Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Bacardi leads in sustainable rum production while Cuban rum distilleries destroy the environment

Private property rights are human rights.

Source: CubaBrief

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd around the world, and Nicola Carruthers writing in The Spirits Business highlighted companies with initiatives to protect the environment and support sustainable development. According to Carruthers, "in 2018, Bacardi teamed up with environmental charity Lonely Whale to clamp down on single-use plastic and eradicate one billion plastic straws by 2020. The Future Doesn’t Suck campaign saw Bacardi remove “non-essential”, non-recyclable single-use plastic across its global supply chain."

Bacardi shifted some of its production last month to produce hand sanitizer in response to COVID-19, much of which is being given to police, nurses, non-profits and others battling coronavirus on the frontlines. The company has also set up a $ 3 million dollar fund to provide financial support, meals and other necessities to help bar owners and bar staff impacted by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Cuba there is a crackdown underway for those who are providing independent information on the situation on the ground. Independent journalists are jailed for doing their job. Amnesty International has issued a second urgent action for "63-year-old independent journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces." He was "imprisoned on 11 September 2019 for “resistance” and “disobedience”, remains in the Provincial Prison of Guantánamo in concerning sanitary conditions, according to reports. His family stated he has also developed health conditions, which may put him at increased risk in face of COVID-19."

Amnesty International is demanding that "Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release [ Roberto Quiñones ] and other prisoners of conscience in the country, amid grave fears over the spread of COVID-19 in Cuba’s prisons." Independent journalists have broken important stories in the past such as the Cuban government's 2012 response to the cholera outbreak that netted independent journalist Calixto Martinez prison time and recognition as a prisoner of conscience. In 2018, Julio Batista was the winner of the King of Spain Journalism Award for his reporting on pollution from Cuba's main rum distillery in a long 2017 investigative piece titled "The dead waters of Havana Club". (An English excerpt of the report is included below.)

Sadly, the communist takeover of Cuba's main rum distillery, and taking of Havana Club from "the Arechabala Family on June 1, 1960 at gun point ended a family rum-making business that had started in 1878 in Cuba. The Arechabala family lost everything and was forced to flee their homeland, with a scant few of their remaining possessions – the precious Havana Club recipe being one of them.

Since the 1980s, liquid wastes have been a major problem for the Ronera. Photo Julio Batista.
Meanwhile, the Castro regime started to sell their stolen version of Havana Club, that today "pumps 1,288 cubic meters of waste liquids into the Chipriona inlet every day, mostly vinasse (a residual liquid remaining from the fermentation and distillation of alcoholic liquors). It has been doing that since the 1990s, although the problems became more acute starting in 2007," according to Julio Batista in his 2017 report.

Ronera Santa Cruz produces 60 million liters per year. More than half are Havana Club products.
Bacardi, founded in Cuba in 1862, has demonstrated over the years a concern for sustainable development and rootedness to Cuba with a multigenerational sense of belonging and protection of their properties, and surrounding communities. The late British philosopher Roger Scruton explained that " for it is only private ownership that confers responsibility for the environment as opposed to the unqualified right to exploit it, a right whose effect we saw in the ruined landscapes and poisoned waterways of the former Soviet empire." Unfortunately, these ruined landscapes and poisoned waterways are found all too often today in Castro's Cuba. The video below is in Spanish, but the images of environmental destruction at Chipriona inlet are understood in any language.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Three observations and questions on Americans returning home from Cuba

 "Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider."—Francis Bacon

Woman greets her father who was repatriated Friday and arrived at Miami International Airport from Cuba. (Local 10 News)
On Friday, April 24, 2020 Local 10 reported that "300 U.S. citizens who had been stranded in Cuba since authorities suspended flights earlier this month" arrived back home in Miami. Flights to and from Cuba were suspended at midnight on April 1st.

This is great news.

However there are some observations that need to be raised.

1. Cuba has a history of covering up prior epidemics of contagious diseases including dengue, cholera, and most recently zika.

2. Cuba has extremely poor hygiene conditions, with shortages of soap, and other toiletries due to an internal blockade constructed by the Castro regime that makes it difficult for Cubans even to make their own soap using house hold items. The regime, prior to the suspension of flights, limited how much soap or detergent Cubans could bring in.

3. Cubans inside and outside of the island are warning of a humanitarian crisis with both rising numbers of Wuhan virus cases and rising repression by the dictatorship. Independent reporting on what is actually taking place on the ground in the island is punishable by hefty fines and prison, at a time when coronavirus can turn a prison detention into a death sentence.

Taking all of this into consideration the following questions arise:

Were Americans who returned home from Cuba tested for the Wuhan virus before leaving the airport?

Will both asymptomatic and symptomatic cases be kept in quarantine, and for how long?

When travel opens up again will these kind of screening measures be in place to limit the spread of Wuhan virus from international travelers especially from governments such as China, North Korea, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba that can not be trusted to give accurate information on outbreaks? 

We are in a new world with the current pandemic and recent history has shown that it is better to be prepared than caught by surprise because other countries and international health agencies have not done their due diligence endangering millions.

Policymakers should look to what Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia have done to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus and keep death rates low while maintaining democratic norms.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Honoring Bob Marley By Setting the Record Straight

"Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!" - Bob Marley 

Bob Marley
If Bob Marley were alive today what would he say about Chinese Communist involvement in Jamaica?

(MENAFN - Caribbean News Global)

By John Suarez

Bob Marley, the Jamaican reggae icon, passed away on May 11, 1981, after four years battling a melanoma skin cancer that started on his toe. Marley's legacy of deep spirituality and defense of personal freedoms has been an enduring cultural influence of the Caribbean on world civilization. Marley's rejection of imperialism or oppression of any kind would probably also apply today, as the foreign policies of the People's Republic of China have taken up the Communist expansion once fostered by the extinct Soviet Union.

Today, in Jamaica the Chinese Communists are exploiting Jamaicans in a communist neo-colonial project that subjugates the people of that long-suffering nation. Chinese economic inroads into the country have plunged Jamaica into an inescapable debt with the Chinese totalitarian regime, with infrastructure projects out of reach to the Jamaican people, but a functional part of China's overall expansionist vision in the Caribbean and the world.

Just as in the 1970s, when Ethiopia became a pawn of Soviet designs in Africa at the expense of the suffering of its people, Jamaica today is another step in the PRC's climb towards world hegemony. Were Bob Marley still with us today he would be denouncing the outsiders oppressing his people and calling on his countrymen to stand up for their rights.

Marley had supported Socialist candidate Michael Manley, in Jamaica's 1972 elections. Manley had a change of heart following the 1974 coup against the Ethiopian monarch Haile Selassie , his subsequent assassination in 1975, and the backing of the Soviets and the Castro regime for the Mengistu Communist Regime which perpetrated these acts. Emperor Haile Selassie had always resisted European imperialism.

Prime Minister Michael Manley would be re-elected in 1976. He developed close ties to the Castro regime, and it earned him the enmity of Bob Marley.

Jeff Cathrow interviewed Bob Marley on July 19, 1978, and the reggae icon expressed his outrage at the Soviet involvement in the overthrow of Ethiopia's monarchy. During the interview, he said: '… white men overthrew him and called it a revolution:
… Bob began to play with a rubber ball, twirling and bouncing it off the top of his head, as the conversation turned to the coup against Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie in 1973. But his playfulness was only temporary, as he retorted: 'So hear me now! Who overthrow 'im? Who support the group that overthrow His Majesty? The communists—Russia, right? Yeah, mon. Russia overthrow His Majesty—a white mon overthrow him, and he's a black man. And propaganda it out amongst the black people, and it look like is a revolution inside. Just a big foolishness, y'know? Heh, mon, them sabotage … Why them overthrow His Majesty's state?'
In the same interview Marley expressed his disdain for Michael Manley, his socialist regime, and that his overthrow would be an improvement:
'What kind of government does Jamaica have?'
'Like the one they have in Ethiopia-Socialist. Jamaica govamint a no… the govamint in Jamaica, uh, we conn-trol Jamaica, mon. We conn-trol it-Rasta conn-trol Jamaica. True we no want it! We don't really want it b'cause them ones like the money. So we don't really want to take it from dem, ya know? Them can't stand it, 'cause is a problem. But Rasta conn-trol Jamaica.'
'Do the Rastas in Jamaica and the prime minister (Michael Manley) get along well together? Do they have the same ideologies?'
'No mon! Michael Manley is a Marxist-Leninist-Socialist, Rasta is a monarchy. Dig It!'
Towards the end of the interview Cathrow asked Bob Marley if he'd ever played Russia and the Jamaican artist responded:
'Me don't want to play Russia. The only time me play Russia is when Ethiopia run smooth again…'
Three years later on September 18, 1980, in what appears to have been his last interview before his untimely death, the reggae star was still focused on denouncing that, because the Jamaican government was trying to follow communist or socialist ideology, they banned his record "Rastaman Vibration" since it carried a speech by Haile Selassie.
W: did you get any resistance from the music industry or government in Jamaica when making your music? Like banning your songs?
M: Of course! Our songs got banned all the while. "Rastaman Vibration" was one of the first record ever banned for me. Yeah, because it carry the speech of Haile Selassie, and because the country trying to go communist or socialist, they never want to hear what Selassie have to say. So them just ban it. When Rastaman song get banned in Jamaica man it was war at the radio stations that play our music. War! A literal going to fight to get your music played. Cause you know them figure say Rasta is changing society. But that is what we come to do. And people get quarrelsome and weak. We come to change things and when them see changes them quarrel and say it's changing. And that's what we come fido, and them know it.
At the end of the interview Anita Waters asks Bob Marley, "anything else you want to tell your public?" Marley remembered that it was the fiftieth anniversary of the coronation of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie the First, and he condemned the Mengistu regime, the Russians and the Cubans who had intervened in Ethiopia.

Fidel and Raul Castro were both deeply involved in sending 17,000 Cuban troops to Eastern Africa in order to assist Mengistu in consolidating his rule and eliminating actual and potential opposition. The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until 1989 and were present and complicit in the engineered famine that took place there. September 21, 1978, Rolling Stone article "Ethiopia After the Revolution: Vultures Return to the Land of Sheba" authored by Donald R. Katz described what the communists were up to in the African nation.
Toward the middle of last year [1977], Mengistu pulled out all the stops. "It is an historical obligation," he said then, "to clean up vigilantly using the revolutionary sword." He announced that the shooting was about to start and that anyone in the middle would be caught in the crossfire. In what came to be known as the "Red Terror," he proceeded to round up all those who opposed the military regime.

According to Amnesty International, the Dergue killed over 10,000 people by the end of the year. One anti-government party, mostly made up of students and teachers, was singled out as "the opposition." The Red Terror operated quietly and efficiently under the media cover provided by a vicious desert war that started when Somalia invaded eastern Ethiopia ten months ago. Around this time, president Carter abandoned a long-term military agreement with Ethiopia on the stated grounds of "gross and systematic human rights violations," and Cuban soldiers and Russian arms poured in to protect and "consolidate the gains" of the revolution.
 Human Rights Watch in their 2008 report on Ethiopia titled "Collective Punishment War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia's Somali Region" outlined some of the practices carried out by Cuban troops sent there by Fidel and Raul Castro excerpted below:
In December 1979, a new Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, 'was more specifically directed against the population's means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.' Militarily, the counter-insurgency operations succeeded in greatly weakening the insurgents or driving them across the border into Somalia.
 Charles Lane of The Washington Post on December 1, 2016, article "Castro was no liberator" wrote of the Castro regime's legacy in Ethiopia:
With the Cuban forces watching his back, Mengistu wrapped up his bloody campaign of domestic repression, known as 'the Red Terror,' and sent his own Soviet-equipped, Cuban-trained troops to crush a rebellion in Eritrea. 
Marley imbued the Caribbean and expressed to the world a rich spiritual content of both musical beauty, mystical hierarchy, universal love for humanity, and personal independence. He was a man who thought and felt on his terms, putting the sovereignty of his soul above all. These were the powerful reasons on which his anti Communism was based. Let his dream not falter us in this new age.

John Suarez is the Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

 Statue of Bob Marley in Ethiopia

Friday, April 24, 2020

China, Cuba and the Coronavirus: How are Cuba and China connected in the context of coronavirus?

Communists lie and people die

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is hosting the "Understanding China" online event series to help Americans understand the nature of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and key issues in U.S.-China relations.

Join VOC for continuing virtual talks from experts on the impact of the CCP's misinformation campaign surrounding the coronavirus, cultural genocide and internment camps in China, high tech totalitarianism, religious liberty, trade and economics, and more. Visit www.victimsofcommunism.org/events for more information.

On April 21, 2020 had the privilege of  discussing "China, Cuba and the Coronavirus: How are Cuba and China connected in the context of coronavirus?" in the webinar hosted and moderated by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

It can be viewed in the embedded video below.

Related links:

Cuba and China: A tale of two viral outbreaks

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, China, Cuba and the coronavirus

Cuba, China, and the Coronavirus cover-up

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Elian Gonzalez was taken at gunpoint 20 years ago today and returned to Fidel Castro

We remember.

Twenty years ago Saturday, April 22nd in a pre-dawn raid Elian Gonzalez was taken at gun point from his family in Miami, and sent back to Cuba. His mother had died trying to bring her son to freedom, but the Clinton Administration returned the young boy to the Castro regime.

The Castro regime had the winning narrative, framing the argument as a boy being reunited with his father. The reality was far more complicated, but did not fit into newscasts that demonized the Cuban community in South Florida and clamored for the child's return.

Fidel Castro would often parade his trophy Elian Gonzalez in Cuba
I still remember liberal Cuban friends of mine in tears telling me that the only radio show they could listen to was Rush Limbaugh, because all the others were full of hateful and bigoted tirades against Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans.

When people wonder why Cuban-Americans continue to vote Republican in large numbers they only need to revisit history.

President Clinton did well with Cuban voters in 1992 and 1996, but his moves to normalize relations began early with the Castro regime.  We learned later that much had been going on behind the scenes in the early days of  the Clinton Administration.
According to Raul Castro in a December 2008 interview with Sean Penn under the Clinton Administration a new relationship was initiated between the Castro regime's military and the United States military : "We've had permanent contact with the US military, by secret agreement, since 1994." Not only contacts but joint military exercises. Again the source is Raul Castro:

"It is based on the premise that we would discuss issues only related to Guantánamo. On February 17, 1993, following a request by the United States to discuss issues related to buoy locators for ship navigations into the bay, was the first contact in the history of the revolution. Between March 4 and July 1, the Rafters Crisis took place. A military-to-military hot line was established, and on May 9, 1995, we agreed to monthly meetings with primaries from both governments. To this day, there have been 157 meetings, and there is a taped record of every meeting. The meetings are conducted on the third Friday of every month. We alternate locations between the American base at Guantánamo and in Cuban-held territory. We conduct joint emergency-response exercises. For example, we set a fire, and American helicopters bring water from the bay, in concert with Cuban helicopters.
On Clinton's watch the Castro regime shot down two civilian planes in international airspace in a premeditated and calculated conspiracy that allegedly included members of the Clinton Administration and the Cuban Wasp spy net work that would be broken up on September 12, 1998 when it was discovered that they had planned acts of sabotage and terrorism on American soil, including the murder of an alleged CIA agent living in Bal Harbour Florida. 

During the Clinton Administration a threat assessment was prepared by the Department of Defense that reported Cuba was no longer a threat to the national interests of the United States, but in 2001 it was discovered that the main author of the report, Ana Belen Montes, was a long time agent of  the Castro regime. 

Phyllis Schlafly
While the mainstream media was demonizing Cuban Americans during the Elian affair, in January 2000 conservative firebrand Phyllis Schlafly acknowledged Elian's mother's sacrifice for her son to live in freedom, understood where Cuban Americans were coming from, and made the case as follows:
The mother of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez sacrificed her life so that her son could grow up in America. Her dying wish, according to a Cuban man who survived for two days on an inner tube, was that Elian could reach the United States and freedom. A reporter for the socialist Madrid newspaper El Pais investigated and learned that Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, had wanted Elian to go to America. Elian's relatives in Florida know very well that Elian is far better off in free America than in Communist Cuba where people are denied the everyday liberties we take for granted, including freedoms of speech, travel, and education.

One person, however, disagrees: Fidel Castro, whose apparatchiks no doubt "persuaded" Mr. Gonzalez to change his story. Elian's escape, like all defections, is an acute embarrassment to Castro. Communist suppression of the right to travel has long demonstrated the inhumanity of its system. The Berlin Wall, guarded by sharpshooters ordered to kill anyone who attempted to escape, symbolized the terror of Communism for an entire generation.

Flight that risks death constitutes the ultimate repudiation of Communist regimes and is often followed by vindictive attempts at retaliation by the humiliated dictator. KGB files newly opened to the West are full of examples.


Like all dictators, Castro is used to getting his way. He deliberately raised the political stakes of this controversy to the point where Elian Gonzalez is unlikely to have a normal life if he were returned to Cuba. The arguments about father's rights and family unity are phony when it comes to Elian's predicament. If U.S. authorities send Elian back to Cuba, it won't be to Elian's father; it will mean sending him back to be paraded around as a Castro trophy and raised, perhaps in a daycare center, to be a good Communist. The only persons the United States has forcibly returned to Cuba are criminals, and Elian surely is not a criminal. Does anyone believe that, if Elian's mother had died in the act of throwing her son over the Berlin Wall that we would have forcibly returned her boy to East Germany?

