Here's "What Change Looks Like" Through a Business-First Policy

Saturday, July 11, 2015
The U.S.'s policy of business-first with China may have served a short-term goal of creating a Sino-Soviet rift, but also a long-term consequence of creating the most lucrative dictatorship in human history.

As former President Nixon stated prior to his death, "We may have created a Frankenstein."

Indeed -- and now the U.S. has no choice but to deal with Frankenstein.

But to argue that Cuba policy has been a failure, when the alternative is clearly no better -- or arguably worse -- is intellectually dishonest.

Not only is China's dictatorship infinitely more wealthy now, but as a result -- it poses a military threat to the region (and U.S. interests); it threatens our security through constant cyber-attacks; coerces U.S. business; and has the world's largest domestic repression apparatus.

Here's a look at the crackdown currently taking place this weekend.

From The South China Morning Post:

About 50 human rights lawyers and law firm staff held in Chinese police crackdown

Widespread detentions started after more than 100 lawyers across the mainland issued joint statement protesting against disappearance of crusading lawyer Wang Yu, say rights groups

Mainland police have launched a large-scale, unprecedented crackdown on human rights lawyers in the past two days – detaining dozens of lawyers and law firm staff and searching some of their homes and offices, while other people have disappeared, fellow lawyers and three rights groups say.

Up to noon on Saturday, 47 people – 42 lawyers, four law firm employees, plus one member of a rights lawyer’s family – across 15 cities and provinces had been taken away, summoned or detained by police, said Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

The rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders documented 57 lawyers and rights activists that had been detained, summoned or disappeared since Friday morning.

One of them, Guangzhou-based lawyer Sui Muqing, was placed under "residential surveillance at a designated location" -- a form of detention -- for alleged "incitement to subvert state power" late on Saturday, according to a police document given to his family.

Amnesty International said that by Saturday evening 28 people detained in the crackdown, including Wang Yu’s teenage son, had been released.

The crackdown started after lawyer Wang Yu, known for her courage in taking on difficult human rights cases, went missing in the early hours of Thursday. More than 100 lawyers across the country issued a joint statement on Friday protesting about her disappearance. Many of its signatories were detained late on Friday night and early on Saturday.

Most fellow lawyers believe Wang has been detained by police. She disappeared shortly after she sent a text message saying unidentified people were picking at the lock of her front door. Her friends said a security guard at her housing compound saw police taking away someone early on Thursday.

Her colleagues at the Beijing Fengrui law firm, lawyers Zhou Shifeng and Li Zhuyun, were taken away by police on Friday, while lawyer Wang Quanzhang and another three staff members also went missing.

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, a partner at the firm, sent a text message on Friday night saying he had been summoned by police.

Zhou, Wang Quanzhang and Liu’s phones all remained switched off on Saturday.

Beijing Fengrui is the firm where detained activist Wu Gan, nicknamed “Super Vulgar Butcher”, used to work.

Wang Yu was the lawyer of Wu, who was last week charged and formally arrested with “inciting subversion” and “provoking trouble”. The firm’s premises were searched by police on Friday.

Other lawyers taken away or summoned by police included Beijing–based Li Heping, Jiang Tianyong, Liang Xiaojun and Zhang Kai, Guangzhou-based Sui Muqing, Henan-based Chang Boyang and Ji Laisong, Shanghai-based Zhang Xuezhong, Zhejiang-based Wang Cheng, Shangdong-based Liu Weiguo, Hunan-based Yang Jinzhu and Gansu-based Jiang Yongji, said the rights groups and fellow lawyers, who declined to be named out for fears of reprisals.

Li Heping’s brother, lawyer Li Chunfu, said police also searched Li’s home and office on Friday and had taken away a large number of books and documents, computers and hard disks. Police had not given reasons for his brother’s detention, he said.

Sui’s wife, Sun Shihua, also a lawyer, told a friend that Sui was taken away by police late on Friday night on the charge of “seeking quarrels and provoking trouble”. China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said she was also taken away early Saturday morning.

Lawyer Li Jinxing, who was not in Beijing, said his office had been searched on Friday.

Other activists taken away included Beijing house church leader Hu Shigen and member Liu Yongping.

Zhang Xuezhong, who was one of those that was detained and later released, refused to discuss his detention when contacted.

Some of those who had been released, who declined to be named, said they were warned by police to refrain from publicly voicing their support for Wang Yu.

South China Morning Post’s calls to the Ministry of Public Security yesterday went unanswered.

Eva Pils, a China expert at King’s College, London University, said the nationwide crackdown was “the most recent step in the implementation of the Xi Jinping administration’s programme to crackdown on independent civil society.”

“Since so many lawyers started openly identifying with human rights causes and coordinating their advocacy campaigns, they are one of the closest things China has to a political opposition,” she said.

Amnesty International’s China researcher William Nee said police bore a grudge against lawyers because “they have effectively used the law to curb the misuse of state power and redress human rights violations”.

While experts said it was hard to say whether the latest crackdown was connected to the controversial, recently passed National Security Law, Pils said the law – aimed at protecting the political regime – “gives at least rhetorical support for this sweeping campaign”.

Policy Paper: Obama’s Cuba Engagement Policy and Rising Repression

A new policy paper by Cuban human rights activist, John Suarez, shows the correlation between U.S. engagement and the rising repression in Cuba:

The Obama Administration’s Cuba Engagement Policy and Rising Repression 

The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” – The White House December 17, 2014

Summary:

  • Levels of violence and numbers of arbitrary detentions have grown exponentially during the 18 months of secret negotiations between the Castro regime and the Obama administration.
  • Human Rights defenders were victims of brutal, life threatening machete attacks in the same month that secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Castro dictatorship started.
  • The December 17, 2014 announcement of normalized relations was surrounded by repression, violence and death.
  • There has been an explosion of arbitrary detentions in Cuba, jumping from an average of 550 per month to 742.
  • The Castro regime has been implicated in heightening repression against pro-democracy activists in Venezuela, including extrajudicial killings.
Click here to read the entire paper.

Quote of the Week: Not Enough Has Changed in Cuba

The Cuban government has signaled very little change in my opinion. Since 2014, the Castro regime has put 9,000 Cubans in prison for 'political crimes.' More than 2,000 of these arrests have come since President Barack Obama’s push to pursue normalization. The Obama administration’s attempt to remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terror list defies reality. Cuba is known to provide key intelligence to Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah. It has engaged in arms smuggling with North Korea. Cuban military and intelligence agents are also actively involved in deadly repressions against pro-democracy protesters in Venezuela. I went to Cuba with an open mind, and although I believe the people of Cuba want and need the embargo lifted, I returned reaffirmed in my belief that President Obama is misguided in his effort to normalize relations between our countries at this time.
-- U.S. Rep. Earl "Buddy" Carter (R-GA), "Cuba: Not enough has changed," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/7/15

Must-Read: How Internet Companies Profit From Censorship in China (Cuba)

Friday, July 10, 2015
This is the same policy of collaboration that the Obama Administration, along with Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Tom Udall (D-NM), want the U.S. to adopt with the Castro regime's repressive telecom monopoly, ETECSA.

(Click here to learn more about ETECSA.)

If such censorship and control is what happens in China, which is huge and porous -- just imagine in Cuba, which is small and manageable.

If the Obama Administration is truly interested in the Cuban people receiving free and unfiltered Internet access, it should focus on policies of circumvention -- not collaboration.

Modern technology allows it.

From Quartz:

A new wave of US internet companies is succeeding in China—by giving the government what it wants

Facebook found itself shut out from China in 2009. Twitter got blocked the same year. In 2010, Google pulled its search services from China after a government hack. Beijing, it seems, was sending a message to high-profile American internet companies: play by our rules and censor content, or don’t play at all.

After Google’s exit, those three firms have yet to come back. But in recent years, other American internet companies have found a degree of success in China—or at least a bit more stability than their predecessors.

The solution involves sacrifice—hand over data and control, and the Chinese government will hand you the keys to the market.

“If you want to develop an internet business in Chinese now, you have to be willing to work with the Chinese government, even if that means censoring content or sharing access to your data,” Ben Cavender, principal at the China Market Research Group, told Quartz.
.
Idealism or growth?

Should Evernote, Uber, and LinkedIn be shamed outside China for agreeing to give Beijing access to their users’ data, and censoring the content that users can see and share?

By now, some may say that question sounds downright passé. Google and Facebook, the posterboys for internet companies shut out of China, are now knocking on its door. Facebook has reportedly opened an office in Beijing and aspires to develop a consumer-facing product. Mark Zuckerberg’s China infatuation seems carefully staged. Google, meanwhile, is rumored to be working on an app store for China, as a way to reach consumers without relying on its search engine.

“Google decided to take a stand, and they effectively locked themselves out of the market,” Cavender said. Businesses must ask, “How important is China to our growth and what is our long-term perspective on what to do there?” he adds.

Charlie Smith, the pseudonymous spokesperson for censorship watchdog group GreatFire, believes it’s possible for firms to make money in China without entangling themselves in these ethical dilemmas. He points to Twitter as a good example of a firm that earns money in China by selling ad space to Chinese businesses, but avoids the ethical pitfalls of running a censored social network there.

“They realize that these [issues] exist in China and that they can’t go and self-censor the platform—or they could, but they decided that’s not what they’re about,” says Smith. “But they’re in China, presenting at conferences, trying to get Chinese advertisers to advertise on Twitter. That’s great.”

Yet Smith believes that LinkedIn and Evernote are setting a dangerous precedent for other internet firms eying the Middle Kingdom. “More US companies are going to decide that treating the Chinese like second class information citizens is fine,” he says.

Wasserman Schultz: Cuba Should Earn Its Relationship With U.S.

From Politico:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz breaks with Obama on Cuba

Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz thinks President Barack Obama should slow down with Cuba before continuing to reopen relations between the two countries.

“My view is different from President Obama’s,” the DNC chairwoman said in an interview with The Daily Signal published Thursday. “I believe a relationship with the United States should be earned … perhaps we should make sure that some of these human rights concessions are secured prior to moving forward.”

Obama announced last week that both countries will re-open embassies in their respective capitals after more than 50 years.

Wasserman Schultz said she hoped the administration could use its position to benefit the country.

“Anytime we’re at the negotiating table with any nation like Cuba that has as horrendous a human rights record as they do, it’s an opportunity to be able to assert our view that making sure that any nation in the world should have freedom of their elections, that people should have the right to elect a person of their choice, that they should be able to speak freely, even if it is against the actions of their government and not be subject to arrest, that they should be able to make sure they can move freely throughout their country,” she said.“So President Obama’s policy allows us to be able to press those priorities at the negotiating table.”

Over 563 Political Arrests in June

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 563 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of June 2015.

These are only political arrests that have been thoroughly documented. Many more are suspected.

This is "what change looks like" in Cuba.

Senate Republicans: Capitulation to Cuba Continues

Thursday, July 9, 2015
From the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC):

Capitulation to Cuba Continues

  • By reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba’s Castro regime without requiring it to make a single policy change, President Obama made clear he is in search of a legacy at any cost.
  • The unilateral capitulation to the Castros must end. Before the Senate considers confirming an ambassador or lifting the embargo, Cuba must announce significant political liberalizations and return all U.S. fugitives.
While Americans were celebrating their freedoms over the Fourth of July holiday, President Obama continued what has become a foreign policy hallmark of his administration: the unilateral capitulation to adversaries, this time at the cost of the Cuban people.

On July 1, President Obama announced the United States would “formally re-establish diplomatic relations” with Cuba. This is just the latest in a series of unilateral capitulations to the Castro brothers that began last December, with little discernable benefit for the Cuban people. In May of this year alone, according to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, the Castro regime took 641 political prisoners. This compares to the 53 political prisoners the administration bragged it had secured the release of last December.

