The Cuban People's View On Migration

Saturday, May 23, 2009
Cuba's Generation Y blogger, Yoani Sanchez -- named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2008 -- perfectly encapsulates the Cuban people's view of the latest U.S. efforts to renew migration talks with the Cuban regime.
 
From the Huffington Post:
 
While Obama Calls for Talks on Migration, Cuba's Young Launch Themselves Into The Sea
 
Interview With a Rafter
 
"...talking to people my age I realized that a wish to leave the country is widespread, perhaps more than people think... The truth is that I do not think so much about material things that can be found there, but about everything that I can do there... Anything, as long as I can decide... to express my political views without fear and to be able to associate myself with these ideas. Finally, I want to be myself, which is, at the end, what I'm looking for."

What If Iran Was The World's Only Nuclear Nation?

According to the Washington Post:
 
U.N. nuclear talks hit a roadblock Friday as Cuba, Iran and other developing nations demanded that the five original nuclear powers accept legally binding commitments to dismantle their nuclear arsenals and provide assurances they will not use such weapons against states that do not possess atomic weapons.

Menendez On Migration

WASHINGTON – Upon word that the Obama administration plans to resume previously suspended migration talks with the Castro regime, US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released the following statement:
 
"These talks have been suspended in the past by both the Clinton and Bush administrations because of a lack of goodwill on the part of the Castro regime. Such a gesture will probably be well-received by the Castro brothers, since it provides them with a perception of legitimacy and gives them the attention they seek. The 20,000 visas that the U.S. has offered in the past for Cuban nationals have proven to be a huge asset for the Castro regime in the way they control the exit of those selected by the US to receive a visa and use them as a tool for repression.
 
"Moving forward on these talks without progress on the part of the regime is inconsistent with the administration's stated interest in first seeing movement on the Castro regime's side. Instead, these talks should be conditioned on loosening the exit visa restrictions and allowing American diplomats to visit repatriated migrants to monitor whether or not they are being penalized. Right now, people are languishing in Castro's prisons for simply 'exiting illegally.'
 
"The administration is missing opportunities to make real change in Cuba by not conditioning this type of opportunity on the regime acting to stop denying its citizens exit visas and charging exorbitant amounts of those who they chose to let exit."

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 6

From the Miami Herald on renewed migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba:
 
Mauricio Claver-Carone, a leading pro-embargo lobbyist, noted that both Clinton, who signed the accord, and later Bush, scrapped the talks, expressing frustration with the Cuban government. At one point in 2000, there were no talks for more than a year, with Cuba canceling indefinitely -- and without explanation -- one meeting.

''President Clinton and President Bush gave it a shot, let's just hope [the administration] understands the reason they've been suspended and holds the Cuban government to their end of the agreement,'' Claver-Carone said.

Migration Policy Background*

Friday, May 22, 2009
Pursuant to the regime-induced exodus of rafters in 1994, the Clinton Administration set current U.S. migration policy towards Cuba. Direct negotiations with Cuban regime officials led to the 1994 Migration Accords ("Accords") that commit the U.S. to issuing a floor, or quota, of 20,000 visas for Cubans seeking to resettle to the U.S. The Accords calls for Cuba authorities to accept Cubans picked up at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard, and take measures to prevent uncontrolled migration. It commits the Cuban regime to refrain from seeking retribution against individuals fleeing the communist country and to allow USINT to monitor migrant returnees.

As a way of implementing the Accords, the Clinton Administration developed the "wet foot/dry foot policy," continued by the Bush Administration, which allows the U.S. Coast Guard to return Cubans to the island as long as they do not reach U.S. soil. Those that do not reach land are interviewed on U.S. Coast Guard vessels to determine whether they have a well-founded fear of persecution.

All Cubans that step on U.S. soil are permitted to stay. Despite the intense repression on the island, the U.S. Coast Guard interviews yield few individuals that qualify under the well-founded fear standard. Those that are determined to have met the requirement are not admitted into the U.S. but are sent to Guantanamo for further processing and resettlement in third countries - often years after waiting in the refugee camp. Those that make it to U.S. soil can adjust their status, under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, after a year of residing in the U.S. While, arguably, the same conditions that prompted the U.S. Congress to pass the Cuban Adjustment Act exist today, the large increases in Cuban-American travel to the island may undermine the Act's permanency.

Migration Accords Broken - Years of migration talks between Cuba and the U.S. notwithstanding, the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations have reported that the Cuban regime has failed to fully honor their commitment under the Accords. For several years, the U.S. Department of State, in its report to Congress on the implementation of the Accords, has concluded that the Cuban regime is in violation in a majority of areas, and has created impediments to the safe, legal, and orderly migration of Cubans to the U.S. Major issues include: (1) Cuban government denial of exit permits to otherwise eligible Cubans approved for resettlement to the U.S.; (2) Cuban government restriction on travel of USINT personnel to monitor the well-being of Cuban migrants returned by the U.S. Coast Guard; (3) the Cuban regime's refusal to take back criminals ordered removed from the U.S.; and (4) credible reports of retaliation by the Cuban regime against returning migrants and their families. [1]

- The U.S. should communicate its intention to the Cuban authorities not to fulfill the 20,000-visa quota until such time as the Cuban regime comes into compliance with the Accords.

- Refugee cases and immediate relative petitions should be prioritized over public interest paroles issued under the Cuba Lottery Program.

- U.S. policy should be reviewed to ensure that political refugees petitions are handled in an expeditious and fair manner. The U.S should aim to close all refugee camps in Guantanamo and develop a more credible process to ensure that all migrants picked up at sea or on land get a genuine interview, evaluating their particular circumstances to determine if they have a well- founded fear.

[1] Report to Congress, "Cuban Compliance with the Migration Accords," transmitted by the Department of State pursuant to Sec. 2245 of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 105-277), March 2007.

*Cuba Policy White Paper, Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp., March 2009

Migration Talks On Deck

Washington, DC - Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) today issued the following statement concerning the announcement made by the Obama Administration that it will renew "migration talks" with the Cuban dictatorship:

"The United States suspended the "migration talks" with the Cuban dictatorship in January, 2004 because the Cuban regime refused to comply with basic aspects of the Migration Accord of 1995.  The Cuban regime continues to violate the Accord by denying hundreds of exit permits annually to Cuban nationals who have received visas to enter the United States.  The Obama Administration should first insist that the Castro dictatorship complies with the Accord before renewing "talks." Regrettably, this constitutes another unilateral concession by the Obama Administration to the dictatorship."

Save What?

In a theatre of the absurd, the totalitarian regime that controls all means of the island's production; restricts private economic activity; subjects its people to ration cards; takes 30 percent of every dollar is remitted from relatives abroad; and forces its people to conduct transactions in worthless currencies, now wants the Cuban people to save.
 
Perhaps the Cuban regime should save the money it uses to finance its well-greased state security and repressive forces; to imprison peaceful democratic activists; and to block the entry of publications, internet access, radio and television signals from abroad. 
 

From the AP:
 
HAVANA — Cuban state media says the island should adopt the motto "Savings or Death!" to withstand tough economic times.  Friday's proposal in an editorial by Granma director Lazaro Barredo is a play on the communist leadership's slogan "Socialism or Death!" Barredo says Central Bank president Francisco Soberan came up with the phrase.

Let The Cyber-Revolution Begin

HAVANA (AFP) — Cuban bloggers are fighting a cyberwar with the government to give their own version of reality on the communist island, from hotels and using memory sticks and laptops obtained from abroad.

Bloggers with "alternative" agendas say it is becoming harder to evade official censorship, although they have managed to multiply in the past three years in a country where Internet access is limited.

Havana accuses them of being on the payroll of Washington and other governments in a bid to denigrate the 50-year-old Cuban revolution.

The government argues that it has the right to block sites which "encourage subversion."

Under names such as "Generacion Y" (Generation Y) -- the internationally-renowned blog of Yoani Sanchez -- or "Retazos" (Snippets) by "El Guajiro Azul" (The Blue Peasant), around 30 blogs touch sensitive themes such as Cuban travel permits, flaws in the health and education systems, political prisoners or daily hardships.
 
NOTE: Last week, ETECSA [Cuba's telecom monopoly] issued a new order that only foreigners can surf the web at hotels.

Senator Baucus' Trivialized "Facts"

"It's time for us to face the facts regarding Cuba," [U.S. Senator Max] Baucus [of Montana] said in a statement. "It's a fact that Cuba is one of our closest export markets ... and it's a fact that our farmers and ranchers in Montana -- and across the United States -- need help selling their high-quality products in Cuba."
 
No, Senator Baucus, here are the facts about Cuba:
 
The [Cuban] government continued to deny its citizens their basic human rights and committed numerous, serious abuses. The government denied citizens the right to change their government. At year's end there were at least 205 political prisoners and detainees. As many as 5,000 citizens served sentences for "dangerousness," without being charged with any specific crime. The following human rights problems were reported: beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care; harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and State Security officials; arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations; denial of fair trial; and interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications. There were also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to citizens and the forcible removal of persons from Havana to their hometowns; restrictions on freedom of religion; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally. Discrimination against persons of African descent, domestic violence, underage prostitution, trafficking in persons, and severe restrictions on worker rights, including the right to form independent unions, were also problems.  
 
2008 State Department Report on Human Rights

Petition For Aung San Suu Kyi's Release

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been imprisoned for 13 of the last 19 years. On Monday, less than two weeks before her current term of house arrest was set to expire, Burma's military junta began trying Suu Kyi for the ridiculous "crime" of violating the conditions of her house arrest because an American was found in her home.

There is a worldwide effort to collect 888,888 signatures on a petition to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma. Over 300,000 signatures have already been collected. If you haven't signed already, please do so today.

Antunez: A 21st Century Nelson Mandela



The sign behind them reads, "I will not cower, I will not cease."

Senator Lugar's Nuanced Stance On The OAS

Cuba should not be allowed to rejoin the Organization of American States (OAS) outright, Lugar says
 

U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments on Wednesday that Cuba should not be allowed to rejoin the Organization of American States (OAS) until it makes political reforms, releases political prisoners and respects human rights.
 
"As we all know, there is growing momentum within the region in favor of reincorporating Cuba as a member of the OAS.  There is also growing momentum within the United States to define a new relationship with Cuba," Lugar said.

"Even those of us who feel that U.S. policy should be improved and want significant policy change in favor of direct dialogue believe that such change has to be deliberate and incremental.  In this regard, at the June 2-3 General Assembly meeting of the OAS in San Pedro de Sula, Honduras, it would be a grave mistake to suspend or repeal outright the 1962 resolution that suspended Cuba's membership.

