Must-See: Cuba and Venezuela Confronted in Geneva

Friday, June 29, 2012
Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation confronts the Castro and Chavez regimes at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

And the Castro regime has a fit, as it doesn't like to be called "authoritarian."

Click here:

The Chavez-Castro Oil Ruse

Today, the AP reported the following:

Venezuela's national oil company will join in exploratory drilling for crude in deep waters off Cuba, the company's president said Thursday.

State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is next in line to drill after Malaysia's Petronas completes its work, said Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's oil minister and president of the company. He said Venezuela has budgeted an estimated $40 million for the project.

Spanish oil company Repsol said last month that it would stop searching for oil off Cuba after hitting a dry well drilled at a cost of more than $100 million.


None of this should be surprising, as it's part of a long and deliberate strategy, which we discussed in testimony before the U.S. House of Representative's Natural Resources Committee on November 2nd, 2011:

The Cuban regime first began using offshore-drilling rights to extract political concessions from various nations of the world soon after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which ended that country’s hefty subsidies to Cuba.

According to recently declassified documents by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, in 1993 the Cuban regime first offered the government of then President Itamar Franco the "most promising" blocks for oil exploration to Brazil's national oil company, Petrobras, in exchange for their shunning of Cuban dissidents on the island and cancelling a meeting with Cuban exiles at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Brazilian government complied with both, only to exit from Cuba empty-handed years later.

The Cuban regime found a new “partner” when Hugo Chavez rose to the presidency of oil-rich Venezuela in 1998. With the backing of Chavez and Venezuela’s state-oil company PdVSA, the Cuban regime resumed its diplomatic offensive signing highly publicized oil-leases with Spain's Repsol, Norway's Statoil, Russia's Gazprom, India's ONGC Videsh, Malaysia's Petronas, Canada's Sherritt, Angola's Sonangol, Vietnam's PetroVietnam and China's CNPC .

Only one company, however, has actually conducted any exploratory drilling -- Spain's Repsol in 2004. It found some oil, but not in any commercially viable quantities. It then pulled out of Cuba.

Similarly, after much initial fanfare, Canada's Sherritt and Brazil's Petrobras -- perhaps the most credible and respected of the region’s oil companies outside the United States -- publicly abandoned their efforts in 2008 and 2011, respectively, stating that Cuba offshore drilling was "not commercially viable" and citing "poor prospects."

Much of this can be attributed to U.S. sanctions, which dramatically drive up costs of production. The Cuban regime has itself admitted that U.S. sanctions make it commercially impractical to produce oil in its territorial waters. Keep in mind that even the largest neighboring foreign oil companies, Mexico's Pemex and Venezuela's PdVSA, refine the majority of their oil in the U.S. and then repatriate it, for they lack the domestic infrastructure to process their own heavy crude and the U.S.’s geographical proximity enhances profitability. As long as U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba’s regime are in place, producing and refining any oil found in Cuban waters in the United States isn’t an option.

That leads to a question: If off-shore drilling in Cuban waters is not commercially viable for the most respectable regional oil companies, which are located relatively close to Cuba and have the most experience in dealing with Cubans, is such drilling really viable for the Angolans, Malaysians or the Chinese? The answer is no.

Initially, we learned this in 2006, when the Cuban regime seemingly had convinced public policymakers in Washington -- including many here in Congress -- that the Chinese were ready to drill off Cuba's shores. The threat never materialized, but it served the Cuban regime’s political interests. As Reuters reported from Cuba at the time: “Havana is eager to see American oil companies join forces with the anti-embargo lobby led by U.S. farmers who have been selling food to Cuba for four years."

Last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by BP and the justifiable public outrage that ensued has given the Cuban regime a new and strategic opportunity to use the threat of offshore drilling as a means of forcing the U.S. to unilaterally ease sanctions. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has confirmed this on various occasions and relayed as much to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who recently traveled to Havana in an unsuccessful effort to secure the release of American hostage Alan Gross; Gross has been held for nearly two years in a Cuban prison for helping the island’s Jewish community connect to the Internet.

In a flashback to 2004, Spain's Repsol is back in Cuba preparing to drill another exploratory well early next year. This time, the Cuban regime is “threatening” that if Repsol is pressured into abandoning drilling, India’s ONGC Videsh or Malaysia’s Petronas will step forward.

Curiously, this peculiar corporate trio was granted extensive oil-rights last year by Hugo Chavez to develop a block with 235 billion barrels of reserves in Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco belt. Reserves in that one Venezuelan block alone are believed to be 50 times greater than the best estimates in all of Cuba’s territorial waters. Some geo-political foul play can surely be deduced from the particularity and timing of this arrangement.

Castro, Inc.: A Global Conglomerate

With all of the recent stories -- some better edited than others -- regarding Medicare fraud, money laundering and the Castro regime's potential involvement, we thought it'd be timely to repost this very helpful analysis:


CASTRO INC -

Daughter of Dissident Kidnapped by Regime

Thursday, June 28, 2012
From Pedazos de la Isla:

Cuba: Minor Kidnapped by Government Agents

In what members of Cuba’s opposition are describing as a “kidnapping,” on Thursday, June 21st, in Contramaestre, Santiago de Cuba, the daughter of an imprisoned Lady in White was taken from the home of a family friend by functionaries of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and taken to an orphanage, according to the former political prisoner and national coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

The mother, Lady in White Mayelin Montero la O, has been detained for various weeks in the Women’s Prison of Mar Verde due to her peaceful and public activities against the Cuban regime. Her 9 year old daughter, Amanda Montalvo Montero, was living with a trusted family friend - Milagros Borel - ever since her mother was taken to a penitentiary.

Ferrer Garcia explains that upon knowing that she was going to be arrested for her activities as a Lady in White, Mayelin Montero "left a written document in which she left her daughter under the care of this lady, Milagros Borel."

"Considering that the young girl has been receiving lots of support from the Ladies in White, members of UNPACU, and activists of other dissident organizations," continues Ferrer Garcia, "the political police was very bothered by this and had been threatening to take the child to a center for children without families." And this was precisely what they did during the afternoon of June 21st.

Various MININT agents who claimed to be responsible for situations with minors, showed up to the home of Milagro and told her that they had to take the girl for some required medical exams, promising to bring her back as soon as she was done.

In the end, however, upon seeing how long Amanda was taking to return back to her house, "Milagro demanded that the child be returned, but the agents informed her that she had already been taken to an orphanage," denounced Ferrer Garcia. Milagro has not seen Amanda since that moment.

Meanwhile, Mayelin Montero la O has been carrying out a lengthy hunger strike from the Mar Verde Prison, demanding her freedom.

Cuban-American Leaders: “No Substitute for Freedom”

By Ray Walser in The Foundry:

Cuban-American Leaders: “No Substitute for Freedom” in Cuba

When it comes to dealing with the Castro dictatorship inCuba, there are several schools of thought. The one preferred by Washington liberals, idealists, and the architects of the Obama Administration’s Cuba policy holds that increased travel, remittances, and diplomatic engagement is softening hearts, opening Cuba, and loosening the regime’s unwavering commitment to sustain a succession process that preserves the dictatorship of the Cuban Communist Party in a post-Castro era.

However, these pleasing liberal assumptions are negated on a daily basis by hard-headed facts on the ground in Cuba. With each new step lifting restrictions on travel and remittances have come more demands for additional actions—not a reciprocal loosening of the regime’s grip on its citizens.

A one-of a-kind letter entitled “Commitment to Freedom,” signed by a distinguished battery of Cuban-American former senior executives for Fortune 500 companies and released on June 25, advises Washington and the Obama Administration to curb its enthusiasm for a policy of appeasement and concessions. It warns against falling for the Castro regime’s deceptive campaign to secure U.S. capital infusion and bank credits and lure some Cuban-American businessmen without ushering in a true economic and political opening.

The former CEOs argue that recent economic reforms heralded as game-changing are, in fact, “mostly cosmetic, heavily-taxed and revocable, and offer no legal protection or investment return.” The letter’s signatories further warn that the Castro regime “is seeking to divide and neutralize the Cuban-American community, and lure some of its businessmen, by selling the fallacious concept that there is no solution toCuba’s predicament other than supporting cosmetic reforms without liberty and democracy.”
They are correct when they say the future “lies not with the current failed, octogenarian rulers, but with the leaders of the growing pro-democracy movement.”

The Obama Administration policy aimed at easing travel and remittances to Cuba has visibly failed to advance genuine economic or political freedom. With the unjust detention of American Alan Gross and the continual crackdown on dissent and protest, the regime cannot hide its iron fist of political repression.

It is time to take a tougher look at the shortcomings of U.S. Cuba policy and remind ourselves, as these former CEOs do, that when it comes to ending the tyranny of the Castro regime, there is “no substitute for freedom."

Same Story, Same Journalist, Two Editors

Both The Miami Herald and its Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald ran stories last weekend on U.S. Interests Section cables (revealed by Wikileaks) that "analyzed" potential money laundering in Cuba.

See the English version here and the Spanish version here.

It's the same story, written by the same journalist, yet while the Spanish-version in El Nuevo Herald is balanced and thorough, the English-version editors at The Miami Herald morphed it into a whole different story.

Let's start with the titles.

In El Nuevo Herald, the title is:

"Diplomáticos destacan secretismo de bancos en Cuba" ("Diplomats Highlight Secretive Nature of Banks in Cuba")

In The Miami Herald, it is:

"WikiLeaks cables: In the past U.S. diplomats didn’t find evidence of money laundering in Cuba"

Then, The Miami Herald version conveniently leaves out one of the most important quotes -- that of a defector who actually worked in the Cuban banking system.

"All money that goes through Cuban banks is investigated, specially foreign money," said defector Marzo Fernandez (but only in El Nuevo Herald).

Thus, no money from illicit activity can enter Cuba's tightly controlled banking system without the Castro regime's knowledge.

But frankly, the whole basis of the story -- the cables themselves -- are oxymoronic, for they conclude:

"The U.S. government does not have any direct evidence of money laundering or terrorist financing activities in Cuba in 2009."

And then admit, Cuba has "one of the most secretive and non-transparent national banking systems in the world."

What a brilliant deduction.

Finally, none of the stories mention the latest report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global standard setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), which has concluded:

"Cuba has not committed to the AML/CFT international standards, nor has it constructively directly engaged with the FATF. At the same time, Cuba attended a GAFISUD plenary as a guest and prepared an informal document on its AML/CFT regime. The FATF has identified Cuba as having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system."

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an exclusive interview with U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Subcommittee; the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE); and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Then, former Venezuelan Vice-Admiral Rafael Huizi Clavier will discuss the latest news stemming from the South American nation.

And Amb. Lino Gutierrez, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, will analyze the unfolding events in Paraguay and Ecuador.

TIME UPDATE: You can now listen to "From Washington al Mundo" seven-days a week on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST) and again at midnight (EST).

Judge Moore Needs Sanctions Law Refresher

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Yesterday, Judge K. Michael Moore temporarily enjoined a Florida law that prohibits companies with business ties to the brutal Castro and Assad dictatorships from receiving Florida taxpayer funds.

This initial ruling is somewhat irresponsible, considering the 11th Circuit's precedent, but not surprising considering the history of district court rulings in the past.

In 2008, a federal judge in Miami ruled against a Florida law that similarly prohibits Florida taxpayer funds from going to colleges and universities sponsoring travel to Cuba.

That ruling was overturned by the 11th Circuit and upheld yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2006, a federal judge ruled against the Miami-Dade County School Board's decision to pull a pro-Castro propaganda book, "Vamos a Cuba," from its public schools.

That, too, was overturned by the 11th Circuit and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

So the track record of district courts in regards to these cases is not great.

However, that's no excuse for misrepresenting the law either.

According to The Miami Herald, in yesterday's hearing regarding the Cuba/Syria law:

"FDOT’s attorney, Paul J. Martin, had argued that the state is allowed to set parameters for how to spend public money. He also made a complicated argument that the state law does not run afoul of federal law because the Florida statute does not allow anything that U.S. law prohibits.

But Moore turned that argument on its head and noted that the state law prohibits something the federal law allows: American companies to bid on public contracts even if they are affiliated with companies doing work in Cuba
."

That is untrue.

Federal law prohibits American companies or its subsidiaries (foreign or domestic) from doing work in Cuba.

Thus, the state law is not prohibiting something that the federal law allows.

To the contrary, it is consistent with the standard set in federal law for American companies and their subsidiaries.


And so long as it is consistent with federal law, it is constitutional (as per the U.S. Supreme Court in Crosby v. NFTC).

Lawmakers Applaud Principled Corporate Leaders

Read the "Commitment to Freedom" by over a dozen Cuban-American Fortune 500 executives here.

Rubio Applauds Business for Standing Against Easing Sanctions with Cuba

Senator Marco Rubio:

"I commend these business leaders for standing firm in their commitment to the freedom of Cuba. The Cuban communist dictatorship is a threat to all human freedom. I strongly support these members of the business community for stepping up and urging solidarity with Cuba's internal democratic movement as the key catalyst for the regime's demise and liberation of the Cuban people. We should not tolerate the regime's violations of human rights, and I applaud these leaders for drawing attention to the plight of the Cuban people and highlighting the human rights violations that continue to occur just ninety miles from America's shores."

Prominent Cuban Exile Business Leaders Reaffirm Their Refusal To Do Business With Castro; Ros-Lehtinen Commends Them For Principled Stand

Ros-Lehtinen:

"I enthusiastically commend and support the principled stand of these Cuban American business leaders reaffirming their commitment to a free and democratic Cuba rid of the repressive Castro dictatorship.

As any student of history knows, it is only a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ the Castro regime will crumble under the weight of its oppressiveness. After more than half a century of brutalizing and repressing the Cuban people, the regime is on its last leg and the octogenarian dictators know it.

The future of Cuba belongs to the Cuban people, not to their oppressors. The stand that these business leaders have taken assures that this future will be bright and full of possibilities for Cuba and its citizens
."

Diaz-Balart Commends Business Leaders for Standing with the Cuban People

Diaz-Balart:

"I am pleased that many of our community’s most distinguished business leaders pledged their support of Cuba’s brave pro-democracy movement, and publicly vowed to repudiate all business ties with the Castro dictatorship.

These business leaders clearly see the regime’s sham economic 'reforms' for what they are: a cynical attempt to garner international support and divert attention from its failures and increasingly brutal oppression. Rather than falling for the latest manipulations of the Castro dictatorship, these leaders call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the recognition of basic rights, and the complete dismantling of Castros’ machinery of oppression before they would consider pursuing business interests in the country of their birth.

I commend these pillars of our community for definitively choosing to stand with the Cuban people as they continue their courageous struggle for freedom, and for steadfastly refusing to do business with their oppressors
."

SCOTUS Decision on Cuba a Taxpayer Victory

Rep. Rivera: SCOTUS Decision Regarding University Travel Ban to Terrorist States a Victory for FL Taxpayers

Miami, Fla.- Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) released the following statement regarding the United States Supreme Court’s decision to not hear an appeal regarding the Travel to Terrorist States Act, which prohibits private colleges and universities from using state funds, and public colleges and universities from using any funds to plan, organize or implement travel to countries designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

Currently, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism. Congressman Rivera sponsored the Travel to Terrorist States Act in the Florida House of Representatives in 2006.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for Florida taxpayers. The Travel to Terrorist States Act was passed unanimously by the Florida legislature and upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. By denying another appeal on this case, the Supreme Court sends a clear message that the Florida legislature, the people’s elected representatives, has the right to decide how the state’s taxpayer dollars are spent and how they should not be spent. Floridians do not want their money or publicly-funded resources to be utilized for travel to terrorist nations, or to enrich terrorist regimes.”

FL's Taxpayers Will Have Final Word on Odebrecht

Monday, June 25, 2012
On the very same day that the U.S. Supreme Court left intact a Florida state law preventing taxpayer dollars from going to colleges and universities sponsoring academic travel to Cuba, a federal judge in Miami has issued a temporary injunction against a Florida law similarly banning taxpayer money from going to companies that have business ties to the brutal regimes in Cuba and Syria.

(Note that the Florida academic travel law was initially held unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2008 before being overturned by the 11th Circuit in 2010).

The injunction was sought by the Brazilian company Odebrecht, which after receiving over $3 billion in Florida taxpayers contracts for over a decade, decided to partner with the Cuban military in the expansion of the Port of Mariel and, most recently, in the refurbishing of Castro's sugar industry.

While the legal battle is far from over, there are many choices surrounding the case of Odebrecht.

After conducting business for over a decade with the Cuban-American community and receiving billions in Florida taxpayer money, Odebrecht could have chosen to respect the victims of Cuba's dictatorship, rather than partnering with their oppressors.

Odebrecht chose to partner with their oppressors.


After the will of Florida's taxpayers was clearly expressed by the nearly unanimous passage of the law repudiating such ties with repressive regimes, Odebrecht could have simply chosen to cut its business ties with the Cuban military.

Odebrecht refused to do so.


Odebrecht's lawyer, former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero also had a choice.

He could have taken a stand for the victims of Cuba's brutal dictatorship -- those courageous pro-democracy activists fighting overwhelming odds -- rather than doing the high-price bidding of their oppressor's business partners.

Cantero chose their oppressor's business partners.


Miami-Dade County also has a choice.

Nothing in the preliminary ruling states that Miami-Dade County has to continue granting Odebrecht billions in taxpayer funds against the will of its taxpayers. Miami-Dade County is free to take a moral stand.

So will Miami-Dade County take a moral stand on behalf of its taxpayers or will it turn a blind-eye?

At the end of the day, one thing is for sure, Florida's taxpayers will have the final word.


Flake's Ties to Apartheid South Africa

In The National Journal:

About Jeff Flake's Lobbying Ties to South Africa

Arizona Senate candidate and GOP Rep. Jeff Flake was pressed over the weekend about his past work as a lobbyist for a Namibian uranium mine during an appearance on a local TV interview program, including whether any of his lobbying work ever supported South Africa during apartheid.

Flake, whose work in the influence industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s was detailed by the National Journal in April, adamantly denied that he had ever, in the interviewer's words, "either for an employer or on your own, either indirectly or directly" supported the regime in South Africa.

"Absolutely not," Flake said firmly.

But one of the companies Flake worked for in the 1980s did have ties to the ruling powers of South Africa. Federal records show that Flake worked at Smoak, Shipley & Henry, a law firm that had represented the South African-controlled regime in Namibia during apartheid.

Flake worked for a group called the Namibia News Bureau, run out of the Smoak, Shipley & Henry offices. Anti-apartheid groups had criticized Smoak and Shipley in the 1980s.


There is no evidence that Flake ever supported apartheid and in the television interview he called it "offensive" and an "awful system."

"Namibia was the victim of South Africa's oppression," he said. Flake lived in Namibia in 1989 as the head of a nonprofit dedicated to helping bring democracy to the nation and transition it away from apartheid rule.

"For anybody to suggest that I in any way countenanced what the South Africans were doing or the policy of apartheid is offensive," he said, saying the charge "baffles" him.

But Democrats pounced on Flake's denial, calling it "misleading" and posting a video of the interview online.

"Jeff Flake is blatantly misleading Arizonans about the years he spent as a lobbyist and registered foreign agent, trying to grease the wheels in Washington on behalf of his clients," said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Arizonans deserve to know the truth about Flake's time as a D.C. lobbyist for corporate foreign interests with indisputable ties to South Africa."

Flake's chief of staff did not immediately return a call for comment.

Supreme Court Lets FL's Cuba Travel Law Stand

From CBS:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it will not take up Florida cases dealing with a ban on Cuban travel.

Without comment, the nation’s high court let stand a 2006 Florida law restricting travel to Cuba that was challenged by the Florida International University faculty senate and individual professors who contend that it improperly infringes on the federal government’s power to make decisions about foreign policy.

The 11th U.S. Circuit upheld the law.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for the latest on the political situation in Paraguay with former government minister and parliamentary advisor Dr. Juan Francisco Facetti.

Then, Amb. Grover Joseph Rees will discuss the State Department's 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report. Amb. Rees served as the first U.S. Ambassador to East Timor. Previously, he was a senior staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he played a major role in the drafting of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

And Nestor Carbonell, former Vice-President of International Government Affairs for PepsiCo, will discuss today's release of the "Commitment to Freedom" document signed by over a dozen Fortune 500 Cuban-American corporate executives.

TIME UPDATE: You can now listen to "From Washington al Mundo" seven-days a week on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST) and again at midnight (EST).

Cuban-American Corporate Leaders Sign "Commitment to Freedom"

Prominent Cuban Exile Corporate Leaders Warn of Castro’s “Cosmetic Reforms”

Over a dozen former Fortune 500 senior executives and other multinational business leaders urge support for the Cuban pro-democracy movement and reaffirm their commitment to help the economic reconstruction of a free Cuba.

Washington, D.C. - Prominent Cuban exile business and corporate leaders released today a document entitled “Commitment to Freedom”, rejecting business ties with Cuba while the island remains under totalitarian rule. However, they are committed to helping in the reconstruction of their homeland when freedom dawns.

The signatories are former senior executives from Dow Chemical, General Mills, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Bacardi, American Express Bank, PepsiCo, Warner Communications, Reynolds Metals, Continental Bank International, Martin Marietta Aluminum, Amex Nickel Corporation, as well as the head of Jazztel and other distinguished business leaders.

The signees of the document warn against the Castro regime’s deceptive campaign to secure U.S. capital infusion and bank credits, and lure some Cuban-American businessmen, without ushering in a true economic and political opening. The reforms introduced so far are mostly cosmetic, heavily-taxed and revocable, and offer no legal protection or investment return.

To neutralize the opposition, both inside Cuba and abroad, the signers assert that the regime is promoting “reconciliation”, with the apparent backing of the Catholic Church hierarchy, but only as a smokescreen to intensify repression. Peaceful human rights activists are systematically harassed and arrested.

Instead of bailing out the failed and ruthless regime, the document calls for support of the leaders of the growing pro-democracy movement in Cuba. They, and not their oppressors, should receive international recognition, financial resources and communications technology to carry out their heroic struggle.

Here is the letter:

COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM

We, the undersigned, Cuban exiles with deep roots in U.S. and international corporations, institutions and business communities, wish to convey our great concern regarding the Castro regime’s deceptive campaign aimed at securing much-needed financial resources to prolong its iron grip over the people of Cuba.

The regime is facing the severest financial crisis since the early 1990s, compounded by the possible loss of its Venezuelan life line. But instead of ushering in a true economic and political opening that would unleash the entrepreneurial skills of the Cuban people and attract foreign capital, it has only introduced non-systemic, heavily-taxed, revocable reforms with no legal protection or investment return. To stay afloat, the regime is pursuing a three-pronged strategy:

First, it is trying to induce the U.S. to lift or further weaken the embargo to funnel tourist dollars and bank credits to the bankrupt island--a bailout under the guise of constructive engagement.

Second, it has apparently enlisted the support of the Catholic Church hierarchy in Cuba to promote “reconciliation” under the current totalitarian system, while continuing to hound, beat and arrest peaceful opponents and human rights activists across the island.

Third, it is seeking to divide and neutralize the Cuban-American community, and lure some of its businessmen, by selling the fallacious concept that there is no solution to Cuba’s predicament other than supporting cosmetic reforms without liberty and democracy.

We reject that outrageous proposition, since for us, and for most Cuban-Americans, there is no substitute for freedom. We believe that, absent the dismantling of the totalitarian apparatus on the island, along with the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the restoration of fundamental human rights, there should be no U.S. unilateral concessions to the Castro regime.

The future of the island-nation lies not with the current failed, octogenarian rulers, but with the leaders of the growing pro-democracy movement. They, and not their oppressors, are worthy of receiving international recognition, financial resources and communications technology to carry out their heroic struggle.

We pledge our continued support to them--the vanguard of the emerging civil society--and look forward to helping in the reconstruction of the island where we were born, but only when the Cuban people can enjoy the blessings of freedom we cherish and they deserve.

SIGNATORIES OF “COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM”

Manuel Jorge Cutillas, Fr. Chairman and CEO, BACARDI
Sergio Masvidal, Fr. Vice Chairman, AMERICAN EXPRESS BANK
Enrique Falla, Fr. EVP and CFO, DOW CHEMICAL
Eduardo Crews, Fr. President, Latin America, BRISTOL-MEYERS SQUIBB
Emilio Alvarez-Recio, Fr. VP. Worldwide Advertising, COLGATE-PALMOLIVE
Néstor Carbonell, Fr. VP International Government Affairs, PEPSICO
Alberto Mestre, Fr. President, Venezuela, GENERAL MILLS
Rafael de la Sierra, Fr. VP International Coordination WARNER COMMUNICATIONS (now Time Warner)
Eugenio Desvernine, Fr. Senior EVP, REYNOLDS METALS
José R. Bou, Fr. VP Primary Products Operation, MARTIN MARIETTA ALUMINUM
Alberto Luzárraga, Fr. Chairman, CONTINENTAL BANK INTERNATIONAL
Remedios Diaz-Oliver, Fr. Director of U.S. WEST and BARNETT BANK
Leopoldo Fernández-Pujals, Chairman JAZZTEL; Founder of TELEPIZZA
Jorge Blanco, Fr. President & CEO, AMEX NICKEL CORPORATION.
Carlos Gutierrez, Fr. U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
Mel Martinez, Fr. U.S. SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Iran's Venezuelan Port Facility

Sunday, June 24, 2012
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has granted Iran the use of a private port facility in the Paraguaná peninsula, which operates under a veil of secrecy.

El Nuevo Herald newspaper has obtained a document showing how Chavez's government contracted the port to the Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction Company (IOEC).

The port had been previously confiscated by Chavez.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 38

In The Wall Street Journal on Florida's new law, which passed the legislature almost unanimously, preventing taxpayer money from going to companies that partner with the brutal Castro and Assad dictatorships:

The prime target of the law's proponents was Odebrecht, which raised the ire of many Cuban-Americans when reports began circulating a few years ago about the affiliate's work in Cuba. Projects like those prop up the Castro government and are "a slap in the face of the Cuban-American community," said Mauricio Claver-Carone, Washington director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, which promoted the law.