Note to Cuban-Americans (Even U.S. Citizens): You Have No Rights in Cuba

Saturday, May 7, 2016
From CBS Miami:

Born In America To Cuban Parents? Cuba Still Doesn’t See You As U.S. Citizen

The U.S. Embassy has highlighted some bizarre practices by the Cuban government that could trip up Cuban-American citizens traveling to the island nation.

According to the U.S. Embassy, “The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents.”

Yes, you read that right. Cuba’s government will label you a full-blown Cuban even if you were born on U.S. soil.

U.S. officials said Cuba may even force you to enter and depart using a Cuban passport.

While doing so wouldn’t hinder your U.S. citizenship, you still need your U.S. passport to enter and depart the United States.

And therein lies another problem according to the U.S. Embassy.

There have been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports.”

The U.S. Embassy also says to be wary of Cuban authorities asking you to sign “repatriation” documents.

According to the U.S. Embassy, “Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba.”

So in signing those documents there is a chance the Cuban government seizes your U.S. passport and denies you permission to return to the United States.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's Cuba (Iran) Policy & 'The Blob'

Yesterday, we posted how to truly understand Obama's Cuba policy (and its dangerous duplicity), you had to read the NYT profile on his Deputy National Security Adviser (and alter-ego), Ben Rhodes.

One of the most interesting parts of the profile is Rhodes' purported disdain for the foreign policy "establishment", which he unkindly refers to as "the Blob".

But as columnist Eli Lake points out in Bloomberg, Rhodes doesn't hate "the Blob".  To the contrary, he's part of "the Blob". Who Rhodes really hates is the pro-Israel and anti-Castro lobby that has long dared to democratically challenge "the Blob".

Excerpt from Bloomberg:

[T]he Iran Project [key to Obama's policy] was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers foundation. Its participants included: Jessica Mathews, the former president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace; Tom Pickering, a vice president Boeing and former undersecretary of state for political affairs; and Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books. Does Rhodes think these people are not part of his establishment Blob?

And this gets to a very basic error that has become a feature of the Rhodes-Obama mind-meld on foreign policy. What they oppose is not the foreign policy establishment, but often the Americans who lobby Congress for policies that displease that establishment. First and foremost on this list is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

While it’s true that Aipac is influential in Congress, it has never had much purchase inside the State Department or other institutions of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Some presidents have worked closely with Aipac and others have not. But whatever one wants to say about it, or the anti-Cuba lobby or dozens of similar groups, they all advance their policies through the democratic process, by petitioning Congress. The same cannot be said about the foreign policy establishment, which is an expert class that derives most of its power from the presidents who seek its members’ advice.

Celebrities 'Too Cool' to Notice Cuba’s Repression

By Humberto Fontova in The Miami Herald:

Cuba is so cool!

Celebrities are too cool to notice Cuba’s repression

Thanks largely to President Obama’s recent engagement, Stalinist Cuba has quickly become the absolute coolest place on Earth.

Close on the heels of Katy Perry, the Rolling Stones and the Obama family itself, Karl Lagerfeld last week showcased his Chanel “cruise line” with a fashion-show extravaganza where Havana’s Prado Street served as the catwalk/runway for the world’s lithest models, while Gisele Bundchen, Tilda Swinton and Vin Diesel, with the paparazzi on the sidelines.

Not to be outdone, the Kardashians arrived in Havana to shoot an episode of their reality show.

Attaining such status for coolness among the world’s coolest people is not easy. Such coolness does not just land haphazardly in the lap of any random society. It must be worked on. So let us briefly peruse the societal and political characteristics that the cool and beautiful people — all liberals, needless to add —make a big media show of denouncing.

One area where cool people display great sensitivity is on the issue of gay rights. This holds especially for fashion and Hollywood luminaries — many of the very types now sashaying through Havana. And as we’ve recently learned in the cases of Indiana and North Carolina, in the view of cool people, the very definition of gay rights can be pretty broad.

So you do not want the distinction of being the only regime in the history of the Western Hemisphere to have herded tens of thousands of men and boys into forced labor camps at Soviet bayonet point for the crime of being gay, genuine or suspected. You especially do not want the International Court of Justice in The Hague to have this on file: “Castro’s Cuba is responsible for the persecution, imprisonment in forced labor concentration camps, torture, banishment, and death of thousands of gays, transvestites and lesbians.”

Whoops! Sorry! Seems I just described Castro’s Cuba, the world’s coolest place.

Women’s rights are also important for cool people. These rights — we’ve been given to understand by the ultra-cool Sandra Fluke — are extremely far-reaching and should include taxpayer-subsidized contraceptives for women.

So you don’t want the distinction of having jailed and tortured 35,150 women and girls for political crimes. The prison conditions for them were described by former political prisoner Maritza Lugo: “The punishment cells measure 3-feet-wide by 6-feet-long. The toilet consists of an 8-inch hole in the ground through which cockroaches and rats enter.”

Whoops! Sorry, again. Looks like I again described Castro’s Cuba, the world’s coolest place.

Cool people also make a big show of promoting peace. To hear them babble, armed conflict between nations has always been a historical abomination. So you definitely don’t want to be on record as being modern history’s scariest warmongers, to the point of wantonly bringing the world to the very precipice of nuclear war.

We reject any peaceful approach! Violence is inevitable! To establish socialism rivers of blood must flow! If the nuclear missiles had remained (in Cuba) we would have fired them against the heart of the U.S. The victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims!"

And you certainly don’t want to make an icon of the racist, mass-murdering warmonger responsible for the hate speech quoted above, even if he was co-founder of your regime. You especially want to avoid plastering his image all over your fiefdom. Cool people might get the wrong idea and start mimicking the fashion sense of one of modern history’s earliest nuclear warmonger by adopting his berets as the coolest fashion item for the coolest fashion show in the world.

Understanding Obama's Fictional Cuba Policy

Friday, May 6, 2016
To truly understand President Obama's Cuba policy, it's imperative to read this disturbing New York Times profile of his Deputy National Security Adviser (and alter-ego), Ben Rhodes.

Rhodes is the architect of Obama's Cuba and Iran policy, which use the exact same playbook.

Both policies are literally a figment of Rhodes' imagination, who is a former fiction writer with no foreign policy experience. They are void of reality (repressive nature of these regimes), ignore key facts (totalitarian apparatus) and peddle false narratives (moderates vs. hardliners).

These dangerously deceptive policies -- full of campaign-style spin -- were peddled by Rhodes through manufactured "echo chambers" that sold hacks to inexperienced journalists as "experts".

These inexperienced journalists, who Rhodes (apparently disdains) and brags "literally know nothing", then proceed to "say things that validated what we had given them to say."

Rhodes also flippantly dismisses any opposing views.

It's no wonder that the crowning achievement of Obama's Cuba policy seems to be an upcoming episode of Keeping Up With Kardashians.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, political repression is at a historic high, a new emigration crisis has unfolded, religious persecution has intensified, nepotism is taking hold and military monopolies are enjoying a bonanza.

Because none of these consequences were thought through in advance -- and with their manipulation of the media, they figured no one would notice.

The sad part is that the victims -- both in Cuba and Iran -- are real people, not characters in a fiction novel.

Again, read this New York Times profile.

The Real Losers in the Obama-Chanel-Kardashian Cuba Policy

By Martin Guevara (Che's dissident nephew) in The Havana Times:

Cuba gets High Fashion with No Shame

Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, Ulan Bator, Ho Chi Min, Tito, even Stalin, they all had the decency to die as the mass murderers they were, sticking to their principles and their messianic madness, varnished with claims of a struggle on behalf of the proletariat.

But Raul and Fidel Castro, the sultans, they’re okay with everything provided the world allows them to continue enjoying the benefits of their absolutist monarchy.

A daughter of the Cuban monarch, as well as a son and grandson of the voracious emperor and demiurge Fidel, attended Chanel’s May 3 fashion show down Havana’s Paseo promenade.

Average citizens, who could never in their lives dream of buying even the cheapest of these French perfumes, were kept at bay, three hundred meters away, by a thick police line.

Even for me, who has always regarded them as barefaced liars who were never true communists or anything having to do with altruism and utopias, who know very well that what has moved them their entire lives has been something as base as absolute power, could not have imagined they would be so shameless, so brass, as to do something like this.

It is unbearable to see these tyrants, who spent their lives repressing people, celebrate something that represents everything that was once strictly forbidden by them.

