Yaneisy Perez, left, and fellow Cuban doctors, show their diplomas during a protest to draw attention to their plight to get U.S. visas at the Banderas square in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. Dozens of health workers who defected while serving on aid missions in Venezuela fled to Bogota expecting to swiftly get visas to the United States under the 2006 Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, designed to help Cuban medical mission deserters find refuge in the U.S., but many complain they have been waiting for months without a response. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
A group of about 100 Cuban doctors who fled to Colombia, and who are entitled to visas to enter the US, are being stalled by the Obama administration, even as open border policies permit unskilled laborers to flood in. Yesterday, they held a protest in Bogota to call attention to their plight.
The Cuban doctors had been stationed in Venezuela under a program dating to the 1960s in which Cuba sends medical professionals overseas as a moneymaking and political influence-buying mission. The doctors are paid very little by Cuba, which collects fees from the host countries for their services. Venezuela sends Cuba 92,000 barrels of oil a day, worth $3.2 billion a year, for instance. This is the very definition of exploitation, of course.
To counter this Cuban program, the US in 2006 created a program to issue visas to Cuban doctors and thus deprive the regime of crucial funds, while addressing the looming domestic shortage of medical professionals. But the Obama administration, perhaps in an effort to improve relations with Cuba has stalled in issuing visas to the Cuban medics. Camilo Hernandez of AP writes:
About 100 Cuban doctors who deserted a medical mission in Venezuela and have been stranded for months in Colombia seeking entry into the U.S. staged a protest Saturday to draw attention to their plight.
The health care workers say they fear the delays in processing their visa requests under a 2006 program aimed at luring Cuba’s medical talent could be a sign that President Barack Obama is seeking to end the incentive as part of his campaign to normalize relations with the communist island.
Wearing white doctor’s coats and brandishing their diplomas, the Cuban medical workers gathered in a plaza in Kennedy, a working-class neighborhood built in the 1960s with funds from John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. Several described how widespread shortages and mistreatment in Venezuela is leading many to sneak across the border seeking a new start in the United States.
With many doctors retiring to avoid entanglement in the red tape and financial penalties of Obamacare, the US faces a serious doctor shortage. But it looks like the Obama administration values kowtowing to a communist dictatorship over the needs of the American people, and the existing regulations.
The regime was built on the blood of dissidents like those the U.S. now avoids acknowledging.
All Rosa Maria Payá wants is a copy of her father’s autopsy report. All her father wanted before he was murdered by Castro’s thugs was free elections. These are simple requests that those of us living in freedom enjoy without issue.
But not in Cuba.
In Cuba, to ask for man’s basic rights is to ask for intimidation, incarceration, torture and death. This persists, despite any fanciful ideas that Americans may have about warming relations with the world’s oldest dictatorship. So it’s a tragedy that our own secretary of state was in Cuba on Aug. 14 and failed to make the simplest of requests for the people of Cuba: freedom of speech and religion.
Thousands of Cubans have died fighting for these rights that Americans so freely enjoy. The right to build a church and preach without fear of harassment and secret recording by government hooligans. The right to protest without wondering if your friends will be carted off, never to be seen or heard from again. The right to criticize your government leaders in the opinion pages of a newspaper without fear of being hauled away at gunpoint in the night.
I experienced the latter in Cuba not for what I said, but for what I wouldn’t say: “I’m with Fidel.” I spent eight of my ensuing 22 years in Castro’s jails naked and in solitary confinement because I refused to wear a prison uniform. I was a conscientious objector, and the regime wanted to mark me as a common criminal.
The final cries of my friends at the execution wall that drifted through my cell window, when I had one, became a sort of refrain for the Castro regime, until the government realized that gagging and silencing them before they died sent a more powerful message. I saw countless friends tortured and executed for protesting a government that still crushes the people of Cuba under its boot. A government that our government is treating as a negotiating partner.
The U.S. Embassy opening on Friday, Aug. 14, was little more than fanfare to placate journalists and complacent diplomats in the international arena. Dissidents were excluded. Though many dissidents walk the streets of Cuba, keeping them away from the public eye erects a different sort of prison.
It’s a prison that contains the truth in a sanitized box to protect the Castro brothers’ carefully crafted image that they are reasonable. The purpose is to legitimize their dictatorship, which has not held elections in 50 years and is built on the blood of former prisoners like myself, like Antonio González Rodiles; like Martha Beatriz Roque; like Héctor Maseda; like the father of Rosa Maria Payá, Oswaldo, who was killed in a suspicious car crash in 2012; and like all the dissidents still suffering in Cuba who were kept away from Friday’s celebrations.
As Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio said when he wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 11 asking that dissidents be invited to the embassy ceremony: Dissidents “among many others, and not the Castro family, are the legitimate representatives of the Cuban people.”
For decades, many have protested the Cuban government’s position that rights come from the state, that they are a gift from Fidel that he can revoke as quickly as he grants. America is founded on the principle that rights come from God, they precede the state, and they cannot be usurped. If America begins to cede that principle, it will be signing its own death certificate.
I spent 22 years in jail for the principle that it’s what we do not say—in my case, not wearing the state’s uniform—that can count as much as what we say. Our government, if it is to stand on the principles on which America was founded, has an obligation to speak the truth and demand from the Castro regime the rights that the Cuban people are entitled to by their very humanity. To fail to so do is to say, without saying, “We are with Fidel.”
Mr. Valladares is the author of “Against All Hope,” which was first published in 1986. From 1987 to 1990, he served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
A Miami woman who was married to a Cuban double agent wants JPMorgan Chase to pay through the nose for allegedly hiding Cuban cash.
Ana Margarita Martinez won a $7.1 million judgment against the Cuban government for “emotional distress” in 2001, after she found out her husband, Juan Pablo Roque, wasn’t the man she thought he was.
She’d met Roque in 1992, after the former Cuban Air Force major made headlines for allegedly braving shark infested waters to swim to Gitmo seeking political asylum in the U.S.
They dated for three years before getting hitched.
Unbeknownst to Martinez, Roque was an FBI snitch – and an undercover Cuban agent who’d been sent to gather intel on the Cuban exile community in Miami. She found out both after he snuck out of their home one night in 1996, and then appeared on CNN in Cuba a few days later crowing about his accomplishments.
Adding insult to injury, when asked what he missed about Miami, he said just one thing: “My Jeep.”
Martinez, who’d been born in Cuba, said she’d been completely duped. “She believed that Roque shared her anti-communist ideals,” court papers say.
Roque was an FBI snitch – and an undercover Cuban agent who’d been sent to gather intel on the Cuban exile community in Miami.
A federal judge in Florida found Cuba liable for Roque’s actions, saying he was “especially offended that Cuba – a country that disregards human rights – has callously trampled the rights of one of our own citizens on our own soil in furtherance of a vile criminal conspiracy.”
Martinez, 55, tried to collect on her judgment by getting orders against banks that might have been holding some of the country’s assets when the country was designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the US.
JP Morgan Chase told her in 2007 it didn’t have many Cuban assets – but the suit notes that in 2011, the bank struck a deal with feds agreeing to pay $88 million in fines for having handled $178 million in wire transfers involving Cuba and Cuban nationals between 2005 and 2006.
The suit seeks a total of $57 million in damages from the banking big.
A rep for JP Morgan Chase declined comment.
Sen. Robert Menendez took aim at what he sees as velvet-glove treatment of the Castro regime in Cuba by the Obama administration, saying that all the U.S. overtures toward the communist nation have made zero difference in how oppressed its citizens are.
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants who grew up in Union City, New Jersey, was raised on stories about the suffering of people who stayed behind in. And like many Cuban exiles and the children they raised with those stories, the Democratic senator has little tolerance for any move toward being amiable with Cuba’s leaders.
Late last year, both presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced a deal to re-establish diplomatic relations, including easing U.S. trade and travel restrictions. But that agreement, he said in an interview with Fox News Latino, “is a one-way street.”
“Cuba said, ‘You want to have a relationship with us? Well, we want our three convicted spies back,’” Menendez said. “Including one who was convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder of three United States citizens.”
In the last few weeks, the two nations re-opened embassies in each other’s capitals. Last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Havana to raise the American flag in front of the U.S. embassy.
Extending an olive branch to Castro while requiring him to make no meaningful changes in return, is an affront to human rights and the United States moral authority in the world, Menendez maintains.
“We send them the spies back, we get an innocent American – who should never have been held hostage in the first place – in return,” he said. “We don’t send spies back in the world. Anywhere. This is like a whole new [world] order.”
Secretary of State Kerry traveled to Havana to raise the flag at the U.S. Embassy there last week. As has been noted here in this blog and in many news articles and columns, no dissidents or human rights activists were invited to the ceremony.
It’s fair to ask if that sends any kind of signal to the regime. The fear would be that it expresses a lack of interest in, or at least a refusal to give much priority to, how the Castro regime treats those struggling peacefully for democracy and human rights in Cuba.
How might we judge the answer? Here’s how:
Less than 48 hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shunned Cuban dissidents from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, over 200 dissidents have been arrested.
In Havana, 60 members of The Ladies in White, the renowned pro-democracy group composed of the wives, mothers and daughters of Cuban political prisoners, were arrested — along with nearly 20 other activists. Among those arrested were Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White; Antonio Rodiles, of Estado de Sats; and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” of the National Resistance Front.
Some of The Ladies in White, such as Yaqueline Boni, were brutally beaten in custody. Others severely beaten include Ciro Alexis Casanova, Jose Diaz Silva and Mario Alberto Hernandez.
Those facts come from a report by Capitol Hill Cubans. The only real defense of Kerry might be that the regime arrests and beats people all the time anyway, so it’s impossible to say this would not have happened even if some of these people had been invited to the flag-raising at the new U.S. Embassy.
Some defense. Experience with communist and other dictatorships has long been that American support for and interaction with dissidents helps them and protects them. Naming them individually does as well, in their common view.
In his 1975 Nobel lecture, accepting the Peace Prize, Andrei Sakharov ended his speech by naming–one by one–about one hundred political prisoners. His wife Elena Bonner, who actually read that speech for Sakharov because he was forbidden from leaving the Soviet Union, later said “the listing of names brought joy to the prisoners of conscience, and to their relatives. More important, it somewhat protected them from the camp administration.”
So Kerry missed his chance, and his actions in Havana arguably worsened the situation of dissidents there by suggesting a lack of interest in them and their plight.
Gulags and satrapies are required in the nether world where Marxist fantasy survives. How else to keep the peasants in line? Secretary of State John Kerry, looking for love in all the wrong places, took a handful of congressmen to Havana the other day to preside over the raising of the American flag at the reopening of the American embassy, closed in 1961 when Fidel Castro imposed the Marxist yoke upon the neck of the Cuban people. The three Marines who lowered the flag 53 years ago, old men now, were called back to run up Old Glory once more. Mr. Kerry celebrated the occasion as another achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Fidel is on the margins now, an old man drooling in his cups, devoting himself to conjuring insults to America. Little brother Raul runs the gulag, one of the most repressive anywhere. Fidel is such a glutton for Marxist theory that during the Cuban missile crisis he urged the Soviets to indulge a nuclear exchange with the United States, even if it meant sacrificing Cuba in the name of a Communist future. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier and no stranger to the world of repression, was appalled by the cavalier recklessness of his Cuban clients.
Many American liberals, confident that repressive theory would never apply to them, have often admired dictators trying to fundamentally transform the world. An earlier generation of American academics admired Lenin and Trotsky, and swooned over Stalin even as he unleashed genocide in Ukraine, torturing anyone who offended his paranoia into confessing imaginary crimes “against the people.” And then he shot them. The children of these liberals, who now want to be called “progressives” and incapable of learning from experience, found much to admire in Mao’s China, in Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam, and in Cuba.
They assured everyone in their books and magazine articles that the Castro brothers were building heaven on earth just 90 miles from Florida, and were puzzled by why so many Cubans were building boats, rafts and anything that would float, all to flee paradise. These escapees from the gulag were scorned as whiners, malcontents and ingrates whose testimony should be ignored. Continue reading America returns to Cuba. The Castro brothers feed Obama’s insatiable appetite for insult and affront→
Not everyone is happy about establishing a relationship with Cuba. In 1975, anti-terrorist advocate Joseph Connor’s father was killed in a bombing by Puerto Rican nationalists in New York City — and the chief bomb maker, William Morales, was granted asylum in Cuba– but this isn’t the only reason Connor is against the U.S. deal with Cuba.
In an interview with FOX Business Network’s Stuart Varney, he said “we need to seek justice.
We have the most powerful country in the world… and we get nothing out of our negotiation– it’s not even negotiation, its capitulation. It’s very similar to what we have done in Iran.”
Connor argues the relationship the U.S. is working to create with Cuba is very “one sided.”
“There’s been no give on the Cuban side. As a matter of fact as we are negotiating this they are saying they want reparations for the United States. They owe us $8 billion in seizure of our assets… creating a relationship with a person or a country is not one sided — we have to get something back—bringing Morales back and he’s low-hanging fruit in Cuba right now,” he said.
Connor says President Obama’s deal with Cuba is a “capitulation.”
“We should have never gone down this path without demanding justice… The President doesn’t negotiate at all… You have goals in mind and they you negotiate to reach those goals… and in this case and in the case of Iran — the goal has been the agreement, not something that’s tangibly good for our country,” he said.