Has The Economist Become a China Rag?

Saturday, July 20, 2013
Apparently so.

Last week, the Castro regime invited a group of business journalists from Europe and the U.S. to visit Havana for a dog-and-pony show on Raul's "reforms" -- and for the sake of foreign capital.

However, as CNBC and The Financial Times discovered (see here), the facts didn't match Castro's rhetoric.

In contrast, The Economist chose to simply focus on the rhetoric.

The title is very telling -- "Reform in Cuba: Set the farmers and shopkeepers free"

Why not -- "Set the Cuban people free"

Here's why (particularly #3).

Let's dissect this paragraph line-by-line:

1. "Cuba is developing new trading partners—China, Brazil and Angola, for example—but on capitalist terms. The missing name is America."

CHC: Really? Is that why foreign companies investing in Cuba (through mandatory joint ventures with the Castro regime) have dropped from 400 to 190 over the last decade.

2. "Though the United States’ economic embargo against Cuba has sprung leaks, it limits Cuban-Americans to being providers of remittances."

CHC: Fact check -- Cuban-American remittances to Cuba have no current limits.

3. "Diasporas played a crucial role in the transition to capitalism in China and Vietnam. They could help Cuba too."

CHC: Bingo. Because for The Economist, the goal is not about a "transition to democracy" in Cuba.  It's about a "transition to capitalism," à la China and Vietnam's fascist model.

4. "Similarly, swift and clean monetary reform would be much easier if Cuba could draw on support from the IMF and the World Bank to augment its meagre foreign-exchange reserves."

CHC: That's right, let's have the IMF and World Bank bail out the Castro regime -- and the U.S. flip the bill.  Brilliant.  Perhaps The Economist Group should guarantee some loans to the Castro regime instead.

History has proven that human rights and political freedoms always guarantee economic reforms.

However, economic reforms do not guarantee human rights and political freedoms.

The Economist has already cast its lot on the wrong side of history.

Why Protect "Obsolete" Weapons With Explosives?

Cuba's weaponry was not only hidden under 10,000 metric tons of sugar, but may be laden with explosives as well.

From Reuters:

Panama checking for explosive material in North Korean ship

Investigators unloading the cargo of a seized North Korean ship that carried arms from Cuba may have discovered explosive material on board, a senior Panamanian official said on Friday.

Javier Caraballo, Panama's top anti-drug prosecutor, said officials removed three more containers from the Chong Chon Gang, but had decided not to open them for "security reasons."

"Experts in the matter tell us that they could contain some type of explosive material," Caraballo told reporters.

He said the Panamanian government would not speculate on the contents until they had been opened. Explosive experts would arrive on Saturday to determine the content of the containers and could announce their findings as early as Sunday, he added.

Caraballo declined to provide further details on what led authorities to believe it could contain explosives.

Cuban Players Confuse Referee for Ladies in White

In an eerie scene during today's Panama-Cuba soccer game, the Cuban national team seems to confuse the referee for the Ladies in White:


Oswaldo Paya's Name Lives On

By Cuban blogger and journalist Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in The Prague Post:

In Cuba, Oswaldo Payá's name lives on

Efforts to improve human rights, rule of law continue after dissident's death

I waited in a queue of hundreds of mourners marching past the coffin below the chief altar. It was a deadly hot July day. The parish of El Salvador del Mundo in the Cerro municipality of Havana held a funeral wake for the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement Oswaldo Payá, 1952-2012.

I looked at Payá's face. His left cheek was bruised. He was lying there - the man whom the Cuban exile accused of adherence to the Castro ideology due to his endeavor to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy "from law to law," one that would redeem the truth and wouldn't end up in a mock exchange of one military leader for another, this time wearing a suit and tie. Payá was also criticized by opposition members for defending his convictions too vehemently - a virtue they mistook for authoritarianism. His corpse was now lying there in solitude, so typical of martyrs.

I thought of the young MCL leader, Harold Cepero, who lost his life with Payá. At that moment I felt as if he had looked at me, guiltily, without opening his dead eyes. The heavy curtain of his eyelids has been dropped forever.

I had an overpowering vision inspired in a speech I had just heard, a speech made by Payá's daughter, Rosa Maria (even younger than the deceased lad). Despite going through great pain, she announced quite calmly to the world that her father had been assassinated after decades of receiving threats and living under constant surveillance. To support her indictment, she also mentioned the text messages sent by the two survivors of the fake "accident" to their home countries, Sweden and Spain.

In my vision, Oswaldo Payá was taken out of the car he was traveling in and was put on an in situ trial by a military tribunal. He was sentenced to death without having a chance to defend himself. The commander-in-chief of the revolution, who had never forgiven Payá for living a free and happy life, thus completed the old personal vendetta against a man who was able to gather more than 25,000 signatures against the regime, a man who spoke fearlessly and without hatred in his heart upon receiving the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize, a man who had won nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize - the award that Fidel Castro used to covet before he became a senile old man.

Quiet tears ran down my cheeks, and it was impossible to control them. I wouldn't say I felt sad; I was just devastated. I realized that what started out as a guerrilla movement with barbaric executions without trial long before 1959 has now ended up in an assassination ordered by the government. And businessmen from the free world keep counting and recounting the money they are planning to invest here in the island to become saviors of the last leftist utopia in the world.

It should be noted that the Varela Project of the Christian Liberation Movement, whose idea was to reduce the tyranny of the totalitarian regime by forcing the government to comply with its own laws, is still valid, and no Cuban official will ever gain legitimacy unless the National Assembly of People's Power complies with the legislative provisions and acknowledges the lawfulness of this public petition, which has been delivered to it in compliance with the Constitution. The Varela Project is Payá's legacy that will survive both Castro brothers as well as their successor: the capitalism without human rights that they are currently testing in Cuba.