The mystery is why Clinton has sided with Castro. Perhaps his corporate friends are salivating over the potential for investments in tourism, gambling and other industries in Cuba where forty years of Communism have depressed the economy to the point where the ultimate luxury is a 1956 Chevrolet. Perhaps the Clinton Administration considers deporting Elian as necessary to appease Castro and facilitate open trade relations. Based on Clinton's policies toward Communist China, "follow the money" is usually a good explanation of his foreign policy.
Phyllis passed away in 2016,  and her life is now being caricatured and mischaracterized on FX and Hulu. Sadly, we Cuban-Americans can relate to such demonization, but the only defense is to lay out the facts and challenge the lies.

Vanessa Garcia in The Miami New Times has written an important article 20 years later and brought forth some inconvenient facts that explode the dominant narrative:
As the Elián story dragged on, those who were allowed inside his circle were able to glimpse that reality. One such person was the late Roman Catholic Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, whom Reno appointed to mediate when Elián's two grandmothers were dispatched to the United States in January 2000 to argue on behalf of Juan Miguel that Elián should be sent back.
Reno was sure O'Laughlin would remain neutral, but she did not. "I expected to witness a meaningful visit. But I had no idea that what I saw would be so powerful that it would change my mind, persuading me that Elián should not be returned — at least for now — to his father in Cuba," O'Laughlin wrote in a February 2000 New York Times op-ed.
O'Laughlin believed the grandmothers were not acting out of their own "free will." She also discovered that one of them wanted to defect. "This talk of defecting got me to thinking; if one of the adults wanted out, perhaps it was not a good place for the child," she subsequently elaborated to the Miami Herald.
The Elián drama came to a head at 5:15 a.m. April 22, 2000, when, on Reno's orders, federal agents forcibly entered the house where the boy was living. The raid was code-named "Operation Reunion."


Castro, who had "summoned throngs into the streets to demand Elián's return" while Elián was on U.S. soil, even built a museum in the boy's hometown of Cárdenas, on the island's northern coast. (When Robinson traveled to Cárdenas to try to interview Elián's father, a police officer and a local party official stationed outside Juan Miguel's door politely turned him away.) By 2016, when he was 21 years old, Elián referred to Fidel as his "father."
Other facts have emerged in the intervening years as well. In 2002, an internal memo written by INS attorney Rebeca Sánchez-Roig came to light, revealing that some INS officials believed Elián's father had applied for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana through the annual lottery. The memo also pointed to suspicions that Juan Miguel was being "coerced by the Castro regime." A handwritten notation Sánchez-Roig added on a printout of the memo indicated that then-INS Commissioner Doris Meissner had ordered the memo destroyed the very next day and decreed that no further discussions related to the Elián case be put in writing.

Two years earlier, Juan Miguel's cousin María Isabel Martell, who had fled Cuba to the States, had told the Associated Press: "I know for a fact that Juan Miguel wanted to come to the United States. Juan Miguel told me, in front of his mother and his relatives, that sometime in the future he would come, even if he had to come in a tub."
Thus refocused, "Elián" is neither a custody case nor the saga of a child separated from his father. It's the chronicle of a political chess match, populated with the full complement of power brokers and pawns.
And Alan Diaz's photo is precisely the image the victorious Castro would have handpicked to capture the endgame.
Less than six months later Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in September of 2000 and a month later signed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act and opened cash and carry trade with the Castro dictatorship at the end of his Administration. 

Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and Raul Castro in 2015
Opposition in Congress led to that trade not being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers through government backed credits ensuring that business between the two countries would be cash and carry.

Elian Gonzalez with Gerardo Hernandez ( spy guilty of murder conspiracy pardoned by Obama)
This combined with the Elian episode cost Al Gore Cuban American support in 2000 and led to the loss of Florida in a tight race. President Clinton got 35 percent of the Cuban-American vote in Florida in 1996. In 2000, Gore drew less than 20 percent. Bush got 50,000 more Cuban American votes than the previous Republican presidential candidate. According to William Schneider writing in The Atlantic "that's a hundred times greater than Bush's certified margin of victory in Florida. " The taking of Elian Gonzalez on April 22, 2000 would change the course of American and world history. There would not have been a Florida recount or a Bush presidency  if not for what happened twenty years ago today.

My take on Elian back in 2000: Before and After April 22nd

We remember

On Tuesday, April 25, 2000 at 7:30pm over a thousand Cubans peacefully marched together from Ocean Drive to the border of the Holocaust Memorial in remembrance of the 936 Jewish, men, women, and children sent back to Nazi Germany in 1939 after being denied asylum by both Cuba and the United States. We prayed to God, and asked for his forgiveness at committing such a horrific act. The march was organized by members of the Free Cuba Foundation. We did this because many had compared Elian's return to sending a child back to Nazi, Germany but had forgotten that Cubans had done just that to scores of Jewish children aboard the SS St. Louis. We remembered and called on others to do so as well.We were still angry at the violent taking of Elian Gonzalez three days earlier on April 22nd, but it was tempered by our reflection on what had happened decades earlier. Mention of the march were made in The New York Times and by the Associated Press.

Below are some of my thoughts on what had happened and how it was interpreted at the time. 

The Washington Times, August 16, 2000

Awards for a 'shameful chapter of American history'

Upon hearing that Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris M. Meissner was holding an awards ceremony for the INS agents involved in the April 22 raid on the home of Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives, I remembered the prophetic words of George Orwell. "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." The Clinton administration is attempting to rewrite a shameful chapter of American history with this awards ceremony ("Snatching Elian has its reward," Aug. 10).

Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, described the raid as having "violated a basic principle of our society, a principle whose preservation lies at the core of ordered liberty under the rule of law."

According to Mr. Tribe, under the Constitution, the executive branch has no unilateral authority to forcibly enter people's homes to remove innocent persons. Mr. Tribe has said that the agents who stormed the home of Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, did not have a warrant to seize the child, but only to search the home.

A second constitutional lawyer and expert on civil liberties, Alan Dershowitz, denounced the raid as an illegal operation, stating that the raid created the "terrible precedent that the administration can act without court approval and break into the home of an American citizen. It's a dangerous day for all Americans."

Shame on the Clinton administration for ordering civil servants to carry out illegal actions that do violence to our Constitution and our way of life. Shame on those men and women who followed illegal orders rather than the law they are sworn to uphold. It was not only the home of the Gonzalez family that was attacked on April 22, but also our Constitution. Let us use these awards of shame to remember, speak the truth and defend our fundamental freedoms.



Chronicles Magazine, June 1, 2000

On Elian

Thomas Fleming is wrong when he writes (Cultural Revolutions, April) that, by Cuban law, Elian Gonzalez belongs to his next-of-kin, his father. According to Cuban law (specifically the Codigo de Familia Ley, No. 1289), parental authority is subordinated to "inculcating" the "internationalist spirit and socialist morality." According to Article 95, section three, of this so-called family code, government tribunals can "deprive both parents, or one of them, parental authority," when both parents fail to indoctrinate their children in communist morality. Under Cuban law, Elian has one "father" who ultimately decides what value system he will be raised in, and his name is Fidel Castro.

Secondly, Dr. Fleming is guilty of an Orwellian use of the English language. He stated that Elian's mother "died in an illegal attempt to enter the United States." One may agree or disagree with current U.S. immigration policy, but one cannot dispute that, under Lyndon Johnson's 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, Elian's mother is given automatic residency upon reaching U.S. soil. How can her attempt to enter the United States be illegal if, upon entering, she would be granted residency a year and a day later? The Clinton administration's 1995 circumvention of the spirit of this law, without repealing it, in a migration agreement with the Castro regime is just another example of the lawlessness of the Clinton administration, not of Elian's mother. The claim that "by American law, the boy is simply an illegal alien who can either be returned to Cuba or stuck in a concentration camp" is just wrong. Under U.S. law, the child was granted humanitarian parole and was on his way to receiving residency a year and a day later before Castro's tantrum led to the INS reversing its decision.

Dr. Fleming cites the American abortion rate, declaring "it is hard to believe [Cuba] begins to approach the American level." Pax Christi sent a delegation to Cuba back in 1998 and was profoundly disturbed to report that, according to the Cuban minister of health, there is one abortion to every birth in Cuba. Pax Christi claimed that, at a "rather large nearby hospital, that we visit often, approximately thirty abortions take place daily. It is not unusual for women to be forced to have abortions. To rebel against the practice is futile."

Dr. Fleming's observation that "recent visitors to Cuba have not returned with stories of massive oppression and executions" should be placed in a larger historical context. I'd recommend that he obtain a transcript of Daniel Wolfs BBC2 documentaries. Tourists of the Revolution. It's amazing how visitors to some of the most brutal and murderous tyrannies of this century failed to mention mass murder and wholesale oppression. George Bernard Shaw visited the Soviet Union in 1931 and returned with stories of "an atmosphere of hope and security as has never before been seen in a civilized country on earth." Another visitor to the "worker's paradise" built by that wonderful humanitarian Stalin, Barbara Castle, then a journalist, reported "no atmosphere of repression" in pre-war Moscow, only glorious opportunities for women. Meanwhile, millions were being starved, massacred, and banished to gulags in Siberia.

There is a paradox at work in Cuba. The more foreign investment in joint partnerships with the regime, the greater the shrinkage in the Cuban private sector. Reuters reported in 1998 that "current and former members of the private sector blame the falloff on excessive state controls and taxes imposed after the introduction of some market-oriented features in 1993." This clampdown on the private sector coincided with the arrival of hard currency from European and Canadian investors.

This hard currency has been used to sustain the Cuban police state. Dropping sanctions and providing U.S. credits and hard currency to prop up the regime will only earn the enmity of the Cuban people.
Reports of massive repression in Cuba have appeared in the Economist, in which Pedro Betancur reported on the brutal January 22 beating of human-rights activists by a government mob. Sixty-eight-year-old Gloria Gonzalez described the attack: "They hit one of my sons on the head with a stick, cutting him badly. They broke another's rib. They kicked me hard and knocked me over." Seven of the victims of the beating were arrested. According to the independent Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission in Havana, almost 600 people have been temporarily detained since November, and the commission has documented 350 political prisoners. They call it the worst crackdown in a decade.

Dr. Oscar Elias Bisect, a medical doctor, was fired from his job after protesting late-term abortions at a government hospital where he worked and continued to enrage the dictatorship by carrying protest signs charging the regime with being "child murderers." Dr. Biscet was sentenced to a three-year prison term for his activism. This culture of death was manifested on July 13, 1994, when agents of the regime massacred 41 men, women, and children whose sole crime was trying to flee the island.

Whole families were murdered. Agents of the Castro regime destroyed the parental rights of the fathers and mothers along with their lives, and the lives of their children, without mercy. In Dr. Fleming's rush to expose the shortcomings of American domestic and foreign policy, he has committed the error of whitewashing the last Stalinist dictatorship in the Western hemisphere.

        - John J. Suarez
          Coordinator Free Cuba Foundation
          Miami, FL

Miami New Times, January 27, 2000

Elian: Cuba's Own Toy Story

Let's pause for a moment in the middle of this media circus surrounding the tragic situation of Elian and look at what life is like for children in Cuba, and the role the Cuban government plays in that.
In Cuba it is almost impossible for families without hard currency to buy toys and gifts for their children. Corriente Martiana, a Cuba-based civic organization, initiated a national and international campaign to collect toys and clothing to be distributed to the neediest children on the Day of the Three Wise Men, which traditionally falls on January 6.

If the Cuban government claims to have mobilized its people out of humanitarian concern that a boy be reunited with his father, then how can it explain the confiscation of toys obtained legally in Cuba for distribution to economically disadvantaged children?

