On Cuba, Obama Again Comes Up Short at Negotiating Table

Saturday, May 9, 2015
By U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) in The Star-Ledger:

On Cuba, Obama again comes up short at negotiating table

I never met New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. I never made the acquaintance of his widow or his family or friends. But I know he lived, he served the people of New Jersey with distinction and, sadly, he died doing the job he loved.

Trooper Foerster was killed in cold blood over forty years ago by Joanne Chesimard, a fugitive who now lives in freedom in Cuba.

That is why I found President Obama's stage appearance with Cuban dictator Raul Castro at the recent Organization of American States Summit particularly disturbing.

But then it occurred to me: maybe the President Obama just never saw a newspaper article or media report about Trooper Foerster or his killer!

Maybe he does not know that Chesimard was convicted of killing Trooper Foerster with his own handgun while he lied on the ground along the New Jersey Turnpike.

It is possible that President Obama has not read that Chesimard stood trial in New Jersey, was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life plus at least 26 years in prison for her crimes.

Maybe President Obama is not aware that she escaped from prison in Clinton, in part, by kidnapping a corrections officer and a prison driver.

Perhaps he did not know that Chesimard fled to Cuba in the 1980s and was quickly granted political asylum by Fidel Castro's regime?

And I guess it is possible that President Obama has not seen media accounts that since then confirm that Chesimard is on the FBI's most wanted list, right next to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri!

So, despite these facts, President Obama enthusiastically builds a case for wide-open relations with the Castro regime with no apparent strings attached. And, he's fighting to lift travel and trade restrictions on the backs of decades of oppression.

As with his dealings with Iran's leadership, President Obama has shown himself to be an awful negotiator who gives more than he receives. In the case of Cuba, he appears to be handing the Castro regime everything it wants, including deletion from the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, without placing serious demands on the Castro government.

We all know that Cuba continues, to this day, to detain, imprison, prosecute and otherwise restrict its citizens' rights to express their political views. But besides harboring several known cop killers, arsonists and terrorist bombers, Cuba has colluded with North Korea to smuggle jets and other weaponry in direct violation of U.N. resolutions, trafficked in arms and explosives, launched cyber-attacks, confiscated private assets and provided financing to African revolutionary groups, in addition to providing aid and comfort to all sorts of malevolent groups in our hemisphere.

This is why I decided to co-sponsor the Cuba Human Rights Act (H.R. 1782) and legislation aimed at blocking President Obama's intention to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

How ironic it is that Castro brothers jail their own countrymen for their views and yet protect the freedom of a fugitive convicted killer from another country?

Mr. President, I hope you read this column and before you agree to any more concessions to Cuba, you will make sure Joanne Chesimard is back in a New Jersey prison to answer for her crimes.

Media Hype Sells a Cuba That Does Not Exist

By Luis H. Ball in The PanAm Post:

You Will Not Like Cuba

Media Hype Sells Product That Does Not Exist

During the early days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, several national media outlets in the United States published articles referring to East Germany as “the most advanced of the Eastern European economies,” vaunting its bright future after communism as the country, we were told, possessed “advanced industries” in optics and a highly productive workforce. Soon afterwards it became clear that the authors of these articles had foolishly believed the lies spread by Communist East Germany’s vaunted propaganda machine.

The reality was starkly different. East German factories were only good to be used as scrap metal for the modern smelters of West German industrial giants such as Krupp or Thyssen. There was zero advanced technology in East Germany; the country’s infrastructure was comparable to that of a poor Third-World nation; the pollution of the cities was terrifying; and most of the countryside had turned into a giant hazardous waste dump.

Twenty five years later, East Germany remains poorer than the western side of the country, which never lived under communism. It will probably take another 25 years before the damage caused by decades of rule by a thuggish, murderous, totalitarian communist clique can be fully reversed.

One wonders how supposedly professional newsmen who were assigned by their publications to cover that part of the world could have been so blind and so wrong. Without doubt, some praised the supposed East German paradise with careful and well-thought-out lines, designed to hide their true political leanings. Others were evidently fooled by ignoring a fact well known to anybody who has lived in a police state: nobody dares to tell the truth.

The well-intentioned and honest reporters actually believed what they were being told by “the man on the street,” who was always full of praise for his country, even if he knew better. Years of living with the East German secret police, the infamous Stasi, had inculcated into everyone the fear of telling the truth, particularly to a foreigner. Vaclav Havel, the late hero and former president of the Czech Republic put it best: “The first victim of communism is the truth.”

They make great efforts to fool as many people as possible, beginning with gullible journalists.

Reading Time and Newsweek magazines a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see the East German case magnified by a factor of 10. These reporters would have us believe that Cuba is a paradise waiting to be discovered. Their articles are full of quotes from Cubans who praise their country and speak wonders of the changes to come.

Unfortunately, these same articles forget to mention that Cuba’s version of the Stasi, the feared G2, has not been dismantled and that, unlike Germany in 1989, the Communist Party regime is still in power. Can one truly believe these stories from people quoted by name by US journalists visiting the island?

The truth is that Cuba today is the poorest country in the Americas, poorer than Haiti. Its per-capita income is less than that of Honduras, the small Central American country that has the world’s highest murder rate. Cubans today would be suffering from mass starvation if the country were not receiving upwards of US$7 billion per year from their allies in the Venezuelan government.

Cuba manufactures nothing and produces nothing, except cigars and small quantities of rum. Its once vaunted sugar industry, the world’s largest before the communist takeover, has been completely destroyed, to the extent that Cuba has become a net importer of sugar. There is not even enough sugar produced in Cuba for its own meager, and rationed, domestic consumption.

The happy tourist that arrives in this paradise being promoted by all the main media outlets in the United States will find the world’s highest concentration of prostitutes, as women are forced to sell their bodies to live a better life and obtain precious hard currency. They will find no toy stores, no supermarkets, no hardware stores and, of course, no jewelry stores.

It is not because Cuba was such a backward country before the revolution that none of this exists. On the contrary, Cuba had more modern supermarkets relative to its population than the United States in 1958, as it had great department stores and world famous jewelers. None of this will be evident to the tourist however.

Remember, this is not Berlin after the fall of the Wall; this is Berlin before!

