Hillary Orders Spy "Damage Assessment"

Saturday, June 6, 2009
U.S. State Department Statement on the Arrest of Cuban Spies

On June 4, 2009 the FBI arrested former Department of State employee Walter Kendall Myers on charges of serving as an illegal agent of the Cuban government for nearly 30 years and conspiring to provide classified U.S. information to the Cuban government. Mr. Myers’ arrest is the culmination of a three-year joint FBI/Department of State Diplomatic Security investigation. Based on general information provided by the FBI, Diplomatic Security (DS) conducted a comprehensive internal investigation that resulted in the identification of Mr. Myers by Diplomatic Security as the probable Cuban agent, and ultimately led to his arrest yesterday.

Mr. Myers is a retired State Department employee who first worked as a lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute and later as a European analyst in the Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) from 2000 until his retirement in October 2007. Mr. Myers’ State Department service was primarily in domestic positions. Mr. Myers’ spouse, Gwendolyn Myers, also was arrested on the same charges; she was never employed by the U.S. Department of State.

The Secretary of State takes this matter, like any allegation of criminal wrong-doing, seriously. The Secretary has directed Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and former Director of Security for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Eric J. Boswell, to conduct a comprehensive review of this case. She also has directed him to undertake a thorough assessment of past and current Department of State security procedures and practices and provide recommendations for any appropriate or necessary improvements to ensure effective measures are in place to protect sensitive and classified information. In addition, the Secretary directed the Department to conduct a comprehensive damage assessment in coordination with the intelligence community in accordance with established damages protocols and regulations.

Finally, the Secretary has directed that the Department share its findings with OMB’s Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council –which is responsible for establishing uniform and consistent security clearance standards across the government – to inform, and as appropriate, strengthen the national standards by which all agencies operate.

As this is an ongoing joint FBI and Department of State Diplomatic Security investigation, we will not be commenting further at this time on the status of the investigation.

The Cuban Intelligence Threat

As Director of the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive -- part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- Dr. Joel F. Brenner, made the following important observations:

"Espionage did not go away with the end of the Cold War. It is older than Joshua's reconnoitering of the Promised Land, and it will be with us forever. Much of the damage [Soviet spy Robert] Hanssen did, for example, was done after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And much more recently, DIA analyst Ana Montes was caught after a 15-year campaign of spying against us for the Cubans, who are very good at this business. Montes compromised our entire program against Cuba — electronic as well as human."

- Speech on "Strategic Counterintelligence," American Bar Association, March 29, 2007

"The Russians and the Chinese remain big problems for us. The Cubans are a problem for us and the Iranians are a big problem for us...The Iranians are mostly interested in stealing nuclear tech. It's a much more focused threat. It's not as big of a threat as the Chinese or the Russians, but it's a serious one and the Cubans have a very accomplished set of intel services and they are something we have to watch."

- "The Intel Brief," Federal News Service, July 8th, 2008

Can the Castro Regime Be Trusted With Our National Security?

This month, the Obama Administration offered -- and the Castro regime accepted -- to resume talks on migration and direct mail service between both nations. It's important to note that these migration talks were suspended in 2004 due to the Castro regime's refusal to comply with the 1995 Migration Accords and that the U.S. has authorized direct mail transfers to the island since 1992, yet the Castro regime has refused to reciprocate.

However, of further concern is the fact that "Cuban officials who met with State Department officials Saturday [also] raised the prospect of future talks regarding counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and disaster preparedness and response," (CNN, May 31st, 2009).

Needless to say, the recent arrest of former State Department official, Kendall Myers, and his wife, and the similar 2003 case of a Defense Intelligence Agency senior analyst, Ana Belen Montes, for serving as Cuban agents, aptly prove that the Castro regime has once again compromised -- at least the trust, at most the national security -- of the United States.

Therefore, it would be downright irresponsible -- not to mention dangerous -- to trust and engage the Castro regime on issues of U.S. national security.

Postpone Migration Talks, Account for Damage by Spies

Friday, June 5, 2009
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today issued the following statement upon learning of the arrest and pending indictment of two U.S. citizens accused of spying for Cuba against the United States.

Today’s arrest of two Americans alleged to have spied for Cuba is reason enough for the Administration to halt any further diplomatic outreach to the regime including postponing the migration talks until the U.S. Congress has a full accounting of the damage these individuals have caused to our national security.

“This is a stark reminder that just 90 miles from our shores, there is a government hostile toward the people of the United States, a regime that seeks to do us harm and works against our interests around the world.

“I commend the Department of Justice and especially the FBI for their work. I hope the Obama administration will continue its efforts to uncover Cuban acts of espionage and increase actions to counter the regime’s clandestine assault against the U.S. -- an assault that has continued for more than half a century.”

Justice Department on Arrest of Cuban Spies

Former State Department Official and Wife Arrested for Serving as Illegal Agents of Cuba for Nearly 30 Years

Couple Allegedly Conspired to Provide Classified Information to Cuban Government

A former State Department official and his wife have been arrested on charges of serving as illegal agents of the Cuban government for nearly 30 years and conspiring to provide classified U.S. information to the Cuban government.

The arrests were announced today by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Channing D. Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director for the FBI's Washington Field Office, and Ambassador Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

An indictment and criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia charge Walter Kendall Myers, 72, a.k.a. "Agent 202," and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, a.k.a. "Agent 123," and "Agent E-634," with conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the Cuban government and to communicate classified information to the Cuban government. Each of the defendants is also charged with acting as an illegal agent of the Cuban government and with wire fraud.

The Myers, both residents of Washington, D.C., were arrested yesterday afternoon by FBI agents. They made their initial appearances today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while serving as an illegal agent of a foreign government carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

"The clandestine activity alleged in the charging documents, which spanned nearly three decades, is incredibly serious and should serve as a warning to any others in the U.S. government who would betray America's trust by serving as illegal agents of a foreign government. We remain vigilant in protecting our nation's secrets and in bringing to justice those who compromise them," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "These arrests are the culmination of an outstanding counterespionage effort by many agents, analysts and prosecutors who deserve special thanks for their extraordinary work."

"This case demonstrates the care we must take in protecting our nation's valuable secrets, and shows the dedication and perseverance of the men and women investigating this crime who never tired in finding those now charged with betraying our country," said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips.

"Intelligence services from around the globe continue to steal what information they can from the United States," said Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director for the FBI's Washington Field Office. "Vigilance must be matched with patience to successfully bring their agents to trial. I would particularly like to thank the men and women in my office who worked on this case and who work on other espionage investigations. They work without accolades; silently protecting the safety and security of the United States and its citizens."

Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric J. Boswell stated, "The U.S. Department of State is jointly investigating this matter with the FBI, and will continue to aggressively pursue any and all breaches of national security. The Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security works closely with its law enforcement colleagues in the FBI and other agencies to uncover and prosecute any breath of security within its ranks. Any compromise of classified information is a serious threat to the security of our nation, and the State Department will aggressively investigate any such activity to the fullest extent possible."

