Cuban Democracy Leader Hospitalized, Hunger Strike in Third Week #juntoacoco

Saturday, August 6, 2016
From Reuters:

Cuban dissident briefly hospitalized, hunger strike in third week

Veteran Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas was briefly hospitalized in Santa Clara on Friday after losing consciousness in his home on the 16th day of a hunger strike to protest government repression, his opposition organization said.

This was the second time the 54-year-old Farinas, who has staged more than 20 similar actions over the years, was rushed to receive medical attention and intravenous liquids since starting the hunger strike after what he said was a beating by police in his home city of Santa Clara in central Cuba.

Farinas, who received the European Union's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, is demanding that such beatings cease and a meeting between dissidents and the government to negotiate an end to repression.

Farinas returned home from a hospital after being there for more than seven hours, Juan Carlos Ruiz, a member of Farinas' organization, the Frente Antitotalitario Unido (the United Antitotalitarian Front), said in a telephone interview from the dissident's home.

"They gave him an intravenous solution. But already he is recovering and right now sleeping," he said.

More than a dozen other dissidents around the country, mainly members of an opposition organization called the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in the eastern part of the country, also are on hunger strikes, with at least two members hospitalized, according to opposition groups.

A few of the UNPACU members began their hunger strikes earlier than Farinas, also to protest repression.

Farinas has been a vocal critic of the detente between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014, when he said dissidents should have been included in secret talks preceding it that he called a betrayal.

Two More Cuban Hunger Strikers in Critical Condition

Yesterday, renowned Cuban democracy leaders, Guillermo Farinas and Carlos Amel Oliva, were hospitalized after collapsing from their hunger strikes.

Additionally, there are two other dissidents on hunger strike, who are in a life threatening condition.

They are Lazaro Curbelo, who is on the 23rd day of a hunger and thirst strike, and Laudelino Rodriguez, who is on the 12th day of a hunger and thirst strike.

Both have refused medical care.

Video: Cuban 'Entrepreneurs' Violently Beaten and Arrested

The video below shows an operation by the Castro regime's security forces against Cuban "cuentapropistas" ("self-employed").

They were violently beaten and arrested.

Note how secret police officials in plain clothes blend in-and-out of the population.

As we know, the Obama Administration has sought to relegate Cuba's courageous democracy leaders amid their struggle for freedom.

But will supporters of Obama's policy -- at least -- denounce these abuses against the "entrepreneurs" they propagate?

Click below (or here) to watch the video:

Meet Carlos Amel Oliva: Cuban Youth Leader on Hunger Strike

UPDATE: Amel Oliva collapsed last night from the effects of the hunger strike. He was rushed to the hospital.

By Reinaldo Escobar in 14ymedio:

Carlos Amel Oliva: A Handful Of Guts Against A System 

On August 13, the 90th birthday of Fidel Castro, there will not be only official festivities. If the young activist Carlos Amel Oliva holds to his decision not to eat, that day will mark one month of his hunger strike. The government opponent is fighting an uphill battle: his body deteriorates and the government appears deaf to his demands. This member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) is fading slowly without his demands being answered.

Carlos Amel Oliva told 14ymedio during on phone call on Wednesday, the 22nd day of his fast, that he felt a lot of pain “in the knee, and acidity.” Two days ago he received a rehydration drink at the September 28 Polyclinic in Santiago de Cuba that eased the “heartburn” but now he is again suffering from “nausea and dizziness.” The dissident complained that in recent days he has been totally surrounded by a “strong repressive operation.”

A few yards from Oliva, at the UNPACU headquarters in Santiago de Cuba, opposition members Oria Josefa Casanova Moreno and Zulma López Saldaña have gone without food from the 16th and 18th of July respectively. This morning they were visited by two doctors who arrived from the nearest polyclinic and insisted that the two women should be “rehydrated” as soon as possible.

“We are waiting for ambulances to come to take them,” explains Yriade Hernandez Aguilera, a board member of the opposition organization. This activist who responds to calls in minutes, attends to the strikers and monitors the operation that that is expanding around them.

Oliva had his belongings confiscated on 24 May. Two laptops, a cellphone, a hard disk and a Nanostation (to receive and repeat WiFi signals) and some money were taken from him in that arbitrary dispossession that turned his world upside down. In July they returned and, along with a laptop, they took a Samsung Galaxy S6 cellphone, 6,421 dollars, 12 convertible pesos, a kitchen knife and two screwdrivers.

On July 12 Oliva received a call from the police telling him he should wait for State Security to contact him for the return of his belongings, but the call never came. The dissident decided that night to stop eating and publicly announced his hunger strike the following day, 13 July.

State Security officials tried to pacify him on a visit to the police station, saying that they would return one of the laptops, but the dissident stood his ground: “I’ll take all or nothing.”

Oliva, in a bare whisper through the phone line, tells this newspaper that “a high official” from State Security “alias The Pole,” assured him that there was “no need” to carry out a hunger strike. “With one call we would have returned your things,” was the key message the official sent through Oliva’s father.

On Wednesday, Oliva was still committed to achieving, through his empty guts, a correction from the repressive apparatus and the return of his property. But the outcome is uncertain and his strength is beginning to fail him.

Letter to Starwood CEO: Cuba Deal Violates Corporate Ethics Code

Thursday, August 4, 2016
A coalition of labor, political prisoner, human rights and other pro-democracy groups from inside and outside Cuba have sent the following letter to Starwood Hotels regarding their recent partnership with the Cuban military:

July 28, 2016

Thomas B. Mangas
Chief Executive Officer
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. “Starwood”
One StarPoint
Stamford, Connecticut 06902

RE: “Do the Right Thing” – CUBA: No Commerce Without Morality

Dear Mr. Mangas,

The announcement that Starwood signed three hotel deals in Cuba, indicates a total breach of your own Human Rights Policy Statement and Business Partners expectations. Starwood’s new business partner, the Castro Military Regime orders the public burning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is in violation of all the points outlined in your policy, has total disregard of workers’ rights and does not in any way meet the criteria Starwood established for business partners, being that Castro’s Regime is one of the worst violators of international human rights principles.

As CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., (“Starwood”) based in Stamford, Connecticut, you preside over a portfolio featuring 11 distinct hotel brands in addition to Starwood Residences and vacation ownership. While amassing this impressive, diverse inventory of brands, Starwood has pledged a commitment within the company’s sphere of influence towards respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Starwood’s pledge transcends its own corporate policies to “Do the Right Thing” to include that of its “sphere of influence” - namely business partners.

The Company adopted a Human Rights Policy Statement which you signed on December 2015. This policy contains the following commitments made by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, including to:

-Respect the human rights standards contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
-Commitment to conduct business in a manner consistent with these standards
-Conduct ongoing human rights due diligence 
-Non-discrimination with respect to employment
-Treat workers fairly with respect to wages, working hours, and benefits
-Committed to freedom of association 
-Zero Tolerance for all forms of forced, bonded or compulsory labor
-Support the elimination of exploitative child labor

Business Partners. Starwood promotes adherence to international human rights principles amongst our business partners. We incorporate human rights into our decision making process related to business relationships, sponsorships and client engagements and will use our leverage to promote human rights as appropriate.

On the one hand, Starwood claims to do business in a sphere where human rights, workers’ rights are paramount above all else. On the other hand, Starwood has a desire to be a “first mover”, a “formidable competitor” as you, yourself stated on Starwood’s official “Cuba Expansion” press announcement dated March 19, 2016.

If as you stated in your policy, Starwood “incorporates human rights into our decision making process related to business partners,” there is absolutely no justification for signing a business deal with the Castro Military Regime. It would seem that the desire to be a “first mover,” a “formidable competitor” caused Starwood to turn a blind eye to nearly six decades of well documented atrocities at the very hands that inked the deal with Starwood.

Keith Grossman, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Starwood concluded: “Through our discussions and due diligence, it became clear that Starwood was the right choice…” The Castro Military Regime is the total antithesis of Starwood’s public stance on fairness for workers. To consider yourselves the “right choice,” “after due diligence” would mean that Starwood accepts being an accessory to violating the following international labor standards:

International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions Systematically Violated in CUBA:

#87 Freedom of Association & Right to Organize
#95 Protection of Wages
#98 Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention
#111 Discrimination
#122 Employment Policy

In Cuba, it is the “governing body” itself that has created a “Slave State.” Kenneth S. Siegel, Starwood’s Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel stated that “improving employment opportunities” were among the driving forces in Starwood’s discussions. Make no mistake, whereas “opportunities” were part of this deal with the Castro Military Regime, “improving employment opportunities” is not one of them.  That can only come about when international labor standards are enforceable and that is not within Starwood’s capabilities nor will that happen while the Castro Military Regime is in power.

Mr. Mangas, we implore for Starwood to adhere to its own policies as well as universally accepted principles which are in total opposition to your contract with the Castro Military Regime.

We ask for you, as CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. to “Do the Right Thing” by divesting immediately from any business with the Castro Military Regime and its military controlled companies. Furthermore, we urge that you meet with members of the Cuban Independent Labor Movements, which are not recognized by the Castro Regime since they dare call out for basic workers’ rights for Cubans, the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a coalition of Cuban American organizations based in the United States and the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, the coalition of pro-democracy organizations in the island.

For those of us touched in one way or another by Castro’s murderous Regime, we hope that as CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. you will give us a reason for continuing to patronize Sheraton, Westin, Aloft, Four Points, and the rest of the brands in your impressive portfolio. That would mean that you placed supporting Human Rights first and that would mean that we all win.
We kindly request that you respond by Friday, August 5th as to your willingness to discuss your position on Cuba with representatives of the Cuban Resistance and the Cuban Independent Labor Union.

Asamblea De La Resistencia

Agreed to this 28th day of July 2016 by:

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo
Coalición Sindical Independiente de Cuba

José Luis Fernández
Presidio Político Histórico Cubano

Joel Brito
Jose “Pepe” Collado
Grupo Internacional de Responsabilidad Corporativa

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”  
Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo  
Isela Fiterri
MAR por Cuba

Horacio Garcia
Cuban Liberty Council

Fernando Mirabal
Comité Cubano Americano de  Rescate

Rodolfo Rodríguez San Roman
Frente Unido Occidental

Pedro Peñaranda
Círculos Municipalistas Democráticos

German Miret
Dr. Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat
Directorio Democrático Cubano

José Pérez Gil
Movimiento de Recuperacion Revolucionaria

Laida Carro
Coalition of Cuban American Women

Rafael Artiles
Movimiento 30 de noviembre

Tweet of the Week: Like Alan Gross Swap, Obama Lies About Iran Ransom

Kudos to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

There's a great interview in The Tampa Bay Times with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn regarding his reluctance to join the irrational exuberance of those lobbying to embrace Cuba's dictatorship.

Read the whole interview here.

As Mayor Buckhorn rightfully states:

"Until I see any measurable improvement with the lives of the Cuban people and any effort to open up Cuba to democratic reform and free speech and freedom of the press and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, I’ve just got other things to do [...] [W]e have to be respectful of the past. And, yes, I would agree that things are changing. And they are moving in the right direction. And I think over the next decade you will see significant changes in the relationship between Cuba and the United States. But I also think it’s got to be a two-way street, and so far it has not been. I think for a lot of people, including many Cuban-Americans, in order for them to be comfortable with this, they would like to see more change on the part of the Cuban government, to open up the Cuban government some of the things that we talked about."

Kudos to his principled leadership.

Image below: Mayor Buckhorn honors former Cuban political prisoner and democracy leader, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ("Antunez").

Obama's Regional Legacy: RIP Inter-American Democratic Charter

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Obama's legacy in the Americas will not be his diplomatic recognition of Cuba's dictatorship.

His legacy in the Americas will be the death of the Inter-American Charter, which stands as the most dramatic geopolitical consequence of his irresponsible Cuba policy.

Ironically, Obama's favorite talking point is that his new Cuba policy has removed a "hindrance" in our regional diplomacy. Yet, in 2011, 34-out-of-35 nations in the Western Hemisphere made a transformational commitment to representative democracy.

Cuba was not a "hindrance" to that unprecedented diplomatic breakthrough. Cuba was an anomaly. Today, Obama has made Cuba -- and the dictatorships it represents -- the new "normal."