No Evidence Engagement Will Improve the Lives of Cubans

President Obama said engagement with Cuba “can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives.” It is an idealistic statement with no grounding in reality.

First, Cuba has had decades of normal relations with Canada and Western Europe. That has not led to any political liberalization for the average Cuban.

Next, when President Bill Clinton said the United States would restore full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, part of his argument was that increased diplomatic and economic contact would lead to political liberalization. The most recent State Department Human Rights report on Vietnam says “the most significant human rights problems” in that country continue to be severe restrictions on citizens’ political rights.

Finally, when President Clinton expanded normal trade relations with China, part of his argument, again, was that expanded trade would lead to political liberalization. The average Chinese citizen does not enjoy basic political rights today.

What the Castro Brothers Must Do

The time for unilateral capitulations to the Castro brothers in Cuba must end. Before the Senate even considers confirming an ambassador to Cuba or lifting the embargo, President Obama must describe how the Cuban government plans to make the following policy changes:

  • Provide greater political freedoms for the Cuban people, including a timeline for free and fair elections providing the Cuban people the ability to change their government.
  • Return to the United States all fugitives from justice currently residing in Cuba, including Joanne Deborah Chesimard, an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist “who murdered a law enforcement officer execution-style,” and William Morales, an FALN terrorist bomb-maker convicted in federal court and wanted by the FBI.
  • Address outstanding legal claims for property of U.S. citizens that was confiscated by Cuba.
This would be a legacy worth celebrating on Cuba.

Marco Rubio in NYT: Obama’s Faustian Bargain With Cuba

By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in The New York Times:

Obama’s Faustian Bargain With Cuba

WHEN President Obama announced the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba last week, he criticized the supposed failures of United States policy toward Cuba, which, Mr. Obama said, “hasn’t worked for 50 years.”

The reality of course is that American policy is no more to blame for Cuba’s economic and political problems than it was for the Soviet Union’s bread lines or for the fact that tens of millions of Chinese still live in poverty.

The only people who are responsible for the Cuban people’s woes are their geriatric rulers, who insist on maintaining a socialist economy that almost all other countries — with the possible exception of North Korea — have realized is a failed relic of the past.

It is these dictators who also deny their people access to the Internet. It is they who direct the security services that terrorize and harass any citizen who dares speak up against the Castro regime. It is they who imprison people who attempt to defy the system and make them endure unthinkable conditions. Many have fled their homeland permanently.

Mr. Obama’s outreach has done nothing to change any of this. On Sunday, Antonio Rodiles, a prominent activist, was beaten by regime thugs, and nearly 100 others were arrested. Human Rights Watch reports that in recent months, “short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and other critics have increased dramatically.” The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent human rights group, puts arbitrary detentions for political motives in May alone at 641, the most in months.

Yet Mr. Obama insists that building economic and diplomatic ties is likely to bring freedom and democracy to the island.

However, our extensive experience with transitions from Communism has shown that economic opening and diplomatic engagement do not automatically lead to political freedom. No Communist police state has ever unclenched its fist just because a McDonald’s has opened or an embassy has been established.

China began its economic opening in 1979; today it remains a one-party state, where the human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, remains in prison, along with other dissidents. Calls for political pluralism are silenced. Vietnam, too, years after throwing its doors open to American corporations, continues to be tightly controlled by the Communist Party.

For many people in both countries, the standard of living has improved, but at a price: Prospects of political freedom for regular citizens are extinguished as elites with connections to the party become economic oligarchs. Chinese Communist Party leaders and their families have become rich beyond belief, and their grip on power seems unshakable.

When we make engagement with the odious leaders of these countries our foreign policy, we make a Faustian bargain that is contrary to our national values and also to our strategic interests.

Instead of the administration’s approach — one-sided concessions that have served only to reward Cuba’s rulers despite their lack of reform — we should be stating clearly what reforms America expects before we deepen ties.

We should reinforce our longstanding policy that Cuba must address millions of dollars worth of outstanding property claims and judgments. Individuals designated as domestic terrorists by the F.B.I. should be returned to the United States to face justice. Most important, all political prisoners must be released, and political reforms begun, so that Cubans can enjoy their fundamental freedoms.

How do we achieve this? By standing firm in our commitment to the Cuban people. By increasing the support for independent civil society groups and activists and radio broadcasts that the regime wants to end. By blocking Cuban officials who have committed or overseen human-rights violations from traveling to the United States. Just as we have stood on the right side of history against the repression of other totalitarian regimes, we owe the Cuban people more time so we can get it right and not worsen their situation.

If the Castros — President Raúl and his elder brother Fidel — realized that they would be able to profit only by reforming and allowing more political and economic openness, increased United States engagement might make a difference. Otherwise, Mr. Obama’s policy will lead only to a deepening of repression.

This is why so many dissidents in Cuba are denouncing Mr. Obama’s move as a betrayal. They know that the Castro family and other relatives control all the economic levers already, and will surely reap the benefits once American businesses, driven by the desire for economic gain at all costs, and American tourists, tempted by this newspaper’s idealized version of hip Havana, flock to Cuba.

It is the ruling oligarchs who stand to benefit from Mr. Obama’s opening to Cuba, not the Cuban people. It is unfortunate that, after taking a strong if difficult moral stance for many years, we are now empowering those who deny the Cubans their wish to be free and prosperous.

Tweet of the Week: Say No to Obama's Dictator-Down-Economics

Click below (or here) to re-tweet:

A Tourist Attraction You Won't See in Cuba

The depiction below (or click here) by The Miami Herald's Jim Morin says it all:

Carnival's "Social Impact": Support Dictators, Degrade Cubans and Traffic in Stolen Property

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Carnival Cruise Lines announced today that it has received a specific license from the Treasury Department for its "social impact" trips to Cuba.

The license would allow Carnival to take "people-to-people" travelers on humanitarian trips to the island.

Carnival would like to launch these trips by May 2016, but it still has a long way to go.

First, it needs approval from the Castro regime.

