Russia to Keep Supplying Cuba With Modern Weapons

Friday, April 24, 2015
More "goodies" for Cuba to smuggle to North Korea, FARC narco-terrorists and other rogue actors.

After all, they've gotten caught smuggling weapons twice in the last eighteen months with absolutely no consequences whatsoever.

Not to mention Havana's hub for Russian spy ships to monitor U.S. communications.

Obama's reminder that "the Cold War is over" is clearly not sinking-in with Putin and Castro.

From Russia's ITAR-TASS:

Russia to carry on with modern weapons supplies to Cuba — Defense Minister Shoigu

According to the Russian defense minister, the Russian-Cuban cooperation received an additional boost following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Havana last year

Russia treats Cuba as a reliable friend and is ready to actively develop with the Caribbean island cooperation both in military and military-technical spheres, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Friday.

"We intend to continue cooperation in supplying the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces with modern weapons and military hardware," Shoigu said at a meeting in Moscow with Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas.

According to the Russian defense minister, the Russian-Cuban cooperation received an additional boost following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Havana last year.

"All decisions made during the visit are subject to attentive control and implementation in our country," Shoigu said.

"Our cooperation in the military sector is actively developing and my February meetings in Havana proved our common drive toward the expansion of our partnership relations in the military and military-technical spheres," the Russian minister said.

Shoigu also thanked Cabrisas for warm receptions provided by Cuba to Russian warship each time they call on the Havana port.

"We also enjoy rich experience of Cuban personnel training in our [Russian] various education establishments," Shoigu said. "We hope to carry on with this tradition and expand our cooperation in personnel training."

Cabrisas said Shoigu’s visit to Havana this February "helped to strengthen cooperation" between Cuba and Russia.

This Week's Ignored Human Rights Violations

Since the Obama-Castro deal was announced on December 17th, 2014, there have been well over 2,000 political arrests in Cuba.

You wouldn't know this from the rhetoric of the Obama Administration or from reading the daily stories out of Havana's foreign news bureaus, which dedicate ample time to every silly and peripheral issue regarding normalization -- but ignore the continuous increase in human rights violations.

Here's a sample what the Obama Administration and media ignored just this week:

-- On Sunday, over 50 members of the pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White, were beaten and arrested for displaying pictures of current Cuban political prisoners. Watch their testimonies here.

-- Cuban political prisoner, Yuriet Pedroso Gonzalez, is on the 50th day of a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment. His condition is life threatening.

-- Cuban democracy activist, Niober Garcia Fournier, of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) was stabbed by a Castro regime agent. He remains hospitalized.

-- The Castro regime ratified a three-year prison sentence against democracy activist, Mauricio Noa Maceo, for trying to set up a satellite television connection.

-- In Palma Soriano, UNPACU activist Victor Campa was arrested, while Ruben Torres Saiz was detained, then left gagged and tied on top of an ant nest.

-- On Wednesday, more members of The Ladies in White were arrested in order to impede a lunch they had organized to help feed the needy.

-- And today, Castro's security forces stormed Havana's Central Park to stop a small protest by democracy activists. Among those arrested was democracy activist, Wilberto Parada. A visiting Spanish journalist was also arrested.

Quote of the Week: Obama Has Betrayed Us

The violence since the Summit has been brutal, worse than ever. Many brothers and sisters were beaten. Panama has given them strength. I think Obama has betrayed us because he's allowing these things to happen and keeps giving ground to Castro.
-- Lucinda Gonzalez Gomez, member of Cuba's Ladies in White, recalling the attacks she and her colleagues have been suffering, Cubanet, 4/20/15

Image below: Gonzalez Gomez was bitten in the face in an attack by a Castro regime official on April 12th.

N.Y. Daily News: Cuomo Boozed With Cuban Spy

From N.Y. Daily News:

Cuomo boozed with Cuban official who was expelled from U.S. over spying

Gov. Cuomo lunched in Cuba with a government official who was booted from the United States in a spy controversy.

Gustavo Machin Gomez, a Cuban foreign ministry official who sat next to Cuomo during a welcoming lunch Monday and was photographed drinking mojitos with the governor, was expelled from the U.S. in 2002 in retaliation for Cuban efforts to spy on the United States.

The expulsion came after a Defense Department analyst — Ana Belen Montes — was convicted of spying for Cuba.

Cuomo administration officials defended Gomez’s appearance at the lunch, noting he’s been involved in the ongoing talks to normalize relations.

“Given his high profile role in State Department negotiations, it's no surprise that he was one of the half dozen officials chosen by the Cuban government to attend a trade meeting with New York's delegation,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official, slammed Cuomo’s appearance with Gomez.

“The photos of the governor of New York laughing and toasting with a Cuban spy will demoralize the many Cubans who hope and work bravely for a free Cuba — and who have a right to expect politicians elected by free people in a democratic system to offer solidarity to them and not to their oppressor,” Abrams wrote in a blog post on the council’s website.

Florida Ag Commissioner to Congress: Keep the Cuban Embargo

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today sent a letter to the Florida Congressional delegation, warning them of the risks that trade with Cuba poses to Florida agriculture.

Click here to read the letter.

