Havana Cuba Business Travel Culture and Politics

Havana Cuba News

Cuba Politics News

Posted April 23, 2009 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

Email this article | Print this article | Search Havana Journal        

A collection of articles regarding Fidel Castro’s meddling with President Raul Castro’s engagement with the US. Raul Castro said that he is willing to talk with President Obama about “everything” but Fidel wants the world to know that Raul was misunderstood.

By WILL WEISSERT | AP

Raul Castro seems ready to discuss improving relations with Washington. Brother Fidel is clearly uncomfortable with the idea.

Do the mixed messages from Cuba’s current and former presidents reflect the communist leadership’s resistance to moving too quickly? Or are they a ploy for leverage ahead of any talks?

As the White House ponders its next move, the question of who calls the shots in Cuba is less clear than ever.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the delicate situation in comments to Congress on Wednesday, saying the Obama administration needs to be ready to engage with Cuba, even though its government “is one that is very difficult to move.”

Noting Fidel “contradicted” his brother in an essay published earlier Wednesday, she said, “I think you can see there is beginning to be a debate.”

Some Cuban dissidents put a more negative spin on the brothers’ messages.

“Raul Castro says one thing and Fidel comes out in subsequent days and says the opposite,” said Miriam Leiva, founder of a Havana-based support group for the wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners. “It’s no way to run a government.”

Fidel, 82, clearly sought to diminish expectations of a thaw in Cuba-U.S. relations with his latest column, which asserted that President Barack Obama “misinterpreted” Raul’s seemingly conciliatory statements last week.

At issue was Raul’s declaration that his government is ready to discuss “everything, everything, everything” with U.S. negotiators, including human rights and freedom of the press in Cuba and the 205 dissidents its government is accused of jailing.

Obama responded warmly at the Summit of the Americas, saying perhaps the U.S. is ready for a new beginning with Cuba. But he also said that as a sign of good will, Cuban authorities should release political prisoners and reduce a 10 percent tax on the U.S. dollars that Cuban-Americans send to support relatives on the island.

That angered Fidel, who called Obama’s analysis of Cuban policy “superficial” and said the U.S. leader had no right to suggest even small concessions.

Obama “without a doubt misinterpreted Raul’s declarations,” Fidel wrote, without explaining exactly what he supposedly misunderstood.

Fidel defended the government’s right to tax dollars received by Cubans, a levy that he says is spent on social needs like food, medicine and other goods.

Fidel did not directly contradict Raul, and he defended his brother’s comments, saying they showed “courage and confidence.”

Still, the Castro brothers have clearly adopted different tones, if not policy positions. That could mean there is a division within Cuba’s collective communist leadership over whether detente is moving too fast. Or the leaders could be trying to create an appearance of friction that keeps Cuba in the news and may become a bargaining chip in any negotiations with the U.S.

“It’s a game of political strategy,” said Elizardo Sanchez, the island’s leading rights activist and head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Sanchez praised Obama’s decision to lift U.S. restrictions on money and travel to Cuba by people with family on the island. “Now is the time for pragmatic steps like those the United States has taken because the Cuban government has done nothing,” he said.

Fidel has been publishing his “reflections” nearly every day, and will likely continue, but Raul isn’t likely to respond. The 77-year-old has been president since Fidel formally stepped down due to illness last year, but he does not write commentaries and rarely even gives speeches or addresses the media.

This raises questions about who is really in charge.

“Here, Fidel has always made the final decisions,” Leiva said. “He is provoking and impeding, creating a confrontation between the two countries because that’s what Cuba uses to justify its repressive policies.”

Leiva’s husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, was a state-trained economist who became a dissident and was among 75 political opposition leaders arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of conspiring with Washington to undermine the communist system. He has since been freed on medical parole, one of 21 prisoners from the group now out of prison.

Raul suggested last year that Cuba would be willing to free more political prisoners in a swap for five Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States. So in some ways it didn’t break new ground for him to offer last week to trade “all” such prisoners and send them and their families to America in exchange for the five Cubans convicted of espinoage.

Even Fidel defended the idea in his latest essay, writing that “no one should feel astonished that Raul spoke about pardoning those who were convicted in March 2003 and about sending them all to the United States, should that country be willing to release the five Cuban anti-terrorism heroes.”

Still, some Cubans were irritated Wednesday by Fidel’s insistence that Obama misinterpreted the Cuban president’s sentiments.

“These are contradictions that go against the people. They go against working people, suffering people,” said Wilfredo O’Farril, a 59-year-old construction worker.

“I’m not afraid to say it. We are a people without a future,” he said, adding that Fidel “first says one thing, then says another. We’ve been this way for 50 years.”

Fidel Castro Rebukes Raúl on U.S. 

By JOSE DE CORDOBA | Wall Street Journal

Retired dictator Fidel Castro slapped down his younger brother, Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, six days after he suggested Cuba was ready to negotiate fundamental differences with the U.S.

The brusque rebuke sent a clear, two-part message to the U.S.: Despite Raúl Castro having assumed Cuba’s presidency last year, it’s the elder Castro who continues to be in charge, especially on relations with the U.S. And the U.S. shouldn’t expect Cuba to reciprocate any conciliatory actions taken by Washington.

