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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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.”
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
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
Post Editorial: Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved
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
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
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
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
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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.
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
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
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
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
One of the agents known as the "Cuban Five," Gerardo Hernandez, had been
serving a life sentence on a murder conspiracy conviction in the
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
the Castro's are desperate for money, an ignorant with money shows up
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
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
"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
The U.S. is reportedly looking to normalize relations by opening an
embassy in Havana, as well as loosening current travel restrictions on
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.”
Rubio: Alan Gross Release Put 'A Price on the Head of Every American
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
protesting against the regime on March 28 in Havana's famous Galiano
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"
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
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.
Sáncez's presentation at Google Ideas Summit
October 26 - Yoani Sánchez
explains how Internet without Internet is used by Cubans inside the
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
another act of repudiation against members of UNPACU
Oct. 9 - This took place in
Cardenas on Sunday October 6, 2013
to see the video
Cuban authorities are worried about web paqs circulating inside Cuba
Sept. 13 - Tweet from Yoani
"Authorities worried because
of "packages" or "combos" with a collection of audiovisuals in the black
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
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
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
Click here to see the video
Yoani Sánchez about the Web Paqs for Cuba project
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
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
The article was published on
Sunday on ABC and is also on their web page at
Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo about Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Our new page:
Fidel Castro, the
World's oldest terrorist
My interview with
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
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
photos of Cuba's prisons, missile installations, military bases and
A look at
Havana before the Castro brothers destroyed it
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.
to see them
Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro
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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