Francis may visit Cuba this year
April 17 -
Pope Francis may travel to Cuba around the time of his September visit
to the United States, the Vatican told The Wall Street Journal on
Recent popes have all sought an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which
President Obama called on Congress to do in January. He’s begun to
normalize diplomatic relations with the country and met with President
Raúl Castro last week during the Summit of the Americas.
That meeting amounted to the most direct contact between leaders of the
two countries in more than half a century.
The Obama administration has continued to move forward with its reset of
the relationship with Cuba, with the State Department announcing Tuesday
that it’s removing the island from its list of state sponsors of
The pope’s visit may coincide with his trip to America, where he’s
expected to travel to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Pope
Francis is expected to meet with Obama during the visit and is set to
address a joint session of Congress.
No pontiff had been to Cuba in the island’s history until 1998, when
Pope John Paul II gave a speech in the island chastising it for
prohibiting freedom of religion while also calling on the international
community to accept it.
“She needs to open herself to the world and the world needs to draw
close to Cuba,” he said of Cuba, according to BBC News.
Pope Benedict XVI also traveled to the country in 2012 where he too
called for the end of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. After his visit, Good
Friday became a national holiday.
Love Affair with the Castros Continues: Recommends Removing Cuba From
April 14 -
President Obama recommended today that the United State government
reverse its long-standing policy designating Cuba a state sponsor of
The White House issued a statement declaring the administration
"intention to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation"
several days after the president returned from the Summit of the
Americas in Panama where he met with heads of state from across the
region, including for the first time with Cuban President Raul Castro.
"As the President has said, we will continue to have differences with
the Cuban government, but our concerns over a wide range of Cuba’s
policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to
whether to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,"
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "That
determination is based on the statutory standard – and the facts – and
those facts have led the President to declare his intention to rescind
Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation."
The momentous shift will lift 32 years of numerous financial sanctions
against Cuba and represents the latest attempt by the Obama
administration to restore relations with the Communist stronghold after
more than five decades of a diplomatic freeze.
Cuban officials had made clear during the course of recent negotiations
with Washington that relations could never be fully normalized as long
as the country was designated as a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S.
The policy review began following Obama's announcement in December to
begin normalization dialogue with the island nation.
"I've instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba's designation as a State
Sponsor of Terrorism. This review will be guided by the facts and the
law," he said during the announcement. "Terrorism has changed in the
last several decades. At a time when we are focused on threats from al
Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use
of terrorism should not face this sanction."
Obama will send his decision to Congress, which has 45 days to consider
the new policy. Should Congress seek to block the measure, it would need
to create a veto-proof law declaring Cuba remains a state sponsor of
terrorism. It's unlikely Congress has votes to complete such a task.
The Communist Cuban government was added to the terror list in 1982
after the State Department determined the country repeatedly provided
support to terrorist organizations in Latin America, including the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But the State
Department acknowledged recently those ties had "become more distant."
Syria, Sudan and Iran are the only other countries remaining on the
The decision is expected to draw criticism from those opposed to
normalizing relations with the Castro regime in Cuba.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said after the December announcement that
changes to the terror designation would serve to "tighten this regime's
grip on power for decades to come."
Cuban officials, meanwhile, have said not only was the designation
unwarranted, but also removing it is critical to the process of
restoring relations. The banking sanctions associated with the terror
designation are so strict that Cuban diplomats cannot even use credit
cards while visiting Washington, D.C. or the United Nations in New York,
and Cuba's interest section cannot process credit cards for visa
Cuba's leading diplomat told ABC News in February that the decision to
put them on the list has always been political.
"People are in disbelief every time they realize that Cuba has been
included in the list of so called state-sponsors of terrorism," Josefina
Vidal told ABC News' Jim Avila in an exclusive interview. "It has always
been a political decision, not a decision based on real facts. Because
it's a fact of life, that from the territory of Cuba, terrorism has
never been organized, financed, or executed or implemented toward any
country in the world including the United States."
deceptions on Iran and Cuba
April 13 -
Remember Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who as caught on tape
boasting how the president had taken advantage of the “stupidity” of
American voters to pass his health-care law?
Well it seems, Obama is applying the “Gruber Doctrine” once again — this
time to foreign policy.
The Gruber Doctrine is based on the premise that, in the words of the
now infamous MIT professor, “lack of transparency is a huge political
advantage” and that the “basic exploitation of the lack of . . .
understanding of the American voter” is “really, really critical” for
enacting your preferred policies.
That is precisely what Obama is doing when it comes to Iran and Cuba.
ith Iran, the administration is once again relying on a “lack of
transparency” to ram through its nuclear deal. Even Iran’s foreign
minister dismissed the administration’s talking points describing the
framework agreement as “spin.” Obama is warning that the only
alternative to his deal is “another war in the Middle East ,” even
though he has yet to reveal the key details: Will sanctions relief be
front-loaded, as Iran insists, or will sanctions come off gradually, as
the Iranians meet certain performance benchmarks? Will there be any
transparency into Iran’s past secret nuclear activity, information that
is critical to verifying its compliance today? Will there be “snap
inspections” and access to all Iranian facilities, both civilian and
military? Iran says no. Obama is counting on the fact that Americans
won’t be able to follow all the details about “centrifuges” and
“domestic enrichment capacity.” He won’t share the details but wants us
to trust him that there will be “unprecedented verification.” If you
believe that, you probably still think that if you like your health
plan, you can keep your health plan.
Obama is also counting on exploiting the “lack of understanding of the
American voter” when it comes to his normalization of relations with the
Castro regime in Cuba. At a news conference in Panama this weekend,
Obama declared that “There is majority support of our policy in the
United States” and that “the American people don’t need to be persuaded
that this is in fact the right thing to do.” A new poll commissioned by
my American Enterprise Institute colleague Roger Noriega for
InterAmerican Security Watch finds that Americans do support Obama’s
plan by a margin of 51 to 38 percent . . . until they learn some basic
facts about Cuba. When Americans are told that Cuba is hosting Russian
ships in its harbors, opposition to normalization jumps to 58 percent
while support sinks to 30 percent. When Americans are told of Cuba’s
attempts to smuggle 240 tons of weaponry to North Korea, opposition
jumps to 63 percent and support drops to 26 percent. When Americans are
told that Cuba is harboring a cop-killer and terrorists, opposition
jumps to 63 percent, and support plummets to 23 percent. When asked
whether sanctions should be maintained pending Cuba’s progress on human
rights and free elections, Americans agree by a margin of 64-16. And
when asked whether Cuba’s designation as a supporter of terrorism should
be maintained because it harbors terrorists, respondents agreed 68
percent to 16 percent.
In other words, Noriega says, “When Americans hear basic facts about
Castro’s hostility and human-rights violations, they know that the
president’s unilateral concessions only emboldened a dangerous, despotic
Look for Obama to continue employing Gruberesque tactics to sell his
appeasement of Cuba and Iran. No doubt the final Iran deal will be
presented in a “tortured way” to “mislabel” Obama’s concessions to
Tehran and make the inspections seem more intrusive than they are. The
same will be true of Obama’s coming decision to lift Cuba’s designation
as a state sponsor of terror. There will be no mention from the White
House of terrorists being protected and supported by the Castro regime,
such as Joanne Chesimard — who murdered a New Jersey state trooper and
was named in 2013 by Obama’s own FBI as one of its Most Wanted
Terrorists . There will be no mention of the 70 other U.S. fugitives
that Obama’s own State Department reports “The Cuban government
continued to harbor” while providing “support such as housing, food
ration books, and medical care” — or of the Spanish and Colombian
terrorists receiving similar support from the Castro brothers.
Why would they tell Americans these things? Obama’s attitude, to
paraphrase Gruber, is that “I wish . . . we could make it all
transparent, but I’d rather have [these agreements with rogue regimes]
than not.” Obama and his foreign policy team know what is good for us.
