We Will Never Forget

Saturday, June 4, 2011
The courageous pro-democracy activists murdered by the Chinese dictatorship on June 4th, 1989, in Tienanmen Square, while the international community sat idly by (weighing their commercial options and investments).

The Importance of Democracy Programs

In response to questions from U.S. Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) staff regarding USAID's Cuba democracy programs, the State Department has provided an excellent explanation of the goals and importance of these programs in dictatorships throughout the world.

Perhaps it's now time for Senator Kerry to explain his bias (and information hold) against these Cuba programs, while not holding similar and more costly programs in other dictatorships to the same single-handed obstructionism.

Here's the State Department's explanation (Along the Malecon has posted the entire Q and A):

Globally, in countries such as Belarus, Burma, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Zimbabwe, the U.S. Government responds to autocratic challenges by providing training, materials, and internet and radio platforms and organizational support for civic groups, networks and the media. Support for universal values is a cornerstone of the National Security Strategy of the United States. Those values include the rights of people to speak their mind, assemble without fear, and have a say in how they are governed.

In our solicitations' selection criteria, we place an emphasis on prior experience, at both the organizational and personnel level, in working in closed societies. We have found that prior experience in similar environments facilitates implementation since there is an understanding of the unique challenges likely to be encountered. We instruct our partners to tell Cuban recipients the source of the assistance when asked.

While seeking to advance and defend universal human rights principles, the USG develops and implements its democracy and governance strategies and program interventions according to the country's current democratic state, justice system institutions, human rights conditions, quality of governance, and other situational factors, while taking into account each country's unique history and culture. Still, within broad country categories there is consistency to our strategic approach.

In authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states, the major challenges facing the USG are how to create and maintain political and civic space in the face of a hostile regime that is prepared to use state resources to prevent criticism and meaningful reform. The strategy in these countries is to strengthen democracy and human rights activists outside government by working with democracy and human rights NGOs, watchdog groups, and independent media that are committed to democratic principles and value fundamental freedoms. Ensuring citizens' access to independent information sources is critical in these environments. When possible, the USG supports pockets of reform within government institutions, such as within the judicial branch, independent electoral or anti-corruption commissions, and/or local governments. The primary strategic focus of USG democracy and governance assistance in these countries is in the areas of human rights and civil society, especially independent media.

Within the foreign assistance domain, our top priority in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states is invigorating an engaged and dynamic civil society, in particular journalists who represent the voice of civil society, and traditionally marginalized groups, such as minorities and women. For example to empower citizens in closed societies, DRL supports programs which aim to develop the necessary precursors for democratic reform by using new media to inform citizens about human rights and provide them a lens into the outside world. DRL also works to build the capacity of human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists to advocate for human rights by training them on how to defend their rights, including investigating and documenting human rights violations.

Farinas Begins New Hunger Strike

From AFP:

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas has launched a hunger strike, his 24th in 15 years, to ask the government to prosecute those "responsible" for the death of a fellow activist.

"I started the hunger strike today at noon (1600 GMT), demanding the government to bring the perpetrators of the murder of Juan Soto and stop beating dissidents," the 49-year-old Farinas told AFP via telephone from his home in Santa Clara, east of Havana.

The online journalist, who led a 135-day hunger strike last year to demand the release of political prisoners, said he would keep up his protest "until the ultimate consequences" and would only agree to negotiate with the government on "equal conditions."

Soto's supporters say he died last month after being taken to the Santa Clara hospital following his arrest in a park and subsequent beating. Cuban official media quoted Soto's doctor and his sister as saying that police brutality had nothing to do with his death.

Cuba authorities said Soto, who was in fragile health, had been arrested for a few hours by the police for a "public scandal," then freed "without incident."

Farinas, who was awarded the European Parliament's 2010 Sakharov prize, said Soto told him he had been beaten and that he had seen bruises on the lower back of Soto's corpse.

The Americas' only one-party communist regime has already detained Farinas several times this year.

Lula's (Inexcusable) Lost Opportunities

Friday, June 3, 2011
Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva has just concluded another visit to Castro's Cuba.

His last trip -- in February 2010 -- coincided with the tragic death (murder) of Cuban political prisoner and hunger striker, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

At the time, Lula infamously stood silently by, while Cuban dictator Raul Castro laughed off Zapata's death.

This time, Lula was in Cuba as four young pro-democracy activists were tried, convicted and sentenced (all within a few hours) for the "crime" of peacefully distributing leaflets calling for freedom.

And -- once again -- Lula (inexcusably) lost another opportunity to stand on principle.

Meanwhile, foreign news bureaus in Havana, which covered Lula's visit to a port project in Mariel and a press conference upon his departure, (also inexcusably) lost an opportunity to ask him the following question:

President Lula, you have a long history of fighting for freedom of expression and liberty in Brazil.

Yesterday, four young Cubans were sentenced to years in prison for distributing leaflets calling for that same freedom of expression in Cuba.

Given your track record, did you plead with the Cuban government for their release?

Moreover, should distributing leaflets be considered a "crime"?


Similar Regimes, Same Tactics

Thursday, June 2, 2011
It's not a coincidence that Cuban dictator Raul Castro and Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad are such close friends.

They (tragically) share the same tactics -- the murder of dissidents, the manipulation of coroners and the intimidation of relatives. 

From AP:

A medical examiner and relatives of a late Cuban dissident have concluded that he died of natural causes and showed no signs of being beaten, as some government opponents have claimed, Cuba's official news media said Thursday.

Juan Wilfredo Soto's sister and other relatives who accompanied him to the hospital said he did not mention any police abuse, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.

"It's a big lie that he was beaten," Rosa Soto Garcia was quoted as saying. "He did not have a single mark on him."

Other Cuban dissidents have accused police of hitting Soto when they detained him May 5 in the central city of Santa Clara.

From The Daily Star:

A Syrian boy, who activists say was tortured and killed by security forces, has emerged as a powerful symbol in protests against the rule of President Bashar Assad which have been met with a bloody crackdown.

A childhood snapshot of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib has been emblazoned on posters by protesters across Syria after a YouTube video of his bloodied corpse sparked international outrage [...]

Coroner Akram al-Shaar verified the claims, saying, according to a transcript on the state news agency: "There are no marks on the surface of the body that show violence, resistance or torture using the nails or scratching or bruises, or fractures, or joint-dislocation," Shaar said.

A man who identified himself as Khatib's father on Syrian TV said he had met with Assad who "engulfed us with his kindness, graciousness and promised to fulfil the demands which we've called for with the people."

"The president considered Hamza his own son and was deeply affected," the man said, adding Assad had promised reforms would start the next day.


On the Right Side of History (in Cuba and Burma)

Please read this carefully, as it applies to both Burma and Cuba.

It is, by far, the column-of-the-year.

From the Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post, Fred Hiatt:

The U.S. could get on the right side of history in Burma

Long before Syria's Bashar al-Assad was ordering the murder of his people, the generals misruling a Southeast Asian nation 4,000 miles distant had shown the way.

In 1988, the regime in Burma, a once-promising nation of 50 million, slaughtered unarmed university students to derail democracy. In 2007 the junta gunned down pacifist Buddhist monks in their robes and sandals.

But outrage fades, people forget, a few generals have traded in their uniforms for civilian suits — and so pressure is building from governments, companies and nonprofit groups to lift sanctions and "engage" with the regime.

Before that happens, it's worth thinking about some early lessons of the Arab Spring.

The engagement argument comes down to this: Sanctions against Burma haven't worked. Two decades since the regime threw out the results of an election that it had (in its delusions of popularity) allowed, it is no more popular but no less entrenched. With U.S. companies and diplomats mostly absent, China has become the dominant power. The Burmese people remain poor and isolated from the world.

Why not try something new? Why not jettison self-defeating idealism for something a bit more pragmatic?

A few possible reasons come to mind. One is that engagement with a regime that so suffocates its nation may strengthen the regime. Western Europe has been engaging with Cuba for decades; the Castros pocket the euros at no apparent cost to the stability of their dictatorship.

Nor would engagement do much for the U.S. economy. As long as Burma pursues its peculiar brand of paranoid crony socialism, it won't offer much of a growth opportunity.

Moreover, it's a bit unfair to say that sanctions don't work, because the United States has never fully tried them. It hasn't targeted the personal finances of Burma's rulers and their relatives with any focus or intensity. It has never made clear to Burma's neighbors — some of which are new democracies themselves, uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with brutal generals — that helping democrats inside Burma is a strategic priority. It talks about a United Nations commission of inquiry into the regime's crimes against humanity — mass rape, child labor, ethnic cleansing — but has never pushed for it, despite support for a U.N. inquiry (though not a tribunal) from Burma's democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Pushing might dilute the perennial charge of hypocrisy (why bomb Moammar Gaddafi but do nothing as Burma's regime empties village after village?). Pushing also might show Gaddafi, Assad and other Arab dictators that they can't just wait out the world's disapproval.

But the strongest argument emerges from a public opinion survey carried out this spring by the Pew Research Center — in Egypt.

There, for decades, the United States followed the entirely pragmatic policy of engagement. Led by U.S. ambassadors in Cairo for whom the Mubarak clan could do no wrong, U.S. governments routinely dismissed as naive and unrealistic the Egyptian people's desire for a more dignified life. When Egyptians finally took to the streets to demand self-rule, the United States stuck with President Hosni Mubarak until any hope of his survival was gone.

The result? "Only 20 percent of Egyptians hold a favorable opinion of the United States," Pew found. "The American president gets more negative than positive reviews for how he is handling the political changes sweeping through the Middle East. . . . A plurality of those who disapprove say Obama has shown too little support for those who are calling for change."

The United States put itself on the wrong side of history, in other words, and now it is paying the price.

Which raises the question of where exactly pragmatism lies.

If you believe that the Burmese junta represents the future, then it makes sense to build ties and mend fences. And it's true that no one has figured out how to predict precisely when a regime will crumble — or when its soldiers will decide they no longer want to shoot students and monks.

But the junta clearly understands that it is hated. That is why it censors all media, imprisons thousands of dissenters (many of whom have been on a hunger strike this month), bans the only political party with popular support (Aung San Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy) and squanders billions on an isolated new capital where no ordinary people are allowed to live or even enter. On some level, as the rest of Asia speeds past them, these septuagenarian thieves must understand that they do not, in fact, represent the future.

The United States can affect the date of their demise only at the margins, just as it took the Egyptian people to bring about Mubarak's fall. But what America does now could affect the results when Pew conducts its first survey in democratic Burma.

Six New Political Prisoners in One Week

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
From Human Rights Watch:

Six Sentenced in Summary Trials for Exercising Basic Rights

With this new round of prosecutions, the Castro government is sending a clear message to dissidents that the status quo has not changed in Cuba. Publicly criticizing the government can still earn you a harsh prison sentence.

The conviction of six dissidents in summary trials for doing no more than exercising their fundamental rights highlights the continuing abuse of the criminal justice system to repress dissent in Cuba, Human Rights Watch said today. Raúl Castro's government should immediately release the prisoners, who were given sentences ranging from two to five years in prison, and cease all politically motivated repression against Cubans who exercise their fundamental freedoms, said Human Rights Watch.

Four people were sentenced on May 31, 2011, in Havana for distributing pamphlets criticizing Raúl and Fidel Castro, and two human rights defenders in Holguín were sentenced on May 24, charged with "insulting national symbols" and "disorder" for public acts that they denied had taken place.

"With this new round of prosecutions, the Castro government is sending a clear message to dissidents that the status quo has not changed in Cuba," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "Publicly criticizing the government can still earn you a harsh prison sentence."

Luis Enrique Labrador, 33; David Piloto, 40; Walfrido Rodríguez, 42; and Yordani Martínez, 23, were sentenced in Havana on May 31 on charges of contempt and public disorder. An official document addressed by the state prosecutor to the Criminal Court of Havana, a copy of which was obtained by Human Rights Watch, said the four were detained on January 14, when they went to Havana's Revolutionary Square and threw leaflets into the air with slogans such as "Down with the Castros."

When agents of the National Revolutionary Police arrived at the scene, the four men sat down on the ground, an act the prosecutor deemed "a defiant and provocative attitude...that interrupted the traffic flow." Martínez was sentenced to three years in prison, while the other three were each sentenced to five years, according to their families and human rights defenders in Cuba.

Family members told Human Rights Watch that state security agents had visited their homes the day before the trial, warning relatives that if they "created a scene" and called attention to the hearing, the detainees would be left in pretrial detention indefinitely. One man's mother said she was fired in April on the grounds that she was "the mother of a counterrevolutionary." The families also told Human Rights Watch that Martínez and Piloto went on hunger strike in May in Valle Grande prison to demand they be put on trial. In response, they later told their families, they were handcuffed and beaten by a prison official.

In a taped interview with a Cuban human rights defender, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, which was later replayed for Human Rights Watch, Rodríguez called the trial a "a mockery." He said the judge simply rubber-stamped the prosecutor's recommended punishment, ignoring the defendants' arguments in their defense. Elizardo Sanchez, the director of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent human rights group not recognized by the Cuban government, told Human Rights Watch that state security agents surrounded the local courthouse where the trial took place, preventing human rights defenders and other members of the public from attending.

On May 24, Marcos Maikel Lima Cruz, 33, and Antonio Michel Lima Cruz, 28, brothers who were members of a human rights group in Holguín called Pedro Luis Boitel - were sentenced to three and two years in prison respectively in a closed, summary trial. Their father, the independent journalist Marcos Antonio Lima Dalmau, said the two were arrested on December 25, 2010. Lima Dalmau, who was allowed to attend his sons' trial, said they were accused of insulting national symbols and causing public disorder for allegedly dancing naked in front of their house, and spitting, urinating, and stepping on a Cuban flag, which both denied.

Human Rights Watch believes that the charges were fabricated to prosecute the brothers in retaliation for their human rights work. Lima Dalmau said that one of the witnesses who testified in their trial - a neighbor - said he had accompanied police when they inspected the brothers' home, and had seen the flag hanging undamaged on a wall.

Cuba's laws empower the state to criminalize virtually all forms of dissent, and grant officials extraordinary authority to penalize people who try to exercise their basic rights. The Cuban Criminal Code penalizes anyone who "threatens, libels or slanders, defames, affronts or in any other way insults or offends, with the spoken word or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public functionary, or his agents or auxiliaries." The violations are punishable by one to three years in prison, if directed at high ranking officials. Such laws violate the right to freedom of expression recognized in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - signed by Cuba in 2008.

"The dissidents were prosecuted on the basis of their political beliefs, and because they dared to exercise rights that all Cubans should enjoy," Vivanco said. "They should never have even been tried, let alone convicted."

Better Dinner Guests for Secretary Clinton

USA Today's Dewayne Wickham has just returned from Cuba, where he was looking to fill-in-the-blanks of his predisposed narrative (just read his previous columns) that Raul Castro's farcical "reforms" are actually significant.

During his trip, he met with Castro regime officials and "members of [Cuba's] emerging middle class" (meaning more regime officials) and is now providing the following "sage" advice to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

"Have dinner with Jony Jones."

Now, we have no idea who Jony Jones is -- and she might very well be a nice person -- but sadly that's the best Wickham was able to come up with, in order to attribute his narrative and to draw this audacious (unfounded) conclusion:

"What's clear is that there is no widespread support here for a 'Cuba spring' -- no looming upheaval like those that toppled a government in Egypt and threatens to do the same in Libya. If Hillary Clinton doesn't believe me, she should come here and have dinner with Jony Jones."

In other words, Wickham can confirm there will be no "Cuban spring" based on counsel from Castro regime officials and dinner in a designated tourist zone with Jony Jones -- both of which might be inter-changeable.

Yet, if he'd bothered to leave his escorts behind, Wickham could have visited with courageous pro-democracy activists who are challenging the regime every day -- and come up with better dinner guests for Secretary Clinton.

For example:

How about dinner with Yris Perez Aguilera?

Yris is the head of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement. She is beaten and arrested almost on a weekly basis for undertaking peaceful, non-violent, marches and sit-ins. Last week, the regime's thugs kidnapped her for four days, then released her all bruised and battered.

How about dinner with Yris's husband, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez"?

Antunez was first arrested when he was 17-years old for protesting against the dictatorship in a public square. He spent nearly half of his life in prison. He's now in his 40s and leads weekly protests against the Castro regime, for which he's continously beaten and arrested.

How about dinner with the four young Cubans (or their parents) sentenced to four years in prison yesterday for peacefully handing out leaflets?

Their names are Luis Enrique Labrador, 33, David Piloto, 40, Walfrido Rodriguez, 42, and Yordanis Martinez, 23.

How about dinner with some of the Ladies in White and their supporters, e.g., Crispina Xiomara Duquesne or Sonia Garro Alfonso?

Crispina's son was arrested and murdered (poisoned) by the Castro regime for her opposition activities.

Meanwhile, the Castro regime's state security organizes modern-day lynch mobs against Sonia and her husband (who heads the Association of Independent Afro-Cubans) asserting that "those black counter-revolutionaries must be punished."

But of course, none of them would fit Wickham's narrative.

Dissidents Sentenced to Prison for Leaflets

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
More "reform" you can't believe in.

Please note that these four young Cubans were tried, convicted and sentenced within a few hours.

From Reuters:

Cuba dissidents sentenced to prison for leaflets

Four men who threw anti-government leaflets in Havana's Revolution Square were sentenced on Tuesday to up to five years in prison by a Cuban court, family members said.

Cuban dissidents decried the decision and said they should be considered political prisoners.

Three of the men -- Luis Enrique Labrador, 33, David Piloto, 40, and Walfrido Rodriguez, 42 -- received five-year sentences, and Yordanis Martinez, 23, was given three years after the court heard evidence they had committed "defiance" and "public disorder."

In January, they threw leaflets into the air in two locations in Havana, including the massive Revolution Square that sits in front of the main government offices and is the site of major parades and government rallies.

"They did not commit any criminal act, they didn't place bombs or attack anyone. They only protested for their ideals," said Vidiet Martinez, brother of one of the prisoners.

No More U.S.-Backed Dictators

More than fifty years later, normalization proponents and many in the media never miss an opportunity to (disdainfully) refer to Cuba in the 1950's as a "tourist playground" and the Batista regime as a "U.S.-backed" dictatorship.

Yet, those same activists and reporters (editors) are also the biggest critics of U.S. policy towards Cuba, which conditions the lifting of sanctions to the respect for basic human rights and democratic reforms.

In other words, they're fine condemning a seven-year dictatorship more than fifty-years after it ended, but want to forgive and forget a fifty two-year dictatorship that's still brutally repressing its people to this very day.

Moreover, they now seem perfectly fine with Castro turning Cuba into a totalitarian "tourist playground.

Heck, they're even lobbying to facilitate it.

It's time to end the hypocrisy.

A "U.S.-backed" dictatorship in Cuba should be unacceptable -- regardless of the dictators name.

The picture below is of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista holding current dictator Raul Castro (as a young boy).

Isn't that (disturbingly) precious?


Now That's Courage

Please watch the following video clip of Cuban pro-democracy activists walking through the streets of the eastern city of Guantanamo -- screaming "Libertad!" ("Freedom!") and "Abajo con los Castro!" ("Down With the Castros!").

At the end, you can see the regime's thugs (in plain clothes) quickly mobilize, disperse the protest and literally drop-kick the person filming.

Now that's courage.

Cuba's Lost Half-Century

By Ronald Alum in The Miami Herald:

50 years after Trujillo's death, Dominican Republic thrives as Cuba

For 31 years, Rafael Trujillo — Latin America's bloodiest dictator — tormented the Dominican Republic until 1961. As the U.S. commemorates Memorial Day on May 30, Dominicans mark his assassination 50 years ago. This milestone offers an opportunity to reflect on historical developments there compared to neighboring Cuba.

The DR achieved independence earlier than Cuba, yet by the 1950s Cuba's standard of living was superior. Both countries emerged from militaristic dictatorships about the same time, 1961 with Trujillo's end, and 1959 for Cuba, after Fulgencio Batista's flight out. Prior to Fidel and Raúl Castro's totalitarianism, Trujillo's despotism had no precedence in the Americas.

Cuba's remarkable record was accomplished despite Batista's dictatorship (1952-58) and the widespread corruption of the preceding republican epoch (1902-52). Conversely, conditions were miserable in Trujillo's DR. The brief 1965 civil war ended with the joint OAS-U.S. military intervention which paved the way for stability and relative prosperity. While the DR moved toward an open society, Cuba went in the opposite direction with the Castro brothers' tropical version of the Soviet mold.

Five decades after Trujillo, the DR is one of the region's least militarized societies, with an enviable freedom of expression, religion and movement. There are no political exiles, prisoners or firing squads. Opposition — reflecting all ideologies — is tolerated, and the private business sector and the labor movement thrive. All this sharply contrasts with Cuba, a stagnant, closed society.

The 1966 Dominican constitution established a tripartite government with an executive, a congress and an independent judiciary. Since 1966, the DR has elected five presidents from three alternating political parties (two presidents won re-election repeatedly). But Cuba is still ruled by the same 1959 clique whose average age is now 80.

Dictatorships usually foster foreign apologists who extol alleged achievements. Trujillo even received an honorary doctorate from a U.S. university five years after his 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitian immigrants. Likewise, the Castro duo is continually praised in intellectual circles for supposed attainments, such as in healthcare, notwithstanding contradicting evidence.

As ethnologist Katherine Hirschfeld documents in Health, Politics and Revolution in Cuba since 1898, Cuba's statistics are largely fabricated, medical care for the masses is substandard and, in any case, it depends on generous care-packages from Cubans abroad. (These are the same overseas Cubans relentlessly maligned by Havana's hate-mongering propaganda.)

Unquestionably, Fidel Castro enjoyed enormous initial popular support; but it soon vanished as he hijacked the liberal-inspired revolution, eliminated pro-democratic dissidents, and turned Cuba into a nightmarish Orwellian dystopia.

There are revealing parallels between the Castro and Trujillo methods of control:

• Trujillo was a product of the army; Fidel Castro was a lawyer. But both militarized their countries; the military became a privileged caste with immense control over economic activities.

• Like Hitler, both granted themselves grandiose titles: "Nation's Benefactor" for Trujillo, "Maximum Leader" for Fidel Castro.

• Both instituted hegemonic, single-party states encompassing spy networks (of which former collaborators became conspicuous victims).

• Virtually everybody labored for the "highest leaders" — from athletes to physicians — even if limited private sector activities were permitted. Illustratively, Fidel Castro remarked that the brain of a female neurosurgeon wishing to emigrate "belonged to the Revolution" — and, thus, by implication to Fidel the comandante.

• Cronyism and nepotism reigned. The titular power was passed at whim from elder to younger brother — to Héctor Trujillo and Raúl Castro — as each was gifted the rank of "general." Thus, both Caribbean countries morphed into ridiculous hereditary quasi-monarchies.

The post-Trujillo Dominican journey can serve as an instructive fountain of experiences for a post-Castro Cuba transitioning to a gentler, open society. Along with lessons from former communist Eastern Europe, a new Cuba could learn from the successes, as well as the admitted faults, of the Dominican liberal-democratic experiment.

The DR still has educational, public-health and poverty issues to improve upon, but it has come a long way. Its post-1966 democratic project has outperformed Cuba's statist economy. For example, the DR's 2010 GDP growth was about 4.2 percent — almost three times that of Cuba's at 1.5 percent (ranked 78th and 166th, respectively, of 216 countries). And that's accepting Cuba's suspect figures. Now impoverished "socialist" Cuba imports most foodstuffs — even sugar! — despite its blessed agricultural soil.

The DR is a country we rarely hear about in positive terms, other than supplying outstanding baseball players. Yet, there is much to celebrate in that beautiful country as it confidently commemorates its first half century free of despotism, as opposed to Cuba, still suffering anachronistic totalitarianism.

Roland Alum, a former Fulbright Scholar in Santo Domingo, is a consultant with ICOD Associates.

Young and Old Can't Find Raul's "Reforms"

Monday, May 30, 2011
Since 2007, Cuba "experts" abroad have extolled the narrative of Raul Castro's "reforms."

Yet, Cubans on the island can't seem to find them (as today's AP story on Raul's 80th birthday clearly shows).

Whether young:

"Raul is going to turn 80, and the others are even older," said Ernesto, a 26-year-old Havana resident, who asked that he only be identified by his first name for fear he could get into trouble for speaking out about the country's leaders.

"To make real changes the country needs young people," he said. "Raul talks a lot about giving power to the young, but I ask you, 'Where are they?'"

Or old:

"I'm not so concerned about his age because he looks like he's in good health," said Marcelo Delgado, a 72-year-old retiree. "What I am worried about is that it seems to be taking a long time to bring in the economic changes he is talking about, and there isn't much time left."

They must not be as significant as the regime and its apologists would like you to believe.

On This Memorial Day

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.


-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, 1803-1882

Female Democracy Activist Remains Missing

Sunday, May 29, 2011
On Thursday, Cuban pro-democracy activist Caridad Caballero was arrested by the Castro regime.

She has not been heard from since and her whereabouts remain unknown.

Caballero, a member of the Ladies in White support group ("Damas de Apoyo"), was arrested for participating in a peaceful protest against the Castro regime.

Her family has been frantically searching for her in all known police and state security operation centers, but the authorities refuse to reveal any information about her well-being or whereabouts.

As you can see in the video clip below (from a previous arrest in March 2011), the Castro regime is not shy about using repressive force against Caballero and her family.