Two Protest Videos From Cuba This Week

Saturday, February 16, 2013
The first video shows pro-democracy activists Rosario Morales la Rosa and Melkis Faure Echevarría courageously leading a protest in Havana's Central Park, calling for an end to for the Castro regime's repression. The protest lasted 15 minutes until they were arrested. Note the interest of the gathering crowd.

The second video shows 30 Ladies in White protesting at the bus terminal known as "La Coubre," where they were purposefully stranded at 2 a.m. They were all thereafter violently beaten and arrested.

Hard to Disagree With

An excerpt from The Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board:

[I]t's hard to argue that Cubans who can come and go as they please are in need of special considerations normally reserved for victims of political repression. One does not flee communism only to return repeatedly with a suitcase full of money and merchandise for the family.

Nor does it make sense to allow entry to the U.S. based not on a claim of persecution, but on whether the person dodged the Coast Guard boats long enough to tag American soil.

To be fair, those immigrants aren't lying about their circumstances. They're not required to demonstrate that they're political refugees. They come because they can. But it isn't fair. Cubans who want to come here for economic reasons should play by the same rules as economic immigrants from other countries.

FL Cuba-Syria Law Appeal on March 21st

Friday, February 15, 2013
Another reason why Odebrecht and Miami International Airport (MIA) are in a rush to quickly push their rigged, back-room, non-transparent "Airport City" deal through the Miami-Dade County Commission.

From State Capitol Briefs:

A federal appeals court has scheduled arguments March 21 in Florida's effort to move forward with a law that would block state and local governments from contracting with companies that have business links to Cuba and Syria. A federal district judge last June issued an injunction against the 2012 law, saying it likely violated the U.S. Constitution. That prompted an appeal by the state. The law, which was challenged by Odebrecht Construction, Inc., would prevent companies from receiving government contracts of $1 million or more if they do business in Cuba or Syria or are affiliated with firms that do business there.

Another Dissident Denied a Passport

Thursday, February 14, 2013
As predicted, the Castro regime has no intention of eliminating its exit restrictions for Cubans.

It has simply transferred the review process (and cost)  -- of whom it will arbitrarily allow to travel -- from the infamous "white card" to a new passport.

And while it first granted passports to a couple of dissidents to capture some headlines, it continues to deny others.

Today, it denied a passport to independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, for so-called reasons of "public interest."

Others who have been recently denied a passport include Ladies in White member Gisela Delgado, and pro-democracy leaders Angel Moya and Jose Daniel Ferrer.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Cuba Remains an Intel Threat

An excerpt by Chris Simmons in Cuba Confidential:

[I]n July 2008, Dr. Joel F. Brenner, Director of the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (an element of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) said: “The Russians and the Chinese remain big problems for us. The Cubans are a problem for us and the Iranians are a big problem for us… and the Cubans have a very accomplished set of intel services and they are something we have to watch.”

Last year, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told the Senate Armed Services Committee “Cuba remains the predominant foreign intelligence threat to the United States emanating from Latin America.”

Shortly thereafter, former Director of the National Counterintelligence Executive, Michelle Van Cleave, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that “…measured by its reach, history, objectives and success against us, Cuba is easily within the Top Ten list worldwide.”

Cuba earned its position as “Intelligence Trafficker to the World” by stealing U.S. secrets, not necessarily hacking our computers. Knowing this, it is disingenuous for Washington to split hairs between old-school “economic espionage” and “cyber-espionage directed against economic targets.” Everyone understands that Washington insiders exploit the cyber threat to generate publicity for themselves and funding for their projects. It’s time for the administration to stop minimizing the threat from Havana and revitalize our counterintelligence services so they can better identify and destroy foreign spy services operating in America.

No Steps Towards Freedom of Expression

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has just released its annual "Attacks on the Press" report.

As regards Cuba, it has concluded:

"Though Cuba projected an image of a nation opening up economically and politically, it took no substantive steps to promote freedom of expression."

Need we say more?

Click here for the full report.

Over 30 Ladies in White Arrested

Last night, over 30 members of The Ladies in White pro-democracy movement were brutally beaten and arrested by the Castro regime.

Among those arrested was the leader of The Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband, former political prisoner, Angel Moya.

Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The Ladies in White are composed of the wives, mothers, daughters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

The arrests took place as they gathered to celebrate the 65th birthday of its founder, Laura Pollan, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2011.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Odebrecht Has No Respect for Cuban-Americans

Yesterday, the W Hotel in South Beach removed a painting of Che Guevara from its lobby.

The hotel did so after widespread complaints from Cuban-Americans who rightfully see the Argentine revolutionary as a symbol of violence and murder.

We did it as a matter of respect and sensitivity toward the local community. We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused,” the W's manager told The Miami Herald.

Kudos to the W Hotel.

Yet, ironically, on the very same day, Miami Airport Director Jose Abreu announced that he wants to hand over a concession of nearly 50 acres of the public's most valuable land for 50 years to Brazil's Odebrecht.

Odebrecht is currently the Cuban military's largest and most important business partner.

This company is at the heart of the Castro regime's economic survival strategy and is currently building -- at the behest of the Cuban military -- the largest  industrial port in the Caribbean at Mariel, Cuba.

This is the same Cuban military that is currently responsible for the beatings, torture and imprisonment of innocent Cubans -- in the same manner as Che decades ago.

Has Odebrecht expressed any remorse for its dealings with such tyrants?

To the contrary, it has doubled down and -- at the behest of the Cuban military again -- is now looking to also revitalize the sugar industry for the Castro brothers.

Odebrecht obviously has no respect or sensitivity for the victims of the Castro dictatorship.

As if this were not enough, for "good government" advocates, the terms of this deal are more akin to something cooked up in Havana, rather than what the people of Miami-Dade deserve.

It has been put together with no public input, shifting terms, no open bidding process and therefore -- no transparency.

That's why the Miami Airport's Director revealed this project yesterday and wants it approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission quickly -- for the less scrutiny, the better for them.

Odebrecht also wants it quickly approved because pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta is the temporary injunction issued by a local judge against the nearly unanimous will of the Florida legislature to prohibit public contracting with brutal regimes, such as Cuba and Syria.

This provision was backed by over 62% of Miami-Dade County voters in November.

But Odebrecht and its revolving-door partners at Miami Airport want to skirt the law before a final judgement.

So will the Miami-Dade Commission approve this non-transparent concession to Castro's most important business partner?

Or, since Odebrecht has no respect for the community, will the Commission exercise transparency and self-respect on behalf of its community?

Courting Castro's Monopoly

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
On an orchestrated ag trip to Cuba.

From the Daily Record of Lawrence County, Illinois:

During the June 28-July 2 tour, the Farm Bureau delegation, among other stops, visited a flour mill, the country's Chamber of Commerce, a farmer co-op, the Ministry of Agriculture, a farmers market and Alimport, the state-run organization responsible for making decisions on all food imports into Cuba.

[Farm Bureau leaders] noted that the group was always watched and listened to by government representatives, were given a list of topics they could not talk about, including politics, told they could not take pictures of certain things, including military personnel. A request to take a tour out into the country, where farmers raise chickens and have some crops, was denied. It is also an area where poverty is at its worst.

On the Record: Senator Hagel on Cuba Policy

In the Congressional Record from former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel's (R-Neb.) confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Defense:

Question from U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.):

Senator Hagel, in 2002 you referred to Fidel Castro as a “toothless old dinosaur” and praised former President Jimmy Carter’s recommended policy of relaxed sanctions and diplomatic engagement as “exactly right.”  In 2008, you were a signatory to a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the U.S. relax sanctions and engage Cuba due to Castro’s “imminent departure.”  As of February 1, 2013, the Castros have not departed Cuba or shown any indication that additional concessions from the United States would modify their repressive regime.  An American contractor, Alan Gross, languishes in a Cuban prison.  Do you still believe Mr. Carter’s recommended policy towards Cuba is “exactly right?”  Would relaxing sanctions and engaging with the Castros be the hallmarks of your policy towards Cuba should you be confirmed?

Answer from U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.):

I support President Obama's Cuba policy which is focused on supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their future, reducing their dependence on the Cuban state, and pursuing the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the universal human rights of all its citizens.  The President’s actions to facilitate family travel, people to people travel, the flow of remittances into private hands, and information to, from, and within Cuba have contributed to this objective.  I share the President’s view that the Cuban government must change its outdated political model to reflect the commitments undertaken by other governments in the Hemisphere to promote and defend representative democracy.  Policy matters and other diplomatic issues involving Cuba are led by the State Department.

Plenty of Oil, Not Enough Food

By Amb. Otto Reich in The Wall Street Journal:

In Venezuela, Plenty of Oil, Not Enough Food

It's the old story: Socialist government interferes with the marketplace, and the result is scarcity.

There are now reports of severe food shortages in Venezuela, including milk, bread, sugar, poultry, dairy products and cooking oil. Vice President Nicolás Maduro—running the country in the absence of ailing President Hugo Chávez—has threatened Venezuela's businessmen with unspecified punishment for "hoarding food." Last week the government devalued the nation's currency, bringing even more misery to consumers.

None of this should be surprising. Shortages are inevitable when socialist governments interfere with free markets through price and other controls. Then government officials blame the growers, manufacturers, distributors or retailers that the government itself is bankrupting.

What do Mr. Maduro's threats portend for Venezuelans? For clues, examine the recent history of other socialist or Marxist governments including Cuba, the model that Messrs. Chávez, Maduro and their chavista disciples proudly admit to follow.

First the population cannot find food to eat and thus protests spread. Heads of households buy scarce edibles on the black market, trying to feed their families but becoming de facto lawbreakers in the process. The government denounces the shopkeepers and protesters as "counterrevolutionaries" and "agents of American imperialism."

People and money flee the country, beginning with the job creators: financiers, investors, professionals, the highly educated, entrepreneurs, managers and eventually the workers and peasants in whose name the "revolution" is carried out.

To stem the flight of capital, the government imposes currency controls. It progressively monopolizes political, economic, judicial, military and police powers. Foreign investment slows to a trickle or stops. Companies begin to close due to lack of supplies or of demand, or are confiscated by the authorities, who add insult to injury by accusing them of economic sabotage and lack of patriotism.

In Cuba, food shortages began about six months after Fidel Castro began imposing Marxist policies in 1959. This was a full three years before the U.S. enacted an economic embargo that many today routinely and incorrectly blame for the Castro-era scarcities. Castro "solved" shortages by rationing food.

In another former middle-income country, Chile, socialist President Salvador Allende generated food shortages quickly after taking over in 1970. His violent overthrow in 1973 was preceded by vast demonstrations of citizens marching through the streets banging empty pots and pans—a form of popular protest called cacerolazos. The empty cooking devices symbolized the Chileans' inability to feed their families.

It took 14 years for scarcities to reach crisis levels in Venezuela under Mr. Chávez, mostly because that nation is blessed with the world's largest proven oil reserves. But even with a national income in excess of $300 billion, as reported by the World Bank, socialism has produced shortages in prosperous Venezuela as it has in previously agriculturally self-sufficient Cuba and Chile. There are already cacerolazos protests in Venezuela.

Based on experience in Cuba, the former USSR and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, the ruin brought about by socialist economic policies inexorably leads to further government repression. The press is censored, with the government justifying its actions by pretending to protect the people from press "falsehoods" about the reasons for "temporary" shortages. Coercion and hunger swell public anger. Protesters are beaten, jailed and occasionally executed. To prevent reports of dissent from reaching foreign ears, the government supplants independent press with government-run media, because even tyrants abhor bad publicity.

Inevitably, all dissent, especially that at the grass roots, must be extinguished lest someone reveal that the Emperor has no clothes. If the people are so ungrateful or foolish as to not understand that all the central government's actions are being imposed upon them for their own good, then they will have to be taught that lesson by force.

Millions of Cubans can attest to this wretched state of affairs. Not so the more than 6,000 Cubans who have been killed over the last half century for opposing the Cuban model of socialism—a model that even Fidel Castro finally admitted, in 2010, "doesn't even work for us anymore." Socialism is obviously not working in Venezuela either.

Music Legend Receives Threats for Chavez Critique

Click here to listen to the full interview.

From Newsmax:

Latin Music Star Speaks Out Against Hugo Chavez

Legendary salsa star Willie Colon, one of the most influential artists in Latin music, is speaking out against the threats and insults he says he's receiving in response to his online comments about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In an exclusive interview with the National Latino Broadcasting's "From Washington al Mundo" radio program that will air Wednesday, Colon says his Facebook and Twitter accounts have been blocked by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments.

"There's no rhyme or reason for their arguments other than character assassination and to block and stop me from speaking," Colon said, according to a press release announcing the interview.

Colon used social media last month to speak out about Venezuela's lack of transparency regarding the health of Chavez, who has been secluded in a Havana hospital for the past two months. Venezuelan authorities have been secretive about Chavez's health, and the 58-year-old fourth-term president has not made any public appearances since undergoing a fourth cancer surgery in Havana in December. The government has not released any photographs of the ailing leader, and Chavez hasn't spoken on state television.

Colon's message, which translates to "God bless Venezuela now that it has two presidents... one ripe and the other rotten," refers to Venezuela's vice president Nicolas Maduro, whose surname literally means "ripe" in English. The tweet was a dig at Chavez, who Colon said might as well be dead now that Maduro is running the country while Chavez recovers from his surgery.

Chavez supporters immediately attacked Colon for his criticism.

"One thing is to defend a political ideal and another is to mock a cancer patient. Colón’s comments were wildly insensitive," tweeted Rene Perez, a member of the Latin band Calle 13. "It reminded me of the Marines urinating Taliban corpses."

"From Washington al Mundo" features interviews and discussions with national and international leaders, policy experts and opinion-makers. Host Mauricio Claver-Carone is a Capitol Hill insider, political advocate, and one of the nation's most widely-respected foreign policy commentators.

The full interview will air Wednesday on the National Latino Broadcasting's Sirius-XM radio program, "From Washington al Mundo" at 4 p.m. ET.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an interview with Grammy-winning star Willie Colon on the organized threats and attacks he has received for his criticisms of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has not been heard from in Cuba for the last two months.

Then, Dr. Stephen Johnson of The Center for Strategic and International Studies discusses this weekend's elections in Ecuador.

Dr. Patrick Stewart of the Council on Foreign Relations on the state of multilateral cooperation on international financial and humanitarian crises.

And Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post columnist and former Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, on the Argentinian government's agreement with Iran to jointly "investigate" the 1994 bombing of a Jewish organization in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.

You can 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).

Quotes of the SOTU and Response

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
By U.S. President Barack Obama in tonight's State of the Union:
In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.
By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.) in the Republican response:
On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, prosperity and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on earth.

Only the Politically Obedient Need Apply (for Self-Employment)

In 2011, we posted, "'Self-Employment for Castro's Elite."

It revealed how many of the famous "paladares" in Havana that the media and "people-to-people" travel organizers laud as "self-employment" enterprises are also facades of Castro regime officials.

As a State Department cable -- released by Wikileaks -- noted:

"A USINT officer outside the XXXXXX paladar XXXXXX spotted the supposedly 'self-employed' owner drive up in a car with Ministry of the Interior (MININT) plates. A one-table paladar in the Santa Fe neighborhood (known as the 'fish paladar') reportedly enjoys an elite clientele - Raul Castro."

Last week, Time did a story on a "self-employed entrepreneur" named Javier:

"Javier did not ask that I not use his real name, but after speaking frankly with me about emerging Cuban business opportunities, Javier worried that he had made dangerous political statements. If he were judged to be subversive, his budding business empire could be shut down in minutes."

And as Cuban pro-democracy leader Rosa Maria Paya denounced this week in Twitter:

"The political police uses state inspectors to harass Jose Luis Ricardo Martinez, who is self-employed.  Jose Luis is threatened daily and has been fined on two occasions for his activism with MCL (Christian Liberation Movement)."

In other words, Castro's "self-employment" licenses require a stamp of political privilege, approval and obedience.

An "Extended Hand" For Another "Reformer"

Last year's narrative by Time:

"Is Kim Jong Un Preparing to Become North Korea's Economic Reformer? There have been hints here and there that the younger Kim may be much more willing to experiment economically — hints that suggest that the sentiments expressed in the Mainichi Shimbun documents could be authentic. In an interview in Pyongyang with the Associated Press on Jan. 16, Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, said, 'Kim Jong Un is focusing on building a knowledge-based economy and looking into cases of other countries' economic reform, including China's.'"

Today's reality from CNN:

"North Korea said Tuesday that it had conducted a new, more powerful underground nuclear test using more sophisticated technology, jolting the already fragile security situation in Northeast Asia and drawing condemnation from around the globe."

Let's give this "reformer" an "extended hand."

On Imprisoned Cuban Journalists

Monday, February 11, 2013
In a letter addressed to Cuban dictator Raul Castro, the Paris-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders highlights the case of four imprisoned journalists:

Hablemos Press reporter Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, who has been held for nearly five months, is facing a possible three-year jail term for “insulting the head of state.” In fact, this independent journalist is being punished for publishing information about cholera and dengue epidemics that was eventually confirmed by the government.

Luis Antonio Torres, a journalist employed by the state-owned daily Granma, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in July 2012 on unsubstantiated spying charges after reporting information of public interest about the negative consequences of certain infrastructural projects. Is talking about embarrassing facts tantamount to conspiracy against the state?

We are similarly concerned about Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, a recognized writer and intellectual and winner of various prizes, who was sentenced to five years in prison on 8 December on trumped-up charges of “home violation” and “injuries” after a trial with bribed witnesses. All he did was criticize your government on his blog. He could be arrested to begin serving his sentence at any moment.

Finally, Reporters Without Borders, has learned that the independent journalist Héctor Julio Cedeño was arrested in Havana on 5 February just for photographing state inspectors harassing street vendors, and that he is still being held.

The Castros' Captive

By Frank Calzon in Foreign Affairs:

The Castros' Captive

Why Appeasing Havana Won't Free Alan Gross

In "Our Man in Havana," R. M. Schneiderman suggests that Alan Gross will not be freed from his Cuban prison unless the U.S. State Department shuts down its programs supporting democracy and human rights in Cuba. This conclusion is faulty, if not utterly ridiculous. Gross, who worked for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor, is serving a 15-year jail sentence for trying to help Havana's Jewish community connect to the Internet, an act most of the world does not recognize as a crime. In 2009, Gross was seized just before he was scheduled to fly home to the United States and held for 14 months before any charges were filed against him. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has aptly described him as a "hostage."

What seems to gall Schneiderman is not Gross' imprisonment, but rather that Congress mandated the democracy-promotion program in Cuba in the first place. Schneiderman characterizes the U.S. government's continuation of such programs as a failed opportunity to do away with "the antiquated politics of the Cold War." He is correct that the programs are modeled on those that successfully cracked the Iron Curtain and that, after the collapse of European communism, were wholeheartedly endorsed by Lech Walesa, Václav Havel, and others. But he is wrong to call the program "antiquated" when Cuba remains a Stalinist-style state. The programs' fundamental goal remains to break through the Castro regime's control of information that isolates the Cuban people and keeps them in bondage.

That the democracy-promotion program annoys the Cuban regime does not make it a failure of U.S. foreign policy. In fact, there is no evidence to support Schneiderman's claim that canceling the program would have freed Gross or produced other tangible benefits.  The author recounts a 2010 conversation between Fulton Armstrong, a senior adviser to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and "high-level Cuban officials." Armstrong is quoted as telling the Cubans that the democracy programs were "stupid." He continued, "We're cleaning them up. Just give us time, because politically we can't kill them." Armstrong then asked, "Will this help you release Alan Gross?" to which he believes the Cubans said yes. This misses the fact that when it comes to Cuba, only two people are empowered to say yes -- Raúl and Fidel Castro. And the Castros have a long history of biting any hand of friendship extended to them.

Indeed, even though Congress placed a hold on funding for the democracy program in 2010, Gross was tried and sentenced in March 2011. Washington may have had other reasons to think Cuba would be releasing Gross, but he did not come home with either former President Jimmy Carter nor Richardson, both of whom traveled to Havana.

By now, this story should be all too familiar. As president, Carter attempted reconciliation, establishing the U.S. Special Interests Section in Havana and making efforts at establishing some form of diplomatic relations. Castro's response was to export thousands of prison inmates and patients from insane asylums to Florida, to send Cuban troops to fight a war in Angola in support of Soviet interests, and to assist anti-American insurgencies in Central America. Later, when U.S. President Bill Clinton again sought to improve relations, Fidel ordered two unarmed, civilian American aircraft shot down over the Straits of Florida in international waters. In response to U.S. President Barack Obama's attempts to reduce the animosity between the two countries by easing trade restrictions and lifting limits on remittances, Raúl Castro -- who has taken over for Fidel -- not only ignored the president's suggestion that Cuba reduce its taxes on remittances but also jailed Gross.

Gross is not the only person who has been punished for supporting human rights on the island. The regime has detained and expelled many visitors who dared to meet with dissidents. Among them were the current foreign minister of the Czech Republic; a cabinet secretary from Spain; Dutch, German, and European parliament members; journalists; and human rights activists. Gross' imprisonment -- set against the background of the continued repression of Cubans, the harsh punishment meted out to dissidents, and the refusal to allow prison inspections by international organizations -- should serve as a wake-up call to those proposing unilateral concessions for the sake of normalization with Havana. Appeasement does not discourage the bad behavior of dictators; it emboldens it.

The time to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba will come only when Havana begins taking steps toward democracy and a free-market economy and reconsiders its alliances with North Korea, Syria, and other U.S. adversaries. Releasing Gross would be one indication that Cuba is ready to change. Obama ought to tell Raúl Castro that the United States holds him personally responsible for Gross' well-being. Similarly, policy decisions that have increased and allowed remittances and encouraged American tourists to travel to the island can be reversed and revisited. Cuba has always played hardball, and if Castro's government wants to continue its ways, the United States is not without rackets.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for the latest on Egypt, Israel and Gaza with Jonathan Sacerdoti, Director of the London-based Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy.

Then, The Cordoba Group's Joseph Humire, a global security expert, on the case of a former Iranian Central Bank Governor caught in Germany with a $70 million check from the Venezuelan government.

Dr. David Mindell, a Professor of History and Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), on drone warfare.

And Delphine Halgand, Director of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, on the organization's 2013 Press Freedom Index.

You can 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).

On Pope Benedict XVI's Retirement

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement.

We wish the Pope well in his retirement years.

Moreover, we pray his successor will not forget those Cuban activists who were imprisoned during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba last year -- and who still remain imprisoned.

Namely, Sonia Garro.

Sonia Garro, a member of The Ladies in White pro-democracy movement, has been imprisoned by the Castro regime -- without trial or charges -- since March 18th, 2012.

In the wave of repression leading up to Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Cuba, Castro's secret police raider her home, shot her with rubber bullets and imprisoned her.

She has been repeatedly abused and beaten in the infamous Manto Negro women's prison.

Castro's China Bubble Burst

Sunday, February 10, 2013
Another one of the recent myths regarding Castro's Cuba was that China had become a major source of financing and investment.

We always held this was false, for this 2010 State Department cable (released by Wikileaks) had revealed the Chinese regime's frustrations in doing business with the Castro brothers.

Yet, that didn't stop Cuba "experts" from heralding the next year:

"In a major endorsement for Cuba’s economic reform project, the man expected to become China’s president in 2013 witnessed the signing of 13 agreements in Havana that include the billion-dollar expansion of a refinery, the extension of fresh loans, and an agreement to set a five-year cooperation plan."

Well, so much for that.

According to Reuters today, that bubble (like others before it) has burst:

"People involved in the expansion said more than two years ago China would build and finance the project, with the money backed by Venezuelan oil. But the deal has never taken wings.

Nothing has been disclosed publicly and the Chinese have been mostly silent on the matter. However, sources say China has never signed a final agreement due to questions ranging from Chavez' health to future oil and natural gas supplies to whether the project will be built by Chinese or Cuban workers."