Video of the Day – Violent repression against dissidents and children in Cuba caught on video

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Watch the thugs of Cuba’s apartheid Castro dictatorship do what they do best against not only peaceful dissidents, but children as well. As you watch the violence, you can hear audio of Fidel Castro’s numerous claims that there is no political violence in Cuba and there is no such thing as political prisoners on the island.

“Cubans migrants to Mexico are arrested, beaten, extorted, deported by the Mexican gov. in collusion with Castro! Where’s your indignation Mr Jorge Ramos (a Mexican citizen!)”

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This post’s headline comes–not from some redneck Trumpista in Alabama (or MUCH WORSE (!!!) Louisiana!)

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No. It comes from a young Cuban lawyer living in Mexico– His name is Rafael Alejandro Hernández and he knows what he’s talking about, from firsthand experience. To wit:

* “You claim to be a journalist not a politician. But Trump threw you out only because of you were out of line. Your behavior was shameful.

* “Every week thousands of Cubans migrants to Mexico are arrested, beaten, extorted and swindled by the Mexican gov. in collusion with the Castro tyranny! But I’ve never heard you utter a peep against the Mexican government over this, Mr Jorge Ramos! And you claim to be a proud and vocal Mexican citizen, Mr Jorge Ramos!”

* Why not come to Mexico and try telling President Pena Nieto that deporting Cubans to Castro means they’ll live in a prison. Why not practice what you preach, Mr Ramos?!

* You denounce the U.S.–a country that opened its doors to you, yourself, sir–but you refuse to utter a peep against your native Mexico, that deports Cubans not because they’re delinquents–but as a matter of policy.”

* I’m speaking to you as someone who was jailed for 49 days in a Mexican prison for migrants and freed only after a hunger strike where I almost died.”

* “Next time you attend a Trump press conference you might ask permission to speak, and wait your turn like all the others. And since you seem to like to talk without permission come to Mexico and try that stunt!”

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I’ve freely paraphrased the young lawyer’s commentary while translating it into Joe-Sixpack English. If you suspect I’ve mangled his meaning, here’s the entire piece in Spanish.:And here’s a video of his “speech.”

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“Le RRRONCA!!!”

Brazil’s corrupt former president implicated in Odebrecht lobbying scheme in Cuba

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Epoca magazine has implicated Brazil’s former president, the corrupt Lula da Silva, in a shady lobbying scheme in Cuba for Odebrecht, an engineering firm currently under investigation for its corrupt practices. It appears da Silva used his connections and influence with Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship to grease the tracks for Odebrecht so they could receive sweetheart deals from the corrupt, terrorist sponsoring regime of the Castro brothers.

For all those Americans who have bought into the Obama and U.S. Chamber of Commerce fairy tale that Cuba is one big legitimate business opportunity ready to be exploited, take heed of how business is really conducted in Castro’s Cuba.

Via Reuters:

Brazilian weekly says Lula lobbied for Odebrecht in Cuba

BRASILIA (Reuters) – A Brazilian news magazine has accused former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of acting as lobbyist in Cuba for Brazil’s largest engineering firm Odebrecht, which built the container terminal at the Cuban port of Mariel.

In this week’s edition headlined “Our man in Havana,” Epoca magazine cited Brazilian diplomatic cables about visits to Cuba by Lula after he had left office. During those visits he sought to further Brazilian business interests on the island, it said.

One cable from 2014 reported on a meeting in Havana at which Lula discussed with Odebrecht executives how to secure Cuban guarantees for loans from Brazilian state development bank BNDES to finance new projects sought by Odebrecht in Cuba.

Lula’s foundation called the Epoca story “offensive” and “malicious” and “criminal manipulation” of government documents.

“These are normal activities. The ex-president did nothing illegal and was discussing sovereign guarantees for loans to Cuba in a meeting where a diplomat was present,” said Jose Chrispiniano, a spokesman for the Lula Institute.

Lula is under investigation for improperly using his influence to benefit Odebrecht, whose billionaire chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested in June in connection with the massive bribery and political kickback scandal focused on state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Prosecutors say Lula frequently traveled abroad at Odebrecht’s expense after leaving office, from 2011 until 2014.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: 4-Star Cockroaches

Liliane Ruiz in Translating Cuba:

4-star Cockroaches

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Facade of the Plaza Hotel in Old Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 26 August 2015 – When Francina Islas and Juan Andres Sanchez planned their Cuban vacation from Miami, they didn’t imagine that their stay in Havana would become a sequence of discomforts and annoyances. Three days at the centrally-located Hotel Plaza was enough to know that the excellence of Cuban tourist facilities is often a publicity mirage with no connection to reality.

The latest figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the country experienced a 21.1% increase in foreign visitors between January and May of 2015, compared the same period from a year ago. However, at the same time that the number of tourists was increasing, customer demands were increasing.

The couple who shared their experience with 14ymedio said, “We were not looking for luxury, just minimal conditions of hygiene and maintenance, working hot water, no cockroaches,” said Francina, a Mexican traveling with her Spanish husband and their daughter.

With difficulty, the family managed to book a room in Havana from Spain. The flood of tourists has left little availability in the accommodation network which includes 430 establishments throughout the country, including hotels, apartment hotels, motels, villas, hostels, houses, cottages and campgrounds.

After working through several obstacles, Francina and Juan Andres made a reservation through the Logitravel travel agency for a room in the Armadores de Santander, located in a historic mansion in the city. But a week before traveling, they were alerted that it was overbooked and they were relocated to the Plaza Hotel, what was announced as four-stars.

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Interior Detail of the Plaza Hotel (14ymedio)

The change didn’t bother them at all, because the new place is a few yards from Central Park, and had a beautiful façade. However, passing through the most visible areas of the building, they found the rooms left a lot to be desired.

The musty smell on opening the door of the room was the first sign that something was wrong. Then they found there was dust on the furniture, the shower was not embedded in the wall, but hanging, and the water pressure lasted just a few minutes. If someone closed the bathroom door from inside, they needed help from outside to open it, and the bedspreads were dirty and shabby. “Fortunately the sheets had been washed and changed, and they were the only things we used because the blanket was torn, ripped and filthy,” the alarmed Francina commented.

Read more

Cubans don’t need permission to be free

Belen Marty in PanAm Post:

Cubans Don’t Need Permission to Be Free

Dissident Gómez Manzano Wants Nothing to Do with Referendums

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Cuban lawyer René Gómez Manzano says public disapproval of the Castro regime has grown significantly in the last 20 years.

René Gómez Manzano is a well established voice within the Cuban dissident movement. Born in Havana in 1943, 16 years before the start of the revolution, Gómez Manzano is a lawyer, freelance journalist, and currently a member of the Coordinating Council of the Patriotic Union for Cuba party (UNPACU).

As far the Cuban regime is concerned, the UNPACU is an illegal organization, and Gómez Manzano has been arrested and imprisoned several times. In fact, Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience on three separate occasions.

Nevertheless, he simply calls himself a lawyer, even though the Castro regime has revoked his license to practice law on the island.

To my surprise, Gómez Manzano published an article on August 20 claiming the headline for a report I wrote for the PanAm Post about Cubans gathering in Puerto Rico was false.

When I contacted the attorney to question why he took issue with the headline, he politely replied — with exceptional quickness considering the connectivity issues on the island — 24 hours later.

What’s wrong with the statement that Cuban dissidents gathered in Puerto Rico in search of a plebiscite?

It was not the plebiscite that brought us together, but the need for the Cuban democratic opposition to reach a consensus, to unite. Once we gathered, each organization presented their proposals, requested support, and representatives then agreed on which projects they would support. They included the idea of the plebiscite, among others.

I personally disagree with this idea. I don’t see the logic in holding a referendum to see if people want to have elections, only to then have elections.

Amnesty International has previously called you a “prisoner of conscience.” Do you agree with that description?

Yes, I think it’s appropriate. The organization sets a very positive example in this regard, although I must admit that with some other dissidents they have been somewhat conservative in declaring them prisoners of conscience.

The main reason why I was given this distinction is simply because my fellow dissidents and I were sent to prison for having opinions that differ from the regime’s, and we expressed them.

The regime tends to downplay the acts of those dissidents who haven’t received much media attention, or who have been arrested under turbulent circumstances. They send these dissidents to prison and claim they are common criminals.

The regime tries to conceal this as much as possible. Sometimes the international organization plays it safe and is reluctant to recognize these people as prisoners of conscience as well, even though their condition is only being kept from view.

What does it mean to be a Cuban dissident?

I would say that the vast majority of the Cuban population, over 80 percent, are dissidents. However, most are crypto-dissidents; they hide their beliefs.

Sometimes you take public transportation, and there it is: people expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo. It’s completely natural, because the economy is a disaster here. But they are reluctant to express their beliefs, because repression is widespread, and for over 50 years they’ve been taught that government is untouchable.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba, Iran, Russia: Why the knives are out for Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz in Da Tech Guy Blog:

Why the knives are out on Menendez

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_mlhDaH7J3Hw/Rir5OviizNI/AAAAAAAABeQ/PTgwRUs2IcA/s200/watts-schumer+029.JPGAs Pete notes, the knives are out against Robert Menendez, with lurid headlines again screaming Sen. Robert Menendez may have had sex with underage hookers in Dominican Republic. Menendez’s office again denied the accusations, which are part of a larger case (emphasis added),

And unlike in many federal public corruption cases, this prosecution revolves, in part, around testimony by ex-girlfriends of Menendez and his donor, the eye doctor Melgen. The Justice Department says at least six of those girlfriends are “direct witnesses to the corrupt relationship between the defendants.” Prosecutors added that they didn’t call all of the men’s former paramours, only those who benefited from the alleged corruption.

Woe betide those whose former girlfriends talk, or whose divorce records are opened.

It’s curious to see the hooker story pop up again. I have been blogging on the case for the lastcouple of years, and noted that a grand jury in Florida already found no basis for the prostitution allegations. Let’s not forget why it has.

The knives are out on Menendez for three reasons, all pertaining to foreign policy:
1. The Iran deal (about which we have been posting), and Cuba:

Mr. Menendez sharply questioned State Department officials about Mr. Obama’s move to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling it “a bad deal” that “compromised bedrock principles for virtually no concessions.” In December, Mr. Menendez, a son of Cuban immigrants who has made opposition to the Castro leadership a centerpiece of his political life, said Mr. Obama’s decision had “vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”

He has also battled with Mr. Obama over a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, which the president argues would undermine talks to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Mr. Menendez is a co-sponsor of the bill.

And during Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address last month, Mr. Menendez sat grim-faced as other Democrats cheered the president’s promise to veto any effort to roll back his domestic agenda. Days later, Mr. Menendez told Obama administration officials that they sounded as if they were peddling “talking points that come straight out of Tehran” in arguing against his sanctions bill.

2. Russia

All the while, Mr. Menendez has agitated for a more aggressive response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, calling for more sanctions on Moscow and military assistance to Kiev.

Continue reading HERE.

Freemuse calls for the release of imprisoned dissident artists in Cuba

The international organization Freemuse, which advocates for the freedom of expression for musicians and composers calls for the release of imprisoned dissident artists in Cuba.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Freemuse: Release Imprisoned Cuban Artists

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Cuba: Freemuse calls for the release of imprisoned artists

The Cuban graffiti artist and activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, best known as El Sexto, who has been arbitrarily imprisoned for eight months in the Valle Grande prison, located west of Havana, has initiated a hunger strike, according to El Nuevo Herald and various other sources.

El Sexto was arrested on 25 December 2014 while he was on his way to put on a performance art piece called ‘Rebelión en la Granja’ – the title in Spanish of George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm – which included two pigs decorated with the names Fidel and Raúl.

El Sexto was charged with contempt, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. According to El Sexto’s mother, María Victoria Machado, he is going on a hunger strike to protest his continued detention without due process.

El Sexto is not the only young artist imprisoned in Cuba. On 28 January 2015, the rapper Maikel Oksobo ‘El Dkano’ (real name: Maikel Castillo Pérez) was sentenced to a year in prison in Havana. It is generally believed he was targeted for having used music to express his dissenting political opinions. El Dkano was sentenced under a charge known as ‘peligrosidad predelictiva’ (‘dangerousness that is likely leading to a crime’), which is used to imprison dissidents for long terms.

Freemuse calls for the release of the two artists. “Cuba over the years has produced and supported many great artists, but it is appalling that the Cuban authorities continue to repress artists, who are addressing serious problems,” said Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director. “A solid state system should not fear but stimulate artistic freedom and live up to international conventions guaranteeing freedom of speech.”

Freemuse is an independent international organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers.

Did “The Mob” really “run” Cuba in the 1950’s?

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“Under the thuggish reign of US-backed Fulgencio Batista…the US mafia, having been dislodged from American cities by the crusading Kefauver committee, took over much of Havana, operating gambling rackets, drug rings, and prostitution.” (Boston Globe, May, 4, 2014.)

Actually: in 1955 Cuba contained a grand total of three gambling casinos, the biggest was at the Tropicana and featured ten gambling tables and thirty slot machines, the Hotel Nacional, featured seven roulette wheels and twenty-one slot machines. “By contrast, in 1955 the single Riviera Casino in Las Vegas featured twenty tables and one hundred and sixteen slot machines. This means that in 1955: one Las Vegas Casino had more gambling action than all of Cuba.

