Legendary singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez — arguably Cuba’s most celebrated musician — is lashing out at the United States government because they have allegedly denied him a visa to travel to the country. Rodríguez was set to perform at a tribute concert for U.S. folk musician Pete Seeger on his 90th birthday, but ICE seems to have impeded that. In a letter sent from Paris and published in Cuba’s Granma newspaper, Rodríguez states:
“It’s Friday, May 1st, 8:40 pm in Paris and I just visited the U.S. Embassy’s website for France where information about visa appications is published [...] mine is still pending, the same state it has been in since I first applied. Since today was the day I was to fly to New York and the visa hasn’t materialized, tomorrow I am going back to Havana.”
Fidel Castro said Tuesday that President Obama “misinterpreted” his brother Raul’s sentiments toward the United States and bristled at any suggestion Cuba should free political prisoners or reduce official fees on money sent to the island from the U.S.
Raul Castro touched off a whirlwind of speculation that the U.S. and Cuba could be headed toward a thaw in nearly a half-century of chilly relations last week, when he said Cuban leaders would be willing to sit down with their U.S. counterparts and discuss “everything,” including human rights, freedom of the press and expression, and political prisoners on the island.
I can’t help it, I must say that it amuses me to think of the trouble that Raul must be in right now. How badly did he screw that whole thing up? We can blame it on “misinterpretation,” but you know Fidel is threatening to keep him hidden in an attic room somewhere now.
I don’t think anybody really knows what to do with Obama’s extended hand rhetoric. Chavez is shaking hands with Obama, Raul is offering to talk, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is talking to resident flake, George Stephanopoulos… Obama is making world leaders look like total assholes if they don’t also extend a hand–but hell, who really wants to extend a hand when you can be a macho anti-U.S. crusader?
It will be interesting to see what happens in the upcoming years when the newness of Obama rhetoric wears off.
A poet friend of mine invited me to join a Facebook Group called , “AMERICA” is not U.S.A. AMERICA is the name for a whole continent”. This US-centrism has been a peeve of mine for at least ten years now, specifically from when I lived in Chile and found myself in the very difficult position of defending my Latina/Puerto Rican identity (Yes, Kai I’m talking about being Rican again, sigh).
Now the idea of who is “America” comes up again against the context of The Summit of the Americas, which started yesterday in Trinidad. Love him or hate him, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua raised a good point at the start of the Summit, saying:
“It is not of the Americas , because Cuba is missing, Puerto Rico is missing,”
So how can you have a Summit of the Americas without two nations facing important challenges rooted in colonialism? (more…)
This is historic yes, and it’s clear that the intent was to speak directly to Cuban-Americans and who knows maybe even Cubans. Pero dies it show that the Obama administration “gets it” as the anchor woman says?
Get what exactly?
The embargo is still in place. Travel to Cuba is still limited to Cuban-Americans.
While the policy is a change, it’s not exactly groundbreaking.
And what about that pesky immigration issue?
Where’s the Spanish language White House briefing on that.
As was speculated last week, President Obama will lift all travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans, allowing them to visit the island as many times and for as long as they like.
“Restrictions on the families will be lifted,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said an announcement lifting all restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans to the island would come later in the day.
It would be the first time since 1982 that Cuban-Americans would be free to travel back and forth between the United States and Cuba.
Also lifted are restrictions on remesas, the monetary remittances sent by Cuban Americans to family back on the island, which were — previously capped at $300 every 3 months — and packages containing personal items such as clothing and personal hygiene products.
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is like the chupacabra. A few people have claimed to have seen him pero no one is really sure if he’s real, as in really still alive. Among the most recent to visit with the ailing Castro were three members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were in Cuba for a historic meeting.
The meetings were the highest-ranking US-Cuba meetings since former president Jimmy Carter visited Fidel Castro in Havana in 2002.
Castro “was very engaging, very energetic, (and) discussed a wide range of issues,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. Rep. Laura Richardson observed that Castro “looked directly into our eyes, quite aware of what was happening, and said to us ‘how can we help President Obama?’”
Last week we told you about an initiative among several U.S. Senators to lift the ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba. While some — both on the Cuban side and the U.S. side — might see this as a good thing for the island, Spain’s El País reports (and editorializes) that the Cuban government is proceeding with caution:
Authorities in Havana are looking anxiously at the possibility that the U.S. might lift the travel ban that impedes American tourists from visiting Cuba “too soon”. On the one hand this is desired and seen as a salvation in these times of crisis, but on the other, the end of the banning of U.S. tourism is perceived as a challenge, with a high potential for destabilizing the political and idealogical landscape, according to observers and diplomats.
To provide perspective on what this major change in U.S.-Cuba relations could mean to prolongation of Cuba as we know it today, El País points to statements made by Cuban politician Armando Hart, who warned against the effects of a lifting of the embargo on Cuban society:
If he [Obama] keeps his promise [of lifting the embargo], a new age of idealogical combat between the Cuban revolution and imperialism will be born. Within it, the design of a new theoretical and propagandistic concept around our ideas and their origin will be needed…a broad migration towards distinct objectives could come upon us and we need to culturally prepare ourselves for that.”
I think this pretty much sums up the overall point: this isn’t just about welcoming dollars into the Cuban economy via American tourism, but rather what that will actually mean to Cuba: an influx of everything the revolution has been trying to combat all these years. American tourism is a demonstration of rampant consumerism which is capitalism at its maximum expression, and that flies in the face of the Cuban way of life. Sure, it’s been filtering through for years now via European tourism, but this sudden aperture is bound to push communist leaders on the island to reconsider the way the reconcile the ideals they wish their people to live by and the fact that the enemy is coming in and leaving a piece of their culture of consumption on the island.
What do you think? Will U.S. tourism to Cuba radically change Cuban society? How will leaders deal with this? What will Cuba look like after, say, 20 years of U.S. tourism to the island? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
While President Obama might not be ready to end the Cuban embargo, a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators are on a crusade to lift the ban on U.S. travelers to the island.
“I think there’s sufficient votes in both the House (of Representatives) and the Senate to finally get it passed,” Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan said at a news conference.
Dorgan, whose home state of North Dakota could benefit from increased agricultural sales to Cuba, introduced the bill along with fellow Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd and Republican Senators Richard Lugar and Mike Enzi. Seventeen other senators also are sponsoring the measure. A companion bill introduced in the House earlier this year has 121 co-sponsors.
Personally, I am not buying that. Years of isolation has made the Castro regime stronger, and tourism isn’t going to make a difference either way. Cuba is already overloaded with tourists from all over the world, and a few more coming by way of Miami International Airport isn’t going to drastically change anything.
For all of you who might have been looking to the Obama administration for an end to the mini cold war that is still being waged, some 40 years later, between the United States and Cuba, you’re out of luck. Vice President Joe Biden was in Viña del Mar, Chile last week for the “Summit of Progressive Leaders“ and announced that this is not likely to happen anytime soon. Oh, but wait, we want Cubans to be free and, uh, this IS the Summit of Progressive Leaders! That must mean we are progressive!
The U.S. has no plans to lift its trade embargo on Cuba, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters today after a heads-of-government meeting in Chile.
“We think the Cuban people should determine their own fate and that they should be able to live in freedom and with some prospect of economic prosperity,” Biden said. “But Cuba is not the biggest challenge facing the hemisphere, the biggest challenge facing the hemisphere is the economy.”
But hold up, wait a minute: didn’t candidate Obama call for an end to the embargo when he was campaigning? An end to it because of its “damaging effects on the Cuban people”? Candidate Obama, where art thou?
Much to the chagrin of right-wing Cuban Americans, President Obama is moving towards a more open relationship with Cuba after 40 years of abysmal dealings between the two countries. He’s not lifting the embargo just yet (I fear riots might break out in Miami should that ever happen) but he is lightening restrictions on visits to the island by those Cuban Americans who have family there. 5 years after restrictions were enacted by Bush, Obama’s shaking things up a bit, allowing those with family in Cuba to visit the island once a year for as long as they choose.
In its 2009 budget bill, Congress took away the U.S. Department of Treasury’s funding for enforcement of more restrictive rules that only allowed visits to immediate relatives once every three years.
That meant the trips were still illegal — but the U.S. government did not have the funding to investigate it.
On Wednesday night, the Treasury department lifted the restrictions all together, making annual trips to Cuba legal. A rule posted on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s web site shows Cuban Americans can now follow the regulations that existed prior to Bush’s June 2004 toughened rules.
The rollback also means people can visit more distant relatives, including those by marriage.
While this isn’t the extent to which I wish things would happen in U.S.-Cuba relations, it is a step ahead which I personally applaud. Havana, however, has remained — uncharacteristically — tight-lipped on this new development, which also includes a hike in the amount of money can be sent back to Cuba by Cuban Americans, which was previously limited to $100 per month.