Assassins, Accomplices and Victims
14 May 2016 — We are now looking at another anniversary of the execution of the young men who, in 2003, tried to hijack the Regla ferryboat and were shot by the dictatorship. As is well known, it was one of the most vile assassinations of the so-called “Cuban Revolution, on an extensive list that has grown in their five decades of totalitarianism. It claimed the lives of a group of defenseless young men who only longed to reach a horizon that would offer them lives of dignity.
They were executed, despite the deception in the negotiations with the responsible authorities, who assured them that if they surrendered absolute nothing would happen to them, especially because they had done nothing to harm any of the passengers on the ferry. After a summary trial they were shot. This is story in its briefest version.
I remember, among the first posts on this blog, I express that it would be a shame for anyone — especially if it was a renowned intellectual, in this case a good poet — to stain their hands with innocent blood. I said when, the person who writes this posts, wasn’t persecuted by the political police, or at least not in a way as obvious as they would later later.
The writer in question was Roberto Fernandez Retamar, who was then a member of the Council of State, and who had to confirm the sentence of death, making his name an embodiment of that execution because this is what the laws of the regime required.
I said at that time — and I still hold to it — that he needn’t have dirtied his hands with blood, when he did his duty with ink. I argued them that Retamar had also been sacrificed by the dictatorship; that it was a way of forcing him to become a part of the crime, so that later he would keep his mouth shut.
I did not want to consort with assassins
We know intellectuals who have sold their souls to the devil. This is the case with Retamar. And perhaps those who read that first post didn’t know that I was expressing my criticisms with pain, because he once told me that, years ago, he inherited the friendships of his daughters, and that he considered me his friend. But, once I published in my blog what I thought about it, I was crossed off the list of those “welcomed” to his family parties, which I accepted with pride because I did not want to consort with murderers.
In turn, when the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) began to collect signatures in support of the executions as often happens with these so-called “officialistas,” many, almost the majority, stamped their names on that cowardly document, although later, in my living room, they said they didn’t want to sign, but that fear of “the lessons of those instruments” (the way that “intellectuals” refer in silence to official repression), induced them to betray their thinking, their true beliefs.
Refusing to put your signature in support of such a sadistic crimes was, for them, similar to suicide. For my part, it’s obvious, when I got the respective call from the Writers Association soliciting my signature, I said I refuse and I remember that the functionary listened in total silence to my contempt of the dictatorship, certain to inform on it later; or, at least, not to get involved in my diatribe in case it should be overheard.
We all know Laidi Fernandez de Juan, we know she idolizes her father, as good children do, of course, and in this case, starting from the post I published criticizing her father, she started from her officialista pinnacle an implacable persecution against me. She forgot about the surprise birthday party she held for me, about her love letters via Cubarte email — before they closed my account — her dedications in the books in which she extolled me as “one of the few gentlemen I know,” among other boasts that, “I don’t want to say, as a man, the things she told me. The light of understanding make me very restrained,” when she wanted me to take her to the river.
The truth is that, like the vulgar lady she embodies today — and those who know me will agree because they know she smokes, drinks and swears like a mule driver — as she has always climbed the rungs of power and take advantage, she started her work of satrapy against me, in collusion with State Security, Abel Prieto and Retamar, who were on the hunt for me and waiting for the perfect moment.
They wanted more blood, mine — I read somewhere that, once they taste it they suffer from vampire syndrome, and I imagine Retamar reveling in mine. But far beyond anything in my imagination, this absurd process always calls to me the accusations and persecutions against Hannah Arendt, when she questioned the role of the “Jewish Councils” in the holocaust. And, as I said, Laidi Fernandez began scheming against me. And, along with her, even friends and acquaintances, fearful, because in order to save their own backs they had to court the regime and were capable of denouncing their own mothers.
A retired NBA superstar is President Obama’s latest recruit to help carry out his Cuba policy of bolstering and protecting Cuba’s apartheid Castro dictatorship. The president is hoping that basketball great Shaquille “Kazaam” O’Neal will be able to work some of his “magic” in Cuba as a “sports envoy” and distract everyone from the fact America’s first black president also happens to be America’s first president to embrace and endorse Cuba’s brutally repressive and racist apartheid regime.
State Dept. names new envoy to Cuba: Shaquille O’Neal
Forget about all those visits by the president and his diplomats — the U.S. State Department is now sending Shaq to Cuba.
Shaquille O’Neal, the four-time NBA champion turned TV analyst, will travel to Cuba on Saturday as a “sports envoy” on behalf of the State Department. In that role, he will host basketball clinics on the island and tour the country in an effort to promote the improving ties between the Cold War foes.
“This people-to-people program taps into the unique strength of sports — including basketball — to reach out to young people and promote cooperation and engagement in Cuba,” read a statement from the State Department issued Friday. “O’Neal will draw on his personal basketball and business backgrounds to highlight the importance of social inclusion and respect for diversity.”
Celebrities have flocked to Cuba ever since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December 2014 that the long-time foes would begin the process of normalizing relations. Ever since, singers Rihanna, Katy Perry and Usher have visited, Paris Hilton has paraded around her family’s old hotel in Havana and Conan O’Brien has hosted a series of TV shows from the island.
But none of those went with a seal of approval from the U.S. government, as O’Neal will soon do. He will host clinics from Saturday through Tuesday with Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Kaleb Canales, who briefly served as the first Mexican-American head coach in NBA history when he coached the Portland Trailblazers for 23 games in 2012.
Obama visited Cuba himself during a historic visit in March. It was the first by a sitting U.S. president in more than 70 years and signaled the next step in the evolving relationship.
Here’s the latest “bofetada” (face-slap) from the Castro regime.
As the Normalization Circus keeps the dollars flowing into the coffers of the Castro Dynasty, and as the concessions from the U.S. keep piling up, the Castro regime has refused entry to four congressmen and one congresswoman on the House Homeland Security Committee who want to inspect Cuban airports.
Their inspection tour is directly connected to the concessions made by the Obama administration concerning direct flights by U.S. airlines to Castrogonia.
With hundreds and hundreds of new flights planned between U.S. and Cuban airports, this congressional committee simply wants to make sure that security at Cuban airports meets U.S. standards.
Will this delay or stop those hundreds and hundreds of airplanes that are going to fly back and forth across the Florida Straits?
Are you kidding? Geddouttaheeah. The Normalization Circus can’t be stopped by anything or anyone, much less a visa denial to four Republicans and one measly Democrat.
This latest insult from the Castro regime means nothing, absolutely nothing to the current lame-duck occupant of the White House or to the sniveling cretins who work for him.
Security be damned. Why care about that? There’s a legacy to preserve, after all, and a “historic” one at that.
From The Hill
House lawmakers blocked from visiting Cuba
Several House lawmakers claim they were blocked by the Cuban government from traveling to the country, where they planned to assess aviation security and passenger screening at airports.
The delegation, led by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), planned to visit the island this weekend to evaluate the potential national security risks associated with resuming commercial air service to Cuba.
The Obama administration earlier this year announced an agreement to re-establish scheduled air service between the U.S. and Cuba as part of an effort to normalize relations with the former Cold War enemy. Six commercial U.S. airlines will begin flying to Cuba this fall, the Department of Transportation announced this month.
Travel to Cuba is permitted under limited circumstances, including for official U.S. government business.
But members of the Homeland Security Committee said their visas were not approved for their planned trip.
Adding fuel to the fire is an announcement on Friday that National Basketball Association hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal will serve as a U.S. Department of State Sports Envoy to Cuba from June 25 to 28.
“At a time when the Obama Administration is rolling out the red carpet for Havana, the Cuban government refuses to be open and transparent with the peoples’ Representatives,” McCaul said in a statement on Friday. “Sadly, it appears to be easier for Cubans to come to the United States than for Members of the House Homeland Security Committee to get to Cuba.”
Other lawmakers who were planning to visit Cuba include Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
Continue reading HERE
A few years ago, I was talking to a Spanish friend from Madrid who exports to the U.S. He complained then about the “euro”. He said that the euro was killing Spanish exports or making them more expensive in the U.S.
He longed for the days when Spain had its own currency (“la peseta”) and could manage its own economy.
Wonder what he is thinking today? My guess is that he is happy with the UK vote.
My sense is that the EU has been good to Germany but not to those smaller countries who depend on trade or tourists, such as Spain.
Exports to the U.S. are a major portion of the Spanish economy:
Exports from Spain amounted to US$283.3 billion in 2015, down by -5% since 2011 and down -11.1% from 2014 to 2015.
Spain’s top 10 exports accounted for 57% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Spain’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $1.636 trillion in 2015.
Therefore, exports accounted for about 17.3% of total Spanish economic output.
My friend wold argue that the “euro” is the reason that exports to the U.S. are down.
He is not alone, as we can see in this 2015 BBC report that I read last year:
As Spain emerged, under-developed and economically weak, from the isolation of the Franco dictatorship, the EU was seen as its benevolent benefactor.
