Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome 2010

With the start of 2010 just a few hours away, I thought I would end this year writing about a few things I learned in 2009.

Probably the most important thing I learned this year about U.S.-Cuba relations is that it is going to be a slow process towards the goal of normalization, which happens to be what most Americans want. And, also what most academic researchers recommend for policy makers. So, why has it been so difficult to reach normalization? Because of South Florida hardliners and militants that support economic sanctions towards and oppose diplomatic agreements with Cuba.

As you may have read about recently, Florida's leading Senatorial candidates gave speeches at a U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC meeting last week and all publicly gave their support for current U.S. policy towards Cuba, in direct conflict with what most Americans want and what most U.S. experts on the subject suggest.

What occurred last week at the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC meeting is what is called "elitism." You should have seen the photos of the audience because it was basically made up of the most politically influential people in Miami, local media personalities, and (of course) militants like Armando Perez Roura and Ninoska Perez Castellon from Radio Mambi (Univision Radio). But, together they shared one thing: their belief that they (and only they) know what is best for everyone else when it comes to Cuba.

Militants believe that the Cuban government is pure evil, and its destroys everything it touches, and therefore it must be isolated and eventually cut off (overthrown). Hardliners see the Cuban government as untrustworthy and deceptive, therefore its must be dealt with extreme caution and little patience. Agreements can be reached with hardliners, but hardliners are not willing to make any concessions, and are prepared to accept diplomatic stalemates.

In between the spectrum of militancy and the hard-line is where Florida politics currently stands when it comes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. And, I don't think we should expect a change soon.

If 2009 taught me anything, it was that militant and hard-line ideology in South Florida is encouraged and accepted widely in the local Spanish media. From the small Spanish-language newspapers to the various television broadcasts of news and gossip (better defined as propaganda). Militant and hard-line ideology expresses itself daily through these sources and are encouraged by local businesses through their advertising, and sometimes public support of such ideology.

So, does this mean that 2010 will bring the same results of 2009? I doubt it. Small changes within the Cuban exile community have already occurred that conflicted with hard-line and militant ideology, such as the community support given to the Peace Concert in Cuba, and the lifting of travel restrictions. And, more changes are destined to come in 2010. The enclave of the Cuban exile will change, not as a detachment from its painful past, but rather from its attachment to world changes in the future.

But, it will be a slow process. May 2010 bring us closer to what is fair, moral and just.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Enjoy the Holidays

Happy Holidays to all, and to those that will be spending their Christmas in Cuba.

A TV report yesterday by local news station WPLG described the "biggest crowd" at Miami International Airport being those passengers on an "overbooked Cuba flight."

May everyone have safe travels, and happy celebrations.

[Funny post on the Export Law Blog: Santa Claus versus the Embargo.]

"If Santa delivers toys for U.S. children first, there will be toys destined for Cuba in the sleigh in violation of 31 C.F.R. § 515.207(b). That rule prohibits Santa’s sleigh from entering the United States with “goods in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest."

[Photo: man decorates a Christmas tree outside the San Francisco convent in Havana, Cuba by AP/Javier Galeano]

Friday, December 4, 2009

"A Dangerous President"

Those were the exact words that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen used to describe President Barack Obama when she appear on Radio Mambi last month.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen occasionally appears on Radio Mambi to provide updates for listeners on her activities. She represents Florida's 18th Congressional District, which includes parts that most people recognize as "Miami," such as Coral Gables, Downtown Miami, Key Biscayne, Brickell and Miami Beach.

On November 13th, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen appeared on "La Mesa Redonda" (The Roundtable) with Armando Perez-Roura, programming director of Radio Mambi. I believe other issues were discussed, but the main issue seemed to be the decision that day by the U.S. Justice Department to federally prosecute five men accused of conspiring in the attacks of September 11. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen was outraged, as were many in the Republican party that day.

But, near the end of the radio show, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen summed it up for listeners. She not only felt that the decision from the Obama administration was misguided, and that the decision put U.S. security at risk (as other Republicans asserted), but she also felt that we had "a dangerous President" in the White House.

So I wonder what kind of decision a Radio Mambi listener might come to after that interview.

Here's an indication. Yesterday it was reported by El Nuevo Herald (Wilfredo Cancio Isla) that the U.S. Secret Service is investigating a call to Radio Mambi of someone who made an on-air threat to Pres. Obama saying someone should "shoot him in the head."

Now, some of you might think that maybe this was just some crazy person who called in one day, and said something stupid. Not likely. The Herald reports that the voice was from a regular caller to Radio Mambi (which is the case with most callers to Radio Mambi), and quotes an anonymous employee at the radio station saying that "what is heard there [on Radio Mambi] everyday against Obama and against any other is outrageous."

There is also a larger context here. Ever since Barack Obama became President, Radio Mambi has reached a new level of radicalism that I had never heard before. I will try to post about that soon, and with some audio samples.

[Another thing. The Herald article by Wilfredo Cancio Isla is not easily accessible to regular users of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald websites. Doing a search for the article is useless. It doesn't even appear on Google News. Wierd.]

[Background on the recent decision by the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute 9-11 conspirators.]

[Photo by Getty Images]