Cuba’s tourism industry as a whole generated $60 million in 1958. Havana by itself had 42 hotels. The Mob reputedly had financial in interest in 7 of these–and these didn’t include among them Cuba’s biggest hotel, the Habana Hilton. Instead the biggest hotel on the island was majority owned by the pension plan of the Cuban Federation of Gastronomic Food Workers. This fully-documented historical datum, needless to add, doesn’t mesh well with the fairy tale narrative about Cuba’s horribly exploited working class of the time, now does it?”

( Every item above thoroughly documented here. )

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(En Espanol aqui.)

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Le RRRONCA!!!

Meanwhile, back in Caracastan: The Cubanization of Venezuela intensifies

Cubanization at work in Venezuela: Misery, squalor, shortages, long lines, and garbage in the streets

While the current occupant of the White House and the Vicar of Christ embrace the ruler of the Castro Kingdom and help him stay on his throne, that same monarch continues to bring misery not only to his own people, but also to his colonial subjects in Venezuela.

No doubt about it: the world is blind in one eye and Latrine America is blind in both eyes.

Take one look at what 56 years of Castroism has done to Cuba and you know where it leads.  Take one look at Venezuela — an oil-rich nation that could look like Dubai — and there is no way anyone should miss the fact that it has been ruined by Castroism, Bolivarianism, and 21st-century socialism.

Yet far too many Latrine Americans hanker to follow in the footsteps of the Castro Kingdom and its colony of Caracastan.  And far too many world leaders, including the pope, cheer them on.

Lord have mercy.  The Castros, Maduros, Moraleses, Correas, Rouseffs, Kirchners, Ortegas, etc.. of Latrine America are quickly creating a Fourth World, even poorer and more miserable and repressive than the Third.

And yet, they are embraced by many of their own people and lauded by most foreigners.

21st century socialism receives papal approval

This is nothing new, of course.  Even 2,500 years ago, this kind of behavior was common.

In their blind conceit,
    they cannot see how wicked they really are.
Everything they say is crooked and deceitful.
    They refuse to act wisely or do good.
They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots.
    Their actions are never good.
    They make no attempt to turn from evil.  (Psalm 36:2-4)

Viva la Revolucion Bolivariana!

From The Wall Street Journal

Venezuela’s Food Shortages Trigger Long Lines, Hunger and Looting

Violent clashes flare in pockets of the country as citizens wait for hours for basics, such as milk and rice

Hours after they looted and set fire to a National Guard command post in this sun-baked corner of Venezuela earlier this month, a mob infuriated by worsening food shortages rammed trucks into the smoldering edifice, reducing it mostly to rubble.

The incident was just one of numerous violent clashes that have flared in pockets around the country in recent weeks as Venezuelans wait for hours in long supermarket lines for basics like milk and rice. Shortages have made hunger a palpable concern for many Wayuu Indians who live here at the northern tip of Venezuela’s 1,300-mile border with Colombia.

The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which President Nicolás Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity. But after they seize contraband goods, the troops themselves often become targets of increasingly desperate people.

“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” said María Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother who on a recent blistering hot day had been standing in line at the grocery store since 3 a.m. before walking away empty-handed at midday.

In a national survey, the pollster Consultores 21 found 30% of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of this year, up from 20% in the first quarter. Around 70% of people in the study also said they had stopped buying some basic food item because it had become unavailable or too expensive.

Continue reading HERE

Bolivarian soldiers ensure that hungry Venezuelans don’t “hoard” food

Reports from Cuba: Dreaming in color

By Rosa Maria Rodriguez in Translating Cuba:

Dreaming in Color

http://www.translatingcuba.com/images/rosa/1439478248_malecon_havana.jpgOn August 5, 1994, the Havana shoreline filled with a human tidal wave that took the capital by surprise and overflowed into international news. The national press, as always, had to wait for the approval of the censor before reporting on the event. Nothing like this had happened in thirty-five years of the Castro dictatorship: a tsunami of people overcame fear, and hundreds of them went to the seaside promenade, driven by rumors that boats from the United States were coming ashore to transport those who wanted to emigrate.

Many thought it was another exodus approved by the authorities, like the Mariel boatlift. When they got there, the unraveling rumors gave way to frustration, and anti-government demonstrations broke out along the length of the Malecon and adjacent areas. Thus was born the event known as El Maleconazo.

