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Obama Lands In Cuba As First US President To Visit In Nearly A Century (theguardian.com) 242

An anonymous reader writes: Barack Obama descended on Cuba with a pomp unmatched by the Pope on Sunday, becoming the first American president to visit Cuba in nearly a century, and the first since a revolution led by Fidel Castro toppled a U.S.-backed strongman in 1959. As he arrived, Obama used a Cuban phrase meaning "what's up?" when he tweeted: "Que bola Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people." "This is a historic visit," Obama said as he greeted U.S. Embassy staff and their families at a Havana hotel. "It's an historic opportunity to engage with the Cuban people." One of the many results of the new diplomatic relations between the two countries is the ability for Cuban residents to become more connected to the internet. Reuters is reporting that Alphabet Inc's Google is poised to expand internet access in Cuba. "One of the things that we'll be announcing here is that Google has a deal to start setting up more Wi-Fi and broadband access on the island," Obama said in an ABC News interview that aired on Monday. The U.S. Treasury Department has even authorized San Francisco's Airbnb service to expand its home rental listings in Cuba to non-U.S. travelers.
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Obama Lands In Cuba As First US President To Visit In Nearly A Century

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  • by slapout ( 93640 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:09PM (#51747459)

    Because when you need basic things like food and shelter, nothing satisfies like wifi.

  • Cruz isn't a fan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:20PM (#51747555) Homepage

    Here is what Senator Ted Cruz wrote about this:

    News reports say there are more than 100 long-term prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Nobody knows for sure, as the Castro regime does not grant international organizations access to its prisons. But we know they are there and that hundreds are held for shorter periods, and beaten in prison regularly.

    Just two months ago, the president told Yahoo News that he would only travel to Cuba "if, in fact, I with confidence can say that we're seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans. ... If we're going backwards, then there's not much reason for me to be there."

    I have news, Mr. President: No progress has taken place. Cuba is going backward.

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/obama-cuba-visit-ted-cruz-213749 [politico.com]

    If you are a fan of President Obama, could you please explain to me why you think Senator Cruz is wrong about this? Because at the moment I agree with Senator Cruz. President Obama's administration has dropped the embargo and helped out the government of Cuba, and I'm not aware of a single demand that Cuba has granted in return. Set free political prisoners? Allow Amnesty International to visit the prisons? Maybe beat the political prisoners a little bit less? No, no, and no.

    Not only did President Obama not make any demands of Cuba, but now Cuba is making demands of President Obama. Pay reparations, return Guantanamo Bay.

    I do hope that President Obama will at least use his "bully pulpit" to say something about human rights in Cuba. Words are what he is best at. I would have preferred a binding agreement, but he already didn't do that.

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:27PM (#51747613) Journal

      The US does business with countries like China and Saudi Arabia, so why would Cuba be left out in the cold? Besides, the national interest is best served by not having China replacing Russia as a major force in Cuba, which is exactly what will happen if relations and trade with Cuba are not normalized.

      • Re:Cruz isn't a fan (Score:5, Interesting)

        by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:52PM (#51747823) Homepage

        The US does business with countries like China and Saudi Arabia, so why would Cuba be left out in the cold?

        I'm not a fan of dictatorships but I do understand the realities of the world. The USA can't just snap its fingers and reform China or Saudi Arabia, or even Cuba.

        But what I'm talking about is using the historic, one-time-only opportunity of getting something in exchange for lifting the embargo. We don't have any similar embargo on China and Saudi Arabia, so they are not very relevant to my question: why did the Obama administration simply unilaterally drop the embargo without getting anything in return?

        the national interest is best served by not having China replacing Russia as a major force in Cuba, which is exactly what will happen if relations and trade with Cuba are not normalized.

        So, it's not worth making even the smallest effort to help out the prisoners of conscience? The one-sided deal where the government of Cuba gets what it wants, and the USA demands nothing, is the best possible deal?

        Maybe it is. If so, I'd like for someone to make that case.

        I do agree that China having Cuba in its pocket is undesirable. And I realize that really major demands (break the dictatorship and hold free elections, etc.) would never be met. But again, the appearance here is that the Obama administration granted a huge boon to the government of Cuba, no strings attached, and I don't understand why that's a good deal (or even the best possible deal).

        • by steveha ( 103154 )

          I wish to make a correction: the Obama administration has not yet unilaterally dropped the embargo; the article contains quotes saying they want to do it, but it hasn't happened yet.

          From the article:

          "We want to make the process of normalisation irreversible," said US national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who led an advance party to Havana this week, and also oversaw the secret talks in Canada that led up to the 2014 deal.

