Was Raul's Son-in-Law Involved in Cuba-North Korea Arms Trafficking?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
In March 2014, the U.N.'s Panel of Experts released a detailed report ("POE Report") of the Chong Chon Gang incident, which provided details of the illegal arms smuggling operation between Cuba and North Korea.

The POE Report highlighted the military cooperation between Cuban and North Korean officials; explained the techniques used for international sanctions evasion; provided a detailed list of the weapons and weapons systems onboard; revealed the "secret" instructions given to the ship's captain; the comprehensive, planned strategy to conceal the nature of the cargo; and exposed Cuba's false claims and subsequent cover-up attempts.

The one section not released in the POE Report was the "confidential annex" containing the list of Cuban and North Korean officials, and entities, involved.

A month before the POE Report was released, it was leaked that there would be at least two sanction designations related to the Chong Chon Gang incident.

Moreover, that China and Russia had been opposed to the POE Report being made public.

However, yesterday the U.N. Security Council's Sanctions Committee only blacklisted one entity, Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., the operator/manager of the Chong Chon Gang.

The "confidential annex" should also be made public and the U.N.'s Panel of Experts should release a list of all suspected Cuban and North Korean officials, and entities, involved in the shipment.

According to The Miami Herald:

"One of the Cubans allegedly involved is Brig. Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, in charge of several military enterprises and the port of Mariel, where the weapons were loaded on the freighter. He’s also a son-in-law of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro."

If so, General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas should be sanctioned.

Note that, according to the POE Report, the Cuban regime refused to cooperate with the U.N.'s Panel of Experts -- citing confidentiality clauses in its business arrangements with Pyongyang.

How's that for shady?

Image: Lopez-Callejas is second to the right, next to Raul Castro, receiving a briefing on the new Port of Mariel facility.

Antunez's Wife Visits Congress, Denounces Increased Repression

From McClatchy News:

U.S. Reps meet with wife of prominent Cuban dissident who describes beatings, arrests

Five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, -- including four from Florida – met with the wife of Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, who described the ongoing, systemic repression she and her husband have suffered.

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is a human rights activist who has suffered threats, beatings and harassment at the hands of Cuban authorities because of her efforts, according to Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat from Miami who said he was “truly inspired by this couple’s untiring commitment to the Cuban people and their courage and bravery in the face of continuing abuses by the Cuban regime.”

Also at the meeting late Tuesday afternoon: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R, Miami), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, Miami), Curt Clawson (R, Bonita Springs) and Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat from New Jersey.

In a meeting with the House members and a short talk with reporters afterward, Pérez Aguilera described the arrests and ransacking of their home earlier this year. They took everything –- “They even took our family pictures,” she said through a translator.

She plans to meet with Senate officials on Wednesday.

International NGO Files U.N. Inquiry Into Attack on Cuban Journalist

Cuba: HRF Asks U.N. to Inquire Into Attack on Journalist

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has submitted a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (U.N. Special Rapporteur), requesting that he send an urgent appeal to the government of Cuba regarding the brutal assault of Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez on June 11, 2014, and the repeated threats on his life. Guerra, who is the founder and director of the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS) in Cuba, was attacked solely for exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

HRF’s petition includes an account of the attack on Guerra, points to strong indications that the attack was ordered by Cuban government agents, and documents the latest threats against other journalists at CIHPRESS, including Guerra’s wife. The petition calls on the U.N. Special Rapporteur to request that the government of Cuba “adopt immediate measures to protect the right to life, security and physical integrity of Roberto Guerra and that of his family.” It also asks the rapporteur to request the government of Cuba “to take all necessary measures to ensure the cessation of physical and verbal attacks on Guerra, as well as to offer assurances and guarantees of non-repetition with regards to these attacks.”

Retaliation against independent journalists is a common occurrence in a country that ranks only “behind Iran and China as one of the world’s biggest prisons for the media.” In 2012, in the infamous case of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, the Cuban government arrested and imprisoned a CIHPRESS journalist for seven months for reporting on the existence of a cholera and dengue outbreak that the government attempted to conceal.

“The Cuban regime is required to comply with the rule of general international law that establishes the obligation of ‘cessation and non-repetition’ of acts or omissions that constitute internationally wrongful acts. This means that Cuba must guarantee that attacks against Guerra stop, and ensure that they never happen again,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s general counsel. “Cuba may not be a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but as a member of the U.N., it can be held accountable for violations to the right of freedom of expression of its citizens. This right is enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a binding instrument of customary international law signed by Cuba in 1948,” said El-Hage.

North Korean Company Gets Sanctioned, Cuba Gets Lectured

Today, the U.N. Security Council ("UNSC") blacklisted Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., the operator/manager of the North Korean vessel, Chong Chon Gang.

As such, the company will be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

The Chong Chon Gang was intercepted last year by the Panamanian authorities (as it approached the Canal) trying to smuggle 240 tons of weapons from Cuba to North Korea.

A March 2014 report by the U.N.'s Panel of Experts on international sanctions highlighted the extent and gravity of this illegal Cuba-North Korea operation.

According to today's announcement by the UNSC:

"[Ocean Maritime Management Company, Limited] played a key role in arranging the shipment of concealed cargo of arms and related materiel from Cuba to the DPRK in July 2013. As such, it contributed to activities prohibited by the resolutions, namely the arms embargo imposed by resolution 1718 (2006), as modified by resolution 1874 (2009), and contributed to the evasion of the measures imposed by these resolutions."

In other words, the Kim regime will have a shadow company marginalized.

(Of course, it could just open a replacement -- but something is better than nothing.)

Meanwhile, the Castro regime will (thus far) suffer no consequences -- other than a lecture.

This, despite the fact that the U.N. Panel of Experts recognized the Castro regime intentionally lied to the international community about the weapons shipment.

No word on whether this will be the only sanction issued pursuant to the Chong Chon Gang incident.

But it's hard to fathom how the transport company gets sanctioned, while the supplier (and even the main purchaser) get away unscathed.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, issued a strong and commendable statement (below), but it's unfortunately overshadowed by the tepid action of the UNSC.

It should be of no surprise that other North Korean vessels continue making similar trips to Cuba, while turning off their transponders to avoid detection.

After all, who's there to be afraid of? 

The UNSC?

Here's Ambassador Power's statement:

"In July 2013, Panama seized arms aboard the vessel Chong Chon Gang that were en route from Cuba to North Korea, one of the most serious violations of the UN arms embargo on North Korea. This was a cynical, outrageous and illegal attempt by Cuba and North Korea to circumvent United Nations sanctions prohibiting the export of weapons to North Korea. That is why the Security Council's DPRK Sanctions Committee acted today to punish the North Korean regime for its latest attempt to side-step international law.

Since the Chong Chon Gang incident, the Committee has undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the violation and uncovered irrefutable facts that clearly prove Cuba and the DPRK’s intentions to violate sanctions by employing highly sophisticated deception and obfuscation techniques, including Cuba’s false claims about the transaction being a routine repair effort when detected by Panamanian and UN authorities.

With today’s welcome imposition of a global asset freeze on Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), the North Korean firm that operated the vessel, its fleet of shipping vessels will no longer be able to operate internationally. The designation of OMM sends an important message to the companies directly involved in violations of UN sanctions regimes: we will find you and hold you accountable.

We also welcome the Committee's release of an Implementation Assistance Notice to publicize the facts of the case and advise states on how to protect themselves from future arms smuggling attempts. We are pleased that with this Notice, the international community has refuted Cuba's erroneous and misleading claim that this arms shipment was allowed under UN Security Council resolutions.

The United States remains concerned about attempts by North Korea to circumvent international sanctions, and strongly condemns any efforts by nations such as Cuba to assist in the illegal evasion of binding decisions of the Council. We will remain vigilant in the enforcement of Security Council sanctions, and applaud the actions of Panama in this instance. Likewise, we applaud the cooperation and efforts of the DPRK Sanctions Committee and urge the Committee to do everything in its power to enforce the vital North Korean sanctions regime."

Must-Read: The Real Cuban Blockade

Explained in a series of tweets by Cuban blogger, Yusnaby Perez:

- When they talk about the blockade that #Cuba suffers. Tell them they are right! Castro & Family control 100% of the national economy.

- Pretend that I want to start a business that provides Internet to the Cuban people. Castro prohibits it. Blockade? Yes!

- Pretend that I want to establish a milk factory to feed children over 7 years old. Castro prohibits it. Blockade? Yes!

- Pretend that I want to open a supermarket in #Cuba with suppliers from abroad. Castro prohibits it. Blockade? Yes!

- No Cuban has a right to import/export or open a supermarket in #Cuba. The shortages are 100% responsibility of the state.

Quote of the Day: Cuban Rapper on Raul's "Reforms"

I don't think there's been any [opening] as there are tons of artists who are censured in Cuba. If there had been change, everyone would be able to work and everyone would be able to have their own space to give concerts. "Non-professional" artists, who are still artists, can't work in state establishments. It's always a problem because you don't have a work permit. When they have no other excuse to give you, they tell you that you're not a professional and that you can't work. So what opening has there been? Everything is the same.
-- Bian Oscar Rodríguez (“El Bi”), from the Cuban hip-hop group Los Aldeanos, interview in El Nuevo Herald, 7/28/14

Deutsche Bank Shed Cuba Business

Excerpt from The New York Times:

Deutsche Bank, based in Frankfurt, disclosed that it had received requests for information from regulators related to high-frequency trading. The bank said it was cooperating with the inquiries, though it did not disclose what countries the regulators were from. The bank also said it had been named as a defendant in class-action suits in the United States related to high-frequency trading.

The bank increased the amount set aside for litigation expenses by €470 million, bringing the total to €2.2 billion. The increase came in response to recent settlements paid by other banks, Stefan Krause, Deutsche Bank’s chief financial officer, said during a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.

BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, agreed on July 1 to pay $8.9 billion to settle charges in the United States that it had conducted business with countries that face United States sanctions. Deutsche Bank is among the banks under investigation for similar violations. The German bank said in its second-quarter report that it had not accepted any new business from Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba and certain Syrian banks since 2006.

Is North Korea Selling (Cuban) Arms to Hamas?

Monday, July 28, 2014
According to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, Hamas militants are attempting to negotiate an arms deal with North Korea for missiles and communications equipment that will allow them to maintain their offensive against Israel.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, a U.S. federal court ruled that North Korea provided rocket and missile components for Hezbollah to use in its 2006 attacks against Israel.

According to the ruling, “North Korea provided Hezbollah with advanced weapons, expert advice and construction assistance in hiding these weapons in underground bunkers, and training in utilizing these weapons and bunkers to cause terrorist rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population.

Arms sales continues to be one of the Kim regime's top revenue sources. The question remains: where does it get the weapons from?

Last year, the Cuban regime was caught red-handed smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea. This constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from North Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718 (2006).

The interdicted shipment, aboard the Chong Chon Gang, included surface-to-air missile systems (that can take down planes), missile components, ammunition, radars and other miscellaneous arms-related materiel.

What if these missile systems had ended up in the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah?

Other Cuban weaponry may have, as there were at least seven other North Korean vessels that made similarly elusive trips (as the Chong Chon Gang) to Cuban in the last few years.

Regardless, this is another reason why Cuban officials and entities responsible arms trafficking with North Korea must face consequences for their illegal actions.