tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera September 21, 2015 10:30pm-11:01pm EDT
>> they're firing canisters of gas at us. >> award winning investigative documentary series. i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight, america wants access to cuba's 20 million citizens, but is there much return for that? i i'll interview a cuban citizen that says america should run the other way. and whether ben carson thinks a muslim can be president of the united states. as part of his historic visit to cuba, pope francis celebrated mass with cubans in
the country's fourth largest city. during the ceremony, the pontiff urged cubans to embrace change. especially in reckless of cuba and its arch nemesis, the united states. the pope worked behind the scenes to bring the countries together after 54 years of severed relations and those efforts bore fruit in august when thoa both countries reopend their embassies in washington and havana. enacted by congress in the 1950s in response to fidel castro's move towards communism. nationalized all foreign owned businesses on the island. president obama is now calling on congress to lift the embargo but republicans on capitol hill refuse to lift it, unless cuba's communist rurals ste ruleers st.
ready to abstain from a u.n. vote condemning the u.s. over the embargo. in the meantime, the obama administration has leeway to ease the embargo as it seize fit. for years pharmaceutical firms have been able to do limited business with cuba. but last week the commerce department lifted more restrictions with the telecom sector. restrictions still remain on americans traveling to cuba and cuba is still restricted from buying and using dollars in international transactions. nevertheless, change is in the air. and it seems inevitable now that cuba is opening for business for more americans. but even if more firms negotiate their way around the u.s. restrictions in place, they still have to contend with
cuba's economy. david ariosto has this report from havana. >> on december 17th, 2014 president barack obama dropped a bombshell. >> today the united states of america is changing its relationship with the people of cuba. >> reporter: the u.s. and cuba would seek to normalize relations, opening embassies in respective capitals. for many it was a shock yet the surprise quickly gave way to the prospect of opportunity. a market of 11 million people with more than half a century of pent up demand for u.s. goods and services. >> i have to tell you it's no exaggeration. sis december 17th my phone has been ringing off the hook from a company that's interested and aiblghts undeabilities opportun.
>> there are exceptions. >> the embargo is also full of holes. somebody said it has more holes than cheese. you have to know where they are so you don't fall into them. >> the new policy ushered in 14 additional categories through which americans can do business with the island. they include telecommunications, the sale of some consumers electronics like cell phones, microfinance among others. but while this largely untapped market 90 miles off the coast of florida might be tempting among entrepreneurs it might not be what you expect, when you dig a little deeper. the cuban market, may seem tempting. but the average cuban sar cubans 20 a month. they take that salary and they
tray this, the libretta, a ration card that basically item itemizes out, and in official terms the buying power of the cuban street is not very great. >> translator: in general, this type of market is a project of the military. it tried to assist and help cubans so they can buy products. >> reporter: though some residents boost their buying power by way of the black market and remit answers from family members living abroad there are other roadblocks to investment. namely the question of infrastructure needed to keep pace with demanding. >> cuba needs to rebuild its power plant, build new green power plants, and road network needs to be redone. >> if you want to do business with cuba you better do business with the government. manufacturing and distribution
centers, large agricultural products, that means investing in cuba usually requires a government go-between. of the 250 foreign countries that operate on this island, some have complained that that reality reduces efficiency. makes negotiations more difficult. and even raises the risk of having their assets seized. and so insiders caution that for all the opportunity of this new relationship with washington and of all the liberalizing all this is still castro's cuba. >> david ariosto joins me. the obama administration easted restrictions on travel and banking and telecom sector. what's changed from before? >> you can't almost overstate how significant this is. this sort of blots a major hole in the embargo itself. one analyst i spoke to said, is this an end run that politicians
are supposed to do? he said no, u.s. trading with the enemy act, it historically provides leeway and how that's interpreted. the four categories, telecommunications, finance, tourism what's called people to people relations, how those categories are interpreted how big they are is devil in the details here. what this will allow, allow companies to set up offices here in cuba, it will allow them to deal with cuban employees, obviously they still have to come the sort of reclamation with the cuban government. you can't state this in any other way, it almost overshadows the visit of pope francis to the island. the ability of american businesses to do business in cuba in a way that they haven't done really up until 1959. >> what's the thinking behind easing restrictions on web services and telecom versus all the other sectors that have restrictions on them in cuba? >> this is one of the
fascinating things because computer science, engineering degrees are actually one of the more popular degrees of study down here although it's got least internet penetration anywhere in the country. and that's something that u.s. telecom companies are looking to get involved in. those who sort of look behind the lines here are that telecoms oar way of propping up an economy and propping up the youth in the economy which in some ways sort of represents the next generation of cuban leadership here. so as you bring in the microsofts as you get those telecoms up i just used my verizon cell phone for the first time ever, and i've been coming to the island for six years now. >> wow. >> there are winds of change and telecoms is sort of the first step in that change. >> how bad do american companies want to do business? it's 11 million people, how prosperous are they? >> we said in the package the
cuban economy is the thing here, they make $20 a month so the buying power of the cuban estate is not very great. there is a black market, there's remittances that represent about $1 billion a year here, and there's a olots of agricultural farmland. it's basically equivalent of new york city to cleveland in territory. a lot of it is fallow, they haven't been able to get their seeds to market, is the complaint i've heard from a lot of farmers. agricultural firms have their eye on cuba. the other is the old cars. i've talked to leaders at the car companies, these are classic cars that top companies want to get their hands on. potential for this relationship but big caveats. historically you need opartner with the cuban government.
