Rubio Demands Answers on U.S. Missile in Cuba's Possession

Friday, January 8, 2016
Rubio Demands Answers From Administration on U.S. Missile in Cuba's Possession

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, today demanded answers from the Obama Administration  regarding reports of a U.S. Hellfire missile in Cuba’s possession. In a letter to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta S. Jacobson, Rubio asks the State Department about its prior knowledge of the missile, and he warns of its significant implications on U.S. national security.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Assistant Secretary Jacobson:

Preventing the proliferation of sensitive U.S. technology is one of the most important duties carried out by the State Department. While your bureau is not the primary entity within the State Department handling these issues, you oversee U.S. policy toward Cuba and interactions with Cuban officials. Thus, the fact that members of Congress are reading about Cuba's possession of a U.S. missile in the newspaper rather than from you or other State Department officials is astounding and inexcusable.

Given that you have been talking to officials of the Cuban government for more than a year as part of President Obama's efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, I would like to know:

  • When was the State Department informed that a U.S. Hellfire missile had been sent to Cuba?
  • When were you personally first informed of this matter and by whom?
  • What has been done to obtain the missile's return by the Cuban government?
  • What specific entity of the Cuban government is currently in possession of the missile?
  • Please provide a list of the specific occasions on which you or other U.S. Government officials have raised this issue with the Castro regime.
  • Why was the return of the missile not obtained as a result of the negotiations that led to President Obama's December 17, 2014 announced change in U.S. policy toward Cuba?
  • Why was the return of the missile not a condition of removal of Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list?
  • Why was the return of the missile not a condition of establishment of embassies in Havana and Washington?
  • What members of Congress did you inform of this issue during your briefings and testimony regarding U.S. policy toward Cuba over the last 18 months?
  • Does the State Department know if the Cuban government shared the missile or its design with any foreign governments?
As you know, Cuba has extensive military and intelligence ties to U.S. adversaries around the world, including countries such as China and Russia. In July 2013, the Castro regime was caught red handed trading military technology with North Korea. Sensitive U.S. technology falling into the hands of such a regime has significant implications for U.S. national security. The fact that the administration, including you, have apparently tried to withhold this information from the congressional debate and public discussion over U.S.-Cuba policy is disgraceful.

I urge you to provide the above information to Congress as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio

Chairman Royce: Obama Has Lots of Explaining to Do on Missile in Cuba

The Obama Administration Has a Lot of Explaining to Do

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) released the following statement in response to reports that Cuba has been holding a lost U.S. Hellfire missile:

The Obama administration has a lot of explaining to do. How on earth did a Hellfire missile get into Cuban hands? Who else has had access to this technology after it went missing? It looks like the Obama Administration’s normalization with Cuba has gotten even more one-sided – we couldn’t even get this missile back.

Cuba has traded military secrets with North Korea in the past, and we can’t allow this key piece of national security technology to get to the Kim regime – or China and Russia.”

Cuban-American House Members: Joint Statement on U.S. Missile in Castro's Possession

Ros-Lehtinen, Díaz-Balart, Curbelo and Sires Make Joint Statement Regarding Unaccounted U.S. Hellfire Missile Acquired by Castro Regime

The fact that the Castro regime was able to acquire a U.S. Hellfire missile could be indicative of the lengths it is willing to go to undermine our national security and harm our interests

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL); Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) made the following joint statement concerning reports that Cuba is in possession of a U.S. Hellfire missile.

Joint Statement by Ros-Lehtinen, Díaz-Balart, Curbelo and Sires:

“Regardless of how Cuba came into possession of a U.S. Hellfire missile – which must be investigated – it is unconscionable that the Obama administration knew the Castros were in possession of this sensitive U.S. military technology since June 2014 and still moved forward with its policy to open up travel, trade, investment and diplomatic relations with the regime.

The fact that the Castro regime was able to acquire a U.S. Hellfire missile could be indicative of the lengths it is willing to go to undermine our national security and harm our interests. Congress must provide oversight to determine how the U.S. export control system failed to prevent this gross violation from occurring, and if Cuba’s espionage apparatus played a role in this Hellfire acquisition.

