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Cuba’s cash boon for GOP

Dec.21 -Democrats are applauding President Obama’s move this week toward normalizing relations with Cuba, but don’t expect those cheers to translate into campaign cash to protect allies who support the shift.
In fact, the move is expected to be a financial boon for the other side, with affluent Cuban American donors already talking about spending big sums to challenge politicians who side with Obama, and to support rivals who oppose normalization. That cash rift could widen further if the presidential election pits a Democrat who favors normalization, such as Hillary Clinton, against a Republican who opposes it, such as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio – both of whom hail from Florida, a key swing state with a very politically active population of Cuban expatriates.
“The Cuban-American community tends to be pretty quiet until you step on their toes,” said Otto Juan Reich, a Republican consultant who is Cuban-American. “This is going to motivate a lot of people who have been sitting on the sidelines on this issue,” said Reich, who served in top diplomatic posts for President Reagan and both Bushes.
On the Democratic side, meanwhile, “there isn’t a very big fundraising pop to this,” concluded Juan Proano, a Democratic consultant who has helped the party and its candidates, including John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, reach out to – and raise money from – Latinos.
Stances on U.S.-Cuban relations do not break neatly on partisan lines. Some Democrats – such as New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who is of Cuban descent – support U.S. trade restrictions against the Communist regime of Cuban president Raul Castro, while some Republicans – such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a likely 2016 presidential candidate – support increased trade with the Caribbean nation.
Yet, while polls show that most Americans favor normalization, wealthy donors for whom the issue is a top priority overwhelmingly oppose engaging with the Castro regime, according to Proano. Donors “don’t care as much about this issue in New York or California. But if you’re talking about Florida, and especially South Florida, which is where people really care about this issue, there are more wealthy Cuban American donors who are conservative. It’s generational, too. The hardliners tend to be older. The next generation are a little more disconnected.”
Since Obama’s announcement, top Cuban-American donors have been reaching out and offering support to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a leading opponent of normalization, according to the group’s director Mauricio Claver-Carone.
“You’re definitely going to see a boon,” predicted Claver-Carone. “It will carry through the next cycle and will translate over to Jeb and Marco,” said Claver-Carone, whose group has hosted both Bush and Rubio at recent events, including a gala headlined by Bush last month in Miami that raised $200,000.
The last time hardline Cuban-American donors were similarly energized was following the 2006 election, when Democrats took control of Congress and party leaders signaled support for softening trade restrictions. In both 2006 and 2008, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC raised more than $800,000, and Claver-Carone expects to return to at least that level in 2016 after dropping to about half that during this year’s midterms.
And there’s an even deeper-pocketed group on the same side of the issue backed by the Koch brothers’ political operation. The LIBRE Initiative, which courts Latino voters with a conservative economic message, is registered under a section of the tax code – 501(c)4 – that allows it to shield its donors’ identities and requires only bare-bones financial disclosure and only well after Election Day. From July 2012 through June 2013, the group raised $5 million, according to its tax filings, and sources say it spent millions in this year’s midterms attacking Democrats in Texas, Arizona and Florida. The sources expect it to increase its spending in 2016, including potentially on ads opposing normalization.
“We have the position that this is the wrong move and it’s motivated by the wrong reasons,” said LIBRE spokesman Steven Cruz. “Do we see it becoming an issue of contention in 2016? I think so.” Cruz argued that the issue could have an impact outside of Florida, including in other swing states such as North Carolina that have pockets of Cuban-Americans and could be ripe for ads targeting Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee.
While there’s support for normalization from major corporate players with deep pockets — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agricultural giant Cargill and equipment maker Caterpillar — they’re considered unlikely to spend significantly in political campaigns on the issue.
Meanwhile, groups that focus largely on advocating normalization have struggled to gain the same financial traction as their opponents.
“None of the pro-engagement PACs have demonstrated the ability to be even a respectable counter to the US-Cuba Democracy PAC,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer who closely tracks Federal Election Commission filings.
A trio of PACs established to challenge the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC sat dormant in 2014, with one drawing a rebuke from the FEC for failing to file mandatory disclosure reports on time.
Normalization supporters may need to raise their games to prevent Republicans from rolling back Obama’s moves, acknowledged Ricardo Herrero, executive director of Cuba Now, a 501(c)4 nonprofit funded by wealthy Cuban-Americans that has been pushing for opening up relations with the island nation.
“There is definitely going to be a need to protect these gains that have been made,” said Herrero, who is also the treasurer of a PAC called The New Cuban-American Majority, which raised $87,000 in 2010, but has gone idle since.
Obama’s moves have “certainly excited” pro-normalization donors, said Herrero, suggesting Cuba Now could play in the 2016 presidential race, depending on who the nominees are.
“If we end up with two candidates, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton, who are both supportive, it’s less likely we will participate,” he said.
(Also on POLITICO: The first Latino president?)
The issue could prove fraught for presidential candidates in pivotal South Florida, where Cuba dominates campaigns even when it’s not necessarily on the national radar like it is now.
In the midterms, Herrero’s group spent $70,000 airing a pro-normalization ad on Spanish-language television in the Miami media market that shook up a congressional race between two Cuban-American politicians. The ad reminded viewers of the rights Cuban-Americans have gained such as being able to visit their families in Cuba.
Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat, had questioned the effectiveness of the embargo, while his Republican rival Carlos Curbelo ardently opposed normalization. After Cuba Now’s ad, Curbelo declared that he could not support “any unilateral concessions to an enemy of the United States — in this case, the Cuban government.”
LIBRE, meanwhile, ran a Spanish-language ad of its own tying Garcia to communism. Although it didn’t specifically mention Cuba, it drew parallels between Garcia’s views and the communist regime in Cuba.
Curbelo defeated Garcia, and embargo supporters hailed the result as a reminder of the potency of the issue.
Herrero, though, warned against using the issue as a political cudgel and sought to differentiate his group’s approach from LIBRE’s.
“It would be regrettable if people try to turn this into a partisan issue, which is what LIBRE Initiative would do since they only support Republicans,” said Herrero. His group has highlighted polls showing growing support for normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations – “with greater support in Miami-Dade and in Florida than the nation overall.”
But Claver-Carone boasted that, despite polls showing increasing numbers of Americans supporting normalization, “the hard evidence – being money and votes – are on the other side.”  POLITICO

