Venezuelans Resist Chavez Indoctrination

Saturday, August 22, 2009
Venezuelans have taken to the streets today to protest an "education" -- more like indoctrination -- law that Hugo Chavez shoved through the parliament on the night of August 13th with minimal debate.

In "Hugo Chávez Seeks to Catch Them Young," The Economist summarizes this latest maneuver by the authoritarian president to take control of all aspects of Venezuelan society:

"Teaching is to be rooted in “Bolivarian doctrine”, a reference to Mr Chávez’s ill-defined Bolivarian revolution—supposedly inspired by Simón Bolívar, a leader of Latin America’s 19th-century independence struggle. Schools will come under the supervision of “communal councils”, indistinguishable in most places from cells of the ruling socialist party. Central government will run almost everything else, including university entrance and membership of the teaching profession."

Sound familiar?

Joke Reflects Tragic Reality

There is a joke circulating in Cuba where a mother is visiting her son in prison and he asks her:

- "Is it true that there have been changes in Cuba?"

She answers,

- "Well, where you can notice them is in the foreign press"

Courtesy of Cuba Responde.

Trade Trumped Victims of Libyan Terror

Friday, August 21, 2009
According to the U.K.'s Telegraph, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif, claimed the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, was linked to trade deals between Britain and Libya.

So how many talks, and engagement, with Libya's dictator is it going to take to get this terrorist -- responsible for the murder of 270 people -- back behind bars?

Trade with dictators should never trump freedom and justice, whether it's Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Burma, China, or in this case, Libya.

Unfortunately, once money starts flowing, the victims are quickly forgotten.

On this tragic day, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of PanAm Flight 103.

Iran, Cuba, Interpol (and Murder)

Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's newly-designated Defense Minister is on Interpol's "wanted" list for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina.

According to the BBC, Interpol has confirmed it has a "red notice" for Ahmad Vahidi for the Buenos Aires attack that killed 85 people.

Interpol uses "red notices" to inform its 187 member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued for an individual by a judicial authority.

Vahidi should arrested and tried for this terrorist attack.

This shocking news highlights the importance of Interpol listings and warrants, which begs the question:

Why hasn't the U.S. Department of Justice -- in either the Bush or Obama Administrations -- presented Interpol with an arrest warrant for three Cuban Air Force officials indicted for the 1996 murder of four U.S. nationals over international waters?

This involves the February 24, 1996 shoot-down of two unarmed, U.S.-registered civilian planes by Cuban MIG fighter jets.

Charged in the indictment were Ruben Martinez Puente, who was the head of the Cuban Air Force, and Lorenzo Alberto Perez-Perez and Francisco Perez-Perez, who were the Cuban MIG pilots that shot-down the planes.

The indictment returned by a U.S. federal grand jury charges these Cuban military officials with one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, two counts of destruction of aircraft, and four counts of murder.

Historic justice will prevail over these tyrants.

Quote of the Week

"I don't think Senator [Jim] Webb [of Virginia] can be proud for the release of Mr. John Yettaw, while our leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the real victim of this conspiracy and injustices, and two women colleagues are still under detention.  This will surely make a negative impression among the people of Burma. They will think that Americans are easy to satisfy with the dictators when they get their citizens back."
 
Aung Din, Executive Director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma, CNN, August 17th, 2009.

Raul's Private Marxist Farming

Marx once stated, "I worked my way up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty."

Groucho Marx that is.

It seems Raul Castro can't tell the difference.

Castro has been lauded as a "reformer" by the international media and Cuba "experts" for appearing to recognize that private farmers should be able to produce more food, more efficiently, than the regime's large state-owned farms.

Therefore, in July 2008, he authorized putting limited portions of fallow farmland in private hands.

But as the Examiner's Sylvia Longmire points out in her article, "Private Farms in Cuba Great on Paper, Not in Practice," the "reform" is economically impractical:

"While some farmers may be happy to till away for la patria, there is little (if any) profit to be made from a private farm in Cuba. Farmers are required to sell the majority of what they reap to the government at their prices, which are usually half of the market value. Private farmers also lack direct access to equipment and tools, as well as fertilizer and pesticides, because they are controlled by the state."