Giving Obama Cover on Cuban Weapons Shipment

This is quite the coincidence --

Colombia held a Chinese ship caught smuggling weapons for Cuba's military -- hidden as a grain cargo -- for over two months.

There's reason to believe the weapons shipment was truly destined -- through Cuba's collaboration -- for FARC narco-terrorists. However, there seems to be a gag order not to discuss the issue by Colombian and U.S. officials -- and of course, Cuban officials are overjoyed.

(The silence also applies to Panamanian officials, as the ship passed through the Canal before being intercepted in Colombia -- the second time in eighteen months that Cuba risks the safety and integrity of the Panama Canal with an illegal weapons shipment.)


To not put a wrinkle in Obama's removal of Cuba from the state-sponsors of terrorism list.  After all, if Cuba was caught smuggling weapons for the FARC just a few weeks before, it would have made Obama's "legal justification" look even more absurd.

Moreover, to not put a wrinkle on Colombian President Santos' negotiations with the FARC in Havana.

Then suddenly, just a few days after Obama's de-listing of Cuba from the terrorism list and the FARC breaking its truce by killing nearly a dozen soldiers on the day after, the Colombian authorities send the ship off to Cuba -- weapons and all -- because it now poses a "risk" to the South American nation.

And, once again, Cuba's regime enjoys impunity.

But hey, at least Castro pinky-swore to Obama that he'll behave.

From Reuters:

Colombia frees Chinese ship caught carrying weapons illegally

Colombia has authorized a Chinese ship to set sail after it was caught carrying 100 tonnes of explosives to Cuba illegally, the prosecutor's office said on Tuesday, though it continues to hold the vessel's captain pending a criminal investigation.

The ship was detained on Feb. 28 after docking in the coastal city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. Inspectors found the explosives plus 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectile heads and around 3,000 canon shells on board.

The documentation presented by the crew said the ship, the Da Dan Xia, was carrying grains.

A Cartagena-based judge authorized the ship to depart after nearly two months because Colombian authorities do not have the logistical capacity to unload, store or destroy the weaponry found aboard, the prosecutor's office said.

"The judge considered it necessary to free the ship with all the cargo to not put at risk our coastline or the communities," Vicente Guzman, head of the prosecutor's office for the Cartagena region, told reporters.

China's Foreign Ministry says the ship was transporting regular military supplies to Cuba as part of its trade and military cooperation with the communist-run island and that it had not violated any international norms.

The Da Dan Xia is operated by Cosco Shipping Co Ltd, part of the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Group Co.

The producer of the cargo, Norinco, is China's biggest arms maker. A spokesman said after the ship's detention in March that reports of what the ship was carrying were "not true" and that the company sent mainly raw materials to produce bullets.

The recipient was stated as importer Tecnoimport in the Cuban capital Havana.

China is the fourth largest arms exporter in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Its three major customers are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

China and Cuba have increasingly close business ties, as well as political links because of their communist governments, but in Latin America, China is closest to oil-rich Venezuela.

A North Korean ship was detained in the Caribbean region in July 2013 near the Panama Canal, when it was found to be carrying Soviet-era weapons from Cuba including two MiG-21 jet fighters, hidden under thousands of tonnes of sugar.

The United States and the United Nations blacklisted two shipping companies they said were trying to hide the arms destined for North Korea. Panama freed the ship and crew to sail back to Cuba after most of a $1 million fine was paid.

Governor Scott: Lifting Cuban Embargo Would Help Castro, Hurt Florida Agriculture

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Today, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding the potential negative impact of lifting the Cuban embargo on Florida agriculture:

Agriculture is a vital part of our economy in Florida, and lifting the embargo on Cuba could do irreparable harm to it. Importing agricultural products from Cuba could drive down demand for Florida products, open our crops up to invasive pests and species, and give the Castro regime leverage to continue the suppression of their people. Florida agriculture has over a $100 billion impact on our state, and President Obama should be doing everything he can to support it. Sadly, he continues to stand side by side with the Castro regime. I will continue to oppose lifting the embargo, and fight for Florida families, farmers, and our agriculture industry.

What Was Wrong With Governor Cuomo's Cuba Trip

By Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations:

Gov. Cuomo Visits Cuba, and What Could Be Wrong with That?

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has just returned from a visit to Cuba. The stated goal was to gin up business opportunities for New York companies. What’s wrong with that?

Let’s posit that foreign policy is made by the national government, and that the governor was merely trying to advance the new Cuba policy that President Obama has announced. Let’s posit that this is a good policy and that other American officials are right to support it. So what was wrong with this trip?

Two things. First, Gov. Cuomo is not a corporate executive whose job it is to maximize profits. He’s a democratically elected leader in a democratic country. Indifference to human rights is unbecoming at least, and in fact deeply offensive. But in his trip, Cuomo did not see one person who might be called a democratic or human rights activist. He saw Castro regime officials in event after event , plus the cardinal of Havana. Can one imagine that he would have visited the USSR in, say, 1985 and not seen Jewish dissidents, the refuseniks? Can one imagine him visiting apartheid South Africa and seeing only officials of the government? I don’t believe it for one second, so why is Cuba different? Why ignore the desperate struggle for freedom that so many Cubans have undertaken, and for which they have suffered and continue to suffer?

Second, Cuomo dined comfortably with a Cuban spy. As the web site Capitol Hill Cubans reported, the governor was seated next to Gustavo Machin Gomez, who was expelled from the United States in 2002 as part of the Ana Belen Montes spy case. Montes was the senior Cuba analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and in 2002 was convicted of spying for Cuba and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The photo above shows the two men, Gov. Cuomo and the Cuban spy, laughing sociably. Other photos show them seated side by side at dinner. Machin is now a key figure in handling U.S. affairs in the Cuban foreign ministry, but is actually an official of the Directorate of Intelligence, as are many Cuban “diplomats.”

There are only two possible alternatives here: the governor knew he was seated with a Cuban spy who had been expelled from the United States and did not care, or he did not know who Machin was. The first explanation is awful, but so is the second: it shows at the very least, as we say in Washington, “bad staff work.” It’s no surprise that the regime wanted to seat him next to the spy, but did no one on the governor’s staff inquire about arrangements, or make any demands at all? Would it have been too much to say “hey, guys, don’t seat him next to any spies who’ve been ejected from the United States, please?” Or did the governor and his staff assume good faith on the part of the regime? That would be the most embarrassing conclusion of all.

It is reasonable for governors to follow the foreign policy set by the president, and reasonable for them to lead trade missions. But governors have many roles and responsibilities, and defending freedom and human rights is also one of them. “How do you foster the human rights dialogue that everybody says must progress?” the governor asked in a New York Times article. He then answered his own question: “It’s not through isolation, it’s through engagement.” But this must include engagement with people fighting for human rights, not just those abusing human rights. It must include meeting those demanding free elections, not just those denying them. The photos of the governor of New York laughing and toasting with a Cuban spy will demoralize the many Cubans who hope and work bravely for a free Cuba–and who have a right to expect politicians elected by free people in a democratic system to offer solidarity to them and not to their oppressors.

Cuomo's Cuba Deals: Castro Regime 3, "Private Sector" 0

Upon returning from his trip to Cuba, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) lauded the island's growing "private sector."

That's nice. But then why did Cuomo only meet with Castro regime officials?

And why did he only cut deals with the Castro regime?

According to The New York Times, three tentative business arrangements were reached during Cuomo's trip.

The first was a promise by Castro regime officials that they would check-out samples of powdered milk from Cayuga Milk Ingredients of Auburn, N.Y.

If regime officials like it, then Castro's trade monopoly, Alimport, might purchase some (for cash-in-advance).

Why Alimport?

Because as Michael Scuse, Undersecretary of USDA’s Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service, explained to the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday:

Alimport is the exclusive agent for the Cuban government on buying decisions and negotiating purchases from U.S. firms. Alimport not only negotiates contracts for purchase with U.S. firms, but it arranges for payment, takes control of the imports at the Cuban port, and manages the distribution process within Cuba."

And yet, Cuomo and Co. would also like for the U.S. to extend Castro's Alimport financing.

The second was Infor, a Manhattan software company, that purportedly reached an agreement (in principle) to provide its software to a Castro regime-owned company "so it can resell it."

Infor's Cuban partners are deSoft and Softel, two regime-owned software companies, which are off-springs of Castro's UCI (University of Information Sciences).

The UCI was created by Fidel Castro in 2002 to form the regime's "cyber-warriors." It is located at a "former" Russian espionage and communications interception base. Defectors have described it as “a camouflage of Cuba’s G2.”

Infor better lawyer-up as eligible software exports to Cuba are only permitted under exceptions that "contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with one another and the United States" or to support "independent economic activity." The reported ends of Infor's deal appear to do neither.

And finally, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., signed an agreement with Castro's Center of Molecular Immunology in Havana to conduct clinical trial for a purported vaccine for lung cancer.

These bio-scams -- courtesy of Castro's regime -- have long been authorized by U.S. law. Here's how they work. And then, they unravel.

Again, a Castro-regime endeavor.

So what about the Cuban people, the "private sector," etc.?

Isn't that supposed to be the focus of the Obama-Cuomo policy?

Obviously not.

Diaz-Balart in Time: Obama’s Cuba Policy Is Enabling a Dictator

By U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) in Time:

Obama’s Cuba Policy Is Enabling a Dictator

All eight Cuban-American senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle strongly disagree with Obama

President Barack Obama continues to appease brutal dictatorships while gaining precious little in return. He conflates the Cuban dictatorship with the Cuban people when in reality, their interests are diametrically opposed. With sweeping arrogance, President Obama acts as though he stands above history with wisdom that surpasses every American president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first to impose sanctions on the Fidel Castro regime. Obama’s foreign policy is radical even compared to his own party. President John F. Kennedy imposed many of the first stringent sanctions against the Castro regime, and President Bill Clinton signed into law the LIBERTAD Act, which codified sanctions that Obama now opposes.

All eight Cuban-American senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle, strongly disagree with him. One would think that he might consult with us.

The Cuban people simply want to gather peacefully, speak their minds, practice their faiths, access the Internet, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. The ailing octogenarians that run Cuba would never allow those simple liberties. A key point often overlooked is that, under current law, the president can lift sanctions once free, fair elections are scheduled, political prisoners are released, and independent press, organized labor, and political parties are legalized in Cuba. The Cuban people deserve no less, yet Obama abandoned the U.S. commitment to those basic goals when he abandoned his most significant leverage to advance them.

Obama’s capitulation to dictators apparently has no bounds. In 2001, five Cuban spies were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage. One of those five convicted spies, Gerardo Hernandez, was additionally serving two life sentences for the murders of innocent Americans and a legal permanent resident in the shoot-down of civilian aircraft over international waters. Obama’s State and Justice Departments arranged, while Hernandez was in federal prison, to help him have his wife in Cuba artificially inseminated. Shortly thereafter, in another striking concession, Obama commuted his sentence and ordered his release. When has any president been so embarrassingly eager to appease a brutal, anti-American, repressive dictatorship?

Obama’s policies also hurt the Cuban people by emboldening a regime already ready to oppress them. Since the president’s Dec. 17, 2014 announcement, there have been approximately 1,300 political arrests in Cuba. During the Obama administration, five pro-democracy activists have died – Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. The Castro regime exports its brand of violence abroad to Venezuela, where it subverts democratic institutions and helps to repress the Venezuelan people. And just recently, with the president’s implicit blessing, the Castro dictatorship brazenly flexed its impunity at the summit in Panama by beating pro-democracy activists, including American citizens, and ejecting an American journalist from an international press conference. Three days later, the regime was rewarded for those human rights abuses with another monumental concession: removal from the state sponsors of terror list.

Removal from the terrorism list is especially disturbing when the Castro regime continues to provide safe harbor to one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, Joanne Chesimard, terrorist bomb-maker William Morales, and more than 70 other fugitives from U.S. justice. It also has ties to ETA and FARC terrorists, supports other rogue states including Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, and provides support to Hamas and Hezbollah. In July 2013, Panamanian authorities discovered that the North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang was carrying military weapons that it had loaded from Cuba. A UN panel of experts determined that the shipment was the biggest violation of those international sanctions to date. Further, the Castro regime maintains an extensive espionage network against the United States. Ana Belen Montes (Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to commit espionage), the five convicted “WASP” network spies, Walter and Gwendolyn Myers (State Department analyst and his wife serving sentences for conspiracy to commit espionage), Elsa and Carlos Alvarez (Florida International University professor and his wife, serving sentences), and Marta Rita Velazquez (USAID, indicted but fled to Sweden) are a few examples of those who have spied on the Castros’ behalf against the U.S. in the past 15 years.

Obama’s strategy has been an abysmal failure wherever it has been tried. During the horrific slaughter of Iranian protesters during the summer of 2009, President Obama was nowhere to be found throughout most of that turmoil. When he finally decided to speak, he declared, “the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs.” Defending liberty is hardly “interference,” whether referring to the mullahs in Iran or the Castro brothers. Instead, it is the minimum required from those of us living in freedom. As President Obama negotiates with the murderers in Tehran and Havana, he has excised those regimes’ terrorism abroad and atrocities at home – points any U.S. president should find salient – from the negotiating table.

One thing is clear: The president will barrel along with his failed foreign policy agenda regardless of the harm to American security interests, damage to pro-democracy movements, and the diminishing trust of our allies. Obama’s foreign policy is an aberration in America’s long and proud history of supporting freedom across the globe. The U.S. Congress continues to stand with the oppressed people of the world struggling for freedom, and will do all it can to keep the president from bargaining away every ounce of leverage we have to the world’s worst actors.

Quote of the Day: Pataki on Cuomo's Cuba Trip

I’m not going to criticize Governor Cuomo; I went to Cuba a few years ago as part of a mission and I was appalled, to be perfectly honest. It wasn’t — I’ve been to China, I’ve been to the Soviet Union, I’ve been to other states that were Marxist. Cuba wasn’t Marxist, it was Stalinist, and it was just tragic to see how the party leadership was just so unconcerned about the interests of the people, so it’s disappointing to me that Cuba without having changed that totalitarian Stalinist leadership is now by the United States being taken off the list of terrorist states.
-- George Pataki, former New York Governor, WAMC, 4/21/15

Liberty Before Profit for Cuba

By Tom Wrobleski in The Staten Island Advance:

Liberty before profit for Cuba 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to ensure that New York is at the front of the line when Cuba is finally open for business.

Human rights? Yeah, we can talk about that too.

Cuomo has been in Cuba this week to meet with government and business officials. He is the first sitting governor to visit the Communist-dominated island nation since President Barack Obama thawed relations with the Castro regime.

Cuomo got a Cuban cigar, and his eyes lit up at the sight of a '56 Chevy. The governor is a bit of a car nut. He was photographed with a mojito.

Cuomo isn't alone on this jaunt. Traveling with him were reps from JetBlue, MasterCard, Pfizer and Chobani yogurt. All with dreams of newly opened Cuban markets dancing in their heads.

Obama has eased diplomatic relations with Cuba after the country was isolated by the United States for more than 50 years.

An economic embargo is still in effect, even though Obama has lifted some trade and travel restrictions. Following a recent meeting with Cuban leader Raul Castro (that's Fidel's brother), Obama removed Cuba from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

So, things are working out pretty well for the Castro boys and the junta that rules Cuba. Folks are coming to call. People want to make investments in Cuba. Money is ready to flow in whenever Congress lifts the embargo entirely.

Whether any of this will actually be good for the people of Cuba is another matter.

Cubans still do not enjoy freedom of expression. Or freedom of assembly. Or the right to choose their own leaders.

Terrorist Joanne Chesimard, convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, is still walking the streets of Cuba as a free woman after escaping U.S. custody more than 35 years ago. Other U.S. fugitives have also found a safe haven in Cuba. The White House hasn't shown any eagerness to balance the books on those accounts.

It's also worth noting that Cuba does not recognize same-sex marriage, one of those issues that Cuomo led on here in New York state.

In other words, with a sickly Fidel in a sideline role these days, the junta isn't missing a beat with Raul in the driver's seat. Repressive Communist policy has not changed.

The regime has not had to make any real concessions in order to get the U.S. to change policy. Obama is getting less out of the Castro brothers than he got out of the mullahs in the Iran nuclear deal.

Cuomo said that he would raise human rights issues during his trip "when it is appropriate." According to published reports, the governor broached the topic during public remarks at a roundtable discussion with business leaders.

Parroting an Obama line, Cuomo has also said that engagement, not isolation, was the way to go with Cuba.

If Cuba really is ready to open up its markets, then New York by all means should reap the economic benefits. But there have to be guarantees that the Cuban people, and not just the ruling junta, will share in the spoils, meaning political and economic liberty.

The Communists have taken advantage of the Cuban people for half a century. It's imperative that the U.S., including New York state, not now serve as the repressive junta's enabler in the name of economic development.

Cuomo Dines With Cuban Spy Expelled From U.S.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) said his trip to Cuba this week was to be composed of "business to business" meetings.

Apparently, he means "business" with the Castro regime, for regular Cubans are prohibited from engaging in foreign trade and investment.

Adding insult to injury, Cuomo dined today with a Cuban spy who was declared persona non grata and expelled from the United States in 2002.

In the image below, Cuomo is seen toasting with Cuban spy, Gustavo Machin Gomez (on the right).

On April 14th, 2000, Machin was one of nearly two dozen Cuban "diplomats" that violently assaulted a small group of peaceful demonstrators outside the Cuban Interests Section (CUBINT) on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.

Machin was expelled from the U.S. in November 2002, pursuant to the Ana Belen Montes case. Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, was convicted in U.S. federal court for serving as a Cuban agent -- the highest level spy ever caught at the Pentagon.

He would later become Cuba’s Ambassador to Pakistan, where he is believed to have targeted US counterterrorism operations in the region.

Cheers, Governor!

Cuomo's Castro-Centric Schedule in Cuba

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) stated that he was going to Cuba to discuss "business" -- not "politics" -- except for his continuous lauding of Obama's Cuba policy.

Meanwhile, his schedule in Cuba was (literally) as follows:

1. Arrive in Havana.
2. Meet with Castro regime officials at Jose Marti Airport.
3. Lunch with Castro regime officials, including a spy expelled from the U.S.
4. Deliver remarks to a gathering of Castro regime officials.
5. Visit Castro regime cheerleader, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
6. Tour the Castro military-owned Port of Mariel facility.
7. Lunch with more Castro regime officials.
8. Depart for New York.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration will argue that this somehow benefited the Cuban people.

Young, Cuban-American N.Y. Legislator Slams Cuomo, Obama Policy

Must be another "glitch" in the push-polls.

From The Staten Island Advance:

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis slams Obama, Cuomo on Cuba

Having criticized President Barack Obama's December decision to normalize U.S. relations with communist Cuba, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis took to the airwaves Monday to hit the president, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on their support for the regime.

Cuomo flew to the nation on Monday, along with state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, business executives and a gaggle of reporters for a daylong trade mission.

Obama announced in December his plan to normalize relations with the communist country and its president, Raul Castro, arguing that the United States keeping chilled relations hasn't helped the country or its residents.

Avoiding Congress while loosening some restrictions on Cuba, Obama has said he would ultimately work to lift an embargo and other sanctions.

Normalized relations include reopening an embassy in Havana; significantly easing trade restrictions, financial restrictions and travel limits on Americans to Cuba.

While Cuba released three Americans being detained for espionage there, Castro said nothing of American hopes that he would give Cubans expanded Internet access or other freedoms.

The Obama administration is reviewing whether Cuba's status as a state sponsor of terrorism should be lifted.

Speaking on the John Gambling radio show on AM 970 The Answer Monday afternoon, Ms. Malliotakis, a Greek-Cuban Republican whose mother fled Cuba, said, "Cubans are not going to benefit from this policy" because the communist regime will take whatever U.S. imports will come to the country.

Even if leaders would allow goods to reach the people, the average Cuban earns about $10/month, making it impossible to buy anything but the bare minimum, she noted.

But Cubans are afraid to say anything for fear of jail or being beaten, Ms. Malliotakis said.

"I really don't see the purpose in what the president is trying to do, or what the governor is trying to do for that matter," the assemblywoman said.

Having visited family in Cuba on a visa in 2009, the assemblywoman said the situation in Cuba is dire, not because of the U.S. embargo, but because of the oppression of the Castro regime.

Besides human rights violations, the Castro regime has allowed Russia to build a foreign intelligence base in Cuba, about 90 miles away from Florida. Cuba also supports a nuclear Iran and has harbored JoAnne Chesimard after she was convicted of murdering a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973.

The assemblywoman pointed to a news article written about Cuomo while en route to the country Monday, in which he took no position on Ms. Chesimard.

The assemblywoman said Ms. Chesimard's return to the United States should be negotiated as a condition for normalizing relations.

Ms. Malliotakis further criticized Obama, saying, "It's quite telling" that he wouldn't meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ally of the United States, when he came to Washington, D.C., in March, but met with the communist Castro.

The assemblywoman faulted Obama for acting beyond his authority, adding that Congress needs to be consulted.

Cuba: Obama's Next Foreign-Policy Disaster

By Michael Gonzalez in The National Interest:

Cuba: Obama's Next Foreign-Policy Disaster

It is my strong belief that if we engage, that that offers the greatest prospect for escaping some of the constraints of the past. I think the Cuban people are extraordinary and have huge potential. And what’s encouraging is, is that the overwhelming majority of Cubans are interested in ending... the last vestige of the Cold War—and moving forward.”

– President Barack Obama, speaking on April 9 in Kingston, Jamaica

If there is such a thing as a Barack Obama worldview—a statement of purpose that encapsulates what drives his foreign policy—it is certainly reflected in this declaration given at a “town-hall” meeting in the Jamaican capital on his way to meet with Cuba’s dictator Raul Castro. The historic meeting—and that oft-used, though morally neutral, cliché can indeed be employed here—took place in Panama on April 11 at the Summit of the Americas.

There, Barack Obama and the dictator he deferentially refers to as “president” sat and talked for about an hour. As President Obama repeated a version of the apologies he nearly always offers while meeting with foreign despots abroad—the Panama City version being “I’m certainly mindful that there are dark chapters in our history”—Cuban government henchmen were beating up Cuban dissidents and their American supporters, calling them “worms” and “mercenaries,” thereby exporting to Panama the level of oppression they have practiced with impunity on the island for decades.

Then two days after the President’s return, on Tuesday April 14, the White House announced what everyone expected: President Obama will take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was one of Castro’s preconditions to setting up diplomatic relations. Castro’s assuming that he can set preconditions on the world’s sole superpower has been proven valid by the fact that we meet them.

This, despite the fact that, speaking at the summit, Castro openly acknowledged that his regime has indeed consorted with terrorists and issued a veiled threat that this would continue until his tyranny is legitimized. “Yes, we have conducted solidarity with other peoples that could be considered terrorism,” our new man in Havana said. “When we were cornered, when we were harassed, we had no other choice but to give up or to fight back.”

As former State Department official Jose Cardenas put it in a tweet, the Panama summit has shaped up to be “the Castro Lobby’s Superbowl, World Cup and World Series all rolled into one.”

The administration’s foreign policies have dramatically destabilized the Middle East. Now Obama is bringing those failed policies to this Hemisphere. Suddenly, we are getting in bed with our worst adversaries—both philosophical and actual—while taking to task long-term friends who share our values.

Click here to read more.

Speaker Boehner: House Will Respond to Obama's Cuba Policy

Monday, April 20, 2015
In an interview today on Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) discussed Cuba policy:

On the President’s Recent Actions Toward Cuba & the House’s Response:

The president keeps giving, and giving, and giving and I want to see what the Castro brothers are giving.  They’ve done nothing.  I think this is unwise, unhelpful, and I think will lead to almost nowhere... There’s an appropriation process that’ll be started here by the end of the month and I expect when it comes to the appropriation bills there will be riders added that will freeze the president’s ability to do a lot of the things that he says he’s going to do. It’ll be a hotly contested issue here in the House and the Senate.”

On the President’s Executive Overreach:

Presidents have the ability to take executive action but they don’t have the ability to change the law. And whether it was immigration, where I believe the president clearly overreached. Whether it was the 38 changes to ObamaCare that the president made, I think those – most of those – exceeded his authority to do. And we’re in litigation on both of those issues. But when it comes to some of the issues with regard to Cuba he has the ability to do some of this. But, the Congress has an ability to speak as well, and we will probably through the appropriation process.”

Young Cuban Murdered for Attempting to Flee the Island

President Obama says the Cold War is over, but the Castro regime hasn't gotten the memo.

In a scene straight out of East Germany, a 28-year old Cuban, Yurinierki Martinez Reina, was shot in the back for attempting to flee the island for a life of freedom.

Martinez Reina, along with a group of friends, was caught building a small vessel to leave Cuba near Menendez Beach in Matanzas.

They began to run, as a Castro regime security official, identified as Miguel Angel Rio Seco Rodriguez, began shooting at them.

Two day later, the body of Martinez Reina was found shot in the back. The graphic image is below.

Tweet of the Day: On Cuomo's Cuba Jaunt

By 34-year old, Cuban-American, New York state legislator Nicole Malliotakis:

Cuomo's Adventure in Cuba Amoral, Offensive

Cuomo's Adventure in Cuba Amoral, Counterproductive Use of Taxpayer Dollars, Offensive to Cuban-Americans

NYGOP Finance Committee Chair Arcadio Casillas, a Cuban-American whose family fell victim to the Castro regime, released the following statement this morning regarding Andrew Cuomo's trip to Cuba:

"For the Governor of the State of New York to visit Cuba is an amoral disaster that is as costly to taxpayers as it is offensive to Cuban Americans whose families have been victims of the Castro regime. In 2015, Cuba is still a police state, political dissidents are imprisoned and tortured, and the Castro regime has suppressed Cubans and created poverty and disharmony. While the administration has removed Cuba from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list for political reasons, the Castro regime still plays a role in the spread of anti-Americanism around the world. 

Years ago, my father was murdered by the Castros and I risked my life to escape. People continue to do so today. To give this regime legitimacy is counterproductive to the global cause of advancing human rights and human dignity and does not belong on the agenda of any governor or elected official, regardless of the insensitive, amoral and unilateral position of the White House. We urge the governor to rethink this adventure in light of his constituents and of its far-reaching negative implications."

Over 60 Cuba Dissidents Arrested, No Word From Obama or His Regional "Allies"

Yesterday, over 60 members of Cuba's Ladies in White and other democracy activists were arrested in Havana.

They were carrying images of current Cuban political prisoners.

Castro regime officials confronted and arrested them with great violence.

Meanwhile, mum is the word from the Obama Administration or its regional "allies" -- who were now supposed to espouse the cause of human rights and democracy in Cuba.

Cuba Still Sponsors Terrorism, Says Man Whose Dad's Bomb Killer is Harbored There

Sunday, April 19, 2015
From Fox News:

Cuba still sponsors terrorists, says man whose dad's killer is harbored there

For many people, it was another headline about Cuba in a week of symbolic and substantive changes in relations between the United States and its Caribbean adversary.

The White House announced Tuesday that it was taking Cuba off the list of states that support terrorism. Obama administration officials said that Cuba had met key criteria for being delisted, including not supporting terrorism in the last six months, and a pledge by Cuban President Raul Castro that it would not do so in the future.

But the news hit Joseph Connor, a Wall Street executive and father of two, like a punch in the gut.

To Connor, Cuba is the place that is protecting William Morales, a Puerto Rican nationalist convicted in connection with bombings in New York in the 1970s, one of which killed the New Jersey resident’s father.

Morales was in the group known as the Armed Forces of National Liberation or FALN, and was believed to have been the mastermind of a bombing that occurred in 1975 at Manhattan’s Fraunces Tavern, where Connor’s father, Frank, was having a meeting with clients.

“There was a duffle bag, there were 50 sticks of dynamite, it was meant to kill a lot of people,” Connor said. “The Obama administration is opening a relationship with a Communist country that is still sponsoring terrorists. The thought that Cuba can be considered to not be a sponsor of terrorism while they give asylum to terrorists – it’s dismissing my father’s life.”

Morales was part of a group that was planting bombs all around New York City. He was convicted and sentenced to about 90 years, but escaped from Bellevue Hospital, where he was under police custody, by going down a rope fashioned from elastic bandages that was three stories long. The Washington Post called it “one of the most publicized [escapes] in U.S. history.”

He ended up in Mexico, which then handed him over to Cuba, where Fidel Castro, who gave sanctuary to several U.S. fugitives, welcomed him as a freedom fighter.

A Washington Post reporter caught up with him in 2002, where he was “sipping a cappuccino in a chic hotel lobby in Havana.”

“Only once I met Fidel Castro,” Morales told the Washington Post. “It was at a reception and I said to him, ‘Thank you.”

The notion of Morales and others who’ve killed people in terrorist acts in the United States living without a care and being treated as celebrities in Cuba gnaws at Connor.

“Morales has been sponsored as a guest by Cuba since 1988,” said Connor, 49. “It’s a travesty that the U.S. would even considering removing Cuba from the state sponsor of terror list.”

The most well-known fugitive in Cuba is Joanne D. Chesimard, a former member of the Black Panthers who is on the F.B.I.’s list of most wanted terrorists for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. Chesimard also escaped – from prison – in 1979 and fled to Cuba, which welcomed her with open arms.

Now, U.S. officials are saying that Cuba has agreed to talks about fugitives.

Cuban government officials have not commented.

"We see the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of an embassy in Havana as the means by which we'll be able, more effectively, to press the Cuban government on law enforcement issues such as fugitives. And Cuba has agreed to enter into a law enforcement dialogue with the United States that will work to resolve these cases," said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

The dialogue is also expected to address cooperation on more routine crimes, officials said.

A Cuban government spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday, but Josefina Vidal, Cuba's top diplomat for U.S. affairs, recently ruled out any return of political refugees.

Still she said Tuesday night that "the Cuban government recognizes the president of the United States' just decision to take Cuba off a list in which it should never have been included."

Cuba was put on the list in 1982 because of what the U.S. said were its efforts "to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism."

That included support for leftist guerrilla groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Basque separatist movement ETA in Spain. The State Department terror list entry for Cuba also noted the protection it has given to fugitives wanted in the United States.

Connor, who was only 9 years old when his father was killed, has devoted nearly all his life to keeping his father’s death from being forgotten, and to pressing for the return of Morales. He has gone to the probationary hearings of some who remain in prison to make sure they stay behind bars.

Most of the FALN members who were part of Morales’ group were given clemency by President Bill Clinton.

“Fourteen of them got clemency and walked out of prison,” Connor said.

Often, when he is in church, he makes his father a promise. He promises not to let his death be in vain.

“I say ‘Dad, I’m trying to do the right thing.’”

“Morales and FALN were Communists, Marxists, they were targeting corporate executives, people they saw as the bourgeois,” Connor said.

But that was not who his father was, he said.

Frank Connor came from an Irish immigrant family that worked at blue collar jobs in the hope that their son would have a better life.

Frank Connor went to City College, graduated from Fairleigh Dickenson, and got his job at a Wall Street bank where his mother was on the maintenance staff.

“My grandmother wanted my father to have a good, safe job,” Connor said.

Some people have told Connor to move on, to live his life.

"But this is my life," he said.

The Cuban government has not given any indication that it will return the fugitives. The Castro regime has argued that the United States harbors Cuban exiles who have been responsible for what the Communist government says are terrorist acts against it.

Even if the regime were to promise to return the fugitives someday, Connor is skeptical.

"It's not going to happen," he said. "We're the most powerful country in the world, yet we can't negotiate. I'm not going to buy that two years down the road, these guys will be returned."

Connor said he won't stop pushing for Morales to pay for his crimes.

"He has not served in his time in prison," Connor said. "He was arrested, charged and convicted and sentenced."

It's unfathomable to him not to keep fighting for justice for his father.

"The way I view it is, my father's life and his death have been used for politics way too long."

Tweet of the Day: 1st Country Not to Pay Back IMF Loan #Cuba

FP: Where Does U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Go From Here?

By Jose Cardenas in Foreign Policy:

Where Does U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Go From Here?

With this week’s perfunctory delisting of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, it is clear President Obama can’t give away the store fast enough. The apparently antiquated diplomatic notion that when engaging an adversary you use your leverage to try and exact concessions that get you closer to your objective is evidently not for him. Instead, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “Mr. Obama’s Cuban diplomacy has been one unreciprocated offering after another.”

Even worse than that, the administration now finds itself in the humiliating position where the Castro regime is placing conditions on the United States to upgrade diplomatic relations: i.e., ending the terrorism designation, returning the Guantánamo naval base, ending support for dissidents, and so on.

What we are witnessing is a truly remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, piece of statecraft. Give your adversary everything he wants and then see what happens, historical experience be damned. In his own words, the president explained his policy as out to “test a proposition,” as he engages with the last dictatorship in Latin America. That is, by dropping a confrontational approach with an ideological enemy, the United States can induce them to mend their ways and become more responsible citizens in the global family of nations.

But the idea of using Cuba as some sterile academic exercise is troubling, to say the least — a captive nation as some sort of guinea pig. What the president’s approach means is that U.S. policy will now subordinate the Castro regime’s harsh treatment of its own citizens — and its unabated campaigns to undermine U.S. interests around the globe — to an effort to “build trust” with an octogenarian regime that hasn’t change its behavior after 56 years in power. Change and hope, indeed.

That is a far cry from what the president said in 2008, when he told an audience of Cuban Americans that his policy toward Cuba would be “guided by one word: libertad,” and that “the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.”

Following last week’s friendly “interaction” with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, we can drop that pretense. It’s all been swept aside for a new approach based on hoping to “create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people,” as the president said in Panama.

In other words, it appears U.S. policy today is all about opening the economic and travel spigots just a little bit wider to try and improve the day of the average Cuban just a bit more; meanwhile, their future (or lack thereof) still belongs to the Castro brothers. Of course, the administration still proclaims fealty to democracy and human rights, but Obama’s actions in Panama belied his words. The photograph of the smiling president and dictator seated together was all the Cuban people needed to see that what it all means is that they may get an extra ration of rice and beans and a little bit more income if they are lucky enough to work in the tourist sector, but the regime remains fully in charge.

It is a sad denouement of 50 years of a principled U.S. stand on freedom and democracy for the Cuban people. Critics of U.S. policy point to the regime’s longevity to mock that stance, but it is less an indictment of those who oppose engagement with the Castro dictatorship than it is of the regime’s legion enablers, many of who constitute the fiercest critics of past U.S. policy.

Fortunately, many members of Congress are vehemently opposed to Obama’s proposition testing on Cuba. Besides seeing it as a betrayal of Cuban rights activists and a diminution of everything the United States stands for on the global stage, they consider it a pointless and wasteful exercise destined to fail, proving again what five decades have already proven: that this is a regime uninterested in diluting its power or else making nice with the United States.

Congress, of course, cannot reverse Obama’s decision, but it can make it more difficult for the administration to implement its new policy and it can continue to highlight the costs and expected adverse consequences for freedom and human rights on the island and broader U.S. interests. Until November 2016, that is about the best that can be done.