Another Dictator Flees

Saturday, January 15, 2011
Take note of the following events.

According to Investor's Business Daily:

Tunisian Dictator Flees Unrest

Ending 23 years of iron rule, Tunisian Pres. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country Fri. as demonstrators overwhelmed gov't forces in the capital. The PM sought to assume control, but his hold on power was unclear. The public-led ouster of a ruler in a Muslim nation may inspire anti-gov't efforts in other Arab nations, analysts said.

Then, according to CNN:

Interim leader sees 'democracy for all children of Tunis'

Tunisia's acting president on Saturday called for "a new phase" in his embattled land, envisioning "a better political life which will include democracy, plurality and active participation for all the children of Tunis."

Tunisian state TV reported that officials plan to hold presidential elections in 60 days, and an opposition leader told CNN that opposition figures were meeting with the caretaker prime minister to discuss formation of a unity government.

They've also welcomed back exiles.

As one of those exiles, Tunisian author and activist, Sadri Khiari (whose socialist views we strongly disagree with, but whose democratic values we respect), wrote on January 9th, 2011:

The Strength of Disobedience

For many years I have been reading. I read everything that is written about the political situation in Tunisia. Almost everything, to be sincere.

I have read analyses about the Tunisian economy, that marches or does not march, that "marches… but" or that "does not march… but".

I have read articles regarding the omnipotence of the police, of the attacks on civil liberties, repression, prison, torture and the action of the defenders of human rights.

I have read articles about corruption in the highest echelons of the State, rigorous information, rumors or simple gossip about the mafia-style nepotism of the "families" [closest to power].

I have read articles about the North American influence, the French backing, the European support, connections with Israel.

I have read brainy studies on the nature of the State and the Tunisian political system, on the existence or not of a "civil society", on the existence or not of a "public opinion".

I have read essays on the Anthropology of Authority, essays on the deconstruction of the most microscopic mechanisms of power, discourse analyses, culturalist studies exploring the Tunisian soul of the last century or two, in order to uncover the reasons for Ben Ali.

What is it that is missing?

The people.

The people who disobey. The people who resist in the obscurity of everyday life. The people who when too long forgotten make themselves remembered to the world and break into history without prior notice.

If there is something I have learned from the struggle of the Black American slaves, on which I have worked a bit, is that there is no voluntary servitude. There is nothing other than the impatient waiting that erodes the mechanics of oppression. There is nothing other than tension day by day, minute by minute, to overthrow the oppressor.

From afar they seem like unbearable compromises, and no doubt they exist, because we must survive; but almost always mixed with indiscipline, the rebellion; molecular resistances that condense and explode into the view of all at their due time. To the opacity of despotic power corresponds the opacity of the resistances; the shameful forms of loyalty and clientelization walk hand in hand with the construction of popular solidarities; the technologies of control and of discipline are accompanied by elusive devices, of camouflage, of evasion and of transgression that disrupt the established order.

There is no oppression without resistance. Only time stretching more or less slowly before it arises, unexpected—or out of sight—the collective heroism of a people.

Make the despot go away!

Castro Celebrates Obama Policy Changes

According to Reuters:

Steps by U.S. President Barack Obama to relax restrictions on Cuba are not a major change in policy, but do mark a defeat for those who want a hard line on the island's leadership, a Cuban government website said.

Obama issued an executive order on Friday loosening limits on U.S. travel and money remittances to the communist-led Caribbean nation, extending his efforts to reach out to its people.

In the first reaction from Cuba's government, the website www.cubadebate.cu said the move showed many people in the United States favor a softening of Washington's decades-old trade embargo and policy of isolation toward the island.

It called the easing of restrictions a blow for the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Cuban-born Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"The decision is the first defeat for Ros-Lehtinen, who assumed her post in Congress promising to harden policies against the island," the website said in an article posted late on Friday.


Cubadebate is often used by Cuba's former president Fidel Castro to publish editorial columns.

Senator Menendez Statement on Obama's Cuba Policy Changes

Friday, January 14, 2011
Menendez Statement on Changes to Cuba Travel, Remittances Policy

NEWARK, NJ – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after the Obama administration today announced changes to policy to Cuba travel and remittances policy:

"I am deeply disappointed by President Obama's decision today to extend an economic life line to the Castro regime. This gift to the Castro brothers will provide the regime with the additional resources it needs to sustain its failing economy, while ordinary Cubans continue to struggle under the weight of more than fifty years of economic and political oppression.

The decision to permit additional travel to the island and allow nearly unlimited resources to flow to the regime is bad policy and will only serve to prolong the repression of the Cuban people. These changes, purportedly taken in hope of advancing a democratic opening on the island, ignore the reality that it is not U.S. policy, but Cuban policy, that is responsible for the Castros' political and economic tyranny. This opening will do no more to advance political freedom in Cuba then our economic engagement with China has done for political dissidents in that nation. You can't buy political reform.

The fact that the Administration offered this concession to the regime despite their continued imprisonment of an American citizen is simply outrageous. Unless new efforts are undertaken to limit the impact of these policy changes, the sole result will be to enrich the Castro regime and enhance the political and economic impoverishment of the Cuban people."

Senator Rubio Statement on Obama's Cuba Policy Changes

Senator Marco Rubio Comments on Administration's Announced Changes to Cuba Regulations

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued the following statement on today's Obama Administration announcement to ease regulations regarding travel and remittances to Cuba:

"I strongly oppose any new changes that weaken U.S. policy towards Cuba. I was opposed to the changes that have already been made by this Administration and I oppose these new changes. I believe that what does need to change are the Cuban regime's repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections. It is unthinkable that the administration would enable the enrichment of a Cuban regime that routinely violates the basic human rights and dignity of its people."

Ros-Lehtinen Statement on Obama's Cuba Policy Changes

Ros-Lehtinen Statement on Administration's Announced Changes to Cuba Regulations

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement on today's announcement by the administration to ease regulations regarding travel and remittances to Cuba:

"Loosening these regulations will not help foster a pro-democracy environment in Cuba. These changes will not aid in ushering in respect for human rights. And they certainly will not help the Cuban people free themselves from the tyranny that engulfs them.

These changes undermine U.S. foreign policy and security objectives and will bring economic benefits to the Cuban regime."

USCD PAC Statement on Obama's Cuba Policy Changes

From the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC:

At the time of the Castro regime's worst economic and political crisis in recent history -- and in defiance of the will of the U.S. Congress -- the Obama Administration has made a policy decision to bail it out.

As such, the Obama Administration has succumbed to the Castro regime's blackmail. It's nonsensical and irresponsible to ease travel to Cuba for Americans while an American is being held hostage by the Castro regime for the last 13 months without charges, trial or due process.

Such appeasing and accommodating policies will only embolden the dangerous behavior of the Castro regime and further endanger American lives.

The Impune Murder of 30 Mental Patients

The BBC's correspondent in Havana, Fernando Ravsberg, has posted a heart-wrenching article on the one-year anniversary of the murder (as Ravsberg correctly refers to it) of 30 mental health patients in a hospital in Havana.

If you understand Spanish, please read the original article here.

Otherwise, here's a summary:

The article focuses on Nelly Lopez, the mother of one of the victims, who is still awaiting an investigation, charges or any type of official information regarding her son's death.

One-year later, there's an aura of silence and impunity from the Castro regime regarding this heinous crime. Multiple requests for information by the BBC to Cuba's Ministries of Public Health and Justice have been ignored.

Instead, all sorts of rumors are swirling -- including that one of the regime officials responsible for this crime was seen boarding a plane to Venezuela.

Meanwhile, outrage continues to fester -- even amongst the regime's faithful -- due to the official silence surrounding this crime.

As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche noted, "All suppressed truths become poisonous."

Cuban "Diplomats" Lobby Freely in the U.S.

The Castro regime's "diplomats" at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., freely (and constantly) lobby the U.S. Congress -- and they are quite good at it.

They even leave cigars and other "souvenirs" for friendly Members and staff (House and Senate rules exempt foreign diplomats from the gift ban).

In doing so, they lobby both Republicans and Democrats.

Furthermore, they throw parties at the Cuban Interests Section; attend social, political and cultural events throughout town; meet with whomever they want, whenever they want, regardless of political party or ideology; and even strategize and coordinate with their allied organizations and activists.

In essence, our Constitutional freedoms are extended to them while in the U.S.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a U.S. State Department delegation conducted another round of regularly-scheduled (and fruitless) migration talks in Havana with the Castro regime. (Thus relaying a sentiment of normalcy while an American remains summarily imprisoned there without charges or due process. These talks should have been cancelled upon his arrest -- 13 months ago -- until he is released).

Afterwards, the U.S. delegation met with peaceful human rights and pro-democracy activists at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana -- kudos for the gesture.

A few hours later, the Castro regime rabidly denounced the meeting with activists as a "provocation," not to mention "offensive and disrespectful." In other words, meeting with anyone in Cuba -- other than with the Castro regime -- is "offensive and disrespectful."

U.S. diplomats in Havana can't even lobby the Castro regime's one-party, non-democratically appointed, National Assembly (all communications by the U.S. Interests Section must be filtered through the Director of the North America Department at the Cuban Foreign Ministry) -- you'd think they'd at least be secure enough to allow that.

So here are the current "rules" -- the Castro regime gets to talk to whomever they want, while the U.S. only gets to talk to the Castro regime.

An exercise in futility.

"With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost."

-- William Lloyd Garrison, American journalist and abolitionist leader, (1805-1879)

Three Cuban-American U.S. Senators?

Thursday, January 13, 2011
According to Politico:

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced Thursday she won't seek reelection, ending the uncertainty that had largely frozen a slate of Republicans contenders itching to replace her.

One of the most talked about candidates, who had taken steps towards running in 2010 (if Hutchinson had won the primary for Governor), is former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.

Cruz, a Harvard Law graduate, Supreme Court clerk and Assistant Attorney General, is also Cuban-American.

Thus, he would join U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (NJ) and Marco Rubio (FL) as the third Cuban-American Senator.

Wouldn't that be something!

Question of the Day

How can so-called Cuba "experts" assert that U.S. development worker Alan Gross violated Cuban "law," when he has been summarily jailed by the Castro regime for 13 months without charges, trial or any semblance of due process?

Thus, even if we set aside arguments regarding the validity or invalidity of the Cuban dictatorship's de facto decrees:

What "law" did he violate? Why hasn't he been charged? Why hasn't he had any legal recourse?

Just think about the absolute contradiction of such an assertion.

A Plea for Civility in Our Democracy

"Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, 'when I looked for light, then came darkness.' Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

-- U.S. President Barack Obama, memorial event for the victims of Tucson shooting, 1/12/11

Menendez Remarks at Cuba Democracy PAC

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Below are excerpts from U.S. Senator Bob Menendez's (D-NJ) remarks at last month's U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC luncheon:





Death of a Cuban Child Prostitute

On May 14, 2010, a 12 year-old Cuban prostitute was found dead -- of a supposed drug overdose -- following a "party" in a hotel room in the eastern city of Bayamo.

Three Italian tourists have been quietly held by the Castro regime -- for the last six months -- in connection with her death.

Let me stress -- for the last six months.

Sound newsworthy?

You better believe it -- not to mention tragic.

So why are we just finding out now through regional newspapers in Italy?

Note how the Castro regime has been able to hide this tragic, high-profile news for over half a year. Just imagine how it hides the repression, imprisonment, torture and abuse of political prisoners and democracy activists throughout Cuba. It's no wonder the regime doesn't allow the International Committee on the Red Cross or the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture to enter Cuba.

And where are the foreign news bureaus in Havana? They report on every senseless "Reflection" by Cuba's dictators, but not a peep about a dead 12 year-old child prostitute allegedly murdered by foreign tourists.

Meanwhile, one of the Italians in prison, Simone Pini, says he was in Italy during the time of the crime and swears that he was tortured into signing a confession. He claims to have been set up by certain "enemies."

But of course, in true Castro fashion, the defense attorney assigned to Pini is not allowed access to any files, evidence, accusers, etc.

Many lessons to be learned here. Amongst them:

Child prostitution is a tragic reality in Cuba; the regime's dangerous veil of secrecy; the cluelessness of foreign news bureaus in Havana; the utter lack of transparency in Castro's judicial system; and -- finally -- foreign tourists don't spread democracy.

Comradeship (No Pun) in Miami

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
From The National Review:

Comradeship in Miami

by Jay Nordlinger

Last month, just before Christmas, I attended an event in Miami — Greater Miami, I should say. Coral Gables. May I scribble you a few notes about this? This was the annual luncheon of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. A good portion of Miami's Cuban-American community, and therefore of the Cuban-American community in general, was there. Much of the Florida political establishment was there. Everyone in the room was greatly concerned that the U.S. be on the right side of Cuban freedom and democracy. This was one of the most moving, emotional, and gratifying political events I have ever been part of.

And I must add this, before going further: The luncheon was, to a great extent, a tribute to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the Cuban-American Republican who has just retired from Congress. That accounted for much of the emotion in the room.

Have you ever been to the Coral Gables Biltmore? If not, put it on your list. This hotel and resort screams Old Florida. You half-expect to see Jackie Gleason emerging, dressed for a round of golf: knickers, tam-o'-shanter. You expect to see gangsters: such as Al Capone, who kept rooms there.

- There are four Diaz-Balart brothers, one of whom, Mario, continues in Congress. Lincoln has told me that Mario is a much better politician than he. He's extremely personable, easygoing, laidback — but, of course, very, very sharp. He knows more about the politics of redistricting than pretty much anybody else. Mario is some combination of surfer dude — or South Beach dude — and Machiavelli.

- He tells me about an important figure in the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, who's a Ford dealer in Miami. If I have understood correctly, the man has just opened up a second dealership. This would seem to be unwise in the current environment. But his thinking goes, "If Ford goes under, I go under. If America goes under, I go under. I'm all in."

As Mario and I observe, this is the kind of person most of the Democratic party thinks of, or portrays, as a fat cat — a Richie Rich. In reality, you're always about a week away from... you know, Kaputsville. Along with your employees.

- In the banquet hall, there is a tremendous amount of camaraderie, comradeship. This is very unusual, in my experience. The speakers are bipartisan, and they begin with Sen. Robert Menendez, the Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey. He and Lincoln Diaz-Balart agree on essentially nothing: except Cuba and U.S. Cuba policy.

Menendez has come down to say a special goodbye to Lincoln. He will fly back up to Washington immediately: Majority Leader Reid is delaying votes for him.

Menendez gives an impassioned speech, about the importance of standing up for the rights of human beings. He gets to the part where he will pay homage to Lincoln — and can't go on. Chokes up. Eventually, he makes it through. I have seen fake tears and choking up — including in politics — and I believe I know the difference between the real and the false. Menendez has shown the former.

- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is another Democrat at the rostrum. Like Menendez, she knocks 'em dead, with a tough, spirited speech. Wasserman Schultz is a Florida politician. But I understand she has no Cuban Americans in her district. She supports this cause from the heart. One of my colleagues reminds me that Wasserman Schultz may have her eye on future statewide office. Oh, yeah. Hang on, I'm having a cynical moment. I'll wait till it passes...

Anyway, Wasserman Schultz appears foursquare. Gratitude for her is natural.

- Years ago, some of us were trying to think of Democrats who stuck up for oppressed Cubans, yearning to breathe free. The list was Tom Lantos (of course), Eliot Engel, Gary Ackerman... and then it was hard to go on.

- Lincoln Diaz-Balart looks at a lady — a stalwart of this group — and says, "She's been a Republican for a long time. She was a Republican when the rest of us were Democrats." Lincoln became a Republican because of Reagan and the Reagan experience. (So did I.) He thought a lot of Jeane Kirkpatrick — shared a worldview with her. (So did I.) He also says that Chris Dodd helped to make him a Republican. Reagan and Dodd — the two politicians who did most to make Lincoln Diaz-Balart a Republican.

You remember how disgusting Dodd was, in his defense of Latin American leftists? That Connecticut Democrat, and Democrats like him, made the party of FDR, Truman, and JFK far, far less attractive to the likes of Lincoln Diaz-Balart (and me).

- Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Republican of Michigan, is a piece of work. Have you ever run across him? Mario Diaz-Balart introduces me to him. I say, "Oh, hi, congressman, I'm from Ann Arbor." Deadpan, he says, "I'm sorry to hear that." McCotter may remind you of an undertaker. He has a funereal aspect. He may be the least political personality I have ever met in politics — the politician who is least like a politician. Someone tells me that President Bush (43) referred to him as "The Anti-Candidate."

So, McCotter gets to the podium. And kills, absolutely kills. He is loaded with charisma. No wonder he has succeeded in politics. His speech is nothing less than gripping. He speaks in a quiet voice, making everyone kind of lean in. And he has the room spellbound. Frankly, this is one of the most effective short speeches I have ever heard.

And he has a funny line, which I imagine has served him well: "I'm Irish, I'm Catholic, I'm seldom optimistic..."

- Rep. Peter Roskam, Republican of Illinois, is another charismatic politician, though in a more conventional way. (Who wouldn't be?) He gives a highly entertaining and deft speech, in which he describes how the Diaz-Balart brothers worked on you, when you entered Congress. They wanted to be sure you knew what was what where Cuba policy was concerned. "I had barely found my office when these guys came around, turning on the high beams of Cuban charm."

- Kendrick Meek gives a nice, warm, humorous speech. He seems like a very friendly guy. He was the congressman who gave up his seat to run for the Senate, as the Democratic nominee, and lost to Marco Rubio. He says, "Lincoln and I are doing a Thelma & Louise together." (Remember how they drove off the cliff?) He also says that, over the years, he has been moved and inspired by stories that the Cuban exiles, and their children, have told.

- An elegant lady is serving as the emcee of this event. She is a leader of the organization — perhaps the foremost leader, I'm not sure. She has a lovely Spanish, or Cuban, accent. Is a total delight to listen to. Words that begin with "s" tend to begin with "es" — "es-school." And she introduces Mario Rubio as the next Jewish senator. I think, "Holy smokes, Marco Rubio's Jewish? Who knew?" Actually, she has introduced him as "the new U.S. senator." It came off as "Ju S. senator."

Rubio says that he and Meek spent a lot of time together in the last year and a half — "Usually, we were wearing makeup." A funny and clever line. And he talks about Meek's integrity as a politician: One kind of politician runs for office and figures out what he believes, or what he should say, as he goes; another kind figures out what he believes, and then runs for office. Rubio says that Meek is a man of solid and sincere views, saying what he believes, letting the chips fall where they may. Rubio gives a thoughtful and gracious speech. It's, of course, easy to be gracious, when you're the winner. But still...

Meek and Rubio, the two of them, seem like very civilized opponents. Kind of a shame, really, that Crist muddied that race. Oh, well...

- Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is another Cuban-American Republican from Miami, and the new chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. She is full of pep, a sparkler of a woman, and, when it's her turn, she runs up to the podium. Likability is a key factor in politics. Ileana has that out the ears. What's more, she has superbly sound views, à la Kirkpatrick. When she's finished with her talk — half Spanish, half English — she embraces Lincoln and says, "Mi hermano, te quiero."

- Lincoln is, of course, the final speaker. He says that, for Cuba, there are "two possible destinies" — one of freedom and democracy, the other of continued dictatorship. And he has a message for the Cuban armed forces — an actual written message, which he reads. The crux of it is this: If you repudiate the Castros, anything is possible. If you stick with them, nothing is possible. And if you pull a Tiananmen Square — if you do what Chinese forces did in 1989 — the Cuban people will never forgive you.

- Below, I will print my introduction of Lincoln — a version of it. Then I will have one more quick note, and go. Okay, here's that introduction (for those interested):

". . . I imagine that some of you, or many of you, knew Lincoln's father, Rafael. He said of his boys that they were '100 percent American and 100 percent Cuban.' In math, that makes no sense. But, in the lives of the Diaz-Balarts, it makes perfect sense. You could say that Lincoln has a dual loyalty — I'm sure people have. But, as I see it, he has a single loyalty: to human freedom and dignity.

"He doesn't care where you live: whether in America, or Cuba, or China, or Syria. He supports your right to live in freedom and dignity, to fulfill your potential, as God intended.

"Lincoln has stood for important things in Congress. I don't live in his district, and I've never lived in Florida. But I feel he has represented me. And I know that many would say the same.

"I can say what some of you can't say, or might hesitate to say: Anglo America can get lazy, smug, and stupid. Lincoln Diaz-Balart has reminded us of core principles and values — principles and values on which we all depend, whether we know it or not. He is kind of a keeper of the American flame, and of the Western flame.

"In the last couple of years, some have thought that the 'special relationship,' as it's known, has suffered: the special relationship between the U.S. and Britain. Last May, Lincoln sponsored a resolution affirming this relationship, and explaining its history and purpose. I thought, 'Isn't that typical? It takes a Cuban-born congressman to stick up for the Anglo-Saxon inheritance.'

"As a politician, and a good one, he is flexible, not rigid. Politics is no place for ideologues. And Lincoln has done very well. But he is unyielding where he should be: on human rights, most prominently. He has named the names of political prisoners on the floor of the U.S. House. Dictatorships want their prisoners to be forgotten; prisoners want nothing more than to be remembered.

"You know who else named names? Jeane Kirkpatrick, a thinker with whom Lincoln was in complete accord. She would name the names of political prisoners on the floor of the U.N. Sometime after her tenure, she visited the Soviet Union, with a delegation. The Soviet Union was then in its dying days. Kirkpatrick and her party went to see Sakharov. He came down the stairs of his apartment building, into the lobby, which was dimly lit. You know how buildings under Communism are. He said, 'Kirkpatski, Kirkpatski, which of you is Kirkpatski?' They gestured to Jeane. And he said, 'Your name is known in every cell in the Gulag.' That's because she had spoken their names.

"Sakharov, in his Nobel lecture of 1975, named the names of political prisoners. He was not present in Oslo to give that lecture; the Soviet dictatorship would not let him out. But his wife was there, and she read the lecture for him. At one point, he simply recited the names of political prisoners — about a hundred of them. Just rattled off their names. This gave a lift to the men and women in the camps and cells.

"About ten years ago, I talked on the phone with a Cuban political prisoner on the lam. His name was René Montes de Oca Martija. Shortly after we talked, he was recaptured. I'm not sure where he is now. At the end of our conversation, I asked him whether he had anything else to say. He said yes — he wanted to thank and bless all of those who had remembered him in public forums: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others...

"Lincoln Diaz-Balart has a lot to offer, in Congress or not. I look forward to seeing what he'll do next. I know we're not supposed to say that anybody from Miami should have anything to do with post-Communist Cuba. There are people who hate the idea of Miami Republicans in Cuba more than they hate the dictatorship itself. This is a sad comment on America. But I know that Lincoln will not rest until an island that was swallowed up by tyranny can breathe again.

"He had a lot to live up to, being named after the greatest man in American history. He has worn that name well. I'm grateful for all he has done. He is one of the best friends we'll ever have in public life..."

- Later on, a mother and daughter introduced themselves to me. The daughter was 19, I believe — and knew a grandson of Jeane Kirkpatrick, the same age, I believe. The daughter was pleased that I had talked about Kirkpatrick, and the mother was, too. Someone had said to the grandson that his grandmother was a terrorist. That was the word: "terrorist." I said that she had dedicated most of her professional life to opposing tyranny, terror, repression, unfreedom.

Bill Buckley said she "ought to be woven into the flag as the 51st star." Kirkpatrick told me, "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me." I said, "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about anyone."

I'm going to give you another installment on Miami — just light stuff. See you!

Case & Point on Political Prisoner "Release"

In a letter from a Cuban political prison, Pedro Argüelles Morán, who was announced for release over six months ago, but remains imprisoned for refusing to be forcibly exiled, states:

"Obviously, the totalitarian regime does not have the most minimum will to release us. Its intention is to banish us at all costs, as there is no other justification for keep us kidnapped as its hostages."

Of the 52 political prisoners announced for release in July of last year, only one has been released in Cuba. Meanwhile, 40 were forcibly exiled to Spain and 11 remain imprisoned for refusing banishment.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Senator Rubio Opposes Cuba Policy Changes

From Naked Politics:

Marco Rubio: Obama administration putting out feelers on changes to U.S.-Cuba policy

Newly minted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio went on friendly airwaves Tuesday morning, in a Spanish-language radio interview to discuss U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Speaking on WAQI-710 AM -- better known as Radio Mambí -- Rubio said the Obama administration was already putting out "trial balloons" to feel out new members of Congress on their feelings toward loosening U.S. economic and travel restrictions on Cuba.

But the feelers won't go anywhere, Rubio said, because he and other like-minded senators and House members will educate their colleagues on the political reality in Cuba, including telling them about political prisoners like American Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned for more than a year.

A lot of elected officials don't know about the political reality in Cuba, Rubio said, not because they're Communists but because they come from states where the issue isn't discussed -- or where agricultural interests persuade them to let them sell their goods on the island.

Still Waiting for Oil in Havana

Monday, January 10, 2011
For over a decade, Cuba "experts" have been predicting (and heralding) offshore oil exploration in Cuban waters.

Shockingly, all of these "experts" also happen to be ardent opponents of U.S. policy and constantly warn of "missed opportunities" that are being snatched up by foreign oil companies -- thereby hoping to seduce U.S. oil companies into lobbying Congress against Cuba sanctions.

Yet -- a decade later -- there's still no offshore exploration in Cuban waters.

Why? Because it's not commercially viable -- even for foreign companies -- mostly thanks to U.S. sanctions.

However, "experts" were convinced that exploration would begin by the end of 2010, pursuant to reports of an Italian-owned exploratory rig being built in China, which would bypass American components subject to U.S. law.

And they really, really meant it this time.

Well, yesterday Reuters reported that the infamous rig has been delayed for another six months.

Guess the "experts" will have to keep waiting.

It's All About Control (Not Reform)

By Dr. Jose Azel in The Wall Street Journal:

So Much For Cuban Economic Reform

The Communist Party affirms that 'central planning and not the market will be supreme.'

With his characteristic intellectual wit, Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner defines communism as "the time countries waste between capitalism and capitalism." By this account, the Cuban government is now in its 52nd year of wasted time waiting for prosperity.

Much has been made of economic reforms promised by Raúl Castro, including by the Cuban president himself. "We can either rectify the situation," Gen. Castro recently stated, "or we will run out of time walking on the edge of the abyss, and we will sink." But one look at the economic platform for the VI Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, now scheduled for April 2011, and it's clear nothing much will change.

The "Draft Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy"—a 32-page document that proposes to chart Cuba's economic future—affirms that "the new economic policy will correspond with the principle that only socialism [i.e., Cuban communism] is capable of conquering the difficulties."

The document persistently emphasizes Gen. Castro's militaristic themes of increased efficiency, discipline and control. It insists, for example, on setting prices according to the dictates of central planning. It also insists that any new "nonstate" (private sector) economic activities not be allowed to lead to the "concentration of property" (that is, the accumulation of wealth). There is no interest in introducing the market socialism of a Deng Xiaoping, who famously told China's people in 1984 that "to get rich is glorious."

It is not surprising that Raúl and his fellow generals are more comfortable with the chain of command of a centrally planned economy than with the vicissitudes of a market economy. More baffling is their failure to understand core principles of economic development.

After much debate and with trepidation, the Cuban economic "reformers" have decided to permit the 500,000 to 1,300,000 Cubans being fired from state jobs to solicit permits to become self-employed in certain activities. It is instructive to examine a handful of the 178 trades and professions that are supposed to help rescue the economy.

Trade No. 23 will be the purchase and sale of used books. Trade 29 is an attendant of public bathrooms (presumably for tips); 34 is a palm-tree pruner (apparently other trees will still be pruned by the state). Trade 49 is covering buttons with fabric; 61 is shining shoes; 62 is cleaning spark plugs; 69 is a typist; 110 is the repair of box springs (not to be confused with 116, the repair of mattresses). Trade 124 is umbrella repairs; 125 is refilling of disposable cigarette lighters; 150 is fortune-telling with tarot cards; 156 is being a dandy (technical definition unknown, maybe a male escort?); 158 is peeling natural fruit (separate from 142, selling fruit in kiosks).

This bizarre list of permitted private-sector activities will not drive economic development. But it does reveal the regime's totalitarian mindset. Here Cuban technocrats foreshadow the degree of control they intend to impose by listing the legal activities with specificity. These are not reforms to unleash the market's "invisible hand" but to reaffirm the Castros' clenched fist. One does not have to be an economist to appreciate that the refilling of disposable cigarette lighters, for example, will not contribute in any measure to economic development.

In his economic dream land of surrealist juxtapositions, Raúl believes that improved state management is the way to save the communist system. The desire for control by the military and the Communist Party of every aspect of Cuban life is antithetical to the individual liberty and empowerment necessary to bring about an economic renaissance.

"Zapata Lives!" Documentary

Please click below to watch a moving documentary on the life and death (by hunger strike) of Cuban political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo:

The Fruits of Engagement?

Sunday, January 9, 2011
Isn't trade, travel and dialogue supposed to seduce tyrants towards greater openness?

Apparently, the Vietnamese regime didn't get the memo.

According to AP:

Envoy beaten in Vietnam, U.S. says

Vietnamese police roughed up an American diplomat and repeatedly slammed a car door on his legs when he went to visit a prominent dissident, an official in Washington said Thursday. The encounter prompted a strong U.S. protest.

Christian Marchant, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, was expected to make a full recovery, said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details.


U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said Marchant was attacked Wednesday outside the home of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, in the central Vietnamese city of Hue. He was wrestled to the ground, put into a police car and driven away, according to the report.

But here's the most illustrative part (for it's just naive to think these regimes would act otherwise):

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said that the government is reviewing the incident but that foreign diplomats have a responsibility to abide by the host country's laws.

Sound familiar?

It's the same argument used by opponents of pro-democracy programs in Cuba.

In other words, they believe the U.S. and the world's democracies should sit idly by while ruthless dictatorships brutally repress their own people, for such behavior is "authorized" by the self-serving, ad hoc "laws" auto-decreed by the dictators themselves.

Outrageous rationale.