Raul's Grouchonomics.

Freedom Trumps Fruit Shortage

In early July, the Cuban regime's Granma newspaper reported that fruit trees "had become practically extinct on the island," leading to massive shortages and dramatically increased prices.

Keep that in mind, as it puts into greater perspective the risk and sacrifice of these courageous people, seeking to rescue an elderly woman from Cuban State Security.

Crowd Forces Police to Free Detained Woman

HAVANA, Cuba, (Leafar Pérez, Cubanet) – Neighbors fought police agents and threw fruit at them to prevent the arrest of a 60-year-old woman at a public market in the 10 de Octubre municipality.

Pedro Moisés Calderín, an eyewitness, said two police agents pushed the woman by the head as they tried to get her into their patrol car. He said she had recently been operated on for a facial tumor, so those knew her starting attacking the policemen.

"Suddenly three patrol cars arrived, but the people didn't stop," he said. "They threw mangos, bananas, anything they could get a hold of. The crowd grew until there were about 100 people shouting at the police."

He said it took the presence of a high official of the Interior Ministry to calm the crowd.

The police did not take the woman.

Chalk one up for civil resistance.

Cuban Vice-President's Son Detained

Thursday, August 20, 2009
Juan Almeida García, son of Cuban Vice-President and Council of State Member Juan Almeida Bosque, was detained by the Cuban authorities for staging a public protest in Havana's Revolutionary Square, according to El Nuevo Herald newspaper.

Ironically, this is the same location where Colombian singer Juanes is looking to stage his "Peace Without Borders" concert in September.

Almeida Garcia was previously arrested on May 6th of this year for attempting to "illegally" leave the country. He was released a few days later, but under the condition that he "reports-in" to Cuban State Security headquarters on a daily basis. He is suffering from a severe rheumatic disease and wants to receive treatment abroad.

Until 2004, he had been permitted to undergo periodic medical treatment in Belgium -- for apparently the Cuban hospitals were not up to standard -- but after his family decided to remain abroad, he was (and continues to be) denied further permission to leave the island.

His father, an "historico" -- an original "Comandante" of the Cuban Revolution -- has refused to intervene on his behalf.

If that's how heartless the regime is amongst its own elite, just imagine how it treats the remaining 99.9% of the population.

The Juanes Challenge Has Been Set

By none other than his friend and colleague, Spanish pop star Miguel Bose, who plans on accompanying the Colombian singer during the September 20th "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana's Revolutionary Square.

In an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper, Bose assured that, "we want this to be a white [peace] concert. The rest would be propaganda, which we should avoid."

Then, Bose set the challenge, "if we are unable to create a balanced act in which the regime's artists are represented, such as Silvio Rodríguez or Los Van Van, as well as those opposed to the regime, then none of this would make sense."

Currently, no Cuban artists opposed to the regime are scheduled to perform on September 20th.

Therefore, unless groups, such as Porno Para Ricardo, Escape or Los Aldeanos -- all of which are currently censored and repressed by the Cuban authorities -- are invited to perform by Juanes, and allowed to participate by the Castro regime, then this whole concert is non-sensical propaganda.

Anyone willing to wager?

Let's Talk About Family Separation

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
And it has nothing to do with Cuban-Americans, U.S. law or travel to Cuba.

Well, sort of.

Dissidents Refused Permission to Live With Wives

LA HABANA, Cuba, (Ana Aguililla, Cubanet) – Two dissidents have been told by authorities they cannot continue living with their wives in Havana because their identify cards list addresses elsewhere.

Jorge Luis Piloto González's official residence is given in San José de Las Lajas, but he was evicted on the grounds that the government needed the place. His wife, Ariadna Molino Barrios, owns a house in Havana's San Pedro neighborhood. Jesús Adolfo Reyes Sánchez, president of the Association of the Sons of the Virgin of Regla, is unable to live in the house in Regla which his wife has owned for 20 years because his official address is in Arroyo Naranjo.