Elitism, an apologetics of class differences, high living standards, consumerism, the right to accumulate wealth, the freedom to dress in the style one chooses, capitalist good taste, bourgoeis excellent taste, the importance of owning more than our peers, these things probably are best represented by the Chanel brand and its yearly fashion show.

This is total bullshit!

This high fashion show in the heart of Havana, staged for the enjoyment of bigwigs and their relatives, businesspeople and the jet set at the moment when the population faces the cruelest hardships, strikes one as an unnecessary act of cruelty, as pure mockery, a show of power, particularly so close to the categorical announcement that new restrictions are coming, frustrating hopes of political change, economic improvement, greater participation by civil society in decisions affecting Cuba’s future and dumping a bucket of ice water on the people at the close of the Party Congress.

Following these incursions by mid-sized capital, penetrating the island like survey balloons, the big fish are sure to come and then, once the unwritten non-aggression and even mutual cooperation pacts with big Western powers are closed, the opposition, the conscientious objectors, the prisoners, the dissatisfied, the disaffected, those against the monarchy of the Castromasov Brothers, will truly have a tremendously lonely road and many sacrifices ahead, deprived of all international solidarity.

Surprisingly, people are starting to rebel precisely when the world offers the dynasty more support than ever (thanks to the concessions made by the big boss), at a time when Western democracies are sure to turn a blind eye on human rights violations on the island.

We run the risk of seeing what happened in Russia or China: when Coca Cola and Chase Manhattan got in, big capital stopped caring about the rights of the opposition.

Now, when abuses against those who think different cease to be news for media corporations is when we must be more vigilant and outspoken than ever.

Everything Wrong With Obama's Cuba Policy in Two Images

While Obama's Celebrities (and Carnival) Distract, Record Political Arrests in Cuba

Thursday, May 5, 2016
Here's what the media focused on this week in Cuba, courtesy of President Obama's policy:

Chanel glamorizing Cuba's despotism, the Kardashians frivolizing its repression, Gisele Bundchen idolizing Che, and Carnival travelers paraded around by Castro's intelligence services (through the MININT-owned entity, Havanatur).

Here's what the media ignored this week in Cuba, also courtesy of President Obama's policy:

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 1,380 political arrests by the Castro regime during the month of April 2016.

As such, there have been 5,351 political arrests in Cuba during the first four months of 2016.

This represents -- by far -- the highest monthly average in decades.

It's tenfold the monthly average of political arrests from 2010, as Obama began his presidency.

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

Supporters of Obama's policy argue that U.S. policy previously served as a distraction for Castro's repression.

Yet, as the facts now prove, nothing serves as a better distraction for Castro's repression than Obama's celebrity circus (and Carnival).

Cuban Political Prisoner: 'Only Pressure Will Get Me Out'

Only international pressure will get me out of prison.
-- Jose Antonio Torres, former Granma journalist in Cuba handed a 14-year prison sentence for criticizing the Castro regime, 14ymedio, 5/3/16

Cuba's State-Run Human Trafficking Business, Pt. 2

From Cuba Archive:

Cuba's state-run human trafficking business

Part II: Export sales of blood products & body parts, state-sponsored/forced migration, forced labor of prisoners and minors, and sex trafficking

On March 22nd 2016, Cuba Archive’s Executive Director, Maria Werlau, testified at a congressional hearing that the Cuban state is likely “one of the largest and most profitable traffickers in the world” and runs a gigantic and growing trafficking business through numerous state enterprises. Based on this testimony, we previously published Part I on forced labor of exported temporary workers, but Cuba sponsors other forms of human trafficking.

Export sales of blood products and body parts

For decades, Cuba has been exporting blood products in international markets mostly to countries that are its close allies. International statistics from 1995 on indicate that these sales have averaged $30 million a year and these export sales lack the required consent of volunteer donors, over 400,000 Cuban citizens who are systematically coerced each year into donating their blood in massive country-wide campaigns, told their blood is for altruistic purposes.

Furthermore, the Cuban government started a puzzling export of human tissue, glands, and other body parts of unknown origin to Brazil that started growing very quickly beginning in 2005 and reached a peak of $88.4 million in 2013, as reports grew inside Cuba of suspected deaths or the plundering of bodies to harvest body parts, both suggestive of state sponsorship, that merit investigation.

