Tweet of the Week: On Cuba's Record Political Arrests

Saturday, September 6, 2014
From U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson:

Eye on Cuba: A Closer Look at Repression

From the European human rights NGO, People in Need:

We would like to draw your attention to the ongoing human rights violations taking place in Cuba. Our project, www.eyeoncuba.org offers proof that these facts happen on a daily basis.

The map displayed on www.eyeoncuba.org presents the total number of cases that have been reported according to the geographical location where they occurred, which allows the viewer to compare the level of repression in different regions of the island. The cases displayed allow one to see first-hand the reality of Cuban civil society, which often faces repression by the authorities.

We have already documented 1000 cases and have discovered some interesting insights that we would like to share with you:

Who is the typical detainee?

He is a 41 year old man male (though 44% of cases are women) who is a member of a dissident group or movement. Usually he will be arrested without a clear charge against him and taken to a police station for 1-2 days where he will likely be threatened and beaten.

What rights are more often violated?

The rights which are most often violated are the right to not be arbitrarily detained and the right to be informed about the reason for one’s detention and the violation of personal freedom. A typical situation are the detentions of members of the Ladies in White each Sunday before they attend Mass in order to prevent them from participating in their weekly march.

Where do most of the cases come from?

The province with the largest number of reported cases of human rights abuses is Santiago de Cuba. This is due to the fact that the group Union Patriotica de Cuba, is active in the region and regularly organizes protests and various activities for its members.

What type of detention is used?

As long detentions are more likely to result in the international community putting pressure on the Cuban authorities, the method that the Cuban state has adopted is to use repeated, short term detentions varying from a few hours to a few days. For example, Keila Ramos Suarez, a member of the Ladies in White Movement, has been detained and assaulted 15 times between March 2013 and April 2014. A second member from the same group, Maria Teresa Gracias, has been detained and assaulted 39 times between January 2013 and March 2014.

What are the abuses?

The types of abuses that are used on most of the detainees to add additional psychological pressure include death threats, threats against their families, and the threat of being given a life sentence. The humiliations range from being kept on the ground face down, to being dropped off in the middle of nowhere with no means of transportation, and having to deal with being repeatedly harassed and offended by state authorities and their proxies.

This is just some of the information that you can find on our website. www.eyeoncuba.org is intended to bring greater international visibility to the victims. Attracting greater public attention has the potential to deter the authorities from persecuting them and their families. It also serves as an acknowledgement of the victims, as well as proof that their actions and sacrifice is being recognized and validated. It is a trustworthy source of information about human rights abuse cases in Cuba based on the fact that these cases are being reported on from within the community.

Presidential Determination to Extend Cuba Sanctions Authority

Presidential Determination -- Continuation of the Exercise of Certain Authorities Under the Trading With the Enemy Act

Under section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), and a previous determination on September 12, 2013 (78 FR 57225, September 17, 2013), the exercise of certain authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act is scheduled to terminate on September 14, 2014.

I hereby determine that the continuation for 1 year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, consistent with the authority vested in me by section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223, I continue for 1 year, until September 14, 2015, the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba, as implemented by the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

How Cuban Intelligence Targets U.S. Academic Travelers

Friday, September 5, 2014
From this week's FBI Advisory, "Cuban Intelligence Targeting of Academia":

Hazards of Travel to Cuba: Not surprisingly, a key venue the CuIS ("Cuban Intelligence Services") use to identify individuals of interest is Cuba itself. The CuIS will actively exploit visitors to the island. For instance, academic travel to Cuba is targeted by a specific department of the CuIS. This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence resources the Government of Cuba can marshal on the island. Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets. Reports are written on visitors that may result in targeting opportunities for the CuIS. It is also worth reiterating that while a targeted individual is in Cuba, he/she is particularly vulnerable to CuIS attempts to obtain compromising information that may create opportunities for coercive CuIS recruitment practices.

