Scandal Over "Cuba-Bound" Weapons Unfolds in Colombia

Monday, May 25, 2015
The Colombian newspaper, El Espectador, has published an investigative report on the mysteries surrounding the Dan Da Xia, a Chinese vessel caught carrying 15 containers of heavy weapons hidden as a cereal shipment.

The shipment was discovered in Cartagena, Colombia on February 28th, 2015. It consisted of 100 tons of explosives, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectile heads and around 3,000 artillery shells.

The containers revealed the weapons were from the Chinese arms manufacturer, Norinco, with the recipient purportedly being Tecnoimport, a shadow company of the Cuban military. They were supposed to be delivered to the much-hyped Port of Mariel facility, which is also owned by the Cuban military.

However, China-Cuba weapons transactions would otherwise be legal, so why were they hidden as cereal cargo?

Moreover, what was the purpose of the vessel's stop in Cartagena and later Barranquilla?

No answers have been given.

On April 21st, after the ship was held in Cartagena for over a month-and-a-half, a Colombian judge ordered the vessel to leave the country, for the weapons posed a grave security threat to the population. However, the ship's captain would remain in Colombia for prosecution.

Last week, Colombian legislators pressed the Santos Administration on several other issues regarding the shipment:

Why wasn't the illegal weapons shipment destroyed?

The Santos Administration argues that it didn't have the capacity to destroy it, which many Colombian military experts disagree with.

Colombian legislators also revealed how similar weapons from China's Norinco had been confiscated throughout the country -- mostly from the FARC -- over the last decade. What a coincidence!

Those captured weapons have always been destroyed.

In 2007-2008, the Colombian government even sent a diplomatic protest to the Chinese government after 12,000 Norinco-manufactured arms were confiscated.

As we've previously posted, evidence continues to accumulate that the shipment was actually being smuggled -- by the Cuban military -- for FARC narco-terrorists.

Of course, the timing was particularly bad for both the Obama Administration, which sought to remove Cuba from the state-sponsors of terrorism list, and the Santos Administration, which didn't want to add any hiccups to its "peace negotiations" with the FARC in Havana.

And at a recent Senate hearing on State Department authorization, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, John Feeley, tried to wordsmith around the incident.

Thus, silence and impunity prevailed (for now).

The Destructive Mentality of the Castros

This weekend, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera organized a reading of the book, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, in her home.

She planned the book reading as part of the events surrounding the Havana Arts Biennial.

In order to prevent this simple reading -- and other similar artistic events -- the Castro regime has ordered a construction team to gratuitously jackhammer the street outside her home.

When the reading began, so did the jack-hammering.

As the images below show, the street was completely torn open -- simply to prevent the reading of a book.

Yet, some Members of Congress and lobbyists argue that investing in Castro's monopolies will foster development and help the Cuban people.

It defies logic to believe that investing in a regime with such a destructive mentality -- and willing to pay any price to silence voices -- can benefit the Cuban people.

To the contrary, doing so would be paying Castro's price to silence those voices.

Nearly 200 Cuban Dissidents Arrested, Nobody Cares #ThanksObama

Nearly 200 Cuban dissidents were arrested throughout the island yesterday.

In Havana, four dozen members of The Ladies in White were arrested as they attended Sunday Mass. Also arrested were male supporters, including democracy leaders Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and independent journalist Juan Gonzalez Febles.

In Santiago, over 80 activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were beaten and arrested, including some who had been released under the Obama-Castro December 17th deal, namely Diango and Bianko Vargas Martin, and Ernesto Tamayo Guerra.

Dozens of others were arrested in the interior provinces, including Raul Borges, father of political prisoner Ernesto Borges, and youth activists from the Cuban Reflection Movement.

And renowned artist Tania Bruguera, who had her passport confiscated in December and is unable to leave the island, was arrested as she approached the Museum of Fine Arts to attend an exhibit for the Havana Art Biennial.

But sadly, no one seems to care.

Obama is too focused on what other concessions he can give to Raul Castro in exchange for an Embassy.

D.C. lobbyists are too busy lobbying for Castro's "military-tourist" complex (as The Financial Times' John Paul Rathbone succinctly called the Cuban military's monopolistic control over the island's tourism industry).

And the media continues obsessing over the "old world charm" of Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship.

Meanwhile, in Castro-controlled Venezuela, internationally renowned political prisoner and former Mayor, Daniel Ceballos, has been transferred from a military prison to one of the most violent civilian prisons in the world.

And Leopoldo Lopez, the famed opposition leader, began a hunger strike to demand the release of his colleagues, whose lives are in danger.

This, despite the fact that there's no embargo and that the U.S. is Venezuela's main trading partner.

Yet, the silence from the international community is deafening -- debunking all of Obama's theories about how his new Cuba policy would purportedly bring support for rights and democracy.

As for legislative elections in Venezuela this Fall -- wishful thinking. "Elections, for what?" says Maduro. After all, Obama just embraced Cuba's military dictatorship.

And where are the Congressional junkets to Caracas?

Impunity clearly reigns supreme in the region.

Cuban Regime Must Account for Missing American POWs

By John Lowery in AIM:

Cuban Accountability

Whatever one thinks of President Barack Obama’s overtures to Cuba and the accompanying prisoner exchange, an important consideration in need of immediate attention is an accounting of our servicemen captured in the Vietnam War and imprisoned in Cuban-operated POW camps. Of utmost importance is an accounting of the 17 American airmen captured in North Vietnam and then taken to Cuba for medical experiments in torture techniques.

Most Americans are unaware that Cuba was deeply involved in the Vietnam War. In fact they had an engineering battalion called the “GirĂ³n Brigade,” that was maintaining Route Nine, a major enemy supply line into South Vietnam. Their facilities included a POW camp and field hospital very near the DMZ, just inside North Vietnam. Meanwhile Cuban interrogators worked in Hanoi at a prison known as the Zoo. We know of these operations and some of what happened to our servicemen after so managed to survive and be repatriated in the winter of 1973, during Operation Homecoming.

Following his release Major Jack Bomar, a Zoo survivor, described the brutal beating of Captain Earl G. Cobeil, an F-105F electronics warfare officer, by Cuban Major Fernando Vecino Alegret, known by the POWs as “Fidel.” Regarding Captain Cobeil, Bomar related, “he was completely catatonic… His body was ripped and torn everywhere… Hell cuffs appeared almost to have severed his wrists… Slivers of bamboo were imbedded in his bloodied shins, he was bleeding from everywhere, terribly swollen, a dirty yellowish black and purple [countenance] from head to toe.

In an effort to force Cobeil to talk “Fidel smashed a fist into the man’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man’s face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. Again and again, a dozen times, [Fidel] smashed the man’s face with the hose.”

Because of his grotesque physical condition Captain Cobeil was not repatriated but instead was listed as “died in captivity,” with his remains returned in 1974. (Miami Herald, August, 22 1999, and Benge, Michael D. “The Cuban Torture Program, Testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Chaired by the Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman, November 4, 1999.) Incredibly, Fidel’s torture of Major James Kasler is well known as he somehow managed to survive the Cuban’s torture.

Much less is known about our 17 captured airmen taken to Cuba for “experimentation in torture techniques.” They were held in Havana’s Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro’s G-2 Intelligence service. A few were held in the Mazorra (Psychiatric) Hospital and served as human guinea pigs used to develop improved methods of extracting information through “torture and drugs to induce [American] prisoners to cooperate.”

After being shot down in April of 1972, U.S. Navy F-4 pilot, Lt. Clemmie McKinney, an African-American, was imprisoned near the Cuban compound called Work Site Five. His capture occurred while then-Cuban president Fidel Castro was visiting the nearby Cuban field hospital. Although listed as killed in the crash by DOD, his photograph standing with Castro, was later published in a classified CIA document.