Other forms of human trafficking in or by Cuba

The Cuban state also has a direct or indirect role in other forms of human trafficking: state-sponsored or forced migration, forced labor of prisoners and minors, and sex trafficking, including of minors with state complicity purportedly maintained to increase Cuba´s attraction as a tourism destination.

The absence of legal protections in Cuba and lacking international support

In Cuba, there is no legal protection for victims or individual or collective rights outside of those allowed by the Communist party. What’s worse, in many of the human trafficking cases, Cuba`s military dictatorship has accomplices, participants, sponsors, and promoters all over the world, including from well known corporations, large foundations, key international agencies, and some of the leading world democracies.

Because the main perpetrator of the trafficking is, in fact, the Cuban state —directly and indirectly— the exploited fall systematically and hopelessly into a virtual black hole given the little international awareness, support, or protection.

Some of the temporary workers find safe harbor in the countries where they serve, especially health professionals to the U.S. under the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, in existence since 2006.

Click here to read the entire Congressional testimony.

New Cuban Political Prisoners: How Castro Has Gamed Obama and Media

Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Every week, hundreds of Cuban dissidents are beaten, arrested, then usually released within 24-48 hours.

This has become a systemic practice gamed by the Castro regime, in order for the international community and media not to pay close attention.

Even Secretary of State John Kerry recently minimized these "short-term" arrests.

But amid the hundreds arrested, the Castro regime always keeps several back and hands them long-term sentences.

They are usually less known dissidents, which serve a dual purpose. On one hand, it sends a message to the growing ranks of dissidents that next time it could easily be one of them held back. On the other, the media is so focused on Obama's frivolous policy (cruises, etc.) that they overlook it.

Here's the latest batch (courtesy of Marti News):

Among the newest prisoners of conscience are Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, Yunet Cairo Reigada and Jaqueline Heredia Morales, who were arrested on 15 April for staging a pro-human rights demonstration in Havana’s Central Park.

They were held at a police station jail without charges for a while before being transferred to a long-term prison, while still in limbo concerning specific charges.

According to Arcelio Molina, a member of the dissident organization UNPACU, Jacqueline Heredia (pictured below) has been transferred to San José prison, where all AIDS-infected Cubans are taken, and Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda and Yunet Cairo have been taken to the women’s prison at Guatao.

A fourth dissident arrested the same day at Havana’s Central Park, Marieta Martínez Aguilera, remains jailed at the Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones jail known as “la Quinta.”

Cuba Ranks Among 'Worst of the Worst' in Press Freedom

 In Freedom House's 2016 new report on freedom of the press, Cuba ranks even worse than Iran and Syria.

Again, moving in the wrong direction.

Amidst Obama's Deals, Religious Freedom Deteriorates in Cuba and Iran

Things are not getting better under Obama's policy. To the contrary.

From The Hill:

Religious freedom 'under assault' in Iran, Cuba, says government report

In Iran, religious freedom is “deteriorating,” according to a new government report.

Religious minorities are subject to arrest, torture and even execution “based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in a report issued Monday.

The population of Iran is 99 percent Muslim, made up mostly of Shi’a Muslims. According to the report, the government discriminates against people of other faiths — such as Sunni Muslims and Christians — who are facing “increasing religious freedom abuses.”

"Since President Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased,” the report noted.

The group’s paper casts a shadow on more than 30 countries where it said religious freedom violations are egregious, including China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, North Korea, Iran and Cuba.

This comes as the Obama administration faces criticism for engaging in nuclear talks with Iran and restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, despite human rights concerns in those countries.

The report urged the Obama administration to use these negotiations as leverage to press for stronger religious freedom protections in these countries.

In Iran, the report encouraged the Obama administration to “ensure that violations of freedom of religion or belief and related human rights are part of multilateral or bilateral discussions with the Iranian government whenever possible, and continue to work closely with European and other allies to apply pressure through a combination of advocacy, diplomacy, and targeted sanctions.”

The report was also critical of the Cuban government, which it said "continues to harass religious leaders” and interfere with church matters.

"As part of the U.S.-Cuba ongoing discussions, the U.S. government should take significant action to convey that the change in policy does not diminish the Cuban government’s need to improve religious freedom conditions on the island,” the report noted.

