Monday, April 13, 2009

Castro, Pet Poisoning And Cuba-US Relations

(image via latimesblog)

Intra-Americas drama! President Obama released the pictures of the new White House pet "Bo (Diddley)" at a curious political time. And we won't entertain that the 44th President of the United States would play politics with a family pet. "Bo" took his place on the national stage over the weekend as not only the pirate saga was coming to it's sanguinary conclusion, but also on the cusp of the Friday release of a 64-page State Department report written in 2007 detailing Cuban efforts to weaken the morale of American diplomats on the island by poisoning their family pets. Fer realsies! From TheHill:

"The 64-page report written in 2007 states that the life of U.S. diplomats serving in the U.S. Interest Section (USINT) – which issues visas and performs other diplomatic services in Havana – was laden with poor morale “in part because USINT life in Havana is life with a government that ‘let’s [sic] you know it’s hostile.’”

"Cuban officials would often try to create dissention within the ranks of U.S. diplomats on the island according to the report, which was prepared and released by the State Department inspector general.

“Retaliations have ranged from the petty to the poisoning of family pets. The regime has recently gone to great lengths to harass some employees by holding up household goods and consumable shipments. The apparent goal has been to instigate dissension within USINT ranks.”

"'Household effects and consumable shipments are languishing in containers awaiting customs clearance. Customs clearance has also lagged for some unaccompanied air freight shipments,” the report says.

"The official account of U.S. diplomats in the Communist country closely follows recent political efforts to improve ties with Cuba.

"President Obama, in advance of a summit of Latin American leaders that begins next week, is expected to ease restrictions on Cuban-Americans who send money and visit family in Cuba."

Clearly a change in United States policy towards Cuba will have great political consequences. President Obama won Florida (Bush beat Kerry in 2004), a swing state, and there will be strong appeals by the GOP -- it has already started -- to use any perceived "weakness" on Cuba to his disadvantage. But if both a right-winger like Pat Buchanan and a progressive like Eleanor Clift can agree like they did on last week's McLaughlin panel that the time has come for change .. well?

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