Putin Names Cuba Adviser as Russia's New Intel Chief

Monday, September 26, 2016
Earlier this year, General James R. Clapper, the U.S Director of National Intelligence, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that:

"The threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and nonstate, is persistent, complex, and evolving. Targeting and collection of US political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated. Russia and China pose the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale."

Only one of these nations is in the Western Hemisphere -- just 90 miles from the United States. 

In the last week alone, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Havana to discuss (further) strengthening ties with Castro's regime.

In other words, contrary to the argument of President Obama and his supporters, The White House's new Cuba policy has only emboldened and coalesced these anti-American regimes.

Also this week, Russia's Vladimir Putin named Sergei Naryshkin as head of its notorious foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR.

Naryshkin is a long-time Putin confidant. They first met as pupils at the KGB's "training school" in the late 1970s.

He is also a long-time Cuba hand.  

Naryshkin travels to Havana frequently and has very close relationships with senior Castro regime officials, whom he recently referred to as "Russia's most trustworthy partners in Latin America."

He led the effort to forgive 90% of Castro's debt to Russia and has been a proponent of Cuba forming part of Russia's political-military alliance, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

(Learn more here.)

In The Washington Post last week, U.S. officials estimated that Russia's SVR, now led by Naryshkin, is believed to have 150 or more operatives in the United States.

Add to that Cuba's vast network of intelligence operatives in the United States, which has been exacerbated by Obama's new policy -- along with the Castro regime's unprecedented access to U.S. officials, Members of Congress, celebrities and business leaders -- and it's a bonanza for intelligence collection, influence and blackmail.

Picture below: Naryshkin (with a red cap) recently taking a tour of Old Havana, the Cuban military's newest tourism holding.

ALERT: Number of Female Cuban Political Prisoners Grows, Violence Intensifies

Sunday, September 25, 2016
The Castro regime is taking full advantage of the Obama Administration's policy distractions -- and the media's willful blindness -- to intensify repression against female democracy activists and add new political prisoners to its roster.

Please take note of the following cases of grave concern:

-- Yaquelin Heredia Morales (pictured below), of The Ladies in White and Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), remains held at a prison for patients with HIV/AIDS (Yaquelin does not have AIDS) since April 15th, 2016, for staging a peaceful pro-democracy protest in Havana's Fraternidad Park. On September 12th, Yaquelin was brutally beaten by the military head of the prison, Jorge Luis Castillo.

-- Marietta Martinez Aguilera, of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), was transferred from the Prisión de Mujeres de Occidente (Guatao) to the Women’s Prison in Holguin province. Meanwhile, Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, of The Ladies in White, who was also confined at the Guatao Prison, was transferred to Bellote Prison in the city of Matanzas. Marietta and Mercedes were both participants alongside Yaquelin in the April 15th protest. They remain arbitrarily imprisoned without trial.

-- Aimara Nieto Muñoz, of The Ladies in White, was arrested on April 11th, 2016, and accused of "disorderly conduct" for publicly distributing pro-democracy leaflets. She remains imprisoned without trial at at the Prisión de Mujeres de Occidente (Guatao).

Cuban Regime Harasses, Arrests and Dissappears Independent Labor Leaders

From Diario de Cuba:

Cuban regime blocked a meeting of trade unionists who sought to create a broad and independent coalition

The spokesman for the Independent Trade Union Coalition, Iván Hernández Carrillo (pictured below), reported that State Security deployed forces on Tuesday to thwart a meeting of several trade unionists seeking to unify the Island's three historic trade unions.

"We had a meeting organized to finalize the details," Hernández Carrillo told DIARIO DE CUBA.

The meeting, however, could not be held because several activists were arrested, others besieged in their homes and threatened, and one, at least, has apparently disappeared, said the union activist

Among those detained was Ariadna Mena Rubio, while another activist, Aimé Cabrera, "was threatened with arrest if she left her house."

The whereabouts of three activists summoned to the meeting are still unknown. "Their phones are switched off or without coverage, suggesting that they may have been arrested, but this has not been confirmed," explained Hernández Carrillo.

In the case of Ariadna Mena, said the activist, "her relatives do not know where they have taken her. She was intercepted after dropping her daughters off at school." Also detained for four hours was the unionist Alejandro Sánchez.

The venue where the meeting was to be held was surrounded by plainclothes police officers.

Hernández Carrillo, meanwhile, explained that he managed to elude the siege he faced in Matanzas.

The unionist regretted that State Security was able to foil a meeting whose purpose was to "unite the three organizations and make union work in Cuba stronger, more solid, and more united."

This unit, he added, "intends to join forces to achieve what we are looking for: real changes within the Cuban nation, which lead to the rule of law, and where all workers enjoy rights, including that to organize freely."

“The political police,” said Hernández, “insists that it will not allow this to happen. We are going to work to achieve our goal.”

Video: Interview With Leader of Cuba's Ladies in White

The World Movement for Democracy recently interviewed, Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White, about the struggles and triumphs of being an activist in Cuba.

The Ladies in White -- mothers, wives and relatives protesting on behalf of political prisoners -- are frequently targets of state-sponsored violence in Cuba. Cuban authorities often arrest, and physically assault the peaceful activists during their weekly Sunday marches.

Despite the government’s brutality, The Ladies in White have continued to march on, garnering support from the international community, and inspiring Cuba activists to fight for democracy.

Click below (or here) to watch the interview:

Cuban Regime Raids Independent Legal Center (Cubalex)

From 14ymedio (via Translating Cuba):

Cuban Police Seize Legal Center’s Work Equipment 

Friday’s police assault against the headquarters of Cubalex, Center of Legal Information, located in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, resulted in the seizure of six computers, several hard drives, USB drives and cell phones. The officers informed the lawyer Laritza Diversent (pictured below, center)  that she could be accused of the crime of “illicit economic activity,” according to a report from the activist Kirenia Yalit to this newspaper.

The headquarters of the independent group was searched on Friday, by members of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and members of State Security, who stormed the place breaking down the doors.

The thorough search of the building lasted until after eleven p.m. and “when it seemed that everything was going to end and they had concluded their interrogations” of the activists, they forced them to strip naked “and squat to verify that there was nothing hidden in their bodies,” said Yalit.

The independent lawyers denounce the fact that they never showed a warrant that met the requirements for a search.

“They took everything, they just left some chairs and tables,” says Yalit, which 14ymedio was able to confirm through sources near the site. The prosecutor who led the operation informed the attorneys that the case “is of interest to the Attorney General of the Republic” and that they would undertake all relevant investigations to determine whether to proceed with an indictment against them.

Dayan Pérez Noriega, who was taken to a police station when he tried to send Twitter messages about what was happening, was released at around ten at night. The attorney Julio Ferrer, a member of Cubalex, remains missing after having been intercepted by the police on Friday.

After the operation at the property was completed, the lawyers received no  immediate injunction, fines or written summons.

Attorney Laritza Diversent intends to denounce “the outrage committed,” as she has done on previous occasions when she demanded the return of her belongings seized by Cuban Customs at the airport.

The Legal Information Center, Cubalex, is an independent agency that has provided free legal advice since 2010. The lawyers’ group also focuses on human rights issues. In July of this year Cuba’s Ministry of Justice rejected the application filed by the group’s members for legal status for the organization.

How Kim (DPRK) and Castro (Cuba) Blackmail Abe (Japan)

Friday, September 23, 2016
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Cuba today and met with dictators Fidel and Raul Castro.

The purpose of Abe's trip was simple -- to seek help over North Korea's nuclear provocations and its clandestine operations in Japan.

Nearly on a monthly basis, some senior North Korean is on a "working visit" to Cuba. Or some senior Cuban regime official is on a "working visit" to North Korea.

With the exception of China, there's no other nation in the world that North Korean officials visit with such frequency.

Just a few months ago, General Kim Yong-chol, head of North Korea's intelligence, cyber-warfare and clandestine operations agency, was on one of those "working visits" to Cuba.

And, of course, we all recall Cuba's smuggling of 240 tons of heavy weaponry to North Korea in 2013 -- the largest, ever violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Cuba's regime will now offer its "help" -- for a price. And Kim's regime in North Korea will get a cut.

Call it the Castro-Kim two-step -- or simply blackmail.

For starters, Abe will mostly forgive Castro's $1.75 billion debt to Japan. That will open new lines of credit for Castro's regime. Abe is also extending Castro a foreign aid package.

Here's how Japan's Asahi Shimbun (diplomatically) reported it, "in the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe on Sept. 22 offered billions of yen in grant aid and debt forgiveness while seeking cooperation on dealing with North Korea."

It's mostly unknown that Japan became Cuba's single, biggest creditor pursuant to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such "engagement" with Japanese banks did nothing to promote democracy, openness or help the Cuban people. Instead, Cuba defaulted in October 2002 on a $750 million refinancing agreement with Japan’s private sector after having signed a debt restructuring accord with Tokyo in 1998.

Most of Cuba's debt to Japan is now owned by that nation's government-backed trade insurer, NEXI. (Note to Congress and those lobbying to extend financing for Castro's regime.)

Both Cuba and North Korea are desperate for hard currency, so it presents a perfect opportunity to put the squeeze on Japan and, most importantly, its banks.

The cycle begins again. After all, rogue behavior (sadly) pays off in today's world.

Image below: North Korean military officials during a "shopping spree" in Cuba.

As Predicted, Venezuela's Maduro Officially Becomes a Dictator

Thursday, September 22, 2016
Another tragic consequence of Obama's new Cuba policy was the green-light sent to Castro's allies in the region that there would be no consequences for subverting democracy.

To the contrary, they would be rewarded with normal diplomatic relations, unilateral concessions, fêted at Summits, and benefit from a business marketing campaign directed from The White House.

This week, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro subverted the recall referendum process outlined in the Constitution and, thus, guaranteed that his Cuban-controlled regime will remain in power through at least 2018.

Just weeks after Obama announced his new Cuba policy, we predicted this would happen.

As published by The Huffington Post on January 11, 2015:

Obama Gives Cuba a Hemispheric Coup

by Mauricio Claver-Carone

The recent political witch-hunt against famed Venezuelan opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado reinforces growing concerns that democratic institutions are under concerted attack in the Western Hemisphere.

“Justice is on its knees in Venezuela with sentences being dictated from Miraflores or Havana,” Machado says, summing up the political alliance between Cuba and Venezuela’s governments that drive her country’s politics. She stands accused of conspiring to kill Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. Another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has already been imprisoned.

Through its cohorts and directly, Cuba has been pounding democratic institutions not only in Venezuela, but also Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Democracy’s advocates in the region are too shortsighted, beleaguered or intimidated to fight back aggressively. In fact, they invited Cuba to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, despite the fact that Cuba’s Castro dictatorship openly scorns the “democracy clause” that reserves Summit membership and participation to the region’s democratic governments. Thirty-four of the 35 nations comprising the Western Hemisphere adopted that clause during the Quebec Summit. Cuba was then and still is the Hemisphere’s last remaining totalitarian state; it also has a long history of “exporting revolution” into democratic states.

The Obama Administration initially stated its opposition to Cuba being invited to the Summit. However, in a turn-around announcement on December 17, it chose to “lead from behind” and acquiesce to the whims of those hemispheric leaders all-too-eager and willing to suspend the “democracy clause.” Not only has President Obama now accepted Cuba’s participation, but he will also be there to personally welcome dictator Raul Castro.

However, those who lobbied Obama to attend the Summit regardless of the violation of the “democracy clause” weren’t to be satisfied with his attendance alone. They also wanted the President to arrive with a gift bag for Cuba that includes a further lifting of U.S. sanctions. That, they argued, will ensure a warm reception for Obama from “troubled” Latin American leaders. And naturally, Castro would be thrilled.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the exact same arguments were made in the months and weeks leading up to the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Just days before that summit, the Obama Administration did ease sanctions against Cuba. Despite this “gesture,” Obama was not received in Trinidad as a hero. He was treated as a pushover. Then Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez even engineered a photo-op with the President that featured copies of anti-American book, Open Veins of Latin America. Latin America’s “extreme Left” considers the book to be its bible. (The author, Eduardo Galeano, has recently disavowed his creation.) A few months after that summit, the Cuban government of Raul Castro seized an American hostage, Alan Gross, in a successful effort to coerce the United States into releasing a group of imprisoned Cuban spies.

For months, advocates for lifting sanctions used the Panama Summit as a prop in their campaign against what they call the United States’ “failed policy.” They would happily sacrifice our national interest in regional democracy to advance their narrow agenda. Not only is this dangerous and irresponsible, it also begs the serious question: What do they consider to be a “successful” policy alternative?

Is it the “China model,” whereby U.S. business helps to build the most lucrative dictatorship in human history?

A “Vietnam model” of state capitalism under an iron-fisted rule?

A “Burma model,” whereby reforms achieved through pressure are rolled back as soon as sanctions are lifted?

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and their puppets revel in such models. But none should have a place — geographically or politically — in the Western Hemisphere. In this hemisphere, every nation (except Cuba) made a commitment to representative democracy in 2001. It was a historic commitment that, backed by the United States, has blocked the authoritarian ambitions of wannabe dictators in Latin America and generated continued support for democracy and civil society. It was a commitment that Obama’s December 17 announcement has now placed on the chopping block.


Rubio Demands Answers From White House About TSA Lies, Security of Cuba Flights

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Of course, the irony is that while Iran's Hassan Rouhani is in Havana plotting with the Castro regime how to undermine U.S. interests, the Obama Administration is lying to the American people and making it easier for them.
 
Kudos to Senator Rubio for his leadership.
 
Rubio Demands Answers From White House About TSA Lies, Security of Cuba Flights
 
Washington, D.C. – In a letter to President Obama, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is demanding The White House answer questions about the complete absence of federal air marshals on commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials’ false statements to Congress and the public about an agreement with the Cuban government that does not exist.
 
The full text of Rubio’s letter is below:
 
September 19, 2016
 
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania, Ave NW
Washington, D.C.
 
Dear President Obama,
 
You and your administration’s lack of concern for the American people’s safety – as evidenced by allowing commercial, non-charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba to commence without the presence of federal air marshals, and lying about it to Congress – is further proof that you are putting your legacy ahead of the safety and security of the American people, including the people of Florida.
 
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Deputy Administrator, Dr. Huban Gowadia, confirmed that there are currently no federal air marshals on commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba. This admission contradicts earlier claims by your administration that the federal air marshal agreement was finalized and they would be on commercial flights. Simply put, your administration has been caught in a bold-faced lie that has put American lives at risk.
 
It was incumbent upon your administration to finalize a federal air marshal agreement before U.S.-Cuba commercial flights first departed on August 31st. However, TSA officials have now publicly admitted the Castro government has not yet signed the document you submitted. In my view, Cuba remains a state sponsor of terrorism that is allied with some of the most despicable regimes in the world, including Iran to North Korea, and it is astonishing that the administration has allowed hundreds of U.S. passengers to board flights to and from Cuba under the false pretense that there would be federal air marshals on board. You have created an opportunity for our worst fears to become reality, just as they did on September 11, 2001.
 
In addition to this troubling news, you have refused to share with Congress key documents detailing the Cuban government’s vetting of airport workers and security procedures. Given your administration’s pattern of secrecy, misinformation and dishonesty on this matter, I believe the information in these apparently secret documents will likely further validate my concerns. I respectfully request that you provide the answers to the following questions:
 
- Why did the TSA lie to the American people and announce a federal air marshal agreement had been reached with the Cuban regime?
 
- When do you expect the Cuban regime to approve the agreement?

- Are there any flights between the U.S. and another country operated by a U.S. air carrier in which federal air marshals are not allowed on the flights? If so, which countries?
 
- In the meantime, what is the TSA doing to mitigate security risks associated with the lack of federal air marshals on these flights from Cuba to the United States?
 
- Did any White House official or officials instruct the TSA to proceed with allowing commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba before appropriate security procedures were in place? If so, please provide their name or names.
 
- Please also provide copies of the draft federal air marshal agreement with the Cuban regime, and the document detailing the Cuban government’s vetting of airport workers and airport security procedures.
 
Thank you for your attention to this critical matter, and I look forward to a timely response.
 
Respectfully,
 
Marco Rubio
United States Senator