The Cuban regime rebuffed the President’s efforts to secure the return of the Hellfire missile even as the negotiations were ongoing, and yet the regime still got everything it could have wanted. It is no wonder that the Castro brothers feel ever more emboldened to continue on with the repression of the Cuban people, with intimidation and unlawful arrests at an alarmingly high rate.

This is a very serious breach and we are deeply concerned that the Castros have already shared the sensitive technology with the likes of Russia, North Korea or China. Let us not forget that last year the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and China's top military official General Fan Changlong both visited Havana to discuss strengthening military cooperation efforts and one of Cuba’s senior officials Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to the DPRK to visit Kim Jong-Un. We urge the Administration to start holding the Cuban regime accountable for its continued transgressions not only against its own people, but its continued disregard for international norms.”

Negligence or Malpractice: U.S. Hellfire Missile Ends Up in Cuba

Another "little detail" the Obama Administration failed to disclose to the American people.

If the U.S. knew about Castro having the missing Hellfire missile since June 2014 -- why didn't it make its return a condition for the normalization of relations, which it announced in December 2014?

Moreover, if Castro won't return this missile, the Obama Administration didn't know how it got to Cuba and U.S. intelligence agencies are concerned that the technology is being shared with other rogue actors -- why did it proceed to remove Cuba from state-sponsors of terrorism list in May 2015?

It's beyond negligence. It's policy malpractice.

Let's not forget, as we learned from Cuba's attempt to smuggle 240 tons of weapons -- including ballistic missile technology -- to North Korea in mid-2013, the Castros are more than willing to share such weapons, information and technology with other rogue actors.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Missing U.S. Missile Shows Up in Cuba

Inert Hellfire missile sent to Europe for a training exercise makes mysterious trip, sparking concerns over loss of military technology

An inert U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for training purposes was wrongly shipped from there to Cuba in 2014, said people familiar with the matter, a loss of sensitive military technology that ranks among the worst-known incidents of its kind.

The unintended delivery of the missile to Cuba has confounded investigators and experts who work in a regulatory system designed to prevent precisely such equipment from falling into the wrong hands, said those familiar with the matter.

For more than a year, amid a historic thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, American authorities have tried to get the Cuban government to return the missile, said people familiar with the matter. At the same time, federal investigators have been tracing the paper trail of the wayward Hellfire to determine if its arrival in Cuba was the work of criminals or spies, or the result of a series of blunders, these people said.

Hellfires are air-to-ground missiles, often fired from helicopters. They were first designed as antitank weapons decades ago, but have been modernized to become an important part of the U.S. government’s antiterrorism arsenal, often fired from Predator drones to carry out lethal attacks on targets in countries including Yemen and Pakistan, said people familiar with the technology.

This particular missile didn’t contain explosives, but U.S. officials worry that Cuba could share the sensors and targeting technology inside it with nations like China, North Korea or Russia, these people said. Officials don’t suspect Cuba is likely to try to take apart the missile on its own and try to develop similar weapons technology, these people said. It is unclear whether a U.S. adversary has ever obtained such knowledge of a Hellfire.

U.S. officials said the case of the missing missile, while highly unusual, points to long-standing concerns about the security of international commercial shipping and the difficulty of keeping close tabs on important items.

Around June 2014, Lockheed Martin officials realized the missile was missing, was likely in Cuba, and notified the State Department, said those familiar with the matter. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether the redirection of the missile was a crime.

Several of those familiar with the case said the loss of the Hellfire missile is the worst example they can recall of the kind of missteps that can occur in international shipping of sensitive military technology. While there are instances in which sensitive technology ends up getting lost in transit, it is virtually unheard of for such a shipment to end up in a sanctioned country like Cuba, according to industry experts.

Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, said it is likely some foreign nations would like to reverse-engineer parts of a Hellfire, such as the sensors or targeting technology, to develop countermeasures or to improve their own missile systems.

“Now it’s a proliferation concern—someone else now understands how it works and what may have been cutting edge for us is deconstructed and packaged into what other players sell on the open market—and possibly provided to countries that we wouldn’t sell to,” said Mr. Singer.

The Defense Department’s Joint Attack Munitions Systems project office asked officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency to provide an assessment of the security impacts of the lost munition to determine the risks associated with its loss. An official at DIA declined to comment. But a defense official confirmed that DIA has reviewed the implications of the lost missile.

The Cuban Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to multiple messages seeking comment. Representatives at the embassies of Spain and France didn’t immediately comment, while attempts to contact the German Embassy were unsuccessful.

Several officials and industry experts said what was most baffling about the case was how so many shipping-company workers who should have noticed the labeling on the shipping crate and—at a minimum— asked questions about why it was going somewhere else apparently allowed it to proceed along a circuitous route until it ended up in Cuba.

If someone intentionally sent it astray, that could constitute a violation of the Arms Export Control Act, as well as a possible violation of Cuban sanctions laws. There are more than 25 countries to which U.S. military exports are generally prohibited. Cuba was added to the list in 1984.

The Hellfire missile has been missing during the most sensitive time in U.S.-Cuba relations in more than a generation. In June 2014, when the U.S. first realized the missile was in Cuba, the State Department was engaged in secret negotiations to normalize relations with Cuba, ending a standoff dating back to the 1950s.

That rapprochement culminated in a December 2014 announcement that the two nations would normalize relations, re-establish embassies and exchange prisoners.

Obama and Cuba: Ideology Over National Security

By Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations:

Obama and Cuba: Ideology Over National Security

In previous posts I’ve argued that President Obama’s “opening to Cuba” gave the Castro brothers everything they wanted and got nothing for the United States–or for Cubans struggling peacefully for human rights and democracy.

But I didn’t know the half of it. Today The Wall Street Journal reports as follows:

"An inert U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for training purposes was wrongly shipped from there to Cuba in 2014....

For more than a year, amid a historic thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, American authorities have tried to get the Cuban government to return the missile....

Hellfires are air-to-ground missiles, often fired from helicopters. They were first designed as antitank weapons decades ago, but have been modernized to become an important part of the U.S. government’s antiterrorism arsenal, often fired from Predator drones to carry out lethal attacks on targets in countries including Yemen and Pakistan....

U.S. officials worry that Cuba could share the sensors and targeting technology inside it with nations like China, North Korea or Russia...."

So let’s review the bidding.

A Hellfire missile that could be of great value to Russia, China, North Korea gets to Cuba. We ask for it back. The Cuban regime says, in effect, drop dead. All the while we are negotiating with Cuba over an end to the embargo, much increased travel and investment and trade, and an opening of diplomatic relations. Do we say “hold on, we are ready to go but will not take those steps until we get the missile back?”

Of course not. Not in the Obama years, when the ideological goal of warming up to the Communist regime in Cuba takes precedence. This is a  legacy item, after all, like the Iran nuclear deal. So now Fidel and Raul have the trade and the investment and the tourists and the U.S. embassy–and the missile.

One can only imagine the conversations inside the Cuban regime, when some fools argued that to get the Obama deal done they would have to give back the missile. Raul and Fidel knew better: nothing would stop Obama from going forward if only the American prisoner, Alan Gross, were freed.

And so it was.

And what are the chances that the Castros have not shared the Hellfire with Moscow? Zero.

Quote of the Day: On Obama's Cuban Missile Fiasco

Leaving aside the unacceptable threat to U.S. security that this lapse would represent, the administration's failure to make the return of the missile a non-negotiable condition for reestablishing diplomatic relations with the Castro regime... adds a new dimension to the utter failure by President Obama and his top advisers to direct the affairs of our country.
-- Ambassador Everett E. Briggs, former National Security Council official and U.S. Ambassador to Panama, Honduras and Portugal, on reports of a missing U.S. Hellfire missile held by the Castro regime, Center for a Free Cuba, 1/7/16

Tweet of the Day: A Tragic Look at Obama's Cuba "Achievement"

Why Doesn't Obama Endorse the Cuban Military Transparency Act?

Thursday, January 7, 2016
In an interview with Yahoo before the holidays, President Obama acknowledged the following about his Cuba policy:

"There are going to be certain sectors of the economy where we think, if there’s some modification of the application of the embargo, the Cuban people will benefit directly. There are going to be some areas where it could prop up, you know, certain cronies of the regime, but not necessarily have widespread impact.”

Fair point.

So what are the top two earning sectors of Castro's cronies, namely the Cuban military (MINFAR) and intelligence services (MININT)?

Human trafficking and tourism.

Yet, as regards the first, the Obama Administration is reportedly considering an (illegal) special license to allow Major League Baseball (MLB) to directly contract with the Castro regime -- through an entity called INDER -- to traffic baseball players to the United States, in violation of sanctions, labor and human trafficking laws.

All, so that Fidel's son, Antonio Castro, who runs INDER, can take a large cut.

As for tourism, no one in Cuba benefits more than Castro's cronies, through the military-owned conglomerate GAESA, run by Raul's son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas. From the hotels, to the retail stores and gas stations, they are all owned by GAESA.

If Obama is serious about what he said in the interview and wants to directly help the Cuban people, but not Castro's cronies, there is a simple solution -- support the Cuban Military Transparency Act.

This legislation, introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, and in the House by Armed Services and Intelligence Committee Chairs Mac Thornberry and Devin Nunes, would simply create safeguards so that Castro's cronies cannot benefit from the changes in Obama's policy.

Click here to read the legislation.

Unless Obama (illogically and ignoring history) believes that feeding billions into Castro's military and intelligence services ultimately helps the Cuban people, then there is no reason for him to oppose such safeguards.

Thus, he should endorse and encourage Congress to pass the Cuban Military Transparency Act, as a way of ensuring that his policy truly and directly supports the Cuban people -- not just in rhetoric, but in practice.

As You Read Today's News on North Korea, Remember This...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
It's North Korea's regime that the Cuban military -- the overwhelming beneficiary of Obama's new policy -- helped smuggle over 240 tons of weapons in mid-2013.

The U.N. Security Council found "that the hidden cargo amounted to six trailers associated with surface-to-air missile systems and 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft, 15 engines for MiG-21 aircraft, components for surface-to-air missile systems, ammunition and miscellaneous arms-related materiel."

Moreover, that weapons cache "constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of U.N. Security Council resolution 1718 (2006)."

Yet, the Obama Administration allowed the Cuban military to get away scot-free. Even worse, it is now rewarding it with billions of dollars.

Click here to read a summary of the U.N. Panel of Experts report on Cuba's trafficking of weapons to North Korea.

Also remember how Cuba's regime courted and visited North Korea after Obama's new policy was announced -- in a highly-touted trip by Castro's #2, Miguel Diaz-Canel.



Cuba Military Hotel Chain Reports 12% Growth in 2015

In case you still harbor any doubts (or illusions) about who is the overwhelming beneficiary of tourism to Cuba.

From 14ymedio:

Cuba and Spain Work Together to Open Luxury Hotel in Varadero 

The powerful Gaviota Group, managed by Cuba’s Ministry of the Armed Forces, opened the five-star Ocean Vista Azul Hotel this year-end, which it will operate jointly with the Spanish H10 hotel chain. Construction of the 470-room building took 21 months.

The lobby is the highlight of the hotel, opening directly on the sea. Much of the furniture was made in Cuba, according to a representative from the constructure company.

In Cuba, the Spanish H10 chain manages the Ocean Varadero El Patriarcha Hotel, and the H10 Habana Panoramo Hotel. The company expects to open the five-star Ocean Casa del Mar resort in Cayo Santa Maria at the beginning of 2016.

The Gaviota Group, leader of the Cuban tourist industry, reports an annual growth of 12% in hotel capacity and in vacationers staying in its facilities. The chain manages more than 24,000 rooms throughout the country, and expects to reach 50,000 by 2020.

Throughout 2016, it will build several hotels in Varadero, including the Conchas 1, with over 800 rooms, adjacent to the Ocean Vista Azul. In addition, the giant 12-story Playa Azul will be built, and will be the second largest spa hotel in the country, surpassed only by the 14-floor Blau Varadero.

Throughout 2015, according to the latest official statistics, Varadero hosted a historic record number of visitors, with over 1.3 million vacationers, a significant jump compared to 1.2 million in 2014.

Quote of the Day: Cuban Regime Wants All Business for Itself

Those guys (the Cuban government) don't intend for people to live better. They want to run all the businesses themselves.
-- Leonardo Santizo, a Cuban "self-employed" worker who makes cookies, candy and peanut nougat, Desde La Habana, 1/3/16

Son of Cuban Minister of the Interior Opens New "Private" Business

As the tweet below from Cuban democracy leader Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reveals, on the ground floor of this Havana building -- just a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy -- a new fast food restaurant is being built by the son of the infamous former Minister of the Interior (MININT), General Abelardo Colome Ibarra.

Colome Jr. already owns "Star Bien", which is frequently cited by the media and travel magazines as a "private" restaurant. Surely, the media and D.C. lobbyists will soon tout his new venture.

Click here to learn more about the MININT's "paladares."

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial: McAuliffe's (Pitiful) Trip to Cuba

From The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Editorial Board:

McAuliffe goes to Cuba

During the apartheid era all right-thinking people insisted on divestment from companies doing business with the South African regime. Today the BDS movement — boycott, divestment and sanctions — reviles and shuns Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, for offenses sometimes real but mostly perceived.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has begun to normalize relations with Cuba. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has embarked on a trade mission to the Castro brothers’ dungeon. Jason Miyares, a Republican newly elected to the House of Delegates, where he will become the first Cuban-American legislator in that body, has urged McAuliffe to visit with some of the dissidents there. Doing so would send an important signal to the regime — and perhaps an even more important signal to the people of Cuba. But the governor isn’t interested.

For some reason, Cuba holds a bizarrely romantic fascination for many on the left — some of whom have even worried publicly that introducing American-style commerce to the country might destroy the supposed authenticity that cruel dictatorship and stark deprivation have inflicted upon it. We doubt McAuliffe numbers among that misguided lot. Whatever their illusions, at least they embrace certain ideals. McAuliffe is driven by wheeling and dealing, which have always been his first love.

The governor rarely has allowed moral scruples to get in the way of a slick score. He clearly doesn’t want to risk that happening in Cuba. More’s the pity.

The EU Must Not Betray Cuba

Tuesday, January 5, 2016
By Rosa Maria Paya in Politico:

The EU must not betray Cuba

Brussels needs to insist on the Cuban people’s right to choose their political system.

After more than a year of negotiations with the Cuban government, the European Union has shown no significant progress beyond statements on commercial issues and the establishment of the basic framework for an agreement.

The Cuban government has played its cards well. It made public part of its talks with the U.S. government, and the already frenetic race to secure “positions” in Cuba went out of control. In the naïve belief, among others, that the biological end of the brothers-in-chief will bring about democracy spontaneously, European and other business people are trying to assure themselves a place on the island “before the Americans get there” — no matter how much money they lose in the process.

I will not dwell on the obvious lack of a market in Cuba, where the people have no purchasing power or democratic resources required to deal with foreign investors because the only legal business partner is the Cuban government. Clearly, foreign investors handpicked as minority partners by a government that controls everything on the island are guaranteed that they will have no competition. But that comes at the risk of losing it all the minute they start to become “inconvenient,” either because they demand to be paid what they’re owed or because the government has found a more interesting — and submissive — partner. Some European investors have even wound up in Cuban prisons, such as Stephen Purvis from Britain.

The truth is that deals with mafias are never win-win. Paradoxically, despite the country’s clearly precarious economic situation, the Cuban government has succeeded in portraying itself as having nothing to lose in its negotiations with the EU. Yet European diplomats would be seen as having failed if they are forced to call off the negotiations and admit that the Cuban government is not ready to give in on anything and therefore does not meet the basic human rights conditions the EU requires of its partners. The pressures on this issue run counter to logic, and so the EU negotiators in the end are more likely to sign any agreement to show results and satisfy economic interests.

The EU requires a human rights clause in the final agreement, which the Cuban government will try to define as if it is meeting the conditions. But if Europe comes to the coherent conclusion that it is Cuba that needs Europe, and not the other way around, it will have the leverage to support democracy and, through that, true peace, progress and stability in Cuba and the region. That is required for a real framework of guarantees for European economic interests.

Cuba has not had a free and multiparty election in 65 years, and there’s not even a framework for carrying one out now. The space for economic reforms is also very limited because the constitution was illegally amended in 2002 to put the island’s economic, political and social system under the “irrevocable” control of the Communist Party and its monopolistic management. The EU cannot ask for a change in the constitution, but it can support the right of Cubans to choose their own future, and the political and economic systems they want for their country. The opposite is immoral.

There is a non-partisan citizens’ initiative, Cuba Decide (Cuba Decides), for a binding referendum that will allow Cuban citizens to vote on the changes needed to start a transition to democracy. No mater how many cosmetic reforms the government puts in place, a true transition cannot start until Cubans participate fully. The human rights issue must permeate each and every point of any EU agreement with Cuba, and cannot be treated independently of the others. Conditions established by the EU must be measurable and verifiable.

That is why we hope for support for the binding referendum, under conditions that guarantee the transparency of the process and the presence of international observers. It happened in Chile in 1988, with support from the majority of the world.

Neither the EU nor the Barack Obama administration are responsible for fixing Cuba’s problems. But they do have a historical responsibility to take specific steps of effective solidarity with a real transition to democracy. To support the participation and sovereignty of Cuban citizens, instead of the rule of an unelected corporate-military elite that has been in power for 56 years, is in any case the moral option.

Who could oppose the Cuban people’s right to choose?

Rosa María Payá promotes the “Cuba Decides” campaign and is the daughter of the late dissident leader Oswaldo Payá. 

The US Must Not Betray Cuba Either

Amb. James C. Cason on Rosa Maria Paya's piece in Politico, "The EU Must Not Betray Cuba":

Of course Europe should not betray Cuba, the real Cuba, more than 11 million souls. Neither should the United States. Both policies harken back to the days where neither Washington nor European nations paid attention to the abuses of Latin American dictators. It is not a new policy. What is really needed is for democracies everywhere to condition any political, economic, cultural, or humanitarian action in regards to Cuba to specific steps by the Cuban government, such as the release of all political prisoners and permitting an international inquiry into the deaths of Oswaldo Paya, Laura Pollan, and other pro-democracy leaders. None of them had anything to do with the earlier dictatorship. Most of them followed in the footsteps of Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Cuban people will for sure recover their freedom, but it remains to be seen how both Europeans and Americans who have embraced the Castro brothers would be able to recover their self-respect.

The author is a retired career Foreign Service Officer, a former Ambassador who served as Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Castro Reneged: Re-Imprisons Five Political Prisoners Released as Part of Obama Deal

Bottom line: Cuba's regime is not a trustworthy negotiating partner.

From AFP:

Five freed in US-Cuba rapprochement back in custody: rights group

Five dissidents freed as Havana launched a high-profile diplomatic rapprochement with the United States are back in custody in Cuba, a human rights group said Monday.

The five were among 53 political prisoners released in 2014 and early 2015 as the Washington and Havana moved to restore ties after a half-century break.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights, an officially outlawed but tolerated group, said the five "were confined in high-security prisons in the second half of 2015."

They include Vladimir Morera, who had been hospitalized since launching a hunger strike on October 9. The United States last week called on the government to release him.

On Monday, Morera's son, Vladier Morera, said his father started eating again on December 31.

The son said he did not know if this was voluntary on his father's part. "All I know is that he is eating again, and that he is speaking incoherently because the doctors say he was very weak," Morera said.

The others back in custody are Wilfredo Parada Milian, Jorge Ramirez Calderon, Carlos Manuel Figueroa and Aracelio Ribeaux Noa, according to the rights group.

All five were jailed "as a result of rigged trials and without due process," it said.

Cuban authorities did not comment. But the Americas' only communist government routinely denies it is holding political prisoners and says those jailed are in for common crimes.

The rights group reported that 8,616 people were detained for political reasons in 2015, most of whom were released after several hours. That was down from 2014, when 8,889 Cubans were detained for political reasons, according to the group.

It said "political repression" continued in 2015 "despite the well-known expectations awakened by the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations" between Havana and Washington.

Over 930 Political Arrests in December, Five Political Prisoners Released Under Obama Deal Serving New Sentences

Monday, January 4, 2016
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 930 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of December 2015.

That is nearly double the number of political arrests (489) in December 2014, when the Obama-Castro deal was announced.

It brings the total number of political arrests in 2015 to 8,616, which is (tragically) one of the most repressive years in recent history.

Moreover, there are now five Cuban political prisoners, who were originally released as part of the Obama-Castro deal in December 2014, which are now serving new long sentences.

They are Wilfredo Parada Milian, Jorge Ramirez Calderon, Carlos Manuel Figueroa, Aracelio Ribeaux Noa and Vladimir Morera Bacallao.

Morera Bacallao has been over 85 days on a hunger strike and is near death.

Not only did the Castro regime get a free-pass from making any concrete reforms as part of its deal with Obama -- but it has clearly reneged on the one gesture it had purportedly agreed to.

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.

Why Obama Allowed Cuba to Get Away With Weapons Smuggling

Sunday, January 3, 2016
Last month, a Singapore court (finally) ruled against a shipping company, Chinpo Shipping, for smuggling 240 tons of weapons from Cuba to North Korea in mid-2013, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

To date, the only entity that has not been sanctioned for the largest weapons cache ever intercepted to North Korea, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, was its central player -- the Cuban military.

As a matter of fact, this weapons cache is the largest known shipment to have ever been serviced through the new Port of Mariel (owned by the Cuban military), which is today heralded by Obama Administration officials and unscrupulous businessmen alike.

To make matters worse, the Cuban military even refused to cooperate or provide any information to the U.N. Panel of Experts that was tasked with investigating this blatant sanctions violation -- and faced no consequences whatsoever.

Why?

Because White House official, Ben Rhodes, was too busy 'negotiating' a one-sided deal with Raul Castro's son, Col. Alejandro Castro, and didn't want to upset his new partner in the talks.

Instead, the Cuban military (sorry, "the Cuban people" -- wink, wink) is being rewarded with billions for its tourism and telecom monopolies by the Obama Administration.

Such impunity is why in March 2015, another illegal shipment of weapons was caught being smuggled by the Cuban military -- this time through Colombia. That, too, ended up at the Port of Mariel.

Image below: Cuban and North Korean military officials on a shopping spree.

From Reuters:

Singapore court rules North Korea-linked shipper guilty in illegal arms case

A district court in Singapore on Monday found Chinpo Shipping, a company implicated in an illegal shipment of arms on a North Korean container ship, guilty of two criminal charges.

Singapore-based Chinpo Shipping Company (Private) Ltd had been charged by the city-state for transferring financial assets or resources that could have been used to contribute to North Korea's weapon programs, which are subject to U.N. sanctions.

Chinpo Shipping was named by a U.N. report as helping arrange the shipment of Cuban fighter jets and missile parts that were bound for North Korea when they were seized in Panama in 2013.

Worst Kept Secret Among Tyrants: Obama is a Pushover

Iran violates U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Obama 'threatens' with new sanctions.

Iran doubles down.

Obama retreats -- proceeds with $100 billion reward for Mullahs (sorry, "for the Iranian people" -- wink, wink).

Sound familiar?

From Reuters:

Defiant Iran pledges to ramp up missile program, in challenge for Obama

A series of Iranian officials vowed on Friday to expand Tehran's missile capabilities, a challenge to the United States which has threatened to impose new sanctions even as the vast bulk of its measures against Iran are due to be lifted under a nuclear deal.

