“El sinker” and the end of “Fidel beisbol”

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For non-baseball fans, the “sinker” is a wicked pitch that breaks down and fools the hitter.     The major leagues is full of good pitchers who throw the sinker and force batters to hit ground balls to end scoring threats.    “The sinker” is a cousin of the curve and slider, two other wicked pitches that have broken lots of hearts over the years.

Cuba went 1-2 in the first and 0-3 in the second round.   They were eventually eliminated by the Netherlands, a team with major leaguers like Jurickson Profar, Didi Gregorius, Xander Bogaerts, and several pitchers with major or AAA experience.   I don’t know how many of these players have ever been to the Netherlands but they’ve spent their last summers with the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Can you imagine the poor Cuban manager?   He is a veteran of international competition.  He must have been looking at his squad and longing for the days when they played junior college teams from the U.S. and amateur baseball clubs from the world.     There were no Profars, Gregoriuses, or Bogaerts in those old Dutch teams!

There were no “sinkers” in those tournaments!

So what happened to Cuban baseball?  Why was Cuba dispatched so easily this time around?

The first reason is competition, or as someone said this is not “Los Pan Americanos” or those amateur Pan American Games where Cuban teams beat up teams over the years.

Am I the only person who saw Cuban hitters rattled by “breaking” pitches that they had never seen before?  In the past, these hitters hit doubles.  Today, they are ground balls that turn into easy double plays.

“La curva or el sinker” will get you everytime, specially if you don’t see it on a regular basis!

The second reason is defections. In other words, most of the best young players defect as soon as they have a chance.

Ben Strauss wrote about it last year when the Rays played an exhibition game in Havana. By the way, he is referring to earlier tournaments not the 2017 WBC. The results are the same:

According to one estimate, 150 Cuban ballplayers defected last year, leaving the national team’s ranks awfully thin.

The Cuban team, once an international powerhouse, has been underperforming lately.

It won a bronze medal in last year’s Pan-American games in Toronto, but lost in the quarterfinals of the Premiere 12 tournament last fall in Asia.

Earlier this year, in the Caribbean Series tournament, the Cuban team posted just a 1-4 record.

Adding insult to injury, the last remaining superstar in Cuba, Yulieski Gourriel, defected after the Caribbean Series in February with his brother, Lourdes Jr., a promising young player.

 

I guess that word is out in Cuba that “los Yankis” will pay you well to play ball.  So long to playing for “la patria” or the Cuban way.

Before his death last year, I used to hear my father’s stories of major leaguers playing in the pre-Castro winter league.  My dad saw a very young Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson right before they became regulars with their teams.

Cuban baseball was really good back then because you were facing major league talent, as you can learn from the great book “The Pride of Havana.

Cuban baseball is not the best anymore, another consequence of “socialismo.”

Regime change will bring freedom to the island and introduce  “el sinker” to Cuban baseball.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

1996: A deadly weekend for US citizens over international waters

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Thank you to all of my fellow contributors for remembering the terrible events of February 1996.   Let me add a couple of thoughts:

This incident was a low point in U.S.-Cuba relations.  The U.S.-registered aircraft were destroyed while looking for rafters in international waters.  Cuba had no reason to shoot down planes on a humanitarian mission.

Furthermore, Cuba has never taken responsibility for this lawless action.

Nevertheless, a U.S. flag now flies in Cuba, not far from where dissidents continue to be arrested.

And no one reminded President Obama that Cuba has never fulfilled the requirements that President Clinton and the U.S. Congress imposed after the shooting:

to work with Congress to pass the so-called Helms-Burton legislation which would tighten the existing U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The president said he would ask Congress to permit him to use some of the approximately $100 million in frozen Cuban assets in the U.S. to compensate the families of the four missing Cuban-American pilots and crew members.

Clinton also announced additional punitive measures, among them:

tighter restrictions on the movement of Cuban officials in the United States; efforts to increase funding to help the U.S. government’s Radio Marti overcome Cuba’s jamming of its broadcasts; suspension of all commercial charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba.

 

Yes, many of President Obama’s overtures toward Cuba violated what Congress passed in 1996.    Then again, did President Obama ever care about the law?

What happens when a hostile country shoots U.S. citizens on a humanitarian mission? I guess that you reestablish relations and don’t demand accountability.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

 

“Clean sheets” not the embargo is the reason tourists go somewhere else

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Our friend Carlos Eire alerted us to the article about tourism problems in Cuba.

Let me tell you about a Dallas couple that just went to Cuba.    They were curious and took a trip to see the island.   We spoke recently about it and the trip was not really what they expected.   In other words, Cuba lacks the infrastructure that Cancun, Jamaica and other places have.

Not a shock, frankly.

Cuba is not ready to handle U.S. tourists who are accustomed to better facilities in Cancun or Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. After all, who wants to go on vacation to an island with 1959 infrastructure? Cuba’s communist system spent a lot of money on the military, prisons and telling gullible U.S. college professors about their health care programs. Unfortunately, they did little to improve such basics as water pipelines, the electricity grid or having hotels with clean sheets.

There is another reason. Cuba is competing with countries that have been marketing to U.S. tourists for decades.

It all reminds me of a conversation I had with an older couple years ago. They went to Varadero, Cuba for their honeymoon. The lady said that Cuba was a popular honeymoon destination back in the 1950s. Back then, the hotels were private and well run, the restaurants were first class and hygiene was not a problem.

Cuba today is not that way. It won’t be that way for a long time. So don’t expect a lot of Americans to go to Cuba.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

“Yankis go home” is now “Yankis to the rescue”

mckee cuba obama you drive a hard bargain

Some of us are old enough to remember the “yankis go home” placards in Cuba.    Today, we learned that American Airlines opened an office in Havana:

American Airlines formally opened an office in Havana on Wednesday, and an executive said the company will move ahead with its plans for Cuba despite uncertainty over what President Donald Trump’s administration will bring.

The inauguration of the office came two months after American Airlines flew the first scheduled commercial flight from the U.S. to Havana in more than 50 years. Several airlines had begun routes to other Cuban cities earlier and before that there were costly charter flights.

The U.S. company said the flight and the office reflected the company’s commitment to doing business on the island after President Barack Obama initiated detente with Cuba.

This is shameful and it may be even illegal given the embargo.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Where were the marches about the Cubans?

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The airports are a bit crowded today with people protesting President Trump’s latest executive order.

Yet, they were empty when President Obama blocked the Cubans, or for that matter when Mexico deported some back to the island.

Rep. Diaz Balart of South Florida pointed out the double standard:

Obama on January 12 ended the nation’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy which for the past two decades had allowed Cubans to remain legally in the United States if they were able to set foot on U.S. land.
The Cuban government had been seeking an end to the policy and it followed Obama’s decision to renew diplomatic and economic ties with the country, which is still controlled by a dictatorship.

We ask again: what happened to the self righteous marchers? The answer is that George Soros did not want to pay for a march against President Obama.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Week 1: Trump reverses an abortion policy

 

This is good news, especially if you believe that abortion is wrong.

President Trump reversed one of President Obama’s most odious executive orders on abortion:

President Trump on Monday reversed the Obama administration’s 2009 decision that let the money flow. The decision means nonprofits abroad will have to end patient counseling in which abortion is mentioned or forgo U.S. dollars.
The rule is known as the “Mexico City policy” by its supporters and the “global gag rule” by its foes. It was first instituted by President Ronald Reagan during a conference in Mexico City in 1984.

Elections have consequences.    Hillary Clinton would not have signed this order.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

The Abolition of the Wet Foot-Dry Foot Immigration Policy Not A Bad Move

Following is my latest letter-to-the-editor that the Washington Times published on January 20, 2017.

Mr. Antonio Benedí bemoans the repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy by President Obama (“Obama’s betrayal of the Cuban people,” Web, Jan. 17). Said policy puts Cubans who reach U.S. soil on a fast track to permanent residency. He and I disagree on this issue.

