Images: Over 150 Cuban Dissidents Arrested on Human Rights Day

Friday, December 11, 2015
According to human rights monitors, there were "between 150 and 200" dissidents arrested by the Castro regime during yesterday's commemoration of International Human Rights Day.

Many of them had been "besieged" in their homes for several days.

It's more "change" you can't believe in.

These images of yesterday's repression in Cuba speak for themselves:



Why 'Talks' With the Cuban Regime Are Folly

Because it lies about everything.

While over 150 Cuban dissidents were being arrested on International Human Rights Day, here's what the Castro regime had to say.

According to AFP:

[Castro's] Attorney General Dario Delgado asserted that Cuba has no political prisoners, only jailed common criminals who "call themselves dissidents."

"It is sometimes said there are political prisoners here. There aren't," Delgado told the official Communist Party daily Granma.

"The majority of those who call themselves dissidents are common inmates who have been attracted by counter-revolutionary organizations, internal or external, and receive payments directly or indirectly," he said.

"But they aren't prisoners of conscience."

Cuba Re-Imprisons Dissidents ‘Freed’ Under Obama Deal

From Breitbart:

Cuba Begins to Re-Imprison Political Dissidents ‘Freed’ Under Obama Deal

The Cuban government has re-arrested almost all of the 53 political prisoners released in January as part of its “normalization” with President Obama, according to Senator Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The news comes as Cuban police assault and detain dozens of dissidents in anticipation of International Human Rights Day, December 10.

Cuba announced the release of this prisoners of conscience on January 12, though the government did not give out a list of names. The prisoners were allegedly released gradually in the month before, following President Obama’s announcement that he would seek to warm relations between the United States and the rogue regime.

Shortly after the announcement, Fox News reported that two of the 53 dissidents had been arrested once again. The list of names was not yet public, but had been given to members of Congress, who denounced the arrests. One dissident, Ronaldo Reyes Rabanal, was temporarily detained, beaten, and released, while Luís Enrique Labrador remained behind bars for some time longer. They were the second and third of the group the receive this treatment; Marcelino Abreu Bonora, one of the 53 dissidents, was rearrested on December 26, weeks before the announcement of these “releases.”

Sen. Rubio’s social media message Wednesday alerted the media to the case of Vladimir Morera Bacallao y Jorge Ramírez Calderón, who are both currently in prison after being released as part of the Cuban government’s publicity stunt. Bacallao, according to the dissident group the Cuban Democratic Directorate, is currently undergoing a hunger strike after being arrested and sentenced to four years in prison for hanging an anti-Castro sign out of his window. Ramírez Calderón is currently serving two and a half years in prison for having marched in silence as part of a protest against the Cuban government.

While both men were sentenced last month and are serving long sentences, the more common method the Cuban government uses to repress dissidents is to repeatedly temporarily detain them, allow them to claim they have fewer political prisoners in their jail cells while also limiting the activities of these dissidents consistently. During Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba in September, for example, more than 250 Cuban dissidents were detained and freed shortly after Pope Francis left, so as to prevent them from organizing any protest against the government. Dissident groups such as the Ladies in White – a group consisting of the female relatives of political prisoners – suffer weekly or even more often temporary detention. The Ladies in White, a mostly Catholic group, are typically arrested after attending Sunday Mass.

On Thursday, International Human Rights Day, the Ladies in White took to the streets from the early morning hours to demand justice for those imprisoned due to their rejection of communism. The group organized the rally despite facing harassment beginning yesterday, as the government blocked their headquarters with red tents and communist propaganda for a pro-communist party to occur today. The women would have to walk through a pro-Castro rally to get to their established location for the march, requiring them to confront often-violent Castro supporters.

In addition to indirect harassment of dissidents, a major leader within the Cuban Patriotic Union, another dissident group, was arrested on Tuesday. In addition to confiscating most of Yoandris Gamboa’s computer materials, Cuban police reportedly beat his mother hard enough to hospitalize her, as well as attacking other members of his family who were present.

Yet dissidents continue to protest. Following word of the Ladies in White protest today, another prominent dissident announced that he would repeat the action that put him in jail. Danilo Maldonado Machado, an artist known as “El Sexto,” vowed to once again paint the names of Raúl and Fidel Castro on two pigs and set them loose in Havana, the stunt that landed him in jail for more than six months. “I can’t stop doing what I do,” he told reporters, “If they arrest me, let them do their job and I will do mine.”

Diplomats Engage, Cubans Flee, Miami ‘Unprepared’

By Fabiola Santiago in The Miami Herald:

Diplomats engage, Cubans flee, Miami ‘unprepared’

One year later, historic rapprochement fails to thwart immigration

The Obama administration calibrated diplomatic moves, courted press relations — and attended to such details as the emotional timbre of its flag-raising ceremony in Havana.

But the administration and rapprochement allies grossly underestimated a major factor in the speed-dial pursuit of diplomatic relations with the island: the Cuban people’s desire to emigrate to the United States — and the Castro regime’s historical willingness, in times of pressure, to open a door for them to flee.

One year after President Barack Obama’s historic shift in Cuba policy, the lack of vision — and inertia — on the well-charted subject of massive flight from Cuba is shaping up to be one of the strategy’s failures.

The issue of the thousands of Cubans stranded at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border and in Panama clamoring to be allowed to continue on their trek to the United States is begging to be addressed.

A one-way, Havana-Quito plane ticket, a cellphone, and an underground road map charted by those who have made the crossing turned a steady trickle since 2013 into a flood post-rapprochement.

The number of Cubans packed into holding facilities where they sleep on the floor or on foam pads is growing daily — 4,000-plus in Costa Rica, taxing the small, peaceful nation’s limited resources. And more than a thousand wait in Panama as of this writing.

The administration doesn’t want to admit it, but it’s facing another immigration crisis.

Nicaragua has closed its border; Belize has refused passage, too. The Cubans sold their belongings and bought one-day tickets. They can’t or don’t want to go back to Cuba and they can’t continue forward. As their numbers grow and days pass without resolution or a plan, tempers flare, and children and pregnant women need medical attention.

“Tell us the truth. Tell us that we’re going to be here three years or that we’re being hanged, but tell us the truth,” one man clamored in a television report.

Far from giving Cubans hope that the spoils of engagement would better their lives, Obama’s announcement and the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana served to accelerate the pace of the flight to Miami before the way out closed again.

To hear the mayor of Miami say “we’re not prepared” for another exodus is to be thrust back to the days of the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the 1994 balsero crisis when similar pronouncements were issued hoping to get Washington’s attention.

If history is an indicator, the Obama administration will be forced to deal with the crisis — and with all other doors closed, it will have to process and airlift the Cubans as President Clinton did with the Guantánamo tent-city refugees.

The American government anticipated that Cuba would push back on human rights issues — repress more, and that the Cuban government has done, and openly. But unbelievably, the administration didn’t envision that another generation, this one basking in the glow of the stars and stripes — wearing it on their T-shirts on the way out — would choose to escape.

Ready or not, Miami, city of arrivals, will most likely once again resettle this transplanted Cuba. The only difference is that this time it will be amid studiously calibrated silence from Cuban Americans and the prayers of the faithful at the Shrine to Our Lady of Charity.

Cuba Drops Ten Spots in Global Connectivity Index

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Earlier this month, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) released its flagship annual Measuring the Information Society Report for 2015.

The Measuring the Information Society Report is widely recognized as the repository of the world’s most reliable and impartial global data and analysis on information and communication technology (ICT) access.

In this 2015 report, Cuba has dropped ten spots from #119 to #129.

Cuba is way surpassed by such Internet luminaries, including Zimbabwe (#127), Syria (#117), Iran (#91), China (#82) and Venezuela (#72).

More "change" you can't believe in.

Cuban Special Forces Assault Home of Democracy Leader, Remains Missing

At 5 a.m. yesterday, Cuban special forces assaulted the home of democracy leader, Yoandris Beltran Gamboa, confiscated his belongings and arrested him.

Beltran Gamboa is the coordinator of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) in the eastern city of Guantanamo.

Among the items confiscated from his home were a computer, flash drives, picture camera and cell phones.

His parents, siblings and children were all present during the attack, and were consequently injured. His mother had to be subsequently hospitalized.

On Sunday, Beltran Gamboa had been brutally beaten for participating in a peaceful protest, as part of the #TodosMarchamos campaign.

He remains unaccounted for since yesterday's arrest.

Image: Beltran Gamboa is on the center-right wearing a black shirt.


The Castros' Chess Game in Venezuela

By Jorge Hernandez Fonseca in 14ymedio:

The Castros’ Chess Game in Venezuela

The surprising, though expected, results of the Venezuelan elections have a fairly simple explanation if we consider that it implies the exit from the Venezuelan political scene of Diosdado Cabello, Nicolas Maduro’s major enemy and, therefore, also that of the Castro brothers.

President Maduro’s last minute change in attitude towards the electoral process could be an order from Havana with an eye to resolving, with the triumph of the opposition, two aspects that are of major concern to the Castros: the current power of the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, enemy of Cuba and therefore of Maduro; and in second place, avoiding the international blow that would derive from giving the president-elect of Argentina Mauricio Marcri’s a legal basis for his proposal to apply the “democracy clause” against Venezuela to expel it from Mercosur, the southern common market bloc.

In the final days before the elections we witnessed a radical change in the position of Nicolas Maduro regarding the electoral process. From original messages warning he would take violently to the streets, he switched to an attitude of apologizing for his words saying he “had been misinterpreted” and assuring that the government would accept the results.

He received his (former enemies), the Latin American ex-presidents in the Government Palace (sent – unsuccessfully – to expel Cabello from Venezuela), and allowed opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez to vote from prison, among other clear changes in his posture, which can only be explained if there had been an order from Havana to that effect.

Politics is a complex game of chess. The victory of the opposition in these parliamentary elections is a defeat for Nicolas Maduro, but there is no doubt that the main person defeated is Diosdado Cabello, and that this objective is greatly prioritized in Havana and will be very well received by Maduro. Of course, as the island is already preparing for how to deal with an opposition legislature, because Maduro has another three years in office, there is enough time – from the Cuban point of view – to neutralize it, having gained time.

Venturing a hypothesis, after the Cuban directive to accept the popular will in Venezuela, it could be the current US-Cuba relationship and possible negotiations that led Havana to influence Caracas in this regard, with the intention of initiating a thaw between Washington and Caracas without removing Maduro from power, only Cabello. The current President of the National Assembly is accused of being a drug kingpin in Venezuela, and we have seen Havana’s solution to this earlier, with accusations against Cuban generals (and ultimately the execution of a national hero General Ochoa).

It is still too early to speculate with a reasonable degree of accuracy, but a statement of opposition victory readily accepted by President Maduro – the same man who had previously spoken of “massacres” if this were to happen – merits further investigation beyond saying “he complied with the popular will,” when we know that for the Castro brothers there is no reason other than always ensuring the protection of their interests.

Thus the acceptance of the Venezuelan opposition victory could have been driven by the division within the ruling party and the Cubans’ desire to get rid of a dangerous enemy.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba.

Add $16 Billion to Obama's Bailout of the Cuban Dictatorship

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
In 2000, there were 400 foreign companies operating in Cuba through minority joint ventures with the Castro regime, which is the only permissible legal vehicle for foreign companies to invest in Cuba.

By 2013, there were only 190 left.

In the last five years, European and Canadian investors saw over $1 billion arbitrarily frozen in Cuban banks by the government, while the CEOs of various foreign companies with extensive business dealings with the Castro regime have been arrested. Some are still sitting in jail -- without charges.

Stage left -- then came President Obama.

On December 17, 2014, Obama embraced the Castro dictatorship and gave it his official "seal of approval" -- or (at best) that is how foreign investors have interpreted it.

Since then, the level of risk tolerance for business with Cuba's dictatorship has dramatically risen, foreign tourist arrivals on the island have broken the three million mark and the red-carpet has been rolled out for Raul Castro from Rome to New York City.

(Meanwhile, repression in Cuba and refugee outflows have exponentially risen to historic levels -- a damning corollary to note.)

Raul Castro went from a bankrupt dictator to one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World."

Foreign creditors have also joined in Obama's "celebration" of Raul.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Paris Club of creditor nations was close to finalizing a deal restructuring Castro's $16 billion debt with the group.

The deal would "forgive" $11 billion of Castro's debt, while the remaining $5 billion would feature "reinvestment" terms -- meaning that it will be "paid" by Castro (on his terms) with the condition that it's then "reinvested" into his military monopolies.

Again, why such generosity towards this repressive totalitarian dictatorship?

As Reuters explained, "most of the creditors are willing to show flexibility due to their increased interest in doing business in Cuba following the Communist-run island's detente with the United States."

Aw, that's so nice -- add $16 billion to Obama's bailout of the Cuban dictatorship.

Can't wait to be lectured by the Obama Administration about how this will "empower" and somehow "super-duper, trickle-down" to the island's "cuentapropistas" -- who sell chachkas with no property or contractual rights, nor have any right to engage in foreign trade and investment.

Tweet of the Week: Most of the Obama-Castro '53' Have Been Rearrested

A Night in Prison With a Cuban Independent Journalist

A Cuban independent journalist relays his experience -- and consequences -- for trying to report on last week's protest at the Ecuadorean Embassy in Havana.

By Diario de Cuba's Pablo Pascual Mendez Pina:

"This isn’t news, it’s counterrevolution"

"The money, you dick!" was heard, followed by a clamor. Then a succession of confused screams and the boos and cheers of protesters. It was November 30, and a crowd of close to 500 people clogged the corner of 5th Avenue and 40th, in Miramar.

Some demanded money, others visas. From behind the police cordon impeding access to the Ecuadorian embassy, ​​someone was on a megaphone, but we could only hear an unintelligible mumbling. "We can´t hear! We can´t hear!” the crowd cried. "Bring out the ambassador! We want to talk to him!"

Dozens of mobile phones, help up over the heads of those on hand, recorded videos. Foreign media reporters showed up with cameras and microphones. Some reporters from the official media lurked nearby, and from the throng some shouted, "Press! Press! I want to talk!"

A young blue-eyed woman got the scoop: "Gentlemen, the officials have announced that they will let us in. Now we must clear 5th Avenue!" "We're not going anywhere, no way!" the mob yelled. "They've got some nerve! We want the visas they promised!" A young black man with sparkling gold teeth asked for a mike. "We hope to go away, without incident. Please. I ask the esteemed ambassador to grant us our visas!"

Just then I noticed that my phone battery was running out, and the sunlight kept me from checking the quality of the photos I’d taken. I decided to go for my camera and recorder. I got on my bike and took off. When I returned the protestors had calmed down, but 5th Avenue was still closed to traffic.

I took out my camera and snapped some shots. I just needed to get some opinions before leaving. Suddenly someone said: "Pablo Pascual Méndez Piña, put way your camera and come with us." I looked and saw two plain-clothes police officers next to me.

We left the area of the conflict. After telling me to erase the photos, one asked me: "Why are you looking for trouble?" "I'm an independent journalist," I answered. "And a crowd of 500 demonstrators that stops traffic on 5th Avenue is news." To which one of the guards shot back: "This isn't news. It’s counterrevolution."

While I gave them my ID, another officer was checking up on me on his walkie talkie. One of the officers proceeded to demonstrate his knowledge of my life and career, and to comment on the contents of some of my articles, quick to assure me that I was under the strictest surveillance.

A patrol car arrived, they stowed my bicycle in back, took my belongings, cuffed me, and put me in the vehicle. "To the holding cell!" spat the leader. And that white Geely, with 666 (the number of the beast) plates, ate up the stretch of pavement separating 3rd and 40th from 7th and 62nd, where the municipality of Playa's Criminal Investigation Unit is located. There I was informed that I had been arrested by order of Lieutenant Colonel Camilo.

They removed my handcuffs and led me to the area before the cells, where they told me to place my personal effects on a counter. A lieutenant colonel in counterintelligence asked me for some general information and noted it down on a form before asking: "Boy, didn't you hear what the Government said?" To which I answered: "I’m just as interested in what the Cubans protesting on 5th Avenue had to say."

The lieutenant colonel, coincidentally, had to leave on other business. My mobile rang and the officer told me to "take it." It was my wife. I told her I had been detained, and was being held at 7th and 62nd. When I hung up I felt more relaxed. The lieutenant colonel reappeared and ordered me to turn off my phone. Then an official proceeded to inventory my belongings. An officer told me that my wife was asking for me. I was surprised by her quick reaction.

In the cell

At one in the afternoon they put me in a cell, the only one available, in which there were two detainees, who they removed in a question of 20 seconds. The cell measured 48 square meters, and a 5-meter ceiling. The only window was barely a square meter across.

A narrow granite bench lined the wall. It was uncomfortable, whether sitting or lying down on it. There were no toilets. The floor was dirty, and reeked of urine. The walls were full of scrawls: nicknames, "SATS", "UNPACU", "Down with Raúl". Outside I could hear the buzz of traffic, voices, shouting.

I tried to sleep but couldn't. I was unaware that my wife had been in the building until 7:30 at night, waiting for information about me. She had a run-in with Kenia, the aforementioned lieutenant colonel, who showed resentment towards me thereafter.

Four hours later I heard bars open. They brought in Manuel Guerra Pérez, a colleague at Cubanet who was also intercepted by the secret police outside the Ecuadorian embassy.

They came over to offer us food and water. We replied that we weren't going to eat (hunger strike). They brought the water in a filthy jug, so we refused it. The toilet was in another cell, of stainless steel, entirely covered with a crust of dried feces.

An officer pulled me out of the cell. I was led to a room where we sat down at a table. He was wearing a Masonic ring the size of a walnut, and a two-dial watch. Such things used to be prohibited when wearing a military uniform, I thought to myself.

We spoke. He argued that there was no newsworthy event in the place where I was arrested. I disagreed. I went on the offensive and asked him: "Are you a journalist?" He replied: "No, I'm an officer." "So, if you're not a journalist, why do you make statements about things you don't know about?" He did not reply.

Then he asked me about the proof of ownership documents for the camera, recorder and mobile phone they had taken. I replied that were purchased in Madrid, where one is only given a receipt. He replied: "They issue them there too." I went back on the offensive, "Have you ever been to Madrid?" "No." "So, if you've never been there, why do you question something you know nothing about?" He shut his mouth.

He quickly jotted down a note, which he informed me was my statement. I tried to read it, but couldn't get past the second line. That's how I react to bad writing. I refused to sign it. The officer got up, went out and looked for two others, who were not present during my "deposition," but who signed as witnesses after my refusal anyway.

I was taken back to the cells. Along the way I stopped to drink from a water fountain, and spotted at least a dozen police vans, presumably to suppress the protestors at the Ecuadorian embassy. Taking a look around, I concluded that this facility was the command center of the apparent crackdown.

We were then questioned by another officer. He was affable and more understanding. He was interested in us working as moles, like the informants Serpa Maseira or Capote, who infiltrated groups in Cuban civil society. He insisted that later, on another occasion, we'd sit down and talk about it in a park. When we refused, he said he would "leave open the possibility."

The officials asked for my phone's password, multiple times. I absolutely refused. Its security system was installed during a trip I took to Trinidad and Tobago. It was so good that that FBI specialists had taken two days to decipher it. I thought: let's test them with a real challenge.

The dawn of the transvestites

At midnight we banged on the bars and asked for mattresses. The officer returned with Lieutenant Colonel Kenia, who reluctantly authorized the mattresses. We then shouted out (the only way of communicating) for a bottle of water, which was refused. The filthy jug was our only option.

We lay down on the floor, on two foam rubber mattresses. I cannot remember when I got to sleep, but I woke up, startled by screams and kicking at the bars. Four transvestites were brought in, the commotion they made multiplied by the reverberations.

Kenia and other officers appeared. The transvestites told them they and “La Pinta, La Niña and La Santa María,” could piss off, that they were above all the stars, the bars and uniforms. We saw Kenia retreat with his tail between his legs, exclaiming, "My responsibility is those two," referring to us.

The transvestites threatened to strip naked, shit, cover the walls with it, and piss themselves (they did the latter). They kicked the bars in unison, and I still don't understand how they didn't break the lock.

They called the officer to go to the bathroom, because one of them had recently had a sex-change surgery and was bleeding. The guard said that the only option was the filthy bathroom. More obscenities and kicked bars ensued. For several minutes the transvestites called for a "superior" or "politician," but to no avail.

Intermittent outbreaks followed. One minute they were shouting, the next they were belting Amigas, imitating the moves of Elena Burke, Omara Portuondo and Moraima Secada.

Then they recorded a video protesting discrimination, and the police’s accusations of prostitution and swindling. And they spoke of the CENESEX as if it were the Cathedral of St. Peter's Basilica and the beatification of Santa Mariela [Castro] of transvestites.

We were afraid to laugh. We felt they might feel humiliated and assault us. A while later they calmed down and talked to us. We introduced ourselves as journalists, told them about our odyssey, and then they lent us a mobile so that Mario could call his girlfriend let her know about our situation.

The transvestites kept shouting and kicking the bars, until past 4 am, when they were taken from the cell. Mario and I agreed that it had all been staged. Things calmed down, but a stench of ammonia emanated from the puddle of urine.

Release

We shook the bars. The smell of the urine was insufferable. Another officer appeared, and threw water and a white substance on it before mopping. A bit after 11 in the morning they took me out of the cell and, with Lieutenant Colonel Kenia on the other side of the desk, they proceeded to return my belongings to me, by they were keeping my camera and recorder.

They produced a "justified release" document for the crime of handling stolen goods, because I had not been able to document the origins of the articles in question. I refused to sign it. I also told Kenia that "the scene with the transvestites was well done," to which he shrieked back that the transvestites were furious because we had mattresses and they didn't.

A lieutenant colonel with more ethics and professionalism offered me a deal: if I disclosed the code to my mobile, they'd give it back. Otherwise they would confiscate it. I accepted. They took me to the station lobby. Then I saw Mario Guerra leave with an empty bag. I was unable to talk to him, but surmised that they had also seized his camera and laptop.

The experts who examined my mobile were at it for about three hours. After I got out I went to a little street bar to have a beer and quench the thirst I had endured during my 26 hours of confinement. I rode my bike back to 7th and 42nd, where there was still a massive police presence.

When I got home the first to greet me was my little dog ​​Figaro, as always. I stroked his head to greet him. His name, transmuted into symbols, was the key they were unable to decipher.

A Win for Venezuela's Democrats is a Win for Cuba's Democrats

Monday, December 7, 2015
Yesterday, a united democratic opposition prevailed against the Maduro government in Venezuela's legislative elections.

The victory was so overwhelming that no fraud or manipulation could taint it.

It is only the beginning -- as it would be extraordinarily naive to think that Maduro and his Cuban handlers will walk away quietly into the sunset.

However, it represents a new day and opportunity.

Sadly, as we've been arguing since December 17th, Obama's embrace, bailout and empowerment of the Castro dictatorship in Cuba couldn't have come at a worse time -- with the clearly imminent economic and political demise of Maduro's government.

Yet, regardless, a win for Venezuela's democrats is always a win for Cuba's democrats.

Why Cuba's Shadowy Banking System Poses an Inherent Risk

Exhibit A of why the Obama Administration efforts to promote financial ties with Cuba's shadowy, state-owned banks, is a bad idea -- or simply mid-boggling.

As we've posted before, "Banks Are Right to Be Wary About Cuba Transactions."

Moreover, it should raise red-flags among U.S. banking regulators.

By Kenneth Rijock in Caribbean News:

Cayman Islands fraudsters may have moved $450 million to Cuba

The first civil suit has been filed by one of the victims against the Cayman “Gang of Four”, Sharon Lexa Lamb and Dundee Merchant Bank, where Lamb was the senior vice president and director. One source, who is familiar with Caribbean fraud, has stated that most of the estimated $450 million to $500 million in stolen client money was probably moved to Cuba and that it was deposited in several of the government-controlled banks there.

In the absence of direct evidence to support such an allegation, the reasoning behind such a statement is based up these known facts:

(1) The Gang of Four's maritime courier, the Cuban national José Fernandez Santana, has the ability to travel freely in and out of Cuban ports, to Grand Cayman, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and a number of other Caribbean financial centers. Unimpeded international travel by Cubans, especially in a multi-million dollar yacht, can only occur if the individual has governmental approval. If Santana is not an agent of Cuban intelligence, his yacht would certainly be seized, and he arrested and imprisoned.

(2) Sharon Lexa Lamb, the apparent ringleader of the Gang of Four, and who married Santana through a purely business arrangement that gives her Cuban residency as well as the right to purchase real property there, is frequent visitor to Cuba. As previously reported, Lamb fled to Cuba twice; first, when the trading scandal first broke, and later, when a civil suit was filed, and she was being sought for service of process.

(3) Other members of the Gang of Four are known to have visited Cuba for the purpose of conducting business transactions, possibly setting up accounts so that wire transfers from the Cayman Islands could be set up, or bulk cash shipments orchestrated by Santana, or payments from other offshore tax havens could be accomplished.

(4) Rumors have abounded that certain Cuban government agencies, in need of hard currency for activities that they wish to conduct, actively participate in financial crimes in the tax havens, the object of which is to fund subsequent covert operations.

(5) Admissions made by Sharon Lexa Lamb to witnesses to the effect that the victims would never recover their money unless they granted her total immunity from prosecution, gives rise to the conclusion that the money is being held in a jurisdiction where it cannot be accessed or frozen. Cuba is one of the very few places that fits the description.

Are the retirement accounts of the sixty Canadian & American investors gone forever, and sitting in accounts in the Republic of Cuba, controlled by the Gang of Four? Perhaps the multiple pending investigations will provide the answer; stay tuned.

Kenneth Rijock is a banking lawyer turned-career money launderer (10 years), turned-compliance officer specializing in enhanced due diligence, and a financial crime consultant who publishes a Financial Crime Blog.

The New Cuba Policy: Fallacies and Implications

By Dr. Jose Azel in The World Affairs Journal:

The New Cuba Policy: Fallacies and Implications

Following President Obama’s announcement of a rapprochement with the Cuban regime, US government officials have offered three basic avenues to the economic reforms they say will ultimately result in greater personal freedom for the island’s citizens: fostering the small-enterprise sector in Cuba, encouraging US investments, and boosting US tourism to the island. These efforts to produce prosperity, together with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, they believe, will advance US security and democratic governance in Cuba. Critics of the initiative, however, believe that this new policy is, as Samuel Johnson said of second marriages, a triumph of hope over experience, and that in the long run it will harm US national interests almost as much as it disappoints the Cuban people.

The architects of the new policy rationalize that unconditionally ending economic sanctions will strengthen Cuba’s self-employed sector and, thus, foster a civil society more independent of the government. Eventually, they explain, this more autonomous civil society will undergo a revolution of rising expectations that will pressure the regime for democratic governance.

In theory, a good idea. In reality, however, more easily theorized than implemented. In a totalitarian system such as that which has afflicted Cuba for more than half a century, those in self-employed activities remain bound to the government for the very existence of their businesses, which will be subject to the licenses, sanctions, etc. by which the system asserts its power. Rather than conferring independence from the government, self-employment in a totalitarian context makes the newly minted entrepreneurs more beholden to government and governmental controls in myriad bureaucratic ways and not likely to challenge those who have power over them.

Under totalitarian rule, there is nothing intrinsically liberating about having a business. During the student protest in Tiananmen Square, China’s business community did not come out in support of the students. Nor, more recently, were the business communities in Hong Kong willing to jeopardize their status—something dependent on the sufferance of the government—by supporting students promoting democratic change. What makes administration officials think that a Cuban business community bound to an all-powerful state for its very existence would act differently?

Supporters of the new policy believe that a critical mass of self-employment will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the regime to resist the social pressures for change. The vision is of thousands of new micro-firms operating as an unstoppable force for change. But in addition to being tainted by economic determinism, it is also a vision that fails to account for the nature of the Cuban regime or the lessons of Cuban history.

Click here to read in its entirety.

Over 1,447 Political Arrests in November, Highest Monthly Tally in Years

Sunday, December 6, 2015
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 1,447 political arrests by the Castro regime in Cuba during the month of November 2015.

This is -- by far -- the highest monthly tally of political arrests recorded in years.

It bring the total number of political arrests during the first eleven months of this year to 7,686, which is (tragically) on-pace to become the most repressive year in recent history.

With one month to go, these 7,686 arrests nearly quadruple the year-long tallies recorded in 2010 (2,074) and nearly double those recorded in 2011 (4,123).

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

Thus, despite the Obama Administration's engagement with the Castro dictatorship and increased travel to the island, repression on the island is exponentially rising.

Yet, the Obama Administration, business lobbyists and the media, keep giving the Castro regime a pass for its repressive acts.

No consequences, no problem. It's a green-light for impunity.

The Cuban General in the Room

Spain's ABC newspaper reveals an emergency meeting held this past Thursday by Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, along with his top military and intelligence officials, in order to discuss how to "handle" today's legislative elections.

In the room, of course, an unidentified Cuban General.

Read the story (in Spanish) here.

Quote of the Day: Cuban Special Forces in Venezuela "to Protect Doctors"

They have provided food so that we don’t leave the buildings. We have suspended work activities. We are permanently monitored. Special forces are being infiltrated from Cuba, they say it is for our protection. Things are tense.
-- Cuban doctor on medical mission in Venezuela, speaking on condition of anonymity, Cubanet, 12/4/15