Cuba Conspicuously Missing From 2016 Basel Bank Transparency Index

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Last month, the Basel Institute on Governance released its 2016 Basel AML Index.

The Basel AML Index is the most renowned, annual ranking assessing country risk regarding money laundering/terrorism financing. It focuses on anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF) frameworks and other related factors such as financial/public transparency and judicial strength.

The Index measured 149 countries, including such troubling actors as Iran, Venezuela, Myanmar, Sudan, China, Vietnam, Russia and Zimbabwe.

Yet, Cuba is conspicuously missing from its report. 

The other two nations notably missing are Syria and North Korea.

Perhaps the reason for their absence is the lack of publicly available data sources for Cuba, along with Syria and North Korea.

But that -- in itself -- doesn't bode well for transparency.

Yet, the Obama Administration is encouraging banking transactions with Cuba's wholly state-owned, non-transparent banking system?

The Obama Administration is authorizing dollar transactions abroad (U-turn) by Cuba's secretive banks?

The Obama Administration recruited a small, local, real-estate bank with no international experience, South Florida's Stonegate Bank, to open a correspondent account and handle transactions with Cuba's shady banks?

Would Obama do the same for Syria and North Korea? Well, actually, never mind...

Just recently, we had noted how Cuba's Banco Financiero Internacional was now directly taken over (overnight) by Castro's military conglomerate, GAESA. This state-owned bank is solely empowered by the Castro regime to conduct commercial banking operations in convertible currencies. Virtually every foreign company and person engaged in business on the island must open an account in this bank.

These are not "positive steps" as The White House's "echo chamber" likes to propagate.

Obama may be willing to sacrifice transparency and security for his "legacy," but regulators and other career officials that will outlast his presidency definitely should not.

Tweet of the Day: On Obama, Cuba and Iran

Is There Any Dictator That Hasn't Fooled (Manipulated) Obama?

Two very troubling reports today.

In short, not only did Syria's Assad and Iran's Mullahs completely fool and manipulate Obama -- as has Cuba's Castro dictatorship -- but tens of thousands of innocent lives were (and continue to be) sacrificed for Obama's "legacy."

From Foreign Policy:

U.S. and Europe Say Assad May Have Kept Some Chemical Weapons

Damascus promised to destroy its entire arsenal, but the world’s chemical weapons watchdog suggests Assad may have squirreled some away.

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog has repeatedly found traces of deadly nerve agents in laboratories that Syria insisted were never part of its chemical weapons program, raising new questions about whether Damascus has abided by its commitments to destroy all of its armaments, according to a highly confidential new report.

The discoveries of precursors for chemical warfare agents like soman and VX at several undeclared facilities, including two on the outskirts of Damascus, underscored what a 75-page report by the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) describes as a troubling pattern of incomplete and inaccurate Syrian disclosures over the past three years about the scope of the country’s chemical weapons program.

From The Business Insider:

Obama reportedly declined to enforce red line in Syria after Iran threatened to back out of nuclear deal

President Barack Obama infamously drew a "red line" with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria only to back away from it, and we now know why.

Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon, who recently wrote a book called "The Iran Wars," told MSNBC on Monday that the Obama administration's determination to close the Iran nuclear deal is to blame for the failure to act on its own red line in Syria.

"When the president announced his plans to attack [the Assad regime] and then pulled back, it was exactly the period in time when American negotiators were meeting with Iranian negotiators secretly in Oman to get the nuclear agreement," Solomon said.

"US and Iranian officials have both told me that they were basically communicating that if the US starts hitting President Assad's forces, Iran's closest Arab ally ... these talks cannot conclude."

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a powerful military arm in Iran, reportedly "would not accept a continued engagement with the US if its closest ally was being hit," Solomon said.

Obama's Cuba Policy Opens Doors -- For Iran

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
During a radio interview this week, Democrat vice-presidential nominee, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, stated that Obama's Cuba policy "has already opened doors in the Americas with other countries."

Opened doors for Iran, perhaps.

Senator Kaine's statement seems particularly out-of-touch as Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is currently in Cuba for the kickoff of a Latin America tour.

It's also out-of-touch as Cuba's puppet-regime in Venezuela further radicalizes and Nicaragua transitions from democracy to dictatorship.

A word of advice for Senator Kaine: Be weary of Ben Rhodes' talking points.

From AFP:

Iran seeks closer Cuba ties, ‘praises resistance’

Iran wants to forge a “new path” in its relations with Cuba by tightening ties, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday at the start of a Latin American tour.

“It’s a very opportune moment to extend our relations,” he told journalists at the start of a meeting with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

“We have always been on the side of the great Cuban people in the face of the atrocities and unjust sanctions they have faced, and vice versa,” he said, in an apparent reference to Cuba’s long history of enmity with the United States.

“We are going to forge a new path in our bilateral relations with Cuba,” he said, mentioning the energy, industrial and technology sectors as possible areas for cooperation.

Rodriguez for his part reiterated Cuba’s support for Iran in its dispute with the United States and other world powers over its nuclear program.

Iran sealed a deal last year with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US to limit the program in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

But although the deal took effect in January, Iran says it is still largely cut off from the international financial system.

“We continue to oppose all sanctions and unilateral coercive measures, especially in the financial domain,” said Rodriguez.

Zarif, who is traveling with a large delegation of officials and business executives, will also visit Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela on his trip, according to Cuban state media.

Must-Read: Do Cuban Lives Matter to Obama?

