A Selection, Not An Election

Saturday, June 13, 2009
Karim Sadjapour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace perfectly encapsulates this weekend's events in Iran:

“I don’t think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence. This was a selection, not an election. At least authoritarian regimes like Syria and Egypt have no democratic pretences. In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei wasn’t ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose.”

Cambodia, Laos Off Ex-Im Bank Blacklist; Cuba Remains

The U.S. has removed Cambodia and Laos from the list of non-market economies, where operations by U.S. businesses would be legally ineligible for U.S. government backed loans and guarantees from the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

"Given the commitment of Cambodia and Laos to open markets, the president has determined that this designation is no longer applicable," an Obama administration official said.

As a result, the United States now only forbids US-backed loans in six countries -- Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

Philip Smith of the Center for Public Policy Analysis told AFP that this decision "is completely shocking and outrageous...[Laos] is a one-party regime which is closely allied with Burma (Myanmar) and North Korea...This will embolden the Laos government to continue to slaughter and massacre civilians."

Iran's (and Cuba's) Genie in the Bottle

Let there be no doubt, yesterday's elections in Iran were not of the free and fair caliber. Power in Iran is held almost exclusively by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini -- a position for which no elections are held -- and exercised through the brutal Revolutionary Guards and Basij paramilitary.

However, the turnout and excitement amongst young Iranians desperate for a democratic future has become a cause of concern for Iran's supreme leader (or tyrant) and, this morning, the Iranian regime called the election for the regressive President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, despite reports of overwhelming turnout for the main challenger, Mir Huseein Moussavi.

If Moussavi had been declared winner, there would have been little noticeable difference in Iran's policies, as the candidates had already been pre-screened and approved by the supreme tyrant, but it would have sent a message of "change" that dictators fear.

As a result, young Iranians have taken to the street, and the persecution has intensified. The mere fiction of elections, no matter how tempered the opposition, has awakened the repressed democratic desires of the Iranian people. Now, the genie needs to be put back in the bottle.

It is for this very reason that the Castro regime in Cuba is terrified to allow even the mere "fiction" of opposition on the island, and why Cuba's electoral system is essentially limited to announcing the "unanimous reelection" of Fidel (and now Raul) every term.

However, neither Castro or Khameini can outlive the repressed desires of their young populations.

The genies will prevail.


The Privileged Children of Dictators

Friday, June 12, 2009
There's an interesting sociological pattern surrounding the children of dictators, who enjoy lifestyles dramatically different from the repression and deprivation that their parents brutally condemn entire populations to.

Coincidentally, two developing stories make this point. The first involves Antonio Castro Soto del Valle -- son of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro -- and the other involves Kim Jong-Un -- son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.

The Miami Herald is reporting that one of Fidel Castro's sons, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, carried on an eight-month flirtation over the Internet with a person he believed was a Colombian woman named "Claudia." However, the woman was actually Luis Domínguez, a Cuban-born Miamian who unveiled the sting on Americateve TV Channel 41.

While this appears to be simply a humorous turn of events, the report reveals a tragic reality:

[Antonio] who used the Canada-based e-mail address tonycsport@yahoo.ca also provided ''Claudia'' with details of a life far richer than the grind of the average Cuban -- weekends in Varadero beach, Lacoste shirts and belt buckles, a personal Apple computer and a BlackBerry with Internet access, Domínguez's files showed.

Here's a 2007 picture of Antonio at a Havana luxury restaurant, where Cuban nationals are denied access and ration cards are not accepted, of course.

In the same vein, Voice of America is reporting that:

Kim Jong Un, the likely successor to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, looks like his father, plays computers and basketball and rates a Whitney Houston song as a favorite, the family's former sushi chef said in an interview with VOA's Korean Service.

It must be the genes.

Regime "Cries Wolf" on Rations

This week, the AFP reported on the Cuban regime's new mandate essentially rationing the Cuban people's daily ration. Notice the "cry wolf"effect:

A sign in black letters, as in all stores, explained that bean and pea rations were dropping from 30 to 20 ounces (850 to 567 grams), and that salt rations would be practically halved.

"They told us that this was due to the difficult economic situation, but we don't know if it will extend to other products," said the store owner, who declined to be named.

Cubans -- whose average monthly salary is 400 pesos (17 dollars) -- can buy a basic bag of groceries, including rice, sugar, oil and eggs, at very low prices with their ration books. But they need to top up supplies on the black market, or in high-priced shops that accept only foreign currency.

"What international crisis? In Cuba we've been in crisis for 50 years," a 28-year-old dentist told AFP wryly, declining to be named. "I'm tired of hearing justifications for the problems we always have."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Why does the Castro regime insist on monopolizing food in Cuba? Furthermore, why does the Castro regime only authorize one company, Alimport, to engage in agricultural trade? As you can see from the contrast below, there's no food in the Cuban people's ration stores, but plenty of food in the island's hard-currency supermarkets for tourists, diplomats and the regime's bourgeois.

The answer: Because for the Castro regime, food is a weapon of submission.

The Sinn Fein Spy Twist

In a new twist, the Belfast Telegragh reports that Kendall Myers, "the alleged Cuban spy who operated at the heart of the US State Department for almost 30 years was upset that he was not chosen to succeed Richard Haass as the White House envoy to Northern Ireland in 2003."

Mitchell Reiss, who prevailed over Myers for the position, is unsure whether Myers’ pursuit of the Northern Ireland envoy post had anything top do with his activities on behalf of the Cuban regime, but he says that “[Myers] may have been very sympathetic to the Sinn Fein political line and therefore was going to insinuate himself into a position that was going to be as favourable to a friend of Havana’s as possible.”

Mr Reiss tells the Belfast Telegraph that when he was envoy, a lot of the sensitive information that he was privy to “was very tactical. A lot of it had to do with financing. But it was constrained to Northern Ireland.”

“Now, could that have been useful for Havana? Could Havana have parlayed that with the IRA in return for ‘x’? What would ‘x’ be?”

The ties between the Irish Republican Army ("IRA") and the Castro regime spans decades.

The December 2001 visit to Cuba by Gerry Adams, the president of the IRA's political arm, Sinn Fein, was perhaps the most highly visible connection. But over the years, the Castro regime has given refuge to numerous on-the-run IRA members. Among the most prominent is Evelyn Glenholmes, who arrived in Cuba in 1991. Glenholmes is believed to have been involved in the attempted assassination of a leading Catholic judge, Basil Kelly, in Belfast in 1983. Later, she was linked to an arms and explosives find in England. While in Cuba, Glenholmes acted as a de facto "ambassador" for the IRA. In 1996, she was replaced by Niall Connolly. Connolly was one of the so-called "Bogota Three" arrested by Colombian police in August 2001 for providing strategic and tactical support to FARC narco-guerrillas. The other two are James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, both alleged to be high-ranking IRA members.

Ironically, the arrest of the "Bogota Three" would spark a six-month long Congressional investigation on links between the IRA and the FARC led by U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts -- long-time advocate of the unconditional normalization of relations with the Castro regime -- which culminated in a committee report and April 2002 hearing, where Rep. Delahunt would controversially disassociate himself from the report (and any connections it established) stating that it was "short on facts and replete with speculation and surmise and opinion, much of which I would note I disagree with."

Lessons From Cuban Spy Case

From STRATFOR Global Intelligence:
 
In addition to the Cuban preference for ideologically motivated agents, perhaps one of the greatest lessons that can be taken from the Myers' case is simply a reminder that espionage did not end with the conclusion of the Cold War. According to the FBI complaint, a Cuban intelligence officer attempted to contact the Myers as recently as March 2009.

This case also shows that the Cuban intelligence service is very patient and is willing to wait for the agents it recruits to move into sensitive positions within the U.S. government.  It took several years for Myers to get situated in a job with access to highly classified information.

The Myers investigation also shows that the Cuban agents are not always obviously people working on Cuban issues -- Myers was a European affairs specialist. There is also a possibility that the Cubans sold or traded intelligence they gained from Myers pertaining to Europe to their Soviet (and later Russian) friends

While at INR, it is significant that Myers not only had access to information collected by State Department employees in the field, but also was privy to all-source intelligence reporting from the rest of the intelligence community (CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, etc.)
 
According to the complaint, an analysis of Myers' work computer revealed that from August 2006 to October 2007, Myers looked at more than 200 intelligence reports pertaining to Cuba; 75 of those reports made no mention of countries within Myers' area of interest (Europe), and most of the documents were classified either Secret or Top Secret.

