Obama Turns Raul Castro From Bankrupt Dictator to Time's 100 Most Influential

Thursday, April 16, 2015
In 2008, when U.S. policy was focused on shining a spotlight on Cuban democracy leaders, Time Magazine recognized blogger Yoani Sanchez as one of its 100 Most Influential People.

Today, thanks to Obama's embrace of Cuban dictator -- General Raul Castro -- democracy leaders have been relegated to second fiddle.

Meanwhile, Obama's policy has catapulted Raul Castro from a bankrupt military dictator in his waning days to being recognized as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2015.

Just another example of how backwards Obama's policy is.

It's shameful that Obama has taken us back to a time when a Latin American military dictator can be recognized as one of the world's most influential people.  Talk about setting a bad precedent.

Ironically, Time's description of Castro by author Rachel Kushner begins with a "charming" spin on one of Raul's first hostage-takings:

'You see me as I am now, happy and free,' a long-haired, 27-year-old Raúl Castro told a LIFE journalist in 1958, as the two bumped along mud roads in an open jeep. 'But when I meet the United States consul, I will be very serious indeed.' LIFE was in Cuban rebel territory in the wake of Raúl’s bold kidnapping of 47 Americans, whose release he was about to negotiate in exchange for his own set of demands. The negotiations worked, and the event was a public relations coup for the rebel cause: the charmed 'hostages' heartily embraced their captors as they were let go."

We know Obama doesn't like to acknowledge Cuban history prior to his birth, but a quick study may have prevented him from being manipulated throughout the current process.

Let's not forget, the December 17th Obama-Castro deal began with Raul's taking of another American hostage, development worker Alan Gross.

And just like in 1958, Castro got what he wanted in exchange for his most recent hostage.

Deals coerced through hostage-takings never serve American interests.

Obama's Terrorism Memorandum Defends the Cuban Regime

By Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations:

Cuba and Terrorism

President Obama has moved to take Cuba off the “terrorism list.”  The administrations defends its move in a lengthy memorandum from the State Department to Congress, but the more they explain it the less defensible it seems.

The problem is that the memorandum defends not only the Obama decision, but the Castro regime.  With the help of an accounting by Capitol Hill Cubans and an article by James Kirchick in the Daily Beast, here are some things to keep in mind.

–The State Department says Cuba will now meet with us to “resolve” the cases of American terrorists and killers who’ve been given safe haven in Havana, but one would have to be a fool to think they will hand anyone over. Joanne Chesimard participated in the killing of a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, was convicted and jailed, and escaped to Cuba. Anyone placing bets on how likely it is that Castro will turn her in?

–What about other terrorists? Cuba protects terrorists from the Basque ETA and the Colombian FARC, for example. If Cuba does not support terrorism, what are they doing living safely in Havana?

–Then there’s North Korea. Kirchick reminds us that “In 2013, the Panama Canal Authority seized a North Korean-flagged ship ferrying undeclared weapons and armaments—including two Soviet-era MiG fighters and surface-to-air missile systems—from Cuba. According to a United Nations report on the seizure, commissioned in respect to Havana’s violation of a Security Council-imposed arms embargo on the North, the shipment ‘constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of [UN Security Council] resolution 1718,’ prohibiting the transfer of various weapons.” The best you can say is that perhaps this wasn’t Cuban support for terrorism, just support for North Korean aggression, subversion, and repression.

–How do we know Cuba has not recently supported terrorism and won’t soon do it again? Why, Castro says so. We have his word. The memorandum from State says that Cuba has told us, in writing, that “Cuba rejects and condemns all terrorist acts, methods and practices in all its forms and manifestations. It likewise condemns any action intended to encourage, support, finance or cover up any terrorist act, method or practice….The Government of Cuba has never supported, nor will it ever support any act of international terrorism.” These statements are false, because we know full well that in the past Cuba has supported acts of terrorism and terrorist groups. And as noted above, we know that Cuba continues to harbor terrorists from several countries including the United States. Isn’t that support for terrorism?

–Here’s a lovely insight into Cuba’s solidarity with the United States in the battle against terrorism. After 9/11, “up to 20 Cubans walked into U.S. embassies around the world and offered information on terrorism threats. Eventually, all were deemed to be Cuban intelligence agents and collaborators, purveying fabricated information. A White House official complained bitterly and publicly in 2002 that Fidel Castro’s agents had tried to send U.S. intelligence on ‘wild goose’ chases that could cost lives at a time when Washington was reeling from the worst terrorism attacks in history.”

Is it U.S. policy now to just let bygones be bygones, so continuing to allow Americans killers to escape the law just doesn’t matter? Perhaps so: the president said recently that “the United States will not be imprisoned by the past” and that “I’m not interested in having battles that frankly started before I was born.” But the Cuban move after 9/11 wasn’t before Mr. Obama was born; it was just eight years before he was president. And as for being “imprisoned by the past,” perhaps someone should ask the widow and children of Woerner Foerster about that. He was the New Jersey state policeman in whose killing Chesimard participated.

MSNBC: Castro Regime Cannot be Trusted

Below from MSNBC's Daily Rundown (or click here to watch):

President Obama Cozies Up to Cuban Dictator

By Peter Brookes in The Boston Herald:

President Obama cozies up to Cuban dictator

U.S. won’t be seeing change soon on ‘island prison’

With the “historic” clasp of hands in Panama City, Panama last week with Raul Castro, President Obama took the next fateful step toward normalizing relations with the Western Hemisphere’s most repressive regime.

Seemingly desperate to move beyond a series of foreign policy flubs such as Iraq, Russia and Libya, cozying up to Castro’s Cuba — now officially removed from the U.S. terrorism list — still boggles the mind.

The idea that engagement is going to change Cuba is folly.

While we as Americans should have no issue with the Cuban people, who are victims of their government’s hard-line policies (like the Iranians, North Koreans and others), we should hold Havana’s jefes accountable for their authoritarian actions.

Normalizing relations won’t do that.

Indeed, let’s be sober about this: We’re dealing with a dictatorship that will gladly gobble up our generosity — but Castro & Co. completely comprehend that liberalizing Cuban politics, society and economy will mean the end of their sad socialist story.

Period.

Worse, by legitimizing the cult of the Castros — who harass and imprison Cubans for their political views and have done so for decades now — we’re vacating bedrock American moral and ethical principles.

Make no mistake about that.

Indeed, while almost unfathomable, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Castros jailed more than 1,000 Cubans for political reasons just since President Obama announced the start of a normalization process in December.

And yet the U.S. president strangely saw it as savvy — despite the reported crackdown on dissidents — to sit down with Cuba’s presidente for an hour-long meeting at the Summit of the Americas.

What does that tell the regime?

It signals that Washington is willing to look the other way as the Cuban people continue to suffer at the hands of Havana’s Ministry of Interior, responsible for Cuba’s brutal domestic security.

There’s reason to be concerned about Cuba’s activity abroad, too. It was fingered in sending weapons to North Korea in 2013 in violation of U.N. sanctions; Havana has long had ties with the Colombian narcoterrorists, FARC.

And yet yesterday the Obama administration saw fit to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it has been since 1982.

In a message to Congress Obama said the Cuban government “has not provided any support for international terrorism” in the last six months and “has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”

Cuba’s promises aside, it has also been reported that Russia may amp up its presence in the Caribbean Sea, including possible ship visits, long-range bomber flights and joint military exercises with its Cuban compadres. Arms sales are also possible.

We seem to forget the trouble Cuba caused in this hemisphere when it was flush with Soviet support during the Cold War. With Moscow eager to make mischief for Washington, what use might it make of Havana today?

Equally troubling, it’s not clear what Team Obama’s end game with Cuba is other than let’s see what happens if America alters course. The problem is that Washington will change — if the White House gets its way — but Havana won’t.

In other words, it sounds like we’re talking about a lot of U.S. “give” without a lot of U.S. “get” — that’s not at all what we should be striving for in our Cuba policy, especially when effecting change on the “island prison” is so important.

Obama's Cuba Policy Embraces the Past, Rubio's Looks to the Future

Last Saturday, President Obama claimed that the United States was "moving forward" in its relationship with Cuba by embracing 83-year old dictator, General Raul Castro.

Nothing could be more backwards.

Two days later, a 43-year old Cuban-American, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), announced his candidacy for President of the United States.

Rubio embodies the antithesis of Obama's Cuba policy.

The young Florida Senator made it abundantly clear that, if elected President, he would rescind Obama's unilateral concessions to Castro's regime -- precisely because he cares about Cuba's future.

Note the contrast:

Obama seeks to normalize relations with the status quo -- an 83-year old military dictator, whose family dynasty has ruled Cuba with an iron-fist for over five decades.

Rubio believes normalized relations is a process more worthy of Cuba's young democracy leaders -- the agents of change, who are courageously struggling for the freedom of all Cubans.

Obama has taken us back to the policies of the 1960s and 1970s, whereby the United States is once again open for business with military dictatorships in the Americas.

Rubio believes the New American Century is one where representative democracy should be an unwavering condition of inter-American relations.

Obama wants to funnel American business and tourism through monopolies controlled by the Castro family and its military elite.

Rubio believes American commerce and tourism should be reserved for the Cuban people, when they are no longer prohibited from engaging in foreign trade and investment in their own country.

Obama seeks to normalize Castro's manipulation of regime franchisees, known as "cuentapropistas," who are condemned to a small list of medieval trades, with no contractual or property rights.

Rubio believes the Cuban people should have the freedom to incorporate real businesses; to become CEOs, managers and employees, under a rule of law that protects the fruits of their hard work.

Obama seeks to expand the Internet in Cuba through Castro's telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, which specializes in monitoring and censorship.

Rubio wants every Cuban to have direct access to the Internet, though satellites, circumvention technologies and other means, which will protect them from Castro's censorship and repression.

Since Rubio announced his candidacy, pundits and push-pollsters have been in disarray. This week, they have been recycling their old narrative of "generational shifts" in the Cuban-American community, which has never translated to the ballot box. The fact remains every Cuban-American elected official shares Rubio's views on Cuba policy.

Just imagine: A 43-year old Cuban-American, viscerally opposed to Obama's embrace of Castro's octogenarian dictatorship, becoming President of the United States and redirecting our nation's focus towards the young democracy leaders of tomorrow.

It would be poetic justice.


Day After Obama Removes Cuba From Terrorism List, FARC Kills Ten Soldiers in Colombia

By Chris Martin in IJReview:

Terror Group with Cuban Ties Kills 10 the Day After US Removes Cuba from State Terror List

Yesterday, President Obama made a show of removing Cuba from the U.S. list of state-sponsored terrorist nations in an effort to normalize relations between the two countries.

Today, ten soldiers were killed and 17 others injured in western Colombia by militants who are believed to be from FARC, a leftist terror group. The violence breaks a four-month ceasefire between FARC guerrillas and Colombian forces.

Some FARC rebels are currently being harbored by the government of Cuba, instead of being turned over to Colombian authorities. According to documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010:

"The [Cuban government] allows these groups to enjoy R&R in Cuba and receive medical care and other services… Reporting also indicates that the [Cuban government] is able to influence the FARC."

The secret cable sent in 2009 to Washington from the United States Interest Section in Havana (which operates out of the Swiss embassy there) also indicates that FARC doesn’t conduct operations in Cuba because the group has safe haven in the Caribbean nation. The cable also showed that FARC and Havana actively maintain a relationship through proxy political groups.

Cuban apologists counter that Havana has been hosting peace talks between FARC and Bogota since November of 2012, which demonstrates a willingness to combat terror.

But these negotiations don’t address the current status of any FARC rebels who may be hiding in Cuba. Plus, there have been other recent incidents linking Cuba to other types of support for terrorism or government interference, namely:

1. The belief that the Cuban government is “actively developing and supporting the Venezuelan” government;

2. The July 2013 interception of a North Korean vessel that was carrying Cuban military aircraft and weapons (which were hidden under bags of sugar) headed for the Asian nation, which violates United Nations sanctions against North Korea;

3. The March detention by Colombian officials of a Chinese ship which contained undocumented weaponry headed for Cuba; and

4. The indictment of pilots with the Cuban Air Force in connection with the 1996 premeditated attack on two U.S. civilian aircraft over international waters, which killed four people.

In response to today’s attack on the Colombian troops, President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered the resumption of air attacks on FARC positions within the Latin American country.

If Cuba Isn't a Terrorism Sponsor, What Are All These Hijackers and Bomb-Makers Doing There?

By James Kirchick in The Daily Beast:

Obama Says Cuba Doesn’t Sponsor Terrorism. So What Are All These Hijackers and Bomb-Makers Doing There?

The White House says that Cuba has nothing to do with terrorism. But Havana is like a Star Wars cantina of Cold War radicals—including some of the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists.

If you happened to have found yourself in possession of a hijacked airplane circa 1970, chances are that you would have steered it to Cuba. From 1968 through 1972, over 80 American civilian jetliners were hijacked to the communist island. So popular was Cuba as a destination for airline hostage takers that the British Sun newspaper once featured a photograph of a flight attendant with the caption, “Coffee, tea, or—Castro?” on its front page.

This history is relevant in light of the Obama administration’s announcement Tuesday that it will remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Obama had called for a review of the listing back in December, and the move comes as part of his broader push for normalizing relations between the two countries. De-listing Cuba will make it much easier for U.S. financial institutions to conduct business in Cuba and for Americans to use their credit and ATM cards on the island. It will also pave the way for Obama’s ultimate goal—the upgrading of the Cuban interests section in Washington to an embassy—as Cuban diplomats were unable to open bank accounts due to the sanctions.

To date, the United States has received nothing substantive in return for the raft of concessions it has made to the Castro regime. Taking Cuba off the state sponsors of terrorism list without any reciprocal moves from Havana on human rights issues is a logical next step. But removing Cuba is not only poor negotiating strategy, it’s also wrong on the merits. Havana is still harboring dozens of terrorists—including several Americans.