“Fidel is calling the shots, at least on relations with the U.S.,” said Brian Latell, a former Central Intelligence Agency Cuba analyst who has written a biography of Raúl Castro. “And he has rejected in intransigent language President Obama’s overture that Cuba signal a willingness to move forward by making a concession.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, addressed Fidel Castro’s response saying, “I think that the president’s actions did draw a response from Raúl Castro—which was then contradicted today by Fidel Castro,” signaling that a debate has started within Cuba. “I mean, this is a regime that is ending.” She said the U.S. has “responded to Raúl Castro’s comments by saying that we would consider a discussion that would include human rights and political prisoners.”

The elder Castro’s rebuke to President Barack Obama and to his younger brother came in one of his periodic trademarked commentaries published in Cuba’s official newspaper, Granma.

“Without a doubt, the President wrongly interpreted Raúl’s statement,” wrote the elder Castro, 82, referring to Mr. Obama’s positive reaction to a speech given by younger brother Raúl, 77, in Venezuela before the Americas summit of hemispheric nations.

The speech—in which Raúl Castro said Cuba was ready to discuss “human rights, freedom of expression, political prisoners: everything, everything, everything”—set off speculation the two countries could quickly settle their differences. Since 1962, the U.S. has maintained a trade embargo. This month, Mr. Obama lifted restrictions on travel and remittances sent by Cuban-Americans to relatives on the island.

AP - Secretary Clinton says US Cuba dialog is a beginning

While Fidel Castro is putting a chill back into what seemed to be thawing relations with Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she still sees a beginning.

In an essay published today, Castro says President Barack Obama is misinterpreting his brother’s remarks that Cuba is willing to discuss “everything” with the U.S. He says the Cuban president only meant that he’s “not afraid of addressing any issue.”

The elder former leader also bristled at Obama’s suggestions at the Summit of the Americas that Cuba release political prisoners and reduce taxes on dollars Cuban-Americans send to relatives on the island.

Clinton tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Fidel Castro’s essay does appear to contradict Raul Castro’s comments. But she says it all shows “there is beginning to be a debate” within Cuba about how relations with the U.S. should move forward.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Is there some reason that Raul Castro, the President of Cuba and the person who replied to President Obama cannot speak for himself?

    His older brother has to make a public statement to the world that Raul was misunderstood?

    Is there really any question that Fidel does not want the Embargo lifted?

    Is there any doubt that Raul can’t do ANYTHING without his older brother’s approval?

    Fidel probably loves his position of ailing old man. He gets to stay out of the public, is not responsible if/when things go wrong in Cuba and he can say whatever he wants whenever he wants and the world is forced to listen… not to mention his little brother Raul Castro.

    I have mixed feelings about Raul Castro. Sometimes he does some good things but then again he won’t do anything that would even remotely allow any challenge to his power.

    Now with this smackdown by Fidel, I am thinking about referring to Raul as “Fidel’s little brother”. I know that is disrespectful to a President of a country but since it has been shown time and time again that Raul answers to Fidel, I think it is appropriate that Raul be referred to as “Fidel’s little brother” until he can do something or say something that Fidel doesn’t like AND defend himself.

    So, President Castro, did you mean to say that you are willing to talk about “everything” as one President to another or are you the “little brother” who needs to be corrected by his older brother?



    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Excerpts from Fidel Castro recent “Reflection” declaring that President Raul Castro’s “everything” comments were misunderstood.

    “...The President (Obama) added that the fact that Raul Castro had said his government was ready to talk with the US government not only about the lifting of the embargo but also about other issues, namely, human rights and political prisoners, was a signal of progress. He said there were some things the Cuban government could do. He added that Cuba could release the political prisoners, reduce the surcharge imposed on remittances, which will correspond with the policies that they have applied, whereby Cuban-American families are allowed to send remittances. He said that it so happened that Cuba applies a very high surcharge. He said that Cuba is exacting significant profits. He added that this would be an example of cooperation where both governments would be working to help the Cuban family and improve the living standards in Cuba.

    There is no doubt that the President misinterpreted Raul’s statements.

    When the President of Cuba said he was ready to discuss any topic with the US President, he meant he was not afraid of addressing any issue. That shows his courage and confidence on the principles of the Revolution. No one should feel astonished that Raul spoke about pardoning those who were convicted on March, 2003, and about sending them all to the United States, should that country be willing to release the Five Cuban Anti-Terrorism Heroes. The convicts, as was already the case with the Bay of Pig’s mercenaries, are at the service of a foreign power that threatens and blockades our homeland.

    Fidel Castro Ruz

    April 21, 2009

    5:34 p.m.

    Read Fidel Castro’s Reflection in its entirety.



    Cuba consulting services

  3. Follow up post #3 added on April 23, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    All the above proves once again that Castro is not interested in changing the status quo. He loves to be the “enemy”, the little guy fighting the giant and for that he needs to keep the embargo in place.

    Many US administrations have intended different approaches to the Cuban Government focused on removing the embargo and normalizing the relations at the end, but none have worked because sooner or later Fidel Castro would do something to kill the process.

    The little brother president say that he is open to talk about everything and his bad cop older brother do the dirty job of sending everybody high hopes far away. They have proven many times that they are the ones that want to keep the embargo in place.

    In my opinion the embargo has proven to be a failed policy, therefore the US should lift unilaterally the embargo once and for all so the Castros would not have any other excuse for their stupid economic policies and continued oppression of the Cuban people.


