Friday, December 2, 2016

Fidel Castro’s Long-Awaited Demise, More on Trump, Cuban Machete Victim

My appearance at DC book fair, Martin Luther King public library

Fidel Castro liked to give the USA the finger.

Miami celebrates Fidel Castro's death.

On Fidel Castro’s death

This time, reports of Fidel Castro’s death are real. And, as I’d predicted in Confessions of a Secret Latina, outsiders are praising his accomplishments more than many Cubans are. Hours after his death, media commentators were extolling his purported achievements in health and education and praising him for making sure everyone had enough to eat. Fidel’s propaganda lives on! As I argue in my book, provision of social benefits doesn’t require the jettisoning of democracy and civil rights—the two are not antithetical. Furthermore, Cuba’s actual provision of superior educational and health benefits has been overblown, a myth that persists to this day, thanks to successful government propaganda. I would agree that Cubans, on the whole, are better educated than citizens of some other Latin American nations, but there are gaps, especially in rural areas and in eastern Cuba. The health system is two-tiered, abysmal for ordinary people, great for the elite and foreign medical tourists paying in hard currency. And while outsiders rightly extol the skills of Cuban doctors, they wrongly believe that foreign medical missions express Cuban generosity, when, in fact, excessive medical personnel are trained precisely to be sent abroad to earn money for the regime, with only a small fraction of payment actually going to doctors themselves. I’ve often worked with Cuban medical practitioners in Honduras, some of whom have remained there. As for food, tourists and the elite do dine in luxury, but the ration food allotment for other people runs out mid-month. Food rationing has been in place since 1962 and, despite much fertile land, most food must be imported, including sugar from neighboring Dominican Republic. Cubans are often hungry and seem always obsessed with food. They are not allowed to fish, as in other Caribbean countries, for fear boats might make a beeline for the US. Afro-Cubans suffer the greatest deprivations. When Cuba was under the Soviet umbrella, medical care was better, but even when Venezuelan oil replaced Soviet largess, care for ordinary Cubans did not improve. Independence from the US did not bring economic independence, but was replaced by dependence on the USSR and Venezuela. Why did I have to bring Armando Hernandez to this country via Mexico, as per my Confessions book? Because he couldn’t get his necessary lifesaving medicines in Cuba. Cuba produces little besides the rum and cigars President Obama has allowed Americans to bring back. Rum and cigars and even tourism and remittances are not sufficient to sustain a nation.

Here are items from my Confessions book, though I was wrong, Fidel’s body is being cremated, not embalmed. [He wasn’t looking so good when he died.] My position, as expressed in that book, is that support of human rights in Cuba, or anywhere else, should be a non-partisan, non-political issue and that a particular government's avowed political ideology should not matter, only the facts on the ground. (That applies here in the US as well.) Book excerpts follow:

Some truly do admire Fidel, especially those remembering the heady days right after the revolution. A former political prisoner wearily admitted, “Some older folks think Fidel actually is a saint.” They will shed genuine tears when he dies, just as some mourned other dictators from Stalin to Pinochet to Kim Jong Il. (Dozens of mourning Russians were reportedly trampled to death trying to reach Stalin’s body when it first lay in state.) Fidel’s embalmed corpse, like those of Lenin and Mao before him, may one day become an object of veneration like a precious religious relic. And when the Castro regime has ended, even some dissidents may miss the good old days when ration lines stretched around the block and folks used sign language to avoid being recorded or overheard, a type of nostalgia aptly depicted in “Goodbye Lenin,” a film about Eastern Germany. The warm solidarity fondly recalled by those who suffered together from government repression too often fractures after that repression disappears. 

And, if anything [after Fidel's death], expressions of loss and praise of his accomplishments will be greater outside than within Cuba itself. 

A former political prisoner living in this area, who served 22 years of an original 20-year sentence and was released with Jesse Jackson in 1984, said of Fidel “Too bad he died of old age in his bed. He should have died from a gunshot to the head or, better yet, a slow, tortured death like the one he inflicted on so many others.”

It’s amazing how just one person like Fidel Castro could have held control over so many people for generations. Let’s hope his death will break that hold.

Here are current Amnesty International Cuba items:

Six facts about censorship in Cuba (Feature, 11 March 2016)

Obama-Castro encounter: More than a handshake needed to thaw the Cold War’s human rights freeze (Comment, 21 March 2016)

[Note: Cubalex’s director Lartiza Diversent, below, was a member of my Cuba panel at AI USA’s annual conference last April in Miami.]
Remember last year’s Cuban Amnesty prisoner of conscience, El Sexto, who painted two piglets with the names Raul and Fidel? Well, he’s back in prison.

Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (‘El Sexto’) – named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 2015 – was re-arrested on 26 November, shortly after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death.
Name: Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as ‘El Sexto’
Gender m/f: m

I would also remind folks of my dream of Peace Corps in Cuba, especially to revive agriculture there, so Cubans can feed themselves as they did before the revolution and as other countries in the region do:

Marcell Felipe [not sure who he is, but he sent this e-mail] As we received news of Castro's death, we remember the victims of his regime. Over 73,000 dead, hundreds of thousands imprisoned, and 2 million exiled. In a country of 11 million, Castro's death toll would be, by US standards, the equivalent of 2,000,000 victims. 
I had a chance to speak with Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in Havana.  He asked us to remember the victims and to remember that the totalitarian system implanted by Fidel Castro remains as his legacy, using neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. Dr. Biscet stressed the importance of continuing to demand a change and that we must all intensify our efforts to promote democracy. He was hopeful that with such commitment, freedom and democracy are within reach.

Barack Obama: “We offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people…History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him…During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity…In the days ahead, they [Cubans] will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

Justin Trudeau: “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President….While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’….It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba. On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

Trudeau soon faced backlash regarding his very conciliatory statement.
Like many leaders around the world, he misreads the Cuban people's "affection" for Fidel Castro and of Castro's "love" for them. Within the Communist Party whose membership is shrinking (600,000 members out of 11 million citizens) and among some older people, yes, there will be sadness and tears, but not for most people. 

The Economist, Nov. 26, has a long article that seems pretty complete and balanced—my only issue is that it states that Raul has made the internet accessible to Cubans, yes, slightly more than before, but hardly accessible to most Cubans.

Sirley Avila, the farmer in rural Cuba whose arm was severed and her legs crippled in a machete attack, is back in Miami after being threatened and harassed. Her friend told me: She had to flee Cuba. Situation had become intolerable. Home was occupied. Mother's home where she was staying had a microphone and camera placed across the street along with constant harassment by state security agents. Finally the man who attacked her was on the street and bragging how he was going to finish the job.

Here’s my original article on her.

Moving to Canada?
Many of us in the US, facing the prospect of a Trump presidency, find ourselves envying Canada, with its young, personable, and progressive prime minister, though he was wrong on Cuba, in my opinion. How many Americans will really move to Canada now, as they have threatened to do? Or will they stay here to fight another day? The polls were right in terms of the popular vote, but did not do a state-by-state prediction taking the Electoral College into account. And now, it turns out, even the Electoral College is even unfair among states—giving small states a larger number of electors per capita than larger ones.

My friends and acquaintances who didn’t vote or voted for a 3rd party are now distressed over Trump’s rise, as if they had no part in it. They couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton and now she isn’t president-elect. Isn’t that the outcome they wanted?  Even left-leaning Noam Chomsky says those who voted for a third-party candidate in the election made “a bad mistake.” In an interview with Aljazeera, when asked about Trump’s position on climate change, Chomsky called it a “radical setback.”

“Trump’s position is more fossil fuels, eliminate regulations, even coal, refuse the payments, promised payments to countries trying to move to sustainable energy. To claim that this is the same as Clinton’s programs is just madness in my view,” he said.

Admittedly, many of us who voted for Hillary were not out there actively getting out the vote for her or contributing to her campaign. I count myself among them. Some of my neighbors had Hillary yard signs, but I did not. Many of us believed that she didn’t need our advocacy as she was obviously the more qualified candidate and ahead in the polls. Well, as of now, she is ahead by over 2.3 million in the popular vote, surely a record for a losing candidate, but all those votes are not in the right places.

If I’ve been depressed, I can only imagine what Hillary is feeling about the election. She should at least write a memoir that includes her participation in the whole campaign and get some things partially off her chest.

In any case, hope to see all my female friends (and some male ones too) at our women’s rally the day after the inauguration—let’s make it much, much bigger than the inaugural crowd, not that our event will change the election outcome. It’s just a way for some of us to express our opinion and burn off some negative energy. I remember being at MLKing’s iconic “I Have a Dream” gathering and speech and that memory has been important to me. So, I will attend the women’s march, which my daughter Stephanie will us join from Hawaii. She already has her plane ticket, ahead of the rush. The women's march will be disparaged by Trump and his supporters and certainly won't influence or win them over.

Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein has been collecting money for a recount before the Electoral College deadline, but, of course, a recount may not result in a changed outcome.

It’s best that Stein has initiated this effort, rather than Hillary herself, though the Hillary folks have recently joined in. Probably nothing will come of it, but the margins for Trump are so slim, it just might make a difference. It’s a long-shot that is worth a try with all that is at stake. But Clinton would have to win in all three battleground recount states, a real long shot. Still, to get rid of Trump once and for all, it would be worth the effort. He has done so little to instill confidence in his presidency. Actually, if Stein had not been on the ballot herself, Clinton might have actually won those states from the start, based on Stein’s own totals of votes cast for her there. While people may be donating to Stein in hopes of securing a Clinton win, Stein’s motivations may be more to enhance her own and her party’s brand. Or maybe she just wants to try to save the American people and the world from a Trump presidency. In the unlikely event that irregularities are found that change the outcome, Stein would be hailed as a hero. I have not yet wrapped my mind around the idea of a President Trump and am glad to be able to maintain a flicker of hope right now, which is probably why Stein has raised so much money so fast. Trump’s tweets and staff picks so far have not enhanced confidence in his ability to be president. The man is too thin-skinned and insecure.

If Trump had lost in the Electoral College but been ahead by more than 2 million votes, you’d better believe he would have demanded a recount, but not paid for it, of course, as he avoids paying for anything; after installing a golf course in Scotland, he even tried to bill poor Scottish homeowners for an unsightly wall cutting off their ocean view. The man is a cheat and a penny-pincher who seems to have no compassion whatsoever for others. Now he’s started a tweet-storm against the vote recount, claiming he really won the popular vote:

If Trump really wants to assure an accurate vote count and a check on voter fraud, he should welcome and support Stein’s efforts. If Trump were a statesman, which he obviously is not, he would simply ignore the recount effort, as it's very unlikely to jeopardize his presidency (unfortunately). Trump is too thin-skinned to be happy as president or even to function adequately.

Allegations are also growing that in addition to possible (though unlikely) vote miscounts, widespread voter intimidation and suppression occurred in slim-margin battleground states. With all these concerns, might Trump not be actually certified as the winner in the end? That would be a major upset after all the hand-wringing about the neglected grievances of white, non-college educated voters and Trump’s attempts to move forward on his administration and even to raise funds for the 2020 election. But, is there now even time to prove voter suppression or to declare a miscount in order to thwart his current bid? It would further rip the country apart and set Donald Trump on a furious rampage. He and his followers would shout “rigged” to the rooftops, even if rigging was actually what they themselves had been engaged in. But it would give him a forum on which to appear at rallies and charge admission.

In another long shot, an on-line petition is asking the Electoral College to certify Clinton, not Trump:

The stock market has rallied at the prospect of lower taxes and more infrastructure spending, but may tumble again when deficit fears kick in. The market doesn’t like uncertainty and that is what Trump epitomizes. However, infrastructure projects and an a revision of Obamacare may be easier with a Republican Congress that is less obstructionist.

Trump has already said he won't prosecute Hillary, to the dismay of many of his followers. Melania has wisely decided to stay at Trump Tower and avoid all this hassle. Now there is the question of the secret service protecting her and Trump on his weekends at Trump Tower and of renting space from Trump for millions of dollars to protect his own family in NYC. Is that a conflict of interest? Will the Republican majority protect the American people and Trump from conflict-of-interest situations?

Trump went back on the campaign trail, you might say, with his “Victory Tour,” as he prefers spouting off to crowds to staying in office-mode. He has made much of preventing part of a possible Indiana job move to Mexico, but at a cost to the state’s public finances through generous tax breaks. Should the president of the United States be picking winners and loser on the corporate landscape? And what about the lost tax revenues? Also, if jobs go to Mexico, might that not mean fewer Mexicans wanting to come to the US, an outcome Trump and his supporters seek? It doesn’t seem that a president should micromanage a local economy.

As for Rosie O’Donnell’s speculation that young son Barron Trump is autistic based on his mannerisms, maybe that’s why his mother wants to protect him and keep him at Trump Tower? Trump should ignore this issue, as a First Family needs to get used to scrutiny and doesn’t have to respond to all allegations. However, Melania has now threatened to sue. She should just ignore the speculation, but, like Donald, she is super-sensitive. Remember Trump’s own relentless attacks on Barack Obama regarding his birth certificate? Obama ignored them until the relentless crescendo by Trump himself became too great and he finally released his birth certificate.

The New Yorker for Nov. 28, with an illustration of Barack Obama on the cover, includes along, thoughtful article by editor David Remnick on Obama’s reaction to the election outcome and the threat of dismantling his legacy and hard-fought programs.

It's been interesting to say the least and the future is as unpredictable as Trump himself, who may not even know what he plans to do next—he seems to lack concrete plans, rather to act and speak (or tweet) on impulse, something his followers loved during his candidacy, but which may be harder to take in an actual president. We can only hope that more moderate Republicans might oppose some of Trump’s more egregious ultra-rightwing staff picks and proposals.

Whatever happens, I hope to outlive the Trump administration, though it would be best if it could just be nipped in the bud right here and now. I don’t know that Trump would really mind such an outcome, as he is obviously unprepared for assuming the presidency. He wants to continue to be involved in managing his vast business empire and in making even more money. An unprecedented overturning of his election victory would allow him to keep on hosting rallies around the country, something he has shown he enjoys more than being in an executive position, and he could even charge admission to his rallies, thus further increasing his fortunes. Trump might actually have preferred to lose. Just a thought.

If nothing else, this whole ongoing presidential election saga has kept the public engaged in a way that politics-as-usual has not. And Republicans might approve measures similar to those that Obama proposed but which they had thwarted simply on partisan grounds. And some Republicans might even act as a break on Trump. After all, they must realize that a majority of Americans do not support him and Republicans must also resent his take-over of their party. Maybe our focus of attack should be on Trump’s most egregious proposed candidates, like Sessions and Bannon, though the latter may not be subject to Congressional approval. Trump sounds pretty phony when sending out a filmed message about “healing” on Thanksgiving. That must have been his advisers’ doing. He seems most genuine (and is most popular) when being fiery, outrageous, and unscripted. That might be a way to run a campaign, but not the presidency.

From Yahoo News: Donald Trump's approach to military service is well established — the president-elect avoided the draft five times, once for bad feet — but it turns out his grandfather shared his reluctance to head to the front line for his country. Friedrich Trump, Donald's grandfather on his father Fred's side, was kicked out of Germany in 1905 for failing to complete mandatory service, according to a royal decree unearthed by a historian and submitted to German newspaper Bild. He was permanently banished for emigrating to the U.S. in 1885 without giving the authorities notice of his departure, thus blocking his repatriation and establishing the Trump family in America for good. According to historian Roland Paul: Friedrich Trump was born in 1869 in the German city of Kallstadt and joined his sister. Katharina, in the US in 1885.

Although in my recent book talks, I was preparing to suggest ways that a President Hillary Clinton might move forward with the Cuba accords to promote democracy, I do think the US approach since the accords were signed has been due for a course correction. The Democratic Party’s Cuba approach has seemed unduly deferential to the Cuban leadership, beginning with Senator Leahy’s successful transfer of sperm donations to the wife of imprisoned (later released) Gerardo Hernandez, mastermind of the Cuban Five, accused of betraying the Brothers-to-the-Rescue location to the Cuban air force, which shot down their aircraft, killing all 4 crew members. Since the accords were signed and the remaining three Cuban Five prisoners were released, Democratic lawmakers (Republicans cannot get visas) have made a trek to Cuba, having photo-ops with regime officials and avoiding democracy activists. Meetings of embassy staff, if any, with activists have taken place off embassy grounds. The chief of mission met with some recently at his home. More travel options and allowance for the purchase of more Cuban rum and cigars (what else do they produce?) have been opened up on the US side, though Obama’s timing of the announcement of those purchases was ill-timed just before the election, at least for the Florida vote. Yet even after these overtures and the flood of US visitors, the Cuban government continues to shout “genocide” and to yield nothing visible. Most hurtful, in my opinion, to the spirits of dissidents has been denial of the use of embassy computers for secure communications, something available to them when the building was just an interests section. Now, they must go to other embassies for internet use, mainly Czech and Swedish, I’m told. Nor are US visas so easy to obtain now for dissidents. Meanwhile, Cuban government arrests, raids, and beatings of peaceful opponents have reached record levels. And self-employment has been rolled back by the regime. Obama’s tactic aimed at softening the regime’s resistance seems to have made the leadership more suspicious and defensive. What Trump might do on Cuba is anyone’s guess. He has vowed to reverse course regarding the Castro regime, perhaps what put him over the top in Florida, but, as with his other policies, specifics are lacking and he may not know himself, not having had to confront such issues previously.
My position—and that of my Confessions book—has been that support of human rights in Cuba or elsewhere is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but of concern to all sides.

Now, in my interpretation assignments, I'm seeing undocumented parents of children in DC public schools or whose children are receiving early intervention services worried about what happens next.

Why is immigration good for our nation? For starters, it keeps our population from shrinking, especially among workers and younger people, as has happened unfortunately in Western Europe and Japan. Angela Merkel in Germany recognizes this. Immigration also keeps our country vital intellectually and socially, introducing new ideas, different modes of dress, varied food options, and philosophical and religious enrichment. While some folks prefer to live in gated communities along with people of their same age, ethnicity, and beliefs, many others, like myself, prefer a more varied social landscape. We find sameness boring. I admit I’ve been an outlier in my choice of partners, friends, and housemates; I enjoy exchanging and merging divergent views and customs from around the world. So I’d like to support or even increase US immigration. Are people like me more common than narrow-minded Trump supporters? Of course, some bad or careless folks will always be found among immigrants, just as among any group, but probably fewer, percentagewise, than among the general population.

We all know that Donald Trump is not going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. Whether he will deport more than Barack Obama, already “deporter-in-chief,” is unlikely.  There is only so much manpower and resources that can be devoted to that job and it would harm our country more than help if were actually possible. But Trump has engendered fear and the nomination of Sessions is bad news. Some Republicans (such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich) have urged allowing the undocumented to remain legally but not become citizens (and thus not become Democratic voters). Most such immigrants would be satisfied with that compromise, as mainly they don’t want to live in constant fear of deportation. However, Dreamers, who have known no other country and consider this their own, should have a path to citizenship.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Election Blues, Cuba, Honduras, Colombia, South Sudan

Neighbors put up this sign at entrance to Clinton home. 

At Chappaqua public library talk, Nov. 9, 2016

New York city

My talk at Barnard College

I take back what I said about wishing the presidential election and campaign were over. Now the nightmare has become real. Those who refused to vote for the “lesser of evils”—that is Hillary Clinton--either by abstaining or voting for a 3rd party candidate, now have the greater of evils. To make matters worse, Trump’s popularity has reportedly increased since his Electoral College victory nor is he giving any quarter to the majority of voters who did not support him. On the contrary, he seems bent on appointing the most retrograde of advisers, Bannon and Sessions, guys even beyond the fringe, perhaps as vengeance toward those who voted against him. Mitt Romney would be the exception if he becomes part of the Trump administration—we would feel relief if a cooler head were on board. I never thought I would say that about Romney, but it’s all relative. And it would good to see some Republicans in Congress and the Senate opposing Trump if they don’t like his direction or his takeover of their party. However, at this early stage, his popularity has reportedly grown—not to 50% yet, but an uptick. Let’s see how long that lasts.

The New Yorker issue published just before the election, which arrived in our mailboxes afterward, had a clever cover applicable to whichever outcome would actually occur, namely an image of a guy reading an open newspaper on the subway showing these headlines: “Oh, Sweet Jesus, Please God, No; Anything But That; Come On.” In that same issue (cover dated Nov. 14 but issued the week before) is a long, detailed “Letter from Venezuela, A Failing State,” by William Finnegan about how that once-prosperous nation has spiraled down, not only because of lower oil prices, but because of a failed ideology and coercive political tactics. (By helping a Venezuelan asylum applicant, I’ve got an inside look on how one family was impacted.)   

Needless to say, being in Chappaqua the day after the election was a real downer--only 8 people attended my talk there. Townspeople had erected a sign next to the Clinton driveway saying "Hillary we love you." Little girls there were carrying around small hammers to “break the glass ceiling.” At Barnard College, two days later, less than half the people who had signed up for my talk actually attended. Lots of demonstrations raged in NYC, especially around Trump Tower. Buildings bearing Trump’s name on them are taking it off and daughter Ivanka’s clothing line is apparently tanking. If Trump entered the presidential race to increase his fortunes, that’s not happening, at least not yet. Of course, if he succeeds in lowering tax rates, especially on the top brackets, his wealth might increase. That he would be willing to sacrifice the nation’s wellbeing, including that of his fervent low-income supporters, to further increase the wealth of his family, well beyond what they could possibly ever spend or need, is a sign not only of avarice, but of emotional illness. His Trump Foundation has turned out to be phony, just like everything else.

In Manhattan, an 11-year-old girl vacated her bedroom for me. Her big pillow said A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Many young girls like her were disappointed. We've got to think of some effective counter-strategy. So, Democrats didn’t pay sufficient attention to the white working class? Well, there are a lot of other folks out there, like me and all my neighbors, who now feel ignored; we are people and voters too, so watch out! I thought GW Bush was our worst president in my lifetime, but I would say that Trump trumps him and he hasn’t even gotten started. I hope to live to see the end of his presidency.

Trump is not only a blatant and shameless liar, but pretty obviously has sexually assaulted numerous women, perhaps short of rape, in any case, without their consent. I hope they will pursue their cases, but it’s going to be a battle. Bill Clinton is a womanizer, but his liaisons apparently have been consensual, though, in the Lewinsky case, because of her youth and subordinate position, there may have been implied coercion.

While name-calling and stereotyping should be avoided, in Trump’s case, they are no exaggeration. Trump is a cheat, trickster, braggart, someone who promotes fake news and takes advantage of others—totally dishonest. Who can trust his word? He flaunts his wealth in a garish way, with gold furniture and appliances. He seems to be unable to focus. He loves disparaging people and name calling. The whole birther thing was ridiculous and even more ridiculous was his statement that Hillary Clinton started the birther rumor and he ended it! I felt somewhat sorry for him for being such a dysfunctional human being until he became president.

Trump’s presidency has many people, myself included, uncertain about what tactic to adopt next—whether to focus on issues and ignore Trump’s outsized personality or what? I don’t think demonstrations against his policies and boycotts of Trump properties alone will do it. And civil war is not the way to go. Civil disobedience is. The non-cooperation of sanctuary cities in immigration raids is a good first step, even if federal funds should be withheld in retaliation. An internet and buying blackout is proposed for inauguration day and a women’s march, which I plan to join, on the next day. My daughter Stephanie is joining us then from Hawaii. I hope Trump doesn’t find a way to block our plans. And we have to make gains in Congress and the Senate 2 years hence (speaking here as an already disenfranchised DC citizen myself). We must keep our energy from flagging and push the momentum in the other direction.

Trump just settled a lawsuit against his totally fake, exploitative Trump University for $25 million. He had duped those who signed up for courses, just as he has duped most of those who voted for him. He may enjoy a respite at first because the Republican Congress will not constantly block him, as they did Obama. Infrastructure spending, which Hillary also championed, may move forward more quickly with Republican support, but with tax cuts (Hillary proposed increases on the top brackets, including on social security earnings) will bring on inflation, a ballooning deficit, and a possible recession. Of course, he proposes tax cuts at the top levels and the end of the estate tax, the deficit be damned. He will try to blame a recession on Obama.

Reportedly, Trump’s hotels and daughter Ivanka’s clothing line are losing money and the slack is not being made up by Trump’s Rust Belt supporters who cannot afford such luxuries. That may make an impact. Brexit was a warning signal. Far-right parties in Europe will now feel encouraged. Michael Moore, unfortunately, nailed it before the election and David Remnick of the New Yorker afterward.
To add insult to injury, last I heard, Hillary Clinton was leading Trump by over 1.5 million in the popular vote—that must be a record for a losing candidate. If the system was rigged, it was rigged in Donald Trump’s favor. Since Trump’s margins were usually so slim in the states he won, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he owes his victory to Snowden, Assange, Putin, Weiner, and Comey. At least Trump’s e-mail won’t be hacked, because he doesn’t do e-mail. Maybe Trumpcare will replace Obamacare? If the coverage is similar, who cares? Something must be done to reign in healthcare costs, as well as provide more coverage to more people, though Trump may not go in that direction. He is more likely to cut benefits and beneficiaries. I do feel that healthcare providers’ salaries, including those for doctors and nurses, need to be held in check. Their contributions are vital, but are far above what is earned by health professionals in other developed countries and each profession keeps on pushing its own compensation up. I speak as someone who worked for 16 years for a healthcare provider organization and witnessed those constant salary efforts.

On Nov. 14, President Obama gave a very good press conference. He is amazingly cogent and convincing, unlike Trump, who prefers tweets, soundbites, insults, and over-generalizations.  Trump needs to become more presidential—stop tweeting and being so thin-skinned.

Here’s another commentary if you are in the mood.

What all this will mean for human rights, Amnesty International, and the Caribbean region (my volunteer responsibility for Amnesty) is anyone’s guess. Such issues have not been prominent in the presidential campaign and Trump is so impulsive, his course there is unpredictable (speaking here as private citizen, not an Amnesty representative). Campaigning in Florida, he did promise to roll back the Obama/Raul Castro accords and I know some Cuban Americans who voted for him solely on that issue, which upsets me. In my book talks in the NYC area, I had planned to suggest some next steps that Hillary might take on Cuba. Now Trump, with Congressional support may well try to backtrack. Raul Castro wisely called Trump to congratulate him and immediately ordered military maneuvers. Trump is a big fan of Putin, a close Castro ally.

It’s a sad day for our country. Let's work to get rid of the Electoral College and keep fighting against Trumpism. We can only hope against hope that his bark turns out to be worse than his bite. He is notorious for changing his positions on everything (remember Barack Obama's birth certificate?), which may cause some pushback within the Republican Party and end up educating some gullible voters. There will be no wall with Mexico--except maybe a short, symbolic one—and Hillary won't be locked up, 11 million people won't be deported, and coal and steel won't be coming back. Will any of that matter to Trump supporters?

Children and their future had the most at stake in this election, as Donald Trump can do lasting damage by reinforcing and giving legitimacy to the worst instincts and attitudes of certain segments of the population (Hillary's unfortunately labeled "deplorables"). Already the Ku Klux Klan has been marching in celebration

As I had predicted, Trump is not keen on moving into the White House and Melania certainly is not. He is also resisting giving up involvement in his financial empire. I suspect he entered the presidential race only to further his name recognition and family fortunes.

50 GOP national security officials said before the election that Trump would be 'most reckless president in American history’

Let's hope that Trump turns out to be merely mediocre or bumbling, rather than malignant. He's getting off to a disorderly start, so it seems. The guy has opinions but no experience and is easily bored. It’s hard to imagine that he would want to run for a second term. Indications are that he enjoys campaigning and the adulation of crowds (or of being a reality TV star) more than the nuts and bolts of governing or actually running anything. I'm feeling pretty discouraged. I did vote for Hillary. I had been in meetings with her on gun control and health care reform back when she was First Lady when I was writing for OT Week, a publication of my employer. She had impressed me then as being more personable and cogent that she seemed later on the campaign trail.

Cubalex’s director, human rights attorney Lartiza Diversent, was a member of my Amnesty Int’l Conference Cuba panel last April in Miami. Her appearance on our panel may have put her at additional risk. Below is part of an Urgent Action on her case—the full action is available on the Amnesty website.  
UA: 261/16 Index: AMR 25/5156/2016 Cuba Date: 18 November 2016 URGENT ACTION HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS UNDER THREAT Members of Cubalex, a Havana-based organization of human rights lawyers, have been subjected to months of harassment and intimidation by the Cuban authorities for their work. Progressively since September, Cuban authorities have intimidated members of Cubalex (Legal Information Center), a non-government organization, not recognized by the Cuban authorities, which provides free legal and human rights advice in Havana, the capital. On 23 September, according to its Director, Laritza Diversent, authorities searched Cubalex’s centre of operation without warrant, confiscated a number of laptops and documents, and forced at least one woman to undress.

 Honduran Migrants: We left because we had to.

I’ve known many of these Hondurans, Migrants maimed by ‘The Beast’ visit Miami to recount their ordeal
Some good news about Honduras for a change, namely that US-funded programs there seem to have had a beneficial effect on the crime and murder rate.


BOGOTA. [Former] President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia and Marcell Felipe, President of Inspire América Foundation, meet in Bogota to discuss specific plans to be implemented to promote democracy in the Americas. The former President sent a message of support to the Cuban Opposition. Asked if the Cuban regime had any moral authority to mediate the Colombian peace talks with the FARC when the Castros were part of the conflict itself, the President was clear: it does not.

South Sudan

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Halloween, A Birthday, Reminder on My Upcoming Talks, Cuban Dissident Returns to US, Election Prospects

Folks, obviously, I don't know how to move these photos around easily, so thanks for bearing with me. 

Well, we had a little respite during a neighbor child’s birthday and Halloween, thank goodness.

Reminder that I will be at MLKing Library in DC along with other local authors on Sat. Nov. 5, 10 am- 5 pm and at Chappaqua Public Library Wed. Nov. 9 and at Barnard College/Columbia U. on Fri. Nov. 11. 

Meanwhile, I just received the message below:

From John Suarez
To Barbara Joe
Today Nov. 2 at 7:19 PM
(Re Cuban Democracy advocate Sirley Avila.
who was crippled and lost her hand because of a machete attack by an attacker who was apparently not sanctioned and is still threatening her.)

Good news. Getting Sirley assistance will now be easier. Bad news: She had to flee Cuba. Situation had become intolerable. Home was occupied. Mother's home where she was staying had a microphone and camera placed across the street along with constant harassment by state security agents. Finally the man who attacked her was on the street and bragging how he was going to finish the job.

She arrived Saturday night and we are doing all we can to get her settled in.

Cordially, John

Here is my earlier article about her:

I will be so glad when this election is over, though it’s not over until it’s over and our country and the world will certainly be in big trouble if Trump actually wins. Already, the stock market has fallen since the new FBI probe into e-mails was announced. The stock market doesn’t like uncertainty and Trump presidency would bring big-time uncertainly for years. I didn’t say “Clinton’s e-mails” because we don’t know yet what these e-mails are. And unfortunately, Trump is now even with Clinton or slightly ahead. The fates seem to piling up against Hillary, but if she should lose, God forbid, I would hope that Republicans and Democrats might team up together to halt some of Trump's most egregious efforts, as the guy is totally impulsive, self-serving, and ignorant. People think Hillary is dishonest, but what about Trump? Our local Spanish-language papers here in DC, obviously, have endorsed Clinton.
Despite discovery of the new e-mails (isn’t the electorate getting tired of hearing about Hillary’s e-mails?), we still have to vote for Hillary because the alternative is unthinkable. There was even hope that Hillary might have a down-ballot influence that would help her govern. Even if there is no smoking gun in the new e-mails, which is likely, the damage to Clinton and the Democrats has been done. The new e-mails may exonerate her completely, but there isn’t time to examine and report on them all before next Tues. It’s ironic that the e-mails in question are connected to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of her assistant, Huma Abedin, a guy who continued his sex-texting of young girls and women, a connection not so savory for Clinton, though she can scarcely be blamed for Weiner's strange compulsion. Why are these e-mails only being examined now? A complete review that might totally exonerate Clinton is probably impossible to complete within the short time before the election. FBI Director James Comey sent Congress (a congress hostile to Clinton) a letter on the new e-mails despite DOJ’s warning that it would breach policy. Did he do it to deliberately sabotage the election of Clinton or what? He worked for GW Bush before. The timing is suspect. In the worst case, the new investigation might cause voters to throw up their hands and simply not vote. Comey would continue to serve in a Clinton administration because he has a 10-year term, though Abedin may be out of a job even if Hillary wins. While Hillary has been standing by her assistant throughout, this may be the final blow for Huma Abedin. And, we may have Weiner to thank for Hillary’s future election loss and for Republican congressional victories, as well as for the loss of his own family and marriage.
We can survive a Hillary Clinton (one-term?) presidency, but Trump is a complete dark hole. I don't think even he knows what he would do if he won--he's so used to "winging it." Political and economic chaos is likely if he becomes president. However, then Republican and Democratic lawmakers might actually come together to thwart or control his most egregious plans. A pundit, who has called all recent presidential elections correctly, continues to insist that Trump will win. If so, too many of our fellow Americans are easily manipulated. Of course, Brits voted for Brexit even though it was probably not in their best interests and the Oregon Wildlife occupiers were acquitted despite overwhelming evidence, so a Trump victory is certainly possible, especially with these new e-mail questions. There may be nothing in the e-mails, except salacious information about Weiner, but the damage is done. Can we still dodge the bullet?
And, in another anomaly, Cuba, along with other abusive regimes, such as China. Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Talk about a conflict of interest with violators judging their own human rights’ records. Already, the Cuban regime tells its own citizens that all their problems are not due to the top leadership’s mismanagement and greed, but to the US embargo, which barely exists any more, with food and most medicines and medical equipment exempt. And who says Cuba cannot still trade with other nations? Does it have a right to insist on trade with the US? Cuban billboards denounce the embargo as a “blockade” that is the world’s worst genocide. Do Cubans actually believe that they are suffering genocide?  Cuba is an example of a people who fell in love with a charismatic, unpredictable, and ruthless leader who ruined their country for generations.  Let’s hope that Trump won’t do similar damage if he is victorious, though we should recover more quickly than Cuba has. Maybe he could even be impeached when voters realize their mistake? Even a Clinton presidency will be mostly concerned with damage control focused on Trump supporters and congressional Republicans.
In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega’s running mate is his wife, Rosario Murillo. Why not? Once back in office, he has maneuvered and manipulated his way to remain. I was there as an election observer when he was defeated in 1990 when opposition parties united behind Violeta Chamorro with UNO. It was the fragmentation of the opposition and everyone wanting to be top dog that allowed Ortega to get back into office with only 1/3 of the vote (the winner being the biggest voter-getter, not with the majority). Since then, with high court maneuvers, press manipulation, and other questionable actions, he has managed to stay in office, so with a compliant vice president, his own wife, he can expect to remain for his lifetime.