Obama Defends His Cuba Policy

Saturday, September 22, 2012
In The New York Times:

An Obama campaign official took strong issue with Mr. [Paul] Ryan’s characterization of the administration’s Cuba policy [as "appeasement"], saying that Mr. Obama “has repeatedly renewed the trade embargo with Cuba, pressured the Castro regime to give its people more of a say in their own future, and supported democracy movements on the island.”

The official also said that the administration had “put in place common-sense, family-based reforms that allow Cuban-Americans to visit their family members still living in Cuba.”

Paul Ryan: We Will Be Tough on Castro

In National Journal:

[Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Paul] Ryan said his Cuban-American colleagues in Congress have taught him “just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president’s policy of appeasement is not working.”

"In a Mitt Romney administration, we will not keep practicing this policy of appeasement, we will be tough on this brutal dictator. All it has done is reward more despotism,” Ryan said. 

“We will help those pro-democracy groups. We will be tough on Castro, tough on Chavez. And it’s because we know that’s the right policy for our country.” 

Romney took a similarly hard line against the Castro regime when he spoke to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC here during the Florida primary in January, when he said he was anticipating Castro’s death.

Quote of the Day

"They keep talking about me on official state TV. Every insult they hurl at me turns into hugs on the street! Don't they realize that?"

-- Yoani Sanchez, Cuban blogger, on the contrary effect of a documentary presented last night on Cuban state TV seeking to demonize her and the Ladies in White, Twitter, 9/21/12.

Two More Ladies in White Missing

Two Ladies in White have missing since September 19th. 

Leticia Ramos Herreria is known to have been arrested on her way to Havana from the province of Matanzas, but there is no news as to where she was taken.

Meanwhile, Belkis Nunez Fajardo has been altogether missing since leaving the Ladies in White's headquarters in Central Havana that same day.

Where is the world's solidarity with these courageous women that are being harassed, beaten and arrested on a daily basis?

Leticia Ramos Herreria is pictured below.

Carter Never Ceases to Amaze

Friday, September 21, 2012
Here's the headline of the day from Global Atlanta:

"Carter Praises Venezuela, Scolds US on Electoral Processes"

Meanwhile, Smartmatic, the company that provides Hugo Chavez his touch-screen voting machines, stated in a press release today:

Former US President Jimmy Carter stated “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world" during the kickoff of the Annual Conversations at the Carter Center series.

Not a Good Day for Cuban Propaganda

Mairelys Cuevas Gomez, the managing editor of Castro's official newspaper Granma, has defected to the U.S.

According to Cafe Fuerte, Cuevas Gomez fled during a recent trip to Mexico, where she made her way to the U.S. border and asked for the refugee protections granted to Cuban nationals under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

She is now residing in Miami.

Granma is the main source of the Cuban dictatorship's official propaganda.

Journalist Imprisoned for "Disobeying" Castro

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Cuban independent journalist Calixto Martinez Arias has been arrested and charged with "disobedience" to the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro.

He now faces up to 3 years in prison courtesy of Article 144.1 of the dictatorship's penal code.

Martinez Arias, a correspondent for the Hablemos Press  was the first to report on the cholera epidemic that has afflicted the eastern part of the island this summer.

This has obviously been embarrassing to the Castro brothers, who sought to cover it up and risk of the well-being of the Cuban people.

At the time of his arrest, Martinez Arias was investigating news of various tons of medicine that -- instead of being distributed by the Castro regime -- was allowed to spoil at Havana's airport.

On Raul's "Reforms"

From Havana-based blogger Miriam Celeya's essay in Diario de Cuba:

"It's impossible to make economic progress while repressing individual freedoms. The [Castro] regime seeks to gain what Cubans keep losing: time."

Six Years Later: Same Old Raul

Last month, a tragic anniversary passed (perhaps purposefully) unnoticed by the media.

On July 31st, 2006, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro fell ill and handed power to his brother, General Raul Castro.

At the time, the news was reported with great fanfare, as it was speculated that Raul was some sort of "reformer" (apparently à la Bashir al-Assad or Saif Gaddafi).

Yet, six-years later, Cuba remains as morally, politically and economically bankrupt as when Raul took the reins.

And finally, even his cosmetic "reforms" are being generally recognized for what they are -- a sham.

They were just a headline for the media, but in reality remain stalled and in some cases have even been reverted (as The Economist noted this week).

If Cuba were a democracy, Raul would have been booted from office two years ago -- and Fidel 43 years ago.

But that's why their rule is based on force and fear, instead of the popular will of the people.

However, one thing has dramatically changed since the 2006 transfer to Raul: Repression has sky-rocketed.

Political arrests, beatings and harassment are all all-time highs; leading pro-democracy activists, such as Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan and Christian Liberation Movement leader Oswaldo Paya, have died under mysterious circumstances; and an American has been held hostage since December 2009.

We warned the media at the time (see here at the 7:22 mark) about Raul's brutality, as historically he has been Fidel's chief executor and has led some of the regime's most infamous purges.

But the truth was inconvenient to their narrative at the time.

Coming Soon to a Radio Station Near You

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Kudos to the team at National Latino Broadcasting (NLB).

Stay tuned for "From Washington al Mundo" to be syndicated to a local radio station near you -- in addition to its current home nationally on Sirius-XM satellite radio.

From Radio Ink Magazine:

Dial Global and National Latino Broadcasting Form Partnership

 Dial Global and National Latino Broadcasting have announced a partnership to provide programming aimed at Hispanics across the country. Beginning in October, NLB’s two 24/7 radio formats, Cristina Radio and En Vivo, will be distributed to radio stations nationwide by Dial Global. The content will include talk radio and music formats for the fastest-growing demographic in the country, Hispanics 18-25. Stations will be offered both 24/7 formats as full turnkey programing opportunities as well as full-length daily and weekly shows and a variety of hourly vignettes.

Che is Not "Cool"

In The Huffington Post:

An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters Regarding Their Che Guevara Merchandise

Ted Marlow
CEO, Urban Outfitters
30 Industrial Park Blvd.
Trenton, SC 29847

Dear Mr. Marlow,

The Human Rights Foundation recently became aware of the sale of merchandise at Urban Outfitters emblazoned with the image of communist leader Che Guevara, at times accompanied by the word "revolución." As a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense of human rights, we would like to bring your attention to Guevara's bloody and anti-democratic legacy.

Although Guevara's image has appeared on countless items for consumption over the last few decades as a symbol of change for the better, Guevara's actual record is that of a brutal tyrant who suppressed individual freedom in Cuba and murdered those who challenged his worldview.

A romanticized poster of Che Guevara currently for sale on the Urban Outfitters website Guevara undoubtedly played a key role in the overthrow of the dictatorial Batista regime in January of 1959. However, despite promises of a new democratic government, within a few months he and Fidel Castro had designed and installed a full-blown police state that deprived the overwhelming majority of Cuban citizens of democracy and human rights.

From 1959 to 1960, the new government carried out summary executions of at least 1,118 people by firing squad. Guevara himself presided over the notorious La Cabaña prison, where hundreds of the executions took place. For comparison's sake, the Batista regime was responsible for 747 noncombatant deaths between 1952 and 1959. The Cuban revolution under the direction of Guevara also saw the rise of forced labor camps which gave way a few years later to full-scale concentration camps. These were filled with dissidents, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Afro-Cuban priests, and anyone else who had committed "crimes" against the new moral revolution.

Despite the mountain of evidence for these abuses, much of which comes directly from Guevara's own meticulous journals, popular culture still largely views him as a revolutionary of the people. Urban Outfitters is certainly not the only company to take advantage of Guevara's fame to sell merchandise.

We urge you to consider that the image of Guevara represents tyranny and repression for the millions of people who have suffered under communism. Fifty-three years after Guevara's rise to power, Cuba is still ruled by the Communist party, while all alternative political parties and dissenting civil society groups are outlawed. Any expression of dissent is considered a subversive act, a free press does not exist, and the government regularly imprisons those who speak out. Mr. Marlow, the Cuban government of today, a legacy of Guevara, is the most repressive regime in the Western hemisphere.

These facts forced Polish lawmakers to recently propose a ban on t-shirts with Guevara's image, as part of a previous law banning fascist and totalitarian propaganda. HRF does not advocate the banning of an image -- no matter how offensive. Freedom of expression is a human right, and of course Urban Outfitters is free to choose how to design its merchandise.

However, HRF does question the motives of Urban Outfitters in lionizing a murderer who did not even make an attempt to hide his bloody ideology. In a speech in front of the United Nations in 1964, Guevara proudly admitted that "yes, we have executed, we are executing, we will continue to execute." He boasted of murdering Eutimio Guerra, bragging in his diary how he "ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain." He believed in doing anything it took to achieve "the greater good" he envisioned for Cuba -- including nuclear annihilation of the United States.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Guevara favored engaging in nuclear war to "build a better world." After the crisis was averted he lamented Soviet inaction, stating that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, he would have fired them. There is evidence that Guevara was involved in a November 1962 terrorist plot to use 1,200 pounds of TNT to blow up Macy's, Gimbels, Bloomingdale's, and Grand Central Station on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. "At every stage of his adult life," one historian noted of Guevara, "his megalomania manifested itself in the predatory urge to take over other people's lives and property, and to abolish their free will."

Is this really someone that Urban Outfitters wants to emblazon and celebrate on its products?

For the sake of the 1.47 billion people still living under the yoke of communist rule, for the sake of the thousands who perished in the Cuban revolution, and for the sake of the 11 million Cubans who still endure a totalitarian system, we hope Urban Outfitters will reconsider its marketing strategy and set a moral example for the apparel industry.

Sincerely yours,

Thor Halvorssen

Human Rights Foundation

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with Jon Perdue, director of Latin American programs at the Fund for American Studies, on his new book "The War of All the People: The Nexus of Latin American Radicalism and Middle Eastern Terrorism."

And Dr. Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami, will discuss the current challenges facing Brazil and its economy.

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).

A Victory for the Hunger Strikers

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The Castro regime has just released Cuban pro-democracy activist Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, whose unjust prison term had ended over a week ago.

As such, after 21 days on hunger strike demanding Vazquez Chaviano's release, Cuban pro-democracy leaders Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antunez" and 26 others have ended their protest.

A remarkable victory for the Cuban democracy movement.

Cuba Trip Promotes Meeting With U.S. Fugitive

Is the Obama Administration's "academic" travel policy now promoting meetings with fugitives from U.S. justice in Cuba?

These include cop-killers and other violent criminals.

Someone owes an apology to the families of the victims of these violent criminals, who have been given refuge in Castro's Cuba, including the murderers of New Jersey and New Mexico state troopers.

This is so incredibly disrespectful.

From The Daily Iowan:

"(University of Iowa Professor) Robin Hemley said one of the students on the trip last year wrote an excellent piece on an American fugitive who had escaped the country and taken asylum in Cuba. The exile met 13 Univ. of Iowa students who had enrolled in the UI’s study abroad program to Cuba last winter."

Below is a picture of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, who was murdered Joanne Chesimard, a fugitive from U.S. justice given refuge by the Castro brothers.

Senator Rubio Statement on Cuban Hunger Strikers

Senator Rubio Comments On Hunger Strikes By Cuban Democracy Leaders

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding hunger strikes recently undertaken by approximately thirty Cuban democracy leaders, including Jorge Luís García Pérez Antúnez and Martha Beatriz Roque, to demand the release of political prisoners, including Jorge Vazquez Chaviano:

Antúnez and Martha Beatriz Roque are two of Cuba’s most courageous heroes in the resistance movement, and I am deeply concerned about their deteriorating health as they join scores of other Cubans in conducting hunger strikes to protest the unjust incarceration of Jorge Vazquez Chaviano.

The Castro regime relishes in the suffering of the Cuban people, especially pro-democracy leaders who threaten their grip on power. They would love nothing more than to see these hunger strikes end in death. The international community, with the United States at the forefront, must speak out and draw attention to the suffering of the Cuban people.

The Obama administration should highlight these latest instances of Cuban suffering at the hands of the regime and also come to grips with the lack of progress achieved by its pro-engagement policy. It could not have envisioned ending its first term with an American humanitarian in frail health in a Cuban dungeon and a more repressive Cuban regime driving the Cuban people to desperate acts like these hunger strikes

World Democracy Activists Unite For Hunger Strikers

The World Movement for Democracy Expresses its Support for 26 Cuban Human Rights Activists on Hunger Strike

The World Movement for Democracy joins Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Cuban activist Jorge Vázquez Chaviano. We also express our unwavering support and solidarity with the 25 other activists, including Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello and Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antunez," who have joined Vázquez Chaviano in a hunger strike since September 10.

