Cuban Indentured Servants Sent to Pay Off Odebrecht

Saturday, May 11, 2013
Brazil's deal with the Castro regime to import 6,000 Cuban doctors is getting a heavy dose of criticism from Brazilian physicians -- but the outrage should be universal.

Note Brazil has a free universal health care system, so this deal is obviously not about access to health care.  

It is about the Brazilian government's shady business deals -- executed via the conglomerate Odebrecht -- with the Castro regime.

In particular, it is Castro's debt service for the $600 million that Brazil has paid Odebrecht to update the Port of Mariel and the nearly $200 million it is now providing Odebrecht to modernize Castro's airports.

In an unprecedented move, last month, Brazil's government "classified" these business deals with the Castro regime as "state secrets" until the year 2027.

Indentured servitude was a form of debt bondage established during colonial times.

Tragically, that is exactly what is taking place today with Cuban doctors in Venezuela (used to pay off oil subsidies) and now in Brazil (used to pay off Odebrecht).

So who will stand up for these Cuban doctors who are being trafficked abroad by the Castro regime as indentured servants?

They are sent abroad to pay off Castro's debts in the worst of conditions -- their passports are kept under lock and key; they are constantly watched by regime minders; they are forcefully separated from their families; their (petty) stipends are withheld.

These actions are in violation of international legal norms, including the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the International Labor Organization's Convention on the Protection of Wages.

So who will stand up for them?

From LA Times:

Brazil plan to import thousands of Cuban doctors criticized

A Brazilian government plan to import 6,000 Cuban doctors to practice in needy areas is being greeted with criticism from  local medical professionals.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota announced the plan after a visit by Cuba's foreign minister Monday. “Given the deficit of medical professionals in Brazil," he said, "this is a cooperation that has great promise and potential, and also has strategic value.”

But Brazil’s Federal Medical Council, or CFM, issued a statement saying foreign doctors would need to have their qualifications validated in Brazil first and would not be granted special dispensation.

“Those kinds of measures break the law, lead to pseudo care with more risks for the population and, in addition to being temporary, are reckless due to their electoral and political nature,” the council said.

Former Dictator Gets 80-Year Prison Sentence

Friday, May 10, 2013
Former Guatemalan dictator, General Efrain Rios Montt, was found guilty of genocide for killing more than 1,700 people during his 1982-83 rule.

The court sentenced Rios Montt to 80-years in prison.

Kudos to the Guatemalan people.

Let's hope justice will also prevail in Cuba, where the Castro brother's military dictatorship has presided over the killing of tens of thousands of people.

The Mariela Castro Tragicomedy

By Joe Cardona in The Miami Herald:

Mariela Castro, Cuba and human rights

In the wake of several Cuban dissidents’ enlightening visits to the United States — among them Yoani Sánchez, Rosa María Payá and Berta Soler — came last weekend’s arrival of Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, who attended (with special dispensation from the State Department) a ceremony in Philadelphia to collect, of all things, a human rights award. The brilliant American comic Carol Burnett once said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” This expertly sums up the Cuban political polemic. Observed, studied and lived over time, Cuban politics of the last half century remains a classic tragedy that has played out as farce over 54 years.

The latest farce, a true tragicomedy: The Equality Forum, a non-profit, LGBT organization based in Philadelphia, feted Mariela Castro for her advocacy of gay rights in Cuba even though an entire island nation is denied basic human rights daily.

While Castro’s efforts in favor of the LGBT community on the island are positive at face value, they cannot trump the rights and freedoms all Cubans should have. Yet Castro, a sexologist who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, turns a blind eye, defiantly defending her father and uncle’s despotic rule over the decades.

The founder of Equality Forum, Malcolm Lazin, defended the selection of Castro for an award, noting that Cuba was designated guest country this year at the forum’s annual powwow.

“There is no question that Mariela Castro has made a sizable contribution to the LGBT community in Cuba. That activity is what we recognized,” he told me. “We were very open about the dismal situation for gay men and women in Cuba during the 1960s and ’70s. But that has changed. A few years ago Fidel Castro himself apologized for this terrible period of Cuban history.”

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, not everyone at the event was as naïve as Lazin is about the Castros. Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, who was also recognized by Equality Forum, was quoted as saying, “I differ with her (Mariela Castro) very sharply if she embraces the political repression of her father and uncle.” Unfortunately, the Castros’ draconian rule in Cuba is not a blurry memory — a notion Mariela Castro and the regime’s apologists have tried to put forth.

Human Rights Watch cites Cuba as “the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent.” That accurate characterization is adamantly refuted by Mariela Castro whenever she’s asked to explain the farce.

Last summer (on her last trip to the United States) Castro called Human Rights Watch “not respectable.” Much like her tyrannical father and uncle have been doing for the last half century, she labeled all opposition to their fiefdom as “paid CIA lackeys,” and she dismisses all of Cuba’s woes by blaming the U.S. economic embargo. I spoke with some prominent Cuban-American members of Miami’s LGBT who vehemently object to the Equity Forum awarding Castro. “It is incumbent upon those of us who fight for equality to be sensitive to the plight of others who are also struggling for freedom and equality,” said Damian Pardo, founder and former chairperson of SAVE Dade.

Herb Sosa, who presides over the Unity Coalition, an LGBT organization for Latinos, questioned Castro’s accolades as gay rights defender, noting that several gay opposition members in Cuba tell him that every time Mariela Castro holds a pro gay march or rally “they are rounded up by government forces and kept away.” “Sad to imagine that after so many years of documented proof exposing Cuba’s pathetic human rights record, people are still irresponsible and ignorant enough to praise the Cuban government.”

Tragicomedy indeed.

Posters For Another Cuba

The campaign, "For Another Cuba," led by Cuban democracy leader and founder of Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, has released a collection of posters from its recent exhibition.

Posters can sometimes speak louder than words.

Click to enlarge.

See them all here.

Tampa's Exercise in Shamelessness

Thursday, May 9, 2013
By Cuba-based blogger and democracy activist, Agustin Lopez:

Money is a Mighty Lord

Under the title, “Tampa seeks to do business with Cuba,” in The Miami Herald, I learned that Tampa City Council members Harry Cohen, Yvonne Yolie Capin, and Mary Mulhern, along with [Congresswoman] Kathy Castor, will soon be traveling to Cuba.

Castor traveled to Havana during the first week of April with a team of advisors and members of the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), based in Washington D.C. The group promotes strategies and solutions to end the blockade and normalize relations with the people of Cuba.

Their program included meetings with officials from the Ministry of Tourism and members of the official National Association of Economists of Cuba, the Catholic Church and the Ministry of Energy and Mines. The current owners of the fiefdom of Cuba.

It is hard to watch how money buys consciences, rents ideologies and submits the dignity of people to the abhorrent perversity of the debasement of the soul. Money above values, above patriotism, above justice, above freedom.

Unfortunately, it is a worldwide epidemic strengthened by lust rather than by need. An insatiable ambition that devours feelings, butchering the sensitivity of humans for humans. He who calls himself a friend betrays you, lies to you, assaults you and even kills you for a few coins.

It is true that it takes money to do things, but it is wrong to believe that money is essential to preserve the human condition and its inherent values.

A few days ago I received a commentary about an article written to several U.S. businessmen and City Council members, among them Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa, who unscrupulously leads business negotiations with the dictatorial regime of the Castros. A few years ago, they managed to establish direct flights, with an apparent sense of humanitarianism, but didn't question the policy of human rights violations of the communist regime. In the commentary, I was reproached for my negative attitude towards the eradication of the blockade and of the opening of travel by Cubans to the island.  They alleged that the [current] policy was ineffective and that the actions of the opposition had not accomplished much in 53 years. They seemed to feel that this gave them a right to nourish the totalitarian government.

One thing is true.  The opposition has not had the recognition it deserves, nor the strength to transform political power. Undoubtedly, the traitors, and the betrayal of some of the same people for whom we have been fighting, have been many. Reading the commentary didn't make me angry, but sad, ashamed, humiliated.

How is it possible? I asked myself. That there can be such little sense of dignity and justice among a group of entrepreneurs, Americans and Cubans, many expelled by the regime, which has destroyed their families and led their people to denigration.

How can it be possible? That in order to gain a few more coins, they are now willing to maintain that same dictatorship, with the same ideology that subjugated a whole nation to the cruelest larceny and inhumanity.

How can it be it possible that those who went to beg for alms from exile, for they were unable to claim and exercise their rights [here], can today support a policy doesn't take into account the rights of their brethren.

In fact, there is a frenzy of activities, forums and gestures of goodwill towards Cuba. They take place in Tampa, a city with historical and commercial ties that date back to the nineteenth century. Tampa has about 100,000 residents of Cuban origin, according to the article in The Miami Herald.

It is astounding and humiliating that in using the term “goodwill towards Cuba,” they continue to confuse Cuba with the totalitarian government. They continuing to confuse Cuba with the Communist Party and the dictatorial regime, without taking into account the will of the people, subjected by the power of force. Those who do business and make goodwill gestures towards the Castros’ government are not doing business or making goodwill gestures towards Cuba, but towards those who have destroyed it as a nation, people and homeland.

Cuba is changing and undertaking significant market reforms that deserve to be taken into account by the United States, said the Council members.

The dictatorship is disguising itself as a more open dictatorship -- it still has many tactics. It deprived the people of all of their rights and resources. Now it hands them some and makes them seem like change and reform; but the essence of control by power, of subjugating rights and freedoms to force, remains intact.

As Mauricio Claver-Carone comments at the end of the article: “It is an exercise in shamelessness. It is sad that with 34 democratic countries in the Western Hemisphere, these local Council members seek to be wined and dined by the only anomaly — a military dictatorship that violently represses men, women and children.”

Vice-President Biden's Remarks on Cuba

Vice-President Joe Biden spoke about Cuba during his remarks yesterday at the 43rd Annual Washington Conference of the Americas held at the U.S. State Department.

The following were his verbatim remarks:

In Cuba, we've seen some small encouraging signs from our perspective in recent years: the release of a number of political prisoners, lifting restrictions on travel, small economic reforms.

We've also seen continued arrests and abuses of people for speaking their mind and seeking a voice in their own affairs, including many arrests in the last year. The United State has made it possible for Cuban-Americans to visit and send remittances home to their families, but what we really want to do is encourage the next level of cooperation with Cuba: real change, meaningful change, permanent change. The kind of peaceful, democratic change courageous Cubans such as Oswaldo Paya and his fellow reformers advocated and promoted for so many years. So we'll continue to to take steps to support the Cuban people and a prosperous democratic future they deserve.

And I can't talk about Cuba without mentioning one case that has been one of the biggest obstacles in our bilateral relationship of late: the Cuban detention of Alan Gross. It's important to note that many supporters of engagement with Cuba have weighed in with the Cuban government to urge that he be released. We are committed to seeing Alan Gross come home and will work to make that happen.

Cuban Political Prisoner Shows Torture Marks

Yesterday, Cuban political prisoner, Luis Enrique Lozada, was released by the Castro regime.

He was released pursuant to the pressure exerted by over 60 democracy activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), who led a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.  Among these were his 17-year old son.

In an interview this morning with Radio Marti, Lozada described how he was tortured by the Castro regime.

He was beaten and hog-tied for long periods of time, a method know by Cuban political prisoners as the "Shakira" -- in reference to the chain that is wrapped around their waist.

UNPACU has also released the following picture of Lozada's scars:

For Those Who Oppose Sanctions

In El Nuevo Herald, Roland Behar writes about Cuban pro-democracy leader and Estado de Sats founder, Antonio Rodiles:

Rodiles holds that history has proven that the Cuban government has always used the funds at its disposal for any purpose, except for the improvement of the quality of life of the population and the development of the nation. Rodiles reminds us that during the era of Soviet subsidies, those funds were used to foment subversion throughout the world, instead of to create a productive and industrial base. He also reminds us that during the 1990s, after the disappearance of the USSR, the embargo had a real effect, which led to "concessions" unlike any we have seen during these times of "openings." Once Chavez began cooperating, the "openings" were eliminated, culminating with the horrible Black Spring of 2003.  He sent a clear message to those who from the comfort of Miami, coincide with the Cuban government and advocate for easing economic sanctions, pointing to their responsibility -- [for if sanctions are eased] as the Cuban government once again begins to feel economically stable, the first thing it will do is imprison all those who oppose it.

(Translation by CHC).

Cardinal Scolds Dissidents, Pope Blesses Dissidents

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Yesterday, Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega (once again) scolded dissidents who support sanctions.

Meanwhile, today in Vatican City, Pope Francis met the leader of Cuba's Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and bestowed his blessing upon her.

Soler supports sanctions against the Castro regime.

Oh, the irony.

In October 2011, upon turning 75-years old, Cardinal Ortega presented his resignation as Archbishop of Havana to then-Pope Benedict XVI.

We pray Pope Francis finally accepts his resignation -- for the Cuban people deserve better.

NY Post: Our Rap on Beyonce

Short and sweet from The New York Post's Editorial Board:

You know, it was such a beautiful trip.” — Beyoncé, on her recent tour of Cuba with husband Jay-Z.

Too bad their itinerary didn’t include a visit with Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga. Like Jay-Z, he is a hip-hop artist who has dissed his nation’s politics in song. But while Jay-Z’s rap only makes him richer, Remon Arzuaga’s rap has helped land him in a Cuban prison.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

What is Cardinal Ortega Afraid Of?

Through the Archdiocese of Havana's publication, Espacio Laical, Cardinal Jaime Ortega has criticized democracy activists who support maintaining sanctions towards the Castro regime.

This isn't particularly news, as Cardinal Ortega is not fond of any activist that opposes the Castro dictatorship, regardless of their views on sanctions.

Cardinal Ortega has a tragic history of snubbing (insulting) dissidents, turning a blind-eye towards their repression (even authorizing it in one known occasion) and stretching the truth (to put it kindly).

However, this time Cardinal Ortega reveals what he is afraid of.

The statement reads:

"Cuba has much to change, but everything indicates that the generality of Cubans do not desire the type of change that has taken place in the many countries of Eastern Europe.  The immense majority of Cubans don't aspire to see the country follow the same path as that part of the world, nor that our changes take place through the same methods that took place there."

Cardinal Ortega is afraid that Cuba will become like Eastern Europe -- free and prosperous.

He doesn't want to see Cubans free themselves from totalitarianism in the same way as Eastern Europeans did.  

Surely it is to Ortega's chagrin that the most successful transitions in Eastern Europe have taken place in the countries where the current dictators and Communist Party elites took no role in the process, namely Estonia and the Czech Republic.

He seems to prefer for Cuba to "evolve" into an authoritarian KGB-style fiefdom, akin to Russia, at the hands of its current ruling elite.

Or for Cuba to just remain a repressive totalitarian state.

(See this short comparative study, "Cuba is Ready," by post-Soviet scholar Fredo Arias-King, on the key ingredients for a successful democratic transition in Cuba.)

Moreover, Cardinal Ortega has the audacity to say that the "immense majority" of Cubans don't want to see their nation free itself from totalitarianism in the same way as Eastern Europe did.

Really, Cardinal, how about asking them in a free election?

Quote of the Day

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions, those days are over.
-- U.S. President Barack Obama, during today's meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, The White House, 5/7/13

Kudos to President Obama.

We hope those days are over for Cuba and Venezuela as well.

Where are the Foreign News Bureaus?

Cuban political prisoner, Luis Enrique Lozada, has been on a hunger strike since April 9th protesting his unjust imprisonment.

He is currently in an intensive care unit at the Saturnino Lora Hospital in Santiago de Cuba.

There are over 60 members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), of which Luis Enrique is a member, also on a huger strike demanding his release.

Nearly a dozen have been hospitalized, as their health quickly deteriorated.

Those hospitalized were attacked by Castro's secret police, which violently beat and dragged them out of the hospital.

Among them was Luis Enrique's 17-year old son, who is in critical health.

He recently stated:

Why am I going to live knowing that my father is dying in a prison cell because of a crime he never committed?  Knowing that my family is falling to pieces.

Look at the picture below -- why is this family such a threat to the Castro regime?

Where are the foreign news bureaus in Cuba?

Why the silence?

UPDATE: Last night, the Castro regime informed Luis Enrique Lozada's family that he will be released. What an extraordinary display of courage, solidarity and self-sacrifice by Cuba's peaceful democratic opposition -- one that has resulted in victory.

Castro's Two American Hostages

Since December 2009, the Castro regime has been holding American development worker, Alan Gross, as its hostage in Cuba.

It is now also holding a young American filmmaker, Timothy Tracy, hostage through its puppet-government in Venezuela.

According to AP:

U.S. diplomats have been given no access to a California man held in Venezuela for nearly two weeks in what his family on Monday called a “nightmare” that unfolded after he was accused of being a spy fomenting post-election unrest.

The family of Timothy Tracy, 35, told The Associated Press in a statement that “we hope that he is granted consular access very soon.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has said that the accusations against Tracy are “ridiculous.”

Cuba Reconfirms Alan Gross is a Hostage

During a visit to Brazil yesterday, the Castro regime's Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, stated:

"The Cuban government has informed the North American government of its complete willingness to start serious and respectful conversations to try to find a solution to the case of Mr. Alan Gross."

But he added such talks must "take into account the humanitarian concerns of our country in the case of Cuban citizens that are serving sentences in the United States."

Rodriguez makes it clear (once again) that American development worker, Alan Gross, is being held hostage by the Castro regime, in order to coerce the United States into releasing four convicted Cuban spies still serving their sentences here.

Moreover, Rodriguez's remarks also confirm that the hostage-taking of Alan Gross is an act of terrorism by the Cuban government.

Terrorism is defined in U.S. law as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

The Will of Taxpayers Will Ultimately Prevail

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ("the Court") has upheld a challenge by Brazil's Odebrecht against a Florida law banning contracts with companies with business ties to Cuba and Syria.

This law was passed by a near-unanimous vote in the Florida legislature and approved by over 62% of Miami-Dade County voters.

Sadly, Odebrecht -- a key business partner of Cuba's dictatorship -- chose to legally challenge the will of Florida's taxpayers, rather than sever its ties with the Castro brothers.

In sum, the Court held that the Florida law "conflicts" with federal sanctions towards Cuba because it fails to address some of the current exemptions in U.S. law -- namely the cash-sale of agriculture and medical products.

We respectfully disagree with this decision, for under its controlling precedent in Faculty Senate of Florida International University v. Winn, 616 F.3d 1206 (11th Cir. 2010), the Court had previously upheld a state ban on academic travel to Cuba, despite an explicit exemption for academic travel under federal law.

Furthermore, we believe taxpayers have an inherent right to decide where (and with whom) they want their money spent.

Needless to say, we respect the Court's decision.

Fortunately though, we live in a representative democracy, where the voice and the will of the taxpayer will ultimately prevail.

WSJ: Havana in Black and White

Monday, May 6, 2013
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Havana in Black and White

Dissident Berta Soler takes a big risk by telling the truth about racism and repression in Cuba.

After an 11-hour police interrogation in 2011, Berta Soler, one of the founding members of the Cuban dissident group known as the Ladies in White, was given an ultimatum.

During an interview at the Journal's offices last week, Ms. Soler told me that the ministry of interior official who escorted her home said "Laura [Pollán, another founding member of the group] and I had to leave the country—because without us there would be no Ladies in White." Ms. Soler said she responded by telling the official that "the ones who have to leave are the Castros."

Cubans have been put against a wall and shot for less, but Ms. Soler's courage could not have been news to the regime. For seven years, beginning in 2003, the Ladies, dressed in white from head to toe, had attended Sunday Mass together at St. Rita's Church in Havana and then silently filed through the streets to demand that their political-prisoner relatives be freed.

The group was regularly set upon by Castro agents and clawed, punched and kicked. But they never retreated, even when the regime upped the ante by dragging them onto buses, driving them far from home and dropping them off to find their own way back.

By 2010, cellphone photos of the brutality embarrassed the dictatorship enough internationally that it began deporting the prisoners with their immediate families to Spain. It was classic Castro: For more than a half-century, strong dissident leaders who couldn't be broken have been killed or exiled.

Laura Pollán's husband, Héctor Maseda, and Ms. Soler's husband, Ángel Moya, were among a small number of prisoners of conscience who refused to leave. Eventually Castro paroled them, but the Ladies did not disband. Instead they began to work for the release of all political prisoners and for human rights.

The group was growing in numbers and expanding across the island on that day in 2011 when Ms. Soler was told to get out of Cuba. Seventeen days later, on Oct. 14, 2011, Pollán died mysteriously in a Havana hospital, surrounded by state security agents.

Ms. Soler's friend had reportedly been in good health only weeks earlier when, as she describes it, Castro enforcers attacked Pollán, bit and scratched her arm, and ran a handkerchief over the open wounds. Whether that was a way to introduce something into her bloodstream we may never know. But a week later Pollán came down with chills and vomiting and on Oct. 7 when she was admitted to the hospital, she suffered from shortness of breath.

Ms. Soler claims that Pollán might have been given oxygen but instead was "intubated and doped" and "seven days later we lost Laura." As I reported at the time, there was no autopsy and Pollán's body was quickly cremated.

Raúl Castro may have thought that the Ladies would soon fade away. He thought wrong. Ms. Soler says that the death of her friend and the equally suspicious death of dissident leader Oswaldo Payá in July 2012—supposedly in a car accident in which witnesses did not report a crash—has energized the movement.

Now Ms. Soler is taking advantage of the dictatorship's new travel policy—that for the first time in a half-century allows Cubans to take trips abroad—to ask the international community for "moral and spiritual support" for the Cuban people in their struggle against the dictatorship.

She wants the world to know of Castro's racism. Blacks, she says, are grossly underrepresented in the universities and overrepresented in prisons. "The beggars in Cuba are black, not white. The marginalized are blacks, not whites." She adds: "They tell me 'Negra, what are you doing? You have a lot to thank the revolution for!'"

Repression is on the rise, and in the absence of international condemnation the regime feels free to administer publicly the beatings the Ladies in White endure in order to show who's boss. The regime used to send women only to attack the Ladies but now they send men as well. They punch the Ladies with the clear intent to hurt them. They sometimes break bones.

Ms. Soler says that these attackers "never have been neighbors" spontaneously defending the glorious revolution. They are professionals working for the Interior Ministry or civilians who obey the regime in order to keep their jobs or their place in university classrooms. Ms. Soler says that for the past two years many of "the same faces" have consistently shown up to attack the group. The woman who bit Laura Pollan is well known by the Ladies because she is a regular on the goon squad and works for the ministry.

It is chilling to think what might happen to the politically incorrect Ms. Soler when she returns to Cuba, which is what makes her trip to Rome this week so crucial. She has asked to see Pope Francis. If he agrees, the visit might protect her. Without it, and in the absence of other influential international voices coming to her defense, her fate is less certain.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

State Dept. Provides Unhealthy Cynicism for U.S. Hostage and Cuban Dissidents

Sunday, May 5, 2013
Last week, the State Department reconsidered its decision to deny Cuban dictator's daughter, Mariela Castro, permission to visit Philadelphia to attend the LGBT Equality Forum.

During her trip, she was given a VIP tour of the Liberty Bell, which stands as a symbol of those who sacrificed for America's freedom and independence.

Predictably, Mariela used this opportunity to cynically laud her father's brutal regime and hail its human rights practices (violations).

To add further insult, the Equality Forum was held at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

This is particularly tragic, as Mariela's family has been holding a Jewish-American development worker, Alan Gross, hostage for helping the island's Jewish community with its Internet connectivity.

Did the State Department not think of this mockery?

Moreover, did the State Department not think how repulsive and insulting Mariela's visit is for Cuban democracy activists?

For 17-year old, Enrique Lozada, who is dying from a hunger strike protesting his dissident father's unjust imprisonment.

For the 60 members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), also on hunger strike, protesting the continued imprisonment of 30 fellow activists.

For Sonia Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, who has been imprisoned for over one-year without trial or even charges filed.

For Madelin Lazara Caraballo, of the Republican Party of Cuba, who has been imprisoned for over six-months without trial or even charges filed. 

For Raul Gonzalez Gonzalez and Jose Leiva Diaz, of the Cuban Reflection Party, who were just sentenced to one-year and two-years in prison, respectively, for their peaceful dissent.

And more poignantly --

For Leannes Imbert Acosta of the Cuban LGBT Platform, who was detained last year for shedding light on the forced labor camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs in Spanish) to which Mariela's father and uncle sent more than 25,000 gay men.

For over 500 Cubans with HIV/AIDS, who remain in prison for Castro's political crime of “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”

Obviously, the State Department didn't think of this.

Or perhaps they think she is going to return to Cuba and somehow laud the good graces of their reconsideration.

Note to State: Mariela is laughing her way back to Havana.

Thank You, Barney Frank

Last night, the Equality Forum honored Cuban dictator's daughter, Mariela Castro, for her work with LGBTs.

In the same ceremony, it honored former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

Fortunately, former Rep. Frank minced no words regarding the Castro family's dictatorship.

Speaking before the Equality Forum's dinner Saturday night, former Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), who was also honored by the group, said that he applauded Mariela Castro for her work to expand LGBT civil rights, but that he would "differ with her very sharply" if she embraced the political repression of her father and uncle, whom he said were "among the great betrayers of liberalism and human rights."

"I'm glad that they're lessening the repression of gay and lesbian people, but no, I certainly don't think that people should say, 'OK, well, that's all you have to do,'" he said.

Sadly, Congressman Frank, Mariela not only espouses -- but publicly defends -- her family's political repression.

She even refers to dissidents as "despicable parasites."

Thus, it's hard to understand why the State Department would reward her with a U.S. visa -- an insult to all those whom her family represses. 

Castro's WIFI Fraud

Young Cuban democracy activist and former political prisoner, Anyer Antonio Blanco, tweeted this picture (below) of a computer at the 5-star Hotel Melia Santiago de Cuba (owned by the Cuban military in partnership with the Spanish hotel company) in the easternmost tip of the island.

As you can see in both Spanish and English, it warns that the WIFI connection is VERY SLOW.

And, of course, that the hotel will NOT REFUND their money.

Blanco astutely notes: "Isn't the ALBA-1 cable less than 6 kilometers away?  Where's the Internet?"

Tweet of the Week

"Shortages and outages in #Cuba are the blockade's fault.  #Venezuela, without blockade and with an ocean of oil, has shortages and outages. Why is that?"