US and Cuba 'seek to normalise ties'

ecce homo

ecce homo

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US and Cuba are to start talks to normalise diplomatic ties in a historic shift in relations between the two countries, media reports say.

American officials have told US media the US is looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

The moves are part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and includes the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

US President Barack Obama is making a statement later.

Mr Gross, 65, has spent five years behind bars after being accused of subversion, for trying to bring internet services to communities in Cuba.

He earlier left Cuba on a US government plane and was freed on humanitarian grounds.

His arrest and imprisonment had undermined attempts to thaw diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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  • ecce homo

    ecce homo

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    Cuba releases American Alan Gross; Obama to overhaul relations


    By Elise Labott, CNN Global Affairs Correspondent

    Washington (CNN) -- U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.

    President Barack Obama is expected to announce Gross' release at noon in Washington. At around the same time, Cuban president Raul Castro will speak about it in Havana.

    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 major loosening of travel and economic restrictions and begin discussions on re-opening the U.S. embassy there in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since 1961, when the embassy closed and the embargo was imposed.

    Officials described the planned actions as the most forceful changes the president could make without legislation passing through Congress.

    For a President who took office promising to engage Cuba, the move could help shape Obama's foreign policy legacy.

    "We are charting a new course toward Cuba," a senior administration official said. "The President understood the time was right to attempt a new approach, both because of the beginnings of changes in Cuba and because of the impediment this was causing for our regional policy."

    Gross was arrested after traveling under a program under the U.S. Agency for International Development to deliver satellite phones and other communications equipment to the island's small Jewish population.

    Cuban officials charged he was trying to foment a "Cuban Spring." In 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to set up an Internet network for Cuban dissidents "to promote destabilizing activities and subvert constitutional order."

    Senior administration officials and Cuba observers have said recent reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations. U.S. and Cuban officials say Washington and Havana in recent months have increased official technical-level contacts on a variety of issues.

    Obama publicly acknowledged for the first time last week that Washington was negotiating with Havana for Gross' release through a "variety of channels."

    "We've been in conversations about how we can get Alan Gross home for quite some time," Obama said in an interview with Fusion television network. "We continue to be concerned about him."

    Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Gross' Maryland congressman, are on the plane with Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, according to government officials.

    The group of members left at 4 a.m. ET Wednesday from Washington for Cuba.

    Gross' lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told CNN last month the years of confinement have taken their toll on his client. Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and is losing his teeth. His hips are so weak that he can barely walk and he has lost vision in one eye. He has also undertaken hunger strikes and threatened to take his own life.

    With Gross' health in decline, a bipartisan group of 66 senators wrote Obama a letter in November 2013 urging him to "act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain [Gross's] release."

    The three Cubans released as a part of the deal belonged the so-called Cuban Five, a quintet of Cuban intelligence officers convicted in 2001 for espionage. They were part of what was called the Wasp Network, which collected intelligence on prominent Cuban-American exile leaders and U.S. military bases.

    The leader of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, was linked to the February 1996 downing of the two civilian planes operated by the U.S.-based dissident group Brothers to the Rescue, in which four men died. He is serving a two life sentences. Luis Medina, also known as Ramon Labanino; and Antonio Guerrero have just a few years left on their sentences.

    The remaining two -- Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez -- were released after serving most of their 15-year sentences and have already returned to Cuba, where they were hailed as heroes.

    Wednesday's announcement that the U.S. will move toward restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba will also make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba and do business with the Cuban people by extending general licenses, officials said. While the more liberal travel restrictions won't allow for tourism, they will permit greater American travel to the island.

    Secretary of State John Kerry has also been instructed to review Cuba's place on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, potentially paving the the way a lift on certain economic and political sanctions.

    The revised relationship between the U.S. and Cuba comes ahead of the March 2015 Summit of the Americas, where the island country is set to participate for the first time. In the past, Washington has vetoed Havana's participation on the grounds it is not a democracy. This year, several countries have said they would not participate if Cuba was once again barred.

    While only Congress can formally overturn the five decades-long embargo, the White House has some authorities to liberalize trade and travel to the island.

    The 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which enshrined the embargo into legislation, allows for the President to extend general or specific licenses through a presidential determination, which could be justified as providing support for the Cuban people or democratic change in Cuba. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama exercised such authority to ease certain provisions of the regulations implementing the Cuba sanctions program.

    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.

    Officials stressed the moves were not being undertaken to prop up the Castro regime, but rather to encourage further reforms on the island.

    "None of this is seen as a reward. All of this is seen as a way of promoting change in Cuba because everything we have done in the past has demonstrably failed," another senior administration official said. "This is not the U.S. government saying Cuba has gotten so much better. It is still an authoritarian state and we still have profound differences with this government."

    "But if we hope for change with Cuba, we must try for a different approach. And we believe that considerably more engagement with the Cuban people and the Cuban government is the way to do that," the official said, adding that the United States "will not for a moment lessen our support for improvement in human rights."

    To that end, Cuba has agreed to release 53 political prisoners from a list of names provided by the United States. At least one of the prisoners has already been released. Havana has also agreed to permit significant access by its citizens to the Internet and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations human rights officials back on the island for the first time in years.

    Talks on a deal began between senior White House and Cuban officials last year and happened in fits and starts, officials said. The officials praised the role the Vatican played as guarantor of the process.

    Officials would not reveal the name of the U.S. intelligence source, but officials said he was the individual who revealed to the U.S. the Wasp network, which included the Cuban Five.

