Encourage Citizen Reporting in Cuba

Saturday, June 16, 2012
From Scripps Howard News Service:

Exiled Journalist Encourages Citizen Reporting in Cuba

Journalist Normando Hernández was imprisoned for seven years in Cuba after criticizing the country’s communist government.

Today, he is the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he studies how independent journalists may combat totalitarianism across the globe.

“The main road for a civil society is to inform citizens,” Hernández said through an interpreter at an NED luncheon Tuesday. “The Cuban government will not allow anything. We must take responsibility.”

Hernández suggested that the time is right to inspire change in the communist regime. He showed videos of rallies in Havana and elsewhere of Cuban citizens waving flags and shouting the Spanish words for freedom and justice, “Libertad!” and “Justicia!”

“These actions were impossible to take place 10 years ago,” he said. “They occur in public places, and citizens react positively to them.”

Hernández compared current independent media in Cuba to the Soviet policy of glasnost, which encouraged governmental openess and transperency.

The glasnost policy, however, was instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev’s government, while Fidel and Raul Castro have had nothing to do with the current change in Cuba.

“While all of this is incredibly significant,” Brandon Yoder, an NED program officer, said. “I think we are forcing the analogy if we go any further.”

Hernández suggested that starting small, hyper-local newspapers on the island would inspire action on the part of Cuban citizens. To encourage “citizen jouranlism,” he invoked another Soviet model, the Samizdat, a grassroots newsletter that spread information that the Soviet government did not want published.

“If citizens were given the real information, I guarantee that the Castro brothers would not be in power for another 47 hours,” he said. “These citizens could do journalism in the most basic sense, they could also participate in citizen journalism as we know it."

These newspapers, Hernández said, would help educate Cubans and give them facts that could in turn inspire social change throughout the country.

“When most Cubans are asked to define freedom, they do not know what it means. When they ask what is democracy, they are not sure. They do not know human rights,” he said. “The simple answer is, let’s help Cubans empower themselves.”

Obama Should Stand Against Cuban Repression

By Ray Walser of The Heritage Foundation:

Obama Administration Should Stand Against Cuban Repression

Valiant Cuban dissident and democracy activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (Antunez) delivered a message of solidarity from the island to The Heritage Foundation in May. On June 7, Antunez testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee via video conference from Cuba.

On both occasions, he urged real solidarity with those struggling for authentic liberty on the island.

To Heritage: “It is alarming that while activism and Resistance is increasing inside Cuba and while repression also increases, the government of Mr. Barack Obama has exercised a political agenda of approach and relaxation with the regime of Havana, instead of strengthening the support for the Resistance.”

To the Senate: “And we need to bear in mind that no increase in remittances, no increase in the number of trips, no increase in the cultural exchanges can speed up the democratization process in our country. This only serves to strengthen the repression and to grant impunity to the people that commit these acts of repression.… These increases in trips both from North Americans to Cuba and Cubans themselves have not helped at all with the democratic process in our country because they come to our country on matters that have nothing to do with what we’re doing.”

These words enraged the Cuban regime. On June 9, Antunez was arrested, beaten, and doused with pepper spray. The vicious attack provoked fiery responses from Senators Roberto Menendez (D–NJ), Marco Rubio (R–FL), and dozens of other lawmakers. On June 12, Antunez was released, although he still faces serious legal charges that could easily return him to jail. He immediately called for “reflection” by those pushing for exchanges with the repressive regime.

Sadly, the logic of the Obama Administration’s Cuba’s policy, which Antunez exposed, rests on the hypothesis that easing travel and remittance restrictions is opening doors for democratic change. One continually hears the mantra: “Cuban Americans are our best ambassadors to Cuba.” More liberal guidelines for travel by non–Cuban Americans allows thousands the chance to smoke Cuban cigars, dance a Cuban rumba, visit Old Havana, or indulge in sexual tourism.

Remittances fuel modest expansion of the non-state sector, while visas for pro-regime luminaries such as Mariela Castro promote a false appearance of openness and dialogue.

Regrettably, the Obama Administration’s extended hand has once more encountered the clinched fist of repression. The Castro regime makes it clear that it wants U.S. dollars—but not our democracy, economic freedom, or protections of human rights. It wants a path to sustained political tyranny hooked to an economic respirator that keeps its ailing economy on life support.

