More Uneducated Attacks from The New York Times

Friday, October 31, 2014
The weight of The New York Times' pen is apparently too heavy for its newest editorial writer, Ernesto Londoño, and his overnight Cuba "expertise" (obsession).

In (yet) another piece today, Londoño resorts to more uneducated attacks against the Cuban-American community's democratically-elected Members of Congress.

This time, he's upset at U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL) for telling some truths about Cuba's doctors.

Truths that The New York Times is all-too-willing to ignore.

Thus, Londoño snarks, "thankfully, theirs are becoming increasingly lonely voices in the debate over Cuba policy."

He's alluding to his last editorial on "the shifting politics of Cuba policy."

Of course, the irony is that he claims Cuban-Americans are "changing their views" -- yet Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart represent the only two majority Cuban-American Congressional Districts in the nation.

More dramatically, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart numerically represent -- with widespread support -- the majority of Cuban-Americans in the entire nation. 

Needless to say, their voices are far from "lonely" in our community.

As for Congress, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart's voices are also in the majority, which supports U.S. sanctions towards Cuba.

Again, this harks back to Londoño's last editorial, where he fretted:

"Ending the embargo, which requires congressional action, remains challenging because a small but passionate group of Cuban-American lawmakers is adamant about maintaining the status quo."

The irony here -- as we've previously documented -- is that the only thing small and continuously shrinking are the number of Members of Congress that support lifting the embargo.

Moreover, yes, the seven (perhaps eight after Tuesday) Cuban-American Members of Congress are passionate and adamant about Cuba policy -- for they are a reflection of their constituencies and their own life experiences.

However, there are only six Members of Congress that are adamant about lifting sanctions -- U.S. Senators Pat Leahy (VT) and Jeff Flake (AZ), and the far-left House cabal of U.S. Reps. James McGovern (MA), Barbara Lee (CA), Kathy Castor (FL) and Charlie Rangel (NY).

Why are they so strangely adamant about embracing Castro's regime?

Now that's a real confounding issue.

Image below: U.S. Rep. James McGovern (MA) having a great time with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Cuba's "Medical Diplomacy" is Commercial, Not Humanitarian

This week, Germany's Deutche Welle newspaper looked beyond Castro's propaganda to note how Cuba's "medical diplomacy" is really a commercial endeavor for its dictatorship.

As documented in the story, it's a low-profit, high-margin business for Castro -- a quintessential "human trafficking" business model -- whereby the regime gets paid handsomely in hard currency, while the health workers get a pittance.

What remains unclear is how much Castro is getting paid -- aside from the propaganda dividend -- for the health workers currently being sent to West Africa.

Thus far, we know the Cuban health workers have been compelled to agree that if they contract the Ebola virus, they will not be repatriated to the island.

We also know that there has been a life insurance policy taken out for these health workers with the World Health Organization (WHO) -- with the Castro regime, not their families, as the beneficiary.

Many of the commercial arrangements for Cuba's health workers throughout the world are funneled via the WHO.

For example, Castro was paid for Cuba's much-propagated role in Haiti via contributions from Norway and Brazil.

So how much is the WHO paying the Castro regime for these Ebola health workers?

We'll surely find out at some point.

However, as a first clue, it was revealed last week that Mexico alone was transferring at least $1 million to the WHO for these Cuban health workers.

Deutche Welle has some of the numbers:

"A staggering 50,000 employees of the Cuban health ministry are currently serving abroad in 66 countries, according to the ministry. Of those, 30,000 are stationed in Venezuela. There are 12,000 in Brazil, 2,000 in Angola, and a further 2,000 in other parts of Africa.

In total, almost a third of Cuba's 83,000 doctors are working in foreign countries.

The government in Havana earns more than six billion euros a year ($7.6 billion) through these doctors, because only a fraction of what the doctors cost these foreign nations are paid out in their salaries."

Unfortunately, the article overlooks Castro's medical-commercial deals with South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Portugal, which also directly pay him top-dollar.

These arrangements are all in clear violation of international labor standards.

Yet, this billionaire enterprise has become one of the Castro regime's main sources of income.

