How Kim (DPRK) and Castro (Cuba) Blackmail Abe (Japan)

Friday, September 23, 2016
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Cuba today and met with dictators Fidel and Raul Castro.

The purpose of Abe's trip was simple -- to seek help over North Korea's nuclear provocations and its clandestine operations in Japan.

Nearly on a monthly basis, some senior North Korean is on a "working visit" to Cuba. Or some senior Cuban regime official is on a "working visit" to North Korea.

With the exception of China, there's no other nation in the world that North Korean officials visit with such frequency.

Just a few months ago, General Kim Yong-chol, head of North Korea's intelligence, cyber-warfare and clandestine operations agency, was on one of those "working visits" to Cuba.

And, of course, we all recall Cuba's smuggling of 240 tons of heavy weaponry to North Korea in 2013 -- the largest, ever violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Cuba's regime will now offer its "help" -- for a price. And Kim's regime in North Korea will get a cut.

Call it the Castro-Kim two-step -- or simply blackmail.

For starters, Abe will mostly forgive Castro's $1.75 billion debt to Japan. That will open new lines of credit for Castro's regime. Abe is also extending Castro a foreign aid package.

Here's how Japan's Asahi Shimbun (diplomatically) reported it, "in the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe on Sept. 22 offered billions of yen in grant aid and debt forgiveness while seeking cooperation on dealing with North Korea."

It's mostly unknown that Japan became Cuba's single, biggest creditor pursuant to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such "engagement" with Japanese banks did nothing to promote democracy, openness or help the Cuban people. Instead, Cuba defaulted in October 2002 on a $750 million refinancing agreement with Japan’s private sector after having signed a debt restructuring accord with Tokyo in 1998.

Most of Cuba's debt to Japan is now owned by that nation's government-backed trade insurer, NEXI. (Note to Congress and those lobbying to extend financing for Castro's regime.)

Both Cuba and North Korea are desperate for hard currency, so it presents a perfect opportunity to put the squeeze on Japan and, most importantly, its banks.

The cycle begins again. After all, rogue behavior (sadly) pays off in today's world.

Image below: North Korean military officials during a "shopping spree" in Cuba.

As Predicted, Venezuela's Maduro Officially Becomes a Dictator

Thursday, September 22, 2016
Another tragic consequence of Obama's new Cuba policy was the green-light sent to Castro's allies in the region that there would be no consequences for subverting democracy.

To the contrary, they would be rewarded with normal diplomatic relations, unilateral concessions, fêted at Summits, and benefit from a business marketing campaign directed from The White House.

This week, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro subverted the recall referendum process outlined in the Constitution and, thus, guaranteed that his Cuban-controlled regime will remain in power through at least 2018.

Just weeks after Obama announced his new Cuba policy, we predicted this would happen.

As published by The Huffington Post on January 11, 2015:

Obama Gives Cuba a Hemispheric Coup

by Mauricio Claver-Carone

The recent political witch-hunt against famed Venezuelan opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado reinforces growing concerns that democratic institutions are under concerted attack in the Western Hemisphere.

“Justice is on its knees in Venezuela with sentences being dictated from Miraflores or Havana,” Machado says, summing up the political alliance between Cuba and Venezuela’s governments that drive her country’s politics. She stands accused of conspiring to kill Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. Another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has already been imprisoned.

Through its cohorts and directly, Cuba has been pounding democratic institutions not only in Venezuela, but also Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Democracy’s advocates in the region are too shortsighted, beleaguered or intimidated to fight back aggressively. In fact, they invited Cuba to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, despite the fact that Cuba’s Castro dictatorship openly scorns the “democracy clause” that reserves Summit membership and participation to the region’s democratic governments. Thirty-four of the 35 nations comprising the Western Hemisphere adopted that clause during the Quebec Summit. Cuba was then and still is the Hemisphere’s last remaining totalitarian state; it also has a long history of “exporting revolution” into democratic states.

The Obama Administration initially stated its opposition to Cuba being invited to the Summit. However, in a turn-around announcement on December 17, it chose to “lead from behind” and acquiesce to the whims of those hemispheric leaders all-too-eager and willing to suspend the “democracy clause.” Not only has President Obama now accepted Cuba’s participation, but he will also be there to personally welcome dictator Raul Castro.

However, those who lobbied Obama to attend the Summit regardless of the violation of the “democracy clause” weren’t to be satisfied with his attendance alone. They also wanted the President to arrive with a gift bag for Cuba that includes a further lifting of U.S. sanctions. That, they argued, will ensure a warm reception for Obama from “troubled” Latin American leaders. And naturally, Castro would be thrilled.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the exact same arguments were made in the months and weeks leading up to the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Just days before that summit, the Obama Administration did ease sanctions against Cuba. Despite this “gesture,” Obama was not received in Trinidad as a hero. He was treated as a pushover. Then Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez even engineered a photo-op with the President that featured copies of anti-American book, Open Veins of Latin America. Latin America’s “extreme Left” considers the book to be its bible. (The author, Eduardo Galeano, has recently disavowed his creation.) A few months after that summit, the Cuban government of Raul Castro seized an American hostage, Alan Gross, in a successful effort to coerce the United States into releasing a group of imprisoned Cuban spies.

For months, advocates for lifting sanctions used the Panama Summit as a prop in their campaign against what they call the United States’ “failed policy.” They would happily sacrifice our national interest in regional democracy to advance their narrow agenda. Not only is this dangerous and irresponsible, it also begs the serious question: What do they consider to be a “successful” policy alternative?

Is it the “China model,” whereby U.S. business helps to build the most lucrative dictatorship in human history?

A “Vietnam model” of state capitalism under an iron-fisted rule?

A “Burma model,” whereby reforms achieved through pressure are rolled back as soon as sanctions are lifted?

Raul Castro, Nicolas Maduro and their puppets revel in such models. But none should have a place — geographically or politically — in the Western Hemisphere. In this hemisphere, every nation (except Cuba) made a commitment to representative democracy in 2001. It was a historic commitment that, backed by the United States, has blocked the authoritarian ambitions of wannabe dictators in Latin America and generated continued support for democracy and civil society. It was a commitment that Obama’s December 17 announcement has now placed on the chopping block.


Rubio Demands Answers From White House About TSA Lies, Security of Cuba Flights

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Of course, the irony is that while Iran's Hassan Rouhani is in Havana plotting with the Castro regime how to undermine U.S. interests, the Obama Administration is lying to the American people and making it easier for them.
 
Kudos to Senator Rubio for his leadership.
 
Rubio Demands Answers From White House About TSA Lies, Security of Cuba Flights
 
Washington, D.C. – In a letter to President Obama, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is demanding The White House answer questions about the complete absence of federal air marshals on commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials’ false statements to Congress and the public about an agreement with the Cuban government that does not exist.
 
The full text of Rubio’s letter is below:
 
September 19, 2016
 
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania, Ave NW
Washington, D.C.
 
Dear President Obama,
 
You and your administration’s lack of concern for the American people’s safety – as evidenced by allowing commercial, non-charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba to commence without the presence of federal air marshals, and lying about it to Congress – is further proof that you are putting your legacy ahead of the safety and security of the American people, including the people of Florida.
 
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Deputy Administrator, Dr. Huban Gowadia, confirmed that there are currently no federal air marshals on commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba. This admission contradicts earlier claims by your administration that the federal air marshal agreement was finalized and they would be on commercial flights. Simply put, your administration has been caught in a bold-faced lie that has put American lives at risk.
 
It was incumbent upon your administration to finalize a federal air marshal agreement before U.S.-Cuba commercial flights first departed on August 31st. However, TSA officials have now publicly admitted the Castro government has not yet signed the document you submitted. In my view, Cuba remains a state sponsor of terrorism that is allied with some of the most despicable regimes in the world, including Iran to North Korea, and it is astonishing that the administration has allowed hundreds of U.S. passengers to board flights to and from Cuba under the false pretense that there would be federal air marshals on board. You have created an opportunity for our worst fears to become reality, just as they did on September 11, 2001.
 
In addition to this troubling news, you have refused to share with Congress key documents detailing the Cuban government’s vetting of airport workers and security procedures. Given your administration’s pattern of secrecy, misinformation and dishonesty on this matter, I believe the information in these apparently secret documents will likely further validate my concerns. I respectfully request that you provide the answers to the following questions:
 
- Why did the TSA lie to the American people and announce a federal air marshal agreement had been reached with the Cuban regime?
 
- When do you expect the Cuban regime to approve the agreement?

- Are there any flights between the U.S. and another country operated by a U.S. air carrier in which federal air marshals are not allowed on the flights? If so, which countries?
 
- In the meantime, what is the TSA doing to mitigate security risks associated with the lack of federal air marshals on these flights from Cuba to the United States?
 
- Did any White House official or officials instruct the TSA to proceed with allowing commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba before appropriate security procedures were in place? If so, please provide their name or names.
 
- Please also provide copies of the draft federal air marshal agreement with the Cuban regime, and the document detailing the Cuban government’s vetting of airport workers and airport security procedures.
 
Thank you for your attention to this critical matter, and I look forward to a timely response.
 
Respectfully,
 
Marco Rubio
United States Senator

In Havana, Iran's Rouhani Urges Enhanced Ties With Cuba's Regime

From Iranian state media:

President Rouhani urges enhanced Iran-Cuba trade ties

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stressed the need for the promotion of all-out relations between the Islamic Republic and Cuba, particularly trade ties, following a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers.

“The goal of some powerful countries to resort to pressure and sanctions against independent states is to maintain their monopoly over cutting-edge and important technologies,” President Rouhani said in a meeting with his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro in Havana on Monday.

“We are delighted that, with the resistance of the Iranian nation, the way was paved for developing countries” to gain access to new technologies, the president said.

He underlined the need for cooperation among independent states in the field of science and technology, noting that Tehran and Havana must uplift the level of their technological cooperation, namely in the areas of nano- and biotechnology.

He called on the Iran-Cuba economic commission to follow up on the previously-singed bilateral agreements to deepen mutual economic relations.

“Cuba has always been a close friend of Iran in international organizations, and this friendship and unity between the two countries, which serve the interests of both nations, should continue on international and regional matters,” Rouhani said. Rouhani further said that Iran and Cuba share common viewpoints concerning regional and international issues.

Castro, for his part, said he was glad that President Rouhani was visiting Cuba, stating that the Latin American country “will proudly be a steady partner of Iran” and that “nobody can stop the advancement of Cuba-Iran relations. He further underlined the need for the promotion of Cuba-Iran relations in all areas.

Trump Vows to Revert Obama's Cuba Concessions

Monday, September 19, 2016
Below is a transcript of Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump's, remarks last Friday in Miami, Florida:

"On policy after policy, we are going to provide opportunity, prosperity and security for all Americans.

We are also going to stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression.

The President’s one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro regime. But all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next President can reverse them – and that is what I will do, unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people.

Let’s also talk about Venezuela.

Venezuela is a beautiful, vibrant, and resource-rich country, filled with amazing and hardworking people. But Venezuela has been run into the ground by socialists.

The next President of the United States must stand in solidarity with all people oppressed in our hemisphere, and I will stand with the oppressed people of Venezuela yearning to be free."

Iran's Rouhani Begins Visit to Cuba

From Cuban state media:

Iranian President Begins Visit to Cuba

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, begins an official visit to Cuba today after participating at the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Venezuela this weekend.

According to a note from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the head of State of the Islamic country will meet in Havana with President, Raul Castro, among other activities.

During the NAM Summit, Rouhani handed over the rotating presidency of that group to Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, and expressed confidence in the South American nation and its authorities to assume such responsibility for the coming three years.

During that meeting, he also condemned the expressions of terrorism and interference in the internal affairs that threaten peace and endanger several NAM members.

Tweet of the Day: No Applause for Obama's Cuba and Iran Deals

Cuba Vows to Work Against U.S. Interests, While Further Squeezing Obama

Cuban dictator Raul Castro seems to really (not) be warming up to Obama's overtures and concessions.

After all, it's a unilateral free-for-all for his regime.

At the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Venezuela this weekend, Raul's message was clear -- Cuba will continue working against U.S. interests internationally, while it continues to squeeze every concession (and pressure for more) from Obama.

Castro on international affairs:

"[W]e are witnessing increasing attacks on Venezuela’s sovereignty and self-determination. Cuba reaffirms its unconditional support to the Venezuelan Government and people, to the civic-military union and to constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros.

We strongly repudiate the judicial-parliamentary coup d’état engineered against President Dilma Rouseff, for it is an act of contempt against the sovereign will of the people who elected her with more than 53 million votes.

We express our confidence in the people of the Arab Republic of Syria for we know that they are capable of resolving their differences by themselves without foreign interference aimed at promoting ‘regime change’."

Castro on U.S.-Cuba relations:

"Twenty-one months have passed since our simultaneous announcement with President Barack Obama of the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

There have been some progress, mostly in the diplomatic area and cooperation on issues of common interest, but the same cannot be said of the economic and commercial sectors due to the limited, albeit positive, scope of the measures so far adopted by the U.S. Administration.

Cuba will persevere on its demand to have the economic, commercial and financial blockade lifted, a blockade that brings so much damage and hardship to our people, and which also has a negative impact on many other countries due to its extraterritorial implementation. By the same token, Cuba will continue urging the return to our sovereignty of the territory illegally occupied by the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo.

There will not be normal relations before that issue is resolved and other policies harmful to Cuba’s sovereignty still in force are terminated, such as interventionist and subversive programs.

We reaffirm our disposition to engage the United States Government in a civilized relationship, but Cuba will neither renounce any of its principles nor compromise on its sovereignty and independence. Cuba will not cease defending its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals or supporting the self-determination of all peoples."