The FARC's (and Castro's) Favorite Congressman

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Here's what international human rights monitors have recently said about repression in Cuba:

"Repression of independent journalists, opposition leaders and human rights activists increased."

-- Amnesty International, 2013 Annual Report

"Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent."

-- Human Rights Watch, 2013 Annual Report

"The principal human rights abuses were abridgment of the right of citizens to change the government and the use of government threats, extrajudicial physical violence, intimidation, mobs, harassment, and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly."

-- U.S. Department of State, 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights

In contrast, here's what U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), one of Congress' staunchest opponents of U.S. policy toward Cuba, told the Boston Globe this weekend:

"It is difficult but it is not oppressive. It is not to minimize the human rights challenges, but there have been changes here that have resulted in more political space."

No Congressman, white-washing Castro's human rights abuses is exactly what you are doing.

Ironically (or hypocritically), this is the same U.S. Rep. McGovern, who stood on the House floor in 2011 to virulently oppose a free trade agreement with our democratic ally, Colombia, arguing:

"We should not be debating this FTA today. We should be waiting until we see real, honest-to-goodness results on the ground in terms of improvements of human rights. When it comes to human rights, M. Chairman, the United States of America should not be a cheap date. We should stand firm, and we should be unabashed in our support for human rights. Vote NO on the Colombia FTA."

No wonder he's the FARC's (and Castro's) favorite Congressman.

Recommended Reading for "Cuban Twitter" Critics: Development as Freedom

Critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba have tried to use the sensationalist reports about the Zunzuneo program ("Cuban Twitter") to renew their attacks on USAID's democracy programs.

Amid their fake outrage, they pose the rhetorical question:

Why is a development agency administering a democracy program?

The answer is simple:

Because "freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its principal means." 

That quote is from Harvard economist and Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen.

It's from his book, "Development as Freedom," which should be recommended reading for those critics who pose the question above.

Here's the book's Introduction:

Development can be seen, it is argued here, as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Focusing on human freedoms contrasts with narrower views of development, such as identifying development with the growth of gross national product, or with the rise in personal incomes, or with industrialization, or with technological advance or with social modernization. Growth of GNP or of individual incomes can, of course, be very important as means to expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the members of the society. But freedoms depend also on other determinants, such as social and economic arrangements (for example, facilities for education and health care) as well as political and civil rights (for example, the liberty to participate in public discussion and scrutiny). Similarly, industrialization or technological progress or social modernization can substantially contribute to expanding human freedom, but freedom depends on other influences as well. If freedom is what development advances, then there is a major argument for concentrating on that overarching objective, rather than on some particular means, or some specially chosen list of instruments. Viewing development in terms of expanding substantive freedoms directs attention to the ends that make development important, rather than merely to some of the means that, inter alia, play a prominent part in the process.

Quote of the Day: "Cuban Twitter" is a Good Thing

Using a Twitter feed or a messaging system that allows Cubans to communicate with each other is a good thing, no matter who pays for it.
-- U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL), on USAID's Zunzuneo ("Cuban Twitter") program, AP, 4/22/14

Another Reason Why Cuba Remains a State-Sponsor of Terrorism

From The Miami Herald:

U.S. fugitive and renegade CIA agent Frank Terpil is still living in Havana and easily recounting his days helping former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to murder his political enemies, according to a recently released British documentary.

Co-producer Michael Chrisman said Terpil, 74, was interviewed at his Havana home in December and gave the impression of leading a somewhat bored life, “with little to do (and) spending much time frequenting Havana watering holes nursing a drink.”

He has a much younger Cuban girlfriend, and asks friends and visitors to supply him with the occasional English language book, said Chrisman. The Showtime documentary is titled “Mad Dog: Inside the Secret World of Muammar Gaddafi.”

The interview focused on Terpil’s relations with the Libyan dictator, killed in a 2011 revolt, and not on his links to his Cuban hosts because “he was no doubt taking a gamble upsetting them by doing the interview,” the co-producer added.

Terpil, a CIA operative who resigned from the agency in 1970, is one of more than 70 U.S. fugitives reported to have received safe haven in Cuba. Many are viewed by Havana as victims of U.S. political persecution, such as black-rights militant Joanne Chesimard.

He fled the United States in 1980 to escape a U.S. indictment on charges of conspiracy to murder and delivering more than 20 tons of plastic explosives to Gadhafi and turned up in Lebanon but eventually settled in Cuba.

Cuba’s General Intelligence Directorate recruited Terpil, gave him the code name of Curiel — guinea pig — and used him in 1987 to try to recruit a CIA worker in the former Czechoslovakia, retired agency analyst Brian Latell wrote in his book, Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, the CIA and the Kennedy Assassination.

Why Raul's Reforms Don't Work

Answer: Because they are cosmetic.

There's no clearer evidence that Cuban dictator Raul Castro's reforms are cosmetic than the fact that they fail to deliver results.

Last month, AFP reported on the agricultural "reforms," which were the centerpiece of Raul's policy:

Agriculture, which Cuban leader Raul Castro had declared the centerpiece of his economic reforms six years ago, remains stalled due to lack of investment and other issues, while the millions in food imports continue to pose a fiscal drain.

The Ministry of Agriculture notes that the major pitfalls in Cuban farming are financial, even though there also exist "deficiencies" in the investment process, like badly executed projects and the misuse of technologies, according to the state daily Granma.

And today, AP reports on the failure of Raul's real estate "reforms":

Despite reforms in recent years to address the island’s housing problem, such building collapses remain common in Cuba, where decades of neglect and a dearth of new home construction have left untold thousands of islanders living in crowded structures at risk of suddenly falling down.


When President Raul Castro legalized a real estate market for the first time in five decades, it was supposed to stimulate both new construction and maintenance of existing homes. But 2½ years later, there has been only a minimal impact on easing one of Cuba’s biggest challenges: a chronic lack of suitable housing.

Regardless of the rhetoric, both of these "reforms" share the same obstacle:

That the Castro regime refuses to give up absolute control.

41st Sunday in a Row: Ladies in White Beaten, Arrested

For the 41st Sunday in a row, dozens of the The Ladies in White were beaten and arrested throughout the island.

The Ladies in White is a pro-democracy group composed of the mothers, wives, sisters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners,

At least 17 were arrested in Havana, 18 in Matanzas, 7 in Bayamo and 8 in Holguin.

Meanwhile, in the easternmost province of Santiago de Cuba, over 29 were arrested, including the regional leader of the group, Belkis Cantillo.

To add insult to injury, at a funeral yesterday for the father of Ibis Maria Rodriguez, a member of The Ladies in White, the political police physically assaulted Ibis and other dissidents. It also arrested her husband, Fermin Zamora Vazquez.

Pictured below: Police operation ready to confront The Ladies in White, as they peacefully walk together after Eastern Mass in Matanzas.

Tweet of the Day: In Mariel, Castro Will Only Steal 2/3 of Worker's Salary

By Cuban blogger and democracy activist, Henry Constantin:

Good news for workers in #Cuba. In #Mariel, the state will only steal two-thirds of the salary that foreign companies offer you. 

WSJ: Three Easters in a Cuban Prison

Monday, April 21, 2014
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Easter No. 3 for a Prisoner of Castro

Bearing witness to Cuba's political persecution costs Sonia Garro her freedom.

Christians the world over celebrated the resurrection of their savior on Sunday with worship services and family gatherings. Thirty-eight-year-old Sonia Garro shares the faith too, but she spent the holiday in a Cuban dungeon as a prisoner of conscience, just as she has for the past two years.

Ms. Garro is a member of the Christian dissident group Ladies in White, started in Havana in 2003 by sisters, wives and mothers of political prisoners to peacefully protest the unjust incarceration of their loved ones. It has since expanded to other parts of the country and added many recruits. The group's growing popularity has worried the Castros, and they have responded with increasing brutality.

Cuba's military government wants us to believe that the Brothers Fidel and Raul Castro are "reforming." To buy that line you have to pretend that Ms. Garro and her sisters in Christ don't exist. Of course that's often the impression one gets from Havana-based reporters working for foreign media outlets.

They've been invited into the country not to serve the truth but to serve the dictatorship. Fortunately, there are brave and independent Cuban journalists who continue to tell the Ladies' story, despite scant resources.

In the late winter of 2012, Cubans were looking forward to a visit from Pope Benedict XVI and the Ladies were lobbying the Vatican for an audience. Their relentless pleading was embarrassing the dictatorship, which had been beating them in the streets on their way to Sunday Mass for almost a decade. It was also making the Church, which had already cut its own deal with the regime on the terms of the visit, look bad. On the weekend of March 17 Castro sent the Ladies a warning by locking up some 70 of their members.

Most of those detained, including leader Berta Soler, had been freed by the time the pontiff touched down in Cuba nine days later, but Ms. Garro was not. Benedict celebrated some Masses, did photo ops with the despots and left.

It was a clever strategy: The world saw the release of the many Ladies, which obscured the continued detention of the one. That one—poor, black and not well known internationally—serves, to this day, as a constant reminder of the wrath Castro will bring down on anyone in the barrios who gets out of line.

By 2012 Ms. Garro already had experience with state violence. Her record of counterrevolutionary activities included running a recreation center in her home for troubled youths. For that she was twice beaten by government-sanctioned mobs. She suffered a broken nose in police detention in 2010.

When security agents took her home to put her under house arrest ahead of the pope's visit, she was met by a mob sent to harass her. Her husband, Ramon Alejandro Muñoz, had climbed to the roof and was chanting anti-dictatorship slogans. Two neighbors took the couple's side. Special-forces police were called in. They raided the home, shot Ms. Garro in the leg with rubber bullets and hauled the couple and two neighbors to jail.

Eighteen months later prosecutors charged Ms. Garro with assault, attempted murder and public disorder. Her husband and one neighbor, Eugenio Hernández, are accused of attempted murder and public disorder. The prosecution is seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Ms. Garro, 14 years for Mr. Muñoz, and 11 years for Mr. Hernández.

Anyone who has ever read about Soviet show trials will recognize the state's case. The prosecutors claim that Messrs. Muñoz and Hernández were both on the roof and knew a police officer could have been killed when they threw things to try to stop him from climbing a ladder to reach them.

The regime alleges that the couple had been planning street disturbances. The "evidence" confiscated from their home included bottles, machetes, rebar and cardboard protest signs. The state claims that containers with fuel found in the home were Molotov cocktails.

Every household item or piece of scrap found in a poor Cuban household is considered a weapon when the state wants to convict a prisoner. By its logic the frying pan and the iron should have been cited too. With good aim, they can be deadly. As to the combustibles inside the home, Ms. Garro's sister Yamilet Garro told independent journalist Augusto Cesar San Martín Albistur, "the items were for lighting during the blackouts that are quite common in the area." For Castro, the most dangerous items were the antigovernment signs.

Ms. Garro's real crime is her refusal to surrender her soul to the state. That makes her an exemplary Christian but a lousy revolutionary. The peril she presents is showing Cubans how to be both.