House Panel Will Mark-Up Bill to Halt Cuba Flights Next Week

Thursday, September 8, 2016
From The Hill:

House panel will consider bill to halt Cuba flights next week

The House Homeland Security Committee will consider legislation next week that would halt commercial flights to Cuba until a thorough security review is conducted at the country’s 10 airports.

Next Tuesday’s markup will come nearly two weeks after scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba resumed for the first time in 50 years. The commercial flights are a cornerstone of President’s Obama efforts to restore relations with the former Cold War rival.

The measure, backed by Transportation Security Subcommittee Chairman John Katko (R-N.Y.), would pause those flights until the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) completes a report assessing Cuba’s airport security measures and secures an agreement that allows TSA agents to inspect the island nation’s airports.

Bill sponsors are pushing the legislation because they’re concerned Cuban airport security is not up to snuff. They want to know whether the country has adequate body scanners, explosive detection systems, technology for detecting fake passports and a strong employee vetting process.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a staunch opponent of normalizing relations with Cuba, unveiled companion legislation earlier this week.

“It’s extremely concerning that ‎airlines operating in Cuba are not allowed to hire their own workers, and airport staff are employees of the Cuban government,” Rubio said in a statement. “This increases the likelihood that someone on the inside seeking to harm the United States could gain access to sensitive flight data and controls.”

But supporters of Cuban air travel argue that charter services have been offering flights between the U.S. and Cuba for years without terrorism incidents and point out that Cuban airports already must comply with a set of international standards.

#JuntoACoco: Cuban Dissident Leader Hits Day 50 of Hunger Strike

By Ana Quintana in The Daily Signal:

Together With Coco: Cuban Dissident Leader Hits Day 50 of Hunger Strike

An internationally known Cuban dissident leader and former political prisoner has been on a hunger strike for seven weeks. Attempting to raise awareness of his government’s brutality, Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas says he is willing to give his life for the sake of Cuba’s future.

Wednesday was Day 50 of the hunger strike.  A video posted by Fariñas in July, no longer online, notes that this act of political expression follows his being brutally beaten and tortured by Cuban police for inquiring about the health of a fellow dissident. In total, he has spent 11 years in prison.

Fariñas started this hunger strike, his 24th, on July 20 and it has taken a drastic toll on his health. He has been hospitalized on numerous occasions, but only after he faints.

According to his mother, if he is conscious, he will not allow medical attention. He has lost 30 pounds and his heart rate and blood pressure are low.

Many ordinary Americans are unaware of Fariñas, or el Coco as he is commonly known. Until now, the only major media sources reporting on his story have been Breitbart and Fox News Latino. Unfortunately, the mainstream media has chosen to dedicate coverage of Cuba to the recently resumed commercial flights.

Little more than a year ago, I had the incredible opportunity, along with Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and other colleagues, to meet with el Coco here in Washington.

We discussed how saddened he and other dissident leaders were to have been ignored by President Barack Obama, despite being personally promised by the president that Cuban dissidents would be factored into any new Cuba policy. Fariñas expressed concern that recognition and concessions from the U.S. would serve only to solidify the communist regime’s hold on power.

His mother accompanied Fariñas on the visit to Washington, where he received the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s highest honor, the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. Past recipients include two notable anti-communists, Pope John Paul II and Czech statesman and dissident leader Vaclav Havel. Fariñas also is a laureate of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights advocacy.

Many have tried unsuccessfully to convince Fariñas, 54, to break what they fear may be his last hunger strike. U.S. diplomats at our new embassy in Cuba asked him to stop, but he refused until Cuban leader Raul Castro ends violence against dissidents.

Berta Soler, leader of the opposition movement Ladies in White, recently was arrested en route to el Coco’s house. Social media on the island and in the U.S. express support on Twitter and other social media with a poignant hashtag, #juntoacoco—meaning “together with Coco.”

The Cuban government has yet to issue a statement on Fariñas. According to Yale professor and Cuban exile Carlos Eire, Cuban intelligence has accessed his phone and is spreading disinformation that he has ended his hunger strike.

It is unknown how the Cuban government will respond, but some are concerned the regime may attempt to force-feed him, as it has in the past. Frances Martel highlighted how force-feeding during a hunger strike is classified as a human rights violation, because it violates political expression.

Keen on cementing Obama’s legacy, his administration has portrayed the new Cuba policy as a success. Officials highlight increased numbers of Americans traveling to Cuba and high-level bilateral visits with Cuban counterparts.

What they neglect to mention is the increasing levels of repression against anti-communist dissidents. The independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights, based in Cuba, cataloged 8,616 politically motivated arrests in 2015. In the first half of 2016, there already were 7,418 arrests. The commission estimates that 498 of these took place during Obama’s planned trip to Cuba in March.

The group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports unprecedented levels of religious persecution by Cuban authorities, noting “a tenfold increase—with 2,300 separate violations recorded in 2015 compared to 220 in 2014.” In three provinces alone, the government demolished 100 churches and illegally seized other property.

Solidarity with democratic activists and rejection of their oppressors was a key component of America’s policy toward Cuba. That was until Dec. 17, 2014, when Obama set out to “normalize” relations.

When asked about Obama’s Cuba policy, Fariñas said: “That is why, after Dec. 17, we decided not to give up hope but to fight even stronger.”

It’s not too late for Obama, in the waning days of his administration, to choose which side of history he will be on.

Cuban Democracy Leader Disappears From Commercial Flight

UPDATE: Avila Leon was finally able to make contact on Thursday afternoon -- nearly 24 hours after AA flights #1359 arrived in Cuba. Upon arriving, she learned her home had been confiscated by the Castro regime and her life was threatened.

Yesterday, Cuban democracy leader Sirley Avila Leon boarded American Airlines flight #1359 from Miami to Holguin.

This was the much-hyped second commercial flight to Cuba -- after last week's JetBlue flight -- pursuant to Obama's new policy.

AA flight #1359 arrived in Holguin at 4:13 P.M.

Yet, Avila Leon has not been heard from since she boarded the plane in Miami.

She had been in the United States for nearly six months receiving medical treatment.

Those who do not know Avila Leon's story should click here.

In short, she was former National Assembly member-turned-dissident. As a result, Avila Leon suffered a machete attack by Castro regime operatives, which severed her left hand and left her with life-threatening injuries.

