New Revelations About Cuban Spy Ana Belen Montes

Saturday, August 2, 2014
By former CIA officer, Brian Latell, in The Miami Herald:

New revelations about Cuban spy Ana Montes

Details about Cuban spy Ana Montes from the Department of Defense Inspector General’s 2005 report — only now declassified — shed new light on the case.

For 16 years, Ana Belen Montes spied for Cuba from increasingly responsible positions at the Defense Intelligence Agency. If Havana has ever run a higher level or more valuable mole inside the American defense establishment, that has never been revealed.

When she was arrested in late September 2001, Montes was about the equivalent in rank of a colonel. She had access to sensitive compartmented intelligence. Strangely, for one so openly enamored of Fidel Castro, her superiors considered her one of the best Cuba analysts anywhere in government.

Despite the importance of her case, some of the most tantalizing questions about her spying have never been publicly answered. Could the calamity of her treason have been avoided? What was learned about Cuban intelligence tradecraft? How was she discovered? And, of enduring concern, did she work with other American spies thus far undetected or not prosecuted?

Thanks to researcher Jeffrey Richelson and the National Security Archive, new light has finally been shed on the Montes case. Because of their efforts, a 180 page study completed by the Department of Defense Inspector General in 2005 has recently been declassified. It is heavily redacted; many pages, including the CIA’s extensive comments, blacked out. Yet, a quantity of surprising new details are now on the public record.

Montes’s decision to spy for Cuba was “coolly deliberate.” Enticed by a Cuban access agent in Washington, they traveled together to New York in December 1984. Montes met with intelligence officers posted under cover at the Cuban mission to the United Nations.

She “unhesitatingly agreed” to work with them and travel clandestinely to Cuba as soon as possible. The following March, she went there via Spain and Czechoslovakia. The Pentagon report does not state the obvious: while there, she must have received specialized training in intelligence tradecraft.

Then, with Cuban encouragement, she applied for a job at DIA. A standard background investigation was conducted, but we now know that serious concerns about her suitability were raised. Without elaboration, the Pentagon report indicates that they included “falsification of her Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins (University) and her trustworthiness.”

DIA did not require applicants to submit to a pre-employment polygraph exam. So, Montes, a trained Cuban espionage agent with a problematic past was cleared and hired. She began her double duties in September 1985.

After her arrest, Montes insisted that she had the “moral right” to provide information to Cuba. In her view, she did not work for Cuba, but with Cuban officials. They felt “mutual respect and understanding” she thought, as “comrades in the struggle.”

The Cubans were skilled in manipulating and controlling her. She told interrogators after her apprehension that she considered herself the equal of her “Cuban comrades, not a menial espionage tool.” They let her believe she “maintained significant control,” although she consistently left “security matters, including meeting site security, countersurveillance, and transmission security” to her handlers.

Montes said they were “thoughtful, sensitive to her needs, very good to me.” They went to “special lengths to assure her they had complete confidence in her.” They allowed her a long, loose leash, easier because they were not paying for her extraordinary services.

Initially in New York, and later at her request in the Washington area, she met with her handlers as often as once every two or three weeks, usually on weekends. Everything about her second covert trip to Cuba is redacted in the Pentagon report.

In 1991, Montes underwent a seemingly routine security reinvestigation. She was asked about foreign travel, and lied. Questioned about inaccuracies in her original application for employment, she confessed that she had misrepresented an incident in her past. Feigning innocence, Montes claimed that she “did not understand the seriousness of being truthful and honest at the time.”

Her questionable case was then reviewed at a higher level. The adjudicator reported that “while Montes seemed to have a tendency ‘to twist the truth’ to her own needs and her honesty was still a cause of concern, adverse security action was unlikely.” Again, she had slipped through. Her high level clearances were recertified.

Soon after, she brazenly submitted a freedom of information request for her own government records. She must have been concerned that something adverse had been discovered. Investigative material was released. She gave the surprised Cubans copies.

She apparently visited Cuba a third time after being selected to participate in the prestigious Director of Central Intelligence “Exceptional Analyst Program” in 1992. This time her travel to the island, purportedly to conduct research, was legal.

In 1996, she was questioned by a DIA special agent after another DIA employee reported concerns about her. Serious doubts were raised about her veracity, but the allegations could not be substantiated.

None of this seems to have contributed to her eventual unmasking. So, how was she discovered? Surprisingly, revealing information seeps through the Pentagon’s report. “We got lucky,” a counterintelligence official observed. An entirely blacked-out section entitled “Serendipity” suggests the same.

By April 1998, a coordinated search for a Cuban spy was underway, according to the report. At first it was thought most likely the quarry was a CIA employee. Investigators were following a crucial clue: the unknown spy had apparently traveled to the Guantánamo naval base as Montes had apparently done on official DIA business.

The breakthrough had seemingly come earlier, however. According to the Pentagon report, Montes was informed shortly after her arrest that investigators “had information from a senior official in the Cuban intelligence service concerning a Cuban penetration agent that implicated Montes.” It appears that this information propelled the investigation that resulted in her arrest.

Who was this mysterious, previously unacknowledged source? From the language of the Pentagon report, it was probably not a defector, but more likely a renegade or compromised Cuban intelligence officer. If so, Montes was done in by one of her own so-called “comrades.”

Did she work with other American spies? The report is ambiguous; it states that after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 pressure intensified to arrest Montes. The FBI preferred to wait, however, in order “to monitor Montes’s activities with the prospect that she may have eventually led the FBI to others in the Cuban spy network.”

Did government censors inadvertently confirm the existence of a larger spy ring? If in fact there was evidence of one, it may be a long time before more is known.

It is now clear, however, that Montes’s apprehension was not just the result of excellent intelligence work. She told investigators after her arrest that a week earlier she had learned that she was under surveillance. She could have decided then to flee to Cuba, and probably would have made it there safely.

But she said that “she couldn’t give up on the people (she) was helping.” Montes is serving a 25 year prison sentence.

Did Nicolas Maduro Coerce Senator Landrieu?

Just when it seemed the U.S. Senate's Venezuela sanctions bill would unanimously pass before the August recess, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) placed a hold on the legislation.

According to the AP, Senator Landrieu, who had never previously raised any issues about the legislation, suddenly placed a last-minute hold on passage due to concern about "the negative impact" it could have on a (Venezuelan-owned) Citgo refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The bill will now have to wait until September for possible Senate consideration.

Note that the Venezuela sanctions bill has nothing to do with oil. 

It simply sanctions Venezuelan officials involved in human rights violations.

At least 43 people have been killed and thousands arrested, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, since February, when student protests erupted against Nicolas Maduro's authoritarian behavior.

Apparently, Maduro is using the same strategy that he used against The Netherlands last week, when he threatened to sanction Royal Dutch Shell's operations, unless Aruba released and repatriated U.S.-indicted narco-trafficker, General Hugo Carvajal.

The Dutch shamefully complied.

However, unlike some European nations, one would hope a U.S. Senator wouldn't fall for such coercion.

Asking for Permission to Report in Cuba

In the two tweets below, the BBC's Sara Rainsford explains how she asked for permission to do a story on fishing problems in Cuba -- but was denied.

Interesting issue, but more importantly:

Who did she ask for permission?  The Cuban regime?

If so, why does a foreign journalist need to ask the Cuban regime for permission to report on anything?

Moreover, what happens if the foreign journalist disobeys and does the story anyway?

Describing a Fickle Europe

Note this is the same Europe that some want the U.S. to emulate in its conciliatory approach towards the Castro regime.

No thanks.

This weekend, Ben Judah brilliant describes Europe's fickleness in Politico:

[F]or all the fighting talk from the Eurocrats, Russian money has run rings around its interests, its cash aiming to cripple any common foreign policy. Russia is Europe’s third-biggest trade partner. Moscow’s investments in the continent are enormous: Russia does over 40 percent of its trade with the European Union, supplying the bloc with roughly a quarter of its gas, while receiving more than $310 billion in loans from its banks.

Kremlin tactics were simple: use this money to divide and rule. That’s why Russian diplomats no longer sound like KGB agents. They never talk ideology; they always talk about money. Putin’s best diplomats now sound like clever businessmen: Does Germany want its own personalized pipeline? Excellent. Now, we only want Berlin to be a little more understanding on human rights… Would France, or Italy, like special military and energy deals? Fabulous. This could be arranged, but please, no more lectures on how to behave. Would Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania or perhaps Austria like our latest pipeline routed through sovereign territory? Wonderful. But remember, we need you to stand up for us in Brussels. Would London like to be the destination of choice for our lovely oligarchs? Superb. Now, let’s not look too closely at offshore finance.

Russian diplomats have been creating covert allies, especially out of the weaker Eurozone states such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. These recession-battered governments wanted nothing more than millions more Russian tourists or cheaper energy discounts. In exchange, they have been more than happy to make the case for Moscow inside the EU. They were not alone. Russian diplomats went shopping around southeastern Europe with the proposed South Stream pipeline – using the proposed route to buy friends and favors in Brussels out of Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia. These crafty games have stymied hopes of the bloc ever forming an energy union to conduct gas deals with Russia. Instead states still deal individually.

But nowhere were they as successful as in Athens and Nicosia. The European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank network, even went as far as labeling both Greece and Cyprus as Russian “Trojan horses.” This should come to little surprise: The Kremlin has turned Athens into a military partner and Nicosia, the Greek Cypriot capital, into a money laundering hub, with roughly $150 billion flowing in annually from Russia. And surely enough, both Greek and Cypriot delegations in Brussels have consistently argued the Russian case on all matters to do with the Black Sea and the South Caucasus – even vetoing EU proposals to send border monitors to disputed frontiers in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Moldova.

This is why nothing big happened on sanctions before the downing of MH17. Kremlin sweeteners had divided the big three players: Britain was refusing to lose its business with Russian banks; France was determined not to lose billions in military contracts; and Germany, which gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, refused to budge on anything to do with energy. With the big boys thus compromised, the weaker southern European countries gave pushback: With Italy in the lead, they wanted nothing more than to warm up European relations with Russia again.

The Ladies in White Respond to Hillary's Cuba Comments

Friday, August 1, 2014
In a Univision interview this week, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated the assertions made in her book, "Hard Choices," about ending the Cuban embargo.

(As an aside, Hillary's position was thereafter celebrated by Castro's state media.)

During the interview, Hillary also expressed her support for expanded travel to Cuba and to visit the island herself someday.

In response, Berta Soler, leader of the Cuban pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White, stated today:

"With all due respect to Secretary Clinton and any others who may share her opinion, Cuba is not an island of pleasure. It's an island drowned in misery, hunger and necessity due to the Cuban government. It's a suffering island."

Moreover, that:

"The Ladies in White are not in favor of easing or removing the conditions of the commercial embargo that the government of the United States has towards the government of Cuba, nor the relations among governments. Why? Because the Cuban government shouldn't be given oxygen."

And finally:

"With respect to the embargo, we believe it should remain. To the contrary, it should be tightened, for the embargo is not the problem of the Cuban people. The problem of the Cuban people is the system that doesn't work -- a totalitarian government, a monopoly that exists is Cuba, in which the Cuban government wants to control everything, while continuing to deny opportunities and freedom to the Cuban people."

The Ladies in White is a pro-democracy group composed of the wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

Quote of the Week: Cuban Socialism Remains the Same

There has now been three attempts [by the Cuban government] at reform since the 1980's. It's incorrect to think that Raul's reforms need more time. The principal aspects of Cuban socialism remain the same.
-- Rolando Castañeda, former economist at the Inter-American Development Bank (BID), at this week's conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), El Nuevo Herald, 8/1/14

Rodiles to U.N. Secretary General: "For Another Cuba"

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Cuban democracy leader Antonio Rodiles, head of the Estado de Sats think-tank, handed U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, documents requesting support for its "For Another Cuba" campaign.

"For Another Cuba" demands that the Cuban regime ratify and implement the U.N. Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In a much-hyped propaganda move, the Cuban regime signed both of these international accords at the U.N. in 2008.

Needless to say, neither has been ratified -- and far from implemented.

Rodiles met the U.N. Secretary General during a dinner event hosted by Costa Rican President, Luis Guillermo Solis, in San Jose.

Support Religious Freedom in Cuba

By Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon in The Miami Herald:

Support religious freedom in Cuba 

This year marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s current government and July 26 commemorated the 61st anniversary of the revolution which swept it into power. After coming to power, the Castro government broke its pro-democracy pledges and, despite recent improvements, maintains a problematic record on human rights, including religious freedom.

This was confirmed by the State Department’s international religious freedom annual report, which was released this week. It also was exhibited when the government recently detained more than 100 members of the Ladies in White, relatives of imprisoned dissidents who draw inspiration from their Catholic faith.

Religious freedom and other rights are spelled out in international documents — including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) — which most nations, including Cuba, endorsed. It was a Cuban diplomat, Guy Perez-Cisneros, who together with other Latin Americans helped drive its drafting and passage. Thus, whenever Havana violates human rights, it betrays not only its past promises, but Cuba’s legacy of liberty. The world should affirm this legacy by standing steadfastly for Cuban religious freedom and related rights.

The seeds for that legacy already were being sown in early 1945, just prior to the San Francisco conference that founded the United Nations, when Latin American delegates meeting in Mexico adopted a resolution supporting a human rights declaration for the U.N. Charter. They lobbied for it vigorously once the conference opened.

The Charter mentioned human rights seven times, along with an agreement to establish a Human Rights Commission. This commission prepared an international bill of rights which became the UDHR and Perez-Cisneros spoke eloquently for the pro-freedom coalition that made it possible.

As detailed by the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan federal body on which we serve, the Castro government has yet to own this heritage. Instead, it controls and monitors religious activities and requires an invasive registration process.

What happens when a religious community refuses to register? It cannot receive foreign visitors, import religious materials, meet in approved places of worship, or apply for travel abroad for religious purposes.

What happens when it agrees to register? Local communist officials must approve its activities and the government interferes with its leadership and internal affairs. Havana often seeks to change church structure, freeze church assets, close churches, and intimidate pastors of churches such as the Western Baptist Convention.

Independent religious communities often suffer the most. The fast-growing Apostolic Reformation faces government harassment, including arrests of leaders; confiscation or destruction of property; aggressive surveillance of church members and relatives; heavy fines; and potential loss of job, housing, and educational opportunities.

It is not just religious communities that authorities often target. They also interfere with human rights activists exercising religious freedom, denying them access to religious services and pressuring church leaders to do likewise. They regularly detain Ladies in White members on their way to Sunday services, block their entry, and send others to harass and intimidate them.

As in prior years, the past year saw signs of improvement.

The government eased some restrictions, allowed registered groups to build or expand houses of worship, and permitted churches more opportunities for charity work. But the question remains whether it still views religious practices as privileges to be granted or withheld, rather than inherent rights to be affirmed or protected. At stake is the legacy of an entire generation, led by Guy Perez-Cisneros, who helped bring the world the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is time to honor this great gift that Cubans helped bestow on humanity. While people disagree on how to deal with Cuba on various fronts, including the U.S. embargo, all should agree that the United States must press Havana to cease interfering with religious activities; allow unregistered religious groups to operate freely and legally; refrain from mistreating human rights activists and blocking them from attending churches; and cease arresting and harassing religious leaders.

USCIRF would also welcome Cuba’s allowing its members a visit. Other countries, including Latin American and European nations, should weave human rights, including religious freedom, into discussions with Cuba. Cuba once stood for the world’s freedom; the world should do likewise for Cubans.

Katrina Lantos Swett serves as chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Mary Ann Glendon serves as a USCIRF Commissioner.

U.S. Commits Enforcement Malpractice in Cuba-North Korea Arms Smuggling

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Yesterday, the U.N. Security Council announced sanctions against the North Korean operator of the Chong Chon Gang vessel, Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., for its illegal weapons smuggling from Cuba.

The fact that the U.N. Security Council allowed the Castro regime to get away unscathed (with a lecture) is definitely concerning -- but it's not surprising, considering China and Russia's presence on the Council.

However, today, the U.S. Department of Treasury went a step further and imposed sanctions on two North Korean entities for their involvement in the Chong Chon Gang incident:

Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., which was also sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, and Chongchongang Shipping Company, the North Korean owner of the vessel.

How about sanctioning the owners of the Cuban weapons that were being smuggled?

Or how about sanctioning the Cuban port operators (Mariel) who colluded in the shipment?

Or how about sanctioning the Cuban officials that made the deal with the North Korean officials?

What's keeping the U.S. from sanctioning the Cuban entities and officials involved in this illegal smuggling operation?

Is the U.S. concerned that Raul Castro's son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, may have been involved?

Is the U.S. concerned about upsetting European companies, which to do business in Cuba must go through the GAESA military conglomerate (run by General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas)?

How about Cuban Minister of Defense (MINFAR), General Leopoldo Cintas Frias, pictured below with a visiting delegation of senior North Korean military officials shortly before the weapons shipment?

Unfortunately, General Pedro Mendiondo, head of the Cuban Air Force and Air Defense Systems, is no longer an option, as he was mysteriously killed in a car accident (without an entourage) a few weeks after the shipment was intercepted.

The March 2014 report by the U.N. Panel of Experts ("POE Report") is a detailed indictment of Cuba's role in this illegal smuggling operation; its coordination with North Korean officials; and its subsequent attempts to lie and cover it up.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, herself stated yesterday:

"This was a cynical, outrageous and illegal attempt by Cuba and North Korea to circumvent United Nations sanctions prohibiting the export of weapons to North Korea... Since the Chong Chon Gang incident, the Committee has undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the violation and uncovered irrefutable facts that clearly prove Cuba and the DPRK’s intentions to violate sanctions by employing highly sophisticated deception and obfuscation techniques, including Cuba’s false claims about the transaction being a routine repair effort when detected by Panamanian and UN authorities."

Let's recall some of the conclusions of the POE Report:

- The Panel concluded in its incident report submitted to the Committee that both the shipment itself and the transaction between Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were sanctions violations.

- The Panel found that the hidden cargo amounted to six trailers associated with surface-to-air missile systems and 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft, 15 engines for MiG-21 aircraft, components for surface-to-air missile systems, ammunition and miscellaneous arms-related materiel.This constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718 (2006).

- No records show the ship stopping at any countries other than Cuba between exiting the Panama Canal on 1 June and its return passage on 11 July.

- On 20 June, the ship docked in the port of Mariel, where it took onboard the arms and related materiel.

- Cuba argued that “maintenance”, as set out in paragraph 8 (c) of resolution 1718, was distinct from “repair”, which Cuba claimed was the basis of its contract with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea... The Panel is unconvinced by Cuba’s rationale to distinguish “maintenance” and “repair.”

- The transportation of undeclared weapons and explosives in this manner posed a significant danger to all persons and facilities in proximity to the ship and should be a cause of concern among shippers, port authorities, the international maritime community and insurers.

- Evidence found on the ship (see annexes XX and XXI) pointed to involvement of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea embassy staff in Cuba. Contact phone numbers and records found in the captain’s notes led the Panel to conclude that embassy officials in Havana were engaged in making arrangements for the shipment of the consignment of arms and related materiel, including the payment methods.

- In its consultations with the Panel, Cuba confirmed the parties involved in the sugar and said that the arms shipment was part of a governmental agreement. It declined, however, to give the Panel copies of these agreements, citing confidentiality clauses in the contracts.

- The incident involving the Chong Chon Gang revealed a comprehensive, planned strategy to conceal the existence and nature of the cargo.

- All identification markings and insignia of the Cuban Revolutionary Air Force had been removed from both MiG-21 aircraft; the Panel observed signs of overspray and scratch marks in places dedicated to original insignia.

- While the age of the items found in the shipment varied greatly, most appeared to have been well maintained. Records accompanying a great deal of the equipment indicated or certified the equipment functioned in accordance with specification or had been calibrated just prior to packing.

- It is the Panel’s view that examining individually the items and their handling suggest that some, if not all, of the consignment was not expected to be returned to Cuba.

- [The Panel] notes that the voyage of another Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-flagged and -owned vessel to Cuba presents a very similar pattern to the recent voyage of the Chong Chon Gang.

- On April 2012, the general cargo vessel O Un Chong Nyon Ho (IMO 8330815) operated by OMM,11 sailed directly from Nampo to Cuba and back without any further calls in the region. After having stopped in Havana and Puerto Padre, the O Un Chong Nyon Ho drifted for several weeks off northern Cuba before returning for three weeks to Havana. Its Automatic Identification System was switched off (in violation of IMO requirements) during these three weeks, however, effectively preventing determination of further ports’ calls,as in the case of the Chong Chon Gang.

So where are the consequences?

Is the U.S. going to allow Cuba to get away with "the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718 (2006)"?

This is enforcement malpractice (at best).

Image of the Day: Yris Meets With Menendez and Rubio

Today, Cuban democracy leader, Yris Perez Aguilera, wife of former political prisoner, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," was received by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Image below:

Cuban Dissident to Congressional Black Caucus: Stop Helping the Dictatorship

By Mike Gonzalez in The Daily Signal:

Cuban Dissident to Congressional Black Caucus: Stop Helping the Dictatorship

Cuban dissident Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera personifies courage. The petite Afro-Cuban dissident has suffered beatings, imprisonment and sexual harassment at the hands of Raul Castro’s goons in Cuba. And yet she was in Washington Wednesday calling for world support for the Cuban people, knowing full well that, as she said, “I will pay for this once I go back.”

The president of Cuba’s Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement had a clear message for the Congressional Black Caucus, which has always shown a strange soft side for the 55-year communist dictatorship of the Castro brothers: quit giving comfort to Cuba’s racist leadership.

“They should look closely at Cuba’s Council of State, and see how many black Cubans they find there,” Perez said at a small meeting with journalists, think tankers and former diplomats.

And of course, she’s right. A quick glance at the pictures of Cuba’s top government body on their own website reveals that only eight out of 31 are black, and there’s only one black Cuban in the top echelon constituted by seven vice presidents and President Raul Castro.

While racial figures are hard to come by, mainly because Castro’s own figures distort the island’s ethnic makeup (its latest claim that the black population was 10 percent and the white population 65 percent is risible), visitors report that the population that is black or mixed is now a majority. The Economist put it this way in 2008: “Mr Castro’s Cuba is a sad place. Although the population is now mainly black or mulatto and young, its rulers form a mainly white gerontocracy.”

This white gerontocracy oppresses black dissidents with fury. “Around 75 percent of the people in prison are black,” said Perez. “Black Cubans have no rights.”

Perez would like to meet with members of the CBC while she’s here in Washington to explain to them Cuba’s realities. She’s not holding her breath, however. Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.,, Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., all CBC members, were in Cuba in May, but refused to meet Perez.

“While I was languishing in prison, they paraded around Havana. My sister tried to deliver a petition asking them to come and visit me. They didn’t even accept it,” said Perez, who’s married to Cuba’s best known dissident, Jorge Luís García Perez, known as Antúnez and also as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela. Jorge Perez also constantly suffers imprisonment and beatings at the hands of the regime.

Perez would also like to have an audience with Michelle Obama while here, but she told me that she would not meet with her husband, President Barack Obama. “If it were up to him the embargo would already have been lifted,” she said.

On this Perez is very clear: the moves Obama has made since he took office to have a rapprochement with Cuba’s dictators will end as well as the Russian “reset.” “Lifting the embargo would be dreadful for the Cuban people,” as it would legitimize Cuba’s lawless government, warns Perez. Rather than try to lift the embargo, Obama should “be concerned with the plight of the Cuban people, with the opposition. He’s blinded by the regime!”

As Perez described how Cuba’s political police constantly break into her house, beat her, manacle her, “feel all my private parts,” and then throw her into prison for days, I told her that I had recently debated Salem State professor Aviva Chomsky on television and that she had declared that there is no repression in Cuba. She made a face of revulsion:“Tell her to come to the deepest parts of Cuba, so she can see how dissidents are beaten up.”

Perez is remarkably clear-eyed about the world for someone who has spent her entire life inside a communist dictatorship. She understands that she can expect nothing from a feckless European Union, for example. But she called on freedom-loving people around the world to organize Twitter campaigns every time there’s news that dissidents have been beat up, and to send computers to Cubans. “Everyone has the right to live in freedom,” she said, channeling Thomas Jefferson.

Image: CBC Members meet in Havana with Cuban dictator Raul Castro.

Was Raul's Son-in-Law Involved in Cuba-North Korea Arms Trafficking?

In March 2014, the U.N.'s Panel of Experts released a detailed report ("POE Report") of the Chong Chon Gang incident, which provided details of the illegal arms smuggling operation between Cuba and North Korea.

The POE Report highlighted the military cooperation between Cuban and North Korean officials; explained the techniques used for international sanctions evasion; provided a detailed list of weapons and weapons systems onboard; revealed the "secret" instructions given to the ship's captain; the comprehensive, planned strategy to conceal the nature of the cargo; and exposed Cuba's false claims and subsequent cover-up attempts.

The one section not released in the POE Report was the "confidential annex" containing the list of Cuban and North Korean officials, and entities, involved.

A month before the POE Report was released, it was leaked that there would be at least two sanction designations related to the Chong Chon Gang incident.

Moreover, that China and Russia had opposed making the POE Report public.

The latter was partially overcome. However, yesterday the U.N. Security Council's Sanctions Committee only blacklisted one entity, Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., the operator/manager of the Chong Chon Gang.

The "confidential annex" should also be made public and the U.N.'s Panel of Experts should release a list of all suspected Cuban and North Korean officials, and entities, involved in the shipment.

According to The Miami Herald:

"One of the Cubans allegedly involved is Brig. Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, in charge of several military enterprises and the port of Mariel, where the weapons were loaded on the freighter. He’s also a son-in-law of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro."

If so, General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas should be sanctioned.

Note that, according to the POE Report, the Cuban regime refused to cooperate with the U.N.'s Panel of Experts -- citing confidentiality clauses in its business arrangements with Pyongyang.

How's that for shady?

Image: Lopez-Callejas is second to the right, next to Raul Castro, receiving a briefing on the new Port of Mariel facility.

U.S. Imposes Visa Ban on Venezuelan Officials

Better late than never -- but these Venezuelan officials should be publicly named and shamed.

From the U.S. Department of State:

Visa Restrictions Against Human Rights Abusers in Venezuela

Venezuela in recent months has witnessed large-scale protests by demonstrators concerned about deteriorating economic, social, and political conditions. Government security forces have responded to these protests in many instances with arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force. We have seen repeated efforts to repress legitimate expression of dissent through judicial intimidation, to limit freedom of the press, and to silence members of the political opposition.

Taking this into consideration and pursuant to Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Secretary of State has decided to impose restrictions on travel to the United States by a number of Venezuelan government officials who have been responsible for or complicit in such human rights abuses.

With this step we underscore our commitment to holding accountable individuals who commit human rights abuses. While we will not publicly identify these individuals because of visa record confidentiality, our message is clear: those who commit such abuses will not be welcome in the United States.

We emphasize the action we are announcing today is specific and targeted, directed at individuals responsible for human rights violations and not at the Venezuelan nation or its people.

Maduro Took Gunships and Sanctions to a Diplomatic Fight

Why did Nicolas Maduro feel he could militarily threaten Aruba for its arrest of General Carvajal?

As we've posted before -- because he knew he can get away with it.

How did Maduro know the Dutch would cave under the threat of economic pressure?

Because he knows they are fickle -- Putin has taught him that.

One thing is for sure -- Maduro's aggressive actions show just how concerned he was about the information regarding his government's ties to narcotics trafficking, FARC, Cuba, Iran, terrorist groups, etc., that General Carvajal could reveal to the U.S. authorities.

As for U.S. diplomats, they did the best they could -- diplomatically.

However, they severely miscalculated the extent to which Maduro would go to recover Carvajal.

They took a knife to a gun fight.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Aruba Says Venezuela Raised Military Pressure on It

The Netherlands' release of a former top Venezuelan official wanted by the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking came after Venezuela raised economic and military pressure on two Dutch islands in the Caribbean, a top Aruban official said Monday.

Aruba's chief prosecutor Peter Blanken said that Venezuelan navy ships neared Aruba and Curaçao over the weekend as Dutch officials were debating what to do with Hugo Carvajal —Venezuela's former chief of military intelligence who was jailed in Aruba last week on a U.S. warrant.

Mr. Blanken said Venezuela's government also had threatened to sever Venezuela's vital commercial air links to Aruba and Curaçao. Venezuela's state oil company also threatened to withdraw from a contract to manage Curaçao's refinery, Mr. Blanken said, which would have put at risk some 8,000 jobs.

Aruban officials on Wednesday detained Mr. Carvajal, known as "el Pollo," or "the Chicken," but then released him on Sunday night after the Dutch government ruled that he was protected by diplomatic immunity. The decision overruled Aruban officials who had decided that the Venezuelan had no immunity because he hadn't been confirmed as consul by the Dutch government.

Much to the dismay of U.S. officials, Mr. Carvajal flew to Caracas on Sunday night to a hero's welcome from President Nicolás Maduro.

"We are disturbed by credible reports that have come to us indicating the Venezuelan government threatened the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands and others to obtain this result," said Susan Bridenstine, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman. "This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled."

She said the Dutch decided to release Mr. Carvajal "on the basis of claims of immunity that are beyond established international norms."

Manhattan federal prosecutors, who unsealed an indictment against Mr. Carvajal late Thursday, were blindsided by his release, said a person familiar with the matter. Prosecutors wouldn't have filed a provisional arrest warrant without believing there was a high likelihood of successfully extraditing Mr. Carvajal, the person said.

Officials in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office feel the Dutch caved in to pressure from Venezuela, the person said. The officials fear the release could hurt the office's relationship with its network of confidential sources, who could be reluctant to share further information if it doesn't lead to results, the person said.

Antunez's Wife Visits Congress, Denounces Increased Repression

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
From McClatchy News:

U.S. Reps meet with wife of prominent Cuban dissident who describes beatings, arrests

Five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, -- including four from Florida – met with the wife of Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, who described the ongoing, systemic repression she and her husband have suffered.

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is a human rights activist who has suffered threats, beatings and harassment at the hands of Cuban authorities because of her efforts, according to Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat from Miami who said he was “truly inspired by this couple’s untiring commitment to the Cuban people and their courage and bravery in the face of continuing abuses by the Cuban regime.”

Also at the meeting late Tuesday afternoon: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R, Miami), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, Miami), Curt Clawson (R, Bonita Springs) and Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat from New Jersey.

In a meeting with the House members and a short talk with reporters afterward, Pérez Aguilera described the arrests and ransacking of their home earlier this year. They took everything –- “They even took our family pictures,” she said through a translator.

She plans to meet with Senate officials on Wednesday.

International NGO Files U.N. Inquiry Into Attack on Cuban Journalist

Cuba: HRF Asks U.N. to Inquire Into Attack on Journalist

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has submitted a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (U.N. Special Rapporteur), requesting that he send an urgent appeal to the government of Cuba regarding the brutal assault of Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez on June 11, 2014, and the repeated threats on his life. Guerra, who is the founder and director of the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS) in Cuba, was attacked solely for exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

HRF’s petition includes an account of the attack on Guerra, points to strong indications that the attack was ordered by Cuban government agents, and documents the latest threats against other journalists at CIHPRESS, including Guerra’s wife. The petition calls on the U.N. Special Rapporteur to request that the government of Cuba “adopt immediate measures to protect the right to life, security and physical integrity of Roberto Guerra and that of his family.” It also asks the rapporteur to request the government of Cuba “to take all necessary measures to ensure the cessation of physical and verbal attacks on Guerra, as well as to offer assurances and guarantees of non-repetition with regards to these attacks.”

Retaliation against independent journalists is a common occurrence in a country that ranks only “behind Iran and China as one of the world’s biggest prisons for the media.” In 2012, in the infamous case of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, the Cuban government arrested and imprisoned a CIHPRESS journalist for seven months for reporting on the existence of a cholera and dengue outbreak that the government attempted to conceal.

“The Cuban regime is required to comply with the rule of general international law that establishes the obligation of ‘cessation and non-repetition’ of acts or omissions that constitute internationally wrongful acts. This means that Cuba must guarantee that attacks against Guerra stop, and ensure that they never happen again,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s general counsel. “Cuba may not be a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but as a member of the U.N., it can be held accountable for violations to the right of freedom of expression of its citizens. This right is enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a binding instrument of customary international law signed by Cuba in 1948,” said El-Hage.

North Korean Company Gets Sanctioned, Cuba Gets Lectured

Today, the U.N. Security Council ("UNSC") blacklisted Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., the operator/manager of the North Korean vessel, Chong Chon Gang.

As such, the company will be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

The Chong Chon Gang was intercepted last year by the Panamanian authorities (as it approached the Canal) trying to smuggle 240 tons of weapons from Cuba to North Korea.

A March 2014 report by the U.N.'s Panel of Experts on international sanctions highlighted the extent and gravity of this illegal Cuba-North Korea operation.

According to today's announcement by the UNSC:

"[Ocean Maritime Management Company, Limited] played a key role in arranging the shipment of concealed cargo of arms and related materiel from Cuba to the DPRK in July 2013. As such, it contributed to activities prohibited by the resolutions, namely the arms embargo imposed by resolution 1718 (2006), as modified by resolution 1874 (2009), and contributed to the evasion of the measures imposed by these resolutions."

In other words, the Kim regime will have a shadow company marginalized.

(Of course, it could just open a replacement -- but something is better than nothing.)

Meanwhile, the Castro regime will (thus far) suffer no consequences -- other than a lecture.

This, despite the fact that the U.N. Panel of Experts recognized the Castro regime intentionally lied to the international community about the weapons shipment.

No word on whether this will be the only sanction issued pursuant to the Chong Chon Gang incident.

But it's hard to fathom how the transport company gets sanctioned, while the supplier (and even the main purchaser) get away unscathed.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, issued a strong and commendable statement (below), but it's unfortunately overshadowed by the tepid action of the UNSC.

It should be of no surprise that other North Korean vessels continue making similar trips to Cuba, while turning off their transponders to avoid detection.

After all, who's there to be afraid of? 

The UNSC?

Here's Ambassador Power's statement:

"In July 2013, Panama seized arms aboard the vessel Chong Chon Gang that were en route from Cuba to North Korea, one of the most serious violations of the UN arms embargo on North Korea. This was a cynical, outrageous and illegal attempt by Cuba and North Korea to circumvent United Nations sanctions prohibiting the export of weapons to North Korea. That is why the Security Council's DPRK Sanctions Committee acted today to punish the North Korean regime for its latest attempt to side-step international law.

Since the Chong Chon Gang incident, the Committee has undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the violation and uncovered irrefutable facts that clearly prove Cuba and the DPRK’s intentions to violate sanctions by employing highly sophisticated deception and obfuscation techniques, including Cuba’s false claims about the transaction being a routine repair effort when detected by Panamanian and UN authorities.

With today’s welcome imposition of a global asset freeze on Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), the North Korean firm that operated the vessel, its fleet of shipping vessels will no longer be able to operate internationally. The designation of OMM sends an important message to the companies directly involved in violations of UN sanctions regimes: we will find you and hold you accountable.

We also welcome the Committee's release of an Implementation Assistance Notice to publicize the facts of the case and advise states on how to protect themselves from future arms smuggling attempts. We are pleased that with this Notice, the international community has refuted Cuba's erroneous and misleading claim that this arms shipment was allowed under UN Security Council resolutions.

The United States remains concerned about attempts by North Korea to circumvent international sanctions, and strongly condemns any efforts by nations such as Cuba to assist in the illegal evasion of binding decisions of the Council. We will remain vigilant in the enforcement of Security Council sanctions, and applaud the actions of Panama in this instance. Likewise, we applaud the cooperation and efforts of the DPRK Sanctions Committee and urge the Committee to do everything in its power to enforce the vital North Korean sanctions regime."

Must-Read: The Real Cuban Blockade

Explained in a series of tweets by Cuban blogger, Yusnaby Perez:

- When they talk about the blockade that #Cuba suffers. Tell them they are right! Castro & Family control 100% of the national economy.

- Pretend that I want to start a business that provides Internet to the Cuban people. Castro prohibits it. Blockade? Yes!

- Pretend that I want to establish a milk factory to feed children over 7 years old. Castro prohibits it. Blockade? Yes!

- Pretend that I want to open a supermarket in #Cuba with suppliers from abroad. Castro prohibits it. Blockade? Yes!

- No Cuban has a right to import/export or open a supermarket in #Cuba. The shortages are 100% responsibility of the state.

Quote of the Day: Cuban Rapper on Raul's "Reforms"

I don't think there's been any [opening] as there are tons of artists who are censured in Cuba. If there had been change, everyone would be able to work and everyone would be able to have their own space to give concerts. "Non-professional" artists, who are still artists, can't work in state establishments. It's always a problem because you don't have a work permit. When they have no other excuse to give you, they tell you that you're not a professional and that you can't work. So what opening has there been? Everything is the same.
-- Bian Oscar Rodríguez (“El Bi”), from the Cuban hip-hop group Los Aldeanos, interview in El Nuevo Herald, 7/28/14

Deutsche Bank Shed Cuba Business

Excerpt from The New York Times:

Deutsche Bank, based in Frankfurt, disclosed that it had received requests for information from regulators related to high-frequency trading. The bank said it was cooperating with the inquiries, though it did not disclose what countries the regulators were from. The bank also said it had been named as a defendant in class-action suits in the United States related to high-frequency trading.

The bank increased the amount set aside for litigation expenses by €470 million, bringing the total to €2.2 billion. The increase came in response to recent settlements paid by other banks, Stefan Krause, Deutsche Bank’s chief financial officer, said during a conference call with analysts on Tuesday.

BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, agreed on July 1 to pay $8.9 billion to settle charges in the United States that it had conducted business with countries that face United States sanctions. Deutsche Bank is among the banks under investigation for similar violations. The German bank said in its second-quarter report that it had not accepted any new business from Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba and certain Syrian banks since 2006.

Is North Korea Selling (Cuban) Arms to Hamas?

Monday, July 28, 2014
According to the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, Hamas militants are attempting to negotiate an arms deal with North Korea for missiles and communications equipment that will allow them to maintain their offensive against Israel.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, a U.S. federal court ruled that North Korea provided rocket and missile components for Hezbollah to use in its 2006 attacks against Israel.

According to the ruling, “North Korea provided Hezbollah with advanced weapons, expert advice and construction assistance in hiding these weapons in underground bunkers, and training in utilizing these weapons and bunkers to cause terrorist rocket attacks on Israel’s civilian population.

Arms sales continues to be one of the Kim regime's top revenue sources. The question remains: where does it get the weapons from?

Last year, the Cuban regime was caught red-handed smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea. This constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from North Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718 (2006).

The interdicted shipment, aboard the Chong Chon Gang, included surface-to-air missile systems (that can take down planes), missile components, ammunition, radars and other miscellaneous arms-related materiel.

What if these missile systems had ended up in the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah?

Other Cuban weaponry may have, as there were at least seven other North Korean vessels that made similarly elusive trips (as the Chong Chon Gang) to Cuban in the last few years.

Regardless, this is another reason why Cuban officials and entities responsible arms trafficking with North Korea must face consequences for their illegal actions.

WSJ: Putin Restores a Cuban Beachhead

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

Putin Restores a Cuban Beachhead

The Kremlin and the Castros are chummy again, and Moscow is offering military aid.

Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes was the highest-ranking Pentagon intelligence analyst ever to be busted for working for the Castros. What's also notable, in light of Vladimir Putin's visit to Havana earlier this month, is that she was nabbed in 2001, long after the Cold War ended.

Besides leaking classified material and blowing the cover of covert U.S. intelligence agents, Montes seems to have been charged by her handlers with convincing top brass in Washington that Fidel Castro —who had wanted the Soviets to drop the bomb on this country during the 1962 missile crisis—no longer presents a threat to the U.S. Montes, who rose to become the U.S. military's resident intelligence expert on Cuba, partly accomplished that mission. The Pentagon's 1998 Cuba threat assessment played down its military and intelligence capabilities.

The best Cuba watchers were less sanguine. The Castros remain as paranoid, power-hungry and pathological as ever. They may be economic fools, but they run a good business making the island available to criminal governments, like Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Putin's Cuba trip reinforces the point. The old Cold War villains are up to no good one more time.

Russia's president is trying to rebuild the Soviet empire. Eastern Europe won't cooperate and in Asia the best he will ever be is China's junior partner. But in Latin America Mr. Putin's KGB résumé and willingness to stick his thumb in the eye of the U.S. gives him traction. Colonizing Cuba again is an obvious move.

After the Soviet Union fell in 1991 and the gravy train to Havana was cut off, Fidel was furious with the Kremlin. It hasn't been easy to get back in his good graces. In 2008 the Moscow news outlet Kommersant reported that Putin friend and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin got the cold shoulder when he visited the island to work on "restoring full-scale cooperation." Kommersant reported that the Castros were "displeased" that Russia had been talking up a military deployment to Cuba without Havana's approval.

But it seems that the world's most notorious moochers are willing to forgive—for the right price. With sugar-daddy Venezuela running into economic problems in recent years and Mr. Putin itching for a place in the Caribbean sun, Cuba has decided to deal.

In February 2013 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev traveled to Cuba, where he signed agreements to lease eight Russian jets worth $650 million to Havana and proposed some $30 billion in debt forgiveness. Two months later, Russian Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov visited key military and intelligence sites on the island. In August a spokesman for the Black Sea Fleet announced that the Russian guided-missile warship Moskva, the fleet's flagship, had set off for Cuba and other ports in Central and South America.

Fast forward to February of this year. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia had engaged in talks to establish military bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. The next day a Russian intelligence-gathering ship docked in Havana.

In May, Russia's Security Council and Cuba's Commission for National Security and Defense agreed in Moscow to form a joint working group. "The situation in the world is changing fast and it is dynamic. That's why we need the ability to react promptly," Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, told the press. Cuban Col. Alejandro Castro Espin, son of Raúl Castro, led the Cuban delegation. In June Russia signed a space cooperation agreement with Cuba to allow it to use the island to base its Glonass (Russia's alternative to GPS) navigation stations.

When he called in Havana this month Mr. Putin flaunted his intentions to restore a Russian beachhead in Cuba. The shootdown of the Malaysian Airlines flight on the same day that he ended his Latin American tour raised the visibility of a trip that was made for both psychological and strategic reasons. Mr. Putin wants to assure the Free World that he can be a menace in the U.S. backyard—and he wants a local foothold to make the threat real.

Mr. Putin officially wrote off $32 billion of bad Cuban debt on his trip, leaving just $3.2 billion due over the next 10 years. Russia is looking for oil in Cuban waters, and Mr. Putin signed new agreements in energy, industry and trade with Castro. Days after the visit he denied rumors that the Kremlin intends to reopen its old electronic-eavesdropping facility on the island.

That's cold comfort, even if you believe him. Satellite technology has made land-based listening posts obsolete in many ways. Far more troubling is the emergence of Mr. Putin as a Latin American presence. Tyrants all over the region, starting with the Castros, admire his ruthlessness and skill in consolidating economic and political power. They want to emulate him. It's a role model the region could do without.

How Would You Feel if You Were Unjustly Jailed Every Sunday?

From the Czech NGO, People in Need:

How would you feel if you were innocent but still thrown in jail each Sunday?

As a result of the Ladies in White movement continuing to be a target of Cuban state authorities, the Czech NGO People in Need would like to bring greater public attention to two cases of Ladies in White members who have been forced to contend with constant repression over the last two years.

Keila Ramos Suarez is 28 years old.

She has been detained and assaulted 15 times between March 2013 and April 2014.

Due to the fact that her family doesn’t agree with the political opinions she holds, she has been repressed to an even greater extent. She has been thrown out of her house and left to live on the street. Furthermore, her son has been taken away from her by state authorities on account of her dissident activities. She has regularly been arrested before the weekly Ladies in White marches held on Sundays or been given orders that prevent her from participating in the Mass.

Maria Teresa Gracias Rojas is 48 years old.

She has been detained and assaulted 39 times between January 2013 and March 2014.

The state police organized a so called search of her house during which all of her belongings were destroyed; she was assaulted, and subjected to acts of repudiation and intimidation. She has been under constant surveillance, including having a police patrol car permanently parked in front of her house. She has been prevented from participating in the Ladies in White marches almost every Sunday during this time span. The police usually arrest her either just outside of her residence or in front of the local church. We would like to stress the gravity of the fact that she happened to be assaulted directly by the priest as well. Her situation has been made all the more difficult due to her daughter’s health problems for which she hasn’t been receiving any help.

The scripts and tactics the authorities use are almost always the same:

One of them is to detain members of the Ladies in White before the Sunday Mass, so that they cannot participate in their weekly protest by taking part in their common walk to the church. They are brought to the local police station for several hours where they are placed under constant psychological and physical distress: the police agents have been beating, humiliating and threatening to jail them for years, while also openly threatening to harm their families if they don’t stop their dissident activities. The Ladies in White protest every Sunday dressed in white, as a symbol of peace, in order to demand freedom for the their relatives who are jailed dissidents, as well as on behalf of all other political prisoners.

The other tactic is to organize public acts of repudiation against them in order to cause them distress, while also intimidating and frightening them. Usually small groups of people are brought to the dissidents’ residence who then shout insults at them, throw stones at their houses and threaten them.

Why have these brave women kept on fighting their battle despite the pressure they find themselves under?

Their answer is simple and clear: they want change and freedom for their loved ones and the people of Cuba.

The NGO People in Need condemns the repression that the Cuban authorities have directed towards Keila and Maria Teresa, as well as towards all the Ladies in White, and ask for them to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cuba is a signatory.

The regular weekly march was harshly repressed in Havana, as well as in the provinces, following the announcement of celebrations in memory of the victims of “13th of March” Tugboat that was sunk in 1994. A total of 89 Ladies in White, among which the leader of the movement, Berta Soler, and 9 men who participated in the march were arrested.

The Ladies in White Movement was initiated in the aftermath of the Black Spring in 2003, when the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and independent librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison. The initiator was Laura Pollan, the wife of one of the jailed activists, Hector Maseda. Each member of the march carries a picture of her jailed relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

Cuba Takes a Repressive Turn Under Raul Castro

Sunday, July 27, 2014
By Mauricio Claver-Carone in Newsmax:

Cuba Takes a Repressive Turn Under Raul Castro

This week (July 31st) will mark eight years since General Raul Castro took the reigns as Cuba's dictator-in-chief due to his older brother Fidel's illness. At the time, he was portrayed by those seeking to normalize relations with Cuba as a "reformer." However, the facts tell a different story.

If eight years ago, we would have predicted that the Cuban regime under Raul Castro would be resuming military-intelligence gathering operations with Russia at the Lourdes Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) facility near Havana - we would have been dismissed as "Cold Warriors."

If we would have predicted that the Cuban regime would be caught red-handed smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea - the largest weapons cache discovered since U.N. Security Council sanctions towards the Kim regime were enacted - we would have been derided as instigators.

If we would have predicted that the Cuban regime would wrest political and operational control of the most resource-rich nation in Latin America, Venezuela; that it would undermine that nation's democratic institutions; and direct a campaign of repression that would result in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent student protesters - we would have been mocked as delusional.

If we would have predicted that repression would rise dramatically in Cuba under Raul Castro; that political arrests would at least triple; that opposition activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto and Wilmar Villar would be murdered; and democracy leaders Laura Pollan of The Ladies in White and Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement would die under mysterious circumstances - we would have been accused of exaggerating.

If we would have predicted that European and Canadian businesses in Cuba would be illegally confiscated, have their bank accounts frozen and an unknown number of foreign businessmen imprisoned without charges or trial - we would have been described as retrogrades.

If we would have predicted that Raul Castro would take an American hostage, Alan P. Gross, who was in Cuba helping the island's Jewish community connect to the Internet, in order to extort the United States into releasing five (now three) spies convicted in federal courts of targeting military installations and conspiracy to murder three American citizens and a permanent resident of the U.S. - we would have been called extremists.

Yet, despite U.S. President Barack Obama's policy of "extending a hand" and easing a host of sanctions towards Cuba's regime since 2009 -- all of this has happened.

And that's not to mention Cuba's skillful diplomatic work at international fora in support of Assad's genocide in Syria, of a nuclear Iran, of Vladimir Putin's illegal annexation of the Crimea and of the violent actions by Russian separatists in the Ukraine.

So when is enough, enough?

In announcing a new set of sanctions against Russian entities last week, President Obama warned Russia that "its actions in Ukraine have consequences."

He's absolutely right. Otherwise, inaction breeds impunity.

It also begs the question(s):

When will the Cuban regime face consequences for taking and holding an American hostage since December 2009?

When will the Cuban regime face consequences for trafficking weapons to North Korea last year, in blatant violation of international law?

When will the Cuban regime face consequences for subverting democracy in Venezuela and coordinating its violent crackdown on peaceful opponents?

When will the Cuban regime face consequences for the dramatic rise in repression against its own peaceful opponents?

And most recently, will the Cuban regime face consequences for helping Russia intercept U.S. civilian and military communications?

For, thus far, Cuba's regime has faced few consequences.