Rosa Maria Paya: People en Español's 25 Most Powerful Latinas

Saturday, October 26, 2013
Kudos to Cuban democracy leader Rosa Maria Paya for her recognition as one of People en Español's "25 Most Powerful Latinas."

Others include Cristina Saralegui, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Mexico's First Lady Angelica Rivera and Spain's Princess Leticia Ortiz.

Must-See: Regime Mob Threatens Church in Cuba

Friday, October 25, 2013
These actions by the Castro regime are not from 1959.

They are from October 2013.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Click here or below to watch:

Courtesy of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Yoani's Presentation @GoogleIdeas Summit

Don't miss Cuban democracy leader Yoani Sanchez's great presentation this week's Google Ideas Summit, "Conflict in a Connected World":

Click here or below to watch:

Tweet (Image) of the Week: Biden Meets Berta

Menendez on Berta Soler's Meeting With Vice-President Biden

Menendez Comments on Vice President Biden Meeting With Cuban Human Rights Activist Berta Soler

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement about Berta Soler’s meeting with Vice President Biden.

Vice President Biden’s meeting with Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, is a truly historic act of support for human rights defenders in Cuba. Through their acts of peaceful protest, Berta and the Ladies in White have remained an unwavering beacon of hope for the restoration of justice, human rights and democracy in Cuba. I commend Vice President Biden for standing with Berta Soler and the Ladies in White, and I look forward to my meeting with her in Washington next week.”

Dissident Awareness Campaign: Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez"

Today, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group released the fourth installment of its dissident awareness campaign, featuring Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez":

Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, is a human rights and democracy activist in Cuba who, at the age of 25, was imprisoned for screaming during a political demonstration that communism was “an error and a utopia.” That incident was considered by the Castro regime as “oral enemy propaganda,” for which he was beaten, detained by State Security agents, and spent 17 years in prison for. 

While in jail, Antúnez resisted harsh treatment, demeaning and racist humiliations because of his political views. Even after serving his unjust sentence, Antúnez continues to openly criticize the Castro regime for its disrespect of human and political rights. He has also been critical of the regime’s racist and discriminatory policies. Because of his struggle, other opposition leaders in Cuba have referred to Antúnez as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela.

Ladies in White Leader Meets Senior State Department Officials

Thursday, October 24, 2013
From the U.S. Department of State:

Today, Thursday, October 24th, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman met with the Damas de Blanco spokesperson Berta Soler to discuss the human rights situation in Cuba. The Under Secretary praised Ms. Soler for her leadership, and shared the Department’s deep concern over the Cuban Government’s continued suppression of peaceful activities carried out by Damas de Blanco and other independent civil society groups. The Under Secretary expressed solidarity with Damas de Blanco member Sonia Garro Alfonso, who continues to suffer reprisals for her advocacy on behalf of political prisoners and the Afro-Cuban community.

Don't Buy Into Raul's Reform Scam

By Rudy Mayor in Fox News Latino:

Rumors that Raúl Castro intended to implement significant economic reforms in 2008 sparked a renewed curiosity in U.S. business opportunities in Cuba. Many U.S. firms are even seeking legal advice to help them navigate U.S. sanctions against Cuba’s totalitarian regime in hopes of getting a “head start” on these rumored opportunities.

The most hopeful (or naive) observers predicted that Castro (the second) would adopt the China model with the Communist Party overseeing major economic liberalization. Yet, Cuba remains one of the most hostile and dangerous countries to do business in. Since the implementation of these so-called reforms, more foreign investors have left the island than flocked to Cuba. In 2000, there were 400 foreign companies operating in Cuba through minority joint ventures with the Castro regime. Since then, over half of all foreign companies have pulled out with only 190 remaining.

In the last few years, foreign investors have seen over $1 billion in assets arbitrarily frozen in banks by the Cuban government. During this time, CEOs of various foreign companies have also been arrested with little if any due process. Cy Tokmakjian of Canada’s Tokmakjian Group, for example, was arrested in September 2011 after his firm was raided and his assets confiscated in the typical communist fashion. Two years after the raid, Tokmakjian still sits in a Cuban cell and has yet to be charged with any crime.

Similarly, Amado Fahkre and Stephen Purvis of Britain’s Coral Capital, both of whom had played a leading role in financing Cuba’s tourist industry, were accused of what the Cuban government called spying and revealing state secrets. After enduring a secret trial and serving 16 months in a Cuban jail, Purvis was allowed to return to London, but not before his business offices were shut down by the Cuban government. The multimillion dollar projects he invested in were similarly confiscated and transferred to a Chinese firm. Purvis admits that he was surprised his company was targeted, despite being financed by wealthy European investors and having a reputation as one of the best-established foreign companies on the island.

The desire of U.S. businesses seeking to invest in a country with a track record as hostile to foreign investment as Cuba is not only bad business sense — it’s absurd. It was in fact Cuba’s 1960 expropriation of U.S.-owned property valued at $9 billion (worth more than $50 billion today) that initially led to the U.S. embargo. They’ve done it before and they have clearly never stopped doing it.

Of course, even more troubling than the financial risks associated with investing in Cuba is the way these investments are structured. Many law firms boast to prospective clients that Cuba is an untapped market of 12 million inhabitants with no mention that foreign investors are prohibited from doing business with private citizens. In fact, foreign investors are only allowed to do business with the Cuban government which takes at least a 50 percent stake in the company as a condition of doing business on the island.

Equally troubling is that foreign investors cannot hire or pay workers directly. They must go through the Cuban government employment agency, which hand picks the workers. The investors then pay the Cuban government in hard currency for the workers, and the Cuban government pays the workers a fraction of their salary in worthless pesos while pocketing the difference in dollars.

Buying into the myth of Cuba’s economic liberalization shows a profound lack of knowledge and a deep naiveté about Cuba’s intentions. When asked whether he would invest in Cuba again, Purvis said Cubans “just don’t understand business yet.” Perhaps it is this lack of understanding that leads to the blatant lack of respect for private enterprise, labor standards and norms displayed by the Cuban government.

Rudy Mayor, a human rights activist, is a co-director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group.

U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power Meets Rosa Maria Paya

In The Washington Post:

US envoy to UN meets with Cuban dissident’s daughter, presses for investigation into his death

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power says she met with the daughter of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya and discussed the need for an investigation into his death.

Power has been advocating for an investigation into Paya’s death since taking up her post as ambassador to the United Nations in August. One of her first acts as ambassador was to ask Cuba’s foreign minister during a rare encounter at the U.N. for an investigation.

Power said in a tweet Tuesday that she spoke with Rosa Maria Paya about “the need for an international/independent investigation” into her father’s death.

Cuba’s government said Paya died in a car crash in July 2012 but his family insists the crash was not an accident and has pressed for an international investigation.

Quote of the Week

I don’t think lifting the embargo will help the Cuban people. It will just see millions of dollars pour in to further fund a rogue, terrorist government.
-- Gloria Estefan, Cuban-American pop star, Daily Mail, 10/21/13

Cuba Ignores U.N. Requests for Info on Weapons Smuggling

Monday, October 21, 2013
From National Journal:

Cuba Ignoring Panama, U.N. Requests for Info on N. Korea Arms Shipment

Cuba is not responding to requests from Panama and the U. N. Security Council for more details about an arms shipment that was interdicted on its way to North Korea, which Havana originally claimed was to have been returned after the weapons were repaired, Reuters reported on Friday.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Fernando Nunez Fabrega said there has been no communication between Havana and Panama City since an investigation into the weapons, discovered in July on the Chong Chon Gang North Korean freighter, revealed they were "obviously not obsolete" -- as the Cuban government originally claimed.

Cuba called off a planned September meeting with Panama at the United Nations and has ignored all other Panamanian requests for contact.

"It was like talking to a brick wall," Nunez Fabrega said in an interview.

The Security Council subcommittee with oversight on North Korean sanctions also has been unsuccessful in its requests for information from Cuba about the interdicted shipment of 25 containers of undeclared weapons, according to Reuters. U.N. sanctions experts already have inspected the arms and are preparing an official report on the matter.

Security Council sanctions forbid all U.N. member states from engaging in any weapons dealings with Pyongyang.

An analysis by independent experts has concluded the arms shipment was much greater in size than Havana originally admitted and that a number of the armaments were in "mint condition." The report states the weapons -- including two Soviet-era MiG fighter jets, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank guns -- were meant for North Korea's military.

"Of the 15 [discovered] jet engines, 10 were in immaculate condition," Nunez Fabrega said.

Panama has decided to soon allow almost all of the 35-member North Korean ship crew to go free, as they appear to have been unaware they were transporting weapons, the minister said. The freighter's captain and his first mate could face prosecution.

The Chong Chon Gang also will likely be released to its owner, he said.

Tragic Tweet of the Week

Juan Carlos Peña Naranjo has died at sea trying to escape Cuba. He was the Provincial Delegate in Havana for the [dissident group] #CID. Another martyr. 
Peña Naranjo is pictured below in the middle with white shirt.

Cuban Labor Leaders Face Long Prison Terms

The Castro regime seeks long prison terms -- eight and five years respectively -- against independent Cuban labor leaders, Vladimir Morera and Jorge Ramirez Calderon.

They are members of the Cuban Federation of Independent Workers (CTIC, in Spanish) and have been imprisoned since September 2012.

Both were arrested for screaming anti-Castro slogans ("Down with Fidel Castro" and "Long Live Human Rights") at a pro-regime mob that was throwing rocks at Morera's home.

They are accused of the "crimes" of disobedience, public disorder and contempt.

The Castro regime also seeks a three year prison term against Ramirez Calderon's wife, Nelida Lima Conde.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Google Honors Celia Cruz on Her 88th Birthday

In honor of the 88th anniversary of Celia Cruz's birth today, Google is honoring the Cuban music legend with her image on its home screen: