so much easier for the U.S. to relate to its allies and friends in the region,” said Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

The new U.S. policy also weakens the position of one of the most vocal American critics in the region, President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. His country has been Cuba’s biggest supporter, sending it millions of barrels of oil. But falling oil prices have led to a severe economic crisis in Venezuela, causing rising inflation and shortages of food and other basic necessities and reducing the country’s influence in the region. And now Cuba has reached a deal with the United States.

“It totally marginalizes Maduro and his government,” Sabatini said. “Clearly, Raúl Castro is diversifying his assets and his options.”

A day after Obama announced the Cuba changes, he imposed stiff new sanctions on Venezuela. The decision to deny visas and freeze the assets of some Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations this year struck some analysts as a concession by the Obama administration to the anti-Castro voices in Congress.

“I think those things clearly are related,” David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, said Friday from Venezuela.

The changed relationship with Cuba “makes it a little bit more difficult for the Maduro government to argue that the Obama government is imperialist and controlling its back yard,” he said. The imposition of sanctions, meanwhile, “gives Obama cover about being soft on dictators.”

Maduro, for his part, initially praised Obama for his courage in making the overture to Cuba but then responded harshly to the sanctions. The successor to Hugo Chávez described on Twitter the back-to-back moves by the Obama administration as the “contradictions of an empire that seeks to impose its domination by whatever means.” He said they showed that the U.S. government was opening a “new phase of aggressions” against Venezuela.

U.S. officials hope that they can start a more productive chapter with anti-U.S. stalwarts in Latin America such as Bolivia and Ecuador — whose leaders have used the conflict between Washington and Havana to strengthen their arguments that the United States is a regional bully. And some analysts predict that Obama will gain leverage in the region to push Venezuela harder on human rights issues.

The longtime resentment in the region about the embargo on Cuba has grown in recent years as more left-wing governments have come to power in Latin America and more leaders viewed the policy as an unfair and ineffective relic.

While Obama’s Cuba shift was received positively in Latin America, some people in the region worry it could pose a business threat to them as U.S. agricultural firms, airlines, cruise operators and Internet and telecom companies move to take advantage of the island’s market. Some tourism operators in popular Mexican destinations such as Cancún have worried that they might lose business as U.S. travelers opt instead for Cuban beaches.

Related: Obama’s surprise opening to Cuba sparks cautious reaction among US travel execs

Brazil has invested heavily in Cuba, including contributing $800 million to help build the Mariel free-trade zone and container port that opened last year.

The U.S. opening toward Cuba “basically challenges Brazil’s role [in Cuba] in many ways,” Sabatini said.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto talked by phone with Castro on Thursday, congratulating him on the agreement and inviting him to Mexico, according to a statement from the Mexican presidency. Castro, the statement said, welcomed further investment by Mexican companies in Cuba. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara planned their revolution in the 1950s in Mexico, which has maintained diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba over the years.

The U.S. government now moves to the nuts and bolts of “normalizing” relations. Some of that work is fairly formulaic, such as ending the role of the Swiss government as a “protecting power” over U.S. interests in Cuba or changing the title of chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to a charge d’affaires at an embassy (the harder part is receiving Senate confirmation of a new ambassador). There are other issues to discuss in the near-term, such as caps on the number of diplomats and their freedom of movement in each country.

Details also must be worked out for the changes on trade, travel and banking transactions that Obama announced. The first high-level meetings to discuss the next steps will take place next month when Roberta Jacobson, the State Department’s assistant secretary in charge of Latin American affairs, will travel to Havana.

Some officials expect that the overall embargo could be the next casualty, given the international support for Obama’s measures. Lifting the embargo, however, would require congressional approval.

Recommended: Normalized relations between Cuba and US could have ‘drastic’ impact on MLB

© 2014, The Washington Post

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Bobpiazza

There are 5 countries claiming remain communist in 2014:
1. People’s Republic of China
2. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
3. Socialist Republic of Vietnam
4. Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos)
5. Republic of Cuba
Nice company for Cuba which is the only Catholic country in that club!
To this date, every year thousands of Cubans immigrate to the USA (many in dangerous rafts)
There are sanctions against North Korea and I’ve yet to hear complaints about that.
Reader DARYL COOPER submitted may facts, but it would have been better had there been references as to their accuracy.
If you want to read detailed information about Cuba/USA relations go to:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article1958318.html

Does anyone really believe a Republican dominated congress will lift sanctions to Cuba? A majority of Cuban Americans are against such.
So, while criticizing the US, remember the people dictate to the congress, just like in a Democracy.

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daryl cooper

There is a solution to the US Cuba embargo. Let Cuba have normal relations with the world. The USA can continue to do whatever they chose wrt Cuba but let the world into Cuba without fines/penalties and sanctions.
Fix this:Cuba is the only country the US applies the Trading With the Enemy Act. Using this law USA has levied billions of dollars in fines to various countries and businesses who have done business with the ‘enemy’.
The Torricelli Act that prohibit subsidiaries of U.S. companies in third countries from trading with Cuba. Many have had huge fines over the decades
The Helms-Burton Act prevents international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, from granting credit to Cuba. 2014 many European banks were charged and fined millions.

World travel is affected. This year a Argentina-based travel agency settled for $2.8 million fine for offering services to people who traveled to Cuba. A large Dutch travel company settled for $5.9 million for similar charges. Canadian subsidiary of insurance giant AIG sold policies to people traveling to Cuba, was levied a $279,038 fine.

2014 the blockade has cost Cuba an estimated $3.9 billion in foreign trade, which brings the inflation-adjusted total to $1.1 trillion lost since the blockade was implemented 55 years ago

U.S. government uses its full power to punish the world. In June 2014 the Justice Department levied the largest fine in the history of the blockade against French bank BNP Paribas, who paid $9 billion.

The last 5 years 130 extraterritorial actions were taken against Cuba resulting in $11.4 billion in fines

The people of Cuba suffer. The US wouldn’t let the world do business with Cuba ..now they are playing the role of ‘savior’.

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