Congressional Report on Honduran Situation

Saturday, September 26, 2009
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service ("CRS") has issued a "Report for Congress" (LL File No. 2009-002965) on the Honduran Constitution and the removal from office of President Manuel Zelaya.

Here is the Executive Summary:

The Supreme Court of Honduras has constitutional and statutory authority to hear cases against the President of the Republic and many other high officers of the State, to adjudicate and enforce judgments, and to request the assistance of the public forces to enforce its rulings. The Constitution no longer authorizes impeachment, but gives Congress the power to disapprove of the conduct of the President, to conduct special investigations on issues of national interest, and to interpret the Constitution. In the case against President Zelaya, the National Congress interpreted the power to disapprove of the conduct of the President to encompass the power to remove him from office, based on the results of a special, extensive investigation. The Constitution prohibits the expatriation of Honduran citizens.

Meanwhile, David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner added context to the Report's findings:

- The Honduran Congress appears to have acted properly in deposing President Manuel Zelaya. Unlike in the United States, the Honduran Congress has the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Although there is no provision in Honduras's Constitution for impeachment as such, the body does have powers to disapprove of the president's official acts, and to replace him in the event that he is incapable of performing his duties. Most importantly, the Congress also has the authority to interpret exactly what that means.

- The Supreme Court was legally entitled to ask the military to arrest Zelaya. The high court, which is the constitutional venue for trials of the president and other high-ranking officials, also recognized the Congress's ouster of Zelaya when it referred his case back down to a lower court afterward, on the grounds that he was "no longer a high-ranking government official."

- The military did not act properly in forcibly expatriating Zelaya. According to the CRS report and other news stories, Honduran authorities are investigating their decision, which the military justified at the time as a means of preventing bloodshed. In fact, Zelaya should have been given a trial, and if convicted of seeking reelection, he would have lost his citizenship. But he is still a citizen now, and the Constitution forbids the expatriation of Honduran citizens by their government.

- The proper line of succession was followed after Zelaya's ouster. Because there was no Vice President in office when Zelaya was removed (he had resigned to run for president), Micheletti was the proper successor, as he had been president of the Congress.

The Permanent Coup d' Etat

Also, the Quote of the Week:

"There is a great deal of concern and protest from the governments of Latin America, North America and Europe about what is happening in Honduras, but at the same time, there's a great deal of silence and complicity towards the permanent coup d'etat by the Cuban regime against its people.

In the world one only hears about what is taking place in the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, but the terror against citizens and the degrading and inhumane practices in the prisons that we are condemning, are taking place in the other Guantanamo, the one no one talks about, which encompasses all of Cuba."

- Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, head of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in a statement expressing concern over the conditions of Cuba's political prisoners, September 25, 2009.

Absurdity of the Week

Brace yourself.

This week, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) approved a report on Vietnam's human rights record as part of the U.N.'s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Furthermore, Cuba, Venezuela and Russia considered Vietnam's measures to exercise human rights a good example for other countries to follow.

In other words, other countries should:

- Restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association;
- Continue imprisoning political prisoners;
- Use of national security legislation and the criminal code to suppress criticism of the government, including in relation to the Internet;
- Continue repressive practices in ethnic minority areas;
- Not establish an independent judiciary;
- Restrict religious freedoms, continue intolerance of non-state sanctioned religions and denominations; and
- Apply the death penalty arbitrarily.

Furthermore, Human Rights Watch reminds us that just last month, 27 people had been arrested for their alleged links to the Democratic Party of Vietnam, which like all parties in Vietnam other than the ruling Communist Party, is banned. Of those arrested, at least five - including the prominent rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh - have been prosecuted on national security charges.

That's the U.N. for you.

The Food and Freedom Campaign

by Columbia University's Mirta Ojito:

Was it the song? Jama y Libertad. Food and freedom, croons Boris Larramendi.

The Madrid-based Cuban songwriter wrote the tune as part of the campaign to free Pánfilo, imprisoned last month in Cuba after he drunkenly declared in a YouTube video that there is hunger on the island.

Pánfilo was reportedly released Thursday night and sent to a rehab program for 21 days. Then, the government says, he is free to go home, which is not the same as being free.

Veteran human rights activists have long maintained that publicity and pressure work, even in Cuba, one of the few places in the world where a man can go to prison for announcing in an 81-second YouTube video that he is hungry. A campaign to free Pánfilo,, was launched on August 26, about three weeks after his arrest, by a group of Cuban exiles with no experience as human-rights activists.

More than 3,000 people -- from Paris to Havana and from New Jersey to Chile -- signed a letter urging the Cuban government to free Pánfilo and to respect the right to basic freedoms for all its citizens. The letter was delivered Thursday in Miami to a representative of Juanes, the Colombian singer who is scheduled to perform in a pro-peace concert in Havana Sunday.

Was it Juanes? It wouldn't do to have a Latin American star in a government-sponsored concert in La Plaza de la Revolución, while Pánfilo sat in a cell and the international campaign raged on.

We may never know why he was released. What is now apparent is that the Cuban government has quickly -- quicker than ever before -- rectified a grievous mistake. That is, if Pánfilo is treated as an alcoholic and not as a mentally disturbed patient.

"It must have caught the government by surprise,'' said Enrique Del Risco, a writer and lecturer in New York, and one of the organizers of the campaign. "It was too quick. It moved too fast for them and there was a lot of enthusiasm around. Some people asked me, `Why Pánfilo?' and my answer was, `Why not Pánfilo?'''

Juan Carlos González Marco, 48, who calls himself Pánfilo, became a YouTube sensation in late Spring, when he walked in front of a camera to state a simple but fundamental truth: What we need is food, only he said ``jama,'' [pronounced HA-ma], using Cuban slang.

Pánfilo quickly went from being the archetype of the town drunk to a symbol of all that ails the Cuban people. In June, in a second video, a sober Pánfilo asks to be left alone. If it was possible for some people to laugh with the first video, it was impossible not to be moved by the second. You can't ignore the fear in Pánfilo's eyes. He is a man afraid of the state.

And then there is the third video. The spontaneity of the first video is gone, and so is the soberness of the second one. In their place is a grotesque performance of a shirtless drunk ranting about hunger and the police.

Days after the third video was posted on YouTube, on July 28, Pánfilo was arrested and charged with ``dangerousness,'' a draconian concept which means that he has the potential of committing a crime, but hasn't yet. He was sentenced initially to two years in prison, which was cruel, short-sighted and absurdly out of step with the modern world.

For years Cuba has reacted to outside pressure to release political prisoners. European presidents, members of the U.S. Congress, famous writers have all interceded on behalf of political prisoners, such as Armando Valladares, Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez, and Angel Cuadra, who were brought to their attention by campaigns orchestrated by a handful of human rights activists.

Still, it took decades to free most of them.

That was pre-Internet. Pánfilo is a different story. He may have been both doomed and saved by the Internet. His YouTube video was seen by more than half a million. But so was the news of his sentence and imprisonment and, more important, a quick thinking campaign that incorporated the best that technology has to offer.

It took days to collect more than 3,000 signatures on his behalf. Back in the '60s and '70s and even the '80s, when activists like Frank Calzon, now with the Center for a Free Cuba, were campaigning to free political prisoners, communication between Cuba and Washington could take months.

"First we had to hear about the case from someone who brought it to our attention,'' said Calzon. "Pánfilo was known to the world before he was imprisoned.''

He was also the perfect victim. Pánfilo was not a human-rights activist, a dissident or an intellectual. He is, simply, a man. A black man who is hungry and drinks too much. Therein lie his power and his weakness.

The government has always been intolerant of dissent, but it is particularly vicious when the dissenter is black. The most recent victims of execution in Cuba were three young black men attempting to steal a vessel to escape the island six years ago.

Pánfilo has escaped that fate. He's never said he wants to leave Cuba. What he wants is food. What he needs is food, rehab and freedom. But when he walks out of rehab, Pánfilo will still lack food. And freedom.

Mirta Ojito is an assistant professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

Courtesy of The Miami Herald.

Chavez Taunts Obama

Friday, September 25, 2009
Yesterday, in the circus that has become the U.N. General Assembly, which is being held this week in New York, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez taunted President Obama:

"[Obama] spoke here and it no longer smells of sulphur," Mr. Chavez said, referring to comments he made about the "devil", George W. Bush, in 2006.

"Obama, come and join the socialists," he said. "We invite you to join the axis of evil."

In a new strategy, Chavez has replaced insults [towards Bush] with taunts [towards Obama].

Tyrannical diplomacy.

Tyrants Are Liars, Exiles Aren't Crazy

Hopefully, both lessons have been learned today.

According to Reuters:

Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog it is building a second uranium enrichment plant, a belated revelation likely to worsen Tehran's confrontation with Western powers over suspicions it is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

Details of Iran's nuclear program emerged in August 2002 when the exiled opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran reported the existence of a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak.

These events are eerily similar -- although on a smaller scale -- to Cuban exiles warning the Kennedy Administration in mid-1962 that Soviet nuclear missile sites were being placed in Cuba. The Kennedy Administration originally dismissed these claims by "crazy Cuban exiles." U2 spy planes confirmed these warning, months later, in October 1962.

Ironically, it also comes on the heels of a report in the New York Times that as late as the 1980's, Fidel Castro urged Soviet officials to launch a nuclear strike against the United States and murder six million innocent Americans.

So much for unconditional engagement.

Who Benefited From Juanes Concert?

Excellent summary by the former Mayor of Miami, Xavier Suarez, in The Miami Herald:
So, in the end, who benefited from the concert (other than Juanes, who will undoubtedly become a worldwide celebrity for his one-day musical tour)? Here is a quick and dirty scorecard, using three parameters that seem relevant: symbolic value, real change and unintended consequences:

Symbolism. Other than the logo of the event, which no one has mentioned (perhaps like me, they have no idea of what it means), the figure that stands out is the one of Che Guevara in the background. Add to that the idea that Cubans were seen as joyful, open to entertainment and well behaved and you have the impression of a normal country. (Since alcohol and drugs were not allowed or available, the ambiance was almost equivalent to an evangelical concert in the United States, with music by high-grade Gospel singers.)

Real Change. It is still too early to tell, but so far there is not one iota of change: No pronouncements about opening up to other artists; not one single discordant note that could have mobilized the youth in Cuba. The fact that a million Cuban young people were able to enjoy music without politics is still the only benefit of this event, and it is a transitory one. The young people went back home with little added hope.

Other unintended consequences. So far, all of those favor the regime. In Miami, we had the opponents of the event being made to look like fools and intolerant right-wingers. The news media emphasized the destruction of musical tapes and death threats made by the ``usual anonymous suspects,'' which were (as usual) probably made by (anonymous) Castro sympathizers who want to make the exile community look bad.

I remember a time, nearly half a century ago, when as an 11 year old, I participated in an equally massive gathering at what was then called the Plaza Cívica. We were also more than a million strong and we also wanted peace in that troubled land. But we made clear, in our songs and in our prayers, that peace must come with justice -- or not at all.

Gorki's Record Signing Party Tonight!

Thursday, September 24, 2009
How many chances do you get to meet a punk rocker who has been arrested multiple times for his politically critical lyrics?

In other words, a real punk rocker.

Don't miss the opportunity tonight!

Gorki Aguila, frontman of the Cuban punk-rock group Porno Para Ricardo will be in Washington, D.C. as part of his "Freedom Tour."

Their lyrics are very graphic and critical of dictators, which ironically is what has made Porno Para Ricardo the most popular rock band in Cuba.

Please join Capitol Hill Cubans tonight, September 24th, 8:00p.m.-10:00 p.m.

At the Chi-Cha Lounge,1624 U St N.W., Washington, D.C.

He'll have copies of his latest CD for sale.

Tell all of your friends!

Juanes Experiences Castro's 1984

In Castro's Cuba, foreign tourists always trump the people.
According to news services from Havana, the premises for Colombian rock star Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" concert in Revolutionary Square was divided into two parts, with the front area reserved for foreign visitors and VIP guests with "special passes" from the Castro regime.
Spain's EFE reported that the division sparked protests from Juanes himself.
Despite prolonged negotiations to remove the divisory barricade, Cuban state security refused to do so.

Then, Juanes got a taste of the Cuban regime's absolute control over the Cuban people's life.
In video footage that has emerged of his confrontation with Cuban officials over the barricade, Juanes angrily argues: 

"This is over, we're leaving!  We are very upset, very upset.  We came to sing to young Cubans and that's why we're here, but we've encountered very strong obstacles and we're done!"
But here's the kicker, Juanes then tells the official:
"I've just noticed that the person who served me breakfast and drove my taxi has shown was at the concert and is now back there taking notes.  I will not go back to my hotel room."
If that's how they treat an international rock star, just imagine what the Cuban people encounter on a daily basis.
Welcome to Castro's 1984. 

State Department Denies Alarcon Visa

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The State Department has denied Castro regime spokesman, and President of Cuba's National Assembly for "Popular Power," a visa to attend the 39th Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus ("CBC").

Alarcon was invited to the conference by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who currently Chairs the CBC and visited Fidel and Raul Castro in Havana last April.

A shameful spectacle.

The Castro regime freely lobbies -- through its Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. -- Members of Congress on Capitol Hill on a host of issues, including the unconditional lifting of sanctions. Cuban "diplomats" are even permitted to leave gifts of value in Member's offices, a practice correctly denied to U.S. lobbyists.

Unfortunately, U.S. diplomats in Havana are not allowed to lobby or even engage with Members of Castro's National Assembly.

Once again, no reciprocity.

Kudos to the State Department.

What Castro Wants is Tourism

A commentary in Talking Points Memo last week sought to highlight the "absurdity" of Americans being able to travel to North Korea, but not to Castro's Cuba.

First of all, it's important to clarify that the Trading With the Enemy Act, enforced by the Treasury Department, prohibits and regulates commercial or financial ''transactions related to travel,'' not travel per se.

So why regulate tourism transactions with the Castro regime?

Because tourism is a commodity, perhaps the most lucrative for that regime. Spring breakers and beach-goers don't want to vacation in North Korea, half-a-world away, but the cheap, pristine beaches of Cuba are definitely an allure.

When you sanction a country, you want to make sure to target its most lucrative industry, whether it's oil in Iran, precious gems in Burma or tourism in Cuba.

And let's not forget that Cuba's tourism industry is run by the Cuban military, through an entity called GAESA, S.A., and headed by Raul's son-in-law, Col. Luis A. Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

But don't believe me, here it is from last week's Miami Herald:

For Cuba, more foreign visitors would provide access to the quick cash that it needs to jump-start the economy. The island received 2.3 million visitors in 2008, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

If the U.S. government dropped its travel restrictions entirely, rather than just for Cuban Americans -- and Cuba proved as big a draw for American tourists as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, or Cancun, Mexico -- the island could expect more than one million additional visitors a year.

And the AP:

[Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno] Rodriguez said the embargo itself blocks such communications, as well as costing Cuba $1.2 billion a year in lost tourism revenue.

Tourism is Castro's cash cow and Americans its bonanza.

Cuban-American Voting Trends

An excellent analysis by the Swing State Project:

Obama won the five boroughs of New York City by 59%: a 4 to 1 margin. He won Cook County (Chicago) by 53%, with more than three-fourths of the vote. In contrast, Obama took 58% of Miami-Dade county - less than the amount by which he won New York City. The 2008 Democratic performance in Miami is comparable to their performance in cities such as Dallas (57% of the vote) and Sacramento (58% of the vote).

Much of this is due to the Cuban vote, the city's largest demographic group. Refugees from Castro's Cuba, staunchly anti-Communist, and faithful Republicans ever since the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Cubans vote as strongly Republican as Jews vote Democratic. In 2000, George W. Bush won about four out of five Cubans, helped by Cuban anger over Al Gore's role in the Elian Gonzalez affair. In 2008 Obama won around 35% of their vote, based on exit polls. This was the best performance of a Democrat with Cubans in recent memory.

Their influence ensures that Miami remains a competitive, Democratic-leaning city. Democrats usually end up winning it, but their margins are severely cut. And occasionally it will turn up in the Republican column - as happened during the 2004 Senate race. There, Mel Martinez, a Bush ally, won Miami-Dade on his way to a one percent victory.

Democrats often hopefully comment that demographic shifts will slowly move Cubans leftward, as a new generation of Cubans, less concerned with Castro and communism, replaces their more militant elders. Perhaps. But that process will be the work of decades, not a single election cycle. For the moment the Cuban vote remains strongly Republican.

In 2008 the Democrats challenged two entrenched, Republican congressmen in South Florida: the Cuban Diaz-Balart brothers. The races were closely watched, so much that the New York Times Magazine aired an article dedicated to them. In the end, both Republicans won by margins larger than expected. Their continuing presence points to the steadfastness of the Cuban Republican vote.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the year, some political analysts have vaticinated that President Obama's numbers can only go up amongst Cuban-American voters.

That's far from the truth.

President Obama's 2008 performance of 35% amongst Cuban-Americans tied Bill Clinton's 1996 electoral performance, which came on the heels of his signing of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD Act).

However, just four years later, as a result of the events surrounding Elian Gonzalez, Democratic nominee Al Gore received less than 20% of the Cuban-American vote.

A significant drop.

President Obama has -- thus far -- honored his campaign promise of easing family travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans, while maintaining trade and travel sanctions on the Castro regime until it unconditionally releases political prisoners, embraces human rights and undertakes democratic reforms.

We hope he keeps this promise.

Congressional Support for Easing Sanctions?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that:

Legislation to end a ban on Americans traveling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by year-end, said Representative Sam Farr, a California Democrat.
The bill to let U.S. citizens resume travel to the Caribbean island except in times of war or cases in which they face imminent danger has 181 votes in the House and needs 218 to pass, said Farr, a co-sponsor of the legislation. 

Two observations:
First, how can Congressman Farr claim that legislation to allow tourism travel to Castro's Cuba "has enough support" (implying the 218 votes needed to pass), when he admits to only have 181 votes.
Second, the last Congressional vote to ease Cuba sanctions took place during the 2007 Farm Bill, under the 110th Democratic Congress, was defeated 245-182.
Therefore, if Congressman Farr's calculation is correct, supporters of unconditionally easing sanctions have even less support -- albeit by 1 vote -- than in 2007.  

The article goes on to state:
Ending the travel ban may lead as many as 1 million Americans to visit the island every year, Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association, known as NTA, said in an interview.

Shouldn't the NTA be promoting tourism travel to the beautiful beaches and national parks of the U.S., where it can economically benefit U.S. families, as opposed to promoting tourism to a totalitarian dictatorship that systemically denies its citizens most basic human rights? 

Is This Who We Want to Normalize Relations With?

According to the New York Times:
In the early 1980s, according to newly released documents, Fidel Castro was suggesting a Soviet nuclear strike against the United States, until Moscow dissuaded him by patiently explaining how the radioactive cloud resulting from such a strike would also devastate Cuba.

The two-volume study, "Soviet Intentions 1965-1985," was prepared in 1995 by a Pentagon contractor and based on extensive interviewing of former top Soviet military officials.

It took the security archive two years to get the Pentagon to release the study. Censors excised a few sections on nuclear tests and weapon effects, and the archive recently posted the redacted study on its Web site.

The Pentagon study attributes the Cuba revelation to Andrian A. Danilevich, a Soviet general staff officer from 1964 to '90 and director of the staff officers who wrote the Soviet Union's final reference guide on strategic and nuclear planning.

In the early 1980s, the study quotes him as saying that Mr. Castro "pressed hard for a tougher Soviet line against the U.S. up to and including possible nuclear strikes."

The general staff, General Danilevich continued, "had to actively disabuse him of this view by spelling out the ecological consequences for Cuba of a Soviet strike against the U.S."
EDITOR'S NOTE:  Please note, this happened in the 1980's, way after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  Fidel Castro was still bent on murdering over 6 million innocent Americans and had to be dissuaded by the Soviet leadership.  General Raul Castro was the Cuban Minister of Defense of the time.  These are the two individuals that maintain a totalitarian dictatorship over Cuba to this day. 

Crossing Paths in Havana Airport

With all the weekend fanfare over Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" concert, an important news item went practically unreported.

As music stars Juanes, Olga Tanon and Miguel Bose were landing in Havana's airport last Friday -- with the media closely following their every word and move -- senior Russian military and intelligence officials were quietly concluding a five-day official visit with the Castro regime.

The Russian delegation included General Nikolai Y. Makarov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, and Lt. Gen. Alexander V. Shlyakhturov, chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence (GRU), Russia's largest intelligence agency.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the GRU (acronym for Glavnovo Razvyedvatyelnovo Upravlenya) is the foreign intelligence organ of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The GRU gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery reconnaissance and satellite imagery (IMINT) capabilities.

The concert is over, it's time to wake up from the trance.

Or, get caught blindsided.

Unilateral Concessions Don't Work

Monday, September 21, 2009
Excerpt from Peter Baker's "Good Will for Obama, but Few Policy Benefits" in The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — As President Obama welcomes world leaders to the United States this week, he has gone a long way toward meeting his goal of restoring the country's international standing. Foreign counterparts flock to meet with him, and polls show that people in many countries feel much better about the United States.

But eight months after his inauguration, all that good will so far has translated into limited tangible policy benefits for Mr. Obama. As much as they may prefer to deal with Mr. Obama instead of his predecessor, George W. Bush, foreign leaders have not gone out of their way to give him what he has sought.

European allies still refuse to send significantly more troops to Afghanistan. The Saudis blew off Mr. Obama's request for concessions to Israel, while Israel rebuffed his demand to stop settlement expansion. North Korea defied him by testing a nuclear weapon. Japan just elected a party less friendly to the United States. Cuba has done little to liberalize in response to modest relaxation of sanctions. India and China are resisting a climate change deal. And Russia rejected new sanctions against Iran's nuclear program even as Mr. Obama heads into talks with Tehran.

The Morning After (With or Without Juanes)

Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" concert in Havana's Revolutionary Square is officially over.

Now it's time to refocus (or heighten focus) on the most important (and truly deserving) issue:

The freedom of the Cuban people.

Hopefully, Juanes will have helped in this regard. Undoubtedly, his interpretation -- along with Miguel Bose -- of "Nada Particular" and its message of freedom was inspiring:

"Give me an island in the middle of the sea -- call it liberty."

It might even be historic, but only time will tell.

This morning though, the Cuban people woke up to the same repressive reality of the Castro regime.

Meanwhile, the foreign artists that performed in the concert are preparing to fly off to the free countries in which they reside, and the Castro regime's artists are resting in the comfort of their Miramar mini-palaces.

Thank God for all of those brave Cubans that have the courage -- without mixed messages or allusions -- to directly call for human rights, democracy and freedom on a daily basis:

Rockers like Escape and Porno Para Ricardo; rappers like Eskuadron and Los Aldeanos; bloggers like Claudia Cadelo and Yoani Sanchez, political prisoners like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Darsi Ferrer; and pro-democracy activists like Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" and Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva.

Those are (and have been) our inspiration -- the true agents of change in Cuba.

So, with or without Juanes, can we now focus on them?

Congressional Cuba Forum Today

Dear Colleague:

Your attendance is requested at a bipartisan policy forum, "U.S. Policy toward Cuba: Key Considerations for a Long Term Strategy." As the United States begins new dialogue with the Cuban government, we must give careful thought to how this new relationship will impact U.S. interests, particularly national security, trade, and human rights.

This April, the Obama administration lifted all restrictions on family visits and remittances to Cuba. The administration also took steps to facilitate communication between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of humanitarian resources directly to the Cuban people. In June, the President outlined a series of steps the Cuban government can take to both open its society and improve relations with the United States.

Peter DeShazo, Director of Americas Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies will moderate a forum examining the Obama administration's new policy and outlining key considerations for developing a long term plan.

Among the distinguished group of panelists are:

· Daniel Erikson, Senior Associate for U.S. Policy and Director of Caribbean programs at the Inter-American Dialogue, and author of "The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, The United States, and The Next Revolution;"
· Rensselaer Lee, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute;
· Mauricio Claver-Carone, Executive Director at Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp;
· Ray Walser PhD., Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation; and
· Ambassador Craig Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (invited).

The forum will take place on September 21, 2009 in 1539 Longworth HOB from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

This forum is sponsored by Rep. Anh Cao, a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Executive Board.

The Reality Behind the Facade

Sunday, September 20, 2009
Today is the birthday of Cuban political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta.

He is currently serving a 20 year sentence.

Moya was first arrested for organizing a peaceful demonstration marking Human Rights Day on December 10th, 1999. He was freed soon thereafter, then rearrested during the infamous Black Spring crackdown of May 2003.

It is the dream of Angel and his wife, Berta Soler, to live in true peace -- with freedom.

Gorki Unites All Cubans

Whether on the island or in exile, regardless of generation, politics, race or music preference, Cuban punk rocker Gorki Aguila is a unifying figure due to his outstanding courage and conviction to call the Castro regime for what it is:

A repressive dictatorship.

But don't believe me, this picture from yesterday's record signing is worth 1,000 words.

Let's hope Juanes is taking notes.

A Tale of Two Musicians

Excerpt from NBC Miami by Carlos Miller:

As Juanes prepares to perform in Cuba, Gorki Aguilar wonders if he will be allowed back in

As Colombian rock singer Juanes prepares for Sunday's concert in Havana, a Cuban musician touring the United States is unsure if he will even be allowed to return home.

Gorki Aguila, a dissident punk rocker who has served time in prison in Cuba, is on a 15-day tour promoting his latest anti-government CD, "The Faded Red Album."

He says Juanes invited him to play in Sunday's concert but was forced to decline because the Cuban government has banned him from public performances as well as the public airwaves.

"I do believe in Juanes' good intentions. I just think his intentions are very naive," Aguila said Friday.