Friday, May 31, 2019

Déjà vu: Tech firms building the perfect cage in Cuba today as they did in China in the 1990s?

"Companies like Facebook and Google must step up to combat undemocratic forces ... to stop being co-conspirators in their schemes. These companies don’t want to share responsibility or recognize that they are undermining the foundations of the free world." - Gary Kapsparov, Oslo Freedom Forum May 27, 2019

Google's Eric Schmidt signs agreement with the Castro regime in December 2016
News abounds about the internet in Cuba and the latest hype is about the Cuban government "legalizing private WiFi networks" and that "internet restrictions are crumbling," but  the Castro regime's telecom monopoly, Etecsa, remains the only internet provider in the archipelago of islands.

Despite this reality their are voices that insist progress towards freedom in Cuba comes from the economic empowerment of the dictatorship while calling it euphemistically "economic democratization." 

Cuba Internet Taskforce
The State Department's Cuba Internet Taskforce formed in early 2018 was split up into two working groups.

One was composed of human rights organizations and focused on recommendations to improve rights standards and freedoms in Cuba. This working group recognized the Castro regime as "the main obstacle to the free flow of information in Cuba due to its deliberate restrictions" and called for U.S. regulations to strengthen restrictions for filtering and surveillance-related technologies.

This was in stark contrast to the other.

The second was a working group composed of technology firms and industry representatives focused on modernizing and expanding Cuba's internet infrastructure. They also recommended reducing barriers to the export of U.S. technology, subsidizing with taxpayer dollars building up the Castro regime's technological foundation, and companies engaging in a dialogue with the dictatorship.

Google's troubling history in Cuba
Capitol Hill Cubans on April 7, 2016 reported the following on the presence of Google in Cuba and how engagement with the regime manifests itself:

Reports from Cuba have noted that the center has been given priority use by Ministry of the Interior ('MININT') officials and trainees. The MININT is home to Castro's intelligence services. Thus, the Google + Kcho Mor center has become a playground for Cuba's spies and future cyber-warriors. Furthermore, after passing various security checks, when regular Cubans finally get to enter the center, they are treated to censored online access. Webpages like Cubaencuentro, Revolico and 14ymedio remain blocked. Thus, Google has now officially become an extension of Cuba's censors.
This led to a coalition of independent Cuban civil society organizations gathered in Puerto Rico in 2016 to condemn Google for siding with their oppressor.
"Denounced the indifference of the company Google in violation of its code of corporate conduct and demanded that it establish a correct policy to provide wireless internet service with no censorship and without dependence on the regime in benefit of the Cuban people."
On December 13, 2016 Google signed an agreement with the Castro regime to speed up faster access to the "companies branded content."  Marta Dhanis, a news correspondent, who visited Cuba to see first hand if there has been an improvement in internet access, following Google's partnering up with the Cuban dictatorship, and talked to Cubans inside the island and authored the January 25, 2017 article, "Google entering Cuba is 'Trojan Horse' that could reinforce regime, residents say." A Cuban academic outlined what the internet was becoming in the island:
“We call the internet a ‘Trojan Horse.’ The success of this government has been possible thanks to the people’s lack of information,” said a 57-year-old retired professor who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the communist regime. “I would have a patrol car at my door tomorrow to monitor my life,” he said. On the other hand, he and others contend, this Trojan Horse is also providing the communist regime with technology that will empower the secret police with detailed reports of the users’ searches and profiles, right down to their location.
Google is working closely with ETESCA, the Castro regime's tech monopoly (that has blocked e-mails of the Ladies in White), and the tech company is now even copying the Cuban dictatorship's strategy of blaming the U.S. embargo for their own bad actions.

On July 22, 2017 Rosa María Payá Acevedo tweeted that CubaDecide was banned in Cuba, describing it as "the error with which Google joins censorship in Cuba."

Google's Brett Perlmutter in a tweet blamed the U.S. embargo.  Former Bush Administration official Jose Cardenas contested Perlmutter's claims tweeting "that is simply NOT true. No US regs block websites in Cuba." Mary O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal set the record straight in her August 27, 2017 column "Google’s Broken Promise to Cubans" after following up with Google and the ISP:

Mr. Perlmutter did not cite any provision of the U.S. embargo that requires the blocking of a nonprofit citizens’ initiative—because there is no such provision. On Wednesday a Google spokesperson told me “we can’t say for sure what’s causing the issue with that site but it isn’t something we’re doing on our end . . . If you want more details, I recommend you check with the ISP.”
By Friday the company was no longer blaming the ISP. Instead, Google told me—in a paradox that must be delicious for Castro—that it is Cuba Decide’s use of Google’s Project Shield that is causing the problem. The shield is offered at no charge for “news sites and free expression” against “distributed denial-of-service” attacks. When it is used, it triggers the use of Google’s App Engine even if Google is not the website’s host—which it isn’t in this case—and Cubans cannot access the site.
Google distanced itself from Perlmutter's statements saying they “do not represent an official Google position” and that the content of his tweet was made “before all the facts of the specific situation were known." 

It is not only tech companies that have collaborated with the dictatorship.

European backsliding on democracy in Cuba
The European Union chose dialogue and engagement with the Castro regime and seeks now to redefine the oldest dictatorship in the Americas declaring “Cuba is a one-party democracy, in which elections take place at municipal, provincial and national level.”  The EU ignores that these are neither free or fair elections, and only municipal assemblies offer a choice of more than one candidate per office (but no campaigning or dissenting candidates that depart from the official line).

The European Union will now seize the assets of those seeking redress for their stolen properties in Cuba to deter action against European firms trafficking in stolen properties.

All of this should give one a sense of déjà vu. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," observed the Spanish scholar, George Santayana. What many  would like to do in Cuba today was tried in China before.

Tiananmen Square prior to the June 4, 1989 crackdown and massacre
Déjà vu
Both Europe and the United States normalized the communist dictatorship in China, and agreed on a policy that subsidized and guaranteed investments in China beginning in the 1970s. Furthermore technology firms and industry led the way collaborating with the Chinese regime in developing ther internet  on the Chinese mainland with the argument that "economic democratization" would lead to political democratization.

Consider the following.

China Education and Research Network's January 1, 2001 article on "Evolution of Internet in China" reveals the origins of China's Internet in the early 1990s when it was known as the Chinanet. In September of 1994, China Telecom and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown signed a Sino-American Internet agreement. Under the agreement, China Telecom would open two 64K dedicated circuits in Beijing and Shanghai, respectively, through Sprint Co. of the United States.

During a debate over the Export-Import Bank in the U.S. Congress in 1999 it was revealed that the People’s Republic of China received billions in credits and this practice continued and expanded into the 2000s. This government subsidized trade guaranteed by the US taxpayer helped to modernize and empower Chinese totalitarianism.

Who Lost China?
Ethan Gutmann answered the question "Who Lost China's Internet?" in 2002 in The Weekly Standard with some unpleasant facts
"In China, the government had a unique problem: how to keep a billion people from accessing politically sensitive Web sites, now and forever. . . .To force compliance with government objectives—to ensure that all pipes lead back to Rome—they needed the networking superpower, Cisco, to standardize the Chinese Internet and equip it with firewalls on a national scale. According to the Chinese engineer, Cisco came through, developing a router device, integrator, and firewall box specially designed for the government’s telecom monopoly.
Not be left behind in the race to engage with Chinese totalitarians were Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft who cooperated with the Chinese Communist regime in screening out search terms such as freedom, democracy, human rights or anything connected with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Meanwhile AOL, Netscape Communications and Sun Microsystems disseminated government propaganda backing China Internet Corp., part of the state-run Xinhua news agency. 

U.S. Tech Companies' repressive role in China
Nortel provided wraparound software for voice and closed-circuit camera recognition, technology that the Public Security Bureau put to good use, according to the Chinese press. Others, according to Reporters Without Borders, such as Yahoo, served as "police informants" identifying dissidents who use the internet to access pro-democracy information or express an opinion to the Chinese authorities. 

Many ended up imprisoned, tortured, or dead. For example both Wang Xiaoning (arrested in 2003) and Shi Tao (arrested in 2005) served 10-year prison sentences in China, and sued Yahoo. Wang Xiaoning because Yahoo provided information that led to his arrest in September 2003 and torture by the Chinese government. Shi Tao joined the lawsuit on May 29, 2007. According to USA Today, “Yahoo has acknowledged turning over data on Shi at the request of the Chinese government.”

 Amnesty International identified 33 prisoners of conscience who had been detained in 2001-2002 for using the Internet to circulate or download information. Three have died while in custody and they are: Chen Qiulan age 47 female detained on July 2001 and died in custody on 24 August 2001; Li Changjun age 33 male detained on May 16, 2001 on a charge of subversion and died in custody on June 27, 2001; and Xue Hairong (age unknown) male detained on March 1, 2001 and sentenced to 7 years in prison reportedly died of leukemia while in custody on March 22, 2001. Amnesty International hasn’t been able to independently confirm the information about his death or if he had access to medical treatment.

Yahoo settled the China torture lawsuit in November of 2007.

Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square massacre and twenty five years after the internet was opened up in China the youth "have large blind spots in their knowledge of the world and their country" and this includes the events that took place during June of 1989. Some media accounts have described it as amnesia. Chinese students studying abroad, after learning what happened, took the brave stand calling for transparency in 2015.

Apple censors music with references to Tiananmen
Sadly, these students have far more courage and moral stature than U.S. tech firms. In April 2019 Apple censored music to comply with Chinese government censors, including a song with lyrics that referred to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest.

Technology firms and industry representatives did in China what they are looking to repeat in Cuba. Cooperate and collaborate with regime authorities while modernizing and expanding the technological infrastructure on the island within the regime's monopoly. 

This has not led to more freedom but a more perfect totalitarian regime with the technological capability to erase history in a manner reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984.

Let us not repeat this failure in Cuba.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Oslo Freedom Forum: May 27-29

Unite for human rights!

Watch the 2019 Oslo Freedom Forum theater sessions live, May 27-29. Programming continues at continues at 10:00” CEST on May 28. View the full program of events at

  • Sunday, May 26, 2019

  • 10:00 - 16:00

    Registration – Grand Hotel

    Avoid the lines on Monday by checking in at the lobby of the Grand Hotel.
  • 12:30 - 13:30

    Meet the Freedom Fellows – The Library, Grand Hotel

  • 18:00 - 19:00

    Opening of Flowers from the Rubble: Remembering Raed Fares – Vega Scene

    Honor Syrian democracy advocate and former OsloFF speaker Raed Fares, assassinated in November 2018, with an immersive exhibit featuring his work.
  • Monday, May 27, 2019

  • 9:00 - 10:15

    Registration – Det Norske Teatret

  • 9:00 - 15:00

    Interactive Expo – Det Norske Teatret

    The Interactive Expo explores the intersection of human rights and creative industries. Join us for exhibits, technology demos, one-on-one conversations, interactive art projects, interviews with experts and activists, and more!
  • 10:30 - 11:45

    Theater Session 1 – Det Norske Teatret

    • Opening Remarks by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide
    • Timothy Synder American historian and author
    • Yousra Elbagir Sudanese journalist and foreign news reporter
    • Felix Maradiaga Nicaraguan democracy advocate
    • Denise Ho Hong Kong-based artist and LGBTQ rights advocate
  • 12:30 - 13:30

    Theater Session 2 – Det Norske Teatret

    • Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein Jordanian diplomat, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • Fabiana Rosales First Lady of Venezuela
    • Asli Erdogan Turkish writer and human rights advocate
    • Garry Kasparov Advocate for Russian democracy, with Molly McKew, information warfare expert
  • Tuesday, May 28, 2019

  • 9:00 - 9:40

    Registration – Det Norske Teatret

  • 9:00 - 15:00

    Interactive Expo – Det Norske Teatret

  • 10:00 - 11:00

    Theater Session 3 – Det Norske Teatret

    • Performance on Awe by Beau Lotto
    • Andrew Zolli American writer and Planet Labs advisor
    • Thae Yong-ho North Korean Defector and former deputy ambassador of North Korea to the United Kingdom with Bob Kelly
    • Fartuun Adan Executive Director of of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia
    • Nury Turkel Uyghur rights advocate and attorney
  • 11:30 - 12:30

    Theater Session 4 – Det Norske Teatret

    • Poetry reading by Adam Roa
    • Pete Pattisson Video and photo journalist based in Kathmandu
    • Lartiza Diversent Cuban lawyer and independent journalist
    • Sharofiddin Gadoev Tajik opposition activist
    • Preet Bharara American lawyer and former U.S. attorney, in conversation with Bill Browder Economist and Magnitsky Act proponent
  • 12:30 - 13:30

    Lunch Break* –

    *Participants with all-access tickets may join lunch at the Grand Hotel.
  • 14:00 - 17:00

