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Mitch Perry Report for 8.14.15 — Cuba, China and human rights

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

One of the legacies of Jimmy Carter’s administration was attempting to base a foreign policy on human rights. While in the end it resulted in mixed results, it was a central tenet of his outlook on the rest of the world.

Human rights overseas is at the forefront today — or should be  — as John Kerry becomes the first secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945. Kerry arrives in Havana to attend a flag-raising ceremony at the American Embassy and boost the efforts at  rapprochement between the two nations.

Will Kerry meet with human rights dissidents during his 12 hours in Cuba? There are conflicting reports about that this morning. But one thing is clear: In the first eight months of this new relationship, the Cuban government hasn’t done a thing in improving its human rights record.

Two months ago Tom Malinowski, the State Department’s official for human rights, acknowledged that American officials “have not yet seen a letup in the kind of day-to-day harassment that civil society activists face in Cuba,” including short-term arrests.

Malinowski is also in the news today regarding the human rights situation in China, a Communist-based country that we’ve had relations with for decades (unlike Cuba).

The New York Times reports the United States has concerns about a proposed law in China that would severely restrict civil society and nongovernmental organizations, as well as recent roundups of lawyers and activists.

President Obama will meet President Xi Jinping of China in Washington next month, and we’re told that  human rights will “feature prominently in summit talks” between the two leaders.

We’ll see about that.

Let’s face it: China has a horrible human rights record, but they’re so massive as an economic entity that at this point there seems little leverage the United States has to make them do the right thing. It was different in the 1990s, when we thought we did have leverage over them.

A lot of folks think nothing will change in Cuba under the Castro regime, but what about after that? It’s something that everybody in this country is watching, and if Cuba could get it together just a little bit, the economic sanctions could end perhaps much sooner than anyone can anticipate. But if they keep locking people up for demonstrating against the government, that isn’t going to happen for a very long time.

In other news…

Now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land, there’s no issues on that front at all, right? Not exactly. Apparently the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics is still refusing to allow hospitals to list both same-sex parents on their baby’s birth certificate. That’s prompted a lawsuit against the state, with one of the plaintiffs being a couple from St. Petersburg.

Judging by the exchange of vitriolic press releases this week, the Patrick Murphy/Alan Grayson hate fest is on. 

Although critics say one of Barack Obama’s greatest promises he’s failed to keep as president is his failure to close Guantanamo Bay, the fact is that members of Congress, including Democrats, have exhibited a NIMBY-like attitude toward transferring detainees to prisons in their home states. Another attempt by the administration to do something on this is going nowhere, but David Jolly announced yesterday that, yes, he’s still against closing the Cuban facility down.

Jeff Brandes is mad again at the Hillsborough County PTC regarding its efforts to continue to bust Uber (and Lyft) drivers, and says he’s going to propose legislation next year to kill the agency outright.

And according to some guy named Jon who writes on Uber’s official website, MacDinton’s is the most popular destination for Uber riders in the Tampa Bay area.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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