Saturday, November 26, 2016

Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau

Trump v. Obama v. Trudeau: Three very different statements on Fidel Castro's passing 

President Elect Donald Trump on Fidel Castro's Death

"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

"Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba."

Statement by President Obama on the Passing of Fidel Castro

"At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. 

"For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

"Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."


Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau on the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro

"It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba's longest serving President.

"Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

"While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for "el Comandante".

"I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

"On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader."

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Passing of Fidel Castro

At this time of Fidel Castro's passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. 

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends - bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

My take on the legacy of Fidel Castro, 1926-2016

Fidel Castro (1926-2016)

Born on August 13, 1926, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz has become a political and historical figure of truly mythic proportions not only for Cubans but also across the developing world as an inspiration for the anti-capitalist struggles of the 20th century. Unlike other Latin American dictators, Castro’s iron hand has often been covered by a velvet glove permitting him to rule more often through his extraordinary rhetoric and spellbinding charisma than with brute force and coercion (though he has not hesitated to resort to these when he felt necessary). He has also benefited from the powerful, if often frustrated nationalism of the Cuban people; the U.S. threat to Cuban sovereignty; and the enactment of an ambitious successful program of social justice in Cuba since 1959.

Originally from the town of Birán in the eastern province of Oriente, Castro came of age as the son of the self-made sugar planter and Spanish immigrant Angel Castro. As a young man, Castro studied in private Jesuit schools and excelled both in the classroom and at a wide array of sports, exhibiting a work ethic, fierce competitive streak, and almost egomaniacal confidence that would serve him well in the years to come.

After entering the University of Havana to study law, he became involved in the often violent student-led political activities of the time. Unable to run for congressional office in the cancelled elections of 1952 because of Batista’s coup, Castro organized an unsuccessful raid on the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953, after which he delivered his historic “History Will Absolve Me” defense speech at trial. Amnestied from prison in 1955, he regrouped with his guerrilla forces abroad in Mexico. He clandestinely invaded Cuba at the end of 1956, and two years later, marched triumphantly into Havana.

Initially taking on the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in January, 1959, Castro soon became Prime Minister and First Secretary of the Communist Party. He was named President in 1976 with the passage of Cuba’s new Constitution. Until a life-threatening intestinal illness forced him to step down in July 2006, Castro was served as President of the Councils of State and of the Council of Ministers.

While his rule has been characterized by the evisceration of Cuban civil society, the trampling of civil liberties and political freedoms of Cuban citizens, and woeful economic incompetence, Castro has also distinguished himself as a consummate political operator on the world stage, offering aid and inspiration to leftist regimes and emergent Third World nations across the world, many of whose citizens see him as a champion of social justice, a fearless defender of national sovereignty, and a fiery symbol of defiance in the face of U.S. domination.

Muere Fidel Castro (palabras de Raúl)

Palabras de Raúl Castro. 

De @14ymedio

Mensaje leído por Raúl Castro frente a la televisión nacional 

Querido pueblo de Cuba: 

Con profundo dolor comparezco para informar a nuestro pueblo, a los amigos de Nuestra América y del mundo que hoy 25 de noviembre del 2016 a las 10:29 horas de la noche falleció el comandante en jefe de la Revolución Cubana Fidel Castro Ruz. Cumpliendo la voluntad expresa del compañero Fidel sus restos serán cremados. En las primeras horas de mañana sábado 26 la comisión organizadora de los funerales brindará a nuestro pueblo una información detallada sobre la organización del homenaje póstumo que se le tributará al fundador de la revolución cubana. Hasta la victoria siempre"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Donald Trump has a choice to make on Cuba

One example of freer markets in Cuba is the Paladar La Cocina de Lilliam (Lilliam's Kitchen), a home-based restaurant garden where President Jimmy Carter ate on his first visit to Cuba in 2002.

Originally published at CNBC.com ahead of the documentary, "The Profit in Cuba."


While Americans have been reeling over the shocking outcome of our presidential election, Cubans are experiencing perhaps even greater vertigo as a result of the surprise victory of Donald Trump.

As the saying goes, "When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold." Or perhaps the old Mexican adage is more appropriate to the situation Cubans find themselves in: "Poor Mexico! So far from God, but so close to the United States!"

See me discuss the CNBC documentary, "The Profit in Cuba" with host Marcus Lemonis at the CNBC studios here.


Cubans went from a largely acrimonious relationship with the U.S. prior to December 2014, to one of unprecedented "hope and change" during the past 22 months under bilateral efforts to achieve diplomatic normalization between the erstwhile adversaries, to one of great trepidation and uncertainty over the past week given the president-elect's campaign promise to "cancel Obama's one-sided Cuban deal." President Raúl Castro perfectly captured the moment's ambivalence for Cuba by quickly sending the president-elect a brief note of congratulations while simultaneously ordering a five-day military mobilization.

In my more than half-dozen trips to the island over the past year, I have noted a palpable, ebullient expectation among Cubans for a better, more prosperous future under Obama's "new rules" of engagement. This was especially pronounced among Cuba's emergent entrepreneurial class, which includes old school cabbies in their even older school American cars, hip app designers in Cuba's surprising tech start-up scene, and some of the many restaurateurs behind the island's surging circle of "paladares" (private, home-based restaurants) which now number more than 1,800. This hard-won hope was also born of Cuba's own "new rules" introduced in late 2010 under President Raúl Castro aimed at expanding the island's long-suppressed private sector. However, I also found that most entrepreneurs were under no illusions that the Cuban government would be fully lifting its own counter-productive "auto-bloqueo" or internal embargo against grass-roots entrepreneurial innovation and inventiveness any time soon.

This sense of rising hope inside Cuba reached its climax in Obama's brilliant deployment of soft power during his historic state visit to the island in March 2016. Many Cubans identified with this youthful, optimistic, and eloquent African-American family man endowed with both a sense of history and of humor much more than with their own waxworks of old white ideologues. However, Cuba's old guard realized that Obama's charm offensive had begun to fatally undermine their own authority and undercut their long-effective use of the U.S. boogeyman as a scapegoat for their own economic failures and as a justification for their continued political authoritarianism.

In response, the Cuban leadership has spent the past eight months constantly reminding Cuban citizens of the continued U.S. existential threat to Cuban sovereignty under the Revolution and simultaneously dashing their hopes for a better, more open and prosperous future by stepping up detentions of peaceful political opponents and independent journalists and slowing economic reforms to a manageable trickle.

The clearest example of the Cuban government's efforts to lower expectations has come on the economic front. First, April's Seventh Party Congress included no new resolutions about deepening or expanding much needed market-oriented reforms apart from a vague reference to studying the possibility of granting status as legal businesses to a portion of the half-a-million strong micro-enterprise sector. Nothing has come of this idea in the intervening seven months. Second, price controls have been reimposed in the private agriculture and transportation sectors, reducing incentives for greater production.

Third, this past summer saw the government scale back economic growth estimates for 2016 to under 1 percent and impose severe energy saving and cost-cutting measures across the state sector due to a liquidity crisis and the Venezuelan debacle. Finally, the issuing of new licenses for Havana's surging private, home-based restaurant sector were suspended for six weeks in the fall in order to root out legal violations such as providing bar services and live entertainment without permission, obtaining supplies from black-market sources, staying open past the state-imposed 3 a.m. closing time, and tax evasion. Some have even been accused of doubling as sites of prostitution and drug trafficking and shut down.

However, the government has so far not delivered on its promise to provide affordable access to wholesale markets for these restaurateurs nor has it allowed them to legally import supplies from abroad or expand beyond the arbitrary limit of 50 place settings. Moreover, the tax system for the private sector provokes "creative bookkeeping" by imposing a rigid 40-percent deduction limit for business often burdened by much higher supply costs due to Cuba's environment of chronic scarcity. It also imposes a labor tax on any more than five employees disincentivizing legal hiring.

To add insult to this injury, the moribund network of their state-run competitor restaurants do enjoy access to wholesale markets and suffer no seating or size restrictions or employment taxes. Especially frustrating for Cuban entrepreneurs is the fact that this emphasis on law and order comes in the context of shrinking output in the state enterprise sector, a looming emigration crisis with record numbers of new Cuban arrivals in the U.S., and in the midst of a tourism boom that the state hospitality sector has proven unable to absorb.

As Cubans like to say: "¡No es fácil!" (It ain't easy!) 

President-elect Donald Trump could follow the recommendation of some Congressional Republicans by adding his own isolationist wind to the already full sails of the Cuban government's rigid control that attempts to keep Cuban entrepreneurs in their frustrated and impoverished places. Or he could send Cuba's business pioneers a message of support and solidarity as they attempt to build a more prosperous future by continuing America's historic opening to Cuba that aims to empower the island's emergent capitalists through engagement, investment, and trade.

For someone who campaigned as a anti-politician who would bring a hard-nosed business sense to Washington, Cuba presents Trump with a golden opportunity to place economic pragmatism and the tangible benefits it would bring to citizens of both countries over the out-dated and counterproductive Cold War ideology that undergirds the embargo.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Profit in Cuba: Marcus Lemonis hits Havana to profile #Cuba's new breed of entrepreneurs - Tues., Nov. 15th at 10 p.m.


CNBC is airing a documentary called “The Profit in Cuba” on Tuesday November 15th at 10pm ET/PT.

At a time of historic change on the island, CNBC follows The Profit’s Marcus Lemonis as he travels to the island and profiles a new breed of business owners determined to succeed under one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

I was honored to work as an unpaid consultant on the show and appear in it as I give Marcus the blow-by-blow of the slings, arrows, and new opportunities of opening and running a private business in today's Cuba as we stroll down Obispo Street in Old Havana.

After years of Communist rule and the opening of relations with the U.S., Cuba is taking historic steps to revive its troubled economy. For the first time in decades, Cuban citizens can strike out on their own, open a small business, and begin to shape their future. In shops, factories, farms, and homes, Marcus meets them to learn about their opportunities and challenges firsthand – to see what’s working, and help fix what isn’t.

The tenacity of these small business owners is impressive – but obstacles they face, including a longstanding U.S. trade embargo and what Cuban's bitterly refer to as the "auto-bloqueo" or internal embargo, are staggering. 

Despite these problems, some half a million Cuban citizens are benefitting from the new laws, and in a nation where the average income is less than $30 a month, many have already improved their way of life.

In this fascinating one-hour documentary, Marcus Lemonis profiles these strivers and takes viewers along to see the groundbreaking changes taking place inside Cuba.

Below are a few clips from the documentary:
·         The Profit in Cuba: First Look
·         A Startup on Wheels
·         Endless Obstacles in Cuba

Tune-in Details: “The Profit in Cuba” premieres Tuesday, November 15th at 10pm ET/PT on CNBC. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with #TheProfitCuba, and@TheProfitCNBC or on Facebook at facebook.com/TheProfitCNBC. Log onto cnbcprime.com/the-profit-in-cuba/ for more details.
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