The Faces of Democracy in Venezuela

Saturday, April 13, 2013
Meet Venezuela's courageous student movement, which seek fair elections tomorrow and an end to the Castro's assault on democracy there.

It's called "Operation Sovereignty" ("Operacion Soberania").

Click below to watch:

We Need a "Dennis Rodman Rule"

By Mike Gonzalez in Fox News:

We need a 'Dennis Rodman rule' for celebrities who travel to rogue nations

The quiet dignity of Rosa Maria Paya was unmistakable Tuesday as she asked the international community to pressure Cuba’s government into allowing a plebiscite on democracy and for an investigation into the murder of her father, dissident leader Oswaldo Paya.

Her poise also offered a sharp contrast to the spectacle unfolding in her country with a visit there by celebrity Beyonce and rapper Jay-Z.

“It would be nice if the Cuban government were peaceful and respectful,” she told a crowd at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C., “but that's not true because state security of this government calls my family's house to say ‘I'm going to kill you.’ They did it before my father’s death and they still do it.” She was flanked by pro-democracy campaigners from left to right and by Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

Celebrities who disregard the lives of millions, by celebrating those who torment them, deserve our contempt when they return home.

“I’m sorry, but things are not nice right now in my country. The Cuban people are in a real dangerous situation,” she said. The international community must “stop the impunity of the government inside the island.”

Oswaldo Paya, a truly audacious dissident who endured decades of threats and insults against himself and his family, was killed in a car crash last July 22. The driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero, says the car was rear-ended by a state security vehicle chasing them. The Cuban government denies the charge. Take your pick.

The courage of Cuba’s dissidents as they brave incarceration, beatings and assassination to stand up for what we take for granted in this country is one of the untold stories of our times. What we are seeing on our screens, instead, is the disgraceful free propaganda that Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z are giving to Cuba’s tormentors.

If they knew the racism that is practiced on a daily basis against Cuba’s blacks, especially Afro-Cuban dissidents, the couple would have perhaps thought twice about going to the island nation.

They could, for example, have watched this video released just last week by the Castro regime to see how the leader of The Ladies in White dissident movement, Berta Soler, is depicted as an ape just because she’s black.

Or, before donning a Che Guevara T-shirt, Jay-Z might have contemplated that the great revolutionary once said of blacks, “The n***** is indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent.”

We need a Dennis Rodman Rule, named after the exotic erstwhile basketball star who went to Pyongyang to fete the dictator Kim Jong Eun just weeks before the North Korean threatened to blow the world to smithereens in a fit of pique. The rule should be: celebrities who disregard the lives of millions by celebrating those who torment them deserve only our contempt upon their return home.

Our reverence and support should be saved for the Rosa Maria Payas and Berta Solers of this world. The long-suffering dissidents in Cuba -- and elsewhere -- deserve nothing less.

Must-Read: Hollywood Director's Letter to Jay-Z on Cuba Trip

Friday, April 12, 2013
By Hollywood Director Phil Lord ("21 Jump Street," "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs") in Huffington Post:

An Open Letter to Jay-Z

Dear Mr. Z,

I just heard your new track, “Open Letter,” released today. It’s got everything I love about your music: looping internal rhymes, an infectious beat, and imagery that draws me into a kind of swaggering, defiant fantasy.

Speaking of defiant fantasies, I’ve been following news of your recent trip to the island nation of Cuba. As the son of a Cuban refugee, and cousin and nephew to many Cubans on the island, I cringe when Americans visit Cuba for a fun island vacation. For one thing it’s illegal (which nobody seems to care about), but more importantly, it's either ignorant of or calloused to the struggles of Cubans on the island. I actually encourage my friends to travel to Cuba, to bear witness to one of the great tragedies of our time, to learn about the real Cuba, to put a human face on the caricature of Americans that the Castros propagate. Exchange and travel between our two nations should be a catalyst for change, as it has been even in my own family. But for me, Cuba is not the place to have a fun, sexy, vacation. Because for Cubans on the island and living elsewhere, it’s not.

So when I heard of your visit, I thought to myself, Jay Z seems like a smart, thoughtful guy. He doesn't realize what he's walking into. He probably just thinks Cuba is a chic place to relax with the family. He probably just doesn’t know the things I know.

He likely doesn’t know that the Cuban tourism industry is run by the Cuban military, so when he spends money at an officially sanctioned hotel, or restaurant, he is directly funding the oppressors of the Cuban people.

He doesn’t know that most Cubans have poor access to independent news sources, the internet, books, and food.

He doesn’t know that Cuba has two health systems, one for the well-connected, and one for everyone else.

He doesn’t know that before Castro, the Cuban peso traded one-to-one with the dollar, and that since then, the Castros have raided the nation’s coffers and introduced widespread poverty to a once prosperous nation.

He doesn’t know that my ancestors fought to free Cuba from Spain, and to set up a democracy to ensure that they would always be free.

He doesn’t know that in spite of those dreams, my mother and her family fled for their lives from this regime way back in 1960, as did *two million* other Cubans.

He doesn’t know about the thousands of people executed by firing squads led by sexy t-shirt icon Che Guevara.

He doesn’t know about the dissidents, artists, and librarians that currently rot in Cuba’s prisons, and the thousands more who live in fear.

He doesn’t know about Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an Afro-Cuban dissident who died in a Cuban prison in 2010 after an 80-day hunger strike.

He doesn’t know that a U.S. Citizen, Alan Gross, is currently serving a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison for providing phones and computers to the members of the Cuban Jewish community. He doesn't know that all attempts by our government and private citizens to secure his release have been scoffed at.

He has likely forgotten about all those who have died in the Florida Straits, trying to float on makeshift boats to freedom.

He doesn’t know that contrary to popular understanding, Amnesty International reports that repression of dissidents in Cuba is actually on the rise.

He doesn’t know that when an international music luminary shows up in Cuba, his presence is unwittingly used as propaganda to support the regime.

He doesn’t know that artists in Cuba, with whom he was supposedly having a cultural exchange, serve under the close supervision of the government, and don’t enjoy the freedom to defiantly name check the President, call out a few senators, threaten to buy a kilo of cocaine just to spite the government, or suggest that they will follow up their purchase with a shooting spree, as rapped about in "Open Letter."

