October 21, 2021

Pope brokered Cuba deal, now set on closing Gitmo

Pope brokered Cuba deal, now set on closing GitmoNEW YORK – Having helped broker the agreement to normalize relations between the United States and communist Cuba, Pope Francis plans next to turn his attention to closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, a goal he shares with President Obama.

U.S. telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services.

In a meeting last week at the Vatican with Secretary of State John Kerry, the Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, second in authority to the pope, offered to assist U.S. efforts to close the facility for terrorism suspects.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Vatican stood ready “to help find adequate humanitarian solutions through our international contacts” to help place current detainees,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The White House said Wednesday that the re-establishment of U.S. relations with Cuba after more than five decades came after Pope Francis and Obama discussed Cuba at their most recent meeting, which was followed by a Vatican-hosted meeting between U.S. and Cuban officials, the White House told reporters Wednesday.

The White House believes the normalizing of diplomatic relations with the island nation would not have happened without the involvement of Pope Francis, the first Catholic pontiff from Latin America.

Administration officials explained to reporters that while congressional leaders had been consulted, the Obama administration does not anticipate Congress will reverse the laws establishing the embargo aimed at ousting the communist Castro regime.

Instead, the administration has decided to implement changes in relations with Cuba through executive action, hoping Congress will see the wisdom of a “new approach.”

The deal includes the release of American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in captivity in exchange for three Cuban intelligence agents jailed since 1998 for spying on anti-Castro exile groups in Florida and monitoring U.S. military installations.

Senators from both parties condemned Obama’s decision to normalize relations.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the son of Cuban immigrants, said the decision “is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba.”

Instead, he said, “it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s outgoing chairman, said Obama’s actions “have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”

“Let’s be clear,” he said. “This was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American.”

Menendez said trading Gross “for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent.”

“It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms,” he said.

“This asymmetrical trade will invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement and the hardening of the government’s dictatorial hold on its people.”

Pope Francis appeal

Last spring, Obama authorized the opening of formal negotiations with Cuba to be directed by White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and Ricardo Zuniga, senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the National Security Council.

Although the Canadian government did not participate in the talks, it hosted the majority of the meetings between U.S. and Cuban officials.

The White House disclosed Pope Francis personally issued an appeal through a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro and to Obama calling on the leaders to resolve the cases of Gross and the three members of the “Cuban Five” imprisoned in the U.S.

The Vatican hosted and participated in meetings between U.S. and Cuban delegations in which normalization was discussed.

The White House further disclosed Pope Francis discussed Cuba with Obama in their private meeting at the Vatican March 27.

Media at the time reported the meeting produced “social schisms,” with the pope expressing concerns about religious freedom in the U.S. and the Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide for contraception and abortion services.

The White House made clear the Vatican played “a key role” in the negotiations re-establishing diplomatic relations and in finalizing the details of the prisoner exchange, noting that in Obama’s personal meeting with Pope Francis, the issue of Cuba “got as much discussion as anything else.”

“Support of Pope Francis was important given the esteem with which Cubans hold Pope Francis, the first pope chosen from Latin America,” a White House spokesman commented.

The White House further noted the announcement Wednesday was not focused on any legislative action Congress may take.

“We believe the embargo has not worked, but we are not calling on Congress today to make any legislative changes,” the White House spokesman said, acknowledging that President Obama had briefed congressional leaders. “We support congressional efforts to remove embargo restrictions, but we understand Congress is not likely to move quickly.”

The White House said the president was calculating the benefits of the new approach to Cuba will become apparent to the American public and to Congress.

“We believe the utility of these benefits will become evident and will generate momentum for legislative change in the near future,” the White House spokesman continued.

He explained that, at the moment, President Obama was concentrating on putting in place changes in Cuban policy that the White House has the authority under law to implement through executive action.

‘Policy of the past’

The White House said an embassy will open in Havana as soon as possible.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday, however, he will block federal funds from financing a future embassy in Cuba.

The administration believes the “policy of past has not worked,” and re-establishing diplomatic relations is the best way “to bring democracy to Cuba.”

U.S. officials are to meet with Cuban dissidents in the U.S. to reassure them of Washington’s commitment to human rights in Cuba.

Along with the prisoner exchange, Secretary of State John Kerry will take Cuba off the “terror supporting nations” list, and U.S. financial institutions will open links to their Cuban counterparts.

“It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a written statement. “Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

The Obama administration plans to convert the existing U.S. mission in Havana to the official status of an embassy as soon as possible.

As an initial step, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba migration talks in January in Havana.

While tourism will not be immediately permitted, the U.S. government intends to make available “general travel licenses” for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: 1) family visits; 2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; 3) journalistic activity; 4) professional research and professional meetings; 5) educational activities; 6) religious activities; 7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; 8) support for the Cuban people; 9) humanitarian projects; 10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; 11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and 12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter from the U.S. to Cuban nationals.

Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.

U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.

U.S. telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services.

 

COMMENTARY:

The measures taken by the White House will prolong the military dictatorship and will enrich the Communist regime. will give oxygen to the worst dictatorship and the most bloodthirsty regime of the Americas. Recognize Cuba diplomatically and lift the embargo to Cuba unconditionally will prolong the suffering of the Cuban people. Obama is responsible before history of having betrayed the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people. They betrayed the internal Cuban resistance and opponents of the Communist.

Far from advocating measures and sanctions against the Castro regime aimed at its demise, Obama gives oxygen to keep its tyranny. Obama did not demand that Cuba’s regime respect all and each of the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of human rights, of which Cuba is a signatory as a previous step to normalize diplomatic relations. Obama did not demand the dismantling of the repressive apparatus of the minions of the Cuban state security, secret police, used to repress the Cuban people. Neither he demanded that Castro hold multi-party general free elections and the establishment of a rule of law that guarantees legal stability and democracy in the Cuban homeland of Marti.

It is sad that Obama will help the tyranical Communist regime of Cuba who has increased repression  on the island, has violated the arms embargo against North Korea, it has maintained an army of occupation in Venezuela and his henchmen have killed and tortured young people protesting peacefully by the cities of Venezuela. It is shameful Obama’s silence to the constant violations of the Communist regimes of Cuba and Venezuela.

Even worse, is the silence of Obama to the agreement of Cuba and Venezuela with Russia for naval and military bases so close to our nation which will put our national security in serious danger.  Instead of recognizing Cuba and removing the embargo, Obama should impose tough sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

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