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OBAMA AND CUBA/LATIN AMERICA

OBAMA AND CUBA/LATIN AMERICA
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Obama Says That the United States' “Days of Meddling” in Latin America Are Past


Just prior to the April 10, 2015 opening ceremony of the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City, President Obama shook hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro. Obama told those in attendance that “the days in which our [America's] agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.” Moreover, Obama said he hoped that a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations would improve the lives of the Cuban people: “Not because it's imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspiration and the conversation among Cubans, among all walks of life. So they can decide what is the best course of prosperity.” The previous day, the State Department had recommended that Cuba be removed from the list of countries that the U.S. considered to be sponsors of terrorism.

During the Summit, Obama said: “The Cold War has been over for a long time. And I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born. What I am interested in is solving problems, working with you. That’s what the United States is interested in doing.”


Obama Announces His Intent to Remove Cuba from List of Nations That Sponsor Terrorism

The “state sponsors of terrorism list” is mandated under Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended, under which the Secretary of State makes a determination when a country “has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”  As explained in a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service in 2005, “certain trade benefits, most foreign aid, support in the international financial institutions, and other benefits are restricted or denied to countries named as state sponsors of international terrorism.” Cuba was initially placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism during the first term of the Reagan administration in 1982 because of Cuba’s “efforts to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism.” It remained on the list for the next 32 years.

Then, on April 14, 2015, the Obama Administration – claiming that Cuba “has not provided any support for international terrorism” in six months – announced its intention to remove that country from the American government’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

But as Frances Martel of Breitbart.com pointed out, “almost every senior official of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist group,” was present in Havana. Added Martel: “The Cuban government has also been implicated in repeated instances of supporting Iranian-sponsored terrorism, particularly the activities of the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah. In 2011, an Italian newspaper reported that Hezbollah was secretly planning to establish a base in Havana to better organize its activities in Latin America.”

Along the same lines, journalist Joseph Klein noted:

* “Cuba is still harboring fugitives such as the domestic terrorist and cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, a member of the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, and William Guillermo Morales, the chief bomb-maker and one of the leaders of the Puerto Rican terrorist group, Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN). Chesimard was placed by the FBI in 2013 on the 'Most Wanted Terrorist List.' At minimum, she and Morales should have been handed over to U.S. authorities as a pre-condition to Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

* “[Cuba] has not publicly committed itself to ceasing its reported involvement with Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s patron Iran, which remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Several months before 9/11, Fidel Castro traveled to Iran and said, 'Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.'”

“ Cuba has also shared its biotechnology with the Iranian regime. … [Moreover,] the Venezuelan regime is a puppet controlled by the Cubans....”

“Turkey’s terrorism-linked entity with ties to Hamas, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, has also spread its tentacles to Cuba in recent years.”

* “Then there is Cuba’s relationship with North Korea, which supplies arms to Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran. In 2013, the Cuban regime was caught smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea including 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft, 15 engines for MiG-21 aircraft, components for surface-to-air missile systems, ammunition and miscellaneous arms-related material.”


Negative Results of Normalized U.S. Relations with Cuba

In the six months following President Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba, most indicators of human rights in that country took a turn for the worse. As the Washington Post reported on July 1, 2015:

“Since December, there have been more than 3,000 political detentions in Cuba, including 641 in May and 220 on Sunday alone, according to dissident sources. Most were accompanied by beatings; at least 20 detainees required medical treatment in May. After Cuba was invited for the first time to the Summit of the Americas in Panama, regime thugs attacked the civil society activists who also showed up....

“Visits by Americans to Cuba are reportedly up by a third, including plenty of political delegations. But in the months after Mr. Obama announced the diplomatic opening in December, there was also a 120 percent increase in Cubans seeking to flee to the United States. Many worry that once relations are normalized, the United States will stop accepting refugees; according to recent polling, more than half of Cubans would like to leave the country.

“Mr. Obama eased regulations on U.S. food sales, but imports of American food to the island, controlled by the state, dropped by half in the first three months of 2015, compared with last year. Netflix announced that Cubans could stream its service — but the charge for an hour of access to one of the few government-controlled Internet hotspots equals 10 percent of a typical government worker’s monthly salary, and independent Cuban Web sites are blocked....

“[T]he results of Mr. Obama’s initiative so far underline the opportunity he missed in not requiring even modest alleviation of the dictatorship’s repression in exchange for what amounts to a political and economic bailout of a failing regime.”


Cuba Says It Will Not Move "One Millimeter" to Placate the United States

In August 2015, Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said unequivocally: "Decisions on internal matters are not negotiable and will never be put on the negotiating agenda in conversations with the United States. Cuba will never do absolutely anything, not move one millimeter, to try to respond."


Obama Changes Policy on Returning Cuban Refugees to Cuba

On January 12, 2017, Reuters.com reported the following: 

 

The Obama administration on Thursday repealed a measure granting automatic residency to virtually every Cuban who arrived in the United States, whether or not they had visas, ending a longstanding exception to U.S. immigration policy. The end of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed any Cuban who reached U.S. soil to stay but returned any picked up at sea, is effective immediately. Cuban officials had sought the change for years.... The Department of Homeland Security also ended a parole program that allowed entry for Cuban medical professionals. That program was unpopular with Havana because it prompted doctors to leave, sapping the country's pool of trained health workers.

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepts thousands of Cubans attempting the 90-mile (145-km) crossing to Florida every year, but tens of thousands who reach U.S. soil, including via Mexico, have been allowed to stay in the country, while immigrants from other nations have been rounded up and sent home.... 

"Wet foot, dry foot" began in 1995 under President Bill Clinton after an exodus of tens of thousands of Cubans who were picked up at sea by the Coast Guard as they tried to reach Florida.... Until now, virtually every Cuban who made it to U.S. soil was granted the right to stay in the country, the right to apply for work permits and, later, green cards, which convey lawful permanent residency.

Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, said on a call that Cuba will take back citizens as long as less than four years have passed between the time the migrant left Cuba and the start of the U.S. deportation proceedings.

A likely motivation for this move was the fact that Cubans have historically voted Republican more than Democrat. As Humberto Fontova writes: "While 'White' American voters supported [Republican presidential candidate Donald] Trump at a rate of 56%, Cuban American voters went for the Republican candidate at a rate of 58%--or perhaps even higher."

 

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