Cubans need government permission to move from one town or city to another.

Two questions:

Where are all the organizations against family separation, in favor of family reunification, and all other variants, that were created in opposition to the 2004 regulations on family travel to Cuba?

Where are all the relentless advocates that argued that the Cuban family nucleus is sacred, and that by removing the 2004 regulations, the onus would be on the Castro regime and its reprehensible policies?

The 2004 regulations on family travel to Cuba are now history.

The answer: Making profits at their charter companies.

May Afghan Democracy Trump Terror

Our best wishes are with the Afghan people ahead of tomorrow's presidential election.

Despite threats by Taliban militants to cut off the fingers of those that vote, may terror never trump the free-will of a people.

We commend the Afghan people for their courage and resilience.

Cuba and the Surreal OAS

Excerpt from "Democracy is Under Siege"
 
by Susan Kaufman Purcell 
 
Even more surrealistic was OAS condemnation of the overthrow of democracy in Honduras only weeks after it had pushed hard to readmit Cuba, a dictatorship that has not held a presidential election in 50 years. The fact that the OAS had earlier added a "democratic clause'' to its charter apparently was not considered relevant to its decision to readmit Cuba.

Nor, according to the OAS, was it relevant to the situation in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez has used the democratic rules of the game to destroy Venezuelan democracy.

Why wasn't the ``democratic clause'' applicable to Cuba and Venezuela? Because, according to the OAS, the lack of democracy in those countries was an ``internal'' issue, and the OAS doesn't intervene in the internal affairs of member countries. Why is the involvement of the military in the internal affairs of Honduras also not an ``internal'' issue?

At the heart of the matter is the determination of the OAS and its members not to allow history to repeat itself. Specifically, the region does not want to return to its sorry past of constant alternations between democratic governments and military regimes.

Susan Kaufman Purcell is director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
 
Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Catholic Bishops Lose Another Follower

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A delegation of U.S. Catholic bishops is currently visiting Castro's Cuba, including the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O'Malley; the Bishop of Orlando, Thomas Wenski; and the Bishop of San Antonio, Oscar Cantu.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Catholic Culture Magazine has published:

NGO Reports More Religious-Freedom Violations Under Raul Castro

"A non-governmental organization that works on behalf of persecuted Christians notes 'an increase in reported violations of religious liberty' since Raul Castro became head of the Communist state in February 2008. Christian Solidarity Worldwide cites the case of Roberto Rodriguez and his son Eric Gabriel Rodriguez, two Protestant pastors whose families have been subject to increasing intimidation and harassment. On August 17, Gilianys Meneses Rodriguez-- the wife of Pastor Eric Gabriel Rodriguez-- was summoned to court for 'disturbing the public order' on the day she suffered a miscarriage. Religious practice in the island nation has suffered deeply since Fidel Castro assumed power since 1959. Today, only 59% of the nation's 11.3 million inhabitants are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics."

So, have the bishops expressed concern over this increase in religious-freedom violations during their visit?

Have they expressed concern over the murder of two Catholic priests in Cuba this year?

Have they expressed concern about the Castro regime's political prisoners -- the largest per capita political prisoner population in the world -- which includes devout Catholics?

Have they expressed concern regarding the numerous human, civil, political, social and economic rights of the Cuban people that are systemically violated by the Cuban dictatorship?

Here's an easy one for the Catholic bishops -- have they condemned the use of widespread abortion by the Castro regime in order to manipulate child mortality statistics? Something that a truly courageous pro-democracy and pro-life activist, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, is spending 25-years in prison for.

Not even close.

Actually, here's what Father Andrew Small, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Collection for the Church in Latin America, and spokesman for the delegation, expressed to Reuters,

"We need some radical changes, particularly from the U.S. perspective."