Rosa María Payá: Here’s what Cuba really needs, Mr. Obama

Dec.20 - Sr. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
I am writing to you because I assume that goodwill inspired your decision to change U.S. policy toward my country.
I appeal to this goodwill, notwithstanding your decision to review Cuba’s place on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism despite the Cuban government’s attempt, just a year ago, to smuggle tons of weapons in a North Korean ship through the Panama Canal. And despite Cuban state security provoking the 2012 car crash that took the life of my father, Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents who represented the alternative to the regime, and his young associate Harold Cepero. And even though the Cuban government refuses to allow an investigation and has not given even a copy of the autopsy report to my family.
The Cuban regime has decided it needs to change its image, so it will relax its grip in some areas while it remains in power. It has discovered that it can allow more Cubans to enter and leave the country and that some people can create a timbiriche (a very small business), but the Cuban government still decides who can travel and who can open a small business. Mr. President, your laws are not what is preventing the free market and access to information in Cuba; it is the Cuban government’s legislation and its constant censorship.
We agree, Mr. President, that you cannot “keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect different results.”
But there is nothing new in treating as “normal” the illegitimate government in Havana, which has never been elected by its citizens and has been practicing state murder with impunity. That strategy already has been done by all the other governments without positive consequences for democracy in my country.
What would be new would be a real commitment to the Cuban people, with concrete actions supporting citizens’ demands. We don’t need interventionist tactics but rather backing for solutions that we Cubans have created ourselves.
For 55 years, the only free, legal and popular demand from Cubans has been a call for a referendum on self-government, the Varela Project. We want changes in the law that will guarantee freedom of expression and association, the release of political prisoners, the right to own private enterprises, and free and plural elections.
You asked in your historic speech : How can we uphold that commitment, the commitment to freedom
I take you at your word, Mr. President. The answer to you and to all the world’s democratic governments is: Support the implementation of a plebiscite for free and pluralistic elections in Cuba; and support citizen participation in the democratic process, the only thing that will guarantee the end of totalitarianism in Cuba.
My father used to say, “Dialogues between the elites are not the space of the people.” The totalitarianism of the 21st century — which interferes in the internal affairs of many countries in the region and promotes undemocratic practices in countries such as Venezuela — will sit at the table next to the hemisphere’s democracies. I hope censorship doesn’t come to that table as well and that we Cubans, whom you so far have excluded from this process, can have a place in future negotiations.
We expect your administration, the Vatican and Canada to support our demands with the same intensity and goodwill with which you supported this process of rapprochement with the Cuban government. Human rights are the foundation of democracy, and we expect you to support the right of Cubans to decide their future.
We ask you to support an independent investigation into the attack that caused the deaths of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.
We do not want symbolic solidarity. We do not want to participate only in the parallel forum to the next Summit of the Americas. The chair that will be occupied by the Cuban government is not the chair of the people, because the Cuban government does not represent Cuba’s citizens . That’s why we need to be present at the main summit, so that the demands of Cuban citizens are heard and empowered by the regional democracies.
Mr. President, dare now, after quoting our José Martí, to put into practice the honesty that a free Cuba deserves, “with all and for the good of all.”
God bless our countries.
Merry Christmas to you and your family,
Rosa María Payá Acevedo      The Washington Post


Washington Post Editorial: Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout

En Español: Obama le da al régimen de Castro en Cuba un rescate inmerecido The Washington Post

Dec.18 - In recent months, the outlook for the Castro regime in Cuba was growing steadily darker. The modest reforms it adopted in recent years to improve abysmal economic conditions had stalled, due to the regime’s refusal to allow Cubans greater freedoms. Worse, the accelerating economic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly.
On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.
As part of the bargain, Havana released Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who was unjustly imprisoned five years ago for trying to help Cuban Jews. Also freed was an unidentified U.S. intelligence agent in Cuba — as were three Cuban spies who had been convicted of operations in Florida that led to Cuba’s 1996 shootdown of a plane carrying anti-Castro activists. While Mr. Obama sought to portray Mr. Gross’s release as unrelated to the spy swap, there can be no question that Cuba’s hard-line intelligence apparatus obtained exactly what it sought when it made Mr. Gross a de facto hostage.
No wonder Yoani Sánchez, Cuba’s leading dissident blogger, concluded Wednesday that “Castroism has won” and predicted that for weeks Cubans will have to endure proclamations by the government that it is the “winner of its ultimate battle.”

