Cuba Caught Smuggling Weapons (Again)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The Colombian authorities have intercepted a Chinese-flagged ship carrying an illegal arms cargo destined for Cuba's military (through its procurement subsidiary, TecnoImport).

This is the second international weapons smuggling incident involving Cuba's military in the last two years.

In the summer of 2013, a North Korean-flagged ship was caught carrying 240 tons of Cuban weapons for Pyongyang. A U.N. Panel of Experts found this to be the most egregious violation of Security Council sanctions to date.

These two incidents raise three important issues:

1. On tourism travel to Cuba. It proves why the U.S. must continue sanctioning Cuba's military-owned tourism industry.

2. On trade financing to Cuba. It proves why the U.S. must not finance commerce with Cuba's military-controlled monopolies.

3. On the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list. It proves why any "assurances" (as required by Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act) given by Cuba that it will no longer conduct rogue activities are simply not credible.

From The Guardian:

Colombia arrests captain of arms-trafficking ship bound for Cuba

Authorities find 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells amid cargo

Documentation for Hong Kong-flagged ship made no mention of ammunition

The captain of a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship has been arrested in the Colombian port city of Cartagena, charged with arms trafficking for transporting undocumented large-caliber munitions, reportedly bound for Cuba.

The captain of the Da Dan Xia, a Chinese national identified as Wu Hong, was captured after authorities found 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells among other munitions, an official from the Attorney General’s office told reporters.

The vessel was stopped on Saturday after authorities discovered the unregistered materials in eight shipping containers during inspection.

“Around 100 tonnes of gunpowder, 2.6m detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells were found,” the national director of the attorney general’s office, Luis González, said.

The documentation presented by the ship’s crew made no mention of the ammunition on board and instead listed the contents as chemicals and spare parts. “The documentation that the captain had in regards to the merchandise that was being transported in the China-flagged vessel did not correspond to what we found,” González said.

After stopping in Cartagena the vessel was bound for another Colombia port, Barranquilla, and then to Havana, Cuba.

Photos of the crates containing the gunpowder, published by the Cartagena newspaper El Universal, showed they were destined for a company called TecnoImport in Cuba, which according to several blogs is a procurement branch of the Cuban armed forces.

The company officially lists itself as an importer of machinery and industrial products. The supplier is listed on the crates as Norico, a Chinese manufacturer of machinery and chemical products, as well high-tech defense products.

Cuba is currently pushing the US to remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, amid talks between the two countries aimed at normalising diplomatic relations.

The US first included Cuba on the list in 1982, accusing the communist government of sheltering members of militants including members of the Basque separatist group Eta and leftwing Colombian rebels.

For the past two years, Cuba has been the site of two-year-old peace talks between the Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels. However, there was no indication that the weapons were at all related to the Colombian guerrilla forces.

Although some news reports said the Da Dan Xia had sailed from Cartagena, the cargo-ship tracking website MarineTraffic.com located the vessel still docked at the port on Tuesday.

The ship captain was to appear before a judge in Cartagena late Wednesday.

In July 2013, a North Korean ship was seized in Panama after leaving Cuba with Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.

Obama is Clearly Out-of-Touch With Cuba's Reality

Yesterday, in an interview with Reuters, President Obama said he would like to see diplomatic relations established with Cuba's dictatorship by April's "Summit of the Americas" in Panama.

Apparently, at all costs, as the Castro regime has made its removal (or announced removal) from the state-sponsors of terrorism list a precondition for diplomatic relations -- a statutory threshold that Cuba doesn't meet. But that's for another post.

In the interview, Obama offered the following defense of his policy:

"The very fact that, since our announcement, the Cuban government has begun to discuss ways in which they are going to reorganize their economy to accommodate for possible foreign investment, that’s already forcing a series of changes that promises to open up more opportunities for entrepreneurs, more transparency in terms of what’s happening in their economy."

Seriously? That's it?

And what exactly is Obama referring to?

Is he referring to Castro's foreign investment decree, which reiterates that all foreign trade and investment in Cuba must be conducted through the dictatorship's monopolies?

Is he referring to Castro's foreign investment decree, which requires every foreign investor in Cuba to form a joint venture -- as a minority partner -- with the dictatorship?