First, let’s correct the record. Mr. Benedí indicates that this policy was put in place in response to former President Bill Clinton’s handling of the Elian Gonzalez incident. This is simply not factual. The policy was started in 1995 by President Clinton as a preventive measure against a mass exodus of Cuban refugees after Fidel Castro threatened another exodus of Cubans to protest the U.S. embargo. The Elian Gonzalez incident took place in 2000, long after the policy was firmly in place.

President Obama’s decision to abolish the “wet foot, dry foot” rule was the right one to take, and it’s been long overdue. When most Cubans who benefitted from this policy in the past returned to Communist Cuba repeatedly after obtaining their residency by living for one year and one day in the United States, it transformed them from political refugees to economic immigrants. They ceased to be “political refugees” — people afraid to return to their home countries for fear their lives would be endangered. To afford these Cubans special privileges that were denied immigrants of other nationalities was in itself discriminatory and challenging to our fair-play values. So kudos to President Obama for ending this “pachanga” once and for all.

To restore freedom and democracy to Communist Cuba, it is the Cubans who have to trigger a ‘Cuban Spring.’ The “wet foot, dry foot” policy provided an escape valve to shirk this responsibility. It provided the Cuban government with a lifeline into the future by getting rid of most of the regime’s dissenters. Those dissidents who remained in Cuba were then either locked up in Cuban gulags or killed by Communist thugs. With the repeal of the policy, there will be enough dissidents in Cuba to provide the spark for the liberation movement that will untie the chains that have oppressed Cuban citizens for over 57 years.

To view Mr. Benedí’s op-ed, click on http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/17/obamas-betrayal-of-the-cuban-people/

Obama throws Cubans to the sharks

 

 

We are just starting to live with the change implemented by the Obama administration. It’s a whole new game for people coming from the island.      There is even confusion at airports, as we’ve seen reported in these pages.

This is from the Augusta Chronicle:

Obama said in a White House statement that Cuban migrants now will be treated “the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”

Really? Like the migrants who practically cartwheel across our porous border with Mexico every day? The difference is, Cuban refugees face certain political persecution upon their return to Cuba.

This is amazing.

Over the last few years, the Obama administration has watched thousands of people walk over the border without penalty.    We were told that it was in our humane tradition to take people looking for a new opportunity or running away from cartel violence in Central America.

I guess not sending them back to Guatemala is humane but people from Cuba should go back.   Really, Mr. President?

My sense is that this is a cheap shot against Cuban Americans, who put Donald Trump over the top in Florida.   

President Obama’s embrace of the Castro dictatorship did not go over well and Cuban Americans decided to vote GOP!       

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

 

Obama’s timing on Cubans raises some questions

mckee cuba obama you drive a hard bargain

(My new American Thinker post)

Over the last few years, many of my Latin American friends have asked the same question: Why do you Cubans get preferential treatment?

The answer is complex but it is based on the reality that we come from a communist dictatorship devoid of any human rights. In other words, things may be bad in Mexico but they have multiparty elections and a free press. Mexican immigrants are usually looking for economic opportunities not political freedom.

Also, to be fair, it is also true that Cubans are concentrated in Florida, a state with the third largest electoral votes on the map.

On Thursday, President Obama decided to cancel the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy that has allowed Cubans to claim legal status if they make it here.

My initial reaction was twofold:

First, why now? We will have a new president in a week. Why make this decision at this stage of the transition? Was Mr. Trump consulted?

This decision puts president-elect Trump in a difficult position. He can accept the decision and irritate the Cuban-Americans who put him over the top in Florida, or he can restore special treatment of Cubans and risk attacks that other immigrants are being treated differently.

Second, can President Obama even do this? Can a President reverse an immigration policy? Didn’t his executive order about “the dreamers” run into a wall last year?

What happens now? My guess is that some human rights group will challenge the decision because no one knows what will happen to the Cubans returned, as Senator Marco Rubio indicated.

Also, did President Obama get any concessions from Raul Castro that these Cubans won’t be treated like “traitors” when they go back? In the past, returning Cubans have been targeted by the regime.

My hope is that President Trump reverses Obama’s decision and calls on Cuba to make some concessions, such as a guarantee that these Cubans will not be targeted. It could be part of a new deal with Cuba that is based on helping the Cuban people rather than making a deal for the sake of making a deal.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

US-Cuba trade numbers hard to follow

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(My new American Thinker post)

According to the Obama administration, there is a lot of trading going on with Cuba.  After further review, there is not a lot of trading at all.  In fact, the difference may be somewhere between the $6 billion that the Obama administration is projecting and about $380 million in real commerce going on.

This is from The Miami Herald:

The Obama Administration has said that trade with Cuba could reach up to $6 billion under its new policies, but U.S. companies in fact exported barely $380 million worth of goods to the island since the beginning of the thaw in bilateral relations two years ago.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said early last year that her department had issued 490 licenses to companies trying to do business with Cuba valued at $4.3 billion. More recently, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that since late 2014 “more than $6 billion in trade has been initiated between Cuba and the United States since then, which obviously has an important economic benefit here in the United States.”

Experts said the administration is exaggerating, and that those numbers must be put in better context.

Well, put me down as one who never bought this nonsense that Cuba and the U.S. were doing $6 billion in trade.

First, let’s understand that these are the people who told us you could keep your health care policy if we wanted to.  How did that one work out?  Not hard to be skeptical after that or the nonsense about ISIS being the J.V. team!

Second, as the article confirms, Cuba’s economy is not growing.  Cuba’s GDP grew by 0.9% in 2016.  Cuba’s GDP is $81 billion.  How can the U.S. and Cuba be doing $6 billion in trade?

Third, Cuba does not have the liquidity to pay for all of these U.S. goods or services.  This is because no one is lending Cuba any money, and the US embargo cuts off access to credit lines in the U.S.

Fourth, the article points out that U.S. exports to Cuba, food items such as chicken, soya, and corn, actually fell since the Obama administration eased sanctions on Cuba.

So be cautious with all those expectations about how opening up Cuba would lead to all of those opportunities on the island.

In other words, there are no opportunities, unless you want to build a hotel to fly in U.S. tourists.  Of course, such investments require you to have the Cuban government as your partner – the family business, that is!

How can you expect a country with very little purchasing power to buy anything?

We say it again: the Obama policy toward Cuba has not really benefited U.S. companies or the Cuban people.  It has been pretty good for the Castros and the thugs who protect them.

In time, a free Cuba could return to the economic relationship it had with the U.S. before 1961.  It won’t happen anytime soon as long as the aforementioned family is running the island for its own gain.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

1961: US broke diplomatic relations with Cuba

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On this day in 1961, the US broke diplomatic relations with Cuba.  It was a sign that the US had lost patience with the Castro regime.

It happened at the end of the Eisenhower administration. We assume that it had the consent of the incoming Kennedy team.

My father, who passed away a year ago, told me that most people were very disillusioned at this point with Castro.   No elections.   Political prisoners.   And we know that many were getting ready to confront him in April 1961.

Also, the Kennedy-Nixon debates a few months before had raised some expectations about a change coming to Cuba soon.

Relations were broken, opportunities were missed at The Bay of Pigs and The Missile Crisis.   The sum of it all was misery for the Cuban people, specially the ones who stayed behind.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

2017: ‘Muy malo’ for Cuba

 

(My new American Thinker post)

For 10 years, Raul has benefited a lot from having Fidel around. Fidel always showed up at the big celebrations or wrote a column.

Forget that. It won’t be pretty in 2017, as we see in this report from the AP:

Castro must manage these twin economic and diplomatic challenges during a year of transition. The 85-year-old general has promised to hand over the office in early 2018 to a successor, widely expected to be Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 56-year-old official with neither the Castro name nor revolutionary credentials. The change will occur without Castro’s older brother Fidel, the revolutionary leader whose largely unseen presence endowed the system he created with historical weight and credibility in the eyes of many Cubans before he died last month at 90.

“Even if those two events hadn’t taken place — Trump’s victory and Fidel’s death — 2017 was going to be a very difficult year for Cuba,” said Cuban economist Omar Everleny Perez, a visiting professor at Keio University in Tokyo.

Cuba publishes few credible economic statistics, but experts expect the country to end this year with gross domestic product growth of 1 percent or less. It maintained a rate close to 3 percent from 2011-2015.

By the way, it’s nice to see an analyst admit that Cuba produces very little credible economic data. This is why so many have been skeptical of health care or literacy gains boasted by Cuba.

Back to the economy.

Indeed, there are tourists but it does not seem to help the Cuban economy. This is because Cubans have very little to gain from these hotels or restaurants where tourists are spending their dollars.

Add to this the mismanagement of Cuba’s economy and you have profits that end up in the Castro accounts rather than the pockets of the Cuban people.

We are not saying that this is new. Cuba has always been for the benefit of Castro and the gang that protects them. However, this is the first time that they are going to do without a USSR subsidy, EU loans, cheap Venezuela oil, or a U.S. president willing to go around the embargo.

It will be Raul vs reality in 2017 and the Cuban elites don’t have a clue of what will hit them. There is no one waiting to bail them out anymore.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

No due process in Cuba

 

(My new American Thinker post)

A few posts ago, we mentioned that “El Sexto”, a popular artist in Cuba, was arrested for celebrating the death of Castro.

His problem is that he constantly dissents from the Castro dictatorship and prefers to do it his way, a crime in Cuba, unless “your way” is another way of praising the government.

Last week, Kimberley Motley, a human rights lawyer in the U.S., went down to defend “El Sexto”.

She was detained and released. Then the Cuban government expelled her from the island.

Let’s say that Ms Motley was given a very quick education on what happens in Cuba. She concluded with a tweet:

“US shouldn’t lift restricts if Cuban gov unwilling 2 follow human rts”

My friend Carlos Eire quotes Ms. Motley saying that what is going on in Cuba is “legally and morally reprehensible.”

So what’s going on in Cuba since the U.S. flag went up in Havana? We have seen an effort to shut down dissent, as my friends at Cuba Exile Quarter are reporting:

Cuba may have become a celebrity magnet over the past two years but Cubans began to flee the island in huge numbers that had not been seen since the Clinton Administration.

The reason for the exodus can be seen in the dramatic increase in politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Cuba during the Obama Administration that has coincided with the Castro regime’s heightened violence against Cubans who dissent.

All of these violations of human rights are taking place within sight of the U.S. flag at the U.S. embassy opened not long ago.

Who could have believed this? The U.S. flag goes up and everyone is talking about a new day. At the same time, more dissidents get thrown in jail and the regime cracks down on anyone willing to disagree.

Too bad that Ms. Motley was arrested and given a real taste of Cuba. Perhaps she will come back and join the rest of us who do not want this dictatorship to be subsidized any longer by the U.S.

Good luck to “El Sexto”, another person standing up to the regime.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Cracking “cabezas” not far from the US flag in Havana

 

Cuba is in the news again and no one died or another funeral truck broke down.

The news today is that Raul Castro is cracking down on dissidents just days after his older brother was laid to rest.

Mourning in Castro’s Cuba is unique, as hundreds of dissidents will be happy to tell you!

Carlos Batista of the AFP reports that the government is not taking any chances:

Authorities across Cuba have cracked down on dissidents, arresting dozens, keeping others from marching in Havana, and detaining an American human rights lawyer, activists said Sunday.

In the first such anti-dissident operation since Fidel Castro’s death last month, President Raul Castro seemed to indicate the Americas’ only one-party communist state was in no mood for dissent.

A roundup in the country’s east snared dozens and derailed street protests planned to demand that political prisoners be freed.

“There was a joint operation at 6:00 am in Santiago and Palma Soriano. They searched four homes, and so far we have 42 reported arrests — 20 in Santiago, 12 in Palma and 10 in Havana,” Jose Daniel Ferrer told AFP by phone.

I guess that we will file this report in the “how is that hope and change working out” category?

Let’s review this movie. The President of the US stretched his hand, did the wave with Raul, made it easier for US investors to do business in Cuba and keeps talking about his legacy. On the other side, the dictator is still a dictator but a little richer now that US dollars have been deposited in the family account.

What kind of rating do we give this movie? How about “R” for repulsive?

Who knew? Who knew that being soft with a dictator would make him stronger? Who knew?

 
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.