    MESH Sessions – MESH

    The Lounge
    • 14:00 - 14:45 — Instituting a Global Sanctions Regime 
      • Hagar Hajjar
      • Bill Browder
      • Kyle Parker
      • Rebecca Vincent
      • Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma
      • Presented by Human Rights Foundation
    • 15:00 - 15:30 — Building Online Communities 
      • Ebele Okobi
      • Pepe Borras
      • Omar Mohammed
      • Ben Pauker
      • Presented by Facebook
    • 15:40 - 16:00 — The Power of Decentralization 
      • Brock Pierce
      • Thor Halvorssen
      • Presented by Human Rights Foundation
    • 16:15 - 17:15 — Breaking the Cycle of Corporate Impunity 
      • Sandra Cossart
      • Nick Grono
      • Amanda Ghahremani
      • Pete Pattisson
      • Presented by Freedom Fund
    The Gallery
    • 14:00 - 14:30 — Inside The Saudi Phone Hacking Scandal 
      • Iyad El-Baghdadi
      • Karen Attiah
      • Presented by Human Rights Foundation
    • 14:45 - 15:05 — North Korea’s Highest Ranking Defector: A Conversation with Thae Yong-Ho 
      • Thae Yong-Ho
      • Phil Robertson
      • Presented by Human Rights Foundation
    • 15:20 - 16:00 — Privacy in the Surveillance Age 
      • Sonya Mann
      • Danny O’Brien
      • Filip Chytry
      • Presented by HMA!
    • 16:15 - 17:15 — Doing Development Differently
      • Dhananath Fernando
      • Candelaria de Elizalde
      • Aimable Manikrakiza
      • Matt Warner
      • Presented by Atlas Network
    The Office
    • 14:00 - 14:45 — Workshop: Creative Tactics for Dissent 
      • Shehzil Malik
      • Rodrigo Diamanti
      • Naina Bajekal
      • Presented by HRF’s Art in Protest
    • 15:00 - 16:15 — Workshop: Designing Solutions to China’s Uyghur Crackdown 
      • Nury Turkel
      • Gopika Setlur
      • Presented by Elefint Designs
    • 16:30 - 17:00 — Actions That Heal, The Office 
      • Maryam Faghihimani
      • Parvaneh Andache
      • Leyla Hussein
      • Rick Doblin
      • Presented by Human Rights Foundation
  • 19:00-19:30

    Performance by the Gao Brothers – Spikersuppa Square

    The Gao Brothers will stage their performance, "Utopia of the Embrace," for the public.
  • 19:00 - 21:00

    Screening of #Female Pleasure and Conversation with Leyla Hussein – Vega Scene

    Vega Scene will present #Female Pleasure with anti-FGM advocate and former OsloFF speaker Leyla Hussein.
  • 20:00 - 22:00

    Dinner* – Kullt

    *Entry for all-access ticket levels only
  • Wednesday, May 29, 2019

  • 9:00 - 9:45

    Registration – Det Norske Teatret

  • 10:00 - 11:00

    Theater Session 5 – Det Norske Teatret

    • Performance by ATLYS
    • Bryan Fogel Academy Award-winning director of Icarus
    • Laila Haidari Afghan activist combating drug addiction and religious
    • extremism
    • Memory Mbewe Children's and girls' rights advocate from Malawi
  • 11:30 - 12:30

    Theater Session 6 – Det Norske Teatret

    • Audrey Mbugua Head of Kenya’s Transgender Education and Advocacy
    • Felix Agbor Nkongho Cameroonian human rights lawyer and activst
    • Esther Htusan Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from Burma
    • Lina and Walid al-Hathloul Siblings of jailed Saudi women's rights advocate Loujain al-Hathloul
  • 12:30 - 13:00

    2019 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent Award Ceremony – Det Norske Teatret

    The Human Rights Foundation will award this year's Havel Prize to:
    • Rayma Suprani Venezuelan cartoonist
    • Rap Against Dictatorship Thai rap group
    • Ramy Essam Egyptian musician
    With a performance by Alsarah and the Nubatones
  • 13:00 - 14:00

    Lunch Break* –

    *Participants with all-access tickets may join lunch at the Grand Hotel.
  • 16:00 - 17:30

    Defending the Defenders: The Right to Protect the Environment – Oslo City Hall

    Oslo is the European Green Capital of 2019. Join us for this public event at City Hall to celebrate the activists putting themselves at risk to defend their environment. Featuring:
    • Welcome by Governing Mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen
    • Remarks by Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen
    • Marc Ona Essangui Gabonese rain forest protector and Goldman Prize recipient
    • Panel discussion and open Q&A moderated by Melissa Mahtani, featuring:
      • William Amanzuru Ugandan environmental rights defender
      • Lisseth Boon  Venezuelan anti-corruption journalist
      • Yevgeniya Chirikova Russian advocate and Goldman Prize Recipient
  • 20:00

    Closing Reception and Dinner* – Taket

    With music by Alsarah and the Nubatones and Ms. Mohammed.
    *Entry for all-access ticket levels only

Monday, May 27, 2019

US State Department protests restrictions on Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet

"I regret that the EU does not require Cuba to stop being a totalitarian regime." - Eduardo Cardet, over twitter on September 19, 2016. The National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement was released on parole on May 4, 2019 but remains subject to restrictions on his freedom.

Eduardo Cardet, May 2019

Protesting Restrictions on Cuban Political Prisoner Dr. Eduardo Cardet

The United States condemns the conditions placed on the movement and activities of Cuban human rights activist and political prisoner Dr. Eduardo Cardet. Cuban regime authorities not only unjustly sentenced Dr. Cardet to three years in prison after accusing him of criticizing former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, but now impose restrictions on his release. These restrictions seek to stymie Dr. Cardet’s courageous efforts to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for the Cuban people.

According to multiple international NGOs, Cardet is one of more than 100 political prisoners the Cuban regime currently and unjustly incarcerates. We denounce the Cuban regime’s deplorable prison conditions and continued abuses against Dr. Cardet and other political prisoners. And we call on the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners, immediately and without conditions.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. The Cuban regime’s continued arbitrary detention of Cuban activists and independent thinkers shines a light on its own cowardice.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Castro regime denies involvement in drug trafficking: Historical record places in doubt their claim of innocence.

Time to stop giving the benefit of the doubt.

Part of cocaine shipment seized in Panama
The Cuban government is denying that it was involved in the smuggling of tons of cocaine on a ship bound for Turkey with a stop in Holland. The Panamanian government is also giving the dictatorship in Havana the benefit of the doubt on the cocaine shipment. The only problem is that the Castro regime lies consistently. The government of Panama is making a mistake.

Consider the following:

U.S. and Canadian diplomats suffering from unexplained brain injuries.
 At least 24 U.S. diplomats and 14 Canadian diplomats have suffered unexplained brain injuries in Havana, Cuba. Symptoms included "nausea, headaches, nosebleeds, hearing and eye problems." Official Cuban government response: The diplomats are victims of mass stress and the sounds that they are hearing are crickets. The Cuban embassy in Washington DC on September 19, 2017 claimed that “Cuba strictly observes its obligations to protect foreign diplomats on its soil” is not true. This is another lie. There is a decades-old pattern of hostility. In 2006, the Miami Herald reported how a high-ranking member of the U.S. mission found his mouthwash replaced with urine. In another case, after one diplomat’s family privately discussed their daughter’s susceptibility to mosquito bites, “They returned home to find all of their windows open and the house full of mosquitoes.” American diplomats, like their Canadian counterparts, have also had pets poisoned while stationed in Cuba. The types of injuries suffered by diplomats since November 2016 are new, but Cuba’s outlaw behavior toward them is not.

Raul Castro on March 21, 2016 in the joint press conference with President Obama said that there were no political prisoners in Cuba, and if any were identified they would be released immediately. A list of current Cuban political prisoners was provided, but they were not freed.

Weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.
In July 2013, Cuban officials were caught trying to smuggle tons of arms that included: warplanes, missiles, and technology related to ballistic missile programs hidden under 220,000 bags of sugar to North Korea and lied about it. This was also in violation of U.N. sanctions.

The Castro regime has sought to smuggle narcotics into the United States since 1961, and has been implicated time and time again. Indictments have been issued and documentaries have caught the illicit activities of the dictatorship on film.

Raul Castro with Aldo Santamaria-Cuadrado
According to the UPI in 1982 the following high ranking Cuban officials were indicted by the United States for operatiing a drug ring out of Cuba: Aldo Santamaria-Cuadrado, head of the navy and a member of the Communist Central Committee; Fernando Ravelo-Renedo, ambassador to Colombia; Gonzalo Bassols-Suarez, a former staff member at the Cuban embassy in Colombia; and Rene Rodriguez-Cruz, a Central Committee member and president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People.

If one still has any doubts then take a look at the role the Castro regime has played in Venezuela with regards to narcotics trafficking.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Debate over what motivates the Castro regime's drug smuggling

I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job. - Margaret Thatcher  (1980)

Manuel Noriega and Fidel Castro embrace
Last night wrote about the Castro regime's decades long involvement in drug smuggling as part of an ideologically motivated agenda, but today was challenged by others with the thesis that the Cuban dictatorship's gun running and drug smuggling were done out of economic desperation due to the threat of economic collapse.

For the sake of brevity will highlight the most cogent argument on the matter and it was presented succinctly by Diana Álvarez Amell over twitter. She argued that "the pattern of the dictatorship in #Cuba -gun running and drug smuggling- when faced with economic collapse. The interesting question is why this is being publicized now."

My response was that "the Castro regime was heavily involved in drug running for decades, not just when facing economic collapse. It is part of the war against the decadent West." Professor Álvarez Amell responded that "That is to me an ideological red herring. It is about bare survival & staying in power, the rest, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "Don't use big words, they mean so little."

