Argument of the Week

Saturday, November 28, 2009
"As Congress debates the travel ban, the politicians should ask why cultural exchanges that allow Cuban artists like Chucho Valdes and Omara Portuondo to attend the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas would deny [Willy] Chirino, Gloria [Estefan], et al, in Havana.

Because what we have is a one-way policy.

The Cuban regime gets to pick and choose who can travel to Cuba while we offer a virtual open door to their government-approved artists.

Does no one see the contradiction?"

- Myriam Marquez, "Cultural Exchange a One-Way Policy," The Miami Herald, November 23, 2009

Cuban VP's Son Arrested for Protest

Juan Juan (JJ) Almeida, son of the recently deceased Cuban Vice-President and one of the original Comandantes of the Castro Revolution, Juan Almeida, was arrested this morning by the regime's state security.

At the time of his arrest, he had been protesting on the street with a poster calling for democratic change and the resignation of Raul Castro.

Almeida is being held at the nefarious state security prison of Villa Marista.

The Prospects of Tyrant Rehabilitation

This week, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez jubilantly received Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Caracas.

During the opening ceremony of the visit, Chavez announced that he'd just returned from Cuba, and that,

"Fidel told me: 'Tell Ahmadinejad that going to Venezuela is like coming to Cuba, because they're one and the same country."

For years, critics of U.S. policy towards Cuba have argued that it is too confrontational and provides the Castro regime with a scape-goat for its policy failures and repression.

Of course, these critics always overlook the qualifier that -- for this argument to be true -- the Cuban people have to believe the Castro regime's lies in the first place. Frankly, we believe the Cuban people are much too intelligent and pragmatic for that.

Nonetheless, for the sake of discussion, let's say it were true.

For the last five years, the U.S. has had a policy of "ignoring" and "engaging" Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, as opposed to "confronting" him.

During the second term of the Bush Administration, U.S. policy towards Venezuela -- under the diplomatic guidance of Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon -- was to ignore any provocations by Chavez and engage him on issues of common interest, such as energy and narcotics trafficking.

This strategy has continued through the first year of the Obama Administration.

The result?

Chavez has dismantled Venezuela's democratic institutions and civil society, while becoming a major transit point for narcotics trafficking. All right under our noses.

And just for kicks, Chavez is prospecting for uranium reserves in Venezuela with help of Iranian specialists (despite the international condemnation of Iran for secretly enriching uranium).

Ever met a tyrant rehabilitated through engagement?

Not likely.

Cuba Supports Iran in IAEA

Friday, November 27, 2009
(JTA) - The United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency voted to censure Iran for building a nuclear enrichment facility in secret and demanded it freeze its nuclear enrichment program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors' resolution, which passed 25-3 with six abstentions, was significant because it was backed by all six major world powers, including Russia and China. Both of those countries have been reluctant to go along with Western efforts to sanction Iran for its nuclear program, although it is still unclear if Friday's vote signaled that Russia and China would support further punitive measures.

The only three nations to vote against the resolution were Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia.

Does Castro Think Obama is a Liar?

Three months ago, Cuba's Generation Y blogger, Yoani Sanchez, submitted the following question to U.S. President Barack Obama:

Has the U.S. Government renounced the use of military force as way to end any dispute between the U.S. and Cuba?

Last week, President Obama answered:

The United States has no intention of using military force in Cuba. The United States supports increased respect for human rights and for political and economic freedoms in Cuba, and hopes that the Cuban government will respond to the desire of the Cuban people to enjoy the benefits of democracy and be able to freely determine Cuba's future. Only the Cuban people can bring about positive change in Cuba and it is our hope that they will soon be able to exercise their full potential.

Yesterday, the Castro regime also responded:

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's armed forces launched three days of intense military exercises across the island Thursday, a mobilization that state-controlled media says is designed to guard against an American invasion.

Conclusion: Either Castro thinks Obama is a liar or he's terrified of the Cuban people's desire for freedom.

The First Presidential Proclamation

Thursday, November 26, 2009
Reflections on Thanksgiving through Washington's words

By Art Veneris

This Thanks-giving Day, please take a moment and read what is written below. My words fall short describing this wonderful holiday, celebrating God and his bounty. We are awash with His blessings. This fact was not lost on our first President, George Washington.

On Oct. 3, 1789, Washington signed the first official presidential proclamation of this great nation. Washington's proclamation did not smack of government control of Americans; rather, it celebrated the blessings given to us by Almighty God.

This Thanksgiving, let us reflect as a community on Washington's words. Let us receive God's blessings and understand this nation was founded by those who realized our rights as humans, as Americans, flow from God, not from government. Let us take this day also as a day of peace and prayer as requested by our first president. May we please understand many people in this world are living under freedom stifling regimes such as Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela and Cuba just to name a few. These individuals have no right to worship as they wish, and are crushed literally and figuratively when attempts to regain their rights are forcefully refused by these leftist dictators.

Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation:

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

Art Veneris is production manager of the Brownwood Bulletin.

Much To Be Thankful For

Cuba's current reality is one of sadness, violence and injustice.

As such, every day we denounce the brutality of the Castro regime and its assault on the human rights and dignity of the Cuban people.

Yet the future of Cuba is filled with great hope.

It's embodied in a new generation of pro-democracy leaders, such as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," Dr. Darsi Ferrer, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, Ariel Sigler Amaya, Claudia Cadelo, Ciro Diaz, Yoani Sanchez and many more.

On this day, we dedicate our thanks and prayers to their courage and resilience.

Inevitably, all of their dreams and aspirations -- which we share -- will come through.

As Yoani recently noted about Fidel and his geriatric dictatorship:

"As they prepare for what will undoubtedly be the most spectacular funeral in the history of Cuba, or what some call "the biological solution", the mournful saga that floods the television programming seems like a dress rehearsal. The noise of the ceremonial cannons doesn't allow them to hear the new generation knocking at the door, coming like a whirlwind to dismantle everything. Sweeping away—in passing—the odor of dried-up flowers we sense all around us."

Happy Thanksgiving.

EU Commissioner Should Resign

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
According to CNN:

A European Union commissioner Monday told Christiane Amanpour that Europe's policy toward Cuba in the future will place less emphasis on human rights in the island nation than now.

The EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Karel De Gucht, who is just back from a visit to Havana, Cuba, told Amanpour, "We have relations with a lot of oppressive regimes and we have a special regime for Cuba. It makes no sense singularizing them."

This statement by Commissioner De Gucht stands in gross dereliction of the 2005 European Consensus on Development.

The 2005 Consensus identifies shared values, goals, principles and commitments for the European Commission and EU Member States to implement in its development policies.

Prominently amongst these is:

"Development based on Europe's democratic values - respect for human rights, democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, good governance, gender equality, solidarity, social justice and effective multilateral action, particularly through the UN."

Furthermore, Commissioner De Gucht should consider reading Development as Freedom by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, who was praised by the Nobel Prize Committee for bringing an "ethical dimension" to the field of international development. In the book, Sen argues that political liberties are necessary for sustainable development.

Otherwise, Commissioner De Gucht should resign -- or be formally reprimanded -- for his derelict and unethical statement.

As it stands, Commissioner De Gucht's statement is a drawback to the worst of European colonial insensitivity.

A Failed Policy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Last weekend, the Boston Globe ran an excellent article on the U.S.'s failed policy of trade and tourism towards China's dictatorship.

It's entitled, "Nonstop Party, The Surprising Persistence of Chinese Communism."

Here's an excerpt:

For at least two decades, most American leaders - and many American China-watchers - have been waiting for the party to fail. At least since the Tiananmen protests of 1989, the US foreign policy establishment has assumed that China's Communist Party would eventually bow, making way for Chinese democracy. After all, in 1989 virtually every other communist regime collapsed, and in the following years democracy spread across Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and East Asia, including neighbors of China such as Thailand and South Korea. "Color Revolutions" swept through countries as diverse as Georgia and Lebanon. Even nations far poorer than China, like Malawi and Bangladesh, held successful multi-party elections.

Other authoritarian regimes now try to copy the Chinese "formula" for staying in power: just enough reform to co-opt the middle class, using nationalism to shore up the regime, and moderating (and monitoring) the flow of information into the country. Most successfully, Vietnam, which for years sent officials to China to study the Communist Party's strategy, has followed the CCP's policies like a textbook. Other countries, from Cuba to Syria to Kyrgyzstan, also have sent senior officials to China to study the party's methods. Other authoritarian regimes seem almost awed by China's success. Indeed, in some countries, like Syria, officials tout the idea of importing a "China model" without seeming capable of even defining what China has done, other than pairing some economic liberalization with virtually no political liberalization.

Please note that the Castro regime is studying the Chinese model for its long-term survival -- not vice-versa.

This proves that the Castro regime feels its existence is at greater risk with U.S. travel and trade sanctions, than China's regime does without any sanctions.

Therefore, let's make sure that the Cuban dictatorship doesn't survive past Castro through a failed policy of increased travel and trade.

Regardless, profit should never be a substitute for basic human rights and dignity.

P.S. We also highly recommend the following book:

A Bittersweet Reality

Monday, November 23, 2009
During last week's Cuba policy hearing in the U.S. House of Representative's Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Howard Berman of California stated:

"I understand the concern that allowing Americans to travel to Cuba would put money in the hands of the Castros. But the reality is that a significant portion of these funds would also aid the underground economy and the small self-employed sector, strengthening an important foundation of independence from Cuba's authoritarian regime."

Is this the "underground economy and small self-employed sector" that Chairman Berman is talking about?

Making candy leads to charges against human rights advocate

HAVANA, (Juan C. González Leiva, Cubanet) – Human rights advocate Edey Sánchez says he was arrested by national police agents following a five-hour search of his home that turned up an oven, a mixer and trays for making candy.

Sánchez, who lives in Cumanayagua in the province of Cienfuegos, was held by police for seven days and charged with illicit economic activity. The stove, mixer and trays were confiscated.

He was released pending trial after posting a 500,000 bond.

Profit$ in Anti-Sanctions Advocacy?

Are anti-sanctions lobbyists, activists and interest groups profiting from their advocacy?

Last week, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and U.S. Congressman Howard Berman of California wrote an opinion editorial in the Miami Herald calling for the unconditional lifting of tourism-travel sanctions towards Castro's Cuba.

On the very same day, the price of the Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund (CUBA) jumped 4%. This fund holds about 100 companies -- both foreign and U.S. based -- that should benefit economically (in conjunction with the Castro regime) from the lifting of tourism-travel sanctions.

Coincidence?

Perhaps.

Regardless -- for the sake of transparency -- we call on Public Campaign to conduct an investigation into the fund's investors and issue a report on any potential profiting by lobbyists, activists and interest groups that oppose sanctions.

Canadians With a Conscience

Sunday, November 22, 2009
From the Editorial Board of Canada's National Post:

Don't go to Cuba

As the weather turns against us and holidays approach, many Canadians will eagerly begin to plan their winter escapes to hotter climes. Each year, hundreds of thousands of us travel to the island of Cuba, to enjoy the sun, surf and hospitality for which the island is justly famous.

But the island is infamous, too. While tourists rarely bother to venture far beyond their comfortable resorts, if they would, they would see a nation where the worst excesses of authoritarianism remain as entrenched as ever. This point is well made by the recent Human Right's Watch (HRW) report, New Castro, Same Cuba, that lays bare the state of freedom in Cuba, under the new leadership of the slightly younger Castro brother, Raul.

In Raul's Cuba, as in Fidel's, dissent remains punishable by indefinite imprisonment, unemployment is considered antisocial and the government can lock away anyone a summary trial finds guilty of "dangerousness," a legal catch-all.

Once incarcerated, political prisoners are denied medical care, family visits and legal aid. Solitary confinement is a common and seemingly arbitrary form of discipline.

We have criticized HRW's biased, anti-Israel reporting in the past, and will continue to do so. But in this report, it has produced exemplary work. Cuba's eagerness to welcome Westerners is limited only to tourists, and the HRW's research was conducted clandestinely, as international rights organizations are not welcome there. While they did their best to protect the anonymity of their sources, changing names, dates and locations, they concede that their efforts were not entirely successful, and some of the Cubans who co-operated by providing first-hand accounts and documents have been punished by the Castro regime.

While many in the West hoped that Raul would move Cuba away from the worst excesses of his brother and into a new era of freedom, as this report makes clear, for Cuba's jailers and torturers, it's business as usual.

Canadians should not be subsidizing this tyranny -- directly or indirectly. If you want sun, try Miami, the Dominican Republic or St. Lucia. Don't go to Cuba.

Message to Yoani Sanchez

You are undoubtedly a heroine, not to mention the future of Cuba.

Regardless of any disagreement that we may have regarding U.S. policy towards Cuba, we certainly respect your right to voice that disagreement, as we're confident you respect our right to disagree.

That is the diversity of our views (and the roots of a future democracy).

Yet, any disagreement is minimal within the context of our fundamental agreement that the human rights of the Cuban people must be respected; that an end to the Castro regime's brutal dictatorship is imminent; and that a process of democratic change must take place.

That is the unity of our purpose.

Such diversity of views, in furtherance of this united purpose, make our Cuban family stronger.

So within our family, please indulge us with the following recommendation:

When you were abducted and assaulted by the Castro regime's thugs on November 6th, not one of the current 178 Members of Congress that have co-sponsored legislation to unconditionally lift tourism sanctions towards Cuba -- nor its advocates -- raised their voice in concern or condemnation.

Similarly, Friday's physical attack by the regime's thugs against your husband, Reinaldo, did not seem to disturb the conscience of those Members of Congress, nor their advocates. It was, once again, met with disturbing silence.

Yet, the same people that urged you to weigh-in on behalf of their views during last week's Congressional hearing on US policy towards Cuba, have left no stone unturned, exerting all of their energy and efforts, to exploit your views for their political gain.

Simply put, they seek to take advantage of our family's diversity, in the hopes of hindering our united purpose.

Therefore, we respectfully ask:

Make sure to hold them accountable for their silence.

In the meantime, we will continue working hard to do so.