The government will have to conduct a damage assessment that will attempt to trace everything Myers had access to during his entire career, which will no doubt encompass thousands of documents. As the State Department's representative to the intelligence community, INR is also involved in crafting policy papers and national intelligence estimates. Myers began working at the State Department before there was electronic access to records, so it will be very difficult to identify every document he had access to. But in addition to the actual documents he viewed, Myers also had the opportunity to chat with many colleagues about what they were working on and to ask their opinions of policies and events, so the damage goes much further than just documents, which complicates the damage assessment. He was also in charge of training new INR analysts, which could have allowed him an opportunity to assess which analysts were the best possible targets for Cuban recruitment efforts. 

The information Myers could have provided while at the FSI is more subtle, but no less valuable from an intelligence operational
perspective. Myers could have acted as a spotter, letting his handlers know which officers were moving through the institute, where they were going to be assigned, and perhaps even indicating which ones he thought were the best candidates for recruitment based on observed vulnerabilities. He could have served a similar function while at SAIS, pointing out promising students for the Cubans to focus on -- especially students who agreed with his view of American policy, and who might be targeted for recruitment using an ideological approach. While Montes did graduate with a master's degree from SAIS in 1988, she was already working at the DIA (and for the Cubans) by the time she began her graduate work there, so it is unlikely that Myers was involved in her recruitment. In the end, it will likely take months, if not years, for the government to do a full damage assessment on this case.

One of the other interesting factors regarding this case is that in spite of Myers' strong anti-American political beliefs -- which were
reportedly expressed in his classes -- none of the background investigations conducted on him by the State Department provided any indication of concern. Furthermore, he was cleared for access to Top Secret material in 1985 and Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI) in 1999 -- 20 years after he was recruited by the Cubans. Apparently the agents and investigators who conducted his background investigations did not dig deeply enough uncover the warning signs of his radical beliefs, or the people they interviewed knowingly withheld such information.

With [Cuban spy, Ana Belen] Montes arrested [in 2001] at DIA, and now Myers from INR, it certainly makes one wonder where the next ideologically driven Cuban agent will be found inside the U.S. intelligence community.

Political Prisoner Hospitalized

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, (Bárbara Jiménez, Cubanet) - Ariel Sigler Amaya, a designated prisoner of conscience who was one of the 75 dissidents arrested and imprisoned in 2003, was hospitalized June 5, according to his wife.

Noelia Pedreza said her husband, serving a 20-year sentence, was taken to the Dr. Gustavo Aldereguía Lima hospital in Cienfuegos in a “delicate state” of health.

Are These Reasonable Negotiating Partners?

Thursday, June 11, 2009
This Associated Press story encapsulates the absurdity of the Castro regime:

GENEVA - Cuba's U.N. ambassador in Geneva says Human Rights Watch and other groups are "mercenaries" paid by the U.S. government.

Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios says groups criticizing Cuba in the U.N. Human Rights Council perform a "clown act." The groups had accused Cuba of trying to silence critics.

HRW spokesman Philippe Dam said, "Human Rights Watch receives zero percent of its funding from public money, and 100% from private money. This is evidence that we are fully independent of any government, and that Cuba's remarks are totally unfounded."

The New York-based group says Cuba violates the right to fair trial, free expression and political association.

Several Cuban and Chinese groups praised Cuba's human rights achievements Wednesday.

Britain's Classic Marxist

In a classic contradiction, London's Evening Standard reports that,"one of London's leading headteachers has been arrested over allegations of a £500,000 expenses fraud linked to a Cuban exchange programme."

The teacher, Paul Patrick, is a member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, a British group "for the defence of Cuba and its peoples' right to self-determination and national sovereignty."

Yet, "the sum is around half a million pounds. He is being looked at for buying smart Armani-type suits, even people carriers, off-road vehicles and first-class flights to Cuba."

A classic Marxist.

In the Animal Farm

Police carry out roundup off the Malecón

HAVANA, (Aleaga Pesant, Cubanet) – Border guards and national police carried out a roundup last Saturday of fishermen, boaters and divers off the Malecón.

The operation started at 4 p.m. and involved the seizure of fish and the sinking of rafts. Those arrested were taken to a police station, where fines of up to 1,500 pesos, the equivalent of more than three monthly salaries for the average Cuba, were meted out.

Two cigarette boats were used in the roundup.

Those who fled on foot were captured by police in patrol cars.

A source related the roundup to the coming ashore last week of rafters on the coast near the U.S. Interests Section. That incident resulted in police swarming the area.

Under Cuban law, fishermen need government permission to fish and to build boats or rafts from which to fish.