Is he referring to Castro's foreign investment decree that requires every foreign investor in Cuba to hire workers via a state-employment agency ("Cubalse, S.A."), which in turn pockets 92% of the wages?

Is he referring to Castro's new foreign investment decree, which contravenes the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Forced Labor Convention (No. 29), Abolition of Forced Labor Convention (No. 105), Freedom of Association and Protection to Organize Convention (No. 87), Protection of Wages Convention (No. 05), Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98), Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. 111) and Employment Policy Convention (No. 122)?

As for "entrepreneurs," is he referring to the Cuban regime's official entrepreneurs, i.e., the military-owned conglomerates?

Or is he referring to the "self-employed" workers, who have no corporate ownership rights, contractual rights, property rights or capital accumulation rights?

In other words, those working for a façade of the state.

Is Obama that out of touch with Cuba's reality?

Apparently so.

Here's a reminder of the events that have actually transpired since Obama's December 17th policy announcement:

- There have been well-over 800 political arrests.

- Many of the 53 political prisoners released, pursuant to the Obama-Castro deal, have been re-arrested on multiple occasions.

- There's been a crackdown on Cuban artists, including Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto," who has been imprisoned since the day after Christmas; rapper Maikel Oksobo "El Dkano," who was handed a one-year prison sentence for his lyrics; and New York-resident Tania Bruguera, who has been prohibited from leaving the island for a free speech performance (#YoTambienExijo).

- Digna Rodriguez Ibañez, a member of the pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White, was tied to a tree and pelted with tar for her peaceful activism.

- Eralisis Frometa Polanco, also a member of The Ladies in White, forcefully aborted due to violent blows to her stomach during a beating for her peaceful activism.

- The Castro regime has reiterated that it will not extradite any most-wanted fugitives to the United States, including Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBIs Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists list.

- Spain's request for the extradition of two Basque terrorists (ETA) has gone unanswered.

- Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro traveled to Havana for consultations prior to ordering the arrest of the Mayor of Caracas and the wave of repression that resulted in the murder of a 14-year old. Castro's regime has declared its full support of Maduro's actions.

- A Chinese-flagged ship was intercepted in Colombia full of undeclared "war materiel" destined for Cuba.

- The Castro regime pinned medals on the Cuban spy, whose life sentence for the murder of Americans was commuted by Obama.

- Raul Castro expanded his list of demands of the Obama Administration to include the return of Guantanamo and reparations for the embargo.

- The Castro regime welcomed a Russian spy vessel, The Viktor Leonov, to dock in the Port of Havana during normalization talks with the U.S.

- A Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stayed at a hotel confiscated from Americans.

- Two other Congressional delegations, one led by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and another led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), were coerced into not meeting with with any dissidents.

- Congressional hearings showed how Obama Administration officials lied to the families of the Americans murdered in a conspiracy by the exchanged Cuban spies.

- Congressional hearings showed how Obama Administration officials were unaware (or pretended to be unaware) of how the Cuban military exerts monopolistic control over the island's tourism industry.

- Cuban intelligence officials, some previously expelled from the United States, are Castro's top negotiators in the normalization talks.

- Paris Hilton took "selfies" with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's son, Fidelito.

- Conan O'Brien filmed a comedy show in Havana at the expense of the Cuban people's tragedy.

- At this week's inauguration ceremony for new Uruguayan President Tabare Vázquez, Raul Castro was lauded and honored with the keys to Montevideo.

- Despite numerous U.S. concessions, the Cuban people do not have any iota of greater freedoms than they had on December 16th.

- Raul Castro declared to the National Assembly - "We won the war!"

- Code Pink led a celebratory delegation of over 150 radical activists to celebrate Castro's victory over the U.S.

That's quite the achievement, Mr. President.

Tweet of the Day: #DictatorshipTourism

Colombia Intercepts Shipment of "War Materiel" Headed to Cuba

The Colombian authorities have intercepted a Chinese-flagged ship loaded with "war materiel" headed for Cuba.

It was intercepted near the Port of Cartagena. The cargo includes long-range weapons systems.

According to El Tiempo, the ship did not have appropriate documentation -- indicating that this was a clandestine shipment.

The ship's captain also resisted any inspection.

The Colombian authorities first believed the heavy weaponry was being smuggled to the South American nation, but the final destination was Cuba.

In the summer of 2013, a North Korean vessel was intercepted trying to cross the Panama Canal with over 240 tons of Cuban weapons headed for Pyongyang.

That vessel also did not have proper documentation and the ship's captain resisted inspection.

Cuba was found to be in violation of U.N. sanctions -- the most egregious violation of these sanctions to date.

Yet, Castro's regime got away scot-free -- despite a U.N. Panel of Experts documenting how the Cuban authorities lied and sought to conceal the weapons shipment.

Instead, the Obama Administration rewarded Castro's regime with the normalization of diplomatic relations and eased sanctions for travel and trade with the Cuban military's monopolies.

Obviously, this has failed to temper the behavior of Castro's regime.

Cuba Says It Will Never Return Most-Wanted Terrorist

The Castro regime has reiterated that it will never extradite Joanne Chesimard, a cop-killer who is on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Note Cuba is the only state-sponsor of terrorism nation that is openly harboring a fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list.

It's fascinating to watch Castro's lobbyists try to argue that fugitive and terrorist are somehow mutually exclusive terms.

Terrorists are individuals that commit violent acts for political, religious or ideological goals. Fugitives are individuals that are fleeing from justice.

Terrorists who are wanted by a justice system are also fugitives.

Joanne Cheismard is both a terrorist -- as designated by the FBI -- and a fugitive.

Below is the FBI's most wanted poster for Chesimard -- the top line makes it very clear..

From Yahoo News:

Castro government: We will never return fugitive cop killer to U.S.

A top Cuban official told Yahoo News that his government has no intention of turning over a fugitive wanted by the FBI for killing a New Jersey police officer.

“I can say it is off the table,” said Gustavo Machin, the deputy director for American affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when asked about calls for Cuba to return Joanne Chesimard.

Chesimard, 67, is on the list of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, with a $2 million bounty on her head, for the 1973 murder of a state trooper during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Convicted in 1977, Chesimard — a onetime member of the radical Black Liberation Army — escaped from a New Jersey state women’s prison two years later and fled to Cuba, where she lives in seclusion under the name of Assata Shakur, officially protected by the Cuban government.

Officials in New Jersey, led by Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have demanded that Cuba return Chesimard before the U.S. takes any further steps to normalize relations with the communist government.

Cuba’s decision to provide sanctuary for Chesimard “is an intolerable insult to all those who long to see justice served,” including members of the slain New Jersey state trooper’s family, Menendez wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week. In an emailed statement to Yahoo News on Monday, Menendez said Chesimard is a “cop killer” and her return should be “a top agenda” item before any further concessions are made to the Castro government.

Tweet of the Day: Cuban State Journalist Arrested

Monday, March 2, 2015
An official journalist was arrested and insulted for trying to take pictures of a protest in #Camaguey #Cuba. What irony! 

Obama in a Pickle Regarding Cuba Terrorism Listing

The Obama Administration is eager to pretend that Cuba is no longer a "state-sponsor of terrorism," so it can meet the Castro regime's demand to be unconditionally removed from the list.

However, it's in a complicated pickle.

First, the U.S. seeks the extradition of Joanne Chesimard, a cop-killer on the "top ten" of the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Secondly, there are over fifty FARC (a State Department designated "Foreign Terrorist Organization") terrorists indicted in the U.S. federal courts for narcotics trafficking and the kidnapping of Americans. Many of them are currently in Cuba.

Third, you have three senior Cuban military officials indicted in U.S. federal courts for the murder of Americans, pursuant the 1996 shoot-down of two civilian aircraft over international waters -- an act of terrorism.

And now, Spain has reminded the United States that it still seeks the extradition of ETA (also a State Department designated "Foreign Terrorist Organization") terrorists.

From AP:

Spain Asks US for Help on Extraditions From Cuba

Spain said Monday it has asked the United States to use its talks on taking Cuba off the blacklist of nations sponsoring terrorism to help obtain the extradition of two members of the armed Basque group ETA from the communist country.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said the government has been in talks with the U.S. in the hope of getting Cuba to extradite Jose Angel Urtiaga and Jose Ignacio Etxarte to Spain.

They have been wanted since 2010 in a probe into alleged links between Venezuela, ETA and the Colombian rebel group, the FARC.

Tweet of the Day: Castro Gloats About Spy Facility