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Ear to the Ground

Obama Seeks ‘New Beginning’ With Cuba

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Posted on Apr 17, 2009
Obama and Chavez
AP photo / Marianna Kambon, Summit of the Americas pool

Mending fences: President Barack Obama shakes hands with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez on Friday during the fifth Summit of the Americas, in the Trinidad and Tobago city Port of Spain.

Could it be that diplomacy works better than a my-way-or-the-highway approach when dealing with adversarial nations? Judging by President Obama’s apparent progress with the Cuban government, the answer would seem to be yes.

Los Angeles Times:

Progress toward a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations gained unexpected new momentum Friday as leaders of the two countries signaled a willingness to open potentially historic talks on issues that have bitterly divided them since the early days of the Cold War.

President Obama called for a “new beginning” with the island nation, capping a surge of gestures fed by a Cuban President Raul Castro’s declaration Thursday that his country “could be wrong” about its adversarial approach to its powerful northern neighbor.

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By dihey, April 20, 2009 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

I have tried to make sense of Obama’s Cuba policy.
In 2004 he averred that the embargo was a failure. One would think that ending a failure is good policy. When this was brought to his attention at a recent press conference Obama gave a truly idiotic answer: what was I doing in 2004? Ah, yes I was running for the Senate. Yes folks, that was his answer!
By refusing to press for the right of all Americans to travel freely to Cuba he is using us who are not Cuban-Americans with family in Cuba as pawns in some murky game with Castro.
What is the murky game about? Obama has repeatedly stated that Cuba must at least trend towards “democracy” if not become a full-fledged “democracy” as we know it before he can ask Congress to lift all restrictions.
All of this makes only sense if the crux of his policy is to make Cuba ripe for the penetration of US capitalism. Let us face it; Cuba is potentially a paradise for US investment, cheap labor, and profit making. They might even buy or rotten automobiles!
“Democratization” is the absolute prerequisite to forestall that a future Cuban government might ever nationalize US companies registered in Cuba again. Free enterprise must reign supreme!
This is the only context in which I can understand Obama’s Cuba policy. It will result in renewed civil war in Cuba.
All of the kudos to Obama for “a new approach to Cuba” are blind adulation. His is still the same old policy that began in the Eisenhower administration namely to wipe out the results of the Cuban revolution.
Obama does not have to talk to Castro to end the embargo and the travel ban. If he has any courage of conviction, which I doubt he has, he sends a new law to Congress tomorrow.

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By KDelphi, April 19, 2009 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

jackpine—that is why I said that it was the “pot calling the kettle black” (maybe a poor choice of words—I meant nothing by it).

That is why I have very mixed emotions about our “changing relatinbaship with Cuba”. I am always wary when the uS wants to “change relations” that it may just signal a desire to “open new mkts”.

Can anyone believe the way the MSM is selling this “chavez giving Obama a book” stuff?? Gawd, youd think he was being very rude!(??) And to say that Pres. Obama “wont read it, he doesnt speak Spanish” as, his aide said, was really stupid.

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By jackpine savage, April 19, 2009 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

You got it, lester333. I was never of the “i hope he’s not another Carter” crowd.  I dreaded that he’d be another Clinton.

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By Jaded Prole, April 19, 2009 at 6:27 am Link to this comment

Obama is being pushed by our own intelligencia who know that our policy toward Cuba and our history of paternalism and aggression are only serving to isolate us from a changing Latin America. Cuba is in a stronger position because it has what we lack— moral authority. It is we who are in need of economic and political reform. Cuba will welcome an end to the embargo but it will stand fast on it’s principles and on who or what it allows in it’s territory.

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By lester333, April 19, 2009 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

The recent past, since the inauguration, is a sure sign Obama will blow this.  A golden oppurtunity.  He has become a god damn Clinton republican.

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By jackpine savage, April 18, 2009 at 11:08 pm Link to this comment

but the Obama administration wants Havana to free political prisoners, improve human rights and adopt economic reforms

Funny, that’s what i want the Obama administration to do.

frshr,

I would bet a case of Cuba Libres and a box of Cohibas that this newfound friendliness is directly related to the Cuban oil find.  I’ve yet to find an example of modern, US foreign policy that was done because it was the right thing to do.

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By Folktruther, April 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment

This is Obama’s standard approach to policy.  Change the rhetoric and marginal effects, and maintain Bushite policies.  In this case they were inherited from the Cold War, but the principle is the same.

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By KDelphi, April 18, 2009 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

BobZ—I am all for changing our very strange relatiotnship with Cuba, but why do you want to “bring the joys ” of failed capitalism to that little paradise? I dont want to go smoke and get drunk there (but I might—tourists doing that, along with military, is what the revolution most protested)) I would like to go live there and still be able to come back and visit family.

If we go in there with the idea of “opening more mkts”, we should be rebuffed.

I dont want to change out relationship with Cuba to one of predator and prety. Dont you see that no one is buying this laissez fare capistalism anymore? China has become much more class based and materialistic with the introduction of capitalism. They may pull it off better than we, but,as far as I can tell, no one is “buying” what the US “free mkt” is selling amymore..

Dont neo-lib Cuba! The US multi-nationasl wil just over fish it , over farm it and destroy it. I wouild like a new relationship with the people of Cuba, in charge of their own destiny.

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By Xntrk, April 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bob, Why do you believe ‘free market economy’ practices would be an improvement for the people of Cuba? It certainly isn’t working well for us!

Unemployment over 10%, Home foreclosures increasing the number of homeless in the US at an ever increasing rate. Fifty-five million without health insurance or health care.

Fat Cats wallowing in unearned and undeserved bonuses provided by my tax dollars. Jobs we need here shipped off to China, India, Brazil, and other low-wage poverty stricken countries.
Lousy education for all but the very fortunate. A collapsing infrastructure we cannot afford to repair. A military budget far larger then that of all the other countries in the entire world, PUT TOGETHER. We have the McMansion of military might, and no real, well-armed, organized, enemies, just a lot of fear mongering here at home.

Yeah, I think the people of Cuba would love to join us and give up their guaranteed housing, health care, employment, and pensions. Just think, they too could become obese, unhealthy, and stupid, while eating at McDonald’s, shopping at Wall Mart, and drinking Starbucks factory coffee instead of Cafe’ Cubana. Better yet, any unemployed Black men could join the millions of our citizens in private industry prisons.

What a glorious future the Capitalistic Bastards offer the workers and minorities of the world! Haiti and Africa provide great examples for those who think free trade, colonialism, and capitalism, will save the world!

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By BobZ, April 18, 2009 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

Viva President Obama for taking steps to rid ourselves of our outdated policies regarding Cuba. The best thing we could do for the Cuban people is to give them a taste of democracy just as we did for China. China was a far more repressive regime than Cuba, and now they are still repressive but less so, and they are buying our debt. Let’s open tourism back and forth to Cuba so we Americans can also enjoy seeing a country shut off from us for the last 50 years. It will be great not to have to sneak Cuban cigars in from Canada anymore, and to be able to go and see the great old cars in Cuba. Once free market capitalism takes hold again in Cuba, you will see a lot less repression. And it will help both countries economies.

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By godistwaddle, April 18, 2009 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

I don’t think Cuban-Americans should have more right to travel to Cuba than I, an old American whose family got to Connecticut in 1634.  I want to get snot-flinging drunk on Cuba Libres in the place itself.  I want to smoke a Cuban cigar where it smells best.  I suppose the administrations since 1960 have determined that restricting MY travel makes them somehow unlike Castro himself, but…

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By KDelphi, April 18, 2009 at 8:00 am Link to this comment

freshr—well, you would hope not, wouldnt you..there do seem to be other “issues”...(from the LA Times article linked)(how “real” one think these are, is up to you)

“The comments point at least to the likelihood of new talks. But the two countries remain stalemated on major issues: Cuba wants the U.S. to lift the embargo and remove remaining travel restrictions, but the Obama administration wants Havana to free political prisoners, improve human rights and adopt economic reforms before the U.S. takes more significant steps.”

The “human rights” issues would seem to be the pot calling the kettle black and the “economic reforms” frightens me, as far as it may mean that US industry wants more “markets”.

The embargo and travel restrictins are ridiculous, of course. The only problem I have with (neo)liberalizing trade relations with Cuba, which I was thinking about the other daY, is the fear of the multi-nationalization of industry…partly what you talk of. But, also, can you just imagine a bunch of huge Wal Marts and Cost Cos and Burger Kings , ruining those beautiful boulevards and oil sprewing onto the unstained coral reefs?

Other countries have visited for many decades. But, US multi-natls tend to leave a huge footprint…if we try to “spread democracy” there, if all goes per usual, we will only “spread capitalism”.

But, treating Cuba any differently than we treat any other country on this continent (we need to treat Venezuela and Bolivia and others better, also), makes no sense.

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By Paolo, April 18, 2009 at 7:43 am Link to this comment

My own libertarian view is that Obama is right to open up friendly relations with Cuba.

Forbidding travel and trade with nations led by dictators plays right into the dictators’ hands. It allows the nation to become isolated, unaware of what is going on in the world outside. It allows the dictator to take total control of information.

What really led to the unification of Germany, for example, was the exchange of products and ideas between the two countries. Most of these exchanges, by the way, were illegal—an example of the heroic black market (aka a free market asserting itself in the face of government goons).

Black market blue jeans conquered East Germany and Erich Honecker (the old dictator), without needing to fire a single shot.

The same can happen with Cuba, if Obama handles it right.

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By freshr, April 18, 2009 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

Is this newfound friendliness anything to do with the 20bn barrels of oil that Cuba has found itself sitting upon?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/18/cuban-oil

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