The Washington Post


Cuban Dissident Leaders React to Obama's Announcement

Dec.18 - Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Cuban dissident leaders react to President Obama's announcement to normalize relations with Castro's dictatorship:


 "Sadly, President Obama made the wrong decision. The freedom and democracy of the Cuban people will not be achieved through these benefits that he's giving -- not to the Cuban people -- but to the Cuban government. The Cuban government will only take advantage to strengthen its repressive machinery, to repress civil society, its people and remain in power."

-- Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White.

"[Alan Gross] was not arrested for what he did, but for what could be gained from his arrest. He was simply bait and they were aware of it from the beginning... Castroism has won, though the positive result is that Alan Gross has left alive the prison that threatened to become his tomb."

-- Yoani Sanchez, Cuban blogger and independent journalist, 14ymedio.

"The Cuban people are being ignored in this secret conversation, in this secret agreement that we learned today. The reality of my country is there is just one party with all the control and with the state security controlling the whole society. If this doesn’t change, there’s no real change in Cuba. Not even with access to Internet. Not even when Cuban people can travel more than two years ago. Not even that is a sign of the end of the totalitarianism in my country."

--Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of murdered Christian Liberation Movement leader, Oswaldo Paya.

"[Obama's announcement] is horrible and disregarding the opinion of [Cuban] civil society sends a bad message. The acceptance of neo-Castroism in Cuba will mean greater support for authoritarianism in the region and, as a consequence, human rights will be relegated to a secondary role."

-- Antonio Rodiles, head of Estado de Sats.

"Alan Gross was used as a tool by the Castro regime to coerce the United States. Obama was not considerate of Cuban citizens and of the civil society that is facing this tyrannical regime. In Miami, Obama promised that he would consult Cuba measures with civil society and the non-violent opposition. Obviously, this didn't happen. That is a fact, a reality. He didn't consider Cuba's democrats. The betrayal of Cuba's democrats has been consummated."

-- Guillermo Fariñas, former Sakharov Prize recipient.

"The Obama Administration has ceded before Castro's dictatorship. Nothing has changed. The jails remain filled, the government represents only one family, repression continues, civil society is not recognized and we have no right to assemble or protest... The measures that the government of the United States has implemented today, to ease the embargo and establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, will in no way benefit the Cuban people. The steps taken will strengthen the Castro regime's repression against human rights activists and increase its resources, so the security forces can keep harassing and repressing civil society." -

-Angel Moya, former political prisoner of the Black Spring (2003).

"We are in total disagreement with what has transpired today. It's a betrayal of those who within Cuba have opposed the regime in order to achieve definitive change for the good of all Cubans."

-- Felix Navarro, former political prisoner and co-head of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU).

"It's discomforting that the accounts of the Castro regime can grow, as the first step will be more effective repression and a rise in the level of corruption."

-- Jose Daniel Ferrer, former political prisoner and co-head of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU)

"This is a betrayal that leaves the democratic opposition defenseless. Obama has allied himself with the oppressors and murderers of our people."
-- Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," former political prisoner and head of the National Resistance Front.

"I feel as though I have been abandoned on the battlefield."
-- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, former Cuban political prisoner and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

Sen. Marco Rubio Leads Opposition to Obama’s Cuba Shift

Dec.18 - Several Republican lawmakers blasted President Barack Obama’s decision to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba and trade prisoners, even pledging to try to block the president’s plans to normalize relations between the two countries for the first time in over half a century.
The White House announced Wednesday morning that Cuba had released American prisoner Alan Gross, as well as an important intelligence agent and 52 other prisoners, in exchange for three convicted Cuban spies serving sentences in Florida. The U.S. will open an embassy in Havana as well as ease travel restrictions and make it easier for Americans to do business there.
Secretary of State John Kerry will review Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terror. Though the president cannot unilaterally repeal the economic embargo on Cuba, which was enacted by Congress, Obama said he looked forward to working with Congress to lift the embargo.
“It’s time for a new approach,” Obama said in an address from the White House at noon Wednesday. Raul Castro, the president of Cuba, addressed his nation at the same time. “I am convinced that, through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves.”
Addressing critics of his new approach, Obama said, “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”
The stunning news drew both praise and anger from lawmakers who come down on different sides of the issue. The biggest critic to emerge was Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican of Cuban descent, who argued Wednesday that the president’s actions would only cement the Castro family’s hold on Cuba rather than speed up a shift toward democracy.
“This president has proven today that his foreign policy is more than just naive, it is willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works,” Rubio told reporters Wednesday afternoon, speaking to the press directly after the president’s remarks from the White House. “What these changes are going to do is, they will tighten this regime’s grip on power for decades to come.”
Rubio suggested that he would use his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to block the president’s new policy toward Cuba. “I anticipate I will be the chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of [the] Foreign Relations [Committee], and I anticipate we are going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you’re going to get an ambassador nominated and how you’re going to get an embassy funded,” Rubio said.
“This Congress is not going to lift the embargo,” he added, referring to the 114th Congress, which will begin in January, with both houses controlled by Republicans.
Senator Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, the outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Cuban-American, also condemned the president’s actions, warning that trading prisoners for Gross puts innocent Americans at risk. “It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips,” he said in a statement. “I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services and promote democratic reforms.” Read more Newsweek


Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, talks about Obama's "wrongful decision"


"A Slap in the Face": Pilots' Families Balk at Cuban Prisoner Swap

Dec.18 - The South Florida families of pilots fatally shot down by Cuba in 1996 are speaking out against the Wednesday release of three members of the convicted spies known as the “Cuban Five” in a prisoner swap — among them one who had been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder over the shootdown.
"For the only person that we had responsible for what happened to be let go — it’s a slap in the face to my dad," Marlene Alejandre-Triana said at a news conference.
Alejandre-Triana's father Armando Alejandre, a Vietnam veteran, was one of four pilots killed when Cuban MiGs shot down their two small, private planes in February 1996 in international waters off Cuba's northern coast. They had been flying missions for Brothers to the Rescue, an exile organization that sought to aid migrants at sea and also dropped propaganda leaflets.
One of the agents known as the "Cuban Five," Gerardo Hernandez, had been serving a life sentence on a murder conspiracy conviction in the shoot-down.

He and two other members of the Cuban Five — Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero — were released Wednesday as part of the prisoner swap and flown back to their homeland, ending what their appeals lawyer called "an arduous experience."
The families of the pilots said they were given no warning of the release.
“We simply cannot understand how this could have happened, especially in the case of Gerardo Hernandez. This was the only modicum of justice we had,” said Maggie Alejandre-Khuly, sister of one of the pilots who was killed.
The Cuban Five were all convicted in 2001 of being unregistered foreign agents, and three also were found guilty of espionage conspiracy for failed efforts to obtain military secrets from the U.S. Southern Command headquarters. Hernandez, meanwhile, had been serving two life sentences plus 15 years on a murder conspiracy conviction stemming from the Cuban air force's 1996 shoot-down.

See the video NBC6


Rolando “Roly” Sarraff Trujillo was the American spy who was part of the trade

(Sarraf Trujillo months before he was arrested and how he looks now)

Dec.18 - The unidentified United States spy being swapped as part of a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and Cuba is almost certainly a former cryptographer in Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence who worked secretly for the CIA until he was arrested on espionage charges in the mid-1990s, according to a former U.S. intelligence officer and other sources.
Rolando “Roly” Sarraff Trujillo was “an expert on cryptography for the Cuban Ministry of Interior who was arrested in 1995 and sentenced to 25 years in jail,” said Chris Simmons, a former Defense Intelligence Agency specialist on Cuba.
“I know of all the Cubans on the list of people in jail and he is the only one who fits the description” of the unnamed asset in question, Simmons added. “I am 99.9 percent sure that Roly is the guy."
The agent, U.S. officials said, was exchanged for the remaining three members of the so-called “Cuban Five,” a group of operatives arrested in Florida on espionage charges in 1998. Another element of the agreement, which ended the decades-long feud between the U.S. and Cuba, was Havana’s decision to free Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor imprisoned on the island since 2009 on charges of trying to subvert the state.
In a speech on Wednesday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that a spy of “Cuban origin” was being released. But neither Cuba nor the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI) would identify the operative in question or comment on Sarraff Trujillo.
DNI spokesman Brian P. Hale said in a prepared statement that the asset being released spent 20 years in a Cuban prison for his work for the U.S. Many of the details of his cooperation are classified, but Hale said he was “instrumental in the identification and disruption of several Cuban intelligence operatives in the United States and ultimately led to a series of successful federal espionage prosecutions.”
Indeed, according to Hale, the spy “provided the information that led to the identification and conviction of Defense Intelligence Agency senior analyst Ana Belen Montes; former Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers and his spouse Gwendolyn Myers; and members of the Red Avispa network, or ‘Wasp Network,’ in Florida, which included members of the so-called Cuban Five.”
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition also reported that its sources believe that Sarraff Trujillo was the spy. “Just as a matter of elimination,” it’s Sarraff Trujillo, Simmons said.
A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who also worked in counterterrorism operations in the Balkans and Iraq, Simmons runs a website called Cuba Confidential. On May 27, 2012, he wrote on his site that in 1994 Sarraff Trujillo was persuaded by a DGI colleague, José Cohen Valdés, to steal information that he could use to facilitate his defection to the U.S. Sarraff Trujillo, according to Simmons, gave him the info to pass along to Langley. “Cohen planned to bring Sarraf Trujillo and another individual with him in a mass defection,” Simmons wrote.
Apparently, the plan didn’t work out. As Simmons explains on his blog:
“Sarraff Trujillo started passing files [and] Cohen began indiscreetly spending the considerable cash the CIA paid for Sarraff Trujillo’s treasure trove of intelligence. In short order, the two men came under surveillance. Cohen reportedly noted the surveillance and had his brother-in-law signal the CIA station in Havana for an emergency extraction. Cuban counterintelligence videotaped his brother-in-law’s assistance, for which he was subsequently jailed. Cohen and the second individual successfully escaped, despite the extensive counterintelligence coverage. Sarraff Trujillo was arrested and sent to prison.” Read more Newsweek


Each time the Castro's are desperate for money, an ignorant with money shows up

Obama unmasked

Dec.17 - After the end of the Soviet Union, when the Castro brothers lost the subsidy of more than $4 billion a year, Hugo Chávez came in to their rescue.

