Castro Asks, Flake-Leahy Deliver

Friday, January 30, 2015
Just 24 hours after Cuban dictator Raul Castro demanded a whole new series of concessions from the Obama Administration, U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sought to satisfy him.

President Obama already -- unilaterally and unconditionally -- handed over most of his leverage on December 17th, so Flake and Leahy had to step up to the plate.

Thus, they introduced legislation to lift the tourism ban and provide the Cuban military with a cash windfall.

Note the lifting of the tourism ban has been a priority demand specifically relayed to the Obama Administration on numerous occasions.

For those unaware, the Cuban military owns and operates the island's tourism industry -- hotels, restaurants, gas stations, car rentals, nightclubs, etc.

As a matter of fact, Hotels Magazine recently recognized the Cuban military as the largest hotel conglomerate in Latin America.

Tourism to Cuba's regime is akin to oil for Iran's.

And yet, that's exactly what Flake and Leahy's bill would deliver on a golden platter.

MSNBC: Not Satisfied, Raul Castro Issues New Demands of Obama

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Interview with Mauricio Claver-Carone on MSNBC's The Rundown.

Watch below (or click here):

Quote of the Day: No Tourism Concessions to the Cuban Military

We should not aspire to help the Castro regime fill the coffers of its military monopolies with the dollars of American tourists while the Cuban people still struggle to make ends meet and are forced to labor under the oppressive conditions dictated by their government. Any further changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba and additional sanctions relief must be conditioned on the Castro regime’s actions.
-- U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, on legislation introduced today to lift the tourism ban towards Cuba, USA Today, 1/29/15

Castro Knows He Can Keep Upping the Bid on Obama

From Investors Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Castro Is Now Issuing Demands On U.S. -- Well Done, Mr. Obama

Soon after President Obama announced plans to normalize relations with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio called him the worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter. Cuban officials are now proving Rubio right.

As soon as Obama made his announcement, it became clear he'd pretty much given up the store and gotten nothing in return.

Cuba didn't have to make any concessions on freedom of speech, democratic elections, a market economy. It didn't have to turn over U.S. fugitives, including a convicted cop killer, whom it's been protecting for years.

Indeed, as we noted in this space after Obama's announcement, Raul Castro was soon bragging about how he'd struck a deal with Obama "without a single sacrifice of our principles."

Castro apparently feels no need to do so in the future, either. After the opening round of talks, Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal told the AP that "changes in Cuba aren't negotiable."

Now, to add insult to injury, Castro has started issuing his own set of demands.

In a speech at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica on Wednesday, he said there'd be no normalization of relations unless the U.S. ends the trade embargo, closes the naval base at Guantanamo Bay and takes Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terror.

Oh, and he also wants the U.S. to stop allowing Cubans to stay in this country just because they manage to set foot on American soil. That's been causing a brain drain from the island, you see.

Castro has even told Obama what to do, saying in his speech the president should "use with resolve his broad executive powers to substantially change the scope of the blockade, even without the Congress' decision."

Why shouldn't Castro be so brazen? Obama has already shown his hand. So Castro knows he can keep upping the bid, assuming — most likely correctly — that Obama will do anything to keep the normalization process from folding.

If this were the only time Obama has miserably failed at the bargaining table, it would be bad enough. But it's just the latest in an continuing and ominous pattern — from his dealings with Iran, his prisoner exchange with the Taliban, his phony "red line" in Syria, his "reset" with Russia, etc.

Come to think of it, saying Obama is the worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter is actually an insult to Carter.

The Odds of Congress Lifting the Cuban Embargo

Excerpt from McClatchy News:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who stands 5-foot-7, joked that the odds of Congress lifting the trade embargo on Cuba are about the same as his own chances of playing professional basketball in the NBA.

Either Raul Lied or Obama Misled on Cuba

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
On December 17th, President Obama announced a deal with Cuban dictator Raul Castro -- pursuant to 18 months of secret negotiations -- in which he gave a whole lot of concessions for very little in return.

Last week, we detailed how Obama's Cuba deal had gone from bad to worse.

It's now officially hit rock bottom.

During a speech today in Costa Rica, Castro stated that his regime would not cede "a millimeter."

Moreover, that the "normalization" of relations would not advance until Obama met a series of further concessions.

In Raul's own words:

"The re-establishment of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process toward the normalization of bilateral relations, but this will not be possible while the blockade remains in effect; the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo Naval Base is not returned; the radio and television broadcasts breaching international rules and regulations do not cease; and, adequate compensation is not paid to our people for the human and economic damages sustained. If these issues are not resolved, a diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States would not make any sense."

Thus, either Raul Castro lied to Obama -- or Obama misled the American people about the terms of his deal with Castro.

Cuba Remains World's Second Least-Free Economy

According to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, which was released today, Cuba remains the world's second least-free economy.

Cuba ranked 177 out of 178 in the world. Only North Korea is less free.

The Index of Economic Freedom is an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.

The reason for Cuba's dismal placement is the Castro regime's insistence on monopolizing all foreign trade and investment, and the lack of a rule of law.

So why isn't U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker leading a trade delegation to Zimbabwe, which is two-notches freer than Cuba?

Why isn't the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forming a Working Group for Iran, which is six-notches freer than Cuba?

Or how about a U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Belarus, which is fourteen-notches freer than Cuba?

Rather, why are the Obama Administration and its agri-business allies so intent on financing Castro's brutal, monopolistic dictatorship?

Cuban Dissident Rapper Gets One-Year Prison Sentence Today

Today, the Castro regime handed rapper, Maikel Oksobo (known as "El Dkano"), an arbitrary one-year prison sentence.

He was sentenced under a draconian charge known as "peligrosidad predelictiva" ("dangerousness likely leading to a crime"), which is used to imprison dissidents for long terms.

As part of the Obama-Castro deal of December 17th, another imprisoned rapper, Angel Yunier Remon ("El Critico") was recently released.

However, he has now been replaced in Castro's "revolving-door" of political prisoners by another dissident rapper.

Meanwhile, Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado ("El Sexto") remains imprisoned since Christmas Day and is currently in poor health, battling pneumonia in the Valle Grande Prison.

The Obama-Castro deal is clearly a farce-a-minute.