http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/does-clinton-understand-that-fidel-does-not-want-the-embargo-lifted-623/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

*Does Secretary Clinton understand that Fidel does not want the Embargo lifted?

Posted June 23, 2010 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

Cuba watchers know that US Cuba relations have been “abnormal”, to say the least, for decades and Fidel wants it that way.

Whenever there is any substantial talk of easing the Embargo in the US, Fidel et al make a strategic move to sabotage any loosening of the US Embargo.

Carter was talking about easing the Embargo then came the Mariel Boat Lift.

Clinton was talking about easing the Embargo then came the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.

Now, in April of this year Secretary Clinton said “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do no want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years,” Clinton said.

Congratulations to her for that brilliant epiphany.

Odd that she would now say that the “continued detention of Alan Gross is harming US-Cuba relations”.

Really Secretary Clinton? You are surprised that the Cuban government is sabotaging US Cuba relations?

I think this Havana Journal cartoon sums it up pretty well.

Apparently President Obama has fallen into Fidel Castro’s trap too. Even when the Secretary of State says that she realizes that Fidel does not want the Embargo lifted, she is shocked that Cuba won’t cooperate on the Alan Gross affair.

What is the one constant in Cuba since Fidel took power on January 1, 1959?

Russia? No.
China? No.
Venezuela? No.
Tourism revenue? No.
Sugar revenue? No.
President Fidel Castro? No, not even that. He has not been President since 2008.

The answer is the Embargo. The failed “Plan A” Embargo has been in place for almost 50 years. Is it going to work because Obama and Clinton pressure Cuba to change?

No.

Same shit different decade.

Member Comments

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On June 23, 2010, publisher wrote:

You would think that Secretary Clinton’s next words after her realization in April would have been “I will do everything in my power to lift the Embargo” but no.

I guess she thinks maybe the Bush strategy would work?

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On June 23, 2010, John McAuliff wrote:

This is a fundamentally mistaken analysis.

1)  When countries are in a long conflict, each can blame the other by choosing where and when to begin the accounting of history. 

2)  I am not so familiar with the Mariel story, but I think Wayne Smith who was head of USINT at the time would describe causality in a different way.

3)  Brothers to the Rescue flights had become a deliberate provocation by Miami hardliners, intended presumably to either show Havana’s weakness to control its own airspace or to induce a discrediting reaction.  There were repeated warnings against flights over Havana to drop leaflets and Cuba thought Clinton had agreed to stop them.  I doubt that the Brothers pilots were deliberate martyrs, but they were naive in the extreme if they thought they could continually violate Cuban airspace. 

Did the Cubans overreact harshly and against their own interests? Certainly.  Do small countries faced with independence threatening pressure from large neighbors feel their only defense is their toughness even to the point of irrationality?  Consider Georgia and Russia, consider Israel.

Did Cuba deliberately set out to undermine not very clear intentions to repair relations by Clinton and create a climate favoring passage of Helms-Burton?  That seems unlikely.

3)  Add to the scenario of provocation leading to over-reaction, USINT head Jim Cason’s diplomatically unacceptable aggressive support, if not creation, of dissidents leading to the “black spring” arrests in 2003.  Did Cuba act because it wanted to undermine Congressional support for travel, or was Cason’s goal to create an incident that would achieve that, just as happened?

4)  Alan Gross’s arrest was a direct response to the failure of the Obama administration to clean up USAID’s interventionist democracy funding regime- change destabilization agenda of the Bush administration.  While I have argued that Cuba should release him, I also believe the US must pledge to not send others in his place.  See my latest post on Gross at http://thehavananote.com/2010/06/uscuba_migration_talks_unneces_1.html

5)  Any steps toward normalization with the US are a two edged sword for Cuba as long as Washington is committed to the overthrow of its political system.  Havana knows that with every benefit comes a danger.  Ending travel restrictions will help the economy but it will be that much harder to separate out those of ill will from the stream of hundreds of thousands of US tourists. 

It doesn’t mean that Cuba wants to torpedo travel legislation, but it does lead to seeking ways to make it clear that they are not giving up their defenses against US subversion. 

6)  To some extent, we are hoisted on our own petard.  If President Obama really allowed family travel as he publicly justified it largely to foster penetration of US values and democracy, if we argue to Congress that ending travel restrictions is the best way to open up Cuba, don’t we think those word will be taken seriously by those most suspicious of US intentions in Havana?

7)  I favor travel for the beneficial concept expanding and confidence building impact in both societies.  I believe that is the dominant perspective in Cuba too.  Risk is implicit in all change and the stewards of any society seek to control it.  However, I have more faith in the effect of the cumulative process of mutually respectful openings than in the negative pressure of hostile closings.

8)  Finally, please notice that the argument that Cuba really doesn’t want an end to the travel and trade embargoes, is most often the last rationalization of those who want to sustain the embargoes indefinitely or until they get something unrealistic in return.  It is sophistry unless coupled with a strategy to force upon Cuba the removal of the many leveled US blockade. 

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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On June 23, 2010, publisher wrote:

John,

Thanks for the very thorough reply but I get the sense that you are letting Fidel off too easy.

I never liked James Cason but I don’t blame him for the Black Spring. Fidel used the Iraq invasion as cover for rounding up dissidents and it worked perfectly. He knew the Iraq invasion was a much bigger world news story and he used it to his advantage.

Of course you know Fidel is a brilliant political strategist, for his own personal benefit of course. Fifty + years of history tells us that.

We don’t know what happened with Alan Gross but we do know he has not been charged during his incarceration lasting more than six months now. So, why do you blame the US and not Fidel or Raul for this? Is Alan Gross innocent until proven guilty? Seems like you have him guilty already.

You seem to miss the fact that Fidel does not want the Embargo lifted because then he and Raul would be to blame for the terrible human rights record and terrible economy and one party state in Cuba.

God forbid anybody blames Fidel or Raul for any of that? Just keep blaming the Embargo.

THEY DO NOT WANT THE EMBARGO LIFTED.

This is not my “last rationalization” from someone who wants to “sustain the embargoes indefinitely”.

I want the Embargo lifted so Americans can have their freedom to travel. I would expect the lifting of the Embargo to benefit the Cuban people too but this would benefit the Cuban people and that is not something that Fidel or Raul want either.

No “mistaken analysis” here.

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On June 24, 2010, John McAuliff wrote:

Rob,

I am happy to continue this discussion within reason because these are important points.  I also respect your seriousness and commitment to a change in US Cuba relations.

1)  When I am in Havana I always meet with European diplomats, including ambassadors.  As during my work with Vietnam, I value their objective and professional viewpoint.  They share with Americans values of democracy and human rights, but they have a very different sense of what is appropriate to do in someone else’s country and what is likely to have real long term impact.  They also don’t have to operate in a political environment dominated by the unrealistic ambitions of exiles.


2)  Prior to the black spring, a European ambassador expressed surprise at the way Cason was acting, seeming to dare the Cubans to respond to his agressive, overtly partisan and well publicized engagement with opponents of the government.  I have never met Cason so I don’t know whether he was simply a true believer, zealous to express his solidarity with the Cubans he identified with as the only true patriots although well beyond the appropriate role of a diplomat, or was deliberately provocative on instruction from Washington.  (His boss was either Otto Reich or Roger Noriega, both deeply ideological enemies of Cuba.)


3)  I have a diametrically different sense of the impact of the Iraq war.  Think about how triumphalist the first months were in the Bush and neo-con universe.  Miami hardliners were daydreaming the US would use similar decisive force in their homeland, and imagined themselves finally being carried back to Havana to play the same kind of governing role as Iraqui exiles had assumed in Baghdad. 

Remember that the meetings that Cason and USINT organized and sponsored were thoroughly infiltrated by Cuban intelligence.  The space that Cuba had given to opponents as part of the warming in the last couple of years of Clinton had led to Paya’s critical but within the political system Varela project (condemned by many in Miami).  However under Cason USINT was taking advantage of that space to build up anti-system groups and individuals, including some who had worked with Paya. 

It was explicit and implicit aggression that Cuba was reacting against.  The Iraq war did not provide any kind of diversion or cover.  If anything, the strong man attitude in Washington contributed to the overwhelming criticism of Cuba for the black spring arrests and trials, including from people who had been working hard and creatively to create a bipartisan consensus for travel. 

I don’t know whether Fidel Castro or others in the leadership fully recognized the damage they would do to their interests in Congress.  They may have simply decided that defending themselves against the annexationist conspiracy took priority, especially when they believed (correctly) that the Bush administration would use everything it could to stop the travel legislation, regardless of what Cuba did to opponents.

(continued in next post)

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On June 24, 2010, John McAuliff wrote:

4)  If you read my havananote blogs about Alan Gross over the last six months, you will see that I have increasingly pressed the Cubans to lay out the charges against him.  Most recently I have argued personally to Cuban officials and on-line that he should be released for time served for humanitarian and political reasons.
We know from press releases and news stories here that Gross was in Cuba on a $500,000 subcontract from a multimillion dollar USAID contract to Development Alternatives Incorporated.  That by itself put him in violation of well established Cuban law enacted to defend themselves against Helms Burton and US sponsored destabilization.
Anyone who came to the US working as a paid agent of a foreign power, particularly of a hostile one, would be in at least as serious trouble.  We don’t know what Gross was actually doing but the spin that he was only assisting the Jewish community is inadequate and fishy.  Phil Peters published a report that the equipment he was handing over allowed satellite internet links, also a violation of Cuban law.  Since ORT had well equipped the Jewish community with computers and internet capability, who were the intended ultimate beneficiaries of potentially encrypted and unsurveiled communications.
Yes, I do primarily fault the US government for knowingly sending him into danger, and for not doing anything serious to obtain his release, like pledging it will not fund replacements for similar intrusive and illegal missions.
There has been minimal concern from other democratic countries about Gross, even though they regularly express criticism of Cuban human rights practices.

5)  You are confusing cause and effect.  Do Cuban leaders use the US embargo and regime change agenda to rally their people to defend the independence and integrity of their country, and to keep themselves in power as the only tested protectors of the nation?  Sure, but that doesn’t make them very different from political leaders elsewhere.  Remember how the Republicans used post 9/11 fear to solidify their power and get George Bush reelected. 
Do they blame economic problems that are the fault of their own policies on the embargo?  Definitely, but that does not mean that there are not crippling problems created by the embargo, as is its explicit goal.
Have you ever seen concrete evidence that the Castros want to maintain the embargo in order to provide an excuse and a justification for their authoritarian policies and economic failings (e.g. speeches, secret documents, proof from exiles who once held ranking government jobs)?  If that were the case, why do they put so much energy into the UN resolution against the embargo every year?  Why did Alarcon dare Clinton to lift it for even a year to see who really objected?

 
6)  My personal view is that any political system, whether single or multi party, that depends on the same leaders for too long will have problems just because of human nature and the conservative self-interested impact of personal loyalty networks.  However, I am not Cuban and it is not my country.
Fidel has always enjoyed a larger than life role, the ultimate hero or the ultimate villain.  Most Americans take the latter view; most of the rest of the world, and most Cubans, the former.  I think it is simplistic and thus unhelpful to characterize his actions as “for his own personal benefit”.  The strength and danger of charismatic figures in history is that there is a merger of personal and national/communal interests which are hard for the leader and the country to separate even when they outlive their utility.
I have believed since I first wrote about Cuba in high school in 1960 that US hostility pushed Cuba in an authoritarian and pro-Soviet track.  A case can also be made that it simply provided the opportunity and justification for Fidel to move in a direction he always aspired to.  We can’t rewind history, but we can only test the thesis by seeing what happens when the embargo is lifted and relations are as normal with Cuba as they are with Vietnam.
The bottom line is that small nations on the periphery of large ones find it hard to sustain their cultural, economic and political independence.  Choices are made that range from client state dependency to self-denying autonomy with all kinds of balances struck in between.  It is possible that the revolutionary generation is so wired by the paths it took over the past 50 years that they cannot conceive of or adapt to a changed environment.  On the other hand the transformation of relations with the Catholic church, suggests that mutual respect goes a long way.

6)  I am glad that you do not use the premise that the Castros want to keep the embargo to justify maintaining it, but that paradoxically is what Secretary Clinton and others do.
Let the dialogue continue, but I will hold back for a while on further response.
John

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On June 25, 2010, publisher wrote:

John,

Surprisingly this all sounds like you are explaining away Fidel Castro’s desire to keep the Embargo in place… not to mention other things too.

You make many very lengthy statements but none convince me that my argument for this article is incorrect.

People tell me I need to be “open minded”.

That’s is propaganda speak for “Listen to me. I am right.”

Fidel does not want the Embargo lifted. Ever.

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On June 29, 2010, publisher wrote:

posted at request of person who wishes to remain anonymous

I totally agree with you that Fidel and Raul actually need US embargo.  Yet it is hard to prove it, and that is why you and Mr. McAuliff had found it difficult to reach some point of agreement.  But still, I can make some supporting words for you: 

What Fidel and Raul have gotten benefits from US sanctions is not their justification for not improving human rights and democratic political system.  It is their failure in economic policy.  Whenever they find ill production and slow growth in exports and lack of foreign direct investment, they always refer to US embargo (blockade).  “Because US government harasses governments and firms of third countries, we cannot get investment.”  “Because we have to purchase goods from countries far away from us, because we cannot import them from the US.” 

Those are partly true, at least sometimes.  But if Cuba can show good conditions to foreign firms, just as Chinese and Vietnamese have done, surely much more foreign companies will come and sit in the table of negotiation. 

I am also from a relatively small country and I understand that smaller and less powerful country has fewer choices than superpowers, but I also know well that it is no use to lament over lack of power of my country.  You have to think how to get the best result from given conditions.  Vietnam started their Doi Moi economic reforms officially in 1986, almost ten years before the lift of US economic embargo.  Within a few years, Vietnam had no starved peasants.  Then they started to export rice, without sacrificing domestic food demand.  When US Congress started to argue about possibilities to lift embargo against Vietnam, the country was already one of the best rice and coffee exporters in the world.  Surely US business people were no longer able to ignore economic benefits they were losing. 

Castro Brothers have been utilizing centrally planned economy to distribute economic rent to their favored supporters, such as military and party cadres.  Once they liberalize the economy, they will never be able to have such capacity.  Also it is easy to control people through distribution of food and other necessary goods, and most importantly, the employment.  Many people dare not to speak against the government, because they are afraid of being fired.  When 70 to 80 percent of workers are employed by the government, it is very useful mean to control people.  Yet once most people start to work in the private sector, the government will never be able to threat the people.  People can survive by themselves. 

Yet under the economic crisis, the economy has been sluggish, and more and more people demand the introduction of market mechanism.  Now Fidel and Raul can say, “the economic crisis is because of US blockade, not because of our policy.”  Well, actually many people know that it is just an excuse, but still, their excuse has some power to keep the people silent. 

I want to say to Mr. McAuliff that not all European and other countries’ diplomats know the reality in Cuba.  They live in a secured diplomatic circle in Havana, segregated from ordinary Cubans.  (Also in my impression, some governments send especially leftist members in their foreign ministry to Cuba.)  I often get surprised how ignorant they can be after living in Cuba for years. 

We can know how much popular support Fidel and Raul actually have only when Cuba realizes free elections.  I really doubt that Fidel and Raul can win in such a election.  It is very difficult for a diplomat to mix with ordinary Cubans in various age groups, but as far as I know, younger people are really desperate for changes.  Young people with a certain self-confidence are all dreaming of immigrating to the United States.  But it is not what they want most.  They want change in their own country.  Because they can see no signs of change, they choose to leave Cuba as a second alternative.  It is sad.

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On June 30, 2010, publisher wrote:

Amnesty International calls Cuba’s use of the Embargo as a “lame excuse” to violate the rights of the Cuban people.

Another example of why Fidel Castro does not want the Embargo lifted.

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On June 30, 2010, John McAuliff wrote:

Vietnam’s Doi Moi reforms did begin before the US lifted its embargo.  At first they were experimental and contradictory.  Western journalists and academics regularly wrote scathing reports.  The process accelerated once Clinton lifted the US embargo, normal trade relations were granted and then when Bush signed a trade agreement.

Nevertheless, I personally believe that Cuba could and should act more substantially on its internal economic reform.  As in Vietnam, I suspect that would actually strengthen popular support for the Party as the focus of political leadership. 

However, as an American my role is to change the external conditions crippling the Cuban people.  As a sovereign government, they must decide what is possible and desirable within those parameters. 

One should not underestimate the objective and subjective influence of feeling under constant existential threat from an overwhelmingly powerful neighbor.  In the case of doi moi, strengthening ties to the west, Japan and ASEAN helped Vietnam resist China because those countries have their own issues with Beijing.  It is not as clear to me how much more Cuba will gain with Latin America or Europe vis a vis the US by moving more quickly on reform.

If the Castros favor maintaining the embargo, it is hard to understand why Cuba spends so much energy and political capital every year to gain the near universal condemnation at the UN of the embargo.  Just to score points?

In any case, today we find out how much the US is prepared to respect the rights of its citizens.  The House Agriculture Committee marks up the bill ending all restrictions on travel.  The process can be seen at http://agriculture.edgeboss.net/wmedia-live/agriculture/22732/300_agriculture-1300_070716.asx

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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On June 30, 2010, bernie wrote:

Cuba must pay the USA 6 billion dollars in compensation for expropriated businesses and property before Washington lifts the embargo, says
republican kevin brady of texas???
All other countries agreed to payments , except the USA, they said NO????

So all the bull about Castro and the Amnesty international can just be blown
into the air????

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On June 30, 2010, bernie wrote:

Cuba must pay the USA 6 billion dollars in compensation for expropriated businesses and property before Washington lifts the embargo< says
republican kevin brady of texas????
All other countries in the world agreed to payment, except the USA, they said NO????

So all the bull about Castro and Amnesty International should be considered bull????

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On July 01, 2010, HJmember wrote:

Mr. McAuliff makes a good point that US lift of the embargo against Vietnam boosted its economic growth.  That is true for all export-oriented economies that it is crucial for a large-scaled economic growth to be able to access to the world-largest market: the United States.  Yet still, I consider that it is very important that Vietnam did not wait for changes in US policy toward them before launching Doi Moi reforms.  Especially South Vietnamese, traditionally excellent business people, immediately started to find ways to do businesses.  The most important point of Doi Moi before the lift of US embargo is that the communist government succeeded in improving living standard of its people and in recovering their support.  North and Central Vietnamese, historically poorer than Southern compatriots, came to obtain enough food to survive as peasants gained more material incentives.  Southern Vietnam, which has fertile Mekong Delta but devastated by Hanoi’s centralization policy of the economy, started to produce enough rice to feed the rest of the country. 
Americans usually try to get political results so quickly after the economic reform, within a few years perhaps, but I think you should be a bit more patient.  In a long run, anyway both China and Vietnam will confront increasing demands from their people for political reforms.  Economic reforms prolong the realization of political reform (democratization) by giving its people enough food and better life.  But once people have enough food and clothes and housing, satisfied their material needs, they start to demand higher level of needs: freedom and spiritual satisfaction.  It is just a matter of time. 
Mr. McAuliff is right that it is one advantage for Vietnam compared to Cuba that Vietnam is located much farther to the United States.  Their reform model is Chinese one which had started in 1979, earlier than Vietnam.  It was rather difficult for Vietnamese communist party leaders to do something very different from their Chinese big brothers.  For smaller countries, superpowers are always potential threats.  But I don’t think most Cuban leaders believe that at this moment the US government is ready to make a military intervention into Cuba.  (Iran has more reasons to be afraid of it, especially under any Bush administration, because they have a lot of petroleum, but Cuba, for what?  To get another one million of immigrants?) 
Cuba can say anything at the United Nations, because they know very well that UN resolutions especially at General Assembly have no real power.  It is a diplomatic show for the Cuban government.  As Bernie wrote, when the US government becomes serious about talking with Cuba on the embargo, Cubans always start their conversation saying, “We need six billion dollars to be paid back in order to start a talk about the US blockade and US Naval Base at Guantanamo.”  According to Cubans, 6 billion is all the costs Cubans have had to pay for the last 49 years because of the US embargo.  They never show me how they summed up all the stuff to 6 billion.  Nevertheless, it is never a smart way to start negotiations, if Cubans really want the embargo lifted.  They just shut up American delegation at the first step.

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On March 16, 2011, Litesp33d wrote:

Having visited Cuba and managed spend 95% of my time with the real Cubans outside of the tourist traps I can tell you the Cubans living in Cuba want the embargo lifted.

I think it is a lie continually promulgated by the State department of the USA that the Castro’s want the embargo kept in place.  This is encouraged by the Cubans who have run away to the USA chasing the myth of the American dream.  Most are disappointed and many are involved in criminal activity in the USA

I have traveled the World widely and have rarely met a more welcoming, open, generous, supportive, kind, enterprising smiley people.  Everywhere you go there is music, theatre and dance.

Cuba. No racism. Free Health Care. Better infant mortality than the USA. Almost no murder. Low crime rate.

If the USA thinks Cuba wants the embargo kept in place why not call Castro’s (apparently oh so clever bluff) and lift the embargo.

What the US has done is actually increase the embargo with the draconian Helms-Burton deal.  Meanwhile people from all over the World and especially Canada and Europe are visiting Cuba (2 million per year and growing) and seeing the truth with their own eyes.

Meanwhile the US shouts about human rights in Cuba but kidnaps people which it takes to other countries to torture. Executes the mentally ill. Locks up the Cuban 5 on trumped up charges. Invades countries illegally. Holds people in detention without trial.

Finally as regards the seizure of US assets. Much of Cuba was being exploited by powerful US corporations, corrupt and brutal politicians and the Mafia.  The judiciary was in the pockets of the powerful and there was nowhere for the common man to get justice.  The Cuban people were more or less feudal peasants being paid slave wages.  These assets should therefore be considered fair recompense for the years of exploitation.

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On March 16, 2011, publisher wrote:

So Litesp33d, if more countries were more like Cuba and less like the US then the world would be a better place?

I think if you ask your Cuban friends, they would not agree.

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On March 21, 2011, publisher wrote:

From AFP on March 20, 2011

Clinton cautious on US contractor jailed in Cuba

“We are working closely with Alan Gross’s attorneys… We don’t want to take any actions or say anything that will undermine the chances for this man to come home to his family,” Clinton said, according to a transcript of a Spanish-language Telemundo interview.

END

And that is EXACTLY why Alan Gross will stay in jail. If Fidel is in charge, he loves pushing around the US and Secretary Clinton is not playing Fidel’s game… as have dozens of Secretaries and Presidents have done for decades.

Too bad she is not smart enough to know she is being played by the grand master of international politics, Fidel Castro.

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On March 23, 2011, Dana Garrett wrote:

Usually, the argument that Castro et al don’t want the embargo lifted is proffered by those who want to suggest that we might as well keep the embargo in place because Castro doesn’t want it lifted anyhow.  Apparently, Ron Sequin wants the embargo lifted even though he analyzes Castro’s feelings about the embargo the same way that the pro-embargo supporters do.  That’s an interesting position.

Yet the problem with all those who analyze Castro’s motives the way Sequin does is that their method is entirely speculative.  They claim to know the “real” motivations and feelings that Castro has about the embargo using tangential evidence to support their claim.  Really, now, how does shooting down a plane that invades your air space mean that you don’t want an embargo lifted? The only evidence that matters is that Castro and others in Cuba have said they would like the embargo lifted. Surely, what people consistently say should count as evidence.

The real truth is that the only reason why the USA continues this antiquated and absurd policy of embargo is because of a group of wealthy and politically influential exiles (and their heirs) principally located in the Miami area want to keep it in place. For them it’s revenge. When these people die off, the USA’s policy will change and Cuba will be thrilled to have the influx of American dollars after the embargo is lifted.

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On March 23, 2011, publisher wrote:

“Surely, what people consistently say should count as evidence.”

Unless everything they say is a lie. Therefore the opposite of what they say is the truth.

There are plenty of examples of Fidel Castro’s lies that my theory is correct.

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On March 25, 2011, bernie wrote:

Castro had nothing to do with the imposition
of imposing the embargo on Cuba, it was the USA
government, and only the USA government will lift the embargo, regardless of what Fidel Castro wants??  The USA has imposed certain conditions to
lift the embargo which Fidel Castro will not adhere
to, what the conditions are the USA will not publicly let them be known???  Again Fidel Castro has no control over lifting the embargo???