Must-Read: Want to do Business in Cuba?

Saturday, July 6, 2013
Please read this very carefully.

This British company was one of the biggest and most important business partners of Castro's military, a key investor in its tourism industry.

Overnight, everything was confiscated and its principals imprisoned.  

And this is 2013, not 1959.

From the U.K.'s Telegraph:

The Briton who languished in a Cuban jail after being accused of spying

Stephen Purvis has returned to Britain after spending 16 months in a Cuban jail on false spying and fraud charges. He speaks to Colin Freeman about the ordeal.

When the £400 million Bellomonte Golf and Country Club eventually opens for business, its pristine fairways will mark an elegantly landscaped route into the 21st century for Cuba. In a country that once banned golf as a "bourgeois sport", its five-star hotel, spa and luxury villa complex is the clearest sign that the communist outpost is finally embracing capitalism.

One man who is unlikely to attend any future opening ceremony, though, is Stephen Purvis, the Wimbledon-born architect whose firm, Coral Capital, was behind the Bellomonte development. Resident with his family in Cuba for 10 years, he was the ideal person to mastermind the flagship project of its tourist economy, having previously turned Havana's crumbling, colonial-era Saratoga Hotel into a chic hang-out favoured by the likes of Beyoncé and Naomi Campbell.

Last week, however, he was recovering back in London, after losing 16 months of his life – and 50lbs in weight – to a stint in the rather less comfortable accommodation of Cuba's prison system.

In an ordeal that could have been torn from the pages of a Graham Greene novel, Mr Purvis was falsely accused first of being a spy, and then of obscure breaches of finance laws, while never being told details of the allegations against him. He fled the island after a court released him a fortnight ago, following a trial conducted entirely in secret. Meanwhile, Coral's offices in Cuba have been shut down, and the country club project in which he has invested millions of pounds and five years of his life has been handed to a Chinese firm.

Yet he counts himself lucky. During his time in Havana's notorious Villa Marista spy interrogation centre, he feared he might never see the outside world again, or his wife Rachel and four children.

"It was grim, absolutely grim," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "Being accused of espionage is bad enough anywhere, let alone somewhere like Cuba. You get this overpowering sense of being forgotten by the world, and that you are about to receive a huge prison sentence for nothing at all."

Mr Purvis, 52, spoke out last week to warn other British entrepreneurs of the risks in Cuba, which has courted foreign investors in recent years. They were risks he himself thought he no longer had to worry about, given that his own firm, financed by private European backers, was well established. Since setting up there in 2000, it has invested in everything from tourism through to factories and docks, and even financed El Benny, a film about the Cuban singer, Benny Moré.

Mr Purvis was also a pillar of Havana's expatriate community, working as vice-chairman of Havana's international school and producing a Cuban dance show that has toured London's West End.

Those connections, however, counted for nothing when in October 2011 Cuban police arrested Amado Fakhre, Coral's British-Lebanese chief executive, on charges of bribery and revealing state secrets. The move appears to have been part of a wider sweep against dozens of foreign businessmen, launched after Cuban intelligence became convinced that the occasional bribery which took place had become an epidemic.

Five months later, Mr Purvis was arrested. After five days of questioning at a "run-down villa in the middle of nowhere", he was put in "pre-emptive detention" in Villa Marista, which is where political prisoners are interrogated. Officials boast that, eventually, everyone "sings" after a stay there.

Mr Purvis says the jail was designed to send inmates mad. He was kept with three others in a filthy 8ft by 8ft cell, with the lights on around the clock and exercise limited to 15 minutes a week. Each prisoner was also assigned a personal interrogator who would even cut their toenails, fingernails and hair for them.

"They decide absolutely everything about your life. The idea is to separate you from your personal identity, so you lose a sense of who you are. Several inmates who passed through my cell went cuckoo, and there was an attempted suicide about once a month. You'd be trying to sleep at night and suddenly there'd be this terrible wail from some other cell."

His wife was admitted to hospital with stress and later flew back to Britain with their children for their own safety. Eight months later, the spying charge was switched to "economic crime", and he was moved to a special unit for foreigners at La Condesa prison. It was comfortable compared to Villa Marista, even though his new companions included murderers, Yardies and drug barons.

Mr Purvis passed the time by writing a script and drawing up business plans for inmates. An amateur artist, he also painted portraits of prisoners' wives and girlfriends.

It was not until three weeks before his trial last month that his Cuban lawyer finally got the charge sheet against him – an 8,000-page document that Mr Purvis was not allowed to see. He was convicted, though, only of the minor charge of conducting illegal currency transactions – something, he says, the central bank has authorised for years.

In the end, he received a two-and-a-half-year "non-custodial sentence" and was released on June 17, two days before Mr Fakhre. Since leaving Cuba he has been staying at the house of his mother Anne in London, reunited with Rachel and their children Joseph, 18, Max, 17, Poppy, 15 and Anna Rose 13.

Coral is now contemplating another tussle with the Cuban courts – this time a lawsuit to regain £10.6 million in confiscated company assets. But exactly why the Cuban authorities moved against the company remains a mystery.

One possibility is that the denunciation came from a business rival. Another, says Mr Purvis, is that the firm was simply the victim of an over-zealous anti-corruption trawl.

But he also believes a wider political game may be at work. Most of the arrested businessmen have been Westerners, while competitors from China and Venezuela have been left alone, suggesting a plan to clear Cuba's markets for countries Havana feels ideologically comfortable with.

Listen: Totalitarian Modus Operandi & Stolen Artworks

Two clips on Soundcloud:

Institute of World Politics Professor Marek Chodakiewicz was interviewed on Washington Al Mundo radio by host Mauricio Claver-Carone on June 17, 2013. He discusses the modus operandi of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, political warfare, and émigrés.

Click below (or here) to listen:

Institute of World Politics Research Professor Tania Mastrapa was interviewed on Washington Al Mundo radio by host Mauricio Claver-Carone on June 26, 2013. She commented on artwork stolen by the communists and the travails of former owners and their families attempting to reclaim their property.

Click below (or here) to listen:

Yasiel Puig Celebrates His Freedom

From Breitbart:

Cuban Defector Puig Celebrates First Fourth of July

Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Yasiel Puig did not experience freedom until he successfully defected from Cuba--after numerous failed attempts--in the summer of 2012.

After becoming the first player in history to win the player of the month award in either league in his debut month (only Joe DiMaggio had a better first month in the the big leagues) and the fifth in history to win the rookie of the month and player of the month awards in the same month on Wednesday, Puig got ready to celebrate his first Fourth of July by waving an American flag in the Dodgers dugout during their 10-8 win at Colorado.

Puig plays the game like each will be his last. That was again evident on Wednesday. Puig scored from second base on an Adrian Gonzalez groundout to first, and then promptly crashed into the wall to make a spectacular catch in the bottom of the fifth inning. This was not the the first time Puig has hurled his body into a wall to rob a player of an extra-base hit.

But his latest spectacular catch took a toll, as Puig had to leave the game for precautionary reasons with a bruised hip--after he stayed in the game to basically hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth inning with just his arms, as it was clear his legs were hurting.

Puig is listed as "day-to-day" as X-rays turned out negative. That status most aptly described Puig's life in Cuba, where citizens live "day-to-day" without freedom and in fear of the state.

Part of the reason Puig plays with an infectious joy on the baseball field, as if he is unburdened, is because in America, he no longer has to live day-to-day worrying about what an oppressive government may do to him.

Puig has brought vibrancy to what had been a moribund team mired in last place, leading the Dodgers back into contention, only 2.5 games out of first place. He plays the game like he has nothing to lose--and with house money--because he finally is free.

Castro Paved Way for Cronies on Snowden

Just as we predicted, Wednesday's statement by Castro's Foreign Ministry was "paving the way" for one (or two) of his cronies to provide Snowden asylum.

From AP:

Presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said Friday they were willing to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Snowden has asked for asylum in several countries, including Nicaragua and Venezuela.

"We have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the American Edward Snowden to protect him from the persecution being unleashed by the world's most powerful empire,'' Maduro said at the start of a military parade in the Venezuelan capital celebrating the 202nd anniversary of the South American country's declaration of independence.

Italian Bank Fined for Sanctions Violations

It's interesting how Western banks and companies that do business with one tyrannical regime (Iran), tend to do business with other tyrannical regimes (Cuba and Sudan) as well.

They don't discriminate in their sleaziness.

From the U.S. Department of Treasury:

Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of Multiple Sanctions Programs: 

Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. (“Intesa”) has agreed to remit $2,949,030 to settle potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (“CACR”), 31 C.F.R. part 515; the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (“SSR”), 31 C.F.R. part 538; and the Iranian Transactions Regulations (“ITR”), 31 C.F.R. part 560.1. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has determined that Intesa did not voluntarily self-disclose the apparent violations and that the apparent violations constituted a non-egregious case.

As early as the late 1990s, Intesa maintained a customer relationship with Irasco S.r.l. (“Irasco”), an Italian company headquartered in Genoa, Italy that is owned or controlled by the Government of Iran (“GOI”). Despite Irasco’s ownership and line of business as an exporter of goods to Iran, and its financial and commercial associations with Iranian state-owned financial institutions, companies, and projects, Intesa failed to identify Irasco as meeting the definition of the GOI in the ITR and, at the time of the apparent violations, did not take appropriate measures to prevent the bank from processing transactions for or on behalf of Irasco that terminated in the United States and/or with U.S. persons. Intesa’s payment instructions for these transactions all identified Irasco as the ordering customer.

Separately, Intesa processed approximately 120 transactions to or through the United States that involved Cuba or Sudan. Intesa does not appear to have implemented or utilized special procedures or payment practices in order to process these payments to or through the United States.

Intesa processed 53 wire transfers totaling approximately $1,643,326 between October 29, 2004, and March 12, 2008, involving Cuba in apparent violation of the CACR. The base penalty amount for this set of apparent violations was $1,867,000. Intesa processed 31 wire transfers for Irasco totaling $3,142,565 between November 1, 2004, and December 8, 2006, in apparent violation of the ITR. The total base penalty for this set of apparent violations was $3,371,000.

Intesa processed 67 funds transfers involving Sudan totaling $2,858,065 between November 4, 2004, and October 29, 2007, in apparent violation of the SSR. The total base penalty for this set of apparent violations was $4,124,000.

Dissidents Urge Obama to Keep Sanctions

Friday, July 5, 2013
From Newsmax:

Democracy Advocates Urge Obama to Keep Cuban Trade Ban

The trade embargo on Cuba must stay to starve Havana's communist government of cash, pro-democracy activists have told the State Department.

A steady flow of cash into Castro's government could help it crush the island's pro-democracy efforts, warned Cuban hunger striker Guillermo Farinas who met behind closed doors with Obama administration officials in Washington.

The Obama administration has yet to comment about the meetings, which included one with  Farinas at Foggy Bottom in late June, reports the Washington Times.

The meetings were described as "extraordinary and very helpful by Mauricio Claver Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington. "[U.S. policymakers] now get to actually see it and feel it firsthand from the protagonists themselves,” he said.

U.S. and Cuban officials in June held a landmark meeting to discuss re-establishing direct mail between the countries, and plan a July 17 meeting to talk about migration regulations.

Castro, 82, who replaced his older brother, Fidel, has allowed some reforms since he took over in 2008, including easing travel bans. He plans to step down in 2018, when his second five-year term in office ends. The United States has been in a stalemate with Cuba since 1961, when the elder Castro agreed to allow the former Soviet Union to house ballistic weapons in Cuba.

Even though Fidel Castro has not been in office for several years, Cuba is still on Washington's terrorism sponsors list.

In addition, Cuba is still detaining American Alan Gross, who was arrested in 2009 while in Cuba working for an International Development-funded program.

Cuban authorities sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison for illegally delivering satellite phones to Jewish Cubans.

The Washington meetings suggest a thaw in the two countries' relationships, a change that some U.S. lawmakers — particularly Cuban-American Republicans — criticize.

Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethinen said Thursday that she and other Cuban-American lawmakers met with the democracy advocates, and she remains skeptical about changes and believes the embargo needs to continue until "Cuba becomes a free and democratic society."

The State Department isn't commenting about what was discussed at the Foggy Bottom meetings. William Ostick, a spokesman for the department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere said the State Department will continue its concern about the Cuban government's use of detention and violence against critics.

WT: Cuban Dissidents, Talks & Washington

Good article (despite a somewhat misleading headline) in The Washington Times:

Private talks hint at change in U.S.-Cuba relationship

The State Department has quietly been holding talks with a small but diverse cadre of Cuban natives in Washington — including democracy activists offering insider views of the communist island’s politics — that analysts say could send shock waves through the long-standing debate about what a future U.S. policy toward Cuba should look like.

Obama administration officials are mum on the closed-door meetings, including one held at Foggy Bottom last week with renowned Cuban hunger-striker Guillermo Farinas, who came bearing a somewhat paradoxical message: Most pro-democracy activists now operating in Cuba, which has been a Communist dictatorship and a U.S. enemy for more than a half-century, oppose lifting the long-standing U.S. embargo on trade with their nation.

Such realities may not surprise close Cuba watchers, who say U.S. officials have known for years that ending the embargo might unleash a flow of badly needed foreign cash to the government of President Raul Castro — enhancing its ability to crush the island’s fragile pro-democracy movement.

But activists like Mr. Farinas are now being allowed to inject their views directly into the heart of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, ironically because he and other dissidents have been allowed to take advantage of January’s historic lifting by the Castro government of a decades-old ban on travel abroad.

“The activists are feeling with their blood and bones the repression of the Cuban security apparatus,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington.

U.S. policymakers “now get to actually see it and feel it firsthand from the protagonists themselves,” he said. “That’s extraordinary and it’s very helpful.”

Read the whole story here.

Maduro Stops in Havana for Latest Orders

Thursday, July 4, 2013
From El Universal:

Capriles: Raúl Castro checks promotion of Venezuelan military officials

The opposition leader rejected any interference by the Cuban government in the affairs of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski said on Thursday that the short visit Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro paid to Cuba was intended at reviewing the promotions of military officers of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.

Capriles voiced support for the military officials committed to the Venezuelan Constitution, and expressed his rejection to any interference by the Cuban Government in the affairs of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces.

"It is unacceptable that Mr. Raúl Castro and the Cuban military forces review the promotions of our Venezuelan military officials," Capriles remarked.

A Venezuelan Circus Without a Ringmaster

Excerpt from this week's The Economist:

A circus without a ringmaster

Radicals, former soldiers and Cuban spies jostle for control of the Venezuelan ring

Rumours swirl that Mr Maduro could face a more immediate challenge to his own leadership. In a recorded conversation that was leaked on May 20th Mario Silva, the presenter of a state-television talk-show called “The Razor Blade”, was heard apparently passing information to a Cuban intelligence officer. In the recording Mr Silva warned the spy that Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of the National Assembly, wanted to overthrow Mr Maduro. It was a matter of urgency, he said, to cut off Mr Cabello’s sources of income, including the tax authority, which is run by his brother, José David Cabello. A few weeks later police arrested members of an alleged gang within the customs agency, which is part of the tax authority.

A former lieutenant who took part in a failed coup by Chávez in 1992, Mr Cabello has powerful friends in the army. The annual round of military promotions, due to be announced as The Economist went to press, may strengthen his hand. Henrique Capriles, the leader of the opposition, jeers that Mr Maduro’s role is confined to signing the promotions list. “Nicolás, you’re a laughing stock in the armed forces,” Mr Capriles tweeted.

During the presidential election campaign, Mr Maduro was seen as the favoured candidate not just of his predecessor but also of Cuba, Venezuela’s closest ally. A month ago, however, Mr Cabello made a three-day visit to Havana, holding meetings with President Raúl Castro and his brother, Fidel. The trip came shortly after the leaking of the Silva recording. No one knows what sort of deal the Cubans may have struck with Mr Cabello. For the moment, he and Mr Maduro are locked in a macho Latin embrace, of the kind some say was devised as a way for each man to frisk the other for weapons.

Happy Independence Day

South Africa and Cuba: Similar Struggle, Different Response

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Great op-ed in Fox News by Rudy Mayor, a Director of the U.S-Cuba Democracy PAC's new Young Leaders Group:

South Africa and Cuba: A Similar Struggle, A Drastically Different Response

The sudden decline in health of former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela has prompted many around the world to reminisce on his legacy and the historical significance of his movement.

While serving harsh prison sentences, often in solitary confinement, Mandela took part in hunger strikes and used every opportunity to draw global attention and solidarity for the anti-apartheid cause.

While speaking to a crowd of South African University students last week, President Barack Obama also recalled Mandela’s struggle and his personal frustration with how little the United States was doing to help those freedom fighters an ocean away.

Against all odds, Mandela’s efforts worked. The international community imposed sweeping economic sanctions on South Africa, isolating the country and making it increasingly difficult for the government to fund its oppressive tactics. The United Nations condemned the government’s policies and urged member states to sever all political and economic ties to the country. The Catholic Church voiced strong opposition to apartheid, culminating in an impassioned speech at the International Court of Justice and a symbolic pilgrimage to bordering African states by Pope John Paul II.

Mandela’s efforts to build international solidarity against his oppressors have been emulated by others similarly oppressed. In our own hemisphere, Cuban political prisoners engage in hunger strikes, take beatings, and struggle to survive in the country’s dilapidated prisons. Yet, many of the same countries that once took a stand against Mandela’s oppressors are unwilling to take a similar stand against Castro.

Cuba’s oppressors, they think, ought to be “confronted” by cutting deals with their state-run agencies to build new tourist destinations and allowing more of their citizens to visit the island. Meanwhile, Cuban prisoners who look up to Mandela rot in prisons as the international community does more to fund their government’s repression rather than bankrupt it.

Even some interest groups in the U.S. have made strong but unsuccessful efforts to unilaterally lift sanctions and thus pretend like there is nothing wrong in Cuba. They claim sanctions hurt Cubans more than help them.

But this is not true. Economic sanctions won’t hurt Cubans more than unceasing communist repression will, just like sanctions did not hurt blacks more than apartheid did. Unfortunately, Cuba has always had its sympathizers and subsidizers. To countries that have always had normal relations with Cuba, an unprovoked change of course might seem too sudden or too abrupt of a change in policy.

However unlikely it is that these countries will impose sanctions on Cuba overnight, the U.S. must be open to the idea of pushing internationally backed sanctions when the time is right. In today’s world, timing is everything. This is especially so because the national, and even international, conversation is driven by impulsive social media.

International support for the Cuban people will have to come at some point and the most effective day will probably be when it appears that Cuba has reached an important fork in the road between new freedom or more of the same repression.

Until then, we must live with the fact that Cubans continue to look up to Mandela and continue to sacrifice everything with little international support. They continue seeking the help of those who once helped South Africa to rid itself of its own heavy chains, but these countries continue to turn a deaf ear.

No one will know exactly why the world was able to unite behind Mandela but continued to do so little for dissident leaders like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet or Berta Soler. However, the U.S. should not let the fact that few countries have stood resiliently against Castro persuade them to change course now. 

Just as we look back and reminisce at the strength of Mandela and the support we gave his movement, the U.S. will be able to look back at how they always supported the Cuban people over its oppressors – and that too is worth reminiscing about.

Rudy Mayor, a human rights activist, is a co-director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group.

Is Castro Paving the Way for Snowden?

It sure sounds that way -- or at least giving the "green light" for one of his South American cronies to do so.

Here is an English translation of last night's statement from Castro's Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

A few hours ago, several European governments denied or reneged, with technical excuses, overflight and landing permission for the plane of the President of Boliva, Evo Morales Ayma. This constitutes an inadmissible, unfounded and arbitrary act, which offends all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Days before, the United Stated threatened Ecuador, a sister country, with coercive economic measures. This cannot be tolerated by any means, it injures all of our America and deserves international condemnation.

The foreign ministry of the Republic of Cuba is following with serious concern the events of recent weeks in relation to the significant denunciations of U.S. citizen Edward Snowden, which confirmed the existence of a global system of espionage carried out by the United States that trampled on the sovereignty of states and rights of individuals.

Cuba calls on the international community to mobilize against these violations of international law and human rights.

Fariñas (Finally) Collects EU Human Rights Prize

From Euronews:

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas has collected the EU’s Sakharov human rights prize – two and a half years after he won it.

Raising his fist aloft, the campaigner and journalist told a packed EU parliament in Strasbourg, This gesture symbolizes the strength of the hope that one day there’ll be democracy in Cuba!”

The accolade was awarded to him after he carried out a 135-day hunger strike in 2010 to press for the release of political prisoners.

Barred from leaving Cuba until recently, Farinas was able to travel to Strasbourg to collect his long-awaited prize due to Havana’s abolition of exit permit restrictions in January.

During his acceptance speech he called for fellow dissidents to keep up the struggle for change in Cuba, saying: We are going to continue our non-violent fight. Cuba will become free – not because of a concession from the government, but due to the will of its citizens!

Farinas has spent more than 15 years protesting against the Cuban government and has staged more 23 hunger strikes.

Tweets of the Day

From the President, the Vice-President and another Member of The European Parliament:

More "Experimental" Cooperatives Nonsense

Tuesday, July 2, 2013
The media has been abuzz regarding Cuban dictator Raul Castro's recent decision to authorize over 124 "experimental"  non-agricultural cooperatives.

Perhaps this would be of interest if Raul's agricultural cooperatives had been a success, but they've been an absolute failure.

The Castros have been "experimenting" with agricultural cooperatives since the 1970's, with Raul intensifying the "experiment" in 2008.

Yet, even The New York Times recognized last December that these have netted few results -- if any:

"[B]y most measures, the project has failed. Because of waste, poor management, policy constraints, transportation limits, theft and other problems, overall efficiency has dropped: many Cubans are actually seeing less food at private markets."

So what makes anyone think similarly structured non-agricultural cooperatives will fare any better?

Moreover, let's remember that Castro's cooperatives do not bestow any property or ownership rights among the participants. Like in the case of agricultural cooperatives, it simply leases operating concessions from the state.

Also, the regime has stressed that these non-agricultural cooperatives can only be "for activities that are not transcendental for the country’s economy."  In other words, for the bread crumbs left over by the Cuban military's enterprises.

If the Castro regime wanted the Cuban people to prosper -- instead of just enriching its cronies and buying itself time -- it wouldn't keep distracting (and the media playing along) with these ridiculous "experiments."

It would grant the Cuban people ownership rights and set them free.

Bye Bye (Again) Alarcon

From the moment that senior Cuban regime official Ricardo Alarcon's top aide got caught with his hands in Castro's cookie jar last summer, it was the beginning of the end for Alarcon himself.

Thus, a few months later, Alarcon was dismissed from his spot as head of Castro's National Assembly.

And today, he was removed from the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

Maybe they'll grant him a "paladar" to run during his "Plan Pijama" (fall from the Castro brother's grace).

Results of Raul's "Reforms": Stagnation, Bicycles & Less Huevos

The results of Cuban dictator Raul Castro's much-hyped economic "reforms" keep coming in:

I. Continued Economic Stagnation

"Cuba said Monday its economy will grow by no more than 3 percent this year, about the same as in 2012 but far short of the 3.6 percent goal and another indication that ruler Raúl Castro’s reforms are generating little new economic activity." -- The Miami Herald

II. Resorting to Bicycles (Again)

"The Cuban government is planning to reintroduce bicycles as a way to alleviate public transport problems, Vice President Marino Murillo said in comments cited Monday in the official media." -- EFE

III. Less Huevos

"The Cuban government’s decision to halve the number of eggs to be delivered monthly to the population, through the ration book, took effect on Monday." -- The Havana Times

Fariñas to Receive Sakharov Prize

From The European Parliament:

2010 Sakharov Prize handed to Guillermo Fariñas after three years

Almost three years after he was awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought by the European Parliament, the Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas will be able to receive his award. European Parliament President Martin Schulz will hand over the award during the plenary session in Strasbourg, in a ceremony held on Wednesday July 3 between 6.00 and 6.30 PM (EST).


Cuban independent journalist and political dissident Guillermo Fariñas won the Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010. He has conducted 23 hunger strikes over the years to protest against the Cuban regime and censorship in Cuba. The Cuban authorities barred him from attending and his place was taken symbolically by an empty Chair. 

It can be seen live here.

Feminist Vanden Heuvel Sure Likes Strongmen

The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel, a scion of New York City's elite, whose infamous forays into foreign policy include defending Russia's Vladimir Putin and downplaying Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria, has just returned from Cuba.

Predictably, vanden Heuvel has written a column in The Washington Post regarding her boondoggle, regurgitating her Castro regime hosts talking points.

These were: Raul's "reforms"; the great work Brazil's Odebrecht is doing for them; unilaterally lift the U.S. embargo; and free the "Cuban Five" (spies).

There was no time to visit or discuss dissidents, bloggers, independent journalists, repression, political prisoners, or their struggle for freedom, human rights and democracy.

Or courageous women, such as The Ladies in White, Sara Marta Fonseca and Yoani Sanchez.  

Or female Afro-Cuban leaders, such as Yris Perez Aguilera and Damaris Moya, who were attacked with tear gas, beaten and arrested over the weekend.

Or Sonia Garro, who has been in prison for nearly a year-and-a-half now with no trial or charges filed.

These are mere "distractions."

Ironically, for a self-described feminist, vanden Heuvel sure seems to like strongmen.

Snowden Requests Asylum in Cuba

Monday, July 1, 2013
Wikileaks has just revealed that U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden has formally sought asylum in a total of 21 countries, including Russia, China, Venezuela and of course, Castro's Cuba.

The Wikileaks lawyers have obviously advised Snowden to decorate these requests with formal petitions to a group of democratic countries as well, in order to later argue that he had no choice but to seek the protection of an anti-American, authoritarian regime.

The countries are:

The Republic of Austria, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, the Republic of Finland, the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of India, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Ireland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Nicaragua, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Poland, the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Spain, the Swiss Confederation and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The requests join or update others previously made including to the Republic of Ecuador and the Republic of Iceland.

UPDATE: Austria, Finland, India, Ireland, Norway, Poland and Spain have all denied Snowden's application.

Cuban LGBT Activists: Don't Let Mariela Fool You

Let's hope the State Department takes note also.

From The Miami Herald:

Cuban LGBT dissidents visiting Miami: Don’t believe Mariela Castro about gay rights on the island

Eight weeks after Cuban leader Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela, received a gay equality award in Philadelphia, two of the island’s best-known LGBT dissidents are in Miami warning American activists not to believe what she says.

“I want to say to the LGBT community of the United States, don’t let Mariela fool you,” said Cuban activist Wendy Iriepa, a transgender woman who used to work with Castro at CENESEX, the Cuban National Center for Sex Education. “Don’t let the American community be used, as she is using you right now with the LGBT community in Cuba.”

“Everything is fake, it’s false,” Iriepa said of Castro’s portrayal of modern-day Cuba. “The gays still feel repression. When the police come, they say you have to leave here. Mariela sells to the world the same image the Cuban government does. Everything from the outside looks beautiful, but when you go inside, everything is not.”

Castro's "Machista" Attacks Against Female Dissidents

By Ana Defillo in America's Quarterly:

Gendering Cuba’s Blogosphere

It’s not uncommon for the Castro regime to accuse dissidents of being CIA agents or puppets of the U.S. government. Viral media attacks on Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez are not unique. However, the manner in which they attack Sánchez and other female dissidents, compared to their male counterparts, does seem unique. 

Initially, the Cuban government didn’t pay much attention to Sánchez and her blogging. Not really understanding the medium, the government wrote her off as a non-threat because of her gender and ultimately gave Sánchez the space to become the international figure she is today.

Once the regime had become aware of blogging’s influence, it initiated an online civil war between independent Cuban bloggers and the government. The government blocked all of the unauthorized blogs and began a defamation campaign against the independent bloggers—who are officially referred to as “cyber mercenaries” and enemies of the revolution. Cuba’s version of Wikipedia, EcuRed, describes Sánchez as “Cibermercenaria y bloguera cubana” next to a menacing-looking photo of her.    

Numerous websites exist solely to insult and question Sánchez’s legitimacy as a renowned journalist, writer and blogger. These insults and accusations are mostly gender-based. Male bloggers’ accomplishments and awards are rarely questioned. Instead, they are labeled (if at all) with epithets associated with a dominant form of masculinity, such as “terrorist” and “traitor.” Meanwhile, the language used to attack Sánchez focuses mainly on her appearance and stereotypes associated with being female.

The main tactics used to defame Sánchez are centered on her looks—as shown in the photos (below) from the Cuban blog “Cambios en Cuba” (“Changes in Cuba”), which implies that Sánchez’ true motive for traveling abroad was to change her appearance.

Pro-Castro bloggers also try to emasculate Sánchez’ husband, Reinaldo Escobar. They depict Sánchez traveling the world, working and meeting other men while he is in Cuba, abandoned and waiting. In the eyes of pro-Castro media, these are not the proper gender roles.  In a different blog post, “Cambios en Cuba” berated Sánchez by commenting on her “new look,” alleging that she had “bathed, combed and put on makeup” for the benefit of the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, who she met during her tour to Spain in March.

Another blog, el Blog de Yohandry: Una Mirada desde Cuba (“Yohandry’s Blog: A view from Cuba”), posted the photos comparing the former Spanish prime minister to Sánchez’ husband and claiming that Sánchez had exchanged “one old goat for another.”

It was very hard to find similar attacks on Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, another famous Cuban blogger who recently left Cuba, despite the amount of press attention he has received while abroad. Of all the Cuban bloggers, none are scrutinized as much and as intensely as Yoani Sánchez. Part of this can be attributed to her international fame and success, but part of it is also because of her gender.

Sánchez and other female dissidents have acknowledged this difference in the way they are treated, and have used it to their advantage. It’s one of the reasons for her fame today. At a conference on the Cuban blogosphere at The City University of New York in March 2013, Sánchez confidently declared, “Hay algo positivo de la machista.” (“There is something positive about machismo.”)

Must-Read: In President Obama's Own Words

Sunday, June 30, 2013
During his remarks at the University of Cape Town today, U.S. President Barack Obama explained how -- as a college student -- advocating for sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime marked the beginning of his political career.

This is exactly how we feel regarding Castro's brutal dictatorship in Cuba and our concerns with his Administration's unilateral easing of travel sanctions.

Similarly, we pray he listens to the moral clarity and stands on the side of Cuba's freedom fighters, such as Berta Soler, Guillermo Fariñas, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez."

According to President Obama:

[T]wo young men, ANC representatives, came to our college and spoke, and I spent time hearing their stories. And I learned about the courage of those who waged the Defiance Campaign, and the brutality leveled against innocent men, women and children from Sharpeville to Soweto. And I studied the leadership of Luthuli, and the words of Biko, and the example of Madiba, and I knew that while brave people were imprisoned just off these shores on Robben Island, my own government in the United States was not standing on their side. That’s why I got involved in what was known as the divestment movement in the United States.

It was the first time I ever attached myself to a cause. It was the first time also that I ever gave a speech. It was only two minutes long -- and I was really just a warm-up act at a rally that we were holding demanding that our college divest from Apartheid South Africa. So I got up on stage, I started making my speech, and then, as a bit of political theater, some people came out with glasses that looked like security officers and they dragged me off the stage. Fortunately, there are no records of this speech. But I remember struggling to express the anger and the passion that I was feeling, and to echo in some small way the moral clarity of freedom fighters an ocean away.

Castro Confiscates His Own

No one is safe from the Castro brother's larceny -- even their closest friends and confidants.

Over the weekend, Cubans agents forcefully entered and searched the home of Alfredo Guevara, the Castro brother's former cinema czar and chief censor.

They confiscated his books, computers, works of art and money.

Guevara died this past April at the age of 87.

His family has denounced this confiscation as illegal.

Good luck with that one.

These Castro brothers will happily eat their own.

From "Free the Five" to "Free the Jackal"

It seems the "Free the Five" crowd has new goal.

Think we're joking?

See picture below.

The signs read: "Internationalist fighter kidnapped in France, repatriation for Carlos."

That's the infamous international terrorist, Carlos "the Jackal."

The Machete Dictatorship

Earlier this month, we posted how a 30-year old democracy activist from Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Werlando Leyva, was brutally attacked by a Castro regime operative with a machete.

Last week, two more dissidents were attacked with machetes:

Goart Cruz Zamora of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU); and
Orlando Gomez Hernandez of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front

Looks like Raul Castro is striving to become the Idi Amin of the Americas.

Click here for more details.

How Dictators Exploit Exiles

Economic "reforms" as distractions?

Travel and remittances by exiles as financial tools?

These are not unique to Castro's Cuba.

These tools have been a favorite of dictatorships since the 1930s.

Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz, Professor of History, and currently the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the Institute of World Politics explains on "From Washington al Mundo."

The segment begins start at the 13:20 mark.

Click here to listen.