WP Editorial Board: Investigate Paya's Crash

Saturday, August 18, 2012
From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Getting at the truth of car crash that killed Oswaldo Payá

ON THE AFTERNOON of July 22, in Cuba’s eastern Granma province, a blue Hyundai rental car was in a terrible accident. The driver was Angel Carromero, leader of the youth wing of Spain’s ruling party. Sitting next to him in the front passenger seat was Jens Aron Modig, president of the youth league of Sweden’s Christian Democratic party. Both suffered minor injuries. Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were in the back seat and were killed.

Mr. Payá was a leading voice for freedom in Cuba, champion of the Varela Project, a petition drive in 2002 seeking a national referendum to guarantee democracy. Many organizers of the Varela Project were later arrested by Fidel Castro’s security forces, but Mr. Payá was undeterred and continued to push for a free Cuba. The accident that took his life was blamed by the authorities on reckless driving by Mr. Carromero, who has been charged and is being held in Cuba. In a video made by the authorities just after the accident, Mr. Carromero says that he saw a pothole, braked and lost control of the car, which careened off the road and hit a tree. Mr. Modig, now back in Sweden, says that he was asleep in the car and doesn’t remember what happened.

Mr. Payá’s family is not satisfied. Although Mr. Payá was no longer at the forefront of the Cuban dissident movement, he was an authoritative voice for democracy, and he often received death threats, according to his daughter, Rosa Maria Payá, 23. Only weeks before, in June, Mr. Payá and his wife were driving in Havana when they were hit by another car on the rear passenger side. They suffered minor injuries, but the crash added to their anxiety and suspicions.

On the day of Mr. Payá’s death, his family received a text message at 3:18 p.m. from friends in Madrid inquiring about reports of a car wreck. The people in Spain did not know that Mr. Payá was in the vehicle with Mr. Carromero and Mr. Modig. According to Ms. Payá, the text message says that the car was “forcefully hit and pushed off the road.” It does not say by whom. A photograph of the Hyundai after the accident shows a vehicle crushed from behind.

The two survivors were interrogated at length by the Cuban state security apparatus; Mr. Modig acknowledged bringing about $5,000 to support Mr. Payá’s political work. Neither survivor may feel comfortable saying what happened as long as Mr. Carromero remains in a Cuban prison. But the suggestion in the text message that the car was forced off the road is sufficient to cast doubt on the official version.

Mr. Payá’s family has called for an independent investigation of the crash, although it is not likely to get one from Mr. Castro’s police state. The two survivors might eventually have more to say, and we’ve heard there are additional text messages from the scene. We think an outside investigation could shed light on whether Mr. Payá’s inspiring torch was snuffed out by a vengeful state.

“My father dedicated his life to fight for citizen rights for all Cubans,” Ms. Payá told us. “I am afraid that some evil force took my father’s life. But I think his passion for freedom is now alive in people. Cubans are awakening.”

A first step toward fulfilling Mr. Payá’s promise would be to determine the truth about how he died.

"Defecating on Fidel Castro's Mother"

Cuban pro-democracy activists Gertrudis Ojeda Suárez and Yoandris Ricardo Mir are each facing two-year prison sentences.

Their crime?

"Defecating on Fidel Castro's mother."

No joke. That's what the official documents stated at a judicial proceeding against them in the eastern town of Banes.

The truth is that the couple hung anti-Castro signs outside their home.

This resulted in a harassment campaign against them and their three children, with tar thrown at their home, and now a two-year prison sentence.

Ojeda is a member of the Ladies in White.

Survey of the Syrian Opposition

The International Republican Institute (IRI) has released a new survey conducted among the Syrian opposition.

Some of the key findings:

- Respondents exhibited support for a range of international armed intervention measures, with the most support going to actions that would not involve an international presence on the ground. Measures that would require only air power and air strike support scored the highest, including the imposition of a no-fly zone (average 6.35 on a scale of one to seven, seven being the strongest agreement), the establishment of humanitarian corridors (6.25 average) and armament training to the Free Syrian Army (6.25 average).

- While a slim plurality of respondents (24 percent) gave the Syrian National Council (SNC) the highest possible mark for legitimacy (selecting seven on a one to seven scale), the survey indicated the SNC is struggling to generate broad appeal in the opposition as the responses averaged only 4.95.

- When asked what the most important post-Assad aims of the opposition would be, respondents scored establishing a strong judicial system and giving fair trials to suspected war criminals as two of the highest priorities with averages of 6.71 and 6.47, respectively. At the same time, most placed a high premium on swift retribution: the idea of punishing war criminals without being delayed by judicial processes was also highly appealing to the opposition.

- Opposition views on transitional time-lines for a post-Assad Syria favored transitional government leading to elections (40 percent) or the Tunisian model of electing a constitutional assembly leading to elections (36 percent). A minority favored immediately holding presidential or parliamentary elections and respondents mostly balked at the Egyptian model of electing a parliament and then drafting a constitution.

- Respondents indicated a strong desire to live in a post-Assad Syria, with a total of 82 percent of those who are currently outside the country reporting they would return at least temporarily after Assad’s fall.

Click here for methodology and more details.

Real Punk Belongs to Fighters

Friday, August 17, 2012
A good op-ed we missed last month.

By Jessica Bruder in The New York Times:

Real Punk Belongs to Fighters

Exactly 35 years after the Sex Pistols were arrested for trying to perform their version of “God Save The Queen” while boating down the Thames, punk’s politically subversive snarl has never been louder. But you won’t hear it in the U.S. and the U.K., the countries where punk was born.

Instead look to Moscow, where three women have been detained and face up to seven years in prison because their band, Pussy Riot, staged an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in a cathedral. Amnesty International now classifies them as prisoners of conscience.

Consider Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where six months ago officers hauled more than 60 young punks off to reeducation camps, sheared off their Mohawks, removed their piercings and forced them to bathe, change clothes and pray. Or contemplate Iraq, where human rights groups report that dozens of emo kids — followers of punk’s tender-hearted offshoot — have been slain by extremists since February, when the government’s interior ministry released a statement equating emo style with devil worship.

Burmese punk bands have to practice in secrecy to avoid arrest. As a member of the band Rebel Riot recently told the German magazine Der Spiegel, “In Burma, punk is not a game.” At the head of Cuba’s dissident music scene, Porno para Ricardo plays nose-thumbing punk anthems despite years of police harassment, including the lead singer Gorki Aguila’s latest arrest in February.

Here in Brooklyn, members of the Iranian punk rock band The Yellow Dogs recently won asylum after fleeing two years ago from Tehran, where playing rock music is punishable by flogging, fines and jail time.

With these revolutionary rockers in mind, take a stroll down the Bowery in Lower Manhattan, as I did recently. A friend dragged me into a high-end menswear boutique. Inside, jackets selling for more than $1,000 apiece hung against brick walls covered in seditious scrawls and yellowing concert posters.

A bored-looking clerk in a fedora sat on a small stage that looked like a replica from a club, tapping out laconic rhythms on a drum kit, watching customers mill around. A few minutes passed before I realized we were standing on hallowed ground: the former home of CBGB, the club where American punk was born, now a temple for commerce and nostalgic kitsch.

I left the store vaguely depressed. While punk’s heirs around the world continue to defy autocrats, risking their freedom to stand against social injustice and economic polarization, it’s been many years since British and American punk had that kind of raw influence.

The idea that music can help change things, rather than just sell expensive coats, isn’t very popular here right now. In America, the loudest answers to contemporary crises have been mostly moribund. Bruce Springsteen offered up the anemic “Wrecking Ball.” Miley Cyrus made an Occupy Wall Street-flavored video for her treacly tune “Liberty Walk.” Jay-Z’s clothing company, Rocawear, profited by hawking $22 “Occupy All Streets” T-shirts; the rap mogul didn’t blink when movement organizers cried foul.

In other words, unless you print them on a T-shirt, political messages don’t sell. These days, the Sex Pistols don’t sell either, though not for lack of trying. Last week, Universal reissued “God Save the Queen” as a 7-inch record to celebrate the song’s anniversary and cash in on Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Fans’ attempts to push it up the charts flopped, though the refrain — “No future, no future, no future for you!” — feels as relevant as ever, thanks to the global economic crisis and widespread unemployment.

Punk today belongs more to Russia and Iraq, Myanmar and Indonesia, than it does to its birthplaces. Like any movement steeped in dissent and nonconformity, punk’s moral force grows with government suppression. As authoritarian regimes crack down on rebel rockers, their efforts to censor subversive voices often backfire by attracting attention from international media and human rights activists.

The Pussy Riot detainees have inspired protests and fundraisers in Berlin, Krakow, London, Melbourne, Prague, San Francisco and beyond. They’ve made headlines around the world. Expected to face a judge on charges of “hooliganism” in the coming weeks, the bandmates will soon be performing on a larger stage than they ever could have imagined.

A global audience will be watching their trial. Some of us wish our own countries still made music that could rattle the windows in, say, the White House. Real punk — cheeky, risk-taking, rude, sloppy punk — belongs to fighters. Let’s hope they remind the rest of us how it’s done.

A Legal Clarification on Gift Parcels

Humanitarian gift parcels to Cuba, via official means, are usually well-intentioned, but subject to the Castro regime's vetting, receipt and distribution network.

Case and point is the recent partnership between International Port Corp., a Miami company engaged in maritime humanitarian shipments, and the Castro regime's Cuba PACK, which receives, vets and distributes the parcels.

This raises a very serious issue of abuse and the parcels ending up in the wrong hands, as totalitarian dictatorships are infamous for diverting humanitarian aid.

That is why the specifications in U.S. law are so important, as they weigh the cost of the regime profiting from this service versus the benefit of basic humanitarian support.

However, in a recent article about these humanitarian parcel shipments to Cuba, The Miami Herald left the following assertion unchecked:

"Pretty much anything is allowed by the U.S. government under the umbrella of family aid — an exception to the five-decade-old embargo — as long as it’s shipped to an individual or by a visiting Cuban who is returning home, said Leonardo Sanchez-Adega, IPC marketing director."

That statement is misleading, as there are important limitations in the Commerce Department's rules on what can be sent, who it can be sent to and the value of the gift parcel.

First, what can be sent?

Gift parcels may include civilian clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, soap-making equipment, and other non-sensitive items of a type normally sent as gifts between individuals, including certain consumer communications devices.

Who can it be sent to?

Any individual, other than certain Cuban Government or Cuban Communist Party officials, or to a charitable, educational, or religious organization in Cuba that is not administered or controlled by the Cuban Government or the Cuban Communist Party.

What is the maximum value of what can be sent?

Donors may send one gift parcel per month per eligible recipient. The combined total domestic retail value of eligible items may not exceed $800 per gift parcel.

Paya's Widow Reveals Info on Crash

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, has revealed the content of the text message she received informing her of the crash that killed her husband:

"There were four people, only three are in the hospital, one remains unknown. Two friends, one them is unconscious. They were rammed and taken off the highway. Do you know who the other two were? Don't know where one of them is."

Courtesy of Punt de Vista.

PDVSA's Smokescreen of Cuba Drilling

Both recent (and much-hyped) attempts by the Castro regime to find offshore oil -- the first in partnership with Spain's Repsol and the second with Malaysia's Petronas -- have been a bust.

Now, there will be a third and final attempt -- with Venezuela's PDVSA -- before the infamous Scarabeo 9 rig heads off to Brazil.

However,it's clear that this is a political smokescreen by Chavez and Castro, for PDVSA has no deep-water expertise, nor frankly the resources, to succeed in Cuba offshore drilling.

This is simply to continue hyping the specter of Cuba's energy "potential", as it's dependency on Chavez is unsustainable and it wants other foreign companies to invest in the regime.

Here's a must-listen interview with Pedro Burelli, former Executive Board Member of PDVSA, on Sirius-XM's "From Washington al Mundo" on this very issue.

Click here to listen.

Dissidents Gased for Distributing Leaflets

In The Miami Herald:

Cuban police detain 3 dissidents handing out leaflets demanding human rights

The leader of an opposition group in Cuba said the high number of police searches of dissidents’ homes reported in recent weeks has been the result of government efforts to seize leaflets reproducing or supporting the Citizens’ Demand.

Cuban police detained three dissidents Thursday who were handing out leaflets on a Havana corner in support of a human rights initiative that activists said has prompted the recent string of house searches around the island.

Yosvel Ramos, Idalberto Acuña and Santiago Cardozo, members of the Cuban Patriotic Union, were arrested on a busy corner of the Marianao neighborhood, said Jose Daniel Ferrer García, a leader of the opposition group.

Ramos was on his cellphone with another dissident during the arrest and was recorded screaming that police were hitting him and spraying him with pepper gas inside their patrol car, Ferrer noted.

The three men were handing out leaflets supporting the “Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba,” an initiative by a broad range of dissidents and activists demanding that the government ratify and enact two international human rights agreements it signed in 2008.

200 Political Arrests in Just Two Weeks

According to the independent news agency Hablemos Press, the Castro regime has conducted over 200 political arrests between August 1st-14th alone.

Among these were 38 members of the Ladies in White.

Additionally, the agency is calling on Amnesty International to declare the following democracy activists, who have been imprisoned for months or years, as international prisoners of conscience:

1. Sonia Garro Alfonso
2. Niurka Luque Álvarez
3. Antonio Michel Lima Cruz
4. Marco Maykel Lima Cruz
5. Ariel Eugenio Arzuaga Peña
6. Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz
7. David Piloto Barceló
8. Eider Frometa Allen
9. Dani López de Moya
10. Jorge Vázquez Chaviano
11. Abismael González González
12. Bismarck Mustelier Galán
13. Rolando Tudela Iribar
14. Ángel Frometa Lovaina
15. Niorvis Rivera Guerra
16. Rogelio Tavío López
17. Eugenio Hernández Hernández
18. Ernesto Paula Pérez
19. Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González
20. Pavél Arcia Céspedes
21. Pedro Luis González
22. Orlando Triana González
23. Omar Naranjo Bonne

The Swamp Cell Punishment

Here's why the Castro regime does not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross or the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture to enter Cuba and visit its prisons.

From McClatchy Newspapers:

Cuban dissident says he was held in a swamp lockup as punishment

Cuban dissident Angel Moya said Wednesday that State Security agents held him in a lockup in a mosquito-riddled swamp 29 miles from the town where he was arrested, as part of a campaign to "subdue" him and other anti-government activists.

Moya and five other members of his Democratic Freedom for Cuba Movement were detained Sunday outside the home of movement member Felix Sierra in the town of Pedro Betancourt after police and State Security agents searched the Sierra home.

The six dissidents were meeting nearby when they learned of the search and walked to the home to "show our moral and political support," Moya said.

Five dissidents were freed Sunday night, but Moya said he was held until Tuesday in a notoriously harsh State Security lockup 29 miles away in Playa Larga, in the Cienaga de Zapata, the mosquito-infested swamp that was the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

"Of course this was done on purpose," the 47-year-old dissident told The Miami Herald, as part of the efforts by State Security agents to intimidate and "subdue" anti-government activists.

The cells in the lockup have solid steel doors and no running water, and the temperatures inside are "infernal," Moya said. State security agents took him out of the lockup early Tuesday, drove him to Pedro Betancourt and freed him on a town street.

Spanish Hostage to Get Seven-Years

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Angel Carromero, the Spanish youth leader who was driving the car in which Cuban pro-democracy leaders Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died, will receive a seven-year prison sentence from the Castro regime, in order to keep him silent regarding the events that led to the crash.

Castro's prosecutors have asked for a seven-year sentence, which he'll surely get under a system in which the regime serves as judge, jury and executioner.

Since the accident, he has been held at the Ministry of the Interior's nefarious facility at "100 y Aldabo" -- known as "the place where Superman cries."

Please note that Paya's family has refused to press charges against Carromero. This is all orchestrated by the Castro regime.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an exclusive interview with U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Iran, Syria, Latin America and cyber-security.

And the Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady will discuss the current assault on the independent judiciary in El Salvador.

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).

Video Documents Repression at Paya's Funeral

The Cuban civil society group Estado de Sats has just released a video extensively documenting the acts of repression (and their perpetrators) during the funeral of Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya.

The video is divided into four parts.

First, the peaceful procession to the cemetery. Second, the provocations by the Castro regime's agents. Third, a Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Service's bus dropping off plain clothes agents. And finally, close-ups of some of these repressors.

Let's hope the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana keeps a copy of these pictures, for when they seek U.S. visas to vacation in Miami.

Click below to watch.

How to Apologize for Fidel Castro

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
In honor of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's 86th birthday, former Ministry of the Interior official (now turned University of Denver doctoral student and lecturer) Arturo Lopez-Levy has written this glowing account of Fidel's "greatness":

Regardless of how long he lives, Fidel Castro has an influential role in shaping the political discourse in Cuba. Fidel skillfully mixed Marxism and nationalism and made a revolution that changed the history not only of Cuba but also of the whole Western hemisphere. He was the most popular leader in a generation of Cubans, a political giant who reached world dimensions during the Cold War. As professor Jorge Dominguez from Harvard University said, If there have been competitive elections in the early 1960’s, Castro could have won them all. He didn't have the chance. In the most difficult moments of the Cold War, the United States, as the hegemonic power in the Americas, didn't have tolerance for a nationalist leader who aspired to an independent neutralist course not to mention a socialist one, no matter how popular Castro was among his people.

(Btw, that's the same Professor Dominguez that traveled to Syria amidst the current genocide to speak at a Harvard Arab Alumni Association event hosted by Mrs. Assad).

In sum, Castro hasn't held elections in five-decades -- not because the people might freely vote against him -- but because the U.S. hasn't allowed him.

Wonder how the other 34 out of 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere have managed to pull it off.

And here we thought Castro was a brutal totalitarian dictator responsible for more deaths and imprisonments than any other tyrant in the modern history of the Americas.

But apparently you had to have worked for Castro to truly appreciate his "greatness."

Now seriously, below is a picture of the Memorial Cubano, which is erected annually in South Florida to honor the thousands of innocent victims of Castro's brutal dictatorship.

That is Fidel's shameful legacy (and an island in absolute ruins).

Quotes of the Week

Who are you? Why are you doing this to us?

-- Angel Carromero, first words spoken by the Spanish youth leader to the driver of a red Lada immediately after the crash that killed Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, initial witness report read by Captain Fulgencio Medina at the Bayamo hospital on the night of the crash, 7/22/12

I fear for my family's safety... They are constantly watching us. There are military patrols watching our house, our block and even Oswaldo's tomb.

-- Ofelia Acevedo, wife of deceased Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, El Mercurio, 8/12/12

Free Angel Moya!

From EFE:

Former Cuban Political Prisoner Back in Custody

Former political prisoner Angel Moya has been back in police custody since the weekend and authorities refuse to provide any information on his whereabouts, his wife told Efe on Tuesday.

Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the dissident group Ladies in White, said that Moya was arrested by State Security agents together with other members of the opposition Sunday in Pedro Betancourt, a town in Matanzas province.

“I consider him missing because no representative of the police or State Security has informed his sister or me of his whereabouts,” Soler said.

Some Questions for USINT

The following pictures are from a protest organized by the Castro regime in front of the home of Cuban pro-democracy activist Licet Zamora.

You may recall Zamora as the spokesperson for Cuban pro-democracy leader Guillermo Farinas during his 135-day hunger strike in 2010.

During the mob protest, Zamora and her children were harassed, with insults hurled at them, while regime operatives threw tar at their home.

The blog "La Frontera Transparente" by Cuban journalist Idolidia Darias has identified some of the participants of the mob protest as recent recipients of U.S. visas.

So here are some questions for the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana:

Why are individuals who participate in the harassment of peaceful pro-democracy activists being given visas to visit the U.S.?

Or is the problem that the first tier of interviews for visas at USINT are being conducted by employees of the Cuban regime -- contracted by USINT -- who are withholding information?

What type of message does that send?

It's outrageous.

The lady in the middle just returned from a pleasant visit to Miami. She's also the mother of one of the regime's local prosecutors.

The two ladies on the left barely got off the plane from Miami before dutifully participating in the regime's harassment.

Meanwhile, the young man in the white t-shirt is reportedly awaiting a family reunification visa.

Detained Dissidents Remain Missing

In The Miami Herald:

Moya, other dissidents, detained after confrontation

Cuban police and State Security agents detained former political prisoner Angel Moya and at least five other dissidents during a search Sunday of a dissident’s home that allegedly sparked a confrontation in that neighbors threw rocks at the agents.

Some of the activists detained in the Matanzas province town of Pedro Betancourt were freed Monday afternoon but there was no word on the whereabouts of Moya, said his wife, Berta Soler, who is the leader of the dissident Ladies in White.

Pedro Betancourt residents Edilia Moreno and Gulliver Sigler Gonzalez said the incident Sunday began when agents of the National Revolutionary Police and State Security searched the home of Felix Sierra.

Moya and five to eight other dissidents who were in a house nearby went to the Sierra home to witness the raid, they told El Nuevo Herald by telephone, but were quickly arrested by police “with a lot of violence” and driven off in patrol cars.

About 500 neighbors had gathered to watch the incident “and when they saw those abuses some of those people started throwing rocks and sticks at security agents” who were forced to run away from the crowd, Sigler said.

Sigler said police were about to detain him as well when some of the onlookers “took me away from the hands of the police” and protected him until the security forces left the home of Sierra, a member of Moya’s Democratic Freedom for Cuba Movement.

Video: Young Activist Protests in Central Havana

Monday, August 13, 2012
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has sent out a video of a courageous young activist who took to the populated streets of Old Havana this afternoon and began yelling:

"Down With Fidel" and "Long Live Human Rights"

The activist has been identified as Marcelino Abreu. He was arrested and has not been heard from since.

Click below:

Romney Interview on Cuba Policy

Excerpt from today's interview with Republican presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, on Miami's Radio Mambi:

HOST: Since there has been discussion on Paul Ryan and the politics on Cuba - specifically on the embargo - could you please make clear the position that the Romney-Ryan Administration would have towards Cuba.

ROMNEY: I am in favor of maintaining the embargo relative to Cuba and I support the Helms-Burton Act. Congressman Ryan has allied himself with Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Representative Diaz-Balart. They convinced him that the embargo is an important effort in order to put pressure on the Cuban government. So it's an important factor in legislation. Congressman Ryan voted "No" [on lifting sanctions] and his position is the same as mine – he wants to strengthen our policy towards the regime of Cuba.

HOST: Does Venezuela present any harm to this country?

ROMNEY: I disagree with President Obama about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. I believe Hugo Chavez and Venezuela are a very serious threat to our hemisphere, Latin America and ultimately to the United States. Hugo Chavez has welcomed Hezbollah, which is a terrorist organization into Venezuela and that is a serious threat.

HOST: How have you been received here in Miami on your three day tour indifferent states, and what is your final message to all Floridians this afternoon?

ROMNEY: When I was here last I received a warm response from the Cuban-American community and my message is very simple: I know what it takes to create good jobs and good take home pay.

Identify Oil Companies Engaged With State-Sponsors

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and U.S. Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) have sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking the Department to identify foreign, state-owned companies that have U.S. leases and also conduct business with state-sponsors of terrorism.

Here's the letter:

Salazar-State-Sponsor-Terrorism -

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with Jennifer Quigley, advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

And we'll discuss foreign policy in Presidential campaigns with Fredo Arias-King, former senior advisor (1999-2000) to then-presidential candidate Vicente Fox Quesada of Mexico.

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).

Why Do Travel Guides Make Excuses For Dictators?

Sunday, August 12, 2012
Excerpt from Michael Moynihan's "Leftist Planet" in Foreign Policy:

The West's misreading of Cuba is an old staple for this crowd, and a new generation of lefty guidebooks doesn't fail to disappoint on this score. The Rough Guide to Cuba, for example, even has a kind word for the draconian censorship implemented by the Castro regime, lecturing us that it's "geared to producing (what the government deems to be) socially valuable content, refreshingly free of any significant concern for high ratings and commercial success." Sure, the guidebook says, one can read dissident bloggers like Yoani Sánchez, but beware that opponents of the regime can be "paranoid and bitter" and are "at their best when commenting on the minutiae of Cuban life [and] at their worst when giving vent to unfocused diatribes against the government."

We've also apparently got it all wrong when it comes to Cuba's notorious Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), a Stasi-like network of neighborhood-level informers that monitors and informs on troublesome dissidents like Sánchez. Lonely Planet: Cuba thankfully assures tourists that the group is, in fact, a benign civic organization: The CDR are "neighborhood-watch bodies originally formed in 1960 to consolidate grassroots support for the revolution [and] they now play a decisive role in health, education, social, recycling and voluntary labor campaigns."

Why all the bending over backward to excuse the world's most thuggish regimes? For the guidebook writer, as well as the starry-eyed travelers who buy them, there is no characteristic more desirable in foreign travel than "authenticity" -- places uncorrupted by the hideousness of Western corporate advertising and global brands-and many of these pariah states are the only destinations that offer it. Lonely Planet enthuses that Cuba is "a country devoid of gaudy advertising," possessing a "uniqueness [that] is a vanishing commodity in an increasingly globalized world." Indeed, the dictatorship protects its citizens from the poison of consumerism in a manner other states might want to emulate:
Almost completely cut off from the maw of McDonald's, Madonna and other global corporate-cultural influences, Cuba retains a refreshing preserved quality. It's a space and place that serves as a beacon for the future -- universal education, health care and housing are rights people the world over want, need and deserve.

Writing in the Ecologist, a venerable British environmentalist journal, Brendan Sainsbury, co-author of Lonely Planet: Cuba, contends that there is purity in Cuban penury:
Falling into step alongside pallid, overweight and uncoordinated Western wannabes out on two-week vacations from Prozac and junk food, the Cubans don't just walk; they glide, sauntering rhythmically through the timeworn streets like dancers shaking their asses to the syncopated beat of the rumba. Maybe the secret is in the food rationing.

There is an almost Orientalist presumption that the citizens of places like Cuba or Afghanistan have made a choice in rejecting globalization and consumerism. From the perspective of the disaffected Westerner, poverty is seen as enviable, a pure existence unsullied by capitalism. Sainsbury refers to Cuban food as "organic" and praises the Castro brothers' "intellectual foresight [that] has prompted such eco-friendly practices as nutrient recycling, soil and water management and land-use planning." Meager food rations and the 1950s cars that plod through Havana's streets, however, don't represent authenticity or some tropical version of the Western mania for "artisanal" products, but, rather, failed economic policy. It's as much of a lifestyle choice as female circumcision is in Sudan.

Confrontation With Castro's Thugs

According to Cuban independent journalist Ivan Hernandez-Carrillo, Castro's state security raided a gathering of pro-democracy leaders in the town of Pedro Betancourt, province of Matanzas.

It violently assaulted and arrested Angel Moya, Felix Sierra, Dagoberto Santana, Edelvis Perez y Juan Sigler-Amaya.

Moya and Sigler-Amaya are former political prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003.

However, Castro's officials were first confronted by over 50 courageous neighbors, who began throwing stones and tried to fight them off.

War Criminal Gets UN Human Rights Seat

Bashir will now join Castro and Putin in re-defining "human rights" on the UN's Human Rights Council.

In Fox News:

The election of a Sudanese warlord accused of genocide to the United Nations Human Rights Council is now virtually guaranteed, since he has the full backing of the world body's African delegation.

The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for Omar Al-Bashir -- its first ever for a sitting head of state -- for crimes against humanity he allegedly committed in Darfur. Yet, his regime is set to take its place on the panel, in the latest bizarre appointment to make a mockery of the UN's human rights credibility, according to critics.

It's like putting “Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

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