It just doesn’t get any better than this…
It just doesn’t get any better than this…
The headquarters of Cubalex, The Center of Legal Information, located in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, was searched by National Revolutionary Police (PNR) officers and State Security agents on Friday, as confirmed to this newspaper by the independent journalist Osniel Carmona.
After two in the afternoon, the police burst into the site which is also the home of independent attorney Laritza Diversent. Until after five in the afternoon all the phones of Cubalex members remained out of service and access to the house was restricted by the security forces, according to what this newspaper was able to confirm.
Seven people were inside the home at the time the search started, among whom were Ariadna Romero, Yamara Curbelo Rodríguez, María Bonet, Teresa Perdomo, Amado Iglesias, Diego Ricardo and Laritza Diversent herself.
During the morning Laritza Diversent had informed 14ymedio that there was a operation “organized by State Security agents and the police” around the house. She explained that several neighbors advised her of the presence of “buses and patrol cars,” so she feared they would eventually get inside the house.
T”a report on the status of freedom of expression in Cuba” that she presented “to the special rapporteur for freedom of expression” in the city of Geneva “in mid-August.”
“We feel that we are now at risk and are calling all our contacts asking for help so that the world knows that right now our office and our organization are at risk,” the attorney warned by phone.
The activist Kirenia Yalit Núñez, a member of Cubalex who is just a few blocks away, explained that the agency “had a judicial order but Laritza rejected it because it wasn’t valid.” However, a little later “they broke into the house with a crowbar and broke several locks.”
After six in the evening the activist Teresa Perdoma was released and she said that they had threatened Diversent with an accusation of “illicit economic activity.” The police also warned that they would take “all the equipment, like computers, flash memories and hard drives.”
She was arrested in the operation and taken to the Dayan Perez Noriega police station, where she tried to send Twitter messages reporting what happened. The other activists remained in the building until eight o’clock on Friday night. Two police patrol cars guarded the entrance.
The Legal Information Center, Cubalex, is an independent entity that has provided free legal advice since 2011. The lawyers’ group also focuses on Human Rights issues. In July of this year Cuba’s Ministry of Justice rejected the application for legal status presented by its members.
“Oh please… no… Don’t ask me about politics.”
Cuba Needs Social Capital, Not Just Money, to Prosper
Is a nation’s prosperity a function of the social virtues of its people? And if so, what are the social virtues that foster economic development?
In 1989, social scientist Francis Fukuyama published an essay titled “The End of History?” His central argument was that with the collapse of Communism, liberal democracy stood alone as the only form of government compatible with socio-economic modernity. This piece relies on his work, and his book Trust, to argue that Cuba’s economic future requires the end of a culture of distrust.
When I studied international economics in the 1960s, the explanations offered for a nation’s economic prosperity were along the lines of geography, climate, soil fertility, resource endowments, culture, religion, work ethic and more. Social virtues, such as trust, were not studied.
Today, most thoughtful observers understand that free political and economic institutions require a dynamic, independent civil society, which depends on people’s habits and ethics. Aside from skills and knowledge, the human capital of a nation has to do with people’s ability to associate with and trust each other.
In societies with little capacity for free, voluntary associations, such as Cuba, people cannot develop a basis for trusting each other. People who do not trust each other will only cooperate reluctantly under extensive and inefficient systems of formal rules and regulations that must be coercively enforced.
In many of the former communist societies, habits such as excessive dependence on the state, the inability to compromise and a disinclination to cooperate voluntarily have all contributed to slowdown market-based economic growth and the consolidation of democracy.
In our hemisphere, think of Cuba, and the ongoing process in Venezuela, where there are virtually no independent social groups between the family and the state. In these societies, social ties and moral obligations tend to be restricted to the family. Outside the immediate family, individuals do not trust each other and do not feel a sense of responsibility to others.
Continue reading HERE.
Japan gets rolled by Cuba and North Korea, two of the world’s most corrupt and despicable dictatorships.
How Kim (DPRK) and Castro (Cuba) Blackmail Abe (Japan)
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Cuba today and met with dictators Fidel and Raul Castro.
The purpose of Abe’s trip was simple — to seek help over North Korea’s nuclear provocations and its clandestine operations in Japan.
Nearly on a monthly basis, some senior North Korean is on a “working visit” to Cuba. Or some senior Cuban regime official is on a “working visit” to North Korea.
With the exception of China, there’s no other nation in the world that North Korean officials visit with such frequency.
Just a few months ago, General Kim Yong-chol, head of North Korea’s intelligence, cyber-warfare and clandestine operations agency, was on one of those “working visits” to Cuba.
And, of course, we all recall Cuba’s smuggling of 240 tons of heavy weaponry to North Korea in 2013 — the largest, ever violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Cuba’s regime will now offer its “help” — for a price. And Kim’s regime in North Korea will get a cut.
Call it the Castro-Kim two-step — or simply blackmail.
For starters, Abe will mostly forgive Castro’s $1.75 billion debt to Japan. That will open new lines of credit for Castro’s regime. Abe is also extending Castro a foreign aid package.
Here’s how Japan’s Asahi Shimbun (diplomatically) reported it, “in the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe on Sept. 22 offered billions of yen in grant aid and debt forgiveness while seeking cooperation on dealing with North Korea.”
It’s mostly unknown that Japan became Cuba’s single, biggest creditor pursuant to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such “engagement” with Japanese banks did nothing to promote democracy, openness or help the Cuban people. Instead, Cuba defaulted in October 2002 on a $750 million refinancing agreement with Japan’s private sector after having signed a debt restructuring accord with Tokyo in 1998.
Most of Cuba’s debt to Japan is now owned by that nation’s government-backed trade insurer, NEXI. (Note to Congress and those lobbying to extend financing for Castro’s regime.)
Both Cuba and North Korea are desperate for hard currency, so it presents a perfect opportunity to put the squeeze on Japan and, most importantly, its banks.
The cycle begins again. After all, rogue behavior (sadly) pays off in today’s world.
There is no person more blind than the one who does not want to see…
Why Does Propaganda Work? Some People Want It
There’s a principle in hypnotism that goes like this: A person cannot be hypnotized against his will. He must be a willing subject. He must be fully cooperative.
So it goes with propaganda. For propaganda to be effective, it requires submissive subjects. As Professor Nicholas O’Shaughnessy wrote, propaganda is a “co-production in which we are willing participants.”
Propaganda is typically defined as the dissemination of particularly biased information in support of a political or ideological cause. In his 1965 book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, philosopher Jacques Ellul provided us with some of the basic characteristics of propaganda: it thwarts dialogue, it is geared toward the masses, it utilizes various media, it is continuous, it is not intended to make one think.
Disable the Brain
If these are the characteristics of propaganda, then it is no exaggeration to say that we are surrounded by it today. Most news organizations have become partisan shills and propagandists. They provide viewers with a steady stream of videos, audio clips, images, and articles—most lacking nuance and of dubious intellectual merit—that serve the intended purpose of promoting an ideology while fueling disdain for the “opposition”. And they have become very successful doing it.
The reason they are successful, I fear, is that most people today want to be propagandized—though they would never admit it. Most people want to be given ideological marching orders and talking points from an authority. Most people have zero interest, and see little value, in engaging with arguments put forward by those who hold differing positions, unless it’s to ridicule them. Most people want to simply choose the news media organizations that best fit with their selected ideological camps and immerse themselves in their informational streams.
This realization is unfortunate, but not really surprising. Over the past few hundred years we’ve had a massive democratization of public discourse and higher education in the West. A continually larger percentage of the population has gone to school for longer and longer periods of time, and has been given the impression that, as a result of this education, they are enlightened “critical thinkers” whose opinions have as much value as the next person’s.
Yet, at the same time, we must confront the question raised by Dorothy Sayers in her famous 1947 essay “The Lost Tools of Learning”:
“Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined?”
The fact is, though everyone goes through the education system today, most are not provided with the building blocks of thought. Most are no longer taught logic. Most are not shown how to engage in rational debate.
Continue reading HERE.
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 19 September 2016 — A sign announces the sale of an apartment in Havana and stresses, in capital letters, that the “water never runs out” in the area. Not far away, another sign alerts neighbors of a multifamily building: “Starting today, the water-pump will only operate for one hour.” In the last three years, Cubans have lived with drought and water shortages, and forecasts suggest that the situation will not change in the coming months.
According to a recent report released by the engineer Abel Salas García of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), 48 of the country’s sources of supply are completely dry. Another 200 show partial affects, which means that more than 790,000 people receive water right now on a different cycle than what they were used to, and more than 50,000 receive their supply through tanker trucks.
To talk about the cycle “they were used to” alludes to the fact that in many places citizens have become accustomed, as a normal situation, to water only flowing to their homes every other day, or sometimes only three times week.
The areas with the highest cumulative rainfall between January and August were Artemisa, Isla de la Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Havana. At the other extreme, the least favored regions are Santiago de Cuba, Ciego de Ávila, Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos.
In the specific case of Ciego de Avila, as detailed in the INRH report, of the 14 groundwater basins in that largely agricultural province, six are in critical condition.
In January, the reservoirs were filled to around 53% of their volume and, although up to August rains were close to the historical average in the three regions (eastern, central and west), at the end of August this rate was only 52%. In absolute terms, the country had 653 million cubic fewer meters of stored water than is usual for August.
According to experts, rainfall in the Cuban archipelago has been decreasing by around 1.6 inches annually, which they attribute to climate change and other environmental factors caused by the hand of man.
A lack of water caused by erratic rainfall is exacerbated in Cuba by wasteful leaks in the pipes, in over-wide pipes that bring more water to leak out, and in unstoppable domestic drips caused by lack of maintenance in homes where, given the high price of faucets and plumbing supplies, people find it cheaper to let the water flow uncontrolled than to fix the plumbing.
“It’s better they’re doing public WiFi dear. Internet access in the home would be terribly dangerous: the house is about to collapse.”
Dismantling Cuba’s Socialist Success Myth
Every time I talk with defenders of the Cuban Revolution, they end up saying something like, “at least, children in Cuba do not starve, like in Colombia.”
Well, slaves did not starve either. The masters were actually interested in keeping them alive so they could continue working.
Nevertheless, is there anyone who wants to live their entire life as a slave?
The Cuban Revolution was undoubtedly one of the most important events of the 20th century in Latin America, especially given what it meant for socialism and progressive ideas, as it encouraged a vigorous wave of revolutionary projects that took place in almost all countries in the region, from Argentina to Mexico.
Fidel and his bearded men in Sierra Maestra inspired a whole generation of young people, who were willing to put their lives in risk if needed, only to follow the socialist path.
Almost 60 years later, the results of the Castro dictatorship are appalling. Millions of Cubans have been forced to flee the island. Thousands have died defending their political ideas, while many others have spent decades in prison, or have been persecuted and harassed by Castro’s security services.
In the economics, the picture is no less devastating. The destruction of private property and free trade have had no other effect than to tear down the country’s productivity. And the few areas that look prosperous, such as tourism, only serve to ensure, using foreign currencies, the continuity of the regime’s coercive apparatus.
Castro’s followers insist that the terrible results Cubans face are compensated by an alleged welfare state that guarantees all kinds of social benefits to its citizens. In addition, they say Cuba is a true socialist utopia that, despite the opposition of the “empire,” serves as an example for the rest of Latin America.
To support their opinion, they mention its health and education systems, and even the achievements of its athletes. The blame also falls on the “embargo,” with accusations that the United States prevented the paradise island from being even more idyllic.
One of the challenges of dismantling the myths of “Fidel’s paradise” is the absence of reliable statistics. There is no independent validation for the extraordinary coverage and quality indicators of health on the island, which progressives often use for propaganda.
It would be very naive to believe that in a country where there is no free press, and where people cannot express themselves against the government without going to jail, a serious audit of the figures of the health system are allowed.
Continue reading HERE.
Aaaah… the utopian joys of Bolivarian Castronoid socialism.
Newborn babies in cardboard boxes.
If this is life at birth in such a place, imagine what wonders lie ahead for these human beings.
Call it Venezuela, or Cubazuela, or Venenozuela, or Caracastan, it makes no difference.
This Castro colony is quickly becoming Hell on earth.
But at least they haven’t run out of cardboard boxes yet.
“He’s up in years.” Donald Rumsfeld, asked on MSNBC about George H.W. Bush voting for Clinton.
“They’ve done a head transplant on him, or he wants to become U.S. Ambassador to Communist Cuba, or he thinks he can reap big profit margins by trading with the Castro regime.” Jorge E. Ponce reacts to former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under Bush 43 saying that he will vote for Clinton.
Obama supporters who think his policy of abandoning Cuban dissidents and embracing Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship was pure genius will scoff at the premise that the president had anything to do with the total collapse of what little democracy remained in Venezuela. Then again, these are the same people who think that propping up Havana’s brutally repressive, murderous, and corrupt apartheid regime is a good thing for Cubans.
As Predicted, Venezuela’s Maduro Officially Becomes a Dictator
Another tragic consequence of Obama’s new Cuba policy was the green-light sent to Castro’s allies in the region that there would be no consequences for subverting democracy.
To the contrary, they would be rewarded with normal diplomatic relations, unilateral concessions, fêted at Summits, and benefit from a business marketing campaign directed from The White House.
This week, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro subverted the recall referendum process outlined in the Constitution and, thus, guaranteed that his Cuban-controlled regime will remain in power through at least 2018.
Just weeks after Obama announced his new Cuba policy, we predicted this would happen.
As published by The Huffington Post on January 11, 2015:
Obama Gives Cuba a Hemispheric Coup
by Mauricio Claver-Carone
The recent political witch-hunt against famed Venezuelan opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado reinforces growing concerns that democratic institutions are under concerted attack in the Western Hemisphere.
“Justice is on its knees in Venezuela with sentences being dictated from Miraflores or Havana,” Machado says, summing up the political alliance between Cuba and Venezuela’s governments that drive her country’s politics. She stands accused of conspiring to kill Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. Another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has already been imprisoned.
Through its cohorts and directly, Cuba has been pounding democratic institutions not only in Venezuela, but also Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Democracy’s advocates in the region are too shortsighted, beleaguered or intimidated to fight back aggressively. In fact, they invited Cuba to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama, despite the fact that Cuba’s Castro dictatorship openly scorns the “democracy clause” that reserves Summit membership and participation to the region’s democratic governments. Thirty-four of the 35 nations comprising the Western Hemisphere adopted that clause during the Quebec Summit. Cuba was then and still is the Hemisphere’s last remaining totalitarian state; it also has a long history of “exporting revolution” into democratic states.
The Obama Administration initially stated its opposition to Cuba being invited to the Summit. However, in a turn-around announcement on December 17, it chose to “lead from behind” and acquiesce to the whims of those hemispheric leaders all-too-eager and willing to suspend the “democracy clause.” Not only has President Obama now accepted Cuba’s participation, but he will also be there to personally welcome dictator Raul Castro.
However, those who lobbied Obama to attend the Summit regardless of the violation of the “democracy clause” weren’t to be satisfied with his attendance alone. They also wanted the President to arrive with a gift bag for Cuba that includes a further lifting of U.S. sanctions. That, they argued, will ensure a warm reception for Obama from “troubled” Latin American leaders. And naturally, Castro would be thrilled.
Continue reading HERE.
Let’s add another chapter to the one-sided U.S.-Cuba deal.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has just sent a letter to President Obama demanding a few answers to some rather troubling questions:
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Deputy Administrator, Dr. Huban Gowadia, confirmed that there are currently no federal air marshals on commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.
This admission contradicts earlier claims by your administration that the federal air marshal agreement was finalized and they would be on commercial flights.
Simply put, your administration has been caught in a bold-faced lie that has put American lives at risk.
Who decided that U.S. flights to Cuba would not have carry air marshals?
So why are there any flights? Shouldn’t we tell passengers to Cuba that these flights do not carry an air marshal? Why was this hidden from U.S. citizens flying to the island on the assumption that the aircraft is operating under normal aviation rules? All of this comes after we heard that the U.S. has not vetted Cuban airport workers and security procedures.
Frankly, the whole thing is embarrassing and further evidence that the Obama administration is either totally incompetent or determined to do a deal with Cuba at any cost.
Let’s hope that this topic comes up in the first Clinton-Trump debate.
Mr. Trump is signalling a shift by saying this:
We are also going to stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression.
The President’s one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro regime. But all of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next President can reverse them — and that is what I will do, unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people.
Let Mrs. Clinton defend the Cuba deal, or at least explain to U.S. voters what she thinks of flights without air marshals or not U.S. vetting of safety procedures at Cuba’s airports. She should also comment on the embargo.
In 2012, Governor Romney lost Florida by 30,000 votes out of 8 million. President Obama never said to Cuban-Americans that he was negotiating to restore relations with the Castro regime. Instead, he took a hard line.
Let’s hear from Mrs. Clinton today now that we know a few things about this U.S.-Cuba deal that were never disclosed in the rush to put an embassy in Havana.
Recent news about lists of text message words censored in Cuba received widespread media attention. A quick google search ofCuba censors text message words, returns 159,000 links in .078 seconds.
Now, Voilà!, what timing! Cuba Announces Major WiFi Expansion on Iconic Malecon!!
The Cuban government says it will make five miles of Havana’s iconic seafront boulevard, the Malecon, into the largest WiFi hotspot in one of the world’s least-connected nations.
State media said Wednesday that WiFi will be installed along the most popular stretch of the Malecon by the end of the year. The seafront is a favored spot for Cubans to gather at night to talk, drink and listen to music.
Home internet remains illegal for most Cubans. Since last year, the government has installed dozens of WiFi spots in public areas, charging $2 an hour in a country where the average state salary remains about $25 a month.
Cuba said last year that it had 65 WiFi spots in service and expected 80 more to open in 2016.
Wonderful news, just imagine crowds of locals and tourists enjoying the latest from the net in paradise.
Internet access in Cuba is censored.
With access to internet so limited, online censorship is not that sophisticated in Cuba. Authorities frequently filter and intermittently block websites that are critical of the state. Limiting access to information in this way is a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information.
Communicating with Cuban human rights activists from overseas is difficult.
Amnesty International, along with many other independent international human rights monitors, including UN Special Rapporteurs, are not allowed to access Cuba. The landline, mobile and internet connections of government critics, human rights activists and journalists are often monitored or disabled. In the lead-up to Pope Benedict’s three-day visit to Cuba in September 2012, a communications blockade prevented Amnesty International and other international organizations from gathering information on a wave of detentions that were taking place. Communicating with Cuban human rights activists remains challenging, particularly at times when the authorities are arresting people based on their political opinion.
Obama Cuba Policy Legacy: Resurrecting systemic legal segregation
“If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac
President met Castro in Panama as Cuban activists attacked by Castro’s diplomats
The Obama Administration beginning in 2009 pushed for a normalization of relations with an abnormal and totalitarian regime in Cuba that treats its own people as chattel. On December 17, 2014 the announcement was formally made and since then new relations established.
Throughout this process human rights have not only worsened in Cuba, but also in the United States with the approval of The White House until popular outrage has forced them to back track. Consider for a moment three episodes from 2016.
Protests against Carnival for discriminating against Cubans to appease Castro regime
First, Carnival Cruise Line signed an agreement with Castro regime officials on March 21, 2016 to sail to Cuba from the United States. In order to conduct their core mission Carnival had to agree to enforce the Castro dictatorship’s policy that bans all Cubans from traveling into the island by water. It did not matter if Cubans born on the island were now citizens of another country. Obama’s Treasury Department on July 7, 2015 signed off on the Carnival Cruise Line – Castro regime alliance ignoring that an entire class of Americans would be discriminated against based on their national origin. Mass protests, boycotts and lawsuits led the Castro regime to blink when it became apparent that popular outrage would lead the cruise ship company to cancel its cruises.
Second, the U.S. embassy in Cuba floated a trial balloon that announced that the United States government accepted that U.S. citizens of Cuban descent born in the United States are not recognized by the Castro regime as Americans but as Cuban nationals subject to the dictatorship’s laws and regulations. Even though one was born in the United States and has never applied for dual nationality in Cuba they are treated as a Cuban born by the Castro regime in terms of responsibilities but not rights and the government of the USA goes along with it in order to have “normal relations.” This also means that these U.S. citizens would be denied consular access in Cuba. The State Department once again had to back track in May of 2016 when this trial balloon sunk amidst negative press coverage and popular outrage.
Discriminating against Cuban born crew to placate Castro regime
Thirdly, American Airlines is pulling Cuban-American pilots and flight attendants off flights to Cuba in order to placate demands by the Castro regime. Fabiola Santiago, of The Miami Herald, obtained an American Airlines memo announcing the policy as follows: “Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crew members.” The Democracy Movement has announced that if American Airlines does not end this policy that they will take action.
President Obama’s Cuba policy legacy is to resurrect systemic legal segregation against American citizen’s based on their national origin in order to placate a foreign dictatorship. Benjamin Franklin was right: “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”