December 17, 2014

#Cuba — If the Havana Ham, Ted Cruz, hated Obama before ...

Fidel Castro, ready to be "recognized"
Getcha popcorn! The New York Times is reporting that normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba will happen as a sidebar of Cuba releasing Alan Gross plus a US spy arrested decades ago, in exchange for the US releasing some Cubans, and also, per details noted below, agreeing to start liberalizing some contacts between the two countries as soon as possible.

Here's the full deal on what's happening immediately:
In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to. 
Ted Cruz, the real "Havana Ham"
While Obama cannot overturn the Helms-Burton Act, normalizing diplomatic relations is an executive prerogative. And, he can, by executive order, lighten some restrictions on trade. Havana Ted could try to cut the State Department's budget, but ain't nothing else he can do.
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were severed in January 1961 after the rise of Fidel Castro and his Communist government. Mr. Obama has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba about reestablishing diplomatic relations and to begin the process of removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, which it has been on since 1982, the White House said. 
And, here's non-diplomatic actions planned by executive order.
The United States will also ease travel restrictions across all 12 categories currently envisioned under limited circumstances under American law, including family visits, official visits and journalistic, professional, educational and religious activities, public performances, officials said. Ordinary tourism, however, will remain prohibited. 
Mr. Obama will also allow greater banking ties and raise the level of remittances allowed to be sent to Cuban nationals to $2,000 every three months from the current limit of $500. Intermediaries forwarding remittances will no longer require a specific license from the government. American travelers will also be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products. 
As for 2016 electoral fallout in Florida? Let's not forget that the revolution was 55 years ago. There are not just one, but two generations of adult Cuban-Americans born in the US of A. Many of them may not be tired of the trade embargo of Helms-Burton, but, they're not wingnuts living and dying over keeping Fidel in a small box. So, Marco Rubio can, along with Ted Cruz and the occasional Cuban-American older Democratic politician, foam at the mouth. But, many younger Cuban-Americans have moved on.

Besides, Cuban cigars! That said, since general tourism won't be allowed, people who do bring back Cuban cigars will be reselling them for a premium.

Oh, look, more wingnuts who can't spell!  © Alan Diaz/AP Anti-Castro
activists Osvaldo Hernandez, right, and Miguel Saavedra, second from right,
chant anti-Obama slogans in the Little Havana area of Miami.
Anyway, from a non-wingnut POV, especially here in Texas, just watching Ted Cruz shit bricks over this is fun enough, more than Marco Rubio.

And, not just Havana Ted. The Times notes that Francis the Talking Pope backed the US-Cuba talks, too. So, conservative Catholics who accuse liberal Catholics of being "cafeteria Catholics" over abortion, the shoe is once again, as with the death penalty and the invasion of Iraq, now on the other foot. So, more wingnuts can again wig out.

Speaking of that, Florida's top dog Cuban-American wingnut, Marco Rubio, has already attacked Pope Francis on this.

Both Obama and Raul Castro are supposed to speak at noon Eastern about the issue. I'll update this with major relevant new points as needed.

The main one seems to be that it's full speed ahead on working on normalization of diplomatic ties.

As for the trade embargo?

Chris Tomlinson notes that Cuba has a highly educated workforce. Who wouldn't want more trade? It has offshore oil reserves that could use the help of a country with major drilling expertise. Better the US than Vlad the Impaler Putin, isn't it?

And, as Craig Calcaterra notes, this could affect the signing of Cuban baseball players. The US is easing "professional ... activities" on travel.


Beyond the above, it's just not been a good week for Ted Cruz in general.

His Senate procedural stunt over immigration royally backfired. Havana Ted ultimately filled Obama's Christmas stocking with at least six dozen stalled nominees getting Senate confirmation or pledges thereof.

And, I "love" that when the likes of Faux News and beyond talk about "some Democrats" opposing the move, the only one they can ever name by name is New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez.

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