New Videos: Crowds Defend Pro-Democracy Activists

Saturday, August 27, 2011
Yesterday, Cuban pro-democracy activists, Ivonne Mallesa Galano and Rosario Morales la Rosa, staged a street-corner protest in Havana.

Crowds quickly built up nearby.

Upon being whisked away by the Castro regime's secret police, the crowds followed them to the police station and began chanting "Libertad" ("Freedom").

They remain under arrest.

Earlier in the week, we saw a similar show of support for four other female pro-democracy activists on the steps of the Capitol building.

Here's three video clips chronicling the events:





Four Women Speak the Unspeakable

From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

On Cuba's Capitol Steps

Four women speak the unspeakable

The four Cuban women who took to the steps of the Capitol in Havana last week chanting "liberty" for 40 minutes weren't exactly rebel forces. But you wouldn't know that by the way the Castro regime reacted. A video of the event shows uniformed state security forcibly dragging the women to waiting patrol cars. They must have represented a threat to the regime because they were interrogated and detained until the following day.

The regime's bigger problem may be the crowd that gathered to watch. In a rare moment of dissent in that public square, the crowd booed, hissed and insulted the agents who were sent to remove the women.

One of the four women, Sara Marta Fonseca, gave a telephone interview to the online newspaper Diario de Cuba, based in Spain, as she made her way home after being freed. Ms. Fonseca, who is a member of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, said that the group was demanding "that the government cease the repression against the Ladies in White, against the opposition and against the Cuban people in general." The Ladies in White are dissidents who demand the release of all political prisoners.

Yet as Ms. Fonseca explained, the group wasn't really addressing the government. "Our objective is that one day the people will join us," she said. "Realistically we do not have the strength and the power to defeat the dictatorship. The strength and the power are to be found in the unity of the people. In this we put all our faith, in that this people will cross the barrier of fear and join the opposition to reclaim freedom."

Ms. Fonseca said her group chose the Capitol because the area is crowded with locals and tourists and they wanted to "draw attention to the people of Cuba." In the end, she said that they were satisfied with the results because she heard the crowd crying "abuser, leave them alone, they are peaceful and they are telling the truth." This reaction, the seasoned dissident said, "was greater" than in the past.

"I am very happy because in spite of being beaten and dragged we could see that the people were ready to join us."

For 52 years the Cuban dictatorship has held power through fear. The poverty, isolation, broken families and lost dreams of two generations of Cubans have persisted because the regime made dissent far too dangerous. If that fear dissipates, the regime would collapse. Which is why four women on the Capitol steps had to be gagged.

Senator Rubio at the Reagan Library

Excerpt from this week's speech by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at the Reagan Library:

When I was a boy, the world looked very different than it does now. I remember vividly how many assumed and believed that Soviet style communism was destined to at least rule half the world, and they urged our public policy leaders to accept that and to understand that America would have to share this planet with a godless, oppressive form of government that perhaps was destined to overtake us one day as well. There were many who discouraged our leaders from talking about the inevitability of decline for communism and how it was destined to fail. There were many who encouraged us to simply accept this as the way it has to be, and who told us that America could no longer continue to be what America had been – the world was just too complicated and too difficult, it had changed too much. Sounds familiar, but that's what they told us.

But one person at least didn't believe them, and he happened to be the President of the United States. He actually believed that all we had to do is be America, that our example alone would one day lead to the decline and fall of a system that was unsustainable because he understood that the desire to be free, prosperous and compassionate, although shared by all Americans, was universal. The desire to leave your children better off than yourself is something we hold as Americans, but so do people all over the world. Because he understood that the principles that this nation was founded upon was not that we are all people in North America are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights, but that all people are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That transcribed in our hearts is the desire to live in freedom and in liberty, that it is our natural right, and that government's job is to protect those rights, not to grant them to us. This is the natural state of man, and anything that prevents it is unnatural and doomed to fail and that all we had to do was be America. That all we had to do was be prosperous and be free. All we had to do was live our republic. All we had to do was be a voice for these principles anywhere in the world where these principles were challenged and oppressed, and eventually time was on our side. And how right he was.

When I was in fourth grade, the Soviet Union was a co-equal power to the United States. Before I finished college, the Soviet Union didn't even exist. And so many people born since then have no idea what it even was.

To me, this is extremely special, and I'll tell you why. During the eighties, politically especially, there were two people that deeply influenced me. One clearly was Ronald Reagan, the other was my grandfather, who lived with us most of the time in our home.

We lived part of our life, especially the key years, 80-84, in Las Vegas, Nevada. And my grandfather loved to sit on the porch of our home and smoke cigars. He was Cuban. Three cigars a day, he lived to be 84. This is not an advertisement for cigar smoking, I'm just saying to you that.

He loved to talk about politics. My grandfather was born in 1899. He was born to an agricultural family in Cuba. He was stricken with polio when he was a very young man, he couldn't work the fields, so they sent him to school. He was the only member of his family that could read. And because he could read. He got a job at the local cigar rolling factory. They didn't have radio or television, so they would hire someone to sit at the front of the cigar factory and read to the workers while they worked. So, the first thing he would read every day, of course, was the daily newspaper. Then he would read some novel to entertain them. And then, when he was done reading things he actually went out and rolled the cigars because he needed the extra money. But through all of those years of reading, he became extremely knowledgeable about history, not to mention all the classics.

He loved to talk about history. My grandfather loved being Cuban. He loved being from Cuba. He never would have left Cuba if he didn't have to. But he knew America was special. He knew that without America Cuba would still be a Spanish colony. He knew that without America the Nazis and Imperial Japan would have won World War II. When he was born in 1899 there weren't even airplanes. By the time I was born, an American had walked on the surface of the moon.

And he knew something else. He knew that he had lost his country. And that the only thing from preventing other people in the world from losing theirs to communism was this country – this nation.

It is easy for us who are born here – like me – and so many of you, to take for granted how special and unique this place is. But when you come from somewhere else, when what you always knew and loved, you lost, you don't have that luxury.

My Grandfather didn't know America was exceptional because he read about it in a book. He knew about it because he lived it and saw it with his eyes. That powerful lesson is the story of Ronald Reagan's Presidency. It's our legacy as a people. And it's who we have a chance to be again. And I think that's important for all of us because being an American is not just a blessing, it's a responsibility.

Obama Dithers, Castro Represses

Friday, August 26, 2011
Excerpt from Jennifer Rubin's "Cuban women fight for freedom" in The Washington Post:

[H]ow does the current administration behave in an era of such bravery by the Cuban people, who do not cower in the sight of the boot of the communist regime? Oh, not a peep from the White House since American Jew Alan Gross’s appeal was denied. And, no, we haven’t tightened up on those travel rules yet. We have, in short, lost our way, even though the Cubans have not.

How has the Castro dictatorship treated our acquiescence? “Cuba’s communist government has tightened controls on dissidents in recent months, amid speculation that it is concerned about possible eruptions of street unrest as it puts in place some tough economic reforms, or a possible spread of the protests in the Middle East.” President Obama dithers; the Castro regime represses.

Case in Point

"I think the law should be the same for everyone. I'm a political exile because I was persecuted in Venezuela. I cannot return; it should be the same for Cubans."

-- Cecilia Matos of Weston, FL, on Congressional efforts to amend the Cuban Adjustment Act, El Sentinel (Spanish version of the Sun-Sentinel newspaper), 8/25/11

Pitbull Talks Cuba (and Represents)

The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper talks with young, Cuban-American, hip-hop icon Pitbull:

Pitbull's political side might come as a surprise – unless you'd paid attention to his album titles. El Mariel, from 2006, and The Boatlift, from 2007, refer to the mass emigration of Cubans to Florida in 1980 – an exodus Pitbull's father helped organise. His grandmother fought for Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolutionary war, but sent her daughters – his mother and aunt – to the US during Operation Peter Pan in the 1960s, when "it became clear he wasn't the best for the country", Pitbull says. Though he raves about playing all over the world, there is one country he refuses to set foot in: "I won't perform in Cuba until there's no more Castro and there's a free Cuba. To me, Cuba's the biggest prison in the world, and I would be very hypocritical were I to perform there. The people in Cuba, they know what I stand for, and there's a lot of people in Cuba that stand for the same. But they can't say it." He makes sure to call out any acquaintances he sees wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. "It's like wearing an Adolf Hitler T-shirt and not knowing," he sniffs disapprovingly. "You're gonna offend a lot of people."

Treasury on J.P. Morgan Sanctions Violations

Thursday, August 25, 2011
From the U.S. Department of Treasury:

​JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. Settles Apparent Violations of Multiple Sanctions Programs:

JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A, New York, NY ("JPMC") has agreed to remit $88,300,000 to settle potential civil liability for apparent violations of: the Cuban Assets Control Regulations ("CACR"), 31 C.F.R. part 515; the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations ("WMDPSR"), 31 C.F.R. part 544; Executive Order 13382, "Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters;" the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations ("GTSR"), 31 C.F.R. part 594; the Iranian Transactions Regulations ("ITR"), 31 C.F.R. part 560; the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations ("SSR"), 31 C.F.R. part 538; the Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor Sanctions Regulations ("FLRCTSR"), 31 C.F.R. part 593; and the Reporting, Procedures, and Penalties Regulations ("RPPR"), 31 C.F.R. part 501, that occurred between December 15, 2005, and March 1, 2011.

Info on the Cuba violations:

JPMC processed 1,711 wire transfers totaling approximately $178.5 million between December 12, 2005, and March 31, 2006, involving Cuban persons in apparent violation of the CACR. In November 2005, another U.S. financial institution alerted JPMC that JPMC might be processing wire transfers involving a Cuban national through one of its correspondent accounts. After such notification, JPMC conducted an investigation into the wire transfers it had processed through the correspondent account. The results of this investigation were reported to JPMC management and supervisory personnel, confirming that transfers of funds in which Cuba or a Cuban national had an interest were being made through the correspondent account at JPMC. Nevertheless, the bank failed to take adequate steps to prevent further transfers. JPMC did not voluntarily self-disclose these apparent violations of the CACR to OFAC. As a result of these apparent violations, considerable economic benefit was conferred to sanctioned persons. The base penalty for this set of apparent violations was $111,215,000.

How to Rattle the "Experts"

Excerpt from David Schenker's "Five Things Obama Can (and Should) Do to Topple Assad" in The New Republic:

In addition, when it comes to aiding the Syrian opposition, the Obama administration should elevate and routinize its contacts with key leaders in the movement, both at home and abroad. If asked, Washington should assist the opposition to better organize its ranks, as well as to develop a publicly articulated vision for Syria’s future that is tolerant, pluralist, and democratic. U.S. support for the opposition might also include the provision of modest funding for Thuraya satellite phones, which can help regime opponents on the ground in Syria to better communicate with each other and with the outside world. At the same time, to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Syria’s future, President Obama himself should consider an Oval Office meeting (and photo op) with respected Syrian opposition figures.

Sending Uncensored News to Cuba

From The Miami Herald:

Blogger sends uncensored news to Cuban cell phones

A Spanish blogger said the Cuban government cannot block or censor texts he’s sending to cell phones on the island.

Borrowing a page from those pesky marketing cell phone text messages that cannot be blocked, a Cuban blogger in Spain is sending uncensored news to about 1,000 Cuban cell phones daily — and exploring far more sharp-edged applications.

Eventually, said Ernesto Hernandez Busto, he should be able to send SMS messages to special groups: If dissidents are being jailed in Santiago province, he could text “Stop the repression” to all cell phones used there by the Ministry of Interior.

Cuban authorities cannot block the messages from the Cuba Sin Censura system, or Cuba Without Censorship, because each one is sent from a different telephone number, Hernandez told El Nuevo Herald.

The system is the latest evidence of how new technology, such as cell phones and the Internet, is helping to increase the flow of information into and out of Cuba, despite the government monopoly on the mass media and telecommunications.

“Anything that contributes to information is an excellent initiative,” said Havana blogger Reinaldo Escobar, who has been receiving the SMS messages. As for the claim that the government cannot block them, he added “That’s to be seen.”

Hernandez said the system takes advantage of Cuba’s explosive growth in cell phones — from only 198,000 in 2007 to one million at the end of last year — and avoids reliance on the Internet, tightly controlled by the government, expensive and slow.

“I always thought that bloggers and the Internet were a little overestimated” in their usefulness for breaking the government’s monopoly on information, said Hernandez, who runs the blog Penultimos Dias — Penultimate Days — from his home in Barcelona.

Hernandez was part of an effort in 2009 to send five to six SMS headlines a day through a system called Granpa – a joke on Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba. The effort petered off because they were sent from a few telephone numbers that could be easily blocked by Cuba, he said.

But the new effort is based on computerized marketing SMS facilities that change the originating telephone numbers, cost very little to the senders and nothing to the receivers in Cuba, he added in a telephone interview Monday.

In another use of new technology, Cuban dissidents now regularly call a U.S. telephone number to record complaints of government abuses. The Web site Hablalo Sin Miedo — Say it Without Fear — then emails alerts to human rights activists outside Cuba.

Odebrecht Rejected for Support of Tyrant

Brazilian construction company Odebrecht has never met a tyrant it didn't want to do business with.

In June, we posted about Odebrecht's partnership with the Castro regime's military and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez -- particularly insensitive ventures considering it is also the largest contractor of Miami-Dade County (home to the victims of these dictatorships).

Fortunately, such unscrupulous behavior never pays in the long-run.

Today, news reports indicate that Libya's Transition National Council have given Brazilian diplomats the cold-shoulder due to their support of -- and the extensive business dealings of Odebrecht and Petrobras with -- the Gaddafi regime.

Kudos to Libya's courageous freedom fighters.

Will the free people of Miami-Dade County and their local representatives finally do the same?

The "Success" of U.S. Policy Towards China

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Has the U.S.'s policy of unconditional commerce and engagement with the Chinese regime been successful?

Absolutely.

But not at bringing freedom, democracy and respect for human rights to the Chinese people.

Its been successful at creating the world's most economically powerful dictatorship, placing China's pro-democracy movement at an almost insurmountable disadvantage and endangering the security of U.S. regional allies.

Meanwhile, advocates of engagement with the Castro regime lobby for the "China model" and have the audacity to claim that U.S. policy towards Cuba is "anachronistic."

From The Hill:

US official: China's buildup could prove 'destabilizing' for region

China's military is "steadily closing the technological gap with modern armed forces" in a buildup that could prove "destabilizing" to the region, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

New Video: Protest in Capitol Building

Please watch this video of yesterday's protest by four female pro-democracy leaders on the steps of Havana's Capitol building.

Note how the gathering crowd spontaneously supports the pro-democracy activists and chastises Castro's secret police upon their arrest.

The Fearless Ladies

From TrustLaw:

Cuba's 'Ladies in White' defy fresh crackdown

For the last five Sundays, Aimee Garces and other activists have been harassed by the Cuban police.

"We've been pushed around, hit and injured by the political police," 41-year-old Garces told AlertNet in a phone interview from Cuba.

"Some of us have been detained for up to 24 hours for no reason. We've been beaten while police have shoved us into vans, and some of us have ended up in hospital."

Garces is one of dozens of women from Cuba's prominent opposition group, Ladies in White, who have been campaigning for the last eight years for the release of all political prisoners in Cuban jails. Most of them are wives and mothers of former jailed dissents.

Since July, the white-clad dissenters have expanded their protests from the capital Havana to other parts of the island, gathering on Sundays outside the cathedral in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second city, to stage peaceful marches.

Since then, Garces says, the Cuban authorities have stepped up their crackdown.

"Last week, the police surrounded my house and kept banging on my door in the middle of the night," said Garces, who along with other activists was prevented by police from marching and attending mass in Santiago de Cuba last Sunday.

Over the years, the Cuban authorities have accused the Ladies in White of conspiring with the United States to subvert the government.

'CLIMATE OF FEAR'

Rights group Amnesty International has condemned the latest bout of repression against the Ladies in White.

"The ongoing harassment of these courageous women has to stop. The Cuban authorities must allow them to march peacefully and to attend religious services as they wish," Javier Zuñiga, special advisor at Amnesty, said in a statement.

"It is unacceptable for the government under Raúl Castro's leadership to perpetuate a climate of fear and repression to silence ordinary Cubans when they dare to speak out," he added.

In 2003, the Cuban authorities imprisoned 75 of the women's relatives, some for up to 28 years, for openly criticising the communist government.

Under a deal brokered with Havana by Cuba's Catholic Church and Spanish officials, 52 dissidents were freed in July last year. In March, the last two political prisoners jailed in the 2003 crackdown were released.

Garces said the Ladies in White, who are often seeing carrying flowers while marching, will not stop protesting until all of Cuba's 60 or so dissenters who remain behind bars are released.

"I want to see a free Cuba where human rights are respected and where wives don't have to live without their husbands, and children without their fathers, because the government imprisons people for their beliefs and opinions," she said.

And despite the recent crackdown, the women remain defiant.

"We'll march every Sunday, whatever it takes, despite the beatings from the political police," Garces said, adding that the group plans another march next week involving more than 30 women. "We'll stand firm, we're not afraid of anything."

Female Activists Missing After Capitol Protest

Yesterday, four Cuban pro-democracy leaders from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights took to the steps of the Capitol building in Havana to protest the increasing violence of the Castro regime against fellow activists, The Ladies in White.

They are: Mercedes Evelyn García, Odalis Sanabria, Tania Maldonado Santos and Sara Martha Fonseca.

The four women were brutally beaten, thrown into patrol cars and driven away.

Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The following picture was taken as they walked towards the Capitol building:

Are Libyan Rebels Anti-American?

See the picture below and you decide.

Moral of the story: It's always bad policy to coddle dictators, for in the long term, you risk losing the people.


H/T Monica Showalter in Facebook

Is Cuba Next?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
An analysis by David Roberts in Business News Americas:

Post-Gaddafi, is Cuba next?

As the Gaddafi regime appears set to crumble in Libya, perhaps now is as good a time as any to reflect on Latin America's last remaining dictatorship - Cuba.

There are more than a few similarities between the two regimes. Both are led by highly charismatic - some may say deluded - personalities in the form of Muammar al Gaddafi in Libya and, in the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro, who has largely given way in his old age to his slightly younger and much duller brother Raúl. Both the Libyan and Cuban systems of government claim to be socialist, in one guise or other, and both have lasted for decades, in part thanks to a brutal security apparatus. Both have also irked and confronted the liberal, democratic and capitalist west, and above all Washington, over the decades, in the case of Libya using terrorist tactics to do so.

In addition - and evidence of this has been seen in the Libyan conflict in recent months - both clearly have a significant degree of support among their respective peoples, although whether it was ever a majority is another matter. There are of course good reasons why the two regimes have enjoyed a degree of support. Gaddafi has used Libya's oil wealth over the years to make the country one of the most developed in the region, and also counted on the backing of his own tribe, while the Castro-led revolution overthrew a despised, pro-US dictator, winning the admiration of leftist ideologues around the world, and the subsequent regime has, despite its faults, made considerable progress in areas such as health care and education.

So why has one been brought to its knees while the other appears to be standing firm? There has, of course, been much speculation - often wild and unfounded, disguised as analysis - as to the real causes of the Arab uprisings, including poverty, corruption, cronyism, governments that simply don't care about their people and, at least the western world would like to believe, a genuine desire for democracy, all helped along by the use of social media. But one thing is clear, which is that no one foresaw what was coming and the governments that have been toppled or have come close to being toppled from Tunisia to Bahrain, all looked pretty secure less than a year ago from today. Just like Cuba right now.

So could the same thing happen in Cuba? Yes, of course it could. Many ask why don't the Cuban people rise up against the tyrants and demand their rights? Or how can people be so passive in the face of such tyranny? Yet the same could have been said all across North Africa and much of the Middle East until just a few months ago.

These things may not be predictable, even by the most astute of the so-called experts and analysts, but the important thing - whether we're talking about Libya today or Cuba tomorrow - is to be as best prepared as possible for a change, both the domestic opposition and the international community, to help ensure that mistakes of the past are not repeated and that what replaces the current regime is a big improvement on the old order, preferably with something resembling democracy. In the case of Libya, that includes not destroying the infrastructure developed by the Gaddafi regime, or "punishing" people for having worked for the government - and avoid letting the country fall into chaos like what happened in Iraq - and in the case of Cuba it would mean not reversing the gains made in health and education, among other things.

A Must-See Video

Young, forward-thinking, freedom-fighters, storming Gaddafi's compound in honor of their parent's suffering:

Quote of the Week

"The heirs to the East German communists have not managed to move away from the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The more they fawn over Fidel Castro, the more disrespect they show towards the Cuban population."

-- Editorial, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on the Left Party's praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on his 85th birthday, 8/22/11

Cuba's Bogus Statistics

Throughout the year, there have been numerous stories filed by foreign news bureaus in Havana citing figures from Castro's National Statistics Office.

These stories, thereafter, get cited as factual information (without questioning the source) by newspapers throughout the world.

The problem is that these figures aren't reliable.

Of course, that is no secret to those that understand the machinations of totalitarian regimes.

But even the U.N. has finally stopped reproducing Castro's statistics due to their inaccuracy and unreliability.

Kudos to El Nuevo Herald (in Spanish) for writing a story on this issue last week.

However, this has been taking place under everyone's nose for a very long time.

Just think how many stories are floating around with Castro's bogus statistics.

According to IPS (back in January 2011):

Cuba Bumped from Human Development Index over Missing Data

When the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) formulates its annual Human Development Index (HDI), it uses several socioeconomic indicators - including life expectancy, gross national income and literacy - to rank member states and also measure quality of life in these countries.

But a nation widely singled out for its positive achievements in education, health care and life expectancy has been left out of the index, complains Ambassador Pedro Nunez Mosquera, Cuba's permanent representative to the United Nations [...]

Asked for a response, William Orme of the UNDP's Human Development Report Office told IPS that, "No one wants Cuba in the HDI more than we do."

"The index is our flagship product, and the goal is always for maximum inclusion," he said.

Explaining the lapse, Orme said Cuba was omitted from the 2010 HDI due to the absence of current internationally reported data for one of the three required indicators: health, education and income (which are used to calculate the composite HDI value, which in turn determines a country's HDI ranking.)

The missing indicator for Cuba was for income, he said, pointing out that there is no internationally reported figure for Cuba's Gross National Income adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (GNI-PPP): the figure used for all countries for the income component of the HDI, and which is normally provided by the World Bank and/or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Unofficial estimates of GNI-PPP, Orme said, were considered unreliable by the statisticians and economists at the Human Development Report Office, and the U.N. Statistical Commission has advised against the use of such imputed - as opposed to officially reported - figures as human development indicators for HDI calculation purposes.

Amnesty: Stop Violence Against Ladies in White

Monday, August 22, 2011
From Amnesty International:

Cuba's 'Ladies in White' targeted with arbitrary arrest and intimidation

The Cuban authorities must end their intimidation of a group of women campaigning for the release of political prisoners, Amnesty International said after 19 of the group's members were re-arrested yesterday.

The latest detentions took place yesterday in and near the south-eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where the women were due to march silently and pray for the end of political imprisonment.

Over the last month, the "Ladies in White" (Damas de Blanco) and their supporters have repeatedly faced arbitrary arrest and physical attacks as they staged protests in several towns in the region.

"The ongoing harassment of these courageous women has to stop. The Cuban authorities must allow them to march peacefully and to attend religious services as they wish," said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

The latest arrests took place as "Ladies in White" gathered in several locations to make their way to a planned march at the Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba.

Eleven of the "Ladies in White" gathered yesterday morning at the home of a supporter in the town of Palma Soriano. A crowd of some 100 people, including police, officials and government supporters, surrounded the house for several hours.

When the women attempted to leave, police pushed them and pulled their hair before forcing them into buses. They were driven a few kilometers away where they were transferred to police cars and dropped near their hometowns in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín.

Police also surrounded the house of Tania Montoya Vázquez, another "Lady in White" from Palma Soriano for several hours yesterday, preventing her and two fellow protesters from leaving.

Five other "Ladies in White" who live in the city of Santiago were arrested before they could reach the Cathedral and were held in police stations for several hours. It is believed that they have all been released.

Beginning on 17 July, groups of the "Ladies in White" have gathered on Sundays to stage silent protests and attend mass in Santiago de Cuba and several nearby towns.

The "Ladies in White" and the "Ladies in Support" (Damas de Apoyo) are a nationwide network of activists in Cuba that have recently escalated their peaceful protests in eastern provinces. In Havana and elsewhere, they have repeatedly suffered harassment from Cuban authorities for their peaceful protests.

In central Havana on 18 August 2011, 49 "Ladies in White" and their supporters were prevented from carrying out a protest in support of their members in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

In 2003, Cuban authorities rounded up 75 of the group's relatives for their involvement in peaceful criticism of the government.

The 75 dissidents were subjected to summary trials and sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International considered them all to be prisoners of conscience, and the last of them were finally released in May 2011.

The "Ladies in White" and "Ladies in Support" continue to peacefully protest for the release of others who they believe have been imprisoned due to their dissident activities.

"It is unacceptable for the government under Raúl Castro's leadership to perpetuate a climate of fear and repression to silence ordinary Cubans when they dare to speak out," said Javier Zuñiga.

Gaddafi and Castro May Soon Be Reunited

From the U.K.'s Telegraph:

Libya: Col Gaddafi could flee to Venezuela or Cuba

Colonel Gaddafi could flee to a country not signed up to the International Criminal Court such as Venezuela or Cuba, South African sources say.

The Brother Leader is alive and remains in Libya, one senior government source said. But he added that plans are on the table to spirit him out of the country to allow breathing space for a peace process led by the National Transitional Council which has now claimed control of most of the capital Tripoli.

Despite official denials, South Africa will play a key role in negotiations about Gaddafi's fate. It is not only one of most influential countries in the African Union, but its President Jacob Zuma was appointed the AU's chief mediator in the crisis and has visited Col Gaddafi twice since hostilities began in February.

A South African air force plane remains on standby in Tunisia and, the source said, the South Africans are ready to seek safe passage for Gaddafi with the help of neighbouring countries Tunisia or Algeria if he decided to leave [...]

Among the countries that are said to have expressed a willingness to receive Gaddafi are Venezuela, Cuba and Russia, another government source claimed.

"Pretoria is playing a very delicate and useful role to ensure he leaves the country through a safe passage, avoid a bloodbath for Tripoli, and end up in a safe haven such as Russia, Venezuela or Cuba," he said.

A third source said that Hugo Chavez's Venezuela was looking the most likely destination if Gaddafi were able to, and chose to, flee Libya. Hugo Chavez has condemned Nato operations in Libya as an attempt to seize control of the country's vast oilfields.

Confronting (Syria, Libya) vs. Appeasing (Cuba, Iran)

While the international community (and the Obama Administration) confronts and sanctions the Gaddafi and Assad regimes (emboldening opposition activists), they continue to appease the Castro and Ahmadinejad regimes (emboldening the repressors).

The result?

In Cuba:

American development worker, Alan Gross, has been taken hostage and given a 15-year prison term for helping Cuban connect to the Internet.

In Iran:

Two American hikers were taken hostage and given 8-year prison terms for "spying and illegal entry."

As 19th century abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison astutely noted:

"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."

The End of Gaddafi

Sunday, August 21, 2011
In March 2010, local people's committees "elected" a 2,700 member General People's Congress, which unanimously "elected" (for the 41st straight year) Muammar Gaddafi as Libya's head of state.

Sound familiar?

In March of this year, Gaddafi claimed that the Libyan people "loved him" and denied any opposition to his "popular" regime.

Sound familiar also?

Just five months later, Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship -- the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya -- is over (and his son, Saif "the reformer," has been imprisoned).

And the Libyan people?

Celebrating in the streets of Tripoli.

We join them in their celebration.


Amend the Cuban Adjustment Act

In today's Miami Herald:

Amend the Cuban Adjustment Act

by Mauricio Claver Carone

There's a fine line to be drawn between Cuban-Americans visiting and sending money to relatives in Cuba and Cuban-Americans enjoying a cheap vacation on the island with a cursory nod to a second cousin. While the first is imbued with genuine humanitarian purpose, the latter is tantamount to tossing a financial lifeline to the Castros' repressive dictatorship.

Unfortunately, over the last two-years, the Obama administration has made crossing that line all too easy and done so at a time when the Castros' regime faces the greatest political, social and economic crisis of its 52-year history.

In May 2008, then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama declared that: "It's time to let Cuban-Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers" — a commendable humanitarian goal. In April 2009, then President Obama created a general license for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island without limitations, visiting as frequently and staying as long as they like.

Under this new policy, Cuban-Americans can justify trips to visit individuals up to three degrees of family relationships (e.g. second cousins). It allows them, regardless of whether they even know or intend to visit distant relatives, to live handsomely on and off the island with their U.S. dollars staying at beach-side properties, luxury hotels and splurging at " la chopin" (dollar stores) — all owned and operated by the government.

Accordingly, Cuban-American travel to Cuba has tripled from approximately 85,000 visits per year to approximately 300,000 in 2010. Most of the increase consists of travelers taking multiple trips per year. Adept at keeping their heads down and their mouths shut to avoid offending the Castros and being barred from the island, they have become one of the regime's top sources of revenue.

The Obama administration itself recognizes the bailout effect of what was intended to be a humanitarian gesture. In a June 2009 cable (released by Wikileaks) from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Chief of Mission Jonathan Farrar states clearly: "Today's Cuban economy is less vulnerable to a return to the lows of the Special Period thanks to more diversified sources of income and credits, a more resourceful Cuban population, and an actual (remittances and travel) and theoretical (end of the embargo) opening of U.S.-Cuban relations."

Nonetheless, the administration argues, the Cuban people — even those without families in the United States — benefit from a trickle-down effect. It's fascinating to see how an administration that challenges the notion of trickle-down economics in the U.S.'s open, capitalist economy can believe it works in Cuba's closed, totalitarian economy.

This policy of unlimited Cuban-American travel is raising questions on Capitol Hill about the Cuban Adjustment Act, which consequently is becoming contradictory and obsolete.

The Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act of 1966 gives Cubans — once they reach the United States and stay for a year — a right to become legal, permanent residents. Cubans are the only nationality to which the U.S. Congress has awarded this special privilege.

The legislative history of the Act holds that immigrants from Cuba are refugees under international law. Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, a refugee is a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

Undoubtedly, Cubans remain persecuted for their political opinions by the Castro regime, which remains as brutal as ever. They, thus, deserve to be paroled into the United States as refugees. Yet, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that Cuban-Americans traveling back and forth to Cuba, particularly those who recently arrived in the United States, but are on a plane heading back as soon as they become permanent residents, are refugees warranting the special privileges granted by the Act.

In 2006, then Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank, D-Mass., introduced legislation to repeal the Act. His effort was ultimately unsuccessful, but in this new 112th Congress — with a Republican majority that questions immigration policy generally and Democrats that oppose special privileges for Cubans versus other immigrant groups — the environment seems ripe for repeal.

Therefore, in an effort to save the original intent of the Act, Congress should take steps to amend it and make it consistent with refugee law as applied to Venezuelans, Iranians, Syrians, and other source-nations of refugees, whose asylum status may be terminated if they choose to return to their country of feared persecution, until they become U.S. citizens.

That would ensure the Act continues to protect Cuban refugees who are fleeing persecution without becoming a vehicle for economically sustaining their persecutors.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and founding editor of CapitolHillCubans.com in Washington, D.C.