Moment of Truth for Obama and Cuba

Alberto N Jones

Obama in Cuba.
Obama in Cuba.

HAVANA TIMES — In less than four months, Barack Obama will no longer be president of the United States and he will return to civilian life, without many of his national and international ambitions having been fulfilled.

Restoring diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba is, without a doubt, one of Barack Obama’s greatest political victories, as he managed to do what no other US president before him could do in half a century.

In spite of enormous pressure, media attacks, an obstructionist Congress in hands of the opposition party that doesn’t stop going on about the tragic days of the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis, this achievement may end and maybe even revert the most important political conflict in our region within the last 50 years.

The indescribable economic and social damage, stress, disease and death which the Cuban people have had to endure, has marked a heroic people, who knew how to resist the greatest attack by the giant in the North, with indelible scars.

US intellectuals and political experts who have visited Cuba have held exchanges with our intellectuals, visited the Hemingway museum and drank a daiquiri or two at the Floridita. Then they return home to the US converted into experts on all things Cuban, editors about Cuban subjects, giving conferences at universities and on the TV. Some of these people have contributed to twisting and warming anti-Cuban sentiments in the US.

Similarly, some Cuban intellectuals who have visited the US, given conferences and are considered in Cuba to be experts on the super complex and contradictory US policy, where apart from having the authority to declare war, the president of the United States is tied by his hands and feet with Congress’ never-ending deliberations. Worst still is when draft bills are set aside and die out in the hands of the opposition party.

Cuba’s media has made the general population believe that the US president has the immense privilege, authority and decision-making power that the Cuban president has, creating a false impression that is self-destructive.

Obama in Revolution Square in Havana.
Obama in Revolution Square in Havana during his visit in March, 2016.

Some members of Cuba’s mass media who demand that president Barack Obama lift the trade embargo, do away with the Helms-Burton Act and other things, haven’t bothered to explain to the Cuban people that these measures are encoded in law. This means that in order to change them, 3/4 of the 450 members in the House of Representatives and the Senate need to approve it.

Denying the huge effort that Barack Obama has made to normalize relations between the two countries, a lot more than what all his predecessors did put together, is cruel and unfair.

Maintaining a false politically correct stance, fearful of retribution for admitting undeniable truths, is a mistake by Cuban authorities and their media. The fact is that the presence of Barack Obama in Cuba was an infusion of hope, honor and dignity especially for black Cubans, who could appreciate the simple, frank and friendly way he and his family held themselves, thereby breaking down age-old infuriating racist notions that continue to exist in Cuba.

Unfortunately, many preferred to capitalize on a mistaken paragraph in his speech which suggested forgetting the past as a way to move forward and make progress with the relationship between these two countries.

Momentary amnesia led many to forget the risks, invasions, shortages, devastation and grief that other US leaders had infringed on our country. They failed to recognize the value of how Obama, just like former president Carter, held out his hand to us in reconciliation.

Obama with Raul Castro at Havana's Latin American baseball stadium.
Obama with Raul Castro at Havana’s Latin American baseball stadium.

Cuba would have benefited much more if the spotlight had been inverted, inviting Obama to visit and morally commit himself to his black brothers in Marianao and Santiago de Cuba; by showing him the great material and psychological damage that the presence of the Navy Base has caused to the people of Guantanamo, or by inviting him to the Isle of Youth to show him our rural schools, where thousands of children, orphaned by wars in Africa and others, received love, education, healthcare and are today honest men and women all over the world?

We could have publicly summoned him to develop a project with Cuba after the Guantanamo base is returned some day to the country.

This unique opportunity to show the world our people’s altruism, humanism and empathy was thrown out of the window.

Cuba cannot expect better conditions to negotiate with either of the two US presidential candidates. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency would revert the two countries’ relationship back to the worst moments in the Cold War and Hillary Clinton’s aggressive mentality is more than well-known.

This is the moment of truth!

40 thoughts on “Moment of Truth for Obama and Cuba

  • Then you are perpetuating a lie.

  • Have fun in La-La Land, and good luck convincing anyone that you can magically travel as a legal tourist because of your make-believe fantasy loophole.

    Goodbye and take care my confused friend.

  • Have a look at what happened: prices of hotels in Havana skyrocketed. The travel “P2P” which should be labelled “U2C” (US tourists to Castro) are limited to government controlled tours. These US travelers see nothing but what the regime wants them to see. The economic impact is substantial for a desperate regime.
    On the other hand: compared to the 8-10 billion dollars the Cuban “slave labor” of doctors brings in the 3 billion from tourism (enhanced by US tourism but decreased by displaced European tourism due to price hikes) is not that relevant.
    The psychological impact of Obama’s actions is the most important: the Castro elite think they might get away with it and that the US will help them to transit from a Stalinist elite to a military-political-economic oligarchy.

