Monday, January 26, 2015

Castro's criminal cocaine connection

Cuban dictatorship implicated in drug trafficking while Obama Administration shares drug intelligence with Castro Regime.
Partners in Crime: Manuel Noriega and Fidel Castro
 High ranking Venezuelan defector is now in the United States and is currently serving as a key witness for the DEA and federal prosecutors. El Nuevo Herald is reporting that Salazar has identified Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela's National Assembly, as the leader of the infamous drug-trafficking organization, "Cartel de los Soles". Moreover, he's revealed Cuba's role in the Cartel's narco-trafficking operations, particularly regarding transshipment to the United States. 

Wikileaks has revealed the United States and Cuba, since at least 2009 have been "cooperating" on drug trafficking. Even Fox News Latino has published favorable reporting on this relation ship as recently as January 12, 2015. Unfortunately, the experts cited in news reports regarding the drug problem in Cuba and the regime's relationship to the international drug trade bears no resemblance with reality. The State Department in its 2014 country report on Cuba repeats these claims.

The public discussion surrounding cooperating with the dictatorship on counter-narcotics efforts goes back 25 years. Representative Charlie Rangel on July 3, 1989 in a letter to The New York Times started to make the case for the United States and the Castro regime to cooperate to stop regional drug trafficking. First General Manuel Noriega, an authoritarian dictator, that the U.S. shared drug intelligence with to counter drug trafficking and "showered with letters of commendation and grateful thanks by the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington" was not what U.S. officials claimed in their official reports. Secondly, high ranking Cuban military and intelligence officials had just been revealed to be smuggling large quantities of cocaine into the United States. The timing to be advocating such a policy was on the surface madness. On the other hand it was a good first step in a propaganda campaign to white wash the Castro dictatorship's criminal complicity in the trafficking of hard drugs into the United States. 

Placing this into context

General Noriega was revealed, by Florida prosecutors, to be involved in the smuggling of narcotics into the United States. Frontline in a chronology for the program Thirty Years of America's Drug War revealed that "Panamanian General Manuel Noriega and Pablo Escobar cut a deal which allows Escobar to ship cocaine through Panama for $100,000 per load. The two had met in 1981 when Noriega mediated negotiations for the release of Marta Ochoa. 

Seven years later on February 5, 1988 a federal grand jury in Miami issued an indictment against Panamanian General Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking.  On December 20, 1989 the U.S. military invades Panama and after eluding capture for 22 days Manuel Noriega surrenders to the DEA on January 3, 1990 and is brought to Miami. On July 10, 1992 Noriega is convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, and sentenced to 40 years in federal prison. 

With regards to Cuba, the U.S. State Department on March 1, 1982 declared it a state sponsor of terrorism whose government was was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democratic government. In 2001 at Georgetown University when I questioned General Barry McCaffrey, who at the time was advocating sharing intelligence on drug trafficking with the Castro regime, about this relationship between Cuba and Colombia's drug trafficking guerrillas and he recognized it and expressed his concerns

During General Manuel Noriega's trial information emerged  in 1992 publicly implicating the Castro regime as the Sun Sentinel reported at the time:
"Federal prosecutors say Noriega traveled to Havana to ask [Fidel] Castro to mediate a potentially deadly dispute with top members of Colombia`s Medellin cocaine cartel. They say the cartel chiefs were upset because a major drug lab had been seized in Panama despite payment of millions of dollars in protection money to Noriega.
According to the Noriega indictment, Castro negotiated a peace accord between the cartel and Noriega at the 1984 meeting. The allegation forms a cornerstone of the racketeering and drug trafficking charges against Noriega."
 At the same time convicted cartel leader Carlos Lehder directly implicated Raul Castro and U.S. fugitive Robert Vesco "to route cocaine flights through Cuba."

Capitol Hill Cubans blogged how two years later, a federal indictment listed General Raul Castro as part of a conspiracy that smuggled seven and a half tons of cocaine into the United States over a 10-year period but the Clinton administration overruled prosecutors.

Needless to say sharing drug intelligence with the Castro regime considering its past history and current behavior is not prudent and frankly criminal considering what it will do to some of the most vulnerable in the United States.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Historic meeting between American and Cuban human rights defenders

Rep. John Lewis, Eddy Acevedo,  Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez, Yris Pérez Aguilera,
Today Mario Diaz-Balart tweeted the image of American civil rights icon Representative John Lewis seated at a table with Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez and  Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera remarking "What a historic moment: Three civil and human rights heroes meeting "  There are images that shock and uplift the imagination. The image above is one of these.

The congressman who half a century ago was being beaten bloody and unjustly jailed while engaged in a nonviolent struggle to end Jim Crow segregation in the Deep South in what became known as the Freedom Rides and later marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 in the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights.

Sitting across from him at the same table was Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" who suffered beatings, and spent 17 years and 38 days in prison for his nonviolent defiance of the communist totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba. In 1990 Jorge Luis stood up in a public plaza and called for reforms and was jailed for oral enemy propaganda and would not be released into freedom until 2007. 

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, whose brother Mario was also a political prisoner, would go on to found the Rosa Parks Women's Movement inspired by the woman whose act of defiance in 1955 propelled a young Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence following the Montgomery bus boycott. Yris met her future husband, Antúnez, while visiting her brother in prison. Over the past 15 years she has suffered numerous detentions, beatings, and death threats for her defense of human rights.

Seeing the three of them together seated at the same table is a powerful image.

The Struggle for Cuba's Freedom Continues

 Obama-Castro pact protest vigil

Protest Vigil at Cuban Memorial tonight
 Today, January 22, 2015, marks two years and six months since Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's unexplained deaths.  You who are reading this can do your part signing a petition demanding an international investigation and letting others know about this campaign for justice.

Tonight Cuban Exiles and Cuban Americans gathered together in a protest vigil praying for justice and an end to the dictatorship that has been a nightmare for Cuba for the past 56 years.

At the same time we protested the Obama administration's decision to release Cuban spies that had plotted terrorist attacks against the United States and especially the freeing of one of them serving a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four men extra-judicially executed on February 24, 1996 on the orders of Raul Castro in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.

These four men: Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales were killed while engaged in a search and rescue for Cuban rafters. Their courage and sacrifice are honored.

Tonight we gathered together not only to protest the Obama-Castro Pact but to let the world know that the struggle for Cuba's freedom continues.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Prosecuter found dead hours before testifying on 1994 AMIA Bombing

 Justice denied for two decades and the prosecutor now possibly the latest victim
Alberto Nisman found dead. A forced suicide?
 July 18, 2014 marked 20 years since the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina's history. A siren sounded at the precise time the bomb exploded on July 18, 1994 at 9:53am (1253 GMT) and reduced the seven-story Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) community centre in Buenos Aires to rubble reported the BBC. 85 people were murdered ranging in age from 5 years old to 67 years old and more than 300 hundred wounded. 20 years later those responsible for this act of terrorism remain at large. A movement to pay homage to the victims of this crime continues to remember and demand justice two decades later that continues to elude the families of the victims.

Protesters: "I am Nisman"
The failure to close the case 20 years later has now taken a more troubling and potentially sinister turn. Alberto Nisman, who was Jewish, was found dead in his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head. Some over social media are describing him as the 86th victim to have been claimed more than 20 years later on January 18, 2015 in what the government has declared a suicide, but thousands have taken to the street questioning the official version. Nisman was the prosecutor who spent a decade investigating the case and had accused high ranking government officials of allegedly obstructing the investigation was found dead the day before he was due to testify before Congress. No suicide letter was found. Reuters reported the following:
State prosecutor Alberto Nisman, the lead investigator into the 1994 car bomb attack that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was found dead in his apartment late on Sunday, hours before he was scheduled to present his case to Congress.
A 22-caliber pistol was found at his side and Nisman appears to have committed suicide, but many of the details of the case are unclear and allegations of foul play have surged. He died just a few days after accusing President Cristina Fernandez of trying to hamper his probe.
This case needs to be monitored closely as does the investigation into the worse single attack on Jews since World War 2 that has been linked to Iran.

85 victims of July 18, 1994 AMIA bombing


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

History repeats itself: Lessons from Libya and Syria for Cuba

Gaddafi and Obama (2009) Obama and Castro (2013)
The ongoing disasters in Libya and Syria are demonstrations of 1.) the failure of engaging and normalizing relations with tyrants and 2.) paying lip service to human rights violations and ignoring nonviolent opposition activists until the stench of death and the threat to regional interests ends in a military response that is also a dismal failure. At the end of the day the West ends up looking the other way impotently not having advanced freedom or stability. Unfortunately, the new Obama policy on Cuba promises more of the same. However, there is another way but first a brief review of what hasn't work.

The Syrian opposition had its greatest successes when it maintained a nonviolent posture. Unfortunately when the Assad regime was in retreat and elements of the military switched sides the temptation to end things quickly with violence only ended up in dramatically driving up the body count and strengthening the dictatorship that is in a stronger position today while at the same time leading to the spread of ISIS. In Libya the West's embrace of Gaddafi and disengagement from dissidents on the ground who rose up during the Arab Spring; followed by the quick backing of NATO did not allow for a nascent nonviolent movement to get very far. Foreign backing was able to drive Gaddafi from power, but that which was born in violence in Libya has not brought freedom or stability to that country.

Small moral compromises that led to failure

In the case of Libya in 2009 the lone convicted terrorist of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, a Libyan intelligence officer, who was jailed in 2001 was freed and sent back to Muammar Gaddafi. Thousands welcomed home as a hero the Lockerbie bomber who murdered 270 people in 1988 when he blew up Pan Am Flight 103. At the time time President Barack Obama said the release was a mistake, but five years later he released Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, 49, a Cuban intelligence officer, jailed in1998 for the murder of four people in 1996 was returned to Raul Castro and a hero's welcome in Cuba.

What appears to be a small moral compromise in the service of a larger policy agenda, the freeing of murderous intelligence officers for business interests or the release of a hostage, often times return to haunt policy makers. The message not only to the Castro regime's security services but to others is clear: you can get away with multiple murders and the United States will eventually relent if you have an American hostage.

History repeats itself?
This combined with business and political interests in the United States corrupting themselves in order to pursue trade with the Castro dictatorship and the perpetuation of decades more of dictatorship will be the end result. Economic engagement that modernizes totalitarian dictatorships has led to richer countries in China and Vietnam with worsening human rights standards that are now impacting internationally. Repeating this approach in Cuba while rewarding repression promises the same outcome. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the first time that the United States backed a left wing dictatorship with the collusion of the Catholic Church and condemned an entire people to more than 70 years of what became known as the perfect dictatorship.

Withdrawing consent and regaining sovereignty
Finally in the current debate on Cuba there is a case that is not being made in Washington DC: that Cubans withdrawing their consent nonviolently with an international community that is willing to demonstrate its solidarity with them, and not empowering the dictatorship oppressing the Cuban people, is the best means to achieve a successful transition. This is why national opposition figures such as Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas who could have over seen a democratic transition have met with untimely deaths.

University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns. Finally there study also suggests “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.” This also depends on the nonviolent opposition movement having a strategic vision and maintaining its non-violent posture even under the worse repression.

Change must come from the bottom up if a democratic order is to emerge in Cuba.