U.S. Policy for Cuba: Libertad

Friday, December 21, 2012
By Ray Walser of The Heritage Foundation:

U.S. Policy for Cuba: Libertad

Speaking in Miami in May 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama outlined his proposed Cuba policy: “My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Libertad [Liberty]. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.”

In his 2009 inaugural address, President Obama said, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

It is now 2012. The Obama Administration has opened the door for unrestricted travel by Cuban-Americans, a largely unrestricted remittance flow, and more liberal travel for educational and cultural groups.

Yet official U.S.–Cuban relations remain stalemated because of the Castro regime’s refusal to unclench its fist and take even the first steps toward true liberty.

Absence of political change in Cuba, many argue, is an insufficient reason to retain the U.S. embargo. Siege warfare against the embargo continues. Many Americans are on the tenterhooks of conscience, suffering from acute symptoms of guilt, democracy fatigue, and loss of self-confidence in American values. Others claim that South Florida Cuban–Americans are losing their political grip. They are quick to assume that more trade, travel, and investment in Cuba will soften the hearts of Cuba’s leaders, not just line their pockets.

It is much easier to apply pressure on the Obama Administration for economic concessions that will ensure an ordered succession from the reign of the Castro brothers to a new generation of still unknown Communist leaders. While most hope a Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping is waiting in the wings, without democracy they might see a post-Castro hardliner emerge to take charge after Raul.

In May 2008, in his Miami speech, candidate Obama said, “I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy…we will take steps to begin normalizing relations.”

Americans are smart enough to recognize when a new Cuba begins to emerge from the long nightmare of communist rule. It will occur when Cuba moves away from one-party rule; when suppression of individual rights ends; when a free, uncensored media is able to report on the island’s reality; and when Cuban citizens select their leaders on the basis of consent—not coercion.

On January 21, 2013, President Obama has an excellent opportunity to recommit to his 2008 pledge to work for liberty for the Cuban people, not for concessions to the Castros and their regime.

Note to State: Mariela Castro is Now "Official"

Earlier this year, the State Department granted a visa to Cuban dictator Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela, to deliver a host of anti-U.S. policy speeches in San Francisco and New York City.

In doing so, we argued at the time, the State Department was making an exemption for the dictator's daughter from Presidential Proclamation 5377, which denies visas to Cuban nationals affiliated with that country's totalitarian regime.

Moreover, that it threw a bucket of cold water on President Obama's Presidential Proclamation 8697 of August 2011, which sought to "close the gap" in granting visas to foreign nationals affiliated with human rights violators -- and singling-out "prolonged arbitrary detentions" as a main violation.

Mariela's father, is one of the world's worst offenders of such detentions.

Yet, some artfully argued that Mariela was not "officially" part of the Cuban government and, as such, not subject to the visa ban.

Today, Mariela's name was included in her father's list of appointees to his National Assembly.

Thus, she is now "official" and subject to the visa ban.

Bye Bye Alarcon

We wrote about Miguel Alvarez's (Ricardo Alarcon's top aide) purge earlier this year.

Now, it's Alarcon's turn to pay-the-Castro piper.

From The Miami Herald:

Cuba's Ricardo Alarcon out as head of legislature

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, 75, one of Cuba's longest-serving officials and a specialist on U.S. relations, will leave the post of president of the National Assembly of People's Power in February after 20 years on the job.

The Cuban government made no comment on the departure, but Alarcon's name was not on the list of the 612 candidates in the upcoming elections for the legislative body published in the official newspaper Granma on Thursday.

Although Alarcon remains a member of the Cuban Communist Party's powerful Political Bureau, speculation that he was in disfavor has mounted since police arrested top aide Miguel Alvarez last summer on suspicion of corruption and spying [...]

Alvarez and his wife Mercedes Arce have been detained in Havana since March 3 for investigation, initially on charges of corruption but later for espionage, according to a close colleague who believes they were targeted in order to get at Alarcon.

Arce, an academic and part-time resident of Mexico, is suspected of obtaining sensitive Cuban information through her husband and using it in "business reports" sold to foreigners, according to one source. Former FIU professor Carlos Alvarez, convicted of spying for Cuba, identified Arce as one of his handlers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Miguel Alvarez, who is not related to the FIU professor, was a senior adviser to Alarcon on international and political affairs. Cuba's state-run media has not reported on the case.

Rubio Threatens to Hold Hagel

Thursday, December 20, 2012
From The Washington Free Beacon:

Rubio Threatens to Hold Hagel

Rubio comms director: 'I’m sure we would have questions about Cuba positions'

The office of Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) is threatening to place a hold on former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, should he be nominated for the post of Secretary of Defense.

In a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, Rubio communications director Alex Conant said, “Promoting democracy in Latin America is a priority for Sen. Rubio, and he’s put holds on other administration nominees over the issue. If President Obama were to nominate Sen. Hagel for a cabinet position, I’m sure we would have questions about Cuba positions.”

The statement came in response to questions by the Free Beacon about Hagel’s past opposition to the trade embargo on Cuba.

In 2008, Hagel said “we have an outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy” in Cuba.

In 2002, Hagel said, “what Jimmy Carter’s saying… is exactly right: Our 40-year policy toward Cuba is senseless.” Hagel also called Fidel Castro “a toothless old dinosaur,” a comment sure to rankle those who have suffered under Castro’s regime.

President Barack Obama has done little to reorient U.S. policy toward Cuba, and has benefitted from his support for the embargo. In 2012, Obama received 47 percent of the Cuban-American vote, according to exit polls, a record for a Democratic candidate that gave Obama a major boost in his successful effort to secure Florida’s electoral votes.

Must-See: Forbidden Voices

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Check out the trailer (below) for the new documentary, "Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution With a Laptop," featuring Cuba's Yoani Sanchez, China's Zeng Jinyan and Iran's Farnaz Seifi.

Three extraordinary women using social media to fight the dictatorships that brutally repress them.

Castro's Problem With Women

If they throw us to the floor, we will get up.  It doesn't matter, we are not afraid.  We will continue to grow throughout the country.
-- Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White pro-democracy movement, pursuant to the Castro regime's beating and arrest of another dozen of its activists yesterday, Twitter, 12/19/12

Glaring Contradictions and Revisionist History

Former New York Times foreign correspondent Joel Brinklley has penned an opinion column in Politico critical of U.S. policy towards Cuba, but full of contradictions and historical revisionism.

The first contradiction is Brinkley himself, who has written various columns about Burma, its repression and concerns that the U.S. doesn't jump the gun embracing the Burmese dictatorship simply because Aung Sun Suu Kyi is now free.

Yet, not a single concern about Castro's brutal dictatorship, the plight of Cuba's pro-democracy movement and the sharp rise in repression in Cuba.

Brinkley did, however, pick up on the second contradiction, which is worth noting:
"Looking at the embargo today (Cuba calls it “the blockade”), its principal accomplishment is that “it has given Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro the perfect scapegoat on which it can blame all their problems,” argued Ted Henken, a fervent Cuba expert at Baruch College in New York.
Ted Piccone [of The Brookings Institution] said most Cubans aren’t buying that argument. “The average Cuban is not blaming the U.S.” he said. “I’ve seen polling on this. They’re blaming the system.”
We don't usually agree with Piccone, but he's absolutely right on this point.

As an aside, what is a "fervent" Cuba expert?

Perhaps it is a realization that many of these Cuba "experts" are in essence "advocates" for their views, which is perfectly fine, but to be labeled an "expert" insinuates a certain non-bias that is fictitious.

Finally, a glaring piece of historical revisionism (or negationism):
Some Cuba experts argue that allowing American tourists to visit Cuba for the first time since 1960 might bring the beginnings of substantial change by fostering greater prosperity. They point to China, a passive agrarian society until the government opened the economy, pulling millions of Chinese out of poverty. Suddenly, these newly prosperous people began standing up to their government, demanding greater freedom and opportunities. The same could be true for Cuba, Henken said.
Did we miss something?

China remains one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.

To the contrary, U.S. policy and business interests have helped turn China from an agrarian society into the most lucrative dictatorship in history, whereby the U.S. and Western nations are now too afraid to criticize the horrible abuses that take place due to potential financial repercussions.

Meanwhile, in the process, the Chinese regime has nearly systematically wiped-out (through imprisonments and murder) a thriving pro-democracy movement, which seemed unstoppable in the 1980s and early 1990s.

And the world remained silent.

Is that what we want for Cuba?

Please take a moment to read this column we penned last year in The New York Times on this very issue entitled, "Freedom First or Business First?."

Will Bankrupt Spain Subsidize Havana Travel?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Spain's flagship airline Iberia has announced that it will halt its flights to Cuba beginning on April 1st -- for they are no longer profitable.

Apparently, since the financial crisis, middle-aged Spaniards no longer have money to travel to exploit young Cuban prostitutes.

Now, Spanish businessmen want the government to intervene.

Will the Spanish government --  which is near default -- subsidize Iberia's Havana route in order to satisfy immoral businessmen that have chosen to partner with the Castro dictatorship?

Let's just say it wasn't good judgment that got Spain into its fiscal mess.

By EFE:

The association representing the more than 360 Spanish firms with operations in Cuba asked Iberia airline and Spain's government Tuesday for the carrier to reverse its decision to eliminate service between Havana and Madrid.

In letters to Iberia chief Antonio Vazquez and Spanish Development Minister Ana Pastor, the association expressed its "deep concern" about the upcoming suspension of Iberia flights between Spain and Cuba.

"We know the elimination of this and other routes to the Caribbean will have a negative effect on our productive activities as well as on the growing and, right now, very profitable economic relations between the Iberian Peninsula and the island (Cuba)," the letters said.

How Badly Does Castro Need Chavez, Pt. 2?

So badly, that he's willing to risk his tourism industry over the need to replace Chavez's energy subsidies, in case Chavismo fades with Chavez.

After three failed attempts at deepwater off-shore drilling -- in partnership with Spain's Repsol, Malaysia's Petronas and Venezuela's PDVSA -- the Castro regime is now going to attempt coastal drilling off its pristine beaches.

Thus, in partnership with Russia's Zarubezhneft, the Castro regime will attempt to drill right-off its popular beach resort of Cayo Santa Maria, in the Villa Clara province, which the Cuban military has spent over a decade developing.

Needless to say, if there was some sort of accident, Castro's tourism industry would be overwhelmingly affected, as would The Bahamas nearby. However, this coastal block, in the central part of the island, would have a near negligible effect on the U.S.

Tourism is the Castro regime's second largest source of revenue. The first is Chavez's generous subsidies, consisting of 115,000 barrels of oil per day.

Therefore, Castro needs Chavez's oil so badly, that he's willing to risk his second largest revenue stream to try to replace it -- and in the process, perhaps lose both.

Pictures Speak for Themselves

The pictures below are of 60-year old Cuban pro-democracy activist Maria Montes Pinon.

On December 15th, she was violently assaulted by a state security agent with a blunt object.

She has needed over 30 stitches on her skull.

See for yourself.

207 Political Arrests in 24 Hours

On December 9 and 10th, the Castro regime conducted at least 207 political arrests.

Ironically, December 10th is observed by the international community as Human Rights Day.

Of the 207 arrests, 129 were peaceful female activists.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Courtesy of Hablemos Press.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Monday, December 17, 2012
Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere and U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Roger Noriega, on his recently released "Action Plan for U.S. Policy in the Americas."

And Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the vote for Egypt's new Constitution and President Mohamed Morsi's power grab.

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).

Quote of the Week

Will they bring Angel [Carromero] on Iberia? Will he come in handcuffs?  Will he continue denying the first version that he and Aron (Modig) gave about the events on 7/22 or will he continue to be willing to serve an unjust sentence, despite being innocent, in his own country? Will the Spanish government be capable of keeping Angel in jail knowing, as they know, his innocence? Will that be the price to pay to keep its economic interests in Cuba? Will Angel's friends and colleagues in the new generation of the [governing] Partido Popular allow this?
-- Regis Iglesias Ramirez, former Cuban political prisoner (of the Black Spring's 75) who was banished to Spain in 2011, poses questions for the Spanish government upon the repatriation of Castro's Spanish hostage Angel Carromero, Facebook, 12/15/12

The Truth in the Deaths of Paya and Cepero

Sunday, December 16, 2012
In its continuous pursuit of the truth, the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) has just released a series of Facebook posts on the death of Cuban pro-democracy leaders Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero:
No one should forget that the first version of the events that led to the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold came from [imprisoned Spanish youth activist] Angel Carromero, through SMS, to Europe.  That version, which was transmitted minutes after the incident and before Angel was under the control of the Cuban political police, has been ignored by many for the last five months.
'Help, get me out of here, we are surrounded by soldiers' was one of the messages from Angel Carromero from the hospital on July 22nd.
[On the day before], Saturday, July 21st, Aron Modig and Angel Carromero send texts saying Oswaldo Paya was being closely monitored.
Nurses were told Harold Cepero was a terrorist.  They let him die despite having arrived with a fracture.
Angel Carromero said Oswaldo Paya was alive when he was taken out of the car.
Since the beginning, the Spanish government, despite having information about the crime [Paya' and Cepero's murder], adopted a strategy of "self-blame." Now they have to accept that an innocent man, a member of the ruling PP [Partido Popular] serve a prison sentence in Spain for a crime he did not commit. Our problem no longer has a solution   We simply want to know the truth. The problem is now the PPs and its militants, who have remained quiet under an authentic "Law of Silence" imposed by its Foreign Ministry.

Paya's Family on Carromero's Repatriation

The following is a statement by Rosa Maria Paya, on behalf of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), on the repatriation to Spain of youth activist Angel Carromero.

Rosa Maria Paya is the daughter of deceased Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya.

Carromero was accused by the Castro regime of vehicular manslaughter in the crash that killed Oswaldo Paya.

Statement from the MCL:

Our family is happy that Angel can finally return to Madrid, to be with his mother and the rest of his family. We believe that he has been yet another victim of the Cuban government, which has kept him hostage and now returns him to Spain with the absurd condition that he remains in prison.

This is the same Cuban government that refuses to give us the report of my father's autopsy.

The same government that has not yet returned to the family of Harold Cepero (also deceased in the crash) the SIM cards of the cell-phones he was traveling with.

The same government that does not hesitate to use force against all who dare to work for changes and human rights, and which violently represses members of the opposition.

The same government that keeps me as a hostage and does not allow me to leave the country.

The same government that threatened my father with death for years, with more aggressiveness and frequency in recent months.

We do not believe in the version of those who govern. We insist and work for an independent investigation to clarify the facts. We hope the return of Angel will contribute in clarifying them and that he will explain the text messages that he himself sent saying that they had been rammed by another car at the time of the incident.

We are happy for Angel and his family. We hope that from Madrid he will help clarify the truth, which we will not rest until we find.

Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo movement Christian Liberation Havana, December 14, 2012