President-Elect Trump Statement on the Passing of Fidel Castro

Saturday, November 26, 2016
President-Elect Donald J. Trump Statement on the Passing of Fidel Castro

Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.

WaPo: Farewell to Cuba’s Brutal Big Brother

By Yale Prof. Carlos Eire in The Washington Post:

Farewell to Cuba’s brutal Big Brother

One of the most brutal dictators in modern history has just died. Oddly enough, some will mourn his passing, and many an obituary will praise him. Millions of Cubans who have been waiting impatiently for this moment for more than half a century will simply ponder his crimes and recall the pain and suffering he caused.

Why this discrepancy? Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst for myths and heroes. His lies were beautiful, and so appealing. According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.

Many intellectuals, journalists and educated people in the First World fell for this myth, too — though they would have been among the first to be jailed or killed by Castro in his own realm — and their assumptions acquired an intensity similar to that of religious convictions. Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.

This Kafkaesque moral disequilibrium had a touch of magical realism, for sure, as outrageously implausible as anything that Castro’s close friend Gabriel García Márquez could dream up. For instance, in 1998, around the same time that Chile’s ruler Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London for his crimes against humanity, Cuba’s self-anointed “maximum leader” visited Spain with ample fanfare, unmolested, even though his human rights abuses dwarfed those of Pinochet.

Even worse, whenever Castro traveled abroad, many swooned in his presence. In 1995, when he came to New York to speak at the United Nations, many of the leading lights of that city jostled so intently for a chance to meet with him at media mogul Mort Zuckerman’s triplex penthouse on Fifth Avenue that Time magazine declared “Fidel Takes Manhattan!” Not to be outdone, Newsweek called Castro “The Hottest Ticket in Manhattan.” None of the American elites who hobnobbed with Castro that day seemed to care that he had put nuclear weapons to their heads in 1962.

If this were a just world, 13 facts would be etched on Castro’s tombstone and highlighted in every obituary, as bullet points — a fitting metaphor for someone who used firing squads to murder thousands of his own people.

●He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.

●He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.

●He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.

●He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.

●He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.

●He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.

●He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.

●He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.

●He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.

●He censored all means of expression and communication.

●He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.

●He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.

●He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.

In sum, Fidel Castro was the spitting image of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” So, adiós, Big Brother, king of all Cuban nightmares. And may your successor, Little Brother, soon slide off the bloody throne bequeathed to him.

N.Y. Post Editorial: Castro’s Rotting in Hell, But Cuba’s Not Free Yet

From The New York Post's Editorial Board:

Castro’s rotting in hell, but Cuba’s not free yet

The dancing in the streets of Miami tells you all you need to know: The people who knew Fidel Castro best, and are free to express their opinion, are ecstatic that he’s burning in hell.

He led a revolution promising liberty in the island nation — then instead transformed it into an island prison. Along with the rest of his inner circle, he lived a life of luxury — 20 homes, including a private island, Cayo Piedra, that his former bodyguard called a “millionaire’s paradise.”

He jailed, tortured and “disappeared” countless thousands of his people, including many who’d helped lead the revolution. His utter denial of basic human rights — freedoms of speech and assembly, for starters — drove more than a fifth of Cuba’s population into exile.

Castro deceived from the start, and fools around the world chose to believe the lies long after the truth was obvious. He took power claiming to be a nationalist, then came out as a fervent Communist — with firing squads for any who complained.

Yes, he removed US influence over his country — and sold it to the Soviet Union. His bid to host a Soviet atomic arsenal on the island brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

He outlawed not only private enterprise, but also labor unions, and put gays in concentration camps.

His policies impoverished what had once been the most prosperous nation in Latin America. The regime blamed the US embargo, without ever noting that the rest of the world hadn’t joined in: The problem was that Castro’s Cuba had next to nothing to export — beyond mercenaries, terrorism and secret police.

By the 1990s, he was even bragging about Cuba’s legions of prostitutes, who served the tourist trade he’d been forced to embrace to replace the subsidies he lost with the fall of the USSR.

In 2006, ill health forced him to hand power over to younger brother Raul, who continues the oppression.

So, while you cheer the death of one of history’s bloodiest tyrants, temper your joy: Cuba is not yet free.

WSJ Editorial: Fidel Castro's Communist Example

From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Fidel Castro’s Communist Example

He turned a developing Cuba into an impoverished prison.

Fidel Castro’s legacy of 57 years in power is best understood by the fates of two groups of his countrymen—those who remained in Cuba and suffered impoverishment and dictatorship, and those who were lucky or brave enough to flee to America to make their way in freedom. No progressive nostalgia after his death Friday at age 90 should disguise this murderous and tragic record.

Castro took power on New Year’s Day in 1959 serenaded by the Western media for toppling dictator Fulgencio Batista and promising democracy. He soon revealed that his goal was to impose Communist rule. He exiled clergy, took over Catholic schools and expropriated businesses. Firing squads and dungeons eliminated rivals and dissenters.

The terror produced a mass exodus. An April 1961 attempt by the CIA and a small force of expatriate Cubans to overthrow Castro was crushed at the Bay of Pigs in a fiasco for the Kennedy Administration. Castro aligned himself with the Soviet Union, and their 1962 attempt to establish a Soviet missile base on Cuba nearly led to nuclear war. The crisis was averted after Kennedy sent warships to intercept the missiles, but the Soviets extracted a U.S. promise not to invade Cuba again.

The Cuba that Castro inherited was developing but relatively prosperous. It ranked third in Latin America in per-capita daily calorie consumption, doctors and dentists. Its infant mortality rate was the lowest in the region and the 13th lowest in the world. Cubans were among the most literate Latins and had a vibrant civic life with private professional, commercial, religious and charitable organizations.

Castro destroyed all that. He ruined agriculture by imposing collective farms, making Cuba dependent first on the Soviets and later on oil from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. In the last half century Cuba’s export growth has been less than Haiti’s, and now even doctors are scarce because so many are sent abroad to earn foreign currency. Hospitals lack sheets and aspirin. The average monthly income is $20 and government food rations are inadequate.

All the while Fidel and his brother Raúl sought to spread their Communist revolution throughout the world, especially in Latin America. They backed the FARC in Colombia, the Shining Path in Peru and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Their propaganda about peasant egalitarian movements beguiled thousands of Westerners, from celebrities like Sean Penn and Danny Glover to Secretary of State John Kerry, who on a visit to Havana called the U.S. and Cuba “prisoners of history.” The prisoners are in Cuban jails.

On this score, President Obama’s morally antiseptic statement Saturday on Castro is an insult to his victims. “We know that this moment fills Cubans—in Cuba and in the United States—with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” Mr. Obama said. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” Donald Trump, by contrast, called Castro a “dictator” and expressed hope for a “free Cuba.”

Mr. Obama’s 2014 decision to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations has provided new business opportunities for the regime but has yielded nothing in additional freedom. Americans can now travel and make limited investment in Cuba but hard currency wages for workers are confiscated by the government in return for nearly worthless pesos. In 2006 Forbes estimated Fidel’s net worth, based on his control of “a web of state-owned companies,” at $900 million.

The hope of millions of Cubans, exiled and still on the island, has been that Fidel’s death might finally lead to change, but unwinding nearly six decades of Castro rule will be difficult. The illusions of Communism have given way to a military state that still arrests and beats women on their way to church. China and Russia both allow more economic freedom. The regime fears that easing up on dissent, entrepreneurship or even access to the internet would lead to its inevitable demise.

Castro’s Cuba exists today as a reminder of the worst of the 20th-century when dictators invoked socialist ideals to hammer human beings into nails for the state. Too many Western fellow-travelers indulged its fantasies as long as they didn’t have to live there. Perhaps the influence of Cuba’s exiles will be able, over time, to reseed the message of liberty on the island. But freedom starts by seeing clearly the human suffering that Fidel Castro wrought.

Statement on the Passing of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro

(For more information, please contact Rudy Mayor, info@uscubapac.com)

Statement by U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC:

Fifty-seven years ago, Fidel Castro betrayed the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people and installed a totalitarian dictatorship. His passing serves as a historic opportunity to bring closure to the extraordinary suffering and repression his regime has caused. The Cuban people deserve nothing less than the same freedoms and representative democracy as the other nations of this Western Hemisphere. It's time to close the tragic chapter of the Castros and, consequently, of dictatorships in the Americas.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration, the incoming Trump Administration and the U.S. Congress should make it unequivocally clear that -- regardless of the Cuban dictator's first and last name -- codified sanctions will only be lifted upon the release of all political prisoners; the recognition and respect of fundamental human, civil and political rights as prescribed by international covenants; and the legalization of opposition parties and an independent media.

Final Cuban-American Vote Average: Trump 58%, Rubio 69%

Friday, November 18, 2016
A look at the election results in the 30+ precincts in Miami-Dade County with the highest concentration of Cuban-American voters show that President-elect Donald Trump won by over 58% and Senator Marco Rubio won by over 69%.

These aren't exit polls or issue polls. These are actual votes counted.

Moreover, these numbers simply represent a base -- a starting point -- for they are somewhat diluted by non-Cuban voters.

In some precincts (see below), which are the biggest Cuban-American strongholds (e.g. Westchester), Trump was in the mid-60s, while Rubio in the mid-70s.

Clearly, Secretary Clinton can thank President Obama's unprincipled Cuba policy for this.

Rubio, Trump Find Common Ground on Cuba

From Florida Politics:

Marco Rubio, Donald Trump find common ground on Cuba

Sen. Marco Rubio has spent the last six years maligning Cuba policy from the Barack Obama White House.

He’s not expecting to have to do the same regarding Donald Trump, however.

After a meeting with Cuban dissident Guillermo “Coco” Farinas Tuesday, Rubio issued a statement, noting that “rolling back President Obama’s one-sided concessions to the Castro regime, a key campaign promise shared with President-elect Trump, will be a top priority for me next year.”

“By any objective measure, President Obama’s unilateral policy changes have failed, and they are not in the best interest of the American people or the people of Cuba,” Rubio observed, adding that he intends to fight for support for “civil society and dissidents from Cuba and other countries.”

Much of the campaign of Rubio’s general election challenger, Rep. Patrick Murphy, was designed to draw comparisons between Rubio and Trump. And for his part, Rubio went out of his way to draw differences between himself and the GOP nominee, vowing to act as a “check” on a Trump White House.

With the general election out of the way, however, Rubio is finding that on one of his biggest policy priorities, it’s useful to have an ally in the White House.

Dissident Leader: Obama is Worst President for Cause of Free Cuba

The quote of the week:
I have faith that President Trump will be better for the people of Cuba and press the cause of freedom and democracy. Let’s just say no one can possibly be worse than Barack Obama has been for our cause.
-- Guillermo Fariñas, Cuban dissident leader and Sakharov Prize recipient, Fox News, 11/16/16

Letter From American Victim: Obama's Cuba Policy Endorses Larceny

Letter to the Editor of The Wall Street Journal:

Obama Cuba Policy and U.S. Property Rights

Let’s be clear about the consequences of President Obama’s unprincipled capitulation to the white, male, military dictatorship in Cuba and why it should be reversed. Everything in Cuba is stolen.

Regarding Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s “The Cost of Obama’s Cuba Policy” (Americas, Nov. 7): Let’s be clear about the consequences of President Obama’s unprincipled capitulation to the white, male, military dictatorship in Cuba and why it should be reversed. Everything in Cuba is stolen. Therefore, every American venture there permitted by President Obama will result in the widespread trafficking in stolen property, in many cases that of Americans. That’s not capitalism.

Look at my case, where a popular cruise line is trafficking in the port of Santiago de Cuba using a property confiscated from my family. This property has a claim certified by the U.S. Treasury. For the ill-informed regarding Cuba, protecting these unsettled claims is the reason there is an embargo.

Yet President Obama granted the company permission to traffic in my property despite my objections. He claims it isn’t trafficking. How? Because he says so. Sounds like Raúl Castro. And so it is with every activity in Cuba, including renting from Airbnb, smoking cigars, drinking rum and cruising in old American jalopies. Even the paintings in the museums are hot.

Most contracts between the dictatorship and American corporations will likely be canceled by a democratic government and property returned to the rightful owners. Why then would any U.S. company want change and risk its Cuba deal? No company will risk this. Investment seeks certainty. Mr. Obama has essentially linked the existence of every American enterprise in Cuba to the survival of the Castro dictatorship.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal President Obama’s reckless executive orders pertaining to Cuba, beginning with those that violate U.S. law. Fortunately for President Obama his violation of the law will soon be forgotten.

Javier Garcia-Bengochea
Certified Claimant
Jacksonville, Fla.

Obama’s Cuba Policy Makes Bad Situation Worse

Thursday, November 17, 2016
By Mauricio Claver-Carone in The Miami Herald:

Obama’s Cuba policy makes bad situation worse

It’s been almost two years since President Barack Obama announced that he was “charting a new course on Cuba” and lifted numerous U.S. trade sanctions on the island to empower the “Cuban people” and the island’s “emerging private sector.” At the time, reasonable minds could disagree with Obama’s tactics, which ignored the plight of Cuba’s political dissidents, but few could disagree with the president’s purported intent.

Since that Dec. 17, 2014, announcement, there’s been little to celebrate. Political repression in Cuba is at historic highs; emigration has risen to levels not seen since the 1994 flight of rafters; violations of religious freedom have increased tenfold; and the rate of growth of the so-called “emerging private sector” (“cuentapropistas”) has turned negative.

In short, Obama’s new course for Cuba has made a bad situation worse.

