Waiting on the "China Model"

Saturday, November 17, 2012
To bring freedom and democracy to the Chinese people vs. strengthening and entrenching one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern history.

Thus far, the latter is prevailing.

Excerpt from The Financial Times:

China’s new leaders on a short leash

When China’s new leaders walk out on stage a week from now, observers will try to divine the country’s future direction from the line-up.

But the opening of the Communist party’s 18th national congress on Thursday signaled that they will be on a short leash and that the party leadership may be in no mood for the one thing an increasing number of Chinese believe is necessary: decisive political reform.

Xi Jinping, the man expected to take over as party chief from Hu Jintao, sat through the entire session with his head bowed, underlining passages in the printout of the speech Mr Hu was giving.

Mr Hu spent much of his 90-minute address hammering home the leadership’s staunch commitment to cementing the party’s grip on power, reinforcing its control over society and passing down its ideological traditions.

Journalists Under Siege in Cuba

From Reporters Without Borders:

Independent Journalists Hounded and Arrested, While Granma Reporter Get 14 Years on Spying Charge

Reporters Without Borders condemns a worrying increase in harassment of dissidents in recent months, which has yet again contradicted the intentions manifested by the Cuban government when signing two United Nations human rights agreements in 2008.

Neither of these agreements – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – has yet been ratified.

“The hopes raised by the release of the ‘Black Spring’ prisoners in 2010 are fading,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This renewed crackdown should be condemned by the international community, especially the Latin American countries, which must put human rights and freedom of information at the centre of their relations with Cuba as it seeks regional integration.”

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that José Antonio Torres, a correspondent for the government newspaper Granma in Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city, is considering the possibility of appealing against his conviction on a charge of spying but fears that his sentence could be increased if he does.

Arrested in 2011 after writing articles about mismanagement of a Santiago aqueduct project and the installation of fibre-optic cable between Venezuela and Cuba, Torres was sentenced in July to 14 years in prison and withdrawal of his university degree in journalism.

Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a journalist with the independent Hablemos Press news agency, began a hunger strike six days ago in protest against conditions in Valle Grande prison, to which he was transferred on 10 November.

Arrested on 16 September after writing about a cholera and dengue epidemic before the government had issued any statement on the subject, he is facing a sentence of up to three years in prison on a charge of insulting the president.

Commenting on the case, Reporters Without Borders said: “Martínez has been detained for too long. We call on the Cuban authorities to release this journalist, who was just doing his duty to report the news.”

Hablemos Press journalists have repeatedly been the victims of threats and arbitrary detention in the course of the crackdown of the past few months.

In one of the most recent instances, Hablemos Press director Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez was interrogated and threatened for several hours on 8 November, a week after one of the news agency’s reporters, Jaime Leygonier, was subjected to a similar ordeal.

Enyor Díaz Allen, the Hablemos Press correspondent in the eastern city of Guantánamo, was arrested on the morning of 6 November and was held for three days while all of his work equipment (a computer, two cameras and a mobile phone) were confiscated.

Eleven dissidents were arrested when they went to a Havana police station on 7 November to enquire about Yaremis Flores, a lawyer held on a charge of “crime against the state.” They included the blogger and political activist Antonio Rodiles, who is still being held and is facing a sentence of three months to a year in prison on charges of resisting the authorities.

The next day, when a second group of dissidents went to the police station to find out what had happened to their colleagues, 16 of them, including the blogger Yoani Sánchez, were arrested on charges of public disorder, “social indiscipline” and activities “deliberately orchestrated by the US authorities.”

This was Sánchez’s second arrested in two months. She and her husband, independent journalist Reynaldo Escobar, were arrested on 4 October and held for 30 hours when they went to the eastern city of Bayamo to cover the trial of Angel Carromero, a Spanish political activist accused of dangerous driving causing Cuban opposition activist Oswaldo Payá’s death in July.

The day after her first release, she wrote on Twitter: “During my detention, I refused to eat or drink any liquid. This is the first glass of water that I am having on arriving home, for an oesophagus on fire.” She also reported that she was mistreated, as a result of which one of her teeth was broken.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced on 12 November that it is requesting preventive measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity of Sánchez and her relatives in response to the complaint that she brought before the court accusing the Cuban state of systematically violating her rights and freedom of movement.

Sánchez has been refused 20 foreign travel permits since 2007. On 8 November, the day of her second arrest, the Inter-American Press Association appointed her as the regional vice-chairperson for Cuba of its Press Freedom Committee.

Must-Read: Who is Antonio Rodiles?

Friday, November 16, 2012
By his sister, Gladys Rodiles-Haney:

My Brother Antonio Rodiles

My brother Antonio Enrique González-Rodiles Fernández was born in Havana on July 21, 1972. He attended primary and secondary school in Havana, and graduated from the “Marcelo Salado” National School of Swimming where he belonged to the National Team.

From when he was little, arbitrariness bothered him. When he was a boy at “December 2nd” school a second grade teacher wanted him to do something he didn’t want to do. He asked the teacher why he was obliged to do it and she told him because she said so, and now. My brother laid on floor and said he wouldn’t get up until they called my parents and he began to sing a song from a children’s cartoon with the refrain: “What? Me worry?”

In his childhood he represented Cuba in various international swimming competitions, including the Central American and Caribbean Games, where he earned multiple gold, silver and bronze medals. My father was a fundamental part of his training and often my brother swam in open water behind our house and also trained in deep water wearing a life jacket to exercise his legs, wearing shoes with several pounds of weights.

On multiple occasions speedboats approached him and asked him why he was so far from shore, because this was the time when many Cubans were throwing themselves into the sea to reach the United States. But they realized they were making fools of themselves when he showed them the weights on his legs.

When he finished junior high school, despite the refusal of many of his teachers, my brother presented himself to take the entrance exams for the “Martyrs of Humboldt 7” High School of Exact Sciences where he wanted to study physics. Despite the poor academic preparation offered in “Marcelo Salado,” my brother studied extra and was one of three selected from Playa municipality to enroll in this school for elite students.

In that school were Angel Castro and Mirtha Castro (son and granddaughter of Fidel Castro, respectively). My brother once told “Angelito” that his father was corrupt and this triggered a movement to not let him graduate from high school.

He received great support from the majority of students in his class despite the immense pressure exerted on them to deny my brother the chance to graduate, and they didn’t fold.

However he was expelled from Humboldt high school and graduated from “Pablo de la Torriente Brau” in 1990.

He began career in Physics at the University of Havana in 1991, yet also struggled again with “political” problems, so in 1992 he went to Mexico to live for a while, with the Permit to Reside Abroad (PRE).

He returned to Cuba in 1994 and graduated with degree in Physics in 1998.

Then he decided to return to Mexico where he received the title of PhD candidate in physics at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2002.

In 2003 he emigrated to America and settled in Tallahassee, Florida. He earned a Master’s degree in Mathematics in 2005 from Florida State University (FSU).

He worked as a professor at FSU and Tallahassee Community College before returning to Cuba.

In 2010 he founded Estado de Sats with the aim of creating “a plural space for participation and debate” between various members of Cuban society. The initiative soon began to be targeted by propaganda orchestrated by State Security, which threatened to withdraw his Permit to Reside Abroad and so prevent him from leaving Cuba again.

In 2011 they took away his PRE and he continued his activism. His first arrest came during the funeral Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, on July 24. On November 8, he was arrested again when he went to inquire about the fate of the lawyer Yaremis Flores, arrested the previous day.

My brother is an honest, intelligent man, respectful of the rights and opinions of others. He likes to converse and to look for logical solutions through objective analysis of the things that are happening.

He has always had a vision of a better Cuba for all Cubans and the right of Cubans to be heard and the responsibility to take the reins with regards to which direction our country should follow.

He is a man of integrity, he knows how to present his ideas clearly at all levels to be understood both by the Doctor of Science and by the high school student. He knows how to pay attention without discriminating against anyone’s opinion, because everyone has different experiences in life and all are valid and enrich the perspective from which we see the problem.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.


Another Castro Rewarded With a Visa

This week, three dozen Ladies in White were beaten and arrested for trying to attend Mass; two dozen pro-democracy leaders were beaten and arrested for inquiring about a colleague's imprisonment; and a dozen pastors were arrested for trying to distribute independent hurricane relief to victims in eastern Cuba.

So how does the State Department reward this surge in repression by the Castro's dictatorship?

By granting a U.S. visa to Raul Castro's grand-daughter to attend an art exhibit with her boyfriend in New York City.

That's right, according to the Cafe Fuerte blog, Vilma Rodríguez Castro, grand-daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, is in New York City this week attending the contemporary Latin American art fair, PINTA 2012. She was accompanying her boyfriend, Cuban artist Arlés del Río.

Witnesses spotted her last night wearing Chanel shoes, a Louis Vuitton purse and a Rolex watch, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Is this ignorance, irresponsibility or just policy malpractice by the State Department?


#FreeRodiles

Urgent Action for Antonio Rodiles

From Amnesty International:

URGENT ACTION

Cuban Man Targeted for Government Criticism

Government critic Antonio Rodiles has been charged with “resisting authority”. It is believed the charges may be used to punish and prevent his peaceful criticism of Cuban government policies.

A coordinator of a civil society initiative calling on the government to ratify international human rights treaties, Antonio Rodiles, has been charged with “resisting authority” (resistencia). He has been placed in pre-trial detention (prisión provisional), but no date has been set for his trial.

Shortly after the arrest of the independent lawyer and journalist Yaremis Flores on 7 November, Antonio Rodiles, his wife and several other government critics went to the Department of State Security headquarters, know as Section 21 (Sección 21) in the neighbourhood of Marianao in Havana, to enquire after her whereabouts. Before they could reach the building they were approached by 20 people, all plain-clothed, as two officials from the Ministry of the Interior looked on. Antonio Rodiles was reportedly knocked to the ground and pinned down by four men. Several of the other activists were also manhandled and were forced into a police vehicle and sent to various police stations around Havana. All were released by 11 November, except Antonio Rodiles.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (fiscalía) informed Antonio Rodiles’ wife on 14 November that he was being charged with “resisting authority” but a formal charge document has yet to be issued.

Antonio Rodiles is one of the coordinators of Citizen Demand for Another Cuba (Demanda Ciudadana Por Otra Cuba), an initiative calling for Cuba to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the country signed in 2008. Amnesty International believes the charges against him may be being used to punish and prevent his peaceful activities as a government critic and is gathering further information on his case and treatment.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with Dr. Vanessa Neumann on the current negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC narco-terrorist guerrillas. Dr. Neumann is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and Editor-at-Large of London's Diplomat magazine.

Then Ritu Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Women Thrive International, will discuss the International Violence Against Women Act and other efforts to empower and protect women throughout the world.

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

"Crappy" AP Reporter Identified

Yesterday, we posted an excerpt of the State Department's Daily Press Briefing, where an unidentified "reporter" asked a question in which he labeled U.S. policy toward Cuba as "a really crappy policy".

Along the Malecon has identified the reporter as the Associated Press's Matthew Lee.

Lee is apparently more interested in expressing his own views and ensuring his AP colleagues in Havana remain in good standing with the Cuban dictatorship -- in order not to get booted out -- than in exercising journalistic integrity.

Undoubtedly, Lee is entitled to his personal opinion -- but not while posing as a supposedly objective reporter for the AP.

That's called journalistic malpractice.

Quote of the Day

The conditions in this prison are horrible.  It should be declared uninhabitable.
-- Calixto Martinez, independent journalist imprisoned in the infamous Castro's infamous Combinado del Este prison for reporting on the cholera outbreak in eastern Cuba,  Diario de Cuba, 11/15/12

Castro's Migration "Reform" Scam

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Excerpt from Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez's article in Foreign Policy:

You Can Check Out Anytime You Like...

Why the Cuban government's new law relaxing travel restrictions isn't what it's reported to be.

On Oct. 2, we received a bit of hope, when the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba published Decree Law 302 introducing a number of changes in the existing travel and immigration restrictions.

People crowded the newspaper stands to buy a copy of the country's highest legislative organ to learn the details. Telephones rang off the hook, especially in those families where there is a relative in exile who hasn't been able to return in years. In addition, those who had long been planning to live in, or visit other parts of the world, felt the time had finally come to make their dreams a reality.

The changes -- scheduled to go into effect on January 14, 2013 -- include the elimination of the so-called Letter of Invitation, a document required from the country to which Cubans wanted to travel. Without this in hand, it was impossible even to submit a request for authorization to travel. As a consequence, people could only travel to countries where they had a friend or family member. The preparation and receiving of the "Letter of Invitation" was a process filled with anguish, and could often cost cash-strapped families over $200.

The even more significant change was an end to the disgraceful exit permit, popularly known as the "White Card." Until last month, we Cubans were among the very few citizens of the world who needed the consent of the Ministry of the Interior to leave our own country. The reasons for the continuation of the policy weren't only political -- at $170 per White Card, the program was an attractive source of revenue for the government.

Following the announcement, the international press reported with great excitement that Raul Castro's regime was opening the national borders. But for Cuban citizens, the joy lasted just about as long as it took to read the 31 pages of the new law.

By the evening Oct. 2, the early critiques of the reform were already emerging. Health care professionals noticed that they were still required to obtain permission to travel. The Cuban government defends travel restrictions for doctors and scientists with the argument that the "brain drain" could take many of them to countries that pay better salaries. Thus, in the newly released law, state control is actually strengthened over the travel of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even laboratory workers.

The fine print of Decree Law 302 doesn't stop there. The restrictions on leaving are even more severe for other professionals such as teachers and professors. Frightened by the growing loss of personnel in the field of education, Cuban leaders are trying to put a brake on escapes from the classroom. And they are doing it in the way it has always been done, not by paying better salaries or improving working conditions, but by force.

One of the perverse incentives unleashed by this strategy is expected to be enrollment declines for professional, legal, and engineering studies. If students know ahead of time that once they graduate in certain specialties it will be very difficult for them to travel, they will avoid getting degrees in them. A measure intended to fight "brain drain" could generate a decrease in the numbers who aspire to higher education.

Notably absent from the new relaxations are Cuban emigrants. The time allowed for their visits home was increased -- from 60 to 90 days, but the right to reside permanently in the country of their birth has not been returned to them. Repatriation for these people will have to be processed in the Cuban consulate of their country of residence, and will only be authorized in very specific cases, such as terminal illness or others.

Nor will these immigrants who return home be permitted to own property on the island, to buy houses or cars, or to inherit any of these possessions. Under the new law, Cubans around the world will continue to be third-class citizens, who support the economy -- with their remittances -- of a country that doesn't not want them back.

As for the infamous White Card, it's true that Cubans will no longer need an exit permit to travel, but they will still need permission to possess a passport. So, when citizens apply to get this document, they will find out if they are among those who are allowed to cross the national borders or if, on the contrary, they are among the group condemned not to leave. Where once we had to wait for the White Card, now the little blue 32-page pamphlet will have the final word. The "permission to leave" had changed its color and name, but still stands.

So what does this mean for the regime's declared enemies? The dissidents, activists, independent journalists, and bloggers, who were previously unable to travel, will very likely still not be able to do so next year. The crafters of the new law were careful to build in features the government can use to punish its political adversaries with imprisonment on the island. In articles 23 and 25 of the new decree, for instance, we learn that passports can be denied "when reasons of National Defense and Security require it," or "when for other reasons in the public interest as determined by the empowered authorities."


The Price of Crossing Raul

In The Miami Herald:

Cuba journalist convicted of spying

A journalist with Cuba's Granma newspaper was sentenced to 14 years in prison for spying, a charge filed soon after he reported on the government's mishandling of a critical construction project, according to dissidents.

Jose Antonio Torres was the correspondent for Granma, the official publication of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party, in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, the island's second largest.

Arrested in February 2011 and tried around mid-June, he was sentenced more recently to 14 years in prison and the suspension of his university degree in journalism, said dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

The Truth About the Cuban-American Vote

In The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary:

The Truth About the Cuban-American Vote

Ever since the final vote tally in Florida gave President Obama the state's 29 electoral votes, some Democrats have been crowing that their candidate beat Mitt Romney among ballots cast for president by Cuban-Americans in the state. Not so fast, says Mauricio Claver-Carone, the executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington and editor of the website Capitol Hill Cubans. "Actual Cuban-American Vote Result: Romney 58%-Obama 42%," the website reported on Nov. 12. "And that's conservative," Mr. Claver-Carone told me by telephone on Tuesday.

If Mr. Obama had won—or had even gotten close to winning—the Cuban-American vote, it would indeed be big news. Over the years South Florida Cubans have been reliable Republican voters. A shift in their preferences would raise plenty of serious questions about the direction of the party and its appeal to the electorate.

But it is premature to draw such conclusions. If Mr. Obama had won the Cuban-American vote, Mr. Claver-Carone says, it is very likely that the tallies in the Miami-Dade County would have been different. "If President Obama would have won a majority of the Cuban-American vote, he would have won Miami-Dade County by a much higher margin. The county wide number this year is consistent with 2008 and three points down from 2004—in both elections, the Cuban-American vote strongly favored Bush and McCain," he wrote on Nov. 8.

What is more, Mr. Claver-Carone observed: "A simple visual overview of the Miami-Dade County electoral map clearly shows that the precincts with the highest concentration of Cuban-American voters were precincts that Mitt Romney solidly won, in some cases with two-to-one margins." One reason exit polls did not capture the true vote is that they did not include over 50,000 absentee ballots cast by Cuban-Americans, many of them over 60, a demographic that typically goes Republican.

Having said all that, it is also true, as Capitol Hill Cubans has noted, that Mr. Obama won more Cuban-American votes against Mr. Romney than he did against Mr. McCain. But that may have to do more with Mr. Obama's skillful control of the narrative than any shift in values or priorities among the electorate. In 2007 Rep. Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney's running mate, voted in favor of lifting sanctions on Cuba. Even though he has since modified that stance, the Obama campaign seems to have been successful in raising suspicions among voters as to whether a Romney presidency would maintain the traditional hard-core stance of Republicans against the dictatorship in Havana.

If Mr. Claver-Carone's analysis is correct, the moral of this story is not that the Republicans have to alter their message but rather that they have to actually campaign in the state to win.

44 Ladies in White Beaten and Arrested

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Where are all the international women's rights activists?

Where are the foreign news bureaus in Cuba?

This behavior is deplorable.

From the leader of The Ladies in White, Berta Soler:

The Ladies in White Movement denounces the detention of 44 Ladies in White across the island on Sunday, November 11th, by the Cuban government's State Security forces, in order to prevent their attendance in Mass.

Nine women were arrested in Havana; 5 in Pinar del Rio; 2 in Matanzas; 3 in Santa Clara; 6 in Holguin; 1 in Caimanera; and 18 in Santiago de Cuba.

Romelia Piña González and Marlenis Abreu Almaguer were dragged and beaten in Holguin in front of the Church Cristo Redentor del Hombre by male State Security agents.

State Security agents posted outside of the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba beat and dragged all 18 Ladies in White as they came out of the temple after attending Mass.

Three of the women were injured: Aimé Garcés Leiva lost a tooth, Denia Fernández Rey lost two teeth and Omagli González Leiva fractured fingers and an arm.

Courtesy of the Coalition of Cuban-American Women.


Journalistic Malpractice on Display at State

The following is an exchange between a so-called "journalist" and the State Department's spokesman, Mark Toner, on today's vote on the Cuban embargo at the U.N. General Assembly.

Note this "journalist" doesn't even try to be objective.

Kudos to to the State Department's spokesman, Mark Toner, for his composure and professionalism.

From the State Department's Daily Press Briefing today:

QUESTION: Earlier today, the UN General Assembly, as it has every year for the past several decades, voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. embargo of Cuba. The vote, I’m sure you’re aware of it, was 188-3. You and Israel and Palau voted against, as the same that’s it been for the last several decades. My question is this: When are you guys going to realize that the rest of the world thinks that this is a really crappy policy?

MR. TONER: Matt, your opinion to the contrary, we are --

QUESTION: Not my opinion. It’s the rest of the world. You’re always talking about the international community. The international community has spoken here, yet again.

MR. TONER: Our policy remains in place.

QUESTION: I know. But when – is it the international community speaks and unless you’re part of that – unless you’re part of it, it’s not really the international community? Do you recognize that the international community, all countries in the world except for the three and the three who abstained, say that this policy is bad and should be reversed? Do you take that as the international community speaking as – with a single voice here?

MR. TONER: Look, our Cuba policy is generated towards creating better ties with the Cuban people outside of the government. You know our concerns about the Cuban Government. Our policy remains the same. It’s not going to change.

QUESTION: Can you accept that the international community is speaking out here, and speaking out against a policy that you’ve had in place for five decades?

MR. TONER: I’m just telling you that --

QUESTION: No? You can’t.

MR. TONER: -- our Cuban policy remains intact.

(CHC Editor: Is this "journalist" referring to the same "international community" that selected Ethiopia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela to join the U.N.'s Human Rights Council this week?)

Cuba Policy in a Second Obama Term

By José R. Cárdenas in Foreign Policy:

Cuba policy in a second Obama term

Critics of current U.S. policy towards Cuba have already begun speculating what unilateral changes may be in store for that contentious relationship during President Obama's second term. By winning the state of Florida -- home to the highest concentration of Cuban exiles -- despite implementing some initiatives in his first term that were opposed by Cuban Americans in Congress, President Obama, in their view, can be aggressive in further liberalizing policy without fear now of any political fallout (although widely reported exit polls that suggested up to 48 percent of Cuban Americans voted for Obama have been debunked by CapitolHillCubans.com).

Yet however the numbers play out in Florida, frankly it is no more than irrational exuberance to expect any significant change in U.S.-Cuba relations over the next four years -- that is, barring the deaths of both Fidel and Raul Castro.

In the first place, the Cuban American bloc remains solid in Congress. In the Senate, the formidable duo of Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been augmented by Senator-Elect Ted Cruz (R-TX) to keep the administration honest on policy. In the House, anyone who believes newly elected Joe Garcia (D-FL) is going to carry the banner of appeasement is sorely mistaken. He favors family contact, not overturning the embargo.

Secondly, critics have convinced themselves that if it weren't for the Cuban American lobby, the U.S. would have long ago reached an accommodation with the Castro dictatorship. What they refuse to recognize is that the biggest impediment to any fundamental change in the relationship is the absolute unwillingness of the dictatorship to undertake significant reforms that would put pressure on U.S. policymakers to reciprocate with policy changes.

That said, to contemplate any serious re-evaluation of relations on the U.S. part as long as the regime systematically represses the Cuban people - to say nothing of the continued unjust incarceration of U.S. development worker Alan Gross -- and relentlessly continues to thwart U.S. interests in international fora is just self-delusion.

Moreover, even in the space the administration thinks it may have some flexibility on the issue -- expanded travel, supporting micro-enterprises, and increased agricultural sales -- there are complications. The 1996 Cuban Liberty & Democratic Solidarity Act (a.k.a., Helms-Burton) is still on the books and it states that anyone improperly using property illegally confiscated from U.S. citizens (including naturalized citizens of Cuban descent) can be sued in a U.S. court of law. While it is true that the "right of action" has been suspended by successive administrations, the law still holds that anyone using or accessing those properties is liable.

Will a U.S. administration sanction activity that might violate the letter and spirit of U.S. law? For example, what happens when a U.S. tour group traveling under a license as part of the administration's expanded travel program entertains itself at a venue illegally confiscated from its original owners? Or, what happens when a U.S. agricultural company sells its products to Cuba and has to utilize a port, a dock, or otherwise come into some contact with what U.S. law considers stolen property?

It matters little what anyone thinks about the matter; the law is the law. I'm not a lawyer, but one has to wonder how long U.S. law can recognize a wrong was committed against U.S. citizens without giving them the opportunity to redress it. No doubt some creative attorneys are thinking about the same thing.

So, advice to critics of U.S. policy towards Cuba is to re-cork the bubbly. Absent any significant change in Havana, including the earthly expiration of Fidel and Raul Castro, the Holy Grail of unilateral change in U.S. policy is unlikely to be forthcoming. Their energies should instead be directed towards convincing Cuban leaders to establish a concrete rationale as to why any U.S. administration would need to re-evaluate the relationship.

Must-Read: The Problem With Obama's Cuba Policy

By Cuban blogger Ivan Garcia in Desde La Habana:

Obama’s Victory Shores Up The Cuban Regime

It was not only Barack Obama’s supporters in Chicago’s Democratic party circles who celebrated the close victory over his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, with champagne. Though without as much rejoicing, the club of Communist businessmen, who together control 80% of Cuba’s feeble national economy, probably also spent midnight on November 6 calmly celebrating the Obama victory with a toast.

In the last four years the measures approved by the Democratic administration have caused the cash registers in Cuba to ring out joyfully. Since January 2008, when the “Hawaiian hurricane” captured the attention of half the world with his restrained conversational style and promises of change, the issue of Cuba has never been among his political priorities.

Obama came to the U.S. presidency buffeted by a terrible crisis which shook the foundations of the world’s largest economy, two ongoing wars and a trail of international condemnation for the aggressive and unilateral policies of his cowboy predecessor, George Jr.

In his first term he rescued Detroit’s automotive industry which, alongside Coca Cola, Apple and McDonalds, is a symbol of American greatness. Against all odds he got Congress to approve “Obamacare” and brought American troops stationed in Iraq home. Obama is perhaps the best president the United States could have had in these times.

According to a poll by the Elcano Institute 70% of Europeans approve of his administration. In Africa, Asia and Latin America the numbers are similar. Only in Israel is Romney favored over Obama. His list of unfulfilled promises is short. Within the first two years of his presidency a Republican-majority Congress became a formidable opponent, blocking all his legislative initiatives.

Because of China’s economic expansion, the Arab Spring, the Iranian nuclear threat and the euro zone crisis, the diplomatic squabble with Washington, which the regime in Havana often stages as a publicity stunt, is not high on the Obama agenda.

In terms of Cuba the first black president has fulfilled his election promises. He re-instituted family-related trips to the island as well as cultural and academic exchanges, and increased the amount of money that could be sent to Cuba to $10,000. But the Castro brothers wanted more. They wanted Obama to rescind the economic embargo and grant political pardons to five Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States.

The White House’s spokesmen were emphatic. The ball was in Cuba’s court. It was Raúl Castro’s turn at bat. Pressured by the death of the dissident Orlando Zapata after an 82-day hunger strike, the government negotiated the release and exile of almost a hundred political prisoners.

Castro II was also committed to a pallid economic reform plan and to getting rid of absurd restrictions that prohibited Cubans from having mobile phones, buying and selling cars, and renting hotel rooms. And although officials in the White House saw the reforms in Cuba as a step forward, the bar was not raised with new liberalizing initiatives. They demanded democracy, respect for human rights and the political opposition, and that the general remove the padlock from the internet.

The official press, the voice of party that had controlled the destiny of Cuba for 53 years, called off the brief honeymoon with Obama. Fidel Castro cast the first stone with a barrage of attacks on the American leader and on “Yankee imperialism.”

But behind the curtains, where real politics take place, the mandarins can feel satisfied. In the last four years, thanks to family reunification measures adopted by Obama, remittances have doubled from one billion dollars to a little more than two billion in 2011. The value of commercial goods brought in by agencies and “mules” hovers at around three billion. After Canadians, Cuban-Americans make up the second largest group of visitors to the island.

The autumn of 2012 was critical for General Castro. If Hugo Chávez and Barack Obama had lost their elections, regime officials in the Palace of the Revolution would have been forced to dust off emergency contingency plans, which would have quickly led to changes more serious and profound than the current ones.

The victories by Chavez and Obama are a dose of oxygen for the Cuban autocrats. The purchase of one hundred million barrels a day of Venezuelan petroleum at wholesale prices, combined with the deep pockets of the Bolivian comandante and the continuation of Obama’s policy of family re-unification, will allow fresh funds to flow into government coffers, and the Castros will be able to sleep soundly.

It is not that inside Cuba everything is rosy. Far from it. But Obama’s re-election has given Castro II significant room to maneuver.

More importantly, it buys time, especially if we remember that Fidel is 86 and Raúl is 81. At their ages, having four more years to steer the ship through calm waters in a country that survives on charitable donations and remittances from overseas is good news. It warrants opening a bottle of champagne.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.

The General's Nephew

Cuban pro-democracy leader Antonio Rodiles remains imprisoned after being brutally beaten and arrested by the Castro regime last week.

He is now being threatened with a one-year prison term.

A young intellectual, Antonio is founder of the civil society project, Estado de Sats.

According to Penultimos Dias, his 84-year old father, Manuel Rodiles Planas, has placed himself in front of the police station awaiting news of his son's well-being.

Ironically, Antonio's uncle is General Samuel Rodiles Planas, a member of Castro's inner circle.

How could the General serve the Castro dictatorship, particularly as it subjects his nephew and brother to such violence and suffering?

Wave of Journalistic Arrests in Cuba

From the U.K.'s Guardian:

Wave of journalistic arrests in Cuba

Journalists have been detained in a wave of arrests in Cuba. They included Yaremis Flores, who is also a lawyer, Guillermo Fariñas and Iván Hernández Carrillo. A group of bloggers such as Yoani Sánchez, Orlando Luís Pardo, Eugenio Leal, Julio Aleaga, Angel Santiesteban and Laritza Diversent, were later arrested for staging a protest against the detentions.

Flores has been charged with "disseminating false news" that harms the "international peace" or the "prestige" of the Cuban state. If found guilty, she faces up to four years in prison.

Her "crime" is to have reported on the recent detentions of journalists and to have detailed local criticism of the government's response to hurricane Sandy in articles published by the Miami-based news website Cubanet.

Yoani Sánchez, a world press freedom hero, took to Twitter after being released. She tweeted: "When will this absurdity end?"

Actual Cuban-American Vote Result: Romney 58% -Obama 42%

Monday, November 12, 2012
Actual Cuban-American Vote Result: Romney 58% -Obama 42%

Results show a reduction in support for the Republican candidate, but not the dramatic shift incorrectly predicted by some exit polls.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A scientific analysis of the actual voting results in Miami-Dade County show that Governor Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama 58-42% among Cuban-American voters.  This does represents a 6% gain for President Obama from 2008, but not of the magnitude predicted by some exit polls.

Obama campaign officials in Florida have stated (Financial Times, 11/8/12) that Governor Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his Vice-Presidential nominee, whose past voting record included support for unilaterally lifting sanctions against the Cuban dictatorship, created skepticism among some Cuban-Americans and gave them an opening to make a case on economic and social issues.

"While Congressman Ryan's position on Cuba policy had evolved years before the election (in 2007), it certainly created suspicion among some Cuban-American voters," said Mauricio Claver-Carone, Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp.

"The Obama campaign took full advantage of the opening created by the Ryan pick."

The scientific analysis was conducted by Dr. Dario Moreno and Dr. Kevin Hill and commissioned by Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp.

Below is the Summary Memo of their findings:

Mitt Romney under-performed among Cuban American voters in Miami-Dade County.  President Obama won Miami-Dade County by an increase majority in 2012 over 2008.  In 2008, Barack Obama received 499,831 votes in Miami-Dade County compared to 360,551 for the Republican candidate Senator John McCain.  Obama's margin of victory was 139,280 votes.  This year Obama improved his vote total in Miami Dade to 540,776 compared to 332,602 for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.  Obama increased his margin of victory to 208,174.  In other words Obama won Miami-Dade County in 2012 by 68,884 more votes than in 2008.

The Obama campaign and several exit polls (Fox News and Pew) claimed that Obama improved his showing in Miami-Dade County by winning the Cuban American poll 49% to 47%.  Bendixen & Amandi International, a Democratic polling firm that has worked for Obama, found a slightly different but still significant breakdown of Cuban-American support, with 48 percent for Obama and 52 percent for Romney. While, there is little doubt that Obama improved his showing among Cuban American voters from the 36% he received in 2008, we found the difference a little less dramatic.

Professor Kevin Hill and I did an ecological regression of large Cuban precincts in Miami-Dade County and found that the Cuban Americans voted for Romney 58% to 42%.  This results includes the over 50,000 Absentee ballots submitted by Cuban-Americans over sixty in Miami-Dade County that were not captured by Fox News and Pew exit polling. This demographic is traditionally the most Republican demographic in Miami-Dade.   There was a significant reduction in Cuban American support for the Republican candidate but not as dramatic as the exit polls found.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation on China's intra-party succession of power with Dr. Yukon Huang of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  Dr. Huang was the former Country Director for China at The World Bank.

Then Alison Klayman, director and producer, will discuss her award-winning documentary "Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry" on the life of the renowned Chinese dissident and artist.

And Richard Wike of the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project will talk about their most recent study on Chinese attitudes toward the U.S. and vice-versa.

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).


Honoring Our Veterans

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Gross's Lawyer Files Torture Complaint

The lawyer for Alan Gross, the Castro regime's American hostage, has filed a complaint with the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture for being denied adequate medical diagnosis and treatment for the last six months, which constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law.

It also puts in perspective what persecuted Cuban dissidents constantly endure -- in much worse proportions.

Here's the complaint:


Petition to Special Rapporteur on Torture - Alan Gross - 11-11-12 -

Evidence of Regime Violence

Sunday, November 11, 2012
The Castro regime has just released Cuban blogger Angel Santiesteban, who was arrested in last week's wave of repression along with nearly two dozen other pro-democracy leaders.

Below is a picture of the shirt he was wearing when he was beaten and arrested.  The blood stains speak for themselves.

Meanwhile, Antonio Rodiles, founder of the civil society project Estado de Sats, still remains imprisoned.

Free Antonio Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles is a young, intelligent and charismatic pro-democracy leader.

He's the founder of the civil society project Estado de Sats and is a key figure behind the "For Another Cuba" campaign, which presses the Castro regime to ratify the U.N.s civil and political rights pacts.

Rodiles was arrested this week, along with nearly two-dozen other pro-democracy leaders. They've all since been released, except for Rodiles and Angel Santiesteban.

He was severely beaten prior to his arrest (by this Castro regime official).

His colleagues believe he's still detained, in order to hide the physical evidence ("fingerprints") of the Castro regime's violence against peaceful activists.