Obama’s ‘forward-looking’ Cuba policy takes us back to the future

And people still wonder why we are so cynical about Obama’s policy of surrender and appeasement to Cuba’s murderously repressive apartheid dictatorship.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Cruising to Cuba Like its 1977

Despite the misleading headlines, this week’s Carnival Cruise to Cuba is not the first since 1959.

Kudos to CNN‘s Patrick Oppmann for actually doing some research.

In 1977, there was a similar cruise.

It’s also a reminder of how there’s nothing particularly new about President Obama’s Cuba policy. It’s simply a rehash of Jimmy Carter’s.

And just like Carter’s, Obama’s is already proving to be counter-productive.


oppmann cnn cuba cruise 1977

Obama’s failed foreign policy presides over increase in religious persecution in Cuba and Iran

 

rouhani castro iran cuba

After President Obama instituted his policy of coddling and effectively surrendering to the terrorist and repressive dictatorships in Cuba and Iran, religious persecution in those countries has been on the rise.

Via The Hill:

Religious freedom ‘under assault’ in Iran, Cuba, says government report

In Iran, religious freedom is “deteriorating,” according to a new government report.

Religious minorities are subject to arrest, torture and even execution “based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in a report issued Monday.

The population of Iran is 99 percent Muslim, made up mostly of Shi’a Muslims. According to the report, the government discriminates against people of other faiths — such as Sunni Muslims and Christians — who are facing “increasing religious freedom abuses.”

“Since President Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased,” the report noted.

The group’s paper casts a shadow on more than 30 countries where it said religious freedom violations are egregious, including China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, North Korea, Iran and Cuba.

This comes as the Obama administration faces criticism for engaging in nuclear talks with Iran and restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, despite human rights concerns in those countries.

[…]

The report was also critical of the Cuban government, which it said “continues to harass religious leaders” and interfere with church matters.

“As part of the U.S.-Cuba ongoing discussions, the U.S. government should take significant action to convey that the change in policy does not diminish the Cuban government’s need to improve religious freedom conditions on the island,” the report noted.

Continue reading HERE.

May Day should be renamed the Victims of Communism Day

Ilya Somin in The Washington Post:

Victims of Communism Day

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The three biggest Communist mass murderers: Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.

Today is May Day. Since 2007, I have defended the idea of using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. I outlined the rationale for this proposal (which is not my original idea) in my very first post on the subject:

May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their [authority]. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so….

Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events help sensitize us to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government control of the economy and civil society.

Sadly, recent political trends show that this year is an especially important time for Americans, in particular, to recall the crimes of communism. The front-runner for the presidential nomination in one major party has praised the authoritarian leadership of of ex-KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin and and the “strength” displayed by the Chinese communists when they massacred thousands of students at Tiananmen Square. A leading candidate in the other party has extolled the supposed virtues of the brutal communist regimes of Cuba and Nicaragua, including even their bread lines, ideological indoctrination, and censorship of the media. The situation in this country is not nearly as bad as the wholesale whitewashing of communism that Vladimir Putin’s regime seeks to accomplish in Russia. But the fact that people who say such things can be serious contenders for the presidency is disturbing nonetheless.

In a 2012 post, I explained why May 1 is a better date for Victims of Communism Day than the available alternatives, such as November 7 (the anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia) and August 23 (the anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet Pact). I also addressed various possible objections to May Day, including claims that the date should be reserved for the celebration of labor unions.

Continue reading HERE.

A goodbye to Cuba’s Cardinal and Havana Archbishop Jaime Ortega [and good riddance]

Cardenal

Via Diario de Cuba:

Goodbye, Jaime Ortega

Things are so bad in Cuba that any news about a shakeup in the country’s elite – even if it’s just a quasi-retirement, like that announced for Jaime Ortega– is good news.

Cardinal Ortega had been the Archbishop of Havana since 1981. In exchange for concessions for his Church, he ingratiated himself with the Castro regime to such a degree that he ended up being perceived as one more component of it. Under his leadership the Catholic Church sought and managed to recover a significant social presence, which is not illicit. What was wrong, however, was doing so by failing to denounce the social, political and economic crisis induced by the dictatorship, the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba, denying the existence of political prisoners and serving as a spokesman for the regime at international forums.

At these events the cardinal demonstrated an attitude of classist disdain and a lack of compassion, mercy and Christian love and sympathy for the “uneducated” or “criminals,” as he branded Cuban citizens demanding the rights. Ortega forgot the mercy that Jesus showed to thieves and prostitutes. Rubbing shoulders with “Castro’s princes” made him arrogant and led him off the path he had sworn to follow.

He served as a go-between for the Interior Ministry when it sent the Black Spring political prisoners into exile, thereby allowing the regime to avoid direct talks with the civil society groups that were pressuring the Government, and then proceeded to deny the existence of those same activists in Cuba. In this way he was complicit in the regime’s sleight of hand campaigns: making people disappear and then claiming that they don’t exist.

For all these reasons, though the cause of democracy in Cuba should not expect much from Pope Francis and Vatican strategies, the fact that Jaime Ortega has left the scene (at least partially) represents progress.

U.S. has failed on promise to get families of former political prisoners out of Cuba

Abel Fernandez and Mario Penton in 14yMedio (translation by Translating Cuba):

Former Political Prisoners Say US Failed on Promise To Bring Their Families From Cuba

Niorvis-Aracelio-Riviaux-Ros-Lehtinen-Cortesia_CYMIMA20160428_0010_13
Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera (left) Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirez (right) speak with staff for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera, Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirezmet Thursday in Miami with staff for Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for help in bringing their relatives from Cuba.

The three were part of the group of 53 dissidents released as part of negotiations between Cuba and the United States that allowed the return to the island of the Cuban spies still in American prisons. But shortly after their release, the opposition members had been returned to prison.

Days before US president Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba on 20 March, they were released and taken to US territory in less than 72 hours, which some interpret as a goodwill gesture by Raul Castro’s government, and others as an attempt to hide the presence of political prisoners in Cuban jails.

According to the dissidents, US officials who mediated their release promised them that their families would also leave for the United States in less than a week. But to date, they remain in Cuba.

The opponents are threatening to return to the island “on a raft” if the process of reunification is not accelerated.

“We feel betrayed,” said Jorge Ramirez, an independent labor unionist from Villa Clara who claimed that the American embassy in Havana, the Catholic Church and the Cuban government had all gone back on their word.

“The American staff told us that our families would be here in a week,” commented Riviaux, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who spent nine years in prison charged with the crimes of assault, contempt and dangerousness.

“It’s been a month since our relatives went to Havana, and this is good. If we do not see any progress, we will be the next rafters, but heading in the direction of Cuba,” he said.

For Jorge Ramirez it’s “a trick” which they played on them to get them to leave the island. According to him, “possibly it involved officials of the American government and even the Vatican.”

According to Ramirez, the main problem is that while the Cuban government is putting obstacles in the way of the families leaving Cuba, they have no way to help them economically.

Read more

Carnival Cruise’s trips to apartheid Cuba is all about the bucks

Let’s not kid ourselves; none of these American companies tripping over themselves to partner up and do business with Cuba’s murderously repressive apartheid dictatorship have any intention of “exporting” freedom to the island.

George Diaz in The Orlando Sentinel:

Carnival’s cruise to Cuba all about pesos

carnival fathom adonia

Everybody loves cruising. Let the first person who hasn’t signed up for the all-night buffet, premium drink package and a shore excursion on an over-crowded beach cast the first container of SPF 50 sunscreen.

It’s all about flying free on the ocean, unencumbered from serious stuff we process daily.

I assume this is the marketing spin for Sunday’s inaugural sailing of Carnival’s Fathom, which will offer a little Havana Daydreamin’ on its 704-passenger ship. Ocean-view rooms were going for $2,470 per person.

The weeklong itinerary includes stops at ports along Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

It also includes a political firestorm in murky waters. Carnival went along swimmingly with Cuban government demands banning Cuban-Americans from sailing to Cuban ports. For a while anyway.

Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago exposed the discriminatory nonsense after she was denied an attempt to book a spot on the cruise ship. A lawsuit piled on the pressure.

Carnival finally caved and dropped the policy recently. Cuban officials aren’t commenting. Perhaps they are acting coy while planning to round up tourists and lock them away as political prisoners.

[…]

It’s all a money grab. Exporting baseball, as the U.S. did in March, and then importing tourists on a regular basis is good for business on both sides of the Cuban-American divide.

Which gets us back to the Castros’ political squeeze play and its slap in the face to deny Cuban-Americans their rights as tourists. The Castros first literally ran Cubans from their homes in the 1960s, and then decades later are telling them they are not welcome back to visit by ship.

If my parents — who fled in 1961 — were still alive today, I would tell them the word the Americans would use to describe this is “ironic.” Also, “despicable” comes to mind.

[…]

I have no issues with free enterprise. The U.S. does business with a lot of unsavory nations. We’ll just add Cuba to the list. As long as everyone understands the rules of engagement, we are good. Nobody is exporting freedom for the Cuban people. They are just importing opportunity to make a boatload of money.

Just don’t expect a cent from many Cuban-Americans, including me. I sailed on Celebrity cruise lines in March, and had no problems with dictators denying me the opportunity to set foot in their countries.

Read the entire editorial HERE.

Three myths that hold back Latin America and keep it as ‘Latrine America’

It is obvious to any reasonable person that leftist policies and the disproportionate influence wielded by Cuba’s Castro-Communist regime have been major catalysts in transforming Latin America into “Latrine America.”

Jose Niño in PanAm Post:

Three Myths That Hold Back Latin America

Ignoring the Need for Economic Freedom Will Keep Latin America Behind the Rest of the World

economia-venezuela-300x148

In Latin America today, especially in Venezuela, there is a focus on corruption and public money “mismanagement.” Though this criticism is often to the point, it overlooks the white elephant in the room: the ideological trend of socialism and populism.

Rather than facing the real cause of the malaise affecting most of the region, many in the press, academia, and politics denounce “corruption” and waste of resources.

Instead, the current debate should focus more on the free-market policies that respect individual rights. We only need to look at countries that have taken the opposite path, like Venezuela and neighboring countries.

There are several misconceptions clouding our judgment that need to be dispelled.

Mismanagement: Who Creates Wealth?

In a way, it makes sense to blame mismanagement of public resources for Latin America’s stagnation.

However, it’s based on the false premise that funds managed by state technocrats or enlightened leaders can usher in development.

It implies that government has the ability to manage resources and efficiently create wealth. But an economy cannot work without a free market where prices act as signals for resource allocation.

The Venezuelan social-democratic era (1958-1998) is often brought up as a model for how a “well-managed government” or “good socialism” works. It was considerably more stable than the regime Venezuela is facing today, but the seeds of its own destruction were sown during that period.

The truth is that Venezuela’s economy acquired a solid footing between 1930 and 1960 when the country maintained fiscal responsibility, openness, low taxes and few price controls.

Thanks to the capital accumulated during that time, Venezuela enjoyed an unprecedented stability. The later social-democratic administrations of 1958 through 1998 did not create wealth, but rather inherited it.

Unfortunately, these leaders squandered those revenues in public projects and inefficient social benefits. To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government decided to nationalize the oil industry in 1975, which created a wasteful state apparatus that has become a fundraiser for populists.

As a result, from 1958 to 1998, Venezuela’s GDP was  -0.13 percent. In other words, the Venezuelan population grew more than that wealth they collectively produced, and therefore, the country sunk into poverty.

Continue reading HERE.

Hope and Change in Obama’s Cuba: Island’s population expected to drastically decrease

More than a year after Obama’s surrender to Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship, the Cuban people have even less hope for any change. With the U.S. government now backing and supporting the Castro regime, for those Cubans who are not fleeing the island, there is little reason to start a family.

Via In Cuba Today:

Cuba’s population expected to drop dramatically over the next decade

By 2025, Cuba’s population is projected to drop to 10 million residents — down from 11 million — due to low fertility and birth rates, as well as high levels of emigrations, experts say.

Cuba Gentrifying Havana(3)
Magaly Gonzalez Martinez, 66, and her mother Cristina Gonzalez Martinez, 82, in Havana. Desmond Boylan AP

By 2025, Cuba’s population is projected to decrease by some 1 million residents.

This dramatic demographic shift — from 11 million to 10 million inhabitants — is being propelled by low fertility and birth rates, as well as high levels of emigrations, according to experts who met recently at Florida International University.

Cuba also will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. Today, 19 percent of the island’s population is older than 60, the experts said, and forecasts point to that number rising to 30 percent in less than a decade.

“Life expectancy is not the same as aging,” said Dr. Antonio Aja Díaz, with the Center for Demographic Studies at the University of Havana.

Life expectancy in Cuba is high and infant mortality is low. Birth and fertility rates are also low. Those demographic characteristics, Aja added, are normal “in highly developed countries.”

“Developed countries have low infant mortality, birth and fertility rates, but their populations don’t drop because they receive immigrants,” Aja said. “But that’s not the case of Cuba.”

Until the end of the 1930s, Cuba received migrants. But since then, emigration has been sustained, with spikes during mass exodus events in the 20th Century — the Mariel boatlift in 1980 and the Rafter Crisis in 1994 — and more recently the flow of Cuban migrants through Central America and Mexico on their way to the United States.

“Cuba cannot compete on migration even with the Dominican Republic,” Aja said. One of the island’s main problems is that the people who emigrate are generally the youngest, in the prime of their productive and reproductive lives.

Dr. Sergio Diaz-Briquets, another panelist in the FIU gathering, said he expects the outbound flow of Cubans to continue.

“For decades, the Cuban government has promoted the emigration of the political opposition,” he said.

Cuba’s fertility rate averaged 1.63 children per woman from 2010 to 2015, the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Continue reading HERE.

Obama’s new Cuba policy provides apartheid Castro regime with an ‘excuse’ for brutal repression

Mauricio Claver-Carone completely dismantles the pro-Castro engagement argument with their own argument.

Via Newsmax:

Cuba Still a Brutal Dictatorship

mcc newsmax

Supporters of President Obama’s policy of unconditional engagement with the Castro dictatorship are in a terrible bind after last week’s VII Cuban Communist Party Congress (“Congress”).

They argue that the prior U.S. policy of principled accountability had given Castro an “excuse” for its recalcitrant and repressive behavior. Removing this “excuse” is the premise of their policy.

So it was interesting to gauge their reaction to the recent Congress.

During the Congress, Gen. Raul Castro retrenched politically, making it clear that he will remain the “supreme leader” of Cuba and its sole party until 2021, hence, not giving up power in 2018, as many naively believed.

Castro also retrenched economically by criminalizing any subjective “accumulation of wealth” by Cuba’s “self-employed” sector (“cuentapropistas”) and refusing to recognize them as legal entities. This, in addition to the previously criminalized “accumulation of property.”

Moreover, the Congress served a healthy dose of anti-American rhetoric, lambasting President Obama and referring to the United States as “the enemy.”

So what was the reaction of Obama’s supporters? That Castro’s retrenchment is due to his feeling “nervous,” “threatened,” and “vulnerable” by the new policy.

In other words, those who argue that the previous policy served as an “excuse” are now arguing that Castro is using Obama as an “excuse.” Better yet — the “excuse” excuse is now their new excuse.

Note how they have dizzied themselves in circles:

  • Before they argued that Castro’s recalcitrance was due to a “failure” in U.S. policy. Now they argue that Castro’s recalcitrance underscores the “success” of Obama’s policy.
  • Before they argued that U.S. policy buoyed Castro’s anti-American rhetoric. Now they argue that Castro’s anti-American rhetoric shows Obama has made him “nervous.”
  • Before they argued that President Bush served as a scapegoat for Castro’s attacks.
  • Now they argue that Castro attacked Obama because he feels “threatened” and “vulnerable.”

But my favorite is U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. During his tenure in the Senate, Kerry consistently argued that U.S. policy “endangered” dissidents.

Yet, in an recent interview, Kerry now argues that increased repression on the island is a good thing — part of “a positive transformation.”

These inherent contradictions are due to the fact that their premise is wrong.

If the United States and other democratic nations embrace dictatorial regimes, does anyone truly believe that they’ll democratize and stop repressing their people? Of course not.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Two Russian deputies propose reestablishing signal intercept station in Cuba

14yMedio via Translating Cuba:

Two Russian Deputies Propose Reestablishing Signal Intercept Station in Cuba

Raul-Castro-Vladimir-Putin-Kremlin_CYMIMA20150928_0027_13

Two Russian Deputies put forward a proposal to President Vladimir Putin to study the reestablishment of the Lourdes signals interception center in Cuba, as well as the deployment of Russian missile launchers on the island “to protect the interests of Moscow and its allies,” as local media reported this Wednesday.

The initiative comes as a response to the agreement between the United States and Turkey which will allow the deployment in May of high mobility tactical missiles (Himars) in the Southeast part of the Ottoman country, near the border with Syria, to deal with attacks by the jihadist group the Islamic State.

“We believe it is possible to use the Soviet experience to contain the current expansionist intentions of United States,” said Valery Rashkin and Sergei Obukhov, members of the Communist Party, in explaining the request.

The center for signals interception, located near Havana, was shut down in 2002. However, the director of the Department of Latin America in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an interview last February that Moscow had no intention of opening military bases on the island.

Translated by Alberto

Carnival Cruise travel to apartheid Cuba is no carnival ride

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Why travel to Cuba is no carnival ride

Traveling to Cuba under the Castro regime should be a subject for serious reflection and not to be taken lightly for a number of reasons that are not immediately evident. First and foremost the tourism industry in Cuba is run by the military and intelligence service.

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Tourism funds Cuban military

A large chunk of the Cuban economy is run by the company Gaviota that deals with tourism and is controlled by the MINFAR (the military)  and Castro’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) that runs a hotel chain, an airline, taxi company, marinas, shops, restaurants and museums and is under the control of another general. The tourist group Cubanacán was founded at the beginning of the 1980s and is also under military control. This means that tourist dollars go directly to strengthening the Castro regime’s repressive apparatus.

The first American ship to cruise from the United States to Cuba in over half a century is partnering with Havanatur that is heavily penetrated by Cuban spies from the Ministry of Intelligence (MININT).Christopher P. Baker in his travel guide Havana explains the nature of the staff that tourists will be encountering.

“The Cuban government looks with suspicion  on U.S. travelers entering on religious or humanitarian licenses, and U.S. “people to people” programs are handled exclusively by Celimar, a division of Havanatur that is said to report to MININT and is heavily laden with ex-MININT staffers.”

Secondly, since Cuba is a totalitarian communist dictatorship that is the tenth most censored country on Earth according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, information of interest to traveler is often unavailable or misrepresented.

Don’t trust the water

The Cholera out break that was announced in July of 2012 and is still ongoing across the island with official reports emerging from Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Havana, and Santiago de Cuba was not reported immediately in the official press.  The Cuban government’s lack of candor in reporting on outbreaks of contagious diseases such as cholera and dengue should give travelers to Cuba cause for concern. International media in Cuba are cautious about reporting bad news from Cuba. Journalists in Cuba have ample reason to fear being expelled having seen colleagues such as Chicago Tribune’s Gary Marx, the BBC’s Stephen Gibbs and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of Mexico’s El Universal all expelled in 2007 from Cuba for offering reporting that although bending over backwards not to offend still ran afoul of the regime.

Continue reading HERE.

Carnival Cruise voyage to explore the apartheid wonders of Cuba sets sail on Sunday

Tomorrow the champagne corks will no doubt be popping and the drink will flow on Carnival’s Adonia as the ship sets sail for apartheid Cuba. While the passengers enjoy unlimited food and luxurious accommodations on the ship, they will also be able to enjoy the benefits provided only to tourists in apartheid Cuba and spend a week marveling at the misery and poverty of the enslaved Cuban people as if they were touring a zoo.

Hank Tester the Examiner:

Fathom to Cuba: The long awaited voyage

carnival fathom adonia

Sunday, May 1st, will see what South Florida newspaper and television reporters continually label as “historic.” Indeed the departure for Cuba by Carnival Cruise Line’s Fathom brand Adonia is certainly a milestone. Yet it is just a beginning, a first step and a forerunner of what will evolve in years to come.

Carnival certainly has sights set on when they can offer traditional tourist cruises that would include Havana and other Cuban ports of call on their Caribbean itineraries. The cruise is “a kind of a hybrid,” Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “The Cuba traveler is traveling on a Fathom ship, but it is not the Fathom experience.” In order to comply with U.S. Government restrictions on Travel to Cuba, Fathom has to offer what is called a “people-to-people” experience. Fathom currently sends the Adonia to the Dominican Republic where passengers get off the ship to interact with locals developing projects that benefit the well being of the Dominican population. Indeed that is a interaction with citizens that fits the letter of the law when it comes to Cuba, but that’s not exactly how the Cuba cruise will work.

The cruise to Cuba will feature none of the “hands on” experience passengers to the D.R. were tasked with. It will be much more of a traditional cruise docking in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. Half the time on the cruise will be spent on board as described on the company’s website: “Our itinerary was designed for ease of travel; between cities you will enjoy immersive and relaxing on-board activities like dancing lessons, an authentic Cuban cocktail class, or simply unwinding by the pool. For your time on the island, we’ve created a thoughtful cultural exchange experience that gives you and your fellow travelers the rare opportunity to learn more about the everyday lives of the Cuban people and their remarkable culture.’

Likely the Cuban government wanted a more tightly controlled itinerary much like what is allowed with the extremely popular land based tours currently offered to U.S. based affinity groups.

Continue reading HERE.