  • Indeed time to move on as I am flogging a dead horse.

    You are reduced to what I consider insults (rant, politician, inability to grasp, …).
    I don’t “rant”, I post referenced arguments.
    I hate politicians.
    I have a law degree so I am vary able to grasp any and all legalities in play here.

    The Supreme Court upheld cases because it saw that this was not a travel ban, but an ban on spending in Cuba. It says that in its won words and you can’t substitute yours and remain credible. It is you that show an “inability to grasp the most basic legalities of the US Law” to paraphrase you.

    Again: the Supreme Court says:
    “Given the traditional deference to executive judgment in the realm of foreign policy, there is an adequate basis under the Due Process Clause to sustain the President’s decision to curtail, by restricting travel, the flow of hard currency to Cuba that could be used in support of Cuban adventurism. Pp. 468 U. S. 240-243.”
    “Regan v. Wald 468 U.S. 222 (1984)”

    Anyone that can read will see what I said is the same.
    The “chuckles” are on you.

  • You sound like a long time politician, someone who can endlessly spin the simplest of concepts into nonsense.

    Your inability to grasp the most basic legalities of the OFAC and US State Department regulations or how the US Supreme Court has unfailingly upheld them from the very beginning is quite frankly, mind boggling.

    In any case, carry on in your fantasy world where you, and only you, secretly knows how to travel legally as an American tourist.

    Thanks for the chuckles, movin’ on…

  • No rant. They upheld the sanctions system because it is a ban on spending and not on travel. You can’t deny the US Supreme Courts legally binding assessment.

    As far as links go: I have posted to
    – a travel site that aims to promote travel and inform people
    – a site from an activist promoting travel to Cuba (claims to have been part of the Supreme Court case)
    – the US supreme court quoting their decision:
    “Regan v. Wald, 468 U.S. 222 (1984)”
    That says:
    “2. The restrictions on travel-related transactions with Cuba imposed by the 1982 amendment to Regulation 560 do not violate the freedom to travel protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Cf. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U. S. 1. Given the traditional deference to executive judgment in the realm of foreign policy, there is an adequate basis under the Due Process Clause to sustain the President’s decision to curtail, by restricting travel, the flow of hard currency to Cuba that could be used in support of Cuban adventurism. Pp. 468 U. S. 240-243.”

    Here is the why:

    None of the sources above can be even remotely seen as anti-Castro. People with an interest and a passion for free travel to Cuba confirm what I said and refer to the US supreme court (a decision I posted to) to confirm what I said. I could hardly have chosen a better mix, no? No possibility to claim I use “lying anti-Castro” sites. The mix is what it is to show I am honest and informed.

    In legal matter the US Supreme Court is the ultimate legal authority. The rule of precedent stands tall in US law. You want me to accept the “rants” of a person that seems to think his views on US law supersede that of the US Supreme Court.

    Again: the whole discussion is – as I said – “lame” which you confirm by agreeing with me that no prosecutions are being brought.

    That doesn’t change the fact that one has to look at what the so called “travel sanctions” in law actually “bottom line” where (now clearly non-existent due to liberal and meaningless exceptions and non-prosecution): a prohibition on supporting the Castro regime financially.

    The fact that OFAC tried to present it differently doesn’t change the legal facts and – as one of my sources said” for the uninformed it looked like that. There is a reason why there are few prosecutions: the burden of proof. Merely showing someone traveled to Cuba was in fact not enough. The fact some people were misled and intimidated in the past and settled paying fines doesn’t change that. People that knew the US Supreme Court ruling know better. You are the one propagating a “legal and internet myth”. Not me.
    The travel ban was upheld as it aimed to restrict the flow of funds. That means that without flow of funds (directly or indirectly) it can not be upheld. My argument precise.

  • “… Strange that even the Supreme Court buys in to the “internet myth”, no?…”

    That is complete nonsense. They NEVER bought into your rant, that’s why you’ve been wrong from the beginning. All your government links clearly point this out.

    You truly are in a fantasy land, imagining that you’ve somehow discovered a magical legal loophole that only you know about.

    And I have no clue why you posted a link to a commercial travel blogger, could there be a more lame source? It’s common knowledge that no American tourist has been prosecuted for illegal travel in over a decade and you can confirm that info right on the OFAC website. Their legal actions/sanctions are public record.

    Carry on.

  • Strange that even the Supreme Court buys in to the “internet myth”, no?

    The text you want to ignore and the link again:
    “Americans are not actually prohibited from traveling to Cuba but are prohibited from spending any money in Cuba”
    Please don’t misrepresent facts.
    What OFAC says and what it can enforce are two different things.
    Look past the obvious.

    As far as the legal side of it see: 1984 Supreme Court Wald Versus Regan decision: (here are the words of a pro-travel advocate that was connected to the suit on the theme)

    It upheld the travel ban – as you call it – as it was merely a prohibition on spending money.
    (see link)

    “2. The restrictions on travel-related transactions with Cuba imposed by the 1982 amendment to Regulation 560 do not violate the freedom to travel protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Cf. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U. S. 1. Given the traditional deference to executive judgment in the realm of foreign policy, there is an adequate basis under the Due Process Clause to sustain the President’s decision to curtail, by restricting travel, the flow of hard currency to Cuba that could be used in support of Cuban adventurism. Pp. 468 U. S. 240-243.”

    It is all “academical” anyway:
    “While it’s still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism, it seems in practice, no one really enforces these travel restrictions anymore.
    Tens of thousands of Americans travel to Cuba every year without a license. In fact since President Obama took office, ZERO Americans have been fined for visiting Cuba.”

  • Here’s a very interesting account of how Obama’s new Cuba policy developed, by Anderson Lee, (who wrote a well regarded biography of Che):

    I’m not a big fan of the new policy, as I see it enriching the Castro regime, and not helping the Cuban people. However, that said, I do give Obama credit for his intellectual flexibility in trying something new and shifting locked the narrative between the US & Cuba. It might yet result in real change and improvement for the Cuban people.

    Obama observed that Raul wants to transition Cuba along the Chinese model, to another form of authoritarian government. But in his opinion, it won’t work out like that for Cuba because it is so much smaller than China, and it’s very close to a large and dynamic Cuban exile population in Florida. While Raul’s goal is regime survival, the process he has started on will inevitably result in transformation.

    I hope & pray Obama is correct in his assessment.

  • I was referring to the comment that the Chinese middle class was expanding and getting wealthier as compared to the American middle class which is shrinking and getting poorer. While your essay on Canadian Agriculture , food safety and Alberta Beef and the failed Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s was interesting that wasn’t my main point. What is interesting, I think, is comparing the American system with the current Chinese system [ call it what you wish] and how it is affecting the Middle Class of each country. One country is moving in one direction, the other in the other direction.

  • CUBAQUS, you’re chasing your own tail.

    First you post a link clearly stating that what I posted is indeed correct.

    Then you try to throw in your own comment that you think if you pay for an American to travel to Cuba and they don’t compensate you the trip somehow magically becomes legal. That’s total hogwash that was struck down by the US Supreme Court decades ago when they ruled that travel to Cuba and spending money in Cuba is the very same thing. Period.

    Simply read the OFAC regulations. Section II, Number 7 states, QUESTION: Is travel to Cuba for tourist activities permitted? ANSWER: No. Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited.

    Here’s the official OFAC link:

    There’s no secret legal loophole. There’s no way for you to somehow legally flank the US Department of State, the OFAC or the US Supreme Court. Your “argument” was legally shot down decades ago.

    You’re living in a fantasy land.

  • Sorry, no internet myth. A fact.

    “Americans are not actually prohibited from traveling to Cuba but are prohibited from spending any money in Cuba which effectively amounts to the same thing since with a maximum penalty for unauthorized travel to Cuba of US$ 250,000 and 10 years in prison most people are unwilling to argue that they managed to avoid spending any cash during the duration of their trip to Cuba!”

    Note I didn’t choose a biased source but one that says “it effectively amounts to the same”. in fact it doesn’t. I can legally pay for an American to travel to Cuba as long as he does not compensate me in any way.

    Sorry for the long link:

    Only when traveling to Cuba under a “licensed” P2P package are you allowed to spend money.
    Reread the data.

  • Obama has argued that by exposing Cuba to American visitors, the wonders of the American way of life will rub off on them, and the country will somehow transfer into a democracy.

    And yet, the Cuban people have already been exposed to millions of Canadian tourists for 3 decades now. Has this exposure to our Canadian way of life helped bring democracy and freedom to Cuba? If not, how will US tourists perform this miraculous transformation of Cuba?

  • The statistics on Cuba’s healthcare system, including infant mortality rates, are provided by the Cuban government to international bodies, such as the WHO. No independent research is allowed. Medical workers are banned by Cuban law from speaking freely to foreign healthcare researchers. You would be remarkably naive to believe the unchecked statistics provided by the Castro dictatorship.

    We also have the reports of Cuban doctors, such as Dr. Oscar Biscet, who spoke out against the Castro regimes inhuman & immoral medical practices, such as forced late term abortions and even the practice of leaving babies born with defects to die, rather than providing them with medical care. These two practices have the effect of lowering the apparent infant mortality rate in Cuba, because the deaths are recorded as still-births, not infant mortalities, as they would be in the US or Canada.

  • And many other countries have a lower rate of infant mortality than Cuba. Look it up!
    The top couple of dozen are all capitalist!

  • As you well know Ben, China seeks the power of extradition from Canada. All the chit-chat about beef and canola is just that. Regarding food safety, Canada lags far behind. Indeed it wasn’t until April 30, 1999 that the Canadian Food Safety Authority was formed. Traceability of food products has yet to be introduced.
    What is “Alberta’s famous beef”? Is it beef born, raised and killed in Alberta. or is it beef brought in from other provinces and slaughtered in Alberta at Brooks and/or High River, or is it any particular breed of cattle? Let’s face the truth Ben, much of the beef designated as “Alberta Beef” was raised elsewhere from a mixture of some 20 different breeds, there is no consistency of product and there is no traceability in the event of food poisoning. The E-coli scandal of 2015 verifies my comments. All that “Alberta Beef” has in common is being hormone treated. But if someone in say Ontario is infected with salmonella from strawberries there is no way of tracing from whence those strawberries came. Why not copy the EU system of 1990 – no need to re-invent the wheel.
    Also as you are probably aware, the concerns that the Chinese expressed about Canadian Canola, was the high level of adulteration because it had not been properly cleaned following combined harvesting. Canadian farmers have for far too long exaggerated the problems faced as a consequence of their own inadequacies. They have failed to diversify, they have failed to provide proper health and safety regulations for employees, and they have mislead folks by suggesting that they are a major wheat producer when producing less than 4% of the world’s total. Finally Ben, remember that the whole of Canadian agriculture produces only 2% of the GDP.
    Following Mao Zedong and his slaughter of so many of his fellow Chinese (estimates are some 20 million, exceeding those of Stalin and Hitler) and the Little Red Book, you are rather late in thinking that China is becoming communist – you are fifty years behind the times and reality.

  • “… In fact: any American can travel to Cuba as tourist…”

    That is 100% incorrect, CUBAQUS.

    Claiming that not spending money on any non-approved tourism is absolutely false. It’s an Internet urban myth that for some reason refuses to die because it’s repeated over and over by uninformed posters.

    You need to read the OFAC regulations.

  • In fact: any American can travel to Cuba as tourist. He just can’t spend any of his own money on non-approved tourism. Read the regulations.

  • The amount of income for the middle class in the U.S. is much higher of course, but it’s definitely not a bed of roses. Taxes and other “living expenses” suck up much of the cash flow and at the end of the month most people are left with empty pockets.

    So most of us end up just struggling most of the year and although Cubans are in worst economic conditions, they appear to be in better spirits than most people around here.

    However my message was about hoping for the continuation of improvement in the relationship between the two countries(lifting of the embargo etc) & a better future for both countries.

  • The biggest cause of Personal Bankruptcy in the US is from Medical Costs. Something to be proud of?

  • The US has a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba. Look it up.

  • Premier Li Keqiang of China is currently visiting Canada and a number of Trade Deals are being discussed. A newspaper article reports in part, “A growing wealthier Chinese middle class that demands more in food safety and more protein would be well served by Atlantic processed seafood and Alberta’s famous beef”
    What is particularly noteworthy is the description of the Chinese middle class as becoming wealthier. Contrast that with the American middle class that is shrinking and getting poorer. That’s why the Capitalist System as currently exists in the US is in crisis and has no long term future..
    The Chinese system operates using some aspects of Capitalism { a market economy] under the guidance of the Chinese Communist Party. They describe their system as Socialism with Chinese characteristics. Their goal is still to eventually move from Socialism to Communism. .

  • The Castro regime 2012 official figures are that blacks are only 9.9% of the population.

    If you think that that figure is yet another lie, tell them – get a letter published in ‘Granma’.

  • It will take a long long time if ever Ben for capitalism to descend to the level of incompetence demonstrated repeatedly by communist dictatorships. Even China recognised which was the better system and adopted capitalism.

  • One has much greater need for a better future than the other. Average earnings for a Cuban are $260 a year, those of an American $57,000. Which would you choose?

