Saturday, January 2, 2016

Top 15 Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter 2015 blog entries

Tough year for Cuban freedom

These are the top 15 blog entries of the year in terms of visits arranged in chronological order. George Santayana understood the importance of remembering the past in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. The first two blog entries turned conventional wisdom upside down reporting on the decline in trade during the Obama Administration and the brutal torture and murder of a Cuban American attorney visiting Havana, Cuba in January 2015. 

Swissleaks exposed the banking practices of the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes and how they have their own 1% living very well while the majority in their respective countries live in misery. 

The conventional wisdom views detente as something positive but the historical says different and that was explored on this blog. An example of how this approach is disastrous was seen in April in Panama with Cuban diplomats disrupting the Summit of the Americas and attacking dissidents in a public park and later organized acts of repudiation against them when they returned home to Cuba. 

Despite continuing bad acts the Obama administration  took Cuba off the list of state terror sponsors. On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta this blog reflected on Cuba's Varela Project. Meanwhile both North Korea and Cuba made outrageous healthcare claims that were examined in this blog. This followed an examination of rising violence in Cuba in what appeared to be a correlation with U.S. outreach to the dictatorship while marginalizing and ignoring Cuban democrats that has generated a body count. 

In a presidential election year the Clinton record on Cuba was examined and found wanting. This blog also reported on the show trial of Leopoldo López Mendoza and the unjust verdict of guilt and sentence of 13 years and 9 months in prison. Cuban exiles protested against Raul Castro in New York City and against the Obama administration's Cuba policy in Washington DC. A soap opera of the Cuban music sensation Celia Cruz offered an opportunity to discuss how her music was censored in Cuba and she was banned by the dictatorship from returning. 

1. What the Associated Press left out of its story on Cuba Trade and the US Embargo

What Agribusiness and the Castro regime prefer you did not know: 1. How American agribusiness and members of Congress signed "advocacy contracts" in exchange for the purchase of exports and became lobbyists for the dictatorship. 2. How Castro dictatorship stopped making payments to trading partners of what they owed in order to buy billions in U.S. exports during the Bush years. 

Associated Press coverage of Cuba over the past few years has been a source of controversy with well founded claims of bias. On January 5, 2014 a new episode unfolded with the article by Michael Weissenstein "Figures show US-Cuba trade hit decade low last year." The first paragraph blames "long standing barriers to trade" but the second paragraph states: The statistics from the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council show that U.S. farmers sold slightly more than $253 million worth of food and agricultural products to Cuba in the first 10 months of 2014. If the last two months of the year reflect similar sales levels, 2014 could be the worst year for U.S. exports to Cuba since 2004. What is not mentioned in the article is that the peak years of the Castro regime purchasing U.S. food and agricultural products was during the Bush Administration. In August of 2008 the Cuban dictatorship said that the United States was its fifth leading trade partner. With the entrance of the Obama Administration in 2009 and its policy of loosening Bush era restrictions trade between the two countries has been consistently lower.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2. Cuban American attorney killed in Cuba last week while visiting family

Details still murky
Albert Romero killed in Cuba
Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Alberto Romero (age 39), a Tampa based marital and family law attorney, was killed in Cuba while visiting extended family last week either on Thursday night or Friday morning. [...] The victims were found after a friend of Cruz Navarro tried to communicate with him and would not respond to his calls. Shortly afterwards the owner of the home went to the room rented by Romero and found the crime scene. The two men were tied up, beaten, stabbed and in the case of the Cuban American atttorney one hand was severed according to the source. Martí Noticias obtained a copy of the death certificate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

3. Communists from Cuba and Venezuela with Swiss bank accounts

How communists cultivate more poverty and inequality

 The regimes in Caracas and Havana speak of social justice and defending the poor, but in practice they are the opposite of what they claim. Dictators with absolute power who once and while are revealed for who they truly are: a rich and unaccountable minority plundering the riches of once great nations whose peoples are spiraling into deeper poverty and misery.

Friday, March 13, 2015

4. Lessons from Eastern Europe on Engagement: Poland and Romania

"I think detente had manifestly failed, and that the pursuit of it was encouraging Soviet expansion and rendering the world more dangerous, and especially rendering the Western world in greater peril." - Jeane Kirkpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to the UN for President Reagan

Ronald Reagan entered office on January 20, 1981 and on December 13, 1981 the communist regime in Poland had declared martial law and was cracking down on the Solidarity movement. 10,000 people were rounded up and about 100 died during martial law. Ronald Reagan in his Christmas Address on December 23, 1981 denounced the crackdown (beginning at 4 minutes into the above video) and outlined economic sanctions against Poland while demanding that the human rights of the Polish people be respected. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

5. The Castro Regime's idea of dialogue: The monologue of the closed fist

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. - George Orwell

Leticia Ramos and Augusto Monge attacked in Panama
Yesterday it was seen dramatically at Porra park in Panama City when a group of Cuban dissidents from the diaspora and the island sought to lay flowers before a bust of Jose Marti and were subjected to a violent act of repudiation by Castro regime state security. Carlos Alberto Montaner reported on twitter:  They have identified the ringleader of the attacks on Cuban democrats in Panama. It is Col. Alexis Frutos Weeden, head of Cuban intelligence in Venezuela.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

6. State security organizes mobs to attack Cuban resistance leaders

 Update: State security agents repeatedly made death threats against Jorge Luís García Perez “Antunez” in reprisal for his trip to Panama and the Summit of the Americas
Jorge Luís García Perez “Antunez and Iván Fernández Depestre

Link to audio denouncing regime action (In Spanish):

Placetas, Villa Clara April 14, 2015. Assembly of the Cuban Resistance. Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", National Secretary of the National Resistance Front Orlando Zapata Tamayo denounces over telephone that Cuban State Security has given orders to the populace of Placetas, to do a violent act of repudiation in reprisal for his presence as a member of the Cuban resistance last week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

7. Ten reasons that Cuba under the Castro regime should have remained on the list of terror sponsors

Cuba was listed until May 29, 2015
 The regime in Cuba has a long history of sponsoring terrorism and training terrorists that the Obama administration has sought to minimize and ignore in its drive to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship. Despite evidence that the Castro regime is linked to drug trafficking and engaged in the smuggling of weapons to an outlaw regime (North Korea in July 15, 2013) and to terrorist guerrillas ( Colombia February 28, 2015) the Obama administration today removed Cuba from the list of state terror sponsors.

Monday, June 15, 2015

8. The Varela Project: Cuba's Great Charter

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - Magna Carta,  June 15, 1215

Today the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta is being observed in the United Kingdom and it is important to look at societies where authoritarian or totalitarian dictatorships continue to systematically deny freedom and how citizens in those societies have appealed for change echoing elements of "The Great Charter." In Cuba, the Varela Project, under the dictatorship of the Castro brothers to date is the most serious challenge where more than 25,000 Cubans petitioned the regime to reform itself in 2002-2003.  This led to the dictatorship altering the constitution to prevent amendments that would reform the system, imprisoning scores of petition organizers in March of 2003, and on July 22, 2012 extrajudicially killing Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante of the Christian Liberation Movement who had led the initiative. This citizen's demand remains active and like the Magna Carta was not a single event but a process that is still underway.

Friday, July 3, 2015

9. Examining Cuba and North Korea healthcare claims

"Communist political violence flowed from a utopian vision of the future, from the great goals pursued, and from the intolerance the service of these ideals inspired, as well as from an intense attachment to power. The means had to be subordinated to historically unparalleled ends that require extraordinary measures." - Paul Hollander, The Distinctive Features of Repression in Communist States

Regimes in Cuba and North Korea are totalitarian allies
 Both Cuba and North Korea are totalitarian dictatorships that have made claims of great achievements in the area of healthcare over the course of the past month. On June 19, 2015 the regime in North Korea said that it had "created a wonder drug which not only cures AIDS, but also eradicates Ebola and cancer."  At the same time North Korea has approximately 10.2 million North Koreans currently facing famine. On June 30, 2015 the World Health Organization said that the regime in Cuba had "became the first country in the world to receive validation from WHO that it has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis." This is the same regime in Cuba that tried to cover up or under report dengue and cholera outbreaks jailing doctors and reporters who warned of the outbreaks at the time in order to preserve a false image of its healthcare system. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

10. Policy paper shows correlation between US engagement and rising repression in Cuba: The Obama Administration’s Cuba Engagement Policy and Rising Repression

“The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” – The White House December 17, 2014 

Sirley Ávila León: Holds state security responsible for May 2015 machete attack
  • Levels of violence and numbers of arbitrary detentions have grown exponentially during the 18 months of secret negotiations between the Castro regime and the Obama administration. 
  • Human Rights defenders were victims of brutal, life threatening machete attacks in the same month that secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Castro dictatorship started. 
  • The December 17, 2014 announcement of normalized relations was surrounded by repression, violence and death. 
  • There has been an explosion of arbitrary detentions in Cuba, jumping from an average of 550 per month to 742. 
  • The Castro regime has been implicated in heightening repression against pro-democracy activists in Venezuela, including extrajudicial killings.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

11. Correcting the historical record: The Clintons and The Castro brothers

Why friends of a free Cuba should be protesting against the Clintons.
Clinton and Kerry: No friends of Cuban democracy activists
 Hillary Clinton is going to Florida International University tomorrow to make a foreign policy speech in which she will apparently call for the end of the embargo on the Castro dictatorship. What is surprising is that this is news because back in June 2014 in her book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton wrote that she had been urging President Obama to end the embargo on Cuba. Unfortunately, when advocates of normalized relations in 2015 claim that the sanctions policy has been in place for 55 years and that diplomatic relations have been nonexistent they overlook some key facts that get in the way of their narrative. [...] Bill Clinton in 1994 initiated regular contacts between the U.S. and Cuban military that included joint military exercises at the Guantanamo Naval base. ( Despite his rhetoric George W. Bush continued the practice during his presidency.) Despite this improvement of relations the 1990s saw some of those brutal massacres of Cubans that are rightly remembered such as the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. The shoot down involved two planes blown to bits over international airspace by Cuban MiGs killing three American citizens and a Cuban resident who were engaged in the search and rescue of Cuban rafters. Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban spies freed by Obama on December 17, 2014, was serving a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder for his role in these killings.  Jose Basulto, one of the survivors, who escaped in a third plane accuses the Clinton administration of complicity in the killings.

Friday, August 14, 2015

12. The body count during the normalization of relations in Cuba

“Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba.” - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, March 30, 2012
The United States Embassy in Havana
 Cuba is much more than the dictatorship that has oppressed Cubans for 56 years, but in its official dialogue the Obama State Department by excluding Cuban democrats from the official opening of the embassy today confuses the two. Worse yet, the snub to Cuban democrats arises out of a fear that the dictatorship's apparatchiks would not attend. Combine this with Admiral John Kirby, the State Department spokesman  threatening to physically remove Rosa Maria Paya, who had proper accreditation as a member of the press from the State Department press conference with Secretary Kerry and the Castro regime's foreign minister on July 20, 2015 makes the message crystal clear.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

13. Show trial in Venezuela sentences Leopoldo Lopez to 13 years and 9 months in prison

 All With Leopoldo!

Learned tonight that Leopoldo López Mendoza was sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison.The four student protesters charged alongside Lopez had all been released on probation. The show trial has concluded. The injustice continues. The struggle to free Leopoldo Lopez and the many others prisoners of conscience in Venezuela continues. Condemned by this judicial farce is the Maduro regime that now stands revealed as a dictatorship that imprisons its nonviolent, democratic opposition leaders. This also means that the South American country is a satellite of Cuba.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

14. Why we are protesting Raul Castro in New York City

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Protests on September 28th at the UN and Cuban Mission
On September 28, 2015 in New York City at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and in front of the United Nations Cuban exiles gathered to protest Raul Castro. The question asked by many was why we were protesting? Below is an attempt to provide a succinct answer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

15. Celebrating Celia Cruz and her decision to live and sing in freedom

How the Castro regime sought to censor and punish Celia Cruz for living in freedom

Celia Cruz: The Queen of Salsa
On October 21st the world will observe the 90th anniversary of the birth in Havana, Cuba of Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso better known as Celia Cruz. Last night Telemundo aired the first of an 80 part - novela of the life of the woman who would become known as the Queen of Salsa and "La Guarachera de Cuba". The first episode is available online.  However in Cuba the Castro regime continues to ban the music of Celia Cruz from the radio airwaves. She is not alone. There are other banned Cuban musicians of great importance. The above censorship is widely known, but not as well known is that when the mother of Celia Cruz was dying the Cuban musical icon was blocked by Fidel Castro from returning to Cuba to say goodbye to her mom or attend her funeral afterwards.  This practice still goes on today with Cuban dissidents in the diaspora barred arbitrarily from seeing their loved ones by the Castro regime. 

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