Tweet of the Week

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why Boycott Trips to Bahamas, Instead of Trips to Cuba?

The quote of the week: 
If we really want to protest what is happening in Bahamas and in other countries, we should focus on the root of the problem.  And the problem is Cuba.  Why boycott trips to Bahamas, instead of trips to Cuba?  Yes, Bahamas mistreats those who arrived there by error.  But in Cuba, every day women are beaten and mistreated; dissidents are imprisoned and human rights violations are rampant.  So why punish Bahamas and reward Cuba? 
-- Remedios Diaz-Oliver, Cuban-American business leader, Diario las Americas, 8/17/13

North Korea Desperate to Hide Cuban Weapons

Why were the North Koreans so desperate to hide the Cuban weapons?

The answer is obvious.

More details in an article today from in Japan's Asahi Shimbun:

Panama: N. Korean crew fought inspectors to hide weapons

The crew of a North Korean ship put up fierce resistance and the captain attempted suicide when Panamanian authorities tried to inspect cargo that contained undeclared weapons, including MiG-21 fighter jets, a senior prosecutor said.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Panama's deputy chief prosecutor, Javier Caraballo, who is in charge of the case, described how crew members attempted to block the Panamanian authorities.

According to Caraballo, the crew cut the engine and dropped anchor after authorities ordered them to move the ship to port for inspection. The authorities cut the anchor on July 12, and towed the ship to the central port of Colon.

When inspectors boarded the ship, crew members destroyed navigational computers and other equipment and refused to submit logbooks and cargo documents. They also severed wires used for cargo-unloading cranes, forcing the inspectors to remove a large number of sugar bags by hand, Caraballo said.

When the containers holding the weapons were found under the sugar bags, the captain tried to kill himself by cutting his throat with a knife, only to be stopped by a Panamanian investigator. The captain is being treated at a hospital in Colon, and his injuries are not life-threatening.

Repression Caught on Tape: Cuban Activists Arrested

The video below captures the violent arrest of two peaceful Cuban democracy activists, Raul Gonzalez and Niurcy Acosta Pacheco, of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR, in Spanish).

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Why is Castro Afraid of Ai Weiwei?

Friday, August 16, 2013
Last night, the Cuban independent think-tank, Estado de SATS, hosted a screening of "Never Sorry," a documentary about famed artist and democracy activist, Ai Weiwei.

In response, the Castro regime undertook a repressive operation to prevent activists from attending the screening.

It blocked streets, cut phone lines, intimidated passers-by and arrested a number of dissidents. Among those arrested are Mario Moraga and Juan Carlos Castellano.

Despite the repression, the show went on and 32 activists managed to defy Castro's security forces.

What is Castro so afraid of?

See for yourself below:

Two Cuban Political Prisoners Handed Long Sentences

Cuban democracy activists, Ernesto Roberto Riveri Gascon and Enrique Figuerola Miranda, have been handed long prison sentences by the Castro regime for their political activities.

Both are members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), which now has 33 members serving political sentences.

Last week, Amnesty International released an "urgent alert" regarding five of these UNPACU activists.

Riveri, who was arrested on November 27th, 2012, has been sentenced to 1-year in prison for "public disorder and disobedience."

Meanwhile, the regime seeks a 5-year sentence for Figuerola, who was arrested on July 28th, 2012, and is accused of "contempt" for taking pictures of police agents repressing fellow activists.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Courtesy of Hablemos Press.

Editor's Note: Chamber of the Americas Insults Cuban-Americans

The head of the Chamber of the Americas, Gil Cisneros, has penned an op-ed this week in the Denver Business Journal insulting the Cuban-American community.

Here is the response I have sent him:

Mr. Cisneros:

As a 37-year old American of Cuban descent, what I find the most troubling about your column is the lack of any facts to substantiate your thesis.  Instead, you spend all of your energy insulting and disparaging the Cuban-American community.  Perhaps this is a direct consequence of your organization outsourcing its entire Cuba policy to an obtuse graduate student and "former" Castro regime official.

Here are some facts you may want to consider regarding "trade with Cuba":

-- According to the Castro regime's Constitution, the Cuban people are prohibited from engaging in foreign trade. Foreign investors in Cuba are prohibited from doing business with private citizens. Investors can only do business through minority joint ventures with the Castro regime.

-- In 2000, there were 400 foreign companies operating in Cuba through minority joint ventures with the Castro regime, which is sadly the only permissible legal vehicle for foreign companies to invest in Cuba.  Today, there are only 190 left.

-- According to Reuters, "The Communist-run nation failed to make some debt payments on schedule beginning in 2008, then froze up to $1 billion in the accounts of foreign suppliers by the start of 2009."

-- Moreover, during this time, the CEOs of various foreign companies with extensive business dealings with the Cuban government have been arrested.  Some of these are still sitting in jail -- years later -- without charges. (One of them wrote a letter published in The Economist yesterday, see here).

-- According to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal: Cuba ranks 176th out of 177 countries, one notch ahead of North Korea, the worst. Cuba is the least-free economy in the Western Hemisphere and internationally, it ranks worse than some pretty unattractive investment environments, including Iran, Syria and Zimbabwe.

If you would like more facts regarding Cuba and Cuba policy, please take some time to read this recent presentation to the Puerto Rican Manufacturers Association.

Your upcoming trip might represent a short-term fundraising benefit for your organization, but it lacks long-term vision.  U.S. policy toward Cuba -- as codified in law -- will not change until the Cuban people are free to exercise the fundamental rights that you and the rest of the citizens of the Western Hemisphere enjoy.

Moreover, our organization, and its supporters, which include former Cabinet members, Fortune 100 executives and successful entrepreneurs will continue to stand steadfastly for the principles of democracy, the free market and the rule of law.  That is the American way.

If you ever choose to have a civilized, factual debate regarding Cuba and U.S. policy, please let us know. Unlike you, we promise not to engage in any personal attacks or insults.

Kindest regards,

Mauricio Claver-Carone

Antunez Addresses Young Leaders Group

Cuban dissident leader Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" addressed the first gathering of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group.

Click below to watch:


Quote of the Week

When you are in ‘Castro land’ you do what Castro says. If Castro says eat potato you better eat potato. If say Castro say eat rice, you better eat the rice and no say the grains are hard. 
-- Dr. Timothy Harris, former Foreign Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, SKN Vibes, 8/16/13

Mariela Silent on Maduro's Homophobia

Thursday, August 15, 2013
While Mariela Castro is being hypocritically feted in Uruguay for her supposed "gay rights" advocacy, her father's puppet regime in Venezuela unleashes a series of homophobic attacks.

From AP:

Ruling party legislator unleashes gay slurs in attacking leaders of Venezuela’s opposition

Venomous political attacks have become the norm in Venezuela, and now a governing party legislator has unleashed a tirade in the country’s legislature using gay slurs in trying to discredit the opposition.

The lawmaker displayed photos in the National Assembly on Tuesday showing a top aide to opposition leader Henrique Capriles dressed, along with other men, in women’s clothing, apparently at a party. He suggested, without elaboration, that the photos proved the aide’s involvement with drug traffickers and male and female prostitution.

Legislator Pedro Carreno, a member of the movement built by the late President Hugo Chavez, didn’t say where he got the photos, although the aide’s apartment was searched last week by military agents.

Carreno, a former military officer, is angry with Capriles for accusing him of being forced out of the armed forces for corruption and has challenged him to provide proof or resign as Miranda governor.

“Respond, you homosexual,” Carreno said during Tuesday’s legislative session. “Accept the challenge, you faggot.”

Carreno then claimed there is a police report saying Capriles was caught having oral sex in public in 2000.

President Nicolas Maduro hurled more invective Wednesday, alluding during a public event to lascivious material that he insinuated was seized from Lopez.

“Just 1 percent what was discovered was shown” in the National Assembly, Maduro said. “The videos and photos of orgies are not publishable.”

Capriles said Wednesday he was “honored” to be attacked by a government that he says is going to be brought down by its own corruption and what he says was the theft of the April 14 presidential election.

“If I was a homosexual I would acknowledge it with pride to the four winds,” Capriles said.

Consider This: On Oswaldo Paya's Death

Angel Carromero, the young Spaniard driving the car carrying Cuban pro-democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, which was rammed off the road by Castro's secret police, has stated unequivocally:

"Cuba's secret services murdered Oswaldo Paya."

Here are some more thought provoking questions and observations from Carromero (in El Nuevo Herald's Twitter feed):

-- "If the [car's] impact [against the tree] was so hard, how is it possible that the two persons in the front seats were uninjured?"

-- "It's impossible that if the impact [against the tree] was so hard, that the tree would be undamaged."

-- "At the hospital, Paya had no lesions."

-- "Three vehicles of the military were following us."

-- "The military had the trip controlled from the beginning."

And, from The Miami Herald:

-- "Carromero says that a Cuban man in military uniform 'slapped me around a couple of times' to persuade him that he was wrong when he insisted on saying that a car with government license plates had rammed his vehicle from behind and caused the crash."

-- "[A] group of male officers in uniform, including the man who slapped him, turned up and threatened that if he did not agree to say that it was a one-car crash he might go to jail and not get out for a long time, Carromero added."

-- "Carromero said his car had been tailed by three different government vehicles, including one marked police cruiser, from the time the foursome left Havana the morning of July 22 to visit dissidents in eastern Cuba."

-- "Evidencing the intensity of the government’s interest on Payá and the Europeans, 'Yohandry Fontana,' widely believed to be a front for State Security operations, tweeted six hours before the crash that Payá was on his way to the beach resort of Varadero.

Carromero said they never drove to Varadero. But on the previous day, he added, he had exchanged 4,000 Euros into Cuban currency in Havana. When the teller asked him why he was changing so much, he replied that he was going to Varadero."

-- "Carromero said he recovered consciousness as a group of men were putting him into a white mini-van that apparently drove him to the hospital in Bayamo. It was the same kind of van that police later used to drive him from prison to his trial, he added. At his trial, Cuban officials said they did not know who drove him to the hospital."

Castro's Arbitrary and Capricious Entry Visas

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
From EFE:

Cuba Denies Entry to Representative of Ladies in White in Europe

Cuban Blanca Reyes, the representative of the Ladies in White in Europe, complained Wednesday that Havana had denied her permission to travel to her homeland and visit her blind, 93-year-old father.

In remarks to EFE, Reyes, the wife of exiled Cuban poet and journalist Raul Rivero, who lives in Spain, expressed “the desolation” the denial caused within her given that it is quite likely the last time that she can return home to see her father.

“It’s a human rights violation,” she said, adding that “it’s very unfair that I cannot go to see my father, that I can’t visit my country, my friends.”

“I’m not going to accept that the Cuban government can tell me what I have to do,” the Ladies in White rep emphasized.

“It’s a lie” that the Cuban government is in the midst of opening the country up, she said, adding that the European Union should not relax its Common Position, according to which it demands that Havana make advances in human rights in exchange for reductions in the restrictions it imposes on the island.

(Concerning) Tweet of the Day

"Kim Il Sung gave 100,000 AK rifles to Cuba: one for every 100 residents! The transition will be a bloodbath.  Thanks Fidel."

Castro Repays North Korea the Arms Favor

While U.N. inspectors are currently in Panama inspecting Cuba's recent weapons shipment to North Korea, Fidel Castro reminisces about the free arms shipments that Kim il-Sung used to send him.

Maybe Castro's repaying the favor.

From AFP:

Castro praises N.Korea for Cold War arms aid

Fidel Castro credited North Korea Wednesday with supplying Cuba with free weapons in the 1980s after the Soviet Union said it could no longer defend the island against a US invasion.

Castro's reminiscence in an article published Wednesday came as UN experts were scrutinizing a shipment of Cuban arms to North Korea to determine if they violated a UN ban.

In an article marking his 87th birthday, Castro did not mention the case but praised North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung for coming to Cuba's aid near the end of the Cold War.

Castro said North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, "a veteran and unimpeachable combatant, sent us 100,000 AK rifles and (ammunition) without charging a cent," he said.

Kim Il-Sung died in 1994. His grandson now rules the Stalinist state.

Cuba's Very Very Long Journey to the Internet

From TIME:

Cuba’s Journey on the Internet: There’s a Long March Ahead

As far as the Internet goes, Cuba is the Western Hemisphere’s last frontier. Despite the island nation’s proximity to Florida — just 90 miles away — and the existence of a fully functioning fiber-optic cable linked up to Venezuela, only 25% of the population is online, according to last year’s government statistics, which are likely inflated. In June, Cuban citizens were for the first time legally allowed access at designated “cyber points” but few can afford the charges—the cost of one hour online matches an average Cuban’s week’s salary.

But the communist isle is hardly cut off from the outside world. The streets and homes of Havana teem with pendrives, available from bootleggers for around $2, which carry everything from the latest film, music and television releases to property adverts and news. “Of course I know Gangnam Style, the Korean guy!” exclaims Nery Galindo, 24, in the leafy Havana district of Vedado. “But you know what, I saw it first thanks to a pendrive, not on the Internet.” A block down, Tomás Inda Barrera, the director of the School of Creative Photography in Havana, has a pendrive around his neck and two more in his bag. “It’s the easiest way to move information,” he says. “In Cuba, almost everyone has a pendrive. It’s fundamental.”

Many who are opposed to the government of the Castros hope that wider access to data will galvanize dissent on the island. “I sincerely believe that one day there will be a museum of Cuban democracy and it will have a monument to the pendrive,” says dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, 37, sitting in her Havana living room. “A society so closed off has developed an ingenious underground mechanism to pass on data.” Sánchez has used the Internet to spread her anti-government views despite the restricted access, having snuck into hotels to upload to her blog and used SMS/text messages to post to Twitter. Her blog Generation Y is popular and her Twitter account is followed by more than half a million people. Cuban authorities have arrested Sánchez multiple times since her blog began in 2007.

However, there is little evidence that the pendrives or a fledgling internet are being used in such a way. In his book The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World, Belarusian writer Evgeny Morozov points to parts of East Germany during the Cold War where it was possible, thanks to their geography, to receive western television signals. Popular American shows at the time such as “Dallas,” “Dynasty” and “Miami Vice” made up preferred viewing. “Western television made life in East Germany more bearable,” writes Morozov, “and by doing so it may have undermined the struggle of the dissident movement.” Sánchez admits this is an issue. “Sadly, like many other countries, the majority of Cubans aren’t interested in politics. Most people are watching American films and listening to American music,” she says.

In Cuba, foreigners have for a long time been able to get online at high-end hotels on eye-wateringly slow connections costing some $7 an hour. Cubans were banned until June this year when the government allowed them access at 118 expensive “cyber points” across the country. With an average wage of $20 a month, however, the $4.50 an hour cost is prohibitive to most. “I’d love to use the internet to communicate with my family and friends abroad,” says waitress Marianela López, 35, at a bar on the Malecón, the city’s iconic seafront. “But I only earn around $10 a month.”

Before the reform, a select few working in government, education and other chosen sectors, already had cheaper access. They, alongside those able to afford the high prices as well as those with illegal connections — rigged to satellite dishes smuggled onto the island — are the ones who fill the pendrives with the Internet’s gems and put them into circulation. According to Google’s Transparency Report, Cuba’s access to the Internet giant’s websites showed no significant rise when Cubans were allowed to legally go online this year.

To use the internet at a “cyber point,” Cubans must hand over their identity card before logging on and their activity, while much quicker than in hotels, is somewhat restricted. In an hour at one site in Vedado, it was not possible to access Sánchez’s blog, a CraigsList-style classifieds website called Revolico, nor the website of Radio Martí, the Miami-based anti-Castro station. It was, however, possible to access the websites of TIME, the New York Times and even edit the Wikipedia entry of Raúl Castro. Users in Vedado were predominantly catching up with friends on Facebook.

Elaine Díaz is a supporter of the Cuban government though runs a own blog, La Polémica Digital (the Digital Controversy), that is sometimes critical of local authorities. Díaz says the political landscape in the country is far more nuanced and complex than foreigners may imagine it to be. “Cuba is more than two poles,” she says. “There is a cultural and political diversity [that has created] a space for dialogue, conversation, discussion and reflection. The internet, even with its limited nature on the island, has helped create this space.”

In a recent interview in Communist party newspaper Granma, Deputy Minister of Communications Wilfredo González Vidal said that he expects prices to fall as well as implementation of WiFi services, mobile internet access and domestic connections. He attributed delays to “the country’s economic situation and the investment needed,” which the government blames on the US embargo in force since 1960. Blaming US policy, though, seems misplaced given that countries more friendly to Cuba have offered help.

More than two years ago, Venezuela confirmed that an undersea fiber-optic cable between the two countries was “fully operational.” However, the cable only began to carry traffic earlier this year, which “suggests that infrastructure, though weak, is not the primary factor in Cuba’s digital isolation,” says Ashley Greco-Stoner, a senior research assistant at Freedom House.  “The Cubans have always been very nervous about the internet,” adds Ann Louise Bardach, a long-time Cuba analyst and author of Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington. “Unfettered information could lead to dissent and opposition.”

As Communications Minister, Ramiro Valdés, 82, is in charge of the roll-out of the internet on the island. Valdés is a veteran of the Revolution; he fought alongside Fidel Castro in the 1950s and is infamous for his tenure as Minister of the Interior when he oversaw secret police operations and had a reputation for ruthless suppression of dissidents. Valdés is said to have described the internet TO WHOM as a “wild colt” that must be controlled. “All you need to know about the Cuban internet is who was put in charge of it,” says Bardach. “The most feared spymaster in Cuban history was made head of the internet. That tells you everything.”

Even as the country’s population of netizens grows, much more still has to change. “Savvy people who are smart can get access,” says Ted Henken, President of the Study of the Cuban Economy based in Washington, D.C., and author of several books on Cuba. “But there is a big difference between pendrives used by a connected elite group and mass access to a pluralistic media.”

North Korea's Alan Gross, Cuba's Kenneth Bae

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Smuggling weapons isn't the only thing that Cuba's Castros and North Korea's Kim share in common.

They also have an affinity for taking American hostages -- Alan Gross in Cuba and Kenneth Bae in North Korea.

And, for coercing the United States.

Note both hostages are being held under eerily similar circumstances -- accused of absurd political crimes, handed 15-year prison sentences, suffering from ill health and extreme weight loss.

This week, in CNN:

Kenneth Bae, American imprisoned in North Korea, moved to hospital

Kenneth Bae, the American citizen sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp, has been moved to a hospital after a serious deterioration in his health, his sister said.

Detained in North Korea in November and sentenced in April for "hostile acts to bring down its government," Bae is now suffering from severe back and leg pain and has lost more than 50 pounds, his sister Terri Chung told CNN late Sunday.

Detention in North Korea has taken a heavy toll on Bae, who had already been dealing with other health problems, including diabetes.

Sound familiar?

Last year, in The Washington Post:

American held in Cuba is in poor health, wife says

An American imprisoned in Cuba for nearly three years is in poor health and may not survive to serve out the remainder of his 15-year sentence, his wife said Tuesday after visiting him last week.

Alan Gross has lost 105 pounds and has a growth on his back that no American doctor has been allowed to inspect, according to his wife, Judy Gross, and an attorney for the family.

“He looks like a concentration camp victim,” Judy Gross said in a brief interview, adding in a statement that she fears he won’t survive.

How Many Foreign Businessmen Are Imprisoned in Cuba?

This morning's letter to The Economist by Stephen Purvis, a British businessman who was imprisoned by the Castro brothers for 15 months and had his assets confiscated, raises an important question:

How many foreign businessmen are currently imprisoned in Cuba?

We know about Cy Tokmakjian of Canada’s Tokmakjian Group, who was arrested in September 2011, when his Havana office was unexpectedly raided and its assets confiscated.  Nearly two years later, Tokmakjian has yet to be charged with anything.

We know about Sarkis Yacoubian of Canada’s Tri-Star Caribbean, who was given a 9-year sentence despite months of interrogations in which he was "broken," admitted to everything his interrogators desired – and then some.

And obviously, we know about Amado Fahkre and Stephen Purvis of Britain’s Coral Capital, who were arrested in October 2011 and March 2012, respectively, and recently sentenced to time served and allowed to return to London.

But Purvis mentions in today's letter:

"I spent time with a number of foreign businessmen arrested during 2011 and 2012 from a variety of countries... Very few of my fellow sufferers have been reported in the press and there are many more in the system than is widely known."

He drops a clue about Ericsson's imprisoned Cuba representative, who we were previously unaware of:

"Why for example is the representative of Ericsson in jail for exactly the same activities as their Chinese competitor who is not?"

So how many more foreign businessmen are imprisoned in Cuba that we don't know about?

Apparently, many more.

Who knows how many foreign companies and governments are being blackmailed by the Castro regime

If this happens to foreign businessmen, who are "protected" by their governments, companies, lawyers, etc. -- just imagine what happens to regular Cubans.

The China Model is Failing -- in China Itself

Gordon Chang, Forbes columnist and author of the book, "The Coming Collapse of China," discusses China's increasingly steep decline on Cristina Radio's "From Washington al Mundo" with Mauricio Claver-Carone.

In other words, the China model is failing -- in China itself.

Listen to the podcast here.

The High Risk of Doing Business in Cuba

A must-read letter to The Economist by Stephen Purvis, a British businessman who was imprisoned by his former partners (the Castro brothers) for 15 months and had his assets confiscated:

The risk of doing business

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed reading about my misfortunes in The Economist, albeit many months after publication and in the company of fellow inmates in the Cuban high security prison, La Condesa. I would ask you to correct the impression that you give in the May 9th 2012 edition and subsequent articles that I was accused and detained for corruption.

During my 8 month interrogation in the Villa Marista I was accused of many things, starting with revelations of state secrets, but never of corruption. After a further 7 months held with a host of convicted serious criminals and a handful of confused businessmen, most of whom were in a parallel predicament to mine, I was finally charged and sentenced for participating in various supposed breaches of financial regulations. The fact that the Central Bank had specifically approved the transactions in question for 12 years, and that by their sentencing the court has in effect potentially criminalized every foreign business investing or trading in Cuba was considered irrelevant by the judges. I am thankful however that the judges finally determined that my sentence should not only have with a conditional release date a few days before the trail thus conveniently justifying my 15 months in prison, but, bizarrely was to be non-custodial. So my Kafkaesque experience at the sharp end of Cuban justice ended as abruptly as it began.

I spent time with a number of foreign businessmen arrested during 2011 and 2012 from a variety of countries, although representatives from Brazil, Venezuela and China were conspicuous in the absence. Very few of my fellow sufferers have been reported in the press and there are many more in the system than is widely known. As they are all still either waiting for charges, trial or sentencing they will certainly not be talking to the press. Whilst a few of them are being charged with corruption many are not and the accusations range from sabotage, damage to the economy, tax avoidance and illegal economic activity. It is absolutely clear that the war against corruption may be a convenient political banner to hide behind and one that foreign governments and press will support. But the reasons for actively and aggressively pursuing foreign business are far more complicated.  Why for example is the representative of Ericsson in jail for exactly the same activities as their Chinese competitor who is not? Why for example was one senior European engineer invited back to discuss a potential new project only to be arrested for paying technical workers five years ago when he was a temporary resident in Cuba? 

You interpret the economic liberalization evident at street level as an indication of a desire for fundamental change. It is true that these reforms are welcomed, especially the dramatic increase in remittance flows that have injected fresh hard currency into the bottom strata of a perennially cash strapped economy. But until the law relating to foreign investment and commerce is revised and the security service changes its modus operandi for enforcing these laws, Cuba will remain extremely risky for non-bilateral foreign business and foreign executives should be under no illusion about the great personal risks they run if they chose to do business there.  As businessmen emerge from their awful experience and tell their individual stories perhaps the real reasons for this concerted attack against business’s and individuals that have historically been friends of Cuba will become a bit clearer. In the meantime your intrepid reporters could usefully investigate the individuals and cliques who are benefitting from the market reorganization and newly nationalized assets resulting from this “ war on corruption.”

Yours faithfully, Stephen Purvis

No Private Property in Cuba

And there you have it.

Senior Castro regime official, Abel Prieto, explains Raul's economic "reforms":

"We're talking about non-state forms of management; we're not talking about privatization or non-state property. We are leasing land to cooperatives and families, farmers who have an obligation to make those lands productive, but the property is kept by the Cuban state on behalf of all the people. That is the complete opposite of privatization. A key principle is that no natural person, nor entity, that manages non-state production or services can concentrate property. Anyhow, it is the socialist state enterprise, now with more attributes, more freedom to act and greater efficiency, without the administrative obstacles that previously tied its hands, that is going to get us out of this crisis... The concept of privatization is absolutely prohibited as a matter of policy."

Also, make sure to read last week's explanation about "cooperatives" by Grisel Trista Arbesu, a senior Castro regime official in charge of "reforms."

WaPo Editorial Board: Raul Castro's Incivility

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Raul Castro’s empty talk on civility in Cuba

President Raul Castro of Cuba delivered a speech to the National Assembly last month in which he lamented the demise of Cuban culture and civility. He railed against bad behavior, from building houses without permits to shouting and swearing in the streets, from dodging bus fares to painting grafitti. “Living in society entails, in the first place, accepting rules that preserve respect for decency and the rights of others,” he declared.

The rights of others? Civility? Seven days after Mr. Castro spoke these words, the civil society group Ladies in White went on a march for freedom and human rights in Matanzas province. They’ve done this before, on other Sundays, in other towns. A group of Cuban government supporters forcefully cut off the march and proceeded to beat and harass the members of the group, which was founded by the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of 75 political prisoners who were jailed in a crackdown a decade ago. The attack was just the latest harassment and intimidation of Cuban dissidents.

The kind of civility that is recognized all over the world as basic dignity — the freedom to speak and associate, to choose one’s leaders, to live without fearing a regime’s security services — is not on Mr. Castro’s mind. His regime continues to threaten and persecute those who dare challenge its legitimacy.

One of the most passionate dissidents in Cuba until his death last year was Oswaldo Payá, champion of a campaign to advance democracy with a national referendum. On July 22, 2012, he died in a car wreck along with Harold Cepero, the leader of the youth wing of Mr. Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement. The driver of the car in which they were riding was Ángel Carromero, a young Spanish politician who was visiting Cuba. Mr. Carromero told us in March that the car was rammed from behind by a vehicle which carried government license plates, after which he lost control of the vehicle.

Mr. Carromero has now raised fresh questions about the car wreck in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, suggesting that Mr. Payáand Mr. Cepero may have been alive when they were brought to a local hospital and only died later, perhaps at the hands of a state that did not wish them well. He has no hard evidence, but suspicions linger. The family of Mr. Payá was never given an autopsy report.

The most significant unanswered questions are: Who rammed the car on a wide and flat road that day? And why? Mr. Carromero’s latest comments reinforce the need for a thorough investigation. We were heartened to see that the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, last week raised with the Cuban foreign minister the need for a credible investigation into Mr. Payá’s death. A similar demand came from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). Perhaps it is too much to suggest that Mr. Castro might allow a genuine investigation into these tragic deaths, no matter where it leads. That would be truly civil.

Tweet of the Day

Monday, August 12, 2013

Five Things AP Doesn't Want You to See in Havana

Yesterday, the AP's Havana bureau was "rejoicing" about a pro-Castro, English-language book store in Havana.

Today, acting as an agent of Cuba's Ministry of Tourism, it has presented the "compelling" story, "Travel: 5 free things to do in Havana."

(Though predictable, let us save you some time: Malecon, Old Havana, old cars, Che's artist workshop and baseball.)

So much for the Pulitzer.

Thus, in turn, we'd like to present to you with "5 Free Things the AP Obviously Doesn't Want You to See in Havana":

1. Peaceful female democracy activists dragged from their home by security forces.

2. Peaceful male democracy activists dragged from their home by security forces.

3. Female democracy leader before her mysterious death.

4. Male democracy leader after his mysterious death.

5. Cuban dictator and North Korean Army Chief of Staff devising strategy to smuggle weapons.

Picture of the Week

Cuban democracy leader, Rosa Maria Paya, head of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and daughter of its slain founder, Oswaldo Paya, addresses the National Committee of Chile's Christian Democratic Party (PDC).

MH Editorial Board: U.S. Needs to Step Up Vigilance of Cuba

By The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Smell of scandal

OUR OPINION: United Nations and U.S. officials need to step up their vigilance of Cuba amid growing scandals

A rusty North Korean ship hides 2 MiGs, munitions and radar systems — 240 tons of contraband weapons in all — under tons of sacks of Cuban sugar then gets stopped going through the Panama Canal.

A former Cuban Interior Ministry colonel accused of abusing prisoners of conscience retires in Miami, then flees to Cuba when former prisoners spot him on South Florida streets only to return again, this time to New Jersey, and, get this, apply for U.S. aid.

A growing number of Medicare fraudsters owing the U.S. government millions of dollars for fake claims exit stage left and head to the communist island, living the high life with impunity.

Meanwhile, Cuban officials keep decrying the U.S. “imperialist” government for an embargo that has so many loopholes — allowing food, medicine and even high-tech communications to reach Cubans — that it’s turned into a paper tiger without a Cold War roar.

What’s going on? Are U.S. officials paying attention?

The rusty Chong Chon Gang will get a visit from United Nations weapons experts this week as they try to determine if the hidden weapons are in violation of a 7-year-old arms embargo on Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons and long-range missile development programs. The ship was stopped July 15. Why the U.N. delay? Summer vacations?

The six-member inspection team is expected Aug. 13-15. It should not take another month to determine what seems obvious to most: The weapons were hidden precisely because officials from Cuba and North Korea knew they were breaking the law.

Then there’s the case of Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, and his wife Juana Ferrer, as reported by El Nuevo Herald’s Cuba reporter Juan Tamayo on Sunday. Rivero was the top prison official in Villa Clara province, but he either lied on his U.S. visa application or U.S. officials looked the other way to allow him to live in the United States. His wife was also an Interior Ministry official in Cuba.

Now he’s supposedly living with relatives in the town of Kearny, N.J., or he may have taken a flight to Canada once El Nuevo Herald reported the human rights abuser who decried “imperialism” was sitting pretty in our free country.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may be investigating if the couple lied on their entry papers, but ICE officials won’t confirm it — though former political prisoners have said ICE officials have interviewed them about this case. The couple maintains they are innocent and simply want to live in peace near their daughter in South Florida.

It wouldn’t be the first time that former Cuban military or Interior officials get a pass — virtually every U.S. administration has allowed it in exchange for information that those former officials can provide about Cuba. But in this case there was no apparent request for political asylum by the pair. They just applied in the many ways that Cubans can now enter the United States: either through the visa lottery or to visit a relative.

The question begs: If Cuba is on the State Department’s “terror” list, why would the regime’s former officials be able to obtain U.S. visas and go back and forth to the island in their “retirement”?

Is that really in best interests of U.S. security?

Cuba is not a postcard of rum and dance. It should give U.S. officials pause that the 54-year dictatorship run by the Castro brothers has been securing friends in all the wrong places: from North Korea to Iran. Nothing good can come of it.

Cuba's True Leadership

A Letter to the Editor of The Miami Herald:

Cuba’s true leadership

Over the past several months, our community has had the opportunity to interact with Cuban pro-democracy activists on U.S. soil. We have heard first-hand about the evils suffered under the Castros’ communist dictatorship, but we have also learned about the daily triumphs of Cuba’s growing opposition movement.

On Aug. 9, we had the extraordinary honor of meeting with Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) and his wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera. Both are giants of Cuba’s pro-democracy movement, and both possess awe-inspiring biographies. Antúnez leads the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front, named in honor of the human rights activist who died on Feb. 23, 2010 in the Castros’ gulag. Antúnez served 17 years in prison simply for expressing opposition to the Castro dictatorship and demanding essential freedoms. Despite the regime’s violent attempts to silence him, Antúnez has remained one of Cuba’s inextinguishable voices in support of political prisoners and essential liberties in Cuba. He has refused all attempts at “re-education” and has never wavered from the guiding principle of non-cooperation with the Castro dictatorship.

Yris heads the Rosa Parks Women’s Movement for Civil Rights, named after the famed American civil rights leader. She has suffered severe beatings at the hands of the regime’s thugs as recently as April of this year and was prohibited from receiving medical treatment for her injuries. Clearly, the dictatorship harbors no misgivings about inflicting violence against defenseless women who question oppression.

Antúnez and Yris demonstrate once again that Cuba’s opposition movement is blessed with bold, determined leaders who have proven their heroism and determination time and time again. Activists like Antúnez and Yris have the scars to prove it. The Castro dictatorship has failed to silence the Cuban people’s demands for fundamental, democratic change in Cuba despite decades of brutality against all opposition.

We are humbled by the sacrifices of heroes like Antúnez and Yris Pérez Aguilera who have risked everything to gain the freedoms in Cuba that we enjoy only 90 miles away. Their valor and persistence are an existential threat to the Castros’ tyranny. Because of strong leaders such as these, we can be confident in Cuba’s democratic future. With pride, gratitude, and awe we warmly welcome these brave pro-democracy leaders to our community. They are prime examples of Cuba’s true leadership which depends not on fear and oppression, and is motivated by the moral conviction that the Cuban people must be free.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, members of Congress, Miami

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, former member of Congress, Miami

Anti-Tank RPGs Found on Cuba-North Korea Vessel

Sunday, August 11, 2013
From AP Panama:

Panama finds rocket-propelled grenades on North Korean ship

Authorities in Panama say they have found more explosives aboard a North Korean-flagged ship detained in the Panama Canal for carrying undeclared arms from Cuba.

Anti-drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo said inspectors found a kind of "anti-tank RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)" explosive when they opened one of five wooden boxes on the Chong Chon Gang. He said the other boxes were not opened because of security fears.

The discovery comes just over a week after authorities said explosive-sniffing dogs had found another batch of ammunition for grenade launchers and other unidentified types of munitions.