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HAVANA, april 13th The story of America and Cuba — their decades of hostility, why it lasted so long, why it’s now finally ending — is often misunderstood in the US as a story about the Cold War. But in truth, it’s a story a full century older about slavery, clashing empires, and a long-running struggle within America to decide what kind of country we were going to be. When you see that, what’s happening today between Cuba and the US starts to make a lot more sense:


Americans don’t talk about this chapter in our history much today, but around the turn of the 19th century the country’s politics were divided over a question of national identity: Would the United States become an explicitly imperial power, joining the great powers of Europe in dividing up the world? Or would it champion its founding ideals of democracy by supporting independence movements around the globe?

This debate played out in the US just as the once-great Spanish Empire was crumbling. Cuba was a Spanish colony then; independence activists there rose up in 1895, and in 1898 the US declared war on Spain to help them.

But as the war progressed, American politicians argued: Should the US seize Cuba as its own colony, or should it stick to its word and support Cuban independence?

The Spanish-American War wasn’t just about Cuba. It was also over the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean; the island of Guam in the Pacific; and, largest of all, the Philippines, a series of large islands in Southeast Asia.

But debate in the US focused especially on Cuba. Partly this was because Cuba, so near to the US, inspired especially strong feelings in many Americans. And partly it was because there had been an earlier debate, in the 1850s, over whether to seize Cuba as a new US slave state.

By the time the war ended, both sides of the American debate had passed legislation in Congress meant to codify their preferred outcome. As a result, the US ended up with an odd quasi-imperial policy toward Cuba: The US would not seize it outright as a colony (something it did with Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines) but would take over Guantanamo Bay, control Cuba’s external affairs, and reserve the right to intervene on the island.

America’s imperial era in Cuba lasted only about 30 years. Franklin D. Roosevelt came into office in 1933 wanting to end America’s experiment with imperialism, and began unwinding US control over Cuba and the Philippines.

But within 20 years, the US would get involved in Cuba again, this time backing a military dictator who had seized power and was fighting a war with communist rebels.

Americans — who have never had much of a historical memory — saw this as just one of many proxy conflicts against communism’s global spread. But many Cubans saw it as a repeat of American imperialism. So when the US tried over and over to topple or even kill Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro, this felt, to many Cubans, like America trying to reassert its old colonial control over the island.

That’s far from the only reason the US-Cuba conflict lasted so long. As you’ll see in the video above, it’s also, as just one example, about the political conflict between Castro and Cuban dissidents that just happened to play out through American politics. But when you see that imperial legacy, and the way it’s been experienced by Cubans, the history starts to make a lot more sense. And this new era of normal relations looks even more historic.

http://www.vox.com/2016/4/12/11411358/cuba-opening-history-video

havana-live-US-Cuba-RelationsHAVANA, Sept 12  President Obama has reauthorized Cuba‘s listing on the Trading with the Enemy Act, a move that allows him to continue to use executive authority to improve ties with Cuba.

Obama’s action follows a unilateral decision last December to re-establish diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, paving the way to embassies being opened in both countries.

The act, which must be reauthorized every year, gives the president the power to make changes to U.S. relations with listed countries, in this case that is Cuba.
Obama “continues to believe Congress should lift the embargo on Cuba and has already taken a number of steps to normalize relations and empower the Cuban people,” National Security Council spokesman Peter Boogaard told ABC News.

“That said, until the Congress acts, the Administration will continue to take prudent and responsible steps to allow commerce and travel, consistent with its authorities and within the continuing constraints of the embargo.”

Officials say that in order to do regulatory changes, like those taken by the administration in January to allow expanded travel under 12-specific licenses, the president needs the authority embedded in the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Without the act, the standing U.S. law with respect to Cuba is the Helms-Burton act, or the embargo, which limits nearly all transactions, travel and business with the island nation.

Congress has made no effort to change the embargo, although legislation was introduced to committee earlier this year that would allow for all travel restrictions to be lifted.

Last month, ABC News learned that the administration has plans underway to make it easier for people to visit and do business with Cuba, through regulation changes at the Treasury Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Those changes however, wouldn’t be possible without the power granted to the administration under the Trading with the Enemy Act.
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-reauthorizes-cuba-listing-trading-enemy-act/story?id=33690036

HAVANA, July 31  , 2015 /PRNewswire/ — As the United States and Cuba move toward normal relations for the first time in more than 54 years, a remarkable documentary film profiles a unique collection of people who are pushing the boundaries and “Reinventing Cuba.”

The one hour documentary film, “Reinventing Cuba,” goes beyond the stereotypes – beyond cigars and salsa, beyond mojitos and Malecón, beyond antique American cars and decaying architecture to reveal an extraordinary nation eager to embrace change.

Correspondent Gerry Hadden – a long time Cuba watcher – takes viewers on a personal journey. He meets little league sluggers defying the odds and dreaming of the majors; doctors and medical researchers saving lives; hustlers finding ways around limited internet connections; artists and designers at the height of creativity; and black marketeers selling a vital entertainment and information device called “the package.”

Cut off from America by decades of hostility, living in conditions of scarcity and political restrictions, the Cubans emerge here as a people making something out of nothing with whatever is at hand.

Hadden portrays vibrant, hopeful, and resourceful characters facing enormous challenges in today’s Cuba.  He reveals an often overlooked, burgeoning, middle class that is at the forefront of what will likely be Cuba’s future as it moves into a new era.

“Reinventing Cuba” has its first airing Sunday August 9th, a few days before John Kerry becomes the first U-S Secretary of State to visitHavana in 60 years.

The documentary is directed by Humberto Duran; filmed by Amando Guerra and Josep Alfero.  It is produced by the North American production center of China Central Television.  Executive Producers are Ma Jing, Mei Yan and Guo Chun.

“Reinventing Cuba” can be seen August 9th at 7pm US eastern time, nationally on Dish Network Channel 279 and on the ‘CCTV News’ channels in New York, Washington  D.C., and Los Angeles.