Repression and arbitrary arrests of human rights activists in Cuba continues to increase

Via Front Line Defenders:

Cuba: Ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco amidst arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of peaceful demonstrators
Human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco

Mr Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been arbitrarily detained since 25 October 2015 and is now facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in peaceful demonstrations in Cuba.

Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza are also currently under detention following their arbitrary arrest on 5 November 2015 and a summary trial on 6 November 2015 in which they were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

This is an example of several cases of arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against defenders in Cuba in the past months. Amongst them, the case of human rights defenders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both of whom were arrested on 11 November 2015 and released the following day.

Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez, Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza and Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” are members of Frente de Acción Cívica “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” (Civic Action Front “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” – FACOZT). FACOZT is an organisation that fights for the release of political prisoners in Cuba and reports human rights abuses committed by police forces against peaceful demonstrators in the country.

Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera is the president of Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement), which is a feminist movement fighting to end the repression against human rights defenders and for the release of political prisoners.

Human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been detained since 25 October 2015 when he was arrested while on his way to participate in the demonstration “Todas Marchamos” (We all March), organised by the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement. He is being detained at the Fifth Unit of the Municipality Playa (Quinta Unidad del Municipio Playa), in Havana. The human rights defender is facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in a demonstration at the premises of the Attorney General’s office on 22 October 2015 demanding that all human rights defenders detained during the Pope’s visit to Cuba should be released.

Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza were arrested on 5 November 2015 and taken to the police station in the city of Palma Soriano. In the morning of 6 November 2015 both human rights defenders were subjected to a summary judgement and sentenced to six months imprisonment. They were both convicted of failing to pay a fine of 15,000 Cuban pesos (approximately 4,700 euros) for allegedly making anti-government graffiti in the city of Palma Soriano. The graffitti read “Queremos Cambios” (We want change), “No más hambre” (No more hunger), “No más desempleo” (no more unemployment).

Continue reading HERE.

Forum for Rights and Freedoms in Cuba: Castros using migration crisis to gain more concessions from U.S.

From Cuba’s dissident group the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (translation by Capitol Hill Cubans):



Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis

Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States.

In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.

We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.

We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.

Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Democratic Movement for Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, The Ladies in White
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Association of Cuban Political Prisoners
María Cristina Labrada, The Ladies in White
Raul Borges, Christian Democratic Unity Party

U.S. debit cards in Cuba to bring windfall profits for apartheid Castro dictatorship

Obama’s Hope and Change Cuba policy continues to pay big dividends to the island’s apartheid regime. Obama’s “normalization” with the Castro dictatorship has served only to ensure the Cuban people will continue to live in squalor and denied the most basic rights under the yoke of a tyrannical apartheid dictatorship.

¡Gracias, Obama!

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Who Benefits From U.S. Debit Cards in Cuba

Last week, Florida-based Stonegate Bank, in partnership with MasterCard, announced it will issue debit cards to be used in Cuba by authorized U.S. travelers.

An open question remains whether the use of these debit cards constitutes financing (e.g. through an overdraft feature) and, therefore, a violation of Section 103 of the LIBERTAD Act, “Prohibition Against Indirect Financing of Cuba.”

Clearly, credit cards would have been illegal — but Congress, bank regulators and perhaps even the courts, should look into whether these debit cards also constitute financing for purposes of this prohibition.

But from a policy perspective — who stands to benefit the most from the use of these debit cards in Cuba?

Currently, there are 10,000 locations in Cuba that process such cards, of which 2,500 were installed in 2015, pursuant to Obama’s January regulations authorizing their use.

Every single one of these locations are regime-owned facilities.

And, according to the AP, the Castro regime is so excited about the fees and income it will charge for these cards that — “on Wednesday, officials with Cuban state company Cimex said the government plans to [further] expand credit card processing to commercial and retail outlets throughout Cuba in early 2016.”

Again, all at regime-owned facilities.

But, as the AP reveals, the biggest winner is the “Cuban state company” in charge of processing every single one of these transactions — CIMEX.

CIMEX stands for Cuban Export-Import Corporation, one of the Cuban military’s largest commercial entities, whose operations range from banking to retail. It’s yearly revenues are over $1.5 billion and rising — thanks to Obama’s new policy.

The head of CIMEX is Colonel Hector Oroza Busutin, a Raul Castro confidant. CIMEX falls within the greater GAESA military conglomerate, which is headed by Raul’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

Thus, once again, the beneficiaries of Obama’s new policy are not the Cuban people, or the “self-employed” entrepreneurs, who the President purports to support.

The beneficiaries are the Castro family and its military conglomerates.

Reports from Cuba: An absurd unionization

By Fernando Damaso in Translating Cuba:

An Absurd Unionization

cuba ctc

The official media is continually promoting the need for self-employed workers to affiliate themselves with the unions of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC). No matter how much they repeat the calls for it, achieving it seems to be a difficult task.

The principal reason could be that the CTC forms a part of the government organizations, which make up the fabric of unconditional support for the Party, which directs and controls them, even naming their leaders in various instances.

In reality, the CTC doesn’t really represent Cuban workers, most of them working for the state, and much less can it claim to represent the self-employed as well. The CTC, for more than half a century, has defended first and foremost the interests of the Party and of the Government, and the problems of the workers only when they do not contradict those of the former.

To exercise its true role, the CTC must first democratize and make sure that its leaders, in every instance, ride from the ranks of the workers they are supposed to represent, and be nominated and directly elected by them, without the intervention of the Party and the Government.

To date, the majority come from the ranks of Party bureaucrats, without any direct ties to unionism, nor even with the current government in the country. As long as this doesn’t change, the CTC, lost its activism from the era of the Republic, and will only be one more government organization of control, in this case of the workers.

Self-employed workers should not allow themselves to be confused by the siren’s song, as it has confused workers for the stat. As long as there are no truly independent unions, their rights will not be defended.

The sobering truth about business in Cuba

If you have no issues partnering up with a brutally repressive apartheid dictatorship and your conscience finds the use of slave labor a perfectly acceptable proposition, then Cuba is a great business opportunity.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

The Sobering Truth About Business in Cuba

Last week, there was an article in Forbes entitled, “What You Need To Know If You’re Considering Doing Business In Cuba.”

Its author is Mike Coates, president and chief executive of Hill & Knowlton Strategies Americas, who had just returned from the Havana International Trade Fair.

Amid the fluff, here are two important (and sobering) excerpts, for those who — wittingly or unwittingly — plead ignorance:

From what we saw, the jubilant mood of the international community is clouding the reality on the ground that the Cuban government is unwilling to bend its existing rules for conducting business. Under those rules, a foreign business must partner with the government and most likely agree to be represented by a state-owned law firm. Once that hurdle is overcome, management at the local level presents another complication: The permit to establish an office takes three years to obtain, and labor must be hired and paid through a government recruitment agency. It is illegal for an investor to pay employees directly, as a Canadian businessman recently discovered when he was jailed for breaking this law.

Our advice to companies looking to invest in Cuba is: Assess the opportunity carefully, hire good advisers, accept that government will be your partner, and, most important, be patient while proceeding.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Add the fact that your business “partner” is a totalitarian dictatorship that imprisons, beats and kills innocent people; that your “partner” works against American interests throughout the world, alongside Iran, Russia, Syria and North Korea; and that these “rules” violate nearly every international labor and corporate ethics code.

How this can be acceptable to any principled businessman is simply a question we can’t answer.

‘Former’ Castro spy heads to NYC to advocate for more business with Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship

Lt. Col. Chris Simmons (Ret.) in Cuba Confidential:

“Former” Spy to Advocate for More Trade With Havana at December’s “US-Cuba Legal Summit” in New York December 1st, the US-Cuba Legal Summit 2015 will convene at the University Club in New York City. Featured speakers include lawyers, a single US government official, pro-trade advocates and self-professed “former” Directorate of Intelligence (DI) spy, Arturo Lopez Levy.

Its published agenda insists “The U.S. Cuba Legal Summit looks to provide a platform for U.S. in-house counsel to investigate the legal system in Cuba with a sharp eye to potential pluses and minuses when opening lines of communications.” Which begs the question, why is Castro lackey Arturo Lopez Levy a panelist?

The real name of this faux “scholar” is Arturo Lopez-Callejas, the name he was known by for over 30 years. Additionally, he acknowledges his spy career in his book, Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change. In the spirit of open disclosure, I hope attendees are advised that Lopez-Callejas is a nephew-in-law to Cuban dictator Raul Castro. More specifically, he is the first cousin of Castro’s son-in-law, Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Primo Lopez-Callejas. General Rodriguez heads the Enterprise Administration Group (GAESA), placing him in charge of Cuba’s entire tourism sector.

The Miami Herald reported “Rodriguez, married to Castro’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espín, is widely viewed as one of the most powerful and ambitious men in Cuba — smart, arrogant, frugal and a highly effective administrator of GAESA.” Retired Herald reporter Juan Tamayo also noted that Deborah Castro’s brother is Alejandro Castro Espín, Castro’s chief intelligence advisor.

Congratulations to Summit officials for a thorough vetting process. I’m sure Lopez-Callejas would never exploit such a lucrative opportunity to personally enrich his extended family and sustain a regime to which he pledged his life.

Migrants from Cuba pile up on Nicaragua’s border

Sabrina Martin in PanAm Post:

Cuban Migrants Pile Up on Closed Nicaraguan Border

Pressure Builds for “Humanitarian Corridor” from Ecuador to Mexico
Costa Rican authorities have issued 3,037 temporary visas to Cubans stranded in the country.

The wave of Cuban migrants crossing from Central America on foot to reach the United States has created a serious crisis in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where thousands remain stranded. To address the situation with local governments, Cuban Foreign Relations Minister Bruno Rodríguez visited Nicaragua to meet President Daniel Ortega.

Rodríguez also visited President Rafael Correa in Ecuador, the starting point for many migrants’ journeys since this is the only Latin American country that allows Cubans to enter without a visa.

On November 19 and 20, the presidents discussed what to do with the Cuban migrants who, after traveling across Costa Rica, are not allowed to cross the Nicaraguan border.

The exodus turned into an international crisis on November 15, when Nicaragua shut down its border and violently deported hundreds of migrants who had managed to cross into its territory. Cubans are in a hurry to arrive in the United States because they believe the Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants them permanent residence and benefits, could undergo changes following the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana.

After Nicaragua shut down and militarized its southern border, Costa Rica accused Ortega of creating a “humanitarian” crisis. Nicaragua responded by accusing its neighbor of “breaching its national sovereignty.”

In the meantime, Costa Rican migration authorities issued 3,037 temporary visas to those Cubans who arrived by land, most of them from Ecuador. Some 2,000 migrants are temporarily living in Costa Rican shelters.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: The shipwreck of Havana

By Ivan Garcia:

The Shipwreck of Havana

One hour before noon, the bus stops on Calzada 10 de Octubre are flooded with irritated people who want to transfer to other neighborhoods in the capital.

Hundreds of old cars reconverted into collective taxis full of passengers roll in the direction of Vedado or Centro Habana. The autumn heat and sense of urgency cause those waiting to despair.

Public transport continues to be a popular subject in a magical and flirtatious  city, which, in spite of its grime and ruins, will be 496 years old on November 16.

Orestes, a bus inspector, receives a spout of critical resentment from citizens who are disgusted with the precarious urban transport.

“I’m the one who has to take the ass-kicking. The directors travel in cars. But I’m on the street having to put up with people’s complaints. The worst part isn’t the poor management of the transport, it’s that you can’t see a short- or long-term solution,” he says.

In a city of two and a half million people, where only one percent own a private auto, there is no Metro and the suburban trains barely function, public bus service is vitally important.

Yoel, an employ of the sector, says that “the demand is double the number of passengers transported every day. The ideal would be to have an allotment of 1,700 to 2,000 buses. But there are barely 670 in circulation. There is a master plan out to 2020 to improve service, but I don’t think it will solve very much. In addition to the deficit in buses, there is the problem of the poor state of the streets and avenues, which cause breakdowns in the city bus service. And the vandalism of Havanans who shred the buses, destroy the seats or break the windows with stones. Ninety-eight buses were out of service because of acts of vandalism.”

Traveling at rush hour on a bus in the capital is an Indiana Jones adventure. Fights, pickpockets and deranged sexual advances. People with their nerves on the point of exploding at the least touch.

Some day they’ll have to erect a monument to the old cars that serve as taxis in the city. For the average worker, making a round trip by taxi costs one day’s wages.

