Reports That Castro is Legalizing 'Private Business' Are False

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Yesterday, the AP's Havana bureau reported that the Castro regime was going to legalize "private business" in Cuba.

As we posted yesterday, it was a recognition that there is currently no "private business" in Cuba -- despite the Obama Administration's narrative over the last few years.

But reports that Castro is now going to legalize "private business" were also grossly exaggerated.

It was either the result of the AP's over-zealousness, sloppiness, poor Spanish or Ben Rhodes' "echo chamber."

The fine print of the Communist Party document cited by the AP makes clear that the legalization of small- and medium-sized business is not something being currently considered by the Castro regime.

Instead, the document (with goals for the year 2030) states that it's a "project" that may be considered in "a future society to which we aspire."

In other words, in 2030.

Moreover, that the current text is "generalizing, with the purpose of conceptualizing future aspirations, once the Model has been updated."

(14ymedio has more details -- in Spanish.)

That's Communist talk for never -- akin to Lenin's stages of revolution.

(He too had his "useful idiots").

Let's see whether AP has the journalistic integrity to correct its story.

Tweet of the Day: Cubans Increasingly Desperate to Flee

The result of a policy based on a President's legacy, not thoughtfulness:

A Cuban Dissident’s Plea: Don’t Abandon Us

By Jose Cardenas in Foreign Policy:

A Cuban Dissident’s Plea: Don’t Abandon Us

A leading Cuban dissident came to Washington last week to urge U.S. policymakers not to abandon those working for peaceful change on the island, as President Barack Obama’s White House continues its mono-focus on normalizing relations with the Castro regime.

Physicist Antonio Rodiles — whose bloody visage received widespread attention after government security forces beat him in 2012 — told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute that the Obama administration should recognize “who its friends are” in Cuba, and not marginalize those struggling for precisely the kind of change that Obama professes to want.

Rodiles warned observers not to be fooled by the process of “fake change” underway in Cuba under Raul Castro, who is interested only in transitioning power to his immediate family members. “There should be no doubt that the regime is taking concrete steps to continue the dynasty,” he said.

Rodiles said the only possibility of real change in Cuba will come when the Castro family is out of the picture and the regime’s entire totalitarian edifice begins to be deconstructed.

“I don’t want to think that, little by little, in 20 years the regime is going to change,” he added. “I don’t have time for that. I want the regime to change right now.”

I asked Rodiles to explain why the regime, if repressive as ever, currently allows dissidents to travel to the United States and return to Cuba. He told me it was part of the regime’s incurred “cost” to project an image of change for foreign consumption. He said the situation for him and his fellow dissidents remains unchanged on the ground.

That remained true, he lamented, after the administration’s unconditional overtures to the Castros. “Right now, the regime feels more comfortable, more legitimate, and now they are more violent,” he said.

The statistics, regrettably, bear that out. The Miami Herald cites the Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which reported more than 8,600 politically motivated detentions in Cuba in 2015, a 315 percent increase from five years ago. In January and February of this year alone, more than 2,500 people were arrested for political reasons.

But the even bigger indictment of the administration’s misguided Cuba policy is the number of Cubans who simply want out. Citing U.S. Coast Guard statistics, the Miami Herald reports, “if the Cuban migrant flow by sea continues at the same pace, total interceptions, sightings or arrivals during fiscal year 2015 — 4,476 — may be surpassed before the end of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.”

The rote media explanation is that Cubans fear that Obama’s rapprochement could mean an end to special immigration privileges. However, this fails to explain two things: Why, if Cuba is “changing,” as the president’s echo-chamber denizens want us to believe, are Cubans continuing to flee? If the goal of Obama’s policy is to “improve the lives of Cubans,” then why are record numbers of Cubans leaving?

The answer, of course, is that most Cubans have about as much faith in the Castros’ ability to change after six decades as they do in Obama’s ability to make their lives better. Indeed, as Rodiles says, to most Cubans, Obama’s about-face on U.S. policy signaled the exact opposite: namely, accepting the permanence of the regime.

Other aspects of Obama’s outreach have also failed to bear much fruit. Tourist travel, which Obama has allowed by end-running U.S. law through executive decree, has been captured by the Cuban military, which controls all of the profits while keeping real people-to-people contact carefully controlled. Rodiles says no tourist group has visited him or anyone he knows since 2014.

Obama’s echo-chamberists also claimed that a lower U.S. profile on human rights would allow other countries to step up their support for dissidents and rights activists. Instead, Rodiles says, most embassies have decreased their contact with the opposition in recent months.

None of this will be surprising to anyone with a sober understanding of the nature of the Cuban regime. It was as predictable as the rising sun. But the Cuba play is of a piece with the rest of the administration’s foreign policy outlook, which holds that international discord has as much to do with inflexible U.S. positions (read: commitment to principle) as it does with the belligerent behavior of our adversaries. But such dreamy thinking is why we have faculty lounges and situation rooms. We can only hope the next U.S. president is savvy enough to realize the difference.

North Korea's Clandestine Operations Chief Visits Cuba

While the Castro regime distracts the foreign media with inexistent "private businesses," a senior North Korean general in charge of intelligence and clandestine operations visited Cuba.

Yesterday, General Raul Castro welcomed General Kim Yong-chol, Vice-Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee and Director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (equivalent to the U.S. Director of Central Intelligence).

According to the Pentagon, "North Korea's Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) is responsible for clandestine operations. The RGB includes six bureaus charged with operations, reconnaissance, technology and cyber, overseas intelligence, inter-Korean talks, and service support."

The RGB also oversees Bureau 121, North Korea's nefarious cyber-warfare agency.

Isn't that comforting?

Last week, the French investigative journal, Intelligence Online, reported that North Korea's regime has sent a special forces contingent to Venezuela to help its embattled quasi-dictator, Nicolas Maduro.

Furthermore, how this arrangement stems from a confidential military cooperation and intelligence-sharing agreement that North Korea's Kim Jong-un with Cuba's Castro regime in March (at the same time President Obama was wining-and-dining in Havana).

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Finally, the Truth: There Are No Private Businesses in Cuba

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
For years, we've been hearing about thriving "private businesses" in Cuba.

It's a key part of the media narrative regarding General Raul Castro's "reforms."

Thus, imagine the surprise this afternoon when the AP reported that the Castro regime was going to "legalize" small- and medium-sized businesses in Cuba.

In other words, all this time there have been no (and continue to be no) private businesses in Cuba.

It was all a lie.

But don't expect those who have been lying about "private businesses" in Cuba to apologize or correct their deception. 

According to Castro's 1976 Constitution, all property in Cuba is "the Socialist state property of all the people."

Moreover, it only contains one exception -- "small farmers and cooperatives composed of them." And we have seen how even they enjoy no functional rights.

The fact remains Cuba's "self-employed" sector are state licensees with no legal property or contractual rights. Moreover, there's no indication that will change.

At the recent Communist Party Congress, Castro further stressed that these licensees would be prohibited from "accumulating" wealth or property.

As usual, no details or time-frame have been released regarding today's announcement. Just a splashy headline for foreign consumption.

But let's hope it indeed becomes true -- for it's all the more reason to prohibit business with Castro's military monopolies (in favor of Cuba's "new" private businesses).

Quote of the Day: Economic Crumbs for the Cuban People

The benefits created by this opening of relations between two governments are out of reach for the Cuban people; all they will ever get is a few economic crumbs, not any freedom.
-- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Cuban democracy leader, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Spain's ABC, 5/24/16

Obama's Moral Lapse in Cuba, Vietnam, Et al.

Excerpt from Noah Rothman in Commentary:

As reciprocity for normalizing relations with the communist Cuba, Obama required precisely nothing of Raul Castro’s government. There was no demand for internal reforms and no request for relaxing restrictions on dissent and political protest. “Cuba has arguably done more than any other nation to subvert respect for authentic human rights in the United Nations,” wrote Freedom Rights Project co-founder Aaron Rhodes. The activist further averred that Obama’s thaw in relations with Cuba essentially sanctioned Havana’s efforts to shield a motley crew of global human rights abusers from international scrutiny. The operating theory in the White House appears to be that, as is the case in Vietnam, increased commercial ties and the export of capitalism to these command economies will eventually give way to democratization. It is a theory that lacks much in the way of supporting evidence.

Cuba's Ladies in White Leader to be Tried for 'Resistance'

The Castro regime informed the leader of Cuba's Ladies in White, Berta Soler, that it has filed charges of "resistance" against her and will be tried.

Soler has been notified that she can no longer leave the country.

The violence and arrests against The Ladies in White has intensified in recent months amid the notable silence of the Obama Administration and its allies.

The Ladies in White are an internationally-recognized, pro-democracy group composed of the wives, daughters, mothers and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

Like With Iran, Obama's Lobbyists Peddle Cuba Narrative (Business)

Last week, an AP investigation revealed how key White House surrogates paid think-tanks and media outlets to promote Obama's (Ben Rhodes') false narrative on Iran.

Among the recipients were The Brooking Institution and The Atlantic Council, as well as reporters at The Nation and Mother Jones.

Sound familiar?

This morning, The Washington Examiner reported that The White House was hosting a private meeting of lobbyists -- organized by an outside group -- to promote business with Cuba's dictatorship.

As the story notes, "A White House official acknowledged that the gathering would take place Wednesday but did not respond to Washington Examiner questions about why it was not included on any public White House schedule, exactly who the participants are, and why an outside business group helped organize it, according to sources familiar with the event."

In sum, The White House is hosting a secret meeting of lobbyists, who are skirting federal registration laws, to promote ways to skirt federal sanctions laws.

So much for the most "transparent" Administration ever.

Senior U.S. Diplomat Urges Caution in 'Dialogue' With Cuba

In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Amb. William Brownfield, has urged caution in the current "dialogue" with the Castro regime, particularly as it deals with law enforcement cooperation.

Amb. Brownfield, who currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, is the State Department's most respected Latin America expert.  He has previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Venezuela and Colombia.

As he reminds us, "we cannot forget that there are reasons why for more than 50 years both governments had very limited relations and those issues are going to have to be dealt with along the way."

Thus, Amb. Brownfield warns, the U.S. should proceed "very, very carefully," for "there will be moments that [such cooperation] makes sense for both parties and others where it will only make sense for one of them."

If only the Obama Administration paid more attention to its professional diplomats and less to its fiction writers.

Political Prisoner Re-Arrested After Obama-Castro Deal, Has Been 'Disappeared'

Monday, May 23, 2016
This ordeal tragically sums up the Obama-Castro deal.

Mario Alberto Hernandez Leyva is a Cuban political prisoner -- one of the 53 released in December 2014, as part of the Obama-Castro deal.

Hernandez Leyva was re-arrested in November 2015 for organizing a pot-banging protest ("cacerolazo"). He was handed a new three-year prison sentence for disobedience.

In other words, Raul Castro reneged on his deal with President Obama. 

Nonetheless, Obama still traveled to Cuba this past March and didn't say a word about Hernandez Leyva.

Hernandez Leyva has been transferred to various prisons throughout Cuba, where he has conducted hunger strikes to protest his unjust imprisonment.

Most recently, he was transferred from the nefarious Combinado del Este prison to Santa Clara, where we was being held in a punishment cell.

Last week, he was "discretely" transferred once again -- and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Still not a word from the Obama Administration.

Ponder Image: Four Female Cuban Political Prisoners, Awaiting 'Trial'

Four female Cuban dissidents arrested on April 15th, 2015, remain imprisoned and are awaiting trial for the "crime" of "disobedience."

They are Yaquelin Heredia Morales, Marieta Martinez Aguilera, Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda and Yunet Cairo Reigada.

These four dissidents were arrested pursuant to a peaceful protest held at Fraternity Park in Central Havana. They are members of The Ladies in White and the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU).

Ponder their image below very carefully.

Why is the Castro regime so afraid of these peaceful female activists?

Moreover, where is the pressure from the international community that the Obama Administration promised upon its change of policy?

It seems the world if following Obama's lead on these abuses -- by remaining shamefully silent.

Why Your Tourism Dollars Aren’t Helping Ordinary Cubans

By Todd Moss in The Washington Examiner:

Why Your Tourism Dollars Aren’t Helping Ordinary Cubans

The news out of Cuba lately is all glamour and glitz. Usher made a visit. A Carnival Cruise ship arrived packed with excitable tourists. French luxury goods maker Chanel turned a Havana boulevard into a fashion show runway featuring sparkling cocktail dresses and sequined black berets.

Next up: The Kardashians are filming their reality television show in Cuba. On the heels of President Obama’s historic visit last March, it might be easy to get the impression that this explosion of American attention is all part of Cuba’s speedy march toward modernization.

Let’s not fool ourselves. It’s one thing to reopen our embassy and allow limited tourism and investment. It’s quite another to expect these steps to quickly lead to transformation of what’s still, lest we forget, a one-party communist dictatorship 90 miles from Florida. Diplomatic normalization plus a celebrity patina does not equal real reform.

America’s true goals in Cuba are to restore democracy and bring the island back into the global economy. We aim to bury half a century of enmity and to seek resolution for thousands of people who lost their homes, their businesses and in many cases, their loved ones. Cruise ships and fashion shows are, at best, irrelevant.
It may seem exciting for American tourists to finally be able to ride a floating shopping mall right into Havana harbor.

And many Americans yearn for throwback experiences like the Copacabana nightclub. But it’s a delusion to believe that throngs of tourists will in any way help to promote political freedom. Visiting Cuba may seem suddenly adventurous to Americans, but the island already received 3.5 million tourists last year, mainly from Europe and Canada.

For some, it may appear romantic or avant-garde to hold radical chic fashion shows among the crumbling buildings of Havana. But these spectacles will make no difference to the lives of the average Cuban. Chanel’s goods are not sold in Cuba and, even if they were, 70 percent of the population works for the government on an average salary of $25 per month.

The pop stars, fashionistas, and mass tourism could even be counterproductive by providing the regime with the false appearance of normalcy and a financial lifeline for a bankrupt system. Without the usual donations from Venezuela, the Cuban economy is today deeply reliant on tourism. This is happening just as some of the modest economic improvements are actually being reversed.

At a secretive Communist Party congress last month, the government backtracked on market reforms in food distribution and pricing. The state still owns nearly 80 percent of arable land and is forced to import most of the nation’s food. Inflation is reportedly getting worse, but no one really knows since basic data collection is not allowed. That’s precisely because the Cuban government hopes a normal relationship with the United States will boost their sagging economy, without touching its closed political system.

Indeed, since President Obama’s historic visit, the Castro brothers have hardened their anti-U.S. rhetoric and insisted that, even if they will accept our tourists, they will not allow Washington to change Cuba. There’s the rub. If Americans think that tourism and trade will help to bring about capitalism and eventually political change, the Cubans believe the polar opposite: A flood of tourism dollars will be a lifeline for the regime to salvage communism.

All the cruise ships and celebrities may make good media headlines. But let’s not kid ourselves that glitz and glamor will do anything to unseat an aging dictator intent on keeping Cuba stuck in the past.

Todd Moss is Chief Operating Officer and Senior Fellow at the Washington think-tank The Center for Global Development.

Cuba's 'MININT Papers' Implicate Academics, Businessmen and Politicians

Sunday, May 22, 2016
It's not a question of whether Cuba's MININT Papers will be revealed -- but of when.

At that time, all of the shameful misdeeds of foreign academics, businessmen and politicians during their Cuban escapades will be made public, including many from the United States.

No wonder some are so eager to protect the Castro regime.

By J.J. Almeida, son of former Raul Castro confidant, deceased Cuban General Juan Almeida, in Translating Cuba:

On the Trail of the MININT Papers

In connection with a top secret theft targeting the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Cuba (MININT), a high number of officials have been arrested, a colonel in charge of computer operations has committed suicide in his own office on the eighth floor of Building A at MININT headquarters, and a foreign businessman is being subjected to enormous pressure from the Cuban government.

The information had remained secret until March 31 when an article appeared here under the title “MININT Confronts What Could Be Its Worst Challenge: Information Theft.” In it, I wrote that the Major General Carlos Fernandez Gondin had left his office accompanied by a doctor after a fit of rage, which led to a heart attack and his hospitalization.

At the time the obvious question was, “What could be so irritating as to reduce the blood flow of someone capable of not only leading a firing squad without the slightest remorse but of also justifying it?”

Now after much effort, some payouts and access to high-level sources, the enigma has begun to take shape. As I previously noted, it is almost impossible to believe that the theft of secret material was not the result of a cyber attack. It was a calculated, premeditated act, paid for by a Canadian businessman. Though he is not now in Cuba, he is being pressured by Cuban authorities to not release or sell the information to a foreign intelligence agency. Though he himself is not currently in the country, the businessman, whose name I do not know, is being cruelly coerced because, among other things, members of his family still live on the island and are not being allowed to leave.

According to one of source, “the information is so secret that, if it came to light, it would be extremely damaging to Cuba and its leaders. It is more serious than the Number One and Number Two Cases of 1989. Never in the entire history of MININT or the former DIER (Department of Army Investigations) has such valuable information been stolen.”

The reports are troubling. It is said that there are documents implicating European intellectuals, American academics and business-people, and even a former president of Panama. There is also talk of a list of names of Cubans who have been forcibly “disappeared,” of covert activities carried out overseas, of regional destabilization operations, of money laundering, of the sale of Venezuelan and Panamanian visas, of the government approving trafficking operations under the more attractive guise of humanitarian aid to separated families, and of significant investments by Cuban leaders in Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico and Venezuela.

A lot can be discerned about the robbery but not very much about the names. Internal control, intelligence, counterintelligence, military counterintelligence and CIM (Defense and National Security Commission) officials are using disinformation to obscure the identity of the Canadian businessman, the number of disgruntled military men involved in the sale of information, and the names of the colonels and general who led the operation and who remain in custody.

Quote of the Week: Cuba is Not a Safari

Cuba is not a safari.
-- Antonio Rodiles, Cuban democracy leader, on American visitors to the island, Voice of America, 5/20/16

Must-Read: The Magnitude of Cuban Repression

Excerpt by Ilya Somin of The Foundation for Economic Education:

3 Reasons We Must Remember Communist Crimes: Never Again

II. Focusing Attention on Oppression in the Remaining Unreformed Communist Governments

Most of the world’s communist regimes have either collapsed or reformed. However, at least two unreformed communist governments still remain: Cuba and North Korea. North Korea, in particular, is probably the world’s most oppressive regime, having starved to death at least 1 million of its own people as recently as the 1990s. It also maintains a system of Gulags and secret police that is, if anything, even more draconian than that of the USSR under Stalin.

Despite the good press it enjoys among some Western leftists, Castro’s Cuba is only modestly better. Since coming to power in 1959, Castro’s government has executed some 1.5% of Cuba’s population for “political” dissent, while incarcerating another 5.6% in concentration camps. These figures would be even higher if not for the proximity of the United States, which enabled a large part of Cuba’s population to flee. Nonlethal political repression in Cuba is less severe than in North Korea, but still worse than in all but a tiny handful of other governments.

Despite these atrocities, Cuba and North Korea receive only a tiny fraction of the attention that human rights groups and the international community pay to much lesser offenses committed by democratic governments or non-leftist dictatorships.

Imagine if, after the fall of Hitler, an unreconstructed Nazi-like regime had remained in place in some small European country, and continued to run concentration camps, a Gestapo-like secret police, and so on. Would not that regime be an international pariah constantly targeted by human rights groups and subjected to severe sanctions by all self-respecting democratic states?

It’s difficult to say whether pressure by human rights groups and Western governments could force Cuba and North Korea to reduce their oppression. However, both regimes have weak economies and both seek to create a positive image in the West. A comprehensive system of sanctions imposed by all democratic states and a massive campaign of shaming might have at least a chance of success.