Zelaya's Psychic Intervention

Saturday, July 18, 2009
Honduran prosecutors are scouring through various computers found in the Central American nation's Presidential Palace, which purportedly contain the results of ousted President Manuel Zelaya's proposed referendum seeking to extend his constitutionally mandated term in office, according to Europa Press.

Here's the kicker -- the referendum was supposed to take place on June 28th, the day Zelaya was forcefully removed from office.

Therefore, Zelaya had already decided -- through some sort of "psychic intervention" -- what was best for the Honduran people.

While this evidence adds to the long list of illegal activities by Zelaya, it still does not justify his forced expulsion from Honduras. Zelaya remains entitled to due process of law in his own country.

Finally, judging by some of the "results" of the referendum that never took place, Zelaya's "intervention" placed support for his extended mandate at 80%, a middle ground between the 99% that Castro and the 55% that Chavez typically "intervene" for themselves.

A Solomonic judgment indeed.

Catching Up to Cyrus the Great

In 539 B.C., Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, after conquering the city of Babylon, set a historic precedent -- he freed all the slaves to return home. Moreover, he declared that people had the right to choose their own religion.

The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing these proclamations is considered the first human rights declaration in history. The idea of individual rights would spread to India, Greece and eventually Rome.

Two millennia later, the Castro regime holds an entire population under the absolute control of a totalitarian dictatorship -- a form of modern day slavery -- refusing to recognize the individual, fundamental rights of any of its citizens.

Sadly, the Castro regime has a lot of catching up to do.

Quote of the Week

Friday, July 17, 2009
"Whether in Latin America or Lebanon, Iran or Liberia, those who are inspired by democracy, who understand that democracy is about more than just elections – that it must also protect minority rights and press freedom, develop strong, competent and independent judiciaries, legislatures and executive agencies, and commit for democracy to deliver results – these are the people who will find that Americans are their friends, not adversaries."
 
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, July 15, 2009

Star Pitcher Arrested for "Illegal Exit"

Cuban star pitcher Yuniesky Maya Mendizula has been arrested by the Castro regime for trying to flee the island by sea. He was intercepted, along with some of his family members, by the Cuban authorities as they tried to depart from the island's southern coast.

According to Article 12 of the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Castro regime signed -- but refuses to respect -- on December 10th, 2007:

(1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.

(2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.

The U.N. should demand that the Castro regime respects the Cuban people's fundamental right of free movement.

Barbara Lee's Economic Recovery Plan

During yesterday's floor consideration of the FY 2010 Financial Services Appropriations Bill, which funds the Treasury Department, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California made the following statement:

"Let me just say that United States companies should be able to benefit from profits and create jobs, which is the bottom line during this recession as a result of these business opportunities. So this provision is very important for our economic recovery."

Was she talking about provisions aimed at stabilizing capital markets? Provisions to ensure greater regulation and oversight of credit derivatives? Or even, to clamp down on tax havens?

No, she was talking about a provision seeking to allow the Castro regime to pay for agricultural products upon the commodity's arrival on the island, as opposed to before the commodity leaves the U.S.

This shouldn't be a surprise after Congresswoman Lee's April visit to Cuba, where she lavished praise on the Castro brothers.

Apparently, she's been taking their economic advice as well.

Berry, Berry Bad Business

This week, U.S. Congressman Marion Berry of Arkansas boasted in a Delta Farm Press opinion editorial,

"Recently, I introduced the Agricultural Export Facilitation Act with Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas. Together, we are building support for this bipartisan, common sense bill that would amend the law to allow for agricultural credit sales to purchasers in Cuba."

Meanwhile, Spain's ABC newspaper is reporting that companies from the autonomous region of Valencia -- which is approximately the size of the state of Arkansas -- have not been paid for their exports to the Castro regime (the only legally authorized purchaser in Cuba) in over a year. Similar to companies from other regions of Spain, Valencian companies are now requesting lines of credit from their local and national government to cover these delinquent debts, which total well over $30 million. While sales to Cuba from the Valencia region had multiplied in the last few years, they have now come to a complete halt due to the Castro regimes inability (or refusal) to pay.

