Tag Archives: embargo

Trump adds Cuba embargo supporter to transition team


The Miami Herald

President-elect Donald Trump Monday named Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the most active pro-Cuba embargo group in Washington, to his transition team.

Claver-Carone has been one of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama’s efforts since December of 2014 to improve relations with Cuba, and his appointment to the Trump team could signal a reversal of some of those changes.

He is executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC) as well as Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit that describes itself as “a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba towards human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

The Washington Examiner reported that Claver-Carone was named to the transition team for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until November of 2003.

Trump said during the campaign that he would have negotiated a better deal with Cuba than Obama. Critics of Obama’s changes have complained that Cuba was not required to improve its human rights record or further open its economy.

Claver-Carone’s appointment to the transition team “is a clear signal … that the president-elect will carry out the promise he made to the Cuban American community,” former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich told the Nuevo Herald.

Reich added that the appointment does not automatically mean Claver-Carone will get a top job in the new administration, although Reich predicted that he would accept it if offered. “In my opinion, not many other people know as much about Obama’s mistakes on Cuba policy, and how to change them, as Mauricio,” he said.

In an opinion column published last week in The Miami Herald, Claver-Carone argued that Obama’s new policies on Cuba “made a bad situation worse.” U.S. policy on the island “has gone from what it initially portrayed as a noble purpose to pure sycophancy in pursuit of ‘historic firsts,’ he wrote.

Claver-Carone comments regularly on Cuba issues on his blog, Capitol Hill Cubans, and has hosted a radio program on U.S. foreign policy. A lawyer, he has taught law at the George Washington and Catholic Universities. He testified before a Congressional committee in March about Obama’s Cuba policies.

Claver-Carone has been especially critical of the Obama administration’s approval of several U.S. companies to do business with companies owned by the Cuban government and its military — as in the case of Starwood hotels. He also has attacked the lack of compensation for properties confiscated from U.S. citizens in the 1960s.

His appointment was criticized by Ric Herrero, director of CubaNow, an organization that pushes for warmer U.S. relations with Havana.

Herrero said he lamented the selection of a man “who has dedicated his long career as a lobbyist in our capital to dividing Cuban families and defending the interests of those politicians who have benefited from the failed embargo policy.”

The USCD PAC spent more $600,000 in the most recent elections, according to Federal Electoral Commission records. It made significant donations to the campaigns of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, as well as Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz – all critics of the Obama shifts on Cuba.

Claver-Carone did not immediately reply to requests for comments for this story.

Newsweek: How Donald Trump’s company violated the US embargo against Cuba



A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filing.
Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after-the-fact to a charitable effort.The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.
He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.
At the time, Americans traveling to Cuba had to receive specific U.S. government permission, which was only granted for an extremely limited number of purposes, such as humanitarian efforts. Neither an American nor a company based in the United States could spend any cash in Cuba; instead a foreign charity or similar sponsoring entity needed to pay all expenses, including travel. Without obtaining a license from the federal Office of Foreign Asset Control before the consultants went to Cuba, the undertaking by Trump Hotels would have been in violation of federal law, trade experts say.Officials with the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not respond to emails seeking comment on the Cuba trip, further documentation about the endeavor or an interview with Trump. Richard Fields, who was then the principal in charge of Seven Arrows, did not return calls seeking comment.But a former Trump executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said the company did not obtain a government license prior to the trip. Internal documents show that executives involved in the Cuba project were still discussing the need for federal approval after the trip had taken place.
OFAC officials say there is no record that the agency granted any such license to the companies or individuals involved, although they cautioned that some documents from that time have been destroyed. Yet one OFAC official, who agreed to discuss approval procedures if granted anonymity, said the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino was “essentially zero.”
Prior to the Cuban trip, several European companies reached out to Trump about potentially investing together on the island through Trump Hotels, according to the former Trump executive. At the time, a bipartisan group of senators, three former Secretaries of State and other former officials were urging then-President Bill Clinton to review America’s Cuba policy, in hopes of eventually ending the decades-long embargo.
The goal of the Cuba trip, the former Trump executive said, was to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions. While in Cuba, the Trump representatives met with government officials, bankers and other business leaders to explore possible opportunities for the casino company. The former executive said Trump had participated in discussions about the Cuba trip and knew it had taken place.The fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo. “The money that the Trump company paid to the consultant is money that a Cuban national has an interest in and was spent on an understanding it would be reimbursed,’’ Richard Matheny, chair of Goodwin’s national security and foreign trade regulation group said, based on a description of the events by Newsweek. “That would be illegal. If OFAC discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice.”Shortly after Trump Hotels reimbursed Seven Arrows, the two companies parted ways. Within months, Trump formed a presidential exploratory committee. He soon decided to seek the nomination of the Reform Party, which was founded by billionaire Ross Perot after his unsuccessful 1992 bid for the White House.
Trump launched his presidential campaign in Miami in November 1999. There, at a luncheon hosted by the Cuban American National Foundation, an organization of Cuban exiles, he proclaimed he wanted to maintain the American embargo and would not spend any money in Cuba so long as Fidel Castro remained in power. At the time, disclosing that his company had just spent money on the Cuba trip, or even acknowledging an interest in loosening the embargo, would have ruined Trump’s chances in Florida, a critical electoral state where large numbers of Cuban-Americans remain virulently opposed to the regime.“As you know—and the people in this room know better than anyone—putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba,’’ Trump told the crowd. “It goes to Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer, he’s a killer, he’s a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.”‘Its Stock Price Had Collapsed’By the time Trump gave that speech, 36 years had passed since the Treasury Department in the Kennedy administration imposed the embargo. The rules prohibited any American person or company—even those with operations in other foreign countries—from engaging in financial transactions with any person or entity in Cuba. The lone exceptions: humanitarian efforts and telecommunications exports.The impact of the embargo intensified in 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union ended its oil subsidies to the island and triggered a broad economic collapse. By 1993, Cuba faced extreme shortages and Castro was forced to start printing money solely to cover government deficits. Three years later, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, which codified the embargo into law and worsened Cuba’s economic decline. With many financial options closed off, Cuba attempted to find overseas investment to modernize its tourism industry and other businesses.
The first signs that American policy might be shifting came in March 1998, when President Bill Clinton announced several major changes. Among them: resuming charter flights between the United States and Cuba for authorized Americans, streamlining procedures for exporting medical equipment and allowing Cubans in the U.S. to send small amounts of cash to their relatives on the island. However, Americans and American companies still could not legally spend their own money in Cuba.That fall, as critics pressured Clinton to further loosen the embargo, Trump Hotels saw an opportunity. Like the communist regime, the company was struggling, having piled up losses for years. In 1998 alone, Trump Hotels lost $39.7 million, according to the company’s financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its stock price had collapsed, falling almost 80 percent from a high that year of $12 a share to a low of just $2.75. (After multiple bankruptcies, Trump severed his ties with the company; it is now called Trump Entertainment Resorts and is a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, run by renowned financier Carl Icahn). The company was desperate to find partners for new business which offered the chance to increase profits, according to another former Trump executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. The hotel and casino company assigned Seven Arrows, which had been working with Trump for several years, to develop such opportunities, including the one in Cuba.On February 8, 1999, months after the consultants traveled to the island, Seven Arrows submitted a bill to Trump Hotels for the $68,551.88 it had “incurred prior to and including a trip to Cuba on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc.”The 1999 document also makes clear that executives were still discussing the legal requirements for such a trip after the consultants had already returned from Cuba. The government does not provide after-the-fact licenses.“Under current law trips of the sort Mr. Fields took to Cuba must be sanctioned not only by the White House but are technically on behalf of a charity,’’ the bill submitted to Trump Hotels says. “The one most commonly used is Carinas Cuba.”The instructions contain two errors. First, while OFAC is part of the executive branch, the White House itself does not provide licenses for business dealings in Cuba. Second, the correct name of the charity is Caritas Cuba, a group formed in 1991 by the Catholic Church, which provides services for the elderly, children and other vulnerable populations in the Caribbean nation. Caritas Cuba did not respond to emails about contacts it may have had with Trump Hotels, Seven Arrows or any individuals associated with them.The invoice from Seven Arrows was submitted to John Burke, who was then the corporate treasurer of Trump Hotels. In a lawsuit on a different legal issue, Burke testified that Trump Hotels paid the bill in full, although he denied recognizing the document.
The Cuba venture was one of two assignments given to Seven Arrows at that time, and the second has already emerged as an issue in the GOP nominee’s bid for the presidency. Trump Hotels also paid the consulting firm to help develop a deal with the Seminole tribe of Florida to partner in a casino there. Knowing that the Florida governor and legislature opposed casino gambling in the state, Trump authorized developing a strategy to win over politicians to get the laws changed in an effort named “Gambling Project.” The law firm of Greenberg Traurig was retained to assemble the strategy. A copy of the plan prepared by the lawyers showed the strategy involved hiring multiple consultants, lobbyists and media relations firms to persuade the governor and the legislature to allow casino gambling in the state. The key to possible success? Campaign contributions.The plan states “the executive and legislative branches of Florida government are driven by many influences, the most meaningful of which lies in campaign giving.” For the legislature, it recommends giving to “leadership accounts” maintained by state political parties, rather than to individual lawmakers, because “this is where the big bucks go and the real influence is negotiated.” Records show that Seven Arrows also incurred $38,996.32 on its work on the Gaming Project, far less than it spent for the Cuba endeavor.Aside from deceiving Cuban-Americans, records of the 1998 initiatives show that Trump lied to voters about his efforts in Florida during that period. At the second Republican presidential debate in September, one of Trump’s rivals, Jeb Bush, said the billionaire had tried to buy him off with favors and contributions when he was Florida’s governor in an effort to legalize casino gaming in the state. “Totally false,’’ Trump responded. “I would have gotten it.”The documents obtained by Newsweek give no indication why the $39,000 spent on Seven Arrows’ primary assignment—arranging for a casino deal with the Seminole tribe—was so much less than the $68,000 expended on the Cuba effort. The former Trump executive could not offer any explanation for the disparity.Though it has long been illegal for corporations to spend money in Cuba without proper authorization, there is no chance that Trump, the company or any of its executives will be prosecuted for wrongdoing. The statute of limitations ran out long ago, and legal analysts say OFAC’s enforcement division is understaffed, so the chances for an investigation were slim even at the time.And perhaps that was the calculation behind the company’s decision to flout the law: the low risk of getting caught versus the high reward of lining up Cuban allies if the U.S. loosened or dropped the embargo. The only catch: What would happen if Trump’s Cuban-American supporters ever found out?

Cuba must shift before embargo is lifted


The Miami Herald Editorial Board

The embargo on Cuba, one of the pillars of U.S. policy toward the island for more than half a century, now teeters on collapse, it seems — at least in terms of public support.

For some time, there has been a movement in Washington, Congress and President Barack Obama’s White House to eliminate the old Cold War blockade — launched by President John F. Kennedy after Cuba cozied up to the Russians. More than five decades later, it has only failed to oust the Castros from power. Despite its ineffectiveness, a majority of Cuban exiles, for the majority of those 50 years, has stood firm in demanding that it remain in place.

But a recent study takes note of a shift: According to a poll by Florida International University, the majority of Cuban-Americans appear to want the embargo lifted.

This is a first, and an ironic one. With the United States’ normalized relations with Cuba, which have given Americans far easier access to the island, and the flights and cruises to take them there, the restrictive embargo seems archaic.

However, the Castro regime has yet to do much of anything to warrant its elimination: The state of human rights remains abysmal; freedom of expression is a nonstarter; and democratic elections are nowhere on the horizon.

The latest outrage is Cuba’s refusal to allow Cuban-American flight crews on U.S. airlines to overnight on the island.

Still, the FIU study found that among Cuban-Americans more than half of respondents (54.3 percent) are in favor of removing the embargo. It should be said that many are likely to be Cubans who arrived here in recent years and that the population of more staunchly anti-Castro exiles dating from the early ‘60s is getting smaller.

In addition, a high figure of 74.4 percent of survey participants think the embargo has not worked or has not worked very well.

In 2014, only 45 percent opposed the embargo. Much has happened since it was imposed in October 1960, then went into full effect in 1962, blocking American firms from doing business with Cuba.

The dynamic between Cuba and the United States has changed, especially since the Dec. 17, 2014, when President Obama announced the thawing of relations between the two countries and began a process of rapprochement.

But the study’s most telling factor is that young immigrants, born long after the explosive first stage of the Castro regime, want something different.

This group favors lifting the embargo and ending all travel restrictions supported by those who preceded them here by several decades.

However, the younger group wants to maintain the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet foot/dry foot policy, which many consider the reason for the recent waves of Cuban migrants trying to reach the United States across several Central American countries before the door closes — as it inevitably will.

In Cuba, the Castro regime remains mired in its worn rhetoric tied more to the bygone era of the Cold War, unwilling to make concessions and, frankly, reaping rewards without having to do so.

Though the shift in Cuban-American sentiment against the U.S. embargo of Cuba is an intriguing sign of the times, the shift that really matters here is the one that the Castro regime has yet to make.

And that, alone, mandates that the embargo remain in place. It’s the only leverage the United States has left.

House approves bill with clauses that strengthen Cuba sanctions


The Miami Herald

The strengthened restrictions are included in the text of a budget bill approved last week after two amendments to remove restrictions on agricultural exports and travel to Cuba were withdrawn by their sponsors.

The budget bill for 2017 financial services and general government spending has been approved in the House of Representatives with several clauses that strengthen sanctions on Cuba.

The clauses limit “people to people” exchange trips, prohibit the use of funds for trafficking in confiscated property, restrict financial transactions with entities tied to the Cuban military and forbid the granting of trademark rights and intellectual property with businesses or properties confiscated by the Cuban government.

The strengthened restrictions are included in the text of the budget bill that was approved last week after two amendments to remove restrictions on agricultural exports and travel to Cuba were withdrawn by their sponsors — Representatives Rick Crawford and Mark Sanford, respectively.

Sanford withdrew his amendment after acknowledging he did not have the support of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Crawford also withdrew his amendment but only after receiving a commitment by the House leadership representatives from Florida to start looking for a long-term solution to remove restrictions on cash payments for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products.

“I’ve gotten commitments from leadership and my friends from Florida that there will be a proper path forward,” Crawford said during the plenary session.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart confirmed that agreement was reached with Crawford “…to come up with a solution that meets the needs of our farmers … but that does not jeopardize our national security or support the Castro regime, its military or its intelligence services.”

Diaz-Balart refuted reports that Crawford’s amendment had enough support to pass.

“Once again, the groups allied with the interests of the Cuban dictatorship who for years have been saying that there is no support for sanctions, have been unmasked in the House’s floor,” he said.

Following the announcement of the agreement, the organization Engage Cuba, which lobbies to lift the embargo, had issued a statement claiming that “the momentum for changing our Cuba policies has shifted, and even the most outspoken opponents of lifting theCuban embargo have realized that their position is no longer tenable.”

Diaz-Balart refuted that claim: “There is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen sanctions against the regime and reject the policy of appeasement of the dictatorship,” he said, adding that the passage of the budget bill “contains multiple clauses to strengthen sanctions.”

Panama Papers show Cuba used offshore firms to thwart embargo


The Miami Herald

At least 25 companies in tax havens had Cuban links

A brother of Raul Castro’s son-in-law appears in the leaked documents

Cuba was at the heart of a deal to export Russian oil that involves a Lebanese company

The Cuban government used the Panama law firm involved in the Panama Papers to create a string of companies in offshore financial havens that allowed it to sidestep the U.S. embargo in its commercial operations.

El Nuevo Herald identified at least 25 companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and the Bahamas and linked to Cuba.

The documents found in the Panama Papers are dated as far back as the early 1990s, when the Cuban economy crashed following the end of Moscow’s massive subsidies to the island. But Cuba kept its links with some of the firms until very recently.

Listed as a director of one of the companies is a brother of Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja — husband of Cuban ruler Raul Castro’s daughter and powerful head of the Cuban armed forces’ business conglomerate, GAESA.

The Panama Papers, documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with the McClatchy Washington Bureau, Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, among others, contain hundreds of thousands of pages from the files of Mossack Fonseca, a Panama law firm with offices in 33 other countries.

Russia-Lebanon-Havana connection

One of the more intriguing schemes mentioned in the documents puts Cuba at the heart of a deal to sell Russian oil to Latin America through a company registered in Panama by the Bassatne family. The family controls BB Energy, a conglomerate founded in Lebanon in 1937 that buys and sells 16 million metric tons of crude and derivatives each year. One Bloomberg report showed BB Energy had $10 billion in revenues in 2012.

The Bassatne family incorporated BB Naft Trading S.A. in Panama, with Jürgen Mossack as a director. The company, which has offices in Havana and other countries, was created “to handle, among other things, its relationship with oil-exporting Latin American countries and with Cuba,” Mossack Fonseca lawyer Rigoberto Coronado wrote in an email.

BB Naft does not appear, however, among the subsidiaries listed on BB Energy’s Web site. They include BB Energy Trading Ltd., BB Energy Management S.A., BB Energy Holdings NV., BB Energy B.V., BB Energy (Asia) Pte. Ltd., BB Energy (Gulf) DMCC and BB Holding S.A.L.

BB Naft did business with Cuba between 1992 and 2001, trading oil for sugar “for $300 million, with credit facilities at low interest rate,” Coronado wrote. He added that in 1996 “there was agreement on a triangular Russia/Cuba/Naft Trading S.A. deal to deliver Russian fuel to other markets for a number of tens of millions of US$.”

One of the markets may have been Ecuador. A letter sent in 1998 by a Mossack Fonseca employee to the international trade office at state-run Petroecuador referred to documents sent by BB Naft “required to register the company.” A 2005 fax also points to an initial contact with the Venezuelan government’s Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

The relationship between the BB Energy Group and Petroecuador appears to have lasted until recent days. Petroecuador contracted BB Energy (Asia) Pte. Ltd., in February of this year to import 2,880,000 barrels of diesel fuel. In 2015, BB Energy won Ecuadoran contracts for more than three million barrels of naphtha, a petroleum distillate.

The Russian oil scheme appears to have been affected by the agreement between Cuba and Venezuela to exchange oil for medical services, and BB Naft expanded its work in Cuba in 2007 to include “the sale of spare parts and batteries for autos and trucks, work boots, farm machinery, hardware for USD 5.3 million.”

Continue reading Panama Papers show Cuba used offshore firms to thwart embargo

The more Obama gives them, the more the Castros want

Granma, the Castro brothers’ mouthpiece, published a lengthy ‘editorial’ on Wednesday stating that Obama should be able to offer more concessions through executive orders, while at the same time making it clear that no one should expect the dictatorship to make any changes regarding human rights.obamaraul1


Cuba said it would welcome President Barack Obama to Havana later this month, but the Communist government had no intention of changing its policies in exchange for normal relations with the United States.

In a long editorial on Wednesday in Communist Party newspaper Granma and other official media, Cuba demanded Washington cease meddling in its internal affairs and said Obama could do more to change U.S. policy.

The March 20-22 visit from Obama comes 15 months after he and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to end more than five decades of Cold War-era animosity and try to normalize relations.

They have restored diplomatic ties, and Obama has relaxed a series of trade sanctions and travel restrictions, leading Republican opponents and even some of the president’s fellow Democrats to question whether Washington was offering too much without any reciprocation from Havana.

But the editorial made it clear that Cuba still has a long list of grievances with the United States, starting with the comprehensive trade embargo. Obama wants to rescind the embargo but Republican leadership in Congress has blocked the move.

Cuba also objected to U.S. support for its political dissidents, whom some Americans consider champions of human rights but whom the Cuban government views as an unrepresentative minority funded by U.S. interests.

“(The United States) should abandon the pretense of fabricating an internal political opposition, paid for with money from U.S. taxpayers,” the nearly 3,000-word editorial said.

The editorial came during Cubans’ growing anticipation of the Obama visit, only the second by a U.S. president and the first since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro that overthrew a pro-American government.

The editorial said Cuba was working to build a new relationship with the United States, but no one should assume it had to “renounce any of its principles or cede the slightest bit in its defense” to do so.

The two countries have also negotiated greater cooperation on law enforcement and environmental issues and agreed to resume scheduled commercial flights and postal services. Obama has removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The editorial acknowledged Obama had taken some positive steps but criticized their “limited nature and the existence of other regulations and intimidation caused by the overall blockade that has been in force for more than 50 years.”

Bacardi fires latest salvo in Havana Club rum battle with Cuba


The Tico Times

Bacardi filed suit Monday against the United States demanding an explanation of its decision to let Cuba sell Havana Club rum in the United States once the U.S. trade embargo against the communist island is lifted.

That green light, granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is illegal, Bacardi said in the latest salvo of a long-running legal battle that goes back to the Cuban revolution of 1959.

Bacardi, which had made rum in Cuba under its own name and that of Havana Club, left the island in 1960 after Fidel Castro came to power.

Bacardi filed the new request under the Freedom of Information Act and wants all documents, communications and files that were created, used, or maintained by U.S. authorities to grant Cuba the Havana Club trademark registration.

Bacardi makes rum in Puerto Rico and markets it in the United States and elsewhere.

The USPTO decision was made in violation of the language and spirit of U.S. law, Bacardi said in a statement.

“The American people have the right to know the truth of how and why this unprecedented, sudden and silent action was taken by the United States government to reverse long-standing U.S. and international public policy and law that protects against the recognition or acceptance of confiscations of foreign governments,” Bacardi senior vice president and general counsel Eduardo Sánchez said.

Bacardi insists it bought the rights to Havana Club from the Arechabala family, which made the rum until its distillery was seized by the Cuban government after the revolution.

Bacardi said it will pursue all legal options to defend it position in the Havana Club legal wrangle, which has dragged on for decades.

In 1976, Cuba, which also continued to produce Havana Club, was able to register the trademark in the United States. But it lost the trademark in 2006 when it could not present the necessary license to the Treasury Department.

Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations in July of last year. Cuba received special permission from the U.S. government in January and was able to file a new request for the Havana Club trademark registration.

Daisy Penaloza: The U.S. should keep the Cuba embargo in place


Deseret News

Daisy Penaloza left communist Cuba on a U.S.- sponsored Freedom Flight In 1967 and currently resides in Bakersfield, California.

A year has elapsed since normalization talks were divulged between the United States and Cuba, and the prophetic words of Cuba’s dissidents reverberate within the current, grim reality of a nation in shackles. Pro-democracy activists “are totally against the easing of the embargo … the government will

have more access to technology and money that can be used against us,” declared Ángel Moya, a former political prisoner, one year ago.

Sonia Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, having served almost three years in prison at the time of her release, expressed: “A country that violates the human rights of its people shouldn’t have sanctions lifted. Here there is no freedom of speech, there is no freedom of anything. This will give them more leeway to continue operating with the same impunity that they have always operated with.”

On Sept. 25, 2015, Cuba’s foremost dissidents sent a letter to the U.S. Congress: “The lifting of the embargo, as proposed by the [Obama] administration will permit the old ruling elite to transfer their power to their political heirs and families, giving little recourse to the Cuban people in confronting this despotic power.”

Clamors for the embargo’s lifting persist despite the fulfillment of dissident and exile warnings that diplomatic recognition of the Castro regime would strengthen the oppressors and crush popular dissent. The removal of what little trade sanctions remain is legally and morally unjustified.

President Obama’s negotiations with the dictatorship were conducted sans the legitimizing presence of Cuba’s pro-democracy groups and civil society. The darkly covert negotiations were also in direct violation of U.S. law as outlined in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton Act). The embargo should not be lifted until the requisite conditions in the Helms-Burton Act are honored by the Castro regime.

Situating the embargo in its proper context, Cuban activist Rosa María Payá wisely observes: “The cruelest embargo, and the one that depends only on Cubans to maintain or eliminate it, is the one maintained by the Havana regime against the rights of our citizens.”

While contravening U.S. laws and basic diplomatic rules of engagement, Obama, for the past year, has been rewarding the intransigent dictatorship with undeserved unilateral concessions. In turn, Castro apparatchiks have indicated their steadfast refusal to concede not one “iota” or “millimeter” in favor of measures leading to true reconciliation.

Continue reading Daisy Penaloza: The U.S. should keep the Cuba embargo in place

Sentiments of a Cuban-American

By María Luisa Salcines


Many of you have stopped me at the grocery store or have written me asking me my opinion about the United States’ new policy toward Cuba.
For what it is worth, this is my family’s view.
We envisioned the day the American flag was raised at the U.S. embassy in Havana would be after Cuba was finally free from Castro’s tyranny. The flags standing side by side would represent freedom and democracy for Cuba.
Despite the talk about change, Fidel Castro, on his 89th birthday, lashed out at the United States in an essay published in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
Castro wrote, “Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total millions of dollars.” He is referring to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
He didn’t mention in his essay, however, that one of the reasons the embargo was put in place was because of the American assets Castro seized when he took over the country.
According to an article in the University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, it is said to be one of the largest uncompensated taking of American property by any foreign government in history. At the time, it was estimated to be worth
$1.8 billion.
I have heard so many people mention how excited they are about visiting Cuba, and according to them, they want to do so before U.S. influence ruins the island.
You are not visiting an uninhabited island, you are visiting the result of a communist dictatorship. The U.S influence is what most Cubans on the island dream of and hope will come save them from the circumstances of their existence.
Cuba is in ruins and has been for many years. Apartment buildings and homes are falling apart. It is not uncommon for roofs to collapse during the rainy season.
The electricity goes out on a regular basis. Food and medicine is scarce and Cubans lack the most basic of necessities.
Before Castro, Cuba was one of the most advanced and successful countries in Latin America. This is the Cuba I wish Americans could see, not the devastation they will see when they visit the island.
Cuban Americans have mixed feelings about the new U.S. policy with Cuba. Some feel that the embargo hasn’t worked and that it should be lifted.
Every dollar spent on tourism in Cuba goes directly to the Cuban government. Lack of freedom and speech, and repression increases and continues on a daily basis.
Nothing has changed or will change for the Cubans until the Castro brothers acknowledge that socialism and the communist doctrine they have forced on the country doesn’t work.
My family, as well as many other Cuban-Americans, feels that unless Cuba improves human rights and moves toward democratic reform Congress should not lift the embargo.
Next week, I will share my views on the reality television show “Cuban Chrome” that the Discovery Channel is filming in Cuba.
Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer, and certified parent educator with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom. Follow her on Twitter @PowerOfFamily or contact her at her website at www.redirectingchildrenrgv.org.

The Monitor

Letters to the editor: With Emmer on Cuba’s side, I will vote differently

Tom Emmers, R. Minn.
Tom Emmers, R. Minn.

A letter to the Editor of the SC Times:
I was furious to see U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer recently filed a bill to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

I grew up in North Miami, Florida, and went to school with kids whose families escaped communist Cuba with only one suitcase and the clothes on their backs. They were forced to leave behind their land, homes, cars, furniture, clothes, jewelry and even the kids’ toys. And they were the lucky ones.

People who were too poor to leave behind anything for the Castro brothers and their henchmen were stuck in Cuba. Fourteen-year-olds with machine guns manned the street corners to make sure everyone toed the Communist Party line.
Emmer has been duped. He didn’t speak to everyday citizens, dissidents, the Ladies in White or political prisoners. I believe Emmer spoke to Communist Party members pretending to be everyday citizens when he went to Cuba in June.
Businesses whose owners think they will make a profit dealing with Cuba are in for a big disappointment. The economy in Cuba is abysmal. When it was time to harvest sugar cane, everyone, no matter his or her occupation or condition, was forced into the fields to cut cane. Teachers, shopkeepers, students, tailors, mechanics, the elderly, women who were eight months pregnant, it didn’t matter, it was mandatory to cut cane.
U.S. businesses will find when it comes time to pay the bills, Cuba won’t. Either the U.S. taxpayers will need to subsidize the deals, or the businesses won’t get back the cost of production.
If Emmer’s bill becomes a reality, he can count on me to vote for his opponent in a primary. I am thoroughly disgusted.

Rosalind Kohls, St. Cloud