She had a point: "Don't use big words, they mean so little" - Oscar Wilde.." Followed up with a tweet that focused more on facts and less on SAT words and rhetoric. 

Professor Álvarez Amell rebutted that she saw things slightly differently, "Narco guerrilla is a self-serving way to support, while allowing the M19 to finance themselves & control the country side, & yet be beholden to Castro."

I would be inclined to agree, if this practice had started up as Soviet aide was drying up during the Gorbachev era. Until 1987 Soviet trade with Cuba had been increasing by 10% every year. The Castro regime's involvement in drug trafficking, gun smuggling, and international terrorism did not begin in the 1980s but in the early 1960s.

This is my rebuttal.

According to  the July 18, 1989 Heritage Foundation report, Castro's Show Trials Do Not Mean an End to Cuba's Drug Trade, the links to building narcotics networks to the United States stretch back to the earliest days of the dictatorship.
"Documented evidence of Cuba's role in drug trafficking dates back to the early 1960s. According to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence report released in 1982, a meeting was held in Havana in 1961 between communist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Moises Crespo of the Cuban Secret Police, and future Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende, to.discuss creating a narcotics network to smuggle illegal drugs to the U.S."
This was at a time when Soviet aid to Cuba made the U.S. Embargo irrelevant to the Castro regime, and the purpose of sanctions was to increase the cost to the Soviet Union to operate in Latin America.

In April of 1986 in a now de-classified CIA intelligence assessment titled The Cuban-Soviet Connection: Costs, Benefits, and Directions reported the massive nature of Russian aid to Cuba:
“Soviet economic assistance to Cuba, for example, has averaged $4.5 billion annually since 1980, and is by far the most extensive Soviet aid program to any developing country.” ... “Soviet military aid, provided free of cost to Havana, amounts to more than $500 million per year and has transformed the Cuban military into one of the largest and best equipped forces in the Third World.”
This assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also reflected in Fidel Castro's view of the embargo in 1985. When the Cuban dictator was asked what the impact of the US resuming trade relations with Cuba would be on the national economy Castro responded almost dismissively.
But, frankly speaking – I like frankness – economic relations with the United States would not imply any basic benefit for Cuba, no essential benefit. If trade relations with the U.S were renewed tomorrow, and if we were able to export our products to the United States, we would have to start making plans for new lines of production to be exported to the United States, because everything we are now producing and intend to produce in the next five years has already been sold on other markets. We would have to take them away from the other socialist countries in order to sell them back to the U.S., and the socialist countries pay us much better prices and have much better relations with us than does the United States. We export our citrus fruit, a large part of our sugar, a large part of our nickel, and other products to the other socialist countries, which not only pay us much higher prices and sell their products to us at lower prices, but also charge us much lower interest for credits and reschedule our debt for ten, fifteen, or twenty years without interest. In fact, what are we supposed to do? There's an old folk saying that goes, "Don't swap a cow for a goat!"
Not surprisingly the source, Fidel Castro: Nothing Can Stop the Course of History by Jeffrey M. Elliot and Mervyn M. Dymally (Pathfinder Press, 1986), cannot be found online, but on Amazon or in a library. This book was based in a question and answer interview of Fidel Castro published by Playboy Magazine.

Despite receiving massive and increasing Soviet subsidies between 1960 and 1987 the Castro regime engaged in massive arms smuggling and drug trafficking in the service of ideological objectives and as can be seen in Venezuela today in establishing a Cuban imperial presence in the hemisphere, and striking at the soft underbelly of the United States.  This would not be the first time that drug trafficking was carried out to advance imperial objectives.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Cuba's Revolutionary Cocaine Habit

The Castro regime's decades long affair with cocaine trafficking

Panamanian soldier guards part of the shipment of drugs from Cuba that were seized.
Andrea Torres of Local 10 News reported today that "Panama seized a shipment of cocaine valued at $90 million. It was inside of a container that was in a ship that was coming from Cuba, authorities said. Panamanian authorities intercepted the cargo Saturday at the Puerto de Cristóbal. There were 1,517 wide bricks of cocaine hidden inside of 46 large black duffle bags with wheels." This means that the cocaine was seized on May 18, 2019.  According to shipping documents these items were supposedly bags of coal.

This was not the first time, three years ago in April of 2016 Panamanian police seized more than 400 kilograms of cocaine in a Cuban ship on its way to Belgium. However Panama is not the only channel.

Cocaine shipment from Cuban ship hidden under molasses discovered in Panama
Agence France-Presse reported on July 12, 2017 that Ermal Hoxha (age 42), the grandson of former Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha, was found guilty of belonging to a "criminal group involved in cocaine trafficking from Cuba through Albania to west European countries," the court statement said. The dictator's grandson was arrested in January 2015 and 264 pounds of cocaine were also confiscated.

