Facts Prove Obama's Cuba Policy Counter-Productive

Saturday, February 6, 2016
By Mauricio Claver-Carone in The Huffington Post:

Facts Prove Obama's Cuba Policy Counter-Productive

President Obama announced a new Cuba policy on Dec. 17, 2014. It gave diplomatic recognition to the sole remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, unilaterally eased U.S. trade and travel restrictions, and commuted the prison sentences of three convicted Cuban spies, including one imprisoned for plotting the murder of three Americans shot-down by Cuban MIGs while flying over the Florida Straits.

When Obama announced his new policy, describing it as "what change looks like," few believed that the "change" would be for the worse. Yet the policy has clearly proven to be counter-productive. Set aside the policy theories and debates. Instead, look simply at the irrefutable facts since the announcement:

•Political arrests have intensified. Throughout 2015, there were more than 8,616 documented political arrests in Cuba. In November alone there were more than 1,447 documented political arrests, the highest monthly tally in decades. Those numbers compare to 2,074 arrests in 2010 and 4,123 in 2011.

•A new Cuban migration crisis is unfolding. The United States is faced with the largest migration of Cuban immigrants since the rafters of 1994. The number of Cubans entering the United States in 2015 was nearly twice that of 2014. Some 51,000 Cubans last year entered the United States; tens of thousands more are desperately trying to make the journey, via Ecuador and other South and Central American countries. When President Obama took office, the numbers were less than 7,000 annually.

•The number of "self-employed" workers in Cuba has decreased. The Cuban government today is licensing 10,000 fewer "self-employed" workers than it did in 2014. In contrast, Castro's military monopolies are expanding at record pace. The Cuban military-owned tourism company, Gaviota S.A., announced 12 percent growth in 2015 and expects to double its hotel business this year. Even the limited spaces in which cuentapropistas previously operated are being squeezed as the Cuban military expands its control of the island's travel, retail and financial sectors of the economy.

•Internet "connectivity ranking" has dropped. The International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Measuring the Information Society Report for 2015, the world's most reliable source of data and analysis on global access to information and communication, has dropped Cuba's ranking to 129 from 119. The island fares much worse than some of the world's most infamous Internet suppressors, including Zimbabwe (127), Syria (117), Iran (91), China (82) and Venezuela (72).

•U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have plummeted. Despite the Obama Administration's easing of sanctions, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba declined by nearly 40 percent in 2015. In August alone, the value of U.S. agricultural exports dropped 84 percent to $2.25 million from $14.30 million in 2014. That's one of the lowest numbers since the United States authorized agricultural exports to Cuba in 2001.

•Religious freedom violations have increased tenfold. According to the London-based NGO, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), last year 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition by the Castro regime. Altogether, CSW documented 2,300 separate violations of religious freedom in 2015 compared to 220 in 2014.

•Castro reneged on the release of political prisoners and visits by international monitors. Most of the 53 political prisoners released in the months prior and after Obama's December 2014 announcement have since been re-arrested on multiple occasions. Five have been handed new long-term prison sentences. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch noted in its new 2016 report, "Cuba has yet to allow visits to the island by the International Committee of the Red Cross or by U.N. human rights monitors, as stipulated in the December 2014 agreement with the United States."

•International political and economic pressure on Cuba has eroded. Despite the Obama Administration's prediction that the new U.S. policy would allow other countries to hold the Castro regime accountable for its repressive practices, the opposite is occurring. Presidents, foreign ministers and other dignitaries have flocked to Cuba to discuss business opportunities with Castro's state monopolies. None has made even a minimal gesture of solidarity with Cuba's civil society. International creditors have forgiven tens of billions in the Castro dictatorship's debts.

Supporters of Obama's policy point to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations as a sign of "success" in itself. Yet no progress has been made on pressing diplomatic issues like the extradition of one of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists, who continues to be harbored by Cuba's regime, or compensation or return of billions in Americans property confiscated by the regime. To the contrary, we've learned that throughout this process of negotiations and "changes" sought by the Obama Administration, that Cuba has had a stolen U.S. Hellfire missile in its possession and refused to return it. To make matters worse, defense experts fear Cuba may have shared information about this missile's technology with nations like North Korea.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration's "talking for the sake of talking" is proving only to be a useful distraction in this country and the world that is allowing the Castro regime to strengthen its political and economic grip over the Cuban people and their future.

January 2016: Second Most Repressive Month in Decades #Cuba

Friday, February 5, 2016
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 1,414 political arrests by the Castro regime in Cuba during the month of January 2016.

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

The first?

November 2015 -- when 1,447 political arrest were documented.

In sum, the two most repressive months in decades have been under the Obama Administration's new policy.

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

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

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

Shameful.

Cuban Dissident Missing Since Last Sunday's Arrest #ReynaldoAbreu

Cuban dissident, Reynaldo Abreu, was brutally beaten and arrested during last Sunday's peaceful march by the pro-democracy campaign #TodosMarchamos (#WeAllMarch) in Havana.

Abreu has been missing since.

Those who saw Abreu during his arrest noticed serious wounds to his mouth and face.

Yesterday, Cuban independent journalist, Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, was also arrested near Castro's secret police processing facility, known as the VIVAC, for seeking information about Abreu's whereabouts.

More "change" you can't believe in.

What Happens When Obama Downgrades Freedom and Human Rights

Excerpt by Rebeca Morla in The PanAm Post:

Freedom House Declares 2015 the Worst Year in a Decade

The year 2015 saw the largest decline in global freedom in the past decade — so asserts human-rights NGO Freedom House in their latest report, “Freedom in the World 2016: Anxious Dictators, Wavering Democracies.”

Each year, the US-based organization evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories across the globe. By taking into account political rights and civil liberties, they categorize each jurisdiction as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

In this latest edition, 86 countries (44 percent) were rated as Free, 59 (30 percent) as Partly Free, and 50 (26 percent) as Not Free. That means 72 countries declined in freedom from the previous year, whereas only 43 improved.

The report further states that over the last decade, “105 countries have seen a net decline, and only 61 have experienced a net improvement.”

Corruption, Populism Mar the Americas

The United States remains at the top of the ranking for the Americas, given its high ratings for political rights and civil liberties. However, Freedom House reports that the country did register some issues in 2015, including “certain deficiencies in the electoral system, the influence of private money in election campaigns and the legislative process … the Obama administration’s failure to fulfill promises of enhanced government openness, and fresh evidence of instances of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.” As a result, the report includes the United States in the countries with a downward trend for 2015.

In addition, corruption scandals and violence throughout the region also characterized last year, especially in Brazil, with Dilma Rousseff’s involvement in Petrobras’ bribery scandal; Chile, with the corruption case around Michelle Bachelet’s son; and Mexico, whose government has not been able to combat organized crime.

Regarding Cuba, the report reads that despite the resumption of diplomatic relations with the United States, there has been no significant progress toward democratic reforms in the island.

Expelled Cuban Spy Led Delegation to U.S. Regional Security Conference

Thursday, February 4, 2016
One of the Obama Administration's latest diplomatic concessions was to invite the Castro regime to participate in an annual Caribbean regional security conference co-sponsored by the U.S. military's Southern Command.

The conference was held from January 26-29th.

Never mind that the Castro regime refuses to return a stolen U.S. Hellfire missile with sensitive technology.

Instead, the Castro regime keeps adding insult to injury.

As the AP reported, "the Cuban delegation was led by Gustavo Machin Gomez, deputy director general of the U.S. department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Machin Gomez is a Cuban spy who was declared persona non grata and expelled from the United States in 2002.

On April 14th, 2000, Machin was one of nearly two dozen Cuban "diplomats" that violently assaulted a small group of peaceful demonstrators outside the then-Cuban Interests Section (CUBINT) on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.

Machin was expelled from the U.S. in November 2002, pursuant to the Ana Belen Montes case. Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, was convicted in U.S. federal court for serving as a Cuban agent -- the highest level spy ever caught at the Pentagon.

He would later become Cuba’s Ambassador to Pakistan, where he is believed to have targeted US counter-terrorism operations in the region.

Another slap in the face of the Obama Administration.

WSJ: Obama Rescues Cuba as Venezuelan Aid Fails

A Letter to the Editor of The Wall Street Journal:

Obama Rescues Cuba as Venezuelan Aid Fails

If President Obama had not dropped Cuba such a timely lifeline, this might have brought the Castro brothers’ regime to an end.

Regarding Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s “North Korea’s Cuban Friends” (Americas, Jan. 11): She connects the dots between Cuba and North Korea, to which I would like to add dots between Cuba and Venezuela. Think about the condition the Castro regime would be in today if President Obama had not recognized it when he did. Cuba depended on money and oil from Venezuela before the price of oil dropped, but now Venezuela is struggling and likely not giving away so many freebies. If Mr. Obama had not dropped Cuba such a timely lifeline, this might have brought the Castro brothers’ regime to an end and done more for the Cuban people than anything in the last 90 years. When President Obama is adding to his shallow legacy, he is blind to other consequences.

Hal Dantone
Houston

Cognitive Dissonance in Obama's Cuba Policy

By Dr. Jose Azel of The University of Miami:

Sour Grapes in Foreign Policy

We get the expression “sour grapes” from Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Grapes.” In the fable, a fox tries to eat some appetizing high-hanging grapes. When the fox is unable to reach the grapes he does not admit defeat, but rather rationalizes that the grapes are not ripe; thus sour grapes.

Psychologists often use this classic tale to illustrate the concept of cognitive dissonance. When heavily invested in a position and confronted with disconfirming evidence, we go to great lengths to justify our position as did the fox in Aesop’s fable. In short, our tendency is to deny discrepancies between our preexisting beliefs (cognition) and new information.

Cognitive dissonance theory examines our actions when we are confronted with information inconsistent with our prior beliefs. Scholars use this paradigm in international affairs to examine historical failures in leadership resulting in calamitous surprises. Examples are, the German invasion of France bypassing the Maginot line, the Japanese bombardment of Pearl Harbor, and the simultaneous attacks on Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

Cognitive dissonance is also evident in how the Obama administration has handled the stances of Iran and Cuba following major reconciliatory initiatives by the administration. The administration’s expectations have not been met. Yet, in an effort to reduce dissonance, officials downgrade discrepant information.

The Iranian firing of rockets within 1,500 feet of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz, followed by the capture of two U.S. Navy patrol boats and their crew in the Persian Gulf is illustrative. The detention of the U.S sailors came just days before the release of billions in Iranian assets as part of the controversial nuclear deal reached with Tehran.

In violation of international protocols, a video from Iran’s news agency showed the U.S. sailors kneeling on deck, hands clasped behind their heads. The video contrasted sharply with statements from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House. The official statements dealt with the cognitive dissonance of the situation by downgrading the discrepant information and focusing on the release of the crew, rather than on the humiliating context of the capture.

Following the December 17, 2014 announcement by President Obama of his initiative to normalize relations with Castro’s Cuba, the administration has made several unilateral concessions to the Castro regime before and after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. At every step, the Cuban government has failed to respond in kind to the expectations of the Obama administration. In fact, General Raul Castro has repeatedly insisted that Cuba will not concede anything.

In its cognitive dissonance the administration, instead of reexamining their misconceptions, has sought to reduce dissonance and achieve consonance by doubling down on its losing bet. It has unilaterally proceeded with further giveaways to the regime.

Without even the slightest hint of a concession by Cuba, the administration has given to the Cuban government the license to export Havana Club rum to the U.S. contravening the legal decision that Bacardi Limited is the rightful owner of the license. It also announced new regulations that will benefit the Cuban government by easing restrictions on the financing of Cuba’s imports from the United States.

The announcement employs Orwellian language to discount the fact that Castro’s Cuba exerts totalitarian controls and that the new regulations will enrich, not small Cuban entrepreneurs, but the government’s monopolies. It disingenuously explains that, exports will be permitted to state-owned enterprises if the products meet “the needs of the Cuban people.” An honest approach would be for the administration to acknowledge its misjudgment. The grapes of the Castro regime are not ripe for democratic values.

Cuban-Americans Dominate Iowa Caucus, Debunk "Heartland Poll"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Last November, a coalition of anti-sanctions lobbyists (composed of unscrupulous business interests and ideologically pro-Castro groups) financed a poll of "America's Heartland" purporting bipartisan support for Obama's Cuba policy.

The poll, released by The Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Center, was clearly a desperate ploy for traction in Congress and to argue that "even Republicans" in key Midwest and Southern states supported Obama's policy ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

One of the four states polled was Iowa.

As we argued at the time (see here), this poll was farcical for four reasons: 1. It's not reliable. 2. It's agenda-driven. 3. It's low information. 4. It's politically irrelevant.

This week, a record-number of Iowa voters put a final stake in it.

Not only did Iowa Republican voters overwhelmingly support candidates that oppose Obama's Cuba policy, but a clear majority (51%) supported the two Cuban-American candidates who embody this opposition -- namely U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Not surprisingly, the results of the Heartland poll can no longer be found online.

Must be another glitch.

Headline of the Iowa Caucus: Cuba, Si! GOP Establishment, No!

From U.S. News and World Report:

In the #IowaCaucus it was: Cuba, si! GOP establishment, no!

Hollande and Castro: Plenty of Wine But No Democracy

As renowned Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez notes -- along with everyone else who is not historically illiterate -- business deals with Castro's state monopolies will not "empower" the Cuban people.

By Yoani Sanchez in The Huffington Post:

Hollande And Castro: Plenty of Wine But No Democracy

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani cancelled his lunch with François Hollande because the latter didn't want to take the wine off the table. Tonight, however, the French leader will not ask Raul Castro about the issue of human rights violations in Cuba, to avoid annoying his visitor. A gesture that will affect the image of France much more than having dispensed with a glass of red.

Facing the leader of a powerful nation with a controversial nuclear program, the authorities did not want to deprive themselves of one of the symbols of their identity. But facing the General who permits no opposition nor independent press in his country, the hosts lower the tone of democratic requirements, similar to Rome's covering the nakedness of his its statues to please Rouhani.

In the homeland of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," failing to take advantage of Raul Castro's official visit to demand a democratic opening would be a huge disappointment. The reasoning from a French government source, declaring that the question of human rights "is always present," is unconvincing. This is the time to push the octogenarian caudillo for a commitment to a democratic opening on the Island in the near term.

France loses nothing if it takes a stronger stance on the lack of freedom under which 11 million Cubans live. Unlike Rouhani, Raul Castro will not purchase more than 100 modern Airbuses, not will he offer a contract for the extraction of thousands of barrels of oil. The Plaza of the Revolution is only going to offer losses and disrepute.

It will fall to the French executive to silence the complaints of the creditors of the Paris Club - which last December forgave 8.5 billion dollars in Cuban debt -- when they never see one cent of the remaining 2.6 billion that Havana committed to pay over a span of 18 years. Which it is highly unlikely to do, because the Cuban system is an expert in wasting other people's money and in swindling those who help them.

The same thing will happen with the 360 million euros of the bilateral accord reached this Monday to finance development projects. Money that Cuban officialdom will use at its convenience, but not to empower citizens to prosper nor to develop an autonomous business network. Over time, these resources end up feeding corruption, the illegal market, and the pockets of the olive-green clad rulers.

Raul Castro will promise Hollande tonight that his piece of cake is safe. As he has said to so many, undoubtedly, he will confirm to "friends of Cuba, the Revolution will always remember you." The "friendship" in this case is inextricably linked to complicity in and silent acceptance of the authoritarianism imposed on the Cuban citizenry.

It is just another maneuver to gain time. Hollande will leave office and a new administration will have to deal with those who have spent nearly six decades in power in Cuba, and the story will start again at the beginning: commitments, pats on the shoulder, ceremonial photos and a dinner where the wine flows freely, but where the indecent presence of democracy is well hidden.

Washington Post Editorial: Failure in Cuba

Monday, February 1, 2016
From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Failure in Cuba

Can an authoritarian regime convert to democracy by itself? The historical record isn’t encouraging. In the absence of a popular uprising, it is rare for tyrants to voluntarily retire. The military junta of Burma has promised to relinquish some power to an elected government, but it has not yet delivered. China’s party-state shows no inclination to try. Russia’s strongman is reversing what incipient democracy existed.

This goes to the core of why President Obama’s opening to Cuba seems to be failing to live up to its declared goals. When the end to a half-century of hostility was announced in December 2014, the proclaimed U.S. purpose was to “unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans,” to “engage and empower the Cuban people,” and to “empower the nascent Cuban private sector,” among other things.

The administration continued to offer this rationale for its latest moves. New regulations that took effect Jan. 27 from the Commerce and Treasury departments further lifted restrictions on financing of exports to Cuba and relaxed limits on shipping products to the island. Most importantly, the rules will allow banks to finance exports to Cuba on credit, with the exception of agricultural commodities covered by the still-existing trade embargo, rather than requiring cash as before, or burdensome routing through third countries.

Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba — perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return. Since the United States has placed no human rights conditions on the opening, the Castro regime continues to systematically engage in arbitrary detention of dissidents and others who speak up for democracy. In fact, detentions have spiked in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television and newspapers.

The administration has defined one of its goals as opening Cuba to the Internet, but the nation still suffers from some of the lowest connectivity rates in the world. The regime established a few dozen Wifi spots but charges people $2 an hour to use them; the average salary is $20 a month. The state retains a chokehold on the economy, including tourism; the benefits of a 50 percent increase in U.S. visitors are being garnered by Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, the industry’s boss. Meanwhile, Cuba’s purchases of U.S. goods have fallen by more than 10 percent.

The hoped-for explosion in individual enterprise has not materialized either. On the contrary: The number of licensed self-employed workers has been dropping. If there are commercial deals as a result of the latest U.S. measures, it is Cuban state organizations that will benefit; only they are allowed to engage in foreign trade.

What’s most evident over the past year is that the Castro brothers are effectively preventing real change and reform even as they reap the rewards of Mr. Obama’s opening. The president’s only response has been more unilateral concessions, along with talk of a visit to the island before he leaves office. Autocrats everywhere must be watching with envy the Castros’ good fortune.

Bacardi Files FOIA on Obama's Stolen Trademark Concession to Cuba

Bacardi Files Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in Havana Club Rum Matter

Bacardi seeks FOIA information from U.S. Department of Treasury in decision granting trademark registration of Havana Club to Cuban government

Bacardi has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of Treasury to bring to light the reasons for the decision to grant the renewal of the illegally obtained trademark registration of Havana Club to the Cuban government. Bacardi contends this decision was done in violation of the language and spirit of U.S. law.

Bacardi seeks all documents, communications and files that were created, used, or maintained by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO), Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S. Department of State, Executive Office of the President of the United States (POTUS), the National Security Council (NSC), U.S. Department of Treasury and/or any third parties relating to the Havana Club rum trademark registration action.

The action stems from a January 11, 2016, decision by the U.S. government in violation of Section 211 and long-standing OFAC policy to abruptly reverse its position and grant the license. Within 48 hours, after years of inactivity, the PTO approved the renewal of the registration of a trademark for a brand which was confiscated without compensation from its founders into the hands of the Cuban government – even though Congress has prohibited U.S. courts from recognizing it.

“We are filing this Freedom of Information Act request because the American people have the right to know the truth of how and why this unprecedented, sudden and silent action was taken by the United States government to reverse long-standing U.S. and international public policy and law that protects against the recognition or acceptance of confiscations of foreign governments,” says Eduardo Sánchez, senior vice president and general counsel, Bacardi. “When the highest and most powerful government agencies are not transparent about critical changes in policy, the public has the right and the responsibility to use FOIA requests and other tools at their disposal to hold the government accountable for its actions.”

Bacardi purchased the rights to the Havana Club trademark from the creators and original owners – the Arechabala family – who made their rum in Cuba from the 1930s until 1960 and exported it to the U.S. and other countries until their rum-making facilities and assets were illegally seized without compensation during the Cuban revolution.

“Bacardi believes that vital government agencies should not be able to ignore Lanham Act obligations or disregard the general legal requirements of government agencies and courts under Section 211 and related legislations to protect expropriated properties and uphold critical provisions of the embargo,” adds Sánchez, as previous U.S. administrations have denied license applications from the Cuban government seeking the rights to maintain Cuba’s illegally obtained U.S. trademark registration for Havana Club.

Bacardi has been selling Havana Club rum in the United States since the mid-1990s. After numerous legal battles, the Cuban government’s fraudulently obtained U.S. trademark registration for the brand expired in 2006. U.S. courts have consistently ruled that the Cuban government and its joint venture partner have no rights to the Havana Club trademark in the U.S.

Bacardi has and will continue to pursue all the necessary legal and other actions to defend its position surrounding the legitimacy of its rights and ownership of Havana Club rum. As the company has maintained all along, Bacardi is the legitimate owner of the brand.

Quote of the Week: Obama Gifts Castro Stolen Trademark for Paris Trip

It is not a coincidence that Castro’s trip to France comes immediately after the Obama administration revived an expired trademark registration by granting an OFAC license to Castro’s Cubaexport, which is attempting to obtain rights in a trademark stolen by the Cuban regime and used in a joint venture with a French company named Pernod Ricard. This example concerning the Havana Club trademark, which Bacardi purchased from the original and rightful Cuban family owners, illustrates how far the White House will go to appease the dictatorship. 
-- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), statement on Obama's latest round of concessions to the Cuban regime, 1/29/16

While 170 Cuban Dissidents Are Arrested, France Fêtes Raul Castro

Yesterday, while over 170 peaceful dissidents were being beaten and arrested throughout Cuba, dictator Raul Castro was being received -- with full honors -- by French president Francois Hollande.

The official state visit by Castro began two days after a private tour, whereby the Cuban dictator enjoyed some of Paris' finest shopping, wining and dining.

During Castro's visit, France will grant him further bilateral debt relief, in addition to the $8.5 billion in debt forgiveness it already helped broker through the Paris Club.

Let's be clear: France has already bestowed credits upon Castro in the past; Castro defaulted on them; and didn't help the Cuban people one iota.

The only reason they are doing it all over again is because the Obama Administration has now given the Castro regime a perceived "full, faith and credit" backing of the United States.

Despite the Obama Administration's prediction that the new U.S. policy would allow other countries to hold the Castro regime accountable for its repressive practices, the opposite is occurring.

Presidents, foreign ministers and other dignitaries have flocked to Cuba to discuss business opportunities with Castro's state monopolies. None has made even a minimal gesture of solidarity with Cuba's civil society.

International creditors have forgiven tens of billions in the dictatorship's debts.

All with terms that let Castro "off-the-hook", while letting the Cuban people shoulder the long-term burden of the dictatorship's delinquency.

Quite a deal (triomphe) -- for Castro.

Treasury Fines U.S. Company for Cuba Sanctions Violations

Sunday, January 31, 2016
Last week, the U.S. Department of Treasury fined a U.S. company for Cuba sanctions violations that took place between 2009 and 2010.

Lesson of the day for U.S. companies: The statute of limitations for Cuba sanctions violations (as codified by the U.S. Congress in law) does not end with the Obama Administration -- nor with a wink-prod-and-nod from current political appointees at the State Department.

From U.S. Department of Treasury:

WATG Holdings, Inc., and Its Subsidiary, Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo (UK) Limited, Settle Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations

WATG Holdings, Inc. (WATG), of Irvine, California, and its subsidiary, Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo (UK), Limited (WATG-UK), have agreed to pay $140,400 to settle potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 (the “Regulations”). The apparent violations of § 515.201 of the Regulations occurred when WATG-UK dealt in property in which Cuba or its nationals had an interest by entering into a contract to perform architectural and design work for a hotel project in Cuba, for which it received three payments from a Qatari company, from on or about October 13, 2009 to on or about May 20, 2010, totaling $284,515. WATG further provided the Qatari company a $72,199 write-off of the contract’s original value of $356,714.

Rewarding Castros is Only Encouraging More Cubans to Flee

From The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Editorial Board:

Rewarding the Castros is only encouraging more Cubans to flee

As the Obama administration presses to loosen the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, thousands of Cubans are pressing ahead on their long journey to enter the United States.

Since President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro began normalizing relations in 2014, Cubans' determination to escape their island's oppressive regime has never been stronger. A Texas TV station reports that at least 7,000 Cuban refugees are heading toward the U.S. border. To reach ports of entry in South Texas, Cubans are making the long, arduous journey from Central America through Mexico to the border.

“In Cuba, there's nothing. There's no freedom,” says one observer.

But if the Obama administration is striving to open new avenues of commerce, why the exodus from Cuba? That's because without regime change, any economic windfall will go directly into the pockets of the Castro brothers.

And whereas Cubans have been seeking refugee status in America “since the dawn of the Castro regime,” under Obama's “normalization” they'll be regarded no longer as refugees but as illegal aliens, writes Rick Moran for the American Thinker.

But rather than concern himself with the crippling injustices facing Cubans, Mr. Obama instead extended his courtesy to a despicable dictatorship. The unintended consequence has given Cubans even more reason to flee their country.