Image of the Day: Berta Meets Obama

Friday, November 8, 2013
Image of the Day:

Berta Soler, the leader of Cuba's Ladies in White pro-democracy movement, meets U.S. President Barack Obama.

Wife of Imprisoned Cuban Rapper Seeks U.S. Solidarity

From Fox News Latino:

Wife Of Dying Cuban Rapper On Hunger Strike Calls On U.S. Artists For Support

The wife of a jailed Cuban rapper known for his vocal opposition to the Castro regime is calling on America’s music industry to stand by her husband, who is on the brink of death after 24 days on a hunger strike.

Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, 30, nicknamed “El Critico” (The Critic) was arrested on March 26, 2013.

His crime? His music.

Seven months later, Remon Arzuaga was sentenced to eight years in prison without a trial charged with “resistance” against the communist regime. That same day, October 15,  the rebel rapper started a hunger strike protesting the charges and in the hopes of getting a fair trial.

Now the once vocalist of “Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso” (“The Children Nobody Wanted”) is in critical condition in a Bayamo military hospital, east of the island. He was admitted on October 28th.

Yudisbel Roseyo, Remon’s wife and mother to their nine-month old son, told Fox News Latino her husband has low blood pressure and leg cramps, and that doctors said he is on the verge of falling into a coma.

“He is not going to eat,” she said. “They have to make a decision, it’s freedom or death.  If he dies, we both will blame the Castro brothers and the Cuban government.”

Roseyo, a member of the Ladies in White activist group, said her husband is thankful for the support, but called on more pressure from other artists to speak out against her husband’s unjust imprisonment over his lyrics and political views. Over the past few years, hunger strikes have become an anti-establishment tactic that has been used frequently in Cuba, above all after cases like that of Guillermo Fariñas, a well known Cuban dissident who holds the record with more than 24 hunger strikes.

"My message to America's singers [is] please use your voices, and help save my husband’s life," said Roseyo to Fox News Latino. "I would be grateful a million times over, and thankful if they could stand by us and ask the Cuban government for his freedom."

The hashtag #FreeElCritico has been launched on Twitter in solidarity of the jailed rapper. Thus far, Cuban American singers Gloria Estefan and Albita Rodriguez have tweeted out their support. But some, noting the power of international support, are calling on more mainstream artists to throw their celebrity weight behind the effort to bring justice to one of their own. On Wednesday, the New York Post called out rapper Jay Z for pumping money into the coffers of the communist regime while on a visit to Cuba in May with his wife Beyonce and yet choosing to say nothing about the imprisoned local Cuban rapper.

“He went to Cuba and supported the regime, and visits like it’s a free country, but why not support other rappers?” said Betsy Gonzalez, a 40-year-old human rights activist for the freedom of Cuba. Gonzalez helped organize a rally for “El Critico” at the popular Cuban restaurant Versailles in Miami on Friday evening.

Consistently targeted for his anti-regime message, Remon Arzuaga had been detained a series of times, days before his arrest, for handing out pro-freedom flyers in Bayamo. He was let go but according to Roseyo on March 26th the Cuban regime organized mobs to shout insults and threaten his family at his home. Undeterred, Remon Arzuaga, a member of pro-freedom activist group the Patriotic Union of Cuba stepped outside of his home and called on the people in the street to join the opposition against the government.

State Security officials arrested him later that day and took him to Las Mangas Prison of Bayamo. While in prison, the musician has been beaten, denied medical assistance, and even contracted cholera in July.

Roseyo is hopeful international pressure will force the Cuban government to give her husband a fair trial that will eventually lead to his freedom.

“I have faith something is going to happen,” she said. “If it doesn’t ― I am not ready for his death but I support my husband in whatever he decides. Ultimately, the Cuban government is at fault and they have the decision in their hands.”

What's Behind Tony Castro's "Baseball Diplomacy"

Cuban blogger and democracy leader, Ivan Garcia, writes about Tony Castro's (Fidel's son) "baseball diplomacy" in Diario de Cuba:

The shrewd men of Havana have done the math. If the embargo were to be removed, hundreds of Cuban baseball players could flock to the MLB and... fill the pockets of Cuba's political bosses.

These professionals would be targeted with severe taxes and the zeros in the bank accounts of the Castro's family and friends would grow. Of course, to arrive at this "dance of the millions" and continue to plunder the nation, they need those stubborn "gringos" to lift the embargo.

Castro regime diplomats burn the soles of their shoes in Florida trying to convince Cuban-American businessmen of the goodness of its new investment law. For the fifteenth time, the Cuban Foreign Minister told the U.N. that the bad guys are the "yankees" who do not was to lift the "criminal blockade" and sit down to have a civilized chat like good capitalists are supposed to.

This is the "piñata" that Cuba has become. Antonio ("Tony") Castro pretends to be the owner of Cuba's future professional baseball. Well, for now, he is.

It's the System, Stupid

Surely, this is due to the embargo.

Oh wait, there's no embargo towards Venezuela.

From AP:

Doctors Say Venezuela's Health Care in Collapse

Evelina Gonzalez was supposed to undergo cancer surgery in July following chemotherapy but wound up shuttling from hospital to hospital in search of an available operating table. On the crest of her left breast, a mocha-colored tumor doubled in size and now bulges through her white spandex tank top.

Gonzalez is on a list of 31 breast cancer patients waiting to have tumors removed at one of Venezuela's biggest medical facilities, Maracay's Central Hospital. But like legions of the sick across the country, she's been neglected by a health care system doctors say is collapsing after years of deterioration.

Doctors at the hospital sent home 300 cancer patients last month when supply shortages and overtaxed equipment made it impossible for them to perform non-emergency surgeries.

Castro's Old Bait-and-Switch

By Guillermo Martinez in Sun-Sentinel:

More freedom for Cubans? No, just a bait-and-switch

The Cuban government wants the world to believe it is changing. It is allowing its people to travel abroad with greater ease, even those who dissent from its policies. It is allowing more people to establish their own small private business enterprises.

The government wants the world to believe change is in the air. That freedom is right around the corner. For those who believe, I am sorry to burst their bubble.

In the early 1980s I met a small Cuban farmer named Martínez (not a relative), who . Martínez owned a nursery in South Dade. I bought many plants for my garden and in the process I got to know him.

We talked about how in 1979 the Cuban government decided to allow guajiros (farmers) to sell the produce they cultivated in the small plots of land around their house.

For Martinez, a self-made entrepreneur, it was all he needed. Within a few months of the law, Martinez was rich by Cuban standards. He produced more than those around him and he sold his produce at a nice profit. That was good as long as it lasted.

In the same way the Cuban government once decreed that guajiros could cultivate the small plots around their homes, a short while later it prohibited the practice and started arresting all those who had been successful, forcing them to sell their products to the government at a state mandated price.

For those who refused to abide by the law, the government had an immeditate remedy: it confiscated their land and, in Martínez's case, forced him to leave the island.

Martínez was not deterred. In South Florida he started a small business and soon he was again a rich man. His story has a tragic end, for Martínez died in a traffic accident.

I remember him every time I see the Cuban government come up with another initiative to prove it is allowing its people more freedom of choice. What Cuba is selling is fool's gold, for as soon as people are successful it does what it did to Martínez — it changes the law again.

That is what happened when Raúl Castro said the state could not provide jobs for everyone in the island and said 500,000 Cubans would have to work in the private sector, which in Cuba meant opening up small micro-enterprises.

Once again Cubans on the island, like those who have been exiled, proved to be good at making money on their own. Relatives from abroad took consumer products for them to sell. When they couldn't travel, they sent the goods with a mule, somebody who would agree to take the goods to Cuba in exchange for a free trip.

Cubans in and out of Cuba had figured out a way to make a profit, even thought the government charged them exorbitant rates for bringing the products into the country.

By October of this year, Cubans had opened up 20,000 small enterprises selling the products their relatives and friends sent them from abroad. That was unacceptable to the Cuban regime. So, in the same way it had approved a law permitting these types of business, it passed a new law prohibiting these businesses from selling imported goods.

In essence, that dealt a crippling blow to the small entrepreneur. Cuba does not produce sufficient consumer products to satisfy even what it sells in the government stores, much less provide clothing and small appliances to the new entrepreneurs.

The government has been playing this game of bait and switch for decades.

It does so with everything. Famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez is allowed to travel abroad, but when she arrives back in Cuba she is detained until all the material she has gathered in computers, flash drives, and telephones is carefully copied by the government.

The growing number of dissidents in Cuba is subjected to frequent beatings from gangs of government thugs. Others are arrested and released hours or days later. Those who Cuba considers most dangerous because of their will power are picked up and held for trial.

So don't tell me the Cuban Government is changing. I saw what they did to Martínez in the early 1980s, and I am seeing how they are clamping down on the micro enterprises they allowed to open in recent months. Until this bait and switch policy doesn't stop, I won't believe a word they are saying.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson: Stand With Cuba's Afro-Cuban Dissidents

Thursday, November 7, 2013
By U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) in El Nuevo Herald (English translation):

Cuba’s Unfinished Civil Rights Movement

The black citizens of Cuba, like the black citizens of many nations including the United States, own far less property and far fewer assets than their white compatriots—a sorrowful legacy of centuries of slavery and discrimination. They have been largely excluded from quality housing and education. They have fewer opportunities to enter profitable industries like tourism because of systemic hiring discrimination.

The Cuban Revolution was supposedly about equality. While the island’s economy is dismal, food is often scarce, and political rights are limited, everyone—in theory—is supposed to suffer equally.

So what about the Afro-Cubans?

In contrast to the US and other open societies, Cuba’s black citizens are, to this day, unable to raise their voices and organize to challenge a system that’s stacked against them.
This is personal for me. As a lifelong civil rights activist and advocate for women, I was devastated to hear the story of Damaris Moya Portieles, an Afro-Cuban democracy activist and leader of Cuba’s Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights.  

Again and again over the past three years, Damaris has been harassed, beaten, and sexually violated by Havana’s political police. Her two-year-old boy and six-year-old girl have been assaulted and arrested.

Just after I met with her colleagues in the Afro-Cuban Pro-Democracy movement in Washington in September, I learned that Damaris’s home was ransacked and that she was again taken into custody. Her crime? Questioning racial progress in Cuba and organizing for change.

Afro-Cuban intellectual Roberto Zumbrano summarized the situation well in a New York Times op-ed earlier this year. “To question the extent of racial progress was tantamount to a counterrevolutionary act,” he wrote. “This made it almost impossible to point out the obvious: racism is alive and well.” In something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Zumbrano was fired from his job as editor at a state-affiliated Cuban publishing house as soon as the article was printed.

Afro-Cubans, who suffered mightily under Cuban Spanish colonists and later governments, justifiably felt hope when Fidel Castro came to power under the banner of equality. But the past half century has been one of broken promises and unfulfilled aspirations. Black citizens are not only the likeliest to live in poverty but also the likeliest to be dissidents and martyrs in 21st Century Cuba. We must stand with our Afro-Cubano brothers and sisters as they stand up against the atrocities of the Castro regime.

The Castro brothers may never come around to our values like freedom of the press and an impartial judicial system, but it’s long past time that they live up to their own rhetoric about racial equality. The lives of brave people including Damaris Moya Portieles depend on it.

NY Post Editorial Board: Jay Z Ignores Imprisoned Cuban Rapper

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
By The New York Post's Editorial Board:

Jay Z ignores Cuban rapper wasting away in prison

Jay Z has been in the news of late because of his links to Barneys — the upscale department store chain that’s been accused, perhaps prematurely, of racial profiling after a New York customer who made a lawful purchase was stopped by police. It turns out this isn’t the only area where Jay Z finds himself accused of a double standard.

Back in May we rapped the rapper after he and wife Beyoncé spent their fifth wedding anniversary in Cuba. There they extolled the Communist island while saying nothing about a local rapper, Angel Yunier Remon — better known as “El Critico del Arte” — who was jailed for doing exactly what Jay Z does in his music. Cuban friends tell us El Critico is now near death, in a hospital after 19 days on a hunger strike.

“He asked that it be known that he’s committed to ‘freedom or death,’ which is his take on the Cuban regime’s official mantra — ‘socialism, homeland or death,’ ” says Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the Washington-based Cuba Democracy Advocates.

So how about it, Jay Z? How about doing a fellow rapper a solid and asking Raul Castro to free a man who’s dying in a Cuban prison for doing what you do every day?

Rubio: Cuban Regime Must Free "El Critico"

Cuban Regime Must Free “El Critico”

By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

It is with great concern that I call on the international community and the Obama Administration to appeal for the release of Cuban rapper Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, also known as “El Crítico” (“The Critic”), who is in life-threatening condition in a Cuban jail for using his lyrics to protest against the Cuban regime. His unjust incarceration and the regime’s indifference to his frail condition should be a lesson to all Americans that Cuba is not an exotic vacation destination, but a place where people are suffering very tragic repercussions for trying to express themselves.

Where Are the Facts, Prof. Kimber? On #Cuban5Spies

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Last month, we wrote a critique of Canadian professor Stephen Kimber's defense in The Washington Post of the imprisoned "Cuban Five (Four)" spies.

Last week, Prof. Kimber countered with a post entitled, "Capitol Hill Cubans: Let us compare the facts."

Great, let's do so.

Kimber's retort is divided into five parts.

The first part is a pithy attack on our political and issue advocacy; or as he states, that we have "skin in the game."

So let's make sure to leave him without any doubt: Yes, we do.

We wholeheartedly and intensely advocate for an end to Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship; for respect for the Cuban people's human, civil and political rights; and for an unconditional transition to representative democracy.

To be fair, Kimber does actually get some of the organizational facts regarding our advocacy correct (although he conveniently omits any bipartisan elements) -- but this doesn't take much research or effort, for all of our activities are open, transparent and fully-disclosed.

In other words, we do not hide our overt political and issue advocacy under the guise of journalism or academia.

But (thankfully) he's free to do so (outside of Cuba).

In the second part, Kimber tries to counter our point that, "if the Cuban Five constantly appear on national television and billboards across the country, it's not because they are venerated by the Cuban people — it's because the dictatorship compels it.”

He does so by discussing an experience he had in Havana, where he walked around with a "Free the Five" t-shirt and discusses the "positive" reaction he got on the streets.

This is not a fact -- it's an anecdote.

Moreover, it's much different (and less significant) what a Cuban tells a Canadian tourist walking around Havana with a "Free the Five" t-shirt, than what that same Cuban then says behind his back.

It probably sounds something like "Que clase de come......"

In the third part, Kimber insists the "Cuban Five" were justified in penetrating U.S. military bases, including the U.S. Southern and Central Command and Ft. Bragg, for the Castro regime should have been legitimately concerned about a U.S. invasion.

He challenges us to present him with evidence to the contrary.  Yet, his only "evidence" is a broad quote from a non-cited 1995 Miami Herald story that refers to the U.S. Southern Command's contingency plans for an eventual “toppling of the communist government in Cuba.”

Surely the U.S. Southern Command has -- or should have -- a host of migratory and security plans, in order to be prepared for the eventual end of the Castro regime. But to Kimber, this means "Invasion USA" -- and serves as a green-light for Cuban espionage.

This is not a fact either -- it's speculation.

Anyone that has worked in a pertinent position for the U.S. government can attest -- as a matter of fact -- that the U.S. has had no plans of military intervention in Cuba since the 1962 Missile Crisis' Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact.

Moreover, as we stated in our original critique, the Castro brothers have been fully aware of this (and much more), courtesy of its well-placed spies in the most senior levels of the Pentagon and the State Department -- namely Ana Belen Montes and Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, who are all currently serving long prison terms.

Thus, we ask again, Prof. Kimber -- where Montes and the Myers' convictions unmerited also?

In the fourth part, Kimber finally concedes that no Cuban-American served on the juries that convicted the "Five" -- an important fact he omits in The Washington Post.

Yet, he still insists that "the poisonous anti-Cuban government atmosphere in Miami" influenced the juries.

Apparently, he believes non-Cubans in Miami sit around listening to Radio Mambi.

This is not fact either -- it's a silly assertion.

We remind Prof. Kimber that -- on appeal -- the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (in Atlanta) ruled en banc (10 to 2) that "the arguments about the suppression of evidence, sovereign immunity, discovery, jury selection, and the trial are meritless, and sufficient evidence supports each conviction."

Maybe the 11th Circuit judges in Atlanta were also sitting around listening to Miami's Radio Mambi.

In the fifth part, Kimber insists that despite Operacion Escorpion ("Operation Scorpion"), the code-name used by the spy network for the operation to shoot-down the civilian "Brothers to the Rescue" planes, spy-leader Gerardo Hernandez was probably unaware of the plot because he was "a street-level illegal intelligence officer."

Needless to say, Kimber is not an expert on Cuban intelligence and counter-intelligence.

For this too is not a fact -- it's an uneducated guess.

As Edgerton Ivor Levy, one of the other members of the Cuban spy-network who cooperated with U.S. authorities, recently warned: "the real objective of Cuban espionage in the United States is to penetrate and influence the various spheres of government, the military, academia, the media and social organizations."

In sum, if Prof. Kimber would like to "compare facts," we're happy to do so -- but he should actually provide some first.

Dissident Awareness Campaign: Angel Yunier Remon #FreeElCritico

Today, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group released the sixth installment of its dissident awareness campaign, featuring Angel Yunier Remón:

Today Angel Yunier Remón, a young Cuban rapper known as ‘El Critico,’ sits in a Cuban prison on the verge of death due to his courageous 18+ day hunger strike in which he demands freedom and democracy, not just for himself, but also for his fellow countrymen and women of #Cuba

Angel was first arrested in March when he tried to stand up to an organized mob sent by the Cuban Government to harass Angel and his family and to vandalize his home. Like other Cuban dissidents, Angel was targeted for openly criticizing his government's oppression and brutal human rights record in his lyrics. Angel has said that he intends to maintain his hunger strike to shed light on the unjust nature of his imprisonment and to demand his freedom. We ask that the international community stand up in solidarity with Angel and demand that his oppressors #FreeElCritico Now!

Lifestyles of the Rich Narco-Terrorists

Being a narco-terrorist in Cuba has its privileges.

The picture below shows the leaders of Colombia's narco-terrorist guerrilla group, FARC, recently relaxing on a luxurious yacht off Cuba's coasts.

They are Ivan Marquez and Jesus Santrich.

And here's an "inside" look at Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent visit with these narco-terrorists in Havana (from NNPA):

Jesse Jackson slid in next to [Pablo Catatumbo, a/k/a Jorge Torres Victoria, a member of FARC’s high command] and the two talked as we rode to a secluded compound less than 30 minutes from central Havana. When we arrived, the driver flicked his lights twice and two armed guards stared at the van intently as the metal gates slowly eased open to allow our passage. After riding several minutes through a neighborhood within a neighborhood, we unloaded at a large, stately house that had once belonged to the Cuban elite.

Castro's VIP treatment of the FARC's leaders should not come as a surprise, he's been rolling out the red carpet for terrorist groups -- including Carlos "the Jackal," ETA, ELN, PLO, M-19, Medellin Cartel, Montoneros, Macheteros, FLN, EGP, MIR, IRA, FALN, NLF, MRTA and PFLP -- for decades.

Tweet of the Day

By Cuban blogger Yusnaby Perez:

For your information, 3G already works in #Cuba.  But this service can only be accessed by foreigners and the military. 

Oppose Cuba for U.N. Human Rights Council

UN Watch Coalition Urges EU & US to Oppose Regimes in Next Week's UN Human Rights Council Election

As the U.N. prepares to elect 14 nations next week to its highest human rights body, a coalition of non-governmental human rights groups and MPs sent an appeal yesterday to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign affairs commissioner Catherine Ashton urging them to oppose the candidacies of China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Jordan, and Vietnam. The regimes were found to be "Not Qualified" under the U.N.'s own membership criteria, in a report presented yesterday at a UN briefing in New York before media, diplomats and human rights activists.

"China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, "and they consistently vote the wrong way on UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others."

"For the UN to elect Saudi Arabia as a world judge on human rights would be like a town fire department choosing a pyromaniac to be its chief firefighter."

With the release of the report, an international coalition of NGOs and MPs appealed to the U.S. and the EU to take action.

Regrettably, so far neither the U.S. nor the EU have said a word about hypocritical candidacies that will undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system. By turning a blind eye as human rights violators easily join and subvert the council, leading democracies will be complicit in the world body's moral decline.

It will be an insult to their political prisoners and many other victims -- and a defeat for the global cause of human rights -- if the UN helps gross abusers act as champions and global judges of human rights. When the U.N.'s highest human rights body becomes a case of the foxes guarding the henhouse, the world's victims suffer.

Yesterday's press briefing by UN Watch featured courageous champions of human rights pleading against the election of their oppressors:

- Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese civil rights activist who famously escaped house arrest in 2012 after being detained for organizing a lawsuit against Chinese authorities;

- Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi scholar and political analyst who was arrested as a teenager because of his family members’ political activity;

- Masha Gessen, a Russian journalist, author, and LGBT rights activist forced to flee her country with her family after a crackdown on same-sex families;

- Rosa Maria Payá, a human rights advocate from Cuba leading a campaign to launch an investigation into the death of her father, the late democracy leader Oswaldo Payá; and

- Yang Jianli, a Chinese scholar, pro-democracy advocate, and former political prisoner, who presented a petition against China’s bid for a seat on the UNHRC.

Click here to read the appeal.

Quote of the Month on Cuba-North Korea Proliferation

Sunday, November 3, 2013
You probably have heard how furious the Panamanian President was about this ship getting ready to transit this canal. You realize the ship itself the way it was loaded and that was packed, could have caused a catastrophe in the canal? It was an actual threat to the canal. There was fuel in the tanks. This sugar that was covering the load was combustible. What would have happened to the global economy if the Panama Canal was put out of action for a week or two weeks or three weeks?
--William Newcomb, a member of the panel of experts on U.N. sanctions against North Korea, earlier this month at the Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum in Seoul, 11/3/13.

Violent Arrests Against Cuba's Ladies in White

For the 16th consecutive Sunday, over 30 activists from Cuba's Ladies in White were violently arrested for peacefully demonstrating after attending Mass.

In the province of Matanzas, 16 Ladies in White were intercepted, beaten and arrested.

Among those arrested were Maritza Acosta Perdomo, Mayra Garcia Alvarez, Asuncion Carrillo Hernandez, Caridad Burunate Gomez, Tania Echeverria Menendez, Antonia Marcelina de La Riva Linares, Maria Teresa Castellanos Valido, Ramona Terrero Batista, Yamila Sendra Ruiz, Odalys Hernandez, Katiuska Rodriguez Vives, Mercedes la Guardia Hernandez and Marisol Fernandez Socorro

One of the regional leaders of the group, Leticia Ramos, was taken to the hospital as a result of the serious injuries sustained.

In the Villa Clara province, 11 Ladies in White were arrested.

Moreover, Sakharov prize-winner Guillermo Farinas was also beaten and required medical attention after inquiring about the arbitrary arrests.

In Havana, 86 Ladies in White managed to peacefully march after Mass, but three were separately arrested, along with 20 other democracy activists.

How many weeks must these peaceful activists be subjected to such violence before a foreign journalist dares venture to Matanzas or Villa Clara?

Rogues of Medicare Flee to Cuba

From this weekend's great investigative report in The Miami Herald, "Rogues of Medicare":

Here's the summary:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been tracking at least 90 fugitives who have ripped off hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government while filing billions in bogus Medicare claims. The pace of arrests has picked up in the last year but about two-thirds remain at large, many of them fleeing back home to Cuba.

And here's an excerpt:

In the spring of 2008, Gonzalez and her father, Enrique, who also worked for the Benitez brothers, fled Miami after they were separately charged. The brothers — Carlos, Luis and Jose — also left Miami soon after they were indicted that May.

Where did they all go? Cuba — No. 1 among Latin American destinations of choice for South Florida’s Medicare fraud fugitives. Together, they stole hundreds of millions of dollars by filing billions in false claims for everything from medical equipment to HIV-therapy infusion drugs.

Read the full story here.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Stands for Cuban Freedom on Bill Maher

On last night's Real Time with Bill Maher, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) took a strong stand for Cuban freedom against criticism the host and other guests, including actor Rob Lowe.

Note to Rob Lowe: China remains a brutal dictatorship, albeit now the richest one in the world, due to a misguided U.S. policy of business first (rather than freedom first).

Click here to watch or see below:

DWS Talks Cuba on Bill Maher from CubaLibre on Vimeo.

Shocking: Raul Cracks Down on Self-Employed

In their news-blast yesterday, the pro-Castro D.C. group, Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), wrote gleefully about Raul's so-called "reforms":

"[T]hanks to the economic reforms, Cuban entrepreneurs are opening businesses where their countrymen can play video games, don pairs of 3-D glasses, and watch terror films such as “Saw 3D”... These backroom video salons are competing with state-owned theaters, and offer another illustration that the reform process is not stalled."

Apparently, CDA hadn't gotten the memo from their contacts in Havana.

Then again, it's not easy to defend a whimsical, totalitarian dictatorship.

From Reuters:

Cuba shutters private theaters, threatens other businesses

Cuba closed dozens of home-based movie theaters on Saturday and reaffirmed its plans to end the private sale of imported goods as communist authorities pressed for "order, discipline and obedience" in the growing small business sector.

A government statement issued through official media said home-based theaters and video games will "stop immediately in any type of self employment," a local euphemism for small business.

The statement said "the showing of movies, including in 3D salons, and likewise the organization of computer games, has never been authorized."

The government banned the private sale of imported goods last month, a measure that potentially affects some 20,000 small businesses and their employees who sell clothing, hardware and other goods brought in informally by travelers, some of whom visit the Caribbean island regularly carrying merchandise from the United States, Spain and Latin American countries.

"These measures are corrections to continue bringing order to this form of management, fight impunity and insist people live up to the law," the government said on Saturday.

Tweet of the Day

From Cuban democracy leader, Rosa Maria Paya:

The government closes self-employed businesses without compensation or consequences. And there are still those who say that "economic openings" will bring democracy.