"As I stated in a March 30 letter to President Obama, it is too early to allow Cuba back into the OAS outright. It is not in America's interest regarding our ongoing efforts with Cuba and it's not in the interest of the OAS.  Cuba's unconditional reentry would raise serious concerns about the organization's commitment to promote and defend democracy, as codified in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. To push too hard and too fast would raise questions in the public mind about the OAS's effectiveness and would risk legitimizing the questionable practices of some in the region.

"Nevertheless, it is in the United States' interest to acknowledge the views of others in the region at the Honduras meeting next month.  There should be a way to harmonize the desire of many of our Latin American allies to reintegrate Cuba into the Inter-American system with the United States' interest in reforming our policy towards Cuba and building an equal partnership with all the nations of the Americas," Lugar said.

"A constructive start would be for Secretary Clinton to support a process of talks with OAS Member States on how to proceed.  These talks should be comprehensive, open to the public and include discussion of all topics, including human rights and democracy, as well as the criteria and requisite steps for Cuba's reinstatement.   In doing so, the Secretary would be recognizing the need to engage the region on Cuba while strengthening the OAS' credibility as a defender of democracy in the region."

Attention Senator Baucus, Protect U.S. Farmers

Thursday, May 21, 2009
As U.S. Senator Max Baucus of Montana introduces legislation to facilitate business transaction with the Cuban regime:
 
HAVANA, (Reuters) - A cash crunch is causing one of Cuba's largest business corporations, Cimex, to put off payments for some products, but the bills eventually will be settled, the head of the state-owned company said on Thursday.

Cimex President Eduardo Bencomo also said Cuba had not yet seen an increase in remittances sent by Cuban Americans to their families on the communist-ruled island, after U.S. President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on them last month.

Cuba has been struggling through a liquidity crisis in recent months that has provoked complaints from foreign businesses that they are not getting paid for their products.

Some foreign diplomats have said they feared Cuba was on the brink of insolvency.
 
NOTE: Cimex is a commercial branch of Cuba's Ministry of the Interior.  It is tasked with processing hard currency, which is then transferred to the regime's other business enterprises, including Alimport, which makes agriculutural and other purchases from the U.S. and around the world.

Another Serrano Tantrum

CQ: Geithner Pushed By House Members Over Cuba Policy

Thursday, May 21, 2009
by Juliana Gruenwald 

A key House appropriator pressed Treasury Secretary Geithner today over what critics say is his refusal to abide by legislation included in the supplemental spending bill enacted this year allowing for medical and agriculture sales to Cuba.

During a hearing on Treasury's FY10 budget request, House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., pressed Geithner to explain why he had written a letter to Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in March saying he would provide strict oversight of the provision.

In the letter, Geithner noted the provision would not affect a 2000 requirement that exporters receive payment in advance of the shipment of goods to Cuba and that the department would ensure that travel to Cuba is limited to "credible sales" of food and medical products. Menendez and Nelson had threatened to withhold support for the supplemental because of the Cuba provision.

Serrano asked whether Geithner didn't understand what Congress intended or if it was a "desperate" attempt to pick up two more votes for the supplemental. Geithner said the letter "simply explained what has been Treasury's interpretation of what the law requires."

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., later told Geithner that she was "fuming" over his response, saying it "flies in the face of what congressional intent was until two senators decided it wasn't ... That's unacceptable if that's the only reason why you violated congressional intent."

NJ State Assembly: No Normalization With Cuba

Assemblyman Dave Rible and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini introduced a bipartisan resolution today calling on the United States to withhold normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba until fugitive JoAnne Chesimard is extradited.

"As a former law enforcement officer who was a potential target of cold-blooded murderer JoAnne Chesimard, and other terrorists like her, I am extremely disturbed and appalled that President Obama would even consider restoring diplomatic relations with the country that has granted her political asylum for these many years," stated Rible, R-Monmouth, a retired Wall Township police officer who trained at the New Jersey State Police Academy in Sea Girt, NJ.

"Ms. Chesimard is a convicted murderer who deserves to spend the rest of her life behind bars," he continued. "By aiding and abetting this terrorist, Cuba has insulted our State Police and every member of New Jersey's law enforcement community and has interfered with the ability of Ms. Chesimard to be brought to justice for the murder of one of this state's finest."

The resolution urges President Barack Obama and Congress to delay normalizing relations with Cuba until Chesimard is extradited.
 
The resolution is in response to recent events that have signaled the beginning of the United States easing economic sanctions on Cuba and the easing of travel restrictions on Cuban Americans traveling to Cuba.

"While Ms. Chesimard has been living freely in Cuba since deliberately executing Trooper Foerster as he lay wounded by gunfire and subsequently escaping from prison, Trooper Foerster's family has been deprived of a husband, a father and a son," said Angelini, R-Monmouth, whose husband is a law enforcement officer. "They are haunted everyday by the callous act of this coward who rightfully should be extradited to the U.S. before there can be any discussion of easing restrictions with Cuba."

Rible added that he is proud to announce that the resolution has received the support of Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen.
 
It has also been co-sponsored by all 32 members of the Republican Assembly caucus. State Senator Sean Kean, R-Monmouth, has introduced an identical resolution in the Senate as well.

Chesimard was convicted in 1977 of the May 2, 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and wounding of New Jersey State Trooper James Harper during a shoot-out on the New Jersey Turnpike. Sentenced to life in prison, she escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 and later fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum and has been living freely ever since.

Congressional Dear Colleague

As Congress Debates the Location of Terrorist Prisoners at Guantanamo,
Let's Remember the Real Sympathetic Prisoners in Cuba at the "Other Guantanamo"
 
CoSponsors: Burton, Conaway, L. Diaz-Balart, M. Diaz-Balart, P. King, Mack, McCotter, Ros-Lehtinen, Shuler, Sires, Wasserman Schultz
 
May 21, 2009

Dear Colleague,
 
Yesterday was Cuba Solidarity Day, the day when people across the world stand with the Cuban people who are waiting for their day of freedom from 50 years of brutal repression.  Unfortunately, on this important day we received the news that the Castro regime added 10 years to the prison sentence of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Zapata, a mason and plumber, has been repeatedly imprisoned for speaking out against the totalitarian government. 
 
Zapata and the other victims of the Castro government are the prisoners that should be at the forefront of Congressional debate.  Instead of focusing on terrorist suspects at Guantanamo, which has arguably the best prison conditions in the world, we should be concerned with pro-democracy leaders in the "other Guantanamo" and the 300 political prisons throughout Cuba.  In these prisons, human rights advocates, not terrorist suspects are held in horrible conditions where they are beaten and often die.
 
There is no other word to describe the conditions in Cuban prisons than "inhumane." There are over two hundred recorded political prisoners, though there are believed to be many more.  Prisoners are confined in cramped, squalid cells and beaten, malnourished and given little if any medical care.
 
Concerning Zapata's imprisonment, Amnesty International reported that "on 20 October 2003 he was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations."
 
These are the prisoners that should be in the spotlight.  The United States has long stood with the Cuban people and against their communist oppressors and we need to continue to do so.  Unfortunately, there is pressure to change this policy and instead send a message of approval to the Castro government.  Join me in advocating that the United States put humanitarian concerns first and maintain opposition to the Castro regime. I have introduced a resolution stating:
 
That it is the sense of Congress that with respect to the totalitarian government of Cuba, the United States should pursue a policy that insists upon freedom, democracy and human rights, including the release of all political prisoners, the legalization of political parties, free speech and a free press, and supervised elections, before increasing American trade and tourism to Cuba.
 
Best regards,

Todd Tiahrt
Member of Congress

In The Senate Record

[U.S. Senator Bill] NELSON of Florida.  Mr. President, today I rise on behalf of the people of Florida and all Americans, to recognize Cuban Independence Day.  We stand in solidarity with the people of Cuba as they fight for democratic change and independence in their homeland, and struggle for a day when basic dignity and freedom of expression is possible without fear of persecution.  Tyranny, dictatorships, and political repression have no place in this hemisphere.  Now more than ever, the United States must continue to press the Cuban regime, beginning with freeing all political prisoners.  We must never waiver in our support for the Cuban people, as they continue their fight for freedom and self-determination.

The 107th Anniversary of the Republic of Cuba

The Impact Of Tourism In Cuba

A precise point by Jay Nordlinger in NPR:
 
As for tourism, European and Canadian tourists have been enjoying Cuba's beaches and hotels for years. Has this sparked internal reforms? "European and Canadian governments would like to make that case, but I don't believe there is any evidence to support it," Peter Orr, a retired Foreign Service officer who served as Cuba coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under President Clinton, told me in an e-mail. No surprise there: The Cuban tourism industry is dominated by the armed forces, and foreign tourists are generally isolated from ordinary Cubans. Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer, a shrewd observer of Cuban and Latin American affairs, dismisses the "U.S. tourists will bring democracy" claim as "wishful thinking." He writes that the millions of European, Canadian, and Latin American tourists who have come to Cuba during the past decade have not had "any visible impact on the island's totalitarian system."

U.S. Cop Killer Remains In Cuba

TRENTON, N.J. - State lawmakers in New Jersey plan to introduce a resolution calling on President Barack Obama and Congress to urge Cuba to return a woman who gunned down a state trooper in 1973.
 
Sens. Sean Kean, R-Wall, and Fred Madden, D-Turnersville, say Obama's move to ease sanctions against Cuba is an opportunity to bring back Joanne Chesimard.
 
The Black Liberation Army member was convicted of shooting Trooper Werner Foerster as he lay on the ground. She fled to Cuba after escaping prison in 1979 and is now known as Assata Shakur.
 
The U.S. Justice Department has offered a $1 million reward for her capture.
 
Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2005 appeared to defend Shakur without naming her.

Watch Yesterday's Cuba Solidarity Event

Cuba Continues To Aid Terrorists

MADRID (AFP) -- Cuba has expelled Spanish intelligence agents who were tracking members of the Basque separatist group ETA on the communist island, a Spanish newspaper said Thursday.
 
NOTE:  ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom"), an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization.  ETA has killed over 800 individuals.  The group is proscribed as a terrorist organization by both the Spanish and French authorities as well as the European Union as a whole, and the United States.

Attention (Again) Senator Shameless

Another Imprisoned Journalist In Cuba
 
Earlier this week, Reporters Without Frontiers confirmed a three year prison sentence imposed upon Alberto Santiago de Bouchet, an independent journalist and correspondent for the Havana Press News Agency.

Alberto Santiago was arrested on April 18th of this year.  He was sentenced for the "disobedient" act of sending news items abroad.

This prison sentence comes two weeks after World Press Freedom Day and just one week after a certain shameless New England Senator and his staff held up a version of a Senate resolution on Cuba's imprisoned journalists because it included the individual names of such courageous journalists.
 
Let me repeat his name, Alberto Santiago de Bouchet.

True Independence For Cuba

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Martinez Calls for Independence of Cuba on Nation's Anniversary

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today spoke on the Senate Floor in recognition of the 107th anniversary of Cuba's independence from Spain. Martinez underscored the current continuing repression of basic human rights of the Cuban people and the ongoing struggle by peaceful activists to gain the country's freedom from a repressive a dictatorial regime.
 
Martinez said:
 
"For Americans, Independence Day is the day we celebrate our freedom and the ideals on which our nation was founded. For Cubans, who won their formal independence 107 years ago today, Independence Day serves as a reminder that there are those still struggling to exercise their fundamental rights, having spent the past 50 years under the repressive rule of a one-family regime.
 
"While I appreciate the President's willingness to address some of the challenges facing the Cuban people, I also ask that he consider implementing policies that will empower the Cuban people, not embolden the regime. Wholesale change in Cuba won't come from Washington. Change for Havana can only come from Havana."
 
May 20th, 1902 the Republic of Cuba was born when the country gained independence from Spain.

Congressman Meek Offers Antunez Support



Clinton: No OAS For Castro

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Cuba won't be allowed to rejoin the Organization of American States until it makes political reforms, releases political prisoners and respects human rights.

In the Congressional Record

United States of America
House of Representatives

Mr. MEEK of Florida. Madam Speaker, I would like to recognize that today, May 20, 2009, is Cuban Independence Day. On this day, many people in my home community of South Florida will mark the rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions of Cuban Independence Day. What was once a day of festivity and joy has become a day of nostalgia for a Cuba that once was free, but also of hope that it will soon regain its freedom.

As we continue to see political prisoners jailed in Cuba for peacefully expressing their rights and freedoms, we must remember that May 20, 1902, stood as a day of freedom and liberty after years of struggle and hardship.

Political prisoners today such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and dissidents like Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" hold strong unto their forefathers’ passion for liberty and desire to live in a free and transparent democracy. While Dr. Biscet currently serves a 25-year prison sentence in Cuba, even from behind bars, he continues to promote democracy, social justice and liberty for all Cuban people.

Close friends, neighbors and many others who I grew up with are Cuban-Americans who have come to this country with little else beyond the clothes on their back and are now living the American Dream. I stand alongside these patriotic individuals as they mark May 20th in our State. They are men and women who love their adopted homeland, but long for their native land to allow them the freedoms they enjoy here. I offer them my solidarity on this special day.

Congressman Tiahrt On CAMBIO

Kendrick on Cuban Independence

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) released the following statement regarding Cuban Independence Day:
 
"Today many people in my home community of South Florida will celebrate the rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions of Cuban Independence Day.  What was once a day of festivity and joy has become a day of nostalgia and hope for a Cuba that once was free -- and will soon regain its freedom. 
 
"As we continue to see political prisoners jailed in Cuba for peacefully expressing their rights and freedoms, we must remember that May 20, 1902, stood as a day of freedom and liberty after years of struggle and hardship. 
 
"Political prisoners today such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" hold strong unto their forefathers' passion for liberty and desire to live in a free and transparent democracy. While Dr. Biscet currently serves a 25-year prison sentence in Cuba, he continues to promote democracy, social justice and liberty for all Cuban people.
 
"Close friends, neighbors and many others who I grew up with are Cuban-Americans who have come to this country with little else beyond the clothes on their back and are now living the American Dream.  On this symbolic day of freedom, I stand alongside these patriotic individuals, who love their adopted homeland but long for their native land to have the freedoms they enjoy here." 

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 5

In today's New York Times on the seven U.S.-based charter companies that control Cuban-American travel to the island in conjunction with the Cuban regime's Havanatur:
 
"They are a virtual cartel that control the travel sector from the U.S. to Cuba, charging egregious fees in collusion with Cuban authorities," said Mauricio Claver Carone, director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington.

Global Cuba Solidarity Movement

May 20th marks the 107th anniversary of Cuba's independence from Spain.  Yet the struggle to realize the full blessings of independence in a modern world so fiercely desired by the Cuban people remains incomplete.  Individual rights and liberties, the touchstones of a modern democratic society, are callously denied by a communist dictatorship that has ruled the island with absolute power for more than 50 years.  Rights of speech, travel, association, and access to information as well basic economic freedoms are withheld in ways inconsistent with universal values and fundamental human rights.  For this reason May 20th, Cuba Solidarity Day, remains closely associated around the world with the legitimate aspirations and hopes of all the Cuban people, especially those who form part of a robust and growing civil society movement who most courageously resist cruel and arbitrary demands for obedience and silence.

In an unprecedented demonstration of solidarity, last year thousands expressed their commitment to freedom and democracy by standing in support of Cuba's political prisoners.  Over a hundred events in dozens of countries in every continent marked this day, launching a first-of-its-kind Global Cuba Solidarity Movement.  Concerts, public demonstrations, marches and vigils took place, coordinated largely on-line through www.solidaridadcuba.org/eng.  Within Cuba, during the entire month of May, peaceful democratic opposition leaders clamored for democratic change through non-cooperation by wearing white bracelets emblazoned with "CAMBIO" and promoting the "Yo No Coopero" campaign and speaking out against the violation of human rights.  Once again, this year thier courageous leadership inspires friends of justice and democracy to take action.

Even Jim Cramer Is Bearish On Havana

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
From MSNBC's Mad Money:
 
Hi Jim: With relations starting to warm up between the US and Cuba, do you think the gaming stocks and resort operators may benefit? Or is it too early to tell? Not that I expect Hyman Roth and Michael Corleone to set up shop again. Any thoughts?? --Joey

Cramer says: "Every time I try to buy something off of Cuba, I come back with the idea that unless it's like a Watsco [WSO, 50.07-0.53 (-1.05%)], which is just an industrial play...the problem with this is these are all tertiary plays.  I'm not going there.  Too hard to make money.  Don't want you to speculate on that..."