    "He was a very important hero," the U.S. official said.

    The moves are far more sweeping than the last action Obama took toward Cuba in January 2011, when he eased restrictions on travel to and from the island. Relations have been largely frozen since Gross' conviction and the White House has made his release a condition of improved ties.

    In 2013, Obama drew praise from advocates of changing U.S. policy toward Cuba when he said the U.S. had to be "creative" and "thoughtful" about fostering change on the island.

    "The notion that the same policies that we put in place in 1961 would somehow still be as effective as they are today, in the age of the Internet and Google and world travel, doesn't make sense," Obama said at a November 2013 fundraiser in Florida. "We have to continue to update our policies."
     
    Genius

    Genius

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    It was expected, Cuba is on the capitalism path.
    Free businesses are exploding in havana and ban on selling and buying houses have been lifted.
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

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    Such convenient safe haven for Florida’s retirees and senior citizens to seek free and superior medical care across the pond…
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

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    "Cut Loose the Shackles of the Past": U.S. and Cuba Announce a New Dawn in Diplomatic Relations


    Transcript

    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

    AMY GOODMAN: President Obama announced Wednesday the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than half a century. The historic move will include the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana. It was reportedly facilitated by Pope Francis and the Vatican, who helped begin secret negotiations last year.
    The softened relations come with a prisoner exchange. Cuba has released Alan Gross, a subcontractor for USAID—that’s the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was arrested in 2009, sentenced to 15 years for smuggling illegal technology into the country for opposition groups. Also released was a Cuban who had provided information about Cuban spy operations in the United States. Obama did not identify the prisoner by name, but Newsweek reports he’s Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a former Cuban intelligence officer who who worked secretly for the CIA until he was arrested on espionage charges in 1995. Meanwhile, the United States freed the remaining members of the Cuban Five—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino. The men were arrested in the United States in 1998 and convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. But Cuban intelligence officers say they were not spying on the United States, but rather trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups responsible for attacks inside Cuba. President Obama outlined the exchange as the prisoners were already returning home.
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case and other aspects of our relationship. His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me and to Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.
    Today, Alan returned home, reunited with his family at long last. Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds. Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades. This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States. This man is now safely on our shores.
    AMY GOODMAN: The deal between the United States and Cuba is a major diplomatic victory for Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, who has offered to engage in direct conversations with Obama, quote, "as equals" since he came to power in 2006 after taking over from his brother, Fidel Castro. President Castro announced the changes in his own midday address to the nation.
    PRESIDENT RAÚL CASTRO: [translated] As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday with President Obama, we have been able to make headway in a solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations. As Fidel promised on June 2001, when he said, "They shall return," Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio have arrived today to our homeland. The enormous joy of their families and all of our people, who have relentlessly fought for this goal, is shared by hundreds of solidarity committees and groups, governments, parliaments, organizations, institutions and personalities who, for the last 16 years, have made tireless efforts demanding their release. We convey our deepest gratitude and commitment to all of them. President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.
    AMY GOODMAN: News of the U.S. deal follows news that USAID tried to infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop community in a botched plot to foment anti-government unrest. As part of the program, the agency hired Creative Associates International, a firm that also played a key role in the "Cuban Twitter" program, a fake social media program launched in another bid to undermine the Cuban government. In the hip-hop case, Creative Associates was directed to recruit young rap artists looking to make "social change." The program ended up endangering some of the artists and their careers. On Monday, the head of USAID said he will step down in February. Rajiv Shah gave no public reason for leaving and, in a statement, said he had mixed emotions that the United States is restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba as outlined by President Obama on Wednesday.
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy. First, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961. Going forward, the United States will re-establish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba. Where we can advance shared interests, we will, on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response. ...
    Second, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. This review will be guided by the facts and the law. ...
    Third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba. This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of people-to-people engagement. With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island. ...
    I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans. So we will facilitate authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba. U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions. And it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba.
    I believe in the free flow of information. Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe. So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.
    AMY GOODMAN: Well, today we spend the hour looking at this new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations. Here in New York, we’re joined by attorney Martin Garbus, member of the Cuban Five legal team, and Michael Ratner, who’s president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He has written several books on Cuba, Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder, and also is the co-editor of Che Guevara and the FBI: The U.S. Political Police Dossier on the Latin American Revolutionary. Joining us from Washington, D.C., is Robert Muse, an attorney, an expert in U.S. laws relating to Cuba. He was in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday when the deal was announced. His recent piece published in Americas Quarterly is "U.S. Presidential Action on Cuba: The New Normalization?" And in Havana, we go to Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University, co-author of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.
    We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s begin in Havana with Peter Kornbluh. Your response to this historic announcement by President Obama in Washington, D.C., and President Raúl Castro in Havana, Cuba, where you are right now, Peter?
    PETER KORNBLUH: Well, I have a one-word response, Amy: finally. Finally, after 55 years, an element of sanity and effectiveness and modernization have arrived to the insane U.S. policy that U.S. presidents have been pursuing towards Cuba for all these years, all these decades.
    As you can see from looking at me, the sun is coming up here over Havana Bay. And, you know, I really have a sense, and I think the Cubans that I’ve talked to here in the street have a sense, of a new day, a new dawn, a new beginning, as President Obama himself has said, in U.S.-Cuban relations. And, you know, there really is a sense of excitement here about the future. My taxi driver, who just brought me down to the studio to be with you, said that the taxi chauffeurs are already talking about when they’re going to be able to get a Ford van for taxis, so they can carry more people around. So, you know, expectations are high that a change of relations with the United States is going to lead to development here. He says, "You know, we’ve had a lot of politics, but you can’t eat politics." And then, Cubans are looking at the economy and hoping that really a change in relations with the United States portends a much better development future for Cuba’s economy and for the future of this country.
    AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. That was Peter Kornbluh. Today he is in Havana, Cuba. This is Democracy Now! on this historic day after the announcement that for the first time in over 50 years the U.S. and Cuba will begin normalizing relations. Stay with us.






     
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    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

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    Does the Release of the Cuban Five Prove the U.S. Failed to Destroy Cuba After Decades of Trying?


    Published on Dec 18, 2014
    http://democracynow.org - As a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations begins, we host a roundtable discussion about the prisoners released as part of the new deal. Cuba freed USAID contractor Alan Gross and a former Cuban intelligence officer who who worked secretly for the CIA, and the United States released the remaining members of the Cuban Five: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino. We speak with attorney Martin Garbus of the Cuban Five legal team and broadcast an excerpt from our 2013 interview with the first freed member of the Cuban Five, René González, who describes why he came to the United States to investigate militant Cuban exile groups. We also discuss the significance of the new relationship between the two countries. “Our government has been trying to destroy the Cuban Revolution since day one … and essentially this is an admission that it didn’t succeed,” says guest Michael Ratner, co-author of “Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder.” We are also joined by Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, who met twice with Gross while he was detained.

    Watch all Democracy Now! coverage of Cuba over the years in our archive:
    Cuba | Democracy Now!
     
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    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

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    Can Obama Lift the Embargo on Cuba Without Congress in Effort to Normalize U.S.-Cuba Relations?


    Published on Dec 18, 2014
    http://democracynow.org - We look at the details of the new normalized relations between the United States and Cuba, which include an easing of restrictions on banking, investment and travel, and discuss whether President Obama can lift the embargo on Cuba without congressional approval. We speak with Robert Muse, an expert on U.S. laws relating to Cuba and attorney based in Washington, D.C. His recent article published in Americas Quarterly is "U.S. Presidential Action on Cuba: The New Normalization?" We also speak with Michael Ratner about what will happen to the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Joining the discussion live from Havana is Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

    Watch all Democracy Now! coverage of Cuba over the years in our archive:
    Cuba | Democracy Now!
     
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    Danny Z

    Danny Z

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    Bye bye old vintage cars, bye bye cheap beaches with no gringos
     
    HannaTheCrusader

    HannaTheCrusader

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    anyone who claims that cuba won needs a serious head exam
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

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    Che Guevara is laughing for Cuba has triumphed | Al Akhbar English

    Che Guevara is laughing for Cuba has triumphed


    Che Guevara, the iconic revolutionary, in 1958. AFP/Getty Images/Antonio Nunez Jimenez


    By: Sami Kleib [1]
    Published Friday, December 19, 2014


    The sun sets behind the old neighborhoods in Havana. Lovers are scattered along the Corniche. Here, there is no racism, no religious doctrines and sects, no wars by “ISIS” and “al-Nusra Front,” and no Dahes wal-Ghabra’ battles. There are lovers from different ethnicities and races. Their African and Spanish origins give distinctive charm to the Cuban nights. The city sways to the sounds of salsa music blaring from cars parked at both sides of the street.