Must-Read: Revelation by Cuban Democracy Leader Guillermo Fariñas

There's a fascinating interview today in El Nuevo Herald with renowned Cuban democracy leader and Sakharov Prize recipient, Guillermo Fariñas.

Below are some translated excerpts.

On current efforts -- led by The New York Times -- to normalize relations with the Castro regime, Fariñas states:

"I think that a normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States would be a betrayal to the Cuban people and to democracy. [Ladies in White leader] Berta Soler and I asked President Barack Obama during a meeting we had in November 2013, that in any negotiation, the Cuban government's counterpart should be present -- meaning, the opposition."

On the upcoming Summit of the Americas:

"It's Panama's prerogative whether to invite Cuba, but we believe Barack Obama and the U.S. authorities have a moral commitment to democracy. Therefore, we'd prefer for Obama not to attend the Summit. He can send someone in his place, but shouldn't attend as a means to protest that Cuba doesn't meet the series of requirements that had been agreed to for a country to be invited."

On travel restrictions:

"President Obama said that he has taken various steps towards the Cuban government and that it has not responded in kind. It would be a mistake to unilaterally lift the restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba because that would mean an unexpected revenue stream for a government that is desperate to obtain hard currency to continue politically controlling the country -- particularly now that its life-preserver, Venezuela, is deflating."

Finally, Fariñas makes the following revelation:

"We were contacted in 2013 by various [very rich] people with interests aligned to the Cuban government, who wanted us to change our views, and tried to buy us with millions of dollars. We rejected it."

Asked who these multimillionaires were, he responds:

"Everyone knows who it is."

Quote of the Day: On U.S. Official at ALBA Meeting in Cuba

ALBA, the brainchild of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, was created solely to oppose U.S. interests in our hemisphere. It enjoys the support of other anti-American regimes such as Syria and Iran. That the U.S. would send a representative to such a meeting is by itself ludicrous. Furthermore, there is nothing charitable about the Cuban dictatorship's actions in Africa, and there is no parity between American doctors, who are expertly trained and voluntarily travel to risky destinations on their own terms, and Cuban medics. Cuban doctors are hastily trained, poorly equipped, and forced to work in dangerous conditions while most of their pay is siphoned to the Castro dictatorship. That a U.S. official would condone their overt exploitation is outrageous.

-- U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), in a statement, 10/30/14

Rodiles: We Must Accept Nothing Less Than Fundamental Freedoms

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Excerpt by Cuban democracy leader and head of the independent think-tank, Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles:

The temptations of some political actors to enter into a political dialogue with the regime and defend a quasi-unconditional reconciliation can be many. Some dissidents, like [Catholic activist] Dagoberto Valdes, defend this thesis. Yet, it's important to note that without a broad social base to exercise sustained pressure against the old elite and its allies, it would be very difficult to advance in the direction of political changes. Venezuela, where the Cuban regime has already shown its cards, is a good example. They used those who decided to dialogue in order to silence and weaken the student movement and -- once that movement was under their control -- they ended the supposed dialogue as well.

The Cuban situation can become even more complicated. Missteps would create conditions that would place us on the path to becoming a failed state, whereby in addition to our current economic and social disaster under iron-fisted political control, we would have high levels of insecurity and the establishment of criminal organizations. The embargo, like every other international sanction, should be a tool to pressure the regime to accept the substantive measures necessary to prevent the tragic experiences that many former Communist republics encountered on this journey. Why repeat the same mistakes?

We are faced with a regime on a regressive count, but with the ability to transmute. It's not the time to grant anything to oppresors who treat their citizens with such disdain. The time for our fundamental rights has come -- a simple and powerful idea, which should not be overshadowed by any other argument or supposed strategy. We are weary of those who would be satisfied by less or who wish to "dialogue" for less. Politically, the door should not be closed, but neither opened to the point where we become a loyal opposition.

That every Cuban, inside and outside the island, can fully exercise their fundamental rights. That we obtain a firm commitment with respect to our freedoms by ratifying and implementing the U.N.'s human rights conventions. Only then would we be talking about real reforms.

Dr. Biscet: First Freedoms for the Cuban People, Then Lift Embargo

Never mind this idea of lift the embargo first and respect human rights later, for we know [the Cuban regime] lies. First freedom and human rights for the Cuban people. Then progressively lift the embargo.
-- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Cuban democracy leader, prisoner of conscience and 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, La Nueva Nacion, 10/29/14

Must-Read: Armenian-Canadian Businessmen Lose Millions in Totalitarian Cuba

By Vilen Khlgatyan of the Political Developments Research Center (PDRC):

Money Trumps Morality: Armenian-Canadian Businessmen Invest and Lose Millions in Totalitarian Cuba

Late last month the regime of Raúl Castro sentenced a Canadian businessman of Armenian origin, Cy Tokmakjian to 15 years in prison on corruption-related charges. The sentence follows a three-year ordeal which began as part of a wider campaign targeting foreign investors in Cuba by the Castro regime. Cuba follows the Soviet model slavishly, including the treatment of foreign investors. On the one hand, they are wooed for their money and know-how, on the other scapegoated for their crimes – real and imagined – in an eerie tropical morality play straight from the USSR’s New Economic Policy (NEP) of the 1920s. Tokmakjian was arrested in September of 2011, only two months after another Canadian businessman of Armenian origin, Sarkis Yacoubian, had been arrested. Cy heads the Tokmakjian Group, which is an Ontario-based automotive firm. Prior to its closure in Cuba it was one of the largest foreign companies to have operated on the Communist island over the past 20 years. Through the sale of construction and mining equipment, as well as being the exclusive Hyundai distributor in Cuba, the company took in roughly $80 million per annum. This sum made it the second largest Canadian operation in Cuba. It all came crashing down on that September day in 2011 when agents of the Cuban State Security seized and shut down the local headquarters. Predictably, the regime confiscated the company’s assets which were worth over $100 million.

Fashioned after the Soviet NEP, the Cuban regime under Raúl has been carefully crafting an imaginary economic liberalization that includes major “reforms” such as stamping out corruption. The early Soviets ran a seminal disinformation operation to induce Westerners and some Russian exiles to successfully promote foreign investment in the USSR. The Soviets, who always intended this state capitalism as a temporary measure to improve the economy, later arrested many investors known as the NEP-men on trumped-up charges and confiscated their investments without recourse.

After nearly three years of detention without formal charges leveled against him, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), Granma, reported that Tokmakjian was accused of corruption to obtain benefits in contract negotiations, unauthorized financial transactions, illegally taking large amounts of money out of the country, falsifying documents to avoid taxes and payroll irregularities. Cy Tokmakjian and his family who help run the business back in Canada deny any wrong doing. His lawyers made the decision to appeal the verdict in Cuba’s Supreme Court. Concurrently, Canadian MP Peter Kent, whose district includes the Tokmakjian Group’s headquarters, has warned other businessmen with projects in Cuba to be careful. Curiously, the New York Times is now forcefully advocating for the lifting of the U.S. embargo evidently so that American investors can seize the same “opportunities” as Mr. Tokmakjian.

Sarkis Yacoubian, the other Canadian-Armenian businessman targeted by the Cuban regime, started out as Tokmakjian’s junior partner before creating his own company. Yacoubian’s Tri-Star Caribbean, a transport and trading company developed into a burgeoning $30 million a year business. Regime officials accused Yacoubian of bribery, tax evasion and “activities damaging to the economy.” Unlike Tokmakjian though, Yacoubian decided to cooperate with his captors and provided them the ins and outs of how foreigners conduct business in Cuba. This may be the reason why he was expelled from a Cuban prison this past February and does not have to finish the rest of his nine-year sentence in a Canadian penal institution.

A practical as well as patriotic question arises. Why were Tokmakjian and Yacoubian investing millions of dollars in one of the most corrupt and totalitarian regimes in the world, whilst their ancestral home is in dire need of investments from the Diaspora and foreign businessmen in general? All the hazards, real and imagined, of doing business in Armenia pale in comparison to the hoops and hurdles with which one is confronted in order to succeed in the Cuban business environment. Armenia is under a Turkish and Azerbaijani embargo over which it has no control. Cuba, in contrast, faces only a unilateral American embargo that would end, or at least ease, were the regime to accept the timeless principle that all men are created equal and all deserve to be ruled by a government of their own choosing. In the meantime, any country in the world can and does invest in Cuba helping to prop up a regime that does not respect the rights of its own citizens. It can hardly be expected that this regime will somehow respect the rights of foreign investors. In fact, it would behoove Armenian and other investors to understand that Cuba’s NEP is just an elaborate deception operation. They will soon be victimized one way or another.

The Tokmakjian family released a statement following Cy’s conviction in which they write that since the beginning of their father’s legal ordeal in Cuba, he has been “denied the most fundamental human and civil rights recognized under both Canadian and international law.” What they failed to mention is that the Cuban judicial system is a mockery of law and order.  Any disinterested party could have warned them that investing in Cuba is fraught with pitfalls. When Tokmakjian was doing business in Cuba, making profits, and everything was peachy he willingly ignored the myriad misdeeds of the Castro regime. Investing in Cuba bankrolls the regime by providing much-needed hard currency to support secret police operations and other repressive forces. It propagandizes the illusion of a legitimate place of business. Additionally, the Cuban military leadership controls foreign investment and the Cuban employees of those businesses. This has allowed them to siphon millions of dollars for themselves while paying Cuban workers a pittance.

The moral question in all this is why two individuals who are the descendants of genocide survivors, whose ancestors and fellow Armenians lost property running into the hundreds of billions of dollars at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and now the Republic of Turkey, would invest in a totalitarian state like Cuba. A state which also has profited handsomely from the wholesale murder, looting, and usurpation of properties and other assets once owned by Cubans from all walks of life. It should be noted here that thousands of Armenians found refuge in an ethnically diverse Cuba after the Genocide. In a repeat of history, Armenians were forced to flee their adopted Cuban homeland as the Communist regime still in power today arrested their friends, executed their neighbors and confiscated their properties. If Armenians wish for non-Armenians to take our pain and suffering seriously, if we wish for non-Armenians to join with us in our drive to reclaim our lost properties, then as a community we must condemn any and all activities which profit from the suffering of others.  Hypocrisy is not an option.

On U.N. General Assembly's Vote Against Cuba Sanctions

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Last week, 181 nations voted in the U.N.'s General Assembly ("UNGA") to give Venezuela a seat in the U.N.'s Security Council, despite that government's violations of human rights; subversion of democratic institutions; involvement in international narcotics trafficking; and blatant support for the world's rogue regimes and terrorist organizations.

Today, by a similar margin, the nations of UNGA voted against the United States' policy of conditioning the lifting of Cuba sanctions to the release of political prisoners; the recognition of universally-recognized human rights; and the legalization of political parties, an independent media and labor groups.

Both votes are representative of the moral deficiencies and institutional contradictions plaguing UNGA. Yet, while the Venezuela vote is within UNGAs multilateral purview, the U.S.'s bilateral policy towards Cuba is clearly not.

The decision of which nations the U.S. chooses to conduct commerce with belongs to the U.S. government; specifically, to our democratically-elected Congress. It does not belong to UNGA.

If other nations choose to do business with Cuba's dictatorship, that's (for worse) their prerogative. As a matter of fact, practically every other nation in the world does business with Cuba's dictatorship and we've seen first-hand how those billions are all funneled through Castro's monopolies, while serving no benefit to the Cuban people.

In contrast, the U.S. rightfully believes it's not in its national interest to finance the sole remaining dictatorship in the Americas.

UNGA should instead devote its time to reflecting on its debilitating institutional contradictions.

For example, why does it allow Cuba, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Vietnam to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council?

Why does it always target Israel for human rights violations, but not the world's worst dictatorships?

And last, but not least:

Why did it allow Cuba to escape without reprimand for the most egregious violation -- ever recorded -- of its own Security Council sanctions towards North Korea?