The Implications of "Abourezk v. Reagan"

It's been amply reported that Gwendolyn Myers, who was arrested last week, along with her husband, Kendall, for spying on behalf of the Cuban regime, spent a few years working as a legislative aide for former U.S. Senator Jame Abourezk of South Dakota.
 
Upon hearing of the Myers' arrest, former Senator Abourezk told Newshour:
 
"Kendall and Gwen are very good people, very humane, humanitarian people, and it's hard for me to believe they would do anything to hurt the United States. I can understand they might have been angry at the government, but the United States itself, I just can't believe they'd hurt them."
 
Senator Abourezk, along with South Dakota's other Senator, George McGovern, were vocal opponents of sanctions and advocated for unconditional engagement with Cuba's dictatorship, even visiting with Fidel Castro in 1977 during the height of the Cold War.   
 
Yet, ironically, Senator Abourezk is also known is legal circles for the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case, Abourezk v. Reagan, where he sued former President Ronald Reagan's State Department for denying non-immigrant visas to aliens -- from rogue nations or foreign organizations hostile to the U.S. -- who were invited by U.S. individuals or organizations to attend meetings or address audiences here.
 
Abourezk was successful in this suit, as the Court essentially held that "prejudice to foreign policy" (or simply belonging to the Communist Party of a hostile nations, such as the Soviet Union, Cuba or Nicaragua) should not automatically disqualify a foreign invitee for a nonimmigrant visa, for it isn't necessarily "contrary to the security interests of the U.S."
 
Although a decade before, the Cuban intelligence official that recruited the Myers' in South Dakota must have been particularly pleased by this ruling.

An Email to Orbitz

To: corpdev@orbitz.com
To: jdiefendorf@orbitz.com
To: bhoyt@orbitz.com
Subject: One Customer Less, More To Come

Dear Orbitz Representatives,

Orbitz sent me today an email promoting a unilateral end to travel restrictions to Cuba. I find this action on the part of Orbitz to be morally repugnant. From now on, and until the policy changes, I will not use your services.

First, American's right to travel should not come at the expense of continued repression and human rights abuses on the part of the Cuban dictatorial regime. This action takes Orbitz back to the worst corporate abuses of the 1970s. Don't you know there is no freedom of worker association in Cuba; no worker's rights; female exploitation in a tourism-fueled sex industry; an apartheid system on tourist beaches, no environmental controls whatsoever on tourism development and on and, regrettably, on?

Second, the line that travel will end the dictatorship is completely disingenuous -- Europeans and many other nationalities have been traveling to Cuba for decades to no avail. And yes, US citizens already travel to other countries with deplorable regimes but, as Greek philosopher Plato put it centuries ago -- two wrongs don't make a right. So lets at least get one thing right!

Finally, I hope your CEO, Barney Harford, realizes the commercial stupidity of his move. (1) He will loose more customers than he gains by a simple appeal to intensity of preferences and (2) even if the measure to liberalize tourism succeeds, Cuba's tourism monopoly will act like all monopolies: by restricting output and jacking up prices -- your profit margin will be razor thin.

Mr Harford, it would appear, is not only morally corrupt, but an inept business leader too. Unfortunately, it is Cuban prisoners of conscience that are paying for his ineptitude.

I do hope you forward this message to him and that Orbitz changes policy as soon as possible.

Demand Release of Ill Political Prisoner

From Human Rights First:

Tony Diaz, an instrumental organizer of a civic initiative known as the Varela Project in Cuba, was thrown in jail for his human rights activities in the spring of 2003. The Varela Project was collected petition signatures for a constitutional referendum on democratic reforms and respect for basic freedoms. Now, more than six years later, Diaz suffers from serious intestinal problems. This week, Diaz was transferred to a prison isolation cell, seriously endangering his health.

For the past eight months, Diaz has been receiving treatment for his illness at the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana. During his stay, State Security agents repeatedly offered to transfer Diaz to a prison close to his home if he agreed to fully cooperate with them and wear a certain uniform. Upon his refusal, he was transferred this past week to an isolation cell in Canaleta prison in Ciego de Avila province, more than 500 km away from his home in Havana. His detention consists of a dark and humid cell with no outside communication. Demand that he be released from the isolation cell and receive the medical care that he needs.

How to Subvert the U.N. Human Rights Council

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This morning, the dysfunctional U.N. Human Rights Council, which is ironically led by Cuba, China and other egregious human rights violators, concluded its general debate on "human rights situations that require its attention."