What was that about common sense, Congressman Berry?

Congressional Letter on Ariel Sigler Amaya

Thursday, July 16, 2009
Click on letter to expand.

Same Laws, Different Tyrants

On October 24, 1933, the German Reichstag -- controlled by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party -- passed the Law Against Habitual and Dangerous Criminals that justified placing "anti-social" elements, including dissidents, homeless, homosexuals, unemployed, artists and eventually Jews in concentration camps.

More than 75 years later, the Castro regime uses the same legal justification.

Dissident faces possible 4-year sentence

HAVANA, Cuba, July 14 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra, Cubanet) – The National Liberal Cuban Party says one of its members, Marcos Rivas, has been arrested in the municipality of Gibara and faces a prison sentence of four years.

Miguel Batista, the party's provincial vice-coordinator, said that the Political Police told Rivas's family that he will be charged as a danger to society and having been involved in anti-social activities against the government.

Don't "Block" Macroeconomic Logic

According to the Brownfield Ag Network:

"Former Illinois and U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Block says legalizing travel with Cuba will boost U.S. food sales. The Center for Democracy in the Americas held a conference call with Block on Wednesday in Illinois. Block says he supports legislation in Congress seeking to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba because it would increase tourism in Cuba and its demand for food."

From a macroeconomic perspective, Secretary Block's rationale is faulty at best, as it simply makes the Cuban regime an unnecessary middle man.

Let me explain.

Joe American (a U.S. tourist) would have bought a cob of corn in the U.S. at $1 say. Now he goes to Cuba and he pays $1.50. Of this, the Cuban regime pays $1 to U.S. farmers, which makes farmers equally well off as selling it at home: they still get $1 for their produce.

However, the 50c extra is the Cuban regime's mark up.

From the U.S. side, those 50c represent an import of services by the U.S. and adds to the U.S.'s current account deficit. These are 50c Joe American would have otherwise spent in the U.S. (or saved). From the Cuban side, those 50c represent export revenues to the Cuban regime. Such moneys may be used to buy U.S. goods, but also goods from other countries. They may also end up financing the Castro regime's state security and military apparatus, in order to continue exerting power by force and repressing the Cuban people.

Farmers would be better off if, in addition to U.S. tourists, Cubans themselves were to buy U.S. corn. However, the Cuban regime is essentially bankrupt and does not have the money to pay for it. Therefore, the Cuban regime needs to generate export revenue to earn US$ with which to pay for imports. Yet ample evidence from the last half century shows that to accomplish the latter, Cuba needs to develop a competitive market economy -- something the Castro regime refuses to do.

But let's be honest, should farmers be worried about exchanging corn for Cuban IOUs? Not really.

If Cuba undertakes reforms, they will eventually be able to exchange the IOUs for U.S. IOUs (e.g. dollars). If it doesn't, sooner or later the U.S. government will bail them (and simultaneously the Cuban regime) out. For farmers, the great thing about this plan is that it is essentially a farm support system that (1) would not appear to contravene World Trade Organization rules and (2) would not be seen as such by taxpayers, thus making for an easier pitch to Congress.

For U.S. businessmen, taxpayers and national security, on the other hand, this is terrible news. Taxpayers will likely foot the final bill, businesses with Latin American operations will face a better financed foe, and national security will continue to be undermined by Castro's anti-American activities and persistent network of spies in the U.S.

By the way, did somebody mention narrow self interests?

Illinois Congressman on Migration Talks

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL):
 
Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss our relationship with our neighbor to the south, Cuba.

I applaud President Obama for his plan to re-engage Cuba in a constructive dialogue, and support his first steps to that end.

But, I must ask, what has Cuba done?

Improving the relations between the United States and Cuba is something I surely support, but I do not support this partnership at any cost.

I must ask, what has Cuba done? 

Cuba still imprisons political dissidents.

Cuba still denies gay and lesbian citizens basic rights like freedom of assembly.

Cuba still forbids travel outside the country without official permission.

We cannot tacitly reward this behavior by restoring normal relations with Cuba without asking – what has Cuba done?

Our ultimate progress is up to Cuba, and our shared diplomacy must be a two-way street.

U.S. State Department on Migration Talks

"On Tuesday, July 14, the United States and Cuba met to discuss implementation of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. This was the first such meeting since 2003. In the course of the meeting, the U.S. team, led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly, reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to promote safe, orderly, and legal migration. Engaging in these talks underscores our interest in pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba to advance U.S. interests on issues of mutual concern.

The U.S. delegation highlighted areas of successful cooperation in migration, while also identifying issues that have been obstacles to the full implementation of the Accords. The agenda for the talks reflected long-standing U.S. priorities on Cuba migration issues, including: ensuring that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana is able to operate fully and effectively; gaining access to a deep water port for the safe repatriation of migrants; ensuring that the American consular staff at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana are able to monitor the welfare of repatriated migrants; and gaining Cuban government acceptance for the repatriation of all Cuban nationals who are excludable on criminal grounds. The United States views these talks as a venue to achieve practical, positive results that contribute to the full implementation of the Accords and to the safety of our citizens."

Dorgan Auditions for Cuba's Censors

As U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota works to eliminate funds for TV Marti in the FY 2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, Cuba's independent journalists report:

Police crack down on illegal TV antennas

HAVANA, Cuba, July 13 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra, Cubanet) – Police supported by workers from ETECSA, the Cuban-Italian telephone company, removed homemade parabolic antennas and cable connections last week, according to an activist from the Republican Party of Cuba.

Raimundo Cuevas said he counted 17 police cruisers and a similar number of telephone company vehicles in the Veracruz district of Havana. He said more than 30 men were involved in cutting cables and scaling roofs to remove the dishes

EDITOR'S NOTE: If Senator Dorgan gets his way, Castro's state security and censors will no longer have to worry about dismantling "illegal" antennas and have plenty of time to concentrate on other activities, such as beating up human rights activists and imprisoning dissidents.

Obama Waives Title III of LIBERTAD Act

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Consistent with section 306(c)(2) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-114) (the "Act"), I hereby determine and report to the Congress that suspension, for 6 months beyond August 1, 2009, of the right to bring an action under title III of the Act is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.

Sincerely,
BARACK OBAMA

EDITOR'S NOTE: Title III of the LIBERTAD Act, which gives U.S. nationals and corporations the right to sue foreign companies that "traffic" in property expropriated from the U.S. entity, has been waived every six months by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush since its original enactment by Congress in 1996. Therefore, it has never effectively been applied.

Beaten for Using a Tourist-Only Toilet

From The Epoch Times:

OTTAWA - To commemorate the 15-year anniversary of the infamous Tugboat Massacre, Juan Carlos brought a makeshift raft to Parliament Hill on Monday similar to the one he had used on the open sea to escape from Cuba in 1994.

Carlos is a "rafter," one of thousands who fled Cuba in 1994 after Fidel Castro declared that people were free to leave the country without reprisal. He used a combination of innertubes and wood to cobble a raft that would take him to the United States and escape what he saw as Castro's oppressive regime.

Speaking on the Hill, Carlos, a resident of Guelph, said that at 17 he was badly beaten for using a public washroom that was designated for use by tourists only.

"From that day on I have been very angry. I wonder how Canadians would feel if they were beaten for using a public washroom in their own country but which foreign people are allowed to use. I won't welcome tourism in my country until the Castro government is over. I would like to tell the Canadian people that the only thing you are doing by going to resorts in Cuba is hurting the Cuban people.

Worst Country for Priests or Pastors

If you are a priest...

Father Mariano Arroyo Merino, 74, was found dead Monday at the parish of Our Lady of Regla, in Havana.

Initial investigations indicate that the priest was murdered in a knife attack early Monday morning, the archbishopric of the island capital reported.

Father Arroyo is the second Spanish priest to be assassinated in Cuba in less than a year. Father Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano, 59, was killed Feb. 14.

If you are a pastor...

There was international concern Tuesday, July 14, over the detention of a Cuban Evangelical pastor, after news emerged he has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges that include "counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes" as part of what rights investigators called “mounting state hostility towards religious groups."

The family home of detained Pastor Omar Gude Pérez will also confiscated as part of the sentence, trial observers said.

An Obituary for Fidel Castro

"Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it."

Bill Cosby, American Comedian

Porno para Ricardo is a Cuban punk rock band founded in 1998. Their lyrics have become a staple of Cuba's repressed youth due to its harsh and fearless criticism of the Castro regime. Such criticism has landed the band's members in prison on several occasions for "dangerousness," a charge that allows the Cuban authorities to preemptively detain people whom they think are likely to commit "crimes."

Ciro Diaz, the band's lead guitarist, has now taken his opposition of the Castro's regime to the blogosphere. While his blog is in Spanish, it features this short clip filmed in Cuba, "An Obituary for Fidel Castro," which can be understood universally (and encapsulates the views of young Cubans).


The Measure of Success for Migration Talks

As migration talks between the U.S. government and the Cuban regime resume today in New York City, it's important to recall that these talks were suspended in 2003 due to major violations of the 1994 Migration Accords -- which set the original framework for these periodic talks -- by the Cuban authorities.

These violations* include:

(1) Cuban government denial of exit permits to otherwise eligible Cubans approved for resettlement to the U.S.;

(2) Cuban government restriction on travel of 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.

Therefore, the success and continuation of these migration talks must be, first and foremost, measured by the Cuban regime's compliance with the Accord's original commitments.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This might seem tangential, but recalling the loss-of-life at sea by so many Cubans in pursuit of freedom is yet another tragic reminder of the immense physical and emotional suffering caused by the absolute obsession of one man (and his brother) to remain in power forever. Like the U.S., Cuba was a nation that historically received migrants. It was the Castro regime that turned it into a source of migrants. Therefore, the only way to surely achieve the stated goal of these talks, which is "safe, legal and orderly migration between both nations," is through freedom and democracy in Cuba.

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

The Torchbearers of Democratic Values

Monday, July 13, 2009
As Western nations increasingly prioritize stability and business interests over democratic values -- a modern-day trend that began with the conspiratory silence surrounding the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre -- it has fallen upon a whole new generation of pro-democracy advocates to defend those values from the front-lines of the world's most brutal dictatorships.

David Burchell makes this powerful observation in The Australian newspaper:

Freedom Lives in the Hearts of the Dispossessed

"While we've watched and bitten our tongues, it seems, it's been left to young Iranians such as [murdered democracy advocate Mohammad Mehdi] Asghari - and their embattled counterparts in China, Cuba and elsewhere - to become the new global face of what used to be called Western liberal-democratic values
. Sometimes it seems there's an irony of economic history according to which the developed Western nations are fated over time to become spectators to the vigour of developing ones. Who knows: perhaps a similar logic operates in the political sphere. Perhaps this new generation of young global citizens of the non-West - not having yet passed through that process of disenchantment and ennui that nowadays afflicts the citizens of the actual West - has become a kind of virtual West, holding up the values we still mutter about under our breath, but seem to have become too timid to say out loud, whether to Beijing or to Tehran."

Martinez to Strongly Scrutinize Nominees

From Senator Mel Martinez of Florida's opinion piece, Foundations of Democracy Being Dismantled, in today's Miami Herald:

"As the U.S. Senate takes up President Obama's nominees for key State Department positions in Latin America, it is time to question the acceptance by the United States and the inter-American community of the sustained dismantling of democratic institutions and free societies by presidents seeking to consolidate personal power at any cost."

Hillary's Not Fooled by Insulza

Sunday, July 12, 2009
According to Chile's El Mercurio newspaper, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told Chilean President Michelle Bachelet that the United States will not support José Miguel Insulza's reelection bid for Secretary General of the Organization of American States ("OAS").

Insulza is a former Foreign Minister of Chile.

The report cites Secretary Clinton's displeasure with Insulza's efforts to unconditionally reinstate Cuba in the OAS, which jeopardized the terms and effects of the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter, and dissatisfaction at the handling of the current crisis in Honduras.

Coincidentally, this weekend, Chile's Ambassador to Honduras, Francisco Martinez, also questioned the management of the Honduran crisis by Insulza. As a result, President Bachelet is looking to recall Ambassador Martinez to Chile.

During the June summit of the OAS, ironically celebrated in Honduras, Secretary Clinton told the Chilean delegates at the OAS summit that "the United States does not look kindly upon Insulza's reelection."

Apparently, it was also due to this mistrust that Secretary Clinton proposed Costa Rican President Oscar Arias as the lead negotiator in the Honduran crisis, purposefully sidelining Insulza.

Secretary Clinton should be commended for this decision, as the future of the OAS depends on it.

Insulza's documented praise for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and absolute impotence in dealing with the autocratic tendencies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez leaves him with no credibility to tackle the hemisphere's most pressing political, economic and social issues.

The Tragic Tale of Xinjiang

QUESTION: Compared to the bloodless coup in Honduras, the massive show of force by China's repressive forces in the province of Xinjiang has barely captured the attention of Western governments. Why has there been such a deafening silence by the international community?

BACKGROUND: This weekend's unrest in Xinjiang was perfectly encapsulated by The Australian newspaper:

"The violence and rioting in Urumqi, and other cities in the vast, desolate Western Chinese province of Xinjiang, constitute the greatest political loss of life in China since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. They are also the most serious challenge to Chinese state authority. They demonstrate the failure of the Chinese development model for both Xinjiang and Tibet, and the crudity of Chinese rule in those two provinces.

They also demonstrate the danger of the nationalism and ethnic Han chauvinism (Han is the dominant ethnic group in China) encouraged as a key way of gaining legitimacy by the Chinese state. It also reveals a new approach to media management by Beijing. Hu Jintao had to drop out of the G8 meeting and rush back to China to take charge of the crisis. Although the heroic leader returning to the rescue is now standard in Beijing dealing with a crisis, it is nonetheless a very bad look and a serious loss of face. According to official Chinese figures, more than 150 people are dead, 800 injured, 220 buildings and 260 vehicles destroyed and more than 200 shops damaged. There have been well over 800 arrests.

The sequence of events is contested, but goes like this. In Shaoguan City in distant Guangdong province two Uighurs were accused of raping a Han Chinese girl. The Chinese authorities now say this accusation was baseless. However, it led to some kind of anti-Uighur pogrom and at least two Uighurs, and possibly a few more, were killed.

This led, the next day, to a demonstration against the general repression of Uighurs, China's biggest Muslim minority, in Xinjiang's capital city, Urumqi. The Uighurs have a lot of grievances. When the Chinese communists took control of Xinjiang in 1949, ethnic Han made up about 6 per cent of the population, with Uighurs the vast majority. Today, the Han make up about 50 per cent, with Uighurs a minority in their own homeland."

ANSWER: The international community doesn't want to risk the ire of the Chinese regime, and their lucrative business opportunities in China. Similar to Western silence during the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, it reminds us that the moment profit supersedes human rights in the scale of priorities, dissidents and ethnic minorities shift from being obstacles (to business) to becoming mere distractions.

This is exactly why we must always insist that business with Castro's Cuba is conditioned to the fundamental human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people. Courageous human rights and pro-democracy movements throughout the world's dictatorships deserve no less.