Why Cuban-Americans Should Support Marco Rubio in Florida

Friday, March 11, 2016
On Tuesday, March 15th, the State of Florida will be decisive in the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

The race in Florida is between two candidates -- Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.

If Trump wins Florida, he will be unstoppable in his path to the nomination.

A vote for Ted Cruz in Florida, whom we greatly respect and admire, is a vote for Donald Trump. Thus, even if you support Ted Cruz down the road, it's pivotal Trump does not win Florida.

The Cuban-American community will play a pivotal role in this primary election.

If you missed last night's Cuba policy exchange during the debate, please take a minute to watch it below (or click here).

By voting for Marco Rubio, you would be sending three clear messages:

1. Reject Obama's policy -- When Obama Administration officials talk about efforts to make the new policy of embracing Cuba's dictatorship "irreversible," they mean one thing: Preventing Marco Rubio from re-focusing the policy towards the unequivocal freedom of the Cuban people.

Let's reject Obama's efforts.

2. Stop Donald Trump -- In previously defending Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi, Putin and the Chinese regime's behavior in Tienanmen, Trump would place the moral, international leadership of the United States at risk. Moreover, the discriminatory tactics of Trump operatives urging voters to "vote against the Cubans" have been deplorable.

Let's stop Trump.

3. Bury Fidel Castro's legacy -- Sadly, today Castro stands as the most well-known Cuban in the world. Our people deserve better than that. There would be no greater poetic justice than for Castro to be buried knowing that his dictatorship will be forever eclipsed in history by a young American of Cuban origin who became the leader of the free world.

Let's bury Castro.

This can only happen if all of you -- if our community -- shows up for Marco Rubio on March 15th.

Note to Treasury: Your Duty is to Uphold (Not Distort) Cuba Sanctions Law

Thursday, March 10, 2016
President Obama is keen on granting Cuba's Castro dictatorship more concessions next week.

As Reuters reported, even Democratic aides who are generally supportive of Obama's policy are dismayed by this policy folly, particularly as Castro's regime is proving to be more emboldened and repressive.

 "Shouldn't we get something from the Cubans in return?" one asked.

Among the new concessions being considered by Obama officials are: 1). allowing the Castro regime to use U.S. dollars in international transactions; and 2). individual "educational exchanges not involving academic study" to Cuba.

Both of these demands were made by Castro's Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (and senior intelligence official, DGI), Rodrigo Malmierca, during a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month.

Obama is now inexplicably willing to cave to these demands.

But both of these demands require a change in U.S. law, which the Obama Administration does not have the statutory authority to do.

Treasury Department lawyers know this and should not impugn their integrity for the whim of Obama's political staff.

As regards allowing the Castro regime to use the U.S. dollar in international transactions, Obama does not have the statutory authority to issue any such blanket authorization.

Congress has only authorized three types of exempted transactions with the Castro regime -- for telecommunications services, agricultural commodities and medicine/medical devices.

Allowing the Castro regime to use U.S. dollars in international transactions would be wholly inconsistent with statutory mandates, nor would it promote freedom, democracy or support the Cuban people.

Let's be absolutely clear -- "the Cuban people" are not shuffling dollars through BNP Paribas, ING Group and HSBC Bank. Only the Castro regime and its apparatchiks are able, willing and eager to do so, which (again) inarguably contravenes U.S. interests and statutory mandates.

As regards individual "educational exchanges not involving academic study" to Cuba, the Trade Sanctions Reform Act ('TSRA') defines illegal “tourist activities” as any activity with respect to travel to, from or within Cuba that is not expressly authorized under Section 515.560 of the Cuban Asset Control Regulations ('CACR'), as in effect on June 1, 2000.

Individual "educational exchanges not involving academic study" to Cuba were not expressly authorized by the CACR on June 1, 2000. This category of trips were expressly authorized on June 1, 2000, only under auspices of a sponsoring organization with a full-time itinerary of education exchange activities.

This is not an issue of whether a category of travel to Cuba that was expressly authorized on June 1, 2000 is allowed under a specific or general license. Obama officials now seek to change the category itself, which would squarely place it outside of the scope expressly authorized on June 1, 2000. That would make it an illegal "tourist activity," as defined and banned by Congress.

President Obama's legacy is his prerogative, but the law should remain inviolable.

Obama's Cuba Trip is Misguided

By Lawrence J. Haas in U.S. News and World Report:

Obama's Cuba Trip Up

The president's decision to visit Cuba now sends the wrong message.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Cuba in two weeks in an oddly timed excursion that, in many ways, encapsulates all that's wrong with the philosophy, goals, and priorities of his administration's foreign policy.