On Saturday, January 8, Victor Rolando Arroyo's residence was searched by Cuban state security and 150 toys confiscated. He was immediately arrested. His home was being used as a distribution center in Pinar del Rio for the Three Wise Men project. He had already distributed more than 100 toys.

Arroyo was tried and sentenced to six months in prison for "hoarding toys."

We demand that justice be done, that an act of charity by people of goodwill on both sides of the Florida Straits not end in such an ugly manner. Free Arroyo and return the toys and clothing so they can be distributed to those in need.

John Suarez, coordinator
Free Cuba Foundation


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day

"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." - Primo Levi, 1986 The Drowned and the Saved

Never Forget
We must never forget what happened and remain vigilant now and in the future to battle against the mass destruction of innocent human beings.  News today with polls showing that new generations are ignorant of the Holocaust is deeply troubling. As Santayana observed, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. This is why we remember and say never again. 

Never Again
Unfortunately the international community has failed more than once since 1945 to prevent another mass slaughter. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge murdered between one fourth and one third of its population between 1975 and 1979, civil libertarian Nat Hentoff pointed to another genocide that could have been stopped in Rwanda in 1994, and recently we witnessed another in Syria where religious minorities, including Christians were targeted.

Today it is also important to remember that antisemitism is on the rise world wide and people of the Jewish faith need our solidarity and support in confronting rising hatred and intolerance to ensure that what Nazi Germany did never be repeated. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Operation Odessa: Documentary exposes relationship between Cuban spy and the Cali drug cartel

So crazy, it must be true

Cuban intelligence officer linked to Cali drug cartel featured in Showtime documentary
The Castro regime continues to deny its role in the international drug trade with strong denials by high level officials. Be that as it may inconvenient facts continue to arise that demonstrate otherwise. Right now on Netflix there is a Showtime documentary, Operation Odessa, that features a Cuban intelligence officer as a high level operator with the Cali Cartel, and is well reviewed with a 90% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Miami residents, who were living in South Florida in the 1990s, would remember this scandal that involved the purchase of a Russian submarine to smuggle drugs and contraband into the United States, and its linkage to Porky's, a strip club in Hialeah, and was an important story reported in The New York Times in 1997.

Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido in Africa with his Russian fighter jet
The Daily Mail in a March 13, 2018 article revealed how filmmaker Tiller Russell was able to reach Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido  a.k.a "Tony" to be interviewed in the documentary. He had been putting out messages that he wanted to meet him to get the full story, the other protagonists in the conspiracy told him that "Tony" would never talk, then Russell got a message:
"'In Moscow, I got a text from Tony that said, “You’ve talked to the waiters; you should come meet the chef. Meet me in Africa for a cup of coffee … tomorrow.”’ Russell did as he was told and flew to the appointed city in Africa; as soon as he walked into his hotel room, the phone rang and he was instructed to be downstairs in five minutes, where Tony whisked him off in a Porsche Cayenne and they spent several ‘surreal’ days together; Tony showed the director his Russian fighter jet, which had $5 million in the cockpit as the fugitive’s getaway plan, and told his part of the story."
The full story is told in the documentary by the three criminal protagonists and the investigators who pursued them and tracked their crimes.
Along the way, it is revealed in the documentary that Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido  a.k.a "Tony" would mock investigators sending messages from Cuba inviting them to come and get him. 

Turns out that Tony had been "hiding out" in South Africa with his Italian girl friend for 14 years, and was arrested in December 2017 when visiting Rome, Italy and extradited to the United States in July 2019 where he faces a life sentence for his many exploits in the world of international narcotics trafficking.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Mariel Exodus 40 years later

We remember.

Source: CubaBrief
Forty years ago, on April 15, 1980, the Mariel boat lift began and would continue over the next seven and a half months ending on October 31, 1980. Over 125,000 Cubans and over 25,000 Haitians arrived in South Florida during the same period were given the same legal status through an administrative decision of the Carter Administration that created the Cuban-Haitian Entrant Program for the duration of the Mariel exodus.  Mariel marked a before and after in the history of South Florida, and contributed to President Jimmy Carter not being re-elected in 1980.

However, the immediate crisis that resulted in this exodus began on April 1, 1980 when a bus driven by Héctor Sanyustiz and a half dozen Cubans desperate to flee the island breached the Peruvian Embassy. Cuban guards at the Embassy fired, wounding the driver, and accidentally killing one of the police by “friendly fire.” The Cubans requested asylum.

Fidel Castro demanded that they be handed over, but when the Peruvian embassy refused the Cuban dictator’s order, the “Maximum Leader” sought to teach the Peruvians a lesson and retired the Cuban guards from the Embassy. During the next three days 10,856 Cubans entered the Peruvian embassy. It was a cross section of Cuban society.  Peruvian diplomats held their ground, and refused to turn over the asylees, and held Fidel Castro responsible for the crisis, citing that the Cuban dictator had removed the guards from around the embassy, in violation of international law.

Castro wanted to obtain Peru’s permission for Cuban military units to invade the embassy, but the request was rejected. Carlos Alberto Montaner has written an excellent account titled “40 Years have Passed since That Infamy”. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House and had been engaged in an effort to normalize relations with the Castro regime since 1977, and the Cuban despot was able to exploit that relationship to solve the self-created crisis.

Fidel Castro began by insulting those seeking refuge as “scum” and “worms”, and he took children and youth out of school to take part in acts of repudiation. According to Carlos Alberto Montaner, the students killed a teacher that they had discovered running away.

This was the first time that acts of repudiation were seen, when Cubans who simply wanted to leave the country were brutally assaulted and forty lost their lives in lynchings. A refugee at the time of Mariel Mirta Ojito, now a journalist and author, described what she had seen and experienced in an opinion piece for The New York Times:
Mariel marked the first-time socialist Cuba turned against itself. The government staged riots called actos de repudio -- street rallies in which neighbors turned against neighbors, harassing and tormenting those who wanted to leave the country. The victims were often pelted with rocks, tomatoes and eggs. Windows were shattered. Doors were knocked down. Some people were killed, dragged through the streets as trophies to intolerance and hate. Sometimes people trapped inside their homes chose to kill themselves rather than face their tormentors.
Granma, the Communist Party’s daily paper, compiled a list of 100 insults to scream at those who wanted to leave. Meanwhile Fidel Castro prepared to associate these refugees with the worse of the worse.

Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Fidel Castro's former bodyguard, wrote a tell all book published in May 2014 of his time with the dictator titled, The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo that included a remarkable passage on the events of Mariel.

Brian Latell, a former U.S. intelligence analyst and academic at the University of Miami, in a June 8, 2015 op-ed in The Miami Herald reviewing the above book touched on how Castro dealt with the Mariel boatlift during the Carter presidency:
For me, Sánchez’s most appalling indictment of Fidel concerns the chaotic exodus of more than 125,000 Cubans in 1980 from the port of Mariel. Most who fled were members of Cuban exile families living in the United States. They were allowed to board boats brought by relatives and to make the crossing to South Florida.

But many of the boats were forcibly loaded by Cuban authorities with criminals and mentally ill people plucked from institutions on the island. Few of us who have studied Fidel Castro have doubted that it was he who ordered those dangerous Cubans to be exported to the United States. He has persuaded few with his denials of any role in the incident. Yet Sánchez adds an appalling new twist to the saga. We learn that prison wards and mental institutions were not hurriedly emptied, as was previously believed. Sánchez reveals that Castro insisted on scouring lists of prisoners so that he could decide who would stay and who would be sent to the United States. He ordered interior minister Jose Abrahantes to bring him prisoner records.

Sánchez was seated in an anteroom just outside of Fidel’s office when the minister arrived. The bodyguard listened as Fidel discussed individual convicts with Abrahantes.

“I was present when they brought him the lists of prisoners,” Sánchez writes, “with the name, the reason for the sentence, and the date of release. Fidel read them, and with the stroke of a pen designated which ones could go and which ones would stay. ‘Yes’ was for murderers and dangerous criminals; ‘no’ was for those who had attacked the revolution.” Dissidents remained incarcerated.
A number of the criminal and psychopathic marielitos put on the boats to Florida went on to commit heinous crimes — including mass murder, rape, and arson.
The author and former bodyguard of Fidel Castro, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, passed away at age 66 on May 25, 2015.  Within a year of the Spanish edition of the book being published. Be that as it may his testimony remains for historians to examine. There are also documentaries, books, and other works that examine the Mariel Exodus, and one of the best is the 1980 documentary “In their own words” by Jorge Ulla for the US Information Agency that interviewed Cubans as they arrived in the United States.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Audit the PAHO: How international health agencies kowtowing to Cuba's dictatorship endangers lives

Bet your life on what the "experts" say?

From CubaBrief

The world is in the midst of a deadly pandemic, in part because international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), are failing us because they have been co-opted by dictatorships that have priorities in conflict with the mission statements of those entities. It's American subsidiary, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has a record as terrible as WHO. Both organizations have praised the Castro regime, while the WHO has also kowtowed to the Chinese communist dictatorship for years.

PAHO has been caught up in scandals involving the failure to report a viral outbreak of Zika in Cuba in 2017, and human trafficking. The WHO subsidiary was sued, because PAHO was profiting off the trafficking of Cuban doctors in an arrangement with the Castro regime that Mary O' Grady described in her April 12, 2020 OpEd in The Wall Street Journal where she called for an audit of the PAHO. The Yucatan Times also has an important article titled "The Cuban medical brigades -A history of enslavement", raising concerns from a Mexican perspective. 

Along with these scandals is the reality that the quality of the doctors trained in Cuba falls short of the standards in other Latin American countries, raising concerns about the care they provide. But The New York Times reported on something more sinister, how Cuban doctors in Venezuela were ordered to deny or ration care to advance Nicolas Maduro's election prospects in the March 17, 2019 article, "It Is Unspeakable’: How Maduro Used Cuban Doctors to Coerce Venezuela Voters," including the denial of needed oxygen to deathly ill patients.

This relationship between PAHO, the World Health Organization, and the Castro dictatorship also resulted in dangerous lies. For example, the 2016 claim of the World Health Organization Bulletin that "last year Cuba became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis as public health problems." When I asked visiting Cubans that worked in the healthcare sector about these claims, they just rolled their eyes. Meanwhile, according to Avert, an NGO that provides information on HIV worldwide, “nearly 90 percent of new infections in the Caribbean in 2017 occurred in four countries — Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica.”

Health officials in Cuba are most likely under reporting the full impact of the Wuhan Virus in the island now. They have a long track record of not reporting disease outbreaks on the island. Footage has emerged of a dead body in the street in Pinar del Río, and police afraid of being infected trying to figure out what to do.

Victor Batista Falla, uncle of the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, died of coronavirus in Havana on April 12, 2020. He had been hospitalized at the Pedro Kourí Tropical Medicine Institute for a week. Batista Falla was a prominent publisher and "one of the greatest sponsors of Cuban literature in exile."

CiberCuba reported on April 1, 2020 that the mother of a young girl with coronavirus was detained after criticizing Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz Canel for the spread of the illness. Cynically, Diaz Canel on April 9, 2020 stated that "hiding information can be woefully lethal" but the official communist daily Granma warned that reporting "false or malicious news about the coronavirus" was punishable by up to four years in prison.

Let us examine what the regime considers "false or malicious news" based on how it has applied the policy in the past.

In 1997 when dengue broke out in Cuba, the regime tried to cover it up. When a doctor spoke out, he was locked up, sentenced to 8 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized Dr. Desi Mendoza as a prisoner of conscience, and he was released from prison in 1998 under condition he leave Cuba. The dictatorship eventually recognized that there had been a dengue epidemic.

Calixto Martinez
A 2012 cholera outbreak once again demonstrated how the Cuban public health system operates. News of the outbreak in Manzanillo, in the east of the island, broke in El Nuevo Herald on June 29, 2012 thanks to reporting by the outlawed independent press in the island. Official media did not confirm the outbreak until days later on July 3, 2012. BBC News reported on July 7, 2012 that a patient had been diagnosed with Cholera in Havana. The dictatorship stated that it had it under control. Independent journalist Calixto Martínez was arrested on September 16, 2012 for reporting on the Cholera outbreak, and declared an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. Cholera outbreaks would continue on the island.

The Castro regime succeeded in covering up the 2017 zika outbreak, but eventually in 2019, due to sick foreign tourists diagnosed with the disease, it was traced back to Cuba. PAHO tried to excuse the failure in reporting as a "technical glitch." History of past outbreaks would indicate otherwise.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) building in Washington, DC
Worse yet, international media outlets in order to maintain a presence in Cuba have compromised their reporting and too often peddle government propaganda, camouflaged as news and echoing the statements of WHO and PAHO without question, while omitting the history of covering up past epidemics where doctors and journalists were jailed for speaking out.

The Inter American Press Association Report on Cuba in 2011 described the process whereby press agencies can cross the line into biased reporting through something akin to Stockholm syndrome:
The Cuban government wages a policy of the carrot and the stick against foreign correspondents accredited in Havana. If the correspondent becomes too raucous in his criticism, all sorts of problems are created for him until his presence in Havana turns into a torment, or else they denounce him in the official press to the point that he leaves the country. If, on the other hand, if he behaves nicely, they let him work and even facilitate contacts and interviews for him. This brings about permanent self-censorship and even reports with a touch of sympathy for the regime.
Meanwhile independent journalists in Cuba and China, who are trying to do real reporting, are threatened, jailed or go missing. Morning Star News is reporting how a Christian independent journalist has been targeted. "Intelligence officials in Cuba have increased harassment of an independent journalist, summoning [ Yoe Suárez ] and his mother twice in the past two weeks to threaten harsh consequences if he continues reporting on human rights issues, sources said," informed Morning Star News.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has provided a timeline of the explosion of the Wuhan virus around the world and the coverup by Communist China and obsequious statements of the WHO that further legitimized their lies. This kind of timeline should be maintained for the Cuban response to the coronavirus.

Reuters reported the claim made by the official press in Cuba on March 11, 2020 that "four Italian tourists who were staying at a hostel in the southern town of Trinidad after arriving at Havana airport on Monday had presented respiratory symptoms and were taken to a hospital on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the hospital confirmed that three of the tourists had tested positive for the coronavirus, the broadcaster said."

Panama's Ministry of Health, a day earlier, on March 10th reported that two Panamanians, ages 55 and 29 who visited Cuba had tested positive for the coronavirus when they returned home.

On March 11, 2020, Nicolas Maduro was promoting Cuba's "interferon" as a cure that saved "around 3,500 lives in China" declaring Cuba in the vanguard, Caribbean National Weekly called it the antidote for COVID-19, and Newsweek was calling it a "wonder drug." The reality is far more humble. Interferon Alpha-2B Recombinant (IFNrec) was jointly developed with China, but they did not pioneer the discovery of interferon. Interferon research, not surprisingly, was pioneered in Switzerland in the 1950s.

Despite this, the Cuban dictatorship's military run tourism industry continued to pitch Cuba as a travel destination last month and posted a tweet on March 13, 2020 claiming that Coronavirus does not replicate at high temperatures and that the island is now 29-32 degrees Celsius. Havanatour is owned and run by the Cuban military.

On March 16, 2020 Barbara Díaz, director of marketing for the Castro regime's Ministry of Tourism in a press conference said, “Clients who decide of their own free will to come to Cuba are welcomed.” The dictatorship's director of marketing declared that “our social function is to receive tourists, give them assistance ... and demonstrate that Cuba is a safe country in all aspects.” The government had not canceled flights from Italy or other hot spot countries, reported Nora Gamez in The Miami Herald.

The fiction presented by the Cuban government was that the Wuhan virus was not present in Cuba until March 9, 2020 when these four Italian tourists arrived to Cuba, but how does one explain that the Florida Department of Health announced on March 15, 2020 that a 17-year-old male from Cuba tested positive [for the Wuhan virus] in Hillsborough County.

On March 6, 2020 Granma, the official communist newspaper of Cuba, made the claim that "to date, no cases of Coronavirus ( Covid-19 ) have been confirmed in Cuba." At the time, there were cases in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Spain, the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, and many other places. Regime officials claim to be ready if and when an outbreak takes place.

This type of claim was made during the zika outbreak in 2016-2017 and it was learned in 2019, through studies of zika infected tourists from around the world, that Cuba had over 5,000 zika cases active on the island in 2017 that the dictatorship did not report.

At the same time officials of the Castro regime reported that there is a shortage of soap and detergent in Cuba that will not be alleviated until May - June 2020.

The Castro regime blames the embargo for its shortages, although those items are not restricted by US sanctions, but Cubans blame the internal blockade raised by the Castro regime and are circulating a petition calling for its end so that civil society can create a humanitarian bridge and get supplies to Cubans in need.

South Florida has become a hot spot for the pandemic in Florida. Furthermore, the emerging hot spot in Florida is Hialeah, the city with the largest number of Cubans per capita in Florida. Not shutting down travel to and from Cuba earlier, because the regime failed to alert the severity of the outbreak on the island, may be a contributing factor to this emerging disaster.

Hundreds of thousands of people are dying, and the numbers could rise to the millions, but too many are still giving the benefit of the doubt to dictatorships such as Cuba's and China's and the consequences will continue to be dire.

The Cuban dictatorship reported on April 13, 2020 that it had a total of 726 coronavirus cases, 121 recovered and 21 deaths. Meanwhile North Korea, a Cuban ally, continues to report no cases.

Willing to bet your life on the accuracy of these numbers?