CBS News Produces Propaganda

Saturday, August 15, 2009
CBS News published an "analysis" today entitled, "Bridge Without Borders," on the controversial concert proposed by Colombian pop star Juanes, which is tentatively scheduled for September in Havana.

It's one thing for this "analysis" to fail to present any counter-views, but it's utterly shameless for this "analysis" to be authored "by Margarita Alarcón, who writes for Cuba Debate."

Worse yet, CBS News doesn't even bother disclosing in the "analysis" that Cuba Debate is an official propaganda outlet of the Castro dictatorship -- the very same portal that publishes Fidel Castro's almost daily written "Reflections."

Curiously, did CBS News also produce an analysis by North Korean state propaganda on Bill Clinton's recent mission to release two American journalists?

Did CBS News produce Burmese state propaganda on the recently extended sentence of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi?

Or, is this phenomenon unique to Castro's Cuba?

As can be expected, Ms. Alarcon's "analysis" focuses on defaming and insulting the Cuban exile community, particularly "old school Cuban American immigrants who left the island way back in the early 1960s and are still holding a grudge," whom she blames for building opposition to Juanes' concert.

The truth is that the most vocal opponents of Juanes' Havana concert are artists and musicians that escaped Castro's Cuba within the last decade, as they have first-hand knowledge of the regime's manipulation of such events.

But apparently that wouldn't be a good fit for CBS News' propaganda.

Zimmern Eats Lobster in "Bizarre" Cuba

The Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern is kicking off a new season of his show, "Bizarre Foods," with a trip to Castro's Cuba.

Generally, the show consists of Zimmern traveling around the world and trying "bizarre" foods in each country.

The concept of "Bizarre Foods" in Cuba is in itself ironic, for it's a country in which food is severely rationed by the dictatorship for the people, while made abundantly available for the island's foreign tourists.

Yet, even more ironically, Zimmern's Cuba episode will feature:

Lobster Diving

"Andrew takes a dive to hunt for lobster. He cooks his catch right before getting stranded at sea.

Location: A reef 20 miles off the coast Trinidad

Food Eaten: Spiny Lobsters"

The most "bizarre" thing about lobsters in Cuba is that they are reserved solely for consumption by foreign tourists, like Zimmern.

A Cuban national risks a year in prison and a steep fine for catching lobsters for personal or non-tourist consumption.

Now that's bizarre.

Will Zimmern dare mention this tragic reality?

P.S. For more information, please read "In Cuba, Eating Lobster is Illegal," by the courageous Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez.

Congratulations, Cesar!

Friday, August 14, 2009
Cesar Conde Named President of Univision Networks

NEW YORK -- Univision Communications Inc., the nation's leading Spanish-language media company, today announced that Ray Rodriguez, 58, president and chief operating officer, will retire from the company at the end of the year, after nearly 20 years at Univision. Univision also announced that Cesar Conde, 35, most recently executive vice president and chief strategy officer, will become president of the Univision Networks.

Conde most recently served as executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Univision Communications, and was tasked with spearheading strategic initiatives focused on the growth and profitability of the Company across all of the divisions. Conde has been an innovative leader since he joined the company, serving in many roles, including president of Univision Interactive; vice president and operating manager of the Galavisión Network; vice president of corporate development for the Univision Networks; and vice president of sales and business development at the Univision Network. From 2002-2003, Conde was one of twelve White House Fellows appointed by President George W. Bush. In that capacity, he served as the White House Fellow for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Before joining Univision, Conde was vice president of business development at StarMedia Network, the first internet company focused on Spanish and Portuguese-speaking audiences globally. He began his career as an investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney in their mergers and acquisitions group. Conde holds a B.A. with honors from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

On behalf of Capitol Hill Cubans, congratulations!

Seven Steps for Freedom in Burma (and Cuba)

Former Burmese political prisoner, and co-founder of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), Bo Kyi, has just published his Seven Steps for Freedom in the Far Eastern Economic Review.

These seven steps can also be adopted in their entirety regarding the situation in Cuba:

Step one would be for the regime to publicly acknowledge the very existence of political prisoners.

Fidel Castro argues that there are no political prisoners in Cuba.

Step two would be to immediately release the 137 estimated political prisoners in bad health.

The Castro regime could begin with Ariel Sigler Amaya, Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta and the 58 that Amnesty International has declared as prisoners of conscience.

Step three would be to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume its impartial mandate to inspect prisons, suspended since early 2006 because the regime wanted to accompany ICRC staff during their confidential interviews with prisoners.

The ICRC "has not been able to visit prisons since July 1959, seven months after Fidel Castro came to power."

Step four would be to cease the practice of prison transfers to remote jails, and return all political prisoners to facilities in their home towns, to allow family members to visit easily.

This is also a systemic practice by the Castro regime in Cuba.

Step five would be to unconditionally release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Castro regime could begin with Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and the 58 that Amnesty International has declared as prisoners of conscience.

Step six would be for the regime to publicly declare a concrete timeframe for the release of all political prisoners before the end of 2009.

Amen.

And step seven would be to allow all political prisoners and former political prisoners to freely participate in the country's democratization process, without restrictions.

Amen, amen.

"Shut Up and Don't Dare Complain"

Thursday, August 13, 2009
During the April 2009 filming of a reggaeton documentary in Havana, an inebriated man on the street got in front of the camera and began to rant, "we are hungry, what we need here is food!"

His name is Juan Carlos Gonzalez Marco, better known as Panfilo.

That clip began an instant YouTube sensation and was viewed by over 400,000 people (see below). As a result of his brutal honesty regarding the condition of life on the island, and the sensation it caused internationally, the Castro regime has just sentenced Panfilo to two years in prison.

His crime, "preventive dangerousness."

Independent journalists are reporting that there were over 50 members of Castro's paramilitary brigade surrounding the courthouse during Panfilo's sentencing.

Castro's message to the Cuban people: "Shut up and don't dare complain."

This clip was his "crime."

The Dog-and-Pony Show for Tampa Trade

The recent trade delegation to Cuba -- on the taxpayer dime -- by Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern reminded me of a great ad (see below) that was placed in Roll Call a couple of years ago.

Last week, Ms. Mulhern had the audacity to state in a St. Petersburg Times editorial that:

"After half a century, it is time to engage the Cuban government as it is."

After all, the Castro regime was apparently such a gracious host to the Tampa delegation.

Utterly shameless insensitivity to the million of victims of that brutal dictatorship.

The Wisdom of Zoe Valdes

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
"Frankly, I don't think you should perform in a plaza where thousands of Cubans have been subjected to the death penalty, by firing squad, including three young black men in 2003. What is needed in Cuba is a concert in favor of democracy, civil liberties for the people, the freedom of political prisoners, free elections and the expulsion of dictatorial power."

- Zoe Valdes, critically acclaimed Cuban novelist and poet, in a letter to Spanish pop star Miguel Bose, who was invited to participate in Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana.

Dear Juanes, Remember Dr. King

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday, the Spanish-language Univision network interviewed Colombian pop star Juanes about his preparatory visit, and upcoming "Peace Without Borders" concert this September 20th, in Havana, Cuba:

QUESTION: Did you have the opportunity to speak to, or did you ask to meet with, any dissidents?

JUANES:
No, I did not have the opportunity. I can't become involved in those things, understand? I can't, as it's not my role. I am not a politician, I am not a foreign minister.

Therefore, Juanes will limit his interactions to the totalitarian dictatorship that is responsible for the torture, execution and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Cubans, and the exile of millions more.

In the end, Cuba's victims will only remember Juanes for his silence.

How Repressive is Raul's Regime?

So repressive, that even Spain's Socialist President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will not visit the island until Raul Castro undertakes some real political or economic reforms.
 
According to Spain's El Periodico, the Socialist Party's (PSOE) Secretary for International Politics and Cooperation Elena Valenciano said that Raul Castro must undertake "some gesture towards an opening" before Zapatero will consider visiting.
 
Take note, Juanes.

An Economic Play on Words

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The following outdated announcement was posted by London's International Institute for the Study of Cuba:

"The Cuban Council of State passed on June 26th, 2009, a new Decree-Law number 268 entitled: "Reform of the Labor Regime" which was published by the daily Granma newspaper as an Official Note reproduced in full below. The law allows for workers to have more than one job and for students to work in part-time jobs. It also frees up enterprises in Havana to hire workers from other provinces directly instead of them having to be hired through the state employment agency."

This "labor reform" is now being lauded as "evidence" of Raul Castro's economic liberalization.

Doesn't it sound great?

Here's the play on words.

In Cuba, only the state can hire. Therefore, this new law only allows workers to have more than one state job. However, there's already a shortage of state jobs, so there's no extra work for those who seek it. Plus, there's no incentive (or hours in a day) for a Cuban laborer to have another state job (and get paid a handful more of worthless Cuban pesos), as it wouldn't improve their purchasing power (Cubans need convertible currency, not worthless Cuban pesos) or improve their living conditions.

But wait, it gets better.

The announcement states that "enterprises in Havana" can know hire directly in other provinces instead of through the state employment agency. They forget to mention that private business activity (or at least the kind that needs to hire workers) in Cuba is illegal. Therefore, the "enterprises in Havana" are owned by the state. As a result, the state is essentially taking over another function of the state.

At this rate, Cubans should be able to afford those rice cookers the Castro regime "legalized" last year by 2025.

White House on Aung San Suu Kyi

Statement by President Obama on Aung San Suu Kyi's conviction and sentencing:

The conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi today on charges related to an uninvited intrusion into her home violate universal principles of human rights, run counter to Burma's commitments under the ASEAN charter, and demonstrate continued disregard for UN Security Council statements. I join the international community in calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate unconditional release.

Today's unjust decision reminds us of the thousands of other political prisoners in Burma who, like Aung San Suu Kyi, have been denied their liberty because of their pursuit of a government that respects the will, rights, and aspirations of all Burmese citizens. They, too, should be freed. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. I call on the Burmese regime to heed the views of its own people and the international community and to work towards genuine national reconciliation.

I am also concerned by the sentencing of American citizen John Yettaw to seven years in prison, a punishment out of proportion with his actions.

Over 532 Opposition Leaders Arrested

Repression remains indisputably on the rise under the reign of General Raul Castro.
 
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation has confirmed the arrest of 532 opposition leaders by the Castro regime during the first half of 2009.  They believe there are hundreds more, which have yet to be confirmed.
 
Amongst the new arrests are well-known figures, such as José Díaz Silva, an independent librarian and President of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic, who was imprisoned for protesting against the political arrest of his son, Ernesto Díaz Esquivel; and Dr. Darsi Ferrer, a Cuban physician and Director of the Juan Bruno Zayas Center for Health and Human Rights, who remains secluded in a maximum security facility.

The Year of Cuba's Stubborn Ox

Monday, August 10, 2009
According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2009 is the Year of the Ox.

Apparently, Raul Castro has taken this literally.

According to the Associated Press, Raul Castro is promoting these animals as a way for farmers to cultivate land without the use of gas-guzzling machinery, which means Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is obviously decreasing subsidized oil shipments to Cuba.

"For this program we should forget about tractors and fuel, even if we had enough. The idea is to work basically with oxen," Castro said in an August 1st speech.

It was during this same speech that Raul declared, "I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it."

It's tragic how the megalomania of the Castro brothers can deprive an entire nation of their political freedom and entrepreneurial desires.

The epitome of the stubborn ox.

The Antithesis of Juanes

Colombian pop sensation, Juanes, is contemplating -- based on his own free will -- whether to celebrate a "Peace Without Borders" concert this September 20th in Havana.

Meanwhile, courageous young Cuban artists are being systemically beaten, harassed and imprisoned by the Castro regime for their music and lyrics.

Therefore, we thought it would be timely to highlight two of these groups.

The following clip features an amazing joint performance by the punk rock band, Porno Para Ricardo, and hip-hop group, Los Aldeanos.

As the song indicates, they don't like politics, and would prefer to be apolitical, but in a land that criminalizes free speech, the Castro regime makes them political.

Naturally, Porno Para Ricardo and Aldeanos, arguably the most popular groups in Cuba, have not been invited to perform at the Juanes' Havana concert.

Has Juanes already compromised his free will for his Cuban hosts?

Message to Juanes: Don't Be a Tool

Excellent editorial in the Miami Herald by independent filmaker, Joe Cardona:

In the wake of his "Peace Without Borders'' concert in Colombia last year -- an effort to ease tensions between his native country and Venezuela -- Colombian rocker Juanes is feverishly planning a performance in Havana for September.

I figured that as part of Juanes' "Peace Without Borders'' campaign he would invite Cuban performers who are on the opposite side of the Cuba's totalitarian equation: Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Willy Chirino, Lissette Alvarez, Hansel & Raul, Albita Rodriguez.

Perhaps also include Cuban musicians on the island who are not sanctioned by the government's ministry of culture, like Gorky Aguila of the alternative rock band Porno Para Ricardo, who has been jailed multiple times for his refusal to yield to the regime's censorship.

As it turns out, it was nothing more than my wishful thinking.

Juanes likely will share the stage with Silvio Rodríguez and Los Van Van, singers who have spent their entire careers hailing the comandante. Some American acts are being considered. His publicist revealed Juanes spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about relaxing the embargo so that American artists could join in.

The concert promises to be nothing more than a shameless, thoughtless and heartless appearance by the 36-year-old singer and his fellow performers. It will be one more tacit legitimization of the hemisphere's most oppressive 50-year-old dictatorship.

Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristizábal) apparently plans on strumming his guitar at the Plaza de la Revolución, which has hosted hundreds of Fidel Castro's vitriolic harangues over the last half century. The descarga (jam) won't question Cubans' lack of freedom of speech and self determination.

As a Cuban American reared on the freedoms of rock 'n' roll, I've witnessed this type of disappointing exhibition before. In 1979, Stephen Stills, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and Billy Joel headlined ``Havana Jam'' -- a ``cultural rapprochement'' encouraged by the Carter administration.

As the "piano man'' serenaded the crowd at the Karl Marx Theater and Stephen Stills concluded his introductory speech with an energetic "Viva la Revolución,'' Fidel Castro's regime was arming and training guerrilla movements like the IRA, the PLO and the FARC, which has plagued Juanes' native Colombia with violence throughout the span of his life.

The jam didn't stop the Cuban government from jailing prominent dissidents and clamping down on its citizens for possession of "dangerous, anti-revolutionary materials,'' such as Led Zeppelin albums.

It was nothing more than a public-relations stunt carried out by a regime that subscribes to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels' "big lie'' techniques -- if audacious enough and repeated often, the masses will believe it.

In 1999, a group spearheaded by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame, new Dolphins' minority owner Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Raitt and two-thirds of the band Police, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, flew to Cuba, labeling the futile affair "Bridges Over Troubled Waters.'' That was under the auspices of the the Clinton White House.

Only a few months after the performance, Cuban opposition leader Oscar Elias Biscet was detained and beaten by Cuban police. I vividly remember Raitt's response when then-Tonight Show host Jay Leno questioned her about the trip: "Rock on, Fidel!'' she said.

It was right out of The Twilight Zone.

Could the plight of over one million Cubans who have fled the island not be compelling enough for the rock gods?

It's not just musicians who are willing to be useful tools for a despotic regime. Robert Duval, Bill Murray and James Caan recently accompanied Benicio del Toro to Cuba to receive an award for his portrayal in Steven Soderbergh's droning epic, Che.

I expect that Juanes' concert will have no effect on Cuba's draconian laws. The Obama administration's attempts to thaw iced U.S.-Cuba relations will prove fruitless. What these attempts do is give the the world the false impression of a willingness by the Cuban regime to open its heavily sealed door, buying more time for the Castro brothers' reign.

As a product of the gospel of rock 'n' roll, my faith is shaken. As the son and grandson of Cuban exiles, my heart is broken. And as an American, I am outraged.

White Gloves Only (or be Purged)

Apparently, good help is hard to find these days in Cuba.

This weekend, Raul Castro decided to shake up the "political-diplomatic" dynamic of his family dictatorship by sporadically replacing 38 Cuban Ambassadors throughout the world.

This shakeup is yet another sign of the Castro's neurosis with absolute power and loyalty.

It is the third political purging by Raul Castro this year, pursuant to the March dismissal of Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Commnist Party official Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, and the June dismissal of Cuban Central Bank Chief Francisco Soberon.

In their oath of office, the new emissaries swore loyalty, "to the Homeland, to Fidel (Castro), Raul, the Communist Party, the people, the Revolution and Socialism."

It comes as no surprise that, even in the official oath, Fidel and Raul place their personal interests beyond that of the people; for as you can see below, Raul has always required a special "white glove" treatment.

Quote of the Decade

Sunday, August 9, 2009
"It is no exaggeration to say that for the past decade, foreign tourists have kept Cuba and its Communist revolution alive."

- Tourists: By the Left, March. Military Command and Control of the Hotel Industry, The Economist, July 31, 2004

Young Cuban Questions Power Structure

Excerpt from Erasmo Calzadilla's post -- from within Cuba -- in The Havana Times:

At 34, I still don't understand very well how this country is governed. Above all, my doubts revolve around the relationship between those two parallel powers: the Assemblies of Peoples Power, (the elected city councils, provincial assemblies and national parliament) and that of the Party. Which of the two is the definitive government? Because I imagine that it's not both at once.

And with this in mind, I wonder: Why did Raul congratulate those from the Party in the province, but didn't mention the representatives of Peoples Power Assemblies? Could it be that they didn't do their work well, or was it perhaps that the possibility of accomplishing something fell only into the hands of the Party?

In addition, if his words were a tacit confession that the Cuban Communist Party is what governs, then how can it be that an institution not under popular control is governing? As far as I know, those who are subject to public scrutiny, even if only symbolically, are the representatives of Peoples Power.

In the end, this becomes a rhetorical question.