But the cyclical crisis of urban transport has converted the taxis into a remedy. They carry 200,000 people daily, although not always under good conditions. Of the more than 12,000 private cars for rent in Havana, half of them don’t have the required technical specifications.

“The owners put them to work even without painting them or covering the roof. With what they earn they improve them,” says Renán, who owns an old 1955 Ford.

And yes, they all have disk players that they keep on high volume, which assault the passengers with timba or reggaeton music.

But the talkative Cubanos convert them into a permanent chronicle and a rostrum where people unload their disappointment at the state of things and the appalling government management.

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Leave my little paper boat alone: Social democrats are Marxists by another name

Dr. Jose Azel in The PanAm Post:

Leave My Little Paper Boat Alone

Christian, Social Democrats Are Marxists by Another Name
Keeping liberty afloat requires securing property rights.

Property rights, or the lack of them, are central to all contemporary political philosophies. Marxism rejects property rights outright, as explained by Karl Marx in the second chapter of his Communist Manifesto: “the theory of Communists may be summed up in a single phrase: Abolition of private property.”Even within the family of democratically grounded political beliefs — classical liberalism, social democracy, and christian democracy — the topic of property rights receives dramatically different interpretations. Let’s try to examine briefly this extremely complex topic.

Classical liberalism is unambiguous as to property rights, as articulated by John Locke, the 17th-century British political philosopher and father of classical liberalism:

Every Man has a Property in his own Person … The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left in it, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property.

For Locke, property rights are a necessary implication of self-ownership. For example, if I take a sheet of paper that I own and fold it carefully so as to make a paper boat, that paper boat is properly mine. I have joined my labor with my sheet of paper, making the crafted paper boat my property.

Unceremoniously, I christen my paper boat “Liberty” and launch it to the pool.

Social democrats see it differently. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, social-democracy movements profoundly influenced by Marxism sought to replace private ownership with social ownership of the means of production.


Continue reading HERE.

Macri and the end of populism in Argentina

Carlos Alberto Montaner on his blog (translation by Translating Cuba):

Macri And The End Of Populism In Argentina

The victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina is the triumph of common sense over strained discourse and failed emotions. It is also the arrival of modernity and the burial of a populist stage that should have disappeared long ago.

There is a successful way of governing. It is the one used in the 25 leading nations of the planet, among which should be Argentina, as it had been in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Everyone hopes that Macri will lead the country in that direction.

Which are those nations? Those recorded in all rigorous manuals, from the Human Development Index published by the United Nations, to Doing Business from the World Bank, to Transparency International. Some twenty compilations agree, however they stack up: the same ones always appear at the top of the list.

Which ones? The usual suspects: Norway, England, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, United States, Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, and the usual etc. How do they do it? With a mixture of respect for law, clear rules, strong institutions, markets, open trade, reasonable administrative honesty, good education, innovation, competition, productivity and, above all, confidence.

Sometimes the governments are liberal, Christian democrat or social democrat. Sometimes they combine in coalitions. Despite disputes, they all form a part of the extended family of liberal democracies. What is usually discussed in elections is not the form in which society relates to the state, but the amount of the tax burden and the formula for distributing social spending. The economic model, on which productivity rests, is not in play in the voting booth, nor is the political model which organizes coexistence and guarantees freedoms. On this they agree.

They are nations, in short, that are calm, without upheavals, without saber rattling and rumors of chaos, wonderfully boring, where the voices against the system are too weak to be considered, and where you can make long term plans because it is very difficult for the currency to suddenly lose its value or for the government to hijack your savings in an infamous and illegal seizure.

That does not mean that there are no crises and speculative bubbles, or that some, like Greece, engage in underhanded practices and need to have their chestnuts pulled out of the fire. Of course this happens, but they overcome it, and the economy recovers without breaking the democratic game. There are inevitable cycles, which are produced in free markets, where every now and then greed distances buyers and sellers. The leading nations have learned how to overcome it and move forward.

Everyone hopes that Mauricio Macri will move in the same direction for the good of Argentinians, but given that it is the largest and best educated country in Latin America, one can venture that his victory will have notable consequences across the whole continent. For now, it is very important that Argentina has abandoned the drift towards Chavism introduced by Kirchnerism.

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