WaPo: Spain Has "Universal" Obligation to Pursue Paya's Death

Saturday, August 31, 2013
From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Spain’s ‘universal’ obligation to pursue Cuban dissident’s death

The mysterious car wreck that took the life of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payáand his associate Harold Cepero last year occurred on an isolated road outside Bayamo, in Cuba’s eastern Granma province. Mr. Payáand Mr. Cepero were heading to Bayamo to meet with members of the Christian Liberation Movement in a blue 2010 Hyundai Accent, a rental car driven by a young Spanish politician, Ángel Carromero, who was visiting Cuba to support Mr. Payá and his movement. Mr. Carromero survived, as did Jens Aron Modig, of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Youth movement, who had joined him on the trip to Cuba.

The official Cuban version of the accident was that Mr. Carromero was driving too fast, lost control and hit a tree. But a detailed complaint filed by Mr. Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and his daughter, Rosa Maria, before the Spanish National Court earlier this month tells a different and more ominous story.

They say that when Mr. Carromero and Mr. Modig met in Havana with Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero on July 20, 2012, they were monitored and followed by Cuban security agents. They were followed again when they departed Havana for Bayamo two days later. On the road, the Hyundai was rammed from behind “premeditatively, deliberately and following the plan orchestrated by the authorities,” which was to kill all four of them, the complaint says. Mr. Carromero told us in March that the vehicle that rammed the Hyundai had government license places. Soon after the crash, the ramming was reported to a person in Sweden by a text message sent from Modig’s cell phone.

The ramming was not part of the Cuban official version. Mr. Carromero’s “confession” that he was at fault was coerced by the Cuban authorities, according to the complaint. Two Cuban security agents, identified as Col. Salinas and Col. Llanes, pressured Mr. Carromero “in a direct, deliberate and conscious way” to falsify testimony during a subsequent trial that was a “farce,” according to the complaint. Mr. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide; he later was released to serve out his sentence in Spain. In his comments to us, Mr. Carromero recalled a nightmarish aftermath of the crash in which he was drugged, interrogated and forced to make a videotaped confession in which he read words written out for him by a Cuban security agent.

The Spanish National Court, La Audiencia Nacional, is empowered to order investigations abroad under the concept of “universal jurisdiction,” that some crimes are so egregious they must be pursued across borders, including genocide and crimes against humanity. Spain has an obligation to Mr. Payá, who was a Spanish citizen; his family argues the Castro regime has not only silenced a critic but attempted to wipe out his movement. The Spanish court ought to order an investigation. It is unlikely that the thugs who rammed Mr. Payá’s car will be called to account, but an investigation would show the world, and the Castro brothers who rule Cuba, that a beacon of hope like Mr. Payá cannot be simply extinguished in a violent car wreck on a lonely road.

Cuban General Dead, North Korean General Purged -- Coincidence?

Friday, August 30, 2013
Is investigative reporting dead?

Earlier this week, the head of the Cuban Air Force, General Pedro Mendiondo Gomez, died in a mysterious car wreck.

And today, North Korea's Army Chief, General Kim Kyok-sik, was mysteriously purged and disappeared.

General Mendiondo was the chief of Cuba's air force and air-defense systems. U.N. inspectors had just sought permission to travel to Havana to interview him regarding the shipment of Cuban fighter jets and anti-missile defense systems caught being smuggled to North Korea.

Meanwhile, General Kyok-sik led the North Korean delegation to Havana earlier this summer, where this illegal smuggling deal was negotiated.

Obviously, Castro and Kim wanted these two Generals to take the fall and be silenced.

Yet, not one news story has noted this strange "coincidence."

Below is a picture of Generals Castro and Kyok-sik this summer.

Inaction Breeds Impunity in #Syria #Cuba

During today's remarks on Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama correctly stated:

"[I]t is not in the national security interest of the United States to ignore clear violations of these kinds of international norms, and the reason is because there are a whole host of international norms that are very important to us. You know, we have currently rules in place dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We have international norms that have been violated by certain countries and the United Nations has put sanctions in place, but if there's a sense that, over time, nobody's willing actually to enforce them, then people don't take them seriously."

On a lesser (non-military) scale, this is also important in light of the intercepted shipment of Cuban weapons to U.N.-sanctioned North Korea, which experts believe is in clear violation of the U.N.'s arms embargo.

If the U.N. is not willing to strongly sanction the Cuban and North Korean officials and companies responsible for this breach of international law, then the U.S. should consider further sanctions.

Otherwise, these regimes will only be emboldened by impunity.

Hey Kim, Castro, Putin -- Twerk You!

By author Rick Robinson in The Daily Caller:

Someday in the not-too-distant future, a music writer will author a coffee table book entitled August, 2013, remembering this moment in time as pivotal in the history of pop culture. Glossy pictures of a misunderstood female performer will adorn slick pages filled with lofty praise in tribute to the shift she caused in the paradigm of performance art.

The book will not be about Miley Cyrus’s twerking (for us old rockers, read: dry humping), or what she did with a foam index finger at the annual MTV Music Awards.  Instead, the book will highlight the life and horrendous death of singer Hyon Sung-wol.

A South Korean newspaper reported that this week North Korea’s communist dictator, Kim Jong-un, executed a dozen members of the Unhasu Orchestra – including Jong-un’s former girlfriend, singer Hyon Sung-wol – as their relatives and musicians from three other pop bands were forced to watch. Following the firing squad, the on-lookers were all sent to concentration camps.

Didn’t catch that story on Entertainment Tonight?

Not surprising.

Which is why the public’s obsession with Miley Cyrus’ twerking instead of Hyon Sung-wol’s assassination may say more about us than it does about the teen idol formerly known to Disney Channel viewers as Hannah Montana.

North Korea’s Lunatic-in-Chief Kim Jong-un used to date singer Hyon Sung-wol, a popular singer and performer. His now-dead father, Kim Jong-il, disapproved of his son dating a woman with an I.Q. to the right of his on the x-axis and made him break off the relationship.

While the young lovers went their separate ways and married different people, rumors swirled that the two continued to have a romantic relationship – rumors that apparently upset North Korea’s First Lady. To make this story even more weird, Jong-un’s wife is also a former member of the Unhasu Orchestra.

According to reports, under pressure from his nagging wife, Kim Jong-un had Sung-wol and eleven of her fellow performers arrested and killed by a machine gun firing squad.

Instead of Miley Cyrus and her latest 15 minutes of fame, the death of Hyon Sung-wol is the story in music right now. MTV and others should be shouting it from the rooftops to build international outrage.

Yet, instead of reporting on a dozen voices that can no longer sing, the media is focusing on one that still (allegedly) can – Miley Cyrus. Since Cyrus’ lewd performance on the MTV Awards, where she stuck out her tongue often enough to be considered the female answer to KISS’ Gene Simmons, our airwaves have been filled with clips and commentary on the appropriateness of her bawdy behavior.

Maybe we’ve just come to expect this from Kim Jong-un. After all, he once killed one of his cabinet secretaries by tying her to a pole and shelling her with mortar fire. Still, this month, Hyon Sung-wol and her eleven musical martyrs were only some of the voices not singing.

Several members of the female punk rock band Pussy Riot remain in Russian jails for musically advocating a popular uprising against the government at a concert in Red Square. Apparently, a lyrical call for revolt nearly a century after the people’s revolution gets you 20 years in a Russian jail.

Down in Cuba, Castro’s thugs are still harassing Gorki Aguila, front man for Porno para Ricardo, who was violently arrested earlier this year as he attempted to release his new CD.

If you want to be outraged by music, at least show you have a soul. Pull up Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction on YouTube and play it loud. Shout out “Long Live Hyon Sung-wol.” At the top of your lungs scream, “free Pussy Riot and free Gorki.”

And the next time you hear a story about Miley Cyrus on television or radio, join me and millions of other Americans in telling the media that until they join us, they can go twerk themselves.

SOS Ivan Fernandez Deprestre

For Cuban political prisoner and hunger striker, Ivan Fernandez Deprestre:

"Black-Budget": Cuba Remains Priority for U.S. Counter-Intelligence

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Anyone who still believes NSA leaker Edward Snowden is some sort of crusader for civil liberties is delusional.

Snowden has just leaked to The Washington Post a classified 178-page budget summary (known as the "black budget") for the National Intelligence Program, which details the successes, failures and objectives of the U.S. intelligence community.

As such, he has alerted the enemies of the U.S. as to technologies, moles, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism operations, and the "critical blind spots" of U.S. intelligence throughout the world.

None of this has anything to do with civil liberties.

Moreover, it's clear that China, Russia Iran and Cuba and other U.S. foes now have access to this information -- and probably much more.

(This is why tyrants like Fidel Castro praise Snowden).

One of the things revealed in the "black budget" is the following:

U.S. intelligence officials take an active interest in foes as well as friends. Pakistan is described in detail as an “intractable target,” and counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel.” The latter is a U.S. ally but has a history of espionage attempts against the United States.

This should be a wake up call to those who believe that Cuba does not pose a threat to the U.S.

The fact remains Cuba's gathering and sharing of intelligence with fellow state-sponsors of terrorism and other U.S. foes is a threat and, henceforth, remains a priority target for U.S. counter-intelligence operations.

Castro's Economic Idiocy

Excerpt by Cuban economist Roberto Alvarez Quinones in Diario de Cuba:

In the face of overwhelming evidence of the failure of its centrally planned economy, the insistence of the Cuban dictatorship in "actualizing the socialist economic model" is an insult to human intelligence.  If a social and economic model (preferred by the founders of communism) that suppresses freedoms in order to create wealth and benefit themselves is an absurdity; then the insistence by the Castros of prioritizing the state economy and its refusal to seriously liberalize the constrained productive forces of the nation is a colossal irresponsibility -- not to mention idiocy.

It's astonishing that General Raul Castro, Colonel Marino Murillo and the rest of the creators of the so-called "reforms" keep reiterating that the objective is to strengthen the socialist economy, and that they keep highlighting the Alignments ("Lineamientos") of the last Party Congress, according to which "socialist planning will continue being the principal means of managing the economy," and will also apply to the "non-state sector."

This guiding document even states that "the concentration of property in legal persons (private businesses) or individuals will not be permitted."  In other words, nothing or no one will be able to grow and they will only foment the artisan economy of subsistence from the times of the "Advanced" (Spanish conquistador) Diego Velázquez.

Young Cubans PAC Shows Generation Gap is a Myth

By former Miami Herald reporter Elaine del Valle (known as "Ladra") in Political Cortadito:

Young Cubans’ PAC shows generation gap is a myth

I’m sick of hearing that Generation Ñ doesn’t care about the Cubans on the island, or the embargo or U.S. Cuba policy. Ladra herself had been instructed to write that “changing tide” story at the Miami Herald several times during the last few years she worked at the paper.

But it just isn’t true.

There has always been a strong second generation of Cuban Americans willing to carry on the torch that demands freedom of choice and expression on that prison island that our parents called home.

And there was proof earlier this month at the first gathering organized by the new Young Leaders Group of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, co-founded by Keith Fernandez, the former campaign staffer for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who looks like a cubanito Huckleberry Finn. Another director of the board Carlos M. Gutierrez, Jr. is former aide to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart.

“Young Cubans, Cuban-Americans, and Americans of Cuban descent are as concerned as their parents and grandparents about the happenings in Cuba. Every time I see a story about the supposed ‘changing community,’ be it youth or composition, my friends and I are bewildered since we know its untrue,” Fernandez told me, reading Ladra’s mind.

“We decided to do something about that fallacious perception. While we may have different touch points – many of us have not experienced a personal sense of loss – we are all committed to human rights and one day seeing a free and democratic Cuba,” said.

Somewhere around 50 people crammed into the bar at Azucar in Coral Gables on a Thursday night to hear from Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antuñez“, a political prisoner who did 17 years and 36 days time for daring to defy the Castro regime. He was impressed and encouraged by the number of young people he saw at the gathering, he said.

Experts Confirm Cuba-North Korea Breached Sanctions

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
From AFP:

The undeclared shipment of Cuban weapons found on a North Korean ship are a violation of UN sanctions against arms transfers to Pyongyang, Panama said Wednesday, August 28, citing a UN report.

The public safety ministry said in a statement that according to a draft report by UN experts sent to Panama after the seizure of the ship in July, the cargo "undoubtedly violates UN sanctions, which supports the course of action Panama took."

The ministry statement was the first information released about the mission of the experts, who completed their inspections two weeks ago. They were led by Briton David Martin Uden, a former ambassador to South Korea.

A source in the public safety ministry said authorities had been given a first draft of the report compiled by UN sanctions experts.

PAHO Sponsors "Modern-Day Slavery"

By Andres Oppenheimer in The Miami Herald:

U.N. agency may sponsor “modern-day slavery”

The United Nations Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is doing great things in Latin America, but I wonder whether its latest role as a middleman to help place 4,000 Cuban doctors in remote areas of Brazil does not amount to sponsoring slavery.

Under a deal between Brazil and Cuba that was brokered by the Washington-based PAHO, the Latin American branch of the U.N. World Health Organization, the Brazilian government will pay Cuba the equivalent of $4,080 a month — or nearly $49,000 a year — for each of the Cuban doctors.

The Brazilian government says the Cuban doctors are needed in remote areas of northern and northwestern Brazil, because no Brazilian physicians want to take those jobs. The first 400 Cuban doctors started arriving in the South American country on Aug. 24 amid public criticism from Brazil’s biggest physicians’ associations.

Brazil’s National Federation of Brazilian Physicians, Fenam, has said that “the Cuban doctors contracts have the characteristics of slave labor.”

Under the PAHO-brokered Brazilian program, called Mais Medicos (More doctors), Brazil pays Cuba the entire amount of the Cuban doctors’ wages, and Cuba later pays a fraction of it to the doctors.

Here’s the problem: Neither Brazil, nor Cuba, nor PAHO are saying how much of the $4,080 a month per doctor will go to the doctors working in Brazil.

Solidarity without Borders, a Miami-based organization that helps Cuban doctors around the world, says the Cuban government pays its doctors working in Brazil and other countries between $250 and $300 a month, or about 7 percent of the full amount it gets from the Brazilian government. The remaining 93 percent are pocketed by the Cuban government, the group says.

“It’s a modern-day slavery system,” Solidarity Without Borders President Julio Cesar Alfonso told me in an interview. “The only difference is that it uses highly skilled slave work.”

Asked how does he know the amount paid by Cuba to its doctors in Brazil, since it’s an official secret, Alfonso responded, “It’s very simple: there are about 30,000 Cuban doctors in Venezuela, and other tens of thousands around the world, and more than 5,000 have already defected. They tell us how much they were being paid by the Cuban government.”

Former Cuban ruler Fidel Castro created this doctors-for-export racket in 1982 as a way to earn cash for the country. Castro opened medical schools throughout Cuba to produce as many doctors as fast as possible. As Cuba’s economic situation deteriorated over the years, Cuba stepped up its doctors’ export business, Alfonso says.

Some of the Cuban doctors that are being sent abroad have not even graduated, Alfonso said.

“They are now exporting 5th and 6th-year medicine students to Venezuela, as part of their training to get their degree,” he said.

Cuban doctors who are sent to Brazil, Venezuela and other countries don’t complain about their pay: the $250-$300 a month that they can make in Brazil is nearly ten times more than the average of $30 a month that they make in Cuba. In addition, it gives them a chance to defect, Alfonso says.

“It’s a good business deal for Cuba, and it also serves as a way to export Cuba’s ideology to the poorest parts of the world,” Alfonso says, adding that Cuban doctors played a big role in helping late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez win support in poverty-stricken parts of Venezuela. “In remote jungle regions where they never saw a doctor, the presence of a fifth-year Cuban medicine student is a godsend.”

When I called PAHO to ask how much the Cuban doctors in Brazil will be paid by Cuba, I was told that PAHO’s director, Carissa E. Etienne, was not available but that PAHO’s Brazil office would respond via e-mail.

A few hours later, I got PAHO’s non-answer. It said that that “the Cuban doctors are Cuban government officials,” and that they will be paid their normal wages with “an additional salary” by the Cuban government “according to the laws of that country.”

As for the Brazilian doctor’s federation assertion that the deal amounts to “slave labor,” PAHO’s response was that, “This question has been examined by various departments of the Brazilian government and the country’s authorities do not agree with that assertion.”

My opinion: There is nothing wrong with Brazil hiring Cuban doctors who are willing to go to remote areas of the country, where Brazilian doctors allegedly refuse to go.

But the Brazil-Cuba deal whereby the Cuban government reportedly pockets 93 percent commission on the Cuban doctors’ salaries is scandalous.

And for an affiliate of the United Nations — an organization whose charter calls for the abolition of all sorts of slavery, and that celebrated the U.N. International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade just last week — is even more outrageous.

Cuban doctors should be allowed to work in Brazil, but they should be paid their full salary. Otherwise, it’s hard to see the ongoing deal — and the fact that all three sides are not disclosing how much the Cuban doctors in Brazil will be paid — as anything other than a modern day high-skilled slave trade.

Must-See: New Cuba Tourism Ad

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

The Cuban and Syrian People Deserve an Apology

For years, media outlets and policy makers peddled the false narrative of Cuba's Raul Castro and Syria's Bashar al-Assad as "reformers" to the international community.

This was never based on any evidence -- other than Assad attending college in Britain and Castro's economic cosmetics.

(In case you're wondering, Assad's Syria is a bastion of economic freedoms compared to Castro's Cuba.)

Yet, here we are, on the eve of a military response to Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Meanwhile, Raul Castro is taking American hostages, smuggling weapons to North Korea, subverting democracy in the region, trafficking intelligence to fellow state-sponsors of terrorism, dramatically increasing political arrests and murdering internationally-recognized democracy leaders.

These media outlets and policy makers owe the victims of these brutal dictatorships an apology for their misinformation campaigns.

Here's the false narrative (courtesy of Vogue):


Here's the reality:

Cuba Blatantly Lied About Weapons to North Korea

Good synopsis from The Wall Street Journal:

So what exactly was in the cargo hold of that North Korean vessel intercepted in the Panama Canal last month.

The North Korean-flagged Chong Chon Gang was sailing from Cuba, whose foreign ministry said at the time that it carried 10,000 tons of sugar and 240 metric tons of “obsolete defensive weapons,” including disassembled missiles, two MiG-21 Bis jet fighters and two disassembled antiaircraft missile complexes, “to be repaired and returned to Cuba.”

Here’s what was actually in the cargo hold, according to a new report by a Swedish arms-control institute:

* small arms and light-weapons ammunition

* night-vision equipment

* rocket-propelled grenades

* artillery ammunition for anti-tank guns

And here’s what it was likely for, according to the report: bolstering North Korea’s military capabilities—not for repairing and returning to Cuba.

The report, authored by Hugh Griffiths, a senior researcher and expert on arms trafficking with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, will likely confirm the suspicions of many North Korea watchers, who greeted Cuba’s initial explanation with skepticism.

Mr. Griffiths, in fact, concludes that the shipment was “without a doubt a violation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea,” since it includes conventional artillery ammunition buried beneath the sugar.

Findings: Cuban Weapons Were for North Korea's Illegal Use

See all of the findings and pictures here.

From The Telegraph:

Fighter jets and parts seized from a North Korean ship by Panamanian authorities were probably intended for use by the communist state, in an apparent violation of United Nations sanctions, an arms control institute has said.

The findings by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute contradict Cuba's claim that it was not breaking the sanctions as it was sending equipment to North Korea for repairs and expected it to be returned, including MiG aircraft and motors, missiles and anti-aircraft missile systems.

UN sanctions forbid North Korea from trading arms to deprive it of technology and revenue for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. If the Cuban equipment was intended for North Korean use, it would suggest Pyongyang is struggling to maintain its ageing conventional forces.

The ship, Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted on July 15 in the Panama Canal, with 25 containers of Cuban military equipment found beneath the 10,000 tons of sugar. The equipment was not listed on the ship's manifest.

Experts at the Stockholm institute say they have seen a report and photographs compiled by Panamanian authorities and the United Nations Organisation on Drugs and Crime on what was found in the containers.

The institute's experts said there was other cargo not mentioned by Cuban officials in public statements, including items of ammunition for rocket-propelled grenades and conventional artillery, much of it in mint condition and in the original packing cases. "They clearly were not 'to be repaired and returned to Cuba'," the institute says in an analysis.

Cuban Air Force Chief (Curiously) Killed in Crash

Isn't it curious how the head of Cuba's air force and air-defense systems dies in a car crash on the very same week that U.N. inspectors seek to travel to Cuba to interview him regarding the shipment of Cuban fighter jets and anti-missile defense systems caught being smuggled to North Korea?

Also, there's no mention of where or how the crash took place.

And his body was quickly cremated.

Perhaps the Castro's felt he couldn't be trusted.

Or perhaps it's just a conspiracy theory.

You decide.

From Cuban state media:

Cuban General Dies in Car Accident

Chief of the Anti-Craft Defense and Revolutionary Air Force died on August 26 at 3.20 AM from the injuries suffered in a car accident he was involved in this Sunday. 

According to a press release from the Ministry of the Revolutionary Army Forces, General Mendiondo was driving his car on Sunday morning when he had the accident.

Following his will he was cremated and his ashes will be laid during a military ceremony this Tuesday in the Colon Cemetery, in the Revolutionary Army Forces Pantheon, in Havana city.

Fidel Castro Admires Edward Snowden

Make sure to read before breakfast.

As written in Russia's Pravda:

Fidel Castro admires Snowden's courage

Fidel Castro has rebutted the reports saying that Cuba, under U.S. pressure, had denied Edward Snowden transit to Ecuador. According to Castro, he admires the fairness of Snowden's statements and says that the American made a great service to the world.

Castro said that he did not know, who convinced the former agent not to fly to the island of freedom. He also stressed that his country has been resisting the U.S. pressure for 54 years and is ready to fight "for as long as necessary."

Cuban Political Prisoner in Grave Health

Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Afro-Cuban political prisoner, Ivan Fernandez Depestre, has been transferred to a hospital, pursuant to a 27-day hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.

Fernandez Depestre was arrested on July 30th for participating in a peaceful march and subsequently handed a 2-year prison sentence for "social dangerousness."

He has been on a hunger strike since his arrest.

"[Ivan] is surrounded by doctors and looks very bad. He has lost a lot of weight. They are pricking him all over, as they can't find a vein. He seems very grave," said fellow democracy activist, Luis Enrique Santos.

Interview with Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet

Monday, August 26, 2013
Last week, Cuban democracy leader Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet joined Mauricio Claver-Carone on Cristina Radio's "From Washington al Mundo."

Dr. Biscet, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, discussed the current state of repression in Cuba and his new Emilia Project.

Listen to the podcast here.

U.S. Visitors Contract Cholera in Cuba (and Get Charged for It)

From The Miami Herald:

Cuba reports more cholera among foreign visitors

Cuba-born New York high school teacher Alfredo Gómez says it was bad enough that he contracted cholera during a family visit to Havana this summer. Then he got a bill from the government hospital -- $4,700.

Gómez’ complaint came as Havana reported that a total of 12 foreign tourists and 151 Cubans have come down with cholera in recent months – though Gómez says his hospital ward alone had six to 15 foreigners on every one of the six days that he spent there.

The Havana report on cholera, the second in August alone, seemed to hint at a growing transparency by Cuban officials who previously kept quiet about the disease in a bid to avoid damaging the island’s $2.5 billion-a-year tourism industry, experts said.

A bulletin Friday by the Pan American Health Organization said Cuba that same day had reported 163 cases in the provinces of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. PAHO, the hemispheric branch of the World Health Organization, indicated that those cases took place this year but gave no specific time frame.

Among those cases were 12 persons who had traveled to Cuba from other countries – three from Italy, two each from Germany, Spain, Chile and Venezuela and one from the Netherlands, PAHO noted. Cuba had reported six of those cases to PAHO earlier this month.

Independent journalists and visitors like Gómez have been reporting hundreds more cases never confirmed by Cuba, where the state-run news media virtually never uses the word “cholera” and instead refers to cases of “acute diarrheic diseases.”

Gómez, 49, who left Cuba in 1997 and now teaches math at the William Nottingham High School in Syracuse, N.Y., said he and two relatives were hit by intense diarrheas two days after they ate together at a state-run restaurant in Havana in late July.

Doctors at the Manuel Fajardo Hospital told them they had cholera, Gómez said, and transferred him to the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine, where the fourth floor of the hospital is reserved for foreigners who contract the disease.

Gómez said at least six and up to 15 foreigners were on the floor each of the six days he spent there, Aug. 4-10, receiving antibiotics and intravenous fluids for the disease, which is easily transmitted through water and can kill through dehydration.

That same week more than 60 Cubans were being treated in Kouri hospital wards reserved for island residents with cholera, he said, and a nephew told him that a large number of people had been struck by the disease in the Havana suburb of Mantilla.

The treatment fore foreigners at the hospital was very good and much better than the treatment for island residents, he added, but problems started when the foreign patients received huge bills as they were about the leave the hospital.

He heard two Spaniards on the phone with their insurance companies in Madrid trying to figure out how and what to pay, Gómez said. And he was pressured strongly to pay his own bill with his credit cards or through his U.S. health insurance policy.

“They really want to charge me, and they tried by all means that I should pay,” he said in a phone interview from Syracuse. “It was a rude, abusive attitude. They would not let met leave without paying.”

The bill he was shown was for $4,700 but he left without paying, he added, arguing that the U.S. embargo banned him from paying and that in any case his bill should be paid by the government-run restaurant where he contracted cholera.

Must-See: Ladies in White Being Arrested This Weekend

UPDATE: Cuban independent journalists (Hablemos Press) documented the arrest of over 65 members of The Ladies in White yesterday.

The following pictures were taken this weekend (by @ivanlibre).

It shows members of The Ladies in White being arrested as they tried to attend Mass in the province of Matanzas.

Such repression against the peaceful female democracy group has become a tragic Sunday ritual for the Castro regime.

The two men in the stripped blue and red shirts are the secret police officials in charge of the operation, while the women in military uniforms provide the "optics."



Pressure Works Against the Castro Regime

Granted, Russia Today (RT) is not a trustworthy news source.

However, if the report below is true, then it shows that pressure works against the Castro regime.

So why doesn't the U.S. threaten the Castro regime with "adverse consequences" for holding an American development worker hostage, Alan Gross.

Or, for illegally smuggling weapons to North Korea.

Or, for trafficking intelligence to other state-sponsors of terrorism.

Or, for subverting democracy in the Western Hemisphere (e.g. Venezuela).

Or, for violating the fundamental human rights of its citizens.

For, obviously, the Obama Administration's travel and engagement policy hasn't worked to deter the Castro regime in any of these fronts.

To the contrary, it is helping financially sustain it.

From RT:

US pressured Cuba not to let Snowden in – report

Edward Snowden was forced to stay in Russia after the US threatened Cuba with “adverse consequences” should the NSA whistleblower get on board Aeroflot’s Moscow-Havana flight, Kommersant newspaper has learnt.

Under US pressure the Cuban authorities informed Moscow the Aeroflot plane would not be able to land in Havana, a source told the Russian newspaper.

One of the sources close to the US State Department stated that Cuba was one of the countries whose authorities were warned of “adverse consequences” if it helped Snowden.

Quote of the Day

Sunday, August 25, 2013
I don't have any reason to celebrate 50 years of the Industriales because Cuban baseball -- this baseball they come to represent here -- represents oppression against players, it represents repression, it's a cloistered and persecuted baseball.  I want to dedicate this game to all of the political prisoners of Cuba and, specially, to imprisoned contractor Alan Gross and everyone that is suffering there at this time.
-- Orlando Chinea, legendary Cuban national team pitching coach (now exiled), during the Industriales reunion game in Tampa, Radio Marti,  8/25/13

Brazil Helps Cuba Violate International Refugee Law Also

Saturday, August 24, 2013
This week, Brazil announced its plan to help Cuba violate international labor law by contracting for 4,000 doctors (with absolutely no rights) at a 98% profit margin for the Castro brothers.

This contract has been denounced by Brazil's physician's union and is being investigated by its chief prosecutor for labor fraud.

Today, adding insult to injury, Brazil's Attorney General announced that any Cuban doctors who decide to defect will be denied asylum and immediately sent back to the island.

This is obviously a warning being sent by Brazil's government -- in collusion with Castro's dictatorship -- to deter any Cuban doctors from defecting.

However, it is an overt violation of international refugee law.

Has Brazil's government lost all respect for international law?

Consider Taking a Trip to Jamaica -- Not Cuba

A thoughtful piece by Mike Collazo in The Tallahassee Democrat:

(Editor's Note: We understand the impact that Cuban-Americans can have on their brethren on the island. However, the cost-benefit of unlimited Cuban-American travel has clearly tilted in the Castro regime's favor -- for it's reaping millions of dollars a day from these trips, while keeping its most vocal exiled critics on an "unwanted list" and denying them entry.)

Don't count on seeing the 'real' Cuba

Re: “Trips offer a special way to connect with Cuba” (My View, Aug. 19).

While in part I share Elizabeth Ricci’s enthusiasm for visiting Cuba (my parents were born in Cuba, I still have family there, and I recently visited them), and I appreciate her efforts to bridge the cultural gap between the U.S. and Cuba, I’m concerned that her piece may have given readers an incomplete picture of life for the average Cuban citizen.

Cuba is one of few remaining totalitarian states. Both Amnesty International, which has been monitoring the human rights situation in Cuba for decades, and Human Rights Watch confirm that the Cuban government continues to enforce a wide array of repressive laws aimed at preventing political dissidents and human rights defenders from exercising their freedom of expression, association and assembly. According to Human Rights Watch, “The government of Raúl Castro continues to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile.”

These conditions remain as problematic today as they were before 2008, when Fidel Castro resigned the dictatorship due to ill health in favor of his little brother, Raúl.

The Washington Post recently detailed the case of Cuban political dissident Oswaldo Payá and youth activist Harold Cepero, who were killed in a car crash in July 2012. Eyewitnesses say the crash was caused by a car with government plates that had been following them all morning. U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and more than 100 public figures from around the world, have called on the United Nations to investigate.

The “Ladies in White” (Las “Damas de Blanco”), a group of women who campaign for the release of political prisoners every Sunday after Mass, regularly face arbitrary arrest and physical attacks by government operatives and paramilitary thugs. Why? Because they protest the imprisonment of their loved ones and others, by marching silently through the streets of Havana, dressed in white, as they hold weapons not of aggression but of peace: tender gladioli.

In her My View, Ricci recounted how a woman in Havana, upon realizing that Ricci’s group was from the U.S., told her dog to bite Ricci’s mother. Ricci also noted how the editor of the Cuban newspaper La Mujer described Cuban-Americans in Miami as “a cancer.” One might ask: Why the hostility?

I suppose it’s because Cuban-Americans like me have much more at stake in Cuba’s future than the average American citizen, and therefore we zealously and unapologetically advocate for Cubans on the island to enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms we enjoy stateside. For the Castro regime, Cuban-Americans represent a far more subversive group than the average American tourist because of their familiarity with Cuban culture, ability to speak to friends and relatives on the island, and ability to influence their views on the Castro regime and on the U.S. Accordingly, the government has engaged in more than 50 years of institutionalized propaganda to undermine the opinions of Cuban-Americans like me and other gusanos (“worms”) who advocate for a free Cuba.

In contrast, the assumption that the Castro government would allow U.S. tourists or businesses to subvert the revolution via approved “cultural” exchanges and personal interactions with “average” Cubans is at best naïve. The truth is that American visitors on these exchanges have limited contact with average Cubans, because hotels and resorts are generally off limits to the average Cuban and controlled by Cuba’s security apparatus. If you do meet a Cuban scholar, environmentalist, artist, musician, community organizer or author on one of these trips, you will almost certainly do so only because the Cuban government has determined that the person’s political views are sufficiently orthodox to permit interaction with foreigners.

Over the past decades hundreds of thousands of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists have visited the island, but Cuba isn’t more democratic. If anything, the state and its control apparatus have been strengthened by tourist dollars. And according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, even though more than 60 percent of Cubans on the island are black or mulatos, the Cuban government actively discriminates against them for jobs in the tourist industry, believing that tourists prefer to deal with whites and light-skinned people. As a result, a cultural exchange trip to Cuba will include more than just mojitos and walks on the beach — one will also experience racial discrimination at its worst.

If you wish to connect with the real Cuba, follow and support prominent Cuban political dissidents like Yoani Sánchez (@yoanifromcuba) (English) and Rosa María Payá (@RosaMariaPaya) (Spanish) and human rights organizations like Human Rights in Cuba (@FHRCuba) (English) on Twitter. You also could read “Take Me With You,” a novel by Palm Beach Post columnist Carlos Frías, which recounts his personal experiences in Cuba.

But above all else, consider taking a trip to Jamaica — not Cuba.

Irony: Brazil's Workers' Party Helps Cuba Violate Labor Rights

Friday, August 23, 2013
Here's what happens when ideology trumps integrity.

Brazil's government, led by Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, "PT"), signed an agreement this week to funnel over $280 million to the Castro regime -- via the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) -- in exchange for 4,000 doctors (deprived of their fundamental rights).

The Castro brothers will earn a 98% profit margin, per doctor, in violation on international labor norms.

This agreement has been denounced by Brazil's physician's union and is now being investigated by Brazil's chief prosecutor for labor fraud.

So much for the trabalhadores.

Brazilian Prosecutor Investigates Labor Violations in Cuban Doctors Deal

In The Miami Herald:

Brazilian prosecutor wants to check deal for 4,000 Cuban doctors

A Brazilian prosecutor said Friday he will investigate a government contract for 4,000 Cuban doctors and other medical personnel to work in poor and remote areas of the Latin American nation because of "visible irregularities" in the agreement.

The first 400 Cubans began arriving Friday under the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program, which was made public on Wednesday and will cost the Brazilian government more than $200 million.

But the agreement will have to be reviewed for possible violations of Brazil's labor laws and regulations, said Jose de Lima Ramos Pereira, chief prosecutor in the labor fraud section of the Office of the District Attorney.

"After we analyze the documentation, we will take the required steps... because already there are some visible irregularities," he was quoted as saying in Brazilian news media reports.

One aspect of the agreement that raises "a very large legal uncertainty," he said, is the use of the Pan American Health Organization, a Washington-based branch of the World Health Organization, as the financial middleman between the Brazilian and Cuba governments.

Prosecutors also will check whether the contract means the Cubans will be paid less than the minimum required by Brazilian law, and whether the no-bid contract was properly awarded, Ramos Pereira was quoted as saying.

Quote of the Week

Rosa Maria Paya defends freedom, Mariela Castro defends a dictatorship.
-- Jaime Trobo, Uruguayan parliamentarian, title of his column in Patria, 8/22/13

Cuba Covers Up Cholera at Home, Yet Sends Doctors Abroad

Here's another one of the absurdities of Castro's Cuba (and the complicit blindness of its allies):

In the last year, the Castro regime has gone out of its way to cover-up a cholera epidemic in Cuba.

It even imprisoned the independent journalist, Calixto Martinez Arias, who fist revealed the outbreak.

(Note cholera was previously eradicated in Cuba in 1882.  Another example of how the Castro regime has taken Cuba back to colonial times.)

This week, the U.S. issued a travel warning regarding this epidemic in Cuba.

Yet, instead of taking care of its own people, the Castro regime continues trafficking its doctors abroad (this time to Brazil).

Why?

Because each Cuban doctor abroad (no matter how poorly trained) represents a 98% profit margin for the Castro brothers. 

As for Brazil, why would a country that has eradicated cholera import doctors from a country that is suffering from the epidemic and has tried to cover it up (in gross disregard for its own people)?

Brazilian Labor Union Denounces "Slave Labor" of Cuban Doctors

Brazil's National Federation of Physicians (FENAM, in Portuguese), has denounced the Brazilian government's contract to import Cuban doctors -- and funnel payments to the Castro regime through PAHO -- as a violation of international labor norms.

According to FENAM, "the contracts of the Cuban doctors have the characteristics of slave labor and only serve to finance the Cuban government."

FENAM is studying the possibility of presenting a formal complaint to the International Labor Organization ("ILO").

Yesterday, we had posted why this is -- indeed -- a violation of international labor norms.

A Hero's Welcome Home

This picture is worth 1,000 words.

Over a hundred people gathered this week in Santa Clara to welcome home Cuban pro-democracy leader, Guillermo Fariñas, after his visit to the U.S. and Europe, where he belatedly received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Tweet of the Week

Thursday, August 22, 2013
By Cuban photographer and independent journalist William Cacer Diaz:

#Cuba Half of the Cuban people believe that the leader of Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, was murdered. The other half know it. 

PAHO Helps Cuba Violate ILO Norms

Brazil has signed an agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization ("PAHO"), for 4,000 Cuban doctors to be sent by the end of the year.

Under the agreement, Brazil's government will pay PAHO a monthly salary of 10,000 Brazilian reals ($4,098) for each Cuban doctor -- totaling over $208 million.

In turn, PAHO will channel the money to Cuba's regime.

Brazil's Minister of Health, Alexandre Padilha, said he ignores what percentage of the salary will actually be paid to the Cuban doctors.

Let's help him.

The Castro regime pays its doctors about $25 per month. When serving overseas, they get an additional $50-per-month stipend -- both paid to their dependents while they're abroad.  This is to lessen the possibility of defection.

Note that Cuban doctors are forbidden from working outside their state position. Moreover, they have no say in their assignments, salaries, hours or work conditions.

Thus, each Cuban doctor will receive around $75 per month out of the $4,098 per month Brazil will channel to Cuba's government through PAHO.

That' a 98% profit margin for the Castro brothers -- or $203 million (out of $208 million in net profit).

This is clearly in violation of international legal norms, including the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the International Labor Organization's ("ILO") Convention on the Protection of Wages.

U.S. Issues Travel Alert to Cuba

From the U.S. State Department:

This message is to inform U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Cuba that media reports have indicated that cases of cholera have been identified in the city of Havana, possibly linked to a reported outbreak of cholera in eastern Cuba.

The Panamerican Health Organization (PAHO) issued an epidemiological alert noting the presence of cholera in Cuba and confirming that foreign travelers have contracted cholera during recent trips to Cuba.

Eating or drinking fecally contaminated food or water is the main risk factor. Unsterilized water, food from street vendors, raw fish dishes (e.g. ceviche) and inadequately cooked (e.g. steamed) shellfish are common sources of infection.

We urge you to follow public health recommendations and guidelines, such as safe food and water precautions and frequent hand washing to help prevent cholera infection. The Cuban Ministry of Public Health is urging people to comply with sanitary measures associated with personal hygiene, water and food.

The Truth About LGBT Rights in Cuba

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Cuban LGBT rights leaders Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada were on Cristina Radio's "From Washington al Mundo" to discuss the Castro regime's repression, state-sponsored discrimination and the deceit of the Cuban dictator's daughter, Mariela Castro.

Listen to the podcast here.

Don't be Fooled by Castro's "Reforms"

By Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience Normando Hernandez for the Bush Institute's Freedom Collection:

Let's Not be Fooled

Recent news may cause casual Cuba-observers to believe that democratic reform has finally begun on the island. Earlier this year, American pop icons Beyoncé and Jay-Z caused a stir when they vacationed in Havana. Meanwhile, a change in the regime’s travel policy has allowed some dissidents like the Ladies in White leader Berta Soler and renowned blogger Yoani Sanchez to travel abroad.

Unfortunately, little has really changed on the island.  Take freedom of expression, an inalienable right of all people. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this “includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Apparently, the Castro brothers and their regime disagree.

Suppressing freedom of expression is actually enshrined in Cuba’s constitution. Article 53 states that “citizens are granted freedom of speech and press in accordance with the aims of the socialist society.” Additionally, Article 39 states that “any artistic creation is free provided that its content is not contrary to the revolution.” It doesn’t take a scholar to interpret that any dissent against socialism or the so-called Cuban revolution is prohibited.

Likewise, draconian legislation such as Law 88 and the Law of Protection of the National Independence and the Economy of Cuba (also known as the “Gag Law”) punishes “those actions designed to support, facilitate, or collaborate with objectives” directed against “the Socialist State and the independence of Cuba.” Violating Law 88 comes with a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment.

The state controls all information on the island including the press, radio, cinema, television and the Internet. The latter is rarely accessible within the homes of ordinary people. Most are reliant on cyber cafes for access to the web.

While it’s true that the Cuban government recently opened 118 of these cafes where citizens can surf the Net through the national portal “Nauta,” the cost is an exorbitant $4.50 per hour, or approximately 24 percent of the average Cuban’s monthly salary. What’s also not being said is that the Internet in Cuba is still monitored and censored by the regime. Connections are easily hacked, and those who dare advocate for greater rights and democracy online can be punished. Moreover, Cubans can’t access web pages and digital blogs critical of the Castro brothers or the government. Those pages are blocked.

Such actions demonstrate that the regime’s policies remain identical to those of the last fifty years. Despite suggestions to the contrary, little if anything is changing in Cuba.

Castro's Travel Blackmail

The Castro regime only "wants" subservient Cuban-Americans (with hard-currency) to travel to the island.

Cuban-Americans that dare criticize the dictatorship are placed on an "unwanted" list and prohibited from entering the island.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration's travel policy is playing right into Castro's lucrative blackmail.

The regime is getting all of the benefit, at none of the cost.

Excerpt from Yoani Sanchez's most recent column in The Huffington Post, "Cuban Exiles on the 'Unwanted' List Can Never Go Home Again":

With the new Immigration Reform, which came into effect on January 14, the pre-flight inspection has become more complex. Now airlines flying to Cuba have to check if the passenger is within the range of a 24-month stay abroad allowed by the current law. For those who emigrated in previous years, everything is even more difficult.

The person could belong to the large group of those who are prohibited from entering the Island. Almost always for ideological reasons. Having made critical statements about the government, being a member of an opposition party, engaging in independent journalism, making a complaint to some international organization, deserting from an official mission, or being a target of the whims of power, are some of the causes that block the entry of thousands of our compatriots.

A few days ago, the case of Blanca Reyes, a member of the Ladies in White who lives in Spain, jumped into the headlines when she was denied the possibility of visiting her own country. With a 93-year-old father and a family she hasn't seen in more than five years, Blanca requested an entry permit for the country where she was born. At the Cuban Consulate in Madrid the reply was terse: "denied." So her passport was left without that other sticker of shame known as "enabled." On the corresponding page there is no stamp on the watermarked paper that would allow her to return to Guayos, her little village in the central province of Sancti Spíritus.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Making the Case Against "Moral Hemiplegia"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
"It is 'moral hemiplegia' to condemn dictatorships based on political leanings.  Dictatorships are neither of the left, nor the right, they have no political color.  We hope that both the left and the right will begin to recognize that Cuba is a dictatorship and that we live without rights. A coherent posture would be to fall on the side of rights."

-- Rosa Maria Paya, Cuban dissident (2013).

"To be of the left is, as to be of the right, one of the infinite number of ways available to people for choose how to become an idiot; both are, actually, forms of 'moral hemiplegia.'"

-- Jose Ortega y Gasset, Spanish philosopher (1937).

From the Ashes of Her Father, Arises a Leader

This week, we have been following Rosa Maria Paya, the daughter of deceased Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, during her visits to Chile and Uruguay, where she has met with dignitaries and journalists, supporters and detractors.

Judging by her courage, poise, persuasion and grace, it is clear that we are witnessing a leader in the making.



Quote of the Week

We used to listen every day, every single day, [to] Voice of America [in Cuba]. [It] was a shortwave radio program, and they play everything in jazz music. That was the only way we have to hear that kind of music and to be connected with the music we love. I was in the obligatory military service for three years when the sergeant [caught] me listen[ing] to the Voice of America, and then they put me in jail because I was listening to the voice of enemies.
-- Arturo Sandoval, Cuban-American jazz virtuoso and soon-to-be Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, NPR, 8/20/13

Help Save a Cuban Political Prisoner's Life

On July 30th, Ivan Fernandez Depestre, a 40-year old Afro-Cuban democracy activist was arrested for participating in a peaceful protest and displaying anti-regime posters in the province of Matanzas.

