Quote of the Week

Saturday, April 17, 2010
"No one can stop us. They can kill us, they can arrest us, but we will continue with this peaceful struggle at all costs."

-- Berta Soler, spokeswoman for "The Ladies in White" and wife of Cuban political prisoner Angel Moya, on the Castro regime's threats not to march this Sunday, Reuters, April 16, 2010

The Pigeon Express

Pursuant to the BBC news item below, it's only a matter of time before the Castro regime announces the use of pigeons as its innovative solution for Cuba's slow and restrictive internet connectivity.

Surely, this decision will be praised by foreign news bureaus in Havana, and Cuba analysts in the U.S., as further evidence of Raul Castro's commitment to "reform."

Of course, the biggest obstacle for the regime will be the need to ideologically screen the pigeons.

And the biggest consequence for the Cuban people will be an increase in prison terms for anyone that kills a pigeon for food, for there's already a serious shortage on the island.

Just a little weekend humor, of course. Or, so we hope.

According to the BBC:

Pigeon 'faster than broadband'

Winston the pigeon carries a 4GB memory stick across country

Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery - but in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon.

A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom. Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data. Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm's slow internet speeds.

The idea for the race came when a member of staff at Unlimited IT complained about the speed of data transmission on ADSL. He said it would be faster by carrier pigeon. "We renown ourselves on being innovative, so we decided to test that statement," Unlimited's Kevin Rolfe told the Beeld newspaper.

Per Gli Altoparlanti Italiani

Friday, April 16, 2010
And if you don't speak Italian, this is a great clip anyway:

Please Read This Testimony of Torture

Please read this gripping testimony of the torture endured by Cuban political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, which led to his 85-day hunger strike and tragic death.

It was given on March 1st, 2010 by another Cuban political prisoner, Efrén Fernández Fernández, recorded by phone and transcribed by Tania Maceda Guerra, of the Cuban Human Rights Council.

Fernández is being held in the maximum security prison of Guanajay.

It reads:

They tortured him, but he didn't surrender: Testimony about Orlando Zapata Tamayo

I was brought here in May, 2004. I remember the stories that common prisoners told me when I arrived about the beatings to Orlando Zapata Tamayo perpetrated by the authorities in the penitentiary.

Every day I could see from my window the window of his cell, which is 30 meters away from the place where I am still kept captive. We used to speak to each other through shouts and we even exchanged correspondence with the help of common prisoners who were able to avoid the close vigilance from the prison guards. This is how Zapata himself told me, in very detailed account, what "the commons" had already told me: "when I was brought to this prison in 2003, I was placed in bunker #6, where First Lieutenant Emilio Guilarte Ramírez and Sub-Officer Leonel Torres Reñí beat me savagely, causing me heavy bruising."

And that was just the beginning of the long story of abuses against Zapata. Many times I saw his jailers take him out handcuffed and shirtless, throw him on the floor, and drag him by his feet on all 200 meters of rough concrete to the military area. This inhumane trip passed even through a graveled basketball court that would break his skin.

By the end of 2003, during a requisition, the prison guards chained Zapata, and threw him on the floor so that First Lieutenant Quintana could give him a huge kick to the head. Right after that, a swarm of guards fell on him beating with all their hatred and sadism. Around that same time, several guards handcuffed him again, and the prison warden, Lieutenant Colonel Wilfredo Velásquez Domínguez, punched him in the mouth and made him bleed while his subordinates savagely clubbed Zapata.

Our late brother was the victim of many assaults and beatings in this Prison of Guanajay. They were so widespread that even female Captain Delia, Chief Comptroller, slapped him. He was also assaulted by officer Felito, and sub-officers Alejandro, Orestes, Pileta y Reinier, among many others.

During one of the darkest nights in the Taco-Taco prison in 2006, they tortured Zapata in the punishment cell for shouting slogans and conducting a hunger strike against the mistreatment, the horrible sanitary conditions and for the respect of the prisoners' rights. They applied the torture technique known as "la sillita", the little chair. After beating him, they shackled his feet, pushed his arms behind his back and cuffed him, and then used another pair of cuffs to link both the handcuffs and the shackle. With his body arched in that extreme position, they left him lying on the floor for several days. He, however, did not surrender, and continued shouting: "Down with Fidel! Down with the dictatorship! Long live our human rights!"

The swarm of mosquitoes and bugs, and the rats made his torture even worse, so bad that common inmates Ramón Acosta Moreno, Michel Jáuregui Pérez, Enrique González Silva, Michel Rodríguez Roldán y Jesús, aka Monín, who inhabited the surrounding punishment cells, asked the military personnel to stop it. Major Orlando, penal comptroller, promised them that he would take their request to the provincial level since, as he stated, the order to punish Zapata had come from his superiors.

Hours passed, and Major Orlando did not come back, so the inmates started shouting and making noises by beating empty plastic containers against the floor, forcing the guards to return. The prisoners threatened with joining Zapata's hunger strike. For this reason, the guards took Zapata's cuffs off, but that night, while everyone else slept, they surrounded his cell with guard dogs while an entire platoon of guards gave him another beating.

Nevertheless, the Cuban government was never able to silence the human rights defender, Orlando Zapata Tamayo who never faltered in his peaceful struggle for the freedom of Cuba. Even today, within this blood spattered walls, his strong voice echoes and seems to rise every day against the regime's abuses and to defend the right of common inmates to be treated as human beings.

Efrén Fernández Fernández, 47, is a member of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación ("Cristian Liberation Movement"). He was condemned to 12 years of imprisonment during Cuba's Black Spring in 2003. Via www.PayoLibre.com.

Obama Sees Pictures of "Ladies in White"

Thursday, April 15, 2010
During his trip to Miami this afternoon, U.S. President Barack Obama saw the graphic pictures of brutal repression against the Ladies in White.

If you haven't seen any of those pictures, please visit our "Faces of Repression" web-feature (side toolbar).

Below is President Obama at the home of Cuban-American artists Gloria and Emilio Estefan:

DHL Violates "Code of Conduct"

An important article by Antonio Rumbos in United Liberty blog:

Colluding with Castro

In the wake of Google's recent decision to stop colluding with the Chinese government in censoring online content, I feel obliged to point a finger in the direction of a certain global corporation whose behavior should be stirring more journalists to labor.

Americans routinely and casually use express mail companies like DHL to send and receive parcels from around the world, but Cubans like Yoani Sánchez must subject themselves to theft and humiliation when attempting to use its services.

In a March 26 post in Generación Y (click here for the English version), Sánchez recounts her failure to collect ten copies of her new book, Cuba Libre, from the DHL branch in Havana. The copies had been mailed to her by her publisher following Sánchez' previous failure to secure permission from the island's dictatorship in order to travel to Chile and present her book in person –– like anyone living outside of Cuba and within the Western Hemisphere would be able to.

According to the craven employee from the DHL branch in Havana with whom Sánchez spoke, her package had been "confiscated." "When headlines around the world are announcing the end of the Google's collusion with Chinese censorship," Sánchez writes in her brief entry, "foreign companies located in Cuba"––like DHL–– "continue to obey ideological filters imposed by the government."

On April 7th, the Cuban customs department sent Sánchez a hand-written notification, informing her that her package of books "threatened the general interests of the nation" and had been "confiscated" –– echoing the DHL employee's term –– for this reason. DHL is not only failing to meet a standard of common human decency by behaving in this manner, it is also failing to meet its own publicly stated ethical standards.

In the "Code of Conduct" section of their website, DHL informs its potential customers that it has "devised a code of conduct that has applied to all regions and divisions since the middle of 2006." [Italics mine.] Such a code, we are told, serves as an "ethical compass" for roughly "500,000 employees in their business lives everyday." Among the "key pillars of this code of conduct" the company includes such qualities as "tolerance, honesty, and candor as well as willingness to assume social responsibility."

The website also cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Global Compact, and International Labor Organization conventions as forming the international basis of the company's "code of conduct." The section ends with the following affirmation: "Fundamental principles are observance of human rights, equal opportunity, transparency, and clear stands in the battle against discrimination, bribery and corruption." Such drivel makes one laugh, since the only code of conduct this corporation is following appears to be economic expediency.

DHL has apparently acquiesced to the Cuban government's totalitarian demands in return for continued access to a market. Rather than observe human rights, DHL is facilitating their continued violation in the case of at least one––and one very important­­––Cuban dissident.

The Communist regime's hatred of dissidents, particularly the insightful and independent-minded Sánchez, is nothing new. Fidel Castro's personal abhorrence of the liberal understanding of justice Sánchez embodies has always been evident. In the prologue to the 2008 Cuban edition of the book Fidel, Bolivia y algo más…, (a sympathetic take on Castro's visit to Bolivia in 1993) Castro describes Sánchez as being among those "young Cubans" who are "especially sent to carry out the secret work of the neocolonial press" at the behest of a "former Spanish metropolis that rewards them."

The metropolis Castro referred to was Madrid, where Sánchez had been invited in 2008 by El País in order to accept one of the prestigious Ortega y Gasset Journalism Awards. On that occasion, as in several others, Sánchez was denied permission to travel by the government. Today, the local branch of a global corporation allows itself to become the handmaiden of Cuban tyranny by stealing Sánchez' property upon its arrival from Spain.

Does the DHL branch in Havana collude with the Cuban government in this manner as a matter of policy, or is Sánchez' experience a "privilege" reserved for prominent dissidents like herself? Journalists and Latin America specialists would render a valuable service to Cuban civil society by helping to uncover the degree to which this allegedly reputable corporation is collaborating with the only police state in the Western Hemisphere.

CSI Havana

The plot:

A Chilean businessman partners up with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, with whom he has a personal friendship, in order to monopolize (and make millions in) food importation and distribution.

The company, Rio Zaza Foods, is established in Havana. Suddenly, the Castro regime doesn't feel that it's getting enough of the profits, so it begins a criminal witch-hunt aimed at its Chilean partner.

Consequently, the company's manager, Roberto Baudrand, is interrogated extensively by Cuban State Security and is prohibited from leaving the island.

The conclusion:

Baudrand is found dead Tuesday morning in his Havana apartment.

Unfortunately, this is not fiction.

Conducting business with the Castro regime's totalitarian monopoly is a risky ordeal.

Let's Talk Serious Economics

Yesterday, we were a bit crass in addressing the Castro regime's new "reform" dealing with hair salons and barber shops.

Therefore, we felt it would be much more prudent to analyze what this strange choice of "reform" tells us about the Castro regime's intentions and, given these, whether this "reform" will be successful. But in order to do so, it's first important to layout a "toy model" of the players in the Cuban economy, namely the owners, managers, consumer and workers.

The Toy Model

The Castro regime is the owner of all businesses in Cuba. Let's call this conglomerate, Cuba, Inc. As shareholders of Cuba, Inc., the nomenklatura receives and disposes of all the profits of Cuba, Inc.

Like most business owners, the nomenklatura delegates management to a business elite, the managers. As most Cubans know, these managers are siphoning off huge amounts of resources for their own use. This is what economists refer to as a principal-agent problem, a situation where owners (the principals) delegate on the managers (the agents) to maximize their profits, but the latter exploit their information advantage with regards to the day-to-day operation of the firm to maximize their own benefit at the expense of the owner's profits. This happens not only at the level of business (e.g. Cubana de Aviación), but also of public services (e.g. the scandal of Mazorra).

Meanwhile, the Cuban people receive compensation in the form of salaries and social services, albeit of varying quality and availability. However, because Cuba, Inc. is the sole employer in the island, it has market power similar to a monopolist (the technical term, when applied to an employer is a monopsonist). In practice, this means it can push compensation below what would have been the case under a system of free competition between numerous independent Cuban businesses. The situation is analogous to remote mining areas where there is a single mine owner, a surplus of workers due to a gold rush, and a sole supplier of goods -- the mine owner. The outcome is well known: the owner offers a pittance for pay and then charges exorbitant prices for basic goods and services. In Cuba, this is instrumented via the dual currency system, where workers are paid some US$0.5 a day in local currency and charged for most goods in a prohibitively expensive convertible currency ("CUC").

What is the Point of this "Reform"?

In very general terms, long-term growth, per capita, in a small economy like Cuba can happen in two ways: (1) Increased technical efficiency allowing for more output to be produced for given labor and capital inputs, and/or (2) climbing up the value chain by producing higher valued output for given capital and labor. Both require technical innovation and entrepreneurship, but the latter is often also associated with free entry and exit into an industry. That is, to go from producing generic footwear as a contractor for international companies, to becoming the next Puma brand, one must allow local entrepreneurs to experiment and set up shop with new products.

That is not what the Castro regime's "reform" is about. Long term innovation is impossible so long as Cuba, Inc. remains the only legal business entity in the country. In this scenario, any climbing up the value chain must come from within Cuba, Inc. which, like most monopolists, faces little incentives to do so. Instead of seeking the next great product, Cuba, Inc. seeks ways to squeeze the most monopoly and monopsony profits from its captive market. This is done by driving down compensation, jacking up prices and diverting as much as possible to the export market, where prices are highest. Clearly, this is antithetical to a free and prosperous Cuba for all Cubans.

A monopolist, however, would also like to jack up technical efficiency so that it costs less and less to produce a given output, thereby increasing profits. But here the principal-agent problem bites hard. In a huge privately held conglomerate like Cuba, Inc., with no external controls, audited accounts and limited competition, the opportunities for agents to exploit their informational advantage and steal from the owners (much like Bernie Madoff did) is huge. Moreover, agents often have no incentive to implement better management practices if they are not to be compensated for it. That is why barbers in Cuba are known to provide bad service: Why invest effort to improve service and build a good reputation if you will get the same salary no matter how many clients you service?

Hence, we may characterize this recent "reform" as a combination therapy to attack principal-agent problems. That being said, this reform is not designed to address problems related to product innovation. Its sole focus is maximizing the profits of the Cuba, Inc., monopoly and monopsony; not about growth, innovation and equal opportunity for all Cubans.

Will this "Reform" Work?

To the extent that the objective is to reduce principal-agent problems, it might have some limited effect. Why limited? In a state like Cuba, where there are no checks and balances, no clear separation of the various branches of government and of Cuba, Inc., accountability is likely to be limited. More often than not, the owner, the agent and the judge will all be one and the same.

Second, with regards to the incentives for barbers, much depends on the future appropriation of their returns to investment. A barber must work hard for months or years to establish a reputation for good services. And yet, before he sinks all this capital he will ask himself: Will the state not be tempted to increase his rent in lockstep with his profits? The government may issue some guarantees to prevent this but, once again, the absence of checks and balances and the rule of law in Cuba means that there will be very little investment security. Barbers will probably innovate, but remain fearful of being seen as too successful and, most certainly, they will not want to compete with businesses sponsored by the nomenklatura. In other words, the incentives to improve are weak.

To conclude, it is safe to say that this reform is first and foremost ill conceived -- it is not designed to unleash growth and innovation in Cuba for the benefit of all Cubans. Moreover, even the more limited aim of abetting principal-agent problems is unlikely to be met.

What Cuba needs right now is a game changing strategy for growth and prosperity, one where all Cubans face similar opportunities to participate and benefit in the market and where the fruit of their labor is, but for predictable taxes, for them to keep. At a minimum this requires private ownership, freedom of entry and exit into any line of business and legal certainty. At best, this is accomplished within the context of democratic institutions. This "reform" does not meet any of these goals. Faced with the urgency of a serious economic crisis, Cuba needs a revolution -- a democratic and entrepreneurial one. In light of this, Raul's "reform" is just a way of waiting for Godot.

Analysis courtesy of former World Bank economist Fernando Martel.

10 Cuban Bloggers You Should Know

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The Miami New Times' Erik Maza has compiled a list of, "Ten Cuban Bloggers You Haven't Heard Of."

His list is right on point. Please check them out, as they undertake great risk to inform the world about Cuba's realities (most have English translations, which we've linked):

Yoani Sanchez is on the cover of Italian Wired this month. In the three years she's been online, the 32-year-old blogger has become Cuba's Arianna Huffington.

​She's now a twitterer, a blogger on the actual Huffington Post, and her blog gets 14 million page views a month, according to the New York Times.

Last year, she even interviewed Obama. But there are other Cuban bloggers toiling away behind computers. Here are some you've never heard of.

1. Octavo Cerco: If Iranians used social networking sites, like Twitter, to organize street action, Cubans use their blogs. Claudia Cadelo, a young French teacher, updates her blog on a near daily basis, like a stock ticker, with the slightest political tremors en la isla. She says she's followed by secret police. A badge of honor, for sure.

2. Boring Home Utopics: La Habana is really like Great Expectations' Miss Havisham. This is the place to see it in all its decrepit glory. Orlando Luis Pardo, a photog, first took to the web when a state publisher dropped a book of his after he criticized the government online. He decided instead to publish the whole book on the blog, and now runs it as photolog.

3. Penultimos Dias: When you've fallen behind on your island news, go to Ernesto Hernández Busto's blog. It's a regularly updated aggregator of all things Cuban. Published from Spain, it's probably the best written of all the blogs, with regular contributions from censured writers still living in the country.

4. Laritza Diversent: Another young blogger, Diversent advises Cubans what their legal rights are under the country's spotty, rarely adhered to, constitution. Last year she blogged on the Huff about police beatings.

5. Re-evolucion: Sometimes it's easy to read these blogs and shrug them off: Depressing! But Alain Saavedra's is written in the young, pissed-off voice of the hip hop DJ that he is. On a recent post, he ragged on a youth concert sponsored by the government because it didn't invite any reactionary bands, like Porno Para Ricardo. Coincidentally, Saavedra was one of the people who received Porno front-man Gorki Aguila when he returned to La Habana last month.

6. The Voice of El Morro: Only 11 percent of the population has access to the internet. The government only grants free passwords to a small group, and for the other half it's unaffordable. Think of El Morro as Cuba's digital soapbox. It's a collection of grim testimonies from random residents, like a woman whose husband is on a hunger strike.

7. Voces Tras Las Rejas: In 2003, some 20 journalists were arrested for writing critical stories on the catastrofuck that is daily life in Cuba. The crackdown earned the nickname the Black Spring. All of the people arrested are still in jail, but they update this blog with stories on what it's like to be a political prisoner.

8. Desde Aqui: Of the 200 estimated blogs, some 25 of them have a journalistic bent, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Reinaldo Escobar, who used to be a reporter for the state press, has been furiously covering the recent spate of protests in the wake of dissident Zapato Tamayo's death, paying special attention to Las Damas en Blanco that inspired Gloria Estefan's march on Calle Ocho.

9. Fake Cuban News: Recent headline: Russia's Centers for Medical Sciences Ready To Embalm Fidel When Necessary. Been reading our death-meter, have you?

10. El Auditorio Del Imbecil: All the blogs use the inter-webs to mock El Maximo and rail against the inadequacies of the government. But Ciro, a 31-year-old Jason Mraz-ish musician, does it in song.

Insurance Scam With a Spy Twist

Beginning May 1st, Cuba will require all foreign travelers to have an insurance policy covering medical expenses, in order to enter the country.

If the Castro regime doesn't find your insurance policy to be adequate -- which it surely will not -- then it will provide you a temporary one for a fee.

And who will transact this temporary policy?

None other than Cubalinda.com.

Cubalinda.com is a company owned by the Castro regime and, until recently, operated by Philip Agee.

That's right, Philip Agee -- the former Central Intelligence Agency officer who turned against the U.S. and spent years exposing undercover American agents overseas. Agee died in Havana earlier this year.

Canada's Toronto Star elaborates on this latest scam:

Many of Canada's snowbird tourists have complained that most, though not all, emergency medical coverage is priced as though everyone is going to the United States, with its high-cost medical care.

But Mónica Aguirre, a marketing coordinator at Ingle International in Toronto, says the bare-bones medical policies offered by Cubalinda.com, the online travel agency founded by the late former CIA agent Philip Agee, would be no match for Canadian policies.

At current exchange rates, Cubalinda will charge $2.70. a day for up to $7,558 of medical emergency insurance, plus assorted other types of coverage. It will charge about $3.24 a day for $27,000 of medical coverage and $7,558 for transportation of deceased, injured or sick persons.

That compares with as little as $1.81 a day or a minimum of $16 a week for a young Canadian to get $5 million of medical coverage from a Canadian insurer, says Aguirre. Meanwhile, a reasonably healthy senior, age 70 to 74, would pay $6.36 a day for a short trip to a non-U.S. destination, says Cappon.

Aguirre's company's president, Robin Ingle, concedes the skimpy Cuban policies would provide enough coverage for the vast majority of illnesses or injuries travelers might experience in Cuba.

But the transportation and medical coverage would be too limited for someone who suffered such a serious injury or illness that they required care in the United States before returning to Canada, he said.

Cappon became extremely concerned when he found a scary exclusion in the Cuban policies.

"The Cubalinda.com website says 'the insurer will not assume payment for treatment of pre-existing medical condition (sic), known or unknown to the insured person'."

You could pay the modest premium and discover later you have no coverage when you need it.

So proceed with caution. Don't leave home without adequate coverage.

(Hair)cutting the Facts

Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Has the pent-up desire to show some life to the theory of General Raul Castro as an economic "reformer" led to misinformation?

Unfortunately, it seems that way.

This morning, Reuters heralded:

Cuba: Employees Take Ownership of Hair Salons

"Cuba is turning over hundreds of state-run barber shops and beauty salons to employees in what appears to be the start of a long-expected revamping of state retail services by President Raúl Castro.

The measure marks the first time state-run retail establishments have been handed over to employees since they were nationalized in 1968. Barbers and hairdressers said they would now rent the space where they worked instead of receiving a monthly wage.
"

After four years of speculation, for Castro's long awaited reforms to come in the form of privatizing barber shops and hair salons would have been absurd in itself.

However, Castro doesn't even go that far.

Ownership is the fact of exclusive rights and control over property. It involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title.

No ownership right, nor title, is being transferred to these employees. They are simply being given an "option" to pay rent and hefty fees to the owner of these hair salons and barber shops, which still remains the Castro regime, rather than being directly paid a monthly wage.

Tragically, it's a word game.

If the employees don't like this arrangement, they can't exchange nor sell any title, for they have no ownership rights -- only the Castro regime does.

So they have to put up, shut up, "retire" or be transferred to another "state job," if lucky.

A Look Inside a "State of Terror"

Last week, we raised concern about a government mandate sent to all Cuban workplaces, exhorting violence against dissidents and strict adherence to the paramilitary "Rapid Response Brigades."

Here is an English translation of that document, which provides a closer look at the Castro regime's "State of Terror":

PLAN TO DEAL WITH DISRUPTIONS OF THE PUBLIC ORDER AND COUNTERREVOLUTIONARY ACTIONS

I. Objective: To take all necessary measures, directed at repudiating the disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions that could be organized near the Work Unit ("Unit").

II. Brief appraisal of possible disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions:

It's known that counterrevolutionary demonstrations can occur, without taking into account the possibility of actions against them, with the objective of harming or acting against the security of our workers and customers, with the goal of causing uncertainty amongst them and affecting our economy.

III. Missions to repudiate the disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions:

1. Observe without interruption the areas of possible disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions.
2. Determine and maintain the organization of Unit forces with rustic weapons that are available nearby, in accordance with the location of personnel.
3. Repudiate the disruptions and actions that originate.
4. Extinguish fires that may be ignited and provide first aid to anyone injured as a consequence of the confrontations.
5. Keep the command chain of the head organization informed, and also the MININT, about the situation as it develops.

IV. Structure of the Forces:

To accomplish the mission, the workers on-shift will organize, and if the situation requires it, those off-duty will be alerted.

V. Weapons:

Sticks.
Iron bars.
Cables (electrical cords).

ANNEX

1. Plan for the protection and defense of the Unit.
2. Methods for repudiating the disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions, and for the protection of the Unit.
3. Plan for warning the Units.
4. Acts of cooperation.

Appendix I: Plan of methods to repudiate the disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions, and for the protection of the Units.

Number 1:

Type of Demonstration: Disruptions of the public order through arguments.

Actions to be Implemented: Don't let the participants use parts of the Unit to demonstrate. Collect and store in secure places the cash received and the currency fund. Repudiate the disorders and riots together as a Unit. Put out fires and give first aid to the injured. Immediately find the Administrator. Perform complementary actions as necessary. Immediately inform senior organizations.

Performed by:
Workers on-shift.

Person in Charge: Administrator.

Date: When they [the disturbances] occur.

Number 2:

Type of Demonstration: Actions or expressions against the Revolution, Party Organizations, or the Government at any level.

Actions to be Implemented: Respond with arguments, convincing strength and energy to such demonstrations, and make it very clear that such things are not permitted in our Units. Immediately find the Administrator. Perform complementary actions as necessary. If necessary, immediately inform the PNR, PCC, OLPP.

Performed by: Workers on-shift.

Person in Charge: Administrator.

Date: When they [the disturbances] occur.

Number 3:

Type of Demonstration: Performance of actions that can be qualified as counterrevolutionary.

Actions to be Implemented: Respond with actions and in ways that are necessary to accomplish the goal of impeding the materialization of these actions at all costs. Immediately inform the PNR, PCC, OLPP. Immediately find the Administrator.

Performed by: Workers on-shift.

Person in Charge: Administrator.

Date: When they [the disturbances] occur.

CONSTITUTIVE ACT FOR THE CREATION OF A UNIT OF THE RAPID RESPONSE BRIGADES (RRB)

At ____o'clock, in the month of ____, on the day of ____, "Year 52 of the Revolution," the present Act is undertaken with the objective of constituting a Rapid Response Brigade.

Disruptions of the public order and counterrevolutionary actions will never be permitted by our working people. The streets belong to the revolutionaries. This declaration against such acts is to be considered retroactive.

We, the people, the directors, civil servants, and workers of this unit declare ourselves in solidarity with the Rapid Response Brigades and will act unconditionally in defense of our Revolution without regard to the sacrifices we must make.

We demonstrate the aforesaid by signing here and understand what from this moment constitutes a pledge to resolutely repudiate whatever counterrevolutionary action or disruption of the public order takes place, wherever it happens, and regardless of its extent.

Key to Acronyms:

MININT - Ministry of the Interior, which "maintains and defends the country's security and internal order."
OLPP – Organos Locales del Poder Popular, Local Organizations of Popular Power, the system of local representatives.
PNR – the Policia Nacional Revolucionaria, the National Revolutionary Police, part of MININT.
PPC – Partido Comunista de Cuba, the Communist Party of Cuba, the only legal party since 1965.

Translation courtesy of Regina Anavy.

On Hillary's Thesis

Monday, April 12, 2010
Responding to a question last Friday at the University of Louisville (Kentucky), U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expounded the following thesis:

"It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would then lose all of their excuses for what hasn't happened in Cuba in the last 50 years. And I find that very sad, because there should be an opportunity for a transition to a full democracy in Cuba. And it's going to happen at some point, but it may not happen anytime soon.

And just – if you look at any opening to Cuba you can almost chart how the Castro regime does something to try to stymie it. So back when my husband was president and he was willing to make overtures to Cuba and they were beginning to open some doors, Castro ordered the – his military to shoot down these two little unarmed planes that were dropping pamphlets on Cuba that came from Miami. And just recently, the Cubans arrested an American who was passing out information and helping elderly Cubans communicate through the internet, and they've thrown him in jail. And they recently let a Cuban prisoner die from a hunger strike. So it's a dilemma.

And I think for the first time, because we came in and said, look, we're willing to talk and we're willing to open up, and we saw the way the Cubans responded. For the first time, a lot of countries that have done nothing but berate the United States for our failure to be more open to Cuba have now started criticizing Cuba because they're letting people die. They're letting these hunger strikers die. They've got 200 political prisoners who are there for trivial reasons. And so I think that many in the world are starting to see what we have seen a long time, which is a very intransigent, entrenched regime that has stifled opportunity for the Cuban people, and I hope will begin to change and we're open to changing with them, but I don't know that that will happen before some more time goes by.
"

First and foremost, Secretary Clinton is absolutely right in her description of the Castro regime as an "intransigent, entrenched regime that has stifled opportunity for the Cuban people."

However, contrary to her qualifying thesis that the Castro regime doesn't want to see an end to the embargo, it is precisely due to this intransigence that the regime does -- in fact -- want to see the embargo lifted, but with one unacceptable caveat:

Unilaterally and unconditionally.


There is no consistent evidence that the Castro regime has sought to "stymie" concessions from the U.S. As a matter of fact, the Castro regime lobbies very effectively internationally and within the U.S. Congress for the unconditional normalization of trade, travel and financing (just ask any Congressional staffer who is visited ad naseum by the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.).

What the Castro regime does consistently seek to "stymie" (through violence and repression) are pro-democracy initiatives from within the island. In other words, domestic opposition.

That important distinction shouldn't be minimized.

For example -- and with all due respect to Secretary Clinton -- the 1996 shoot-down of two unarmed civilian planes by the Castro regime was not in response to her husband's overtures. It was in response to the coalition of 130 dissident organizations (known as "Concilio Cubano"), which had long planned a massive meeting in Havana on February 24th, 1996 (not coincidentally, the same day the shoot-down took place). The Castro regime's goal was to divert international attention, as it stealthily disbanded the Concilio Cubano. Tragically, it succeeded.

Furthermore, the arrest of an American, Alan Gross, for helping Cuba's Jewish community connect to the internet and the death of Cuban hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo are not attempts to "stymie" President Obama's overtures. They are attempts to divert attention from the island's "blogger revolution" (in the case of Gross), and to inject fear into the ever-growing and vocal pro-democracy movement (in the case of Zapata Tamayo).

If Secretary Clinton's thesis was wholly precise, then why did the Castro regime undertake the massive crackdown known as the Black Spring of 2003, when 75 of the leading pro-democracy leaders were arrested and handed sentences averaging 20 years? Was it due to the overtures of George W. Bush? Hardly. It was due to the increased domestic opposition of leaders like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and the gathering international attention garnered by the Varela Project. As soon as international attention shifted to the Iraq War that Spring, Castro struck.

The lifting of U.S. sanctions is correctly conditioned upon an end to the Castro regime's brutal political and commercial monopoly over the Cuban people.

It's not with the U.S. that the Castro regime doesn't want to have normal relations. As previously mentioned, the unconditional and unilateral lifting sanctions would actually provide Castro the financial windfall and unchecked legitimacy it has long sought.

It is with the Cuban people that they refuse to have an open, respectful and non-repressive relationship -- a condition for lifting sanctions that should remain non-negotiable.

Where's the Catholic Church?

Sunday, April 11, 2010
Next time the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services or, for that matter, the Vatican itself, recommend unconditionally normalizing relations, or provide "words of wisdom" on how to deal with the Castro regime, simply ask:

Why hasn't the Cuban Catholic Church and its Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, spoken out to condemn the violence perpetrated today -- or any other day -- against the Ladies in White?

That's exactly the question that one of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, asked as Cuban state security officials, led by Col. Ernesto Samper, beat and dragged them outside of Havana's Santa Rita Catholic Church this morning, in order to prohibit them from attending Mass or marching.

"Cardinal Ortega and the Catholic Church should raise their voices against this," declared Soler.

Talk about not leading by example.

Castro's Armageddon

Last week, Cuban dictator Raul Castro declared that his country prefers to "disappear," rather than be "blackmailed" by the U.S., Europe, dissidents and their "manipulations" regarding human rights.

"This country will never capitulate. It would prefer to disappear, as we demonstrated in 1962," said Castro in allusion to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In other words, Fidel and Raul Castro prefer to kill all 11.5 million Cubans (and whomever else might be necessary), rather than allow the Cuban people to freely choose their own leadership and destiny.

Such psychopathy is -- in itself -- a threat to U.S. interests.

An Important Contrast

In Friday's top post, the Cuban pro-democracy movement recommended a peaceful, non-violent referendum to decide the fate of Cuba's political prisoners.

Meanwhile, the day before, the Castro regime exhorted Cuban workplaces to violently confront critics with sticks, pipes and chains.

Reason vs. Barbarism, indeed.

Standing With The Ladies in White

By young Cuban-American activist, Daniel I. Pedreira, in the Sun-Sentinel:

We must support the Ladies in White

Gloria and Emilio Estefan's march in support of Cuba's Ladies in White is over. The hype generated by it will also subside. However, we cannot forget that, in Cuba, these brave women continue to risk their lives to defend rights that we hold dear in the United States.

As Americans, our most important freedom is freedom of speech. The First Amendment to our Constitution grants us the freedom to say what we want to say, without fear of reprisal from our government or our fellow citizens.

Imagine yourself living in a country where your family members are arrested for speaking their mind or for reporting news unflattering to the government. After their arrest, these fathers, husbands and brothers are subjected to show trials, where their sentences, ranging from five to 28 years, are predetermined before they set foot in a courtroom. Then imagine your family members lingering in Castro's squalid prisons. Moved to act, you — their wives, daughters and sisters — join others with imprisoned family members to walk peacefully through the streets of your hometown, wearing white and carrying flowers, to call the world's attention to the violation of your family member's freedom of speech.

Along the route, you are closely watched by government agents. That's if you're lucky. If not, the Cuban government will mobilize its Rapid Response Brigades, chanting insults and racial slurs. Then the physical attacks begin. These government agents, armed with clubs and brute force, will drag, punch, kick, jab you and throw you into a bus en route to an unknown location.

Only 90 miles away from our coast, Cuban citizens are being aggressively stripped of their right to express themselves freely. In the case of Cuba's political prisoners and democratic opposition, the violation of this right is two-fold. First, the opposition leaders and independents are jailed. Second, their family members are harassed and beaten in the streets for denouncing the violation of their loved ones' freedom of speech.

As freedom-loving Americans, we cannot turn a blind eye to violations of freedom of speech. We have a moral obligation to raise awareness about the violations of freedom of speech that have been taking place in Cuba during the last 50 years. The Ladies in White will continue to walk on.

We must stand with them.