During her stay in the United States, Avila Leon testified before the United States Congress, where she denounced the increased crimes and abuses of the Cuban dictatorship.

It's presumed that Avila Leon has been arrested upon her arrival in Cuba.

However, it's difficult to gather any information -- for as Senators Rubio and Menendez, and Transportation Security Subcommittee Chairman John Katko warned yesterday -- all airport employees (including those of American Airlines) in Cuba are agents and employees of the Castro regime.

In other words, there is no independent personnel in Cuba's airports. This lack of transparency should be a concern to all of us -- not least of which for U.S. security.

Thus, the tragic conundrum that Avila Leon and others like her now face. And the complicity of American Airlines and those that agree to Castro's conditions for business.

Rubio, Menendez Introduce Cuban Airport Security Act

Rubio, Menendez Introduce Cuban Airport Security Act

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released the following statements today after introducing the Cuban Airport Security Act, a bipartisan bill that would strengthen American security at airports in Cuba and on commercial flights between the two countries, and pause all commercial flights until a proper security assessment has been completed:

With so many serious security threats around the world, it is irresponsible to leave key aspects of our airport security in the hands of the anti-American, repressive regime in Cuba. President Obama’s legacy should not come before the safety of the American people. It’s extremely concerning that ‎airlines operating in Cuba are not allowed to hire their own workers, and airport staff are employees of the Cuban government. This increases the likelihood that someone on the inside seeking to harm the United States could gain access to sensitive flight data and controls. I have opposed commercial flight service to Cuba because it will only empower and enrich the regime, not the Cuban people. Now that President Obama is proceeding unilaterally, we cannot allow our security to be compromised. All commercial flights between the United States and Cuba should be put on hold until we can close these sprawling loopholes, conduct a full audit to make sure personnel is being properly vetted, and verify these flights to and from airports in Cuba include the type of robust security measures needed to keep Americans safe,” said Rubio.

Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship that continues to harbor American hijackers and terrorists as heroes—including Joanne Chesimard, convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster—and remains a strategic ally of some of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations. Since every Cuban airport worker is employed directly by the regime and its airports lack the technology and security capabilities we’ve grown to expect in the United States, I have serious concerns entrusting the Castro regime to protect the lives of Americans flying in and out of Cuba. This bipartisan legislation would implement the commonsense mechanisms necessary to ensure Cuba is held to the same international airport security standards as other countries, all while preventing a strengthening of the security apparatus that ensures Castro’s tight grip on power at the expense of Americans’ security,” said Menendez.

U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security Subcommittee, introduced the bill in the U.S. House in July. Earlier this year, Katko and other members of the House Homeland Security Committee had to cancel a trip to Cuba to inspect the county’s aviation security infrastructure after the Cuban government refused to approve their visas.

I welcome the support of Senators Rubio and Menendez on the issue of the safety and security of Americans traveling to Cuba,” said Katko. “The Obama Administration’s rush to open regularly scheduled commercial air service between the United States and Cuba without taking proper precautions is negligent and I am optimistic that the House and Senate will move quickly on legislation to help address safety and security deficiencies. Senator Rubio has been a leader on issues surrounding the U.S. relationship with Cuba, and I could not ask for a better partner in the Senate to work with on this bill.”

Obama: See No Evil, See No Enemies

By Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations:

Obama: See No Evil, See No Enemies
 
Two almost simultaneous events in recent days have shed even more light on the Obama administration’s treatment of America’s enemies.

In Cuba, a Marxist, pro-Russian, anti-American tyranny, the administration pressed hard to abandon decades of policy in exchange for nothing. Human rights conditions there are awful, but the United States did not bargain to end the embargo in exchange for improvements. And since Obama’s announcement of a new policy, which was a simple free gift to the Castros, human rights conditions have deteriorated further.

The most recent event was the first commercial flight to Cuba in decades, from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara. Santa Clara is the residence of Guillermo Farinas.

Who is he, and why does he matter? He is one of Cuba’s bravest human rights advocates, a recipient of the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament in 2010.

The citation says among other things this:

"A Cuban doctor of psychology, independent journalist and political dissident, Guillermo Fariñas has over the years conducted 23 hunger strikes with the aim of achieving peaceful political change and freedom of expression in Cuba….For his activism, Fariñas has in recent years been threatened with death and confinement in a psychiatric hospital, beaten and hospitalised, and repeatedly arrested and detained, including at the funeral of Oswaldo Payá, another Sakharov Prize laureate and Cuban dissident."

Farinas is in the 48th day of hunger strike right now and was hospitalized on September 5. I write of all this because last week when that Jet Blue flight landed, the Obama administration celebrated it– but has not said one word about Farinas nor has any American diplomat sought to visit him. (And by the way, that flight was chock full of journalists, as the web site Capitol Hill Cubans points out, and not a single one of them or of the foreign correspondents from Havana who went to Santa Clara sought to visit and speak with him. They were too busy celebrating, it seems. Capitol Hill Cubans quotes Martin Luther King: “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”)

Meanwhile, half a world away the Iranian Navy is making a laughingstock of the U.S. Navy, taunting it with small boat actions that endanger our ships, get within about 100 yards of them, and have forced them to take evasive action to avoid collisions. Reuters reported that

"A U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after a fast-attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 100 yards (91 meters) of it in the central Gulf on Sunday, U.S. Defense Department officials said on Tuesday. It was at least the fourth such incident in less than a month. U.S. officials are concerned that these actions by Iran could lead to mistakes."

One U.S. Navy official said “This type of incident would have led NAVCENT to recommend that the State Department deliver a diplomatic message of protest if this interaction had been with a country with which the United States had an official diplomatic relationship.” Wrong: the time for a “diplomatic message of protest” is long gone.

Here’s an August 25 report from The New York Times:

"Iranian naval boats made dangerous maneuvers around United States warships in the Persian Gulf area on at least four occasions this week, Pentagon officials said Thursday, including one episode in which the Americans fired warning shots from a 50-caliber deck gun to prevent a collision.

It was unclear whether the confrontations — one near the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday and three in the northern Persian Gulf on Wednesday — were deliberate efforts to send a hostile message about American naval activity….

The Iranians came within about 300 yards of the Nitze before veering off, Commander Raines said. Unsure of their intentions, the Nitze changed course several times to try to keep a safe distance from offshore oil rigs in the area.

'We assessed the interaction as unsafe and unprofessional due to the Iranian vessels’ not abiding by international law and internationally recognized maritime rules of the road, as well as their high rate of closure of Nitze and disregard of multiple warnings by the ship’s whistle and flares,' he said."

And of course all these incidents this summer follow the January capture of ten American sailors.

But the Times is dead wrong: it is crystal clear that these confrontations were deliberate efforts to send a hostile message. It is crystal clear that Iran is showing the world, as it did in January with the capture, that the United States no longer runs the Gulf and is in fact afraid of Iran.

What has been the American response? What has the White House decided? To do nothing, and to tell the Navy to bob and weave and duck. The administration remains committed to its nuclear deal above all, and is willing to allow these dangerous and humiliating maneuvers against the Navy without reply. It is engaged in covering up Iran’s violations of the nuclear deal, denying them, and allowing secret exemptions. Meanwhile Iran increases its presence and activity in Iraq and Syria and uses the nuclear deal to build its economy.

It would be easy to show the Cuban regime, and the Cuban people, that we care more about freedom than Jet Blue; all that was required was a visit to Guillermo Farinas. Still, the administration won’t do it, refusing to undermine its message that Cuba is changing and is our new friend. It is not so easy to show the world that we are not cowed by Iran and that our Navy will not be abused by the Iranian Navy; that will actually require sinking an Iranian vessel. But here again, the administration will not undermine its message that the nuclear deal will bring peace and moderation.

So it will be up to our next president to distinguish between friends and enemies. If he or she wants to send the world a message that the Obama era is over and America is back, visits to Cuban dissidents like Farinas and one sinking of an Iranian ship that is illegally and dangerously harassing a U.S. Navy vessel would be the best and likely the cheapest ways to do so.

Who Does Cuba's Regime Fear?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
After a thorough investigation, the news site 14ymedio has put together a list of terms that Cuba's regime censors from SMS (text) messages.

Prominently featured on the list are democracy leaders, such as Berta Soler, Guillermo Farinas, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Jorge Luis Garcia "Antunez" and Jose Daniel Ferrer.

Also featured are opposition groups, such as The Ladies in White and UNPACU.

There are independent journalists, such as 14ymedio, Cubanet and Hablemos Press.

There are opposition movements, such as Todos Marchamos and Somos+.

And open terms, such as democracy, human rights and plebiscite.

What's not on the list -- and far from censored in Cuba -- are words, such as Obama, Ben Rhodes, JetBlue flights, Carnival cruises, Kardashians, Chanel and even "cuenta-propistas" ("self-employed").

That's because none of those are a threat to Castro's regime.  To the contrary, they provide welcome economic relief and a convenient distraction to repress the "threats" censored above.

Of course, the irony is that the Castro regime and its U.S.-based lobbyists have always sought to diminish the importance of Cuba's democracy movement and leaders. The media has generally -- and sadly -- gone along with this false narrative.

This led to Obama's relegating of Cuba's democracy movement in favor of unconditionally embracing the Castros' dictatorship -- oh, and to help the island's "cuenta-propistas" (wink, wink).

But if these democracy movements and leaders are irrelevant -- then why does Cuba's regime go to such great lengths to censor and repress them?

Ask yourself -- why is Castro so afraid of these peaceful opponents?

Raul's Grandson Gets Key Promotion, As Family Rule Strengthens

As Obama's regulatory relief pumps billions into the Castro family's military-run tourism empire, Raul seeks to protect and ensure its growing wealth, influence and political control.

To review:

-- Raul's son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, runs GAESA, the military's tourism conglomerate that controls nearly 80% of the island's business activity;

-- Raul's only son, Col. Alejandro Castro, heads the powerful Commission on Defense and National Security, which oversees the state security apparatus; and now

-- Raul's favorite grandson, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro, heads the General Direction of Personal Security (DGSP).

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

General Francis is Out of the Game and Raul’s Grandson Ascends 

The most powerful of all the Cuban generals, Division General Humberto Omar Francis Pardo, was replaced in his job as Head of the General Direction of Personal Security (DGSP).

The position is now filled by Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, who is known by various nicknames, like “The Crab,” “Grandson-in-Chief,” Raulito” and even “The Arnol-mal,” this last one from his frenetic addiction to steroids and exercise.

Before creating the Commission of Defense and National Security, which Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín directs today, the Direction of Personal Security was the invisible apparatus with the most power on the island. Under this nomenclature, like the current “Commission,” ministries, institutions and all the MININT (Ministry of the Interior) divisions were subordinated.

“After a long period of stress, and multiple disagreements, Francis suffered a cerebral stroke. He was admitted to the hospital but now is at home,” said a family member of the dismissed General.

The DGSP, intended to protect the force of the myth, the fiscal and moral integrity of Fidel Castro and the rest of the so-called leaders of the first level, has succeeded in amassing more cash than some armies.

The DGSP’s empire

The DSP relies on a section of the transport police in order to review the fastest road or route for moving the leader. It has a film group, with experts in the art of photography, where they touch up the images of the “untouchables.” Another section is dedicated to documentation and migration matters and also functions as a trip coordinator; an anti-attack brigade consists of snipers and experts in every type of explosive; and a medical department, in addition to having a clinic for everything, has a fixed allocation of doctors, nurses, radiologists, physical therapists, laboratory technicians and other health workers.

They have a division of technology and telephone, workshops, diving masters, gymnasiums, coordinators; a very effective counterintelligence service that, in coordination with other State agencies, looks for, manages and controls all the information of that brotherhood, the family circles and friendships; a department of international relations that coordinates with other secret services the visits to Cuba of people of interest and personalities (friends or not), whether they are presidents, governors, heads of State, members of Congress, religious leaders, etc.; a purchasing group in charge of pleasing even the most bizarre tastes; a department that checks the news that should or should not be released about the Cuban leaders; and a unit to contract service staff (maids) who later work in the houses of those chosen.

With this new appointment, Raúl Castro, in addition to putting his grandson in a key post, captures a vital space reserved uniquely to Fidel, to control even the most insignificant thing, like the ruling class’s privacy in their homes. This method can have a possible boomerang effect, because it also assures the rejection from a good part of a strategic force that, older and in the military, were always faithful to General Francis.

All the body guards of this prestigious group belong to the DSP. Their work consists of taking care of them, protecting them and satisfying them even in their most quirky desires, in addition to spying, recruiting and blackmailing, in order to maintain, at any price, the “moral purity” of the Cuban politicians. This convoy is in charge of avoiding any type of problem of the leader and his closest family. And when I say “any,” it’s any, from the most absurd up to the most complex, whether it’s financial, political or legal.

In Cuba, nobody can prosecute, criticize or punish a bigwig or family member, without the authorization of the DSP.

Florida Times-Union Editorial: Obama Should Take Back Some Cuba Initiatives

From The Florida Times-Union's Editorial Board:

Human Rights in Cuba

Human rights in Cuba are getting worse since President Barack Obama opened the diplomatic doors.

The Cuban dictatorship is cracking down “with renewed brutality,” reports Mary Anastasia O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal.

Hunger strikes are now being conducted by desperate freedom fighters.

The Ladies in White, those brave women who march for freedom, continue to be beaten, kicked and pelted with stones on their way to Mass.

All of this is taking place just months after Obama visited Cuba and lavished the totalitarian regime with diplomatic initiatives.

Obama should use a carrot and stick approach and take back some of his initiatives until the Cuban people see some relief.

Obama Adds Insult to the Injury of His Cuba Policy

UPDATE: One journalist had the dignity and courage to visit Fariñas at his Santa Clara home. Kudos to Local 10's Hatzel Vela. See story here.

It is the 48th day of Cuban democracy leader Guillermo Fariñas' hunger strike.

Yesterday, he was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. (See image below.)

Fariñas, a renowned Sakharov Prize recipient, is sacrificing his life for the rights and freedom of all Cubans -- an act of extraordinary courage and selflessness.

He is also a vocal critic of President Obama's policy of unconditional business and concessions to the Castros' dictatorship, which he considers a "betrayal of Cuba's dissidents."

So leave it to the Obama Administration to add insult to injury.

Last week, The White House put its spin machine in full-gear propagandizing JetBlue's commercial flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Cuba.

It was all fun and games -- salsa, maracas and yes, even a Che cake.

Santa Clara is a small city in central Cuba. It has a population of 250,000.

One of those residents is the languishing Guillermo Fariñas.

Yet, not a word from The White House on Guillermo Fariñas.

None of the senior Obama Administration officials on the JetBlue flight to Santa Clara could spare a minute to visit with Fariñas at his home.

None of the journalists on the flight, or the foreign correspondents that spent hours on the hot tarmac at Santa Clara airport, could spare a minute to visit with Fariñas at his home.

Instead, they chose to forsake Fariñas. All for the sake of Obama's hollow legacy.

As civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., wisely said, "in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

From an American Victim's Son: JetBlue's Flight to Terror

By Joe Connor in Townhall:

Flight to Terror

Among much fanfare, direct flights between the US and Cuba began this week. With those flights will go billions of American dollars.

Infusing the hard currency of American tourism into the terrorist harboring, repressive, Marxist, Cuban state is hardly a reason to celebrate; at least not for Americans.

Billions that would otherwise have stayed in the US or have gone to other Caribbean nations, many of whom have been loyal American allies will now prop up a regime that has been our enemy for more than half a century.

In addition to its well documented history of antagonism against the US, for decades the murderous Castro regime has provided safe harbor to convicted terrorist bomber William Morales and BLA cop killer Joanne Chesimard among the 70 US fugitives currently in Cuba.

In 1973, as a leader of the Black Liberation Army, Joanne Chesimard (aka Assata Shakur) murdered New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a wild shootout after a routine traffic stop on the NJ Turnpike. She and a BLA comrade were captured, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Chesimard, with the help of other Marxist radicals of the time, escaped from prison in 1979 and were eventually welcomed by Cuba where she has been a guest of the Castro regime since the mid-1980s.

Morales was the chief bomb-maker and one of the leaders of the clandestine Puerto Rican terrorist group, Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN), one of the most prolific terrorist organizations ever to wage war against the United States.

Between 1974 and 1983, the FALN claimed responsibility for over 130 bombings that killed six in the US and Puerto Rico, including the horrific January 24, 1975 bombing of New York’s historic Fraunces Tavern. My 33-year-old father Frank Connor was murdered in cold blood in that savage attack. Morales most certainly built the sinister device that killed our father the very day our family was set to celebrate my 9th and my brother’s 11th birthdays.

Ironically, on what would have been my dad’s 37th birthday, July 12, 1978, Morales blew the fingers off of both his hands and part of his face when a bomb he was crafting exploded in his Queens bomb factory.

Morales was captured, tried and convicted in federal and state courts and sentenced in 1979 to up to 99 years in prison but escaped from Bellevue prison hospital with the assistance of related radicals who called themselves the Revolutionary Armed Task Force.

During the New York state trial Morales boasted, “No jail is going to hold me forever. They can put 1,000 of us in jail. They are not going to hold us forever. That’s what I have to say.”

Through a FALN investigation run by the Chicago Terrorist Task Force, Morales was eventually located in Puebla, Mexico, in 1983. When the Mexican police closed in, he and an accomplice killed a Mexican police officer. Morales was arrested and charged with being an accessory to murder. Despite the Reagan administration’s request for extradition, the sympathetic Mexican government allowed him safe passage to Cuba in 1988.

Between 1981 and 1983, 16 core members of the FALN and Los Macheteros, a related terror group, were arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to appropriately long prison terms.

Despite my regular correspondence with the Clinton departments of State and Justice (among others) beginning in the early 1990s demanding the return of Morales, in August 1999 Bill Clinton, with the assistance of then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, offered executive clemency to these unrepentant terrorists.

Disgracefully, clemency was clearly offered to ingratiate then first lady Hillary Clinton with New York’s Hispanic community as she planned her run for US senator from New York. These terrorists were so dedicated and unrepentant that took 30 days to accept freedom and one, leader, Oscar Lopez Rivera actually refused clemency. Twelve years later, in 2011, a small group of FALN victims and family faced Lopez at his parole hearing after which parole was denied. Lopez remains a cause celebrity of the left with Hillary Clinton supporters including Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez and the number 2 in New York City Melissa Mark Viverito championing a second presidential clemency for this terrorist.

Where before Clinton and President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder released terrorists, now Obama and Democrat Nominee Hillary Clinton reward the Castros who protect terrorist fugitives from American justice, paying lip service to fighting a war on terrorists, as they refuse to bring justice to convicted terrorists like Morales and Chesimard.

This government fights no war on terrorists. It continues releasing or trading Islamic terrorist detainees from our Guantanamo Bay, Cuba facility, yet allows convicted terrorists like Morales and Chesimard to remain in Cuba. Our family is directly affected by both failures as our father’s godson, cousin Steve Schlag, was murdered on 9/11 as I witnessed the attacks from my nearby office window having just commuted through the World Trade Center.

As a 9/11 family member I spent a week in February of this year at Guantanamo Bay Cuba observing the pretrial hearings of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four high value 9/11 detainees. I saw arrogant terrorists who not only admitted, but bragged about their guilt for the 9/11/01 murders. I saw a US Military Tribunal system dedicated to providing due process to terrorists whose notion of justice is a summary public beheading.

I saw the best of America at GTMO. Sadly at home I hear our President and Mrs. Clinton belittle and degrade the very people attempting to administer lawful justice; this coming from a president who “drones” suspects with no due process.

Americans must be aware of what is at stake here. We pump money into an illegitimate Marxist regime, effectively assisting Cuba in supporting convicted fugitive terrorists, giving away our prestige and receiving nothing but hostility in return. 

I call on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to join with me in demanding President Obama immediately secure these fugitives return and imprisonment and pledge no second clemency to terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera.

My father’s life and premature death in the name of an illegitimate political cause has haunted my family for over 40 years. Now we have the chance to bring justice to the conspirators while furthering our war on terrorists.

My mother Mary told me last Christmas she always hoped she would live long enough to see Morales brought to justice.

This is our chance to grant her that wish.

A Hunger Strike in Cuba That Should Matter to All of Us

By Cuban bloggers Irina Echarry and Erasmo Calzadilla in The Havana Times:

A Hunger Strike in Cuba That Should Matter to All of Us

Not just because he’s a human being, but because he’s putting his life on the line in order to demand a universal human right that all of us Cubans should be fighting for: the right to publicly oppose the government without being repressed.

After Zapata died, government media stated that his hunger strike was to demand better conditions in prison, for him alone.

However, in the case of Farinas, we’re not going to have any doubts. It’s very clear, and has been proven, that his hunger strike has an altruistic objective: it’s for all of our well-being and for a necessary and fair cause.

I’m not sure what Farinas’ political stance is, however, if I did know what it was and it seemed atrocious to me, I would still support him, it’s our duty to do so.

This government pushes us around as it pleases and it treats us with a complete lack of respect because we lack people with the moral integrity and worth that this hunger striker is demonstrating.

If Farinas could read this text, I’d ask him to end his strike immediately, with the commitment to join him in pursuing this struggle through other means.

Computers Infected After Visiting Cuban Regime Website

Monday, September 5, 2016
From Caribbean News:

Thousands of computers possibly infected after visiting Cuban government website

After several weeks of analysis, it has been determined that the Cuban government information website (acn.cu) is dispensing a dangerous clipboard virus that aims to steal information from the computers of unsuspecting visitors to that site.

The analysis of the infection was done by the Guyana-based cyber security firm and regional anti-virus producer Computer Care, with some assistance from the international cyber security community.

Their analysis revealed that the virus launches a permission pop up (on the ACN website) that seemingly gives users an option to either allow it to control their computer clipboard data or to refuse permission. However, it is hoped that most users would instinctively click the “Don’t allow” option button.

But the team of analysts that examined the infection told Caribbean News Now that the virus can still be passed on to a computer even in cases where a user clicks the “Don’t allow” option, since the virus developer seems to have placed a reversed coding action on that option that will provoke a force install via vulnerable browsers.

The virus, which is unique in its programming structure, is functionally similar to other previously deployed clipboard infections, except that it uses more tricky options to take unauthorized control of a computer clipboard. Thereafter, it quickly creates a backdoor on a computer so as to allow for captured information to be sent out to a remote server, in the same way that internet traffic flows in.

It basically copies entries made by the user, including passwords, typed messages, and other data, and then funnels this back to a server, where the information can be accessed and processed by the unknown third party.

And because the infection uses and exploits a few known vulnerabilities of certain JavaScript functions, it is generally difficult for most anti-virus programs to locate and remove it from a computer.

The research, which was headed by Guyana-born software security analyst, Dennis Adonis, who is also the lead anti-virus developer and owner of Computer Care - Guyana, found that the infection could have either been planted by another foreign government or rogue group as part of a cyber warfare strategy or by Cuban cyber intelligence experts themselves.

But whoever has infected the website seems to have the ability to turn the infection on and off at will, ironically to the ignorance of the site owner, which happens to be the government of Cuba.

Questioned on why the virus may be hard for most anti-virus software to pick up, Adonis said that it will be foolhardy for anyone to believe that an anti-virus can actually protect against every infection on a computer.

He stressed that it is practically impossible for every virus to be identified as such because all anti-virus software relies on virus signatures in order to isolate and eliminate an infection.

And since virus planters and hackers are now engaging stealth technology to deploy infections, quite a handful of them were able to make a mockery of most anti-virus software by encrypting their virus signatures.

As in the case of the infection on the Cuban government website, Adonis explained that the virus was very complex to contain, since his initial attempts has showed that the virus immediately tries to replicate itself once you attempt to break into its algorithms.

This, he said, has shown the degree of intelligence that has been deployed into its algorithms, and the level of challenges that the infection can actually create for the average antivirus software.

Tweet of the Week: Obama's Cuba Deal Defenders Owe Venezuela Apology

The Media's Delusion About Flights to Cuba

From The Weekly Standard:

The Media Are Very Excited About Flights Between the U.S. and Cuba

But Cubans aren't any closer to freedom.

Everybody’s pretty excited about the resumption of commercial air travel between the United States and Cuba. Well, everybody in the media, that is: The Associated Press heralds "a new era of U.S.-Cuba travel," and the New York Times tagged along for the maiden voyage, taking note of one passenger who "choked back tears" and exclaimed that "it opens Cuba to the world." There were cheers at the baggage check-in at Fort Lauderdale and cheers when the JetBlue airliner touched down near Havana.

Part of the excitement, of course, is that last week's inaugural flight was yet another element of President Obama's historic rapprochement with the Castro regime. Obama has sought to end a half-century (and more) of mutual suspicion between Havana and Washington, and The Scrapbook is bound to concede that he has half-succeeded: Official Washington is now treating official Havana like a potential lover, and the Castro dictatorship is responding with its customary hostility and opportunism.

But never mind: As Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last week, commercial air traffic "opens the door to further exchange between the American people and the Cuban people. We think that's ultimately good for the expansion of freedom and democracy."

Here The Scrapbook must pause to throw a small bucketful of cold water on the runway. To begin with, if commercial travel between the United States and Communist tyrannies were "ultimately good for... freedom and democracy," then the Soviet Union would have collapsed several decades before it did. We've lost count of the number of daily flights available-between innumerable American cities and Beijing. Indeed, pushing the parallels deeper into the past, there were never any travel restrictions between, say, Washington and Mussolini's Rome or Hitler's Berlin. Commercial trade and tourism have various effects in relations between nations, but the evidence is thin on "the expansion of freedom and democracy."

And the fact is that, despite the official ban on U.S. travel to Cuba, it was never very difficult to make the trip. The enterprising American merely journeyed to Toronto or Kingston or Mexico City, caught the next flight to Havana​—​and asked the Cuban authorities at the airport not to stamp his passport, please. Which they were happy not to do, since impoverished, Marxist-Leninist, revolutionary Cuba was always (and remains) desperately in need of foreign currency, even in modest amounts.

That's why the argument about the devastating effects of the U.S. economic embargo has always been nonsense: Wealthy Asians and Europeans and Latin Americans have always been free to spend their money in Castro's Cuba and have done so for decades. The persistent poverty, repression, and squalor are exclusively homegrown and will hardly be alleviated by an influx of Yanqui visitors. The question now, as always, is an issue of conscience: In traveling to Cuba, and spending some dollars, do Americans see themselves helping individual Cubans​—​or contributing to the regime? It's the sort of choice, the kind of freedom, that remains unknown in Cuba.

What Obama's Cuba and Iran Deals Have in Common

The biggest beneficiary (by far) of Obama's Cuba deal has been the Castro regime's military -- see here and here.

Same applies to the Iran deal.

From The Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

Iran Gives Green Light to Direct $1.7 Billion from U.S. to Military

A debate has raged in recent weeks over whether the Obama administration’s $400-million payment to Iran in January – part of a $1.7-billion settlement over a decades-old arms deal – constituted “ransom” for five U.S. hostages. The Wall Street Journal reported on August 3rd that the United States had sent the $400 million in cash on an unmarked cargo plane, and that Tehran did not receive the money until it released the hostages. After being pressed over the suspicious timing of the exchange, the administration conceded that the money had been used as “leverage” to secure the hostages’ release, but rejected the accusation of ransom. Lost in the debate, however, is the purpose the money will ultimately serve.

Last week, Tehran finalized its 2016-17 budget, ending months of back-and-forth within the Iranian government over how the money would be used. Back in April, Iranian media reported that parliament had passed Article 22 of the budget, which required the executive branch to transfer to the military the funds it receives from settling legal disputes with foreign countries and companies. The following month, a member of the parliament’s presiding board confirmed that the legislature had indeed allocated $1.7 billion from legal settlements to the defense budget. As Bloomberg’s Eli Lake subsequently reported, the U.S. was “inadvertently paying” for a portion of Tehran's military expenditures.

But in June, the government of President Hassan Rouhani requested that parliament eliminate Article 22 – a request parliament rejected. One parliamentarian argued that the Central Bank must allocate 50,000 billion rial (roughly equivalent to $1.7 billion) to the defense budget, saying this money belongs to the armed forces and that the executive branch’s excuse that it had already spent the money is unacceptable. He also revealed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had approved the allocation to the military. In August, the executive branch yielded to parliament, keeping Article 22 in the final budget. Parliament passed the new amendment last week, and the Guardian Council – which must approve all legislation – ratified it a few days later.

There is no longer any doubt that the money the United States has paid to Iran will go to the Islamic Republic’s armed forces. It remains unclear how the military will spend it – potentially to prop up the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq, or Houthi rebels in Yemen, or to buy heavy weaponry from Russia in contravention of the UN arms embargo.

What is clear are the benefits the regime draws from receiving these funds in cash. It would be far easier for Tehran to procure advanced weaponry from Russia and China, for example, if it can pay for it with hard currency rather than through the formal financial system, having to circumvent the UN arms embargo and U.S. financial sanctions. With bags of untraceable hard currency, Iran can more easily support its allies or illicitly procure missile and nuclear parts. Ultimately, the $400 million in cash that the U.S. has delivered to Iran – and the wider $1.7-billion settlement – will help finance Tehran’s overriding objectives: spreading its revolution and further destabilizing the Middle East.

List of Words Censored From Text Messages in Cuba

Sunday, September 4, 2016
From 14ymedio (via Translating Cuba):

Cubacel Censors Texts With The Words “Democracy” Or “Hunger Strike”

If you are considering sending a text message to a friend to wish him a “happy coexistence” with his family or to suggest that he not give in to “the dictatorship of work,” it is very likely that the phrase will never reach its destination. A filter implemented by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) blocks certain words from flowing through the cellular network. (See below for the list.)

For years, users of the only cellphone company in the country have suffered from congestion on the lines and areas of poor coverage, but few have noticed that there is also a strict blockade on the use of key terms and phrases in mobile messaging.

The discovery of this list has happened almost by chance. Several users, upset that their messages were charged for but not delivered, exchanged experiences. This week they connected the dots and found that texts containing the following references never reached their destinations: “human rights,” “hunger strike,” “José Daniel Ferrer,” or the name of the independent magazine “Coexistence.”

Texts with references to “human rights,” “hunger strike,” “José Daniel Ferrer,” or the name of the independent magazine “Coexistence” never arrive

Over several days and at different points in the national geography, this newspaper has run tests from terminals with very different owners, ranging from opponents and activists to people without any links to independent movements. In all cases, messages containing certain expressions “were lost on the way.”

