A Slice of Repression

Saturday, March 10, 2012
From Amnesty International's 50th anniversary campaign:

Petition to the Pope

Please sign this petition.

From Fox News:

Facebook Petition Urges Pope to Seek Equal Time with Cuban Dissidents

On most days, Giancarlo Sopo, Nicolas Jiménez and Keith Fernández are polar opposites in matters regarding politics.

Fernández was a former assistant to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Sopo worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007 and Jiménez, who defines himself as a Libertarian, volunteers for non-profit organizations.

What the third generation Cuban-Americans do have in common is their plight to create awareness about human rights issues in Cuba before the eyes of the world.

The three men are on a mission to encourage Pope Benedict XVI to grant equal time to human rights activists in Cuba during his upcoming visit to the island this month.

"I can think of no better way for the Pope to make human rights the centerpiece of his visit than by taking the time to personally meet with the island's leading human rights activists, such as the Ladies in White, Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and Yoani Sánchez," said Sopo, a marketing executive and political consultant in Miami.

The three activists, who have become close friends, believe the Cuban regime will discourage the Vatican from recognizing individuals outside a select-few who will be pre-approved by the government.

"This shouldn’t surprise anyone as we have all seen the horrific images of state security forces beating and dragging women through the streets of Havana for the mere crime of marching for human rights," added Sopo. "These men and women need to know we have their backs."

The Cuban-Americans set out to create a consensus on the issue of human rights in Cuba and engaged the power of the Internet to launch a Facebook page, One Cuba, where by signing a petition "supporters can promote the plight of the dissidents in Cuba who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice," said Fernández, a law student at the University of Florida.

The petition campaign was an organic effort.

"Like good Cuban sons, we were talking, via Facebook, about how messed up this world is and how someone should do something," said Fernández. "We looked at each other and said, 'why not us?'"

Tech-savvy Jiménez, who resides in Madison, Wisconsin, was charged with implementing the petition. "The Church has always been at the center of change in a lot of societies, but we feel this has the potential to be something of a turning point if enough voices are heard."

The 25 year-old has traveled to Cuba on three occasions and has met in person with dissident leaders and independent journalists such as Guillermo Fariñas and Yoani Sánchez.

"Cubans-- especially young Cubans-- are hungry for change. Meeting with them intensified my dedication to helping them in their mission," said Jiménez. "It’s hard to see their scars and not feel compelled to help them in their struggle."

The U.S. policy on Cuba is usually a divisive issue amongst Cuban-Americans, especially between the younger and older generations. However, the petition for One/Una Cuba is a bi-partisan cause that appeals to everyone, the founder said.

"Whether you’re 18 or 70, you arrived from Cuba yesterday or 50 years ago, when it comes to human rights we’re on the same page," said Fernández.

Over 150 Facebook friends have already signed the petition in just a few days. The Cuban-Americans will submit the signatures to the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, on March 23 and will forward the same to the Vatican prior to the Pontiff’s scheduled visit to Cuba on March 26-28.

"We firmly believe those brave men and women, human rights activists on the island, need to know that the young people in this country unequivocally support their right to be free and have their voices heard, to have economical rights and personal freedom," Sopo said.

No More Odebrechts

Friday, March 9, 2012
For years, foreign companies like Brazil's Odebrecht have been partnering with the Cuban dictatorship, while simultaneously profiting from Florida's taxpayers -- many of whom are victims of that dictatorship.

That has come to an end.

The Florida legislature has just passed legislation (see details below) that prohibits the state, its counties, cities and other public entities from contracting with foreign companies that conduct business with the Castro and/or Assad tyrannies. The law also requires the state's pension funds to divest from these companies.

(U.S. companies and their subsidiaries have long been prohibited from doing business with the Castro regime under federal law. This state law closes a loophole used by foreign companies that have been transacting business with both Cuba and Florida through the use different subsidiaries, e.g. Odebrecht).

Sadly, public entities like Miami-Dade County and Florida International University had been unwilling to take a moral stand against some of these foreign companies, so the Florida legislature has stepped up to do so.

Kudos to Majority Leader Carlos Lopez Cantera, Senator Rene Garcia and Representative Michael Bileca for their extraordinary leadership in this effort.

CS/HB 959 and CS/SB 1144 - State and Local Government Relations with Cuba or Syria

State and Local Government Relations with Cuba or Syria: Prohibiting the State Board of Administration from being a fiduciary with respect to voting on any proxy resolution advocating expanded United States trade with Cuba or Syria; prohibiting a state agency or local governmental entity from contracting for goods and services of more than a certain amount with a company that has business operations in Cuba or Syria; requiring certification upon submission of a bid or proposal for a contract, or before a company enters into or renews a contract, with an agency or governmental entity that the company is not engaged in business operations in Cuba or Syria, etc.

The Pate Loving Tyrant

What's worse than a brutal tyrant that has tortured, imprisoned and executed scores of its people?

One that does so while indulging in pate, lavish parties and hunting with French actor Gerard Depardieu.

And of course, the tyrant also rewards Depardieu's friendship with some lucrative investments.

Meanwhile, Depardieu thinks such behavior is "normal."

From Contact Music:

Gerard Depardieu Bonded With Fidel Castro Over Pate

French actor Gerard Depardieu has revealed the roots of his bizarre friendship with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro - they bonded over a shared love of pate.

The Green Card star has been pals with the revolutionary for 20 years and travelled to the Caribbean island republic in 2006 to attend his lavish birthday party.

Depardieu, who has even invested in an oil field in Cuba, has now opened up about the unlikely partnership, insisting he loves hunting with Castro and younger brother Raul.

The actor tells U.K. chat show host Graham Norton, "I met him (in) 1992 when I made him pate. He loves to eat also, and is very curious about food. He is a friend and I go hunting with him and with Raul. They know everything about everything and they are normal people."

Castro's Disrespect for Women's Rights

A must-read by Yoani Sanchez in The Huffington Post:

As I live in a country where the paths of civic protest have been severed and demonized, I dare to offer in this blog a list of the violations that still persist against women.

- They do not allow us to establish our own women's organizations, where we can unite and represent ourselves. Groups that are not channels of transmission from the government to the citizens, as sadly happens with the Federation of Cuban Women.

- When they speak of women in the political class, it's clear that they don't have any real power but are there to fulfill quotas or assignments by gender.

- The icon of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) -- the only organization of this kind permitted by law -- shows a figure with a rifle on her shoulder in clear allusion to the mother as soldier, to the female as a piece of the warring conflict cooked up from above.

- The absence in the national press of reporting about domestic violence does not eliminate its real presence. Silence does not stop the aggressor from hitting. In the pages of our newspapers there should also be these stories of abuse, because otherwise we are not going to understand that we have a serious problem of assaults, silenced within the walls of so many homes.

- Where can a wife go when she is beaten by her husband? Why are there no shelters or why doesn't the media publicize the locations of these refuges for battered women?
Buying disposable diapers is almost a luxury in this society. Most new mothers still have to spend a good part of their time washing baby clothes by hand. Every emancipation needs a material infrastructure of freedom, otherwise it will remain so only in slogans and mottoes.

- The high prices of all the products needed for motherhood and pregnancy are also a factor that influences the low birth rate. A crib with mattress costs the equivalent of $90 U.S. in a country where the average monthly salary doesn't exceed $20.

- The child support that a father must provide for his children after a divorce -- as stipulated by law -- doesn't exceed, in many cases, the equivalent of $3 monthly, which leaves a woman economically powerless to raise her children.

- The extremely high prices of food relative to wages keep Cuban women chained to the stove while performing economic pirouettes to put a plate of food on the table. It is the women and not the political-economic system that performs a daily miracle so that Cuban families eat, more or less well or more or less badly.

After so many slogans about emancipation and equality, we Cuban women are left with a double workday and dozens of cumbersome bureaucratic tasks. It's enough to go outside to see the effects of this excess load: most women over forty have bitter faces, make no plans for the future, do not go out with their women friends to a bar, and have no escape from their family and the tedium.

When a woman decides to criticize the government, she is immediately reminded who wears the skirt; they accuse her of immorality, infidelity to her husband, being manipulated by some male mind, and call her "prostitute," "cocky," "hooker," as many discriminating cutting insults as they can imagine.

You can't try to liberate a specific social group in a society gripped by the lack of rights. To be a woman in the Cuba of today is to suffer these lacks twice.

In short, we want to have a clitoris and rights, to feel pleasure and to speak our opinions, to be known for our skirts, but especially for our ideas.

Here's a Keeper

Thursday, March 8, 2012
"What (the United States) has done is reiterate an old, failed policy that has lasted 50 years, which doesn't work and which someone should think about revising."

-- Bruno Rodriguez, the Castro regime's Foreign Minister, Reuters, 3/9/12

Sound familiar?

Click back on this link -- for a reminder -- the next time an opponent of U.S. policy regurgitates this talking point.

How to Free American Hostages

By Amb. Otto J. Reich in National Review:

Foreign U.S. Hostages: Successes and Failures

It is good news that American pro-democracy workers in Cairo have come home, after being threatened with prosecution by the Egyptian military government. To its credit, the Obama administration took a strong position, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatening to cut off billions of dollars in U.S. assistance to Egypt unless the workers were released. The message was clear: Americans promoting human rights and civil society must not become hostages anywhere in the world.

In contrast, however, U.S. citizen Alan Gross, a USAID sub-contractor, is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for bringing laptop computers and cell phones to the small Cuban Jewish community on the island. Gross did not do anything remotely meriting such punishment. Cuba’s outrageous charges are identical to the intimidation and disinformation campaigns of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

What Cuba wanted when it seized Gross was a hostage to be traded for the release of five professional Cuban spies who infiltrated American military bases, were captured, tried, found guilty, and are serving prison sentences in the United States. Bill Richardson, a former Democratic congressman, governor of New Mexico and U.S. representative to the United Nations, publicly said as much when he identified Gross as a “hostage.” Gross is no spy, and Washington should not accept Havana’s blackmail nor allow the Castros to dictate U.S. policy.

There are policymakers in the Obama administration who think a “softer approach” to Havana (and other hostile states) is in order. Rather than emulate its own successful strategy in Egypt and threaten to cut off the flow of remittances and American tourist dollars to Cuba, the administration simply continues to request the Castro government to be fair and release Gross on humanitarian grounds.

The United States cannot continue extending a hand of friendship to Havana and expecting to obtain a favorable result. Moreover, since Cuba requires U.S. citizens born in Cuba to purchase a Cuban passport when they visit family on the island, a large number of travelers are taking a risk. They are putting themselves at the mercy of the Cuban government since they are not under the protection of a U.S. passport.

Secretary Clinton should be telling Havana, just as she so clearly told Cairo, that if Gross, who has spent more than two years in Castro’s dungeons, is not quickly released, the United States will reinstate restrictions against tourist travel and suspend remittances. Providing hard currency to any country holding American hostages is both immoral and self-defeating.

What is Castro Getting From Santos's "Deal"?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
In 52 years, the Castro regime has never acted in good will.

So what did President Santos offer Castro in return?

Surely, we'll soon find out.

But we can guess it will not be to the benefit of the Cuban people.

According to Reuters:

Cuba has decided not to attend an upcoming hemispheric summit following talks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, averting a diplomatic showdown with U.S. leaders who had insisted Cuba not attend, Santos told reporters.

Santos flew to the Caribbean island on Wednesday to discuss the summit with Cuban President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from cancer surgery.

The agreement brokered by Santos, who plays host to the summit next month, will likely defuse threats by left-leaning states allied with Havana to boycott the summit if Cuba was not invited.

Santos thanked Castro for "saying that he does not want to create a problem for the summit or for Colombia."

"Colombia wants the situation of Cuba and its participation to be discussed in a constructive manner at the Cartagena Summit," he said as he was preparing to leave the island.

The deal, which effectively prevents the spat from becoming a regional diplomatic row, marks a victory for Santos, who is striving to present himself as a regional mediator.

Santos markedly improved ties with neighboring Venezuela following years of squabbling between Chavez and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that affected trade relations.

U.S. leaders have said Cuba cannot attend the summit because it is not a member of the Organization of American States, the organizer of the summit. It says Cuba does not meet an OAS charter requirement that its member countries be democracies.

Cardinal Ortega Ignores the Real Victims

By Fabiola Santiago in The Miami Herald:

Cuban cardinal’s prayers ignore real victims

Sometimes the echo of a prayer travels far, much too far.

Sometimes a prayer sounds less like a prayer and more like a political move.

Sometimes, as happened Sunday in Havana, that prayer reaches our ears in Miami and rattles our faith, breaks our hearts.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the highest Catholic authority on the island, and the Apostolic Nuncio to Cuba, Bruno Musaro, offered a Mass in the Cathedral of Havana to pray for the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had a cancerous tumor removed from his pelvis on Feb. 24 in the Cuban capital.

The cathedral was packed with the faithful, and in a country where the government all but prohibited religious worship until the 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II, the attendees included the foreign ministers of Cuba and Venezuela and other well-known Cuban government supporters.

No doubt Chavez needs the prayers. On so many levels, the strongman with a recurrence of cancer who wants to turn Venezuela into another bastion of totalitarian rule needs the prayers.

But where are the merciful public prayers and the dedicated homilies of the island’s Catholic hierarchy for those who suffer in Cuba at the hands of the ruthless Cuban government, a 53-year dictatorship supported by the likes of Chavez?

Where were the public prayers when dissident Orlando Zapata was languishing in a prison and then a hospital on the hunger strike that weakened him so much it killed him?

Where were the public prayers of the Catholic hierarchy when the founder of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan, was agonizing in a hospital, dying from a sudden and suspiciously contracted respiratory disease?

Are the prayers of Ortega and Musaro indeed prayers or politics, a calculated move of religious chess aimed at facilitating the highly anticipated trip of the Pope to Cuba later this month? Is being an oppressed Catholic, as long as one is a Catholic, good enough for a cardinal who has a history of falling short when it comes to defending his people but who appears to be highly attuned to the needs of the dictatorship?

In a recent letter to Pope Benedict XVI, dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who also came close to dying on a hunger strike, warns the pontiff that his visit to Cuba could send the message to the government that it can continue to abuse opponents who fight for basic human rights.

Some 750 dissidents across the island signed the letter, which asks the pontiff to meet with members of the opposition during his visit.

One can only pray that their words don’t fall on deaf ears, and that religious leaders have a worthier mission in mind.

But for now all we hear are the Sunday prayers of a cardinal and a nuncio, and as benevolent as they may appear to charitable Catholic ears, they have already spoken volumes in a church where many of “the faithful” were dressed in the colors of the Venezuelan flag as if they were attending a political rally.

In Miami — where some are preparing for a pilgrimage to Cuba to participate in the Pope’s visit, where the Catholic Church is involved in apostolate work on the island, and from where thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to the island flows — the faithful await answers to their prayers.

Because they too have prayers, only they seldom seem to reach Havana, where the presence of good always feels so, so far away.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with Puerto Rico's representative in the U.S. Congress, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. He'll be discussing the island's political status and expanding foreign commerce.

Then, Third Way's Ed Gerwin will discuss the moderate think-tank's recent publication, "China's Trade Barrier Playbook: Why America Needs a New Game Plan."

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

No Ferries to Cuba

Tuesday, March 6, 2012
And guess who their lobbyist is?

Castro's long-time friend and advocate, former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

From Sun-Sentinel:

License for ferry to Cuba denied

Just two weeks after a Fort Lauderdale company publicly complained of government delays on its application for ferry service to Cuba, a U.S. Treasury agency has denied the request.

Officials at Havana Ferry Partners say they will appeal. Its executives see no reason why U.S. authorities allow planes to carry U.S. passengers to Cuba but not ferries. Current U.S. regulations allow both "aircraft and vessels" to serve Cuba as an exception to the U.S. embargo against the communist-led island.

"We're not going away," said Leonard Moecklin Sr., Havana Ferry's managing partner.

The denial came from the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the 50-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba. Its Feb. 27 letter said ferry service to Cuba is "beyond the scope of current policy."

Moecklin said his company has contracted Washington, D.C. law firm Arent Fox and its senior policy adviser, former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, to press its case. Dorgan was the author of the 2000 law opening U.S. food sales to Cuba and played a key role in drafting its regulations as he worked to boost North Dakota's exports of beans and other agricultural products.

Geopolitical Turbulence in Latin America

From SOUTHCOM Commander, General Douglas M. Fraser's, statement to the House Armed Services Committee:

United States Southern Command is also watchful for potential geopolitical turbulence that could impact U.S. citizens and military personnel in the region, particularly in Cuba, Haiti, Bolivia, and Venezuela. Fidel Castro’s leadership transition to his brother Raul is complete, but the long-term effects of the government’s market reforms remain to be seen. Haiti, while making slow but steady progress, remains vulnerable to natural disasters and economic hardship.

Public demonstrations in Bolivia related to wages, food prices, and energy shortages are likely to continue until the government addresses the underlying causes of social turmoil. In Venezuela, 12 uncertainties about President Chavez’s health, continued economic instability, and escalating levels of violence are placing increasing demands on the Venezuelan government.

Kudos to Mia Farrow

Tweet from actress Mia Farrow:

H/T Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter

More Record Breaking Repression

According to independent journalists in Cuba, there were 387 political arrests documented during the month of February.

You can see all of their names and arrest details here.

That brings the number of political arrests for the year -- in just two months -- to 815.

At this rate, 2012 will be another record breaking year of repression in Cuba.

The Castro regime is obviously terrified by the peaceful determination of these young Cuban activists.

Women Who Shake the World

From Newsweek:

150 Women Who Shake the World

They are heads of state and heads of household. Angry protesters in the city square and sly iconoclasts in remote villages. With a fiery new energy, women are building schools. Starting businesses. Fighting corruption. Harnessing new technologies and breaking down old prejudices. Whenever a woman or girl gains control of her destiny, the local standard of living goes up and the values of human rights spread. So this year, and every year, Newsweek will honor local heroes, and the growing network of powerful women who support their efforts.

They include Cuba's Yoani Sanchez.

Dissidents Barred From Religious Activities

Monday, March 5, 2012
From Christian Solidarity Worldwide:

Cuba: Catholic dissident barred from religious activities

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling on the Cuban government to respect the right of Caridad Caballero Batista, a member of the Ladies in White, and her family, to exercise their faith. Since 8 January Caballero Batista, her husband and 19 year-old son have been barred by the authorities from attending Catholic catechism classes and participating in any other religious activity.

Caballero Batista has told CSW that since the beginning of the year, police and state security agents have surrounded their family home each Sunday, preventing them from attending Sunday mass at the Jesus Christ Redeemer Church in the Pueblo Nuevo neighbourhood of Holguin City, located in Eastern Cuba. She said that the agents have also followed her husband, Esteban Sade Suarez, and son, Erik Esteban Sade Caballero, on their way to attend catechism, and have physically and at times violently prevented them from attending.

The family of three has completed two years of catechism and is working towards their First Communion and Confirmation. “God made us free and we are not going to stop trying to go to church,” Caballero Batista told CSW. “We want to receive communion and be confirmed in our church and we have worked hard for this. While are all sinners and need forgiveness, we have not broken any laws. All we ask is that the government respect our religious freedom.” She added that her son is not involved in any political activities or affiliated with any civil society group.

Over the past two months and in the run up to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island next month, CSW has seen a sharp increase in cases of religious freedom violations in Cuba. CSW has received reports each Sunday since the beginning of the year that across the country members of the Ladies in White group, the majority of whom are Roman Catholic, are being prevented by state security agents from attending religious services, or are severely harassed when they attempt to do so.

In addition to the targeting of Catholics, CSW has received reports that four Protestant church leaders were arrested and detained on February 25 in Bayamo, Granma Province while evangelising in the local bus station. According to local sources, one of those arrested, Juan Moreno, was so badly beaten by state security agents that he had to be hospitalized. The other three were released after being held for a few hours.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “As the country gears up for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, the Cuban authorities must be held to account for their continuous and escalating violations of religious freedom. We strongly urge the Cuban government to guarantee Caridad Caballero Batista and her family the right to practice their faith in peace and urge the authorities to cease their harassment of and attacks on other members of the Ladies in White as they attend religious services. Attacks on those who are merely trying to practice their religious faith must stop.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ).

A prominent member of the U.S. House of Representatives's Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Sires serves on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee as well as the Europe and Eurasia Subcommittee.

Then, Dr. Majid Sadeghpour of the National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates will discuss the dramatic rise in public executions by the Iranian dictatorship.

"From Washington al Mundo" is broadcast live on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST) and rebroadcast Tuesday from 3-4 p.m. (EST).

A Letter to the Pope

In National Review:

Most Holy Father:

I’m writing to thank you for your upcoming visit to Cuba. It is very heartening to know that you will be visiting eleven million prisoners. After all, that whole island is a prison, and all of its inhabitants prisoners.

I write not only as a Cuban but as one of your flock and as a scholar. The professorship I hold here at Yale University — named after Yale’s first Catholic chaplain — is the chair in Catholic studies. Oddly enough, many at this very secular university think that I am your nuncio and in constant contact with you, simply because I hold the Catholic chair.

So, I am now finally doing what they think I often do, writing to you.
All of the imprisoned in Cuba need your visit, desperately. Your physical presence will do much to uplift their spirits, and give them a glimpse of the world beyond their salt-water prison walls, perhaps even a glimmer of the kingdom of heaven itself, especially when you celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass and Christ is made present among them.

You will have to meet with the tyrants, jailers, and executioners, of course. That is inevitable. Not much has changed since Our Lord said “See, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” The tyrants and their henchmen will probably attend Mass, as they did when your predecessor the Venerable John Paul II visited the island some years ago.

These men need you too, in their own twisted way. They hope your visit will lend them an aura of legitimacy, fatten their coffers, and fool the world into thinking that they are not tyrants after all.

Many of your predecessors have dealt with such men, under worse circumstances. We Cubans know that those will not be easy moments for you. But our prayers will accompany every step you take, and every handshake too. And we are confident that the Holy Spirit will help you deal with these wolves as Our Lord Jesus Christ advised nearly two thousand years ago, when he told his disciples to be “as cunning as serpents yet as innocent as doves.”

I have but one request: please meet with the Ladies in White while you are in Cuba. They have asked for this themselves, through your nuncio Monsignor Bruno Musaro, with whom they met a few weeks ago. Bless them with your presence, please, Most Holy Father. They are brave beyond belief; but, subjected as they are to constant physical and mental abuse, and to the constant threat of imprisonment or death, they are in dire need of your blessing.

As you well know, they are often attacked and beaten and prevented from attending church; sometimes they’ve even been attacked inside churches. They are living out the gospel, at a high cost, laying their lives down for their brethren. Like the Canaanite woman who cried out to Jesus, “Lord, help me!” or the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’s robe in hope of a cure, they are reaching out, full of faith, begging against all odds. In an island where everyone has been turned into a beggar, they beg for the rarest and most precious gift of all: your presence.

And, oh, what a sight that would be for all the world to see! You and the Ladies in White together. What a jolt to the senses: an image so unexpected, it might restore sight to those blinded by hate, perhaps, or stem the flow of blood that has stained that beautiful prison island for far too long. It might even make demons flee, too.

Your power as Vicar of Christ is unique. You command the world’s attention. You serve as the world’s conscience. Your public acknowledgment of the Ladies in White could change the course of history. They pray for that; we all pray for it too, along with them. I, a beggar, driven from my homeland 50 years ago, join the bold Ladies in begging. We beg like the blind man who would not stop crying out to Jesus and yelled all the louder when told to shut up.

And we beg in the name of Jesus, hoping you will hear our voices above the din made by those who want us not to be seen or heard.

Carlos Eire is the is the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University.

Chavez's Thugs Shoot Opponents

Sunday, March 4, 2012
From Americas Forum:

Chavez supporters open fire on Capriles supporters at campaign event, wounding son of congressman

The son of Venezuelan congressman Ismael Garcia was wounded by gunfire in a campaign event of the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles on Sunday, according to news reports.

In the city of Cotiza, west of Caracas, Chavez supporters dressed in their signature "communist red" uniforms, fired shots at a crowd of Capriles supporters who were participating in a campaign march.

Ismael Garcia (the son of the congressman) is being treated in the emergency room of the clinic El Avila, after getting wounded in the right forearm. "This is all a result of this violence that the Chavistas want to implement in Venezuela," he said.

Garcia added that the PSUV (Chavez's political party) groups arrived on the scene armed and "opened fire" in order to create panic and fear in the community, in order to break up the candidate's march. "Fortunately we have a candidate and a people who are willing to move forward," Garcia said defiantly.

In Garcia's view, Venezuelans will not accept living in fear. "This town will move ahead despite the violence and support the candidate of national unity," he said.

For its part, candidate Capriles rejected the attacks against him this morning via his Twitter account @hcapriles: "This government represents chaos and violence, and today showed their fear of the future! The future will be peace and tranquility for Venezuela," he wrote.

Jim Belushi Headlines Fundraiser for Castro

While pro-democracy activists are being beaten senselessly throughout Cuba, American actor Jim Belushi served as the Master of Ceremonies for the Castro dictatorship's mega-luxurious cigar auction (fundraiser), know as the Festival del Habano.

(Question for the Treasury Department: Under what travel category exactly does hosting a fundraiser for the Cuban dictatorship fall under?)

During this event, the Castro regime raised nearly $1 million by auctioning cigars to mega-rich European businessmen and flaunting Cuban women (as Belushi himself "joked" about).

Of course, on hand at this event was Castro's parliamentary leader for-life, Ricardo Alarcon, and his own son, Tony Castro.

Check out their fancy suits below.

You would think celebrities would have learned that it's not "hip" to entertain brutal dictators after it was discovered how Beyonce, Mariah Carey and others swooned at parties for Gaddafi's sons.

Or maybe they just have no conscience.