Cuban human rights activist Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, a member of the Central Opposition Coalition (Coalícion Central Opositora), was first charged with "unlawful economic activities" and sentenced to 18 months "correctional work without internment" in March 2011. He was then arrested on March 27 of this year when attempting to attend a mass by Pope Benedict XVI in Havana and forced to serve the remaining six months of his sentence in prison. Since the end date of his sentence passed on September 9, Vázquez Chaviano remains jailed by Cuban authorities without any explanation.

The World Movement for Democracy calls on the Cuban government to release Vázquez Chaviano immediately and end its practices of arbitrary, politically-motivated detentions of democratic activists. It also condemns the Cuban authorities' harassment of Vázquez Chavianao's wife, María del Carmen Hernández Martínez, and other members of his family, who have been detained and interrogated for speaking out against his ongoing and unjust detention.

As of September 10, Marta Beatriz Pérez Roque, Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antunez," and 23 other independent activists across Cuba joined Vázquez Chaviano in carrying out a hunger strike to protest his detention and the Cuban government's constant lack of compliance with international standards of justice, rule of law and human rights. The widespread hunger strike has drawn extensive international attention, including statements of solidarity by the Vice President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, the Community of Democracies Parliamentary Forum, and Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress Ileana Ros Lehtinen. Since 2010, two political prisoners - Wilman Villar Mendoza and Orlando Zapata Tamayo - have died in government custody while carry out hunger strikes to protest their imprisonment.

The World Movement for Democracy firmly expresses its solidarity with these brave and peaceful activists as they stand up against injustice and government oppression in their country. We also recognize the decisive leadership that Roque Cabello, García Pérez and the other activists have demonstrated in their struggle for democracy and urge them not to sacrifice their strength and health, which will be needed to help build a free Cuba in the years ahead.

Finally, the World Movement for Democracy stands with those activists in Cuba who peacefully seek to promote greater respect for internationally-recognized political and human rights standards in their country. Their movement to advance freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and the rule of law speak to the universal desire of all people to live in societies that are free of repression and violence. The World Movement encourages the international community to show solidarity with all peaceful democracy activists in Cuba and to speak out against the injustice and oppression that the Cuban government wages against its own citizens.

European Legislators Stand With Hunger Strikers

From the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy:

Chairman of the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy Emanuelis Zingeris expresses moral support and solidarity to the brave pro-democracy Cuban activists who are on a hunger strike against increasingly brutal oppression and unjust imprisonments in Cuba.

The growing list of those who have joined the hunger strike, which now has a reported twenty-eight participants, includes well-known pro-democracy leaders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello as well as:

· Jorge Vázquez Chaviano;
· Arturo Conde Zamora;
· Yerandi Martínez Rodríguez;
· Orlando Almenares Reyes;
· Luis Enrique Ponce Sánchez
· Roberley Villalobos Torres;
· Israel Robert Isaac;
· Yuniel Álvarez García;
· Luis Enrique Santos Caballero;
· Yosmel Martínez Corcho;
· Alberto Reyes Morales;
· Omar Pedroso Suárez;
· Yadira Rodríguez Bombino;
· Ibis María Rodríguez González;
· Fermín Zamora Vázquez;
· Yasmani Nicle Abad
· Leonardo Cancio Santana;
· Pedro Fernández Vega Cortés;
· Arcelio López Rojas;
· Misahel Valdés Díaz; and
· Jorge Luis Recio Arias.

We ask that you renew your calls for an end to Castro’s tyranny and egregious human rights abuses, and that you express solidarity with those brave heroes of Cuba’s democracy movement who are now wagering their health and lives to achieve the most fundamental liberties. They urgently need our prayers and support at this critical time in the Cuban people’s struggle for freedom.

Obama Rewards Castro Regime With Business Meeting

Currently, there is a wave of repression brutalizing Cuba's courageous pro-democracy movement; there are 27 dissidents on a hunger strike (some near death) protesting the unjust imprisonment of a colleague; and there is an American hostage going on his third year of arbitrary detention by the Castro regime.

Yet, despite all of these reprehensible acts, the Obama Administration's Treasury Department has decided to grant a business meeting on September 28th to Cubaexport (Empresa Cubana Exportadora de Alimentos y Productos Varios), a trade monopoly owned by the Castro brothers.

Apparently, Cubaexport is insistent upon legitimizing and eventually commercializing property in the United States that has been illegally confiscated.

And the Treasury Department seems all-too-willing to listen -- despite this issue having already been settled by the U.S. Congress and federal courts.

Perhaps this is simply a bureaucratic move by the Treasury Department.

But it is unlikely to have granted the meeting without foreign policy guidance from the State Department.

Why send mixed messages at such a delicate time?

See the Treasury Department's letter below.

Cubaexport -

Health of Hunger Strikers Deteriorating

Monday, September 17, 2012
By Yoani Sanchez in The Huffington Post:

Health of Prominent Cuban Hunger Striker Martha Beatriz Roque Is Deteriorating

On Sunday morning the health of several of the Cuban hunger strikers showed serious symptoms of deterioration. The number of activists now refusing food has risen to 27 people throughout Cuba, according to the group's spokesperson Idania Yáñez. The principal demand of the strike is the immediate release of Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, a dissident condemned for the alleged crime of "illegal economic activity." In the legal file of this opponent -- which this writer gained access to -- the date his sentence was set to expire was September 9, 2012. Instead of being released that day, the activist remained in prison in solitary confinement.

At a press conference on Monday, September 10, the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello announced the start of the hunger strike. At first there were 11 people, but day by day the number has grown. Amnesty International has demanded an immediate explanation for why Vázquez Chaviano has not been released on schedule. Sunday morning, he was transferred to Guamajal prison, also located in the central province of Villa Clara. His family has not been able to see him, but several sources confirm that also is refusing food.

Although several official government blogs have published information saying that Roque Cabello had received medical attention, she has refused any contact with the physicians. I visited Martha at her home in the capital neighborhood of Santo Suarez and witnessed firsthand her physical deterioration. Dry lips, sallow skin and trembling limbs were some of the symptoms of the famous economist. Meanwhile, in the living room of her home a group of five activists also maintain their decision not to take food, only liquids.

Two priests from the Parish of San Juan Bosco visited the well-known opponent of the regime, in what she described as strictly religious meetings, not political. Many activists from other opposition groups have also passed through to provide support or to ask the dissident to abandon her fast. Judicial authorities have informed the family of Vázquez Chaviano that he will not be released from prison until April 2013. However, the strikers claim that this is a flagrant violation of the laws in the country. Thus, they have decided to continue without food.

So far no government representative has made contact with the hunger strikers to begin a negotiation. Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello's home is visibly monitored by cars belonging to State Security, as I myself confirmed.

LGBT Repression Continues in Cuba

In The Washington Blade:

A leading Cuban LGBT rights advocate says that the country’s activists continue to suffer harassment and discrimination in spite of high profile pro-LGBT campaigns on the island.

“We are starting to understand how to organize in a more effective manner,” said Leannes Imbert Acosta, national coordinator of the Cuban LGBT Platform, an umbrella organization she co-founded in June of 12 of the island’s independent LGBT rights groups. She spoke during a panel on LGBT rights in Cuba at the Schomberg Center for Research and Black Culture in Manhattan on Saturday. “There is more societal tolerance, but discrimination still exists.”

The website Cubanet reported that two Cuban security officials detained Imbert Acosta on Sept. 11 as she left her Havana home to deliver to Mariela Castro, director of the country’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) materials for a planned exhibit on forced labor camps to which the government sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military service during the 1960s. Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, has said CENESEX would conduct an investigation into these camps, known as Military Units to Aid Production or by their Spanish acronym UMAPs, but Imbert and other activists maintain that Castro has refused to work with them on this issue.

Cuba Archive, a New Jersey-based organization that documents the Cuban government’s human rights abuses, said that authorities confiscated Imbert’s materials and pressured her to cancel the planned exhibit before releasing her 12 hours later [...]

Mabel Cuesta, a lesbian Cuban-born writer who is an assistant professor in the University of Houston’s Department of Hispanic Studies, noted that police continue to raid private gay parties — Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier were among the hundreds of people detained at a popular gay nightclub in Havana in 1997.

Independent LGBT rights groups and publications remain banned in Cuba, while the government requires officially sanctioned clubs to be heterosexual. Authorities arrested members of the Cuban Association of Gays and Lesbians, an independent LGBT rights group, after the government shut it down in 1997.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero, a gay HIV/AIDS activist who founded the Cuban League Against AIDS in 2003, said from Havana that those with the virus in the country continue to face discrimination. Until 1993, the Cuban government forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria. Estrada, who is positive, noted that 577 Cubans with the virus remain in prison for what he described as the crime of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a discussion on foreign policy in the Presidential election with Ed Gillespie, Senior Advisor to Governor Mitt Romney and former Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).

Then, Dr. Angel Rabasa of the RAND Corporation will discuss the wave of anti-American protests in the Middle East. He is the author of of the books, The Lessons of Mumbai and The Muslim World After 9/11.

And Blaise Misztal of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) will provide an update on Iran's nuclear program.

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).

The State-Sponsored Murder of Paya

Sunday, September 16, 2012
By Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post:

The Oswaldo Payá Mystery Continues

On the evening of July 22, a string of revealing text messages and phone calls circulated between Cuba, Sweden and Spain and back to Cuba — where Oswaldo Payá, one of the country’s bravest and most influential dissidents, was lying dead on a rural highway. That, anyway, is the story of Regis Iglesias Ramirez, an associate of Payá and former political prisoner who says he is determined to expose what he believes was a state-sponsored murder.

Iglesias, who was released into exile in Madrid two years ago and visited Washington last week, said he was contacted that evening by a Spanish Christian activist named Cayetano Muriel, who in turn had been called by Annika Rigo, a Swede who heads the Christian Democratic International Center in Stockholm. Iglesias says he was told that Rigo had received a text message from Cuba saying that a young Swedish Christian Democratic activist, Jens Aron Modig, had been in a terrible accident: A car in which he was riding had been followed and forced off the road by another vehicle. The text said three people from the car had been transported to a hospital, and one was missing.

Modig and a youth leader from Spain’s ruling Popular Party, Angel Carromero, had traveled to Cuba to make contact with Payá, leader of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement and the author of a groundbreaking 2002 petition seeking a popular referendum on the introduction of democratic freedoms. So Iglesias says he first texted and then called Payá’s wife, Ofelia Acevedo, who was in Havana, to see if she had heard anything.

Payá’s family knew nothing. But soon afterward came the terrible news from Cuban authorities: Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero, were dead; and Carromero, who was driving the rented Hyundai sedan they were riding in along with Modig, was accused of causing a one-car accident.

Two months later, that remains the official story. Carromero appeared on Cuban state television, where he confessed to losing control of the car and hitting a tree. He also urged that international attention focus on “getting me out of here.” He faces trial on charges of negligent homicide. Modig was held incommunicado for five days in Havana, then allowed to return home, where he has remained mostly silent. His spare communications, delivered before leaving Havana and in Stockholm, contain two salient points: He claims not to remember what happened in the crash; and he is worried about Carromero.

As far as Iglesias and other members of Payá’s movement are concerned, it’s quite clear what this adds up to. The accident, they say, was likely caused by Cuban state security, which has managed to silence the survivors by holding the 27-year-old Spaniard as a defacto hostage. The Spanish government, argue the dissidents, is content to tolerate this travesty for two reasons: It wants to free its well-connected activist, who is facing 10 years in prison; and it wants to avoid the diplomatic uproar that would necessarily ensue if it were acknowledged that Payá — a recipient of the European Union’s Andrei Sakharov human rights prize — had been killed by the regime.

The activists claim there is more evidence of foul play than the July 22 text messages. Iglesias says friends of the Payá family traveled to the hospital where the victims of the accident were taken on July 22. There they allegedly encountered Carromero, who repeated that he had been hit from behind and forced off the road by a red Lada sedan. A local police officer read them testimony from two local witnesses who said they saw the Lada at the scene of the accident. According to Iglesias, the Payá friends said a state security officer at the hospital sharply disputed Carromero’s story and appeared to intimidate him into changing it.

Why would the government of Raul Castro seek to kill a dissident whom it had left unmolested for a decade? After all, the regime has been seeking accommodation with the Catholic Church and Western governments; it has released most political prisoners (including Iglesias) and introduced modest economic reforms. Iglesias thinks he knows the answer to that. Payá, he says, had become an obstacle to Castro’s strategy, labeling the liberalization “the fraudulent change” and organizing support for an alternative platform demanding free elections.

The July 22 accident was the second one involving Payá in less than two months. On June 2, a Volkswagen van Payá was driving in Havana was struck by a taxi that Iglesias says was driven by a retired police officer.

Is all this coincidence and conspiracy theory? Could be. But a couple of things are striking about the case Iglesias lays out. First, it’s hardly implausible that the Cuban regime would pursue a leading dissident on a road trip; cause his death by accident or intention; and then try to blackmail the survivors into silence. Also, as long as the Castros continue to rule Cuba, it probably won’t be possible to determine the truth.

Punks on Calle G: Cuba's Rebellious Youth

An excerpt from a great essay by journalist Julia Cooke in Gawker:

The Punks on G Street: Tracking Cuba’s Rebellious Youth 50 Years After the Revolution

G Street is a central downtown avenue with firm topiary hedges and curbs painted with black and white stripes. The street slopes gently down toward the ocean. In daytime sunlight, little distinguishes it from any of Havana's wide, Paris-on-the-sea boulevards—this area of the city was, in fact, designed in the 1920s by J. C. N. Forestier, one of the head planners of Paris. Colonnaded houses are set behind rich tropical trees, and on main avenues, the city keeps the buildings freshly painted in bright yellow and pink and red that fade to ecru and rose when the sun sets.

On weekend nights, Havanans mostly between the ages of 13 and 30 eat dinners at home, shed school (or, if they're older, work) uniforms, don the clothes that are like passwords for whatever subculture they belong to, and flock to Calle G. Once there, they mill in clusters, lounge on benches, parade up and down, or sit on the sidewalk amid blobs of discarded gum and cigarette butts, knees crooked in upside-down V's in front of them. Smoke hangs in the air even if there's a breeze. Many stay until three or four in the morning. Some stick around until sunrise doing what looks like nothing all night long.

There's no right to public assembly in Cuba, so really, the kids' claim on G Street is tenuous. But even if it's only symbolic, G Street is the sliver of Havana that belongs to them—not to their families, like the crowded apartments where they live with parents and grandparents, and not to the government, like concert spaces and cafes.

And it's free. The people on G Street spend what cash they have on tangible goods, clothing and accessories and phones. Wearing brand names is a small, silent ‘up yours' to the revolution's goals of non-materialism and equality—Ed Hardy, Nike and Tommy Hilfiger labels as tightly curled fists against the drab green canvas of identical-looking bureaucrats.

The avenue fulfills some of the same functions as the Internet, which only 15 percent of Cubans regularly access, if that—trustworthy statistics are maddeningly elusive. G Street is email, Facebook, and YouTube rolled into one. Parties are planned in the shadows of stubby trees. The avenue's promenade is a place to publicly trace the linked circles of social groups, of visually similar but philosophically divergent cliques differentiated by sartorial choices and what sort of music they like. And would-be performers compete for audiences: breakdancers and capoeira athletes whirl on the pavement, earnest troubadours strum guitars and rappers that make your shoulders twitch do jam sessions, all with small circles of onlookers. I'd gone to a breakdancing practice session once, in an empty public building on a Saturday, and watched skinny kids spin and flip and shout and clap for one another in what used to be a restaurant with marbled floors and full-length windows.

G Street is a place where young Cubans, who've all read the same textbooks in school, eaten the same ration-book food, watched the same Saturday night movie on one of three government TV channels, and used the same soap in the shower, go with the same goal of projecting different identities. What Liván and Takeshi's crowd projected was fuck you, I do what I want, and while that was understandable—kids their age had grown up in near-constant economic crisis since the fall of the USSR—I needed to know how far the sentiment went. Would G Street ever be the breeding ground for an uprising that could challenge Cuba's single political party?

China and Cuba Deepen Military Ties

From the Chinese regime's Xinhua:

China and Cuba agreed to further deepen military cooperation as a Cuban senior general visited Beijing on Friday.

Joaquin Quintas, Vice Minister of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), said that the Cuban side is willing to enhance exchanges with the Chinese military and strengthen bilateral cooperation in personnel training and other areas.