Obama's Cuba Deal in One-Sentence

Saturday, July 18, 2015
We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.
-- Gerardo Hernandez, Cuban spy who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court for the murder conspiracy of Americans, thereafter commuted and released by President Obama as part of his one-sided deal with Raul Castro, Granma, 7/18/15

History Rebukes Getting in Bed With Cuba's Dictatorship

By John Suarez in The PanAm Post:

History Rebukes Getting into Bed with Dictatorship

Appeasement Strategy with Cuba Has Been Tried, Already Proved a Failure

History demonstrates that biology does not necessarily take care of totalitarian regimes that have enslaved entire peoples. The Soviet Union founded in 1917 did not implode until 1991 when three generations had passed through that brutal system and finally brought it down nonviolently.

Likewise, China has been gripped by Mao’s totalitarian regime for 66 years and shows no signs of liberalizing, quite the contrary. Maoism is being reintroduced in the education system, and the dictatorship is flexing its economic and political muscle around the world. Sadly the US policy of normalized relations, since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger went to China, has empowered the dictatorship more than the people.

When Chinese students rose up in 1989, demanding democratic reforms and an end to corruption, the United States and much of the West paid lip service in their favor. While they were massacred, western nations privately assured the Chinese communist leadership that relations would not be effected, and business would carry on as usual.

Since then, Chinese nationals have been subjected to new totalitarian controls over there lives, with the help of US companies such as Google and Yahoo. Google, to be able to operate in China, censored its search engines. Yahoo went further and actively tracked down dissidents who had been sending out e-mails critical of the government, leading to their imprisonment and torture. A similar process has played out in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, it seems that on more than one occasion individuals of good will have confused a people with a particular party and a culture with a particular political ideology. This can be a slippery slope that ends up empowering and prolonging the life of a dictatorship, which is the antithesis of helping people.

In the current debate over engagement with Cuba, it is important to differentiate between Cubans and the dictatorship that oppresses them. Furthermore, if one wants to be a force for real and lasting change, then one should remember that truth, memory, and justice are necessary elements for a real and lasting national reconciliation that involves forgiveness.

Pope John Paul II understood firsthand what Cubans had suffered, and in his World Day of Peace message on January 1, 2002, he offered a solution to situations such as Cuba’s:

"How do we restore the moral and social order subjected to such horrific violence? My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness.… But in the present circumstances, how can we speak of justice and forgiveness as the source and condition of peace? We can and we must, no matter how difficult this may be … In fact, true peace is 'the work of justice.'"

Holding the Castro regime accountable, denouncing new crimes, and pursuing justice is the work of peace and can be judged by its fruits. In the above cited speech, Pope John Paul II also observed that “the guilty must be correctly identified, since criminal culpability is always personal and cannot be extended to the nation.”

However, the Obama administration has pursued a policy of appeasement, that in practice has ignored the above council. Since 2009, they have given Castro a green light to murder several opposition leaders, including Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero (July 22, 2012), along with rising levels of repression.

The Carter Administration was the first to lift the travel ban and hold high-level negotiations with the Cuban dictatorship, and both sides opened Interest Sections in their respective capitals between 1977 and 1981. Then from 1981 to 1982, the Castro regime executed approximately 80 prisoners, which was a marked escalation when compared to 1976. Furthermore, during the Carter presidency, Fidel Castro took steps that resulted in the violent deaths of US citizens.

During the Mariel crisis of 1980, when over 125,000 Cubans sought to flee the island, the Cuban dictator sought to save face by selectively releasing approximately 12,000 violent criminals or individuals who were insane into the exodus. According to his bodyguard, “with the stroke of a pen,” Fidel Castro personally “designated which ones could go and which ones would stay. ‘Yes’ was for murderers and dangerous criminals; ‘no’ was for those who had attacked the revolution.”

In Latin America, this warming of relations coincided with the arrival of the Sandinistas to power in Nicaragua in 1979 and a widening civil war in Central America, all with Cuban backing.

The second to seek engagement was the Clinton administration in the 1990s, similarly coinciding with brutal massacres. That included 37 Cubans in the “13 de Marzo” tugboat sinking (1994) and the murder of four in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down (1996). Despite all of this, President Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened up cash-and-carry trade that formed a pro-Castro lobby in the United States. In Latin America, this warming of relations coincided with the arrival of Hugo Chavez to power in Venezuela in 1999 — with Cuban backing that has had negative consequences throughout the region.

People of good conscience must reject hatred and revenge while embracing justice and forgiveness. At the same time one must be careful not to become frustrated with the slow pace of change, and not to confuse helping an oppressed people with assisting a dictatorship. Otherwise, one could just be contributing to lengthening the life of the Castro regime and the suffering not only of Cubans but also of the peoples of neighboring countries, including the United States.

In Cuba and Iran Policy, Gains Matter as Much as Goals

By former U.S. Senator John E. Sununu (R-NH) in The Boston Globe:

In foreign policy, gains matter as much as goals

STANDING IN THE East Room of the White House last week, President Obama unabashedly declared that the nuclear agreement signed with Iran will “make us safer and more secure.” We’ll see. Congressional critics from both parties have expressed serious misgivings. Even more worrisome, our most important allies in the Mideast — including Saudi Arabia and Israel — are alarmed by what the deal gives away, and fails to get in return.

But everyone seems to agree on one point. The Iran deal, coupled with the president’s unilateral action to restore relations with Cuba, constitutes the heart of his foreign policy “legacy.” The word is everywhere, branding Obama’s defining foreign policy achievement: America’s relationships with Iran’s mullahs and Castro’s Cuba have never been better. Unfortunately, our relationship with every other country in the free world is worse, weaker today than when the then-freshman senator entered the Oval Office.

Even if we grant that all of the pact’s objectives will be met, the gain to American security remains modest: The time necessary for Iran to obtain a working nuclear weapon will hold steady at just one year. In exchange, Iran will see economic sanctions lifted almost immediately, with military sanctions removed in five years. All this comes without any limitations whatsoever on Iran’s destabilizing support for Hezbollah, Hamas, the Syrian regime, or radical actors in Yemen.

While the concessions to Cuba are less significant, they deliver the same pattern of asymmetrical returns. After 65 years of relentless anti-democratic repression, the Castro regime has been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, while gaining greater access to hard currency, the elimination of economic sanctions, and the stature of one-on-one negotiations with the president of the United States. In return, Americans can now enjoy travel to Cuba and hassle-free access to the world’s finest cigars.

Despite my hearty support for both of these goals, it’s hardly a fair exchange. Cuba has made no concession to political or economic reform, no commitment to lift repressive policies against political speech or dissent, no promise to curtail support to radical and violent groups throughout Central and South America, and no commitment to compensate victims of property and businesses confiscated by the communists.

Which remains the central problem here. It’s not enough to have worthwhile goals. Foreign engagements are judged by what is given and what is gained. With these deals, America has received little, but paid an extraordinary price while our reputation continues to deteriorate around the globe.

In Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and — yes — even Israel, we are no longer viewed as a reliable ally. In Europe, relations have been deeply strained by our failure to respond effectively to Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Crimea, as well as revelations that American intelligence spied on the presidents of France and Germany. And across the Pacific rim, allies question America’s tepid response to Chinese military expansion in the South China Sea and failure to stem the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.

Twenty-five years ago, President George H. W. Bush famously responded to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait with the phrase, “This aggression will not stand.” He then painstakingly built a global coalition that included practically every nation across the Mideast — including Syria. The great success of that effort went far beyond the military achievement of defeating Iraqi forces. America emerged from the conflict more trusted than ever before.

Today we’re cutting deals with adversaries as erstwhile allies stand uncomfortably on the sidelines. Obama has won his legacy, only to lose the respect America once commanded in the Gulf and around the world. Then again, with reliable partners like Iran and Cuba, what more do we need?

Cuba Shuns Google, Exposes Anti-Sanctions Lobbyist's Lies

Friday, July 17, 2015
Here's a fun fact:

Did you know that the U.S.-based Sprint Corporation provided Cuba with its first Internet connection in 1996?

What? How could that be?

The Castro regime and its anti-sanctions lobbyists have "assured" us that the only reason there's barely any Internet connectivity in Cuba is because of the embargo.

Thus, they insist the Congress must allow U.S. companies to pump of billions of dollars directly into Castro's telecom monopoly, Etecsa, so that the Cuban people can (purportedly) have Internet.

(And so the Cuban regime can exercise even greater control, monitoring and censorship.)

You know -- similar to the billions that Telecom Italia pumped into Etecsa from 1995-2011, or that France's Alcatel did from 2011-2012.

Those billions were surely a boon to the Castro regime, but they obviously didn't provide Internet access to the Cuban people -- let alone uncensored access.

Now Google has offered to provide WiFi access to Cuba -- for free. 

Kudos to Google.

But, of course, that offer was rejected.

After all, why would the Castro regime allow free uncensored Internet access in Cuba -- which nothing in U.S. law prohibits -- when its U.S. lobbyists are working overtime to provide Etecsa billions of dollars to limit, control and censor access.

(Some Obama Administration officials also like to play along with this charade.)

You know -- like in China (read here), where foreign companies hand the regime all of the data, censorship and control, for the sake of a profit.

If Google wants to really help the Cuban people -- it should circumvent the Castro regime and provide free access anyway.

It has all the tools to do so.
Cuban Communist Party Tells Google No Thanks on Free WiFi

The second secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, 85, responded with a thanks but no thanks to Google’s recent offer to install WiFi antennas throughout Cuba for free.

“Everyone knows why there isn’t more Internet access in Cuba, because it is costly. There are some who want to give it to us for free, but they don’t do it so that the Cuban people can communicate, Instead their objective is to penetrate us and do ideological work to achieve a new conquest. We must have Internet, but in our way, knowing that the imperialists intend to use it as a way to destroy the Revolution,” he said in an extensive interview with Juventud Rebelde newspaper.

They say that when the donation is too large even the poor become suspicious.

Obama Denies Cuban-American Victims Justice, Then Slaps Them in the Face

On December 17th, in exchange for American hostage Alan Gross, the Obama Administration released three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States for various crimes, including a conspiracy to kill Americans.

Their victims were four young Americans, the pilots of the Brothers to the Rescue planes disintegrated in international waters by Cuban MIGs, who were murdered by the Castro regime with the help of (at least one of) these Cuban spies.

With the unmerited release of these convicted spies, their families were denied any justice.

And, as seen in this exchange with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State  Roberta Jacobson, the families weren't even notified.

Even worse -- they were lied to.

Now, adding further insult to injury, the Obama Administration is green-lighting trips to celebrate with these Cuban spies, who have American blood on their hands.

Is their no shame?

By Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations:

The Nation’s Meet The Spies Tour

Travel to Cuba is a new fad, helped by the changes the Obama administration has made in U.S. policy. It’s easy now for almost any group to go there, under the guise of some educational program or purpose.

But travel to Cuba has long been a practice for American leftists, who have seen the Castro regime not as a brutal oppressor of human rights but as a beacon of light in the Hemisphere. No democracy, free expression, freedom of the press, free trade unions? Who cares, after all? The thrill of visiting the communist island has been too much to resist.

Still, there was usually a pretense that the visitors were not there to celebrate the regime. But not in the coming visit organized by The Nation, the old leftist magazine. Its September trip includes many of the staples, according to The Nation’s invitation letters. The trip will feature:

"...museum tours with eminent art and cultural historians; seminars and lectures featuring renowned Cuban economists, government officials, community activists, physicians, and urban planners; exclusive concerts with popular jazz artists, troubadours, and folk musicians; performances by students of Cuba’s internationally acclaimed ballet institutes; visits to artist’s colonies and studios; guided tours of Old Havana, the Latin American Medical School, and the University of Havana; and visits to many other inspiring locales and events."

No surprises there. But actually I left out a key clause in that paragraph. The trip will also include:

"...a meeting and discussion with the Cuban Five, the intelligence agents considered national heroes after spending many years imprisoned in US jails."

This is pretty remarkable. The Nation describes the tour as “a particularly inspiring and extraordinary time to experience the people, politics, culture, and history of Cuba in a way few ever have before.” In a way few Americans ever have before? Now, that’s true enough: how many American get to meet with and celebrate people who spied against our country and were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder? How many Americans want to?  Due to their actions four Americans died, in a Brothers to the Rescue plane shot down in international airspace. But the frisson of meeting people who actually—the Cuban government has admitted this—were intelligence agents and were convicted of spying on the United States is so wonderful that it is worth the $5,550 per person fees for the tour.

The Nation says the trip is organized “under The Nation’s license issued by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control to promote people-to-people contact.” Perhaps it fits, although I didn’t think the new federal regulations actually included people-to-spies contacts. In any event, let’s applaud the folks at The Nation. No nonsense about going to the beach, and no dissimulation about who they want to see. The visitors will meet no former political prisoners, no members of the Ladies in White opposition activists, no opposition journalists, no one trying to organize a free trade union. Just the regime’s mouthpieces…and the spies.

Bon Voyage.

U.S. Urged to Keep Focus on Human Rights in Iran, Cuba

From The Voice of America:

US Urged to Keep Focus on Human Rights in Iran, Cuba

Leading human rights groups told U.S. lawmakers that historic diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran and Cuba should not shield either nation from rigorous American scrutiny of human rights violations.

“In Iran and Cuba, the United States needs to leverage its diplomacy to look at human rights issues and not separate its diplomacy to either look, in the case of Iran, solely at the importance of nuclear peace — or in the case of Cuba, treating diplomacy as an end in itself,” said Mark Lagon, president of Washington-based Freedom House, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The U.S. decision to plow forward, full speed ahead, with the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba just as 100 peaceful activists were being detained sends troubling and mixed messages,” Lagon added.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Bob Corker, did not address human rights regarding Iran or Cuba, but acknowledged the issue more broadly on the world stage.

“One of the greatest rubs [challenges] that we have relative to human rights issues is that we have other equities [interests], if you will, with governments that sometimes compromise our abilities [to raise rights violations],” said Corker.

Competing interests

Also testifying was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights Tomasz Malinowski.

“I think it’s important to be completely honest about that. Of course we have other interests,” Malinowski said in response to Corker. “I tend to resist the notion that our interest in promoting human rights and our interest in protecting our security, our prosperity – that those interests are fundamentally at odds.”

He added, “I think sometimes we face short-term trade-offs where we may have to work with a particular country on something that is essential to our security right now. And at times that may lead us to calibrate our efforts on other important issues.”

Democratic Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez seized on the discussion in relation to Cuba, and chastised his congressional colleagues for their itineraries when they visit the communist island-nation.

“It’s pretty amazing to me that, when our colleagues in the Senate go to visit Cuba, they do not visit with human rights activists, political dissidents, independent journalists, because if they do they get barred from a [Cuban] government meeting,” said Menendez.

“We have got to break that idea, because if, globally, the message we send is that, in order to meet the government officials of a country, that we can’t meet with human rights activists, political dissidents, independent journalists in China, in Malaysia, and any other place in the world, that would be a sad state of affairs for the United States,” Menendez added.