It is quite possible that the crime will go unpunished in terms of the law. Yet, the lives of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá, regardless of whether they were ended as I envisioned or in any another cruel way, have become a kind of a gospel, a heritage shared by all Cubans symbolizing their desire to burn all violence perpetrated by the State on a pile of green uniforms of State Security executioners.

For Those Who Believe a Word Castro Says

Read below and we have this sugary treat is for you.

From Reuters:

North Korean ship was carrying sugar donation, Cuba told Panama

When a North Korean ship carrying Cuban arms was seized last week in Panama on suspicion of smuggling drugs, Cuba first said it was loaded with sugar for the people of North Korea, according to a Panamanian official familiar with the matter.

Cuban officials were quick to request the ship be released, pledging there were no drugs on board, and made no mention of the weapons which two days later were found hidden in the hold under 220,000 sacks of brown sugar, the official told Reuters.

"They said it was all a big misunderstanding," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cuba declined to comment on the official's account.

Congressional Black Caucus Supports Boycott of Florida (But Not Cuba)

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and others members of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling for an economic boycott of the State of Florida over the jury verdict in the case of Trayvon Martin.

We respect their opinion.

Yet, ironically, these are also the leading Congressional voices against the economic boycott of Cuba's brutal dictatorship, which disproportionately represses its Afro-Cuban population.

Which raises the question:

Why didn't they support an economic boycott of Cuba when the Castro regime denied water to Afro-Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who consequently died in a hunger strike protesting the beating and abuses he suffered? 

Or more simply:

Why do they continue to defend the Castro regime?

From The Hill:

Congressional Black Caucus members would support Florida boycott

A number of House Democrats are lining up behind the Rev. Jesse Jackson's threat for an economic boycott of Florida following the not-guilty verdict in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Exerting pressure on Florida's economy as Jackson is suggesting, they said, could help overturn the state's controversial stand-your-ground laws that many contend contributed to the tragedy.

"That's probably the best strategy, because people understand dollars and cents," Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said Friday. "And they understand, if there's a significant drop-off in revenues – at conventions, at Disney World and Universal Studios – that that will get the attention of the powerful."

Rep. Bennie Thompson echoed that message. The Mississippi Democrat called the verdict "a travesty" that "does not speak well for this country," and said he would "absolutely" support an economic boycott of the state.

"[It] could have significant economic significance if properly organized," Thompson said Friday. "What I gather from a lot of people who have feelings about it, he [Jackson] would get … support."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said she's also on board.

"I would support whatever it takes to get these stand-your-ground laws off the books," she said.

Russia's "Obsolete" Weapons Sales to Syria

Great point by The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson:

Diplomats have long employed disingenuous turns of phrase to avoid conceding inconvenient and sometimes self-evident truths that could compromise or embarrass their nations. While artfulness is preferred, bald-faced lying is also part of the protocol. When the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, says, for instance, as he has been wont to over the past year, that Russian arms shipments to Syria’s Assad régime are not offensive in nature and mere obligatory fulfillments of old standing orders—made long before the country’s civil war—he is, most likely, lying.

It is difficult to know, as yet, just why Cuba would have wished to secretly load two MiG-21 fighter jets, fifteen MiG engines, and two anti-aircraft missile systems of Soviet vintage onto a North Korean cargo ship, the Chong Chon Gang, which then concealed that cargo underneath ten thousand tons of Cuban brown sugar. But the explanation that Cuba’s foreign ministry quickly offered on Tuesday, a day after the ship’s dramatic seizure by suspicious Panamanian authorities at the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, was somewhere between decidedly strange and scarcely believable. The cargo was indeed Cuba’s, said the foreign-ministry communique, consisting of “obsolete defensive weapons” which was being sent to North Korea for “repair.” If the Chong Chon Gang’s mission was as prosaic as that, then it’s captain certainly overreacted when, as the Panamanians boarded his vessel, he attempted to commit suicide by cutting his own throat, while his crewmen mounted a resistance against their captors.

Check out the language used by Lavrov at the time.  

Sound familiar?

From AFP:

Russia's foreign minister said Friday he did not understand the international uproar created by Moscow's continuing weapons cooperation with regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"I do not understand why the media is trying to create a sensation out of this," said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "We have not hidden that we supply weapons to Syria under signed contracts, without violating any international agreements, or our own legislation."

Lavrov said during a joint press appearance in Sochi with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Russia only supplied defence weapons that could not alter the outcome of the 26-month conflict between Assad's forces and the opposition.

"We are first and foremost supplying defence weapons related to air defence," Lavrov said in televised comments.

"This does not in any way alter the balance of forces in this region or give any advantage in the fight against the opposition," he stressed.

WaPo: For Cuba, a Torch of Freedom

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

For Cuba, a torch of freedom

WHEN A blue rental car skidded off the road in rural Cuba on July 22, two men riding in the back seat were killed: dissident Oswaldo Payá, 60, and Harold Cepero, 32, the head of the youth wing of Mr. Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement. Mr. Cepero had trained in the seminary but later decided on human rights work. Their deaths, and much about the car crash, remain suspicious; the Spanish politician who was at the wheel has said they were forced off the road by a vehicle bearing government license plates.

Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were among the hardy band of dissidents who have remained committed to fighting for democracy in Cuba despite threats and intimidation from the Castro regime. On Wednesday, Mr. Cepero posthumously was one of four recipients of the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2013 Democracy Award. Receiving the honor for him was Mr. Payá’s daughter, Rosa Maria Payá, who has sustained the torch — and the spirit — of their quest.

After speaking out in Europe and the United States this year, Ms. Payá returned to Cuba to find repression tightening around her and her family. Visitors to their home were harassed. Ominous threats published in state-run media warned they were “playing with fire.” On June 6, Ms. Payá, her mother, Ofelia Acevedo, and five other family members fled to Miami, where they have settled as political refugees. The Cuban authorities let them depart without fuss — no doubt pleased to see them off.

