Tag Archive for: Barack Obama

HAVANA,June 7th Must President Donald Trump undo all humanitarian progress that was made by former President Barack Obama? It almost feels like Trump’s whole motivation is bitter vengeful spite or jealousy to take down the legacy of a much admired and respected man.

Read more

HAVANA, August 14th (The scientist) In June, President Donald Trump announced that he was reversing course on former President Barack Obama’s decision to mend relations with Cuba.

“The previous administration’s easing of restrictions of Read more

 Barack Obama,President Trump,CubaHAVANA, June 5th  To the long list of Barack Obama’s major initiatives that President Trump is obsessed with reversing, we may soon be able to add Cuba.

In 2014, Mr. Obama opened a dialogue with Cuba after more than a half- Read more

havana-live-Obama US Cuba(3)

Miami billionaire Jorge Perez talks with President Barack Obama at an entrepreneurship event at La Cervecería in Havana on Monday. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS AP

Mojitos, strawberry daiquiris and hand towels awaited the well-heeled guests that strolled into the Saratoga Hotel. The lobby felt like the airy foyer of a Havana country clubhouse of old — right down to its members:
Almost all hailed from Miami.
Hugs and backslaps, handshakes and introductions. Half the men sported blue blazers and khakis; the other unwrapped matching guayaberas in picture-perfect baby blues and pale pinks.

If you panned across the room at any given moment this week, you had to blink twice to make sure you weren’t in a hotel in Brickell. There was developer and tech entrepreneur Manny Medina. And healthcare magnate Mike Fernandez. And condo king Jorge Pérez. Attorneys Pedro Freyre and Ralph Patino. Big Sugar’s Andres Fanjul.
Businessman Carlos Saladrigas. Former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Paul Cejas helping himself to brunch. Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez hopping on an elevator with businessmen Enrique Sosa and Ariel Pereda.

“This is literally a 45-minute flight away,” said Joe Arriola, the Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust chairman, who was also at the Saratoga. He pointed to communist regimes in faraway China and Vietnam. In Cuba, he maintained, “Things are going to change so much faster.”

Miami’s Cuban-American business elite spent spring break in Havana, chasing President Barack Obama. Some took part in official White House events. Others lingered in the periphery, witnessing history — and trying to figure out how to prod it along with the power of their wallets.

Don’t call it a vacation.
“I’m going to work. I’m not going there to play,” Fernandez, who gave some of the others a lift to Havana aboard his private plane, said the day he departed Miami. “I don’t drink, and I’m a lousy dancer, so I’m not going there to play.”

A few years ago, many of the businessmen — several of them lifelong Republicans — would have refused to set foot in Havana, much less consider investing there. Now they’re amongthe most prominent proponents of the Democratic president’s push for renewed U.S. cooperation with Raúl Castro’s regime. Several met with Obama at the White House the week before the president’s trip and offered ideas for what he might say in Havana. He took up many of them, the Cuban Americans said with satisfaction Tuesday after watching Obama deliver his speech in person.

They’ve got big-name company. Also traveling to Cuba for an entrepreneurship event Obama held at an Old Havana brewery Monday were a slew of CEOs from national companies such as the Marriott and Starwood hotel chains, PayPal, Xerox and Air BnB.

The bigwigs were hardly alone. Regular Miamians made their way to Havana over the past few days too — because of Obama, but also to watch the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban national team, or catch the Rolling Stones, or spend Easter with Havana friends and family.

He decided to go the same week I was going to go,” said 51-year-old Carlos Delgado, a tutor who left Cuba in 1985. He planned his trip months ago and was delighted he’d coincided with the president — and the Stones: “Such an important week!”

The biggest days on Cuba’s political calendar in recent memory would have felt somehow incomplete without the robust presence of exiles who wrestled for decades with the pain of seeing their old home slip into totalitarianism. Yet seeing part of the Cuban-American old guard there — the one still oft-derided on Cuban state-run television — seemed striking.

“Taking these positions 10-15 years ago in Miami was not a popular thing,” said Patrick Hidalgo, 37, who worked in the Obama administration. “I’ve had people scream at me for discussions that now would seem extremely benign.”

Hidalgo confessed to initial “mixed feelings” about Obama’s Cuba trip. But he came around and accepted an invitation to his Havana speech. He stayed with a cousin in Havana — “That’s kind of how me and my family keep our pulse on what’s going on with people in Cuba” — and noted many South Florida acquaintances hoped to make it to the island themselves.

“It’s been shocking,” he said. “Me and my sister joke around that we could open up a Cuba travel agency just from the sheer number of friends that hit us up for advice. They don’t just want to stay in Varadero,” the famous beach, he said. “They want something even more meaningful.”

Average Cubans, particularly more recent arrivals in the U.S., have been traveling back and forth between both countries for years, in some cases spending U.S. government benefitsback on the island. The elite that clung to its refusal to engage for so long is merely playing catch-up.

The difference is their clout.
Most of the Miami businessmen are on a first-name basis with Cuban foreign ministry officials and leaders of the U.S. embassy. They get invited to private meetings. They see historic Old Havana as an untapped opportunity — for Cubans or foreigners — to build fancy shops and seaside condos. They insist political change — democracy — will follow, roiling hard-liners back in Miami who first want the release of political prisoners and the guarantee of crucial freedoms.

Meantime, the members of the new Cuban-American establishment squeeze in art-gallery tours and jogs along the Malecón seawall. They congregate under one roof at the Saratoga, with its massage treatments, rooftop pool and Freixenet bottles — and its reliable stream of suspected state-security lookouts. They enjoy a breakfast-buffet feast of delicacies most Cubans can only dream of: smoked salmon, prosciutto, dates, figs, four types of soft cheeses.

“To think we can have unlimited food and they’re rationed? Yeah, it bothers me,” Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who made the trip separate from his father, said one morning. “But in the end, by pushing for change, we’re doing the right thing.”

HAVANA, March 10th Two weeks ahead of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, Havana has a message for him: We’ll treat you well while you’re here, but don’t push it.

“The president will be welcomed by the Government of Cuba and its people with the hospitality that distinguishes them and will be treated with all consideration and respect, as head of state,” said the editorial in the Communist Party’s official newspaper Granma.

But the nearly 3,000 word editorial also cautioned that, “No one can harbor the slightest doubt about Cuba’s unconditional adherence to its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals,” and included a quote from Cuban President Raul Castro making a similar point.

“We will not allow ourselves to be pressured on our internal affairs. We have won this sovereign right with great sacrifices,” he said.

The piece urged Mr. Obama to do more to change U.S policy toward Cuba and demanded Washington stop interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs. The editorial also reiterated Cuba’s calls for the U.S. to return to Cuba the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, end the decades-long economic embargo on Cuba, and change immigration policies that favor Cubans.

The White House on Wednesday played down the talk from the Cubans ahead of the visit, which officials said would allow the U.S. to use its influence to advocate for more freedoms for the Cuban people. Mr. Obama is scheduled to visit March 20-22.

“I’m not particularly concerned about it,” Mr. Earnest said. “Our priority here, is that by more deeply engaging the Cuban government, the Cuban economy and the Cuban people, we can more effectively advance the interests of the Cuban people.”

Secretary of State John Kerry scrapped plans for a visit to Cuba last week for human rights talks after the U.S. and Cuba couldn’t finalize an agenda, including for Mr. Kerry to meet with political dissidents. But Mr. Earnest stressed on Wednesday that Mr. Obama would meet with whomever he wanted, including political opponents of the regime.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Susan Rice met on Wednesday afternoon for about an hour with about 10 people with expertise in Cuba’s civil society, including people with ties to Church groups, Cuba’s entrepreneurial class, and Cuba’s independent media, according to a participant in the meeting.

Ms. Rice told the group she was seeking their input about how to best engage with civil society members during the president’s trip, the participant said.

“Ambassador Rice heard from each leader and emphasized that a critical focus of charting a new course with Cuba includes our continued strong support for universal values and human rights — including respect for the right to speak freely, peacefully assembly, and associate,” her spokesman Ned Price said.