And if we’re too “stupid” to catch the deception, that’s our problem,
It worked for Obamacare, they figure, so why not Iran and Cuba?
The Washington Post
rappers criticize government in rhyme at Summit
April 10 -
Cuban rapper Skuadron Patriota paced the stage and dedicated his next
song to his mom – and moms everywhere who have lost sons to street
fights or perilous raft trips from his island country – then launched
into his signature spitfire tune, Madre.
"Tolerance zero, freedom of expression zero ... State control to the
Cuba's historic entry to the Summit of the Americas here has also drawn
many of the communist island's critics, including a rare Cuban hip hop
protest concert Thursday night. The event took place in a theater just
off the Panama Canal and gathered known rappers from the island such as
Skuadron, Sivito El Libre and David D Omni.
Omni, who calls himself an "artevista" or art-activist, said he was
harassed at the airport upon his arrival by Panamanian customs agents,
who warned him not to make trouble or he'd be deported back to Cuba, a
complaint echoed by other Cuban dissidents in town for the summit.
Still, he said was excited to share a stage with other Cuban rappers
whose lyrics denounce the Castro regime – an event that would be near
impossible to pull off in their home country. He said Cuban rappers are
unique because they're less concerned with the material trappings that
U.S. rappers tend to glamorize and instead focus on social issues and
"Cuban hip hop is different," Omni said. "You know you're not going to
make money. You rap because you have something to say."
Over the past decade, Cuban hip hop has been one of the main forms of
expressing dissent on the island. But it hasn't been without its
controversy. A report by the Associated Press last year alleged that the
U.S. Agency for International Development attempted to recruit hip hop
artists to foster unrest among the country's youth, a charge the artists
The hip hop artists have continued to put out music, often shared
through amateur videos on YouTube and many denouncing the Cuban
government. Few other artists, singers or political dissidents have been
criticizing the Castro government as explicitly and forcefully as Cuban
rappers, said Adolfo Leyva, a history professor at Florida State
University's Panama campus and an organizer of Thursday's event.
"These people are the ones pushing the envelope," he said.
At the concert, the rappers took the stage in front of a wall flashing
images of the Cuban flag, Cuban highways or Havana neighborhoods.
Several of them called for the release of artist Danilo Maldonado, known
as "El Sexto," who was jailed by Cuban authorities in December for
attempting to release two hogs in a public square scrawled with the
names "Fidel" and "Raul" – Cuba's iconic leaders.
Gorkí Aguila, front man for Cuban punk band Porno Para Ricardo and an
outspoken government critic, played a solo set, including a song mocking
Cuban President Raúl Castro, in town for the summit. "I'm here because …
well, any chance I have to denounce the Castro government, I'll take
it," Aguila said on stage to cheers from the crowd.
One of the headliners of the event was rapper Silvito El Libre, who's
father, Silvio Rodriguez, is a renown Cuban musician and favorite of the
Cuban government. As his son's rap concert got under way, Rodriguez led
his own concert across town, sponsored by Cuban authorities.
Lounging outside the theater before the show, Silvito said he doesn't
like to talk about this father. But he said he hopes improved relations
with the USA lead to real changes on the island, something that's been
elusive for years.
"I think the Cuban government should hand over control to the new
generation, to new ideas," he said. "So far, we haven't seen much
change." USA Today
bullied again on world stage -- this time by Raul Castro
April 10 -
Twenty-four hours before coming face to face with Cuban President
Raul Castro, President Obama on Thursday continued to extend an olive
branch from Washington to Havana — but analysts say there are real
questions about whether Mr. Castro truly is interested in friendly
relations with the U.S.
At a town hall in Kingston, Jamaica — the president’s last stop before
heading to the Summit of the Americas in Panama — Mr. Obama praised the
“extraordinary” Cuban people and said it’s time for the two nations to
put the Cold War behind them.
Also Thursday, the State Department completed its review of whether Cuba
should be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The State Department reportedly will recommend to the president that
Cuba be taken off the list, though it’s unlikely that Mr. Obama will
announce a final decision in the next several days.
The Castro regime has made removal from the terrorism-sponsor list a
prerequisite for the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana and other steps
forward in the diplomatic process.
Mr. Castro also has made other demands that the U.S. surely won’t meet,
such as reparations for economic damages caused by the U.S. embargo on
Cuba and the immediate transfer of Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban
Those seemingly unrealistic requests have led many analysts to question
whether Mr. Castro truly wants to mend fences with the U.S. or whether
he has been forced to begin cooperating with Washington out of sheer
Still, Mr. Obama expressed nothing but optimism Thursday.
“It is my strong belief that if we engage, that offers the greatest
prospect for escaping some of the constraints of the past,” the
president said at the Jamaica town hall. “I think the Cuban people are
extraordinary and have huge potential. And what’s encouraging is the
overwhelming majority of Cubans are interested in ending the last
vestige of the Cold War and moving forward.”
Mr. Obama announced the historic diplomatic reboot with Cuba in
December, but formalizing relations has got off to a slow start.
Analysts say that’s largely because of Mr. Castro, who in his heart
likely wants to maintain the status quo.
“By engaging Cuba, I think the president is calling Castro’s bluff. And
that’s why we have seen, since December, Raul Castro trying to raise the
price of engaging Cuba” with his demands, said Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a
policy analyst on Latin America at the Cato Institute’s Center for
Global Liberty and Prosperity. “He looks like he’s trying to make up
excuses to keep the United States an enemy.”
A poor economy in the communist-run island has forced Mr. Castro to the
table, some analysts say, and it’s unclear whether he is willing to make
the kinds of social and political changes Mr. Obama seeks. The White
House continues to demand that Havana stop imprisoning political
dissidents and committing other human rights abuses.
The U.S. ultimately may find itself in a situation with formal
diplomatic ties with Cuba but also with major human rights objections —
somewhat similar to the U.S. relationship with China, said Shannon
O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on
“There is going to be a very calculated and probably slow process on the
Cuban side,” she said on a conference call Thursday. “One could imagine
that you could maintain a more authoritarian government with open
relations [with the U.S.] — China is the one many people look to.”
The Washington Times
Alexis Frutos identified as one of those who attacked dissidents in
April 9 - The
has identified Cuban Col. Alexis Frutos Weeden, as one of those who
took part in the unprovoked attack against Cuban dissidents
participating on the OAS Summit in Panama.
Frutos Weeden is Cuba's
intelligence chief in Venezuela.
There is no way that the
Castro regime can now deny its involvement in yesterdays beating of
peaceful dissidents in Panama.
Obama should condemn assault on Cuban activist
April 9 - John
Boehner on Thursday questioned President Obama’s decision to
re-establish diplomatic ties with Havana after an assault on Boehner’s
State of the Union guest, the Cuban democracy leader known as Antúnez.
Antúnez, whose formal name is Jorge Luis García, was among several Cuban
political and human rights activists who were allegedly attacked by
Castro regime allies on Wednesday in Panama City, Panama. The assault,
which also injured a U.S. citizen, was caught on video by La Estrada de
Obama is headed to Panama City for the Summit of the Americas
conference, where he expected to informally speak with Cuban leader Raúl
Castro. Boehner called on Obama to condemn the attacks when he meets
with Castro, calling them “an outrage and a reminder of the brutal
character of the Castro regime.
“It raises serious questions about the wisdom of revisiting diplomatic
relations with Cuba and removing the country from the State Department’s
list of state sponsors of terror while this dictatorship, which
practices repression at home and supports violence throughout the
region, continues to hold power,” Boehner said in a statement.
“I hope that President Obama, if and when he has a conversation with the
Cuban dictator during the Organization of American States summit, will
take the opportunity to condemn this violence in the strongest possible
terms and reaffirm that the United States should and must always stand
on the side of human rights and democracy against Communist tyranny.”