It would be a mistake to consider this the end of the matter. Ms. Payá told us she intends to carry on the work of her father, who championed the Varela Project, a movement for nonviolent change centered on a referendum calling for political freedoms. Fidel Castro didn’t like the idea when Mr. Payá first raised it a decade ago, and many of Mr. Payá’s colleagues were arrested and jailed. Mr. Payá was frequently harassed. His daughter hopes to return to Cuba and points out that this is a moment of vulnerability for the Castro brothers in their twilight years, primarily because of the nation’s economic woes and loss of Hugo Chávez’s patronage from Venezuela.

One significant piece of unfinished business is to explain the death of Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero in the car wreck. Ms. Payá has demanded an impartial and rigorous international investigation, but one has yet to be mounted, and Cuba is not likely to cooperate. Mr. Payá was also a Spanish citizen, yet Spain has so far been weak-kneed about pursuing the truth. Ms. Payá and others close to her family are considering filing a petition in the Spanish courts for a serious inquiry into crimes against humanity — not only her father’s death but also efforts to squelch his movement. That might begin to lift the veil and pose some uncomfortable questions for whoever forced the car carrying Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero off the road.

Foreign Affairs Committee Leaders Urge Action on Cuban Arms Trafficking

Friday, July 19, 2013
The leaders of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging support for a U.N. Security Council investigation into the illegal smuggling of Cuban weapons to North Korea and strong sanctions towards those involved.

The letter was signed by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliott Engel (D-NY).

It was also signed by the Chairman and Ranking Member the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS); and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ).

Other senior signatories include Ileana Ros-Lehitnen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).

Read the letter here.

Must-Read: Quote of the Week

When other countries take acts like these lightly, totalitarian leaders reach the conclusion that nothing can stop them. Today, they violate Security Council measures with an arms contraband covered by sugar and lies. Tomorrow, they will find it feasible to massacre a popular protest thinking nothing will happen to them. The firmness with which they are confronted today can save lives in the future. 
-- Juan Antonio Blanco, Cuban author and former diplomat, on the seizure of an illegal weapons shipment from Cuba to North Korea, Diario de Cuba, 7/19/12

From the Weapons Experts

Note two things below from the experts at IHS Jane's Defense:

First, how previously intercepted shipments from North Korea to Iran involved more "conventional weapons" (or as Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli would say "less sophisticated weapons") -- underscoring the gravity of this violation.

Second, how the Castro regime is clearly lying about the weapons being sent to North Korea for repair and repatriations (which is still in violation of international law) -- for they have the capability to repair them.

From IHS Jane's Defense Weekly:

According to reports by the UN Security Council's Panel of Experts established to monitor resolutions relating to North Korea, this is the first time that SAM radars or Cuba have been involved in suspected sanctions busting.

Previous seizures of materiel involving North Korea have uncovered ties to Iran, Syria, and Myanmar. The previous shipments have differed from the 12 July seizure in that they involved North Korean exports of conventional weapons or imports of materials for its nuclear weapons programme.

Examples of the former include two containers of rocket fuses shipped from North Korea to Iran via China in March 2008 and a shipment of 240 mm rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS) intended for Iran that were seized by Thailand aboard an Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft in December 2009.

The inclusion of MiG-21bis 'Fishbed-D' aircraft in the Cuban shipment is particularly intriguing given that North Korea has been trying to acquire MiG-21 engines and spare parts via a former Mongolian Air Force commander. A May 2013 report by the UNSC Panel of Experts noted that North Korea had signed a USD1.5 million deal with the former commander to acquire the parts, which were shipped but never delivered. In the mid-1990s North Korea did successfully acquire about 25 MiG-21bis fighters from Kazakhstan.

The Cuban industrial base is capable of conducting extensive repairs to most of the country's legacy equipment and the air force has an ample stock of aircraft stored in pristine condition: the aircraft are "encapsulated" as a reserve measure, reportedly ready to fly.

Cuba has ample, if fairly rudimentary, technical capabilities and several regeneration programmes taking place. Although the air force has only 10 MiG-21 in service is not due to the aircraft themselves, but shortages of fuel and currently qualified pilots.

Absurd: Reuters Cites Report by Cuban Spy

Thursday, July 18, 2013
In a poor effort to downplay the severity of Cuba's violation of the U.N. arms embargo against North Korea, a Reuters journalist cites a 1998 report by convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes as the basis for his conclusion.

"In a 1998 report, the Pentagon concluded that the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991 had seriously eroded the size and power of Cuba's military, which was left posing "a negligible threat to the U.S. or surrounding countries," wrote Reuter's David Adams (apparently upon the advice of a Cuba "expert").

Adam failed to disclose that this report was authored by the Defense Intelligence Agency's Ana Belen Montes, one of the highest-level spies ever captured in the U.S.

Montes was a senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  She is currently serving a 25-year prison term.

Earlier this year, The Washington Post Magazine had a cover story on Montes -- and on the damage she inflicted on U.S. national security -- see here.

Adams also fails to note that this document was scrubbed from use by the U.S. government pursuant to Montes arrest in 2001.

Even at the time of the 1998 report's release, in a letter transmitting it to Congress, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen stated (due to substantiated doubts):

"While the assessment notes that the direct conventional threat by the Cuban military has decreased, I remain concerned about the use of Cuba as a base for intelligence activities directed against the United States, the potential threat that Cuba may pose to neighboring islands, Castro's continued dictatorship that represses the Cuban people's desire for political and economic freedom, and the potential instability that could accompany the end of his regime."

As Cohen also pointed out, "the assessment was prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency to meet a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998."

Namely, that Ana Belen Montes "prepared" the report -- and she "prepared" it all right.

History has proven Cohen right.

IBD: Missile Seizure Shows Cuba Remains Threat

From Investors Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Cuba, long derided in international policy circles as a basket case and no threat to the U.S., has been caught smuggling weapons of war to North Korea in blatant violation of U.N. sanctions. This is a wake-up call.

