April 18, 2015

In 1960, CIA stopped Miami Herald scoop about Bay of Pigs invasion

via @glenngarvin

There were a lot of bad days during the Cold War, but 54 years ago this weekend was one of the worst, at least for the United States. President John F. Kennedy sent an army of anti-Castro exiles backed by the CIA onto the beach at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs to suffer bloody, catastrophic defeat. It was “the beating of our lives,” the despondent Kennedy would say a few days later as he wondered aloud why nobody had talked him out of it.

One of the piquant questions of Cold War history is, could the Miami Herald have done that — talked him out of it? In a little-known collision of journalism and national security, the Herald, seven months before the Bay of Pigs, had prepared a news story saying that the United States was planning to launch a military operation against Cuba. But the paper’s top management killed the story after CIA Director Allen Dulles said publishing it would hurt national security.

“It’s hard to know these things,” says Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, which has published several books on the Bay of Pigs. “But could a bold, dramatic story that the United States was planning an invasion have stopped the Bay of Pigs? I think the answer might be yes.”

The tale of the Herald’s Bay of Pigs scoop and its subsequent capitulation to the CIA has mostly been shrouded in mystery for the past five decades. It was explored briefly in Anything but the Truth, a book by Washington reporters William McGaffin and Erwin Knoll that was published in 1968 and quickly disappeared.

It all started with some kids throwing firecrackers over a fence in Homestead.

More here.

 

April 14, 2015

They agree on this: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio want Cuba to remain on terror list

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama's decision Tuesday to no longer consider Cuba a terrorist nation prompted sharp rebukes from newly declared Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio and one of his likely rivals, Jeb Bush.

For Rubio, it was an opportunity to receive even more public attention a day after his campaign launch. For Bush, it's a chance to show off his savvy on Cuba and Latin America, honed from years of experience living in Miami and being the governor of Florida.

Of note: A version of Rubio's statement translated into Spanish differed slightly from his video statement in English. He did not say in English that Cuba harbors Medicare fraudsters -- but did point that out in Spanish. 

RUBIO

 

BUSH

President Obama embraced Cuba’s oppressive dictator, Raul Castro by removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and consummating the Obama Administration’s rapprochement with the Communist police state. Coupled with this policy of accommodation with Cuba is the Administration’s failure to respond sooner and more forcefully to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where the policies of late dictator Hugo Chavez and his chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro continue to hurt their people. Beyond denying their citizens the basic freedoms all humans deserve, the Castro and Maduro regimes continue to engage in activities abroad that undermine stability in this pivotal region.

While I am concerned about the continuing assault on human rights and democracy in Latin America, I am encouraged by the signers of the ‘Declaration of Panama’ – Latin American democracies committed to expanding freedom and opportunity throughout this region. These brave defenders of liberty and democracy are the natural allies of the United States. Rather than breathing new life into corrupt regimes, the United States should stand with these leaders, and on the side of the Venezuelan and Cuban people who have for too long been denied the fundamental freedoms they so deserve.

Miami's Cuban-American members of Congress slam Obama over Cuba terror designation change

@PatriciaMazzei

The trio of Miami Cuban-American Republicans in Congress -- Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- were quick to denounce the White House's decision Tuesday to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Congress has 45 days to block the action, if it can find enough support -- a veto-proof majority -- to do so, which seems unlikely.

Here are statements from the three representatives:

Continue reading "Miami's Cuban-American members of Congress slam Obama over Cuba terror designation change" »

Obama intends to remove Cuba from list of terrorist nations

via @HeraldMimi

After 33 years of designating Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, the United States is removing its Caribbean neighbor from a list of terrorist nations in another sign of warming relations between the two countries.

President Barack Obama sent a message to Congress on Tuesday saying Cuba would be removed from the list because it had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six months and that Cuba had provided assurances that it would not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

The State Department began a review of whether Cuba should still have a place on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on Dec. 17, the day Cuba and the United States announced they planned to put more than a half century of hostility behind them and work toward normalizing relations. It forwarded its recommendation to the president last week and Obama accepted it this week.

“Circumstances have changed since 1982, when Cuba was originally designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism because of its efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America,” the State Department said in a statement Tuesday. “Our Hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago.”

In accordance with U.S. law, the president is required to inform Congress 45 days before the directive takes effect. Congress doesn’t have to validate his decision but it could decide to take action to override his recommendation.

South Florida Rep. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen promptly condemned the action, calling it “a miscarriage of justice borne out of political motivations not rooted in reality.”

More here.

April 13, 2015

Report: Raúl Castro says he'd like to visit Miami, then laughs

@PatriciaMazzei

Cuban leader Raúl Castro has no interest in visiting the White House but would like to come to Miami, according to a report in a television station in Panama.

Castro spoke to reporter Glenda Umaña, formerly of CNN en Español, in a hallway at the Summit of the Americas over the weekend. She recorded part of the exchange on her cellphone, and later discussed the conversation with station Telemetro Panama.

The portion about Miami wasn't recorded. But Umaña wrote on Facebook that Castro laughed after telling her about coming to Miami -- so perhaps his response was all in jest.

April 11, 2015

Handshake takes place between Obama, Raúl Castro

via @HeraldMimi @jimwyss

PANAMA CITY -- U.S President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro shared a stage and took part in a gala dinner Friday at the opening of the VII Summit of the Americas, as the formerly hostile nations continued their slow dance toward reconciliation.

While there's still a huge chasm to close for countries that haven’t had diplomatic relations since 1961, the opening ceremony came amid speculation that the two leaders might have a more substantial conversation Saturday and that the communist island might be taken off the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Friday evening, Obama and Castro greeted each other and shook hands, according to the White House.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy National Security adviser and one of the architects of the new Cuba policy, said he expected a more substantial conversation between the two leaders, Saturday. “We certainly do anticipate that they will have the opportunity to see each other at the summit [Saturday] to have a discussion,” he said.

More here.

April 08, 2015

Florida House votes to oppose Cuba policy

The Florida House on Wednesday took a formal position against President Obama's decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The vote came two days before Obama is scheduled to see Cuban leader Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. Republican Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr. and Jeanette Núñez said it was important to send a strong message in advance of the gathering.

"We are truly the last best hope for the Cuban people," Núñez said.

The measure is largely symbolic. In addition to expressing "profound disagreement" with the president's decision, it also opposes the opening of a Cuban consulate in Florida.

Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said the action didn't go far enough.

But Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said it was the only tool available to state lawmakers.

"There's nothing else that we could possibly do," Trujillo said. "I wish I could tell you that Speaker [Steve] Crisafulli was going to send our powerful armada to Cuba and liberate it and free it."

Núñez said the measure was more than rhetoric.

"It matters because it is about the people," she said. "It's about freedom. It's about liberty that we enjoy and they don't."

The Florida Senate took a similar vote last month.

State lawmakers will now send a formal petition urging Congress to uphold the embargo.

Poll in Cuba: President Obama more popular than Raul and Fidel Castro

via @glenngarvin

President Barack Obama is more popular among Cubans than either of the Castro brothers who have ruled the island for the past five and a half decades, according to a new poll secretly conducted there last month.

Eighty percent of the Cubans polled said they had a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinion of Obama, while just 17 percent registered a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impression.

The widespread approval of the U.S. president was in sharp contrast to the mostly adverse opinions of Cuban leader Raul Castro (48 percent negative, 47 percent postive) and his retired older brother Fidel (50 percent negative, 44 percent positive).

Obama’s popularity — exceeded by only that of Pope Francis — was perhaps the most startling finding of the poll, which was conducted by the Miami company Bendixen & Amandi International for the TV networks Univision and Fusion and the Washington Post.

