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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega talks about US Congressional visit to Cuba

Posted December 18, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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CatholicNews.com

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino called a mid-December visit to his nation by 10 U.S. legislators “very interesting.”

“It seems to me that they have a favorable attitude, and at this time of year, when Christmas is near and we are so in need of peace and dialogue among human beings, I consider this mission interesting, very interesting,” said Cardinal Ortega, archbishop of Havana.

The cardinal met Dec. 16 with the U.S. congressional delegation of six Democrats and four Republicans.

“It was very pleasant. The legislators were pleased with our conversation, and I was pleased with them,” he told Catholic News Service Dec. 17. “They want an improvement in the U.S. government’s relations with Cuba, and they have addressed various issues with Cuban officials.”

Asked about current prospects for bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States, the prelate replied that “everything depends on attitudes there in the United States.”

During the visit to Cuba, which ended Dec. 17, the U.S. delegation met with Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque; Ricardo Alarcon, president of the national assembly; and Central Bank President Francisco Soberon. The group also met with Yadira Garcia, minister of basic industry; Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, head of international relations for the Communist Party of Cuba; representatives of Alimport, the food importing company; and Western diplomats.

At a press conference at the end of their three-day visit to Havana, the legislators said that dialogue between the United States and Cuba has begun, although Cuban officials have not acknowledged that “a new era” has begun.

The visit came in the wake of conciliatory comments made Dec. 2 by Raul Castro, ailing President Fidel Castro’s brother who is acting as president. Raul Castro said the two countries should settle their differences at a negotiating table.

Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban revolution, is recovering from intestinal surgery. On July 31 he temporarily turned his political duties over to his brother, who is second in command in the government. The U.S. lawmakers did not meet with Raul Castro, although they had requested an appointment.

“Officials of the (Cuban) government told us that (Fidel Castro) does not have cancer and that his condition is not terminal,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who headed the delegation, told the press conference.

In a joint statement, the legislators said it is “time for the United States to enter a dialogue with Cuba.”

“No one should be under the illusion that a negotiation with Cuba would be easy, or that results would be guaranteed. But if we refuse to engage in normal diplomacy, we are guaranteed to produce no results at all,” the statement said.

The U.S. legislators called for regular consultation on issues such as migration and drug trafficking, discussion of the environmental impact that Cuban petroleum exploration could have on U.S. marine ecosystems, and conversations about ways of collaborating on legal issues.

Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said the fact that Raul Castro used the word “negotiation” indicates a willingness to take steps toward change. Delahunt said he doubted there would be sudden changes in the country, but he said he was confident that there was a willingness on both sides of the Florida Straits to take advantage of what he called “a historic moment.”

“What we have been doing for 45 years did not work,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. “It has not led to a prisoner exchange. It has not done anything. It has not brought about changes in Cuba ... so we need to do something different, and that different thing would be to sit down and talk. We can’t be sure that will work, but we know that what has been done did not work.”

Meeks added that the legislative visit was not related to Fidel or Raul Castro, but to foreign policy toward Cuba, which Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., called “a relic of the Cold War.”

The lawmakers said the change in the balance of power in the U.S. Congress could serve as a catalyst for future dialogue between the United State and Cuba.

The two countries broke off diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after the Cuban revolution. The only official relationship is through the interest sections that were established in Washington and Havana in 1977.

Member Comments

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On December 18, 2006, publisher wrote:

I think it is interesting that the Cardinal was there in the first place and I also find it interesting that he is able to get his comments published.

Overall, I have to say I am very impressed with the whole event.

Sometimes these international negotiations take months just to discuss who will be at the table, where they will sit, what will be released to the press etc etc.

Maybe they have been planning this for months but they seem to give the impression that they were able to swoop in and meet everyone but Raul.

I wonder if they knew Raul would be a no show but that was okay because he didn’t want to seem too eager.

Now, for the sake of conversation, let’s reverse this. Say a delegation of high ranking Cubans wanted to come to the US and asked to meet with President Bush. How do you think that would have turned out.

I’ll tell you how that would have turned out, Bush would openly deny visas to all Cubans including Raul himself if he wanted to come. Right? End of story.

So, tell me who are the bad guys again when it comes to US Cuba policy?

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On December 19, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

This policy which we have maintained towards Cuba, particulary since the fall of the Soviet Union, simply defies all logic and reason, it is a mindless and cruel policy not worthy of a great nation.

Mr. Delahunt and Mr. Flake have shown many in Washington that a little diplomacy and a little civility go a long way, in contrast to the arrogance and extremism displayed time and again by the Bush White House.

One can only hope that this climate of negotiation continues in spite of the many roadblocks, I am sure, the White House and Diaz-Balart @ company will try to come up with in order to thwart these negotiations.

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On December 20, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

Publisher, I agree that if the reverse were true, Cuban diplomats would probably not be granted visas to come to Washington to talk to Bush.  Thankfully, that’s not the case.  There are still honest men in Washington who realize doing away with the embargo and establishing ties is the only thing that makes sense.  In the past, it’s always been Cuba who has approached the U.S. in the hopes of resuming diplomatic ties, but it’s always Washington that refuses to make the peace.  Perhaps things will change now that there are more open-minded politicians in Washington, while the dinosaurs, like Ileana, will soon be phased out.

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On December 20, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

Perez, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ileana and the Balarts try to concoct some out-of-the-blue situation so they can point the finger and Cuba and bring negotiations to a halt.  But I think that many (I hope) have wised up to these antics.

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On December 20, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

MiamiCuban, of course you are absolutely right, but I also agree that many, even in Miami, have wised up and these folks in Washington, Flake, Delahunt and others seem pretty determined to change the status quo.

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On December 20, 2006, publisher wrote:

But Fidel never really wanted the Embargo lifted. He always did something to quiet any talks about lifting the Embargo.

Hopefully Raul will be different.

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On December 20, 2006, publisher wrote:

I bet the old Cuban exiles, Ileana, the Balarts or even a John Bolton type (remember his claim that Cuba had the capability to make bioweapons) have an announcement to make about Raul that will be an attempt to stall any talks.

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On December 20, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

Publisher, why do you feel that Fidel never wanted the embargo lifted?  I’ve heard this said by others as well, but I don’t understand how the embargo would be helpful since it makes it more difficult and costly for Cuba to buy from other countries instead of the U.S.

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On December 20, 2006, publisher wrote:

I thought it was well known that Castro needed and used the Embargo as a reason that Cuba could not prosper.

You haven’t heard that?

Canada has VERY cheap medicine and free trade relations with Cuba. Why is medicine so hard to get in Cuba?

Why did Castro bomb Brothers to the Rescue, because there was talk of easing the Embargo.

Why did he crack down on dissidents in 2003, because there was talk of easing the Embargo.

Castro and the old Cuban exiles need the Embargo or they will all have to look at each other in the mirror and face the facts.

So, the old Cuban exiles need Fidel to run Cuba so they can have their money and power and Fidel needs the Embargo so he can play the good guy in Cuba.

I’m sure there are better ways to sum up my thoughts but that’s all I got for now.

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On December 21, 2006, Pete Chavez wrote:

The biggest overall problem with lifting the embargo for Castro is that a lifted embargo in the end provides people with economic independence and when they get a taste of economic independence they eventually start to think they deserve political independence (ie the Batista years, enter Fidel who will liberate us from tyranny, joke being on us).  So he knows this all to well, which is why he nationalized all Cuban owned businesses in 1967/68 in a final slam dunk to bring the population to it’s economic knees.  And we are not talking major industries like Sugar, Tobacco, Nickel or even the phone company(that was in the early 60’s).  We are talking ma and pa shops, shoe stores, cafeterias, hardware stores, dress shops, bakeries, butchers the whole backbone of the economy.  The more dependent the population is made to be on the government the more easily they are likely to be controled (capitalism of people instead of money).  So to have a well to do Cuba with Castro in power would ultimately be unmanageable for him and the regime.  They learned all these tricks from the Soviets, it’s well known and now he’s passing them on to Chavez.

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On December 21, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

Publisher, I think there are many angles from which to analyze who does and doesn’t benefit from the embargo.  And although many would agree with you that Castro prefers the embargo stay in place, I disagree.  I do know that Radio Mambi has used that very idea as propaganda for the past 40 years, and of course the listeners repeat everything they hear.  As for the bombing of the Brothers to the Rescue, I see it as an act of self-defense.  The Brothers to the Rescue repeatedly tantalized the Cubans by flying near Cuba’s airspace, and had even flown over Havana to drop anti-Castro leaflets.  This is clearly provocation, and the Cuban government warned Clinton on several occasions that they would shoot the planes down if they continued these acts of aggression.  I don’t think the Cuban government acted any differently than we would have if an “enemy” continuously provoked us in that manner.  In fact, there would probably be no warning at all.  They’d shoot first and ast questions later.  What happened with BTTR is unfortunate, but it didn’t have to be that way…and of course, the right-wing exiles in Miami used it to further intensify tensions between the two countries.  The only ones who benefit from the embargo (the way I see it), are the right-wing radio stations in Miami who need the embargo in order to justify the millions of dollars they receive from the federal government.

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On December 21, 2006, Varsi Padayachee wrote:

Perhaps, we need to go back to the genesis of this whole Cuba-USA fiasco. While conversation, finger pointing, and name calling might stir up the passions, it is my OPINION, that the root cause needs to be identified, and the process that brings us to today. I will not bore you with some of the details, but in days of yore, Cubans could not even “breathe” without the express consent of the US. In fact, any foreign policy, business venture or even election had to be sanctioned by the Great Power to the North. Then we had US businesses running the show, ably engineered by Machado and that Bautista. Gambling, pornography and a gross repression of the non-white population was rampant. These poot disenfranchised could even visit the glorious beaches of Havana, and for that matter were “politely” discouraged from visiting the city for fear that it might upset the “gringos”. US businesses went on a fire sale grab, like is the practice in much of the Caribbean (Dole Foods being one of them), while fattening the rear ends of the now-infamous Anti- Fidel Miami Cubans. The discontent was there, Fidel just lit the Fire. When he visited the US to meet with our Govt., the President was suddenly unavailable, so VP Spiro Agnew met with him, not because he wanted to. When Fidel went to the UN he could not even get a hotel room. He was treated like a PARIAH. However, it took Statesmen like Nehru and Kruschev, who stood by his side. SAdly, these facts are conveniently forgotten, referencing only what is palatable, as long as it sings from our sheet of music.
What is happening today, across Latin America is not something special or spectacular. It is the fruit of Fidel’s (not communism) efforts to restore pride to ipeoples who have so long being marginalized by the greed of the Big Business.

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On December 21, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

That’s exactly right, Varsi.  It was the Platt Amendment that basically stripped Cubans of their rights and gave the U.S. a direct say in all of Cuba’s affairs.  From there the resentment only grew until, naturally, someone like Fidel had to surface to bring things in balance.  Unfortunately, when the historical background is not taken into account, there is a lot of finger-pointing as you say.  It all has to do with the basic universal law of cause-and-effect.

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On December 21, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

Varsi,
Some of the points you make are valid, although I must say, taken a little to the extreme, however, when you refer to conditions in Cuba prior to the revolution, your portraying of Cuban society is inaccurate. Gambling did exist but was allocated to casinos, pornography did exist but was allocated to “red zone districts” as it is in many european cities, and there was no gross repression on the non-white population, by any standards none of these conditions were rampant. I was born in Cuba and lived there until 1961, I was 20 years old when I left and I can tell you none of these conditions you mentioned existed to the degree of “rampant”.
The revolution was fought because economic and social conditions existed which had to be reformed, but Cuba in 1959 had, nevertheless, one of the highest standards of living in all of Latin America and this is well documented, not just my opinion. The fact that these reforms could not have been made with the blessing of the U.S. was the begining of the long confrontation that has since existed, however, it must be said that extreme measures on both sides have contributed to the conditions of today.
One can only hope that negotiations, based on mutual respect and fairness, can continue and yield the results that we all wish, not a Cuba under the boot of the U.S., but also a Cuba perhaps a bit more tolerant of dissent.

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On December 21, 2006, Varsi Padayachee wrote:

Mr. Perez, I would not venture to disagree with some of your points, given your first hand experience. However, I watched a documentary made made a lady whose family was one of the landed gentry. She went back to Cuba, with her son, and made this docudrama, essentially tracing her life in Cuba. What struck me most was her absolute resentment for the people that are the current residents of her “families” home. Throughout she emphasized her glorious and colorful life, one fit for a king. She even had the audacity to express such to the everyday people. Curiously she tried to elicit from the everyday people any negative reaction towards the Revolution. One wizened old man, rather succinctly said, “while we have problems, and do not have much, we are contented because we always have something to eat, and we can live and visit Havana, which we could not do before.” My intent is not a eneralization, but rather when there is one expression of discontent, a wound festers, and soon we have revolution.

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On December 21, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

Varsi,
I have always recognized, then and now, that conditions existed which cried out for reform, however, I have never in my 66 years of live, in or out of Cuba, heard anyone say that Cubans were not permited to visit Habana, this is simply not true, but don’t take my word for it, ask any Cuban.
With respect to the lady portraited in the docudrama you refer to, she is living in the past as many in Miami are, but that does not change the facts.
Cubans that fought during the revolution fought the good fight, my modest effort included, but we went from being a satellite of the U.S. to being one of the Soviet Union, not entirely by choice, but true nevertheless. My sincere wish for the people of Cuba, from both sides of the Florida Strais, is that Cuba may preserve the gains made by the revolution, independent of any country but more tolerant of peaceful dissent.

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On December 21, 2006, MiamiCuban wrote:

J. Perez, I like the way you sum it up at the end.  I always felt that no matter what happened in the past and how we’ve arrived at the current situation, it’s about keeping what’s good (and in my opinion the revolution has brought many good things), while also being more tolerant of, as you say, peaceful dissent.  I think Cuba will get there, they’ve already opened up with religion, and gays are no longer persecuted (Castro admitted that was a mistake).  I just feel that progress would be faster if they weren’t under the boot of the U.S. and also didn’t have to constantly be guarding themselves from aggression on the part of the exiles.

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On December 21, 2006, publisher wrote:

MiamiCuban and all others who want a great insight into Fidel’s head, watch this video from Brian Latell here

http://www.fora.tv/fora/fora_view_all_nprograms.php?keyword=fidel castro&x=32&y=17

I found it to be very enlightening.

He talks about how Castro used Angola, the mariel boat lift etc to quiet any US talks of lifting the Embargo.

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On December 21, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

MiamiCuban, yes we will get there.

Publisher, I respectfully have to say that I find Mr. Latell’s ideas and opinions very suspect, he tends to look and analyze things from a CIA point of view, not particulary an objective player.

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On December 21, 2006, Pete Chavez wrote:

J.Perez,
I couldn’t agree more with your last remark.  My cousin Roman came to the U.S. in 1956.  He came to NY to be a painter (he was also 20 yrs old).  He always recounts how when he interestingly applied for residency his immigration officer asked him a barage of questions as to why he finds the U.S. so interesting.  Roman asked at some point with a little bit of caution what the relevancy behind the questions were for and the official chuckled and said “None, it’s just of personal interest to me, the Cubans and the French are the only 2 groups of foreigners that are always way below their allocated quotas for immigration to the U.S.”  That is a very telling barometer of truth for this hell on Earth known as pre-Castro Cuba that Varsi’s painting.  Varsi’s description of a pre Castro Cuba sounds like some 1917 Marxist manifesto booklet published in Russia except the names and places have been changed.  I must say he’s highly imaginative and given to romanticism, very amuzing.  And yet it is true that there were gross injustices and alot of problems to be solved but no where near enough to the extent of an economic diaspora as we have later seen with Mexico, India, Columbia, China, Central America and now Cuba in the last twenty years.  It’s my hope that when the Castro nightmare is over, that health care remain socialized, education remain compulsory and public until adulthood is reached and that the Cuban people (not regime) rise up and assert themselves as a sovereign nation to the U.S. and the rest of the world.

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On December 21, 2006, publisher wrote:

J Perez,

Yes, Mr. Latell is from the CIA but after watching the video you will understand him, Fidel and Raul much better.

If you watch the video and still are not impressed, that’s fine but watch the video, it might change your mind about Mr. Latell and you may understand Fidel better. Not that you will agree with either one’s past but you may understand who they are better.

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On December 21, 2006, J. Perez wrote:

Chavez, nothing wrong with being highly imaginative and given to romanticism as long as we stay true to the facts. In the final analysis I believe that all of us that write in this forum want the same thing, to see a Cuba that is not oppressed by anyone, I for one would like to spend the rest of my life there and as MiamiCuban expressed earlier “we will get there”.

Publisher, I will watch the video with an open mind.

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On December 21, 2006, James E. Middleton/Joshua Enterprises, Inc. wrote:

Quiet ,backdoor diplomacy will produce far more results than the U.S. Congressional visit to the island, which ended on 12/17/06! Because of the U.S. Congressional shift in power, new opportunities, for major changes on the island, will present themselves, in the coming days, weeks, and months!

Do not be continuely swayed, or mis-lead, by the U.S. media coverage, on the complex issues between Havana and D.C.!

Dialogue, of a substative nature is underway, with the island! There will be a series of small steps, quietly undertaken, and implemented! These steps by the island will be quiet proof, to certain individuals, who will help put desired inititives in motion! The White House is a lame duck on some of these conversations, and a willingness to quietly discuss, an array of serious issues, has been started!

‘07 will produce numerous surprise decisions, and announcements, that will finally start the ball rolling, towards a major shift in U.S., Cuban relations!

The ‘06 Congressional election was a reality check, and a serious wake up call, for the Republican party! On many issues, which Cuba will now be included!

The U.S. Foreign Policy is a travesty in progress! Worldwide! Intransigence in the White House, and the State Department, has finally awakened a sleeping giant! The majority of the U.S. population! Whether right or wrong, the majority of the U.S. population has had enough of the “Stay the Course” mentality! Not only concerning Irag, Afganistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, etc.! Obviously D.C.‘s plate is more than full, and they are clearly not up to the task of successfully resolving these fractured relationships!

‘41 and Baker would have never allowed the current situation to exist, on so many fronts, at the same time! They enjoyed the International stage, and it’s challenges!‘43 and his fabulous four, have provided a platform for new faces in D.C., and they are not Republicans!

Democrats, who are seriously interested in living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, can look like heroes, before they even take office, in 2009! All they have to do is quietly talk, respectfully, with integrity, and with fresh ideas, to age old issues, that can be resolved!

Cuba can be the doorway, for the next U.S. President, before there is an election! Time will tell!

If the right person (or persons) recognizes the fact, that there is a new wind blowing, with quiet Back Door Diplomacy!

Every lock has a key! Which U.S. politician will find the key?

James E. Middleton
Joshua Enterprises, Inc.
12/21/06

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On December 21, 2006, publisher wrote:

James,

Well said. I just posted this story

http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/thestarcom-news-raul-castro-signals-more-openness/

The ball may be rolling so things can be ready for a big opening just weeks after Fidel is gone.

Spring 2007 good be the time to end the Embargo.

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On December 22, 2006, Varsi Padayachee wrote:

Mr. Perez, Thank you for setting some of the record straight. However, I believe you touched on a larger point, which I think is the crux of the problem..LIVING IN THE PAST. Quite rightly, t is time to move forward, seek common ground and allow the people of Cuba to decide for themselves, their course of action.It appears that with Raul taking charge, a new direction is in the offing, and hopefully the US will accept this gesture as a signal. It is the singular right and responsibility of the people of Cuba to effect change, and not the responsibility of the US and the Miami crowd to meddle and dictate the change.
Respective to Mr. Middleton’s response: The US media has been AWOL on most of the issues. They have surrendered their mandate, in exchange for cushy jobs and hefty profits. Sadly, the corporate US media has sunk to nothing more than well paid spew machines.

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On December 22, 2006, Varsi Padayachee wrote:

Mr. Pete Chavez, I am glad that my musings and commentary amuses you. The least I can do for you during ths holiday season. However, I write not from a perspective of romaticism, but rather from conclusions drawn from reading, listening, engaging and travelling. I do not profess to be correct on all points. However, I am adult about being corrected as long as it is constructive, and not condescending or personal. I try to engage, be it with like thinkers or with those with divergent opinions, in the hope that I can learn and impart. Sadly, you seem to lack that quality. You appear to one that attacks those with whom you disagree, as you have done previously. You have your point of view, and that is something I respect. That cannot be said about you. My opionions are based on my travels to Latin America, the Caribbean, most of the US, Europe and Southern Africa. Quite an education when one can appreciate other points of view, not be so consumed with a false sense of self importance. During my years in University, I always enjoyed relating to people and issues by describing them with sayings or adages. As a student of economics, I believe, unequivocally, that when I came up with this some 35 years ago, tyou would be amongst who deserved such an honour..” self centered importance is a crime that can only be mitigated by the law of diminishing returns..”  Enjoy your holidays!