Our Heartfelt Condolences

Saturday, October 24, 2009
According to PolitickerNJ.com:

Mother of Sen. Robert Menendez Dies
 
Evangelina Menendez, who fled Cuba in search of democracy and economic opportunity and watched her son become a United States Senator, died last night. Mrs. Menendez and her husband, Mario, fled Cuba in 1953 and worked as a seamstress while raising her family in Union City.

We (Cubans) Are Not Alone

There's nothing more insulting to those that have experienced life under a repressive dictatorship than to watch foreigners visit these nations, wine and dine with its tyrants, extol its "great social advances" (based on the dog-and-pony show they saw), then return to the democracies they came from and proceed to serve as useful tools of international propaganda.

As we all know, this is an all too common phenomenon in Castro's Cuba.

However, it's not limited to Cuba.

The clip below was brought to our attention featuring North Korea.

It's fascinating to watch this group of foreigners (in this case, Danes) tour North Korea and marvel at the technological, educational and medical advances of that repressed nation.

And of course, showing lots of happy children, singing and dancing.

We all know this is far from the reality of North Korea, a police state with a population controlled through fear of starvation, forced labor camps, torture and execution.

As absurd as this might appear -- tragically, it is not a joke.

Quote of the Week

"We don't want bad relations with any country.  However, our main interest is for the government to respect the rights of the Cuban people.  Neither the visit to Cuba by [Spanish Foreign Minister] Moratinos, nor a better relationship with the United States has improved our situation." 
 
- Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, leader of Cuba's opposition Christian Liberation Movement, Cuba Encuentro, October 19th, 2009

President Obama's Nixonian Foreign Policy?

An interesting -- and somewhat worrisome -- comparison by Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council for Foreign Relations:

It is not surprising that on balance the Obama administration is looking to scale back America's overseas commitments on human rights; a concern for 'imperial overstretch' is close to the core of President Obama's world view. In some ways, President Obama is close to the thinking of President Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Nixon and Kissinger were willing to overlook flaws in the Soviet Union and even worse flaws in Mao's China as the US sought to rebalance world politics while withdrawing from Vietnam. Whether he can make it work and whether public opinion will back him long term are difficult questions, but downgrading the role of human rights in American foreign policy is implicit in Obama's emerging grand strategy.

Courtesy of Politico.

Even in Spain, 1 - 1 = 0

Friday, October 23, 2009
On the very same day that Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos was patting himself on the back for the release of Cuban political prisoner Nelson Aguiar Rodriguez -- and crediting it to Spain's policy of unconditional "normalization" -- the Castro regime sentenced Christian Liberation Movement activist Agustin Cervantes to two years in prison.

The release of Aguiar after serving 6 years of a 13 year sentence is certainly good news. As a leader of the opposition Liberal Orthodox Party, he was one of 75 activists that was imprisoned during Castro's infamous Black Spring crackdown of 2003.

Yet, in a slap in the face to Spain (which ran out of cheeks long ago, but doesn't seem to mind), the Castro regime proceeded to sentence Cervantes on the very same day it released Aguiar.

Of course, the Spanish government has not commented or recognized Cervantes' sentence, as it doesn't quite fit within Spain's policy script.
Nonetheless, the head of Cuba's outlawed Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, reacted to this new sentence pointedly,

"This is how the Cuban regime has welcomed the policy of 'normalization' that the Spanish government defends."

Oh, and let's not forget July's imprisonment -- without trial -- of physician and pro-democracy leader Dr. Darsi Ferrer, plus over 200 remaining prisoners of conscience recognized internationally, not to mention thousands more being held under charges of "dangerousness."

But who's counting?

Apparently, not the Spanish government.

When Ideology Blinds Reason

And no, this post is not about Castronomics.

It's about a novelist and scholar, whose ideological goggles are so tinted that they blind obvious contradictions.

Writing in the L.A. Times this week, Chilean-born novelist and Duke University Professor of Literature, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman, makes the following hemispheric policy recommendations to the Obama Administration:

Building on his creative engagement with Latin America after the George W. Bush years of blindness and neglect, there is much the president can accomplish immediately. Lifting the senseless blockade against Cuba, followed by full diplomatic relations, would be a good beginning. Another sore spot is Honduras, where the United States has not done enough to isolate and punish the de facto government, which came to power through a coup against the country's elected president. And Obama should rethink his approach to hemispheric security (canceling, for instance, Plan Colombia) as a way of defusing tensions in a Latin America threatened by a new arms race.

Dorfman's use of the word "blockade" -- terminology used by the Castro regime to refer to U.S. sanctions -- should have been an ideological give away. Therefore, we'd first like to remind him that the U.S. provides more humanitarian aid to the Cuban people than the rest of the world's nations combined -- not very "blockade-like" behavior.

Yet, the most striking contradiction is his recommendation to isolate and punish the government of Honduras for its undemocratic behavior, while simultaneously advocating to lift commercial sanctions and establish full diplomatic relations with Castro's Cuba.

Why does Dorfman believe that Cuba should be the only country in this hemisphere condemned to a dictatorship?

Is it because it is a left-wing dictatorship? Surely he didn't feel the same way about the right-wing Pinochet dictatorship in his native Chile.

Finally, notice how he blames problems in the Andean region on the Colombian government and U.S. policy (Plan Colombia), but doesn't say a word about narco-terrorists or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

It's time to let reason shine through.

Rep. Ted Poe on U.N. Hypocrisy

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Remarks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX):

Madame Speaker, for over sixty years, Israel has had to fight for its right to exist. No other nation has suffered more discrimination and outright threats from the United Nations itself. There have been more UN resolutions condemning Israel than any other nation—more than 20 per year.

Approximately 80 percent of country censures issued by the UN Human Rights Council are aimed at Israel. Last week, they did it again, issuing another report self righteously condemning Israel.

But just take a look at who some of the members of this so-called Human Rights Council are—a rogue's gallery of dictators and tyrants.

The Communist countries of Cuba and China have a seat at the UN human rights table. These two stellar threats to their own people are self righteously condemning Israel.

The whole world saw China's respect for human rights on display in Tiananmen Square. Religious persecutions, the one child policy, forced abortions for people who already have one child.

Persecutions of political dissidence are rampant and speech against the government is brutally suppressed. China is a shining example of respect for human dignity. Yeah, right.

In the tiny Communist country of Cuba, the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, have a reported 250 prisons. Political dissidents are beaten and tortured in this island paradise or persecution. Some have died from their prison abuse. Cuba is a nation that denies human rights to its own people.

Iran also sits on the UN Human Rights Council. Now there's a surprise! What legitimate human rights organization wouldn't want Iran as a member?

Run by the mullahs and the little fella in the desert, Ahmadinejad—Iran systematically violates human rights.

Unarmed men and women are still in jail today for peacefully protesting this summer's rigged presidential election. You know, Madame Speaker, the election where the government murdered unarmed students who wanted freedom. The ones that survived were beaten and tortured. They are denied medical care in jail. Some are sexually assaulted by their jailers as retribution.

Some Iranian human rights activists simply disappear, never to be seen again.

Iran is sending money and equipment to worldwide terrorist groups.

Amnesty International says that right now they know of eight women at risk of being stoned to death in Iran for adultery. Of course, if a woman is raped in Iran, that's sometimes considered adultery, too. And the male perpetrator is released.

In 2004 in Iran, a 13-year-old girl, Zhila Izadi, was sentenced to death by stoning for being raped and impregnated by her 15-year-old brother.

But one news report says that international outrage forced a reduction of Zhila's sentence to 55 lashes with a whip. After, Zhila gave birth the baby was stolen by the government.

To make matters worse, the Tiny Tyrant of Iran, Ahmadinejad says he wants to wipe all of Israel off of the map. He is making nuclear weapons and building ICBS -- now who do you think these missiles are aimed at? And Iran sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

This rogue's gallery of misfits has no moral basis to sit in judgment of Israel or anyone else for that matter.

Rep. Albio Sires Denounces Castro Ploy

Remarks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ):

Madam/Mr. Speaker, I rise today to denounce the deplorable and dangerous actions of the Cuban regime.

On Monday, the Miami Herald reported that in the six months after the attacks of September 11th, dozens of Cuban spies walked into our embassies all over the world and sent our officials on wild goose chases disguised as terrorists threats – these intelligence agents fabricated threats to deliberately pull our officials away from their work of identifying and preventing more attacks.

I cannot stress enough the underhanded and malicious nature of the regime in Cuba.

These actions directly undermined our national security.

These agents repeatedly, before and after 9/11, visited embassies. They posed as defectors to get our intelligence to waste time and resources! These visits to embassies increased dramatically after 9/11 and Cuban agents specifically used our sensitivity to terrorist threats to mislead our officials.

The Cuban regime deceived us when we were most vulnerable, in the months after the deadliest attacks on American soil ever.

Madam/Mr. Speaker, I am outraged by this news and I hope my colleagues also understand the significance of this matter. I yield back.

All the Dictator's Men

Upon Fidel Castro falling ill in August 2006, the Wall Street Journal published the chart below, "Fidel's Men," which profiled the potential successors of Cuba's regime.

Fidel, now 83, remains alive, and for all intent-and-purposes, still in charge.

Yet, perhaps more interesting, are the current whereabouts of the two youngest of "Fidel's Men," Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque, who had been anointed early-on as the new generation of Cuba's leadership by the international media and foreign policy pundits alike.

After a cloak-and-dagger operation by Cuban intelligence earlier in the year, Lage, who was Vice President and Economic Czar, and Perez Roque, who was Foreign Minister, were purged for disloyalty.

Last weekend, El Nuevo Herald reported that Lage is now an obscure physician at a neighborhood hospital in Havana, while Perez Roque has been relegated to a mid-level manager in one of the regime's manufacturing plants.

Therefore, we are left with two septuagenarians as "Fidel's Men."

Meanwhile, Lage's cousin, Raul Castellanos Lage, and one of Fidel's formerly trusted "businessmen," Conrado Hernandez, have just been handed over to Cuba's ruthless chief prosecutor, General Juan Escalona, as a result of the same purging.

Escalona became widely feared for his Stalinist style inquisition of revered Cuban General Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989, which led to Ochoa's firing squad execution.

Undoubtedly, this is meant to intimidate others in Cuba -- within the regime and outside -- with "unchecked" ambitions of power.

However, Escalona is now also 78 years-old and reportedly in ill-health.

So let's just say that biology is definitely not in the "Dictator's Men" favor.

The Bottom of the Barrel

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Reporters Without Borders just released its 2009 Press Freedom Index.
 
It's official: The world's worst places to be a journalist are Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Iran, Burma and Cuba.
 
Here's what the report had to say about Cuba:

Only Cuba (170th), the [Western Hemisphere's] unchanging dictatorship, where press freedom is non-existent, is ranked lower in the index. The meagre hopes raised by Raúl Castro's accession to the presidency in February 2008 quickly evaporated. Two more imprisonments, bringing the number of detained journalists to 25, the frequent blocking of websites and arrests of bloggers are all evidence of the lack of any evolution in the situation of human rights and freedoms.

Castro Renegs on U.N. Torture Representative

According to EFE, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur Against Torture, Manfred Nowak, has expressed disappointment that the Castro regime has failed to authorize his visit Cuba this year.

In January 2009, then Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque -- who was purged by Fidel and Raul Castro just a few months after -- announced the regime's "intention to invite" Nowak to visit Cuba this year.

Nowak claims the Castro regime has since stalled throughout the year and has now communicated that it will "try to accommodate him" next year.

He had expressed to the Cuban authorities his desire to include spontaneous visits to detention centers during the trip, including those holding political prisoners.

And that, undoubtedly, ended Nowak's trip before it ever started.

Or, perhaps the Castro regime just needs more time to let its political prisoner's wounds heal.

Mayor Nagin Praises Totalitarian Model

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
A totalitarian police-state featuring torture, imprisonment, exile and executions.

According to New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin, that would be a small price to pay for (questionable) disaster relief.

The AP is reporting:

HAVANA — Under Cuba's communist system, the government calls all the shots all the time — but during monster hurricanes that may not be such a bad thing, New Orleans' mayor says.

In an interview during his six-day trip to Cuba's capital to study the island's disaster-response system, Ray Nagin told The Associated Press that "one of the biggest weaknesses we had during Hurricane Katrina is it wasn't clear who was the top authority."

"The president and the governor were going back and forth. ... in Cuba you don't have that problem," Nagin said.

Spain to Lobby for a Return to Fascism

Carefully note the lead paragraph from, "Spain Promises Havana to Lobby EU on Cuba Policy," in the Latin American Herald Tribune:

HAVANA – Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Monday promised Cuba that he would lobby the European Union to eliminate the "common position" that irritates Havana, because it demands democracy and respect for human rights on the communist-ruled island.

In other words, human rights and democracy are irritating to the Castro regime. Therefore, Spain intends to lobby the EU to satisfy the Cuban dictatorship's whim.

Under this absurd rationale, will the Spanish government also lobby against the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights?

After all, it irritates Spain's fascists, who seek to re-establish a national socialist dictatorship in the Iberian Peninsula.

Such appalling behavior should be repudiated in every sense, whether from the left or the right.

Dictators are dictators, period.

Let's Focus on Promoting Tourism to the U.S.

Some corporations, media outlets and pundits seem to spend all of their time promoting tourism travel to Castro's Cuba, which would only provide a billionaire financial windfall to that island's totalitarian dictatorship.

However, there's another travel bill working its way through Congress that would internationally promote U.S. beaches and national parks, which would create jobs and economic growth right here at home.

It's called the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 ("TPA") -- H.R. 1035 and S. 1023.

The purpose of TPA, which passed the House of Representatives last week, is to increase international travel to the United States.

The bill's background explains that:

Travel and tourism generates approximately $1.3 trillion in economic activity in the United States every year. The United States travel and tourism industry is one of the nation's largest employers with approximately 8.3 million direct travel-generated jobs.

Meanwhile, tourism travel to Cuba would only benefit a monopoly of the Cuban military called GAESA, S.A., which owns and operates the island's tourism industry and is headed by Raul Castro's son-in-law, Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

Ironically, the TPA's main House co-sponsor is U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt, one of Congress' most ardent advocates of tourism travel to Cuba.

Delahunt reminded his colleagues last week that over the next 10 years, this bill would attract 1.6 million new international visitors to the U.S. and an extra $4 billion to the tourism industry.

Yet, he wants to send over 1 million U.S. tourists, per year, to Castro's Cuba?

Please note the dramatic difference: importing 1.6 million international tourists over the next 10 years vs. exporting 1 million U.S. tourists per year.

At a time of such domestic economic difficulties, why doesn't Congressman Delahunt just focus on incentivizing domestic tourism -- for U.S. tourists to vacation right here at home -- instead of looking to send U.S. tourists to Castro's Cuba?

More pointedly, why aren't travel companies like Orbitz providing travel vouchers and promoting petitions in support of the TPA, like they do for legislation supporting tourism to Castro's Cuba?

Support U.S. beaches and national parks, not Castro's segregated beach resorts.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Monday, October 19, 2009
Last month, the New York Times reported,

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.

Today, the Miami Herald is reporting,

In the six months after the 9/11 attacks, up to 20 Cubans walked into U.S. embassies around the world and offered information on terrorism threats. Eventually, all were deemed to be Cuban intelligence agents and collaborators, purveying fabricated information.

A White House official complained bitterly and publicly in 2002 that Fidel Castro's agents had tried to send U.S. intelligence on "wild goose'' chases that could cost lives at a time when Washington was reeling from the worst terrorism attacks in history.

But now two former U.S. government experts on Cuba have told El Nuevo Herald that the post-9/11 "walk-ins'' were part of a permanent Havana intelligence program -- both before and long after 9/11 -- that sends Cuban agents to U.S. embassies to mislead, misinform and identify U.S. spies, perhaps even to penetrate U.S. intelligence.

Now, ask yourself,

Is this a neighboring regime that we want to entrust with normal commercial and diplomatic relations?

Rubio Hits Hurricane Fidel (and Mayor Nagin)

Hurricane Fidel Has Been Cuba's Worst Disaster
by Marco Rubio

While New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is in Cuba this week learning about natural-disaster preparedness from the Castro regime, he should use the opportunity to hold the government's feet to the fire for the manmade disaster it has imposed on the Cuban people for five decades.

In Cuba, it doesn't take a hurricane to cause power outages; government rationing of electricity has been doing that for some time. The destruction of the agricultural economy didn't begin when storms destroyed crops; it began when the regime took control of the means of production. The country's infrastructure didn't start crumbling because of hurricane-strength winds; it's been deteriorating for decades, along with many aspects of Cuban life, because of a regime obsessed with using its limited resources to maintain power, deprive its people of fundamental liberties and close itself off from the free world.

But perhaps the worst part about the regime's hurricane-mitigation program is its routine, cruel, and inhumane rejection of American aid.

If Mayor Nagin is in Cuba learning about the regime's hurricane-response efforts, he shouldn't be surprised to discover that the worst disaster in Cuba's history has been a manmade one called Hurricane Fidel.

Marco Rubio is the former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Courtesy of NRO.

Castro Hangs Up on U.S. Telecom Initiative

Sunday, October 18, 2009
Surprise!

The Global Post has reported that:

Cuba rebuffs key Obama initiative that would have opened the island to better cell phone and internet service.

The White House announced in April that it would authorize U.S. telecommunication companies to enter into agreements with the Castro regime -- through its telecommunication monopoly ETECSA -- that could bring better phone and internet service to the island.

Last night, ETECSA's international operations director, Vivian Iglesias, said there were two major obstacles to such a partnership: some $160 million in judicial liens against ETECSA's U.S-based corresponding accounts, and restrictions imposed by the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act ("CDA").

Iglesias stressed that "unless restrictions like the (CDA) and others that have been tightened since 1992 don't change, there can't be any normal communication."

As regards the judicial liens, it's understandable how this could be frustrating to the Castro dictatorship, as the concepts of independent judiciary and rule of law are alien to them.

Nonetheless, it's ironic that they single-out the CDA, as it is this legislation that actually creates an embargo exception in support of "efficient and adequate telecommunication services between the United States and Cuba."

In case Ms. Iglesias' ETECSA internet access is slow, allow us to highlight section 6004(e) of the CDA:

(1) Telecommunications services

Telecommunications services between the United States and Cuba shall be permitted.

(2) Telecommunications facilities

Telecommunications facilities are authorized in such quantity and of such quality as may be necessary to provide efficient and adequate telecommunications services between the United States and Cuba.

(3) Licensing of payments to Cuba

(A) The President may provide for the issuance of licenses for the full or partial payment to Cuba of amounts due Cuba as a result of the provision of telecommunications services authorized by this subsection, in a manner that is consistent with the public interest and the purposes of this chapter, except that this paragraph shall not require any withdrawal from any account blocked pursuant to regulations issued under section 5(b) of the Trading With the Enemy Act [12 U.S.C. 95a, 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b)].

(B) If only partial payments are made to Cuba under subparagraph (A), the amounts withheld from Cuba shall be deposited in an account in a banking institution in the United States. Such account shall be blocked in the same manner as any other account containing funds in which Cuba has any interest, pursuant to regulations issued under section 5(b) of the Trading With the Enemy Act.

(4) Authority of Federal Communications Commission

Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to supersede the authority of the Federal Communications Commission.

Once again, the Castro regime has chosen the dial tone.

Meet the Absolute Worst of America

Excerpts from A. Craig Copetas' Bloomberg review of "The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich" by Daniel Amman:

"The King of Oil," by Daniel Ammann, is the mostly familiar tale of the infamous American, Israeli and Spanish multi-billionaire commodity trader Marc Rich -- the inventor of the spot-oil market and for nearly two decades the most-wanted white-collar fugitive in America.

Ammann's biography, written with Rich's cooperation, is a briskly paced primer on how to get off the hook, a must-read for any businessman facing federal indictment and a guaranteed tear- jerker for the U.S. white-collar prison population.

We learn how Rich persuaded President Bill Clinton to pardon him on criminal charges that included 51 counts of fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemy during the Iranian hostage crisis and evading more than $48 million in income taxes stemming from a series of illegal crude-oil deals that roiled global markets in the early 1980s.

The lubricants, Ammann points out, were money and connections.

"He may have his strengths," Ammann continues, "but volubility is not one of them." Neither is repentance.

"Whatever we did, we did legally," Rich says. "We were doing business with Iran, Cuba, and South Africa as a Swiss company. These businesses were completely legal according to Swiss law."

Rich tells Ammann it's "naive" for anyone to think otherwise and that he has "no, no" remorse for brokering deals with thugs and rogues sweetened with multimillion-dollar bribes.

A. Craig Copetas is a senior writer at Bloomberg News.

New Orleans Flips Cost of Mayor's Cuba Trip

Instead of concentrating taxpayer funds on rebuilding the City of New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin has decided to use these funds to travel the world (and to learn how to keep a city in ruins from the Castro brothers).

Accroding to the AP:

Mayor Ray Nagin's trip in June to China and Australia with his wife and four other city officials cost city taxpayers more than $28,770.

The 10-day was billed as an effort to lure business to New Orleans.

Originally, Nagin had said an unnamed "sponsor" would repay the city for the bulk of the cost.

But administration spokesman James Ross said last week that public griping about that arrangement, including a call by some critics for the mayor to disclose the benefactor's name, led to a change in plans.

As a result, taxpayers are on the hook.

Nagin left Friday for Cuba. No such arrangement was apparently contemplated for the Cuba pilgrimage: City taxpayers will foot the entire bill.

A Historic Opportunity for President Obama

Excerpt from "Obama could dignify Nobel; honor dissidents" by Robert Siegel in MYODB:

I would like to see the President accept the Prize on behalf of three to five human rights activists. He should name them, describe their work and encourage the international press to focus on them as though each one was the Nobel Prize winner. The attention a move like this would bring to these activists could protect them, perhaps save their lives, even bring funds and support to their causes.

How about Chinese dissidents Gao Zhisheng, Hu Jia, and Eastern Congo Pastor Bulambo Lembelembe Josue? Or Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez? How about the three Iranian election protesters given death sentences last week? Iranian authorities only released their initials, MZ, AP, and NA. The Nobel Prize won't save them, but would give world wide attention and meaning to their deaths.