Saturday, September 13, 2014

Late Son Andrew’s Birthday, Family and Work Events, Immigration Reform Delay, Obama Economics, Whither Scotland?, Latin America, Cuba Again

 A couple of family photos here, first of my daughter Stephanie doing conservation work in the jungles of Oahu, having been dropped off by helicopter. She’s a biologist who likes to be directly in touch with nature. The second is of the front door of the house where daughter Melanie moved recently with her daughter and grandson, shown here. Another is of the panel at a forum described below. And, finally, a young female lion found abandoned and rescued in Africa, when let out of her enclosure, instead of darting away, embraces her benefactor. (I simply liked that image.)
 September 4, would have been my late son Andrew’s 47th birthday. It has been 20 years since he died, still greatly missed.
The other evening, I participated in a “Back-to-school” night for parents where other interpreters for Mandarin were present. That’s the first time that I’ve run into them. This was for a public school near the White House. Whenever interpretation clients thank me for being there, I say, “Mi deber, mi placer,” which has an alliterative sound in Spanish and means, “My duty, my pleasure.”
 No doubt Democratic candidates are heaving a sigh of relief that Obama has put off any new moves on immigration until after the November elections. At the same, voters sympathetic to immigrants won’t have lost hope entirely. Yet, immigration reform advocates and Hispanics generally are reportedly angry at the delay, but where do they have to go? Perhaps they will simply sit out this election?
 Here’s a surprise from Forbes on the Obama administration’s economic record:
Economically, President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories.  Simultaneously the current administration has reduced the deficit, which skyrocketed under Reagan.  Additionally, Obama has reduced federal employment, which grew under Reagan (especially when including military personnel,) and truly delivered a “smaller government.”  Additionally, the current administration has kept inflation low, even during extreme international upheaval, failure of foreign economies (Greece) and a dramatic slowdown in the European economy.
 On my father’s side, I have Scottish inheritance. My paternal grandfather came from the Isle of Isle in Scotland to Canada, where my father was born in Alberta. Although my ties to Scotland are more historic than current, I still will weigh in against Scottish independence. As with Quebec nationalism, I believe most such partitions are ill-advised.
 On September 9, I attended a wide-ranging panel discussion, conducted mostly in Spanish, about corruption, crime, and dictatorship to varying degrees in Latin America, primarily in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Chile, it seems, is pretty clean.  I won’t identify the sponsoring organization further except to say that the meeting was held in an enormous House chamber with high, ornate ceilings, huge chandeliers, and frigid air conditioning. The all-male suited panel was on raised podium removed from the audience when a roundtable discussion would have been more appropriate. The auditory system was fuzzy and while there were two simultaneous interpreters who took turns, they expressed to me privately that it was hard to hear and understand what the speakers were saying. Even under the best of circumstances, simultaneous interpreting requires enormous concentration and the use of equipment which always arouses anxiety in me as an interpreter.  I was sitting closest to the speakers, still recovering from a pulled muscle in my back, so was somewhat uncomfortable, especially when the calf of one leg began cramping. Sitting exposed that way, I didn’t think it appropriate to jump up and stretch my leg. Still, at the break, I chatted with some folks I knew, so it was worthwhile being there. One gave me a book of selections from Cuban independent blogger Yoani Sanchez. There is always something to learn in any situation.
 How’s this for a modern-day prayer? "Our Chavez who art in heaven, the earth, the sea and in us delegates," red-shirted delegate Maria Estrella Uribe read in front of a vast image of the former president, "Lead us not into the temptation of capitalism, deliver us from the evil of the oligarchy, like the crime of contraband, because ours is the homeland, the peace and life — forever and ever. Amen. Viva Chavez!" she exclaimed to applause. [Reuters]
 I missed this when it first appeared, but the Washington Post issued another editorial, this one on July 21, 2014, asking for an investigation of Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Payá’s death 2 years ago. Of course, his is not the only suspicious death of a Cuban dissident.
 The Cuban regime is making a full-court press around the world, focused on 20 countries, including the US government and Congress, making the case for the liberation of the remaining 3 prisoners among the original “Cuban Five,” convicted of spying for the Cuban government and of direct involvement in the deaths of 4 Brothers-to-the-Rescue, who used to pick up stranded rafters in open waters. Members of the Five notified Cuban authorities of the rescue plane’s flight path, resulting in their being shot down by the Cuban air force. The Cuban government is alleging irregularities in the original court case and describes the three prisoners as “heroes.” The Cuban government wants to exchange them for former USAID contractor Alan Gross, who was probably seized with that objective in mind. I would not expect any “deal” to be made until after the November elections. After that, because poor Alan Gross has been imprisoned for five years already, I would expect an exchange, though it would be nice to get something more in terms of expanded freedom for the Cuban people as well. I don’t know all the details of the trial of the Five, but from the records I’ve reviewed, I would not say they necessarily had an unfair trial, though some have questioned the Miami venue. Many Amnesty members have sympathized with them.
 I am certainly fighting an uphill battle with my Cuba book and see that support for the Cuban dictatorship is not just a matter of gullible people buying into Castro propaganda, but is part of a concerted effort by the Cuban government to influence and win over left-leaning academics and organizations with visits to Cuba and other perks. The aim is create sympathy toward the regime, especially in such people’s careers in instructing students or in their positions in government service. A great hue and cry went out when a single such regime-sympathetic ideologue, former Senate staffer and CIA analyst Fulton Armstrong, kept revealing USAID “bumbling” in Cuba via leaks about the now-defunct Twitter program and efforts to “infiltrate” Latin American students to get Cuban students thinking more creatively. It turned out that he himself was the source of the very reports about which he was making such derogatory comments. The USAID efforts in Cuba, which he labeled “bumbling” and “ineffective,” were not aimed directly at “regime change,” as he and Cuban authorities alleged, but just at facilitating the free flow of information and communication. In contrast, the Cuban government’s efforts with American academics is aimed at fostering positive support for a dictatorship.
Another Cuba commentator, who has interviewed Fidel Castro and written 2 books on Cuba is Julia E. Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations. She recently had a piece in The Huffington Post which seems to place all the blame for poor US-Cuba relations on the US side, not only for the embargo, but for the USAID programs that Armstrong highlighted. The embargo arguably has done virtually nothing to dislodge the Castro regime; indeed, it may have helped the brothers stay in power by shifting the blame for every failing on the US. However, these US policies, as failed or misguided as they may be, are not simply aimed at poor Cuba because its leadership fails to follow our dictates. Rather, that leadership is not only bumbling (if I may borrow a term from Fulton Armstrong), but also cruel and oppressive. Cuban Americans with family on the island are rightly concerned that their relatives are suffering. These Cuban Americans are not a “Miami mafia,” as the Cuban regime depicts them, but people with legitimate concerns about their family members’ well-being. They do what they can to help by sending money and taking massive amounts of goods, but the political and economic system in Cuba has to change. Obviously, the tactics used so far haven’t worked. Maybe eliminating the embargo and forcing to Cuba to act like a “normal” country would foster its evolution toward that goal?
Here from Newmax: According to an unclassified FBI report reviewed in the Washington Free Beacon, the Cuban government, under the guise of seeking “friendship,” is recruiting left-leaning “Intelligence officers [who] will come into contact with the academic travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers,” it said. “This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets.” The FBI also alleged that, apart from collecting classified information and governments secrets, Cuban officials are attempting to recruit key people who will portray the country in a positive light and “sway policymakers into particular courses of action” through either disinformation or propaganda. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy appears to be one of those swayed by Armstrong and others of his persuasion.  See

Cuban migrants head back to sea after being turned away in Caymans
Aug. 29, 2014 GEORGE TOWN Cayman Islands (Reuters) - Sixteen Cuban migrants who sought refuge in Grand Cayman have resumed their voyage in a small, homemade aluminum boat after local officials turned them away, citing a migration agreement with Cuba. The 20-foot (6-meter fiberglass and metal with large inner tubes attached to makeshift outriggers, left on Thursday night, headed for Honduras, about 400 miles (644 km) away. They were last seen being trailed by a police boat and helicopter about five miles (8 km) off Grand Cayman, drifting west in five foot (1.5 meter) waves with a squall approaching.
Boats smuggling Cubans who are seeking to flee the communist-run island are frequently seen off the Cayman Islands, located in the Caribbean less than 100 miles (160 km) south of Cuba. They are usually headed for Honduras from where migrants make the long journey overland to reach the U.S. border with Mexico. Under the U.S. so-called "wet foot, dry foot policy," Cuban migrants who make it onto United States soil are allowed to remain while those intercepted at sea are turned back.
The U.S. Border Patrol said in late July that more than 13,500 Cubans without proper travel documents had tried to cross the southwestern U.S. border since Oct. 1, 2013, more than during all of the previous 12 months. Four years ago, the 12-month total was about 5,500.
"We left (Cuba) because there are no jobs or the basic items for living," said the boat captain, who was briefly interviewed close to shore before the boat departed. The captain, who identified himself as Angelo, said the passengers, 11 men and five women aged 18 to 40, were from Manzanillo in eastern Cuba. He said the boat had been at sea for five days since leaving eastern Cuba, surviving rough seas whipped up by the passage of hurricane Cristobal to the east. The boat had no shade from the blazing summer heat, and the group appeared to have run out of water.
Under a 1999 migration accord with Havana, Cuban boats are allowed to pass through Cayman waters as long as they do not seek any assistance. If the migrants come ashore, they are taken into custody and usually repatriated to Cuba. Cayman immigration officials estimate about 244 Cuban migrants have passed through its waters so far in 2014, while 76 were repatriated.
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tool goes heCatholic archbishop in Cuba criticizes government
By Nora Gamez Torres el Nuevo Herald
In an unusual gesture for a member high in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in Cuba, the Apostolic nuncio Bruno Musaro spoke openly about Cuba’s “extreme poverty and huBy Nora Gamez Torres, Miami Herald 8-29-14
In an unusual gesture for a member high in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in Cuba, the Apostolic nuncio Bruno Musaro spoke openly about Cuba’s “extreme poverty and human and civil degradation.”
Musaro made his controversial remarks while on vacation in Italy after holding a Mass in the San Pio de Pietrelcina park, in the Italian municipality of Vignacastrisi. The Cuban people are “victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept them subjugated for the past 56 years,” Musaro said, according to the Italian newspaper, Lecce News24. “I’m thankful to the pope for inviting me to this island, and I hope to leave once that the socialist regime has disappeared indefinitely,” said Musaro, a Vatican ambassador living in Cuba since 2011. “Only liberty can bring hope to the Cuban people,” he said.
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