Quote of the Week

Saturday, January 28, 2012
"I'm holding out for Ambassador to the Moon! That's if Newt wins. If Romney wins, then Ambassador to (a free) Cuba!"

-- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), asked about both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney mentioning her during Thursday's debate as a potential member of their Administration, Politico, 1/26/12

Disclosure: Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Latin America's Blind Eye Towards Castro

A timely editorial as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announces that she will not meet with dissidents during her upcoming trip to Cuba.

Ironically, this is the same type of immoral behavior that Rousseff used to condemn when foreign dignitaries visited Brazil during its military dictatorship.

How quickly she forgets.

By Fabio Rafael Fiallo in The Commentator:

One More Cuban Martyr - And Latin America's Leadership Turns a Blind Eye

The day of reckoning will inevitably come for the tribunal of History to deliver the last word with respect to the Cuban ordeal. On that day, some of Latin America's leaders will receive a moral condemnation.

Whoever has endured the yoke of a long and cruel dictatorship knows that one of the most comforting feelings one may experience under those circumstances is to be able to count on the solidarity of people and institutions from the outside world. That solidarity gives strength to those who struggle from within.

All too naturally, when those like-minded voices go missing or run low; when the crimes of the dictatorship fail to arouse international indignation; when those who lead countries living in democracy turn a blind eye, it is revulsion which, most understandably, springs from the hearts of dissidents thus abandoned to the mercy of a tyrant.

Such revulsion is what the Cuban people must be feeling vis-à-vis the leaders of Latin America. Cubans have received only sporadic scraps of sympathy and support from within their own region, as the bulk of Latin American governments and regional organizations tend to shun – whether by fear or by convenience – any quarrel with the longest tyranny in the history of that continent.

That indifference is all the more reprehensible as it comes from a continent with seasoned experience in struggling against military dictatorships. Its democratically-elected leaders, therefore, should have been in the forefront of international initiatives aimed at assisting the Cubans in their fight to rid themselves from the claws of Castroism.

Instead, Latin American leaders contemplate detachedly, practically without saying a word of reprobation, how entire generations of Cubans have, over 53 years, been deprived from fundamental human rights such as those of electing their government, having a free press and forming independent trade unions.

Sheltered by the apathy of the region’s leaders, and notwithstanding the hype over Raul Castro’s vacuous “readjustments”, repression continues unabatedly on its course in Cuba, with its unbounded sequel of victims and injustices; with the “Ladies in White” being insulted and harassed every time they take to the streets to manifest their yearning for Liberty; with detentions and house arrests on the rise; with dissidents being recurrently subjected to beatings.

Concomitantly, proving to the regime and to the world as a whole that the dissidence will not give in, Cubans have gone all out, to the point of enduring the supreme sacrifice if need be – as did Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died on a hunger strike in February 2010 without receiving due medical care – rather than continuing to live in Castro’s gulag.

Today, two years after the demise of Zapata Tamayo, we are the witnesses, once again, to the infamous silence of the leaders of Latin America; a silence observed this time with the death, after a 50-day hunger strike, of the 31-year-old dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza.A quick surf of the Internet exposes the dearth of reactions, among Latin America’s governments and institutions, vis-à-vis this new victim of Castroism.

Not a word, for instance, from Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who, in his last official trip to Havana as Brazil’s head of State, both refused to receive 50 Cuban dissidents who had requested to meet him and, most outrageously, declined to intercede on behalf of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who, at that time, was still alive.

Not a word, either, from Dilma Roussef, Brazil’s current president, who, having been tortured in her youth by the military junta that ran her country in those times, is expected to condemn the abuses to which Cuban dissidents and protestors are submitted to.

Not a word, finally, from José Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) and, as such, entrusted to work towards the implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Chart, which provides for the promotion and protection of human rights in our region.

Be that as it may, in spite of this endless saraband of indifference and complicity, there should be no doubt - as proven yesterday in Eastern Europe, and today in North Africa and the Middle East – that the day of reckoning will inevitably come for the tribunal of History to deliver the last word with respect to the Cuban ordeal.

On that fateful day, the names of some heads of State and executive directors of institutions of the region will receive a moral condemnation for having left an entire people to hold out alone, with courage as the sole weapon, against a tyrant who, in the name of a failed ideology, betrayed each and every pledge of democratic conviction he had made before seizing power.

Courting the Cuban-American Vote

By Jason Margolis in The World:

Republican Candidates Court Miami’s Cuban Vote

There’s a political truism in Miami: Cuban Americans always vote Republican.

But four years ago, that voting bloc started to fray. Candidate Obama captured about a third of the Cuban vote in Miami.

Now the right-wing Miami Cuban establishment has a warning for their community: President Obama is soft on the Castro brothers.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spoke in Miami this week at a Mitt Romney campaign event. Switching between Spanish and English, Ros-Lehtinen said every time President Obama mentions Cuba it’s to explain why he’s giving further economic concessions to the Castro regime.

Ros-Lehtinen is referring to the Obama administration’s easing of travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba. Critics call the policies an economic boon for the Castros.

“So what you have now is an emboldened regime that feels that they can do whatever they want because they’re not facing any consequences,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the US-Cuba Democracy PAC.

“There has to be consequences to certain bad actions: taking an American hostage, huge waves of repression. If they think they can do it, and they’re going to get this inflow of hard currency, then they’re going to increase the repression and continue doing so.”

Read more here.

Dick Durbin Does Havana (for Caterpillar)

Friday, January 27, 2012
Last week, it was reported that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was on a humanitarian mission in Havana seeking the release of American hostage Alan Gross.

Yet, sadly, it appears it wasn't really a humanitarian mission.

It was to foment relations for the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Caterpillar corporation.

Durbin was apparently more interested in selling tractors to Castro than securing Alan Gross's release.

From Peoria Journal Star:

Fresh off his first trip to Cuba, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is calling for more constructive engagement with the nation that has been under an American trade embargo for more than half a century - something that could bring big benefits to Illinois agriculture and manufacturing [...]

[Durbin] said that increased engagement in communications and trade would give ordinary Cubans "a chance to see what life in the West and life in America is all about."

That, in turn, means "an economic benefit here as we increase trade to Cuba," from grain to machines produced by companies like Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc.

"Caterpillar does very well all around the world... I have no doubt if the market were open" the company would be able to expand into Cuba and see solid sales there, Durbin said.

Durbin's impressions match up with the interests of the Illinois Farm Bureau, which has long seen the potential of increased trade with Cuba and supports the resumption of normal trading with Cuba.

"Just because of its proximity to the United States, it offers a lot of opportunity," said Chris Magnuson, the group's executive director for operations, news and communications.

Cuba's Lackluster Healthcare System

Thursday, January 26, 2012
A must-read.

In Moon Travel Guides:

A few weeks ago while escorting a National Geographic Expeditions’ 10-day “Cuba: Discover its Culture & People” trip, one of the participants fell ill with a serious dental problem.

I accompanied her to the Clínica Internacional—the foreigners-only International Clinic— Cienfuegos. Cuba’s best medical services are reserved for foreign tourists paying hard currency. This was no exception. An English-speaking doctor saw us immediately.

She identified an abcess and recommended we visit the dental ward at Cienfuegos Hospital. We were transferred in a low-tech ambulance.

The hospital’s broken windows and screens were an ill omen of worse to come: The black ring (caused by a million grubby hands) around the door handle to the dental ward, suggested it hadn’t been cleaned since the revolution.

We were admitted immediately to the ward and seated at one of a dozen stations. The first image took my breath away. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Dental instruments were sitting in a tray that hadn’t been cleaned—not even wiped!—in ages. Literally, my best guess is in months, if not years! A microscopic study might well have revealed every known bacteria under the sun. In Europe or North America, the hospital would be instantly closed as a health hazard. The travelers looked up at me with a mix of revulsion and near-panic.

Fortunately, the female dentist didn’t need to place any instrument in her mouth. Instead, she looked into her mouth and instantly confirmed the abcess, then wrote a prescription for antibiotics, which the international clinic had in stock.

The next day, while walking along Cienfuegos’ main shopping street (El Búlevar), the group paused to peruse the local pharmacy that serves local Cubans. I counted barely a handful of drugs (all locally produced) for sale on the sparsely stocked shelves.

What a study in contrasts!

The barebones Cubans-only pharmacies. And the foreigners-only pharmacies fully stocked with imported drugs, reminding me of President Jimmy Carter’s admonition (presented live on Cuban TV during his visit to Cuba in January 2001) that Cuba can buy all the drugs its needs from Mexico, Brazil, etc. at prices well below those charged in the United States.

The Cuban government disingenuously tells Cubans that the U.S. embargo is to blame for the critical shortage of basic medicines. How, then, to explain the fully-stocked pharmacies serving tourists, which Cubans never get to see? Clearly, a political decision has been made to not stock the Cuban pharmacies.

Why? I can think of only one plausible reason: It’s great politics in Fidel Castro’s pathological demonization of Uncle Sam. Let’s hope things will soon change under his younger brother, Raúl.

Meanwhile, and more worrying, is the disparity between Cuba’s claims about the excellence of its health-care system and the shocking revelation that it doesn’t even apply standards of basic hygiene.

Copyright © Christopher P. Baker

Cuba Near Bottom in Press Freedom

The Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders has just released its 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index.

Castro's Cuba was ranked 167 out of 179 countries evaluated -- one notch down from 2010.

Moreover, it was the least free country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere.

Needless to say, Raul's so-called "reforms" don't apply to journalists either.

Romney White Paper on Cuba & Latin America

Governor Mitt Romney on Cuba & Latin America

Mitt Romney will adopt a clear policy toward the Cuban regime: no accommodation, no appeasement. The United States should not relent until the day when the Castros’ regime meets its end and their history is written among the world's most reviled despots, tyrants, and frauds. The North Star that guides Mitt Romney’s policy toward the island is the realizable dream of a free Cuba.

Unfortunately, President Obama has adopted a strategy of appeasement toward the Castro regime. He unilaterally relaxed sanctions without making any demands of the regime. Predictably, the Castros responded to these naïve concessions by tightening their grip on the island and by taking an American, Alan Gross, as a political prisoner. Now, increased travel and remittances to Cuba prop up a regime desperate for foreign currency.

Mitt Romney will break sharply with President Obama’s appeasement strategy. Mitt Romney believes unilateral concessions to a dictatorial regime are counterproductive, helping to secure a succession of power and greater repression instead of a transition to freedom. Mitt Romney will send a strong message to both the regime and the Cuban people that the United States stands with the courageous pro-democracy movement on the island, and that our support will never waver. Mitt Romney’s policy toward Cuba will include:

· Reinstating Travel & Remittance Restrictions. Mitt Romney will reinstate the 2004 travel and remittance restrictions that President Obama naively lifted.

· Adhering to the Helms-Burton Act. Mitt Romney will strictly adhere to the Helms-Burton Act, including Title III, to place maximum pressure on the Cuban regime.

· Demanding Release of Alan Gross. Mitt Romney will demand the immediate release of Alan Gross.

· Democracy Promotion Programs. Mitt Romney will fully fund and effectively implement democracy promotion programs to support Cuba’s brave pro-democracy movement.

· Breaking the Information Blockade. Mitt Romney will commit to breaking the information blockade the Castro regime places on the Cuban people. He will order effective use of Radio and TV Marti’s broadcasts to the island and employ robust Internet, social media, and other innovative steps to bring information to the Cuban people and help them send information out.

· Publicly Naming Oppressors. Mitt Romney will publicly identify by name those police officers, prison officials, judges, state security personnel, and regime officials who mistreat, torture, and oppress the Cuban people so they know they will be held individually accountable.

· Holding the Castros Accountable for the Brothers to the Rescue Shoot Down. Mitt Romney will explore all avenues — including criminal indictment — to ensure that Fidel and Raul Castro are held accountable for the killing of four Americans in the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes.

Mitt Romney recognizes the wider threat to freedom posed by the anti-American Bolivarian movement across Latin America that is led by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers. This movement threatens the principles enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and poses a serious national security threat to U.S. regional allies and the U.S. homeland in the form of an enhanced drug-terror nexus. Mitt Romney will pursue a resolute policy toward Latin America that will include:

· Bolstering the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter will form the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the hemisphere. There will never be a Cuban exception to the Charter.

· Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America. In his first 100 days, Mitt Romney will launch a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region — the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA) — to extol the virtues of democracy and free trade and contrast them with the ills of the model offered by Cuba and Venezuela.

· Hemispheric Joint Task Force on Crime & Terrorism. Mitt Romney will form a unified Hemispheric Joint Task Force on Crime and Terrorism to coordinate intelligence and law enforcement among our allies against regional terrorist groups and criminal networks.

· Enhancing Cooperation With Mexico on Drugs & Crime. Mitt Romney will take immediate action together with Mexico to enhance the current Merida program and deal with violent drug cartels operating across our shared border.

Senate Resolution Honors Wilman Villar

Senator Menendez, Rubio and Bill Nelson Condemn Cuban Regime; Honor Cuban Dissident and Democracy Activist Wilman Villar Mendoza

WASHINGTON – United States Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a Senate resolution today condemning the Cuban regime and honoring the life of Cuban dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza, who passed away in Cuban custody on January 19th following a 56-day hunger strike in the horrific Aguadores prison near Santiago de Cuba.

“The responsibility for Mr. Mendoza’s death rests squarely with the Castro brothers, whose regime has arrested more than 4000 activists last year alone and continues to repress the human rights of all Cubans,” said Menendez. “Wilman Villar Mendoza was merely exercising his freedom of expression when he was arrested, convicted in a sham trial that lasted an hour, and sentenced to 4 years in one of Cuba’s most inhumane prisons. Now the Cuban security forces are harassing his wife, a member of the Ladies in White, and are threatening to take away their children.” Menendez added, “The incredible sacrifice made by Mr. Mendoza on the behalf of all Cubans will never be forgotten. I urge the international community to speak out about the death of Mr. Mendoza and relentless abuses of human rights in Cuba”

Senator Rubio said, "I join the Cuban people in mourning the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza, and I offer my condolences and prayers to his wife and children. The Cuban regime is a callous band of murderers that once again has blood on its hands for unjustly imprisoning this man and allowing him to die from a hunger strike. "Once again, we are reminded of the unintended but negative consequences of this administration's loosened travel and remittance policies. They help deliver more hard currency to the Castro regime, making it easier for them to brutalize and even murder the Cuban people," Rubio stated.

“We should never forget Mr. Mendoza’s fight against tyranny,” said Senator Nelson. “And, we will continue to apply constant and unrelenting pressure until the Cuban people enjoy the freedom they deserve.”

The resolution in its entirety:

Title: Honoring the life of dissident and democracy activist Wilman Villar Mendoza and condemning the Castro regime for the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza.

Whereas, on Thursday, January 19, 2012, 31-year-old Cuban dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza died, following a 56-day hunger strike to highlight his arbitrary arrest and the repression of basic human and civil rights in Cuba by the Castro regime;

Whereas, on November 2, 2011, Wilman Villar Mendoza was detained by security forces of the Government of Cuba for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Cuba calling for greater political freedom and respect for human rights;

Whereas Wilman Villar Mendoza was sentenced to 4 years in prison after a hearing that lasted less than 1 hour and during which Wilman Villar Mendoza was neither represented by counsel nor given the opportunity to speak in his defense;

Whereas, on November 25, 2011, Wilman Villar Mendoza was placed in solitary confinement after initiating a hunger strike to protest his unjust trial and imprisonment;

Whereas Wilman Villar Mendoza was a member of the Unio1n Patrio1tica de Cuba, a dissident group the Cuban regime considers illegitimate because members express views critical of the regime;

Whereas security forces of the Government of Cuba have harassed Maritza Pelegrino Cabrales, the wife of Villar Mendoza and a member of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), and have threatened to take away her children if she continues to work with the Ladies in White;

Whereas Human Rights Watch, which documented the case of Wilman Villar Mendoza, stated, “Arbitrary arrests, sham trials, inhumane imprisonment, and harassment of dissidents’ families—these are the tactics used to silence critics.”;

Whereas Amnesty International stated, “The responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”;

Whereas Orlando Zapata Tamayo, another prisoner of conscience jailed after the “Black Spring” crackdown on opposition groups in March 2003, died in prison on February 23, 2010, after a 90-day hunger strike;

Whereas, according to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, the unrelenting tyranny of the Castro regime has led to more than 4,000 political detentions and arrests in 2011; and

Whereas Cuba is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council despite numerous documented violations of human rights every year in Cuba: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) condemns the Cuban regime for the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza on January 19, 2011, following a hunger strike to protest his incarceration for participating in a peaceful protest and to highlight the plight of the Cuban people;

(2) condemns the repression of basic human and civil rights by the Castro regime in Cuba that resulted in more than 4,000 detentions and arrests of activists in 2011;

(3) honors the life of Wilman Villar Mendoza and his sacrifice on behalf of the cause of freedom in Cuba;

(4) extends condolences to Maritza Pelegrino Cabrales, the wife of Wilman Villar Mendoza, and their children;

(5) urges the United Nations Human Rights Council to suspend Cuba from its position on the Council;

(6) urges the General Assembly of the United Nations to vote to suspend the rights of membership of Cuba to the Human Rights Council;

(7) urges the international community to condemn the harassment and repression of peaceful activists by the Cuban regime; and

(8) calls on the governments of all democratic countries to insist on the release of all political prisoners and the cessation of violence, arbitrary arrests, and threats against peaceful demonstrators in Cuba, including threats against Maritza Pelegrino Cabrales and members of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco).

Bill Delahunt's Selective Spending

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Former U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) was one of Congress's staunchest critics of USAID's Cuba democracy programs.

Actually, he was a critic of any measure aimed at pressuring the Castro dictatorship.

But during his brief Chairmanship of the House Foreign Affair's Subcommittee on Oversight, Delahunt specifically targeted Cuba democracy programs, which he deemed to be flawed and wasteful spending.

Apparently, Delahunt believes his pockets are a better cause.

From The New York Times:

Soon after he retired last year as one of the leading liberals in Congress, former Representative William D. Delahunt of Massachusetts started his own lobbying firm with an office on the 16th floor of a Boston skyscraper. One of his first clients was a small coastal town that has agreed to pay him $15,000 a month for help in developing a wind energy project.

Amid the revolving door of congressmen-turned-lobbyists, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Mr. Delahunt’s transition, except for one thing. While in Congress, he personally earmarked $1.7 million for the same energy project.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Should there be "regime change" in Iran?

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo," where guest Shahriar Etminani of the Iran Democratic Union makes a compelling case.

"From Washington al Mundo" is broadcast live on Sirus-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST).

Shed Light on Castro's Cruelty

By Frank Calzon in Sun-Sentinel:

Shed light on cruelty in Cuba

Another Cuban, Wilmar Villar, just died in a hunger strike protesting the abuses of the Castro's regime. His wife was not permitted to see his body.

Yoani Sanchez, the internationally recognized Cuban blogger who is not allowed to travel abroad, reported his death on the Internet.

Cuban exiles had called on governments and human rights organizations for help. We do not know if Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has access to Raul Castro, interceded on behalf of Villar, who is the father of two girls, or if the Cardinal, who participated on the arrangement to release Cuban political prisoners and banish most of them and their families abroad, alerted the Holy See about Villar's impending death.

Havana can no longer murder in secrecy. It fears the Internet and the Cubans who are willing to die for human rights. But the regime enjoys international impunity for its crimes.

The economic openings sponsored by the Obama administration have emboldened the regime, which is engaged in a widespread crackdown while Sen. Richard Durbin (D – Ill.) visited Havana, presumably to discuss further accommodations to the dictatorship.

A Cuban gay man was beaten to death by Cuban police earlier. A group of mothers, wives and daughters of political prisoners who defiantly attend mass dressed in white, were detained by police when they tried to attend a meeting.

The leader of the group, Laura Pollan, who had been beaten and harassed by the police, died under unclear circumstances in a Cuban hospital last year. All of this happens while the eyes of the world focus elsewhere.

May the assassins be brought to justice in a free Cuba. And may all the victims rest in peace.

What Wilman's Death Says About Cuba

By Mike Gonzalez in Fox News:

What Wilman Villar's tragic death tells us about today's Cuba

The tragic death of Cuban dissident Wilman Villar after a 50-day hunger strike should make clear that the Cuban people seek freedom and are increasingly willing to defy a repressive regime to get it.

They deserve outside moral support, which is best expressed by a repudiation of the regime that brutalizes them, not by establishing relations that would only legitimize the dictatorship of the Castro brothers.

The Obama administration has already begun to take steps in the direction of progressively establishing links with Cuba.

It has relaxed travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba, therefore replenishing the generals’ hard-currency coffers and helping to validate their unelected, illegal and repressive regime.

Mr. Villar’s death, however, makes a sad mockery of many of the arguments used by those who want U.S. ties with the island’s communist leaders.

Among these arguments: that 80-year-old Raul Castro, Fidel’s little brother and successor, is liberalizing his island fiefdom.

We also hear that the docile Cubans don’t care that they lack political freedom anyway and that American companies should go into Cuba headfirst and transact with the tormentors of 11 million Cubans.

The more than 4,000 political detentions and arrest in Cuba in 2011, and Mr. Villar’s death, are powerful reminders that none of these premises are true.

Outside the administration, no man has taken up the cudgel of the defense of normalization more than one senior official who, ironically, served in the Bush administration -- Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

As it happens, I debated Col. Wilkerson last Wednesday, precisely 24 hours prior to Mr. Villar’s murder, in front of a very friendly crowd (very friendly to him) at the World Affairs Council. His comment at one point that “the Cubans couldn’t give a rat’s ass about who governs them,” pretty much describes the patronizing mindset.

Well, tell that to Mr. Villar, or his widow, or the dissidents the Cuban authorities are roughing up today to prevent them from gathering to denounce Mr. Villar’s death.

In fact, Col. Wilkerson’s comments were fairly typical of the pro-normalization crowd and are worth delving into. For example, he expressed the opinion that it was okay to forge joint ventures with the military. Yes, the same military that suppresses the rights of Cubans and controls 80 percent of the Cuban economy.

That these generals pocket over 90 percent of the compensation foreign corporations pay Cuban workers also didn’t seem to dissuade him. This is “what happens all over the world,” he snorted.

More troubling was the obvious contempt Col. Wilkerson expressed for the democratic institutions of a country he once served, such as the FBI and our judicial system.
Even more disturbing were his references to a fellow American languishing in a Cuban prison, Alan Gross, for the “crime” of distributing computers to fellow Jews in Cuba. Mr. Gross, Col. Wilkerson said at one point, could very well be a U.S. spy.

What’s most amazing about this is that not even Cuba’s communists say this. They have put Mr. Gross in prison precisely for distributing computers in Cuba.

Cuba has one third the Internet penetration of Haiti, perhaps the world’s poorest country, because the Castros want it that way.

Col. Wilkerson knew that there were two representatives of the Cuban government in the audience -- two goons who work that Interest Section here -- and that justifying the imprisonment of a fellow American in front of them is injurious to the effort to free him.

Col. Wilkerson, against all evidence, spoke as though he thought that people who want world-wide condemnation of Cuba’s regime didn’t have principle on their side, but were only afraid of losing the Cuban-American vote.

My ears perked up when he said that Karl Rove had prevented Sec. Powell from rapprochement with Cuba (did Sec. Powell really want that?). He said, “Karl Rove told us that we needed to win Florida’s 27 electoral votes.”

I served in the Bush administration and that didn’t sound right to me, so I e-mailed Karl Rove. His reply was swift:

Total fabrication. A lie. Never had any such meeting or conversation.

In my experience, Col. Wilkerson found questions of principle hard to grapple with if the opinion of Secretary Powell differed from the convictions of President Bush.

President Bush had deep and well-informed opinions about Cuba and a clear-eyed understanding of how best to hasten the day of freedom for the Cuban people

That day will indeed be hastened if we all keep this mindset, and we will have fewer sacrifices like Mr. Villar’s. May he rest in peace.

Wilman Villar Mendoza Recognized in Presidential Debate

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
We'd like to commend all of the Republican candidates -- with the exception of Texas Congressman Ron Paul -- for their commitment to Cuba's pro-democracy movement and an end to the Castro dictatorship during last night's Presidential debate.

However, we'd like to particularly thank Governor Mitt Romney for mentioning the heroic trajectory and tragic ending of 31-year old Wilman Villar Mendoza's life, who died pursuant to a 56-day hunger strike protesting his unjust political imprisonment.

The world needs to know about the daily risks that Cuba's pro-democracy leaders are taking to confront the Castro's brutal dictatorship and the sacrifices being made for the cause of freedom.

Today, millions across the country have been introduced to one of these heroes, who the Castro regime seeks to vehemently deny, but we will never forget.

Wilman Villar Mendoza.

Last Night's Loser

This morning, The Hill compiled its list of winners and losers of last night's Republican Presidential debate in Tampa, FL.

Among its losers:

Fidel Castro

Throwing red meat to GOP voters in Florida, where conservative Cuban immigrants make up a substantial portion of the primary electorate, the candidates left little unsaid about their distaste for Fidel Castro, who has officially stepped down as Cuba’s leader but still looms large over the nation.

“You thank heaven that Fidel Castro has returned to his maker and will be sent to another land,” Romney said when asked how he would respond to a phone call informing him of the dictator’s death.

"I don't think Fidel's going to meet his maker. I think he's going to a different place,” said Gingrich, taking the assault a step further.

State Department Adds Insult to Death

Monday, January 23, 2012
On Friday, The White House released a non-political statement of condolence for the death of Cuban prisoner of conscience Wilmar Villar Mendoza.

That was appropriate.

But it was insulting for the State Department to follow-up with this political statement:

"We will continue to support, in the words of the president, ‘pockets of freedom’ in Cuba through Cuban American family visits and remittances, purposeful travel, and humanitarian assistance to dissidents and their families."

How has the Obama Administration's travel and remittance policy created "pockets of freedom"?

To the contrary, it has more than doubled the Castro regime's hard currency reserves (as confirmed by the Bank for International Settlements), which is currently bankrolling the worst wave of repression in 30 years (since President Jimmy Carter had a similar policy).

How did the Obama Administration's policy help Wilman Villar Menodza, Laura Pollan or Orlando Zapata Tamayo?

To the contrary, it never mentioned them once by name until after their tragic deaths.

How have the Obama Administration's new "purposeful" travel regulations helped Cuba's courageous pro-democracy leaders?

To the contrary, the trips being approved by State (and pre-approved by the Cuban dictatorship) are focused on salsa dancing, baseball games, cigar factories and visits with the Castro family, the Ministry of Tourism, the repressive Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and other regime entities.

We challenge State and Treasury to show us just one approved "people-to-people" itinerary that includes visits with the Ladies in White, the Cuban Patriotic Union or any of the numerous pro-democracy groups across the island.

They don't exist. Why?

Because the Obama Administration's "people-to-people" travel category is not aimed at supporting these courageous pro-democracy activists. It is aimed at creating greater understanding with their oppressors, the Castro regime.

Otherwise, there would have been no need for a new "people-to-people" travel category, for anyone who wants to travel to Cuba to support pro-democracy activists could do so under the long-standing travel category of "Support for the Cuban People" (aimed at helping human rights groups, pro-democracy activists and civil society).

To add even further insult, State and Treasury's requirements for travel under the "Support of the Cuban People" are more stringent than those under Obama's "people-to-people" tours led by the Castro regime.

That's right, the Obama Administration's policy makes it more burdensome to travel to Cuba to help pro-democracy activists than to travel on a "people-to-people" tour hosted by the Castro regime.

That is a fact.

It is the same absurd rationale that has led the Administration to exchange letters with Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, while democracy activist filled the streets, and that originally led them to send envoys to come to terms with the "reformer" Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The result?

Emboldened regimes that have resorted to greater violence without any consequence.

Enough is enough.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Please tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo."

The topics will be the current genocide taking place by the Assad regime in Syria and Iran's quest for natural resources in Latin America.

Guests include Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and founder of Save Syria Now!, and Joel Hirst, formerly with the Council on Foreign Relations and currently a Human Freedom Fellow with the George W. Bush Institute.

"From Washington al Mundo" is broadcast live on Sirus-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST).

The "Crime" That Cost Wilman His Life

Sunday, January 22, 2012
On Thursday evening, Wiman Villar Mendoza died pursuant to a 56-day hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment by the Castro regime.

He was imprisoned on November 2, 2011, after participating in a peaceful demonstration calling for freedom, human rights and democracy.

Wilman was charged with “contempt” and sentenced to four years in prison in a hearing that lasted less than an hour.

Here's a picture of Wilman during the peaceful demonstration (the "crime" according to the Castro regime) that cost him his life.

The sign reads "No More Lies."