    Havana – Slogans against the neighboring United States line the road between Havana and Santa Clara. Among the banners are pictures of the ‘Cuban Five,’ detainees who were held at the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and who the United States accused of infiltrating the Cuban opposition in the United States. Their arrest became a diplomatic issue between the two countries.
    The employee at the car rental company smiles. He wipes the dust off the windshield of a car, goes underneath it and rises up, walks around it to make sure there are no damages, and then presents the rental paper for signing. He smiles again and says, “I wish I could go with you to Santa Clara.” Like all the people in his beautiful and warm country, he seems to have maintained his love for that who is in Santa Clara.
    Before leaving the capital Havana, we spot the United States Interests Section building, on which 138 black flags are raised. This is how Cuba blocked the electronic screen installed on the fifth floor of the “espionage section” – as they call it here – to prevent the broadcasting of anti-regime propaganda. Relations have slightly improved during President Barack Obama’s terms, but Cuba continues to suffer from injustice by its neighbor.
    In the spring of 1960, US Secretary of State Christian Herter expressed the need to take a "positive position which would call forth a line of action while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government."
    Cuba endured starvation and remained steadfast. It stood high and upheld the dignity of its freedom fighters.
    “Would you please show us the way to Santa Clara?” The Cuban woman clad in white smiles and bends over towards us, almost poking her head through the window. She says that she is heading to a place not far from the area. She tries to climb into the back seat, but we ask her to sit next to the driver. I sat in the back seat.
    She praises our respect for women. She asks where we come from and seems more interested in knowing what is going on in our country. Here, popular culture is more inclined towards literature, arts, science, and medicine. The people seem to have had enough suffering. She says that Palestine used to be the only thing she knew about the Arab world. Despite its modest capabilities, Cuba today still hosts and sponsors Palestinian students. Today, the Cuban woman knows Syria, Iraq, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt. She smiles and says, “Beware of the United States and NATO… they are the cause of our problems.”
    Her name is Maria. Her modest golden ring perhaps holds one of the many beautiful love stories in Cuba. We all go silent. She places her right hand on the car window, salutes people standing on the sidewalk as if she knows them, guides us to our destination, thanks us and gets out of the car. Here, the people are kind and love life. They are well-read and have been patient for the duration of the sanctions imposed on their country. They dream of having some extent of luxury, but not at the expense of their dignity.
    Maria crosses about 50 kilometers every day to and from work. She has two degrees, one in nursing and another in world literature. A picture of Che Guevara is pinned to her chest. Pictures of “Che” – as he is affectionately called here – spread along the road between Havana and Santa Clara. He is smiling in all pictures. It is as if he is laughing at where the United States has come to be on the world stage – or perhaps at what remains of the Arab left in the era of the Islamic caliphate.
    Guevara was not Cuban. He was an Argentinian doctor, intellectual, and writer. He came to Cuba to support the revolution. He was loved by the people, and his image became engraved in every heart and street. His pictures abounded after his death, while pictures or statues of Cuban leader Fidel Castro are rarely seen. Leaders here revolt, triumph, and build their country. In countries where statues are revered, the leaders rob their people. Here, history recognizes rebels and leaders alike. There, history damns both the statues and who they represent.
    How beautiful Santa Clara is. The statue of Che Guevara rises skyward. It stands tall above the grave, which has become a pilgrimage site and the most visited by tourists. A square-shaped picture of the handsome rebel hangs between round-framed pictures of his comrades in struggle and revolution. A pink lily flower sits next to the picture, under which a torch burns day and night – as did the revolution – and like the dignity of the people in Cuba today.
    The receptionist smiles at us. She realizes that we – as millions of visitors before us – came to experience the flame of a real revolution. Here, the revolution did not consume its children, just as others did not consume the revolution. The employee smiles and reminds us that taking photographs is forbidden, and then continues reading. We ask if we are required to pay an entrance fee. She closes the book, laughs, removes her glasses, and says in Spanish, “Dear comrades, the revolution is not for sale.” Former allies in our revolutions, who are currently part of the NATO alliance, came to my mind.
    Many personal belongings of Che Guevara and his companions are here: his identity card carrying his birth date in 1928, his camera which captured the last photos of the rebels, a cup of maté (a green drink similar to tea), a Colt pistol, military clothing, an old radio, a leather belt, and many pictures of the rebel beau with the revolution’s leader Fidel Castro. Each piece is accompanied with several explanations.
    Visitors of the memorial experience a strange feeling. It could be the significance of the place, or perhaps the honorable history which is embodied in a rebel’s smile and some of his belongings.
    Like us, about 1,500 visitors come to the memorial every day. If every visitor pays just one dollar, it would help improve conditions in Cuba. But here, the revolution is not for sale. The majority of visitors are Italians. The memorial attendant jokingly says, “especially Italian women.”
    We are the only Arabs on the visitors’ list. Arabs do not care about the history of the Cuban revolution, or perhaps do not like this type of tourism. Arab money is accumulated in American banks, is spent in the streets of Europe and at nightclubs and casinos, or is sent to terrorist takfiri groups to ruin other countries, some which look like Cuba. The attendant feels happy when we tell her that Che’s image is also engraved in the hearts and homes of many in the Arab countries.
    The Cuban night falls on Santa Clara. We pull a cigar from the yellow pack, as most Cubans do. Here, cigars are not limited to the corrupt, the illegally wealthy, or politicians who rob the people, as is the case in our country. The cigar here is not a symbol of status or social class. Refuse collectors, restaurant waiters, taxi drivers, intellectuals, politicians, and everyone smoke cigars. The cigar is the pride of Cuba.
    Cuban nights are beautiful. There is a general sense of happiness that rises above the dire economic situation and inhabits the hearts of the people. Since the early evening, Cuban music blares from houses, kitchens, and cafes. Cubans in their summer clothes gather in front of their houses. They bring out food and drinks, and dance to the sounds of music. It is commonplace to see housewives dancing with their ​​husbands. Everyone is hospitable, and hosts would walk hundreds of kilometers to accompany a guest who gets lost. The people exude kindness that is rare to find in any country in the world.
    Cuba's revolution did not come out of nowhere. The country’s history has a lot of similarities with the history of the Arab countries. Since its independence in 1902, Cuba has known how to punish corrupt rulers linked to the United States. The American neighbor did not hesitate to violate its smaller neighbor. The United States attacked Cuba at least three times, and helped install and protect the dictator Fulgencio Batista, who suppressed the people and sold his country's resources to the West. Does he remind you of anyone? Does he not remind you of many rather than one?
    Batista arrested the young Fidel Castro. In the dictator’s prison, Castro wrote his famous letters: “History Will Absolve Me.” And history did him justice. The Soviet Union became his ally. China supported him. The United States severed ties with its neighbor, which became a powerful symbol of dignity. The infection of revolution spread. Pictures of Che Guevara sprouted like glorious lilies across Latin America and Africa. He continued to raise the banner of pride and dignity until he was betrayed by Bolivia itself, where he revived revolutionary sentiment.
    Guevara was martyred. The revolution triumphed. America was enraged, and sought to suffocate Cuba economically by punishing all companies that do business with the country. Does this remind you of something? The Europeans put their support behind Washington. How history repeats itself. The helpless United Nations – which sometimes condemns, and at other times just lies dormant – slept more than it should, just as it does when it comes to Palestine.
    Cuba held its ground and stood tall. It made of its people’s dignity a commitment, and of their pride a beacon. Then came the idiotic invader George W. Bush. Iraq’s Nero sought to punish the rebellious neighbor. He said, “We will soon bring down the Cuban regime.” Guevara laughed in his picture and Castro scoffed at him. He said from his hospital bed: “Bush should remember that we defeated Batista although we were just a thousand men while the Cuban dictator had 80,000 men... we will turn the life of the invader into hell.”
    Threats were useless, and sanctions did not undermine the dignity of the people or education in the country. Cuba advanced scientifically, medically, and culturally in an astounding manner. The country produced medicines and drugs to treat diabetes, cholesterol, and at least 13 infectious diseases that afflict children, and developed the first vaccine against epilepsy. The country exported drugs to over 40 countries, and more than 80,000 doctors worked in neighboring Venezuela under the faithful late Comrade Hugo Chavez.
    Castro said to Bush: “You can export bombs to the world, and we will export medicines and doctors.”
    The wonderful opera song “Hasta Siempre, Comandante” plays on the radio. We turn the volume up. The car slides like the flow of the river between the lush trees. The evening breeze feels refreshing after two days in Santa Clara. The green fields, colored pastures, and old wooden houses in the Cuban villages smile at us. We listen to another version of the song played by a Cuban band. Many versions of this song have been released, glorifying the memory of a comrade who came from Argentina to say to the Cubans that revolting against dictatorship, oppression, tyranny, and colonialism is one. Sheikh Imam and his song “Guevara Died” come to mind. We feel like singing “Oh Comrades in Proud Cuba” by Marcel Khalife.
    Here, the revolution was not for sale, and thus succeeded. Here, the Spring was led by genuine freedom fighters, and thus yielded dignity. Here, the people remained silent for half a century, forcing the United States to apologize and admit that its policy was wrong.
    Congratulations to Cuba and its people, in the hope that the US’ return will not bring an end to that beautiful era, or to the cities which still retain the fragrance of the country’s history.
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

    Well-Known Member
    Che Guevara is laughing for Cuba has triumphed | Al Akhbar English


    Cuba held its ground and stood tall. It made of its people’s dignity a commitment, and of their pride a beacon. Then came the idiotic invader George W. Bush. Iraq’s Nero sought to punish the rebellious neighbor. He said, “We will soon bring down the Cuban regime.” Guevara laughed in his picture and Castro scoffed at him. He said from his hospital bed: “Bush should remember that we defeated Batista although we were just a thousand men while the Cuban dictator had 80,000 men... we will turn the life of the invader into hell.”
    Threats were useless, and sanctions did not undermine the dignity of the people or education in the country. Cuba advanced scientifically, medically, and culturally in an astounding manner. The country produced medicines and drugs to treat diabetes, cholesterol, and at least 13 infectious diseases that afflict children, and developed the first vaccine against epilepsy. The country exported drugs to over 40 countries, and more than 80,000 doctors worked in neighboring Venezuela under the faithful late Comrade Hugo Chavez.
    Castro said to Bush:
    “You can export bombs to the world, and we will export medicines and doctors.”
    Cuba says U.S. must respect its communist system | Reuters
    Cuba says U.S. must respect its communist system



    Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) speaks with his first vice-president Miguel Diaz Canel during a session of the National Assembly in Havana, December 20, 2014.

    HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday demanded that the United States respect Cuba's communist rule as the two countries work toward normalizing diplomatic ties.

    U.S. President Barack Obama this week reset Washington's Cold War-era policy on Cuba and the two countries swapped prisoners in a historic deal after 18 months of secret talks.
    U.S. officials will visit Havana in January to start talks on normalization, and Obama has said his government will push Cuba on issues of human and political rights as they negotiate over the coming months.
    Castro said on Saturday he is open to discussing a wide range of issues but that they should also cover the United States and he stressed that Cuba would not be giving up its socialist principles.
    "In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours," Castro told Cuba's National Assembly in a session that turned into a celebration of resistance to U.S. aggression.
    Castro also said Cuba faces a "long and difficult struggle" before the United States removes a decades-old economic embargo against the Caribbean island, in part because influential Cuban-American exiles will attempt to "sabotage the process" toward normalization.
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

    Well-Known Member

    US & Cuba love-hate relations: ‘No payoffs to American companies seeking $7.5bn for seized assets’
     
    Last edited by a moderator:
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

    Well-Known Member
    Ralph Nader: Political rumbas start in Cuba : Ct

    Ralph Nader: Political rumbas start in Cuba

    RALPH NADER | public citizen

    Relations between Cuba and the United States have been tumultuous since Castro took control in January 1959 from the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
    Fidel Castro and Fidelistas won a revolution and were determined to keep it at all costs. While the United States government was determined to do whatever was necessary — invasion, espionage, assassination attempts on high-ranking Cubans including Castro, subversion, embargos (except open immigration for refugees) and even pressing other nations not to trade with or invest in Cuba.
    Foreign policy observers know that the U.S. has propped up dozens of brutal dictatorships in three continents at the same time the U.S. was trying to undermine Cuba. The U.S. opened diplomatic relations with China, which fought us in the Korean War. We even have full relations with Vietnam despite our major bloody war with them. The ongoing animosity from the U.S. to achieve “regime change” in Cuba can be seen as bizarre, even given the anti-Cuban immigrant enclave in South Florida, when compared to the aforementioned foreign policies throughout the past half-century with China, Vietnam and other countries and regimes.
    When President Obama, with the support of two-thirds of the American people, announced opening the door to diplomatic relations with Cuba (Congress will still have to authorize an embassy and an ambassador), this included loosening trade restrictions; easier access for tourist visas; and cooperating on health matters, climate disasters, and drug trafficking. Now, the prediction game has erupted in all directions in both countries as to what can, will and should happen regarding Cuba in the coming weeks, months and years.
    What we do know is that a Republican Congress will give President Obama very little slack, other than to help U.S. tractor manufacturers and U.S. agricultural exporters trade with Cuba. Annual trade with Cuba will soon go to $1 billion from under $400 million of mostly food exports last year. Trade with Vietnam, a much larger country, reached $30 billion last year!
    In the future, when relations have progressed to include all tourism and the Cuban infrastructure can support it, Cuba will become an attractive destination for millions of American tourists. Some U.S. hotels will get management contracts with the Cuban government, as some European and South American companies have already. Cubans will be able to receive more remittances from their relatives in the U.S. through credit cards.
    The real questions about change, however, are from the Cuban side. What will be the reaction of the Castro brothers to U.S. politicians discussing the changes they believe will be best for Cuban politics, economics and culture? Will human rights and civil liberties expand?
    The Castros are realists and futurists who are conscious of their ages and want to preserve the Cuban socialist revolution. The state currently controls 80 percent of the economy. Raul Castro has permitted a variety of small businesses (450,000 of them so far) and small private agricultural plots.
    Still, the economy is in bad shape, notwithstanding universal free public education through the university level, universal health care, religious freedom and the ingenuity of Cubans in gaming the system with small-time black markets to get what they need.
    Cubans have grown to rely on their remarkable ability to repair, given their lack of imports due to embargoes. The 1958 Chevrolet taxis I saw in Havana when David F. Binder and I joined a foreign press delegation to interview Castro in April 1959 are still on the streets of Havana today. Nonetheless, Cuba needs to significantly improve its infrastructure and expand the manufacturing of household goods.
    It is not likely that Cubans will be able to hold true to their principles in the face of an unimpeded flood of U.S. junk food, credit gouging, deceptive TV advertising, one-sided fine-print contracts, over promotion of drugs, commercialization of childhood with incessant and often violent programming, and other forms of harmful corporate marketing.
    Few societies can absorb the sensual seduction of Western corporate/commercial culture’s onslaught and not succumb to becoming a mimicking society. If it can happen to China — the Middle Kingdom — it can happen to any country.
    President Obama promised to assist civil society in Cuba, which made me wonder why he hasn’t assisted civil society — dominated by a two-party tyranny and corporatism — in the U.S. Furthermore, given the history it may not be in the best interest of all Cubans for the “American imperialists” to assist their civil society.
    The Castro brothers may be looking at Vietnam as a model. There the Communist Party is still strictly in charge, but there is a burgeoning “capitalist” economy expanding quite rapidly. In addition, Vietnam has seen the expansion of public corruption, pollution, profiteering, inequality, a painful generation gap and upheaval of cultural traditions.
    One thing you can say about Castro’s Cuba, compared to Venezuela and many other South American regimes, is that there is not much big-time corruption. In fact, a corruption-ridden Venezuela that ships 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba and that is falling into deeper disarray is a reason why the Castros want more trade, tourism and technical investment from the U.S and other countries.
    Cuba exports physicians to many countries, often as a form of foreign aid. On the other hand, the U.S. imports physicians. Fidel Castro told us in 2002 that he was willing to collaborate with the U.S. in other countries to confront tropical diseases and epidemics using each country’s strengths. The U.S. government had no interest in his offer.
    Now, with Cuban physicians going to West Africa in far greater numbers than our medical corps to deal with Ebola, the thawing of relations may produce more joint efforts in fighting or preventing such deadly epidemics.
    Stay tuned to forthcoming events. Waging peace is a novel experience for hawkish U.S. foreign policy operatives and their provocative private consulting think tanks in Washington, D.C.
    Consumer advocate Ralph Nader is the founder of Public Citizen. This column was provided by Nader's In the Public Interest.
     
    Kizzeb2019

    Kizzeb2019

    Well-Known Member
    isnt that nice how Cuba waited for 5 months to do that:)!!!!!
    JUL 11, 2014 11:00AM ET
    Putin Writes Off $32 Billion of Cuba's Debts to Russia


    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Cuban President Raul Castro meet in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. ((AP PHOTO/RIA-NOVOSTI, ALEXEI NIKOLSKY, PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE))Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently on a grand tour of Latin America. His first stop is in Havana, Cuba. Ahead of arriving in Cuba, Putin decided to bestow a gift upon the Cuban government. With one swift signature, he eliminated $32 billion of Cuba's debt, left over from the Soviet era.
    Cuba isn't completely off the hook. They will be required to pay back just $3.2 billion over the next ten years, a 90 percent decrease from what they previously owed. The first payment is due in October, and will be made from the National Bank of Cuba to the Russian lender Vnesheconombank.
    Cuba has been working to restructure its debt over the last few years. In 2011, Cuba was able to restructure a $6 billion debt with China. Other nations have also forgiven their debt. In 2012, Japan forgave $1.4 billion and more recently, Mexico forgave $478 million in debt.
    While it may be nice to think Putin was simply showing a kind gesture to the Cuban government in forgiving this debt, it may be motivated by oil. Right now, the Cuban state oil company CUPET and Russia's Rosneft are in negotiations for a very lucrative deal. Russia and Cuba are close allies. Last year, trade between the two countries totaled about $200 million.
    Cuba has oil reserves of between 4 billion and 20 billion barrels, though likely in the area of 9 billion barrels. With the oil price at $110 per barrel, this deal could bring around $900 billion. This is comparable to the deal Rosneft currently has with Exxon Mobil in the Arctic. As Russia stands to earn $900 billion (perhaps more) from Cuba in oil, forgiving a $32 billion debt may be worth it to push contract negotiations in Russia's favor.
    Of course, perhaps it has nothing to do with oil at all, and Putin was just in a rare good mood that day.


     
    EuroMode

    EuroMode

    Active Member
    US-Cuba relations: Cubans seek change – but not if Uncle Sam takes over



    Strolling the scimitar-shaped seaside boulevard in Havana known as the Malecon, Pedro, a native of the city, knows what he doesn’t want from the nascent thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States.

    “No McDonald’s at every corner. That would be sad,” he murmurs, gesturing at the beguiling parade of homes and edifices, some crumbling, others newly restored to something like their old glory.

    The arrival of Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas that opens in Panama on Friday, and the possibility of a meeting between him and Barack Obama, may rekindle some of the joy that erupted here last December, when the two leaders vowed to restore diplomatic ties and move to end the long-running US embargo.

    Some of that thrill, though, has given way to caution about how quickly change will come – and what it may yield.

    That most ordinary Cubans want change here seems unarguable. You see it in their response to the relaxation of laws that once forbade private enterprise. Havana is blossoming with all manner of kerbside businesses, many operating out of people’s homes. In Miramar, a residential area west of Havana’s commercial centre, people crammed into “Los Dos Chinitos” and “Garage 44” one lunchtime this week. A Chinese takeaway and a pizza parlour, they both serve customers from counters in what used to be garages.

    Even Mr Castro’s attendance at the Summit of the Americas will be seen as a step forward. Cuba has hitherto been shunned by the organisation, as it has been by the US for more than five decades.

    And results of a rare poll show 80 per cent of Cubans holding a positive view of Mr Obama; only 17 per cent disapprove of the US President. The numbers in the survey, carried out in March by the Miami-based research firm Bendixen & Amandi on behalf of two US-based TV networks and released this week, flip dramatically when it comes to views of Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel, who stood down as President seven years ago after an illness. Almost half (48 per cent) of Cubans have a negative view of Raul Castro, it concludes, while 50 per cent view Fidel negatively.

    There is scant sign of any let-up in the daily propaganda bombardment here. Among the many billboards extolling the regime, one, as you arrive in town from the airport, shows a line of smiling ballerinas with the block-lettered slogan “The Revolution is Invincible”.

    But Cubans such as Pedro, 43, who works for the state helping a European country promote its goods here, wonder. Hasn’t the purity of the revolution already been shattered, with private businesses sprouting all around? Won’t opening up to the US jeopardise it further? And if that’s the case, how sincere is the regime’s change of course?

    “America may want to go quickly with this, but Cuba will want to go slowly,” he predicts. “And Cuba will throw up hurdles in the talks, because they don’t want to lose control.”


    Felipe Pupo who has hugely successful Chinese takeaway (David Usborne)

    Felipe Pupo, 58, who runs Dos Chinitos with his wife, a third generation Cuban-Chinese, agrees. “I don’t think the changes are happening because they want to change,” he says, while his family and other employees scurry to meet the meal orders at the counter in their garage.

    “They are changing because they have to. There are no jobs for the people and there is no money for them. They have little choice. They have to do this.”

    It will not be easy to eradicate the anti-US mindset of the regime. This week, the forest of high flagpoles in front of the so-called US Interest Section on the Malecon – a building that may soon become the US embassy again – were flapping with enormous Cuban flags, all the better for blocking the light and reminding Uncle Sam who is in charge here.

    When the Cuban military decided this week to buy a new fleet of Peugeot cars as taxis, they rejected a competing, but cheaper, bid from Hyundai of South Korea. The reason, seemingly, was political: South Korea, they believe, is too cosy with the US. France is not.

    The talks between Havana and Washington that are already under way do indeed face multiple tripwires – including America seeking compensation for financial assets and landmark buildings seized at the start of the revolution, as well as US demands for Cuba to restore full human rights.


    A pizza restaurant in a private garage David Usborne

    In a January essay, Fidel Castro said no agreement should be reached with the US until it hands back the Guantanamo Bay facility to the island – something that Washington has ruled out.

    The process may, however, get a boost in Panama, if, as some media outlets are predicting, Mr Obama announces that he is removing Cuba from the list of countries considered by the US to sponsor terrorism. There were reports that a long-awaited review by the US State Department had recommended just such a move.

    It would be a signal gesture, which on its own would help accelerate the easing of restrictions on US-Cuba trade which he has already initiated. That said, the ending of the US embargo entirely can only come with the approval of the US Congress, which for now it seems reluctant to provide.

    This is a country deeply uncertain about its future. The most obvious question – what will follow when both Castros are dead? – invariably elicits a who-can-possibly-know look. And it is a country that is divided over what it really wants. The years of one-party oppression, withholding of human rights and economic dysfunction have taken an undoubted toll on people, but many Cubans also nurture a fierce patriotism.

    And with that comes an ambivalence about America. They fear that giving – or selling – “the imperialists” even an inch of their country will end with the US taking a mile. That happened here once before.

    “Let them come here and they can help us with their money; they can mend this road,” says Claribel, who owns a picturesque home in the popular tourist destination of Vinales, about two hours west of here in deep tobacco-growing country. She has already begun renting out three of her rooms to foreign visitors.

    “But I think they will then want to buy my house, buy the whole town. This is still my house and my town. I am in charge here. We can’t let that happen. Americans cannot be trusted.”

    source independent
     
    HannaTheCrusader

    HannaTheCrusader

    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    communist and hard line socialist failed big time

    cuba is vanquished
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

    Well-Known Member
    Cuba Has a Lung Cancer Vaccine—And America Wants It | WIRED
    Cuba Has a Lung Cancer Vaccine—And America Wants It



    Cuba has for several years had a promising therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer. The 55-year trade embargo led by the US made sure that Cuba was mostly where it stayed. Until—maybe—now.

    The Obama administration has, of course, been trying to normalize relations with the island nation. And last month, during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s visit to Havana, Roswell Park Cancer Institute finalized an agreement with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology to develop a lung cancer vaccine and begin clinical trials in the US. Essentially, US researchers will bring the Cimavax vaccine stateside and get on track for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

    “The chance to evaluate a vaccine like this is a very exciting prospect,” says Candace Johnson, CEO of Roswell Park. She’s excited, most likely, because research on the vaccine so far shows that it has low toxicity, and it’s relatively cheap to produce and store. The Center for Molecular Immunology will give Roswell Park all of the documentation (how it’s produced, toxicity data, results from past trials) for an FDA drug application; Johnson says she hopes to get approval for testing Cimavax within six to eight months, and to start clinical trials in a year.

    How did Cuba end up with a cutting edge immuno-oncology drug? Though the country is justly famous for cigars, rum, and baseball, it also has some of the best and most inventive biotech and medical research in the world. That’s especially notable for a country where the average worker earns $20 a month. Cuba spends a fraction of the money the US does on healthcare per individual; yet the average Cuban has a life expectancy on par with the average American. “They’ve had to do more with less,” says Johnson, “so they’ve had to be even more innovative with how they approach things. For over 40 years, they have had a preeminent immunology community.”

    Despite decades of economic sanctions, Fidel and Raul Castro made biotechnology and medical research, particularly preventative medicine, a priority. After the 1981 dengue fever outbreak struck nearly 350,000 Cubans, the government established the Biological Front, an effort to focus research efforts by various agencies toward specific goals. Its first major accomplishment was the successful (and unexpected) production of interferon, a protein that plays a role in human immune response. Since then, Cuban immunologists made several other vaccination breakthroughs, including their own vaccines for meningitis B and hepatitis B, and monoclonal antibodies for kidney transplants.

    The thing about making such great cigars is, smoking is really, really bad for you. Lung cancer is the fourth-leading cause of the death in Cuba. Medical researchers at the Center for Molecular Immunology worked on Cimavax for 25 years before the Ministry of Health made it available to the public—for free—in 2011. Each shot costs the government about $1. A Phase II trial from 2008 showed lung cancer patients who received the vaccine lived an average of four to six months longer than those who didn’t. That prompted Japan and some European countries to initiate Cimavax clinical trials as well.
     
    J. Abizeid

    J. Abizeid

    Well-Known Member
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/30/us/us-removes-cuba-from-state-terrorism-list.html?_r=0

    U.S. Removes Cuba From State-Sponsored Terrorism List:eek:



    President Raúl Castro and President Obama before a closed-door meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City last month. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama’s push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation.

    Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba’s designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period, which began on April 14 when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list.

    The move “reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission,” Jeff Rathke, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement.
    “While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions,” Mr. Rathke said, “these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.”
    The action comes amid signs of difficulty in the negotiations between American and Cuban officials to bring about the historic reopening Mr. Obama announced in December. Despite widespread optimism, officials failed last week to reach an accord on re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies.

    Still, Cuba’s removal from the list – now confined to Iran, Sudan and Syria – is an important step in Mr. Obama’s effort to move past the Cold War-era hostility that long marked the relationship between the United States and Cuba. The president met with President Raúl Castro of Cuba last month in Panama at the Summit of the Americas in the first such encounter in a half-century.

    Cubans saw their nation’s designation as a sponsor of terrorism, in effect since 1982 when their government was backing leftist insurgencies, as a blemish on their image and a practical hindrance that had hampered their ability to gain access to American banks.

    Mr. Obama asked the State Department to review Cuba’s designation late last year, when he and Mr. Castro announced they would work to re-establish ties. A State Department review concluded last month that Cuba no longer deserved to be on the list. It said that the nation had not sponsored international terrorism recently and that it had promised not to do so.

    Cuban-Americans in Congress who initially vowed to try and block the change in designation quickly said they had concluded they had no legal means of doing so, and made no attempts to oppose it.
    Even with the issue of the terrorism list now resolved, American and Cuban officials face challenges in pressing forward with the rapprochement. Talks last week, the fourth round since the normalization process was announced, broke off without resolution of a checklist of issues standing in the way of converting the diplomatic outposts known as “interests sections” into full-fledged embassies.

    United States negotiators want assurances from the Cubans that American diplomats at a new embassy in Havana would be able to move freely around the country and speak with whomever they wished, including opponents of the government. Cuban officials, who have frequently charged that the United States was working to undermine the government by helping dissidents, have resisted the request.

    Americans have also sought guarantees that Cubans visiting an American embassy in Havana would not be harassed by the police.

    The White House has remained publicly upbeat about the prospects of bridging the divides and reaching a point where it would be possible for the president to visit Havana before he leaves office.

    “I know that there’s one person in particular that hopes President Obama will be in Havana at some point in the relatively recent future, and that’s President Obama himself,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.
     
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