Antúnez spent more than 17 years in a Cuban prison after speaking out
against the Castro regime. Boehner invited the pro-democracy leader to
Obama’s speech in January to voice opposition to the president’s efforts
to normalize relations with Cuba.
Citizens Beaten by Castro Agents in Panama
Cuban-American activist beaten in Panama by Obama's new friends
April 9 - A
half-dozen Cuban dissident leaders and American citizens were attacked
this afternoon by a group of Castro regime agents in Panama City.
The activists were placing flowers at the statue of Cuban independence
hero, Jose Marti, when approached by a group of Castro regime agents,
who began to violently beat them.
Among those attacked were a group of American citizens, including
Orlando Gutierrez of the Democratic Directorate, Silvia Iriondo of
Mothers Against Repression and Gus Monge.
The Cuban dissidents include former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia
Perez "Antunez," his wife Yris Perez Aguilera and Leticia Ramos Herreria
of The Ladies in White.
The Panamanian police watched as the attack took place. Then, it
detained the Cuban dissident leaders and American citizens. Meanwhile,
the Castro regime agents were allowed to walk.
They are currently being held in the San Francisco detention facility --
facing deportation to Cuba and the United States, respectively.
Also, this afternoon, at the Summit's Civil Society Forum, Cuban
dissident leaders, including Rosa Maria Paya and Roberto de Jesus
Guerra, were blocked from entering the convention hall by a Castro
The regime delegation that disrupted the Forum was headed by Raul
Castro's confidant, former Minister of Culture (and head censor), Abel
This is what happens when you grant Cuba's dictatorship unmerited
membership to a club of democracies.
Capitol Hill Cubans
continues: State Dept. recommends removing Cuba from terrorism list
April 9 - The
State Department has sent a recommendation to the White House that Cuba
be removed from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, paving the way for
the White House to announce its intent to de-list Cuba as early as
Thursday, two administration officials tell CNN.
In making the recommendation, the State Department has certified Cuba
has not provided support to terrorist groups within the last 6 months.
President Barack Obama
ordered the review of Cuba's place on the list after announcing a
historic diplomatic breakthrough with Havana in December and pledged to
act quickly once he received the recommendation from the State
The White House has made clear it wanted to make the announcement before
Obama attends the Summit of the Americas later this week with Cuban
leader Raul Castro, and ordered the State Department to speed up the
process. Continue reading
mobs come from inside the Cuban embassy to attack Cuban dissidents in
April 8 -
Pro-Castro mobs came from inside the Cuban embassy in Panama and
attacked Cuban dissidents who were placing a floral tribute in front of
the statue of José Marí in Panama City.
The dissidents are there to
take part in the Cumbre de las Américas that will begin in Panama city
Watch the video
continue to hide in Castro's Cuba to flee American justice
April 7 - On a
January afternoon 40 years ago, Mary Connor of Fair Lawn made a pan of
lasagna for a dinner she was planning with her husband to celebrate the
birthdays of their two sons.
As Mary labored in her kitchen, her husband, Frank, who had risen from
clerk to assistant vice president at Morgan Guaranty Trust, went to
lunch at Fraunces Tavern, the Revolutionary War-era restaurant in lower
Manhattan where George Washington bid farewell to Continental Army
officers two centuries earlier.
As Frank Connor ate with colleagues, a bomb exploded — a homemade
device, hidden near his table by Puerto Rican nationalists who said in a
note that they wanted to kill “reactionary corporate executives.”
Conner, 33, died along with three others. Mary ended up serving her
lasagna at her husband’s wake.
Terrorism tears into the lives of ordinary people in unexpected ways —
certainly 9/11 is a reminder of that. But the bomb that killed Frank
Connor on |Jan. 24, 1975, resonates in ways that could affect
The alleged bomb-maker, William Morales, a figure in the Puerto Rican
nationalist paramilitary group Armed Forces of National Liberation, or
FALN, now lives freely in Cuba under a grant |of political asylum from
Fidel Castro. With President Obama proposing to restore diplomatic
relations with Cuba, the Connor family is asking a question |the White
House has not publicly addressed:
What about demanding the return of Morales and other fugitives in Cuba
who escaped U.S. justice?
Over the years, Morales’ story has been largely eclipsed by the
attention focused on another fugitive who fled to Cuba, Joanne Chesimard.
She was convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper, then escaped
prison and received political asylum from Castro. The bounty for
Chesimard’s capture and return is $2 million; Morales’ is $100,000.
In the wake of Obama’s overtures to Cuba, however, the Morales case is
receiving increased attention.
On Wednesday, three New Jersey Republican congressmen — Scott Garrett of
Wantage, Leonard Lance of Flemington and Tom MacArthur of Toms River —
asked a House committee to withhold money to restore diplomatic
relations with Cuba until the Castro regime returns Chesimard, Morales
and other fugitives.
Their efforts follow other appeals to the White House to bring back
fugitives, by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, the Paramus Democrat, and Governor
For more than three lonely decades, the effort to draw attention to
Morales has been a family affair by the Connors.
Joseph Connor was only 9 when his father died. Today he lives in Glen
Rock, not far from his brother, Tom, who is two years older. Their
mother, Mary Connor Tully, now 77 and remarried, still lives in Fair
Lawn, not far from the home where she was making lasagna on that fateful
“My father’s life was dismissed,” Joseph said in a recent interview,
lamenting the lack of attention on the bombing and the largely forgotten
escape by Morales.
Joseph said he longed to face Morales in a courtroom.
Continue reading Mike Kelly's
ready to remove the terrorists from the terrorist list
April 7 - It
seems that all Raúl Castro has to tell Obama is "Jump" and he would just
say "How high"?
Anything the Cuban dictator
asks for, Obama is willing to give it to him. No questions and nothing
asked in return. And we have another 22 months of this nightmare:
White House officials left
open the possibility Tuesday that President Obama could recommend Cuba's
removal from a list of state sponsors of terror around the time of the
Summit of the Americas later this week in Panama. The officials also
sought to soften tensions with Venezuela that threatened to overshadow
Deputy National Security adviser Benjamin Rhodes said the State
Department's review of Cuba's place on that terror list is in "its final
stages." While he said the timing is in the hands of Secretary of State
John Kerry, he would not rule out an Obama announcement before or during
the two-day summit in Panama City.
Removing Cuba from the terror list would be one of the biggest
developments since Dec. 17, when Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro
announced they would seek to re-establish diplomatic relations after
half a century of antagonism. But Rhodes cautioned that the actual
opening of embassies in Havana and in Washington by both countries was
still some time off.
"When you have two countries that haven't spoken to each other like this
over 50 years, you have lot off issues to work through," Rhodes said in
a call previewing Obama's trip to Jamaica and then to the summit in
Panama. Obama leaves for the Caribbean on Wednesday.
Among the issues that have slowed the diplomatic efforts have been
Cuba's presence on the terror list and U.S. demands that U.S. diplomats
be able to interact with the Cuban people without limitations.
Rhodes also downplayed U.S. sanctions against certain Venezuelans in
protest of President Nicolas Maduro's crackdown on dissent. Maduro has
characterized the sanctions against seven individuals as an act of
aggression, citing language in an Obama executive order that describes
Venezuela as a threat to U.S. security.
Rhodes sought to tamp down the furor, noting that the language is
boilerplate used in executive orders that impose sanctions around the
"The U.S. doesn't believe that Venezuela poses some threat to national
security," Rhodes said. The action, Rhodes said, "was not of a scale
that in any way was aimed at targeting the Venezuelan government
Smuggling Weapons for FARC Terrorists?
April 7 -
There is a deafening silence surrounding the recent capture by the
Colombian authorities of a Chinese-flagged ship, the Da Dan Xia, which
was seemingly headed for Cuba with a weapons cache hidden as "grain
Neither the Santos Administration, the Obama Administration, nor the
Castro dictatorship want to talk about it -- or answer any questions.
Such secrecy raises serious questions about the real purpose of the
illegal weapons shipment and the lack of transparency of the Santos
Administration (as it conducts negotiations with the FARC), the Obama
Administration (as it seeks to remove Cuba from the state-sponsors of
terrorism list) and the Castro dictatorship (sitting pretty amid no
Here are the facts:
- On February 28, 2015, the Da Dan Xia was intercepted in the Port of
Cartagena carrying an unregistered shipment composed of 100 tons of
gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 missile heads and around 3,000
- The ship's documentation sought to disguise the arms shipment as
- After stopping in Cartagena the vessel was bound for another Colombian
port, Barranquilla, and then to Havana, Cuba.
- The supplier was listed as Norico, a Chinese manufacturer of machinery
and chemical products, as well high-tech defense products. The arms were
purportedly destined for TecnoImport in Cuba, the shadowy procurement
branch of the Cuban military ("MINFAR").
Now here are the unanswered questions:
Upon the weapons shipment being discovered, the Chinese government
stated that the transaction was part of "completely normal military
That's right. An arms shipment between China and Cuba would have been
legal, if conducted with transparency. Instead, the parties chose to
illegally conceal the weapons shipment.
- Why did the parties go to such lengths to conceal a shipment that
could have otherwise been legal?
-- Was it concealed because the real recipient was an illegal entity in
Colombia, i.e, FARC terrorists?
-- Is the composition of the shipment more tailored for use by
non-conventional forces (such as the FARC) than for a conventional
military forces (such as Cuba's MINFAR)?
If so, this would be further incontrovertible evidence of Cuba's support
for international terrorism. Thus, the silence.
As the Obama Administration zealously seeks to remove Cuba from the
state-sponsors of terrorism list, it shouldn't leave such questions
unanswered -- for it will only embolden Castro's regime to continue its
Let's not forget, this was the second illicit weapons shipment
intercepted in the last eighteen months in which the Cuban regime was
directly involved. Last year, Cuba was found in direct violation of
international sanctions for attempting to smuggle 240 tons of weapons to
North Korea hidden as "sugar."
Moreover, the Obama Administration should not ignore inconvenient facts
in pursuit of its policy ends.
Last month, we also learned that Spain had (again) recently requested
the extradition of two Basque terrorists ("ETA") -- to no avail.
Ironically, these two Basque terrorists are also wanted for their
illegal activities with the FARC.
If the Spanish government hadn't unwittingly made this revelation, it
would have been swept under the rug.
To continue turning a blind-eye -- in order to fulfill (at all costs)
Obama's deal with Cuban dictator Raul Castro -- is short-sighted,
disingenuous and dangerous.
Capitol Hill Cubans
Journal: Obama Rehabilitates the Castro Brothers
April 7 - The
Organization of American States is now open to dictatorships.
When President Obama travels to Panama for the 7th Summit of the
Americas later this week, expect to be inundated with platitudes about
the blossoming of democracy in the region. Don’t believe it. Repression
is on the march in the Americas, and U.S. ambivalence is part of the
In the White House’s lack of moral clarity, the region’s bullies smell
weakness. One result is that a Caribbean backwater run by gangster
brothers now has the upper hand in setting the regional agenda.
If the U.S. president is humiliated in Panama City like he was in Port
of Spain in 2009, no one should be surprised. That’s when Mr. Obama
tried to be one of the boys with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, who thanked
him by presenting him a copy of the famous anti-American diatribe “The
Open Veins of Latin America.”
Summits are a waste of time and money for real countries. But this one
will be useful for Cuba, which will be allowed to join the group for the
first time, and on its own terms. It’s hard to put a finger on the
lowest point in Obama foreign policy, but its abject submissiveness
regarding this meeting in the U.S. backyard is a serious contender.
For years Cuba was not permitted at the table with the members of the
Organization of American States. In April 2001, participants at the
Americas summit in Quebec ratified an established policy of including
only freely elected democratic governments. In September 2001 the OAS
members signed the “Democratic Charter,” requiring the suspension of
The charter had some meaning in its early years, thanks to U.S.
influence and the fact that the OAS would not be able to pay its bills
without Uncle Sugar. But it started unraveling when Mr. Obama took
office and began trying to appease Cuba and Venezuela. This year, not a
shred is left.
Being outcasts made Raúl and Fidel Castro feel disrespected. So they
pressured much of the rest of the region to say that if Cuba were again
left out, they would boycott the event. In December Mr. Obama folded.
It was a sign of how bad things are in the Americas. Authoritarian
governments now rule in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, Ecuador,
Argentina and Bolivia. All employ, to varying degrees, at least some
elements of the Cuban model in which the executive consolidates power,
civil society is suppressed, and due process is passe.
Elections are rigged. Rulers expropriate at will. Media outlets that
dare to differ from the party line face legal burdens that can wipe them
Democratic institutions in Brazil and Chile remain intact, but the
socialist leaders in both countries are great admirers of the Castros
and wouldn’t dream of offending their hard-left constituencies. Colombia
is compromised by its peace talks in Havana with FARC narco-terrorists.
A handful of other countries might have defended the democracy principle
if they had some confidence in U.S. backing. But a feeble U.S.
diplomatic team is no match for Castro’s foreign policy of exporting
terror. No one is going out on that limb with Mr. Obama in the White
House. So Cuba is in and Raúl will get his long-sought legitimacy from a
Appeasement has brought new demands. Some governments say they will
raise a stink in Panama because the U.S. recently declared Venezuela a
threat to U.S. national security and sanctioned seven Venezuelan
officials. Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro says he has collected
more than six million signatures on a protest letter that he will hand
to Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama expected that he would be a hero in Panama, the guy who
offered to open diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in a
half century. But Cuba has rebuffed him. Castro says he won’t accept
normal relations until, among other things, Cuba is taken off the U.S.
list of state sponsors of terror and the U.S. returns Guantanamo.
Granting most of the Cuba demands would require approval from the U.S.
Congress. But pleasing Raúl will be an Obama priority. He might try to
take Havana off the list of terror sponsors unilaterally if he believes
he has veto-safe support in the event of a congressional challenge.
Here Cuban reality could interfere. The island is home to Basque
terrorists wanted in Spain and scores of fugitives from American justice
like Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of the 1973 murder of a New
Jersey state trooper. The military dictatorship also arms and trains the
FARC. Cuba wants access to the U.S. banking system, but banks have to
consider the legal jeopardy they risk if they take on a client with a
history of financial support for terrorism and money laundering.
It will be hard even for Mr. Obama to be popular at the Panama summit
unless he decides to abandon the war on terror. Even then, it’s
The Wall Street Journal
April 6 - The
currency crisis starts about 75 feet into Cuba. I land in the late
afternoon and, after clearing customs, step into the busy arrivals hall
of Havana’s airport looking for help. I ask a woman in a gray,
military-like uniform where I can change money. “Follow me,” she says.
But she doesn’t turn left, toward the airport’s exchange kiosk. Called
cadecas, these government-run currency shops are the only legal way,
along with banks, to swap your foreign money for Cuba’s tourist tender,
the CUC. Instead, my guide turns right and only comes clean when we
reach a quiet area at the top of an escalator. “The official rate is 87
for a hundred,” she whispers, meaning CUCs to dollars. “I’m giving you
90. So it’s a good deal for you.”
I want to convert $500, and she doesn’t blink an eye. “Go in the men’s
room and count your money out,” she instructs. “I’ll do the same in the
The bathroom is crowded, with not one but two staff and the usual
traffic of an airport in the evening. There’s no toilet paper. In an
unlit stall I try counting to 25 while laying $20 bills on my knees.
There’s an urgent knock, and under the door I see high heels. “I’m still
counting,” I say.
She’s back two minutes later and pushes her way into my stall. We trade
stacks, count, and the tryst is over. For my $500, I get 450 CUCs, the
currency that’s been required for the purchase of almost anything
important in Cuba since 1994. CUCs aren’t paid to Cubans; islanders
receive their wages in a different currency, the grubby national peso
that features Che Guevara’s face, among others, but is worth just 1/25th
as much as a CUC. Issued in shades of citrus and berry, the CUC—dollarized,
tourist-friendly money—has for 21 years been the key to a better life in
Cuba, as well as a stinging reminder of the difference between the haves
and the have-nots. But that’s about to change: Cuba is going to kill the
CUC. Described as a matter of fairness by President Raúl Castro, the end
of the two-currency system is also the key to overhauling the uniquely
incompetent and centrally planned chaos machine that is the Cuban
Even in Cuba there are
markets, and the effects of Castro’s October announcement of a five-step
plan for phasing out the CUC are already rippling out to every wallet in
the country. The government has issued notifications and price
conversion charts, and introduced new, larger bills to supplement the
low-value national peso. Over the next year, the CUC will be
invalidated—what Cuban economists call Day Zero—and then, in steps four
and five, the regular Cuban peso will become exchangeable and be floated
against a basket of five currencies: the yuan, the euro, the U.S.
dollar, and two others to be named later.
Thanks to the expected normalization of relations with the U.S.,
tourism, already the engine of Cuba’s current economic boom, is expected
to grow enormously—though by this time next year foreigners will be
required to negotiate their visits with mounds of regular pesos. Raúl
Castro is effectively gambling that he can release some control over the
economy in exchange for growth, ensuring the regime’s survival.
The reality, however, may be anything but orderly. During my visit, I
witness the hoarding of dollars, an unstable black market, and a deep
distrust of the government’s financial speculations. Get out of CUCs,
the rumors urge, and into dollars. For a 3 percent spread, a woman will
even follow you into a bathroom stall.
In January 1961, a cargo ship arrived in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba
bearing a load of freshly minted cash. Cuba’s pre-revolutionary peso had
been stable and valuable for decades, a source of patriotic pride.
Overnight, the Cuban revolution invalidated the old peso and replaced it
with new bills, signed by Che Guevara and worth what the government said
they were worth. The gesture sidelined opponents, reduced the
independence of the professional and middle classes, and effectively
seized the island’s remaining wealth in one gesture. In 1967, when Che
died, it was his face that went on the currency, memorably gracing a
3-peso note that would get you lunch and a drink. Today that same bill
is worth 12¢.
The end of Soviet subsidies in 1991 brought real economic desperation to
Cuba. Dollars were traded on the black market. (In a dark Havana alley,
I once got 125 pesos for a single greenback in a hurried transaction
with a frightened man.) By 1994, in an effort to co-opt the black
markets and once again take hold of the island’s resources, the
government introduced the CUC. Initially this was strictly for tourists,
the only legal tender for all those mojitos and langoustines. The CUC
was pegged at 1:1 with the U.S. dollar, and just the commissions on
exchanging it—up to 20 percent—earned the Cuban government billions a
The CUC turned tourism into a lucrative lifeline during the 1990s, and
at first only a few essential imports—shoes, soap, tires—were sold to
Cubans in CUCs, at a few, heavily guarded stores. Today those misnamed
“dollar stores” exist in every neighborhood, and the CUC, first intended
to insulate Cubans from capitalism, is the only way to buy the majority
of consumer goods.
This is the Cuban dilemma: Salaries are paid in ordinary pesos, and
average just $20 a month, even though the cost of survival runs around
$50 a month, and must be paid for with CUCs at government stores that,
until now, accepted nothing else. As crazily inefficient as the existing
two-currency system appears, it has allowed the government to maintain
near-total dominance of the economy. The Cuban revolution has always
viewed money as a problem, not a solution. That’s why the peso of the
old republic had to be destroyed overnight in 1961. Having money let
people be independent and operate outside the system. “It’s part of the
DNA that Fidel imprinted on the revolution,” notes Ted Henken, a
sociologist at Baruch College who has specialized in the island.
What the government has finally grasped is that the two-currency system
has become economically and politically unsustainable. To get around it,
Cubans steal state resources, work black market jobs, and even arbitrage
the price differential between mangoes at opposite ends of the country.
“Those in the peso-only economy are completely dependent on the
government, which is in control of more than 85 percent of the total
economy,” says John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council in New York. For the citizenry to “have a legitimate
stake in the economy,” he notes, there should be one currency, used for
salaries and all stores, and traded openly. “It needs to happen,”
Kavulich says. Continue reading
Court rejects appeal from Alan Gross
April 6 - The
Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a former government
subcontractor seeking to sue the U.S. government for negligence over his
five-year imprisonment in Cuba.
The justices on Monday let stand a federal appeals court ruling that
threw out Alan Gross' $60 million lawsuit blaming the federal government
for failing to prepare him for the risks of working in Cuba.
Gross was freed in December as the U.S. announced it would re-establish
diplomatic relations with Cuba. He was working as a U.S. Agency for
International Development subcontractor in Cuba when he was arrested in
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled
last year that the U.S. government is immune from claims arising in a
In a separate case, Gross received $3.2 million in December from the
federal government as part of a settlement with the Maryland-based
company he worked for at the time of his arrest.
The USAID said it paid Gross to settle claims pending before the
Civilian Board of Contract Appeals for unanticipated claims under a
cost-reimbursement contract with Development Alternatives Inc. of
The USAID said the settlement was not an admission of liability, but was
intended to avoid the costs and risks of further legal proceedings.
What It’s Like Using the Internet in Cuba
April 6 - The
Internet in Cuba is bad -- really, really bad.
Imagine you are back in 2001 and set your computer up to download one,
single song off Napster while you are at school all day. It's that kind
I just got back from Cuba for ABC News’ continuing coverage following
the announcement of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the U.S.
and the island nation. One of the first things I expected to see
changed, even before the embargo gets lifted, was Internet access.
Just to illustrate how bad it seems for an American used to fast
connectivity: I was uploading a photo to send to our digital team -- a
beautiful photo of the historic city we wanted to use for one of our
digital stories. The file was around 30 MB. It took nearly an hour to
upload it to Google Drive.
When I returned home, that same file took less than five seconds to
It’s no surprise Cuba is considered the “least connected” country in the
Americas, with the Geneva-based ITU ranking the country 125th out of 166
countries worldwide in telecommunications development.
But officials want to change that. With the new U.S. diplomatic
relations working toward normalization, a senior U.S. State Department
official told members of the media on Monday that Cuba has "real
potential" and that, as a member of the United Nations International
Communications Union, wants to see 50 percent of households have
Internet access by 2020.
“There is real potential here as long as there is a will on the Cuban
side,” the official said. "So as long as the Cubans create an
environment that's attractive to investment and attractive to deployment
and attractive to the delivery of services, I believe that services will
reach the island."
In early March, executives from Google visited Cuba for the second time.
Currently, roughly 5 percent of Cubans can access the Internet from
home. The only way to get Internet access for most Cubans is to visit a
government-run Internet location and pay $5 per hour -- prohibitively
expensive for most in the island nation. Those who can afford it often
wait for hours to gain access to one of the government-run sites.
The U.S. sent a delegation to Cuba to discuss telecommunications as part
of the talks last week. And President Obama announced connectivity as a
priority, naming telecommunications equipment, technology and services
among the first exemptions to the embargo.
While Internet connectivity moves forward slowly, this American reporter
is most looking forward to Internet on a cell phone -- you know, being
able to read email on the iPhone.
Hopefully, by the time we go back next month, Internet speeds will be a
little better. Probably not, but here is looking to the future.
Payá Cuban arrested on arrival at Panama's Summit of the Americas
April 6 - One
of Cuba's most high-profile dissidents has been detained on arrival in
Panama, ahead of the Summit of the Americas at which the Cuban and
American presidents will hold a meeting for the first time in over 50
Rosa Maria Paya, whose anti-Castro father Oswaldo Paya died in a
mysterious car crash in 2012, was arrested at the airport on Sunday
"The national security agents have detained me at the door of the
plane," she said on Twitter.
She claimed the police told her: "You are going to be deported to Cuba
if you cause any trouble or start raising banners. Go back to your own
country to cause trouble."
Miss Paya, 26, said she was held for four hours while they searched her
luggage - "even going through my underwear".
The Panamanian officials then released her, and described the incident
as "a bureaucratic mistake".
But a second activist, from Argentina, reported on social media
suffering similar treatment.
Micaela Hierro Dori said "the same happened to me", and that she was
threatened with being deported to Argentina.
"They are looking to silence the young," she said.
The detentions have underlined the tensions ahead of the Summit of the
Americas, which will take place on Friday and Saturday in Panama.
Presidents and former presidents of all American states, including Bill
Clinton, Cristina Kirchner and Dilma Rousseff, will attend the
gathering, which will also draw together hundreds of civil society
The names of opposition figures from Cuba travelling to Panama have not
been released. However, the website 14ymedio, run by activist Yoani
Sanchez, reported that 19 people have been given permission to travel -
among them human rights campaigners, independent journalists, bloggers
President Barack Obama is expected to sit down with President Raul
Castro to discuss progress in their "normalising" of diplomatic
relations - a process begun on December 17. It is the first time that
Cuba has been invited to the summit, and the first time since 1959 that
the leaders of the two countries have agreed to a working meeting.
It had been hoped that the two men would announce the re-opening of
respective embassies in Washington and Havana, following a series of
meetings to iron out the details. However, most analysts do not expect
the details to be agreed in time.
Mr Obama also faces what could be an awkward encounter with Venezuela's
president, Nicolas Maduro. Caracas and Washington have been engaged in
an increasingly bitter war of words over the protests against Mr Maduro
in his own country - which the Venezuelan president, backed by Cuba,
dismisses as being organized by the US.
will happen if Venezuela implodes
March 26 - An economic
implosion is becoming increasingly likely in Venezuela , and the
country's debtholders, trade partners and neighbors are bracing for the
The country's energy-dependent economy requires oil prices above $100
per barrel in order to sustain itself. Oil accounts for 95 percent of
the country's export earnings, and combined with gas, it's 25 percent of
the country's gross domestic product. Internationally traded Brent crude
prices have fallen more than 48 percent in the past year.
Meanwhile, a combination of inflation and currency controls have
generated scarcity of basic needs such as flour, toilet paper and
medicine. Venezuelans stand in lines for hours waiting to buy whatever
may be available. Shortages have even diminished the country's ability
to provide medical care.
The government of President Nicholas Maduro has been scrambling to find
cash. China , Venezuela's biggest creditor, has loaned it more than $50
billion in the last eight years.
Venezuela pays China with oil, and about half of the oil shipped to
China goes to paying existing debt. So as the price of oil declines, the
number of barrels it needs to send to China increases.
"Venezuela is committed to amortize its loans with oil. To amortize the
loans, you have to multiply volume by price. If the price drops, you
have to up the number of barrels shipped," said Pedro Mario Burelli,
former member of the executive board of PDVSA, Venezuela's state-run oil
China plans to lend Venezuela at least $10 billion more in coming months
as part of a bilateral financing deal and for the development of oil
fields, Reuters reported last week.
But if there's a default, experts don't think China would suffer much;
the Asian giant is likely taking careful steps to protect itself.
"If China asked for guarantees before, can you imagine what they're
asking for now that the country is on the brink of disaster," Burelli
said. "China is not going to do anything that jeopardizes them. In a
default scenario, they still will be in a good position because they
have unique terms."
Burelli said the uncertainty in Venezuela makes it impossible to predict
the timing of any default, but he said it's certainly a possibility. "A
default could happen for two reasons: because you don't have money to
meet your debt obligations, or because you can't keep prioritizing
external debt over internal needs," Burelli said.
Burelli, along with many other experts, doesn't doubt Venezuela's desire
to honor its debts. But as circumstances worsen in the South American
nation, Maduro could be forced to reprioritize and put the immediate
needs of Venezuelans first, he says.
"Debt payment is a priority now, but problems in Venezuela are getting
worse. There are different kinds of problems that could lead to
Venezuela to default," Burelli said. "There are a lot of deaths in
Venezuela because of a shortage of basic supplies needed in any health
system. That will consume interest payments, and the amortization of
principal that you thought could be made, but that you won't be able to
Michael Ganske, head of emerging markets at investment management firm
Rogge Global Partners, said he feels confident about Venezuela's ability
to keep up with debt payments through 2015.
Some of Venezuela's trading partners are already reaping the benefits of
the country's struggles. Smaller nations that have taken delivery of
Venezuelan oil, for example, either have managed to negotiate reduced
payments for those shipments or may yet do so.
In January, Maduro's government accepted a $1.9 billion lump debt
payment from the Dominican Republic for years of past oil transactions,
a sum marked a huge discount to the $4.1 billion market value of those
oil shipments. A similar deal with Jamaica could be in the works.
Venezuela would have to make further, drastic changes in order to avoid
a default, many of which would affect trade partners: slashing imports,
raising domestic gas prices, changing its currency control system or
cutting off subsidized oil shipments that it makes to Cuba .
Venezuela is a longtime provider of energy aid to other Caribbean
nations through a subsidized-energy alliance called Petrocaribe. Cuts to
that aid could create an economic threat to the entire region.
"The cost of doing business in a number of countries that rely on
Petrocaribe oil is already extraordinarily high, primarily because they
use outdated and outmoded energy sources," said Daniel Hanson, an
analyst at Height Securities. "I think any nascent signs of growth in
these Latin American and Caribbean countries that are reliant on
Petrocaribe are likely to be sapped by the increased cost, primarily
That said, at least one country in the region could benefit from a
Venezuelan collapse: Trinidad and Tobago. The island nation has the
largest oil and natural gas reserves in the Caribbean and could take
away Petrocaribe customers.
Slashing imports could help Venezuela's balance sheet, but would almost
certaily hurt its main commercial partners. Neighboring Colombia is
already feeling the pain.
Venezuela is the second-biggest destination for Colombian exports, after
the United States. But exports have fallen significantly over the past
year. Last year alone, exports to Venezuela fell more than 12 percent
year over year.
Venezuela still has not raised prices on gasoline, which it very heavily
subsidizes for its domestic market. The fear for Caracas, experts agree,
is that such a move could trigger outright violence in the country.
Venezuela last raised gas prices in 1989, resulting in the "Caracazo" or
"Caracas disaster," in which fuel price increases led to major social
unrest that resulted in hundreds of deaths.
"A rise in gasoline prices will lead to a rise in public transportation
and cargo, causing major inflationary pressure, and that will increase
the risk of a social explosion," said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a senior
political risk analyst at economic data firm IHS.
The Obama -
Castro romance, Part III
March 16 - Cuba and the
United States meet for talks on restoring diplomatic relations on
Monday, seeking more progress toward an agreement while not allowing
differences over Venezuela to impede their historic rapprochement.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson is due to meet in
Havana with Josefina Vidal, the Cuban foreign ministry's chief of U.S.
affairs, with talks possibly continuing into Wednesday.
Jacobson and Vidal led their respective delegations with great fanfare
in Havana in January and in Washington in February, but this session
will take place with smaller teams and, so far at least, a media
The United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961, and
relations remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.
But President Barack Obama reversed the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba,
entering 18 months of secret talks that led to a joint announcement with
Cuban President Raul Castro on Dec. 17 that the two adversaries would
seek to restore diplomatic ties, as well as a release of prisoners by
Obama told Reuters on March 2 he hoped the United States would open an
embassy in Cuba before a Western Hemisphere summit in Panama set for
April 10-11, when Obama and Castro could have their first face-to-face
meeting since shaking hands at Nelson Mandela's funeral in December
Before agreeing to restore ties, Cuba wants to be removed from the State
Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism and also to find a bank
willing to handle transactions for its diplomatic posts in the United
For its part, the United States wants to increase staff at its mission
in Havana and have unrestricted travel for its diplomats on the island.
Both sides reported progress on these issues after the first two round
Then on March 9 the United States declared Cuba's closest ally,
Venezuela, a security threat and ordered sanctions against seven
officials from the oil-rich country.
U.S. officials have said the Venezuela issue should not affect the Cuba
talks, but Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said any attack on
Venezuela was also an attack on Cuba, saying Washington "has provoked
serious damage to the environment in the hemisphere on the eve of the
Summit of the Americas."
"I hope that the U.S. government understands that it can't handle Cuba
with a carrot and Venezuela with a garrote," Rodriguez said on Saturday
while visiting Venezuela.
that Obama doesn't believe that Cubans are "human beings"
March 8 - President Barack
Obama slapped sanctions on Venezuela for abuse of human rights, while at
the same time he is throwing a lifeline to the Castro regime,
which is the one pulling the strings of their puppet government in
Venezuela, and responsible for tens of thousands of human rights
violations and crimes against humanity during the 56 years that it has
been in power in Cuba.
This is absolutely crazy! But
nothing that comes Barack Hussein Obama's White House should surprise
President Obama finally
pulled the trigger on Venezuela sanctions today, three months after
signing the bipartisan Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil
Society Act of 2014 into law, but lawmakers behind the bill said it was
just a first step in dealing with Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
And, as noted by bill co-sponsor and co-author Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.),
“Even as I welcome this round of sanctions, I question why President
Obama is simultaneously moving to lift sanctions on Cuba, which has
played a direct role in sowing unrest in Venezuela and has a human
rights record even worse than the Maduro regime. Human rights violations
in Venezuela stem directly from what the Cuban army and intelligence
agency have taught the Chavez-Maduro regime.”
Citing the “erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political
opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of
violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to
antigovernment protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of
antigovernment protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of
significant public corruption,” Obama said in his executive order
blocking the entry of seven Venezuelan officials, the situation
”constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national
security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a
national emergency to deal with that threat.”
Venezuela recalled its chargé d’affairs for “immediate consultations.”
“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of
Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be
welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their
use of U.S. financial systems,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest
“We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to
escalate intimidation of its political opponents. Venezuela’s problems
cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent. We have consistently called
on the Venezuelan government to release those it has unjustly jailed as
well as to improve the climate of respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression and peaceful
assembly,” Earnest said. “These are essential to a functioning
democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect
these fundamental freedoms. The Venezuelan government should release all
political prisoners, including dozens of students, opposition leader
Leopoldo Lopez and Mayors Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who authored the bill, said he welcomed
the announcement but urged the Obama administration “to take further
action, including against Venezuelan Minister of Defense Vladimir
Padrino López, specifically in the aftermath of his authorization to
permit security forces to use lethal force against peaceful protesters.”
“Since the start of 2014, the world has watched in alarm as President
Maduro has led Venezuela down a path toward political crisis and
economic ruin,” Menendez said. “As the average Venezuelan citizen has
suffered the effects of runaway inflation and widespread shortages of
basic foodstuffs, the Maduro government has radicalized its agenda,
jailing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez for over a year and arresting
Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. The recent death of 14-year-old Kluiverth
Roa, at the hands of government security forces, shows the extreme
lengths the regime in Venezuela is willing to go in order to silence the
Agreeing that General Padrino was “inexplicably” and unwisely left off
the list, Rubio stressed that “the human rights crisis in Venezuela is
getting worse every day, and these long overdue financial sanctions are
important steps to hold Nicolas Maduro’s regime accountable.”
“The authoritarian system that Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro have
imposed in Venezuela have destroyed its economy and any semblance of
democratic order in the country,” Rubio said. “Maduro has ruined lives
through both the misery his system has inflicted, but also the lives his
regime has cut short in response to demonstrations over the past year.
As long as Maduro and his thugs remain in power, economic conditions and
human rights will continue to worsen in Venezuela.”
A senior administration official told reporters on a conference call
today that Obama’s order is “not action taken against the Venezuelan
government as a whole; it is not action taken against the Venezuelan
people or the Venezuelan economy.”
convicted of murder and released by Obama says he’s ready for his ‘next
March 2 - In the depths of
his 16-year odyssey through the U.S. prison system, convicted Cuban spy
Gerardo Hernandez was transferred to an underground cell at Lompoc
Federal Correctional Institution that was known to inmates simply as
As Hernandez recalls it, he was stripped to his underwear, cut off from
all human contact and tormented by toilet water seeping — drip by drip —
from the cell above him into the sink in his cramped living space.
It was days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the federal
Bureau of Prisons was taking no chances — “special administrative
measures,” as they were called — with high-profile, politically
sensitive inmates such as Hernandez, who was serving a double life
sentence, with no possibility of parole, for conspiracy to commit
espionage and murder.
“Hello,” he said when he was finally permitted to make his first phone
call to his designated contact at the Cuban Interests Section in
Washington. “It is the Count of Monte Cristo calling.”
It was Hernandez’s impish allusion to the famous 19th-century novel by
Alexandre Dumas, whose hero, Edmond Dantès, is imprisoned in a dungeon
on a Mediterranean island for the rest of his life — only to
miraculously escape and re-emerge years later, triumphant, as a wealthy
member of French nobility.
Today, after a series of plot
twists every bit as improbable as those in Dumas’ novel, Hernandez
counts himself as the modern-day, real-life equivalent. His sentence
commuted by President Barack Obama, he is now a free man in his native
Cuba, reunited with his wife, Adriana, and his former spy comrades. Last
Tuesday, Hernandez and his fellow spies — the Cuban Five, they are
called here — were officially decorated by President Raúl Castro as
national heroes in a grand celebration at Cuba’s National Assembly.
And, Hernandez tells Yahoo News in an exclusive interview, he’s ready to
return for duty to advance the cause of his country’s communist
“What I’m telling you right now, I already told Raúl Castro: I’m a
soldier,” said Hernandez, pounding his chest. “I’m ready to receive my
next order. I can serve anywhere my country believes I am useful.”
Perhaps most astonishing of all, Hernandez, 48, is also the father of a
7-week-old baby, Gema. The girl (her name means “precious stone” in
Spanish) was conceived last year while Hernandez was still in a U.S.
prison: His frozen sperm was shipped to Panama for secret fertility
treatments for Adriana, all facilitated by the Obama administration — at
the urging of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy — as part of its backdoor
diplomacy with the Cuban government.
“We have to believe in miracles,” Hernandez said, gently rocking Gema, a
glowing Adriana by his side as the couple sat in the courtyard of the
foreign ministry villa where they now live, attended to by a
government-supplied staff of nannies, cooks and servers.
The release last Dec. 17 of Hernandez, as well as the last two
imprisoned members of his Cuban Five spy network, Ramon Labanino and
Antonio Guerrero, was a huge propaganda coup for the Castro government.
It also paved the way for a historic breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba relations
that has already brought a wave of American tourists to the island and
U.S. companies knocking on Havana’s door looking for new business
But the freeing of Hernandez
and the Cuban Five spies — coinciding with Cuba’s release of imprisoned
American contractor Alan Gross and a jailed CIA spy — is continuing to
stir raw anger among anti-Castro Cubans in South Florida and some
members of Congress.
“Shameful,” wrote GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Bob Goodlatte,
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a recent letter to the
Bureau of Prisons, describing Hernandez as a “convicted spy and
murderer” and demanding answers about the medical treatments for his
wife. Continue Reading
"Minnie" Miñoso "The Cuban Comet" is dead
March 1 - Baseball has lost
another iconic ambassador.
Former White Sox star outfielder Minnie Minoso was found dead in the
driver’s seat of his car early Sunday.
An autopsy performed Sunday afternoon determined Minoso died of a tear
in his pulmonary artery caused by “chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease.” The White Sox and his family said he was 90.
Just over a month after the death of Cubs legend Ernie Banks, Chicago
fans and longtime followers of baseball worldwide now mourn the death of
Minoso, known as the “Cuban Comet.”
Chicago’s first black major league player, Minoso was much more than a
“I didn’t know Minnie until I bought the club in 1981, but the first
time I met him I fell in love with his infectious personality and his
love for the White Sox,” White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said Sunday.
“He was just one of the most genuine people that you would ever want to
Minoso was driving home from a friend's birthday party when he
apparently fell ill and pulled over in the Lakeview neighborhood,
according to police and family.
He was found unresponsive in the driver's seat of his car near a gas
station in the 2800 block of North Ashland Avenue around 1 a.m.,
according to police. There were no signs of trauma and Minoso was
pronounced dead at the scene at 1:09 a.m., police said.
President Barack Obama, a lifelong Sox fan, released a statement that
included the following:
“For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me,
Minnie Minoso is and will always be 'Mr. White Sox.' ... Minnie may have
been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but
for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s
quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts issued a statement saying the team was
“deeply saddened by the passing of Minnie Minoso. Having recently lost
one of our all-time greats, Ernie Banks, we share the heartache with the
White Sox organization and fans everywhere who were blessed to enjoy the
talent, heart and passion of Mr. White Sox.”
Minoso’s son Charlie Rice-Minoso said: “He was an extraordinary person.
He made many contributions to baseball and to Chicago. He'll be missed
most by his family and closest friends.
“He had so many amazing relationships with people,” he added, choking
up. “It was just amazing to see that, even so many years after he
played, to see how he was respected. We're just eternally grateful.”
Billy Pierce, a former star White Sox pitcher and teammate of Minoso,
said he could tell Minoso was not feeling well recently.
“I had been with him at SoxFest, and he had to stop two or three times
when we were walking because it was tough getting his breath,” Pierce
told the Tribune. “He wasn’t real well then, and from what I had been
told, at Christmastime he had to go into the hospital because he had the
Minoso’s birthday was listed on baseball-reference.com as Nov. 29, 1925,
but some believed he was as old as 92. When asked about his age, he once
said, “Look what they say in the Sox record book.”
Rice-Minoso said the family is going with 90.
“That's the number we have down in Spanish documents. That's the date,”
he said. “It's kind of a running joke. That was the one topic he didn't
want to focus on, so of course that's what everyone wanted to know.”
Playing left field on my sandlot baseball team, I always tried to
emulate Minnie. He was my favorite baseball player when I was chasing
fly balls. In my eyes, Minnie will always be a Hall of Famer! Rest in
Peace Mr. Chicago White Sox.
Born in Cuba, Orestes “Minnie” Minoso came to the United States in 1945
and played three seasons for the New York Cubans in the Negro Leagues.
Bill Veeck, then owner of the Indians, purchased his contract in
September 1948. He made his major league debut in 1949, playing nine
late-season games for the Indians.
After spending 1950 in the minors, Minoso came to the Sox in an early
season trade in 1951. He became the Sox’s and Chicago’s first black
player on May 1, 1951. Minoso wasted no time making his presence felt,
getting two hits and two RBIs in an 8-3 loss to the Yankees. He quickly
electrified Comiskey Park, hitting .326 to finish second in AL Rookie of
the Year voting.
It was just the start for Minoso. In 1954, he had his second straight
fourth-place finish in AL Most Valuable Player voting, hitting .320 with
19 homers, 18 triples, 19 stolen bases, 116 RBIs and 119 runs. He played
in nine All-Star Games.
I'm proud of everything. I'm proud to be a baseball player.
“I felt Minnie was the one player in the American League who had that
intangible quality of excitement that makes fans talk about him when
they leave the park,” Frank Lane, the general manager who brought Minoso
to the White Sox, once said.
The Sox retired his No. 9 in 1983. However, Minoso’s appeal went beyond
Chicago. He was regarded as the first Latin American superstar,
inspiring young players who dreamed of joining him in the big leagues.
Minoso spoke broken English, but his vibrant smile and enduring love for
the game translated clearly everywhere.
“He and I would talk, and I had to say, ‘Minnie, what did you say?’ But
I don’t think he ever said a nasty thing about anybody. It was always
good, always friendly,” Pierce said. Read more
The Chicago Tribune
and Cuba: Partners in repression
Feb 24 - Last week,
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro paid a visit to Havana and met with
Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have been his patrons and who helped to
install him in power after the death of Hugo Chávez. Mr. Maduro’s
political situation is desperate: As Venezuelans suffer severe shortages
of staple goods and soaring inflation, his approval rating has dropped
to 22 percent — and that’s before the full impact of falling oil prices
hits a country dependent on petroleum for 96 percent of its
On his return from Havana, Mr. Maduro turned to a familiar tactic.
Intelligence agents stormed the residence of the elected opposition
mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and took him away to a military
prison. Mr. Maduro then delivered a three-hour rant on television in
which he accused the opposition leader of plotting a coup against him
with the help of the Obama administration. Needless to say, he had no
evidence to support this ludicrous charge.
If this sounds like a script borrowed from the Castro regime, that’s
because it is. With Havana’s encouragement, Mr. Maduro is trying to
shore up his crumbling support by concocting supposed threats from the
United States and using them to illegally imprison his leading
opponents. Mr. Ledezma follows several other mayors into captivity. With
him at the Ramo Verde prison is Leopoldo López, the opposition leader
who has been in military custody for more than a year.
The Castros, whose own crumbling economy depends heavily on supplies of
discounted Venezuelan oil, are simultaneously trying to sustain their
Caracas cash cow and line up new flows of dollars from the United States
by restoring diplomatic relations. Intent on carrying out a policy of
detente with Cuba that aides say was part of the ideological agenda he
brought to office six years ago, President Obama ignores this double
To be sure, the White House spoke out sharply against the arrest of Mr.
Ledezma and called the coup plot claims “baseless and false.” Following
a mandate from Congress, the administration has sanctioned several dozen
Venezuelan leaders for involvement in drug trafficking and human rights
crimes and says it is considering additional steps. However, the core
U.S. policy toward the unfolding disaster in a country that remains a
major U.S. oil supplier has been to call on other Latin American
countries to do something.
Predictably, they haven’t. Quick to pounce on right-wing governments
that violate democratic norms, Brazil, Mexico and Chile have
scrupulously avoided crossing the left-wing populist regime created by
Chávez. A delegation of ministers from the regional group Unasur, which
tilts toward Venezuela, is talking of returning to the country to
promote a “dialogue” but has yet to call for Mr. Ledezma’s release.
The country with the most influence in Caracas is Cuba. U.S. officials
ought to tell the Castros that they need to choose between Mr. Maduro’s
anti-American-themed repression and the new relationship with Washington
they say they want. As for Venezuela’s president, U.S. officials ought
to seek his formal sanction under the Inter-American charter prohibiting
violations of democracy — and challenge Venezuela’s neighbors to show
where they stand.
The Washington Post
leader of the Ladies in White, talks about Obama's "wrongful decision"
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
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
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
protesting against the regime on March 28 in Havana's famous Galiano
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
taken at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, Luyanó, Havana, Cuba
July 8 - Video taken in April
of this year at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, one of the hospitals for
Cubans who do not have hard currency to pay the Castro brothers.
Very different from the
hospital where they took Micahel Moore and the hospitals that are used
by foreigners who pay with dollars.
Click here to see the video
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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