Recently Obama and his administration added insult to injury by promulgating rules that allow Americans to do business with Cuba’s state monopolies run by Castro family members. These are businesses and properties confiscated without compensating the owners — stolen — by the Castros’ regime. Many of the owners were Americans or Cubans who fled the island. Three new provisions, jointly promulgated Oct. 14, by the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments, send a clear message: The Obama administration has pivoted to support the Castro regime, rather than the Cuban people and their desire for economic and political reform. The new U.S. regulations:

Remove the $100 cap on the import of Cuban rum and cigars for personal consumption. The cap had been imposed because these industries along with their trademarks had been confiscated. U.S. law and prior administrations had never legitimized such theft of private property, trafficking in stolen property, or support to Cuba’s state monopolies. Apparently, President Obama no longer cares.

The biggest beneficiary is, of course, the Castros’ rum industry, anchored by a stolen distillery and its “Havana Club” brand. Jose Arechabala established the distillery in 1878 and began exporting Havana Club rum to the United States in 1934. The Castro dictatorship forcibly seized all of the Arechabala family’s assets in 1960. The family was imprisoned or fled the island with only the shirts on their backs. Today Americans traveling to Cuba can party, drink and take home all the Havana Club rum they like, not knowing or caring that the Castros enjoy the profits.

Narrow the definition of “prohibited Cuban regime officials.” This change grants officials of the Castro government the same access to U.S. financial assistance that, purportedly, was crafted solely to support “the Cuban people and emerging private sector.” As a result, members of Castro’s Council of State; the puppet legislature; political prosecutors; local and provincial regime officials; ministry officials; secret police (Direccion de Seguridad del Estado, DSE) and intelligence agents (Direccion General de Inteligencia, DGI); neighborhood repressors (Comites de Defensa, CDR); media and cultural censors; even prison guards will be allowed to receive unlimited remittances and gifts, set up banking accounts, access and use the Internet to repress Cuban dissidents who have been seeking U.S. support for economic and political reform.

It’s hard to justify this latest “White House gift” amid the dramatic increase in repression.

Permit “contingency contracts” with Castro’s state monopolies. U.S. law prohibits contracts with Cuba’s state monopolies. Sales of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices were Congressionally-mandated exceptions. The Obama administration has now ignored the law to authorize dealings with these monopolies if the contracts include a “contingency clause” stating it won’t be implemented until U.S. law is changed or the transaction is specifically authorized by the Treasury Department. That’s tantamount to stealing the future of the Cuban people.

Obama is so intent on creating a lobby of U.S. corporate interests to pressure Congress into changing the law, that he has invited the Castro family to divvy up and establish a contractual claim to ownership on every potentially lucrative industry or business on the island, leaving the Cuban people with nothing for tomorrow.

The president has repeatedly described U.S. policy toward Cuba as a “relic of the Cold War.” He had to dig deeper into the archives to derive this provision, so reminiscent of an era when U.S. foreign policy famously teamed with Latin American dictators and American corporations, like the United Fruit Company, to negotiate away the economic future of those nations.

There’s no longer any rational strategy behind President Obama’s “Cuba policy.” It has gone from what it initially portrayed as a noble purpose to pure sycophancy in pursuit of “historic firsts.” Unfortunately, those Cuban dissidents who recognized Obama’s intent from the beginning and labeled it “a betrayal” of their fight for freedom have now been proven correct. Their foresight has come at a terrible cost.

Dismal End to Obama’s Cuba Legacy

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
By Jose Cardenas in The Washington Times:

Dismal end to Obama’s Cuba legacy

The Castros’ ideological intolerance still reigns

As the Obama administration enters its waning days, the president’s “historic” decision to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba is ending not with a bang, but a whimper.

Days after Speaker Paul Ryan declared he had no intention of considering anti-embargo legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives, the administration petulantly ordered U.S. officials at the United Nations to “abstain” for the first time from the General Assembly’s annual embargo-bashing vote.

Think of it: a U.S. administration fails to defend its democratically elected Congress before a reflexively anti-American global body comprised largely of a gaggle of thugs, thieves and assorted other despots whose sole reason for existence is to undermine the United States of America and all it represents.

This is what Mr. Obama’s “historic” Cuba policy has come to.

By nearly every measure it set for itself, what the Obama administration intended to accomplish with its reversal of decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba has failed to occur. Supporting more private entrepreneurship? The Castro regime recently cracked down on “allowing” more Cubans to run their own businesses, a development Reuters called, “a new sign that Cuba’s Communist-run government is hesitant to further open up to private business in a country where it still controls most economic activity.”

More Cuban connectivity to the internet? Two years later, Cuba remains one of least connected countries in the world. According to Freedom House, “Cuba has long ranked as one of the world’s most repressive environments for information and communication technologies. High prices, exceptionally slow connectivity, and extensive government regulation have resulted in a pronounced lack of access to applications and services.”

As for the administration’s effort to build a U.S. business constituency to lobby for the end of all U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba, that too has proven futile. According to a recent report by The Associated Press, “Two years into President Barack Obama’s campaign to normalize relations with Cuba, his push to expand economic ties is showing few results.” In other words, U.S. companies came, they saw, they left.

And who can blame them? After getting one look at Cuba’s bankrupt economy lacking rule of law and any semblance of freedom or predictability (plus continuing potential liabilities from the in-place embargo), most said adios.

The only remaining measure the Obama administration can point to with any satisfaction is an increase in Americans visiting Cuba, which it made happen through presidential decree skirting the embargo’s ban on tourist travel. But these likely one-time curiosity-seekers stay and dine in facilities owned primarily by the Cuban military. How that will empower ordinary Cubans is something no one in the administration has ever bothered to explain.

Perhaps most damning, though, for President Obama’s supposed “legacy” Cuba project is a rising set of other numbers: Cubans fleeing the island and human rights violations.

According to a recent report on National Public Radio, over the past fiscal year, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted 5,396 Cubans attempting to reach U.S. shores — double the number from the previous year.
The mainstream media want you to believe they are fleeing in record numbers because they fear Mr. Obama’s rapprochement will mean the end of immigration privileges to the United States. But that doesn’t answer the question: If Mr. Obama’s policy was targeted toward “improving the lives of ordinary Cubans” then why do people continue to flee?

The answer that Obama apologists want to avoid is that they are fleeing because they have no hope conditions will ever improve under the Castros and that Mr. Obama’s policy shift locks in the status quo.

Equally, human rights conditions have fared poorly since Mr. Obama’s “historic” normalization of relations. The Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human Rights has documented 620 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of October alone. That means that, with two months still to go this year, the Castro regime has made a record-shattering 9,125 political arrests already this year.

Editorial boards across the country swooned over Mr. Obama’s decision to recognize the Castro dictatorship — local democracy and human activists likely not so much.

The most painful part of this outcome is that it was entirely predictable, as many skeptics pointed out from the very beginning. But the Obama administration thought it knew better. It believed a 50-year record of ideological intolerance and intransigence could be ameliorated by a more supine U.S. position. It is the same contempt for history that has manifested itself across the board in Mr. Obama’s approach to the world.

Obama apologists say that “more time is needed” for his Cuba policy to bear fruit. But anyone who believes that is smoking something — and it’s not Cuban cigars. President-Elect Trump would do well to put an end to Mr. Obama’s dismal experiment and develop a policy that restores a sense in the Cuban people that Castroism is not a permanent blot on their daily lives.

OFAC Fines Oil Services Company for Cuba Sanctions Violations

Note the sanctions violations took place between 2007 and 2009.

In other words, companies that feel protected by the Obama Administration's currently policy do so at their own future risk.

That will change in 65 days.

From U.S. Treasury Department:

National Oilwell Varco, Inc. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations: National Oilwell Varco, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and its subsidiaries Dreco Energy Services, Ltd. (“Dreco”) and NOV Elmar (“Elmar”) (collectively referred to hereafter as “NOV” unless otherwise noted), have agreed to settle their potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 (CACR), the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR), and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 538 (SSR), for $5,976,028.

NOV’s settlement with OFAC is concurrent with both a settlement agreement between NOV and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) executed by NOV with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

OFAC determined that from on or about 2002 to on or about 2009, NOV engaged in certain conduct in apparent violation of the ITSR. Specifically: (1) between October 2002 and April 2005, National Oilwell Varco, Inc. approved at least four Dreco commission payments to a U.K.-based entity that related to the sale and exportation of goods, directly or indirectly, from Dreco to Iran, in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR (these four commission payments have a combined value of $2,630,091); (2) between September 2006 and January 2008, National Oilwell Varco, Inc. engaged in two transactions totaling $13,596,980 involving the direct or indirect sale and exportation of goods to Iran, and/or facilitated those transactions, in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR; (3) between at least 2003 and 2007, Dreco knowingly indirectly exported goods from the United States for the specific purpose of filling at least seven orders from Iranian customers, in apparent violation of § 560.204 of the ITSR (these seven transactions have a total value of $526,480); (4) between 2007 and 2009, Dreco engaged in 45 transactions totaling $1,707,964 involving the sale of goods to Cuba, in apparent violation of § 515.201 of the CACR; (5) between 2007 and 2008, Elmar engaged in two transactions totaling $103,119 involving the sale of goods or services to Cuba, in apparent violation of § 515.201 of the CACR; and (6) between 2005 and 2006, NOV engaged in one $20,928 transaction involving the direct or indirect exportation of goods from the United States to Sudan, in apparent violation of § 538.205 of the SSR (collectively referred to hereafter as the “Apparent Violations”).

Iran to Build Nanotechnology Lab in Cuba

From Iran's state media:

Iran to build nanotechnology lab in Cuba

Iran is ready to build a laboratory center equipped with nanotechnology in one of nano institutes in Cuba, Iran’s VP for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari said Tuesday.

Sorena Sattari, Vice-President for Science and Technology, made the remark in a meeting with Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, scientific adviser to the Cuban president, in Tehran on Tuesday, adding that Iran is also ready to present Cuba with a gifted package including educational services related to how to operate the equipment at the lab.

During the meeting, Sattari noted Iran’s various technological achievements including exports of biotechnological medicine to Russia, the extensive nanotechnology plans for high school and university students as well as companies, the presence of about 160 companies active in the field of nanotechnology and the country’s achievements in the field of water treatment.

“We have sealed good nano agreements with Cuba, and are ready to develop our technological cooperation with this country in the field of vaccines and recombinant drugs,” he said.

Sattari maintained that the biggest e-commerce company in the Middle East is situated in Iran, adding “the company which was only established six years ago now sales over $3.5 million in a day, and is even bigger than similar companies in Russia.”

The Cuban official, for his part, welcomed any kind of cooperation with Iran, and thanked the Islamic Republic for its generous proposal on establishing a nanotechnology laboratory in his country.

U.S. District Court: Cuba Must Pay $166M To Colombian Terrorism Victims

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Castro regime is having a very bad couple of weeks.

This sets a very important legal precedent.

From Law 360:

Cuba Must Pay $166M To Colombian Terrorist Victims

A Washington, D.C., federal court has granted a $166 million default judgment against the Cuban government for its support of Colombian rebels who captured, tortured and held for ransom for five years three U.S. contractors and killed another.

Federal Judge Amit P. Mehta awarded $44.7 million to each of three surviving contractors from a narcotics surveillance flight shot down in 2003 by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, FARC for its Spanish acronym, in addition to $12 million in damages for the widow of a fourth contractor executed immediately after the crash, and $5 million for each of his four children under the State Sponsors of Terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

“The court has little trouble concluding that Cuba provided the FARC with the materials, training, and resources necessary to carry out these batteries — the aircraft sabotage and physical torture — and that it did so with intent to harm these plaintiffs. Cuba intentionally provided support to the FARC over a number of years and encouraged the FARC to use violence to promote its political agenda,” the decision states.

Cuba’s communist government provided funding, training, weapons and facilitated the drug trafficking efforts of the FARC for decades leading up to the downing of the counter-narcotics operation, and throughout the captivity of Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howe, civilian contractors participating in the operation on behalf of the U.S. Embassy, according to the opinion.

Stansell, Gonsalves and Howe were forcibly marched through the Colombian jungle under the weight of injuries and heavy chains for five years after their flight was shot down by FARC rebels, hoping to exchange the prisoners for concessions from the Colombian government, according to court documents.

During that period, the rebels starved the contractors, forced them to eat rotten and gasoline-tainted food, withheld medicine for the many ailments they suffered as a result of their conditions and even operated to remove a “baseball-sized” cyst from the hip of one hostage with no anesthetic. They also subjected the contractors to psychological torture, including prolonged periods of force isolation and silence, and “dry firing” unloaded weapons at them to simulate executions.

Tom Janis, the former Delta Force pilot of the flight was executed, along with Colombian national Luis Alcides Cruz, at the site of the crash.

Stansell, Gonsalves and Howe filed suit against Cuba in 2015 under the State Sponsors of Terrorism exception to the FSIA, which allows U.S. courts to hear civil suits against states for damages resulting from terrorist acts with foreign government support.

The suit was served to the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, the government, which is currently in the process of restoring diplomatic relations with the U.S., after the countries severed ties in 1961. The Cuban government, however, gave no response, and the plaintiffs requested summary judgment in January.

The parties could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case is Stansell et al v. Republic of Cuba, case number 1:15-cv-01519, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board: Obama's Cuba Policy Produces More Suffering

From The Oklahoman's Editorial Board

Obama's Cuba policy produces only more suffering

It may not be getting much attention, but President Barack Obama's decision to liberalize U.S.-Cuba policy is rapidly shifting from naive and ill-advised to an act of willful obliviousness.

The administration's foreign policy often appears predicated on the idea that enemies will become allies if only the United States embraces appeasement. In Cuba, that theory is being disproved daily.

This fact was highlighted recently in a letter sent to the Obama administration by Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. Both question the legality of Obama's action, which defies federal law regarding the Cuba embargo, but they also note the policy has been wholly ineffective.

“Since you laid out your vision for re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014, human rights conditions in the country have worsened,” Lankford and Diaz-Balart wrote.

Citing the congressional testimony of Mauricio Claver-Carone, a former Treasury official who is now executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, Lankford and Diaz-Balart noted that “political arrests in Cuba have intensified, Internet connectivity has dropped, and religious freedom violations have increased tenfold since the policy change was announced.”

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation documented 8,616 political arrests in 2015, and 8,505 political arrests through September of this year. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition last year in Cuba. That group also “documented 1,606 separate violations of religious freedom in Cuba.”

Lankford and Diaz-Balart noted that “several of the prisoners released by Cuba as part of the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations were rearrested with even longer prison sentences, according to your State Department's own human rights report.”

In other words, even the Obama administration tacitly admits its policy is failing.

At the same time, Lankford and Diaz-Balart noted the Castro regime was caught smuggling 240 tons of military weapons to North Korea in 2013. In August and September 2016, the Cuban government “deepened ties with Iran, and has allowed Russian spy ships to dock from its territory.” Russian official have announced they may open a military base in Cuba. In congressional testimony, the director of national intelligence, Gen. James R. Clapper, said the Castro dictatorship remains an espionage threat on par with Iran, behind only China and Russia.

Fabiola Santiago, who initially supported Obama's Cuban policy change, has since written in the Miami Herald that the results aren't benefiting the Cuban people. In particular, Santiago is upset that supposed economic development benefits are going to the Cuban military, which runs major hotels now receiving investment funds from American firms.

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady noted last week that the Cuban economy is “in tatters” while the Castro regime “is backtracking on promises of reform” and “beatings and detentions of dissidents have soared since the U.S. extended the olive branch.”

“Yet Mr. Obama keeps making concessions to the Castros…”

Obama's presidency has been marked by extreme hubris. In Cuba, the price of the administration's unwillingness to acknowledge policy mistakes is being measured in ever-greater human suffering.

Miami Herald Editorial: Castro Regime is Real Threat to Cuba

From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Trump not a threat to Cuba, the regime is

Donald Trump’s victory has sent shock waves through the United States — and also to our nearest “frenemy” 90 miles away.

The president-elect clearly said during his campaign that he would reverse the thaw in relations between Washington and Havana unless Raúl Castro’s government granted more political freedoms to the population.

On this subject, the Cuban regime continues to be deficient: Granting the freedoms to which Mr. Trump referred is tantamount to going against the very essence of the system.

The Editorial Board, though supportive of normalization, has been disappointed with the pace of change in Cuba. In truth, the regime has conceded very little.

In the final days of his campaign, Mr. Trump was endorsed by the veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion — a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles who unsuccessfully tried to topple the Fidel Castro regime in 1961.

Rightly, the island government fears that when Mr. Trump moves into the White House, he will put President Obama’s though back on ice. After all, Cuba has seen an increase in the flow of capital it needs to keep its failing economy afloat.

And on the streets, Cubans who dream of coming to the United States see their goal at risk. They fear that Mr. Trump, who has often spoken of reducing the influx of immigrants to the nation, will eliminate migratory privileges, such as visas programs, that allow Cubans to resettle in the United States.

It is possible that before Jan. 20, when the real-estate magnate takes office, there will be increased attempts to cross the Florida Straits, or there will be a jump in the number of Cubans making their way to the United States through other countries.

No doubt, such a renewed exodus will have an impact on South Florida.

The restlessness on the island coincides with an announcement last week of military exercises in Cuba. Cuban authorities say the exercises will be held from Nov. 16 thru 18.

The objective is to “raise the country’s willingness to defend and prepare the troops and the population to deal with the enemy’s different actions,” according to a statement in the official newspaper Granma.

But who is the enemy the Cuban government refers to in the announcement?

Is it the United States, the so-called “Yankee imperialist,” the term the Castro regime used for the United States before President Obama set each nation on a road to cordiality? Keeping the population fearful and alert for a possible foreign invasion from the United States has long been a Castro tactic.

Just like previous Republican and Democratic administrations in the last half a century, Mr. Trump likely has no interest in launching a military operation against the old enemy. So ordering military exercises to confront the hypothetical “enemy actions,” is a sign of the paranoia that has characterized the Cuban regime.

It is possible that the real intention of the Castro government with these exercises is, as on previous occasions, to distract the people from the real threats facing the Cuban people, those from within: lack of freedoms, economic crisis, despair at the system failure.

The war maneuvers will be nothing more than a useless display of a military power that has dissipated since the Soviet Union pulled out of the island. Neither Mr. Trump nor anyone in the U.S. government entertains the crazy idea of invading Cuba.

The real enemy of the Cubans is not in Washington, but on the island itself.

N.Y. Post: Obama’s Cuba ‘Legacy’ Drive Lost Florida for Clinton

Saturday, November 12, 2016
By Mike Gonzalez in The New York Post:

Obama’s ‘legacy’ drive lost Florida for Clinton

‘Pride goeth before destruction,” Proverbs 16:18 reminds us, and so it was in this election.

The evidence is mounting that President Obama’s overzealous defense of his “opening Cuba” gambit cost Hillary Clinton the state of Florida. That misstep could end up wiping out most of the president’s carefully curated “legacy” achievements.

For the president and his young Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the establishment of diplomatic relations with one of the world’s last communist dictatorships became something they weirdly defended from any criticism. Even the smallest amendment that watered down coddling the Castros drew fulminating threats of vetoes from the White House.

Then in late October, President Obama went for broke and decided to stick a bigger needle in his opponents’ eye.

He lifted limits on the import of cigars and rum, and then ordered our ambassador to the United Nations to abstain from a vote condemning the US economic embargo on Cuba.

That UN directive was especially galling. President Obama was, in fact, venting his frustration with Congress for not lifting the embargo upon his command — which Congress has the right to refuse to do — by letting the world body mock US law unopposed.

The Cuban-American community in Miami was irritated enough to give a second look to Donald Trump, who quickly reacted by shifting from his earlier tepid support for Obama’s Cuba policy to a promise that he would end relations unless Raul Castro began democratic reforms.

A New York Times-Siena poll, headlined “Cubans Come Home to Trump,” confirmed that all this was enough to add almost 20 percentage points to Trump’s support among Cuban-Americans.

Trump voters in this group shot from 33 percent in September to 52 percent just a few days before the election, according to the poll. And there is evidence they may have voted even in larger numbers for Trump.

Various exit polls put Cuban-Americans as supporting Trump over Clinton by a 53-41 percent clip, while analyses of Cuban-American precincts puts the support closer to 60-40.

Clinton ended up losing the election to Trump by the razor-thin margin of 125,000 votes out of more than 9 million cast, in a state where Cuban-Americans number more than a million.

As of today, Trump won the presidency with 290 electoral college votes, which means that Florida with its 29 votes was decisive in putting him over the top.

Why did the president feel he could take such steps without endangering Clinton’s chances in Florida? He misinterpreted a poll by Florida International University which showed strong support for his policies among Cuban-Americans.

The poll included such findings as “sixty-three percent of respondents oppose the continuation of the embargo” and “most respondents favor expanding economic relations between companies in the United States and the island.”

The problem was, when you broke down those responses by the wave in which exiles entered the US — 1960-1980, 1980-1994, or 1994-2016 — the results varied greatly. The first two waves, especially the 1960s crowd, are staunch anti-communists; on principle, they did not want to deal with the Castros. The latter wave, more likely to be economic migrants with no fixed political philosophy, are eager to deal with the government of the country they just left.

Only 36 percent of the first group want to expand business relations with Cuba’s government, for instance, while twice as many — 73 percent — of the latter group do.

There is another difference among these groups: 98 percent of the first wave are American citizens, and 97 percent are registered to vote.

The equivalent figures for the 1994-2016 wave are 53 percent and 43 percent. In addition, the older wave tends to be single issue voters — and the issue is relations with Cuba.

President Obama seems not to have realized these differences existed, or if he did, he may have thought that personal charisma or force of personality would preclude paying an electoral penalty.

Andres Oppenheimer, the Miami Herald’s top columnist, wrote wryly: “I wonder what Obama was thinking when he signed the Cuban rum and cigars order — a largely symbolic measure — and when he voted to abstain on the embargo at the UN, just a few weeks before the US elections. What was the rush to press the normalization pedal just now?”

Hubris goeth before the fall.

In My Humble Opinion: Trump's Cuba Policy Mandate

Excerpt from The Miami Herald:

Donald Trump’s election as the next president of the United States has cast a shadow over the Obama administration policy of warming relations with Cuba [...]

Cuba watchers agree that he probably will make some gesture to fulfill his campaign promises and acknowledge the support of Cuban Americans whose votes might have helped him to win Florida.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the pro-embargo U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington, agreed.

“As for President-elect Trump, his Cuban-American supporters will surely hold him to his commitment to reverse Obama’s executive orders,” he said. “Moreover, his election and the huge win of the Cuban-American Congressional delegation give Trump the clear mandate to do so.”

Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo — all Cuban Americans from South Florida who oppose Obama’s policies on Cuba — were reelected Tuesday. And Republicans retained control of both chambers of Congress.

Lawmakers have submitted bills to ease or strengthen U.S. sanctions on Cuba in recent years, but neither side has prevailed.

Supporters of the sanctions say the election of Trump and a Republican Congress has put an end to any possibility of lifting the embargo in the next two years.

“There was minimal chance that a new Congress would ease or remove [embargo] sanctions,” Claver-Carone said, “and those slim chances are now down to zero.”

Must-Watch Video: Cuban Dissident Dragged Away for Protest

The video below -- shot last week -- shows how a Cuban dissident is dragged away for yelling "Down with Raul", "Down with Fidel," "Down with Communism."

Note that all of the human rights violators in this video clip are eligible for sanctions relief under Obama's absurd regulations.

Click below (or here) to watch:

Obama's Cuba Policy Lost Florida for Hillary

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Yesterday, a column in The Wall Street Journal asked, "Will Obama's Cuba Policy Lose Florida for Clinton?"

We now have the answer: Yes.

Donald Trump has defeated Hillary Clinton in the state of Florida thanks to strong support from Cuban-Americans.

We can't stress this enough: No candidate has ever won statewide in Florida while running on an anti-embargo platform.

Moreover, Congress' biggest opponents of Obama's Cuba policy have all won handily.

Senator Marco Rubio easily defeated Patrick Murphy, who campaigned supporting Obama's Cuba policy.

Moreover, Congressman Carlos Curbelo defeated a prominent Obama policy cheerleader, Joe Garcia, by an 11-point margin.

Rounding out the night, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart also won re-election.

The lessons?

First, candidates should stop taking advice from a handful of greedy businessmen who are clueless as regards the real pulse of the Cuban-American community.

Second, issue polls are meaningless.

But third, and most importantly, as concluded by yesterday's The Wall Street Journal column:

"No matter who wins on Tuesday, the next president will have to clean up this Cuba mess. Decent Cuban-Americans on both sides of the aisle want answers."

AP Exit Polls: Trump, Rubio Overwhelmingly Win Cuban-American Vote

Verbatim from the AP's exit polls analysis in Florida:

"There was a significant divide between Cuban voters and non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida, the state with the nation's third-largest Hispanic population. Trump led with Cuban voters, but more almost three-quarters of non-Cuban Hispanics preferred Clinton. Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric has turned off many Hispanics, but Trump appealed to Cuban voters in September by saying he would reverse the deal Democratic President Barack Obama made with Cuba to reopen diplomatic relations - unless Cuba expands political freedoms."

As for Senator Marco Rubio:

"Rubio was the overwhelming favorite of white voters, while 4 in every 5 African-American voters preferred Murphy. The candidates split the Hispanic vote, although two-thirds of Cubans preferred Rubio, whose parents are from Cuba."

In other words, Rubio got over 67% of the Cuban-American vote.

Considering how exit polls undercount early and absentee ballots, it means Rubio easily received more than 70% of the Cuban-American vote.

NBC: How Cuban-Americans Helped Trump in Florida

From NBC's Nightly News with Lester Holt (click below or here):

WSJ: The Cost of Obama’s Cuba Policy

Monday, November 7, 2016
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

The Cost of Obama’s Cuba Policy

Exiles who oppose normalization could give Trump Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a statistical dead heat in Florida, where the state’s 29 electoral votes will be pivotal in Tuesday’s presidential election. One surprise for Democrats is that President Obama’s December 2014 decision to liberalize U.S. Cuba policy is not helping their nominee as the White House expected it to. Instead, it has become a liability.

Mr. Obama and Democrats bet big on the hypothesis that the traditional hard-line approach to dealing with the Castro regime, which encouraged the Cuban diaspora of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, is passe. And that new generations of Cuban-Americans, either U.S. born or more-recently arrived, favor economic and political engagement with the regime.

By spinning the president’s more-liberal travel policy to the island as an opportunity for investors to get in on the ground floor of Cuban change, the administration also hoped to gin up enthusiasm in Miami for his kinder, gentler attitude toward the communist military dictatorship. Mr. Obama’s detente with Cuba was supposed to be a political winner.