Now, 15 years later when Venezuela is on the verge of bankruptcy thanks in great part for having become a colony of Castroland, Barack Obama steps up to the plate to save them once again.

The Castros are always lucky enough to always find an ignorant with money willing to save them


Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio Torch Obama Administration Over Cuba Announcement

Dec.17 - Two longtime critics of Cuba made blistering statements Wednesday morning following the Obama administration's announcement that the U.S. would normalize full diplomatic relations with the communist island, marking a significant policy shift not seen in decades.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, praised the release of former USAID worker and prisoner Alan Gross, but sharply criticized the administration for the price it paid.
"President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government," he said in a statement. "There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation. One spy was also convicted of conspiracy to murder for his role in the 1996 tragedy in which the Cuban military shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing several American citizens. My heart goes out to the American families that lost love ones on that fateful day."
“Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent," he added. "It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms."
The U.S. is reportedly looking to normalize relations by opening an embassy in Havana, as well as loosening current travel restrictions on the country.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was equally blunt. Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, the Cuban American slammed the administration for the expected announcement, which he called "absurd."
"It's absurd and it's part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established," Rubio said.
The administration, Rubio added, is "constantly giving unilateral concessions in exchange for nothing."
Addressing the matter again at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Rubio called Obama "the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime.” Huffington Post


Marco Rubio: Alan Gross Release Put 'A Price on the Head of Every American Abroad'

Dec.17 - The release of Alan Gross, the American contractor imprisoned in Cuba for more than five years, “set a price on the head of every American abroad,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in an interview today.
“I would love for there to be normal relations with Cuba, but for that to happen, Cuba has to be normal, and it's not. It is a brutal dictatorship,” Rubio, who is a Cuban-American, told ABC News' Jeff Zeleny. “Now dictatorships know that if they take an American, they may be able to get unilateral policy concessions.”

According to Rubio, the Obama administration’s intention to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is “terrible for the Cuban people.”
The Cuban government won’t allow free elections, political parties, or freedom of the press “just because people can buy Coca Cola,” said the Florida Republican, who is often mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential candidate. He added, “Five years from now, Cuba will still be a dictatorship -- but a much more profitable one.”
“I think this has now made it even harder to achieve the sort of democracy in Cuba that you find virtually everywhere else in this hemisphere,” Rubio said.
Rubio called President Obama the “worst negotiator” of “my lifetime.”
“He'll give up everything in exchange for nothing,” Rubio said. “What have the Cubans agreed to do?”
“The United States today, under this president, has opened up relationships with the most brutal dictatorship this hemisphere has known for the better part of 50 years. And all it's done is it's sent a signal to others fighting for democracy in the region and around the world that the US is not a reliable partner when it comes to fighting for democracy," he said. ABC News


Obama gave the Castros everything they asked, and more

Dec.17 - Everything Obama said he wasn't going to do, he did today.

He traded Alan Gross, who had been a hostage in Cuba for 5 years, for 3 Cuban spies including one directly involved in the murder of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots.

He is re-establishing relations with  the Castro brothers without asking anything in return.

He will increase trade relations, travel, tourism, and everything that would bring money to the Cuban dictatorship, so they can continue to enslave, exploit, torture and oppress the Cuban people.

As Raul Castro said in his speech at the same time Obama was speaking to the American people: "We didn't make one single concession".

They didn't have to since Obama was willing to give them everything they wanted and more.

It is a shameful day for America.


Obama to speak later today about a "policy change" regarding Cuba

Dec.17 - President Barack Obama plans to talk today about the next steps in U.S.-Cuba relations, strained by a decades-long embargo, after Cuba released prisoner Alan Gross.
Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat close to Obama, said in a statement the president would announce the normalization of trade and travel relations with the island nation.
Gross, a 65-year-old American, left Cuba on a U.S. government plane this morning to fly to the U.S., said an administration official familiar with the release. The person spoke on condition of anonymity before Obama’s remarks, which are scheduled for noontime in Washington.
Gross, who has been in failing health, was released on humanitarian grounds under U.S. pressure, the person said.
Gross was arrested by Cuban officials while working to expand Internet access for Havana’s Jewish community. He was accused of undermining the Cuban state and in December 2009 was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Cuban President Raul Castro is scheduled to speak about the same time as Obama to talk about U.S.-Cuba relations, Agence France Presse reported. Bloomberg


Obama makes a deal with Castro to exchange the Cuban spies for Alan Gross

Dec.17 -  U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.
President Obama is expected to announce Gross' release at noon.
Gross' "humanitarian" release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
President Barack Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.
Alan Gross, at right with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, has been in Cuban custody since December 2009, when he was jailed while working as a subcontractor. Cuban authorities say Gross tried to set up illegal Internet connections on the island. Gross says he was just trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet. Former President Jimmy Carter and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have both traveled to Cuba on Gross' behalf. On December 17, Gross was released from Cuban prison.
Luke Somers, a photojournalist being held captive by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was shown begging for his life in a video released by the terror group. Somers was killed by AQAP militants during a raid conducted by U.S. forces on Friday, December 5. A U.S. official said that during the raid, one of the terrorists ran inside the compound and shot Somers and South African hostage, Pierre Korkie.
Kenneth Bae is one of two American detainees released from North Korea in November. Bae had been held since late 2012, and in April 2013 was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified "hostile acts" against the North Korean government. North Korea claimed Bae was part of a Christian plot to overthrow the regime.
Matthew Todd Miller also was allowed to leave North Korea with Kenneth Bae in November. According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, he was convicted in September of committing "acts hostile" to North Korea and sentenced to six years of hard labor. He had traveled to North Korea after arranging a private tour through the U.S.-based company Uri Tours, which takes tourists into North Korea. He and Bae were released after U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper went to Pyongyang as an envoy of President Barack Obama, a senior State Department official told CNN.  Read more CNN


The Dark Side of Cuba’s Ebola Economy

Dec.11 -The communist government’s medical missionaries win praise for the regime, but they are victims, too.
If you ask most people what Cuba is famous for they probably will name two things: rum and cigars. But if you ask leftists what Cuba is famous for they will usually say something altogether different: healthcare and education.
Despite all the government oppression and poverty and the endless speeches by el líder maximo and his sibling, the Cuban healthcare and education systems are still held up as justification for the 1959 Cuban revolution in and of themselves.
So good is the healthcare system on the island supposed to be, and such is the abundance of skilled doctors, that Cuba can even afford to export medical personnel to disease- and crisis-stricken parts of the world in a gesture of international solidarity that the capitalist West does not begin to rival.
Estimates suggest that around 50,000 Cuban-trained health workers are spread across 66 countries, with many stationed in some of the poorest corners of the globe. In 2010 Cuba provided the largest contingent of medical staff during the aftermath of the huge earthquake that shook Haiti. Similarly, after an earthquake devastated Pakistan-administered Kashmir in 2005, there were more Cuban doctors on hand to aid the relief effort than there were medics from Pakistan proper. Who said socialist internationalism died in 1989?
The government in Havana rakes in around $8 billion a year on the backs of its health workers.
And so today, during the current Ebola crisis, while the rich capitalist countries pontificate selfishly about things like anti-Ebola border security, socialist Cuba has again come to the rescue, flying in 461 health workers to stricken West Africa—more than any first-world country.
Even John Kerry, secretary of state in a country that has spent decades trying to oust the Castro clan, described Cuba’s contribution to the fight against the Ebola outbreak as “impressive.”
This penchant for medical internationalism goes back to the greatest icon of the revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. He was a doctor and envisioned a world in which a medic would use “the technical knowledge of his profession in the service of the revolution and the people.”
Yet like Guevara’s socialism, Cuba’s fraternal medical altruism has a dark side. Che may have felt a genuine affinity with the poor, but he was also a fanatic who locked up homosexuals and other “deviants” in labor camps. He wanted to “bring justice to the downtrodden” but he wanted to do it by launching a first nuclear strike on New York or Washington. The Cuban government, still led by some of Che’s former contemporaries, exemplifies a similar contradiction between idealism and brutal coercion.
There is in fact a great deal more to the Castro brothers’ medical diplomacy than the development of Cuba as, in the words of gushing Guardian columnist, a “beacon of international humanitarianism.” The government in Havana rakes in around $8 billion a year on the backs of its health workers. Most notably it receives cheap oil from the Chavez/Maduro autocracy in Venezuela, but it also gets a hefty sum of much-needed hard currency from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for every doctor it sends to Africa and beyond.
Not that there is any shame in that: socialist economies need hard currency to buy things on the international markets as much as any other country. But if there’s altruism here, it’s on the part of the workers themselves, since they rarely see any of the money they bring in for the dictatorship back home. All the available evidence suggests that they receive a measly stipend from the regime—about $20 extra a month—with the rest pocketed by the government to bolster things like Cuba’s omnipresent security apparatus.
Yet lavish praise is heaped on the supposed generosity of Havana’s elderly rulers—the same ones who for 50 years have stopped most Cubans from travelling abroad. “Cuba is a special case,” says José Luis Di Fabio, who heads the World Health Organization’s Havana office, told DeutscheWelle. “The country has the ability to react very quickly because of the experience of the physicians and the political will to do so.”
“Political will” in this instance is a euphemism, for there is ample evidence to suggest that Cuba’s medical diplomacy is far from voluntary for those sent abroad on their country’s international missions. Much like those who decline to attend the “voluntary” pro-government rallies which sporadically fill the streets of Havana and give a veneer of democracy to the one-party state, those medics who choose not to play ball with the Leninist Center can pay a severe penalty. As Madrid-based Cuban doctor Antonio Guedes told the same German website, “Whoever does not cooperate may lose his job, or at least his position, or his son will not get a place at university.”
This jibes with something Yanelis Ochoa, a university medical student in Santiago de Cuba, told me when I visited the country in 2011. Talking about the future, Yanelis said that when she eventually graduates she “may have to go to Venezuela or Brazil for a short time to work.” What about your boyfriend? I asked. Are you not getting married soon? “James,” she replied with unusual gravity. “You don’t understand how these things work. If they say I go then I go. It’s that simple.” The Daily Beast


This is how much the Castro brothers make from their slave doctors

Nov. 17 - No wonder the New York Times wants to make sure Cuban slave doctors cannot escape. The NYT partners in Havana make billions of dollars a year exploiting the slave doctors and other Cuban professionals.

The slave trade brings the Castro brothers almost four times more than tourism.


New York's Granma, wants to make sure that the slave doctors can't seek freedom

Nov. 17 - The New York Times, best known as the Castros' mouthpiece in New York, has a new editorial today, the sixth in as many weeks, in favor of the fascist dictatorship in Cuba.

This time, the NYT wants the United States to cancel the program that has allowed thousands of slave Cuban doctors flee their slave masters and seek refuge in this country.

New York's Granma knows that the Castro brothers make more than $9 billion a year in their slave trade with Cuban doctors and other professionals, and want to make sure that those doctors keep working for their partners in Havana.

If you have the stomach to read it, here is today's NYT editorial: A Cuban Brain Drain Courtesy of the US


Cuba's Abandoned Communist Nuclear Reactor

Oct. 10 - Just 90 miles off the tip of Florida lies a half-baked, abandoned relic of the Cold War-era arms race — what was once going to be a joint Cuban-Soviet nuclear reactor. Thank God it never panned out. Because not only do we now have these incredible shots from photographer Darmon Richter, but every last aspect of this thing would have been a total and utter disaster.

It all started back in 1976, when comrades in communism, Cuba and the Soviet Union, agreed to build two nuclear reactors near Juragua, Cuba. And if it had ever been finished, just one of these 440-megawatt reactors could have satisfied over 15 per cent of Cuba’s energy needs. As The New York Times explained when construction officially ceased, this wasn’t your everyday reactor:
The V.V.E.R. design, which was the most advanced at the time, was the first to be exported by Moscow for use in a tropical climate. It differs from the Chernobyl-style design in that the radioactive core and fuel elements are contained within a pressurised steel vessel.
Construction didn’t start until 1983, which gave Cuba 10 years to build their potential-livelihood, all thanks to the the steady flow of Soviet funds. Of course, when the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the essential funds ceased, over 300 former Soviet technicians returned to the motherland, and all construction came to a standstill — despite the fact that 40 per cent of the heavy machinery had already been installed.
Still, it wasn’t over quite yet. The whole project spent nearly a decade in limbo, until finally, in 2000, Fidel Castro told Vladamir Putin that he was done with the two countries’ former joint-dream. Now, the power plant at Juragua was officially little more than a testament to what could have been — which is a very good thing. Because as it turns out, “what could have been” basically entailed wildly dangerous conditions and potentially a whole mess of destruction. Continue reading and see more photos Gizmodo


Cuban couple reunited in U.S. after year-long sea odyssey

Sept. 26 - Almost a year after he smuggled his way out of Cuba on a homemade boat, Jose Caballero was reunited late Thursday with his wife who survived a harrowing sea voyage of her own last month.
The two embraced tightly at the Greyhound bus terminal in Austin, Texas, hours after Mailin Perez crossed the border from Mexico, taking advantage of a U.S. policy that allows entry to Cubans arriving by land.
"Right now we're so happy, but exhausted from all the tension. There were so many desperate moments," said Caballero.
Perez, 30, was one of a group of Cuban migrants rescued at sea by Mexican fishermen this month off the Yucatan peninsula badly sunburned and dehydrated after three weeks adrift.
Only 15 of the 32 passengers of her boat survived the journey from Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, with 15 dying at sea, and two more dying after they were rescued.
"It was such a battle to get here," Perez said later, as she sat down to a traditional Cuban dinner of chicken, and "congri" (rice and beans) prepared by her husband. "I'm happy, but sad for the ones who didn't make it."
The group set off on August 7, and were forced to fashion a makeshift sail for their vessel after the motor failed early in the journey. One by one the passengers died as supplies of food, and then water, ran out. Their bodies were thrown overboard.
Caballero, 40, said his wife lost eight cousins on the boat, adding that she had been an assistant at a blood bank in Cuba and brought medical supplies with her.
"For her it's going to be hard. Right now she is happy she made it, but imagine the trauma she feels," he said.
Caballero left Cuba by the same route in December on a boat carrying 47 people, and is now a maintenance worker at a trucking company in Austin. "We were at sea for only nine days and I still have nightmares about drowning," he said.
Mexican officials detained the Cubans for two weeks before releasing them, saying Cuba had not recognized them as its citizens.
Under the "wet foot, dry foot policy" of the United States, Cuban migrants who make it onto U.S. soil are allowed to remain while those intercepted at sea are turned back.
Cubans seeking to flee the communist-run island are heading in increasing numbers to Central America or southern Mexico and then making a long journey overland to reach the United States.
U.S. authorities say 16,200 Cubans arrived without visas at the border with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.
Caballero said his wife had previously tried unsuccessfully to leave Cuba four times by boat and he tried to persuade her not to try again. "But there was no stopping her," he said.
The couple left two children behind with relatives in Cuba, a boy aged 11 and a girl aged four.
"That's our hope now, to bring them to the United States," said Caballero. "But not the way we came. Not by sea."

Toronto Sun

Citizens protesting against the regime on March 28 in Havana's famous Galiano Street


Freedom for Venezuela


Who said that brainwashing doesn't work?

Dec. 7 - Elian González after 14 years of brainwashing: "Fidel Castro for me is like a father. I don't profess to have any religion but if I did my god would be Fidel Castro. He is like a ship that knew to take his crew on the right path"


Videos: The Ladies in White protest in Havana and stopped from marching in Holguín

Dec. 3 - Video of a protest by the Ladies in White on Sunday December 1 at Parque Gandhi in Havana and an attempt to march in Holguin, but were stopped by Castro's police



Cuban lady is brutally attacked by Castro's police for expressing her opinions

Nov. 4 - Anonymous Venezuela has a warning: This is the future of Venezuela unless they get rid of Maduro and the other puppets under the control of the Castro brothers.


Yoani Sáncez's presentation at Google Ideas Summit

October 26 - Yoani Sánchez explains how Internet without Internet is used by Cubans inside the island.

Learn how you can help promote Internet without Internet in Cuba:

The Real Cuba  Also on Twitter: @WebPaqsforCuba  On Facebook: Paquetes Web Para Cuba


Learn about a new technology that allows Cubans in Cuba have access to websites banned by the Castro regime and how you can help:

The Real Cuba  Also on Twitter: @WebPaqsforCuba  On Facebook: Paquetes Web Para Cuba


Video of another act of repudiation against members of UNPACU

Oct. 9 - This took place in Cardenas on Sunday October 6, 2013

Click here to see the video


Yoani: Cuban authorities are worried about web paqs circulating inside Cuba

Sept. 13 - Tweet from Yoani Sánchez:

"Authorities worried because of "packages" or "combos" with a collection of audiovisuals in the black market"

As I have said before, projects like Web Paqs for Cuba are the best way to bypass the blockade at the Internet, put in place by the Castro dictatorship to prevent Cubans in the island from knowing what's happening inside Cuba and in the rest of the world.

You can learn more about Web Paqs for Cuba and how you can get involved in this project at La Singularidad Cuba (Español) The Real Cuba (English) Twitter and FaceBook


Video taken at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, Luyanó, Havana, Cuba

July 8 - Video taken in April of this year at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, one of the hospitals for Cubans who do not have hard currency to pay the Castro brothers.

Very different from the hospital where they took Micahel Moore and the hospitals that are used by foreigners who pay with dollars.

Click here to see the video


Clandestine video shows Bahamian guards brutally abusing Cuban rafters

June 15 - June 15 - This clandestine video taking inside a Bahamian jail, shows a guard kicking and insulting Cuban rafters who were trying to reach the United States and ended up in the Bahamas.
There should be a tourism boycott of the Bahamas, unless the Bahamian government orders the arrest and prosecution of this brutal thug and stops abusing Cuban rafters who are risking their lives in search for freedom.
Click here to see the video


Tweet from Yoani Sánchez about the Web Paqs for Cuba project


Learn more about Paquetes Web Para Cuba

Visit our page about Paquetes Web Para Cuba

You can also visit us on Facebook to find all information about the Internet Web Paqs for Cuba, a project to help the Cuban people have access to the websites that are blocked by the Cuban regime.

Make sure to click on 'Like" as a sign of support Paquetes Web Para Cuba


Spanish daily ABC has an article about the false myth of Cuba's healthcare

Foto de la versión impresa del reportaje en ABC

March 17 - On Thursday of last week, Carmen Muñoz a columnist for Spanish daily ABC, called me to ask for permission to use the photos at therealcuba.com for an article about the false myth of Cuba's healthcare.

I was able to send her many of the photos on high resolution to use on the print edition of the newspaper.

The article was published on Sunday on ABC and is also on their web page at ABC.es  (Spanish)


Twit by Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo about Paquetes Web Para Cuba


Our new page: Fidel Castro, the World's oldest terrorist


My interview with Baseball PhD

March 29 - I was interviewed by Ed Kasputis, of Baseball PhD, about baseball in Cuba before Castro and about the two Cubas, the one for foreigners and the one for regular Cubans.
Ed did a previous program with Mr. Sports Travel of San Diego, CA, about the five top international baseball destinations and was surprised to find out that the #1 destination was Cuba.
He received some nice pictures of Cuba and was ready to book a trip when he saw therealcuba.com and changed his mind.
He interviewed me as part of a program about the new Marlins Stadium and I was able to talk about baseball in Cuba before Castro and then we had a long chat about what is the reality of life in Cuba under Castro.
The program lasts 53 minutes, if you are not a baseball fan and just want to hear my interview about Cuba use your mouse to move the dial to minute 25:35  Click here to listen


Listen to Fidel Castro

For those who think that the Cuban people chose the system imposed by the Castro brothers, here are some of the things that Fidel Castro said and promised when he gained power Click Here


Satellite photos of Cuba's prisons, missile installations, military bases and more


A look at Havana before the Castro brothers destroyed it Cuba B.C


Visit our updated page: The Useful Idiots


We have new photos of Havana taken in October of last year

Oct. 9 - A friend sent me around two dozen photos of Havana that he took at the beginning of this month.

Some of them are very sad, because they show how Havana has been completely destroyed by this gang of human termites.

Some others are hard to believe, including this one of goats having "lunch" off the dumpsters on a Havana street.

Click here  to see them


Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro Cuba

Dec. 17 - Cuba Facts is an ongoing series of succinct fact sheets on various topics, including, but not limited to, political structure, health, economy, education, nutrition, labor, business, foreign investment, and demographics, published and updated on a regular basis by the Cuba Transition Project staff at the University of Miami.

Click here to learn the truth about Cuba's Health, Education, Personal Consumption and much more in pre-Castro Cuba.



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