On Wednesday, the State Department announced that "Cuba has agreed to enter into a law-enforcement dialogue with the United States that will work to resolve these cases.” By “resolve,” it must mean “ignore,” because Washington has already lost nearly all leverage it has with Havana. The Cubans have long stated that they will never turn the terrorists they consider political refugees. Having been given nearly everything they want by the Obama administration — short of the closing of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which, considering the way these “negotiations" have progressed, may be the next unilateral concession Washington will make -- there is even less reason for them to give an inch now. As long as President Obama wants normalization more than the Cubans do — which he evidently does, given the secretive way he went about the negotiations leading up to the announcement in December — then normalization will occur, regardless of American national interests.

Cuba was originally placed on the terrorism list in 1982, as punishment for its support of communist insurgencies in places ranging from Nicaragua to Angola. In recent years, it shared a place on that list with just Iran, Sudan, and Syria. (The Bush administration controversially removed North Korea in 2008.) There are some 70 American fugitives from justice living in Cuba today, though not all are terrorists. And while Cuban soldiers may no longer be fighting American-backed proxies in Southern Africa, Cuba remains something of a Star Wars cantina of violent Cold War-era radicals.

The most prominent figure in this rogue’s gallery is JoAnne Chesimard AKA Assata Shakur, godmother to the late Tupac Shakur and a distinguished member of the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List, where she has the dubious honor of being the first and currently only woman. In 1973, Shakur, then a member of the Black Panther Party, participated in the execution-style killing of a New Jersey State Trooper. In 1979, members of another black radical nationalist group busted her from prison; five years later she resurfaced in Cuba, where she had won political asylum. According to a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War who has met with her, Shakur lives under the constant watch of Cuban security along with one of her accomplices, Nehanda Abiodun. Though there exists a $2 million bounty for her capture, a Cuban journalist who visited the American interests section in Havana wrote several months ago that the FBI Most Wanted sign beseeching her capture is no longer even posted in the building. It’s likely a signal that the Obama administration does not plan to make her extradition a condition for improved relations.

“If anything went down, you went to Cuba,” the hijacker said. He added that he misses the French fries back home, but if he waits long enough, he may be able to enjoy the glories of McDonald’s in Havana.
Another terrorist assumed to be living large under the protection of the Castro brothers is William Morales, a bomb maker for the Puerto Rican FALN separatist organization. According to the FBI, the group perpetrated over 100 bombings throughout the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, Morales lost nine fingers when one of his projects blew up prematurely; the following year he was convicted in federal court of possessing illegal explosives and weaponry and sentenced to 89 years in prison. Morales escaped to Mexico, and he is now believed to be hiding in Cuba.

Then there’s Charlie Hill, a black power militant involved in the murder of a policeman in 1971. On the run, he and two comrades stole a tow truck at gunpoint, crashed it through the gates onto the runway of Albuquerque airport, and hijacked a TWA plane. Told by the pilots that it could not fly all the way to Africa—where the men originally wanted to flee—they instructed the crew to take them to Cuba instead. “If anything went down, you went to Cuba,” Hill recently told CNN. He added that he misses the French fries back home, but if he waits long enough, he may be able to enjoy the glories of McDonald’s in Havana, much to the displeasure of Western leftists scrambling to visit the island prison fast before American businesses and tourists “plague” the poverty-stricken country with their money and infrastructural investments, as MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry fretted.

It is not only American terrorists who find safe haven in Cuba. Over a dozen members of the State Department-listed Basque terrorist group ETA reside on the island, though the Cuban government has repatriated several members back to Spain. Last month, however, the Spanish government requested that the United States try to persuade Cuba to extradite two ETA leaders; it’s difficult to see how that will ever happen now that Washington has surrendered even more leverage to Havana by removing it from the State Department list. Cuba also shelters a number of insurgents associated with the FARC, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization long at war with the Colombian government. In 2013, the Panama Canal Authority seized a North Korean-flagged ship ferrying undeclared weapons and armaments—including two Soviet-era MiG fighters and surface-to-air missile systems—from Cuba. According to a United Nations report on the seizure, commissioned in respect to Havana’s violation of a Security Council-imposed arms embargo on the North, the shipment “constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718,” prohibiting the transfer of various weapons.

North Korea is not the only rogue regime aided and abetted by Cuba. A 2014 report by the Washington-based Center for a Secure Free Society alleges that Cuban state security had assisted Venezuelan officials with passport technology information to help provide new identities to nearly 200 individuals from the Middle East. Cuban intelligence officers serve as the Praetorian guard of President Nicolas Maduro’s chavista regime in Venezuela, where they were involved in the murderous crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrations last year that led the Obama administration to issue sanctions on Venezuelan officials last month. The White House statement announcing the measures declared a “national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.”

When I visited Cuba recently, a massive campaign was underway, orchestrated by the Venezuelan government with the support of its lackeys in Cuba, to gain signatures for a petition protesting the sanctions, to be hand-delivered by Maduro to Obama at last week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. In a lame attempt at assuaging the feelings of Latin American populist thugs, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, the point man for Obama’s opening to the Castro regime, explained away the Executive Order as just so much bureaucratic language. “The United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security, we frankly just have a framework for how we formulate these executive orders,” he said, calling the wording “pro forma.” Last year, the administration similarly contradicted itself with regard to the behavior of a rogue Latin American regime when Secretary of State John Kerry declared that Cuba is “not cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts,” only to look past that declaration with this week’s announcement.

After shaking Raul Castro’s blood-drenched hand last week in Panama, Obama explained his rationale for the change in relations he is seeking. The Cold War, he said, “has been over for a long time, and I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born.” It was a typically narcissistic remark from the president, whose interest in diplomatic history extends only insofar as it can be used to fault his own country. But history matters very much to the Castro brothers, who have ruled over a tropical totalitarian dictatorship for over five decades. Before legitimizing the Cuban government with normalized relations, the Cuban regime ought first address this “history” and extradite the American terrorists in its midst.

Obama’s Wrong: Cuba Belongs on the Terrorism List

By Joseph Humire in The PanAm Post:

Obama’s Wrong: Cuba Belongs on the Terrorism List

Close Ties to Tehran, Damascus Warn against Cozying up to Castro

After US President Barack Obama made his announcement regarding the new US policy on Cuba late last year, Havana’s eventual removal from the government’s list of states that sponsor terrorism became a fait accompli. What was a six-month review now appears to have been a foregone conclusion, ignoring the long record and mounting evidence that Cuba continues to support terrorists from not just in the region, but also from as far afield as the Middle East.

A little context. Cuba was first placed on the list on March 1, 1982, for offering “material and political support” to terrorists from Latin America to Africa. Throughout the Cold War, it was well known that Havana was a safe haven for terrorists from around the world, most notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), an armed movement seeking independence from Spain.

Proponents of the president’s decision will point out that ETA is practically non-existent, and that the FARC is in a transition period, currently negotiating its status with the Colombian government in talks hosted by Havana itself. Moving past the Cold War means retiring policies that are no longer relevant, or so the White House would argue.

