Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, in Translating Cuba:

Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona


14ymedio — On the 8th and 9th of April, along with some fifty other speakers, I was invited to the Sedona Forum which is organized every year by the McCain Institute in cooperation with Arizona State University. So I flew from the democratic volcanoes of Iceland to fall, almost by parachute, among the rusty canyons of Arizona, whose red stones immediately reminded me of Stalinist aesthetics.

This elite event takes place behind closed doors at the Enchantment Resort, a kind of luxury campsite under Sedona’s cliffs and pristine dawns, where the sky is preserved by lighting technicians to make visible 101% of its stars, constellations, comets and Milky Ways.

I sneaked in there, with no qualifications but Cuba in tow, like a conspirator sect, side by side with more than 200 personalities from the elite of American and global politics, including the National Intelligence Director, governors, ambassadors, ex-generals, university rectors, editors-in-chief, CEOs of NGOs, and a dozen senators and congressional representatives.

All were entertained on the family ranch of Republican Senator John McCain, a hero of the war against communism in Vietnam where, incidentally, he was tortured and left with lifetime scars by Cuban hitmen hired by the Ministry of Interior, who killed in cold blood several of his colleagues who were prisoners of war (all of which he told me with a hand on my shoulder and a resolute expression of resignation).

Until the sessions are made public on the website of this conclave, we were asked not to say anything of the men summoned there and their controversial statements. But I can reflect a little now on America as such. That word that, notwithstanding the academic left, remains synonymous with the only functioning and stable democracy in our hemisphere: “America” as an apocope of “United States.”

Without falling into apocalyptic aporiae, the American Union seems to stand, in the spring of 2016, just on the edge of one of those red abysses of the desert where the Sedona Forum took place. The United States desperately cries out for water, its eyes caked with the dry sand of freedom on probation. Between fundamentalism and schizophrenia, between fear and manipulation of the masses, between ethnic tolerance and immigration balkanization, between ghettos and wars, between nationalism and the NSA, between chauvinism and pornography, between correction and criminality, between idiocy and ideology, between capitalism and the lack of capitalists, between isolationism and abstention, between the State Department and its fourth floor despotic populism. Finally, between socialism and the wall.

The sessions included testimonies from Russian and Eastern European activists, for example, and they were chilling. For all of them, Putinism – that Mafioso model that Cuba is implementing today among the tycoons of Cuban exiles and the tyrant Raul Castro – mercilessly assassinated a colleague or loved one. Or both. Some of the panelists in my discussion, in fact, were survivors of violent attacks or the posthumous peace of free doses of radioactivity.

All these champions of human rights – including, by sheer luck, me – can or cannot return to our countries of origin some day, but all of us, within or outside of our Cubitas, face the most brutal impunity of regimes that kill professionally as a state policy. Be it in a “dictatorship” or a “democracy,” we all survive in an eternal state of quotation marks: precarious countries with a fancy for the gallows.

I understood then that the democracies of the world are a race in the phase of extinction and that we have been left very alone, like lost souls, despite the solidarity as symbolic as it is insolvent of the ever diminishing governments and institutions of the free world – where now no one declares themselves free – howling like fatally injured coyotes, or perhaps like characters from Roberto Bolaño: losers who are lost in the Sonora desert, just in sight of the Sedona Forum in new-century Arizona of the end of Europe and the United States.

I shared these 48 hours of voluntary seclusion like a half-silly monk amid futility and philanthropy. Still trying not to set off too many alarms in the debates all about this alarming situation. Still trying to seem like a person with perspectives, facing our fossil future or Fidelity ad infinitum. Still playing at being that Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who, in the Isle of Infamies, at a party under surveillance even in our most intimate lives, was an incisive and intolerable writer for the system of the rude masses.

In my talk – and hoping not to violate the sub-rosa Sedona code in saying it – I first diplomatically applauded President Barack Obama’s approach to Cuba. It is not us, free Cubans, who rely on censorship and closure, but we are precisely the victims that have suffered it most. But. I immediately confirmed in public my faith in Castroism as a thing intrinsic to Cubans, as a congenital condemnation that defines us before and after Castro.

So. I told them in the English of my childhood – when the United States was, in Cuba, an illusion that everyone believed in, everyone hoped for, everyone supported – that the heart of Castroism is unwavering and that in consequence, it will end up (and this is already starting) criminalizing the Obama administration’s “opening” and its empowerment of our civil society, far beyond the vile greed of the Chamber of Commerce of an ever more un-united Union, and far beyond the terrible Cuban-American betrayal of a nation that was never born.

In other words. I told them, as a devotee of the barbaric nature of the Castros as an incarnation of Cuban complicity which, in whatever variant, America could emerge even more shutout with its “humanitarian” intervention of bombarding us with dollars and hams and computer clicks and cellphones. Although. I also asked them – among the cackle of American laughter and sophisticated sips of wine – for a civil re-colonization, a civilizing interference that finally makes us people and not subjects of a socialism with no way out, neither by ballots nor bullets. I asked them with full responsibility for a reverse invasion of human beings without anthropological damage, while our poor people escape in a suicide stampede. Curtain.

With or without embargo. With or without engagement. With or without internet. With or without repression. With or without political prisoners. With or without a market economy and the Sugar Kings who will come. With or without the rule of law. I told them that Cuba is and will be only a dynastic tyranny in self-transition, as long as a Castro or a Callejas or a Cardinal or a theatrical etcetera of these remains alive: a caste in the throes of perpetuating itself, not from Law to Law, but from Power to Power. And so. Cubans tremble, tremble like enslaved plebeians, tremble both from the opposition and from officialdom before the specific initiative of a plebiscite as a tool of liberation, as has been proposed by led by Rosa María Payá.

And I offered them this other little tidbit. Dear little friends, American daddies and grampas: the first Cuban opponent or dissident that is inserted into some little post within the institutional machinery of the regime, be it at the grassroots level in the People’s Power or in the National Assembly itself, before or after the post-totalitarian shebang of 2018, this will not be a Cuban opponent or dissident from any Cuba, but an agent planted not in secret but brazenly by the think tanks of the Ministry of the Interior and its intelligence thugs. Full stop.

Why. Without citizen mobilization and participation, the rights of Cubans – on the island as well as in exile – will remain hostages of our national sovereignty, in the hands of a clan that controls the agenda of the secret pacts where the latest guest of horror has been the White House. Please.

Forgive me, compatriots. I went to the Sedona Forum to talk about despair and left despairing. By the same grace, at a Miami foundation in the summer of 2013, a great magnate almost accused me of “doing the dirty work of the Havana Government.” And a radical counterrevolutionary said the same thing (listen to how good it sounds): “the Havana Government.”

My answer three years ago was the same with which I concluded my plea in Arizona on the afternoon of Friday, the 8th of April:

“Better despair than demagoguery.”

The future does not belong to socialism

Via Diario De Cuba:

The Castros’ Party-State


Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro at the Sixth Congress of the PCC, Havana, 2011. (ANALITICA.COM)
Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro at the Sixth Congress of the PCC, Havana, 2011. (ANALITICA.COM)

The phrase which best defines, in broad strokes, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), which in the coming days will hold its VII Congress is the celebrated quote by King Louis XIV of France: “L’Etat, c’est moi” ( “I am the State.”)

Such is the PCC, a party/state. In Mesopotamia and classical Greece, millennia ago, there were city-states, such as Babylon and Athens. And today they exist in the Vatican, and Monaco, but what is new is that there are also party/states, so seldom studied that nobody talks about it anywhere.

“No communist party in power is really a political party, unless it is an opposition party in a country featuring a democratic system.” Only then does it take advantage of “idiotic parliamentarism,” as Karl Marx called it, and partisan pluralism, engages in politics, electoral work, and sends representatives to Parliament, in full compliance with the law.

But Communist parties do not play fair. If they rise to power – almost always by force, and not by universal suffrage – the first thing they do is to suppress all political parties, except the Communists’, and establish an autocracy similar to those of Europe’s absolutist monarchies before the French Revolution. They automatically cease to be a political party and supplant the state, assuming all its functions.

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, in his work The Prince (1513), who first used the word “state” in its modern sense. Its first theoretician, he called it stato, derived from the Latin term status. Today the most widely accepted concept of the state is a set of institutions that have the authority and power to establish rules governing a society.

And that is precisely what a communist party does. It proclaims itself the holder of absolute truth (which Marx claimed to be non-existent) and takes over all public powers, abolishes private property, seizes control of the entire national economy, the armed forces, the media, education, health, culture, and even citizens’ private lives.

Let’s take a look at the PCC. Created by Fidel Castro in 1965, in his image and likeness, it is a massive state-administrative-ideological paramilitary apparatus of a repressive nature, whose mission is to maintain the people’s “revolutionary loyalty” through iron-fisted social control and intimidation, whether veiled or explicit, a constant barrage of political-ideological propaganda, and the suppression of citizens’ basic rights.

Going further than fascism

By prohibiting private enterprise, Communist parties in power go even further than fascism. The regimes headed by Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and Oliveira Salazar placed the national economy at the service of the fascist party-state’s interests, but they di not abolish the private sector.