Cubacel is ETECSA’s cellular network and the contract that each user signs to get a mobile line makes clear that the among causes for which the service will be terminated are uses “prejudicial to morality, public order, state security or that serve as support in carrying out criminal activities.”

The customer is never warned that their messages will be subjected to a content filter or that a part of their correspondence will be blocked if it alludes to opponents, concepts that are uncomfortable for officialdom such as “human rights” or to blogs critical of the government in the style of “Generation Y.” [...]

At the University of Computer Sciences, as part of Operation Truth, a group monitored the internet and created matrices of opinions favorable to the Government.

During his students years at the University of Information Sciences (UCI), the engineer Eliecer Avila worked on the so-called Operation Truth. His group monitored the internet and created matrices of opinion favorable to the government in forums, blogs and digital diaries. At present, Avila leads the independent Somos+ (We Are More) Movement, which is also on the long list of terms blocked by Cubacel messaging.

“We implemented algorithm projects that, given certain phrases or words entered by a user into their browser, they would appear preferentially in official pages,” Avila recalled for this newspaper. “We tried to invisibilize alternative proposals or criticisms.”

The presence of an intelligent filter is obvious in this case. If you type in the text “cacerolazo” – a word meaning the banging and pots and pans as a form of protest – your message will take much longer to arrive than some other text. A similar slowdown occurs if you write the names of Fidel Castro or Raúl Castro, and it is true in the latter case with or without the accented letter U.

How many dissident meetings have been frustrated because the invitation message never reached the invitees’ inboxes? How many misunderstandings between couples, domestic squabbles, and uncompleted professional tasks result from the filtering of messages that include last names such as Biscet and terms such as plebiscite?

Telecommunications censorship is not a new tool for the Plaza of the Revolution. Activist frequently denounce the blocking of their cellphones on December 10th, Human Rights Day, or other times when they want to gather together.

During the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island in September of 2012, more than 100 opponents reported the suspension of their cellphone service, along with house arrests and arbitrary detentions.

A blockade of uncomfortable digital sites has also been a common practice for officialdom. On the list of inaccessible sites are portals set up from abroad such as Cubaencuentro, as well as local newspapers like 14ymedio. More than a few users manage to circumvent the censorship by sending news via email or sending offline copies of pages that pass from hand to hand thanks to technological devices like USB flash drives and external hard drives.

China has transferred to Cuba its experience with the so-called Golden Shield Project, known as the Great Firewall, which employs more than 30,000 censors

In March of this year, Amnesty International noted that “only 25% of the Cuban population uses the internet and only 5% of households have a connection.” This situation has strengthened the use of mobile phones, especially texting, as a way of using “the internet without internet.”

Only since 2008 were Cubans legally allowed to have a cellphone contract and Cubacel currently has over three million users. Last year 800,000 new lines were established throughout the island, despite the high cost of a national call, the equivalent of half the salary of a working day.

In July 2014, the governments of Cuba and China signed an agreement on “cooperation in cyberspace.” China has transferred to the island its experience in monitoring and blocking content on the web, especially what they have learned from their launch in 1998 of the so-called Golden Shield Project, known worldwide as the Great Firewall, which employs more than 30,000 censors.

Raul Castro’s government has not only copied China’s content filtering strategy, but also the creation of its own social networks to discourage Cubans from using Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. To achieve this an ersatz Wikipedia, called Ecured, was created, along with a platform-style Facebook dubbed La Tendera (The Shopkeeper) and an unpopular substitute for Twitter known as El Pitazo (The Whistle), all with little success.

We now know that the Cuban Government wants to go beyond such crude imitations and aspires to follow in the footsteps of its Great Chinese Brother, which has a long history of censoring text messaging through a “keyword list.” A user can have their entire messaging function disabled if their content does not pass the filter of the censors. In the city of Shanghai alone, the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily reports, messaging has been blocked for some 70,000 users.

List of Words and Phrases Known to be Blocked by Cubacel

14 y medio
14ymedio
Antunez
Antúnez
Berta Soler
Biscet
Carlos Amel
Coco Farinas
Coco Fariñas
Convivencia
Cuba Posible
Cubanet
Damas de Blanco
Democracia
Democrac1a
DDHH
Derechos humanos
Dictadura
Disidente
Elecciones libres
Generacion Y
Generación Y
Guillermo Farinas
Guillermo Fariñas
Hablemos Press
Huelga de hambre
Jose Daniel Ferrer
José Daniel Ferrer
Oscar Elias Biscet
Óscar Elías Biscet
Plebiscito
Policía Política
Policia Politica
Primavera Negra
Represión
Represion
Seguridad del Estado
Somos+
Todos Marchamos
Unpacu
Yoani Sanchez
Yoani Sánchez

Cuban Democracy Leader Rejects U.S. Plea to End Hunger Strike

From Breitbart:

Cuba: Guillermo Fariñas Rejects U.S. Demand to End 40-Day-Old Hunger Strike

Cuban dissident activist Guillermo Fariñas has rejected a plea from the second-in-command at the U.S. embassy in Havana to cease his now 40-day-old hunger strike, asserting that the communist Castro government has clearly decided to no longer intervene and to allow him to die.

Guillermo Fariñas, who has refused both water and food for forty days, received Deputy Chief of Mission Scott Hamilton on Sunday, the 39th day of his strike. Fariñas told the American-based Cuban interest outlet Martí Noticias that Hamilton had asked him to cease his hunger strike before his health deteriorated further, but Fariñas refused.

“He told me that at the time he was the one in charge of the embassy because [Ambassador Jeffrey] DeLaurentis was not in, and that he had had direct conversations with the president of the United States and the Secretary of State,” Fariñas confirmed. He also confirmed that Hamilton had requested he end his hunger strike but that Fariñas had refused.

Hamilton’s visit appears to be a response to an open letter from the Cuban dissident community to President Barack Obama, asking him to interfere in the Fariñas case and use his newfound diplomatic capital with Havana to make Castro concede to abiding by international human rights norms, thus ending Fariñas’s strike.

