Despite the Hype, Foreign Investors Shun Cuba

Friday, August 22, 2014
Note what a Western diplomat told Reuters:

"They have absolutely no choice but to change," the diplomat said. "They need investment in all sectors to survive."

Yet, some still want the U.S. to provide the Castro regime that investment, bail it out and impede change.

From Reuters:

Cuba struggles to attract investors despite reforms

Cuba has yet to attract new foreign investors despite launching two major initiatives in the past year, a sign of the lingering caution over doing business with the communist government and its own hesitancy to follow through on free-market-style reforms.

Cuba last November opened a China-style special development zone, including a new container terminal at Mariel Bay. It also passed a new foreign investment law in March, saying it needed more than $2 billion a year in foreign direct investment to spur growth.

But despite cutting taxes and lowering customs barriers in line with other investment regimes in the Caribbean, Cuba has yet to overcome the disadvantages associated with the U.S. economic embargo as well as its Soviet-style economy.

The new foreign investment law, which took effect at the end of June, cut the tax on profits in half, eliminated a labor tax and granted new investors an eight-year exemption on a profits tax.

Though potential investors welcome the tax cuts, some remain wary over Cuba's legal regime, especially after the recent jailing of a handful of foreign executives and the seizing of their businesses over corruption allegations.

Investment proposals under negotiation, which still must be approved at the highest level of the Cuban government, include projects in light manufacturing, packaging, alternative energy, pharmaceuticals and warehouse shipping logistics, according to officials.

Consumer goods giant Unilever , which left Cuba in a dispute over who would have the controlling stake in a joint venture with the government, is said to be negotiating a return to Mariel.

Two other companies considering operations in Mariel, according to diplomats, are in joint ventures with the Cuban government: French beverages company Pernod Ricard and cigarette maker BrasCuba, part of the Brazilian subsidiary of British American Tobacco.

Cuba's economy is stagnating despite a raft of market-oriented reforms initiated by President Raul Castro in 2008. Cuba reported growth of just 0.6 percent in the first half of this year and revised downward its full-year growth forecast to 1.4 percent from 2.2 percent.

Castro has proposed moving 40 percent of the state labor force to a new non-state sector made up of farms, small businesses, cooperatives and joint ventures, and state-run companies have been granted more autonomy.

Bringing in more investment is seen as crucial to the economy. Castro recently told the National Assembly that Cuba needs to attract a minimum $2.5 billion per year to reach annual growth targets above 5 percent.

But eying such a quick pace of growth might be overly ambitious.

Omar Everleny, an economist who specializes in foreign investment, estimated in a recent paper that just $5 billion had been invested in Cuba over the last 20 years.

The government had hoped foreign companies would build factories or new import-export installations at Mariel, some 28 miles (45 km) west of Havana. The special economic zone, covering 180 square miles (466 square km), drew some interest from potential investors, most of whom had existing business ties with Cuba.

But they discovered a paucity of infrastructure in and around the port. Land and utility prices had not even been established. No wage policy was set. Lacking such basic information, companies delayed negotiations and the feasibility studies needed for approval.

Likewise with the new foreign investment law, the promised lists of investment opportunities by government ministries, from agriculture and industry to food processing and pharmaceuticals, have yet to be drawn up.

Still, one Western diplomat predicts a number of ventures will be signed by the end of the year.

"They have absolutely no choice but to change," the diplomat said. "They need investment in all sectors to survive."

Must-Read: Cuban Catholic Youth Activists Write Pope Francis

Fear is ridiculous and it provides ammunition to the enemies of liberty.”- The Venerable Father Felix Varela

Your Holiness, Pope Francis:

We would like to thank you with utmost respect and kindness for taking time to read this letter.

We are Cuban Catholic youth who everyday are intent to fortify ourselves to the clamors that burst forth and splatter our conscience from the brutal reality of our beloved Cuba. From the dawn of our youth we have occupied the rows of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), a pacifist-civic movement which, inspired  by Christian humanism and the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, has yearned for the freedom that Cuba has wanted and needed for more than 25 years.

We love the church, and we have grown under her auspices with the influence of her Ignatian spirituality. Because of this, we turn to you to voice our pain and concern with several Cuban Bishops who, surrounded by pro-government Cuban laity and other figures of privilege, pronounce and act in the name of the Church before the unfolding drama that we Cubans have lived in for more than half a century.

Increasingly, ecclesial offices are shunted into a caricature of the masses, to be only the bottom substrate in the background and a common denominator legitimizing the government, asking for more votes of confidence for the politico-military junta who govern as dictators and awaiting a new “leader” to succeed the dynasty of the Castro Brothers and amend the “justified errors” of 55 years of governmental mismanagement that devastated a country whilst omitting the daily violations of human rights and the repressive despotic and unpunished actions of State Security personnel against nonviolent opposition and begging for weak reforms which lack transparency and in so doing be able to navigate comfortably in all waters through the use of ambiguous and confusing language that decorate and embellish the harsh realities, foregoing calling them by name, and thus presenting themselves as authentic rhetoricians and builders of bridges.

Perhaps we should remind our pastors how both dialogue and mediation necessitate a clear sense of identity and an indispensable autonomy to be able to express it, without circumlocution, in the collegial search for truth amongst peers and the commencement and recognition of all the parts, with an adequate dose of moderation, but while maintaining transparency, rigor, and respect for the truth. And this, in a cystic dictatorship with more than five decades of authoritarianism, carries a price and only those who have overcome, from a detachment of having nothing to protect and nothing to aspire,the fears that have impeded their inner liberty strive for progress.

Those of us who know from within the realities of the Church of Cuba understand that the courts of Havana’s Apostolic Palace is an interplay of political factors and that the exclusionary practices of the Church, whose byzantine politics are without morals and constancy, stretching and pulling, consisting of ambiguities and flatteries, and, in the worst form of diplomacy, sacrificing the integrity of the simple and naked truth expressed with the sole presupposition of due respect to substitute it in favor of strained praise, finally allowing itself a shallow criticism and in doing so maintaining the status quo, has the seal of the illustrious cardinal that occupies its halls. This shackle to the same apprehensions, pressures, blackmail, compromises, limitations, protection of self-interest and tacit or explicit agreements, that mark it’s actual relation to the State, and who for decades has been its helmsman, is Cardinal Ortega.

Subjugated to the fluctuations of this complex relationship, the precarious autonomy of Catholic publications and centers for the formation of laity and the devoted, has exceeded the bounds and good-willed intentions of its founders and has shifted into the propaganda of, no longer the Archbishop, but whomever holds the upper hand in said relationships; those who allow them to continue to exist and in circulation so long as they don’t overstep the threshold of tolerance or who ultimately fail to serve their vile purposes. The choice is clear: either they alienate themselves from reality marking socio-political themes as taboo, in a country where nothing is apolitical, on the contrary everything is profoundly politicized and ideologized, or claim the input of a fraud-exchange thrusted by the government.

What do they try to convince us of now? It was Raul Castro himself who speaks of his own reforms claiming that they are for more Socialism; we Cubans know all too well what that means. Regardless, has someone asked us, like citizens, if what we want in today’s age is more Socialism? And what Socialism? How do they want to convince us, the Cubans who live both here and abroad suffering exclusions and disadvantages,that they are advancing towards the implementation of laws that will permit us to reencounter ourselves with how we wish to be? That this framework of oppression, without rights or transparency, is the path of transition? What does this transition consist of?

Graduality only makes sense if there is a transparent perspective for our liberties and rights. Don’t continue to speak on our behalf; we would have our own voice raised and heard. It’s not enough for Cuba to open herself to the world and the world unto Cuba: first Cuba must open herself to Cubans. To come to accords with our own officials, like several democratic governments and institutions have done without caring that they don’t represent the Cuban people, is to perpetuate oppression.

Enough of deciding and thinking on my behalf and imposing an ideology of the State that doesn’t represent me. Enough of obligating me to collaborate in a political farce that overshadows my principles and the conditions of a free man, under the threat of losing it all: education, job, sometimes family and friends, liberty also and even life itself. That is why fear is the guiding principle of this society, fear and lies, sustaining a society of masks and simulations during decades of weak men, evasive, possessing only half-truths, incapable of facing and naming that evil which corrodes us within. That is how we Cubans live.

We wish that the Church, a pilgrim in Cuba, would dare to throw out the merchants from the temple, those who in the virtue of secret pacts do away with the worth of a human before the importance of abstract numbers. We yearn for a church who would not accept as privilege that which is her rightly due in exchange for her silence.

A church, with whose prophetic voice and testimony of life in truth in a society rotting with fear and lies, can share the cross of the ineffable, solitude, humility, deprivation, calumny and persecution that we suffer, we who have broken with the vice of self-deception that has become our collective dementia.

A church that does not please itself with having its pew saturated with comfortable mediocrity, dragging the multitudes behind images that don’t save and only awaken shallow devotions while the most precious component of her identity is diluted and watered down in a pseudo-religion of the masses, recovering spaces and buildings for the mission, and then relying heavily on human means to, with God and the splendor of His message being considered too subversive against the established order, advertise a private pseudo-gospel of moral and social content more “enlightening” for our people.

A church that stirs those consciences paralyzed by fear and custom before the face of irrationality, disfunctionality, and the absurd demands of a long-lived absolute and arbitrary regime by inviting each man and woman to contemplate themselves in the reflection of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A church, who once again noting the worth of the poor, the few, the small, the gradual, the weak, the anonymous, offers in her small but Christian and arduous communities something incredibly different and powerfully captivating, and no longer the swarms of vitiated environments.

That church, incarnated and undivided, has been present for years in the figures of brave and exceptional bishops, innumerable priest, religious and missionaries many of whom we have seen depart in pain: banished, dismissed by bishops and superiors, or voluntarily resigning before submitting to perverted or perverting regulations.

It is that diminishing church constantly in danger of becoming extinct, that has produced genuine miracles thanks to the those youth and families who everyday make the conscious decision to remain, assuming upon themselves the dangers and hardships, every day resisting the temptation to join the mass exodus of a people who stampedes fleeing to whichever place where they can construct a more dignified life, hold an honorable job, know the taste of liberty, fight for their dreams, aspire to prosperity and happiness.

That church revealed with her very life and not only through discourse, the profound realities of our faith: the Incarnation, Calvary, Easter, the Resurrection. In her, we cautiously aimed to really be priests, prophets and kings. Because it is in that church that we learned to search and wish for the will of God as our most precious treasure, today we still dare to swim upstream, muting the warnings of close friends occasionally whispered in the temples and sacristy from those who speak in the name of God, and even the anguished cries of our mothers who implore us to renounce, run, escape and forever occupy ourselves with our own well-being and our families with thousands of unanswerable arguments from plain pragmatism of calculated deeds and force or consisting of acrobatic tricks with alleged reasons of faith that end fading away at the feet of the Crucified.

Because that church has taught us to believe against all the evidence and to hope against all hope, our lives today continue to be an answer to the questions and call of God: Where are those responsible? Strengthening us to continue being a voice in the desert, a light in the darkness and an omen of hope in the midst of the apparent sterility in spite of the burdens and fatigue.  Because Cubans need the help of Jesus on the Cross to be able to look with love upon these last 50 years that has oppressed physically and psychologically and to dare to shout NO MORE!

We Cubans need a church that will aid us in overcoming fear. Fear is the origin of lethargy and hopelessness that overwhelms youths and society as a whole. We need a church that will help us in these first steps toward Liberation, the first steps that always start with an individual and en as a roaring shout, stronger than oneself and that must be shared.

An advocate church must be a place of liberty, where reconciliation does not convert itself to historic amnesia disguised as the goodness of the righteous. It has to be a place of freedom of expression, not in attempts politicizing the temple, but instead to create the language which will be able to articulate our story from the bottom up, omitting the “victorious” figures who attempt to reconstruct history. We need a Mother Church, who works for the truth without ambiguities, who doesn’t confuse love for one’s neighbor with political opportunism. A church that will help us name this unnameable pain so that we may offer it up and act, without our voice being silenced.

Count on us Holy Father! God bless you and keep you!

A big hug from the Caribbean,

Erick Alvarez Gil, age 28, Telecommunications and Electrical Engineer, San Francisco de Paula Parish

Anabel Alpizar Ravelo, age 29, Bachelors in Social Communication, dismissed from her job, Chapel Jesus Maria

Luis Alberto Mariño Fernández, age 27, Bachelors in Music Composition, Salvador del Mundo Parish

Maria de Lourdes Mariño Fernández, age 29, Bachelors in Art History, Salvador del Mundo Parish

Manuel Robles Villamarin, age 24, Information Tech, expelled from University, Siervas de Maria Parish

Translated by Joel Olguin, as posted in Post-Revolution Mondays.

Quote of the Day: A Model for the World's Progressives

[North Korea] is a model for the world's progressives.
-- German Hermin Ferras Alvarez, Cuban Ambassador to North Korea, EFE, 8/22/14

Ask Fareed: Cold War or Today?

Thursday, August 21, 2014
According to the staff at CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, the "U.S. is living in the past over Cuba."

(This is the same staff that recently interviewed Harvard Professor Jorge Dominguez, who falsely claimed there were no political prisoners in Cuba.)

Fareed's staff concludes that, "it’s not just Putin who's living in the Cold War past. It's Washington as well." -- due to U.S. sanctions policy.

And predictably, the infamous spin-line -- "since Raúl Castro replaced his brother Fidel as president in 2008, he'd begun a series of changes that point to liberalization."

So let's help Fareed's staff with some research.

For each of the items below, let's ask whether they took place during the Cold War or are taking place today?

- Cuba resuming military-intelligence gathering operations with Russia at the Lourdes Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) facility near Havana.

Answer: Today.

- Cuba's regime getting 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.

Answer: Today.

- Cuba's regime wresting political and operational control of the most resource-rich nation in Latin America, Venezuela; undermining that nation's democratic institutions; and directing a campaign of repression that would result in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent student protesters.

Answer: Today.

- Repression rising dramatically; political arrests tripling; opposition activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto and Wilmar Villar murdered; and democracy leaders Laura Pollan of The Ladies in White and Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement dying under mysterious circumstances.

Answer: Today.

- European and Canadian businesses being illegally confiscated, their bank accounts frozen and an unknown number of foreign businessmen imprisoned without charges or trial.

Answer: Today.

- An American development worker taken 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.

Answer: Today.

- Cuba's diplomatic support at international fora in favor 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.

Answer: Today.

The fact remains that it's not the U.S. living in the past -- it's Putin and the Castro brothers (despite U.S. policy "resets" and engagement).

Thus, U.S. policy must continue to treat them accordingly.

Google Finally Discovers Long-Standing General License for Chrome

Google announced today that its Chrome browser is now accessible in Cuba.

Of course, this will only have a positive impact for the few Cubans that the Castro regime grants the "luxury" of accessing the Internet -- and if it chooses to not block it.

However, the only reason Chrome was not currently accessible in Cuba was because of Google's own internal decision.

In 2010, the Treasury Department issued a general license authorizing the exportation to persons in Cuba of certain services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet.

(Overall exemptions for telecom services were previously enshrined in the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act.)

It did so for Iran, Sudan and Cuba.

This includes certain services, including instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing (Chrome), and blogging.

The two caveats are: 1. that the services must be publicly available at no cost to the user. 2. a prohibition if there is knowledge or reason to know that such services are intended for a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.

Why did it take Google four years to discover this general license? God knows, for it's clear as day.

(A perfect example of Google's obliviousness was Executive Chairman Erick Schmidt's post pursuant to his recent trip to Cuba. Here was our response.)

Yet, that's not the spin we've been hearing from anti-sanctions lobbyists for the last four years. Instead, they opt for exaggeration and misinformation.

Even in today's announcement, Google tried to deflect responsibility by stating it's decision was due to "trade restrictions evolving."

The only thing that "evolved" was Google's ability to catch up with the law.

Now, if Google really wants to help the Cuban people -- here's what it can easily do.

Under Constant Threat: Antunez and Yris

From the Czech NGO, People in Need:

Officially there is no use of torture or human rights abuses against political dissidents in Cuba. However, People in Need would like to draw your attention to the case of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez, a Cuban dissident, who has been repeatedly arrested, beaten, had his house vandalized and has been under house arrest.

Under constant threat

Antunez, a well-known Cuban activist, was imprisoned for 17 years from 1990 to 2007. His offense? Screaming out during a demonstration in the 90s that communism was a mistake and that Cuba was a dystopia.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who is better known as Antunez and his wife Yris Perez Aguilera, were arrested last June, this time over fears that the dissident might represent a threat to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the USA. He was caught disseminating leaflets against this normalization in his home town of Placetas. The cause may have also been his repeated trips to Europe and the US, when he took the opportunity to speak about the current realities of the dissidents in Cuba.

During his last arrest in June, Antunez claimed he was severely beaten and tortured. He admitted that he had never received such violent treatment on any of the other occasions when he was arrested. They were both released, but were immediately put under arrest again the next day. His wife and he have been unfairly arrested; extensively interrogated while in custody and their house was vandalized by the police forces.

Since then, due to international pressure, he was released from house arrest and the charges with “public disorder” against him were dropped, only to be restored shortly after: Antunez is under house arrest again and will face charges in a coming trial.

Recently in Miami, his wife, Yris Pérez Aguilera has spoken out loud about the repression under which the dissidents find themselves on a daily basis. She also stressed the harsh reality that once back in Cuba, she will face again repression for the truths she had spoken in the USA.

We are unfortunately witnessing a rise in the wave of repression by the Cuban government dissidents, such as Antunez and his wife, and independent journalists, like Roberto de Jesus Guerra, Martha Beatriz Roque, have been arrested or beaten by the State Police.

Antunez is a classic example of enduring courage and resilience:

After being discriminated against by the regime’s policy towards minorities, which prevented him from growing professionally and getting the education he wanted, and being inspired by the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, he joined the Cuban opposition in the 90s. He founded Frente Nacional de Resistencia Civica Orlando Zapata Tamayo in memory of the dissident who died during a hunger strike in 2010.

During his long years in prison, Antunez formed a new movement to support his fellow political prisoners, called Pedro Luiz Boitel after the political prisoner who died of a hunger strike in 1972. Throughout his years of imprisonment he remained firm on his positions - he refused to wear a prisoner’s uniform or to recant his ideas. Due to his defiance of the regime’s authority on several occasions, his five year sentence was extended to seventeen years.

His wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera has also founded a movement, The Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, which has strongly advocated for an end to repression towards peaceful human rights defenders. She has been repeatedly threatened with death and rape, beaten and jailed.

In honor of Antunez’s and Yris Perez’s continued fight for the respecting of human rights and basic freedoms in Cuba, in spite of being well aware of the risks involved, People in Need is appealing to you to share their story and make sure that their worrying situation is known.

Note to AP: Dictatorship is Not "Tradition"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
In another example of the AP's shameful reporting from Havana, it writes today:

"Yet another revolutionary tradition has been broken in Cuba: A lawmaker voted 'no' in parliament.

And it wasn’t just any lawmaker.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, gave the thumbs-down to a workers’ rights bill that she felt didn’t go far enough to prevent discrimination against people with HIV or with unconventional gender identities."

For the AP, a totalitarian dictatorship's rubber-stamp, closed-door assembly; composed of non-elected, hand-picked regime officials; that provide cosmetics to Castro's decrees, is "a revolutionary tradition."

The AP is simply unwilling to call a spade-a-spade.

As for Mariela's supposed "no vote," that too has a name -- it's called "staged propaganda."

To further highlight this story's absurdity, note the following:

Foreign journalists are not allowed to cover the proceedings of Castro's National Assembly. 

For this story, the AP is regurgitating info from a pro-regime "blog" that interviewed Mariela.  

Moreover, the so-called "vote" supposedly took place in back in July -- how's that for secrecy? -- and there's no independent sources to verify whether it even happened.

(Yet the AP wouldn't dare question the regime's motives or credibility.)

If anything, this propaganda stunt should shed further light on the absurdity of Castro's National Assembly, whereby the regime's apparatchiks raise their hands in unison.

(Where's that AP story been all of these years?)

That too has a name -- "dog and pony show."

Despite Threats, Travel Money Proves to be Too Important for Cuba's Regime

Last year, Buffalo-based M&T Bank informed the Cuban Interests Section ("CUBINT") in Washington, D.C., that it would no longer provide it banking services.

In response, the Castro regime "threatened" to stop processing visas for travel to Cuba, if the U.S. State Department didn't find it a replacement bank.

At the time, we predicted that would never happen, as the Castro regime is in dire need of the hard currency that U.S. travelers are providing it.

It's simply foolish to think Castro would sacrifice the hundreds of millions (if not billions) that current U.S. travel represents to its military-tourism conglomerates.

So here we are -- almost a full year later -- and there's still no U.S. bank willing to provide CUBINT with banking services.  

Yet, the Castro regime continues to find alternative means to process visas.

And just yesterday, it announced that it would extend its "temporary solution" for another six months.

Thus, we'll say it again:

Want to free Castro's American hostage, Alan Gross?

Here's how.

State Department's Castro-Friendly Visa Policy

Ros-Lehtinen Pens Letter to Secretary Kerry Opposing Decision to Grant Three High Ranking Castro Regime Officials Entry Visas

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement regarding news that the State Department has granted three high-level Cuban regime officials entry visas to the United States. Mariela Castro, Raul Castro’s daughter, has been granted an entry visa to take part in meetings in New York City and the United Nations; Josefina Vidal plans on visiting convicted Cuban spy and agent of the Castro regime, Antonio Guerrero; and, Antonio Castro, son of Fidel Castro, has stated that he will be visiting the Little League World Series and conducting meetings with Major League Baseball representatives.

Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

I’ve written to Secretary Kerry to express my opposition and concern over the State Department’s recent decision to grant these three high ranking Castro regime officials entry to the United States. A meaningless 'no' vote in the sham of the Cuban parliamentary by Mariela Castro doesn't fool anyone.  This is a misguided decision that gives the appearance of normalcy in relations with this murderous regime and sends the wrong message to the 11 million Cuban people suffering under its oppressive rule. It is an affront to the principles of freedom and democracy, and I would urge the Administration to reverse its decision and instead push for greater reforms on the island.”

Fulton's Confession

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
In Foreign Policy, former Senate staffer and CIA analyst, Fulton Armstrong, confesses to being the AP's source of attacks on USAID's Cuba democracy programs.

(The title of Armstrong's piece, "Damn Yanquis," is pretty telling in itself.)

Of course, we'd stated this from Day One -- and elaborated here.

Fulton was unable to control his ego and writes:

"The operations undertaken by former President George W. Bush and Obama have been both clandestine and covert, according to AP reports and the investigations the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) conducted when I was on its staff in 2010 to 2011."

He even brazenly threatens:

"More revelations are forthcoming."

The funniest part of Fulton's entire thesis -- which the AP has ingenuously (or maliciously) adopted -- is that these programs are "clandestine and covert."

Yet, Fulton himself is Exhibit A of how that is simply untrue.

If these democracy programs were "clandestine and convert," they would be classified.

Consequentially, Fulton would be prosecuted for revealing classified information and would be joining his old friend and colleague, former Defense Intelligence Agency senior analyst, Ana Belen Montes, in federal prison.

But they are not classified. And Fulton knows it.

As a matter of fact, these programs are explained on USAID's website.  And Congress receives regular notifications on these programs.

But for Fulton, anything that is not agreed to (and previously consulted with) the Castro dictatorship -- even if consistent with fundamental principles of international human rights law -- is "covert."

Moreover, what Fulton wants is for USAID to reveal the name and address of every NGO worker or contractor working to support civil society in Cuba -- independent of the Castro regime -- and of every Cuban civil society and democracy activist they support.

USAID doesn't provide this information for obvious reasons -- to either supporters or detractors of the Cuba democracy programs.

(It's for the same reason that AP itself admits using secret, encrypted communications in dealing with Cuba.)

Moreover, USAID doesn't provide such information regarding similar programs in Iran, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, Burma or any other closed society.

Dangerously irresponsible bureaucrats like Fulton -- with little regard for courageous civil society and democracy activists throughout the world -- are precisely why USAID shouldn't.

More Criticism of AP's Havana Bureau

Excerpt by Cuban democracy leader, Manuel Cuesta Morua, in 14ymedio:

(It's worth reading the entire article, entitled "The AP Calls Us 'Mercenaries'," here.)

The AP establishes an equivalence between a dictatorship and a democracy, as if the criminal codes between both were interchangeable and the punishments they hand out were within the same category. Due to the perversity of pandering to the rhetoric of dictatorships, many times the press of democratic countries tries to appear aseptic and condemn people like Alan Gross -- whom everyone knows was not in any condition to subvert a regime -- to ostracism by omission and journalistic trivialities.

Hence the trivialization of evil that the AP always incurs when referring to the pro-democracy activists. It’s interesting that in all their stories appear the term “mercenary,” a label the Government assigns to its opponents. But doesn't the AP know that “mercenary” -- as defined in the Cuban penal code -- does not apply to any of the actions by those of us whom it calls "mercenaries"? Dictatorships are not rigorous with words, an imponderable for its specious domination over its citizens; but the free press should use the language of the dictionary and not the neo-language of the autocrats.

We are still waiting for a story by the AP that concludes saying, “the dissents consider the Government to be despotic,” for the sake of balance. That's closer to the facts. In any event, remember that -- according to the penal code -- we can be where many of us are: working for democracy in Cuba, yet according to the rhetoric of power, we are mercenaries fighting to subvert the regime. Doesn't the AP have any objective opinion?

Tweet of the Day: Q Branch or Radio Shack?

Monday, August 18, 2014
By USAID's Associate Administrator, Mark Feierstein:

Eerily Similar Hostage-Taking Tactics

Read the following story very carefully.

Don't the hostage-taking tactics (below) sound eerily familiar?

Just like Castro's American hostage, Alan Gross, Warren Weinstein is an elderly, Jewish, development worker.

And just like Castro, Al Qaeda seeks a prisoner swap in return.

Moreover, note the quotes.

From NBC News:

Al Qaeda Tells Warren Weinstein's Family to Push U.S. For His Release

Al Qaeda has urged the family of an American aid worker it kidnapped in Pakistan three years ago to push the U.S. government to negotiate his release. Warren Weinstein was taken in 2011, four days before his seven-year stint with the U.S. Agency for International Development was due to end. Al Qaeda said in a statement directed at Weinstein's family the U.S. government wanted him "to die in prison so that it may absolve itself of responsibility regarding his case."

Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst at New York-based intelligence consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, said the message was likely authentic as it had been posted in a top-tier al Qaeda forum. The State Department was not immediately available for comment. Al Qaeda said in the statement it was not interested in keeping Weinstein, it was "only seeking to exchange him" for its own prisoners. "The continued silence on the inaction of your government will only lead to your prisoner dying a lonely death in prison," it said. The White House has called for the release of Weinstein, who turned 73 in July, but said it would not negotiate with the terror group. In a video message recorded in December, Weinstein said he felt "totally abandoned and forgotten" by the United States.


For the Sake of the Victims of Tyranny, No More "Resets"

There's been a lot of coverage regarding former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's "newfound" view to "reset" relations with the Castro regime.

However, there's barely been any coverage about her tenure at the State Department, during which time she consistently displayed poor judgement in "resetting" relations with tyrants.

As regards Syria, Hillary infamously believed that Bashar al-Assad was a "reformer" that the U.S. could work with.

Since then, Assad has led a genocide with a tally of over 160,000 victims.

As regards Burma, Hillary engaged its military dictatorship, traveled to the Southeast Asian nation and led the push to prematurely lift sanctions.

Since then, Burma's military dictatorship has reaped a financial windfall, retrenched on reforms and re-intensified its repression.

As regards Iran, Hillary ignored pleas for help from the "Green Movement," bitterly fought Congress against sanctions from 2009-2013 and pushed for talks with the mullahs.

Since then, Iran' regime brutally suppressed the democracy movement. Yet, in an interesting twist, Clinton now seeks to rewrite history and take credit for the sanctions she fought against and -- as talks flounder -- she's suddenly skeptical.

As regards Russia, Hillary literally pressed a "reset" button in order to "start fresh" bilateral relations.

Since then... Well, we all know how that's turned out.

And now, Clinton wants to lift sanctions and "reset" relations with Cuba.

This has drawn criticism from Cuba's Ladies in White and other democracy activists. And judging from Hillary's record -- for good reason.

Madam Secretary, for the sake of the victims of tyranny -- please step away from the "reset" buttons.

Tweet of the Day: Imprisoned for a Parabolic Antenna

By Cuban blogger and photographer, Yusnaby Perez: