Could 1 million more Cubans be deemed ineligible for remittances?

The Miami Herald

William LeoGrande, an American University professor who specializes in U.S.-Cuba relations, says it appears there might be a “poison pill” in President Donald Trump’s new Cuba policy that potentially could cut off remittances to more than 1 million Cubans.

The memorandum on strengthening Cuba policy that Trump signed last week in Miami specifically states that regulatory changes shall not prohibit “sending, processing or receiving authorized remittances” — the money that’s sent to family members and friends in Cuba.

Currently remittances can be sent to almost anyone on the island — with the exception of members of the Council of Ministers, which includes the president, first vice president, seven first vice presidents, ministers and a few other top officials, and high-ranking military officials.

But the Trump memo greatly expands the definition of so-called prohibited officials.

It includes not only ministers, vice ministers and members of the Council of State and Council of Ministers but also members and employees of the National Assembly of People’s Power — Cuba’s parliament; provincial assembly members; local heads of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; directors general, sub-directors and higher officers of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense; and members and employees of Cuba’s Supreme Court.

The memo also lists secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba and top editors of all state-run media outlets as prohibited officials.

Such a sweeping category could potentially include a quarter of Cuba’s labor force, LeoGrande said. “It’s literally a million people if you count everyone who works for the military and GAESA that could have their remittances cut off,” he said.

GAESA (Grupo de Administración Empresarial) is a Cuban military conglomerate that controls a broad swath of the Cuban economy, including the Gaviota Tourism Group. One of the cornerstones of Trump’s new Cuba policy is channeling U.S. money and businesses away from GAESA and instead encouraging Americans and U.S. companies to develop economic ties with small private business people in Cuba.

But widening the prohibition on who can receive remittances could potentially hurt many Cuban families — those Trump has said he wants to support with his new policy, LeoGrande said. Many Cubans are dependent on money sent from friends and relatives abroad because state salaries are so low. An estimated $3 billion in remittances is sent to the island annually.

Among the questions, which may by clarified when regulations on the new Cuba policy are written, is how literally to take the definition of all employees of the Ministry of Defense.

All Cuban males must complete compulsory military service. “Does this mean an active duty private is an employee of the Ministry of Defense, and therefore a prohibited person?” asked Robert Muse, a Washington lawyer. “There still has to be more definition of what this means.”

Also in question is whether a person who is a clerk or low-level employee at an enterprise run by GAESA would be considered an employee of the Ministry of Defense.

Trying to sort out such definitions about who is eligible to receive remittances could potentially become a real headache for money transfer companies, Muse said.

In response to a query, Western Union, which has provided money transfer services to Cuba from the United States since 1999 and more recently began to handle remittances from other parts of the world to Cuba, said: “Western Union does not believe the changes are intended to impact the sending of authorized remittances to Cuba.”

Said LeoGrande: “There are a number of things that need to be clarified. The [memorandum] is so ambiguous in places.”

Cuba watchers also point to a section of Trump’s memorandum that instructs the State Department to identify “entities or sub-entities” under the control or acting on behalf of the Cuban “military, intelligence or security services or personnel” and publish a list of those with which “direct financial transactions” would disproportionately benefit them “at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.”

Some analysts have zeroed in on the word direct in the memorandum. Previous OFAC directives usually refer to direct and indirect financial transactions.

“Does this mean you can’t go and book at a Gaviota hotel, but you can give a Spanish tour company money and they can get you a room at the Saratoga?” Muse asked. (The Hotel Saratoga is operated under the umbrella of Habaguanex, which was recently transferred to the military.)

Editorial: Pressure on Cuba’s dictators

Providence Journal 

Donald Trump has not always shown much interest in the promotion of human rights abroad. He has mindlessly praised the Chinese regime’s massacre at Tiananmen Square and expressed little concern about Vladimir Putin’s human rights-abusing thugocracy in Russia. On the other hand, he recently spoke out about the terrible human rights abuses that continue in Cuba.

A little more than a year ago, Barack Obama traveled to Cuba on a landmark visit. His Cuban sojourn came on the heels of several major shifts in our policy toward the Communist Caribbean island. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were restored, a good move for our country. Cuba now has an embassy in Washington, and the U.S. has one in Havana. Cuba was removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Several travel limits were eased, as were restrictions on U.S. banks’ activities on the island.

There was a good reason to seek changes. Fifty years of hostility between the United States and Cuba had done little to improve the human rights situation on the island, which remained appalling. Ditto for the country’s sclerotic, state-run economy, which had left millions mired in abject poverty. It was time for a new approach.

Unfortunately, the new approach has not led Cuba to alter its ways in the least. The political system remains grotesquely oppressive; nearly 10,000 political arrests were reported in 2016 alone, and free speech remains just a dream. (Almost 500 political arrests occurred even as President Obama was visiting Cuba.)

Perhaps needless to say, the Castro regime still refuses to hold free and fair elections. The economy, meanwhile, has remained tightly controlled.

President Trump, recognizing Cuba’s failure to budge, announced new Cuba policies in Miami last week. Crucially, he did not roll back all of the reforms that President Obama implemented. (Though in typical Trump fashion, the president was rather dishonest about this — he claimed, falsely, that he was “canceling” Obama’s policies.) For example, the embassies will remain open and direct flights between the U.S. and Cuba will continue to operate. That’s wise; it would be foolish to initiate another counterproductive deep freeze.

But President Trump announced his administration will crack down on the kinds of trips Americans can take to Cuba. (Pure tourism wasn’t permitted even under Obama, but this rule went largely unenforced.) The Trump administration will also impose restrictions on the kinds of business Americans can conduct on the island. The State Department is currently at work on a list of Cuban businesses that are controlled by the regime’s military and security services; Americans will be forbidden from doing business with them.

This seems an appropriate threading of the needle. Tourism provides funding to the repressive regime; likewise, the Cuban military and security services are the tools with which the police state is enforced.

Top NewsClick Now and Read Later.

As the president put it during his announcement, “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.” The people of Cuba would benefit greatly if their oppressors would begin to heed such cries for human rights and elemental justice.

Yale Professor Banned From Cuba Reacts to Trump’s Policy Change

NBC Connecticut

A Yale University history professor said he hopes President Donald Trump’s policy change to restrict the flow of American dollars into Cuba will make it more difficult for the Castro dynasty to stay in power.
“Well I was born in Cuba, and I left when I was 11 years old without my parents,” Professor Carlos Eire said.
That was in the early 1960s. Later reunited with his mom, Eire has not been back to Cuba since. He was unable to attend his father’s funeral.
“I can’t go back because I’m an official enemy of the state,” he explained. “And all my books are banned in Cuba, even my scholarly books that have nothing to do with Cuba.”
Eire has long opposed any tourists visiting Cuba because the Castro regime remains in control.
“The foreigners who visit have access to all sorts of thing that are off limits to Cubans and they have freedom and rights denied to Cubans,” Eire said.
In December 2014, when President Obama was preparing to ease restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, Eire wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post saying, “As a Cuba exile, I feel betrayed.”
“He didn’t care how long Cuba remains enslaved,” Eire said of the former president. “He just wanted to change his police to fit all his foreign policy.”
In Miami Friday, Trump announced a reversal in his predecessor’s approach to Cuba that includes limiting American trade and travel.
“American has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors, they are rejected, officially today, rejected,” Trump said in front of a crowd of Cuban-Americans.
Both of Connecticut’s Democratic senators expressed concern with the announcement from the president on U.S.-Cuba relations.
“Trump’s new policies break the campaign promises he made to boost American jobs and business,” Senator Chris Murphy said. “Connecticut businesses are eager to do more business with Cuba, but now our president has made that harder. More than 50 years of embargo and isolation failed to bring about any meaningful change in Cuba or help the Cuban people. Rather than doubling down on the failed policies of the past, President Trump should build on the new course that President Obama set and recognize that diplomacy and people-to-people ties are the best way to bring democracy and prosperity to the people of Cuba.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal said he wants to see how the policy change plays out, but said he hoped Cuban human rights and relations with the U.S. could improve through more “trade, visits and contacts.”
According to Eire, the past two years of U.S. engagement and increased American travel has not made life better for Cubans because the money flowing in ends up in the pockets of the military that runs the country.
“The Obama normalization circus as I like to call it is a little blip that didn’t make any difference so to speak,” Eire told NBC Connecticut. “This reversal remains to be seen what happens.”

