Punktology Preview: Free Cuba Now!

Saturday, December 10, 2011
8 Artists, 16 Songs, 1 Mission: Free Cuba Now!

The new Punktology album, Free Cuba Now, dedicated to young Cuban rockers repressed by the Castro dictatorship, is now available.

Here's a preview:

Quote of the Week

"Despite the rain, controls and arrests, we can see the fireworks from the flotilla! Havana is full of lights and devoid of human rights."

-- Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, on Twitter, 12/9/11

Castro Regime Mob Attacks AP Crew

From AP:

A coalition of Cuban exiles sailed south from Florida on Friday to protest the island’s human rights record with a nighttime fireworks display, eliciting a stern rebuke from Havana officials who called it an affront to national sovereignty.

Organizers said their boats would anchor a little more than 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the Cuban capital, just outside Cuba’s territorial waters, and by early evening multicolored explosions could be seen intermittently far off on the horizon from Havana.

Only a handful of people were along the Malecon oceanside promenade amid a steady wind and sporadic rain. Almost entirely missing were the masses of young Cubans who gather to socialize on a normal Friday night.

When an Associated Press crew tried to interview the few who were there, a pro-government crowd of more than 20 people ran across the wide boulevard yelling “American press!” and demanding that a video camera be turned over. Some were holding bottles of alcohol and appeared to have been drinking.

The journalists identified themselves as accredited members of the press with the right to work in Cuba. One cameraman was punched in the face, another’s thumb was sprained and a video camera was broken in the melee before the crew managed to leave the scene.

CHC: Fearing gathering crowds and protests, the Castro regime had cordoned off a 5 kilometer stretch of the Malecon and mobilized special forces units throughout the area.

Here's what Cuba's absurd dictatorship was so afraid of:

Menendez Calls for Investigation on Iranian Activities in Latin America

Friday, December 9, 2011
Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Robert Menendez, Calls for a Congressional Investigation on Iranian Influence and Activities in Latin America

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced that he will request a Congressional hearing on the threat to the United States posed by Iran's diplomatic and espionage activities in Latin America first thing next year in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

The hearing will examine the growing influence of Iran in Latin America and the implications for the U.S. and its allies in the region. The hearing follows the Iranian assassination attempt on the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S., an investigative documentary aired on Univision last night on the topic, and a growing volume of reports about the Iranian's effort to collaborate with certain governments and criminal organizations to launch cyber and other attacks on U.S. territory.

"The reported links between Chavez, the Castros, hemispheric criminal organizations, and the Iranian government are immensely troubling. If Iran is using regional actors to facilitate and direct activities against the United States, this would represent a substantial increase in the level of the Iranian threat and would necessitate an immediate response by the United States" said Senator Menendez.

"As the Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I plan to conduct a hearing as soon as possible to investigate these very serious allegations and the U.S. response to Iranian aggression.”

The Univision investigation presented well-documented information, including videos, audio recordings and interviews showing a conspiracy involving the governments of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba to launch cyber and other attacks against U.S. territory.

Over 200 Dissidents Arrested

According to Cuban independent journalist Roberto Jesus Guerra, over 200 dissidents have already been arrested in the Castro regime's most recent wave of repression leading up to Human Rights Day (December 10th).

Among those arrested are prominent dissidents, including Guillermo Fariñas, Librado Linares, Félix Reyes, Jesús Arístides Hernández, Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez, Darsi Ferrer, Yusnaimi Soca, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique and Ciro Díaz (of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo).

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Congress Should Take Action: Iran-Cuba-Venezuela Threats

Last night, Univision aired an investigative documentary, “The Iranian Threat,” which presented well-documented information, including videos, audio recordings and interviews showing a conspiracy involving the governments of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba to launch cyber and other attacks against U.S. territory, specifically against the FBI, CIA, NSA, Pentagon, The White House, and various nuclear power plants.

Important facts:

-- The evidence directly links Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the plans.

-- The video and audio recordings gathered by Univision show the Iranian Ambassador to Mexico and two Venezuelan diplomats planning the attacks. One of those diplomats was Livia Acosta Noguera, who is now the Venezuelan Consul in Miami.

-- The plan was originally developed at Mexico's UNAM University, the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico and the Iranian Embassy in Mexico.

-- A Mexican professor at UNAM University Francisco Guerrero Lutteroth, an alleged agent of the Cuban intelligence services, was a mastermind of the conspiracy.

The U.S. Congress should conduct hearings and request an immediate investigation by the relevant U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies into the allegations aired in the Univision report. Moreover, it should demand that the Administration immediately expel the Venezuelan Consul in Miami, Livia Acosta Noguera from the U.S.

The Presidential Rundown

Thursday, December 8, 2011
Excerpt from Texas Governor Rick Perry's remarks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Forum:

As we gather today, I am struck by the coincidence that two of the American citizens being unlawfully detained abroad today are Jewish: Alan Gross in Cuba, and Warren Weinstein by al Qaida in Pakistan.

In both cases their offense was spreading political and economic freedom to better the lives of less advantaged people around the globe.

Their selfless commitment to this work is a testament to the great value America's Jewish community has brought to our nation, and our government should be working aggressively to achieve their speedy release.

The repressive Castro regime should not be rewarded with increased tourism while Mr. Gross languishes in prison, and Pakistani authorities should clearly understand the significance of rescuing Mr. Weinstein from terrorist elements within their borders if they value the foreign aid they seem to take for granted.

And by former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez on behalf of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:

As a virulently anti-American strand of socialism has spread from Cuba to Venezuela and beyond, it has undermined democracy and economic opportunity and sent waves of refugees to Florida’s shores. America has benefited greatly from these arrivals — I am one myself — but they serve as a constant reminder of lives lost and dreams destroyed, and the effect of events abroad on Americans at home.

Authoritarian leaders are expanding their influence in the region at America’s expense and interfering with cooperative efforts on issues like illicit drug trafficking. They have even welcomed terrorists like Iranian-backed Hezbollah to our doorstep, allowing terrorist operations in the region and establishing direct flights to Damascus and Tehran.

Florida is equally familiar with the opportunities offered by strong, democratic allies. It is America’s largest exporter to the Caribbean and Central America, and among the largest to South America. Yet we have only begun to tap the potential of close economic and cultural ties among like-minded partners within our hemisphere. While Asia receives most of the attention, Latin America has been our fastest growing trading partner over the past decade. To continue that growth we must continue to advance the causes of free trade, free enterprise, and individual freedom.

Taking advantage of the opportunities offered by Latin America is also the best way to address its threats. If we want to strengthen alliances, isolate adversaries, and support peoples trapped under authoritarian rule, we must clearly contrast the disaster of Cuba and Venezuela’s authoritarian model with the promise of economic and political freedom. Drawing that contrast requires the aggressive promotion of closer trading relationships that facilitate economic and cultural exchanges and demonstrate the superiority of free markets and democracy.

Unfortunately, as in so many areas of national policy, President Obama has gotten it exactly backward. He failed to confront Hugo Chavez and he relaxed sanctions on Cuba without obtaining any concessions in return.

Raul's Afraid of Human Rights Day

In anticipation of dissident protests marking Human Rights Day on Saturday and a flotilla of Cuba exiles preparing a solidarity fireworks display from international waters the night before, the Castro regime has mobilized special forces troops in the capital city of Havana and cordoned off a 5 kilometer stretch of the Malecon seaside avenue.

Meanwhile, over 150 dissidents have already been arrested this week and hundreds of others have been threatened and warned to stay home on Human Rights Day.

Why's Raul Castro so afraid of Human Rights Day?

The answer is obvious.

The (Latest) Repressive Wave Begins

Leading up to Human Rights Day on Saturday, December 10th, the Castro regime has (ironically and tragically) begun a wave of repressive arrests and home searches.

Among those reported:

The famed expression artist Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto" was arrested in his home this morning.

Independent journalist David Aguila Montero from Hablemos Press has been arrested, along with pro-democracy activist Yoandri Gutierrez and his family in Bayamo.

Thirty-six Ladies in White have been summoned to police headquarters under threat of arrest. Lazara Mitjan Cruz has already been arrested.

The home of pro-democracy leader Sara Marta Fonseca remains surrounded by state security agents, while blogger Luis Felipe Rojas is under survelillance.

In Pinar del Rio, 32 members of the regional Human Rights Alliance had their homes searched and were threatened with arrest if they leave their homes on Saturday.

And in Santiago de Cuba, former political prisoners (of the group of 75) José Daniel Ferrer García, Ángel Moya Acosta y Jorge Cervantes, remain "re-imprisoned" since last week for staging a peaceful march.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Iran-Cuba-Venezuela Coordinate U.S. Attacks

On Thursday, December 8th, at 10 pm, the Univision network will air a documentary showing evidence of a conspiracy involving the governments of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba to launch cyber and other attacks against U.S. territory.

Audio and video recordings will show the Iranian Ambassador to Mexico and a Venezuelan diplomat who is still in the United States planning the attacks. Moreover, it directly links Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the plans.

The attacks were to be directed against sensitive US national security facilities, including nuclear power plants. The documentary offers a broader perspective on the Iranian networks in Latin America, with evidence never before seen, of a planned attack on New York's Kennedy Airport and of the secret agreements between Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.

Here's the trailer:

Menendez Statement on Alan Gross

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Menendez Statement on Two-Year Anniversary of Alan Gross' Detention in Cuba

WASHINGTON – United States Senator Robert Menendez, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, released the following statement on the second anniversary of the Castro regime's incarceration of Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was in Cuba to facilitate the communications capacity of the island’s Jewish community:

The Castros continue to use American Alan Gross as a pawn in a tragic diplomatic game. Jailed in Cuba on charges of crimes against the state for trying to distribute satellite equipment with internet capability to Jewish groups on the island, Alan Gross has lost more than 100 pounds, has difficulty walking due to arthritis, and has been kept from his mother and daughter who are battling cancer. The United States, should not be blackmailed into releasing convicted Cuban spies or terminating U.S. democracy programs on the island in order to secure his release.

The Cubans through their continued detention of Gross have shown the world the true nature of the regime, which is sustained through violence, tyranny, and repression of even the most basic human and civil rights and based in neither political or economic ideology, but on the common and simple model of authoritarian rule designed to sustain its leaders and preserve their power.

Today, I call on President Obama to demand the release of Alan Gross and repeal the regulatory changes made on January 14, 2011 that have provided an economic lifeline to the regime through a historic easing of travel and remittances to the island. These changes, which were purportedly taken in hopes of advancing a democratic opening on the island, have had no effect, as evidenced by the nearly daily repression of democracy activists on the island and the continued unjust imprisonment of Alan Gross. They should be repealed. We cannot ignore the reality that it is not U.S. policy, but Cuban policy that is responsible for the Castros’ unabated tyranny

"Ladies in White" Member Remains Missing

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
On November 30th, Cuban pro-democracy leader and member of the Ladies in White, Ivonne Malleza, led a peaceful protest in Havana's Fraternity Park.

During the protest, a gathering crowd sided with Malleza and openly challenged the state security officials that violently arrested her.

She was first taken to a police station on Zanja Street in Central Havana. A few hours later, she was whisked out of the station.

Since then (almost a week later), her whereabouts remain unknown.

Her friends and family (including her young son) fear for her well-being.

We hope that one of the foreign news bureaus in Havana will look into this important matter.

No Hilton for Raul's Summit

From the Trinidad Guardian:

US says no to licence for Hilton venue

The Government was forced to shift the venue for tomorrow’s Caricom-Cuba summit from the Hilton Trinidad Conference Centre to the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), following issues concerning the US embargo on Cuba. The US-owned Hilton in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) was unable to obtain a licence from the US Government in order to host the Caricom-Cuba summit, a Hilton statement indicated yesterday. Cuban President Raul Castro arrives in T&T at 10.30 am today for the one-day summit which will also be attended by 12 of the 14 Caricom leaders [...]

The venue for the opening ceremony tomorrow and rest of the event had originally been scheduled for the Hilton. The hotel plant is owned by the Government of T&T and is managed by US-owned Hilton company. Delegations of the various leaders were expected to stay at the Hilton also. Last week, however, the Government was informed that there were problems with the situation as a result of the US embargo against Cuba. A statement from Hilton Worldwide -- location of the global headquarters -- issued yesterday, pointed out that as a US-based company, Hilton Worldwide is subject to US law which restricts certain activities as a result of the trade embargo with Cuba.

The statement added: “The US-Cuban assets control regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Department of the Treasury General prohibit US-based companies from providing any services that benefit the Cuban government unless specifically licensed.”

The statement noted that violations are subject to significant civil and criminal penalties. The Hilton statement noted that while the hotel had worked with the appropriate governmental agencies in the US and in T&T to secure a licence for the summit, the hotel had been informed that the necessary licence would not be granted.

An 88% Increase in Cuban Repression

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights has documented at least 257 political arrests during the month of November 2011.

Note that these are only the political arrests that are known and documented. There are believed to be many more.

That brings the total number of known political arrests -- thus far -- in 2011 to 3,327.

At this point last year, there were 1,774 known political arrests that had been documented.

That represents an 88% increase in repression from 2010 to 2011.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Why the Left Shouldn't Defend Castro

The section on health care and education might seem inflated at first (and it somewhat is), but keep reading.

By Peter Bolton in the famed British left-wing blog, Left Central:

Why the left shouldn’t defend Cuba

Since the 1959 communist revolution in Cuba, several left-wing commentators have spoken favorably about the Castro regime. In the world of entertainment, for instance, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn and Michael Moore have all made gestures of praise toward the island’s political leadership. Moore’s 2007 film Sicko showered praise onto the Cuban healthcare system while both Penn and Stone have commended the Castro regime and visited the island to meet with Communist Party officials, in Stone’s case to research for a documentary film.

Details of Cuba’s authoritarianism have come back into the public consciousness recently following news reports about the decision by Raul Castro to liberalize the island’s property laws. The move might be taken by some to be evidence of the regime’s reform-minded tendencies but though the policy changes are to be welcomed, reading the details about the plight of the Cuban people shows how misguided it is to defend Cuba as a bastion and exemplar of left-wing ideas.

The Observer, for instance, published an article earlier this month which details the draconian regulations that governed (and in some cases will still govern) housing policy on the island. The article perfectly illustrates the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Cuban regime and the resultant suffering that is imposed upon the Cuban people. Before these housing reforms, for instance, Cuban residents were prohibited from buying or selling any property. The only way to move house was to swap with another person under the bizarre and often corrupt permuta system. Worst still, under the old guidelines people who emigrated from the island forfeited the right to their property; those who did leave had their house and other assets seized by the state.

Details like this are always left unsaid by the likes of Moore, Stone and Penn. They instead concentrate their analysis on isolated areas of Cuban society and governance. Certainly they are correct that the Castro regime has done a degree of good for the island. For instance, free publicly provided healthcare and education have been cornerstones of the Cuban Communist Party’s series of domestic reforms and all leftists should applaud these achievements. Some of the positive results from these reforms include a national literacy rate of 99.8% and a low infant mortality rate (similar to that of developed nations Canada and New Zealand). The Castro regime’s investment in higher education and medical training in particular has led to significant societal gains. Cuba has a high proportion of doctors per capita and as Noam Chomsky, citing an AP report, noted in his book ‘The Passion for Free Markets: Exporting American values through the new World Trade Organization’: “’Cuba has sent 51,820 doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical doctors’ to ‘the poorest Third World nations,’ providing ‘medical aid totally free of charge’ in most cases.” Also, environmental reforms have led to Cuba having a very low ecological footprint. The 2006 ‘Living Planet Report’ published by the World Wildlife Fund, compared and analyzed development and ecological data and concluded that with a 1.8 hectares per capita ecological footprint and high Human Development Index of 0.8 (out of a 0 to 1 scale) Cuba was the only country in the world to meet the report’s definition of sustainable development.

But however commendable these gains might be, Cuba has failed on so many more important fronts that the aforementioned achievements seem almost trivial in comparison. For instance, The Observer article notes that wages for the vast majority of Cubans are around $20 per month; a pittance even once living standard differences are taken into account. Most salaries are paid by the state and employment outside state controlled industries is uncommon. What is even more troubling about Cuba is its human rights abuses and suppression of basic freedoms. Human Rights Watch has described the regime as “an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent” and said that Cubans are “systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law.”

In 2008 it was reported by several organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch to have the second highest amount of imprisoned journalists (behind the People’s Republic of China). In the same year, Cuba was ranked as having the fifth lowest Press Freedom Index in the world by Reporters Without Borders. In the most recent study by RWB last year, it climbed only one place to have the sixth lowest in the world despite Raul Castro’s alleged “reforms” in this area. According to RWB the government “owns and controls all media outlets and restricts Internet access” and that “the Cuban constitution grants the Communist Party the right to control the press.” The branch of government that controls the press is the Communist Party’s Department of Revolutionary Orientation which, again according to RWB, “develops and coordinates propaganda strategies.”

Freedom of movement both on and off the island is also heavily restricted. A report by Human Rights Watch states that:

The Cuban government forbids the country’s citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is often denied. Unauthorized travel can result in criminal prosecution. The government also frequently bars citizens engaged in authorized travel from taking their children with them overseas, essentially holding the children hostage to guarantee the parents’ return. Given the widespread fear of forced family separation, these travel restrictions provide the Cuban government with a powerful tool for punishing defectors and silencing critics.

Even the island’s prized free education system has become politicized and a means for indoctrination. A study by the U.N. Economic and Social Council called ‘Report on the situation of human rights in Cuba’ states that:

…control is applied in the day-to-day life of every citizen – in the workplace, at educational institutions and even at the neighbourhood level. Education itself also has an ideological orientation… article 39 stipulates that the State bases its educational and cultural policy on Marxist ideology, and promotes patriotic education and communist training of the new generations.

The island’s healthcare system also has a number of institutionalized human rights abuses. For instance, the system lacks many of the protections and ethical guidelines that are uncontroversial in developed western nations. For instance, a journal article published in Cuban Affairs states that:

There is no right to privacy in the physician-patient relationship in Cuba, no patients’ right of informed consent, no right to refuse treatment, and no right to protest or sue for malpractice. As a result, medical care in Cuba has the potential to be intensely dehumanizing… these values (privacy, autonomy and individualism) form the cornerstone of medical ethics as understood in most Western health systems… the health care system in Cuba is often quite paternalistic and authoritarian, and politics intrude into medical practice in a number of subtle and overt ways.

The author of the paper, medical anthropologist Katherine Hirschfeld, expanded on her assessment of the Cuban healthcare system in her 2009 book Health, Politics, and Revolution in Cuba Since 1898.

The regime’s treatment of minorities is also not exactly in the spirit of left-liberalism. Homosexuals, for instance, have been aggressively persecuted in Cuba. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is himself gay, a left-winger and a former Labour Party candidate, wrote in The Guardian:

When Cuba adopted Soviet-style communism it also adopted Soviet-style prejudice. “Maricones” (faggots) were routinely denounced as “sexual deviants” and “agents of imperialism”. Laughable allegations of homosexuality were used in an attempt to discredit “corrupting” western influences such as pop music, with the communists circulating the rumour that the Beatles were gay.

Lee Lockwood in his book Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel wrote that Castro had once stated that “homosexuals should not be allowed in positions where they are able to exert influence upon young people.” Similarly, in his book Machos, Maricones and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality, Ian Lumsden describes how Castro wished to “cleanse” the island’s art scene of homosexuals. Though there have been reports of reforms in this area, as recently as 2008 police banned a gay rights march and arrested its organizers. Racism is also said to be an institutionalized factor of the communist regime. Jorge Luis García Perez Antúnez, a black Cuban political activist who was imprisoned as a political dissident, said of the Cuban government:

The authorities in my country have never tolerated that a black person oppose the regime. During the trial, the color of my skin aggravated the situation. Later when I was mistreated in prison by guards, they always referred to me as being black.

Antúnez’s story is far from unique in Cuba. Many people have been imprisoned for being critical of the communist party or expressing political beliefs deemed dangerous by the regime. Oscar Elias Biscet, a Cuban doctor and human rights campaigner, was sentenced to 25 years in 2003 during a crackdown on opponents to the regime. He was recently released after serving seven years only after lobbying and negotiations with the regime from the Cuban Catholic church. The Communist leadership had banned other political parties until very recently and authorities have been unusually brutal in suppressing non-Communist political organizing even for a totalitarian country. The leader of a center-left democratic socialist party, Jorge Valles, spent over twenty years in a Cuban prison for expressing political views that were not favorable of the regime and for political organizing outside of the Communist Party monopoly. Upon his release he wrote a book about his experience Twenty Days and Forty Days: Life In a Cuban Prison.

It’s hard to imagine a governing record that could be more diametrically opposed to the principles and values of left-liberalism. People who are tempted to romanticize communist Cuba must ask themselves what the point is of having free healthcare, free education and a healthy environment if people aren’t living in a free society in which they can fully enjoy these benefits. Those who think that there is a choice that must be made between the two are wrong both morally and factually: the choice between freedom and social democratic reforms is a false dichotomy.

The aforementioned policies have been implemented elsewhere with equal or greater success without the violent revolution, authoritarian governance, suppression of human rights, totalitarianism and destruction of freedoms that has occurred in Cuba. The Nordic countries, for instance, have through democratic means built a strong welfare state, progressive labour law and free universal healthcare and education which has produced a healthy, happy, highly unionized society while maintaining the freedoms of a liberal democracy. For these reasons Nordic countries have consistently ranked well in measures of societal health. Norway, for instance, has achieved the highest Human Development Index (an annual measure calculated by the U.N. Development Program) nine times, the most of any country. In the 2010 Democracy Index which measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, four of the five Nordic nations held the top four places with the fifth, Finland, close behind in 7th place. Cuba, on the other hand, ranked in the bottom fifty of the nations included in the study with a pitiful score of 3.52 (on a 0 to 10 scale) and amongst the nations considered “authoritarian regimes.” Similarly, Cuba’s fellow Latin American nation Costa Rica has instituted a wide range of environmental reforms which led to it being ranked as the greenest nation in the world. But in stark contrast to Cuba, it has remained a liberal democratic country with a strong record for human rights and individual freedoms.

Far from being an archetype for left-wing public policy ideas, communist Cuba is a testimony to the failed and unworkable ideology of the far-left. Complete state power is a goal that the left should neither aspire to nor defend since it has not led to societal well-being or comprehensive civil liberties. Furthermore, Cuba is not even a good example of the socialist ideal. If we are to measure a society’s socialism based on the extent that working people are in control of their lives, Cuba would rank at or close to the bottom compared to other countries. Even neoliberal bastions like the U.S. and U.K. are more socialist on this criteria of measurement. The fall of the Castro regime in Cuba, far from being a defeat for the left, would be the opposite: a hope that one more country can begin the path to embracing both a free society and social democratic ideas. If we are to defend genuine, democratic Cuban leftism, Jorge Valles would be a far better person to reference and aspire to rather than the cult-like totalitarian regime that was forced upon the Cuban people at gun point in 1959.

Injured Dissidents Remain Imprisoned

From The Miami Herald:

Cuban dissidents: Colleagues injured in police crackdown

Cuban dissidents vowed to protest at a State Security office Tuesday unless police free 10 government critics detained in a crackdown where several suffered head wounds, a broken rib and other injuries.

Police also severely beat Angel Moya, a well known former political prisoner, in a lockup because he would not stop shouting anti-government slogans, according to the dissidents. There was no word on his condition.

Hostage-Taking is a Tool of Terrorism

Monday, December 5, 2011
Last week marked two-years since American development worker, Alan Gross, was taken hostage by the Castro regime.

Family, friends and human rights activists spent the week highlighting the injustice of Alan Gross's imprisonment and pressing for his unconditional release.

Yet, ironically, the Castro regime's D.C. image consultants chose last week to launch a campaign at the National Press Club to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Not surprisingly, most of the coverage came from Cuban state media.

Of course, they failed to point out the obvious fact that hostage-taking is a prevalent tool of state-sponsored terrorism.

The Most Brutal Dictatorship of the Americas

Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed a law setting up a truth commission, which will examine murder, torture and “disappearances” perpetrated by both the dictatorship and the resistance between 1946 and 1988.

Note this paragraph from The Economist :

"[A]lthough Brazil’s generals killed an estimated 400 people, that compares with 2,000-3,000 in Chile and 13,000-30,000 in Argentina."

Meanwhile, according to the Black Book of Communism (published by Harvard University Press), the Castro regime in Cuba shot 15,00-17,000 in the first decade of it 52-year dictatorship alone.

(Most of those overseen by now supposed "Reformer-in-Chief" Raul Castro).

And that's just by firing squad, in a country with a fraction of the population of Brazil (195 million), Chile (17 million) and Argentina (40 million). Cuba's current population in 11 million.

Moreover, that doesn't include the thousands of other victims of extrajudicial killings, deaths in prisons, disappearances and those who died (or were killed) while fleeing the island.

The Cuban truth commission, when its day comes, will embarrass many who have sought to defend and justify the most brutal dictatorship of the Americas.

Looking to Purchase Cuban Real Estate?

An important reminder for people subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

Kudos to the Justice Department for enforcing the law.

From Courthouse News:

Attorney Charged With Going to Cuba

A Scarsdale attorney and a client were arrested and charged with conspiring to violate the trade embargo against Cuba, and the attorney is charged with obstructing justice.

Marc Verzani, 45, is accused of spending money in Cuba. His client Adem Arici, 49, of Brooklyn, "invested millions of dollars in Cuban real estate," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement announcing the prosecution.

Neither the statement nor the 7-page federal complaint indicates that Verzani assisted Arici in his Cuban real estate investments.

They are charged with violating the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Verzani allegedly went to Cuba with a third party, a cooperating witness (CW). They allegedly met Arici in Cuba, "who showed them a hotel that he was building and a house that he owned," according to the U.S. Attorney's statement. "Verzani and the CW decided not to purchase Cuban real estate but they, along with Arici, spent money on food, drink, transportation, entertainment, and personal services."

Both men are charged with witness tampering: trying to get the cooperating witness to cover up their trip to Cuba. Verzani is charged with giving false testimony in a civil proceeding: denying he went to Cuba.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; witness tampering by 20 years and $250,000; obstruction of justice by 10 years and $250,000.

Alan Gross Needs a New Lawyer, Pt. 2

Sunday, December 4, 2011
For months (and longer), we've argued that Alan Gross, an American development worker being held hostage by the Castro regime, needs a new lawyer (or at least, a new legal strategy).

It seems like Alan Gross's wife finally understands why.

From The Miami Herald:

"At first we were keeping things pretty quiet because that's what we were advised to do, and not to try to ruffle the feathers of the Cubans at all," Judy Gross said. "But that obviously hasn't worked, so we're now trying to go more vocal. And still being nice about it."

Sometimes, she said, she wonders whether any strategy is best.

"You don't know," she said. "It's very hard to read the Cubans. You just don't know what they want. They've never really told us what they want."

Havana Bureaus Ignore Brutal Repression

Kudos to The Miami Herald for reporting on this weekend's brutal repression of pro-democracy activists in Cuba.

Yet, where are all the Havana new bureaus?

Shamefully absent.

From The Miami Herald:

Police reportedly detain about 150 dissidents in two days of attempted street marches in Cuba

Cuban police and men in civilian clothes attacked more than 50 dissidents as they started a protest march Friday in the eastern town of Palma Soriano, leaving many of them bleeding from head wounds, witnesses and dissidents reported.

The march was part of an effort to stage coordinated protests throughout the island, starting in eastern Cuba, that had led to the police arrests of about 150 dissidents since they started Thursday, opposition activists reported.

Palma resident Liliana Rodríguez said the incident began after about 300 police and many men in civilian clothes closed off the street in front of her house, where about 50 government opponents had gathered for the protest march.

FBI Conducts Cuba Business Arrests

For those thinking of skirting U.S. law.

From New York state's Lower Hudson Journal News:

Scarsdale lawyer accused of illegal business trip to Cuba

A Scarsdale lawyer and a Brooklyn man illegally traveled to Cuba on a business trip in violation of the long-standing embargo against the island's communist dictatorship, federal officials say.

Federal agents arrested Marc Verzani, 45, of Claremont Road, Scarsdale, and Adem Arici, 49, of Brooklyn, Thursday and charged them with conspiring to violate the federal Trading With the Enemy Act and trying to cover up the trip to Cuba.

On the five-day business trip in September, Verzani consulted with Arici on Arici's existing business ventures, federal agents said.

"He counseled Arici about business matters, inspected Arici's business and real estate investments and looked at properties for potential purchase," Department of Homeland Security Agent Raymond DiPillo said in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains. Verzani and Arici are accused of spending money while in Cuba, which is a violation of U.S. law [...]

Verzani and the unidentified third party stayed in Cuba five days, federal agents said.

Verzani lied on declaration papers upon reentering the United States, claiming he had only been to Mexico on the trip, DiPillo said.

Arici, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has invested millions of dollars in Cuba, federal agents said.

Verzani lied about his trip to Cuba during an Oct. 11 hearing in federal court regarding a separate matter, according to the complaint.

Verzani faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Arici faces up to 15 years.