Sharp-eyed Panamanian authorities, watching the North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang since June, received intelligence it might be shipping illegal drugs, something it had been caught doing before.

As the vessel lumbered into the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal from Cuba, Panamanian authorities cornered the 450-foot rust-bucket, battled a maniacally violent crew who slashed ship lines to make it hard to unload the ship, and then watched as the ship's captain tried to kill himself before having a heart attack.

After subduing the crew, the Panamanians found no drugs buried beneath sloppily packed brown sugar, but did find defensive RSN-75 "Fan Song" fire-control radar equipment for SA-2 surface-to-air missiles.

The discovery, and the crew's behavior, were signs of something big the North Koreans didn't want known — weapons smuggling, a violation of both United Nations sanctions prohibiting all sales of weapons to North Korea and Panama's own laws governing the canal.

"You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal," declared Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, a U.S. ally, who tweeted a photo of the illegal shipment for the world to see.

It's significant that the enabler of this violation of international law was none other than Cuba, which has worked hard to convince the Obama administration to drop all travel and trade sanctions against it — and which is currently negotiating a migration pact with the U.S. It's time to stop that right now, and sanction Cuba further.

The brazen shipment of Russian-made weapons through Panama signaled that little has changed in Cuba — a state sponsor of global terror that has in fact been trying to destroy the U.S. since 1962.

"This is a serious and alarming incident that reminds us that the North Korean regime continues to pursue its nuclear and ballistic programs, and will stop at nothing in that pursuit," said House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "It also illustrates that the Castro tyranny continues to aid and abet America's enemies and continues to pose a national security threat to the United States so long as the Castro apparatchik holds control over the island."

It's also the work of a rogue state. And at just 90 miles away, one that is as chillingly close to our shores as it is warm and friendly to North Korea.

Statement From U.N. Secretary-General

Note from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General is aware of the discovery by the Panamanian authorities of a weapons shipment on the DPRK ship sailing from Cuba.  The Secretary-General commends the action taken by Panama in full conformity with its obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions.  The Secretary-General notes that it is the duty of all Member States to implement Security Council decisions. The Secretary-General awaits the outcome of the investigation into the matter in question and is sure the 1718 Security Council Sanctions Committee will promptly address it.

U.N. Sanctions Committee to Probe Cuban Arms Shipment

From Reuters:

U.N. committee to probe North Korean arms ship seized by Panama

A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee will examine the case of a North Korean ship that was intercepted by Panama and found to be carrying arms from Cuba, Britain's U.N. envoy said on Thursday.

"Thanks to good work by Panama, (the) U.N. sanctions committee will examine what looks like (an) illegal Cuban arms shipment to DPRK (North Korea)," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant posted on Twitter.

Lyall Grant's announcement follows Panama's request for the 15-nation Security Council to consider whether the shipment constituted a violation of U.N. sanctions.

A U.N. arms embargo on North Korea covers all exports by Pyongyang and most imports, with the exception of small arms and light weapons and related materiel. But in order to export small arms to Pyongyang, states must notify the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee in advance.

An eight-member panel of experts appointed by Ban Ki-moon monitors the Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea.

The experts are mandated to "gather, examine and analyze information from States, relevant United Nations bodies and other interested parties" on allegations of sanctions violations and report back to the Security Council's sanctions committee.

How Do "Obsolete" Weapons Further "Defensive Capacity"?

That's the inherent contradiction the Castro regime has stumbled itself into in its statement regarding Cuban weapons shipments to North Korea.

It took the Castro regime well over 12 hours to respond to the capture of a North Korean ship -- full of Cuban weapons hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar -- by the Panamanian authorities.

In its statement, the Castro regime admits to violating U.N. sanctions with over 240 metric tons of weaponry.

Its spin (and bollocks), after getting caught with its hands in the cookie jar, is that these were "obsolete defensive weapons."

However, it then proceeds to state that they are "need[ed] to maintain our defensive capacity."

Begs the contradiction -- how do "obsolete" weapons further the Castro regime's "defensive capacity"?

Aren't they obsolete?

Despite the contradiction, this line is also being regurgitated by some Cuba "experts" and the Castro regime's advocates abroad, who had been promising that the Castro regime is not hostile and worthy of the U.S.'s embrace -- seeing their credibility even further damaged.

Meanwhile, it took the Kim regime in North Korea nearly 24 hours to respond (as it needed plenty of time to consult with its Cuban brethren).

And predictably, it had the exact same line as the Castro regime and its "experts" abroad: "This cargo is nothing but ageing weapons which are to be sent back to Cuba after overhauling them."

The fact remains that these weapons are hostile and have the ability to cause great harm (just ask the Assad regime in Syria).  

Thus, the reason why the shipment of such weapons are illegal.

(UPDATE: Panama has charged the 35 North Korean crew members of endangering public security by illegally transporting war material.)

Senators Call for Action Against Cuban Regime

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
See letter here from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

From Reuters:

Senators push for action on Cuba over North Korean arms ship

Senators sought to increase pressure on the Obama administration on Wednesday to respond after a North Korean cargo ship in Panama was found carrying what appeared to be military equipment loaded in Cuba.

Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration should reverse a January 2011 decision easing some travel restrictions and remittances sent to Cuba and stop granting visas to Cuban government officials.

Separately, Democrat Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the matter should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council for review.

Both Rubio and Menendez are Cuban-Americans known as tough critics of Cuba's communist government.

Panama stopped the North Korean ship last week and discovered arms and weapons from Cuba under sacks of brown sugar, prompting concerns that Cuba violated the U.N. arms embargo on Pyongyang.

Cuba said they were "obsolete" Soviet-era weapons being sent to North Korea for repair.

"I believe that this revelation, in addition to Cuba's failure to address its abysmal human rights record, should finally prompt the Administration to re-calibrate its misguided and naive Cuba policy," Rubio wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Menendez Statement on Cuban Weapon Transfers to North Korea

Chairman Menendez Statement on Cuban Weapon Transfers to North Korea

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the transfer of weapons systems by Cuba to North Korea. The statement follows:

The shipment of weapons systems by the Cuban government to the government of North Korea is a grave violation of international treaties. Weapons transfers from one communist regime to another hidden under sacks of sugar are not accidental occurrences, and reinforces the necessity that Cuba remain on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor state terrorism. In addition to possible violations of Panamanian law, the shipment almost certainly violated United Nations Security Council sanctions on shipments of weapons to North Korea and as such, I call on the Obama Administration to submit this case to the U.N. Security Council for review.

Cuban Premeditation in Weapon Shipments

The New York Times has two interesting new developments.

First, that a similar North Korean ship made the same voyage last year:

An aging North Korean freighter similar to the one impounded by Panama for carrying concealed Cuban military equipment made the same voyage last year without attracting suspicion, passing through the Panama Canal and calling at the same two Cuban ports, an international maritime traffic monitor said Wednesday.

The monitor, IHS Fairplay, said that both vessels — the 390-foot Oun Chong Nyon Ho, which made the voyage last year, and the 450-foot Chong Chon Gang — normally worked much closer to North Korea, making their trans-Pacific trips to Cuba even more unusual.

“They don’t normally make these ocean passages,” Richard Hurley, a senior maritime data specialist at IHT Fairplay, said in a telephone interview from the group’s London offices. “It’s intriguing to see two fairly small ships making the same pattern.”

Second, that Cuba asked Panama to release the ship the day before it was impounded (Castro's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Rogelio Sierra Diaz flew urgently to Panama on Saturday to personally make the request) -- more proof (premeditation) that the Castro regime was very conscious of its nefarious activities and wanted to elude detection:

José Raúl Mulino, Panama’s minister of security, said on Wednesday that his government had requested help from the United States and Britain in its investigation of the impounded ship. In an interview on Panama’s TVN-2 television network, Mr. Mulino also disclosed that Cuba had asked Panama to release the ship the day before it was impounded, which surprised him at the time.

“Now I definitely understand, as does anyone who has been following the case, why the captain was so reticent in his cooperation, why the varied efforts at mutiny from the crew,” Mr. Mulino said.

Quote of the Day

If I am given the honor of sitting behind the sign that says “United States,” I will do what America does best: stand up against repressive regimes, fight corruption, and promote human rights and human dignity. I will also do everything in my power to get others to do the same. This means pushing for democratic elections, but also pushing for the freedoms necessary for democracy to work – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, independence of the judiciary, and civilian control over the military. It means contesting the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. 
-- Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative-designate to the United Nations, during today's confirmation hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 7/17/13

Expert: Cuba Breached U.N. Sanctions

From NBC News:

James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of the respected military affairs magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly, said the equipment Cuba said was on the ship was “pretty well covered” by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.

The resolution says all member states shall “prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” to North Korea of “any battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms, or related materiel including spare parts.”

Hardy said that the “argument that it is just for repair doesn’t wash – it would be covered by ‘direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer.’”

“So in short, Cuba appears to be in breach — and pretty heavily,” he said.

From The State Department

Is the statement in bold a joke?

Actually (sadly), the processing of visas for Castro regime officials and human rights violators is indeed a result of such cooperation.

Next thing you know the State Department will commend Cuba for shipping safety.

Migration Talks with Cuba

On Wednesday, July 17, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Washington to discuss the implementation of the 1994 and 1995 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. This marks the first time since January 2011 that these periodic talks have been held. Under the Accords, both governments pledge to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States. The agenda for the talks reflected longstanding U.S. priorities on Cuba migration issues. The U.S. delegation highlighted areas of successful cooperation in migration, including advances in aviation safety and visa processing, while also identifying actions needed to ensure that the goals of the Accords are fully met, especially those having to do with safeguarding the lives of intending immigrants.

The U.S. delegation reiterated its call for the immediate release of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Cuba since December 3, 2009, solely for trying to facilitate communications between Cuba’s citizens and the rest of the world.

The U.S. delegation was led by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Alex Lee and the Cuban delegation was led by the Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro.

From Confirmation Hearing of U.N. Ambassador Designate Samantha Power

In opening statement of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ):

As the son of immigrants from Cuba, one whose family and friends bore witness to, suffered -- and continue to suffer -- under the Castro regime’s oppression, I personally appreciate your commitment to exposing the Castro dictatorship’s total disregard for human and civil rights and for not idealizing the harsh realities of 
communism in Cuba.

I know from the conversation we had in my office that you appreciate the suffering of the Cuban people – the torture, abuse, detention and abridgment of the civil and human rights of those who voice their dissent. 

I also welcomed your commitment to reach out to Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the long-time dissident and Cuban activist, Oswaldo Paya who died under mysterious circumstances last year in Cuba.

Ms. Paya is in Washington this week accepting a posthumous award from the National Endowment for Democracy on behalf of another young activist from Cuba who died alongside Oswaldo Paya, making your commitment to reach out to her that-much-more timely.

Cuba Admits to Violating U.N. Sanctions

The Cuban regime's Ministry of Foreign Affairs ("MinRex") has admitted to violating the U.N. Security Council's sanctions against North Korea.

According to MinRex:

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform that said vessel sailed from a Cuban port to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, mainly loaded with 10,000 Tons of sugar.

In addition, the above mentioned vessel transported 240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons –two anti-aircraft missile complexes Volga and Pechora, nine missiles in parts and spares, two Mig-21 Bis and 15 motors for this type of airplane, all of it manufactured in the mid-twentieth century- to be repaired and returned to Cuba."

The Castro regime's spin regarding the 10,000 tons of sugar and that the weapons were to be "repaired and returned" to Cuba is laughable (considering North Korea's air defense system is practically obsolete) -- but most importantly, legally irrelevant.

The U.N.'s Security Council Resolution 1718:

"Decides that: (a) All Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of:

(i) Any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms, or related materiel including spare parts, or items as determined by the Security Council or the Committee established by paragraph 12 below (the Committee)."

As such, this serious breach by the Castro regime should be referred to the U.N. Security Council's Sanctions Committee for enforcement action.

Two Weeks Ago: General Kim Kyok Sik Meets General Castro

Here's a story we had posted on June 29th.

It's pretty safe to say that General Kim Kyok Sik was not in Havana buying sugar.

Below is a picture of General Kim Kyok Sik meeting with General Castro.

From AFP:

North Korea and Cuba: "In the Same Trench"

North Korea's army chief of staff said Friday in Havana his country is "in the same trench" as Cuba, local television reported.

General Kyok Sik Kim, who arrived a day earlier in the Americas' only Communist-run nation, said he was there "to find colleagues in the same trench: the Cuban comrades."

The general laid a wreath at the tomb of independence hero Antonio Maceo and visited a tank unit, accompanied by his local counterpart General Alvaro Lopez Miera.

Seized Cuban Missile Radars Pose Threat to Aircraft

From USA Today:

Seized missile radars on N. Korean ship a threat to aircraft

Missile radar systems discovered aboard a North Korean-flagged ship that had last been in Cuba could be upgraded to make air-defense systems more effective at shooting down modern military aircraft, military analysts said Tuesday.

The North Korean ship was seized after inspectors found weapons system parts under sacks of sugar as it sought to cross the Panama Canal on its way to its home country, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said Tuesday. North Korea is under a United Nations arms embargo.

Defense experts said images released by Panama indicate the cargo is a radar system for the SA-2 family of surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, which are designed to shoot down enemy aircraft at high elevations.

North Korea and Cuba: Looking for Compatible Hardware

The most plausible scenario:  North Korea is searching for compatible hardware and Cuba has decided to violate U.N. sanctions to provide it.

From BBC:

Both the Cuban and North Korean militaries are based on Soviet-era hardware, and finding components to service that equipment may be getting harder, says Moon Chung-in, professor of international relations at South Korea's Yonsei University.

"It could be a sign that North Korea is struggling to get the parts it needs to service its military," Prof Moon says.

"It's been ingenious in trying to plug that shortage domestically, but it still needs to import parts for its Soviet-era MiGs and other equipment, and it's been looking to countries like Syria and maybe Cuba to do that."

Kathryn Weathersby says Pyongyang has been plugging the gap in military supplies for more than 20 years, since before the fall of the Soviet Union.

"The USSR cut off guaranteed military deliveries when it established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1990," she says, "and that has to have made it harder for Pyongyang to maintain its equipment".

Tweet of the Week

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
By Cuban democracy leader Ailer Gonzalez Mena:

"Ship with #missiles discovered in #Panama, metaphor of what the #Cuba regime is: a molasses disguise, horror inside." 

Previous North Korea-Cuba Arms Flight Revealed

Today's arms shipment from Cuba to North Korea (intercepted by the Panamanian authorities) is not unprecedented.

From AP:

Hugh Griffiths, an arms trafficking expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the seized ship is called Chong Chon Gang and has been on the institute’s suspect list for some time.

He said the ship had been caught before for trafficking narcotics and small arms ammunition. It was stopped in 2010 in the Ukraine and was attacked by pirates 400 miles off the coast of Somalia in 2009.

Griffiths’ institute has also been interested in the ship because of a stop it made in 2009 in Tartus — a Syrian port city hosting a Russian naval base.

Griffiths also said the institute earlier this year reported to the U.N. a discovery it made of a flight from Cuba to North Korea that traveled via central Africa.

“Given the history of North Korea, Cuban military cooperation and now this latest seizure, we find this flight more interesting,” he said. “After this incident there should be renewed focus on North Korean-Cuban links.”

North Korean Ship Carries Missile Material From Cuba

Can't wait to hear the Castro regime's spin on this one.

Below is a picture of the missile equipment found, as released by the Panamanian government.

From NBC News:

North Korean ship carrying hidden 'missile equipment' detained after leaving Cuba

A North Korean-flagged ship carrying what is believed to be “sophisticated missile equipment” hidden in sugar containers was stopped while returning home from Cuba, Panamanian officials said late Monday.

Speaking to Radio Panama, President Ricardo Martinelli said the captain of the ship tried to kill himself after officials began searching the consignment of sugar.

The vessel -- identified by Lloyd's List Intelligence as the Chong Chon Gang -- was heading for the Panama Canal when it was stopped. It was then taken to the port of Manzanillo to be searched.

“We suspected that it was carrying drugs and we brought it to port and we started verifying everything that was on the ship,” Martinelli said. “We started disembarking the sugar and found some containers that we believe are carrying sophisticated missile equipment."

Read Carefully: Raul's Reform Ruse Revealed

Monday, July 15, 2013
This past weekend, the Castro regime invited a group of business journalists from Europe and the U.S. to visit Havana for a dog-and-pony show on Raul's "reforms" -- and for the sake of foreign capital.

However, as some reporters soon discovered, the facts didn't match Castro's rhetoric.

Here are some key segments from a report by CNBC's  Michelle Caruso-Cabrera:

"[T]he Cuban government invited a group of business journalists to Cuba this week for a show-and-tell about changes it's making to the Cuban economy. Journalists from CNBC, the Economist, and others from Germany, Argentina, and Canada are here to see what the socialist country is trying to show off."

(CHC: Too bad the journalists were unable to stay for Sunday's bloody beat-down of The Ladies in White.)

"In a week-long program packed with events, visits, news conferences, and a cocktail party, the government did not show visiting reporters any of the new cooperatives—which the minister of employment said now number 197, in the restaurant, construction, industry, and transportation sector.

CNBC tried to find some independently, but a new transportation group told us its start had been delayed. A privately-run wholesale warehouse on the outskirts of town, which was set to open July 1, stood empty. The guard told us it would open in a few weeks. A group of nine air-conditioning repairmen who took over a state-run air conditioning business invited CNBC to their headquarters at a small house in the suburb of Miramar, but then told us they didn't want to speak with us. It is unclear why."

(CHC: Because it's all propaganda.)

"What the government did show reporters were the results of an earlier reform begun two years ago in which individuals were allowed to be self-employed in certain categories and even have a small number of employees."

(CHC: Aren't the "self-employed" supposed to be independent from the state?)

"In a rare appearance, the former minister of planning who is now in charge of the reform process, Marino Murillo Jorge, told journalists the changes were being made because 'we are constructing a sustainable socialist society,' emphasis on the sustainable."

(CHC: Emphasis on regime survival.)

And from The Financial Times story:

“'Life has demonstrated that the state cannot occupy itself with the entire economy, that it must cede space to other forms of administration,' Marino Murillo, the man appointed to head President Raúl Castro’s reform efforts, told journalists visiting the country last week.

But Mr Murillo, a member of the politburo and vice-president of the Council of Ministers, emphasized that it was a transfer of administration and not a 'property of the people' reform."

(CHC: In other words, the Castro regime still owns everything.)

"Asked repeatedly about foreign investment opportunities, the officials offered nothing new at all, repeating stock lines about investment being complementary to their development schemes and that existing regulations were flexible and adequate."

(CHC: Tampa hasn't gotten the memo.)

"None of the 190 [foreign] companies managing and temporarily in joint ventures in Cuba own any property outright, nor do they have the right to sell shares except with the authorization of their partner, the state."

(CHC: Because the Castro regime owns everything.)

"Mr Murillo said agriculture represented more or less what authorities envision for minor and secondary sectors of the economy."

(CHC: Because that has been so successful.)

"The government is leasing taxis and thousands of state shops, with up to five workers, to its former employees or any takers, and this month began to transfer larger enterprises with 6 to around 50 workers to co-operative administrations, 124 to date, with another 71 approved."

(CHC: Key word is leasing.)

"Mr Murillo said changes [in big state enterprises] include granting managers more autonomy and permission to sell excess products after meeting state obligations on the market, and allowing companies to retain half of their profits after taxes for such things as minor investment and wage increases."

(CHC: Because nothing is more reassuring than more cash in the pockets of Castro's favorite generals.)

Note to AP: Show Me the Reciprocity

The AP has just released another chapter of its supposed "love story" between U.S. and Castro regime diplomats.

The first chapter in the series originated from the AP's Havana bureau last month.

Both rely heavily on an "anonymous" State Department source.

Today's story claims that U.S. and Castro's diplomats are now being permitted to travel -- with greater frequency -- outside the 25-mile zone from their respective Interests Sections in Washington, D.C. and Havana.

The story provides examples of how Castro's diplomats were recently permitted by the State Department to speak at conferences in Tampa and Georgia.

They were also permitted to travel to Miami to meet with a pro-Castro group.

(The AP writes it was a meeting with "Cuban exiles."  It's safe to say none the members of the pro-Castro Alianza Martiana are "exiles").

Yet, there's not a single tangible example of U.S. diplomats being permitted to travel outside of Havana.

So where's the reciprocity?

Surely it's not in the treatment of Cuban dissidents, who continue to be savagely attacked.

Nor in the treatment of  Castro's American hostage Alan Gross, who remains unjustly imprisoned since 2009.

(Has the AP confirmed whether an American doctor has yet to be allowed to examine Mr. Gross, as "promised" by the Castro regime?)

So show me the reciprocity?

Report: Castro Supports Violence Against Women

Last week, independent Cuban attorneys Laritza Diversent and Yaremis Flores presented a report to the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) detailing the Castro regime's repression against women, particularly Afro-Cubans, homosexuals and dissidents.

The report also explains how the Castro regime lacks protections against domestic violence and sexual abuse against minors.

Diversent and Flores presented the report on behalf of the Cuban independent legal NGO, CubaLex.

The report (in Spanish) can be read here in its entirety.

It concludes that:

"The brutality of police agents and State Security officials against dissident women is supported by the State and exemplifies how violence has been institutionalized as a means to repress female opponents."

Damage Control Over Dissidents Abroad

The visits abroad by a host of Cuban dissidents have become a public relations fiasco for the Castro regime.

With their first-hand accounts of Cuba's reality, these dissidents have successfully unmasked the facade of Raul Castro "the reformer."

Thus, the regime has begun a damage control campaign.

This was evident in two recent columns:

One by a renowned Castro regime defender, Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, and another by "former" intelligence official-turned-doctoral candidate, Arturo Lopez-Levy.

In "Cuba After Communism," published in Foreign Affairs, Sweig's arguments were predictable:

Discard dissidents, Raul's reforms are "la bomba" and his new Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel is "the man." 

Meanwhile, Lopez-Levy's post in HuffPost Voces goes for a direct, full-frontal, attack on Cuba's dissidents.

(Note to journalists: Lopez-Levy, a "former" MININT official, is a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro's son-in-law and head of GAESA, the business monopoly of the regime.  Thus, as a courtesy to readers, disclosure of his inherent conflict-of-interest in preserving the family business is appropriate.)

The focus of Lopez-Levy's ire are Cuban democracy leaders Guillermo Farinas, Antonio Rodiles and Yoani Sanchez.

After a diatribe of endless sentences and concoctions, he tries to discredit them with this noteworthy line:

"None of these people have been elected to any public office, nor represent any organization with more than one-hundred people.  They could run for a seat in municipal elections, where they could be freely nominated (though not to elections as provincial or national representatives), but haven't won a single seat anywhere."

In other words, only listen to those "selected" by the Castro regime to public office.

It's not even worth commenting on his ridiculous assertion regarding municipal "elections" in Cuba.

However, we'd note that Farinas' Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) has thousands of courageous, self-identified members, as does Rodiles' "For Another Cuba" campaign.

Not an easy task in a totalitarian police state.

Moreover, we'd also note that Yoani Sanchez has more Twitter followers than Fidel and Raul Castro combined. Even if you add Mariela's followers, Yoani still tops them.

Based on Sweig and Lopez-Levy's criteria, Mandela, Havel, Walesa, Marchenko, Suu Kyi, Sakharov, Pithart, Solzhenitsyn and Dimitrov would have been mere figments of history.

Perhaps that's what they would have preferred.

Image by Johnny Selman.

Violent Sunday Against The Ladies in White

Like every Sunday, the Ladies in White tried to attend Mass in cities throughout Cuba and then march together afterwards.

Sadly, once again, they were met with overwhelming force by the Castro regime's operatives.

In Cardenas, 11 Ladies in White were arrested.

Their regional leader (for the province of Matanzas), Leticia Ramos, was badly beaten.  She was also poked three times with a needle-like substance (reminiscent of the attacks that led to the mysterious death of Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan).

In Pinar del Rio, 8 Ladies in White were arrested.

In Guantanamo, 2 Ladies in White were arrested.

In Colon, 12 Ladies in White were intercepted by 3 vans full of paramilitary thugs and 20 police cars.  They were insulted, beaten and pelted with eggs.

Meanwhile, several male democracy activists that accompanied them were also brutally beaten.

Lazaro Diaz Sanchez of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) suffered serious head wounds (see picture below).

Leilandi Puentes Vargas, husband of Tania Echevarría Menéndez (from the Ladies in White), was arrested.

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, a former political priosner (from the Black Spring's 75), was beaten and dumped in the countryside.  As he was beaten, he was told "we are waiting for the order to kill all of you."

Felix Navarro, a former political prisoner (from the Black Spring's 75), was also badly beaten.  He has a fractured rib.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Foreign Investors in Cuba Plummet

Sunday, July 14, 2013
Cuba "experts" and normalization advocates (including Tampa's City Council) would have you believe that investing in the Castro regime is a great business opportunity.

Yet, the facts (not to mention ethics and common sense) show otherwise.

Cuba's Vice-Minister of Foreign Commerce and Investment, Antonio Carricarte, let slip today that there are currently 190 foreign companies operating in Cuba (in partnership with the Castro regime).

(It's important to note that foreign companies are not allowed to operate independently or own businesses in Cuba.  They are only allowed to operate as minority partners in joint ventures with the Castro regime.)

That's down from 400 foreign companies that were operating in Cuba in 2000.

In other words, the number of foreign investors in Cuba has been cut in half during the last decade.

More "reform" you cant believe in.

And why are foreign companies fleeing Cuba?

Ask Stephen Purvis.

Sunday Reading: How Fidel Mocks Historical Memory

In "Totalitarianism in the Tropics: Cuba's Padilla Case,” an essay originally written for the American Political Science Association, Professor Alfred Cuzan compares the efforts of tyrants in exercising control over writers and intellectuals.

The "Padilla Case," the Castro regime's arrest, trial and "public confession" of poet Heberto Padilla marked the beginning of the end of the "love affair" between the Cuban Revolution and the international literary figures that lent it support.

It's a great essay, which you can read here in its entirety.

Here's a fascinating excerpt from Padilla's recollection of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro:

Heberto Padilla was a poet and novelist. In his memoir, La Mala Memoria, he recounts a 1951 campaign trip in the province of Matanzas, east of Havana, in which he along with several others, including the young Fidel Castro, traveled from town to town giving speeches on behalf of a candidate of their party, “The Party of the Cuban People,” also known as “Ortodoxo.” Conversing among themselves, he learned that Castro liked Curzio Malaparte’s Kaputt and Coup D'etat: The Technique of Revolution [...]

Padilla remembers that one of Castro’s most prized books was a collection of Mussolini’s speeches and writings, and that Mein Kampf was one of his favorite reads. And he recalls something else: Castro’s photographic memory, which he put to political use, brazenly plagiarizing the words of others in his own speeches.

"Recently I listened to old recordings of Mussolini attacking ‘British imperialism’ and I had the impression that I was listening to Fidel Castro attacking ‘Yankee imperialism’ to the noisy approval of his fevered followers. His admiration for Mussolini has not abated all these years: ‘Venceremos’ [we will be victorious], the pet phrase with which Castro ends all his speeches, was Mussolini’s motto. The imitation of Hitler is the most dramatic: At his trial for the Moncada assault, Fidel concluded his defense with the same phrase that Hitler used before the Munich tribunal: ‘Condemn me... History will absolve me.’ The impudence with which he mocks historical memory is one of the most constant traits of his personality.”

Cuban Player Says No to Jay-Z

Kudos to Yoani Cespedes, let's Yasiel Puig does the same.

From Golden Gate Sports:

Yoenis Cespedes Says No To Jay-Z

Who has the nerve to turn down Jay-Z? Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

Earlier this week, a report indicated that the renowned recording artist was interesting in representing Cespedes and recruiting him into Roc Nation Sports, his sports agency. The report also stated Jay-Z’s interest in signing another Cuban sensation, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.

Jay-Z became a licensed NBA and MLB agent last month, after creating his own sports agency. He has already signed high-profile clients such as Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant, and Geno Smith.

On Saturday, Cespedes told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he would not be considering switching to Jay-Z and is satisfied with current agent Adam Katz.

“I don’t care what it says on the Internet,” he said. “I’m staying with Adam. I am very happy with Adam and with the work he’s done for me. I am very happy to work with him.”

In his second season, Cespedes is hitting .219 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI. He burst upon the scene in 2012 when he finished behind Mike Trout in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Cespedes will also be participating in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities next week at Citi Field.