Exit Travel Restrictions Will Remain

Saturday, January 12, 2013
From Updated News:

After weeks in which passport applications surged and just days before the new policy takes affect, Cuba this week “began to increase the information about the update announced last October,” according to a story from the state-run Prensa Latina News Agency.

Specifically, the Labor and Social Security Ministry defined categories of Cubans whose travel would be restricted. They include those who may be “criminally prosecuted, are subject to military service or (are denied) for reasons of defense and national security.”

“Also on the list are citizens who have obligations with the state or are not authorized under rules designed to preserve the skilled workforce and protect official information,” read the Prensa Latina story.

It’s not clear, exactly, how sweeping these restrictions will be or why they were announced this week. Col. Lambert Fraga, deputy chief of Cuba’s immigration department, explained the government would exercise its prerogative “to protect the scientific, professional and technical fields, as well as key athletes who help the socio-economic development of the country.”

Such restrictions are necessary, Fraga told Prensa Latina, “to defend the supreme interests of society.”

Venezuela's Coup Made in Cuba

By Dr. Carlos Ponce in Fox News Latino:

Venezuela's Coup Made in Cuba

Almost a month after his last public appearance and from his surgery to continue the treatment against an aggressive cancer, Hugo Chávez remains in intensive care in Cuba with multiple respiratory, abdominal and infectious complications.

Chávez never delegated power to his Vice President Nicolas Maduro, he only obtained a temporary permit to travel to Cuba, but he supposedly remained in total control of the presidency. Nobody knows the true extent of such delegation of duties or if Chávez is actually awake or has been in coma all this time.

The information provided by the regime has been more than contradictory. The only source of information has been the social media. If Chávez has been in a coma all this time, then we have been in the presence of people who usurped power and they have been running an illegal government.

Hugo Chávez was aware of the potential complications of this new surgery and he clearly said that in case he became unable to take oath on January 10th, or in case of his death, his chosen one to run for president was Nicolás Maduro.

And the Constitution in Venezuela is clear: the mandate began on January 10th, 2007 and ends January 10th, 2013, and if the elected president can’t take the oath that day the Assembly’s President assumes power temporarily and calls for new elections within a maximum of 30 days.

But for Cuba, which receives more than $10 billion a year plus other benefits from Venezuela, this is not acceptable. Fidel and Raúl Castro have been close friends and supporters of Chávez's regime for economic reasons. Thanks to Hugo Chávez and his fake revolution, the Cuban dictatorial regime has been able to survive this past decade. For Castro’s regime, the future of Chávez will also mark Cuba’s future.

The Castro brothers have become the conciliators and advisors of the two most powerful acolytes of Chávez as well as of some fractions from the military. Castro has been coordinating the meetings among Diosdado Cabello, the president of Venezuelan National Assembly, Vice President Maduro, Chávez’s family and some sectors of the military.

They also initiated an international lobby with Brazil and other countries to gather support for their plans on Venezuela. They have developed the thesis of the “continuation” of the government: for them the re-election of Chávez last October was just a confirmation or referendum of his regime, and for that reason he doesn’t need to be inaugurated or take the presidential oath.

Venezuela is far from been a democratic country. Hugo Chávez has been ruling the country in an authoritarian and abusive way, and the only quasi democratic side to it was that periodical general elections. Without those elections the country becomes a dictatorship. Neither Maduro nor Cabello were elected.

Chávez transformed Venezuela in his big circus but now the clowns have taken control of the circus. We don't know if they are keeping Chavez artificially alive just to keep control of the country; only an independent medical board can determine his current condition.

The alternatives for Chávez’s cronies are five: 1) Accept the impossibility for Chávez to return to power and call for an election in 30 days. In this case they may have a good chance to win due to the Chávez’s influence and memory, as well as the drama that would surround such an election; 2) Reduce Chávez’s sedation and mobilize the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal to inaugurate the new term in Cuba; 3) Keep control of the government by force;  4) Convince some members of the opposition of a transition regime; 5) The unconstitutional an undemocratic interpretation of the Constitution that would allow them to give Chávez a special permit of 90 days, renewable, to delay the inauguration.

They need the time to consolidate their power without Chávez and to buy more time in control of the institutions and cash flow, so they can also project themselves as the continuation of Hugo Chávez revolution. They also need more time for the campaign and to create the image of a possible government without Chávez but with Chávez ideals.

For the opposition, an election in 30 days will be a major tragedy because they don’t have a clear candidate. Even though the “Mesa de Unidad” has been playing an extraordinary role creating a coordinated effort among numerous opposition groups and parties, their ideological differences and their mutual suspiciousness are still a great challenge.

Sadly, Venezuela will face a major political, economic, institutional and social crisis in the upcoming months. Several countries and groups will try to control the game, but now it is a Pandora box, anything can happen.

If the democratic opposition begins to change Cuba’s game and become more active in developing alternatives and implementing a democratic fight, as well as implementing some strategic planning, the game can change in favor of recovering democracy in Venezuela.

A Silent Mariel

By Cuban blogger Ivan Garcia in Diario de Cuba:

Waiting for January 14

General Raul Castro’s new migratory regulations have aroused enthusiasm in many Cubans. Like the gold rush in the nineteenth century. Or the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Here's what we agree on: Migratory reform will not bring democracy, political tolerance and respect for human rights. Things will remain the same in Cuba. More or less.

The Special Services will continue to be particularly hard on dissidents. Military employers will continue to expand their economic power by controlling an 80% bite of the strategic sectors that generate hard currency.

But if you visit the island and speak frankly with the Cubans, you will notice that many have burned their bridges waiting for the starting pistol, on January 14, 2013.

In a Havana neighborhood, five people feel that 2012 will be their last year to Cuba. Rosa already sold her three-bedroom home in Vibora Park for $22,000. “Thanks to the efforts of friends, with the money I can get a temporary residence in Costa Rica. I have a job offer. I hear it’s a beautiful country, not for nothing is it called the Switzerland of America,” she says, expectantly.

Antonio is another story. “I signed the document authorizing my daughter to travel to Chile for two years with her mother. We will be apart, but she has a work contract at an IT company. The agreement was that if she can establish herself, she will earn money for my ticket plane,” he says. At least Antonio didn’t demand money to authorize the travel of their minor daughter, which is common in these parts.

Even elderly people opt for a future far away. Rodolfo, 60, a German translator, has a married son in South America. But his dream is to look for a few euros in Germany. He has good contacts with German businessmen and in mid-2013 expects to spend some time “clicking” in the land of Goethe.

Norberto, meanwhile, is determined to sell his car, a 1957 Chevrolet, and with the money he can afford a six-month stay in Angola. “According to Angolan friends, job opportunities abound. I know Portuguese, I have technical skills in construction and could work in any of the projects being carried out in Luanda and Cabinda.”

Niurka has it harder. She is an engineer, and the new immigration measures look very closely at professionals. “With money and gifts I got my release from my job. I studied in Moscow and I have many Russian friends. I hope to travel with my husband, who also graduated in the USSR. We know Russian. We have been told that Russia now abounds in the new rich.”

Please do not try to spoil the party for these habaneros, talking about how hard life the life of an immigrant is, or about the bestial crisis raging through Europe. Or think they are Party functionaries or walking idiots who blindly believe what is published in the official media.

The economic crisis affecting many nations today is no invention of the newspaper Granma. But when a person has sold all his possessions, he does not want to hear bad omens.

While waiting for January 14, people are still making plans. For two convertible pesos, Internet you can download the list of countries that do not require visas to Cubans. Or you can copy from Wikipedia the customs of peoples considered exotic.

And many on the Island are now looking at countries that historically have not been the traditional destinations of the diaspora. Spain and the United States are still coveted options. But Spain is scary with its suffocating economic crisis and 40% youth unemployment.

The United States, meanwhile, is the natural destination. If you ask any potential emigrant to choose which country they want to live in, eight in ten say our northern neighbor. But few in Cuba believe that rigid U.S. immigration authorities will grant visas to Cubans, knowing that because of the Cuban Adjustment Act they would not return home.

So those with the possibility of travel have widened their horizons. And they’re thinking they will land in Serbia, Brazil, South Africa or any small island in the Caribbean.

In any event, many in Cuba excitedly await Jan. 14. The Government has announced that more than 200 offices dedicated to immigration procedures will be opened throughout the island

It’s like a Mariel Boatlift. But legal.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.

Quote of the Week

As with all things concerning reforms in Cuba, we will have to see... The ugliest of the bars may have been lifted, but they've been replaced with a leash - people will only know how far they can go when they are yanked back.
-- Christopher Sabatini, policy director at the Americas Society in New York, on the Castro regime's migration "reforms," Reuters, 1/10/13

Havana on High Cholera Alert

Friday, January 11, 2013
Meanwhile, a Cuban independent journalist, Calixto Martinez Arias, remains imprisoned since September 16th and is charged with "disrespect" for the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro, for exposing the regime's cover-up of the cholera outbreak.

Why the silence from the foreign news bureaus in Havana -- on both the cholera outbreak and Calixto's imprisonment?

From Cafe Fuerte:

Havana put on alert over cholera outbreak

The Provincial Health Office this Monday confirms that government authorities have declared a high alert for sanitary conditions in three of the 19 municipalities in the Cuban capital due to a cholera outbreak (IPS).

Until now, the majority of the cases have been reported in the municipalities of Cerro, 10 de Octubre, and Regla, although cases found in six other municipalities have been classified as isolated.

Dr. Hernan Madera, an epidemiology specialist who heads a multidisciplinary group created in Cerro, reports that those who have been infected are immediately transferred to the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute (IPK) for treatment.

It is reported that almost fifty individuals infected with cholera have been admitted into the IPK.

Translation by Babalu Blog.

Cuba: 2nd Least-Free Economy in the World

Thursday, January 10, 2013
According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, Cuba is the second least-free economy in the world.

It ranked 176th out of 177 countries in the world.

Only North Korea was considered less free.

Despite all of the news and propaganda about Raul Castro's so-called "reforms," Cuba ranked only 0.2 points higher (28.5) than last year and well below the regional (59.4) and world average (59.6).

More "reforms" you can't believe in.

See the report by the Wall Street Journal/The Heritage Foundation here.

Tampa Trips a Bust

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) and other Tampa officials heralded trips to Cuba as a huge business coup.

She'd even launched a "Gateway to Cuba" project to market Tampa as a jump-off point for Cuba travel.

"And this is just the beginning," Castor said in a press release.

Well, after all of the fanfare and lobbying:

From The Tampa Tribune:

Carriers dropping Tampa-Cuba charter flights

Tampa International Airport is losing one of its three Cuba charter carriers and two of its five weekly flights to the island nation next month.

The changes, which come less than a year and a half after direct flights began from Tampa to Cuba, could eventually mean higher air fares for those flights.

XAEL Charters Inc. will discontinue its Tampa-Havana flight Feb. 14 and plans to relocate to Fort Lauderdale sometime this year. In addition, ABC Charters will end its flights from Tampa to Holguin, Cuba, on Feb. 28.

Has Reuters' Havana Bureau Lost Its Mind?

In an article today about the announced elimination of the exit permit by the Castro regime, which supposedly goes into effect on January 14th, Reuters writes:

"They were fodder for Castro opponents who charged the Cuban government was a brutal dictatorship that deprived its people of the right to travel and other freedoms."

First of all, like all of Castro's so-called "reforms," the devil is in the details.  Most of the exit permit restrictions are simply being transferred over to the passport process.

Moreover, the proof will be in the pudding after it actually goes into effect, as the regime will continue to arbitrarily decide who is allowed to leave the country.

Yet, regardless, when did Castro stop being a brutal dictatorship?

Didn't 2012 register the largest number of political arrests (6,602) in decades?

When did the Castro regime stop repressing anyone that dares dissent?

Exactly what freedoms does the Castro regime recognize and respect?

Just name one from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Has Reuters' Havana bureau lost it mind?

Or just its objectivity?

Vatican Insider: Zero Reforms and Growing Repression in Cuba

Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI's trip was not as "transformational" as they'd hoped.

To the contrary, it has only emboldened the regime's misbehavior.

The Obama Administration should take note.

From The Vatican Insider in Italy's La Stampa newspaper:

Cuba in 2012: Zero reforms and growing religious repression

A year after the Pope’s visit to the country, the situation is still bleak in terms of the right to freedom of expression

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a human rights defense organisation that focuses on religious rights, recorded a significant rise in religious freedom violations in Cuba in 2012. CSW stated it had asked Cuba’s leader, Raul Castro, to make serious improvements to guarantee religious freedom in 2013. In 2012, violations took place throughout Cuba, as central government targeted both individuals and organisations.

According to reports which CSW received from religious representatives on different parts of the island, cases of rights violations multiplied in the last few days and weeks of 2012. A Protestant church affiliated to the Apostolic Movement in Camaguey was threatened with demolition on 29 December. On 30 December nine women from the “Ladies in White” movement in Holguin were arrested in the early hours of the morning and put in prison until the end of Sunday mass.

These minor episodes may not have caused much of a stir but are proof of a negative attitude towards faithful. CSW found that in 2012 there were as many as 120 cases of religious freedom violations, some of which involved hundreds of individuals and entire religious denominations. CSW estimates do not include men and women who were arrested and kept under surveillance for the entire duration of Benedict XVI’s visit to the island last March. The number of local human rights organisations has risen to 200.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide holds that the greatest burden of the repression was borne by the Catholic Church; the violations, such as the arbitrary arrest and detention of people preparing to participate in ecclesiastical activities were mainly against Catholics but some other Christian denominations were affected too. Baptists, Pentecostals and Methodists in various parts of Cuba have sent reports of abuse and pressure from state security forces.

What is more, the State is continuing to pave the way for more violations. State officials are still refusing to add Churches to the list of “registered” Churches, therefore preventing officials from joining certain groups; in particular one fast-growing Protestant network, called Movimiento Apostólico. A Mormon Church in Havana, which was previously denied official recognition, has now been shut down and threats are frequently made against other Churches. One of the most serious cases was witnessed at the beginning of 2012. A Pentecostal pastor, Reutilio Columbie, was brutally beaten in the city of Moa, leaving him with permanent brain injuries. Columbie holds that the incident had been planned by local Communist Party officials. No inquiry has been carried out into the case to date.

"I Heart Castro" Trips

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Below are two articles from Castro's state media today.

They are about two "people-to-people" trips.

The first is organized by the Castro regime's repressive entities and the second essentially trains anti-U.S. policy activists.

Can someone explain how these "people-to-people" trips benefit the Cuban people or "promote their independence from the Cuban authorities" (as the Obama Administration's policy claims)?


U.S. Visitors Express Admiration for Cuban Revolution

Guests from the U.S. state of California visiting the city of Camagüey expressed Tuesday their admiration for the Cuban Revolution and their support to the cause of the Cuban Five who have been serving severe and unjust sentences in U.S. jails for 14 years.

The U.S. visitors expressed so during a meeting with neighbours of the 8th block-based Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR), belonging to the 24th zone of this city. The Provincial Office of this grass-root organization in Camagüey and the Cuban Friendship Institute (ICAP) organized the gathering.  


Visiting U.S. University Students Know More in Cuba about the Cuban Five

Relatives of the five Cuban heroes that are captive in the U.S. for fighting terrorism spoke on Monday at Havana’s Friendship Center with university students from that northern nation interested in getting further information about the case.

Students and professors from the Diablo Valley College (DVC) of the state of California, listened to the details offered with respect to the legal process by Magali Llort and Elizabeth Palmeiro, mother and wife of Fernando Gonzalez and Ramon Labañino, respectively, two of these five patriots unfairly condemned.

Elizabeth Palmeiro requested participants in the meeting to join the campaign in favor of the return of The Five to the island, and urged President Barack Obama to review the case in his capacity as a lawyer, which will allow him to see the arbitrary acts committed in the process.

Dr. Biscet Promotes Democracy Manifesto

From EFE:

Cuban Opposition Figure Promotes Democracy Manifesto

Cuban opposition figure Oscar Elias Biscet on Wednesday presented a manifesto on which he intends to collect signatures to promote a move toward democracy on the Communist-ruled island.

Accompanied by about a dozen dissidents, Biscet read the document at an appearance before international media where he demanded a “total change” in Cuba because “the people are tired of tyranny.”

The manifesto claims that Cuba’s current constitution, parliament and government are illegitimate.

It also demands that the legal system be based on principles such as popular sovereignty, a government based on the consent of the governed, guarantees for basic human rights and free and transparent elections.

“We have seen over more years than we care to remember how the communist regime has not conceded an atom of freedom and has rigidly and arbitrarily resisted any change that would guarantee a dignified life for our people. No other alternative remains to us except for... non-violent political challenge to make the freedom of our people a reality,” the document said.

The initiative is called Proyecto Emilia, in remembrance of Emilia Teurbe Tolon, who embroidered the first Cuban flag in the mid-19th century.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, who recently led an international delegation to assess the human rights situation in Western Sahara.

Then, Dr. Yasheng Huang, Professor of Political Economy and International Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will discuss the prospects for democratization in China.

And Dr. Vladimir Tismăneanu, director of the University of Maryland's Center for the Study of Post-Communist Societies, will talk about his book "The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century."

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

Castro's Weekly Violence Against Women

The Castro regime began the New Years by arresting 14 peaceful members of the Ladies in White pro-democracy movement, in order to impede their attending religious services.

This has become a tragic weekly ritual.

Apparently, it makes the Castro brothers feel very manly to beat up unarmed, harmless women.

Those arrested this past weekend are:

Lin Eladia Quintana González
Caridad Peinado Gutierrérrez
Aimé Moya Montes de Oca
Lisandra Farray Rodríguez
Marbeli González Reyes
Bertha Guerrero Segura
Romelia Piña González
Rosa María Naranjo Nieves
Glisedi Piña González
Liliana Campo Bruzon
Marleni Abreu Almaguer
Barbará  Bauza Drigg
Ana María Aguilera Paneque
Nidia Rodriguez Santiesteban

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Must-Read: U.N. Says Castro's Judiciary is a Farce

Tuesday, January 8, 2013
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for the Castro regime's release of American development worker Alan Gross.

Its opinion on the case is a must-read on two grounds:

First, it notes how the Castro regime's judiciary lacks any independence or impartiality.

Second, it holds that Castro's infamous "Law Against the Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of the State," which is used to unjustly imprison peaceful dissidents, is contrary to Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Let's hope this gives some pause to those who advocate for the recognition and respect of Castro's absurd laws, including those who advocate for the elimination of USAID's democracy programs.

According to the U.N.'s Working Group:

43. [I]t is within the Working Group’s competence to analyze if the person had the right to fair and impartial legal proceedings before an independent court. The detention would be arbitrary if the court had rejected exculpatory evidence or admitted illegal evidence.

44. In order to begin its analysis as to whether the present case is situated within the framework of Category III utilized by the Working Group, the Group had to first take note that neither the Government nor the source dispute that Mr. Gross was able to enjoy many of his procedural rights, such as presenting evidence; cross-examining the witnesses for the prosecution; presenting his own defense witnesses; having legal counsel of his choosing; having had a period of time to prepare his defense; having had interpreters; declaring freely; as well as the fact that the trial was public and attended by observers from his country, family members, and friends of the accused, among others.

45. In addition, the Working Group notes that there are no differences in some of the objective facts in the case. Both the source as well as the Government accept that Mr. Gross was in Cuba for the purpose of working on a project named “Para la Isla” [“For the Island”] of an agency of the Government of the United States of America; that he acted under a contract of the firm Development Alternatives, Inc. to carry out a project jointly with USAID; that the bringing in of equipment for facilitating wireless connections to the Internet was legal; that Mr. Gross made five trips to Cuba as a tourist, always using his United States passport; and that he maintained relationships with Jewish communities in Cuba; among others.

46. However, there are serious differences between the parties with regard to the following points: firstly, as to whether the courts that tried Mr. Gross in the first and second instances were or were not independent and impartial.

47. In order to resolve this issue with the greatest possible degree of impartiality, the Working Group recalls the following:

(a) In 2000, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women observed with concern that the National Assembly of People’s Power has the authority to appoint and dismiss the People’s Supreme Tribunal and the Attorney General and his/her substitutes; the Office of the Attorney General is subordinate to the National Assembly and to the Council of State; and the Attorney General is accountable for the performance of his/her duties to the National Assembly. Said constitutional provisions hinder the impartiality and independence of the judiciary (E/CN.2000/131, paragraph 67). The Government of Cuba, emphasizing that the people have chosen a socialist political system, rejected this assertion, which in its view was based on false information that had been fabricated by malicious sources or was based on fundamentalist ideological positions (E/CN.4/2000/131, p. 9).

(b) The Committee against Torture had recommended in 1997 that the rules for organizing the judicial system be adjusted so as to accord with international standards (A/53/44, paragraph 118).

(c) In 2007, the then-Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers reminded Cuba that, in accordance with international standards, military courts in principle should not have jurisdiction to try civilians (A/53/44, paragraph 118).

(d) The former Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recommended that Cuba adjust its criminal procedure to the provisions of Articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (A/HRC/4/12, paragraph 35; E/CN.4/2006/33, paragraph 35; E/CN.4/2005/33, paragraph 36); [sic] E/CN.4/2004/32, paragraph 35).

(e) According to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, access to justice with regard to the right to food should be improved. The courts should have a mandate to examine human rights violations and an independent institution should be established and charged with processing complaints and providing reparations for infractions committed (A/HRC/7/5/Add.3, paragraph 79 (c)). In response to this communication, the Government of Cuba clarified that its inter-institutional system processes said complaints (A/HRC/8/4/Add.1, paragraphs 108-110).

48. The aforementioned antecedents, emanating from reports from the non-conventional mechanisms created by both the former Commission as well as the current Human Rights Council, were compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Working Group in charge of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba (see document A/HRC/WG.6/4/CUB/2 dated December 18, 2008, paragraph 20). Said reports were considered in due course by the organs which established said mechanisms with no reservations or objections whatsoever. Consequently, the Working Group cannot ignore same.

49. By virtue of said antecedents, the Working Group cannot rule out the fact that the courts of first and second instance that tried Mr. Gross did not exercise the judicial function in an independent or impartial fashion.

50. The Working Group must also consider if the national security law – and specifically its Article 91 – fulfills the requirements of precision and certainty that authorize the application of a sentence. Illicit conduct, in accordance with criminal doctrine, must be perfectly described prior to the commission of the illicit act, in harmony with the provisions of Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But that description must be precise, such that the potential criminal knows the limits between what is and is not considered criminal activity. The classification of a crime must contain all of the necessary elements for this.

51. In the opinion of the Working Group, the description of the punishable offense in Article 91 of the Criminal Code of Cuba does not fulfill the requirements of precision required for the criminal to know exactly what conduct is prohibited. In effect, said article, inserted among acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the State, within the section related to crimes against State security, provides that “the one who, in the interests of a foreign State, executes an act with the purpose of harming the independence of the Cuban State or the integrity of its territory, shall incur in a sanction of imprisonment of 10 to 20 years or death.” The vagueness of concepts such as “executing an act”; “in the interests of a foreign State”; [and] “harming the independence of the Cuban State or the integrity of its territory” do not satisfy the requirement of a rigorous description of punishable conduct.

In conclusion, the Working Group considers that the courts of first and second instance that tried Mr. Gross did not exercise their function in an independent or impartial manner. Article 91 of the Criminal Code does not satisfy the requirement of rigorous description of  punishable conduct, which lends an arbitrary nature to the detention.

The Anti-Sanctions Argument "Du Jour"

Until recently, the most frequently cited argument by advocates of unconditionally normalizing relations with the Cuban dictatorship was that sanctions provide the Castro regime with an excuse for its failures and repression.

This silly argument presumes that the Cuban people are ignorant as to whom is beating and imprisoning them, or to whom is prostituting and humiliating them to garner favor (and profit) from foreign tourists.

Hint: It's not the U.S.

Moreover, this argument has been debunked by polling data from the island consistently showing that less than 10% of Cubans believe the U.S. embargo is the cause of their ills.

Thus, to lift sanctions, and hand-over billions of dollars to the Castro brothers and its military henchmen -- in order to try to convince less than 10% of Cubans that the U.S. is not at fault -- is absurd (at best).

So their new argument is that the U.S. should lift sanctions to somehow "empower" Castro's "self-employed" -- for this will supposedly prompt them to push for human rights and political reforms thereafter.

(Note: There is no "private sector" in Cuba, a term all too frequently misused by the media when referring to Castro's "self-employed," who are only allowed to lease the practice of a limited set of pre-approved services. However, all means of production are legally owned by the state.)

It's a rehash of the theory that "economic reforms will eventually lead to political reforms."

Except that this never happens -- to the contrary.

Just ask Chinese and Vietnamese pro-democracy activists, who have been reduced to a fraction of what they were prior to the world embracing the "economic reforms" of their rulers, which have only strengthened those brutal dictatorships.

So how exactly would lifting sanctions help Castro's "self-employed"?

Perhaps in the same manner as Canadians and Europeans helped Castro's "self-employed" during the 1990s -- by prostituting and humiliating them, while Castro's military raked in billions at the very top.

For the fact remains foreigners are strictly prohibited from directly hiring Cubans (much less paying them in hard currency), or contracting with them in any type of business venture. Moreover, the Castro regime's Constitution clearly states that all foreign commerce is strictly reserved for the state.

So perhaps they are hoping for some sort of totalitarian "trickle-down effect," whereby tourists spend $5,000 in the regime's hotels, restaurants and nightclubs -- and then buy a $2 trinket or service from a "self-employed" artisan pre-approved (and then heavily taxed) by the Castro regime to set up a stand in a restricted tourist zone.

Now that's a deal only Castro could dream up.

Spanish Hostage Drugged by Castro Regime

Monday, January 7, 2013
More details are emerging regarding the saga lived by Angel Carromero, the Spanish youth activist who was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime for driving the car that crashed and killed Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya.

Paya's family -- and Carromero himself before being taken into custody -- holds that the car was rammed by another vehicle, presumably of secret police officials that had been following them for hours.

According to Spain's El Mundo newspaper, it has now been revealed that, during the time of his imprisonment, Carromero was administered an intravenous substance that kept him sedated for nearly two weeks and has since led to some memory loss.

Can't imagine why.

For those wondering, there are various drugs, e.g. Midazolam, which can be induced to cause a partial or complete loss of memory.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for the latest on the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, including the federal aid package recently approved by Congress, with U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY).

Then, former Venezuelan Congressman, diplomat and Presidential candidate, Vladimir Gessen, and The Heritage Foundation's Ray Walser will discuss the intricacies of a post-Chavez Venezuela.

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).

For Our Spanish Readers

"Cuba, EE.UU. y las Sanciones," in Diario de Cuba by Mauricio Claver-Carone.

Click here to read.

Raul's New Wave of Repression

Sunday, January 6, 2013
Journalist Tracey Eaton has written a good article for USA Today about the human rights situation in Cuba.

It's entitled, "Cuban rights abuses, jailings up in new repressive wave."

It contains some great insight from some of Cuba's pro-democracy leaders.

Here are some excerpts:

Héctor Maseda, who served several years in prison for his political views, says authorities are switching to short-term arrests to give the impression of tolerance.

"The government is trying to confuse public opinion. It is trying to show that repression has lessened," said Maseda, 69, a former nuclear engineer. "But that is not happening. Repression is increasing." [...]

José Daniel Ferrer, 42, who served eight years in prison after his arrest in the "Black Spring of 2003" along with 74 other democratic activists, says repression is as bad as ever.

Security agents "have no rules, no limits when it comes to trying to stop, paralyze or terrorize a dissident," said Ferrer, a fisherman and member of the Christian Liberation Movement imprisoned for collecting signatures on a petition demanding freedom of speech, assembly and political participation [...]

Police keep Las Damas (The Ladies in White) under tight surveillance and often stop the women before they reach the church. 

Omaglis González, 41, tried to avoid arrest one day, hiking around a highway checkpoint, but police caught her. González said an officer twisted her arm, dislocating her wrist, while forcing her into a car. Despite such episodes, she is optimistic. 

"Freedom will come one day," she said. "We can't lose hope." 

Read the whole thing here.

Quote of the Day

The political police boasts that its agents get approved [for visas] more quickly from the political refugee department of the U.S. Interests Section than those who are being persecuted. 
-- Jose Daniel Ferrer, Cuban pro-democracy leader, on the worrisome trend of Castro regime agents of repression being rewarded with U.S. visas, Twitter, 1/5/13