If something clearly reveals a communist party’s status as a state apparatus it is that its members do not gather at regional, provincial or national forums to discuss new ideas or reach agreements, like political parties do in the “normal” world, but rather at workplaces.

In Cuba members of the PCC meet in factories, companies, schools, shops, hospitals, military units, theaters, construction sites, media facilities, etc. There is a “Party core” at every workplace, where they receive instructions to bully people and control and manage everything.

It is as if there were committees of the Democratic Party (now controlling the US Executive) at every US factory, with orders from the White House to oversee every business executive and tell them how to do their jobs. Or as if the Popular Party in Spain did the same thing at every workplace in the country.

Moreover, the CCP even violates the Leninist principle of “democratic centralism,” according to which the minority must obey and comply with the decisions made by the majority of members. In Cuba, and in every communist country, it is precisely the other way around, as most have to obey, without question, what the dictator and a select group of illuminati decide. It suffices to note that, with the VII Congress of the CCP coming up, the Party’s leadership did not even deign to inform members of the points to be addressed and the documents to be examined at the event – and far less to solicit their views.

All Communist leaders in power are autocratic despots, many of them with as much personal power as that wielded by Caligula or Ivan the Terrible. Let us recall five of the most notorious: Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro and Pol Pot, earthly “deities” that aggravated the systemic infeasibility of the communist model, spilling rivers of blood and inflicting tragically suffering on their peoples.

In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro’s whims over his 52 years as head of the CCP and dictator constitute an internationally unprecedented litany of outrageous, idiotic, and reckless acts that sank Cubans further into poverty, in a country that had enjoyed a standard of living higher than that of some European countries before 1959. And to that we must add its crimes and human rights violations.

The paradox here is that while the Castro party’s ruling cadre is very powerful, its base of members is not. They have neither the capacity nor the instruments to question the mandates handed down from above by the authorities, who control and threaten them, forcing them to toe the line. The dictator and his team know that the average Joe in the party has lost faith and no longer believes in fairy tales, scoffing at the notion that “the future belongs to socialism.”

Continue reading HERE.

US – Cuba policy tweets of the day

Via the Twitter accounts of Capitol Hill Cubans, and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

Cuba: Exploitation, propaganda, and slavery

Never to miss a propaganda opportunity, Cuba sends 53 doctors and aid workers to to join their fellow medics slaves already in Ecuador.

As part of a larger policy of internationalism, there are currently 52,000 Cuban doctors working in 66 countries worldwide, representing an annual revenue of 8.2 billion dollars for the government. | Photo: Reuters
As part of a larger policy of internationalism, there are currently 52,000 Cuban doctors working in 66 countries worldwide, representing an annual revenue of 8.2 billion dollars for the government. | Photo: Reuters

Cuba’s medical personnel sent abroad are subject to gestapo style intimidation and surveillance, via IWPR:

Cubans deployed abroad are subject to tight controls intended to deter them from defecting. Before leaving Cuba, they attend lectures warning them of the supposed multiple dangers of life in their destination country.

The doctor whom IWPR interviewed about her experiences in Venezuela said that when she arrived there, her passport was taken away to stop her defecting or requesting asylum at a United States embassy.

In Trinidad and Tobago, a Cuban doctor said everyone’s behaviour was monitored. They were told it was inappropriate for them to go out after work as the Cuban authorities could not be responsible for their safety after seven pm.

Anyone who broke the rules received a bad report and was threatened with being sent back to Cuba or never again being selected for a medical brigade.

Team members are also instructed to keep watch over one another. If individuals defected or broke a rule, the person assigned to monitor them was also sanctioned.

There are written regulations to the effect that team members must “inform their superiors of any violations of disciplinary standards they are aware of, as well as inappropriate conduct that is detrimental to the prestige of the mission”. It is also considered a disciplinary infraction to “maintain friendships or relationships of other kinds with Cuban citizens… or foreigners who hold hostile views, or are against the Cuban Revolution”.

The regulations make it difficult to interview Cuban health professionals working abroad. The rules say it is an infraction to “articulate opinions or views to the press, radio or television that compromise the Cuban collaboration [with host nations], or that concern internal situations in the work centres where they provide their services or in the country where they are based, without prior instructions and authorisation on these matters”.

There is a massive international response to the tragedy in Ecuador, countries around the world, independently and through the UN are sending rescuers and aid. Why is Cuba’s response different? Only Cuba’s doctors and medical workers are part of a dictator’s slave trade in doctors program, which earns the regime around “$8 billion a year off the backs of the health workers it sends to poor countries”, and you have to ask, just where did all that money go, certainly not to help the impoverished Cuban people.

In Havana, there is no disaster relief from earthquake Castro, where in spite of those billions received on the backs of slave workers, state controlled housing collapses from lack of maintenance.

Image from quake site in Ecuador:

Image from Castro quake in Havana:

An Epistolary Life: Writings About Love, Gratitude, the Arts, and Political Discourse


I’m so pleased to share with you that our own Honey has written a memoir. It covers her adult life, and contains letters she wrote to many notable people in the arts and public life over the last half century, as well as their responses. The book is a plea to bring love and gratitude back into the public square to replace the divisiveness rampant lately. It is also fun and serious; I laughed often, and more than once had to put the book down and let the tears flow.

There is a long section at the end of the book that contains letters between our own Professor Carlos Eire and Honey. Our esteemed professor also wrote the foreword for the book.

An Epistolary Life: Writings About Love, Gratitude, the Arts, and Political Discourse is wonderfully entertaining, a thoroughly enjoyable, lovely epistle. Highly recommended. It is available at Amazon, HERE..


Reports from Cuba: Havana Hides its Beggars

By Mayeta Labrada Via Translating Cuba:

Havana Hides its Beggars


For several days, brigades from the Ministry of Public Health are interning the city’s beggars in health facilities to get them off the street. (14ymedio)
For several days, brigades from the Ministry of Public Health are interning the city’s beggars in health facilities to get them off the street. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 17 March 2016 – Fixing up the Latin American Stadium and repairing the streets where Barack Obama’s motorcade will travel are just a part of the preparations before the coming of the president of the United States to Havana this Sunday.

Nancy Navarro, a nurse at the January 1st Teaching Polyclinic in the Playa district, told 14ymedio that there was a meeting at her workplace to prepare a census of the people wandering around the city. The process also included an assessment by professionals specializing in mental health, who in the company of other technicians are responsible for picking up the beggars, “on the street or even in their homes.”

A doctor from the Fifth Canaria Health Center in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, said that “seniors roaming the streets of Havana’s various municipalities will be interned” there. The employee acknowledged that she expected an influx of a little more than 200 elderly, “although this is a very high figure for the facility because it does have ideal conditions for sheltering them.”

Yaneysi Rios, a doctor at the 14th Clinic in the municipality of Habana del Este, explained that many homeless people do not have family and need to be hospitalized for life. “It is up to us to see to these people who belong to our medical center, many are elderly and that have no family nor do they receive care from any parallel institution. In reality they need to be hospitalized for better care of their health,” she added.

One of those elders who wanders around the city is Rogelio. He can be seen in a centrally located park in Vedado as well as in the remotest neighborhoods on the outskirts. “I’m retired from transport for more than 15 years ago and since then I collect cans in different places and in nightclubs. With over 42 years of work I have no place to live, so today I stay here and tomorrow there,” he said.

Now he is trying to hide from the eyes of the police and medical teams who are inspecting the streets. He does not want to go to a detention center because he prefers “to have my independence.” Xiomara Kindelan agrees with him. Her 69-year-old brother was taken to one of those temporary centers while she wasn’t home. “Truly he roams” she declared, “but if they had told me to control him so he would not to leave the house for several days, I would have no problem, ultimately he is my younger brother.”

Neighbors on Monte street, in the municipality of Old Havana, watched when employees from Public Health approached several people begging in the streets and put them on a bus. A worker from Community Services in the area said that since early Monday the raid has been massive: “I have not seen anything like it and I have spent years working here, anyone with the hint of a being beggar was forced on the bus, many are elderly people living in the area who have children and grandchildren who are dedicated to their care.”

Reinier Lopez, a resident of Monte Street at the corner of Angeles, said he was angry because his grandfather was taken away “like a dog in the street… I do not agree with these actions, I am a trained young man and for five years I have devoted myself to my job, my house and caring for my grandfather who is 78. Now he is in a place for people with mental disorders it is not the right thing when you have family members who care for you,” he argued.

Although these measures were never officially announced, some homeless migrated to more distant neighborhoods, while the families of others are hosting them temporarily until Obama finally says goodbye to the island and life returns to normal.

Human rights body reports on politically motivated machete attack against Cuban dissident

This is what Cuban dissidents risk when speaking out against the Castro dictatorship. This is what Obama has chosen to put aside for the sake of his legacy.

Via Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Regional human rights body reports on politically motivated machete attack against Cuban dissident

Sirley Ávila León who was the victim of a politically motivated machete attack mentioned in Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 2015 Annual Report published in 2016.


Photos of injuries suffered by Sirley Ávila León in May 24, 2015 machete attack

On September 2, 2015, the IACHR requested that precautionary measures be adopted for Sirley Ávila León. Based on the request filed by the Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio Democrático Cubano ) with the Commission , Ávila has been subjected to harassment and threats, which came to a head in May 2015, when the proposed beneficiary was allegedly the victim of a machete attack as a result of her work as a human rights defender. After examining the allegations of fact and law submitted by the requesting party, the Commission believes that the information shows that Sirley Ávila León is at serious and urgent risk, inasmuch as her safety and life are threatened. Accordingly, as provided under Article 25 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, the Commission requests Cuba to adopt the necessary measures to ensure the life and personal integrity of the beneficiary and to make it possible for her to engage in her activities as a human rights defender without being subjected to acts of violence and harassment. Additionally, it requests the State to come to an agreement with the beneficiary and her representatives on what measures must be taken and to report actions taken to investigate the alleged incidents, which gave rise to the adoption of the instant precautionary measure and thus prevent them from happening again. [ Read the full resolution in Spanish]


Continue reading HERE.

Obama’s Lawless U.S. – Cuba Policy Sets Up Potential Litigation

Via Jason Poblete:

Senate Democrat: Obama Administration’s Lawless U.S.-Cuba Policy Sets Up Potential Litigation

One of the biggest threats to liberty is when people think they think, and act, above the law. During the course of the last few years there are, unfortunately, plenty of examples of this throughout the Obama administration. For example, the regulatory superstate is destroying our healthcare system and, in the process, trampling fundamental liberties. Bailing out the automakers. Obama’s executive action on guns. EPA regulations. And the list goes on and on and it bleeds into the foreign affairs arena.

Obama’s cavalier approach to foreign policy and national security matters weakens U.S. security and national interests. Whether failing to follow the advice of intelligence and other national security experts, military intervention in Libya without Congressional consent, failing to enforce U.S. economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, or removing Cuba from the state sponsors of terror list, these and other blunders puts American lives in danger at home and have emboldened the enemies of the United States to do us, and our allies, ill.

In the case of Cuba, Obama, his national security team, set out to defy the Congress to normalize relations with Communist Cuba. Undeterred and in a second-term legacy-building stupor, the Obama administration trampled the law and made up authorities that Congress has not authorized. To mind his political flank, an army of well-funded lobbyists and special interest groups invested millions to whitewash what is happening in Cuba. They supported the Obama approach with advertising and a stealth lobbying campaign in the Congress to secure sanctions-easing support. With Congress unable or unwilling to press forward as an institution to stop this madness, the Obama administration steamrolled ahead.

I’ll skip the legalese, but take this to the bank: under U.S. law, laws that were codified by Congress (i.e., effectively making it impossible to amend through the administrative process – remember the Constitution grants Congress, not the President, the power to legislate) the President has the power to make Cuba sanctions stronger, not weaken them. The LIBERTAD Act created a balancing of equities that requires assistance to the people of Cuba and, at the same time, economic isolation of the regime and its leaders. Yes, it can be done and has been done since the late 1990s and 2000s, successfully, at least up until now.

Engagement with Communist Cuba as outlined by Obama weakens the integrity of the U.S. financial system, tosses an economic and political lifeline to Communist hardliners in Cuba as well as emboldens rogue regimes throughout the Americas and elsewhere in the world. Most importantly, the lawless coddling of the Cuban regime violates U.S. law as well as longstanding policy of supporting the future leaders of a free Cuba. It even invites U.S. companies to, in essence, engage in unlawful transactions in Cuba involving confiscated properties. Congress must rein the regulatory overreach.

The Obama administration has turned this policy and legal equilibrium around: he is helping the regime and hurting the people of Cuba. Everyone else, including U.S. taxpayers, be damned. The administration has ignored Cuban support for international terrorism. They’ve ignored Communist Cuba’s culture of corruption, a system that functions on pay to play (i.e., bribes). They’ve ignored trafficking in stolen properties as well as the Cuban slave labor state. In other words, they’ve ignored and set up regulations that violate U.S. law.

In the political vortex that we sometimes must operate in, especially in this town, these issues are challenging to bring to the surface. This issue is of limited political consequence and there are other, more pressing matters that receive the media coverage. The bottom line is that while some of the regulations issued since the December 17, 2014 policy shift may have been legal, many are not. The regulations issued this week, especially those for travel, the business presence rule, and some of the financial regulations, are clearly inconsistent with U.S. law. And that is why I counsel U.S. and foreign companies under existing laws and regulations, to be extremely careful when engaging in the Cuba market. There is risk in Cuba and, now, even more risk in the United States.

Earlier this week one of the champions of liberty in Cuba, Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) offered one of the best accounts, to date, of what is at stake in this matter. How the United States resolves the Cuba questions will impact well beyond the island. Sure, the United States is concerned about the people of Cuba, but there are issues here that impact U.S. taxpayers and, indeed, the entire Western Hemisphere. His remarks seem prompted by the latest round of sanctions easing regulations that, in essence, have gutted the sanctions and, as Menendez says, amounts to a “unilateral transfer of the little remaining leverage that the Administration hadn’t given away prior to this week’s announcement.” Then there is this:

I warned officials at the Department of Treasury that these changes come up to the line and in some cases cross it with respect to statutory authority … Their actions are inconsistent with existing statutes and incompatible with the intent of Congress as expressed through those statutes. I should know as I was one of the authors of the “Libertad Act” when I served in the House of Representatives … With these steps, I believe Commerce and Treasury have set the stage for legal action against the Administration. Congress has authorized categories of travel to Cuba, but none of the categories were tourism or commerce-for-commerce’s-sake with the regime.

If Cuba were a nation thousands of miles away, with a billion people, and geo-strategic interests required engagement with the police state, then you may be able to sway folks like me that dancing with the enemy is a necessary evil. Doubtful. But Cuba is just 90 miles away from the United States and is a political and economic basket case. In my book, it remains a terrorist state and a national security problem. In the near term, it is a market of little or no consequence for the United States, one that survives, not thrives. Why should we allow it privileged access to our financial systems and markets?

What we should be doing is following the law and isolating the regime economically; and keep doing what we have successful done for a decade, keep supporting Cuban civil society.

Stay tuned. There is a lot more to come.

Continue Reading HERE.

Meet the Fugitive U.S. Terrorists Sheltered by Cuba

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Meet the fugitive US terrorists sheltered by Cuba

By Rick Fuentes in The New York Post:

President Obama is going to Cuba next week, the first official state visit by a sitting president in more than 80 years.

It’ll surely be followed by regularly scheduled domestic airline and cruise-ship service, rock concerts, major sporting events, US corporate investment and thousands of American tourists curious to see Marxism up close and how an entire country can be reduced to an underclass.

Havana is where most of the tourists will likely travel. There’s a sprinkling of four- and five-star hotels along the scenic port and bay of Havana, several of which have at their backs the barrios of the Old City and Centro Habana.

There is something beautiful and rustic about the panorama of poverty when it is viewed from the upper floors of a luxury hotel.

But Americans, beware. Unlike the president and his entourage, you aren’t dignitaries with security teams, or part of a pampered and propagandized political delegation fattened and flattered by the type of cuisine and accommodations most Cubans can only dream about.

I’m not saying that the jittery Cuban military and police aren’t interested in your movements on the island — in fact, they surely are — but you’ll have no visible escorts or other functional layers of protection.

You also should know that some of America’s most wanted terrorists are living openly in Cuba. These still-dangerous revolutionaries roam the island, disenchanted about all things American.

It’s highly unlikely that the Cuban landscape will be swept of their presence before your arrival because US government negotiators, speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, seem to lack both the will and intent to press the Castro brothers for their return to the United States to answer for their crimes.

Make no mistake, however, about the will and intent of Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Police to continue to advocate strongly against their privileged and coddled status of political asylum.

Four of them — Joanne Chesimard, William Guillermo Morales, Victor Manuel Gerena and Charles Hill — hail from US-based domestic terror organizations whose violent track record includes bringing about the deaths of 17 police officers, five American civilians and two members of the US military, as well as perpetrating a string of 159 bombings that have destroyed the lives and families of many more.

Gerena remains on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list, and Chesimard holds the distinction of being the only woman on the photo spread of the FBI’s Most Wanted International Terrorists list.

The FBI and the state of New Jersey continue to pledge a $2 million reward for Chesimard’s return to prison for her conviction in the murder of New Jersey Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973.

My connection to Foerster’s murder by Chesimard and several accomplices runs the breadth of my career.

From the time of her escape from a New Jersey prison on Nov. 2, 1979, to my deeper investigative involvement in her flight from justice while assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in the mid-’80s and into my current role as colonel and superintendent, the New Jersey State Police and I have never lost the determination to see her returned to prison.

For your safety, before you depart for your long-awaited Cuban vacation, please visit the New Jersey State Police website at You’ll find the most updated photographs of these four terrorist fugitives accompanied by a short bio from the FBI.

If your walk about the island crosses the path of any of these coddled criminals, I’d ask you to immediately report their sighting to the US Embassy in Havana. At all hours, the embassy can be reached at (53)(7)839-4100, a handy number to keep in your pocket to mitigate many of the unforeseen perils of travel to Cuba.

Enjoy your trip.

Col. Rick Fuentes is superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.


Without civil society there can be no democracy

By Jorge A. Sanguinetty ViaDiario De Cuba:

Social Capital, Civil Society and Democracy in Cuba


Some admit it, and others do not, but there are Cubans who harbor doubts about whether democracy is possible in Cuba. Some even dare to suggest that the country should be annexed by the US. Frustration and hopelessness about the future of Cuba lead some to give up. Fortunately, there are many other Cubans who will not give up, and continue to fight for democracy.

It makes no sense to reduce the issue to a simplistic and defeatist dichotomy about whether democracy is feasible or not in Cuba. It is more logical and productive to identify the factors that make it possible, and to act accordingly. Believing and acting like democracy is impossible means doing a great favor to the current Castroist oligarchs and other dictators, hampering the work of dissenters who are struggling heroically for a regime change. The triumph of democracy in Cuba would also encourage those who are fighting for democracy in other countries.

The future of democracy in Cuba depends mainly on Cubans overcoming the many obstacles they face, especially government repression, and establishing the corresponding institutions. In this way we can focus on those forms of individual and collective behavior that could produce a democratic opportunity, especially in view of the impending generational changing of the guard in the country’s Government. I start from the premise that the future of democracy in Cuba depends mainly on certain collective actions by a critical mass of citizens. That is, a group that, though relatively small, has the conviction, organization and determination necessary to alter the course of history of Cuba. Virtually all members of Cuba’s internal dissent and opposition already form part of that critical mass, but it still needs to grow in size, organization, influence and resources.

Since 1959 the organization of citizens in Cuba has been monopolized by the Government.

It is noteworthy that the lifestyle of the typical Cuban on the island is currently characterized by the poverty of his relationships with other citizens. In a free society the network of relationships between citizens is huge, including a myriad of family, social, political, economic, cultural, religious, sports and other kinds of bonds. This set of relationships is known today as a nation or community’s social capital. It’s like a neural network or nervous system that reflects the activities of a society, allowing its members to connect and communicate in countless ways, exchange ideas, identify common interests, establish institutions and organizations of all kinds, and take collective action based on their personal interests. Social capital increases in parallel to the degree of freedom citizens enjoy in any society.

A basic component of social capital is the level of confidence that citizens have in other citizens. That interpersonal trust is what cements relationship between citizens, which can lead to stable agreements and forms of collective action. For example, the formation of a business, a club to read and exchange ideas about books, a community organization, a political party or a protest or public demonstration. Such initiatives exist in Cuba, but it is necessary to extend, enlarge and consolidate them so that Cubans gain confidence in their ability to take collective action.

Social capital is the connective tissue of a nation’s civil society, which is composed of family and the private activities of citizens, excluding the Government and the private business sector. Through social capital, interpersonal relationships foster, facilitate and lead to the formation of civil society’s institutions and organizations. That is, without social capital there can be no civil society. And without civil society there can be no democracy.

In a totalitarian state there are all kinds of restrictions to thwart the development of social capital and the organizations and activities it gives rise to. The first measures of Castroism in 1959 included precisely the systematic demolition of almost the entire network of relationships of social capital, as it formed the basis of civil society and, as such, could spawn serious opposition to the dictatorship. Although virtually invisible, we can say that the minimization of social capital in Cuba was the most devastatingly successful achievement of Castro’s assault. By wiping out social capital, what little remained of civil society was a paralyzed body, unable to defend itself against the Government, which controlled everything. In fact, totalitarianism can be defined as a system of government that seeks to minimize a nation’s social capital.

It is social capital that Cuba now lacks if it is to have an influential civil society. Its absence is what also makes the typical Cuban citizen feel like he exists in a kind of limbo of impotence, or a state of weightlessness, largely disconnected from other Cubans. He cannot, therefore, participate freely in the affairs of his country, or undertake actions to progress in life. It was in this way that many Cubans lost many of their organizational skills: by delegating to the Government and depending on it.

Under current conditions, democracy in Cuba must be built with the elements that constitute its foundations: precisely the interpersonal relationships of social capital. Democracy is a superior form of social organization, based on citizens’ deliberate participation. But that organization can only be carried out by citizens who have relationships with their compatriots. Hence the critical importance of social capital. Note that the basis for totalitarian power in Cuba is the Government’s organizational monopoly, in contrast to the citizens’ disorganization and disarray. This is why the Government devotes so many resources to the repression of social capital, through punishments for organizing meetings, or exchanging and circulating ideas and information that allow people to organize, and for taking any kind of collective action that threatens the Government’s monopoly. This is also why it prevents Cubans from having unfettered access to the Internet and the modern social networks.

The Cuban opposition began the reconstruction of its social capital and civil society years ago, as prerequisites of democracy. The examples are many and varied, such as associations of journalists, economists and other independent professionals; the Social Communicators Network; the “Ladies in White”; the Dissenting Municipalities; the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the Varela Project; the Cuban Human Rights Commission; local chapters of Independent and Democratic Cuba and many others.

All these efforts testify to the fact that a large number of Cubans on the island, at a very high personal cost, do not accept a form of government that is not a democracy, that in which man’s full dignity can be realized. These Cubans are heirs to the spirit of independence of 1895. They are, in fact, our new mambises, our freedom fighters. They struggle without machete charges, out in the open, without the jungle’s protection. And they deserve our admiration and our support.

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What national security? Obama makes another crazy concession to Cuba

Never-mind that Cuba was caught weapons smuggling to North Korea, never-mind Cuba’s cozy relations with terrorist groups and nations that sponsor terror, never-mind Cuba’s refusal to extradite wanted U.S. fugitives hiding in Cuba, never-mind that Cuba has given NOTHING in return for Obama’s concessions, King Raul asks, and Obama scuttles to deliver.
Via AP:

Before Obama trip, US eases security for ships visiting Cuba

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States removed Cuba on Thursday from its list of countries deemed to have insufficient security in their ports, eliminating a major impediment to free flow of ships in the Florida Straits. The move marks one more step toward normalized relations ahead of President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba.

The shift clears the way for U.S. cruise ships, cargo vessels and even ferries to travel back and forth with much less hassle. No longer will all ships have to wait to be boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard for inspections, though the Coast Guard still can conduct random inspections.

The Coast Guard, in an advisory on global port security, said Cuba now has effective security measures in its ports. That certification also removes the requirement that American vessels maintain a higher level of security for access to ships while in Cuban ports.

Removing Cuba’s designation under rules designed to fight terrorism also addresses a sore spot in the painful history between Cuba and the U.S., which dominated the island before relations were cut off amid the Cold War. After all, it was only last year that the U.S. removed Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Other countries on the list include Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iran.

Continue reading HERE.

Castro’s Repression at the White House Doorstep

By Pablo Díaz Espí via Diario De Cuba:

Castro’s Repression at the White House Doorstep

Last March 11, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser and chief architect of Barack Obama’s policy to Havana, met in Miami with activists and human rights defenders in Cuba. One of those attending the meeting, Carlos Amel Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, was arrested on his return to the Island. He’s still under arrest.

However, this has not been the only repressive act carried out by the Castro regime these days, prior to the visit of the US President.

Yesterday we learned of the arrest of several independent journalists and of citations and warnings to other reporters and activists by the political police.

On Sunday 13 March, just two days after the meeting of Rhodes in Miami, we learned of the heart-rending testimony of the Lady in White Aliuska Gomez; handcuffed, stripped naked by force, and dragged by a group of henchmen to a dungeon in Havana.

That same day, after the crackdown against #TodosMarchamos, the regime organized his followers into a carnivalesque troupe -music included- and rewarded them with lunch boxes at Gandhi Park, the place for demands of the Ladies in White, a group which, by a personal letter delivered by Rhodes in Miami to one of their representatives, Obama had just called “an inspiration for human rights movements.”

With the escalated crackdown, Raul Castro sends a clear message to Obama while mocking the US president, who in December said he was “very interested” in going to Cuba if he could “claim with confidence that we are seeing some progress in freedom”.

Being it clearer now that human rights have not only not improved but worsen ostensibly -by arresting an activist who met in Miami with the emissary of the President, Castroist repression has reached the very doorstep of the White House- Obama’s visit will occur in a climate of intensified confrontation between the regime and pro-democracy forces.

Barack Obama and his team -who have not ceased to make explicit their disagreement with Havana in the field of human rights-, would do well to make clear and public this stance during his visit, to all Cubans. Anything other than a clear signal of defending democracy and human rights would be nothing more than a way to prolong the suffering of the people of Cuba and especially its fighters and peace activists; something that, ultimately, will also damage US interests.

President Obama should not forget that the best for both countries, Cuba and the United States, is a democratic and prosperous island. Anything else, including a purely commercial and economic transition to State capitalism, which is gradually making headway, will only bring more repression, more violence, and more social fracture and corruption.