Spain's Groveling $elf-Interest

Saturday, October 31, 2009
During his recent trip to Cuba, Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, purposefully refused to meet with Cuban pro-democracy leaders.

Moratinos made it clear that the focus of his trip was to deal solely with the Cuban dictatorship (and try to secure payment of $300 million owed by the Castro regime to Spanish companies). Upon his return to Spain, he even defiantly stated to the Spanish Parliament that it was "not obligatory to meet with dissidents" when traveling to Cuba.

The Spanish people are fortunate that the international community did not share this same vulgar lack of solidarity with Spanish exiles during the 40-year dictatorship of Generalisimo Francisco Franco.

Adding further insult to injury, Moratinos did, however, find time this week to meet with the wives of two Cuban spies, who have been tried and convicted for espionage activities in the U.S. -- another accommodation for Castro's payment.

And, of course, let's not forget that 80 Spanish companies will be presenting their products at next week's XXVII International Business Fair in Havana, where Castro regime officials (the Cuban people are prohibited from private enterprise activities) roam around and pick the business partners that grovel the most.

As elaborated in the EU Observer, concerns about Spain's upcoming presidency of the EU in 2010 and Moratinos' trajectory run the gamut, from fellow Member-states to the victims of his international affronts.

Cuban dissidents raise alarm over Spanish EU presidency

BRUSSELS - Cuban prisoners of conscience have written an open letter to Spain in protest at its dealings with Cuban authorities in the run-up to the Spanish EU presidency.

The letter, signed by 37 dissidents, 33 of whom remain behind bars, criticized Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos for failing to meet with human rights campaigners while visiting Havana last week.

"The refusal to meet with the opposition, listen to its opinions and become aware of the suffering of political prisoners and their families is a sign of contempt which the minister already showed during his previous visit in 2007," the letter said.

Noting that Spain is to assume the EU's rotating presidency in January 2010, the letter pleaded that "[this] attitude of contempt, with which the Spanish government treats Cuban democrats, should not encompass the entire European Union."

The letter said that around 200 political prisoners are still in jail in the Caribbean dictatorship and that there is no genuine will for reform, despite Havana's decision to release one dissident shortly after the Moratinos trip.

Limited acts of clemency which coincide with visits by friendly governments have in the past been lambasted by NGOs such as People In Need, which see them as public relations stunts designed to help Cuban allies save face.

Mr Moratinos at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (27 October) told press that Spain will conduct a review of EU relations with Cuba under its EU presidency, but that any modifications to the status quo will be based on an EU "consensus," not on Spanish ideas.

The existing EU position on Cuba is "to encourage a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people" - a text that irks the Cuban government, which sees it as interference in its domestic affairs.

The current centre-left Spanish government has in recent years worked to unravel a set of EU sanctions on Cuba imposed after a 2003 crackdown on dissidents known as the "Black Spring."

Spain, a former colonial power in the region, has commercial interests in Cuba in the oil and tourism sectors, with Mr Moratinos last week helping secure the release of around €200 million owed by Cuba to Spanish firms.

Madrid's stance towards Havana also has an ideological aspect, with some left-leaning politicians and commentators in Europe seeing Cuba in romantic terms as a Communist country which stood up to the capitalist might of the US.

Mr Moratinos' personal track record on human rights issues is causing concern among human rights workers as Spain heads towards its EU chairmanship.

The Spanish minister has in the past spoken in praise of hawkish Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and was a strong advocate of dropping EU sanctions against Uzbekistan in his time as head of the OSCE, a Vienna-based pro-democracy body.


Cuban Intelligence Targets Congressmen

Friday, October 30, 2009
A decade ago, Cuban intelligence recruited a U.S. website operator, Robert Kelly, that appeared to be sympathetic to the Castro regime.

Kelly turned out to be a double agent, which would then inform the FBI of his contacts and activities.
 
According to the Nuevo Herald, Cuban intelligence assigned him one main task:
 
To target and discredit -- by all means possible -- U.S. Members of Congress of Cuban descent, particularly South Florida Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

Raul "the Reformer" Emulates Louis XVI

Food riots were the central element of rebellion during the French Revolution that began in 1789.

Louis XVI's royal policy of strict control over the trade and production of grain led to waves of food rioting that essentially politicized the debate over the people's right to subsistence.

Within months, these riots led to end of monarchical rule in France, and within a few years, to Louis XVI's execution by guillotine.

Apparently Castro has not taken notes.

According to the AP:

Cubans fear more control of farmers markets

Public outcry erupts over government's push to cap costs at 'agros'

HAVANA - The habanero peppers, oranges and peanuts cost more at Cuba's free-market "agros" — farmers markets where vendors, not the government, set prices. But food stalls overflow with abundance not seen elsewhere on the shortage-plagued island.

So when the Communist Party served notice that it plans to impose price controls at those agros — ending one of Cuba's few capitalist experiments — angry shoppers fearing yet more shortages turned on state inspectors in an unprecedented public rage.

Police were called to one farmers market this month when customers shouted and chanted at state workers conducting a routine inspection. Two Associated Press reporters were escorted out of the same market Tuesday after their questions about the changes caused another shouting match.

Amb. Susan Rice's Remarks at the U.N.

Thursday, October 29, 2009
Excerpt from the remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, opposing Cuba's U.N. General Assembly resolution on U.S. sanctions:

Mr. President, I must address two significant distortions in the Cuban position. First, my delegation regrets that the delegation from Cuba continues to label inappropriately and incorrectly U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba as an act of genocide. Such an egregious misuse of the term diminishes the real suffering of victims of genocide elsewhere in the world. Second, it is erroneous to charge that U.S. sanctions are the cause of deprivation among the Cuban people. The U.S. maintains no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba. In fact, the U.S. is a major source of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people and the largest provider of food to Cuba.

In 2008, the United States exported agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba. In agricultural products alone, the United States sold $700.1 million of goods to Cuba. Once again, in 2008, the United States was Cuba's fifth largest trading partner.

As we have sought to reach out to the Cuban people, we have called upon the Cuban government to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy political, social, and economic freedoms. There are many things the Government of Cuba could do to signal its willingness to engage constructively with its own people and with the United States. Positive measures could include liberating the hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Cuban jails, ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reducing the excessive charges on remittances flowing into the country, demonstrating greater respect for freedom of speech, ending the practice of arresting political opponents on vague and arbitrary charges such as "social dangerousness," and permitting the visit of UN rapporteurs on human rights and torture.

As other delegations consider this resolution, we do hope that they will not lose sight of the undeniable fact that the Cuban government's airtight restrictions on internationally-recognized social, political, and economic freedoms are the main source of deprivation and the primary obstacle to development in Cuba.

Mr. President, because it does not reflect current realities, my delegation will vote against this resolution. At the same time, the United States will continue to work to expand opportunities for the people of Cuba to empower themselves through access to information and resources. We will continue to engage the Government of Cuba on issues of mutual concern and national security. We await a constructive Cuban response to our initiatives. In the meantime, it is high time for this body to move beyond the rhetorical posturing of the past, to recognize the situation in Cuba for what it is today, and to encourage progress towards genuine change.

The U.N. Never Disappoints

Yesterday, the United Nation's General Assembly voted 187-3 on a nonbinding resolution opposing U.S. sanctions towards Cuba.

As advocates of current U.S. policy towards Cuba -- which conditions the lifting of sanctions to the Castro regime's respect for the fundamental human, political, civil, economic and social rights of the Cuban people -- we were frankly relieved by the U.N.'s rejection.

That's right, you read it correctly.

First of all, it's important to remember that the U.S. provides more humanitarian aid to the Cuban people than all 187 of the "opposing" countries put together -- a fact the U.N. conveniently disregards. Therefore, it's unclear with what moral authority these countries dare judge U.S. policy.

But more importantly, it would have been terribly embarrassing -- not to mention discrediting -- for the same General Assembly that recently put on this "circus" to have actually endorsed U.S. policy:

At UN, North Korea Brags, Kouchner Baffled by Burma, Zelaya by BlackBerry

UNITED NATIONS, (Inner City Press) -- The UN's General Debate grew even more surreal on Monday. North Korea said its people are happy and have nothing to envy. The ousted president of Honduras Mel Zelaya spoke to the General Assembly through his foreign minister's BlackBerry, pushed up against the microphone.

Meanwhile, the representative of the coup leader of Guinea spoke unmolested, even as more than 70 protesters of the coup were shot dead in Conakry. Few commented on this, even as a throng of Guinean shouted outside the UN that the dictatorship should not be allowed to speak. When all you have is bauxite, oppression draws little notice.

Myanmar, on the other hand, now has natural gas. This explains the sudden ease of pressure, Hillary Clinton's announcement that the U.S. will "engage" with the junta. Inner City Press is told that at the beginning of last week's meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, France's Bernard Kouchner said, we don't know what to do. Apparently the view of the oil company Total now rules.

About North Korea, the head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, pursued into the hallway after his briefing by reporters for Japanese media as well as Inner City Press, acknowledged that while Japan had raised with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon the issue of the abductees in North Korea, Ban never raised it with North Korea when he met them.

Meanwhile Angola spoke of its basketball team's wins, Timor-Leste spoke pro-Cuba. Namibia spoke pro Western Sahara, as Hugo Chavez has, while Guinea's junta favored Morocco. And Malaysia denounced those who in the run up to the Copenhagen climate change meeting are seeking to "Steal the Deal."

Phew!

Chavez Seeks Midas Touch (For Himself)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
According to the AP:

U.S. mining company Gold Reserve Inc. said Tuesday that President Hugo Chavez's government has seized control of its lucrative Venezuelan gold mine as socialist authorities assert control over the nation's mineral resources.

Ironically, it was also reported today that Chavez's personal extravagances -- by means of his Presidential budget -- have risen 600 percent from last year. The Venezuelan National Assembly approved a $2.2 billion dollar budget for Chavez's exquisite taste, compared to $350 million last year.

Sadly, this takes place as Chavez condemns the Venezuelan people to greater austerity measures, such as taking 3-minute "communist showers" in order to save water.

Gold for Chavez, "communist showers" for the people.

Environmental (or Ideological) Defense Fund?

The Environmental Defense Fund ("EDF") is an advocacy organization that vehemently opposes oil drilling, whether in mainland areas such as Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or off-shore in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. coastal zones.

Therefore, it was shocking to read the following press release:

Environmental Defense Fund will send a team of experts to Havana, Cuba, on Sunday to discuss ways to eliminate overfishing, protect coral reefs, conserve coastal areas, and tap potential ocean energy - a signal that greater environmental cooperation may be on the horizon.

"...and tap potential ocean energy"?

Their website further elaborates:

Environmental Defense Fund has been in Cuba since 2000, working with our Cuban partners on scientific research and strategies for protecting coastal and marine resources. Our experts are working with Cuban scientists on research to ensure that if Cuba taps offshore oil and gas reserves, it is done right — in an environmentally sustainable way.

"...if Cuba taps oil and gas reserves"?

In other words, the same organization that absolutely opposes offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, or off any U.S. coast, is now looking to work with the Castro regime in order to ensure that they drill "in an environmentally sustainable way."

It's fascinating how the EDF is willing to provide such leeway to the Castro regime, whose environmental record includes grazing half of the island's eco-system for overambitious sugar cane harvests and polluting Havana's skyline with sulfuric acids, while being absolutist in their opposition to drilling in the U.S.

Fortunately, Castro's offshore drilling campaign is more hype than reality. Yet regardless, the EDF should be denouncing the Cuban regime for even considering such an environmental affront.

And if that doesn't work, they should mobilize Greenpeace vessels to protest.

But that's just wishful thinking.

Another Classic U.N. Hypocrisy

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
U.N. Discrimination Investigator Focuses on Canada, Ignores Cuba, China, Sudan, Iran

News: Ms. Gay McDougall, the U.N.'s chief monitor of discrimination against minority groups, and a leading defender of the 2001 Durban conference, just wrapped up a 10-day investigation of Canada by accusing it of failures and "significant and persistent problems." She has never investigated any of the countries listed by Freedom House as the world's worst abusers: not China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Burma, Chinese-ruled Tibet, South Ossetia in Georgia, Chechnya in Russia, or Zimbabwe.

Analysis: While it's perfectly legitimate to hold free societies accountable, the reality is that immigrants of every color and creed rightly seek out Canada as a haven of tolerance, equality and opportunity. UN Watch launched a protest against this U.N. official's skewed set of priorities: picking on the most tolerant countries like Canada -- possibly as U.N. payback for Ottawa being the first of 10 Western governments to pull out of the world body's ill-fated Durban II conference -- while she consistently turns a blind eye to the world's worst abusers. Our action sparked more than a dozen news articles, columns, and editorials across Canada that cited UN Watch's protest -- including in the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, and Calgary Herald. The National Post's editorial is a powerful piece worth reading -- please see below:

In a related development, the U.N. human rights office is also investigating the United States as a country of singular concern. The "special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing" has decided to conduct her next investigation in the U.S., particularly in New York City. Writing in the Opinio Juris blog, Professor Julian Ku of Hofstra Law School notes that the U.N. monitor "is going to spend her time on a country which is unlikely to be in the top ten places with lack of adequate housing, and which in any event, is not a party to any of the treaties which form her mandate." But the anti-Western voting blocs that control the U.N. Human Rights Council -- and appoint its experts -- will no doubt be very pleased.

Courtesy of U.N. Watch.

The Office of (Anti) Computerization?

Yesterday, Cuba's Office of Computerization held a press conference -- in totalitarian dictatorships there needs to be an "office" to control everything -- where regime officials dismissed the Obama Administration's offer to establish telecommunications links with the island, including fiber optic cables.

The officials cited the same predictable excuses about sovereignty, independence and national security for this rejection.

It's fascinating how the Castro regime never seemed to care about independence and sovereignty during three decades of Soviet control over Cuba (even claiming allegiance to the Soviet Union in Castro's 1976 Constitution), or currently with Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, which will be setting up a fiber optic cable network with Cuba next year (so they can help each other censure information).

But anyway.

During the press conference, Carlos del Porto, a specialist with Castro's Office of Computerization, stressed that the political component of this type of decision can't be separated from the technical, and questioned who would administrate and have access to the information that would flow from a fiber optic connection with the U.S.

Well, here's a novel concept:

How about allowing the Cuban people to decide what they want to access on the Internet? Even better, how about allowing the Cuban people to freely access the Internet, period.

Then, Mr. del Porto added:

"Sometimes the economy, in the case of Cuba, doesn't motivate our decisions."

Explain this to the Cuban people, whom have been relegated to fifth class citizens, subjected to a dual currency and a national apartheid for the sake of satisfying the every whim of foreign tourists with hard currency.

Actually, on second thought, he does have a point on this one -- for it's only the obsession with absolute power and control that motivates every decision of the Castro regime.

Religious Freedom Report Released

Monday, October 26, 2009
Today, the U.S. Department of State released its 2009 International Religious Freedom Report.
 
Here is a summary of its Cuba section:
 
The [Cuban] Government continued to exert control over all aspects of social life, including religious expression. The Government harassed some members of religious organizations that were not officially recognized. Although government harassment of religious organizations continued during the reporting period, reports of harassment declined slightly. Various religious groups reported fewer restrictions on politically sensitive expression, the ability to hold religious activities even for organizations without official recognition, increased capacity to conduct charitable and community service projects, fewer import and travel restrictions, permission to repair buildings, and significant increases in membership. The Government continued to maintain strict controls on the construction of new buildings for religious purposes, and permission was difficult to obtain. Religious groups complained about widespread surveillance and infiltration of their membership by state security agents.

Deaths (Murder) in Castro's Prisons

More information for the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture, both of which are denied access to Cuba's prisons by the Castro regime.
 
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, (María Antonia Hidalgo Mir, Cubanet) – Prisoner of conscience Alfredo Domínguez Batista says he has managed to put together from his prison cell statistics on prisoners in Las Tunas province.

Domínguez Batista said 50 prisoners have attempted suicide during the past five years and that 20 have been killed in fights in prison. He said 10 deaths were caused by guards who attributed them to ailments.

"I can't imagine what has happened in the country over the past 50 years," said Domínguez Batista, who was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in 2003.
 
Alfredo Domínguez Batista is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.  He was arrested during the 2003 Black Spring crackdown on dissent and sentenced to 14 years in jail. 

Bobby Rush to the Rescue

Last week, the Miami Herald exposed the Castro regime's scheme to purposefully mislead U.S. intelligence in the days pursuant to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 -- through Cuban agents of disinformation approaching more than 20 U.S. Embassies across the world -- in an effort to thwart U.S. law enforcement and potentially endanger the lives of U.S. personnel.

Within days of this story, various Members of Congress began circulating a Dear Colleague with a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocating for Cuba's removal from the State Department's list of state-sponsors of terrorism -- only Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba remain on this list.

The leader of this petition?

U.S. Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois.
Yes, the same Congressman Rush who returned from a trip to Cuba in April of this year and emotionally declared that dictator Fidel Castro is a "hero" in his home.

Current co-signers of this letter also include U.S. Reps. Yvette Clark of New York, Donald Payne of New Jersey, Barbara Lee of California, James McGovern of Massachusetts, James Moran of Virginia, Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

Not surprisingly, all of these Members are strong advocates of unconditionally normalizing relations with the Castro regime, and most of them are also regular guests of the regime in Cuba.

Here's the introduction of the Dear Colleague they are circulating within Congress:

"I invite you to co-sign a letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton in support of removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. In light of new leadership in Washington and Havana, calls throughout the country and world to re-examine our policy towards Cuba, and the upcoming UN General Assembly vote on the embargo, it is time to objectively examine Cuba's inclusion on this list . Such an assessment will bring you to the conclusion that Cuba no longer belongs on the list, and that the island's designation in recent years has been arbitrary and politically motivated. "

Perhaps it's just a coincidence.

The Cuban People's View of Havana

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Welcome to Castro's 545 Prisons

Castro's Cuba is the only country in this hemisphere that doesn't allow the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to visit its prisons.

Furthermore, just last week, the Castro regime postponed (yet again) a visit to the island by the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Therefore, it's timely and essential to expose the name, location and contact information for each one of the island's 545 prison facilities.

Actually, just the mere fact that the Castro regime has 545 prison facilities in a country with a population of 11.5 million people should raise red flags. In comparison, Greece, with a similar population of 11 million people, has just over 31 prison facilities.

You can see the complete list here.

So what are the chances the U.N.'s General Assembly will address this issue?

Wishful thinking.