Things That Matter

Trump Cited Human Rights For His Cuba Policy Reversal And Cuba Pointed Out The Millions Of Americans Losing Health Care

Presidencia de la República Mexicana / Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On June 16, 2017, President Trump gave an address in Miami calling for a reversal of the Obama-era Cuban policy that opened up diplomatic ties, travel, and business with the Caribbean country. According to CNN, the Trump administration is planning on reversing travel and business aspects of Obama’s Cuba policy but will not be cutting diplomatic ties. Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. Despite Trump promising, in the same speech, that the changes in our policy with Cuba would be happening immediately, it is likely to take months before any of the measures proposed are implemented. USA Today reports that the changes proposed by Trump could take months, maybe years, before they are finalized. As for his reasoning for the change in the policy, Trump cited concerns over Cuba’s record on human rights and his perceived notion that Cuba is not willing to comply with the U.S. Trump also said that he didn’t want any more U.S. dollars going to fund the Cuban military.

“To the Cuban government, I say, put an end to the abuse of dissidents, release the political prisoners, stop jailing innocent people, open yourselves to political and economic freedoms, return the fugitives from American justice, including the return of the cop killer Joanne Chesimard,” Trump said in his speech, according to The New York Times.

Cuba quickly responded to Trump’s speech. Not only did the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez call the speech a “grotesque spectacle” during a visit in Vienna, Austria, but the Cuban government released their own statement questioning the legitimacy of the renewed restrictions. They say that enforcing the embargo will only serve to further impact Cubans and the Cuban economy, which Trump claims he wants to see grow under a democratic ruling during his speech. As for the human rights concern, well, the Cuban government had some choice words for the President of the United States about that.

“The United States are not in the position to teach us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect for and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality, and abuses by the police, particularly against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of the deaths caused by fire arms; child labor is exploited and there are serious manifestations of racial discrimination; there is a threat to impose more restrictions on medical services, which will leave 23 million persons without health insurance; there is unequal pay between men and women; migrants and refugees, particularly those who come from Islamic countries, are marginalized; there is an attempt to put up walls that discriminate against and denigrate neighbor countries; and international commitments to preserve the environment and address climate change are abandoned,” reads the statement from the Cuban government. “Also a source of concern are the human rights violations by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detention of tens of prisoners in the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, Cuba, where even torture has been applied; extrajudicial executions and the death of civilians caused by drones; as well as the wars unleashed against countries like Iraq, under false pretenses like the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”

There are two important points to make about the future of Cuba-U.S. relations. First, Trump is not going to be restoring “wet foot, dry foot,” which was a policy that allowed for Cuban refugees to be granted legal permanent residency. President Obama drew a lot of ire from Cuban-Americans when he eliminated the program January 12, 2017, just before leaving office. The second point worth noting is that Americans will no longer be able to travel to the U.S. individually anymore. Any person traveling to Cuba for non-academic educational purposes will have to travel in a group.

You can read the full statement from the Cuban government here. You can read the White House’s full statement here.

You can watch Trump’s full Cuba speech below.


READ: Trump Is Expected To Change The U.S. Policy On Cuba After A Review Led By Cuban-American Politicians

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Colombia Is On Alert After Six Candidates Running For Mayor Have Been Murdered In The Past Six Weeks

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Colombia Is On Alert After Six Candidates Running For Mayor Have Been Murdered In The Past Six Weeks

Stern / Instagram

Yesterday saw police in Colombia arrest two people in connection to the death of Orley García, the mayoral candidate for the municipality of Toledo. But the wildest thing is that García isn’t the first mayoral candidate to have been killed this election cycle in Colombia. In fact, he’s actually the sixth

The most heartbreaking death was that of Karina García.

Pinterest / The Guardian

The 32-year-old was running to be the first female mayor in the rural municipality of Toledo when she was attacked. Following a day of campaigning on September 1, García was returning to her hometown of Suarez when the car she was traveling in was shot at, before being set on fire. Six people died from the attack, including García’s mother, three local activists and a candidate for the municipal council, who were also in the car at the time. According to authorities, a grenade was used in the attack. Somehow, though, García’s bodyguard, who was driving the vehicle, survived.

Before she was killed, Karina reported receiving threats and asked for security.

Twitter / @JZulver

A reward of almost $44,000 has been offered for information leading to the capture of the dissidents who were responsible for the murder of Karina García, who is survived by her husband and three year old son. It seems like a case of too little, too late, though, as García had already reported to authorities that she was on the receiving end of death threats. It was only in August that four armed men confronted members of her campaign, ordering them to take down banners and posters supporting her candidacy. García took to social media, calling on authorities to protect her and her fellow candidates against harm. “Please, for God’s sake, don’t act so irresponsibly,” she said in a video posted to Facebook on August 24. “This can bring fatal consequences for me.”

Authorities are blaming the killings on FARC rebels.

Instagram / @stern

And just who are FARC? The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, on the most fundamental level, are a guerilla movement that began in 1964. Motivated by Marxist-Leninist leanings, on paper they’re a peasant force that promotes anti-imperialism. However, what this means in practice is that they kidnap, ransom, drug run and extort their way into opposing Colombian authorities and consolidating power. By the time 2016 rolled around though, the group was running out of steam. This led to a ceasefire accord between FARC and the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. June 2017 saw FARC hand over its weapons to the United Nations.

Yes, FARC legitimized itself legally but several dissidents disagree with that decision.

Instagram / @leperejulot

Obviously, that’s not the end of the story. Despite the peace deal, and despite the fact that FARC had officially announced its transformation into a legal, political party, there are still plenty of dissidents out there who disagree with the change and still operate under the original FARC doctrine. What’s most likely sparked the recent mayoral candidate killings is FARC’s announcement, on Youtube no less, that it’s resorting to violence due to the Colombian government’s failure to comply with the peace agreements from 2016. Of course, Colombian officials heartily disagreed with this statement, and responded with offensive strikes against FARC.

This has basically turned into tic for tac killing.

Twitter / @Citytv

And the repercussions of the violence and killings are far-reaching. Beyond the devastated friends and family left behind, this also spells trouble for the democratic process in Colombia. Because who’s going to risk running for office, if they’re risking not only their own life, but the lives of their friends, family and coworkers? And who’s going to even consider turning up to vote, when the candidates themselves are being murdered, left, right, and center? It’s hard to conceive of cultural and legislative change in a country where part of what needs to be changed is what’s preventing change in the first place.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this is the exact kind of violence that people are fleeing when they arrive at the US border and make an appeal for asylum.

Instagram / @every_day_donald_trump

It’s a legitimate fear: the operation of gangs and cartels negatively impacts on the safety of the citizenry, as well as influencing the way that the entire country can be governed. However, because US legislation under the Trump administration states that asylum seekers cannot be granted refuge against gang violence, it means that these people have no choice but to go back to their country of origin and continue to risk theirs and their family’s lives. Something’s gotta give – otherwise, we’re going to see a lot more deaths at the hands of these gangs.

At this stage, we can only keep our eyes peeled for more news coming out from Colombia, as the elections are to be held October 27, across almost 1,100 municipalities. Unfortunately, with the murder of the sixth mayoral candidate in Colombia, this marks an even more violent election season than that of 2015, which saw the deaths of five mayoral candidates.

Here’s What Happened When Alyssa Milano Live-Streamed Her Gun Reform Discussion With Ted Cruz

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Here’s What Happened When Alyssa Milano Live-Streamed Her Gun Reform Discussion With Ted Cruz

milano_alyssa / Instagram

Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano has long been using her platform to creatively advocate for political change in America. In the past, she’s even called on women to partake in a sex strike in response to the onslaught of abortion ban bills that swept the nation. More recently, she’s taken to calling out the elected officials whose careers are most benefitted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Congressperson who received the highest donation from the NRA and other gun-rights organizations is none other than Texas Republican Ted Cruz. 

The two have been spitting fire at each other via Twitter for the last few weeks. All of it culminated in an actual, real-live, live-streamed meeting between the two Tuesday morning. Why was it live-streamed? Because Milano wanted to make sure “the American people can hear your bullshit 1st hand.”

Alyssa Milano told Ted Cruz that part of the reason she wanted to meet was to make sure he was a human being. Literally.

Credit: @BIZPACReview / Twitter

“That is why this meeting was so important to me,” she told him during the live stream. “I wanted to look at you in the eye and know that you really are a human with a heartbeat.” Ted Cruz started the meeting by telling Milano that he was a fan of “Who’s the Boss?” and “Commando,” while Milano started by letting Cruz know his politics on gun control “has made you almost like this caricature of a villain.”

The two talked for more than an hour on gun control, with Milano beginning the conversation by imploring, “I’m asking you, begging you, to have the courage to lead.” In the room was also Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was murdered during the Parkland shooting. 

Cruz didn’t make any revolutionary statements throughout the meeting, arguing that merely having a civil discussion is a triumph.

Credit: @SenTedCruz / Twitter

“This is a divided time. This is an angry time. … I think it is beneficial for is to have a human conversation,” Cruz said. “I also hope that just seeing people on different places on the spectrum, treating people with civility and humanity, that is contagious.” Instead of agreeing to introduce or urge the Senate to discuss new gun control laws, Cruz instead wanted to “focus on policies that would really stop these crimes.” Cruz claims to be leading the charge on preventing mass shootings in America by proposing harsher prosecutions of gun cases and making background checks more “accurate.”

Cruz and Milano agreed to meet last week, after tweeting jabs at each other over their stances on gun control.

Credit: @Alyssa_Milano / Twitter

We hear that a lot, right? The “God-given right” to own guns in America. Cruz decided to respond to Milano, tweeting, “it is of course not the right to a modern-day firearm that is God-given but rather the right to Life & the right to Liberty. Essential to that right is the right to DEFEND your life & your family.”

Cruz gave a lengthy (for Twitter) response to Milano:

Credit: @tedcruz / Twitter

He went on to say, “The right to self-defense is recognized repeatedly in the Bible, eg Exodus 22:2: ‘If a thief is caught breaking in at night & is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.’ (Note, though, verse 3 says it IS murder if during daylight (ie, not self-defense). The Declaration of Independence acknowledges our rights thusly: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And, for that reason, the Second Amendment provides “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, SHALL NOT be infringed.” It wasn’t to protect people’s ability to hunt, or to shoot target practice, but to defend their lives, their homes & their families. Stephen Willeford exercised that fundamental right when he risked his own life to stop the Sutherland Springs murderer, saving countless others as a result.” 

Just like that, the meeting was born in resentment and frustration but seemed to end in civil resentment and frustration.

Credit: @Alyssa_Milano / Twitter

After the meeting, Milano tweeted, “He was gracious. I’m unsure if it changes anything. But appreciative for the opportunity to bridge the divide with civil, meaningful discussion.” Cruz described the meeting as “productive and respectful.” Basically, nothing noteworthy really happened except for that Alyssa Milano gave Ted Cruz a hug. What is noteworthy is that civil discourse cannot sway the NRA-lined pockets of Ted Cruz.

READ: Ted Cruz’s Legal Team Believes That His Fight For $10,000 Is The Same As Rosa Parks’s Fight For Civil Rights