During the post-proceeding statements by international non-governmental organizations ("NGO"), the following important observation was made:

CHRIS SIDOTI, of Human Rights Council of Australia, welcomed the note made by the President of the Council with respect to the conduct of non-governmental organizations when giving their statements and requested that the same line of reasoning with respect to conduct be applied to that of Member States who needed to be reminded that their conduct on some occasions was worse than non-governmental organizations. It was evident in the work of the Council that this principle was forgotten, such as with the case of Cuba who used no-action motions to avoid debate on its human rights situation. The Human Rights Council must return its work to be based on international human rights law. Resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly required the Council to address situations of human rights and made recommendations thereon. This did not reflect a basis for non-interference, but reflected the highest aspect of international law.

Cuban Spies Can't "Sail Home"

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola has ordered former State Department official Kendall Myers, and his wife, Gwendolyn, to be held without bond on charges of spying for Cuba.

They obviously present a serious flight risk, as Cuba currently provides refuge to numerous fugitives from U.S. justice, including many on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list. By simply slipping into the Cuban Interests Section in N.W. Washington, just over a mile from the federal courthouse, U.S. authorities would be unable to retrieve them.

The Myers' had told undercover FBI agents that their "idea was to sail home," strangely referring to Cuba, this Fall.

However, it's also important that they are held without bond, in order to determine whether the Myers' will cooperate with federal authorities, so that the full extent of the damage to U.S. national security -- from the information on Cuba and other rogue states they had access to -- can be assessed.

Cuba's Jews Support Travel Ban

Cuba's remaining Jewish community -- more than 90% of Cuban Jews fled the island after the Castro regime closed down their schools and confiscated their businesses -- believes that any policy changes that would authorize tourist travel to Cuba would be detrimental to their struggle to survive.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

American Jews are now allowed by U.S. law to visit Cuba only if they are traveling under the auspices of a licensed religious organization and their trip is ostensibly for religious purposes. They tour Jewish Cuba, meet with local Jews, share Shabbat dinner in Cuban homes and even join in communal ceremonies.

But if the religious requirement is eased, [William] Miller [vice president of the House of the Hebrew Community in Cuba, one of the nine Jewish congregations in the island] said, American Jews coming to Cuba simply might head straight for Cuba's Caribbean beaches, as they do in places like Mexico and elsewhere, and ignore the local Jewish community.

Gwendolyn Myers and Riggs Bank

There's been ample reporting on the espionage activities of former State Department official, Kendall Myers, on behalf of the Castro regime. However, there's been surprisingly little reporting about his wife, Gwendolyn, who did not work for the federal government, but was also indicted on criminal charges similar those of her husband.

Most media outlets have almost dismissively mentioned that "Gwendolyn Myers worked in the computer department at Riggs Bank in Washington."

So why would a Cuban agent, who was jointly recruited with her husband, look for employment at the local Riggs Bank, while her husband was carefully placed at the State Department and meticulously worked his way up the clearance ladder for 30 years?

It's barely a secret that a connection between the CIA and Riggs Bank goes back to at least the early 1960s. Back in 1977, Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward first tied Riggs Bank to payments in a CIA operation in Iran.

By 2004, the Wall Street Journal would corroborate that Riggs Bank "had a longstanding relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, according to people familiar with Riggs operations and US government officials," and that the relationship included top Riggs executives receiving US government security clearances.

Coincidence or an information-rich environment for Gwendolyn?

Anyone Want to Buy Some Cuban Debt?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009
HAVANA, (Reuters) - Cuba has rolled over 200 million euros in bond issues that were due in May, as the country's central bank asked for another year to repay foreign holders of the debt, financial sources in London and Havana said this week.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fortunately, U.S. sanctions directly prevent AIG and U.S. financial institutions -- and indirectly, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- from purchasing Cuban debt. Otherwise, we'd be preparing another bailout.

Memo to South Dakota Delegation

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson and U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota are cosponsors of legislation, in their respective chambers (S. 1089 and H.R. 1737), that would facilitate the issuance of visas to Castro regime officials seeking to travel to agricultural states, such as South Dakota, for the "inspection" of production facilities. Cuban law prohibits private citizens from engaging in any business activities, so these visas would solely benefit Castro regime officials.

The Sioux Fall Argus Leader and other South Dakota media outlets have amply reported that:

(AP) A couple charged with spying for Cuba over the last 30 years lived in South Dakota.

Retired State Department worker Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, are charged with passing U.S. secrets to the communist government.

An indictment says Walter Myers disclosed that he traveled to Cuba for two weeks in 1978, saying the trip was for personal and academic purposes.

The next year, a Cuban government official visited the couple in South Dakota and recruited them to be spies.

Gwendolyn Steingraber worked as a legislative aide for former U.S. Sen. Jim Abourezk before going to Pierre and serving as the Public Utilities Commission's deputy director for fixed utilities from early 1979 to December 1980.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Senator Johnson and Congresswoman Herseth should reconsider their co-sponsorship of S. 1089 and H.R. 1737 until the provisions facilitating U.S. visas for Castro regime officials are removed or until the Executive Branch concludes a complete damage assessment of the Myers' espionage activities.

Attention Delahunt, 30 Pastors Arrested

HAVANA, (Juan Carlos González, Cubanet) – Thirty evangelical pastors were arrested last week by State Security agents and members of the National Police in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camagüey, preventing them from holding a convention.

Several of the pastors called the dissident Council of Human Rights of Cuba, asking that news of the arrests be made known.

"The world should know that the Cuban government continues to pursue Christians," said Bernardo de Quesada Salomón, leader of the group. "The only thing we're doing is getting together 200 pastors to praise God."

EDITOR'S NOTE: In 1998, U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, a leading advocate of unconditionally lifting sanctions towards the Cuban regime, declared "Mr. Castro was expansive on the idea of freedom of religion...He indicated very frankly and very flatly that religions were going to flourish on the island of Cuba."

Unfortunately, "Mr. Castro" wasn't being so frank with Congressman Delahunt.

Pittsburgh's Right On Point (On Cuba)

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's editorial, The OAS & Cuba: Reform First:

Still, the role that Latin America's leftward drift played in lifting the OAS ban on Cuba is a reminder of why the U.S. embargo against Cuba must continue. It's the United States' most powerful way to force the island nation's rulers to embrace democracy and respect human rights, which would be a nightmare scenario for Chavez and his comrades.

Rewarding dictators for their status quo does not help those who suffer under their rule. The United States must hold fast to its reform-first stance toward Cuba.

Have Chavez-Ortega Outflanked the U.S.?

Monday, June 8, 2009
From Ambassador G. Phillip Hughes in The Washington Times:

Mr. Obama's approach to Cuba policy so far highlights two critically important issues. First is Cuba's appalling record on democracy and human rights. Respect for those values is supposed to be defining for OAS members. The Castro brothers' dictatorship remains undiluted. Democracy and human rights activists there are rounded up regularly and imprisoned. And Cuba continues to flagrantly violate the Inter-American Human Rights Charter as well as the U.N. Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that it only just signed in February of last year.

Why the sudden urgency of readmitting Cuba to the OAS? It's time for "change" - and Mr. Obama's is the first U.S. administration that has seemed likely to acquiesce, even if it would prefer to do so by degrees.

Second, why is the United States so completely on the diplomatic defensive on the Cuba issue? After all, Cuba has far more - and far more obvious - skeletons in its closet, literally, than does the United States. Why have Mr. Obama and his putative A-Team of national-security experts allowed themselves to be outflanked regularly and predictably by Cuba's supporters and apologists, dictating the agenda and forcing the administration's hand? A more conventional U.S. administration would be embarrassed and put on its guard by such encounters. But perhaps the Obama administration doesn't really mind being stampeded by the likes of Mr. Chavez and Mr. Ortega into relenting 50 years of U.S. resistance to the Castro brothers' brutal dictatorship.

G. Philip Hughes, senior director of the White House Writers Group, has served as director for Latin American Affairs and, later, executive secretary of the National Security Council and as U.S. ambassador in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Hillary on Security Clearances

At a press conference Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Mrs. Clinton pledged to "work with the Department of Justice and others within our government to make sure that any information that is needed is provided for the investigation and prosecution."

"I have directed our security personnel to review every possible security program we have, every form of vetting and clearance that we employ in the State Department, to determine what more we can do to guard against this kind of outrageous violation of the oaths that people take to serve our country here in the State Department," she said.

The Curious Mention of the Arms Embargo

Today's statement by Cuba's regime rejecting any offer to join the Organization of American States ("OAS"), also made the following curious accusation:

"[The OAS] made official the economic blockade, arranged for the embargo of arms and strategic products and stipulated the obligation that its member countries should break diplomatic relations with our revolutionary state.''

