Why Pelosi Didn't Meet With Any Cuban Dissidents

Friday, February 20, 2015
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) just concluded her Congressional delegation to Cuba.

There were plenty of meetings with Castro regime officials.

But U.S. officials have confirmed that Pelosi and her delegation did not meet with any Cuban dissidents.

Why?

Because they were blackmailed by Castro's regime -- a new constant in the Obama-Pelosi policy towards Cuba.

Last month, a delegation led by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) met with a group of dissidents. In response to this encounter, the Castro regime cancelled all subsequent meetings with its officials, including dictator Raul Castro himself.

To ensure such dissident meetings did not become a constant, the Castro regime threatened to put a halt to all Congressional delegations visiting the island -- including Pelosi's.

The condition for these Congressional trips to resume was that they don't meet with dissidents -- and Pelosi happily complied.

Last weekend's delegation, composed of U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Mark Warner (D-VA), also happily complied.

Further evidence that Obama-Pelosi's new Cuba policy has relegated freedom, democracy and human rights to Castro's whim.

As Predicted, Obama's Cuba Policy Also Emboldens Venezuela's Maduro

This week, the Obama Administration has been trying to figure out how to obviate "law and fact" to concede (another) Castro condition of being removed from the "state-sponsors of terrorism" list.

Meanwhile, Congressional delegations have been tripping all over themselves to embrace Castro's dictatorship -- even if it entails snubbing Cuban dissidents.

Throughout this time, Nicolas Maduro was also in Havana receiving orders on how to further subvert democratic institutions in Venezuela.

Upon leaving Cuba, Maduro ordered the violent arrest of another prominent opposition leader, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

Thus, not only has Obama's Cuba policy emboldened Castro's dictatorship -- where repression continues as concessions abound -- but also its neo-authoritarian allies in the region.

And despite the Obama Administration's favorite taking point -- that other nations will now work with us -- the region's democratic leaders are idly (at best) watching events in Venezuela.

This was all predictable.

As a matter of fact, we predicted it over a month ago.

By Mauricio Claver-Carone in The Huffington Post (on 1/11/15):

Obama Gives Cuba a Hemispheric Coup

The recent political witch-hunt against famed Venezuelan opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado reinforces growing concerns that democratic institutions are under concerted attack in the Western Hemisphere.

"Justice is on its knees in Venezuela with sentences being dictated from Miraflores or Havana," Machado says, summing up the political alliance between Cuba and Venezuela's governments that drive her country's politics. She stands accused of conspiring to kill Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. Another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has already been imprisoned.

Through its cohorts and directly, Cuba has been pounding democratic institutions not only in Venezuela, but also Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Democracy's advocates in the region are too shortsighted, beleaguered or intimidated to fight back aggressively. In fact, they invited Cuba to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, despite the fact that Cuba's Castro dictatorship openly scorns the "democracy clause" that reserves Summit membership and participation to the region's democratic governments. Thirty-four of the 35 nations comprising the Western Hemisphere adopted that clause during the Quebec Summit. Cuba was then and still is the Hemisphere's last remaining totalitarian state; it also has a long history of "exporting revolution" into democratic states.

The Obama Administration initially stated its opposition to Cuba being invited to the Summit. However, in a turn-around announcement on December 17, it chose to "lead from behind" and acquiesce to the whims of those hemispheric leaders all-too-eager and willing to suspend the "democracy clause." Not only has President Obama now accepted Cuba's participation, but he will also be there to personally welcome dictator Raul Castro.

However, those who lobbied Obama to attend the Summit regardless of the violation of the "democracy clause" weren't to be satisfied with his attendance alone. They also wanted the President to arrive with a gift bag for Cuba that includes a further lifting of U.S. sanctions. That, they argued, will ensure a warm reception for Obama from "troubled" Latin American leaders. And naturally, Castro would be thrilled.

If this sounds familiar, it's because the exact same arguments were made in the months and weeks leading up to the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Just days before that summit, the Obama Administration did ease sanctions against Cuba. Despite this "gesture," Obama was not received in Trinidad as a hero. He was treated as a pushover. Then Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez even engineered a photo-op with the President that featured copies of anti-American book, Open Veins of Latin America. Latin America's "extreme Left" considers the book to be its bible. (The author, Eduardo Galeano, has recently disavowed his creation.) A few months after that summit, the Cuban government of Raul Castro seized an American hostage, Alan Gross, in a successful effort to coerce the United States into releasing a group of imprisoned Cuban spies.

For months, advocates for lifting sanctions used the Panama Summit as a prop in their campaign against what they call the United States' "failed policy." They would happily sacrifice our national interest in regional democracy to advance their narrow agenda. Not only is this dangerous and irresponsible, it also begs the serious question: What do they consider to be a "successful" policy alternative?

Is it the "China model," whereby U.S. business helps to build the most lucrative dictatorship in human history?

A "Vietnam model" of state capitalism under an iron-fisted rule?

A "Burma model," whereby reforms achieved through pressure are rolled back as soon as sanctions are lifted?

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and their puppets revel in such models. But none should have a place -- geographically or politically -- in the Western Hemisphere. In this hemisphere, every nation (except Cuba) made a commitment to representative democracy in 2001. It was a historic commitment that, backed by the United States, has blocked the authoritarian ambitions of wannabe dictators in Latin America and generated continued support for democracy and civil society. It was a commitment that Obama's December 17 announcement has now placed on the chopping block.

Maduro Visited Cuba Tuesday, Intensified Crackdown Thursday

Thursday, February 19, 2015
Here's a look of what else has been happening -- other than the arrest of nearly 100 Cuban dissidents -- right under the noses of the Obama Administration and the naive Congressional delegations in Havana this week:

On Tuesday, Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro visited his "mentors" in Havana.

From AFP:

"Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that he had visited Cuba and met retired leader Fidel Castro, considered one of his leftist mentors.

Maduro, whose country is facing a severe economic crisis, said his talk with the ailing Castro focused on global issues.

'I made the most of Tuesday`s day of carnival and I visited Comandante Fidel Castro, who sends his greetings to all the people of Venezuela,' Maduro said during lengthy comments broadcast publicly.

'We talked about the world, peace, and climate change -- we spoke on many subjects.'

The embattled Venezuelan leader often makes known his Cuban trips only once he`s returned home.

During his stay in Havana, Maduro also met President Raul Castro and other senior officials."

On Thursday, Maduro intensified his crackdown on Venezuela's opposition.

From BBC:

"The mayor of Venezuela's capital, Antonio Ledezma, has been arrested amid accusations of a coup attempt.

President Nicolas Maduro said the opposition leader must answer 'for all the crimes committed against the country's peace and security.'

Camouflaged police smashed into the mayor's office and carried him away.

The arrest comes on the anniversary of the start of months of protests against Mr Maduro's rule that left dozens of people dead.

The Human Rights Watch group has called for Mr Ledezma's immediate release."

Maduro got his marching orders.

Pelosi's Twice-Confiscated Hotel Choice in Cuba Says It All

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is currently leading a delegation of eight Congressional Democrats to Cuba.

According to Pelosi's statement, “[the delegation] will work to advance the U.S.-Cuba relationship and build on the work done by many in the Congress over the years, especially with respect to agriculture and trade.”

No mention of freedom, democracy or human rights -- including the nearly 100 dissidents arrested over the weekend.

And apparently, unlike Pelosi's strong opposition to trade with democratic nations throughout the world, she is not bothered promoting trade with Cuba -- despite it violating every tenet of international labor rights.

Moreover, a meeting request from Cuba's famed Ladies in White, the wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of political prisoners, remains unanswered.

But nothing tells the (tragically) ironic story of the new Obama-Pelosi policy towards Cuba than the hotel she is frequenting -- The Hotel Saratoga.

It was also the hotel frequented by the recent Leahy-Flake delegation.

The Hotel Saratoga is a beautiful neoclassical structure in Old Havana. It was purchased in 1939 by Blanco Lopez and Co., headed by Jose Blanco and Jose Lopez Blanco, who were also leaders of the Association of Cuban Hotels.

In 1959, The Hotel Saratoga was confiscated by the Castro regime. 

Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro saw European and Canadian tourism as a means to salvage his dictatorship. Thus, he began seducing foreign investors to invest -- in minority partnerships with the Castro regime -- in order to reconstruct the island's hotels.

In 1999, a British company, Coral Capital Group Ltd., entered into a minority partnership with the Castro regime to transform (a then-dilapidated) Hotel Saratoga into a chic, modern, 5-star property.

Coral Capital invested over $75 million in its partnership with Castro.

In 2005, the Hotel Saratoga re-opened as the swankiest hotel in Havana.

But, as always, Castro got greedy and wanted it all for himself.

Thus, in 2011, Castro confiscated Coral Capital's minority stake in The Hotel Saratoga.

And for giggles, he had Coral Capital's two senior executives in Cuba, Amado Fahkre and Stephen Purvis, imprisoned in the notorious torture facility known as Villa Marista (akin to Moscow's infamous Lubyanka).

Fahkre and Purvis spent nearly two years arbitrarily imprisoned, had all their assets confiscated and were finally expelled to Britain.

Purvis told The Telegraph about his experience as Castro's prisoner (after having been one of his biggest foreign investors):

They decide absolutely everything about your life, even personal grooming. The idea is to separate you from your personal identity, so you lose a sense of who you are. Several inmates who passed through my cell during my time went cuckoo, and there was an attempted suicide about once a month. You’d be trying to sleep at night and suddenly there’d be this terrible wail from some other cell.”

As Pelosi and her delegation enjoy their comfortable nights at the twice-confiscated Hotel Saratoga -- embracing and promoting business with totalitarian thieves -- they should reflect on the wails from nearby Villa Marista.

Below: Pelosi enjoys a tender moment with Castro's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

Obama's Congressional Allies in Cuba: Freedom is Not on the Agenda

Last October, in a post entitled, "How to Relegate Human Rights and Democracy in U.S.-Cuba Policy," we predicted:

"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."

Case and point was this weekend's trip to Cuba by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Their visit was riddled with comments about trade opportunities (with Castro's monopolies), agricultural sales (to Castro's monopolies) and meetings (with Castro's regime).

They discussed their hopes (with Castro regime officials) that the American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can pressure enough Republicans to join their efforts to lift all sanctions.

And tacky (and elitist) comments about the "classic cars."

All while enjoying the amenities of Havana's 5-star Hotel Nacional (owned by the Cuban military).

And for some (tragic) comic relief: Senator Klobuchar, who has obviously never visited a police state before, said Cubans "sporadically" recognized her on the streets for her efforts to lift the embargo. Naiveté can be cute -- and scary.

Now for a dose of Cuba's reality:

During their visit, 69 dissidents from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were arrested in Santiago; 14 female activists from the The Ladies in White were arrested in Havana; and 10 female activists from the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) were arrested in Santa Clara.

Dissidents were not on the Senatorial trio's orchestrated itinerary.

And the fun is just beginning.

As they departed Cuba, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was just arriving with a delegation of her Congressional friends.

Pelosi said in a statement:

[Her delegation] will work to advance the U.S.-Cuba relationship and build on the work done by many in the Congress over the years, especially with respect to agriculture and trade.

Note the trend.

Amid Netflix's Publicity Stunt, Young Cuban Gets 3-Year Sentence for Connectivity

While Netflix and Conan O'Brien use the Cuban tragedy to generate publicity for their brands, the Castro regime continues to repress its people's desire for connectivity.

Yet, while Netflix and O'Brien get resounding coverage -- and misinform the public -- Castro's victims are ignored.

Last week, the Castro regime handed a three-year prison sentence to Mauricio Noa Maceo, a young man who simply helped dozens of Cuban families receive satellite television signal from the United States.

Noa Maceo was originally arrested in August 2014, when the authorities found an "RCA Direct TV black satellite receptor" in his home.

The Castro regime prohibits the Cuban people any private connection to satellite television and the Internet.

Below is a picture (courtesy of Hablemos Press) of Noa Maceo and his baby daughter, who he will not see for three-years:

Tweet of the Day: Cuba is Not the Butt of a Joke

By Cuban blogger, Yusnaby Perez:

Does Conan O'Brien know that Cubans can go to jail for having an antenna and watching the same show he taped in Cuba?

From Propaganda to Reality: When The New York Times Praised Cuba's AIDS Tactics

Monday, February 16, 2015
Less than three years ago, The New York Times wrote an article praising the Castro regime's "Tight Grip on AIDS" -- even if it meant restricting the Cuban people's most fundamental human rights.

It heralded:

"Whatever debate may linger about the government’s harsh early tactics — until 1993, everyone who tested positive for H.I.V. was forced into quarantine — there is no question that they succeeded... Other elements have contributed to Cuba’s success: It has free universal basic health care; it has stunningly high rates of H.I.V. testing; it saturates its population with free condoms, concentrating on high-risk groups like prostitutes; it gives its teenagers graphic safe-sex education; it rigorously traces the sexual contacts of each person who tests positive."

These "quarantines" were actually nefarious HIV/AIDS prisons. Or as the Castro-friendly World Health Organization ("WHO") calls them "pretty prisons."

Like nearly everything else The New York Times has written about Cuba since 1959, that article turned out to be unmerited -- and unethical -- propaganda.

Last week, we learned that a new, more aggressive strain of the HIV virus has been discovered in Cuba.

According to Medical News Today:

"In Cuba, a variant of HIV that is much more aggressive than other known forms of the virus has been documented. Patients infected with this new variant progress to AIDS so rapidly that they may not even know they are infected, with AIDS symptoms occurring within 3 years of infection."

And how did this new strain come about?

"If a person contracts multiple strains of HIV - typically by engaging in unprotected sex with multiple infected partners - then these strains can recombine into a new variant of HIV within the host. The new Cuban variant of HIV is one such recombinant version of the virus."

Clearly those "harsh early tactics" were not only cruel and inhumane -- but they were also unsuccessful.

Over 65 Cuban Dissidents Arrested Today

Sunday, February 15, 2015
Over 65 Cuban democracy activists were arrested today in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.

All of those arrested were members of the opposition groups, Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and Citizens for Democracy (CxD).

Their crime? Trying to attend Mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity.

They were intercepted by nearly 200 Castro regime agents, who began to beat and arrest them.

Among those arrested were Roberto Perdomo, Mileidi Maceo, Mileidi Gómez, Ismaray González, Rubén Alvarado, Graciela Dominguez, Yarisnier Vargas, Maidolis Oribe, Moraima Díaz, Barbaro Tresol, Roberto González, Ricardo Guzmán, Yanny Núñez, Eliezer Quintana, Carlos Oliva, Alexeis Martinez, Ernesto Oliva, Carlos Rafael Torres, José Augusto Fuentes, Lázaro Barrera, Ricardo Torres, Lorenzo Malesu, Ernesto Tamayo, Héctor Velázquez and Onel Nápoles.

Note: Ernesto Tamayo had been currently released under the Obama-Castro deal. He's the second former political prisoner from the "Group of 53" to be re-arrested this week alone -- Mario Alberto Hernandez was also arrested in a separate incident.

Russia Praises Cuba for Opening Ports to Spy Ships

From Sputnik News:

Russia Praises Cuba for Opening Havana Port to Russian Vessels - Minister

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, bilateral relations between Russia and Cuba are "developing dynamically" and the two countries have very similar approaches to the issues of global and regional security.

Russia and Cuba share similar stances on the issue of global security and continue to develop their relations in the military-technical sphere, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said after meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro.

According to Shoigu, bilateral relations between Russia and Cuba are "developing dynamically" and the two countries have very similar approaches to the issues of global and regional security.

"Our countries are connected by mutual interest in establishing a just and polycentric world order based on equal rights and the respect of international law," Shoigu said.

The defense minister added that Russia and Cuba are also developing cooperation in the military and technical spheres.

"We are grateful to the Cuban side for the welcome it gives to Russian military ships and vessels on their entry to the Havana port and are interesting in broadening cooperation in the naval field," Shoigu said, also thanking Castro for the warm welcome of the Russian delegation in Cuba.

According to the defense minister, "the time-tested warm relations between Russia and Cuba are acquiring a new dynamic", largely thanks to the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Havana in July, 2014.

Image of an Artistic "Crime" in Cuba

Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," has been imprisoned since December 26th, 2014 -- just nine days after the Obama-Castro deal.

His crime was painting the names Fidel and Raul on two pigs.

Below is an image of the artistic "crime" for which El Sexto remains imprisoned, without charges, trial or sentence.

Note: The tattoo on El Sexto's back is of murdered Cuban democracy leader, Oswaldo Paya.