As Time magazine points out in its promotional guide disguised as a news article, there is no crime in Cuba, as there was no crime in the streets of Moscow under Stalin or in Berlin during Nazi rule. Is it not that great news for the tourist? The regime is so efficient that there is absolutely zero risk to the camera-toting visitor!

Maybe those readers who plan to visit this Caribbean paradise would like to know something that Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times have omitted: their phone conversations will be bugged, and possibly they will be secretly filmed in their hotel rooms. Remember, this is not Berlin after the fall of the Wall; this is Berlin before!

Twenty years ago, Fidel Castro began to promote his imprisoned island to foreign tourists. Canadian and Spanish tourists initially poured in. Eventually, however, word got out that Cuba was not much fun.

Today, they still trickle in, but the boom in tourism that the Castros expected has not materialized. Those who do visit Cuba do so because it is, by far, the cheapest destination in the Caribbean. Those Europeans and Canadians who can pay more ignore Cuba as a destination.

The Castros are counting that with the United States’ huge population and enormous tourism industry, they will finally get the revenue they crave. A small fraction of US tourism diverted to Cuba will prove a windfall for their communist cronies and will greatly help them retain their grip on the island. Thus, they make great efforts to fool as many people as possible, beginning with gullible journalists, many of whom fell in love with Marxist utopia while in their Ivy League colleges.

Lastly we should not fail to mention Cuba’s vaunted health-care system. That is probably the one positive outcome of the fact that many Americans will indeed visit Cuba in the near future. Once US tourists begin to break their ankles or get food poisoning or appendicitis while on the island, this is one myth — a product of efficient propaganda — that will quickly disappear.

If a traveler reading this article wants a good account of what he can expect to find in Cuba, he can turn to the work of the great Chilean author Jorge Edwards. His book Persona Non Grata, written in 1971 when he was still a avowed Marxist, remains the best account of daily life in Cuba, as in reality nothing has changed since then.

Shocking: Castro Lied to U.S. Congresswoman

Meanwhile -- despite a string of endless lies -- the Obama Administration gives credence to the Castro regime.

From The Toledo Blade:

Rep. Kaptur, Sen. Brown call on Cuba to release body of Ohio native William Morgan

Two members of Ohio’s Congressional delegation today called on the government of Cuba to release the body of Ohio native William Morgan, who helped overthrow a dictator there more than 50 years ago.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) released a letter they sent to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for the return of Mr. Morgan’s body.

“As relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to normalize, we ask for your assistance in returning this American’s remains to the United States,” the two lawmakers wrote.

Mr. Morgan went to Cuba in 1957 to help overthrow the dictator Fulgencia Batista, joining forces with guerrilla leader Fidel Castro. While there, Commandante Morgan married Olga Rodriguez, now Olga Goodwin. Commandante Morgan later turned against Castro, who had him arrested and executed in 1961.

Mr. Morgan’s widow also fought for democracy in Cuba and was tortured and imprisoned for 10 years before escaping her native Cuba to settle in Toledo. She has been fighting to secure his remains from Havana for three decades.

According to the letter, the Cuban government promised delivery of Mr. Morgan’s remains when Miss Kaptur visited the island nation in 2002, but Ms. Goodwin and her family are still waiting for the government to fulfill its promise.

Mr. Morgan was born in Cleveland in 1928 and was 1 year old when he and his parents moved to Toledo's Old West End.

Russia Intends to Reopen Cuban Spy Base

Friday, May 8, 2015
From Russia Today:

Russia intends to restore Cuban spy base – MP

As Russia restores its military-industrial cooperation with Cuba it may soon reopen the Lourdes signal intelligence center near Havana, claims a senior member of the State Duma Security Committee.

“I think that in the nearest future we can restore the radio intelligence base in Lourdes that had been used first by the USSR and then by the Russian Federation,” MP Dmitry Gorovtsov (Fair Russia) said in comments to RIA Novosti.

“Under conditions created on the international arena as a result of the US pressure and anti-Russian sanctions, cooperation with the Cuban Republic will develop in the direction of restoring the relations that our countries had up to mid-1980s,” he added.

However, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the military base issues as he briefed reporters about the recent talks between Russian and Cuban leaders in Moscow.

“I cannot tell you anything about the bases’ opening. The issue was not on the agenda,” Peskov said.

The Lourdes spy base, AKA the SIGINT facility, was opened in 1967. The largest Soviet signal intelligence center abroad, it was manned with 3,000 personnel and operated throughout the Cold War. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the base was downscaled, but continued operation. In 1993, Raul Castro, then-Defense Minister of Cuba, said Russia received 75 percent of signal intelligence on America through Lourdes.

However, after 1992, when Russia was asked to pay Havana hundreds of millions dollars to keep the facility open, Moscow started pondering its closure. In addition, in 2000 the United States made the closure of Lourdes a key condition for rescheduling or forgiving any Russian debt to the US.

In 2001 the Lourdes intelligence center stopped its operations.

In July 2014, Russian business daily Kommersant reported that Russia had sealed a deal with Cuba to reopen the facility during Putin’s visit to Cuba. The newspaper referred to numerous unnamed sources in its report, but shortly after it was circulated the Russian embassy in Cuba completely refuted it, claiming the report was an attempt to blacken the improving relations between the states.

French President, Japanese and Dutch Foreign Ministers to Cuba -- No Dissident Meetings

The Obama Administration told us that its new policy of engagement with the Castro dictatorship would result in greater international support for human rights and democracy in Cuba.

Instead, world leaders are following Obama's poor lead -- embracing Castro, while ignoring dissidents.

Last week, Japan's Foreign Minister traveled to Cuba, where he focused on business and financing deals with the Castro regime. He spent all his time meeting with both Fidel and Raul.

This week, the Dutch Foreign Minister traveled to Cuba and also spent all his time canoodling with Castro regime officials.

Next week, France's President, Francois Hollande, will travel to Cuba and has no meetings with dissidents scheduled.

Below is a letter from the Paris-based NGO, Reporters Without Borders, sent to President Hollande reminding him of his past comments regarding rights in Cuba and urging him to reconsider his new-found silence.

Ironically, it seems Hollande was more supportive of human rights and democracy in Cuba before Obama's policy change.

President François Hollande
Palais de l’Elysée
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris

Paris, 7 May 2015

Dear President Hollande,

Before your trip to Cuba, Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends freedom of information, would like to draw your attention to the still very critical situation of journalists, both professional and non-professional, in that country.

Year after year, Cuba has had the western hemisphere’s lowest position in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. It is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in the 2015 index. This position reflects the glaring lack of pluralism and the difficulties and dangers that independent journalists and bloggers encounter when trying to circumvent censorship and publish freely-reported information.

An historic visit requires historic responsibility. In a 27 February 2003 op-ed in Le Nouvel Observateur, headlined “Telling the truth,” you got straight to the point when you said: “Silence by Cuba’s friends would be a form of complicity with a system we would criticize anywhere else.” You said we should, “Give full support to the Cuban people and tell the truth about the inhumanity of the embargo and the Cuban regime – both are unjustifiable.” You were also clear about the role France should play: “We must demand the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of censorship.” So, for the sake of these principles, France cannot remain silent now.

Despite demonstrating a desire for an opening at the diplomatic level, the Cuban government maintains an almost complete monopoly of news and information and tolerates no independent news media on the island. Both the traditional and online media continue to be censored and the Internet is subject to close surveillance.

The one exception is the website of Hablemos Press, an independent news agency. Its website had been inaccessible in Cuba since 2001, but Reporters Without Borders unblocked it on 12 March as part of an anti-cyber-censorship operation. This exception, with which the Cuban government had nothing to do, should be the rule.

You, as France’s president, must point out that no opening will be real and benefit the population unless Cuba also opens up to pluralist and independently-reported news and information.

Independent journalists and bloggers continue to confront hardships and risks. Their equipment is confiscated. Their mobile phones are disconnected. They are summoned by the department for internal security and told to change their editorial policies. They continue to be exposed to death threats, intimidation, smear campaigns, arrest, arbitrary detention and physical violence.

Even the most recent World Press Freedom Day, on 3 May, was used to crack down. Three independent journalists were arrested in Havana while covering a march by the Ladies in White at which copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were distributed. You, as France’s president, cannot remain silent about the arbitrary imprisonment of journalists.

The Cuban authorities seem increasingly inclined to use arrests of short duration to silence independent news providers and prevent them doing their work. But some are still serving long sentences. They include Yoeni de Jesús Guerra García (a Yayabo Press blogger sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014), José Antonio Torres (a journalist with the government daily Granma, who was given a 14-year sentence in July 2012) and Angel Santiesteban-Prats (who was given five years in 2013 for criticizing the government in a blog called Los hijos que nadie quiso).

And what were their alleged crimes? Circulating information regarded as “counter-revolutionary” or “defamatory.” Santiesteban-Prats was convicted on a trumped-up charge of a non-political nature in a bid to limit the international impact of his imprisonment. He has been subjected to mistreatment and torture since his arrest and his current legal status is unclear.

You, as France’s president, cannot fail to request the immediate and unconditional release of Yoeni de Jesús Guerra García, José Antonio Torres and Angel Santiesteban-Prats.

France has no choice but to urge the Cuban authorities to end the harassment and censorship of independent news providers. France must also intercede with the Cuban authorities to request access to Cuba for international NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders that defend human rights, free speech and freedom of information – always keeping in mind the goal you hold dear: “telling the truth.”

I thank you in advance for the attention you give to this request.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire
Secretary-General

Image of the Day: "My Dear Friend Putin"

In Moscow today, Cuban dictator Raul Castro embraces Russian leader Vladimir Putin stating, "My dear friend Putin":

Castro Regime Confiscates Churches in Eastern Cuba

From Christian Solidarity Worldwide:

Government Pressure Intensifies in Eastern Cuba

Registered and unregistered Protestant denominations in eastern Cuba reported an intensification of government pressure on their organizations in recent weeks, including threats to confiscate or destroy church property and to deport non-Cuban residents because of their religious beliefs.

Rev. Amado Ramírez, pastor of the Maranatha First Baptist Church in the city of Holguin, told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the authorities informed the church leadership that the historic property will be confiscated and the church forced to pay rent to the government. The church, which is one of the largest in the city with hundreds of members attending each week, sits on a property which has belonged to Eastern Baptist Convention since 1947. The building was built in 1992 with legal permits allowing for its construction in 1992.

Ramírez stated that until now the church has never been cited or fined by the government for any infraction. Because of overcrowding, church leadership sought permission to expand the building but had received no response from the government. The pastor was recently summoned by local Communist party officials who gave him the "...sad, unjust and arbitrary news handed down from the highest authorities of our government and the Party who have decided to confiscate our temple, not to give us the deed or to issue an order for reconstruction, but in order that we would pay the government for some undefined reason, rent to use what is already ours since this temple was built on what has been our property originally through the American Baptist Home Mission Society since 1947, far earlier than the triumph of the Revolution. We believe that this move is not only unjust and arbitrary but it violates the most basic principles of religious freedom which is protected in our Republic's Constitution."

Other churches in eastern Cuba reported threats of confiscation or destruction of property. Rev. Fausto Polemo of the Assemblies of God denomination, which is registered and recognized in Cuba, was informed by local authorities that his church in the city of Santiago de Cuba would be confiscated and demolished. He was prohibited from holding any more services. Similarly, Pastors Osmel and Madeleine de Calderón were told their church in Loma Blanca, Upper Mayarí, Santiago Province, affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, must stop holding services. Members of their church were approached by government officials and warned to stop attending the church and to distance themselves from the couple. The government refused to register the Apostolic Movement and considers it to be illegal. In addition, Pastor Ernesto Duran, who Rev.
Alain Toledano said is a young and dynamic Apostolic Movement leader in Santiago, was summoned to appear at the State Security offices in Santiago on May 7.

Leaders and members of churches linked to the Apostolic Movement in the city of Santiago also reported increasing pressure from government authorities. Rev. Toledano, one of the key Apostolic Movement leaders in Santiago, told CSW that two university students from Angola face deportation because they have been attending a church affiliated with the Apostolic Movement in Santiago. In mid-April, Iveth Pedrina Luisa Paixão and Tito Capungo were informed by Cuban immigration authorities that they were expelled from the Frank País García University for Pedagogical Sciences and will be deported.

Menendez: Ferry Doesn't Help Cubans, Nor Consistent With U.S. Law

From The Daily Caller:

Menendez: American Ferry Service Is Off Limits For Cubans Looking To Leave Island

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez did not seem impressed by ferry services that will offer travel between different cities in Florida and Cuba on Thursday.

“The ironic part of the ferry service is there are a lot people looking to get out of Cuba, but they’re not going to be able to take the ferry,” Menendez told The Daily Caller. “And the other part is that it’s hard to believe that ferry service which is more of a commute is going to actually promote purposeful travel which is still the law of the land versus tourism.”

U.S. citizens are prohibited to go to Cuba for tourist reasons, as stated under the current U.S. embargo act. Congress can only roll back the embargo.

The Sun Sentinel reported Wednesday that the Treasury Department issued around four licenses to ferry companies that want to put forth a travel service from Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa to Cuba.

According to The Sentinel, the companies that were licensed by Treasury were Havana Ferry Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Baja Ferries of Miami, United Caribbean Lines Florida of Greater Orlando and Airline Brokers Co. of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Menendez noted that he looks “forward to seeing in future hearings — questioning how exactly that is going to take place in a way that is going to ensure purposeful travel.”

Obama Endorses Apartheid Practices in Cuba

Thursday, May 7, 2015
This week, the Obama Administration issued specific licenses to a handful of ferry companies to provide passenger travel to Cuba.

For years, the ferry companies have been lobbying Obama to license them under the guise of providing a more affordable travel option to Cuban-Americans, who wish to visit and carry merchandise for their relatives.

Except it's all based on a lie.

Amid the media sensationalism, here's a key fact they conveniently omit:

According to the Castro regime's draconian edicts, Cubans are not authorized to board any vessel. This includes fishing boats, yachts, catamaran, jet-skis, etc. The only exception are Cubans married to citizens of another country, which can request a special permit.

Moreover, in contravention of international law, Cubans (regardless of where they reside or their nationality) are prohibited from entering their own homeland through maritime ports.

In other words, anyone born in Cuba (regardless of whether they are now a U.S. citizen), are prohibited from entering the island through a maritime port.

Castro's Naval Command Center specifically states, "No Cuban is authorized to navigate in Cuba. The only exception are those married to citizens of another country, who must request a permit beforehand."

As if this weren't insulting enough, according to Cubatur, the military-owned tourism agency, “Cubans — wherever they live — can’t be sold package tours that include a catamaran or a yacht. This is exclusively reserved for foreign tourists.”

Thus, the fact remains Obama is only licensing ferries to transport "people-to-people" travelers going on Castro-approved "cigar and salsa" tours of the island.

Wonder if Obama would have similarly found it acceptable to rub apartheid in the South African people's face.

In Hearing, Rubio Challenges Obama on USINT and Cuba's Weapons Smuggling

In Senate Hearing, Rubio Challenges Obama Administration On Cuba

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, held a budget authorization hearing to review the budget requests of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

In his exchanges with Obama Administration officials, Rubio expressed his concerns regarding the security of our Interests Section in Cuba and the possibility of the Interests Section in Havana being infiltrated by Cuban intelligence agents, and asked about the impact of these concerns on the transition of the Interests Section into an embassy. Rubio also touched on the Cuban military’s smuggling of weapons from China and to North Korea.

Click here to watch the exchange.

Cartoon of the Day: Cuban Ferry Contrast

By Alen Lauzan:

FP: State Reports No Progress on Restoring Ties With Cuba

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The result of a bad deal:

The Obama Administration has already -- unconditionally -- given everything within its executive purview to the Castro regime.

Thus, the Castro regime doesn't feel like it has to do anything in return.

From Foreign Policy:

State Dept. Reports No Progress on Restoring Ties With Cuba

The State Department cannot cite any progress on a key step in the Obama administration’s policy of restoring ties with the Cuban government: the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Officials testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Tuesday noted continued disagreements between Washington and Havana over the level of access the Cuban government will give U.S. diplomats to island residents if an embassy is opened. That has fueled some concerns that the initial burst of diplomatic progress between the two countries may be stalling.

“Right now we are still … in the midst of negotiations to establish diplomatic relations,” said John Feeley, the principal deputy assistant secretary of Western Hemisphere affairs at the State Department. “That is a process, and that will take some time, and honestly, I cannot tell you when that will happen.”

Feeley and two other State Department officials appeared on Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the department’s budgetary priorities for operations in the Western Hemisphere.

Business Will Not Bring Democracy to Cuba

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
At last month's Cuba Opportunity Summit in New York, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson, argued that "the U.S. business community can help promote a more prosperous Cuba that respects the universal rights of all its citizens."

Ironically, the Summit's lead sponsor was PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the Big Four international accounting firms.

PwC recently led the opposition to Hong Kong's democracy movement. It even took out advertisements ("Big four accounting firms warn Hong Kong over democracy push, Financial Times, 6/27/14), stating that electoral reform threatened the Chinese territory's "rule of law."

How is that promoting the rights of citizens?

To the contrary, PwC was serving as a hatchet-man for China's dictatorship.

Is that the fate that awaits Cuba?

Clearly, Jacobson's statement is based on wishful thinking -- not historical facts.

Business is a great force of prosperity and stability, which is why it's imperative that democracies do business and trade among each other.  

But conversely, it's also a source of prosperity and stability for dictatorships.

The business community has been a key supporter of some of the worst dictatorships in modern times -- all for the sake of stability.

From Hitler and Mussolini, to Franco and Pinochet, to China and Vietnam today -- all were supported by the business community.

Meanwhile, none of the 20th centuries most inspiring democracy leaders -- Havel, Walesa, Mandela, Suu Kyi, etc. -- were businessmen, nor received support from the business community while fighting for democracy.

And during the last decade, the business community has virulently opposed sanctions towards Iran and Russia, not to mention Cuba.

Another indicator that the goal of Obama's policy is stability -- not democracy -- for Cuba.

Another Sunday, Another 89 Political Arrests in Cuba

Monday, May 4, 2015
From The PanAm Post:

Another Sunday, Another 89 Political Arrests in Cuba

April Tally Reaches 350 as Ladies in White Bear the Brunt

The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported on Monday that Cuban security forces made 338 politically motivated arrests during April alone. While the figure is lower than that registered in March, April saw other forms of political repression increase, especially against dissident group Ladies in White.

“Across April we’ve identified 101 innocent victims of other forms of political repression in Cuba, such as physical aggression, threats, acts of vandalism, and ‘shows of rejection‘ to intimidate peaceful dissidents and terrorize the population still further,” write the commission’s authors in their “Acts of Political Repression” report for April 2015.

An show of rejection (acto de repudio) typically consists of members of government security forces masquerading as citizens and demonstrating against an opposition protest.

Most recently, State Security forces detained 51 Ladies in White and 38 activists from other human-rights groups for over six hours in Havana on Sunday, May 3.

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, shared with the PanAm Post that the group has spent five consecutive Sundays since April 5 holding a protest “mass.” They share images of political prisoners and spread messages in defense of human rights and against the Cuban authorities.

Yet at every one of these peaceful demonstrations, Soler reports that the National Revolutionary Police collaborated with the Interior Ministry and groups dressed as civilians to arrest, threaten, and attack those protesting.

Ladies in White members have previously observed “military troops” and paramilitary organizations attempting to provoke a violent response to attacks on children and women with the objective of charging protesters with destabilization, prompting the demonstrations to move to another location.

The Ladies in White president tells the PanAm Post that while no group calling for greater human-rights protections has committed any kind of violence, the Cuban authorities still arrested them in a “brutally violent” manner.

Soler emphasizes that all the dissidents present were handcuffed with “very tight metal handcuffs,” whereas on previous occasions the police had only used plastic restraints. Many of them were “brutally beaten,” inflicting bruises and bleeding on several, and throughout their six-hour ordeal the authorities denied them food and water.

“It’s further proof of the Cuban government’s intolerance towards people who think differently,” Soler concludes.

Summit Sham

The document published by the Commission finds that “in the Parallel Forums of the seventh Summit of the Americas the totalitarian regime in power in Cuba showed its true face, and its decision to continue imposing the disastrous single-party and single thought system model, which has mired the vast majority of Cubans in poverty and despair.”

The tone of Cuba’s participation in the April summit in Panama City further demonstrated Havana’s unwillingness to “accept international standards on issues of civil, political, and labor rights, as well as other fundamental rights,” the report adds.

Soler seconds this information, and adds that since the Panama summit in April, the Cuban government had worsened its violent stance towards protesters, specifically against the Ladies in White. The hostile stance of Cuban dictator Raúl Castro, she explains, was demonstrated by acts of violence “financed by the Cuban government” that broke out on the fringes of the international summit.

Raúl Castro is seeking credit with powerful countries to keep himself in power.

Soler argues that the regime wasn’t able to interrupt the development of roundtable discussions in Panama, and were instead expelled by human-rights organizations, because “they found themselves in a country where there is democracy and where freedom of thought is defended.”

The activist details that around 60 political prisoners currently remain in the hands of the Cuban government, although a precise figure is hard to come by without information provided by families, because varying lengths of detention mean that “while they imprison some they free others.”

“Seeking Credit”

According to Soler, the dialogue between the US government and the authorities in Havana “will in no way reach” the issue of human rights and freedom of expression.

She added that Castro is seeking “credit with powerful countries to keep himself in power, due to the fact that Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, can no longer comply with the support that former president Hugo Chávez offered Cuba.”

The Castros' Cocaine Cartel

A must-read below.

Also, note that in 1993, a U.S. federal indictment listed Gen. Raul Castro as part of a conspiracy that smuggled seven-and-a-half tons of cocaine into the United States over a 10-year period. However, at the last minute, a recently inaugurated Clinton Administration got cold-feet and squashed it.

This is who President Obama is normalizing relations with.

By Juan Reynaldo Sanchez in The New York Post:

Inside Fidel Castro’s double life as a drug kingpin

For 17 years, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. But when he became disillusioned with the Cuban dictator’s hypocrisy and tried to retire in 1994, Castro had him thrown in prison. Sanchez made 10 attempts to escape the island, finally making it to Mexico by boat, then across the Texas border in 2008. Now he reveals all in his new book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro.” In this excerpt, Sanchez explains how he lost faith in the revolution — and “El Jefe.”

The end of 1988. A day like any other was coming to a close in Havana. In a few minutes, my life would be overturned.

Fidel had spent his afternoon reading and working in his office when he stuck his head through the door to the anteroom, where I was, to warn me that Abrantes was about to arrive.

Gen. José Abrantes, in his 50s, had been minister of the interior since 1985 after having been, notably, the commander in chief’s head of security for 20 years. Utterly loyal, he was one of the people who saw El Jefe daily.

While they met, I went to sit in my office, where the closed-circuit TV screens monitoring the garage, the elevator and the corridors were found, as well as the cupboard housing the three locks that turned on the recording mikes hidden in a false ceiling in Fidel’s office.

A moment later, the Comandante came back, opened the door again, and gave me this instruction: “Sánchez, ¡no grabes!” (“Sánchez, don’t record!”)

The interview seemed to go on forever . . . one hour went by, then two. And so, as much out of curiosity as to kill the time, I put on the listening headphones and turned Key No. 1 to hear what was being said on the other side of the wall.

Disillusioned

Their conversation centered on a Cuban lanchero (someone who smuggles drugs by boat) living in the United States, apparently conducting business with the government.

And what business! Very simply, a huge drug-trafficking transaction was being carried out at the highest echelons of the state.

Abrantes asked for Fidel’s authorization to bring this trafficker temporarily to Cuba as he wanted to have a week’s vacation in his native land, accompanied by his parents, in Santa María del Mar — a beach situated about 12 miles east of Havana where the water is turquoise and the sand as fine as flour. For this trip, explained Abrantes, the lanchero would pay $75,000 — which, at a time of economic recession, wouldn’t go amiss . . . Fidel was all for it.

Modal Trigger

But he expressed a concern: How could they ensure that the parents of the lanchero would keep the secret and not go and blab everywhere that they had spent a week near Havana with their son, who was supposed to live in the United States?

The minister had the solution: All they had to do was make them believe their son was a Cuban intelligence officer who had infiltrated the United States and whose life would be gravely endangered if they did not keep his visit to Cuba absolutely secret. “Very well . . .” concluded Fidel, who gave his agreement.

It was as if the sky had fallen in on me.

I realized that the man for whom I had long sacrificed my life, the Líder whom I worshipped like a god and who counted more in my eyes than my own family, was caught up in cocaine trafficking to such an extent that he was directing illegal operations like a real godfather.

The Comandante, with his talent for dissimulation, went back to work as if nothing was amiss. One has to understand his logic. For him, drug trafficking was, above all, a weapon of revolutionary struggle more than a means of making money.

His reasoning was as follows: If the Yanks were stupid enough to use drugs that came from Colombia, not only was that not his problem — as long as it was not discovered, that is — but, in addition, it served his revolutionary objectives in the sense that it corrupted and destabilized American society. Icing on the cake: It was a means of bringing in cash to finance subversion.

And so, as cocaine trafficking increased in Latin America, the line between guerrilla war and trafficking drugs gradually blurred. What was true in Colombia was just as true in Cuba. For my part, I never managed to accept this twisted reasoning, in absolute contradiction to my revolutionary ethics.

Sham Trials

In 1986, when economic aid from Moscow was starting to dry up, Castro founded the MC Department (for moneda covertible, or “covertible currency”), which traded in goods — illegal and legal — for hard currency from third parties, principally Panama.

The MC Department soon acquired another nickname, the “Marijuana and Cocaine Department.”

But the Americans became suspicious of Cuba’s drug dealing, and scandal loomed. Fidel decided to take action to nip any possible suspicion about him in the bud. He used the official daily paper, Granma, to inform its readers that an inquiry had been opened.

Among the arrested were the respected revolutionary general Arnaldo Ochoa and the minister I had overheard talking to Castro, José Abrantes.

The Machiavellian Fidel, while declaring himself “appalled” by what he pretended to have discovered, claimed that “the most honest imaginable political and judicial process” was under way.

Obviously, the reality was completely different. Comfortably installed in his brother Raúl’s office, Fidel Castro and Raúl followed the live proceedings of Causa No. 1 and Causa No. 2 on the closed-circuit TV screens. Both trials were filmed — which is why one can today see large sections of it on YouTube — and broadcast to every Cuban home, though not live: The government wanted to be able to censor anything that might prove embarrassing.

Fidel even had the means to alert the president of the court discreetly, via a warning light, whenever he thought a session should be interrupted.

And during breaks, the president of the court, the public prosecutor and the jury members would swarm out onto the fourth floor of the ministry to take their instructions from Fidel, who, as usual, organized and ordered everything, absolutely everything.

The Videotape

At the end of these parodies of justice, Gen. Ochoa was condemned to death. José Abrantes received a sentence of 20 years of imprisonment.

After just two years of detention in 1991, he would suffer a fatal heart attack, despite his perfect state of health, in circumstances that were, to say the least, suspicious.

There followed the most painful episode of my career. Fidel had asked that the execution of Ochoa and the three other condemned men be filmed.

And so, two days later, on a Saturday, a chauffeur arrived at the residence, where I was, to deliver a brown envelope containing a ­Betamax cassette video. Castro’s wife, Dalia, told Fidel’s men they should watch it.
The video had no sound, which made the scenes we began to watch even more unreal. First, we saw vehicles arriving in a quarry at night, lit by projectors.

I have often been asked how Ochoa faced death. The answer is clear and unambiguous: with ­exceptional dignity.

As he got out of the car, he walked straight. When one of his torturers proposed to put a band over his eyes, he shook his head in sign of refusal. And when he was facing the firing squad, he looked death square in the face.

Despite the absence of sound, the whole excerpt shows his courage.

To his executioners, who could not be seen in the footage, he said something that one could not hear but which one could guess. His chest pushed out and his chin raised, he probably shouted something like, “Go on, you don’t frighten me!” An instant later, he crumpled from beneath the bullets of seven gunmen.

Castro made us watch it. That’s what the Comandante was capable of to keep his power: not just of killing but also of humiliating and reducing to nothing men who had served him devotedly.

His Brother’s Keeper

After Ochoa’s death, Raúl Castro plunged into the worst bout of alcoholism of his life. He had taken part in the assassination of his friend.

He turned to vodka, which had long been his favorite drink.

There was doubtless another factor involved: having watched the elimination of his counterpart, Abrantes, Raúl could logically fear that he, too, would be hounded from his position of defense minister.

The government No. 2 was dead drunk so often that the ministers and the generals could not have failed to miss it. The ­Comandante decided to go and lecture his younger brother.

I heard Fidel admonishing his brother, launching into a long, moralistic tirade.

“How can you descend so low? You’re giving the worst possible example to your family and your escort,” began the Comandante. “If what’s worrying you is that what happened to Abrantes will happen to you, let me tell you that Abrantes no es mi hermano [is not my brother]! You and I have been united since we were children, for better and for worse. So, no, you are not going to experience Abrantes’ fate, unless . . . you persist with this deplorable behavior.

“Listen, I’m talking to you as a brother. Swear to me that you will come out of this lamentable state and I promise you nothing will happen to you.”

Sure enough, shortly afterward, Fidel spoke out in praise of Raúl, applauding his integrity and his devotion to the Revolution. Raúl, for his part, carried on drinking vodka, but in far more reasonable quantities.

From “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo” by Juan Reinaldo Sanchez with Axel Gyldén.

Lobbying for Business With Iran (Cuba)

Doesn't this sound familiar?

From Washington Free Beacon:

Former Democratic Politician Leading Effort to Open Business Ties With Iran

Lamont: ‘I’ve traveled a lot in the Middle East, I’ve never felt more comfortable in a city than in Iran’

A failed Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is reinventing himself as the face of U.S.-Iranian commerce, traveling to Tehran with a group of American business leaders and promoting investment ahead of a potential nuclear deal that could lift sanctions against the regime.

Ned Lamont, the anti-war businessman who lost to former Senator Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) in 2006, visited Iran with a delegation of U.S. executives last month and has been raving about the country’s fertile business environment to various news outlets.

“The Australians are there [doing business], the Brits, the Germans. It’s like Rick’s Cafe. Everybody was there except for the Americans,” Lamont told the Washington Free Beacon. “The hotel [in Tehran] is a hotbed of deal-making.”

The April 11 trip was sponsored by the President Action Network chapter of the World Presidents’ Organization, a global invite-only group of executives over the age of 50. PAN has also brought U.S. business leaders to North Korea and Cuba in recent years.

Must-Read: Cuba's Cardinal is a Prisoner of Conscience

Sunday, May 3, 2015
By Angel's Editor in Translating Cuba:

Cardinal Ortega: You Are a Prisoner of Conscience

But you are not one of those worthy men who serve a prison sentence in Cuba for raising his voice against the abuses of the dictator. You are a prisoner of conscience, because your conscience is not free; it is a slave to the designs that Raúl Castro has imposed with shady negotiations, even on institutions such as the Church, which should be watching over Her sheep, as Jesus did, and not being an accomplice to a dictatorship that works against everything established by that God Whom you claim to represent in Cuba. Your soul was kidnapped by your cowardice before the pressures of the dictatorship, and since then you live as a prisoner of that double morality wielded every day by those who live off the pain of the Cuban people, and the economic, social and ethical destruction of a nation like Cuba.

You, who were a victim of the sinister UMAP*, can you admit for once what secret about you the dictatorship keeps so well, the one that makes you tremble and obliges you to maintain that complicit silence and to cover up the truth with pious and patriotic arguments of a shameful falsity?

How can you pretend to represent a God upon whose commandments you spit every time you don your sacred vestments to speak in the name of a flock — the Cuban people — whose pain is clearly alien to you?

You shall love God above all things. Does he love God who in His name has betrayed his compatriots by endorsing tyrants who continue to misgovern for almost 60 years, all because he lacks the courage to rebel, as did worthy representatives of God in Cuba in the past – whom, certainly, you censured, pressured, and “relieved” of their clerical duties for fear of the dictatorship, and to preserve that position of privilege that allows you to live as only the Castro regime nomenklatura live?

You shall not take the name of God in vain. Is not using your priestly investiture to position yourself against millions of compatriots taking the name of God in vain? Delivering pious speeches in the name of God while the prisoners during the Black Spring of 2003 were being deceived, lying to them about the true conditions under which their exile in Spain would occur? Maintaining a shameful silence about the real reasons that provoke hundreds of Cubans fleeing Cuba to be devoured by sharks in the ocean, while dirty deals are made with the dictator, begging for the spaces which the Catholic Church never had to beg for in the history of Cuba? This, Cardinal Ortega, is taking the Name of God in vain.

You shall keep the holy days. Maneuvering the sacred festivals to serve as a legitimate discourse for your masters, the Castro dynasty, and using these festivals to give deceitful sermons, designed to calm the evermore rebellious and nonconformist spirits of Cuban Christians, is a sacrilege  for which you should answer before your God and before the people who today witness your outrageous servility.

You shall honor your father and your mother. Your parents, who surely bred in you (or tried to) the sacred principles of the Christian faith, must be turning in their graves with shame, horrified, as they contemplate how their son, in the name of those values, behaves like a puppet at the mercy of the assassins and torturers of our native land.

You shall not kill. You have stained your hands with blood when you are complicit with the rhetoric with which Raúl Castro’s government hides from the world the constant repression that imprisons those who dissent; beats those who resist the outrages of repressive forces; executes those who have rebelled; eliminates via “accidents” the most popular leaders; and casts Cubans to a certain death in that sea that shelters the remains of more than 20,000 Cubans who drowned or were devoured by sharks during these last 60 years of dictatorship.

You shall not commit impure acts. The impure acts, those that you say you committed and that were the cause of your incarceration in the UMAP, are as dirty and perverse in the eyes of God as betraying those opponents who sought and continue to seek shelter in your church from the thugs who, because of your cowardice, manage to beat and jail them. Dirty and perverse acts are also keeping silent and remaining obedient before the brutal beatings of the noble Ladies in White, and before targeted killings, such as of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá, among so many others. It is impure to feed oneself as the people cannot, to travel as they cannot, to live as they cannot.

You shall not steal. Do not forget, Cardinal Ortega, that making a living from the robbery and theft that the dictatorship has perpetrated against 11 million Cubans, and trying to disguise with soft words the hard reality lived by the people, who continue to be looted to this day in the name of changes that only seek to perpetuate power in the very robbers’ hands: that, too, is stealing.

You shall not bear false witness. Although the most recent lie is saying that there no longer are political prisoners in Cuba, enumerating your many lies throughout so many years of your ministry would produce a book as long as the very Bible.

You shall not allow impure thoughts or desires. Leaving aside the rumors that have always existed about your carnal immorality, have you at any time tried to explain to the dictators and their paid assassins that physically and sexually abusing the defenseless Ladies in White violates this commandment of God? Have you raised your voice to denounce the sexual abuses that are committed against the opponents of the Regime in Cuban prisons? Have you told your masters, the Castro dynasty, that because of the economic, social and moral impoverishment caused by the dictatorship’s appalling management they are the only ones responsible for the thousands of rapes and suicides that happen every year in Cuba?

You shall not covet others’ goods. You and your spiritual colleagues have been delighted, euphoric, applauding like trained seals, when the Regime announced that it would start to return the Church’s property. And that brings up a question: How many times did you ask your Commander-in-Chief, or his brother Raúl, to restore the property stolen from the people? How many times did you ask that they return the property of those Cubans who were despoiled simply because they emigrated? How is it possible to celebrate that they are returning some property to the Catholic Church, in exchange for its domestication, while hundreds of thousands of Cubans who are Christian live in crowded and unhealthy conditions, barely surviving in a country literally in ruins?

Cardinal Ortega, have you lost what few traces of shame remaining in you, to be capable of sustaining the lie that there are no political prisoners in Cuba, when institutions and opposition groups that you know well have denounced to the world the existence of political prisoners and, even worse, that every month new names are added to those lists?

I remind you, because I know that you know very well, that even the world leader of the Church you represent in Cuba, Pope Francis, knows about the case of Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, a prisoner in Cuba for having raised his voice against the Regime in his blog, “The Children Nobody Wanted.” His Holiness has received by multiple channels the documentation that shows that Ángel Santiesteban-Prats is a political prisoner, that he has been thrown in prison under a judicial farce for common crimes, as the dictatorship is doing recently with the opposition. Although the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation has for two years left off the list, inexplicably, the name of this prize-winning writer, Ángel’s proven innocence makes it clear that his case is also political. His Holiness Pope Francis, furthermore, knows perfectly that the list of political prisoners in Cuba duplicates the list that the Vatican prepared for the exchange of the convicted assassins in the United States.

We are aware that neither you nor your two bosses (that of the Cuban government and that of the Vatican) have the least interest in restoring freedom to the more than 50 political prisoners who rot in the Cuban concentration camps, but, at least, now that nothing will be done for anyone, have the decency to keep your mouth shut.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison and Regina Anavy.

*UMAP – “Military Units to Aid Production” — was a network of concentration camps for “counterrevolutionary elements,” including homosexuals, religious believers and others.

Alarming Repression Against The Ladies in White in Cuba

From the European NGO, Civil Rights Defenders:

Alarming Repression Against The Ladies in White in Cuba

The repression against the Ladies in White, opposition activists and human rights defenders in Cuba, that we have seen during the last couple of weeks is alarming. The increase of violence from the authorities has come as a result from the exercise of the right to public protests and from the public exposure of the faces of political prisoners. Beatings, physical abuse and various types of torture have become routine. In only a few weeks, the numbers of arrests have skyrocketed and they now exceed several hundred.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Civil Rights Defenders raise a warning regarding the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Cuba, and we note with great concern the indifference of the international community, especially from the US government, the EU and the Vatican, of which the latter played an active role in the talks between the Cuban government and the US administration.

The current actions by the Cuban government are a response to the silence of the international community.

In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – of which Cuba is a signatory – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which the government of Raul Castro has signed but not ratified – and, as the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai has recently explained clearly in his final report; states shall ensure the full exercise of freedom of assembly, association and peaceful demonstration.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Civil Rights Defenders call on the international community to act against the dangers that Cuban human rights defenders are facing. It is time for the American and European governments, usually eager to improve their relations with the Cuban government, to use their influence and speak out against the worsening violations of human rights in Cuba.

Antonio G. Rodiles, Coordinating Committee, Forum for Rights and Freedoms

Erik Jennische, Programme Director for Latin America, Civil Rights Defenders

International NGO Coalition to Cuba: Drop Charges Against Artist

International Coalition Appeals to Cuba: Drop Charges Against Performance Artist

An international coalition of arts and free speech advocacy groups is appealing to the Cuban government to dismiss all charges against artist Tania Bruguera after she attempted to stage a performance about free speech in Havana’s Revolution Square.

Bruguera, an internationally renowned performance artist who splits her time between the United States and Cuba, went to the country in late December to stage her piece Tatlin's Whisper. But Cuban authorities detained her before the performance. She was freed after several days, but her passport has been confiscated as she awaits possible legal proceedings. As such, she is prevented from leaving Cuba.
At a transformative political moment between the U.S and Cuban governments, the letter-- signed by the US National Coalition Against Censorship, European Council of Artists, Freemuse, the Initiative for Freedom of Expression-Turkey, American Booksellers for Free Expression and others--urges Cuba to seize this opportunity to "send a powerful message to their people, regardless of where they live and what they believe."

The groups are also concerned about the fate of Cuban artists detained or harassed by the government for attempting to exercise their free speech.

As the letter states:

By dismissing all charges and freeing Tania Bruguera, Cuba will send a powerful message to their people, regardless of where they live and what they believe. The Cuban nation is ready and able to join those Cubans already on the world stage, and freedom and fairness in her case can help make that possible.

The full letter and list of signatories appears below.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations dedicated to defending freedom of thought, inquiry and expression.

April 30, 2015


The President of the Council of State of Cuba, Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz
Minister of Justice Maria Esther Reus Gonzalez

Dear President Castro and Minister Reus Gonzalez,

In solidarity with artists around the world, as individuals and organizations defending artistic freedom of expression worldwide, we condemn attempts to prosecute Cuban artist Tania Bruguera for peacefully attempting to restage her work on free speech in Havana’s Revolution Square. As a conclusion to her case approaches, we urge Cuban authorities to dismiss all charges against her.

Tania Bruguera’s work, which addresses the relationship between art and politics, has made her one of the world’s best-known and respected creators of performance art. It is our understanding that she was arrested three times and faces prosecution simply for attempting to peacefully restage Tatlin’s Whisper, an homage to the Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin’s unrealised utopian Monument to the Third International.

By dismissing all charges and freeing Tania Bruguera, Cuba will send a powerful message to their people, regardless of where they live and what they believe. The Cuban nation is ready and able to join those Cubans already on the world stage, and freedom and fairness in her case can help make that possible.

Agreed, Tania has some hard things to say about Cuba as it is now. But Cubans will note that Bruguera’s work has been equally critical of the United States and its treatment of its migrant communities.

It is impossible to have progressive change anywhere without hearing, sharing and understanding the ideas of fellow citizens that you disagree with.

As Cuba and the United States move closer to an end to decades of mutual hostility, we also call on the people of Cuba to welcome Tania Bruguera’s contribution to creative free expression. Indeed, Tania Bruguera is acting upon the same impulse that has made President Castro tolerate and respect a difference of opinion in current conversations with the United States and its President.

By welcoming Tania Bruguera and her work as a contribution to the current climate of change for the nation internationally, this simple action will help ensure that such change remains positive for Cuba and Cubans everywhere.

Very truly yours,

American Booksellers for Free Expression

European Council of Artists

European Composer & Songwriter Alliance

EU Working Group ARJ (arts-rights-justice)

freeDimensional

Freemuse

Foundation In Den Vreemde

Initiative for Freedom of Expression- Turkey

International Committee for Artists' Freedom

National Coalition Against Censorship (US)

Observatoire de la liberté de création

Swedish Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors

Vivarta