The Castro regime's documented involvement in drug trafficking stretches back at least 37 years to 1982. Cuba was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982, less than three months after the US State Department confirmed that the Cuban government 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.

Noriega's link to Castro and Cocaine
During General Manuel Noriega's 1992 trial information emerged publicly implicating the Castro regime that 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 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

General Manuel Noriega with the late Fidel Castro

In a 1991 Frontline documentary, Cuba and Cocaine, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jeff Karonis, stated, "We would observe in the middle of the day an air drop going on inside Cuban waters. The scenario would be for a small twin-engine airplane with maybe 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of cocaine to fly over Cuba, drop the drugs to a predesignated rendezvous point to several boats. Then it would exit back down off Cuba, and many times a Cuban military vessel would be in the immediate vicinity, right on scene with them.'' 

Ignoring this history led to a bizarre outcome. A peace process that led to an explosion in cocaine production. General Raul Castro played a high profile role in mediating the peace negotiations between the Santos government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) FARC in Colombia. FARC are known for funding their conflict with Cocaine production. The State Department's report offers ominous news on Cocaine production in Colombia:
 The United States estimates that the area devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia increased 42 percent in 2015 to 159,000 ha from 112,000 ha in 2014, returning to cultivation levels last seen in Colombia in 2007. 
Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post reported on Venezuela, the FARC, Cuba trafficking axis on May 24, 2015 in the article "A drug cartel’s power in Venezuela":

Ever since Colombian commandos captured the laptop of a leader of the FARC organization eight years ago, it’s been known that Chávez gave the Colombian narcoguerrillas sanctuary and allowed them to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to the United States with the help of the Venezuelan army. But not until a former Chávez bodyguard [ Leamsy Salazar] defected to the United States in January [2015] did the scale of what is called the “Cartel of the Suns ” start to become publicly known.

The day after Salazar’s arrival in Washington, Spain’s ABC newspaper published a detailed account of the emerging case against Cabello, and last month, ABC reporter Emili Blasco followed up with a book laying out the allegations of Salazar and other defectors, who say Cuba’s communist regime and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah have been cut in on the trafficking."
 Over the past 37 years Castro regime agents have used cocaine to fund both their revolutionary activities and lavish lifestyles at the expense of destroying lives while seeking to undermine Western democracies.  Policy makers ignoring this reality do a disservice to their constituents.

DEA target Diosdado Cabello with General Raul Castro and his Foreign Minister

Friday, May 17, 2019

Visiting the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism: A Reflection

"National Socialism means: Enmity with neighboring nations, tyranny internally, civil war, world war, lies, hatred, fratricide and boundless want." - Dr.  Carl Albert Fritz Michael Gerlich, Der gerade Weg, 31 July 1932

Entrance to the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism
This year marks 80 years since the outbreak of World War 2, and during a visit to Munich happened to find markers and plaques across the German city highlighting the rise of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP; Nazi Party) , their criminal regime, and the continuing crimes by Nazis following the end of the Second World War.

For example outside of the Old City Hall in the historic heart of Munich the above plaque was prominently displayed along with an English translation that read:



Walking further came across an ominous marker that indicated that Nazi crimes did not end in 1945. The marker recognized in both German and English that "[t]heir unheeded suffering admonishes us to care. The deeds of right-wing extremists call for vigilance. Munich remembers the victims of the Oktoberfest Bomb Attack on 26 September 1980 and all those affected by it." Through a quick Google search learned that the marker had been placed there on September 4, 2018 and that 13 people had been killed and 219 wounded in the bombing.

The day before had toured the Alte Pinakothek, the old art museum, saw the old masters, and returned the following day to see impressionist painters at the newer museum, the Neue Pinakothek, which is just across the street and complements the old art museum, but found it was closed for renovations from December 31, 2018 until some time in 2020.

Walking back I happened upon the the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. This museum opened on May 1, 2015 with the objective of "education and remembrance documenting and addressing the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship and their origins, manifestations and consequences right up to the present day." 

Site in Munich were Nazis had their headquarters
It is one of those things that is known, but that one does not connect with an area best known for Oktoberfest, and the great culture and civilization of Bavaria. The Nazis first came into power in Munich, and had their main headquarters there.

Spent about four hours going through the different multi-media presentations beginning just after WWI all the way through to the present. It documents the violence, criminality and horror of the NAZI's and their skillful use of propaganda that dehumanized the other, especially Jewish people. 

Because it has a Munich focus it addresses the gathering there of Hitler, Italy's Mussolini, Britain's Chamberlain, and France's Daladier in 1938 and the agreement they all signed that met all of the German Fuhrer's demands and sealed the fate of  Czechoslovakia, but did not deter the oncoming war. 

However there was no mention of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact that spurred on the war with the division of Poland in secret protocols between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia or the resistance of housewives in Berlin, who in 1943 went on strike and got their Jewish husbands back with a coordinated non-violent action.

Student Resistance: The White Rose
However many acts of resistance in Munich were featured including, The White Rose, a student resistance to the Nazis.  In the picture above three members of the movement are gathered: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst on July 23, 1942. All three would be executed by the Nazis. Resistance to the Nazis began early.  Conservative journalist Dr.  Carl Albert Fritz Michael Gerlich campaigned against the Nazis early on (see his quote at the top of the page) was taken to the Dachau concentration camp in 1933 and murdered by the the Nazis in 1934.

The case of Johann Georg Elser is also highlighted in the museum. Elser was a 36-year-old carpenter from a small town in southern Germany who came close to assassinating Adolf Hitler on November 8, 1939. The carpenter's objective was to kill Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels. He planted a bomb with a timer where the three men would be while Hitler was making his annual speech at a Munich beer hall. Hitler and his delegation left earlier than planned. The bomb went off 13 minutes after the high-ranking Nazis left and eight were killed and 63 injured.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H25087 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Nearly five years later on July 20, 1944 the failure of another bomb to kill Hitler brought to an end a high level plot by civilian and military officials. The bomb went off and injured, but did not kill Hitler at the Wolf's Lair, a command post near Rastenburg, East Prussia (present-day Poland). The conspiracy was code named Operation Valkyrie. In the end 7,000 people were arrested, and 4,980 executed for their role in the plot.

However, what remains disturbing is that the man who broke up the conspiracy Otto-Ernst Remer (18 August 1912 – 4 October 1997) would go on to play a big role in post-Nazi Germany. Captured by the United States, he remained a prisoner of war until 1947. Following his release, he obtained funding from the Soviet Union and established the Socialist Reich Party in 1950 that worked with the Communist Party of Germany.  Campaign themes of the Socialist Reich Party included that the Holocaust was an allied propaganda invention, it accused the United States of building fake gas chambers and producing fake news-film footage about concentration camps, that the politics of the Allied-powers created West German state were merely a front for American domination, and that West Germany's puppet status of the United States should be opposed. 

(SRP) leaders; Chair Dr. Fritz Dorls, Otto Ernst Remer, 2nd Chair Fmr SS / Hitler Youth leader Count von Westarp.
The Socialist Reich Party was banned in 1952 and Otto-Ernst Remer fled to Egypt. He served as an advisor to Gamal Abdel Nasser, and worked with other Germans assisting Arab states with the development of their armed forces. He often met with Johannes von Leers. It is worth providing some background on von Leers.

Johannes von Leers had been Waffen SS in Nazi Germany, was also a professor known for his anti-Jewish polemics, and was an important ideologue of the Third Reich, serving as a high-ranking propaganda ministry official. He would offer these services to Nasser at the Egyptian Information Department and serve the Egyptian leader as an advisor. He also provided publishing services in Peron's Argentina. Johannes von Leers converted to Islam, took the name Omar Amin, and died in Egypt at age 63 in 1965. 

In the early 1960s Otto-Ernst Remer had contacts with and assisted Fidel Castro in Cuba with the purchase of weapons.

Otto-Ernst Remer returned to West Germany in the 1980s, and set up an organization entitled the "German Freedom Movement" (G.F.M.), which advocated the reunification of East and West Germany, and the removal of NATO military forces from West German soil. The G.F.M. was an umbrella organization for multiple underground Neo-Nazi splinter-groups, and Remer used it to influence a new generation of post-war born Germans. Until the end of his days he continued to engage in Holocaust denial, was an unrepentant Nazi and continued to promote and organize underground Neo-Nazi movements that continue to engage in acts of terror and murder to the present day.

It is also disturbing that Communist Russia allied with Nazi Germany in 1939 to start World War Two, and covertly promoted Nazi elements again in post-war Germany after 1945 in order to undermine West German democracy. Is Vladimir Putin carrying on today where Josef Stalin left off? How much of a role did and does Nazism play in exacerbating anti-Jewish sentiment in the Muslim world?

Visiting the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism led me to take a closer look at Nazism past and present and its enablers. 

The words of Primo Levi from the The Drowned and the Saved in 1986 should cause us to be ever vigilant: "It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere."