Our Thoughts and Prayers

Saturday, October 8, 2011
May the courageous Laura Pollan quickly recover -- for the sake of her family and Cuba.

From AP:

Founder of Cuba’s Ladies in White, Laura Pollan, hospitalized for acute respiratory problems

The founder of a prominent Cuban dissident group, the Ladies in White, was hospitalized for acute respiratory problems and was in intensive care Saturday, family members and associates said.

Laura Pollan went to a hospital Friday and was in serious condition the following day, though stable and showing signs of improvement.

“She is very, very grave,” said Bertha Soler, another member of the group. “They told us she has an acute respiratory deficiency,” and the doctors “think the cause is viral.”

Over 10 Dissidents Beaten and Arrested Today

Over 10 Cuban pro-democracy activists, including 7 Ladies in White, have been brutally beaten and arrested today in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

Amongst those arrested are Ana Celia Rodríguez, Adriana Núñez, Julia Cairot, Doraisa Corrioso, Eunicia Madaula, Maximiliano Sánchez Perera, Juan Carmelo Bermúdez, Ernesto Vera and Samuel Le Blanc.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

One-Way Cultural Exchanges

A great editorial by The Miami Herald's Fabiola Santiago on the farce of the U.S.'s current "cultural exchange" policy with Cuba:

Cultural exchanges with Cuba are mostly one-way affairs

There’s little novelty in Cubans from the island traveling to Miami to play their music, show their films, exhibit their art and read their literary works.

Culture from the island is imported as routinely as it is from New York, and this week alone I’ve been invited to the art opening in Coral Gables of an artist from Pinar del Río and a dinner with a visiting Cuban art dealer.

The policy under which the cultural elite of Cuba readily get U.S. visas is called “a cultural exchange program,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer, as it implies a two-way deal.

Cuba doesn’t issue visas as freely to the Cuban cultural elite on this side of the Florida Straits, so it’s quite unusual to see a Cuban-American performing or showcasing his or her craft in Havana. It happens in some circles and with some carefully chosen intellectuals, but from here-to-there is rare.

Freedom rings on this side, thankfully, and for the most part the presence of Cubans from the island among us is illuminating and informative, if not always in the ways those involved intended.

When you live in a free society, it’s easier to distinguish the real thing from the opportunist (he just wants to sell his paintings and run; he claims to not know anything about social issues, particularly Las Damas de Blanco, the brave Ladies in White who peacefully march every Sunday in Havana and are attacked by pro-government mobs).

And it’s priceless to witness an artist using euphemisms and jargon acceptable to the Cuban government in her artist statement and in conversations with left-leaning Americans — then in private with Miami Cubans, after a couple of drinks on South Beach, blurting out: “We can’t wait for that degenerate old man to die.” And from there, letting it all hang out, the sweet taste of freedom flowing with the mojitos.

Interesting exchanges all, but now here comes an opportunity for the Cuban government to shamelessly export its best propaganda tool camouflaged as culture.

Later this month arrives La Colmenita Children’s Theater to stage the play Abracadabra. According to a promotional press release , the play advocates against the “injustice” of the jailing of Cuban spies in the United States, known as “The Cuban Five” — one of them released Friday — and calls for the end of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The children’s tour has been scheduled to coincide with a United Nations vote on the embargo Oct. 25.

News of the play — the tale of a teacher and students whose flight of fancy is inspired by the “freedom-loving” spies — arrives in my mailbox in a press release from clueless public relations specialist Karen Lowe.

She pitches coverage of La Colmenita, The Little Beehive, and its U.S. tour – shows in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, none so far scheduled for Miami – by pointing out the newsy Miami connections to the spies.

She cites the downing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 73 people were killed, attributed to a Cuban exile who has long denied involvement, and notes that the founders of La Colmenita are the mother and brother of a man on that flight. She doesn’t say that another brother, a filmmaker, showed his movie recently at the Miami Film Festival, or that another brother was working at Miami’s America TV.

Nor does she offer that these are the same children trotted out in Havana to celebrate Fidel Castro’s birthday, to uplift the comandante’s spirits when he’s sick, and, whenever there’s any sign of true change, to peddle the view that the regime is one great big timba party with lots of love for children and culture.

Any tactic is valid to sustain the nearly 53-year-old dictatorship. No qualms about using children to pull at the heart strings of international public opinion, although if you’re an optimist, you might be inclined to say that this is another sign of a mortally wounded fiefdom.

Just watch the little children, their bodies trained to sing and dance to the rhythm of Cuba’s fraudulent revolution, advocating for the release of cretins and the lifting of an embargo that doesn’t really exist when several planes fly to Cuba daily loaded with American goods, when shipping companies send parcels and dollars to the tune of millions a year, and when artists return to Cuba with their pockets full of American cash.

Under the “cultural exchange” rules, there’s not supposed to be any payment, but all artists are paid, only the money is called a living stipend. Sure.

The only thing embargoed in Cuba is truth.

As for the cultural exchange program, it will be a treasure the day writer Yoani Sanchez is allowed by the Cuban government to travel here and claim her journalism prize at Columbia University, or to read from her new book about life in Cuba. And it will be even truer the day Cubans on the island get to hear singer Willy Chirino’s voice ring in Havana’s Karl Marx Theater: “ Oxígeno!”

Oxygen.

Fact Sheet on Released Cuban Spy

With all of the media coverage on yesterday's release of convicted Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez -- pursuant to his completion of a 13-year prison term -- here's a useful fact sheet that helps keep all of the news stories and spin in perspective:

Convicted Spy René González Sehwerert

by Chris Simmons

A founding member of the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa), the largest Cuban spy ring ever discovered in the United States. Staffed with 25 publicly-identified spies, a like number are believed to have eluded detection or capture.

González was jailed for 13 years on espionage-related charges. A dual U.S.-Cuban citizen, he must serve three years’ probation in the United State after his October 7, 2011 release.

A former Cuban Air Force pilot, he arrived in the U.S. in 1990 by flying a crop-duster from Cuba to Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West. Using his fake defection as an elaborate cover, he quickly penetrated South Florida’s large Cuban-American community.

González infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue, the world’s most successful search and rescue organization -- credited with saving the lives of over 4200 Cuban rafters from death at sea.

He also infiltrated the Democracy Movement (a Miami-based Cuban advocacy group) and reported on its anti-Castro flotillas. He later became an assistant director of its air unit.

González performed “active measures” against Cuban-American organizations and individuals, using Havana-provided “scripts” to harass, provoke, and foment division within Cuban-American organizations.

In the mid-1990s, he was ordered to threaten the life of a Federal Agent with a fake book bomb.

On February 1996, González intensified his reporting on forthcoming Brothers to the Rescue flights. His information played a central role in Cuba’s February 24 shoot down of two U.S.-registered, unarmed Brothers aircraft and the death of the four crew members.

After fellow spy Juan Pablo Roque returned to Cuba in February 1996, González frequently visited Roque’s unwitting American wife. Perceived as a close family friend, González provided much-needed emotional support as a means to elicit information from her about her FBI interrogations. He then secretly passed all the information he obtained to Havana.

In early 1996 (following the shoot down), the FBI recruited González to work as a Bureau informant. The FBI then tasked him to spy on Brothers and the Democracy Movement.

González’s wife, Olga Salanueva, joined him in the United States in December 1996. An intelligence officer like her husband, she supported his targeting of anti-Castro groups and the FBI.

The author is an internationally known authority on Cuban intelligence services.

Under the Guise of "Reform"

Friday, October 7, 2011
It's tragic how tyrants use "sovereignty" and "reform" as a guise for "terror" and "repression."

It's even more tragic when others let them get away with it.

Note below how quickly the Castro regime jumps to Syria's defense.

From Reuters:

Syria, pledging to pursue democratic reforms, accused foreign powers on Friday of arming demonstrators and the media of waging a propaganda war against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the U.N. Human Rights Council that more than 1,100 security personnel had been killed in the unrest. He was speaking a day after the United Nations said the overall death toll since March exceeded 2,900 [...]

Betty King, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, said: "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the Syrian government's gross violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people and its continued violent and deadly repression of peaceful protests."

King said a government that "chooses to rule through terror and intimidation cannot be considered legitimate and must step aside immediately".

This brought a protest from Cuba's delegation which said that such calls had no place in the U.N. rights body and it was up to the sovereign Syrian people to decide on their leader.

Iran and Russia joined Cuba in praising reforms announced by Assad, including the lifting of an emergency law and holding of local elections due in December.

Romney on Foreign Policy (Cuba)

Excerpts from today's speech on foreign policy by Republican presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney:

Today, I want you to join me in looking forward. Forward beyond that next Recognition Day, beyond Ring Weekend to four years from today, October 7th, 2015.

What kind of world will we be facing?

Will Iran be a fully activated nuclear weapons state, threatening its neighbors, dominating the world’s oil supply with a stranglehold on the Strait of Hormuz? In the hands of the ayatollahs, a nuclear Iran is nothing less than an existential threat to Israel. Iran’s suicidal fanatics could blackmail the world.

By 2015, will Israel be even more isolated by a hostile international community? Will those who seek Israel’s destruction feel emboldened by American ambivalence? Will Israel have been forced to fight yet another war to protect its citizens and its right to exist?

In Afghanistan, after the United States and NATO have withdrawn all forces, will the Taliban find a path back to power? After over a decade of American sacrifice in treasure and blood, will the country sink back into the medieval terrors of fundamentalist rule and the mullahs again open a sanctuary for terrorists?

Next door, Pakistan awaits the uncertain future, armed with more than 100 nuclear weapons. The danger of a failed Pakistan is difficult to overestimate, fraught with nightmare scenarios: Will a nuclear weapon be in the hands of Islamic Jihadists?

China has made it clear that it intends to be a military and economic superpower. Will her rulers lead their people to a new era of freedom and prosperity or will they go down a darker path, intimidating their neighbors, brushing aside an inferior American Navy in the Pacific, and building a global alliance of authoritarian states?

Russia is at a historic crossroads. Vladimir Putin has called the breakup of the Soviet empire the great tragedy of the 20th Century. Will he try to reverse that tragedy and bludgeon the countries of the former Soviet Union into submission, and intimidate Europe with the levers of its energy resources?

To our South, will the malign socialism of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, in tight alliance with the malign socialism of Castro’s Cuba, undermine the prospects of democracy in a region thirsting for freedom and stability and prosperity? [...]

When I look around the world, I see a handful of major forces that vie with America and free nations, to shape the world in an image of their choosing. These are not exclusively military threats. Rather, they are determined, powerful forces that may threaten freedom, prosperity, and America’s national interests.

First, Islamic fundamentalism with which we have been at war since Sept. 11, 2001.

Second, the struggle in the greater Middle East between those who yearn for freedom, and those who seek to crush it.

The dangerous and destabilizing ripple effects of failed and failing states, from which terrorists may find safe haven.

The anti-American visions of regimes in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba—two of which are seeking nuclear weapons.

And these forces include rising nations with hidden and emerging aspirations, like China, determined to be a world superpower, and a resurgent Russia, led by a man who believes the Soviet Union was great, not evil [...]

In my first 100 days in office, I will take a series of measures to put these principles into action, and place America—and the world—on safer footing.

Among these actions will be to restore America’s national defense. I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15. I will begin reversing Obama-era cuts to national missile defense and prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system. I will order the formulation of a national cybersecurity strategy, to deter and defend against the growing threats of militarized cyber-attacks, cyber-terrorism, and cyber-espionage.

I will enhance our deterrent against the Iranian regime by ordering the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces, one in the Eastern Mediterranean and one in the Persian Gulf region. I will begin discussions with Israel to increase the level of our military assistance and coordination. And I will again reiterate that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.

I will begin organizing all of our diplomatic and assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with the authority and accountability necessary to train all our soft power resources on ensuring that the Arab Spring does not fade into a long winter.

I will launch a campaign to advance economic opportunity in Latin America, and contrast the benefits of democracy, free trade, and free enterprise against the material and moral bankruptcy of the Venezuelan and Cuban model.

I will order a full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation’s sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban. I will speak with our generals in the field, and receive the best recommendation of our military commanders. The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics.

And I will bolster and repair our alliances. Our friends should never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I will count as dear our Special Relationship with the United Kingdom. And I will begin talks with Mexico, to strengthen our cooperation on our shared problems of drugs and security.

This is America’s moment. We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America’s time has passed. That is utter nonsense. An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender.

I will not surrender America’s role in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your President.

You have that President today.

Is "Singles-Dating" a New Travel Category?

The singles-dating website Professionals in the City is prominently advertising trips to Cuba entitled, "Cuba Discovery Tours."

It states:

"During your stay in the stunning capital of the largest island in the Caribbean you’ll savor the rich fabric of Cuban life. The city of Havana pulsates with music day and night – salsa, son, rumba, mambo and jazz. It’s magnificent architecture is the oldest and best preserved in the Americas. Its food is delicious, a tasty cuisine found nowhere else. Cuban art reflects the bright optimism that emanates from its people and their history. Cuba is extremely safe. It is without tropical diseases, no vaccinations are necessary to visit, and it is fun!"

To be fair, Professionals in the City does include the following disclaimer:

"This is a paid ad. All services, operations and Cuba travel licensing are provided by another company. Professionals in the City is not sponsoring this trip."

Yet, a quick glance at the site makes it quite obvious the type of clientele (American singles) and travel ("fun trips") that is being solicited.

This is tourism, at best.

And the advertiser (a Canadian company) even has an "exclusive site" (Pros in Cuba) for these targeted American singles.

The "exclusive site" also has a caveat, which states:

"We ensure Americans travel to Cuba legally. We've helped thousands."

We'd be fascinated to learn how they do so and hopefully, the U.S. Treasury Department will be interested as well.

That is, of course, unless these trips somehow fit into the Obama Administration's new definition of "people-to-people" travel.

If so, that would be a whole new low.

Quote of the Day

Thursday, October 6, 2011
“The institution I need to be protecting is the American workforce, who is having their clock cleaned by a communist dictatorship who cheats.”

-- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), on legislation to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation, The Hill, 10/16/11.

Hezbollah's Presence in Latin America

From the American Enterprise Institute's new report, "The Mounting Hezbollah Threat in Latin America":

• In 2007, one member of the network plotting a terrorist attack at New York’s JFK International Airport met with radical Iranian cleric and Western Hemisphere point man Mohsen Rabbani in Iran; he was subsequently arrested in Trinidad en route to Venezuela, where he planned to board a flight to Tehran.

• In a September 2009 speech, then–District Attorney of New York Robert Morgenthau identified Hugo Chávez’s two principal interlocutors with Hezbollah: Venezuelan Interior Minister Tarik El Aissami, who was suspected of having issued passports to Hezbollah operatives, and Venezuelan Ghazi Nassereddine, who has been sanctioned by the United States as a terrorist financier of Hezbollah.

• In 2010, a sensitive source confirmed that two Iranian Hezbollah operatives were conducting terror training on Venezuela’s Margarita Island for people brought there from other countries in the region.

• In July 2010, Mexican authorities arrested Jameel Nasr in Tijuana, Mexico, for attempting to set up a Hezbollah network in Mexico and throughout the region.

• On August 22, 2010, Hugo Chávez hosted a terror summit of senior leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Caracas.

• In April 2011, Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled confirmed in an interview that Hezbollah operates cocaine labs in Venezuela with the protection of the country’s government.

• In August 2011, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported that Hezbollah had established a cell in Cuba to expand its terrorist activity and possibly facilitate an attack on Jewish targets in the Western Hemisphere.

Bob Marley Spoke Truth About Castro

Excerpt from Notes From the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Bob Marley passed away on May 11, 1981 from cancer at the age of 36. He was a master singer-song writer who spread both reggae and his religious belief known as Rastafari around the world.

In his final interview on September 18, 1980 in New York City, while doing shows at Madison Square Garden and preparing to embark on a national tour, Marley was asked about Cuban troops in Ethiopia supporting the now-convicted war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam:

MARLEY: Well, I did know that this year is the fiftieth year - pass them back to Rasta.

Q: The fiftieth anniversary of the coronation of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie the First.

MARLEY: Is the Golden Jubilee, that's it. November 2nd. Been 50 years now since Christ government set upon earth, returned to earth. The Russians can't take guns and destroy it you know. Bad man.

Q: The Russians are trying?

MARLEY: Of course them try it in Ethiopia. Mengistu is not a Ethiopian. Mengistu is a Russian.

Q: What do you think about the Cubans there?

MARLEY: Well them a idiot them is Russians Too. Yeah. Them say there is no God. And me, I know that there is a God. Cause I know who God is. And the guys stick me with a gun and say there is no God. I say yes, there is a God. And them fire it! And it miss. And fire it again and it miss you know. And them fire plenty time and it miss because there is a God.

In a previous interview, MARLEY elaborated:

So hear me now! Who overthrow 'im [Selassie]? Who support the group that overthrow His Majesty? The communists--Russia, right? Yeah, mon. Russia overthrow His Majesty--a white mon overthrow him, and he's a black man. And propaganda it out amongst the black people, and it look like is a revolution inside. Just a big foolishness, y'know? Heh, mon, them sabotage...

A Lesson for Cuba Policymakers

In Foreign Policy, Daniel Blumenthal of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission lists the top ten fantastical claims about China policy.

Here's #1:

The self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the argument that has the most purchase over the United States' China policy. Treat China like an enemy, the belief goes, and it will become an enemy. Conversely, treat China like a friend, and it will become a friend. But three decades of U.S.-China relations should at least cast doubt on this belief. Since the normalization of relations with China, the aim of U.S. policy has been to bring China "into the family of nations." Other than China itself, no nation has done more than the United States to improve the lot of the Chinese people and welcome China's rise peacefully. And, rather than increase its deterrence of China -- a natural move given the uncertainty attendant to the rise of any great power -- the United States has let its Pacific forces erode and will do so further. The United States may soon go through its third round of defense cuts in as many years. Here is just one example of how unserious the United States is about China: As China continues to build up its strategic forces, the United States has signed a deal with Russia to cap its strategic forces without so much as mentioning China. Unless Beijing was insulted by this neglect, surely it could take great comfort in an anachronistic U.S. focus on arms control with Russia. But despite U.S. demonstrations of benevolence, China still views the United States as its enemy or, on better days, its rival. Its military programs are designed to fight the United States. The self-fulfilling prophecy is far and away the most fantastical claim about China policy and thus the No. 1 unicorn.

From the British Embassy in Havana

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Commenting on recent reports of detentions in Cuba, Britain's ambassador to Cuba Dianna Melrose said:

We are concerned about increased reports of political and human rights activists being detained for short periods. The high number of detentions in Santa Clara and Eastern Cuba are a cause of particular concern, as is the aggressive treatment of the Damas de Blanco, and we urge the Cuban authorities to allow peaceful activists to go about their work free from arrest or the fear of it. President Raúl Castro has emphasised the need to tolerate different views and we hope this will translate into reality

Texas Company Fined for Sanctions Violations

From the Treasury Department:

Flowserve Corporation Settles Apparent Violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations, the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations:

Flowserve Corporation (“Flowserve”) of Irving, TX, has agreed to remit $502,408 to settle apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560, the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 538, and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515, occurring from on or about January 7, 2005 through on or about December 18, 2006. Flowserve made a disclosure to OFAC and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”). Flowserve disclosed that: 1) its domestic and foreign affiliates engaged in unlicensed exports of pumps, valves, and related component parts and supplies from the United States indirectly to Iran; 2) its foreign affiliates engaged in unlicensed exports of pump components from the United States indirectly to Sudan; and 3) its foreign affiliates engaged in transactions involving property in which Cuba or a Cuban national had an interest. The relevant transactions involved a total value of $2,148,328.

Obama Issues (and Partially Waives) Human Trafficking Sanctions

In June, the State Department released its 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report.

In this report, Cuba received the lowest ranking (Tier 3), as a country that does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

So -- at the time -- we'd posted the following question for the Obama Administration:

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which mandates this Report, countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for participation by officials or employees of such governments in educational and cultural exchange programs.

In light of the Administration's focus on educational and cultural exchanges with Castro's Cuba -- is this provision being adhered to?

Yesterday, The White House issued a Presidential Memorandum with the answer:

Consistent with section 110 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Division A of Public Law 106-386), as amended (the "Act"), I hereby:

Make the determination provided in section 110(d)(l)(A)(ii) of the Act, with respect to Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Eritrea, Iran, Madagascar, and Venezuela, not to provide certain funding for those countries' governments for Fiscal Year 2012, until such governments comply with the minimum standards or make significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance, as may be determined by the Secretary of State in a report to the Congress pursuant to section 110(b) of the Act;

Determine, consistent with section 110(d)(4) of the Act, with respect to Cuba and Venezuela, that a partial waiver to allow funding for educational and cultural exchange programs described in section 110(d)(1)(A)(ii) of the Act that are related to democracy or the rule of law programming would promote the purposes of the Act or is otherwise in the national interest of the United States;


Now, the follow-up question remains:

How (broadly or narrowly) will educational and cultural exchange programs related to democracy or the rule of law be defined?

The Declaration of Unity

From EFE:

A group of Cuban dissidents on Tuesday made a new call for the unity of "democratic forces" in a declaration that seeks to consolidate civic actions for political and economic change on the Communist-ruled island.

The "Declaration of Unity" was presented in Havana by 12 members of the opposition including Guillermo Fariñas and former political prisoners Oscar Elias Biscet, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Guido Sigler.

The new proposal aims to be a "first step toward consolidating the unity that will make a comprehensive project possible for creating a new nation" in Cuba, where dissidents are currently fragmented into dozens of groups.

Biscet told foreign journalists that the project's fundamental goal is to "win over" the Cuban people and attract their participation in what will hopefully become a viable way "to achieve democracy on the island."

He said the group that signed the document on Tuesday embraces "different ideas from the ideological and political points of view" and is an example of the unity they are seeking.

With regard to the many and varied political projects that exist among the internal opposition, Biscet said that "they're all valid" but "the important thing is to seek union among the majority."

"What is necessary is that we can all sit down together one day with those projects and integrate our ideas, and come up with either a single institution or have two or three, not 500 groups like there are now," he said.

Fariñas, whom the European Parliament honored last year with the Sakharov Prize, said that the "Declaration of Unity" was conceived as a document open to modifications that will even accept suggestions and criticism from other organizations.

The declaration proposes working for democratic change and a "modern, developed and highly efficient" economy on the island.

It also seeks to strengthen human rights in Cuba, promote non-violent civic struggle and consult Cuban citizens in order to prepare a "project for a nation" that represents the aspirations of all.

Meet Kim Jong-Il's Grandson

There's hope for the future.

From Foreign Policy:

[T]he Korean Daily News discovered what's believed to be Han Sol's Facebook page as well as the page of his father, Kim Jong Il's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam. If it is really him, then one picture shows Han sporting dyed blond hair and posing with a girlfriend. His favorite movie, according to the page, is Love Actually. Notably for the grandson of one of the world's most brutal tyrants, the page includes an encyclopedia definition of democracy. He also reportedly polled his friends on whether they preferred it to communism, as he did.

In this way, Kim Han Sol would resemble his father, whose talk of reform within North Korea (and being caught with a fake passport with the name "Fat Bear" en route to Tokyo Disney Land) cost him his position in line for the throne. Kim Jong Nam has lived in exile in China and Macau since 2001. What's believed to be his own Facebook page criticizes both his father and the North Korean establishment including his half brother, heir apparent Kim Jong Un.

In any event, it doesn't seem like there's much future for Kim Han Sol in the family business.

Drill, Castro, Drill

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
By Humberto Fontova in The Washington Times:

In half a heartbeat, the Obama team could put the kibosh on the most dangerous offshore oil drilling ever proposed near U.S. shores, scheduled to begin in December. By fighting this drilling operation, President Obama's environmentalist allies could get the biggest bang for their lobbying buck in their history.

But all bets are off. This drilling, you see, won't be done by villainous U.S. oil companies. Instead, a Spanish-Cuban oil company will be drilling in Cuban waters 60 miles from Key West. U.S. companies are banned from exploring anywhere within 125 miles of the Florida coast.

But none of the usual histrionics and fist-shaking from environmentalist quarters against "rapists of Mother Earth," "despoilers of our coasts and oceans" and "obscene profiteers" have manifested against Fidel Castro's business partners - none whatsoever. Instead, as a contingency against any drilling mishaps, the above parties already have found a way to blame - you guessed it - Republicans. More specifically, fault already has been affixed to the most lopsidedly Republican voters in U.S. history, Americans of Cuban heritage, who supposedly single-handedly maintain the embargo against Cuba and thus would prevent any cooperation with Cubans in case of a spill.

"We're shooting ourselves in the foot by not working together," groused Environmental Defense Fund attorney Dan Whittle after returning absolutely enchanted from a recent meeting with members of Cuba's Stalinist nomenklatura. "They're taking the lessons of the BP spill very seriously. They could have easily distanced themselves from what happened and said theirs is a different situation from BP and said 'thanks very much.' The very opposite happened."

Why, those fine folks down in Cuba just couldn't have been more kind, helpful and accommodating. Us blockheaded Yankee bullies? Hopeless.

A team headed by the chairman of Mr. Obama's BP spill task force, William Reilly, and Mr. Whittle just visited Cuba to assist that country with its drilling plans. But when the George W. Bush administration planned to open areas off Florida to U.S. oil companies, this same Environmental Defense Fund went ballistic:

"Offshore drilling poses an unacceptable level of risk to two of Florida's most important economic sectors. Opening a new 1.5 million acre swath of the Eastern Gulf to oil drilling unnecessarily threatens marine life with pollution and puts Florida beaches at a much greater risk for spills. Given the environmental risks... this seems like an ill-considered move by the Bush administration. Opening more of the Gulf to drilling now makes little environmental, economic or political sense."

The drilling rig on its way to a site 60 miles from Florida's coast is Chinese-built, Italian-owned and Spanish-leased. Its purpose is to enrich Cuba's Stalinist nomenklatura, enabling them to better sponsor terrorism and torture people. If only the Obama-environmental alliance team could muster the same contempt for this alliance that it has for Texans.

Texas-based Seahawk Drilling, for instance, among the biggest drillers in the Gulf, filed for bankruptcy in February. The company was battered and finally killed off by "the slowdown in the issuing of shallow-water [drilling] permits in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico following the Macondo well blowout," read its press release.

Louisiana's Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu blamed "the administration's excruciatingly slow release of oil and gas permits... How many more rigs have to leave and how many more businesses have to close before it realizes the havoc the de facto moratorium is [wreaking] on the Gulf Coast?" The Energy Information Agency thinks more than 59 billion barrels of recoverable oil reside in U.S. offshore waters. But given environmental legislation, U.S. drillers are forbidden from going anywhere near this treasure trove.

As it happens, the Spanish-based oil company Repsol, which partners with the Castro regime, holds leases on U.S. territory. U.S. laws enforcing the embargo of Cuba call for penalties against such accessories to theft but have been meticulously and relentlessly overlooked.

To wit: In July 1960, Castro's KGB-trained security forces stormed into 5,911 U.S.-owned businesses in Cuba and stole them all at Soviet gunpoint - a $2 billion heist from outraged U.S. business owners and stockholders. Not all Americans surrendered their legal and hard-earned property peacefully. Among some who resisted were Bobby Fuller, whose family farm would become a Soviet-style collective, and Howard Anderson, whose profitable Jeep dealership was coveted by Castro's henchmen. Both U.S. citizens were murdered by Castro and Che Guevara's firing squads.

Many of the Canadian, European and Chinese companies partnering with Castro occupy and operate those stolen properties and assets. For the most part, these foreign corporations blow their noses on U.S. laws.

But last week a letter drafted by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, signed by a bipartisan group of 34 House members and addressed to Repsol's president, hints at the tight grip Americans hold on the Spanish corporation - and could tighten on a whim:

"Dear Mr. Antonio Brufau Niubo:

Repsol's partnership with the Cuban regime could violate U.S. law, and may run afoul of pending legislation in the U.S. Congress. ... As to current law, Repsol may be in jeopardy of subjecting itself and its affiliates to criminal and civil liability in U.S. courts. Violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, the Alien Tort Claims Act, and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Enforcement Act can lead to serious ramifications for individuals or businesses that deal with the Cuban regime
."

It's a long shot, but there's a chance the Obama team will see fit to bring the hammer down on a state sponsor of terrorism that helped the Soviets threaten us with nuclear weapons, stole billions from U.S. citizens and most seriously threatens Florida's beaches. That would be a refreshing change from the team's practice of acting against domestic oil companies that fuel our economy and employ millions of our fellow citizens.

Let Them Go Now!

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Worst Repression in 30 Years

In the month of September 2011, there have been at least 563 known political arrests by the Castro regime.

According to the pro-democracy Cuban Commission for Human Rights, this is the highest monthly rate of political arrests in 30 years.

During the previous eight months of 2011, there had been an average of 278 political arrests per month.

All of the detailed September arrests can be seen here.

(Remember these are only political arrests that are known and independently verified. It's believed there are many more unknown).

More "reform" you can't believe in.

The Environmental Lobby's Cuba Hypocrisy

Last month, the nation's largest environmental organizations released a letter calling on President Obama to block (at all costs) the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would span from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

Here's the letter:

Dear President Obama:

Many of the organizations we head do not engage in civil disobedience; some do. Regardless, speaking as individuals, we want to let you know that there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone Pipeline and those of the very civil protesters being arrested daily outside the White House. This is a terrible project–many of the country’s leading climate scientists have explained why in their letter last month to you. It risks many of our national treasures to leaks and spills. And it reduces incentives to make the transition to job-creating clean fuels.

You have a clear shot to deny the permit, without any interference from Congress. It’s perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election. If you block it, you will trigger a surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election. We expect nothing less.

Sincerely,

Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund
Michael Brune, Sierra Club
Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council
Phil Radford, Greenpeace
Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation
Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth
Rebecca Tarbotton, Rainforest Action Network
May Boeve, 350.org
Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters
Margie Alt, Environment America
Kevin Knobloch, Union of Concerned Scientists


So why don't they join Congressional efforts to block (through punitive sanctions) foreign oil companies from drilling with Cuba's brutal dictatorship just 90 miles away?

Instead, they want President Obama to "work together" with the Castro regime in its drilling efforts.

Such hypocrisy.

Thirteen New Prisoners of Conscience

Monday, October 3, 2011
The following is a list of pro-democracy activists who have been recently arrested and now face prosecution for their opposition to the Castro dictatorship:

Arrested August 28, 2011, when paramilitary forces tear-gassed the home of activist Marino Antomarchit in Palma Soriano:

Miguel Rafael Cabrera Montoya, Bismarck Mustelier Galan, Jose Enrique Martinez Ferrer, Nivaldo Amelo Ramirez, Alexis Aguirrezabal Rodriguez, Alexis Yachoi Kuan Jerez, and Victor Campa Almenares.

They are accused of “disorderly conduct” and are being held under inhumane conditions in the Aguadores Prison in Santiago de Cuba.

Arrested September 24, 2011, while carrying out a peaceful march in the Havana neighborhood of Rio Verde and falsely accused of “assault”:

Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo (held in the Fourth Police Unit in El Cerro, Havana) and her husband, Julio Leon Perez. Sara Marta (pictured below) is on a hunger strike and can hardly walk due to the injuries to her back caused by the beatings during her arrest.

Arrested on Thursday, September 8, 2011, following a verbal dispute with the head of a local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR):

Yelena Garces Napoles (held in the Women's Prison of Mar Verde in Santiago de Cuba) who is President of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR), and activists, Reinaldo Rodriguez Martinez, Jose Batista Falcon and Hector Felix Labrada Muñoz.

They are accused of “disorderly conduct” and “assault.”

H/T Coalition of Cuban-American Women

MUST READ: Cuba's Repression Escalates

Sunday, October 2, 2011
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Cuba's Repression Escalates

The loosening of travel restrictions by the U.S. is read as weakness in Havana.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson returned home from an attempted hostage-rescue mission to Cuba last month empty-handed and "still scratching [his] head" as to why the Castro regime double-crossed him. What is truly baffling is why Mr. Richardson expected anything different from a dictatorship operating in extreme-repression mode.

In a Sept. 14 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Richardson said he had been invited to the island to discuss the release of U.S. Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross. Mr. Gross was arrested in December 2009 and is serving a 15-year sentence.

Mr. Richardson admitted that he got stiffed by Cuba's "foreign ministry, which a lot of the people there I know and have been friends" with. What he could not grasp is why those "friends"—a strange designation for individuals who might one day be hauled before an international human-rights tribunal—don't appreciate the Obama administration's outreach. Yes, they are "hardliners," he admitted, but they ought to understand that the White House has been bending over backward to get along.

Actually they do understand, and that's why they treated him so badly.

Mr. Richardson told Mr. Blitzer that he was "flabbergasted" when, after a "delightful" three-hour lunch discussing how U.S.-Cuba relations might be improved—including, he told me by phone Friday, the possibility of removing the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after the release of Mr. Gross—the foreign minister "slammed me three ways: one, no seeing Alan Gross; no getting him out; and no seeing Raul Castro."

What happened was very predictable. The "loosened travel restrictions" and increased "remittances [from] Cuban-Americans" that Mr. Richardson cited as signs of Mr. Obama's willingness to deal are read as weakness by the bullying regime. It has something, i.e., somebody, the U.S. wants back very badly, and the administration acts as if it is powerless. Why should Castro deal?

Mr. Richardson did even less for Cuba's dissidents. One Richardson pearl of wisdom, shared on CNN, was that Cuba's "human-rights situation has improved." In fact, human rights in Cuba are rapidly deteriorating. To claim otherwise is to abandon the island's brave democrats when they most need international solidarity.

Ask Sonia Garro, pictured in the nearby photo. For years Ms. Garro has denounced the regime's discrimination against Afro-Cubans. Despite her own poverty, in 2007 she created a recreation center in her home for poor, unsupervised children, according to a report by an independent Cuban journalist. One of her goals: to get young girls out of prostitution. Ms. Garro is also a member of Ladies in Support, a group that pledges solidarity to the Ladies in White, which was founded by the wives, sisters and mothers of political prisoners in 2003 to work for their liberation.

In October 2010, Ms. Garro was detained by state security and held for seven hours. She emerged from the ordeal with a broken nose. Another woman taken into custody with Ms. Garro had her arm broken.

The nongovernmental organization Capitol Hill Cubans has reported that in the first 12 days of September, authorities detained 168 peaceful activists. These "express detentions" are designed to break up dissident gatherings, which risk spreading nonconformist behavior. Locking up offenders for long periods would be preferable, but the regime wants people like Mr. Richardson to go around saying that human rights have improved. The regime is also making greater use of civilian-clothed "rapid response" brigades that are trained, armed and organized to beat up democracy advocates.

Mr. Richardson told me he considers Cuba's record improved because 52 political prisoners were sent to Spain in 2010. Yet exiling promising opposition leadership hardly qualifies as a humanitarian gesture. Nor are gruesome Cuban prisons anything to ignore.

Last month in a speech in New York, one former prisoner, Fidel Suárez Cruz, described his seven years and seven months of solitary confinement, including two years and eight months in a cell with no windows, ventilation or artificial light. One favorite pastime of his torturers: Four military men would pick him up and then drop him on the floor. His testimony, posted on Capitol Hill Cubans website, is required viewing for anyone who doubts the evil nature of this regime.

Nevertheless, Cuba's dissidents remain relentless, and there are signs that the regime is giving up on the express-detention strategy. Fearless democracy advocate Sara Marta Fonseca and her husband Julio León Pérez have been in jail since Sept. 24. Ms. Fonseca's son has seen her and says she is black and blue all over and has an injury to her spinal column. Word is the regime is preparing to charge the couple; 11 other dissidents are awaiting trial. Meanwhile, Yris Pérez Aguilera, the wife of the prominent dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez," and two peers were detained on Sept. 26. Their whereabouts are unknown.

Any hope of protecting these patriots lies in international condemnation. Mr. Richardson could help by returning to CNN to correct the record.

Free Them Now!

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11 Ladies in White (Already) Arrested Today

It's not even noon and the Castro regime has already arrested 11 Ladies in White as they headed towards Mass in Santiago de Cuba.

Four bystanders that witnessed and recorded the incident were also arrested.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Chavez Hearts Assad and Gaddafi

From Reuters:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Saturday he was praying for Libya's deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi and also sent a message of solidarity to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against "Yankee" aggression.

Chavez -- who has inherited Fidel Castro's mantle as Washington's main irritant in Latin America -- views the wave of uprisings in the Arab world as Western-led destabilization and has been a strong ally of Gaddafi.

"The Libyans are resisting the invasion and aggression. I ask God to protect the life of our brother Muammar Gaddafi. They're hunting him down to kill him," he said.

"No one knows where Gaddafi is, I think he went off to the desert ... to lead the resistance. What else can he do?"

With a presidential vote looming for Venezuela in 2012, Chavez's opponents have leapt on his support for Arab strongmen -- and friendship with Gaddafi -- as a sign of autocratic tendencies. But he has been undeterred and also sent support to the government of Syria, which is fighting street protests.

"I spoke yesterday with the president of Syria, our brother President Bashar al-Assad," Chavez said in a televised ceremony to present low-cost household appliances for Venezuelans.

"From here, we send our solidarity to the Syrian people, to President Bashar. They are resisting imperial aggression, the attacks of the Yankee empire and its European allies."

The First Cuban "All-American"

Last night, the University of Florida honored football star Carlos Alvarez for his induction into the National College Football Hall of Fame.

He was literally the first Cuban "All-American."

More info from GatorZone:

The wide receiver was known for making miraculous catches in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

In college, he was called “The Cuban Comet.”

“The John Reaves to Carlos Alvarez duet made another giant step toward becoming the most famous two-man team since Laurel and Hardy as they hooked up on a two-point conversion with 2:10 left to play here Saturday,” a sportswriter for the Daytona Beach Morning Journal crowed about sophomore wide receiver Carlos Alvarez in October 1969.

“The ball was hanging in mid air for a split second, then the imported Cuban football player made a sensational two-handed spear of the ball and fell to his knees in the end zone before tumbling out of bounds.”

In that rookie season, Alvarez looked unstoppable. Despite being plagued with knee problems his last two years, Alvarez set numerous records at UF, some of which still stand. He’s the school’s all-time leader for career receiving yards (2,563), most consecutive games with a reception (25) and most receptions in a season (88, which Chad Jackson tied in 2005).

Forty years later, Alvarez* (BS ’72) has entered the record books again. He has been selected for induction in the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame — only the sixth player in Gator history to be selected, in addition to three Gator coaches.

“I’m hardly ever speechless, but I am," Alvarez told GatorZone earlier this month. “When you look at college football and the number of people who have played … I feel honored just to be mentioned."

Although Alvarez was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1972, he didn’t end up playing in the NFL. Instead, he received his law degree from Duke Law School and today is a Tallahassee lawyer specializing in environmental land-use law.

“I look at my career extremely fondly,” Alvarez told GatorZone. “Basically, I couldn’t have asked for more. There is a part of me of course that wish my knees had held out, and they didn’t. You just play the cards you’re dealt. I’m grateful to all those who helped me get here."