Reports from Cuba: Opposition observers forbidden from traveling to Colombia because Raul Castro ‘is visiting there’

14yMedio reports via Translating Cuba:

Cuba Forbids Opposition Observers from Traveling to Columbia Because President Raul Castro “Is Visiting There”

Ada Lopez, a Cuban opposition activist and member of Otro18, and also a member of the independent library movement.
Ada Lopez, a Cuban opposition activist and member of Otro18, and also a member of the independent library movement.

The reason put forth by the Cuban authorities to block travel to Colombia by opposition members called to be observers in the plebiscite on the that country’s agreement with the FARC, is “national security,” because “the president is already there on a visit.”

This is what a security agent, who identified himself as Ronald, told the activist Agustin Lopez, brother of Ada Lopez. The opponent described his arrest to 14ymedio, after he was detained at three in the afternoon on Monday when asking the police surrounding his house why they were there. He was released at 6:40 PM on Tuesday.

His sister, the activist Ada Lopez, had denounced a police operation around her house in Havana from the early hours of Tuesday, to keep her from going to the airport. She was due to travel to Colombia that afternoon to also participate as an observer in the plebiscite for peace that is to be held on Sunday, 2 October, but she was arrested when she left for the airport.

Ada Lopez, who is also a member of the independent library movement, received an invitation to visit Colombia as a part of the Otro18 project (Another 2018) an initiative focused on promoting new laws regarding elections, free association and political parties in Cuba.

“I was leaving my house with a suitcase to try to get to the airport,” explained Lopez, adding that the independent journalist Arturo Rojas Rodriguez, who was scheduled to travel with her, “was arrested yesterday, taken to a police station in the Capri neighborhood and subsequently transferred to a station in Cotorro, to prevent him from traveling.”

Hours later, Ada Lopez’s husband, Osmany Díaz Cristo, reported that she had been arrested the moment she left her house headed to the José Martí Airport’s Terminal Three in Havana. “The suitcase she was traveling with was thrown to the ground and she was dragged to the police car. Right now she is at the police station in Regla,” across the bay from Old Havana, he added.

Both activists were invited to participate in the plebiscite by the Election Observation Mission of Colombia (MOE), as confirmed by 14ymedio through the opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua, one of the main promoters of Otro18.

Last Sunday, Cuban President Raul Castro traveled to the city of Cartagena de Indias for the signing ceremony of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP.

Newsweek uncovers Trump’s secret attempts to strike business deals with Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro

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Documents uncovered by Newsweek reveal that back in 1998, Donald Trump violated U.S. law by spending $68,000 to fly consultants down to Cuba to meet with officials of the Castro dictatorship in an apparent effort to lay the groundwork for future business deals with the apartheid regime. Perhaps as startling as this revelation is that a mere 10 months later, Trump launched his 2000 presidential election campaign at the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami where in his speech, he swore he would never do business on the island or spend any money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was toppled from power. Naturally, Trump made no mention or disclosure at that time that just a few months earlier, he had a team of his people in Havana trying to make business deals with the Castro regime.

This revelation can be bad news for the Trump campaign since it will not sit well with conservative Republican Cuban-American voters who staunchly support sanctions against Cuba’s dictatorship. It also comes on the heels of a Bloomberg report this past July that revealed Trump was sending employees to Cuba to scout golf course locations and business opportunities just last year. Furthermore, this latest news will likely enforce the perception amongst his detractors in the Republican party that the GOP nominee for president continually and consistently flips his position on major issues to serve his needs at that particular moment.

The only positive aspect for the cause of a free Cuba this bombshell revelation offers is that for the next news cycle (or perhaps even longer if Trump and his surrogates respond by digging themselves deeper into the hole as they usually do), the Clinton campaign and Democrats will be anti-Castro and staunch supporters of the embargo against Cuba’s repressive apartheid dictatorship.

By Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek:

Donald Trump’s company violated the U.S. embargo against Cuba

A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after-the-fact to a charitable effort.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.

[…]

Prior to the Cuban trip, several European companies reached out to Trump about potentially investing together on the island through Trump Hotels, according to the former Trump executive. At the time, a bipartisan group of senators, three former Secretaries of State and other former officials were urging then-President Bill Clinton to review America’s Cuba policy, in hopes of eventually ending the decades-long embargo.

The goal of the Cuba trip, the former Trump executive said, was to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions. While in Cuba, the Trump representatives met with government officials, bankers and other business leaders to explore possible opportunities for the casino company. The former executive said Trump had participated in discussions about the Cuba trip and knew it had taken place.

The fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo. “The money that the Trump company paid to the consultant is money that a Cuban national has an interest in and was spent on an understanding it would be reimbursed,’’ Richard Matheny, chair of Goodwin’s national security and foreign trade regulation group said, based on a description of the events by Newsweek. “That would be illegal. If OFAC discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice.”

Read all about this sordid affair HERE.

Reports from Cuba: The regime unleashes repression all over the island

Via Diario de Cuba:

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The regime unleashes repression all over the island

Havana – The Cuban regime launched a massive crackdown on the offices of the Legal Information Center (Cubalex), headed up by attorney Laritza Diversent, according to information received by DIARIO DE CUBA, just hours after the European Commission formally proposed that the EU countries support the political cooperation and dialogue agreement with Havana, which would supersede the Common Position, in force since 1996.

Sources close to Diversent said that police forces raided the headquarters and accused the entire Cubalex team of “economic crimes”.

At 10 am in the morning two police cars arrived, along with 20 agents in plain clothes, and a lady in a white coat who claimed to be a doctor. They waited for the entire CUBALEX team to be inside the building before commencing the operation.

They broke in through the garage door with a crowbar, and used a jimmy to access the kitchen, confiscating all their technological resources, computers, memories and hard drives – even those for personal use.

A week of intense repression

The week saw a wave of repression let loose across the Island against many opposition and civil society organizations.

On Thursday the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) reported the arrest of 23 activists and the imprisonment of one of its members, who would mark “political prisoner number 43” from the organization.

On Tuesday, 20 September, police officers and State Security agents prevented a dozen young  dissidents from completing visa processes at the Spanish consulate in Havana to travel to Madrid to take a training course at the Instituto Atlántico.

That same day, the spokesman for Cuba’s Independent Trade Union Coalition, Iván Hernández Carrillo, reported that the political police had deployed a large force to break up a meeting of several trade unionists seeking to fuse the Island’s three main labor organizations.

On Sunday, 18 September, repression was also perpetrated against the Ladies in White: 27 women were arrested in Havana, along with several activists with the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign on the 71st Sunday of the constant persecution of the organization’s marches.

Another group of women was also harassed on Tuesday, when State Security deployed forces near a house in which they were to hold a meeting, while keeping the participants trapped in their own homes.

Read more

Why Cuban-Americans are voting differently this presidential election

Dr. Jose Azel in PanAm Post:

Why Cuban-Americans Are Voting Differently this Presidential Election

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Historically, the Cuban-American community has been considered a political monolith, voting mostly in support of the Republican Party, at least at the national level. To the extent that this has been true, it has been most applicable to the early exile community we now call the historicos.

The origins of this early exile support for the Republican Party can be reasonably traced to U.S. foreign policy, and to President Eisenhower’s robust anti-communist posture. Eisenhower and his Republican Party’s anti-Castro stance were followed by the cannibalization of the Bay of Pigs invasion plans under the Democratic leadership of President Kennedy and the resulting failure of the invasion.

This visible foreign policy dichotomy set the stage for the political voting path of the early exiles as they became American citizens. The topic of U.S.-Cuba policy then became of foremost importance for the new Cuban-American voters.

In time, most of the historicos began embracing the domestic policy tenets of the Republican Party of limited government, strong national defense, state rights and individual responsibility. Historicos also developed an aversion for socialist-like policies of any kind. For the most part, the offspring’s of the historicos made their parents’ anti-socialism their own, perpetuating the monolithic image of the Cuban-American electorate.

The arrival of later exile communities, raised under the Castro regime and imbued with socialist ideology began eroding the uniform political composition of the Cuban-American community at large. But the historicos remained committed Republicans — until this year.

This year, all presidential candidates favor a continuation of the U.S.-Cuba policy advanced by President Obama. Their philosophical underpinnings and tone may differ, but all the candidates support the rapprochement with the Cuban regime. For historicos Cuban-Americans, this signaled that one of their main issues was not at play in the 2016 election.

This year, three historicos Cuban-American friends — let’s call them Miguel, Rogelio, and José — will vote differently for the first time. As far back as I can remember, these friends have always supported Republican candidates in the presidential elections. They are emblematic of the historicos’ generation. Their votes this election cycle may not necessarily be enthusiastic, but Rogelio will vote for Republican Donald Trump, Miguel will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, and José will vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. The three amigos will go their own way politically. The Republican Party failed them.

Continue reading HERE.

Obama sends one last gift to apartheid Castro regime, nominates ambassador to Cuba

Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Jeffrey DeLaurentis

In what appears to be a parting gesture of affection towards the apartheid Castro dictatorship on his way out of the White House, President Obama nominated an ambassador to Cuba yesterday. Obama is quite aware that opposition in the Senate to his policy of embracing the apartheid Castro regime will likely ensure the nomination goes nowhere. Nevertheless, that did not deter him from one last gesture of surrender and appeasement towards Cuba’s murderously repressive dictatorship.

Via Western Journalism:

Obama Likely To Face Opposition After Nominating Cuban Ambassador

President Obama nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis Tuesday to serve as the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years.

DeLaurentis has already been serving as the senior U.S. diplomat in Havana while Obama worked on restoring relations with the Communist island. Technically, he already has the rank of ambassador, but the post must still be confirmed by the Senate.

“Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries,” Obama said. “There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba than Jeff.”

The decision will undoubtedly face strong opposition from a Republican-controlled Senate.

Cuban-American Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have been very vocal in their criticism of opening relations with Cuba, arguing the country and its leader have done nothing to earn American engagement.

Both senators have stated they would block any ambassador appointed by Obama.

“A U.S. ambassador is not going to influence the Cuban government, which is a dictatorial, closed regime,” Rubio said during a phone interview with Politico in July.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: They married us to a lie…

By Rebeca Monzo in Translating Cuba:

They Married Us to a Lie…

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It is a sign of lack of civility and decorum on the part of the Cuban regime to blame to the so-called US blockade for the shortages and difficulties, whose real cause is the inability and mismanagement of the economy, wealth and and riches of our country, by the leadership of the island. It is extremely well-known that they have “thrown everyone overboard,” dedicating their efforts and money to propaganda and proselytizing abroad, to present a completely untrue image of the internal situation.

When the Soviet “pipelines” were open to Cuba, in the media here, especially on television, there was an abundance of caricatures and ads where a popular character mocked the blockade, throwing all kinds of taunts at.

Why now this exhausting campaign against the blockade, that exceeds all limits of popular assimilation and acceptance? Why not have the civility and honesty to recognize the inability to lead and the squandering of the income obtained from the government’s share of the family remittances from the United States and the huge business established by the government to “rent out” doctors and professionals to other countries, which bring juicy dividends to the regime and from which our doctors and specialists receive only a pittance?

In the face of this so-called “solidarity” it is the people who suffer the consequences of the lack of medically qualified professionals and specialists remaining in Cuba, in schools and hospitals. “Candle in the street, darkness in the house,” as the popular saying goes. That is, we put on a big show for the outside, while we lack everything at home.

They married us to a lie… and forced us to live with it all these years.

 Translated by Jim

The challenges faced by American investors in apartheid Cuba

The University of Miami’s Dr. Jaime Suchlicki in Focus on Cuba:

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Challenges for Investors in Cuba

President Obama’s recent visit to Cuba encouraged many in the United States to expect that economic relations would bring about major changes in the island. There is a strong belief among U.S. policymakers that economic considerations can influence Cuban policy decisions and that an economically deteriorating situation will force the Castro brothers to move Cuba toward a market economy and, eventually, political reforms.

This is not happening. General Raúl Castro introduced limited economic reforms in an attempt to muddle through a difficult situation. Yet the reforms are not structurally profound, nor are they propelling Cuba toward a free market. In Cuba, economic decisions are determined by political and ideological considerations.

The changes introduced by General Castro are not liberalizing foreign investment regulations, as most Cubans cannot partner with foreign investors. Investments in Cuba are only allowed with joint ventures controlled by military leaders or in partnerships with Grupo Gaesa, a large military group of state businesses directed by General Castro’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto López Calleja.

Investors in Cuba face a maze of difficulties. These include the inability of bureaucrats to make decisions at the local level. Fearful of making mistakes, they tend to seek permission from higher authorities. Widespread corruption and cronyism make it difficult to navigate the island’s investment requirements.

These are not the only problems U.S. investors will face after the embargo is terminated. American businesses will be competing with European, Asian and Latin American companies already established in the island. With a bankrupt economy, Cuba will need substantial international credit in order to purchase U.S. goods. A corrupt and government-controlled legal system, where judges and lawyers are appointed by the state, will complicate legal transactions and limit access to courts to litigate commercial issues.

From the Cuban government’s point of view, the critical challenge facing General Castro is to balance the need to improve the economy and satisfy the needs of the population while maintaining continuous political control. Rapid economic reforms may lead to a loosening of political control, a fact feared by General Castro, the military and other government allies bent on remaining in power. The Cuban regime welcomes American tourists while limiting U.S. trade and investments and maintaining an anti-U.S. posture. Indeed, Cuba is a close ally of Iran, Russia, Syria and North Korea. The Castro brothers are strong supporters of Hamas and other enemies of Israel.

Under the current, slow reform scenario, only limited political and economic changes can take place. While a significant number of U.S. citizens are expected to visit Cuba if the U.S. travel ban is lifted, investment is likely to be on a small scale. If the U.S. embargo is modified or lifted, U.S. companies will attempt to enter the Cuban market and claim market share, as some Canadian, Asian and European companies have already done.

Read more

Putin names close adviser of Cuba’s Castro regime as new head of Russia’s intelligence agency

President Obama, the 1930s called and they want their foreign policy back…

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Putin Names Cuba Adviser as Russia’s New Intel Chief

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Naryshkin (with a red cap) recently taking a tour of Old Havana, the Cuban military’s newest tourism holding.

Earlier this year, General James R. Clapper, the U.S Director of National Intelligence, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that:

The threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and nonstate, is persistent, complex, and evolving. Targeting and collection of US political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated. Russia and China pose the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale.

Only one of these nations is in the Western Hemisphere — just 90 miles from the United States.

In the last week alone, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Havana to discuss (further) strengthening ties with Castro’s regime.<

In other words, contrary to the argument of President Obama and his supporters, The White House’s new Cuba policy has only emboldened and coalesced these anti-American regimes.

Also this week, Russia’s Vladimir Putin named Sergei Naryshkin as head of its notorious foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR.

Naryshkin is a long-time Putin confidant. They first met as pupils at the KGB’s “training school” in the late 1970s.

He is also a long-time Cuba hand.

Naryshkin travels to Havana frequently and has very close relationships with senior Castro regime officials, whom he recently referred to as “Russia’s most trustworthy partners in Latin America.

“He led the effort to forgive 90% of Castro’s debt to Russia and has been a proponent of Cuba forming part of Russia’s political-military alliance, Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

(Learn more here.)

In The Washington Post last week, U.S. officials estimated that Russia’s SVR, now led by Naryshkin, is believed to have 150 or more operatives in the United States.

Add to that Cuba’s vast network of intelligence operatives in the United States, which has been exacerbated by Obama’s new policy — along with the Castro regime’s unprecedented access to U.S. officials, Members of Congress, celebrities and business leaders — and it’s a bonanza for intelligence collection, influence and blackmail.

An emotional night in Miami yesterday as teammates honor Jose Fernandez at Marlins Park

Miami is still weeping over this tragic loss.

Via CNN:

Miami Marlins remember star pitcher Jose Fernandez

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Miami (CNN) The Miami Marlins honored their late pitching ace Jose Fernandez on Monday night, a day after he was killed in a boating accident — a death that stunned and saddened the baseball world.

His teammates took the field at Marlins Park before their game against the New York Mets decked in jerseys with his last name and number 16.

Marlins and Mets players stood holding their caps on their hearts as a trumpeter played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Players from the teams hugged each other and the Marlins converged on the pitcher’s mound to rub dirt on their pants in honor of the late pitcher, who used dirt on the mound instead of a rosin bag to keep his hands dry.

The Marlins, in honor of their fallen star, beat the Mets 7-3.

‘We will always remember you’

Fernandez was one of baseball’s premier pitchers.

He made his big-league debut against the New York Mets on April 7, 2013. For five innings, he baffled hitters with fastballs and curves, surrendering one run and striking out eight on his way to being named National League Rookie of the Year.

Fernandez, who defected from his native Cuba at 15, died early Sunday in the boat crash at the entrance of Miami Harbor. The Marlins canceled their Sunday game against the Atlanta Braves as news of his death has stunned the baseball community, with players and fans alike taking to social media to express their grief.

The fans loved Fernandez, enjoying his energy and admiring his talent. Before Monday’s game, they lined up to purchase Fernandez jerseys, which were flying off the shelves and people paid their respects at a makeshift shrine outside the stadium.

Continue reading HERE.