Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 20 Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter 2016 blog entries

A memorable year

These are the top 20 blog entries of the year arranged in chronological order. George Santayana understood the importance of remembering the past in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. The first post of the year took a look back at data that exploded a number of false premises about Cuba.

Early in 2016 The Wall Street Journal broke the news that the Castro intelligence services had taken possession of a U.S. Hellfire missile used in NATO military exercises in Europe in 2014 and refused to return it to the Obama Administration despite requests from The White House. On February 24th  friends and families of the four men murdered in the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown gathered together in acts of remembrance. In March, President Obama and his family paid a state visit to Cuba and legitimized the Castro regime before the international community, the President ended his visit taking in a baseball game with Raul Castro. Following President Obama's visit the Rolling Stones put on a concert in Cuba. April saw a public debate emerge in Miami Beach about opening up a Cuban consulate there and the City of Miami Beach Commission voted against it.

New controversies emerged surrounding the Obama administration's Cuba opening and discrimination against Cuban Americans both by private companies (Carnival Cruise Lines and American Airlines) and the new U.S. Embassy in Havana. Throughout 2016 reports of increased violence and repression were reported with some disturbing pictures becoming public. On July 13th vigils were held in Miami and Washington DC for victims of the July 13 tugboat sinking in 1994 and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero killed on July 22, 2012 .  On that same day in a Congressional hearing chaired by Congressman Chris Smith both Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, and Sirley Avila Leon testified on the human rights situation in Cuba.

In August, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported a dramatic increase in religious repression in Cuba in 2016 and a former British Ambassador to Cuba lamented the military business empire's takeover of economic activity in Havana. In October President Obama issued a new directive on Cuba that called for American intelligence agencies to cooperate with Castro's secret police that will hopefully be rolled back by the incoming Administration. Candidate Hillary Clinton's support for continuing the Obama Cuba policy led the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association to endorse Donald Trump for President that same month. Long time Congressional critics of Obama's Cuba policy in South Florida swept into office in a wave on election day.

On November 25, 2016 the Castro regime reported that Fidel Castro had died. Celebrations broke out in Miami, Florida to celebrate the tyrant's death.

January 1, 2016

Exposing 11 Myths of the Revolution in Cuba and the Current Regime

Cuba Facts
Compiled by John Suarez

1. Myth: There is a U.S. blockade on Cuba 
Reality: Between January 2001 and October 2015 under the United States Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancements Act the value of authorized agricultural and food product exports to the Republic of Cuba was $5,234,400,000.00 1. It is estimated that US Cubans send $800 million a year in remittances to Cuba. The United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America found evidence for a sharp rise in remittances to Cuba in 1995 and 1996: in 1990 $100 million, in 1993 $300 million and in 1995 $600 million. These figures are in comparison with the country's gross export earnings from sugar ($1 billion), tourism ($1.4 billion) and foreign investment ($200 million). Prior to 1993 it was the Castro regime that prohibited the circulation of U.S. dollars in the Cuban populace. 2

January 8, 2016

How did a U.S. Hellfire missile end up in Cuba and why won't the Cuban dictatorship return it?

"A great empire and little minds go ill together." - Edmund Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America, March 22, 1775

Mystery: How did a US Hellfire missile (pictured above) end up in Cuba?
Last night The Wall Street Journal broke the story that in 2014 an inert US Hellfire missile sent to Europe for a training exercise was wrongly shipped on to Cuba. Since then the United States has been asking the Cuban dictatorship to return the missile but it has not done so. The United States government is still investigating whether the missile's disappearance was an act of espionage or incompetence.

February 24, 2016

Brothers to the Rescue and the Shootdown Conspiracy 20 years later

"Only through non violent means can we cleanse the Cuban nation from the hatred instilled by the dictatorship in Cuban hearts. The nonviolent methods have proven to be the most effective and humanitarian means of resistance against Castro's totalitarian state." - Jose Basulto, Our Struggle, March 2, 1996 
Painting of Brothers to the Rescue shootdown
Twenty years have passed since the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, but the regime that ordered this act of state terrorism remains in power and continues to behave in a criminal fashion murdering nonviolent dissidents and smuggling weapons to outlaw regimes such as North Korea. At the same time, it is important to remember the significance of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, the four lives lost that day and the struggle still being carried out by their families for justice and reconciliation.

March 3, 2016

Music Freedom Day 2016: Cuban music still censored by regime in 2016

 Reflection for Music Freedom Day

Rolling Stones to play free concert in Cuba on March 25th

The Rolling Stones have announced that they will perform a concert in Havana, Cuba on Friday March 25, 2016.  The free concert will take place at the Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana.  Before going any further, let me state for the record that I saw the band in concert during the Steel Wheels Tour in Miami, Florida at the Orange Bowl on November 15, 1989 and enjoy their music.

The international press has been dutifully reporting on how the Castro regime "prohibited the sale of the band’s records, considering its music a symbol of capitalism." However, this "cultural liberalization" of permitting foreign rock bands to play in Cuba is not new, but can be traced back to March 2, 2001 when the first major British rock bandThe Manics, played in Cuba. Months earlier on December 8, 2000 John Lennon was "politically rehabilitated" on the 20th anniversary of his death, by no less than Fidel Castro who unveiled a statue, and by regime spokesmen who would try to claim him as an ideological fellow traveler.

March 4, 2016

Major League Baseball proposes to go into business with Castro Inc.

Major League Baseball's indecent proposal
Antonio Castro, Cuban dictatorship's point man for baseball business
Major League Baseball has sent a proposal to the U.S. Treasury Department that will turn baseball players into foreign workers of the Castro family while playing in the United States. This may already be going on informally with some recent "defectors" to the United States who have been allowed to return to Cuba. The Castro regime began "allowing" its players to play professionally in Mexico, Canada and Japan in 2013 for a percentage of their contracts.   

March 19, 2016

Some observations on President Obama's upcoming trip to Cuba

Ominous clouds on the eve of an official visit 

President Obama's official visit to Cuba: Legitimizing Castro or helping democrats?
President Barack Obama arrives in Cuba on March 20, 2016 with his family for an official visit to the Castro dictatorship in the administration's continuing effort to make the new United States policy towards the country irreversible after he leaves office.  However, history has demonstrated that engaging dictatorships inevitably has profoundly negative consequences despite the best intentions. The last U.S. president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

March 23, 2016

Obama in Cuba: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

"[T]here is no distinguishing between good or better dictatorships; between left-wing or right-wing dictatorships; they are simply dictatorships." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas,“Fifty Years without Freedom”  January 2, 2009

On March 21, 2016 President Obama laid a wreath at Havana's José Martí Memorial
President Barack Obama and his family made history this week when they visited Cuba beginning on Sunday, March 20th  and leaving for Argentina on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 22nd. Whether one is a supporter or a critic of the President's Cuba policy this fact cannot be denied. However what the impact of this official visit will be in the weeks, months and years to come requires an analysis that looks at what was positive, what was negative, and the imagery surrounding the visit. In short looking at what was good, what was bad and what images could be viewed as unfortunate or negative i.e. ugly through the optics of what would help Cubans be the authors of their own destiny versus assisting the Castro regime in a dynastic succession to secure power for another generation.

April 11, 2016

Spies in the Ointment: Downside of going to Cuba to get "A Revolutionary Perspective on Education"

 Do participants in "A Revolutionary Perspective on Education" know what they are getting into?

Florida International University and The University of New Mexico are organizing a 9-day trip to Cuba in what they say is a "people to people program" that will "focus on educational practice and philosophy on the island."

"The program kicks off on July 8, 2016 in Miami, Florida, with a one-day educational training session led by FIU Cuban Studies experts." From July 9th until July 17th participants will be introduced to Cuba's totalitarian regime complete with at least two propaganda sessions that portray the dictatorship in a positive light.

April 13, 2016

Debate over Castro Consulates in the USA: Some Observations

Today the City of Miami Beach Commission voted for the interests of Miami Beach residents by not welcoming a Castro Consulate there.

Debating Miami Beach Mayor welcoming a Cuban Consulate in Miami Beach
Beginning on March 24, 2016 this blog has engaged in the conversation on whether or not opening consulates of the Castro regime in the United States is a good idea or not. The conversation initially focused on the wisdom of opening a Cuba Consulate in Miami-Dade County. The controversy was compounded by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Ricky Arriola who met with Cuban diplomat Gustavo Machin, during President Obama's visit to Cuba and announced that they would welcome a Cuban Consulate on Miami Beach.

May 10, 2016

Questions for the US embassy in Havana, Cuba on U.S. Citizens Services section addressing Cuban Americans

 Some questions about the US embassy in Havana and its warnings to Cuban Americans

Cuba is a lawless autocracy with exhibit A being its response to the Varela Project, a citizen initiative that should be legal within existing Cuban law, but instead led to a massive crackdown and long prison sentences in 2003. This is further concrete proof that the regime in Cuba is a tyranny.

Within this context the statement from the United States embassy in Havana regarding the rights of Cuban-Americans and natural born Americans of Cuban descent is of great concern. The Obama administration has engaged in a policy of unilateral concessions in an effort to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship. This has emboldened the regime in Cuba. Repression and violence are spiking in numbers not seen in decades.

May 13, 2016

Dissident Family Brutalized in Attack by Castro Paramilitaries

Husband hangs between life and death; son suffers skull fracture. 

The past seven years in Cuba has been marked by escalations in the number of arbitrary detentionsseverity of violent assaults against the democratic opposition, and the extrajudicial killings of high profile pro-democracy leaders. The Cuban Democratic Directorate's press release reproduced below is another example of the worsening human rights situation on the island. Above photos taken from the twitter feed of Cuban opposition leader and former prisoner of conscience Angel Moya.

June 13, 2016

Meeting Cuban human rights defender Dr. Biscet nineteen years later

"There is an intellectual awakening taking place in Cuba that goes beyond economic necessities and many interpret Obama’s warm embrace with the tyrant as a sign that the U.S. has abandoned a people in search of liberty. […] Liberty is not a political issue, it is a moral issue…” - Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, Diario de las Americas, May 28, 2016

With Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and filmmaker Jordan Allot at Victims of Communism dinner
From Pro-Life activist to human rights defender 
First heard of Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, a Cuban medical doctor, purged from his post by the Castro regime for founding a human rights group, the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, and for his investigation into the use of the drug Rivanol to induce abortions in pregnant women with or without their consent in 1997.

June 29, 2016

Vacation Travel to Cuba: How it shores up a totalitarian dictatorship

“Tourism only fuels the [Castro] regime's repressive machinery.” Sirley Ávila León

Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and Ambassador James Cason
Today at the University of Miami the words of Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet on the current reality in Cuba and its parallels with the Apartheid regime led to a new reflection on tourism to the island.  In the past have written on the fact that the Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship and visiting it will not lead to a better understanding of the island, but often just the opposite being turned into an agent of influence for the Castro regime. 

July 10, 2016

CNN Series "Declassified," at 10 p.m. tonight on Ana Montes, spy who did great damage to U.S.

Ana Belen Montes spent sixteen years within the Defense Intelligence Agency rising up in the ranks and all the time spying against the United States for the Castro regime's intelligence service. She was only discovered after behaving in an unusual manner before and during the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down and she had engaged in an influence operation prior to the attack. Arrested in September of 2001 and sentenced to a long prison term now it is rumored that President Obama will exchange her for a cop killer fugitive in Cuba. Tonight's CNN program should explain to viewers why that is a bad idea.

Tonight: Go inside the mission that led to Ana Montes' arrest on CNN Original Series "Declassified," 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNN.

Text taken from CNN:

The most dangerous U.S. spy you've never heard of

July 14, 2016

Recent Crimes of the Castro Regime: Sirley’s Testimony Before Congress on July 13th

These Remarks Were Given Before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on July 13, 2016 at 3:30pm.

Sirley Ávila León testifying before Congress on July 13, 2016

My name is Sirley Ávila León. I am Cuban and I live in Cuba. Because of my work as a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power for the Majibacoa municipality since 2005, I have seen the double standards of our leaders, who in reality are not interested in the people. The biggest problems were bureaucratic: there was so much corruption that the system did not work. From the beginning, I started to take interest in the lives of the citizens and in particular the children of my region, who walked more than 9 kilometers through difficult roads in order to attend the nearest school. The parents, needing to accompany their children, had no time to cultivate their land, despite the abject poverty in which they lived. Some emigrated to other villages in order to spare their children. I set myself to the task of demanding the school that the neighborhood needed so much. I reached the highest echelons of power in Cuba, passing through all the intermediate levels, and although I managed to get a school built, it was soon closed, leaving the village and rural children in the same situation of helplessness. 

August 17, 2016

Religious repression worsens in Cuba

More churches are being destroyed in Cuba and pastors harassed and beaten in 2016

 On August 16, 2016 Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported that the pace of church demolitions in Cuba was increasing. According to CSWin their latest report on freedom of belief or religion there were 1,606 separate violations between January and July 2016.  This worsening situation compound the explosive growth of repression last year. In 2015 there was a tenfold increase in religious repression compared to 2014 with 2,300 separate violations recorded in 2015 compared to 220 in 2014.

August 30, 2016

Military takeover of Havana: Another sign things are getting worse in Cuba

In spite of the normalization of relations between the Castro regime in Cuba and the Obama administration the situation has not improved, and the military continues to consolidate its control over the Cuban economy as the Castro brothers prepare their generational succession with the de facto approval of the White House. The former British Ambassador to Cuba, Paul Hare, explains below how things are getting worse for reformers in Cuba.

Former British Ambassador to Cuba, Paul Hare
 The Miami Herald, August 29, 2016

More bad news for new ideas in Cuba

Read more here:

October 14, 2016

Stark Contrast: Reality in Cuba vs The White House Narrative

In memory of  Laura Pollán, Ladies in White founder, who died under suspicious circumstances five years ago today in Cuba. A victim of President Obama's good intentions in Cuba.  

President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice earlier today
The White House today made public a Presidential policy directive on United States-Cuba Normalization that is divorced from reality on numerous fronts. The directive purports to do a number of things as outlined below:
(1) describes the U.S. vision for normalization with Cuba and how our policy aligns with U.S. national security interests; (2) assesses progress toward normalization; (3) describes the current and foreseen strategic landscape; (4) describes priority objectives for normalization; and (5) directs actions required to implement this PPD.
 It also serves as a useful guideline for a critical appraisal that was not present today at The Wilson Center when National Security Adviser Susan Rice made the case for the President's Cuba policy without mentioning the worsening collapse in trade between the United States and Cuba over the past three years, the exodus of over a 100,000 Cuban refugees to the United States since December 2014, and the return of a Russian military presence to Cuba after a decades long absence. Not to mention rising violence and repression against Cuban dissidents during the Obama administration not seen in years.

October 26, 2016

The reason why Brigade 2506 endorsed Donald Trump

Why in a tight race in Florida the Cuban vote could be decisive

Mr. Donald Trump accepting endorsement by Brigade 2506 on October 25, 2016
The Brigade 2506 Veterans Association formally endorsed Donald Trump for President yesterday afternoon and received him at The Bay of Pigs Museum in Little Havana. This is the first endorsement for President ever made by the Brigade in its six decade long history. 

As the insults rain down from those partisans upset with the Trump endorsement a natural question arises: Why after more than a half century of formal neutrality in Presidential elections did the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association decide to endorse a candidate?

November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead but the evil he did lives on

Castro's legacy and Cuba's killing fields

Executed in Santiago de Cuba by the Castro regime in 1959
Fidel Castro, the Cuban tyrant, who presided over the extrajudicial execution of thousands of his countrymen, the destruction of Cuba, twice called for a nuclear first strike on the United States, sponsored terrorism across the world, collaborated with genocidal dictators who murdered millions in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East is dead at age 90. An official statement from the Cuban Embassy in the United States said he died on November 26, 2016 at 10:29pm.

Fidel Castro with ally and war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia 1977

No comments:

Post a Comment