Cuba's Opposition Rejects OAS Efforts

More than 250 activists of the Cuban democratic resistance movement in Cuba have signed an open letter to the OAS denouncing Cuba's possible readmission to the organization and calling for acknowledgement of Cuban civil society.

"Embrace the Cuban people. Condemn its dictatorship. Do not reinstate the Castro regime in the Latin American democratic community; open the doors of the OAS to the Cuban civil society that non-violently struggles for democratic transformation," affirms the letter.

The message, an initiative from within the island, has been signed by distinguished Cuban leaders such as the activist and former political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" and the president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina.

The proposal by the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, to abolish the resolution suspending Cuba's membership to the Inter-American System will be presented in the 39th General Assembly of the OAS held in San Pedro de Sula, Honduras on June 2nd and 3rd.

Below, the full text of the letter to the OAS:

To the Organization of American States

Republic of Cuba
May 15, 2009

We, members of the Cuban democratic opposition, along with our brothers in the Resistance who are exiled, consider it necessary to address you in the name of our people's sovereign democratic aspirations.

We contemplate how a call for the readmission of the longest-lived and most oppressive of Latin American dictatorships to has been raised in the Latin American region, which, as if were not enough, the Castro dictatorship itself has reviled. It is a painful contradiction for the complete normalization of all ties with this tyrannical regime and the diplomatic acceptance of despotic rule on our Island to be proposed precisely on the 50th anniversary of the advent of totalitarianism in Cuba.

Cuba has not been separated from the OAS. It is the tyrannical regime which violates the public liberties of Cubans that has been separated. It is the Cuban nation which has continued to belong to this organization in symbolic tribute to the thousands of Cubans who have paid harshly for their democratic resistance against this regime.

Nevertheless, what worries us most is not the affront which would be committed against our rights by accepting the dictatorship which oppresses us as an equal in terms of the fundamental values of its democratic neighbors, but rather the damage that would be inflicted on the hemisphere itself.

It has cost great pain and sacrifice to banish dictatorships from our Latin America. To ignore the Inter American Democratic Charter, and specifically articles 1, 2, and 3 which state:

Article 1 - The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.

Article 2 - The effective exercise of representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law and of the constitutional regimes of the member states of the Organization of American States.

Article 3 - Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.

To readmit the totalitarian Castro regime to the OAS would mean opening the door to every kind of future despotism for the region, and would portend grave and unpredictable consequences for the millions of human beings who are part of the Latin American community.

We ask you, in the name of the very values of civilization, not to take this step. To do so would be to lower our American democratic community to the level of totalitarian barbarism. The 1962 Resolution expresses a clear democratic principle: there can be no democratic tolerance for the institutionalized violation of human rights embodied totalitarian, Marxist-Leninist regimes.

The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, an institution affiliated to the OAS, has been one of the most serious and consistent institutions to document the atrocities committed by the Castro dictatorship against its own people.

Furthermore, we consider that the free Cuban nation would leave through the same door that the Castro regime may potentially be admitted to the OAS.

Consideramos además que por la misma puerta que entraría la dictadura castrista al ser admitida potencialmente por la OEA, saldría la nación cubana libre.

Embrace the Cuban people. Condemn its dictatorship. Do not reinstate the Castro regime in the Latin American democratic community; open the doors of the OAS to the Cuban civil society that non-violently struggles for democratic transformation.

Click here to view signatories

Cuba Event Tomorrow

Cuba at the Crossroads Series
Solidarity with the People of Cuba: The Struggle for Freedom Continues

Date: May 20, 2009

Time: 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Speaker(s):

A MESSAGE FROM THE CUBAN PEOPLE

Bertha Antúnez
Sister of prominent dissident Cuban activist Jorge Luis "Antúnez" Garcia Perez

COMMENTARY – MAKING A REAL DIFFERENCE IN CUBA

Ambassador Lino Gutierrez
Former Ambassador to Argentina and Nicaragua and Senior Advisor on Cuba to Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez

Adolfo Franco
Former Assistant Administrator, Agency for International Development

Mauricio Claver-Carone
Director, U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee

Host(s):

Ray Walser, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America, The Heritage Foundation

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

May 20th marks the 108th year of Cuba's achievement of independence from its Spanish overlords. Yet, the struggle to realize the full blessings of independence in a modern world so fiercely desired by the Cuban people remains incomplete. Individual rights and liberties, the touchstones of modern democratic society, are callously and routinely denied by a communist dictatorship that has ruled the island with absolute authority for over 50 years. Rights of speech, travel, association, and access to information as well basic economic freedoms are withheld in ways inconsistent with universal values and fundamental human rights. For this reason, May 20 remains a day closely associated with the thwarted aspirations and shattered hopes of the Cuban people, especially for those who courageously resist the regime's cruel and arbitrary demands for obedience and silence.

In May 2008 people around the world observed the first Solidarity Day with Cuba – the purpose of which was to "shine a bright light on the Castro regime's abuses" and "call on the Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience." In Miami, then presidential candidate Barack Obama called upon Cuba to begin ushering in a new era in relations by taking "significant steps toward democracy, beginning with freeing all political prisoners." The political and human rights situation in Cuba under the control of the Castros remains unchanged.

This Heritage Foundation event will reiterate the urgent need for the release of political prisoners and discuss the importance of fostering stronger ties with the people of Cuba yearning for freedom and a democratic way of life. It will offer practical recommendations on steps that everyone in the U.S., from the grassroots to the Oval Office, can take to demonstrate solidarity and support for Cubans seeking the liberties and rights accorded those who are genuinely free.

To RSVP click here

Cuban Church Leader Faces Trial

Monday, May 18, 2009
From Inspire Magazine:

A Cuban pastor will finally face trial next week in the city of Camaguey, after spending a whole year in prison.
 
Government prosecutors are asking that Pastor Omar Gude Perez, who was initially detained on 22 May 2008, be given a seven-year sentence. Although he is facing criminal charges, there are strong indications that he is being targeted due to his leadership role in a fast growing Christian organisation, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
 
State prosecutors first attempted to charge Pastor Gude Perez with "Human Trafficking". These charges were dropped in March 2009 after a court in Camaguey found that they were without evidence.  However, Pastor Gude Perez was not released from prison and in mid-April new charges of Falsification of Documents and Illicit Economic Activities were filed.
 
The prosecution's new petition goes on to accuse the pastor of "counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes." The prosecution also states that he is unemployed, despite the fact that he has worked as a full-time pastor for the last 20 years.

Attention Chamber and Farm Bureau!

Reuters reports:
 
Foreign businessmen and diplomats have been complaining they are not getting paid by the Cuban government, while banks have warned they have very little foreign exchange in hand.

Death Toll In Cuba's Prisons

Thus far in 2009, there have been 18 prisoner deaths -- 10 by suicide -- in Cuba's prisons, according to testimony given to El Nuevo Herald by victim's families and human rights activists on the island.
 
Unofficially, throughout 2008, there were 42 deaths in Cuba's prisons, 23 of them due to lack of medical care and 11 by suicide.  However, Cuban dissident groups and international human rights monitors believe other unknown cases would raise this figure to between 50 and 100.

An Endearing Description

From ABC News:

If you stand lookout from the housing projects along the back highway to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, you will eventually witness a motorcade of Transval (Cuba's Brinks) armored vehicles speeding toward the airport, surrounded by the flashing lights of police cars and motorcycle cops. 
 
Cuba's government is moving cash, mainly U.S. dollars, to somewhere on the planet where a bank has agreed to process the bills for a few percentage points above normal exchange rates.

50 Years Of A Failed Policy

Peter Kent, Canadian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the Americas, comments on Canada's policy towards Cuba:

In an interview with Canwest News Service and Global News, Kent said the quiet diplomacy or "constructive engagement" of past Liberal governments has not worked and that Canadians expect their government to conduct human rights discussions in the open, not behind closed doors.

NOTE: Kent learned 10 days ago that his planned trip to Havana was no longer possible. The Cuban government gave no clear explanation other than it would not be able to accommodate him. It is unclear whether Kent's tough language -- as well as some frank talk from Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Cuba's totalitarian state -- rubbed the Cuban communist regime the wrong way.

The Spirit of Jose Marti

On this day in 1895, Cuban national hero Jose Marti was killed during Cuba's quest for independence against Spain.  Marti is widely referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence."  
 
His words and core beliefs in freedom and democracy live in the heart of Cuba's peaceful pro-democracy movement,
 
"One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army."

Cuba Is 91.5 Times More Repressive Than China

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists ("CPJ"), "21 independent reporters and editors are currently jailed in Cuba, which is the second-worst jailer of journalists in the world after China." 
 
CPJ can identify 28 journalists imprisoned in China (out of a population of 1.4 billion people). Meanwhile, they identify 21 journalists imprisoned in Cuba (out of a population of 11.5 million people).
 
Statistically, this makes Cuba 91.5 times more repressive than China as regards the activities of independent journalists.
 

In the interest of full disclosure, here's the math:
 
28/1400
0.02
21/11.5
1.8260869565217391304347826086957
1.83/.02
91.5
 
Capitol Hill Cubans would like to thank its good friend at NYU for this calculation.

Will The Lights Stay On At the OAS?

From Congressional Quarterly:
 
OAS Push to Readmit Cuba Has Menendez Eyeing Funding
 
After a 47-year suspension of relations, the new secretary-general of the Organization of American States wants to invite Cuba back into the fold. But Castro foes on the Hill are warning the group's chief that such a move could cost him.

"As the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign assistance, I would expect the U.S. Congress to ask, 'Should we continue to pay 60 percent of the budget of an institution that just disregarded democratic principles as a fundamental part of its charter?' " said Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

Congress appropriated $55.8 million for the OAS in fiscal 2009, and President Obama wants roughly the same amount for the group in fiscal 2010.

The OAS, one of the oldest international bodies in the world, expelled Fidel Castro-led Cuba from its ranks in 1962 after passing a resolution that declared "Marxist-Leninism" incompatible with the group's democratic principles.

Although the Castro brothers — Fidel and his brother Raul — remain in power in Havana and the OAS found "permanent and systematic violations of the fundamental rights of Cuban citizens" in its most recent annual report, OAS chief Jose Insulza says he wants to include Cuba for the sake of democratization.

"Engagement and dialogue are better to bring countries into democracy, not segregation or separation," he said at the Council of the Americas summit in mid-May.

He had his own warning for U.S. lawmakers if, contrary to Latin American hopes, Obama does not change U.S. policy toward Cuba: Latin America "has already distanced itself from the U.S. and may distance even more if the promise of a new beginning isn't fulfilled," Insulza said.

The OAS chief says he wants to see the Cuba issue debated when the 34 member nations of the OAS convene for the organization's 39th annual assembly June 2 in Honduras. He called the 1962 resolution "outdated" for its Cold War references and said Cuba has not even been mentioned at the last 11 assemblies.

Menendez thinks the OAS should keep it that way.

"What message are we sending to the rest of the hemisphere — that it's OK to go backwards?" Menendez said.

Cuba's Online Superstar

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Clipping Castro one blog at a time
Cubans are forbidden to log on, yet Yoani Sanchez's website has made her a subversive star

by Matthew Campell

CUBAN dissidents have found a brave new figurehead in Yoani Sanchez, a blogger whose observations about life in one of the world's last communist bastions have angered the state and made her a global celebrity.

Sanchez, a 33-year-old philologist, has attracted a loyal fan base with her gentle mockery of the regime in Havana, which seems to be at a loss over how to rein in "cyber-space rebels".

"They regard me as an enemy of the state," said Sanchez last week in a telephone interview. "That is because the blogging phenomenon has opened up a crack in government control which is almost impossible to repair."

Although it is read all over the world, Sanchez's blog, Generation Y, is blocked in Cuba. However, like Soviet-era homemade samizdat copies of censored books, it circulates on computer memory sticks and CDs as well as on paper.

"I know that I am being read because people recognise me in the street," said Sanchez, who sometimes has had to pose as a Swiss tourist so as to be able to post her blog on the internet from a Havana hotel. "People come up to me all the time to wish me luck."

The government of Raul Castro, 77-year-old brother of the retired Fidel, accuses her of being part of a "counter-revolutionary" conspiracy. Elsewhere she is regarded as a hero: Time magazine recently named her among the 100 most influential people in the world.

As for the Castro "dynasty", she believes that it has run out of steam. "The Cuban system is like one of those gravity-defying houses in Old Havana," she said. "How does it stay up? Maybe one day they pull a small nail from the door and the house comes tumbling down. In today's Cuba, that small nail could be anything."

Perhaps it will be her. 

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Reformers From Within?

The Financial Times' review of The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown, one of Britain's foremost experts on communism for the past 40 years, raises some interesting questions about the need for a combination of both reformers from within a regime and a civil society movement for the system's collapse.  If such an argument holds true, only time will tell who the Cuban regime's reformers will be, as the Cuban civil society steadily grows.  One thing is for sure, history has proven it is not Fidel or Raul Castro.   
 
From the FT's review:
 
Although Brown covers the communist experience in China, south-east Asia and Cuba, he is at his most fluent and convincing when he analyses the Soviet Union and eastern Europe between 1945 and 1989. He contends that, no matter how economically inefficient and politically unpopular the Soviet and eastern European regimes were, it required reformers from within – above all, Mikhail Gorbachev – to make the moves that would prompt the system's collapse.

"There is no automatic link between economic failure and collapse of a communist regime if all the resources of an oppressive state are brought to bear to keep its rulers in office," Brown writes. The tight grip on power held in North Korea by Kim Jong-il and, before him, by his father Kim Il-sung support Brown's argument.

Even Poland's Solidarity free trade union, a mass anti-communist movement if ever there was one, stood no chance in December 1981 when the Polish communist party and armed forces imposed martial law. Brown's chapter on the Prague spring, meanwhile, shows how easy it was for the Soviet Union to crush a reform movement whose origins lay largely in the ruling party itself.

The Bipolar Mr. Castro

The Castro regime has also been ferociously anti-gay.  As early as 1965, the Cuban government began sending homosexuals to prison farms and labor camps where they were brutally mistreated.  
 
According to Fidel Castro: 
 
"Homosexuals should not be allowed in positions where they are able to exert influence upon young people. In the conditions under which we live, because of the problems which our country is facing, we must inculcate your youth with the spirit of discipline, of struggle, of work... We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true Communist militant. A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must be."

An attempt to hold Cuba's first Gay Pride March at the end of June 2008 was quickly ended when police arrested the organizers and banned the march.  The march was organized by the "illegal" Foundation LGTB Reinaldo Arenas in Memoriam.
 
Today, the AP reports on a gay march in Havana led by Mariela Castro's "legal" National Centre or Sex Education.  Apparently, even homosexuality has to be controlled by the Castros in Cuba. 
 
HAVANA (AP) -- President Raúl Castro's daughter led hundreds of Cuban gays in a street dance Saturday to draw attention to gay rights on the island.

Memo to Cargill: Just Wait And See What Castro Has For You

From this weekend's Financial Times:
 
Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's president, continued his assault on foreign companies operating in the country yesterday, seizing a pasta factory owned by US food giant Cargill in an effort to keep a lid on rampant inflation and dwindling food stocks.
 
NOTE: Cargill Corporation is a Minnesota-base agri-business leader, which together with Archer Daniels Midland of Illinois, leads the U.S. in commodity exports to Cuba (and lobbying Congress for even more business with the Castro regime).

The Day The West Betrayed Democracy

This week's international release of, Prisoner of State, Zhao Ziyang's secret memoirs -- the Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party, who opposed Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's violent suppression of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square on June 3rd, 1989 -- provides fascinating insight into the disagreements within the Chinese ruling copula during the months culminating in the tragic confrontation between students and soldiers.

It also reminds us of the dramatically different outcome that might have taken place if Western nations and economic interests, led by the U.S., wouldn't have stood complicity silent as tanks rolled over the democratic aspirations of the Chinese people.

Let's hope such complicity never happens with Cuba.