Trump Administration Reviewing U.S. Policies Regarding Cuba

At the February 3 White House press conference, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump Administration was engaged in “a full review of all U.S. policies toward Cuba” with a focus on its human rights policies as part of the Administration’s “ensuring human rights for all citizens throughout the world.”

Such a comprehensive review has been anticipated. So far, however, no details have emerged as to how those policies might be changed.

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White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, 2/3/07, No. 8; Reuters, Trump Administration Reviewing Cuba Policy: White HOuse, N.Y. Times (Feb. 3, 2017).

Criticism of U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Agreement 

The head of New Jersey’s state police has criticized the two countries’ law enforcement agreement of January 16, 2017, because, he says, he has read the agreement and it does not require Cuba to extradite Joanne Chesimard (a/k/a Assata Shakur) to the U.S.[1]

After reviewing what we know about this woman, we will examine the police statement and provide commentary.

Chesimard/ Shakur

In the 1960s-1970s Chesimard, a U.S. citizen, was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army in the U.S. In 1977 she was convicted in New Jersey state court for aiding and abetting first-degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer (New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster), assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery during a gunfight on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973.

She was sentenced to life in New Jersey state prison, but in 1979 she escaped and in 1984 traveled to Cuba. At some time thereafter President Fidel Castro granted her asylum, and she has been living there under the name Assata Shakur. She is now around 70 years old. The FBI has listed her as one of its “Most Wanted” and offered a reward of $1 million for her apprehension; the New Jersey Attorney General has offered to match that reward.

Since at least 1997 there have been various unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. government and others to obtain her extradition to the U.S.

Statement by New Jersey State Police Superintendent

The Superintendent Rick Fuentes’ January 18 statement reads as follows:

  • “On Monday, January 16, 2017, the White House signed a law enforcement pact with the government of Cuba that included the sharing of national security information on matters related to fighting terrorism and the scourge of the international narcotics trade. I have read this pact with great interest, as any aspect of the continued negotiations to normalize relations with Cuba impacts our continued advocacy to seek the return of Joanne Chesimard. Chesimard executed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 and fled to Cuba after escaping a New Jersey prison in 1979. She is most prominent among a rogue’s gallery of cop killers and domestic terrorists that have been given sanctuary by the Castro regime these past thirty years.”
  • With a continued sense of bewilderment and confusion not uncommon to the course of these negotiations, the pact does not address the return of: Joanne Chesimard; Victor Manuel Gerena, a member of Los Macheteros who was removed from the FBI Top Ten list one month ago; Charlie Hill, a member of the Republic of New Afrika, alleged to have killed a New Mexico state trooper in 1971; or, William Guillermo Morales, the murderous bomb-maker for the Puerto Rican separatist group, FALN.”
  • “Their omission from this agreement and from the negotiations-at-large is so glaring as to signal a clear intent by the Obama Administration to ignore these fugitives. By burning the last bridge to this Administration’s opportunity to gain their negotiated return, families who have long suffered the consequences of their terrorist acts and law enforcement everywhere in this country have been shown the back of the hand. An ignominious torch has been passed to the next president.”
  • “We are not deterred. I can say, unequivocally, that Governor Chris Christie, State Attorney General Chris Porrino and I remain resolute in our efforts to follow every political course leading to the return of Joanne Chesimard and the other remaining terrorist fugitives. We approach the next presidential administration with a renewed sense of optimism and moral superiority that justice will prevail.”

Comments

The Superintendent’s statements regarding Chesimard/Shakur are believed to be basically correct, and it is most understandable that the New Jersey State Police want her extradited to the U.S. and returned to New Jersey state prison.

The Superintendent says he has read the recent MOU in question and that it does not require Cuba to make that extradition. I have not been able to locate that MOU so cannot independently verify the validity of his statement. But for present purposes I will assume that his statement about the MOU is basically correct.

I assume, on the other hand, that the MOU does not contain a U.S. agreement to not continue to seek her extradition or a Cuban statement or promise not to extradite her. If it had, I am confident that the Superintendent would have so stated and raised the ante for his protest.

He also asserts that the subject of this requested extradition has not been raised by the U.S. in “the negotiations-at-large.” Although I have not been personally involved in those negotiations, I believe this to be a false statement. As noted in earlier posts, public reports indicate that the two countries’ respective requests for extraditions of criminals or suspects, which I believe includes the U.S. request regarding Chesimard/Shakur, have been the subjects of several such bilateral negotiating sessions since December 17, 2014.

As a result, I conclude that the parties have not been able to come to an agreement about such extraditions or about a judicial procedure for resolving any such disputes. Therefore, there apparently was no mention of the subject in the MOU in question.

Moreover, the Superintendent also fails to recognize a major legal issue regarding the requested Chesimard/Shakur extradition because of an extradition treaty between the two countries. Therefore, we will look at that treaty and the issue it raises regarding this possible extradition.

U.S.-Cuba Extradition Treaty.

As explained in an earlier post,[2] on March 2, 1905, the two countries entered into such a treaty, the “Treaty between the United States and Cuba for the mutual extradition of fugitives from justice.” Under this treaty, as amended, each country shall grant extradition of persons covered by Article I for crimes covered by Article II, as amended and expanded by Articles I and II of the Additional Extradition Treaty between the parties, which entered into force on June 18, 1926.

The persons covered by Article I are “persons who, having been charged as principals, accomplices or accessories with or convicted of any crimes or offenses specified in the following article, and committed within the jurisdiction of one of the high contracting parties, shall seek an asylum or be found within the territories of the other: Provided that this shall only be done upon such evidence of criminality as, according to the laws of the place where the fugitive or person so charged shall be found, would justify his or her apprehension and commitment for trial if the crime or offense had been there committed.” This obviously covers Chesimard/Shakur, who does not fall within the exception under Article V of the treaty, “Neither of the contracting parties shall be bound to deliver up its own citizens under the stipulations of this Treaty,” unless she has been granted Cuban citizenship.

The long list of crimes covered by Article II, as amended, includes (1) “Murder, comprehending the offenses expressed in the Penal Code of Cuba as assassination, parricide, infanticide and poisoning; manslaughter, when voluntary; the attempt to commit any of these crimes.” This obviously covers the requested extradition discussed here.

Under Article VI of the original treaty, however, the requested country (Here, Cuba) is not obligated to extradite someone when the offense is of “a political character.” The exact language of this provision states, “A fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offense in respect of which his surrender is demanded be of a political character, or if it is proved that the requisition for his surrender has, in fact, been made with a view to try or punish him for an offense of a political character.” (Emphasis added.)

The only limitation on this exception is in Article VI itself, which states, “An attempt against the life of the head of a foreign government or against that of any member of his family when such attempt comprises the act either of murder, assassination, or poisoning, shall not be considered a political offense or an act connected with such an offense.” This exception, however, is not applicable to the case under consideration here.

Moreover, Article VI states, “If any question shall arise as to whether a case comes within the provisions of this article [VI], the decision of the authorities of the government on which the demand for surrender is made, or which may have granted the extradition shall be final. (emphasis added.) This exception seems to cover Chesimard/Shakur as discussed next.

The Treaty Issue Regarding Chesimard/Shakur

After fleeing to Cuba in 1984, at date unknown the Cuban government apparently granted her political asylum and perhaps Cuban citizenship. Assuming that to be the case, that appears to negate Cuba’s obligation under the treaty to extradite her to the U.S.

It is not known whether the Cuban government has the legal authority to revoke that grant of asylum (and of citizenship?) and whether it would do so in this case. However, after a bilateral negotiation session in Washington, D.C. in February 2015 Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s lead diplomat for these negotiations, said the issue of extraditing people between Cuba and the U.S. had been discussed many times in the past and that the two countries had signed a treaty on the topic in 1906 which has a clause such that it would not apply in cases involving political activities. “Therefore, Cuba has legitimately given political asylum to a small group of U.S. citizens, because we have reason to believe that they deserve this and that is how far we’ve gone. And when one grants political asylum, then you cannot get into these types of discussions.” She added that after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 the U.S. had not honored the treaty when Cuba asked the U.S. to extradite “members of the Cuban dictatorship who were responsible for terrible crimes.”[3]

In June 2016, the two countries held another negotiating session in Havana focused on counterterrorism cooperation, the subject of the January 16, 2017, MOU. Outsiders speculated that the meeting may have included discussions about a possible high-profile prisoner swap: U.S.-jailed Cuban spy Ana Belén Montes in exchange for Chesimard/Shakur). The State Department, however, has refused to confirm that such an exchange was being discussed. Instead the Department merely stated that the U.S. “continues to seek the return by Cuba of fugitives from US justice” and that the State Department “brings out the cases of fugitives to the Cuban Government to be settled and will continue to do so at every appropriate opportunity.” [4]

Therefore, unless there is some error in my analysis, the strong desire by many in New Jersey and elsewhere in the U.S. for this extradition appears to be a lost cause unless the Cuban government has the authority under its own laws to revoke the grant of asylum (and citizenship?) and chooses to exercise it. Or the Cuban government just decides to extradite her without changing her asylee or citizenship status.

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[1] Assoc. Press, With No Deal on Convicted Killer, Police Slam US-Cuba Pact, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2017),‘Goodbye, Obama! NJ State Police slams president on the way out (Jan. 18?, 2017); New Jersey State Police, Colonel Rick Fuentes’ Response to the Recently Signed U.S./Cuban Law Enforcement Pact (Jan. 18?, 2017).

[2] Issues Regarding Cuba and U.S. Extradition of the Other’s Fugitives, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 24, 2015). Moreover, the “political offense” provision of the U.S.-Cuba treaty is not sui generis, but in fact is a common provision in other U.S. extradition treaties. (Ibid.; Extradition Has Become a Hot Topic for the United States, dwkcommentaries.com (July 25, 2016).

[3] U.S. and Cuba Hold Productive Second Round of Negotiations, dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 6, 2015).

[4] U.S. and Cuba Discuss Counterterrorism Cooperation, dwkcommentaries.com (June 10, 2016).

Report for dwkcommentaries –2016 

This blog, which started on April 4, 2011, reports the following activity through December 31, 2016:

YEAR POSTS COMMENTS (by dwkcommentaries) VIEWS
2011 190        26  9,189
2012 179     170 51,164
2013   86     708 49,082
2014 138      47 58,602
2015 191      60 62,990
2016 149      55 56,831
TOTAL 933 1,066 287,858

The busiest day for 2016 and for all time was December 10, 2016, with 1,725 views. For 2016 as a whole the viewers came from 174 countries with most from the U.S.A. followed by the United Kingdom and Canada This blog has 639 followers (Facebook, 406; direct, 233).