And as the head of Castro's Interests Section in Washington, D.C., Jose Cabanas, recently reminded a group of eager cruise and ferry types: "This will take time. These companies have to go to our authorities, they have to introduce their ideas. Some of them we already know. But they are not all equal."

(Pro bono advice: Brush up on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.)

Furthermore, the U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved language -- by a vote of 247-176 -- in the FY'16 Transportation Appropriations bill that would prohibit the use of confiscated property by any new flights or vessels authorized for travel to Cuba.

But -- à la Donald Trump -- this is a publicity ploy by Carnival, whose ships have been stung by a string of bad accidents, illnesses and other incidents in recent years.

Also like Trump, it's a particularly distasteful ploy, considering that Carnival is based in the heart of the Cuban-American community, which has always embraced it.

To wit:

During today's announcement, Carnival's CEO Arnold Donald said the cruise line "would have to work it out with the Cuban government as to what sorts of humanitarian programs are needed there."

Work out humanitarian programs with the worst violator of human rights in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the worst violators in the entire world?

Seriously?

Here's a summary of the humanitarian activities of the Cuban government (from the State Department's most recent report on Cuba's human rights practices):

"[T]he abridgement of the ability of citizens to change the government and the use of government threats, extrajudicial physical assault, intimidation, violent government-organized counter-protests against peaceful dissent, and harassment and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly."

They'll surely provide Carnival with some great "humanitarian" suggestions.

As if working with Cuba's vile dictatorship weren't enough, Carnival (in conjunction with the Obama Administration) further degrades the Cuban people by acquiescing to apartheid.

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."

And 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.

Finally, Carnival would be trafficking in properties stolen from American citizens.

As Dr. Javier Garcia Bengochea, a certified U.S. claimant, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month:

"Americans assume when they invest in Cuba clear title and basic protections will be in place. Nothing could be further from the truth. Contract sanctity, an independent judiciary and transparent regulatory and enforcement agencies do not exist there. Foreign entities Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and China Harbor Engineering Company do business in the U.S. while using my stolen port."

Add Carnival to that list, as one of its planned stops would be at Dr. Garcia-Bengochea's stolen port.

As he eloquently concluded:

"Ladies and gentlemen, what is past is prologue. Unless the claims are settled any American enterprise in Cuba will have the legitimacy of a drug deal. Trafficking in stolen property is not economic opportunity; it is not 'pro-business' or normal; it is criminal and immoral."

If Carnival wants to truly make a "social impact" -- here are three easy steps:

Don't support dictators, degrade their victims or traffic in stolen property.

Cubans Pay the Price for Obama's Engagement With Castro

By Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe:

Cubans pay the price for Obama’s ‘engagement’ with the Castros

On July 1, President Obama announced the formal resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba, asserting confidently that “American engagement... is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights.”

On July 5, the Communist regime in Havana delivered its customary response. It arrested more than 80 democratic dissidents, including at least 60 members of Ladies in White, a peaceful group of brave women who march weekly in support of husbands, fathers, and other relatives imprisoned in the Castros’ jails. Many of those detained were hurt, some severely. One prominent human rights activist, Antonio Rodiles, was sent to the hospital with a shattered nose; he had reportedly been handcuffed by security forces, then beaten for shouting “Long live freedom” and “Long live human rights.”

There had been even more arrests and beatings in the days leading up to Obama’s Rose Garden statement. Some 225 Cuban dissidents across the island were arrested the previous Sunday, with Ladies in White again prominent among those targeted. In fact, there have been police actions against Cuban democrats for 12 Sundays in a row — the government makes a point of going after dissidents as they walk to Mass or emerge from church holding photos of imprisoned loved ones.

Like most US advocates of normalizing relations with the only all-out dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, Obama claims that warming up to the Castro regime is the most effective way to promote freedom and liberal reform in Cuba. When he announced last December that ties between Havana and Washington were going to be restored, the president declared that “we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.” Now, nearly seven months later, he reiterates “America’s enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly,” and he insists that his administration “will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.”

No? Over the past seven months, life for Cuba’s people has grown even more unfree. Yet far from forthrightly condemning the repression, Obama serenely counsels patience: “Nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight,” he says.

There have been more than 3,000 political detentions on the island since last December, according to The Washington Post. The paper quotes Mario Felix Lleonart, a Cuban Baptist pastor who laments that he, like many, “had hoped, following the announcement about normalizing relations between the US and Cuba, that there would be a stop to — or at least a lessening of — the beatings” of dissidents. “We now know that what is happening is precisely the opposite.”

The policy that Obama now embraces is also “precisely the opposite” of the one he feigned to uphold as a candidate for president.

Once upon a time, Obama maintained that there would be no American embassy in Havana until all of Cuba’s political prisoners were free. Now he trumpets John Kerry’s forthcoming trip to Havana “to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more,” even as Cuba continues to lock up men and women for daring to seek the democratic liberties Americans take for granted.

The Obama administration is bestowing tremendous gifts on Cuba’s rulers: diplomatic legitimation, a public-relations triumph, an influx of hard currency, and expanded influence in Washington. All this the Castros are getting in exchange for nothing: no elections, no free press, no end to beating peaceful protesters, no justice for the many victims of Cuban totalitarianism.

“Castroism has won,” mourned the Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez last winter, when Obama announced an end to America’s principled policy on Cuba. If it wasn’t obvious then, it is now.

On Cuban Side, Talks Are All Take and No Give

By Michael Putney in The Miami Herald:

On the Cuban side, talks are all take and no give

President Obama’s Cuba initiative represents, as Dr. Johnson said of second marriage, the triumph of hope over experience.

“We’ve been neighbors,” the president said in the White House Rose Garden, “now we can be friends.” Oh, if it were only that simple.

When it comes to Cuba, nothing is simple. And hasn’t been since Fidel and his barbudos marched triumphant out of the Sierra Maestra. Fidel is now 88 and frail. His revolution is 56 and was sputtering until Obama threw brother Raúl a life preserver. A revolution preserver, really, because the Cuban leader vows that nothing about Cuba's socialist revolution will change. Except who the country's sugar daddy is. The Soviet Union played that role for decades, then Venezuela until oil markets went kerplooey and now Cuba's new benefactor, somewhat unbelievably, is us, the running dog Yankee imperialists.