In other words, disregard the utter brutality of the Cuban oppressor, disregard the 11 million victims of this brutality, disregard the hundreds of thousands tortured, executed and imprisoned, plus the millions exiled -- for what is really important is that the U.S., the most representative democracy in the world, unconditionally normalizes relations with this hemisphere's sole totalitarian dictatorship.

It's no surprise that membership in Cuba's Protestant denominations is skyrocketing. Unlike the Catholic Church, most of these denominations refuse to subscribe to, or be regulated by, Castro's "Ecumenical Council," despite the consequence of increased repression.

Frankly, your Eminence and Bishops, it's due to your blatant lack of leadership and inability to show courage that the Catholic Church is hemorrhaging followers on a daily basis.

Today, you lost another.

Raul Castro's Political Philosophy

Excerpts from "When Will Raul Castro Learn How to Rule?"

by Carlos Alberto Montaner

Raúl celebrated his birthday some months ago by explaining that there is no food, gasoline or materials to repair storm-wrecked houses. Raúl said the country is in the midst of an extremely serious crisis. Cubans, he says, don't work enough. They don't produce. They don't look after their environment. They waste the meager resources they have.

Raúl intends to discipline them with his barracks-hard fist. More dissidents to jail. More corrupt or lazy officials home. More army officers to the boards of public companies.

To Raúl, in turn, to govern is to make sure that Cubans can drink a glass of milk, even if he has to execute half the country at dawn and post a police sentry every 50 meters.

Raúl's power is rational. He dreams about institutionalizing the government and revitalizing the demoralized Communist Party so he can convey authority in an orderly, disciplined manner. His objective in the five years of useful life he still has (trained by the Soviets, Raúl plans everything in five-year terms) is, first, to hold on to power and, second, to secure that damned, elusive glass of milk that Cubans somehow can't squeeze out of the stingy socialist cows.

He has already said that he wasn't elected to bury the system but to save it. But therein lies a contradiction discovered by Gorbachev in the 1980s: communism is not reformable. There's no way to save it and make it efficient.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is an academic, critically-acclaimed writer and columnist.

Courtesy of Real Clear World

More Gay Arrests (And Still No Mariela)

Two members of the Cuban LGTB Foundation (Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals) were arrested last Friday during a Cuban State Security crackdown.

The whereabouts of Mario José Delgado, 27, Vice-President of the LGTB Foundation and Berkis Delín, 21, remain unknown.

Delgado and Delin were meeting to organize a "Mr. Gay" event, which they planned to celebrate on August 29th near Havana's Malecon seaside boulevard, when they were arrested.

Ironically, the site of the now apparently frustrated LGTB event is near where the Castro regime is welcoming the Juanes concert this September.

But even more importantly, where is Mariela Castro?

Mariela, daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro and Director of Cuba's National Sex Education Center (CENESEX), has been featured by the international media for her work in favor of Cuba's LGTB community.

Yet, when the cameras are off, gay arrests and persecution keep climbing.

Here's a novel idea:

Can media attention be refocused to Delgado and Delin's whereabouts?

Senator Webb's Trip to (Cuba-Like) Burma

Monday, August 17, 2009
In the letter below, simply interchange the word Burma for Cuba, and it reads like one of the many pleas Cuban dissidents have made to Members of the U.S. Congress prior to their trips to Castro's Cuba.

How is it that dissidents from two such distant nations, with a completely different culture, language, history and religion, can sound so strikingly similar as regards the dangers of appeasement, propaganda and manipulation by their totalitarian oppressors?

The answer is obvious: Experience.

The Honorable Senator Jim Webb
Chairman, Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
The United States Senate

Dear Senator Webb,

We, three major dissident groups in Burma, the All Burma Monks' Alliance (ABMA), the 88 Generation Students (88GS), and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), write this letter to you to express our concerns over your visit to our country and on your position towards situation in Burma.

We learned from media that you are making a two-week trip to five countries in Southeast Asia and Burma is one of your stops. We are amazed that you visit our country at the time while the military regime is ready to deliver a verdict to our national leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the crimes she never committed. The regime's intention is to continue to extend the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is capable enough to derail their plan of legalizing the military dictatorship through the 2010 election.

We are concerned that the military regime will manipulate and exploit your visit and propagandize that you endorse their treatment on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and over 2,100 political prisoners, their human rights abuses on the people of Burma, and their systematic, widespread and ongoing attack against the ethnic minorities.

According to the statement issued by your office, we learned that you visited our country in 2001, met only with leaders of the regime and business community. To realize the situation in Burma and suffering and desire of the people of Burma, we suggest you this time meet with leaders of the National League for Democracy party, which is mandated by the people of Burma to lead the country toward democracy through the 1990 election. We also suggest you meet leaders of ethnic political parties, who all won 67 seats in the 1990 election. We appreciate if you try to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in detention and leaders of ethnic nationalities, students and Monks in prisons, such as Hkun Htun Oo, Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, and U Gambira.

We are surprise to learn that you have an intention to support the regime's 2010 election; even its constitution is imperfect. As we are in hiding to avoid the arrest, torture and imprisonment of the regime, we would not have a chance to meet you when you are in our country. Therefore, we would like to highlight our positions as follows for your understanding, respect and support.

The National League for Democracy has already announced its position clearly. It will not participate in the 2010 election, until and unless (i) all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, are released unconditionally, (ii) a meaningful and time-bound dialogue between the military, NLD and ethnic representatives should be realized to reach a mutually-acceptable solution, and (iii) the 2008 constitution should be reviewed and revised to be acceptable for all parties concerned. We fully support the NLD and its demands and until and unless these conditions are met, we will not recognize the 2010 election.

The 2008 constitution, unilaterally written and forcibly approved by the regime, is intentionally designed to grant supreme power in the hands of the military and its Commander-in-Chief, to limit the fundamental rights of the people, and to subordinate ethnic nationalities and abuse their rights.

We will not accept this constitution coming to life through the 2010 election.

The United Nations and the international community accept our demands as reasonable and necessary for national reconciliation and democratization in Burma. Therefore, they all, including the United States Congress and Administration, apply various measures on the regime to meet these demands. We appreciate the long standing support of the United State Senate for our non-violent struggle for democracy in Burma and we expect, as a U.S. Senator, you will urge the Burmese military regime to accept these demands and solve the problems in Burma peacefully through political dialogue.

Sincerely Yours,

All Burma Monks' Alliance
The 88 Generation Students
All Burma Federation of Student Unions

Pastor's Wife Faces Political Trial Today

Pastor's Wife Who Lost Baby in Street Attack Faces Court Today

A Pastor's wife who miscarried after a neighbour attacked her, is facing a Cuban court today accused by the authorities of 'disturbing the public order' on that day.

Gilianys Meneses Rodriguez, daughter-in-law to Reverend Roberto Rodriguez and wife to Pastor Eric Gabriel Rodriguez, was attacked on the street by the wife of a neighbour in December 2008.

The attack was the latest in a campaign of harassment against the Rodriguez family, carried out with the tacit support of the authorities, due to the families' involvement in the Interdenominational Fellowship of Evangelical Pastors and Ministers in Cuba (Spanish acronym; CIMPEC) decision to leave the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC).

The neighbours first contaminated the families' drinking water well, broke the water pipes, and septic tank before accusing Gilianys' husband of aggressive behaviour. As a result of the violence, Gilianys miscarried after eight weeks pregnancy. The entire family has been forced to move away from their home in Placetas due to concerns for their safety.

Gilianys, a mother of two girls, is now the third member of the Rodriguez family to be summoned to appear before the Placetas Tribunal.

Courtesy of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Paya Challenges the U.N. and O.A.S.

Open letter to U.N. General Assembly President Miguel Descoto and O.A.S. Secretary General José Miguel Insulza:

Complicit Silence in the Face of the Horror of Cuban Prisons

by Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
Havana , August 13, 2009

Since March of 2003, dozens of Cubans have been serving long prison sentences simply for expressing their ideas, both verbally and in writing, and for peacefully defending the rights of citizens promoted in the Varela Project. They were all sentenced in summary trials, without due process and by courts obeying the orders of the government.

The prisoner of conscience, Ariel Sigler Amaya, leader of a human rights movement, has been reduced to his limit of physical deterioration while he is continually subjected to sadistic treatment by prison guards. For more than two months, Antonio Díaz Sánchez, one of the leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the Varela Project, has been confined to an isolation cell—a cage—in the Canaletas prison, in the province of Ciego de Avila , in inhuman conditions. He is being punished for not faltering in his beliefs and for not succumbing to blackmail attempts by State Security, despite his serious illnesses. In the provincial prison of Las Tunas, two leaders of the MCL and of the Varela Project have been on a hunger strike for two weeks in protest of the humiliation to which they are subjected. They are José Daniel Ferrer, who is confined to a cell in which he sleeps on the floor and in which countless rats live, and Alfredo Domínguez Batista, who was transferred to an infernal punishment center many kilometers away from the prison known as "Potosí." He was tied up while naked in a cell with mosquito nests.

This situation of physical torture, of cruel and degrading treatment and of unjust and arbitrary imprisonment of people who have committed no crime, must be denounced immediately in the United Nations, the Organization of American States and in the Rio Group.

We believe it is important to remember that our continued work on the Varela Project campaign supports the same civil rights recognized in the Cuban constitution. This legal initiative proposes a referendum to allow citizens to assert their sovereignty to make changes that would guarantee the rights that all human beings deserve.

Cuba has not held free and democratic elections, or introduced a referendum guaranteeing freedom of expression or civil and political rights since June of 1948. This dictatorship began in the 1950s, and has since imposed a culture of fear for the last half-century in our country, prohibiting Cubans from exercising their right to vote and to express their sovereignty.

For these reasons, the Varela Project campaign has continued so that the Cuban people will have the right to cast their first ballot and decide their future by freely electing their leaders. Cuban leaders raise their voices in international forums to demand the rights for other people that they deny their own citizens. All Latin American governments are aware of these actions and remain silent. The president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Mr. Miguel Descoto, remains silent and gives praise and support to a Cuban regime that does not value the rights of its citizens. Many members of the OAS have also remained silent. Members of the Rio Group have become complicit in the oppression of the Cuban people. The people of these nations must demand that their governments are not complicit in the oppression of the Cuban people.

Ariel Sigler, Antonio Díaz, José Daniel Ferrer, Alfredo Domínguez and dozens of prisoners of conscience are incarcerated for peacefully demanding the rights that the aforementioned organizations seek to protect. These governments do not forget that their declarations, documents and numerous ceremonies wallow in the mud of history and lack moral strength because their eagerness for justice will be insincere as long as they are silent and continue to support the oppression suffered by the Cuban people.

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas is the Coordinator of Cuba's opposition Christian Liberation Movement.

One-Track Minds on Ag $ales to Castro

Sunday, August 16, 2009
Ambassador Allen F. Johnson was the former Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from 2001 to 2005. He now heads an agricultural trade consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

In a guest column in Iowa's Des Moines Register entitled, "Let's feed, engage the Cuban people," Amb. Johnson advocates for lifting sanctions against the Cuban regime.

In doing so he outlines "three practical steps" the U.S. can "take right away to reform our Cuba policy."

See if you can figure out the common denominator in all three steps.

"- First, reform the onerous restrictions on agriculture sales to Cuba. For example, under today's rules, Cubans can't use normal commercial credit as other customers do, but instead must pay cash - in advance of shipment and by routing this money through a third-country bank - to buy food from the United States. Also, American producers have to jump over several hurdles in order to visit Cuba to sell their products. These and other measures encourage Cuba to buy food from other countries, and Cuba has spent hundreds of millions of dollars annually doing exactly that.

- Second, expanding travel means expanding trade and promotes engagement with the Cuban people. Congress should eliminate the travel ban on Americans wanting to go to Cuba. The International Trade Commission estimates this would increase legal tourism by 500,000 visits annually and this, combined with eliminating trade barriers, could increase U.S. agricultural exports to the island by over 40 percent - or more than $1 billion annually. Even more important, this action would increase the one-on-one interactions between Cubans and Americans who exude their love for freedom and are a walking testimony to the benefits that come from living in a liberated economy.

- Third, the president can use his authority to permit the sale of farm equipment and machinery to Cuba. Caterpillar and John Deere ought to be as familiar to Cubans as rice and beans. Cuba's Soviet-era equipment needs updating and we can competitively serve their needs."

One can almost expect no mention of the human, political, civil and economic rights of the Cuban people, including the release of Cuba's political prisoners.

Even on the merits, step one fails to mention that there is no such thing as "trade with Cuba" only "trade with Alimport," a monopoly owned by the Castro brothers, for the Cuban people are prohibited from participating in private business activities; step two fails to mention that it's a "zero-sum" argument to transplant an American tourist to a foreign country so they'll purchase American products, for that same American tourist would purchase even more American products if he or she vacationed within the U.S.; and step three fails to mention that selling farm machinery to the Castro regime would require extensive financing to a bankrupt regime that has defaulted on all its foreign debt and this year alone "froze" $1 billion from European and Canadian investors on the island.

However, it'll surely be great for Amb. Johnson's D.C. consulting business.

The FARC, Fidel and Juanes Contradiction

Last week, as the debate over Colombian pop star Juanes' proposed "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana's Revolutionary Square intensified, Colombia's FARC narco-guerilla movement sent the following diatribe to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on his 83rd birthday (August 13th):

"Comrade: In this anniversary of your productive existence cultivating a persevering struggle, with audacity and persuasion for the cause of the emancipation of the oppressed, receive our congratulations."

The FARC is designated by the U.S. government and the European Union as a terrorist organization. It has fomented a bloody civil war in Juanes' homeland, Colombia, for the last 45 years, during which time it has received the political, military and logistical support of the Castro regime.

Meanwhile, Juanes originally launched the concept of a "Peace Without Borders" concert last year on the Colombian-Venezuelan border as an effort to stem the violence of this civil war.

"Contradiction: stubbornness versus stupidity."

Quote(s) of the Week

"The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening and the Yankees need to get out of Latin America. You can't have it both ways. If these critics think that it's appropriate for us to suddenly act in ways that in every other context they consider inappropriate, then I think what that indicates is that maybe there's some hypocrisy involved in their approach to U.S.-Latin American relations that certainly is not going to guide my administration's policies."

- U.S. President Barack Obama, referring to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Raul Castro and other critics U.S. policies, August 10, 2009.

And in second place,

"Fidel Castro has another bestseller in Cuba. Many Cubans are experiencing toilet paper shortages. Could there be a connection?"

- Joe F. Allison, of Mesquite, TX, Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News, August 15, 2009

The Pain of an Unjustly Imprisoned Father

Cuban political prisoner and independent journalist, Pablo Pacheco, is currently serving the sixth year of a 20-year sentence.

Pacheco is one of 75 pro-democracy leaders sentenced during the 2003 "Black Spring" crackdown on dissent by the Castro regime. Yesterday was his son's birthday, and he managed to dictate the following message by telephone from the prison of Canaleta:

"The question that constantly hovers in [my son's] mind, and therefore always asks, is:

Why did Fidel Castro imprison my father?

He is still too young to understand. I pray to God that he has a happy day today. I hope that we can spend his next birthday together, that the three of us can go for a walk -- my son, his mother and myself -- anywhere. The important thing is that the three of us be able to enjoy it together, as it should have been for these past six years that I have been absent.

All that is left for my son and I is to forgive those responsible for these hard years in prison. Hopefully, they will never experience the same suffering that they have inflicted on Jimmy [my son] and me."

Courtesy of A Voice Behind Bars.