Fariñas had said last October that he was considering a new hunger strike because the Castro regime had become increasingly violent against dissidents in light of President Obama’s “normalization” process, which has provided new income revenues for the Castro regime without demanding any changes to the nation’s abysmal human rights record.

Fariñas began this, his 24th hunger strike, in July as a response to being beaten and tortured for asking about the status of a fellow dissident at a local police station in Las Villas, central Cuba. He explained that he was hit and his tongue was pulled out until it became swollen and “black.” He said he feared those with less of a prominent international profile would suffer even more at the hands of Raúl Castro’s secret police. Fariñas won the Andrei Sakharov Prize for human rights activist from the European Union in 2010 and has toured the world denouncing communism.

Fariñas asserted at the beginning of his latest hunger strike that this would be his last one: he would either die in the attempt or end his hunger strike if Castro agreed to end the use of violence against political dissidents and officially introduce representatives for dissident thought into his government.

“The Cuban government has already given the order to let me die,” Fariñas told Martí Noticias, citing the fact that he had not been forced to stay in a hospital for his condition. The Cuban government has force-fed political prisoners in the past after altering their consciousness with drugs, a major human rights violation in the eyes of the United Nations. In Fariñas’s case, his family and fellow dissidents have taken him to their local hospital four times since he began the hunger strike, where doctors have hydrated him and sent him home.

Fariñas’s 23 previous hunger strikes have chronically damaged his health, making his ability to withstand yet another one significantly deteriorated. He has been diagnosed with metabolic acidosis — a condition in which the body’s pH levels are too low — and is suffering from intense body aches and headaches.

Young Dissident Risks His Life for Change in Cuba

From The Miami Herald:

Young government opponent risks his life for change in Cuba

With the harsh sun of Santiago de Cuba reflected on his face and a few pounds lighter than his normal weight, one of the island’s youngest dissidents, Carlos Amel Oliva, recently traveled to Miami.

His goal: To thank exiles for the support he received during his four weeks on a hunger strike to demand that the Raúl Castro government respect the human rights of the island’s 11 million people.

His deliberate way of talking shows the determination of this 29-year-old Santiago native, who has traveled to many countries and even met with officials like Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama.

Oliva, who heads the youth wing of the opposition group Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), went on a hunger strike to protest a string of State Security searches of his home and seizures of personal effects.

He suspended the strike only when he was on the brink of death, and he arrived in Miami in mid-August.

“When they humiliate you, when you find yourself in extreme situations like the ones we live in Cuba, that’s the only option for making your demands,” said Oliva. “The message that I wanted to send was clear. I am not playing at being a dissident. I am ready to give my life to make my country a different place, where the rights of people are respected.”

“I have no memory of the good years,” he added, when massive Soviet subsidies fueled the island’s progress until 1989-90. “I am from a generation that from the start saw only crises and power blackouts. I believe that view is closer to the reality.”

Oliva was raised in a “revolutionary” family that included a grandfather who joined Fidel Castro’s July 26 Movement and a distant uncle who was killed fighting alongside Castro’s guerrillas in the Sierra Maestra.

So how could a young man educated by the socialist system and member of a pro-government family wind up as a member of UNPACU, the largest opposition group on the island?

Oliva said the answer lies in his passion for reading.

“From the time I was little I always loved history, literature and politics. I looked for answers to my questions by reading,” he said. “That’s how I came to understand that many things needed to change in Cuba, even though no one talked to me about an organized opposition. I believed I should change the system from the inside, and made it my life’s work.”

Cuba’s compulsory military service was a watershed event. By that time he was a member of the Communist Youths’ Union (UJC), and later joined the University Students Federation (FEU), also controlled by the Cuban Communist Party.

“It’s not very difficult to be picked for a position of responsibility in those organizations. Young Cubans are apathetic about politics because they are tired of being manipulated. That’s why, if you show any interest at all, you get promoted,” he said.

Despite his excellent academic standing and the work he performed at the FEU, Oliva’s career came to an end. His parents won a lottery for a U.S. visa, and he dropped out of the university to prepare to leave the island in the midst of the so-called “Special Period” in the 1990s.

“The visa never arrived. They told us they would let us know, but the years went by and nobody contacted us. I realized later that perhaps this was God’s way of helping me find what I was looking for, an organization to change the country without having to leave.”

The first time he heard about the opposition in Cuba was the Heredia Project, launched by the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), led by the late Oswaldo Payá. It sought to eliminate all the arbitrary laws that governed departures from the island.

“The first step was very difficult. You had to give your name and identity card number for a proposal that was to be presented to the National Assembly,” he said, referring to the legislature. That first step later led him and his father to join the MCL and then to help the group’s collection of signatures in favor of other initiatives.

After Paya’s death in 2012, the Oliva family felt the MCL was losing steam and joined an UNPACU branch near their home.

“Joining UNPACU meant a substantial change in the nature of our activism,” Oliva recalled. “Before that, we had never been summoned by Cuban State Security. After I joined, they summoned me and proposed that I work for them.”

Oliva quoted State Security officers as telling him, “Look, what we want from you is not to be an agent. Just tell us what is said in the hallways, and if someone is preparing a terrorist attack against the country.”

His refusal meant that he was twice blocked — in 2014 — from leaving Cuba. By then he was working on what would later become UNPACU’s Youth Front, which focuses on young Cubans and has more than 500 members.

“I did not allow them to blackmail me, and they finally gave me permission to travel abroad,” he said.

Last year, the youth leader made his way to Panama to take part in a conference of civil society groups on the margins of the Summit of the Americas.

But Panama authorities “treated me like a terrorist,” Oliva said, adding that the Cuban government had given authorities in Panama misleading information about him.

In Cuba, State Security agents have implemented a new tactic of humiliation and control: “They have searched my home, sometimes even armed with rifles, and threatened my family. And they frequently seize my materials,” he said.

He is grateful to all the people who sent him messages of support during his hunger strike. “It was a time to meditate and grow as a person,” Oliva said.

As he prepares to return to his homeland, Oliva said he has asked Guillermo Fariñas, another opposition leader, to halt the hunger strike he launched four weeks ago. Fariñas has been rushed to the hospital in his hometown of Santa Clara several times, and many supporters fear he will die.

“Many people asked me to stop my hunger strike and I did not understand it,” he said. “But now I understand that Cuba would benefit much more from having us alive and willing to fight for her.”