Tag Archives: Cuba

Official Statement from the Obama Administration

Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes

Cabinet Room

12:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports. Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind. All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

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BREAKING NEWS – Obama ending the wet foot dry foot policy

USA Today

The Obama administration is ending the 20-year-old “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allows most Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil to become legal permanent residents after one year.

The decision was confirmed by a congressional staffer who was briefed by the administration but was not authorized to publicly discuss the plan.

In exchange, Cuba has agreed to start accepting Cubans who have been issued a deportation order in the U.S., something they have refused to do for decades.

The decision comes as President Obama tries to cement his historic opening with the communist island and one week before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Trump has said he would renegotiate the deal with Cuba.

Secretary of State Nominee Tillerson: “Cuban leaders received much, while their people received little”

NBC6

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, criticized the United States’ normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba saying the communist island has not made enough concessions.

Appearing at a Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, said Cuba’s leaders haven’t done enough on human rights for their citizens.
“We did not hold them accountable for their behavior, and their leaders received much, while their people received little,” he said. “That did not help Cubans or Americans.”

Tillerson did not specify whether he wants to reverse executive actions taken by President Obama to ease the trade embargo Washington imposed on Cuba in 1961. Obama has taken several administrative steps since the two governments resumed diplomatic relations in 2015, but only Congress can overturn the embargo.

During his election campaign Trump raised the possibility of reopening negotiations with Cuba to seek concessions from Havana.

After everything he has done for them: Cuban troops chant: We’ll make Obama ‘a hat out of bullets to the head’

The Miami Herald

In a particularly absurd display of military might and tropical folklore, Raúl Castro presided over a military parade in Havana on Monday to honor his dead brother and mark the 58th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

But instead of railing against the Republican winner of the U.S. presidential election, who has already taunted and threatened the Cuban government with his infamous tweets, the theme was anti-Obama.

Apparently everybody loves a winner, and Raúl Castro is no exception. He’s ready to ditch President Barack Obama, who opened up to Cuba like no other U.S. president before him.

The parting is ugly.

Listen to the war chant the marching troops were shouting in the parade:

“Commander-in-Chief, command us. Command over this land. We are going to make war if imperialism comes. Obama! Obama! With what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and make you a hat out of bullets to the head.”

Nothing like a little santería jargon — una limpieza, a cleansing! — to go with the fatigues, rifles and a threat to do the U.S. president harm.

Even by Cuba’s Kafkian standards, threatening to shoot an American president in the head is way out there. Too reprehensible for words. But the ungrateful display is even more remarkable because Obama has been nothing but a friend to Cuba, unilaterally lifting so many trade and travel restrictions that it worked to his political detriment at home.

Obama’s grave crime against Castro: The American president is more popular in Cuba than Raúl — and his visit last March awakened great hope and expectations in the Cuban people, who welcomed Obama with joy and displays of solidarity with the United States. Cubans heard Obama’s message that there could be a better Cuba if they believed in it, worked for it, embraced change and America’s peace offering.

Continue reading After everything he has done for them: Cuban troops chant: We’ll make Obama ‘a hat out of bullets to the head’

Cuban Interior Minister Fernández Gondín just became a “good communist”

International Herald Tribune

Cuban Interior Minister Carlos Fernandez Godin died on Saturday in Havana after a lengthy battle with a “chronic illness,” authorities announced. He was 78.

Fernandez Godin, who fought in the Cuban Rebel Army before the Revolution, was promoted from first deputy interior minister to head the ministry in October 2015, replacing Abelardo Colome, who had served in that capacity since 1989 but who had resigned due to health problems.

According to his will, Fernandez Godin will be cremated and his ashes will be honored at the Pantheon of Veterans in Havana’s Colon cemetery until they are interred in the Second Front Mausoleum in Santiago de Cuba, where the minister will receive military honors.

Grandma rips off Medicare and skips town — likely to Cuba

The Miami Herald

Dora Robaina’s résumé boasted plenty of experience working in Miami’s lucrative Medicare rackets.

She’d served two years in prison a decade ago for fraud and was facing new charges for her suspected role as a patient recruiter in another ring prosecutors say bilked millions from the government program. And before that case could even begin, she was set to spend three years behind bars for tipping off the scam’s ringleader so he could evade FBI agents who had come to arrest him at a Hialeah dental office where she worked.

But Robaina, 49, was also about to become a grandmother. So last spring, a federal judge granted her request to delay surrender so she could attend her grandson’s expected birth. She was supposed to turn herself in last June.

Instead, grandma fled — probably to Cuba. It’s long been a popular escape route for Medicare fraud fugitives. Over the past decade, dozens of defendants have sought haven on the communist island when confronted with criminal charges in Miami.

“She had an appointment with me but she never showed up,” said her defense attorney, David T. Alvarez, who obtained her bail and surrender delay with the support of the U.S. attorney’s office. “But it’s not my belief that she fled. It doesn’t make any sense because she was a minor player in the main case.”

Continue reading Grandma rips off Medicare and skips town — likely to Cuba

Why Are Celebrities So Deluded When It Comes To Cuba?

Daily Beast 

On social media, celebrities laud the quaint poverty of Cuba while ignoring that real life for most Cubans is a daily grind of hustling for money and food.

During vacation in Cuba last week, Victoria’s Secret Angel Sara Sampaio posed for a photo in jean cut-offs and a light blue denim shirt next to one of the island’s old-fashioned, candy-colored cars, then shared it with her 4.5 million followers on Instagram. “When in Cuba match ur clothes with the cars,” the 25-year-old Portuguese model wrote in the photo’s caption.
The old car as photo-op has become a tourism cliché in Havana, particularly among the style-obsessed celebrities and fashion set—Madonna, Beyoncé and Jay Z, the Kardashians, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton, and so on—who have visited the island in recent years, unable to resist the retro charm of Cuba’s 1950s Cadillacs.
And who can blame them for being seduced by the quaint authenticity of Cuba’s old cars and buildings, preserved over time and untouched by the hideousness of capitalism?
The island has seen a tourism boom since the U.S. and Cuba announced in 2014 that they would restore diplomatic ties, in part because warmer relations between the two countries have made it easier for Americans to get there, and in part because Westerners who have never been want to see it before Starbucks and McDonalds pop up all over the island.
So when the Kardashians flew down with their reality TV show’s camera crew last May, two months after President Obama visited Cuba (and became the first American president to do so since Calvin Coolidge), even they found this top poverty tourism destination to be rather charming.
Taking in the sights from the back of a 1957 Chevrolet convertible, Khloe Kardashian marveled at how friendly and close to nature Cubans are (“the goats are, like, people’s dogs!”) and told her chauffer she enjoyed the “real life” on display during their sightseeing tour.
It was a spectacular moment of irony, of course, given that “real life” for most Cubans is a daily grind of hustling for money and food, including a number of young women who prostitute themselves to geriatric tourists. In an interview with The New York Times after Fidel Castro’s death, one older Cuban man who lives on a $12 monthly pension said that much of the island’s’ food supply is being funneled into the tourism sector—and that he’d recently been forced to sell two antique lamps in order to pay for his next few meals. Affluent Westerners may be upset by the idea of fast food chains invading Cuba, but Cubans themselves might not mind it so much (fast food is better than no food, after all).
While many Cubans are hopeful that their country will change under President Raúl Castro now that his elder brother has died, Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report on Cuba paints a grim picture of life for its citizens: “Government critics continued to experience harassment, ‘acts of repudiation’ (demonstrations led by government supporters with participation of state security officials), and politically motivated criminal prosecutions. Reports continued of government critics, including journalists and human rights activists, being routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests and short-term detention for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement.”
But who needs freedom of expression and economic freedom when life in Cuba is so adorably simple? Tilda Swinton said as much, exposing her own ignorance, when she attended Chanel’s Resort 2017 fashion show there in May (the Kardashians had originally planned their trip around the show as well, since Kendall Jenner was supposed to walk).
“Look, capitalism is visiting and the Cubans are doffing their caps,” she told New York magazine, “but my sense is that this is a very healthy country and any notion that they need saving by a moribund capitalist country from across the sea is just absurd.”
It’s hardly an uncommon sentiment among certain segments of the left, generous with their praise of Cuba’s free health care and education systems, along with its high literacy rates. Never mind that the number of poorly compensated Cuban medical professionals who defected to the U.S. reached a record high in 2015, or that Cuba’s literate people aren’t free to read what they want.
The irony of showing a luxury fashion collection in a country isolated from modern consumerism was apparently lost on Karl Lagerfeld, who showed his Chanel Resort 2017 collection in Havana last May. He noted that while there was no “fashion” as Westerners know it in Cuba, there was plenty of singular style to be fetishized. “Here, you can really wear jewelry,” he told New York. “Here you can smile whenever you want. It is adorable.”
Toothless smiles are considerably less “adorable” in Paris or New York. But in Old Havana, they’re as charming as the decrepit neo-classical buildings and colorful cars.
Despite fetishizing Cuba’s poverty, Lagerfeld redeemed himself when he admitted: “But of course, what do I know about Cuba? It is very childish, my idea.”
To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with Lagerfeld bringing couture to Cuba, along with a troop of fashion A-listers and stars from Gisele Bündchen to Vin Diesel. Nor is there anything wrong with Western tourists Instagramming photos of themselves next to pastel pink Chevrolets.
Bringing different cultures to Cuba is of course a good thing, and tourism is good for the economy—though Cuba’s economy can’t survive on tourism alone and has suffered since its regional benefactor, Venezuela, has been in economic freefall.
“For the first time in decades, Cubans are dealing with power outages and transportation shortages,” NPR reported in September. Tourism is up, but “they just don’t have the infrastructure to really get at all that money.”
There’s nothing wrong with the exchange of ideas through high fashion shows, but Cuba needs goods—not couture—to be exchanged in order to build up its infrastructure.
The only problem with the Kardashians et al seeing the island and its old cars as Instagram bait is that it casts Cuba in a patina of sentimental filters, obscuring the realities of life there.
Cuba is indeed a beautiful place, but the fancy tourists don’t need a vacation on the island as much as they need a lesson–and they’re not going to get it on the tourist route advertised in brochures.

American attorney defending Cuban dissident artist arrested, foundation says

The Miami Herald

An American human rights lawyer representing an imprisoned Cuban artist was arrested in Havana on Friday, according to the Human Rights Foundation.

Kimberley Motley was in the country to advocate for 33-year-old Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, a dissident artist jailed for posting a video on Facebook mocking Fidel Castro’s death. He was scheduled to attend Art Basel, but has been imprisoned without charges since Nov. 26, relatives said.

The foundation reported that Motley was led away by plainclothes security agents while she was holding a press conference outside Havana’s National Capitol around 4 p.m. Friday. Authorities also arrested dissident punk rock artist Gorki Águila and democracy activist Luis Alberto Mariño, according to the foundation.

Cuba: Ladies in White Leader Berta Soler Arrested Without Cause

Breitbart News

Berta Soler, the leader of the anti-communist Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White, was arrested on Thursday after stepping outside her home, which is also the group’s headquarters.
Witnesses say she was not dressed in white, the color her group wears to protest the government and had not apparently engaged in any objectionable activity upon her detention. She was reportedly leaving to participate in an event to discuss access to the internet on the island.

“They arrested her at the door of her home,” fellow dissident Martha Beatriz Roque told the Miami-based outlet Martí Noticias. “She was not wearing white, it is not known why they arrested her… No one knows anything because nobody could leave [the house] or interfere in it.”

The news site Cubanet, which originally reported the arrest, claimed that Soler’s husband and former political prisoner Ángel Moya was in the home at the time of the arrest but unable to go outside during the incident. Moya was “thrown on the floor and beaten” during an anti-communist protest on Sunday that triggered a mob attack on his and Soler’s home.

That protest was the first in two weeks for the Ladies in White. The group — comprised of the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and other female relatives of political prisoners — suspended its regular Sunday protests for two weeks following the death of dictator Fidel Castro. At the time, Soler said that she was personally “very happy” that he had died,” but “we have chosen not to take the streets so that the Cuban regime cannot say that we are provoking [our arrests] or that we are opportunists.” It marked the first time in 13 years that the Ladies in White did not protest.

In that same interview with the Spanish outlet El Español, Soler warned that the repression against Cuban dissidents would increase following Castro’s death, and that “Raúl is as much a dictator and murderer as Fidel.”

They returned to the streets last Sunday, however. Five were arrested and five placed on house arrest for holding up signs with the words “human rights” on them and demanding freedom for political prisoners.

While Soler was not arrested on that occasion, she is regularly beaten, detained, and shipped far from her home during these Sunday protests. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), an NGO that tracked politically-motivated arrests on the island, reported that Soler was arrested three times in November alone — a number suppressed by her decision to keep the Ladies from marching following Castro’s death.

Soler’s arrest highlights a growing crackdown on the island’s most vocal anti-communist dissidents that began the day Raúl Castro announced his brother’s death with the arrest of Danilo Maldonado, a Havana artist known by his nom de plume “El Sexto.” Maldonado was arrested after celebrating Castro’s death in a Facebook Live video and spray-painting the words “he’s gone” on a wall in Havana. Following his arrest, his mother, María Victoria Machado, reported that he suspected police of sedating him in prison after repeatedly shouting “down with Raúl” from his jail cell and had refused to eat.

On her next visit to the prison this week, Machado found that her son had been severely beaten. To prevent him from attempting any protest action during International Human Rights Day (December 10), police had beaten him and kept him in solitary confinement naked, without food, for three days.

On Wednesday, Maldonado’s partner, Alexandra Martínez, arrived in Cuba. In a video from Havana, she said police refused to let her see him because “I am a foreigner” (Martínez lives in Miami) and only knew Maldonado’s fate due to poor timing on the police’s part.

“After three hours waiting… a white truck passed by with Danilo in there and he started screaming that they were taking him to El Combinado del Este,” she said. “We have not heard anything else about him, he hasn’t called.”

El Combinado del Este is a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Havana. While he has been sentenced to prison in the past for his art, this is the first time he has been transferred to such a prison. Maldonado has yet to be formally charged, though his family expects charges of defacing public property.

Fidel Castro: The Homophobic Dictator and his Forced Labor Camps

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Fidel Castro passed away last week and many apparently have ignored the murderous tendencies of the perpetual dictator. Or, like Colombia‘s influential magazine Semana, they simply pardon him for being a Communist. The statements of this magazine, like those of dozens of media outlets that refused to call him “dictator” and dedicated themselves to using ridiculous phrases as “revolutionary leader”, leave a clear message: apparently when a murderer is from the left, the body count doesn’t matter. I quote from the Semana article: “He has been responsible for many deaths. However, it would be unfair to call him a murderer.”

We must not shy away from remember the level of evil of the man which Semana refers to as a “liberator.” Perhaps one of the most terrible events that occurred during his lifetime dictatorship, which continues even after his death, is the existence of forced labor camps, which are curiously missing from the documentaries of the romantic “bearded man” that are frequently shown on television these days.

UMAP, Military Units to Aid Production, was the term given to the forced labor camps in which more than 35,000 Cubans were enslaved. Those who were tortured by the “liberator” had to perform agricultural work from dawn to dusk. They had strict “output quotas” and those who did not meet the established requirements were punished; for example, they were deprived of food. Confined in barracks surrounded by electric fences, and treated as slaves, religious minorities, hippies, and homosexuals were “rehabilitated” by the dictator’s men.

As reported by one of the witnesses of the documentary “Conduct Impropia” directed by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez, the forced labor camps essentially included three groups: homosexuals, religious minorities, and those accused of “improper conduct”, a category in which could be applied to anyone who ran afoul of the Castro brothers. Thus, in Cuba, you could not be gay, a Jehovah’s Witness, or have long hair and look like hippie, because you could be taken to a concentration camp.

The evidence of the horrific existence of homosexuals on the island is so overwhelming that even Fidel has admitted his culpability. “If anyone is responsible, it’s me,” he said in an interview, referring to the persecution of the homosexual community in Cuba. He has also stated that: “We have never believed that a homosexual can meet the conditions and requirements of conduct that allow us to consider him a true revolutionary.”

In spite of all of this, Fidel is called a “liberator”, and like Che Guevara, who shared Fidel’s anti-gay sentiments, the gay community is hesitant to condemn him. The left has been so skillful that they have even managed to associate the Cuban regime with the movement for gay rights. But nothing could be further from the truth. Communism’s greatest leaders, from Stalin to Kim Jong-un, have been overtly homophobic. In this regard the left’s rhetoric regarding “equality” and “liberty” is revealed to be completely hollow.

Left-wing groups who have participated in the struggles for equality before the law and tolerance of LGBTI groups seem to forget that leaders like Stalin, perhaps the most vicious murderer the world has ever seen, established laws against homosexuality that were introduced into the criminal codes of the Soviet republics. General repression of homosexuals is nothing new within Communist regimes.

Fidel’s personal disgust for and repudiation of homosexuals is well documented, yet behind the concentration camps where he sought to “rehabilitate” those he considered “deviants,” there is also an obvious economic interest. Like all Communists, the “revolutionary leader” always lived at the expense of the enslaved people. According to Forbes magazine, the dictator who allegedly worked tirelessly for the welfare of the poorest was among the 10 richest world leaders, accumulating a $900 million fortune in his lifetime.

The UMAP, the forced labor camps, were, of course, an important source of income, an unpaid labor force, something fundamentally necessary to a dictatorship that lives by enslaving Cubans. “The vital role of UMAP was not to kill civilians, but to harness the labor force of ‘social deviants’, without any concern for their human cost,” says Joseph Tahbaz in his study on gender repression on the island. The “liberator,” the eternal youth, the socialist romantic, was nothing more than a murderer of the worst kind with unbridled ambition.

Any decent person, who really examines the murderous nature of Fidel Castro, would condemn his actions. It is ironic to see Castro-loving LGTBI groups and leftist movements claim a sort of moral superiority, accusing those they call “neo-liberals” of being antiquated and reactionary, when they are defending the worst of dictators. If they really study the ideology of Fidel Castro, they will find a man who epitomized intolerance, disrespect for individual freedoms, fanaticism, and hatred. These are the values that he, in reality, represented.

Fidel Castro was a murderer, and his supposed good intentions now towards the gay community do little to compensate the victims of his dictatorship. He was a criminal of the worst kind, who famously placed the following sign above the labor camp’s entrance: “Work will make you men.” Seeing a homosexual defending Fidel Castro is as shameful and grotesque as seeing an African-American advocate for the Ku Klux Klan.