"As long as the United States supports Israel we will expand our missile capabilities," the Revolutionary Guards' second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

"We don't have enough space to store our missiles. All our depots and underground facilities are full," he said in Friday Prayers in Tehran.

Defence Minister Hossein Dehqan said Iran would boost its missile program and had never agreed to restrictions on it.

"Iran's missile capabilities have never been the subject of negotiations with the Americans and will never be," he was quoted as saying by Press TV, an Iranian state channel.

The defiant comments are a challenge for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as the United States and European Union plan to dismantle nearly all international sanctions against Iran under the breakthrough nuclear agreement reached in July.

Young Cuban-American Virginia Legislator Challenges McAuliffe's Trip

Despite the media's narrative, young Cuban-American state legislators of both parties, from Florida to New Jersey, through New York, Connecticut and now Virginia, have consistently challenged Obama's policy and stood in unison with Cuba's democracy activists.

So much for the "generational shift" theory.

Miyares Calls Upon Governor McAuliffe to Meet with Cuban Dissidents on Havana Mission

"As Governor McAuliffe decides to ring in the New Year in the only non-democratic nation in the entire Western Hemisphere, perhaps he should keep in mind the thousands of dissidents that are harassed, beaten and imprisoned each day in Cuba simply because they yearn for freedom."

Jason Miyares, the first Cuban-American elected to the General Assembly and the Delegate-elect for the 82nd district in the House of Delegates, called upon Governor McAuliffe to address Cuban dissidents on his announced inaugural trip to the communist nation. Currently the citizens of Cuba have no freedom of speech, worship, or the ability to dissent from a government that derives no consent from the governed. Free elections have never occurred on the island nation during the fifty-plus years of the Castro brothers brutal dictatorship.

Amnesty International detailed just last month that there were nearly "1,500 arrests" of human-rights protesters, which was double the normal monthly average of 700 political human rights arrests in Cuba. In December, on International Human Rights Day no less, Cuban security police arrested close to 200 human rights dissidents, without trial.

Miyares released the following statement:

"As Governor McAuliffe decides to ring in the New Year in the only non-democratic nation in the entire Western Hemisphere, perhaps he should keep in mind the thousands of dissidents that are harassed, beaten and imprisoned each day in Cuba simply because they yearn for freedom.  As Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe holds the same seat as Thomas Jefferson, and as such he has a special responsibility during his Cuba trip to speak out on behalf of the timeless universal truths of his predecessor; the self-evident truths that 'all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights' including the Right of 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuant of Happiness.'

Mr. Jefferson was able to utter those words to the mighty British Empire 240 years ago, surely Governor McAuliffe can advocate these same timeless principles to the Castro regime today.

The Governor can begin with Morera Bacallao, who is in grave condition rotting away in one of Castro's prisons because he has had the temerity to speak out for free elections in Cuba. Or perhaps Governor McAuliffe can inquire about the condition of Jose Daniel Ferrer, the leader of the pro-democracy Cuban Patriotic Union recently arrested by the regime and whose whereabouts are currently unknown. No doubt Governor McAuliffe can find fifteen minutes of his time and make a symbolic visit with the internationally recognized Ladies in White, the mothers and female relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

Governor McAuliffe can display incredible Virginia courage and use his office as platform to provide a voice for the voiceless to the dictatorship he is visiting upon this week."

Miyares is a Cuban-American whose family fled the communist island in 1965. He previously served as a Virginia Beach prosecutor (Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney) where kept violent criminals, drug dealers and sex offenders off the streets. He is currently the Delegate-elect for the 82nd House of Delegates district in Virginia Beach, where he won his November election by a record margin.

Must-Watch: Rubio Talks Cuba Policy in South Carolina

Click below (or here) to watch:

 
Marco Rubio habla de relaciones con Cuba by yusnaby

Quote of 2015: The Only 'Change' in Cuba

More hunger and exodus is the only change here.
-- Berta Soler, leader of the pro-democracy group, The Ladies in White, on the 'changes' in Cuba since the Obama-Castro deal, Diario de Cuba, 12/30/15