Opening Statement



Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Obama in Cuba: Baseball, Terrorism + A Big Speech!

Continued: Notes + News Links From March 22, 2016


Que Pasa?!? It's Obama's "Speech to the Cuban People"!

LINK

Here's a full transcript of Obama's televised "Speech to the Cuban People", including the Spanish bits @ VOA You can also watch the speech @ Latin Times

Here's a useful guide to Obama's key points in the speech @ Guardian

NOTES

Obama's speech openly acknowledges that US Foreign Policy mistakes were made in the past. He promises that the US Embargo will end, that the Cold War with Cuba is over. This is surely a huge, monumental apology and reassurance for Obama to make, both for his Cuban and American audience, though the latter might view it differently. 

Obama also totes the virtues of American style electoral democracy, free speech and human rights. "Profound differences" will exist, but he explains, it will be up to the Cuban people to seize the opportunity for change, especially via his much hyped US style free market initiatives. Not to worry! The US will respect their differences and not try to change Cuba. According to Obama, that is something they must do for themselves. 

Fine words? Maybe! They also overlook a profound realpolitik effect of the US embargo that won't be so easily resolved with such simple, perhaps well intentioned bromides, should the "Cuban government", or more importantly the "Cuban people" as Obama delineates, agree to his interpretation of what these glittering generalities mean. He overlooks the following: 

The 1961 US embargo, by accident or design, defacto served to remove the political, economic, cultural centre of Latin America from Havana to Miami. It also allowed the Revolution to effectively purge Cuba of the US Neo Colonial yoke of influence, subservience and control. The changes that resulted have been very profound. Ironically, as such, the US Embargo served both Cuba and US nationalist objectives very well!

Across the America's, the US continues to exercise it's self proclaimed "Manifest Destiny" using it's sheer military, economic and cultural influence and control. That includes Argentina, the next stop on his trip, as well as other South American countries like Bolivia, Columbia and Venezuela, much of Latin America and the Caribbean. The list goes on and on. Despite the many, tempting, material advantages of the American World Order now coming back on tap, Cuba will need to partake with extreme caution to protect it's hard earned independence. 

Pat, happy endings are for story books! The final Cuban verdict on the American brand of "change" that Obama is offering and the form that change will take, is still far from certain or clear, even despite Obama's fine words and seemingly, good intentions. Which way will it go? In the excitement of this historic moment nobody can really tell for sure, but as food for thought I offer a link to my blog from last years CSP trip, when I asked the teachers and students at the Cuban schools "What Do You Think?" @ HERE!



Play ball!

LINK

Brussels is attacked by a series of bombings that rock the world news @ Globe

The Castro's and the Obama's attend a baseball game, both countries Great National Sport. It's a Havana exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuba National Team. Mid game, Obama is grilled by sports announcers from ESPN on criticism that he didn't immediately fly back home to deal with the latest, world crisis. He discusses terrorism, his visit and Cuban baseball prospects @ Awful Announcing and @ ESPN

Tampa Bay defeats the Cuban National Team 4-1! Details @ MLB

NOTES

Regretfully, much of today's coverage got lost in the endless speculation and conjecture over the attack reports from Brussels. Cuba quickly fell off the news map for now at least, as "terrorism" again rears it's ugly head.

Alas! There was a very important, scheduled meeting between Obama and some of the Cuban dissident groups. They included the "Ladies in White" arrested in the human rights protest prior to his arrival, which might've been very insightful to see. I will include the links later, when more become available. Any other "best of" backgrounders or analysis on the topics covered, when these are more readily available too.

Obama's US critics, mostly Republicans on the primary, campaign trail are very adamant in their criticism that he shouldn't stay for the baseball game as a part of his historic visit to Cuba in light of this latest, particular, "terrorist attack". It seems a very American moment, strictly for domestic consumption, that somehow assumes it is the US prerogative to again act as the world policeman in deciding what really happened and what is to be done. 

Obama blows them off, countering with the argument that terrorism's goal is to make people afraid so as to disrupt our ordinary lives. As President, he won't do that. It is a handy, often quoted and seemingly reassuring terrorism analysis, one which stupidly ignores the more important, and bigger terror goal of tempting the "leader" to rashly make an ill advised, strategic error out of panic and sheer anger. We have often seen the US trip up accordingly on the world stage since the 9/11 attack. Fortunately, we watch as a seasoned president, nearing the end of his second, final term doesn't rise to the occasion, hopping as prompted out of his front row seat in error for another, possible, terror, fly ball. 

Mid game, Obama explains to ESPN the great importance of baseball to his visit. It represents "good will" and shows that "people are people". Indeed, as an appropriate final note to this trip, Obama points at his daughters sitting side by side happily chatting away with Raul Castro's grandchildren. For the US and Cuba, the world is changing. Surely, where that leads will ultimately be determined by the next generation as the curtain begins to fall on this final, long, unfortunate and outdated chapter of the Cold War @ Guardian

SOME FINAL LINKS

President Obama considers the Major League Baseball exhibition game in Cuba "something extraordinary" in his interview @ ESPN

Obama's visit leaves at least "three glaring holes", or "unfinshed business", including US immigration policy, Guantanamo Bay abuses and the illegal Blockade @ Telesur


Cuba remains in the "digital dark ages", as far as internet service goes. There are hopes that will change with the normalization of relations. There is an "intranet", which the author here praises. She seems to think it can be adapted and kept in place, pretty much business as usual. However, I'd argue the restrictions are a quite unacceptable form of censorship, as far as free speech goes, which will be totally unacceptable once the State of Emergency can be finally lifted @ Sujatha Fernandes

Day 3 in photos @ Medium



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