Tweet (and Picture) of the Day: Geriatric Killers of Cuba

Saturday, November 23, 2013
The DICTATOR's club of geriatric killers #Cuba 

The Glamorization of Brutal Dictatorships

Apparently, Cuba is not the only brutal dictatorship being glamorized by the irresponsible entertainment and fashion industries.

By Max Fischer in The Washington Post:

Elle magazine names ‘North Korea Chic’ as a top fashion trend for fall 2013

In February 2011, when Vogue magazine published a fawning profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad, I asked the story's editor whether his magazine would consider profiling the wife of North Korean then-dictator Kim Jong Il. I assumed he would answer "no," opening a conversation on what, in Vogue's view, makes Syria's ruling family fair game. To my surprise -- I was young and innocent then -- he did not rule out an equivalent profile of North Korea's first lady. "That's the kind of hypothetical that -- we really do that on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Vogue is apparently not alone in seeing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as an appropriate subject for fashion-related coverage. Elle magazine, in an article posted today on its Web site, names "North Korea Chic" as one of its "top fashion trends" for the autumn of 2013. Just in case the article disappears mysteriously from Elle's site, just as the Asma al-Assad profile did from Vogue's site when backlash mounted, below is a screenshot of the first page on North Korea Chic.

Elle's creative director, Joe Zee, writes that "North Korea Chic" is known for its "take no prisoners tailoring," which is presumably not a play on North Korea's practice of kidnapping foreign civilians and holding them captive for years or decades at a time. Zee compares it favorably to other military-themed fashion trends, adding that North Korea Chic is "edgier, even dangerous."

Most Americans probably do not associate North Korea with upscale clothing, although they certainly do identify it with militarism. The country is best known in the United States for its military brinkmanship, which includes a rogue nuclear-weapons program, frequent (if empty) threats to turn the United States into a "sea of fire" and occasionally killing citizens and soldiers of South Korea, with which it is still technically at war.

North Korea is also closely associated with its treatment of its own civilians, unknown thousands of whom are thought to live in vast prison camps, sent there sometimes for crimes no more serious than having a distant relative flee the country. The words "North Korea" are practically synonymous with "human rights abuses," which makes it an odd choice for Elle's list of fashion trends. That multiple staffers at the magazine would presumably see this item going through production without thinking to stop it makes one wonder whether they are unaware of North Korea's reputation or simply don't see it as important enough to get in the way of their clever fashion coinage.

Still, it's only fashion, and perhaps it's easy for foreign policy observers to take ourselves too seriously. What's really wrong with winking at North Korean militarism to sell $400 pants? For that matter, why not a line of footwear by Pol Pot? Or grooming tips by Stalin? Maybe affix Mao's name to next month's diet plan?

My one complaint is that I wish Elle had run this item on Monday, before my interview that afternoon with a young man who escaped several years ago from North Korea to find a new life in, he hopes, the United States. I would have been curious to hear a North Korean defector's thoughts on North Korean Chic.

Feinberg's Pitch for Dictatorship in Cuba

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov tweeted today:

"This is what happens when free world 'engages' dictatorships: Legal system & trade abused by dictator, treaties & agreements ignored."

Also,

"Had Reagan 'engaged' with the USSR instead of holding a firm moral line, I'd probably still be a Soviet citizen. No more appeasement!"

Kasparov is right.  But don't tell the Brooking Institution's (and former National Security Council official) Richard Feinberg.

In an op-ed in today's Miami Herald, Feinberg concludes that a business-friendly dictatorship is what's in the best interest of Cuba and the U.S.

In other words, that Cuba and the U.S. need Batista.

(Feinberg also recently authored a Cuba report for Brookings, which absurdly concluded that nearly 40% of Cubans fall within the middle class. That contradicts actual data from economic experts at Brookings, which calculate the average middle class in North America to be 18%, while Europe's to be 36%.  Unless, of course, you actually believe Feinberg's spin that Cuba's middle class tops North American and European averages.)

Feinberg writes:

"For the United States, gradual change in Cuba entails fewer risks. Sudden regime transformation might carry a superficial appeal, but it could entail political instability and unpredictable violence, social disarray opening space for international criminal syndicates, and even irresistible pressure for international to quall civil strife and halt a mass exodus of refugees."

(Sounds eerily like the same arguments made to defend the Assad regime in Syria.)

So tear up the "superficial" Inter-American Democratic Charter.

What Cuba needs is another "politically stable" dictatorship.

Not just any dictatorship though, a business-friendly one, so the U.S. can actually profit from its repression and exploitation.

He proceeds:

"Many in the administration understand that the best strategy for promoting gradual political liberalization in Cuba is to help build an independent private sector and modern middle classes that aspire to greater individual autonomy, economic opportunity, and material prosperity — and who will seek a Cuba that is more 'normal,' more like other societies in the Caribbean basin where individuals have access to middle-class consumption patterns and can pursue their talents and careers independent of state control."

A more "normal" Cuba.  One where the dictatorship firmly remains in power; reaps billions in profits; distributes "independent" businesses among its cronies and their families; and continues to ruthlessly imprison and repress the populace.

But no worries, it will gradually lead to political liberalization, like in China and Vietnam. Oh wait, both China and Vietnam remains ruthless -- albeit profitable -- dictatorships.

And before you know it, we can return to the age of business-friendly dictatorship's throughout the Western Hemisphere.

No thanks, Mr. Feinberg.

What Cubans need is an opportunity to choose their own destiny. To elect their leaders. To have their fundamental human, civil, political and economic rights respected. To have an independent media and labor unions. To have access to the Internet. To own their businesses. To enjoy contractual and property rights. To practice the trade, service or craft of their choice. To purchase or sell whatever, to whomever, they want. To do as they please with their earnings. To sing, rap, dance, write or yell at will. To dissent.

That is what is "normal" -- and Cuba deserves absolutely nothing less.

You can keep your outdated models of 20th century dictatorships.

Why Are Cuban Baseball Players Still Defecting?

This week alone, star right-handed pitcher, Raicel Iglesias, and shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, have reportedly defected from Cuba.

Moreover, Dayron Varona and Jorge Hernandez have been suspended from playing in the Cuban national championships, as punishment for trying to defect.

But why are these players still trying to defect?

Why are they still being punished by Cuban officials for trying to defect?

Didn't the AP assure us in September (based on one-line in Granma) that Cuban athletes would now be permitted to play abroad?

As we posted at the time, it was just the typical low-standard reporting by foreign news bureaus in Havana.

Heavy on narrative, light on reality.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor Veers Off Cuba Talking Points

In an interview with Cuba Standard, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) mostly sticks to the talking points she heard in Havana earlier this year, pursuant to a trip sponsored by a D.C.-based pro-Castro group.

In other words, gloss-over human rights, increased repression, cosmetic reforms, political prisoners, dissident deaths, American hostages and international arms trafficking.

Instead, focus on business opportunities, travel and unconditional negotiations with the Castro regime.

But, Castor veered:

"[T]he major issue is trade. We really need to sit down and modernize the entire relationship. [Mariel] is the best example. It’s actually a place where the U.S. has some leverage, because the Cubans would like nothing more than the embargo to go away."

Anti-sanctions lobbyists must be reeling.

Congresswoman -- remember, the talking point is that the Castro regime really needs the embargo as a scapegoat for its failures.

And that the U.S. has no leverage over Cuba due to the embargo, so the U.S. must embrace the Castro regime in order to gain "real leverage."

Got it?

We're sure it won't happen again.

Must-Read: Why Sanctions on Cuba Must Remain

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
By Professor Jaime Suchlicki in The New York Times:

Why Sanctions on Cuba Must Remain

In his Nov. 18 speech at the Organization of American States, Secretary John Kerry failed to make a compelling case for keeping U.S. sanctions on Cuba. While correctly pointing out that the Monroe Doctrine is no longer valid, Kerry insisted that “people to people” travel, the visits by Americans under U.S. license to Cuba, is having an impact in penetrating the Communist system.

His assumptions are incorrect. First, the Castro brothers and their allies aren’t naïve; U.S. tourists have no chance of subverting their regime and influencing internal developments.

Second, American tourists won’t bring democracy to Cuba. Over the past decades several million tourists from Europe, Canada and Latin America have visited the island, and nothing has changed. If anything, Cuba is more repressive, with the state apparatus strengthened by the influx of tourist dollars.

Third, tourism and trade don’t lead to economic and political change. No study I know of has found that tourism, trade or investments had anything to do with the end of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. A disastrous economic system, competition with the West, successive leadership changes with no legitimacy, a corrupt and weak Communist Party, anti-Soviet feeling in Eastern Europe and the failed Soviet war in Afghanistan were among the reasons for change.

Fourth, engagement with a totalitarian state won’t bring about its demise. Only academic ideologues and some members of Congress interested in catering to the economic needs of their state’s constituencies cling to this notion. Their calls for ending the embargo have little to do with democracy in Cuba or the welfare of the Cuban people.

Repeated claims that the embargo is the cause of Cuba’s economic problems are hollow. The reasons for the economic misery of the Cubans are a failed political and economic system. Like the communist systems of Eastern Europe, Cuba’s system does not function, stifles initiative and productivity and destroys human freedom and dignity.

What’s more, ending U.S. sanctions without major concessions from Cuba would send the wrong message to the Castro regime and to the rest of Latin America. Supporting regimes and dictators that violate human rights and abuse their population is an ill-adviced policy that rewards and encourages further abuses.

If the travel ban and the embargo are ended unilaterally now by the U.S., what negotiating tool to encourage change in Cuba will the U.S. government have with a future regime? Countries don’t change their policies without a quid pro quo from the other side. Unilateral concessions are pocketed by our adversaries without providing meaningful changes.

Sanctions should be ended as a result of negotiations between the U.S. and a Cuban government willing to provide meaningful and irreversible political and economic concessions, not only to the U.S. but, more important, to the Cuban people.

Quote of the Day: Obama on Arturo Sandoval

As a young man in Cuba, Arturo Sandoval loved jazz so much it landed him in jail. It was the Cold War, and the only radio station where he could hear jazz was the Voice of America, which was dangerous to listen to. But Arturo listened anyway.  Later, he defected to the United States knowing he might never see his parents or beloved homeland again. “Without freedom,” he said, “there is no life.”
-- U.S. President Barack Obama, during today's Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, The White House, 11/20/13

Menendez on Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Dr. Oscar Biscet

Chairman Menendez on Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Dr. Oscar Biscet

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued this statement regarding Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Oscar Biscet.

Today, as President Obama commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he will be joined by an inspiring group of past recipients all deserving of this prestigious award for their contribution to U.S. national interests or world peace.  However, there is a glaring and unacceptable absence of a past recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who puts his well-being at risk every day in Cuba demanding the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by Americans.  Dr. Oscar Biscet, a world-renowned human rights advocate in Cuba is not in Washington with other recipients due to the Cuban government’s decision to deny him a visa to travel to the U.S., barring Americans and the rest of the world an opportunity to hear directly of the Castro regime’s denial of basic human rights and its brutal oppression of those who are fighting for democracy in Cuba.  I look forward to the day that Dr. Biscet can travel freely to the United States to finally receive our nation’s highest civilian honor.”

The Cuban People Will Not Forget

Poster by Cuban artist Rolando Pulido:

Biden: Cuba-North Korea Arms Smuggling Threat to Global Security

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The questions remain:

Will Cuba suffer any consequences for this violation of international sanctions and threat to "global security"?

Or will it continue to be "business as usual"?

Excerpt from today's remarks by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden in Panama City:

As we streamline the travel and trade, we're also working together to stop illegal trafficking. Panama has interdicted 175 metric tons of cocaine. Cooperation between our law enforcement agencies is excellent and been at a peak that hasn't existed before. And Panama is rising and in some cases exceeding its responsibilities not only to us, but to the region.

And so last July, a vessel traveling through the Panama Canal from Cuba to North Korea claimed it was carrying sugar. Well, it was a sweet cargo, but it wasn't sugar. It wasn't sugar. And Panama did something we haven't come to expect everywhere in the world -- it stepped up. It stepped up where others might have stepped back. We think it's a violation of U.S. sanctions. But, nonetheless, Panama stepped up. You found and confiscated weapons heading from Cuba to North Korea.

The United States is thankful for your taking on that international responsibility. And you made a significant contribution for real to global security, not just U.S. security. We are pretty well capable of handling our own security. But you contributed to global security. That is what responsible nations do and that's what you have done.

Castro Begins Military Exercises to Intimidate Population

Courtesy of the foreign tourists and U.S. "people-to-people" travelers who frequent the Cuban military's hotels, resorts, restaurants, nightclubs, car rentals, gas stations, foreign exchange stores, airlines, etc.

From Cuban state media, Prensa Latina:

Raul Castro Opens Military Exercises in Cuba

Cuban President Raul Castro opened today here the military strategic drills "Bastion 2013," which will take place throughout the Cuban territory until November 22.

Compatriots, the strategic exercise "Bastion 2013" will be held during the upcoming four days, the also army general and president of the National Defense Council said in a nationally televised speech.

The Cuban president recalled that this exercise was scheduled for November 2012. However, due to damages by the passage of Hurricane Sandy through the eastern provinces, it was necessary to postpone it for the present year.

We suggest to continue raising the level of training and cohesion from directive boards and military commands in all instances, the troops, economy, and the people, to face different enemy actions of the enemy.

The objective is to run rationally Bastion 2013, including the participation of the population in the National Defense Days on November 23 and 24, the Cuban president said.

Tactical maneuvers, soldiers of the armed forces, the Ministry of Interior, reservists, and the people in general, are being involved in these exercises.

Cuba (and Iran) Reiterate Support for Assad Regime

Another example of how the three "state-sponsors of terrorism" (Cuba, Iran and Syria) work in collusion.

From the Syrian-Arab News Agency (SANA)

Chairman of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee at the Iranian Shura Council, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said that the western powers are expanding the area of terrorism and insecurity as they are committing miscalculations in the region under the influence of false information from their allies.

Meeting Ambassador of Cuba in Tehran, Vladimir Gonzalez Quesada, Boroujerdi stressed that the western countries have now become aware of the correctness of the stance of Iran which rejects the military solution to the crisis in Syria.

The Cuban ambassador highlighted the necessity of respecting the sovereignty and independence of Syria and the right of the Syrian people to decide their destiny.

And from Hillel Neuer of U.N. Watch:

Dissident Awareness Campaign: Antonio Rodiles

Today, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group released the eighth installment of its dissident awareness campaign, featuring Antonio Rodiles:

Antonio Rodiles is a Cuban political activist who has achieved international prominence for his work as the coordinator of Estado de SATS, a forum created in July 2010 to encourage a pluralistic civil society by fostering open debate on social, cultural and political issues in Cuba, otherwise banned by the Castro regime. Videos of these discussions are increasingly circulated inside Cuba, where people are forced to share them secretly to others using USB drives. Rodiles is also the main coordinator of the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba, an initiative calling for Cuba to ratify the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For his activism, Rodiles has been arrested and beaten by the Cuban Government.

Remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Cuba

Excerpt from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks today at the Organization of American States (OAS):

I think it is undeniable what our unity of purpose is. Step by step, making our democracies stronger and our people more secure – in Guatemala, in Colombia, and throughout the Americas. And for the most part, I think you’ll agree with me the Western Hemisphere is unified in its commitment to pursuing successful democracies in the way that I describe.

But one exception, of course, remains: Cuba. Since President Obama took office, the Administration has started to search for a new beginning with Cuba. As he said just last week, when it comes to our relationship with Cuba, we have to be creative, we have to be thoughtful, and we have to continue to update our policies.

Our governments are finding some cooperation on common interests at this point in time. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans visit Havana, and hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and remittances flow from the United States to Cuba. We are committed to this human interchange, and in the United States we believe that our people are actually our best ambassadors. They are ambassadors of our ideals, of our values, of our beliefs.

And while we also welcome some of the changes that are taking place in Cuba which allow more Cubans to be able to travel freely and work for themselves, these changes should absolutely not blind us to the authoritarian reality of life for ordinary Cubans. In a hemisphere where citizens everywhere have a right to be able to choose their leaders, Cubans uniquely do not. In a hemisphere where people can criticize their leaders without fear of arrest or violence, Cubans still cannot. And if more does not change soon, it is clear that the 21st century will continue, unfortunately, to leave the Cuban people behind.

We look forward to the day – and we hope it will come soon – when the Cuban Government embraces a broader political reform agenda that will enable its people to freely determine their own future. The entire hemisphere – all of us – share an interest in ensuring that Cubans enjoy the rights protected by our Inter-American Democratic Charter, and we expect to stand united in this aspiration. Because in every country, including the United States, each day that we don’t press forward on behalf of personal freedoms and representative government, we risk sliding backwards. And none of us can accept that.

Even as we celebrate the democratic values that have spread throughout Latin America, we must also acknowledge where those values are being challenged. After all, timely elections matter little if they are not really free and fair with all political parties competing on a level playing field. A separation of powers is of little comfort if independent institutions are not able to hold the powerful to account. And laws that guarantee freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion are of little consequence if they are not enforced. Democracy is not a final destination; it is an endless journey. And every day, all of us must renew our decision to actually move it forward. And we are no less immune to that reality here in the United States than anywhere else; in fact, in recent days, perhaps even more susceptible to it.

Tweet of the Day

By Cuban blogger and democracy leader, Yoani Sanchez:

#Cuba I'm ashamed, so ashamed, because I know that part of what is happening today in #Venezuela stems from Revolutionary Square in #Havana.

Allowing Dictators to Define Human Rights

From U.N. Watch:

How abusers trumpet their HRC election to silence dissent

On November 12, the UN General Assembly elected 14 new members for the Human Rights Council. Among the 14 elected were 6 countries that UN Watch evaluated as unqualified for membership: Algeria, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Vietnam. Their newfound membership of the UN’s top human rights body will be yet another occasion for these abusers to spew propaganda and silence dissidents and civil society – often the only ones who dare to tell the truth about these regimes. Since Tuesday’s election, members of the respective governments and representative of their UN Missions have commented on the election explaining that their victories were due to the international recognition of their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

China

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights. It has made remarkable achievements and has vigorously developed international cooperation in the field of human rights …China is fully qualified to be elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council. China’s election to the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday also serves as the international community’s acknowledgment of China’s significant achievements in the field of human rights.”

Wang Min, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, 13 November 2013

Cuba

“Cuba’s selection is nothing less than a recognition of its consistent stance of rejecting double standards and the persistent efforts by Western powers to use the Council for political ends, to manipulate the issue of human rights in service of its interests and to convert this body into an inquisitor tribunal for the nations of the (global) South who don’t submit to their designs.”

Anayansi Rodriquez, Cuba’s UN ambassador in Geneva, 13 November 2013

Saudi Arabia

“The Kingdom’s election to the Human Rights Council for the third time in a row is yet another confirmation of its pioneering role in the council and the service of human rights issues.”

Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Ma’alami, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, 12 November 2013 

“This election confirms the Kingdom’s efforts in the enhancement of justice, equality and the protection and promotion of human rights at both domestic and international arenas, as well as the Kingdom’s firm positions towards issues of fair human rights in the world … This election confirms the Kingdom’s prestigious status and international respect and recognition for its roles in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Dr Al-Aiban, President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, 13 November 2013

Russia

“The UN election was a ‘good result.’ We will work in order to strengthen cooperation and dialogue and create constructive working atmosphere in the council.”

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, 12 November 2013

Vietnam

“This determination reflects the Vietnamese Party and State’s view of human rights as a common aspiration of human being as well as their consistent policy of respecting and ensuring human rights, and enhancing international cooperation in this field … Vietnam’s election to the UNHRC with the highest vote is of great significance. It shows the international community’s acknowledgement and appreciation of Vietnam’s policies and achievements in its comprehensive renewal process, including the building of a state of law that offers a better guarantee of citizens’ rights.”

Pham Binh Minh, Foreign Minister of Vietnam, 13 November 2013

Alan Gross: (More) Concessions vs. Consequences

Monday, November 18, 2013
During his trip to Cuba in February, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was told explicitly by the Castro regime what ransom it wants paid for the release of its American hostage, Alan P. Gross.

It wants the release of four Cuban spies, who were convicted by U.S. federal courts for various crimes, including the murder of three Americans.

And since his return from Havana, Leahy has been trying to broker that ransom ("swap").

This, despite the fact that U.S. Secretary John Kerry testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in April:

[The Cubans] have been attempting to trade Alan Gross for the five spies that are in prison here in the U.S., and we've refused to do that because there’s no equivalency. Alan Gross is wrongly imprisoned, and we’re not going to trade as if it’s spy for spy.”

Leahy's latest effort has been to try to give the Obama Administration a "blank-check" from the Senate.

Thus, Leahy tried to mislead over 60 of his colleagues with an otherwise innocuous letter that -- on the one hand, correctly states the outrage and urgency of Alan Gross's situation, and then insidiously calls for the President to take "whatever steps are necessary" to secure his release.

Upon becoming aware of Leahy's ulterior motive, many signatories expressed their opposition to any such swap. This led Leahy to change the language of the letter from "whatever steps are necessary" to the more narrow and debatable "whatever steps are in the national interest."

It's abundantly clear to most -- other than Senator Leahy and Castro's D.C. lobbyists -- why such a swap would set a dangerous precedent and only endanger more American lives.  Moreover, that negotiating with hostage-takers is not -- nor has ever been -- in the U.S.'s "national interest."

Rather than outright withdraw from the letter, some signatories have been assured by Leahy that he will not misrepresent their views; others have sent separate letters further defining their views; and others simultaneously co-signed a letter (below) from Senator Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) explicitly rejecting a swap.

(The Menendez-Rubio letter is co-signed by U.S. Senators Schumer, McCain, Booker, Graham, Nelson, Coats, Manchin, Cruz, Casey, Kirk, Cornyn and Blunt.)

Which raises the question: Why didn't Senator Leahy simply circulate a letter calling for the swap the Castro regime wants?

Answer: Because it would have gotten no support.

So he had to be as misleading and innocuous as possible.

What's not misleading or innocuous is the U.S. Senate's official resolution, which unanimously passed in December 2012, calling for Alan Gross's "immediate and unconditional release."

Furthermore, the U.S. has already granted the Castro regime a number of concessions since Gross's imprisonment in December 2009, which has only led it to continue upping the ante (convinced the Obama Administration will eventually cave).

The Obama Administration eased a number of non-humanitarian travel sanctions in January 2011; watered-down the scope of its Cuba democracy programs; given the Castro regime a pass on its dangerous weapons proliferation activities; and continued fruitless bilateral talks on a number of issues.

In other words, it has been conducting "business as usual."

So will the Obama Administration ever make it clear to the Castro brothers that their regime cannot take Americans hostage with impunity?

Needless to say, it is way past time for the Castro regime finally face some serious consequences for the hostage-taking of Alan Gross.

Otherwise, impunity (and further dangerous misbehavior) will continue to prevail.
 
RM -

Was Castro Complicit in Kennedy's Death?

Sunday, November 17, 2013
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

What Castro Knew About Lee Harvey Oswald

The official narrative skips tantalizing signs of a Cuban connection.

In November 1963, Cuban intelligence officer Florentino Aspillaga was posted in a little hut near a Cuban beach where he operated listening equipment trained on Miami and CIA headquarters in Virginia. On the morning of Nov. 22, Mr. Aspillaga—who would defect to the U.S. in 1987—said that he was ordered "to stop all your CIA work, all your CIA work." He was instructed to "put all of my equipment to listen to any small detail from Texas. They told me Texas."

Did Castro know that Lee Harvey Oswald was about to assassinate President Kennedy? Brian Latell, a veteran CIA Cuba analyst who spent 15 hours interviewing Mr. Aspillaga for his newly revised "Castro's Secrets," (Palgrave MacMillan), makes a strong case that he did.

Mr. Latell takes readers through a half-century of Cuban espionage by interviewing a dozen high-ranking Cuban defectors and numerous former CIA officers. He calls Mr. Aspillaga "the most knowledgeable Cuban defector ever to change sides." He also pored over thousands of pages of declassified CIA documents and gained access to the unpublished memoir of Thomas Mann, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1963, who had reason to suspect an Oswald-Cuba connection.

Mr. Latell set out to tell the story of Cuba's "intelligence machine," which outmaneuvered the U.S. for many years. In the process he uncovers startling details that suggest that Cuba fueled Oswald's maniacal desire to prove himself worthy of Castro's revolution during the American's visit to Mexico City in the fall of 1963. Mr. Latell also presents strong evidence that the Johnson administration and higher-ups in the FBI and the CIA ensured those details were kept from the Warren Commission.

The Kennedy administration was desperate to eliminate Castro. The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion had failed and by August 1963, according to Edward Jay Epstein —a renowned expert on the killing of the president and author of the recently released book "The JFK Assassination Diary"— Richard Helms, though not yet CIA director, was "receiving almost daily phone calls from [Attorney General Robert Kennedy ] demanding to know what actions he was [taking] to remove Castro from power." The agency recruited Rolando Cubela, a revolutionary insider, to do the job.

But Cubela was a double agent. And on Sept. 7, just after Cubela agreed to help the Americans, Castro gave an interview to an AP reporter in which he put the U.S. on notice that "aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders" would mean that "they themselves will not be safe."

Castro didn't need to look far for a willing partner to back up those words. It is "known with near certainty," writes Mr. Latell, that Cuba had "opened a dossier" on Oswald in 1959, while he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, in Southern California. Oswald was enamored of the Cuban Revolution, and he had made contact with the Cuban consulate in Los Angeles.

On Sept. 27, 1963, Oswald checked into the Hotel Comercio in Mexico City for a five-night stay. He tried to get a visa from the Cuban embassy to travel to Havana. He had a fling with an embassy employee and probably spent time with others who were intelligence agents. When his visa was not forthcoming, witnesses said he went on a rant at the embassy, slammed the door and stormed off.

According to Mr. Latell, during his Mexico City stay Oswald twice visited the Soviet consulate where he met with "an officer of the notorious Department 13, responsible for assassination and sabotage operations." The KGB was training Cuban intelligence at the time, and "it seems certain that [Oswald's] intelligence file in Havana was thickening."

Castro's claim about Oswald—in a speech 30 hours after Kennedy was shot—that "we never in our life heard of him" was a lie. Indeed, in a 1964 conversation with Jack Childs —an American communist who had secretly been working for the FBI—Castro let it slip that he knew of Oswald's outburst while at the embassy in Mexico City and said that the ex-Marine had threatened to kill the U.S. president.

When Warren Commission staff asked Ambassador Mann about the Hotel Comercio's reputation as "a headquarters for pro-Castro activities," Mann answered: "it was not known generally at all... [but] only in intelligence circles."

For Mann, it was too convenient that Oswald landed at that hotel. He pushed for more information about Oswald's Mexico City sojourn. In his memoir, however, he wrote: "The Embassy received instructions to cease our investigation of Oswald's visit to Mexico and to request that the Mexican government do the same." Mann asked for reconsideration and was denied. The Warren Commission was never told of the CIA plan to take out Castro.

All of this leaves a giant hole in the official narrative about the assassination. Mr. Latell concludes that "Castro and a small number of Cuban intelligence officers were complicit in Kennedy's death but that their involvement fell short of an organized assassination plot." Instead they "exhorted Oswald," and "encouraged his feral militance."

Great Bacardi Poster: Untameable

Cuban Regime Denies Dr. Biscet Permission to Visit White House

The Castro regime has denied Cuban dissident leader, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, permission to travel to Washington, D.C., where he was invited by U.S. President Barack Obama to participate in the ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Dr. Biscet was a 2007 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the United States, to world peace, or to significant cultural, public, or private endeavors.

Past recipients include Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Helmut Kohl.

At the time, he was unable to personally receive the award, as remained imprisoned for his peaceful political activities. Amnesty International had designated him a prisoner of conscience.

Today, out of prison, Dr. Biscet remains unable to travel to the U.S. and receive his award due to the arbitrary whim of the Castro dictatorship.

Tweet of the Day

By Cuban democracy leader, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet:

#Cuba At the event for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom there will be an empty seat, mine.