Biggest Winners From Obama's Deals: Cuba's MINFAR and Iran's Revolutionary Guard

Thursday, July 16, 2015
Sadly, the biggest winners in Obama's Cuba and Iran deals are the Castro regime's Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR) and the Mullah's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. (IRGC).

Obama's new policy of "dictator-down-economics" -- centered on increased travel and trade through the regime's monopolies -- has one overwhelming beneficiary: Castro's MINFAR.

The MINFAR controls practically every hard-currency transaction in Cuba, with travel industry being its bread and butter.

According to Hotels Magazine, Gaviota, S.A., owned by the MINFAR, is the largest hotel conglomerate in Latin America and the Caribbean. It's comparable in size to The Walt Disney Company's hotel room holdings. The head of this conglomerate is General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro's son-in-law.

McLatchy Newspapers encapsulated the wide extent of this business network as follows, "tourists who sleep in some of Cuba's hotels, drive rental cars, fill up their gas tanks, and even those riding in taxis have something in common: They are contributing to the [Cuban] Revolutionary Armed Forces' bottom line."

This the same MINFAR was recently been caught twice internationally-smuggling heavy weaponry, including the worst sanctions violations ever to North Korea; that oversee the most egregious abuses of human rights in the Western Hemisphere; that are subverting democracy in Venezuela and exporting surveillance systems and technology to other countries in the region; that allow Russian military intelligence ships to dock in their ports; that share intelligence with he world's most dangerous anti-American regimes; and of which three senior Cuban military officers remain indicted in the United States for the murder of four Floridians.

That's why U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) have introduced the Cuban Military Transparency Act, which seeks to curtail Obama's windfall for the MINFAR.

And now, Iran's nefarious IRGC will get its prize.

By Afshon Ostovar in Politico:

Why Iran’s revolutionary guard is happy

The IRGC supported the nuclear deal for a reason. It may only strengthen them.

The nuclear deal was a victory for voices of diplomacy in Iran. It was also a victory for Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The IRGC was never outwardly bullish on a deal, but the criticism of its top commanders (with some exceptions) was held to a low murmur. Some pundits will point to that criticism as evidence that the IRGC was against the deal from the start. But that’s incorrect. Because without the support of the IRGC a deal could have never been reached.

Now we should ask ourselves why, and what the IRGC’s game will be going forward. Sanctions hit the IRGC hard and it is unsurprising to see that the organization stands to have many of the sanctions imposed upon it lifted as part of a deal. Beyond sanctions, a deal also fits with the IRGC’s strategic goals. For the IRGC, the nuclear program was first and foremost about establishing a credible deterrent against the United States. The deal essentially takes the option of military action by the United States off the table. With Washington no longer a threat, the IRGC will be free to concentrate its sources on other enemies and strategic concerns, particularly in the region—as even President Obama appeared to acknowledge in his news conference on Wednesday when he said there was a “likelihood” that groups such as Hezbollah would get more Iranian money once it is freed up [...]

[T]he IRGC—like the Iranian people—will have its own high expectations for what should follow a deal. With many of the sanctions removed against it and its commanders, including Qasem Soleimani—who is accused of helping Shiite militias in Iraq kill American soldiers—the IRGC will want to double-down on its activities in the Middle East. More resources, more funding, and more options for procurement, and added legitimacy will help the IRGC both arm itself and support its clients. The organization was already committed to securing its interests in Syria and Iraq, the lifting of nuclear-based sanctions and the opening up of Iran’s economy will undoubtedly strengthen the IRGC’s ability to do so.

House Committee Passes Fifth Bill Tightening Cuba Sanctions

This week, the House Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2016 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

The bill funds the operations of the Homeland Security Department, which includes U.S. Customs.

The bill contains the following Cuba-related prohibition, which opponents were (once again) unsuccessful in trying to remove:

"SEC. 559. (a) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to approve, license, facilitate, authorize, or otherwise allow the trafficking or import of property confiscated by the Cuban Government.

(b) In this section, the terms ‘confiscated’, ‘Cuban Government’, ‘property’, and ‘traffic’ have the meanings give such terms in paragraphs (4), (5), (12)(A), and (13), respectively, of section 4 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (2216 14 U.S.C. 6023)."

This common-sense provision would prohibit U.S. travelers from bringing back -- pursuant to the Obama Administration's new regulations -- products that are subject to stolen trademarks in Cuba.

This is the fifth bill to pass the House Appropriations Committee, which altogether contain over a dozen provisions challenging President Obama's Cuba policy.

Two of these bill have already passed the entire U.S. House of Representatives, which tighten sanctions towards Cuba:

The Commerce, Justice Appropriations bill contains a provision (supported by a vote of 273-153) ensuring that none of the exports authorized under the Obama Administration's new "Support for the Cuban People" category (under Commerce Department regulations) can be funneled through entities owned or controlled by the Castro regime's military or security services.

And the Transportation Appropriations bill contains language (supported by a vote of 247-176) prohibiting the use of confiscated property for new travel -- by airplane or vessels -- to Cuba.

Still awaiting floor consideration, the State Department, Foreign Operation Appropriations bill contains key provisions that prohibit funds for an embassy or other diplomatic facility in Cuba, beyond what was in existence prior to the President’s December announcement proposing changes to the U.S.-Cuba policy. It also restricts funds to facilitate the opening of a Cuban embassy in the U.S., increases democracy assistance and international broadcasting to Cuba, and provides direction to the Secretary of State on denying the issuance of visas to members of the Cuban military and the Communist party.

Also, the Financial Services Appropriations bill, which funds the operations of the Treasury Department, would effectively terminate "people-to-people" trips, which have been a guise for illegal tourism transactions; prohibits all transactions with entities owned or operated by the Cuban military and security services; and prohibits the importation of stolen property by travelers, namely confiscated rum and cigar products.

State Dept. Appropriations Chair Objects to Any Funds Being Used for Cuba Embassy

Granger Opposed to Funding to Pay For an Expanded Diplomatic Presence in Cuba

WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12) issued the following statement regarding the Department of State’s plan to modify the U.S. diplomatic presence in Cuba:

I am opposed to the Administration’s planned re-designation of the U.S. Interests Section as a U.S. Embassy in Cuba, which would give the Cuban regime full diplomatic recognition despite the fact that they continue to repress the Cuban people. As Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee, it is my responsibility to weigh in on how the State Department uses American taxpayer dollars, and I object to funds being used to expand U.S. diplomatic operations and facilities in Cuba.

Chairman Duncan: Obama's Deal With Cuba Bad for Everyone, Except Castro

By U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, in Breitbart:

Obama's Lifeline to Communist Cuba Gains Nothing for America

Last week, President Obama sought to solidify his legacy as a liberal icon by announcing the intent to reestablish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies with Havana. This decision to negotiate and engage with the Communist Castro regime has provided the U.S. with nothing substantial in return.

In fact, it may even put the American people at risk while actually worsening conditions for the Cuban people.

How could President Obama’s decision harm Americans? In a Congressional hearing I chaired in February, expert witnesses highlighted the sheer size of Cuba’s intelligence apparatus: reportedly 34 times the size of our own efforts. Why would a country 90 miles from Florida whose people are struggling to make basic ends meet want or need such a large intelligence force?

Cuba has a clear record as a foreign intelligence collector and trafficker of U.S. national secrets to other authoritarian regimes, such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Recall that Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart stated in February that “Cuban intelligence services . . . remain the predominant counterintelligence threat to the U.S. emanating from Latin America.” Practically, this means that American tourists or business professionals who visit Cuba could easily find themselves subjected to Cuban surveillance, and potentially having personal information about them used as a tool of spy craft.

In January, Raul Castro demanded that we hand back U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) before Cuba and the U.S. could normalize relations. Last week, the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee reiterated that call, stating it was “indispensable” that the U.S. return GTMO to achieve normalized relations. This follows other calls for the U.S. to end the embargo, end our democracy promotion efforts and Radio Martí broadcasting, and pay compensation for “human and economic damages” to Cuba. While the Obama Administration has said that it has no intention to alter the existing lease agreement for GTMO, based on its feeble record of keeping its promises to allies or on stated red lines, Americans should be very skeptical of this promise.

Aside from further demonstrating weakness, relinquishing the base at GTMO would be a strategic misstep of epic proportions for the United States. It would have significant national security and military implications. GTMO is the oldest overseas U.S. naval base and only permanent U.S. defense base in the region. Its location enables U.S. forces to maintain full advantages across a wide spectrum of military operations. It plays a critical role in migrant operations assistance missions and is a logistics center for U.S. ships and aircraft, allowing these assets to maintain tactical advantages and freedom of movement in strategic waters in a region with limited U.S. military presence.

If Castro achieved control of GTMO, what would happen? The all-too-obvious answer is that it would allow him to extend an invitation to one of the close allies of Havana, such as the Putin regime in Moscow or the mullahs in Tehran.  If any of the actors interested in taking over the lease of GTMO does move into the warm Cuban waters off Florida’s southern coast, this would provide a direct military threat to the U.S. homeland. Consider for a moment the depth of waters and potential ability for nuclear submarines to conduct intelligence operations or worse.

Two years ago, the Russian Defense Minister stated that Russia wants to build military bases in several countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Cuba. Press reports of Russian intelligence ships operating in the waters around Cuba, most recently earlier this year on the eve of U.S. talks with Cuba in Havana, prove that Russia is deadly serious about making good on those intentions.

Remember what Russia is doing in its own neighborhood for a moment. Vladimir Putin brazenly acted to annex the Crimean Peninsula, ignoring the international outrage, and Ukraine is worried about a “full-scale” Russian invasion. If the U.S. gave way on GTMO, Putin would likely welcome the opportunity to have warm-water lodging for his navy only 90 miles from the United States. Similarly, Iran continues to test the patience of the international community with its nuclear operations and refusal to cooperate with international inspectors. If things go badly for Iran with any nuclear deal, having a deeper presence in Latin America through Cuba offers Iran options for retributive action should  they want it.

The potential for the U.S. homeland could be devastating if we are not careful. We all know how close we came the last time there was a potential nuclear threat building in Cuba.

Abraham Lincoln once said that “those who deny freedoms to others deserve it not for themselves.” In Cuba, the Communist Castro regime denies liberty to its people every day. For over fifty years, the Cuban people have been living an authoritarian nightmare. However, this seems to make no difference to Time Magazine, which named Raul Castro as one of its top “100 Most Influential People” in April.  In this case, influential can only reflect the real fact that he maintains nearly complete control over the daily lives of the Cuban people.

Obama’s decision last week gives Castro economic relief without requiring any change in behavior. In fact, it is easier to create a list of items that the U.S. has not gained from negotiations with Havana since Obama’s negotiators have yet to require any substantive demands. There has been no end to political violence and persecution; no progress on the protection and improvement of human rights; and no reparations for the billions of dollars of American and Cuban property stolen by the Castro regime even while Cuba continues making its own demands on us.

Swapping out the sign that reads “U.S. Interests Section” for one that says “Embassy” only further serves to validate the Castros’ leadership. It is also a repudiation of American principles. Thus far, the bilateral talks have provided no measurable changes or benefits for the U.S. or the Cuban people.

This is a bad deal for everyone involved, except the Castro brothers.

Using Similar Playbooks, Iran and Cuba Successfully Coerce Obama

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Yesterday, Iran's regime secured invaluable political legitimacy, a tightened grip on power, acquiescence to its regional misbehavior and over $100 billion in sanctions relief from the Obama Administration.

In return, it "promised" -- similar to North Korea's pledge to Bill Clinton in 1994 -- to postpone its nuclear arms program.

Last December, Cuba's regime secured invaluable political legitimacy, a tightened grip on power, acquiescence to its regional misbehavior, limited sanctions relief and its removal from the state-sponsors of terrorism list.

In return, it gave nothing.

Both of these bad deals were the product of coercion.

And, as we've written before, any policy that stems from coercion is never in the best interest of the United States.

Read carefully (below) how the seeds of the secret negotiations with Iran were sown -- through a 2009 note seeking the release of four convicted prisoners in the United States, who were coveted by Iran's regime.

Sound familiar?

Guess who -- soon thereafter -- took an American hostage seeking the release of five coveted prisoners (including one convicted for the murder conspiracy of Americans) in the United States -- and much more?

You guessed it -- Raul Castro.

And it worked.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Secret Dealings With Iran Led to Nuclear Talks

Iran secretly passed to the White House beginning in late 2009 the names of prisoners it wanted released from U.S. custody, part of a wish list to test President Barack Obama’s commitment to improving ties and a move that set off years of clandestine dispatches that helped open the door to nuclear negotiations.

The secret messages, via an envoy sent by the Sultan of Oman, also included a request to blacklist opposition groups hostile to Iran and increase U.S. visas for Iranian students, according to officials familiar with the matter. The U.S. eventually acceded to some of the requests, these officials said, including help with the release of four Iranians detained in the U.S. and U.K.: two convicted arms smugglers, a retired senior diplomat and a prominent scientist convicted of illegal exports to Iran.

In some cases, the convicted Iranians had served their full sentences, but U.S. authorities worked with Oman to grant them a quick exit. Rather than spending months in immigration detention centers awaiting deportation proceedings, like many foreigners, the U.S. allowed departures within days of their release.

Matthew Kohn, who represented one of the convicted smugglers, Amir Hossein Seirafi, said: “He walked out of prison, and the U.S. Marshals got him on a plane within 48 hours. It was the quickest thing we ever saw.”

Iran also campaigned for the release of Shahrzad Mir Gholikan, who was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to more than five years for illegally exporting night-vision equipment to Iran from Europe. Iranian state TV showed one of the American hikers in custody, Sarah Shourd, posing with Ms. Gholikan’s twin daughters and calling for their mother’s release.

Ms. Gholikan returned to Iran via Oman in August 2012, nearly a year after Ms. Shourd’s release. U.S. officials denied it was a prisoner swap because Ms. Gholikan had served her sentence.

In December 2012, the U.K. government released from house arrest a former Iranian ambassador to Jordan who also had been charged with shipping night-vision equipment to Iran. The U.S. had been seeking to extradite the ambassador, Nosratollah Tajik, for nearly five years on suspicion of illegal exports but ceased its efforts in 2012, current and former U.S. officials said. The Iranian diplomat was among those on the list of prisoners the Iranians sought freed, according to the two officials who viewed it.

A month later, in January 2013, Oman helped expedite the release of Mr. Seirafi, convicted of export violations in 2010. And in April 2013, the U.S. released an Iranian scientist detained in California.

The scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, was a professor at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University. The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned departments at the school for having alleged roles in developing Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. authorities arrested Mr. Atarodi in December 2011 when he arrived in Los Angeles but kept his court case sealed. He was convicted of shipping banned items to Iran just days before he returned to Tehran via Oman.

Mr. Kohn, who also represented Mr. Atarodi, said U.S. law-enforcement officials told him of pressure from Iran to resolve the case quickly. “I’d get phone calls from the U.S. attorney’s office where they would say, ‘There is activity around your client, but it’s not coming from us,’” he said. “‘It’s diplomatic activity.’”

Mr. Atarodi told Iranian state media this year that U.S. officials wanted to swap him for one of the Americans held in Iran, Amir Hekmati. “I told them he is a spy, but I have done nothing wrong,” Mr. Atarodi said.

Mr. Hekmati, a former Marine, and his family have denied the espionage charges. He is serving a 10-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison for cooperating with an enemy of Iran.

The Obama administration in each of the cases said it wasn’t swapping prisoners. Many of the cases are sealed or partially sealed, restricting comment by many but not all of those involved.

“No one on either side will say there was a formal prisoner swap. But the release of American and Iranian innocent prisoners served as reciprocal ‘goodwill gestures,’” said Joshua Fattal, one of the American hikers, who was freed by Tehran in September 2011.

Here Come the Push-Polls on Iran (Cuba)

Part of the Obama Administration's modus operandi in the lead up to -- and aftermath -- of its one-sided deal with Cuba's dictatorship was to lay a trail of low information push-polls.

This isn't unique to Cuba -- we are all aware of Jonathan Gruber's revelations of how they sought to manipulate public opinion on Obamacare.

Of course, as has been documented, the more people know about Cuba's realities, the more they oppose Obama's policy.

And now, here come's Iran.

It's a three-step tango:

Fist, purport the American people "support" an Iran deal and don't want Congress to block it:

"Americans mostly approve of the outline of the Iran nuclear deal and don't want Congress to block it, according to a poll released Friday. The survey by Hart Research on behalf of the Democratically aligned Americans United for Change found that 61 percent of the country favor the deal, while 34 percent oppose it. And perhaps more importantly, 65 percent of voters don't want Congress to block the deal, compared with 30 percent who do."

Then, do a "poll" in Iran to claim overwhelming support for engagement:

"Some 57 percent of Iranians support a deal that would curtail Iran’s nuclear program for a number of years in exchange for sanctions relief, according to a new poll by the University of Tehran’s Center for Public Opinion Research (UTCPOR) and IranPoll.com, working in conjunction with the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM). Some 70 percent have an unfavorable view of the United States, yet overwhelming majorities support greater engagement with it in terms of trade, tourism, cultural exchanges and more."

And finally -- of course -- purport that even Jewish-Americans overwhelmingly "support" a deal:

"As President Obama presses to reach an accord with Iran on its nuclear program by the end of the month, he can count on strong support from what might seem like an unlikely segment of the population: American Jews. The survey found that 84 percent of American Jews would favor either strongly or somewhat a deal with Iran that would alleviate tough sanctions on the Iranian economy in exchange for Iran’s agreement to limit its nuclear program to civilian purposes and accept inspectors at its nuclear facilities."

Doesn't this all sound eerily familiar?

Bad Deals With Cuba, Iran -- And Their Rights Records Are Worse

By Mike Gonzalez in Forbes:

Bad Deals With Iran, Cuba -- And Their Human Rights Records Are Worse

First Cuba. Now Iran.

It can be painful watching President Obama strike deals with some of the world’s most odious regimes. But as the spotlight of misguided diplomacy shines on these pariah states, it gives those who actually care about human rights a chance to educate onlookers about what life is really like for those beneath the boots of the Castros and the Mullahs.

To understand that is to understand why Havana and Tehran cannot be trusted.

Education is key, as was illustrated by a much-ballyhooed push poll by the Atlantic Council in February last year, which showed wide support for engagement with Cuba. However, once the question included information on how horrible Cuba’s human rights record was, support quickly dropped from 56% to a minority of 43%.

Iran, because of the memories of the hostage crisis and its ritualistic “Death to America” chants, is well-known as a U.S. foe. Many Americans realize that Iran is no friend of gay rights, and some may know that, under the regime, homosexual acts are punishable by death.

But how many Americans know that Iran’s clerics can and do routinely push gays into unwanted sex-change operations? Or that the regime that may soon reap $300 billion to $400 billion in sanctions relief from the Vienna nuclear deal is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism? Tehran will likely use much of that money to support such proxy groups as Hezbollah, Hamas and a Syrian regime that has massacred over 320,000 of its own people in four years.

Cuba’s human rights violations get even less attention. This is ironic given that, unlike Iran, it lies just 90 miles from our shores and has a history that is deeply interwoven with that of the United States. Cuban soldiers fought in the American Revolutionary War. The U.S. liberated Cuba from Spain in 1898. And, of course, there are close to two million Americans of Cuban descent.

And yet, this former friend has been held still in historical aspic for the last 56 years. Ruled by one single, communist clan, its 11 million people have had their civil rights canceled. The island’s crumbling buildings serve as a telling rebuke, reminders of a superior era gone by. Nothing of any architectural significance has been built in half a century. Similarly, the 1950s cars testify that average Cubans in 1959 suddenly became too poor to import new ones. Yet somehow these self-evident facts have failed to generate much reaction from college students.

Democratic and friendly Israel gets all the opprobrium on campus, where there’s a bourgeoning anti-Israeli movement. But Cuba? Crickets.

Do the following experiment: Google “Israel divestment” and you get 960,000 results. Google “Cuba divestment” and you get: “Did you mean: Cuban investment?”

One plausible explanation is that far too many American students have been educated by a professorial cadre that agrees with the ideology of the Castro clan. Che Guevara enthusiasts in academia even now are racing to form partnerships with Cuba.

So small wonder these professors have spared their charges any instruction on the sadistic nature of their Latin “hero” or anything else that would make them question the reigning orthodoxy (both on campus and in Havana).

But as anyone who’s ever been parent to a teenager can attest, the young like to question authority. Why not use the present moment to give them the information they lack concerning Cuba and Iran? As former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel used to say, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Will Business Groups "Empower" the Iranian People?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015
After all, Iran's economy is infinitely more liberalized than Cuba's.

It has real private businesses.

With real big money to be made.

So where are the shameless claims that U.S. business will somehow "empower" the Iranian people?

Hang tight. They're coming.

From Reuters:

After Iran deal, U.S. companies face being left out in cold

Within hours of the announcement of an Iran nuclear deal early on Tuesday, lawyers around Washington were fielding calls from U.S. corporate clients eager to know what the 159-page deal would mean for their business prospects.

In the near term, the answer for most of them is: not very much.

U.S. companies face losing out to foreign competitors in Iran as they wait for signs that Tuesday's historic nuclear agreement is sticking and that U.S. lawmakers are willing to loosen long-standing restrictions on trade and investment, according to corporate lawyers and company executives.

Iran's agreement with major world powers to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions opens up the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, second-largest natural gas reserves and an 80 million population to multinationals.

But the strict, decades-old U.S. restrictions on doing business with Tehran, which predate the nuclear crisis and relate to other concerns such as terrorism support and human rights abuses, will remain in place.

"U.S. persons and banks will still be generally prohibited from all dealings with Iranian companies, including investing in Iran, facilitating cleared country trade with Iran," a senior U.S. administration official said at a briefing on Tuesday.

The deal hammered out in Vienna does open some avenues for U.S. companies to expand in Iran. U.S. firms will now be allowed to sell or lease commercial passenger aircraft to Iran, as long as they procure licenses from the U.S. government, giving companies such as Boeing an opportunity.

The deal also allows the U.S. government to license foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to operate in Iran, which was banned by Congress in 2012.

A Treasury official told Reuters that decisions on licenses would be made by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and that such subsidiaries would be subject to restrictions.

"The scope of the license has to be shaped and determined," the official said.

U.S. executives and trade groups worry that the embargo may force U.S. companies to watch as European and Asian rivals move in, unless there is Congressional action to relax the rules.

"It (the deal) will not result in a green light for U.S. companies in most cases to resume business in Iran," said William McGlone, a lawyer who specializes in export controls and sanctions at Latham and Watkins in Washington.

"Democrats as well as Republicans are still very strongly in favor of maintaining primary sanctions against Iran on the Hill for various reasons, and it's hard to see that dynamic changing in the near term."

McGlone said he spoke on Tuesday with a Fortune 50 company executive who wanted to know if it could resume foreign subsidiary dealings with Iran in place prior to 2012. Several other sanctions lawyers told Reuters they spent much of Tuesday answering Iran-related queries from clients.

Even if allowed, companies are likely to be wary of rushing into Iran due to concerns the policy could be reversed if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016. At least three Republican candidates said on Tuesday they would do so.

Pro-business groups have been treading carefully on Capitol Hill amid strong Republican opposition to the deal.

Republicans in Congress have long been working to sink an agreement, and several dismissed concerns that U.S. businesses would be disadvantaged in a post-deal environment.

"I think we are a long way from that," said Republican Senator John Cornyn, in response to a question about U.S. firms operating in Iran.

Some of the most influential business lobby groups have been largely muted on Iran, in contrast to their more active role in pressing for an easing of sanctions against Cuba and Russia.

Business Roundtable, made up of chief executives of the largest U.S. firms, including Boeing and Exxon Mobil Corp., told Reuters they have not been involved in the Iran issue. The Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Retail Federation did not respond to requests for comment.

Corporate lawyers and trade groups said U.S. companies may start to push legislators to loosen restrictions now that the deal is signed, and as they start to see the tangible impact of losing out.

"What's particularly difficult for American companies is if they are the only ones that are prohibited whereas the rest of the world will be trading," said Vanessa Sciarra, vice president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade.

"Every time you're at a disadvantage relative to your foreign counterparts, you lose market share."

Why the U.S. Should Be Wary of Cuba

By former U.S. counterterrorism agent, Fred Burton, in Stratfor Global Intelligence:

Why the U.S. Should Be Wary of Cuba

After decades of hostility, the United States and Cuba finally seem to be reconciling. On July 1, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Washington will reopen its embassy in Havana. For the first time since 1961, when the two countries severed ties, U.S. diplomats and staff will fill the embassy and the surrounding city streets, as will a U.S. Marine detachment working security detail.

But even as the embassy in Havana now stands as a monument to improved U.S.-Cuban relations, it will make the United States much more vulnerable to monitoring and infiltration by Cuban intelligence agencies. And today foreign spies pose as real and immediate a threat to U.S. interests as they did during the Cold War.

A History of Espionage

In the 1970s and 1980s, counterterrorism agents like myself witnessed the United States gear its entire national security apparatus toward countering Soviet influence. Looking back, I believe our fixation on the Soviet Union actually caused us to underestimate other countries' agencies. We believed Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence, trained by Moscow though it may have been, was significantly less effective than Russia's KGB.

Indeed, our preoccupation with the Soviet Union blinded us to the fact that Cuba quietly operated assets inside the United States. Among the many spies they recruited were Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers. When the Cubans first recruited the Myerses in 1979, Kendall Myers was a part-time instructor at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute, where U.S. diplomats and other professionals train before they receive their overseas assignments. He later became a senior analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). From my own time in the intelligence business, I know that INR analysts have access to highly classified information from virtually every government agency — and since Myers was working for Havana, so, too, did Cuban intelligence.

The Myerses were finally discovered and put on trial in 2006. But as we would learn four years after the trial, the Cubans had someone with even more insight into the United States' national security apparatus: Ana Montes, a double agent who worked as an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Cuban intelligence turned her in 1985, and she passed classified information to Havana for years thereafter.

In the 1980s, when Montes was spying for Cuba, I worked in the burgeoning counterterrorism arm of the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service. I was far more concerned with Libya and Iran than with Cuba, since so many of my cases involved Soviet actors and KGB agents. Like the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, I saw the Soviet Union as the primary threat. But all along, despite all our efforts to defend U.S. intelligence and assets, our national security agencies were being repeatedly infiltrated by Cuban intelligence.

Hidden Threats

Now, with the U.S. Embassy opening in Havana, Cuba will monitor and attempt to recruit U.S. employees as actively as it did during the Cold War. Cuban intelligence will build case files on every American official who travels in country. It will surveil diplomatic staffers as it looks for potential recruits and as it tries to identify U.S. agents.

Cuban intelligence will do so using techniques new and old alike. In the past, the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence employed tactics it learned from the Soviet KGB to collect information and communicate with its operatives. Spies such as Myers and Montes received encrypted radio messages from their Cuban handlers and passed information using dead drops, in which agents leave information at a secret location, and brush passes, in which they physically hand over material in a brief encounter.

Havana will also likely plant listening devices in hotel rooms, taxis and rental cars to monitor on the U.S. diplomatic mission. Operatives will take photographs of the embassy staff as they come and go, locate employees' homes and even plan honeypots and male raven operations, during which an undercover agent acts like a love interest to collect intelligence. In short, with a reopening embassy, the Cubans will have ample opportunity to undermine U.S. national security.

U.S. intelligence agencies are well aware of the Cuban threat. As the embassy opens in Havana, CIA and FBI agents will constantly be briefing State Department staff on situational awareness and counterintelligence. Those who are unaware of long history of espionage may call the countless warnings excessive and deem Washington's intelligence community over-cautious. But the threat is real, regardless of whether embassy workers heed the warnings. As those in the intelligence business often say, the Cold War, in a sense, never really ended. Foreign policy can change at a moment's notice. Strategic alliances never mean absolute trust. And in a world full of hidden threats, there is no such thing as a friendly intelligence service.

Pope Francis Downplays Human Rights in Cuba, Reveals Obama Misled

Monday, July 13, 2015
Two interesting observations from today's extensive interview with Pope Francis upon his return from a trip to South America.

First, when asked about human rights in Cuba -- he punts.

He gave the same type of deflection that the Castro regime -- and its apologists -- like to give.

Thus, so much for profiles in courage. No wonder Castro is welcoming him with open arms.

Here is Pope Francis' reply to the issue of human rights in Cuba:

"Human rights are for everyone. And human rights are not respected not only in one or two countries. I would say that in many countries of the world human rights are not respected. Many countries in the world .. and what will Cuba lose or the U.S. lose? Both will gain something and lose something, because this happens in negotiations. Both will gain, this is sure: peace, meetings, friendship, collaboration. These they will gain … but what will they lose, I cannot imagine. They may be concrete things. But in negotiations one always [both] wins and loses. But returning to human rights, and religious freedom. Just think of the world. There are some countries and also some European countries where you cannot make a sign of religion, for different reasons, and on other continents the same. Yes. Religious liberty is not present in all the world, there are many place that do not have it."

Yet ironically, yesterday in Paraguay, Pope Francis minced no words in criticizing that country's democratically-elected leaders:

"For some years now, Paraguay has sought to build a solid and stable democracy. It is proper to recognize with satisfaction progress made in this direction. But it must banish the temptation to be satisfied with a purely formal democracy based on the promotion of and respect for human rights."

Coddle dictators, but be tough with democracies.  Sound familiar?

Then, Pope Francis reveals the "truth" about his role in the Obama-Castro deal.

On December 17th, in announcing his deal with Cuban dictator Raul Castro, Obama told the nation:

"His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years."

Here's Pope Francis' version of his role:

"The process between Cuba and the United States was not a mediation. No, no, no, it did not have the character of a mediation. There was a desire that had arrived, then on the other side also a desire. And then – and in this I’m telling the truth – there passed – this was in January of last year – three months went by, and I only prayed over this. I didn’t decide to do anything, what could I do with these two who have been going on like this for more than 50 years. Then the Lord made me think of a cardinal, and he went there and talked. Then I didn’t know anything; months went by. One day the secretary of state, who is here, told me, 'Tomorrow we will have the second meeting with the two teams.' How’s that? 'Yes, yes, they are talking, between the two groups they are all talking, they are making ' It went by itself. It was not a mediation. It was the goodwill of the two countries, and the merit is theirs, the merit is theirs for doing this. We did hardly anything, only small things. And in December, mid-December, it was announced. This is the story, truly, there is no more to it."

Note how many times Pope Francis refers to the concept of "truth."

It's abundantly clear that Obama was using the Pope for theatrics -- and as a political buffer -- in a deal he'd long preconceived, pursued and contrived.

The rest was Ben Rhodes' creative writing.

Like With Reagan, Foreign Tyrants Fear Marco Rubio

In The National Review:

The Times Discovers Communists Are Trying to Smear Rubio

Marco Rubio could be on his way to becoming the first Cuban-American president of the United States, but, the New York Times reports, he’s not so well liked in his ancestral homeland. “If Marco Rubio becomes president, we’re done for,” one elderly Havanan told the Times. “He’s against Cuba in every possible way. Hillary Clinton understands much more the case of Cuba. Rubio and these Republicans, they are stuck in 1959.”

That’s the main thrust of their story, but reasonable observers may find it to be completely undercut by its buried lede: that the Cuban government churns out huge amounts of anti-Rubio propaganda. The attacks on Rubio seem to have borne fruit – at least as far as what Cubans are willing to say to American reporters.

The propaganda effort is understandable in light of the possibility that a compliant Obama administration’s successor could be a Cuban-American president vocally opposed to the 56-year-old dictatorship.

“It’s clear and it’s been clear, if you look at Marco Rubio, he embodies everything that the Castro regime fears,” says Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a Washington-based human-rights and democracy group.

“The fact that the Cuban regime does not see President Obama and his policy as a threat in any regard is very telling. Obama essentially vindicated everything they’ve done for 50 years,” Claver-Carone tells National Review. Meanwhile Marco Rubio is “the antithesis about what the regime is and the regime knows that.” 

As it happens, Rubio isn’t the first rising conservative politician to become the bête noire of an anti-American Communist dictatorship. In the early ’80s, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Washington Post reported on the Soviet propaganda machine’s obsession with President Ronald Reagan. In the Soviet media, Reagan was a “blind cowboy and bloody-fanged gorilla,” spewing “provocative speeches” and who “can think only in terms of confrontation and bellicose, lunatic anti-Communism.” (Which makes the Cuban state press’s description of Rubio as “representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia” sound almost like a compliment.)

Grove City College’s professor Paul Kengor, a Reagan scholar, writes that Soviet propagandists gladly used Western attacks on Reagan against him: “It was commonplace to catch a Soviet commentator authoritatively citing a liberal columnist or politician in making the case du jour against Reagan. It was not surprising for TASS, the official Soviet news agency, to take, say, a Washington Post op-ed . . . and excerpt it into basically a press release disseminated throughout the Soviet empire.” Just as current Cuban propaganda apparently emphasizes the more congenial attitudes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Pravda praised the Western advocates of détente and condemned Reagan as an “imperialist devil.”

Claver-Carone agrees there are parallels between anti-Reagan Cold War propaganda and the Castro government’s anti-Rubio screeds: “The Soviets saw Reagan as an existential threat and guess what? History shows that they were right: He was. And in the same way [as Rubio].” 

But has the Castro regime’s depiction of Rubio as a “vicious wolf” actually worked on the Cuban people? Do they really despise him as the Times report suggests?

Claver-Carone doesn’t think so. He suggests that most ordinary Cuban citizens would not go on the record in America’s biggest newspaper to praise a vocal opponent of the Castro regime. “People are just afraid, particularly when it’s a reporter,” he says. “It’s almost illusory to think they could grab someone in a very small town, that’s very easy to identify, to say something that could jeopardize their family’s lives and their own life, because the consequences can be pretty dire for going off the party line.”

“The fact that a young descendent of Cubans was able to start from nothing” in America and potentially “become the president of the most powerful country in the world – that embodies all of their hopes and dreams,” Claver-Carone says. “In their country they can’t even elect their dog catcher!”

“For decades they’ve been hearing official Cuban propaganda that America is the cause of all their ills, that we’ve starved them, that we’ve oppressed them,” Claver-Carone says, and yet, “Cubans love Americans. Well why do Cubans love Americans? For the same reason that East Germans loved Coke – it represented freedom for them!”

Marco Rubio, for his part, is not exactly upset about all the bad press from the Castro regime’s state-run newspapers. “I’m glad they see us as a threat,” Rubio told the Times. “They should.”

Obama’s Outrageous Cuba Capitulations

By former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, in The New York Daily News:

Obama’s outrageous Cuba capitulations

President Obama’s decision to resume full diplomatic relations with Cuba on July 20 represents the purest form of ideological diplomacy. By exchanging ambassadors, reopening embassies and calling for Congress to lift decades-old trade and travel restrictions, Obama has untethered our foreign policy from any discernible American interests.

Obama may even travel to Cuba before he leaves office. Undoubtedly, Fidel and Raul Castro will turn out cheering crowds to greet him as a hero. Why not? Obama will feel right at home in their company.

In return for enormous U.S. concessions to Cuba’s authoritarians, the Obama administration has received essentially nothing. Havana’s promises to lessen its repressive domestic policies have already been violated, and there is little chance that a more “open” American policy will aid the Cuban people more than the caudillos running the country.

Cuba’s last “opening” followed the USSR’s 1991 disintegration. Moscow ended its annual practice of trading oil priced well below international levels in exchange for roughly 80% of Cuba’s sugar exports. But when the Clinton administration loosened some U.S. economic constraints, far from “liberalizing” Cuba, that lifeline simply abetted the Castros’ continuing authoritarian rule.

Similarly, last year’s drop in global oil prices devastated Venezuela, which had become Cuba’s chief economic benefactor. Forced yet again to seek help, the Castros will nonetheless ensure that Cuban citizens do not benefit from increased economic relations with America. Instead, Havana will rigorously control the increased flow of dollars resulting from expanded trade and travel, providing the Castros once more with a path to survival. Make no mistake, they know this playbook well.

Even worse is what lies ahead under Obama. While he refers blithely to “normalizing” relations, Fidel and Raul have a different definition of “normal.” What will emerge in the next 18 months, unless Congress acts, is whether Obama agrees with the Castros.

On July 1, “the Revolutionary Government of Cuba” issued a statement, distributed in New York by Cuba’s UN Mission. In the kind of Cold War rhetoric that shows it’s still the early ’60s for the regime in Havana, it says that in exchange for truly “normal” relations, the United States must:

“Return to Cuba the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base; cease the radio and television broadcasts, which violate international regulations and are harmful to our sovereignty; stop the implementation of programs aimed at promoting internal subversion and destabilization; and compensate the Cuban people for all the human and economic damages caused by the United States.”

Since it does not strain credulity to believe Obama would return Guantanamo Bay to Havana’s control, Congress should move quickly through appropriate legislation, enacting multiple prohibitions against giving away Guantanamo, or any other U.S. “compensation” to Cuba. Moreover, House and Senate members should remember that Obama has proven himself all too ready to ignore or reinterpret statutory language he finds inconvenient. A legislative belt-and-suspenders approach is entirely appropriate.

Nor is there any reason to suspend or in any way reduce broadcasts by Radio and TV Marti into Cuba. Rather, Congress should augment its appropriations, especially for TV Marti. Given the inevitable Cuban restrictions and surveillance, an increased number of U.S. tourists visiting Cuba will not increase the flow of information to the Cuban people. Instead, we should be playing on the Castro brothers’ fears of continued U.S. information outreach to Cuba’s human-rights activists such as the “Ladies in White” — truly the heart of the long-term threat to the Castro regime, and why what they call “subversion” is what others call free speech and free association.

We can only hope the Castros do not successfully use the next 18 months to buttress their regime’s staying power. Obama’s policy is a tragedy for the Cuban people, and a top priority for America’s next President to reverse.

Over 120 Cuban Dissidents Arrested on Sunday

For the 13th Sunday in a row, over 120 Cuban dissidents were brutally beaten and arrested for attempting to peacefully march to -- or from -- Mass.

Over 80 of those arrested were members of The Ladies in White -- including its leader Berta Soler -- a group composed of the wives, mothers, sisters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

Among the others arrested are renowned democracy leader Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antunez”, his wife Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, former prisoner of conscience Ciro Alexis Casanova Pérez, famed artist Tania Bruguera and the young son of one of The Ladies in White.

The women were taken to the military detention center in Tarara, while the men to the Vivac facility.

This is "what change looks like" in Cuba.

A Massacre That Will Not Be Forgotten

Today is the 21st anniversary of this brutal massacre by the Castro dictatorship:

"In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, three boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, outside the port of Havana. The Cuban State boats attacked the tugboat with their prows, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat-named the '13 of March' - sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten children."

-- Ted Koppel, ABC's Nightline.

The victims:

Abreu Ruíz, Angel René. Age: 3.
Alcalde Puig, Rosa María. Age: 47.
Almanza Romero, Pilar. Age: 31.
Alvarez Guerra, Lissett María. Age: 24.
Anaya Carrasco, Yaltamira. Age: 22.
Balmaseda Castillo, Jorge Gregorio. Age: 24.
Borges Alvarez, Giselle. Age: 4.
Borges Briel, Lázaro Enrique. Age: 34.
Carrasco Sanabria, Martha Mirilla. Age: 45.
Cayol, Manuel. Age: 56.
Enríquez Carrazana, Luliana. Age: 22.
Fernández Rodríguez, María Miralis. Age: 27.
Feu González Rigoberto. Age: 31
García Suárez, Joel. Age: 20.
Góngora, Leonardo Notario. Age: 28.
González Raices, Amado. Age: 50.
Guerra Martínez, Augusto Guillermo. Age: 45.
Gutiérrez García, Juan Mario. Age: 10.
Levrígido Flores, Jorge Arquímedes. Age: 28.
Leyva Tacoronte, Caridad. Age: 5.
Loureiro, Ernesto Alfonso. Age: 25
Marrero Alamo, Reynaldo Joaquín. Age: 48.
Martínez Enriquez, Hellen. Age: 5 Months.
Méndez Tacoronte, Mayulis. Age: 17.
Muñoz García, Odalys. Age: 21.
Nicle Anaya, José Carlos. Age: 3.
Pérez Tacoronte, Yousell Eugenio. Age: 11.
Perodín Almanza, Yasser. Age: 11.
Prieto Hernández, Fidencio Ramel. Age: 51.
Rodríguez Fernández, Xicdy. Age: 2.
Rodríguez Suárez, Omar. Age: 33.
Ruíz Blanco, Julia Caridad. Age: 35.
Sanabria Leal, Miladys. Age: 19.
Suárez Esquivel, Eduardo. Age: 38.
Suárez Esquivel, Estrella. Age: 48.
Suárez Plasencia, Eliécer. Age: 12.
Tacoronte Vega, Martha Caridad. Age: 35
And 4 more that still remain unidentified.

They will never be forgotten.

Quote of the Weekend: Leader McConnell on Obama's Cuba Policy

Sunday, July 12, 2015
Talk, talk, talk. Cuba is a good example. [Obama] thinks that simply by engaging with them we get a positive result. I don't see any indication that Cubans are going to change their behavior. What are we getting as a result of normalization of relations? I think we will not confirm an ambassador. They believe they don't need that. There are sanctions that were imposed by Congress. I think the administration will have a very hard time getting those removed. This is a policy that there is substantial opposition to in Congress.
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on Fox News Sunday, 7/12/15

Never Again: On the Cuban and Jewish Diaspora

The Cuban and Jewish diaspora share much in common.

Not least of which is the wonderful ethnic and religious hybrid, endearingly referred to as Jewbans.

But most importantly, our diasporas share an unwavering devotion to freedom, democracy and to the moral resolve of -- "Never Again."

This commitment stems from the atrocities and exiles that our people have -- unfortunately -- had to endure.

They are also what have made our diasporas the most successful in modern history.

It is why there are so many Cuban and Jewish-American Members of the U.S. Congress, as a proportion to their population -- for we cherish the freedom of political participation.

It is why our entrepreneurs are so prosperous -- for we cherish the freedom to innovate.

It is why our artists and academics are so proficient -- for we cherish the freedom of expression.

It shapes our foreign policy views -- for we've learned that in the face of atrocity, the international community will not come to our rescue.

While Israel is surrounded by the hostility of its Middle East neighbors, Cuba faces the silent complicity of Latin America, which has always coddled the island's totalitarian dictatorship.

Today, Cuba serves as "Exhibit A" of the Obama Administration's inability to negotiate reciprocal deals with foreign tyrants. Iran is next -- with Israel to pay the highest price.

Perhaps -- for his next foreign policy "legacy" -- Obama will adopt the hostility towards Israel of its neighbors, as he's done with the silent complicity of Latin America towards Cuba.

Some would argue he already has.

It is why every Cuban-American elected official supports a freedom-first policy towards Cuba.

Last week, a Miami businessman attributed our views to "anger, hate and revenge."

What a sad, low and fundamentally misguided opinion of our community.

Similar to the Jewish diaspora, our community is not guided by anger, hate or revenge -- but by a commitment to freedom, democracy and the moral resolve of "Never Again."

As David Efone, editor of the The Algemeiner Journal, explains, "‘Never Again,’ is not limited to the horrors of a particular time or place, nor by extent or methods, but rather it symbolizes the Jewish people’s collective resolve to never stand by the blood of their brethren."

There's no greater definition of who we are.

Tomorrow, we commemorate the 21st anniversary of a tugboat massacre, whereby the Castro regime murdered 37 innocent Cubans, including 13 women and 10 small children. To this day, we hear the echo of their screams.

Never Again.

Every Sunday, courageous female democracy activists, known as The Ladies in White, are dragged through the concrete streets of Havana. We feel the sting of their burns.

Never Again.

Last week, democracy leader Antonio Rodiles had his face shattered by Castro's agents. We feel the pain of his broken bones and bruises.

Never Again.

Known and unknown political prisoners remain confined in dark, squalid cells. They are abused, mocked and their families stigmatized -- for unselfishly seeking the freedom of all Cubans. We honor their sacrifice.

Never Again.

Throughout Cuba's painful history -- time and again -- freedom and democracy have been "postponed" for the sake of expediency, stability and now business.

And, each time, it has led to an even grimmer scenario.

Today, those calls are again at our doorstep.

Never Again.