          Though the president announced last Sunday that he believes Congress will finally lift

          • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

            I wish to make a correction: the Obama administration has not yet unilaterally dropped the embargo

            Even your correction needs a correction. The word "yet" there is just silly. This has nothing to do with Obama. Only Congress can remove the embargo. Considering our current Congress makes the term "act of Congress" an oxymoron, and has primarily spent the last 6 years cosplaying Khan from Star Trek II whenever Obama says he'd like something, I don't think anyone has to worry themselves much that they might soon do so.

        • by Yunzil ( 181064 )

          But what I'm talking about is using the historic, one-time-only opportunity of getting something in exchange for lifting the embargo.

          They survived 50+ years with the embargo in place, what makes you think they'd be willing to trade something to get it lifted?

          • The leaders survived like kings. Their subjects, not so much.

            • by Yunzil ( 181064 )

              And it would be the leaders who would have to agree to a bargain so.....

            • by dryeo ( 100693 )

              That's true of most of Central and South America as well as 3rd world countries every where. Is the average Haitian better off then the average Cuban? What about Dubai, where the workers are dieing like flies? Saudi Arabia, where woman aren't even allowed to drive, little well have any other civil rights, and the imported labour is also treated like shit.
              There's a lot of shithole countries, many where the poor are treated a lot worse then Cuba. This includes pre-Castro Cuba, which I understand had death squ

        • But what I'm talking about is using the historic, one-time-only opportunity of getting something in exchange for lifting the embargo. We don't have any similar embargo on China and Saudi Arabia, so they are not very relevant to my question: why did the Obama administration simply unilaterally drop the embargo without getting anything in return?

          That's basically what Donald Trump is saying. That he's the negotiator, and he can get stuff in return for stuff. He even wrote a book about negotiating.

          So, it's not worth making even the smallest effort to help out the prisoners of conscience? The one-sided deal where the government of Cuba gets what it wants, and the USA demands nothing, is the best possible deal?

          Obama has the idea that the best way to fix Cuba is by making them successful, since decades of embargo have done nothing. That is the strategy he is following. Yeah, he's not negotiating the best deal out of it, but you know, next time elect the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal. Maybe that will go better for you.

        • They didn't make any concessions for decades; why would they suddenly do so now?

          The only thing that the embargo accomplishes is the negative effect on Cuban economy, which affects the general populace, not the rulers.

          It was an absurd measure to begin with, and by now it's lost all semblance of rationality.

      • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @06:38PM (#51748211) Journal
        Even when I was a middle school student in the 80s the whole Cuba thing seemed silly. While I think the Obama administration has had plenty of failures I believe this is one of his better initiatives.
      • You know Cruz is lying because his lips are moving. Cuba was left out in the cold because it produces sugar and tobacco, the latter of which Jesse Helms did not want competing with North Carolina's production. (Wikipedia:"As long-time chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he demanded a staunchly anti-communist foreign policy that would reward America's friends abroad, and punish its enemies.") Thereafter, Cuba presented a huge challenge to the Florida tourism industry, as it allowed
    • by Pumpkin Tuna ( 1033058 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:27PM (#51747615)
      Flip it around. Has our policy of embargo and detachment helped any of those people? How many "prisoners of conscience" does China hold? Is Cruz proposing we embargo them too? I doubt it. I'm not sure if opening relations with Cuba will fix it. But we know that China is more open now than it was. At least it's worth trying.
    • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:30PM (#51747643)

      Here is what Senator Ted Cruz wrote about this:

      News reports say there are more than 100 long-term prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Nobody knows for sure, as the Castro regime does not grant international organizations access to its prisons. But we know they are there and that hundreds are held for shorter periods, and beaten in prison regularly.

      Just two months ago, the president told Yahoo News that he would only travel to Cuba "if, in fact, I with confidence can say that we're seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans. ... If we're going backwards, then there's not much reason for me to be there."

      I have news, Mr. President: No progress has taken place. Cuba is going backward.

      http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/obama-cuba-visit-ted-cruz-213749 [politico.com]

      If you are a fan of President Obama, could you please explain to me why you think Senator Cruz is wrong about this? Because at the moment I agree with Senator Cruz. President Obama's administration has dropped the embargo and helped out the government of Cuba, and I'm not aware of a single demand that Cuba has granted in return. Set free political prisoners? Allow Amnesty International to visit the prisons? Maybe beat the political prisoners a little bit less? No, no, and no.

      Not only did President Obama not make any demands of Cuba, but now Cuba is making demands of President Obama. Pay reparations, return Guantanamo Bay.

      I do hope that President Obama will at least use his "bully pulpit" to say something about human rights in Cuba. Words are what he is best at. I would have preferred a binding agreement, but he already didn't do that.

      Maybe because the embargo probably really isn't doing any good and there's no reason to continue it? Nobody is going to try and host nuclear weapons there ever again, I don't think. And we're not going to win any friends by trying to destroy the economy of the country. I'm not saying that we should concede to any demands about Gitmo (though I do not agree with the prison camp there), but we could certainly be better neighbors to Cuba and many other Latin American countries.

    • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:40PM (#51747715)

      the countries we do billions of dollars of business with a year do far, far worse than Cuba and no one gives a shit. why make Cuba special, I don't get it.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Florida is a swing state.

      • by Livius ( 318358 )

        Because Cuba was treated like a colony and then made itself independent.

        Same reason as the irrational hate towards Iran.

    • by Galaga88 ( 148206 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:44PM (#51747739)

      What has the fifty or sixty years of the embargo achieved on that front? The status quo has achieved nothing so far.

      Let Cuba have a hit of sweet, sweet capitalism. Once they get hooked, we can refuse to offer more unless they start doing what we want.

      • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @06:14PM (#51748017) Homepage

        Let Cuba have a hit of sweet, sweet capitalism. Once they get hooked, we can refuse to offer more unless they start doing what we want.

        This sounds like a great plan. But why do you think it is going to happen? Is the government of Cuba about to allow free enterprise by its citizens?

        The Economy of Cuba is a planned economy dominated by state-run enterprises. Most industries are owned and operated by the government and most of the labor force is employed by the state.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Cuba [wikipedia.org]

        Actually, that article goes on to say that after the Soviet Union collapsed, the government of Cuba began to allow a tiny amount of free enterprise. But:

        Investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The government sets most prices and rations goods to citizens.

        I agree, if the people of Cuba get a taste of free enterprise they will want more. But I fear the government of Cuba knows this and will not cooperate with the plan.

        • This sounds like a great plan. But why do you think it is going to happen? Is the government of Cuba about to allow free enterprise by its citizens?

          In practice, we've seen that as countries go richer, they start to demand more and more political power, and then the people throw off the dictatorship. A pattern followed in S Korea, and Taiwan, for example.

        • But why do you think it is going to happen? Is the government of Cuba about to allow free enterprise by its citizens?

          Take a look at the facts on the ground. Free enterprise has been growing considerably in Cuba the last few years, though largely from the bottom up with self-employment.

    • Is that the same Ted Cruz who boasted about "winning states from Maine to Alaska [encyclopediadramatica.se]"? Just asking.

  • If both, how is more than 45% less than something considered "nearly"?
  • by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:59PM (#51747891)
    That I'm guessing that he didn't re-open relations with Cuba because it was the right thing to do and he actually did it as a favor to Google for lending him all the people that ran the IT portion of his campaign. (Since they apparently want to expand their business into Cuba.)
  • "This is a historic visit," Obama said as he greeted U.S. Embassy staff and their families at a Havana hotel. "It's an historic opportunity to engage with the Cuban people."

    I'm happy I'm not the only one who has no idea which one is correct.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @06:39PM (#51748213) Journal

    It took way too long for this to happen. Back when we gave China MFN status, what, early 90s? I was already complaining about the hypocrisy. The rationale was that by engaging with China we would eventually transfer our ideas as well as our goods. The theory behind this was called "Constructive Engagement".

    But if CE was really the proper way to deal with these regimes, what about Cuba? It never really worked anyway. CE was just justification--it was all about the money, and earlier it was about playing China against the USSR. It was hypocritical on its face, right from the start.

    I've literally been complaining about this since before some of you were born. Sheesh! Look, I get it. Castro stole your stuff, and you're mad; but most of the people who directly lost are dead. Aside from that, conquest happens. It's how America was built. At some point you have to write that off.

    Don't get me wrong. Communism sucks. It's an evil little anachronism that exists down there; but our way of dealing with it didn't work. Time to try something different... finally!

    • Meh, seems pretty simple to me. Lots of people argued about which strategy was better but nobody could really prove it one way or the other. So we tried the "trade and seduce them with capitalism" method with China, and the "boycott and try to starve them into changing" method with Cuba. The China method seems to work better, so now we're going to use that method on Cuba.

      It's not hypocritical at all to try different methods if you aren't sure which will work best. The real problem is that in order to
  • "looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people."

    He can't be that stupid. Can he?

    He's going to hear from a carefully selected Potemkin village of people who fear for their lives and freedom if they say anything less than glowing things about life in Cuba.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither liberty not saftey." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

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