Hence the militarization (with Cuban support) of Venezuela's regime and this week's parliamentary coup in Nicaragua.

Of course, this was entirely predictable. So please pardon the repetition.

Below is an excerpt from the March, 25, 2014 testimony by CHC Editor Mauricio Claver-Carone before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Autocracy v. Democracy in Latin America

"[I]t's essential that the United States lead the region's defense, promotion and application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter ('Charter'). Otherwise, it will become irrelevant.

The authoritarian ambitions of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega are no secret.

What has inhibited them -- thus far -- is the institutionalization of representative democracy as the backbone of hemispheric relations, as was agreed upon in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter signed by 34 of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere. To skirt the Charter, they try to manipulate laws and institutions and exert greater executive control while maintaining a facade of democracy.

The biggest deterrent to breaking their public commitments to representative democracy has been the omnipresent economic isolation of Cuba as the result of U.S. sanctions. These leaders are keenly aware that they need the United States to survive economically. For example, Venezuela is entirely dependent on exporting oil to -- and importing gas from -- the United States. Thus U.S. sanctions on Cuba serve as 'the stick' to 'the carrot' of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and obeisance, if not enforcement, of its principles.

It's precisely the authoritarian underbelly of these Latin American leaders that makes them such zealous lobbyists for the end of U.S. sanctions on Cuba. It's for this reason that they want to see the Castro regime embraced despite its blatant disregard for representative democracy. Such a U.S. policy change would allow them to accelerate their own authoritarian tendencies and free their zeal for absolute power.

If U.S. sanctions toward Cuba are lifted and Castro's dictatorship is embraced -- what's to keep a return to the Latin American dictatorships of the 20th Century?

The people of the Americas can’t afford a return to the dictatorships -- whether of the left or the right -- that once ruled Latin America. It would severely damage the 21st century national interests of the United States.

Sadly, plenty of Latin American 'leaders' would gladly seize the opportunity to permanently close the door on democracy.

Let’s not hand them the opportunity."

Nine months later, Obama handed them the opportunity.

(This ominous warning was also stressed in op-eds in The Huffington Post and The Miami Herald.)

Obama's Cuba Policy Tramples Over American's Property Rights

Sunday, July 31, 2016
Presidents Clinton and Bush suspended Title III of the Libertad Act due to concerns over counter-measures by Canada and the European Union.

However, neither ever contemplated skirting U.S. law and allowing American companies to traffic in stolen properties.

Hence it's immoral, unacceptable and illegal for President Obama to allow American companies to trample over the property rights of other Americans without due process

From The Tampa Bay Times:

Some call for the end of a litigation ban concerning Cuba and seized assets

In 1960, Antonio Azorín's family's sewer pipe plant and brickmaking factory in Cuba were nationalized in the name of Fidel Castro's revolution. The family received no compensation.

"They took it," said Azorín, 61, who now lives in Tampa. "If there was a way to litigate, I would."

There is a way, but the U.S. government won't allow it.

Title III, a clause in the legislation that governs the decades-old embargo against Cuba, allows Americans to sue those profiting from property taken from them by the Cuban government. The civil litigation, filed in U.S. courts, can be against a private company or the Cuban government.

But the U.S. government continuously suspends Title III for successive six-month periods. State Department officials recently announced the government would do so again when the current suspension ends July 31.

Some are calling for a lifting of the litigation ban, at least against U.S. companies, now that Americans are once again investing in Cuba as relations between the two countries normalize.

"The unintended consequences of this opening in Cuba are far-reaching," said Javier Garcia-Bengochea, a Jacksonville neurosurgeon who has testified to Congress that Title III lawsuits involving U.S. corporations should be allowed.

His family owned 18 acres of warehouses, three docks and a rail station that he estimates would be worth nearly $180 million today.

It was all nationalized with no compensation and is now part of the Port of Santiago.

"We cannot ignore the fact that U.S. companies could end up trafficking in property that belongs to American citizens,'' he said. "That would be wrong."

The U.S. and Cuban governments are negotiating a settlement for 5,913 certified American claims against Cuba totaling $1.9 billion plus interest.

