More Uneducated Attacks from The New York Times

Friday, October 31, 2014
The weight of The New York Times' pen is apparently too heavy for its newest editorial writer, Ernesto Londoño, and his overnight Cuba "expertise" (obsession).

In (yet) another piece today, Londoño resorts to more uneducated attacks against the Cuban-American community's democratically-elected Members of Congress.

This time, he's upset at U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL) for telling some truths about Cuba's doctors.

Truths that The New York Times is all-too-willing to ignore.

Thus, Londoño snarks, "thankfully, theirs are becoming increasingly lonely voices in the debate over Cuba policy."

He's alluding to his last editorial on "the shifting politics of Cuba policy."

Of course, the irony is that he claims Cuban-Americans are "changing their views" -- yet Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart represent the only two majority Cuban-American Congressional Districts in the nation.

More dramatically, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart numerically represent -- with widespread support -- the majority of Cuban-Americans in the entire nation. 

Needless to say, their voices are far from "lonely" in our community.

As for Congress, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart's voices are also in the majority, which supports U.S. sanctions towards Cuba.

Again, this harks back to Londoño's last editorial, where he fretted:

"Ending the embargo, which requires congressional action, remains challenging because a small but passionate group of Cuban-American lawmakers is adamant about maintaining the status quo."

The irony here -- as we've previously documented -- is that the only thing small and continuously shrinking are the number of Members of Congress that support lifting the embargo.

Moreover, yes, the seven (perhaps eight after Tuesday) Cuban-American Members of Congress are passionate and adamant about Cuba policy -- for they are a reflection of their constituencies and their own life experiences.

However, there are only six Members of Congress that are adamant about lifting sanctions -- U.S. Senators Pat Leahy (VT) and Jeff Flake (AZ), and the far-left House cabal of U.S. Reps. James McGovern (MA), Barbara Lee (CA), Kathy Castor (FL) and Charlie Rangel (NY).

Why are they so strangely adamant about embracing Castro's regime?

Now that's a real confounding issue.

Image below: U.S. Rep. James McGovern (MA) having a great time with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Cuba's "Medical Diplomacy" is Commercial, Not Humanitarian

This week, Germany's Deutche Welle newspaper looked beyond Castro's propaganda to note how Cuba's "medical diplomacy" is really a commercial endeavor for its dictatorship.

As documented in the story, it's a low-profit, high-margin business for Castro -- a quintessential "human trafficking" business model -- whereby the regime gets paid handsomely in hard currency, while the health workers get a pittance.

What remains unclear is how much Castro is getting paid -- aside from the propaganda dividend -- for the health workers currently being sent to West Africa.

Thus far, we know the Cuban health workers have been compelled to agree that if they contract the Ebola virus, they will not be repatriated to the island.

We also know that there has been a life insurance policy taken out for these health workers with the World Health Organization (WHO) -- with the Castro regime, not their families, as the beneficiary.

Many of the commercial arrangements for Cuba's health workers throughout the world are funneled via the WHO.

For example, Castro was paid for Cuba's much-propagated role in Haiti via contributions from Norway and Brazil.

So how much is the WHO paying the Castro regime for these Ebola health workers?

We'll surely find out at some point.

However, as a first clue, it was revealed last week that Mexico alone was transferring at least $1 million to the WHO for these Cuban health workers.

Deutche Welle has some of the numbers:

"A staggering 50,000 employees of the Cuban health ministry are currently serving abroad in 66 countries, according to the ministry. Of those, 30,000 are stationed in Venezuela. There are 12,000 in Brazil, 2,000 in Angola, and a further 2,000 in other parts of Africa.

In total, almost a third of Cuba's 83,000 doctors are working in foreign countries.

The government in Havana earns more than six billion euros a year ($7.6 billion) through these doctors, because only a fraction of what the doctors cost these foreign nations are paid out in their salaries."

Unfortunately, the article overlooks Castro's medical-commercial deals with South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Portugal, which also directly pay him top-dollar.

These arrangements are all in clear violation of international labor standards.

Yet, this billionaire enterprise has become one of the Castro regime's main sources of income.

Must-Read: Revelation by Cuban Democracy Leader Guillermo Fariñas

There's a fascinating interview today in El Nuevo Herald with renowned Cuban democracy leader and Sakharov Prize recipient, Guillermo Fariñas.

Below are some translated excerpts.

On current efforts -- led by The New York Times -- to normalize relations with the Castro regime, Fariñas states:

"I think that a normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States would be a betrayal to the Cuban people and to democracy. [Ladies in White leader] Berta Soler and I asked President Barack Obama during a meeting we had in November 2013, that in any negotiation, the Cuban government's counterpart should be present -- meaning, the opposition."

On the upcoming Summit of the Americas:

"It's Panama's prerogative whether to invite Cuba, but we believe Barack Obama and the U.S. authorities have a moral commitment to democracy. Therefore, we'd prefer for Obama not to attend the Summit. He can send someone in his place, but shouldn't attend as a means to protest that Cuba doesn't meet the series of requirements that had been agreed to for a country to be invited."

On travel restrictions:

"President Obama said that he has taken various steps towards the Cuban government and that it has not responded in kind. It would be a mistake to unilaterally lift the restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba because that would mean an unexpected revenue stream for a government that is desperate to obtain hard currency to continue politically controlling the country -- particularly now that its life-preserver, Venezuela, is deflating."

Finally, Fariñas makes the following revelation:

"We were contacted in 2013 by various [very rich] people with interests aligned to the Cuban government, who wanted us to change our views, and tried to buy us with millions of dollars. We rejected it."

Asked who these multimillionaires were, he responds:

"Everyone knows who it is."

Quote of the Day: On U.S. Official at ALBA Meeting in Cuba

ALBA, the brainchild of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, was created solely to oppose U.S. interests in our hemisphere. It enjoys the support of other anti-American regimes such as Syria and Iran. That the U.S. would send a representative to such a meeting is by itself ludicrous. Furthermore, there is nothing charitable about the Cuban dictatorship's actions in Africa, and there is no parity between American doctors, who are expertly trained and voluntarily travel to risky destinations on their own terms, and Cuban medics. Cuban doctors are hastily trained, poorly equipped, and forced to work in dangerous conditions while most of their pay is siphoned to the Castro dictatorship. That a U.S. official would condone their overt exploitation is outrageous.

-- U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), in a statement, 10/30/14

Rodiles: We Must Accept Nothing Less Than Fundamental Freedoms

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Excerpt by Cuban democracy leader and head of the independent think-tank, Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles:

The temptations of some political actors to enter into a political dialogue with the regime and defend a quasi-unconditional reconciliation can be many. Some dissidents, like [Catholic activist] Dagoberto Valdes, defend this thesis. Yet, it's important to note that without a broad social base to exercise sustained pressure against the old elite and its allies, it would be very difficult to advance in the direction of political changes. Venezuela, where the Cuban regime has already shown its cards, is a good example. They used those who decided to dialogue in order to silence and weaken the student movement and -- once that movement was under their control -- they ended the supposed dialogue as well.

The Cuban situation can become even more complicated. Missteps would create conditions that would place us on the path to becoming a failed state, whereby in addition to our current economic and social disaster under iron-fisted political control, we would have high levels of insecurity and the establishment of criminal organizations. The embargo, like every other international sanction, should be a tool to pressure the regime to accept the substantive measures necessary to prevent the tragic experiences that many former Communist republics encountered on this journey. Why repeat the same mistakes?

We are faced with a regime on a regressive count, but with the ability to transmute. It's not the time to grant anything to oppresors who treat their citizens with such disdain. The time for our fundamental rights has come -- a simple and powerful idea, which should not be overshadowed by any other argument or supposed strategy. We are weary of those who would be satisfied by less or who wish to "dialogue" for less. Politically, the door should not be closed, but neither opened to the point where we become a loyal opposition.

That every Cuban, inside and outside the island, can fully exercise their fundamental rights. That we obtain a firm commitment with respect to our freedoms by ratifying and implementing the U.N.'s human rights conventions. Only then would we be talking about real reforms.

Dr. Biscet: First Freedoms for the Cuban People, Then Lift Embargo

Never mind this idea of lift the embargo first and respect human rights later, for we know [the Cuban regime] lies. First freedom and human rights for the Cuban people. Then progressively lift the embargo.
-- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Cuban democracy leader, prisoner of conscience and 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, La Nueva Nacion, 10/29/14

Must-Read: Armenian-Canadian Businessmen Lose Millions in Totalitarian Cuba

By Vilen Khlgatyan of the Political Developments Research Center (PDRC):

Money Trumps Morality: Armenian-Canadian Businessmen Invest and Lose Millions in Totalitarian Cuba

Late last month the regime of Raúl Castro sentenced a Canadian businessman of Armenian origin, Cy Tokmakjian to 15 years in prison on corruption-related charges. The sentence follows a three-year ordeal which began as part of a wider campaign targeting foreign investors in Cuba by the Castro regime. Cuba follows the Soviet model slavishly, including the treatment of foreign investors. On the one hand, they are wooed for their money and know-how, on the other scapegoated for their crimes – real and imagined – in an eerie tropical morality play straight from the USSR’s New Economic Policy (NEP) of the 1920s. Tokmakjian was arrested in September of 2011, only two months after another Canadian businessman of Armenian origin, Sarkis Yacoubian, had been arrested. Cy heads the Tokmakjian Group, which is an Ontario-based automotive firm. Prior to its closure in Cuba it was one of the largest foreign companies to have operated on the Communist island over the past 20 years. Through the sale of construction and mining equipment, as well as being the exclusive Hyundai distributor in Cuba, the company took in roughly $80 million per annum. This sum made it the second largest Canadian operation in Cuba. It all came crashing down on that September day in 2011 when agents of the Cuban State Security seized and shut down the local headquarters. Predictably, the regime confiscated the company’s assets which were worth over $100 million.

Fashioned after the Soviet NEP, the Cuban regime under Raúl has been carefully crafting an imaginary economic liberalization that includes major “reforms” such as stamping out corruption. The early Soviets ran a seminal disinformation operation to induce Westerners and some Russian exiles to successfully promote foreign investment in the USSR. The Soviets, who always intended this state capitalism as a temporary measure to improve the economy, later arrested many investors known as the NEP-men on trumped-up charges and confiscated their investments without recourse.

After nearly three years of detention without formal charges leveled against him, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), Granma, reported that Tokmakjian was accused of corruption to obtain benefits in contract negotiations, unauthorized financial transactions, illegally taking large amounts of money out of the country, falsifying documents to avoid taxes and payroll irregularities. Cy Tokmakjian and his family who help run the business back in Canada deny any wrong doing. His lawyers made the decision to appeal the verdict in Cuba’s Supreme Court. Concurrently, Canadian MP Peter Kent, whose district includes the Tokmakjian Group’s headquarters, has warned other businessmen with projects in Cuba to be careful. Curiously, the New York Times is now forcefully advocating for the lifting of the U.S. embargo evidently so that American investors can seize the same “opportunities” as Mr. Tokmakjian.

Sarkis Yacoubian, the other Canadian-Armenian businessman targeted by the Cuban regime, started out as Tokmakjian’s junior partner before creating his own company. Yacoubian’s Tri-Star Caribbean, a transport and trading company developed into a burgeoning $30 million a year business. Regime officials accused Yacoubian of bribery, tax evasion and “activities damaging to the economy.” Unlike Tokmakjian though, Yacoubian decided to cooperate with his captors and provided them the ins and outs of how foreigners conduct business in Cuba. This may be the reason why he was expelled from a Cuban prison this past February and does not have to finish the rest of his nine-year sentence in a Canadian penal institution.

A practical as well as patriotic question arises. Why were Tokmakjian and Yacoubian investing millions of dollars in one of the most corrupt and totalitarian regimes in the world, whilst their ancestral home is in dire need of investments from the Diaspora and foreign businessmen in general? All the hazards, real and imagined, of doing business in Armenia pale in comparison to the hoops and hurdles with which one is confronted in order to succeed in the Cuban business environment. Armenia is under a Turkish and Azerbaijani embargo over which it has no control. Cuba, in contrast, faces only a unilateral American embargo that would end, or at least ease, were the regime to accept the timeless principle that all men are created equal and all deserve to be ruled by a government of their own choosing. In the meantime, any country in the world can and does invest in Cuba helping to prop up a regime that does not respect the rights of its own citizens. It can hardly be expected that this regime will somehow respect the rights of foreign investors. In fact, it would behoove Armenian and other investors to understand that Cuba’s NEP is just an elaborate deception operation. They will soon be victimized one way or another.

The Tokmakjian family released a statement following Cy’s conviction in which they write that since the beginning of their father’s legal ordeal in Cuba, he has been “denied the most fundamental human and civil rights recognized under both Canadian and international law.” What they failed to mention is that the Cuban judicial system is a mockery of law and order.  Any disinterested party could have warned them that investing in Cuba is fraught with pitfalls. When Tokmakjian was doing business in Cuba, making profits, and everything was peachy he willingly ignored the myriad misdeeds of the Castro regime. Investing in Cuba bankrolls the regime by providing much-needed hard currency to support secret police operations and other repressive forces. It propagandizes the illusion of a legitimate place of business. Additionally, the Cuban military leadership controls foreign investment and the Cuban employees of those businesses. This has allowed them to siphon millions of dollars for themselves while paying Cuban workers a pittance.

The moral question in all this is why two individuals who are the descendants of genocide survivors, whose ancestors and fellow Armenians lost property running into the hundreds of billions of dollars at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and now the Republic of Turkey, would invest in a totalitarian state like Cuba. A state which also has profited handsomely from the wholesale murder, looting, and usurpation of properties and other assets once owned by Cubans from all walks of life. It should be noted here that thousands of Armenians found refuge in an ethnically diverse Cuba after the Genocide. In a repeat of history, Armenians were forced to flee their adopted Cuban homeland as the Communist regime still in power today arrested their friends, executed their neighbors and confiscated their properties. If Armenians wish for non-Armenians to take our pain and suffering seriously, if we wish for non-Armenians to join with us in our drive to reclaim our lost properties, then as a community we must condemn any and all activities which profit from the suffering of others.  Hypocrisy is not an option.

On U.N. General Assembly's Vote Against Cuba Sanctions

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Last week, 181 nations voted in the U.N.'s General Assembly ("UNGA") to give Venezuela a seat in the U.N.'s Security Council, despite that government's violations of human rights; subversion of democratic institutions; involvement in international narcotics trafficking; and blatant support for the world's rogue regimes and terrorist organizations.

Today, by a similar margin, the nations of UNGA voted against the United States' policy of conditioning the lifting of Cuba sanctions to the release of political prisoners; the recognition of universally-recognized human rights; and the legalization of political parties, an independent media and labor groups.

Both votes are representative of the moral deficiencies and institutional contradictions plaguing UNGA. Yet, while the Venezuela vote is within UNGAs multilateral purview, the U.S.'s bilateral policy towards Cuba is clearly not.

The decision of which nations the U.S. chooses to conduct commerce with belongs to the U.S. government; specifically, to our democratically-elected Congress. It does not belong to UNGA.

If other nations choose to do business with Cuba's dictatorship, that's (for worse) their prerogative. As a matter of fact, practically every other nation in the world does business with Cuba's dictatorship and we've seen first-hand how those billions are all funneled through Castro's monopolies, while serving no benefit to the Cuban people.

In contrast, the U.S. rightfully believes it's not in its national interest to finance the sole remaining dictatorship in the Americas.

UNGA should instead devote its time to reflecting on its debilitating institutional contradictions.

For example, why does it allow Cuba, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Vietnam to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council?

Why does it always target Israel for human rights violations, but not the world's worst dictatorships?

And last, but not least:

Why did it allow Cuba to escape without reprimand for the most egregious violation -- ever recorded -- of its own Security Council sanctions towards North Korea?

Quote of the Day: In Opposition to U.N. General Assembly's Cuba Resolution

The United States conducts its economic relationships with other countries in accordance with its national interests and its principles. Our sanctions toward Cuba are part of our overall effort to help the Cuban people freely exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and determine their own future, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the democratic principles to which the United Nations itself is committed.
-- Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs, statement in opposition to the U.N. General Assembly's Cuba resolution, 10/28/14

U.S. Must Continue Challenging Tyrants

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Editorial Board:

U.N. Watch: A diminished U.S.

As Venezuela easily claims its prize — a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council — the Obama administration remains as disengaged as ever.

“Unfortunately Venezuela's conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the charter's letter,” remarked U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. In other words, “Oh, well.”

Even the U.N.'s own Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions was more convincing when it slammed Venezuela for imprisoning government protesters. Venezuela's relentless crackdown has led to more than 40 deaths and thousands of unlawful arrests, reports The Daily Signal.

And never mind Venezuela's extensive ties to Cuba. No doubt Venezuela will be Raul Castro's puppet on the Security Council.

With good reason, the United States worked diligently to block Venezuela's Security Council nomination in 2006 after 47 rounds of voting. Venezuela was blocked again in 2008.

Where was the U.S. outcry this time?

“(T)he geopolitics of 2014 are far worse than they were in 2008, and the U.S. does not have the diplomatic clout it once had,” write Ana Quintana and Brett Schaefer for The Signal.

That's clearly evidenced as the United States meekly shrugs and returns to business as usual at Turtle Bay.

How to Relegate Human Rights and Democracy in U.S.-Cuba Policy

Monday, October 27, 2014
In light of recent lobbying efforts by the Castro regime and its cohorts, along with The New York Times, to unilaterally and unconditionally ease U.S. sanctions, El Nuevo Herald recently interviewed four of Cuba's most renowned democracy leaders.

They are The Ladies in White's Berta Soler, the Cuban Patriotic Union's (UNPACU) Jose Daniel Ferrer, Estado de Sats' Antonio Rodiles and Arco Progresista's Manuel Cuesta Morua.

All four strongly agree that human rights and democracy should remain the priority of U.S. policy towards Cuba.

Moreover, three of the four -- Soler, Ferrer and Rodiles -- support current U.S. sanctions and believe they should remain in place until the Cuban regime takes significant steps towards human rights and democracy.

Only Cuesta Morua was not against the lifting of sanctions, though he is quite weary of those who intentionally obliviate human rights and democracy to further their Cuba policy objectives (i.e. this year's Council of the Americas letter, which he strongly criticized).

So how does he reconcile the two?

Essentially, through wishful thinking.

Cuesta Morua stated:

"I don't think the United States, if it takes a step towards normalization, will abandon the agenda of human rights."

Think again.

If relations with Cuba were normalized, the United States might occasionally raise the issue of human rights and democracy rhetorically -- but in practice it would be relegated to the bottom of the agenda.

The United States' agenda towards Cuba would become subject to the priorities of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau, the National Foreign Trade Council, every major agribusiness and oil conglomerate, etc.

None of whom care one bit about the human rights of the Cuban people -- nor of the Iranian people, Syrian people, Burmese people, et al.

This is not a theory. It is a fact.

Just take a look at U.S. policy toward China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia or even Venezuela.

Let's not forget, the State Department passionately opposed -- until it was embarrassed by the General Hugo Carvajal fiasco -- simple visa restrictions against individual human rights violators from the Venezuelan government.

(For that matter, why hasn't the rest of the Western Hemisphere lifted a finger on behalf of human rights and democracy in Venezuela, despite no U.S. sanctions and normalized relations with everyone?)

Or take a look at Obama's current Hong Kong "quandary."

As Politico wrote this week:

"Despite calls from some American lawmakers and democracy advocates in Hong Kong that the president speak out more forcefully on the side of student demonstrators, who want less interference from Beijing, Obama has publicly held his tongue."

Of course, Castro's D.C. lobbyists and apologists know that if relations with Cuba were normalized, human rights and democratic reforms would be relegated, which is why they are marketing the The New York Times' "bag of goods" that, "[normalizing relations] would better position Washington to press the Cubans on democratic reforms."

Most Cuban democrats know -- and the facts show -- that this would not be the case.

Image Below: Cuban dictator Raul Castro with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue.

Quote of the Day: Oppressors Should Not be Rewarded

Those who flagrantly violate human rights cannot not be rewarded with concessions and treated well. Dictatorships are dictatorships, and like all those who violate what should be respected, they should be punished and made clear that their bad actions will not be applauded.
-- Jose Daniel Ferrer, co-leader of Cuba's largest opposition group, Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), El Nuevo Herald, 10/24/14

Rosa Maria Paya: No Rewarding the Cuban Regime

By Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of deceased Cuban democracy leader, Oswaldo Paya, in The Washington Post:

No rewarding the Cuban regime

Conversations with the Cuban government, which have been maintained for decades by U.S. congressmen, lobbies, nongovernmental organizations, businessmen, journalists, religious leaders, intelligence and government officers, have hardly served democracy in Cuba. Neither has the U.S. trade embargo.

What Wayne S. Smith, Cuba project director for the Center for International Policy, said in an Oct. 26 letter [“Keep the trade embargo?”] is a Cuban move “toward liberalization,” my father, Oswaldo Payá, called “fraudulent change.” The Cuban dictatorship that is supposedly changing is the one responsible for taking the life of my father and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. They refuse to allow an investigation of these deaths.

How can anyone know what “the overwhelming majority” of Cubans agree on if we have no access to mass media on the island and no citizen under the age of 80 has ever voted in free and pluralistic elections? Cubans deserve and have asked for a plebiscite to change our law so that we can choose a legitimate government and hold it accountable.

Lifting the U.S. embargo is not the solution because it is not the cause of our lack of political and economic rights. I’m in favor of coherent communication, but engagement and dialogue should not be a reward for the military elite from Havana that imposes its monologic agenda on my people while fostering intolerance and hostility with absolute impunity.

Let’s not speak for the Cubans but support the right of Cubans to have a voice in Cuba.

Castro Must be Held Responsible for Gross' Continued Imprisonment

By Frank Calzon in The Washington Post:

The Oct. 21 editorial “Truth and freedom in Cuba” said that the Cuban government “continues to imprison Alan Gross on false charges.” Mr. Gross is a development aid subcontractor who was sentenced to 15 years for giving a satellite telephone and laptop computer to a handful of Cuban Jews seeking access to the Internet. I hope President Obama and his foreign policy advisers read the editorial carefully.

Mr. Gross is a U.S. hostage trapped in Cuba. He committed no internationally recognized crime and was held more than a year before charges were made against him. His “trial” was a sham, and his sentence is the same as the one imposed on Fidel Castro in 1953 for attacking an Army base where many died. Mr. Castro served less than two years. Mr. Gross has served more than four years, lost 100 pounds and vision in one eye and cannot walk. He was denied a compassionate furlough to visit his dying mother in the United States. Yet a Cuban spy convicted of infiltrating U.S. military bases was allowed to visit his sick mother in Cuba.

Mr. Gross’ emotional state is deteriorating. If Mr. Gross dies in prison, Raúl Castro, who now heads Cuba’s government, should be held personally responsible.

The Post is absolutely right when it says “fully lifting the embargo now would reward and ratify [Havana’s] intransigence.”

The Miami Herald's Editorial Board: Cuba Hasn't Earned Embargo's End

Sunday, October 26, 2014
From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Cuba hasn’t earned embargo’s end

In October of 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on exports to Cuba covering all commodities except medical supplies and certain food products. That was the beginning of a trade embargo that still endures and still inspires heated debate.

The anniversary of the embargo, plus this week’s upcoming vote in the United Nations condemning it — which the United States will lose, as usual — have prompted calls for a reassessment. Dropping the embargo altogether would require action by Congress. Meanwhile, anti-embargo advocates say, there’s a lot the president can do to soften or minimize its effects and open the door to restoring full ties with Cuba.

We disagree. Such a move would be premature and utterly lacking in justification at this time.

Granted, Raúl Castro has loosened the reins on the tightly controlled economy to permit more individual businesses. Some citizens can own property, and new rules are designed to encourage foreign investment. But it’s only because Cuba has been frozen in time for so long that such minimal change seems so dramatic. The Cuban nomenklatura still runs the Soviet-style planned economy that largely remains in place, and its members remain its major beneficiaries.

Some see vague government statements from Havana welcoming renewed diplomatic ties with the United States as a sign that it’s willing to negotiate longstanding differences. We would attribute that not to any goodwill but rather to Cuba hedging its bets as it nervously watches the slide in oil prices and the rise of political instability in Venezuela.

The Andean country has been the Castro brothers’ main benefactor in the last few years, helping prop up Cuba’s chronically weak economy with cheap oil. But if oil prices continue to drop, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro will need every penny he can get selling oil on the international market. He won’t hesitate to throw Cuba under the bus if it means survival for the Chávez movement in Caracas.

That makes the timing of any move by Washington toward Havana particularly inappropriate. Why throw it a lifeline now?

Yet even if these objections could be met, the greater issue remains unresolved: Cuba is still an unforgiving, authoritarian police state that will stop at nothing to stifle those it deems enemies of the state.

Here’s what Human Rights Watch says: “The Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts of shaming, termination of employment and threats of long-term imprisonment.”

Arrests of dissidents are going up, not down. Press freedom? Forget about it.

Nor has the Cuban government bothered to investigate the death of Oswaldo Payá, perhaps Cuba’s most prominent advocate of democracy, nor to allow an independent investigation of his supposed “accident” by anyone else.

Then there’s the case of American Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” Translation from the Kafkaesque: He was caught bringing a satellite phone to Cuba’s small and beleaguered Jewish community.

Is there any doubt that the Castro brothers remain committed to maintaining their dictatorship over Cuba? Of course not. As long as that remains the case, the United States has no incentive to extend a welcoming hand.

Desperate and Shameless: The New York Times' Latest Cuba Editorial

Last Sunday, The New York Times treated us to an editorial on U.S.-Cuba policy, which was full of glaring contradictions, misrepresentations and omissions.

Today, it's treating us to a similarly deceptive -- and absolutely shameless -- editorial on Cuban-American politics.

Just how shameless?

It finally admits in its opening paragraph:

"There was a time, not too long ago, when any mainstream politician running for statewide or national office in Florida had to rattle off fiery rhetoric against the Cuban government and declare unquestioning faith that the embargo on the island would one day force the Castros from power."

What? Not too long ago?

Is the NYT recognizing that it has been absolutely wrong about Cuban-American politics for the last 40 years?

After all -- this is the same NYT that on December 20th, 1965, sought to convince politicians and public opinion that:

The very active anti-Castro groups in Miami have faded into virtual obscurity.”

Then again, on October 10, 1974:

Virtually all of several dozen Cubans interviewed would like to visit Cuba either to see their relatives or just their country, which they have not seen for 10 years or more; and some segments of the exile community, especially young refugees brought up and educated here, are not interested in the Cuban issues.”

And on March 23, 1975:

For the first time significant number of exiles are beginning to temper their emotion with hardnosed geopolitical realism.”

And on August 31, 1975:

A majority of the persons interviewed — especially the young, who make up more than half of the 450,000 exiles here — are looking forward to the time when it will be possible for them to travel to Cuba. Even businessmen, who represent a more conservative group than the young, are thinking about trading with Cuba once the embargo is totally lifted.”

And on July 4, 1976:

A new generation of professionals between 25 and 35 years of age has replaced the older exile leadership.”

Et al.

Yet, now again, today -- on October 25th, 2014 -- claims:

"In recent years as younger members of the diaspora have staked out views that are increasingly in favor of deepening engagement with the island."

In recent years?

The NYT has been making that same political argument since 1965!

Beyond this glaring contradiction, the editorial weaves, bobs and turns in desperate search for a selective gauge that favors its long-discredited narrative on Cuban-American politics.

Of course, it omits the two simplest, factual and most relevant indicators:

-- Every Cuban-American elected official supports U.S. sanctions towards Cuba. Surely, there's no greater indicator of political attitude than the democratic process.  This transcends generations -- with some of the policy's most visible and vocal defenders being young, i.e. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

-- There are only two majority Cuban-American Congressional Districts in the whole country -- Florida 27, represented by U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Florida 25, represented by U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). Both ran unopposed this year due to the strong support they enjoy from their majority Cuban-American electorate.

Then, the NYT frets:

"Still, ending the embargo, which requires congressional action, remains challenging because a small but passionate group of Cuban-American lawmakers is adamant about maintaining the status quo."

That's right, in our democracy, Congress makes laws -- and only Congress can repeal laws. But it takes more than a "small passionate group" to pass or repeal a law -- it takes a majority of Congress.

Just this week, one of the Castro regime's most outspoken Congressional apologists, U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), stated:

"Right now we would not win a vote to repeal Helms-Burton or to remove the travel restrictions."

He's right.

Moreover, in recent years, any Congressional support for easing sanctions towards Cuba has continued to whither, as the Castro regime has taken an American hostage; dramatically increased repression; illegally trafficked 240 tons of weapons to North Korea; fomented violence and subverted democracy in Venezuela; arbitrarily imprisoned and confiscated the investments of foreign businessmen from Europe and Canada; and become a diplomatic mouthpiece for its terrorist brethren in Syria and Iran.

Legislators have also been heeding the calls from Cuba's largest and most active internal democracy groups (i.e. UNPACU, The Ladies in White, Estado de Sats, National Resistance Front) that it is not the time to ease sanctions.

Case and point:

In the 111th Congress, a bill to ease travel restrictions garnered 179 co-sponsors in the House of Representative -- still short of the 218 needed to pass.

In this 113th Congress, the very same bill garnered only 18 co-sponsors.

Apparently, the NYT doesn't want you to know this.

Finally, the NYT resorts to taking desperate potshots at the former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

It states that Ros-Lehtinen -- the democratically-elected representative of the most highly-concentrated, Cuban-American Congressional District in the country, who meets and interacts on a daily basis with Cuba's leading democracy leaders, civil society activists and recent arrivals of all stripes -- "is strikingly out of touch with what is happening on the island."

That is unbecoming (at best). Particularly, coming from a young, new editorial writer at the NYT, Ernesto Londoño, who recently discovered Cuba and is obviously regurgitating the cliches of his biased sources.

Then it criticizes Chairman Menendez for giving an impassioned Cuba policy speech on the Senate floor "during the height of the crisis set off by Russia’s invasion of Crimea."

That is ironic (at best). Particularly, coming from the NYT's Editorial Board, which among the world's multiple crises, has now dedicated three editorials to Cuba (the first two praised by Castro himself, as surely this latest one will) in just one week.

It's even more ironic, as the NYT is precisely lobbying President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, to deviate from the world's many crises, in order to unilaterally and unconditionally embrace Cuba's undeserving dictatorship.

Absolutely shameless.