lunes, 28 de diciembre de 2015

EDITORIAL: La doble moral de Obama


Foto: LAGA NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

Por Armando García

La decisión de Departamento de Seguridad Interna (DHS siglas en inglés) de iniciar operaciones en enero, -léase redadas-  de deportación a familias, la mayoría de ellas centroamericanas que ya han sido ordenadas deportadas por un juez de inmigración, es una política de doble moral por parte de la administración del Presidente Obama.
El presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, llegó al poder en buena parte por el voto latino que le creyó que durante su gestión reformaría la ley de inmigración al legalizar a los millones de indocumentados que viven en el país. Y hasta la fecha no ha cumplido en su totalidad, cerrándosele las puertas al querer otorgar permisos legales a padres indocumentados de hijos residentes o ciudadanos, teniendo un Congreso renuente a la legalización de los indocumentados y bloqueando, tanto en las cortes como en la salas de cabildeo cualquier intento de una reforma migratoria integral aun a pesar que el Senado de la Nación en el 2014 dio luz verde a una ley reformadora.
La doble moral que escribo en esta editorial es la de primero abrir las puertas a refugiados sirios que huyen del conflicto bélico con ISIS que involucra a EE.UU., Rusia, Francia e Inglaterra y en segundo al cerrar la puerta a los refugiados centroamericanos que por décadas han huido de la violencia, la miseria, la explotación, la humillación de miles de familias que no han tenido otra opción, que la de escapar de sus países de origen, que en conjunto es un territorio mucho más grande que Siria.
Países cuyos gobiernos no han sabido, ni encontrado, la solución a mantener a su población libre de toda maldad social, ni resolver los asuntos de pandillas salvajemente dedicadas a la extorsión, el asesinato y el tráfico de drogas; entre otros actos delictivos.
Las familias afectadas, son principalmente aquellas que hace un año, llegaron en masa a la frontera con México y Estados Unidos, a través del emblemático ferrocarril de ‘La Bestia’. Las estadísticas hablan por sí solas: Durante el año fiscal 2014 las autoridades migratorias detuvieron a 68,541 niños entre Texas y México. En 2013 llegó a los 38,759 y en 2015 la cifra se redujo en un 42%. Pero en lo que va del año fiscal 2016 las autoridades reportan la detención de poco más de 10,588 niños, frente a los 5,129 capturados en los mismos meses durante el año fiscal 2015.
Con esta acción, que organizaciones de derechos civiles han llamado maquiavélica, seguramente la administración del Presidente Obama dejará de recibir apoyo de la comunidad latina, reflejándose en el voto presidencial para noviembre del 2016; porque no hay señales claras de los candidatos demócratas sobre qué hacer con la comunidad latina que vive en la clandestinidad por su irregularidad migratoria.

Envíe sus comentarios sobre esta editorial a: nuestra.america@hotmail.com

NUESTRA AMERICA MAGAZINE JANUARY 2016 # 1



Welcome to NUESTRA AMERICA MAGAZINE. A Bilingual Publication published in Aztlán. Enclosed is the cover of the first issue for the year 2016. If you want to receive this magazine by e-mail, please let us know by emailing us at: nuestraamericanews2002@yahoo.com

Bienvenidos a la REVISTA NUESTRA AMERICA. Una publicación bilingüe publicada en Aztlán. Le adjuntamos la portada de nuestra primera edición para el año 2016. Si usted desea recibir nuestra revista por correo electrónico, favor de dejarnos saber escribiéndonos a: nuestraamericanews2002@yahoo.com
Sincerely,


THE EDITOR

viernes, 11 de diciembre de 2015

NUESTRA AMERICA 2016




Dear Reader:


In 2016 Nuestra America Magazine will be published PDF Format and would be distributed by e-mail to thousands of readers. If you would like to be part of our growing readership, please send us your e-mail to: nuestraamericanews2002@yahoo.com
If you are already one of our readers, please send us your comments about our magazine to nuestraamericanews@gmail.com.
Nuestra America was first published in California on May 5, 1993 honoring the great late labor leader Cesar Chavez. Since then Nuestra America has aimed to provide our readers with objective journalistic analysis of the news events, happening from Aztlan to the Patagonia. Opinions expressed by journalists and writers that go beyond the views published  in the conventional media that is subjected to censorship serving the dominant ideology or commercial or private interests.
Nuestra America welcomes collaborations from writers, poets, journalists, playwrights, and those wishing to have a space to express their social, economic, religion and culture views of Nuestra America.
Those wishing to collaborate with Nuestra America, send us your material to: nuestra.america@hotmail.com

Sincerely,

Armando Garcia
Founder & Editor.







jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

CBP to Begin Biometric Entry/Exit Testing at Otay Mesa Port of Entry





SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection began on December 10 a testing of a new biometric technology at the Otay Mesa in California. The test  was conducted at the pedestrian crossing to enhance identification of certain non-U.S. citizens entering and exiting the U.S. CBP uses biometrics in order to accurately verify who arrives in the United States and who leaves. The new technology began being tested to see if it is a solution to help CBP better match entry and exit records along the land border, and to help protect a traveler’s identify against theft. The test applies to foreign visitors who are normally subject to fingerprinting when they apply for U.S. visas and other travel documents. 
“CBP is committed to developing a system that provides biometric exit data on non-U.S. citizens in a way that does not disrupt air, sea, or land port operations, but, rather secures and facilitates travel and trade,” said San Diego Field Operations Director Pete Flores. “This test will help inform on next steps to developing and implementing biometric exit in the land pedestrian environment.”
Improved technology for comparing entry and exits along the land border will enhance CBP’s ability to secure the border, address immigration overstays, identify persons of interest and improve reporting and analysis of international visitors to the U.S.  This technology test is a direct result of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, and addresses outstanding Congressional mandates to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.
The project will be deployed in two phases. The first one began on Dec. 10 and certain non-U.S. citizens entering the U.S. utilized new kiosks equipped with biometric capture technology in the pedestrian lanes to provide a facial photograph and iris images. The second phase will begin in February 2016, with biographic data provided from everyone departing the United States similar to the information provided when departing by air. Certain non-U.S. citizens will also provide their biometrics upon departure during this phase. The test will run through June 2016.
For the entry phase of testing, the existing entry kiosks used by pedestrians at the Otay Mesa border crossing will be temporarily replaced with new kiosks equipped with a camera to take a facial photograph and iris images of certain non-U.S. citizens upon their entry to the United States. Processing for U.S. citizens will remain the same.
During the exit phase of testing, all travelers will provide their travel documents, such as their passport, passport card, or other RFID-enabled travel document, identical to what they already provide when entering the United States. In addition, certain non-U.S. citizens will provide facial and iris biometrics to compare to their entry record.  No biometric data will be requested from U.S. citizens either on entry or exit.
The images taken during the testing will be used for purposes of this limited project only and will not be retained or shared with any other party or system.  CBP remains committed to protecting the privacy of all travelers.
CBP’s Entry/Exit strategy includes three core pillars: identify and close the biographic gaps and enhance the entry-exit system; perform targeted biometric operations; and transform the entry/exit process through the use of emerging biometric technologies. Currently, CBP relies on biometric screening—digital fingerprints and photos—to secure our borders and ensure that foreign travelers presenting themselves for admission to the United States are who they claim to be. CBP plans to test additional technology in FY2016 to further its goal of capturing entry/exit data to secure and facilitate legitimate travel in a way that does not disrupt operations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.



Share on google_plusone_shaSAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin testing new biometric technology at the Otay Mesa pedestrian crossing this week to enhance identification of certain non-U.S. citizens entering and exiting the U.S. CBP uses biometrics in order to accurately verify who arrives in the United States and who leaves. The new technology is being tested to see if it is a solution to help CBP better match entry and exit records along the land border, and to help protect a traveler’s identify against theft. The test applies to foreign visitors who are normally subject to fingerprinting when they apply for U.S. visas and other travel documents. 

lunes, 24 de agosto de 2015

Court Orders Prompt Release of Immigrant Children from Family Detention


Washington, D.C. - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcome a decision released Friday evening by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Flores v. Lynch, No. 85-04544 (C.D.Ca.), which ruled that children should generally be released from detention within five days—preferably to a parent, including a parent with whom they were apprehended. The government must implement the Court’s ruling by October 23, 2015.

“There is no denying that the government has breached the Flores settlement agreement. The status quo is unacceptable, and the government must take immediate and dramatic steps to end family detention,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. “Our CARA Project* staff and volunteers submitted numerous declarations to the Court showing how the government is still detaining accompanied minors in secure, unlicensed facilities. It can no longer hide from the American people the ugly truth of how it treats children fleeing persecution,” said Nieblas. “Just as striking is how the Court condemned the ‘deplorable’ conditions in temporary border jails.  They do not meet even minimal standards for safe and sanitary conditions,” said Nieblas.

“This decision will bolster our efforts to end the inhumane practice of detaining children and their mothers,” according to Melissa Crow, Legal Director of the American Immigration Council. “The Court chastised the government for ‘unnecessarily dragging their feet’ in releasing children from family detention facilities and for repeating the same arguments they had raised in earlier briefing, which she had already rejected. Judge Gee also scoffed at government warnings that the swift release of children and mothers could spur another mass migration of Central American families, characterizing them as ‘speculative at best, and, at worse, fear mongering.’”  Crow added, “Although the Court gives the government some latitude to exceed the five-day limit ‘in the event of an emergency or influx of minors into the United States,’ the decision emphasizes that this should be the exception, not the rule. It’s time for the government to stop making excuses and harming innocent children and their mothers.”

“AILA and the Council will be watching every step the government takes. We expect it to follow this federal court’s order with no less zeal than it did obeying the Texas district court’s DAPA decision,” said Nieblas, referring to the extraordinary efforts the government made to comply with the injunction against the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents process and the planned expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process.

The recent ruling in Flores follows from a July 24, 2015, decision, in which the Court concluded that the government was in violation of the terms of the original Flores settlement, which was intended to ensure the proper care of children in immigration custody. In July, the Court had ordered the government to release children subject to the settlement agreement, but gave the government an opportunity to respond to the Court’s ordered remedy. The government’s response fell far short. 

viernes, 14 de agosto de 2015

USA-CUBA NEW RELATIONSHIP: "Everything that divides men, is a sin to humanity" JOSE MARTI.








Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuban Foreign Minister
















Hotel NacionalHavana, CubaAugust 14, 2015






FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: 



I had the pleasure to welcome Secretary of State John Kerry at the headquarters of our foreign ministry on the occasion of his visit to Cuba to attend the official ceremony for the reopening on the U.S. Embassy in Havana today in the morning. Once again, we have met in a respectful and constructive climate, and we addressed bilateral issues of interest, including the steps that both countries should take to move forward in the process towards the normalization of relations.
Both sides agreed on the importance of opening new areas of dialogue, consolidating the already-existing mechanisms of a bilateral cooperation and expanding them to include new ones, such as environmental protections, health care, science, and law enforcement, among others.
As part of this stage that begins with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, we have agreed on the creation of a steering committee to define the issues that should be addressed, including those which have remained pending for the last five decades. In the coming weeks, representatives of both governments should (inaudible) changes in order to define the agenda of this committee.
I have reiterated to the Secretary of State that a total lifting of the blockade – or “embargo,” as you say – as well as the return of the territory occupied illegally by the Guantanamo Naval Base, and the compensation to our people for human and economic damages, and the full respect to the sovereignty of Cuba are essential to be able to develop normal relations with the U.S. Regarding the blockade or embargo, we hope President Obama, who has said to be in favor of the abrogation of this policy, to continue adopting executive measures to modify its implementation and contribute to its dismantling.
I also reiterated to Secretary Kerry that our government is willing to normalize relations with the United States on the basis of respect and equality without any prejudice to the independence and sovereignty of Cuba, and without any interference in our internal affairs. We strongly believe that despite the differences that exist between the governments of Cuba and the United States, which will not disappear, it is possible to build civilized and respectful and productive relations different in nature from those which have existed in the past that could be nurtured by the historical, cultural, and human bonds that exist between our two peoples.
Special emphasis should be placed on my view on cooperation in multiple areas of mutual interest and benefit. For that, we count on the support of our peoples and the countries of the region based on the principles contained in the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace, as well as of the rest of the international community. Cuba has always been open to contacts and exchanges with the entire world. It is in that spirit that we welcome the U.S. citizens who wish to know about the Cuban reality and get in touch with our people; let them to enjoy these marvelous resorts, like this historical Cuban hotel, and the beautiful site of the Havana’s Malecon, and the beautiful blue sea in the common seas in the Strait of Florida.
Let us have further contacts between U.S. companies and Cuban enterprises interested in the opportunities that our country can offer. My apologies for being so late.
Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Bruno. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister. Good afternoon to everybody. I think I was listening to not just the foreign minister, but the minister of commerce, trade, and tourism just now. (Laughter.)
I am, obviously, very delighted to be in Havana. And I apologize that we were a little bit late. But this is an historic hotel, and I was taking a moment to look at the extraordinary murals in the other room, which have the pictures or likenesses of an extraordinary number of public leaders and celebrities, people in the arts and film who have come here through the many decades. And it’s a great history in itself.
As everybody knows, this is an historic moment. Today is an historic day here in Havana, where, finally, after more than 54 years, the United States and Cuba have re-established diplomatic relations. And as I mentioned earlier today, I’m also privileged to be the first Secretary of State to come here since 1945.
I think the meeting that we just had – the foreign minister and I – underscored this historic moment because it was extremely cooperative, constructive, and both of us operated in a spirit of building on the possibilities that come out of this day.
The re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of our embassies are critical steps in the long process of fully normalizing our bilateral relations. And you heard the foreign minister just now talking to you at some – with some detail about the ways in which we hope to capitalize on today in order to move towards that full normalization.
The foreign minister made it clear that that normalization is dependent, of course, on the lifting of the embargo and other items, and we – this Administration, President Obama and his administration – already advocate for and support the lifting of the embargo. We believe that that is important. When we moved to normalization with Vietnam, one of the first steps was the lifting of the embargo, which President George H.W. Bush engaged in as a first step before President Clinton moved to the next. So it’s our hope that over the next days we will be able to lay out a roadmap whereby steps are taken that make it possible for us to move to the next level. And I am convinced that the steps that we talked about today will advance this relationship in significant ways.
First of all, the resumption of our embassy activities is going to permit the United States to engage the Cuban Government much more easily on a regular basis. And in fact, today we already agreed on those next steps. Bruno just announced to you the creation of the steering committee, this mechanism that we will use in order to harness the diplomatic track that we – that brought us to this point. And what we intend to do is begin to meet almost immediately. In the first or second week of September, a delegation will come and we will begin this process of working through a number of different issues.
I am confident also that today is going to be the beginning of an opportunity for Cuban diplomats in Washington, D.C. and American diplomats in Havana to be able to engage more openly with the people who make up both of our countries, and that both diplomats – Cuban and American – will be free to share views, to meet with citizens of all walks of life in the nations to which they are accredited. And this only makes sense, because no one who has faith in the validity of his or her own ideas ought to fear the ideas of other people.
I want to be clear – and I think I said this earlier today – that the normalization of relations is not a favor that we do one nation to the other. It’s something that we do together because both of our citizens, we have determined, have the ability to be able to benefit from the relationship.
As people-to-people contacts increase, we believe that normalization will contribute to an empowering of all of our peoples, helping the Cuban population to be able to plug into the global economy, to be able to trade more, to be able to move and travel and enjoy the fruits of their labor, to be able to raise the standards of living, and therefore improve their lives.
It’ll also help citizens from the United States – including students and the private sector – to be able to learn more about this country, to be able to establish friendships and connections that will last, hopefully, for a lifetime.
The United States and Cuba today in our meeting both agreed that we are determined to look ahead and that the same shared resolve that brought us to the diplomatic agreement to be able to open our embassies is the shared resolve that we will now apply to the process of normalization.
Now, the foreign minister and I – I’ll just repeat a couple of things he said – touched on the issues of mutual concern, including human rights, which he talked about at some length; the environment; counter-narcotics; maritime safety; and we agreed to establish this bilateral mechanism so we can meet regularly in order to do more than simply talk about the relationship but to actually take the steps necessary to be able to watch it mature.
We will review our common agenda; we will address a number of issues beyond those I’ve listed, such as civil aviation, claims – there are obviously issues of claims on both sides, by the way, and those need to be worked through. There needs to be a process established for working them through. And the path to full normalization is not always going to be easy. We both understand that. But we’re confident that the establishment of our embassies is going to make it easier for our diplomats to work at these difficult issues, and there’s no question in my mind it’s going to enhance mutual understanding.
Normalization between the United States and Cuba will also remove a source of irritation and division within the hemisphere. When we were in Panama last year I can’t tell you how many countries came up to us after the President’s announcement and said how happy they are that finally the United States and Cuba are going to move to renew that relationship, because all of them were supportive of and encouraging us to take that kind of step.
So this matters to us hemispherically, because countries from Chile to Canada will all be better able to advance a common agenda for our citizens. And that is an agenda that is aimed at lifting people out of poverty, safeguarding health, fighting crime, creating sustainable energy security, advancing human rights, and equipping our young people with the knowledge and the skills that they need in the modern world to be able to succeed and thrive and help build community in their own nations.
Today, with the ceremonial flag-raising at the embassy, we are taking an historic and I might add long overdue step in the right direction. And we are determined to go forward with faith in the people of both of our countries as we begin what we hope will be a very new and a very exciting era for all of us.
So thank you very much, Bruno, for your generous welcome today. It’s a pleasure for me to be back in Havana, and having driven around and seen the beauty of this city and knowing it previously but having rekindled that, I can tell you this is going to be one of the great sought-after travel spots of the world. And in my judgment, the sooner we can get to our normalization the better.
Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: Congratulations on your reopening.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir.
MR KIRBY: The first question today will come from Reuters. Lesley.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
SECRETARY KERRY: You do, right behind you there.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Lesley Wroughton from Reuters. Mr. Secretary, are you – is this Administration considering any further steps, administrative steps, to loosen restrictions on Cuba? And number two, do you have any concerns that if you can’t move quickly and capture this momentum that you’re talking about to move to normalization, that the next president of the United States could undo everything that you’ve done? And is there concern from Cuba that the longer this takes, that this process could unravel as the U.S. moves into a political atmosphere next year and beyond?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me answer first of all we agreed today, we talked through some the potential steps that might be able to be taken, and we are certainly going to evaluate all possibilities within the framework of a reciprocal, mutual process.
As I said in my comments at the embassy flag-raising today, even the embargo is a sort of two-way street. It requires both of us to do things. But I was encouraged in the course of the conversation we had today that we will be able to make progress with respect to a number of issues, from human trafficking and law enforcement – law enforcement exchanges and fugitive issues – to the claims issues, to health, to civil aviation, to maritime security.
There are a host of issues where just a path of common sense lays out a number of choices that we will be able to work on. And if we do that and do it effectively, I can’t imagine another president – Republican or Democrat – just throwing it all out the window. I just don’t see that. I think that people understand that over 54 years, we had a policy that was isolating us, not changing the world. And I think that what we need to do is recognize that reality. As President Obama said when he made the announcement, when you realize you’re digging yourself into a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging, and then you take the measures to get out of the hole. That’s what we’re doing. And I think it’s an important step and I’m confident that we will be able to make progress.
We’re not trying to over-define that progress; we’re not trying to oversell what could be done. We all understand there will be hiccups. There will be differences because there are differences. But we nevertheless have learned through many decades dealing with people with whom we have differences that there are ways to find a path forward that find benefits for both countries’ citizens. And I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that here.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) The second question for Andrea Rodriguez from AP.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, minister. Andrea Rodriguez from AP. In these days, we have had two beautiful ceremonies, and also we have heard the claims from both sides. Secretary Kerry today mentioned that he hope to see in Cuba a genuine democracy. I would like to know your comments on this. And in this same direction, would these be part of those committees? And which are the expectations in the future for these committee mentioned by you both? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) I feel that we should work very actively in order to build confidence, mutual confidence, and to develop contacts in the areas where we have a very close approach or those areas where our ideas could come closer, and to be able to discuss in a respectful way about our respective differences. In some areas, it is true that differences are profound. However, I can say that some of these issues have been subject to an intensive international debate. For example, some electoral political models of industrialized countries that seem to be a unique model have gone into a very serious crisis, even in Europe. States have seen the need to develop their relations according to international law with peoples which have decided in the exercise of their self-determination to choose their own national destiny according to their culture and level of development. I feel very comfortable with the Cuban democracy, and at the same time there are things that could be further perfected.
Today we are working actively as part of the processes related to the updating of our economic and social, socialist model. I can say that we are ready to speak on those issues on the basis of reciprocity, on sovereign equality. We have also a lot to say, we have concerns to share. There are attempts to increase international cooperation to solve problems related to civil and political liberties, which, in our opinion, should be guaranteed, such as the right to food, the right to gender equality, the right to life, the right to education, and healthcare.
So I feel that on these issues we are very much willing to talk. In fact, we have already developed a dialogue on these matters which I hope will continue in the future.
MR KIRBY: Next question is from Mimi Whitefield, Miami Herald.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, the State Department has said it is not contemplating any change in the Cuban Adjustment Act. It also says that it supports safe, secure, and orderly migration from Cuba. How do you reconcile that with dangerous sea crossings and the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that encourages this?
And Minister Rodriguez, do you think the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot, dry foot” act should be topics in future migration talks with the United States? And secondly, Minister Rodriguez, does Cuba support the concept of compensation for expropriated U.S. properties?
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: Would you like to?
SECRETARY KERRY: Sure. Well, let me just – I’ll say very quickly that the United States policy is to support safe, legal, and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States, and we do support that. And we support full implementation of the existing migration accords with Cuba, and we currently have no plans whatsoever to alter the current migration policy, including the Cuban Adjustment Act, and we have no plans to change the “wet foot, dry foot” policy at the same time. That’s where we are.
Now, we’re willing to sit with our counterparts and use this committee, as you’ve described, to examine anything. We will listen carefully and we’ll work on those things that we think work best to advance the relationship and the well-being of both of our citizens.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) The migration issue is very complex. Under the present circumstances, the dramatic situation of migration waves of people escaping from poverty and military conflicts are too well-known. Fortunately, this does not happen in the Latin American and Caribbean region. We do not have serious situations from the point of view of conflicts between states or internal conflicts. But even in our region, we have serious concerns about the migration processes from countries of the Central American region, for example, affecting hundreds of small children, or other countries neighboring the United States.
The migration relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which date back to as early as the 19th century and even before, should not be politicized. They should be totally normal. We agree on encouraging safe and orderly migration between both countries. We also agree on the risks, the dangers, and the need to establish an international and bilateral cooperation against trafficking in persons, human smuggling, and other events related to organized international crime. We believe that the migration accords in force between the U.S. and Cuba should be strictly respected and that any policy or any practical action which does not – is not in accordance with the spirit and the letter of the accords should be abolished.
I can reiterate the willingness of our government to continue to hold migration talks, and in general with regards to the movement of people, which we believe is a human right. We believe that migrants should be treated with respect for their human rights in a humanitarian way, in a cultured way. And we believe that Cuban citizens who are freely to travel will be more than pleased to receive in our country the tourists and travelers from the U.S. so that the contacts and the links between both peoples could be further intensified. We believe that the freedom of travel is also a fundamental human right.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) I will give the floor for one last question from a journalist from Granma newspaper.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My first question is for Secretary Kerry. You talked about a roadmap to be defined by both countries, but I would like to know if the Obama Administration is willing to continue to move forward with regard to substantial issues such as the return of the Guantanamo Naval Base, the end of the illegal TV and radio broadcast, the end of the funding of the programs aimed at regime change here in Cuba. And although we know it is a power of Congress, will the – will President Obama will continue to try to empty the contact of that policy?
And Minister Bruno, Latin America is living through a fundamental moment. You mentioned the proclamation of peace. How does this process between the U.S. and Cuba fit in that process? How could this contribute to the Latin American and Caribbean aspirations today?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, as we have said – both of us – there will continue to be issues on which we disagree or where they may not yet be ripe for transition or discussion or transformation. We’re biting off a lot right now. This is a big agenda. Moving to be able to normalize – and I think Bruno made it clear that there are certain expectations that Cuba will have as to what that means – requires dealing with some big issues. They’re not going to be dealt with overnight and they’re certainly not going to be dealt with in the next month or two as we begin to build confidence and take on some of the things that are less complicated, less provocative, and frankly, more achievable.
So we are very clear in our roadmap that we’re going to begin to do the things where we think we can make the greatest progress and where we can make a difference. That doesn’t mean that these other issues at some point in time won’t be discussed. Now, at the moment, there is no current discussion or plan to change the arrangement with respect to Guantanamo, but I can’t tell you what will happen over the years in the future. But now there is no plan to do that.
But as we go down the road here and as this relationship changes, who knows what issues will over a period of time be put on the table? I can’t tell you that. Right now that’s not on the table, but President Obama is clearly moving to try to get the embargo out of the way. And that would be an enormous transformation and it’s hugely, I think, in Cuba’s interest and in its – it’s one of the things that Cuba would obviously like to see happen. So we have a world of possibilities here that we can deal with without putting the most complicated and difficult ahead of the – don’t put the cart ahead of the horse at this moment in time. And I think we’re going to move in a very thoughtful and strategic way, build confidence, achieve things, see how the transformation is working, and hopefully, lay the groundwork for people to be able to see that it makes sense to lift the embargo. That, I think, is one of the objectives we both share, and getting there is going to require us to both succeed in producing – producing progress on the roadmap itself.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) The Cuban laws have foreseen the compensation to owners whose properties were nationalized in the 1960s. And all the owners were compensated in due time with exception of American citizens due to the circumstances that came about back then in the bilateral relations. I can reiterate that the Cuban laws include the possibility to pay compensations which will necessarily be part of a mutual process of negotiations – taking into account the compensations ruled by Cuban courts regarding the enormous human and economic damages resulting from the same reasons that prevented us from paying compensations back then. I believe that for Latin America and the Caribbean, any progress in the bilateral relations between the U.S. and Cuba will be beneficial for mutual interests, both for America as well as for the national interests, the interests of U.S. citizens. This process will no doubt be beneficial.
I think that this will open up opportunities even for the development of better and much more profound relations and cooperation links – greater links in every sphere between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean. This will contribute to solve one of the biggest problems in the Western Hemisphere, and this will create the proper conditions to enhance hemispheric cooperation in areas so important, such as the prevention of communicable diseases and others in which we already had some incipient experiences. I believe that Latin America and the Caribbean believes that Cuba’s return to the Summit of the Americas is a regional vindication as well as the changes announced by President Obama in the U.S.-Cuba policy.
And I remember, just as Secretary Kerry, those statements made in our region during the last Summit of the Americas held in Panama in recognition of these expressing recognition to the governments of Cuba and the U.S. for the steps taken so far. And there is a big hope that the real substantial issues could be solved so that we are able to move towards the normalization of relations between both states.
I would like to convey my gratitude to the presence of Mr. Secretary of State. I would like to reiterate to him our welcome to Havana and our satisfaction, because both embassies have been reopened and conditions have been created to deal with the fundamental issues for the well-being of both peoples and countries,
And to you all, thank you very much for your presence in Cuba and your presence in this room. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Muchas gracias. Appreciate it.

lunes, 10 de agosto de 2015

Understanding the Islamic State: What is ISIS?

B

It’s impossible to watch, listen to, or read the news today without finding at least one reference to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. We hear that it is a terrorist organization, but we also hear government officials talk about it more like a belligerent country in an ongoing war. So, what exactly is the Islamic State, where did it come from, and what do its people want?

Born in War

The organization we know today as the Islamic State has its origins in the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003. The very short version of that war’s first year is that the administration of President George W. Bush accused the government of Iraq, then under the control of military dictator Saddam Hussein, of possessing weapons of mass destruction. The United States Congress authorized a military invasion of Iraq, which very quickly deposed Hussein’s rule. Though Hussein was no longer in power and was later caught and executed, the conflict in Iraq didn’t end.
This is where the language around the war gets confusing. Those fighting against American forces came to be known as “insurgents,” suggesting that they came from somewhere other than Iraq. And while many so-called insurgents were indeed Iraqi people, many other fighters came from elsewhere in the region. An especially prominent group was Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a religious extremist group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This group ascribed to a version of Islam called Salafism, which is an intense variety of fundamentalism that advocates violence and a harsh interpretation of sharia law. Before long, al-Zarqawi’s fighters allied themselves with the infamous terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

Syria and ISIL

During the Iraq War, al-Zarqawi was killed. Under new leadership, his group named itself the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), with the intention of establishing a Islamic military theocracy, or caliphate, in one of Iraq’s fractured regions. Violence against Iraqi people created a backlash and ISI nearly crumbled. By 2008, most of the group’s leaders weren’t Salafi extremists, but surviving members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist group. Otherwise, many fighters for ISI were from other countries.
The biggest change for the Islamic State came with the Syrian Civil War. In the chaos of Syrian revolutionaries fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad, Islamic State insurgents entered Syria and began attempting to take control of another troubled country. This is why the group is sometimes called ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). But because the group’s actions and ambitions have included many other countries in the Middle East, the preferred term by the United States government is ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

The Power of the Islamic State

Today, the Islamic State has proclaimed itself a “Worldwide Caliphate” and its official position is that it is the legitimate ruling body of all Muslims – lead by a Caliph (a natural successor to the Prophet Mohammed). To date, no nation, international governing body, or Muslim organization has accepted that rule. So, if only the Islamic State recognizes its own legitimacy, how is it such a powerful organization?
The first thing to note is that the Islamic State has a habit of claiming responsibility for things its own fighters didn’t actually do. Most notably, the Islamic State claimed to have funded and directed a large group of fighters in the Syrian Civil War called al-Nusra, even though the two groups violently clashed. This variety of unilateral appropriation confuses the issue of who is and is not acting according to direction by Islamic State leadership.
But more than anything, the Islamic State’s power is in its media presence. The group captured the attentions of American and European domestic populations by kidnapping and killing foreign nationals, and video recording the entire process. The murders of foreign journalists and aid workers received a great deal of media attention in 2014, catapulting the Islamic State from a Middle Eastern insurgent group to a household name. These murders are notoriously gruesome, often carried out in the form of violent beheadings.
In the past two years, many independently operating terrorists have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, though they have no means of communicating with its leadership. Terrorists from the Philippines to Chechnya and even the United States wave the black flag of the Islamic State, but they are not actually soldiers trained and organized by forces in Iraq and Syria. In short, the Islamic State is more of an idea rather than it is a real, cohesive political body.

Fighting the Idea

The full history of the Islamic State paints a very clear picture of how it was born and how it continues to thrive. Its origins are in the chaos of war, the radicalization of people suffering under the simultaneous pressure of local despots and foreign invaders. The Islamic State is, put simply, an appropriation of the very term “terrorism”, however nebulous and ever-changing that idea is. The organization’s name changes over the years, but its tactics of violence, media manipulation, and the consumption of other military groups stay the same.
Countries from all over the world have devoted their military forces to fighting the Islamic State, but violence is unlikely to truly destroy it. Wherever there is war, so-called Islamic State forces emerge. The radicals who attach themselves to the Islamic State flag depend on violence, confusion, and media attention to fuel their continued rise. The long-term solution to the Islamic State problem is, in a word, peace.
The ideal short-term solution still appears to be out-of-reach. How do you think the Islamic State should best be handled? And by whom?

lunes, 20 de julio de 2015

CUBA OPENS EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES



Press Conference
 Bruno Rodriguez & John Kerry

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
July 20, 2015






SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very pleased this afternoon to welcome to the State Department my colleague, Bruno Rodriguez, the foreign minister of Cuba. And I apologize for our being a little bit late, but we were downstairs – we had a lot to talk about, not just about U.S.-Cuba relations but also about the region – and think we had a very constructive conversation. This is the first visit to the Department of State by a Cuban foreign minister since 1958, and today marks as well the resumption of normal diplomatic ties between our countries and the re-opening of our embassies after a rupture that has lasted 54 years.
So it’s an historic day; a day for removing barriers.
(In Spanish) The United States welcomes this new beginning in its relationship with the people and the Government of Cuba. We are determined to live as good neighbors on the basis of mutual respect, and we want all of our citizens – in the U.S. and in Cuba – to look into the future with hope. Therefore we celebrate this day on July the 20th because today we begin to repair what was damaged and to open what has been closed for many years.
This milestone does not signify an end to differences that still separate our governments, but it does reflect the reality that the Cold War ended long ago, and that the interests of both countries are better served by engagement than by estrangement, and that we have begun a process of full normalization that is sure to take time but will also benefit people in both Cuba and the United States.
This shared resolve to look ahead is what drove our conversation today and what has brought us to this moment. The foreign minister and I touched on a wide range of issues of mutual concern including cooperation on law enforcement, counternarcotics, telecommunications, the internet, environmental issues, human rights, including trafficking in persons. And of course, we also discussed the opening of our embassies.
We want to make sure that those embassies are able to function fully, and I am confident that diplomats from both countries will have the freedom to travel and to converse with citizens from all walks of life. To help lead that effort, I am encouraged that we have a first-rate embassy team in Cuba, led by our charge, Ambassador Jeff De Laurentis, who is one of our finest and most experienced public servants. And I congratulate Foreign Minister Rodriguez on his – this morning’s opening of the Cuban Embassy here in Washington. On August 14th, I look forward to making my first trip as Secretary of State to Cuba and holding a comparable ceremony at our embassy in Havana.
Before closing, I want to thank our colleagues from Switzerland for the vital role that they have played for many years as the protecting power for what has obviously proven to be a much longer time than originally anticipated.
I thank our friends from around the hemisphere who have urged us – in some cases, for decades – to restore our diplomatic ties and who have warmly welcomed our decision to do so.
And I am grateful for the outstanding leadership of Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson and for the efforts of the many U.S. and Cuban representatives whose hard work made this day possible.
And I want to acknowledge the commitment of all who care about U.S.-Cuba relations, whether they agree with the decision to normalize or not. Change is rarely easy, especially when earlier positions have been so deeply ingrained and so profoundly felt. But although we can and must learn from the past, nothing is more futile than trying to live in the past. President Obama believes – and so do I – that our citizens benefit far more from policies that aim to shape a better future.
There is, after all, nothing to be lost – and much to be gained – by encouraging travel between our nations, the free flow of information and ideas, the resumption of commerce, and the removal of obstacles that have made it harder for families to visit their loved ones.
Make no mistake, the process of fully normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba will go on. It may be long and complex. But along the way, we are sure to encounter a bump here and there and moments even of frustration. Patience will be required. But that is all the more reason to get started now on this journey, this long overdue journey.
Today, with the opening of our embassies and the visit of the foreign minister, we are taking an historic and long overdue step in the right direction. To keep moving forward, both governments must proceed in a spirit of openness and mutual respect.
I can assure the world, including the people of Cuba, that the United States will do its part.
(In Spanish) I can assure all of you, including the Cuban people, that the United States will do its part.
And now, it is my pleasure to yield the floor to our guest, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, thank you. Good afternoon. Sorry for being late. We have just had a constructive and respectful meeting with Secretary John Kerry. With the Secretary of State, we had an exchange on the issues discussed by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during their historical encounter at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the current status of the bilateral relations, and the progress achieved since the announcements of December 17th, 2014, including Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and the expansion of official exchanges on issues of common interest, and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies.
I conveyed the recognition of our people and government to President Obama for his determination to work for the lifting of the blockade, for urging Congress to eliminate it, and for his willingness to adopt executive measures that modify the implementation of some aspects of this policy. Their scope is still limited, but these are steps taken in the right direction.
Likewise, we have emphasized that, in the meantime, the President of the United States can continue using his executive powers to pay a significant contribution to the dismantling of the blockade, not to pursue changes in Cuba, something that falls under our exclusive sovereignty, but to attend to the interests of U.S. citizens.
I emphasized that the totally lifting of the blockade, the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty and the compensation to our people for human and economic damages are crucial to be able to move towards the normalization of relations.
We both ratified our interest in normalizing bilateral relations, knowing that this will be a long and complex process, which will require the willingness of both countries. There are profound differences between Cuba and the United States with regard to our views about the exercise of human rights by all persons all over the world, and also in issues related to international law, which will inevitably persist. But we strongly believe that we can both cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, based on the respect for these differences and the development of a constructive dialogue oriented to the wellbeing of our countries and peoples, and this continent, and the entire world.
I expressed to the Secretary of State that he will be welcome in Cuba on the occasion of the ceremony to reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana.
So, Mr. Secretary, I will be waiting for you. (In Spanish.)
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via translator) We have just had a constructive and respectful meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. It was particularly significant to see that the Cuban flag was raised for the first time after 54 years. We would not have been able to make it through these days without the wise conduction of the historical leadership of the revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, and without the resistance and self-determination of the Cuban people and its firm determination to continue walking down the path that was sovereignly chosen.
We have been able to make it through this stage also thanks to the fraternal support received from Latin America and the Caribbean, the overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, many U.S. and Cuban patriotic citizens who reside in these countries, and who persevered for so many years in their efforts so that Cuba and the United States could have better relations.
With the Secretary of State we have an exchange on the issues discussed by Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama during their historical encounter at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the current status of the bilateral relations and the progress achieved since the announcements of December the 17th, including Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism – a place where never Cuba should have been included – and the historic meeting between Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama on issues of common interest.
I conveyed the recognition of our people and government to President Obama for his determination to work for the lifting of the blockade, for having urged Congress to eliminate it once and for all, and for his willingness to adopt executive measures that modify the implementation of some aspects of this policy. And although their scope is limited, these are steps taken in the right direction.
We both emphasized that the President of the U.S. can continue to use his executive powers to pay a significant contribution to the modification of aspects of the implementation of the blockade with the purpose of eliminating it, not seeking changes in Cuba, which falls under the exclusive sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba and Cubans, but rather to attend to the best interests of the American citizens.
We have insisted that the total lifting of the blockade is essential to move on towards the normalization of relations, of bilateral relations, as well as the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo, as well as the full respect for the Cuban sovereignty, as well as the compensation to our people for human and economic damages.
We reiterated our invitation to all U.S. citizens to exercise their right to travel to Cuba, as they do to the rest of the world, and to the companies of that country to take advantage on an equal footing of the opportunities offered by Cuba.
The Secretary of State and I ratified our interest in normalizing bilateral relations, knowing that this will be a long and complex process which will require the willingness of both countries. I reiterated to the Secretary of State the Cuban Government’s willingness to move on in the process towards the normalization of relations with the United States on the basis of respect, equality, sovereign equality without prejudice to the independence and sovereignty of Cuba, and without any interference in our internal affairs.
It is true that there are profound differences between the governments of Cuba and the United States with regard to our views about the exercise of human rights by all citizens and in the whole planet, and also when it comes to international law, which will inevitably persist. But we strongly believe that we can both cooperate and coexist in a civilized way, based on the respect for these differences and the development of a constructive dialogue oriented to the wellbeing of our countries and peoples, this continent, and the entire world.
I expressed to the Secretary of State that he will be welcome in Havana on the occasion of the ceremony to reopen the U.S. embassy. So I will be waiting for you, Secretary, at any moment, and I thank you for your hospitality in Washington. Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Today – our first question today comes from Andrea Mitchell, NBC.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. Mr. Foreign Minister, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. Secretary, the foreign minister said today at the opening of the embassy that the continuing hold on Guantanamo Bay, on the naval base, is a nefarious consequence of U.S. attempts to dominate the hemisphere, and that only the lifting of the trade embargo and the return of Guantanamo Bay would lend meaning to today’s historic events. Can you respond to those comments and to what the foreign minister just said, which seemed to indicate that those would be a precondition, and that he did not want any interference by the United States in the domestic policies of Cuba?
And what would you like to see in terms of human rights changes or other policy changes, even absent those changes which are congressionally mandated?
And, Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome to the United States. Welcome to the State Department. For all of us who have watched the relationship for so many years, this is truly an historic event. But you seem to be indicating that there are preconditions, including the lifting of the trade embargo and the return of Guantanamo. And do you see any other changes that Cuba might be willing to afford under the request or influence of the U.S. prior to that – those events taking place? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’ll go first. It’s absolutely no surprise, because it’s been a subject of discussion over the course of the time that we have been examining our relationship and working towards today, that there are things that Cuba would like to see happen, there are things the United States would like to see happen. And we’ve both been crystal clear with each other. There’s been no pulling of punches. And I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve built up an ability to be able to get to this moment.
With respect to the embargo, President Obama could not have been more clear. The President has called on Congress to lift the embargo and it is our hope that over the course of the development of the relationship in these next weeks and months and years – and hopefully not too many years – that people will begin to see the benefits that are emerging in both countries as a result of this change today. So we would hope, obviously, that the embargo at the appropriate time will in fact be lifted and that a great deal more foundation can be built for this relationship.
With respect to – and obviously that’s going to take more time; we all understand that. At this time, there is no discussion and no intention on our part at this moment to alter the existing lease treaty or other arrangements with respect to the naval station, but we understand that Cuba has strong feelings about it and I can’t tell you what the future will bring but for the moment that is not part of the discussion on our side.
On the other hand, as I said, both sides have very strong feelings. Our – we have expressed and we will always express – because it’s part of the United States foreign policy; it’s part of our DNA as a country – and that is our view of human rights and our thoughts about it. We have shared good thoughts on that. We’ve had good exchanges. And as you know, part of this arrangement that took place involved an exchange of people as well as the release of some people. And our hope is that as time goes on, we’ll continue to develop that.
What we did talk about today was how to further the relationship most effectively, and perhaps through the creation of a bilateral committee that might work together to continue to put focus on these issues so that we can make the most out of this moment not lose the future with respect to the embargo and other issues.
So we’re going to work at that. I think today is the beginning of a constructive effort and that’s the way we want to keep it.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) We have completed the stage of exchanges to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen the embassies. We have managed to achieve a very important progress in the last few years. In the recent times, the U.S. Government has recognized that the blockade against Cuba is a wrong policy, causing isolation and bringing about humanitarian damages and privations or deprivations to our people, and has committed to engage Congress in a debate with the purpose of lifting the blockade. Second, the President of the U.S. has adopted some executive measures which are still limited in scope but which are oriented in the right direction.
I have had an exchange with Secretary Kerry with regards to the purposes for the following period aimed at the normalization of bilateral relations. We have not spoken about conditions but rather about the need to move on through the dialogue on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect and create a civilized behavior, despite the profound differences that exist between both governments, to better attend to the interests of our respective peoples.
To me, it is very important the fact that today an embassy was reopened in Washington and that diplomatic instruments could be created ensuring full mutual recognition, which is a practical contribution to the development of bilateral dialogue. I have also said that to Cuba, the normalization of relations presupposes the solution of a series of pending problems. Among them, as I have mentioned, the ceasing of the blockade against Cuba, the return of the territory of Guantanamo, and the full respect for the sovereignty of our country. We have confirmed this morning that there are conditions so that the dialogue could be expanded, and – with the purpose of expanding mutually beneficial cooperation between our – both countries and, of course, taking into account the fact that the situation between the U.S. and Cuba is asymmetric because our policy – or our country has not implemented any discriminatory policy against American citizens or enterprises. Cuba does not implement any unilateral coercive economic measure against the U.S. Cuba does not occupy any piece of U.S. territory. Precisely through the dialogue, we are supposed to create the proper conditions to move on towards the normalization of relations.
I can say that I have been pleased with the exchange with Secretary Kerry and that after the announcement of December the 17th, we have been able to establish in the early mornings of today diplomatic relations. We have been able to reopen the embassy, and now I have the opportunity to welcome Secretary Kerry in Havana for the reopening of the U.S. Embassy there in the next few weeks.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Rodriguez, I would like to know what are the advantages that are now in place after the opening of the embassy, taking into consideration that the blockade is still in place? And what are the advantages that we have now that we have an embassy?
And Secretary of State John Kerry, the Government of Cuba has said several times in the past that the diplomats – the American diplomats in Havana – has violated the Vienna Conventions on the legislations of Cuba in their behavior. Is that going to be like that in the future, or are you going to respect the Vienna Convention, as you said in your documents? Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) The fact that diplomatic relations have been re-established and that embassies have been reopened in both capitals shows first and foremost the mutual willingness to move on towards the improvement of the relations between our both countries. Second, new instruments are created to further deepen this dialogue under the circumstances that I have described. Third, during the process of our previous conversations, as expressed by the historical letters exchanged between Presidents Raul Castro Ruz and Barack Obama, the basis for the normal functioning of these diplomatic missions would be the purposes and principles enshrined in the UN charter: the principles of international law and the regulations containing the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. Therefore, we have reached agreements in these area, and I can say that Cuba would absolutely respect those provisions. Cuban diplomats will strictly abide by those rules, and we will create in Cuba every necessary condition for the normal functioning of the new U.S. Embassy in our country.
SECRETARY KERRY: (Inaudible) first what Bruno has said. Obviously, part of the negotiations leading up to the opening of the embassies was the matter of coming to agreement with respect to all of the diplomatic functions. And so we spent time – secretary – under secretary – Assistant Secretary Jacobson was negotiating with her counterpart, and the foreign minister and I then met and we signed off on an agreement which is in accord with the Vienna Conventions and meets both of our countries’ understandings of what is needed and what is appropriate at this moment in time. It could be subject to change later in the future, obviously, but for the moment we are satisfied and we are living within the structure of the Vienna Convention.
MR KIRBY: Next question, Pam Dockins, Voice of America.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Welcome, Foreign Minister Rodriguez. First for you, in your discussions today, did you establish any sort of road map for talks going forward? If so, what are your priorities, and as a result, do you envision a political opening in Cuba on issues such as greater freedom of speech and assembly, and also the legalization of opposition parties?
And Secretary Kerry, if I could switch gears and ask you about Iran nuclear, the UN Security Council vote today on the Iran resolution – critics are saying – of the Iran nuclear deal says this vote will lock them in because it has taken place before Congress has had the opportunity to debate the deal. What is your response to this criticism?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me remind you that I think in the case twice of going to war in previous administrations, the UN Security Council voted before the Congress.
But more importantly, in this particular case with respect to this agreement, we took pains to protect the prerogatives of Congress. We actually got our colleagues in sovereign countries who have no obligation to the Congress to agree to accept 90 days of no implementation of the resolution they voted on today. Now, it’s all well and good, obviously, for the Congress to interact with the executive department and to require us to do things, but frankly, some of these other countries were quite resistant to the idea as sovereign nations that they are subject to the United States Congress. And so we worked out a compromise. And in working out that compromise, we did so in a way that fully protects the prerogative of the United States Congress to review this over the next 60 days. We put a 90-day period in, during which there will be no implementation. So no ability of the Congress has been impinged on. The rights of the Congress to make its evaluation have not changed. But on the other hand, when you’re negotiating with six other countries, it does require, obviously, a measure of sensitivity and multilateral cooperation that has to take into account other nations’ desires at the same time. They were insistent that the vote take place because they were, after all, negotiating under the umbrella of the United Nations. And they thought it was appropriate, when they completed their work, for the United Nations to make its judgment.
I look forward to continuing over the next 60 days to having discussions and testimony and private meetings in whatever forum it is necessary to help convince the Congress that this deal does exactly what it says it does, which is prevents the possibility of a nuclear weapon from falling into the hands of another country while simultaneously opening up the opportunity for the United States to at this moment of time put to test the verification measures and all of those things that Iran has agreed to, rather than choosing today to force the potential of a conflict almost immediately, which is exactly what would happen if the Congress does not accept this agreement.


FOREIGN MINISER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) My plans are much simpler, which are to welcome Mr. Secretary Kerry in the next few weeks in Havana to continue our talks, to establish the appropriate mechanisms to expand the dialogue in areas related to bilateral cooperation oriented to the common benefit, and to retake our talks about the substantial aspects of the bilateral relations I have mentioned before, which will determine this process towards the normalization of relations.
I should say that he political opening in Cuba happened in the year 1959. The flag that we raised today in the Cuban embassy waited for 54 years to be back to the flagpole put up in this capital. We Cubans feel very happy with way in which we manage our internal affairs. We feel optimistic when it comes to the solution of our difficulties and we are very zealous of our sovereignty, so we will maintain in permanent consultations with our people to change everything that needs to be changed based on the sovereign and exclusive willingness of Cubans.
QUESTION: I have to admit that I’m a little bit lost here with the language, because I’m hearing Secretary Kerry speaking perfect Spanish and Minister Rodriguez speaking perfect English, so I don’t know which language I was – my way to do the original question. But let’s start with Mr. Kerry.
Mr. Secretary, do you think that this new era of relations with Cuba is the recognition that the U.S. policies of isolating countries in Latin America that differ from your political views don’t work? And (b), do you think that the recent trips to Caracas of Mr. Thomas Shannon is the beginning of trying to rebuild the relationship with Venezuela.
(Via interpreter) And my question to Minister Rodriguez: Is it possible to have relations with the U.S. when the U.S. is giving every signal that it is not willing to lift the blockade or the embargo as it is called here, and cannot withdraw from Guantanamo?
And Part B of the question: And for those skeptical people who really see a change of strategy when the U.S. for more than half a century tried to change Cuba from the outside has now implemented a creative way to try to change Cuba from the inside? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER RODRIGUEZ: (Via interpreter) I can say that the fact that diplomatic relations are being established and that we are reopening both embassies is a show of the mutual willingness to move on towards the normalization of bilateral relations. In hardly 15 minutes on December last, we heard the President of the United States of Obama recognizing that the U.S. policy against Cuba had been wrong, causing damages and hardships to the Cuban people, and causing isolation to the U.S. This is not a minor thing.
Today, we have opened an embassy of a country recognized as a sovereign country, although this is a small and neighboring island. I should say that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies is appreciated by my country as a signal of progress towards a civilized relationship, despite the differences, and it would lend some meaning only if the blockade is lifted, if we are able to solve the pending problems for more than one century, and if we are able create a new type of relationship between the U.S. and Cuba different from what has existed all along the history.
So in fact, we feel that the recognition of the need to lift the blockade against Cuba, the fact that during the talks that we have had, including this morning’s talks, we have perceived respect for the Cuba’s independence to the full determination of our people, the fact that we can now talk as I think the Secretary and I have talked, on the basis of absolute equal sovereignty despite differences shows that, as facts have shown, that dialogue is fruitful and that the U.S. and Cuba, by a mandate by the American people and the Cuban people, are in the condition to move on towards a future of relations different from the one accumulated throughout our history, responding precisely to the best interests of our citizens.
There is an international order. International law is recognized as the civilized behavior to be adopted by states. There are universally accepted principles, and these have been the ones who have allowed us to reach this date and the ones that we -- will reorient our behavior in our relations in the future.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I have learned through my public life that there is nothing harder than trying to change deeply-engrained attitudes and beliefs that are based on personal experience in the case of many people. I learned that, obviously, in the experience where I joined with Senator John McCain in a 10-year effort to try to change our relationship with Vietnam and to really finally make peace, to end a war more than 20 years after the war allegedly had ended, but there were still deep battles within our own country over that issue. And over time, with a great deal of effort, we were able to slowly work to show to people there was a better path.
Just a week or two ago, the party secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam was here in Washington visiting with the President, and we are today trading and working and things are changing rapidly in that country – maybe not as rapidly to some people’s desire as they might want, but they are changing.
So it is in many ways with Cuba, where the passions ran deep and run deep to this day in the United States. There are many Cuban Americans who have contributed in so many ways to life in our country, some of whom are still opposed to a change, some of whom believe it is time to change.
When I served in the United States Senate, there were many of us who believed over a period of time that our policy of isolating was simply not working; we were isolating ourselves in many ways. And we felt that after all those years it was time to try something else. President Obama is doing that now. The President said when he announced this shift of policy, if you’re digging a really deep hole and you just keep getting in deeper but you’re not finding what you’re looking for, it’s time to stop digging. And it is clear that we have chosen a new path, a different path. Already, people tell me who have visited Cuba that they feel a sense of excitement, a sense of possibility. And I am convinced that as we work through these issues we are going to find a better path forward that speaks to the needs of both peoples, both countries. So that is why the President has set us on this course. For years and years and years, it was his perception it was the people of Cuba who were paying the highest price, and we weren’t achieving the kind of relationship that we hoped to have.
With respect to Venezuela, Counselor of the State Department Ambassador Tom Shannon has had several conversations with the Venezuelans. We had a very productive conversation prior to the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The United States has said many times we would like to have a normal relationship with Venezuela and have reached out in an effort to try to change the dialogue, change the dynamics. There are differences that we have with President Maduro and his government, and we raise those differences and we talk about them. Just today, Foreign Minister Rodriguez and I talked specifically about Venezuela and our hopes that we can find a better way forward, because all of the region will benefit if no country is being made a scapegoat for problems within a country, and in fact, all countries are working on solving those problems.
That’s our objective. We hope to continue the dialogue with Venezuela. We hope that our diplomatic relations with Cuba can encourage not only greater dialogue with Venezuela but perhaps even efforts to try to help Colombia to end its more than 50-years war and perhaps even other initiatives. We’re not going to be overflowing with expressions of excessive optimism about where we will find this capacity, but we do know that we’re going to look for it. We do know that we think it makes a difference and we’re going to try and work at it. And I think that is the ultimate benefit that comes out of today. With the beginning of diplomatic relations, we are pledging to engage with each other to talk about our differences, to find places of common endeavor, and to try to build a relationship that benefits the people of Cuba, the people of the United States, the people of the region.
Thank you all very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody. That concludes today’s press conference.
FOREIGN MINISER RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

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