Simply put, it's the wrong trip, to the wrong place, at the wrong time, and under the wrong circumstances.

Admittedly, the longstanding U.S. policy of isolating Havana was due for review. Washington engages with authoritarian regimes of all kinds. Some, like Beijing and Moscow, are simply too big to ignore; others, like Cairo and Riyadh, are key to protecting U.S. regional interests. That tiny Cuba was a lonely exception largely reflected the political power of its emigre population.

Moreover, hopes that U.S. isolation would help topple the Castro regime proved illusory, as the ailing revolutionary founder Fidel transferred power to his brother, Raul, in 2008, leaving the half-century family business in place.

Still, Obama's trip is troubling. It will cap off more than a year of efforts through which the president deployed his usual array of questionable global strategies – appeasing the regime in question, downplaying its human rights record and ignoring its growing ties to America's adversaries – in hopes of changing Cuba's behavior.

"I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement," Obama declared in December 2014 in announcing that he was changing America's "relationship with the people of Cuba." The United States, he said, would work to reestablish U.S.-Cuba relations, reopen an embassy in Havana, review Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terror, and increase "travel, commerce, and the flow of information" between the two nations. As he did with, among others, Tehran and Moscow, Obama reassured Havana of his good intentions, offered to re-write bilateral relations if Havana responded in kind, and provided a financial reward up front.

But just as Tehran grabbed the sanctions relief of the U.S.-led nuclear deal without changing its hostile approach toward Washington, and just as Moscow secured U.S. concessions over missile defense in Eastern Europe while remaining belligerent, so too is Havana pocketing U.S. largesse without changing its stripes. Unfortunately, Obama is responding to Havana as he did to Tehran and Moscow – showering the Castro regime with still more rewards while ignoring its spit-in-your-eye behavior.

"Where we disagree," Obama said of Cuba 15 months ago, "we will raise those differences directly – as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba." But, he explained, "I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century."

But as the president has provided aid to Cuba, lifted its terror designation, opened the embassy, announced an agreement to restore direct flights between America and Cuba, and planned to become the first president to visit the island since 1928, the human rights-abusing regime has cracked down ever more harshly on its dissidents, detaining, jailing, beating, restricting and otherwise intimidating them in record numbers.

Since Obama's policy change, Cuba has recorded its three highest monthly totals of political arrests of the last six years – 1,447 in November 2015, 1,414 in January, and at least 1,141 last month – according to the opposition Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation. There have been at least 2,555 political arrests this year already, totaling almost a third of the 8,616 that took place in all of 2015.

Secretary of State John Kerry canceled plans late last week to visit Cuba before Obama's trip due to a dispute with Havana about which dissidents Obama can see while he's there. But even in the face of Havana's stepped-up political crackdown and its recalcitrance over dissidents, Obama plans to make his trip.

Meanwhile, Havana is strengthening its ties to North Korea, which is developing missiles and warheads that can hit the U.S. mainland, raising questions about whether Cuba's proximity to Florida could make it a security threat.

With tensions between Washington and Pyongyang growing, North Korea's foreign minister visited Cuba in March of 2015 and the North Korean Workers' Party's secretary of international relations visited in June. In recent years, Cuba has been caught smuggling weapons to North Korea, violating United Nations sanctions.

But if Obama's concerned that he's getting little for his new policy, that human rights in Cuba are deteriorating, and that Havana is cozying up to one of America's most reckless enemies, he's not showing it.

Have a nice trip, Mr. President.

Open Letter to Ben Rhodes: Excluding Critics in Miami and Havana

By Guillermo I. Martinez in The Sun-Sentinel:

Does Obama administration care about Cubans on island?

The beatings have continued in Cuba despite normalization of relations

An open letter to White House staffer Ben Rhodes:

It is about time that you come and talk with members of the Cuban exile community.

I say this with a couple of drops of irony, since you negotiated the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba in total secrecy.

You negotiated in Canada and probably in Havana, but never in South Florida, where the vast majority of those who have had to flee the Cuban communist regime lives.

A few days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry had to cancel his trip to Cuba because the regime in Havana did not give him assurances he would be able to talk to the dissidents he wanted to meet.

And quite frankly, why should Cuba give Kerry, you or even President Obama assurances that you could meet with those openly opposed to the regime, which has governed Cuba for 57 long years?

The agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations was signed almost 15 months ago. At the time, both Cuba and the United States said it would take longer to normalize relations between the two governments.

At first, even though I was skeptical of the agreement, I hoped in some way the ordinary Cuban — the one who earns $20 per month in pay — would profit from the agreement.

Soon, even that slim hope of improvement in the quality of life for Cubans faded. Obama's government began to shower the Cuban government with gifts. They did all they could without violating outright the law that imposes an embargo of companies and people who seek to do business with Cuba.

Santa Obama was generous. He made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba — but not as tourists (wink, wink). The agreement increased the amount of money Cubans in the United States could send to their relatives on the island and the frequency of these remittances. And, most recently it agreed to allow Cuba to purchase food and medicines on credit.

There is more, but it make me sick just to look up to find all the things Obama has given Cuba. In return Raul Castro says time and again that no matter what the United States gives or does, Cuba will remain a communist country, with one legal political party, without free elections, with total censorship and with harsh punishments for all those who dare disobey their mandates.

Two other things have happened as a result of the generosity of the Obama Administration:

The number of Cubans seeking to leave the island and come to the United States has grown exponentially.

Dissidents who remain in Cuba are repressed now more than before the establishment of diplomatic relations.

I am certain they give you the daily figures of how many Cubans are making the trip to the United States from all over the hemisphere and how many are harassed and beaten on Sundays when they march silently to protest against the regime.

Thousands of Cubans went to Ecuador, and from there to Central America with the hope they could cross Mexico on foot and get to the U.S. border, where they would be welcomed by the grace of the Cuban Adjustment Act.

At this point there are Cubans stuck in Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, waiting for a way north or an airline ticket to the land of milk and honey.

Yes Mr. Rhodes, the number of Cubans migrating to the United States has increased exponentially since the announcement of the agreement between Washington and Havana.

Another outcome of the agreement has been the huge increase in beatings, temporary arrests and even jail sentences to dissidents who dare protest peacefully against the regime.

I hope you use your time in South Florida wisely. There are dissidents here who plan to return to Cuba. You can talk to them. There are also victims of the Castro regime who could attest to the repression in the island.

You should talk to those opposed to what the administration is doing. You might learn something new.

I am fairly sure, however, you will limit your visits to those who already are willing to jump on a plane to do business in Cuba.

That would be a shame, for that indicates that neither you nor anybody in the Obama administration gives a damn about the lives of Cubans in the island.

Cuba: 2016 Begins as Most Repressive Year in Decades

Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 1,141 political arrests by the Castro regime in Cuba during the short month of February 2016.

In January 2016, the CCHR documented 1,447 political arrests.

As such, these 2,588 political arrests -- thus far -- represent the highest tally to begin a year in decades.

This is what happens when President Obama first announces he won't visit Cuba unless there are tangible improvements in the respect for human rights -- then crosses his own 'red-line.'

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 exponentially rising.

Why? Because the Castro regime keeps getting a pass for its repressive acts.

Mr. President, legacy is not more important than lives.

WaPo Editorial: Will Obama Dump Dissidents for Baseball in Cuba?

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

Will Obama dump dissidents for baseball in Cuba?

The White House is said to be thrilled that President Obama will attend a baseball game when he visits Cuba two weeks from now: The matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuban team will provide a splashy exhibition of the warming relations with the Castro regime. There’s still no word, however, about a promised presidential meeting with Cuban dissidents, the brave women and men whose fight for democratic freedoms in one of the world’s most repressive countries is less glamorous — and more dangerous — than Major League Baseball.

So let’s be clear: Notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s expectation that Cuba will “be fun,” his visit will be an ignoble failure if he does not have a meaningful encounter with the island’s most important human rights activists.

The risk of such an outcome seems to be rising. Administration officials who said Mr. Obama would choose whom he met when he is on the island are now conceding that Cuban officials are trying to prevent him from seeing true opposition leaders. Instead they are proposing that Mr. Obama gather with regime-approved members of “civil society,” perhaps with a couple of moderate government critics mixed in. The disagreement reportedly contributed to a decision by Secretary of State John F. Kerry to cancel a preparatory trip to Havana last week.

The Castros’ resistance is understandable. A direct meeting between Mr. Obama and leaders such as Guillermo Fariñas, the winner of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights, or the Ladies in White, another winner, would give a big boost to their cause. It would legitimize their demands for free speech, free assembly and freedom for political prisoners and put pressure on the regime to respond to them. It would give hope to Cubans that Mr. Obama’s engagement with their country might bring about long-overdue change.

What the Castros hope is that Mr. Obama instead will focus on baseball and new U.S. steps to bolster the Cuban economy, such as allowing use of the dollar. That would divert attention from the fact that repression in Cuba has not eased in the 15 months since the diplomatic thaw began; in fact, it has gotten worse. Dissidents who tried to meet with Pope Francis during his recent visit were detained or beaten. Will those who try to approach Mr. Obama meet the same fate? Any critic who manages to get into a “civil society” meeting such as that proposed by the regime would be drowned out by its loyalists.

As so often in its dealings with the Castros, the administration sacrificed leverage by announcing the presidential visit before the terms for a meeting with dissidents were agreed on. That makes it harder to insist on the gathering that should take place: a small, focused dialogue with internationally recognized advocates of democracy and human rights. Still, if the White House pushes as hard to see Mr. Fariñas and the Ladies in White as it has for the Tampa Bay Rays, it should succeed. If not, Mr. Obama can and should call off his trip.

IBD Editorial: Obama’s Cuba Trip Showing Signs Of Imploding

From Investor's Business Daily's Editorial Board:

Obama’s Cuba Trip Showing Signs Of Imploding

President Obama’s “historic” trip to communist Cuba is showing signs of falling apart. Far from the beisbol and mojitos junket that the president’s PR team is selling, disputes are all over, starting with which dissidents the regime will let the president see. It goes to show what a bad idea this was.

Making the first visit to the island since the Coolidge administration, President Obama’s public relations men are touting a host of fun-filled photo-op activities, such as a “shared love” of baseball, as well as new State Department talks with the Castroites “on cybercrime,” as Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted, apparently naive to the fact that any hackers in Cuba are agents of the Cuban government.

In reality, there are signs of trouble all over with the March 21 visit. After all, this is not a normal relationship. The Cuban government’s goodwill toward the U.S. is nil, even as Obama showers goodies on them and caves in to their every demand. A presidential visit is the last thing they deserve.

Yet the administration justifies the junket by saying the president’s trip will “advance our progress and improve the lives of the Cubans,” as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough tweeted in Spanish. And indeed that’s an echo of President Obama’s original precondition to not visit Cuba until the Castroites improve the rights of Cuba’s citizens — who are fleeing the island in droves now, out of fear the Obama-Castro bromance will lead to an end of their migration privileges, a topic seemingly ignored. Notice the verbal sleight-of-hand: The Obama administration has subtly shifted its goal to now say the trip itself will improve the conditions of Cubans.

For Cubans, there have been nothing but problems. For one, dissident arrests have risen five-fold since Obama announced the normalization of ties in late 2014. Some “improvement.”

Now there’s even a question of which critics of the regime Obama will be allowed to meet in Havana. In repeated messages, Obama has stated that he wants to meet Cubans from “all walks of life” to justify this trip to Americans.

The situation got so bad last week that Secretary of State John Kerry canceled his preparatory trip to Cuba after Cuban officials told him which Cuban dissidents President Obama could meet — and which ones he couldn’t. It was a valid reason to call off a trip. Heads of state in countries with normal relations don’t tell each other who they can meet.

But President Obama’s trip is still a “go,” even as Cuba’s henchmen dictate which dissidents he can see — and which will wind up in prison to keep them out of sight.

This is now a pattern. At the U.S. embassy opening in Havana last summer, Cuban dissidents were kept away to please the regime, while the U.S. public was told there was no room for them — as reporters (such as CNN’s Jake Tapper) tweeted pictures of wide open space and empty chairs. It was an obvious lie.

At a minimum, the President should be shaking hands with Berta Soler, who leads the wives of imprisoned dissidents group called Ladies in White, a group whose members are routinely beaten and jailed every time they walk the streets to church to remind people of their husbands. Jorge "Antunez" Garcia Perez, an Afro-Cuban leader who has been assaulted and jailed for speaking out against the Castroites’ Bull-Connor-style discrimination against black Cubans, also belongs in the list. Rosa Maria Paya, whose dissident father was murdered by Castro’s agents in a “car accident,” merits a presidential visit, too. So does Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, thrown into Castro’s dungeons for years for advocating nonviolent resistance inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Even the “beisbol” issue reeks of tyranny: The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration and Major League Baseball have been in private talks for months with the Castro regime to let more Cuban players come to the U.S. to play here. But many already come here, by escaping Castro. These talks sound like a way to give Castro a cut of the players’ high professional earnings. Just another way that the Castro dictatorship leeches off its own people. Workers in Cuba, remember, have no rights, not even the right to their own earnings.

If this isn’t a Potemkin trip in the making, what is?

