Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Surprise Thank-You Letter, Sr. Helen, Summer Already, Malaria Prevention, NY Assembly vs. DR Statelessness, Ferry to Cuba?, Cuban HR Remain Stalled, Fidel in his Heyday, Origins of US Immigrants

A website for returned Peace Corps volunteers put out a call for photos of volunteers mounted on animals during their service. Most posted so far have been photos of volunteers in their 20s (mostly from the 1960’s) posing or clowning atop camels, tortoises, or donkeys. I submitted one from the cover of my Honduras Peace Corps memoir, Triumph & Hope, where I’m riding a horse for actual transportation between remote villages in 2002, at age 64, as shown above.

The other photos are of me and my African visitors with another visitor, Karl, an entomologist from Hawaii who works with my daughter Stephanie there. He came here to examine the Smithsonian’s insect archives. Also shown, Mother’s Day gifts.

After Rep. John Lewis met with Afro-Cuban dissident AntĂșnez, finally breaking through the boycott he had faced from the Congressional Black Caucus, I sent a thank-you letter to the congressman, along with a copy of my Cuba book, Confessions. To my great surprise, Lewis sent me a thank-you letter for the book. I’ve sent my book unsolicited to a number of academic and public figures and none has ever acknowledged receipt, so I’m grateful for Lewis’s effort.   

Sister Helen Prejean is a friendly, unpretentious woman with whom I was privileged to have had a memorable conversation years ago. She is an outspoken advocate for abolishing the death penalty and recently testified in the penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. I have a signed copy of her book, Dead Man Walking, and saw the film of the same name. It was brilliant move by the defense to enlist her testimony.

Summer has definitely arrived in Washington after a too-short spring. We’ve even had one day with a high near 90F.  But to remind myself that it could be worse, as it often was in southern Honduras, I checked the high temperatures in Choluteca, near my old Peace Corps site of El Triunfo, and found them reaching or exceeding 100 F daily.  Yes, I remember the days of sitting in front of an electric fan (if there was electricity) with a wet rag on top of my head a sipping from a bottle of purified water.

Peace Corps volunteers have often complained of adverse reactions to the antimalarial prophylactic and treatment medication melfloquine, said to sometimes produce hallucinations and nightmares. These claims have been supported by Dr. Remington Lee Nevin, who specializes in the evaluation of adverse reactions to antimalarial medications, particularly the neurotoxic quinoline derivative mefloquine (previously marketed in the United States as Lariam®). Now the Peace Corps reviews anti-malaria options individually with volunteers before assigning them to any one type. Fortunately, the antimalarial drug we took in Honduras was chloroquine, with fewer side effects, still shaped my dreams, as per my Honduras Peace Corps memoir, Triumph & Hope. Of course, prophylactic choice is not arbitrary—it depends on the malaria strain to be prevented or treated.


Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Ends Four Day Hunger Strike As New York State Assembly Passes Resolution Against Persecution of Dominicans of Haitian Descent, May 5, 2015
Amnesty International USA welcomes the [NY State Assembly] resolution and calls on all members of the Assembly to stand in solidarity with Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been stripped of their nationality. The story of Yolanda, whose parents were Haitian, is typical of the stories of discrimination faced daily by those of Haitian descent. Yolanda is a survivor of domestic violence, but was denied the right to lodge a complaint and file for child support because she didn’t have an identity card. Yolanda’s children, though born in the Dominican Republic, were denied birth certificates because of their Haitian ancestry. She is unable to register her children in the civil registry.

Amnesty International USA has been campaigning on behalf of Yolanda, and her family as well as the hundreds of thousands of similarly-situated Dominicans to end the stateless crisis. AIUSA welcomes the resolution in the New York State Assembly and urges its members to stand in solidarity with all those in the Dominican Republic who are facing discrimination and statelessness.

We have a June 15 deadline approaching when stateless persons might be unduly deported from the only country they know as their own.
Dominican Republic action
Social Media ready: http://owl.li/KvgSS
Friendly-URL: http://www.amnestyusa.org/End-Statelessness-For-Dominicans-of-Haitian-Descent

See also Letter from The Dominican RepublicHarper’s, May 2015 issue, "Displaced in the D.R., A country strips 210,000 of citizenship," By Rachel Nolanhttp://harpers.org/archive/2015/05/displaced-in-the-d-r/
Here, for DC residents, says a reader: Direct flights to Cuba from BWI approved.  AA to charge $775 r/t. 

At least four Florida companies are approved for ferry service to Cuba.
The approximately 5-hour trip will probably cost somewhat less than airfare and would be a pleasant way to travel. Of course, the Cuban government would have to allow such service. As per my book, Confessions, my daughter Stephanie and I traveled to Cuba in a small sailboat overnight back in 1994. We had something of a rough ride over many hours and came into an unlit Havana dock where we used flashlights to maneuver into port. Below is the article about the anticipated service.
However, there's a wrinkle that exiles have pointed out: anyone born in Cuba, even if now an American citizen, is prohibited from entering Cuba by boat, presumably to prevent them from spiriting their relatives away. The Cuban regime is likely only to permit visitors of non-Cuban backgrounds to enter via ferry.
From Foreign Policy:
State Dept. Reports No Progress on Restoring Ties With Cuba

The State Department cannot cite any progress on a key step in the Obama administration’s policy of restoring ties with the Cuban government: the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Officials testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Tuesday [May 5] noted continued disagreements between Washington and Havana over the level of access the Cuban government will give U.S. diplomats to island residents if an embassy is opened. That has fueled some concerns that the initial burst of diplomatic progress between the two countries may be stalling.

“Right now we are still … in the midst of negotiations to establish diplomatic relations,” said John Feeley, the principal deputy assistant secretary of Western Hemisphere affairs at the State Department. “That is a process, and that will take some time, and honestly, I cannot tell you when that will happen.”

Feeley and two other State Department officials appeared on Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the department’s budgetary priorities for operations in the Western Hemisphere.
Cuban human rights do seem off the table at the moment—no one is talking about them except exile groups. Citizens’ rights don’t flower automatically from an economic opening, as has been evident in other countries. Most Cuba observers have been busy praising the accords. French President Francois Hollande visited recently,
promoting economic engagement, excoriating the US for past isolationist policies toward Cuba, and failing to meet with dissidents. Meanwhile, Raul chided the US Interests Section in Havana for giving free journalism classes, something he characterized as “illegal” and a violation of sovereignty. Still he must be happy about the increased number of American visitors.
In public, Fidel Castro has always feigned a distain of wealth, intimating that he shares the humble lifestyle and privations of his citizens. However, as stated in my book Confessions,Fidel Castro has accumulated multiple residences, yachts, and vehicles, holds a Swiss bank account, and, according to Forbes, is one of the world’s wealthiest heads of state.” (p. 18) My own observations have been given detailed corroboration by Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, who served as Fidel’s body guard for 17 years and finally escaped the island in 2008. His book, The Double Life of Fidel Castro, not only reveals details of the many luxuries the dictator demanded and enjoyed, but shows the lengths he went to hide his private privileges.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, below are the top ten countries of origin of immigrants now living in the U.S., with the percentage each has contributed to the more than 41 million total immigrant population (both documented and undocumented). These ten contribute only a little more than half of the immigrant total, so are not the whole story. While Latin Americans, especially from Mexico, predominate, 20% are from Asia, a growing source of immigrants to the US who tend to be more highly skilled and presumably arrive with visas, since it would be hard to enter from Asia otherwise.

1.    Guatemala: 2%

2.    Dominican Republic: 2%

3.    South Korea: 3%

4.    Cuba: 3%

5.    El Salvador: 3%

6.    Vietnam: 3%

7.    The Philippines: 4%

8.    China: 5%

9.    India: 5%

10. Mexico: 28%

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