U.S.-Cuba relations

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Tom Hudson/WLRN

Elizabeth Duconge says she has quadrupled her income in the past two months. She had been an art curator in Havana. Now she works at a paladar in the Vedado district here.

Paladares are privately owned restaurants and some of the most visible reforms of the Cuban economy. Duconge said she makes 30 Cuban pesos a week waitressing at La Moraleja.

Tom Hudson / WLRN

President Obama is going to Cuba this weekend.

WLRN's Tom Hudson and Tim Padgett are there awaiting Obama's visit. What is the mood in Havana ahead of the historic trip? And they're looking at the changes that have occurred since the two nations started talking again.

Donald Trump looks like the Republican nominee in this presidential election, while Florida's Senator Marco Rubio is back in the halls of the senate, now that’s he no longer running for president. But, what do we make of his claim that he won’t return to politics after January?

Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

The Republican presidential candidates gathered at the University of Miami for its last debate before the Florida primary on Tuesday.

U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS

America’s changing relationship with Cuba was part of the discussion at last night’s Republican primary debate.

Donald Trump said he doesn’t agree entirely with President Barack Obama’s diplomatic openings with Cuba, but something needs to change.

“After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks," said Trump. But we have to make a good deal.”

Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

This week, the White House announced President Obama and the First Lady will visit Cuba.

The trip will include meetings with a Castro as well as with Cuban entrepreneurs.

The decision for a presidential trip to Cuba comes with all the historic overtones that have accompanied the changing relationship between America and Cuba since late 2014 when the president announced a new strategy of engagement. It also came with the familiar criticism of the efforts.  We discuss the history and controversy surrounding the trip.

mountainsoftravelphotos.com

For half a century, only charter flights have been allowed to ferry people from the U.S. into Cuba.

But today, the two cold-war foes will agree to let regular U.S. commercial flights land in the communist island: 20 a day into Havana and 10 daily into nine other Cuban cities.

“This means more people-to-people contact,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Thomas Engle told reporters over the weekend. “All to the good of mutual understanding.”

AP via Miami Herald

Has President Obama’s policy of engaging Cuba succeeded or failed? It’s probably much too early to say – but the fundraising efforts of groups on both sides of the issue indicate something important is working.

The New Cuba PAC (political action committee) was launched last spring in Miami and is based in Washington D.C. It supports President Obama’s year-old project to normalize relations with Cuba – including efforts to repeal the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

On Thursday New Cuba announced it had raised an impressive $350,000 in its first six months.

Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

“The year 2015 has seen more firsts than in 50 years,” says Tom Hudson, WLRN’s Florida Roundup host.

 

He spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett and Fusion’s Latin America editor Tim Rogers to discuss the pathway to normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, the migrant crisis in Central America and Venezuela’s crumbling economy.

Florida Roundup: Property Claims In Cuba And U.S.

Dec 11, 2015
Ramon Espinosa / AP

The U.S. and Cuba may have embassies in each other’s countries, but relations are far from normal. Human rights, basic freedoms and an open economy continue to be major areas of friction between the two.

For the first time, negotiators tackled the contentious issue of reparations this week. American companies and Cubans in America want billions for property confiscated two generations ago when Fidel Castro and the communists seized power. Homes, businesses, shops, factories, farms -- they were all just taken by the revolution.

The Sounds Of Pope Francis' Visit To Cuba

Sep 22, 2015
Alex Castro / AP

The first three days of Pope Francis' whirlwind binational trip took him to the home of a world famous communist leader and through the streets of a little-known Cuban town.

The pope's message of embracing change found its literal representation in the further opening of Cuba, which has spent decades shrouded in secrecy, to media outlets and TV screens worldwide.

His three-day visit to the communist island ended Tuesday and was immediately followed by his arrival in Washington, D.C. and a welcome from President Obama. It is the first U.S. visit for the 78-year-old pope. 

Pope Francis' Visit Means More Than Religion To Cubans

Sep 20, 2015
Al Diaz / Miami Herald

Pope Francis' arrival in Cuba was met at Havana's Plaza de la Revolución by 300,000 spectators who braved the heat Sunday morning to hear the Holy Father deliver Mass and talk about the need to serve. 

"The importance of one person is always based on how they serve the frailty of their brothers," the pope told the assembled crowd. "In this we find one of the true fruits of humanity. Because, brothers and sisters, those who don't live to serve, do not have a life worth living."

Andrew Harnik / AP

When Cuba opened its  Washington D.C.  embassy yesterday, the moment wasn’t just historic.

It also felt really ironic.

Historic, of course, because Cuba was raising its flag over the U.S. capital for the first time in 54 years. When the U.S. inaugurates its embassy in Havana on August 14, it will be the crowning moment in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two Cold War enemies.

But this might be a déja vu moment, too, because a big reason the U.S. and Cuba severed ties in 1961 was...embassies.  

Cuba's Next Communists: Why Obama Needs Them To Make Engagement Work

Apr 15, 2015
Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Cuban President Raúl Castro was the longest speaker at last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. At age 83, he was also the oldest.

And that matters as the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations after a half century of cold war – a process that on Tuesday led President Obama to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of terrorism sponsors.

It matters because President Obama says his new engagement policy isn’t meant to change Cuba overnight. It’s meant to help the U.S. influence democratic change once Castro’s generation of hardline communists is gone.

White House

Imagine a U.S. President came to the Summit of the Americas and, while criticizing the government of a certain oil-rich South American nation, remarked that he does enjoy Venezuelan salsa singers like Rubén Blades.

He’d be the butt of jokes on late-night Latin American TV – because Blades is Panamanian, not Venezuelan.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Guennady Rodriguez may be a Cuban émigré, but his musical tastes aren’t exactly counter-revolutionary.

Inside his apartment near Miami International Airport, Rodriguez likes to pull out his guitar and strum tunes by Pablo Milanés, a Cuban troubadour once considered a favorite of the Castro regime.

It’s when the 33-year-old Rodriguez puts on a suit and tie and goes to work in downtown Miami that his break with Havana becomes obvious. Rodriguez is a senior sales executive at a large international company that organizes corporate events.

AP

Talks between the U.S. and Cuba on human rights started Tuesday in Washington as part of the effort to restore diplomatic relations. And while they won’t reform Cuba overnight, rights experts say they’re at least a start - and may bring Cuba under more global scrutiny than it's used to.

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