IACHR Concerned About Dissident's Safety

Saturday, November 12, 2011
From the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR):

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over recent attacks suffered by Idania Yanes Contreras in Cuba. She is a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on June 8, 2011.

Information the IACHR has received indicates that Idania Yanes Contreras was arrested on October 31, 2011, when she was protesting to defend the rights of a political dissident who was on a prolonged hunger strike. Idania Yanes Contreras reportedly was taken to a police unit, dragged by her hair, and severely beaten in the head, abdomen, and back before being released on November 3, 2011. According to the information the IACHR has received, she left the detention center in a fragile state of health and entered the Arnaldo Milián Castro Hospital with injuries to her body.

The Inter-American Commission considers extremely serious the fact that the State of Cuba has not adopted the necessary measures that were requested by the IACHR to protect the life and physical integrity of Idania Yanes Contreras, considering the threats, attacks, and harassment to which she has been subject. The IACHR calls to mind that the State has an obligation to investigate of its own accord the facts that have been reported, and to punish those responsible for the attacks.

The IACHR urges the State of Cuba to immediately and effectively implement each of the precautionary measures granted by the Commission.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

On Pope Benedict's Potential Trip

From NBC Miami:

Thursday's announcement that Pope Benedict XVI was interested in traveling to Cuba was met with criticism among some in Miami's Cuban community.

Jaime Suchlicki, director of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, said the proposed trip will play right into the hands of Cuban dictator Raul Castro and his Communist regime.

"Well, I think it's an ill-advised and ill-timed visit," Suchlicki said. "It's ill-advised because it legitimizes the transfer of power to Raul, the establishment of a military dictatorship in Cuba."

Cuban exiles and Suchlicki say the last visit by a pope to Cuba -- Pope John Paul II in 1998 -- gave undue legitimacy to Raul's brother, Fidel. Suchlicki said John Paul got very little out of that visit in return.

"He talked about the world opening to Cuba and Cuba opening to the world. Well, a lot of the world opened to Cuba but Cuba did not open to the world and didn't open to the Cubans inside the island," Suchlicki said. "So the results were very, very limited."

Suchlicki said he believes this is among one of the very worst periods in Cuba for political repression. Indeed, many Cuban-American Catholics are torn over possibly seeing their religious leader engage with their political nemesis.

No final decision on the trip has been made, but Suchlicki says it seems less about freeing political prisoners and more about making gains for the church in Cuba.

"Maybe a little more opening toward the church, maybe another limited opening in the economic area, but nothing in the area of human rights and nothing in the area of opening Cuba to the democracy," he said.

Reporting on Cuba's Tragic Reality

By Mike Gonzalez in The Foundry:

The Unreported Tragedy of Cuba’s Repressive Communist Regime

Cuba -- to listen to, watch or read some of the media -- is a place that has remained unbowed in the face of impoverishment by the U.S. embargo. Lately what you hear is that it is attempting to make bold reforms not just in the economy, but socially as well (it just allowed gays to marry!) The people still dance.

Only that the reality of Cuba bears little resemblance to the plucky little island narrative. Cuba’s penury has nothing to do with the U.S. decision not to trade with the communist island, but with the fact that the island is communist in the first place. If communism produced misery in Europe and Asia (where one half of Germany and Korea stagnated under repression while the capitalist halves of those countries thrived in economic and political freedom) why would the result be different in the Caribbean?

Communism is a human tragedy, enslaving the soul while failing to produce enough goods for the people trudging under it. Communist countries are large prisons; the borders must be closed lest the people escape. And within that hell there are smaller circles where the repression is intensified. It’s the Gulag, the re-education camp or, in Cuba’s case today, public beatings by government mobs for who speak up their minds.

One would think a journalist would want report on that, especially when -- as is the case in Cuba today -- the people have finally decided to risk it all and take to the streets to voice their opposition. Reality, however, is again otherwise.

In Cuba today there’s a growing and vibrant protestor movement, headed by a group of women called Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White). Originally organized by the wives of political prisoners, it has now galvanized others to lose their fear and voice their anti-communist sentiments in public.

Their acts are dignified. They march to Mass on Sunday bearing flowers; sometimes they stand in squares and chant slogans or meet in each other’s houses.

The repression that Cuba’s communist regime has unleashed against these poor ladies is anything but dignified. They have been seized by government goons bused in for the occasion, pushed, scratched and beaten. In one case, in the city of Santiago de Cuba, these ladies were stripped to their waist and dragged through the streets. In another instance they were bitten. The founder of the movement, 63-year-old Laura Pollan, died in prison last month and her remains were returned to her family only after she was cremated.

We understand -- though it still rankles -- why journalists posted in Havana are reluctant file stories or broadcast on these events or on the overall mind-numbing reality of communism. If they do, they will be put on the next plane out (a fate any Cuban would relish, of course). As blogger Yoani Sanchez -- a rare Cuban allowed to speak her mind, with only the occasional beating -- posted last month at Foreign Policy:

The dilemma of foreign correspondents — popularly called ‘foreign collaborators’ — is whether to make concessions in reporting in order to stay in the country, or to narrate the reality and face expulsion. The major international media want to be here when the long-awaited ‘zero day’ arrives — the day the Castro regime finally makes its exit from history. For years, journalists have worked to keep their positions so they will be here to file their reports with two pages of photos, testimonies from emotional people, and reports of colored flags flapping all over the place.

But the elusive day has been postponed time and again. Meanwhile, the same news agencies that reported on the events of Tahrir Square or the fighting in Libya downplay the impacts of specific events in Cuba or simply keep quiet to preserve their permission to reside in the country. This gag is most dramatic among those foreign journalists with family on the island, whom they would have to leave or uproot if their accreditation were revoked. The grim officials of the CPI understand well the delicate strings of emotional blackmail and play them over and over again
.”

It’s unfair to single out the press, however. The Obama Administration has failed, too, to bring the plight of Cubans to the forefront, even during the current wave of repression against the Ladies in White.

Two reasons are given for the soft approach. President Obama may not want to complicate the case of Alan Gross, a Marylander Cuba has taken hostage. Gross was sent to Cuba in 2009 by the U.S. Agency for International Development to set up internet connectivity for Cuba’s dwindling Jewish community. He was arrested in December of 2009 and has been sentenced to 15 years for the crime of bringing satellite phones and laptops into Cuba. President Obama also wants to reach out to the Castro brothers.

We at The Heritage Foundation agree with Churchill and Reagan that tyranny cannot be appeased. We have a proud record of standing up to communism, including its Caribbean variety, an effort led by decades by such giants as Lee Edward, the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

That’s why next week, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, we will have two events on these subjects; the first devoted to Cuba and the second to communism.

At the first event, at 10 am, we will feature a key note address by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., FLA), the Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as a panel on the latest from Cuba.

In the second event, which follows at 11 am, we’ll look back at the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the USSR, Cuba’s former patron, in a panel featuring Heritage experts and the distinguished scholar of the Soviet Union, Professor Richard Pipes.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a tremendous victory, but the survival of the Castro regime, and the rising tide of authoritarianism in Russia, should remind us that not all the achievements of 1991 are secure. So in addition to celebrating the return of freedom to Eastern Europe, we’ll look at how the lessons and concerns of two decades ago are relevant to today.

Rant of Last Year

This clip is from last year (we'd missed it), but still timely.

Dissidents Imprisoned Indefinitely

Friday, November 11, 2011
On November 8th, over a dozen Cuban pro-democracy activists were violently arrested for participating in a peaceful public sit-in demanding the release of all political prisoners and an end to the Castro regime's violence against the opposition.

Amongst those arrested were Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antúnez," Pastor Alexei Gómez, Rene Quiroga, José Ángel Abreu, Oscar Veranes Martínez, María del Carmen Martínez, Donaida Pérez Paseiro, Xiomara Martin Jiménez, Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, Orlando Alfonso Martínez, Enrique Martínez Marín, Mayra Conlledo García and Víctor Castillo Ortega.

They all remain in prison.

According to Antúnez's wife, Yris Perez Aguilera:

"I have just been told by a guard from the Police Unit of Placetas that my husband Jorge Luis Garcia 'Antunez' and the other activists arrested alongside him will remain detained for an indefinite period of time because they are under a process of investigation. This was communicated to the guard by a State Security official who did not want to come out and speak to me."

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Honoring Our Veterans

Next Week at The Heritage Foundation

Thursday, November 10, 2011
The Unwritten Story: How the Media and the Obama Administration Overlook Cuba's Wave of Repression

A wave of repression is currently taking place in Cuba – but you wouldn’t know about it from the lack of media coverage. Why is the press at home and abroad ignoring blatant human rights violations? Why has the Obama Administration consistently coddled dictators like Castro? And, what should our elected leaders be saying about Cuba and these human rights abuses?

Special Address by:

The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee

Followed by a Panel Discussion with:

Mauricio Claver-Carone
Director, U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC

Ambassador Otto Reich
President, Otto Reich Associates, LLC, and former U.S. Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere

Laida Carro
President, Coalition of Cuban-American Women

Click here for more information.

CDA Report: Support Cuba's 0.01%

The Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, which apparently supports democracy everywhere in the hemisphere except Cuba, has issued a new report on the Castro regime's "reforms."

Its conclusion?

That despite 52-years of lying, stealing, beating, arresting, torturing and executing Cubans (the report conveniently ignores these facts), the Castro regime is finally trying to "reform."

Thus, the U.S. should support the Castro regime (the 0.01% that controls 100% of Cuba's wealth and political power) in its "reform" efforts.

(Ironically, the CDA's report was funded by the Ford Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation -- part of what they would otherwise label as the 1% that controls 100% of the U.S.'s wealth).

The report also recommends:

- To send even more money to Cuba from abroad (so Castro can continue building his hard currency reserves in foreign banks, which have doubled since 2009).

- To allow the export of dual-use technology to Cuba (for Castro's repressive military and intelligence apparatus can't be all that bad).

- To allow the Castro regime access to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (surely an appropriate use of U.S. taxpayer money).

- And of course, to stop funding USAID's Cuba democracy programs (for the promotion of democracy has no place in Cuba).

Cuba's 0.01% is surely grateful.

Castro Defaults on More Loans

Want to extend financing to the Castro regime?

From today's Trinidad Express:

Billions of dollars in non-performing loans, including an unsecured facility to a government ministry in Cuba, were on the books of [Trinidad and Tobago's] CLICO Investment Bank (CIB) which led to the eventual insolvency of the company, Maria Daniel, a partner at Ernst and Young, stated on Tuesday.

The purpose of the US$2.6 million loan was for infrastructure and services upgrade of the government agency in Cuba, Ernst and Young’s statement of affairs stated.

The total arrears on the loan is US$14 million with the last and only payment being made on October 14, 2003.

The facility to the Cuban ministry was among the top ten major non-performing third party loans at CIB.


Meanwhile, according to Reuters:

Cuba's wealthiest creditors have decided to test President Raul Castro's pledge to improve the island's financial credibility by inviting his government to talks with the Paris Club about settling billions of dollars of outstanding debt, according to Western diplomats.

The Paris Club reported that Cuba owed its members $30.5 billion (19.0 billion pounds) at the close of 2010, but more than $20 billion of the debt was in old transferable Soviet rubles that Russia now claims but Cuba does not recognise.


Can You Spot the "New" Defense Minister?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Today, Cuban dictator Raul Castro named General Leopoldo Cintra Frias as his "new" powerful Defense Minister.

Problem is he looks (and sounds) just like the old one.

So let's play game.

Can you identify General Cintra Frias from the picture of Castro's senior officials below?

From Bloomberg:

Cuban General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, who joined Fidel Castro’s rebel movement in the 1950s, was appointed the island nation’s defense minister, the government said.

Cintra, 70, assumes the position following the death of Julio Casas Regueiro in September. General Alvaro Lopez Miera, 68, replaces Cintra as vice-minister of defense, state-run Granma newspaper reported today on its website.


Answer: 3rd from the left.

The Foreign Oil Pollution Act

Menendez, Nelson Unveil Foreign Oil Pollution Act

Legislation would discourage Cuban oil drilling by holding drillers liable for potential spills

Washington – U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), vocal opponents of oil drilling in Cuban waters, today introduced legislation to ensure Americans affected by oil spills that originate in foreign waters can hold these polluters accountable and seek full compensation for their damages. Repsol, a Spanish oil company, is currently sending a drilling rig to begin exploration in Cuban waters, less than 80 miles from the Florida Keys. An oil spill in these waters could be devastating to American fisherman, coastal communities, and tourism businesses.

“When it comes to laws that should protect Americans from foreign oil polluters, there must be no ambiguity about who is to be held fully accountable – the polluter,” said Menendez. “Hopefully, companies seeking to drill in Cuban waters will think twice once they know they would be fully liable for any damages to the Florida Keys, South Florida beaches, or if the spill reached the Gulf Stream, anywhere up the East Coast.”

“Our goal here is to hold foreign oil companies liable if they have a spill that reaches U.S. waters,” Nelson said. “It’s in part aimed at the situation in Cuba, where Repsol is planning to drill. If there’s a spill there we could lose part of the Everglades, or the Keys, or the coral reefs, or our fishing industry or tourism – and jobs. That’s why the U.S. needs to carry a big stick.”

Current law contains ambiguities that might allow a polluter to argue that suits could not be brought directly against them under the Oil Pollution Act, the main body of law that protects Americans from oil spills. The legislation the two senators introduced would change this provision to ensure that US claimants can sue foreign spillers directly. The bill would also remove the $75 million liability cap for spills emanating from foreign waters, and would also ensure that US spill victims could avail themselves of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for such spills.

Menendez and Nelson previously introduced legislation to eliminate the current $75 million cap on liability for oil spills and to eliminate the $1 billion cap on the use of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. This is the only way to ensure all oil drillers operate safely and are fully on the hook to make all those damaged by oil spills whole.

Menendez to State: Stop the Money

More from yesterday's Senate hearing on the nomination of Roberta Jacobson for Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.

From The Miami Herald:

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., told Jacobson he supports her nomination, but said he has concerns about the policies enacted this year that allow Americans to send more money to Cuba. Over the past three years, Menendez said, Cuba has doubled its hard currency reserves in foreign banks to $5.7 billion.

He also called Gross a "hostage" who is being used as a pawn by the Cuban regime in its relationship with Washington.

"It seems to me very elemental," he said. "You stop the money, the regime gets the message. The regime has only changed... out of necessity, not ideological change."

Rubio Challenges Obama's Cuba Policy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
From today's hearing on the nomination of Roberta Jacobson for Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere:

Jackal: "Fidel Has Killed More Than Me"

Yet tragically, only one of them is in jail.

From AFP:

Carlos the Jackal boasts of up to 2,000 deaths

States that Fidel Castro "has killed more people"

Venezuelan militant Carlos the Jackal, who goes on trial in France Monday, boasted in an interview with the daily El Nacional of committing more than 100 attacks that claimed up to 2,000 lives.

Asked about civilian bystanders who lost their lives in his attacks, the Marxist-Leninist radical said: "There were very few. I calculated that they were fewer than 10 percent.

"So out of 1,500 - 2,000 killed, there were not more than 200 civilian victims," he said.

The dapper 62 year-old former member of the leftist Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two French policemen and an informant in 1975.

Carlos, born in 1949, rose to prominence in 1975 when his commando group burst into the conference room where ministers from the powerful OPEC oil cartel were meeting in Vienna, taking 11 of them hostage.

He is now on trial for 1982 and 1983 attacks billed as part of a private war Carlos waged against France to free two comrades, including his future wife, who were arrested in Paris while planning to attack the Kuwaiti embassy.

Carlos told El Nacional that under his "coordination" "more than 100" attacks were carried out; he said he could boast of the results because they were "very well executed."

Asked if he believed that he had made mistakes, Carlos said his crimes were minor. He charged that former Cuban president Fidel Castro "killed more people."

During Today's Confirmation Hearing

Excerpt from Roberta Jacobson's testimony today during her confirmation hearing for Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere:

In Cuba, we are working to expand the connections between U.S. and Cuban society and open the way for meaningful support of Cubans who are striking their own path, while we keep faith with human rights activists and dissidents who have fought for basic rights for years. With our efforts, more Cubans have access to information and independent connections to the American citizens who are the best ambassadors of our values. We have never wavered in our support of the right of people in Cuba to freely determine their own future – rights far too long denied to them. We also continue to seek the unconditional release of American citizen Alan Gross, a dedicated development worker who has been unjustly imprisoned in Cuba for nearly two years.

Cuba clearly departs most fundamentally from the region’s core democratic values and elections alone do not constitute a democracy, but we remain steadfast in protecting free and fair elections throughout the Hemisphere. Together with a broad range of partners we worked to ensure that Haiti’s elections accurately reflected the will of the Haitian people. We have expressed our clear concerns with the irregularities related to the recent electoral process in Nicaragua, in keeping with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and we are committed to doing what we can, in partnership with others in the region, to promote the ability of the Venezuelan people to fully express their democratic will.

Fact: Obama Policy is Financing Castro's Regime

An indisputable fact.

Since the Obama Administration eased restrictions on travel and remittances in April 2009, the Castro regime has doubled its hard currency deposits in foreign banks.

Thus, hard currency is entering Cuba without limits, being exchanged for Castro's worthless currency and being whisked abroad by the regime.

Meanwhile, repression has spiked and political arrests have more than doubled in the last year.

Here are the figures (courtesy of Reuters):

The Bank for International Settlements reported banks in 43 countries held $5.76 billion in Cuban deposits as of March of this year, compared with $4.285 billion at the close of 2009 and $2.849 billion at the close of 2008.

Tourism Apartheid and Complicit Foreigners

Monday, November 7, 2011
In today's Huffington Post, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez discovers that Castro's tourism apartheid persists and that it doesn't bother foreign visitors one bit:

We arrived at the dock half an hour early. The sun-burnt tourists began to board the boat. [My husband] and I reached the spectacular corner from where we took photos of that bay as big as an ocean. The dream lasted barely five minutes. When the captain heard us talking he asked if we were Cubans. He shortly informed us that we had to go ashore, "boat rides are prohibited for nationals at every marina in the country." Rage, anger, the shame of carrying a blue passport makes us guilty -- in advance -- in the eyes of the law of our own nation. A feeling of deception on comparing the official discourse of a supposed opening with the reality of exclusion and stigma. We wanted to cause a scene and cling to the railing, to compel them to remove us by force, but what would it have served? My husband dusted off his French and told the group of Europeans what was happening. They looked surprised, whispered among themselves. None of them disembarked -- in solidarity with the excluded -- from that coastal tour of our island; none of them found it intolerable to enjoy something that is forbidden to us, its natives.

Smoke-and-Mirror Reforms

Excerpt from Jose Cardenas' "Cuba's Smoke-and-Mirror Reforms" in Foreign Policy:

[S]weep away the hype and all you see are daunting hurdles as to how this [property sales] announcement will change in any way the regime's suffocating control of the Cuban population. The new order restricts people to "ownership" of one permanent residence and one vacation home (as if the average Cuban is in any position to own a second home); all transactions must be approved by the State; no explanation is given on how you grant titles to homes that either have been confiscated from their rightful owners, have been swapped multiple times in the underground economy, or which house multiple families because of the severe shortage of available housing; the construction industry remains state-controlled; and the regime itself admits this order reflects no backsliding on the preeminence of the State in controlling the country's economic and political systems.

Beyond these challenges, however, is the fundamental fact that you cannot conjure private property rights, let alone the free trade in property, out of thin air. Those rights exist only where they are rooted in a credible, impartial, and transparent legal superstructure that can protect one's property, settle disputes, and guarantee transactions against the predations of the State. Anything less is a rigged game where the State is the dealer.

This is how the State Department's annual Human Rights Report characterizes Cuba's judicial system: "While the constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary, the judiciary is subordinate to the imperatives of the socialist state. The National Assembly appoints all judges and can remove them at any time. Through the National Assembly, the state exerted near-total influence over the courts and their rulings... Civil courts, like all courts in the country, lack an independent or impartial judiciary as well as effective procedural guarantees."

Translation: Cubans' ability to "own" property, trade, or leverage their property to build capital will continue to exist at the sufferance of the State. And what the State giveth, the State can taketh away. The bottom line is that, ultimately, all Cubans will really own is a piece of paper that says they own something.

The Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act

From The Hill:

Four members of the House — including two who were born in Cuba — proposed legislation last week that would hold foreign offshore oil drilling operations accountable for all damages related to oil spills that affect U.S. waters.

The Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act, H.R. 3393, is a reaction to news that Cuba is looking to drill for oil in waters that are 90 miles off the Florida coast, which bill sponsors fear could lead to spills that harm the coast. The bill is sponsored by Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.), and co-sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.). Both Ros-Lehtinen and Sires were born in Cuba.

"This bill seeks accountability from responsible foreign parties, in the event of an oil spill that affects American waters and shores, by ensuring that they pay for all cleanup and compensation costs," Rivera said. "While the responsible party is held liable for American-sourced oil spills, there is a much lower level of responsibility for foreign-sourced spills.

"American taxpayers and state governments should not be footing the bill for cleanup and compensation costs from a foreign oil spill," he added.

Rivera says that under current law, the cost of cleaning up foreign oil spills that affect the U.S. is paid for out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Money that goes into that fund comes from taxes on oil companies, transfers from other pollution funds, interest earned on existing funds, and cost recovery money and penalties paid by parties responsible for a spill.

Under the bill, oil spills originating in countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are subject to triple the liability and penalty amounts, which also seems aimed at Cuba.

"The Castro regime, that has as much regard for environmental safety as it does for human rights, seeks to drill for oil less than 90 miles off the coast of Florida, posing a direct threat to our state's environment and economy," Rivera said. "While the White House and the U.S. Department of the Interior help facilitate this drilling, in possible violation of the embargo, I am sponsoring this important piece of legislation to ensure that Florida taxpayers are not made to pay for an environmental disaster caused by a terrorist regime."

Aside from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as also designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

Whose Side is the State Department On?

In January 2011, the State Department unilaterally expanded non-humanitarian travel and remittances to Cuba, despite an American hostage being held by the Castro regime.

This has resulted in trips featuring salsa dancing, cigar factory tours, baseball games and even visits with the Castro regime's neighborhood repression committees (CDR's, Committee for the Defense of the Revolution).

Just prior to that, the Justice Department -- at the behest of the State Department -- intervened on behalf of the Castro regime and its business partners against a U.S. citizen who was trying to collect a 2001 judgment awarded to her by a U.S. court in a suit against the Castro regime.

And now, the State Department has similarly intervened in a suit by former American hostages against the Iranian regime.

Here's an excerpt from former American hostage Moorehead Kennedy's recent editorial in Politico:

Congress has passed various statutes, allowing US nationals, victimized by terrorism, to obtain compensation for injuries. Literally hundreds have pursued claims in U.S. courts and received compensation for terrorism sponsored by Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea and Libya.

The Tehran embassy hostages also sought to pursue similar claims in U.S. Courts. In August 2001, we obtained a judgment against Iran — which had refused to appear to defend their indefensible conduct. But the State Department intervened to protect Iran’s interests, asserting that dismissal was necessary to protect U.S. national security interests and uphold the waiver of claims in the Algiers Accords.

Though Congress later enacted numerous statutes (some specifying that the State Department’s position did not reflect the official views of the U.S. government, while others confirmed our right to pursue our claims), the court ultimately granted the department’s motion.

In the next 10 years, all our appeals, and other efforts to obtain justice and compensation, have been defeated by the State Department. At the same time, the department has aggressively protected the rights of all U.S. corporations and banks to seek compensation from Iran. Indeed each claim has been adjudicated, and literally billions of dollars awarded, through these channels and paid by Iran.

The signal that Iran has drawn from this is clear – the U.S. cares about protecting interests of its corporations — but has no real interest in protecting its diplomats, no matter the State Department’s lip service about to the importance of diplomatic immunity and the sacrosanct status of our embassies.


The Repression Rundown

A rundown of last week's repression against pro-democracy activists compiled by the Coalition of Cuban-American Women:

Alcides Rivera Rodriguez and Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, two activists on a hunger strike since September 28, 2011, protesting the Cuban regime’s violence against peaceful activists in the island; both admitted respectively, on October 27 and 28, 2011, to the Provincial Hospital Arnaldo Milian in the central city of Santa Clara, were forced out of the medical center by special police forces that had militarized the building.

Ferrer Espinosa, was hoisted away on Monday, October 31st to his home in spite of the fact that he was on supplemental oxygen, was shaking due to a high fever, is weak after losing more than 30 lbs. of body weight, and has severe respiratory ailments as well as metabolic acidosis. On November 2, Alcides Rivera, who was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia and has lost almost 60 lbs, was also forcibly taken out of the hospital. Both Alcides and Rolando declared that they will continue their hunger strike.

On the afternoon of October 31, when Rolando Ferrer was taken out of the hospital by State Security agents, a group of human rights defenders who had gone to the hospital in solidarity with both hunger strikers, were violently arrested: Idania Yanes Contreras, Damaris Moya Portieles, Olga Lilia González Barroso, Alexey Sotolongo Díaz, Enrique Martínez Marín, Orlando Alfonso Martínez, Jorge Ramírez Calderón, René Fernández Quiroga, José Lino Ascencio López, Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares, Yasmín Conledo Riverón, Yusmani Rafael Álvarez Esmori, Yanisbel Valido Pérez, and Víctor Castillo Ortega.

The activist, Julio Columbie, who was taking care of Ferrer Espinosa’s in the hospital room was beaten and taken away in a brutal manner. Alcides Rivera Vázquez, son of Alcides Rivera and Zuleika Cepero Méndez, wife of Rolando Ferrer were also taken into custody.

Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and his wife, Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, of the National Civic Resistance Front were beaten and dragged out of the intensive care unit where they were accompanying Alcides Rivera, as other patients screamed at the agents to stop the mistreatment.

After all pro-democracy activists were taken to the Unidad Provincial de Operaciones (UPO), they were dispersed to different municipalities in the province of Villa Clara and released by November 3rd. Alberto Reyes Morán, Michele Oliva López and Ramón Arboláez Abreu were subjected to short term detention when they appeared at (UPO) to inquire about the wellbeing of their fellow human rights activists. Also, as they were on their way to the Arnaldo Milian Hospital, Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, Nosbel Jomarca Deubides, Maidelis González Almeida and Yosmel Martínez Corcho were taken down from a bus in the outskirts of the city of Sagua la Grande and remained detained
for a few hours.

On November 1, 2011, when activist Guillermo Fariñas tried to see Alcides Rivera at the hospital, he was brutally arrested and released on Thursday, November 3.

The particular case of the human rights defender and member of the Central Opposition Coalition, Idania Llanes Contreras, wife of Alcides Rivera, is alarming. On Wednesday, following the brutal beating on October 31, and still under custody,Idania developed a high fever and painful joints, began to shiver, to vomit and had a profuse vaginal bleeding. A physician at the detention center who saw her told her she might have dengue, that "there was a lot of dengue going around." Once released she required medical assistance at a hospital and following laboratory tests, a doctor told Idania she had an “unkown virus”. Idania was arrested and held in the same prison cell with the activists Yanisbel Valido and Damaris Portieles.

Testimony given by Idania Llanes describing their arrest:

"I was attacked by three policewomen who dealt three blows to my head as I was being dragged by my hair into a vehicle, they were beating me all over my body, specially on my abdomen…I didn’t realize that they had caused a stab wound to my left hand and scratches on my back with a metallic object. We discovered wounds in our bodies caused by sharp instruments. Damaris was thrown to the ground and hit her head so hard she almost passed out. Yanisbel was choked to the point that her face was red, so red…"

In Havana, this Sunday, November 7, 2011, though forty Ladies in White atended mass in the Church of Santa Rita and were able to march through Fifth Avenue with the image of Laura Pollan, at least six women were threatened by the political police to prevent their participation in the mass and the peaceful march. Among them were: Magaly Norvis Otero, Sandra Guerra, Elizabeth Kawooya and Dignora Figueredo.

Also this Sunday in Santiago de Cuba, a priest, several nuns and parishoners interceded on behalf of seven Ladies in White so that the police would not subject them to acts of repudiation and attacks. The women who were taken away by a car provided by nuns at the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba were: Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, Aimee Garcés Leiva, Mari Blanca Ávila Expósito, Oria Casanova Moreno, Adriana Núñez Pascual, Tania Bandera González, and Tania Montoya.

El Sexto's Moral Axiom

Sunday, November 6, 2011
Last month, famed Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," was confronted by a group of unknown men, hooded and forcibly thrown into a white Russian Lada.

El Sexto, known for his critical graffiti art, was taken to Castro's state security headquarters (Villa Marista), where he was arbitrarily held and threatened for over a week before being released.

Anticipating his eventual arrest, El Sexto had left a note (see below), which read:

To conquer me you need weapons, police, jails; to conquer you I only need spray paint and this paper.”

As the Ladies in White and other brave pro-democracy activists brave the Castro regime's repressive forces this Sunday, it's important to remember this moral axiom.

The Truth About Castro's Home Sales

Note the Central Bank caveat.

By Yoani Sanchez in Huffington Post:

The Paseo del Prado has been unsettled for the last couple of days, and not just because of the hustlers hustling and the hookers trolling for tourists. The uproar comes from the new Decree-Law No. 288 which establishes rules for the buying and selling of housing. A long-awaited measure that finally sees the light of day in the Official Gazette, to the relief of many and concern of others.

In the spontaneous housing exchange that exists on this pedestrian promenade bordered by bronze lions, the curious ask about the details of a measure undoubtedly more flexible, but still insufficient. They want to know if the property title that they have in their hands grants them, starting now, full rights to assign, inherit or sell their houses. In a nation that has lived for decades with a frozen real estate market, they find it hard to believe that everything will be as easy as some speculate, or as legal as the Ministry of Justice assures us.

One of the principal fears on the street now is concern about how the Central Bank will rule on the legitimacy of money used to buy real estate. Because for every transaction of this type, the cash must first be deposited in an account and the distrustful clients of our banking system fear that it could end up being confiscated if the state decides it didn't come from "clean" sources.

But to every risk people will respond with some kind of trick, so I imagine that from now on the funds declared and placed in the bank will be a half or a third of the real cost of the house. The rest will pass from one hand to another, from one pocket to another. For too long we have behaved like outlaws in this area, so one shouldn't expect that starting now everything will be done according to the 16 pages of the new decree.

There is also the possibility of a migratory stampede, because "the act of owners transferring their housing, before permanently leaving the country, is legal under the act." Thousands of Cubans have been waiting for this signal, like runners crouched at the starting line waiting for the gun to go off. The high costs of immigration procedures will be covered by the sale of homes that will be offered for sale in the real estate market. A house, for forty years an anchor, will become a set of wings.

It's notable, of course, that the new measure includes the tenuous twine that pulls the piñata out of reach, already evidenced in the decree about the sale of cars. The wedge of the pie reserved only for those ideologically most-trusted owners was expressed this time in Point 110. It states, "the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers and its President will be able to decide, with respect to housing located in determined areas of the country." We will see the map of the Island riddled with patches where the requirements to buy and sell will not be written anywhere.

The so-called "frozen zones" will grow and the social differences -- so often denied -- will flourish, particularly that deep abyss that separates those trusted who are with money from those citizens with resources not sanctified by power.

The Truth About Castro's Car Sales

From The New York Times:

[L]ike several of Mr. Castro’s other changes, the new law created a pocket of economic liberty in a market that remains tightly controlled. Cubans can purchase and own more than one used vehicle, and they will no longer lose their car if they emigrate.

However, the right to buy a new car is still limited to a narrow group of Cubans who earn some foreign currency, including doctors, artists, musicians, members of airline flight crews and the handful of Cubans who work at the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

“There’s no logic to these rules,” said Leopoldo, a taxi driver who works the road between Havana and Güira de Melena, about 20 miles away, in a shiny 1985 Tatra. He asked that his full name not be used because he feared angering the authorities.

“But there’s no logic to anything in this country,” Leopoldo added [...]

Previously, Cubans could only legally trade cars that predate the 1959 revolution, hence the iconic American cars that still cruise the island’s roads. But those are only a small fraction of the nation’s used cars.

Islanders bought and sold cars on the sly, but it was a risky business that put off people like Mr. González and made buyers wary of paying large sums for a vehicle they would not legally own.

Emilio Morales, president of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group, said the new rules — like earlier decisions to let Cubans own cellphones and computers or work in the private sector — simply legalized what many Cubans were already doing illicitly and would neither increase Cuba’s antiquated stock of vehicles nor alleviate the country’s crushing transportation problem. The move was intended to placate people, not stimulate the economy, Mr. Morales said.

“This is one of their political pressure valves,” he said.