How Cuban Intelligence Seeks to Influence U.S. Policy

From this week's FBI Advisory, "Cuban Intelligence Targeting of Academia":

Targets Within Academia: The academic world offers a rich array of targets attractive to foreign intelligence services. US government (USG) institutions draw on academia for personnel, both for entry level staffing and for consultation from established experts. A segment of the population, both students and faculty, is bound for work within the USG. Another segment is likely to have contact with USG information and policies through many other venues, including work with research institutes and numerous forms of contract work. First, many of these individuals may have access to useful information that can be passed to the CuIS ("Cuban Intelligence Services"). Second, some of these individuals are in a position of influence. They can assist in directly influencing the US policymaking process or in shaping public opinion on Cuba.

Influence Opportunities: Another priority of the CuIS is influence operations in support of Cuban policies. Many individuals who are targeted in academia are well positioned to assist the CuIS in helping portray the image of Cuba that the Government of Cuba desires. The free flow of information in academia actually assists such Cuban efforts. In fact, those CuIS contacts in academia lacking access to USG information may hold commensurate value to the Government of Cuba by assisting in this public relations campaign.

The many individuals, including academics, businesspeople, religious leaders, political leaders, journalists, and students, who are exposed to Cuban officials or are invited to Cuba to participate in events, conferences, and tourism can be presented a crafted image of Cuba that may ultimately be disseminated to the United States by the visitors. Many of these visitors may even be passing on this positive image of Cuba unwittingly based on their one visit. At the same time, recruited Cuban agents will also actively propagate disinformation developed by the Government of Cuba and the CuIS. For instance, the CuIS have also been known to use agents, possibly academics or journalists, to write books or articles that present the GOC in a favorable light.

FBI Report: Cuban Intelligence Aggressively Targeting U.S. Academics and Students

Yet, ironically, a key component of the Obama Administration's Cuba policy is allowing even greater academic and student travel to the island.

The FBI report itself indicates the hazards of such travel, which only facilitates the conditions for recruitment by Cuban intelligence.

Read the full FBI report here.

From The Washington Free Beacon:

FBI: Cuban Intelligence Aggressively Recruiting Leftist American Academics as Spies, Influence Agents

Sexual entrapment a common tactic

Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting leftist American academics and university professors as spies and influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.

Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents, that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia.”

“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report concludes.

One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because of his/her personal beliefs,” the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.

Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future post-U.S. embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant, all-expense paid visits to the island.

Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.

The Cubans “will actively exploit visitors to the island” and U.S. academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.

“This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence resources the government of Cuba can marshal on the island,” the report said. “Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets.”

In addition to collecting information and secrets, Cuban spies employ “influence operations,” the FBI said.

“The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into particular courses of action,” the report said.

Additionally, Cuban intelligence seeks to plant disinformation or propaganda through its influence agents, and can task recruits to actively disseminate the data. Once recruited, many of the agents are directed to entering fields that will provide greater information access in the future, mainly within the U.S. government and intelligence community.

The Cubans do not limit recruitments to “clandestine agents,” the report said. Other people who do not have access to secrets are co-opted as spies because of their political position or political views that can be exploited for supporting Cuban goals, either as open supporters or unwitting dupes.

“Some of these individuals may not be told openly that they are working for the [Cuban intelligence service], even though it may not be too hard for them to figure out,” the report said. “The relationship may openly appear to be a benign, mutually beneficial friendship.”

Chris Simmons, a retired spycatcher for the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Cuban intelligence has long targeted U.S. academics. For example, Havana assigned six intelligence officers to assist Council on Foreign Relations Latin Affairs specialist Julia E. Sweig in writing a 2002 book on the Cuban revolution, he said.

“College campuses are seen as fertile grounds for the recruitment of the ‘next generation’ of spies,” Simmons said. “Cuba heavily targets the schools that train the best candidates for U.S. government jobs, like Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University.”

One goal of the Cubans is to recruit students prior to federal employment, a method that allows Havana to direct a recruited agent into targeted key spy targets, like Congress or the FBI, Simmons said.

“A preferred target are ‘study abroad’ programs in Cuba, as participating students are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the Cuban revolution,” Simmons said.

Cuban intelligence has recruited numerous spies in the past that became long-term penetration agents inside the U.S. government. According to the CI Centre, a think tank, there have been 25 Cuban spies uncovered in the United States since the 1960s, including former CIA officer Philip Agee to who defected and worked closely with both Cuban intelligence and the Soviet KGB starting in 1973.

One of the most notorious Cuban spy cases involved Ana Montes, a senior analyst who worked in the highest levels of the U.S. intelligence and policymaking communities.

Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, pleaded guilty in 2002 to spying for Cuba for 17 years. She is serving a 25-year prison term.

Montes was recruited by Cuban intelligence in 1984 while a student at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she was a graduate student and had voiced her hatred of the then-Reagan administration policy of backing anti-communist rebels fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

She was recruited at SAIS by another Cuban spy, Marta Rita Velazquez, who worked for U.S. Agency for International Development and fled the country after Montes was arrested in 2001.

Two other notable Cuban spies were Walter Kendall Myers, a State Department Foreign Service contractor who worked for Cuban intelligence from 1979 to 2007, and his wife Gwen Myers. They were recruited after visiting Cuba. Walter Myers was a leftist who criticized “American imperialism” in a diary entry after visiting Cuba. He held a top-secret security clearance and in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison after a conviction for spying.

Cuba’s spy agencies “actively target academia to recruit agents and to support Cuban influence operations.”

“Unfortunately, part of what makes academic environments ideal for enhancing and sharing knowledge also can assist the efforts of foreign intelligence services to accomplish their objectives,” the report concludes. “This situation is unlikely to change, but awareness of the methods used to target academia can greatly assist in neutralizing the efforts of these foreign intelligence services.”

The FBI report was based largely on testimony from José Cohen, a former officer of the Cuban Intelligence Directorate, known by its Spanish acronym as DGI, who defected in 1994.

The targeting of American spies takes place at schools, colleges, universities, and research institutes. “Cuban intelligence services are known to actively target the U.S. academic world for the purposes of recruiting agents, in order to both obtain useful information and conduct influence activities,” the FBI said.

The academic world, because of its openness and need for networking, “offers a rich array of targets attractive to foreign intelligence services,” the report said, noting that U.S. government institutions draw on academia for personnel, both for entry level staffing and for consultation from established experts.

Cuban intelligence seeks leftists and others sympathetic to Cuba’s communist regime because it lacks funds needed to pay recruited agents, the report said.

The process includes targeting American and Cuban-American academics, recruiting them if possible and eventually converting them into Cuban intelligence agents.

Cuban front groups also are used to recruit spies in the United States, including a network of collaborators and agents in Cuba that make contact with counterparts in the United States.

Specific universities in Washington and New York that were not specified by the FBI are targets because they are close to Cuban intelligence posts in those cities.

An example of the recruitment effort was provided to the FBI by a “self-admitted Cuban intelligence” officer outlining how a spy is recruited at a U.S. university.

“The Cuban intelligence officers located at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York, New York, or the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., obtain a published work by a specific professor or student … from a university the [Cubans] are monitoring,” the report said.

A Cuban control agent in Havana studies the work and works together with a co-opted Cuban academic and together the pair analyzes published material and forms a plan of action that may include a personal letter to the targeted individual in the United States.

“The letter will suggest a ‘genuine’ interest in starting a friendship or contact regarding the topic of the article,” the report said. “The personal letter becomes a pretext for the Cuban intelligence officer stationed in the United States to use for initial contact with the targeted individual.”

A Cuba spy posing as a diplomat develops a relationship with the academic that can last months or years of assessing motivations, weaknesses, and current future and access to information.

In some cases, the Cubans use compromising video or audio and sexual entrapment to develop U.S. spies.

“Ultimately, when the time is right, the plan will be executed and the targeted individual will be approached and formally asked to help the government of Cuba,” the report said.

The Problem With Regurgitating Castro's "Statistics"

Thursday, September 4, 2014
This week, the Inter-American Dialogue, along with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the CAF development bank, hosted their annual conference on hemispheric affairs.

As expected, they hosted a panel on Cuba with the usual cast of characters -- an official Castro regime academic, along with the same old anti-sanctions lobbyists from the Brookings Institution, the Carter Center and the Cuba Study Group.

Perhaps The Inter-American Dialogue should re-brand its name as The Inter-American "Monologue" -- for it only wanted one view to be exposed and echoed, while ignoring the voices of opposition and independent thought leaders from Cuba.

And, of course, nothing can be expected from the OAS, which recently spared no effort to silence Venezuelan opposition leader and legislator, Maria Corina Machado, from denouncing the authoritarian practices of the Maduro government.

Let's just say diversity is not their strongest suit.

These Cuba panelists spewed all sorts of numbers and percentages -- with absolutely no evidence of their veracity -- other than what they read in Granma or Juventud Rebelde.

The greatest irony was provided by a panelist from the World Bank, who criticized the United States for supposedly wanting democratic reform to precede economic development -- rather than vice-versa.

First, this World Bank bureaucrat is obviously unaware of U.S. law and policy toward Cuba. The U.S. indeed wants to see democratic reform in Cuba -- it's in our geopolitical interest -- regardless of whether it's before or after economic development.

However, the fact remains that the historic subsidies Cuba received from the Soviet Union (more than all of Europe under the Marshall Plan); its current subsidies from Venezuela, which equal or surpass those of the former Soviet Union; and the tens of billions in Canadian and European tourism, trade and investment over the past two decades, have not led to economic development (let alone democratization) in Cuba. They have gone to Castro's monopolies. Thus, the U.S. should not follow suit.

Moreover, the old "modernization theory" -- development first, then democracy -- no longer has any credence in political science (courtesy of China, Vietnam and oil dictatorships throughout the world). There is simply no empirical evidence to support this theory -- to the contrary.

The irony is that while this World Bank bureaucrat argued such nonsense, his institution just published -- for the first time -- GDP numbers in PPP ("purchasing power parity"). The Cuba figures are laughable.

(Below are some tweets from economist Branko Milanovic highlighting some of these.)

For example, the World Bank holds (based on Cuba's "statistics") that Cuba's GDP (in PPP terms) is higher than Uruguay's.

And that Cuba is the 8th richest country in Latin America -- just below Chile, but richer than Uruguay, Panama, Colombia and Argentina.

Then why is Cuba the most non-democratic and repressive country in the Western Hemisphere?

Needless to say, this World Bank bureaucrat either doesn't believe his own data or his own theory.

But those are the silly contradictions faced when relying on -- and regurgitating -- Castro's statistics.

New Cuban Spy Case Still a Mystery

From Havana Times:

Cuban Spy Case Still a Mystery

By Miguel Fernández Díaz  (Café Fuerte)

A yet unidentified Cuban spy convicted to 13 years in prison in the United States has come into the limelight following the bestowal of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Bronze Medal on Master Sergeant Tessa M. Fontaine.

The case was processed by the NRO Counterintelligence and Cyber-Counterintelligence Division in Chantilly, Virginia. Fontaine engaged in 148 hours of interrogation with spies and documented 16 hours of espionage activities conducted by Cuba’s Intelligence Department (DI).

According to the limited information provided by the NRO, Fontaine’s work helped protect an intelligence system valued at 5 billion dollars.

The case of the “new Cuban spy”, however, continues to be shrouded in secrecy.

Complete Silence

Chris Simmons, the US intelligence officer in charge of the case of Ana Belen Montes, the Cuban superspy who had infiltrated the Pentagon, affirms there is utter secrecy regarding the individual under investigation and convicted thanks to Fontaine.

It has yet to be established whether the spy is of Cuban nationality or whether it was a US citizen working for Cuba.

The information was made available by the NRO at the end of May following reconnaissance activities and the promotion of officials on the occasion of Memorial Day.

Fontaine had already been named Deputy Official of the Year by the Air Force in 2013. Born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, she is currently stationed in the Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas. She has served in international missions in both Kuwait and Iraq.

Cuba’s Interest in the NRO

The NRO designs, manufactures, launches and gives maintenance to all US spy satellites. Cuba has no space program and its military infrastructure is obsolete. As such, it is of little interest to the NRO, which in turn does not represent a threat to Cuba.

Everything seems to indicate that Cuba’s DI had an interest in the NRO nonetheless, in much the same way its Red Avispa wasp network was interested in US air bases.

No reference to the Cuban spy detected by Fontaine has yet been made in US public documents or media.

Cuba continues to pursue its international campaign calling for the release of the three agents from the Red Avispa who are still imprisoned in the United States, but interestingly it has never spoken on behalf of Ana Belen Montes, convicted to 25 years in prison, or for Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, who leaked secret State Department information to Havana for decades. Kendall Myers was sentenced to life imprisonment and his wife Gwendolyn to five and a half years in prison in July of 2010.

Castro Blames U.S., Israel for ISIS

And these are "rational" Cuban leaders that some want the U.S. to negotiate with.

So now that Castro believes the U.S. and Israel have served as an "excuse" for ISIS, will anti-U.S. policy advocates argue that we should just ignore ISIS -- so as to not give them an "excuse"?

Of course not.

From The Hill:

Fidel Castro accuses McCain, Israel of creating ISIS

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is reportedly accusing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Israel of conspiring to create the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a column written for Cuban state media, the former communist leader attacked McCain as Israel’s “most unconditional ally.”

Castro, 88, alleged McCain “together with [Mossad, conspired] in the creation of the Islamic State, which today controls a considerable and vital portion of Iraq and reportedly one-third of Syria as well.”

Tweet(s) of the Day: McCain Responds to Castro

State Department: Cuba Does Not Meet Summit of Americas Qualifications

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
As we posted last week, an inter-hemispheric battle of democracy vs. authoritarianism will play out during next year's Summit of the Americas in Panama, where Castro's cohorts will seek to undermine the Inter-American Democratic Charter -- which stemmed from the 2001 Quebec Summit's "democracy clause" -- by including Cuba in this gathering of democracies.

If the U.S. were to acquiesce or participate in such an affront, it would represent the ultimate double-standard -- and re-open the doors to Latin American dictatorships (of the left and right).

Yesterday, the issue was raised at the State Department's press briefing (with Sposkeperson Jen Psaki).

Kudos to the State Department in its response.

QUESTION: Secretary [Kerry] is meeting with Panama’s vice president. Panama recently extended an invitation to Cuba to attend the Americas Summit in 2015, and this is the first such invitation for Cuba in a number of years. Does the State Department have any response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I understand it, it was an announcement of intention to invite. I would refer you to the Government of Panama for any questions regarding formal invitations.

We – from here, our view is that at the 2001 Summit of the Americas, all participating governments agreed to consensus that “The maintenance and strengthening of the rule of law and strict respect for the democratic system are at the same time a goal and a shared commitment and are an essential condition of our presence at this and future summits.” So we should not undermine commitments previously made, but should instead encourage – and this is certainly our effort – the democratic changes necessary for Cuba to meet the basic qualifications. But of course, we look forward to the day when all 35 countries in the region can participate in the summit process.

Castro Sets New Record of Political Arrests

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 632 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of August 2014.

This bring the total number of political arrests in the first eight months of this year to 7,188.

It also sets a new (recent) record in political arrests by the Castro regime.

In just eight months, these 7,188 political arrests surpass the year-long tallies recorded for 2010 (2,074 political arrests), 2011 (4,123 political arrests), 2012 (6,602 political arrests) and 2013 (6,424 political arrests).

As such, 2014 (under Raul "the reformer") is already the most repressive year in recent history.

These are only political arrests that have been thoroughly documented. Many more are suspected.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Quote of the Day: On the Spike in Cuban Rafters

From NPR's story today, "Cuban Rafters Still Attempt Difficult Journey To The U.S.":

NPR: [W]hy such a spike in the number of rafters now? After all, since last year, Cuba has allowed people to freely travel abroad. Oscar Rivera, who heads Church World Service in Miami, says Cuba's economic reforms have so far failed to deliver. In fact, they've left many Cubans feeling poorer.

OSCAR RIVERA: They got some false hopes when the changes were introduced a few years ago. But as time goes by, they see that there's no difference in the way that they're still being controlled.

Female Democracy Activist Under Siege

From the European human rights NGO, Frontline Defenders:

Cuba – Raid and siege at home of human rights defender Ms. Damaris Moya Portieles

On 26 August 2014, the house of human rights defender Ms. Damaris Moya Portieles was raided by state security agents. Since 30 August 2014, the house has been under surveillance. This is the most recent in a series of break-ins, raids and attacks on the human rights defender and her family at their home.

Damaris Moya Portieles is an activist and member of the Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights) and is Vice-President of the Coalición Central Opositora (Central Opposition Coalition), which works to protect the well-being of children and the elderly and has protested against unjust evictions carried out by government forces.

The raid at her house took place after state security agents learned that ex-political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero wanted to take refuge at the human rights defender's house. On 26 August 2014, a state security agent forcibly entered her home and physically attacked Damaris Moya Portieles' daughter. The state security agent also threatened the human rights defender and her son.

On 13 March 2014, the women human rights defender was detained within the vicinity of the headquarters of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo – Frente OZT (the 'Orlando Zapata Tamayo' National Front of Civic Resistance) in order to prevent her participation in the weekly meeting of the Frente OZT committee. On 25 February 2014, Damaris Moya Portieles participated in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy by presenting a speech on her human rights work in Cuba.

The repression against the human rights defender and her children has been constant. Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal on 7 January 2014 after her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were assaulted by state security agents in Santa Clara, and required medical treatment. Furthermore, on 10 October 2013 Damaris Moya Portieles was beaten unconscious and arrested by Cuban police while at home with her two young children. Front Line Defenders remains gravely concerned by the risk of physical attack facing Damaris Moya Portieles and her family, especially in light of her international advocacy in Geneva earlier in 2014.

To read more about the attacks against Damaris Moya Portieles, please visit her Front Line Defenders page here.

Cuba's Serial Monopolist

This week, the Castro regime's new customs regulations took effect, whereby most personal goods carried by travelers into the island will now be deemed "commercial" -- and thus, fall within the domain of the state's import monopoly.

According to Cuban customs officials, the new decree seeks "to keep certain people from using current rules on non-commercial imports to bring into the country high volumes of goods that are destined for commercial sale and profit."

(These "certain people" are those who operate in the informal sector -- the "black-market" -- which Castro has perennially tried to bring within his control.)

This latest decree provides some important lessons (reminders), particularly for those who advocate "trade" with Cuba:

1. In Cuba, all foreign commerce (trade and investment) is the exclusive domain of the state, i.e. Fidel and Raul Castro. There are no "exceptions."

2. In the last five decades, every single commercial "foreign trade" transaction with Cuba has been with a state entity, or individual acting on behalf of the state.

3. The state's exclusivity extends also to what the rest of the world considers to be "humanitarian" transactions, i.e. all U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have been solely with the regime.

(For further details, read "In Cuba Policy Debate, Theories Don't Cut It" in The Huffington Post.)

Meanwhile, to those who argue that Castro's latest "reforms" are irreversible (unlike its similar "reforms" in the 80s and 90s, most of which were eventually rolled back) -- think again.

Finally, it proves the worst thing U.S. policymakers could do is institutionalize trade "with" Cuba, including (theoretically with) state-controlled actors (e.g. so-called "cuentapropistas") -- for all such "trade" would go through the state's monopolies.

Doing so would effectively mark the end of the informal economy ("black-market") -- arguably Cuba's most dynamic sector -- and further expand the regime's import absolutism.

Never has a monopoly been broken up by increasing its revenue and market share.

Thus, all current U.S. "trade" with Cuba -- namely agricultural sales -- should have a caveat:

That it be independent of Castro's import monopoly.

Tweet of the Day: Where's the Letter to Raul?

From the Cuban opposition think-tank, Estado de Sats:

Customs strengthens Castro's blockade vs. #Cuba. How about a "Letter from the 40*" to comrade-general-president-1st secretary [Raul] seeking executive action?

*Facetiously referring to the Council of the America's derelict letter asking Obama to take executive action to unconditionally ease sanctions towards Cuba.

Cuban Spies Target U.S. Satellite Intelligence Agency

Monday, September 1, 2014
According to Cuba Confidential, written by former U.S. Counterintelligence official, Chris Simmons, the National Reconnaissance Office ("NRO") recently honored one of its officers for helping lead a counterespionage investigation that resulted in a 13-year sentence for an unidentified Cuban spy. 

The decorated officer, Master Sergeant Tessa M. Fontaine, was chief of NRO’s Counterintelligence and Cyber-Counterintelligence Inquiries. Her spy case protected a $5 billion intelligence system. As part of the investigation, Fontaine organized 148 hours of spy debriefings and documented 16 hours of Cuban espionage operations.

The NRO is the U.S. Government agency in charge of designing, building, launching, and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites.

How Tourists Don't Help the Cuban People

Last week, we saw Exhibit B of how foreign tourists don't help the Cuban people.

(Exhibit A was last year's Toronto Star expose on child sex tourism in Cuba.)

Two women on a Sunwing flight from Toronto to Varadero -- note flights go straight to Castro's isolated beach resorts -- wanted to start the party early on the plane and began smoking and boozing heavily.

They became so disruptive that the flight was turned around (escorted home by two Canadian military jets).

These Sunwing flights are advertised as "low-cost holiday voyages with Champagne Service."

Since 1991, over 25 million Canadian tourists have visited Cuba.

Canadian tourists are the cornerstone of Castro's lucrative travel industry, which has become the dictatorship's largest source of revenue (after the low-cost, high-margin trafficking of medical professionals abroad).

So how exactly have these 25 million Canadian tourists helped the Cuban people?

Where is the balance to the overwhelming financial benefit these tourists have provided the Castro regime?

They travel to beach enclaves, stay at the Cuban military's resorts, shop at the Cuban military's retail stores, drink the Cuban military's booze, smoke the Cuban military's cigars, dine at the Cuban military's restaurants and party at the Cuban military's nightclubs -- all while keeping their "heads buried in the sand" as to the somber reality of the Cuban people.

Let's just say there's "no love lost" between the Cuban people and the Canadians that party on the backs of their suffering.

An every day look at #Cuba in Twitter is full of pictures of Canadians irreverently partying away in Castro's resorts.

And yet, that is precisely the shameful, degrading model that anti-sanctions lobbyists want the U.S. to adopt.

Name This Dictatorship

Sunday, August 31, 2014
Is the dictatorship described in the following news-story:

a.) Cuba
b.) Iran
c.) North Korea

From The Guardian:

"Despite the perception of [Nation A] as the basketcase of [Region A], the country once had an enviable healthcare system, with a network of nearly 45,000 family practitioners. Some 800 hospitals and 1,000 clinics were almost entirely free of charge for patients. They still are, but you don't get much at the hospital these days. The doctors, who are barely paid, expect gifts from their patients. The hospitals often have no heating, running water or electricity. You need to provide your own food, blankets, bandages, medicine.

The school system that once allowed [Nation A's dictator] to boast his country was the first in [Region A] to eliminate illiteracy has now collapsed. Students have no books, no paper, no pencils."

Answer: While the propaganda is remarkably similar for all three, this particularly story was about c.) North Korea. ("North Korea's Giant Leap Backwards," The Guardian 7/16/2010.)

And, of course, the "reason" for the downfall of North Korea's "enviable" free health care and educational system is sanctions.

European NGO: EU Must Pressure Cuba to Respect Human Rights

From the Stockholm-based, Civil Rights Defenders:

The EU must put pressure on Cuba to respect human rights

The EU and Cuba held subsequent negotiations concerning the possibility of future political dialogue and assistance between the two sides. To ensure that the agreement will lead to human rights improvements in Cuba, Civil Rights Defenders, together with the Cuban Campaign, Por Otra Cuba, have developed a platform on how these negotiations should be conducted and what should be included in the agreement.

Negotiations between the EU and Cuba, to achieve a bilateral agreement on the subjects of political dialogue and assistance, began in early 2014. Cuba is currently the only country in Latin America the EU has no bilateral agreement with, the reason being the total lack of respect for human rights in the country.

When the Cuban government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in 2008 it represented a first step towards change. But since then, no real improvements have followed as far as human rights is concerned.

Civil Rights Defenders calls on the EU to put pressure on Cuba to ratify and implement human rights conventions – before any discussion on an agreement can continue. Prior to any final agreement it is essential that the EU includes civil society in Cuba and the political opposition in the dialogue in order for it to have legitimacy amongst the population.

During the negotiations, it has also emerged, that the EU, in addition to the agreement on political dialogue and assistance, intends to initiate a trade agreement with Cuba. The platform states that no trade agreement should be entered into before Cuba ratifies and implements the two human rights conventions.