Trump orders clampdown on Cuba travel and trade, curbing Obama detente

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a document he signed after announcing his Cuba policy at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida, U.S. June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Reuters
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on U.S. business dealings with the island’s military, saying he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” with Havana.

Laying out his new Cuba policy in a speech in Miami, Trump signed a presidential directive to roll back parts of Obama’s historic opening to the Communist-ruled country after a 2014 diplomatic breakthrough between the two former Cold War foes. But Trump was leaving in place many of Obama’s changes, including the reopened U.S. embassy in Havana, even as he sought to show he was making good on a campaign promise to take a tougher line against Cuba.

“We will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Miami’s Cuban-American enclave of Little Havana, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who helped forge the new restrictions on Cuba.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump declared as he made a full-throated verbal assault on the government of Cuban President Raul Castro.

Trump’s revised approach, which will be contained in a new presidential directive, calls for stricter enforcement of a longtime ban on Americans going to Cuba as tourists, and seeks to prevent U.S. dollars from being used to fund what the Trump administration sees as a repressive military-dominated government.

But facing pressure from U.S. businesses and even some fellow Republicans to avoid turning back the clock completely in relations with communist-ruled Cuba, the president chose to leave intact some of his Democratic predecessor’s steps toward normalization. The new policy bans most U.S. business transactions with the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, a Cuban conglomerate involved in all sectors of the economy, but makes some exceptions, including for air and sea travel, according to U.S. officials. This will essentially shield U.S. airlines and cruise lines serving the island.

“We do not want U.S. dollars to prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the citizens of Cuba,” Trump said, pledging that U.S. sanctions would not be lifted until Cuba frees political prisoners and holds free election.

However, Trump stopped short of breaking diplomatic relations restored in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities. He will not cut off recently resumed direct U.S.-Cuba commercial flights or cruise-ship travel, though his more restrictive policy seems certain to dampen new economic ties overall.

The administration, according to one White House official, has no intention of “disrupting” existing business ventures such as one struck under Obama by Starwood Hotels Inc, which is owned by Marriott International Inc, to manage a historic Havana hotel. Nor does Trump plan reinstate limits that Obama lifted on the amount of the island’s coveted rum and cigars that Americans can bring home for personal use. While the changes are far-reaching, they appear to be less sweeping than many U.S. pro-engagement advocates had feared. Still, it will be the latest attempt by Trump to overturn parts of Obama’s presidential legacy. He has already pulled the United States out of a major international climate treaty and is trying to scrap his predecessor’s landmark healthcare program.

Trump justified his partial reversal of Obama’s Cuba measures to a large extent on human rights grounds. His aides contend that Obama’s efforts amounted to “appeasement” and have done nothing to advance political freedoms in Cuba, while benefiting the Cuban government financially.

Trump’s critics have questioned why his administration is now singling out Cuba for its human rights record but downplaying the issue in other parts of the world.

Citing the lack of human rights concessions from Cuba in the detente negotiated by Obama, Trump said, “It’s hard to think of a policy that makes less sense than the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime.”

International human rights groups say, however, that again isolating the island could worsen the situation by empowering Cuban hard-liners. The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into reforms in exchange for engagement.

The Cuban government had no immediate comment, but ordinary Cubans said they were crestfallen to be returning to an era of frostier relations with the United States with potential economic fallout for them.

Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown

Politico

Worried about bureaucratic pushback to preserve Obama’s normalization, the Florida senator went directly to the president with a plan in May.

Facing President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a blunt warning: The administration’s plan to crack down on Cuba trade and travel was under threat.

Any effort by Trump to make good on his campaign promise to roll back former President Barack Obama’s historic accord with Raul Castro would be delayed, Rubio cautioned—not just from the Castro government and from outside business interests, but from within. It would be studied to death by government analysts who favor more engagement with Cuba, not less. It would be leaked to the news media. Stillborn with a thousand excuses by the bureaucrats.

So go it alone, Rubio told the president during their May 3 meeting.

“What you’ve committed to do on Cuba, what you want to do on Cuba, is never going to come from career staff. It’s going to have to come from the top down. You’re going to have to tell them what to do,” Rubio recalled telling the president as his fellow Miami Republican member of Congress, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, nodded in agreement.

“The career service people, in the State Department and Treasury and in other places, are not in favor of changing this policy,” Rubio recalled telling the president.

That one piece of advice from Rubio probably marks the moment that Trump’s Cuba policy achieved escape velocity, according to interviews with eight officials who helped craft or had knowledge of the drafting of Trump’s Cuba policy as well as correspondence and documents shared with POLITICO.

On Friday, the president will appear in Miami, the home base of the Cuban-American exile community to announce the new crackdown on Cuba.

The policy bears the unmistakable fingerprints of Rubio — a Trump antagonist during the Republican primary campaign last year who has grown increasingly close to Trump — and Diaz-Balart, also a staunch critic of Obama’s moves to normalize ties with the island nation. Continue reading Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown

Trump Weighs Slowing Cuba Opening With Curbs on U.S. Tourists

Bloomberg

President Donald Trump plans to follow through on a campaign promise by rolling back the Obama administration’s effort to open Cuba to U.S. tourism and trade, with new limits being considered on travel and investment by U.S. companies.

Trump’s advisers are preparing options including curbs on American travel to the island and restricting partnerships between U.S. companies and entities with ties to the Cuban military, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Final options haven’t yet been presented to Trump, though a decision is expected before a visit by the U.S. president to Miami on Friday. The people familiar with the plans, both outside the White House, spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions are ongoing.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday declined to describe Trump’s plans for President Barack Obama’s Cuba liberalization policy. “When we have an announcement on the president’s schedule we’ll let you know,” he told reporters.

Trump has criticized Obama’s deal-making with Cuba as one-sided, and has said it allowed the Castro regime to continue human rights abuses. Obama re-opened the U.S. embassy on the island, relaxed travel restrictions on American citizens, and allowed U.S. airlines to establish direct flights and U.S. cruise lines to make ports of call in Cuba.

“All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro Regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them –- and that is what I will do, unless the Castro Regime meets our demands,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Miami last September.

Havana Hotel

New sanctions aimed at cutting off flows of money that benefit the Cuban military could affect U.S. hotel partnerships in Cuba, including the Four Points by Sheraton in Havana. The Cuban military had a stake in the hotel’s Cuban partner.

Other ideas under discussion, the people familiar with the matter said, include guidelines that would require Americans to formally explain how their travel to Cuba benefits the U.S. and the Cuban people, as well as increased scrutiny of travelers and the frequency of their visits.

Travel restrictions could impact U.S. airlines with direct flights to Cuba as well as the cruise industry. One advocate of Obama’s policies said a change would have less impact on a vacationer than on people seeking to do business or on Cuban-Americans who want to visit family on the island on a regular basis.

Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who backed Obama’s Cuba policy, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned about what Trump will do.

Any additional restrictions on travel “will go over like a lead balloon, and it should,” Flake said in an interview on Monday. Under the travel limits in place preceding Obama, he said, Cuban-Americans with aging parents in Cuba might have been forced to decide which parent’s funeral to attend.

He also said he does not want to see curbs on Cuban entrepreneurship or the U.S. more focused on Cuba sanctions than on sanctions against North Korea or Iran.

Sanction Effects

Sanctions targeting the Cuban military could have widespread effects, given its large role in the country — perhaps touching even on remittances and agriculture. The impact would depend on how sanctions are structured.

James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a Washington-based group lobbying to end the 55-year old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, said that changes to Obama’s policy could have unintended consequences for U.S. businesses and jobs. “The idea that this is just some kind of modest step back is only true if it’s done extremely carefully in the end,” he said.

A report prepared by his group found that major airlines including American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp., Southwest Airlines Co., United Continental Holdings Inc., and Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. have all taken advantage of Obama’s relaxed travel restrictions.

The island has not been as promising a business opportunity as U.S. airlines once expected, however. Already, Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc., Silver Airways Corp., and Spirit Airlines, Inc. have discontinued flights to Cuba entirely, and American, the largest carrier with service to Cuba, scaled back flights 25 percent earlier this year.

Flake said he and two Democratic senators, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, met last week with Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster to share their concerns but that McMaster did not signal the administration’s plans.

The president’s advisers have sought input from across his Cabinet but also have been working behind the scenes with critics of the Castro administration, including Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.

“I am confident the president will keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and which advance the Cuban people’s aspirations for economic and political liberty,” Rubio said in a statement.

Trump, in Miami speech, set to roll back Obama’s Cuba policy

Fox News, By Serafín Gómez

President Trump will head to Miami on Friday, home to a large and influential Cuban-American community, to unveil his administration’s new Cuba policy — which will roll back central parts of his predecessor’s efforts to normalize ties with the Communist island nation, according to a senior administration official and other sources.

While details on the changes to the policy have yet to be fully revealed, a U.S. official suggested that Trump would call for Cuban President Raul Castro to push for more political freedom and to release democratic activists in Cuban prisons, among other initiatives.

Trump is at the same time expected to announce a reversal in some areas of former President Barack Obama’s previous steps toward normalizing relations including the opening of embassies between the two countries and the easing of flight restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.

The final actions have not been set as the review over the specifics of the plan continues. However, there will likely be steps in restricting travel from the U.S. to Cuba; there are now daily flights from Florida to Cuba. Another directive being weighed is taking steps to limit American companies from dealing with businesses owned by the Cuban military, U.S. sources confirm to Fox News.

While campaigning in Miami during a stop in September of 2016, then-Republican presidential nominee Trump hinted at such a move, tying it to demands on the Cuban government.

“All of the concessions Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order which means our next president can reverse them,“ Trump said. “And that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands.”

“Those demands include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump added.

Key Republican lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, both Cuban-Americans from Florida, have been directly involved in working with the White House on the new Cuba policy, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

Rubio, who opposed Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, has worked “diligently behind the scenes” with the administration to develop the approach, said a source directly involved in the policy discussions.

“I am confident the president will keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and which advance the Cuban people’s aspirations for economic and political liberty,” Rubio said in a statement.

A senior Rubio adviser previewed what may be represented during Friday’s Trump Cuba policy rollout, including that the new approach would have to be in compliance with the “statutory provisions passed by Congress which govern US-Cuba policy.”

The aide also stressed that the new Cuba policy would be in the best interest of U.S. foreign policy and national security.

Part of the focus is to also encourage the emerging generation of Cuban leaders to take the reigns after Raul Castro steps down in 2018, as he publicly stated he would.

“Raul Castro and his closest advisors are mostly in their 80’s,” the senior aide told Fox News, stressing they are focusing on the “long term.”

“Cuba will soon have a new generation of leaders, one way or another. These policy measures are designed to lay the groundwork for them to empower the Cuban people to develop greater economic and ultimately political liberty.”

Marta Beatriz Roque to receive West New York ‘key to town’

NJ.com

A well-known Cuban dissident will be in West New York on Friday to speak out against continued human rights abuses on the island despite the recent thaw in U.S. relations, and to be honored by one of the town’s own outspoken critics of the island’s authoritarian regime.

The dissident, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, is a 72-year-old economist and longtime critic of Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. She has spent years in and out of prison in Cuba on charges including counterrevolutionary activities.

North Hudson, and West New York in particular, have one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the country outside of the Miami area.

Roque Cabello will have a sympathetic audience in Mayor Felix Roque, a Cuban native and outspoken critic of the Castro family regime. The mayor has previously met with other Cuban dissidents, and even talked about returning to Cuba to run for office some day.

“For me, it’s an honor,” Roque said of Roque Cabello’s visit. “And it shows there’s still people out there fighting for freedom of speech and democracy.”

Roque will be joined by members of the West New York Town Council at 11:30 a.m. Friday, in his office at town hall, where they will hear Roque Cabello speak and present her with ceremonial “Key to the Town.”

While Roque is not a common name in Cuba, the mayor said he and the dissident are not related.

“It’s just a weird coincidence,” he said.

Roque Cabello is a member of what is known as Cuba’s “Group of Four,” which published “The Homeland Belongs to Us All,” a 1997 paper that called for political and economic reforms, advocated a boycott of the country’s one-party elections, and urged international investors to keep their money out of Cuba.

The visit to West New York was arranged by an anti-Castro activist in New Jersey, Sergio Gatria, director of the Cuban Information Center in Lyndhurst. Gatria said he had been in contact with Roque Cabello in advance of her visit and that she was interested in meeting Roque and visiting West New York.

“I called Roque because he is well known in Cuba,” among dissidents, Gatria said.

Gatria said Roque Cabello’s visit to New Jersey is a brief stop on a visit to the United States from Cuba, and that she will fly back to Miami on Saturday before returning to the island.

Roque has met with members of the Ladies in White, a group made up of the wives of imprisoned Cuban dissidents who dress in white for Sunday Mass and silent marches through Cuban streets. He has also helped bring Cubans across the Mexican border into the United States.

Like U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th District), former mayors of Union City and West New York, respectively, Roque is among Cuban-American Democrats who opposed President Obama’s reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Roque said he fears that cozier relations with the U.S. government will only embolden the Cuban regime in its suppression of dissent.

“We never got anything in return,” he said.

How Fidel Castro Supported Terrorism in America

The Wall Street Journal, By  Zach Dorfman
The decision to honor Oscar López Rivera, a terrorist who spent 35 years in federal prison, at New York’s Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday unleashed a firestorm. Organizers named López Rivera—released in February under an 11th-hour clemency from President Obama —the parade’s first-ever “National Freedom Hero.”

In response, major sponsors such as Goya, Coca-Cola , Univision, Jet Blue and the Yankees pulled their support. New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill is refusing to march, as are several Democratic politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

The wariness over López Rivera—who’ll still march, though he’s said he’ll forgo the “hero” designation—is well-founded. The group he helped lead, the pro-independence Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña, or FALN, was one of the most prolific terrorist organizations of its time. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, the FALN perpetrated more than 130 bombings. It was responsible for the 1975 explosion at Fraunces Tavern, which killed four and wounded 63; a bombing spree in New York City in August 1977 that killed one, injured six, and forced the evacuation of 100,000 office workers; and the purposeful targeting and maiming of four police officers, among many other vicious crimes.

Carnage on this scale was possible because of the FALN’s organizational and operational sophistication—including its numerous connections to communist Cuba and its intelligence services. Those connections have been known to law enforcement for decades.

According to court documents, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, who is believed to have helped co-found the FALN, told an undercover NYPD officer in 1983 that he had received explosives training in Cuba. And the FBI estimated that by 1973, roughly 135 Puerto Rican militants had received “extensive instruction in guerilla war tactics, preparation of explosive artifacts, and sophisticated methods of sabotage” from Fidel Castro’s intelligence services.

The full extent of the FALN’s Cuba connections is unknown. But they may be more enduring than has been publicly reported. According to an NYPD document I discovered at the Hoover Institution archives at Stanford—undated, but apparently circa 1977—by that time officials had come to believe that “the FALN was started in the mid-1960’s with a nucleus of Puerto Rican terrorists that received advanced training in Cuba. . . . After their advanced training in Cuba they returned to Puerto Rico and a wave of bombings and incendiary incidents struck the [latter] island. Within the last few years they have shifted their activities to the mainland. . . . It is believed that they have maintained close links and may in fact work closely with Cuban intelligence operatives.”

That training would help explain the FALN’s professionalism, as well as its ability to bedevil law enforcement. An FALN instructional manual, which I also found at Hoover, includes sophisticated directives for compartmentalized clandestine communications between different “cadres,” or cells, as well as espionage and countersurveillance techniques. “One must observe religiously the rules and regulations of security in order to protect the organization, its cadres, its secrets, its documents, its arms, [safe] houses, and other instruments of work,” the document says. According to the manual, this hyperattention to security even extended to meetings of the MLN, the FALN’s above-ground political organization.

Viewed from this broader perspective, the FALN was not merely a “highly motivated and intelligent adversary,” as the NYPD document I found puts it. It was an instrument in the decadeslong shadow war between the U.S. and Cuba.

This is not to minimize the pro-independence sentiment in Puerto Rico, or the historical, cultural and emotional bonds that tie the two islands together. The Spanish-American War, which gave Cuba its independence, also led to Puerto Rico’s annexation by the U.S. But from Castro’s perspective, training a group of dedicated Marxist militants, whose actions would then destabilize major American cities such as New York and Chicago (as well as Puerto Rico itself), would help form a relatively low-cost, and covert, strategy for weakening his greatest antagonist.

On May 17 López Rivera was released from house arrest, 3½ months after departing prison. The Cuban regime applauded. “Please accept our fraternal congratulations on behalf of the Party, government and people, who share the joy of your liberation,” said President Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother. “We await you in Cuba, with all the honors and affection you deserve, whenever it may be possible for you.”

Mr. Castro neglected to mention that Cuba already plays host to another FALN leader: William Morales, one of the group’s bomb-makers, who after escaping from a U.S. prison in 1979 found his way to Havana. Much of the story of Oscar López Rivera and the FALN takes place far from the streets of Spanish Harlem, Humboldt Park or San Juan.

Mr. Dorfman is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Goldman’s Venezuela deal shows it missed a dramatic shift in its business

Business Insider

Ever since the Wall Street Journal reported Goldman Sachs bought bonds issued by Venezuela’s state oil company, it has faced a firestorm of criticism.

There were protests outside of the bank’s New York headquarters, and Venezuela’s opposition lawmakers accused it of funding an oppressive regime.

All this, and we just learned that the deal didn’t even rise to the attention of top bank executives. In fact, the way WSJ’s Liz Hoffman tells it, buying the bonds for $0.31 on the dollar was a “no brainer” for fund managers.

Sure, it’s a no brainer in a vacuum. But Goldman doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Outside of the fact that Venezuela is currently defined by stories of extreme human suffering, Goldman is also under more scrutiny now that the White House is filled with its alumni.

Put in terms a portfolio manager might understand: If there was a marketplace for media hive and public outrage, then Goldman’s reputational risk premium exploded when Donald Trump became president and Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn (and Steve Bannon) took his side.

The Venezuela trade, though, shows that the bank might not have understood this.

Now, to be fair, a bank should be able to do whatever legal deal they want and — on paper — Goldman’s in the clear.

Venezuela didn’t even issue new debt for this, and Goldman will likely make money for its shareholders on the trade. Bonds of the oil company, PDVSA, are basically sovereign debt.

Goldman’s problem has to do with how we expect banks to do business after the financial crisis. We actually want banks to care about their reputations, especially when their alums help run the world from the White House. When they act like they don’t care, that’s now bad for business because we’re watching.

“Forget the moral and the ethics of it all… As a practical business model they obviously made a mistake,” Steve Hanke, an economist who advised former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, told Business Insider.

As you can see from the chart of Venezuela’s cash reserves below, the regime has wiggled out of tight spots before. Whether Goldman had bought those PDVSA bonds or not the carnage in Venezuela would continue, perhaps for quite a long time. Regimes that have seemed close to death for years still exist on the planet (think: Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe).

Here’s the good news though, the fact that there is an uproar about this shows we’re not sinking into a dangerous space of complete moral relativism.

Good job, guys.

We now live in a world where the president of the United States decided that the secretary of state should be the former Exxon Mobil CEO, who actively lobbied Congress to remove a rule that made his company unable to do clandestine business with authoritarian petro-states.

That rule was a part of Dodd-Frank, and a few months ago the Trump administration had it removed.

The message here from the great hive that is the media and the internet is that Goldman should be less vulgar, less greedy. The message that decisions involving brutal autocrats should no longer be “no-brainers.”

Maybe this is a new era in how we react to banks doing business around the world. Maybe soon enough every kid in American will know something about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Maybe bankers will catch themselves before they work with the bad guys because, frankly, it’s bad for business.

Wouldn’t be such a bad thing, to be honest. This doesn’t have to be the Wild West — not yet.