Apparently, the arms that the Castro regime was receiving from the Soviet bloc and trafficking throughout Latin America -- as it fomented armed uprising and civil wars throughout the hemisphere -- was insufficient. They wanted the U.S. to supply them with arms as well.

This is curiously similar to the Cuban regime's current need for resources to finance its totalitarian regime and its repressive apparatus -- with the Soviets gone, it now wants the U.S. to pick up the tab (Chavez is just a bridge loan).

Is Insulza the Ultimate Masochist?

Today, the Cuban regime outright rejected any offer to rejoin the Organization of American States ("OAS"), stating that it is "an organization with a role and trajectory that Cuba repudiates.''

Almost simultaneously, Jose Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the OAS, said he feels confident that Cuba will eventually rejoin the organization, but that it would require more dialogue.

"I expect things to change. They were saying very bad things about the OAS before. They're not saying those bad things now," Insulza told Reuters today.

Attack on Democratic Principles

By Orlando Gutierrez in The Miami Herald:

By approving a resolution that conditions Cuba's return to the OAS to its adherence to the ''practices, goals and principles'' of the institution, the attempt by Hugo Chávez's bloc to automatically and unconditionally reinsert the Castro dictatorship in the institution was temporarily foiled.

However, the immediate goal of the Chavista bloc is precisely to redefine the practices, goals and principles of the Interamerican system in order to consolidate their new strain of ''electoral dictatorships'' in the region, with the eventual objective of isolating the United States diplomatically within the hemisphere and forcing it to coexist with a new wave of emerging populist totalitarian states.

With the ideological leadership of the government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and supported by Cuba's political infrastructure and Chávez's money, a new wave of authoritarian populists from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Bolivia set their sights on the 1962 OAS resolution and its description of Marxism-Leninism as incompatible with the Interamerican system in order to remove an obstacle to the legitimization of their own efforts to concentrate government power, suppress independent media and regulate civil liberties out of existence.

The sentiment shared by too many in the region, as expressed for example by the presidents and foreign ministers of Ecuador and Honduras at the OAS summit, considers Cuba's 50-year old dynastic totalitarianism a ''different kind of democracy,'' ''a legal and legitimate representative of its people,'' an ''acceptable one party state.'' Sadly enough, the discourse of governments such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico is full of moral ambiguity and confusion, and does not confront this verbal assault of the very basic notions of human rights.

Unlike Asia, Africa or the Middle East, where democracies still vie for ideological predominance against diverse types of despotism, the concepts of inherent human rights and rule of law based on respect for personal freedoms have prevailed in the Americas with the glaring exception of Cuba. So much so, that in spite of their well organized efforts, Chávez, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Correa and company have had to confront significant political, social and cultural resistance in their respective countries in their attempt at suppressing citizen freedoms.

However, the Castro-Chávez bloc would change that by introducing a new authoritarianism in the region that seeks to redefine the source of political sovereignty away from individual rights, placing it in the hands of vertical totalitarian states with no separation of powers and no political accountability. They seek to make a 21st century fascism amenable to the Americas.

The next round in this battle for the soul of the Interamerican system lies with the Interamerican Democratic Charter. The totalitarians veil their attack on the Charter, which enumerates the rights and freedoms that have evolved over centuries of universal civilization, by referring to it as an example of ''ideological colonialism,'' which would impose an ''ethnocentric'' concept of democracy on the developing world. They seek to dilute it and reconfigure it out of existence as they have with their own constitutions back home.

Led by the United States, truly democratic governments in the hemisphere must join to bolster the Interamerican Democratic Charter, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, and other institutions in the OAS that uphold pluralistic democracy and human rights as the essence of the institution. Membership in this regional institution is not worthwhile if this is not to be so.

For the 21st century fascists in the Western Hemisphere, it is not the Castros' 50-year old dictatorship that must change in order to be accepted by a democratic community of nations, but instead, that this community of nations abandon its democratic principles in order to emulate the hemisphere's oldest dictatorship.

Orlando Gutierrez is a member of the Cuban Democratic Directorate and was part of a delegation of Cuban pro-democracy activists at the OAS meeting in Honduras last week.

Rogues Use Journalists As Pawns

North Korea's regime has sentenced two U.S. journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, to 12 years in prison for reporting from the Chinese-North Korean border.

The North Korean Central News Agency reported that the women were sentenced to 12 years of "reform through labor." They face the horrid reality of hard labor, starvation and torture in that rogue nation's brutal penal system.