The following were the most popular posts in 2016:

As indicated in detail in the Pages section on the left side of the home page, the posts and comments for 2011-2016 fall into the following categories (as stated in the Lists of Posts to dwkcommentaries-Topical):

  • Cuba [history and politics]
  • Education [my post-secondary education]
  • El Salvador [history and politics]
  • Law (Criminal Justice)
  • Law (International Criminal Court)
  • Law (Refugee & Asylum)
  • Law (Treaties)
  • Law (U.S. Alien Tort Statute)
  • Law (U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act)
  • Lawyering [my practice of law]
  • Miscellaneous
  • Personal [my personal background]
  • Religion [predominantly Christianity]
  • United States (History)
  • United States (Politics)

The blogger would appreciate receiving substantive comments on his posts, including corrections and disagreements.

 

 

 

New U.S. Statute Creates Another Exception to Foreign State (Sovereign) Immunity  

A controversial new federal statute—the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) –creates another exception to foreign state (sovereign) immunity in U.S. courts for certain claims regarding terrorism. Understanding this new exception first requires a look at the current law on such immunity and exceptions before we look at the new exception. This new exception, adopted by Congress’ overriding a presidential veto, has been described in the press as focused on 9/11 claims against Saudi Arabia, but it is not so limited. It also has generated a lot of controversy both before and after the congressional override, which will be examined in subsequent posts.

U.S. Law on Foreign State (Sovereign) Immunity

The underlying purpose of the U.S. statutes regarding immunity of foreign states in U.S. courts is put forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1602, which states:

  • “The Congress finds that the determination by United States courts of the claims of foreign states to immunity from the jurisdiction of such courts would serve the interests of justice and would protect the rights of both foreign states and litigants in United States courts. Under international law, states are not immune from the jurisdiction of foreign courts insofar as their commercial activities are concerned, and their commercial property may be levied upon for the satisfaction of judgments rendered against them in connection with their commercial activities. Claims of foreign states to immunity should henceforth be decided by courts of the United States and of the States in conformity with the principles set forth in this chapter.”

The basic rule of immunity is simply stated in 28 U.S.C. § 1604: “Subject to existing international agreements to which the United States is a party at the time of enactment of this Act a foreign state shall be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States and of the States except as provided in sections 1605 to 1607 of this chapter.” (Emphasis added.)

Preexisting General Exceptions to Foreign State (Sovereign) Immunity

The preexisting six general exceptions of such immunity are found in 28 U.S.C. § 1605 (a): (1) waiver of immunity; (2) certain cases relating to commercial activity; (3) certain cases relating to property in the U.S.; (4) certain cases for damage claims for torts committed in the U.S.; (5) certain cases relating to arbitration; and (6) certain admiralty cases.

 Preexisting Terrorism Exception to Foreign State (Sovereign) Immunity

The preexisting statutes in 28 U.S.C. § 1605A contained an exception to foreign state immunity for certain acts of terrorism. It provides there is no immunity for a foreign state designated by the U.S. as a “state sponsor of terrorism”[1] for claims for “money damages [by a U.S. national or a member of the U.S. armed forces or an employee or contractor of the U.S. government] . . . for personal injury or death that was caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking, or the provision of material support or resources for such an act if such act or provision of material support or resources is engaged in by an official, employee, or agent of such foreign state while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency.”

New Terrorism Exception for Foreign State (Sovereign) Immunity

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) (S.2040) (114th Cong., 2nd Sess.), which was passed by Congress on September 28 over a presidential veto, added a new terrorism exception to foreign state immunity in the U.S. Code’s Chapter on Foreign State Immunity: That new exception states as follows:

§ 1605B. Responsibility of foreign states for international terrorism against the United States”

“(a) Definition.—In this section, the term ‘international terrorism’—                         “(1) has the meaning given the term in section 2331 of title 18, United States            Code;[2] and “(2) does not include any act of war (as defined in that section).”[3]

“(b) Responsibility Of Foreign States.—A foreign state shall not be immune        from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States in any case in which           money damages are sought against a foreign state for physical injury to person or property or death occurring in the United States and caused by—“(1) an act of international terrorism in the United States; and (2) a tortious act or acts of the foreign state, or of any official, employee, or agent of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency, regardless where the tortious act or acts of the foreign state occurred.”

“(c) Claims By Nationals Of The United States.—Notwithstanding section 2337(2) of title 18, [4] a national of the United States may bring a claim against a foreign state in accordance with section 2333 of that title if the foreign state would not be immune under subsection (b).

“(d) Rule Of Construction.—A foreign state shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States under subsection (b) on the basis of an omission or a tortious act or acts that constitute mere negligence.”

JASTA also provides in its section 5 a remedy for the U.S. Attorney General to seek a stay (postponement) of any case allowed under this new exception to foreign state immunity. It states as follows:

“SEC. 5. STAY OF ACTIONS PENDING STATE NEGOTIATIONS.”

“(a) Exclusive Jurisdiction.—The courts of the United States shall have exclusive jurisdiction in any action in which a foreign state is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of the United States under section 1605B of title 28, United States Code. . .       .”

“(b) Intervention.—The Attorney General may intervene in any action in which a foreign state is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of the United States under section 1605B of title 28, United States Code, . . . for the purpose of seeking a stay of the civil action, in whole or in part.

“(c) Stay.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—A court of the United States may stay a proceeding                 against a foreign state if the Secretary of State certifies that the United States is   engaged in good faith discussions with the foreign state defendant concerning     the resolution of the claims against the foreign state, or any other parties as to       whom a stay of claims is sought.

(2) DURATION.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—A stay under this section may be granted for not more than 180 days.

(B) EXTENSION.—

(i) IN GENERAL.—The Attorney General may petition the court for an extension of the stay for additional 180-day periods.

(ii) RECERTIFICATION.—A court shall grant an extension under clause (i) if the Secretary of State recertifies that the United States remains engaged in good faith discussions with the foreign state defendant concerning the resolution of the claims against the foreign state, or any other parties as to whom a stay of claims is sought.”

Creation of New Cause of Action

In addition to the above provisions regarding a new exception to foreign state immunity, JASTA in section 2 has a lengthy statement of congressional findings and statement of its purpose and in section 4 creates the following new cause of action:

“SEC. 4. AIDING AND ABETTING LIABILITY FOR CIVIL ACTIONS REGARDING TERRORIST ACTS.

(a) In General.—Section 2333 of title 18, United States Code, [5] is amended by adding at the end the following:

(d) Liability.—

(1) DEFINITION.—In this subsection, the term ‘person’ has the meaning given   the term in section 1 of title 1. [6]

(2) LIABILITY.—In an action under subsection (a) for an injury arising from an   act of international terrorism committed, planned, or authorized by an             organization that had been designated as a foreign terrorist organization under   section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189), [7] as of the   date on which such act of international terrorism was committed, planned, or       authorized, liability may be asserted as to any person who aids and abets, by   knowingly providing substantial assistance, or who conspires with the person       who committed such an act of international terrorism.”

Conclusion

As just shown, the subject of foreign state (sovereign) immunity is a complicated and interrelated area of U.S. statutory law even without attempting to examine the case law interpreting these statutes. The new statute with the new terrorism exception to such immunity has no specific mention of Saudi Arabia or of 9/11 claims. The controversy over this statute, before and after the congressional override of the presidential veto, will be examined in subsequent posts.

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[1] This blog frequently has commented on the U.S. law regarding “state sponsor of terrorism” as it applies to Cuba. See “Cuba: State Sponsor of Terrorism?” section in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: Cuba.

[2] “International terrorism” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1) as “activities that—(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;(B) appear to be intended—(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.”

[3] “Act of war” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2331 (4) as “any act occurring in the course of—(A) declared war; (B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations; or (C) armed conflict between military forces of any origin.”

[4] 18 U.S.C. § 2337(2) provides, “No action shall be maintained under section 2333 of this title against . . . (2) a foreign state, an agency of a foreign state, or an officer or employee of a foreign state or an agency thereof acting within his or her official capacity or under color of legal authority.”

[5] 18 U.S.C. § 2333 –Civil Remedies [for international terrorism] provides in subsection (a): “Any national of the United States injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of an act of international terrorism, or his or her estate, survivors, or heirs, may sue therefor in any appropriate district court of the United States and shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney’s fees.”

[6] 1 U.S.C. § 1 defines “person” as including “corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.”

 

 

[7] 8 U.S.C. § 1189 “Designation of foreign terrorist organization” grants the Secretary of State the authority to “designate an organization as a foreign terrorist organization . . . if the Secretary finds that—(A) the organization is a foreign organization; (B) the organization engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 1182(a)(3)(B) of this title or terrorism (as defined in section 2656f(d)(2) of title 22), or retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism); and (C) the terrorist activity or terrorism of the organization threatens the security of [U.S.] nationals or the national security of the [U.S.].” https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1189#fn002037

 

Fidel Castro’s Disingenuous Criticism of President Obama Over Nuclear Weapons

As reported in a prior post, Fidel Castro on August 12, 2016, criticized President Obama over his not apologizing to Japan over the 1945 U.S. dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This criticism on its face was unfair. Although Obama in his recent speech at Hiroshima did not apologize, he recounted the horror of the bombing and stressed the need for the U.S. and other countries to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Fidel’s criticism of Obama also was disingenuous because near the end of what we call the Cuban Missile Crisis Fidel was urging the Soviet Union to conduct a nuclear attack on the U.S. and to keep its nuclear missiles in Cuba. Here are the details according to historians with access to original records.[1]

Background: The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Let us first, however, set the stage for these remarks by Fidel from what is now known.

In April 1961 at the start of the third year of the Cuban Revolution’s operation of the Cuban government, a CIA-sponsored paramilitary group conducted an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba’s de Playa Girón (the Bay of Pigs).[2]

Soon thereafter, Fidel Castro told the Cuban people, “The result of aggression against Cuba will be the start of a conflagration of incalculable consequences, and they will be affected too. It will no longer be a matter of them feasting on us. They will get as good as they give.”

In July 1961, at a secret meeting of Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev, the Premier of the Soviet Union agreed to Castro’s request to station nuclear missiles on the island to deter U.S. harassment of Cuba. Later that summer construction commenced on the sites for such missiles.

On October 14, 1962, an American U-2 spy plane making a high-altitude pass over Cuba photographed a Soviet medium-range ballistic missile being assembled for installation.[3]

On October 16, 1962, President Kennedy was briefed about the situation, and he immediately called together a group of advisors and officials. For nearly the next two weeks, the president and his team wrestled with this weighty crisis as did their counterparts in the Soviet Union.

On October 22, 1962, in a national television broadcast President Kennedy notified the American people about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to enact a naval blockade of shipping to and from Cuba and made it clear that the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to U.S. national security.

On October 24, Soviet ships bound for Cuba neared the line of U.S. vessels enforcing the blockade, but stopped short of the blockade.

On October 26, Khrushchev sent a message to Kennedy offering to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for a promise by U.S. leaders not to invade Cuba. The letter stated, “Let us then display statesmenlike wisdom. I propose: we, for our part, will declare that our ships bound for Cuba are not carrying any armaments. You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity for the presence of our military specialists in Cuba will be obviated.”

The following day, the Soviet leader sent a second letter proposing that the Soviets would dismantle its missiles in Cuba if the Americans removed their missile installations in Turkey.

The Kennedy administration decided to accept the terms of the first letter, and on October 28, Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General, hand delivered to the Soviet Ambassador in Washington the administration’s letter accepting the terms of the first message. (The administration officially ignored the second letter, but privately agreed to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey.)

On October 28, the immediate crisis drew to a close with a joint U.S. and Soviet announcement of the agreement.

On November 20, 1962, after all Soviet offensive missiles and light bombers had been withdrawn from Cuba, the blockade was formally ended.

Fidel’s Urging Nuclear Armageddon and Nuclear Missiles in Cuba

In the midst of this crisis Fidel strenuously objected to the Soviets removing nuclear missiles from Cuba and pleaded for those missiles to remain on the island. “Castro fumed. He had been bypassed in negotiations between the two superpowers. Set on keeping the nuclear warheads [on the island], he began to chafe at his handlers in Moscow.”

On October 26, Castro summoned the Soviet Ambassador, Aleksandr Alekseev, to the Cuban command post. Fidel could not understand why Soviet troops in Cuba were sitting on their hands while American planes were flying over the island with impunity. He urged them to start shooting at U-2 spy planes with surface-to-air missiles and suggested that Cuban troops should begin firing on low-flying planes with antiaircraft guns, contrary to Soviet wishes. Alekseev promised to relay Castro’s complaints to the Kremlin.

Very early the next day, October 27, Castro, unaware of Kennedy and Khrushchev’s progress toward a deal, decided to send a cable to Khrushchev, encouraging him to use his nuclear weapons to destroy the United States in the event of an invasion of Cuba. At 3:00 a.m., he arrived at the Soviet Embassy in Havana and told Ambassador Alekseev that they should go into the bunker beneath the embassy because a U.S. attack was imminent. According to declassified Soviet cables, a groggy but sympathetic Alekseev agreed, and soon they were set up underground with Castro dictating and aides transcribing and translating a letter.

Castro became frustrated, uncertain about what to say. After nine drafts, with the sun rising, Alekseev finally confronted Castro: are you asking Comrade Khrushchev to deliver a nuclear strike on the U.S.? Castro responded, “If they attack Cuba, we should wipe them off the face of the earth!” Alekseev was shocked, but he dutifully assisted Castro in fine-tuning the 10th and final draft of the cable and then cabled it to Moscow.

That cable stated that in the event of an American invasion, “the danger that that aggressive policy poses for humanity is so great that following that event the Soviet Union must never allow the circumstances in which the imperialists could launch the first nuclear strike against it.” A U.S. invasion of Cuba “would be the moment to eliminate such danger forever through an act of clear, legitimate defense however harsh and terrible the solution would be, for there is no other.”

Premier Khrushchev, according to his son and biographer, received the Castro cable in the midst of a tense leadership meeting and shouted, “This is insane; Fidel wants to drag us into the grave with him!” Khrushchev had not understood that Castro believed that Cuba was doomed, that war was inevitable, and that the Soviets should transform Cuba from a mere victim into a world martyr.

To calm Castro down, Khrushchev in early November sent Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan to Havana. Mikoyan initially told Castro he could keep the tactical nukes that had escaped U.S. notice. On November 20, Castro instructed Cuba’s U.N. ambassador to tell the world that Cuba possessed tactical nuclear warheads, but that announcement was never made because Mikoyan said all Soviet missiles had to be removed from the island.

This rescission happened on November 22 after Mikoyan on his own had concluded that Castro could not be trusted and that the USSR could not control Cuba. Mikoyan told Castro that a Soviet law — which did not exist — banned a permanent transfer to the Cubans. Fidel responded, “So you have a law that prohibits transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to other countries? It’s a pity. And when are you going to repeal that law?” Mikoyan merely said, “We will see.”

Conclusion

When, Fidel, did you offer an apology for your 1962 efforts to threaten the United States and the world with nuclear Armageddon? You are not a wizened guru of world peace.

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[1] Bright & Lang, How Castro Held the World Hostage, N.Y. Times (Oct. 25, 2012); Bright & Lang, The Armageddon Letters: Kennedy/Khrushchev/Castro in the Cuban MIssile Crisis (2012); Mikoyan & Savranskaya (ed.), The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Missiles (2012); Cuban Missile Crisis’ Untold Story: Casto Almost Kept Nuclear Warheads on the Island, Huff. Post (Oct. 15, 2012). James G. Blight and Janet M. Lang are professors at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) and the authors of “The Armageddon Letters: Kennedy/Khrushchev/Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Many of the documents mentioned above have been donated to George Washington University’s National Security Archive by the son of Anastas Mikoyan, Sergo Mikoyan, who with the Archive’s researcher, Svetlana Savranskaya, co-authored the previously mentioned “The Soviet Cuba Missile Crisis.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[2] Invasion of Bar of Pigs, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Pigs_Invasion

 

[3] Cuban Missile Crisis, History, http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cuban-missile-crisis

Nikita– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev

 

President Obama and Others Call for Republicans To Stop Backing Donald Trump

On August 2 at the White House President Obama said Donald Trump was “unfit to serve as president” and urged the leaders of the Republican Party to withdraw their backing for his candidacy.   This comment was part of a lengthy response to a reporter’s question at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Lee of Singapore. Many others have been voicing similar comments.

President Obama’s Statement[1]

President Obama
President Obama

“I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as President.  I said so last week, and he keeps on proving it.  The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, means that he’s woefully unprepared to do this job.”

“And this is not just my opinion. . . . [There also have been] repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans, including the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader, and prominent Republicans like John McCain. . . . [They] have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?  What does this say about your party that this is your standard bearer?  This isn’t a situation where you have an episodic gaffe.  This is daily, and weekly, where they are distancing themselves from statements he’s making.  There has to be a point in which you say, this is not somebody I can support for President of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party.”

“And the fact that that has not yet happened makes some of these denunciations ring hollow.  I don’t doubt their sincerity.  I don’t doubt that they were outraged about some of the statements that Mr. Trump and his supporters made about the Khan family.  But there has to come a point at which you say somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.”

“This “is different than just having policy disagreements.  I recognize that they all profoundly disagree with myself or Hillary Clinton on tax policy or on certain elements of foreign policy.  But there have been Republican Presidents with whom I disagreed with, but I didn’t have a doubt that they could function as President.  I think I was right, and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn’t do the job.  And had they won, I would have been disappointed, but I would have said to all Americans . . . this is our President, and I know they’re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy and our constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work, and then we’ll compete four years from now to try to win an election.”

“But that’s not the situation here.  And that’s not just my opinion; that is the opinion of many prominent Republicans.  There has to come a point at which you say, enough.  And the alternative is that the entire party, the Republican Party, effectively endorses and validates the positions that are being articulated by Mr. Trump. . . . [But] I don’t think that actually represents the views of a whole lot of Republicans.”

Others’ Comments About Trump

Meg Whitman
Meg Whitman

Similar thoughts were offered the same day by a prominent Republican and Hewlett Packard executive, Meg Whitman. Saying that Mr. Trump was “a dishonest demagogue” who could lead the country “on a very dangerous journey,” Whitman announced that she supported Hillary Clinton, including making a substantial donation to her campaign. Whitman also stated that she “absolutely” stood by her comments at a private gathering of Republican donors this year comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler and Mussolini.[2]

Richard Hanna
Richard Hanna

Representative Richard Hanna, Republican of New York, who called Mr. Trump “unfit to serve.” The Congressman added, “I was stunned by the callousness of his comments [about the Kahns]. I think Trump is a national embarrassment. Is he really the guy you want to have the nuclear codes?” The Representative also announced that he was planning to vote for Mrs. Clinton in the November election.[3]

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House and a loyal Trump supporter said,

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s most loyal defenders, warned that his friend was in danger of throwing away the election and helping to make Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton president unless he quickly changes course. Said Gingrich, “The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable. Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.” More generally “a feeling of despair and despondence . . . [has fallen] over the Republican establishment.” [4a]

Other advocates for Republicans to withdraw their endorsements and support for Mr. Trump were a Wall Street Journal editor, as discussed in a prior post; and the editorial board of the New York Times[4] and the Washington Post;[5] conservative columnist Michael Gerson; [6] conservative author and pubic servant, Robert Kagan;[7] University of Chicago Professor Harold Pollack;[8] and many other Republicans.[9]

From France came this comment by President François Hollande. He said Mr. Trump’s comments on the Khan family were “hurtful and humiliating” and his “excesses end up making you feel like you want to retch.”[10]

 Trump’s Reactions

Mr. Trump’s response to all this negative news? More of the same. On August 2 he said he had no regrets about his clash with the Khan family ; he declined to endorse for re-election several Republicans who had criticized him, including the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who both face primaries this month.; and he had harsh words for Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who had criticized his treatment of the Khans.[11]

The Republican vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence, however, on August 3 endorsed his “longtime friend” and a “strong conservative leader.” Paul Ryan. According to Pence, he had discussed his endorsement of Ryan with Trump on Wednesday morning and Trump had “strongly encouraged me to endorse Paul Ryan in next Tuesday’s primary.” [11a]

What will Trump now say about the federal judge of Mexican heritage, who on August 2 denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the case alleging that he had “knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud” with respect to Trump University. Instead, the judge ruled that this was an issue of fact that had to be resolved at trial.[12]

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[1] White House, Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Lee of Singapore at Joint Press Conference (Aug, 2, 2016); Shear, Obama Says Republicans Should Withdraw Support for TrumpN.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2016). 

[2] Meg Whitman, Calling Donald Trump a ‘Demagogue,’ Will Support Hillary Clinton for President, N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2016).

[3] Burns, House Republican Backs Hillary Clinton, Calling Donald Trump ‘Unfit to Service,” N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2016).

[4] Editorial, Mr. Trump and Spineless Republicans, N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2016).

[4a] Rucker & Balz, GOP reaches ‘new level of panic’ over Trump’s candidacy, Wash. Post (Aug. 3, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gop-reaches-new-level-of-panic-over-trumps-candidacy/2016/08/03/de461880-5988-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_gop-120pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory.

[5] Editorial, Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy, Wash. Post (July 22, 2016); Editorial, Is the G.O.P. turning on Mr. Trump?, Wash. Post (Aug.1, 2016) ttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-the-gop-turning-on-mr-trump/2016/08/01/70b0a02c-581d-11e6-9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html.

[6] Gerson, Dear Republican leaders: it’s not too late to dump Trump, Wash. Post (Aug. 1, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republican-leaders–its-not-too-late-to-repudiate-trump/2016/08/01/6e9db5b4-5812-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html?tid=hybrid_collaborative_1_na.

[7] Kagan, There is something very wrong with Donald Trump, Wash, Post (Aug. 1, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/there-is-something-very-wrong-with-donald-trump/2016/08/01/73809c72-57fe-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html?tid=a_inl.

[8] Pollack, Joe McCarthy was brought down by attacks on his decency. Trump will lose the same way, Wash. Post (Aug. 1, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/08/01/joe-mccarthy-was-brought-down-by-attacks-on-his-decency-trump-will-lose-the-same-way/?tid=a_inl.

[9] Blake, A former Christie aide is latest Republican to back Clinton, and the list is growing, Wash. Post (Aug. 2, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/30/heres-the-growing-list-of-big-name-republicans-supporting-hillary-clinton/.

[10] Breeden, France’s President Says Trump’s ‘Excesses’ Make People ‘Want to Retch,’ N.Y. times (Aug. 3, 2016) . http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/world/europe/francois-hollande-donald-trump.html?ref=world&_r=0.

[11] Burns, Ignoring Advice, Donald Trump Presses Attacks on Khan Family and G.O.P. Leaders, N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2016) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/us/politics/donald-trump-gop.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fus&action=click&contentCollection=us&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront; Corasanti, Donald Trump Refuses to Endorse Paul Ryan and John McCain, N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/us/politics/donald-trump-refuses-to-endorse-paul-ryan-and-john-mccain.html?ref=politics.

[11a] Johnson, Mike Pence ‘strongly’ endorses Paul Ryan, as Trump refuses to do the same, Wash. Post (Aug. 3, 2016),https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/08/03/mike-pence-strongly-endorses-paul-ryan-as-trump-refuses-to-do-the-same/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_pence-2pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory.

[12] Eder, Federal Judge Allows Suit Against Trump University to Proceed, N.Y. Times Aug. 2, 2016) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/us/politics/trump-university-case.html?

 

 

Other Reactions to Fidel Castro’s Commentary on President Obama’s Visit 

Fidel’s commentary on President Obama’s recent visit to Cuba, which was discussed in an earlier post, has received a lot of coverage in the international press, but most articles merely summarize what Fidel said with little analysis. Here are substantive reactions to Fidel’s commentary.

Sebastian Arcos’ Reaction

The Wall Street Journal offered an analysis by Sebastian A. Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, who said Fidel is “essentially an old man ranting in the background, [his essay is} rambling, it’s incoherent. It’s definitely not on topic.” This is consistent to my reaction as stated in the prior post.[1]

Yoani Sanchez’s Reactions

My prior post also expressed disagreement with Fidel’s assertion that Cuba could produce all the food it needed. According to the Wall Street Journal, this assertion also was challenged by Yoani Sanchez, a dissident Cuban blogger, She points out that cash-strapped Cuba spends nearly $2 billion a year importing 80% of the food that its 11 million residents consume. Yoani also reported that Mr. Obama’s speech has been distributed extensively on the island, with high-resolution videos of the address on computer memory drives.

Christopher Sabatini’s Reactions

Another point of disagreement with Fidel, as noted in the prior post, was regarding his contention that the Cuban Revolution had swept away racial discrimination.

Also disagreeing with this Fidel contention is Christopher Sabatini, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and director of Global Americans, a research institute focused on the foreign policy of human rights and social inclusion. He says that Cuba’s purported racial utopia is a myth. Sabatini contends that according to a 2011 study “’black and mixed populations, on average, are concentrated in the worst housing conditions’ and tend to work in lower-paying, manual-labor jobs.” Moreover, racial “structural disparities have increased” with “blacks and mestizos occupy[ing] only 5 percent of the lucrative higher-end jobs (managers and technicians) in the tourism industry but are heavily represented in low-level jobs.” Yet another index of racial disparities was foreign remittances to Cubans “overwhelmingly go[ing] . . . to its non-black population.”[2]

Another myth about Cuba, says Sabatini, is the alleged greatness of the Cuban health system. Although there have been health-care advances in Cuba with Cuban life-expectancy the second-highest in Latin America at 79.1 years and although Cuba justifiably is proud of its medical education and sending its physicians to other countries, “advanced health care is flagging” in Cuba with “the health system used by average Cubans in crisis” and hospitals “generally poorly maintained and short of staff and medicines.”

I am not a physician and do not have personal knowledge on this issue, but on my first visit to Cuba in 2002 I visited a polyclinic in the city of Matanzas and observed poor, unsanitary conditions, and on every mission trip to Cuba members of my church always take large supplies of over-the-counter medicines that the church then dispenses as a de facto pharmacy. In addition, an Ecuadorian ophthalmologist and a retired emergency room physician have told me that they have had to solve medical problems created by poor care from visiting Cuban medical personnel, but I do not know if these are isolated or widespread instances.

 White House Reactions

On March 28 White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made extensive comments about Fidel’s commentary and the President’s visit to Cuba. The Secretary said, “the fact that [Fidel Castro] . . . felt compelled to respond so forcefully to the President’s visit . . . is an indication of the significant impact of President Obama’s visit to Cuba.  We obviously were quite pleased with the reception that President Obama received from the Cuban people.  [We are] . . . also pleased with the kind of conversations that President Obama was able to have with other Cuban government officials.  There was an opportunity for us to discuss what additional steps can be taken to normalize relations between our two countries.”[3]

Earnest continued, “The President made clear time and time again, both in private meetings with President [Raúl] Castro, but also in public when he delivered a speech to the Cuban people, that the U.S. commitment to human rights is rock-solid, and that’s not going to change.  And we’re going to continue to be leading advocates — and President Obama is going to continue to be a leading advocate — for universal human rights, not just in the Western Hemisphere but around the world.”

“And the kind of engagement that President Obama was able to pursue in the context of his visit is the kind of engagement that would not have been possible had he not made the trip.  The President was able to go to Cuba and urge President [Raúl] Castro in person about the importance of human rights.  The President was able to stand before a news conference, the assembled global media, and make a forceful case for the Cuban government to better protect universal human rights.  That also created a venue where a couple of your colleagues were able to ask President [Raúl] Castro about this issue directly.

That’s the kind of thing that’s never happened before.  And there’s no denying that creates some additional pressure on the Cuban government.  And again, the fact that the former President [Fidel Castro] felt compelled to respond I think is an indication that the trip had its intended effect.“

Ernest also said the U.S. was “ constantly in a position to be urging the government of Cuba to do a better job of protecting the universal human rights of their people, but we’re also making a specific push to look out for those that we know are being targeted because of their political views.  So that is to say our call for greater respect for human rights on the island of Cuba is both a generalized call about respecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people, but it’s also a specific call about making sure that individuals who have been victimized or targeted or rounded up or tortured because of their political views are freed.”

“Those efforts are going to continue.  And importantly, the United States and our government is not the only one encouraging Cuba to take these important steps.”

“One of the benefits of this policy change that the President has announced is that, for a long time, our policy toward Cuba served as an impediment to our relations with other countries throughout the hemisphere.  And for a long time, we saw countries in the Western Hemisphere who were more focused on the U.S. policy toward Cuba than they were on the policy of the Cuban government toward its own people.  Now that impediment has been removed, and now we are seeing greater scrutiny applied toward the Cuban government and, frankly, tougher questions being raised about the way that the Cuban government treats its own people.  That’s a helpful thing.  And that added pressure will only be a good thing for the Cuban people in the long run.”

“The President did have an opportunity in the course of his conversations to make clear that the kind of work that’s currently being done in law enforcement channels to try to coordinate the return of some of these fugitives is a priority of his.  And he made that clear at the highest levels of the Cuban government.  And we’re going to continue to push for those kinds of issues to be resolved because they’re a genuine irritant in our relationship.”

In “every meeting that the President had with a Latin American leader in the first few years of his presidency, . . . that at some point, the discussion was actually consumed by the nonsensical U.S. policy toward Cuba.  And that was getting in the way of the ability of the United States to engage in the kinds of conversations that actually are helpful to our national security interests.  And in some cases, that actually has opened up and created space for the President to have a conversation with other world leaders about the human rights situation in Cuba, which, after all, is actually the whole point of this exercise and was the point of that policy.  And that’s why the President viewed it as a failed policy that had negative consequences for our relationship with other countries in Latin America — that too often they were talking about the embargo and not about the serious human rights situation inside of Cuba.”

Cuban Foreign Minister’s Reactions

On March 29 Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that ending the embargo (blockade) had to be the unilateral act of the U.S. It would not be the result of any negotiation with Cuba or any concessions by Cuba. He also said the U.S. still has the strategic objective of dominating Cuba economically and politically, but that Cuba would never give up the principles of the Revolution or its independence. This point was made, Rodriguez said, in the timely reflection of Fidel Castro with his extraordinary historical authority when he said Cuba does not need gifts from the U.S.[4]

Conclusion

In short, Fidel Castro overstates the case for the Cuban Revolution. Yes, it has made improvements in many aspects of Cuban life. But the Revolution did not create an utopia. Cuba is neither heaven nor hell. There is still room for improvement. The same is true of the U.S., as President Obama acknowledged in his speech to the Cuban people.

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[1] Vyas, Fidel Castro Lashes Out at Obama After Cuba Visit, W.S.J. (Mar. 28, 2016)

[2] Sabatini, 5 myths about Cuba, Wash. Post (Mar. 25, 2016),

[3] White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh earnest, 3/28/2016 Also on March 28, a U.S. Department of State spokesman said Fidel Castro “can speak for himself and his views of the troubled U.S.-Cuban history. . . . [The U.S.] believes “engagement’s the best way forward. . . . Nobody expected that the normalization process with Cuba was going to be linear or easy or quick. We all recognize there are still differences – human rights being one of them.”.

[4] Prensa Latina, End the blockade must be US unilateral act, Granma (Mar. 29, 2016).