Just 23 months later that theory is being tested.

Cuban-Americans who initially supported Mr. Obama’s outreach are increasingly disillusioned with an administration strategy that helps the Castros but leaves out the Cuban people. This could affect turnout among left-of-center voters who care about human rights.

The Obama policy also seems to be energizing greater numbers of conservative and independent Cuban-Americans to rally behind the Republican candidate. A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll released on Oct. 30 had the New York real-estate developer leading Mrs. Clinton 52% to 42% among Cuban-Americans. Some read this as a result of recent Trump efforts in south Florida to make himself a champion of Cuban exiles. But it is more likely a rise in the protest vote.

The U.S. trade embargo, which dates to 1962, was codified into U.S. law in 1996. Lifting it requires congressional approval. But Mr. Obama has normalized relations with Havana, a step aimed at lending legitimacy to the gangster government. He also has used an executive order to liberalize U.S. travel to Cuba and has licensed some U.S. hotels to operate on the island.

The administration’s public explanation for the change was that economic engagement with Cuba would hasten the fall of the dictatorship.

A less charitable reading of Mr. Obama’s motivations suggests that he harbors ideological sympathy for the Cuban Revolution and believes that the Castros would treat Cubans humanely if only the U.S. would demonstrate tolerance for tropical totalitarianism.

Regardless of which narrative you prefer, the president badly miscalculated. Even his supporters have noticed.

A July 1 column in the Miami Herald by Cuban-born Fabiola Santiago, who described herself as having been a supporter “of the president’s policy of engagement with the goal of improving the lives of the Cuban people,” captured the disillusionment. Ms. Santiago was particularly peeved about the opening of the Four Points Sheraton Havana, “brought to you, American traveler, by the people who repress Cubans.”

The columnist explained that the Obama opening was sold as a path that would allow American companies to partner in joint ventures with Cuban entrepreneurs. Instead, she wrote, referring to Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, which owns Sheraton, “the American hospitality giant is in business with the Cuban military, which owns the hotel.” As she observed, that changes nothing. “We’re only shifting from the Castro brothers and family personally enriching themselves through totalitarian rule to the repressive military now doing exactly the same thing.”

Ms. Santiago quoted the similar sentiments of Richard Blanco, the Cuban-American poet who was tapped to read at the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August 2015: “How will [the goal of bringing prosperity to the Cuban people] be realized if basically they are doing what other foreign investors have done, namely, strike a deal with the government that leaves the ordinary Cubans in the same situation? How is this any better, simply because it’s the U.S.?”

If this is how supporters are assessing Mr. Obama’s Cuba project, it’s not hard to picture Cuban-Americans who either took a wait-and-see approach, or oppose the Obama policy, viewing this election as a chance to vote against it in order to aid their Cuban brethren. By pledging to stick with the policy, Mrs. Clinton has made herself a target.

The Cuban economy is in tatters and the regime is backtracking on promises of reform. Human-rights groups say that beatings and detentions of dissidents have soared since the U.S. extended the olive branch. Yet Mr. Obama keeps making concessions to the Castros, as he did on Oct. 14 when he authorized further sanctions relief.

No matter who wins on Tuesday, the next president will have to clean up this Cuba mess. Decent Cuban-Americans on both sides of the aisle want answers.

Obama's Cuba Legacy: Record Number of Political Arrests

Sunday, November 6, 2016
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 620 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of October 2016.

With two months to go in 2016, there have already been a record-shattering 9,125 political arrests in Cuba throughout the year.

This represents -- by far -- the highest number of political arrests in decades.

It already surpasses last year's year-long tally of 8,616 political arrests and nearly quintuples the tally of political arrests (2,074) throughout all of 2010, as Obama began his presidency.

And 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 dramatically rising.

Why? Because the Castro regime keeps getting a pass (more business, tourists and other concessions) for its repressive acts.

With Obama's policy, it pays to repress. Impunity rules.

Caught on Film: Crackdown on Cuban 'Cuentapropistas' Intensifies

The Obama Administration's silence in the face of increased political repression is now (sadly) par for the course.

But its silence amid Castro's crackdown on "self-employed" Cubans ("cuentapropistas"), which the Obama Administration purported to champion, is downright cynical.

As Cubanet reported, this past Friday, Castro's agents launched a raid against "cuentapropistas" in Old Havana.

In a store called "Lindo Amanecer", over 15 "cuentapropistas" were arrested, their storefronts severely damaged and all of the merchandise confiscated.

Click below (or here) to watch video footage of this operation (official theft):

Meet Raul Castro: Predator of Press Freedom

The Paris-based NGO, Reporters Without Borders, has released its latest "Predators Gallery".

Of the 35 press predators featured, only three are from the Western Hemisphere.

They are General Raul Castro, Mexico's Los Zetas cartel and Cuban-puppet Nicolas Maduro.

Here's the poster of General Castro:

Cuba and Syria Sign MOU to Deepen Ties

Surely, for the benefit of the Cuban and Syrian "people" (and Iran, Hezbollah, et al.):

From Assad's state media:

Syria, Cuba sign MOU for wide economic cooperation

The Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce signed with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce a memo of understanding between the two countries with the aim of boosting bilateral economic and trade relations.

The MOU includes mechanisms of exchanging information and opinion on the means of improving the trade activity between the two countries, in addition to arranging visits of businessmen, trade delegations and missions of the two sides as well as providing opportunities for businessmen of the two countries for finding joint cooperation mechanisms.

It also stipulates for encouraging holding exhibitions, forums, conferences and other activities in both countries with the aim of expanding the trade exchange and arranging meetings and forums for introducing businessmen on the investment opportunities and projects that could possibly be achieved as a step forwards for establishing a Syrian-Cuban workers’ committee as soon as possible.

Deputy Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Samer al-Khalil said in a statement following the signing of the MOU in Havana that this step constitutes an additional motive for upgrading the mechanism of the joint work between Syria and Cuba, as it also represents a step forwards toward the cooperation process that extends for years.

U.S.-Cuba Clinical Drug Trial (Scam) is Not the First

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Last week, in an article entitled, "In a first, U.S. trial to test Cuban lung-cancer vaccine," The Washington Post's health reporter wrote:

"The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first clinical trial to test a Cuban drug in the United States — a lung-cancer vaccine developed in Havana."

Obama, the Castro regime and its lobbyists also celebrated and sensationalized the story.

But facts matter: Not only is this cancer drug not a vaccine -- but this U.S.-Cuba clinical trial is not a first.

These bio-scams -- courtesy of Castro's regime -- have long been authorized by U.S. law.

For example, in 2004, another one of Castro's cancer "vaccines" was licensed to U.S.-based CancerVax.

Pursuant to intense lobbying, the Treasury Department caved and authorized U.S. trials for the cancer vaccine.

Two years later, the scam was on us -- Castro's cancer vaccine was some sort of placebo.

And, in 1999, there was a similar scam with one of Castro's meningitis "drugs."

Don't believe us?

Here's The New York Times reporting on July 15, 2004:

U.S. Permits 3 Cancer Drugs From Cuba

The federal government is permitting a California biotechnology company to license three experimental cancer drugs from Cuba, making an exception to the policy of tightly restricting trade with that country.

The company, CancerVax, had said late last year that it was trying to license the drugs and had been awaiting needed permission from the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. That permission has been granted, and CancerVax is expected to announce it today.

CancerVax executives said that it was the first time an American biotechnology company had obtained permission to license a drug from Cuba, a country that some industry executives and scientists say is surprisingly strong in biotechnology for a developing nation. In 1999, SmithKline Beecham, a large conventional pharmaceutical company now known as GlaxoSmithKline, licensed a Cuban vaccine for meningitis B that it is testing in clinical trials.

U.S. Companies See Grim Outlook in Cuba

A policy that stems from extortion (the taking of American hostage Alan Gross) will never shake it loose.

Hence, the Castro regime is extorting U.S. companies today, in the same manner as it extorted Obama in 2014 and the farm lobby since 2001.

Moreover, no matter how much kowtowing Obama and the U.S. Chamber do -- it will never curry sufficient favor with the Castro regime, nor alter its abusive behavior.

From AP:

US companies see grim outlook in Cuba despite Obama opening

For a while Saul Berenthal and Horace Clemmons were the 70-something poster boys of U.S.-Cuba detente.

The retired software entrepreneurs made worldwide headlines by winning Obama administration permission to build the first U.S. factory in Cuba since 1959. Cuban officials lauded their plans to build small tractors in the Mariel free-trade zone west of Havana. But after more than a year of courtship, the Cuban government told Berenthal and Clemmons to drop their plans to build tractors in Cuba, without explanation, Berenthal said Monday.

A month-and-a-half ago, their first tractors started rolling off the assembly line -- in the town of Fyffe, Alabama, population about 1,000.

“Producing the tractors in Mariel was not going to happen,” Berenthal said.

He said the company is already selling tractors to customers in the U.S. and Australia, and has had inquiries from Peru, Mexico and Ethiopia. He also still hopes to sell to Cuba.

Two years into President Barack Obama’s campaign to normalize relations with Cuba, his push to expand economic ties is showing few results. Apart from a few marquee deals for big U.S. brands, formal trade between the two countries remains at a trickle.

The mood was subdued among U.S. companies exhibiting Monday at the International Fair of Havana, the island’s biggest general-interest trade fair. As Cuba trumpeted new deals with Russia and Japan, U.S. corporate representatives staffing stands at a pavilion shared with Puerto Rico said they saw little immediate prospect for doing business with Cuba.

“We know we have to be here, to show our willingness to be here,” said Diego Aldunate, Latin America director for Illinois-based Rust-Oleum paints.

He and a colleague, Oscar Rubio, said they were waiting for potential clients from Cuba’s small worker-owned cooperative sector to stop by their stand, but by midafternoon no one had appeared.

The Cuban government maintains a monopoly on importing, exporting and on virtually all sales of products inside the country, making the state bureaucracy the final arbiter of what business gets done.

Some see the stagnant state of official trade with the U.S. as a conscious decision by the Cuban government to limit commerce to a few high-profile bites of the apple while funneling most business toward European and Asian companies, in order to keep the U.S. business community hungry for more and pushing Congress to do away with the embargo.

"The Cuban government is using the interest by U.S. companies as bait to entice the interest of companies in other countries," said John Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a private group that produces mostly skeptical analyses of the prospects of U.S.-Cuba trade. "The Cuban government is saying, 'Let's not give any more than absolutely necessary to U.S. companies,' so that the companies will continue to salivate toward illusory potential opportunities. There's far more inspiration and aspiration than reality."

Castro's War on 'Paladares' is Just the Beginning

The "experts" assured us that Castro's latest "reforms" were "irreversible" -- unlike those in the 1990s.

We argued that they were indeed reversible -- and that Obama's sanctions relief would stifle any real or further reforms. (Click here to read more.)

We were right. 

By Orlando Freire Santana in Diario de Cuba:

The war on paladares may be just the beginning

The recent announcement by the Council of the Provincial Administration of Havana (CAP), which contains a number of provisions governing the operation of Cuba's paladares (private restaurants), speaks of order and the discipline that should prevail at these businesses. A detailed analysis of some of these directives, however, reveals that their true aim is to prevent these establishments from becoming too successful, and escaping the authorities' control.

For example, if a musician who entertains customers is very popular, but does not belong to an Institute of Music company, he may not be hired by a paladar. And not allowing these establishments to acquire "illegal goods" could greatly their numbers. In the absence of a wholesale market, they would be limited to buying at retail stores, which suffer from severe shortages.

Another provision imposes a ban on importing goods for commercial purposes, as these transactions are not permitted by the General Customs Administration of the Republic. The measure, which would also affect the options the paladares are able to offer their customers, is consonant with the regime's desire to suppress the emerging private sector on the Island, thereby frustrating President Barack Obama and his desire to see it flourish.

Finally, the refusal to allow paladares to expand and, without abandoning their primary mission, also function as clubs or discos, is perhaps the clearest sign of the authorities' intentions.

The Government's actions against the paladares cannot be seen as an isolated incident against just one form of self-employment. Rather, it comes within the context of a counteroffensive recently unleashed against private activities that those in power consider "more lucrative". In this way the wave of repression against the paladares constitutes the second chapter in a script that began with the campaign against Cuba's almendrones, or private taxis.

Despite denials in the official rhetoric, at heart Castroism is antagonistic to private activity, and only allows it when it deems it expedient. No one should forget what happened back in 1996: after using certain market mechanisms, including expanding self-employment, to mitigate the economic collapse from the "Special Period," the Government halted reform and almost suspended all self-employment, all under the logic that “in a socialist country, most workers should be State employees.”

This counteroffensive against the self-employed cannot be separated from the famous section 104 of the "Conceptualisation of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development," which states that "The concentration of property and wealth in non-State natural or legal persons is not permitted, in accordance with legislation and consistent with the principles of our socialism." This statement, after being approved at the VII Congress of the Communist Party (PCC), has been echoed at subsequent meetings by high-ranking hardliners in the Castro regime.

As already stated, the containment of the self-employed by preventing them from importing or exporting products, seeks to counter the measures that President Obama may adopt to support Cuban entrepreneurs. The US president has backed this type of support ever since reaching the White House, and did so again during his visit to the Island, and now in his policies governing relations with Cuba.

Wisdom tells us that when they go after your neighbor, they can go after you too, such that landlords renting out homes and rooms ought to be on their guard. They, along with drivers and those running paladares, form a trio that has always remained in the crosshairs of the tax authorities. Renters may well be the next targets.