How to Minimize Castro's Aid Funnel

Saturday, November 3, 2012
Pursuant to Hurricane Sandy, the Castro regime has only accepted international disaster relief from Russia's Vladimir Putin and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Why?

Because Raul Castro understands the importance of controlling the distribution of aid. It is another tool for him to exert power over Cuba's suffering population.

(Remember it was Fidel and Raul Castro who taught Ethiopia's former Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam how to manipulate international aid and starve that African nation into submission).

Meanwhile, many in the Cuban exile community and elsewhere are searching for ways to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Yet, they correctly want to minimize exposure to the Castro regime's greedy tentacles.

For example, there have been various appeals in the exile community for financial contributions through Catholic Charities (Caritas).

But here's the problem with Caritas.

Whether you donate directly to Caritas in Cuba or through their U.S. affiliates, the money will end up in Caritas Cuba's account in the Banco Financiero Internacional S.A.

Banco Financiero Internacional S.A. is a bank owned by the Castro brothers.  It was founded in 1984 to traffic in hard currency, as the financial arm of the Ministry of the Interior's front-company CIMEX.

In case you have any doubt, its Euro-denominated account # is 0300000004086148.

Sending hard currency through Castro's piggy-bank is probably unwise.

Instead, consider supporting the victims of Hurricane Sandy via pro-democracy and civil society leaders.  It will simultaneously help empower them in the process.

Purchase non-perishable foods and first aid through Internet sites that specialize in sending care packages to Cuba and designate delivery to one of the following pro-democracy leaders, who will ensure it is directly distributed in the affected provinces:

Yoani Sánchez or Reinaldo Escobar (telef: +53.52708611 / +53.52896812): Municipio Plaza: Factor 821 apartamento 14-B entre Conill y Santa Ana.

Ailer González (telef: +53.53233726): Playa: Ave 1ra #4606 entre 46 y 60 Miramar.

Berta Soler (telef: +53.52906820): Centro Habana: Neptuno 963 entre Aramburu y Hospital.

Wilfredo Vallin (telef: +53.53149664): La Víbora: Saco No. 457 apartamento No.6, entre Carmen y Patrocinio.

Be generous, but be careful.

Romney-Obama: Duel of the Cuba Ads

Friday, November 2, 2012
You decide.

Castro Targets Dissident's Families

From Catholic News Agency:

Cuban officials slammed for jailing dissident's disabled son

Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Rodriguez has denounced the local government for imprisoning her mentally impaired son as retaliation for her refusal to leave the opposition.

Rodriguez's son, Yosvany Melchor, is a 29-year-old man with psychiatric problems and no criminal background.

However, since 2010 he has been serving a twelve-year prison sentence after being convicted of human trafficking in a trial his mother characterized as “a stage show.”

Rodriguez, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, told CNA on Oct. 30 that two years ago she had been ordered by Cuban state police to quit her association with the movement.

“I refused, and they tried to blackmail me,” she said, adding that days later her son was detained.

The indictment against her son listed his mother as a member of the opposition and a signer of the Varela Project – a document that calls for peaceful democratic change in Cuba.

“Who is on trial?” Rodriguez asked. “Me or my son?”

Rodriguez said her son Yosvany is “not well” emotionally, “because his situation is not easy. He is kid who has never been in trouble with the law.”

“He's not having any issues with the prisoners because they see that he is not a criminal and everyone loves him. He has no conduct issues either, but his health is suffering, with arthritis and swelling in his lungs because of the humidity in his cell.”

However, she noted, prison officials cannot transfer him “if the State Security does not authorize it.”

Rodriguez said that because of the media coverage her son has received internationally, her sister has also begun receiving threats from the Communist government.

Despite the difficulty, Rodriguez said she remains a member of the Christian Liberation Movement. She recalled her friendship with dissident leader Oswaldo Paya, adding that “more and more people are unhappy and are signing petitions for peaceful change.”

“Now there are more people who are no longer afraid,” she said.

Quote (and Kudos) of the Day

We are absolutely guilty of those charges.
-- Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department spokeswoman, on accusations by the Castro regime that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana provides uncensored Internet access to the Cuban people, AFP, 11/2/12

Strike Three for Castro's Offshore Drilling

Remember the sense of urgency by some in the media and lobbyists to normalize relations with the Castro regime, as it was on the brink of a major offshore oil discovery?

Remember all of the "experts", scholars, the Environmental Defense Fund (which opposed drilling everywhere except Cuba), and even the President's BP Oil Spill Commissioners.

A year later -- Spain's Repsol struck out, then Malaysia's Petronas struck out and now Venezuela's PDVSA has struck out. 

As we argued from Day One, it was all a ploy to scare U.S. policymakers and seduce oil companies into lobbying for the unilateral lifting sanctions.

Fortunately, they didn't fall for it.

From Reuters this morning:

Cuba's offshore oil hopes suffered a major blow on Friday with the announcement of another dry hole in its still untapped fields and word that the drilling rig used in the project will soon depart the communist island.

Communist Party newspaper Granma reported that a well drilled off western Cuba by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA had been plugged because it "did not offer possibilities of commercial exploitation."

It was the third unsuccessful well drilled this year in Cuban waters, where the country says it may have 20 billion barrels of oil and the key to future energy independence.

The "Success" of Engaging Tyrants

The U.S.'s policy of unconditional trade and engagement helps create the most lucrative dictatorship in human history, the Chinese regime's elite make billions for themselves and the international community becomes desensitized to the plight of millions of political prisoners and slave laborers.

This is what some define as a "success" and would like to see repeated in Cuba and elsewhere.

From NBC News today:

China opposition party lasts a day, founder gets 8 years in prison

A court in China has sentenced a man to eight years in prison for trying to form an opposition party and for online messages criticizing the ruling Chinese Communist Party, a week ahead of a congress which will usher in a new generation of leaders.

Cao Haibo, 27, had called for democracy and had tried to form a party called the "China Republican Party," his lawyer, Ma Xiaopeng, said.

The court in the southwestern city of Kunming sentenced Haibo on Wednesday for "subversion of state power," Ma said.

USINT Keeps Rewarding Repressors

Thursday, November 1, 2012
The visa granting process by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana should be scrutinized.

Why do these repressors keep getting rewarded with U.S. visas?

In The Miami Herald:

Ex-boss of Cuban prisons living in South Florida accused of ordering attack on dissident’s daughter

Crescencio Marino Rivero, a feared former officer in charge of Cuban prisons who recently moved to South Florida with his wife, a former immigration officer, appears to have ordered, only two years ago, an attack against the daughter of a peaceful dissident in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, sources have told El Nuevo Herald.

In Miami, however, he keeps a low profile that has allowed him to go unnoticed.

Cuban activists and former political prisoners have described Rivero, 71, as particularly aggressive. The allegations also characterize him as someone who took advantage of his high-ranking position in the Ministry of the Interior to impose cruel and inhumane treatment on dissidents.

“On two or three occasions he came to our house to threaten us,” recalled Magda Monteagudo Barrio, wife of opposition member Rafael Pérez González. “That is why we think it was Rivero who ordered the attack my daughter suffered when she was pregnant.”

The attack took place in June 2010. In September of that year, Rivero and his wife traveled to the United States, Monteagudo said.

Rivero retired approximately seven years ago as colonel of the Ministry of the Interior. After his retirement, he and his wife, Juana Ferrer, 65, made three trips from Cuba to visit a daughter who lives in Southwest Miami-Dade County. During their fourth visit, the couple decided to stay indefinitely, and filed the paperwork to obtain legal status. The former colonel is now a legal resident in the United States.

Defining Cold War "Trash Talk"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
This week, the following rant was published in a Letter to the Editor by The Tampa Bay Times:

"I have had it with Sen. Marco Rubio's tired, Cold War trash talk about the 'Castro regime' and the 'tyrants in Cuba.' This small island nation of 11 million has universal health care, free education, a 99.8 percent literacy rate, and an infant death rate lower than some developed countries."

Did the "Castro regime" transition from a totalitarian dictatorship to a democracy after the Cold War ended?

Did the "tyrants in Cuba" stop imprisoning, beating and killing innocent people?

Did we somehow miss that historic development?

Cold War "trash talk" is the propaganda about free health care and education regurgitated by "useful idiots" (another Cold War term referring to Soviet apologists) to excuse the brutality of Communist dictators like Castro, Stalin, etc.

A country can have free health care and education -- and of much higher quality than Cuba's -- without having to sacrifice fundamental freedoms, brutalizing innocent critics and turning an entire nation into a Third World wasteland.

History has debunked that much.

The Castro brothers are responsible for more executions and imprisonments than any other dictatorship in the Americas throughout the 20th and 21st century.

Until that ends, the Castro regime should only be referred to as the tyrants they are -- a tragic fact that transcends the Cold War.

Sound Familiar?

Another tragic fact that transcends the Cold War.

From the Vocabulary of Communism by Lester de Koster:

CHANGE OF LANDMARKS (Smena Vekh): Name derived from the title of  a published symposium which appeared in Prague in 1921, put out by group of Russian bourgeois exiles who also published a journal in Paris under the same title. Some of these émigrés advocated co-operation with the Soviets in hope of gaining a voice in Russian affairs and of participating in the New Economic Policy (NEP), which permitted small capitalists to function. Others favored non-political co-operation with Russian state economy in NEP. With the introduction of the first Five Year Plan, in 1927, these aspirations faded away.

Courtesy of Dr. Tania Mastrapa.

Over 40 Dissidents Arrested Amid Hurricane

While Hurricane Sandy was slamming the eastern provinces of Cuba over the weekend, Hurricane Raul had over 40 pro-democracy activists arrested -- of which 23 were members of the Ladies in White.

Many have since been released. Among those still imprisoned are Yaquelin Garcia, a Lady in White, and Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, a hip-hop artist.

It is believed they remain imprisoned due to the severe beatings they received. 

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Courtesy of Hablemos Press.

So Much For Raul's Migration "Reform"

Cuba: Pastor Gude Perez Issues Open Letter Demanding Freedom as Wife Raises Family's Plight in Washington D.C.

As Pastor Omar Gude Perez issues an open letter demanding that the Cuban government allow him to leave the country with his family, his wife Kenia is travelling to Washington DC this week to seek support for her family’s plight.

Cuban authorities have refused to issue Omar Gude Perez, the leader of a large network of unregistered churches, permission to leave the island despite an offer of asylum for the family in the United States 15 months ago. In the meantime, the couple’s two teenage children have been barred from attending school. Pastor Gude Perez is also prohibited from working as a pastor.

In his letter, Pastor Gude Perez explains the impact the government’s actions have had on his family, “Today our family suffers – we are unable to build a future and to fulfill the purposes that bring familial happiness because of the high number of restrictions placed upon us, including the fact that I cannot work as a pastor because I am not someone the system wishes to authorize, because it’s not in its interests to do so.”

The government’s continued failure to allow the family to leave comes despite an official announcement that the authorities will no longer force Cubans to obtain a “white card” in order to leave the country from January 2013. However, the reform will not apply to certain professions and the government has reserved the right to prevent citizens from leaving for vague reasons of national security.

Pastor Gude Perez, a national leader of the Apostolic Movement, a fast growing network of independent churches was first imprisoned on trumped up charges in May 2008. A year later, he was sentenced to more than six years in prison. He was released on conditional liberty following an international campaign in early 2011.

Religious freedom has deteriorated dramatically in Cuba in 2012 with more than 100 documented cases of violations of religious freedom since January. Unregistered churches, like those affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, are particularly vulnerable. In October, Christian Solidarity Worldwide received reports that the government forcibly shut down a Mormon church in Central Havana. Church leaders complained that attempts to legally register the church had been denied.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston echoed Pastor Gude Perez’ call for freedom: “It is unconscionable that even as they publicise a new policy that will eliminate the requirement for legal permission to leave the country, the Cuban government continues to block this family’s ability to build a new life, prevent their children from receiving an education and will not allow them to freely exercise their religion. We are privileged to be able to facilitate his wife’s visit to Washington and ask policy makers there to take this case very seriously.”

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with Colin Bower, an American father whose children were kidnapped by his ex-wife and taken to Egypt.

Then, a first-hand account by Hail Yalin, head of Israel's Eshkol Regional Council.  Eshkol shares a 40 km border with Gaza and is the main recipient rocket attacks by terrorists (87 this month alone).

And Marco Vicenzino, CEO of the Global Strategy Project, will discuss the recent tax fraud ruling against Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and much more.

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

Why Must All Aid Pass Through the Regime?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
By Cuban blogger Reinaldo Escobar:

Solidarity Bureaucratized

Sandy’s passing across the eastern provinces and the catastrophic consequences have left me with the following questions:

Why must all solidarity by necessity pass through government channels?

Why don’t the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) ask their members to bring support to the offices of each Zone?

Why doesn't the Federation of Cuban Woman (FMC) ask the women affiliated with it to bring something to the organization’s Blocks?

Why don’t the Pioneer organizations invite the children to donate some school uniforms?

Why doesn't the Association of the Combatants of the Revolution ask its members to offer to help the victims?

Are they waiting to receive orders from higher authorities or will their own hearts dictate their supportive conduct?

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.

Quote of the Day


You keep hearing about a liberalization of the vote with younger, second-generation Cubans. But the polls are not showing it. 
-- Eduardo Gamarra, Florida International University professor and pollster (a registered Democrat of Bolivian decent), The Miami Herald, 10/30/12

Where Only Tourists Matter

Pursuant to Hurricane Sandy, the people of the easternmost Cuban province of Oriente have been without power, water and have very little food.

The Castro regime's state media has released very little information about the damage, which is believed to be extensive.

Yet, Cuban state media has wasted not time in reassuring tourists that the dictatorship's lucrative resorts will be open for the high season.

According to the Castro regime's Prensa Latina:

Cuba Readies Tourist Facilities after Hurricane

Cuban authorities are striving to ready tourist facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy for the high winter season, as damages are being assessed. 

Santiago at a Revolutionary Crossroads

Cuba’s most prevalent revolutionary movements -- against Spanish colonialism in the nineteenth century and against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s -- originated in the eastern provinces, whose largest city is Santiago.

Today, it is the heart of the movement against the Castro dictatorship.

In the last couple of years, we have witnessed the rise of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), a non-violent pro-democracy group led by former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer.

UNPACU has quickly grown into a full-blown movement in the eastern provinces.  Not a day goes by that there's not a protest, vigil or organizational drive by its supporters.

Famed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez described its leader best:

"José Daniel, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is today State Security’s main headache in the East of the country. He occupies that place -- admirable but dangerous -- in part because his every word projects honesty and determination. Good-natured, young, conciliatory, he has managed to revive a dissident movement languishing between repression and the exile of some of its members. His drawing power, and the respect many have for him, comes also from his perseverance and, in particular, from the fact that he is quicker to embrace than to distrust. He has become a human-bridge between several citizen projects and, right now, that makes him a sharp stone in the Cuban government’s shoe."

Now, Hurricane Sandy has tragically hit Santiago, causing horrible devastation.  The city's already disgruntled citizens remain without electricity, running water and very little food.

Not surprisingly, the first thing the Castro regime did upon Hurricane Sandy's impact was to block Jose Daniel Ferrer's cell phone.  They wanted to severely limit his communications.

Days later, state media is still providing very little information about the hurricane's damage, while independent journalists and activists are being routinely arrested.  They are being warned that the regime will not tolerate any independent reporting on the hurricane's damage and the citizenry's needs.

Raul Castro has even gotten off his comfortable dictatorial perch and traveled to Santiago, where he asked residents to "resist" -- "resist" what?   Opposition to his dictatorship?

And predictably, Raul called in his friend Hugo Chavez to send personnel and aid, which he badly needs to control and distribute -- but only as he sees fit.

That's because he knows Santiago is at a crossroads.

Much Ado About Nothing

Monday, October 29, 2012
By Cuban blogger Jeovany Jimenez Vega:

Upgrade of Cuban Migration Policy?

It is already a fact: the awaited “migration reforms”, announced by Raul Castro a month and a half ago, arrive with a lot of noise — much ado about nothing. Published “casually” five days before the elections for delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of Popular Power, the modification to Law No. 1312 “Law of Migration” of September 20, 1976, was again the plastic carrot hung in front of the herd. Some simpleton might believe his opportunity in life has arrived, but the disillusionment — I really wish I were wrong on this point — sooner or later will reveal the true intention behind a decree where they repeat the verb “to authorize” too much which has ruled the destinies of a people confined to their borders for more than half a century.

According to my understanding of Decree-Law No. 302, issued by President Raul Castro October 11, 2012, and published in the Official Gazette last October 16, nothing changes for the professional Cubans — including those from the Public Health, needless to say — we continue dragging that cross that the government became by having devoted ourselves to the cultivation of knowledge. Once again it pays us so: leaving us at a clear disadvantage, violating our right to travel, depriving us of any opportunity to meet the world. Articles 24 and 25, subsections f, make it very clear when they exclude from leaving the country all those who lack “the established authorization, pursuant to the strict rules of preserving the qualified work force...” which with one blow leaves millions of Cubans out of the game.

One does not have to be really smart to notice that articles 23, 24 and 25, added entirely to the former Law of September 1976, give full power to the authorities to refuse passport, to refuse entry and equally to refuse exit from the country, respectively and according to subjective criteria, to any person inside or outside of Cuba, all of which serves to leave bare the true, hypocritical and deceptive nature of this law. Too much ambiguity leaves open Article 32, subparagraph h — and by extension the same subparagraph of Article 25 — when they establish that some clerk can refuse the award of the passport and/or exit from the country to anyone, “When for other reasons of public interest the empowered authorities determine...”, ambiguity which will serve to continue detaining millions of Cubans under this blue sky every time the Cuban Government feels like it. These articles and subparagraphs will be hanging, like the sword of Damocles, over all Cubans.

The other invidious facet of the matter: Article 24, by means of its subparagraphs c, d and e, establishes as “...inadmissible...” for entry into the country — because they put them into the same category as terrorists, human and arms traffickers, drug dealers and international money launderers — those accused by the Cuban Government of “…Organizing, encouraging, managing or participating in hostile actions against the political, economic, and social fundamentals of the Cuban State...“, “...When reasons of Defense and National Security so suggest...” and also — this is the little jewel in the crown — all those whom the Cuban Government considers must “…Be prohibited from entering the country for being declared undesirable or expelled.” If one wants it clearer, pour water on it: it is a given that those Cubans with political standards divergent from the Government lines will continue being deprived of travel, and in case they do manage to leave the country, they assume a high risk of not being permitted to return, and this includes, of course, the millions of Cubans and their descendants who live outside of their country.

Something remains clear: as long as one authority might prohibit those of us living in Cuba from leaving freely, and also prohibit that anyone of the millions that live outside return unconditionally to the embrace of their homeland, no one will be able to speak of real freedom of travel; this is an individual’s exclusive decision and will never be a clerk’s because, right to the end, it is inalienable. As long as they make us leave our families here as hostages as a prerequisite to travel abroad, freedom of thought is abridged with an exit blackmail, if even one Cuban is denied his right to freely come or go as his birthright, nothing will have changed in Cuba. Time will have the last word, but for now everything seems pure illusion; for the moment, on the balcony of Havana, this little room is just the same.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.


Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a discussion on the European debt crisis with CNBC's Chief International Correspondent and Emmy-award winner, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.

Then, a conversation with Dr. Walid Phares, author of "The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, and The War of Ideas." He serves as Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor to Presidential Candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney.

And Jensina Larson, CEO of World Pulse, will talk about her organization's campaign to empower women in Africa and Asia through social media.

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 Responds to Tampa Bay Times

Sunday, October 28, 2012
Letter by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to the editor of The Tampa Bay Times:

Tourism props up Castro regime

Last week, this newspaper criticized my opposition to enriching Cuba's Castro regime with American tourism dollars while reiterating your unconscionable position of supporting an Obama administration policy that helps fund the regime's repressive machine. It was an editorial that the tyrants in Cuba surely delighted in reading.

Your paper bemoaned the enhanced scrutiny on "people-to-people cultural exchanges" that had been exposed for itineraries laden with dubious items that included salsa dancing, cigar rolling, rum making and meetings with regime officials. You then claimed that these were legal trips, a misleading assertion in light of the Treasury Department's subsequent rewriting of the regulations governing these trips when rampant abuses were brought to light. The fact is, whether one likes it or not, tourism travel to Cuba remains illegal.

I understand we may never agree on this issue. However, my motivations should be clear to all. Freedom has never been won by weak or appeasing policies. One of the largest sources of funding to the Castro regime is travel to the island by foreign tourists, including Americans. For this reason, and because the State Department has acknowledged the increased risks of unjust imprisonments for Americans visiting Cuba, I will continue to oppose this lucrative windfall that benefits the regime.

As the son of Cuban immigrants, I treasure the freedom my parents claimed for me on the shores of the United States. I will not waver in my support of a Cuba that shares in these same freedoms.

Breakdown of Cuban-American Voter Preferences

From today's Mason-Dixon/Miami Herald poll:

1. President Obama’s policies regarding relations between the U.S. and Cuba

Support: 14%
Oppose: 71%
Undecided: 15%

2. Expand the rights of Americans to travel freely to Cuba

Support: 29%
Oppose: 60%
Undecided: 11%

3. If the presidential election were today, who would get your vote?

Obama: 19%
Romney: 76%
Undecided: 5%

(Editor's Note: These numbers are en route to match Al Gore's post-Elian 2000 performance).

The Mason-Dixon/Miami Herald poll was conducted Oct. 22-24 by telephone in English and Spanish. It included 625 likely voters in Miami-Dade County. The poll's margin of error was four percentage points. 

Cuban-Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Obama's Cuba Policy

From today's Miami Herald:

Romney has a huge 29-point lead over Obama among Miami-Dade’s Hispanic voters, making Miami-Dade an outlier from the rest of the country, where Obama has overwhelming support among Hispanics. The difference can be attributed largely to Cuban-American voters, 76 percent of whom support Romney, the poll found. Only 19 percent of Cuban voters in Miami-Dade said they are supporting Obama.

The county’s Cuban-Americans are also largely opposed to Obama’s approach to U.S.-Cuba relations. Seventy-one percent of Cuban-Americans surveyed said they oppose the president’s Cuba policies, while only 14 percent support the president. Among all voters surveyed, 37 percent supported the president’s Cuba policies, while 43 percent opposed them.

The Herald’s poll of 625 likely voters, conducted by Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research between Oct. 22-24, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.