Obama: Victims of Argentina's Dictatorship Deserve Respect, But Not Cuba's

Sunday, March 6, 2016
If you think the Obama Administration has a competent plan for the President's upcoming trip to Cuba and Argentina -- then think again.

Obama was unwittingly scheduled to be in Buenos Aires on March 24th -- during the 40th anniversary of the 1976 coup that installed a military dictatorship in Argentina.

At the behest of human rights groups, Obama will now avoid Buenos Aires on March 24th, where there will be multiple commemorations for the victims. Instead he will spend the day playing golf in the resort town of Bariloche.

He has acquiesced to do so out of respect for the victims of Argentina's dictatorship.

Yet prior to arriving in Argentina, Obama will be "wining and dining" with Cuba's Castro dictatorship.

In other words, the victims of Argentina's dictatorship four decades ago deserve Obama's respect, but Cuba's victims will be disrespected in the midst of their dictatorship (and increased repression).

It's hard to top such utter hypocrisy.

And that's not to mention the historic cozy relationship between Argentina's military dictatorship and Cuba's. (Click here to learn more.)

But that would make the Obama Administration's head spin out of control.

Image below: It's not the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, but the Memorial Cubano in Miami. Each cross is dedicated to a victim of Castro's dictatorship.

Miami Herald Editorial: Obama Should Cancel Cuba Trip if Thwarted

From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:

Obama should cancel Cuba trip if thwarted

President should meet with dissidents of his choosing

He should be prepared to decline to visit if regime blocks him

If President Obama cannot meet with the dissidents of his choice — and of his choice alone — when he visits Cuba this month, then he should just stay home. Sure, it’s his chance to make history, his long-sought Nixon-to-China moment.

But he risks looking weak, sycophantic, should he not conduct the trip on his own terms.

Normalization with Cuba is supposed to be a two-way street — give some, get some. But, since December 2014, the United States has done most of the giving, with the Cuban dictatorship smug with the bulk of the getting. And the Ladies in White are still beaten up and thrown in jail every Sunday.

Relations hit a big bump last week when Secretary of State John Kerry canceled a trip to the island in advance of the president’s visit. According to U.S. officials, the State Department and its Cuban counterparts couldn’t reach “common agreement,” including on access to dissidents.

Friday, however, things had been paved over, with Mr. Kerry and Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s foreign minister, affirming their commitment to making the president’s trip a successful one.

But that will depend on how each side defines success. Mr. Obama should put Cuba’s human-rights abuses front and center. If he mutes the issue, then it allows the dictatorship to assume that it’s not a big deal for the United States, and that there’s absolutely no need for anything to change. After all, the regime is already getting that welcome influx of tourist money since the United States loosened travel restrictions.

It’s imperative that the U.S. administration disabuse President Raúl Castro of that fantasy before Mr. Obama arrives on March 21. So far it has been far too timid, and the regime has been bold in continuing to pull the wool over its eyes. And if it can do so again while Mr. Obama is paraded around Cuba, providing useful optics for Mr. Castro, then that for the regime, will be success.

And Mr. Obama’s visit will have been something akin to failure.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Mr. Obama himself will decide with whom he meets when he goes to Cuba, and that Cuban officials would have no say. At best, that’s optimistic; at worst, it’s pretty naive.

That is why the ground rules must be in place before Mr. Obama is wheels-down in Havana. In fact, many Cuban dissidents have asked President Obama to make his visit contingent on a list of conditions. According to a statement obtained by El Nuevo Herald, they seek “immediate cessation of repression” for those who oppose the Cuban government; that amnesty be granted to political prisoners; that Mr. Obama be allowed to meet with representatives of the opposition.

Yes, “allowed.” Let’s be clear — Mr. Obama is a head of state and must not “allow” the regime to constrict his movements or with whom he meets. In September 1960, a young, dynamic Fidel Castro, fresh off the success of his takeover, attended a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. While in New York, he met with Malcolm X, an American revolutionary who was causing dyspepsia as he led a black-liberation movement. But government officials didn’t interfere with Castro’s ability to commune with him.

That’s how it works in a democracy. Unfortunately, Cuba remains anything but. Better for President Obama to cancel his visit with integrity if he is hamstrung in any way than to become a compromised pawn.

Quote of the Week: Obama Should Focus Less on Baseball, More on Freedom

I hope during his visit to Cuba that President Obama won't only talk baseball, but support the Cuban people's right to decide.
-- Rosa Maria Paya, Cuban democracy leader and daughter of murder activist Oswaldo Paya, Twitter, 3/2/16