When you choose a totalitarian state run by a brutally repressive apartheid dictatorship as your vacation destination, don’t be surprised when they throw in a couple of weeks in a gulag at no additional charge.
Continue reading HERE.
As Predicted, Obama’s Policy Stifles ‘Reforms’ in Cuba
We have long argued how unilaterally lifting sanctions would stifle any real reforms in Cuba, for the Castro regime would solely focus on strengthening its state monopolies and the repression required to suppress change.
Six years ago, as a result of the imminent economic collapse of Venezuela, the Castro regime loosened some restrictions over Cuba’s ‘self-employed’ entrepreneurs, which led to a rapid increase in their ranks.
However, this all came to an end on December 17th, 2014, as the Obama Administration lavished the Castro dictatorship with a series of unilateral concessions, in the form of sanctions relief.
Since then, the number of Cuba’s ‘self-employed’ entrepreneurs has decreased and — as reported today — a crackdown on their activities has intensified.
If the Obama Administration truly sought to help these Cuban entrepreneurs — as it constantly purports — it needs to understand that the Castro regime never undertakes reforms out of desire (or good-will), but only out of necessity.
(Of course, this commitment seems doubtful, particularly in light of Obama’s latest round of regulatory changes, which solely benefit Castro’s state monopolies.)
As a matter of fact, in April 2014 — several months before Obama announced his new policy — we posed the question and predicted the unfortunate result.
Continue reading HERE.
Despite Obama’s unprecedented and extrajudicial efforts to prop up and support Cuba’s brutally repressive and criminally corrupt apartheid dictatorship, House Speaker Paul Ryan has vowed to maintain sanctions against the vile Castro regime.
House Speaker Paul Ryan: We’re going to keep the embargo against Cuba
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan left little doubt about his current stance on the Obama administration’s warming ties with the Cuban government. He’s not a fan.
“The Castros continue to jail pro-democracy activists at a rate of hundreds per month, yet it is full steam ahead for the Obama administration’s efforts to appease this oppressive regime,” Ryan said in a statement Tuesday morning.
I fully intend to maintain our embargo on Cuba. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
It’s a bold statement by the speaker and indicating a leadership strong position against President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuban and public campaign to lift the embargo. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, blasted the Obama administration’s latest round of regulatory changes meant to chip away at the U.S. embargo against Cuba and ease trade and travel with the island nation.
The strong rhetoric by Ryan on Cuba appears to be increasing. Ryan has spoken out more in recent years against what he’s called “appeasement” by the Obama administration. It’s a shift after being criticized for his earlier support for lifting the embargo. In 2002, he called the embargo a “failed policy,” but has said that his thinking has evolved as Florida members of Congress, such as Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have helped him understand “just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president’s policy of appeasement is not working.”
Continue reading HERE.
It would be unfair to just pin this on millennials since ignorance of the crimes committed by communism has been around for decades. But if you have ever wondered how a viciously repressive and murderous regime like the Castro dictatorship in Cuba has been able to not only survive for more than a half century but actually have its admirers, this provides a very good explanation.
This Is the Percentage of Millennials Who Believe George W. Bush Killed More People Than Stalin
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation released its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism” Monday. The survey showed a distinct generation gap regarding beliefs about socialism and communism between older and younger Americans.
For example, 80 percent of baby boomers and 91 percent of elderly Americans believe that communism was and still is a problem in the world today, while just 55 percent of millennials say the same.
Just 37 percent of millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of communism, compared to 57 percent of Americans overall. Close to half (45 percent) of Americans aged 16 to 20 said they would vote for a socialist, and 21 percent would vote for a communist.
When asked their opinion of capitalism, 64 percent of Americans over the age of 65 said they viewed it favorably, compared to just 42 percent of millennials.
The survey also revealed a general lack of historical knowledge, especially among young adults. According to the report, one-third (32 percent) of millennials believed that more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin.
When millennial respondents were asked about their familiarity with various historical communist figures, 42 percent were unfamiliar with Mao Zedong, 40 percent with Che Guevara, and 33 percent with Vladimir Lenin—three notorious figures in communist regimes. Among millennials familiar with Lenin, 25 percent viewed him favorably.
“It is because of such widespread ignorance about communism that we formed the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” said Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation and co-founder of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an organization that seeks to “memorialize, educate, and document the grim history of communism around the world.”
“Ronald Reagan said that ‘freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,’” he added. “It is the solemn obligation of this generation to educate the rising generation about the manifold victims and crimes of the deadliest ism of the last 100 years—communism.”
The survey was conducted among 2,300 people, with a margin of error of 2.8 percent and a 95 percent level of confidence.
In an editorial published Monday, the independent medium Periodosmo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism) distances itself from the ruling party to explain the circumstances of the arrest of its director, Elaine Diaz, and several members of her team while covering, last week, the damage left by the hurricane Matthew in Baracoa in Guantánamo province.
Entitled “Who Has The Right to Tell a Country’s Stories? All Its Citizens,” the article states that the arrests were illegal given that the team from “Periodismo de Barrio didn’t violate any law.” The editorial explains that the authorities referred to a supposed state of emergency in force in the east of the island because of the hurricane, but, “This last statement does not have the legal status required to declare a state of emergency under the Constitution.”
After noting that Cuban legislation does not limit the exercise of journalism in areas affected by natural disasters, the text highlights that, during the two days the reporters remained under arrest, “No charges were filed against us nor were any members of the Periodismo de Barrio team accused of crimes,” which apparently confirmed the lack of motives to detain them.
Despite this, the members of the team were searched and their belongings confiscated. In addition, the three women “were physically searched by an official to seek other technological means they could have hidden in their bodies, treatment given to pre-criminal cases.”
The Periodismo de Barrio team sees in these events an opportunity to reflect on the role of the press in Cuba and the denounce the “monopolization of information” by the state.
“It is not possible to tell the truth about Cuba from a single version, or from unanimous versions, which amount to one.” It blames monopolies for the lack of the pluralism society needs, saying, “TV channels, radio stations, print publications, publishers, changed ownership but were not socialized. Socializing is not nationalizing. There are not good and bad monopolies. All monopolization, realized by the State, by a person or a corporation, ends up curtailing freedoms.”
The editorial denounces that, “The State, for more than 50 years has avoided requiring reporters to think about the economic dimension of the activity they carry out thanks to financing their means of production,” and explains that Periodismo de Barrio faces economic problems, lacking support from the authorities.
“They’re not allowing any more private restaurants to open.”
“Looks like there’s another ‘revolutionary offensive.'”
While the success of America can be largely attributed to the observance of the rule of law, Cuba’s misery and tyranny is a direct result of their being no observance of the rule of law. According to Obama, his new policy towards the apartheid Castro regime will make Cuba more like the U.S., but from what we have seen in terms of the observance of the rule of law, the president is seemingly making the U.S. more like Cuba.
Can a challenge to Obama’s Cuba policies succeed?
It’s not that he’s not interested nor does he feel like he doesn’t have a strong case, but the idea of taking on the Obama administration in court is not something Javier García-Bengochea is eager to do.
It’s been suggested to him that that would be one option to fight against what he sees as the U.S.-sanctioned, illegal use by a cruise line of his family port in Cuba, which was confiscated by the Cuban government in 1960. But while he feels strongly he’s right, he knows it’d be a herculean fight.
“This would take years to litigate, if not more than a decade,” García-Bengochea said. “Most lawyers are not going to do it on contingency. It would bankrupt me.”
President Barack Obama’s latest regulatory moves to ease trade and travel with Cuba have angered many Cuban-Americans in South Florida, in Congress and across the country.
But despite the belief of some members of Congress and some legal scholars that Obama’s new policies violate the Helms Burton Act of 1996, which set strict limits on when trade with Cuba can be restored, they know overturning the Cuba opening will be difficult.
“The Obama administration approach to dismantling the embargo has made it extremely difficult to undo what they put in because there are limited avenues to overturning it,” said one former executive branch official who was involved in drafting of the Helms Burton Act, but didn’t want to be quoted criticizing another administration.
Congress could try to take the administration to court, as it has in the past, but it will need to speak with a unified voice, and there doesn’t seem to be enough support to move forward. It could pass legislation to block the changes, but it’s not clear that such an effort could pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president.
Someone like García-Bengochea, who has a certified claim, could take the case to court. Almost 6,000 U.S. citizen hold interests in claims against the Cuban government for its seizure of their property. It’s Cuba’s failure to reimburse those claims that led initially to the imposition of the embargo.
García-Bengochea might be able to sue under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows Americans to sue companies that “traffic” in Cuban-owned property that the Cuban government confiscated without compensating U.S. former owners. García-Bengoochea points out that U.S.-operated cruise ships now dock at a port in Santiago that his family used to own before the Cuban government confiscated it without payment in 1960.
But Obama and other presidents have routinely suspended that provision as they’re allowed to do preventing such lawsuits.
That hasn’t dissuaded opponents like Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a political action committee. Claver-Carone has been in touch with García-Bengochea and attorneys to see who might be able to file a lawsuit.
It may take a little time, but he’s been encouraged by recent court reversals of other controversial Obama actions, including the president’s plan to stop the deportation of some people in the country illegally.
Continue reading HERE.
Why we should back Tania Bruguera’s presidential bid for a free Cuba
Art is good at pointing out simple truths that otherwise get forgotten, or conveniently ignored. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has just announced that she is running for president of Cuba when Raul Castro steps down – as he has said he will – in 2018.
There’s just one snag. You can’t run for president of Cuba. The socialist island is not a democracy but a one-party state. Bruguera’s “artivism”, as she calls it, is a satirical performance that draws attention to the embarrassing reality that Cuba’s rulers are not freely elected by the people. “Let’s use the 2018 elections to build a different Cuba,” she says, “to build a Cuba where we are all in charge and not just the few.” She says she hopes “to change the culture of fear” with her utopian bid for the presidency.
Wait a minute. Fear? The rule of the few? What can she be talking about? This does not sound like the Cuba some people so love to sentimentalise – the socialist paradise in the sun where rum is bountiful and the only cloud on the horizon is evil Uncle Sam. Acknowledging that the US is roundly criticised by the UN for its trade embargo, Cuba’s undemocratic way of running things gets a very soft ride in certain quarters. In July the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, went to an event staged by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, which defends “the Cuban people’s right to be free from foreign intervention” – meaning the spectre, no longer very likely, of a US invasion. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign also says on its website that it opposes the US economic blockade, but when it comes to Cuba’s own democratic deficit, it has nothing to say. Instead it supports the one-party state that Bruguera accuses of instilling fear and the rule of the few.
She may be Cuban, but does she really know anything at all about Cuba? Doesn’t she know its people are happy, and that the only thing threatening their freedom is the US? Really, she needs to go to a Labour party conference fringe meeting to be re-educated by the Cuban ambassador.
And by the way, isn’t it a funny coincidence that Raul Castro has the same surname as Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who shaped modern Cuba ? Oh wait… Raul is Fidel’s brother. Well, surely it’s good to keep things in the family.
Continue reading HERE.
According to President Obama, his new policy of embracing and supporting Cuba’s totalitarian apartheid dictatorship was going to provide a slew of new opportunities for the island’s private business sector and empower the Cuban people. The logic behind Obama’s Cuba policy is the more cash you pump into the coffers of the corrupt and criminal Castro regime and the more legitimacy you give their apartheid dictatorship on the world stage, the better off the Cuban people will be and their lives will improve dramatically.
If Obama’s “Dictator-down economics” sounds illogical and just plain stupid to you, that is because it is illogical and just plain stupid. Therefore, either the “smartest president evah!” is as dumb as a bag of rocks, or he is outright lying to the American people and the people of Cuba.
Cuba Suspends New Licenses For Private Restaurants, Tightens Control on Owners
Cuban entrepreneurs looking to open private restaurants on the island will have to put their plans on hold.
That’s because the Castro administration has temporarily stopped issuing licenses for new eateries, according to Reuters.
Cuba also reportedly warned current restaurant owners to comply with tough regulations already put in place.
Reuters reports that over the last six weeks, owners of popular restaurants have been meeting with Havana city officials who listed the violations some commit and warning them to cease and desist.
Some of the restrictions include the maximum number of seats allowed and where owners can buy their supplies.
The tighter grip on the private market could prove challenging for the upcoming tourism season on the communist island.
Cuba is expected to get a record number of tourists from the United States as the White House loosens travel restrictions.
The Path to Freedom for Cuba
A Conversation with Dr. Oscar Biscet
Dr. Oscar Biscet’s freedom was taken away after protesting the Castro regime, so he knows how little the Cuban government values personal freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient discusses life in Cuba and the efforts to attain freedom for the country’s citizens.
On June 23, 2016, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet finally received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in person from President George W. Bush. In 2007, President Bush awarded the prestigious honor to the Cuban dissident, but Dr. Biscet was in prison in Cuba for protesting the Castro government’s repression of personal freedoms. Instead, his son accepted on his behalf in a White House ceremony.
After receiving the honor in person at the Bush Center, Dr. Biscet sat down for an interview about freedom of speech in Cuba with Christopher Walsh, manager of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative, and William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst. Since this interview, Dr. Biscet has returned to Cuba, where authorities harassed him after the completion of his first trip off the island.
Let’s start with freedom of speech. How would you describe that today in Cuba? Is the U.S. opening there having any impact on freedom of speech?
In Cuba, there is no freedom of speech. Nor are there any of the other freedoms. Freedom of religion doesn’t exist in spite of the fact that three popes have visited Cuba – John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis.
Freedom of religion is not a threat to the government or to the persistence of the government in power. It is defended in the Communist constitution. However, despite the visits of the three popes and being in the Constitution, freedom of religion doesn’t exist.
This is why civil and political freedoms will never be fulfilled in Communist Cuba, even though President Obama went there and asked for these freedoms. Those freedoms are a threat to the government. They would have to accept freedoms like the freedom to create a political party or freedom of press. Those freedoms could put the government in checkmate.
They are not going to be achieved unless the people of Cuba demand them in the streets. And that is the objective of the Emilia Project.
In Cuba, there is no freedom of speech. Nor are there any of the other freedoms.
We will get to the Emilia Project in a moment. You did an interview with a Baptist pastor in Cuba. Are there house churches in Cuba?
You cannot find a house of worship. Nor can different religions have schools. They cannot provide education to the public. Churches cannot have access to TV shows or the press. People can gather at homes for religious purposes. But the houses belong to the owners, not the churches. Nobody can say I will build a temple. They have to meet inside their own house.
Is access to the Internet changing freedom of speech in Cuba?
There is no change. We need to remember there is a totalitarian communist dictatorship. When you look at the faces of the Castro brothers, you are looking at Stalin, you are looking at Hitler.
The regime is based on the Constitution that Stalin created. Freedom of speech is not guaranteed by the Constitution. It allows for freedom of speech, but subjects it to many conditions. At some point they had to accept that people speak. There are a lot of people speaking. But, because of the terror of the state, there are things people would never say.
Continue reading HERE.
Marcos, the fifty-six-year-old owner of an illegal gambling operation, went to Cordova Park in Havana’s La Vibora neighborhood to chat online with a friend who lives in Miami. When he got there, he wondered if he was dreaming.
Perhaps there are people in some remote corner of Africa or in the Amazon rain forest who are still surprised by the possibilities the internet provides. On a planet where there are as many mobile phones as people, access to cutting-edge technologies has spurred economic, cultural and scientific development in a number of countries.
The underutilization of worldwide web in Cuba is comparable to the rejection of motorized transportation, television and antibiotics by puritanical cults.
The regime is fond of saying that the island’s most valuable resource is its human capital. The country boasts of more than a million university graduates and the average person attends school through the twelfth grade. But what does it matter if in the twenty-first century countless Cubans are unaware of the unlimited powers of the internet.
In a country with stagnant economy in crisis due to government mismanagement, with no significant natural resources and with an infrastructure in serious disrepair, encouraging the adoption of start-up technologies that have the potential to unleash expansion of the tourism industry and domestic electronic commerce should be a priority.
But the autocratic regime has always looked upon the internet with suspicion, assuming it to be a CIA-designed Trojan horse. This fear has put the island at the tail end of countries with limited internet access and mortgaged the nation’s future.
There are not many entrepreneurs in Cuba like Reinaldo, the owner of a bar in southern Havana who saw his sales increase 25% after launching a website.
It has been private businesspeople, especially those based in the capital or in cities near tourist destinations, who have pioneered the use of the internet as something more than simply a information tool.
For roughly 90% of state-owned enterprises, the web is a mere formality. Visit their websites and you will see how poorly the internet is being used to attract potential buyers and investors.
Online commerce in Cuba is extremely limited and geared strictly to a foreign market. Even then, very few stores offer Cubans living overseas the option of purchasing food or home appliances online.
The service is also expensive, slow and inefficient. In theory, the Carlos III mall in downtown Havana offers e-commerce. “But it leaves a lot to be desired. They sometimes wait two or three weeks to ship purchases,” says Olga Lidia, a regular customer whose daughter lives in Canada and sends her merchandise this way.
According to a floor manager at Carlos III, transportation shortages and “the little fuel they allocate us are the reasons internet sales are bad or almost non-existent.”
Internet use in the national educational system is scandalously low. Primary, secondary and college preparatory schools do not have access to the information highway.
Universities do have internet facilities but the connection speeds are so slow that the ability of take full advantage of the web’s possibilities is limited, rendering its usefulness questionable.
“Talk to me, Juana! Now you can sell cigars and rum to the Americans!”
“Did you see that, honey? Now we can really build our socialist state!”
The Obama Legacy in Cuba
Moving fast in his waning months, President Obama concluded he had not done enough to overturn U.S. policy toward Cuba and ensure that his new policies will survive. So he has issued a new “Presidential Policy Directive” that goes even further.
Two things are striking about it. First, what the United States gets in return from the Castro regime is exactly and precisely nothing. This is not a bargained-for exchange; Castro makes no promises, allows no one to get out of prison, does not even make a vague allusion to reform. Nothing. This is because Cuba policy is, for the President, less an exercise in statesmanship than the true product of ideological politics. This policy is a remedy, a medicine, an apology, to make up for what he sees as decades of American sin toward Cuba.
Of course, in Mr. Obama’s imagination “Cuba” means “Castro;” the Cuban people are really not an actor here. The benefits of all the commerce that will now grow go directly to the regime. For example, the hotels that Mr. Obama wishes to fill with American tourists are owned by the Cuban military. No matter, it seems.
One can see glimpses of all this in the actual text of the Directive. For example, take these lines: “we are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba; we are, instead, promoting values that we support around the world while respecting that it is up to the Cuban people to make their own choices about their future.” Later in the text we see this again: “We will not pursue regime change in Cuba. We will continue to make clear that the United States cannot impose a different model on Cuba because the future of Cuba is up to the Cuban people.”
This is blindness, because the real problem facing the Cuban people is precisely that the future of Cuba is NOT up to them, but is under the control of a tyrannical communist regime. They are not permitted “to make their own choices about their future,” and when they try they are beaten and jailed. Mr. Obama’s failure to recognize and admit this is at the heart of the moral abdication that is his Cuba policy. And it is at the heart of his administration’s broader failures in human rights policy: when he sees “Iran,” he sees the regime, not the people, so he remains silent in June 2009 when they rise up in the Green Revolution. In truth the people of Iran were getting in the way of his Iran policy, so they had to be ignored. This is the precise phenomenon we see as well in Cuba.
In fact the Cuban people are suffering from a human rights crackdown since the signing of the first agreement with the regime. (See this report, or this, for example.) American newspapers have reported this very widely, and one might have expected Mr. Obama to hold back on further concessions until the crackdown was lifted. One might, that is, if one had not been paying attention: for Mr. Obama, this is another “legacy item,” and it has nothing to do with the actual, real-world human rights situation in Cuba. Human rights and democracy activists there are on their own.
Continue reading HERE.
Cuba’s Castro dictatorship continues its scheme to turn Venezuela into another socialist/communist hell hole.
Socialist Venezuelan Government Calls Dibs on Half of Producers’ Output
Businesses in Venezuela must now sell up to 50 percent of their goods to state authorities.
The Local Committee of Supply and Production (CLAP in Spanish) requires that businesses sell them products to be redistributed to citizens through its ongoing food and goods distribution program, it was announced Thursday, October 13.
Food, personal hygiene and household cleaners are specifically subject to the new law.
The companies reportedly effected include “commercial companies,” mills, factories agriculture and farms, manufacturing plants, processing plants and industrial slaughterhouses, an announcement said.
CLAP has been for some time the government’s strategy for selling regulated products directly to Venezuelan households affected by the so-called “economic war.”
As of late, many food banks have been struggling to deliver the promised amount of goods to Venezuelans. Areas known to be dominated by government opposition have reportedly felt the blunt of this struggle, complaining that they are sometimes completely excluded, or that members of the ruling PSUV Party receive preference.
But even pro-Maduro communities have reportedly said they have on occasion been left out of CLAP’s deliveries, quite possibly because those within the institution are taking advantage of the resources for personal gain.
“They take from the food banks for their own interest, leaving other families without food,” Regional Coordinator for the PPT Party José Acarigua Rodriguez, said. “This program is for the entire country.”
But the new decree will further regulate CLAP, possibly alleviating the problem:
The decree seeks to “establish standards to regulate the mechanisms, terms and conditions of sale to companies or other public bodies, a certain percentage of the total production of a public or private company, or a productive sector, in order to stabilize the timely supply to CLAP.”
The second article said that “public and private companies engaged in the production of inputs or goods from the food, personal hygiene and household cleaners are obliged to sell up to 50 percent of its production to public bodies…”
The government is responsible for determining what amount a company has to sell, according to “national need.”
Both entrepreneurs and the opposition have expressed disagreement with the implementation of this decree, saying it is a measure that only exacerbates shortages by diverting products that should go to regular stores.
Just a few days after President Obama announced his new directives allowing Americans to do more business with Cuba’s corrupt and repressive apartheid dictatorship, State Security agents swept down on the Ladies in White this Sunday and violently arrested 18 of them on their way to church services.
Regime arrests 18 Ladies in White in Havana and Matanzas
According to sources from the opposition, four Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in Havana during their attempt to participate in the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign by the Forum for Rights and Liberties. Another 14 were arrested at various locations in Matanzas as they made their way to church services.
From the capital, Luisa Ramona Toscano told Diario de Cuba that four women along with former prisoner of conscience Angel Moya were arrested as soon as they stepped outside the Ladies in White headquarters.
“As soon as they stepped out they came at them. Berta Soler – the leader of the women’s group – was grabbed by a police officer and thrown to the ground,” said Toscano.
“They were all handcuffed and pushed towards a bus that took them away.” She added that Moya was taken away in a police vehicle.
According to Toscano, approximately 30 police officers took part in the arrests.
The Lady in White also said that the group’s headquarters had been surrounded by a massive surveillance operation since Thursday morning and that several women had been arrested trying to get there.
In Matanzas, independent union leader and former prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo denounced the arrests of three Ladies in White in the Los Arabos neighborhood. They were taken and then abandoned at the center of Washington in the neighboring province of Villa Clara.
The women arrested were Yudaimi Fernandez, Mayelin Brave, and Yailin Mondeja. Hernandez Carrillo reported via Twitter that the three were threatened with fines of 2,000 pesos if “they attempt to attend mass next Sunday.”
Meanwhile in Cardenas, seven women were arrested and in Jovellanos, another four were detained.