To have a loss certified, a claimant must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of nationalization.

Azorín — then 5 — and his parents were Cuban citizens so they did not qualify.

But to file a Title III lawsuit against companies profiting from nationalized land or businesses, the plaintiff need only be a U.S. citizen now.

For Azorín — currently the second-generation president of Florida Brick & Clay Co. in Plant City — and many Cuban Americans, Title III could be the only way they can ever be reimbursed.

According to the Helms Burton Act that codified the Cuban Embargo and was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, Title III can be suspended for successive half-year periods if doing so is necessary for the national interest of the United States or will expedite the transition to democracy in Cuba.

Every administration since then has done so but none has explained how this helps the United States or brings more freedom to Cuba.

The assumption has been that it's suspended to prevent litigation from being filed against companies based out of nations that are U.S. allies or to prevent a legal logjam.

"It could become a judicial nightmare," said Antonio Martinez II, a New York attorney specializing in matters pertaining to Cuba. "U.S. civil courts would be flooded with cases."

But why not allow suits against American companies only, asks Jason Poblete, a Virginia-based attorney specializing in U.S.-Cuba policy who has been pressing the State Department to do so.

Such cases would be few and would force U.S. entrepreneurs to diligently research the history of a Cuban property or business before investing.

"Title III wasn't a throwaway. It was put in there for a reason," Poblete said. "Let these people have their day in court."

Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, said that Title III is a more important tool now than ever.

"No one had ever contemplated that a U.S. president would allow the rights of one group of Americans — the victims of Castro's confiscations — to be trampled over in order to promote the business interests of another group of Americans. In so doing, he's denying the victims any due process."

Azorín has been told that his family's company name — Union Alfarera Azorín de Camaguey — still adorns the brick factory in Cuba, which operates as a state-run facility.

Foreign governments are protected against lawsuits by sovereign immunity. It would be up to the court to decide if sovereign immunity is waived because the Cuban government makes money via a state-run business in the same manner as a private company.

It angers Azorín that the Cuban government has profited off his family's company, but he has learned to cope.

If he learned an American company invested in it, though, he admits his anger may boil over.

It's speculated that many Title III cases could be dismissed because the properties were taken after families moved from Cuba rather than living under communism.

What else was the government to do with what was left behind?

That is not the case for Azorín, whose family was still in Cuba when the business was taken.

"There was nothing voluntary," Azorín said.

Shortly after, his family moved to Tampa, never presuming they would be reimbursed for the loss in Cuba.

"If I expect nothing, when I get nothing, I won't be hurt," Azorín said.

Still, he added, "Why have a law that is not enforced? It just doesn't make sense."

Rubio Speaks To Cuban Dissident On Hunger Strike, Expresses Solidarity #juntoacoco

Rubio Speaks To Cuban Dissident On Hunger Strike, Expresses Solidarity

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke this morning with Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas, a prominent Cuban dissident leader who is currently on the 9th day of a hunger strike in protest of the Castro regime's repression against him and the Cuban people.

A partial transcript of Rubio's‎ comments to Fariñas is below.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Phone Call with Guillermo "Coco" Fariñas
July 29, 2016
‎Doral, FL

Senator Marco Rubio: "For our part, we will keep praying for you. We will keep talking about you. We will keep highlighting your case. And I wanted you to know that I called you today to let you know that we are with you.

For us, it would be a great loss. I know you've made a personal decision, and I don't want to question it or stand in the way. But I want to share with you that I believe your voice is very important in this, and it would be a shame to lose your voice and activism, because I honestly don't know who would replace you.

We pray that there is a response to what you are asking for.‎ It's not irrational to stop the beatings, for someone to be assigned on behalf of the government to speak about what the change in posture going forward will be.

What we face today is difficult, but I believe that in the history of the cause of a free Cuba, when Cuba is free one day - and it will happen, you can be sure of it - the name of Guillermo 'Coco' Fariñas will be part of a very important chapter. And I believe that the moment in which we are living now will be part a very important part of that chapter about how liberty returned to Cuba."

Migration Crisis Shows Renewed Ties Not Helping Cuban People

By Sarah Rumpf  in The Capitolist:

Renewed U.S. – Cuba diplomacy not helping Cuban people; number of refugees increases

August 14 will mark the one-year anniversary since Secretary of State John Kerry went to Havana, Cuba to preside over the official reopening of the American embassy, followed by a visit by President Barack Obama this past March. The Obama administration has proudly touted the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba, but it’s been a failure by a very visible metric: the number of Cubans fleeing the island nation to come to the United States.

So far this fiscal year (since October 1, 2015), 44,353 Cubans came to the U.S., a figure that is already higher than the 40,115 Cubans who arrived during fiscal year 2015, reports el Nuevo Herald (in Spanish). This figure includes those who traveled through airports, by sea, or by land — those in the latter category usually start in Ecuador or Guyana, before making their way up through Mexico.

This recent surge of Cuban immigration actually started during the prior fiscal year. The 40,115 Cuban immigrants during fiscal year 2015 nearly doubled the 23,752 who arrived during fiscal year 2014.
The number of Cubans who made their exodus by sea is also showing a substantial increase: 5,485 so far during fiscal year 2016 (since October 1, 2015), compared to 4,473 during the entire fiscal year 2015.
The six Cubans shown in the video below were lucky. They arrived in Miami all in relatively good health, and can be seen smiling and hugging, and posing for photos with tourists. One man is overheard happily talking on a cell phone: “Estamos in South Beach!” ("We’re in South Beach!”)

They’re not all so lucky.

The immigration figures are even more stark when the peril of the journey is considered. A mere 90 miles separate Florida and Cuba, but the Cubans making the journey are invariably traveling in homemade vessels that struggle in the open seas. The length of the journey is unpredictable, and Cuban refugees are often rescued dehydrated, starving, and severely sunburned. Add in sharks and the prevalence of hurricanes and other severe weather, and it’s an incredibly hazardous trip, which many Cuban refugees attempt multiple times before successfully making it to American shores.

It’s impossible to calculate how many Cubans have died attempting to get to the United States, but there are countless news reports of Cuban refugees where some or all of the group don’t survive the journey. One of the most famous was the mother of Elián González, who drowned along with ten others as they were trying to cross the Florida straits in a small aluminium boat with a faulty engine. González was originally placed with relatives in Miami but was soon put in the middle of an international custody battle and was taken from his relatives’ home by federal agents in a much-criticized early morning raid.

Let’s think about this: how bad must conditions be in Cuba if people are willing to make this dangerous journey? How miserable must life be for Elián González’s mother to get in a rickety boat with her little boy, who at the time was not yet six years old?

Part of what is driving the new wave of refugees is a fear that the U.S. will change its immigration policy. For years, Cuban immigrants have enjoyed a special status where, in addition to available immigrant visas, any Cuban who comes illegally but makes it to U.S. soil will be allowed to stay and apply for legal permanent resident status, and eventually citizenship. Under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, any Cuban intercepted at sea is sent back to Cuba or to a third country.

So far, the Obama administration has insisted that it will not change the wet foot, dry foot policy, but Cubans are clearly unconvinced. As Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Centro de Estudios Convivencia (Center for Coexistence Studies), told el Nuevo Herald, the problem is that the totalitarian system in Cuba has been in place for six decades and the recent U.S. – Cuba diplomatic relations had not yet resulted in any improvements in the “political, economic, and social situation” of the Cuban people.

Obama had a grand time watching a baseball game with Cuban president Raúl Castro, but the Cuban people remain desperately poor and brutally oppressed.

“They keep coming in. Wave after wave after wave, fleeing the Normalization Circus,” wrote Carlos Eire at Babalú Blog, reporting that the U.S. Coast Guard had repatriated 151 Cubans during just a two week period this month.

American presidents attending baseball games and American tourists posing for photos in front of crumbling-but-oh-so-charming buildings have failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people, leading more and more of them to risk their lives trying to cross 90 miles of shark-infested waters.

“Even if half the people who leave from Cuba do not survive, that means half of them did,” Yannio La O told The New York Times in an interview a week after successfully making the boat trip. “I would tell anyone in Cuba to come. It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”