A Distasteful Engagement

Saturday, September 11, 2010
The Castro regime is surely concerned about losing one of the biggest deterrents keeping the Cuban people from fleeing its tyrannical rule.

Meanwhile, some in the U.S. will use any excuse to engage Cuba's dictatorship.

However, this latest charade is particularly shameless, cynical and distasteful.

According to Reuters:

U.S. and Cuba discuss alliance to save sharks

A team of U.S. scientists and environmentalists met with Cuban officials this week to discuss a proposed alliance, including Mexico, to protect the Gulf of Mexico's declining shark population.

The meetings were a product of both improved U.S.-Cuba relations and concern that only a joint effort by the three nations that share the gulf can protect sharks, whose numbers are said to be down as much as 50 percent for some species.

Rosh Hashanah in Cuban Prison

Accused American is marking Rosh Hashanah in Cuban jail

Effort to help Cuban Jews with Internet connections leads to subversion charge.

Alan Gross usually celebrates Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year that started at sundown Wednesday, by playing mandolin in the klezmer band that accompanies his guitar-strumming rabbi in the High Holiday service.

But this year, Gross is imprisoned in Cuba, where he has been held since Dec. 4 in a bizarre Cold War-style case that has become the latest irritant between Washington and its longtime nemesis in Havana.

State security arrested the 60-year-old amateur musician and professional aid worker at the Havana airport after he allegedly provided unauthorized satellite Internet connections to Cuba's tiny Jewish community. The Communist regime strictly controls Internet access through state-run servers, and household Internet connections are illegal.

Read more here.

In Remembrance

A Communist Manifesto for Julia

Friday, September 10, 2010
Today, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro announced that he was "misinterpreted" by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who quoted him as saying the "Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more."

Frankly, none of this is newsworthy.

Fidel Castro is a narcissistic dictator, whose entire rule has been based on fear, repression and lies. Let us repeat -- lies.

So there's nothing new.

However, what is truly remarkable is how a "preeminent expert" at the prestigious Council for Foreign Relations (CFR), who accompanied Mr. Goldberg on his trip to Cuba, can have absolutely no idea what she's talking about.

According to the AFP:

In Washington, CFR expert Julia Sweig, who was present at the interview, told AFP on Friday that she had a different take on Castro's quote.

Castro "wasn't joking and when I heard him saying that, I took him to mean the economic model doesn't work anymore, not the revolution, not the socialist ethos, not the independence spirit, not you know, the revolution, just the model," said Sweig.

When Castro "said the 'Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore' he was almost making reference to that kind of 'fetishized' Cuban model. 'Oh, that doesn't even work for us anymore,'" Sweig said.

In an attempt to justify her "old friend" Fidel, Ms. Sweig just tripped all over Marx and Engels -- not to mention herself.

Someone please send her a copy of The Communist Manifesto for a refresher.

The Not So Cute Killer

By The Heritage Foundation's Mike Gonzalez:

Castro Drops a Bombshell -- Journalist Drops the Ball

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg recently went to Cuba at the bidding of that island's dictator. The results weren't pretty. The tone of the first two articles by our man in Havana makes clear that he was intent on presenting Fidel Castro as a charming old rogue, a bit of a cute killer.

Then, suddenly, news happened. The octogenarian reprobate had five seconds of lucidity and uttered to his shocked interviewer: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

The death-bed confession came in response to Goldberg's question on whether the Castro brothers (Fidel's little brother, the 79-year-old Raul, is now playing president to Fidel's dowager dictator) want to export revolution anymore.

But Goldberg seems to have been so mesmerized by "the great man" (his own description) that he failed to follow through. What were Castro's answers to the stream of Goldberg's follow-up questions? We don't know; either the stream didn't come or Goldberg didn't want to clue us in on the answers.

The news that Castro admits failure was not even in the first installment of a series of articles which Goldberg promises. The first, on Tuesday, was on how much Castro respects Jews and their suffering. Goldberg lapped this up.

In the second installment we finally read Castro's mea culpa, somewhere in the middle, amid some description of a dolphin show at the Havana Aquarium.
Did Goldberg ask, "Well, Fidel, old boy, since it's 'no longer' working, will we be changing models?" Did Goldberg stick his head out the window, size up the crumbles that once was stately Havana, and ask, "Fidel, did it ever work?"

We know that Goldberg asked Julia Sweig, the Castro apologist from the Council of Foreign Relations whom Goldberg brought along, what she thought of the answer.

"He wasn't rejecting the ideas of the Revolution," Sweig helpfully explained to Goldberg. "I took it to be an acknowledgment that under 'the Cuban model' the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country." And it makes sense that Sweig would respond thusly. Otherwise, she would then have to answer for her support for a system which its installer now admits is failing.

In fact, we don't see much journalism here and wonder if Goldberg's editors are now asking some hard questions. Castro, as Goldberg tells us, defended the Jews, but Goldberg seems not to have asked him why Castro broke relations with Israel in the opening years of the Revolution, or why in 1973 he deployed thousands of Cuban soldiers, plus tanks and helicopters, to fight against Israel in the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War.

Goldberg also doesn't ask what happened to the thriving, thousands-strong Jewish community that existed in Cuba prior to 1959, whose newspapers, schools and synagogues got wiped out alongside the rest of Cuban civil society, and which has numerically been reduced to a few hundred. At least we hear of none of that.

And in the first two installments we also hear nothing of Castro's victims (you know, the people who had dared exercise rights that Goldberg takes for granted, like freedom of expression, of assembly, etc), except the throwaway offensive comment: "The next day was Monday, when maximum leaders are expected to be busy single-handedly managing their economies, throwing dissidents into prison, and the like. But Fidel's calendar was open."

We hear instead that Castro's "body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor."

Wish we could say the same of Goldberg.

From The State Department

From yesterday's Foreign Press Briefing with Assistant Secretary of State, P.J. Crowley:

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Sorry, Silvia Ayuso from the German press agency. I would like to ask you a question about Cuba. Today, after all the articles that have been coming out in the Atlantic, and many experts are warning that the U.S. is not reacting fast enough toward the changes that have been occurring in Cuba in the past month, beginning with the release of many prisoners, and that the U.S. is losing an opportunity in that sense. I'm asking myself if you – if the U.S. is finally planning to announce any new measures as the U.S. media advance almost a month ago, and so far we've seen nothing on that.

MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing to announce on Cuba. We have, we believe, been involved in a constructive dialogue with Cuba and by agreement with Cuba on a limited set of issues. We have mutual interests in managing issues regarding migration. We continue to look for ways to increase interaction between the American people and the Cuban people. We are prepared to respond to specific steps that Cuba takes. We have been encouraged by Cuba's recent release of political prisoners. We would like to see all political prisoners in Cuba released. We are very mindful at the same time that we have an American citizen in Cuban custody. We'd like to see him released.

So we are closely monitoring developments in Cuba. We are in – we have narrow discussions with Cuban authorities on areas of mutual interest. We are watching closely to see what – developments in Cuba and we'll see what happens.

Repression is Not Retro Chic

By renowned novelist Rick Robinson in The Daily Caller:

[L]ike ugly, paisley-print, wide ties, Cuba's Fidel Castro seems to wander in and out of political chic every few years.

Castro is a hot topic again

After writing an article on the Middle East, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic got a call that Fidel Castro would like to talk to him. Goldberg went to Havana and spent a couple of days with the old coot.

Goldberg's series of well-written articles are being posted on The Atlantic website and are worth reading. Castro met with Goldberg for a series of interviews. The aging dictator provided so many shocking quotes that the series could easily go on for a week and still make national headlines each day.

In the first article, Castro is quoted as saying that Iranians should quit being anti-Semitic. In the second article, set at a dolphin show, Castro acknowledged that the Cuban model doesn't work anymore.

In the days to come, these articles may be followed by editorials praising Fidel Castro for his "statesmanship." The articles by Goldberg, however, should be taken as nothing more than insight into an historical figure. They don't change the fact that the repressive Cuban government, which apparently doesn't work anymore, was molded by Castro's own bloody hands.

As many as 18,000 Cubans were executed by Castro's thugs. Another 7,000 died while being held as political prisoners. Over 50,000 have drowned trying to escape.

Before romanticizing the good old days of Fidel Castro, let's remember what he and his government have done to the good people of Cuba. Castro can give all the "retro" interviews he desires, but human suffering is his legacy. Castro was and remains evil. No death-bed pronouncements can save him from that historical fact.

Porno para Ricardo

I am hoping that Fidel reads this column and asks me to fly to Cuba. Instead of going to the dolphin show to hear him apologize for some other past atrocity, I will insist that we go to the small apartment where Gorki Águila and his father reside.

Gorki Aguila is the front man for the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo. The band started out in the Cuban mainstream, and even got their music videos played on state-run television.

As their popularity grew on the island, Gorki Aguila became bold with the band's lyrics and began attacking the government. Think of him as a Latino Johnny Rotten.

The lyrics sung by Porno para Ricardo are mild by American standards. But in Cuba, singing "No more lies, old man" is treason. It's earned Gorki Aguila two arrests — the last one for the unfathomable crime of "public dangerousness."

Porno para Ricardo is now blacklisted throughout Cuba. The only place they play is a small room covered with egg cartons in papa Aguila's apartment. They record there once a week and copy their CDs by hand for underground distribution.

So when Fidel Castro invites me over for a drink, that's where I want to go. If Customs lets me bring my Strat, I might even join in. Whether or not Castro's a fan of punk rock, he won't like what he hears.

Not in Karachi Anymore

According to FOXNews:

Cuban police armed with assault rifles, bayonets and full riot gear shut down a demonstration Wednesday by medical students from Pakistan protesting what they say is the inferior education they are getting in Cuba, the Cuban blog Babalu reported.

The foreigners, studying medicine in Jaguey Grande, outside Matanzas, Cuba, have been in an ongoing fight over a government-run university system that they say does not measure up to the requirements they need to pass the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) examination.

The students are demanding more university hospital facilities from the Cuban government, and an education sufficient to pass their exams to become licensed physicians when they return home to Pakistan, Babalublog.com reported.

In video posted on YouTube, the Pakistani protesters came face-to-face with a wall of riot police who had spread out over the campus.

Kudos and Caution

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Arturo Valenzuela, made the following important observation to the AP:

"We commend the release of these political prisoners. We think it's a very positive step, but clearly not enough. It's not sufficient for the Unites States to normalize relations with Cuba."

Kudos to Assistant Secretary Valenzuela for recognizing that the banishment to Spain of political prisoners, who were unjustly imprisoned in the first place, is another charade by the Castro regime to temporarily clean-up its beleaguered image.

It only took the Castro regime one night to arrest this group of political prisoners and, as the regime showed last month alone, it only takes it a few hours to arrest even more political dissidents than those released.

Furthermore, nearly a dozen of the political prisoners announced for release by the Castro regime refuse to be banished to Spain.

They include:

Angel Moya
Arnaldo Ramos
Diosdado González
Fidel Suárez
Guido Sigler
Iván Fernández
José Daniel Ferrer
Luis Enrique Ferrer
Librado Linares
Nelson Molinet
Oscar Elías Biscet

Due to the insistence of these political prisoners to remain in their homeland -- a fundamental international human right -- their fate now remains in question (as does the fate of countless other Cuban political prisoners).

Valenzuela proceeded to state:

"There are changes taking place in Cuba, we all know it, in part due to the difficult economic situation that Cuba is facing today. They have decisions to make and they are very difficult ones."

This is an important recognition that economic pressure does indeed work and that the Castro regime is begrudgingly considering certain reforms out of necessity, not desire.

Thus, a note of caution -- if the Castro regime is being forced to consider reforms due to increased international condemnation and economic pressure, then the last thing the U.S. should be considering are measures that would ease those economic pressures, i.e., sanctions.

Castro Should Be Tried

According to AP:

Cuban dissident: Castro should be tried

WARSAW, Poland — A recently released Cuban dissident says Fidel Castro should face an international tribunal for alleged crimes against his own people.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta said Thursday that Cuba's prisons are "apocalyptic" places where innocent people are murdered. Acosta said he spent 12 years imprisoned in Cuba and was subjected to torture.

Acosta was part of a group of political prisoners released in August, following negotiations between Roman Catholic Church and Cuba's government. He is now exiled in Spain.

Acosta is urging Poland and other EU countries to put pressure on Cuba because of its poor human rights record.

He was in Warsaw at the invitation of Polish lawmakers. Poland is a former communist country that threw off communism 20 years ago.

Fidel's Brutal Cynicism

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
According to CNN:

Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that the "Cuban model" no longer works, an apparent admission of failings in the communist economic model introduced by his revolution more than 50 years ago.

So why does he force the Cuban people -- through brutal repression -- to suffer the burdens of his failed totalitarian model?

Mr. Tight Jeans in Havana

For years, there were no greater advocates in the U.S. Congress for doing business with the Castro regime than former U.S. Representative (now Idaho Governor) Butch "Mr. Tight Jeans" Otter and (the infamous) U.S. Senator Larry Craig.

See their picture below in Havana with Alimport's Pedro Alvarez.

However, it turns out that their advocacy (and hype) was less than sincere.

So what were they really doing in Havana?

Here's a thought-provoking excerpt from Boise Weekly's "The Cuban Connection":

[Idaho Governor Butch] Otter has traveled to Cuba four times in an effort to relive the days when he exported capitalism (and Idaho products) to communists. Otter is never shy in talking about the days when he successfully pitched frozen french fries to China after marrying into the J.R. Simplot family/company. One divorce and a few elected offices later, Otter was convinced he would have similar success in Cuba. When he was a congressman, Otter led three delegations to Havana. He helmed a fourth, as governor, in 2007.

"I have high hopes that the work we've done will result in a fruitful harvest for Idaho producers and businesses," Otter boasted in 2007. Publicly, the governor said the Idaho/Cuban connection was a match made in heaven. Privately, he was more clandestine.

"They lied to me," said Nathaniel Hoffman, former BW news editor, who attempted to follow the delegation. "They went out of their way to give me the slip. They'd give me false information about when and where they were traveling. They hid from me for days."

When Otter and his delegation, which included dozens of businessmen and government officials, returned to Idaho, there was plenty of back-slapping. An official release from the Governor's Office touted deals to sell biotechnology, seed potatoes and plenty of meat. Falls Brand Independent Meats of Twin Falls announced a plan to ship more than 50 tons of boneless pork, valued at more than $100,000, in a matter of months. None of it happened.

Banished Prisoner Urges Tougher Sanctions

During an event organized by the German NGO, Internationale Geselschaft für Menschenrechte (IGFM, International Association for Human Rights), Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, one of the political prisoners recently banished to Spain by the Castro regime, urged the European Union to adopt tougher sanctions against the Castro regime, akin to "sanctions it maintains against other dictatorships like Belarus and Burma."

Herrera Acosta, an independent journalist imprisoned by the Castro regime during the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003, criticized the Spanish government's policy of rapprochement with the Castro regime, which he labeled as "wicked and erroneous."

He also accused Spain's government of "defending its economic interests [in Cuba] and not the humanitarian interests of the Cuban people."

The EU common position on Burma, for example, includes a travel ban and asset freezing on regime personnel, an arms embargo, a ban on EU companies investing in the logging, mining and gemstone industries -- the Burmese regime's foremost source of income -- and a ban on the export of these products to the EU.

Needless to say, if the EU sanctioned investment in the Castro regime's foremost source on income -- the tourism industry -- it'd be game over.

Sadly though, Spain's economic interests have -- thus far -- prevailed.

Please Sign Petition to Cardinal Ortega

Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Please read the following letter and sign here.

An Open Letter to Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino Archbishop of Havana

Your Eminence:

Your recent actions and comments have stirred a lot of controversy and led many to question the motives behind your collaboration with one of the most abusive regimes on earth. At best, some think that you have lived far too long under a brutal dictatorship, and like a long-term hostage, can no longer discern the difference between what most of the world considers "normal" and "abnormal" behavior. At worst, some accuse you of aiding the elites who rule Cuba, and of safeguarding their power.

This letter seeks to explain why so many Cubans feel betrayed by you, and why your efforts on behalf of the prisoners have caused more grief than relief.

First and foremost, you have played a key role in stripping Cuba of some of its best citizens, and in ensuring that the current status quo remains unchanged, all in the name of "social harmony." Yes, working for the release of non-violent prisoners of conscience is an admirable thing, in and of itself. But the sad fact is that none of the dissidents being released from prison through your mediation are really being freed outright, as they deserve. Instead, they are being sent directly from their vermin-infested cells into exile, to a foreign land that does not want to recognize them as political exiles or refugees, and is more interested in dispersing them to remote locations than in offering any genuine assistance. This is not only a violation of their human rights, but also against the social teachings of the Church, which uphold the dignity of every individual, the sanctity of the family, and everyone's right to freedom of conscience.

Second, the deal you brokered between Raul Castro and Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos was carefully designed to fool the European Union into thinking that genuine reform had finally come to Cuba, and that it was high time for the Europeans to stop badgering the Castro regime about their uncivil behavior. Fortunately, the European Union seems not to have been duped by this trick.

Third, that trip you took to Washington D.C. – something forbidden to all of your flock – was also carefully designed to enhance power of the Castro regime and forestall any genuine reforms. In essence, you flew to Washington to beg for Dollars on behalf of Castro Incorporated. Nothing more, nothing less. For what would be the sole outcome of the lifting of the so-called embargo and of travel restrictions for Americans, but simply an increase in cashflow? Greater openness? Greater freedom? Economic growth? Forget all that. Perhaps you haven't noticed that the two million tourists from the free world that flood Cuba's beaches every year have done nothing to improve the political climate or the economic well-being of Cuba.

Fourth, on August 14th, one of your subalterns, Bishop Emilio Aranguren, acted as an agent of the tyrants, suggesting to Reina Tamayo, the grieving mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a woman who has been harassed for months, that she has no right to visit her son's grave unless she does so alone. Is this the best that "dialogue" can offer? If so, maybe you should think it over. And perhaps you should also think about the fact that it was not Bishop Aranguren who really helped Reina Tamayo, but rather the foreign news media who finally had the courage to flock to her home. The mere fact that they would be there to record the abusive behavior of the Castro regime was enough to dispel the hundreds of aggressors who had prevented her and her friends from going to the cemetery through brute force.

Finally, you have publicly complained about the letter that 165 of your bravest, most honorable Cuban brethren sent to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in which they justly complained of your conduct. This response on your part may be the clearest indication that you are truly out of step with the civilized world and Holy Mother Church. You refer to their letter as "offensive." Yet, these men and women are risking their lives and their well-being, in order to gain true justice for themselves and their fellow Cubans. They are literally offering up their lives for their brethren, in an ultimate act of love (John 15:13). They are the good Samaritans, not the uncaring Pharisee who ignored the wounded man at the roadside. (Luke 10:25-37) Through your spokesman Father Orlando Marquez, you scolded them as ungrateful and said that the Church is working on behalf of the "respect and dignity of all Cubans and the social harmony of Cuba."

This statement raises a crucial question, Your Eminence: how does the denial of nearly every human right sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, most civilized nations, and the United Nations lead to "respect" and "dignity"? And this leads to a second question: since when has Holy Mother Church equated brutal atheistic repression with "social harmony?"

The only hint of an answer you have given to such questions is deeply disturbing. You invoke "pastoral" concerns, claiming that you are straining to avoid "political tendencies." Yet, this dichotomy that you see between pastoral concerns and politics is not only specious, but also contrary to Church teaching and common sense. Your reasoning indicates, above all, that you choose not to accept the political reality in which you and all Cubans live, for wherever tyrants set themselves up as God and Caesar, no one can distinguish between "rendering unto Caesar" and "rendering unto God," (Mark 12:17). Unfortunately, every act in Cuba, every gesture is a "political tendency," no matter how sacred or mundane, from receiving the Eucharist to placing food on the table.

Back in the late fourth century, Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan, made no such distinctions. Ambrose repeatedly stood up to the Roman Emperor Theodosius, reprimanding him for wronging his subjects and acting tyrannically. Of course, Theodosius was a Christian, unlike the Castro brothers and their henchmen, so Ambrose had a kind of leverage you can't ever rely upon. But you do have leverage – una palanca enorme – of your own: eleven million souls who yearn to be free, who will put their bodies at risk, maybe even sacrifice their earthly well-being to ensure freedom for their brethren and their children.

So, Your Eminence, please be our Ambrose. Defend the rights of your flock, who will surely rally to your call, and thank you. In your "dialogue" with the tyrants, please tell them to let your people go, as Moses did to Pharaoh. If you and your clergy were to demand real change, the murderous, soul-crushing regime that has ruled Cuba for fifty-one years would surely collapse in the wink of an eye. You know it. The sainted John Paul II – he who brought down the Iron Curtain – knows it, in Heaven, along with those two other champions of human rights who grace our history, Fathers Bartolomé de las Casas and Felix Varela. And so do all Cubans, living and dead, saints and sinners alike.

Please be our good shepherd. Stop "dialoguing" with the wolves, and drive them away instead.

Your fellow Cubans,

(cc: His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI)

Add Sailors and Golfers to Castro's Wish List

Once again, the Castro regime is fiendishly eyeing the hard-currency of foreign tourists.

Last week, it issued new land-lease rules for foreign investors to build golf courses for foreigners.

This week, it's issuing rules for foreign investors to build marinas for foreigners.

Note the pattern.
Hint: it's all "for foreigners."

According to Sail-World USA:

Cruising sailors are being sought as part of Cuba's push to increase its tourism income. New rules governing the building of marinas by foreign investors promise an upgrade to the available facilities along the coastline of the island country.

Yet, there are still people with the audacity to argue that the Castro regime really doesn't want tourism travel restrictions lifted, arguing that Americans would somehow flood the island with "democratic ideals."

The only thing these new apartheid facilities would provide the Cuban people is more repression.

As we recently stressed in The Hill:

Cuban pro-democracy activists don't need American fanny-packers and spring breakers to teach them democratic ideals. As a matter of fact, they can probably teach the Chamber [of Commerce], and most of us, a thing or two about the importance of freedom and democracy -- not to mention the high cost it entails.

They don't need sailors or golfers either.

A Gripping Award-Winning Documentary

Monday, September 6, 2010
The Czech documentary "Children of the 1950s" (previously entitled "Children of Stalinism"), a gripping account of the children of Czech political prisoners, have just received two awards at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (NYIIFVF).

It received the audience award for international film and the award for best international historical documentary.

The first part of the seven-episode cycle, shot by students of the Prague film school FAMU, is devoted to the daughters of political prisoners. The next part will focus on the sons of political prisoners.

Please watch the following video preview of the documentary.

Tragically, this type of suffering is still occurring just 90 miles from our shores.

It also helps puts the extraordinary courage of Cuba's Ladies in White into even greater historical context.

Message From Banished Political Prisoners

Last week, senior officials from Spain's ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) -- once again -- visited with the Castro regime.

As has become the PSOE's common practice, pro-democracy and human rights activists were marginalized from all meetings.

In response, a group of Cuban political prisoners recently banished to Spain issued a poignant declaration.

Here's an excerpt:

We, political prisoners who have been banished to Spain, were imprisoned for defending peaceful dialogue amongst all Cubans as a civilized way to achieve the political, economic and social rights that Cuba's totalitarian system has denied its people for over 50 years.

Only the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Spanish government seem to see changes in the state of lawlessness that the Cuban people are subjected to. To confuse the banishment of political prisoners that has taken place to date with a process of democratic opening is an insult to the legitimate right of all Cubans who seek to build a free and reconciled society [...]

Unfortunately, some political sectors in Spain and its government want to endorse "changes" based on their wayward bet, without rights for the Cuban people, recognizing the island's repressive forces as the sole interlocutor.

They are converting the current military junta into the economic mafia of the future.

Happy Labor Day

The Cuban Opposition is Winning

Sunday, September 5, 2010
By Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat in The Miami Herald:

[Fidel Castro's] speech at the front steps of the university took place on the heels of a daring protest carried out by young pro-democracy activists at the same location. Once the symbol of resistance against the dictatorships Cuba suffered during the 20th century, the University of Havana has been under tight regime control for half a century.

The protesters were expressing their solidarity with other young human-rights activists arrested in the eastern city of Baracoa who face stiff repression as they lead meetings of the Cuban Youth Forum, where Cubans have been openly discussing issues of concern to the island's population that Fidel Castro chooses to ignore.

So the question remains, Why is the once again olive-clad elder Castro putting his health and his prestige on the line in order to counter peaceful and persecuted human-rights activists?

For the same reason that he reappeared in public precisely when unprecedented talks between Raúl and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega resulted in the progressive release and exile of many of the 75 pro-democracy activists imprisoned during the "Black Spring'' of 2003. These talks took place after the regime did little to save hunger-striking prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, its violent repression of the Havana street protests of the Ladies in White, (the wives, mothers and sisters of the imprisoned 75), as well as of those in Camagüey by waves of youth activists, and dissident Guillermo Fariñas's prolonged hunger strike. Those events, punctuated by Tamayo's death, sparked an avalanche of international condemnation that buried the regime's propaganda efforts aimed at improving its image after 51 years of its iron-fisted rule.

The fact is that his own megalomania and the imperative of regime survival force Castro to occupy the center stage. The world's attention is now shifting from the dictatorship to the civic-resistance movement that increasingly articulates the overwhelming desire for change held by the vast majority of Cubans. Nothing better than Castro's purported resurrection and talk of nuclear war to try to divert Cubans' and world public opinion away from Cuba's woes and the actions of the committed activists who have risen to advocate democratic change.

Resistance in Cuba is real. It is increasingly well-organized, as is demonstrated by the emergence of the National Civic Resistance Front, which coordinated demonstrations in different parts of the island to try to save Zapata's life, as well as the recent one on the University of Havana steps.

The resistance will not go away, for it is born out of the pursuit of liberty that has shaped Cuba's national identity for the past two hundred years. The activists know that through consistent, principled nonviolent action they have forced a totalitarian regime to engage with a Catholic Church it once sought to suppress and ignore, so as to avoid dealing with a resistance that it cannot afford to recognize. When a one-party tyranny is forced by a grass-roots movement to deal with other national actors, it has been forced to enter the terrain of pluralization it so fears to tread.

Eduardo Pérez Flores, one of those arrested at the University of Havana protest recently wrote in a letter he sent to his mother from his prison cell: "Tell the world that in Cuba they are releasing political prisoners on the one hand and incarcerating more on the other.'' He then summarizes the ethos of the Cuban resistance: "I am not afraid of prison. We will remain firm.''

Our Heartfelt Condolences

Surrounded by family and loved ones, Marco Rubio's father, Mario Rubio, passed away tonight at Baptist Hospital in Miami. He was 83 years old. Mario Rubio suffered from a long bout with emphysema and lung cancer.

In his final moments, Mario was accompanied by his loving wife of 61 years, Oria, his children Mario, Barbara, Marco and Veronica, and his extended family.

On the passing of his father, Marco Rubio issued the following statement:

"My father knew hard work and struggle from very early in his life. His mother died when he was only 9 years old. The day after his mother was buried he went to work with his father and did not stop working until he was 78 years old.

He was by far the most unselfish person I have ever known, always focused on others, and never on his own well being. He was especially determined to provide his children opportunities he himself never had.

My dad worked as a street vendor, security guard, apartment building manager and crossing guard. But for most of his life he was a bartender, and by all accounts a great one. But his greatest success came from the two most important jobs he ever had: husband and father.

He was very proud of my public service. And over the last 18 months he became an expert channel surfer, constantly searching for my next television interview.

I was blessed to be raised by a world class father. And I thank God for allowing my father to live long and healthy enough to see that the sacrifices he made for us were not in vain."

In lieu of flowers, the Rubio family requests honoring Mario Rubio's memory by supporting the League Against Cancer/Liga Contra El Cancer.

Congratulations Yoani

The International Press Institute has declared Cuban blogger Yoani Maria Sanchez Cordero its 60th World Press Freedom Hero.

Sanchez's blog, Generation Y, is an acerbic critique of life in Cuba, and a telling reminder to the world of the restraints on free speech and expression on the Caribbean island.

Sanchez, a graduate of Havana University, left Cuba for Switzerland in 2002, but returned two years later. On her return, she set up, along with a group of other Cubans, the magazine "Consenso" as a forum for reflection and debate.

In 2007, spurred by what she saw as a growing repressive climate in her homeland, she launched her blog, Generation Y. Composed of reflections on daily life, politics and culture in Castro's Cuba, the blog today boasts a readership of more than a million.

In early 2008, Sanchez reported that the site may have been targeted by government censors. In April 2008, the site became unavailable in Cuba.

Since then, Sanchez has resorted to extreme and creative measures to keep her blog alive. In a country where internet access is severely restricted and prohibitively expensive, Sanchez often poses as a tourist to access the internet, emailing her entries to friends outside the country who then publish them online.

Sanchez has been refused permission to travel outside of Cuba at least six times in the past two years alone, despite international acclaim for her blog. In 2008, "TIME Magazine" named her one of the world's 100 most influential people, noting her "feisty dedication to the truth," and pointing out that "under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot: freedom of speech." She has also received the Ortega y Gasset Prize, Spain's highest award for digital journalism; the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University; and in 2009, TIME Magazine named her blog among the 25 Best Blogs of 2009.

In her own country, however, Sanchez has repeatedly faced harassment by authorities. In November 2009, the Daily Telegraph reported that she was beaten by a group of unidentified men while on her way to a peaceful protest. According to the article, after the attack, she was dumped "again in the middle of the street, (…) leaving her bruised, scared and sobbing."

Sanchez says she has not been able to see her own blog since 2007. She reports on her blog that she is under continuous surveillance by state security agents. On 24 May, Sanchez's blog reported that her name had been announced on Cuba's state-run Roundtable program, "mixed with concepts such as "cyber-terrorism," "cyber-commandos" and "media war."