U.S. Government Employment:

According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Kendall Myers began his work at the State Department in 1977, initially serving as a contract instructor at the Department's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Va. After living briefly in South Dakota, he returned to Washington, D.C., and resumed employment as an instructor with FSI. From 1988 to 1999, in addition to his FSI duties, he performed periodic work for the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

Kendall Myers later began working full-time at the INR and, from July 2001 until his retirement in October 2007, he was a senior analyst for Europe for INR, where he specialized in intelligence analysis on European matters and had daily access to classified information through computer databases and otherwise. He received a Top Secret security clearance in 1985 and, in 1999, his clearance was upgraded to Top Secret/SCI.

Gwendolyn Myers moved to Washington, D.C., in 1980 and married Kendall Myers in May 1982. She later obtained employment with a local bank as an administrative analyst and later as a special assistant. Gwendolyn Myers was never granted a security clearance by the U.S. government.

Recruitment:

According to the affidavit, Kendall Myers traveled to Cuba in December 1978 after receiving an invitation from an official who served at the Cuban Mission to the United States in New York City. His guide while in Cuba was an official with Cuba's Foreign Service Institute. This trip provided the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) with the opportunity to assess or develop Myers as a Cuban agent, according to the affidavit.

Approximately six months after the trip, the Myers were visited in South Dakota by the official from the Cuban Mission in New York and, according to the affidavit, Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers agreed to serve as clandestine agents of the Cuban government. Afterwards, the CuIS directed Kendall Myers to pursue a job at either the State Department or the CIA. Kendall Myers, accompanied by his wife, then returned to Washington, D.C., where he resumed contract work at the State Department and later obtained a State Department position that required a Top Secret security clearance.

According to the affidavit, during this time frame, the CuIS often communicated with its clandestine agents in the United States by broadcasting encrypted radio messages from Cuba on shortwave radio frequencies. Clandestine agents in the United States monitoring the frequency on shortwave radio could decode the messages using a decryption program provided by the CuIS. Such methods were employed by defendants previously convicted of espionage on behalf of Cuba. According to the affidavit, the Myers have an operable shortwave radio in their apartment and they told an FBI source that they have used it to receive messages from the CuIS.

Undercover Operation:

According to the affidavit, in April 2009, the FBI launched an undercover operation to convince the couple that they had been contacted by a Cuban intelligence officer and to ascertain the scope of their activities for the CuIS. On April 15, 2009, an undercover FBI source posing as a Cuban intelligence officer approached Kendall Myers in Washington, D.C., stating that he had been sent to contact Myers by a named CuIS official in order to obtain information. The FBI source also congratulated Kendall Myers on his birthday and offered him a cigar. Myers agreed to meet the source later that day at a nearby hotel and volunteered to bring his wife along to the meeting.

During the meeting later that day, the couple agreed to meet the source again and to provide information on U.S. government personnel with responsibility for Latin America. According to the affidavit, the couple also made a series of statements about their past activities on behalf of the CuIS, including acknowledging having received coded messages from the CuIS via shortwave radio, meeting CuIS officials in Mexico, and being alert to surveillance. "We have been very cautious, careful with our moves and, uh, trying to be alert to any surveillance," Kendall Myers allegedly told the FBI source.

In subsequent meetings with the FBI source, the Myers allegedly agreed to provide information on the April 17-19, 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as to use specified code words, signals and encryption programs to transmit information via email during future interactions with the source. They also asked the source to "send special greetings…and hugs" to certain CuIS officials.

In addition, the couple allegedly made further statements to the source about their past activities for the CuIS. According to the affidavit, the defendants discussed how they were first recruited by the CuIS and how codes had been used for each of them in messages, including "123" for Gwendolyn Myers and "202" for Kendall Myers. The Myers also stated that they had traveled to meet Cuban agents in Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Jamaica, New York City and other locations.

The Myers also discussed how they had passed information to CuIS agents, with both agreeing that the most secure way was "hand-to-hand." According to the affidavit, Gwendolyn Myers said her favorite way of passing information to CuIS agents involved the changing of shopping carts in a grocery store because it was "easy enough to do."

According to the affidavit, Kendall Myers told the source that he typically removed information from the State Department by memory or by taking notes, although he did occasionally take some documents home. "I was always pretty careful. I, I didn't usually take documents out," he said. According to the affidavit, he also acknowledged delivering information to the CuIS that was classified beyond the "Secret" level. He further stated that he had received "lots of medals" from the Cuban government and that he and his wife had met and spent an evening with Fidel Castro in 1995.

Additional Evidence:

According to the affidavit, the FBI collects high frequency messages broadcast by the CuIS to its agents and has identified messages that it has determined were broadcast to a handler of Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers. Furthermore, the FBI has confirmed trips by the couple to Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Jamaica that correspond to statements made by the defendants. In addition, the FBI has identified emails to the couple in 2008 and 2009 from a suspected representative of the CuIS in Mexico who was allegedly requesting that the couple travel to Mexico.

The affidavit further indicates that an analysis of Kendall Myers' classified State Department work computer hard drive revealed that, from August 22, 2006, until his retirement on Oct. 31, 2007, he viewed more than 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports concerning the subject of Cuba, while employed as an INR senior analyst for Europe. Of these reports concerning Cuba, the majority was classified and marked Secret or Top Secret, the affidavit alleges. An FBI review of Kendall Myers' State Department security files further revealed numerous false statements by him to conceal the couple's clandestine activities on behalf of the CuIS, the affidavit further alleges.

According to the affidavit, neither Kendall Myers nor Gwendolyn Myers ever provided notification to the Attorney General that either of them was acting as an agent of a foreign government, as required by law.

Finally, the affidavit alleges that Kendall Myers engaged in a scheme to defraud the State Department and the United States by means of false pretenses and caused the U.S. government to lose property, specifically money in the form of salary payments. By not disclosing his clandestine activity on behalf of the CuIS and by making false statements to the State Department about his status, Kendall Myers allegedly defrauded the State Department whenever he received his government salary. Gwendolyn Myers is also criminally liable for this alleged wire fraud scheme.

This investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI's Washington Field Office, and the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Harvey, from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, and Senior Trial Attorney Clifford I. Rones, from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.

The public is reminded that criminal complaints and indictments contain mere allegations and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Perils of Indifference

"Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees -- not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own."

- Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner, April 12, 1999

This morning, U.S. President Barack Obama visited the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald with Elie Weisel, where they dedicated a minute of silence to the 56,000 people that were executed at that site during the Holocaust.










Only the right to remember tragedy can prevent humanity from repeating the horrors of the past.

Across the Atlantic, pursuant to the Organization of American States' decision to repeal the 1962 that suspended Cuba's dictatorship from its ranks, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras -- who together with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega led the efforts to revoke the 1962 resolution -- gloated that with this gesture by the OAS, "Fidel Castro has been acquitted by history."

Despite the Western Hemisphere's condemnable indifference, the only thing history will record is that the Cuban people -- like all other victims of tyranny throughout modern history, whether Jewish, Armenian, Rwandan or Sudanese -- will never forget the countless victims of the brutal dictatorship they have been subjected to.

Below is a picture of Raul Castro personally overseeing the execution of a colleague in the rebel army, and of the Cuban National Memorial in South Florida, where tens of thousands of crosses each carry the name of a victim of Cuba's dictatorship.

Hillary: U.S. Wasn't Snubbed in OAS

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Fox's Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: We talked about the travel. I know you've been to Honduras. The OAS, after you left -- it looks like Cuba's going to be invited back in.

CLINTON: No, that wasn't the outcome.

VAN SUSTEREN: It wasn't the outcome? What happened?

CLINTON: Well, we were very adamantly opposed to those who wanted to lift the 1962 suspension and leave it at that. That was not acceptable to the United States. That's, unfortunately, the path that they were on earlier. And we made the case to many countries and found a receptive audience that we could agree to lift something from so long ago that was really part of the cold war, but we had to reaffirm the values and principles of the OAS. We had to explicitly reaffirm democracy and human rights. And then we had to have a process. So yes, you can lift the suspension, but that's the beginning, that's not the end. Then Cuba has to decide whether it wishes to become a member of the OAS. And then the OAS must, according to its practices, purposes and principles, enter into a dialogue with Cuba and make a decision. So this was the beginning. Unlike what some had hoped, to have a kind of fait accompli, we were able to create a consensus that the majority of countries in the OAS agreed with the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: So we haven't been snubbed.

CLINTON: Oh, not at all.
In fact, this was a very good example of the kind of diplomatic engagement that we want to be involved with. Now, of course we had to make the case, and I did it very vigorously with many of my counterparts, that we believed that we needed to do exactly what I said. We couldn't throw over the OAS, throw over democracy and human rights, which we have worked so hard on in the hemisphere, but we would welcome changes by the Cuban government. We really want to see the Cuban people brought back into the hemisphere and be part of what we hope will be a more prosperous and progressive future.

The Crime of Illegal Exit

Yesterday, seven Cubans set out for the United States in a rickety plastic foam boat, which began to fall apart in the water, and instead ended up in front of Havana's Malecon seafront boulevard (ironically, right next to the U.S. Interests Section).

According to the AP, "a police officer at the scene said the men were being taken home, not to jail, because they had not committed any crime."

There are estimated to be thousands of Cubans in prison for "illegal exit," an act reminiscent of the courage and ingenuity of East Germans trying to cross the Berlin Wall towards freedom during the Cold War, but a tragic modern day reality in the world's remaining totalitarian states -- namely, North Korea, Burma and Cuba.

Many more are believed to have "disappeared" during attempts to exit the island. Francisco Chaviano González tried to start a registry of such disappearances inside Cuba but was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to 15 years of prison for revealing “state secrets.” Chaviano served 13 years as an Amnesty International "prisoner of conscience" and was released in 2007 in very ill health.

Article 216 of the Cuban penal code defines illegal exit and the penalties for this crime:

"a person who leaves or commits acts preparatory to leaving the national territory without complying with legal formalities shall be subject to imprisonment for from one to three years or a fine of three hundred to one thousand currency units."

It's timely to note that according to the 2005 Migration Accords, the Cuban regime agreed to allow U.S. diplomats in Havana to monitor the well-being of Cubans intercepted at sea and repatriated by the U.S. Coast Guard after attempting to flee the island. One of the main reasons the migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba were suspended in 2004 is that the Cuban regime refused to allow U.S. diplomats to travel throughout the island to do so.

Therefore, it'll be tough to truly determine whether these seven Cubans were in fact taken home or imprisoned, but according the Cuban penal code; the Castro regime's brutal record; and to this picture taken upon their capture, the later is definitely more likely.

Senators: Don't Allow Telecom Regs to Censor

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), along with Florida colleague Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) this week sent a letter to President Obama asking him to clearly stipulate that U.S. telecommunications firms cannot engage in any activities that would suppress or violate the human rights of the Cuban people.
 
"Unfiltered information and privacy are fundamental components of freedom," said Martinez. "We have already seen complicity between U.S. companies and the Chinese government in restricting Web access and identifying Internet-using government critics. Let's lay the groundwork now so that the same can't happen in Cuba."

"History has taught us that repressive governments have used new technology to suppress freedoms," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.  "We need to make certain Cuba's officials won't monitor and police the Cuban people when they use the Internet, for example."
 
"In any new telecommunications regulations related to Cuba, the administration must make it clear that profiting off the continued oppression of others cannot be allowed," said Sen. Menendez. "Compliance by telecommunications firms in censorship or suppression of information merely tightens the Castro regime's iron stranglehold on basic human rights that the Cuban people deserve."

The letter to President Obama notes that on August 8, 2006, a Human Rights Watch report detailed how U.S. telecommunications companies have provided the identity of Internet users to Chinese authorities, resulting in the imprisonment of four Chinese government critics.
 
The Administration is currently writing new regulations pursuant to the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act. The senators request that regulations authorizing telecommunications links with Cuba include a list of prohibited activities including providing the Cuban government with data or IP-address information that could reveal the identity of individual users, creating a separate infrastructure for tourists, and providing any equipment, software, or technical expertise that would enable the Cuban government to block Internet applications or content.

The OAS Didn't Get Obama's Memo

Thursday, June 4, 2009
"America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."

-- From President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech, June 04, 2009

A Day of Tragic Contrasts (In 3 Continents)

In Europe, June 4th marks the 20th anniversary of Poland's watershed election that culminated in the demise of the communist bloc. That historic vote enabled the Solidarity movement to drive Poland's communist regime from power, a first in the Soviet bloc.

In Asia, June 4th also marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of Tiananmen Square, where months of demonstrations by pro-democracy activists culminated in their brutal suppression by the Chinese military, as Western nations and business interests stood complicity silent.


And in the Americas, June 4th marks the first day of the Organization of American States' tacit acceptance of the Cuban dictatorship and its unchecked repression.

Shannon's "Statesmanship" Buried the Charters

Pursuant to yesterday's suspension of the 1962 resolution barring Cuba's re-entry to the OAS, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Tom Shannon, made the following self-aggrandizing statement:

"Statesmanship is a rare virtue. It requires maturity, vision, and persistence. It also requires a clear-headedness that avoids prejudice and rhetoric, but instead attempts to build confidence and understanding while it fashions agreements. But statesmanship, to be an effective element in expressing national purpose, must remain true to our fundamental values and interests."

The process that culminated in yesterday's OAS Ministerial meeting began in Washington, D.C. weeks ago. The original position of the U.S. government was against the revocation of the 1962 resolution -- which found the Castro brothers Marxist-Leninist regime incompatible with the hemispheric system -- as it would essentially open the door for Cuba's readmission to the OAS.

This original position would morph into a two resolution, or two-part resolution, approach in which the U.S. would support the revocation of the 1962 resolution, but introduce the OAS and Inter-American Democratic Charters as the conditions for Cuba's reintegration. This new and thoughtful approach was encapsulated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a May 21st hearing of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee:

''If Cuba is not willing to abide by [the Charter's] terms then I cannot foresee how Cuba can be a part of the OAS and I certainly would not be supporting in any way such an effort to admit it."

Yesterday morning, as Secretary Clinton departed Honduras -- on her way to join President Obama in Egypt -- she left Assistant Secretary Shannon and U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Hector Morales, in charge of the negotiations.

By the afternoon, a consensus had been reached, obviously with U.S. support, that set forth a single resolution revoking the 1962 suspension and opening the door for a "dialogue" with the Cuban regime for their readmission to the OAS based on the "practices, purposes and principles" of the organization.

The New York Times' Editorial Board perfectly describes the problem with this language:

"Officials from the United States and the O.A.S. said that Cuba’s re-entry will not be immediate. It will result only from a dialogue in line with O.A.S. 'practices, purposes and principles.' We’re not sure exactly what that means, but we hope Havana will come under strong regional pressure to release political prisoners and make other democratic reforms."

A two resolution or two-part approach contingent on the OAS and Inter-American Democratic Charter would have been a great demonstration of statesmanship in support of legal standards, as it would have modernized the rationale for Cuba's exclusion, and simultaneously brought tangible standards for the sake of democracy and human rights in the region.

Unfortunately, the result was dubious language, which purposefully omits such standards. That is exactly what the Chavez-Ortega coalition wanted -- and thus their exuberance -- as the OAS and Inter-American Democratic Charters are smart, legal obstacles to the extreme subversion of their own democracies.

We are now left with a theoretical debate as to what are the OAS's "practices, purposes and principles." Yesterday's "statesmanship" consciously substituted clear, legally prescribed democratic standards with jargon.

Statesmanship is no substitute for the OAS and Inter-American Democratic Charters.

Timely Bipartisan Legislation to Defund the OAS

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

To withhold United States assessed and voluntary contributions to the Organization of American States (OAS) if Cuba is allowed full membership or participation in the OAS unless the President certifies that Cuba has satisfied certain conditions, and for other purposes.

Mr. MACK (for himself, Mr. SIRES, Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida, and Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

(1) Cuba is currently excluded from participation in the Inter-American system, as adopted by Resolution VI during the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1962.

(2) According to section 105 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–114), ''[t]he President should instruct the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States to use the voice and vote of the United States to oppose ending the suspension of the Government of Cuba from the Organization until the President determines under section 203(c)(3) that a democratically elected government in Cuba is in power.''

(3) The Inter-American Democratic Charter states that ''the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.''

(4) According to the most recent Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, citizens in Cuba do not have the right to change their government, and the regime retaliated against those individuals who sought peaceful political change.

(5) The Report continues that hundreds of political prisoners are currently being held, including ''peaceful activists, journalists, union organizers, and opposition figures. . .'' and that ''mistreatment of political prisoners and detainees was widespread[and] [b]eatings were not uncommon.''

(6) The Report further indicates that elections in Cuba are ''neither free nor fair."

SEC. 2. CERTIFICATION REGARDING CUBA'S PARTICIPATION IN THE OAS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—If the Government of Cuba is allowed full membership or participation in the Organization of American States (OAS), for each fiscal year beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act until the President transmits to Congress a certification that the requirements described in subsection (b) have been satisfied, the Secretary of State shall, with respect to each such fiscal year, withhold assessed and voluntary contributions to the Organization of American States.

(b) CERTIFICATION.—The certification referred to in subsection (a) is a certification made by the President to Congress that there is a government in Cuba that—

(1) has legalized all political activity and political parties;
(2) has released all political prisoners;
(3) has dissolved the present Department of State Security in the Cuban Ministry of the Interior;
(4) has made public commitments to organizing free and fair elections for a new government;
(5) has complied with the Inter-American Democratic Charter;
(6) has ceased any interference with Radio Marti or Television Marti broadcasts;
(7) has made public commitments to and is making demonstrable progress in—

(A) establishing an independent judiciary;
(B) respecting internationally recognized human rights and basic freedoms as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
(C) allowing the establishment of independent trade unions, and allowing the establishment of independent social, economic, and political associations;

(8) does not include Fidel Castro or Raul Castro;
(9) has given adequate assurances that it will allow the speedy and efficient distribution of assistance to the Cuban people; and
(10) has complied with other applicable provisions of section 205 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–114).

White House on OAS

From Dan Restrepo, Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, National Security Council:
 
Today has been a historic day for the inter-American system.  You've seen two things occur in a resolution passed by consensus by the organization, one that leaves without effect the 1962 suspension of the current government of Cuba from participation in the OAS, and second that establishes a path forward that has multiple steps to it, beginning with whether the Cuban Government asks to come back to the organization or not, a question that may be complicated for that government given what it has been saying about the organization in recent weeks and actually throughout the last 40 years, but a process that is clearly enunciated on the face of the resolution that it has to be in accord with the basic principles, purposes, and practices of the OAS, which itself is defined in the resolution to be based on the OAS Charter and other fundamental instruments that defend democracy, self-determination, non-interference, human rights, development, and security.

So what we've seen today is really a testament to the hard work of multilateral diplomacy.  A couple of weeks ago, if you had stopped and asked all the countries in the Western Hemisphere what they wanted to do with the 1962 resolution, they would supported a three-line resolution doing – lifting the 1962 resolution and allowing Cuba to automatically return to the OAS.  The United States and other countries from various parts in the hemisphere fought, defended, and prevailed in saying that this was not an automatic process, that yes, let's leave an argument of the past in the past, let's not become prisoners of the past, but let us ensure that we are defending the basic principles of democracy and human rights and non-intervention and non-interference as the path forward to Cuba's return to the organization.

Simply put, for Cuba to return to the organization, the organization has to agree that Cuba is abiding by the same rules that everybody else is abiding by.  That is a historic achievement. We think it is an important day that reflects a policy that listens to the concerns of the region with respect to lifting the '62 suspension and defend the core principles of the Americas shared by the United States, all in defense of ensuring that they are shared by and enjoyed by all the people of the hemisphere, including the people of Cuba.  So instead of being focused on an argument that is nearly 50 years old that has done little to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people, we can return to the focus to today, to the realities of today, and to the realities of the issues not just in Cuba but throughout the Americas.

Bob Menendez on OAS

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
WASHINGTON – US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today released the following statement on the Organization of American States General Assembly's resolution on Cuba:

"This weak resolution undermines the OAS's foundation by only paying lip service to the principles upon which the Democratic Charter stands. It allows for loose interpretation of what should be a clear set of fundamental democratic principles and standards regarding human rights, and we are already seeing this interpretation play out. The member states of the OAS could have used this as an opportunity to reaffirm a commitment to democracy and human rights by defining an unambiguous path by which Cuba would be readmitted. It would be a path guided by the fundamental principles of the OAS, including those outlined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the OAS Charter, and including the release of political prisoners, the adoption of basic human rights and democratic reforms. I will closely watch how this process unfolds, but a lack of commitment to democracy and human rights at the OAS will bring a debate into the U.S. Congress about how much we are willing to support the OAS as an institution.

"This is a sad day for the human rights activists, political prisoners and independent journalists who are struggling inside of Cuba to promote peaceful democratic change. It is also a sad day for the U.S., in which it has become evident that our leadership in the Hemisphere has ebbed to this low. This is the result of a long-standing absence of U.S. leadership in the Hemisphere and the continuing lack of a relevant Latin America agenda. Unless the Obama administration has a more expansive plan of engagement in the region, Cuba will continue to dominate the discussion and democratic principles will continue to erode. We could have used the General Assembly in Honduras to discuss energy, public security, and economic and social development. Instead, even after the unprecedented gestures of goodwill sent by the Obama administration, we fought for three days over absurdly vague language that we can expect will be the source of constant disagreement moving forward. Only by the administration having a hemispheric plan of action and a real engagement in Latin America will we avoid this in the future."

Kendrick Meek on OAS

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Kendrick B. Meek (D-FL) issued the following statement on the decision to lift the suspension of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS):

"The OAS has demonstrated a willingness to overlook Cuba for its misdeeds. It has eased restrictions on a nation that has referred to the hemispheric organization as a cadaver, and unconscionable behavior by a regime that suppresses human rights and personal freedoms was rewarded today.

"The OAS has lifted the suspension on Cuba but has not readmitted the communist nation into the hemispheric organization and that is a distinction worth making. As I traveled to Mexico City and the Summit of the Americas with President Obama and congressional members, my message was straightforward: For Cuba to be readmitted to the family of nations, the onus of responsibility falls upon the Castro regime to abide by the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

"The ball is in Cuba's court to forsake a legacy of repression and tyranny, and embrace Democratic values and ideals."

Mel Martinez on OAS

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today made the following comments regarding the Organization of American States General Assembly's actions Wednesday relating to Cuba.

"The fact that the OAS backed away from Cuba's suspension is deplorable; nothing has changed in Cuba in the areas of human rights and democracy and in fact, conditions have only worsened.

"The Cuban regime has given no sign that it wants to be reincorporated; nothing has changed in the regime's behavior to merit readmission including its continued adherence to Marxism and Leninism.

"I look forward to hearing from the Obama Administration on how they will ensure the OAS upholds its fundamental principles in relation to Cuba."

Bill Nelson on OAS

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) stated,

"The Obama Administration has lifted restrictions on travel to Cuba by Americans with family there – a move that I believe helps unify families, which should be one of our goals. As for the question of the OAS readmitting Cuba, such an action should be tied to democratic reforms in the country, including free and open elections and the release of political prisoners. After all, the OAS is an organization founded on democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights."

Tear Up the Inter-American Democratic Charter

Does this sound like a democratic condition for Cuba's readmission?

From the text of today's OAS resolution that revokes Cuba's 1962 suspension from the regional body:

"The participation of Cuba in the OAS will be the result of a process of dialogue to be initiated at the request of the Government of Cuba and in compliance with the practices, goals and principles of the OAS."

It's very telling that the leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Honduras have such a disdain for the term, not to mention the concept of, democracy.

A Disservice to Hillary

If reports that the OAS has agreed by consensus to allow Cuba's readmission to the regional body without democratic or human rights conditions are accurate, then U.S. diplomats in Honduras have done a great disservice to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who prior to her departure from Honduras this morning arduously advocated for conditions based on the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Prior to her departure, Secretary Clinton clearly stated:

''We do look forward to the day when Cuba can join the OAS, but we believe membership in the OAS comes with responsibilities, and we owe it to each other to uphold our standards of democracy and governance that have brought so much progress to our hemisphere.''

The AFP reports:

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — The Organization of American States on Wednesday reached an agreement to readmit Cuba, excluded since 1962, Ecuador's foreign minister Fander Falconi said.

Falconi said Havana's readmission to the hemispheric group would be "without conditions."

Raul Further Consolidates Business (For Himself)

Cuba's retail, travel and service sectors have been run by three state-owned conglomerates, CIMEX (under the control of the Ministry of the Interior), GAESA (under the control of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces) and CUBALSE, which free-lanced independently from Cuba's "Ministries of Repression."

On May 26th, General Raul Castro, through his Council of Ministers, decided to dismantle and liquidate CUBALSE.

CUBALSE stands for "Cuba Al Servicio del Extranjero" ("Cuba At the Service of Foreigners"), an in-your-face, degrading acronym in a country that denies its citizens the right own, operate or transact private business.

CUBALSE's service portfolio included real estate and building maintenance, sales of equipment, food, clothes, industrial products and hardware, maintenance of electrical appliances, furniture, handicrafts, upholstery and vehicles.

Yet, the most interesting development is that according to the same directive by the Council of Ministers, CUBALSE's holdings will essentially be divided between the Ministry of the Interior's CIMEX and the Armed Force's GAESA.

The Ministry of the Interior, led by General Abelardo Colome Ibarra, and the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, led by General Julio Casas Regueiro, encompass the repressive apparatus of the Castro regime, or the "Ministries of Repression."

With this latest mandate, now Cuba's entire retail, travel and service sectors are inarguably controlled by -- and operate for the financial benefit of -- Cuba's repressive apparatus.

Blogging Behind Bars

Pablo Pacheco was arrested during Cuba's infamous "Black Spring" of 2003, and sentenced to 20 years in prison, for his activities as an independent journalist. He is currently being held at the Canaleta prison in Ciego de Avila, Cuba. In a remarkable act of courage and ingenuity, he has begun dictating blog posts from within prison through the periodic phone calls he's been able to make to family members and third-party messengers. It provides a vivid testimony of life in Cuba's brutal prison system, where even the International Committee for the Red Cross is denied access by the Cuban regime.

Please visit Pablo's blog here. It's currently only in Spanish, but it speaks for itself.

New Hunger Strikes

Five political prisoners on hunger strike in Camagüey

HAVANA, (Ana Aguililla, Cubanet) – Human rights activist Osmany Fuentes and four other prisoners at the Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey started a hunger strike May 20, according to a report from the prison.

The prisoners are demanding better medical treatment, religious attention, the right to call family members and transfers to prisons in their home provinces.

The other hunger strikers were identified as Nelson Vázquez, Silvio Valdés, Yerandi Reyes and Ángel García.

Hillary Leaves Honduras, No Cuba Consensus

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
(AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left an Organization of American States conference in Honduras on Tuesday saying that the group has reached no consensus on moves to allow Cuba to rejoin.

The State Security Factor

Here are the participants of this week's gathering of the pro-democracy organization, Opposition Movement for a New Republic, in Havana, Cuba (note all the white CAMBIO wristbands):


And, here are the participants after the meeting was violently broken up by Cuban State Security:


Any questions?

An Interesting Comparison

By David Roberts in Business News Americas:
 
On the face of it, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez and North Korea's "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il have quite a lot in common.  They both claim, perhaps rather dubiously, to be socialists leading their respective countries on a mission to utopia (although Kim Jong-il appears to think North Korea's already arrived), they've both managed to nurture something of a personality cult (especially the Korean leader), they both dislike the sound of dissent, they both love to rant and rave, they both enjoy dressing up in military uniforms and have a peculiar affection for the color red, they both seem fascinated with all things nuclear (Chávez, so far at least, only for peaceful purposes), and they've both either wrecked or are in the process of wrecking their respective countries' economies.  And, just for good measure, they're both somewhat deluded, although the North Korean leader wins hands down on that front.

Hillary in Honduras

At the Organization of American States' General Assembly meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras:
 
''We do look forward to the day when Cuba can join the OAS, but we believe membership in the OAS comes with responsibilities, and we owe it to each other to uphold our standards of democracy and governance that have brought so much progress to our hemisphere,'' U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.  "This is not about reliving the past. It's about the future and being true to the founding principles of this organization.''

Another Dictatorial Farce‏

South Korea’s intelligence agency has reported that Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s frail dictator, had apparently chosen his third son, still in his 20s, as his heir.

This might appear absurdly humorous, but it's an all-too-familiar reality to the Cuban people, which are also facing a tragic, nepotistic reality.

According to The New York Times:

Kim Jong-un strongly resembles his father in looks and demeanor, said Kenji Fujimoto, who wrote a memoir about his years as Kim Jong-il’s personal sushi chef that is the most often cited source in reports about the son. Kim Jong-un also studied at the International School of Berne in Switzerland in the 1990s under the pseudonym of Park Chol, learning to speak English, German and French, the Swiss weekly news magazine L’Hebdo reported in March, citing classmates and school officials. But Cheong Seong-chang, a longtime researcher of the Kim family at the Sejong Institute, said that Park Chol was another son, Kim Jong-chol.

Kim Jong-il has three known sons. The eldest, Kim Jong-nam, 38, once considered an undisputed candidate among most outside analysts, reportedly lost his father’s support when he was caught sneaking into Japan on a false Dominican Republic passport in 2001. He told Japanese officials he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

There have also been analysts who cited the middle son, Kim Jong-chol, 28, as the likely heir, although Mr. Fujimoto said Kim Jong-il dismissed that son as “girlish.”

Pastors Arrested for "Social Danger"‏

Protestant evangelical pastors harassed and arrested

HAVANA, (Juan Carlos González, Cubanet) – Various protestant preachers were arrested last week in the province of Las Tunas y Camagüey and threatened with jail on charges of being a “social danger,” to society, said one of them, Luis Yoel Barbuena.

Barbuena said the police chief in the area where he lives came several times to his home and told him he could be jailed for four years for evangelizing and using audio equipment without a license.

He said he preaches in his own home, not in a church. He said Pastor Bernardo de Quesada and his wife, Damaris Machín, were arrested on the highway to Santa Cruz del Sur when they tried to go to Camagüey for the trial of a dissident.

Pastors Tomasa Victoria Ayala and Jorge Zellero said they lost their livelihood when police closed the carpenter shop which they operated on their own.

Martinez to OAS: Stay Strong on Principles

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today encouraged members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to adhere to the Inter-American Democratic Charter and rebuff efforts to readmit Cuba to the OAS. The OAS begins its annual meeting in Honduras today; several resolutions have been offered proposing to allow Cuba readmission to the organization without requiring the regime to adhere to democratic principles.

"The OAS was founded on the universal principle of individual liberty. The countries of the OAS agree 'the peoples of the Americas have a right to Democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.' I can't think of anything more harmful to the OAS and the advancement of individual freedoms than allowing Cuba readmission without any requirement they respect and promote human rights and democracy," said Martinez. "The members of the OAS would be well-served by sending a message reaffirming democracy and human rights as the foundation of the inter-American system."

An Important Reminder


"To those who have concluded that we must appease the oppressor. To them I ask: Is it acceptable to the memory of the thousands of young Cubans, our best sons, who were executed by firing squads for the simple crime of defending our right to full liberty, to now accept complacency? Do those tens of thousands of compatriots who spent decades in prison, and who are still in a prison system whose horrors we can only imagine, deserve only partial liberty? Do those countless families who were separated from their loved ones and destroyed in the process, or those who have perished at sea, or who have died in exile dreaming of returning to their country, deserve that we now accept the crumbs that we are being offered? Shall we accept defeat after nearly a half a century of patriotic heroism in search of liberty and democracy, or shall we show the world that the most brutal and longest lasting dictatorship in our time could not extinguish the unbreakable spirit of liberty of the Cubans?"

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Cuban political prisoner since 1999, serving a 25 year prison sentence.

High-Drama at the OAS

The tensions between democratic standards vs. dictatorial appeasement continue to weigh heavily upon the Organization of American States.
 
From the AFP:
 
Despite marathon negotiations in Washington and San Pedro Sula, envoys to the 34-member OAS said they had reached no compromise late on Monday over how and when to readmit communist Cuba to the body from which it was suspended in 1962.

"We have arrived at the deadline, and it's passed," a senior diplomat told reporters on the condition of anonymity, referring to the failure to clinch a compromise before the two-day OAS General Assembly begins at 9 am Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch to OAS: "Maintain Suspension of Cuba"

Monday, June 1, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Organization of American States should not lift the suspension of Cuba as a participating full member until it ends its systematic denial of fundamental freedoms for Cubans, Human Rights Watch said today.

Members of the OAS could vote to end the suspension of Cuba's membership, in place since 1962, as early as June 2 or 3, 2009, when a meeting of the General Assembly will be held in Honduras.

"OAS members have made an explicit commitment to promote human rights and the rule of law in the region," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "Ending Cuba's suspension would make a mockery of this pledge."

In 2001, OAS members signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which committed governments to an active defense of democracy in the region.

Cuba is the only country in the hemisphere that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. For nearly five decades, the Cuban government has enforced political conformity with criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detentions, mob harassment, physical abuse, and surveillance. These abuses have persisted since the handover of power from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro in July 2006.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 because its Marxist-Leninist government was deemed "incompatible" with the inter-American system. Lifting its suspension would require the support of a two-thirds majority.

"Cuba should not be considered a full member of the OAS - not because of its government's political ideology, but rather because of its flagrant violation of the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter," said Vivanco.

A report released in May 2009 by the OAS's human rights body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, found that in Cuba: "Restrictions on political rights, freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas have created, over a period of decades, a situation of permanent and systematic violations of the fundamental rights of Cuban citizens."

Fidel Castro dismissed the report as "pure garbage," and Raul Castro said in May that the OAS should disappear altogether.

Human Rights Watch urged members of the OAS to work together to forge a common strategy that will pressure the Cuban government to restore the fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law.

"Instead of lowering the region's bar to accommodate Cuba, the OAS should press Cuba to raise its respect for human rights to meet a higher collective standard," said Vivanco. "We need constructive engagement with Cuba - not tacit acceptance."

In Hillary's Own Words

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented from El Salvador on efforts to readmit Cuba to the OAS:

"The fundamental values of the OAS (Organization of American States) and the Inter-American Democracy Charter and reaches out to Cuba if they choose to respond with a process that would address the fundamental questions about democracy and human rights. That is what we are hoping to achieve and we believe that we've made more progress in four months than has been made in a number of years and that we need to work together to continue that kind of progress, keeping in mind the legitimate aspirations and the human rights of the people of Cuba."

Microsoft's Mistake

Yoani Sanchez, Cuba's Generation Y blogger -- and one of Time Magazine's 100 World's Most Influential People -- recently commented on Microsoft's decision to suspend online Instant Messenger ("IM") service in countries under U.S. sanctions, namely Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.
 
"Microsoft is effectively doing the work of Cuba's political police," Sanchez told Europa Press.
 
Three years ago, the Cuban regime prohibited the use of IM in workplaces, educational centers and the few other locations with Internet connectivity on the island, for Cuba's political police was unable to penetrate and read the information that people were exchanging through this technology.
  
Sanchez believes this measure by Microsoft only benefits Cuba's censors.
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Nothing in U.S. law prohibits Microsoft from allowing the use of IM by Cuban nationals.  Quite the contrary, the use of such technology constitutes "support for the Cuban people" under 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, so long as it's not licensed for the exclusive use of the Cuban regime.  As a result, this is an internal (and erred) business-decision by Microsoft, not by the U.S. government.

Castro's Food Mafia

The Mid-South Farmer reports:
 
"A senior adviser with the USA Rice Federation was in Cuba recently to discuss opportunities with ALIMPORT, Cuba's food-buying agency."
 
That's the "Cuban market," one company, the Castro regime's ALIMPORT. 
 
Isn't there something inherently mafia-like about only one company being authorized to engage in foreign trade and food purchases for an entire population of 11.5 million people?

Washington Post Opposes Cuba's OAS Bid

Freedom on the Defensive
After pledging to defend democracy, the Organization of American States ignores Venezuela -- and courts Cuba.

"THE PEOPLES of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it." So reads the first sentence of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which was adopted on Sept. 11, 2001, by the Organization of American States and signed by all 34 active member countries. Founded in 1948, the OAS defines its two top purposes as "to strengthen peace and security on the continent" and "to promote and consolidate representative democracy." So with the organization's annual assembly set to open Tuesday in Honduras, you'd think a principal item of business would be the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Venezuela, where would-be strongman Hugo Chávez has ordered up criminal investigations against most of his leading opponents -- jailing one and driving another into exile -- and is threatening to shut down the last opposition broadcast television network.

Not a chance. Far from facing the sanctions that the democratic charter authorizes, Mr. Chávez will be helping to lead a charge aimed at lifting the 1962 suspension of Cuba's OAS membership -- a campaign that enjoys the support of almost every government in the region. No, Cuba doesn't come close to meeting the requirements of the democratic charter -- in fact, its totalitarian domestic regime has remained essentially unaltered during the last 47 years. Nor do Raúl and Fidel Castro wish to rejoin the OAS; like Mr. Chávez, the Castros would prefer to form a new regional organization that excludes the United States.

Nonetheless, Latin American governments from Mexico to Argentina have chosen to make Cuba's readmission the centerpiece of this year's assembly. It's a cheap and popular way to please leftist constituencies at home -- and to pressure the Obama administration, which has unilaterally lifted several sanctions against Cuba but not what remains of the economic embargo. Sadly, even democratic governments such as Brazil and Chile are unwilling to stand by the pledge they made just eight years ago -- they, too, are clamoring to restore Cuba's membership while remaining silent about Venezuela.

Mr. Obama has proclaimed his wish to set U.S.-Latin relations on a new footing; he shook Mr. Chávez's hand at a recent hemispheric summit and has refrained from criticizing the crackdown in Venezuela. That seems to have emboldened leftist leaders to press their own agenda at the OAS. The administration has been trying to finesse the issue: Last week it proposed that the suspension be lifted but that Cuba's reinstatement be linked to steps toward democracy. When that proposal failed to gain traction, U.S. diplomats joined a working group trying to hammer out a compromise. But most likely the administration is fighting an unwinnable battle. By signaling that it cares more about "partnership" with Latin American governments than defending democracy and human rights, it has allowed support for those principles to crumble at the very institution founded to defend them.

Lock the Doors, Throw Away the Keys

Is the OAS, through Brazil, actively minimizing the tremendous sacrifice of Cuba's political prisoners and looking for ways to ignore their plights, not to mention their existence?  It sure seems to be:
 
"Diplomats tell TIME that major Latin broker countries like Brazil are stepping in now to help hammer out a deal palatable to both Washington and Havana — one that would probably demand a lesser gesture of democratic commitment on Cuba's part, like the release of political prisoners.  But they also suggest that the general assembly may end up simply deciding to hold a year-long "dialogue" on the matter to allow both the U.S. and Cuba to ease into a compromise that would be unveiled in 2010."
 
Sadly, some in Brazil's current leadership, including current President Lula da Silva, spent time as political prisoners during the Brazilian military dictatorship from 1964-1985 and desperately sought international solidarity at the time -- the same type of solidarity they now seek to deny Cuba's political prisoners.

Waiting For a Significant Step From Havana

The Christian Science Monitor's lead story, Cuba and US Inch Closer, begins with the following statement:

"The two countries agree to talk about immigration policy. It is the second significant overture Obama has made to Cuba in two months."

The question remains: What is the first significant step made by Cuba's regime?

Thus far, the Cuban regime has agreed to "talk" about the Migration Accords (which they've refused to adhere to since 1995) and to "talk" about direct mail (which the U.S. authorized in 1992, but the Cuban regime has refused to allow).

The Cuban people anxiously await.

Quote of the Day

Sunday, May 31, 2009
In today's Washington Post on the Cuban regime's acceptance of the U.S. offer to renew "migration talks" between both nations:
 
Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), head of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, applauded the announcements.  But he said Cuba needs to offer more tangible evidence of change, such as releasing political prisoners, to show it is serious.

"I think we really need to see some meat and potatoes" before the United States takes more dramatic steps, Engel said.

The OAS Battle Lines Are Drawn

According to the AP:
 
U.S. officials say they are ready to support lifting the resolution that suspended Cuba from the OAS, but want to tie readmission to democratic reforms in Cuba.  Nicaragua, backed by Venezuela, Bolivia and others, favors an approach that would declare Cuba's expulsion an error and remove all legal hurdles to it regaining its membership.

Statement on Renewed "Migration Talks"

For Immediate Release

STATEMENT BY THE U.S.-CUBA DEMOCRACY PAC ON CUBA'S ACCEPTANCE OF RENEWED "MIGRATION TALKS"
The Measure of Success is Contingent Upon the Cuban Regime's Full Compliance With the 1995 Accord  
 

This weekend, Cuban authorities have presented the U.S. State Department with a diplomatic note accepting the Obama Administration's offer to renew "migration talks" between the two countries.  Cuba's diplomatic note also expresses an interest in holding talks on direct mail services.
 
During April's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, President Barack Obama clearly said of Cuba, "I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking." 
 
Migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba began pursuant to the Migration Accord ("the Accord") of 1995 with the stated purpose of ensuring the "safe, legal, and orderly migration of Cubans to the U.S." 
 
These talks were suspended by the U.S. in 2004 due to the Cuban regime's refusal to comply with the following major provisions of the Accord: (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 U.S. Interests Section 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.
 
Meanwhile, direct mail service to Cuba has been legally authorized by U.S. law since the Cuba Democracy Act ("CDA") of 1992.  Section 6004(f) of CDA states:
 
"The United States Postal Service shall take such actions as are necessary to provide direct mail service to and from Cuba, including, in the absence of common carrier service between the 2 countries, the use of charter service providers."
 
It's not the U.S. that has impeded direct mail service to Cuba, but the Cuban regime that has refused establishment of this service.
 
Therefore, the measure of success for these talks can only be measured by the Cuban regime's full compliance with the 1995 Accord and its allowing for the establishment of direct mail. 
 

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. 

Let's "Talk" Direct Mail

Media reports on Cuba's decision to accept the U.S.'s offer to renew "migration talks" -- see post below -- also mention Cuba's desire to "talk" about direct mail service between the two nations.
 
Direct mail service to Cuba has been legally authorized since the Cuba Democracy Act ("CDA") of 1992. 
 
Section 6004(f) of CDA states: 

Direct mail delivery to Cuba. The United States Postal Service shall take such actions as are necessary to provide direct mail service to and from Cuba, including, in the absence of common carrier service between the 2 countries, the use of charter service providers.
 
Therefore, it's not the U.S. that has impeded direct mail service to Cuba, but the Cuban regime that has refused establishment of this service.

As with the issue of migration, the measure of success for these talks can only be based on the Cuban regime allowing for the establishment of direct mail, as it is clearly not impeded by U.S. law.  As President Obama said of Cuba at April's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, "I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking."  

Cuba Wants to Talk, But Will They Comply?

According to Reuters:

The United States and Cuba have agreed to resume direct talk on migration that were broken off during the Bush administration, a U.S. official said on Sunday.

Cuba presented the U.S. State Department with a diplomatic note indicating the the Cuban government would like to resume the talks on migration issues and also hold talks on direct mail services, he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Cuban regime has historically seized any opportunity to have direct talks with the U.S., as the Cuban authorities feel it adds to their international legitimacy. It's important to recall that the U.S. suspended the 'migration talks' in January 2004 because the Cuban regime refused to comply with basic aspects of the Migration Accord of 1995 ("Accord"), e.g., the Cuban regime refuses to issue hundreds of exit permits annually to Cuban nationals who have received U.S. visas and to allow U.S. diplomats on the island to monitor the well-being of Cubans repatriated after being interdicted at sea. The measure of success for these talks can only be based on the Cuban regime's compliance with the Accord. As President Obama said of Cuba at April's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, "I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking."

Like Caged Animals in a Zoo

Catherine Watson wrote a glowing article on tourism travel to Cuba for the Universal Press Syndicate entitled, Cuba comeback? Americans soon may find it easy to visit a once-favorite playground. 
 
The title is as ironically striking as the text, which implies that Cuba was once an "American playground" under a previous dictatorship, and then proceeds to advocate making it one again under the current Castro dictatorship.  Naturally, the Castro regime, with its totalitarian control of all aspects of the Cuban people's political, social and economic life, would be a perfect accomplice in this enterprise -- it would ensure, through its ever-present repression, that the peace, calm and safety of American tourists would not be "disturbed by the natives."
 
The article's conclusion is also very telling:   

"It may actually be time to think about reserving one of Canada's cheap all-inclusive Cuban tour packages for next winter. Once we're finally allowed to use them, they'll be some of the best travel deals Americans can buy."

All-inclusive tour packages to Castro's segregated beach resorts and enclaves, where Cuban nationals are denied access.
 
The insult here was perfectly encapsulated in a 2007 interview, Cubans feel betrayed by tourist playground, by the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph:  
 
"They watch us and we watch them," he said with a resigned laugh as the tourists turned their cameras to capture the image of a young boy optimistically fishing in the oily waters.  "It's a little like being in a zoo," sighed Carlos, a 24-year-old literature student.  "But that is the reality of life here.  We are caged while the world looks on."

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 7

Today's Miami Herald reports on a new study by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, The Business Impact of a Post-Embargo Cuba, which includes a scenario in which sanctions could be lifted prior to democratic reforms by the Cuban regime:
 
Mauricio Claver-Carone, a pro-embargo lobbyist in Washington, D.C., acknowledged the report is likely to ruffle some feathers in the Cuban exile community.

''I think the most interesting part of the report is their finding that if the U.S. unilaterally lifts the embargo, Miami and the United States as a whole would suffer unfair competition from Cuban producers,'' he said.

''With all the focus and sensationalism in news reports about the Obama administration and sanctions, it's an issue that's gotten a great deal of attention, so I'm not surprised it's one of the scenarios, but they should take the president at his word: the embargo will not be lifted prior to Cuba's democratization,'' Claver-Carone said.

He added that lifting the embargo is easier said than done. As the law now stands, Cuba would be required to hold elections, free political prisoners and enact reforms before trade is opened.

POINT OF CONTENTION

Claver-Carone noted that one of the report's authors, Akerman Senterfitt attorney Pedro Freyre, who chairs the chamber's Cuba Committee, represents European companies interested in Cuba and has an ''inherent business interest'' in legalized trade.

Freyre is an expert on the U.S. embargo who advises many European nations on how not to run afoul of the Helms-Burton law. He could not be reached for comment.