Now, six years into an economic crisis which has left 27% of the population unemployed, it is viewed as the belligerent bully which is forcing Spain to its knees with austerity measures.
Since 2007, Spanish approval of the EU has almost halved.
It’s fair to say that the benefits of the EU were oversold to a Spanish nation yearning for modernity a decade ago.
During the Franco years, the trains ran on time and the streets were extremely safe. At the same time, he isolated Spain from globalism and progress.
Will Spain be next? Time will tell but don’t be surprised if it does. The Brits have a lit a fire and it will spread quickly.
Cuba and Global Communism
I have the awesome task in limited time to talk about a free and democratic Cuba and its requisites. There are two elements that are vital for a democratization process (of course, after liberation). The first is dealing with the past, and the second is building democratic institutions for true regime change.
1989 was a very big year. In November, the Berlin Wall fell and with it the emblematic fall of Soviet communism. I didn’t say communism, I said Soviet communism. However, upon empirical scrutiny, 5 months later, on the biggest public square in the world, Tiananmen, 3,000 were butchered. And in that occurrence we saw Asian communism, the Chinese model. This was an innovative, but not really new, system because Lenin tried it in 1921 with his new economic policy. But the Chinese in effect perfected this system, where you had a mercantile economy with market mechanisms and a Leninist state.
This, in effect, crippled the hindsight of many people. Why? Because what had traditionally been marked as a free enterprise system (capitalism) siding with democracy, and centrally planned economies siding with communist authoritarian dictatorship, all of a sudden blurred. Unfortunately, this and the ensuing moral relativism caused enormous confusion among democrats of the world. The fascists, though, had it right all along on this. In other words, they knew that property in private hands with a state that in essence dominated it would be much more efficient. Well, the socialism with Chinese characteristics, in effect building on the pragmatic side of Marxism, has done exactly that. But what we also saw from 1989 was despotism that competes in elections. We saw refurbished Marxists change names, change identities, by ruling with the coexistence of private property and the state having the ability to determine the outcome of who wins and who loses. Some call this Putinism, in the sense that Putin’s dictatorship has in effect served as a model for this.
In 1991, there were 21 states that officially divorced themselves from communist rule. Thirteen years later, only eight were full-fledged democracies. What happened? There were high expectations in 1989. What went wrong? If we look at empirical evidence, we can point, for example, to the work of political scientist Samuel Huntington who proclaimed that there were historical waves of democratization. Waves like the ones we see at the sea. They come in and then there is a reflux, there’s an ebb that pulls it back, in essence reversing democratic achievements. These waves continued in and out through different sessions, and there were many people trying to explain why some fail and some don’t.
Others in the social sciences developed the idea of modernization theory. Seymour Martin Lipset did great work on that which in effect said that if you modernize the society, democracy has to come. The notion is that as the economy expands the economic class, the entrepreneurial class, will put pressure on the political class to go into the sea of democracy.
But the problem with that is that it completely misreads the qualitative difference in dictatorships. From what is classically known as an authoritarian dictatorship and a totalitarian dictatorship. They are worlds apart. In regimes of total domination, civil society does not exist. The theory of modernization is a moot point because there is no civil society, so who is going to put pressure on the political class if there is no entrepreneurial class that is not associated with the political power?
And when we rightly look at the successful cases of democratization we see Taiwan, we see South Korea, we see Greece, we see Brazil. All of these were authoritarian dictatorships, and then when we see the same model applied to totalitarian regimes, we see China, we see Vietnam, we see Laos. We see a dictatorship that is stronger than before, and its society acquiescing to a great degree because undoubtedly there is material betterment. It is the choice between living in dire misery and not being able to express yourself or living better and not being able to express yourself. It’s an obvious choice.
In the case of Cuba, what should be the requisites? Definitely the economic order is of secondary importance. Primacy lies in the political and ethical system. And this has been, to a great degree, the problem in regimes such as the Chinese, and the Vietnamese, and the Cubans, and what we have in Russia and what we see in many parts of the world. The economic and the commercial interests form a collusion with the political power that can offer a certain stability, and democratic ethics go out the window. And this is extremely, extremely dangerous.
Continue reading HERE.
The War Against Subcultures on the ‘Reflejos’ Platform
According to the plastic artist and administrator of the censored blog clubososdecuba.cubava.cu, “there is a kind of war against all subcultures.”
“We were warned three times: once because we published a story featuring a kind of raw realism that they considered pornography; the second time, for a series of artistic nudes, most of them from the waist up; and the third time for promoting a club member’s party,” says the blogger.
In November of 2015 the bloggers Derbis Campos and Samuel Riera anonymously informed DIARIO DE CUBA of some of the abuses that they had been suffering for promoting the Club de Osos de Cuba, composed of men who like other men.
“It seems that time we didn´t conform to the objectives for which the platform was created either,” says Riera, who wonders whether different lifestyles will ever be accepted by the supervisors of a network characterized by their dogmatism and machismo.
The censorship of the arcoiris.cubava.cu blog was inspired by other motives. An essay by the activist Jimmy Roque Martínez on the UMAPs, entitled “Con el perdón (o no) de Mariela Castro”, prompted the monitoring to department to slap the blog with a three-month disqualification.
Subsequently accessing the platform ended up becoming impossible, according to its administrator, Yasmin Portales: “it was so bad that you couldn’t administrate the blog.”
“I would try to upload the same article four or five times, to no avail. It’s a kind of vicious circle, in which we always lose,” says Portales.
After three months without being able to update it, the blog arcoiriris.cubava.cu was closed due to inactivity.
“The article said that those responsible for the UMAPs are still in power, and have not been held responsible by the justice system for their crime.” Thus did one of the platform’s administrators paraphrase the most biting section of the article by Jimmy Roque. “And that has no other interpretation than holding Fidel and Raul accountable. And we cannot tolerate that.”
The administrators of Cubava.cu seem to know their jobs very well. Each censured blog is filed, recording its existence and its infraction. But they don’t really need to check the archives to remember the “infractions” of each of those censured.
They assure DIARIO DE CUBA that none of their actions have been personal, but rather strictly related to the duties assigned them.
“The platform is to serve the interests of the Revolution, and our regulations are very clear on this point,” they explain.
Oscar Biscet’s Cuba
“No,” Oscar Biscet said, smiling, when I asked him in broken Spanish whether he was getting tired after a series of meetings on Capitol Hill. “After spending more than 11 years in prison, including nearly six months in solitary confinement, I like to be around people.”That’s especially the case, he added, when those people are discussing democracy, religious freedom and human rights. Those are concepts Biscet has devoted his life to advancing in a country where having such discussions can land you in prison.
Dr. Biscet is one of Cuba’s most important human rights activists and political dissidents. Biscet was in the middle of an eight-day visit to Washington, D.C.
During his trip, Biscet met with members of Congress (including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) and officials at the White House and State Department, gave several think tank speeches and spoke with the editorial boards of two publications (including this one).
He had just finished meeting with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chris Smith and other sympathetic congressmen, and was on his way to deliver a talk at the Heritage Foundation.
When I spoke with Biscet later, he said that the thing he appreciated most about being in Washington was the warm welcome he had received from government officials.
In Cuba, where he had spent all of his 55 years until last month, Biscet has lived the last quarter century either incarcerated or under close surveillance by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, neighborhood gangs that report to the government on any “counter-revolutionary” activity.
Biscet, a physician, has had three stints in prison for such “counter-revolutionary” acts as exposing and protesting against widespread infanticide in Cuba’s health system, displaying a Cuban flag upside down and meeting with a small group of political activists to discuss a petition drive demanding the recognition of human rights.
For that last offense, Biscet was given a 25-year prison sentence, of which he served more than eight years before being released in 2011. Over the last two decades, Biscet has become a leading advocate of a nonviolent resistance to the Castro regime and of a peaceful transition to democracy on the island.
Continue reading HERE.
The figures are in for 2015, and they’re astounding.
Cuban exiles and yo-yo’s have become the Castro regime’s single largest source of income.
And… in 2015, over half a million Cuban yo-yo’s travelled to Castrogonia (538,433, to be exact).
According to Marti Noticias, the income from remittances and yo-yo visits surpasses that derived from sugar, tobacco, nickel, tourism, and overseas medical missions combined.
And… take a look at the pink bars in the graph below. The total dollar amount pumped into Castrogonia by “exiles” through cash remittances and goods/gifts is $ 6,634,900,000 (six billion, 634 million, 900 thousand).
The math is simple enough: Cubans in “exile” are now keeping the Castro regime afloat.
The worst aspect of this charade is the fact that this is does not appear to be a temporary situation. Now that this is in place, and now that the survival of the Castro regime is backed by the U.S., this is how it will continue to be for years to come.
Absolutely horrific and stupefying. Le requeteronca al mango
Read it and weep. Read it and rage.
Thank you very much, yo-yo’s. Senkiu beri mosh. Mil gracias, ..Ñangarones….*&^%$#*&%!!!
From The Havana Consulting Group
Cuba: The Fastest Growing Remittances Market in Latin America
For close to half a century, the Cuban remittances market was buffeted by U.S. embargo legislation and restrictions from Cuban socialism. No other remittances market in Latin America suffered so many limitations. Today, the situation is quite different: sending remittances to the island is one of the sectors that has been most favorably affected by the rapprochement policies pursued by President Obama’s Administration since his arrival at the White House in 2008. In 2015, remittances sent to the island reached a record level of 3,354,1 million dollars. [ $ 3,354,100,000]
From 2008 to 2015, Cuban remittances grew by an astronomical 1,907.1 million dollars [$ 1,907,100,000], for an average annual increase of 238.3 million dollars [ $ 283,300,000], an unprecedented growth performance since the receipt of remittances became legal in 1993.
The third factor has been the tremendous growth in travel to the island by Cuban-Americans. Under the policies of the Presidency of George W. Bush, Cuban-Americans were permitted to travel to the island only once every three years, which limited contacts and the flow of remittances to the island. Since Barack Obama took over the White House, this restriction has been eliminated and therefore Cuban-Americans are free to travel to the island as many times per year as they wish. Lifting this restriction increased substantially travel by Cuban-Americans to the island. It is important to keep in mind that Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba carry with them, on average, $3,200 – $3,500 in cash, according to several studies conducted by The Havana Consulting Group.
In 2015, the number of Cuban-Americans who traveled to the island and of Cubans residing in the island who traveled to the U.S. and returned to Cuba added up to 538,433 passengers. The number of such passengers in 2015 was 3.27 times larger than in 2007.
Continue reading HERE… much more information, more charts & graphs
Some of us have seen this movie before.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen news reports from Latin America of left-wing legislators, or the interest groups that they support, chanting and going out of control when they don’t get their way.
Recently, the teachers’ union in Mexico blocked the entrances to the Mexico City airport or last week a confrontation with authorities followed their attempts to close the heavily used highway to Puebla.
Let’s add some members of the U.S. House to that list of legislators or activists who want their way even it means stepping on other people’s rights.
The House Democrats, many literally sitting on the floor, want a vote on gun control. Unfortunately for them, the majority in the House, or the people elected by voters across the country, would rather take up other issues.
We call it democracy. In other words, the majority party sets the calendar. Just ask the GOP senators who wanted then-Majority Leader Reid to bring ObamaCare to a vote on the floor.
Incredibly, Rep. John Lewis is connecting this sit-in with his illustrious past civil rights experience:
“Today we made progress. We have come a distance,” declared Lewis.
Lewis said he had to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge “three times” before he had completed the march to Selma, Ala. The Georgia Democrat suggested this was the first step on firearms.
“We have other bridges to cross. And when we come back in July, we start it all over again,” intoned Lewis.
At the same time, the hypocrisy of these Democrats is incredible given their silence about the shootings in Chicago.
Why don’t they get on a plane and block the street corners in Chicago where this violence is happening every weekend?
Why don’t they visit the churches and instituions of Chciago and call for an end to the mindless shooting?
Why not back the Chicago police that have to go into these areas every night?
Why not call on black leaders to have a frank discussion of the root causes of black on black crime in our cities? After all, Chicago already has a lot of gun laws.
The House Democrats are engaged in the worst type of grandstanding. We need dissent, but this is not dissent. This is chaos that threatens our rule of law.
Shame on Democrats. I never thought that we would ever see this in the U.S.
More photos of the event are available at the George W. Bush Presidential Center Facebook page HERE.
Month in memory of two Cuban human rights martyrs: Call for articles
Remembering Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero
July 22, 2016 will mark four years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed in Cuba under suspicious circumstances that have led to demands for an international investigation, a report that points to the involvement of state security, and survivor testimony that points to murder. In the meantime family, friends and admirers continue to mourn their passing. The Christian Liberation Movement on the month leading up to the fourth anniversary of their passing is requesting those who knew the two men to write an article or chronicle about them.
Message from the Christian Liberation Movement:
In this month in memory of Oswaldo and Harold we invite those who knew them to send an article or chronicle with anecdotes related to them (between 260-400 words long).
You can send them to: email@example.com
Original text taken from MCL website in Spanish:
En este mes del recuerdo a Oswaldo y Harold invitamos a quienes les conocieron a enviarnos un articulo o crónica con anécdotas vinculadas a ellos ( entre 260 a 400 palabras)
los pueden enviar a : firstname.lastname@example.org