Wednesday, April 29, 2015

China and Cuba: A brief shared history

Presentation made today at the Tenth Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference
Chinese leader Xi Jinping meeting Fidel Castro in Havana on July 22, 2014
 On March 2, 2015 the news broke that the government of Colombia had seized a shipment of ammunition bound for Cuba on a China-flagged ship due to a lack of proper documentation.

The BBC reported that "Officials said about 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board. The ship's records said it was carrying grain products."

The Guardian reported: "The captain of a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship has been arrested in the Colombian port city of Cartagena, charged with arms trafficking for transporting undocumented large-caliber munitions, reportedly bound for Cuba."

According to The Guardian the final destination is a front company for the Cuban military and the ammunition was supplied by a Chinese manufacturer:

Photos of the crates containing the gunpowder, published by the Cartagena newspaper El Universal, showed they were destined for a company called TecnoImport in Cuba, which according to several blogs is a procurement branch of the Cuban armed forces.
The company officially lists itself as an importer of machinery and industrial products. The supplier is listed on the crates as Norico, a Chinese manufacturer of machinery and chemical products, as well high-tech defense products.
What goes unmentioned in the reporting is that the ship with COSCO markings, although presented as a commercial entity, is apparently an arm of the Chinese military establishment. COSCO ships have also been involved in smuggling weapons into the United States.

Before Castro
The relationship between Cuba and China predates the Castro regime (1959) and the Cuban Republic (1902) beginning while Cuba was still a Spanish Colony. The first Chinese arrived in Cuba about 1847. Spain signed a trade treaty with the Qing Government in 1864 that allowed Chinese to work in all Spanish colonies, and made it legal for Cuba to hire Chinese workers. The Diplomatic Courier in 2013 reported on Chinese immigration to Cuba in the nineteenth century:
Between 1847 and 1889, more than 125,000 semi-indentured Chinese peasants, mostly from Guangdong and Fujian provinces, sailed to Cuba as coolies to work on Spanish sugar and tobacco plantations. Recruited in China by brokers for plantation owners looking for low-cost alternatives to the dwindling supply of African slaves, Chinese peasants were enticed by offers of 20-30 cents a day. Many more arrived from the United States where they had been building (and dying on) the most dangerous stretches of the transcontinental railroad.
Kathleen López, writing in Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History , described how Chinese Cubans were involved in the forging of the Cuban republic. They fought in the wars of independence and sided with and supported the independence movement against Spanish rule on the island in the Ten Years war (1868 - 1878) and the Cuban War of Independence (1895 - 1898). 

Chinese migrants, primarily male, intermarried with Cuban women of Spanish and African descent. Another wave of immigration took place following the end of nationalist rule in mainland China in 1949. Sadly, those who fled to Cuba (along with many other Chinese Cubans) would also have to flee Cuba in 1959 while others went up into the hills and fought in a guerrilla struggle against the communist dictatorship in Cuba and were killed or imprisoned for decades in Castro's prisons. Many Chinese Cubans relocated in Miami and New York City.

Castro regime
Fidel Castro broke relations with Taiwan in 1960 and recognized Communist China. It was the first country in Latin America to recognize the communist regime. However, a closer working relationship with the Soviet Union, was a contributing factor to his public reproach of the Peoples Republic of China and Mao Ze Dong on March 20, 1966:
Cuba was also capable of a dignified denunciation of the economic aggression committed against us by the government of China in an act of stupidity and political blindness, and Cuba formerly passed a judgment on Kennedy that he deserved for his crimes against our country. That means that although we are a small nation we will not be intimidated or subjugated by anybody. ... And I warn him that Mao Tse-Tung will not appreciate being listed with Kennedy and the league of Yugoslav communists.
The alliance with the Soviet Union also accounts for publicly criticizing Chinese incursions into Vietnam, another Soviet ally,  in 1979.

The Diplomatic Courier described what happened to the Chinese Cuban community in the first decade of the Castro regime:
"Conditions in Cuba, especially for those of Chinese descent, improved little under Fidel Castro. When Castro came to power, Chinese Cubans, who numbered more than 50,000, at least still had their own ethnic community with private businesses centred in Havana’s Barrio Chinoc. But in 1968 they became one of the targets of Castro’s Revolutionary Offensive, a socialist campaign launched in March to jump-start economic growth and curb individualism—the Cuban counterpart of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution combined, and equally disastrous. Chinese Cubans saw their businesses confiscated and fell under renewed racial and political discrimination. Many finally left Cuba. By the 1990s, only some 20,000 second-generation Chinese Cubans remained, most poor and no longer identifying with their Chinese cultural roots."
CCTV in 2012 reported that there were less than 300 ethnic Chinese left in Cuba. What they leave unmentioned is that the destruction of that century old community was a result of the Castro dictatorship and its policies.

With the rise of Gorbachev and his policies of Glasnost and Perestroika relations cooled with the Soviet Union and began to warm with the Peoples Republic of China. Twenty five years ago, in June of 1989, it was the Cuban regime in Havana that expressed support for Beijing's brutal repression of protesters in Tiananmen Square with the Cuban foreign minister commending Chinese authorities for "defeating the counterrevolutionary acts."

Pin Zuo in his monograph "A survey of the relationship between Cuba and China: A Chinese Perspective" reported how "Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Cuba in November 1993. It was the first Chinese leader’s state  visit to Cuba. Fidel Castro was invited to an official visit to China in November 1995, his first visit to China." The visits have continued and ties have been strengthened since then.

Chinese and Cubans have also been systematically spying on the phone conversations of tens of millions of Americans. It began in the 1960s with the Lourdes spy base in Cuba that was first operated by the Russians and kept running with the help of the Chinese until it closed some time in the 2000s . Another important base run by a well-trained Cuban electronic intelligence battalion working together with the Chinese is the base in Bejucal.  There is also an understanding with the regime in Havana to share intelligence with the Russians.

The dictatorships in China and Cuba coordinate efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the mutual admiration society that now exists between them is not good news for human rights. The only member of the United Nations Human Rights Council to recommend that China increase its repression on human rights defenders during its first universal periodic review in February of 2009 was the Cuban dictatorship. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expressed their concerns regarding this recommendation at the time. 

The International Business Times reports that the economic relationship is of great importance to Cuba:
"China is Cuba’s second largest trading partner after Venezuela. In addition, Cuba is China’s largest partner in the Caribbean, with bilateral trade now standing at a little over $2 billion annually, according to Chinese government data."
 Providing some background the IBT continued with the following information:
"...China agreed in 2004 to give Cuba $400 million in the form of long-term loans to support development, on top of the $1.3 billion it had already invested in the island since the 1990s. China has also undertaken several large-scale projects in the country, such as developing onshore and offshore oil exploration, as well as the expansion of Cuba’s largest refinery in Cienfuegos; the development of the recently opened deep-water port in the town of Mariel; and building two hospitals."
 Returning to the start, the outlaw behavior of these two nations - smuggling tons of weapons - and trying to pass them off as a grain shipment does not bode well for the future. Furthermore the destruction of the Chinese Cuban community in Cuba by the Castro regime is another sad legacy of the communist revolution in Cuba that should be remembered.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Politifact recognizes Castro regime's shady weapons smuggling

It is interesting than in debate over Senator Perdue's discussion of the Castro regime's shady dealings there is no mention of the discovery of the Cuban dictatorship smuggling of tons of weapons again from China through Colombia with final destination being Cuba earlier this year claiming that what was being shipped was grain.

Perdue mostly right on shady weapons deal

The White House announced last week that President Barack Obama would be eliminating a major obstacle to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba by removing it from America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Since 1982, Cuba has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation it has shared with Syria, Sudan and Iran and that triggers sanctions limiting U.S. aid, defense exports and certain financial transactions.

Supporters say this is a necessary step if Obama is going to turn the page on the Cold War-era dispute that has snarled diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba for more than five decades.
Some Republicans, including freshman U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, object to taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"The Castro regime, time and again, has violated international norms,’ Perdue, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement issued the day after the White House announcement.

"I am deeply concerned that President Obama continues to embolden our enemies and empower dictators from Russia to Iran, and now Cuba. Cuba must prove it is willing to change its destructive and oppressive behavior before the United States removes it as a state sponsor of terrorism.

He cited several examples of Cubas destructive and oppressive behavior, including an incident in 2013 when, he said, Cuba secretly shipped 240 metric tons of weapons to North Korea, violating a U.N.embargo.

PolitiFact Georgia decided to fact-check Perdue’s statement about the weapons shipment.
We reached out to Mark Bednar, a Perdue spokesman, who sent us several news accounts of the incident where aging Cuban weapons were found aboard a North Korean-flagged ship.

In July 2013, Fox News reported that Panamanian officials stopped the ship Chong Chon Gang ferrying undeclared weapons and armaments, including two Soviet-era MiG fighters and surface-to-air missile system, from Cuba, in apparent violation of U.N. sanctions. The weapons were hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.

The report said the Cuban government acknowledged about a day later that the cargo included 240 metric tons of "obsolete defensive weapons." Government officials claimed the equipment was meant to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba.

Three members of the ship’s crew were arrested on arms trafficking charges. The ship was allowed to return to Cuba in 2014 after a $700,000 fine was paid, the BBC reported.

A State Department spokesperson told us this week that the administration considers the weapons shipment to North Korea in 2013 an "egregious violation of U.N. sanctions."

The administration, the spokesperson said, has worked to ensure that those responsible "pay a price for their wrongdoing."

"The administration also worked to maximize the diplomatic cost to Cuba for its role in the incident, including repeatedly condemning Cuba’s role in the violation in meetings of the UN Security Council," she said. "While Cuba’s actions were a clear violation of international law, they do not constitute support for acts of international terrorism and do not constitute a bar to rescission of their (state sponsor of terrorism) designation."

Cuban was placed on the list in 1982 because of its efforts to promote revolution in the Western Hemisphere. North Korea spent 20 years on the list but was removed in 2008 by President George W. Bush. North Korea was placed on the list in 1988 for planting a bomb on a passenger plane headed from Baghdad to Seoul. The plane exploded south of Burma, and all on board were killed.

In the current review of Cuba’s standing, the administration focused on ‘the narrow question of whether Cuba provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six months and whether Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, consistent with the statutory standard for rescission," the State Department spokeswoman said..

A senior administration official told reporters earlier this month that Cuban leaders, including Fidel and Raul Castro, have repeatedly and publicly decried terrorist acts.

Congress has 45 days from receiving the president’s report to pass a joint resolution prohibiting the rescission. If that would occur, the president would have veto power and Congress the power of the veto override.

Our conclusion

Georgia Sen. David Perdue said he objects to plans to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that was announced last week by the White House. He said that the Castro regime in Cuba has violated international norms.

Among the specific examples he cited was Cuba "secretly shipping 240 metric tons of weapons to North Korea in 2013 in violation of a U.N. embargo." News reports and statements from the administration back up Perdue’s claim about the incident.

The administration said it narrowly focused on whether Cuban provided any support for international terrorism in the prior six months and whether the Cuban government had provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, That is context the reader needs.

For that reason, we rate Perdue's statement Mostly True.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Feds charge Joe Garcia's ex-chief of staff of running ringer candidate: Providing some context

"While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself." - Douglas Horton  
Joe Garcia and David Rivera face off in a debate. Both mired in scandal
Three years ago in the blog entry, "Deja Vu at The Miami Herald?" I wrote that "it will be interesting to look back six years from now and try to understand what was actually going on with the benefit of hindsight."  In half that time the picture that emerges smashes the initial press narrative from 2012.

Lit piece from alleged 2010 Garcia ringer candidate Roly Arrojo
The press, at first, portrayed Joe Garcia as an innocent victim, but what emerges now are two party nominees that played fast and loose with campaign finance laws and ethical conduct by placing ringers into political races to split their adversary's vote. At the time this blog also reported on a criminal conspiracy that was being ignored in the mainstream press:
In 2010 Roly Arrojo , a candidate billed as a Tea Party conservative candidate was a registered democrat that some say Joe Garcia placed into the general election to peel of votes from the Republican nominee because their was a business relationship between Garcia's campaign manager and the Democrat turned Tea Party candidate.
Today's news in The Miami Herald confirms the above speculation from 2012:
Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that inspired a more serious copycat case two years later.  Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as a GOP primary challenger to David Rivera.  Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.
Three years later, it now appears that David Rivera, who is accused of being behind the Lamar Sternad candidacy in the 2012 democratic primary, was retaliating against Joe Garcia for placing a "tea party" candidate in the 2010 general election to split the conservative vote.

What has been left out, so far, in the current reporting is the absentee ballot fraud committed by the Joe Garcia campaign in 2012 that led to a criminal investigation. The Rivera  campaign has not been accused or associated with ballot fraud.

 Jeffrey Garcia, 41, Congressman Garcia's chief of staff, spent 90 days in jail as part of a plea deal he reached with the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, CBS4 reported.  Two other staffers were also impacted. "The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office served search warrants at the homes of Joe Garcia’s communications director; and  his 2012 campaign manager seeking electronic equipment such as computers."

Jeffrey Garcia, Former Chief of Staff for Joe Garcia
South Dade Matters followed this story closely at the time and reported in greater detail on the role of Former Congressman Joe Garcia's staffers in the controversy, and in the July 3, 2013 blog entry Another Garcia Shoe Drops quoted The Miami Herald where the Congressman's staffer had been placed on unpaid administrative leave last month, days after Miami-Dade prosecutors and police raided his cousin’s home in connection with the scheme to request ballots online for nearly 500 unsuspecting voters in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

What is shocking is that former Congressman Joe Garcia, who left office under an ethical cloud, and apparently a criminal investigation, has now been hired as a senior vice president in a Miami-based bank.

Three years from now it will be interesting to look back at this story, and with the benefit of hindsight, see more clearly behind the smoke and mirrors at the underlying criminal acts in these political scandals from 2010 and 2012.  Hopefully this mess will serve as a cautionary example to others not to repeat these practices.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Armenian Genocide: 100 Years of Remembrance

 "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."- Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

 One hundred years ago today, the rounding up of Christians for the slaughter that became known as the Armenian Genocide began. An estimated one and a half million were killed between 1915 and 1923. In Hollywood, California over 130,00 marched in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of this crime. Today in the Middle East, mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing are underway again.

A century ago the world remained silent before this slaughter of Christians. The failure of the international community to condemn this crime encouraged others to repeat the crime on a greater scale afterwards.  On August 22, 1939, Adolf Hitler in a speech to his Wehrmacht commanders at his Obersalzberg home cited the events in Armenia to rationalize committing a new genocide that targeted the Jewish people:
"I have given the order – and will have everyone shot who utters but one word of criticism – that the aim of this war does not consist in reaching certain designated [geographical] lines, but in the enemies' physical elimination. Thus, for the time being only in the east, I put ready my Death's Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Only thus will we gain the living space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?"
One hundred years later the world is talking about the extermination of the Armenians, but the Turkish government remains in denial. Below is an award-winning documentary made for German public TV called, "Aghet" concerning the Armenian genocide.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's existential and nonviolent threat to the Castro regime

"Two years and nine months since the unexplained deaths of Harold and Oswaldo. We continue to demand an investigation for justice and an end to impunity."- Christian Liberation Movement over twitter on April 22, 2015

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas spoke truth to power his entire life. On March 30, 2012, speaking on behalf of the Christian Liberation Movement he warned how the dictatorship would use the resources of the Cuban diaspora to perpetuate itself in power condemning it:
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. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression. The Diaspora does not have to "assume attitudes and policies in entering the social activity of the island." The Diaspora is a Diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to which the regime denied rights as it denies them to all Cubans. It is not in that part of oppression, without rights, and transparency that the Diaspora has to be inserted, that would be part of fraudulent change.

The gradual approach makes sense only if there are transparent prospects of freedom and rights. We Cubans have a right to our rights. Why not rights? It's time. That is the peaceful change that we promote and claim. Changes that signifies freedom, reconciliation, political pluralism and free elections. Then the Diaspora will cease being a Diaspora, because all Cubans will have rights in their own free and sovereign country. That is why we fight.
Less than four months later he was killed, along with Christian Liberation Movement youth leader Harold Cepero in what now appears to have been an extrajudicial killing carried out by Cuban state security.

The key to liberation in a nonviolent struggle was first formulated theoretically in 1548 and today over twitter Rosa María Payá quoted a key passage from that important work on strategic nonviolence: 
"I don't ask that you push or topple  the tyrant, but simply that you support him no longer." - Etienne de La Boetie, 1548
Etienne de La Boetie's call from 1548 was echoed by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas when he denounced the attempt "to make victims participate in their own oppression." Change occurs not by fighting or resisting the dictatorship, but by ending one's participation in one's own oppression. This is a powerful and nonviolent idea that poises an existential threat to the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.

Committee to Protect Journalists designates Cuba as the 10th most censored country on Earth

A top ten list you do not want to be on.
A Cuban sells newspapers in Havana. All media in Cuba is controlled by the Communist regime, leaving little space for independent reporting. (AFP/Adalberto Roque)

10. Cuba

Leadership: Raúl Castro, who took over the presidency from his brother, Fidel, in 2008.

How censorship works:Despite significant improvements in the past few years-such as the elimination of exit visas that had prohibited most foreign travel for decades-Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be "in accordance with the goals of the socialist society." Although the Internet has opened up some space for critical reporting, service providers are ordered to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers who work online use websites that are hosted overseas and must go to foreign embassies or hotels to upload content and get an unfiltered connection to the Internet. These critical blogs and online news platforms are largely inaccessible to the average Cuban, who still has not benefited from a high-speed Internet connection financed by Venezuela. Most Cubans do not have Internet at home. The government continues to target critical journalists through harassment, surveillance, and short-term detentions. Juliet Michelena Díaz, a contributor to a network of local citizen journalists, was imprisoned for seven months on anti-state charges after photographing an incident between residents and police in Havana. She was later declared innocent and freed. Visas for international journalists are granted selectively by officials.

Lowlight: Though the government has for the most part done away with long-term detentions of journalists, author-turned-critical blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been imprisoned since February 2013 on allegations of domestic violence. The writer and other local independent journalists maintain that he was targeted in retaliation for writing critically about the government on his blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted.)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Christian Genocide in the Middle East and the Silent Complicity of the West

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions while the road to Heaven with good works

 American policy in the Middle East is accelerating the extinction of the oldest Christian communities in the world in what today can legitimately be described as a genocide. It would not be the first one in this part of the world that has targeted Christians.  Earlier this month Pope Francis observed the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Christians. Today at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale listened to the powerful testimony of Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council on the plight of Christians in Iraq over the past 1,400 years and the present crisis with the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Christians are being slaughtered, Church's burned and destroyed, and entire communities displaced. In a decade there may be no Christians left in Iraq. Western governments have, for the most part, been indifferent to their plight. This is a humanitarian crisis that you can do your part to remedy with solidarity. What do Assyrian Christians want?
  • Urgent and continuous prayer
  • Urgent and direct humanitarian aid 
  • International protection for Assyrian and others in the Nineveh Plain 
  • Establishment of local protection units with help from International community
During her presentation, Juliana, screened the short film, Sing a Little Louder, that reenacts what happened when a train shipping human beings to the death camps in Nazi, Germany stops near a Church while Mass is being held and the cries from the cattle cars are ignored as the pastor calls on those attending mass to sing louder to drown out the cries of help and how decades later, an old man remains haunted by the indifference shown that day to human suffering. A powerful film that is extremely relevant with past and ongoing genocides.On this same day videos were released showing two groups of Ethiopian Christians were executed in Libya by ISIS.

Ethiopian Christians purportedly executed by ISIS in Ethiopia
 Taking into account the indifference of Western governments and the extreme and genocidal nature of ISIS there is an opportunity to confront this challenge nonviolently ( not to be confused with passivity) and achieve better results against the most ruthless and violent regimes. A systematic study of  nonviolent resistance and its successful application has been provided by scholars such as Gene Sharp and Erica Chenoweth. Chenoweth's quantitative analysis comparing nonviolent action over the past century with violent action against different types of regimes finds that nonviolent resistance is more effective against the most extreme and violent regimes than violent resistance. Furthermore a review of what has led to the present state of affairs in the Middle East finds that the cycle of escalating violence with foreign interventions has led to the present predicament. In extreme situations such as Syria nonviolence was able to frustrate even the most brutal and violent dictators, but violent resistance only empowered them.

Greasing the path to genocide
In early 2003 prior to the start of the Second Persian Gulf War on March 19 of that same year a debate raged over the consequences of invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein's cruel dictatorship. Wayne Allensworth, a contributor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, outlined the dangers of an American invasion to the Christian communities in Iraq:
Iraq's Christians fear that they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember the country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that "If the United States goes to war against our country . . . [t]he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community, and declare Iraq an Islamic nation!" If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern: The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the Gulf War-encouraged and then abandoned by Washington-targeted Christians. 
Senator Barack Obama wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on September 11, 2007 expressing concern "for Iraq's Christian and other non-Muslim religious minorities who appear to be targeted by Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish militants." The then Senator from Illinois and future President continued writing: "The severe violations of religious freedom faced by members of these indigenous communities, and their potential  extinction from their ancient homeland, is deeply alarming in light of our mission to bring freedom to the Iraqi people." Under the "democracy" erected by the Bush administration in Iraq, Christians who had been present there since the time of Christ faced extinction.

 On January 11, 2008, Senator Obama received a response from the State Department to the concerns raised in his letter of Christians being targeted in Iraq which downplayed the plight of Christians in Iraq:
Iraqis from all ethnic and religious communities suffer from the sectarian and general violence in Iraq. While it is true that in some cases religious minorities, such as Christians, are targeted due to their religion, the threat to Iraq's religious minorities is not unique to them; Shi'a in Sunni majority areas face much the same situation, and vice versa. In fact, Muslim citizens generally who do not support the actions of militants within their region are subject to similar threats. The assassination in Anbar of Sunni Sheikh Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi, who rejected extremist ideologies and sectarianism, and the murders of associates of the Shi'a Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are recent examples of how violence impacts all of Iraq's communities, not just Christians or other non-Muslims.
In the same letter the State Department cited the "difficulty of compiling accurate data in Iraq" as an explanation as to why it could not determine if there was disproportionate violence against a particular population. In 2009 Human Rights Watch provided detailed information on the persecution and murder of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.  By 2010 columnist Patrick J. Buchanan, a critic of the Iraq war, in an essay titled "The Murderers of Christianity" provided the following data:
Estimates of the number of Christians in Iraq in 2003 vary from 800,000 to 1.5 million. But hundreds of thousands have fled since the invasion. Seven of the 14 churches in Baghdad have closed, and two-thirds of the city’s 500,000 Christians are gone.
Calls in 2008 for the protection of the Christian remnant in Iraq went unheeded. Unfortunately, President Obama upon entering office in 2009 adopted the Bush administration's inattention to Iraqi Christians.  During the Bush presidency nearly a million Christians fled Iraq. The number under the Obama presidency has risen to more than 1.26 million.

Will you stand up and speak for persecuted Christians?


Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, will be speaking in South Florida this week:
  • Monday, April 20, 11 a.m.-noon, St. Thomas University, O’Mailia Hall 2. Contact: Mary Carter Waren,, 305-628-6653.
  • Tuesday, April 21, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Msgr. Edward Pace High School, Dante Navarro Chapel. Contact: David Masters,, 786-859-2117
  • Tuesday, April 21, 4-8 p.m., Barry University. Contact Luis de Prada,, 305-510-8945.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Gutting Radio Marti: Ending Reagan's Freedom Legacy in Cuba

 "New Cuba Policy" goes back to the 1970s

Ronald Reagan backed the creation of a Radio Free Cuba to break Castro regime's information monopoly over the Cuban people beginning in 1981. In a 1983 address, President Reagan explained the importance of getting the truth to oppressed peoples:
The Soviets are terrified of the truth. They understand well and they dread the meaning of St. John's words: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." The truth is mankind's best hope for a better world. That's why in times like this, few assets are more important than the Voice of America and Radio Liberty, our primary means of getting the truth to the Russian people.[...]  We've repeatedly urged the Congress to support our long-term modernization program and our proposal for a new radio station, Radio Marti, for broadcasting to Cuba. The sums involved are modest, but for whatever reason this critical program has not been enacted. Today I'm appealing to the Congress: Help us get the truth through. Help us strengthen our international broadcasting effort by supporting increased funding for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and by authorizing the establishment of Radio Marti.
When it finally went on the air in 1985 Radio Marti marked a before and after inside Cuba. At the time President Reagan hoped that Radio Marti would ''help defuse the war hysteria on which much of current Cuban Government policy is predicated.'' The Castro regime's response was to end an immigration agreement and suspend the visits to Cuba by Cubans living in the United States.The Hoover Institution in 1989 listed it as one of a 100 conservative victories. 

The White House in the current year's budget proposal advocated ending Radio Marti as a part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency. This would effectively gut the radio station and is the first step in getting rid of it. Apparently in the drive to engage the Castro regime the White House is willing to silence one of the few voices of free and uncensored information reaching the Cuban people.

The U.S. government did not protest when a Radio Marti reporter, who was properly accredited, was escorted out and expelled from a press conference by Cuban state security at the Summit of the Americas in Panama earlier this month and the Voice of America, apparently did not report on this. Thankfully CNN in Spanish did.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cuba and the Campaign to end the State Sponsors of Terrorism List

"Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." ... "The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up." - Fidel Castro, University of Tehran, Iran May 10, 2001 quoted in the Agence France Presse

"Our positions, versions, interpretations are alike, very close. We have been good friends, we are and will be, and we will be together forever. Long live Cuba! - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Havana, Cuba, January 12, 2012

There is a campaign underway not only to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism but to do away with the list altogether. Ignoring the Castro regime's long history of not only sponsoring and training terrorists, but also engaging in terrorism, the drive has been on for years to remove this dictatorship from the list. However, the end goal is not Cuba but getting rid of the list of state sponsors of terrorism itself. 

Business interests in the United States have a long history of hostility to unilateral sanctions against regimes engaged in behaviors that Americans find reprehensible.  Since 1997 they have joined together in USA Engage to target  policymakers, opinion leaders and shape public opinion in order not only to gut and end sanctions against rogue regimes but to also prevent individual victims from taking human rights abusers to court under the Alien Tort Statute.

 Stripping states and local governments of their moral authority
Corporate America has also been successful through the courts at eliminating long held rights of states and localities to decide whether or not they want to trade with a country engaged in despicable practices.  The anti-apartheid campaign that began at the local and state level with divestment campaigns in the 1970s would not survive legal challenges today. Since 2000 with the Supreme Court decision citing the supremacy clause in Crosby versus National Foreign Trade Council relations or trade with a foreign country are governed by the federal government. State and local governments can no longer place their own sanctions on foreign regimes unless it is in accordance with federal government policy. In 2000 the Supreme Court forced Massachusetts to do business with companies that had done business with the military junta in Burma. According to constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson in the Fordham Law Review the Crosby decision compels state and local governments to cooperate with evil. 

Brief history of the terror sponsor list
Corporate America would like to see the terror sponsor list done away with because it is a unilateral measure that limits their ability to trade with these rogue regimes. USA Engage offers the following historical brief on the list and its concrete impact:
In December 1979, the U.S. Department of State began to designate governments that “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” as state sponsors of terrorism. Designation is formally made by the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism. Designated states are subject to sanctions, including a ban on U.S. arms sales, controls on dual-use items, a prohibition on economic assistance, a requirement that the U.S. oppose loans by international financial institutions, the denial of tax credits to U.S. citizens for income earned in the designated country, and denial of duty-free treatment of exports to the U.S. Designation also requires a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control for U.S. citizens engaging in financial transactions in a designated country. The Department of Defense is also prohibited from entering into contracts for more than $100,000 with a company controlled by a designated state.
Campaigning to get rid of the whole list would be a tall order, but the strategy appears to have been to whittle down, one by one, these rogue regimes. The Bush administration removed Iraq from the list in 2004, Libya in 2006 and North Korea in 2008

Deja Vu: Democratic government releases terrorist to advance business deal 
In the case of Libya in 2009 the lone convicted terrorist of the Lockerbie bombing, who murdered 270 people in 1988 when he blew up Pan Am Flight 103 was freed officially on humanitarian grounds. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, a Libyan intelligence officer, who was jailed in 2001 was freed and sent back to Muammar Gaddafi, it was revealed later, in exchange for an arms deal with a UK weapons manufacturer. Thousands welcomed home as a hero the Lockerbie bomber in an event choreographed by the Libyan dictator. At the time time President Barack Obama said the release was a mistake, but five years later he released Gerardo Hernández, a Cuban intelligence officer,  jailed in 1998 for conspiracy to murder four people in 1996  in what was an act of international terrorism. The Cuban spy and terrorist was returned to Raul Castro and the dictatorship organized a hero's welcome in Cuba. Both releases were billed as humanitarian.

State Department fails to report on North Korea's bad acts
Taking North Korea off the list did not improve the regime's behavior. However, it is important to recall what is publicly known about Pyongyang and how it came to be placed on the list. The Reagan Administration designated the DPRK a state terror sponsor after it was implicated in the 1987 bombing of  a South Korean airliner, in which more than 100 people died. Beginning in the 1970s North Korea kidnapped Japanese and other foreign nationals in order to improve their intelligence capabilities. Some suspect that an American who went missing in 2004 was taken by the North Koreans while hiking in China.  North Korea may be responsible for over 500 disappearances world wide including taking victims from China, France, Holland, Malaysia, Thailand, Romania and Singapore. The State Department claims that this is the last act that can be linked to North Korea as terrorism. This ignores press reports that in the 1990s North Korea infiltrated terror squads into the United States with orders to attack nuclear power plants in major cities if war broke out. Other U.S. government agencies have stated that  North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear reactor,  and that North Korea and Iran cooperate closely  in missile development. According to press reports, North Korea has provided support to Hamas  and Hezbollah, and has targeted North Korean refugees living overseas for kidnapping and  assassination. In December of 2014, North Korea engaged in a hacking attack on the Sony company in the United States.

How the Castro regime made the list of terror sponsors
On March 1, 1982 the Cuban dictatorship was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was less than three months after the US State Department confirmed that the Castro regime 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. Despite the Castro regime's denials, it has a long and well documented history of sponsoring and taking part in terrorism, including utilizing the tactic in the struggle against dictator Fulgencio Batista. On New Year’s Eve in 1956 members of Castro's 26th of July movement set off bombs in the Tropicana, blowing off the arm of a seventeen-year-old girl. From bombings, killings, and arson in 1957 to a botched hijacking to smuggle weapons to Cuban guerrillas that led to 14 dead and the night of the 100 bombs in 1958 . The organizer of the bombing campaign Sergio González López nicknamed “El Curita” and the terrorist action itself are remembered fondly by the dictatorship that named a park in his honor along with a plaque. Regime apologists now deny that anyone was wounded or killed but the memories of those who lived through this say otherwise. González López was captured, tortured, and killed by agents of the Batista dictatorship on March 18, 1958. A pro-Cuban dictatorship website recalls some of El Curita's actions:
“He actively participated in the actions of the burning of Standard Oil; the bombing of Bejucal Railway Station cable, the cable from the Bus Station, the explosion of Vento, in the action of the Tunnel and the explosion of 120 coordinated bombings in Havana, which in a telephone phone call on this occasion to the chief of police, he told him “Coward, prepare your ear tonight ... we are going to explode 100 bombs under your own noses.
The dictatorship has practiced, trained, and published manuals with chapters on how to engage in terrorism and never renounced it, and on more than one occasion targeted the United States.  Not only does the Castro regime continue to harbor terrorists wanted in the United States but in 2010 celebrated the life of a terrorist who attacked the U.S. capitol in 1983 in its official media.
Why is the Castro regime smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition?
There are plenty of reasons why the actions of the dictatorship in Cuba earn it a spot on the list of terror sponsors, but two disturbing incidents within the past 20 months should give The White House pause. The two claims made by the Obama administration for lifting the terror sponsor designation on the Castro regime are that it "has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period," and secondly that the dictatorship "has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future."

The regime in Cuba has been smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition around the world for decades, and twice within the past 20 months they've been caught red handed, including within the past six months. defines smuggling as: "to import or export (goods) secretly, in violation of the law, especially without payment of legal duty."  The only reasons I can think of to smuggle weapons shipments are that where they wind up not be traced back to the entity doing the smuggling as the weapons shipment seized in Colombia in February 2015 or the weapons shipment would be in violation of international sanctions, as was the case in July 2013 with North Korea.

In the case of the ship stopped in Colombia in February 2015, the claim was that the cargo was "grain products" in reality it was "around 100 tonnes of powder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shell."

 In the  the shipment of smuggled weapons sent by Cuba to North Korea, hidden under bags of sugar, what was found, in part, was the following: "A total of 25 standard shipping containers (16 forty-foot and 9 twenty-foot) and 6 trailers were found, for a total of about 240 tons of arms and related materiel." The Cubans provided the North Koreans with surface to air missile systems, two MiG 21 jet fighters, and 15 MiG-21 engines, eight 73 mm rocket propelled projectiles (PG-9/PG-15 anti-tank and OG-9/OG-15 fragmentation projectiles) to be fired with recoil-less rifles, as well as a single PG-7VR round, a high explosive antitank tandem charge to penetrate explosive reactive armor, were also in the shipment. 

The dictatorship not only gave assurances that it would not support international terrorism in the future but also claimed that it had never supported terrorism in the past, which is a lie they have often repeated. In 1976 in an Address to the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), Fidel Castro boasted:  "If we decide to carry out terrorism, it is a sure thing we would be efficient. But the mere fact that the Cuban revolution has never implemented terrorism does not mean that we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning." 

Sanctions and Leverage
The Spanish government had asked the United States, in its talks with the Castro regime, to press for  the extradition of ETA terrorists given safe haven in Cuba.  This raises an important question: If Spain has had a policy of engagement both political and economic for decades then why does it need to ask the U.S. to intercede on its behalf in these negotiations? The answer is that the terror sponsor list and economic sanctions provide leverage.  Finally, sanctions are a nonviolent way to restrict hard currency and limit resources to the dictatorship to limit its mischief which includes sponsoring terrorism.

Predicting the aftermath
Expect within a year or two, or perhaps sooner, when the case is made to remove the next terror sponsor to hear the argument that the terror sponsor list is useless because North Korea and Cuba are not on it and that it should be gotten rid of.  The world will be a more dangerous place with state sponsors of terrorism having more resources to sponsor and carry out acts of terrorism. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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.

"It's a big crowd around my house in the 7ma del Sur, I’m with former political prisoner Ivan Fernandez Depestre and also alert the world that the son of my wife, Yedier Rodriguez and his girlfriend who are minors are in my house. Castro mobs in retaliation for the defeat that we gave them in Panama are preparing an act of repudiation and also to the journalist and Sakharov Laureate Guillermo Fariñas. In the city of Placetas they have closed all workplaces and schools under the threat that if they are not going to the repudiation act against Antúnez their wages will be suspended," said Antúnezto the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance issues a call of alert to international human rights organizations and the free and democratic community of the world for the freedom of and physical integrity of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antúnez, former political prisoner Iván Fernández Depestre, as well as his wife’s son, Yedier Rodriguez and his girlfriend.

Original press release in Spanish

Castro regime's unchanging ways and American pragmatism

 "Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance." - Václav Havel

Journalist Karen Caballero escorted out by Cuban state security
Last week the Castro regime took part in the Summit of the Americas, in what was supposed to be a gathering of democracies and turned it into a violent circus where civil society activists were threatened, harassed, slandered, libeled and physically assaulted. However it didn't end there when heads of state were allotted 8 minutes to speak, Raul Castro took 49 minutes.

To add insult to injury, an accredited journalist, Karen Caballero, anchor and correspondent for TV/Radio Martí after entering to attend a press conference with the Cuban foreign minister at the Summit of the Americas was expelled from the gathering by Cuban state security agents.  TV/Radio Marti is affiliated with Voice of America (VOA) and the U.S. government. Despite this the Voice of America Spanish website has remained silent on this incident of harassment, although it was reported on by CNN in Spanish on its website, and the U.S. president thanked Raul Castro for his "spirit of openness."

Yesterday, the President made his recommendation that Cuba be taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism ignoring the clear and present danger that it represents. At the same time Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", who had been attacked by state security agents in Panama last week found his home in Placetas, Cuba surrounded by state security and others told to go and engage in an act of repudiation at the activist's at home or face reprisals at work and school.

The White House is engaged in what Pat Buchanan describes as the tradition of ruthless American pragmatism. In the Forum 2000 Conference in 2009, Vaclav Havel called President Obama to task for engaging in that practice with the Dalai Lama:
I believe that when the new Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize postpones receiving the Dalai Lama until after he has accomplished his visit to China, he makes a small compromise, a compromise which actually has some logic to it. However, there arises a question as to whether those large, serious compromises do not have their origin and roots in precisely these tiny and very often more or less logical compromises.
The devil is in the details. Many who advocate for a principled engagement with the regime are troubled by the ruthless pragmatism of the Obama administration and how it could set back both US national interests and the freedom aspirations of the Cubans on the island. Human rights and norms of civility need to be upheld if they are to survive.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The terror sponsor list and The White House's contradictory Cuba policy

White House Cuba policy is a study in contradiction

White House press briefing today
Despite ample evidence that the Castro regime continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism the Obama administration today removed Cuba from the list of terror sponsors in order to proceed with the normalization of diplomatic relations. Below is the statement released today which states "the Government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period." Now this statement ignores "the 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells" on a ship bound for Cuba detained on March 3, 2015 that said these were "grain products."  The Cuban government has been caught twice in the space of twenty months smuggling large amounts of weapons and ammunition which would imply that it is common practice. This also raises an obvious question: "Who are these weapons for that the Castro regime doesn't want them traced?"

 The Castro regime had made removal from the list one of the key elements in formally opening embassies and that appears to have been what drove the Obama administration action despite the claims of the Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhoades. This decision seems to contradict another action taken by President Barack Obama when on February 25, 2015 he  issued a notice titled "Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Cuba" which states:
On March 1, 1996, by Proclamation 6867, a national emergency was declared to address the disturbance or threatened disturbance of international relations caused by the February 24, 1996, destruction by the Cuban government of two unarmed U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba. On February 26, 2004, by Proclamation 7757, the national emergency was extended and its scope was expanded to deny monetary and material support to the Cuban government. The Cuban government has not demonstrated that it will refrain from the use of excessive force against U.S. vessels or aircraft that may engage in memorial activities or peaceful protest north of Cuba.
The Obama White House on February 25, 2015 was saying that it believed that the Castro regime was still willing to destroy unarmed, civilian aircraft or vessels in international airspace or waters north of Cuba if those craft "engage in memorial activities or peaceful protest." Would such an act not qualify as an act of international terrorism? Will he now rescind this notice?