Ladies in White

U.S. chain in bed with Cuban military
July 3rd, 2016by Miami Herald

Mr. President, what’s wrong with this picture?

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opens the first U.S.-operated hotel
in Cuba in more than five decades. But it’s not a joint enterprise
between an American firm and a Cuban entrepreneur, the kind that is
supposed to benefit from a newly open and friendly U.S.-Cuba policy. The
American hospitality giant is in business with the Cuban military, which
owns the hotel.

Four Points Sheraton Havana brought to you, American traveler, by the
people who repress Cubans.

If the intention of rapprochement is to create opportunities for
ordinary Cubans to earn a living independently of their one-party,
my-way-or-the-highway system of governance, this venture fails to pass
the test.

We’re only shifting from the Castro brothers and family personally
enriching themselves through totalitarian rule to the repressive
military now doing exactly the same thing. Members of the military and
their heirs already own the best paladares in Cuba, like the one where
President Obama and his family dined. Now in this deal, they’re also the
sole business partners of a top American hospitality travel company.

What I see is Americans trying to make a buck in cahoots with a
repressive regime. Same old USA ambition, questionable ethics and double
talk. As for engagement, this falls in the same realm as cruise-ship
sailings and the imaginary theory that if enough Americans disembark at
selected and controlled points and follow a highly structured agenda
somehow Cuba is going to magically change for the better.

The State Department explains the Treasury Department approval of the
Starwood deal as a need. Americans traveling to Cuba are complaining
about the poor quality of government-run hotels. To keep them coming,
allegedly to engage with ordinary Cubans, you’ve got to give them at
least that Sheraton quality room and service they expect. Wait, aren’t
they rushing in droves to visit the Communist Disneyland next door
before it’s “spoiled” by Starbucks and McDonald’s?

The policy should be to let American travelers soak in all the Cuban
reality, not shelter them from it.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but I _ and scores of other
Cuban-Americans who have supported the president’s policy of engagement
with the goal of improving the lives of the Cuban people _ could not
care less how comfortable Americans feel when they travel to Cuba. If
American need for comfort continues to oppress the underpaid Cuban
worker, if American need for comfort keeps the repressive Cuban
government as the Cubans’ one and only employer, if your dollars only
extend the dictatorship, please sleep on the beach.

Or better yet, stay in a Cuban home.

“It’s getting harder and harder for me to support the initiatives in
Cuba,” Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco says about the Starwood deal.
“Are they blind? How will (the goal of bringing prosperity to the Cuban
people) be realized if basically they are doing what others foreign
investors have done _ namely, strike a deal with the government that
leaves the ordinary Cubans in the same situation? How is this any
better, simply because it’s the U.S.?”

This from the poet full of hope who praised the new day of thawed
relations at the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Yes, we’ve heard enough travel stories from Americans who learned
nothing and only added Castroist propaganda to their views. We’ve dealt
with enough indignities like Carnival’s willingness to impose Cuba’s
repressive laws and discriminate against a class of Americans to be the
first to get that cruise contract. We’ve learned about the Cuban
government wholesaling visas, then turning away travelers at the airport
they don’t find to their liking, no refunds.

And no, naming Shaquille O’Neal “Sports Envoy to Cuba” doesn’t help
ordinary Cubans make a living independent of their government and their
so-called centrally planned economy.

More celebrity circus, nada by way of change.

The Cuban government continues to violate the same international human
rights standards that it has cynically pledged to uphold in the presence
of world leaders and forums like the United Nations.

The Ladies in White continue to be violently and routinely assaulted by
the Castro regime’s goons, sometimes in plain view of visitors. They
don’t even hide the abuse anymore. Last Sunday, the repressive forces
arrested dozens of these peaceful women to keep them from attending
Mass, and broke into their home headquarters and tried to steal their
belongings.

Mr. President, what’s wrong with this picture?

Plenty. So far, the only entities on the winning side of U.S. engagement
are the Cuban government, its allies and the select Americans who’ve
been chosen to make a buck on Cubans’ backs just as Spaniards and
Italians did when they flocked to the island’s “opening” to foreign
investment in the 1990s. The people in charge are the same who turned
the Habana Hilton in 1959 into their triumphant rebel headquarters and
nationalized the tourism industry, making it theirs to profit from.

At what point does the outrage over the lack of basic human rights in
Cuba reach a level high enough for the Obama administration to step back
and re-assess a booming business relationship that has moved forward
with unusual haste and without legitimate reform and opportunity for the
Cuban people.

Mr. President, your administration’s generosity and openness toward the
unchanging Cuban regime seem to be bottomless.

Time to slow down and take stock before handing over more and more
dollars directly into the coffers of those in charge of repression.

Source: U.S. chain in bed with Cuban military | Texarkana Breaking News

www.texarkanagazette.com/news/opinion/columns/story/2016/jul/03/us-chain-bed-cuban-military/630040/

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