Engagement with Cuba and those “reforms”

Engagement with Cuba, via trade and tourism will create a middle class, which in turn will create the necessary conditions for democracy.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, that mindset is endlessly espoused within articles and comments about Cuba in the media. It seems entrenched doctrine when it comes to U.S. Cuba relations, and not just among those actively promoting the regimes interests, but also among many well-intentioned but misinformed folks hoping for normalization with Cuba.

Years ago, Val posted a list of things Cubans cannot do in order to illustrate the reality of life for Cuban’s living under the boot heel of state control. With the onslaught of stories heralding all the so-called reforms in recent years, I think it is useful to revisit that list to see what if anything, has really changed in Cuba.

What Cubans Cannot Do
• Travel abroad without government permission – Well, the bigger the scam, the bolder the lie.

• Change jobs without government permission – No change

• Change residence without government permission No changeThe law known as Decree 217 limits the internal freedom of movement of Cubans.

• Access the Internet without government permission (the Internet is closely monitored and controlled by the government. (Only 1.67% of the population has access to the Internet). – Internet access remains under 5%. See Freedom House Report.

• Send their children to a private or religious school (all schools are government run, there are no religious schools in Cuba).- No change

• Watch independent or private radio or TV stations (all TV and radio stations are owned and run by the government). Cubans illegally watch/listen to foreign broadcasts. – No change

• Read books, magazines or newspapers, unless approved/published by the government (all books, magazines and newspapers are published by the government). – No change

• Receive publications from abroad or from visitors (punishable by jail terms under Law 88) – No change

• Visit or stay in tourist hotels, restaurants, and resorts – Poverty is also a method of control, and these still are off-limits to average Cubans striving to survive on state controlled wages.

• Seek employment with foreign companies on the island, unless approved by the government – No change

• Run for public office unless approved by Cuba’s Communist Party – No change

• Own businesses, unless they are very small and approved by the government and pay onerous taxes – No change and he told you so.

• Join an independent labor union (there is only one, government controlled labor union and no individual or collective bargaining is allowed; neither are strikes or protests) – No change

• Retain a lawyer, unless approved by the government – No change

• Choose a physician or hospital. Both are assigned by the government. – No change

• Refuse to participate in mass rallies and demonstrations organized by the Cuban Communist Party. – No change

• Criticize the Castro regime or the Cuban Communist Party, the only party allowed in Cuba. – No change

Draconian laws imposed by the Castro dictatorship prohibits the Cuban people from engaging in foreign commerce, and the Cuban military’s complete control over all tourism to the island is a blockade that prevents the kind of normal tourism and commerce that could result in benefits for the Cuban people.

Breaking: Another American arrested in Cuba

The only people to people contacts tolerated in Cuba are those officially sanctioned by and controlled by the Castro dictatorship.

972220_10200473116283161_1916861096_nWe just learned via @AntunezCuba on Twitter, other opposition sources, and mutual friend Betsy Gonzalez, that Cecilia Rojas, an American citizen was arrested today in the town of Placetas. According to various sources she was in Placetas visiting Jorge Luis Pérez Antúnez and the opponent Luis Enrique Santos,(cell 52731656) currently on a hunger strike over the loss of his home. She was taken to a police station and her Florida driver’s license was confiscated.

Joan Antoni Guerrero Vall reports on his blog Punto Cuba, that that Rojas had traveled to Cuba due to the recent death of her mother. More of that story in Spanish at Punta Cuba.

Cultural Exchange Sin Culture: Cuban Women Filmmakers in LA

A Cuban friend and I attended the USC portion of the Cuban Women Filmmakers U.S. Showcase tour last night. It was a mammoth display of shameless hypocrisy, the very pinnacle of castrolandia’s atheist, godless twisted revolutionary culture, wrapped up in an ugly radical feminist package for dissemination in the U.S.

On display were three Cuban women filmmakers, all playing their orchestrated roles to perfection. Marina Ochoa, as the older, kindly motherly figure, sharing her struggles back in the day—hint, hint pre-Castro Cuba, where there were no film schools, opportunities for women, and now of course it’s all free! There was Milena Almira, a recent grad of the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Literary Training Center, as the ingénue, no doubt for the comfort of young women in the audience, and in the lead, Claudia Rojas as the avant-garde decadent, the Andy Warhol want-to-be. (More on her later in the post.)

Before they turned off the lights and rolled the film, they informed us that there would be some violence, that some might find disturbing, or some such words. I’m not prudish, but nothing in my life experience prepared me for this deeply disturbing display. It was the most hateful, violent conclave of anti-male radical feminist, anti-American, anti-Judeo-Christian tradition she-fest imaginable. We witnessed scenes of horrific human depravity, and sadly, I think an ad. An ad for atheist ideology, for the most depraved sex tourism conjured up by dark forces, and in referencing the Afro-Cuba Yoruba tradition, for the most sinister proclivities of racism. This should have come not with a general warning of violence, but a triple-X alarm. One of the shorts, contained horrific images in the style of slasher pornography. I found all but one short in the hour-long compilation boring, amateurish, and pointless, and that one not for artistry, but shock value, La Bestia.

An excerpt from the synopsis of La Bestia provides a clue, but it doesn’t prepare you for the nightmare portrayed:

“From that moment on, an uncontrollable thirst of revenge takes hold of her body and soul. A combination of magic realism, eroticism, and extreme terror that explores dark spaces of human nature.”

Dark spaces indeed, so dark no normal person would ever imagine it, much less choose to view such horror. The cast of La Bestia includes a child actress, a girl of about 7 or so, as just a child of the family, crying out for her mother, she is with ears and eyes, not a participant in the worst, however she too takes her revenge in the final scenes. (One more example of the terrible abuse of children allowed by the Castro regime.) I can’t imagine how they were allowed to show this on a college campus, after all, it’s not every day that one is able to view “slasher porn” screened at the USC School of Cinema. As a parent, I would not be pleased to know that this is what the almost $60,000 a year in tuition and other costs pays for.

The filmmakers took turns giving their spiel, each of course reminding the audience of how poor Cuba is—no money you know—but how as artists they struggle and strive out of love for all the high noble causes; justice, equality for women, an end to paternalism, etc. Anti-paternalism in the cult land of Fidel, or is it now Raul, or still Che? Whatever. The horror of these shorts should drive any sane person, women especially, running, screaming back into the arms of protective paternalism, but no of course it’s twisted… this is all the fault of that tradition. Never mind the facts, the statistics on family and health, crime, etc., that say otherwise. Sadly, my impression was that for the most part, I think the audience bought what they were selling.

I’ll single out Claudia Rojas since it’s obvious she wants to be a star. She described in detail an afternoon with her friend Queen Nzinga Maxwell, Womb Warrior, (whatever the hell that is) an artist who paints with her menstrual blood, (yes, that sick) and some connection with Assata Shakur (revolution?). I haven’t figured that out yet. I couldn’t keep up with her hedonistic narrative, but got that it’s about freeing yourself; take your clothes off, morph into, please forgive me for repeating this… La Caridad Del Cobre, then into whoever the Orisha goddess of Yoruba is. All of this delivered with a teasing smile and breathlessness to encourage the audience, and to remind us of how uninhibited and hip she is, leading us to the finale, no graphic detail necessary, as the audience gets it, the one word that will conquer all and bring world peace and justice…wait for it… LOVE, sweet love… you know, that’s what it’s all about.

They allowed three questions, I was chosen for one of them. I began citing human rights violations in Cuba, and the panel and audience immediately tried to shout me down, but I persisted and finished my statement and question, asking if there were plans to document the human rights violations and political prisoners in Cuba.

The collective reply was a non-answer, not worth repeating.

It was a sickening, orchestrated display. Pure evil. Their purpose, unspoken, was clear. Come to Cuba, come to Cuba where anything, anything you desire can happen; just bring money—no God of morality imposing rules of restraint here. This is what the Castro regime has done to the once great civil society of Cuba; they are now slaves, servicing, quite literally, the lowest human depravities.

I gained one invaluable affirmation from this event: my belief that communism is an evil, godless ideology, and that we must fight against it with everything we have.

More on the tour here.

LA mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti sponsors Cuba propaganda event

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, a candidate for Mayor is endorsed by the LA Times, La Opinión, a long list of activist and labor organizations, politicians, entertainment industry professionals, and the California Director of Obama’s re-election campaign.

It’s one thing when Sean Penn, a private citizen supports brutal dictators, but quite another when an elected official of a free and democratic society does so. As an elected official, voters assume Mr. Garcetti adheres to the City’s Code of Ethics and supports the U.S and California Constitutions. We also assume that he supports human rights and the rule of law, both absent in Cuba. So why is he sponsoring a propaganda event for a brutal totalitarian dictator? Is this who we want heading Los Angeles City Government?

WIF ANNOUNCES CUBAN FILMMAKER SHOWCASE 2013
Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00

For Immediate Release

FOUR CUBAN WOMEN FILMMAKERS SHOWCASE THEIR FILMS IN THE U.S. WITH THE SUPPORT OF WOMEN IN FILM INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE, CUBAN WOMEN FILMMAKERS MEDIATHEQUE and ICAIC (INSTITUTO CUBANO DEL ARTE E INDUSTRIA CINEMATOGRAFICOS)
The Tri-City Screenings are an unprecedented cultural and professional exchange between Cuban and U.S. Film Communities

(Los Angeles: March 6–12 – New York: March 13–17 – Miami: March 18–25)

Los Angeles, CA, February 19, 2013…. The Women In Film International Committee, the Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC) and the American Cinematheque, in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, New York Women In Film & Television, MNN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center,Women Make Movies, Miami Beach Cinematheque, and Coral Gables Art Cinema, will showcase a selection of short, documentary and feature films directed by Cuban women. The Showcase includes presentations at USC School of Cinematic Arts, Brooks Institute and Miami International University of Art & Design.

The Cuban women participating in the U.S. Showcase represent the island’s preeminent female directors, writers and actors. They are award-winning filmmaker and head of the Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, Marina Ochoa; award-winning Afro-Cuban documentary filmmaker, Gloria Rolando; award-winning feature filmmaker Milena Almira and one of Cuba’s most internationally acclaimed film and theater actresses, Claudia Rojas.

Honorary hosts include: Annette Bening, Laura Bickford, Jackson Browne, Lisa Cholodenko, Isabel Cueva, Benicio Del Toro, Hector Elizondo, Naomi Foner, Brad Horwitz, Penny Marshall, Mike and Irena Medavoy, Rick Nicita and Paula Wagner, Sean Penn, Shervin and Anahita Pishevar, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon and Andy Spahn.

Sponsors include Shangri-La Entertainment, Sean Penn, the Shervin & Ana Pishevar Foundation, Brad Horwitz, Cuba Travel Services, SDI Media Group, Aris Anagnos, Hector Elizondo, Harvey Vechery, Councilmember Eric Garcetti, www.cubanow.net, and other generous individuals. KPFK Radio is a media sponsor for Los Angeles.
[…]

Remember Cuba’s American Hostage: Alan Gross

From our good friend,  Mauricio Claver-Carone in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Cuba’s American Hostage

The White House calls for the release of Alan Gross but puts scant pressure on Havana to let him go.

Since December 2009, American development worker Alan Gross has been imprisoned by the Castro regime for trying to help Cuba’s Jewish community connect to the Internet. For that Mr. Gross—who was in Cuba as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development—was arrested, convicted in a sham trial and sentenced to 15 years.

The White House and State Department have repeatedly called for Alan Gross’s “immediate release.” The Gross family’s legal team urged the family to keep a low profile, thinking it could negotiate his release. (The family ended that representation earlier this year.)

But Fidel and Raúl Castro don’t typically react to discretion and haven’t felt much U.S. pressure on this case. Even after Mr. Gross was seized, the administration sought rapprochement with Havana and continued talks in 2010 and 2011. It also has continued to ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

Mr. Gross’s sister, Bonnie Rubinstein, recently led a protest in front of the Cuban Interests Section—a de facto embassy—in Washington, D.C., seeking her brother’s release. She feels “he’s being ignored” and says, “Alan does not want to be forgotten. He doesn’t want to be left there. He wants people to know about him.”

It’s easy to understand her concern. In April 2009, the Obama administration eliminated all restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba, which became the centerpiece of our nation’s new “Cuba policy.” Those actions predated Mr. Gross’s arrest. However, after Mr. Gross was seized in December of that year and throughout 2010, while he was being held without trial, the administration took various steps that, collectively, seem incomprehensible.

The administration initially used diplomatic mechanisms to try to negotiate Mr. Gross’s release. These included a high-profile visit to Havana in January 2011 by then-Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson.

Ostensibly this was for the Cuba Migration Talks, which are part of a process to ensure safe and legal migration from Cuba. But Ms. Jacobson was the highest-level official ever to represent the U.S. at the talks, and it was hoped she could intercede on behalf of Mr. Gross. Nothing happened.

Common sense suggests that at this point the Obama administration should have toughened its stance by making clear that there would be repercussions if Mr. Gross was not released. Instead, the administration began another round of easing sanctions the next week.

This time the concessions to Havana had nothing to do with advancing the humanitarian goal of allowing Cuban-Americans to visit and assist their families. Instead Washington agreed to establish a frivolous travel category under the banner of encouraging “people-to-people” visits.

Under the “people-to-people” program, the Cuban government approves package tours of Havana conducted by U.S. “nonprofit” companies. American tourists are accompanied by regime “guides.” Tourists visit government ministries, confiscated cigar factories, censored art festivals, official cultural events and other places burnished by the Castros’ propaganda machine. Evening mojitos and salsa dancing are included.

Such trips have become a great new source of “trouble-free” travelers and income for the Cuban regime. They’re also lucrative for U.S. entities, including many state and local chambers of commerce, which license the dealings and now offer “Cuba tours” to members at a premium price.

The Obama administration followed up that all’s-well message to the Communist dictator still holding an American hostage by granting a visa to Cuban dictator Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela, to make a promotional tour across the U.S.

It’s no wonder the Gross family has become more vocal and is now holding weekly protests at the Cuban Interests Section. Two U.S. senators, Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Jerry Moran (R., Kan.)—who have historically encouraged U.S. business ties with the Castro regime—stated in June that they have suspended their efforts to promote U.S.-Cuba trade. Sen Moran said he hoped this would “put pressure” on Havana to release Mr. Gross.

In July, the Obama administration did indefinitely postpone its yearly Cuba-U.S. Migration talks. But the Commerce Department is allowing shipments directly to Cuba out of the Port of Miami of food, medicine and other humanitarian items—and also of 32-inch flat-screen TVs.

Will the Obama administration—or a Romney administration—ever make it clear to the Castro brothers that their regime cannot take Americans hostage with impunity? The prospect of the U.S. rolling back non-humanitarian travel and transactions to the island would get Havana’s attention. One thing is abundantly clear: Alan Gross needs stronger, tougher support than rhetorical demands that he be “immediately released.”

Mr. Claver-Carone, an attorney, is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and host of “From Washington al Mundo” on Sirius-XM’s Cristina Radio.

Canada welcomes Cuban reforms

Of course they do, because:

“Cuba is Canada’s largest market in the Caribbean and Central American region, with two-way trade topping $1 billion in 2010. A Canadian oil and gas company, Sherritt International, is the largest foreign investor in Cuba.”

From this article wherein the Canadian minister for Latin America trips all over herself  trying to display concern about Human Rights where there is none:

“We see a very significant process of economic reform and liberalization in Cuba,” Ablonczy told The Canadian Press in a pre-trip interview.

 Ablonczy does not necessarily believe this will lead to greater democratic freedoms any time soon in a country where the government exerts Soviet-era control over its 11 million citizens.

 “Political change is not what Cuban leadership has in mind,” she said.

 “There’s a lot of debate around these things and there’s a lot of caution too. But Canada, as an investor in Cuba, with lots of people-to-people contact, wants to play as positive and constructive role as possible.”

 Ablonczy said Canada stands ready to share experiences and best practices “as Cuba moves forward, very gradually, towards some needed changes and modernization.”

She said it’s important to be very respectful of her hosts and “what they want to achieve and their own goals and objectives.” 

And this:

 “In a country like Cuba, a decentralizing dynamic is also a democratizing dynamic.”

  Tell that to the Chinese and Vietnamese.

Cuba tour would be a pyramid scheme if there were fewer suckers

If you love visiting Cuba why not join Club Cubano and start earning rewards-brought to you by Cuba Explorer:

Club Cubano

Club Cubano2

American Club members are credited in U.S. dollars… 

Cubaexplorer.com also doing business as Cuba Treks, specializes in Cuba tours for schools, in collaboration with:

Asociación Cubana de Limitados Físicos y Motores

Asociación de Pedagógos

Casa del Niño y la Niña

Casas de orientación a la Mujer y la Familia

Central de Trabajadors de Cuba

Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual

Consejo Mundial por La Paz

Escuela Lationoamericana de Medicina

Facultad de Lenjuas Extranjeras, Universidad de la Habana

Ferderación Cubana de Béisbol

Federación de Mujeres Cubanas

Federacioón Estudiantil Universitaria

Instituto Cubano de Amistad con Los Pueblos

Instituto Superior de Arte

Museo de la Alfabetización

I saved this one for last, especially in light of the recent passing of Laura Pollán, and her close up experience with her local CDR:

Comité de Defensa de la Revolución-Described as:  CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) are voluntary non’governmental organizations, existing on nearly every block, that finace activities through annual dues paid by their members.  From a North American perspective, they are similar to a combination of a block watch committee, community center and neighborhood enhancement project.

This video recording of a tour by eighteen Canadian high school students includes a visit to a CDR. (Take barf bag) If you sign up for their Quarterly Education Tours Newsletter, you’ll receive Classroom aide material which includes the video and a poster of Che with the quote, “A true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”

¡Cuba que linda es Cuba! | Cuba, what a beautiful island! from Marcel Hatch on Vimeo.

Check out their staff, including American Marcel Hatch, who previously served as a volunteer press correspondent for the Pastors for Peace Caravan.

Their Website is extensive, with many many links. Check it out here. Since 1997, they’ve sent thousands of students and teachers on study abroad tours to Cuba. They want to hear from you!

1 888 965 5647 Toll free
1 877 687 3817 Toll free
1 604 874 9048 Long distance
1 604 874 9041 Facsimile
1 778 859 1048 Mobile for emergencies
Email: hello@cubaexplorer.com

Or writel to:
Zunzun Education Services Ltd
[dba] Cuba Education Tours
2278 East 24th Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia
V5N 2V2 Canada

Exporting Freedom to Cuba

Not much is uglier than people vacationing in a Potemkin village while ignoring  human rights atrocities  right under their noses.   However, I think Congressmen Jeff Flake and Charles Rangel naming a bill allowing  just that the “Export Freedom to Cuba Act,” is an affront to all those in Cuba struggling for freedom.  Ugly Americans indeed.

From The Hill

Inspired by Cuba’s pro-democracy leaders
 
By Mauricio Claver-Carone,a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and founding editor of CapitolHillCubans.com in Washington, D.C 10/12/11 01:01 PM ET

 What could be more pompous (and insulting) than the argument that American and foreign tourists can “inspire” the Cuban people to seek democracy? Not much.

Well, on second thought, maybe Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York calling their bill to sweep away all remaining restrictions on American travel to Cuba, the “Export Freedom to Cuba Act.”

Or, the Obama Administration, which rejects American exceptionalism everywhere else in the world, arguing that American travelers (that have been carefully screened for entry by the Castro regime) are our best “Ambassadors of Freedom” to the Cuban people.

 Their argument is that Cubans, upon seeing spring breakers and tourists enjoying luxury “people-to-people” tours and Cuban-American “mules” peddling flat-screen TV’s, will suddenly realize what they’re missing under the Castros’ totalitarian dictatorship, as if Cubans don’t already know what’s missing, and life under a brutal regime was their voluntary choice.

The argument further holds that American travelers are different from the throngs of Canadian snowbirds and the European sex tourists visiting the island for the last two decades, frequently degrading the Cuban people while bankrolling the repressive regime.

American travelers, in other words, will be “truly inspirational.”

Americans are undoubtedly the kindest, noblest and most charitable people in the world. But it’s extraordinarily arrogant to argue that any foreign tourist is needed to inspire or empower the Cuban people, when some of the most courageous and inspirational people in this world are living in Cuba.

Meet Ivonne Mayeza Galano.

Last month, this amazing woman stood alone on the steps of the Capitol building in Havana. Knowing the brutality of the repression that awaited her, she nonetheless, peacefully held up a sign reading:

“Cambios en Cuba Sin Dictadura” (“Change in Cuba Without Dictatorship”)

She was promptly arrested, stripped naked, searched and violently interrogated.

Two weeks later, four other women, Sara Marta Fonseca, Mercedes García Álvarez, Tania Maldonado Sánchez and Odalys Zurma González, continued her protest. Predictably, they too were arrested, but this time it took Castro’s security forces 40-minutes to drag them away, as a gathering crowd of bystanders began to heckle the oppressors.

Or how about Iris Perez Aguilera?

This Afro-Cuban pro-democracy leader is the founder of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights. She undertakes weekly protests and sit-ins. As a result of these, Castro’s secret police, on numerous occasions, has abused and brutally beaten her — to the point of hospitalization.

Or how about Iris’s husband, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez?”

Antunez, often referred to as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela, spent 17-years as a political prisoner for protesting in the public square of his hometown. Today, still a young 46-years old, he is the leader of Cuba’s civil disobedience movement.

Or how about Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet?

A charismatic physician, he spent nearly 11-years in political prison for his democratic advocacy as head of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. At a recent concert, U2’s Bono honored Dr. Biscet as a true inspiration.

Or Marcelino Abreu, who has spent over 100 days on a hunger strike, protesting his unjust four-year prison-sentence. His crime was refusing to show a police officer identification after walking nearby the Castro regime’s tourist-only Hotel Nacional. Abreu still holds that Cubans should be free to walk on the public streets and enter the public buildings of their homeland. Cuban authorities disagree.

Or the young rappers and rockers that defy the Cuban dictatorship through their lyrics and whose concerts and music festivals are under constant siege by the “Ministry of Culture” backed by the regime’s armed police.

Or the bloggers and social media activists who brave the Castros’ censors to inform the world of the harsh brutality and injustices the Cuban people face.

How can foreign travelers —ignorant of life under tyranny and repression– represent democratic ideals better than these icons who have spent years in political prison, and brave daily violence and beatings, to express their democratic aspirations and promote change in Cuba?

Let those of us who live in the United States stop insulting courageous pro-democracy leaders in Cuba with talk of “inspiring” them. The Cuban people don’t need to be “inspired” by people abroad. They need our unwavering support for their struggle and for tangible pressure against the dictatorship that represses them.

Cultural Exchange: Pedro Pan of California responds to Estela Bravo’s documentary

The Los Angeles Latin American Film Festival, in collaboration with the Si Cuba Festival, presented Estela Bravo’s documentary, Operation Pedro Pan: Flying Back to Cuba. Estela Bravo, a New York native, has lived and worked in Cuba since 1963.  Her work includes the documentary Fidel, a total pro-Castro whitewash seen by useful idiots on Cuba’s “tourist indoctrination tour.” 

This event perfectly illustrates the one-sided nature of “Cultural Exchanges” with Cuba. There is no exchange, no sharing of American ideals of democracy and respect for Human Rights at these events, not here in the States, and certainly not in Cuba.  Celia Cruz was never allowed to return to Cuba, and you don’t see Willy Chirino playing Havana.

We received the following (Edited by me, and approved by the author) from friend and Pedro Pan member Oscar B. Pichardo.  He attended two screenings of the film, and shares his review of the film, and the presenter’s treatment of audience members not on board with the Castro approved version of events portrayed in the documentary. 

The film lasted about 60 minutes. It was plagued by some technical interruptions and loss of sound, to which a wag in the audience shouted,”must be the CIA.”  Make no mistake, this film in nothing like the “unfinished” documentary Bravo released 10 years ago that we have seen.  This is a top of the line production and the picture and sound are excellent.  The editing is well done and crafted out of context to support their arguments.

The film can be summarized as follows.  Part 1:  Pedro Pan was a scam perpetrated by the U. S. State Department, the CIA, and the Catholic Church.  This segment is composed mostly from footage from the “unfinished” documentary going on ad nauseam using footage and interviews from the 70s and 90s cleverly edited to support the “scam theory.” Weaving interviews with the Pedro Pan, the parents etc., a distorted picture is presented.

Much is made in the film about the Visa waivers being granted only to the minor children by the U.S. No mention is made that the reason Cuban parents petitioned for visa waivers for the kids was due to the onerous restrictions and extreme obstacles placed by the Cuban regime once a request for an exit visa was made.  In many cases, the regime would not grant exit permits to the whole family, so parents were forced to make the decision to divide the family in the hope they would eventually reunite.

In the second half, the storyline is based on the premise that all Pedro Pans must return to Cuba as a group to be healed. It opens with footage showing the five PP arriving in Cuba, as if this is their first visit back, but these quaint vignettes of interviews on the tarmac are staged; all five of the featured PP had returned to Cuba multiple times over the last 15 or so years, and some as far back as the late 1970’s.

No mention is made of the repressive policies of the Castro regime that is the direct cause of the mass exodus, which has been taking place from the island since 1959 and continues to this day.

The whole production is very crisp, well presented, slanted, and very believable… without the proper historical background the average viewer will swallow it hook, line and sinker!

The Q&A session:  Davd Ansen introduced Estela Bravo and the four Pedro Pans present. They all spoke, basically regurgitating the interviews from the film.  Bravo of course took off on the propaganda trail regarding the CIA having documents it will not declassify, false rumor of patria potestad, ran operation, Radio Swan broadcasts etc…  Then she got around to the 5 PP and how they bonded on trip to Cuba etc., a lot of the effort due to Elly who had “found’ over 2000 PP, and dedicated to her dream of taking PP back…

Finally, they got to audience questions.  Frank Varela introduced himself self as a Pedro Pan and said,  “Although I had some shared experiences, such as the anxiety of not knowing if I would ever see my parents again, I feel that all the Pedro Pan parents were heroes, preferring to send their children away to live in freedom instead of growing up in a communist dictatorship, and whatever hardships the Pedro Pans and their parents had to endure at the beginning was a small price to pay compared to the misery the millions of Cubans left behind in the island had to suffer.”  At that point, Estela Bravo cut him off and told him it was her film and he should do one and tell his own story.  This seems to be her polished standard answer when face with questions or facts she does not wish to address.

The next question was from an older gentleman who asked for a comparison between the 10 thousand Jewish children spirited out of Europe from the Nazis (Kindertransport) and similarities with Pedro Pan.  This seemed to throw Bravo of her game she appeared flustered and babbled something about the Jewish kids not allowed into the U.S., and brought up Eleanor arguing with Franklin, and how the Pedro Pan kids were allowed into the U.S.  It appears our erstwhile documentarian has her history confused as Kindertransport was strictly a European Endeavour and none of the children was sent to the U.S. during the war.

The last question came from a lady who I believe said she was not a PP but had been on, or left the island during the same time and remembered the pecera and having to walk through a gauntlet of milicianos with rifles and machine guns and asked if anyone would comment on that.  Bravo cut the question off saying that had been addressed in the film which if it was I must have missed that segment.

Finally, David Ansen gave the floor back to Bravo and she closed the session with a propaganda diatribe on eliminating the embargo, and changing travel policy so everyone could go to Cuba…

Observation: The Castro propaganda machine is doing an excellent job of promoting these “cultural exchanges” and using them to promote their political agenda.  Bravo is a formidable and valuable asset to the Cuban propaganda venture and not to be taken lightly.

Next:  June 27, a group of Southern California Pedro Pans attended a screening of the documentary at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, where during the Q&A, their attempts to address the omissions of the Castro’s role in the the Pedro Pan story were rudely dismissed.  According to Mr. Pichardo, she was very patronizing, and in a dismissive manner, she cavalierly challenged them to make their own film.

This is their response:

Dear Pedro Pan Brothers and Sisters:                 

Recently there has been considerable local publicity regarding a “Cultural Exchange” in the Los Angeles area featuring exhibitions at area museums by Cuban artists and musical performances. The “Cultural Exchange” is publicized as an apolitical “West Coast Celebration of Cuban Arts & Culture” by the sponsoring organization ¡Sí CubaSocal!  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 Among the commonly cited reasons for having these “cultural exchanges” is to promote a better understanding between the local Southern California and Cuban communities, and that politics has no place in the arts.  A noble and admirable goal not supported by the facts.

 One of the featured “artists” is filmmaker Estela Bravo. Ms. Bravo, who resides in Havana, has a long history of churning out pro-Castro government sponsored propaganda – including her personal tribute to the tyrant, Fidel. Her contribution to this travesty is the film “Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba,” which presents a pro-Castro distorted view of the exodus of over 14, 000 Cuban children sent to the U. S. by their parents to escape the terror of the Castro communist regime.

 On June 27, 2011, a group of Cuban Kids from the 60’s Exodus – Pedro Pan of California friends attended the screening of Bravo’s pseudo documentary Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, California.

During the post screening Q&A session the filmmaker refused to address valid comments and questions regarding the inadequacy of the film dealing with the actions of the Castro government which provoked the exodus of the Cuban children.

 While asserting in a very patronizing and dismissive manner that it was her film and she could do what she wanted she cavalierly challenged us to make our own film.

 This is our film. We are Pedro Pan by the grace of God and our parents. We can do anything!

Cultural Exchange II

In conjunction with the Si Cuba!  (Whose partner organizations include The Int’l Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and SPARC) event at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Arturo Sandoval is in concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club featuring Omara Portuondo. 

This special Cuban-themed evening of scorching rhythms and infectious improvisations includes projections of photos depicting historic and present day Cuba.

AUG 24: This concert will feature photo projections from the Getty’s historic photographic exhibit, A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, showing May 17-Oct 2, 2011 at the Getty Center.

Isn’t that truly special.  The prodigal son, an escaped slave now living in freedom, dances for the former slave master. 

This just breaks my heart, as I just love, love, Arturo’s music.  No more.

Here’s the graphic of choice for Si Cuba, they should get together with Oliphant.

si Cuba 2

Paquito D’Rivera explains the twisted logic behind “Cultural Exchanges”

Thanks to the inimitable Paquito D’Rivera for shedding light on this phenomenon, because I’ve been unable to understand how it is beneficial for Americans to spend their hard-earned, and increasingly hard to acquire dollars on propaganda shows produced by tyrannical dictators who enslave their people and hate us. While it’s easy to understand why the dictator’s agents of influence would promote such events, I have a hard time understanding why respected institutions of culture agree to participate, or why someone who escaped the plantation is now willing to dance for the former master, or why a son of an exile would dishonor his  father.

Yes… Libya!

By Paquito D’Rivera

Years ago, Miami’s Willy Chirino had a hit song—a cute Cuban Guaracha— with a chorus that went: “If she wears a Bikini… punish her!, If she wears a mini-skirt… punish her!” The song was about a tycoon whose wife was kind of loose. Each time she slipped, her husband would “punish” her by buying her a mansion, the latest model sports car, or a vacation with her girlfriends in The Bahamas.

Apparently the US government has taken Chirino’s parody too seriously, or perhaps someone has convinced them to apply such a peculiar disciplinary concept to the most cruel and dangerous of dictatorships in this convoluted world of ours. In a friendly and conciliatory gesture, on February 2008, the Bush administration sent the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to a gala concert in North Korea. Naturally, the despotic Kin Jon-Il didn’t even bother to attend. His answer was to increase even more his threatening atomic arsenal. Two years later, among a myriad of atrocities taking place in Cuba, pacifist Afro-Cuban doctor Oscar Elias Biscet, a devoted follower of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison; Orlando Zapata-Tamayo’s death in a hunger strike; the physical and mental abuse of his mother Reina Luisa Tamayo and to the self-sacrificing Ladies in White; the incarceration of hundreds of dissidents and even the arbitrary detention of American citizen Alan P. Gross.

It seems like to celebrate such horrors, the New York City Ballet, the Wynton Marsalis Orchestra, and also Chico O’Farrill’s orchestra, under his son Arturo’s direction, traveled to Cuba. The Ministry of Culture of the oldest (and most ridiculous) dictatorship in the hemisphere invited them. “Ours is not a political visit. It is strictly musical”, the travelers simply affirmed as if in a totalitarian country like Cuba, everything, absolutely everything, didn’t have markedly political intentions.

The examples of “friendly aggressions” of Americans against ill-governed nations by never ending tyrannies have been quite many. Of the shameful case of China business affairs we better not even talk about. But we must recognize that the massive repressive escalation of the Castro brothers’ dictatorship, finally gained the support of many more nations that united to condemn these five decades plus of abuse and arbitrariness. In the meantime, President Obama’s administration, following the Chirino song’s chorus, “punishes” the repressor by encouraging travel and cultural exchanges (unilateral of course) of American artists and their counterparts (in what is left) of the island in ruins. This basically translates into considerable new revenue of extra cash for the Castro government. Also the sponsorship of a huge Cuban festival in the city of the skyscrapers, facilitating the free use of US territory as an enormous exhibit warehouse, where they will showcase only what they decide people should see.

As we expected, in the expo named “¡Sí Cuba!”, or Yes Cuba!”, the valuable contributions of Celia Cruz, Cachao, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Zoé Valdés, Andy García, Gloria Estefan, Olga Guillot, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Bebo Valdés and so many other giants of our national culture will be absent. They have been systematically deleted from our suffering country’s history books because they oppose communism.

So, following the above mentioned examples, now that the Libyans, with the support of the civilized world, are liberating a crucial battle against Muhammar Gaddafi (or however the hell it’s spelled), I propose that –through the Libyan Embassy in Washington DC– we request that the Bedouin Coronel’s Ministry of Culture, organize the “Yes Libya!” festival. It’ll be pretty much like Fidel’s, but instead of mambos and rhumbas, they can play their own nawbah and takambas; musical styles danced by Libyans (at least by those who are still alive).

I suggest the festivities to begin with a great demonstration on camelbacks and dromedaries, loaned by the nation’s zoos that house those particular species. The camel riders, dressed as they do in the dessert, will be carrying curved swords, daggers, hand-grenades, anti-yankee placards, life size posters of the brother leader of the revolution and AKG rifles, fired occasionally by the cavalry men. (About the possible throwing of hand-grenades and other explosives against opposing demonstrators, we would submit this option to a democratic vote from the Libyan government’s organizing committee).

The cavalcade, preceded by the RPSBB (Retired Palestinian Suicide Bombers Band) and by women covered with veils and burkas, would march from Times Square to Ground Zero’s esplanade, where counting on the voluntary assistance of Casa de las Americas, Pastors for Peace, the Venceremos Brigade and the diplomatic representation of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, would put up the dictator’s (pardon me, the leader’s) legendary Bedouin tent. Once in the neighborhood, there will be a prayer on the site of the mosque that was to be built there and had caused so much controversy among the intolerant families of the twin towers’ victims; little incident that occurred so long ago. At the end of the prayers, there will be free shish kebab, couscous with chickpeas and barbecued goat testicles. Passages of the Koran will be read and there will be a give-away of the famous green book, autographed by the remarkable author, father of the revolution. A Libyan boy, wearing a Che Guevara T-Shirt, machine gun in hand, will unveil a beautiful statue of Benjamin Netanyahu hanging from an olive tree in the heart of the historical plaza, once home of the twin towers, a symbol of capitalism. At the end of the ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg will read a proclamation declaring the official day of Tripoli in New York. As evidence of Islamic tolerance, accompanied by the Retired Palestinian Suicidal Bombers Band, Louis Fahrakan will interpret the Arab version of Willy Chirino’s “Punish Her,” especially orchestrated by Robert Mugabe for this occasion. To close with a golden seal, 100 members of the Palestinian band, activating their explosive vests at the cry of “Yes Libyaaa!” would blow to pieces and in the name of the eternal brotherhood between our people, 40 American flags will be burned along with 49 Israeli flags and a Cohiba cigar. Allah-Akbar!

Paquito D’Rivera.
Bern, Switzerland,
April 27-2011

Cuban church leader publishes letter denouncing persecution

 
For Immediate Release
16 February 2011
A respected Baptist pastor in Cuba has published an open letter denouncing government persecution targeting him and his church. Pastor Homero Carbonell, long-time leader of La Trinidad First Baptist Church in Santa Clara, and a high-level denominational leader, says he has been forced to retire due to prolonged government pressure and threats made against his church.
The twelve page letter, sent by Pastor Carbonell to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), gives details of the Religious Affairs Office’s treatment of Pastor Carbonell and his church over the past three years. Spurious accusations against Pastor Carbonell, including allegations that he is associated with the counterrevolution and is tied to unspecified “illegalities” culminated in a serious of penalties being applied to his church. While Pastor Carbonell finally stepped down from his role as leader of the church in October 2010, the sanctions have not been lifted.
Numerous requests for clarification on the part of church leaders went unanswered and a series of meetings with officials from the Religious Affairs Office, headed by Caridad Diego, failed to rectify the situation. In one meeting, government officials concluded the meeting by telling Pastor Carbonell to behave himself.
In the open letter, Pastor Carbonell echoes calls by other religious leaders in Cuba for legislation regulating religious practice, as such a law “would not only regulate believers, but would also regulate the government, and would give believers a legal instrument to deal with any legal dispute to support their claims and not leave them subject to political decisions emanating from groups in power, who can take coercive, wrong, or privileged decisions in matters of conscience.”
The government’s focus on Pastor Carbonell and his church appears to be driven by the church’s consistent refusal to expel family members of political prisoners and members of the human rights or pro-democracy groups from the congregation. The Cuban government has long heavily pressured church leaders of all denominations to shun anyone linked to human rights or pro-democracy activism.
Pastor Carbonell’s experience is in line with the conclusions by a 2010 CSW report which found that while overt forms of persecution such as the destruction of unauthorized churches had diminished somewhat, government pressure on individual church leaders had reached unprecedented levels. One church leader told CSW that government persecution had not been as subtle or as effective since the 1980s.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “We are deeply concerned and stand in solidarity with Pastor Carbonell and the entire La Trinidad Baptist Church. While the Cuban government has implemented some economic reforms over the past year, there appears to be little official will to consider reforms that would protect basic human rights like religious freedom. It is troubling that the situation for many church leaders across the island appears to be growing steadily worse. We call on the Cuban government to cease its harassment of Pastor Carbonell and his family, to remove the sanctions against La Trinidad First Baptist Church, and back his call for new legislation that would establish clear legal parameters and recourse for appeal regarding all religious activity.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
 
Note to the ¨Cuba experts¨promoting people to people contact (my emphasis):
 
The Office for Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party has sole responsibility for regulating all religious activity on the island. The long-time head office, Caridad Diego, has been repeatedly criticized by leaders of all denominations. As the office is an arm of the Communist Party, there is no legal mechanism for church’s to appeal decisions they feel are unfair are in error.
La Trinidad First Baptist Church of Santa Clara is part of the Western Convention of Cuban Baptists and is not a member of the Cuban Council of Churches. Together, the Eastern and Western Conventions of Baptists form one of the largest Protestant denominations on the island.
Penalties applied to the church include a prohibition on any foreigner traveling with a religious visa from visiting the Trinidad First Baptist Church, non-authorization of the purchase of a church van, and refusal to issue permission to Pastor Carbonell to leave the country to attend religious conferences abroad. In addition, officials have threatened to cancel the church’s bank account which they have held since 1988.
Pastor Carbonell’s letter is available in English and in Spanish.
CSW’s 2010 report on religious liberty in Cuba is available in English and in Spanish on our website at http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=report&id=128

 

 As Alan Gross has painfully discovered, only regime friendly visitors are welcome in Cuba.
 

Horns to Havana

Has a nice ring doesn’t it?   Considering Havana’s legendary influence on the success of American Jazz, it seems more than appropriate that since Cuba has become a third world country in dire need of well… everything, giving back sounds like a good thing.  Is it? 

What criterion determines the selection process for which students are accepted into the music schools that will supposedly benefit from this program?  This is important, note that only those from families with a clean record of support for the “revolution” need apply.  There is nothing in Cuba for the people, only for state that oppresses them.   For decades, these goods for the needy in Cuba junkets are the bread and butter of the regime’s propaganda machine, providing feel good stories that tap into anti-American sentiment.  It’s completely beyond logic—the proud revolutionary Cuba as David to the bullying U. S. Goliath whose embargo and imperialism are responsible for misery on the island.  Always missing from the narrative is the reality of living under the boot heel of the Castro brother’s Stalinist police state, or how they use children as actors in their theatre of propaganda.   

Children should be off limits to dictators, but sadly, under the Castro regime, everyone is just a commodity of the state.

Excerpt from All About Jazz:

Horns to Havana: Bringing Jazz instruments—and the spirit of jazz—to students in Cuba

NEW YORK, NY—Horns to Havana a non-profit organization in New York City announced a very special partnership with Music for Lifelong Achievement (MFLA) based at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, Missouri. Throughout February and March 2011, MFLA will team up with Horns to Havana to collect used musical instruments to be delivered to students in Cuba in the Fall of 2011. Instrument donations will be accepted at any Sheldon Concert Hall performance during the months of February and March, as well as at The Sheldon’s administrative offices during normal business hours, Monday—Friday, 9 a.m.? p.m.

Music for Lifelong Achievement is the first organization in the country to partner with Horns to Havana on this project. “The Sheldon and our Music for Lifelong Achievement program here in St. Louis are proud to partner with Horns to Havana to provide instruments for disadvantaged young musicians in Havana, Cuba,” says Sheldon Executive Director Paul Reuter. “Music is important to the lives of young people everywhere and we’re especially happy to foster connections between our cultures and the people in both countries.”

Members of Horns to Havana, on a recent trip to Cuba, observed gifted students without instruments, violins and guitars with broken strings, saxophones without pads and trumpets without valves. In Havana, in even the best schools, there are not nearly enough working instruments for the young people who want to learn to play.

The article is here.

A repeated lie is not change

“My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Libertad. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.” – Obama speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami (5/23/08)

In spite of the combined treachery of the regime, the Catholic Church, the Spanish Government, “Cuba experts”, and the MSM to convince us otherwise, there has been no movement toward greater freedom in Cuba.  There is still no justice for Cuba’s political prisoners. There is still no right of free speech in Cuba, there is still no free press and no freedom of assembly, and the unelected illegitimate brutal repressive Castro dictatorship still has its boot heel firmly planted on the backs of the Cuban people.
Obama’s further easing of restrictions  is an insult to Cuba’s political prisoners and the citizens of Cuba forced to live as oppressed slaves with no Human Rights.  How dare Obama cloak his bailout to the regime, which is exactly what it is, with stale propaganda, long ago debunked, here, here, and here for starters.   

“These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities,” the White House said in a statement.

Blah, blah, blah.  2012 can’t come fast enough.

Planning a trip to Cuba?

Go, but be prepared to leave your rights at the border. 

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

U.S. Public Official Detained in Cuba

at 6:30 PM Friday, October 29, 2010

From WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee:

 The chair of the Knox County Commission is glad to be back on American soil after being detained by Cuban Immigration officials.

 The Cuban Government stopped Mike Hammond, along with three others on a [religious] mission trip from leaving the airport or the country. The four Americans declared themselves political prisoners and demanded to speak to the Swiss Embassy.

 Hammond believes talking to those Swiss officials got the ball rolling and the group was finally allowed to fly into Mexico before returning to the U.S.

 “I understand now what it’s like to lose your rights, and to have no rights. when they tell you you can’t make a phone call and they’ve seized your passport. You’ll eat when they tell you you can eat and you are confined to an area. That’s not a good feeling. I understand now, lack of freedom, and what happens when you don’t have freedoms,” said Hammond.

I have no sympathy for anyone who travels to a country where there is no rule of law,  no respect for human rights, and where every dollar they spend benefits a totalitarian dictatorship.