More than 13 years later, on August 14, 1985, the North Vietnamese returned Lt. McKinney’s remains, reporting that he died in November 1972. However, a U.S, Army forensic anthropologist established the “time of death as not earlier than 1975 and probably several years later.” The report speculated that he had been a guest at Havana’s Los Maristas prison, with his remains returned to Vietnam for repatriation. (We also paid big money for the remains—delivered in stacks of green dollars to Hanoi aboard an AF C-141 from Travis AFB, California.) Unfortunately, our servicemen held in the Cuban POW camp near Work Site Five (Cong Truong Five), along with those in two other Cuban run camps were never acknowledged nor accounted for and the prisoners simply disappeared.

If our honor code of “Duty, Honor, Country,” and our national policy of “No man left behind,” are more than meaningless slogans, then before our relations with Cuba can be normalized, their murderous leadership must account for our POWs—especially the 17 airmen taken to Cuba. The civilized world and American veterans demand it.

Tweet of the Day: Cuba's Bloody Sundays

Cuban Rocker Arrested for Demanding Release of Political Prisoner

Sunday, May 24, 2015
Cuban rocker Gorki Aguila, of the band Porno Para Ricardo, was arrested yesterday after calling for the release of fellow artist and political prisoner, Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto."

Aguila placed a poster on the wall of the Museum of Fine Arts with an image of El Sexto and the word "Libertad" ("Freedom"). He was immediately approached and arrested by agents of Castro's secret police.

His whereabouts remain unknown.

El Sexto was arrested on December 25th, 2014 (just a few days after the Obama-Castro deal was announced), for painting the words "Raul" and "Fidel" on two pigs. He remains imprisoned to this day.

This month is the Havana Art Biennial. The current delegation of Congressional Democrats, led by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), plans on visiting these "festivities."

Also part of the delegation is U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who also happens to be an artist.

Will Franken speak out on behalf of these imprisoned Cuban artists?

Or would it ruin the delegation's "vacation"?

Image below: "We are all El Sexto."

Syrian Regime Officials Visit Cuba, Learn From Castro's Outmaneuvering of Obama

On Monday, a group of senior Syrian regime officials, led by the Secretary General of Assad's Baathist Party, Hilal al-Hilal, will be traveling to Cuba to visit with the Castro regime.

In a pre-trip interview with Cuban state media, al-Hilal celebrated the current U.S.-Cuba negotiations as a victory for the Castro regime and proof that "resistance" works.

He stressed the current U.S.-Cuba negotiations have taught Assad's regime "to continue resisting in our war, in the same manner as the Cubans have triumphed in their war against imperialism."

What a great message Obama is sending to the world's most vile regimes.

Fixing What Obama Has Broken on Cuba Policy

In The National Interest, Ana Quintana gives a five-step plan for the next U.S. President as regards Latin American relations.

Below is #1.

Support a principled, human-rights-based policy toward Cuba.

President Obama stunned many when he announced his intention to normalize relations with the Castro regime. While the administration gave Havana a cornucopia of concessions—from removing Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to supporting the ending of the embargo—it appears to have demanded nothing in return. All it has offered, to date, is wishful thinking.

The White House insists that commercial engagement with Cuba will usher in democracy.  A brief look at history quickly disproves that notion. Communist regimes in the Soviet satellites fell because of economic weakness and internal opposition supported by Western governments. When freedom-loving leaders such as Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel emerged, the United States enacted policies to support their efforts. As a result, countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are now free and prosperous democracies.

Our next President should model his or her Cuba policy off of these experiences. Rarely are we granted the unique opportunity to simultaneously uphold democratic principles and ensure U.S. national security. Our future president must recognize that freedom doesn’t flow from normalizing relations with a dictatorship. It flows when the seeds of political change sprout and are then properly nourished.

Read the other four here.