Lula Investigated for Being Odebrecht's "Trafficker-in-Chief"

Saturday, May 2, 2015
According to Brazil's Epoca, former President Lula da Silva is being investigated by the federal authorities for influence trafficking on behalf of the construction company, Odebrecht.

The investigation is looking into projects brokered by Lula -- and financed through billions of dollars in Brazilian taxpayer money -- with some of the world's most disreputable regimes.

Featured prominently among these is the $800 million that Odebrecht received to build the new Port of the Mariel facility, in partnership with the Cuban military.

Since then, Odebrecht has become the Castro regime's most prized foreign business partner.

Odebrecht is also under investigation by Brazilian prosecutors for corruption, slave labor, inhumane conditions, international human trafficking, curtailment of freedom, retention of documents and other violations.

We've long been critical of this company's immoral practices and out-sized role in taxpayer projects in Miami-Dade County.

Its business with Castro's dictatorship is so treasured (and obviously greased) that it chose to go to court, rather than abide by a Florida law -- overwhelming passed by the state legislature and supported by Miami-Dade County voters -- which would have required it to end its dealing with Cuba prior to receiving any further taxpayer money.

Many have sought to whitewash Odebrecht's behavior -- but ultimately, the truth always prevails.

Video: Cuban Political Prisoner's Mother Pleads for His Life

Click below (or here) to see a video statement from Mavis Gonzalez, mother of Cuban political prisoner, Yuriet Pedroso Gonzalez, who is in critical condition pursuant to 62 days on a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment:

Diaz-Balart: Obama Should Express Solidarity With Cuban Political Prisoner Yuriet Pedroso Gonzalez

Diaz-Balart Calls on Obama Administration to Condemn Human Rights Abuses in Cuba and Express Solidarity with Hospitalized Activist Yuriet Pedroso González

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement after reports that Cuban human rights activist Yuriet Pedroso González is gravely ill following a hunger strike.

Human rights activist Yuriet Pedroso González has been on a hunger strike for 60 days to protest his unjust imprisonment and inhumane treatment. He is gravely ill in a state hospital in Santa Clara, Cuba. Many fear that he will not survive.

The Castro dictatorship has been emboldened by President Obama's policy of proceeding with 'normalization' despite the regime's continued brutal repression. The Holguin headquarters of the Ladies in White was recently burned, and political arrests continue to escalate.

I call on the Obama administration to roundly condemn the egregious human rights abuses that are ongoing in Cuba, and to demand that Yuriet immediately receive the medical attention that he needs. The Castro regime has the blood of many innocents on its hands, and we must do all we can to prevent further loss of life.”

Clandestine Arms Shipment Arrives in Cuba

Thursday, April 30, 2015
The Chinese vessel, Da Dan Xia, carrying 15 containers of heavy weaponry hidden as a grain shipment, arrived in Cuba last night.

The shipment was discovered in Cartagena, Colombia on February 28th and held by the authorities (under a veil of secrecy) for over two months. It consists of 100 tons of explosives, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectile heads and around 3,000 artillery shells.

It is now at the Port of Mariel, which is owned by Almacenes Universales, S.A., a shadow company of the Cuban military.

Evidence continues to accumulate that the shipment was actually being smuggled -- by the Cuban military -- for FARC narco-terrorists.

After all, an arms shipment between China and Cuba would have been legal, if conducted with transparency. Instead, the parties chose to illegally conceal the weapons shipment.

So why did the parties go to such lengths to conceal a shipment that could have otherwise been legal?

And, as The Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady asked in her column this week -- why won't the Colombian government disclose what the ship was supposedly dropping off in Cartagena, if not weapons?

Some of the comments to O'Grady's column raise other interesting points:

"With only about four decades working with ships and their manifests (the proper term, not bill of lading) there is no way this was not done without complicity with the authorities in all the countries involved (Cuba, China, and Colombia)."

"What an exercise in stupidity from the Cubans and Chinese, who are covering for FARC... Here; Coming from the Pacific via the Panama Canal you exit into the Atlantic at Colon, you have to take a hard right (starboard) to go to Cartagena, Cuba is N-NW relative on a straight course, you don't go to Cartagena from Colon unless you mean to..."

Clearly, a shipment of weapons for a terrorist group -- with the support of the Cuban regime -- would have hampered President Obama's pre-conceived removal of Cuba from the state-sponsors of terrorism list.

Thus, the silence.

New York Court Orders Worldwide Discovery of Cuban Assets

This case could have major implications for the over $2 billion in outstanding civil and criminal judgments rendered by U.S. courts against the Cuban regime -- and for foreign entities operating in the U.S. that transact with the Cuban regime.

From the law firm, DLA Piper:

In a recent decision that is now on appeal, a New York federal judge ordered a Spanish bank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentina (“BBVA”), that maintained a New York branch to make inquiry of “all branches, within and without New York State,” for account information that would be relevant to a third-party’s execution on judgments against the Republic of Cuba. In rejecting the bank’s jurisdictional arguments, the court held that the bank’s registration with the New York Department of Financial Services as a foreign banking corporation was a sufficient jurisdictional connection with New York to require global compliance by the bank with the plaintiffs’ discovery requests. If it withstands appeal, the decision in Vera v. Republic of Cuba, could have long lasting implications for international banks that maintain a presence in New York.

Read more here.

Cuba: Among Worst-of-the-Worst on Press Freedom

The Washington, D.C.-based NGO, Freedom House, has just released its annual report, Freedom of the Press 2015.

The world’s 10 worst-rated countries and territories were Belarus, Crimea, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Sadly, Cuba scored even worse than such nefarious violators as Iran and Syria.

Cartoon of the Week: Helping Raul Bring Out the Tanks

By Alen Lauzan:

Cuban Regime Shouldn't be Able to Use Stolen Property for Commercial Benefit

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
On December 17th, President Obama shifted the focus of U.S. travel to Cuba from serving a humanitarian purpose to a commercial one.

Thus, the fundamental question behind any new travel to Cuba is:

Should the Castro regime be allowed to use stolen property for its commercial benefit? 

Clearly, the answer is no.

From Politico:

GOP spending bill targets Obama's Cuba moves

House Republicans rolled out a $55.3 billion transportation and housing bill Tuesday which is lean on spending but fatter on policy riders including new provisions challenging President Barack Obama’s efforts to open up more channels between the U.S. and Cuba.

Restrictions would be imposed on the Transportation Department and Federal Maritime Administration to block the licensing of new air flights and cruise ship routes to Cuba if the landing fields or docks include property that had been confiscated at one point by the Castro government.

The language reflects the increased power enjoyed by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who has taken over the House Appropriations Committee panel charged with managing the annual budget bill. More broadly it reflects a concerted strategy by the GOP to use policy riders to gather support for spending bills which could be hard to pass given the tight caps on domestic spending for the new 2016 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

From CQ Weekly:

House Appropriators Offer Small Boost in T-HUD Funding

House appropriators are proposing a fiscal 2016 Transportation-HUD spending bill that would provide a slight boost from current spending, but that ignores an Obama administration push for a large boost in infrastructure spending.

The bill also includes language related to transportation in Cuba. One section prohibits funding for new flights to Cuba “if such flights would land on, or pass through, property confiscated by the Cuban government,” and another prohibition similarly restricts funding for issuing licenses or certificates for vessels docked or anchored at or near ports on such property.

The committee's Democratic staff said the language essentially prevents Cuban tourism by restricting flights and cruise ships.

Quote of the Day: Dissidents Suffering the Cost of Engagement With Castro

As a result of the latest international visits, the [Castro] regime feels emboldened and is exercising brutal repression. It has been two very violent weekends. Cuomo made the unfortunate statement that 'he was coming to Cuba to live the beginning of an adventure.' That same day The Ladies in White suffered a beating. Cardinal de Stella didn't even say a word about human rights [during Mass], while at the same time Catholic women were being assaulted and arrested.
-- Antonio Rodiles, Cuban democracy leader, noting the rise in repression during the trips of the New York Governor and a Vatican envoy over the last two weekends, Diario de Cuba, 4/28/15

Another Round of Nearly 100 Dissidents Arrested, Beaten After Sunday Mass

From Breitbart:

Cuba: Another Round of Nearly 100 Dissidents Arrested, Beaten After Sunday Mass

Cuba’s Catholic churches have become battlegrounds against pro-democratic movements, as the Ladies in White, a dissident group composed of mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of political prisoners, insist on practicing their religion publicly. This has resulted in a larger number of arrests every week for the transgression.

This past Sunday, at least 98 people–a combination of Ladies in White and their supporters, according to pro-democracy leader Martha Beatriz Roque–were arrested after walking in line holding the photos of their imprisoned loved ones, which the Cuban government attacked as an illegal protest. Images surfacing from the incident, thanks to journalists who were also beaten and arrested, show members of the Ladies in White group being hauled away from the scene in two large buses.

Martí Noticias, a U.S.-funded pro-democracy outlet based in Miami, reports that at least one journalist can be seen in the footage above being thrown on the ground and kicked for having recorded the Ladies in White protest, which consisted of walking from their Havana church to a nearby park in silence, while holding the photos of political prisoners and a gladiola, a symbol of peace.

Many of those arrested were released later that afternoon, but not before suffering physical abuse at the hands of Cuban state police. Some Cuban dissidents with access to Twitter have reported that state police tighten handcuffs on the ladies so strongly that they lose blood circulation in their hands.

Babalú Blog, based in Miami, published photos from the Twitter account of Lady in White Yusmila Reyna Ferrer, clearly sporting what appear to be wounds suffered through whipping.

Cubanet, a dissident outlet, notes this was the third consecutive Sunday in which mass arrests of dissidents occurred following Sunday Mass. They note also that sources claim a CNN reporter was also injured in the attack, though CNN has not confirmed this. Cuba has increased the number of politically motivated arrests by 70% between February and March 2015, as well as the number and strangeness of their attacks. In February, a Lady in White involved in a Sunday Mass where 200 were arrested was tarred by a communist mob.

In 2014, the summer months became prime for crackdowns on pro-democracy activists. This year, dissidents fear that President Obama’s vast concessions package to the Castro regime announced in December, which culminated with the removal of Cuba from the State Department’s lists of sponsors of terrorism, despite Castro’s ties to Marxist and radical Islamist groups, will embolden the regime.

Cuban dissidents have begun sharing macros on social media accusing President Obama of being an active accomplice to the violence of the Castro regime.

“They have removed Cuba from the list of international terrorism, but, in domestic terror, the Cuban regime continues being number one,” Martha Beatriz Roque told Diario de Cuba.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Cuba in September. It is not known whether he will discuss the Ladies in White movement or condemn the Cuban regime’s weekly arrests of Catholics for practicing their religion in a Marxist country. The Pope has not made any public statements regarding Catholics repressed in Cuba since President Obama’s cooperation with Castro, which he praised.

Tweet of the Day: Threatening Dissidents Through Their Families

An example of how the Castro regime threatens Cuban dissidents through their families:

On Monday, the political police arrested Victor Rodriguez Matos, husband of Loida Hernandez of The Ladies in White.

Victor Rodriguez was threatened with imprisonment if he doesn't force his wife to abandon The Ladies in White.

Thugs from the political police warned the mother of Loida Hernandez, of The Ladies in White, that her daughter will be imprisoned if she doesn't abandon her activities. 

Cuban Tourism Executive: Dissidents Are "Impure People"

In a recent interview, Castro business confidant and lead trafficker of stolen properties, Eusebio Leal, called Cuban dissidents "impure people who lack intellectual capacity."

"Seeing them is like having mud splashed on a clean suit," Leal added in an apparently racist inference (as some of the most renowned Cuban dissident leaders are black).

Leal (pictured below) is the Castro executive who runs Habaguanex S.A., a tourism conglomerate that owns and operates the emblematic Old Havana district, a controlled area designated for foreign tourists.

Among Habaguanex's holdings is the Hotel Saratoga, a favorite of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Leal is also a Castro intermediary for some prominent Cuban-American businessmen.

Not to be outdone by Leal, Abel Prieto, Castro's former Minister of Culture, recently declared that legalizing the Cuban democratic opposition would be like normalizing Al Qaeda.

And adding insult to injury, Castro regime "civil society" official, Rev. Raul Suarez, recalled how he "felt the presence of God" in the violent "acts of repudiation" (in which he participated) against peaceful Cuban democracy activists in Panama.

Leal is a staple of visiting U.S. business delegations to Cuba.

Prieto and Suarez are staples of U.S. "people-to-people" travelers.

This is what Obama is normalizing.

Quote of the Day: I'm Now a Free Black Man

In a way, I'm happy with this expulsion, for now I'm a free black man. However, I will insist that the reason [for the expulsion] be known: it was due to our participation in the Summit of the Americas in representation of the real Cuban civil society. 
-- Soandry del Rio, of the Cuban rap group "Hermanos de Causa" ("Brothers of a Cause"), on his expulsion from the Castro regime's official Agency of Rap, which regulates and censors Cuban rappers, Diario de Cuba, 4/28/15

Keep Cuba on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism

By George Phillips of The Gatestone Institute:

Take Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List?

Let us not give Castro the resources he needs to continue his regime's 56-year reign of terror on his own people, and his continued support for terrorists and terrorist states.

To enrich and solidify that dictatorship at this time only prevents the Cuban people from being able to forge a better life through elections in a few years, now that they are finally "on the one-yard line," when the Castro brothers, now in their eighties, could simply be left to their natural, un-bankrolled, ends. In a dictatorship such as this, only the dictators benefit.

As Sonia Alvarez Campillo was leaving Catholic Mass on July 14, 2013 with fellow members of Ladies in White, her pro-democracy organization, she was assaulted by Raul Castro's agents.

These "security" agents broke Alvarez Campillo's wrist as well as her husband's ribs in their attack on her and other members of her group.

Sunday after Sunday in Cuba, the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) -- members of a movement started in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents in Cuba -- have peacefully demonstrated for freedom and human rights in cities across Cuba. They have continually been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned in Raul Castro's Cuba.

In an attack just two months ago, Lady in White member Digna Rodriquez Ibañez was pelted with tar by agents of the regime.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation -- an organization of Cuban dissidents that the Castro regime claims is illegal -- reported that in 2014 alone, 1,810 members of the Ladies in White were detained. The detentions of these extraordinary women are among the total of 8,899 detentions evidently designed to crush political dissent. That figure represents a 27% rise from the previous year.

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement, a political party opposed to Castro's Communist Party.

In July of 2012, Cuban state security agents allegedly murdered Paya and Cepero by ramming into their car and running them off the road, where they crashed and died.

The Cuban government officially claims the crash was an accident. But, as documented in the U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report for 2013, when David Gonzalez Peres, another leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, was arrested, Cuban officials at the jail warned him about what happened to Paya.

Paya and Cepero were most likely murdered for trying to change a system in which all 612 candidates in a recent Cuban election were members of the Communist Party and ran unopposed, and in which all other candidates had been rejected by the regime.

Cuba is still a brutal place, with Raul Castro -- who replaced his brother, Fidel, in 2006 -- as a dictator doing everything he can to hold onto power.

The White House has announced that President Obama plans to take Cuba off the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Congress has 45 days to review and reverse this decision.

Of tremendous concern is Cuba's relationship with Iran -- the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department's most recently available State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview for 2013 detailed Iran's vast support for terrorist activities -- including: funding Assad's brutal regime in Syria, where (by that point) 100,000 civilians had died in the ongoing civil war; supporting innumerable terrorists groups that continually attack Israel; supporting rebels trying to overthrow governments in Yemen (now done) and Bahrain; and increasing its presence in Africa.

Both Iran and Hezbollah, one of its prime terrorist proxies, were shockingly left off last month's annual terrorism threat assessment report to Congress from James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence.

Iran-Cuba relations are strong, including an annual Iran-Cuba economic summit. In 2008, former Iranian President Ahmadinejad approved 500 million euros for the Cuban regime and Cuba is training Iranian scientists and sending scientists and researchers to Iran. The stated purpose has been for medical biotechnologies. Are these Cuban scientists involved in Iran's biological or even nuclear weapons programs?

In 2003, Cuba gave Iran access to a location in Cuban territory it apparently needed to block U.S.-backed, uncensored Farsi-language broadcasting to Iran -- the equivalent of blocking Radio Free Europe during the Cold War.

Cuba also has a long-time alliance -- and shares intelligence capabilities -- with Venezuela, which, just last month, the U.S. government declared a national security threat, slapping sanctions on top Venezuelan officials.

There are reports that Tarcek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah, a man with strong ties to the Middle East who is now governor of the Venezuelan state of Aragua, may be at the center of this Iran-Cuba-Venezuela alliance and that he has built "a criminal-terrorist pipeline, bringing militant Islamists into Venezuela and surrounding countries, and sending illicit funds from Latin American to the Middle East."

Regional intelligence officials also believe Maddah's office has been using technology given to them by Cuba, to issue new Venezuelan identification documents to 173 Middle Easterners.

Castro and Cuba also continue to provide safe haven for the Colombian terrorist organization FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which has been at the center of a 50-year civil war that has cost over 220,000 lives and displaced 5.7 million people.

FARC, at the center of Colombian drug trafficking, has taken thousands of hostages -- including a Colombian presidential candidate and three Americans who were saved in a daring rescue mission in 2008 -- and has forcibly recruited child soldiers.

Included in FARC's death toll should also be the thousands of Americans who died from cocaine overdoses, due to the massive amounts of cocaine FARC has been funneling into the U.S.

During the last 15 years, the U.S. has invested $9.3 billion in "Plan Colombia," to strengthen the Colombian government's counter-narcotics efforts and cripple FARC.

The State Department's annual report on State Sponsors of Terrorism references Cuba's safe haven for FARC every single year. The report for 2011 speaks specifically of "medical and political assistance" for FARC.

Sympathizers of Cuba claim that there is no reported evidence of financial resources or military supplies in recent years, and that Cuba should be given credit for hosting peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government.

However the State Department's Report on Terrorism 2008 states that Cuba has "one of the world's most secretive and non-transparent national banking systems," which makes monitoring the flow of resources to FARC or other terrorist organizations difficult.

Amazingly, it was only in January of 2014 that Castro announced Cuba would freeze bank assets connected to Al-Qaeda. Might this indicate that Castro knew assets linked to Al-Qaeda were flowing through his country? Who else is receiving money through Cuba's "secretive banking system"?

In 2013, an illegal Cuban arms shipment was stopped from going to North Korea. Early this year, a Chinese ship with massive amounts of explosives destined for Cuba was stopped in Panama. Also early this year, a shipment of Russian anti-aircraft weapons going to FARC, through Cuba-friendly Ecuador, was stopped by the Colombian military. These incidents all raise the possibility that Cuban weapons are going to terrorist groups.

Cuba has hosted past peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC, all of which have failed to produce progress. The current peace talks have dragged on for more than three years, and leaders of FARC are refusing to surrender weapons or face prison.

Even though peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC are ongoing, Colombia continues military operations against FARC -- which has used past ceasefires to rebuild. FARC also kidnapped a Colombian General in November 2014 (later releasing him).

On April 15, FARC brutally executed 11 Colombian soldiers -- in the middle of the Cuba-hosted peace talks, which supposedly represent a "better" FARC.

The U.S. government has automatic warrants for all senior FARC leaders to be arrested and tried on charges of drug trafficking.

Castro wants Cuba taken off the Terrorism List so that certain sanctions, including limits on World Bank loans and development aid, will be lifted from his nation. This would also mark the beginning of normalized relations with the U.S., and Castro is no doubt hoping for more sanctions relief from the U.S. trade and travel embargoes.

U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, has said that lessening sanctions would, "only secure more funds for the Cuban Government, leaving the average Cuban citizen with very little economic improvements."

Castro's communist regime controls the Cuban economy, and virtually all businesses and means of production belong to the government. This means that Cuban citizens will only benefit from sanctions relief to the extent Castro decides.

Terrorizing the Ladies in White and the abuse of many other Cuban dissidents are apparently not officially considered when making the decision regarding Cuba and the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism -- just as human rights in Iran, or the four Americans being held and tortured in Iranian prisons were, according to the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, deliberately not linked to any nuclear negotiations with Iran. The decision of who is on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism is apparently only based on support for members of officially designated terrorist organizations.

At the recent Summit of the Americas, Raul Castro actually justified his support for terrorism. "Yes," he said, "we have conducted solidarity with other peoples that could be considered terrorism."

Was Castro justifying Cuba's long years of support for brutal communist revolutionaries around the globe in the past, or was he trying to justify his current support for FARC and others linked to terrorist organizations?

Does Castro still justify his support of Joanne Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted of killing a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973, but escaped prison and has long been given a safe haven in Cuba? Chesimard is still on the FBI's Most Wanted List of terrorists.

Does Castro also still justify his support for William Morales, who escaped to Cuba as he was facing charges for a 1975 bombing in New York City that killed four people as part of FALN, a Puerto Rican terrorist group?

Will Castro justify his continued protection of Basque ETA terrorists, whose organization has killed over 800 people in Spain through bombings and attacks? Spain is asking for assistance from the U.S. government, to pressure Cuba to return two Basque terrorists Cuba is currently hosting.

The Ladies in White show us the brutality of the Castro regime. They are the ones we should be reaching out to, engaging with, and promoting -- not Raul Castro.

Normalizing relations at this time with Cuba will only enable the Castro dictatorship to continue impoverishing and brutalizing its people. To enrich and solidify this dictatorship at this time only prevents the Cuban people from being able to forge a better life through elections in a few years, now that they are finally "on the one-yard line," when the Castro brothers, now in their eighties, could simply be left to their natural, un-bankrolled, ends. In a dictatorship such as this, only the dictators benefit.

Let us stand with the Ladies in White and the families of the victims of the Chesimard, Morales, ETA and FARC murders.

Let us not give Castro the resources he needs from sanctions relief to continue his regime's 56-year reign of terror on his own people, and his continued support for terrorists and terrorist states. Keep Cuba on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

When Has Raul Castro "Unclenched" His Fist?

Monday, April 27, 2015
Last week, Sydney Seiler, the Obama Administration's envoy to North Korea, urged the Kim regime to "learn" from Iran, Burma and Cuba, which have “responded to our offer to reach out a hand to those who would unclench their fist."

He must be delusional.

Is he talking about Iran, which continues taking American hostages and where executions have surged since nuclear talks?

Is he talking about Burma, which has regressed on most of its reforms since Obama embraced its military junta?

And when has Raul Castro "unclenched his fist"?

Since the Obama Administration began secret negotiations with the Castro regime in June 2013, there have been well over 15,000 political arrests in Cuba.

Nearly 2,500 of these have been since the Obama-Castro was sealed on December 17th, 2014.

And repression continues to steadily rise.

Just yesterday, over 100 dissidents were beaten and arrested in Havana, half of whom were members of the pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White.

Meanwhile, in Holguin, the headquarters of The Ladies in White was set on fire.

Castro hasn't "unclenched his fist" one bit.

To the contrary, the Obama Administration's policy has been a unilateral freebie -- ignoring his own doctrine.

What Was the "Cuba-Bound" Weapons Ship Delivering to Colombia?

Excerpt by Mary O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

Devilish Dealmaking in Colombia

The FARC terrorists repay President Santos’s peace negotiations by executing 11 soldiers.

The predawn execution of 11 Colombian soldiers in the province of Cauca by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on April 15 is shaping up as a defining moment for President Juan Manuel Santos. Mr. Santos has staked his presidency on peace negotiations with the FARC. But the talks, now in their fourth year, have polarized a nation that was once united against the rebels.

With the massacre in Cauca, the divide has deepened, and simmering public resentment of what some see as their commander in chief’s deference to the guerrillas has exploded. At a Bogotá road race to honor fallen military heroes days after the killings, the president faced a barrage of jeering and booing.

Days later the government denied rumors that Mr. Santos will now seek special powers, via a referendum, to negotiate and seal a deal without congressional or public review. Colombians I talked to expect the president to try just that, noting that he is running low on time and credibility.

Mr. Santos didn’t help last week when he released a Chinese ship carrying an undeclared weapons cache, which had been seized in Cartagena in early March. The Da Dan Xia’s bill of lading claimed it was carrying grain. But according to press reports Colombian authorities found 100 tons of gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators for bullets, 99 “projectiles” (rocket-propelled grenades, to venture a guess) and 3,000 artillery shells—in other words, the stuff of guerrilla warfare.

Once freed, the floating armory went to Cuba, which according to China had ordered the low-tech hardware. But then why the false documentation and why won’t the Colombian government say what the ship was delivering to Colombia?

Click here to read more.

Tweet of the Day: Military Operations to Repress Cubans

From Cuban democracy activist, Yusmila Reyna Ferrer:

The Cuban regime spends millions on military operations to repress opponents. 

Politifact Looks at Cuban Weapons Smuggling to North Korea

Politifact could have saved itself a lot of time by simply reading the conclusions of the U.N.'s Panel of Experts, which found Cuba's smuggling of weapons to North Korea to be the largest and most egregious violation of international sanctions to date.

Click here to read a summary of the U.N. Panel of Expert's conclusions.

From Politifact:

Perdue mostly right on shady weapons deal

The White House announced last week that President Barack Obama would be eliminating a major obstacle to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba by removing it from America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Since 1982, Cuba has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation it has shared with Syria, Sudan and Iran and that triggers sanctions limiting U.S. aid, defense exports and certain financial transactions.

Supporters say this is a necessary step if Obama is going to turn the page on the Cold War-era dispute that has snarled diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba for more than five decades.

Some Republicans, including freshman U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, object to taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"The Castro regime, time and again, has violated international norms,’ Perdue, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement issued the day after the White House announcement.

"I am deeply concerned that President Obama continues to embolden our enemies and empower dictators from Russia to Iran, and now Cuba. Cuba must prove it is willing to change its destructive and oppressive behavior before the United States removes it as a state sponsor of terrorism.

He cited several examples of Cubas destructive and oppressive behavior, including an incident in 2013 when, he said, Cuba secretly shipped 240 metric tons of weapons to North Korea, violating a U.N.embargo.

PolitiFact Georgia decided to fact-check Perdue’s statement about the weapons shipment.

We reached out to Mark Bednar, a Perdue spokesman, who sent us several news accounts of the incident where aging Cuban weapons were found aboard a North Korean-flagged ship.

In July 2013, Fox News reported that Panamanian officials stopped the ship Chong Chon Gang ferrying undeclared weapons and armaments, including two Soviet-era MiG fighters and surface-to-air missile system, from Cuba, in apparent violation of U.N. sanctions. The weapons were hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.

The report said the Cuban government acknowledged about a day later that the cargo included 240 metric tons of "obsolete defensive weapons." Government officials claimed the equipment was meant to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba.

Three members of the ship’s crew were arrested on arms trafficking charges. The ship was allowed to return to Cuba in 2014 after a $700,000 fine was paid, the BBC reported.

A State Department spokesperson told us this week that the administration considers the weapons shipment to North Korea in 2013 an "egregious violation of U.N. sanctions."

The administration, the spokesperson said, has worked to ensure that those responsible "pay a price for their wrongdoing."

"The administration also worked to maximize the diplomatic cost to Cuba for its role in the incident, including repeatedly condemning Cuba’s role in the violation in meetings of the UN Security Council," she said. "While Cuba’s actions were a clear violation of international law, they do not constitute support for acts of international terrorism and do not constitute a bar to rescission of their (state sponsor of terrorism) designation."

Cuban was placed on the list in 1982 because of its efforts to promote revolution in the Western Hemisphere. North Korea spent 20 years on the list but was removed in 2008 by President George W. Bush. North Korea was placed on the list in 1988 for planting a bomb on a passenger plane headed from Baghdad to Seoul. The plane exploded south of Burma, and all on board were killed.

In the current review of Cuba’s standing, the administration focused on ‘the narrow question of whether Cuba provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six months and whether Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, consistent with the statutory standard for rescission," the State Department spokeswoman said..

A senior administration official told reporters earlier this month that Cuban leaders, including Fidel and Raul Castro, have repeatedly and publicly decried terrorist acts.

Congress has 45 days from receiving the president’s report to pass a joint resolution prohibiting the rescission. If that would occur, the president would have veto power and Congress the power of the veto override.

Our conclusion

Georgia Sen. David Perdue said he objects to plans to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that was announced last week by the White House. He said that the Castro regime in Cuba has violated international norms.

Among the specific examples he cited was Cuba "secretly shipping 240 metric tons of weapons to North Korea in 2013 in violation of a U.N. embargo." News reports and statements from the administration back up Perdue’s claim about the incident.

The administration said it narrowly focused on whether Cuban provided any support for international terrorism in the prior six months and whether the Cuban government had provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, That is context the reader needs.

For that reason, we rate Perdue's statement Mostly True.