U.S.–Cuba policy should return to bedrock fundamentals. It should focus less on appeasing the Castro regime and more on aggressive and innovative support for the enduring victims of the communist system and the future architects of genuine change that shatters the dictatorship’s grip.

Nearly Two Dozen Ladies in White Imprisoned

Friday, June 15, 2012
According to Cuban pro-democracy leader Jose Daniel Ferrer, nearly two dozen Ladies in White have been arrested in the eastern provinces.

Of these, at least 16 remain imprisoned -- 10 in the Santiago province, 8 in Bayamo and 2 in Guantanamo.

They include Liudmila Rodríguez, Karina Quintana, Madelaine Santos, Omaglis González, Aimée Garcés Leiva, Arelis Rodríguez, Liudmila Cedeño and Yanelis Elégica.

Speaking Truth to Cuba’s Despots

Thursday, June 14, 2012
From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Speaking truth to Cuba’s despots

OUR OPINION: Beating of dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” deserves world condemnation

Jorge Luis García Pérez and Sarah Marta Fonseca had to walk many miles, hiding behind trees and bushes to get to their destination: the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Their mission was to speak truth to Cuba’s despots and tell the world, by way of a live video conference during testimony to a Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington, about Cuba’s long assault on human rights. They were among four Cuban dissidents and opposition leaders who testified about being harassed, beaten and jailed for disagreeing with the communist government.

Cuba’s response was swift — and not unexpected for a regime that has for more than half a century oppressed its people. Mr. García Pérez, known as “Antúnez,” was arrested on Saturday, beaten in police lock up and held for several days.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, along with Cuban-American Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Marco Rubio, R-Fl., chastised Raúl Castro’s government. “I want to be crystal clear that I strongly condemn any efforts to intimidate Mr. Perez or any other Cuban citizen into silence,” Sen. Kerry said. “I echo the calls of my Senate colleagues, demanding an end to repression in Cuba and urging international observers to conduct an investigation into his detention.”

If only that were possible. Attempts by the United Nations and the International Red Cross to check on the island’s human-rights violations and the conditions of Cuba’s prisons have gone nowhere for decades.

Meanwhile, Cuba continues to insist that it is a “free and democratic” one-party state that just want Americans to come on down and party. Yet it jails Americans like USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, whose “crime” was to bring computers, cell phones and other equipment to help Cuba’s small Jewish community connect with the outside world. He’s now serving a 15-year sentence.

Mr. García Pérez was released Wednesday but now faces phony charges of “spreading false information” and “resistance.” That’s life in Cuba for brave souls who won’t be knocked into submission.

Iranian Drones and Russian Kalashnikovs

A very dangerous and still "clenched fist."

From AP:

President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday that Venezuela has begun to assemble Kalashnikov assault rifles with assistance from Russia and started producing surveillance drones.

Chavez, a former paratroop commander, said that Venezuela has also started making grenades, ammunition and surveillance drones for its military. Three drones has been built so far, he said.

From Reuters:

Venezuela is building unmanned drone aircraft as part of military cooperation with Iran and other allies, President Hugo Chavez said, in a move likely to heighten U.S. anxiety over his socialist government's role in the region.

Health of American Hostage Worsens

In The Washington Post:

A lawyer for an American imprisoned in Cuba for more than two years says his client’s health is declining and that Cuba is withholding the results of medical tests performed on him last month.

Peter Kahn, a lawyer for Alan Gross, said he sent a letter Monday to Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington requesting the test results. He said the Maryland man now has difficulty walking and has developed a mass behind his right shoulder blade.

Kahn said Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor who was working in Cuba when he was imprisoned in 2009, was told the test results would be provided so that American doctors could look at them. But he said that hasn’t happened though other test results have been provided in the past.

“They still haven’t shown up, and we’re not getting a straight answer as to why, which causes us even more concern because maybe there is something serious going on here,” Kahn said.

The Testimony That Enraged Castro

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Below is a transcript of last week's testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Cuban pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez."

This testimony resulted in the brutal arrest and beating of Antunez by the Castro regime.

He now faces charges of "resistance," "disobedience" and "spreading false information."

It's fascinating how the Castro regime has no problem allowing Cuban "academics" and "artists" to visit U.S. universities and think-tanks to discuss easing sanctions, rapprochement and cosmetic reforms.

It even allows certain Cuban-Americans to give conferences on the island about "unconditional reconciliation."

But when a pro-democracy leader speaks truth to power, without cowering to fear and intimidation, then it reacts with violence and force.

Here is the must-read testimony:

JORGE LUIS GARCIA PEREZ "ANTUNEZ": Good afternoon, everybody. Good afternoon, Mrs. Jacobson, assistant secretary of state, Senator Menendez and everybody else present here. Very special greetings to my friend, Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, who is there with you.

It makes me very proud and excited to see Normando Hernandez Gonzalez there today because we shared political prisons. We both suffered beatings, oppression and hunger. He is like the best example of our homeland because he is a self-taught journalist that used to disseminate information in the prison. And I am very proud to see him represent us there today because he suffered all the oppression with a lot of dignity and decorum.

Something very important that my colleague Sarah Marta Fonseca just said was that we found out about this event with very short notice. And I think that shows the degree of oppression that we are under. And that speaks volumes of the repression that we feel. I had to, like she said, walk kilometers, hide behind trees and bushes, as if I was some kind of criminal, to attend an event that, in any other free and democratic country in the world, would be an everyday thing.

But thank God and thanks to the interests section for all the support given to us, we are here. It's been hard, but we are here and we are involved. I want you to know that a few days ago, as a result of brutal repression in an act of repudiation, I witnessed the death of Antonia Rodríguez Mirabal in the city of Santa Clara where a group of pro-democratic, peaceful activists, myself included, were gathered to talk about liberty, freedom, justice and human rights.

But that's not all, Mr. Senator. At this very moment, there's a black woman that has been on hunger strike for several days in Santa Clara. And hear me out here: Ms. Damaris Moya Portieles is on a -- thank you -- is on a hunger strike because the political police threatened to sexually abuse and rape her six-year-old daughter.

And we're not talking about the Cuba from before 1959 or any other country in Latin America or the South Africa of Botha. We're talking about the Cuba of the 21st century when horrible killings happen, such as the ones of Mr. Zapata Tamayo, Wilmar Villar Mendoza, Juan Wilfredo Soto and abuela -- which is grandmother -- Antonia.

And we need to bear in mind that no increase in remittances, no increase in the number of trips, no increase in the cultural exchanges can speed up the democratization process in our country. This only serves to strengthen the repression and to grant impunity to the people that commit these acts of repression.

It has been proven that -- and for this, I have my witnesses here, these Cubans that recently left the island, Mr. Normando Hernandez Gonzalez and my colleague here, Sarah Marta Fonseca -- that these increases in trips both from North Americans to Cuba and Cubans themselves have not helped at all with the democratic process in our country because they come to our country on matters that have nothing to do with what we're doing.

I would like to clarify that I fully respect President Barack Obama's administration, and I know that everything that they are doing is with their best intentions. And both the Democratic and the Republican Parties are allied to our cause. But Mr. Senators, when the opposition is increasing, both in qualitative as well as in quantitative terms, when there is an increase in the number of protests all over the country, this is the time and these are the opportunities to support the resistance forces.

This is because the Cuban resistance forces are embarked on a head-on battle with the state. We suffer beatings. We suffer undue treatment -- harassment even -- in our own homes, torture and all kinds of violations of our human rights.

To conclude, because I have already said a lot and those who spoke before me have done so very eloquently -- maybe even more so than me -- like Jose Marti said, the truth is to be said, not to be hidden.

And in this regard and in terms of the visas, I find Mariela Castro's visit to the United States being an official office regime that oppresses, that kills and that harasses the Cuban people, a complete insult and an utter offense to us. Now, Mariela Castro is out there visiting the United States.

And I would like to ask: Could we, the opponents in Cuba, the leaders of different organizations and different initiatives, go to the United States and come to the island freely?

Thank you very much.

Menendez & Rubio Talk With Antunez Upon Release

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke this afternoon via teleconference with Cuban pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," who was brutally beaten and arrested over the weekend for testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Antunez was released this morning, but is now facing charges of "resistance" and "spreading false information."

Senators Menendez and Rubio spoke to the media after the call:

Castro Official At Senate Hearing Revealed

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has revealed the name of the Castro regime official who attended last week's Senate Foreign Relations hearing and who reported back on the courageous Cuban dissidents that testified (and were subsequently repressed).

His name: Rodney Gonzalez.

The State Department should expel this agent of repression.

See Senator Rubio's tweet below and a picture of Rodney:

Thank You, President Uribe

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe tweeted today:

WSJ: Antunez's Courage, Castro's Payback

By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Being a black dissident in "revolutionary" Cuba has always been an especially dangerous vocation. That's because the military dictatorship attaches its hopes for legitimacy, in part, to the claim that it rescued Cuban blacks from a life of strife. When an Afro-Cuban objects to that narrative, it makes the regime look bad, and that upsets the masters of the island slave plantation. Rage generally follows. Just ask long-time Cuban dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who this week was arrested for just such a "crime."

In a June 7 Senate Western Hemisphere subcommittee hearing titled "The Path to Freedom: Countering Repression and Supporting Civil Society in Cuba," Chairman Robert Menendez (D., N.J) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) interviewed four Cuban dissidents. Only one of the four was in the hearing room. One of them spoke by telephone from the eastern end of Cuba, and two of them spoke on a video feed from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

One of those at the Interests Section was Mr. Garcia Perez-aka "Antunez"-a 47-year-old activist who happens to be black and already did 17 years in a Cuban prison. Forty-eight hours after giving testimony, Antunez was beaten and detained by Cuban state security. An activist who was with him at the jail said that the police pumped pepper spray into his mouth until he lost consciousness. He was later taken away to a detention center and his wife was not allowed to see him for more than three days.

There can be little doubt that Antunez understood the risks of his participation in the Senate hearing. In the video he explains that he did not have a lot of time to prepare because the event had to be kept a secret. To smuggle himself into the U.S. Interest Section he says he had to "walk kilometers and to hide behind trees and bushes as if I was some kind of a criminal."

Once inside the walls of the U.S. building, Antunez didn't pull punches. As he described the hardship endured by pro-democracy activists, he reminded the committee that he was not talking about pre-1959 Cuba or the South Africa of P.W. Botha. He said it is happening today, in 21st century Cuba. He also argued that liberating travel to the island and increasing remittance flows will not accelerate the transition to Cuban freedom. Those policies, he said, "will only create impunity for the regime and allow it to continue its repression." What the movement needs, he said, is U.S. help for civic groups that want to change Cuba. As he wrapped up, he said that giving a travel visa to Mariela Castro was an insult to Cubans. Might dissidents also be allowed to travel to the U.S. and then return to Cuba, he asked.

During the hearing Mr. Menendez noted the presence of members of the Castro regime, who are posted at the Cuban Interest Section in Washington and were taking notes. The senator promised to "monitor the rights" of those who testified from Cuba and to "make sure that they are not repressed or face any consequences upon their return to their homes." But someone back in Havana didn't get the memo. On Monday Mr. Menendez took the floor of the Senate to denounce the "beating and arrest" of Antunez, which he said was "clearly a direct result of his Senate testimony."

The senator called on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Committee Against Torture to fully investigate the incident, "as well as the more than 2,400 other political arrests that have occurred this year in Cuba." He also asked the State Department to cease providing any non-essential visas for travel to the United States by Cuban officials.

Antunez was finally released this morning but remains charged with assault, resistance, contempt and spreading false information. The state is threatening to prosecute him.

Nelson Letter on Antunez's Arrest

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has sent the following letter to the head of Castro's Interests Section in Washington, D.C. regarding the arrest of Cuban pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez":

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation on Latin America, the Middle East and the upcoming U.S. elections with former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN).

During his tenure in the Senate, Coleman was Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and Ranking Member of the Near East Subcommittee. He is currently the Chairman of the American Action Network.

"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).

Must Watch: CNN Report on Antunez's Arrest

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Click on the video:

European NGO's Call for Antunez's Release

Europe Cuba Network Call for Immediate Release of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez"

The Europe Cuba Network is calling on the Cuban government to immediately release long time human rights defender, Jorge Luis García Pérez, also known as “Antúnez”. The members of the Europe Cuba Network are gravely concerned for the welfare of Antúnez, a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, who presented video testimony to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “Countering Repression and Strengthening Civil Society in Cuba” on Thursday, 7 June.

On Saturday, 9 June, Antúnez was arrested. He was reportedly pepper-sprayed and beaten unconscious before being removed from his cell. His current whereabouts are unknown.

The Europe Cuba Network urges the European Union (EU) and its member states to make urgent representations on behalf of Antúnez to the Cuban government. The Europe Cuba Network also calls on the EU and other members of the international community to hold the Cuban government to account for all attacks on Cuban human rights defenders and specifically for the physical welfare of Antúnez.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide – United Kingdom
Člověk v tísni/ People in Need – Czech Republic
Cuba Futuro - Netherlands
Freedom and Democracy Foundation - Poland
Fundación Hispano Cubana - Spain
Italian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights - Italy
Kristdemokratiskt Internationellt Center/Christian Democratic International Center - Sweden
OZ Clovek v ohrozeni / People in Peril Association – Slovak Republic
Solidaridad Española con Cuba – Spain
Unitas Foundation - Estonia

ING to Pay $619 Million for Sanctions Violations

U.S. Treasury Department Announces $619 Million Settlement with ING Bank, N.V.

Largest-Ever Settlement Reached in a Sanctions Case

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today announced a $619 million settlement with ING Bank N.V. (ING Bank) to settle potential liability for apparent violations of U.S. sanctions. Today’s settlement is the largest OFAC settlement of any kind to date. The settlement resolves OFAC’s investigation into ING Bank’s intentional manipulation and deletion of information about U.S.-sanctioned parties in more than 20,000 financial and trade transactions routed through third-party banks located in the United States between 2002 and 2007, primarily in apparent violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), 31 C.F.R. part 515, but also of the Iranian Transactions Regulations (ITR), 31 C.F.R. part 560; the Burmese Sanctions Regulations (BSR), 31 C.F.R. part 537; the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR), 31 C.F.R. part 538; and the now-repealed version of the Libyan Sanctions Regulations (LSR), 31 C.F.R. part 550, which was in effect until 2004.

ING Bank’s apparent violations, which totaled more than $1.6 billion routed through the United States despite U.S. sanctions, arose out of policies at multiple offices of ING Bank’s Wholesale Banking Division. Neither ING Bank’s insurance nor its banking operations in the United States were subjects of this investigation. Beginning in the 1990s, at the instruction of senior bank management, ING Bank employees in Curacao began omitting references to Cuba in payment messages sent to the United States in order to prevent U.S. financial institutions from identifying and interdicting prohibited transactions. The practice of removing and omitting such information was also used by other branches of ING Bank’s Wholesale Banking Division, including in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, in processing U.S. dollar payments and trade finance transactions through the United States. In addition, ING Bank’s senior management in France authorized, advised in the creation of, and ultimately provided fraudulent endorsement stamps for use by Cuban financial institutions in processing travelers check transactions, which disguised the involvement of Cuban banks in these transactions when they were processed through the United States. Moreover, ING Bank’s Trade and Commodity Finance business at its Wholesale Banking branch in the Netherlands routed payments made on behalf of U.S.-sanctioned Cuban clients through other corporate clients to obscure the sanctioned clients’ identities and its Romanian branch omitted details from a letter of credit involving a U.S. financial institution in order to finance the exportation of U.S.-origin goods to Iran.

Chairman Kerry Statement on Antunez's Arrest

Kerry Responds to Beating of Cuban Dissident After Testifying to Foreign Relations Committee

Washington, DC - Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement today after news reports of the detention and beating of a Cuban dissident who testified last week via teleconference before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics.

"A number of Cuban citizens have demonstrated tremendous courage, presenting testimony to the Congress at great risk to themselves and their families," said Sen. Kerry.

"Just last week, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ("Antunez") spoke before our committee and two days later he was beaten and detained in retaliation for speaking his mind. I want to be crystal clear that I strongly condemn any efforts to intimidate Mr. Perez or any other Cuban citizen into silence. I echo the calls of my Senate colleagues, demanding an end to repression in Cuba and urging international observers to conduct an investigation into his detention."

On Thursday, June 7, 2012, at 10:45 a.m. in SD-419, the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs held a hearing on "The Path to Freedom: Countering Repression and Strengthening Civil Society in Cuba." Senator Bob Menendez, the Subcommittee Chairman, presided. The U.S. Department of State reports that short-term detentions in Cuba in December 2011 rose to the highest monthly number in 30 years.

Must Watch: On the Senate Floor

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on the Senate floor regarding the arrest of Cuban pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" pursuant to his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Menendez Calls For Visa Ban and Investigation of Antunez's Arrest

Monday, June 11, 2012
Menendez Calls For Termination of Visas for Cuban Officials; Immediate Investigation Of Arrest And Beating By Castro Regime Of Witness At Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing

Arrest, Beating of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Was Following His Courageous Testimony

Washington – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs, today reacted to the reported arrest and beating of Cuban dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (“Antunez”) by the Castro regime on June 9 -- 48 hours after he testified via video teleconference in front of the Senate Subcommittee. He was one of three Cuban dissidents who testified at the June 7 hearing titled, “The Path to Freedom: Countering Repression and Supporting Civil Society in Cuba.”

Menendez said:

I am outraged, but not surprised by the Castro regime’s attack and imprisonment of Jorge Luis Garica Perez (“Antunez”), who overcame significant obstacles to provide testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. Our thoughts and prayers are with Antunez, his wife Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, and his family who have suffered time and again at the hands of the Castro regime for their pursuit of libertad for the Cuban people.

The arrest and beating of Antunez – clearly as a direct result of his Senate testimony – is further proof of the continuing brutality of the Castro Brothers’ regime and further evidence of the need for the United States and other democratic nations to stand up against tyrants and realize that the nature of the regime won’t be altered by increasing tourist travel to the island, expanding agricultural trade, or by providing visas for regime officials to tour the United States.

I am calling on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the UN Committee Against Torture to fully investigate this incident, as well as the more than 2,400 other political arrests that have occurred this year in Cuba, and on the State Department to cease providing any non-essential visas for travel to the United States by Cuban officials.

As long as I have a voice, I will speak out against the regime, against any effort to legitimize it or reward it – and I will speak out for the thousands of men and women like Antunez – until Cuba is free

Here's a video clip of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez’s (“Antunez”) testimony:

Rubio Calls for Antunez's Release

Senator Rubio Comments on the Beating of Cuban Freedom Advocate Jorge Luis garcia Perez "Antunez"

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement today following reports that Cuban regime authorities detained and viciously beat freedom advocate and former political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez Antunez, less than a week after he testified via tele-conference during a Senate Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs hearing:

Antunez is a courageous human rights activist. It is clear that he has been jailed and savagely beaten by criminals working for the Castro regime because he testified before the Senate last week. The regime’s thugs will eventually be held accountable for these crimes. History will not wipe away the blood they have on their hands. Antunez should be released immediately, and all threats and acts of violence against him and his family must stop, as they should with any Cubans who are simply demanding their God-given rights.

Furthermore, we should reexamine the unintended yet negative consequences of this administration’s loosened travel and remittance policies. The naïve people-to-people exchanges that have been abused provides Raul Castro’s regime the hard currency it requires to pay thugs to jail, brutalize and even murder innocent Cuban people

Mack Calls for Antunez's Release

Mack Reacts to Castro Regime's Arresting and Beating of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Witness

Calls for Response from Obama Administration

WASHINGTON --- Chairman Connie Mack (FL-14), after heralding last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Hearing entitled: The Path to Freedom: Countering Repression and Strengthening Civil Society in Cuba, today responds to news that one witness was arrested and beaten by the Castro Regime led by Raul Castro. Mack stated:

"It is a sad day today as we receive crystal clear confirmation that not a single change has taken place in Cuba under the reign of the Castro brothers.

Here in the United States we stand on the belief that every citizen has the right of free speech. So, when a brutal regime beats its own citizen in response to the expression of that right, we should see an outpouring of disgust and outrage from the U.S. Administration.

I call on the Obama Administration to do everything within its power, and the powers of our close allies, to defend the health, safety and freedom of the brave, pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis García Pérez 'Antúnez', as well as U.S. citizen Alan Gross and other fighters of freedom who currently languish under the all-powerful hand of Raul Castro

Ros-Lehtinen Calls for Antunez's Release

As Castro Regime Arrests & Beats Cuban Pro-Democracy Activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” For Testifying Before the U.S. Senate, Ros-Lehtinen Condemns Dictatorship’s Actions & Urges Obama Administration To Get Tough On The Castro Brothers

Miami, Florida – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued the following statement after the wife of a leading Cuban pro democracy activist reported that her husband, well known dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”, had been arrested and beaten up by Castro security forces over the weekend.

According to Yris Tamara Perez-Aguilera, Antunez was arrested on Saturday and brutally beaten until he became unconscious. Mrs. Perez-Aguilera has not heard from her husband since his arrest and beating which, she believes were in retaliation for Antunez’ testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Said Ros-Lehtinen, “As the Obama Administration continues to engage and appease the dictators in Havana, Raul and Fidel Castro’s security forces are ruthlessly arresting and beating members of the peaceful dissident movement inside Cuba.

The arrest and beating of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’ over the weekend, the recent arbitrary arrests of hundreds of dissidents, and the continued imprisonment of American citizen Alan Gross should be a wakeup call for this Administration. How much more suffering and abuse must the Cuban people suffer at the hands of the Castro brothers before President Obama takes action?

I urge the President and his Administration to get tough on the Castro brothers. The inaction of the Administration is emboldening the Castro tyranny and endangering the lives of peaceful Cuban citizens who only wish for their human rights to be respected. The Obama policy of appeasement is a failure, and the Cuban people suffer the consequences

Rivera Calls for Antunez's Release

Congressman Rivera Calls for Release of Cuban Political Prisoner Antúnez

Miami, Fla.- Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) called for the Castro regime to immediately release opposition leader Jose Luis Garcia Perez, known as “Antúnez”. Antúnez was arrested and beaten over the weekend and has not been heard from since Saturday. He testified on Thursday by phone at a U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on “Countering Repression and Strengthening Civil Society in Cuba”.

Jose Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antúnez, was jailed and brutally beaten and has not been heard from since Saturday evening. His crime? Antúnez expressed his opinion about the Castro regime’s repressive tactics and stressed the importance of spreading the word internationally about the efforts of Cuban heroic dissidents. For this, Antúnez was arrested as Castro thugs beat him and doused him with pepper spray.

This is unacceptable as yet another example of the Castro regime’s practice of squelching human rights and resorting to violence against those who oppose the dictatorship.

I am greatly concerned for Antúnez’s health and safety. I call on human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to not only demand his immediate release, and the release of all of Cuba’s political prisoners, but to also bring international attention to his efforts and the plight of Cuba’s dissidents
,” Congressman Rivera said.

Senate Witness Arrested and Brutally Beaten

Pursuant to last week's testimony in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Cuban pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" has been arrested and brutally beaten by the Castro regime.

According to Antunez's wife (in testimony this morning to Radio Republica), Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, he was arrested on Saturday afternoon, brutally beaten, doused with pepper spray until unconscious and violently removed from his cell by the authorities that evening.

Antunez has not been heard from since.

His wife believes this is in reprisal for Antunez's testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

This serves as a stark reminder of what happens to Cuban activists who dare speak the truth.

Maybe it'll give some pause to those who applaud the Castro regime's apparatchiks when they travel to the U.S. on propaganda tours (thanks to the State Department's generous new visa policy).

For now, please join us in demanding Antunez's safe release.

Jacobson's Defense of the Indefensible

During last week's Cuba hearing in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson was asked about the Obama Administration's new "people-to-people" travel category.

As U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) highlighted, this category is being used for salsa classes, cigar factory tours and all sorts of junkets -- including an ideological trip to re-discover the "glorious" past of Che Guevara (excluding visits to the prisons where Guevara oversaw mass executions, of course).

(See the exchange at the 62:00 mark).

Jacobson couldn't give a straight answer.

Instead, she urged focus on the positive, including the work of faith-based organizations and human rights groups.

That's nice, but it has nothing to do with the Administration's "people-to-people" category.

Faith-based outreach is a whole separate category -- religious travel.

Meanwhile, the work of human rights organizations has long been encouraged under the "support for the Cuban people" category.

So don't mix apples and oranges.

"People-to-people" travel is a demeaning category of trips pre-approved and hosted on the island by the Castro regime.

As Senator Menendez pointed out, they are tourism junkets in disguise.

This category recently served as the vehicle for celebrity chefs to tour Cuba (who then engaged in orgies while there).

Or as this week's "people-to-people" ad by YMT Vacations describes them -- trips for "discerning mature travelers."

Is that an ad or a solicitation?

O'Grady: Castro Endorses Obama

Sunday, June 10, 2012
By The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady:

Castro Endorses Obama

The dictator's daughter gets a visa to make speeches here while the regime continues to hold an American hostage.

President Obama has received yet another endorsement, this time from the daughter of Cuban military dictator Raúl Castro. Mariela Castro proclaimed her support for the sitting president 10 days ago, during a visit to the United States. "I believe that Obama needs another opportunity and he needs greater support to move forward with his projects and with his ideas, which I believe come from the bottom of his heart," she said in a CNN interview in New York.

The dictator's daughter, who is a vociferous proponent of the Cuban status quo, was ostensibly in the U.S. to discuss matters pertaining to her field of expertise, which has something to do with advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. As the Cuban-born writer Carlos Alberto Montaner put it in a syndicated column last week, "Mariela is tolerant of sexual preferences and intolerant of all the rest." He added: "For her, freedom and emotional coherence are something very specifically situated south of the navel."

Notwithstanding her "work" as what she calls "a sexologist," the Communist Party official did not shy away from carrying water for Uncle Fidel and her despotic daddy while on American soil. Much of her time was spent promoting the party line and disparaging human-rights defenders. Among other pearls from the child of privilege came the claim that in Cuba "people who dissent don't go to jail." She also put on the table again Cuba's view that if the U.S. wants to win the release of U.S. Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross, who has been languishing in a Cuban jail since December 2009, it should agree to release the five convicted Cuban spies who are in jail in the U.S.

Ms. Castro's affinity for the American president aside, it is passing strange that the administration even issued her a visa. It claims it is doing all it can to free the ailing 63-year-old Mr. Gross, and Ms. Castro's desire for entry presented an opportunity to make that point to the regime. But apparently the importance of pleasing the Obama base in San Francisco, where she was invited first to talk about homosexual rights, was an even higher priority than the "high-priority" Mr. Gross.

The State Department defended the visa decision on free-speech grounds. But that's hard to square with its history of using visas as a policy tool. There are many examples of elected Latin American officials and military brass being refused travel to the U.S. for reasons that override their rights to express themselves. Two prominent examples come to mind. First, numerous members of the Colombian military—which is under civilian command—and in some cases members of their families, have had their U.S. visas pulled by the State Department merely because the soldiers were accused by left-wing nongovernmental organizations of human-rights violations. Even when acquitted, most never had those visas restored.

Then there was the visa-yanking by the Obama administration when it decided in 2009 that the Honduran Supreme Court was undemocratic because it had ruled that President Manuel Zelaya's removal from power was constitutional. Team Obama also pulled the visas of members of the interim government, even though it took power in strict adherence to the constitution and with the backing of the major political parties, the Catholic Church and the country's human-rights ombudsman. Those visas were not returned even when the interim government presided over a free and fair election and left power on schedule.

Only last week did the State Department announce that some—not all—of the victims of this injustice may reapply for entry to the U.S. Over the years, visas have also been pulled for allegations of corruption on the part of elected officials in other countries.

So if the bar that has to be cleared is set by democratic standards, human-rights records and anticorruption, how in heaven's name did this regime mouthpiece sail into the U.S. while her father is holding an American hostage? The State Department maintains that the official policy restricts access only for "senior [communist] party members and senior members of the government." Yet Ms. Castro did not travel in the U.S. like a private citizen. She was flacking for her old man and the State Department even gave her a security detail. A department official told me that she was entitled to that as a "child of a head of state."

This is the kind of thing that makes U.S. presidents look weak in the eyes of tyrants and that seems to be the way Ms. Castro likes it. If Mr. Obama had more backing from Americans, she speculated in her CNN interview, U.S.-Cuba relations could be "as good or better than we had under President Carter." And isn't every American just pining for the good old days of Carter foreign policy?

Hiding Behind "Daddy"

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez sent the following tweet to Cuban dictator Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela:

"It's easy to verbally attack and then go hide behind 'daddy.' I challenge you to a public debate! Do you accept?"

Repression Steadily on the Rise

Independent journalists in Cuba (CIHPress) have documented 343 political arrests during the month of May 2012.

See the details of each arrest here.

That brings the total number of political arrests for the first five months of this year to 2,258.

Steadily en route to break 2011's full-year tally of 3,835 political arrests.

More "reform" you can't believe in.