A Massacre That Will Never Be Forgotten

Saturday, July 13, 2013
Today is the 19th anniversary of this brutal massacre by the Castro brothers:

"In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, three boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, outside the port of Havana. The Cuban State boats attacked the tugboat with their prows, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat-named the '13 of March' - sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten children."

-- Ted Koppel, ABC's Nightline.

Let's remember the victims:

Abreu Ruíz, Angel René. Age: 3.
Alcalde Puig, Rosa María. Age: 47.
Almanza Romero, Pilar. Age: 31.
Alvarez Guerra, Lissett María. Age: 24.
Anaya Carrasco, Yaltamira. Age: 22.
Balmaseda Castillo, Jorge Gregorio. Age: 24.
Borges Alvarez, Giselle. Age: 4.
Borges Briel, Lázaro Enrique. Age: 34.
Carrasco Sanabria, Martha Mirilla. Age: 45.
Cayol, Manuel. Age: 56.
Enríquez Carrazana, Luliana. Age: 22.
Fernández Rodríguez, María Miralis. Age: 27.
Feu González Rigoberto. Age: 31
García Suárez, Joel. Age: 20.
Góngora, Leonardo Notario. Age: 28.
González Raices, Amado. Age: 50.
Guerra Martínez, Augusto Guillermo. Age: 45.
Gutiérrez García, Juan Mario. Age: 10.
Levrígido Flores, Jorge Arquímedes. Age: 28.
Leyva Tacoronte, Caridad. Age: 5.
Loureiro, Ernesto Alfonso. Age: 25
Marrero Alamo, Reynaldo Joaquín. Age: 48.
Martínez Enriquez, Hellen. Age: 5 Months.
Méndez Tacoronte, Mayulis. Age: 17.
Muñoz García, Odalys. Age: 21.
Nicle Anaya, José Carlos. Age: 3.
Pérez Tacoronte, Yousell Eugenio. Age: 11.
Perodín Almanza, Yasser. Age: 11.
Prieto Hernández, Fidencio Ramel. Age: 51.
Rodríguez Fernández, Xicdy. Age: 2.
Rodríguez Suárez, Omar. Age: 33.
Ruíz Blanco, Julia Caridad. Age: 35.
Sanabria Leal, Miladys. Age: 19.
Suárez Esquivel, Eduardo. Age: 38.
Suárez Esquivel, Estrella. Age: 48.
Suárez Plasencia, Eliécer. Age: 12.
Tacoronte Vega, Martha Caridad. Age: 35
And 4 more that still remain unidentified.

They will never be forgotten. 

Tweet of the Week

By Cuban blogger and pro-democracy activist Yusnaby Perez:

Cubans of the world, to criticize the government of #Cuba doesn't make you anti-patriotic; "Cuba" and "the government of Cuba" are 2 different concepts. 

We Thank Cuba's MinRex for the Plug

In a statement today, the Castro regime's Foreign Ministry (known as MinRex) gave us a fascinating plug.

Their dictatorial diatribe is too poetic for translation:

"El activismo de este PAC, considerado el más grande orientado hacia un solo país en los Estados Unidos, ha sido clave en la promoción de iniciativas contra Cuba en el Congreso y en la creación de un ambiente negativo para el debate en ese órgano de las ideas de cambio de la vieja, obsesiva y fracasada política de los EE.UU. contra la nación antillana.

El abogado de origen cubano Mauricio Claver-Carone, quien es su director ejecutivo, principal cabildero en Washington e insuperable encarnación de la anti-patria que medra de las migajas imperiales a tono con la farsa del 'exilio,' dirige a su vez la organización 'Defensores de la Democracia en Cuba.' Esta se dedica a hacer labores de cabildeo  en el Congreso para asegurar el mantenimiento del bloqueo genocida impuesto al pueblo cubano, con objetivos complementarios a los dineros que deja caer el PAC. Por si fuera poco, el propio Claver-Carone es editor del blog Capitol Hill Cubans, fuente de información tergiversada sobre Cuba que cotidianamente destila hiel a diestras y siniestras contra todo aquel y todo aquello que huela a beneficio para los cubanos de a pie, a ambos lados del Estrecho de la Florida."

Congress: Say No to Cuban Dictator's Son

Bipartisan Congressional Group Urges Secretary Kerry to Deny Visa to Cuban Dictator’s Son

A bipartisan group of Congressional Members sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the possibility that a U.S. entry visa might be given to Antonio Castro, son of Fidel Castro and nephew of Raul Castro, allowing him to come to the United States to join the Cuban baseball team at the International Collegiate Friendship Series next week.

Text of the letter:

July 12, 2013

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

We are writing to urge the State Department to deny a U.S. entry visa to the son of Fidel Castro, Antonio Castro.  We understand that Antonio Castro frequently accompanies Cuban baseball players traveling abroad in order to intimidate them and prevent them from defecting.

We are concerned that Antonio Castro may have requested a visa to come to the United States to join the Cuban baseball team at the International Collegiate Friendship Series next week.  We have repeatedly expressed our outrage that the Administration granted U.S. entry to high-level Castro operatives such as Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Mariela Castro, and Eusebio Leal, to name a few. The Castro brothers and their family members represent an oppressive regime that denies human rights and basic freedoms to the Cuban people.

Granting a visa to the son of Fidel Castro and the nephew of dictator Raul Castro would undermine our efforts to promote democracy and freedom within the island, and damages our longstanding policy of strengthening ties with the Cuban people and isolating their oppressors. It would be especially misguided to grant a visa to the son and nephew of the very tyrants who continue to unjustly hold Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen who has languished in Castro’s gulag for more than three years.  

For those reasons, and within all applicable rules and regulations, we respectfully request that you deny U.S. entry to Antonio Castro.

Sincerely,

Ileana-Ros-Lehtinen
Member of Congress

Mario Diaz-Balart
Member of Congress

Albio Sires
Member of Cingress

Will Fidel's Son Get a U.S. Visa?

Thursday, July 11, 2013
Next week (from July 18th-July 23rd), the U.S. and Cuban baseball teams will face-off in an International Collegiate Friendship Series.

The series will consist of five games played in Iowa, Nebraska and North Carolina.

We wish these young athletes the best of luck.

Who knows?

Perhaps one of the visiting Cuban players will find an opportunity to defect and become the next Yasiel Puig or Yoani Cespedes.

However, in order to prevent any of these athletes from realizing their dreams of playing in freedom, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro usually sends his son, Antonio ("Tony"), to travel with them. 

It's an omnipresent warning that the dictator is watching.

Fidel even got Tony a gig as Vice-President of the International Baseball Federation.

Antonio is Fidel's bon vivant son.  When he's not getting duped into virtual online affairs (only elite Cubans have Internet access) with Colombian beauties, he's spotted at fancy parties in Havana or winning staged golf tournaments in Varadero.

He's the Al-Saadi Gaddafi of Cuba.

(Al-Saadi was the Libyan dictator's talent-less professional soccer playing son.)

In these remarks last week, Castro stated that "we look forward" to the upcoming games in the U.S.

"We"? 

Does that mean Tony is planning to join the Cuban team in the U.S. (to keep on eye on the young players)?

More importantly, will the State Department give him a visa to do so?

Let's hope the State Department is not planning any further rewards to the brutal Castro family, which would be an overt insult to their victims.

Castro Insider: No Real Changes in Cuba

By renowned Cuban neurosurgeon, former Castro confidant and member of his National Assembly (exiled in Argentina since 2009), Dr. Hilda Molina, in La Voz Mundo:

"Of Cuba's reality, I am more than well-aware because inside the Cuban government there is a resistance of good people who have never caused harm and who disagree with what is happening. I am in contact with them. Nobody knows that they think this way because they would have already been executed. Let them try to figure out who they are, for they will be unable to! They remain a mystery, as I too spent 50 years on the inside! I am up to date and I can assure you that the government is not making any democratic changes, nor economic openings. They are readjusting their strategies in order to try to perpetuate their successors in power and strengthen the immense fortunes that they have already amassed in their businesses with capitalists. But in Cuba there are not really any changes."

Does Travel to Cuba Hurt the Castro Regime?

That's been the counter-intuitive argument by supporters of unilaterally easing sanctions towards the Castro regime.

Here's the answer, courtesy of Llanio Gonzalez, consul (intelligence officer) in the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C.:

"Right now, many people live in both places at the same time, they come and go, come and go. We want more expats to join the trend."

That's right, travel to Cuba hurts the Castro regime so much, that they want more and more.

Approps Committee Reins in Travel Junkets

Since their inception in 2011, "people-to-people" trips to Cuba have been nothing more than tourism junkets -- complete with Castro regime tour guides; stays at the Cuban military's luxurious hotels; and dining, drinking and dancing at its apparatchik's restaurants, lounges and nightclubs.

Click here for some examples of these trips.

They are even advertised on Travelzoo and other tourism sites.

Such trips are in contravention of U.S. policy, as codified in law, and even contrary to the Obama Administration's own stated goal of promoting the Cuban people's "independence from the authorities."

As such, the House Appropriations Committee has moved to prohibit the Department of Treasury from licensing non-academic educational trips to Cuba (so-called "people-to-people trips"), which are an inherent oxymoron.

It should be telling that -- in the story below -- the biggest opposition to the Appropriations Committee's initiative has come from U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), a self-declared admirer of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

Moreover, it is also telling that Congressman Serrano's best example of a successful "educational people-to-people" trip was Jay-Z and Beyonce's recent (and obvious) tourism junket.

Thus, we'd like to thank Congressman Serrano for unintentionally making the case for us.

From Politico:

Appropriations committee responds to Jay-Z, Beyonce Cuba trip

A spending bill approved on Wednesday by one of the panel’s subcommittees contains a provision that seeks to tighten travel restrictions to Cuba, following the celebrity couples headline making trip the communist country earlier this year.

“This is the Jay-Z, Beyonce Bill,” Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee who opposes the provision, told POLITICO. “Absolutely [it’s a response to the trip], and it’s playing to the audience in Miami” — a reference to opponents of relaxing economic and diplomatic relations with the island country.

The provision is part of a larger $17 billion financial services spending bill that funds the operations of several agencies, including the Treasury Department, which approved the cultural trip that included Jay-Z and Beyonce. The department has said it approves the trips based on their itinerary and not the specific travelers.

Panel Republicans said that’s too broad a policy and in response the spending would restrict travel to Cuba to educational exchanges involving academic study related to a degree program. So unless Jay-Z and Beyonce are earning a degree — the Treasury Department wouldn’t have been able to approve their trip.

Their trip “was an example of how the guidelines are not being enforced,” Subcommittee Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) told POLITICO. “I think that if we’re going to say that we have this policy in place that relates to travel in Cuba that it ought to be enforced and that becomes a grey area where they’re probably not really following the guidelines.”

Serrano, an advocate for opening up relations with Cuba, said he has no problems with the married celebrity couple’s anniversary trip, which sparked criticism for what could be perceived as an endorsement of the communist country.

“The mistake they made was being seen in public, by that I mean they being who they are walked down the street.,” he said. “We may consider Cuba a closed society, but even it is – it’s not closed enough so they don’t know who Jay-Z and Beyonce are.”

He added: “What you’re seeing here is the result of a successful trip …isn’t it educational for a superstar in our country to go to Cuba and say, ‘Look who we are?’”

Cuban Torturer Readmitted to U.S.

The first time it was revealed this Castro regime torturer was admitted to the U.S., the State Department pled ignorance.

If he's now been readmitted, what will State plead this time?

(You can fill in the blank).

From The Miami Herald:

Ex-Cuban prisons chief accused of human rights abuse is back in the U.S.

A former Cuban prisons chief who was living in Miami and returned hastily to the island after he was accused of human rights abuses is now back again in the United States, according to a knowledgeable source.

Interior Ministry Col. Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, returned to Cuba in November after a half dozen dissidents identified him as a former director of prisons in the central province of Villa Clara and accused him of abuses.

But a person with direct knowledge of the case Wednesday confirmed reports last week that Rivero had returned to the United States. He declined further comment and asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Internet and Cuba's Gag Law

By former Cuban political prisoner Julio Cesar Galvez (of the Black Spring's 75) for English PEN:

The coming into effect of purported free access to the internet [through the new 118 centers] in Cuba is yet another trick of the Castro regime to allow it to meddle in the life of its citizens. Firstly, the connection is made through an ETECSA server, which allows any electronic message or communication leaving Cuba to be filtered and inspected. Secondly, the ‘Nauta’ cards, the only ones authorized and sold by the telecommunication regulatory body, constitute a strict legal gag, since chapter 6 of the General Conditions of Access to the Service of the Internet – User Obligations points out that: ‘This service must not be used to carry out actions which may be considered by ETECSA or by the competent administrative and judiciary authorities as harmful or detrimental to public security, integrity, the economy, independence and national sovereignty…

It’s crystal clear. What was supposedly a civil right has been turned into another form of espionage, with the implicit and explicit threat of imprisonment under Law 88, popularly dubbed the ‘gag law’, if one is considered an enemy and traitor to the motherland. Once more, psychological terror looms over the head of those who want to tell the truth about what happens in Cuba, this time with the help of the worldwide web. No matter: as long as Castro’s totalitarianism is in control of Cuba, we will communicate more safely through smoke signals and carrier pigeons.

State and Castro Agree on Terms of Travel

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The State Department has given permission to two Cuban Interests Section officials in Washington, D.C. to travel to Miami to meet with a pro-Castro group.

We wonder if the State Department gives permission to Iranian officials to meet with pro-Khameini groups in Los Angeles or Syrian officials to meet with pro-Assad groups in Detroit.

This is insulting and dangerous on many fronts.

However, it also sheds lights on the Obama Administration's travel policy.

In a video recording of the meeting, a Castro regime official (who might as well have intelligence agent stamped on his forehead) says that the "habilitation" of passports for Cubans abroad to travel to the island -- a pre-requisite for anyone born in Cuba regardless of current citizenship -- is based on their "behavior."

"Once the [passport] habilitation has been approved it remains that way, unless you do something against our country, or that you participate in a campaign of some sort against Havana," said Castro's consul (agent) Llanio Gonzalez Perez (pictured below).

Sadly, this seems consistent with the State Department's consular sheet for travelers to Cuba, which warns Americans to "avoid all demonstrations" by domestic opposition groups.

Thus travelers to Cuba, whether of Cuban origin or people-to-people, are only supposed to take remittances, enjoy the Castro regime's luxurious hotels, clubs and restaurants, and stay away from anyone who dares advocate for freedom and democracy.

Seems like a win-win (for Castro).

Since When is Fascism to be Celebrated?

Only in the most zealous effort to portray Cuban dictator Raul Castro as a "reformer" is totalitarian "state capitalism" -- aka fascism -- celebrated as a positive development.

This weekend, the Castro regime held the bi-yearly meeting of its rubber-stamp National Assembly.

Like all things Castro, these meetings are closed to the public and journalists.  Instead, state media will play some selected clips during the evening broadcast.

Predictably, the Castro regime announced that the economy is progressing -- despite a slowdown in GDP and and increase in unemployment.

However, what garnered the attention of the foreign media was an announcement by Politburo member and "economic czar" Marino Murillo, who announced that the regime will begin deregulating state-run companies in 2014.

Does that mean these inefficient state companies will be privatized, even partially?  No.

Does that mean they will no longer be run by the regime's apparatchiks?  No.

Private property rights?  Not a chance.

It simply means the regime's apparatchiks will (supposedly) have greater sway in how to manage the state's company, rather than having the Presidential Palace dictate every detail.

But the profits still go to the Presidential Palace.

Without a second to spare, a Cuba "expert" at the Brookings Institution praised this "reform":

Murillo's empowerment of state-run companies is a milestone on the road toward a new Cuban model of state capitalism.”

A "milestone"?  Seriously?

State capitalism is simply the new connotation of an old political-economic philosophy -- fascism.

In his book "The End of the Free Market," American political scientist Ian Bremmer explains this "new" invention by authoritarian regimes throughout the world:

"In this system, governments use various kinds of state-owned companies to manage the exploitation of resources that they consider the state's crown jewels... [T]he ultimate motive is not economic (maximizing growth) but political (maximizing the state's power and the leadership's chances of survival)."

Is this something to be celebrated?

A Disturbing Internet Fact

From today's story in The New York Times entitled, "Salons or Not, Cyberspace Is Still a Distant Place for Most Cubans":

The International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency for information and communications technology, puts the number of broadband subscriptions in Cuba at 0.04 per 100 inhabitants, or about one in 2,500. That is lower than in Haiti and Sudan, two places that are not considered the least bit tech-friendly.

Even Cuba’s new cybersalons, which operate under the brand name Nauta, amount to just one for every 95,000 Cubans.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Castro Blames Cubans for His Own Actions

Monday, July 8, 2013
In Cuba, everyone is to blame, except for the Castro brothers themselves.

They've spent over 50 years stealing from the Cuban people.

Yet, accuse the Cuban people of stealing from them.

They've organized regime mobs to throw eggs and waste at soon-to-be exiles ("gusanos"). 

Yet, accuse the Cuban people of littering.

They've plastered the island with their own pictures and slogans.

Yet, accuse the Cuban people of graffiti.

They infamously curse, beat and arrest peaceful female activists (The Ladies in White).

Yet, accuse Cubans of lack of deference to women.

They crash the cars of opponents, run them off the road and kill them (Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero).

Yet, accuse Cuban children of throwing rocks at cars.

They imprison hungry people for killing and eating a cow without government permission.

Yet, accuse Cubans of raising pigs in cities.

They serve alcohol to paramilitary goons, in order to induce attacks against dissidents.

Yet, accuse Cubans of public drinking.

They drown out meetings of independent civil society groups with loud music.

Yet, accuse Cubans of not letting the neighbors sleep due to loud music.

They must have given up on blaming the U.S. embargo.

From AP:

Raul Castro spent the lion's share of a prominent speech Sunday scolding his countrymen for all kinds of bad behavior, everything from corruption and theft to public urination and the odoriferous practice of raising pigs in cities.

He also fulminated against baser examples of "social indiscipline": shouting and swearing in the streets, public drinking and drunk driving, dumping trash on the roadside and even people who relieve themselves in parks.

Other examples of bad behavior cited by Castro:

- People showing up late to work.

- Graffiti and vandalizing of parks, monuments, trees and gardens.

- Loud music that disturbs neighbors' sleep.

- Raising pigs in cities despite the public health risk.

- Scavenging metal from phone and electrical lines, sewers, signs and traffic lights.

- Fare evasion on public transportation.

- Failure to comply with school dress codes, and teachers who accept bribes for higher grades.

- Lack of deference to the elderly, pregnant women, mothers with small children and the disabled.

- Children throwing rocks at cars and trains.

Is Brazil Set to Lose its $800 Million in Cuba Credits?

The story below -- on Brazil's backtracking on Cuban doctors -- raises an interesting question:

Will the Castro regime now have to pay back the Brazilian Development Bank's (BNDES) $800 million in financing for Odebrecht's expansion of the Port of Mariel in cash, rather than in slave labor (as it does with Venezuela)?

If so, good luck collecting.

Or perhaps Odebrecht will try to make it up for BNDES through a few boondoggles from Miami-Dade County's taxpayers.

From MercoPress:

Brazil drops the idea of Cuban doctors and will hire physicians from Spain and Portugal

The Brazilian government, under pressure to improve public health services, has dropped plans to import a contingent of Cuban doctors and is instead looking to hire physicians in Spain and Portugal, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

President Rousseff was responding to Brazilian medical associations that question the standards of Cuban medical schools

The plan to bring in Cuban doctors created a backlash because of questions about their qualifications. Brazilian medical associations argued that standards at Cuba's medical schools were lower than in Brazil and equivalent in some cases to a nursing education.

Wikileaks Rooting for Cuba Asylum

This is getting more interesting by the minute.

A tweet from Wikileaks:

Ignoring Facts: The Tampa-Cuba Folly

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) has a commissioned article, which was run by a couple of news publications, entitled:

"Tampa And Miami In Cold War Over Cuban Trade"

The FCIR's thesis is that Tampa is in a better position to conduct business with Cuba due to its current courting of the Castro regime.

(We suggest Tampa's business leaders have a talk with British businessman, and until recently one of Castro's closest partners, Stephen Purvis.)

A few points on this folly:

First, the lifting of U.S. sanctions are conditioned on a free and democratic Cuba (and Congress is unlikely to change that).  Thus, sucking-up to the Castro regime is irrelevant.

(Tellingly, a free and democratic Cuba is not a factor considered by the FCIR.  Its premise is solely based on a unilateral change of U.S. policy, rather than an end to Cuba's brutal totalitarian dictatorship.)

Second, once Cuba is free and becomes a democracy, the last people who will benefit -- as history has consistently proven in transitions from dictatorship to democracy throughout the world -- are those who befriended their oppressors.

(Note to the Editor of Tampa's La Gaceta: Your pictures frolicking all over Fidel Castro will get you nowhere with the Cuban people, either now or in the future.)

Third, the notion that "Tampa has a leg up on every other city in America because of [its] historical cigar connection," is ridiculous.  Moreover, it defies economic, geographic, logistical and practical realities.

Finally, proof (of the folly) is in the pudding.  The FCIR's article notes:

"Tampa International Airport is putting on a series of Cuban heritage events, including sandwich tastings and Cuban bands, to promote its direct flights to the island."

Yet, it fails to mention that since these flights were inaugurated in 2011, the number of charter carriers and flights from Tampa to Cuba have been cut by nearly half.

Why?

Due to lack of demand.

How could FCIR fail to mention such a key fact?

Moreover, how could the various Cuba "experts" consulted by the FCIR (to echo its pre-determined thesis) fail to mention such a key fact?

Because it would put a damper on its folly.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Castro Backs Snowden Asylum

Sunday, July 7, 2013
Once again, as we predicted...

From AP:

Cuba's Raul Castro backs asylum offers for Snowden

Raul Castro stood shoulder-to-shoulder Sunday with Latin American countries willing to take in NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but made no reference to whether Cuba itself would offer him refuge or safe passage.

Venezuela and Bolivia both made asylum offers to Snowden over the weekend, and Nicaragua has said it is also considering his request.

"We support the sovereign right of Venezuela and all states in the region to grant asylum to those persecuted for their ideals or their struggles for democratic rights," Castro said in a speech to Cuba's national assembly.