Sec. of State John Kerry will travel to Havana later this month to raise the flag over the U.S. “Interests Section” and — shazam!— transform it into an embassy. Cuba will raise the flag over its stately headquarters in Washington, which has been spiffed up nicely, on July 20th. The Cubans are expected to name their ambassador quickly. Could it be Josefina Vidal, who was impressive as she led the Cuban side in the four negotiating sessions (that we know about) with U.S. diplomats over the last seven months?

But just how did those talks end with the embassy agreement just announced? We still don't if several thorny issues were resolved. One is Cuba's nasty habit of poking around in U.S. diplomatic pouches, a serious breach of security and diplomatic protocol. Another big issue: What will happen with the U.S. fugitives from justice like Joanne Chesimard and perhaps 70 others? And will Cuban police continue to harass Cubans who want to enter the U.S. embassy?

President Obama shed light on only one of the disputed issues, saying that U.S. diplomats will be able to move freely around the island to speak with dissidents or anyone else as long as they give the Castro government 24-hour notice. That’s progress on one important issue, but myriad details about the others remain unknown. Also unknown is exactly what constitutes “normalization,” plus our human rights demands.

“I think we lost the first round,” says James Cason, the Coral Gables mayor and retired U.S. career diplomat who headed the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 2002-2005, “We made all the concessions and Havana made none. We don't know what's been gained in terms of normalization.”

Cason calls the embassy openings purely symbolic: “Nothing much will change on the ground.”

The whole point of Obama's Cuba policy is to achieve change on the ground for the average Cuban, to give him and her a chance to live more freely and escape the freedom-strangling clutches of the Castro regime.. “Will the Cuban people benefit?” asks Andy Gomez. a retired professor and Cuba scholar at the University of Miami. “I don't think they'll benefit, especially Afro-Cubans who make up about 60 per cent of the population.”

They are the ones who rarely receive remittances from abroad, don't have access to dollars and may be growing restless. For them, as for many others on the island, full diplomatic relations won't mean a pollo in every pot.

What the Castro government clearly wants from its new relationship with the U.S. is to be able to buy on credit on the world markets. Problem is, Cuba wants to buy an estimated $14 billion on imports but has only $3 billion a year to spend. For years, the Cubans have been buying millions of dollars in agricultural products from the U.S. (mainly to feed tourists) and all purchases must be made in cash. Now, the biggest advocates for giving Cuba the right to buy on credit are members of Congress from farm states that produce poultry, pork, beef, rice, beans and the like. Havana wants all that and more and will seek loans from the World Bank and IMF now that it's off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Of course, they'll never be able to pay back those loans under their current economic system. They've long been one of the biggest deadbeat countries in the world.

The next step in the process is up to Congress. Just last month the House voted 247-176 against easing travel restrictions to the island. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a libertarian Republican, is sponsoring a bill to ease travel restrictions, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is the main sponsor of bill to lift the embargo. The former is a long shot, the latter has no chance. Sen. Marco Rubio is leading the fight to block a $6 million request to overhaul the U.S. embassy in Havana; he and House allies like Rep.Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, also vow to block the confirmation of a new U.S. ambassador to Cuba.

Reaction in Miami to all these recent developments has been curiously muted. “The Cuban community is sitting on the edge of its seat, waiting to see what happens next,” says Prof. Gomez. So are we all. But it will be a long and fraught process.

Adding to the combustible mix is the 2016 presidential race. Hillary Clinton, naturally, supports Obama's Cuba initiative while only one Republican may — Rand Paul. All the others, starting with Jeb Bush, call the Cuba initiative a colossal mistake and point to the regime's ferocious crackdown recently on pro-democracy activists.

Sadly, the president is evidently willing to turn a blind eye to flagrant human rights abuses for the sake of his legacy — the president who opened Cuba. The crowning moment will be his expected visit to Havana. He'd better get there before November 2016 because if a Republican wins the White House, all bets with Cuba will be off.

Stop Hiding Details of Cuba Embassy Deal

It's becoming abundantly clear that the July 1st deal between the United States and the Castro regime to re-establish Embassies was a bad one.

Otherwise, there wouldn't be such secrecy about the details.

The July 1st deal was the culmination of six months of negotiations led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson.

Since then, the State Department has been unwilling to share any details about the deal with the American people.

(Caveat: If this is the case with Cuba, just imagine the secrecy that awaits with Iran.)

"We'll talk about those details later," punted Secretary of State John Kerry.

Meanwhile, at a post-announcement briefing, a senior State Department official -- presumably Jacobson -- also dodged any details.

Why? Are they that bad?

Fortunately -- for those who cherish transparency -- Jacobson has been nominated to become U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

Needless to say, it would be negligent for the Senate to consider Jacobson's nomination without first carefully scrutinizing the details of the July 1st deal that she negotiated.

After all, she was the lead negotiator of the July 1st deal -- the results of which she's responsible for.

Thus, the following legal issues should be probed:

-- According to Section 201 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, it is the policy of the United States that diplomatic recognition should be considered "when the President determines that a there exists a democratically elected government in Cuba."

Is the July 1st deal consistent with U.S. law, as codified?

-- Section 207 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act also states that, "the satisfactory resolution of property claims by a Cuban Government recognized by the United States remains an essential condition for the full resumption of economic and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba."

Is the July 1st deal consistent with Congressional intent?

-- According to Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, "the receiving State shall ensure to all members of the mission freedom of movement and travel in its territory."

Will all members of a potential U.S. Embassy have freedom of movement and travel in Cuba?

-- According to Article 27.3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, "the diplomatic bag shall not be opened or detained."

Has the Castro regime agreed to respect the inviolability of U.S. diplomatic pouches to a potential Embassy in Havana?

Moreover, has the Cuban regime agreed to allow secure shipments to ensure the integrity -- physical and security -- of a potential Embassy?

If Jacobson (irresponsibly) agreed to any of the (illegal) limitations above, will the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions impose reciprocal restrictions on the privileges enjoyed by a potential Cuban Embassy and its members in the United States?

The following policy issues should also be probed:

Will Cubans that visit a potential U.S. Embassy have to previously pass through a security cordon of Castro regime officials?

Will Cubans be subject to any pre-screening procedures by Castro regime officials before entering a potential U.S. Embassy?

Will a potential U.S. Embassy be able to hire Cuban nationals directly? Or will all Cuban nationals working at the Embassy have to be hired through SERVIMPORT, a Castro regime enterprise owned and operated by the Council of State?

Does the U.S. currently accept similar demands and restrictions from any other nation in the Western Hemisphere?

If not, how long before Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other Cuban regime allies begin requiring similar restrictions?

Will Cuban democracy activists be welcome at a potential U.S. Embassy to continue receiving free Internet access? Will a potential U.S. Embassy continue hosting civil society workshops, e.g., independent journalism? Or will Cuban democracy and civil society activists be thrown by the wayside, like in every other aspect of the Obama-Castro deal?

It's time for details.

Former Cuban Spymaster: Obama's Policy Strengthens Castro

Monday, July 6, 2015
First of all, the reciprocal opening of embassies benefits the Cuban government and hurts the Cuban people's struggle for the democratization of the country. It can benefit U.S. sectors and entrepreneurs interested in the Cuban market. But by no means is this opening and the development of tourism going to produce an impact that helps the democratization of the country, insofar as what the government has done has been to intensify repression, which is going to increase its income and strengthen it in order to be able to repress better. And I want to point out that this statement is made not because I believe the embargo should continue, and that relations should not be normalized. I have always been in favor of these, but with conditions that guarantee the Cuban people will truly benefit and on a base of real democratic opening and not one of trickery. Fidel Castro and Raul have said in years past that, when the hostile policy of the United States would end and relations normalized, the relationship could bring about openings in Cuba, but none of this has happened. To the contrary, repression has intensified, they have changed their ways of great trials and convictions to brief detentions, but all of the repressive system continues intact and will be strengthened in order to have total control over the new North American diplomats that arrive in the country.
 -- Pedro Riera Escalante, former senior Cuban intelligence official, served as the Group Chief of Section Q-1, in charge of operations against the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mexidata.info, 7/6/15

Video: Testimony of Severely Beaten Cuban Democracy Leader

See below (or click here) the video testimony of prominent Cuban democracy leader, Antonio Rodiles, pursuant to his arrest this past Sunday.

During the arrest, Rodiles had his nose shattered -- along with other injuries -- which required emergency surgery.

Rodiles, a critic of President Obama's unconditional embrace of Castro's regime, notes in the testimony that:

- There currently exists a dangerous state of impunity, in which the regime feels there will be no consequence for its violence against democracy activists.

- If such violence is taking place against well-known democracy activists, just imagine what's happening to those who are less visible.

- We are living a very perilous moment for democracy activists, which will only worsen if no pressure is applied towards the regime.

Over 80 Cuban Dissidents Arrested, Prominent Leader Hospitalized After Beating

For the 12th Sunday in a row, over 80 Cuban dissidents were brutally beaten and arrested for attempting to peacefully march to -- or from -- Mass.

Over 60 of those arrested were members of The Ladies in White, a group composed of the wives, mothers, sisters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

Meanwhile, prominent democracy leader, Antonio Rodiles, founder of the independent think-tank Estado de Sats, had his nose shattered by the secret police agents that arrested him.

He had to be immediately hospitalized.

This is "what change looks like" in Cuba.

The New York Times Celebrates Censorship in Cuba, Pt. 2

Today's New York Times hit-piece on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), which regurgitates the Cuban regime's absurd attacks against him, reads like the reporter got his interview leads from the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution ("CDR").

Actually, that's wouldn't be far-fetched at all.

(Caveat: As Senator Rubio rightfully notes, the fact that Castro's regime perceives him to be such a threat -- unlike with President Obama -- is telling in itself.)

Last year, we posted (Pt. 1) how The New York Times hosts a series of "people-to-people" trips to Cuba.

These trips don't spend time with courageous Cuban independent journalists or imprisoned writers/artists.

Instead, they spend all of their time celebrating with the Castro regime's censors and repressors.

The New York Times' itinerary features:

"- A meeting with journalists from Granma, Cuba’s national newspaper, as well as with reporters at a small regional newspaper, to learn about the papers and their role today in delivering news in Cuba.

- A reception with members of The National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba."

In other words, The New York Times' trips are to "learn" from the Castro regime's information monopoly and enjoy "mojitos" with the entity responsible for censoring writers and artists.

Just last month, another Cuban regime mouthpiece, Guerrillero ("Guerrilla"), published how it recently hosted its third New York Times trip, which wanted to learn how to run a newspaper without advertisements.

No joke.

Below are various tweets from Guerrillero during these "celebrations of censorship":



Congress Spells Trouble for Obama on Cuba

From Politico:

Why the GOP Congress could be trouble for Obama in Cuba

The president can only go so far without the cooperation of Congress.

President Barack Obama knows he didn’t need Congress to formally relaunch a U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

But Republicans are already plotting revenge for when Obama does need them down the road.

Within hours of Obama’s announcement to open an embassy in Cuba, Republicans in Congress were threatening to deny funding to the embassy while blocking any ambassador to lead it — underscoring the deep antipathy toward Obama’s Cuba policy on Capitol Hill.

And lifting that decades-old embargo? Fat chance, Republicans say.

“The support to keep pressure on the Castro regime is stronger now than it has ever been in Congress,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a Cuban-American lawmaker and one of the most vocal critics of Obama’s Cuba policy, said in an interview.

Obama has already acted without Congress, easing some trade and travel restrictions to Cuba as well as taking the island nation off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. But the White House would need lawmakers to green-light funding for an embassy and to officially end the embargo. Though he appears unlikely to nominate a permanent ambassador, that would take Congress’ assent, too.

Obama has some congressional allies on Cuba, mostly Democrats but also a handful of Republicans. After that, it’s a wall of opposition, from GOP leadership that opposes restoring full diplomatic relations, to committee chairs skeptical of the administration’s Cuba policy, to a raft of Republican presidential contenders waving a loud megaphone to showcase their Cuba opposition.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016 presidential candidate who is of Cuban descent, said in a statement Wednesday that he would work to block funding for a U.S. Embassy in Cuba and any nominee for ambassador Obama recommends, “unless and until the president can demonstrate that he has made some progress in alleviating the misery of our friends, the people of Cuba.”

The Obama administration doesn’t need Congress’s approval to simply switch its existing “interests section” in Havana to a full-fledged embassy. But it would need lawmakers to sign off on additional funding.

The State Department asked Congress for roughly $6 million for fiscal 2016 to convert the interests section to an embassy. It’s clear the current building would need upgrades: A May 2014 inspector general report said the facility, located on the waterfront Malecón boulevard in Havana, is “subject to high winds and salt air and requires constant attention.”

Administration officials “believe that they have the resources available in the State Department to at least start the embassy,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in an interview Wednesday. Republicans “cannot stop the president from his policy change; they can embarrass the United States by limiting investment.”

But Republicans have already shown plenty of appetite for a Cuba fight.

House Republicans have a funding bill for the State Department that restricts money for an embassy or a similar diplomatic facility in Havana, beyond funds already in place before Obama’s announcement in December to normalize relations with Cuba. The measure would also bar money from being spent on opening a Cuban embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear when the State Department appropriations bill, which has already cleared a House committee, would come to the floor. It wasn’t on a list of legislation released Wednesday that House Republicans will take up in July.

The Senate hasn’t yet released its funding bill for the State Department. But the lawmaker who would spearhead it is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the panel that oversees State funding and vowed in December to use every tool in his power to block funds for an embassy in Cuba.

Senate aides didn’t indicate Wednesday whether the chamber’s funding bill for the State Department would include such restrictions. The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up that bill next week.

“As president, I would not honor this decision with Cuba and I would close the embassy until the Castro brothers actually change their behavior,” Graham, another 2016 contender, said Wednesday.

Another key leverage point Republicans would have is if Obama nominates an ambassador to Cuba. But given deep opposition from the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cruz and others, and the likelihood of a drawn-out nomination battle he might not win, Obama might decide against it.

If he choose to not nominate an ambassador, observers have said the U.S. Embassy could function without one. The U.S. currently has a chief of mission at the interests section in Havana: Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who is considered a top contender for the ambassadorship. He’ll become the chargé d’affaires as soon as diplomatic relations are normalized.

Durbin, a strong advocate of normalizing ties with Cuba, conceded that the prospects for confirming an ambassador were slim in the GOP-led Senate.

“We have three Cuban-American senators and any one of them, if they decided to, could be a hold on that ambassador,” said Durbin, referring to Rubio, Cruz and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

Still, the Obama administration’s Cuba overtures have driven a rift through Capitol Hill that doesn’t fall neatly along party lines. For instance, some Senate Republicans representing farm states such as Jerry Moran of Kansas favor opening up more relations with Cuba, since more agricultural exports there could be an economic boon back home.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was part of the congressional mission that rescued Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor held by the Cuban government for five years until his release in December. Flake praised Obama’s steps to open an embassy, saying it would lead to more travel and contacts between U.S. citizens and Cubans.

“It’s long past time for U.S. policy toward Cuba to be associated with something other than five decades of failure,” Flake said.

Flake is pushing legislation that would end the travel ban on U.S. citizens and legal residents to Cuba; it’s backed by more than 40 other senators, including a half-dozen Republicans. Another bill, by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), that would end the Cuba trade embargo has 17 co-sponsors.

Notably, both measures are backed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a 2016 presidential hopeful who sparred with Rubio in December over Cuba, saying the Florida senator was “acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat.” (Rubio has said of Paul: “He has no idea what he’s talking about.”)

But with opposition from Republican leaders and key committee chairs on the administration’s Cuba policy, those bills will have little chance of success.

The top two Republicans on Capitol Hill are both strong opponents of normalizing relations with Cuba. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated again Wednesday that any conversation in the House about easing relations with Cuba would be a nonstarter.

Democratic lawmakers generally support the administration’s moves to ease relations, with one major exception in Menendez, who was the Senate’s top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee until a federal indictment on corruption charges caused him to step aside in April.

“A policy of the United States giving and the Castro brothers freely taking is not in our national interest,” Menendez said in a statement Wednesday.

As for a congressional vote to lift the embargo against Cuba, two little-recognized votes on the House floor last month illustrated bipartisan opposition to easing relations with Cuba, Diaz-Balart said.

One proposal from Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) that would have allowed direct exports to the Cuban military was rejected 153-273. Another from Rep. Barbara Lee, another California Democrat, which would have reversed a push from House Republicans that placed some Cuba-related restrictions on flights and cruise ships, was also denied, 176-247. Both were amendments to different appropriations bills.

“But obviously, once again, this is a president who seems to be living in his own reality,” Diaz-Balart said.

Obama Heads for Congressional Showdown on Cuba Embassy

From The Hill:

Obama heads for showdown over Cuba embassy

President Obama is heading for a showdown with Congress after announcing plans to reopen the U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The administration's move is part of a months-long discussion between the two countries to normalize relations that could hand Obama a needed foreign policy win, but only if he can get lawmakers on board.

But that could be an impossible task. While the administration can reopen the embassy without Congress signing off, they’ll need lawmakers to help approve an ambassador, fund the embassy, and lift a decades-old embargo.

Congressional Republicans, and some Democrats, are already plotting to block the administration’s efforts, suggesting that Obama is going easy on a dictatorial regime.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called the decision to reopen the embassy the latest example of Obama’s “appeasement of dictators.”

The Arkansas Republican is planning to work with his Senate colleagues to block funding for an embassy and vote against a potential ambassador “until there is real, fundamental change that gives hope to the oppressed people of Cuba.”

He could find an ally across the aisle in Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been a vocal critic of Obama’s policy. The Cuban-American senator said Obama’s decision “is not in our national interest.”

“An already one-sided deal that benefits the Cuban regime is becoming all the more lopsided,” he added. "The message is democracy and human rights take a back seat to a legacy initiative.”

Across the Capitol, Republican leadership also opposes Obama’s Cuba moves, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) saying that “relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner.”

The congressional opposition is hardly new. House lawmakers agreed in a 247-176 vote last month to keep the current restrictions on Americans wanting to travel to Cuba in place, effectively blocking rules issued earlier this year to make traveling easier."

The House is also using its spending bills to try to torpedo Obama’s efforts. A bill to fund the State Department would prohibit funds from being used to build a new embassy.

The administration has requested approximately $6 million to improve its current building there and convert it to a working embassy.

Despite the congressional backlash, administration officials are adamant that it would be a mistake for lawmakers to block Obama’s efforts, and suggest they could find common ground.

Cuba and Conscience

Sunday, July 5, 2015
By Jay Nordlinger in National Review:

Cuba and Conscience

Today, the Obama administration and the Castro dictatorship will formalize their pact: There will be an American embassy in Havana and a Cuban embassy, or at least a Castroite embassy, in Washington.

What did the Obamites demand from the Communists to arrive at this new arrangement? Nothing. There was no “linkage,” as we used to say in Cold War days. There was no requirement of liberalization in exchange for improved ties.

With nauseating regularity, U.S. politicians troop to Cuba, schmooze and smile with officials of the regime, and ignore the democratic opposition — who are having the sh** beaten out of them, as usual.

More than 200 dissidents were arrested over the weekend, even as our politicians did their schmoozing and smiling. Read the indispensable Mauricio Claver-Carone on this subject: here and here, for example. I expect this disgusting behavior from certain of our politicians: the libertarian Jeff Flake, for example, or the leftist Pat Leahy.

But even normal Republicans are getting in on the act. Pat Roberts? Dean Heller?

There is virtually no political constituency for human rights in America. Jeff Flake can get elected in Arizona for as long as he wants, I imagine. Pat Leahy can get elected for as long as he wants in Vermont (and has). But the United States has traditionally had a conscience when it comes to dictatorships and dungeons. We at least nod in the direction of political prisoners, and our fellow democrats.

In May, I talked with Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White (who are being arrested, detained, and beaten, as usual). She said, “The European Union, the USA, Pope Francis — they have turned their backs on us.” She also said that Obama’s policy has given “a green light to the Cuban government to crush civil society.”

A democratic government has to do many dirty things to navigate this world: engagement with the Chinese Communist Party, for example. Obama and his like have locked arms with the Castro dictatorship simply for ideological and psychological reasons. They have handed the Castros what they have always wanted, for free.

Over the years, I’ve quoted Vladimir Bukovsky, the onetime dissident in the Soviet Union. He said something like the following: Western policymakers, as they go about their business, should occasionally pause to wonder, “How will it look to the boys in the camps?” I have enough contact with Cuban democrats to know this: We look very, very bad.

Quote of the Week: Negotiating With the Cuban Caste

The United States is talking with the Government and those surrounding it. But civil society is left outside. It is a privilege reserved for the Cuban caste. For the rest, it is a situation of exclusion.
-- Rosa Maria Paya, Cuban democracy leader, interview with Spain's El Pais, July 3rd, 2015

Political Cartoon of the Week: Cuban Freedom Falls to the Wayside

Speaks for itself:

A Lesson in Freedom: Cuban Baseball Stars Declare Independence

By Herbert L. White in The Charlotte Post:

On July 4, A Lesson in Freedom

Cuban baseball stars declare independence

You can’t beat Independence Day, especially if you’re a Cuban baseball player.

At BB&T BallPark on Saturday, I’m shooting video of the Cuban national team taking batting practice. After a couple of minutes, a member of the Cuban delegation walks up to me and isn’t particularly pleased. He checks my credential. Got it.  “You can’t photograph training,” he says with a heavy accent. No problem, I say. His stance is understandable, considering Cuba and baseball defections are part of Cold War intrigue.

Perhaps he’s thinking I’m a professional scout or something. Can’t be a world power if you’re losing assets like a middle-aged man sheds hair that’s never to return.

Turns out, I wasn’t that far off. About the defections.

The Cubans, who are in town to play the U.S. collegiate national team, are short a pair of star players – third baseman Luis Yander La O and outfielder Yadiel Hernandez. They jumped ship in North Carolina sometime after playing in the Triangle. No wonder the PR guy was cranky when they hit Charlotte. The show goes on, though, for the Cubans, who are headed to the Pan American Games next week in Toronto.

As much as we make of the freedoms we espouse or lament have been swept away by our favorite evil forces, there’s something to be made of being on American soil. It’s still the land of opportunity, and certainly, Yander La O and Hernandez certainly understand it. They declared their independence to be their own men and find their way in this country.

Old habits die hard, though. Cuba is a communist country – the only one in the Western Hemisphere. Its kung-fu grip on liberty and freedom isn’t exclusive, though. When Americans don’t like our leaders, we vote them out or move. In Cuba, they head to America when opportunity knocks – perhaps in the dead of night.

Yander La O and Hernandez are free agents and certain to draw lots of interest and millions of dollars from Major League clubs. They’ll get paid what the market will bear for their talents, which is supposed to be the capitalistic way. They’ll get to decide their career fate, something we Americans lose sight of, because we’re accustomed to it.

I doubt many of us will migrate any farther south than Florida to find out different, though.

Tweet of the Week: Cuba is the New Confederacy

Radio Interview: On Diplomatic Relations With Cuba

CHC Editor Mauricio Claver-Carone discusses diplomatic relations with Cuba with Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy's Secure Freedom Radio.

Click here (or here) to listen.