  4. Follow up post #4 added on April 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Agree.



    Cuba consulting services

  5. Follow up post #5 added on April 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    From Fox News

    Castro Brother Contradictions Send Mixed Signals About Who Is in Charge in Cuba
    Last Edited: Thursday, 23 Apr 2009, 12:43 PM EDT
    Created: Thursday, 23 Apr 2009, 10:43 AM EDT

    04/23/2009 —

    Raul Castro seems ready to discuss improving relations with Washington. Brother Fidel is clearly uncomfortable with the idea.

    Do the mixed messages from Cuba’s current and former presidents reflect the communist leadership’s resistance to moving too quickly? Or are they a ploy for leverage ahead of any talks?

    As the White House ponders its next move, the question of who calls the shots in Cuba is less clear than ever.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the delicate situation in comments to Congress on Wednesday, saying the Obama administration needs to be ready to engage with Cuba, even though its government “is one that is very difficult to move.”

    Noting Fidel “contradicted” his brother in an essay published earlier in the day, she said, “I think you can see there is beginning to be a debate.”

    Some Cuban dissidents put a more negative spin on the brothers’ messages.

    “Raul Castro says one thing and Fidel comes out in subsequent days and says the opposite,” said Miriam Leiva, founder of a Havana-based support group for the wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners. “It’s no way to run a government.”

    END

    The more I think about this statement from Fidel the more I have to wonder who is in charge. Is Raul just a puppet for Fidel? Did Raul mean what he said or did he mean to go with Fidel’s interpretation? Was it all planned from the very beginning? Really. How does Raul say something that is clearly a sign of openness while Fidel says it was something completely different?



    Cuba consulting services

  6. Follow up post #6 added on April 23, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The Lattel Report

    Fidel’s Intransigence
       
        Like six American presidents before him, Democrats and Republicans, Barack Obama has sought to improve relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba. In warm and conciliatory language during the recent summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago the president, and Secretary of State Clinton, dramatized their desire to begin a bilateral process of rapprochement with Havana.

        Their hopes were elevated because since assuming Cuba’s presidency early last year Raul Castro has repeatedly signaled interest in a constructive dialogue. But within days of the American overtures, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s ex-president and still presiding potentate, all but conclusively rejected them.

        In two lengthy commentaries disseminated by Cuba’s media this week, the elder Castro was scornful and abusive. He described president Obama as “looking conceited” in Trinidad. Quoting extensively from Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega’s fifty minute anti-American jeremiad in Port-of-Spain, Castro echoed the theme that it is the United States, not Cuba, that must change. He gave no ground whatever, intimating that, as far as he is concerned, Cuba can wait another four or eight years until after President Obama leaves office without progress in alleviating bilateral tensions.

        Castro’s intransigence is scarcely any different than it has been since the first months of his revolutionary regime. Dwight Eisenhower was the first American president to deal with him, and the first earnestly to seek a constructive relationship. He dispatched Philip Bonsal, a veteran diplomat, fluent in Spanish and sympathetic to many of the Cuban revolution’s initial objectives, as ambassador. But Bonsal was shunned by Fidel. In his memoirs he concluded that “as long as Castro remains in power there will be no change: (he) needs the United States as a whipping boy and relentless enemy.”

        In the fall of 1963 John Kennedy entered into exploratory diplomatic contacts with Cuba, long after the embassy on Havana’s Malecon had been shuttered. Those contacts expired following the assassination in Dallas, but undoubtedly were doomed to fail for the same reasons that Bonsal came to appreciate.

        Later, before his resignation in 1974, Richard Nixon authorized high-level diplomatic contacts with Cuba. They were undertaken by his successor Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1975. And again, soon after his inauguration in 1977, Jimmy Carter launched a similar effort. The three presidents and their advisers believed erroneously that Castro would see critical advantages in reducing bilateral tensions and that he would be willing to make important concessions toward that end.

        Those efforts foundered, however, when it became clear that Castro placed a higher priority on supporting revolutionary internationalism in Africa, and on retaining the American enemy to berate, than on achieving rapprochement.

        Bill Clinton’s White House tried yet again, exploring means of improving relations behind the scenes and through intermediaries. He was deterred too, when in February 1996 Cuban MIG fighters shot down civilian aircraft over international waters, killing American civilians. The fallout for Fidel was enactment of the tough Helms-Burton legislation that had been languishing in Congress, but that only provided yet more “anti-imperialist” ammunition for the Cuban propaganda machine.

        The latest effort, undertaken by President Obama with considerable fanfare and the best of intentions is possibly the most ambitious of all seven of these presidential efforts to reduce or end the deadlock in relations with Cuba. But it appears that it is already suffering the same fate as all of the earlier attempts.

        This time, however, Castro has new and compelling reasons for rejecting virtually all compromise with Washington. He is in a triumphant, unyielding mood. Believing that the correlation of international forces—a term revived from classic Marxist lexicon—is working overwhelmingly in Cuba’s favor, he feels no need to compromise. With just a little more patience, perhaps even in his lifetime, Cuba, he believes, can win most of its goals in the stand-off with Washington through unilateral concessions.

        And as usual, his calculus is derived from convincing evidence. Cuba’s legitimacy with governments in this hemisphere has never been higher. Soon every country except the United States will have full diplomatic relations with Havana. A rump group of presidents led and fueled by Venezuelan President Chavez have raised the volume and intensity of pro-Castro and anti-American rhetoric to unprecedented levels. President Obama endured insulting public doses of it in Trinidad from both Chavez and Ortega.

        Castro’s new world view has been reinforced by many other fawning regional leaders. Following the Rio Summit late last year, with Cuba for the first time participating as a full member, ten Latin American and Caribbean presidents and prime ministers have paid their respects to one or both Castro brothers in Havana. So did an important American congressional delegation. None of those visitors bothered to meet with, or even to acknowledge the suffering of Cuban human rights and pro-democracy dissidents.

        Regional demands for the end of the U.S. economic embargo, readmission of Cuba to the OAS, and an end to the years of hostility have become deafening. Innumerable calls have also been heard from leading members of Congress, influential Washington think tanks, and commentators of many stripes who argue that the time finally has come for the impasse with Cuba to end. From Castro’s perspective at least, unilateral concessions by Washington, such as lifting the travel ban or all of the embargo, now seem within the realm of the possible. With so much now converging in Cuba’s and his favor, Fidel sees no need to make significant compromises.

        But his rejection of the most promising American overtures ever offered is likely to generate severe tensions within the Cuban leadership. Fidel’s intransigence will be unsettling to the many civilian and military leaders who genuinely had hoped for a better relationship with Washington. Most had come to believe that Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president after all, was intent on moving in that direction.

        But Fidel’s snide commentary published on April 21 chastens and humiliates his brother. Now issuing almost one of these reflections daily, there can be no doubt that it is the infirm, cosseted, all-but-invisible Fidel, angry but triumphant, who is again the ultimate arbiter of Cuban foreign policy.

    ______________________________

    Dr. Brian Latell, distinguished Cuba analyst and recent author of the book, After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader, is a Senior Research Associate at ICCAS. He has informed American and foreign presidents, cabinet members, and legislators about Cuba and Fidel Castro in a number of capacities. He served in the early 1990s as National Intelligence Officer for Latin America at the Central Intelligence Agency and taught at Georgetown University for a quarter century. Dr. Latell has written, lectured, and consulted extensively.

    Website Accessible at http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/



    Cuba consulting services

  7. Follow up post #7 added on April 23, 2009 by paul

    You guys are betting on legless mummy horses.


  8. Follow up post #8 added on April 24, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    After a year of virtual silence at Havana Journal, I feel that I must add to the current debate regarding the political mess. As we are all friends of Cuba and everything that is of the best interest of friend’s on the island we must keep our own enthusiasm in check. When we strip the current feeding frenzy of so called dialogue, several facts lead us into a logical summary. Also realizing that both leaders in their countries are handcuffed with a common challenge.

    Both Obama and Raul, may personally believe it is time to get over the last fifty years but they are serving higher powers, and I am not talking about God. In Washington and Havana, the political heavyweights have been there for many years and have dug in their heals. Maybe both leaders would like to change the people in these positions but I am afraid that until they die off it will be hard to change the current direction.

    Now lets apply pure logic to the recent series of events regarding only Raul Castro and why it defies logic. Most of the media has focused on the wrong word usage from Raul. He has been using, Washington must recognize Cuba as a soveriegn nation, then the following will happen and we will let this be done and we will do this…... This is the hinge and he has offered a hinge that Washington will not accept even though maybe Obama is willing to.

    Applying logic again, why is this so important to the Castro brothers. As a sovereign nation, the Castro brothers will have a safe exile in their own country. They both have hideous amounts of crimes they need to hide from. If they maintain the current form of government they are safe. If there was democratic reforms, both the people of Cuba and the rest of the world would insist that they face charges. This also applies to the old guard revolutionaries that have enabled the brothers for so long.

    So maybe if Obama and the rest of us want a very progressive change, the only solution will be some sort of safe haven agreement for Brothers Casto and the powerful old revolutionaries.

    Sorry to deflate everyone’s enthusiasm, LIBERTAD will come when both Casto brothers are in the ground. No sooner


  9. Follow up post #9 added on April 24, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    HavnAndrew,

    Welcome back and thanks for posting. Sometimes I hate reality grin

    Seriously, I do worry that nothing will happen until Fidel is out of the picture.



    Cuba consulting services

  10. Follow up post #10 added on April 24, 2009 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    i still wouldnt write Raul off yet - we may get to see him in action after Fidel is dead; although I cant see him confronting and winning against Fidel while Fidel is still alive.  Unfortunately he and the whole world saw what happened when he (possibly) tried to extend an olive branch to Obama (or possibly just playing politics)


  11. Follow up post #11 added on April 24, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I think many would agree that things in Cuba may change when Fidel is dead.

    “I cant see him confronting and winning against Fidel while Fidel is still alive”

    So, it’s appropriate to call Raul “Fidel’s little brother” because he has to get Fidel’s approval on everything?

    What’s your take?

    (PS Welcome back Manfredz)



    Cuba consulting services

  12. Follow up post #12 added on April 24, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    I’m not entirely sure that Raul was really extending an olive branch to Obama.

    To me all the “let’s talk about everything” is part of a well orchestrated propaganda machine to keep portraying them as the absolute good and the US and the embargo as the absolute bad guys.


  13. Follow up post #13 added on April 24, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    How often are Presidents “misunderstood” in a speech, really?

    It’s not like Obama misunderstood Raul. The WORLD “misunderstood” Raul.

    Fidel’s comments were a lame attempt to “correct” Raul and give him a good international smackdown so he’ll talk with Fidel before he says anything else stupid… in Fidel’s eyes.

    Little Brother Raul needs permission from Fidel to engage with the US. Simple (and sad) as that.



    Cuba consulting services

  14. Follow up post #14 added on April 24, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    Be very careful when you read into what a politician says. It is an art form whether it is in English or Spanish. When we focus on the information that follows the “qualifier” it makes the subsequent information null and void because the qualifier has not been met. Raul’s qualifier was recognition of Cuba as a sovereign nation. He knew full well that Washington still wanted a regime change and democracy.

    Both sides have a qualifier now. so when both sides don’t expect their qualifier to be met it is clearly understood that all of the olives on the olive branch don’t exist. What Raul and Fidel have orchestrated and succeeded in is creating fodder for Cubans. It will go like this, even though we have offered so much to end the embargo, the United States has rejected it. It essentially has given a great deal more fuel for the Castro boys to continue because lets face it, the Cubans in their isolated world were getting highly suspicious of the same embargo argument. I can see the machine working. Our brave revolutionaries have tried very hard to make peace with the evil fascists in Washington. And now, Obama will hear from the real power in Washington, “Your way won’t work because the Brothers Castro can’t be trusted”.

    There is the old adage, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Our optimism as friends of Cuba must be tempered by a reality check rather than focusing on poorly reported stories by the international media and the context that they don’t fully understand. In real terms, since the last communist party shuffle, there is little to chance of change. The only real change will be with two dead Castros. Sorry to be so blunt and cold.


  15. Follow up post #15 added on April 24, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    HavanAndrew,

    Good wrap up and I hate it when you are right grin

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Obama is different. He is not an opportunist and liar like Bill Clinton or an ideological stubborn person like Bush.

    Obama is very smart in the sense that he listens to all sides, asks for input and debate and then makes a rational decision. Fidel Castro may have met his match when it comes to political positioning.

    I still need to ask, if Raul was misunderstood or misquoted, why can’t he come out and say that? Why does the ex-President in hiding have to write something from his bed in order to clarify the situation?

    I am thinking that Raul is pretty pissed about this and not part of a bigger picture strategy. If Raul is part of the bigger picture strategy then Fidel wrote the “everything” speech without telling Raul how it would play out?



    Cuba consulting services

  16. Follow up post #16 added on April 25, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    We could all go crazy trying to speculate but I don’t think Obama has had time to formulate a solid strategy of engagement with Cuba yet. He may think that it is better to go slowly, let a few things go through congress and see how it goes. I don’t think were going to see anything move as fast as we all would like it to.


  17. Follow up post #17 added on April 28, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Castro brothers’ power struggle may doom Obama’s overtures

    BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER | Miami Herald

    Fidel Castro’s latest comments about last weekend’s 34-country Summit of the Americas seem to support a growing theory among U.S. and Latin American leaders—that there is a split between Cuban leader Raúl Castro and his nominally retired brother Fidel.

    Speculation of a non-declared power struggle at the top of the Cuban regime may have helped to bolster President Barack Obama’s hopes at the summit in Trinidad about ‘‘a new beginning’’ in U.S.-Cuba ties.

    At his news conference at the end of the summit on Sunday, Obama praised Raúl’s remarks in Venezuela last week, in which the Cuban leader had stated that Cuba is willing to talk with the United States about ‘‘everything,’’ including human rights and political prisoners.

    Obama said Raúl’s remarks were ‘‘a sign of progress.’’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed his ‘‘overture.’’ And U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough told me that Raúl’s admission that Cuba may have made mistakes in the past ``strikes me as a degree of candor that we haven’t seen heretofore.’‘

    But this week, Fidel Castro poured buckets of cold water on U.S. and Latin American leaders’ speculation that we may be at the threshold of a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations. The former Cuban leader, who retired in 2006 but maintains loyalists in key positions of power, appeared to contradict his younger brother in written ‘‘reflections’’ published by Cuba’s official press this week.

    On Tuesday, Fidel wrote that Obama had ‘‘misinterpreted’’ Raúl’s remarks about Cuba’s willingness to discuss human rights issues. According to Fidel, Raúl meant to say that Cuba would free political prisoners if the United States frees five Cubans convicted in the U.S. of spying for Cuba.

    On Monday, in an editorial entitled ‘‘Crazy Dreams,’’ Fidel mocked last weekend’s calls from some summit leaders for a readmission of Cuba into the Organization of American States, adding that Cuba does not want to be part of the OAS.

    At the summit, Latin American leaders told me they believe that Raúl wants to open Cuba’s economy, following the Vietnamese model. Fidel, on the other hand, fears that such a path would doom his revolution, they say.

    There are concrete signs of Raúl’s desire to seek better ties with Washington, Latin American officials said.

    Days before the summit, Raúl’s government dispatched senior diplomats to Brazil and Argentina to urge their presidents not to risk a rift with the Obama administration at the summit over the Cuba issue. The Cuban emissaries’ message was: ask Obama to lift the U.S. sanctions on Cuba, but don’t attack the U.S. president to the point where it could create a backlash in the United States and spoil the momentum for a normalization of ties, they said.

    Earlier, Brazil’s daily Folha de Sao Paulo’s prominent columnist Clovis Rossi suggested in an article that Raúl is telling foreign dignitaries that he is his own man. According to the April 12 column, Raúl told Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during her recent visit to Cuba, ``You have to understand that there are two very different Castros here.’‘

    Are the two Castros fighting among themselves, I asked Norberto Fuentes, author of The Autobiography of Fidel Castro, who was close to the Castro brothers before he went into exile in 1994.

    ‘‘They fight all the time, but at the end of the day they rule together,’’ Fuentes said. ``And right now, Fidel’s health has improved, and he’s running the show.’‘

    According to Fuentes, Fidel has sabotaged every U.S. effort to improve ties with Cuba over the past 50 years and he needs confrontation with Washington to justify his regime’s absolute hold on power.

    My opinion: Obama deserves credit for offering a carrot to Raúl Castro, and waiting to see whether the Cuban leader bites.

    But I’m not too optimistic—unless Fidel’s health takes a turn for the worse—that there will be a positive response from Cuba. There are two different Castros on the island, but the one in charge is the one we’ve seen lately looking at the camera with wide eyes and wearing the Adidas tracksuit. And he’s not likely to change course this late in the game.



    Cuba consulting services

  18. Follow up post #18 added on April 29, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro repeated on Wednesday an offer to discuss “everything” with the United States to try to improve relations, but said Cuba did not have to make any “gestures” to its long-time enemy.

    “We have reiterated that we are willing to talk about everything with the United States, in equality of conditions, but not to negotiate our sovereignty, nor our political and social system, the right to self-determination, nor our internal affairs,” he said in a speech to a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.

    “Cuba has not imposed sanctions against the United States ... and therefore it is not Cuba that has to make gestures,” he said.

    END

    So, is Raul ready to talk or not? Fidel, could you answer that question for Raul since you like to speak for him?



    Cuba consulting services

  19. Follow up post #19 added on April 29, 2009 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    so are we having a good guy-bad guy scenario or “who’s on first” scenario?


  20. Follow up post #20 added on April 29, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Manfredz,

    What do you think? You have lots of experience down there.

    Are Fidel and Raul working together or are they at odds?

    Is this Raul’s sincere attempt to counter Fidel’s statement or is Raul agreeing with Fidel?

    This Cuba game can drive a person mad. I can only imagine what it’s like to have to live under this type of mindset.



    Cuba consulting services

  21. Follow up post #21 added on April 29, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Funny how words can be interpreted. Here’s the same story without editing from Russia:

    Raul Castro reiterates Cuba’s willingness for dialog with U.S.

    HAVANA, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - Cuban leader Raul Castro reiterated on Wednesday his country’s willingness for a comprehensive dialog with the United States, but said the country’s internal affairs were off-limits.

    “We have said we are ready to discuss all issues with the U.S. government, on the condition of equality, but our sovereignty, our political and social system, our right to self-determination, and our internal affairs are not up for negotiation,” he said.



    Cuba consulting services

  22. Follow up post #22 added on April 29, 2009 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    Pub.  I really dont know.  Hoever I’m reminded of a situation that happened to our neighbours family long ago.  The father had a home heating service and installation company, in which his eldest sone helped.  The dad then retired turning the company over to the son, but continued to interfere so much that the son quit and started up his only company.
    Obviously Raul doesn’t have that option.
    Here’s what I think and why (but keep in mind this is only an opinion and not based on any insider knowledge, and the opinion is based on discussions, the last being this past Jan, that I had with Cuban friends when I was there).
    I see Raul as being more pragmatic and seriously trying to change the status quo. I also see his appearing to approach Obama for talks to see if it would be an opening to get the Cuban 5 back - if he did that he would gain points in a lot of eyes.  And at the cost of releasing the political prisoners that Cuba doesn’t have would be a small price to pay for that. 
    I don’t think he has any illusion that he’s going to get an end to the blokade in one step or get back Gitmo.  The first is doable down the road; the second probably not (rememebr the British still hold Gibralter despite Britain and Spain being far better friends than Cuba and the US).
    I personally see this is a case of Fidel trying to sabatage any moves in this direction as well as publicly admonishing (humitiate?) his brother so that he doesn’t try anything like this again.
    Anyway thats only my 2 centvos worth and anyone who builds up a contrary arguement will be every bit as valid.


  23. Follow up post #23 added on April 29, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Okay. And once again we wait.

    I think both Castros will do whatever it takes to make sure nothing ever really changes. The most important thing is that each of them run Cuba for just one more day.



    Cuba consulting services

  24. Follow up post #24 added on April 29, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    Ask yourselves this. Why would you change when the present and future reveals your past sins? I will remind you that there is so much to hide, Raul and Oswald for starters. The Castros have so much on each other that at the end of the day they can’t give each other up.


  25. Follow up post #25 added on April 29, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    My relatives in Cuba have said to me many times before that Raul is much more open to change in Cuba than Fidel ever was. I can’t say if this is correct, but that is what I have been told by Cubans that know him.


  26. Follow up post #26 added on April 30, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    Pipefitter;
    The degree of difference in change between Raul and Fidel is about perception. Raul allows Cubans to have cell phones now while tracking and listening in. Fidel says you don’t need cell phones. Raul says they can stay in tourist hotels providing they can pay for them, really a way to help the sex tourism business. Fidel says you don’t need to stay in them because it is a decadent and unrevolutionary thing. Raul says he is willing to talk yet the terms contradict change. Fidel simply wouldn’t discuss the matter of change. The comparison between the two is like comparing a Ford and a Chevy, they both have four wheels and a motor, slightly different but with a distinct different personality.


  27. Follow up post #27 added on April 30, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Havandrew, well I don’t know were you get your info but some of our Cuban relations have cell phones. One is a doctor and another is a man of the cloth. Others have stayed for a week in the same hotel that we did when we were in Cuba. Another family stayed in a hotel at Cayo Coco for a week were I havn’t been. Most of the family comunicate with us by internet through work. half of the families have computers (not connected to the net).  No they are not members of the government.
    Raul says he is willing to talk, no preconditions, the same way the U.S. wants to talk to Iran, or North Korea, China,Saudi Arabia etc. Not much to ask I’d say.


  28. Follow up post #28 added on April 30, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    The amount of people with cell phones and computers in Cuba is not representative of the whole population, maybe 10 to 15 % no more. The percentage of Cubans that can go and pay for a hotel is even much lower.


  29. Follow up post #29 added on April 30, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    Pipefitter;
    If your family and friends have cell phones in Cuba they would be best advised to be very cautious about what they say while using them. Okay some of your friends have access to a bunch of convertible pesos but the overwhelming amount of Cubans in tourist hotels are young prostitutes with dirty old tourist men. You fail to recognize the analogy of the difference between the two men. Both men can’t afford real change because they are both rotten apples. Okay, maybe one apple is more rotten than the other.


  30. Follow up post #30 added on April 30, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Ya, I’ve seen the young prostitutes with the dirty old men in the hotels. From my experience I haven’t see that many, maybee 1% or so of the guests. I guess the cell phones are monitored the same way they are in Canada and the U.S.. I see what you say about dealing with rotten apples, but in this day and age you can’t be looking for reasons to not talk. Obama said he is willing to talk, to engage with countries, why schould it be any different for Cuba?
    Cuba needs and wants change, The U.S. has the oportunity to have a part in that change,the ball is in their court, lets hope they don’t drop the ball.


  31. Follow up post #31 added on April 30, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    The U.S.A. can choose the countries it will trade with. There is no moral expectation that they owe other countries. Obama is willing to talk, and the best thing he can do is lift the embargo so that the Castros and the system can no longer blame everything on the embargo. Obama and company don’t have money to bail out Cuba, Cuba must do it. The charity train for Cuba must come to an end, Castro has gone from country to country with his hand open over the years. Lets get real, Cuba can purchase goods from anywhere else in the world. They don’t have money or enough goods to trade for primarily because it is a floundering entity known as Castro Inc. THE BALL IS IN THE HANDS OF EVERY CUBAN TO MAKE CHANGE, NOT OBAMA’S OR THE CASTROS.

    P.S. You are dead wrong about the prostitutes in the resorts and cell phone monitoring.


  32. Follow up post #32 added on April 30, 2009 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    I was just in my usual Playas del Estes for 2 weeks in Jan, and in this area I did not see any widespread signs of prostitution, but did see a few pairs consisting of older male tourists with younger Cuban females.  Also saw several cases of where police would check teh papers of people on the beach that drew their attention, but nothing significant, to say nothing of widespread.

    From what I understand it takes a much more significant technical investment to monitor cell phone calls than it does landlines -  think the security apparatus in Cuba is widespread enough that they know whats happening and with whom to have to make that investment.


  33. Follow up post #33 added on April 30, 2009 by paul

    Obama’s recent gesture was met with an expected Castro cold shoulder. Cuban exiles can get demonized all day long, but they know that the Castro Monarchy is a basket of snakes.

    That is definitely a gauge for how he will be for any type of concessions that the USA makes. Nothing is good enough. I’m sure that the Obama administration will be more cautious from now on, as they saw that Castro and his obedient dogs won’t flex an inch.


  34. Follow up post #34 added on April 30, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    I don’t say that the U.S. has to give any money or credit to Cuba. We all know the U.S. is in bad enough shape as it is. All that Cuba has asked for was to buy stuff for cash. Call Raul’s bluff, he says he will talk about anything so whats the hold up? If relations are made better, that will in effect force change in Cuba by osmosis. I think you can see that Raul has “flexed” by offering to put everything on the table for talks, twice.
    I too have not seen any Cubans hassled, or taken away from the beach, just one that was making an ass of himself and nicely told not to. I also talked to a farmer who was on the beach with his family. He said he was doing OK selling all his excess goods above his quota on the open market. There were a number of Cuban families on the same beach with the tourists.


  35. Follow up post #35 added on April 30, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    Of course the US can choose who it trades with.
    But is it right to deny so many things like good phone lines, medicine, farming equipment, etc.?
    Of course not.
    No me jodas.


  36. Follow up post #36 added on May 01, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    Oh please! Everything is available from the world not just the United States.

    For example; the sugar cane harvesters from Brasil are top notch but when you don’t pay your bills you can’t get new equipment. Instead the Castros still have the near dead Soviet era harvesters.

    I don’t see the obligation for the U.S.A. to provide telephone lines for Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, so why is there an obligation for Cuba.

    Medicines are openly available on the open market especially the generic forms.

    The people of Cuba have let the Castros destroy their country. The Cuban people can put an end to it and only the Cuban people. Remeber, when you point a finger at someone three fingers are pointing back at you. The handouts, the defaulting on binding payments must stop. The Castros are running out of countries to burn.

    Making excuses and defending the Castros hasn’t done any good. Instead it has prolonged the inevitable, change can only come when the brothers go to another world.

    This is coming from a Canadian that has spent an extensive amount of time in Cuba and not from a Cuban in Miami with a deep seated grudge. Wake up folks.


  37. Follow up post #37 added on May 01, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    The rest of the world isn’t 90 miles away and I think the refered telephone lines to restore would be the ones between Miami and Havana. The U.S. has telephone lines to Jamaica and the Dominican republic.


  38. Follow up post #38 added on May 01, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Interesting.

    Who needs whom more?

    Does Obama need Cuba or does Raul need the United States?

    Really?

    If anyone thinks that Obama needs Cuba they are delusional. Cuba is just another thing to do for Obama at this time.  Cuba is a nice topic for Obama but US travel and trade is a must have for Raul at this time.

    Raul needs the US to open up travel and trade with Cuba. If he wants to blow this opportunity and just drive Cuba further into the ground with some “screw you Obama” type of rhetoric then Cuba can just live on as Cuba and the US can live on without Cuba.

    Really. Which county do you think will last longer and be stronger without the other?

    So, Raul, get out from under your Brother’s shadow and stop being Fidel’s bitch and make a name for yourself.

    There. I said it. Bring it on!



    Cuba consulting services

  39. Follow up post #39 added on May 01, 2009 by paul

    Cuba already buys things from the USA. Look at the figures on cubatrade.org

    The numbers are huge, but they are cash only. If I were Obama, I wouldn’t trust those olive green snakes with credit at all, considering their history of defaulting to payments.

    The Castros didn’t put “everything on the table” as resident commie pipefitter stated. They are willing to talk (whatever that means) but nothing regarding democratization and internal matters.

    Yes, let’s not fill their ears with such evil things as free societies, political pluralism, freedom of movement and openness. Let’s just talk about healthcare and education, with the information provided from the Cuban govt.


  40. Follow up post #40 added on May 01, 2009 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Stop pointing the wrong side, the embargo is undoubtedly a wrong and stupid policy that never worked, however, the main problem is not the US embargo but the Cuban “revolutionary” Government that has an embargo on the Cuban people.

    Cuba have access to every single merchandise including the most advanced medical equipments, top notch technologies, medicines, all sort of foods in the international market. The fact and the matter is that they have purchased everything over the years, many products directly on the US, others in Canada, Mexico, Panama and elsewhere. Today even with the famous US embargo, the US is one of Cuba’s main trading partners. 

    The main problems that Cuba and the Cubans face today are not related to phone lines or to the possibility of buying directly in the US, the Cubans problems are related to lack of credit due to reckless economic policies, abuse of public funds, using a small poor country’s moneys to finance wars around the world.

    The problems of Cuba and the Cubans have a common denominator: the Castro totalitarian regime, don’t look anywhere else.


  41. Follow up post #41 added on May 02, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    Publisher, on “who needs who more” I would say that it would be mutually beneficial to drop the embargo. Hillary Clinton said in answer to a question (may 1/ 09) that the U.S. is loosing influence in Latin America because of the previous lack of engagement and bad policy directed toward south american countries. She said the U.S. has to engage with even the socialist / communist governments there because Iran, China and the Soviet Union are increasing their involvment and influence in the area and the U.S. needs to increase it’s involvment with these countries even though they have been highly critical of the U.S. in the past and are difficult to work with. She also said that the U.S. has been pressured by almost every country in South America to drop the embargo against Cuba and they have to work toward that end even though it may be difficult.
    The U.S. is rapidly loosing influence in South America by that lack of involvment and what better way to influence the South Americans than by dropping the embargo against Cuba seeing as they are all against it.


  42. Follow up post #42 added on May 03, 2009 by paul

    Giving Cuba credit access is like giving someone credit with a 400 FICO score.

    Let them keep buying cash only, like the 718 Million they spent on American goods last year. If they want to get credit access, they need to pay huge interest rates, just like how they skim cash from remittances.


  43. Follow up post #43 added on May 04, 2009 by HavanAndrew

    We may all be speculating on what actually happening with the government of Cuba, I have come across a brilliant article to help us through the logical process. “Cuba: Reading the Changes” is at http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?ots591=4888CAA0-B3DB-1461-98B9-E20E7B9C13D4&lng=en&id=99257


  44. Follow up post #44 added on May 05, 2009 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    HavanAndrew, good article, probably the best explination I have seen.


Would you like to add more information?


Only members can add more information. Please register or log in

  • Advertise at Havana Journal Inc
Images of Cuba
Cuban soldiers killed by the Spanish
Follow Havana Journal
SUBSCRIBE to our Cuba Watch newsletter
LIKE us on Facebook

FOLLOW us on Twitter

CONNECT with us on Linked In

Section Archive
Havana Journal, Inc. BBB Business Review



Member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy