Thursday, February 14, 2019

Failure of the Media on Venezuela, Danger of Armed Conflict February 23d

Failure of the Media

An article in the New Republic is a reminder that everything that has been gained with Cuba during the Obama Administration is now at risk:


Marco Rubio, Trump’s Shadow Secretary of State
In recent months, he (Marco Rubio) has pressured the White House to put Cuba back on an international terrorism list, impose sanctions on Cuban officials, and end U.S. travel and academic exchanges to the island. Last year, at Rubio’s urging, the United States withdrew most of its diplomats from Cuba. The real feather in his cap will be if the Maduro government falls in Venezuela, which could have devastating effects on Cuba, since it relies on subsidized oil from Venezuela.

https://newrepublic.com/article/153115/marco-rubio-trumps-shadow-secretary-state
There is a distressing similarity to the run up to the Iraq war in the uncritical coverage about the Venezuela crisis by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC .  The Wall Street Journal has done a better job on the US political context, documenting the US role and goal against both Venezuela and Cuba.  Al Jazeera has been more balanced than the US cable networks.  The journalism watchdog FAIR makes an example of MSNBC  https://fair.org/home/action-alert-msnbcs-resistance-to-trumps-venezuela-coup-ranges-from-silence-to-support/

No US media that I have seen has reported on Venezuelans who are still advocates of Chavismo, on the nationalist character of the Venezuelan military and on likely resistance to a US linked regime that is brought to power by foreign military intervention, a real and immediate danger (see below) .  Without more balanced coverage, Washington is living in an illusion that Venezuela will be another Grenada or Panama -- just as it tragically misread Iraq.

I hold no brief for Maduro.  Chavez had problems but at least they were coupled with authentic popular support.  Maduro has retained power outside of Venezuelan democratic norms.  There need to be new internationally supervised elections for both the Presidency and the National Assembly but that must happen peacefully under the auspices of both the established executive and legislative branches.   The process must include the acceptance of international aid through respected politically neutral agencies, the end of US economic sanctions and restoration of national oil resources to the functioning government.

The Contact Group and the Montivideo Mechanism (Mexico and Uruguay) deserve more attention than the media and politicians in Washington have given them as a way to resolve the situation.  Cuba and the Venezuelan government should work with them to avoid a Rubio-Bolton-Claver Carone-Abrams trap.  If Maduro is legitimately voted out of office, that is preferable to a bloody catastrophe for Venezuela and the region.

Under free and open elections, several Chavista and opposition parties are likely to contest and a new independent nationalist coalition could emerge, balancing its ties to the US, Cuba and other countries.  Cuba should be helped to obtain other resources to replace those provided by Venezuela, including legislation to end travel and agricultural restrictions and ideally the embargo.

The initial Rubio/Bolton bluff failed when the military did not abandon Maduro a couple of weeks ago despite facing an apparently overwhelming diplomatic and political assault.  Very public threats about February 23 and whatever triggered the Cuban alarm could be but another bluff, although at some risk to Guaido's credibility.   Provoking a confrontation around aid delivery has been part of the very public scenario since the beginning.

There needs to be some visible push back by the media and Democratic Party leaders or the Trump Administration will be more inclined to take military action under the illusion that it will be easy in Venezuela and without serious objection here.

--John McAuliff


*********

Danger of military  conflict on February 23d


News accounts of potential confrontation and allegations of US troop movements.
Reuters is carrying a story by Marc Frank on Cuban charges that the US is positioning troops. 
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba charged on Thursday that the United States was secretly moving special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a plan to intervene in the South American country using the pretext of a humanitarian crisis....

“Between February 6 and 10 military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations,” the declaration said.

“These flights originated in American military installations from which units of Special Operations and Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions,” it said....

Guaido said on Tuesday the aid would roll across the border on February 23 despite the Maduro government’s objections, setting up a possible confrontation.

Cuba said on Thursday it was clear the United States wanted to “forcibly establish a humanitarian corridor under international protection, invoking the obligation to protect civilians and applying all necessary measures.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-cuba/cuba-charges-us-moving-special-forces-preparing-venezuelan-intervention-idUSKCN1Q31RU
[Cuba's full statement is here http://www.minrex.gob.cu/en/statement-revolutionary-government-it-imperative-halt-imperialist-military-adventure-against]


The NY Times confirms February 23 as the date of confrontation on external aid.  


Mr. Guaidó heightened the stakes, telling supporters that he would open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow aid to flow into the country by Feb. 23. ...

Gaby Arellano, an opposition lawmaker in charge of the shipment in Colombia, said one of the goals was to force the military, which has remained loyal to the government, to choose between Mr. Maduro and feeding the Venezuelan people. “Popular pressure to break the military ­ this is what we’re working toward,” she said....

Omar Lares, a former opposition mayor in exile in Cúcuta, said organizers want people to surround an aid truck on the Colombian side and accompany it to the bridge. A crowd of thousands would be gathered on the other side to push through a security cordon, move the containers blocking the bridge, and accompany the aid into Venezuela.

“One group over there, one over here, and we’ll make one large human chain,” he said....

“The opposition has created immense expectations, and it’s not at all clear they have a plan for actually fulfilling them,” said David Smilde, a Venezuela analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America. “Furthermore, the opposition and the U.S. have not been clear that this aid, even if allowed in, will make a significant dent in Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.” ...

Still, using a food shipment to challenge Mr. Maduro has concerned the same nongovernmental groups that would normally assist in such an effort. Caritas, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have declined to participate, saying they must remain politically neutral.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/world/americas/aid-to-venezuela.html

Meanwhile, to illustrate the total hypocrisy of the situationl, by coincidence:

Egypt’s Parliament Clears Way for El-Sisi to Rule Until 2034

By Declan Walsh
Feb. 14, 2019

CAIRO ­ The Egyptian Parliament approved sweeping measures on Thursday that would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to extend his rule until 2034, further entrenching his authoritarian rule and enshrining in law the military’s dominance over the country.

The vote by Parliament, whose workings are quietly managed by Mr. el-Sisi’s intelligence agencies, sets in motion a fast-moving process of constitutional change that could 
culminate in a referendum within three months. The referendum’s approval is seen as a foregone conclusion.

The changes formally confirm what has become evident to many Egyptians for years: that the sweeping euphoria of 2011, when protests led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, has given way to an even harsher brand of strongman rule under a leader who also intends to rule for decades, and perhaps for life.

Washington’s unquestioning embrace of Mr. el-Sisi, whom President Trump has called a “great guy,” emboldened the Egyptian leader to act with little fear of American pushback.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/world/middleeast/egypt-sisi.html


****************************

Earlier material here    https://tinyurl.com/Venez2019

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Cuba Is Target in US Conflict with Venezuela


'Trump Sees Maduro Move As First Shot in Wider Battle.'

By 
Jessica Donati
Vivian Salama and 
Ian Talley
Jan. 30, 2019 5:44 p.m. ET


WASHINGTON—The Trump administration’s attempt to force out the president of Venezuela marked the opening of a new strategy to exert greater U.S. influence over Latin America, according to administration officials.
In sight isn’t just Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, but also Cuba, an antagonist that has dominated American attention in the region for more than 50 years, as well as recent inroads made by Russia, China and Iran.
While Mr. Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have long drawn Washington’s condemnation, the Trump administration is stocked with officials who have long believed Cuba to be the more serious national-security threat. They cite Cuba’s intelligence operations in the U.S., and its efforts to spread anti-American views in other Latin American countries.
The goal, the administration’s thinking goes, is to sever ties that bind Venezuela to Cuba and sink regimes in both countries.
The emerging U.S. assertiveness stems from the desire of the White House to reverse a partial rapprochement with Havana by the Obama administration through the easing of sanctions and the island’s opening to U.S. investment.
The Trump administration’s policy, developed over the past two years, has been driven in part by the ascent of Cuba critics including Mauricio Claver-Carone, a National Security Council official who had devoted much of his life to deposing Fidel Castro. The policy was shaped by the lobbying of elected officials such as Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who have a large number of constituents with connections to Venezuela.
Cuban intelligence is deeply integrated in the Venezuelan military and the security apparatus of the Maduro government. Venezuela, in turn, provides Havana with crude oil at virtually no cost, a volume that had once reached 100,000 barrels of oil a day. As each country has become more isolated, they have strengthened ties with Moscow, Tehran and Beijing.
Continuity or Change
After Venezuela and Cuba, U.S. officials are eyeing Nicaragua. The State Department repeatedly warned of the country’s shift toward autocratic rule, government repression and violence. Nicaraguans are joining the flow of migrants toward the U.S. border with Mexico.
“The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall: in Havana, in Caracas, in Managua,” the capital of Nicaragua, said John Bolton, national security adviser, in a November speech that unveiled the emerging strategy. He described the three countries as the “Troika of tyranny,” a phrase he coined, adding that the “Troika will crumble.”
On the same day, the administration unveiled new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, including on more than two dozen entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services and Venezuela’s gold sector.
The U.S. strategy carries major risks. If the administration’s support for opposition leader Juan Guaido in Venezuela fails to unseat Mr. Maduro, or if it fails to weaken ties between Caracas and Havana, the desperate conditions in Venezuela could worsen and tether the U.S. more closely with the crisis. An estimated three million Venezuelans have fled their country.
Failure also would hand both countries a David-and-Goliath diplomatic victory and potentially strengthen the hand of China, Moscow and Iran in the region. The chief reason President Obama pursued an entente with Cuba was his administration’s conclusion that decades of tough measures had failed to topple the Castro regime to make way for a democratic alternative.
It seems unlikely the U.S. will be able to bring along other countries in any anti-Cuba measures. Venezuela has been a pariah for many American allies, but some including Canada and France now have extensive business interests in Cuba.
First target
One of the Trump administration’s first actions after the election was to dust off an unused plan from the Obama administration to sanction Tareck El Aissami, Mr. Maduro’s vice president.
U.S. law-enforcement officials say they have evidence Mr. Maduro directed state resources to create what they allege has become one of the most powerful international narco-trafficking operations in the world, and with links to Hezbollah, the Lebanese group designated by the U.S. as a terror organization.
Part of why U.S. officials express concern about Iran’s influence in the region is that Iran is a major backer of Hezbollah, and its South American operations are a significant source of cash.
Mr. El Aissami, who ran Venezuela’s passport operations during the Chavez regime, issued thousands of new names and passports to Lebanese and Iranians, including operatives, the U.S. officials said. He allegedly made a deal with a top Hezbollah agent that its operatives would run money-laundering operations for the narco-trafficking empire, two former senior U.S. law-enforcement officials said.
On the day Steven Mnuchin was sworn in as Treasury Secretary in February 2017, he imposed sanctions on Mr. El Aissami, citing the allegations involving narco-trafficking.
Among the first officials to lay out options for the Trump administration was Fernando Cutz, a career USAID foreign-service officer, who had previously worked on the rapprochement with Cuba for the Obama administration.
Mr. Cutz, now at the Cohen Group, said in an interview that President Trump asked for a Venezuela briefing on his second day in office to explore how to reverse Obama-era policies toward Cuba. Mr. Cutz laid out options to escalate pressure on the Maduro regime, including a financial strike at Venezuela’s oil exports. At first, the administration held back, fearing such an action would allow Mr. Maduro to blame the country’s woes on Washington.
Mr. Bolton, named national security adviser last year, has long taken a tough line on Cuba and Venezuela. He was later joined by Mr. Claver-Carone, who took over western hemispheric affairs at the National Security Council and shared Mr. Bolton’s view.
Mr. Claver-Carone, an adviser to the Trump campaign, rose to prominence in foreign-policy circles for running a blog called the Capitol Hill Cubans.
An archived edition of Capitol Hill Cubans described Mr. Claver-Carone as the co-founder and director of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a donation vehicle for House and Senate members. It was founded in 2003 “to promote an unconditional transition in Cuba to democracy, the rule of law and the free market.”
The PAC has raised and spent about $4.7 million since its inception. It contributed $20,000 to Mr. Rubio’s Senate campaign since June 2016 and gave Diaz-Balart’s campaign $5,000 in February 2018, records show.
Mr. Claver-Carone also led the nonprofit group Cuba Democracy Advocates from 2004 to 2017. And he ran a small lobbying firm called the Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy Corp for about 10 years, ending in 2016.
Months after Mr. Claver-Carone joined the Trump administration last summer, Mr. Bolton delivered his “troika of tyranny” speech.
Stage set
The decision by two of Venezuela’s major opposition parties and past rivals—First Justice and Popular Will—to join forces a year ago provided for the first time a potential alternative to the Maduro regime. Mr. Guaido is a member of Popular Will. U.S. officials kept in close contact.
“This gave them credibility with the international community,” said Francisco Monaldi, a Venezuela expert and oil industry analyst at Rice University. “There was a great disdain for the opposition, but it lessened at least to the degree that the White House believed this bet is possible.”
The stage for action was set in an election last spring that more than 60 countries, including the U.S., dismissed as a sham, Mr. Maduro claimed victory. He extended his rule for six years in a swearing in a Jan. 10 ceremony.
The election last year of Colombian President Iván Duqueand Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new leader, also shifted the political landscape: Both are on Venezuela’s doorstep and struggling to cope with the country’s mass exodus.
In a trip over the New Year’s holidays, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Brazilian and Colombian counterparts, and he discussed a plan of action with Mr. Duque.
Mr. Maduro’s inauguration on January 10 set the wheels in motion in the Venezuelan National Assembly and at the White House, as officials seized on the momentum of street protests.
On Jan. 22, top administration officials, including Mr. Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mnuchin discussed options. Mr. Trump decided he was ready to support a regime change.
That night, Vice President Mike Pence called Mr. Guaido to express Washington’s willingness to back him. The next day, Mr. Guaido declared himself president and the U.S., along with Canada and most South American countries, officially recognized Mr. Guaido as the new leader of Venezuela.
“We’ve seen a real unity of purpose in the region in the last couple of weeks,” a senior Treasury official said. “It’s difficult to talk about Venezuela without also talking about Cuba.
The imposition of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil company, PdVSA, announced by the U.S. on Jan. 28, could be worth as much $11 billion in U.S. crude oil sales.
Among the next steps, U.S. officials said, are proposed new measures against Havana, such as restoring Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. That could hit financing and investments from countries outside the U.S. that now do business there, as well as the funds the country gets from international tourists.
Also on the list: new sanctions on Cuban officials and their networks and ending a waiver, known as Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, signed by every U.S. administration since its inception in 1996.
Ending the waiver would allow U.S. citizens to sue individuals and companies in U.S. courts for property seized by the Cuban government. Its impact would likely be to freeze billions of dollars worth of foreign investment in Cuba including hotels, golf courts and other projects.
The Trump administration is expected to announce new measures against Cuba in coming weeks, with the goal of crippling Havana’s ability to bolster the Maduro regime.
—José de Córdoba and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.
Write to Jessica Donati at jessica.donati@wsj.com, Vivian Salama at vivian.salama@wsj.com and Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com
Appeared in the January 31, 2019, print edition as 'Trump Sees Maduro Move As First Shot in Wider Battle.'
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-push-to-oust-venezuelas-maduro-marks-first-shot-in-plan-to-reshape-latin-america-11548888252?shareToken=st71f60600be6045df83480c546909b73c&ref=article_email_share

Saturday, February 2, 2019

My Perspective: Venezuela Crisis and Cuba


My Perspective on the Venezuela Crisis


"The goal, the administration’s thinking goes, is to sever ties that bind Venezuela to Cuba and sink regimes in both countries.

The emerging U.S. assertiveness stems from the desire of the White House to reverse a partial rapprochement with Havana by the Obama administration through the easing of sanctions and the island’s opening to U.S. investment."


    Wall Street Journal, 'Trump Sees Maduro Move As First Shot in Wider Battle.', 1/30/19
      

One of the more disturbing aspects of what is going on with Venezuela is how easily some Democrats let themselves be steam rolled by the Pompeo-Bolton-Claver Carone-Abrams neocon assault that has Cuba as its ultimate target. Maduro and his government have serious problems that are both internally and externally caused but that does not legitimate foreign sponsored regime change. 

Adam Schiff may have ended any prospect to be the Democratic candidate for President based on his support of the Trump Administration on Venezuela.  Other prominent liberal Democrats such as Senator Dick Durbin will be held responsible for years if they do not challenge Pompeo, et. al. before the US launches or assists military action in Venezuela, just as were supporters of the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq.

Regardless of the undeniable failings of the Maduro government, including its maneuvers to sideline the elected National Assembly, the world, and certainly Latin Americans, cannot but notice that the US has played a behind the scenes role in creating a fictional new regime. The logic that the powerless assembly had the authority to void national elections and therefore to declare Mr. Guaidó as acting President is opportunistic and specious.  It may work politically with governments that do not like Maduro ideologically, but will not stand the test of legal scrutiny over time.

It also does not change the reality that Guaidó only recently received his symbolic status as leader of the Assembly and has minimal qualifications to be a national leader.   As Fulton Armstrong of American University has written,

[Guaidó’s] party’s splits with opposition moderates remain deep, however. Henrique Capriles (Primero Justicia) issued a scathing critique of Guaidó’s strategy.  He accused VP [Voluntad Popular] of sponsoring violence that will use ‘the people of Venezuela as cannon fodder’”.

External instigation of an alternative partisan government to conduct elections is objectively an attempted coup.   President Trump is returning the US to a Monroe Doctrine role in the Hemisphere that will haunt us for decades.

If corruption, repression, and compromised elections are a legitimate basis for intervention in domestic affairs, some close US allies and other countries are as bad or worse than Venezuela.  Will we apply the same standard to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Honduras? 

Perhaps most cynically, the delivery of humanitarian aid has been proposed as a way of escalating the conflict, as described by long time opponent of Cuba Jorge G. Castañeda in the New York Times


Military officers and members of the army troops who are in exile would move these supplies to Venezuela, where, if all goes well, the army personnel who are still loyal to Maduro will not stop their journey or shoot them. If they do, the governments of Brazil and Colombia may be willing to back the anti-Maduro soldiers. The threat of a confrontation with its neighbors could be the incentive that the Venezuelan military needs to abandon Maduro, which would make the combat unnecessary.

The US is wishfully thinking that the Venezuelan military will change sides or break apart and if it does that there will not be armed resistance to a regime we engineered to power.   Economic sanctions and violent civil conflict leading to foreign military intervention will increase the suffering of the Venezuelan people.  It will produce decades of damage to US interests in Latin America from which only China and Russia will benefit.

An alternative to deadly internal confrontation and foreign intervention may be offered by President Maduro's suggestion to move elections for the National Assembly forward to 2019.  They should include the President and governors and be guaranteed with UN supervision  to include free participation of all parties and candidates.

Part of the deal must include not only suspension of US efforts to transfer control of Venezuelan national resources to Guaido's putative regime but also the Maduro government's acceptance of international humanitarian assistance.

A more drastic way out of disaster is for the mainstream of the Venezuelan military to reject the legitimacy of both Maduro and Guaidó.  It could create a non-partisan transitional administration to conduct UN assisted elections and to receive international humanitarian aid and investment.  It will need to provide political space for both the Chavistas and the opposition while preserving reasonable relations with Cuba, Russia, China and the US.

Cuba's support is important for any compromise and might be attainable if accompanied by renewed engagement with Havana, a total anathema to the neocons dominating the National Security Council.

A well connected but independent friend in Cuba wrote me:

"The future can be very tragic for that country and a blood bath will most likely take place. If the victims are mostly the revolutionaries, news will be brief and very soon ignored.  If it is general, then we can even have a foreign military intervention and the fighting spilling to other countries. At the same time, be ready for new and more severe steps against Cuba. The goal is to look for an excuse to end traveling and remittances from Miami."

John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Unpublished letter on February 5 to the New York Times

To the Editor,


The New York Times played a vital role in encouraging and enabling President Obama to take the historic step of normalizing relations with Cuba.


It is puzzling why its news stories uncritically support a narrative about Venezuela created by key figures in the Trump Administration who were and are strongly opposed to the opening with Cuba (John Bolton, Mauricio Claver-Carone, Elliot Abrams).


In fact their diplomatic and potential military assault on Venezuela was credibly reported by the Wall Street Journal as part of a strategy against Cuba.


"The goal, the administration’s thinking goes, is to sever ties that bind Venezuela to Cuba and sink regimes in both countries.  The emerging U.S. assertiveness stems from the desire of the White House to reverse a partial rapprochement with Havana by the Obama administration through the easing of sanctions and the island’s opening to U.S. investment."   (1/30/19)


The Maduro government deserves substantial criticism of its competence, repression of opponents and electoral legitimacy, but US orchestrated regime change is not legal or wise.


The Times should consider whether its heavily tilted coverage against Maduro is creating an atmosphere for war, similar to its role during the run up to the US invasion of Iraq.


John McAuliff


Unpublished letter on February 6 to the New York Times in response to editorial 
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/05/opinion/venezuela-maduro-guaido-trump.html


To the Editor,


The failures of Nicolas Maduro are manifest, due both to internal and external factors, not least years of hostile pressure from the US. 


The  2017 election was internationally discredited in large part because serious opposition parties were barred.  It attracted a record low of 47% of voters.  Nevertheless Maduro was supported by 68%, i.e. 6,245,862  people.  It is a mistake to minimize and dismiss them as "die-hard leftists".


Juan Guaidó does not offer a reasonable alternative based on his experience, political history or legal argument.  Foreign countries and US publications have no authority to decide Venezuela's constitutional law. 


Does a legally marginalized National Assembly have the power to void an election and then substitute its leader as President? No international authority, including the Organization of American States and the United Nations, has made that judgement.


Nationalism in the Venezuelan military makes it unlikely to accept as legitimate a government fostered and imposed by hard-liners in the Trump Administration. 


The only peaceful scenario is either a direct military takeover or a negotiated compromise between the competing claimants to power.  Internationally supported and supervised elections could be conducted by the existing government and a National Assembly that regains its powers. 


All levels of office should be freely contested, including the President, Governors and the National Assembly.  Economic resources such as the oil company must be restored to the existing state and international humanitarian aid should be distributed through non-partisan channels.


The only way a Guaidó government can conduct elections is through armed conflict, external military intervention and bloody Chilean style repression of Chauvistas.  That would be tragic for the Venezuelan people and destructive of US standing in the Hemisphere to the benefit of Russia and China.


John McAuliff


Additional resources:

Interview with Guillaume Long, former foreign minister and United Nations representative of Ecuador https://jacobinmag.com/2019/01/venezuela-crisis-maduro-guiado-united-states-intervention

Fulton Armstrong https://aulablog.net/2019/01/29/venezuela-when-will-the-military-flip/     https://aulablog.net/2019/01/17/venezuela-is-guaido-the-knight-in-shining-armor/

Eric Hershberg  https://aulablog.net/2019/01/31/venezuela-a-test-of-u-s-hegemony-in-latin-america/

William Boardman https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/54818-rsn-career-war-criminal-elliott-abrams-to-lead-us-on-venezuela

Peter Kornbluh " For Trump’s Regime Changers, Venezuela Is Just the First Step" https://www.thenation.com/article/venezuela-cuba-trump-regime-change/

Alejandro Velasco  "A Geopolitical Showdown in Venezuela Will Only Make Things Worse"
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/05/opinion/venezuela-guaido-trump-united-states.html?module=inline

Chris Murphy and Ben Rhodes  "Democrats should stand for democracy in Venezuela — and democratic values in America"   https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/01/30/democrats-should-stand-democracy-venezuela-democratic-values-america/?utm_term=.985a5ddd6a81

Alternatives to war from Uruguay and Mexico
Pepe Mujica former President of Uruguay, friend of Cuba, calls for elections
https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-47137888
The Montevideo Mechanism  suggests a process for negotiations
https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-47165104
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador supports dialogue, non-intervention
http://thecubanhandshake.org/lopez-obrador-reaffirms-rejection-of-u-s-intervention-in-venezuela/
Discussed on Al Jazeera  by Guillaume Long, Phil Gunson, Charles Shapiro 
https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2019/02/international-community-solve-venezuela-crisis-190208180029890.html

Adam Johnson FAIR analysis of phony bridge picture, misleading media https://fair.org/home/western-media-fall-in-lockstep-for-cheap-trump-rubio-venezuela-aid-pr-stunt/

Fareed Zakaria urges left support for regime change https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/2/7/the-american-left-needs-to-find-its-voice-on-venezuela

Steve Ellner warns of damage to the opposition from regime change made in the USA
https://nacla.org/news/2019/02/08/regime-change-%E2%80%9Cmade-usa%E2%80%9D

Klobuchar-Enzi-Leahy bill to end the embargo.  Would this balance  loss or downgrading of Cuba's special relationship with Venezuela?  Would Trump support it to peacefully solve the Maduro problem?  https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/020819freedomtoexporttocubaact

David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey "International Contact Group Represents Best Opportunity for all Sides in the Venezuela Crisis" https://www.wola.org/analysis/international-contact-group-represents-best-opportunity-sides-venezuela-crisis/

Greg Grandin on sovereignty and Latin America What’s at Stake in Venezuela?   https://www.lrb.co.uk/2019/02/08/greg-grandin/whats-at-stake-in-venezuela


Friday, February 1, 2019

Independent Travel Summary for NY Times Travel Show 2019

Yes, you can still go to Cuba!

1) President Trump makes hard line speeches but has not changed much (and had sent his own team before he became a candidate to discuss golf courses and hotels).

2) A few hotels are semi off-limits because their owner is a corporation linked to the Cuban military.

3) All types of purposeful travel authorized by the Obama Administration remain legal.

4) Group tours and cruises are completely unchanged.  Cruises cannot require using their excursions.

5) Independent travel by individuals, families and friends is largely unchanged but now falls under the rewritten license category of “Support for the Cuban People” instead of “People to People”.

6) The withdrawal of 60% of US diplomats in 2017 was connected to unexplained medical maladies that affected only them, Canadian counterparts and US staff in China.  If there were deliberate attacks, by cutting and running the US rewarded the perpetrator. 

7) The State Department designates Cuba as a Level 2 Travel Advisory “Exercise Increased Caution”, the same status as 57 other countries, including 12 in the Americas and 7 in western Europe.

8) Cuba is judged by experts as one of the safest destinations in the region with less crime and disease.

9) Senator Rubio tries to exploit the maladies to advocate closing both countries’ embassies.


How do I go on my own?

1) Book non-stop to Havana on Jet Blue from JFK or on United from Newark.  American, Delta and Southwest have connecting flights.  American or Jet Blue flies from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Holguin, Varadero, Camagüey and Santiago (from May 3d).

2) Select “Support for the Cuban People” as the appropriate license category from the airline menu.

3) Use AirBnB or Trip Advisor to reserve a room or an apartment (casa particular) from a private owner

4) Eat in a private restaurant (paladar)

5) Buy handicrafts, art and clothing from self-employed craftspeople and creators (cuenta propistas)

6) If you need a guide, hire her or him privately (preferably in advance)

7) As much as possible, use private taxis (also available between cities)

8) Whatever you do, wherever you go, be intentional and responsible that your goal is “a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people … and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.”  (The judgement of what qualifies is your own.)

9) Apportion recreational activities like concerts, dancing and the beach as in a normal work week

10) Keep a journal or list of your “meaningful interactions” for five years.

11) If you are on a cruise, exercise your right to explore independently or with a local guide.


Current US government regulations   tinyurl.com/regsnov2017

Essential information for independent travelers   tinyurl.com/Cubabasics 

Join 81% of Americans to call for the end of all travel restrictions   tinyurl.com/Cuba4all

Explore Santiago and Guantanamo with FFRD on a FAM trip May 3-10 or for Carnaval July 20-28
     tinyurl.com/SantiagoFAM                                                  tinyurl.com/Santiagonew


Fund for Reconciliation and Development   www.ffrd.org    director@ffrd.org   917-859-9027