By Guillermo I. Martinez in The Sun-Sentinel:

Do Cuban lives matter to Obama?

Cuban lives don't matter all that much to President Obama

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas has met with President Barack Obama at least twice. Together they discussed the lack of personal freedom in Cuba.

That was before President Obama went on a well-deserved golfing vacation while Fariñas was in the fourth week of a hunger strike in Cuba. By the time this column is printed, Obama will be visiting the destruction caused by the floods in Louisiana —and Fariñas may be dead.

In December 2014, Obama decided he wanted his legacy to show he had improved relations between Cuba and the United States. Since then, the United States has given many benefits to the Cuban government.

American tourists are traveling to Cuba in ever-growing numbers. Cubans escape the island and come to seek refuge in the United States, only to return to the island after a year and a day. Some go to see relatives while others go to enjoy a break from the tough life they have endured in the United States.

They all take money to Cuba. This money does not end up in the pockets of ordinary Cubans. All the money American tourists and Cubans who come and go freely to the island bring ends up in the hands of the Cuban Armed Forces – charged by the Castro regime with the responsibility of collecting and spending, as they see fit, all the dollars that flow to the island.

Since Obama opened the doors to more exchanges with Cuba, the Cuban government has repaid the American president by making life harder for all those on the island who dare oppose the regime.

Dissidents are beaten, repressed and jailed with increasing frequency.

Nobody knows precisely how many are beaten or jailed, but most international human rights organizations say the number has more than doubled in the nearly two years since Obama decided to improve relations with the Castro regime.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro turned 90 years old this past week, and his brother Raul rules in much the same ruthless manner as his brother. He has made it clear he will not respond to American acts of rapprochement with any acts of kindness or making things easier for the people of Cuba.

It is an uneven deal the one Obama and the younger Castro brother agreed to in 2014. In it, the Americans give and Cuba takes all it can while at the same time it increases internal repression.

That is the legacy of President Obama in Cuba.

To be precise, his legacy is best seen in the month-long hunger strike by Fariñas. He has said his condition for ending his hunger strike is for the Cuban government to stop beating dissidents who peacefully demonstrate for human rights.

News from the 54-year-old Cuban comes from his mother, and is circulated on the internet by those who really care about him. News of his giving up the hunger strike or dying as a result of it will make it to the main news media. But for his day-to-day condition, there is little interest in the American media.

Obama, the first African-American president, is concerned about the lives of African-Americans killed in American cities. But he cares little for the life of that brave, black Cuban man who is willing to die so others on the island will not be repressed by the lack of interest from the White House in those who dare protest peacefully in Cuba.

Yes, in the United States and to President Obama, "Black Lives Matter" as long as they are American lives. He cares little for the life of a Black Cuban.

If Fariñas dies, that will be the true legacy of President Obama's new Cuban policy.


Tweet of the Day: From Daughter of Dying Cuban Democracy Leader

Tweet from the daughter of Cuban democracy leader, Guillermo Fariñas, who is on the 32nd day of his hunger strike:

I don't understand. Where is the humanity of Pope Francis when in Cuba Guillermo Fariñas is slowly dying for the sake of human rights?  

Cuban Democracy Activists Ask Obama to Support Fariñas #juntoacoco

Monday, August 22, 2016
From 14ymedio (via Translating Cuba):

FANTU Activists Ask Obama to “Save the Life” of Guillermo Fariñas

A group of activists from the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) have sent an open letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to “save the life of Guillermo Fariñas Hernández” who, as of Sunday, has been on a hunger strike for 32 days. The missive is addressed to the leader as “president of the country which is a beacon of human rights in the world.”

Seven members of the opposition organization which is led by Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, are asking Obama to “use his political wisdom to take any action” that would avoid the death of the dissident. However, they clarify that the letter is not asking the US president to do “something tied to politics.”

The opponents explain that “Fariñas Hernández’s strike is against violence, he has not called for the overthrow of the government.” Instead, with his prolonged fasting, the activist from Santa Clara is demanding “the end to the oppression by some against others because of the way they think or how they choose to honestly obtain their income.”

Which, according to the signers, “is not to risk a life on a hunger strike, because it is the very essence of the democratic governments of all countries in the world.”

Guillermo Fariñas has been very critical of the process of normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States that began during the administration of Barack Obama.

Since December 17, 2014, when the diplomatic thaw was publicly announced, Fariñas has labeled the actions of the US president as a betrayal of Cuban dissidents.

Iranian Foreign Minister Arrives in Cuba

Remember when the Obama Administration argued its new Cuba policy would help promote U.S. interests in the region?

Yeah, that was funny.

From Iranian state media:

Zarif arrives in Cuba

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, heading a 120-member politico-economic delegation, arrived here on Sunday night at the first leg of his Latin American tour.

The exclusive aircraft carrying Iranian delegation arrived in Havana International Airport after a 16-hour flight.

Heading a political and economic delegation, Zarif will travel to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela, respectively after wrapping his visit to Cuba and during his week-long Latin American tour.

Zarif visit is aimed at fostering Iran’s political and economic relations with Latin American countries after the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and removal of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

An economic delegation consisting of 60 businesspersons and directors of the companies active in different arenas, technical and engineering service in particular, accompany Zarif during his visit.

Iranian foreign minister would stay in one country each day and hold talks with senior officials of Latin American countries.

Iran attaches great importance to expansion of all-out cooperation with the Latin American countries.