The agitated human mass started breaking windows, trashing shops, and confronting the police. The riots lasted for several hours. Then the government sent in its specialized police force to do what it does best: suppress.

Society inevitably returned to its sheep-like obedience and today, twenty-one years later, the bleeding continues by “cutting the femoral” of the nation, which the authorities have always used—and even provoked—to their benefit, for permanently remaining in power.

After that event everything returned to the routine that characterizes life in Cuba: those who are able to emigrate do so, and many of those who do not continue to play the role of supporters of the regime, as the only way of sociopolitical survival.

After fifty-six years of the Castros’ totalitarianism and twenty-one years after that event, the Cuban people remain trapped, prevented from exercising their fundamental rights by the discriminatory designs of a dictatorial regime.

Many fellow citizens hold the goal of emigrating as the only way of achieving personal fulfillment (which is part of the pursuit of happiness) for themselves or their family members.

It is true that there have been some economic and social reforms in Cuba, but as long as the leaders in the forefront of these changes are those who committed so many injustices in the past, who imposed and repealed laws for their own convenience, many will distrust and will doubt whether they will stay.

Others will hesitate to come and invest their capital in a market run by a political class that is in power to serve the wealthy minority, not the excluded majority.

I hope this latest anniversary of El Maleconazo will cause everyone to reflect on how urgent it is for us to allow ourselves to dream of freedoms and rights, and social, political, and economic progress in our own country.

Translated by Tomás A.

Persecuted dissident artist Tania Bruguera talks about her escape from Castro’s Cuba

Carolina Miranda in The Los Angeles Times:

Dissident artist Tania Bruguera talks leaving Cuba: ‘I would not let them make me a paranoiac’

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Artist Tania Bruguera spent eight months in Cuba after being detained just prior to the new year. She is now back in the U.S. after having her passport returned — but says she will return to Cuba in the future.

For months, the case of Tania Bruguera has been a protracted drama that has played itself out on the international stage. The artist — a Cuban national — was detained in Cuba just prior to the New Year, for attempting to stage a performance about freedom of expression in Havana’s Revolution Square. And while she was soon released, Bruguera had her passport confiscated, and was later detained on various other occasions. All of this was happening during a historic political moment — when the U.S. and Cuba were coming to a rapprochement.

Bruguera, who works primarily in the U.S. and Europe, is now back in the U.S. She landed in New York last Friday, after getting on a flight without previously alerting friends or family. Her return puts an end (for now) to an eight-month-long political and artistic drama that, for a time, appeared as if it might go on indefinitely.

The artist is currently in New Haven, Conn., participating in the Yale World Fellows program, where she will be working on a new project (yet to be determined) and participating in various activities at the university.

She took time to chat via Skype on Wednesday to discuss her whole Cuba experience. (“I am still digesting everything,” she said.) In our conversation, which has been edited for flow, the artist said she would return to Cuba. But first, there are a number of projects that will keep her in the U.S. for the time being — including one that will bring her to L.A. and the California Institute of the Arts.

You left Cuba very quietly. In fact, I understand that you only let friends and family know you were leaving once you were in the air. Why the secrecy?

I have been surveilled for eight months. At one point, I thought, “No, I’m being paranoid. Of course they don’t care about me anymore.” But in the meanwhile I suspected that someone very close to me was one of the informers. So I didn’t tell anybody that I was leaving. I did tell that person the night before. And then in the morning I did normal stuff, like I’m not leaving. I go to the house. I go here. I go there. And immediately in the morning, I have five people — friend and friends of friends — calling me saying, “When are you leaving?”

And I arrive at the airport and [a pair of Cuban state security officials], Javier and Andrea, arrive — literally, 10 minutes after I get to the airport. They couldn’t do anything because I was leaving. But [one of the officials] asks me what happened with this conference in Puerto Rico. It was this conference of dissidents. He says, “What did you hear?” I said, I didn’t know because I didn’t go.

He said to me, “Can you give me your number in the United States?” I said, “Thanks to you I don’t have a phone anymore because I lost my line.” And he said, “Can I have your address?” And I said, “Well, I lost my apartment too” — my apartment in Corona, Queens [in New York]. He said, “I might be there in September.”

It’s like until the last minute they want to mess with your head. They want to make you paranoid. At one point he said, “Someone close to you works for us.” I said, “You’re not going to make me a paranoiac. I’ve been here for eight months and I am not a paranoiac.” I understood they were watching me. But I would not let them make me a paranoiac. That’s what they do, they make you paranoid, they isolate you.

Continue reading HERE.