Castro's Violence Against Women

Saturday, July 16, 2011
This is mind-boggling.

This week, a group of female pro-democracy activists -- led by Idania Yanez Contreras -- set off on a peaceful march to the Belico River in the town of Santa Clara, in order to lay flowers in memory of the 37 Cubans (including women and children) murdered by the Castro regime on a tugboat on July 13, 1994.

They were confronted by Castro's police, which proceeded to impede the march.

They did so by (self-admittedly) bringing a group of women from the National Judo Academy (where the regime trains its Olympians) to violently attack the female protesters.

Needless to say, the group of female pro-democracy activists ended up brutally beaten, violently arrested and some of them (including Idania) in the hospital.

Just what type of Machiavellian malice does it take to conjure up such repressive schemes?

The "Cost" of Cheap Sneakers

Last week, we published a column on U.S. policy towards Cuba vs. China, entitled "Freedom First vs. Business First."

Here's an interesting follow-up.

Has U.S. policy helped make China "the pièce de résistance" of tyranny?

If so -- at what cost?

(Aside from getting cheap sneakers and other consumer goods).

From Democracy Digest:

Is the world’s leading democracy about to cede global supremacy to its most powerful authoritarian state?

Yes, according to public opinion in 15 of 22 nations surveyed
in the new PEW Annual Global Attitudes Project poll.

In most regions, the United States enjoys improved favorability ratings than over the past decade, but the balance of global opinion is that China either will replace or already has replaced the US as the world’s hegemon. This conviction is most widespread within some of the world’s other leading democracies in Western Europe, where 72% in France, 67% in Spain, 65% in Britain and 61% in Germany expect Communist China to best the U.S.

U.S. Recognizes Libyan Opposition

From The Hill:

US will recognize top Libyan rebel group as country’s government

The United States will formally recognize the top opposition group in Libya as that nation’s government, a move that should give an economic and diplomatic boost to the rebels.

The announcement that Washington sees the Transitional National Council as Libya’s official government was made during an international conference in Istanbul by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to The Associated Press.

Council leaders have lobbied U.S., European and regional leaders to formally call their group Libya’s legitimate government so tens of billions in Moammar Gadhafi funds could be funneled to the council. Those funds could then be used to boost its efforts to drive the embattled Libyan leader from power.

The AP reported that the U.S. recognition could allow Washington to transfer as much as $30 billion in Gadhafi funds.

It's All About Business

Friday, July 15, 2011
Wasn't Cuban-American travel (and the Obama Administration's other regulations) supposed to be a humanitarian measure?

Obviously not
-- it's all about business.

(Prepare to feel disgusted).

From Tampa Bay Business Journal:

Cuba amendment produces caution

A congressman's move to derail President Obama's changes that allow more travel to Cuba and more remittances to the island's citizens is causing concern but has not squelched business opportunities [...]

Dana Reed, owner of ASC International USA, recently received authorization from the U.S. Department of Treasury to offer charter flights to Cuba. Despite the amendment [to reverse on Obama's travel regulations], he plans to continue his low-key efforts to partner with a Tampa travel service provider seeking landing rights from Cuba and is in the process of establishing parcel service to the island.

"We'll see what happens," Reed said. "Everyone is angling for business because there are lots of opportunities. There is money to be made."

The World Trade Center of Tampa Bay has not changed its plans for a fall trip to the island but intends to monitor Congressional action on the amendment and other Cuba issues. Steve Michelini, managing director of the franchise, said he had been told the Diaz-Balart amendment would not succeed.

It is however, "a big aggravation" for those interested in doing business with Cuba, Michelini said.

"It affects the timetable for the Cuban government to approve travel from cities other than Miami," he said. "It doesn't help any of us, and it doesn't make a lot of sense. It is distressing. We have some high-level business executives who want to travel with us, and we don't want to put them in a bad position."

The area's business community has the "critical mass and desire" to establish ties with Cuba and needs to keep track of issues and actions that could reverse gains made in the ability to do that, Michelini said.

"You've got to take this seriously," he said. "It's our nest egg someone is trying to mess with."

Yoani's White Sneakers Aren't Affected

Thursday, July 14, 2011
We have the utmost respect for Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez.

Her socio-economic critiques of life in Castro's Cuba are extraordinarily enlightening.

However, it seems that every time she shifts her attention (and criticism) to U.S. policy and Washington, she stumbles on the facts.

Thus, she's either being mislead on the facts (regarding U.S. policy) -- or she's simply not privy to them.

Let us provide some guidance.

Yesterday, Yoani criticized the provision in the 2012 Financial Services Appropriations Bill that places limits on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba.

She tells the story of how in 1992 she almost dropped out of high school because of the huge holes in the sole of her shoes. So her mother called her father's aunt abroad and presto:

"Along with soup cubes and some ointment to treat the pains of rheumatism, was a pair of brand-new white sneakers. I returned to my 11th grade classroom the next day."

Let's be absolutely clear:

There is nothing in the 2012 Financial Services Appropriations Bill that would prevent soap cubes, rheumatism ointment, brand-new white sneakers or any sort of humanitarian aid from being sent to Cuba.

Moreover, the U.S. has always been the foremost source of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people -- whether under the Bush or Obama regulations.

The provisions added to the 2012 Financial Services Appropriation Bill simply place caps and limits on Cuban-American cash remittances and visits, in order to preserve their humanitarian intent -- while respecting the generous exception provided to Cuban-American refugees under U.S. law.

Yoani continues:

"Right now, thousands of teenagers, the self-employed, seniors, students and babies depend on the uninterrupted growth in the flow between the families in exile and those on the island."

Once again, nothing in the 2012 Financial Services Appropriations Bill will prevent those thousands of Cubans from receiving humanitarian aid either.

But what about the millions of other Cubans? Or the financial windfall that the current unlimited travel and remittance provisions are providing the brutal Castro regime -- and thus hurting those millions?

Another Havana-based blogger, Oswaldo Yanez, responds to Yoani (H/T Babalu Blog):

"I am very happy that a relative in exile sent her a pair of tennis shoes so that she could graduate from high school. However, I must remind her that if no Cuban would have been able to send a single dollar since leaving their homeland, then perhaps she would have been able to buy tennis shoes for a few pesos at the store in her block. That's because freedom would have returned to our country, since the tyrant would have had to take the plane instead of her relative."

Cuban-American Visits vs. Visitors

In January 2010, the Castro regime's Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, hosted a forum on "The Nation and the Emigration."

It's a propaganda event held periodically in Havana, which seeks to relay the "image" that Cubans abroad do not oppose the Castro regime. So they recall 200-300 of their favorite "vetted" Cubans abroad and stage a whole production.

At that event, Rodriguez announced (with great fanfare) that 300,000 Cuban-Americans visited the island in 2009 -- pursuant to the Obama Administration's easing of U.S. sanctions.

Rodriguez "unveiled" this figure -- courtesy of the regime's National Statistics Office -- as part of his argument that only a "radical minority" of Cubans abroad oppose Castro's dictatorship.

Since that speech, the 300,000 figure has been routinely regurgitated as the "official" statistic of how many Cuban-Americans are traveling to the island.

Every news story written about Cuban-American travel now parts from that base figure, with "estimates" proportionally increasing over time.

But here's the problem.

Undoubtedly, there's been a dramatic increase in flights from the U.S. to Cuba. There are currently anywhere between 30-50 flights on any given week, with each flight carrying 100-150 passengers.

Any variant of these flights times passengers per week can equal 300,000, or more, or less, passengers -- but the key word is passengers.

Unwittingly or not, the most consequential part of President Obama's new policy was allowing for visits by Cuban-Americans to be unlimited. In other words, for Cuban-Americans to travel back-and-forth to the island, as if Cuba was The Bahamas -- or to essentially live on-and-off the island.

(Ironically, it would be much more difficult for Bahamians to travel back-and-forth from the U.S. to The Bahamas -- than it would be for Cubans to do so -- as Bahamians don't enjoy the same generous U.S. immigration policy.)

Anyone that has traveled through Miami airport knows that current Cuban-American travelers are not doing so only once a year.

Take the recent New York Times story on this issue. One of the Cuban-Americans profiled had traveled eight times in the last 18 months.

That's eight visits by the same Cuban-American passenger -- not eight different Cuban-American visitors.

If each of the 300,000 Cuban-American passengers averages two visits -- which is a very conservative estimate -- then only 150,000 Cuban-American visitors traveled to Cuba last year.

Of course, that's not useful for Castro's propaganda.

Which begs the question --

Are Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba multiple times a year -- while extending a financial windfall upon the Castro regime -- defying both the generous refugee presumption, and the humanitarian intent of family visits, as granted to them under U.S. law?

Moreover --

Do these 150,000, or less, Cuban-Americans have the "right" to help finance the repression of 12 million Cubans (most of which have no family abroad)?

"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1841-1935

Desperately Fleeing Castro's "Reforms"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
From Gizmodo:

Man Dies Trying to Flee Cuba Inside Airplane's Landing Gear

While the Castro Bros. play their We-Are-Relaxing-Our-Dictatorship pantomime, things don't seem to be getting much better in Cuba. Otherwise this man would have never died while trying to flee the island -- inside an Airbus A320's landing gear compartment.

Twenty-three year-old Adonis G.B. -- a Cuban national -- was hiding shirtless inside one of the landing gear compartments of an Airbus A320 plane at José Martí International Airport in Havana. He was found when Iberia flight 6620 landed in Madrid at 13:50 local time, about nine hours later. According to the Spanish police, it seems the body was crushed by the landing gear mechanism shortly after take off.

Spain's El Mundo has the disturbing image.

Dissidents Present Democratic Reform Plan

From AFP:

Cuban dissidents push for opening to democracy

Leading dissidents in Cuba have launched a reform plan seeking a democratic opening in the Americas' only one-party Communist-run state.

More than 40 prominent members of a range of outlawed small parties and movements signed and issued the document calling for new laws and a plebiscite as a transition to democracy after more than five decades of communism.

They called upon their more than 11 million fellow Cubans to carry out a "genuine national dialogue and start the process of legal changes that exclude no one, so that Cubans can keep the positive things they have built, and change however they care to, the things they want to change."

Dubbed the "People's Path," the document was signed by dissidents including Guillermo Farinas, Laura Pollan, Martha Beatriz Roque, Hector Maceda, Elizardo Sanchez and Oswaldo Paya.

It calls for Cubans to be restored their freedom of movement inside and outside Cuba; and for freedoms of the press, association, and religion to be guaranteed; and for all people to be eligible for elective office regardless of party affiliation.

"When there is space in which people can participate that will be created by legal changes, citizens' rights to national dialogue will be respected and free elections will be called for all public posts and an assembly to rewrite the constitution," the plan text adds.

Anniversary of a Crime Against Humanity

"In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, three boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, outside the port of Havana. The Cuban State boats attacked the tugboat with their prows, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat-named the '13 of March' - sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten children."

-- Ted Koppel, ABC's Nightline.

These were the victims of that brutal massacre by the Castro regime:

Abreu Ruíz, Angel René. Age: 3.
Alcalde Puig, Rosa María. Age: 47.
Almanza Romero, Pilar. Age: 31.
Alvarez Guerra, Lissett María. Age: 24.
Anaya Carrasco, Yaltamira. Age: 22.
Balmaseda Castillo, Jorge Gregorio. Age: 24.
Borges Alvarez, Giselle. Age: 4.
Borges Briel, Lázaro Enrique. Age: 34.
Carrasco Sanabria, Martha Mirilla. Age: 45.
Cayol, Manuel. Age: 56.
Enríquez Carrazana, Luliana. Age: 22.
Fernández Rodríguez, María Miralis. Age: 27.
Feu González Rigoberto. Age: 31
García Suárez, Joel. Age: 20.
Góngora, Leonardo Notario. Age: 28.
González Raices, Amado. Age: 50.
Guerra Martínez, Augusto Guillermo. Age: 45.
Gutiérrez García, Juan Mario. Age: 10.
Levrígido Flores, Jorge Arquímedes. Age: 28.
Leyva Tacoronte, Caridad. Age: 5.
Loureiro, Ernesto Alfonso. Age: 25
Marrero Alamo, Reynaldo Joaquín. Age: 48.
Martínez Enriquez, Hellen. Age: 5 Months.
Méndez Tacoronte, Mayulis. Age: 17.
Muñoz García, Odalys. Age: 21.
Nicle Anaya, José Carlos. Age: 3.
Pérez Tacoronte, Yousell Eugenio. Age: 11.
Perodín Almanza, Yasser. Age: 11.
Prieto Hernández, Fidencio Ramel. Age: 51.
Rodríguez Fernández, Xicdy. Age: 2.
Rodríguez Suárez, Omar. Age: 33.
Ruíz Blanco, Julia Caridad. Age: 35.
Sanabria Leal, Miladys. Age: 19.
Suárez Esquivel, Eduardo. Age: 38.
Suárez Esquivel, Estrella. Age: 48.
Suárez Plasencia, Eliécer. Age: 12.
Tacoronte Vega, Martha Caridad. Age: 35
And 4 more who could not be identified.

Orlando Zapata's Mother Urges Tighter Sanctions

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
From Deutsche Presse:

Mother of late Cuban dissident asks US to "double" the embargo

Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of a Cuban dissident who died last year on hunger strike, called Tuesday on the US Congress to strengthen policies against the communist government of Cuban President Raul Castro.

'The embargo can never be lifted,' she told Cuban-American legislators and reporters in Washington. 'Rather, it should be doubled.'

She said tough policies were a way to make the 'murderous' regime disappear.

'We have to close every lock (to the Castros), so they give up power, because they are stepping on and humiliating a people, and they are the only ones who are living. They don't care about the people anymore,' Tamayo said.

Her son, Orlando Zapata, was arrested during Havana's so-called 'Black Spring' crackdown in 2003, classified as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. The Cuban government insists there are no political prisoners on the communist island.

Zapata died in detention in February 2010, after an 83-day hunger strike.

His death spurred a wave of international criticism of the Cuban government and was believed to have been key to a round of talks between Cuban authorities and Roman Catholic Church officials on the island, leading to this year's release of around 50 imprisoned dissidents.

Tamayo repeatedly denounced harassment by Cuban authorities and arrived in Miami in early June, along with her husband and several other family members.

Reina Luisa Tamayo on Capitol Hill

From McClatchy Newspapers:

Mother of Cuban dissident tells US lawmakers about son's death

The mother of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 85-day hunger strike, gave emotional accounts Tuesday of her son's death in captivity to dismayed lawmakers.

A sober-faced Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the son of Cuban immigrants, led Reina Luisa Tamayo to meetings with senators and House members who listened in rapt attention as she described Zapata's ordeal at notorious Kilo 7 prison in Camaguey province.

"I would go to every corner of the world to ask for justice for the cause of my son who was assassinated," Tamayo told reporters in Rubio's Capitol Hill office. "The Castro brothers (Fidel and Raul) are murderers and every door should be closed to them. We have to fight for liberty and justice for all Cubans. Our people are suffering." Her hands shaking, Tamayo held up a blood-stained white T-shirt she said her son gave her shortly before his death at 42 in February 2010.

Tamayo, 62, said the blood came from vicious beatings Zapata endured while refusing to eat during his 15-month imprisonment. She said his captors denied him water for 18 days toward the end of his life.

"They murdered Orlando Zapata in premeditated fashion," Tamayo said, her voice rising. "This mother would be incapable of making such a strong allegation against the government unless I held proof in my own hands." Tamayo read from writings her son had inscribed on the shirt.

"My blood is in service to liberty for all 11 million Cubans who don't express themselves because they fear joining the many who are already in prison," Tamayo read. "Long live the shirt of the prisoner of conscience!"

Rubio, elected to his first Senate term last November in an upset victory over then-Gov. Charlie Crist and former Rep. Kendrick Meek, held up what he said was incriminating evidence of a different sort.

Displaying a recent newspaper article about increased U.S. tourism opportunities in Cuba, Rubio criticized President Barack Obama for loosening the decades-old travel ban on the communist-led island nation 90 miles off the Florida coast.

The Obama administration earlier this year started allowing students and church groups to travel to Cuba, and it expanded the number of airports that can offer charter service there beyond three in Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

Rubio, a West Miami Republican, was joined at a news conference with Tamayo by Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Bob Menendez - whose parents also emigrated from Cuba - of New Jersey.

"We're honored to be in the presence of a hero who has witnessed firsthand the brutality of the Castro regime and the reality of Cuba today," Rubio said. "It is the brutal reality of a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people and violates human rights on a consistent basis."

Nelson noted that he and Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, sponsored a resolution honoring the life of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, which the Senate passed unanimously in March 2010 shortly after his death.

The measure called on the United States "to continue policies that focus on respect for the fundamental tenets of freedom, democracy and human rights in Cuba and encourage peaceful democratic change consistent with the aspirations of the people of Cuba."

Quote of the Week

"The exiles envy the locals because we all seem to sit around all day doing nothing. Meanwhile we see them breezing in here, trying to sell us a pair of trainers that we know is last year's model, and we think, What have you got to complain about? You're free."

-- Lazaro, a Cuban (who was afraid to give his real name) interviewed for the article "The Cuban Grapevine," The Economist's Intelligent Life Magazine, Summer 2011

Not for the Faint of "Regime Change"

From The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Blesses Syria Regime Change as Embassy Hit

The Obama administration for the first time Monday said it supported regime change in Syria, capping a day in which mobs attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and tensions between the two nations escalated.

"President [Bashar al-] Assad is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said following a meeting with her European Union counterpart, Catherine Ashton, in Washington. "Our goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs."

Earlier Monday, Syrians sympathetic to President Assad attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, throwing rocks, breaking windows and hanging a giant flag on the compound walls. They also attacked the home of U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford.

The pro-regime crowds were angered at Mr. Ford's visit on Thursday and Friday to the city of Hama, site of some of the largest protests against Mr. Assad. Syria's government accused Mr. Ford of meeting with "sabateurs," characterizing his trip on a day of planned protests as inciting violence and undermining stability in Syria.

Zombies Rule Havana

In the new horror film, Juan de los Muertos ("Juan of the Dead"), zombies overtake Havana and begin causing unrest.

Yet, the Castro regime insists that they are actually U.S-backed dissidents.

Just wait until U.S. Senator John Kerry finds out.

But seriously.

In an interview with The Guardian, Cuban writer-director Alejandro Brugues explains:

"[The film] makes observations about who we are... A government which blames the US for everything. A people who are very passive. And then when confronted with a crisis we go into business."

He goes on to note:

"I was walking through Havana one day and looked at the expressions on people's faces. Zombies. They didn't even need make-up."

Don't miss the just-released debut trailer:

Bourdain's Full-Circle on Cuba

Monday, July 11, 2011
Tonight, the Travel Channel aired Anthony Bourdain's season premiere of "No Reservations" in Cuba.

The episode was fairly consistent with his pre-show interviews.

As expected, he didn't march down La Quinta Avenida with the Ladies in White, but he didn't gush all over his regime minders either -- although he did (disappointingly) spend most, if not all, of his time with them.

Must have been the price to pay for permission to film.

To be fair, Bourdain did point out some the regime's political controls and tourism apartheid, which frankly, most other traveling media personalities are all-too-happy to conceal.

Unfortunately, he did so while giving Cuba's brutal regime a popular platform to promote its tourism (and thus, apartheid).

The central (and recurring) theme of the show was that Havana is beautiful because it has been frozen in time (pre-1959 to be exact) and that everyone should see it now -- even if it means feeding a repressive regime -- before it gets "contaminated" by American consumer culture, or before it becomes like Miami (with its -- gasp -- roaming free people).

Yet, wasn't pre-1959 Havana supposedly "contaminated" by American consumer culture?

Thus, everything that awed Bourdain about Havana existed pre-Castro (with its supposed American consumer culture) -- and will surely exist post-Castro (with whatever the Cuban people freely desire).

In other words, he did a 52-year full-circle on Cuba -- with countless (and unnecessary) death, imprisonment, torture, suffering and exile in between.

So, in the meantime, why keep filling Castro's repressive blank?

Bourdain Goes to Cuba

In tonight's season premiere of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," he visits Cuba.

We can't really comment until we see the show -- and frankly (and unfortunately), we don't expect to see Bourdain interviewing Cuban pro-democracy activists (although one can dream).

However, we do appreciate some of Bourdain's sensible remarks during an interview today with MSNBC -- despite their best efforts to (disrespectfully) prod him.

Here are some excerpts:

Q: You said in the show you expect to get a lot of grief over going to Cuba. Has the hate mail started trickling in?

A: No, but I think I've seen some stuff on Facebook. There are Cuban Americans with a zero tolerance policy as far as anything to do with Cuba, as long as any Castro is alive. It is heretical for any American to visit. It is an emotional position that I understand and that I'm sympathetic to, but obviously I went anyway.

Q: Was there anything that you wanted to see firsthand?

It was the buildings, the cars. You really are walking into 360 degrees of another era. It really feels untouched. It is the most beautiful city I've ever seen in Latin America or anywhere in the Caribbean. There's nothing like it. It's gorgeous. Even as it crumbles, even given the very evident state of disrepair, it is beautiful.

Q: Is this the most politically charged destination you've visited?

A: For some people it's going to be. I just don't really care. I've been to a lot of countries where we have differences of opinion, to say the least, or bad histories or even places where they see the world very differently than I do. It was not something that I was looking to concentrate on, but at the same time, I was very aware that it was worth mentioning often that Cubans can't leave Cuba, that they're not free to say what they want. That even in this incredibly wired age, that Twittering or communicating freely over the Internet are things they can't do.

Q: Speaking of free expression, what did you make of the legally permitted street corner debates over baseball?

A: I think there's a lot going on there that I don't know in the sense that you could argue publicly about baseball, but it's probably ill-advised to argue about other things, though I do understand that politics do creep into the discussion at times. I wanted to mention repeatedly in the show certain obvious facts about living in Cuba, which is something that other travel show hosts, perhaps, did not do and I think got a lot of grief for it. If you're eating in a fine dining restaurant it is worth mentioning that chances are, you won't be seeing any ordinary Cubans there.

Is Former Rep. Delahunt Breaking the Law?

Last week, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., distributed an interview (see below) with former U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), promoting stronger U.S. relations with the regime of Hugo Chavez.

Delahunt was recently in Venezuela, where he met with government officials, urged Member of the U.S. Congress to do the same and announced his upcoming activities with a new "non-political group," the U.S.-Venezuela Group of Friends.

Thus, is Delahunt violating the post-employment legal restrictions for former Members of the U.S. Congress?

According to the Ethics Reform Act, former U.S. Rep. Delahunt cannot:

"Knowingly aid or advise a foreign government or foreign political party with the intent to influence the decision of any federal official (including any Member of Congress) in carrying out his or her official duties."

Moreover, the Logan Act prohibits:

"Directly or indirectly commencing or carrying on an correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government, or any officer or agent thereof, with the intent to influence the measure or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof or relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States."

Here's the communique from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C.:

Delahunt to U.S. Congress: "Come to Venezuela, I Think You'll Be Surprised"

Former U.S. Congressman William Delahunt said that relations between the U.S. and Venezuela will improve because there is the will and a mutual interest for that to occur.

In an interview with the Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias, Delahunt said, "That will exists between Caracas and Washington because this relationship is sincerely very important for both countries and I think it will happen if we work on it."

The former Democratic congressman thinks that to come to an understanding, it is necessary "to avoid strong rhetoric and put aside the myths and erred perceptions that we have."

"I would say to my former colleagues (in the U.S. Congress) that they should come to Venezuela, to talk, with an open mind. I think you'll be surprised," he added.

Delahunt thinks that it is important that both governments work to return ambassadors to each others capitals.

The former Massachusetts representative is optimistic that relations between the U.S. and Venezuela will improve in the future, just as they have between Caracas and Bogota.

Delahunt indicated that during his visit to Venezuela, which will last until Monday, he will meet with members of the National Assembly, both from the opposition and pro-government parties, "to promote that the inter-parliamentary Boston group be revived."

The Boston group was created in 2002 to strengthen relations between Venezuela's National Assembly and the U.S. Congress. According to Delahunt, "I thought it was very useful." He proposed that the group to use the opportunity to add former legislators and prominent citizens from both countries.

While the initiative comes to life, Delahunt is preparing a plan of activities over the next few months to develop the U.S.-Venezuela Groups of Friends, a non-political group made up of individuals from various sectors of both countries to promote better understanding in the bilateral relationship.

More Beatings and Hunger Strikes

Sunday, July 10, 2011
On Friday, Cuban pro-democracy leader Guillermo Farinas, recipient of the European Parliament's 2011 Sakharov Prize, was arrested and beaten (again) by the Castro regime.

His arrest took place at a train terminal in Santa Clara, where he had gone to accompany former political prisoner Felix Navarro.

Meanwhile, Cuban political prisoner Ariel Azuaga Pena has been on a hunger strike since July 1st, in protest over the 6-year prison term handed to him by the Castro regime for the "crime" of "disrespect."

And finally, Antonio Michel Lima Cruz and Marcos Maykel Lima Cruz, the two young Cubans imprisoned for 2-3 years for shouting anti-regime slogans while listening to hip-hop music, have begun a hunger strike protesting their deplorable prison conditions.

More "reform" you can't believe in.