Arbitration Court Rules Against Castro Regime

Saturday, July 27, 2013
In a dispute among crooks, the International Chamber of Commerce's Court of Arbitration ("ICC"), based in Paris, has ruled that the Castro regime must compensate Chilean businessman Max Marambio $17.5 million for the confiscation of his company in 2010.

Marambio was a bodyguard of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, who traveled to Cuba after the 1973 coup and made a fortune doing dirty deeds and business deals for the Castro brothers.

This came to an abrupt end in 2010, pursuant to a dispute between Marambio and the Castros.

Soon thereafter, Marambio's half in his joint venture with Castro, a food company known as "Rio Zaza," was confiscated and its Chilean General Manager was mysteriously found dead in a Havana apartment.

Marambio's karma for his own years of misdeeds will surely come in trying to collect the $17.5 million from Castro.

And still, some talk about "business opportunities" in Cuba.

Let Cuba be Cuban, Again

Friday, July 26, 2013
By Amb. Roger Noriega in AEIdeas:

Eulogy for the Castro Revolution

Today in Havana, the Castro regime will stage a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago, Cuba. As the revolutionary tale goes, the attack was a tactical defeat but set the stage for Fidel Castro’s victory a mere six years later. Six decades later, we can conclude that the attack was a tragedy, quite literally because it gave impetus to Castro’s tropical totalitarianism.

Last week, Fidel’s 82 year old little brother, Raul, delivered a speech that was an unwitting eulogy for the revolution. Before the powerless “National Assembly of People’s Power,” the aging dictator groused about uncouth youth who curse and urinate in public, saying, “They ignore the most basic standards of gentility and respect.” Never mind that Raul is the trigger-man for a thuggish dictatorship that has destroyed the lives of young and old alike for more than 50 terrible years.

When Fidel turned over the presidency to his brother five years ago, I predicted that Raul had neither the capacity nor desire to bring about meaningful change in Cuba. I am sad to say that he has proven me right.

On repeated occasions, I have cited empirical data that expose the breathtaking destruction wrought by communism against Cubans:

· Castro apologists have painted pre-revolutionary Cuba as a repressive backwater, a picture that is not supported by the evidence. In fact, the Cuba Castro took over in 1959 was one of the most prosperous and egalitarian societies of the Americas, near the top according to most sociodemographic indicators, behind only Argentina and Uruguay and on par with lesser-developed European countries of the day, such as Spain and Portugal.

· Although, to be sure, the country suffered from the inequalities of wealth that plagued all countries in Latin America at that time (and still do), Cuba had the largest middle class of its peers in the Western Hemisphere.

· Before the revolution, Cuba had the third highest daily caloric intake in Latin America, the fourth highest literacy rate, the second highest number of passenger cars per capita, and ranked fourth in the production of rice. While the revolution touts Cuba’s low infant mortality rate today, they fail to mention that before Castro the island had the best such rate in Latin America, or that, today, regime hospitals coerce poor and uneducated women into having abortions.

· The country was also culturally advanced before Castro seized power, with the third highest newspaper circulation per capita and second highest cinema attendance per capita in Latin America.

· In the 1940s and 1950s, the island had progressive labor, land tenure, education, and health laws that rivaled those of many of its neighbors in the region.

What are the achievements of the Castro revolution? Decimation of Cuba’s social fabric and economic productivity. Destruction of its democratic institutions. Concentration of all power and coercive means in the hands of unelected leaders and unaccountable apparatchik. Conspiracy to sow violence and death in the form of armed revolutions. A never-ending exile of the country’s most creative people. Corruption. Desperation.

This is what the Cuban regime is celebrating today? At long last, have they no shame? Of course not. That is why Raul Castro can wag his finger at unruly Cubans for behaving like – to borrow a word bandied about by Josef Stalin – “hooligans.” The desiccated Castro regime is so bereft of new ideas that its leaders can do little more than blame the victims of its old ideas. Its plan for economic survival is to find a new victim, conspiring with a puppet regime in Venezuela to bleed away what is left of that country’s oil revenue.

Depressing, huh?  Not if you figure that despicable old men cannot live forever.  Know what I know about Cuba's people, my formula for recovering that nation is a very simple one:  Let Cuba be Cuban, again.

Key Pieces in Cuba's Political Chess Game

An excerpt from Cuban democracy leader and head of Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, in his recent World Affairs article, "Change by Attrition: The Revolution Dies Hard":

The US embargo and the EU’s Common Position are key pieces in the political chess game now taking place behind closed doors in Havana. If the government manages to pull off the magic act of getting the embargo dropped and securing an infusion of resources without first installing the basic reforms that would in effect toss the old regime on the ash heap of history, it would be able to keep its repressive apparatus intact—and we could say goodbye to any dreams of democracy. When I hear several pro-democracy figures advocate an immediate and unconditional end to the US embargo, therefore, I wonder at their naïveté.

If on the other hand the international democratic community signals to the totalitarians in Cuba that ratification and implementation of the fundamental rights set out in the UN covenants is the only path to solving the Cuban dilemma, and if it conditions any measure relaxing the economic sanctions on the fulfillment of those international agreements, it will not take long to see results.

Tweets of the Day (July 26th)

Courtesy of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez:

"Sad date 7/26 when so much Cuban blood was spilled on both sides, 60 years later we have #totalitarianism."

"Those young men of that 7/26 wanted to put an end to a dictatorship and ended up creating another one."

Quote of the Week

Thursday, July 25, 2013
I think everything that guy [Raul Castro] does is cosmetic so that he can keep governing.  That's the strategy.  We're not going to allow someone who has destroyed the country to have more opportunities.  The future of Cuba should be tied to the absence of the Castro family from power.  I want changes with people who can propose new things.  We might make mistakes, but we need to be able to make mistakes on our own, not this tyrant who has proven to be ineffective, and who has destroyed the country and entire generations. 
-- Gorki Aguila, Cuban punk rocker and front-man of the band Porno Para Ricardo, Punto Cuba, 7/25/13

Is This the Model We Want for Cuba?

Here's the Vietnam model that The Economist and some Cuba "experts" want for Cuba.

Seems to be working great -- for the ruling regime, that is -- repression, riches and impunity.

By John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in Politico:

Since 2008, the last time the White House hosted a Vietnamese leader, the government has jailed a growing number of dissidents, bloggers, and religious leaders, whom the party-controlled courts have sentenced to increasingly lengthy sentences. Convictions in political cases in the first half of 2013 have already overtaken the total in 2012, which in turn exceeded the numbers in 2011 and 2010.

Worse, the crackdown on dissidents is but one facet of Vietnam’s rights problems. Abuses include torture and killings by police, confiscation of land without due process and compensation, and persecution of underground religious groups and ethnic minorities. Motorists who argue with police are beaten. Farmers’ land is stolen from them. People of faith are forced to renounce it. Ethnic minorities are persecuted for organizing to fight discrimination. Many Vietnamese struggle under this spell of unchecked brutality, either bloodied when trying to challenge it, or forced into quiet submission [...]

The Administration’s hope, several years ago, was that opening up trade negotiations and a military strategic dialogue with Vietnam would serve as an incentive for the government to make changes, and perhaps soften its authoritarian edge. It now appears that hope was misplaced.

It is clear that U.S. policy needs to change — the question is how. The United States needs to start linking its economic and other relations with Vietnam to specific human rights reforms. And the message on this should be clear and public. As a first step, Obama should order the U.S. Trade Representative to make its basic demands in the TPP process public, so that workers and citizens in Vietnam – and the United States – can determine that basic labor rights are being upheld.

But the Obama administration should also be asking itself a more fundamental question: Should the United States continue to engage in business as usual with a government that criminalizes the act of calling for democracy, and shows no inclination toward reform?

The Facts About South Africa and Cuba Sanctions

In "Mandela, Miami and Cuba: The Real Story," Arturo Lopez-Levy, a "former" Cuban intelligence official and current PhD student at the University of Denver, accuses supporters of sanctions toward Cuba of creating a "false parallel" with sanctions toward South Africa.

How? By arguing that sanctions were merited toward apartheid South Africa, but not toward totalitarian Cuba.

Fortunately, we don't feel compromised or pressed to contort any pretzel logic, in order to defend one repressive regime versus another.

We are free to state the facts.

In the 1980's, U.S. President Ronald Reagan pursued a policy of "constructive engagement" (that was the official name of the policy) with South Africa's apartheid regime. This policy was promoted as an alternative to economic sanctions.

It was during a 1984 visit to Washington, D.C., that Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously decried, "constructive engagement is an abomination, an unmitigated disaster."

History has proven that Reagan was wrong on South Africa.

Yet, thanks to a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Congress, Reagan's policy of "constructive engagement" was overridden in 1986.

Lopez-Levy falsely writes, "those who consider the South African example to be a precedent for the embargo against Cuba don’t acknowledge that the sanctions against apartheid never prohibited travel or investment, but rather imposed a code of conduct for constructive compromise."

He should really do his homework before writing.

In 1986, the U.S. Congress overrode Reagan's veto and passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.

This legislation banned all U.S. trade and investment in South Africa.  

It also banned air links to and from South Africa.  Specifically, it prohibited the takeoff and landing in South Africa of any U.S. owned or controlled aircraft.  It also prohibited any South African aircraft from engaging in air transportation with respect to the U.S.

Pursuant to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, South Africa went into a deep recession, which (thanks to no foreign bailouts) spelled the beginning of the end of its apartheid regime.

Lopez-Levy also falsely contends, "sanctions against South Africa... did not try to impose a specific political system on the South African people. The Helms-Burton law, in contrast, does just that for Cuba."

As a matter of fact, Title I of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act:

"Require[d] U.S. policy toward South Africa to be designed to bring about the establishment of a nonracial democracy in South Africa."

That sounds pretty specific.

It further "declare[d] that U.S. policy toward the other countries in the region shall be designed to encourage democratic forms of government, respect for human rights, political independence, and economic development."

And what system does Helms-Burton seek to "impose" on the Cuban people?

According to Section 1 of Helms-Burton:

"To assist the Cuban people in regaining their freedom and prosperity, as well as in joining the community of democratic countries that are flourishing in the Western Hemisphere."

Also:

"To encourage the holding of free and fair democratic elections in Cuba, conducted under the supervision of internationally recognized observers."

God forbid.

It's increasingly unclear whether Lopez-Levy is hostile to the facts -- or to democracy.

Who Taught Cubans Incivility and Disrespect?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Today's story in The New York Times, "Harsh Self-Assessment as Cuba Looks Within," has refocused attention on General Raul Castro's speech a couple of weeks ago, where he scolds the Cuban people for incivility and disrespect.

However, it fails to delve deeply into who taught the Cuban people such incivility and disrespect.

As we posted on the day of the speech:

Castro Blames Cubans for His Own Actions

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.

Caught on Film: Female Activist Mauled

On July 18th, the Castro regime launched one its regular attacks against democracy activists in the easternmost province of Santiago.

One of the activists targeted was Marina Paz, a member of the Ladies in White and the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU).  

She was kicked, dragged and stripped of her clothing by Castro's state-security agents. 

The image (below) was caught on film.

Pedazos de la Isla has more info.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Must-See: Cuban Protest Rapper Severely Beaten

Cuban protest rapper Rodolfo Ramirez, known as "El Primario," was severely beaten this past weekend in Havana by two state security agents.

Please see the picture below -- in addition to the consequential disfigurement from multiple kicks to the head, he is also suffering from memory loss.

Ramirez forms half of the hip-hop duo, "El Primario y Julito," which is know for its critical lyrics of the Castro regime.

His colleague, Julio Leon Fonseca ("Julito") was also the subject of threats and an attempted attack earlier in the week by state security agents, but a group of his friends intervened and successfully prevented the attack.

You can listen to Fonseca's declarations here.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Cuban Metal Band Defects, Castro "Shocked"

Famed Cuban heavy metal band, Hipnosis, defected upon arriving in the U.S. this week.

They had been invited to a music event in Oakland, but asked for asylum upon arriving in Miami.

The band, which was subject to the Castro regime's official Cuban Rock Agency, had an official censor from the Ministry of Culture accompanying them on the trip.

(Why did this official get a U.S. visa?)

Cuban state media revealed in shock: "Hipnosis was completely affiliated with the governmental system of cultural promotion."

The band members have a different opinion, which they can now freely express.

Here are their first quotes in freedom:

"Things for us were closed in Cuba and this [Ministry of Culture official] began to place all sorts of rules on what we could and couldn't do on the trip."

"Uncertainty about the future exists everywhere, but I'd rather face uncertainty in a place with options and opportunities, than in a place where there is nothing and no one aspires to anything."

"We didn't have enough space and there were too many limitations to perform in Cuba, and we want to think big."

We wish them luck and success.


Can Cuba's SA-2 Missiles Be Used Offensively?

We're no experts, but stranger things have happened.

And some highly qualified sources (below) seem to think so.

Excerpts from WND:

Expert: Cuba Could Hit U.S. With EMP Attack

Panama Canal discovery suggests 'defensive' missile capable of carrying nuke

Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, said Cuba possessing the missiles may [...] pose a huge danger to the U.S., especially in light of a Cuban relationship with North Korea, which has tested nuclear bombs.

“[I]f armed with a nuclear warhead and launched from a freighter, it is technically possible to use the SA-2 offensively for an (electromagnetic pulse) attack,” said Pry.

“I doubt this innovative possible use of the SA-2 ever occurred to the intelligence community of JFK’s time or of our own time, which is another reason it could work well, achieve concealment and surprise,” Pry told WND.

Pry, a former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, was staff director of the congressionally mandated EMP commission. The panel issued a final 2008 report on the catastrophic impact an EMP attack would have on the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the national grid system, telecommunications, food and water delivery, and banking and financial systems.

“Suppose the inspectors found on the Chong Chon Gang an SA-2 on its launcher, armed with a nuclear warhead, positioned under the cargo hatch, ready to launch an EMP attack,” Pry asked.

“Do you suppose that they would guess its purpose? Because the SA-2 is a ‘defensive missile,’ I’ll bet they would conclude that Cuba or North Korea is beefing up its anti-air defenses with nuclear firepower,” he said. “The nuclear warhead would be illegal for Cuba but regarded as significantly less threatening, not offensive, because it is on an SA-2.”

As WND recently discovered, the Soviet-era SA-2s are nuclear capable and if armed with a nuclear bomb and exploded at a high altitude above the United States, the EMP emanating from the blast could knock out significant portions of the U.S. electrical grid system.

Pry said that the ceiling of the SA-2 is up to about 35 kilometers, or 22 miles, which goes beyond the minimum optimal height for an EMP burst.

Pry said the SA-2 could achieve that ceiling with an “HE (high explosive) warhead weighing, depending on warhead type, 200-295 kilograms, or 440-650 pounds.”

“The U.S. Cold War-era W-84 neutron warhead weighed less than 50 kilograms and could be used as an enhanced EMP weapon,” Pry said. “So, armed with a much lighter warhead for EMP attack, any of the SAM (surface-to-air missiles) variants would have a much higher operational ceiling. Indeed, the Soviets designed the SA-2 to carry a 15-kiloton nuclear warhead , weighing 650 pounds, to high altitude.”

Sources say that if one SA-2 were to be launched from a freighter off the U.S. East Coast and exploded high over the highly populated region stretching from New York City to Washington, D.C., the resulting EMP could knock out the Eastern grid that services some 70 percent of the U.S. population, affecting approximately 220 million people for months or possibly years.

With Cuba’s new-found military alliance with North Korea, Pyongyang, which already has threatened a pre-emptive strike on the U.S., will have an offensive power projection capability within 90 miles of U.S. shores that U.S. intelligence officials and policy makers didn’t contemplate.

Pry joined former CIA Director R. James Woolsey in a May 31 article for the Wall Street Journal outlining how North Korea could cripple the U.S. with an EMP attack.

They wrote that North Korea needs only a single nuclear warhead “to pose an existential threat to the U.S.”

“Detonating a nuclear weapon high above any part of the U.S. mainland would generate a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse,” they said.

A Bloody Hero for UNESCO

From The Washington Times's Editorial Board:

A hero for UNESCO

The United Nations honors the bloody works of Che Guevara

Ernesto Guevara — or “Che,” as he is known in infamy — has held a romantic appeal for certain sophomores since he died in Argentina in 1967 in the same manner he dispatched thousands in Cuba, by an executioner’s bullet. Many the sophomore, determined to remake the world in a way to make daddy angry, posted Che’s image on dorm walls and wore the ubiquitous Che T-shirt. Many of them didn’t know any better, and most of them outgrew it.

Now the sophomores at UNESCO, who have never shown any signs of outgrowing lurid enthusiasms, have included “The Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara” in this year’s additions to the Memory of the World Register. The Widow Guevara and their two children were invited to Havana for the honors. The documents chosen to tell an expurgated version of Che’s story include youthful “Motorcycle Diaries” and his journals written in a cell in Bolivia before he kept his date with a firing squad. Three hundred documents are carefully and lovingly displayed in Havana.

Documenting history is always a good thing, and Che deserves to be remembered in the company of Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan and a few others of their ilk. But remembering is one thing; commemorating is another. Naturally, the United States is expected to pay for a lot of this. President Obama wants to restore American funding for UNESCO, and send $225 million to UNESCO at once, or as soon as Congress can be persuaded to put a check in the mail.

Not everyone applauds. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, a Republican who was born in Cuba and represents a Miami district, calls the UNESCO honors for Che “more than an insult to the families of those Cubans who were lined up and summarily executed by Che and his merciless cronies, but it also serves as a direct contradiction to the UNESCO ideals of encouraging peace and universal respect for human rights.” She rightly calls it a mockery of the organization itself to “venerate and memorialize the life of a bloodthirsty, murderous sadist.”

Che never tried to hide his thirst for blood or the pleasure he took in torture and murder. “Hatred,” he said, “[is] an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become …” And so they did. He presided over the executions of hundreds of government officials without trial or due process. He signed the death warrants of Cuban authors and ordered the burning of 3,000 “anti-revolutionary” books.

Che visited America in 1964 and boasted of the Cuban terrorist state. “Yes,” he said, “we have executed people; we are executing people and shall continue to execute people as long as it is necessary.” Not much of a hero, even for sophomores or UNESCO.

Raul Looks to Create the "New Bureaucrat"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
By Cuban author Carlos Alberto Montaner in The Miami Herald:

Cuba’s reforms won’t work

They were caught in the Panama Canal with their hands in the missile jar.

Castroism doesn’t change. The complicity between Cuba and North Korea proves it. As stated in Havana by the North Korean Army chief of staff, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik: “I visit Cuba to meet with my comrades in the same trench, namely my Cuban comrades.” Lord, have mercy.

In addition, Raúl Castro is very annoyed. The country is a disaster. He said so, publicly, some days ago. The Cubans are thieves and boors, especially the young, who like dirty dancing and the reggaetón. Raúl had promised that everyone would be entitled to a glass of milk and hasn’t managed to provide it. Not even that.

There are fewer eggs, less meat, even less chicken. There’s no way to end rationing or the two-currency scam. The state pays with the bad currency, the worthless money, and sells for the good money, the valuable one. Raúl Castro knows that he’s perpetrating a swindle but refuses to put an end to the crime.

None of this is new. Some 25 years ago, Raúl Castro began to realize that Cuban communism was radically unproductive. Then he sent some of his officials to take management courses in several capitalist countries. He thought it was an administrative problem. He had just read Perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev’s book, and was bedazzled.

At that time, Raúl was still unable to understand that Marxism was a harebrained theory that inevitably led to catastrophe. Fidel aggravated the problem with his ridiculous volunteerism, his inflexibility, his absurd initiatives and his lack of common sense, but did not generate disaster. The problem lay in the theoretical premises.

Today, things are different. By now, Raúl Castro, who no longer fears Fidel and has eliminated from his entourage all of his brother’s acolytes, who has had seven years’ experience as a ruler, knows that collectivist recipes and the gabble of dialectical materialism are only useful for staying in power.

But here comes the paradox. Despite that certainty, Raúl Castro wants to save a system in which neither he nor any of his closest subordinates believe. Why the contradiction? Because it’s not a question of a theoretical battle. When Raúl said that he was not assuming the presidency to bury the system, he really meant that he was not replacing his brother to give up the power.

In any case, how does Raúl intend to save his regime? He has said it: by changing the methods of production. By inventing a robust socialist entrepreneurial fabric that is efficient, competitive and scrupulously handled by communist cadres turned into honest managers who’ll work tirelessly, without seeking any personal advantages.

Because he couldn’t create New Men, Raúl wants to create new bureaucrats.

In other words, we’re seeing a variation of the developmental delirium of his brother Fidel. Fidel was the smart inventor, always looking for the prodigiously productive cow, fed with moringa leaves, with which he could solve all problems. Raúl is the rigorous foreman who thinks of himself as a pragmatic, organized and iron-fisted man who can set things right through control and vigilance.

That vigorous state apparatus imagined by Raúl would coexist with a weak and closely watched private sector — “bonsai businesses,” as economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe calls them — whose function would be to provide small services and be the repository for workers dropped from the public sector.

Now, self-employed entrepreneurs are being attacked because some of them are purportedly saving their gains and becoming wealthy. Raúl wants capitalism without capital.

How long will it take for Raúl Castro to discover that his reform will not work because it is as unreal as his brother’s farming follies? It took five years for Gorbachev to admit that the system could not be reformed and the only way out was to demolish it.

Though Raúl has a hard noggin, he will eventually come to the same conclusion. As his brother Fidel used to say — and their teacher, Father Llorente, once revealed — “This boy is not very bright.”

Jay-Z: Boycott Florida, Vacation in Cuba

Hip-hop artist Jay-Z has reportedly joined the boycott of Florida over the state's controversial "stand your ground" law.

We respect his concerns.

However, it seems particularly hypocritical for Jay-Z to promote a boycott of democratic Florida, but have no problem vacationing in totalitarian Cuba.

As we all know, Cuba's police-state practices a unilateral "stand your ground" on steroids -- meaning if you even think contrary to the Castro regime, they can beat you, imprison you and kill you.

But why let that impede a "salsa and mojito" tour -- courtesy of the Obama Administration's so called "people-to-people" trips.

Clearly, the deaths of Cuban democracy leaders Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya, mean nothing to Jay-Z.

Neither do the violent beatings and abuses against Cuba's Ladies in White and Afro-Cuban democracy activists.

And remember Angel Yunier Remon?

The Cuban rapper know as "El Critico," who was in a prison cell (for his critical lyrics) during Jay-Z's April vacation to Havana?

He's still there, no charges filed, no trial, nothing.

But why let any of this stop a good party in Havana (courtesy of the Castro regime).

Iran and Cuba Reinvigorate Ties

Hopefully, we've learned from the Cuba-North Korea arms smuggling affair that these meetings and statements aren't innocuous.

From Iran's state news agency, Fars:

Iran, Cuba Reiterate Further Consolidation of Ties

Iranian and Cuban officials in a meeting in Tehran on Tuesday underscored the two countries' enthusiasm for the further reinvigoration of bilateral relations and mutual cooperation.

"The Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Parliament) supports development and consolidation of all-out relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Cuba," Head of Iran-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group Abdolreza Mesri said in a meeting with Cuban Charge d'affaires David Paulovich Escalona in Tehran on Tuesday.

He also said that Iran and Cuba's abundant commonalities and their common positions and viewpoints on the international issues provide a good opportunity for the further expansion of ties between the two countries.

Cuba and North Korea: Brothers in “Arms”

Monday, July 22, 2013
The University of Miami's Dr. Jaime Suchlicki asks some very good questions and poses an interesting scenario:

Cuba and North Korea: Brothers in “Arms”

Panama’s recent capture of a North Korean vessel carrying 240 tons of weapons from Cuba, including rockets, missile systems and two MIG 21s hidden among sacks of Cuban sugar, raises numerous questions and provides few answers.

- If the weapons were being sent from Cuba to be repaired in North Korea, why were they hidden in the hold of the ship under thousands of Cuban sugar bags?

- Why did the North Korean crew resist the Panamanian boarding of their ship in Panamanian waters? And why did the ship’s captain try to commit suicide?

- If Cuba needed to repair these weapons, why didn’t Gen. Raul Castro send them to Russia? After all, these were Russian weapons.

- Better yet, wouldn’t it have been less expensive and more efficient to bring North Korean or Russian technicians to Cuba to repair these weapons?

- Why would Cuba make this major effort to repair “obsolete” weapons, as the Cuban government describes the missile systems and the two MIG 21s?

- Wouldn’t it have been easier or cheaper for Cuba to ask Venezuela to send to the island military equipment from their recent Russian purchase and include it in the Venezuelan package of aid to Cuba?

- Or, couldn’t the Cubans have used the credits provided by Russia to purchase modern military equipment?

This leads to the obvious conclusion that Cuba and North Korea are not forthcoming with answers that could clarify this event. A likely answer could be that those are not “obsolete” weapons but functional, although old, equipment being shipped to another country.

For the past 50 years, Cuba has been an ally and supporter of numerous anti-American regimes and revolutionary and terrorist groups, some still struggling to attain and consolidate power and impose Marxist ideologies on their population. One of these is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congolese army has failed to quell a growing 10 month insurgencies which has dragged the country’s eastern region back to war. The rebellion could increase the possibility of conflict with neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, which allegedly are supporting the rebels. The Marxist Congolese government led by Joseph Kabila, a close friend of Cuba, has been struggling to retain power and crush the rebellion.

Congo is a major source of Uranium, which North Korea needs for its nuclear program. Shipments of North Korean weapons bound for the Congo have been intercepted in the past. Are the Cubans and North Koreans gambling to support their comrades in the Congo? The Director of the Sub-Saharan Department of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador to the Congo, Hector Igarza, led a high level, little publicized, delegation to Congo in February of this year, perhaps offering Cuban support to the beleaguered Congo regime. In September 2011, Kabila visited Gen. Raul Castro in Havana.

If it is determined that the weapons were destined for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or any other nation, it could have significant implications.

- It would represent a serious violation of U.N. Resolutions.

- It would show Gen. Raul Castro’s continuous commitment to internationalism and his willingness to violate international laws to support an ally.

- It would jeopardize a possible rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S.

- It would show that the Cubans are more interested in playing an international role and support their old allies, than work with the U.S. toward a possible normalization of relations.

It shows, one more time, that in Cuba economic decisions are dictated by political considerations. Relations with the U.S. are not a priority for Gen. Raul Castro. Supporting anti-American regimes and playing an international role remain Cuba’s priorities.

International Leaders Urge U.N. to Investigate Paya's Death

One year after suspicious death of Cuba's top dissident, 125 leaders urge U.N. to investigate

Signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, European Parliament VP, former presidents & foreign ministers, ambassadors, human rights activists and dissidents

Marking the first anniversary of the suspicious deaths of top Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya and activist Harold Cepero, more than 100 public figures from around the world today called on the highest officials of the United Nations to launch an international and independent investigation. (See full text here.)

"Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic, a leading figure in the human rights world, cannot go ignored by the international community," implores the petition.

While leading officials in the U.S. and elsewhere have previously spoken out for an inquiry, this is the first time that the controversy will be officially part of the UN's agenda.

The manifesto was filed today as an official submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Geneva-based non-governmental group UN Watch, which organized the appeal together with a fellow human rights group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Under UN rules governing submissions by accredited NGOs, the appeal will be circulated to all delegates as an official UN document, and placed on the agenda of the Human Rights Council's upcoming September session, increasing pressure for an inquiry, and for Cuba to answer for the alleged killings.

High-level signatories of the appeal include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, numerous former presidents, foreign ministers & ambassadors, MPs and human rights activists.

The statement calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and all 193 UN member states to support the call for an international investigation. Despite previous entreaties, neither Ban nor Pillay have yet endorsed an inquiry.

UN Watch has been among the leading voices at the UN for human rights in Cuba, often bringing dissidents to testify before the Human Rights Council.

In March, UN Watch brought Havana-based activist Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the slain dissident, to testify before the Council, where she was rudely interrupted by the Cuban delegate.

In May, UN Watch revealed how Cuba used more than 400 front groups to cheat on its quadrennial UN human rights review.

The activist group noted the irony that UNESCO has just honored Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara by listing his works in the World Memory Register.

"Instead of the UN honoring Che Guevara -- a man of violence who boasted about his firing squads to the UN General Assembly -- the world body should really be honoring Oswaldo Paya, a man of non-violence and disciple of Martin Luther King," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

Must-Read: A Year After the Crime

By Cuban democracy leader (Christian Liberation Movement, "MCL") and former political prisoner, Regis Iglesias, in Cubalog.EU:

On Sunday July 22, 2012, a friend from Madrid phoned and asked me to contact our Cuban friends to inquire after two young people who had gone to Cuba to visit them – Angel Carromero, a Spaniard, and Aron Modig, a Swede. She said that she had unconfirmed information that the two got into some trouble. Angel Carromero was the leader of the youth organization New Generations of the Spanish Popular Party and Aron Modig worked as the chairman of the Young Christian Democrats of Sweden.

I dialed the home-phone of Oswaldo Paya. “He is not at home,” I heard a voice from the receiver. It was his eldest son who answered the phone and told me that his mother had gone to the grandma’s but that he could go and get her. After a while I could finally talk to Ofelita, Oswaldo’s wife and co-founder of MCL in 1988, she promised that she would investigate the matter.

Only minutes later, around 9:15pm, I got another phone-call. The friend who had called before begged desperately that I try to get more information because as far as she knew from a text message sent from Modig’s mobile phone from Cuba to Stockholm, the car with Modig and Carromero had been chased by several vehicles of the Cuban Secret Police, one of which hit it and rammed it out of the way. As my friend informed me, three people were admitted to a hospital and the fourth was missing. “Please, find out who were the two Cubans travelling with Carromero and Modig,” the voice from the receiver pleaded.

My phone was almost out of credit then. Trying hard to ignore the apprehension I was filled with, I took the phone and texted Ofelita the information I had just received from my Madrid friend. Only a few seconds after I had sent the message, the uncertainty I felt became unbearable. Something deep inside of me made me shivered all over, as if it were a warning. I found an old phone card with a credit for a few-minute call, so I took it and called to Cuba. “Ofelita, I had just sent you a message because there are people here who are concerned about what had happened. Do you happen to know who were the two Cubans travelling with the lads (Carromero and Modig)?” Ofelia answered, nervously: “Regis, they were travelling with Oswaldo and Harold. With the two of them.” A lump formed in my throat. I told her that I would post the news on our website as it was necessary to protect the two men. “Do it immediately,” said Ofelita and got back to trying to reach Oswaldo.

A while after that, Rosa Maria Paya, Oswaldo’s daughter, confirmed: “Regis, I called on my daddy’s mobile and the person who answered it told me that the owner of that phone had died... No!,” I shouted, “They have said this only to make us worry, to disturb us. He can’t be dead!,” I continued, desperately. “Regis, they have killed my father,” said Rosa Maria.

People of dubious political identity were quick to call the event an “accident”. Than they asked for presumption of innocence for those who have killed thousands of Cubans in the last half a century. In the whirl and twirl of countless categorical and hypocritical statements, the family of the deceased received a direct threat – they were advised that: "for their own good, they had better accept that it was an accident.” Modig apologized for having shown solidarity with the Cubans and their quest for freedom and returned to his homeland safe and sound. As far as Carromero was concerned, an untenable show was staged, accusing him of having committed a “reckless homicide.” Spain’s strategy was to keep mum and accept the official version of the events in order to get Carromero back to Madrid alive. Six months after that, young Carromero finally returned to his country. Yet, despite all the available information, he came back as a culprit and has been treated as one by the government of his own country. Various factors are at play, including the Spanish government’s interest in the island and a part of Latin America that has been under rule of left-wing puppets.

Despite being kept prisoner, Angel Carromero was able to call us after he had returned. We met and he told us what had really happened, or rather what he remembered after months of torture including various ways of inserting non-specific fluids in his body. Carromero’s courage has earned him attacks from the leftist press and has made him victim of acts of public harassment.

Despite all this, our Movement has not stopped asking for justice. All the time and in every forum we have been calling for an international investigation that would reveal to the public what really happened after Angel and Aron had been dragged out of the crime scene, leaving Oswaldo and Harold still alive. Both in Cuba and abroad, the Christian Liberation Movement has continued making efforts to carry out real changes that would give sovereignty back to the people. It has been working on it in the midst of fierce repression, in spite of violent attacks and harassment suffered by its leaders, expatriated after having spent many years in prison. Oswaldo and Harold are still with us. And they will be with us the day our country is liberated.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

And, in case you missed this segment from last week:

American Express Fined $5 Million for Cuba Sanctions Violations

From the U.S. Treasury Department:

American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations

American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. (“TRS”), New York, NY, has agreed to pay $5,226,120 to settle potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 (the “CACR”). From on or about December 15, 2005, through on or about November 1, 2011, TRS dealt in property in which Cuba or its nationals had an interest when its foreign branch offices and subsidiaries issued 14,487 tickets for travel between Cuba and countries other than the United States, many of which had adopted “antidote” measures (blocking statutes) prohibiting compliance with the CACR, without authorization from OFAC.

OFAC determined that TRS voluntarily self-disclosed this matter to OFAC and that the apparent violations occurred “subsequent to agency notice” in 1995.

TRS was investigated by OFAC in 1995 and 1996 for similar apparent violations of the CACR arising from the provision of travel services to and from Cuba by a recently acquired subsidiary at the time. OFAC provided written notice to TRS that such conduct constituted apparent violations of the CACR.

Under the Cuba Penalty Schedule, 68 Fed. Reg. 4429 (Jan. 29, 2003), the base penalty for the apparent violations is $3,629,250.

The Ones That Got Away: At Least 7 Other Cuba-North Korea Trips Uncovered

Sunday, July 21, 2013
Obviously, this was not a one-time event.

Makes you wonder what weaponry and other illegal contraband has gotten away.

From Washington Post:

North Korean vessels have made at least seven other trips to Cuba in the past few years, with three stopping at the same two ports as the Chong Chon Gang, according to two organizations that monitor North Korea, the Panamanian authorities and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Several of the freighters were operated or managed by Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), a Pyongyang-based company with links to the North Korean government, which is also the registered manager of the detained vessel, according to the Wisconsin Project, which uses ship tracking databases to follow North Korean and other vessels.

The journeys, made by ships that normally stay close to the Korean peninsula, are an indication that the Chong Chon Gang’s voyage may have been part of a wider, established trade route, amid an increasingly warm relationship between the two communist nations.

Another vessel, the Oun Chong Nyon Ho, made an almost identical voyage through the canal and to the same two Cuban ports in May 2012. It passed back through the Panamanian waterway without being searched. In May 2009, the North Korean- flagged Mu Du Bong went through the canal and stopped in Havana, Cuba’s capital city. Both are currently managed by OMM, according to the Wisconsin Project.

A third ship, the Po Thong Gang, traveled through the canal and called at Puerto Padre in April 2012. During the previous year, it had visited Havana and Santiago de Cuba, according to research by Matthew Godsey of the Wisconsin Project. It was linked to OMM until 2008 and is now registered to a different company at the same address, Godsey said.

Hugh Griffiths, a maritime arms trafficking expert based at SIPRI, said his monitoring database has recorded two further North Korean-linked ships that have docked in Cuba on three occasions in the past 18 months. Two of the trips stopped at both Havana and Puerto Padre, the two Cuban ports visited by the Chong Chon Gang and the Oun Chong Nyon Ho, he said.

Griffiths said there was a “definite possibility” that other ships had made the journey from North Korea to Cuba undetected by registering under false ownership or by turning off onboard satellite transponders to avoid being tracked, as the Chong Chon Gang appears to have done.

Must-See: Cuban and North Korean Generals During Havana Meeting

From July 1st, 2013 (three weeks ago).

Note every senior Cuban General is in the room.

It was clear that they were up to no good -- but Cuba "experts" would have assured us at the time that it was just a diplomatic meeting and that for us to insinuate otherwise would have been hysteria.

Courtesy of the independent, non-profit news site, New Tang Dynasty (NTDTV).

Click below:

Functional Cuban MiG-21 Jets Found

Note that the MiG-21s were functional -- not "obsolete" or needing repairs -- as they had been recently fueled.

Moreover, MiG21s are very effective at killing people, just ask Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

Also note, missile parts were found.

From AFP:

Two Soviet-era fighter planes found on N. Korea ship

Panamanian authorities have found two Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets aboard a North Korea-flagged ship seized this month as it tried to pass through the Panama Canal after departing from Cuba.

The supersonic jets were found alongside missile and other weapons parts concealed in a shipment of sugar, in what could constitute a violation of tough UN sanctions on Pyongyang.

Cuba has claimed the shipment, intercepted earlier this month, consists of "obsolete" weapons it was sending to North Korea to be refurbished and returned.

UN sanctions experts plan to travel to Panama to inspect the shipment on August 5.

Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli said the two jets, anti-aircraft missile batteries and other parts have been found on board.

"Apparently these aircraft were in use because they had fuel," he said during a visit to the port of Manzanillo, where the boat is being unloaded.

MH Editorial Board: Keep Cuba on Terrorist List

From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Cuba, North Korea and the Chong Chon Gang

OUR OPINION: Obama administration must push for stronger U.N. response and put N. Korea back on U.S. terror list

The seizure in Panama of the Chong Chon Gang, a rusty old North Korean ship carrying last century’s Soviet-era weapons from Cuba hidden under 250,000 sacks of brown sugar, may seem to have the wacky trappings of a Gilligan’s Island episode with a Cold War flashback that includes a rioting crew and a captain threatening to kill himself when Panamanian soldiers boarded his ship.

But as the ship’s containers begin to be cleared of the 100-pound bags of sugar and the weapons systems are exposed and analyzed by experts, no one’s laughing. The case for maintaining a tough line on North Korea and Cuba has been strengthened.

The Obama administration, which has spent years tossing carrots at both communist countries, keeps finding that neither wants to nibble. They’re too busy, after all, plotting against the United States and the United Nations.

Any talk of removing the communist island from the State Department’s terror list remains a fool’s errand when faced with more evidence of Cuba’s role as a pass-through for every renegade nation and terrorist group that seeks harbor there.

The Cuban and North Korean communist dictatorships maintain Cuba was sending “obsolete defensive weapons” for repairs in North Korea so that Cuba can “protect its sovereignty.” Among the 240 metric tons of weapons are two anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles “in parts and spares,” two Mig-21 bis jet fighters and 15 engines, the Cubans say.

But if the weapons are obsolete why repair them? In fact, a key radar component of the SA-2 surface-to-air defense system on the ship can still be used once upgraded to ward off newer Western systems that can disable the old SA-2, surface-to-air missiles designed for higher elevations like North Korea’s. Were these weapons headed for North Korea to spruce up for its own use now that neighboring China has toughened its position against Pyongyang?

North Korea’s arms deal with Cuba violates United Nations security resolutions that prohibit the Asian renegade from dealing in arms. The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after its first illegal nuclear test in 2006 and again in 2009, sanctions that authorize inspections of ships at sea. Yet North Korea was removed from the U.S. State Department’s terror list in 2008 after it agreed to international inspection of its nuclear program. Time has shown that this promise was made to be broken.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and past chair, is right to call for North Korea to be put back on the terror list. And those hoping to get Cuba pulled off the terror list should have gotten their wake-up call about the Castro brothers’ ill will, too.

As Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez noted, “Weapons transfers from one communist regime to another hidden under sacks of sugar are not accidental occurrences and reinforce 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.”

This is no time to be chummy with rogue regimes. Keep Cuba where it belongs — on the terror list — and add North Korea to the membership because both countries have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted.

Ten Questions for Cuba's Defense Minister

The Castro regime's state media hasn't "reported" one word about its getting caught red-handed smuggling weapons to North Korea, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

Not surprising.

Thus, Cuban independent journalist and democracy leader, Reinaldo Escobar, has posted ten questions it would ask Castro's Minister of Defense (known as MINFAR), if given the opportunity to: 

1. Do you find contracting with North Korea for weapons repairs to be consistent with the import substitution policy set forth in the guidelines released by the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC)?

2. Does Cuba lack the technical facilities and a trained personnel capable to maintain the combat readiness of weapons available for the defense of the homeland?

3. To what extent does the obsolescence of our weapons affect the often proclaimed military invulnerability of Cuba?

4. What elements were taken into consideration when choosing North Korea as the destination to repair our weapons, instead of contracting this service to Russia, where they were built?

5. Is it true that in the agreements signed by the Cuban government with the USSR there was a clause that precluded the re-export of weapons acquired?

6. The statement from the Foreign Ministry (MINREX) mentions that there were two missile systems on-board the North Korean ship. Were they so broken that they had to be put back together in order to be shipped in their entirety?

7. Was the fact that the weapons were covered with sugar an intent to conceal the military cargo, or is it a new way of taking advantage of cargo space?

8. To what extent does the Cuban government share responsibility for not informing Panama what was being transported in the ship's cargo area?

9. In the contract signed to repair these armaments in North Korea, did the government of Cuba include a discretionary clause or a warning that would prevent the North Koreans from doing something else with these weapons?

10. At what level was this risky operation organized? Was it your personal decision or was it known to president Raul Castro?

(CHC: The picture below makes it pretty clear.)