Three Cuban Independent Journalists Arrested

Saturday, October 12, 2013
Three Cuban independent journalists were arrested yesterday as they tried covering the democracy movement's events commemorating the 2nd anniversary of the mysterious death of Laura Pollan, leader of The Ladies in White.

The three imprisoned journalists are members of the Hablemos Press news agency.

They are William Cacer, David Aguila and Mario Echevarria.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Tweet of the Day

Friday, October 11, 2013
By Cuban democracy leader, Leticia Ramos Herrera, head of The Ladies in White in the Matanzas province:

#Cuba "Your request has been denied, we cannot give you a passport to travel," is what I was told moments ago by the immigration official 

Repsol (Finally) Gives Up on Cuba

Remember when Cuba was supposed to be the next great energy giant?

It's mind-boggling how people still fall for Castro's scams.

From IFA Magazine:

Repsol gives up Cuban plans

Repsol has given up its plans for Cuba after oil drilling operations failed in 2012 and after the Cuban government showed support to Argentina’s decision to nationalize former subsidiary YPF, according to Spanish daily El Economista.

The decision also eliminates some of the reservations that the United States held against Repsol’s exploration projects and has the potential to improve relations towards possible acquisitions in the country.

Repsol is reportedly shopping for a North American oil company and could be looking to invest up to EUR15bn in the United States.

U.S. Senate Condemns Venezuelan Gov't Actions

From El Universal:

US Senate passes resolution against Venezuela

The resolution rejected what it called government intimidation against the opposition in Venezuela. The document described as "inexcusable violence" the violent incidents in April at the Venezuelan National Assembly

The US Senate on Friday adopted by consensus a resolution rejecting what it called government intimidation against the opposition in Venezuela. The document described as "inexcusable violence" the violent incidents in April at the Venezuelan National Assembly.

Without vote or debate, the Senate approved the resolution, which was passed in the same way on Monday by the Foreign Affairs Committee, just hours after Caracas announced it had expelled three US diplomats, accusing them of meeting with opponents and engaging in alleged conspiracy activities.

Washington dismissed the allegations and responded by evicting three Venezuelan diplomats.

The resolution asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to provide a detailed report on the alleged irregularities occurred during the April 14 presidential election in Venezuela, won by incumbent candidate Nicolás Maduro. However, OAS electoral observers were not invited to witness the vote.

Odebrecht Distracts Miami, While Deepening Castro Ties

Earlier this week, Odebrecht's public relations team placed a story in The Miami Herald seeking to clean up its image.

The article gushes about how Odebrecht supposedly "cares" about Miami-Dade County (by partnering with the Cuban dictatorship that has tortured, imprisoned, executed and/or exiled its constituents and their families).

Aren't they considerate?

Now -- to add insult to insensitivity and injury -- it's clear that this story was just a timely distraction, as Odebrecht's executives are currently huddled in Havana in a two-day meeting with Cuban regime officials over how to develop the Castro's sugar and renewable energy sector.

Odebrecht did such efficient work for the Castro regime on its new $900 million Port of Mariel container facility, that it has since been granted (decreed) projects in Cuba's airport and sugar sectors.

Today, they are the Castro regime's single-most reliable foreign business partner.

And yet, Odebrecht still feels it deserves the gratitude (and money) of the Cuban-American community, from which it has extracted billions in taxpayer funds, all while exploiting our friends and families on the island.

Cuban Weapons Part of "Major Deal" With North Korea

From McClatchy News:

Cuban weapons aboard N. Korean ship part of ‘major deal,’ Panama says

Two Cuban MiG-21 jet fighters found aboard a seized North Korean cargo ship three months ago were in good repair, had been recently flown and were accompanied by “brand-new” jet engines, Panamanian officials say.

The assertions deepen the mystery around the Cuban military materiel that was found aboard the 508-foot North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang, which Panamanian authorities intercepted July 10 off the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal.

“They had jet fuel still inside their tanks,” Foreign Minister Fernando Nunez Fabrega told McClatchy in an interview earlier this month. “They were not obsolete and in need of repair.”

One of the MiG-21s contained manuals and maintenance records that indicated it was flying just a few months earlier, said prosecutor Javier Caraballo, who’s handling an arms trafficking case against the 35 North Korean crew members. Caraballo declined a reporter’s request to see the records.

In publicly acknowledging the shipment after it was discovered, Cuban officials insisted that the ship was carrying only old aircraft and other parts that were being sent to North Korea for repair when Panamanian authorities, acting on a tip that it was carrying drugs, intercepted it.

Panamanian officials now think that the shipment was part of what Nunez Fabrega called “a major deal” between the two countries, though they aren’t certain of its scope.

Officials searching the vessel found the MiG aircraft in sealed containers hidden under 100-pound bags of sugar – 10,000 tons worth – in the ship’s hold. They also uncovered 15 jet engines and other weaponry.

“These are brand-new engines,” Nunez Fabrega said. He said Cuban officials in their public statement also “generalized over very specific items that could have gotten them in trouble,” such as a guidance system for anti-aircraft missile defense.

The United Nations has imposed an embargo on arms shipments to North Korea stemming from that country’s 2006, 2009 and 2013 nuclear tests. A six-member U.N. team led by David Martin Uden, a former British diplomat who’s the coordinator of a U.N. unit that monitors enforcement of those sanctions, examined the seized armaments during a visit to Panama in mid-August.

Reached by telephone, Uden said his office “can’t comment on what we found down in Panama.”

The U.N. monitoring team still seeks answers from Cuba about the arms shipment, and the team will provide a U.N. sanctions committee with a detailed report once it has those answers.

A senior aide to the foreign minister, Tomas A. Cabal, said the deal had been arranged at a meeting June 29 in Havana among Cuban leader Raul Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias and Kim Kyok Sik, who was then the chief of the Korean People’s Army general staff. Kim was dismissed from his post in August, a month after the ship was seized.

Over 106 Political Arrests in Three Days

Thursday, October 10, 2013
At least 106 activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), a peaceful opposition group, have been arrested over the last three days.

The arrests have taken place in eastern Cuba, mainly in the city of Santiago, by "boinas negras" (Castro's special forces).

Most of the arrests have been pursuant to organized protests against the imprisonment of two UNPACU activists, Rubislandy Avila Gonzalez and Roilan Alvarez Rensoler, who were arrested ten days ago, are on a hunger strike and have been reportedly tortured on multiple occasions.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Tweet of the Day

From Cuban democracy leader, Rosa Maria Paya:

(Spanish Foreign Minister) #Margallo speaks against the death penalty, but refuses to investigate the extrajudicial killing of its citizens*
*Rosa Maria's father, Oswaldo Paya, who was killed in a mysterious car accident last year, held dual Cuban-Spanish citizenship.

It's Official: North Korea Fires Cuban Weapons Smuggler

These dictatorships are so predictable.

Amid a U.N. Security Council investigation into the smuggling of Cuban weapons to North Korea, which is in blatant violation of international sanctions, Castro and Kim have moved swiftly to pass the blame to so-called "hard-liners" within their totalitarian regimes.

(In an old propaganda trick, if they focus the media narrative on labeling others within their regime as "hard-liners," they -- by default -- must be considered "soft-liners.")

Taking no risks whatsoever, the chief of Cuba's air force and air defense systems, General Pedro Mendiondo Gomez, died (was killed) over the summer in a mysterious car wreck.

So much for the "soft-liner" approach.

Meanwhile, today, the Kim dictatorship made it official (as we'd posted over a month ago) that its military chief, General Kim Kyok-sik (pictured lovingly below with General Raul Castro), has been officially replaced.

Pass the hand sanitizer, please.

From The New York Times:

North Korean Leader Tightens Grip with Removal of Top General

North Korea’s state media on Thursday confirmed the removal of a hard-line general as its military chief, the latest sign of a military overhaul in which the country’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, has replaced nearly half of his country’s top officials in the past two years, according to South Korean officials.

The firing of Gen. Kim Kyok-sik and the rise of Gen. Ri Yong-gil to replace him as head of the general staff of the North’s Korean People’s Army was the latest in a series of high-profile reshuffles that Kim Jong-un has engineered to consolidate his grip on the North’s top elites.

More Foreign Businessmen Imprisoned in Cuba

In an August 2013 letter to The Economist, Stephen Purvis, a British businessman who was arbitrarily imprisoned by the Castro brothers for 15 months and had his assets confiscated, wrote:

"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."

Thus, we recently asked:

How many foreign businessmen are imprisoned in Cuba that we don't know about?

Apparently, many.

Moreover, back in 2011, we also asked:

How does the Castro regime engage in debt relief, while confiscating billions worth of investments?

Easy -- it arrests its debtors.

This week, The Miami Herald discovered another one (case and point):

Panama businessman jailed in Cuba

An elderly Panamanian businessman has been jailed in Cuba for more than a year in what is variously described as a case of corruption or Havana attempts to renege on its debts or switch more of its trade to businessmen from politically sympathetic countries.

Nessin Abadi, in his early 70s and owner of the large Audiofoto chain of electronics stores, was arrested around August of last year but has not been tried or even charged, according to friends and business contacts in Panama City.

Relatives have kept the case out of the news media because of fears that the Cuban government will retaliate against him, the sources said. The family declined an El Nuevo Herald request for an interview or information on the case.

Abadi, part of a large family of Syrian Jews who migrated to Panama in the early 1900s, had been selling Asian-made electronic, household and other goods and equipment to the Cuban government for many years out of Panama’s duty-free Colon Free Zone (CFZ).

He has been detained in several homes in Havana run by the Interior Ministry and one jail, and interrogated almost daily by ministry investigators but has not been charged, according to his friends and business contacts.

CFZ businessmen said that Abadi has a reputation for total honesty and that they suspected Cuba arrested him to avoid paying its debt to him — and to send a message to its other debtors in Panama to await any late payments patiently and keep their mouths shut.

Cuba’s total debt to CFZ business owners is not known because there is no central clearing system, but it is considered to be significant because “it is increasingly becoming more and more difficult to collect from Cuba,” said one Panama businessman.

How Much Trade Will it Take to Free Cuba?

Babalu Blog’s Alberto de la Cruz poses an important question to those who argue that trade with Cuba's totalitarian monopolies will somehow facilitate a democratic transition:

Take a look at the graph below excerpted from trade figures released by the European Union.

Three of the top 5 countries doing business with Cuba are “free and democratic” and are responsible for more than $3 billion in imports, nearly a third of the nation’s total imports.

Therefore, one has to ask: Just how many billions of dollars in trade by “free and democratic” nations with Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship will it take to finally bring freedom to all Cubans?

How Castro's Bio-Scam Works

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
It's no surprise that former U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), now a federal lobbyist, is trying to pitch Members of Congress and the Obama Administration on Castro's latest commercial bio-scam: a diabetic foot treatment.

As a Congressman, Delahunt pushed for a similar bio-scam nearly a decade ago regarding a purported Cuban cancer vaccine. He did so alongside some of the same faces from Castro's fan club on Capitol Hill -- namely U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY).

At the time, believe it or not (with the help of a powerful pharmaceutical lobby that has apparently learned its lesson), they managed to successfully pitch the Bush Administration.

Today, Delahunt sold the same scam to U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL).

Here's how it works:

In 2004, Castro's cancer vaccine was licensed to U.S.-based CancerVax -- for a pretty sum of cash.

Pursuant to intense lobbying, the Treasury Department caved and authorized U.S. trials for the cancer vaccine. This news, coupled with Castro's intense propaganda, helped CancerVax's stock explode -- making some people very wealthy.

Two years later, the scam was on us -- Castro's cancer vaccine was some sort of placebo.

Fast forward today, Delahunt, now a federal lobbyist, is engaged by Healiance Pharmaceuticals, a rather obscure U.S. company owned by an equally obscure foreign parent company, Digen Pharmaceuticals.

Through Delahunt's relationships with the Castro regime, the diabetic foot treatment is licensed to Healiance Pharmaceuticals -- surely, for a healthy sum (to be paid now through the foreign parent company or contingent upon Treasury approval).

Then, the lobbying campaign begins -- and if approved by Treasury, the propaganda campaign will intensify and small fortunes will be made (regardless of the results).

(As a reminder, this so-called treatment, has only been "tested" in totalitarian Cuba and authoritarian Venezuela. No developed country has commercialized it -- for a reason.)

The scam will be on us (again).

Over 60 Cuban Dissidents Arrested in Regime Raid

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Over 60 members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), a peaceful opposition group, were arrested by the Castro regime last night.

The democracy activists were gathered at the home of Ovidio Martin Calderin, located in the Vista Hermosa neighborhood of the easternmost city of Santiago de Cuba.

They were planning to protest the imprisonment and torture of two fellow UNPACU activists, Rubislandi Avila and Roilan Alvarez, who have been on a hunger strike since their arbitrary arrest on September 30th.

The home was stormed by agents of Castro's political police and riot troops.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Cuba: The Most Expensive Health Care in the World

Cuba's (poor quality, high propaganda) health care is anything but free.

To the contrary, it costs Cubans nearly their entire salary.

Case and point by Cuban blogger Yusnaby Perez:

The Cuban government says that the state's low salaries are due to subsidies and free health care. My mom is a scientist who earns $30 per month, yet generates thousands of dollars for the government... Then, we have the most expensive health care system in the world!

Read the whole post, "Cuba, the Most Expensive Health Care in the World" (in Spanish), here.

Dissident Awareness Campaign: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Today, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group released the second installment of its dissident awareness campaign, featuring Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo began his activism and work in 2000 as a free-lance writer, photographer and dissident blogger. From an early age, Pardo was openly critical of the Castro regime’s spying on its own citizens and has called for basic reforms such as freedom of speech, press, and uncensored access to information. In 2009, he was harassed and arrested by the Cuban security agents, along with another Cuban dissident blogger, Yoani Sanchez. 

In 2010, he founded an independent electronic magazine called "Voces" which is Cuba’s first digital magazine. He is currently the Editor of "Voces" where he relies on young Cuban dissident writers to discuss topics otherwise banned by the Castro regime. To get around the regime's censorship, the magazine is produced in PDF format and copies circulate in Cuba on CDs and flash drives.

Cuba: The Most Expensive Internet in the World

The Washington Post has a great story on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) latest report, which tracks the use, cost and penetration of information networks around the world.

According to the ITU's report, these are the countries where a monthly subscription is most expensive, by percentage of income. Cuba is by far the most expensive; Internet access there is almost four times the average national income:

1. Cuba -- 386.9% of GNI per capita
2. Solomon Islands -- 280.2%
3. Afghanistan -- 221.3%
4. Niger -- 210.2%
5. Madagascar -- 177.8%
6. Malawi -- 169.7%
7. Papua New Guinea -- 150.5%
8. Mozambique -- 149.3%
9. Sao Tome & Principe -- 103.0%
10. Togo -- 101.2%

Delahunt and Sununu's (Illegal?) Lobbying Push for Castro's Biotech

The Miami Herald has published a story today about a lobbying push by former U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), now a federally-registered lobbyist, and former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu (R-NH), to obtain U.S. approval for testing of a diabetic foot drug by Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CGEB).

The Castro regime claims the diabetic foot drug has already been tested on 125,000 people -- 100,000 of which were in Venezuela.

The CGEB was personally created by Fidel Castro in the late 1980's, in order to foment its foreign medical propaganda and obtain hard-currency through questionable biotech exports.

None of its products are accessible to the Cuban people. They are reserved for hard-currency exports.

In recent years, ethical questions have been raised about some of these exports, i.e., the use of political contacts to compel the sale of useless bacterial larvicides for malaria in Africa and salmonella-laced rat poison to China and Vietnam.

Also of great concern is the long suspected "dual-use" of the CGEB's technology and its collaboration with other rogue regimes.

In 2001, Iran began constructing a $600 million biotechnology institute (Pasteur Institute of Iran) with the support of Castro's CGEB. Iran's Pasteur Institute would later become key to Syria's biotech development.

Jose de la Fuente, a former director of research at Castro's CGEB until his defection in 1999, wrote in the journal Nature Biotechnology at the end of 2001 that he was "profoundly disturbed" about CGEB's sale of dual-use technology to Iran.

"No one believes that Iran is interested in these technologies for the purpose of protecting all the children in the Middle East from hepatitis," wrote de la Fuente.

Now, Delahunt and Sununu want to open the doors of the U.S. market to Castro's CGEB.

This is clear from The Miami Herald story, where U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) claims that Delahunt and Sununu (successfully) "pitched him" on a letter seeking U.S. approval of CGEB's treatment.

However, Delahunt and Sununu don't appear to be registered to lobby for CGEB under the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Instead, Delahunt is registered to lobby (under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, LDA) for U.S.-based Healiance Pharmaceuticals, which is strangely not mentioned in the letter he has been "pitching" to Members of Congress.

There is no similar LDA registration for Sununu.

Are Delahunt and Sununu unaware that the "commercial transaction" exception in FARA (18 USC Sec. 951) is invalid if serving as an agent of a Cuban entity?

As for Rep. Garcia's claim that "these are just tests. If it’s a hoax, then someone’s out a lot of money."

Perhaps. But not the Castro regime -- for if testing is approved -- it'll get paid upfront.

Moreover, the diabetic foot drug has yet to be commercialized in any developed nation -- probably for good reason.

Where Absolute Control Trumps Ideology

By Isbel Diaz Torres in The Havana Times:

Cuban Police Forbid Public Debate on Labor Code

The security police felt threatened by 13 people discussing the Labor Code bill in a park.

This Saturday I was summoned to the Police Station at 23rd and C Street in Vedado, where an agent of the Ministry of Interior (MININT) threatened to retaliate against me and my fellow Critical Observatory Network members, if we hold public debates on the Cuban Labor Code bill.

Omar (the name of the MININT official) was explicit in saying they will not hesitate to use force to prevent a repeat of something like what happened on Sunday September 29, when 13 people discussed the document in Havana’s El Curita park, inviting passerby to listen and participate.

Although the Communist Party and the Cuban Workers Federation have called for discussion on the bill, Omar explained that this can only take place in the workplace, under the aegis of management and their faithful union sections. And this police agent appears to have the power structures behind him to enforce his mandates.

According to Omar, our meeting in the park is a crime that they will not allow. He says we violated the Law on Associations. However a member of the Critical Observatory just revised the law and found nowhere that it is a punishable crime in Cuba to sit in a park and talk.

Nonetheless, Omar issued the threat to send a patrol car to my workplace and take me away handcuffed in front of my coworkers, if we disobey his order.

An agent who accompanied him (with beautiful blue eyes, by the way) also warned me that they will not allow “any counterrevolutionary activity”, to which I replied that I was more revolutionary and leftwing than they are.

Although Omar allowed me the freedom to consider myself a “revolutionary”, it is clear that we were talking about two different concepts of revolution. One, theirs, related to an uncritical defense of the status quo, and mine, with the desire to promote and socialize popular autonomy.

At my departure, Omar detained my partner Jimmy Roque, who had not been officially summoned to the station, and he uttered the same threats of violent repression.

The truth is that the ultimatum has been given. It could be a bluff, that they are accustomed to, but it might not be. If carried out it would add to the already shameful and illegal treatment that the Cuban political police administer to dissidents on the right. Now they would also attack critical socialists.

Venezuela on the Path to Implosion

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Venezuela, on the path to implosion, expels diplomats

The expulsion of three U.S. diplomats by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro last week should be taken as one more symptom of the unraveling of the crackpot socialist regime inflicted on the country by the late Hugo Chávez. Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver picked by Mr. Chavez to replace him as he was dying of cancer, accused Charge D’affairs Kelly Keiderling and two colleagues of plotting to sabotage the crumbling national electric grid, histrionically shouting “Yankee, go home” for good measure.

The charges are ridiculous, but there is logic to their timing. Mr. Maduro’s government is besieged by the consequences of 14 years of disastrous economic policies: inflation that has risen above 45 percent; severe shortages, including of food staples and toilet paper; chronic power outages, including one that turned out lights in 70 percent of the country last month; and one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime.

Two weeks ago the president traveled to China in the hope of extracting a cash loan from one of Venezuela’s biggest oil customers. According to reports in the Venezuelan press, he was turned down. Incredibly, a country that receives $90 billion a year in oil revenue lacks the cash to import basic consumer goods. Meanwhile well-connected officials and businessmen feast on the difference between the official rate of exchange for the dollar and the black-market rate, which is seven times higher. And then there is drug trafficking: French authorities last month seized more than 1.3 tons of cocaine worth $270 million from an Air France flight originating in Caracas, showing that large-scale smuggling operations that have been linked to senior military commanders continue.

Unwilling or unable to take steps to stabilize the economy, combat the mounting violence in the streets or stop rampant corruption, Mr. Maduro has taken to ranting about supposed conspiracies to cause shortages or power outages as well as plots to kill him. Some are blamed on the “fascist” opposition; the French firm Airbus recently was accused of sabotaging the presidential plane. But the Obama administration is increasingly the foil. A couple of weeks before expelling the diplomats, Mr. Maduro claimed, falsely, that U.S. authorities had prohibited his plane from crossing U.S. airspace; a few weeks before that he said he had learned of a secret White House meeting at which a plan to destabilize Venezuela was hatched, called “Total Collapse.”

Sadly, “total collapse” is where Mr. Maduro’s regime appears to be headed. But far from plotting that disaster, the Obama administration spent much of the last year courting Mr. Maduro, in the naive belief that relations with Venezuela could be rebuilt following Mr. Chavez’s demise. In June Secretary of State John F. Kerry went out of his way to meet Mr. Maduro’s foreign minister and announced his intention to “find a new way forward” with his government. The expulsion of the diplomats, which the State Department quickly reciprocated, ought to lead to a correction of that poor judgment. The United States should do nothing to abet Mr. Maduro’s implosion; it also should do nothing to prevent it.

Sunday Repression Against Cuban Democracy Activists Intensifies

Sunday, October 6, 2013
For the 13th Sunday in a row, the Ladies in White and other Cuban democracy activists have been the victims of widespread violence and political arrests.

And for the 13th Sunday is a row, foreign correspondents in Havana have chosen to remain in their air-conditioned apartments.

The Castro regime has also employed a new tactic this week -- it has dressed some of its female agents in white in order to penetrate and disrupt the Ladies in White, and to confuse sympathetic bystanders.

Here's a recap:

-- According to independent journalists (Hablemos Press), over 135 democracy activists were arrested throughout Cuba.

-- In Santa Clara, over 30 democracy activists were arrested, including 20 members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and 10 members of the Ladies in White.

-- Among those arrested was Guillermo Farinas, the 2010 Sakharov Prize recipient, who has been bleeding from his head and ear after being severely beaten.

-- In the province of Matanzas, over 37 democracy activists were arrested.

-- Among the Ladies in White violently arrested were: Marisol Fernandez Socorro, Leticia Ramos Herreria, Mayra Garcia Alvarez, Maritza Acosta Perdomo, Aleida Cofino Rivero, Tania Echeverria Menendez, Yamila Sendra Ruiz, Mercedes la Guardia Hernandez, Odalis Hernandez Hernandez, Lazara Rodriguez Roteta and Islandis Fernandez Martinez.

-- Also arrested was the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, who was dragged through the street by her hair, and her husband, Angel Moya.

-- Another of the arrested Ladies in White, Tania Echeverria Menendez, has been vomiting from strong kicks to the stomach she received.

-- The home of Caridad Burunate, of the Ladies in White, was attacked by regime operatives with rocks and bats. Inside, Antonio Guerrero Roque was severely beaten, with possible fractured ribs.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Must-Read: Cheap Flesh of the Cuban Revolution

The following tragic story first appeared in Poland's leading newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza.

It has been translated by Worldcrunch:

''Cheap Flesh Of The Revolution'' - Cuban Women Recount A Grim Reality

Though propaganda from the Cuban regime claims otherwise, the everyday reality for Cuban women does not involve fighting economic aggression from the United States.

Instead, they struggle to provide basic necessities such as food and clothes for their families — and occasional luxuries such as cosmetics — sometimes having to pay with their own dignity. We interviewed several Cuban women, and here are some of their stories.

Felina, 34, prostitute

“Do you know how most Cuban women commit suicide? They set themselves on fire. As if they wanted to purge themselves of all this sh*t. Last week a friend of mine did it. She was a hooker, like me. Her daughter said that they were watching TV and suddenly Yoana kissed her and went to the bathroom. She ran out of it like a living torch.

I think about suicide every day. But I would not like to suffer. If I do this, I will jump off the balcony.

Jorge was the only man I have truly loved. Today he is my husband, but all I feel for him now is what a hooker may feel toward her pimp — disdain.

We met at the airport. I was a waitress in the local café, he was a baggage handler. Before the suitcases went on the baggage carousel, Jorge would steal alcohol, clothes, perfumes. On Friday night people would come to his place to perfume themselves. Three sprays cost $1. Unfortunately, what we both made was not enough to live.

One day he said he had an idea for how we could earn more: I should sleep with tourists that he and his friend, a taxi driver, would 'recruit' at the airport. He said we needed to use my beauty to move forward.

Tourists changed Cuba into a virtual country, like in a video game in which you f**k Cuban women and men, drink rum and smoke cigars.

Clients always feel like praising Cubans and Havana after we have sex. I hate this. My city looks like the next day after a war.

We are the cheap meat of the revolution: I take $50 for classic sex, 80 for anal. There are girls who take less than $30.

I have studied Marxist philosophy for five years. I graduated with honors. I speak multiple languages, which is useful. For instance, I can say 'I will do you good' in English, French and Portuguese.

Most of my colleagues have university diplomas. We are probably the most educated hookers in the world.

I still have some hope that one day I will earn my life in a decent way — for example, as a translator. But there are days when I go out on the balcony, I look down and I imagine I hit the ground."

Read more here.

Gloria Estefan Talks Cuba With Larry King

Click here to watch or see below:

Peddling a False Division Among Cubans

While the AP's Havana bureau scours Granma for their next story, the AP's Miami bureau is focused (in a story today) on peddling a false division among Cubans.

This isn't new.

Starting with The New York Times in 1965, media outlets have been trying to form narratives about divided Cubans -- whether young v. old; exile v. immigrants; 1st wave v. Mariel; 1st wave/Mariel v. 1994 rafters; etc.

(See here and here for more.)

All have proven to be false over time.

Ironically, the biggest takeaway of every Cuban democracy activist -- regardless of their views -- who has visited the U.S. in the last year has been the receptiveness and unity of the exile community.

Here's today's tweet by Anyer Antonio Blanco, the 26-year old youth leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), as he boards a flight back to Cuba after a short visit to the U.S.:

#Cuba I leave a nostalgic exile, great friends from Cuba and the mutual desire of various generations that long for freedom.

Case and point.

Only Iran (and North Korea) Rank Worse

This week, we posted Freedom House's Freedom on the Net 2013 report, which ranks Cuba's "Internet Freedom Status" as NOT FREE. 

However, we forgot to mention an important fact that helps put into perspective the Castro regime's obsession with cyber-control.

Only one country ranks worse than Cuba on the list -- Iran.

Cuba managed to rank worse than cyber-control luminaries such as Syria and China.

North Korea could not even be ranked due to a lack of data.