Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro 1926-2016

A very hot place awaits Fidel

Image result for fidel castro cartoons

In the end, he died like most people do – i.e., old age.  No CIA assassination.  No overthrow.  Just an old man probably connected to a bunch of machines staying alive.    
For most of us Cubans, and the ones who grew up here like me, this is a moment when images fly in your head.  
First, I recall the morning Batista fled and the expectations.  My mother serving us breakfast and my father on the phone talking about the future of Cuba.  The phone did not stop ringing.  My mother kept bringing my father coffee and offering her opinions as well.  The TV was on with constant reports of Cuba.  The Voice of America in Spanish on my father’s short wave radio.    
Most importantly, no one that morning had a clue of what would happen to Cuba in a few years.
Second, the Bay of Pigs and the Missile Crisis.  As my mother would joke later: “¡Nosotros los primeros!”  Or loosely translated, we would have been the first ones to go if the missiles were fired.  Thankfully, the missiles were not fired, and my mother’s words did not come to pass.
Third, I will always remember the day we left and the look on my mother’s face when the plane took off.
Most of all, we remember how he destroyed Cuba.  He came to power when Cuba was a very prosperous island with a growing middle class.  It is not that country anymore, as Tim Worstall wrote:
Fidel Castro, the Communist Dictator of Cuba, has died at the age of 90. There have been those, over the decades, who have held him up as some paragon of a new world order, one in which people will not be subservient to either America nor capitalism. The truth is that he visited an economic disaster upon the island nation of Cuba. No, it was not the US, it was not any blockade or embargo, not anything external to Cuba that caused this, it was quite simply the idiocy of the economic policy followed, that socialism, which led to there being near no economic growth at all over the 55 years or so of his rule. What little that did occur happening when the strictest of his rules were relaxed.
It is polite, human and common to withhold criticism of the dead in the immediate aftermath of their demise. But leaving 11 million people grossly poorer than they ought to be in the name of a bankrupt ideology is not the stuff of which hagiographic obituaries are made
He promised elections but kept delaying them.  They never happened.
He denied that he was communist and locked up people like my dad’s cousin for publicly saying so.  A bit later, he declared himself a communist but did not release those who called him one.   
In the end, he leaves a poor island with very little hope.  He leaves political prisons, families crushed, and empty store shelves.
What happens now?  This is a great opportunity for President-Elect Trump to demand some real concessions from the island’s leadership.
Fidel’s death is really the end of communism in Cuba.  Raúl is also an old man and probably won’t be around in a few years, either.
Cuba is screaming for change.  Let’s hear it and demand real concessions from Raúl Castro.   
And please don’t insult the memory of so many by sending a big delegation to his funeral.  Stay away and show your respect for the thousands executed by this regime.
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

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Dear Mexico: Stop thinking about Trump

Let’s add Jorge Castaneda, Mexico’s foreign minister (2000 to 2003) and current professor at New York University, to the growing list of Mexicans who are just thinking too much about Trump.   
Can we come to our senses, people of Mexico?
Mr. Castenada, who is generally a good guy but talks too much, posted this over at the New York Times:
This year, for the first time since Ronald Reagan assailed the Soviet Union in 1980, an American presidential candidate actively campaigned against another country’s national interests. 
By threatening to deport all undocumented immigrants, about half of whom are Mexican; to build a wall on the Mexican border; and to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is far more important for Mexico than for the United States, Donald J. Trump made Mexico one of the central issues of the campaign.
How should Mexicans respond now that Mr. Trump has been elected?
How should Mexicans respond? They can start by not taking Mr. Castaneda too seriously.
First, candidate Reagan assailed the USSR in 1980 because it was a threat to the U.S., and Mexico. It was only sensible that the man running to be the leader of the free world would campaign against the old Soviet Union. Are you kidding me with that comparison?
Second, deporting undocumented immigrants is what Mexico does every day. Is Mr. Castaneda calling on Mexico to stop enforcing its immigration laws?
Third, building a wall is an option. It is an option that a sovereign country has to defend itself. Hasn’t Mexico spoken of building a “muro” on the Guatemala border?
Fourth, Mr. Trump has not called for ripping up NAFTA. He wants to renegotiate it, again an option for a sovereign country to exercise.
Let’s get real, please.
Mexico and the U.S. have huge mutual interests. I’m sure that Mr. Trump knows that and wants nothing to do with hurting a neighbor with one of the top 20 GDP’s in the world.
At the same time, most of modern Mexico’s problems have nothing to do with the U.S. PEMEX, the national monopoly, was made and corrupted by Mexicans. “El campo”, as Mexicans call their countryside, is inefficient because of politically motivated policies intended to control farmers rather than grow food. It is these farmers’ sons who pack up and leave because there is no future in Mexico.
So my advice to Mr. Castaneda is simple: stop thinking about Trump and start thinking about making Mexico into the economic powerhouse that it can be. Mexico has great resources, a wonderful people but too many “politicos” like Mr. Castaneda who always look north to point fingers.
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

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November 2016: Cuban Americans react to the death of Fidel Castro

Image result for fidel castro images

We will look at the death of Fidel Castro (1926-2016)......our Cuban American round table includes Jorge Ponce, Amarilys Rassler, Tersi Bidenburg and Fernando Hernandez, all Cuban Americans like me who grew up in the US...............we will share personal recollections of growing up Cuban American as well as what it means for the future........does it create new opportunities or will we have to wait for Raul to die to?       And a few other thoughts about the world...

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