Similarly, in April, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted of spying charges by the Iranian Revolutionary Court and sentenced to eight years in prison. Pursuant to significant international pressure, an appeals court suspended the sentence and Saberi was released after four months in prison.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, an independent journalist and pro-democracy leader, was unjustly condemned by the Castro regime in 2003 to 26 years in prison and is currently on a hunger strike over the lack of medical care; the overcrowding of 130 prisoners in a single hallway for months; the denial of chaplain visits and the cruel and degrading treatment to which he is subjected.

It's a testament to these rogue regime's absolute obsession with power and their cruel disregard for human life.

Can Senator Dorgan Bailout Castro's Oil Projects?

For years, the Castro regime has tried to seduce the U.S. oil industry into joining the vocal coalition of agricultural and other business interests lobbying to unilaterally lift sanctions (and help finance the regime's brutal repression), teasing them with dreams of major oil projects and the profits that they're purportedly missing out on (and foreign oil interests are taking advantage of).

In 2006, MSNBC reported, "Cuban Oil Renews Embargo Debate."

In 2007, USA Today speculated, "Cuba's Known for Cigars Now, But Oil Could Change That."

In 2008, Time Magazine stated, "Cuba's Oil Find Could Change the US Embargo."

Even last month, The Washington Post thought, "Cuba's Undersea Oil Could Help Thaw Trade With U.S."

The truth remains that Castro's oil projects, which require an investment of approximately $11 billion through 2015, have always been dependent on one major foreign backer, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

However, it now appears that the dramatic drop in Venezuela's oil revenues during the first months of 2009; the operational difficulties and bureaucratic inefficiencies plaguing Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA; and the current liquidity crisis facing Hugo Chavez's government has put a hold on Castro's oil projects, according to El Nuevo Herald.

In the meantime, U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota has already introduced comprehensive energy legislation, which includes a section that would authorize U.S. oil companies to fill the void left by Chavez in Castro's oil projects.

Wouldn't that be convenient.

The Dysfunctional OAS Family

Sunday, June 7, 2009
Perfectly summarized in today's Wall Street Journal by Mary Anastasia O'Grady:

The OAS expelled Cuba in 1962, in part, because the regime's Marxist-Leninist ideology was considered "incompatible with the inter-American system." In 2001 all OAS members strengthened that position by signing "the democratic charter" and pledging to respect limits to state power. But under Secretary General José Miguel Insulza the organization's principled stand has withered. Led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina now tell Mr. Insulza what to do. Brazil goes along as part of its eternal quest to reduce U.S. power in the region. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has been very public about her admiration for Fidel Castro.

So when the group met to discuss Mr. Insulza's proposal that the 1962 ban be lifted, there wasn't much suspense. Ecuador's foreign minister captured the spirit of the regime's apologists when he told the gathering that Marxist-Leninist ideology is compatible with democracy. That jibes with the views of the Honduran president, who has argued that Cuba is a democracy.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 8

From Cuba Today by Nicholas Hanlon of the Center for Security Policy:

"Mauricio Claver–Carone of the U.S. Cuba PAC offers three reasons why the current U.S. policy is correct. First, there is a political basis because the U.S. should not financially support dictatorships. Second, there is a geo-political interest. The Obama administration has made statements that the promotion of democracy and human rights in Cuba is in our national interest. Third, the idea of trade with Cuba is an illusion. There is only one company in Cuba and the Castro brothers own it. That is not trade. It is mercantilism."

With Unity of Purpose

"Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America

While the Organization of American States deliberated to unilaterally revoke the Castro regime's 1962 suspension, and a high-level former State Department official was being indicted for espionage activities on behalf of the Castro regime, Cuban pro-democracy leaders on the island continued their courageous struggle for the fundamental human, civil and political rights they are unjustly denied.

This week -- in an incredible act of selflessness and democratic solidarity -- Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" of the National Movement of Cuban Political Prisoners, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina of the Youth for Democracy Movement, Iris Perez Aguilera of the Rosa Parks Women's Movement and others, demonstrated in Havana on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader in the midst of another sham trial by that country's military junta -- a scenario all-too-familiar to these Cuban activists.

One can only dream of the day when human rights and democracy prevails over militarism and repression in both of these suffering nations, and Aung San Suu Kyi can visit a free Cuba, and personally meet these courageous individuals, who come from a distant land and culture, but share an unbreakable historic bond.