The survey is the first nationwide opinion poll conducted in Cuba by a private firm since the country turned communist. Without the Cuban government’s knowledge or permission, the pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults throughout the island between March 6 and 16. The poll has a plus-or-minus 2.8 percent margin of error.

More here.

April 01, 2015

Poll: Support growing among Cuban Americans for new U.S.-Cuba policy

via @HeraldMimi

A new national poll of Cuban Americans shows that their support for the White House's new Cuba policy has grown in the three months since the historic announcement, and now 51 percent say they support the effort to begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

Forty percent said they disagreed with the new policy and 9 percent didn’t respond or said they didn’t know, according to the poll by Bendixen & Amandi International.

Cuban Americans living outside Florida have embraced the new policy much more than those residing in the Sunshine State, according to the poll. Attitudes also diverge between older Cuban Americans born on the island and younger generations.

Forty-nine percent of Cuban Americans living in Florida said they disagreed with the effort to normalize relations while 41 percent said they agreed. However, 69 percent of Cuban Americans living outside the exile stronghold of Florida said they agreed with the new policy.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, will be unveiled Wednesday in New York at the sold-out Cuba Opportunity Summit, a conference for senior level business executives interested in exploring business opportunities in Cuba.

Bendixen & Amandi International polled 400 Cuban Americans 18 and older March 20-25 in English or Spanish on their attitudes toward the new policy. It includes renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba, allowing more Americans to travel to the island, raising remittance levels, cooperating with Cuba on areas of mutual interest such as environmental protection, and increased commercial ties even as the U.S. trade embargo against the island remains in place.

More here.

March 24, 2015

Florida Senate votes to oppose U.S.-Cuba relations

Cuba

In an emotional speech Tuesday, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, asked her fellow senators to oppose President Obama’s recent decision to open up diplomatic relations with Cuba.

All but one agreed.

The measure, which also discourages the federal government from allowing a Cuban consulate in Florida, is largely symbolic. But it was important for the Cuban-American members of the state Senate, Flores said.

"A lot of my friends and colleagues have asked why we care so deeply," she said on the Senate Floor.

Flores told the story of how her mother had fled the island nation as a girl. 

She spoke about the "hundreds of thousands [who] sit in prison every day for having the gall to stand up and say something." And she showed photographs of the Ladies in White, the wives and family members of imprisoned Cuban dissidents who hold regular protests in Havana.

"They are spit upon, they are beat up, they are harassed," Flores said.

Flores said the Obama administration's decision to ease travel restrictions to Cuba would allow American visitors to "have it all," while Cuban residents would continue to suffer.

"I know you've seen the pictures of the beautiful beaches were the tourists can go," she said. "No one who is a Cuban citizen can go to those places."

Her call was echoed by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican who said members of his family had been imprisoned and killed for speaking out against the government.

Diaz de la Portilla said the new Cuba policy would "do nothing but ensure that the [Castro] regime stays in power."

"To think that by spending American cash, so Americans can by Cuban cigars and Cuban rum and stay at hotels on stolen land, that these two obstinate octogenarian dictators and their cronies are going to change anything is naive at best," he said.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, urged his colleagues to "send a message to this administration that we understand the plight and the problems [Cubans] are facing, and that we must continue to put the pressure on the Castro regime to open up and be transparent."

The measure passed on a voice vote, with Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, saying he was proud to stand with the members of the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation.

Only one senator opposed the proposal.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, said she understood the Cuban-American senators' "passion and pain." But she defended the Obama administration's "historic steps to chart a new course" in Cuba.

"I know in my heart that there was no malice intended by the promulgation of this policy by the Obama administration, and I know that his moving this forward is an effort to bring freedom to the Cuban nation," Joyner said.

A similar proposal, sponsored by Republican Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. and Jeanette Núñez, is ready for a vote on the House floor.

So far, the House version has yet to win the support of a single Democrat. But Núñez hopes that will change.

"This is not a partisan debate for us," she said. "We're not going to denigrate the president. We're going to keep it to the policy."