Mitt Romney on Death of Laura Pollan

Saturday, October 15, 2011
From Governor Mitt Romney:

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Cuban freedom fighter Laura Pollan. Ms. Pollan's strength and tenacity was admired in Cuba and respected throughout the world. I wish to convey my condolences to Laura's family and to the heroic "Ladies in White." Her legacy will forever live in the countless lives she touched and inspired.

State Department on Death of Laura Pollan

From the U.S. Department of State:

We are deeply saddened by the death of the founder of the Damas de Blanco, Laura Pollan. She was a courageous human rights defender who fought valiantly on behalf of political prisoners in Cuba. Cuba has lost one of its most important voices of conscience. We offer our sincere condolences to her family, which has lost a loyal wife and mother. Mrs. Pollan will be remembered with gratitude by scores of former political prisoners who are now free thanks to her and the Damas. Through them, and all who work for a democratic future in Cuba, her legacy will endure.

Through Mrs. Pollan's and the Damas' brave actions, the world bears witness to the plight of those who remain unjustly held in Cuba's prisons and to Cuba's dismal human rights record.

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States has engaged the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their future and Cuba's future.

"Ladies in White" Will March On

From Reuters:

Late "Ladies in White" leader Laura Pollan was remembered on Saturday with a simple altar in her home in the crumbling Central Havana neighborhood and vows that the dissident group she founded would go on.

The Ladies in White, saying Cuba still has political prisoners, have continued their marches and will do so again this Sunday and into the future, said Berta Soler, Pollan's longtime co-leader of the group.

"We're going to continue our peaceful fight for the liberation of all political prisoners. We'll also continue defending the human rights of the Cuban people," vowed Soler, speaking in the hushed, grief-stricken ambience of Pollan's wake.

"We plan to march tomorrow on Fifth Avenue like we do every Sunday. It will be a special march for Laura," she said.

Pollan's husband, Hector Maseda, told the women they must not stop, despite the loss of his wife.

"You have to keep going as you have until now, with intelligence, not accepting provocations. You have become a dagger in the middle of the heart of the government," he said.

White House Statement on Laura Pollan

From The White House:

The President's thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, and colleagues of Laura Pollan, the founder of Las Damas de Blanco, who passed away Friday in Havana. Pollán and the quiet dignity of the Ladies in White have courageously voiced the core desire of the Cuban people and of people everywhere to live in liberty.

Through their brave actions, the Ladies in White draw attention to the plight of those who are unjustly held in Cuba's prisons and pushed Cuban authorities to release those political prisoners wrongly jailed in the Spring of 2003.

Since the beginning of the Administration we have worked to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their future and Cuba's future. We will continue that work in Pollan's memory.

Honoring a True Lady

Last night, the leader of The Ladies in White, Laura Pollan, died in Havana.

Her friends and colleagues have gathered to honor her memory and struggle.

Sadly, the Castro regime immediately began repressive operations against pro-democracy activists in the central and eastern provinces of Cuba to prevent them from attending the memorial services.

Five Ladies in White have already been arrested.

They are Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, Aimeé Garcés Leiva, Caridad Caballero, Isabel Torres and Tania Montoya Vázquez.

The heroic legacy of Laura Pollan is just beginning.

"Ladies in White" Leader Dies

Friday, October 14, 2011
It's a sad day.

From BBC:

Cuba 'Ladies in White' founder Laura Pollan dies

The leader of the influential Cuban protest group, Ladies in White, has died in the capital, Havana.

Laura Pollan, who was 63 years old, had been in hospital for a week suffering from Dengue fever.

She founded the group 10 years ago when her husband was jailed.

The group's members, dressed in white, gathered in central Havana at the weekends to demand freedom for a group of 75 men imprisoned during government repression in 2003.

After being hospitalised, Pollan developed severe respiratory problems.

Her daughter, Laura Labrada, said she had had a tracheotomy.

'Never-ending story'

Initially composed of family members of those dissidents, the group later championed wider human rights issues, and continued to campaign for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba, even after all 75 were freed.

Laura Pollan's husband, Hector Maseda, was among the least of the 75 to be freed in February this year.

"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners," she said in the interview with the Associated Press. "Because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story."

In 2005, the group was awarded the Sakharov prize by the European Parliament.

And earlier this year, the Ladies in White received the US government's Human Rights Defender Award for what Washington called their exceptional valour in protecting human rights in the face of government repression.

Senator Rubio: Jacobson Nomination in Question

Senator Rubio Statement on Administration's Proposed Prisoner Exchange With Cuba

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued the following statement regarding the Obama Administration's attempts to negotiate the release of an American contractor held in Cuba in exchange for releasing a convicted Cuban spy and easing sanctions:

"It's deplorable that the U.S. government offered several unilateral concessions to the Castro regime in exchange for the release of a man who was wrongfully jailed in the first place. Rather than easing sanctions in response to hostage taking, the U.S. should put more punitive measures on the Castro regime.

Until Secretary Clinton answers for this, the nomination of Roberta Jacobson to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere will be in question."

Support for Democracy Should Not Be Negotiable

By Elliott Abrams at the Council of Foreign Relations:

Trading Away Cuba Policy

Israel’s swap of roughly one thousand prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit demonstrates the extremely difficult choices any decent country faces when dealing with governments or terrorist groups that hold human life cheap. Whatever one’s view of Israel’s decision to make this swap, it is worth noting that Israel is exchanging prisoners–not changing its policies toward terrorism.

This point becomes important when one discovers what the United States was apparently willing to give Cuba in exchange for the freedom of Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who is being held as a hostage in Havana. According to the Associated Press, the Cuban regime was told that the United States would not only free a Cuban spy held in prison here, but was “willing to consider”:

Removing Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism; reducing spending on Cuban democracy promotion programs like the one that led to the hiring of Gross; authorizing U.S. companies to help Cuba clean up oil spills from planned offshore drilling; improving postal exchanges; ending a program that makes it easier for Cuban medical personnel to move to the United States….

Now, an administration spokesman told the A.P. that “the offer was only to discuss those issues after Gross was released, with no guarantees that U.S. policies would change.” That is not a significant demurral, because it admits that in exchange for Gross’s freedom we were willing not only to engage in a prisoner swap but to bring into question key elements of our policy toward Cuba. It is especially offensive that we were willing to negotiate over support for democracy in Cuba, for that would mean that the unjust imprisonment of Gross had given the Castro dictatorship a significant victory. The implications for those engaged in similar democracy promotion activities elsewhere are clear: local regimes would think that imprisoning an American might be a terrific way to get into a negotiation about ending such activities.

Every American administration faces tough choices in these situations, but the Obama administration has made a great mistake here. Our support for democracy should not be a subject of negotiation with the Castro regime.

The Un-Noble Prize in Economics Goes To...

According to the CATO Institute, to Cuban dictator Raul Castro for his so-called "reforms":

A Troubling Sign that Economic ‘Reform’ in Cuba Isn’t Working

The number of Cubans intercepted at sea trying to reach the coast of Florida more than doubled in the last fiscal year according to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security. In the previous fiscal year, 422 Cubans were intercepted at sea by the Coast Guard, while in the fiscal year 2011 (which just ended on September 30th), 1,000 Cubans were caught. Moreover, the number of Cubans who actually reached the U.S. shore increased by 70%, from 409 in fiscal year 2010 to 696 in fiscal year 2011. This is the first rise in illegal Cuban immigration by sea in 3 years according to authorities.

This is yet another sign that the much heralded economic “reforms” announced by Havana aren’t working. The massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public employees undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro were meant to be absorbed by Cuba’s almost non-existent private sector. The Communist regime tried to ease the pressure by allowing private employment in 178 economic activities, such as masseurs, clowns, shoemakers, locksmiths, and gardeners. However, as I warned over a year ago, it capped the number of permits for these private activities at 250,000 while also penalizing the new entrepreneurs with stiff tax rates. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner in economics to realize that Cuba’s nascent private sector wouldn’t be able to make room for all of the newly unemployed. What then for these people?

Earlier this year I talked to an official from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana who told me that we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady increase of Cubans trying to escape the island towards the United States. Faced with a dilapidated economy, hundreds of thousands of unemployed, and growing social unrest, the Castro regime wouldn’t hesitate in letting more Cubans use the “escape valve” of emigration. We might be seeing the first signs of this.

However, a close runner-up is The New America Foundation's Anya Landau French who -- once again -- apologizes for Cuban dictator Raul Castro and writes:

"But what to do about it? [Raul] can't go intervening in every instance that rules implementing changes are so tight as to make some reforms meaningless."


Raul Castro is a totalitarian dictator.

That's exactly the source of the problem, not the solution.

The solution is to give the Cuban people the civil, political, social and economic freedoms every human being deserves.

The Sharks Ate the Cable

For those that ingeniously argued that the Cuba-Venezuela fiber optic cable was a "huge missed opportunity" for U.S. corporations to help the Cuban people.

By Alfredo Fernandez in The Havana Times:

For days, and though the Cuban government hasn’t commented on the matter, word on the street has it that the fiber optic cable linking the towns of La Guaira (Venezuela) and Siboney (Cuba) doesn’t exist.

That’s right, it’s turned out that the most anxiously awaited cable in the history of Cuba “died before being born.” According to these rumors in the street, it was eaten by “sharks.”

They say it was due to poor quality materials, which simplified the tasks of the insatiable barracudas in the Caribbean.

According to that “hearsay,” this occurred even though the cable was expressly purchased by high-level executive administrators of the Ministry of Communications.

Yet this must have some truth, given the arrests and subsequent imprisonment of two deputies engaged in “performing other important tasks” for that agency’s then minister, Ramiro Valdes.

This all takes me back to my childhood days, when my elementary schoolteacher told me about some “very bad ministers” during the pre-revolutionary years of the Republic. They stole everything, including funds for children’s school breakfasts.

In my infantile innocence, those men were the bad guys,” but they were also long-gone characters, despised to the point that they would never again gain a foothold in our country.

The truth is that today, at least in in my opinion, the real sharks that “ate the cable” live far from the depths of the Caribbean. Their habitat is located inside air-conditioned luxury cars, or beside the pools at “their homes,” with lobster and shrimp dishes, each of them with a glass of whiskey on one side and a pretty woman on the other.

The “sharks” that feasted on the $70 million cable that stretches between La Guaira and Siboney await cautiously for the “day after,” that’s why today they “stretch and stretch” the stitched-up guise of “comrade” for when the time comes, fully take advantage, this time of without restrictions of movement.

What’s more, they say that one of them likes to compare the Internet with “a wild horse yet to be tamed.” Perhaps behind this smile is concealed the real reason why he made sure the much-desired cable would never reach us. At least for now, the new era will not come at the galloping speed of such untamable stallions.

Castro's Piggy Bank

Thursday, October 13, 2011
From The Miami Herald:

Chávez gives $1.5 billion to Cuba and ALBA

Venezuela spent more than $1.5 billion in three years to finance dozens of projects in Cuba and other allied countries, including airport expansions in Cuba and replacing light bulbs in Bolivia, although the oil producer has amassed massive debt in the last few years to cover its own commitments, according to a Venezuelan government document.

Eighty-eight percent of disbursements from January 2007 to May 2010 covered Cuban financial projects, said the document from the Economic Social Development Bank of Venezuela (BANDES), which was obtained by El Nuevo Herald [...]

According to the 58-page report, BANDES, through its Autonomous and International Cooperation Fund or FICA granted “solidarity credits” for more than $980 million to 100 Cuban companies participating in a “twin enterprises” program.

The document does not identify the names of the companies nor its activities, simply indicating that they operate within “five industrial sectors” and the financing is part of strengthening the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our America or ALBA.

A Prisoner Contrast

On the left, Cuban pro-democracy leader Ariel Sigler Amaya upon his release from the Castro regime's political prisons last year.

On the right, convicted Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez upon his release from a U.S. federal penitentiary last week.

Any questions?

H/T Penultimos Dias

Cuba Oil Drilling Delayed, Pt. 4

How could this be (sarcasm emphasized)?

The "experts" had assured us that Cuba would be drilling for oil in the Florida Straits by 2004. And again by 2010. And again by 2011.

And now by 2012. (Actually, 2015 if -- big if -- oil is ever found).

From Reuters:

Arrival of Cuba offshore oil rig delayed again

The arrival of a Chinese-built drilling rig set to explore for oil in Cuban waters has been delayed again and is not expected to reach the island until the second half of December, sources close to the project said.

The delay is the latest of many as communist-run Cuba awaits the start of a project it hopes will give a shot in the arm to its struggling economic system.

The massive Scarabeo 9, which set sail from Singapore in late August, had been expected in Cuba by early November, but was slowed by problems not unusual for a newly built rig going to its first drilling operations, people close to the project said this week.

The late December arrival means the first well, to be sunk in 5,600 feet (1,700 metres) of water off Cuba's northern coast, may not be started until January, the sources said.

They warned that further delays were possible as the rig makes its journey halfway around the world after it was built in Yantai, China, and completed in Singapore. It was said to be currently off the coast of West Africa, although reports about its location varied.

Cuba had hoped to begin exploring for oil in its part of the Gulf of Mexico several years ago, but the project has been put off by construction delays and other issues.

The high-tech rig belongs to Saipem, the offshore unit for Italy's Eni SpA, and has been contracted by Spain's Repsol YPFfor the Cuba project, which is the island's first major exploration offshore.

It will be used to drill at least three wells, two by Repsol in a consortium with Norway's Statoila unit of India's ONGC, and another by Malaysia's Petronas in partnership with Russia's Gazprom Neft.

After that, plans for the project, which has been cloaked in secrecy, are not clear, but may depend on the success of the first three wells, a diplomatic source said.

If oil is found, it will take at least three years to begin production, said the local manager for one of the companies involved.

Inspired by Cuba's Pro-Democracy Leaders

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
In today's The Hill:

Inspired by Cuba's Pro-Democracy Leaders

By Mauricio Claver-Carone

What could be more pompous (and insulting) than the argument that American and foreign tourists can "inspire" the Cuban people to seek democracy? Not much.

Well, on second thought, maybe Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York calling their bill to sweep away all remaining restrictions on American travel to Cuba, the "Export Freedom to Cuba Act."

Or, the Obama Administration, which rejects American exceptionalism everywhere else in the world, arguing that American travelers (that have been carefully screened for entry by the Castro regime) are our best "Ambassadors of Freedom" to the Cuban people.

Their argument is that Cubans, upon seeing spring breakers and tourists enjoying luxury "people-to-people" tours and Cuban-American "mules" peddling flat-screen TV's, will suddenly realize what they're missing under the Castros' totalitarian dictatorship, as if Cubans don't already know what's missing, and life under a brutal regime was their voluntary choice.

The argument further holds that American travelers are different from the throngs of Canadian snowbirds and the European sex tourists visiting the island for the last two decades, frequently degrading the Cuban people while bankrolling the repressive regime.

American travelers, in other words, will be "truly inspirational."

Americans are undoubtedly the kindest, noblest and most charitable people in the world. But it's extraordinarily arrogant to argue that any foreign tourist is needed to inspire or empower the Cuban people, when some of the most courageous and inspirational people in this world are living in Cuba.

Meet Ivonne Mayeza Galano.

Last month, this amazing woman stood alone on the steps of the Capitol building in Havana. Knowing the brutality of the repression that awaited her, she nonetheless, peacefully held up a sign reading:

"Cambios en Cuba Sin Dictadura" ("Change in Cuba Without Dictatorship")

She was promptly arrested, stripped naked, searched and violently interrogated.

Two weeks later, four other women, Sara Marta Fonseca, Mercedes García Álvarez, Tania Maldonado Sánchez and Odalys Zurma González, continued her protest. Predictably, they too were arrested, but this time it took Castro's security forces 40-minutes to drag them away, as a gathering crowd of bystanders began to heckle the oppressors.

Or how about Iris Perez Aguilera?

This Afro-Cuban pro-democracy leader is the founder of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights. She undertakes weekly protests and sit-ins. As a result of these, Castro's secret police, on numerous occasions, has abused and brutally beaten her -- to the point of hospitalization.

Or how about Iris's husband, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez?"

Antunez, often referred to as Cuba's Nelson Mandela, spent 17-years as a political prisoner for protesting in the public square of his hometown. Today, still a young 46-years old, he is the leader of Cuba's civil disobedience movement.

Or how about Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet?

A charismatic physician, he spent nearly 11-years in political prison for his democratic advocacy as head of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. At a recent concert, U2's Bono honored Dr. Biscet as a true inspiration.

Or Marcelino Abreu, who has spent over 100 days on a hunger strike, protesting his unjust four-year prison-sentence. His crime was refusing to show a police officer identification after walking nearby the Castro regime's tourist-only Hotel Nacional. Abreu still holds that Cubans should be free to walk on the public streets and enter the public buildings of their homeland. Cuban authorities disagree.

Or the young rappers and rockers that defy the Cuban dictatorship through their lyrics and whose concerts and music festivals are under constant siege by the "Ministry of Culture" backed by the regime's armed police.

Or the bloggers and social media activists who brave the Castros' censors to inform the world of the harsh brutality and injustices the Cuban people face.

How can foreign travelers —ignorant of life under tyranny and repression– represent democratic ideals better than these icons who have spent years in political prison, and brave daily violence and beatings, to express their democratic aspirations and promote change in Cuba?

Let those of us who live in the United States stop insulting courageous pro-democracy leaders in Cuba with talk of "inspiring" them. The Cuban people don't need to be "inspired" by people abroad. They need our unwavering support for their struggle and for tangible pressure against the dictatorship that represses them.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and founding editor of in Washington, D.C. He is an attorney who formerly served with the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Another Spy Arrested For Targeting Exiles

Will Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and pro-regime activists in the U.S. argue that this newly arrested spy was protecting Syria against "terrorist activities"?

After all, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad claims that anti-regime protestors are actually "criminals" and "terrorists."

Or do they reserve those absurdities exclusively for Cuba?

From Politico:

A Syrian-born U.S. citizen was indicted Wednesday for spying on American activists who are opposed to President Bashar Assad’s regime, and providing information to Syria’s intelligence agencies.

Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, a resident of Leesburg, Va., has been indicted by the Department of Justice for conspiring to collect information on individuals in the U.S. and Syria who were protesting Assad’s regime, the Justice Department said in an announcement.

The indictment further alleges that Soueid was an agent working for the Syrian intelligence agencies, known as the Mukhabarat. He is said to have passed on at least 20 audio and video recordings, which depict American protests against the Syrian regime. The Assad regime is known to have violently repressed anti-government protesters in Syria.

PICTURED BELOW: Actor Danny Glover with convicted Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez.

From Iran to Mexico (to Cuba?)

Yesterday, the Justice Department filed charges against two Iranian operatives for allegedly orchestrating a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. and other terrorist acts.

The plot was developed in Mexico, beginning in the Spring 2011. The Iranian operatives tried to enlist Mexican drug cartels to execute the plot for a $1.5 million fee.

Last month, Italy's Corriere della Sera reported that Hezbollah, the Iranian backed terrorist group, was moving its Latin American base of operations from Mexico to Cuba. The budget for Hezbollah's new operational "base" in Cuba was reported to be $1.5 million.

It's very possible that -- as events were unfolding in the Iranian plot and investigation -- leaked information was somehow morphed (and misconstrued) into the Corriere della Sera story.

Or maybe it's just a coincidence.

Miami-Dade Sides With Odebrecht (Again)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011
On September 22nd, the Miami-Dade County Commission was formally asked to reconsider its $57 million contract with the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for the dredging of the Port of Miami.

Weeks before, this contract had been conveniently tucked away within a large consent agreement that was passed by the County -- perhaps with the hope that no one would notice.

So much for transparency.

As we've previously posted, Odebrecht wants to have the best of both worlds.

While receiving billions in generous contracts from Miami-Dade County taxpayers (composed mainly of the victims of Cuba's dictatorship), Odebrecht is also partnering with the Castro regime (Cuba's repressors) to expand its Port of Mariel facility -- a project which Raul Castro himself has described as the most important for his regime's future.

Fortunately, not all of Miami-Dade County's Commissioners have checked-in their conscience at the door.

Commissioner Steve Bovo brought up the issue for reconsideration at the September 22nd meeting and asked to be recorded against contracting with Odebrecht.

Additionally, Commissioner Javier Souto delivered a passionate argument that this contract is not only morally reprehensible, but it's commercially illogical (he called it "hara-kiri"), as Miami-Dade is enabling Odebrecht to boost what will become a major competitive port facility in Mariel.

But that's where principle ends.

On the other side, Miami-Dade County Chairman Joe Martinez, who was particularly abrasive, argued that two wrongs make a right.

That's right -- Chairman Martinez argued that if American Airlines does business with Cuba, why shouldn't Odebrecht?

To answer the Chairman's question -- as a U.S. company, American Airlines and its subsidiaries are strictly prohibited from doing business or engaging in any commercial transaction with Cuba. U.S. law only permits federally licensed charter companies to engage in "humanitarian" flights to Cuba. These charter companies lease planes from American Airlines, but there are no transactions between American Airlines and the Cuban government regarding these flights.

And frankly -- even if it were the case -- two wrongs don't make a right.

Then, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioners Rebecca Sosa and Pepe Diaz argued that they had to put passion aside for the sake of "fiscal responsibility."

That argument might actually resonate if Odebrecht had been the lowest bidder for the Port of Miami project. However, it was not.

The lowest bidder was actually a U.S. company -- properly named American Bridge Company. Unfortunately though, they were not awarded the Miami-Dade project due to a "local exception" that favored Odebrecht's more expensive bid.


That's right again -- only in Miami-Dade County can a Brazilian company be given preferential treatment (at a cost to taxpayers) over a U.S. company. Talk about feeding the worst of stereotypes.

However, all of the Commissioners that favored Odebrecht did agree on one thing: That the extent of their "patriotism" should be measured by the marches they attend, the proclamations they issue and their support for the Cuban Memorial Project -- not by their willingness to pressure Castro's repressive regime.

That's just insulting.

The only somewhat valid point during the reconsideration debate was made by the County Attorney, who reminded the Commissioners that the contract with Odebrecht had already been executed and that there may now be various costs associated with rescinding it.

In other words, that there would now be a dollar price to pay for Miami-Dade County's Commissioners unwillingness to stand on principle a month ago.

Fair enough.

However, Odebrecht will be back for more. They've already gotten over $2 billion worth of taxpayers money and they will surely want more.

So that excuse will no longer be valid.

At that time, a clear choice should be given to Odebrecht -- either Mariel or Miami.

If all of this sounds too surreal, please watch it for yourself here (beginning at the 52 minute mark).

Inspiring Violence Across the Globe

Monday, October 10, 2011
Spain's El Pais newspaper has interviewed Yemeni General Yehya Mohamed Abdalá Saleh, the head of that country's brutal security services.

Pro-democracy activists in Yemen are braving great violence and repression in their struggle for freedom.

Just yesterday, at least 38 women were injured by rocks and batons when "pro-government gangs" attacked a peaceful march.

Sound familiar?

During the interview, General Yehya expressed his great admiration for Che Guevara and "the Cuban model of democracy."

He even pulled out a picture of Che and dedicated it to the reporter (see below).

Tragic, but not surprising at all.

143 Years Ago Today

On October 10, 1868, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, a plantation owner from eastern Cuba, freed his slaves and inspired a "Ten Year War" against Spanish rule.

Cespedes' goal was independence for Cuba and urged American recognition of a new Cuban government, though he did not succeed at the time.

He ran a constitutional convention, which decided upon a representative government for Cuba and proposed the abolition of slavery.

In 1874, Cespedes was apprehended by the Spanish and executed.

Tragically, 143 years later, Cuba still does not have a representative government and its people remain subject to dictatorial submission.

Will the Ladies in White Prevail?

Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen "for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."

All three women are extremely deserving of this recognition.

Of course, it would have been nice if the Nobel Committee had included one of Cuba's Ladies in White (perhaps instead of two Liberians), in order to be more representative of the world-wide impact women are having on the non-violent struggle for human rights -- but that's a whole other issue.

Either way, it's pertinent to note that the success of both Liberian honorees is due in large part to "another" Ladies in White movement.

Please read the summary below of Liberia's Ladies in White movement.

Then ask yourself -- will Cuba's Ladies in White prevail in their struggle against the Castro dictatorship?


From Yes! Magazine (H/T Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter):

The west African nation of Liberia was founded by freed American slaves. The country’s coat of arms declares, “The love of liberty brought me here.”

In the last years of the 20th century and the early years of this one, however, Liberia was anything but a land of liberty. Drug-fueled militias maimed and killed civilians. Government and rebel forces alike raped with impunity. Hundreds of thousands fled. Others were trapped by the unending violence, unable to flee. As one Liberian woman later remembered, “My children had been hungry and afraid for their entire lives.”

In spring 2003, a group of women decided to try to end the conflict once and for all. Dressed all in white, hundreds of them sat by the roadside, on the route taken daily by President Charles Taylor, rebel leader-turned-president.

The president’s motorcade swept past, slowing down only briefly. But the women returned, day after day. In pouring rain and blazing sunshine alike, they danced and prayed. In the words of Comfort Lamptey, author of a book on the Liberian peace movement of those years, the women were “fighting for the right to be seen, heard, and counted.”

Taylor mocked the women for “embarrassing themselves.” Still, though, the protests gained momentum. Religious leaders—imams and bishops alike—spoke out in support of the women’s demands. Radio stations began reporting sympathetically on the roadside protests. Leymah Gbowee, one of the protest leaders, declared in front of the cameras, “We are tired of our children being raped. We are taking this stand because we believe tomorrow our children will ask us: ‘Mama, what was your role during the crisis?’”

Pressed on all sides, Taylor agreed to talk. He met with the women’s leaders in the presidential palace. Peace talks with the warring factions began in Ghana a few weeks later.

It soon became clear, however, that the talks were going nowhere. Even as the warlords basked in the comfort of their luxury hotel, they worked the phones, directing a renewed orgy of violence at home in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

The women decided that enough was enough. Determined to focus on the human cost of the war, they barricaded delegates into the room where the talks were taking place. One of the negotiators, Nigerian General Abdulsalami Abubakar, remembered later: “They said that nobody will come out till that peace agreement was signed.” As described in the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, one warlord tried unsuccessfully to kick his way out of the room. Others tried (and failed) to escape through the windows.

The men with guns agreed to talk seriously at last. A peace deal was struck. Charles Taylor went into exile. International peacekeepers arrived in Monrovia, greeted by cheering crowds. In 2006, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Liberia’s first peacefully elected president, Africa’s first woman leader.

Johnson-Sirleaf said: “It was ordinary Liberians who reclaimed the country and demanded peace.”

Castro Regime Will Not Release U.S. Hostage

Sunday, October 9, 2011
Perhaps the Obama Administration will finally consider rolling back all of the unilateral concessions it has made during the last two-years (since American development worker Alan Gross was taken hostage).

Obviously, playing nice with the Castro regime is not paying off.

The U.S. must send a clear message that the taking of an American hostage is absolutely unacceptable.

That message is currently not being transmitted in any way, shape or form.

Enough is enough.

From AP:

The United States should not expect Cuba to make a unilateral humanitarian gesture to release an imprisoned American government contractor, a senior Cuban official said Sunday.

Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon told The Associated Press in an interview that to expect such a gesture on behalf of Alan Gross "would not be reasonable."

During a visit to Mexico, Alarcon said the U.S. government "should get a good armchair and sit down to wait" if it is hoping for a humanitarian release.

A Trio of Worried Tyrants

The foreign ministers of Venezuela and Cuba are in Syria today to meet with dictator Bashar al-Assad in a show of solidarity amongst tyrants.

Their ultimate goal?

To make sure the international community does not recognize and support the Syrian pro-democracy movement.

A concern that Castro and Chavez share in their own countries as well.

From AP:

Syria's foreign minister warned the international community Sunday not to recognize a new umbrella council formed by the opposition, threatening "tough measures" against any country that does so.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem did not specify what measures Damascus might take but alluded later in his comments to attacks on embassies. Addressing reports that protesters had broken into Syria's embassy to Germany, al-Moallem said that countries which did not protect Syrian missions could find their own embassies treated in the same way.

"We will take tough measures against any country that recognizes this illegitimate council," al-Moallem said without elaborating on what type of reaction it might bring.

Syria's top diplomat was speaking during a joint news conference with a delegation from the left-leaning ALBA bloc of mostly Latin American countries, which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. The ALBA officials were visiting Damascus to express solidarity with Syria and met Sunday with President Bashar Assad.