He was arbitrarily handed a 2-year prison sentence for "preemptive social dangerousness."

Fernandez Depestre has been on a hunger strike since his arrest over three weeks ago and his health is seriously waning.

The Castro regime is hoping the world will not notice this young, courageous and relatively unknown activist's imprisonment (or potential death from hunger strike).

Raise your voice for Ivan Fernandez Depestre.

Cuban Intelligence Signal to U.S.-Based Agent Intercepted

Some Cuban "numbers stations" have been recently intercepted in the U.S.

A "numbers station" is a type of shortwave radio station characterized by unusual broadcasts, reciting streams of numbers, words, letters, tunes or Morse code.

It is a common method used by Cuba's intelligence services ("CuIS") to communicate with its agents in the United States.

Encrypted messages are sent through powerful shortwave transmitters that are located in Cuba. These messages are series of numbers in voice or Morse. The clandestine agent decrypts them into readable text, providing him/her with instructions on gathering intelligence, exchange of information, operational activities or meetings with his/her handler.

(Learn more about Cuban intelligence communications, including their use by the infamous WASP network, former Defense Department official Ana Belen Montes and other spies, from cryptology expert Dirk Rijmenants here.)

Click below to listen to a recently intercepted broadcast (courtesy of Cuba Confidential):

Paya's Family Files Suit Against Cuban Regime

Monday, August 19, 2013
From AFP:

Dissident's family sues Cuba in Spain over his death

The family of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya launched a lawsuit in Spain on Monday accusing Cuban secret service agents of involvement in his death, his human rights group said.

Paya, a joint Cuban-Spanish national, and another Cuban dissident, Harold Cepero, died on July 22, 2012 in southeastern Cuba after their car went off the road and crashed into a tree.

Paya's wife Ofelia Acevedo and his daughter Rosa Maria Paya presented a suit at Spain's high court against two state security officials named as Lieutenant Colonel Aguilas and Colonel Llanes, said a statement from Paya's rights group, the Christian Liberation Movement.

The lawsuit also targets anyone else "that the court might find, in the course of its investigation, to have taken part in the crimes against humanity that led to the death of Oswaldo," the statement said.

"This suit is necessary and indispensable," it added.

"The current Cuban regime cannot continue persecuting, mistreating, lying, assassinating and intimidating society with impunity."

The driver of the car, Angel Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of Spain's ruling Popular Party, was convicted in Cuba of vehicular homicide. He returned to Spain to serve a four-year sentence and was granted conditional release.

Carromero alleged in a newspaper interview published this month that the crash was not an accident and that Paya was "assassinated" by the Cuban secret service.

Oswaldo Paya was the lead organiser of the Varela Project, a drive for a referendum on guaranteeing rights such as freedom of speech and assembly in Cuba.

Cuba is Now Exporting Cholera

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO):

[I]n the past several weeks, there has been five cases (Italy (1), Venezuela (2) and Chile (2)) of cholera reported, all related to travel to Cuba.

Read here to find out why Cuba's silence (cover-up) on its cholera epidemic is dangerous to your health.

Castro Trafficking in Cuban's Blood (Literally)

By Juan Juan Almeida, the exiled son of General Juan Almeida, Castro's former Vice-President and close confidant:

Blood for Export

I was born in the bosom of power, a world of abundant lies. I was reared and educated among the corrupt who, even as they pretended to be simple guardians of virtue, in certain private circles often forgot to guard their terrible secrets and told horrific stories with tremendous ease. This is how I heard in detail about those sentenced to death and their physical condition as they faced the firing squad. They described men who were drowsy, sweaty, weak, whose breathing was irregular and whose color was corpse-like.

At the time I did not realize and even questioned how much the terror, the trauma, the effects and consequences of the perverse path that the dark mechanism they call “revolution” can have on an individual or group. While it was logical to think that having the nerves to confront death could lead to a collective symptomology, my obtuse non-conformity compelled me to find an explanation. Asking questions, I discovered an explanation that was both simple and terrifying. Before being executed — as though that were not enough — the condemned had their blood extracted.

I know this is hard to believe. Therefore, I would like to add that there are confirmed accounts and important testimony on Cuba Archive, the website of an organization which, for reasons unrelated to financial gain, has carried out a serious investigation on the subject and tried to document the deaths and disappearances of men — guilty or not — whose biographies remain inconclusive; men whose broken lives once had owners; men who even today await the trial that will vindicate them.

My motive for writing this is not to lodge an accusation, though clearly that is what this is. It is somewhat more. It is to alert readers, scholars, jurists and investigators to a nebulous, little-discussed  subject that remains shrouded in secrecy. And I am not referring to some clumsy foible but to evidence of criminal actions. Unless a document exists that shows the condemned agreed to these procedures, this constitutes a crime against humanity according to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute.

Fidel Castro publicly acknowledged these actions when, in a long-winded speech on February 6, 1961, he said — and I quote — “Don’t think that just because counter-revolutionaries die in disgrace before a firing squad they are not of use to the Cuban revolution. The blood of these traitors is extracted before execution in order to save the lives of the many militiamen ready to die for the Fatherland.”

But wait, there is more. All Cubans know that to be admitted to a hospital on the island — whether it be for a simple check-up or a surgical procedure — or to even see a doctor or staff member, one is required to show proof of having donated blood. Only then may the patient make use of the benefits of free hospital care in Cuba. In most cases this blood is turned into a commodity to be sold overseas without the knowledge or consent of the donors.

The story is as real as the missiles hidden in containers of sugar. Just a few days ago, before the conclusion of an official visit by President José Mujica to the largest country in the Caribbean, the newspaper El País de Uruguay reported that the leading export in 2012 from Cuba to the honorable Oriental Republic of Uruguay was human blood, the kind with a Cuban surname.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.

Attacks Against The Ladies in White Intensify

The Castro regime's repression against the peaceful democracy group, The Ladies in White, intensified this weekend.

And so did the courageous female activist's peaceful defiance.

Over 200 of The Ladies in White marched together to attend Mass and other gatherings throughout Cuba's biggest cities.

In Santiago de Cuba, state security officials attacked the home of Maria Elena Matos, where over 57 of The Ladies in White had gathered for a "literary tea."

They threw rocks at the house, broke windows and forced open the door. Some of the women were dragged out of the house by force and arrested. One of them, Joanna Formigo Galeano, was taken to the hospital due to the injuries sustained.

Santa Fernandez Diaz and Keylan Ramos Suarez remain detained.

In Matanzas, the following Ladies in White were arrested: Sayli Navarro, Asuncion Carrillo, Lazara Rodriguez, Yanelis Perez, Tania Echeverria, Maria Teresa Castellanos y Mayra Garcia.

Pro-democracy leaders Angel Moya, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo y Felix Navarro, who had gone to support The Ladies in White, were also arrested and dumped in a swamp over 50 kilometers away.

Meanwhile, in Havana, nearly 90 of The Ladies in White peacefully marched.

Why is the Castro regime so afraid of these women?

Castro's Reforms = Timbiriches and Repression

Tweet by Cuban pro-democracy leader Antonio Rodiles:

#Cuba Castro's reforms = timbiriches (small street stands), repression. Oh sorry, and golf courses.

Video: North Korea Celebrates "Cuba Solidarity" Month

Sunday, August 18, 2013
You can't make this stuff up.

This week, U.N. inspectors have been in Panama, where they are investigating the smuggling of Cuban weapons (from missile systems to anti-tank RPGs) to North Korea.

Meanwhile, in North Korea, the Kim dictatorship has been celebrating "Cuba solidarity" month.

Just imagine how these regime will be emboldened if they are not sanctioned for flouting international law.

Here are some segments from North Korean state media:

"A meeting and film show took place at the Taedonggang Diplomatic Club here on Tuesday on the month of solidarity with the Cuban people. Present there on invitation were German Hermin Ferras Alvarez, Cuban ambassador to the DPRK, and his embassy officials. Present there were So Ho Won, vice-chairman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries who is vice-chairman of the Korean Committee for Solidarity with Cuba, officials concerned and others."

"The Korean people will as ever stand in the same trench with the fraternal Cuban people in the just struggle to beat back the U.S. imperialists' moves for aggression and intervention and defend socialism. The Cuban ambassador said that the international solidarity activities are of great significance now that the imperialists are becoming all the more pronounced in their counterrevolutionary offensive."

"The friendly relations between the two countries have grown strong in the protracted and rigorous struggle against the U.S. imperialists, the common enemy, and become a model for the world people, the Cuban Ambassador noted."

"He expressed belief that Korean people would always win victory in the struggle to shatter the U.S. moves for stifling the DPRK, defend the sovereignty of the country and achieve national reunification. At the end of the meeting its participants watched a Cuban feature film."

And here's a video of the event:

Tweet of the Week

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why Boycott Trips to Bahamas, Instead of Trips to Cuba?

The quote of the week: 
If we really want to protest what is happening in Bahamas and in other countries, we should focus on the root of the problem.  And the problem is Cuba.  Why boycott trips to Bahamas, instead of trips to Cuba?  Yes, Bahamas mistreats those who arrived there by error.  But in Cuba, every day women are beaten and mistreated; dissidents are imprisoned and human rights violations are rampant.  So why punish Bahamas and reward Cuba? 
-- Remedios Diaz-Oliver, Cuban-American business leader, Diario las Americas, 8/17/13


North Korea Desperate to Hide Cuban Weapons

Why were the North Koreans so desperate to hide the Cuban weapons?

The answer is obvious.

More details in an article today from in Japan's Asahi Shimbun:

Panama: N. Korean crew fought inspectors to hide weapons

The crew of a North Korean ship put up fierce resistance and the captain attempted suicide when Panamanian authorities tried to inspect cargo that contained undeclared weapons, including MiG-21 fighter jets, a senior prosecutor said.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Panama's deputy chief prosecutor, Javier Caraballo, who is in charge of the case, described how crew members attempted to block the Panamanian authorities.

According to Caraballo, the crew cut the engine and dropped anchor after authorities ordered them to move the ship to port for inspection. The authorities cut the anchor on July 12, and towed the ship to the central port of Colon.

When inspectors boarded the ship, crew members destroyed navigational computers and other equipment and refused to submit logbooks and cargo documents. They also severed wires used for cargo-unloading cranes, forcing the inspectors to remove a large number of sugar bags by hand, Caraballo said.

When the containers holding the weapons were found under the sugar bags, the captain tried to kill himself by cutting his throat with a knife, only to be stopped by a Panamanian investigator. The captain is being treated at a hospital in Colon, and his injuries are not life-threatening.

Repression Caught on Tape: Cuban Activists Arrested

The video below captures the violent arrest of two peaceful Cuban democracy activists, Raul Gonzalez and Niurcy Acosta Pacheco, of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR, in Spanish).

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Why is Castro Afraid of Ai Weiwei?

Friday, August 16, 2013
Last night, the Cuban independent think-tank, Estado de SATS, hosted a screening of "Never Sorry," a documentary about famed artist and democracy activist, Ai Weiwei.

In response, the Castro regime undertook a repressive operation to prevent activists from attending the screening.

It blocked streets, cut phone lines, intimidated passers-by and arrested a number of dissidents. Among those arrested are Mario Moraga and Juan Carlos Castellano.

Despite the repression, the show went on and 32 activists managed to defy Castro's security forces.

What is Castro so afraid of?

See for yourself below:

Two Cuban Political Prisoners Handed Long Sentences

Cuban democracy activists, Ernesto Roberto Riveri Gascon and Enrique Figuerola Miranda, have been handed long prison sentences by the Castro regime for their political activities.

Both are members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), which now has 33 members serving political sentences.

Last week, Amnesty International released an "urgent alert" regarding five of these UNPACU activists.

Riveri, who was arrested on November 27th, 2012, has been sentenced to 1-year in prison for "public disorder and disobedience."

Meanwhile, the regime seeks a 5-year sentence for Figuerola, who was arrested on July 28th, 2012, and is accused of "contempt" for taking pictures of police agents repressing fellow activists.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Courtesy of Hablemos Press.

Editor's Note: Chamber of the Americas Insults Cuban-Americans

The head of the Chamber of the Americas, Gil Cisneros, has penned an op-ed this week in the Denver Business Journal insulting the Cuban-American community.

Here is the response I have sent him:

Mr. Cisneros:

As a 37-year old American of Cuban descent, what I find the most troubling about your column is the lack of any facts to substantiate your thesis.  Instead, you spend all of your energy insulting and disparaging the Cuban-American community.  Perhaps this is a direct consequence of your organization outsourcing its entire Cuba policy to an obtuse graduate student and "former" Castro regime official.

Here are some facts you may want to consider regarding "trade with Cuba":

-- According to the Castro regime's Constitution, the Cuban people are prohibited from engaging in foreign trade. Foreign investors in Cuba are prohibited from doing business with private citizens. Investors can only do business through minority joint ventures with the Castro regime.

-- In 2000, there were 400 foreign companies operating in Cuba through minority joint ventures with the Castro regime, which is sadly the only permissible legal vehicle for foreign companies to invest in Cuba.  Today, there are only 190 left.

-- According to Reuters, "The Communist-run nation failed to make some debt payments on schedule beginning in 2008, then froze up to $1 billion in the accounts of foreign suppliers by the start of 2009."

-- Moreover, during this time, the CEOs of various foreign companies with extensive business dealings with the Cuban government have been arrested.  Some of these are still sitting in jail -- years later -- without charges. (One of them wrote a letter published in The Economist yesterday, see here).

-- According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal: Cuba ranks 176th out of 177 countries, one notch ahead of North Korea, the worst. Cuba is the least-free economy in the Western Hemisphere and internationally, it ranks worse than some pretty unattractive investment environments, including Iran, Syria and Zimbabwe.

If you would like more facts regarding Cuba and Cuba policy, please take some time to read this recent presentation to the Puerto Rican Manufacturers Association.

Your upcoming trip might represent a short-term fundraising benefit for your organization, but it lacks long-term vision.  U.S. policy toward Cuba -- as codified in law -- will not change until the Cuban people are free to exercise the fundamental rights that you and the rest of the citizens of the Western Hemisphere enjoy.

Moreover, our organization, and its supporters, which include former Cabinet members, Fortune 100 executives and successful entrepreneurs will continue to stand steadfastly for the principles of democracy, the free market and the rule of law.  That is the American way.

If you ever choose to have a civilized, factual debate regarding Cuba and U.S. policy, please let us know. Unlike you, we promise not to engage in any personal attacks or insults.

Kindest regards,

Mauricio Claver-Carone