Ukraine Ousts Yanukovych, Releases Opposition Leader

Saturday, February 22, 2014
From Vatican Radio:

Ukraine's parliament has voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych after the leader said he would not step down and described events in Kiev as a coup. Legislators also agreed to release opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Venezuela: Another Reason Why Cuba Remains a State-Sponsor of Terrorism

Friday, February 21, 2014
In last year's American Enterprise Institute (AEI) policy brief (in "The American") on why Cuba should remain on the State Department's "state-sponsors of terrorism" list, we'd stated:

"[T]housands of Cuban soldiers and intelligence officials are stationed in Venezuela. Cuba’s presence and control over the highest levels of Venezuela’s military, police, and intelligence services not only threatens to subvert democracy in that nation, but it allows those Venezuelan authorities to be Cuba’s proxies in trafficking drugs and weapons, and in providing support to such extremist organizations as Hezbollah and Iran’s al-Quds."

One of the reasons cited for Cuba's original designation to the list in 1982 was the Castro regime's promotion of indiscriminate violence and repression in the Western Hemisphere by armed groups that it trains, supports and advises.

Here's what happened last night in Venezuela, courtesy of such armed groups.

From the Caracas Chronicle:

"Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting. People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street. And that’s just what came out in real time, over Twitter and YouTube, before any real investigation is carried out. Online media is next, a city of 645,000 inhabitants has been taken off the internet amid mounting repression, and this blog itself has been the object of a Facebook “block” campaign. What we saw were not 'street clashes', what we saw is a state-hatched offensive to suppress and terrorize its opponents."

Additionally, there have been reports that Castro's elite combat forces, known as "Las Avispas Negras" ("The Black Hornets") have arrived in Venezuela to infiltrate, disrupt and repress student protesters.

Old habits die hard for the Castro brothers.

Answering The Economist's Question on Venezuela

The Economist tends to be a bit ingenuous at times, particularly in addressing the motivations of tyrants and in its advocacy for increased business with dictators.

So we weren't surprised when it asked this week:

"It is unclear to what extent Mr Maduro is actually calling the shots. After images emerged of Sebin officers apparently firing on demonstrators, the president claimed they had disobeyed his orders and sacked the general in charge. He also attempted to distance himself from pro-regime gunmen on motorcycles by saying such groups 'had no place in the revolution'. But Iris Varela, the prisons minister, tweeted gleefully that the opposition was “shit-scared” of the colectivos, calling them a 'fundamental pillar in the defence of the homeland'. And not long after Mr Maduro declared anyone using firearms should act within the law, the same black-clad irregulars staged an armed raid on the headquarters of Popular Will, Mr López’s party. If not the president, who is putting the thugs on the street?"

Let's give them a hand.


Meet Cuban dictators Fidel and Raul Castro.

Quote of the Week: Latin America's Complicit Silence in Venezuela

Thursday, February 20, 2014
To think that UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) held an emergency meeting because the plane of [Bolivian President] Evo Morales was held for 13 hours; to think that because of a police uprising against [Ecuadorian President] Correa, UNASUR held an emergency meeting. Yet, in Venezuela, government groups are repressing, murdering and torturing students, and neither UNASUR, CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations) or the OAS (Organization of American States) have called for an emergency meeting. It is the greatest betrayal to the democratic clauses of those institutions and to the solidarity of the people of Latin America. We are waiting for firm, clear and unequivocal voices in support of the students and citizens who are being assaulted by this [Maduro] government and against the state-sponsored repression, political persecution, censorship and media blackout taking place in Venezuela.
-- Maria Corina Machado, Venezuelan legislator and opposition leader, El Pais, 2/18/14

Leopoldo Lopez: "I Do Not Negotiate With Dictators"

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez's wife, Lilian, has been tweeting messages from her unjustly imprisoned husband today:

Maduro, stop the lies and fantasies. I do not negotiate, nor will I negotiate, with dictators. I presented myself on my own terms.

Will Miami-Dade Commissioners Side With Odebrecht or Constituents?

In November 2012, 62% of Miami-Dade County voters stated that they no longer wanted their taxpayer funds going to unscrupulous companies who partner with tyrannical regimes, such as Cuba's Castro brothers.

This was not a poll, but an actual vote.  The voice of Miami-Dade's electorate could not have been clearer.

Yesterday, the Miami-Dade County Commission considered the fate of a non-transparent 2008 deal cut between one of these companies, Brazil's Odrebrecht, and former Miami-Dade Airport officials.

Six Commissioners stood with their constituents.

Kudos to Commissioners Rebeca Sosa, Steve Bovo, Javier Souto, Sally Heyman, Lynda Bell and Pepe Diaz for their leadership and moral compass.

Yet, sadly, some Commissioners chose the interests of this one foreign company, Odebrecht, over that of their constituents.

They are Bruno Barreiro and Xavier Suarez.  Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Zapata didn't vote.

Let's be clear, Brazil's Odebrecht is not a company that casually cuts a deal or two with tyrannical regimes. Odebrecht is the gold standard of companies that profit from repressive dictators throughout the world.

In the case of Cuba, Odebrecht is currently the Castro brother's single-largest foreign business partner. From the Port of Mariel, to sugar, to biotech, Odebrecht has consciously disregarded the sensitivities of Cuban-Americans, and has doubled and tripled down on the Castros.

In the case of Venezuela, where courageous students are currently being killed by the Cuban-led government there, Odebrecht has been a key business partner, ally and public supporter of the Chavez-Maduro governments.  Chavez himself used to tout Odebrecht's ties to his government.

Unfortunately, the will of their constituents was of no concern to some Commissioners, including Barreiro and Suarez.  Instead, they regurgitated the talking points of Odebrecht's Miami-Dade lobbyists, who claim Odebrecht USA is "different" from Odebrecht Brazil.

Not only is this an insult to anyone who understands the basics of Corporations 101 (and condescending to those who don't), but it's even more insulting when the proposed documents in question, negotiated with former Miami-Dade Airport officials, are with Odebrecht Brazil.

This was documented in a recent Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) complaint filed against Odebrecht by a group of former Cuban political prisoners.

But deception is obviously part of Odebrecht's business model.

The good news is that this process is far from over.

Moreover, it will not be the last time Barreiro and Suarez (and Zapata) will have to choose between their constituents and Odebrecht.

Hopefully, next time they will choose wisely.

For one thing is for sure, the will of Miami-Dade's voters and taxpayers will eventually prevail.

Event Tonight: D.C. Youth Forum With Rosa Maria Paya

See details below:

It's Not Time to Change U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
By Frank Calzon in Americas Quarterly:

Changing U.S. Policy Toward Cuba: Another View

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Florida sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul said he is ready to do business with Cuba “under the right circumstances.”  The questions are: “what are the right circumstances?" and “who benefits when American companies ‘do business’ with communist Cuba?”

The Fanjul family left Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro confiscated all of its holdings. Eventually settling in Florida, the family rebuilt their lives and fortunes, benefiting from the price supports extended to American-grown sugar by Congress, and Fanjul corporations are now international in scope.

As reported in The Post, Alfonso Fanjul’s comments and meetings with Cuban government officials were promptly condemned by Cuban-American members of Congress who didn’t hesitate to point out that the interview included no discussion of the absence of civil liberties and labor and human rights in Cuba that foreign corporations already exploit.

Foreign companies “doing business” in Cuba are best described as “minority partners” of the Cuban government.  Such companies don’t “do business” with Cuban entrepreneurs, they “do business” with the Cuban government, which obligingly “rents” those companies a compliant, uncomplaining labor force. 

Cuba’s government sets the rental price that companies pay to the government. In turn, the government pays the employees somewhat less (usually a lot less), and keeps the difference.  Complaining employees are fired —not by the company, but by the government—and replaced by someone “willing to work.”  This is how Cuban communism works and finances the repression that sustains it.

The Canadian company Sherritt International provides an example. The company operates a nickel mine at Moa in Eastern Cuba. As The Toronto Globe and Mail once reported—and recent visitors still confirm—the town has a pinkish tint, the result of unregulated emissions that can also trigger skin rashes.  Fishermen say there has been widespread damage to fish and sea life in the bay.

There are few “environmental protection” programs in Cuba, so much of the country is experiencing the same type of ecocide that Eastern Europe endured under communism and for the same reasons: Cuba’s leaders emphasize unbridled production and tolerate no independent media, labor unions or associations that might challenge government policies. People who complain are deemed to be “counter revolutionaries,” arrested, tried by judges loyal to the Communist Party, and sentenced to long prison terms.

Ah, but what about Raul Castro’s “economic reforms” so often touted by those wanting to do business with Havana?  The Washington Post had it exactly right in a recent editorial:  “Cuba’s changes are no more than window-dressing.” The editorial went on to recount the strong desire “by some in the United States to normalize relations with Cuba after a half-century of stalemate” and a recent poll by the Atlantic Council underscoring that sentiment.

It also cited the prosecution and continued harassment of Antúnez, one of Cuba’s best-known democracy advocates. Born Jorge Luís Garcia Pérez, he spent 17 years in prison for describing Cuba as a “diaspora” living under the “error” of communism. Even after his release, the Castro government has continued to harass him and his family, leading The Post to conclude that “the Castro brothers do not intend to change. They should not be rewarded or fortified, not as long as Antúnez and other dissidents suffer. We share Antúnez’s vision of a Cuba that is really free—and not just airbrushed to make the regime look better.”

The Atlantic Council poll, to which that editorial referred, boldly announced that “American political opinion has shifted to support… an end to the 54 year-old trade embargo and restrictions of travel by Americans to the island.” It bragged that its pollsters “included extra sampling among Hispanics, and in the politically critical state of Florida, found that 56 percent favor … normalization of relations with a nation that U.S. policy has treated as a pariah.”

The Council concluded that Cuban Americans no longer support the embargo. That conclusion wasn’t a credible statement. Like other Americans, Cuban-Americans vote every two years and have elected seven Cuban-American members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, who—reflecting their constituencies—continue to support trade sanctions against Cuba and have publicly criticized both Mr. Fanjul and the Atlantic Council.  

In fact, Congress wrote the U.S. embargo into law.  That law specifies that Cuba must demonstrate a respect for human rights and democracy before the sanctions can be lifted.  No one seriously believes that, given Havana’s disregard for human rights and civil liberties and the bipartisan support in Congress for the embargo, that Congress is likely to change the law.

Congressional support may explain why the Atlantic Council invited only two U.S. Senators, Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont,  both well-known opponents of the embargo, to attend the official presentation of the poll. Embargo supporters—such as Robert Menendez, a Democrat from of New Jersey and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Florida Republican Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, former chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs—were not there. Imagine, if you can, the uproar that would have ensued if the Council had presented a poll purporting to represent opinions of African-Americans on matters of great importance to that community, without having any black members of Congress at the event. 

Regardless, the poll has attracted the political attention it sought. Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations denounces the poll as “advocacy masquerading as opinion research.” Abrams characterized it as a “push poll,” i.e. one that aims to elicit responses confirming the clear bias of the questions. For example, one question asked:  “Currently, the U.S. 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?”  Forty percent of all Americans and 43 percent of Hispanics responded “yes,” but 52 percent of all Americans responded “no” and 50 percent of Hispanics said “no” as well.

Those polled were also asked to respond to the following: “Cuban-Americans support current U.S. 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.” Yet, 61 percent of Americans—including 67 percent of Floridians and 61 percent of Hispanics—disagreed. Why they disagreed isn't clear, but the Council characterized the response as opposition to normalization.

The Council implies a contradiction because Cuban Americans support U.S. policies that help the Cuban people but not the Castro regime. If the question: Should U.S. policy be designed to force the Castro regime to change? The answer would have been an unqualified, "Yes." Current U.S. policy toward Cuba is nuanced, reflecting this fact:  Cuba is NOT the Castro family.  It is an island of 11 million unfortunate souls living under the iron fist of a communist dictator.

Putting aside for a moment the Atlantic Council’s advocacy, current U.S. Cuba policy is determined by U.S. interests and Havana’s actions.  As recently as last year, Panamanian officials caught the Castro brothers trying to ship lethal weapons and materiel to North Korea through the Panama Canal, in violation of United Nations sanctions. The UN has now finished its investigation and is about to release a report. If Americans were told Cuba was shipping missile parts and weapons to North Korea, would they support lifting U.S. trade sanctions?

Add to the list of Cuba’s “unfriendly actions” its harboring of Colombian terrorists indicted in a U. S. federal court. The BBC reported that hit men of the late Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi living in Cuba.  A U.S. woman, charged with killing a New Jersey State Trooper and on the FBI’s “most wanted” list, also lives in Cuba under the protection of the Castro government. The FBI says she “attends government functions and her standard of living is higher than most Cubans.”

Then, there’s the USAID contractor Alan Gross.  He’s serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for delivering a laptop computer and satellite telephone to a group of Jewish men in Cuba. Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico and a U.S. diplomat, went to Cuba to seek Gross’ release, but neither Fidel nor Raúl Castro would meet with him. Richardson returned calling Gross a “hostage.”

Havana maintains close ties not only with North Korea but also with Iran and the Syrian government.  Cuba frequently joins in the pejorative campaign waged against Israel at the United Nations and before other international agencies.

There is no question about the need for a continuing debate and reappraisal of U.S. foreign policy—whether on North Korea, Syria, Iran or Cuba. But wishful thinking and opinion polls don’t provide reasonable or responsible guidance for developing and implementing effective American foreign policy. Neither does the desire to pursue profit with no regard to impacts. With a clear-eyed look at the facts, a reappraisal of U.S.-Cuba policy might well move Washington to impose more stringent controls on U.S. trade with Cuba.

Latin America's Evildoers and Their Enablers

By Amb. Otto Reich in Foreign Policy:

Latin America's Evildoers and Their Enablers

"All that it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke.

Bassil Da Costa was a first-year student in one of Venezuela's universities. Distressed about deteriorating freedoms in his country as a result of increasing abuses of power by the country's ruler, Nicolás Maduro, Da Costa marched peacefully with fellow students on Feb. 12 in the capital of Caracas to protest those things that distress his generation: Venezuela's obscene official corruption; unprecedented shortages of food and medicine in the country with the largest reserves of oil in the world; and the increasing lawlessness that has made the country the third most violent in the world.

It was the first time that Bassil had ever demonstrated against any government. It would also be the last. He was killed by a bullet to the head fired by uniformed security forces sent to break up the peaceful march, one of two students killed that day alone.

The videos and photos from Venezuela expose the government's abuses: defenseless, unarmed, bloodstained young people in the streets under attack from military, police and government-organized gangs of thugs that shoot, savagely beat and arrest them.

As in a George Orwell novel where day is night and black is white, Maduro responded to the bloodletting not by calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, but by persecuting the victims. He ordered the arrest -- on charges of murder -- of the young political leader that has led the peaceful marches, Leopoldo Lopez.

Yet, as the images of corpses in the street, like Bassil Da Costa's and his friend's, circle the globe, in Latin America not one single elected government has raised its voice in protest. To its credit, the U.S. State Department has condemned the Maduro government's assaults on its people.

The orders to kill are given by the communist regime in Cuba, the real power in Caracas and one long accustomed to murdering its adversaries. The orders are obediently followed by Venezuelan officials, starting with the illegitimate "president" Maduro, whose election last year was widely challenged by observers but ratified by the government-controlled Supreme Court, which did not allow any impartial examination or recount.

By all accounts, there are over 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela, including military, intelligence and civilian security officials. They oversee all important strategic communications, espionage and national security agencies. In turn, Venezuela's gives Cuba 120,000 barrels of oil daily -- worth about $5 billion a year -- representing the island's single largest source of income by far and equaling the Soviet subsidies to Castro during the Cold War. Cuba's next two largest revenue sources are also foreign: tourism, and the renting of medical doctors abroad, a modern-day form of indentured servitude whereby the Cuban government keeps three quarters of the doctors' earnings paid by third countries such as Brazil.

The tragedy of the Second World War could have been avoided, wrote Winston Churchill, if the democratic governments of Europe had had the courage to stand up to Nazi aggression early. The deepening tragedy of Latin America can still be averted, but only if there is a reappearance of principle and courage in one or more of these oddly voiceless "leaders" of democracies.

There are many lessons for the U.S. in what is happening today in Venezuela. One is that as much as other nations applaud freedom, democracy and human rights, there is still only one nation willing to defend those when they are truly in peril: the United States. We must never stop loudly siding with the oppressed.

A second is that unless Latin American governments change their double standards of behavior toward dictatorships, the U.S. should pay little attention when a Latin American or Caribbean head of state pretends to speak on behalf of democracy, freedom, or the rule of law.

These see-no-evil governments seldom speak out against massive violations of human rights or corruption by regimes of the left such as Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, or Nicaragua. Leftists are the only authoritarians in power in Latin America today, and weak-willed elected presidents and prime ministers who apparently don't care what happens to freedom or decency right over their borders are enabling them. All right-wing dictatorships in the western hemisphere were gone by the end of the Reagan Administration, a fact seldom cited by U.S. "Latin Americanists."

Today evil is occurring in Venezuela and in Cuba itself, where peaceful dissidents are also being beaten and accosted in their homes, arrested on Orwellian charges, or allowed to die in jail from hunger strikes and from denial of water or medical attention, like Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Edmund Burke was prophetic: evil is triumphant in Latin America today -- we hope only temporarily -- because the men and women that were thought to be good have decided instead to collude with thugs, trying to buy time for their own survival, hoping that the aggressors will be satiated before they consume the appeasers. Churchill also said that an appeaser is one that feeds the crocodiles while hoping the animal will eat him last.

Must-Watch: Young Cuban Democracy Activists Support U.S. Sanctions

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
This week, TV Marti ran a special on U.S. sanctions policy toward Cuba.

It contains the testimony of courageous young Cuban democracy activists, including Yaremis Flores, Danilo Maldonado ("El Sexto"), Sayli Navarro, Lienys Moya and San Miguel Molina -- all of whom stressed the importance for the U.S. not to lift sanctions at this time.

These are the voices of young Cuban democracy activists, who have put their blood, sweat, tears and lives on the line for freedom and democracy.

See the video below (or here):

Proud to Stand With the "Hard-Liners"

This week, both Reuters and the AP have stunningly labeled Venezuelan opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, as a "hard-liner."

Here's Reuters:

"Tens of thousands of protesters against President Nicolas Maduro's government blocked Caracas streets on Tuesday after the arrest of hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez."

And AP:

"President Nicolas Maduro’s government is giving three U.S. Embassy officials 48 hours to leave Venezuela after Washington came to the defense of an opposition hard-liner accused by Venezuela’s leader of responsibility for bloodshed during anti-government protests."

Apparently, for these news agencies, anyone who opposes authoritarianism is a "hard-liner," while those who seek to embrace and conduct business with authoritarians are "moderates."

Today Venezuela stands with the "hard-liners."

And we are proud to stand with them.

Cuban Democracy Leader Savagely Beaten

The Castro regime arrested over 23 dissidents from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) today, as they tried to gather for a regional meeting of the organization in the province of Villa Clara.

Among those arrested was Sakharov Prize winner, Guillermo Farinas, who was savagely beaten and held in a freezing cell.

Farinas suffered two broken ribs from the beating.

 More "reform" you can't believe in.

Castro Rejects Banking Solution, Opts for Blackmail

The State Department has helped the Castro regime identify a solution for its current .S. banking dilemma.

Yet, the Castro regime has rejected it, opting for blackmail instead.

According to a State Department spokesperson:

"[W]e had helped the Mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee-processing needs with ample time for its implementation. That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and U.S. citizen travelers alike."

The Castro regime has rejected State's solution in order to give its lobbyists in the U.S. time to mount a campaign against its inclusion in the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list.

They want to try to convince policy-makers that banks are refusing to do business with the Castro regime because of its terrorism listing.  Of course, policy-makers know this is not the case -- so it's unlikely they will fall for Castro's blackmail.

And, as we predicted in November, once the Castro regime begins to feel the cash-crunch from a downturn in U.S. travelers, it will accept a workable solution -- particularly as its Venezuelan piggy bank is looking more unstable by the day.

In the meantime, the Castro regime is giving its lobbyists, propagandists and spies some time to execute their strategy.  

The short-wave codes from Havana must be a-buzzing (see here for more context).

How Much Capital Does Castro Require for "Influence"?

Monday, February 17, 2014
Last month, the European Union agreed to begin talks with the Castro dictatorship in pursuit of a special cooperation accord by the end of 2015.

If an accord is reached, it would replace the EU's 1996 Common Position towards Cuba, which is composed of a symbolic set of diplomatic sanctions.

But here's the money quote, literally:

"Cuba wants capital and the European Union wants influence," one person involved in the talks told Reuters.

How could that be?

Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, European nations began investing billions in the Castro regime.

During the "Special Period," it was European investment in Cuba's tourism industry (in minority partnership with Castro's monopolies) and its "leisure" travelers that economically sustained the regime.

Even after the Common Position, European companies and tourists have been unwilling to cut their revenue stream to the regime. To the contrary, it has steadily increased.

And yet, they have no influence?


So how many more billions does the Castro regime require for "influence"?

Needless to say, this is the same "foolhardy model" that Castro's lobbyists would like the U.S. to pursue.

A Civil Rights Movement is Happening in Cuba, Pt. 2

From the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group's ongoing series for Black History Month:

WaPo Editorial Board: Cuba's Changes Are Mere Window-Dressing

Sunday, February 16, 2014
From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Cuba’s changes are no more than window-dressing

One of the very small openings permitted in the past year by Cuba’s rulers, Raul and Fidel Castro, has been a relaxation of travel restrictions so dissidents can leave the island and bring firsthand accounts of their work to Europe, the United States and Latin America. When we met not long ago with Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, who spent 17 years in Cuba’s prisons, he spoke freely of the need for radical change in Cuba.

Antúnez is a leading Afro-Cuban dissident and voice for democracy and change. “Castro’s totalitarianism cannot be reformed,” he told us. “With totalitarians, you do not negotiate. Rapprochement only strengthens the dictatorship. We want to be totally free — we don’t want to accept it piecemeal. We want a democracy that we deserve.” He added, “I won’t be silent. I won’t leave.”

Since his return to the island in December, Antúnez has been trying to organize opposition to the Castro regime. On Feb. 5, the regime struck back. The security forces arrived at his house in the town of Placetas in the central province of Villa Clara and painted over anti-government statements that dissidents had scrawled there. He was detained for nine hours, computers and other materials were seized from the house, and his wife also was detained when she and other activists went to a police station to demand his freedom. All were later released. Antúnez went on a hunger strike Feb. 10 in protest of his treatment.

Attacks, harassment and detentions are a day-to-day reality for Cuba’s dissidents, and they speak volumes about what kind of regime the Castro brothers preside over. Minuscule movements toward economic liberalization should not convince anyone that the brothers have decided to relax their grip. To the contrary, they are looking desperately for ways to hang on to power.

The Associated Press announced last week that seven photographs of Fidel Castro were being removed from its archive. The photos were distributed by a government entity during the recent Latin America and Caribbean summit in Havana, a shameful look-the-other-way exercise by hemispheric leaders. The AP, which retransmitted the photos, found upon close examination that they had been digitally altered — the modern day version of Stalinist airbrushing — to remove what appears to be a hearing aid in Fidel Castro’s ear.

With or without his hearing aid, we doubt that either Fidel Castro or his brother Raul, the current president, is listening to those who demand freedom and democracy. We know there are strong desires by some in the United States to normalize relations with Cuba after a half-­century of stalemate. A new Atlantic Council poll underscores the sentiment. Understandably, there is impatience — including in the Cuban diaspora — for change. But the harassment of Antúnez suggests once again that the Castro brothers do not intend to change. They should not be rewarded or fortified, not as long as Antúnez and other dissidents suffer. We share Antúnez’s vision of a Cuba that is really free — and not just airbrushed to make the regime look better.

Confiscated Cuban Sugar Mill Owners Counter Fanjul

The National Association of Sugar Mill Owners of Cuba, which represents the owners of sugar mills expropriated without compensation by the Castro dictatorship, has taken out ads today in The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and Diario las Americas, in response to Alfy Fanjul's recent comments.

See the ad below (or click here):

ADCL814 Sugar Owners Cuba

Tweet of the Week

Learn What's Happening in Venezuela

Watch below (or click here) to learn what's happening in Venezuela:

Cuba Training Venezuelan Armed Groups

In the video below (or click here), former Cuban intelligence official, Uberto Mario, describes (in Spanish) how the Castro regime is currently training Venezuelan armed groups.

Mario defected during his "service" in Venezuela.

Known as the Venezuelan Tupamaros, these are the groups who are violently and lethally attacking student protesters.

In other words, old habits die hard for the Castro brothers.

Why is the Castro regime not being scrutinized for its military presence and incursions in Venezuela?

Yet another reason why Cuba remains a "state-sponsor of terrorism."

Chairman Menendez on Protests in Venezuela

Chairman Menendez Statement on Anti-Government Protests in Venezuela

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued this statement regarding anti-government protests in Venezuela.

"This week, we have seen Venezuelans  peacefully gathering to voice their deep concern with President Maduro and his mismanagement of the economy. These demonstrations are being met with government-sanctioned violence that has resulted in the deaths of innocent people and the unjust imprisonment of dozens of peaceful protesters. Venezuela is a nation rich in natural resources that deserves a hopeful and prosperous future, but instead the country continues to stumble backward as individual freedoms erode, the economy slides from bad to worse, and the government deepens its ties to and models its control of society after the Cuban regime.

Venezuelans are giving voice to their frustrations, likening President Maduro to a puppet of the Cuban government and chanting their opposition to the rise of authoritarianism in their nation. These expressions reflect an honest truth and deeply-held concern. We in the United States are listening carefully and will not ignore the plight of ordinary Venezuelans suffering from government oppression.

Those individuals who have caused unnecessary bloodshed must be held accountable, cease their violent activity, allow Venezuelans to peacefully gather and let the world know the worsening realities taking place in President Maduro's Venezuela."