No Rangel Amendment This Year

Saturday, July 24, 2010
Every Congressional cycle, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York presents an amendment to an Appropriations bill, or some other legislation, seeking to unconditionally lift sanctions towards the Castro regime in Cuba.

Let us be very clear -- we don't wish ill upon any democratically-elected Member of Congress and strongly believe that every person is innocent unless proven otherwise.

However, it does seem that -- at the very least -- Congressman Rangel will be busy for the rest of the year.

According to The Washington Post:

Rep. Charles Rangel broke ethics rules, House panel finds

A House ethics subcommittee announced Thursday that it found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel violated congressional ethics rules and that it will prepare for a trial, probably beginning in September. The panel is expected to make the details of his alleged violations public next Thursday.

Rangel (D-N.Y.) has been under the House ethics committee's microscope since early 2008 after it was reported that he may have used his House position to benefit his financial interests. Two of the most serious inquiries have focused on Rangel's failure to declare $239,000 to $831,000 in assets on his disclosure forms, and on his effort to raise money for a private center named after him at City College of New York using his congressional letterhead.

In March, Rangel reluctantly stepped down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee -- a week after the ethics panel ruled in a separate case that he had broken congressional gift rules by accepting trips to conferences in the Caribbean that were financed by corporate interests. The panel said that, at a minimum, Rangel's staff knew about the corporate backing for the 2007 and 2008 trips -- and that the congressman was therefore responsible.


More on Marco and The Chamber

Friday, July 23, 2010
From Politico:

Rubio, Chamber split on embargo

On one rare issue all four major Florida Senate candidates fall in line on, GOP hopeful Marco Rubio and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are agreeing to disagree.

Despite capturing the endorsement of the world's largest business federation Friday, Rubio, a Cuban-American, said he opposes the group's push to scrap the country's 48-year-old travel and commerce embargo against Cuba.

In a conference call with reporters and bloggers, Rubio not only acknowledged the policy disagreement but said his candidacy would encourage the Chamber to rethink its position.

"What I do want Cubans to have is a government and political system that respects their unalienable rights," he said. "Folks are buying into our agenda, we're not buying into their agenda."

While the Chamber has actively lobbied for an end to the embargo, Rubio said scrapping it would cost the United States leverage in negotiations toward attaining a more open and democratic Cuba.

Chamber Vice President Bill Miller characterized it as "a respectful disagreement."

Gov. Charlie Christ, who vacated the Republican primary to pursue an independent Senate bid, has called the current embargo "responsible," and Democratic contenders Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire Jeff Greene also support current law. The current government policy states that the Cuban regime would have to take steps towards democracy and adopt market reforms in order for the ban to be lifted.

Kudos to Marco

From The Hill:

Rubio admits differences with Chamber over Cuba

Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio acknowledged Friday he and the Chamber of Commerce are in disagreement over Cuba policy, but said the business group is "buying into our agenda."

"My ideas today are no different ... than they were when I go into the race," Rubio said on a conference call Friday. "Folks are buying into our agenda, we're not buying into their agenda."

The Chamber will formally announce it's backing Rubio at an event in Orlando on Saturday. But despite the bonhomie, there's a major policy disagreement between the former state House speaker and the powerful business group. The
Chamber has pushed for an end to the trade embargo on Cuba, something Rubio opposes.

"I think we do have a difference of opinion," Rubio said.

Bill Miller, a vice president of the business group, echoed that assessment. "I think that this is a respectful disagreement," Miller said. Both men emphasized their agreement on other policies.

And as MSNBC elaborates:

Rubio, also on the call, said he was "proud of the endorsement and grateful" for the Chamber's support. While there are many points of agreement between Rubio and the Chamber, including extending the Bush-era tax cuts, the two diverge on one issue especially salient with Floridian voters: a trade embargo with Cuba.

While the Chamber has worked to end the embargo, last year calling it "one of the biggest foreign policy failures of the past half century," Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, opposes lifting the ban before Cubans have political freedom.

"We want Cuba to have a government and political system that respects their inalienable rights," Rubio said. "They don't have that right now. Having this economic sanction against Cuba gives us leverage" so America has a bargaining chip to negotiate "on behalf of the Cuban people," he added.

"I think we do have a difference of opinion," Rubio said, adding that he is prepared to disagree on many topics with his colleagues in Washington if elected.

Miller said their divergence was a respectful disagreement. "At the end of the day there are so many common issues," Miller said. "The things Marco believes in are exactly the kind of things we as a country need," he added.

Zapata's Mother Faces-Down Repression

Today marks the 5-month anniversary of the death of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, pursuant to an 85-day hunger strike.

In order to commemorate his life and sacrifice, Orlando's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, planned a march from her house to his tomb, all in their hometown of Banes (eastern Cuba).

Nonetheless, the Castro regime's secret police has her home completely surrounded and -- since Wednesday -- has been beating and arresting dissidents that traveled to Banes to join the march.

Yesterday, five dissidents were even tear-gassed.

Despite the constant repression, Reina has vowed to continue her family's struggle for freedom.

Zapata Lives indeed.

The Quest For Absolute Control

Thursday, July 22, 2010
This month, the Iranian regime announced its new code of "appropriate" hairstyles for men.

The picture below was of the official ceremony by Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Needless to say, those that don't abide by this code will face repressive consequences.

But these actions shouldn't be dismissed as simply religious or cultural fundamentalism.

For decades, the Castro regime in Cuba condemned those it deemed "undesirable" to labor camps, namely homosexuals, rockers, hippies and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Today, the Castro regime imprisons thousands of "undesirables" -- dissenters of all stripes -- based on its reprehensive law of "social dangerousness," which it defines as "the special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is observed to be in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality."

For these regimes, it all comes down to one thing: absolute control.

Canadians Calling For Cuba Travel Ban?

From The Toronto Sun:

Outrage grows over teen's plight in Cuba

Canadians from coast to coast have been voicing their outrage after learning of 19-year-old Cody LeCompte's plight in Cuba.

And they are even more dismayed to learn that after three months of detention in the Communist country, for a car accident that he claims wasn't his fault, our government has been content to wait for justice to run its course rather than take swift action to help the young man get back home.

"Today I wept with anger," one Sun reader wrote on a Facebook group dedicated to helping Cody after reading the story that appeared in Thursday's paper.

"I am appalled that out government is failing him," the reader added. "We must unite and take action in bringing Cody home, immediately!"

The Simcoe teen was on a two-week vacation within his mom that was supposed to be a reward for getting into college.

Instead his life has been turned upside down because of a bizarre law that forces tourists involved in a crash where a Cuban citizen is seriously hurt to prove his or her innocence before being allowed to leave the country.

Cody's mom, Danette, who is at her son's side because she's afraid to leave him alone in Santa Lucia, so far is $30,000 in debt after paying for lawyer's fees, a room at the resort and other expenses.

She is on the verge of financial ruin and Cody hasn't even been charged with anything.

Danette was in the rental car, so was her cousin and his Cuban fiance, and Cody was driving when they were allegedly "broadsided" by a truck April 29.


They were all hospitalized but have since recovered from their injuries, including the fiance who underwent surgery for her damaged liver. Apparently, the only one still hurting is Cody.

He and his mom were unavailable Thursday because they were meeting with their lawyer.

"I have never been to Cuba and never will go!" Sun reader Steven Leech wrote on torontosun.com, adding the feds should "put a travel ban on Cuba and cut off all foreign aid" to the impoverished country.

For FARC’s Sake

From the Canada Free Press:

For FARC's sake: Chavez breaks ties with Colombia

Caught red-handed right in the FARC terrorist camp, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's reaction today was to sever diplomatic ties with Colombia.

Facing accusations of harboring as many as 87 FARC camps that are used to smuggle cocaine and launch terrorist attacks across the border, Chavez threw another of his signature tantrums by going on state television.

At a special meeting today of the Organization of American States, Colombia's government had presented televised photos of a rebel commander guzzling a bottle of Venezuela's Polar beer and other shocking evidence it said indicates the presence of as many as 1,500 FARC terrorists inside Colombia's next door neighbor.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Let's not forget the presence of 30,000-60,000 Cuban "personnel" currently in Venezuela as well.

Take It From the East Germans

From PressEurop:

Castros offer dissidents for sale

Líder Maximo emerges as "Maximo Dealer," puns Tageszeitung (TAZ) in the wake of the July 21 announcement by the Spanish Foreign Minister and the Cuban parliament chief that all of the island's political prisoners would now be released. According to the Berlin daily, Cuba, which urgently needs to restore economic relations with the European Union, is applying a method reminiscent of the communist state in East Germany: to obtain hard currency, the GDR was in the habit of imprisoning anyone it believed West Germany would pay to have released. TAZ warns that there is no guarantee that the current state of affairs "will not lead to a new wave of arrests."

National Polling Data on the Embargo

Considering the limited (to virtually non-existent) information that the American people get from the national media on the extent and reality of the Castro regime's repression and brutality, these numbers are fairly noteworthy.

Also note that these are non Cuban-Americans from throughout the country.

According to Rasmussen:

37% Support End to U.S. Embargo of Cuba, 37% Oppose

Bipartisan legislation is again being considered in Congress that would lift the long-standing U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, but voters continue to have closely divided views on that idea.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 37% of U.S. voters favor lifting the embargo on Cuba, but the identical number (37%) are opposed to such a move. Roughly one-in-four voters (26%) aren't sure.

These findings are virtually unchanged from April 2009 as President Obama prepared to meet with Latin American leaders to discuss in part the situation with Cuba.

A plurality (48%) of Democrats favors lifting the embargo, but 56% of Republicans are opposed. Voters not affiliated with either major party are more narrowly divided.

Little changed from the 2009 survey is the view held by 34% of voters that Cuba is an enemy of the United States. Eight percent (8%) see the island nation as a U.S. ally, while 50% rate it somewhere in between an ally and an enemy.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on July 16-17, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

Nineteen percent (19%) of voters nationwide think America's relationship with Cuba will be better a year from now. Eight percent (8%) believe that relationship will get worse, while 55% expect it to stay about the same. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure.

There have been hopes that with dictator Fidel Castro's decision two years ago to turn over day-to-day control of the government to his brother Raul, conditions might improve in the country. But just 13% think living conditions in Cuba have improved since the elder Castro stepped down. Twice as many (26%) say conditions have not improved, but 62% are not sure.

In April 2007 amidst news reports of Fidel Castro's poor health, 37% of Americans said life will get better in Cuba after Castro dies. That figure rose to 45% last year.

Only seven percent (7%) of voters now have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of Fidel Castro, while 84% view him unfavorably. This includes just one percent (1%) with a Very Favorable view and 53% with a Very Unfavorable one.

A Failed Publicity Campaign?

By Guillermo I. Martínez in The Sun-Sentinel:

The release of Cuban political prisoners in small dribs and drabs was supposed to ease the pressure on Cuba's repressive regime and halt the barrage of negative publicity.

It hasn't worked. The negative publicity continues. It is not hard to understand why the attempt at improving relations with Spain, the European community, and the United States has not worked.

Cuba has conditioned the release of political prisoners to their acceptance of deportation orders that ban their return to their homeland forever. At least 10 of those who were going to be released have refused to leave the island.

The Ladies in White, who march every Sunday after Mass, have said they would not be satisfied with the release of only some prisoners. They made it clear they will continue marching until all political prisoners in Cuba are released.

And already some of the prisoners who were released and sent to Spain have protested the way they were treated in jail, and the way in which they were released.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Ricardo González Alfonso, a 60-year-old independent journalist arrested in the spring of 2003, described what it was like in Fidel Castro's dungeons. "I was just one of 75 Cubans imprisoned for our belief that freedom is an achievable miracle and not a crime against the state," González wrote. "My debut as a prisoner of conscience came early in 2003, a period subsequently characterized by the world's press as the Black Spring."

He added: "They say prison is a school, and it's true. I did my best to be a good student. Zoology was one class we had every day. I learned to live with rats, and even came, on certain nights of our tropical winter (which is winter, nevertheless) to stare at them with an urgency not unlike what people call appetite. I was a solitary friend to the deft spiders that sometimes freed me from the torturous buzzings and blood-shedding bites that accompanied my insomnia."

González and the other prisoners now living in Spain have complained that the assistance the Spanish government promised them when they left Cuba has not been forthcoming. A spokesperson for Spain's opposition party said that what the government had done with the Cuban prisoners was a scandal without precedent. The released prisoners also said that Cuba continues to harass and jail dissidents on the island.

It is inconceivable that Spain will deny them "work papers and legal residency."

Fidel and Raúl Castro hold the keys to all the prisons on the island. They also hold the key to when they might allow all Cubans to live in a democratic state, with the right to own property, and to freely express their views without fearing incarceration. That is what the released prisoners want.

U.S. Tightening Sanctions

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Towards North Korea.

Please note below how the sanctions are aimed at economic sectors that the North Korean regime uses "to generate hard currency to pay off cronies and cling to power."

According to The New York Times:

U.S. to Impose More Sanctions Against North Korea

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would impose further economic sanctions against North Korea, throwing legal weight behind a choreographed show of pressure on the North that included an unusual joint visit to the demilitarized zone by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

The measures, announced here by Mrs. Clinton after high-level talks with South Korean officials, take aim at counterfeiting, money laundering and other dealings that she said the North Korean government used to generate hard currency to pay off cronies and cling to power.

While the United States already places heavy sanctions on North Korea, American officials insisted the new measures would further tighten the financial vise around the secretive and isolated North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, who, according to regional intelligence, is in declining health.

Meanwhile, last week, Cuba's National Institute for the Economic Investigations (INIE) announced that one out of every three dollars that has entered the island's totalitarian economy since 1990 derived from foreign tourism.

Any questions?

It's No Longer 1819

The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, ceded Florida to the United States, settled a boundary dispute along the Sabine River in Texas and firmly established the boundary of U.S. territory and claims through the Rocky Mountains.

In essence, it ended Spain's colonial footprint on what is today, the continental U.S.

That is an important reminder for Spain's Foreign Minister, M.A. Moratinos, who is seemingly obsessed with helping the Castro regime ease international pressure without any fundamental change to its repressive apparatus -- so much so that he's now audacious enough to dictate the legislative agenda of the U.S. Congress and its democratically-elected Members.

According to the AP:

Cuba's release of dozens of political prisoners will lead to a thaw in U.S. relations and the lifting of a decades-old embargo against the Communist-run island, Spain's foreign minister predicted Wednesday.

Speaking in Parliament, Miguel Angel Moratinos said the freeing of some 52 Cuban prisoners would also lead to an improvement in EU policy toward Cuba.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Madrid said that while the U.S. welcomed the release of the Cuban political inmates it was too early to say whether that would have any effect on the embargo.

Apparently, Moratinos missed the statement by the 11 recently-released (and forcibly exiled) political prisoners that arrived in Spain last week.

And most importantly, let's not forget that -- as of this afternoon -- the remaining 41 (of the 52 named for release during the next 3-4 months) remain in prison along with thousands of other Cuban political prisoners.

Dissidents Don't Want Sanctions Lifted

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
By The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl:

Cuban dissidents don't want sanctions lifted

Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island's dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week.

Noting the "manifest willingness of some European countries" to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed "an approval of this measure," because "the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country."

"Our departure for Spain," the statement added, "must not be considered a goodwill gesture but a desperate action on the regime's part in its urgent request for credits of every type."

That declaration took some courage on the Cubans' part, since their host, the left-wing Spanish government of Jose Luis Zapatero, is the leading advocate of a relaxation of E.U. sanctions. After meeting Raul Castro in Havana this month, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos proclaimed "a new phase in Cuba" and insisted "there is no longer any reason to maintain the [E.U.] Common Position" on Cuba. The policy links any improvement in relations to progress on democracy and human rights.

But the ex-prisoners have the virtue of being right.

Though it has promised to eventually release 52 of the political opponents it imprisoned in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003, the Castro regime has offered no indication that it intends any change on the island. It has freed political prisoners before, without domestic reforms. And, as in the past, those released so far have been deported, rather than allowed to return to their homes on the island.

The Cubans were only reminding their hosts of what the European policy says -- that better relations have to be linked to steps toward democratization, and not the mere deportation of political prisoners. That also happens to be the stated policy of the Obama administration, which so far has resisted calls by liberals for an unconditional lifting of the already-loopholed U.S. trade "embargo." ("Embargo" has become an odd term to describe what is actually Cuba's fifth-largest trading relationship, one that in recent years has provided up to 40 percent of its food imports.)

The dissidents have more than one reason to be irritated with the Spanish government. At a press conference in Madrid Monday they complained that they had been denied the services they were promised before they left Cuba, including legal assistance. The government is also trying to prevent them from seeking political asylum -- in yet another concession to the Castros.

In the end, it's likely that a few of the released prisoners will end up in the United States. If so, they might not be much help to those seeking an unconditional lifting of the embargo; they seem to want to insist on the cause of democracy.

Imagine that.

49 Years, 11 in Political Prison

Today is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet's 49th birthday.

Of these 49 years, he has spent 11 as a prisoner of conscience of the Castro regime.

In 2003, he was released for 36 days prior to being re-arrested -- an important reminder at a time when political prisoner releases are in the headlines.

His crime? Demanding human rights for the Cuban people.

He remains in Havana's Combinado del Este prison to this day.

More Afraid of Ideas Than Rifles

Last week, Oswaldo Paya, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement and founder of the Varela Project, slammed the Castro regime for sending 11 prisoners of conscience into forced exile.

According to -- ironically -- The Catholic News Agency:

"We must remember that these men were not blowing things up or engaging in violence," Paya said, unlike Fidel and Raul Castro, who were released from prison in 1953 and were allowed to stay in the country.

"So it seems the current government is more afraid the ideas of these brothers of ours… than the dictator Batista was of their rifles and bombs," Paya added.


The "L" in the picture stands for "Libertad" ("Freedom").

You Know It's a Bad Day for Castro...

...when even the U.N. is on to its shenanigans.

From the AP:

UN chief wants human rights improvement from Cuba

The U.N. secretary-general says Cuba should build on its release of at least 20 dissidents by doing more to improve human rights.

Ban Ki-moon welcomed last week's transfer of 11 Cuban prisoners to Spain. Nine more are expected to arrive Tuesday, along with around 50 of their relatives.

Speaking in Geneva, Ban said Monday that he has closely followed the developments. He called them "encouraging."

But he said the U.N. still expects "more reconciliatory measures taken by Cuban authorities, establishing the rule of law and respecting human rights."

The Congressional Debate

Monday, July 19, 2010
From The Hill:

Debate over travel to Cuba heats up

A congressional debate over whether all Americans should be able to travel freely to Cuba appears to be heating up.

The House Agriculture Committee last month approved a measure that allows travel to Cuba and eases restrictions on U.S. commodities sold there. The measure still needs approval from the Foreign Affairs Committee before it can come to the floor for a vote, but Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) has indicated that he supports lifting the ban.

"I have long believed that the nearly fifty year old travel ban to Cuba simply has not worked to help the Cuban people in any way," he said in prepared remarks. "It has not hurt the Castros as it was intended to do, but it has hurt U.S. citizens."

The legislation builds upon efforts by President Obama in 2009 to ease travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans and would allow virtually all Americans to visit the island. Proponents for ending the ban contend it will boost trade between the two countries.

But not everyone is on board with opening the travel door to Cuba.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Friday reiterated his strong opposition to lifting the ban.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that I will oppose — and filibuster if need be — any effort to ease regulations that stand to enrich a regime that denies its own people basic human rights," he said.

"The fact is the big corporate interests behind this misguided attempt to weaken the travel ban could not care less whether the Cuban people are free," Menendez said. "They care only about opening a new market and increasing their bottom line. This is about the color of money, not the desire for freedom."

Like Menendez, opponents to the ban argue easing travel restrictions will funnel money to the Castro regime and essentially fund activities that will provide little benefit to the Cuban people.

"The very fact that a travel bill has moved through the House Agriculture Committee makes one wonder why American agriculture interests would even care about travel to Cuba," Menendez said. "One can only assume it's about generating increased tourism dollars for the Castro regime to buy more agricultural products."

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, which supports the travel ban, told The Hill that lawmakers in favor of easing restrictions understand that the votes are not there and have resorted to hiding the provision in noncontroversial bills to get it passed.

"What they're trying to do is package it with an agricultural bill in order to get it through the back door," he said, adding, "They're basically trying to maneuver this any way they possibly can without addressing the travel issue specifically."

Last month, Claver-Carone's organization joined nearly 500 organizations that oppose lifting the ban and warned Congress that nothing good would come from allowing free travel between the two countries.

"[The] below signatories believe that the freedom of Cuba will not arrive by means of the pocketbook nor the lips of libidinous tourists, who are aseptic to the pain of the Cuban family," their letter states, adding, "For that reason we suggest that you maintain a firm and coherent policy of pressure and condemnation against the tyranny of Havana."

When, or if, the Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on the legislation remains to be seen. A Berman spokesman did not respond to a call about timing for the measure.

"That's where the current question is at," Claver-Carone said. "But it's pretty clear that they do not have the votes on the floor."

Political Prisoner Oped in NYT

By recently released -- and forcibly exiled -- political prisoner Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso in today's New York Times:

Out of Prison, Still Not Free

I NEVER imagined I would be born at the age of 60, at an altitude of several thousand feet above the Atlantic. That isn't gibberish; it's what I felt when I was released from jail in Cuba and exiled to Spain last Monday.

My debut as a prisoner of conscience came early in 2003, a period subsequently characterized by the world's press as the Black Spring. I was just one of 75 Cubans imprisoned for our belief that freedom is an achievable miracle and not a crime against the state.

They say prison is a school, and it's true. I did my best to be a good student and kept back my tears. I succeeded so well that my prison companions still think me a brave man.

Within a few months I could find my way pretty well around the labyrinths of shipwrecked souls. I learned the secrets and legends of killers for hire, crimes of passion, traffickers in illicit powdery substances, would-be emigrants whose clandestine departures had been no secret to the state — even thieves who'd share their teaspoon of sugar on days of hunger.

Zoology was one class we had every day. I learned to live with rats, and even came, on certain nights of our tropical winter (which is winter, nevertheless) to stare at them with an urgency not unlike what people call appetite. I was a solitary friend to the deft spiders that sometimes freed me from the torturous buzzings and blood-shedding bites that accompanied my insomnia.

I became well versed in cosmic solitude and silence. I remember being in a cell no wider than a man with outstretched arms. I also grew familiar with fetid overcrowding and unceasing clamor. Months of unending darkness, months of eternal light.

I was only an auditor in certain courses, in which I learned that some prisoners were specializing in self-injury as a crude solution to their despair. I was witness to mutilated hands and other wounds as mortal or venial as sins. A man cut off his own penis and testicles in a desperate attempt to become a woman. Others, more radical and exhausted by perpetual existential tumult, turned to various methods of suicide, all of them extremely effective.

A large part of the program of study consisted in the defense of one's rights. There was no theoretical option, only the very Cuban practice of the hunger strike. I carried one out for 16 days, until part of my will felt satisfied with my victory. That long and voluntary fast vindicated the enforced daily fast of imprisonment.

As in any school, there were periods of leisure. Packs of cigarettes were wagered on the outcome of chess matches, card games or soccer contests. I knew sellers and buyers of recreational drugs who were very good at evading or bribing both prison guards and informer inmates.

There was no lack of expertise in armed aggression. Pitiful, decaying knives that were nevertheless sharp-edged and skillfully wielded left trails of blood and rage behind them. (But I never signed up for that class.)

I've always had an aptitude for subjects that have to do with dreams, and I dreamed of my wife and children with such fervor that I know they felt my caresses as they lay asleep.

I was almost an exemplary student, and received only one failing grade: in hatred. Despite certain zones of memory, I bear no rancor against my jailers.

And now, after this senescent birth of mine, I'm contemplating the future with all the hope of the newly unveiled. Ever the optimist, I even dream of returning to a Cuba where freedom is not an impossible illusion. I know that, in the next 60 years, I won't have to be reborn again.

Ricardo González Alfonso is a journalist. This article was translated by Esther Allen from the Spanish.

Political Prisoners Petition the EU

Petition From the Former Prisoners of Conscience Exiled by Cuba to Spain, to the Foreign Ministers of the European Union, About the "Common Position" Regarding Cuba

Madrid, 19 July 2010

Your Excellencies, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union

We, the Cuban prisoners of conscience exiled to Spain in recent days, aware of the manifest willingness of some European countries to modify the E.U.'s "Common Position" regarding Cuba, declare our disagreement with an approval of this measure, as we understand that the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of our country.

Our departure for Spain must not be considered a good-will gesture but a desperate action on the regime's part in its urgent quest for credits of every type.

It is for that reason that we ask the countries of the European Union not to again soften their exigencies intended to achieve changes toward democracy in Cuba and to secure for all Cubans the same rights that European citizens enjoy.

Respectfully,

Ricardo González Alfonso
Mijail Bárzaga Lugo
Normando Hernández González
Antonio Augusto Villarreal Acosta
Omar Rodríguez Saludes
Luis Milán Fernández
Pablo Pacheco Ávila
José Luis García Paneque
Julio César Gálvez
Léster González Pentón

Courtesy of Zoe Valdes.

Castro's Prisoner Masquerade

Sunday, July 18, 2010
English translation from Spain's ABC newspaper last week:

"The releases do not signify an improvement of human rights in Cuba"

The freed prisoners are wary of the Cuban government and accuse it of using the liberations to masquerade its image.

The last two political prisoners that arrived in Spain today asked the European Union this afternoon to not abandon its Common Position that the Twenty-Seven maintain towards Cuba.
The dissidents have affirmed that it would be a mistake to abandon this Position because "its objectives have not been achieved." According to the ex prisoner Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, "the human and inalienable rights of all men" are not respected in Cuba.

The other prisoner, Omar Rodriguez, has stated that he does not believe that the releases signify an "improvement of human rights in Cuba," and he added that these "are a masquerade by the Cuban government", which seeks "to eliminate the Common Position."

The two prisoners have united themselves with the seven others who arrived in Spain yesterday, and have asked to appear before the European Parliament to ask that it not lift the Common Position, which regulates the political relationship of the European Union toward Cuba since 1996.

The two dissidents freed by the Cuban government, Omar Rodriguez Saludes and Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, landed this morning in Barajas airport alongside family members. A third freed dissident, Luis Milan Fernandez, had planned on traveling in the same flight, but they were unable to find a seat for him and his family members forcing him to postpone his flight until tonight. Along with him, another dissident freed by the Cuban government will arrive tomorrow. The two of them will arrive accompanied by their respective family members. This brings the total to 11 political prisoners freed by Castro's regime and received by our nation.

Rejection of the "immigrant" status

Some of the prisoners who arrived in Spain rejected the designation of "immigrants" offered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, due to the fact that they were forced to leave Cuba as the only means to get out of prison after seven years of incarceration, according to EFE. In the case they renounce their condition of immigrants they would have to apply for political asylum, which would make them refugees and their return to Cuba would be impossible.

Either way, the majority of the freed prisoners in Spain have opposed being sent to different parts of our country. They prefer to stay in Madrid or immigrate to the United States.

U.N. Bank Fined for Cuba Transactions

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury:

United Nations Federal Credit Union Settles Cuban Assets Control Regulations Allegations: United Nations Federal Credit Union, New York City, New York ("UNFCU"), a federally chartered and regulated credit union, has remitted $500,000 to settle allegations of violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 (the "CACR"). OFAC alleged that UNFCU dealt in property in which Cuba or a Cuban national had an interest in violation of the CACR by engaging in certain unauthorized financial transactions on behalf of its members/account holders who were blocked Cuban nationals pursuant to the CACR.

Statement From Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet

From Cuban political prisoner, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet's, official website:

My husband Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet is a prisoner of conscience from the crackdown against the 75, who were imprisoned during the spring of 2003 in Cuba. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and is on the list of prisoners to be released pursuant to the agreement reached between the Cuban government and the Cuban Catholic Church. Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet has publicly expressed his decision not to emigrate from Cuba. The Cardinal of Havana, Jaime Ortega, has told international public opinion that emigration is an option, not a requirement, for the release of the prisoners. On July 2nd, I personally met with Ortega Alamino and expressed to him my husband's decision not to emigrate. As of this day, neither the Cuban government, nor the Church, has communicated to either my husband or myself any other information regarding his release.

Sincerely,

Elsa Morejon Hernandez
Wife of Dr. Biscet
July 14, 2010