As Predicted, Castro Keeps Reverting "Reforms"

Monday, May 2, 2016
Obama's policy supporters long argued that normalizing relations and easing sanctions towards Cuba would encourage Raul's "reforms."

That misses the glaring fact that Castro's regime only responds when it's economically pressed. For example, "self-employment" -- albeit a half-measure -- was a temporary reaction to loss of Soviet subsidies. Years later, with the remnants of the Chavez-Maduro regime in Venezuela imploding, Cuba resorted to it again.

However, as we warned several months before the Obama-Castro deal (December 17th, 2014), once the Cuban economy stabilizes or begins to "bounce back," the Castro government will reverse itself to freeze or revoke any "reforms."

Lift U.S. sanctions and Cuba's government will solely focus on strengthening its state conglomerates and the repression required to suppress change.

That's exactly what has been happening.

Here's the latest from Reuters:

Cuba backtracks on food reforms as conservatives resist change

Cuba decided at a secretive Communist Party congress last week to reverse market reforms in food distribution and pricing, according to reports in official media, reflecting tensions within the party about the pace of economic change.

President Raul Castro unveiled an ambitious market reform agenda in one of the world's last Soviet-style command economies after he took office a decade ago, but the reforms moved slowly in the face of resistance from conservatives and bureaucrats.

At the April 16-19 congress, Castro railed against an "obsolete mentality" that was holding back modernization of Cuba's socialist economy. But he also said the leadership needed to respond quickly to problems like inflation unleashed by greater demand as a result of reforms in other sectors.

In response, delegates voted to eliminate licenses for private wholesale food distribution, according to reports over the past week in the Communist Party daily, Granma, and state television.

Delegates said the state would contract, distribute and regulate prices for 80 to 90 percent of farm output this year, compared to 51 percent in 2014, according to debates broadcast days after the event.

Cruising to Cuba Like its 1977

Despite the misleading headlines, this week's Carnival Cruise to Cuba is not the first since 1959.

Kudos to CNN's Patrick Oppmann for actually doing some research.

In 1977, there was a similar cruise.

It's also a reminder of how there's nothing particularly new about President Obama's Cuba policy. It's simply a rehash of Jimmy Carter's.

And just like Carter's, Obama's is already proving to be counter-productive.

Quote of the Week: Cuba is Not Changing

With this government, I don’t think there are going to be big changes. I don’t think they want to open. They want to tighten down. We’re still very closed. They don’t let you sell, they don’t let you get a license to import. We aren’t changing.
-- Barbara Ugarte, Cuban "self-employed" licensee ("cuentapropista") in Central Havana, AP, 4/30/16

Goodbye, Jaime Ortega

From Diario de Cuba's Editorial Board:

Goodbye, Jaime Ortega

Things are so bad in Cuba that any news about a shakeup in the country's elite - even if it's just a quasi-retirement, like that announced for Jaime Ortega- is good news.

Cardinal Ortega had been the Archbishop of Havana since 1981. In exchange for concessions for his Church, he ingratiated himself with the Castro regime to such a degree that he ended up being perceived as one more component of it. Under his leadership the Catholic Church sought and managed to recover a significant social presence, which is not illicit. What was wrong, however, was doing so by failing to denounce the social, political and economic crisis induced by the dictatorship, the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba, denying the existence of political prisoners and serving as a spokesman for the regime at international forums.

At these events the cardinal demonstrated an attitude of classist disdain and a lack of compassion, mercy and Christian love and sympathy for the "uneducated" or "criminals," as he branded Cuban citizens demanding the rights. Ortega forgot the mercy that Jesus showed to thieves and prostitutes. Rubbing shoulders with “Castro's princes” made him arrogant and led him off the path he had sworn to follow.

He served as a go-between for the Interior Ministry when it sent the Black Spring political prisoners into exile, thereby allowing the regime to avoid direct talks with the civil society groups that were pressuring the Government, and then proceeded to deny the existence of those same activists in Cuba. In this way he was complicit in the regime's sleight of hand campaigns: making people disappear and then claiming that they don't exist.

For all these reasons, though the cause of democracy in Cuba should not expect much from Pope Francis and Vatican strategies, the fact that Jaime Ortega has left the scene (at least partially) represents progress.

Harvard Crimson: The Cost of Obama's Cuban Rapprochement

Sunday, May 1, 2016
By David Liebers and Michael Silva in The Harvard Crimson:

The Cost of Obama's Cuban Rapprochement

As President Obama stepped off Air Force One to begin his historic visit to Havana, he seized the opportunity to fire off a tweet: “¿Que Bola Cuba?” His message, which in Cuban-Spanish slang roughly translates to “What’s popping?” or “What’s good?” was surely intended to ingratiate and serve as an opening olive branch to his hosts. The irony—that the majority of Cubans would never see his message thanks to repressive internet censorship—was entirely lost on the president.

This dissonance summarizes the mood of the two-day spectacle. President Obama, the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, intended to lay the foundations for renewed cooperation between the two countries. The challenge for the President was to balance the diplomatic goal of demonstrating a workable political relationship with Raul Castro, while paying lip service to the issue of the dictator’s human rights abuses.

Predictably, the results proved awkward. During a joint press conference with President Obama, Raul Castro scolded reporters for asking about human rights violations and lambasted U.S. economic policy. Soon after the conclusion of the visit, an official organ of the state-controlled Cuban media used racially vulgar language to insult the President of the United States. The no-strings-attached commitment from President Obama to lift the embargo emboldened Castro to criticize the U.S. and redeploy his communist message.

Even more embarrassing, as our President posed for photos in front of a Che Guevara mural and tweeted about his trip, thousands of political prisoners—including members of the Ladies in White movement—detained for no reason other than their peaceful opposition to political repression, rotted in jails across the island.

The current Cuban regime has made brutality towards political dissidents a regular part of its operation. Raul Castro denies the presence of political prisoners, yet the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reports 2,555 detentions in the first two months of this year, after more than 8,600 in 2015. Members of opposition political parties are regularly subject to machete attacks, and refugees stopped by Cuban coastguard risk extrajudicial killing. Despite all this, U.S. leadership seems to have fallen for Castro’s propaganda.

President Obama says he wants to “bury the last remnant” of the Cold War. But his visit will have the opposite effect. It ensures prolonged communist rule in Cuba by extending an economic lifeline and legitimacy to the Castro regime. Seduced by the chance at being the leader who would liberate the Cuban people from the “failed” U.S. embargo, President Obama chose to cement his place in history rather than to stand with those who risk their lives to fight for basic freedoms.

The symbolic power that the United States holds to those standing up to totalitarianism is not easy for those of us born here to understand. But for pro-democratic freedom fighters—whether across the communist bloc in the 1980s, or today in Cuba—American solidarity has been a source of strength. There is no other nation so steadfast in its defense of freedom of expression, basic human rights, and democracy. Like the authors of this piece, one of the left and one of the right, Americans across the political spectrum ought to support these principles. The symbolic power of the U.S. in standing for human rights has eroded in this abandonment of Cuban pro-democratic dissidents.

The pain was real for Cuban-Americans who watched as the leader of the free world befriended the dictator they risked their lives to flee. One such Cuban, Natividad Silva, an 85-year-old retired pharmacist and the grandmother of one of the authors of this piece, fled Cuba in 1962 when the Castros confiscated her small business and life savings. She began fearing for her life as peaceful dissidents around her in Havana were incarcerated, tortured, and killed. Her story is by no means unique. It is shared by the millions of Cuban immigrants in the U.S. and the hundreds of refugees who continue to flee the Castro regime each month.

President Obama turned a blind eye to human rights violations and made the political calculation that his reversal of American policy towards Cuba would represent another jewel in his foreign policy legacy. In doing so, he abolished America’s unique role as a beacon of freedom to the pro-democratic Cuban opposition and to dissidents in totalitarian states around the world.

Michael A. Silva ’15 and David T. Liebers are medical students at Harvard Medical School.

Quote of the Day: Russia's Most Loyal Ally in Western Hemisphere

[Cuba] is not only a strategic partner, but [Russia's] most loyal and trustworthy ally in the Western Hemisphere.
-- Nikolai Sofinski, sub-director for Latin America at Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cuba Debate, 4/28/16

Image of the Week: Keeping an Eye on The Ladies in White

Castro's secret police sets up video cameras to monitor the headquarters of The Ladies in White in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana.