Raul Castro Hub




U.S. to Begin Talks With Cuba to Open Embassy, Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations

Cuba_obama

President Obama is set to announce a broad new range of changes to the U.S. Government's policies toward Cuba including talks to normalize full diplomatic relations and open an embassy, the AP reports.

The announcement was preceded Wednesday morning by the freeing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held in Cuba since 2009, CNN adds:

Gross' "humanitarian" release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

President Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.

Satellite-image-of-cuba

CNBC adds:

Obama plans to overhaul Cuba's policy while Cuba plans to free 53 political prisoners and to allow U.S. debit and credit cards, Dow Jones reported.

General tourism will still not be allowed but some travel restrictions will be eased for the purposes of making it easier for Americans to do business there.

Some of the other changes, according to CNN:

In an effort to boost the nascent Cuban private sector, the President will also allow expanded commercial sales and exports of goods and services to Cuba, particularly building materials for entrepreneurs and private residences, and allow greater business training, as well as permit greater communications hardware and services to go to the island.

Other announced changes permit U.S. and Cuban banks to build relationships and travelers to use credit and debit cards. U.S. travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco -- even Cuban cigars. Remittances by Americans to their families back in Cuba will also be increased to approximately $2,000 per quarter.

While only Congress can lift the decades-long full embargo, the President appears to be extending many measures which are within his power.

Many, of course, will be asking how the human rights violations of the Castro regime will be addressed during these talks. Just this week, on Human Rights Day, more than 100 and reportedly up to 240 political activists were arrested throughout the island.

Obama is set to speak about Gross and Cuba at 12 ET today. At the same time Cuban President Raul Castro will be giving a press conference about the policies in Havana.

A CNN report on Alan Gross, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "U.S. to Begin Talks With Cuba to Open Embassy, Normalize Full Diplomatic Relations" »


Mariela Castro Votes Against Cuban Government, Voices Support For Transgender Rights

 

Mariela_Castro_2010_Hamburg

Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuba’s president Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, has made the first recorded vote against the government in a show of support for LGBT people, reports NPR.

Castro was behind the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Conference held in Cuba earlier this year.

The proposed update to Cuba's expansive labor code included explicit protections based on sexual orientation. However, Castro said that because it didn't also specify protections for people based on their gender identity and HIV status, it was inconsistent with her beliefs.

It is thought to be the first time that a government bill has been voted against.

However, according to LGBTI News, Baruch College Latin American studies professor Ted Henken said that Castro’s vote “is more a sign of what Mariela can get away with than a sign of what your everyday parliamentarian can get away with.”


Jon Stewart Throws Water on the Firestorm Over the Castro Handshake: VIDEO

Stewart

Yesterday we reported that the media and right-wingers had become all aflutter over Obama's handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro at the Mandela memorial. Jon Stewart ironed things out with a rendition of "The Hills Are Alive" from The Sound of Music.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Jon Stewart Throws Water on the Firestorm Over the Castro Handshake: VIDEO" »


Media Studies Interactions Between Obama and Raul Castro, Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt: VIDEO

Castro_obama

Forget the stunning speech or the remembrance. Mandela's memorial provided ample opportunity to study Obama's interactions with world leaders, and the media, both social and traditional, are having a field day.

First, Obama shook hands with...a dictator! In honor of the Raul Castro moment, DailyKos has posted 10 photos of Republican presidents and VPs shaking hands with dictators.

The NYT wonders:

Was Mr. Obama trying to signal a new effort by the American government to reach an accommodation with Cuba 50 years after the Communist revolution that put Fidel Castro, Raúl’s brother, in power? Or was Mr. Obama simply trying to avoid delivering a diplomatic snub at a memorial dedicated to forgiveness?

The president’s aides would have known in advance which world leaders would be at the podium when the president approached for his own remarks. But White House officials declined to offer any explanation of the handshake or confirm that there had been a discussion about whether to offer one.

Still, Mr. Obama’s own remarks, delivered just moments afterward, offer tantalizing possibilities about what was going through the president’s mind when he approached Mr. Castro.

FOX News, of course, has its eyebrow arched over the exchange.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Meanwhile, another story is being weaved over a set of photos showing interactions between Obama and Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, while Michelle Obama looks on with an unamused stare.

Danishpm_obama

Continue reading "Media Studies Interactions Between Obama and Raul Castro, Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt: VIDEO" »


Ahead Of Gay Pride, Cuban Activists Stage Kiss-In To Pressure Communist Government

CubaKissIn

LGBT activists in Cuba held a kiss-in yesterday to raise awareness of their continued oppression in the communist nation. They also presented Parliament with a list of demands, including investigations into 60s-era roundups of gay Cubans, laws that respect equality and more police protections against hate crimes.

The action comes just days before Cuba holds its second gay pride and was organized by a group called Project Rainbow, which calls itself an "independent and anti-capitalist LGBT group."

The Miami Herald offers some more details:

"Our document calls on the Cuban government to fully comply with international agreements it has signed on human rights, especially those that apply to LGBT rights," [activist Ignacio] Estrada said after delivering the petition [to Parliament].

The petition also calls on lawmakers to launch an investigation of the Military Units to Aid Production, or UMAPs — hard-labor camps created by Fidel Castro during the 1960s to detain homosexuals and government critics — and requests trials for government officials responsible for the camps.

Activists are also demanding that authorities stop applying the vaguely worded crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” to gays and instead investigate complaints of those who are beaten or fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation, Estrada said.

Cuban society has made small steps toward accepting their LGBT comrades — thanks in large part to Mariela Castro, daughter of current president Raul and Fidel's niece — but is still ruled by a macho culture that denigrates and dismisses homosexuality.


Mariela Castro Leads Gay Rights Parade Through Streets Of Havana

CastroMariela Castro, noted sexologist and daughter of Cuban president Raul, led a gay rights march in Havana on Saturday. From the AP:

The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro said ... that her father advocated eliminating sexual discrimination, and reiterated her own hope the country would soon legalize same sex marriage.

Mariela Castro, a noted gay rights advocate and head of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education, also repeated her praise for U.S. President Barack Obama's public remarks in favor of same sex marriage, saying the American leader's words "have great value because of the influence they might have" on others.

Castro moderated her praise of the president, noting that although his words are lovely, there is as yet no federal push to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States.

Castro claimed that her father supports marriage equality as well, even though he's never spoken publicly on the subject. She insists he's "working behind the scenes" to bring about change in the island nation's marital law:

"[Working quietly] is surely part of his tactics and strategy; it is his style," she said. "I am not going to pressure him to say things publically, because I am more interested in concrete results."

Castro is hopeful that the Cuban parliament will address marriage equality when they convene in July. If they do, it will represent a rapid evolution in Cuba's stance on same-sex relationships: as recently as 2004, Havana's police were still raiding gay and drag parties.


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged