MH Editorial Board: It's Not Time to Soften Policy Toward Cuba

Saturday, February 15, 2014
From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Havana’s unchanging hardline  

OUR OPINION: Human rights should remain the measure of U.S. policy toward Cuba

Suddenly, there appears to be movement, or at least the start of a conversation, regarding policy toward Cuba on the part of the European Union and Americans interested in the welfare of the Cuban people.

This is a healthy development. No policy should be declared sacrosanct and off-limits for periodic review, particularly those framed during the height of the Cold War.

There’s just one thing missing in this picture: The Cuban government.

The government’s hard-line stance on human-rights issues represents an obstacle in the thawing of relations that cannot be ignored. Moreover, not only is there no sign that the Castro regime is interested in any sort of dialogue or negotiation over its despotic policies, but rather the opposite.

The latest evidence of the regime’s perfidy puts the Castro government squarely in the middle of a global weapons-supply chain to North Korea, in violation of explicit U.N. sanctions.

And just days before pollsters in this country released findings indicating that majorities across the board, including people of Cuban descent, favored a thaw in relations between the two countries, police raided the home of prominent dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antunez. He was hauled away and detained for hours — and so was his wife, after demanding his freedom — before being released. Their home was vandalized and sacked.

This is standard operating procedure by the Castro security apparatus. Both at home and abroad, Cuba stands on the side of the oppressors, as it always has.

Opponents of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba, which grew out of restrictions imposed in 1960 by the Eisenhower administration, would argue that the failure to make an impact on Cuba’s behavior after all these decades is proof that the embargo doesn’t work.

But countries in Western Europe and elsewhere that have fielded a more flexible and engaging policy toward Cuba haven’t made a difference either. The larger point is that the Castro government cannot survive without resorting to the use of police-state tactics to maintain control and refuses to risk any softening, regardless of the carrots and sticks extended by other countries.

Why, then, should this be the time for any country that wants to help the Cuban people soften the policy toward the government?

The European Union has set in motion a review of its “common position” toward Cuba, but European leaders say any progress in relations will be conditioned on improving human rights in Cuba. That must remain the uppermost consideration. To be fair, the process should involve getting input from dissidents, meeting with independent members of civil society and sticking with the current policy until all the issues have been resolved.

For the United States, the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison where he is serving a 15-year sentence for what amounts to a customs violation should be a pre-requisite for any consideration of changes in policy.

It has been clear for years that attitudes toward Cuba were changing in this country, particularly among younger Cuban Americans. But Cuba’s dismal human-rights record should be the foremost consideration in any domestic dialogue about U.S. policy.

Unilateral steps by the United States must be measured by the prospect that they can provide relief for average Cubans from the daily abuses they continue to suffer under the unchanging regime of the Castro brothers.

Let the Cuban Regime Change First

By Helen Aguirre Ferre in The Miami Herald:

Let the Cuban regime change first  

I do not have any radical friends, although I do have friends with radically different ideas as to how to deal with Cuba. Much of the debate focuses on the embargo and how it affects making positive change in the communist country.

A new push-poll by the Atlantic Council of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center shows that 56 percent of Americans nationwide, and 63 percent in Florida, agree with “normalizing relations or engaging directly” with the Cuban government. Yet when the question referenced Castro’s human-rights abuses, the support for increased engagement fell dramatically, particularly in Florida, to 43 percent.

Our relationship with Cuba is complex and constantly tested. Nearly all running for political office must define their position on the embargo, and the ones who win are usually the ones who say they support the embargo. At the same time, people-to-people diplomacy continues to grow. Can more be done to bring change to a country where the Castro family has controlled virtually all daily life since 1959?

There is no easy answer.

Since its inception, the Castro revolution has been ruthless and bloody. From the beginning, political detentions and murder were institutionalized. Thousands of opposition leaders, young and old, were held without trial and summarily executed at the infamous paredón. Families were divided when the government ordered young girls and boys to leave their homes and work in the fields; freedom of speech, press and worship was revoked, and then came the tragedy of the Bay of Pigs, followed by the Cuban Missile Crisis during the height of the Cold War, which helped cement the Castro regime.

Everyone had to surrender to the revolution or face imprisonment, death or, if lucky, expulsion. Foreigners faced the same as all properties and corporations were surreptitiously confiscated. The romantic rebel, as The New York Times depicted Fidel at the time, was a myth, and he was condemned.

The Castro brothers changed their tactics with dissenters, harassing and torturing them, but not executing as before. Those who wanted to leave were allowed, especially the younger members of the middle class who could someday become a real political threat to Castro from within. Back then, they were in their 20s. Today they are the ones who mostly populate what is known as the traditional exile community, the ones who remember life in Cuba before 1959. To this day, this group is feared and loathed by Castro’s mafia, and many support the embargo.

Enacted in February 1962, the embargo was a response to Cuba’s illegal confiscations of U.S. businesses and properties without compensation and Castro’s conversion of Cuba into a military base for the Soviets, edging the world closer to a nuclear war.

For decades Fidel has threatened U.S. national security, destabilizing governments in Latin America and fighting wars in Africa. It is still categorized as a sponsor of state terrorism because it actively supports terrorists. Although many in the United States might not take Cuba’s government seriously, Fidel Castro does take the United States seriously, cultivating spies, including Ana Belen Montes, a former senior analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency. Intelligence experts believe her to be one of the most damaging spies in recent history.

Has Cuban policy changed enough for the United States to reconsider drawing the Cuban government closer? We could ask American contractor Alan Gross, who is being held hostage because the United States will not trade convicted Cuban spies for him or the Damas de Blanco, who are badgered and beaten as they practice civil disobedience on the way to church. This is, after all, the same Cuban leadership that ordered the shootdown of unarmed civilian planes in 1996 in international water, murdering three Americans and one legal resident. It is impossible to respect a government that does not respect its own people, let alone unarmed civilians. That does not mean that we ignore the Cuban people — on this we all agree.

There are real and meaningful programs that are going on today that help the people on the island without directly enriching the dictatorship. Prematurely lifting the embargo, however, will enrich the Cuban government with much needed revenue and access to international credits that will benefit the economy that is run by the military. The Cuban government has always been in control of the relationship with the United States. But before anything else can change, the regime must first change its relationship with its own people. It is the right thing to do.

Quote of the Week

Friday, February 14, 2014
It’s not the time to unilaterally go in and lift the embargo until we see some ironclad guarantees that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly is being allowed by the police state that is still run by the Castro brothers.
-- U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), during Q&A with student group in Gainesville, Tampa Tribune, 2/14/14

Cuba Suspends Consular Services Again

And will continue blackmailing the State Department into inappropriately pressuring banks to conduct business transactions they do not deem legally and commercially sound -- endangering their fiduciary responsibility to depositors and shareholders.

From CNN:

Cuba halts consular services in the U.S.

Cuba halted consular services in the United States on Friday because the American bank it was working with is severing their relationship, the Cuban Interests Section said.

M&T Bank informed the Interests Section last year it was getting out of the business of providing banking services for diplomatic missions, but agreed to accept Cuban deposits through February 17.

Going forward, consular assistance will "only be provided for humanitarian cases."

Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said the agency has been "actively working" with the Cubans to identify a new bank, and has reached out to more than 50.

Harf said that several banks may currently be exploring the possibility of providing services, but that it was unclear whether it could be worked out by March 1, when the accounts will be closed.

Push-Polls and Cuba

By Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):

Push Polls and Cuba

You can’t always get what you want, the Rolling Stones once told us. But you can, actually, in a push poll: a poll designed to elicit a certain result and then advertised as achieving that result.

This past week the Atlantic Council released a poll it had sponsored about U.S. relations with Cuba. Here’s one key aspect of the poll: When respondents were told “Cuba continues to have a dismal human rights record. The Castro regime represses virtually all forms of political dissent through detentions, arbitrary arrests, beatings, travel restrictions, forced exile, and sentencing dissidents in closed trials,” we find that 33 percent this was a “very important” reason to keep the current U.S. policy and 17 percent said it’s “somewhat important,” for a total of 50 percent. And 43 percent the human rights abuses make it somewhat important or very important to change the policy.

Respondents were also read this statement: “Cuban-Americans support current US policy because it puts economic pressure on the Castro regime, while providing assistance to Cuban citizens. Travel and financial restrictions have already been lifted for Cuban-Americans to help their families; meanwhile we should stay tough on the Castro regime.” The poll found that 61 percent of Americans generally, 67 percent of Floridians, and 61 percent of Hispanics thought this a good reason to oppose normalization with Cuba.

So, given that the statement about human rights abuses is true, and given that 67 percent number, how about a headline saying “Majority of Americans favors keeping the embargo on Cuba.” Of course, it would have been easy to get even tougher pro-embargo results. Suppose a question had asked “Should we normalize relations when they have an American citizen named Alan Gross in prison for more than three years now, and he’s 64 and in poor health and has lost a hundred pounds in prison, and his only ‘crime’ was helping the tiny Jewish community there get internet access?” Or how about this question: “Should we normalize relations when Cuba continues to harbor an American terrorist named Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and shot and killed a New Jersey State Trooper?” We can pretty well guess what the numbers would have been in response.

The Atlantic Council poll does ask about the fact that Cuba is on the State Department’s terrorism list. It asked this: “Currently, the US State Department designates four countries in the world as state-sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan. The State Department defines state sponsors of terrorism as countries that have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, and places sanctions on these nations that restrict trade, travel, and foreign assistance. In your opinion, does Cuba pose the same threat as these other countries—Sudan, Syria, and Iran—and thus belong on the list?” This biased query found that 40 percent of all Americans and 43 percent of Hispanics said yes, it does deserve to be on that list; 52 percent of all Americans and 50 percent of Hispanics said no.  Think what the results would have been had the “question” added that sentence about Joanne Chesimard!

But the Atlantic Council has a strong position against the embargo on Cuba, so it headlines the poll this way: “Atlantic Council Poll: Americans Want New Relations With Cuba.” And its web site surrounds the poll result with blogs, statements by officials, videos, and articles favoring that result. The handsome booklet the Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center published last week is entitled “Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change.”

Well, nice try. People who want to change the policy will find the poll useful. People who oppose change, as I do, will find the whole effort unpersuasive. And I hope that people who are still thinking about the policy, and are undecided, will find it unpersuasive too. The poll found what those who commissioned it wanted it to find. Members of Congress who must vote on Cuba policy, and administration officials who must make decisions, are too sophisticated to be influenced by this kind of advocacy masquerading as opinion research. They know too much about Alan Gross and Joanne Chesimard.

Doing Business With Castro's Cuba

Statement from The Center for a Free Cuba:

The Castro regime, facing an acute financial crisis and the possible risk of losing the Venezuelan money lifeline, is trying to woo foreign investors, including some Cuban-American businessmen. It has launched this charm offensive without a true opening, while arresting, beating and harassing hundreds of Cuban peaceful pro-democracy activists.

The Castro brothers' search for business deals is not new. In fact they actively pursued them in the 1990s, when the Soviet subsidies ended. But many of the foreign investors who were lured have left the island with a bitter after-taste. Of the 400 foreign companies then operating in Cuba, there are now only 190 left. Among the problems they encountered: having to partner, on a minority basis, mostly with army-controlled organizations; hiring employees only through state agencies, which pay the workers five percent of the dollar salaries in local currency; government freezing of hard-currency bank deposits; arrests without due process; outright seizure of businesses without recourse.

A year and a half ago, when it was learned that several Cuban-American businessmen were advocating the lifting of U.S. restrictions in order to strike deals with the Castro regime, a dissenting group of a dozen former Fortune 500 senior executives and other multinational business leaders issued a joint statement, Commitment to Freedom. The group was led by the late Manuel J. Cutillas, Chairman of the Center for a Free Cuba, philanthropist, civic leader, and for many years Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Bacardi Company.

The corporate leaders denounced "the Castro regime's deceptive campaign aimed at securing much-needed financial resources to prolong its iron grip over the people of Cuba." They further stated that "instead of ushering in a true economic and political opening that would unleash the entrepreneurial skills of the Cuban people and attract foreign capital, it has only introduced non-systemic, heavily-taxed, revocable reforms with no legal protection or investment return."

The regime, they added, "is trying to induce the U.S. to lift or further weaken the embargo to funnel tourist dollars and bank credits to the bankrupt island--a bailout under the guise of constructive engagement."

Finally, the group of prominent Cuban-American executives asserted that "the future of the island-nation lies not with the current failed, octogenarian rulers, but with the leaders of the growing pro-democracy movement. They, and not their oppressors, are worthy of receiving international recognition, financial resources and communications technology to carry out their heroic struggle."

Signing the document Commitment to Freedom were former senior executives from Dow Chemical, General Mills, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Bacardi, American Express Bank, PepsiCo, Warner Communications, Martin Marietta Aluminum, Amex Nickel Corporation, and others.

No reassessment of U.S.-Cuban relations today can ignore why Castro's Cuba remains on the list of supporters of international terrorism. Apart from the terrorists it continues to shelter and its close links to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the Castro regime is holding an imprisoned American hostage for the crime of giving a laptop to a Cuban Jewish group. Recently, a U.S. federal court indicted Colombian terrorists based in Cuba and the FBI placed on its Most Wanted List an American terrorist who murdered a New Jersey State Trooper and who, the FBI says “has been living in Cuba…, where she attends government functions and her standard of living is higher than most Cubans.”

Moreover, a U.N. Panel of Experts has just concluded that the war planes and missiles that Havana attempted to smuggle to North Korea, concealed under 10,000 tons of sugar, constituted a clear violation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

The Center for a Free Cuba calls on government leaders, business organizations, think tanks and media representatives to heed our warning and not be deceived by biased polls or Castro propaganda, sadly spread, if not financed, by those eager to make a quick profit in connivance with the totalitarian regime. For our part, we reject any such disgraceful dealings, and pledge to support the reconstruction of Cuba, but only when freedom dawns on the captive island.

Below is the letter issued by Cuban-American corporate leaders mentioned in this statement.
 ________________________________________________________________________

COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM

We, the undersigned, Cuban exiles with deep roots in U.S. and international corporations, institutions and business communities, wish to convey our great concern regarding the Castro regime’s deceptive campaign aimed at securing much-needed financial resources to prolong its iron grip over the people of Cuba.

The regime is facing the severest financial crisis since the early 1990s, compounded by the possible loss of its Venezuelan life line. But instead of ushering in a true economic and political opening that would unleash the entrepreneurial skills of the Cuban people and attract foreign capital, it has only introduced non-systemic, heavily-taxed, revocable reforms with no legal protection or investment return. To stay afloat, the regime is pursuing a three-pronged strategy:

First, it is trying to induce the U.S. to lift or further weaken the embargo to funnel tourist dollars and bank credits to the bankrupt island--a bailout under the guise of constructive engagement.

Second, it has apparently enlisted the support of the Catholic Church hierarchy in Cuba to promote “reconciliation” under the current totalitarian system, while continuing to hound, beat and arrest peaceful opponents and human rights activists across the island.

Third, it is seeking to divide and neutralize the Cuban-American community, and lure some of its businessmen, by selling the fallacious concept that there is no solution to Cuba’s predicament other than supporting cosmetic reforms without liberty and democracy.

We reject that outrageous proposition, since for us, and for most Cuban-Americans, there is no substitute for freedom. We believe that, absent the dismantling of the totalitarian apparatus on the island, along with the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the restoration of fundamental human rights, there should be no U.S. unilateral concessions to the Castro regime.

The future of the island-nation lies not with the current failed, octogenarian rulers, but with the leaders of the growing pro-democracy movement. They, and not their oppressors, are worthy of receiving international recognition, financial resources and communications technology to carry out their heroic struggle.

We pledge our continued support to them--the vanguard of the emerging civil society--and look forward to helping in the reconstruction of the island where we were born, but only when the Cuban people can enjoy the blessings of freedom we cherish and they deserve.

SIGNATORIES OF “COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM”

Manuel Jorge Cutillas, Fr. Chairman and CEO, BACARDI
Sergio Masvidal, Fr. Vice Chairman, AMERICAN EXPRESS BANK
Enrique Falla, Fr. EVP and CFO, DOW CHEMICAL
Eduardo Crews, Fr. President, Latin America, BRISTOL-MEYERS SQUIBB
Emilio Alvarez-Recio, Fr. VP. Worldwide Advertising, COLGATE-PALMOLIVE
Néstor Carbonell, Fr. VP International Government Affairs, PEPSICO
Alberto Mestre, Fr. President, Venezuela, GENERAL MILLS
Rafael de la Sierra, Fr. VP International Coordination WARNER COMMUNICATIONS (now Time Warner)
Eugenio Desvernine, Fr. Senior EVP, REYNOLDS METALS
José R. Bou, Fr. VP Primary Products Operation, MARTIN MARIETTA ALUMINUM
Alberto Luzárraga, Fr. Chairman, CONTINENTAL BANK INTERNATIONAL
Remedios Diaz-Oliver, Fr. Director of U.S. WEST and BARNETT BANK
Leopoldo Fernández-Pujals, Chairman JAZZTEL; Founder of TELEPIZZA
Jorge Blanco, Fr. President & CEO, AMEX NICKEL CORPORATION.
Carlos Gutierrez, Fr. U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
Mel Martinez, Fr. U.S. SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Odebrecht's Cuba Port at Center of Illegal Weapons Smuggling

Thursday, February 13, 2014
A U.N. Panel of Experts has just submitted its findings to the Security Council's Sanctions Committee, which shows that Cuban weapons systems were loaded onto a North Korean ship at the Port of Mariel on June 20, 2013.

This has been determined to be a violation of international sanctions.

On June 22nd, the ship then sailed to Puerto Padre, where it sought to conceal the weapons with 10,000 tons of sugar. And on July 5th, it departed towards the Panama Canal, where it was intercepted, en route to Nampo, North Korea.

The U.N. Panel also determined that there was a "comprehensive planned strategy to conceal the existence and nature of the cargo."

The ship's automatic identification system was turned off to hide its stop at the Port of Mariel. Moreover, while the logs showed multiple ports of call, they omitted the Mariel stop.

This is the same Mariel port that the Brazilian conglomerate, Odebrecht, has been expanding (since 2011) in partnership with Castro's military.

In other words, this Cuba-North Korea weapons transfer occurred right under Odebrecht's nose (at best).

So not only is Odebrecht cooperating with a brutal dictatorship, but it's facilitating its illegal activities.

Tweet of the Day

What's the OAS's position on the situation in Venezuela? United Nations? Leaders of Latin American nations? Is Venezuela alone amid the international community??

WSJ: Cuba Moves in For the Kill

By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Cuba Moves In for the Kill

Venezuela bans street protests and goes after government critics.

Two people were shot dead Wednesday during a march to protest the government in the streets of Caracas. Their identities have not been officially released, but sources in Venezuela say the march was part of “youth day” and that many of the participants were students. A third person was killed in a separate political showdown in the Caracas municipality of Chacao.

Nor have the perpetrators of the crime been identified. But it is unlikely that the opposition shot its own. Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro has announced that street protests are hereby prohibited. He has also put out arrest warrants for Leopoldo López, the former mayor of Chacao, and at least one retired military officer who has been a vocal government critic.

The violence against unarmed citizens is reminiscent of the April 11, 2002, bloodletting, when 17 individuals who were part of a peaceful opposition march in the streets of Caracas were similarly gunned down by snipers. That was the day the head of the military told Hugo Chávez that he would not move against the crowd and that he was removing Chávez from office. Chávez prevailed, in part due to U.S. dogma against “a coup” and in part because the opposition bungled what ought to have been a transition to democracy.

Twelve years later, Mr. Maduro is facing official inflation of 56%—probably much higher—and food shortages. The government admits that in its latest survey, 28% of basic food stuffs cannot be found on store shelves. On Monday Toyota and General Motors announced that they had to suspend operations at their assembly plants due to a shortage of parts, which come from abroad. News reports say at least 12 million Venezuelan jobs are at stake.

The problem is that the central bank cannot supply the dollars necessary to pay suppliers of imports of manufacturing components or food. When dollars have to be secured in the black market, price controls make it impossible for vendors to make money. Until now large international companies have been limping along. Most other entrepreneurs have had a much more difficult time.

In a democracy, such desperation often signals the fall of the government. But the democracy is long gone. Mr. Maduro has been coached by Cuba all his adult life, and it shows. The government has control of all Venezuelan television and radio. During the heat of the violence it blocked the signal of Colombian news station NTN, which had been supplying Venezuelans with up-to-the-minute information.

The last gasp of press freedom is print media. But now newspapers say they cannot get the dollars to buy newsprint and will have to shut down soon. In other words, they will go the way of all the other democratic institutions in the country.

The military government’s prohibition on street protests is the final nail in the free-speech coffin. The opposition has pledged to disobey that command, which means that enforcing it will require more violence against the public. If that happens, the Chávez dream of turning the country into another Cuba will have become a reality.

Cuban Democracy Leader in Imminent Danger

Message from Cuban democracy activist, Martha Beatriz Roque:

"Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez just called to tell me that his house was invaded for the third time, his wife was arrested, and he regained consciousness while laying on the street next to a patrol car. 'Don’t allow them to kill us,' he told me in a groggy voice."

Martha Beatriz then followed with a message to Cuba Archive: “He sounded like he was in a very bad state, exhausted from feeling un-supported. I am very worried that they will kill him and nothing will happen. He is now all alone and in hunger strike.”

"Antunez," and his wife, Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, are leading members of Cuba’s peaceful opposition movement. They went on hunger strike the morning of February 10th to protest the violent repression to which Cuban authorities have most recently subjected them -- detentions, violent home invasions, and confiscation of their belongings. Their telephones have been cut off and since January 24th  their home has been surrounded by security forces.

The couple lives in in Placetas, which is approximately 200 miles from the city of Havana in the province of Villa Clara.

U.N. Report: Cuba-North Korea Weapons Smuggling is "Sanctions Violation"

A U.N. Panel of Experts has turned over its findings regarding Cuba-North Korea weapons smuggling to the Security Council's Sanctions Committee.

Japan's Kyodo News International has seen the report and writes:

Last July Panamanian authorities were notified about the North Korea vessel Chong Chon Gang, which was initially stopped on suspicions of carrying drugs.

However, it later turned out to be carrying banned items, such as anti-aircraft missile complexes, missiles in parts and spares, two Mig-21 fighter jets and motors for that type of airplane, which were loaded in Cuba, and 10,000 tons of sugar, according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

Some members of the Panel of Experts traveled to Panama to inspect the contents of the ship and also visited Cuba to further investigate the allegations.

Havana had officially claimed that the shipment involved "obsolete defensive weapons" that were to be "repaired and returned."

The panel recently turned over the report to the U.N. committee that is charged with overseeing the implementation of Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea, since it conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and most recently in 2013.

It was determined that both the shipment and the transaction between Cuba and North Korea constituted "sanctions violations."

Evidence found aboard the ship also pointed to the involvement of the North Korean staff in Cuba. Documents from the vessel indicate that the consignor of the sugar was Cubazucar and the consignee, Korean Central Marketing and Trading Corp.

While Cuba confirmed the arrangement, it declined to give the panel copies of the agreements citing confidentiality clauses in the contracts.

According to the report, the ship sailed around the western side of Cuba and docked in Havana from June 4-9 when it unloaded its cargo. After leaving the capital city, it spent time drifting north of Cuba and docked in the port of Mariel on the 20th, where it took on the arms and related materiel. On the 22nd it then sailed to Puerto Padre and later docked there to load the sugar. On July 5 it left Cuban waters, heading towards Nampo, North Korea.

The panel also determined that there was a "comprehensive planned strategy to conceal the existence and nature of the cargo."

Among other things there was a "concealment and disguise" of the ship's position as the automatic identification system was turned off to hide its location. While the logs showed multiple ports of call, they omitted the stop in Mariel.

North Korea is also making an "increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques," and through the first hand first time investigation of a North Korean ship the panel benefited by gaining an "unrivaled insight" into some circumvention techniques.

State Department: Sanctions Are Important Tool of Cuba Policy

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
We believe the embargo provides us with an important resource to spur more positive changes on the island. Its continued implementation remains subject to the rhythm and nature of those changes. The embargo represents only one aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba, whose objective is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and a greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
-- State Department spokesperson, asked about this week's push-poll on Cuba policy, EFE, 2/12/14

Bob Menendez and Joe Garcia on Cuba Push-Poll

From Andres Oppenheimer's column, "Cuba poll won’t change U.S. policy," in The Miami Herald:

[B]oth Republican Cuban-American legislators, who tend to be the staunchest supporters of U.S. sanctions on Cuba, and their democratic counterparts say the poll is not likely to change their pro-embargo stand, nor that of Congress.

“I don’t see the poll as changing the public policy of the Congress of the United States,” Sen. Bob Menendez, head of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told me in a telephone interview. “I see it as another expression of those who want to change the policy to try to create an environment in which they hope the policy will change. But it’s wishful thinking.”

Congressman Joe Garcia, D-Miami, a strong supporter of President Barack Obama’s policy to expand travel and remittances to Cuba, told me in a separate interview that the new poll “is meaningless.”

“We have seen this before,” Garcia said. He noted that the embargo is an emotional issue for many Cuban-American voters, and that those who support it tend to vote on it, while those who oppose it tend to cast their votes based on other issues.

Garcia added, “There is no will to take this thing on in Congress, because it doesn’t add any votes. And politics is a game of addition, not of subtraction.”

The Selfish Motives Behind Castro's "Reforms"

By Amb. Roger Noriega in AEI Ideas:

New York Times unmasks selfish motives behind Castro’s ‘reforms’

To the uninitiated, occasional news of “Cuban reforms” is received with some sense of hope that the Castro regime might be loosening its stranglehold on the economy to create new opportunity for the island’s 11 million people.

Such false expectations are raised by professional Castropologists, who peddle the narrative that Raul Castro is a frustrated reformer who would spread his wings once he assumed power from his brother Fidel. That dynastic transition happened six years ago, and the Castro stranglehold on the economy is barely loosened. Yet every hint of “reform” is still trumpeted as a new birth of freedom. Of course, that is rubbish.

The latest evidence of the Castro regime’s single-minded agenda can be found in The New York Times, in an article entitled, “Cuba’s Reward for the Dutiful: Gated Housing.” Although one might expect from the NYT an homage to Raul the Reformer, this piece reveals that the regime’s motivation for doling out privileges or slivers of economic space is to preserve the regime and its hold on power.

Reporter Damien Cave says, “Cuba is in transition,” but the bulk of his article describes a regime struggling to “elevate the faithful and maintain their loyalty….” The measures he describes have nothing to do with economic liberty, but are implemented with great care not to dismantle the existing power structure. Indeed, the NYT piece focuses on the impact of the economic transition upon the security forces that Raul Castro has led for more than 60 years.

In the 1990’s, when the regime allowed foreigners to partner with the government to build tourist hotels or light manufacturing it was to generate hard currency after the loss of a $5-7 billion annual Soviet subsidy. When Cubans were permitted to establish very small businesses or rent out bedrooms to tourists, it was to provide jobs and meager income to people – particularly military retirees – displaced from the state payroll by a fiscal crisis.

Behind every “reform,” a key motivation was to preserve the privileges and loyalty of the military or to provide income to military retirees. Indeed, the handful of foreign companies that invested in the tourism industry often had military-run businesses as their partners. More evidence of the real motive behind these economic “openings” is that, as Cuban self-employment grew too much, too fast; as the fiscal pressure was eased, due to the new subsidy from the Venezuelan regime; or as regime businesses outgrew the need for a foreign partner, the regime cracked down. Many micro-enterprises have been suffocated by regulation and taxes, and many foreign partners have been shaken down and run out of the country.

So any argument that the United States should reorient its Cuba policy to encourage the trend to reform is disingenuous, as such advice usually is. The latest attempt comes in the form of a poll that says most Americans support a change in US policy toward Cuba. For decades, critics of US foreign policy toward Cuba have sneered that it was a function of “Florida politics” – alluding to the political might of the Cuban-American community in south Florida. So, it is more than a little ironic, that the latest argument for embargo critics is that the policy should be changed because of a poll.

The cruel lesson of history, which good people on all sides of this debate should learn, is that nothing good is going to happen for the people of Cuba as long as a despot like Fidel or Raul Castro holds power. Those selfish men and the totalitarian regime they built are today the only real obstacles to genuine economic and political change in Cuba. Worse yet, they have demonstrated their capacity to manipulate any economic opening to serve the interests of the regime and, particularly, the state security apparatus.

Any unilateral concession by the United States that buys such a regime one more day in power is not only strategically questionable, it is unconscionable.

Maduro's Cuban-Trained Forces Kill Students

From AP:

3 killed as Venezuelan protests turn violent 

Armed vigilantes on motorcycles attacked anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela on Wednesday, setting off a stampede by firing into crowds as the biggest protest against President Nicolas Maduro's year-old administration turned violent. Three people were killed.

Chaos erupted in downtown Caracas when the gang roared up and began shooting at more than 100 protesters who had been sparring with security forces at the tail end of heated but otherwise peaceful protests organized by hard-line members of the opposition. Most of the roughly 10,000 participants in the demonstrations had already gone home.

As people fled in panic, one demonstrator fell to the ground with a bullet wound in his head. Onlookers screamed "assassins" as they rushed the 24-year-old marketing student to a police vehicle. He was later identified by family members as Bassil Da Costa.

What the Media Ignored: Americans Support Cuba Policy

Scouring through news stories about the Arsht Center's Flake-Leahy poll, not a single media organization mentioned a key take-away:

That Americans support U.S. policy toward Cuba.

U.S. policy toward Cuba, as codified into law by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD), sets forth a host of democratic and human rights preconditions for the lifting of sanctions and the normalization of relations.

Despite the pollster's targeting low-information individuals and manipulating samples from the general population, when informed about the Castro regime's human rights abuses, Americans favored keeping current U.S. policy -- and reject further engagement -- by a 50-43 margin.

In other words, no matter how hard pollsters push, when Americans are informed about the democratic and human rights conditions in U.S. law, they clearly favor current U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The more Americans learn about Castro's human rights abuses, the more they favor current U.S. policy.

Castro's lobbyists know this -- and thus constantly distract, hide and "whitewash" the regime's brutality.

Sadly, media organizations are either ignorant of current U.S. policy, or chose to ignore this key point.

Quote of the Day

It is not time for the EU to establish bilateral relations with the Cuban government, for it doesn't respect human rights... The [Cuban] government will use all of the resources it receives to maintain power and perfect its repressive machinery.
 -- Berta Soler, Sakharov Prize recipient and head of The Ladies in White pro-democracy movement, Diario de Cuba, 2/11/14

Castro Accelerates Growth of Military Oligarchy

These are the military monopolies whom some want to see U.S. companies do business with in Cuba.

As an aside, note who processes remittances from abroad.

Excerpt from today's New York Times story, "Cuba’s Reward for the Dutiful: Gated Housing":

Raúl Castro, 82, has accelerated the growth of what some scholars have described as a military oligarchy. The chairman of the Economic Policy Commission, Marino Murillo, is a former officer. Cuba’s largest state conglomerate, Cimex, which processes remittances from Cubans abroad, among other tasks, is run by Col. Héctor Oroza Busutin. Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez, is the top executive at the military’s holding company, known as Gaesa, which is estimated to control 20 percent to 40 percent of the Cuban economy.

And its role is expanding. In 2011, a financial arm of the company bought out Telecom Italia’s 27 percent stake in Cuba’s telecommunications company for $706 million. Gaesa also has a network of hundreds of retail stores selling everything from food to appliances. It is a growing force in tourism, too, controlling fleets of luxury buses, a small airline and an expanding list of hotels. And one of its subsidiaries is overseeing the free-trade zone built alongside Cuba’s largest infrastructure project in decades — the new container port in Mariel.

The military’s interests bestow the privileges of business on a chosen few, especially senior military officials.

Tweet of the Day

Odebrecht Bets on Castro, Big Time

Note to Miami-Dade County.

From Cuba Standard:

Brazilian corporation forges ahead in Cuba, despite backlash

When President Dilma Rousseff announced in January during the opening of a new container hub at the Port of Mariel that Brazil wanted to become a “first-rank economic partner of Cuba,” executives of one of Brazil’s largest corporations were very busy behind the scenes to make that possible.

Helped by the Brazilian government, Grupo Odebrecht is betting on Cuba, big time. Odebrecht’s commitment is underlined by the fact that this engagement may already have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues in South Florida.

The conglomerate not only built the $957 million container terminal, and will likely be the contractor for infrastructure construction at the Mariel Special Development Zone, but Odebrecht subsidiaries are among the first companies to open shop at the 180-square mile export development zone surrounding the new deepwater port.

On Jan. 28, Odebrecht subsidiary COI  signed an agreement with Cuba’s Grupo Empresarial de la Industria Ligera to study the creation of a plastics conversion plant at the Mariel Zone. Odebrecht confirmed to daily Folha de São Paulo in January that a subsidiary is already performing feasibility studies. The company is a majority owner of petrochemical giant Braskem, which is currently building a $4.5 billion polyethylene complex in Coatzacoalcos, on Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

On the same day, Odebrecht and Cuban officials signed a letter of intent to establish a bio-pharmaceutical joint venture at Mariel. Using Cuban know-how and Brazilian capital, the  joint venture plans to produce monoclonal antibodies for a cancer vaccine. This is the first time a Cuban biotech entity sets up a joint venture with a private company in Cuba. Odebrecht, well-known for construction, agribusiness and petrochemicals, has no track record in pharmaceuticals. However, Emilio Alves Odebrecht, son of company founder Norberto Odebrecht, in 2007 invested several million dollars in Recepta, a Brazilian cancer research company.

Mariel aside, the company announced two other investments in Cuba over the past two years. Odebrecht last year garnered the $200 million overhaul contract for five airports in Cuba, $176 million of which will be financed by BNDES. And in 2012, COI signed a 13-year, $120 million joint production agreement with state holding Azcuba to operate the 5 de Septiembre sugarmill near Cienfuegos, the first such project for a foreign investor in Cuba.

What You Won't Read About Arsht's Cuba Push-Poll

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The anticipated push-poll by The Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Center will be released this morning.

Here's what you probably won't read in most news stories about its results.

First, the entire release is biased and agenda-driven.  No dissenting voices have been invited to participate. As we noted earlier, U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Congress' biggest supporters of unconditionally engaging the Castro regime, worked hand-in-hand with the pollsters and organizers. To the point that Flake-Leahy wrote a Miami Herald oped -- citing figures from the poll -- that was published the day before its official release.

It is not a poll of voters. It's a general population poll, in which they could have polled Honey-Boo-Boo and it would have been reflected in the results.

The push-poll's "big news" is that 56% of Americans purportedly support "normalizing relations or engaging directly" with Castro. Note how broad that is. Moreover, they don't ask about the "embargo" specifically -- for they know there's no support in Congress for lifting the embargo. This push-poll is aimed at the Obama Administration. Yet, based on the results, more Americans support repealing Obamacare than engaging with Castro. And we know the Obamacare numbers don't influence the President.

Since the 56% isn't particularly moving, they ridiculously claim Floridians favor engagement by an even greater number -- 63%. Of course, there's no sampling structure or breakdown of how they polled Florida. We'd note that neither of the pollsters have any experience in Florida politics, let alone the Senators from Arizona and Vermont. Anyone that has actually won a race in the State of Florida, including the Obama Administration, knows that is silliness.

Interestingly enough, even in a push-poll, when an explanation of the human rights abuses by the Castro regime preceded the question, the number of Americans that support engagement went down from 56% to 43%. Even their Florida numbers went down from 63% to 43%. This wide swing shows that those polled knew little about Cuba, particularly those in Florida. Odd right? Not really, that's exactly who the pollsters were targeting. It's laughable to think Floridians are less aware of human rights abuses in Cuba than non-Floridians. It also shows why Castro's U.S. advocates are constantly trying to "white-wash" the regime's abuses.

*Note that the question that most accurately reflects the human rights and democratic conditions codified in U.S. law -- as prerequisites for lifting sanctions -- is the one that throws off their "engagement" narrative.

The poll purports that 64% of Miami-Dade County supports "normalization" with Castro. Once again, no breakdown of who was polled in Miami-Dade County. Yet, the fact remains every single Cuban-American elected official -- in any position -- in Miami-Dade County supports the embargo. So the facts speak for themselves.

Of course, with the push-poll aimed at the Obama Administration, they asked about the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list and were surprised that it was originally split. So they claim that after more "information" (literally telling respondents "Cuba poses no threat"), the numbers of those wanting Cuba off the list went up to 61%. This was the neatest jedi trick since Obi Wan Kenobi at the Star Wars Cantina. Needless to say, they didn't "inform" about arms-trafficking to North Korea, the harboring of U.S. Most Wanted Terrorists, the support provided to Treasury-designated terrorist groups, money laundering concerns, subverting democracy in the Western Hemisphere, etc.

Sloppy and shameless.

The Hill: Latin America Has Democracy, But Lacks Democrats

Monday, February 10, 2014
By Mauricio Claver-Carone in The Hill:

Latin America has democracy, but lacks democrats

Latin America's democratically elected leaders paraded through the last remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere and paid homage to its totalitarian rulers.

They were in Havana for a summit last week of the Community of Latin American States (CELAC, in Spanish), an anti-U.S. concoction of deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Currently the organization’s rotating presidency is held by Cuban dictator, Gen. Raul Castro.

Seemingly these elected leaders were neither interested nor concerned that Cuba’s government had threatened, beaten and arrested hundreds of the island’s democracy advocates who had tried to plan and hold a parallel summit to discuss the lack of freedom and human rights in Cuba.

In regards to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, this would seem to be particularly unfortunate. Both were once themselves victims of military dictatorships and scorned dignitaries who coddled their repressors.

So why would Latin America's democratically elected leaders willingly participate in such a hypocritical charade? What does Cuba's morally, politically and economically bankrupt regime offer them that they would stake the loss of credibility by attending?

Some take part in these charades of diplomacy because they fear left-wing agitators back home; others simply attend to pursue business deals without transparency and some simply want to show they are anti-American.

Of course the main reason for their irreverence is that, despite being democratically elected, they lack democratic zeal and conviction. Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Argentina's Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega have all evidenced authoritarian ambitions. Others hide them better.

What inhibits them is the institutionalization of "representative democracy" as the backbone of hemispheric relations, as was agreed upon in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter signed by 34 of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere. To skirt the Charter, they try to manipulate laws and institutions and exert greater executive control while maintaining a facade of democracy.

The biggest deterrent to breaking their public commitments to "representative democracy" is the omnipresent economic isolation of Cuba as the result of U.S. sanctions. So these leaders pay homage to Castro and engage in fiery rhetoric, but tip-toe around serious aggression.  They are keenly aware that they need the United States to survive economically. A case in point is Venezuela, whose struggling economy is entirely dependent on exporting oil to the United States.  Thus U.S. sanctions on Cuba serve as “the stick” to “the carrot” of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and obeisance, if not enforcement, of its principles.

It's precisely the authoritarian underbelly of these Latin American leaders that makes them such zealous lobbyists for the end of U.S. sanctions on Cuba.  It's for this reason that they want to see the Castro regime embraced and "fully integrated" into inter-American system despite its blatant disregard for representative democracy. Such a U.S. policy change would allow them to accelerate their own authoritarian tendencies and free their zeal for absolute power.

If U.S. sanctions toward Cuba are lifted and Castro's dictatorship is "fully integrated" -- what's to keep a return to the Latin American dictatorships of the 20th Century?

The people of the Americas can’t afford a return to the dictatorships -- whether leftist or rightist -- that once ruled Latin America. Some of those governments may have seemed to be “good” for business at their time, but would be severely damaging to the national interests of the United States and the Western Hemisphere in the 21st century.

For the United States to “normalize” relations with Cuba's dictatorship without political reforms or a rule of law opens a Pandora's Box that can lead to history repeating itself.  Sadly there are plenty of Latin American “leaders” who would gladly seize the opportunity to permanently close the door on democracy.  Let’s not hand them the opportunity.

Claver-Carone is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and host of "From Washington al Mundo" on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio. He is an attorney who formerly served with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and has served on the full-time faculty of The Catholic University of America's School of Law and adjunct faculty of The George Washington University's National Law Center.

Evidence of a Cuba Push-Poll

Last week, we noted how the The Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Center was preparing a push-poll on Cuba policy.

There's no clearer evidence that this is simply a political hatchet-job than the fact that U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have just published (on Monday) an op-ed in The Miami Herald citing figures from the Arsht poll.

(Comic relief: In the op-ed, the Senators from Arizona and Vermont lecture us about Florida politics.)

The Flake-Leahy op-ed must have been cued for days.

Yet, the Arsht poll is not scheduled for release until tomorrow (Tuesday)!

As we all know, Senators Flake and Leahy are Congress' leading advocates of unconditionally embracing Cuba's Castro dictatorship.

And obviously, The Arsht Center has colluded in this political hatchet-job in conjunction with Flake and Leahy.

Sloppy and shameless.

State Department Condemns Detention of Cuban Activists

From the U.S. Department of State:

Detentions of Activists in Cuba

We are deeply concerned about the recent increase in arbitrary detentions, physical violence, and other abusive actions carried out by the Cuban Government against peaceful human and civil rights advocates. This past week saw the detention of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, also known as “Antunez,” and the reprehensible behavior apparently meted out by state security to his wife, Yris Perez Aguilera. These are but the latest examples of Cuban Government harassment against the Government’s critics.

Freedoms of expression and assembly are internationally recognized human rights, and the Cuban Government remains the outlier in the Western Hemisphere with its lack of respect for these rights. We condemn the Cuban Government’s continued harassment and repeated use of arbitrary detention, at times with violence, to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly, and intimidate independent civil society. We urge the Government of Cuba to end the practice of arbitrary detentions and to allow Cuban citizens to express their opinions freely and to assemble peacefully.

Caught on Video: Mass Arrests Against Cuban Dissidents

Sunday, February 9, 2014
Today, over 180 Cuban democracy activists were arrested as they tried to make their way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba.

Some of these arrests were caught on video.

This is what "people-to-people" travelers don't get to see -- and what some Cuban-American businessmen and foreign journalists choose to ignore.

See below (or click here):

Quote of the Day

As the son of Cuban exiles, who are the victims of the Castro regime's oppression, I am deeply offended by Charlie Crist's shameful comments. Our community has endured great pain to now have to endure Crist's disrespectful statement.  Note to Crist:  The U.S embargo on Castro will not be lifted until Cubans are no longer accosted in the streets of Cuba or tortured in Castro's gulag; until the day that Cubans can assemble without fear and a free press exists; and until the day that they can cast a ballot knowing that they will not be physically beaten or intimidated. It's an embarrassment that Crist has positioned himself on the wrong side of history at a moment when the Cuban people need the most solidarity.
-- Rene Garcia, Florida State Senator, on Charlie Crist's remarks with HBO's Bill Maher about Cuba and lifting the U.S. embargo, 2/9/14

Dilma Begs With One Hand, Gives to Castro With Other

Excerpt by Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Brazil Tries to Borrow Its Way to Prosperity

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff traveled to Davos, Switzerland, last month with a message for international investors: Brazil is about to become more competitive. "I want to emphasize that we will not be weak on inflation," Mrs. Rousseff said. "Fiscal responsibility is a basic principle of our vision for economic and social development."

On the way home, Mrs. Rousseff stopped in Cuba, where she inadvertently signaled the opposite. The Brazilian government's development bank—known by its Portuguese initials BNDES—has dumped almost $700 million in subsidized credit into Cuba to finance the renovation of the Port of Mariel. On Jan. 27, Mrs. Rousseff cut a ribbon at the project and promised another $200 million in BNDES credits for a second phase of construction. On the same day the Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico reported that Cuba is now the third top destination for BNDES loans.

What a destination. Since 1959, Castro Inc. has racked up unpaid foreign debt and other claims totaling nearly $75 billion—including $35 billion owed to the Paris Club. Cuba is one of the world's most notorious deadbeats, and the Cuban economy is moribund. So it would seem a high-risk venture to pour credit into the Castro boys' pockets.

But the BNDES handouts are not only about Cuba. They're about the government's longtime aspiration to become a global industrial giant by directing credit. Odebrecht, the large Brazilian construction company that has a contract to modernize the Port of Mariel, is the big beneficiary of BNDES's subsidized loan. As Valor Economico noted, Odebrecht "is feasting in Cuba," where it also has been contracted to overhaul Havana airports with subsidized loans from BNDES.

Subsidizing Brazilian industries is what BNDES exists to do. But the development bank's aggressive lending is at odds with Mrs. Rousseff's claim that Brazil is about to become a serious country.

Democracy Leaders vs. Country Club Elite

Throughout 2013, many of Cuba's democracy leaders have visited the United States, where they have met with policy makers, journalists and rights advocates.

They have given the world a first-hand account of the nightmare they live in Cuba -- the increased and unfettered repression they face at the hands of the Castro regime.

They have shed blood, sweat and tears -- and some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

They have warned about Castro's cosmetic "reforms."

They have highlighted the importance of technology and asked for international support.

And with few exceptions, they have urged the United States not to lift sanctions.

Dissident leaders including The Ladies in White's Berta Soler, UNPACU's Guillermo Farinas, Estado de Sats' Antonio Rodiles and the National Resistance Front's Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," have all stressed that the U.S. should not be considering lifting sanctions at this time.

Farinas, a Sakharov Prize winner, who co-heads Cuba's largest opposition group (UNPACU) with thousands of members in its ranks, further noted:

"If you did an opinion poll among Cuban opposition activists, the majority would be in favor of not lifting the embargo."

Farinas stressed this point during a visit to Washington, D.C.:

"The overwhelming majority of dissidents on the island do not support the lifting of the embargo. There are those who do support its lifting, and we respect their criteria, but they are mostly intellectuals who do not have a membership base behind them."

We have all been awed by the courage, intelligence and resilience of these democracy leaders.

Well, most of us.

Unfortunately, some Florida businessmen have been too busy, uninterested or arrogant to heed their advice.

They are too focused on potential profits, lost mansions, yacht parties and their art collections.

In Cuba, they have kept their distance from these democracy leaders in order not to "offend" their totalitarian hosts.

In the U.S., they attend cocktail parties and presentations by Castro regime officials, but don't have time for Cuba's democracy leaders.

Rather than offering their support to the unselfish goals of Cuba's democracy leaders, they have been exploring selfish business partnerships with the totalitarian dictatorship that represses them.

The good news is that these businessmen are the exception, not the rule.

And while history will forever honor the names of Cuba's democracy leaders, the legacy of these businessmen remains fickle as their fortunes.


Over 170 Cuban Democracy Activists Arrested This Morning

This morning, the Castro regime arrested over 170 members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) in eastern Cuba.

The dissidents were arrested as they headed to gather at the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba.

Among those arrested was UNPACU co-leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer.

In the first days of February alone, nearly 350 UNPACU activists have been arrested.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Note to AP: Cuba Democracy PAC Doesn't Need (or Want) Fanjul's Money

The AP has a story today trying to build further speculation around the selfish interests of less than a handful of Cuban-American businessmen.

The story includes this claim:

"Mauricio Claver-Carone, who serves on the board of the anti-Castro U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, which opposes people-to-people travel, said he stills views Fanjul as an exception and suggested any move by Fanjul to do business with the island would backfire. 'Alfy Fanjul needs our community more than the community needs him,' Claver-Carone said.

But the PAC may still need the Fanjuls. In the past five years, the family and top employees have given the PAC more than $40,000."

Note to APSince its inception, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC has raised nearly $5 million from over 5,000 donors.

The U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC does not need, nor want, Fanjul's money.

Just do the math.