Don't Forget to Vote

Saturday, October 27, 2012
And for Miami-Dade voters, don't forget the very last question (#242) on the ballot.

It's an opportunity to send (another) strong message to state and county officials that taxpayer money should not be afforded to foreign companies, like Brazil's Odebrecht, which unscrupulously partner with some of the world's cruelest dictatorships.

A New, More Sophisticated Mariel

An interesting perspective by Cuban blogger Rebeca Monzo:

The Blue Card

There is not much that is new in the new immigration law. Nonetheless, it has raised expectations among a wide swath of the population: retirees, homemakers, students who have not gotten past the ninth grade, the unemployed and the elderly, to cite a few.

In one paragraph, the much-publicized law mentions that medical technicians are also subject to the burden of having to wait three years from the date of a passport request or the extension of an existing passport without regard for the time they have been out of the workforce. This measure not only discourages the prospects for travel, but—and to me this is the greater danger—it also discourages the desire of people to continue with their studies. Once they have completed the ninth grade, many abandon the classroom for good.

This has been going on for many years with respect to university careers. Many quit before graduating, or simply never begin their studies in the hope of being able to travel someday. The same thing is happening is less specialized fields of study. This is leading and will continue to lead to an even greater lowering of the country’s educational and technical standards, which have already been significantly eroded.

Logically speaking, it remains to be seen whether or not those fortunate enough to be granted a long-awaited passport will be approved for a visa by the countries they hope to visit. In this way the Cuban government, like Pontius Pilate, can wash its hands of the matter, placing the blame on others as usual.

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake. This new emigration law seems more like a new, more-sophisticated Mariel, but one that is organized and controlled by the state.

We Should Proudly Highlight Our Democracy

Friday, October 26, 2012
This is a mistake.

The U.S. is history's most vibrant democracy.

We shouldn't threaten observers from the mostly-democratic 56-nations of the OSCE.  Simply ban any from the few non-democratic OSCE states (e.g. Russia, Belarus) or those from nations that don't allow U.S. observers in their elections.

Otherwise, let our system serve as a shining example for the world to see.

And if they criticize, so be it, they'd do so incredulously.

But we shouldn't risk losing our moral standing when we later demand international observers for elections in countries with authoritarian regimes or where democracy is at risk.

From The Hill:

Texas sparks international row with election observers
Texas authorities have threatened to arrest international election observers, prompting a furious response from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

“The threat of criminal sanctions against [international] observers is unacceptable,” Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said in a statement. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

Lawmakers from the group of 56 European and Central Asian nations have been observing U.S. elections since 2002, without incident.

FL Hispanic Caucus Defends Cuba-Syria Law

From The News Service of Florida:

Hispanic caucus blasts chamber of Cuba-Syria law

The Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus has sent a letter harshly criticizing the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to a new law aimed at preventing state and local governments from contracting with firms that have business ties to Cuba or Syria.

The letter says the caucus cannot “comprehend why the Florida Chamber of Commerce is so adamantly attempting to block legislation which condemns political and economic oppression in other countries. The chamber filed a brief Monday asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to continue blocking the law, saying it would “irreparably harm Florida businesses and the state’s economy.”

A U.S. district judge in June issued a preliminary injunction against the law, saying it was likely unconstitutional because it infringed on the federal government’s authority to set foreign policy.

The chamber contends, in part, that the law would discourage foreign investment in Florida, as businesses from countries such as Canada and Brazil also have operations in Cuba. Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican who leads the Hispanic caucus, sent the letter Thursday to chamber Chairman Anthony J. Connelly, a day after the News Service of Florida reported on the chamber brief.

“Continuing to oppose this law in this manner and at this late hour is an abomination to the very fabric of our state and country,’’ Garcia said in the letter, which The Miami Herald obtained. “Again, your decision to choose money over the freedom and lives of millions is extremely disappointing.”

Our Thoughts and Prayers

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

It is believed at least 11 people have died in eastern Cuba, where there has been widespread devastation.

Unfortunately, Cuban state TV gleamed over news of the hurricane and its aftermath last night.

Yet, the Castro regime didn't spare a minute to block the cell phones of Cuban pro-democracy leaders in eastern Cuba, including Jose Daniel Ferrer and Arselio Molina, to prevent them from reporting the conditions on the ground.

It's sickening how -- even in times of humanitarian crisis -- the regime's focus is on censorship and repression.

Let's not forget Cuban independent journalist Calixto Martínez Arias, who remains imprisoned for reporting on the outbreak of cholera and dengue, which the Castro regime was trying to hide.

Troubling Trend: Repressors Getting US Visas

Thursday, October 25, 2012
In The Miami Herald:

Former Cuban prisons chief accused of abuse is now living in Florida

A former chief of prisons in Cuba's Villa Clara province is reported to be living in South Florida despite allegations that he denied medical treatment to one inmate and ripped out the intravenous feeding tubes of another on a hunger strike.

Marino Rivera, about 80 years old, and his wife, a former migration official in the provincial capital, Santa Clara, also are reported to have made more than one trip back to the island, although government defectors are usually blocked from returning.

Miami immigration lawyers Santiago Alpizar and Wilfredo Allen said they have contacted U.S. prosecutors to find out how Rivera could have been allowed into the United States with his background.

Rivera and his wife were both senior officials in the Interior Ministry, in charge of internal security, prisons and firefighters and members of the Communist Party. They could not be located to comment for this story.

Santa Clara dissident Guillermo Farinas, winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize in 2010, said Rivera yanked two intravenous needles from his arms in a fit of anger during one of his many hunger strikes in 1998.

Quote of the Week

Sad news from Cuba. Fidel Castro is — still alive. Today the Cuban government released a photo to prove it. When a government has to put out photos to prove you're alive, that means one thing — you're dying. It's like when a celebrity couple does an "at home" piece with a TV news-magazine. That means the divorce is imminent.
-- Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, CBS, 10/24/12

New Revelations in Paya's Death

Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya's family has consistently held that the crash that killed him was not an accident and that the car he was traveling in was rammed off the road.

Meanwhile, the Castro regime has convicted a young Spanish activist, Angel Carromero, who was driving the car that carried Paya, to 4-years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.

In a tweet yesterday, Oswaldo Paya's daughter, Rosa Maria, has revealed that pursuant to the accident, Aaron Modig, a Swedish activist who also survived the crash, sent an SMS saying:

"Angel says a car hit us and ran us off the highway."

A lengthy recent interview with Modig, where he clearly states that he initially had his cell phone with him at the hospital, corroborates this.

Interview of a Witness to Paya's Death

The Sweden-based website, Miscelaneas de Cuba, has interviewed Aaron Modig, one of the two activists who survived the car crash that killed Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya.

The other, Spanish activist Angel Carromero, has been sentenced 4-years in prison by the Castro regime for vehicular homicide.

You can read the entire interview here.

But here are some noteworthy excerpts:

What was it that first took you to Cuba?

Modig: I have done similar types of political work in several countries. Before I went to Cuba I had been twice to Kenya and once to Cambodia, working on similar projects. I realized that I like to help and that’s really my main motivation. I had found a way I could help and share my experience of working in politics here in Sweden, so when the opportunity arose, the trip to Cuba was an obvious choice.

What do you remember about Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero as individuals?

Modig: I met Oswaldo two days before our trip on the Sunday and I had met Harold once before the trip. I am sort of handicapped as I don’t speak Spanish, so it was difficult to communicate, and as Oswaldo didn’t speak English, Harold was translating most of the time.

What I remember most about Oswaldo was his heartfelt gratitude at us being there to do this work. I also remember him telling stories now and then during the trip, which Harold translated. In one of the stories, Harold told about his expulsion from the University, back in period of the Varela Project. Oswaldo also spoke about the project itself. Harold had been expelled when the other students were made to vote him out. This was a very unfortunate event. He was more or less thrown out of the University.

Oswaldo showed me the empty fields where people used to grow sugar cane and he also told me about a relative of his who’d had a farm with livestock and pasture confiscated by the state to stamp out any commercial activity.

Two evenings before the trip, we had been in a bar in Havana, Oswaldo’s daughter Rosa María, Oswaldo, Ángel, Harold and me, and again, I had faced the same problem: they were talking in Spanish all the time and I couldn’t really understand, but I knew they were talking about the economic crisis in Spain and how it was affecting people. Luckily, Harold was there to translate the conversation, but as the discussion was very heated, I couldn’t catch everything or participate myself.

You have stated on the Christian Democratic Youth homepage that Ángel Carromero was not driving excessively fast. These pictures show the road where the crash happened. What do these pictures tell you? 

Modig: I can’t remember this particular stretch of road. I was sleeping before the crash. On the other hand, we had been travelling for a long time that day - we had set off at 6 am. As far as I am aware, the crash happened around 2pm, sometime after lunch. As far as I remember though, Ángel never drove recklessly as has been claimed. 

You lost consciousness immediately after the crash. When did you find out that Oswaldo and Harold were dead?

Modig: I found out at the hospital. I was recovering there after the crash.

Was it the Security Police who told you they were dead?

Modig: No, no, no. I found out through friends here in Sweden. No-one at the hospital told me anything. I had my Swedish mobile phone with me while I was in the hospital. My friends told me “there are rumours that they are dead”. The Cuban authorities never informed me of their deaths, either then or later. It is possible they mentioned it during the interrogations, but I can’t be sure of that detail. The questioning came several days later.

What was your darkest hour? When did you realize the seriousness of the incident?

Modig: I think there were two periods that were really hard. To begin with, I was very confused, and I have thought long and hard about it. By my calculations, I was unconscious for about 30 minutes, which is quite a long time anyway. I suffered headaches for several weeks afterwards. As I said, I was generally quite confused, but there were a lot of people around me in the hospital and they took over me, I had a drip in my arm, I had to walk up and down, they needed to x-ray my neck a couple of times, they did other examinations and blood tests, so it was messy, I just remember falling asleep as soon as I got back to bed.

Later on, two armed men in green uniforms appeared and sat alongside my bed. It was only then, and I’d had contact with my friends in Sweden too, that I started putting the pieces together and I remembered we had been driving and became aware that two of the other passengers had died. It dawned on me that my situation there was not totally legal, I was in a hospital 700 km from the nearest Swede or diplomatic representative. I was in the middle of nowhere, in another part of the world where I could not speak the language and, suddenly, I had armed police guarding me.

Then it occurred to me that I could be made to disappear here, if they wanted that to happen. At that moment I felt totally powerless for the first time. I don’t even remember whether I was afraid or not. Reason dictates that I should have been, but I don’t remember, maybe because I still was very confused.

The second tough time was when they took me from Bayamo to Havana by plane, because I was thinking that even if not much had happened in Bayamo, at least the Swedish Ambassador had been there and she had been aware of what was going on. But when they actually took me from Bayamo to Havana, they did not inform the Swedish Ambassador, or me either in fact, where they were taking me and I had no idea of what was going to happen. I ended up locked in a room, with all my belongings taken from me and three armed guards watching over me. This was in a house in Havana with a high wall around it.

At that point I thought: “this could go either way”. However, while I had been afraid for my life at the beginning, I wasn’t by then, because I was sure the Embassy knew where I was; that I had survived the crash. But was also thinking that this thing could turn ugly - maybe I would be imprisoned or punished.

What are your wishes for Cuba in the future?

Modig: Naturally, I want a free Cuba, where voicing your opinion is seen as normal and natural in all possible contexts, a place where politics and the different possibilities for social development can be openly discussed, just as is the case here in Sweden and in many other countries around the world. That is the kind of society I think Cuba should have. Any other type of government is a form of repression.

What would your message be for others who would like support the Cuban opposition?

Modig: Please help the Cuban opposition if you have any chance to do so, any possibility to help, please do. That is all I can say.

Freedom Collection: Regis Iglesias Ramirez

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
As part of its Freedom Collection, The Bush Institute has released a video testimonial by former Cuban political prisoner, Regis Iglesias Ramirez.

Iglesias was a member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).  The MCL was founded by the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died under mysterious circumstances in a car accident earlier this year.

In 2003, Regis Iglesias Ramirez was among 75 nonviolent dissidents and activists arrested by the Cuban regime in what became known as the Black Spring. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for crimes against the state. He was released in 2010.

See the entire interview here.

Only the Obedient Need Apply

Makes you wonder just how subservient Cuban-Americans who travel back-and-forth to the island have to be, in order for the Castro regime to allow them in.

According to a 30-page document published Tuesday in Cuba’s Gaceta Oficial outlining the changes in Cuba’s migration laws that will take effect Jan. 14, Cubans who want to leave or enter the country can do so with a Cuban passport. But there will still be restrictions.

For example, those who have been “declared undesirable or expelled’’ can’t go home nor will those considered hostile to the “political, economic and social principles of the Cuban state’’ be admitted.

Cubans in certain categories such as top sports figures, those considered essential to preserving the workforce in key scientific and technical areas, and military and government officials won’t be able to obtain an “ordinary’’ passport and must request specialized passports from their supervisors. There is also a catch-all category that prohibits Cubans “for other reasons of public interest’’ from obtaining passports.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation on NAFTA and the current status of U.S.-Mexico trade with Mickey Cantor, who served as Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative under President Bill Clinton.

Then, Dr. Miriam Lanskoy of the National Endowment for Democracy  will discuss the outcome of this month's Presidential elections in the Eurasian nation of Georgia and its relations with Russia.

And, of course, thoughts on Monday's foreign policy U.S. Presidential debate.

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).

Castro's Continued Blackmail

By Jeb Bush and Frank Calzon in The Wall Street Journal:

Cuban Blackmail, 50 Years After the Missile Crisis

The past decades have shown that the Castro brothers' behavior in October 1962 was perfectly characteristic.

With this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, Americans are recalling the 13 days in October 1962 when the Soviet Union and Cuba's Fidel Castro brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.

But in assessing the crisis, and President John F. Kennedy's decisions over those 13 days, it is equally important to consider what has happened since. Using what the late U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick called the "politics of deception," Cuba's Castro brothers have maintained power through international deceit, blackmail and hostage-taking.

The past decades have shown that the behavior of the Castro brothers in 1962 was perfectly characteristic. Fidel Castro has never shied away from a political gamble such as deploying secret Soviet missiles and then lying about them. He assured other governments that he would never do such a thing, just as the Soviet Union's ambassador to the United States told the Kennedy administration that rumors about missiles were false. But the missiles were there, and their deployment was an effort to intimidate and blackmail America.

Today, Havana's intimidation and blackmail are of a different magnitude, but there are plenty of examples.

Days ago, a Cuban court sentenced young Spanish politician Angel Carromero to four years in prison for committing manslaughter in the death of Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba's most prominent human rights leaders. Payá died while a passenger in a car Mr. Carromero was driving, when it veered off the road and hit a tree under suspicious circumstances. Payá's family says that Mr. Carromero has sent text messages saying that a vehicle (presumably driven by Cuba's state security police) was attempting to force him off the road. The family was prevented from attending the trial and is calling for an international investigation.

For years, state security had tried to intimidate Payá and his foreign visitors, part of a larger effort to discourage democracy advocates from visiting or contacting Cuban dissidents. Havana similarly tries to intimidate other countries—such as Spain, whose nationals have business interests in Cuba—into accepting its routine violations of human rights, including the beatings of dissidents.

Joining Mr. Carromero as a hostage in Cuba is Alan Gross, an American development worker held since December 2009. His supposed crime: giving a laptop computer and satellite telephone to a group of Cuban Jews.

Mr. Gross has lost some 100 pounds in prison, according to his wife, who also reports that he has a growth on his shoulder that may be cancerous. The Castro regime intends to keep him in prison until the U.S. government releases five Cuban spies from prison in the U.S.

There is long history here. In 1962, Fidel Castro wrung $53 million from Washington in exchange for releasing the prisoners he had taken after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Before that, during the guerrilla war against the Batista dictatorship, Raúl Castro extorted thousands of dollars from owners of sugar mills, threatening to burn down their homes and mills unless they aided the guerrillas. In June 1958, he tried to force negotiations with Washington by kidnapping 29 American sailors and marines; when word got out that Washington might send U.S. Marines to rescue the hostages, the Castros freed them.

In dealing with Cuba's regime, the Obama administration has too often sent contradictory signals of U.S. resolve. Though Raúl Castro (who now heads the Cuban government) has refused to allow Mr. Gross to return to the U.S. to visit his seriously ill mother, the Obama administration allowed a Cuban spy to leave an American halfway house to visit his sick mother. While Mr. Gross remains in prison, the Obama administration last year issued visas to Raúl Castro's daughter and her retinue so they could visit America and attack its Cuba policy.

The lessons of October 1962 must not be forgotten. President Kennedy showed fortitude and resolve in forcing the Soviet Union to stand down. Whoever wins the Nov. 6 election ought to deal similarly with today's intimidation and deception from the Castro regime.

Must-Read: More of the Same

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
By Cuban blogger Fernando Damaso:

Travel and Emigration Reform?

The recently announced and often proposed travel/emigration reform act finally appeared in the Official Gazette and, as you might guess, simply amounts to a reshuffling of the same restrictions along with some new ones. Its additional procedures are designed to “make changes so that everything stays the same” and to keep extracting hard currency from Cubans both inside and outside the country.

The “white card,” or exit permit, has been eliminated and its restrictions will now be applied to the passport, which will only be issued to those citizens who fulfill a long list of requirements or whom the state deems worthy. Its price will increase from 55 CUC to 100 CUC. It will extend to twenty-four months the time one can remain outside the country without being considered an emigrant. Cubans living in other countries and with other nationalities are still required to have a Cuban passport to visit Cuba, and it does not recognize dual citizenship, as is common in other democratic countries in the world. It also introduces a 150 CUC emigration processing fee for people living overseas and 100 CUC fee for those who decide to reside in Cuba.

As you might imagine, although there are still no guidelines or regulations regarding the practical application of the law, it is a bit like the saying, “You can flip the omelet over, but it’s the same on the other side.” Or to put it another way, “It’s the same dog but with a different collar.” It is now understandable why they needed so much time to craft this travel/emigration straitjacket.

Those who expected real change, and serious travel/emigration reform as a result, were left still wishing, and also, with the frustration of feeling tricked. It seems that the majority of Cubans still do not understand it is only possible to expect more of the same from the current authorities and never anything really new or different. 

Dogmatism, schematicism, and conservatism seem to be their guidelines and they never deviate from them: they have yielded powerful results for half a century, and they will not finally change now. The approved emigration reform constitutes a mockery of the wishes of the citizens, who every day demand real changes. May it serve as a lesson to so many naive ones!

Remittance Company Owner On The Lam

From Dominican Today:

U.S. agents seek another Cuban in major Medicare fraud

Federal agents search Dominican Republic for the fugitive remittance company owner Jorge Emilio Perez, indicted on an alleged US$30.0 million fraud against U.S. Medicare in South Florida.

Prosecutors say Perez’s company used Cuban banks to take the money swindled out of the U.S., and believe he fled to Dominican Republic a few weeks ago.

Investigators followed the money trail to banks in Cuba, and added charges of conspiracy against Perez, founder of Caribbean Transfers, and also charged Philip Ruiz and Kirian Vega of laundering money through the agency which also cashes checks.

Cuba’s government licensed Caribbean Transfers to conduct transactions from other Caribbean countries with that island nation.

Fidel Visits His Luxury Cash Cow

In order to show proof of life, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro released a picture of himself (below) accompanying former Venezuelan Vice-President Elias Jaua to his regime's luxurious Hotel Nacional in Havana.

Castro took advantage of the visit to greet the manager of the hotel, Antonio Martinez (middle), and get an update on one of his most lucrative properties.

The Cuban dictator wanted to make sure that the guests of the hotel -- composed of European tourists and the Obama Administration's "people-to-people" travelers -- are comfortable, enjoying their vacations and leaving behind all of their foreign currency.

And of course, that they're not being bothered by those pesky Cubans on the other side of the hotel's glitzy gardens.

Only Cuba-Related Mention in Tonight's Debate

At least in concept, by Republican Presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney:

ROMNEY: I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we've had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration, and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be.

I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength. And I say that because from the very beginning, the president in his campaign four years ago, said he would meet with all the world's worst actors in his first year, he'd sit down with Chavez and Kim Jong-il, with Castro and President Ahmadinejad of Iran.

And I think they looked and thought, well, that's an unusual honor to receive from the President of the United States. And then the president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.

Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well.

And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well.

All of these things suggested, I think, to the Iranian mullahs that, hey, you know, we can keep on pushing along here, we can keep talks going on, we're just going to keep on spinning centrifuges.

Now there are some 10,000 centrifuges spinning uranium, preparing to create a nuclear threat to the United States and to the world. That's unacceptable for us, and it's essential for a president to show strength from the very beginning, to make it very clear what is acceptable and not acceptable.

Tweet of the Day

In #cuba hope that in November there will be an end to the NORTH's policies of appeasement toward the Castro tyranny. 
-- Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez", Cuban pro-democracy leader and former political prisoner, 10/22/12

An Indefensible Political Slum

Monday, October 22, 2012
By Peter Hitchens in The Daily Mail (UK):

A couple of points from the weekend. Now that it is plain that the Castro tyranny was and is an indefensible political slum, I am now asked if I am, by attacking it, defending the Batista government which preceded it. Obviously not. Why should I?

One thing is fairly plain from that era, which is that Batista was nearing the end of his time in power, and was likely to be displaced anyway. Though I would ask any fair-minded person to compare the conditions of Fidel Castro’s imprisonment, after his armed revolt against Batista at the Moncada barracks, and Castro’s treatment of those who did no more than speak critically of him. I’d also mention that Cuba before Castro was a relatively advanced economy, and that many of the claims of the Castro revolution, notably to have made huge improvements in medical care, are not what they are cracked up to be. Medical care and education in Castro’s Cuba are by no means as great as the propaganda claim, and the Communist elite have privileged access to both schooling and medical care, which would surely be needless if things were as good as we are told.

No more do I defend the Tsarist autocracy which ruled Russia before the Bolshevik revolution.

The logic of such questions is that the revolution which they support or defend was the only possible resolution of the problems of the country. I do not think that this was, or generally is, the case. If Russia had had only the February Revolution of 1917, and not the October putsch,  it would have been saved from a long nightmare. If Castro had been what the USA believed he was when he was in the Sierras, a democratic rebel, then Cuba might likewise have been saved from much.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a discussion on Spain's economic challenges and this weekend's regional elections with Rafa Rubio, a political consultant for Spanish President Mariano Rajoy and Constitutional Law Professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

And Joel Brinkley, Pulitzer-prize winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times and Professor at Stanford University, will discuss his recent editorials on Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, and on Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

And, of course, tonight's foreign policy U.S. Presidential debate.

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).

Rubio Talks Cuba on CBS's "Face the Nation"

Sunday, October 21, 2012
From CBS's Face the Nation today:

BOB SCHIEFFER: It is interesting that tomorrow's debate comes 50 years to the day when John Kennedy went on American television and announced that the Soviet Union had put nuclear-tipped missiles 90 miles from the coast of Florida in Cuba. We also know that Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba then, still the dictator, I guess, in name, but still the dictator, is very near death, we are told.

I'm wondering, Senator, what do you think will be the course of U.S. relations with Cuba if -- if Castro does go?

U.S. SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, it won't be the direction the president has taken it over the last four years.

Let me give you an example. They have these things called people-to-people trips to Cuba, which ostensibly is for Americans to be able to travel to Cuba, be in contact with everyday Cubans. That's not what they are. They're really tourism trips. I mean, people go over there for salsa dancing and cigar-rolling lessons. And all it is is a source of hard currency for the Castro regime. You talk about Fidel Castro being near death. I don't know that to be true, but I can tell you what's been dead for over 50 years in Cuba, and that's democracy. There are no political freedoms in Cuba. And I think that, sadly, over the last four years, the cause of freedom in Cuba has been -- has been hurt by this additional trips to Cuba and remittances that are providing hard currency for that regime.

O'Grady: The Castros in Winter

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

The Castros in Winter

Cuba will soon make it easier for some to legally travel abroad. This is not a sign of liberalization.

The rumor mill kicked into high gear 10 days ago with the gossip that Fidel Castro may be near death. In other news, the Cuban military dictatorship, now headed by younger brother Raúl, announced last week that it will end a half-century-old policy of requiring citizens to secure a government "white card" in order to travel outside the island. Coincidence? Not likely.

Nor is it likely that the regime's so-called reform of its travel restrictions is a move toward a freer and more just Cuban society. Rather it looks like another ploy designed to strengthen the grip of the military and ensure that the population remains submissive.

Standing by until the 86-year-old retired dictator dies is by now a national pastime. Cubans long ago abandoned any hope that the old communist coot, despite the misery and poverty his "revolution" has generated, might decree change. The only thing left to do is wait him out.

But on the day the news breaks that Fidel is dead, the dictatorship will know that it must be prepared to control a restless population. Older Cubans were raised to revere Fidel, but indoctrination hasn't persuaded younger generations. Even with limited access to the Internet, they know that their lives of repression and privation are not normal.

Moreover, Cubans who were brought up to worship Fidel don't feel the same way about Raúl, who lacks Fidel's demagogic charisma and has made plenty of enemies doing his older brother's dirty work over the years. All of this suggests that the death of the elder Castro could reduce Cuban willingness to tolerate the status quo.

Cuba is already witnessing a rebellion of sorts. But rather than pour into the streets or engage in widespread acts of civil disobedience, people are expressing despair by simply refusing to cooperate.

Raúl has already noted this in speeches, complaining about low levels of Cuban productivity. It is also a bitter irony that the Castro model, which justifies summary executions, dungeons, torture and the exile of nonconformists on the grounds that it is striving for a morally superior society, has created a system in which Cubans, who earn on average $20 a month, have to steal to survive.

Talk to young Cubans, as I have during time spent on the island, and you will hear them mocking El Maximo Lider and blaming him for the crumbling country. If Cubans are this bold now, imagine how they might behave once the old revolutionary passes on. This worry would explain the new travel policy.

Few Castro diktats are as hated as the ban on the freedom to travel. Under the existing rules, Cubans who wish to go abroad for personal reasons have to present an invitation letter from the foreigner who will receive them, explain the purpose of the trip to apparatchiks, pay a consular fee, and secure a "white card" from the regime. The cards are granted sparingly. Cubans understand, viscerally, that the arrangement is unjust.

Starting in January, according to the government, Cubans who want to travel legally will no longer need that letter of invitation, will no longer pay a consular fee, and will no longer need a white card. They will also be allowed to stay abroad for up to two years before they are considered an emigrant and thus lose some of their entitlements at home.

This at first sounds like progress. But it doesn't come close to setting Cubans free to roam the world. Citizens will still be required to secure a passport validation stamp, and for many Cubans the costs will add up to more than the fee for the white card. The stamp can also be withheld at the discretion of the regime.

As spelled out in the law, scientists, doctors and anyone deemed to be of high value to the state will have a hard time getting permission to travel—and even if they get it, they will have to wait five years between filing an application and actually boarding a plane. An editorial in the Cuban state newspaper last week said that the regime intends to protect itself from "the theft of talent applied by the powerful," i.e., the U.S. The law also stipulates a catchall rejection category marked "defense and national security interests." Translation: Nobody gets out without the dictator's blessing.

Nevertheless, Cuba probably wants to allow more of its citizens to go abroad. If the politically compliant are allowed to travel to Miami and beyond and acquire things with help from their exile relatives, the wealth that Cuba cannot generate because of its backward economic system can be imported one carry-on at a time. Cuban travelers will no doubt be thrilled with their new access to material goods. Their dissident neighbors, who are denied travel, will learn an important lesson about how not to comport themselves.

The upshot is that on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, the regime has announced a new way to hold on to the same old military control. The only problem for Raúl is the estimated (according to the State Department) 4½ year backlog of Cubans waiting for U.S. travel visas.

Note to AP: Cuba is a Totalitarian Dictatorship

After 52 years of a brutal totalitarian dictatorship, the AP's Havana bureau still tries to give credence to the Castro regime's "electoral" charade:

"There are no flashy television ads or campaign signs spiked into front yards. And candidates definitely don't tour the island shaking hands and kissing babies [...].

A long, complicated and truly unique electoral process is under way on this communist-run island, with more than 8 million Cubans going to the polls this weekend for municipal elections. The process culminates in February, when national assembly legislators vote on who will occupy the presidency, a post held by Raul Castro since 2008."

Note to AP:

to·tal·i·tar·i·an  (t-tl-târ-n)

adj. Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed.

n. A practitioner or supporter of such a government.

That's the Castro dictatorship.

You'd think Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraq's former information minister (known as "Comical Ali) was the AP's new Havana correspondent.

52 Years of the Same Old Bad Behavior

By Dr. Tania Mastrapa for the Selous Foundation:

Cuba: 52 Years of the Same Old Bad Behavior

The Cuban regime has been conducting a public relations campaign in the past couple of years promoting its so-called economic reforms in an effort to attract foreign investment and, more importantly, foreign loans that the regime has no intention of paying. An ironic year of a respectful and solemn papal visit and a push for gay rights, while dissidents are routinely beaten, merits an overview of what exactly, if anything, has changed in Cuba and if there is any reason for the U.S. to continue to soften its policies.

Over half a century after violently taking over the Cuban government the Castro regime not only endures, it also continues to repress its citizens and undermine the United States. In the early years, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a humiliating disaster courtesy of the Kennedy administration. The U.S. was threatened with nuclear missiles pointing from Cuba courtesy of the Soviets. In fact, Fidel pushed the Soviets toward a nuclear war with the U.S. He did not care if Cuba was obliterated as long as the U.S. was destroyed. Cubans, Americans and other foreigners lost their private property. Cubans, both domestic and exiled, and Americans have never been compensated for the confiscations. These claims are now worth billions of dollars.

Cuba has long provided safe harbor or “political asylum” for fugitives from United States justice. Most notorious of these is Joanne Chesimard a.k.a. Assata Shakur of the Black Liberation Army, who along with two partners shot and murdered a New Jersey State trooper. Already a wanted criminal at the time, she received a life sentence only to escape from prison two years later. She resides in Cuba under the protection of the Communist regime. Another U.S. fugitive, Robert Vesco, accused of securities fraud surfaced in Cuba in 1982. In 1996 when he ceased to be of financial use the Cuban authorities arrested him. He died in prison shortly thereafter of lung cancer. In 2008, a billion dollar South Florida Medicare scam revealed that the mostly 1990s Cuban immigrants involved fled to the island with their “earnings,” when they realized the Feds were watching. In 2012, federal investigators uncovered an international money-laundering scheme rooted in South Florida that involved stolen Medicare money ending up in Cuban banks. Financial swindles are hardly unusual for those who allegedly fled Communist countries. In 2010 a criminal network of Soviet origin fraudsters who had conducted a $163 million dollar Medicare scheme were arrested in the U.S.

The banking industry, ING Bank N.V. in particular, has come under fire for illegally moving billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system for countries like Cuba and Iran. Ronald C. Machen, U.S Attorney for the District of Columbia, said these illegal activities “undermine the integrity of our financial system and threaten our national security.” Curiously, the Cuban regime, along with Communist apologists and supporters worldwide, blame the U.S. embargo for the island’s woes. The regime’s possession of billions of dollars denied to its people undercuts the spurious U.S. policy blame game.

Cuba's Ministry of the Interior (MININT) is brutal, effective and relentless. The Stasi provided supplies, support and training for MININT. The Cubans not only emulated the East German model, they surpassed it. The successful recruitment of Cuban agents within the U.S. intelligence community has resulted in high profile arrests such as Ana Belen Montes and the Myers husband and wife team. Montes, the top Cuba analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, manipulated our government’s perception of the Communist regime’s capabilities, provided the Cuban regime with classified U.S. military information and identified four U.S. intelligence agents working undercover on the island. Arrested in 2002, she received a 25-year prison sentence. As a State Department official granted Top Secret security clearance in 1985 and TS/SCI clearance in 1999, Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers (without security clearance) served as illegal agents of the Cuban regime for almost thirty years. Gwendolyn particularly enjoyed switching grocery carts with Cuban intelligence agents to turn over information. Kendall usually committed Top Secret State Department information to memory to then pass on to his handlers. The regime awarded the couple an evening with Fidel Castro and medals for Kendall. In 2010, Kendall received a sentence of life in prison without parole and Gwendolyn a mere six-and-a-half years.

Another, far less publicized, activity of the Cuban regime is its art forgery and looting industry. Since the early days of the revolutionary regime “authorities” looted private properties amassing jewelry, stamp collections, sculptures, artworks and other valuables. Artworks in particular have surfaced in museums abroad and in U.S. auction houses and galleries. The market for Cuban art was largely domestic before the revolution. The presence of these pieces in the U.S. and abroad indicates a demand possibly based on the belief that Cuban artwork will become very valuable in the future. Responding to this demand, state-run art schools train students in creating forgeries. Several foreign buyers have spent a significant amount of money on pieces they likely believed were looted originals but turned out to be fakes.

This past year has witnessed a whirlwind of questionable events. Just before the Pope's visit, dissidents who hoped to air their grievances to His Holiness were harassed and detained in record numbers. The Pope ignored them and instead visited with Fidel. Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela visited the U.S. and campaigned for gay rights and for the release of the so-called “Cuban Five” - convicted Cuban spies. Mariela also said if she were American she would vote for Obama. The regime has proposed exchanging the Cuban Five for Alan Gross. Gross visited Cuba to help the small Jewish community gain access to the internet. He was arrested in 2009 and in 2011 he received a fifteen-year prison sentence for crimes against the state. Dissident Oswaldo Paya, recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, died in a mysterious car accident on July 22, 2012. The two survivors reported they were rammed into repeatedly by another car and eventually hit a tree - a claim denied by authorities. It turned out that two weeks earlier Paya had been involved in a similar incident. He was a thorn in the regime’s side and a critic of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy for collaborating with the Communists. Several days after Paya’s death, Raul Castro declared he was available to work out Cuba’s differences with the U.S. - as equals. Nothing about the Cuban regime is equal to that of the United States. Feigning our equality or even similarity would be the final straw in Cuba’s long history of manipulating the United States.