But the facts don’t match the fanfare. According to research at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), the Cuban government recently helped the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela create a criminal-terrorist pipeline serving to funnel funds and drugs to the Middle East from Latin America, and bringing back foreign fighters and Islamic terrorists in return. Cuba’s role in this scheme should be properly understood.

In 2003, when Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chávez needed to overhaul immigration procedures to serve the needs of his Bolivarian revolution, he turned to no less a figure than Cuban Vice President General Ramiro Valdéz, a revolutionary of the old guard who once served as Cuba’s Interior Minister and head of the feared G-2 Intelligence Directorate.

In Venezuela, one of General Valdéz’s most notable achievements was using Cuba’s state-run University of Information Science to set up a new immigration system for the Bolivarian Republic.

Vice Chancellor Lavandero Garcia was tasked by Gen. Valdéz with leading the project, and he began overhauling the IT systems of the Venezuelan passport and naturalization agency, formerly known as ONIDEX.

Several years later, this new information and immigration system was fully operational under the name SAIME. Since 2009, SAIME has been under the overarching control of Cuban agents but managed by Chavistas, some with close ties to Islamic terrorist networks.

From 2009 through 2012, Venezuela’s new Cuban-controlled immigration system delivered passports, visas and national IDs to at least 173 Islamic militants from the Middle East, many suspected of affiliation with the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah.

Immigration controls are an important function of a national government. Information systems, biometrics, review processes, and personnel are meant to serve as a country’s last line of defense from potential terrorists entering their territory. In the case of Cuba and Venezuela, they do the exact opposite.

Instead of stopping the flow of terrorists, these governments facilitate the travel of Islamic extremists into the Western Hemisphere by providing them a free pass on immigration, along with allied anti-US countries in the region. Aside from Venezuela, other ALBA nations such as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua are believed to have received similar immigration and IT support from Cuba.

Over the decades, Cuba’s foreign policy has been to work with Washington’s enemies around the world, a policy which earned them a place on state sponsors of terrorism list in the first place. More than 30 years later, there are no signs that Havana’s foreign policy has changed, as it remains closely aligned with Tehran and Damascus, who remain designated as backers of transnational terrorist movements.

While the FARC and ETA may be a problem of the past, Islamic terrorism continues to threaten US national security. Cuba has played a significant role in ensuring these terrorists have a robust presence in the Western Hemisphere, even facilitating their entry into North America.

This warrants consideration because, as we learned from the grim example of North Korea, a premature decision to remove a state from the list of sponsors of terrorism can have dire consequences — for international security, and the well-being of that country’s people.

Obama's Rescission Memo: Accepts Castro's Lies, Admits Cuba Harbors Terrorists

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Yesterday, President Obama transmitted his decision to the U.S. Congress to rescind Cuba from the state-sponsors of terrorism.

As required by law, he submitted an accompanying "Memorandum of Justification for Rescission."

The resulting five-page Memorandum proves that Obama's decision was not based on "fact and law" -- as he committed to the American people -- but on deception and negligence.

The memo is divided into three parts:

1. Obama accepts Castro's lies.

Half of the Memorandum is dedicated to quoting statements and speeches by Fidel and Raul Castro "condemning" terrorist acts throughout the years, while they were -- in fact -- actually supporting terrorism.

It even quotes Castro's "expression of solidarity" with the U.S. after 9/11, but conveniently ignores the conspiracy theories about the attacks that were propagated by Fidel; and most egregiously, how Cuban intelligence deliberately planted false information to mislead U.S. investigators.

As was reported at the time:

"In the six months after the 9/11 attacks, up to 20 Cubans walked into U.S. embassies around the world and offered information on terrorism threats. Eventually, all were deemed to be Cuban intelligence agents and collaborators, purveying fabricated information."

Even more mind-numbing is that Obama accepts as "fact" a recently transmitted declaration to the Administration stating:

"The Government of Cuba has never supported, nor will ever support any act of terrorism."

Seriously?

Just ask Castro's favorite pupil, Carlos "the Jackal" -- or ETA, FARC, ELN, PLO, M-19, Medellin Cartel, Montoneros, Macheteros, FLN, EGP, MIR, IRA, FALN, NLF, MRTA or PFLP, just to name a few of the international terrorist groups trained, financed and abetted by the Cuban regime.

How can Obama even consider accepting "assurances" on terrorism from a regime that falsely (and absurdly) claims it has never supported terrorism in the first place?

That makes any such "assurances" automatically worthless and untrustworthy.

2. Obama accepts Castro's recent violations of international accords.

The Memorandum then tries to justify the rescission by citing international counter-terrorism accords that the Castro regime has signed, including some it hasn't even ratified.

Seriously?

The Castro regime has just gotten caught twice in the last eighteen months violating international accords.

Last year, Cuba was found in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions for illegally trafficking heavy weapons to North Korea hidden as sugar. As the U.N. Panel of Expert's report concluded, this was the largest and most egregious violation of such international sanctions to date -- from anywhere in the world.

And last month, Cuba was again caught illegally smuggling weapons -- this time from China -- hidden as grains. This shipment was intercepted in Colombia and is suspected of being destined for FARC terrorists. Yet, the Obama Administration remains mum.

We'd also note that in 2008 -- with great fanfare -- Cuba signed the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

How's that working out?

3. Obama admits Cuba is harboring terrorists.

The final part of the Memorandum admits that Cuba continues to provide sanctuary to members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and fugitives from justice.

It admits that Cuba still provides sanctuary to FARC terrorists -- and just this week re-designated the FARC as an FTO -- but gives Castro a pass because it might help with the current (and seemingly never-ending) peace negotiations.

It admits that Cuba still provides sanctuary to Basque ETA terrorists, including one wanted in a plot to kill former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, but gives Castro a pass because it feels Spain's extradition requests will eventually be met.

It admits that Cuba still provides sanctuary to nearly 70 dangerous fugitives from U.S. justice, including one of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists, but gives Castro a pass because through "dialogue" they will discuss this with their Cuban counterparts.

In other words, Cuba remains a state-sponsors of terrorism as a matter of "fact and law" -- but we should simply "trust" that Obama will make progress through "dialogue."

Finally, the Memorandum decides to ignore Cuba's role in Venezuela, where it is actively subverting democracy; the outstanding federal indictments of Cuban military officials wanted for the murder of Americans; and its intelligence-trafficking to Syria, Iran and other rogue regime.

This Memorandum is deceptive, negligent and a mockery to the victims of the Castro regime.

Statement on Obama's Removal of Cuba From the Terrorism List

On December 17th, President Obama called for a six-month review of Cuba's designation as a state-sponsor of terrorism to be "guided by the facts and the law." Cuba's removal from the terrorism list has been a key condition of the Castro regime for normalizing diplomatic relations. It is blatantly clear that the State Department was pressured to expedite the review, so that Obama could comply with this demand.

This review of Cuba's terrorism designation has not been guided by "the facts and the law," but by "negligence and coercion."

The Obama Administration has negligently chosen to overlook Cuba's continued role in providing sanctuary to members of active Foreign Terrorist Organizations ("FTOs"), including Spain's ETA and Colombia's FARC and ELN; its role in harboring dozens of violent fugitives from American justice, including one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Terrorists; the outstanding federal indictments against senior Cuban military officials for the murder of American citizens; the arming and training of Venezuelan paramilitary groups, including the infamous "colectivos"; and its central role in two recently intercepted shipments of illegal weapons, one destined to North Korea and another likely to Colombia's FARC terrorists.

To concede this key demand to Castro -- despite its continued support for terrorist groups and activities -- also sends a dangerous message of impunity to other nations in the region, particularly as evidence continues to surface of links between Iran, Hezbollah and Cuba's puppet-regime in Venezuela.

Despite Obama's action to unilaterally remove the terrorism stigma from Castro's regime, the U.S. Congress must ensure that all sanctions related to the designation remain codified in law until Cuba's government truly merits otherwise.

WSJ Editorial: Another Gift for Castro

From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Another Gift for Castro

Obama takes Cuba off the U.S. terror list. The U.S. gets a lecture.

President Obama continued his so far unrequited courtship of Fidel and Raúl Castro on Tuesday by removing Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The decision, following Mr. Obama’s weekend meeting with Raúl in Panama, certifies that Cuba had provided no support for international terrorism for the past six months. The certification adds that “the Government of Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” Well, that’s certainly reassuring.

The reality is that Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Cuba was never in doubt. The State Department review was going through the motions. Raúl has made delisting a condition of normal diplomatic ties, as well as the presidential visit to Havana that Mr. Obama covets before he leaves office in 2017.

However, that doesn’t erase such realities as last month’s request by Spain’s foreign minister that the U.S. use its opening to Havana to obtain the extradition of two members of the Basque terrorist group ETA, one of whom is wanted in connection with a plot to kill former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

A revealing view of Havana’s links to terror was offered in a 2012 interview in Spain’s El País newspaper with Julio Antonio Alfonso Fonseca, a Cuban diplomat who spent 15 years as his country’s liaison to ETA before he defected. “Everything relating to ETA depends directly on Fidel,” he told the paper.

Though Fonseca acknowledged that Raúl took a dimmer view of the group, he also noted that Havana had repeatedly lied about its connection to ETA. “The question remains,” asked the paper, “as to why Fidel Castro allowed some ETA members to leave the island and return to their terrorist activities; why did he consent to comings and goings of fugitives from Spanish justice.”

An Administration less eager for photo-ops and symbolism would have used its leverage over the terror list to help U.S. allies in Madrid. It might also have got answers about the 2013 discovery by Panamanian authorities of a secret Cuban arms shipment to North Korea, violating a U.N. embargo. That deal involved 240 metric tons of weapons, two MiG jets, 15 plane engines, and 10,000 tons of sugar, presumably to sweeten the bargain.

Then again, Mr. Obama’s Cuban diplomacy has been one unreciprocated offering after another, from December’s pledge to normalize relations to the global legitimacy he bestowed by meeting Cuba’s dictator to this free terror pass. So far Raúl has returned the favors by praising Mr. Obama personally while condemning U.S. foreign policy.

Cuba’s other prerequisite to restoring relations is that Mr. Obama return Guantanamo Bay. Don’t be surprised if the President’s lawyers are inspecting the terms of the U.S. lease.

Speaker Boehner: Obama Seems Determined to Reward Castro

A Blow to All Who Long For Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s move to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism:

I am disappointed that the White House seems determined to reward the Castro regime, which has a clear record of repression at home and exporting violence throughout the region. Not even a week has passed since the brutal attacks on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City during the Summit for the Americas. Those attacks – and the Castros’ long history of human rights violations -- demonstrate the folly of revisiting diplomatic relations with this communist dictatorship and removing it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror. 

Cozying up to the oppressive regime in Cuba is a blow to all who long for liberty and dignity. And it’s just one more example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies. The United States has a responsibility to stand strong for all those who struggle for freedom, and the House of Representatives is committed to doing its part.

Leader McCarthy: Cuba Has Not Changed

Cuba Has Not Changed

Washington, D.C. – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) released the following statement on the Obama Administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list:

 “I am disappointed in President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Delisting the Castro regime is yet another manifestation of the Administration’s questionable policy of accommodation towards America’s adversaries. The Obama Administration’s policies towards Cuba have changed dramatically, but it’s unclear that Cuba’s repressive policies at home and destabilizing behavior abroad have changed sufficiently to merit this reward.

The President has justified his policy shift on Cuba by declaring the cold war over.  Unfortunately, that view is not shared by the regime in Havana.  Nor, for that matter, is that assessment shared in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. As long as Russia and Cuba persist in Cold War era behavior, it is hard to be optimistic that the Cuba ‘reset’ will be any more successful than the Russia ‘reset’ has been.

The United States should stand up for the people of Cuba, whose desires for freedom and economic opportunity will not be served by further legitimization and accommodation of the Castro regime.

Chairman Royce Questions How Obama Justified Cuba's Delisting

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Chairman Royce Statement on Removal of Cuba from State Sponsor of Terrorism List

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism:

Again, just like December’s announcement of its opening to Cuba, when even the State Department was kept in the dark, the White House is taking another big step closer to the Castro regime without consulting Congress.  The State Department’s review process looks rushed.  The Committee will be interested to hear from the White House how Cuba’s support for radical groups in the region, safe harbor for American fugitives – including one of the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’– and international weapons trafficking justifies today’s move.

Obama's Deceptions on Iran and Cuba

By Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post:

Obama’s deceptions on Iran and Cuba

Remember Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who as caught on tape boasting how the president had taken advantage of the “stupidity” of American voters to pass his health-care law?

Well it seems, Obama is applying the “Gruber Doctrine” once again — this time to foreign policy.

The Gruber Doctrine is based on the premise that, in the words of the now infamous MIT professor, “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” and that the “basic exploitation of the lack of . . . understanding of the American voter” is “really, really critical” for enacting your preferred policies.

That is precisely what Obama is doing when it comes to Iran and Cuba.

With Iran, the administration is once again relying on a “lack of transparency” to ram through its nuclear deal. Even Iran’s foreign minister dismissed the administration’s talking points describing the framework agreement as “spin.” Obama is warning that the only alternative to his deal is “another war in the Middle East ,” even though he has yet to reveal the key details: Will sanctions relief be front-loaded, as Iran insists, or will sanctions come off gradually, as the Iranians meet certain performance benchmarks? Will there be any transparency into Iran’s past secret nuclear activity, information that is critical to verifying its compliance today? Will there be “snap inspections” and access to all Iranian facilities, both civilian and military? Iran says no. Obama is counting on the fact that Americans won’t be able to follow all the details about “centrifuges” and “domestic enrichment capacity.” He won’t share the details but wants us to trust him that there will be “unprecedented verification.” If you believe that, you probably still think that if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.

Obama is also counting on exploiting the “lack of understanding of the American voter” when it comes to his normalization of relations with the Castro regime in Cuba. At a news conference in Panama this weekend, Obama declared that “There is majority support of our policy in the United States” and that “the American people don’t need to be persuaded that this is in fact the right thing to do.” A new poll commissioned by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Roger Noriega for InterAmerican Security Watch finds that Americans do support Obama’s plan by a margin of 51 to 38 percent . . . until they learn some basic facts about Cuba. When Americans are told that Cuba is hosting Russian ships in its harbors, opposition to normalization jumps to 58 percent while support sinks to 30 percent. When Americans are told of Cuba’s attempts to smuggle 240 tons of weaponry to North Korea, opposition jumps to 63 percent and support drops to 26 percent. When Americans are told that Cuba is harboring a cop-killer and terrorists, opposition jumps to 63 percent, and support plummets to 23 percent. When asked whether sanctions should be maintained pending Cuba’s progress on human rights and free elections, Americans agree by a margin of 64-16. And when asked whether Cuba’s designation as a supporter of terrorism should be maintained because it harbors terrorists, respondents agreed 68 percent to 16 percent.

In other words, Noriega says, “When Americans hear basic facts about Castro’s hostility and human-rights violations, they know that the president’s unilateral concessions only emboldened a dangerous, despotic regime.”

Look for Obama to continue employing Gruberesque tactics to sell his appeasement of Cuba and Iran. No doubt the final Iran deal will be presented in a “tortured way” to “mislabel” Obama’s concessions to Tehran and make the inspections seem more intrusive than they are. The same will be true of Obama’s coming decision to lift Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror. There will be no mention from the White House of terrorists being protected and supported by the Castro regime, such as Joanne Chesimard — who murdered a New Jersey state trooper and was named in 2013 by Obama’s own FBI as one of its Most Wanted Terrorists . There will be no mention of the 70 other U.S. fugitives that Obama’s own State Department reports “The Cuban government continued to harbor” while providing “support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care” — or of the Spanish and Colombian terrorists receiving similar support from the Castro brothers.

Why would they tell Americans these things? Obama’s attitude, to paraphrase Gruber, is that “I wish . . . we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have [these agreements with rogue regimes] than not.” Obama and his foreign policy team know what is good for us. And if we’re too “stupid” to catch the deception, that’s our problem, not theirs.

It worked for Obamacare, they figure, so why not Iran and Cuba?

Rubio: I Would Reverse Obama's Cuba Policy

From yesterday's ABC News interview with Presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: There might be a U.S. embassy in Cuba if you’re president. You’d pull it?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, we have a pretty vibrant Interests Section. And perhaps that’s what it should become again. And I certainly would reverse decisions the president has made. I would move them back unto the terrorist list where they belong. This is a country that helped North Korea invade U.N. sanctions recently as a year ago. This is a country that continues to harbor fugitives of American justice. This is a country or a government that has appropriated billions of dollars of assets of both American and American companies that's never been compensated. This is a country that routinely undermines the national security of this country by its active espionage against us. And its sharing of secrets with others and it hosts both Chinese and Russian intelligence gathering capabilities on the island that are targeted at us. And more importantly for me, I desperately want Cuba to have freedoms and democracy. And I think that U.S. policy should always be geared towards that. I think the current policy the president is pursuing will allow the Castro regime to cement itself as a legitimate form of government in the eyes of the world. And the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people have been set back. So I would reverse every single one of the decisions that he’s made.

IBD Editorial: Normalizing Cuba Ties Doesn't Erase Castro's Legacy

From Investor's Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Normalizing Cuba Ties Doesn't Erase Castro's Legacy

The sight of President Obama glad-handing Cuban dictator Raul Castro showed just how far American diplomacy has sunk. Far from being a Nixon-goes-to-China moment, this was a craven capitulation.

There's a reason 10 presidents of both parties kept Cuba's Castros on America's bad-guys' list for more than 50 years. Each leader understood a basic truth: Totalitarian Cuba is a sworn enemy of the U.S., a violent threat to the Western Hemisphere's peace and prosperity and an ally of our worst enemies — including the former USSR.

Hearing an American president now apologize — as Obama did over the weekend at the Summit of the Americas — for past U.S. efforts to protect our homeland and our militarily weak neighbors from Cuba's aggression is bizarre and disgraceful.

No move to repair ties with the Castro regime should have been made until that country agreed to real, major reforms — including the release of all political prisoners, restoration of basic human rights to Cubans and the dismantling of Cuba's totalitarian communist state.

Instead, Obama got nothing. And he used cringe-inducing, obsequious language to apologize to Raul Castro and others for past U.S. behavior, speaking of the "dark chapters" in our history and ruefully noting "we have not always observed the principles and ideals upon which the country was founded."

Relying on a supine media and public ignorance about Cuba, Obama claims Americans favor resuming ties with Cuba. Indeed, a recent poll by InterAmerican Security Watch seems to back normalization 51% to 38%.

But as Mark Thiessen noted in The Washington Post, "when Americans are told that Cuba is hosting Russian ships in its harbors, opposition to normalization jumps to 58% while support sinks to 30%. When Americans are told of Cuba's attempts to smuggle 240 tons of weaponry to North Korea, opposition jumps to 63% and support drops to 26%." Similar results come when Americans are told that Cuba still harbors terrorists, including convicted U.S. cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

"When Americans hear basic facts about Castro's hostility and human rights violations, they know that the president's unilateral concessions only emboldened a dangerous, despotic regime," said American Enterprise Institute fellow Roger Noriega, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, who commissioned the Cuba poll.

According to R.J. Rummel, the late professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Fidel and Raul Castro killed as many as 141,000 people from 1959 to 1987 — not counting those who drowned or were eaten by sharks trying to escape the island prison. Even today, thousands of political prisoners rot behind bars.

Yet Obama says "the U.S. will not be imprisoned by the past," referring to the Cold War.

Fact is, Cuba's regime remains a repeat violator of human rights, a destroyer of its own once-vibrant economy and a supporter of terrorism worldwide.

To give Cuba diplomatic recognition and erase 56 years of efforts by previous presidents for nothing in return goes beyond foolish — it looks like a policy that's intended to make the U.S. look pathetic and weak, and to damage its long-term interests. Is that what this is?

What the U.S. Got From Cuba Deal: Zilch

Monday, April 13, 2015
Excerpt by Ben Domenech in The Daily Beast:

[T]he real problem with the Obama administration's approach to normalization with Cuba isn’t the normalization itself. It’s that this normalization came without getting the United States any of their long-stated policy priorities for the Cuban people in return. Normalization is President Obama’s gift to the Castro regime—a gift with no strings attached.

This is, not coincidentally, the exact same problem we see with the administration's approach to negotiations with Iran (with far more at stake, of course). In both cases, an avowed enemy of the United States is handed huge strategic concessions by the Americans—in exchange for what amounts to nothing.

Unilateral sanctions on Cuba have been oppressive and largely ineffective, and that’s why the public largely supports lifting them. But rolling them back should have come through the normalization process in Congress, and it should have come in return for tangible reforms in Cuba.

The government in Havana is best understood as a cross between violent left-wing radicals and organized crime. And we are normalizing our relations with them now—for what, exactly? So agricultural interests can make a buck? So academic leftists can check off a wish list item? Letting Cuba off the hook should presumably be an opportunity to prod the nation toward reforms that benefit its people and American interests. But President Obama will have none of it. By pursuing another misguided unilateral policy, he has squandered an opportunity to encourage freedom on the island and open up trade relations at the same time.

Normalization is President Obama’s gift to the Castro regime—a gift with no strings attached.
What does the United States get in return for this overture? Do we get normalization of the status of Guantanamo? Do we get our fugitives back so they can face justice? Does Cuba apologize for any of its support for terrorism? Does Cuba have to render justice or accountability for shooting down American civilian aircraft in international airspace, as it did in 1996? Do meaningful numbers of Cuban political prisoners get released? Does Cuban social and political repression ease one iota? Does Cuban support for radicalism and violence abroad cease? Does the Cuban communist grip on power and society relax even slightly? Does America receive Cuban support or even neutrality on any issue over which Cuba was previously opposed? Does Cuba concede a single item of strategic value or tactical value?

The answer to every single one of these questions is the same: no.

Ronald Reagan’s line about his preferred end to the Cold War—“We win, they lose”—is a statement that had more than one foreign policy expert laughing at the time. Barack Obama has appropriated that line as his own, but he's flipped the actors. “They win, we lose” is the approach of his foreign policy and national security apparatus. It’s varying degrees of disaster for us and our friends, but the other guys love it. They might even be grateful, if they were the grateful sort—but, typically, they are not.

We should not labor under the illusion that our friends—and as important, our enemies—abroad do not understand this in full. No doubt the White House thinks the Obama handshake with Castro is an appealing visual of a new era. But outside the hothouse of self-referential left and libertarian policy circles, it is read as something else: more accurately, a surrender—a gift in return for no tangible reforms, no prisoner releases, no policy changes—nothing.

Finding a clear indication of who got the better end of virtually any deal negotiated during President Obama’s second term is simple: Just look at the smile on the guy in the other chair.

Either Obama or Cuba's Foreign Minister is Lying About the Terrorism List

On Saturday evening, here's what President Obama said about Cuba's designation as a state-sponsors of terrorism:

"The issue of the State Sponsor of Terrorism list -- as you know, the State Department has provided a recommendation; it’s gone through our interagency process.  I’ll be honest with you, I have been on the road, and I want to make sure that I have a chance to read it, study it, before we announce publicly what the policy outcome is going to be."

Also on Saturday evening, here's what Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told ABC News:

"His (Obama) announcement on the list of countries sponsors of international terrorism immediate consideration is good news. We also appreciate it, his commitment to engage with the US Congress in a way to, lift the blockade or embargo in 2015."

Note that Rodriguez was in the room throughout the Obama-Castro meeting.

Thus, four possible scenarios:

Did Obama notify Castro about his decision, then lie to the media about it?

Did Obama notify Castro prior to the U.S. Congress, in violation of his legal responsibility?

Was Cuba's removal from the terrorism list part of the Obama-Castro deal all along?

Or is Cuba's Foreign Minister simply lying and posturing?

We hope it's the fourth.

Ironically though, this revelation comes on the same weekend as Ayatollah Khamenei also contradicted the Obama Administration on its announced terms for a nuclear deal with Iran.

State Recommends FARC Remains Designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization

This morning's Federal Register contains the State Department's decision to keep Colombia's FARC designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

As such -- as a matter of fact and law -- Cuba must also remain designated as a state-sponsor of terrorism, as it clearly continues to provide sanctuary to members of the FARC and there's reason to believe last month was caught smuggling war materiel for the FARC.

From The Federal Register:

In the Matter of the Review of the Designation of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia also known as FARC; also known as Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia as a Foreign Terrorist Organization pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended

Based upon a review of the Administrative Record assembled in these matter pursuant to Section 219(a)(4)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1189(a)(4)(C)) (‘‘INA’’), and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, I conclude that the circumstances that were the basis for the 2008 decision to maintain the designation of the aforementioned organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization have not changed in such a manner as to warrant revocation of the designation and that the national security of the United States does not warrant a revocation of the designation.

Therefore, I hereby determine that the designation of the aforementioned organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, pursuant to Section 219 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1189), shall be maintained.

John Kerry
March 30, 2015

Day After Meeting With Obama, Castro Orders Arrest of Dozens of Cuban Dissidents

Sunday, April 12, 2015
This afternoon, over 50 Cuban dissidents have been violently arrested in Havana.

Among those arrested are numerous members of The Ladies in White and former political prisoner Angel Moya.

The arrests took place on the corner of Carlos III and Infanta streets.

Meanwhile, in Santiago de Cuba, democracy activists Diango y Vianko Vargas Martin, were also beaten and arrested.

Ironically, the Vargas Martin brothers were among the 53 political prisoners released as part of the Obama-Castro deal.

Another clear sign of the mockery that Raul Castro is making of Obama's overtures.

Quote of the Day: On Obama's Misguided Cuba Policy

I think the president has a misguided calculation that if you open your hands to dictators they will unclench their fists. While Raul Castro may have said some nice things about President Obama, last month he arrested 600 political dissidents in Cuba.
-- U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), on Obama's Cuba policy, Fox News Sunday, 4/12/15

Picture Encapsulates One-Sided Deal: Obama Poses, Castro Pretends Not to Hear

This picture of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban dictator Raul Castro at the Summit perfectly encapsulates the December 17th deal:

Obama gives numerous concessions, Castro gives nothing in return.

Paya: Ask the Cuban People

By Cuban democracy leader, Rosa Maria Paya, in Spain's El Mundo:

Ask the People

An auto-transition from Power to Power is being contrived despite the will of the Cuba and its exile

Although the current Summit of the Americas in Panama has been a blackboard where the peoples of the Americas have been forced – once again – to choke on the barbarian mouthful of that old subject that is Cuban totalitarianism, hope is renewed by the attitude of consistency and solidarity assumed by the diverse civil society of the Americas.

Today in Cuba, a auto-transition from Power to Power is being contrived, which tries to ignore the will of the Cuba and its exile, while enthroning the military elite after a masquerade of reforms which decriminalize certain economic concessions but continue to hijack all the rights of the citizenry.

Since landing in the sister nation of Panama, I have re-experienced firsthand repression in the style of the Cuban regime. The sincere apologies of the Panamanian Foreign Ministry lose force in the face of all the abuses it allowed to take place against the independent civil society of Cuba and all of the Americas.

Only Cuban civil society activists and the foreigners who work with us were threatened and detained in Panama. But there were no consequences for Cuban State Security agents – such as Alexis Alfonso Frutos Weeden – who beat their peaceful countrymen openly in the street, simply for thinking that our beloved Cuba deserves, after more than half a century without plural elections, an alternative to totalitarianism. Similarly, these agents boycotted the discussion tables of civil society and beat accredited foreigners.

As on the Island in Panama as well: the Cuban opposition has been found a priori guilty in the eyes of the authorities. The marvelous-real isthmus thus turned into the magically-repressive. Hence, we civil society members elevate our demand for democracy in Latin America to the Organization of American States, in hopes of catching less indolent ears than those of the OAS’s outgoing secretary general.

However, the documents read in the plenary session at the end were indeed the consensus of the civil society of all of the Americas. The regime’s rudeness did not serve it well, as before the intolerant cry of “There will be no Forum,” the consistent voice of Latin American civil society was raised, supporting the implementation of “binding mechanisms for consulting the citizenry, such as plebiscites and referendums.”

Civil society forged networks to demand a life in truth. We young Latin Americans refuse to be subjects of alliances and hegemonies which, with a rhetoric more or less revolutionary, claim the lives of Venezuelan or Mexican students, gag the press in Nicaragua or in Ecuador, and condemn Cubans to a dynastic totalitarianism in perpetuity.

As my father Oswaldo Paya said so many times before his extrajudicial execution in Cuba on Sunday, 22 July 2012: dictatorships are not of the left of the right: they are just dictatorships. Because rights have no political color, no race, no culture. Because the dignity of the human person in an inalienable gift far beyond the markets and the State.

For this reason we are now working on the citizen initiative Cuba Decide, which proposes holding a plebiscite, which we presented in the parallel summits and in the Civil Society Forum in Panama. After decades of dictatorship, the Cuban government does not represent the people. Nor do we pretend to speak for all Cubans, but we do want the Cuban people to have a voice.

The world’s democracies have the opportunity today to pay less media homage to handshakes between the elected president of the White House and the hereditary general of the Plaza of the Revolution, and to prioritize the agenda of accompanying Cubans in our liberation, asking the people in a plebiscite to return to us our sovereignty.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.

Obama's Summit Incongruities

During yesterday's Summit proceedings, leaders of the Americas were each given eight minutes for remarks.

They all followed this rule -- except Cuban dictator Raul Castro. Instead, he took it upon himself to speak for nearly one hour.

Lesson #1 for President Obama -- dictators don't follow rules or uphold deals.

Of course, we all know this about dictators. Well, most of us do.

But also concerning were some of the messages sent in Obama's own remarks.

-- For Obama, some past events are more relevant than others.

"The United States will not be imprisoned by the past," said Obama at the Summit. But then a few paragraphs later emphasized, "just a few weeks ago, I was in Selma, Alabama celebrating the 50th anniversary of a march across a bridge that resulted in horrific violence."

Unfortunately, the horrific violence faced by the Cuban people -- courtesy of Raul Castro -- is not a thing of the past. It's something that is very present. It was even exported to the Summit in Panama.

The tens of thousands of Cubans executed, hundreds of thousands perished in the Florida Straits and the millions exiled, deserve more respect.

-- For Obama, the future is an octogenarian dictatorship.

"We are now in a position to move on a path towards the future," said Obama after meeting with Cuban dictator Raul Castro.

How is meeting in private with an 83-year old brutal dictator moving towards "the future"?

It's by definition moving backwards.

-- For Obama, you uphold democracy by allowing democratic commitments to be violated.

"We will continue to uphold the Inter-American Democratic Charter," said Obama.

Except it apparently does't apply to the Cuban people, as the U.S. now seeks to normalize relations with the sole remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.

Moreover, the Obama Administration already acquiesced to violating the "democracy clause" of the Charter by accepting Castro's participation in the Summit, despite its dictatorial governance.

-- For Obama, the Cold War is an excuse to overlook current misdeeds.

"The Cold War has been over for a long time. And I’m not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born. What I am interested in is solving problems, working with you," said Obama.

With Cuba, like with Russia, Obama has an unhealthy obsession with the Cold War. He's the one that constantly brings it up as a talking point.

The fact is that Cuba's tyranny, Russia's aggression, North Korea's lunacy and China's expansionism are current (and tragic) realities of the 21st century.

These can't simply be wished-away by referencing the Cold War.

-- Obama gave Cuba and Venezuela a green-light for its rogue activities.

"Cuba is not a threat to the United States. That doesn’t mean we don't have differences with it. But on the list of threats that I'm concerned about, I think it's fair to say that between ISIL and Iran getting a nuclear weapon, and activities in Yemen and Libya, and Boko Haram, Russian aggression in Ukraine and the impact on our allies there -- I could go down a pretty long list -- climate change...," Obama said.

He also made similar remarks about Venezuela.

Obama just gave Cuba and Venezuela a green-light to continue its rogue activities -- whether smuggling weapons to North Korea and Colombia's FARC, harboring Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and fugitives from U.S. justice, subverting democracy, narcotics trafficking, serving as a platform for Russia, links with Iran and Hezbollah, etc.

At the end of the day, all of this will be viewed by Obama as geopolitical small potatoes, which in turn will continue to make such behavior inconsequential for Castro, Maduro and Co.

Sadly, this will prove to be another fine foreign policy mess in the making.

But hey, at least they got the photo-up for "history."

Obama Embraces 83-Year Old Cuban Dictator, Claims It's the "Future"

How is meeting in private with an 83-year old brutal dictator "a path towards the future"? 

Tweets of the Day: Bush, Walker on Obama's Castro Embrace

Rubio: Removing Cuba From Terrorism List Would be Senseless

From The Hill:

Rubio: Obama's Cuba thaw 'ridiculous'

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Saturday slammed President Obama’s recent overtures towards Cuba as absurd given the Castro regime’s long-term support of terrorism.

Rubio’s criticisms come as Obama meets Cuban leader Raul Castro in a landmark encounter at the seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama. Rubio, whose parents are Cuban, said the president was letting his guard down on the danger Havana presents to American interests.

“It’s ridiculous,” Rubio argued of the Obama administration’s debate over removing Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, in an interview with Breitbart.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he added. “I don’t see how they can rationalize taking them off the list, other than the president’s desire to achieve a legacy issue that he’s the one that opened up Cuba and changed fifty years of policy.”

Rubio cited Cuba’s spying and aid of known terrorist groups as proof of Obama’s missteps. The Castro regime’s actions, he charged, displayed clear hostility towards the U.S.

“This is the country that is the third most active espionage force in America today, operating against us, [and also has] military officials who have been indicted in federal court for the murder of U.S. citizens over international waters,” Rubio said.

“They continue to provide shelter and material support for terrorist groups like the FARC in Colombia and others,” the Florida lawmaker added.

President Obama notably shook hands with Castro on Friday in Panama. The two leaders are scheduled to meet Saturday and continue repairing decades of chilly relations between their respective nations.

The State Department on Thursday completed its review of Cuba’s place on its list of state sponsors of terror. President Obama will review their findings and decide whether that status is still justified.

State formally recommended Obama remove Cuba from its list Wednesday evening. Their decision shows the agency believes Cuba has not supported terrorists at any time during the last six months.

Rubio is a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate. Rumors indicate he may publicly announce his candidacy Monday in Miami.