Cuban Doctors Yearning to Breathe Freely

Saturday, November 22, 2014
From The Weekly Standard's Scrapbook:

Doctors Yearning to Breathe Free

"Brain drain” is a phrase that first appeared in the 1950s, when London’s Royal Society expressed concern about the number of British scientists, engineers, and physicians being lured to the United States. Its concern was not misplaced: The Second World War had essentially bankrupted Britain, and in the wake of postwar privations and the nationalization of health care, the number of British professionals crossing the Atlantic to affluent America was substantial.

Since then, the phrase has been applied retroactively: The arrival of German Jewish refugees—novelists, scientists, scholars, composers—during the Third Reich was a “brain drain” for Germany but an unexpected bonus for us. So imagine The Scrapbook’s surprise, if you will, when the New York Times revived the term in a November 16 editorial (“A Cuban Brain Drain, Courtesy of the U.S.”).

Only this time it wasn’t about Scottish engineers taking high-paying jobs in Texas, or Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany for their lives. It was in reference to the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, an eight-year-old U.S. immigration measure that puts Cuban health professionals who choose to defect on the fast track to American citizenship. And the Times is against it.

Since Cuba is a closely organized Communist police state, it has an educated population with limited opportunities to practice their professions. The typical bartender in a Havana tourist hotel (no Cuban customers allowed) holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering. The same is true for the health sciences. Cuba trains a large number of nurses, technicians, and physicians, but the products of these programs are coerced into overseas service to generate foreign currency. Cuba trades health workers for oil from Venezuela, for example; more than a few Cuban physicians are treating Ebola patients in West Africa, and Havana seizes the bulk of their income.

The fact that many Cuban health workers might resent this state of affairs—and consider their overseas labor a form of indentured servitude—is self-evident. Even the Times acknowledges that “some doctors who have defected say they felt the overseas tours had an implicit element of coercion and have complained that the government pockets the bulk of the money it gets for their services.” Yet the editorial sympathy of the Times is extended not to exploited doctors—whose annual incomes, after a recent government raise, are a stupefying $720 a year—but to the Cuban government. The Times complains that the Castro dictatorship trained these health workers, and now the United States is offering them a life of freedom and prosperity!

The language of the Times editorial is telling. The author of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program was the “hard-line Cuban exile” Emilio González, who headed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Bush administration. And “the Cuban government has long regarded the medical defection program as a symbol of American duplicity.”

The Scrapbook begs to differ with the New York Times. The program is a lifeline for people who have dedicated their lives to health care and wish to practice their profession in freedom and dignity. It also undermines the coercive power of a dictatorship and illustrates why America remains a beacon to the world.

There is one word to describe those who sit comfortably in Manhattan—well paid, highly educated, free to speak their minds—and would shut the door on doctors and nurses who seek the basic freedoms American journalists take for granted. That word is “grotesque.”

Is Cuba Shilling for North Korea in the Congo?

Cuba has clearly become North Korea's biggest international shill.

Last year, over 240 tons of Cuban weapons were interdicted en route to North Korea.  This was the largest violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions to date.

And just last month, Cuba led a shameful effort in the United Nations to whitewash North Korea's human rights violations and protect the Kim regime from possible prosecution for "crimes against humanity."

This week, Cuban state media reported that senior military officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were visiting Havana in order to "discuss expanding technical military cooperation."

They met with Castro's Minister of Defense (FAR), Alvaro Lopez Miera, and and other senior military officials. (See image below).

This may sound somewhat innocuous, but as The University of Miami's Dr. Jaime Suchlicki reminded us last year in "Cuba and North Korea: Brothers in 'Arms'":

"For the past 50 years, Cuba has been an ally and supporter of numerous anti-American regimes and revolutionary and terrorist groups, some still struggling to attain and consolidate power and impose Marxist ideologies on their population. One of these is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congolese army has failed to quell a growing 10 month insurgencies which has dragged the country’s eastern region back to war. The rebellion could increase the possibility of conflict with neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, which allegedly are supporting the rebels. The Marxist Congolese government led by Joseph Kabila, a close friend of Cuba, has been struggling to retain power and crush the rebellion.

