Cuban Spies Get an Even Bigger, Better-Equipped Base in Washington

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“Ahora SI, compañeros! Ahora SI que la cosa se pone BUENA!”

Granted, Obama administration spokespersons and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) describe this week’s event differently than does this column title. Something about a “Cuban embassy” formally “opening?” in “Washington, D.C. today?” If I read these things correctly?

Nonetheless, the people actually in-the-know about these matters are cutting through the crap and cutting to the quick. Let’s hear from them:

“It [the embassy opening] is going to be a celebration on our part,” said Gustavo Machin, deputy director for U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry. “Many Americans who have supported the Cuban Revolution will be among the 500 celebrants at the new Embassy.”

Gustavo Machin, by the way, is a KGB-trained Cuban spy who was burnt and booted from the U.S. back in 2003 shortly before the invasion of Iraq. He was among 14 other Cuban spies suspected of trafficking U.S. military secrets (more on this shortly.)

The currently elated and exuberant Machin was an accomplice of Castro’s master-spy Ana Belen Montes, who serves a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2002 for the deepest and most damaging penetration of the U.S. Defense Department in modern history. Machin was neck deep in the same spying as his accomplice Montes, but enjoyed “diplomatic immunity,” which saved him from prison or the electric chair.

Now Machin probably be visiting Washington, D.C. often “on business.” In fact it was Machin who conducted the recent “negotiations” with President Barack Obama’s team of crackerjack “negotiators” which led to this “diplomatic breakthrough” with Cuba. So who can blame him for celebrating?

“From Machin’s perspective, it would certainly be a Cuban spy-handler’s dream,” says retired Lt. Col. Chris Simmons, who helped nab both Montes and Machin along with 14 other Cuban spies and is widely hailed as America’s top Cuba spycatcher.

“We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota,” guffawed yet another Cuban spy this week.

This KGB-trained Cuban spy is also safely and comfortably back in Havana. But Gerardo Hernandez (this Cuban spy’s name) didn’t enjoy diplomatic immunity. Instead, back in 2001 he was convicted by a U.S. jury of espionage along with conspiracy to murder three U.S. citizens and sentenced to two life terms.

But Hernandez’ KGB-trained colleague Gustavo Machin made Hernandez’ unconditional release (along with that of three of his convicted Cuban spy-colleagues) part of the price Obama had to pay for the privilege of letting Cuba set up an elaborate spy center in Washington, D.C. this week.

No, amigos, the producers and writers of “The Pink Panther” and “Austin Powers” brainstorming together could not possibly make this stuff up.

Our friends at The Blaze help disseminate some items little understood outside the tiny Cuban-American informational ghetto.

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“Le RRRONCA!!!”

Aping Castro: Rosa Maria Paya threatened by U.S. State Department at John Kerry-Bruno Rodriguez press conference

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Rodriguez and Kerry at “news conference”

Monkey see, monkey do: the U.S. government is stepping up its embrace of the Castro regime by imitating its behavior.

We all knew it would come to this, and that abject groveling by the U.S. is going to intensify rather than diminish.

This “historic” circus must go on, no matter what.  If the Castro regime says “jump,” all that the Obama administration will do in response is to ask “how high?”

Read it and weep.

From Capitol Hill Cubans:

To Embrace Cuba’s Regime, State Department Doesn’t Have to Behave Like It

It’s tough to say which was more repulsive yesterday:

Castro regime officials raising the flag at the Cuban Embassy amid cheers of “Viva Fidel!”?

Or the U.S. State Department telling Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of murdered democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, that if she asked any questions at the press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, she would be forcefully removed?

Is that the “example” the U.S. seeks to set?

Tweet from Rosa Maria Paya: Sr. Kirby me pide no hacer preguntas hoy en conferencia d prensa d @JohnKerry, o usarían la fuerza para sacarme #Cuba  [State Department spokesperson John] asks me not to ask any questions today at press conference with John Kerry, or they would use force to remove me].

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ADS305.com has a longer report in Spanish, which reveals the following details:

Rosa Maria Paya said: “I didn’t expect to receive the same coercive warning from the State Department that I received from [Castro] State Security at the Panama City airport.”

She brought along a letter from her mother that calls for an independent inquiry into the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero.  Unable to deliver the letter to anyone at the new Cuban “embassy”, she passed on the letter to the State Department official who threatened to expel her, hoping he would pass it on to Secretary of State John Kerry.  The official made her promise not to “make a scene” in exchange.  Rosa Maria told him she didn’t have to make any promises to anyone.

The news conference was totally rigged.  Only four pre-programmed questions were allowed, and those who got to ask these questions had microphones in their hands even before the so-called press conference began.

 

Reports from Cuba: The Cuban government unveils its version of Google

14yMedio via Translating Cuba:

The Cuban Government Unveils Its Version of Google

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14ymedio, Havana, 13 July 2015 — The launching of a new Cuban Internet search engine was barely mentioned on official websites or on tonight’s national newscast.

However, it was reported that on the occasion of the Tenth Congress of the Communist Youth League, a new search engine would be launched. “Unified Contents for an Advanced Search” (“Contenidos Unificados para Búsqueda Avanzada, or “CUBA”), is meant to serve as a Cuban version of an alternative to Google.

Available through redcuba.cu, the CUBA portal provides a search engine for websites using the .cu domain. According to its developers, the idea behind CUBA is to link all websites located on Cuban servers unto one site, thus providing the user a “faster and more efficient” search engine.

This website now joins the Cuban government’s growing trend of creating imitations of the most important online resources and social media. The island already has Eucred, mimicking the free content encyclopedia Wikipedia, “La Tendedera” (“The Clothes Line”) competing with Facebook, and an alternative to the illegal “weekly packet” nicknamed “La Mochila,” or “The Backpack.” Still, none of them are as popular as the originals.

The CUBA project was developed at UCI, the University of Information Science, over three months, two of which were focused on sorting all of the country’s websites. Its developers guarantee that from the moment of its launching, it contains 500,000 indexed web pages, and among these are 6,695 using the .cu domain.

Ariagna González, director of UCI’s Center for Internet Studies and Development, told the official press that CUBA’s design is adaptable to different types of electronic devices, be they computers, tablets, or smartphones. It will allow the user to retrieve information posted on Cuban servers, and could also be an alternative for people who only have access to intranets, such as Infomed and Cubarte. Several computer users who spoke to 14ymedio agreed that “while it’s not the internet, at least it [CUBA] makes searching Cuban websites easier.” Gloria, a 34-year old user of the Cubarte intranet said that for years now she has needed “a search engine that could help me find everything from a theater group to a “Joven Club,”* and now I’m hoping to do so with this new tool.”

Others, like sixteen-year-old Anthony, are a bit more wary when it comes to recently launched CUBA: “Honestly, I prefer Google. This new search engine is like reinventing the wheel, but for the Internet. All the search engines we need have already been invented.” Anthony was connected to WiFi on Havana’s La Rampa Boulevard when 14ymedio asked for his opinion.

CUBA’s technology is based on the Orión search engine developed by UCI in 2013. In order to publicize the existence of this new tool, all “Joven Club” staff is being trained on how to instruct users on all the resources available through it. Apart from its home page, CUBA offers direct access to sites dedicated to sports, entertainment, news, health, art, and the humanities.

The real test for the search engine’s developers will be the upcoming school year when it is projected that 295 high schools and 329 trade schools throughout the whole country will be connected to the web. The plan includes connecting middle schools, special education schools, and daycare centers to the Internet before 2017, and elementary schools one year later.

Nevertheless, CUBA’s principal obstacle will be overcoming the public’s misgivings, since it seems they are more interested in using original sites than their Cuban versions.

* Translator’s Note: “Joven Club de Computación y Electrónica,” or “JCCE,” is a nationwide network of computer centers, where users only have access to the Cuban intranet. There are currently over 600 such centers throughout the island. Nevertheless, much of the equipment is obsolete, and the use of the Internet is closely monitored.

Translated by José Badué

New look coming

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As you’re probably noticing, we’re developing a new look here at Babalu Blog. You can look forward to:

  • A cleaner layout that makes for easier reading
  • A pleasant mobile experience
  • Easier sharing on social media
  • More commie busting commentary and the latest news from Cuba
  • Intransigence as usual
  • New font entitled “homenaje”

Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Look, honey: we’ve been shacked-up happily for years. Let’s just go ahead and finally get the mariage license, go through the ceremony–and make our families happy. No big deal.

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Lest we forget: Only three years ago the U.S. Justice Department (Eric Holder) flew a KGB-trained Castro-regime torturer (Roberto Hernandez Caballero) to the U.S. at U.S.-taxpayer expense to help prosecute Luis Posada Carriles, a man who spent most of his adult life combating America’s enemies.

Does that sound like the behavior of “estranged” governments?…blah..blah…?

Does that sound like the behavior of a government that “diplomatically isolates” and “blockades” the other …blah….blah…?

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On top of the above–and as we’ve often had sport with here at Babalu–for decades the U.S. has maintained the biggest and busiest foreign diplomatic presence in Cuba of any government on earth! Plus:

* The cash-flow from the U.S. to Cuba annually for the past few years is estimated at $4 billion. While a proud Soviet satrapy Cuba received $3-5 billion annually from the Soviets. In brief, almost every year since Obama took office more cash has been flowing from the U.S. to Cuba than used to flow there from the Soviets at the height of their Cuba-sponsorship.

* In 1957 (when Cuba was a “playground for U.S. tourists” we’re constantly told by the media) 263,000 people visited Cuba from the U.S. We all saw this in Godfather II, liberals’ top educational source on pre-Castro Cuba, right?

In 2014 (when Cuba was being diabolically “blockaded” by the U.S., according to the media) an estimated 650,000 people visited Cuba from the U.S. So under Obama twice as many people are visiting Cuba and dropping many more millions into Castro-regime coffers as in the 1950’s.

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So can we please cut the crap and talk?

Why I refuse to acknowledge the US embassy in Havana

Ana Quintana in The Daily Signal:

Why I Refuse to Acknowledge the US Embassy in Havana

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Today a Cuban embassy will open in the United States, and an American embassy will open in Cuba. While the Obama administration fawns over its latest concession to the Castro regime, I will be honoring the legacy of a Cuban democratic martyr.

On July 22, 2012, the Cuban government murdered my friend’s father, Oswaldo Payá, and Harold Cepero. Their car was deliberately run off a road by the Cuban government.

To this day, there has never been an independent investigation into their deaths, and the Cuban government has never been held accountable. The Castro regime’s complicity and downright attacks against human rights activists have become all too common.

Earlier that same year, Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in prison after the Cuban government denied him water during a hunger strike. The following year, a founder of the Ladies in White, Laura Inés Pollán, died following what is widely suspected to be poisoning by the Cuban government. Their murders were particularly audacious, since they were some of Cuba’s best-known dissidents.

These heroic figures presented a direct threat to the regime. In 1988, Oswaldo Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement, the largest and arguably the most powerful dissident organization on the island. Founded by Catholics, the organization was founded on the belief of human dignity and democratic governance.

Perhaps Oswaldo Payá’s greatest contribution to Cuban freedom was the “Varela Project,” an initiative in which 11,000 brave Cubans petitioned the Cuban government for political and social freedoms. It should be noted that at the time, the “Constitution of Cuba guaranteed the right to a national referendum on any proposal that achieved 10,000 or more signatures.” This heroic effort was absolutely unprecedented in Castro’s Cuba.

Payá was known throughout the world as Cuba’s leading pro-democracy figure. In 2002, the European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize, and in 2005, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Václav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic.

Following his death, the U.S. Senate “unanimously approved a resolution honoring the life and legacy of Oswaldo Payá.” That resolution included a call for the “[g]overnment of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardinas.”

Since his death, his daughter Rosa Maria Payá has carried on her father’s legacy. For the past three years, she’s traveled the world, calling on the international community to hold the Cuban government accountable. The United Nations in particular has been an abysmal failure in this case. The governments of China, Pakistan, Belarus and Nicaragua joined the Cuban government in trying to block Rosa Maria Payá’s speech before the Human Rights Council. As her father’s daughter, she’s spent much of her life under surveillance and death threats by the Cuban government.

Earlier this year, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Payá warned the Obama administration:

The Cuban government wouldn’t have dared to carry out its death threats against my father if the U.S. government and the democratic world had been showing solidarity. If you turn your face, impunity rages. While you slept, the regime was conceiving their cleansing of the pro-democracy leaders to come. While you sleep, a second generation of dictators is planning with impunity their next crimes.

Any decent person should be morally outraged that the White House has allowed Oswaldo Payá’s death to go unpunished. Next week, while Obama’s diplomats celebrate alongside their Cuban counterparts, I’ll be lighting a candle in the memory of Oswaldo Payá.

Don’t waste your time on “Cuban Chrome”

Discovery Channel recently premiered a new series “Cuban Chrome”, a reality show about Cuba’s vintage automobiles and the people who dedicate their lives to preserving them. The show’s claim to fame is that it’s the first American show filmed entirely in Cuba.

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After screening half of an episode there are really no surprises. It’s the typical “now you can see the forbidden land of Cuba” narrative that everyone from Conan to CNN have exploited in the past. How forbidden can it really be if all these people have been going down there and filming for more than two decades? What is really forbidden is showing real Cuban people being repressed by their government.

In any case, the show is the typical weak sauce recipe for reality TV. Actually it’s even weaker as the lack of any real storylines results in such thin drama so as to be laughable. The episode I watched is the story of a guy who wants to restore his Detroit dinosaur so that he can drive tourists around and make more money. The problem is he currently uses the car to drive Cubans around (a less profitable venture) and in order to get it up to snuff for the tourists he has to replace the diesel boat engine that’s been in the car for “decades”. Any downtime will cost him money. In capitalism we call this an “opportunity cost.” He gets a probationary membership in what we’re told is Cuba’s premiere auto club, “A lo Cubano” and hopes to use their resources to restore his car in six months.

The B story is about the president of the auto club who wants his son to succeed him but doesn’t have confidence that his prodigy has enough knowledge about cars yet. I wonder if this is some sort of metaphor for the monarchical succession that the Castro regime is no doubt planning. I mean why wouldn’t an auto club just elect its own damned president?

Along with the pretty pictures of quaint Cuba, we see plenty of the old cars which are really the star of the show. You know, those rolling exhibits demonstrating the superiority of capitalism. The irony is probably lost on most viewers.

The plight of the Cuban auto enthusiasts is heightened by the repeated narrative that parts in Cuba are hard to come by because of the US trade embargo on the island (hey, at least they didn’t call it the regime’s preferred term: blockade). This is, of course, a canard. There are vintage American cars in nearly every country in the world, including countries that Cuba is very close to economically like Brazil and Canada. The real problem is the lack of money to get parts. The narrator helpfully explains that “despite socialism” economic disparity does exist because some Cubans have “rich” relatives abroad that send them money.

And what would a show about Cuba be without regurgitating some of the dictator’s propaganda? Did you know Cuba spends 10% of its budget on education while in the US it’s something like 2%? I wonder who at Discovery verified these regime-supplied numbers. I’m sure they have a staff of economists and social scientists verifying things like this, right?

Even if the proportions are true (which I’m sure they are not) a quick google search turns up this:

The most recent OECD study — from 2014 using 2011 data — shows that the United States spends $12,731 per student on secondary education. Four countries — Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland — spend more. Those same countries are also the only ones that spend more than the United States per student on primary schools.

Interesting, I don’t see Cuba up there. I guess the regime’s 10% doesn’t add up to a lot in the real world. But the ironic part of quoting the 10% statistic is that a reasonable person would ask, “If Cuba’s population is so educated why don’t they have good paying jobs that can afford them newer and more reliable cars?”

If you like to look at vintage cars and some beautiful landscapes and aren’t offended by communist propaganda or terrible acting then maybe you’ll find “Cuban Chrome” passable, otherwise don’t waste your time.

Meanwhile, back in Caracastan: over two dozen ex-presidents ask Maduro to be nice

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Maduro and Aznar

“Be nice, please.  Pretty please: play fair and show some respect for freedom and human rights.”

So says a letter sent to Castro puppet Nicolás Maduro by a somewhat impressive but absolutely lame cohort of finger-wagging politicians.

ABC Spain reports that former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and 26 other ex-presidents from Spanish-speaking countries have affixed their signatures on a letter sent to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.  ABC also reports that copies of this letter have been sent to Pope Francis, to the current occupant of the White House, to the general secretary of the Organization of American States, and a few other political leaders.

The letter asks Maduro to ensure that the upcoming December 6 legislative elections are “free, just, and impartial” and conducted in “an atmosphere of confidence and total transparency.”  The letter also states that it is “absolutely necessary” for international observers to monitor the election process, and all those who signed the letter offer to personally take part as observers.

In addition, the letter asks Maduro to free all political prisoners and to cease his harassment of dissidents and the news media.

Thus far, the only response from Maduro’s “Bolivarian” regime has been to pass a law that prohibits several opposition leaders — including Daniel Ceballos, Enzo Scarano y María Corina Machado— from running for office in those upcoming elections.

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 In sum, the 27 ex-presidents are engaging in futile grandstanding.  Their demands, reasonable as they are, carry no stick or carrot.  The prose has a beauty of its own, but every word is hollow.

What is the point of asking Maduro to free his enemies and to respect freedom of expression when his lord and master in Havana is being amply rewarded for doing just the opposite?

And why is it that these ex-presidents show so much concern for democracy in Venezuela when they show absolutely none for freedom in Cuba?  Why didn’t they send the same letter to Raul Castro?

So… what are you waiting for, ex-leaders of the Ibero-American world?  If it’s not too much trouble, please ask Raul Castro to be nice.  Pretty please.  And be sure to send a copy of your letter to Pope Francis and the current occupant of the White House.  And please, please, make your request as politely as possible.

For the ABC report, go HERE (in the hegemonic Castellano dialect).  For an article from La Vanguardia that lists all 27 ex-presidents, go HERE (also in Castellano).

Well done, ex-presidents, well-done.  Keep those letters coming, please, my slaves need toilet paper desperately, and so do Maduro's.
Well done, ex-presidents, well-done. Keep those letters coming, please, my slaves need toilet paper desperately, and so do Maduro’s.

U.S. and Cuba relations: New beginning, old script

The Editorial Board of The Miami Herald:

New beginning, old script

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As Cuba and the United States re-opened their respective embassies on Monday after 54 years, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered perhaps the only line on which all sides can agree: “This milestone does not signify an end to the many differences that still separate our governments.”

Indeed it doesn’t. The landmark flag-raising celebrating the re-establishment of full diplomatic ties represents an effort by the United States to try something new after a half-century of estrangement that saw freedom inside the island slowly erased and finally eliminated altogether.

It’s a hopeful moment, but many Cuban-Americans and Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits remain skeptical about the new approach. They have yet to see tangible progress in democratic reform and some sign that Cuba is ready to turn the page.

So far, there’s been little of that. Witness the remarks of Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez on Monday. He complained about the U.S. continuing to retain the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, repeated demands for an end to the 53-year-old trade embargo on Cuba and “compensation to our people for human and economic damages.”

New beginning, same script. No mention of human rights or political liberties, and, of course, no mention of the compensation that Cuba owes for all the properties and businesses that were criminally confiscated after the revolution.

The regime’s actions also conform to the old way of doing things. On the day before the ceremony in Washington, for the 14th consecutive Sunday, the Ladies in White movement reported new acts of repression during their weekly march to demand respect for human rights. They were met with the usual political violence, arbitrary arrests, and other acts of vandalism by Cuban police. The repression is part of a larger, unbroken pattern of anti-democratic violence directed against the voices of dissent on the island, before the rapprochement and afterward.

No one could have reasonably expected the Cuban government to change its character overnight, but until some tangible sign of progress becomes evident, it’s unlikely that the Obama administration’s policy will win new adherents in this country.

“The interests of both countries are better served by engagement than by estrangement,” Sec. Kerry declared said on Monday.

The only way to fulfill those words is to keep pressing for human rights reforms and to ensure that U.S. diplomats in Cuba at the redesignated U.S. Embassy make it a priority to do whatever they can without violating protocol to help ordinary Cubans achieve progress toward freedom.

Violent political arrests in Cuba precede the apartheid Castro regime’s embassy opening in the U.S.

Belen Marty in PanAm Post:

Cuba Opens Embassy in the Shadow of More Political Arrests

DC Ceremony Marks No Change in the Regime’s Human-Rights Abuses

“With or without the embassy, the Cuban government will continue to do whatever they want.” These words from Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White democratic opposition, have been echoed by dissidents across the island and abroad. As she and others have documented, the Cuban flag may now fly over the embassy in Washington, DC, but the regime has continued with heavy-handed arrests against peaceful human-rights activists.

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54 years later, Cuba reopens the embassy in Washington DC. (@LunaValienteRD)

Their warnings preceded this morning, July 20, when the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations, confirmed by the opening of the Cuban embassy at the US capital. The entourage of Cuban guests included Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, pro-Castro activists, artists, and veterans of the revolution, who celebrated and sang the Cuban national anthem.

Songs such as “Alerta, alerta, aquel que camine, el ejército de Cuba por América Latina” (Alert, alert, he who is walking, the army of Cuba is in Latin America”) and “Viva Cuba, Viva Raul” could be heard by anyone near the embassy.

However, Rosa María Payá, the daughter of a political dissident likely murdered by the Castros, said that the Cuban flag “represents the Cuban people, but the people inside that embassy represent no one. Because no one chose them.”

In the days prior, General Raúl Castro said to Cubans via state television that a new stage was about to begin, “long and complex on the road to normalization.” What the Communist Party chief meant remains to be seen, since his agents arrested dozens of activists on Sunday, mere hours before the start of the diplomatic ceremony.

Daniel Ferrrer, coordinator of the Patriotic Cuban Party, confirmed with the PanAm Post that more than 70 activists, included women, were detained on Sunday. Cuban state police have been doing this, Ferrer says, for 14 consecutive Sundays, either before or after traditional mass at the Santa Rita Church in the capital.

“Most of the arrests were in Havana and included political dissidents such as Berta Soler, Antonio Rodiles, Ángel Moya, and Jorge luis ‘Antunez’ Garcia,” Ferrer explained. He added that there were other arrests reported in Guantánamo province.

Before the arrests took place, activists were marching along Fifth Avenue in Havana, and looking forward to joining rock musician Gorki Águila in Gandhi Park. He was among the crowd, along with Ángel Santiesteban, a recently released political prisoner, after two years behind bars.

“I know that if the police arrest me they will revoke my release [and send me back to jail], but I have to be here today, to give my two cents with respect to the rights and freedoms of other people imprisoned,” Santiesteban explained.

Continue reading HERE.

On eve of reopening embassy in U.S., Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship violently arrests more than 60 peaceful dissidents

If you ever wondered what Obama’s Hope and Change Cuba policy looks like, here is yet another bloody example: While the Obama administration celebrated the opening of the Cuban embassy today in Washington D.C. in its latest capitulation to the apartheid Castro dictatorship, just hours earlier, Cuban State Security celebrated another Sunday of violent repression against peaceful activists and the defenseless women of the Ladies in White.

Via Diario de Cuba (my translation):

More than 60 Ladies in White and activists arrested on the eve of embassy openings
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Writer Ángel Santiesteban at the Gandhi Park together with the Ladies in White, Havana, July 19, 2015. (ÁNGEL MOYA)

More than 60 activists and Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in the Cuban capital only hours before the governments of the United States and Cuba reopened their embassies in Havana and Washington D.C. respectively.

According to information received by DIARIO DE CUBA from Ailer Gonzalez and Antonio Rodiles, members of the independent organization Estado de SATS, the arrests came after an “act of repudiation” carried out by a large group of individuals mobilized by the regime.

“The brought it a large mob. They surrounded the activists and the Ladies in White. One woman approached me violently and ripped the picture I was holding out of my hands. It was a photo of political prisoner Ernesto Borges. She started to rip up the photo while screaming ‘that’s not a political prisoner, that’s a mercenary,'” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez also said the participants in the act of repudiation carried signs that said “return our park,” in reference to the Gandhi Park where the Ladies in White meet every Sunday after attending mass at the Santa Rita church.

It appears the regime has begun a campaign to paint the activists as agitators disturbing the peace of the Miramar neighborhood. A few days earlier, a government journalist published a video showing “neighbors” complaining about the presence of dissidents on Sundays. No mention was made, however, of the dramatic deployment of State Security and police that usually takes place to arrest them.

In the last four months the government has arrested Ladies in White and activists every weekend. Nevertheless, Antonio Rodiles believes the operation this Sunday had a “notable” difference to the previous ones.

“I believe that the new strategy now is to provoke a confrontation with the people they are sending to carry out the act of repudiation,” said the director of Estado de SATS. “As a matter of fact,” he added, “they are allowing for physical interaction to take place with us for a few minutes. They push us, they physically attack us to rip the photos of political prisoners from our hands, they insult us. I believe it is clear they are looking for a way to provoke a situation.”

“It is designed to produce a confrontation between the supposed people and the activists,” he emphasized.

Just minutes after the act of repudiation began, “the buses packed with police to arrest us arrived,” said Ailer Gonzalez, who along with Rodiles was among those arrested.

“From the police car I saw how they took away Angel Moya and Berta Soler. I saw the extremely violent arrest of Lady in White, Maria Cristina Labrada; two police officers carried her away by pulling her arms back. Later,” she said, “they applied a choke hold on her.”

Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.

Cuban American lawmakers respond to Cuba’s apartheid regime raising the Cuban flag at its new U.S. embassy

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

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“History will remember July 20, 2015 as Obama’s Capitulation Monday, the day two sworn enemies of the United States were able to out-maneuver President Obama to secure historic concessions. Monday’s events at the UN, Washington and Havana leave no doubt that we have entered the most dangerous phase of the Obama presidency in which the president is flat-out? abandoning America’s vital national security interests to cozy up to the world’s most reprehensible regimes.

“President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is a dangerous and destabilizing failure, and it is telling that he is seeking Russia and China’s seal of approval of his deal before administration officials have even briefed Congress. The stakes are far too high for America’s security to be outsourced to the United Nations.

“President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime are also deeply troubling. Cuba is not just some small island with old cars; it is a country controlled by a despotic regime that provides a safe haven and base of forward operations to Russia and China in our own hemisphere. It harbors terrorists and fugitives from justice who have killed American citizens and brutalizes peaceful pro-democracy activists. I reiterate my promise to block the confirmation of any ambassador to this despicable regime.

“July 20th will be a powerfully symbolic day for the Obama-Clinton foreign policy legacy, which will be remembered as a dark time in American history when the mullahs in Iran and the thugs in Havana celebrated at America’s expense.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL):

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“In the past two weeks, President Obama has rolled out the red carpet at the White House for Vietnam’s communist party leader, negotiated a dangerous deal with the Iranian regime, and moved forward with further legitimizing the tyrannical regime in Havana.The Cuban people’s oppressors will not hesitate to use this ‘embassy’ as a spy hub, as they have done in the past to threaten our homeland. Just yesterday, Cuban State Security arrested pro-democracy members, including Ladies in White leader Berta Soler, which continues to illustrate how the Castro brothers are emboldened by Obama’s overtures. While human rights activists are imprisoned and jailed for speaking out for freedom and justice, the Obama administration is rejoicing and looking the other way today as embassies are opened.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to block funding for the expansion of a U.S. embassy in Cuba and to stop the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to the island. However, no matter the steps we are able to take, it is undeniable that today is a sad day for U.S. national security and human rights around the world.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL):

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“Today, we see the completion of another step in President Obama’s failed policy of appeasing brutal dictators that threaten U.S. interests. In Cuba and elsewhere, the administration has removed human rights and America’s security from the President’s foreign policy agenda. Since the President’s December 17, 2014 announcement, there have been well over 2,500 political arrests in Cuba.  For the past fourteen consecutive Sundays, at least seventy activists have been arrested, including the courageous Ladies in White who protest on their way to mass. Instead of tightening sanctions against the Castro regime in response to continued human rights abuses and arrests, President Obama has ceded important leverage.

“A Cuban embassy in Washington will not represent the Cuban people. The Cuban people have not chosen the Castros as their leaders. A Cuban embassy will represent the Cuban military and intelligence services that perpetuate human rights abuses against them. Purportedly to help the Cuban people achieve ‘independence from Cuban authorities,’ President Obama continues to appease and channel resources to their oppressors.  The Castro regime is not the Cuban people.  If only we had a president that knew the difference.”

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ):

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“While the attention may be focused today on empty ribbon-cutting ceremonies, I remain deeply concerned with ongoing human rights violations in Cuba. There have been over 2,800 political arrests on the island this year alone, and there is no sign the Castro regime is willing to begin respecting the Cuban people’s right to freedom of expression, independent journalism, or access to information.

“Diplomatic relations with the U.S. are a privilege and must be earned, yet the Cuban government refuses to make any substantial changes to uphold democratic principles and human rights since the December 17th announcement.

“With the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, the Obama administration continues to validate the Castro regime’s brutal behavior, doubling down on a one-sided deal that wasn’t able to guarantee full staffing and freedom of movement for all diplomats required for a fully functioning embassy in Havana. There may be a flag raising over the embassy of a dictatorship, but the real goal is a flag raising where the Cuban people are free, have their human rights respected and where we do not accept dictatorial conditions on our embassy and its people.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL):

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“While today in Washington many are toasting to a new era in US-Cuba relations – an era in which the President of the United States confers legitimacy on Cuba’s military dictatorship and glances over the regime’s anti-American conduct and grotesque human rights abuses – in South Florida we remember the any victims of the Castro dictatorship. The men in power of Cuba today are the same men who had nuclear missiles pointed at the United States in the Cold War, ordered the murder of American citizens, have destroyed Venezuela, financed and trained guerrilla forces throughout the hemisphere, and were recently caught shipping arms illegally to North Korea. For all of this and for holding an American hostage for five years, the Obama Administration has insisted on recklessly affording the dictators an endless list of unilateral, undeserved concessions.”

Reports from Cuba: Cuba and the Vatican: the miracle that never arrives

Miriam Celaya in Translating Cuba:

Cuba and the Vatican: the Miracle that Never Arrives

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Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 7 July 2015 — It’s been 17 years since a head of Vatican State visited the Island for the first time. John Paul II arrived in Cuba in 1998, preceded by his well-deserved reputation. He had played an important role in the Polish transition – his native country — where democracy was finally achieved after decades of subordination to Soviet communism.

Such credentials of the Pilgrim Pope aroused expectations among many Cubans still being hit by the deepest economic crisis in its history, and also hopeful about the possibility of an eventual transition derived from some “easing” of the rigid centralism of the economy and politics in the Island. They reasonably assumed that after so many shortages and scraping out a living, all that was left was for things to improve. In addition, it was unusual for a pope to honor us with his presence. National vanity reached unprecedented levels, and optimists of the day hoped that Jozef Wojtyla’s appeal would positively influence the goodwill of the Cuban government towards openness.

For even more reverie, the discourse of John Paul II before a square filled with a mixture of the faithful and the dilettante, and facing Che Guevara’s gigantic image, made an overt reference to the need to break the isolation endured by Cubans as a consequence of our political system: “Open Cuba to the world”, he said in his inspired homily to the delirious crowd listening, captivated and hopeful, as if, just by the Pope’s suggestion, the miracle of freedom and democracy for Cuba were to happen by osmosis.

The crowd, however, had their own reasons to believe in miracles. All in all, the government, which barely a decade before the Pope’s arrival had proclaimed itself as communist and atheist and had harassed the faithful of any religious denomination for 30 years, marginalizing and excluding them in what was a crusade in reverse — against the faithful to God — had carried out the spell from circulating the most intense hatred of everything that represented religion to legitimizing all faiths, and even blessing the entry of the religious into the ranks of the Communist Party. And it had accomplished this without gradations, without raising suspicion and, most importantly, without anyone asking for an explanation, since one of the most ineffable native virtues consists of confusing justice with amnesia.

Without a doubt, placing Marx and God on the same altar was the Revolution’s spiritual contribution that is yet to be properly recognized. Thus, a new specimen in the socialist fauna was born: the mystical Communist. Suddenly, being a believer became almost a stylish ornament. Christian crucifixes and Santería necklaces of African heritage proliferated happily among us, often mixed together as naturally as if they had never been banned, as if dozens of young Christians had not been shot at the La Cabaña Fortress, the concentration camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) had never existed, or as if the religious spirituality that had always been an essential part of the national culture had not been deeply hurt.

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