He doesn’t know that just because our country applies a different, some say hypocritical policy to China, it doesn’t make either regime any less oppressive, or any more acceptable.

He doesn’t know that when people say “I’ve got to visit Cuba before it gets ruined,” I think to myself, “It’s already ruined. And by the way, ruined by what? freedom of speech? walls that don’t crumble? shoes? Do you mean ruin Cuba? Or ruin your fashionable vacation in Cuba?”

He doesn’t know that when I really start to think about all this, I get so mad I can’t sleep.

He doesn’t know that when he’s wearing that hat, smoking that coveted contraband cigar, he looks like a dupe.

He doesn't know how much good he could be doing in Cuba, for Cubans, instead. Bearing witness, supporting artistic freedom, listening.

He doesn't realize that as someone privileged to be born in a free society, one in which someone could come from nothing and become a celebrated music, sports, fashion, business and political mogul, it's not only his good luck to be able to bring to light the needs of the less fortunate, it's his obligation.

But then, Jay-Z, I heard your new song, and paid attention to the lyrics.

I heard you bragging about your “White House clearance.”

I heard you talk about how much you enjoy Cuban cigars.

And I heard you tell the President I voted for, “You don’t need this shit anyway, chill with me on the beach.”

You reject the responsibility to speak up for an oppressed people, even while you take up your own cause with gusto.

Then I figured it out.

You actually know all of this stuff, you just don't care.

That's not just being a bad citizen, or a bad neighbor.

It's being a bad artist.

It's Nihilism with a beat.

-Phil Lord.

Jay-Z Ignores Cuba's Real Heroes

By Fabiola Santiago in The Miami Herald:

Jay-Z ignores Cuba’s real heroes  

It’s not difficult to clear up the confusion the “street cred” self-conscious Jay-Z expressed in the rap he quickly penned upon his return from Cuba, Open Letter.

Jay-Z can’t understand why it’s so wrong to kiss up to the Communist Cuban regime if the microphone he’s holding is made in China, a Communist country too.

Let me boil it down to one thought:

The repressed people Jay-Z doesn’t mind keeping chained to a white, geriatric dictatorship of five decades — the Fidel and Raúl Castro dynasty that has already prepped and designated another white heir — are his brothers.

Talking down at them from his rich man’s stogie-smoking perch rings of self-loathing.

What’s difficult to understand is not where China fits in, but why there’s little or no sympathy for Cuba’s dissidents among the civic black leadership of the United States, among the literati and the entertainers, when many of the leaders of the Cuban dissident movement are black.

Want to talk “revolution” and “jail time”?

Talk to Berta Soler, the black leader of the Ladies in White, who marches every Sunday to church — despite the government mobs that accost her — with other mothers, daughters and wives of political prisoners imprisoned for their beliefs.

Talk to her. She’ll be in Miami soon, traveling here from Europe, where pro-Castro mobs have stalked her and disrupted her forums.

Or Google any of these brave black Cubans who have paid dearly, with real jail time, for peacefully standing up to the human-rights abuses of the regime that Jay-Z finds so acceptable: Dr. Oscar Biscet, Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez,” and the man who gave his life to call attention to Cubans’ plight, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

And let’s not forget Jay-Z’s rapper brothers. Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga is on the 17th day of a hunger strike to protest his jailing over the rap lyrics that call for the people of his town to stand up to abuse.

Do you get it, Jay-Z, that when you take the side of the dictatorship, you negate yourself?

No? Then it’s not about truth or ethics, is it?

It’s about merchandising at all costs.

That cliché of a T-shirt you wear with the iconic image of a racist, a homophobe and an executioner — aka Ernesto “Che” Guevara. That rap of yours — “I’m like Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex” — is not complex at all.

It’s endorsing a self-obsessed adventurer who penned observations about European supremacy over “the Negro,” and who sought to marginalize black Cubans from the Revolution because he thought they hadn’t earned a place in the battlefield.

While clueless millionaire performers traipse through Cuban streets in caricature mode, Cuban dissidents take real risks and make real revolution.

The only reason to care is because Jay-Z and wife Beyoncé gave the Castro dictatorship just what it needed — a diversion from the travels of the Cuban dissidents circling the world and lifting the veil on human-rights abuses.

But you can’t hide from truth forever. Not even when you’ve got bling.

Crazy in Love: Jay-Z and Beyonce's Cuba Problem

By Mercedes Viana Schlapp in U.S. News & World Report:

Crazy in Love: Jay-Z and Beyonce's Cuba Problem

Part of me believes that Beyonce and Jay-Z were naïve when they chose to celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary in Cuba. However, as the daughter of a former political prisoner in Cuba, I would argue that they should have known better than to travel to the island and support its repressive regime.

The Cuban people do not live in freedom. They are closely monitored by the Castro regime and are restrained from openly criticizing the government. Cuba is a nation stuck in time, and the regime's complete control of businesses, the press and the Internet has kept the Cuban people from advancing and achieving their dreams. They are too busy trying to figure out where they will get their next meal to feed their families. They are impoverished and lack any real opportunity for economic prosperity and self-actualization – all in the name of Castro's revolution.

The money spent by these superstars on their vacation only benefits the Cuban regime because, as Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen explained, "Cuba's tourism industry is wholly state-controlled." Perhaps the couple strolled passed my father's old business office that was taken away by the Cuban government. The regime has no respect for individual rights.

Beyonce and Jay-Z simply appear to have no knowledge of the tragic history and current living conditions, political distress and human rights abuses in Cuba. If Beyonce and Jay-Z had been born and raised in Cuba, they would have merely survived, with no opportunity to realize their aspirations. Only in a land that treasures liberty and the pursuit of happiness can such dreams become a reality.

While the flashy couple celebrated in Cuba, Cuban dissidents continue to rot in jail for decades for simply disagreeing with the government. The communist regime continues the beatings and constant detentions, threatens their families and forces many dissidents into exile only to keep a tight control of their communist revolution.

Last year, 31-year-old political prisoner Wilmar Villar Mendoza died in jail after a hunger strike. The government rounded up 50 to 80 dissidents who were planning to attend the funeral, and they harassed Villar's family. Before he died, Villar was stripped naked and placed in solidarity confinement. After his death, the Cuban government brushed off any criticisms from the outside.

The stories from the political prisoners who have survived are countless and they should never be forgotten. They have seen their colleagues executed. They have been tortured, humiliated and harassed because of their political views.

Then there is the depressing case of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba and was convicted of charges against the state. He brought over communications equipment into Cuba as part of the USAID democracy-building program. The Cuban government has no regards for his deteriorating health and no intention of releasing him in the near future.

How unfortunate that Beyonce and Jay-Z made no mention or even showed any empathy toward this American citizen who was wrongly accused or any of the Cuban political prisoners. They lack any true interest in plight of the Cuban people.

It is also disappointing but not surprising when we listen to Jay-Z rap that he is "like Che Guevara with bling."  Does Jay-Z really want to be associated with a Marxist revolutionary who left behind a trail of murder and torture?

CNN's Anderson Cooper is mistaken when he talked about Beyonce: "It's her world and we are just living in it." We can't live in Beyonce's world of ignorance, insensitivity and indifference. As Americans, we should be aware of how other human beings around the world and in our own backyard are deprived of freedom and harassed because of their beliefs.

Unfortunately, Beyonce and Jay-Z failed to learn about the tragic human rights abuses and lack of freedom for the Cuban people, which is why the Obama Administration may have to justify how this elite couple's anniversary trip complies with U.S. law and regulations regarding travel to Cuba.

Have You Asked For #5Mins4Berta?

With his new song "Open Letter," rapper Jay-Z has made it clear that he's not interested in lending a hand to Cuba's imprisoned rappers.

But there's still hope for Beyonce.

So join the Twitter campaign: #5Mins4Berta

At the end of this month, the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, will be visiting the U.S.

The Ladies in White are a pro-democracy group composed of the mothers, wives, daughter, sisters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners. Every Sunday they march through the streets of various Cuban cities -- dressed in white -- calling for freedom and democracy. They are constantly harassed, beaten and arrested by the Castro regime.

Ask Beyonce to take five minutes to meet with Berta Soler and to learn first-hand (since she didn't do it in Cuba) what these courageous women risk and endure for human freedom.

Here's a sample tweet:

@Beyonce should meet with @DamasdBlanco leader Berta Soler and support the same freedom of expression in #Cuba as in the US. #5mins4Berta

Tweet of the Day: Two Rappers Imprisoned in Cuba

Thursday, April 11, 2013
The two rappers referred to in this Tweet are:

1. Angel Remon Arzuaga - from the hip-hip duo “Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso” (‘The Unwanted Children’), who has been in jail since March 21st for his lyrics. Angel is on the 16th day of a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.

2. Marcos Máiquel Lima Cruz - imprisoned on Christmas Day 2010, along with his brother Antonio Michel (released in October 2012), during a private party at their home in Cuba. Their crime? Listening to an underground hip-hop group ("Los Aldeanos"), whose lyrics criticize the government.

Here's a picture of Marcos and Antonio:

Must-Read: Open Letter to Jay

By Chris Gueits:

Open Letter to Jay

When you turned that 250 into half a man,
Your words inspired me, I am a fan.
I do idolize my favorite rapper
And know all his songs.
But you’ve contradicted yourself,
So you need this now.

It’s not about politicians or my parents,
I don’t agree with either, neither.
But before you turn Havana into Atlanta
With Guayaberas and a Guantanamera,
Do your own research.
The truth might hurt.

But look, don’t take it from me,
go talk to Aldo and El B.
That’s Cuba’s Jay, and they don’t play.
Literally. They don’t play
On a stage cause their freedom was slain.

Black Cubans? Ask ‘em about expression.
Talk to Jorge Luis or Guillermo
AKA Cuba’s Y2K MLK.
Meet Berta Soler and see how it’d be
If Voletta were dragged through the streets.
Need one more Cubano? Ask about Zurbano.

See it ain’t about your bread or your fame.
I salute that, you earned it. No shame.
It ain’t about politicians making noise, either.
Look deeper.

You like Cubans? The people.
They’re beautiful and brilliant.
Full of potential, they’re hungry.
Something like a Young Hov in Marcy.

So before that revolution has you shootin’,
Open your eyes,
So you won’t miss history’s sheep in disguise.

Happy Anniversary to you and Bey.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 44

From Politico:

Rapper Jay-Z released a new track Thursday in which he boasts about his recent trip to Cuba with superstar Beyoncé and says that President Barack Obama told him he’d get him “impeached.”

U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC co-founder and director Mauricio Claver-Carone noted that while Jay-Z released his song in which he declares “hear the freedom in my speech,” rapper Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga was jailed last month in Cuba for protest lyrics against the Cuban government.

“It’s easy here in the freedom of the U.S. for Jay-Z to release a song full of bravado jabbing at his critics and President Obama, but in Cuba a young rapper Angel Remon Arzuaga, from the hip-hip duo ‘Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso’ (‘The Unwanted Children’), is rotting away in prison for daring to criticize the Castro regime — that takes real bravado,” Claver-Carone told POLITICO.

While Jay-Z Raps in Freedom, Cuban Rapper Still Imprisoned for Lyrics

American hip-hop star Jay-Z has just released a song "Open Letter" regarding his trip to Cuba.

It's full of bravado towards all of us who have raised concerns about the insensitivity of his trip to Cuba last week. And surely, he'll make millions from it.

Ironically, he refers to his freedom of expression in the song. We praise and defend his freedom to do so.  Good for him.

But that doesn't change the fact that there's still a young Cuban rapper, Angel Remon Arzuaga, from the hip-hip duo “Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso” (‘The Unwanted Children’), who has been in jail since March 21st for his lyrics.

Angel is on the 16th day of a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.

His aunt is Jacqueline Garcia Jaenz, a member of the Ladies in White, was also arrested at the time and beaten in front of her underage daughter.  Her husband, Ariel Arzuaga Pena, is behind bars for his peaceful opposition to the Cuban regime.

Like Angel, other Cuban rappers, such as Primario y Julito, Los Aldeanos, Eskuadron Patriota, and Omni-Zona Franca are constantly battling the Castro regime's censorship and repression.

Jay-Z could have dropped a lyric for them.

It's too bad he didn't -- for they epitomize bravado.

OLPL: On Business With the Castro Regime

During an interview with TV Marti this week, Cuban artist and blogger, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, expressed his frustration with the dealings of foreign governments and companies with the Castro regime.

Pardo Lazo, who accompanied fellow blogger Yoani Sanchez during her visit to New York and Washington D.C., stated:

"No one tells the Cuban government that the next investment for this port or for that project will no longer be available because it is violating the fundamental human rights of its citizens.  It is being assumed that there are no Cuban citizens.  Since we have been displaced by the Cuban government for decades, they act as if there's nothing to discuss with the Cuban people.  So they only speak with the repressors of the Cuban people, with the functionaries of the Cuban government."

We couldn't agree more.

Sadly, some want the U.S. to act in the same fashion.

U.S. Senators Meet With Rosa Maria Paya

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Senators Meet With Rosa Maria Payá, Discuss Democracy In Cuba

Senators Renew Call for Investigation into Death of Payá's Father, Oswaldo, A Political Reformer

Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan group of Senators met with Rosa Maria Payá, the daughter of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá, in the U.S. Capitol today, to discuss democratic reforms in Cuba and to reiterate their call for an investigation into Mr. Payá’s troubling death last year in which he, and youth activist Harold Cepero, were killed in a suspicious car accident.

The meeting today was hosted by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and was attended by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). Last month, the four Senators sent a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, urging the Commission to investigate Mr. Payá’s death. A copy of the letter is available here.

“Oswaldo Payá’s death has meant other courageous Cuban democracy leaders must continue the work of fighting for their freedom and exposing the regime’s cruelty. It is our job to support these leaders that Oswaldo inspired and laid the groundwork for, while holding the regime accountable for his death,” said Rubio. “Despite her tragic loss, Rosa Maria Payá is a courageous woman who deserves the support of the United States and entire international community in getting real answers on Oswaldo’s death through an independent investigation.”

“Oswaldo Payá’s death was a tragic blow to the peaceful and courageous democracy movement in Cuba and deserves a full and open investigation,” Durbin said. “Rosa Maria’s tireless efforts to call attention to her father’s death show that efforts to reform the political climate in Cuba will not be easily silenced. We stand with Oswaldo, Rosa Maria, and the thousands of Cubans calling for peaceful reforms in their country.”

“Rosa Maria’s commitment to carry on her father’s work without fear is demonstrative of her ceaseless commitment and that of many in Cuba’s peaceful dissident community to demand political reform in Cuba. Unfortunately, oppression in Cuba in the last year has escalated with more violent attacks, detentions and arrests. The murder of Oswlado Paya is symbolic of the ends to which the regime will go to threaten and obstruct the growing chorus of voices calling for change in Cuba. I both honor and admire the work being carried on by Rosa Maria in honor of her father and was very pleased to welcome her to the Capitol today and hear her father’s story,” Menendez said.

“Oswaldo Payá will forever be remembered as one of Cuba’s best known dissidents,” Nelson said. “But the causes that he championed — freedom of speech, press and enterprise — continue to elude the Cuban people. That’s why a thorough independent investigation into his death is so critical. Without it, further reform is easily undermined or avoided, altogether.”

Oswaldo Payá was the founder of the Verela Project, a petition drive that peacefully sought greater political freedom for Cubans. The Cuban Constitution guaranteed the right to a national referendum on any proposal that achieved 10,000 or more signatures from Cuban citizens eligible to vote. In May 2002, the Varela Project delivered 11,020 valid signatures to the Cuban National Assembly calling for an end to four decades of one-party rule.

As a result of these efforts, Mr. Payá and his colleagues faced sustained harassment and as many as 25 of its leaders were jailed as part of massive round up of dissidents, known as the Black Spring. Payá’s nonviolent attempt to seek political change was celebrated around the world, earning him a number of awards including the European Union’s Sakharov Prize and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination from former Czech President Václav Havel.

Since his death, Rosa Maria Payá has traveled the world in an attempt to highlight her father’s death and the need for political reforms in Cuba. In March, Ms. Payá appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, where she asked the international body to investigate her father’s death.

U.S. Rep. DeSantis: Stand for Cuban People, Not Castro

Great remarks by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) today on Fox News.

Click below to watch:

WaPost: Paya's Fight for Democracy Lives On

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Oswaldo Payá’s fight for a democratic Cuba lives on

A CAR WRECK on a road outside of Bayamo, Cuba, last July 22 tragically took the life of dissident Oswaldo Payá and youth activist Harold Cepero. The circumstances of their deaths are suspicious and need investigation. But whoever attempted to kill Mr. Payá could not extinguish his message. On Tuesday, a forceful exponent of that message, Mr. Payá’s daughter Rosa Maria, brought it to Washington.

The message is that genuine democratic change of the kind Mr. Payá sought has not yet come to Cuba. Cosmetic “reforms” have been launched, intended to impress the outside world while preserving the Castro regime’s grip on power. Ms. Payá cautioned that these “false images” must not be confused with political and economic freedom, which Cubans do not yet enjoy. 

“It would be nice,” Ms. Payá declared at a forum of the National Endowment for Democracy, if people in Cuba could speak freely, travel without restriction, carry out business with whomever they like and live free of the fear of arbitrary arrest or violence. But none of these rights exists. “I’m sorry, but things are not nice right now in my country,” she said, “although a lot of Cubans are working for real change and this is definitely the nice part.”

Indeed, Ms. Payá suggests that Cuba is at an inflection point. Her father worked hard to prepare the groundwork for a transition to democracy. Now, with Fidel and Raul Castro in their sunset years, such a transition is no longer a distant dream. For a decade, Mr. Payá had been working on a petition demanding political freedoms in Cuba. When he presented the petition to the National Assembly in 2002, he had 11,020 signatures; now there are more than 25,000. “My father knew he was close to the moment,” she told us during a visit to The Post Tuesday afternoon.

The transition must make democracy “legal, specific and real,” she declared, and not give way to another thinly veiled brand of authoritarianism. “We don’t need another Russia or China,” she said. “Today, my father’s voice reminds us that all dictatorships have no political color — not right or left, they are only dictatorships.”

For many Cubans who worked with Mr. Payá, these are dangerous times, as the government continues to repress alternative voices and harass those who demand basic rights. There are signs that some people are shedding their fears, Ms. Payá observed, but it is not because the state has loosened its grip. Ms. Payá and her family have been targets of death threats. “We need the international community to pay attention,” she said, not avert its gaze.

For the last few weeks, permitted to travel abroad, Ms. Payá has spoken out courageously in support of her father’s dream of a participatory democracy in Cuba. She has echoed his oft-expressed wish for forgiveness, but Cuba’s future cannot be built on a falsified past or an obliterated truth. The first step is to fully and completely investigate the death of Oswaldo Payá and then to see Cuba toward the new horizon of freedom Mr. Payá envisioned and his daughter so eloquently describes.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an update on the upcoming elections in Venezuela with The Heritage Foundation's Dr. Ray Walser.

Then, Rick Newman, chief business correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, on what a war in the Koreas would mean for the U.S. economy.

University of London's Dr. Tim Bale will discuss the legacy of deceased British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

And the Washington Institute's Aaron Zelin on al-Qaeda's presence in Syria.

You can listen to "From Washington al Mundo" 7-days a week on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. EST.

Must-Read: Rosa Maria Paya on the Truth of Castro's "Reforms"

Excerpt from Rosa Maria Paya's remarks today at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington D.C.:

It would be nice if the Cuban government were making democratic reforms, but that's not true because these reforms have not given human rights to Cuban citizens.

It would be nice if Cubans could travel freely, but that's not true because the government has to allow the persons to obtain their passport and this is conditioned.

It would be nice if the economic reforms delivered self-management to citizens, but that's not true because Cubans are not free to do business with anybody at any moment.

It would be nice if the Cuban government were opening a transition process, but that's not true because the repression against the members of our movement and the whole opposition has increased.

It wold be nice if the Cuban government were peaceful and respectful, but that's not true because the state security of this government calls my family's house to say "I'm going to kill you."  They did it before my father's death and they still do it.

I'm sorry, but things are not nice right now in my country. Although a lot of Cubans are working for real changes -- and this is definitely the nice part.

My father Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero dedicated their life to fight for democracy of Cuba.  They were working on effective and peaceful alternatives -- instruments that can be implemented during the transition process.

They were strongly denouncing the "fraud change" that is taking place in the island.

And what is the "fraud change"?

The "fraud change" is this big process in which the Cuban government and its accomplices have developed a series of legal reforms and public messages designed to preserve its power and its authority.

They are trying to sell to the international community false images of opening wide. At the same time, the violent aggression against opposition members and their families have increased.

These new laws not only confirm the government control.  They also maintain the discrimination against Cuban citizens and do not guarantee citizen's rights.

Wasserman-Schultz Questions "People-to-People" Travel

From Sun-Sentinel:

“I’m absolutely uncomfortable with the way, and concerned about, not just Jay-Z and Beyoncé but some of the travel, the 'people to people' travel, that has been occurring in Cuba, has resulted,” [U.S. Rep. Debbie] Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said in a brief interview Tuesday with the Sun Sentinel.

 “I would be interested to know what type of people to people qualifying activity they did during their trip. The travel that exists in Cuba that was allowed by the Obama administration was specifically to make sure that you could have educational opportunities and there is supposed to be interaction at every step of a trip between the participants and the Cuban people. And I hope that that happened with this particular trip. We need to make sure that people to people travel complies with the law,” she said.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 43

In The Miami Herald:

The much challenged trip to Cuba last week by music royalty Beyoncé and Jay-Z was legally licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department as “educational travel,” according to the letter by a top department official.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, a Cuban American activist who has long criticized the people-to-people category as opening the door to disguised tourism, said the report that the two entertainers were in Havana under that category trip proved his point.

“This just makes it easier to show that these trips are abused,” said Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S. Cuba Democracy political action committee.

Rodman Endorses Beyoncé, Jay-Z's Cuba Trip

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
And the world is worse for it.

Did Beyoncé, Jay-Z Pull a Rodman?

From Politico:

Some Cuban politicos suggested Tuesday that Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s eyebrow raising vacation to Cuba last week showed the cultural awareness of another celebrity’s recent travels.

“To pull a Dennis Rodman in North Korea and be completely unaware of your surroundings or the conditions? I hope Jay-Z and Beyoncé were not ignorant to this,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, the co-founder and director for the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, to POLITICO. “Their entire trip was manipulated by that government and that’s sad because there are people in Cuba that Beyoncé and Jay-Z ignored who dream of being like them but don’t have that opportunity.”

Reports surfaced last week that the couple toured Cuba during their fifth wedding anniversary, launching some politicians — including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — to demand answers for why the duo was able to get approval into the country. White House press secretary Jay Carney downplayed the situation on Monday, saying President Barack Obama’s administration had nothing to do with it.

Frank Calzon, executive director of The Center for a Free Cuba, told POLITICO that she and her husband should have met with the female activists in the country who have peacefully protested for years for better treatment from the government.

“It’s fine to talk to the government if they want to but they also ought to talk to the Ladies in White – many of whom happen to be black,” Calzon said. “These are the wives, daughters and sisters of those who have been unlawfully jailed for protesting against the government. They are regularly beaten by Cuban cops when they try to go to mass while holding a flower and wearing all-white. It would’ve been great for these two artists to meet with them, to hear their stories.”

Cuban activist Berta Antunez told POLITICO that most Cubans “think very little” of celebrity trips to the country.

“The actual Cuban people think very little of these types of visits,” said Antunez, a member of the Ladies in White, through a translator. “The Cuban people lack many freedoms, lack the rights to express themselves freely and lack democracy. Women in Cuba in particular are being repressed, particularly black women activists, who are being punished three times: for being an activist, black and a woman.”

Claver-Carone urged the hip-hop couple to follow rock star activist Bono’s lead. He said that perhaps Beyoncé should consider meeting with famous Cuban activist Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, who is planning a visit to America in the coming weeks.

“I think it would be extraordinarily meaningful,” he said. “Not all artists can be Bono – and I for one recognize that. But Bono, for us he is a model.”

During a June 2011 concert in Miami, the U2 frontman urged Cuba’s government to release of activist Dr. Óscar Elias Biscet while introducing U2’s hit song “Walk On.” A couple of months later he was released. Claver-Carone noted that Cuban rapper Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga of the hip-hop duo Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso (The Unwanted Children) was jailed March 21 for anti-government lyrics and suggested that Jay-Z take the Bono route and advocate for his release.

“His dream is to be Jay-Z,” he said. “Maybe Jay-Z can do something like Bono did.”

As for Beyoncé, this is not the first time she has stepped into political controversy. Long before she was criticized for lip-synching the National Anthem earlier this year during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, she drew fire for performing at the New Year’s Eve party of deceased Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s entourage. She reportedly donated the $1 million she earned during the 2009 party to charity.

Claver-Carone compared the trip when Rodman, a former NBA player, visited North Korea in February. Claver-Carone said the trip was “manipulated” by the Cuban government and noted that some of the first images of the duo were released by Cuba’s government — not the media.

“When you choose to go to countries like North Korea like Dennis Rodman or like Cuba, then there’s a responsibility that comes with that,” he said.

He added: “Their guides are the same people beating up those people on the streets. You see the pictures and they were looking around at the Cuban people like they were at a zoo. There are real people.”

Who Jay-Z Should Have Visited in Cuba

Last week, American hip-hop star Jay-Z was toured around Havana's "foreigner-friendly zone" by the Castro regime's "cultural minders."

What a wasted opportunity.

Instead, Jay-Z could have visited Alamar, the heart of Cuba's hip-hop movement, and visited with Omni Zona Franca and the 27 Cuban hip-hop artists that composed the song "Protesto" ('Protesto'), which speaks for itself.

It's about the repression, injustices and discrimination Cuban hip-hop artists face under a totalitarian dictatorship.

Of course, the Castro regime would have pulled the red carpet.

Check it out:

House Foreign Affairs Committee: Letter to Beyonce and Jay-Z

The Chairman of the House of Representative's Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), and its Ranking Member, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), have sent the following letter to American pop stars Beyonce and Jay-Z regarding their trip to Cuba:
 
WHEM Knowles-Carter Cuba visit.ltr -

What Can Castro Offer Foreign Investors?

By Cuban economist Elias Amor in Americas Quarterly:

What Can the Cuban Regime Offer to International Investors?

Given Cuba’s imminent loss of subsidies and other types of donations from Venezuela, various media outlets have broadcast the Castro regime’s supposed strategy to attract foreign investments to the island. Like actors in a road movie, the authorities of the Cuban regime have gone on a crazed search for investments as if time were running out.

To develop their projects, private business people who invest in Cuba are obliged to accept conditions that do not correspond broadly with those established by international law in most other parts of the world. In Cuba, the lack of concrete opportunities to invest exacerbates the risk already associated with any investment.

This risk is rooted in the Stalinist nature of the regime, a system that penalizes property rights and the way resources are assigned to the market. State intervention substitutes for economic planning and tries to determine the areas where the international private investor can operate.

Face the facts: the regime that directs the lives and the destinies of Cubans wants to impose its own criteria on decisions made by foreign investors. It amounts to a kind of capitalist-monopolist socialism, in which the rationale for investment is systematically reduced.

In the globalized world of the twenty-first century, it makes sense to try to attract foreign investment. In fact, the modernization of any economy—including its opening to the world, its competitiveness and its capacity to generate employment and wealth—depends in large measure on doing just this.

But what can the Castro regime offer foreign investors?

Natural resources? This will not be easy, since the island’s supply of precious metals, oil, forestry resources and fisheries that could readily attract foreign investors is extremely limited. The land—highly unproductive through neglect and bad management—is the property of the state.

Solid and growing consumer demand?  Again, this is questionable since salaries in Cuba ($18 a month) and most Cubans’ acquisition of power is very limited.

High levels of R&D?  Inefficient state enterprises, abandoned to their fate by the political leadership, do not offer positive indicators or productivity. Also, R&D is localized in areas that the state refuses to open to foreign capital.

A banking system and consolidated capital markets? Nothing could be farther from reality. Until quite recently, all banking in the Castro economy was marginal and politically penalized. Banking in Cuba is light years away from where a financial system should be if it were to be compatible with foreign investment.

Attractive infrastructure and a high level of social income? This is doubtful in a country in which the share of gross capital formation as a percent of GDP barely reaches 9 percent, one of the lowest rates in Latin America.

Are there real opportunities to invest in Cuba? Even in potentially productive sectors—biotechnology, health, and tourism—the regime is not offering opportunities to foreign investors for the medium or long term. But these are precisely the ones that ought to be open.

The result is that the current attempt in Cuba to attract investors is nothing more than a show. Just like the attempt to create a list of occupations that are open to self-employment, or the renting of agricultural lands to the labor force, or the supposed opening of private lending by banks, the search for foreign investors is nothing more than a politically expedient move lacking all content. One cannot, of course, predict the outcome of Cuba’s search for foreign investors, but, by and large, it will be deficient. The reality is that control of the Cuban economy remains in the hands of state planners—the vast majority of property in Cuba is state-owned, and the economy is controlled by political considerations. Under such circumstances, there is no real reason to invest.

But even if the aforementioned considerations were not sufficient, the current crisis in financial markets hardly suggests that now is the moment to look for financing. Cuba is still resolving outstanding investment disputes at the Paris Club, among other places. Financial advisors to the Castro regime ought to insist that Cuba fulfill its responsibilities before mortgaging or selling the economy’s scant resources. The construction of a house never begins with the roof.

Join the #5mins4Berta Twitter Campaign

Monday, April 8, 2013
If you think Beyonce should take 5 minutes to meet with Ladies in White leader Berta Soler during her upcoming visit to the U.S. later this month, then join the Twitter campaign #5mins4Berta.

Here's a sample tweet:

@Beyonce should meet with @DamasdBlanco leader Berta Soler and support the same freedom of expression in #Cuba as in the US. #5mins4Berta

Beyonce Should Give Five Minutes to Berta

From The Miami Herald:

Mauricio Claver-Carone, an anti-Castro lobbyist in Washington who has denounced the couple’s visit to Cuba, said he only wants the singers to hear the arguments of people such as Berta Soler, leader of the dissident Ladies in White.

“The point is not to get them fined or reprimanded,” he said. “I just hope they can take five minutes to meet with someone like Berta Soler and hear their side, and I will be a happy camper.”

As the article notes,

Beyoncé is not new to political controversies, and in 2009 was paid $2 million by a son of Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi to perform at a New Years Eve bash in the British-run Caribbean island of St. Barts. She later donated the money to Haiti earthquake relief.

Beyonce corrected her controversial action then with a noble deed after -- can she do the same now?

Just give 5 minutes to Berta, who will be visiting the U.S. later this month.

Is that too much to ask?

Senator Rubio on Bey and Jey's Cuba Trip

Statement from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on American pop and hip-hop stars Beyonce and Jay-Z's trip to Cuba:

U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime.  Since their inception, the Obama Administration’s 'people to people' cultural exchange programs have been abused by tourists who have no interest in the Cuban people’s freedom and either don’t realize or don’t care that they’re essentially funding the regime’s systematic trampling of people’s human rights.

According to recent news reports, Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Cuba trip, which the regime seized on for propaganda purposes, was fully licensed by the Treasury Department.  If true, the Obama Administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”

Earlier today, Senator Rubio tweeted:
For more information on Angel Yunier Remon, click here.

Here's an interview with Angel from last year -- he's the second one from the left:

WSJ: How Did Oswald Payá Really Die?

By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

How Did Oswald Payá Really Die?

New evidence about the car crash that killed a noted Cuban dissident points to a cover-up.

When someone is killed in a civilized country and police slap around a witness and suppress evidence it is known as a cover-up. In Cuba it's called "reform." Viva Orwell.

Cuba's "ministry of truth" wants the world to believe that the Castro brothers are abandoning the use of state repression to maintain power. The Jay-Z-Beyoncé glam-tour of Old Havana last week was designed to help with the effort. But new details of the events surrounding theJuly 2012 deaths of prominent pacifist Oswaldo Payá—the winner of the European Parliament's 2002 Sakarov prize—and another dissident, Harold Cepero, suggest the opposite.

The U.S. press has reported on the March testimony of Ángel Carromero, the Spaniard who was driving the car that the two dissidents were riding in just before they died. Mr. Carromero was released from a Cuban prison in December and returned to Spain. He says that a red Lada had been tailing him and that the crash occurred because their car was rammed by another vehicle. He also claims that when he told this to Cuban authorities, they struck him, more than once.

But that's not the half of it. In an interview on Thursday at the Journal's offices, Payá's daughter, Rosa Maria, told me: "I must say that when I talked to Ángel, I didn't learn anything new. He confirmed things we already knew. We had the text message. We already knew that a car hit them from behind intentionally."

What she knew came straight from the mouth of Cuban police Capt. Fulgencio Medina, who took testimony from witnesses and read it aloud at the hospital in the eastern city of Bayamo where the victims were brought from the crash. Payá family friends were there, identified themselves as the family's representatives and reported by telephone back to Havana.

But the family was then denied access to that police report. The family was also denied the right to an independent autopsy, and they were told that all refrigeration chambers at all the hospitals in the area had broken down, so an autopsy had to be done immediately.

Doctors who were friends of the family were not allowed into the Bayamo hospital to inspect the body. The Payá family was denied a request for seats on a flight from Havana to Bayamo. The family has also been denied a copy of the autopsy report.

Putting Mr. Carromero on trial and hushing up the rest seemed like a tidy resolution. But the problem for the regime, says 24-year-old Ms. Payá, is "that in Cuba everyone talks."

The family has many friends in the Bayamo area and a few of those friends managed to get inside the hospital before the military locked it down; other sources who told them things seem to work there. "Our friends in the hospital talked a lot with the police in those first moments."

Ms. Payá says that the government never officially notified her family of the death of her father. But at the hospital Capt. Medina read the witness statements "in front of my friends and other cops and nurses, doctors."

The witnesses told of a red Lada, the same make and color of a suspicious car that Mr. Carromero described. They described seeing the occupants of the red Lada taking the foreigners [Mr. Carromero and Swedish politician Aaron Modig] out of their car almost immediately. The Spaniard was saying "Who are you? Why are you doing this to us?"

The statements did not say if Ms. Payá's father was "dead or alive," Ms. Payá told me. "But the witnesses said Harold [Cepero] was asking for help. I don't know if out loud or with his hands but they said he was touching his chest. So we know he was alive and conscious." Why then, Ms. Payá wants to know, did hospital personnel tell her family's friends that he was "brain dead," when they saw him lying on a gurney in a general area not receiving any form of intensive trauma care?

There is something else interesting about Capt. Medina's report of witness testimony, according to those who heard him read it: There was no mention of the car being smashed against a tree. This jibes with the testimony of the foreigners, who both have said that there was no crash with a tree.

Ms. Payá says that a journalist permitted to observe the trial on closed-circuit television told her that Capt. Medina testified against Mr. Carromero and never mentioned the red Lada or the questions witnesses had heard him ask as he was taken from the car.

This was supposed to be an open and shut case, with the emphasis on the shut. But now that the contradictions have become public knowledge, the regime's story is taking on a distinct odor. This is bad for the ministry of truth. Eight U.S. senators led by Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) have called for an investigation. Ms. Payá, who will return to Cuba next week, is worried about the safety of her family, and probably for good reason.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for an update on the upcoming elections in Venezuela with Dr. Vanessa Neumann of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Then, Ed Gerwin of Third Way on Canada and Mexico's role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Isaac Stone Fish, associate editor of Foreign Policy, on Singapore's political dynasty.

And my thoughts on Beyonce and Jay-Z's anniversary trip to Cuba.

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).

The Ladies Who Beyonce and Castor Ignored

While American pop star Beyonce and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) were toured around Havana by Castro regime officials this weekend, Cuba's Ladies in White took to the streets in pursuit of freedom and democracy.

The Ladies in White is a pro-democracy group composed of the mothers, daughters, wives and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners. They wear white clothing to symbolize their peaceful, non-violent opposition.

Yet sadly, like every week, they are confronted by the violence of Castro regime officials -- and the silence of its foreign guests.

Yesterday, in the eastern city of Santiago, 58 of the Ladies in White were brutally detained in order to prevent them from attending Mass.

Smaller groups of 5 and 10 managed to conduct peaceful protest walks in the cities of Guantanamo and Colon.

In Havana, 54 of the Ladies in White, led by Laura Labrada and Belkis Cantillo, walked as a group to attend Mass at Santa Rita Church.

They dedicated their walk to imprisoned colleagues, Sonia Garro, who has been held without charges since March of last year, and to Nayllibi Gimenez, who has been held since November.

Couldn't Beyonce and Castor spend 5 minutes from the hours upon hours they dedicated to the Castro regime to join these courageous women-- or to even publicly express their solidarity?

Must-Read: Beyoncé And Jay-Z Ignore Cuba’s Racism

Sunday, April 7, 2013
By the Editor of Mediaite, A.J. Delgado:

Useful Idiots: Beyoncé And Jay-Z Ignore Cuba’s Racism With Havana Trip
   
 This week, superstars Beyoncé and Jay-Z celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary with a trip to Cuba or, as the informed refer to it, “the island prison.”

While dining, partying, and enjoying the best Havana has to offer, Beyoncé and Jay-Z not only legitimize and support the repressive regime, with both their presence and their cash, but turn a blind eye, cruelly, to the perils and languishing of the Cuban people.

Both stars are proud African-Americans — yet, curiously, chose to vacation in a country notorious for relegating its black population to second-class status, or worse.

It is no surprise that many of Cuba’s top dissidents are Afro-Cubans. Did Sasha Fierce and Jigga Man find time to meet with these brave souls, or with their families? Did they mention them? Did they even think of them?

Meet Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet: the Afro-Cuban-doctor-turned-freedom-and-democracy-activist who was given a 25-year-prison term for his peaceful advocacy.

Meet the late Orlando Zapata Tamayo: his democracy and freedom activism earned him a 36-year-prison sentence. Undertaking a hunger strike in 2010 to improve prison conditions (eating only those foods his mother brought him during approved visits), sadistic guards took it upon themselves to deny this “worm” (Cuban slang for a Revolution ‘turncoat’) water. He died of complications soon thereafter, a direct victim of prisoner-abuse. The Cuban state newspapers described him, however, as a “common criminal elevated to martyred status.”

Meet Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera: she is the founder and president of the Rosa Park’s Women’s Movement, a group of Cuban women who protest and bring attention to human rights violations. She is currently in prison as a result.

Meet Jose Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez: during his 17-year imprisonment for protesting the Castro regime’s human rights violations, his unbreakable spirit led his fellow inmates to nickname him ‘The Black Diamond.’

Meet Sonia Garro: she and her husband are imprisoned for speaking out against human rights abuses.

In 1959, when a group of rich, privileged, brash upstarts in their 30′s seized power, earning them the monicker Les Enfants Terribles, many wrongly assumed these so-called progressives would create a more prosperous society for Cuba’s black population. As it turns out, that was anything but the case.

As a Cuban-American myself, I am privy to first-hand accounts of the many I meet who have recently escaped to the United States. Racism, they say, is widespread and expected, and state-posts, government jobs, or positions in the tourism industry are often allocated on the basis of skin color. Take a look at the top office holders in Cuba. See any black faces there? No.

Here is what an Afro-Cuban editor, Roberto Zurbano, wrote in a piece published in The New York Times last month:

"And the reality is that in Cuba, your experience of these changes depends on your skin color…. Black Cubans have less property and money, and also have to contend with pervasive racism. Not long ago it was common for hotel managers, for example, to hire only white staff members, so as not to offend the supposed sensibilities of their European clientele. That type of blatant racism has become less socially acceptable, but blacks are still woefully underrepresented in tourism — probably the economy’s most lucrative sector — and are far less likely than whites to own their own businesses…. Racism in Cuba has been concealed and reinforced in part because it isn’t talked about. The government hasn’t allowed racial prejudice to be debated or confronted politically or culturally, often pretending instead as though it didn’t exist."

What happened? Zurbano, who is not even a dissident but simply wrote a thoughtful article, lost his job this week as a result.

In 2003, three brave Afro-Cubans, Barbaro Sevilla Garcia (age 21), Lorenzo Copello Castillo (age 31), and Jorge Luis Martinez Isaac (age 43), attempted to escape the island. They hijacked a ferry. Caught and declared guilty in a speedy, sham trial, they were summarily executed soon thereafter. Fidel Castro reportedly blithely referred to them as just “three little blacks.”

But why stop Cuba’s racism, and its atrocious human rights record, from getting in the way of a good time? After all, Jay-Z is the ‘artist’ who famously raps: “Welcome to Havana, smoking cubanos with Castro in cabanas!”

All Jay and “B,” useful idiots extraordinaire, seem to hear when visiting Cuba is: “Extra sugar on that mojito, señor?” Never mind the life-long plight of the Afro-Cuban waiter serving that drink, who casts a longing, hopeful look in their direction, only to be met with an aloof, distant smile from the two callous multi-millionaires who, while sharing his skin color, could not care less about his plight.

Quote of the Month

The regime most likely targeted Oswaldo Paya because he crossed a red line in challenging the government’s relations with the church, which had become a pillar of the government’s strategy of survival... at a time when the regime, emboldened by Cardinal [Jaime Ortega’s] silence at the mass arrests during the Pope’s visit to Cuba in March, was not about to tolerate criticism.
-- Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), on the death of Cuban democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, Democracy Digest, 4/5/13

Tweet of the Week

Paya Projected Onto Cuban Mission at U.N.

Last night, artist Geandy Pavon projected the image of deceased Cuban democracy leaders, Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, onto the Cuban Mission at the United Nations in New York City.

Pavon was joined at the site by Paya's courageous daughter, Rosa Maria.

Watch the full video of the projection below: