Cuba and the US:
Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba in 88 years, the first one to visit the socialist government which has been in power for 56 years. This is remarkable given the acrimonious history between the two countries going back to the triumph of Fidel Castro over US-supported Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Cuba had been the playground for the rich and famous, the mafia and Hollywood stars, a place where there were no sins and lots of oppression. Fidel Castro’s assembled popular movement and staged a guerrilla war in which, against incredible odds, he ousted Batista’s execrable regime.
Castro visited the US in 1959 four months after his successful revolution but US president Eisenhower refused to see him, and after Cuba nationalized US assets with no pledges of compensation and declared itself a socialist state, the US imposed an economic embargo. This led Cuba into a tight relationship with the Soviet Union and was therefore seen by Washington as the enemy within the context of the Cold War. The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis symbolized the explosiveness of this hostile relationship. And virulently anti-Castro Cuban exiles, becoming a strong political force in the US, thwarted attempts to normalize the relationship between the two countries long after Communism fell.
Obama was determined to break this risible diplomatic impasse and has opened a new chapter in these two countries’ relationship. Interesting will be to see whether, with the Castro brothers gone, the socialist government will survive or if capitalism will sweep its remnants under the carpet as happened in Eastern Europe 27 years ago.
Finally, the Republican establishment has woken up to the fact that a man, Donald Trump, spouting ideas that would resonate with Hitler, could become the party’s nominee. Their cowardliness in not confronting him earlier might be too late. He has harnessed deep anger about societal change and those being left out of it. Despite being born a millionaire, he tries to come off as the average Joe and incredibly, gets away with it.
The process of choosing the nominee for the Republican party has been hijacked by people with extreme views, so people with more moderate ideas about society have no chance. For Democrats, this internecine war is welcome news, though many harbor suspicion of Hillary Clinton, because of her close ties to Wall Street and her sometime skirting of the truth.
The world should be pulling for Hillary since Trump would be a global disaster. If Trump wins the nomination, responsible Republicans should vote for Clinton and copy the left wing parties in France who advised their supporters in 2002, when declared fascist Jean-Marie Le Penn faced Jacques Chirac, someone the left abhorred, to nonetheless hold their nose and vote for Chirac. Chirac won with 80% of the votes.
Russia announced the withdrawal of its troops just after the enactment of a cease fire almost a month ago. This surprised many governments, but was seen as a positive step to put an end to the war causing unimaginable human suffering and strains on the structures of the European Union. Russia has historical ties to Syria, dating from the 1960s and Bashar’s father Hefez Assad, an ally during the cold war, fraternal religious ties to the Orthodox Christians (10% of Syria), an air force base and a naval base that gives it access to the Mediterranean.
Bombs have gone off in Turkey as the battle between the country’s government and Kurdish separatists has exploded again, this time within the context of the Syrian conflict, the refugee crisis spawned by it, the Islamic civil war and a Turkish government loathed by many of its own people. A deal between the EU and Turkey to deal with the refugee crisis was recently struck, and Turkey received US$6 billion as well as visa-waivers for its citizens to travel to Europe and new negotiations about becoming a member of the EU. Turkey is the bridge between east and west and its instability has much wider implications.