On Cuba's Removal From the State-Sponsors of Terrorism List

Friday, May 29, 2015
During a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson, acknowledged that Cuba's claim it has "never" supported terrorism was untrue.

Yet, in its "Rescission Memo to Congress" on Cuba's removal from the state-sponsors of terrorism list, the Obama Administration accepted the Castro regime's "assurances" that it will not support terrorism in the future -- a legal requirement for de-listing -- in the same breath as it's claim that it has "never" supported terrorism.

As such, the Obama Administration has accepted a lie, in order to further another lie.

The Obama Administration also certified that Cuba has not supported terrorism "in the last six months" -- the other legal requirement for de-listing.  Meanwhile, a scandal is brewing in Colombia over a ship that was intercepted on February 28, 2015 -- just three months ago -- with over 100 tons of heavy weapons being smuggled by a shadow company of the Cuban military ("Tecnoimport"), seemingly for FARC terrorists.

Cuba's removal from the terrorism list, while questions linger about this illegal weapons shipment is highly irresponsible.

It is evidently clear that the Obama Administration's removal from the terrorism list has little do with the facts, but was instead compelled to meet a key demand of the Castro regime for the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The hasty removal of Libya (2006) and North Korea (2008) from the terrorism list has proven -- time and again -- that such concessions do not dissuade rogue regimes to change their behavior. To the contrary.

Thus, Congress must keep the important U.S. leverage the Obama Administration seeks to give-away without merit. It must maintain -- and strengthen -- the underlying sanctions associated with the terrorism legislation, which remain codified in law.

Speaker Boehner: Congress Will Ensure Cuba Sanctions Remain

Speaker Boehner: The White House Has Handed the Castro Regime a Significant Political Win in Return for Nothing

Washington, D.C. – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror:

The Obama administration has handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing. The communist dictatorship has offered no assurances it will address its long record of repression and human rights abuses at home. Nor has it offered any indication it will cease its support for violence throughout the region, including the brutal attacks on Cuban democracy protestors in Panama City during the Summit for the Americas earlier this year.  

As I’ve said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner. Removing the regime from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror is just the latest example of this administration focusing more on befriending our enemies than helping our allies, but fortunately it will have little practical effect. Most U.S. sanctions on the Cuban regime are contained in other laws – laws the U.S. House will ensure remain in place as we work to protect those fighting for freedom, and in many cases, simply their own survival.

Jeb: Iran's Leaders Are Taking Note of Obama's Cuba Concessions

Governor Bush's Statement on the Removal of Cuba From U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List

Right to Rise PAC Honorary Chairman Governor Jeb Bush issued the following statement today in response to Secretary of State John Kerry signing an order removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism:

Neither continued repression at home nor Cuba’s destabilizing activities abroad appear sufficient to stop President Obama from making further concessions to the Communist regime in Havana. Today’s news is further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them. Iran’s leaders are surely taking note.

The removal of Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and the unilateral concessions to Havana, before it changes its authoritarian ways and stops denying the Cuban people their basic human rights, is a mistake. I call on Congress to keep pressure on Cuba and hold the Administration accountable.

Rubio Comments On Obama’s Latest Concession To Castro Regime

Rubio Comments On Obama Administration’s Latest Concession To Castro Regime 

Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, issued the following video statement (click here to watch) regarding the Obama Administration’s latest concession to the Castro regime by de-listing Cuba from the United States’ State Sponsors of Terrorism List:

President Obama and his administration continue to give the Cuban regime concession after concession, in exchange for nothing that even remotely resembles progress towards freedom and democracy for the Cuban people, or assurances that the regime will discontinue working against America’s national security interests. I simply don’t understand how the President can, in good conscience, continue these giveaways to the Castro regime and how he can be thinking of sending an ambassador to Cuba when there are still many unanswered questions and security gaps that will affect their safety and their ability to do the job that our ambassadors all over the world are being asked to do.”

Walker: Obama Reinforces Castro at Expense of Cuban People

Gov. Walker Statement on President Obama’s Cuba Decision

MADISON, WI – Our American Revival, through Governor Scott Walker, issued the following comment:

President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism will reinforce the Castro regime at the expense of the Cuban people without forcing Cuba to turn over its terrorist and criminal fugitives. This also throws the Cuban government a financial lifeline that will fuel its ongoing repression. Much like with Iran, President Obama is negotiating a terrible deal. He is offering the Castro regime a lot in return for nothing meaningful.

The Dangerous Precedent Set by Obama's Cuba Swap

Thursday, May 28, 2015
The Washington Post ran a story this week about one of its journalists, Jason Rezaian, who is currently being held hostage by the Iranian regime.

The title is self-explanatory, "Jason Rezaian Trial in Iran May Be More About Leverage Than Justice."

In other words, the Iranians are using this American hostage to extract concessions from the Obama Administrations during its negotiations.

After all, using American hostages to blackmail the Obama Administration has (sadly and dangerously) proven to be a very successful strategy for terrorist groups and rogue regimes.

As The Post itself recognizes:

"Iran is certainly not the only country where incarcerated Americans have been viewed as negotiating leverage. North Korea has periodically seized United States citizens in recent years. In November, the North freed two American prisoners into the custody of the United States director of national intelligence after he flew there on a secret mission to secure their release.

In December, the United States secured Cuba’s release of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, who had been held for five years and convicted of crimes against the state. Mr. Gross’s release was part of a move by both countries to restore full diplomatic relations and exchange prisoners, among them an American spy and three Cuban spies."

Caveat Emptor: Cuban Slave Labor Victims Collect $67 Million Judgment

This important story provides two important lessons:

1. It's a reminder of the Castro regime's international human trafficking practices.
2. It puts international companies that collude with the Castro regime on notice.

For more background on the Curacao Drydock-slave labor case -- click here.

From Singapore's The Straits Times:

Slave-labor victims get nod to enforce $67m US claim here

The quest by three modern-day slaves for US$80 million (S$107 million) in restitution has come to this port of call.

Three Cuban slave-labor victims were given the High Court's go-ahead to enforce a US$50 million (S$67 million) claim won in a United States court against any assets that a drydock firm based in the Caribbean has here.

The High Court rejected the bid by Curacao Drydock Company to set aside the US judgment, making clear the claims were enforceable in Singapore as they were meant to compensate the victims, not punish the company.

"There is no purpose in setting aside a judgment if there is not going to be something to be gained by having a trial," said Justice Lee Seiu Kin in judgment grounds released yesterday.

He clarified that a foreign judgment may be given effect under the common law if it satisfied the legal requirements of the court here.

The judge dismissed Curacao Drydock's appeal against an assistant registrar's decision last year, thus rejecting its move to set aside the judgment.

The court enforcement order here allows the Cubans to garnish, or seize, any monies owed by Singapore firms to Curacao Drydock.

Singapore-registered ships, for instance, may owe Curacao Drydock money after using its shipyard services, and these debts could be legally seized to settle the judgment sum.

Mr Alberto Licea, 49; Mr Fernando Henandez, 49; and Mr Luis Toledo, 37, all ship construction technicians, were made to work 16-hour shifts in harsh conditions, doing demanding and dangerous tasks on ships and oil platforms for up to 15 days straight.

They were found to have suffered significant physical injuries which led to psychological damage while working for Curacao Drydock on the island of Curacao.

They had been forced to travel and work there by the Cuban government as part of a scheme to pay off the country's debts. The men escaped and went to Colombia in 2005 before they were allowed to enter the US.

When they sued the firm in the US in 2007, Curacao Drydock tried to have the case heard in Curacao but failed. It abandoned its defense and lost the suit by default.

Miami federal district judge James King awarded the trio US$50 million as compensation and US$30 million as punitive damages in 2008, in a default judgment.

The US judge noted that they had suffered a harrowing experience, "in effect serving a hard-labor prison sentence with no end in a foreign land".

Judge King added that Curacao Drydock conspired with Cuba to force its citizens to travel and work there.

In Singapore, the three victims, through their lawyer, Mr Sim Chong, sought to enforce the US$50 million judgment awarded for compensation and not the additional US$30 million in punitive damages. The latter is not recognized here, as argued by defense lawyer Syn Kok Kay.

It is understood that the three men, now based in Florida, have some way to go in their efforts to recover all the sums due to them.

Last December, through a court order they garnished US$82,618 owed by KGJ Cement (Singapore) to Curacao Drydock, which KGJ handed to their lawyer.

According to a US report earlier this month, a Texas district court had late last year ordered US$2.6 million garnished from Liberia-based Formusa Brick Marine Corp, which owed the debt to Curacao Drydock.

The issue is the subject of appeal.

Cuba's Crackdown Should Make Obama Think Twice

From The Washington Examiner's Editorial Board:

Cuba's crackdown should make Obama think twice

In December, President Obama announced a historic thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba's 56-year communist dictatorship. As part of this thaw, Cuba's regime will be formally removed from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism this week.

At the time this move was first announced, we questioned just what it was that the Obama administration was receiving in exchange. There was and is still no evidence that Cuba has agreed to the extradition of the many murderers and terrorists who sought and received refuge in Cuba throughout the Cold War.

Without something to show for it, Obama seemed to be doing an awfully big favor for an unelected regime that has few if any redeeming qualities.

The Cuban regime is more like a national disease than a national government. Its hallmarks are the imprisonment of political dissenters and the suppression of economic and human rights, such as free expression and freedom of religion.

Cuba owes its dire poverty to its regime's legendary economic mismanagement. As in every other place it has been tried, their socialist experiment has failed despite open trade with most of the world and decades of annual Soviet subsidies equal to $8 billion in today's dollars.

In post-Soviet times, the Cuban regime has essentially blocked its 11 million citizens from any meaningful participation in the Internet age. Until recently, Cubans had to obtain permits just to own home computers. Today, they still need government permits to have Internet in their own homes, and as you can imagine, the government is careful about who gets a permit. At government-sponsored access points, most Cubans can only afford to visit a tightly controlled domestic version of the Internet, and at incredibly slow speeds.

This is not how benign governments behave. It is what petty tyrants do to control public opinion.

Just as the Cuban regime prepares to exploit and enjoy America's indulgence, the regime has set off another one its periodic on-again-off-again persecutions of religious believers. World Magazine reports that earlier this month, the government announced it was seizing the property of the Maranatha First Baptist Church church in Holguin.

This growing congregation, which has operated in the same location since 1947, drew the Communist Party's attention because it made the mistake of applying for building permits so that it could expand. The government not only denied the permit, but announced that the church will have to pay rent for a space it rightfully owns. Just this year, the regime has similarly threatened to confiscate as many as 100 Protestant church properties in eastern Cuba, World reports. That's after Obama's overtures.

Again, this does not look like the kind of action undertaken by a regime whose officials are genuinely interested in opening their country up to the world.

All of this should make Obama think for a moment about just whom he is courting and empowering with his "thaw." The Cuban people deserve free and fair elections to choose a new government that is compatible with the modern world. As long as the dead weight of the Castro regime is hanging around their necks, there is no superficial U.S. gesture that can truly improve their lot.

More and More Arrests in Cuba

Yesterday, the Castro regime arrested five dissidents from Cuba's Anti-Totalitarian Front.

(This was in addition to the hundreds of dissidents arrested over the weekend.)

Today another six were arrested.

They are Jose Antonio Pompa, Ricardo Luna Rodriguez, Luis Enrique Lopez, Liban Gomez, Reinier Wilson and Vladimir Turro.

Meanwhile, three independent journalists from the Cuban Network of Communicators have also been arrested.

They are Jorge Bello Dominguez, Barbara Fernandez Barrera and Misael Aguilar Hernandez.

And again, no word from the Obama Administration, the media or visiting Congressional delegations.

Vatican: Embrace Murderous Dictators, But Gay Marriage is "Defeat for Humanity"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
President Obama is constantly playing the "Pope card" to defend his unconditional embrace of the Castro dictatorship.

The Administration loves invoking Pope Francis and his "moral leadership" to fend off critics.

If you oppose Obama's policy -- you oppose the Pope.

Of course, the real behind-the scenes force in "brokering" Obama's one-sided deal benefiting Cuban dictator Raul Castro was Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state (#2 in charge).

The same Cardinal Parolin who yesterday, in response to Ireland's support for marriage equality (gay marriage), referred to the referendum as "a defeat for humanity."

A defeat for humanity?

Let's get this straight (no pun intended):

The Vatican welcomes and joyfully embraces brutal dictators, who have murdered, tortured and imprisoned countless innocent people -- regardless of whether they repent for their crimes.

But peaceful, loving couples -- who have harmed no one -- are "a defeat for humanity"?

That's quite a policy prism.

More Cuban Dissidents Arrested Today

This morning, dissidents from Cuba's Anti-Totalitarian Front were arrested as they distributed pamphlets with the images of political prisoners.

Among those arrested were Luis Dominguez, Hugo Damian Prieto, Andres Sabelino, Lazaro Mendoza and Eugenio Hernandez.

Also arrested today was independent journalist, Yuri Valle Roca.

And political prisoner Yuset Perez Moreira, a youth activist for The Emilia Project, is on the 27th day of a hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment.

Meanwhile, the Congressional delegation led by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) continued the disturbing trend -- enhanced by the Obama-Castro deal -- of ignoring Cuban democracy leaders.

The Cuban Market Mirage

By Jose Cardenas in Foreign Policy:

The Cuban Market Mirage

It’s a safe bet that neither Cy Tokmakjian or Stephen Purvis will be attending a Brookings Institution event next week on doing business in Cuba. Canadian and British businessmen, respectively, they each suffered through Kafkaesque ordeals in Cuba after they did just that, somehow running afoul of some regulation in Cuba’s opaque and arbitrary judicial system. After being imprisoned for months and robbed of their assets by the Castro government, they were finally released only after heavy diplomatic pressure by their governments.

Indeed, of all the justifications for President Obama’s about-face on Cuba policy — that it will serve to moderate the Castro regime’s behavior, improve human rights, or that it will transform U.S.-Latin America relations — perhaps the biggest whopper in defense of the new policy is that Cuba’s bankrupt economy represents a gold mine for U.S. producers and investors.

Thus, we are currently being treated to a succession of trade delegations, assorted junkets, and conferences — encouraged by the Obama administration — selling the American public on the notion that a U.S. economic windfall lies right around the corner.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who told the Miami Herald that she will lead a trade delegation as soon as relations are normalized and embassies are open, was quoted as saying, “Companies are already going. Google led a delegation. You’re seeing people going to visit. That’s because, as I said, there’s enormous excitement — excitement from the entrepreneurial community in Cuba and excitement here in the United States about that. I think they deserve our support.”

However, if you look hard enough, not all U.S. officials are so sanguine. Pritzker’s own undersecretary for international trade, Stefan Selig, told the Washington Post, “We are embarking on a process that is complicated. We should remember Cuba is a small country, and a poor country. I don’t think we should be overly excited about the near-term economic prospects.” U.S. Department of Agriculture under secretary Michael Scuse recently cautioned an eager Senate panel that it was important not to “minimize the obstacles” in Cuba, such as the country’s limited purchasing power and its widespread market underdevelopment.

How could it be any other way? The reality of Cuba is that five decades of centralized political and economic control have impoverished the island both materially and spiritually. And the prospects are hardly uplifting. The dead hand of the regime still controls nearly 100 percent of economic activity and, to the extent there is any semblance of reform, it exists only at the margins.

For anyone eyeing Cuba from abroad, the Castro government lacks hard currency and infrastructure, has an abysmal credit rating, and restricts internet use. As one experienced foreigner points out, “Your state partner is also the supplier, the employer of your staff, the buyer, the regulating authority and the entity that taxes you. So it’s a complex place to enter into a normal business transaction.”

Pedro Freyre, a partner at the law firm Akerman who knows Cuba told Politico that, “While I think that the business community recognizes Cuba’s potential, there’s also the reality that Cuba is bankrupt. Cuba is grossly in need of investment… but they don’t have a philosophy, don’t have the legal infrastructure to support any kind of mid-level to even higher-level industry.” According to John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, “This is not Dubai just 90 miles south of the U.S., saying, ‘Please sell us your products.’”

To say trading with Cuba involves personal and financial risk is a gross understatement, as the ordeals of Tokmakjian and Purvis attest. Don’t look for or expect transparency, legal guarantees, and predictability — none of which the Cuban government is capable of providing. And don’t look for a local economy that rewards innovation, risk taking, or hard work. That’s the Cuban economic reality and no amount of irrational exuberance and ideological cheerleading changes those facts.

It is clear by now that Obama’s reversal of five decades of isolating the Castro regime rests on little else than hope; hope that just doing something different could translate into something good developing organically sometime in the future. But hope is a pretty thin reed on which to base a policy under such scrutiny, and that means sexing up its about-face on Cuba by convincing people that there really are immediate and tangible benefits to it — and that means selling the notion that bankrupt Cuba is like an overripe mango waiting to plucked by American business.

Castro 200, Obama 0: While Talks Continue, Beatings Continue #Cuba

By Elliott Abrams of The Council on Foreign Relations:

Castro 200, Obama 0: While Talks Continue, Beatings Continue

When President Obama junked 60 years of U.S. foreign policy to seek a rapprochement with the Castro regime in Cuba, he was aware that he would be accused of ignoring human rights. After all, the Obama administration got next to nothing for the concessions it made to Cuba, and from all accounts did not bargain hard for more. So the administration took the line, right from the start, that its actions would help human rights in Cuba almost automatically.

The White House web page, for example, recounts the agreement with the Castro regime and then adds this:

A critical focus of these actions will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba. The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future. The U.S. efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.

The President himself said this:

where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba. But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.

How’s that working out?

Here is some recent news, about last Sunday–one single day:

Nearly 200 Cuban Dissidents Arrested

Nearly 200 Cuban dissidents were arrested throughout the island yesterday.

In Havana, four dozen members of The Ladies in White were arrested as they attended Sunday Mass. Also arrested were male supporters, including democracy leaders Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and independent journalist Juan Gonzalez Febles.

In Santiago, over 80 activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were beaten and arrested, including some who had been released under the Obama-Castro December 17th deal, namely Diango and Bianko Vargas Martin, and Ernesto Tamayo Guerra.

Dozens of others were arrested in the interior provinces, including Raul Borges, father of political prisoner Ernesto Borges, and youth activists from the Cuban Reflection Movement.

And renowned artist Tania Bruguera, who had her passport confiscated in December and is unable to leave the island, was arrested as she approached the Museum of Fine Arts to attend an exhibit for the Havana Art Biennial.

The returns appear to be in, and Mr. Obama is simply wrong. His “engagement” is helping the regime by reducing U.S. pressure to respect human rights and bringing it more money from tourism and remittances. And the Castros know all this–know that the administration is now set on business as usual and that they will have an even freer hand to abuse dissidents.

How do we know this? Last week, on May 21, the State Department issued this press release:

U.S. Talks on Re-establishing Diplomatic Relations With Cuba
Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 21, 2015

On Thursday, May 21, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson hosted the delegation from the Cuban government led by Josefina Vidal, Director General of the U.S. Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the fourth round of talks to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies.

On Friday, May 22, the heads of delegations will hold sequential press availabilities — first Cuba, then the United States — at approximately 11 a.m. EDT. The availabilities will take place at the Washington Foreign Press Center, located at the National Press Building, 529 14th Street NW, Suite 800, Washington D.C. 20045.

So, talks on the 21st, 200 arrests just four days later. In other words, the two events are viewed by the Castro regime as entirely unrelated: talk and arrest, talk and imprison, talk and beat up protesters and demonstrators. Sadly, the two events also appear to be viewed by the Obama administration as entirely unrelated. Where is the protest? Where is the cancellation or postponement of talks? Where is any action that tells the regime it cannot embarrass the President this way?

And where is the President? It is one thing for him to predict that “we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.” It is quite another for him to remain silent when that proves to be wrong, and our “engagement” leads to more and more abuses of human rights.

Let's Have an Honest Cuba Policy Debate

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
In its newsletter last week, the deceptively-named, Center for Democracy in the Americas ("CDA"), raised alarm bells about legislative provisions in must-pass Appropriations bills that challenge President Obama's Cuba policy.

It warns:

"Step-by-step, legislation is working its way through Congress to curtail much of the progress President Obama is making in U.S.-Cuba relations by cutting the funds needed by federal agencies to implement his new policies."

Fair enough.

CDA continues:

"The House Appropriations Committee has already voted to ground new commercial or charter flights that come into being after March 15, 2015 in the transportation department budget bill."

Why not be completely honest?

In fact, the House Appropriations Committee voted to block the licensing of new air flights and maritime vessel routes to Cuba -- if the landing fields or docks include property that has been confiscated by the Castro regime.

Thus, the question is:

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

That's an honest debate to have.

CDA goes on:

"Then, there’s the Commerce Department bill shutting down U.S. exports to Cuba. Telecommunications firms? Others? Better dial 9-11."

Again, not honest.

The Commerce Appropriations provision prohibits exports -- under the Obama Administration's new "Support for the Cuban People" category -- to entities owned or controlled by the Castro regime's military ("MINFAR") or security services ("MININT").

After all, it would be an oxymoron for sales "for the Cuban people" to go through Castro's military and security services, wouldn't it?

Thus, the question is:

Should exports to the Cuban people be funneled through Castro's military and security services? 

That's also an honest debate to have.

The American people should know all the facts -- no matter how unpleasant or inconvenient -- about what expanded travel and trade with Cuba would entail.

CDA closes by stating:

"Here’s the bottom line. Whether Congress follows the regular order and starts enacting bills to finance Cabinet departments separately — or it wraps them all together in one giant package — sooner or later all these restrictions are going to land with a thump and a thud on President Obama’s Oval Office desk."

There we agree.

And hopefully, the President will address them honestly.

The Ladies in White: U.S.-Cuba Talks Not Empowering Civil Society

We, Ladies in White, believe that these relations and conversations between the Cuban and U.S. governments will not be of any benefit to the Cuban people. And even less will it empower civil society, as President Barack Obama says. If no conditions are placed on the Cuban government, it will be more of the same or worse. We don't see the U.S. government, the European Union, or Pope Francis, pronouncing themselves as regards the violations of human rights on the island, which is giving the Cuban government a green light to continue violating them.
-- Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White democracy movement, during the Oslo Freedom Forum, EFE, 5/26/15

Mocking the Cuban People (and Breaking U.S. Law)

In a story encouraging Americans to break the law by engaging in tourism-related transactions with the Castro regime, the AP gives the following example:

"New Yorker Zach Chaltiel, 28, traveled to Havana from the U.S. with some buddies after graduating from law school. He researched the trip online, booked a villa through Airbnb, hired a driver, and filled out a form saying the purpose of his trip was 'support for the Cuban people,' one of the 12 authorized travel categories. 'It’s so easy,' said Chaltiel as he shared drinks with friends at the Hotel Nacional, overlooking the sea as a peacock strutted by. 'I just wanted to go before it becomes all Americanized.'"

Chaltiel is a newly branded lawyer with no regards for the law and an aversion for "Americanized" vacation destinations -- preferring totalitarian dictatorships instead.

But that's not the most insulting part of his irreverence

The "support for the Cuban people" category was created to help the island's courageous democracy movement.

According to the Treasury Department, this category was created to support "the activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba."

But Chaltiel (seen below with his buddies) thinks it's cute to use it as a pretext to lie to the authorities and go party with his friends in Havana.

Of course, while they were enjoying drinks at the Castro regime's Hotel Nacional, courageous Cuban democracy activists -- for which the "support for the Cuban people category" was created -- were being brutally beaten and arrested.

It's a mockery to the Cuban people.

And it's the Treasury Department's Constitutionally-mandated obligation to enforce the law.

Scandal Over "Cuba-Bound" Weapons Unfolds in Colombia

Monday, May 25, 2015
The Colombian newspaper, El Espectador, has published an investigative report on the mysteries surrounding the Dan Da Xia, a Chinese vessel caught carrying 15 containers of heavy weapons hidden as a cereal shipment.

The shipment was discovered in Cartagena, Colombia on February 28th, 2015. It consisted of 100 tons of explosives, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectile heads and around 3,000 artillery shells.

The containers revealed the weapons were from the Chinese arms manufacturer, Norinco, with the recipient purportedly being Tecnoimport, a shadow company of the Cuban military. They were supposed to be delivered to the much-hyped Port of Mariel facility, which is also owned by the Cuban military.

However, China-Cuba weapons transactions would otherwise be legal, so why were they hidden as cereal cargo?

Moreover, what was the purpose of the vessel's stop in Cartagena and later Barranquilla?

No answers have been given.

On April 21st, after the ship was held in Cartagena for over a month-and-a-half, a Colombian judge ordered the vessel to leave the country, for the weapons posed a grave security threat to the population. However, the ship's captain would remain in Colombia for prosecution.

Last week, Colombian legislators pressed the Santos Administration on several other issues regarding the shipment:

Why wasn't the illegal weapons shipment destroyed?

The Santos Administration argues that it didn't have the capacity to destroy it, which many Colombian military experts disagree with.

Colombian legislators also revealed how similar weapons from China's Norinco had been confiscated throughout the country -- mostly from the FARC -- over the last decade. What a coincidence!

Those captured weapons have always been destroyed.

In 2007-2008, the Colombian government even sent a diplomatic protest to the Chinese government after 12,000 Norinco-manufactured arms were confiscated.

As we've previously posted, evidence continues to accumulate that the shipment was actually being smuggled -- by the Cuban military -- for FARC narco-terrorists.

Of course, the timing was particularly bad for both the Obama Administration, which sought to remove Cuba from the state-sponsors of terrorism list, and the Santos Administration, which didn't want to add any hiccups to its "peace negotiations" with the FARC in Havana.

And at a recent Senate hearing on State Department authorization, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, John Feeley, tried to wordsmith around the incident.

Thus, silence and impunity prevailed (for now).

The Destructive Mentality of the Castros

This weekend, Cuban artist Tania Bruguera organized a reading of the book, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, in her home.

She planned the book reading as part of the events surrounding the Havana Arts Biennial.

In order to prevent this simple reading -- and other similar artistic events -- the Castro regime has ordered a construction team to gratuitously jackhammer the street outside her home.

When the reading began, so did the jack-hammering.

As the images below show, the street was completely torn open -- simply to prevent the reading of a book.

Yet, some Members of Congress and lobbyists argue that investing in Castro's monopolies will foster development and help the Cuban people.

It defies logic to believe that investing in a regime with such a destructive mentality -- and willing to pay any price to silence voices -- can benefit the Cuban people.

To the contrary, doing so would be paying Castro's price to silence those voices.

Nearly 200 Cuban Dissidents Arrested, Nobody Cares #ThanksObama

Nearly 200 Cuban dissidents were arrested throughout the island yesterday.

In Havana, four dozen members of The Ladies in White were arrested as they attended Sunday Mass. Also arrested were male supporters, including democracy leaders Antonio Rodiles, Angel Moya and independent journalist Juan Gonzalez Febles.

In Santiago, over 80 activists of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were beaten and arrested, including some who had been released under the Obama-Castro December 17th deal, namely Diango and Bianko Vargas Martin, and Ernesto Tamayo Guerra.

Dozens of others were arrested in the interior provinces, including Raul Borges, father of political prisoner Ernesto Borges, and youth activists from the Cuban Reflection Movement.

And renowned artist Tania Bruguera, who had her passport confiscated in December and is unable to leave the island, was arrested as she approached the Museum of Fine Arts to attend an exhibit for the Havana Art Biennial.

But sadly, no one seems to care.

Obama is too focused on what other concessions he can give to Raul Castro in exchange for an Embassy.

D.C. lobbyists are too busy lobbying for Castro's "military-tourist" complex (as The Financial Times' John Paul Rathbone succinctly called the Cuban military's monopolistic control over the island's tourism industry).

And the media continues obsessing over the "old world charm" of Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship.

Meanwhile, in Castro-controlled Venezuela, internationally renowned political prisoner and former Mayor, Daniel Ceballos, has been transferred from a military prison to one of the most violent civilian prisons in the world.

And Leopoldo Lopez, the famed opposition leader, began a hunger strike to demand the release of his colleagues, whose lives are in danger.

This, despite the fact that there's no embargo and that the U.S. is Venezuela's main trading partner.

Yet, the silence from the international community is deafening -- debunking all of Obama's theories about how his new Cuba policy would purportedly bring support for rights and democracy.

As for legislative elections in Venezuela this Fall -- wishful thinking. "Elections, for what?" says Maduro. After all, Obama just embraced Cuba's military dictatorship.

And where are the Congressional junkets to Caracas?

Impunity clearly reigns supreme in the region.

Cuban Regime Must Account for Missing American POWs

By John Lowery in AIM:

Cuban Accountability

Whatever one thinks of President Barack Obama’s overtures to Cuba and the accompanying prisoner exchange, an important consideration in need of immediate attention is an accounting of our servicemen captured in the Vietnam War and imprisoned in Cuban-operated POW camps. Of utmost importance is an accounting of the 17 American airmen captured in North Vietnam and then taken to Cuba for medical experiments in torture techniques.

Most Americans are unaware that Cuba was deeply involved in the Vietnam War. In fact they had an engineering battalion called the “GirĂ³n Brigade,” that was maintaining Route Nine, a major enemy supply line into South Vietnam. Their facilities included a POW camp and field hospital very near the DMZ, just inside North Vietnam. Meanwhile Cuban interrogators worked in Hanoi at a prison known as the Zoo. We know of these operations and some of what happened to our servicemen after so managed to survive and be repatriated in the winter of 1973, during Operation Homecoming.

Following his release Major Jack Bomar, a Zoo survivor, described the brutal beating of Captain Earl G. Cobeil, an F-105F electronics warfare officer, by Cuban Major Fernando Vecino Alegret, known by the POWs as “Fidel.” Regarding Captain Cobeil, Bomar related, “he was completely catatonic… His body was ripped and torn everywhere… Hell cuffs appeared almost to have severed his wrists… Slivers of bamboo were imbedded in his bloodied shins, he was bleeding from everywhere, terribly swollen, a dirty yellowish black and purple [countenance] from head to toe.

In an effort to force Cobeil to talk “Fidel smashed a fist into the man’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man’s face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. Again and again, a dozen times, [Fidel] smashed the man’s face with the hose.”

Because of his grotesque physical condition Captain Cobeil was not repatriated but instead was listed as “died in captivity,” with his remains returned in 1974. (Miami Herald, August, 22 1999, and Benge, Michael D. “The Cuban Torture Program, Testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Chaired by the Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman, November 4, 1999.) Incredibly, Fidel’s torture of Major James Kasler is well known as he somehow managed to survive the Cuban’s torture.

Much less is known about our 17 captured airmen taken to Cuba for “experimentation in torture techniques.” They were held in Havana’s Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro’s G-2 Intelligence service. A few were held in the Mazorra (Psychiatric) Hospital and served as human guinea pigs used to develop improved methods of extracting information through “torture and drugs to induce [American] prisoners to cooperate.”

After being shot down in April of 1972, U.S. Navy F-4 pilot, Lt. Clemmie McKinney, an African-American, was imprisoned near the Cuban compound called Work Site Five. His capture occurred while then-Cuban president Fidel Castro was visiting the nearby Cuban field hospital. Although listed as killed in the crash by DOD, his photograph standing with Castro, was later published in a classified CIA document.

More than 13 years later, on August 14, 1985, the North Vietnamese returned Lt. McKinney’s remains, reporting that he died in November 1972. However, a U.S, Army forensic anthropologist established the “time of death as not earlier than 1975 and probably several years later.” The report speculated that he had been a guest at Havana’s Los Maristas prison, with his remains returned to Vietnam for repatriation. (We also paid big money for the remains—delivered in stacks of green dollars to Hanoi aboard an AF C-141 from Travis AFB, California.) Unfortunately, our servicemen held in the Cuban POW camp near Work Site Five (Cong Truong Five), along with those in two other Cuban run camps were never acknowledged nor accounted for and the prisoners simply disappeared.

If our honor code of “Duty, Honor, Country,” and our national policy of “No man left behind,” are more than meaningless slogans, then before our relations with Cuba can be normalized, their murderous leadership must account for our POWs—especially the 17 airmen taken to Cuba. The civilized world and American veterans demand it.

Tweet of the Day: Cuba's Bloody Sundays

Cuban Rocker Arrested for Demanding Release of Political Prisoner

Sunday, May 24, 2015
Cuban rocker Gorki Aguila, of the band Porno Para Ricardo, was arrested yesterday after calling for the release of fellow artist and political prisoner, Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto."

Aguila placed a poster on the wall of the Museum of Fine Arts with an image of El Sexto and the word "Libertad" ("Freedom"). He was immediately approached and arrested by agents of Castro's secret police.

His whereabouts remain unknown.

El Sexto was arrested on December 25th, 2014 (just a few days after the Obama-Castro deal was announced), for painting the words "Raul" and "Fidel" on two pigs. He remains imprisoned to this day.

This month is the Havana Art Biennial. The current delegation of Congressional Democrats, led by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), plans on visiting these "festivities."

Also part of the delegation is U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who also happens to be an artist.

Will Franken speak out on behalf of these imprisoned Cuban artists?

Or would it ruin the delegation's "vacation"?

Image below: "We are all El Sexto."

Syrian Regime Officials Visit Cuba, Learn From Castro's Outmaneuvering of Obama

On Monday, a group of senior Syrian regime officials, led by the Secretary General of Assad's Baathist Party, Hilal al-Hilal, will be traveling to Cuba to visit with the Castro regime.

In a pre-trip interview with Cuban state media, al-Hilal celebrated the current U.S.-Cuba negotiations as a victory for the Castro regime and proof that "resistance" works.

He stressed the current U.S.-Cuba negotiations have taught Assad's regime "to continue resisting in our war, in the same manner as the Cubans have triumphed in their war against imperialism."

What a great message Obama is sending to the world's most vile regimes.

Fixing What Obama Has Broken on Cuba Policy

In The National Interest, Ana Quintana gives a five-step plan for the next U.S. President as regards Latin American relations.

Below is #1.

Support a principled, human-rights-based policy toward Cuba.

President Obama stunned many when he announced his intention to normalize relations with the Castro regime. While the administration gave Havana a cornucopia of concessions—from removing Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to supporting the ending of the embargo—it appears to have demanded nothing in return. All it has offered, to date, is wishful thinking.

The White House insists that commercial engagement with Cuba will usher in democracy.  A brief look at history quickly disproves that notion. Communist regimes in the Soviet satellites fell because of economic weakness and internal opposition supported by Western governments. When freedom-loving leaders such as Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel emerged, the United States enacted policies to support their efforts. As a result, countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are now free and prosperous democracies.

Our next President should model his or her Cuba policy off of these experiences. Rarely are we granted the unique opportunity to simultaneously uphold democratic principles and ensure U.S. national security. Our future president must recognize that freedom doesn’t flow from normalizing relations with a dictatorship. It flows when the seeds of political change sprout and are then properly nourished.

Read the other four here.