In Solidarity Against Chavez

Saturday, September 25, 2010
Last night, Cuban artist Geandy Pavon -- who has projected the image of deceased political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo onto Cuban diplomatic entities throughout the world -- projected the image of recently deceased Venezuelan hunger striker Franklin Brito onto the Venezuelan Consulate in New York City.

Here's a picture:

Mao's Last Dancer

A must-see film. Check your local listings.

Please watch this preview:

The Truth About Castro's "Reforms"

Pay close attention to this revealing -- and truthful -- headline by Reuters:

Cuba pushes private enterprise to save socialism

Cuba's economic reforms began taking shape on Friday as the government said it would allow or expand private enterprise in 178 activities ranging from watch repairs to massages, to help assure the survival of socialism.

Sound like a scam from the past? That's because it is.

The article continues:

Similar steps were taken in the 1990s as Cuba struggled to survive when its economy collapsed after the fall of the Caribbean island's key benefactor, the Soviet Union.

In 1996, the number of self-employed peaked at 209,000, but when the economy improved, the government, in the name of ideological purity, backed off the reforms and restricted the issuance of new licenses. Cuba currently has 143,000 licensed self-employed.

You Call This a Private Sector?

Friday, September 24, 2010
We usually disagree with the Cato Institute on Cuba policy, but this analysis is right-on-point:

Cuban Government Will Choke the Nascent Private Sector

Following the announcement of massive layoffs in the public sector, the Cuban government published today new guidelines that will allow private employment in 178 economic activities. Among the newly authorized private occupations are masseurs, clowns, shoemakers, locksmiths, and gardeners.

However, these new entrepreneurs will face a few hurdles before enjoying the benefits of their own work. Not only must they get a government license in order to operate (according to official sources the number of permits will be capped at 250,000), but they will also have to pay high taxes. A leaked document from the Communist Party says that small businesses will pay between 10 to 40 percent of their gross income in taxes. On top of that, they will have to contribute 25 percent of their incomes to social security.

Don't expect a thriving private sector in Cuba any time soon.

More on Round Two

From Congressional Quarterly:

Easing of Cuba Embargo Scheduled for House Panel Markup

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman has scheduled a long-anticipated markup of a bill to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba, a sign House Democrats are prepared to move forward on easing elements of the 50-year-old embargo against the communist nation.

But it is unclear if Berman has the votes to move the bill out of committee.

The legislation (HR 4645) would end a ban on most travel to Cuba that was first put in place as part of an economic embargo by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. It also would end a requirement embedded in federal law (PL 106-387) that restricts some agricultural exports to Cuba.

Sponsored by Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., the bill narrowly passed his committee in June and was referred to the Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees. The latter has ceded jurisdiction.

Backers of the bill have maintained that Berman is eager to move the bill but has been waiting to see if he had the votes.

That was also the belief of Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking member on Foreign Affairs and a staunch opponent of easing any elements of the embargo.

In an interview earlier this month, Ros-Lehtinen said if Berman and fellow supporters of the bill had "the votes in the Foreign Affairs Committee, we would be voting on it tomorrow."

"The reason that they have not had the vote yet is because they lack the firm votes," she said at the time.

One House aide said that putting the markup on the calendar was not necessarily a signal that Berman now has the votes. "We have one week of session left," the aide observed, so Berman's rationale could be, "send out the notice with the hope you get the votes. And if you don't have the votes, you cancel."

"I think that's still a real possibility," the aide said.

One of the bill's backers outside Congress who has been tracking the likely votes said that the whip count for the bill is currently "about even" and advocates are still working to shore up support.

A spokesman for Ros-Lehtinen said Thursday that she had been blindsided by Berman's decision to schedule a markup and maintained that it was not a good time to ease up on Cuba, which is facing increasing economic and political pressure.

© 2010 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Round Two

According to Reuters:

House panel to move forward on easing Cuba policy

A House of Representatives panel will vote next week on a bill relaxing trade with and travel to Cuba, with Democratic supporters struggling to ease the restrictions before mid-term elections in which they risk losing their majority.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee placed the legislation on its calendar for a vote next Wednesday. But even if the committee approves it, getting the measure through Congress this year will be difficult with so little time and so much other work left for lawmakers to do.

If passed, the legislation would lift the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba and remove hurdles on food sales to the island.

A broad coalition of farm, business and human rights groups support the legislation as an important step toward ending the almost five-decade-old embargo on communist-led Cuba and promoting positive change there.

A Republican takeover of the House in November 2 elections, which many think is possible, would complicate chances for change next year because some senior Republicans oppose any loosening of the embargo.

But there are also some opponents of lifting the travel ban among the Democrats now in the majority in both the House and Senate, and this has helped to delay action on it until now.

The measure passed the House Agriculture Committee in June. If it passes the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, it would go to the House floor, but probably not until an expected "lame duck" session after the November elections.

The bill would also have to pass the Senate. If it fails to clear any of these hurdles, lawmakers will have to start over from scratch in the new Congress.

U.S. Walks Out on Ahmadinejad

Gay Rights Activist Detained

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Last Friday, the Castro regime arrested gay activist Aliomar Janjaque Chivás, president of the LGBT Reinaldo Arenas Foundation, for collecting testimonies that documented abuses against the gay community in Cuba.

The testimonies were to form part of a legal proceeding initiated at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague against the Castro regime for "crimes against humanity." They were subsequently confiscated by the Cuban authorities.

Janjaque was arrested while interviewing various men who had been interned in labor camps due to their sexual orientation.

Didn't Fidel Castro recently express regret over the repression against Cuba's gay community?

So was he -- once again -- lying?

Shocking.

Hunger Striker Sews Lips Shut

From The Miami Herald:
 
Cuban hunger striker who sewed lips shut hospitalized

The Cuban dissident who sewed his mouth shut to prove he was on a hunger strike fainted amid spasms, according to a report.

A Cuban dissident who sewed his lips shut after doctors made fun of his hunger strike was taken to a hospital Wednesday suffering from convulsions and blackouts, an independent journalist reported.

Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 47, stopped eating 62 days ago, sewed his mouth Sept. 5 and stopped drinking water Tuesday, journalist Heriberto Liranza Romero told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

Alejo's wife, Rita Montes de Oca, joined his hunger strike and also sewed her lips Sept. 12 with regular sewing thread and a needle, the journalist said [...] 

Alejo, a former political prisoner, is president of the Human Rights Movement Miguel Valdés Tamayo, named after a dissident who was jailed in the 2003 crackdown, was released in 2004 because of ill health and died in 2007.

Jobless because of his political activism, Alejo went on a hunger strike to demand the right to work, the right to receive assistance from abroad and live "like a human being, not an animal,'' Liranza said.

Stay the Prudent Course

By former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Stephen Johnson, in The Washington Post:

The U.S. should stay the course on Cuba

In his Sept. 18 op-ed, "Easing the impact of Cuba's coming crisis," Edward Schumacher-Matos wrongly suggested that the United States bail out Fidel and Raúl Castro by lifting the U.S. trade embargo. He claimed such action will help prevent an economic crisis on the island, kick out the supports propping up the regime and reward the Castros for their recent release of political prisoners. None of this makes sense.

The economic crisis is forcing Cuba to make limited market reforms and renew a lapsed experiment in self-employment. Lifting the embargo and U.S. tourist restrictions would help replenish government coffers with foreign currency and revive Cuba's army-run tourism industry, helping to prop up the status quo. As for encouraging positive behavior by Cuba's leaders, there is little to reward when political prisoners must agree to exile as a condition of their freedom.

In his final sentence, Mr. Schumacher-Matos warned of another Mariel-style exodus of dissatisfied Cubans. Yet instead of a giving Cuba a bailout, the United States should look to experience that shows that clear policies and effective immigration enforcement are better migration deterrents.

So far, the Obama administration has chosen a prudent course, denying aid to a repressive regime, pursuing purposeful contact and looking for ways to help ordinary Cubans expand their civil liberties until a true transition is at hand.

Goldberg's Guesthouse View

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Earlier this month, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg spent a weekend in Havana -- at Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's invitation -- and has since posted a series of reports on his views.

That's old news now.

Frankly, the posts have all been very entertaining. Not necessarily informative, but definitely entertaining.

And that's absolutely fine.

At the end of the day, sensationalism sells. Goldberg's back-and-forth with Castro on topics ranging from homosexuals, to Iran, to the failings of Cuba's socialist economy have successfully made headlines throughout the world. That, in turn, has meant smart business for The Atlantic, which finally turned a profit this month.

We have absolutely no qualms with any of that, for our free society provides such opportunities.

However, we do take issue with some of Goldberg's views on U.S. policy, to which he dedicated his latest post, "America's Absurd and Self-Defeating Cuba Policy." In it, he makes some pretty outlandish statements. Once again, absolutely within his rights, as is ours to scrutinize them.

First and foremost, it's important to note that Goldberg's views do not stem from having spent a weekend on the streets with Cuban pro-democracy leaders, such as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" in Matanzas, or with the family of deceased political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo in the remote town of Banes.

They stem from a weekend in Havana, as a special guest of Fidel Castro, where he shared a VIP guest house with the President of the African nation of Guinea-Bissau.

So what are some of these views?

Goldberg begins by taking the very dangerous route of looking for moral equivalencies amongst dictators.

Thus, he states, "Fidel Castro is not Ivan the Terrible, Pol Pot, or Saddam Hussein."

That may be arguable, but we're not in the 16th century, nor is Cuba half-way around the world in South or Central Asia.

Cuba is 90-miles away in this Western Hemisphere, where despite the steadfast efforts of Fidel Castro and his protege Hugo Chavez, totalitarian dictatorships -- with Cuba's exception -- should only be a memory.

Ironically, many of the defenders of Fidel Castro -- including Goldberg's travel partner, the Council on Foreign Relations' Julia Sweig -- are usually the first to condemn and urge isolation of other regional, right-wing dictators, such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

Pinochet is believed to have brutally executed 3,000 government opponents and disappeared another 30,000. Yet, he led Chile's development towards a first world economy.

Meanwhile, Castro had 3,000 opponents executed over breakfast during the first year of his dictatorship alone and has turned Cuba into a third world pauper.

Does that make Pinochet better than Castro? No, it doesn't.


Furthermore, such comparisons serve no purpose -- they are futile, ideological justifications for indefensible dictatorships.

Goldberg then proceeds to state, "I judge his revolution against what it replaced, namely, the thugocracy of Batista, who was a friend only to a handful of oligarchs and American mafia leaders."

Aside from the historic blunder of this statement -- as Cuba's biggest oligarchs actually hated Batista and helped finance Castro's revolution (read Financial Times columnist John Paul Rathbone's latest book, "The Sugar King of Havana," for just one illustration) -- how can anyone judge, compare or justify a 51-year dictatorship (by one man) with a 7-year dictatorship (by another man)?

That only makes the 51-year dictatorship all the more reprehensible, not vice-versa.

Both of these dictatorships should only be judged in comparison to modern-day standards of democracy in the Western Hemisphere. In such a comparison, both dictatorships are losers, with Castro's 51-year dictatorship being seven times worse (simple arithmetic).

Goldberg also states, "I would also point out that China's human rights record, in particular, makes Cuba's look like Norway's."

Another fascinating view, particularly stemming from Castro's guesthouse. Once again, this can be argued and statistically rebutted in proportion to the population of both countries, etc, but that would walk us down Goldberg's trap of looking for "equivalence" amongst dictators.

However, since he makes this comment in the context of critiquing U.S. policy, let's follow his rationale.

As such, does this mean that normalized relations, including trade and commerce, with dictatorships (such as China) are actually worse for human rights and political freedoms than sanctions? Does this mean embracing dictatorships economically actually emboldens them to brutally crackdown on dissent?

If that's Goldberg's point, then we agree.

Unfortunately though, that's not Goldberg's point, for he concludes, "if we want to have influence in the way Cuba is governed in the 21st century, it would be smart to actually talk to Cuba."

And that final statement sums it all up.

You see, talking to Castro (as Goldberg exclusively focused on) is not talking to Cuba -- it's actually a disservice to Cuba.

Only Castro equates himself with Cuba. Therefore, Castro brutally represses anyone that disagrees with him, for they are also disagreeing with Cuba.

And that's exactly the guesthouse view that Castro wanted Goldberg to post.

From Iran (to Castro), With Love

The following official statement was released by the Iranian dictatorship today:

The enemies cannot ruin the deep and friendly relations between Iran and Cuba through false words.

The president asserted: "The relations between Iran and Cuba are deep and extensive; enemies cannot ruin the relations of the two countries."

Dr.Ahmadinejad during his travel to New York to attend UN General Assembly visited the Cuban foreign secretary; Iran and Cuba have been in one front more than 30 years and today with a joint perspective are also after improving the level of their relations on all sectors.

The president mentioned: "Nation of Iran reveres highly for the revolutionary personality of Fidel Castro; today the enemies are after defaming the revolutionary personality of Mr. Fidel Castro through gossip-mongering and false news. We must be careful that the respectable characters like Fidel Castro will not grow defamed."

Dr.Ahmadinejad added: "The deep and friendly relations of the two countries have not newly been created that some people through false remarks ruin it."

The foreign secretary of Cuba also in this visit touched upon this point that Iran and Cuba are two revolutionary countries against domination; Cuba and Fidel Castro per se are interested in Iran and shows special reverence for the supreme leader of Iran and supports Iran's rights in the international subjects.

The foreign minister of Cuba said that the media propaganda against Fidel Castro has begun because he announced his cohesion against any risk of military attack on Iran; recently the media dependent upon US and Zionists began propaganda against Fidel Castro.

He stressed on this matter that Fidel Castro has not made any recommendation and proposal regarding holocaust to Iran, and pointed out; his position is respecting and appreciating the Islamic Republic of Iran and the cases quoted from him on holocaust has nothing to do with the positions of Iran in this regard, and the US and Zionistic newspapers have presented an absolutely different concept out of his remarks, of course Mr. Fidel Castro issued a statement on this regard.

The foreign minister of Cuba in this visit delivered the letter of Fidel Castro to Dr.Ahmadinejad; Mr. Castro stressed: "His behavior and position on Iran still are stable."

Free Biscet Now

Don't miss today's Congressional screening of "Oscar's Cuba."

From Fidel's Daughter

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
From The Citizens Voice:

Castro's daughter says Cuban ecomony 'nonexistent'

Engineers and doctors paid $10 a month. Government-run barber and shoe shops. Widespread poverty and unemployment. Communism has left the Cuban economy in shambles, about the same half a century ago as it is today, the daughter of former Cuban President Fidel Castro told a large crowd at Penn State Worthington Scranton campus in Dunmore Monday night.

"The Cuban economy is nonexistent," said Alina Fernandez, who was a toddler when her father and a band of fellow revolutionaries overthrew the government in 1959. Fernandez was invited to speak at the university, followed by a question-and-answer session with the public.

Despite recent headlines about the Cuban government laying off at least 500,000 state workers this year and encouraging some of them to take private-sector jobs, Fernandez said it is going to take a new generation of leaders to instill free-market values and a capitalistic economy.

"It's not the first time it happened," she said of the layoffs and talk of free-market reforms coming to the island nation of 11 million citizens who still receive food-rationing cards from the government.

"Cuba is a society obligated to live on a black market basis. Almost nothing has changed."

"Oscar's Cuba" Screening in Congress

Cuba's revolving door for political prisoners

Setting the record straight through the story of one of Cuba's most prominent political prisoners: Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet

We invite you to join us on Wednesday, September 22nd from 12:00pm to 1:00pm in 2253 Rayburn as we host the 14th annual Cuba Day on the Hill. This year we will be accompanied by filmmaker Jordan Allott. Jordan directed the new documentary Oscar's Cuba. It is an unflinching and honest look at Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet who has been imprisoned since 2003 for his beliefs. Jordan will also lead a discussion and answer any questions on Dr. Biscet and the larger context of all those imprisoned in Castro's gulag. As we hear voices calling for a softer gentler relationship with Cuba, we must not be blind to the reality that Dr. Biscet and others face day-in and day-out. Cuba not only imprisons those who simply disagree with the regime, but they force into exile those they release in order manipulate public opinion.

Sincerely,

Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Hon. Lincoln Diaz-Balart
Hon. Mario Diaz-Balart
Hon. Albio Sires
Hon. Dan Burton
Hon. Connie Mack
Hon. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Hon. Mike Pence
Hon. Eliot Engel
Hon. Shelley Berkley
Hon. Theodore E. Deutch
Hon. Gus M. Bilirakis
Hon. Steven R. Rothman
Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Hon. Edward R. Royce
Hon. Joe Wilson
Hon. Vern Buchanan
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings
Hon. Kendrick B. Meek
Hon. Ron Klein

Cuba Loses Another Great Talent

Monday, September 20, 2010
There are those that build and those that destroy.

Unfortunately, those that destroy remain in power in Cuba. Meanwhile, we've just lost one of the greatest that builds.

Last week, Ysrael A. Seinuk passed away in New York.

Seinuk, a worldwide authority on the design and construction of high-rise concrete and steel buildings, was a native of Cuba and a graduate of the University of Havana before going into exile in 1960.

Amongst his most notable New York projects are the Trump World Tower, Bear Stearns World Headquarters, Time Warner Centre at Columbus Circle, Trump's Riverside South apartments, the New York Mercantile Exchange, Four Time Square, 515 Park Avenue, the "Lipstick" Building, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium in Flushing Meadows, 7 World Trade Center, The Galleria and the landmark 450 Lexington Avenue.

And those were just his New York projects. From Mexico City to Dubai, his work remains a testament to his unique talent.

Yet, Cuba always remained prominently in his heart.

During a 2005 interview with the BBC, Seinuk was asked:

If you had the opportunity to return to Cuba tomorrow and were free to build something, what type of building would you erect and where?

His answer:

"Well, the key word in your question is freedom. Assuming things would take a normal path, towards democracy, I would go to Cuba even if it were to only build a small hut."


May he rest in peace.

The Smartest Guy in the Room

Thinks the Cuban people are dumb.

In yesterday's Washington Post, George P. Will sounded like the smartest guy in the room.

In his column on Cuba policy, Mr. Will discussed Paris cafes, Danzig, Les Deux Magots, Existentialism, Zeitgeist, Jean-Paul Sartre and Czeslaw Milosz.

Then, after setting up his impressive intellectual bona fides, he dedicated one sentence (at the very end) to U.S. policy towards Cuba:

"The U.S. policy of isolating Cuba by means of economic embargoes and travel restrictions serves two Castro goals: It provides an alibi for Cuba's social conditions, and it insulates Cuba from some of the political and cultural forces that brought down communism in Eastern Europe."

While we have the utmost respect for Mr. Will -- and he may very well be the smartest guy in the room -- he succumbed to the same seductive stagger of other intellectuals (some who he ironically criticizes in the column) when addressing Cuba policy:

Elitism.

The premise of Mr. Will's rationale against current U.S. policy is based on a misguided (and insulting) presumption that the Cuban people are dumb -- that they believe Castro's "alibi" for the regime's failures and should therefore be educated by U.S. "political and cultural forces."

Obviously, he is unaware of the tragic plight and death this past February of a 42-old Afro-Cuban plumber -- turned pro-democracy activist and political prisoner -- Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died pursuant to an 85-day hunger strike against the tortures and abuses of the Castro regime.

Despite his humble origins, Mr. Zapata didn't believe the Castro regime's nonsense, nor did he need "political and cultural forces" to explain the severity of Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship. Moreover, Mr. Zapata's entire family, who reside in the remote town of Banes in eastern Cuba and remain under siege by Castro's secret police, don't need "enlightenment" -- they need "solidarity."

As we've said on multiple occasions -- these courageous pro-democracy activists can teach us a thing or two about the importance of freedom, which we so often take for granted; of the overwhelming challenges of modern-day civil disobedience in the face of unchecked brutality; and of the high cost it entails.

And the Zapata family is just the tip of the iceberg. The hundreds of thousands of Cubans that have endured Castro's political prisons, the countless numbers that have met their fate at the firing squad and in the treacherous Florida Straits, and the millions exiled are a constant reminder that the Cuban people are well-aware of the challenge at hand -- it is called Fidel and Raul Castro.

Therefore, the last thing the U.S. should do is bailout and embolden the Castros' politically, socially and economically bankrupt regime.

In the meantime Mr. Will, don't underestimate the Cuban people.

WP Editorial Board: Don't Lift Tourism Ban

From The Washington Post Editorial Board:

Layoffs in Cuba

RAÚL AND FIDEL Castro find themselves in a jam. The gerontocratic rulers of Cuba are facing the worst economic crisis in decades: Food production is falling, the last sugar harvest was the worst in a century and only billions in subsidies from Venezuela's erratic Hugo Chávez are keeping the country afloat. Yet 79-year-old Raúl and 84-year-old Fidel are determined to preserve as much as possible of the country's failed socialist system -- and they have no intention of allowing greater political freedom.

So the brothers are launching a series of economic half measures and political feints in the hope of patching their regime without having to change it. The latest came last week with the announcement that 500,000 Cuban workers -- or 10 percent of the state labor force -- would be laid off from their jobs. Some will be shifted directly to the private sector by turning small state enterprises into private cooperatives, while the rest will be expected to find work in an expanded "self-employment" sphere, where Cubans are licensed to work in such vocations as toy repairman and piñata producer.

Some Cuba watchers have proclaimed this the biggest economic upheaval since the 1960s and predicted that Cuba will soon resemble China and Vietnam, capitalist countries governed by communist dictatorships. In reality, the Castros appear to intend something closer to the emergency reforms that were introduced in the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Private employment was also allowed to expand then but was tightly controlled. In this instance, too, the regime expects to blanket the new private sector with regulations and taxes and has no plans to provide capital, access to materials, or foreign investment.

Predictably, apologists for the Castros and for U.S. corporate agriculture greeted the half step with renewed calls for the lifting of what remains of the embargo on trade with Cuba, or at least the end of all restrictions on travel. This, too, is part of the Castros' strategy. The regime has begun slowly releasing political prisoners into exile -- another limited concession that it has made before -- in the expectation that the Obama administration will respond and that a wave of American tourists will arrive with desperately needed dollars. In fact, the administration reportedly is planning a liberalization of travel restrictions, though not a lifting of the tourism ban.

Such an adjustment, which would return U.S. policy to where it was during the Clinton administration, may be the best response to the Castros' half measures. Fundamental changes of U.S. policy toward Cuba should await fundamental reforms by the regime. When average Cubans are allowed the right to free speech and free assembly, along with that to cut hair and trim palm trees, it will be time for American tourists and business executives to return to the island.

An Important Warning From Che's Nephew

Sunday, September 19, 2010
An important warning from Che Guevara's nephew, Martin Guevara, in The Miami Herald:

For many years and for reasons of family loyalty and, perhaps, some leftover indoctrination, I abdicated my right and my freedom to speak of what I had seen. I have been silent, and in that silence I have risked becoming an accomplice to evil.

I owe nothing to the Castro regime. It separated not only the Cuban nation from the world, the Cuban people from one another, but it also affected my family with the repugnant hypocrisy and corruption that Fidel left in all he touched, including myself.

When Orlando Zapata, a Cuban dissident, died in a Cuban prison on March 9 after going on a hunger strike, many of the intellectuals who had spent their lives defending or ignoring the brutality of the Castro government said, "Enough.'' They could no longer give Fidel the benefit of the doubt just because he had declared himself a champion of the poor of the world.

This must have bothered Fidel, because throughout his life he has been able to behave badly without risking the disapproval of the progressive intellectuals of the world.

Their declarations against his treatment of Zapata must have been worrisome for his government's image. In this day of instant communication, image is of the essence to a government that wishes to also become a family dynasty.

Why is it so difficult for us to condemn any excess, crime, violent act or abuse committed by self-proclaimed leftists, revolutionaries or communists? What part of our brain falters or becomes anesthetized when the time comes to protest against these injustices?

In any case, it appeared that Fidel was approaching his hour of shame. If there is anything that Fidel hates worse than not being the center of constant attention it is losing face. He cannot bear for anyone to know the truths of his life. He doesn't want the world to know that he drinks Castilian wines that cost more than 200 euros a bottle every day, even as he asks his people to sacrifice all for the revolution.

Concerned about his place in history, he came up with the idea of instituting the cruelest capitalism, in order to befriend the current fashion. It will be a system that pits Cuba's severely impoverished people, who after years of being supported by the state have no ability for business and little knowledge of technology, against the investors of the world who have been longing to make a profit on the island.

The Cuban workers have no power. The Cuban labor unions have no experience working in a free market. The Cuban worker who works for a foreign investor has fewer rights than an Indian. None.

The vigilance required now is extreme. We need to see what repressive measures the government will use as soon as there is any type of discontent expressed by the Cuban people when changes begin to affect them, and we must guard against the acquiescence of the international community, which is likely to be infinitely more concerned about the success of their investments and the profit they generate, than about the welfare of the Cuban people.

Martín Guevara is Ché Guevara's nephew. He was expelled from Cuba by the Council of State.

"Cachao: Uno Mas" on PBS

PBS's American Masters pays tribute to the Father of Mambo in the series' bilingual film, "Cachao: Uno Más" premiering tomorrow, Monday, September 20, 2010 at 9 p.m. (ET).

The film is produced and narrated by actor Andy Garcia, a close friend and fan, who helped re-establish Cachao's career in the '90s.

Here's a preview:

Juanes Shatters Fool's Dream

The dream of all those who ingeniously believed that Colombian pop-star Juanes was a non-ideological, well-intentioned, torch-bearer for Cuban freedom has been shattered.

His concert in Havana last year only served the Castro regime's purpose of driving a temporary wedge in the Cuban-American community, while everything on the island -- including the artists -- remained perfectly manipulated.

Fortunately, that wedge was closed months later. Unfortunately, it was only pursuant to the tragic death and sacrifice -- from and 85-day hunger strike -- of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Yet curiously -- to this day -- Juanes has remained silent about Zapata's death. No statements or commentary.

But yesterday, he was proudly vocal in signing a letter to President Obama asking for the release of the "Cuban Five" -- the five spies convicted by a U.S. federal court for being illegal agents of the Castro regime.

The letter, signed by Juanes and other artists that performed with him in Havana, states that the "Cuban Five have committed no crime against the United States nor posed any threat to this country's national security," that they simply "monitored the activities of violent groups of Cuban exiles in Miami."

Yet, the FBI report on the case describes how they were spying on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, the Naval Air Station at Boca Chica outside Key West, and the Southern Command headquarters in Miami. None of these U.S. military facilities are hubs for Cuban exile organizations.

Furthermore, the leader of the "Cuban Five" was convicted of plotting with the Cuban military to kill three American citizens and a permanent resident in the February 1996 shootdown of two civilian planes over international waters by Castro's jet fighters.

As a result, the Obama Administration has made it abundantly clear that the "Cuban Five" are not subject to release or a prisoner exchange of any kind.

According to a State Department spokesman this past summer:

"The five Cubans imprisoned in the United States were convicted in federal court of serious felonies and are serving their sentences. Absolutely no consideration is being given to any such exchange."

Kudos to the Obama Administration for this.

As for Juanes, let's hope no one is ever foolish enough to fall for his nonsense again.