A Farm Bureau Revelation

Saturday, May 9, 2009
From the Springfield State-Journal:
 
Even if human-rights issues were settled and trade barriers taken down, buying and selling in Cuba is not a simple matter of transportation, says Illinois Farm Bureau president Phil Nelson.
 
"They are still using farm practices from the 1950s. It's very primitive, and there's not a lot of technology, even though it's 90 miles from our shores," Nelson said.
 
The farm bureau has been among the leading advocates of easing trade restrictions with Cuba, including participating in a March trade mission.
 
Nelson, who was briefed on the March trip, said health and safety are chief concerns as a result of agricultural practices in Cuba, especially for livestock that eventually could be shipped to the United States.
 
"They have some tremendous health issues with their animals and livestock. If we truly open up exports, we don't want to injure our livestock by bringing in diseases," said Nelson, who added that it would take time to set up a U.S.-style health and inspections system in Cuba.
 
Money is the next major challenge, Nelson said. Cuba doesn't have much cash.
 
"Credit is a big thing in Cuba. They just don't turn cash over, and they'd like to see that credit extended," said Nelson, noting that while some short-term loans are allowed, long-term credit is the key to opening Cuba to U.S. products.

Orbitz, Champions of Cuban Apartheid

If Orbitz had the decency to use its exposure to 14 million monthly visitors to advocate for Cuba's beleaguered political prisoners, human rights activists and pro-democracy leaders, they would become the champions of travel to a future, free Cuba.  Instead, they have chosen instant gratification, turning a blind-eye to Cuba's tragic realities.  In a week when the Cuban regime has imposed further controls and restrictions on its people vis-a-vis foreign tourists, Orbitz has sadly chosen to embrace and sponsor the Cuban regime's apartheid.
 
From the Chicago Tribune:
 
Cuba: Fantasy island for Orbitz?
Chicago-based travel site launches Web campaign seeking to overturn the U.S. government's longtime travel restrictions to Cuba
 
 
Blending commerce with politics, Chicago's Orbitz Worldwide is launching a campaign this week aimed at getting Congress to reverse a law that prohibits travel to Cuba for most U.S. citizens and green-card holders.

Delahunt and Flake Just Thrilled Now

As the the Cuban regime imposes even harsher controls on the Cuban population this week, making the internet totally off-limits to Cuban nationals and arresting more pro-democracy leaders, the Financial Times reports on further privileges for foreign tourists and investors:
 
Overseas private investors and homebuyers are to be given a rare chance to buy Cuban real estate in a move that marks a further loosening of the economic constraints imposed on the island since Fidel Castro seized power 50 years ago.
 
Cuba is set to offer investors the chance to buy an apartment in an exclusive beach resort on the north coast. The leasehold will initially be for 75 years, although the resort's developer hopes to be able to convert it into a freehold.
 
The Carbonera Club will be a luxurious beachfront resort an hour's drive from Havana, near the tourist destination of Varadero. It will include a hotel, spa, 18-hole golf course and yacht club.
 
NOTE:  Congressmen Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts and Jeff Flake of Arizona are the main sponsors of legislation that would eliminate regulations on tourist travel to "apartheid" Cuba.

CNN Correspondent Ignored Cuba's Dissidents

From Matthew Balan of the Media Research Center:
 
Correspondent Jim Acosta, "carrying the CNN flag" on the island of Cuba, filed several reports for the American Morning program during the first week of May which slanted favorably towards an end to the trade embargo with the communist country. His May 1 report on the policy that allows Cuban-Americans to travel to their homeland featured no critics of the Castro regime, nor did it mention the government's human rights abuses. This was also the case during a May 4 report about tourism to the island and how economic competitors of the U.S. are taking advantage of the country's resources. Acosta even referred to the ailing dictator emeritus Fidel Castro as a "Cuban icon."

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Friday, May 8, 2009
An eye-opening account from KMBC Channel 9 in Kansas City:
 
Cuba Not Improving, Says Local Traveler
Photographer Believes Cubans Losing Hope For Change

A Kansas man has just returned from a trip to Cuba, weeks after the Obama Administration approved unlimited travel and money transfers for Americans with relatives there.

Richard Gwin, senior staff photographer for the Lawrence Journal-World, spoke with KMBC's Maria Antonia about what he found in Cuba.

Gwin took many pictures and videos in Havana's Revolution Square, but he said that these don't reveal the whole story.

"One day a year, it's like a party," Gwin said. "Everyone comes out and parties, and they march, and it's over with. The next day it's the same rhetoric." 

Over 17 years of travel, Gwin has taken many images of Cuba's people. But now he said that something is missing from the faces he photographs. "Now you find people who think there's no hope even with the talk of change. Even if you ask about Obama, and they've all heard what Obama has offered to the Cuban government."

Gwin's pictures show empty dollar stores where Cubans who have European, Canadian or American currency can shop. He reported that Raul Castro's government is exerting more control in the streets than his brother, with no end in sight.

Congressional Black Caucus members, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, traveled to Cuba last month and had a much rosier view of the state of affairs in Cuba.  Gwin knows that his view is the opposite of these reports, but he replied, "Did they go to the inner city?  You don't get a taste of their lives, the flair of these people."

Copyright 2009 by KMBC.com. All rights reserved.

The Quest for Senator "Shameless" Continues

As one shameless Senator continues to block a resolution for Cuba's imprisoned journalists, another...

SENATOR CONTINUES EFFORT TO RECOGNIZE PLIGHT OF CUBAN JOURNALISTS
Sen. Martinez urges passage of resolution recognizing World Press Freedom Day

ORLANDO, FL - U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today called for the U.S. Senate to move forward on a resolution expressing solidarity with the writers, journalists, and librarians of Cuba. The call comes after an effort to recognize the plight of imprisoned Cuban writers on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day has been stalled in the Senate.

"There are Cubans locked behind bars in deplorable conditions, harassed and mistreated solely because they sought to exercise their fundamental right to free speech," said Martinez, the nation's first Cuban-American U.S. senator. "Our recognition and expression of solidarity with those seeking the same rights and freedoms upon which our nation is built is overdue; it sends a strong message to Cubans; and it sends a message to the world that we stand on the side of freedom and democracy."

The resolution names and calls for the immediate release of twenty-six individuals currently imprisoned in Cuba as identified by International PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3rd of each year "World Press Freedom Day" to raise awareness of the importance of the freedom of expression and to remind governments of their obligation to respect the rights of free expression and of a free press.

Must Be a Glitch in the Polls...

Sun-Sentinel Letter: Let Cuban Embargo Be

Who says that the Cuban embargo is not working? Not only does Castro not have money to refurbish buildings, but the economy cannot replace the cars from the 1950s, as depicted in your picture of the Capitolio building in a May 3 Outlook story.  He also doesn't have money to spread communism to Africa and Latin America.

Instead of trying to lift the embargo on Cuba as a way for the United States to expand economic avenues, the United States should place more emphasis on building economic relations with Latin America to make their economies stronger as a combatant to the spread of communism via Chávez's economic influence.

We cannot speak of lifting the Cuban embargo without dealing with human rights violations against dissidents in Cuba.  Should we sell our souls to the devil for the almighty dollar?  Isn't that what got us in trouble with Cuba in the first place, by selling arms to both sides in the revolution and then leaving the Cuban anti-rebel forces hanging during the Bay of Pigs?  I am not a Cuban "fanatic."  I am a Cuban-American liberal Democrat who voted for Obama and who is appalled at the behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus' last visit to Cuba.

Fernando J. Gutiérrez, Miramar

Why Does Castro Fear Radio Marti?

HAVANA, Cuba, (Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez / www.cubanet.org) - Listeners of Radio Martí in the Mariel municipality of Havana say the government is interfering with the signal 24 hours a day for the first time.

Various listeners throughout the area said the signal had been received with no or little interference until the end of last year.

A man named Rafael, a constant listener to the U.S. government station, said, "They only lessen the interference when there's a major league baseball game is being broadcast. If it's broadcasting news or hot commentary it's impossible to receive the signal. It's as if the radio is going to break because of the vibrations."

A neighbor of Rafael's nicknamed China said, "Wouldn't it be better to use the money being wasted on interference to instead solve problems like the shortage of water, transportation, damage caused by hurricanes, the shortage of ambulances and other problems we face?"

Delahunt and Flake Surely Relieved

As the Castro regime takes further repressive steps to deny internet access to the Cuban people, Congressmen Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts -- the main sponsors of legislation seeking to authorize American tourism to Cuba -- were surely relieved that this inhumane action exempts foreign tourists on the island.
 
"Internet use is only for foreigners for the time being," said a worker at the Hotel Nacional's business center. "According to a new order from ETECSA [Cuba's telecom monopoly] only foreigners can surf the web at hotels."

Internet Repression Intensifies

From today's Sun-Sentinel:
 
HAVANA - Cuba is further limiting access to the World Wide Web for its citizens, in what many believe is an effort to rein in a small but increasingly popular group of bloggers who are critical of the government.
 
Only government employees, academics and researchers are allowed their own Internet accounts, which are provided by the state, but only have limited access to sites outside the island. Ordinary Cubans may open e-mail accounts accessible at many post offices, but do not have access to the Web. Many got around the restrictions by using hotel Internet services.
 
But a new resolution barring ordinary Cubans from using hotel Internet services quietly went into place in recent weeks, according to an official with Cuba's telecom monopoly, hotel workers and bloggers.
 
There was no official announcement of the change. Cuba has the lowest rate of Internet access in Latin America.
 
"Internet use is only for foreigners for the time being," said a worker at the Hotel Nacional's business center. "According to a new order from ETECSA [Cuba's telecom monopoly] only foreigners can surf the web at hotels."

To Dialogue or Not To Dialogue

Reinaldo Arenas was a widely-respected Cuban poet, novelist, and playwright.  His writings and openly gay lifestyle brought him into increasing conflict with the Castro regime.  He was arrested on multiple occasions and convicted of 'ideological deviation' for publishing abroad without official consent.  His autobiography, Before Night Falls was on the New York Times list of the ten best books of the year in 1993.  In 2000 this work was made into a film, in which Arenas was played by Javier Bardem.  Just a few months prior to his death in exile, he wrote about dialogue with the Castro regime:
 
It is unbelievable that many exiles, even many of those who consider themselves intellectuals, are in favor of establishing this dialogue.  Such a view completely ignores Castro's personality and ambition.  Of course, Castro himself has created pro-dialogue committees, and their members pass themselves off as presidents of human rights committees. On the one hand, there are agents of Castro, operating in and out of Cuba, busy on his behalf; on the other, ambitious people looking for any position of prominence; and there is yet another group, the scoundrels, who are into this business of dialogue strictly for personal gain. 
 
One day, eventually, the people will overthrow Castro, and the least they will do is bring to justice those who collaborated with the tyrant with impunity. The ones who promote dialogue with Castro, well aware that Castro will never give up this power peacefully and that a truce and economic assistance are what he needs to strengthen his position, are as guilty as his own henchmen who torture and murder people. Those who are not living in Cuba are perhaps even more to blame, because inside Cuba you exist under absolute terror, but outside you can at least maintain a modicum of politically integrity.  All the pretentious people who dream of appearing on TV shaking Fidel Castro's hand and of becoming politically relevant should have more realistic dream: they should envision the rope from which they will swing in Havana's Central Park because the Cuban people, being generous, will hang them when the moment of truth comes.  The only consolation left for them will be to have avoided bloodshed. Perhaps such an act of justice would be a good lesson for the future, because as a country Cuba has produced scoundrels, criminals, demagogues, and cowards in number disproportionate to its population.

New York, August 1990

Lobbying for the IMF

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Castro and Castro, Inc.
 
Wall Street Journal

Brazil, which is eyeing money-making opportunities in Cuba these days, is lobbying for the Castro regime to be allowed to join the IMF, World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank. Open your wallet for the dictator.

Cuba is the "only country in the Western Hemisphere that is not a member of this institution. The time has come to open the doors," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said last weekend at the IMF semi-annual meetings. Letting Cuba into the fund, he added, would "correct an omission that has lasted a long time and . . . allow the IMF to achieve universal membership."

Ever the humanitarians, Brazil seems to want to help the Castro regime even as hundreds of political prisoners rot in its jails. "In a climate of [new] understanding, it would be an additional step," Mr. Mantega said dreamily.

Fidel and Raúl Castro, who spend most of the country's resources spying on the citizenry and suppressing peaceful dissidents, are above discussing such vulgar topics as foreign aid for the economy they have wrecked for 50 years. They let others do the pleading. Despite constantly citing the U.S. embargo as form of warfare against Cuba, they also aren't eager for the freer trade with the imperialists that might come as an aid condition.
 
Two weeks ago the Obama Administration offered to allow U.S. telecom companies to invest on the island. The regime responded with a cold "we'll think about it."

What the Castro brothers want are handouts with no strings attached. Under a recent plan by the G20 countries, all IMF members will eventually be entitled to millions of new "Special Drawing Rights," even Burma and Zimbabwe. So forget the fact that Fidel himself took Cuba out of the IMF in the early 1960s, claiming the institution was a tool of U.S. aggression. If Western governments are prepared to fund his slave plantation without asking questions, he might deign to take their money after all.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady 

Castro's Big Prize

As has been mentioned in previous posts, travel to Cuba is controlled by a cartel of 7 U.S.-based travel agencies, which operate in collusion with the Castro regime's Havanatur.
What's their big financial prize?

From today's NY Daily News:

"We get some more Cuban-Americans now," said Bob Guild, Marazul Charters program director. "But most calls and e-mails come from colleges, schools, cultural groups and regular Americans who think all restrictions will be lifted soon and want to be among the first to go to Cuba."

NOTE: Marazul Charters is one of the 7 U.S.-based cartel members.

A Shameless Senator

How could any Senator be so shameless as to block a non-binding resolution simply calling for the release of unjustly imprisoned journalists in Cuba? Not a resolution about sanctions or U.S. policy, but about courageous men and women who have suffered outrageous consequences for reporting on the realities of Cuban life. It would be even more shameless if the "holding" Senator is one of the Co-Chairs of the Senate Caucus for the Freedom of the Press.

From the Miami Herald's Naked Politics:

So Mel Martinez wants to introduce a seemingly non-controversial resolution calling attention to the plight of Cuban journalists -- and calling for their release. His office even gets Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (who isn't necessarily on the same page with Martinez on Cuba policy) to co-sponsor.

But an unknown senator has apparently taken umbrage to the resolution and blocked it from advancing. Martinez's office is trying to ferret out the culprit. Any guesses?

The Dignity of Antunez

Cuba Democracy Activists Chide CBC Members for Castro Meeting

Fox News
by Mosheh Oinounou

Cuban pro-democacy advocates went up to Capitol Hill Wednesday to call on legislators who recently met with former Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro to address human rights concerns on the island.

Activist Berta Antunez visited the offices of Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Laura Richardson (D-CA) where she delivered a letter written by her brother, a longtime civil rights advocate still in Cuba, accusing the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members of being "insensitive" to their cause during a trip to Cuba last month.

Antunez, who was joined by fellow activist Anolan Ponce today, is the sister of famed Cuba civil rights advocate Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez who served 18 years in prison for protesting the regime.

Lee, Richardson, and Rush were part of a six-member delegation that traveled to Cuba in April [1]where they called for the opening of US-Cuban ties and met with both Fidel and Raul Castro.

The activists accuse the delegation of refusing to meet with civil rights advocates during their trip.

"It is ironic that individuals such as yourselves, who have been elected to your positions through a democratic system, and who enjoy all human rights, do not wish the same for the Cuban people. It is undignified to use prerogatives that for us are inaccessible, such as to traveling to and from one's homeland, having an opinion without fear of persecution, or associating with others who share similar interests, and then to ignore the victims of oppression in Cuba," the letter reads.

"When we recall the fight and integrity of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, without whom you would still be giving up your seat on the bus and would not have the right to vote, we ask ourselves if the legacy of those who conquered the space of opportunity that you enjoy today, has been reserved only for political speeches and has ceased to be a commitment of your generation to justice and truth," they continued.

Upon arrival at Lee's office, Berta Antunez and Ponce met with a legislative aide for the California congresswoman.

"I came to deliver a letter to the congresswoman from my brother which expresses the insult of the pro-democracy movement on the island that just kilometers away from where they were meeting with Fidel and Raul Castro that my brother and other pro-democracy activists in Cuba were being assaulted with tear gas and were being subjected to the most repressive activity," Berta Antunez said through a translator following the meeting.

"It was almost a slap in the face to the pro-democracy and human rights movement on the island," she added.

A spokesman for the CBC has been contacted for a response.

Cuba Democracy Caucus Briefing

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Dear Colleague:
 
In the last months, Cuba has received a great deal of attention, yet often the everyday battles of the island's political activists go unnoticed in the United States.  The Cuban regime currently holds hundreds of prisoners of conscience in its jails and routinely denies basic human rights to people throughout the island.
 
Please join us for an informative briefing featuring Berta Antunez, a human rights activist and sister of Cuban political prisoner and pro-democracy activist Jorge Luis García Pérez (popularly known as "Antúnez"). An Afro-Cuban now in his 40's, Antunez was first imprisoned while he was in high school because of his support for democratic principles and his opposition to totalitarianism.  For 17 years, Antunez was regularly tortured and beaten as a prisoner of conscience in Castro's prisons.  Despite this merciless torture, Antunez has refused to be silenced by even the most repressive tactics of the Cuban regime.  On February 17, Antúnez began a hunger stri! ke to protest the oppression of the Castro regime.  He specifically demanded an end to the physical and psychological torture of all Cuban political prisoners.  In response, state security agents surrounded his house.  Amnesty International reported that he, his wife and the other brave Cubans that have joined his protest are in "grave danger."
 
After witnessing the abuses committed against her brother and other prisoners of conscience in Cuba's prisons, Berta Antunez became a human rights activist in her own right.  She helped to form the Movimiento Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Pedro Luis Boitel ("National Movement of Civic Resistance Pedro Luis Boitel"), an organization created in 1992 by families of political prisoners to highlight the cruel treatment of Cuba's political prisoners.  Their organization has pledged to fight for their release and to continue to bring international attention to their degrading maltreatment.
 
The briefing will take place at 9:00AM on Thursday, May 7 in 2456 Rayburn HOB.  We hope that you can join us for this important briefing which will include updates on Antunez's condition and insight into the realities of life in totalitarian Cuba.
 
Sincerely,
 
Albio Sires
Lincoln Diaz-Balart 

Berta Antunez Visits Capitol Hill

BLACK CUBAN LEADER SENDS LETTER TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WHO RECENTLY MET WITH FIDEL CASTRO
Antunez's sister to personally deliver on Wednesday letter to Lee, Richardson, and Rush
 

Washington, DC - Berta Antunez, the sister of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ("Antunez"), one of the most respected black leaders of the Cuban pro-democracy movement inside Cuba, will be in Washington on Wednesday, May 6th to personally deliver a letter from her brother to three Members of Congress who recently traveled to Cuba to meet with Fidel and Raul Castro.
 
Last month Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Laura Richardson (D-CA) and Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) met with Fidel Castro in Havana but refused to meet with any members of the island's pro-democracy movement. Antunez, who was incarcerated for 17 years and regularly beaten and tortured as a prisoner of conscience, was outraged that these Members of Congress would not take the time while in Cuba to meet with any of the island's human rights and pro-democracy activists.
 
Berta Antunez will be personally delivering the letter to the three offices on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 6th afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at 2444 Rayburn House Office Building, Congresswoman Lee's office, and is requesting to meet with Lee, Richardson, and Rush to convey to them her brother's message.  "There are brave men and women within Cuba that need to be heard.  I hope that these Members that traveled to Cuba to meet for hours with Castro, will take a few minutes to listen to the pleas of the victims of Castro's repression," stated Berta Antunez.
 
The letter is posted below.

Antunez Letter to CBC Members

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Letter to U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Laura Richardson (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL):

April 24, 2009

Representatives:

When one is fighting for liberty and human rights within a totalitarian society like the one that exists in Cuba, it is hurtful and offensive that citizens of a free society who have access to uncensored information visit our Island and lack the courage to inquire about the unjustly imprisoned political prisoners.

How could you be so insensitive to the oppression that the Ladies in White are subject to every day when they demand freedom for their loved ones? The images of these women marching through the streets of Havana should strike the conscience of all people of good will.

We, the authors of this letter, are a young black married couple and members of the opposition who began a hunger strike on February 17 of this year to demand an end to the harassment against Cuba's political prisoners, against their families and against the members of the opposition in Cuba. Today we continue this protest on a liquid fast. One of the specific requests of our protest is to demand that the regime's authorities respect the rights of political prisoner Mario Alberto Perez Aguilera, brother and brother-in-law of the authors of this letter, who has been repeatedly beaten and is confined to isolation and torture, and kept until this day in an isolation cell in the Provincial Prison in Santa Clara.

While you were meeting with the Castro brothers, only 300 kilometers away from the capital, our home and the five protesters who remain within it were subject to a brutal siege by the combined forces of the national and political police. During that time, the commissaries of the government that you praised so highly launched toxic gases against our home, the harmful fumes putting our lives at risk. Moreover, the Castro regime is using its forces of repression to prevent entry to our home to anyone who is interested in our health, including our families. That is the case of Iris Perez Aguilera, who, to this date suffers from the pain of not being able to hug her 14-year-old son because the Cuban regime prohibits his access to our home.

In addition, if that were not enough, we inform you of acts of police brutality against members of the independent civil society, acts that, had they occurred in a democratic society, would have been condemned. Three young women, black members of the opposition, Donaida Perez Paseiro, Damaris Moya Portieles and Idania Yánez Contreras, and the last one is 6 weeks pregnant, were brutally beaten and dragged through the streets of Placetas so that they could not enter our home. These abuses, just like the one perpetrated against the 70-year-old member of the opposition, activist Bienvenido Perdigón Pacheco, who on April 20 of this year, was dragged by the political police causing him a cerebral hemorrhage, and other violations that occur daily, take place in public view to prevent solidarity with the protesters and to not even allow them know our situation.

Congressmen, it is ironic that individuals such as yourselves, who have been elected to your positions through a democratic system, and who enjoy all human rights, do not wish the same for the Cuban people. It is undignified to use prerogatives that for us are inaccessible, such as to traveling to and from one's homeland, having an opinion without fear of persecution, or associating with others who share similar interests, and then to ignore the victims of oppression in Cuba.

When we recall the fight and integrity of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, without whom you would still be giving up your seat on the bus and would not have the right to vote, we ask ourselves if the legacy of those who conquered the space of opportunity that you enjoy today, has been reserved only for political speeches and has ceased to be a commitment of your generation to justice and truth.

Sincerely,

Iris Perez Aguilera
Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez
"Pedro Luis Boitel" Political Prisoners' Movement

Dodd and Lugar Ignore Cuba's Imprisoned Journalists

Despite a reminder last week from Capitol Hill Cubans and the advocacy of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the PEN Club, etc, World Press Freedom Day came and went yesterday -- May 3rd -- with no plea for Cuba's imprisoned journalists from the Senate Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Richard Lugar of Indiana.
 
Unfortunately, Senators Dodd and Lugar have chosen only to speak about Cuba in the context of criticizing U.S. policy, but failed to do so on behalf of the freedom of the numerous journalists imprisoned by the Cuban regime.

Fortunately, the House Co-Chair of the Caucus, Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana did not forget and made the following observation on the House floor:

"In every corner of the globe – from Iran to Zimbabwe, Burma to Pakistan, Cuba and Venezuela – there are journalists being actively harassed and exercising self-censorship because of threats and intimidation from repressive regimes." 

U.S. Chamber of Mercantilism

For Immediate Release
 
STATEMENT BY THE U.S.-CUBA DEMOCRACY PAC ON TODAY'S CHAMBER EVENT
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Cuba Policy Equates to "21st Century Mercantilism"
 
This afternoon, Tom Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ("the Chamber"), will be gathering in the U.S. Capitol with Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel of New York, Congressmen Jeff Flake of Arizona, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee of California in support of a policy of unconditional commercial engagement with the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro in Cuba - the sole remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.
 
The Chamber's Cuba policy amounts to nothing more than 21st century mercantilism.
 
Modern capitalism is based on the notion of the free market: a free trade and flow in goods, services and ideas.  In contrast, mercantilism was the economic system that dominated Western European economic thought and policies from the 16th to the late 18th centuries.  It amounted to a state policy of mutual benefit between a merchant class and a government seeking to strengthen itself.
 
Such mercantilist transactions are exactly what the Chamber is proposing for Cuba.
 
The Cuban regime explicitly prohibits the Cuban people from engaging in trade or other private commercial activity.  This is exclusively reserved - under Article 10 of the Cuban regime's 1976 Constitution - for the state and its rulers.  The fact remains that every dollar that has been transacted by over 157 U.S.-based companies since 2001 with Cuba have only had one Cuban counterpart, Alimport, which is owned and operated by the Castro regime.
 
Current U.S. law conditions such commercial engagement to the fundamental recognition and respect for the human, political and economic rights of the Cuban people, including the release of all Cuban political prisoners.  Only at such time can trade with Cuba be free and truly benefit the Cuban people.
 
The U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC is a federal political action committee formed to promote an unconditional transition in Cuba to democracy, the rule of law, and the free market.   

CNN Features Cuban Golf Course

Monday, May 4, 2009
CNN is transmitting a series of special reports from Cuba. In the latest broadcast by Jim Avila and Ed Hornick, "Is Trade Embargo With Cuba Hurting U.S. Interests?," the caption mentions that "CNN recently visited one of the two golf courses in Cuba."

Lets hope they visit at least one of over 300 political prisons in Cuba before they depart.

Extending the Dictatorship Abroad

There is a cartel of 7 U.S.-based travel agencies, which operate in collusion with the Cuban regime's Havanatur, and charge outrageous fees for travel by Cuban-Americans to the island.  In the same manner the Cuban regime vets these travel agencies for business purposes, they vet Cuban-Americans that want to travel to the island. Therefore, family members in Cuba are essentially used as hostages to silence criticism and opposition activities by their relatives abroad: Blackmail 101.

Pertinent quote from today's Miami Herald report on these travel agencies:
 
''The Cuban government is going to favor those operators who have stated publicly that they oppose certain U.S. policies'' -- like Washington's trade embargo against the island, [John] Kavulich [President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council] said.
 
''They'll Google you,'' he added. ``Have you written letters, have you given testimony, have you been in the media opposing what the Cuban government feels are policies doing [Cuba] a disservice?''

Message to CFR's Julia Sweig

The Council on Foreign Relation's ("CFR") Julia Sweig argued in yesterday's Washington Post for the unilateral transfer of the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro.
 
Ms. Sweig feels that the recent gestures by President Obama easing Cuban-American travel and remittances were insufficient "carrots," thereby justifying the Cuban regime's refusal to release Cuban political prisoners, even minimally respect human rights, or allow Cubans to enjoy the fruits of their relative's labor without confiscating a third of every dollar remitted. 
 
Regrettably, Ms. Sweig ignored the arrest this week of young, Cuban pro-democracy leaders, Nestor and Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, who are precisely being held in the Castro's Guantanamo State Security prison.  It would be sadly ironic for the U.S. to make a new prison facility available to the Cuban regime so they have more room to imprison dissidents.  
 
President Obama is absolutely right to expect the Cuban regime to make tangible efforts to respect their people's democratic hopes and aspirations before any further unilateral concessions. Perhaps this position was best encapsulated earlier in the year by England's PEN Club:
 
Time to close Cuba's other prisons

The Guardian, United Kingdom

16 February 2009

Today is a momentous day for Cuba. Fifty years ago, on 16 February 1959, Fidel Castro brought about the fall of the US-backed dictatorship of Batista and created the western hemisphere's first communist state. 2009 has been a doubly significant year for Cuba, due to President Obama's orders for the closure of Guantánamo Bay. Within a year, the horrific prison conditions against which there have been worldwide protests for the last seven years will cease to exist.
 
However, there are reportedly over 300 other prisons on the island, many of which are notorious for the ill treatment of political prisoners, who are often deprived of food and water, while guards are known to abuse them both physically and mentally. Many are drugged, left naked for weeks on end or kept in cages. Some resort to self-mutilation in the hope of an early release.
 
Such treatment has contributed to the rapid decline in health of the many cases of concern to English PEN. In fact, one of the 21 writers, journalists and librarians still detained almost six years after the 2003 Black Spring crackdown on dissidents, reportedly greeted Obama's announcement by saying "When will the world open its eyes and say that the other Guantánamos should be closed?"
 
To mark the anniversary, we are launching our 2009 Cuba Campaign, calling for the early release of these prisoners, and for immediate improvements to their prison conditions, including access to visitors and medical treatment, and removal from hard labour.

Writers in Prison Committee
English PEN
 
Lisa Appignanesi, President
Jonathan Heawood, Director
Carole Seymour-Jones, Chair

Terrorism With a "Twist"?

by Joaquin Ferrao*
Special to Capitol Hill Cubans

A recent story in The Miami Herald, "Cuba on Terror List, With Twist," which reports on the State Department's decision to list Cuba as one of four remaining state sponsors of terrorism -- along with Iran, Syria and Sudan -- includes insinuations by opponents of U.S. policy that the soft language and tone used in the Cuba portion is a first step by the Obama Administration towards delisting the Cuban regime.
 
For the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism ("Reports") to recognize positive developments in Cuba, or other state sponsors, is not new.  But more importantly, all the Reports since at least 1996 have consistently met one common threshold -- the use of Cuba as a safe haven for terrorists, terrorist groups, or suspects accused of terrorist acts.  Legally, that puts Cuba in the category of a state sponsor of terrorism in accordance with 22 U.S.C. Sec. 2656f. 
 
While the 2008 delisting of North Korea in exchange for that regime's cooperation on six party talks might call into question the political independence of these Reports, language and tone "per se" are poor indicators of any supposed warming of relations with Cuba.  

Inarguably, the language on Cuba has been tougher in some years and woefully weak in others.  For example, in 2006, the State Department gave Havana credit for demanding "that the United States surrender Luis Posada Carriles, whom it accused of plotting to kill Castro and bombing a Cubana Airlines plane in 1976, which resulted in more than 70 deaths."  Furthermore, in 2001, the State Department specifically cited Fidel Castro and gave Cuba credit for "undertaking an effort to demonstrate Cuban support for the international campaign against terrorism," lauding them for having "signed all 12 UN counterterrorism conventions as well as the Ibero-American declaration on terrorism at the 2001 summit."
 
Contrast this to the 2003 Report, where Cuba was strongly condemned for passing on false leads to U.S. officials during the investigations of 9/11, or the 2007 Report, where Cuba was singled out for its close ties to Iran and Syria. 

In 1998, President Bill Clinton's State Department labeled Cuba as a state sponsor while claiming that "Cuba no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America or elsewhere."  Unfortunately, in the 1997 Report, which covers 1996, the Clinton Administration failed to cite the Cuban regime for one of its most notorious acts of terrorism: the shooting of the Brothers to the Rescue ("BTTR") planes over international waters killing 4 U.S. persons including 3 U.S. citizens, a criminal act that remains outstanding. 
 
Thankfully, the State Department was more historically diligent with regards to the victims of the shoot down of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  As late as 2001, the Department still included this terrorist act in the Report for Libya, even though Quadafi had already surrendered the two Libyan intelligence operatives directly responsible for the terrorist attack to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  In the case of the 1996 BTTR murders, the two Cuban air force pilots, their direct  commander, and a spy, remain at large under the protection of the Cuban regime despite being found guilty for this heinous crime by U.S. federal courts.  Perhaps the State Department might consider this for their next report.   

Joaquin Ferrao is a former senior official at the U.S. Department of State.

Fidel, Who Are the Slaves?

Sunday, May 3, 2009
Fidel Castro wrote in last Friday's May Day message that the U.S. would like to see Cubans return "to the fold of slaves, who, after tasting liberty, again accept the whip and the yoke." 

So, who are the slaves?  You decide.
  
The Cuban people can not:

• Travel abroad without government permission.

• Change jobs without government permission.

• Change residence without government permission.

• Access the Internet without government permission (the Internet is closely monitored and controlled by the government. Only 1.67% of the population has access to the Internet).

• Send their children to a private or religious school (all schools are government run, there are no religious schools in Cuba).

• Watch independent or private radio or TV stations (all TV and radio stations are owned and run by the government). Cubans illegally watch/listen to foreign broadcasts.

• Read books, magazines or newspapers, unless approved/published by the government (all books, magazines and newspapers are published by the government).

• Receive publications from abroad or from visitors (punishable by jail terms under Law 88).

• Visit or stay in tourist hotels, restaurants, and resorts (these are off-limits to Cubans).

• Seek employment with foreign companies on the island, unless approved by the government.

• Run for public office unless approved by Cuba's Communist Party.

• Own businesses, unless they are very small and approved by the government and pay onerous taxes.

• Join an independent labor union (there is only one, government controlled labor union and no individual or collective bargaining is allowed; neither are strikes or protests).

• Retain a lawyer, unless approved by the government.

• Choose a physician or hospital. Both are assigned by the government.

• Refuse to participate in mass rallies and demonstrations organized by the Cuban Communist Party.

• Criticize the Castro regime or the Cuban Communist Party, the only party allowed in Cuba.

Courtesy: Cuban Transition Project

In Castro's Cuba, Some Things Never Change

From the Morganton, NC News Herald:
 
Letter to the Editor: God Help the Cuban People

While serving on a U.S. Navy destroyer during the blockade of Cuba, I learned that the Cuban government (Fidel Castro) demanded that the 5,000 Cuban citizens employed by the Navy at Guantanamo Bay be paid in American dollars.

Each payday, his "revolutionaries" waited at the main gate as Cuban employees with their American dollars went home for the day. His thugs then forced the Cubans to exchange their dollars for pesos, thus robbing his own citizens.

I don't think it stretches credibility to assume that the Castro Communist government will practice the same kind of robbery with the money Obama has authorized relatives of Cubans to send or deliver to their kinsmen.
If this is Obama's plan to change policy toward Cuba, God help the Cuban people!
 
Connor Corkran
Morganton, N.C.