cuban army runs a lot of the institutions here, the hotels, and the willingness that a political capital would have to be burned by a company, sort of one of the questions that remains to be seen. david ariosto, always a pleasure. coming up i'm going to speak to a cuban american lawyer that says it's a big mistake to trust dealing with the castro regime. i'm going to talk to him about the 16 years he spent in cuban prisons. >> it isn't easy to talk openly on this base. >> and america's war workers. >> it's human trafficking. >> watch these and other episodes online now at aljazeera.com/faultlines.
united states opened its embassy in havana. eager to use this thaw in relations to cash in. but cuban american lawyer ped roast fuentes, spent years in prison for speaking out against the government. he says the government is not to be trusted. joins us from miami. pedro, thank you for joining us. last year you said investing in cuba would be a big mistake. you went on to say it's something i wouldn't advise to anybody, even my worst enemy, is that rhetoric or does that ignore the reality that's falling offer deaf ears? what david was just talking about, archer daniel midlandis and sprint and verizon can't wait to get into cuba. >> they better watch out. like i said if their lawyers go with them and find out that what
they have there in their constitution of 1976, only favors the government, and the communist party, which is the cuban government, then you know, they will be very cautious. they should be very cautious. to spend their money there. i mean anybody should be. when they're spending their own money. although, maybe, you know, in some cases, this money is ensured. by the taxpayers. so if they lose the money, then maybe, we have to pay for it that's a possibilities. >> but if american companies have been doing business with businesses in china with the chinese government, you can see the number of people who are now eager to do business in iran. the fact is can't they get in make money hope the government gets influenced by the idea that there's been this inflow of capital that cuba has not seen in 50 years and that it will
dissuade the cuban government from doing the wrong thing? >> well hoping is not enough, i mean when it's your own money. you should be sure, that your money is safe. and then if you look at investors in the past, from spain, from canada, some of them were even in jail. some were even in jail accused of corruption. because some of them couldn't get the things done in their businesses. and then people that oversaw their businesses from the government side maybe asked them for a little favor, i don't know what happened. but some of them were in jail for three, four, five years. >> you know let's -- you know firsthand having been in jail there, you know firsthand how oppressive the cuban deposit can be. exports to the united states out of cuba could reach $5.8 billion per year. you just heard david talk about the state of impoverishment that
so many cubans exist in and the opportunities for better agriculture, for more efficient means of production so these things can work. he won't opening cuba to more business ultimately benefit cuban people and maybe influence reform from within? >> absolutely. but the problem is, how are they going to produce these fantastic figures? that's what i don't see, i don't see it happening. you know unless they import machinery from the united states, they don't want to work. you know, it's as simple as that. for $20, a month, they don't want to -- they don't want to work. they just live day by day. >> get to the point of exporting $5.8 billion, you heard david talk about how much of the cuban economy is regulated by remittances. generating that economy you see
that wage go up. it was what we have seen in every other country that is closed that opens up. >> i agree with you. but you have to generate it first, that's the thing. that takes i would say a few years, you know, and in order to generate it, you have to inject more money into the economy, so the people that are working, that are making this possible, in the fields, in the agriculture, you know, get more money. and i argue to work for the money. that's the main problem. besides, you know, here, everything mentioned here, but human rights. >> i'm not going to argue with you on this one pedro. cuba's human rights record is outrageous, it's terrible but is this not good that more cubans will have access to the internet in their fight for human rights? >> no, it's fantastic, i agree
with it a thousand percent. but the problem is that how is it going to happen? i don't see it happening. >> but isn't it how that happens, your argument is that it is thought going to happen. you have american companies that want to go in, you have the issue of increasing companies going in, internet access, you're saying it's not going to lap are increasing the things that would like to happen. >> no i am supporting them. i just want a better record for human rights, so people will be more inclined to believe in what the government says. you know, that's the main thing. >> you believe that if they get that better access to information through the internet do you think more cubans would be able to stand up organize politically or do you disagree? >> absolutely and the government doesn't want that. so do you think they're going to give the opportunity that they have denied up to now for everybody to have internet, to
know the opinion of the dissidents to get their message to go marching on sundays with the ladies in white to the santa rita church and getting beat up by the security forces? >> the fact is you don't think all the light shined on cube all the attention they're getting is going to cause that government to say, let's behave a little better? >> maybe in a few years but i don't see that happening right now. >> i hope the truth lies between what we're thinking but if it takes a few years you and i will talk regularly and watch cuba to get it right. >> absolutely. i want the best for my country and i want the best for my people but i don't see any good things happening for them in the near future, really. i don't see them happening. >> pedro fuentes is a cuban lawyer.
>> ahmed mohammed is the 14-year-old teenager who caused a storm when he brought a home made electronic device to school. ahmed is muslim. he brought a clock he built to school in irving, texas. he said he wanted to impress his ninth grade engineering teacher. ahmed was reported to school officials. the clock was in fact a clock and not a bomb. ahmed was somehow in handcuffs. president obama praised him for his ingenuity, invited him to the white house, he also received a shout-out from facebook chief mark zuckerberg. the only thing ahmed was guilty of is being a muslim in america. if aimmediate was her child she
would be upset bud she said do i not fault the police and the school of looking into what they thought was a threat, ahmed is joining us from mountain view, california, taking some time out to visit google. on friday mark spoke with you on friday, went on to say that he learned when you introduced your clock in the earlier class he, the teachers liked it. not until you introduced the clock in a later class that the teacher thought your clock was suspicious and asked to you put it away. what happened. >> i brought my clock to school and the teacher thought it was a threat to her because in her eyes it looked suspicious. the clock is built from scram, scrap found around the house. some of the boards were already manufactured but yes it was put
together. >> so what happened? the teacher asked you to put away or what happened then? >> the teacher, the clock in fact was plugged in, during the classroom. so it didn't go off in my backpack. so it was plugged in, and i set a time on there, and i showed it to a student sitting next to me. and it went off, so the teacher looked around and said what was that noise? and i just unplugged it immediately. >> and then what happened? when did they call the security people at the school? >> the security people were called around sixth period, that's when i got called out of class. but this classroom i did show my teacher the clock i showed it to her and that's when she confiscated it from me. >> was that the particular teacher that you wanted to impress, was that jury engineering teacher or a different teacher?
>> that was a different teacher but i wanted to impress all of my teachers. >> were they impressed? >> i only got to show two teachers because the rest of the day i didn't get to stay at school. >> no kidding, all right. the security person called you in, they look at this clock determined it was a clock and at any point did they tell you maybe it was a bomb or talk to you about whether it was a bomb? >> yes, they talked to me whether it was a bomb. they looked at me and they are like what is that, i told them it was a clock they said looked like a bomb to me, doesn't look like a clock to me one officer said and when i told the other officer, one of the officers told me it looks like a movie bomb. so he told me do you watch movies at home of course i told him yes. he told me and that was like a movie bomb to me. and did you try copy the bomb from your movie? i told him no officer i didn't.
>> i saw a picture of you in handcuffs. how did that happen? >> i was detained later at school, and then taken to the police station. to where i was -- handcuffed. >> even though they had determined that it wasn't a bomb or they decided it wasn't a bomb? >> yes. >> so you say you felt like a terrorist and that wasn't the first time you had felt that way. that struck me as pretty strong. you're a 14-year-old kid. how come you've been made to feel you were a terrorist? >> well, in middle school it was a rough journey to me too. sixth grade year one of the students said is osama bin laden your uncle why did he kill those people in 9/11? he said he wasn't my uncle, and i really felt like a terrorist. >> where is this clock right now? have the police given it back to you? >> no, it's still with the police.
>> they said you could come get it if you wanted. >> yes. >> the reason i asked you you have to go back to the police station. the irving police chief said you weren't forthcoming about information about your ig digital clock that's why they took you into custody. do you think why they think so, you seem like a talkative kid. why would you think they said you weren't forthcoming? >> i was forthcoming. i told them multiple times it was a clock, i told them everything they asked me, i don't know why they said i wasn't forthcoming. i did answer any questions they asked me. >> no charges are pending, i'm sure you're very, very relieved because of the whole thing. what does this make you do now? you're getting a lot of attention, out there visiting google, do you want to proceed with a career moving towards engineering, do you want to stay at your school?
>> i want to pursue on a career to engineering. >> and are you okay going back to your school? >> no, i'm not okay going back to my school because it's really -- it didn't really feel good about what happened there and i don't want to go back there. >> is there something they can make you feel better the school the mayor or the police? >> i mean no, they could apologize but that's not going to change anything because what was done was done. >> you know as a 14-year-old kid you probably shouldn't be following presidential election too much right now but one of the candidates ben carson happened to say a muslim isn't suited to be president of the united states. i wonder if a kid like you wants to be president of the united states one day? >> no. >> you don't? >> no. i wasn't born here so i can't run. >> all right well then you know what? this country is going to have a fantastic engineer. ahmed thank you for joining us.
i'm sorry for what you had to go through. >> no problem. >> all right, ahmed model is for lack of a better description, a clock-making teenager. that's or show for today. i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining us. > pilgrimage to america. >> we have been preparing for this event for the last couple of months. >> the pope is set to arrive in the u.s. tomorrow. what he's expected to tell the nation, and why his views on capitalism and inequality are raising concerns. >> the leader of a gulf nation who has become a powerplaying in settling conflict and winning freedoms for americans