  • Really Ben? It’s not the capitalist system that can’t feed it’s people or is forced hospitals to place newborn baby’s in cardboard boxes for lack of proper facilities…..Cough, cough, ….Venezuela

  • Its the American Capitalist System that’s in deep trouble and you know it. Can’t be fixed. Trump or Clinton will try but its hopeless. Europe and Japan are also facing a day of reckoning. One thing for sure, its going to be messy.

  • For the record Gordon, I agree with you! The supposedly munificent Chinese only ever act in their own interests and in due course will dictate to Cuba. In pursuit of Chinese policies maybe Cuba will then lay claim to the Bay of Mexico being Cuban territorial waters.

  • Obviously Ben you didn’t read or comprehend what Obama said openly and clearly that to achieve change there had to be reciprocation. It was the venomous letter of March 28, supposedly written by Fidel Castro, followed by the speech given on March 29 by Bruno Rodriguez Cariiles that rejected any form of reciprocation.
    Next move up to Cuba!
    Let us hope that eventually that “Wonderful country. Wonderful people” will be released from the bondage of communism and allowed to determine their own future.

  • Alberto,
    Here in the U.S. we have much bigger problems on the horizon. There is no certainty as to our own future with the presidential elections approaching. Not too many people have confidence in either presidential candidates. We will have to wait and see what transpires once one of them is elected.

    Hopefully our embassies will remain open, and if they don’t, well that would be the first sign that we are reverting back to the dark ages.

    All we can do for now is not to give up on the hope for a better future for both our countries & for normalization of relations and the lifting of the embargo.

  • You are on the money. A President Clinton will not have political capital to act with ease of Obama in last two years. Their move.

  • 160,000 American tourists help, but it is not significant to Cuba’s economy. Obama gave them words and political overtures, but little economic impact. Cubans are in bad shape before Obama and is because communism. I was there during “El Periodo Especial” and today is not worse than during those years.

  • There are blacks all over Havana, Marianao is just another “barrio”. Blacks are more than 10%.

  • China is the new director for Cuba. Just wait and see !!!

  • I think the next move in normalizing relations with the US must be the removal of the American Economic Blockade & Trade Embargo. That must come from the US Congress. Not much hope there. Pretty well a stalemate. A one and a half million Canadian Tourists will continue to pour into Cuba each year. I’ll be one of them. Wonderful country. Wonderful people.

  • The problem George is that Cuba doesn’t have any free media to report reality. The so-called media in Cuba lies entirely within the power and control of the Communist Party of Cuba which in turn is controlled by the Castro family regime. It is but a pliant puppet.
    Obviously and properly, the pre-negotiations for the visit by president Obama to Cuba included that he be allowed to address the Cuban people live on TV – hence his speech at the Alicia Alonso Teatre which was broadcast live and the contents of which had to subsequently be rejected in both the so-called Fidel Castro ‘letter’ of March 28 and Bruno Rodriguez Carrilles speech of March 29.
    Regarding President Obama’s “black brothers” they according to the statistics published by the Castro regime are fewer than 10% of the total population. You may have noted that the author of the article Alberto N Jones, assumes that those “black brothers” who live in Havana, live in Marianoa not in Siboney.
    The obvious reason for Cubans assuming that a US President has total power and failing to know the authority of both Congress and the Senate, is that in Cuba they are attuned to their President having dictatorial power and control over every aspect of their lives. The Cuban educational system does not explain to students the actual differences between political systems as to do so would raise questions about their relative merits.

  • “… in a despêrate attempt to create something that looked like a legacy Obama threw a lifeline (cash from tourism) to the Castros…”

    It’s still illegal for an American to travel to Cuba as a tourist.

  • Obama was duped by the Castros. in a despêrate attempt to create something that looked like a legacy Obama threw a lifeline (cash from tourism) to the Castros. With Maduro failing, China being fed up and Russia in problems Cuba needed the US. With no more foreign support and a decrease in income from slave labor the Castros would have had to deal with the USA. Obama gave them a lot for nothing and the Cuban people are suffering because of that. The elite is surviving and can continue to pay their military and police cronies to repress the Cuban people. All Obama did was increase prices for tourists in Havana. Nothing more happened.

  • “This unique opportunity to show the world our people’s altruism, humanism and empathy was thrown out of the window.” – Alberto, do you really believe Obama’s U.S. handlers who negotiated the visit would have allowed this? Every aspect of Obama’s trip was planned as you know and I’m not sure the Cuban government had that much say in what he saw. Otherwise, without falling into sycophancy, I agree with the article. The problem with the Cuban media is that it fails to address U.S. reality realistically.

  • Obama also made it clear in both of his public speeches that the next move towards normalizing relations must come from the Castros.

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