Congo is a major source of uranium, which North Korea needs for its nuclear program. Shipments of North Korean weapons bound for the Congo have been intercepted in the past. Are the Cubans and North Koreans gambling to support their comrades in the Congo? The Director of the Sub-Saharan Department of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador to the Congo, Hector Igarza, led a high level, little publicized, delegation to Congo in February of this year, perhaps offering Cuban support to the beleaguered Congo regime. In September 2011, Kabila visited Gen. Raul Castro in Havana.

If it is determined that the weapons were destined for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or any other nation, it could have significant implications."

In 2010, a shipment of North Korean arms destined for the Congo was interdicted by South Africa.

As the BBC reported:

"South Africa has confirmed it seized banned military equipment on a ship sailing from North Korea to the Republic of Congo.

The foreign ministry said it had reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, saying the shipment broke a UN weapons sanction against North Korea.

The report said spare parts for T-55 tanks were hidden among sacks of rice in two shipping containers."

Moreover, last year, an "arms for uranium" agreement pact between Zimbabwe and North Korea was denounced, with Congolese President Joseph Kabila's family-owned mining company, Cosleg, playing a key role.

As a reminder, it was a "technical military cooperation" visit to Havana by senior North Korean military officials that preceded last year's illegal arms interdiction.

It's worth keeping an eye on.

Cuba Renews Support for Iran's Nuclear Program

From Iranian state media (FNA):

Cuba Renews Support for Iran's Nuclear Program

Cuban Vice President Gladys Bejerano Portela in a meeting with Iran's new Ambassador to Havana Kambiz Sheikh Hassani renewed her country’s full support for Tehran's peaceful nuclear program.

"We strongly support Iran's efforts to make further progress in the field of nuclear technology and removal of the western sanctions," Portela said during the meeting on Thursday.

She pointed to the two countries’ friendly relations, and said, "We want further improvement of relations, specially in the economic and trade areas."

Sheikh Hassani, for his part, pointed to the status quo of Tehran-Havana relation, and said, "I will do my best during my tenure here in Havana to further broaden bilateral ties between the two countries."

In recent years, Iran has been seeking to enhance its relations with Latin American countries within the framework of international organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), whose rotating presidency is currently held by Iran.

Obama Firm on Cuba Policy, Says Senior Advisor

From Cafe Fuerte (translation by Havana Times):

Obama Firm on Cuba Policy, says adviser

One of the closest foreign policy advisers in the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama will not take executive action to ease the embargo on Cuba. He noted that any change of policy towards the island depends on the regime of Raul Castro showing “significant changes”.

“Unless Cuba is able to demonstrate that it is taking significant steps, I don’t know how we could move forward in our relationship,” said Antony J. Blinken, deputy national security adviser, during a hearing in the US Senate.

Blinken appeared before the Senate to testify at his first confirmation hearing for the post of Assistant Secretary of State, nominated by Obama. After his introduction he answered the questions in a session chaired by the Cuban Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Marco Rubio asked for clarification

And near the end of the two-hour hearing, Senator Marco Rubio took his turn to interrogate Blinken about his opinions about the situation in Venezuela, the crossroads of the negotiations between the government and the FARC in Colombia, and Cuba.

Regarding Cuba, Rubio called for clarification on recent reports that over the next two years of his presidency, Obama could issue executive measures on Cuba to remove barriers of the embargo and promote the normalization of relations with the Castro regime.

Rumors about that possibility have increased in recent weeks following a barrage of editorials from The New York Times asking the administration to renew its policy toward the island.

Blinken denied it and said that such a policy change is not foreseeable in the midst of the attitude of the Cuban regime to maintain prisoner the US contractor Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“Anything you could do in Cuba should be consistent with the law and secondly, everything in the future should be done in full consultation with Congress,” the official said.

In the wrong direction

Blinken maintained that the Cuban government has been moving in the wrong direction, increasing political arrests and keeping in prison Alan Gross, whose unjust incarceration remains an obstacle to the normalization of relations.

Blinken said the president has ideas on how to promote the democratization of Cuba and on how to prepare the Cuban people for future changes. He said that if an opportunity arises to move in that direction “he may take advantage of it.”

“But that depends on Cuba and the actions it takes,” he noted.

Rubio insisted that the types of changes in Cuba sought by the Obama administration should not only be in the economic sector.

Democratic reforms

Blinken said that any progress in the bilateral relationship will be determined by “democratic reforms, not simply by economic reforms.”

At the end of the session, Menendez spoke to suggest that Washington should not accept that Cuba attends the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015. He further recalled the recent position of the Cuban regime in opposition to a UN resolution to sanction North Korea, backed by the vast majority of the international community.

Menendez also recalled that Havana insists on the release of three Cuban spies in US prisons in exchange for the release of Alan Gross, when they are very different cases. He also mentioned the name of Ana Belen Montes, a former Pentagon official sentenced to 25 years, as part of the long arm of Cuban espionage on US soil.

Blinken is expected to be confirmed for the position in the State Department before the congressional end of the year recess.

Weekend Listening: NPR's Cuba Policy Debate

Earlier this week, NPR’s Diane Rehm show discussed U.S. policy towards Cuba.

It featured input from Mauricio Claver-Carone of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, American University's William LeoGrande, the Center for a Free Cuba’s Frank Calzon and Brookings Institution’s Ted Piccone.

The hour-long show can be heard here.

Cuba: Open Hands, Clenched Fist

Thursday, November 20, 2014
By renowned Cuban poet and former political prisoner, Raul Rivero, in Spain's El Mundo:

Cuba: Open Hands, Clenched Fist

With Dilma Rousseff's prodigal generosity for the Cuban government now being watched carefully by a powerful opposition, and amid Venezuela's debacle due to falling oil prices and a talent for failure by Nicolas Maduro, the Cuban regime has intensified its search for money elsewhere in order to remain in power.

The principal figures of the dictatorship have spent months diligently, as we say colloquially, "begging for water through gesticulations" ("pidiendo el agua por señas"). Those cries for help have resonated in the European Union, in some sectors of North American society and among a group of rich Cubans -- pragmatic and with short memories.

The most important bites, both politically and economically, have been in the Old World.  Europe has held two rounds of talks with the Castro regime to reach an agreement that would substitute the Common Position, which was proposed by the government of Jose Maria Aznar and adopted by the European Union in 1996. Another round of talks will be held in Havana this December.

The reality is that it hasn't been necessary to wait for the Europeans and the soldiers of real socialism to sign an agreement of cordiality, friendship and closeness.

In April, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius traveled to Cuba to cheer up the disguised Spring of the Caribbean. His colleagues from Norway and Holland also went to get some sun and, in October, Hugo Swire, the U.K.'s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, enthusiastically responded to Cuba's SOS with a visit where he stressed to the "guayabera-clad" men: "I'm here to show the support the United Kingdom will give to the economic changes Cuba is undertaking."

Precisely, in October, nine dissidents were condemned to sentences of between two and seven years in prison and another 12 await for manipulated trials by the police. That same month, 413 arbitrary political arrests took place, 13 government opponents were victims of physical aggression and paramilitary squads attacked the homes of eight human rights activists.

None of the visitors peered at the streets through the windows of the limousines that take them to the luxury hotels, where they signed friendship accords and exchanged hugs with government officials.

Spain's Foreign Minsiter, José Manuel García-Margallo, is going to Cuba this month.

Quote of the Day: Let Alan Gross Go!

I have a message for Mr. Castro down in Cuba, let Alan Gross go! Let him go today, let him go now.
-- U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Appropriations Committee Chair, Capital News Service, 11/18/14

The Countless Victims of Cuba's Wall

By Maria C. Werlau in The Miami Herald:

Cuba refuses to tear down its wall

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the infamous Berlin Wall this month, a deadlier replica almost twice in age remains in Communist Cuba.

Barbed wire, high fences, mine fields, watch towers, ferocious dogs, and sharpshooters firing at unarmed civilians...the tropical version of the Berlin Wall prevents escapees from reaching the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo. Cuba’s distinctive version of the barrier extends into Guantánamo Bay, where border guards fire from patrol boats or throw grenades at anyone trying to swim to the base.

In the mid-1990s, Cuba built a sea wall, visible on Google Earth. Its movable net allows authorized maritime traffic but is manned by guards trained to trap swimmers trying to get to the base.

During the 28-year existence of the Berlin Wall (1961-1989), 227 people were killed attempting to cross to West Berlin. In the 55 years of the Cuban version, countless thousands have paid with their lives, their limbs, or years of prison for attempting the crossing.

Successive U.S. administrations, although granting refuge to those who make it to the base, have kept largely silent on the systematic killings to avoid provoking the Castros and having the base overrun by asylum seekers. U.S. anti-personnel and anti-tank land mines in the buffer zone with Cuba since 1961 — reportedly a Cold War necessity — were removed in 1996 to uphold international agreements banning land mines.

Theodore Scotes, commander of the base’s Camp Bulkeley in 1968, has confirmed that Cuban guards stationed around the base had orders to shoot to kill “fence-jumpers” and that the U.S. government kept classified records of all recorded incidents. The Clinton administration reportedly filed a rare protest with the Cuban government in June 1994 after many defenseless swimmers had been attacked with grenades and shot by Cuban border guards as they attempted to reach the base; U.S. personnel could see the bodies being fished out of the water with gaffing hooks.

Iskander Maleras, 26, and Luis Angel Valverde, 30, were murdered by sharpshooters on Jan. 19, 1994 as they swam toward the base with two friends, hoping to obtain asylum. They were about 50 meters from U.S. territory when Cuban border guards started shooting with long-range automatic rifles from their watchtower.

The two survivors, one injured, pulled their friends’ bodies from the water. One then made it safely into U.S. territory, so the news filtered out. The next day, the victims’ parents were told by authorities to go unaccompanied to the Guantánamo cemetery, where the bodies, riddled with bullet wounds, were buried in a large field of unmarked graves for victims of foiled escape attempts to the base.

Photographs of their bodies were exhibited in a local school with a warning to avoid facing a similar fate by trying to escape. The apprehended survivor was tried and sentenced to prison while the two soldiers who killed unarmed civilians were commended for doing their duty. The victims’ families were harassed, humiliated, persecuted and eventually forced to seek political asylum in the United States.

Cuba Archive has record of 80 people killed or missing in attempts to reach the base. There are anecdotal accounts of many more cases. A far more extensive list documents Cubans, including children, killed or disappeared attempting to escape the island by any means; the actual number of victims is estimated in the tens of thousands.

Despite regulations relaxing harsh travel restrictions beginning January 2013, Cuba’s Penal Code (Article 215) continues to forbid citizens from leaving the island without prior government authorization. Attempting to do so is punishable with years of prison. Stealing or hijacking a vessel to flee can lead to capital punishment.

While the United States is widely condemned for its prison for accused terrorists at Guantánamo, the killing fields and ghastly dungeons on the Cuban side are altogether ignored. It is time for the double standard to end and for the international community to demand that Cuba stop its egregious human-rights violations.

Tweet of the Day: Sovereignty Doesn't Trump Human Rights

From today's event on the 25th anniversary of the Czech Republic's Velvet Revolution at the National Endowment for Democracy:

Senior Administration Official: Democratic Reforms Needed in Cuba Prior to Policy Changes

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
During yesterday's confirmation hearing for Tony Blinken as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked whether the Obama Administration planned any unilateral changes to Cuba policy during the remainder of his term.

Blinken responded that: "Anything that might be done on Cuba will have to be consistent with the law. And second, anything that in the future might be done on Cuba would be done in full consultation with Congress.”

However, Blinken stressed that "unless Cuba is able to demonstrate that it is taking meaningful steps to move forward, I don’t see how you move forward in the relationship."

And that, thus far, Cuba's regime has been moving in "the wrong direction" with increased political detentions, harassment and the imprisonment of American development worker, Alan Gross.

As to what "moving forward" means, Blinken clarified that this means "democratic reforms" -- "not simply economic reforms."

Watch the full exchange below (or here):

Sun-Sentinel: New York Times Wrong to Lobby Against Cuban Embargo

By Guillermo I. Martinez in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

New York Times wrong to lobby for lifting Cuba embargo

Ernesto Londoño is the newest member of The New York Times editorial board. He was hired in September and since then he has written six editorials and two blogs on why the United States should re-establish relations with Cuba and lift the embargo.

In more than 50 years as a journalist, I cannot recall a time when a major American newspaper has published that many editorials on a story that outside of South Florida is no longer front-page news.

Editorials are supposed to give guidance, offer advice to readers and public officials. Seldom are they part of a lobbying campaign. Yet this is precisely what The New York Times and Londoño are doing.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C., a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba toward human rights, democracy and the rule of law, said that when Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of The New York Times' opinion pages was asked about the series of editorials and blogs, he admitted they were part of a lobbying campaign.

Carone said Rosenthal had admitted the newspaper wanted "to influence those who craft U.S. policy (in this country) at a time when they were contemplating the possibility of adopting a new policy towards Cuba."

This is not to say The New York Times is accepting money from the Cuban government or from the group of rich Cubans asking for the same thing. I believe Londoño and the newspaper are taking this position because of their convictions.

I respect their right to say their piece, but I reject their logic and the idea that newspaper editorials should be repositories of arguments for a lobbying campaign.

Rosenthal must know things us mere mortals ignore. I am cognizant there has been a group of wealthy Cubans who seek rapprochement with the Cuban regime. Yet I know of no plan or even a rumor that the U.S. government is thinking of changing its Cuba policy.

As long as Bob Menéndez, D-N.J., chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate will not even get the chance to consider modifying the Helms-Burton law that strengthened the embargo against Cuba.

Maybe Londoño and The New York Times Editorial Board believe President Obama would be willing to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. That would be naive. The president already has a major battle on his hands when he enacts immigration reform by executive action, bypassing Congress.

Londoño's arguments are at best exaggerated. He says younger Cuban-Americans favor lifting the embargo. Polls do say that.

What neither the polls nor Londoño can explain is why, if that is the case, all five Cuban-American congressmen and three senators are all opposed to lifting the embargo or re-establishing relations with Cuba. Nor can the polls explain why two Democratic Party candidates in Florida who favored improving relations with Cuba lost their elections in November.

Londoño could not have guessed that the two candidates he mentioned as examples of politicians who wanted better relations with Cuba — Congressman Joe Garcia and former Gov. Charlie Crist — were to lose two weeks ago.

Still, he insists on pushing the issue. He praises the Cuban doctors who travel to Africa to fight Ebola — undeniably a worthy cause. He also speaks in glowing terms of the thousands of Cuban doctors who serve poor countries.

In his latest editorial Londoño says Cuba makes "$8.2 billion from its medical workers overseas. The vast majority, fewer than 46,000, are posted in Latin American and the Caribbean. A few thousand are in 32 African countries."

He added that Cuba pays the doctors who go to Brazil $1,200 per month, much more than the $60 per month the doctors make in Cuba. What he does not say is Brazil pays Cuba $4,430 per month for each doctor. Cuba keeps the difference between what it pays their doctors and what Brazil pays the Castro regime.

To me, that is a form of slavery. How else would one describe a situation where the state keeps almost 75 percent of what a person earns each month?

To Londoño, I am one of the dying breed of Cuban-Americans who still dream that someday Cuba will be free of the totalitarian rule of the Castro brothers, and its people will live in a democracy that will respect human rights and grant its citizens freedom of speech.

Tweet of the Day: Cuba's U.N. Support for North Korea, Syria and ISIL

By U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power:

Senator Tom Udall: Trade With Dictatorship, Not Democracies

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Last week, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) returned from Havana advocating "business ties" with Castro's monopolies.

Ironically, in the two-years that he served as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Udall held only one hearing on the region -- in June 2013 on U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation.

Meanwhile, Udall's trip to Cuba was the first (and last) official trip he's taken to the region as Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman.

During this three-day trip to Cuba, Udall (to his credit) spent two-hours meeting with Castro's American hostage, Alan Gross.

Kudos for that.

However, the remaining 70 hours of the trip were spent visiting Castro regime officials. And, of course, he completely disregarded Cuba's courageous democracy movement.

Upon his return, Udall stated in a press release:

"New Mexicans are anxious to meet and work with Cubans, and the time is right to rebuild business and cultural ties between the United States and Cuba."

Of course, he "forgot" to mention that all foreign trade with Cuba must be conducted through Castro's monopolies.

So why didn't Udall explore -- on behalf of "anxious New Mexicans" -- business ties with Chile, Colombia, Peru, Panama or any of the other 33 democracies in the region, during his tenure as Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman?

A look at Udall's voting record provides some clues.

He's voted:

NO on trade with Peru.
NO on trade with Central America.
NO on trade with the Dominican Republic.
NO on trade with Chile.
NO on trade with Colombia.
NO on trade with Panama.

But:

YES on trade with Cuba.

That pretty much sums it up.

Cuba Dissidents on the U.S. Embargo

A compilation of some of Cuba's most renowned democracy leaders by the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS).

Note the overwhelming trend in support of U.S. sanctions.

Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White:

The position of the Ladies in White is that it should be strengthened. No oxygen to the Cuban government, no diplomatic overtures, because this will not benefit the people of Cuba. When there was a socialist bloc and the Soviet Union, rather than evolving we regressed. What the Cuban government wants is to buy time to stay in power.”

Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antúnez”, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front:

We condemn the measures taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other initiatives, which motivated by spurious economic interests, impede the efforts of the Cuban people to achieve their freedom. Instead of foreign investment with the dictatorship that represses the Cuban people, what we need is for the free world -- and most importantly Cubans in exile -- to support the efforts of the civil resistance.”

Antonio Rodiles,Estado de SATS” director:

It is shameful to witness this anti-embargo onslaught associated with or in support political actors inside and outside of Cuba. Fundamental freedoms have never come out of complacency from the torturers; those who are afraid today because time is running out must hear direct words and understand that respect for the rights and freedoms of its citizens are the premise.”

Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá leader of the Christian Liberation Movement:

Lifting the embargo is not the solution because it’s not the reason for our lack of economic and human rights. I support coherent conversations but negotiations should not reward the military elite in Havana that imposes its agenda on the Cuban people, promotes intolerance and hostility with absolute impunity.”

José Daniel Ferrer, executive secretary of Cuba’s Patriotic Union:

Any diplomatic approach or any issue between any free country in the world and Cuba must bear in mind our situation regarding human rights. The Castro regime is a flagrant and contumacious violator of human rights. The regime is doomed, thus overtures from people or institutions searching for economic opportunities in Cuba are wrong.”

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, president of the Lawton Foundation and Emilia Project:

It’s a shame that such famous newspapers like The New York Times lends itself to the lies of the Castro regime and promotes loosening restrictions of a brutal dictatorship.”

Guillermo Fariñas, Cuban dissident:

It would be a mistake to unilaterally lift travel restrictions because it would be a source of money for a government that is desperate to obtain dollars to continue controlling the country since Venezuela is not doing so well.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, secretary general of Partido Arco Progresista de Cuba:

The embargo is a political instrument seeking to achieve political objectives from a perspective. When a political instrument moves away from the essence of the scenario it builds from, it becomes irrelevant, and that is what has happened to the embargo, the Cuban government has been able to manipulate it.”

Yoani Sánchez, Cuban blogger:

The Cuban government exaggerates the embargo’s importance. When I go to the store I find many products made in the U.S. This shows that the economic impact is minor. Instead it has become an argument for the Cuban government to justify the economic disaster and lack of freedom.”

René Gómez Manzano, Cuban independent lawyer and journalist:

It would be a mistake to lift the embargo without Cuba agreeing to respect human rights. Any negotiation that does not ensure respect of human rights will only hurt Cubans and the U.S. as well. If the United States provides Cuba with credits, the American tax payers will be the ones sustaining the Castro regime.”

Laritza Diversent, Cuban independent lawyer and blogger:

Lifting the embargo will make things clear- political repression will not cease and it will show that repression is not exclusively against dissidents. It’s against the whole country.”

Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Cuban blind dissident:

If you end the embargo now like The New York Times wants, Cuba will have 50 more years of misery, 50 more years of state criminality and 50 more years of torture.”

The New York Times' Brain Drain (Contradiction) on Immigration

Monday, November 17, 2014
On the very same weekend that The New York Times' Editorial Board called on President Obama to go "big and bold" with executive action on immigration, it criticizes an immigration program that provides refuge (consistent with international law) to Cuban doctors who choose to defect in third-countries.

To add further irony, the NYT criticizes the "vast resources wasted on deporting needed workers" as regards immigration generally; yet accuses the Cuban refugee program of "exacerbating a brain drain."

Apparently, the real brain drain is taking place inside the NYT's Editorial Board, whose Cuba obsession ("lobbying campaign") has run smack into the law of diminishing returns -- the more editorials they write, the more revealing the gaffes.

In its latest editorial, the NYT sees nothing wrong with the Castro regime making billions off the backs of these Cuban doctors, who it sends to remote and dangerous locations, while paying them meager wages.

It sees nothing wrong with the Castro regime earning over a 90% profit margin, per doctor.

It sees nothing wrong with these arrangements being in violation of the U.N.'s Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the International Labor Organization's ("ILO") Convention on the Protection of Wages.

It sees nothing wrong with Cuban doctors being tracked-down, kidnapped and repatriated, upon trying to defect; or the security and intelligence apparatus that keeps a watchful eye of them; or withholds their passports; or separates their families, in order to dissuade defection.

(For more inconvenient truths about Cuba's "slave trade" in doctors, see this week's column by Mary O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal here).

For the NYT, Cuba's "medical diplomacy" is a humanitarian endeavor, despite the overwhelming evidence that proves its commercial nature.

Thus, according to the NYT's rationale, Cuba's doctors must remain good soldiers of the dictatorship, even if they are denied their most basic human rights. And the U.S. must collude with these illegal arrangements.

Bottom line:

Seeking refuge is not imposed on any Cuban doctor -- it's a basic, internationally-recognized human right.

Moreover, the NYT's ignores a fundamental fact:

Upon arriving in the United States, Cuban doctors who choose to defect face an uphill struggle to ever practice medicine again.

As an objective NYT journalist (an apparent rarity these days) wrote in 2009:

"Foreign doctors trained in languages other than English face immense challenges getting a license to practice in the United States. Not only must they relearn their profession in English, but must also work to support themselves and their families. Cuban doctors, in particular, tend to be older by the time they arrive in the United States, sometimes too old to dedicate years to studying for exams and finding and completing a residency program."

And as a Cuban doctor, who defected, stated:

"I know neurosurgeons who are working in warehouses or factories or as gas attendants.”

Hardly a "brain drain".

Yet, the defections continue -- and are on the rise.

Why?

Because despite the NYT's starry-eyed view of Cuba -- freedom is invaluable.

Tourists Celebrate Apartheid in Cuba

According to Cubatur, one of the Castro regime's official tourism entities, they are giddily expecting over 200 cruise ships -- carrying 2,000 mostly European and Canadian passengers -- to arrive in Cuba this winter season.

These cruise ships will make ports-of-call in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

(In the case of Santiago de Cuba, they do so at a port facility that was illegally expropriated from its original owner, who is a certified U.S. claimant.)

In addition to financially-backing a repressive dictatorship, these tourists don't seem to care about the apartheid they are propagating.

An apartheid the Castro regime does not hide.

The pamphlets marketing these Cuba cruises shamelessly state:

"The Cuban authorities will not permit any person of Cuban citizenship, regardless of dual nationality or country of residence, to embark or disembark at any Cuban port."

In other words, if you were born in Cuba, you are not allowed to embark or disembark any vessel, at any port, in your own country -- even if you are now a citizen of the U.S., Canada or any European nation.

Ports and vessels in Cuba are only for the enjoyment of the Castro regime's elite, foreign tourists and narco-terrorists.

Cuba Exports Repression Throughout the Americas

A favorite argument of Castro's lobbyists and propagandists, who seek to have Cuba removed from the U.S.'s "state-sponsors of terrorism" list, is that it purportedly no longer supports armed insurgents in Latin America.

(Other than Colombia's FARC and ELN, of course.)

However, the Castro regime's efforts to subvert democratic institutions in the Americas are far from over.

Throughout the region -- from Venezuela to Argentina -- the Castro regime has been exporting a new brand of espionage, training, equipment and repression.

Last month, a story in El Nuevo Herald, called it "Oppression S.A., the new model of espionage and repression exported by Cuba."

Read the whole article (in Spanish) here.

It describes how Cuba's regime is providing services to its regional allies, in order to spy, control and repress its citizens.

These mechanisms were in full-display during this year's squashing of student protests in Venezuela.

According to Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, a former Lt. Col. in Cuba's Ministry of the Interior who served as Fidel Castro's bodyguard for 17 years, "in Venezuela today there are more than 500 Cuban counter-intelligence officials, spread throughout the ranks of the military."

These officials then create their own webs of agents and informants, which "control all political, civil and military activity" in Venezuela.

"First Cuba finds out, and then the high civilian and military command in Venezuela," said Sanchez.

This has become big business for Castro's regime, which has provided espionage, security and training services to its allies throughout the region -- but also monitoring technologies through state-entities, Albet, Xetid and Datys.

These companies have obtained lucrative contracts and operate in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and Nicaragua.