Castro Cashes-In From Obama's Policy

Saturday, September 1, 2012
Raul's only "reform" is finding how to cash-in from the Obama Administration's policy of increased travel and remittances.

From AP:

A sudden jump in import taxes on Monday threatens to make life tougher for some of Cuba’s new entrepreneurs and will mean higher prices for many of their customers by raising the cost of goods ranging from jungle-print blouses to jewelry.

The new measures steeply hike duties on cargo shipments, as well as on many bulk goods brought in by airline passengers, a crucial supply line for many of the small businesses the government has been trying to encourage as it cuts a bloated workforce in the socialist economy.

While the published official description seems aimed at items such as clothing, soap, food and other personal-use goods, it is so complex it leaves importers of other products unsure if they will be affected, now or in the future.

The new duties seem primarily targeted at so-called “mules,” who make frequent shopping trips to places such as Ecuador, Panama and Miami and bring back duffel bags bulging with food, underwear, shoes and electronics.

Starting Monday, Cubans who travel abroad more than once a year not only will pay higher tariffs, they’ll pay in hard currency rather than the more-easily obtainable national peso, which trades at 24 to the U.S. dollar and is used for most salaries.

Cubans will also begin paying dollar-based sums of $4.55 a pound ($10 per kilogram) above a certain weight to receive packages shipped by air and sea. That rate doubles if they bring in large shipments.

Secret Police Kidnaps Famed Cuban Blogger

This afternoon, the Castro regime stormed the home of famed Cuban blogger and photographer, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.

Fortunately, he had his cell phone on and quickly called his colleague Yoani Sanchez, who was able to hear his screams as he was being dragged away.

He currently remains missing.

UPDATE: He is being held at a police station in the Cotorro neighborhood of Havana.

Excuse After Excuse for Castro

Friday, August 31, 2012
Sarah Stephens of the so-called Center for Democracy in the Americas (Except in Cuba) has penned an oped in Politico asking for Cuba to be removed from the state-sponsors of terrorism list because it is now hosting the "peace talks" between the Colombian government and the FARC narco-terrorist guerrillas.

(Never mind that any serious negotiations haven't even begun; that just this week the FARC murdered six people -- including two children -- in the Meta province; and that former Colombian President Andres Pastrana traveled down this road between 1997-2002, which only served to give the FARC time and resources to expand its military violence).

Stephens' argument would seem to imply that if the FARC negotiations are now an excuse for taking Cuba off the state-sponsors of terrorism list, then its inclusion has been merited the whole time.

Wrong.

Stephens has always argued in favor of removing the Castro regime from the state-sponsors of terrorism list, regardless of whether it engaged in military campaigns in three continents; murdered American citizens; houses and supports foreign-based terrorist organizations; shares intelligence with Iran, Syria and other state-sponsors of terrorism; shelters fugitives from U.S. justice; and holds an American citizen hostage.

This is just the latest meritless excuse she has conjured up to further her goal of unconditionally easing sanctions towards the Castro dictatorship.

The Result of Castronomics

More "reform" you can't believe in.

In Reuters:

Cuba is producing less food than it did five years ago despite efforts to increase agriculture production, the government reported on Friday.

Some export crops and farm output aimed at substituting food imports registered minor gains, but overall output last year remained below 2007 levels, according to a report issued by the National Statistics Office.

The government has also reported that food prices rose 20 percent in 2011.

Ahmadinejad Hearts Castro

Disturbing quote of the day:

"The Islamic Republic of Iran and Cuba are brothers and can take effective steps in bilateral and international relations through mutual cooperation."

-- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian dictator, Fars News Agency, 8/31/12

"Art" in a Place of Grief and Tragedy

By Ileana Puig in The Miami Herald:

"Art" in a place of grief and tragedy

As a Cuban woman living in exile, I am well aware of the abuses committed against the Damas de Blanco, of the increase in arrests of dissidents, of the journey of His Holiness and those who traveled to Cuba as “pilgrims” under the pretext of “reconciliation,” of the possibility of investing in the island, of the hunger strikes, of those who travel to Cuba to find out how they can help, of celebrating New Year’s Eve oblivious to the suffering of the Cuban people and of many other topics related to our homeland.

But I have never expressed myself in writing before. And why am I writing now? Because I read a recent article about the 11th Havana Biennial titled “ La Cabaña, site of the largest Cuban art exhibition.” Its last paragraph reads: “In the plazas, streets, pits and dungeons of La Cabaña one can appreciate this art selection.”

This exhibition was visited by a large number of Americans and Cuban Americans who entered this jail with the excuse that they went to see art — ignoring the memory of the many who suffered and were executed there. This lack of sensibility prompted me into writing this article about what La Cabaña really means to thousands and thousands of Cuban families. Why conceal the real story?

La Cabaña represents grief, separation from loved ones, months and years of incarcerations, crammed cells totally lacking in hygiene, suffocating heat, beatings, hunger strikes, firing squads, death, and the echo of the executed last words: “Hail Christ the King,” “Long Live a Free Cuba.”

La Cabaña represents relatives at the base of La Fortaleza de La Cabaña under inclement weather waiting to hear the name of their loved ones called out. Their name is called and one begins climbing the steep hill towards the jail, passing by the wall where the executions take place and then a long wait in line for the humiliating personal search. Finally, the jail’s iron gate is reached and for some it meant a hug, a kiss to their loved ones and perhaps sharing a minute or an hour with them — it did not matter — but for many others, reaching the iron gate meant hearing, in a cruel and scornful way, that their loved one had been executed the night before.

La Cabaña represents trials which were a farce, presided by men devoid of scruples, enjoying the suffering of all political prisoners and their relatives, with pre-determined sentences be it death by execution, or many years of imprisonment. “Defense attorneys” were denied the right to exercise their profession and were subjected to derision.

La Cabaña represents the days of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Cuba in mourning. Cuba bathed in blood. Daily executions from east to west. At La Cabaña, every single day the living said good-bye to their brothers in arms sentenced to be executed. Those that stayed behind remained in their cells engulfed in silence, prayers, tears and those sentenced to die walked in chains to their encounter with God without a last kiss or embrace to their parents, wives or children ...  “Hail Christ the King,” “Long Live a Free Cuba.”

I lived all this. I visited this horrible political prison innumrable times. I was present in several of the trials of my husband, my brother and my sister. I was also present on April 19, 1961 when my brother-in-law’s trial took place at La Cabaña. It began at 9 a.m. and finished at 9 p.m. On that day eight men were sentenced to death by firing squad and all were executed, among them my brother-in-law, at dawn on April 20, 1961 at La Cabaña, site of this “art exhibition.”

La Cabaña represents not art but men with courage, men of principles, and men with dignity, men who never surrendered, men who gave their best for love of country and for all of us.

Ileana Arango Puig is the wife and sister of political prisoners, sister-in-law of a political prisoner executed by firing squad and cousin of two members of Brigade 2506. She is vice president of Mothers and Women Against Repression.

From Romney's Acceptance Speech

The following are the Cuba excerpts from last night's acceptance speech by Republican Presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney:

"When every new wave of immigrants looked up and saw the Statue of Liberty, or knelt down and kissed the shores of freedom just ninety miles from Castro’s tyranny, these new Americans surely had many questions. But none doubted that here in America they could build a better life, that in America their children would be more blessed than they.

But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future [...]

In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.

President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.

We will honor America’s democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again
."

Marco's Moment for a Free Cuba

Thursday, August 30, 2012
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) began his speech at tonight's Republican National Convention with the following important reminder:

"Thank you so much for having me here today, and thank you so much for doing this convention here in Florida.

Before I begin, this is such an important night for my country. I want to begin -- with your permission -- 80 seconds, to talk about another country. A country located just a few hundred miles away from this city, the country of my parents birth.

There is no freedom or liberty in Cuba, and tonight, I ask for your prayers that soon freedom and liberty will be there as well
."

Prison Sentence for Democracy Activist

Cuban pro-democracy activist Roelvis Cuba Sendo has been handed a one-year and six month prison sentence by the Castro regime for his involvement with the opposition Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

According to UNPACU's leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, a former prisoner of conscience, this is the 12th activist from the organization sentenced this year.

The official "crime" Cuba Sendo was convicted of is "resistance" and "disobedience".

More "reform" you can't believe in.

The "Non-Vacations" to Cuba

By Elliott Abrams of The Council on Foreign Relations:

Harvard Grads Do Some “Not Vacations” In Cuba

Cuba, tropical paradise. Harvard grads are invited to participate in a Harvard Alumni Association trip down there next year. But of course, this is a serious visit: no beaches, I guess. The Alumni Association describes the trip this way:

These programs are not vacations. Every hour must be accounted for and involve meaningful interactions with Cuban people. Further restrictions pertaining to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations apply.

Participants attend a full daily schedule of activities that include lectures, roundtable discussions and break-out sessions, private performances, artistic demonstrations and interpretations, and informal conversations, all delivered by local people. Speakers and guests include professors and students from the University of Havana, docents from museums, artisans and craftsmen of various trades, musicians and dancers, and local residents. They will help you gain a better understanding of the history, economics, education, healthcare, politics, art, architecture, and culture of Cuba.


One wonders.

Will there be much interaction with Alan Gross, the USAID contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for the crime of trying to help the tiny local Jewish community get on the internet?

Might a visit to him in prison help the grads “gain a better understanding” of the “politics” of Cuba?

Will they meet with the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), which Amnesty International describes as an “umbrella group of Cuban dissident organizations in and around the province of Santiago de Cuba who seek democratic change by non-violent means?”

How about meeting the widow and children of Oswaldo Paya, whom the Committee to Protect Journalists described as a “tireless advocate for freedom of expression” and “the leader of the Varela Project, a landmark gathering of more than 20,000 signatures petitioning for political and human rights reforms to the government.” Would that be a “meaningful interaction with Cuban people?”

How much will the visiting Harvard grads learn about the Varela Project during their “roundtable discussions” and “break-out sessions?”


Cubans fighting for human rights can use our solidarity and support. Alan Gross, who has lost 100 pounds in prison, can use it as well. But this kind of well orchestrated tour will instead serve the purposes of the Cuban regime. Travelers who have a conscience should stay home. There will be time to visit Cuba some future day when it is free–and when “local residents” can speak freely to visitors about the lives they are leading.

Quote of the Day

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
[I]n our dealings with other nations, a Romney-Ryan administration will speak with confidence and clarity. Wherever men and women rise up for their own freedom, they will know that the American president is on their side.

-- Paul Ryan, Republican nominee for Vice-President of the United States, 8/29/12

Public Bonfires for Dissident's Documents

Yesterday, the Castro regime arrested Cuban pro-democracy leader and former political prisoner Angel Moya.

His crime?

Distributing copies of a document entitled, "Citizens' Demand for Another Cuba,"
which advocates for Cuba's adherence to the U.N.'s Civil and Political Rights covenants and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is the same document that was being distributed by three dissidents (Diosbel Suárez, Idalberto Acuña and Santiago Cardoso) on August 16th, when they were brutally beaten, arrested and doused with pepper gas.

Now, the Castro regime is preparing public bonfires to burn the copies of this document and other papers confiscated from dissidents.

Sadly predictable.

The Secret Police Interrogation

A few weeks ago, we posted how a group of Swedes flew a small plane to Belarus and dropped teddy-bears with signs calling for freedom over its capital, Minsk.

Needless to say, this captured the ire of Belarusian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Click below for a must-see short video with a surprise ending on this event.

The video is reminiscent of another Swede, Aron Modeg, who also recently described a similarly frightening interrogation in Cuba by Castro's secret police.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an exclusive interview with U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa.

Then, California State Senator Alex Padilla will discuss his recent election as President of the National Assn. of Latino Elected Leaders (NALEO).

And Middle East expert Julian Schvindlerman will analyze the latest events in Egypt and Syria.

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).

We Will Not Forget Niurka and Sonia

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Niurka Luque and Sonia Garro are two Ladies in White arrested by the Castro regime on March 17th for their peaceful advocacy.

They remain imprisoned without charges.

The international community must not forget them.

Economist States the Obvious

[Raul Castro's] 'actualization' (reform) model may not be enough to produce the necessary changes to achieve a significant improvement in the quality of life of the Cuban people and the beginning of a process that can lead the country towards a greater path of economic and social development.

-- Mauricio de Miranda, Cuban economist, from the book "Cuba: Hacia una estrategia de desarrollo para los inicios del siglo XXI", El Universal, 8/27/12

Iran Sending Troops to Syria

The dangerous cost of inaction by the free world.

In The Wall Street Journal:

Iran is sending commanders from its elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and hundreds of foot soldiers to Syria, according to current and former members of the corps.

The personnel moves come on top of what these people say are Tehran's stepped-up efforts to aid the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with cash and arms. That would indicate that regional capitals are being drawn deeper into Syria's conflict— and undergird a growing perception among Mr. Assad's opponents that the regime's military is increasingly strained.

Daughter of Senior Regime Official Defects

Apparently, the daughter of Castro's economic "guru", Marino Murillo, isn't too optimistic about the so-called "reforms" her father has been tasked with.

"Her father broke down crying when he learned of the defection, another relative in Havana told several neighbors."

Let's just say Raul isn't going to be too happy.

In The Miami Herald:

The 24-year-old daughter of Cuban Vice President Marino Murillo, sometimes mentioned as a possible successor to ruler Raul Castro, defected earlier this month and is now living in Tampa, knowledgeable sources said.

Glenda Murillo Diaz crossed the Mexico border at Laredo, Texas, around Aug. 16, the sources told The Miami Herald, meaning she was paroled under the wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. land to stay.

Her decision to abandon communist-ruled Cuba and settle in the historically antagonistic United States would be a vote of no-confidence on the profound economic reforms that Castro has ordered and that her father is in charge of enacting.

Marino Murillo, 51, known as Cuba's "reforms tsar," is vice president of the ruling Council of State and member of the powerful political bureau of the Cuban Communist Party. Castro last year put him in charge of executing the reforms.

A portly economist reported to have served as a military officer, he first came to public notice in 2006 when Castro, who served for decades as defense minister before succeeding brother Fidel, named him minister of internal commerce. He was later appointed as minister of planning and economy.

Lindsay Lohan vs. Che Guevara

On a lighter (but serious) note.

From Irish Central:

Cuban exile offers to fund Lindsay Lohan statue in Galway – instead of Che Guevara monument

An exiled Cuban multimillionaire wants the people of Galway to replace their proposed Che Guevara monument with a statue of Lindsay Lohan – and he’s prepared to foot the bill.

The reclusive Florida based philanthropist Elviro Sanchez made the offer ahead of a City Council meeting in Galway to ratify plans to erect a Guevara statue.

Sanchez is so annoyed by the proposal to honor the revolutionary that he wants to ridicule it with his Lohan proposal.

He has even claimed that Lohan’s links to Galway and the West of Ireland are far stronger than Guevara’s.

Prominent US and Irish politicians including senior Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have criticized the Galway plans.

In a statement, released through his Orlando spokesman, Sanchez confirmed the offer was genuine and mail offers were being forwarded to the Galway council this week.

He said: “Yes, I am mocking the ridiculous senseless decision to honor Guevara but my offer to find the Lohan statue is genuine.

I am hoping this will be placed on the agenda of their next meeting. I have contacted some councillors who are opposed to the Guevara statue and they are to help facilitate this being tabled at the next meeting, so that both statues will be discussed on the same night.

I am confident that sufficient support will be forthcoming for my offer, even if the Guevara decision goes ahead.

My researchers have discovered that Ms Lohan’s connections with Galway are stronger than those of Che Guevara. Also, they have noted that her celebrity is greater because she has five times as many mentions on Google as Guevara, so the connection, the celebrity and the funding are in place
."

Weather Channel Skips Hurricane in Eastern Cuba

Goes to Varadero instead.

No joke.

Excerpt by Henry Gomez in PJ Media:

At about noon EDT on Saturday, while watching The Weather Channel for an update on possible landfall of Tropical Storm Isaac in Florida, I was treated to an incredible piece of unjournalism. There was Seidel standing on the beach at an all-inclusive resort reserved for foreigners in Varadero, on Cuba’s northwest coast, despite the fact that Isaac was going to make landfall on Cuba’s southeast coast. Seidel assured us that “we picked Varadero because of meteorological reasons and are lucky because we’re staying at a resort with all the creature comforts of home.”

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Monday, August 27, 2012
Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation on the current trends of global trade and the competitiveness of U.S. business abroad with the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco J. Sanchez.

And Jared Genser, founder of Freedom Now, will discuss advocacy efforts to help free prisoners of conscience throughout the world.

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).

Tourist in Cuba Dies Under Strange Circumstances

Last week, a 22-year old Canadian tourist, Horace “Odaine” Lumley, died in a mysterious balcony fall at a Varadero beach resort in Cuba.

His family has raised serious concerns about the circumstances surrounding his death, which once again shine the spotlight on the veil of secrecy that shrouds Cuba's dictatorship.

Judge for yourself from these excerpts in The Toronto Star:

On top of the [family's] grief, there’s anger and bewilderment — that the Cuban authorities have done little to investigate the death [...]

Lumley had fallen 16 metres from a third-floor balcony linked to a set of stairs on the exterior of the building. Police told [his friend] Dawson they believed Lumley had been trying to walk down to his room on the second floor and stumbled on the stairs.

But Dawson, who flew back to Canada on Friday, said they could not explain why Lumley’s hat and flip-flops had been removed and carefully placed on the balcony.

“If you are drunk and stumbling around, why would you take off your shoes and hat and lay them down like that?” he asked. “It doesn’t add up.” [...]

He said he never saw police interview the woman with whom Lumley was last seen. And when police returned Lumley’s cellphone, all of his contacts, text messages and photos had been deleted.

Family members said an autopsy carried out in Cuba has determined the fall was the cause of death. They have not yet been contacted about the body being released.


What'll Be The New Excuse for Castro Apologists?

Sunday, August 26, 2012
For over five decades, apologists for the Castro brothers have sought to minimize the brutal and repressive nature of their totalitarian regime by heralding the "wonders" of its free health care system.

Of course, this excuse has always been ridiculous for England and Sweden have free health care and, yet, they don't find the need to deny their citizens all basic human rights and torture, imprison or execute those that dissent.

Moreover, Cuba's health care system is far from "wonderful" with poor quality of services and as the AP notes in a story today, "patients often bring their own bed sheets, electric fans, food and water for hospital stays."

And no, it has nothing to do with U.S. sanctions, which have always had exceptions for medicines, medical supplies and basic foodstuffs.

Despite this, the AP further notes in today's story that the Castro regime is now looking to make further cuts in its health care services and is beginning to quantify them in market terms.

So what'll be the new excuse for Castro's apologists?

What Castro Does to Peaceful Women, Pt. 2

Another testimony of the violence the Ladies in White were subjected to last week for trying to peacefully congregate.

If you haven't read Part 1, click here.

This one is from Rosa Maria Naranjo Nieves:

The mobs of state security agents broke into the home. One officer, in charge of dealing with minors, grabbed a 14-year old and arrested her, nearly stripping her clothes off. As we began to protest this, they beat all of us. Those women who were not beat inside were later hit outside by the mobs. In my case, they punched me in the back and pulled my hair. Then, they twisted my arm and shoved me into a police vehicle, which took me to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales."

Propaganda Sets Off Wild Goose Chase

On August 17th, the Castro regime's media announced a new legal maneuver seeking to overturn the conviction in U.S. federal court of convicted Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez (of the so-called "Cuban Five").

According to the report, reproduced on August 20th by The Miami Herald, Hernandez's lawyers "had filed" an affidavit alleging that Radio and TV Marti somehow paid journalists to "influence" jury members.

Note there were no Cuban-Americans in the jury that convicted Hernandez.

Yet, as Along the Malecon's Tracy Eaton has discovered, more than a full week later, no affidavit of this kind has actually been filed in U.S. federal court.

Thus, once again, the Castro regime's propaganda sent everyone on a wild goose chase.

You'd think the media would generally fact-check anything that comes out of a regime and its apologists who have spent over five decades deceiving its people and the world.