Reports from Cuba: Among thieves, who robs whom?

Yixander Doimeadios in Translating Cuba:

Among Thieves: Who Robs Whom?

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Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios, Havana, 25 July 2105 – Theft is institutionalized in Cuba. It is a pseudo-culture, endured and practiced from one end of the Island to the other, and the excuses for it are: “I have to live, life is hard….” as if the parasitic “living” were something that must be accepted.

The fees tacked on to products sold in the hard currency stores* are insulting. Discounts on them, even hours before their sell-by dates, are notable in their absence.

And what to say about the private-sale merchandise added to the inventory by the shopkeepers? Nothing is direct from the producer or manufacturer, and everything has a shady provenance because it comes in “under the table.”

In Cuba, the merchant is asked if he has any under the table cooking oil in stock, or the butcher if there is any chicken available that was obtained through the same supply route – that same route where the dollars go that fall into the hands of the bus driver, or through which the lard is filtered that doesn’t make it into the rationed bread.

The issue here is a mutation in the evolution of the Cuban species, where only the most capable and strongest survive. You either get used to it, or you die, and if you can’t beat them, you must join them.

Everyone seeks a way to recover what the other has stolen from him.

The inspectors extort the self-employed, the housing bureaucrats receive a “gift” for the paperwork they should put through at no cost whatsoever, and anyone who is not generous or open-handed will suffer the consequences of having what should be a simple process take six months or more to complete.

While the winds of change blow above, down in the underworld of the ordinary Cuban, all we can smell is the same flatulence as always, and the only change in the air is for the worse.

Therefore, there is only one way out: if you can’t beat them, join them.

*Translator’s Note: The official name of these stores is “Hard Currency Collection Stores” – meaning that their purpose is to collect, via the sale of highly overpriced goods, the cash from the remittances sent to Cubans from their family and friends abroad. 

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Obama White House crafting secret plan to have president visit apartheid Cuba

When you consider that America’s first black president has become the first American president to fully recognize and strongly embrace Cuba’s viciously repressive apartheid dictatorship, it is only appropriate that he becomes the first American president to visit that nation as a VIP guest of the apartheid regime.

Via the Washington Examiner:

Secretive White House meeting reveals Obama’s plan to visit Cuba in 2016

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The White House declined to talk about the meeting, and referred questions about the meeting to the State Department. (AP)

A secretive White House meeting on Cuba last week revealed that President Obama plans to visit the island nation early next year, and also discussed the controversial idea of the Cuban government opening consular offices in Miami.

After hailing embassy openings in Washington and Havana last week, the White House held an off-schedule, private meeting on Thursday with U.S. officials involved in the administration’s Cuba policy. Nearly 80 activist members of the Cuban-American community from Florida and across the United States — mostly Democrats — were also there.

Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest advisers, was on hand, along with White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of State for the western hemisphere.

The White House declined to talk about the meeting, and referred questions about the meeting to the State Department. A State Department spokesman then referred the same questions to the Cuban embassy, which was already closed for the day.

According to sources familiar with the meeting, Rhodes told the group that President Obama is considering visiting the island nation early next year, depending on progress in U.S.-Cuba relations.

While that historic visit would likely help Obama cement his legacy as the president who started to open up bilateral relations, it could be marred by or even delayed by Cuba’s arrest of dissidents. Those arrests have continued despite Obama’s gestures to Cuba, and could put Obama at risk of appearing to be too friendly with a country that often arrests members of political or religious groups dozens at a time.

Eduardo Jose Padron, the current president of Miami-Dade College who came to the U.S. as a refugee at the age of 15, used the White House meeting to ask about the state of human rights in Cuba, and State Department officials acknowledged that it is a dangerous time for dissidents on the island, one participant told the Examiner.

Andy Gomez, a retired assistant provost and dean of the University of Miami’s School of International Studies, said that so far, the Castro regime doesn’t appear to be changing its ways. Gomez previously served on the Brookings Institution’s Cuba Task Force from 2008 to 2010, and told the Washington Examiner Cuba needs to demonstrate a stronger commitment to human rights before Obama travels there or the U.S. agrees to allow it to open a consulate in Florida.

“Up until now, the Cuban government hasn’t even brought Cuban coffee to the table … I don’t see any signs of the Cuban government loosening up their control,” he said.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba, Iran, and Russia: ‘Springtime for America’s enemies’

Springtime for America’s Enemies

Dangerous and short-sighted U.S. diplomacy has empowered no one except state sponsors of terrorism and fascistic regimes.

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There has never been a better time in history to be an enemy of the United States of America. While America’s traditional allies in Europe and the Middle East express confusion and frustration, Obama’s White House delivers compliments and concessions to some of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. In the span of a single week, the U.S. has restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, pressured Ukraine to accept Vladimir Putin’s butchering of its eastern region, and brokered a deal to liberate Iran from sanctions.

These actions would represent a tremendous series of diplomatic triumphs if they improved human rights in these repressed nations, saved lives in conflict regions, or improved global security. That is, in fact, what the White House says these deals will do, despite copious evidence to the contrary. These negotiations represent willful ignorance of the fundamental nature of the regimes in question, especially those of Iran and Russia. Cuba is a political hotspot in the U.S. and remains a potent symbol of totalitarianism, but despite its regional meddling, especially in Venezuela, it isn’t on the scale of the global threats represented by Iran’s terrorism and nuclear ambitions and Putin’s nuclear-backed expansionism. Regardless of the wishes of the Iranian and Russian people, their leaders have no interest in peace, although they are very interested in never-ending peace negotiations that provide them with cover as they continue to spread violence and hatred.

The vocabulary of negotiation is a pleasant and comforting one, especially to a war-weary America. It’s difficult to argue against civilized concepts like diplomacy and engagement, and the Obama administration and the pundits who support it have made good use of this rhetorical advantage. In contrast, deterrence and isolation are harsh, negative themes that evoke the dark time of the Cold War and its constant shadow of nuclear confrontation. No one would like less a return to those days than me or anyone else born and raised behind the Iron Curtain. The question is how best to avoid such a return.

The favorite straw man of the “peacemongers” is that the only alternative to appeasement is war, which makes no sense when there is already an escalating war in progress. The alternative to diplomacy isn’t war when it prolongs or worsens existing conflicts and gives the real warmongers a free hand. Deterrence is the alternative to appeasement. Isolation is the alternative to years of engagement that has only fueled more aggression.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a Communist country that I cannot so casually ignore the suffering of the people being left behind as these treaties are signed. Ronald Reagan was called a warmonger by the same crowd that is praising Obama to the skies today and yet Reagan is the one who freed hundreds of millions of people from the Communist yoke, not the “peacemakers” Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

Diplomacy takes two while capitulation is unilateral. Diplomacy can fail and there is real damage, and real casualties, when it does. Putin’s dictatorship was immeasurably strengthened by the catastrophe known as “the reset,” an Obama/Hillary Clinton policy that gave Putin a fresh start as an equal on the world stage just months after he invaded Georgia. Years that could have been spent deterring Putin’s crackdowns and centralization of power while he still needed foreign engagement were instead spent cultivating a partnership that never really existed. Time that could have been used to establish alternate sources of gas and oil were squandered, leaving Europe vulnerable to energy blackmail.

By 2014, Putin had consolidated power at home completely and, with no significant domestic enemies left and sure he would face little international opposition, he was confident enough to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea. The thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Ukraine are Putin’s victims, of course, but they must also weigh on the conscience of the bureaucrats, diplomats, and leaders whose cowardice—well-intentioned or not—emboldened Putin to that point.

As recent days and past decades past have shown us, it is easy to paint the critics of nearly any diplomatic process as warmongers. Again, the language of peace and diplomacy is soothing and positive. If we just talk a little longer, if we just delay a little more, if we just concede a little more… To make the peacemonger position even more unassailable, every outbreak of violence large or small can be blamed on the failure of the diplomats to talk, delay, and concede more. And sometimes, to be fair, acceptable compromises are reached and, if not win-win, mutually satisfactory lose-lose agreements can defuse conflicts and avoid bloodshed. Diplomacy is supposed to be the modern way, the civilized way, and it should always be considered first—and second.

Continue reading HERE.

Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL) blast Obama’s politically motivated upgrade of human traffickers Cuba and Malaysia

Via Roll Call:

Menendez, Rubio Critical of ‘Political’ Human Trafficking Report

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Two senators say politics are at play in the State Department’s announcement that the human trafficking situations in Malaysia and Cuba are improving.

On Monday, the State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, bumping both nations from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, allowing Malaysia to stay in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., pushed hard throughout the recent fast-track trade debate to strengthen human rights requirements against prospective trade partners, including Malaysia. Trade Promotion Authority, also known as fast track, passed with a provision denying expedited congressional consideration of any trade deal with a country listed in Tier 3.

“The administration has turned its back on the victims of trafficking, turned a blind eye to the facts, and ignored the calls from Congress, leading human rights advocates, and Malaysian government officials to preserve the integrity of this important report,” Menendez said in a statement, who noted his “profound disappointment” that the administration “elevated politics over the most basic principles of human rights.”

The report states that while Malaysia “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” it is “making significant efforts to do so.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also took issue with the report. The Cuban-American and 2016 presidential hopeful has been an outspoken critic of the Castro regime and of President Barack Obama’s thawing of relations with the island.

“It is important that this report be a true reflection of the trafficking situation on the ground and that a country’s rating not be determined by political considerations but by the country’s record on this issue,” Rubio said in a statement. “I find it difficult to believe that Cuba has been elevated this year from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List solely based on the Cuban regime’s record.”

Menendez has also been critical of Obama’s policies towards Cuba and vowed to use all of the tools at his disposal to “challenge these upgrades.”

“Upgrades for Malaysia and Cuba are a clear politicization of the report, and a stamp of approval for countries who have failed to take the basic actions to merit this upgrade,” Menendez said. “As the State Department’s own report recognizes that there has been no progress on forced labor in Cuba, any upgrade of the country’s ranking challenges common sense.”

Castro regime to host “historic” meeting of American oil industry heavy-hitters

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“Come and listen to the story of a dictator named Raul.

The tyrant barely kept his people’s bellies full

And then one day …..”

Well, if you’re a certain age, you probably know every word of the rest of that Beverly Hillbillies theme song.  If you don’t, you owe it to yourself to go HERE.

Why bring up that ancient TV show?  Because Raul Castro has been trying to turn into the Jed Clampett of the Caribbean for many years, without any luck.

Unlike Jed,  Raul hasn’t turned up any bubblin’ crude while shootin’ for some food (or shootin’ his own people):  no black gold, no Texas tee  — oil, that is….

He’s talked several foreigners into drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and not one drop has been found.

Oh, but Raul won’t give up easily.  He knows  that many American oil magnates are lusting after all that oil that he claims to be sitting on.

And now that he has a papal blessing — on top of a White House permit to do anything he wants to do — he’s  looking for more suckers who will drill for oil off the coast of his giant slave plantation at their expense.

So, Raul will be hosting a summit of oil industry bigwigs.

In typical Castro fashion, however, Raul and his minions have announced that this upcoming summit is all about environmental concerns, not about finding sugar daddies for oil drilling ventures.

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From Bakken.com

Historic oil meeting in Cuba set for October

A first-of-its kind oil summit in Cuba organized by U.S. energy-industry heavy hitters is expected in October.

The meeting, set for Havana from Oct. 18-21, comes amid loosening tensions and expanding diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.

“The symposium is both historic and unique, the first-ever bringing together of high-level experts and leaders from the U.S. to join in discussion with parallel experts and leaders in Cuba and other Gulf and Caribbean nations,” reads the mission statement of the Safe Seas — Clean Seas conference.

It is organized by two former high-ranking executives of the International Association of Drilling Contractors — Lee Hunt and Brian Petty, respectively former president and executive vice president of global government affairs for the trade group.

Read the whole story HERE.

In yet another surrender to Cuba’s apartheid regime, Obama proclaims Havana’s slave masters are no longer slave masters

In yet another unilateral concession (or better said, surrender) to Cuba’s vile apartheid regime who has enslaved an entire nation, President Obama has instructed the State Department to upgrade the Castro dictatorship on the human traffickers list. What did the dictatorship do to earn this upgrade? Absolutely nothing. Cuba continues to be a favorite destination for sexual predators and child rapists who find the “services” and “merchandise” offered by the Castro regime to be both cheap and desirable. The Castro regime also continues to enslave millions and sell Cuban forced labor on the international market to the highest bidder. But facts such as these have no role to play when an American president is desperate to create a legacy.

What Obama does not (and probably will never) realize, however, is that he is indeed building a legacy; a legacy that will haunt him and both Cubans and history will never forget.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

In Clear Side Deal, Obama Upgrades Cuba in Trafficking Watch List

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Dictators hate to be placed on watch lists. It scorns their zeal for legitimacy.

Thus, the long-standing obsession of the Castro regime to be removed from the U.S.’s “state-sponsors of terrorism” list.

In order to be removed from that list, the Castro regime simply coerced the Obama Administration.

It made it very clear (and public) that it was more than willing to hijack Obama’s legacy of establishing diplomatic relations, unless it was first removed from the terrorism watch list.

And the Obama Administration complied.

In April, the State Department proceeded to remove Cuba from the terrorism list — despite recognizing that Cuba continues to harbor one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists and members of U.S. classified Foreign Terrorist Organizations (“FTO’s”).

The removal was based solely on “assurances” that Castro would behave better in the future — and accepting a lie that it has “never supported terrorism.”

Today, the same has taken place with the U.S.’s human trafficking watch list.

The Obama Administration has decided to upgrade Cuba from the lowest tier — despite recognizing that Cuba remains a major source country for sex trafficking and forced labor.

The upgrade is based solely on “assurances” that Castro is making efforts to address trafficking issues — and accepting its lie that forced labor is not a problem within Cuba.

Never mind that the Castro regime itself is the source and beneficiary of Cuba’s vast human trafficking infrastructure.

Its practices have been widely documented to violate nearly every major international forced labor, trafficking and human rights covenant.

There’s absolutely nothing that merits Cuba’s upgrade in the trafficking watch list — other than some side deal as part of its ongoing negotiations.

It’s simply another unmerited, unilateral concession.

Unfortunately, as in the case of Iran, the Obama Administration is not only proving to be misguided in its policy — but also untrustworthy in the process. 

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Upgrading Cuba to Tier 2 Watch List of Trafficking Report an insult to Cuban people

From the offices of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

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Upgrading Cuba to Tier 2 Watch List of Trafficking Report Is An Insult to the Cuban People

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement after the State Department upgrading Cuba to the Tier 2 Watch List from Tier 3 of the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“It has become clear that the White House’s willingness to bend over backward to appease the ruthless dictators in Cuba knows no bounds. As the Department of State announced today the release of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2015, Secretary Kerry penned a letter on State’s website stating ‘Trafficking in persons is an insult to human dignity and an assault on freedom.’ However, it seems like Cuba is an exception to these words as the State Department has insulted the people of Cuba by upgrading Cuba to Tier 2 Watch List.

“It is well known that the Castro regime not only supports sex tourism, but it profits from it. In February of this year, Ladies in White leader Berta Soler testified before Congress that the Castro regime promotes child prostitution in Cuba. At a Congressional hearing, she stated that young women in Cuba are ‘preserving themselves for when American tourism arrives so they can sell themselves to American tourists.’ This is the reality of what occurs in Castro’s Cuba that has been ignored by the State Department for its own political reasons.”

Reports from Cuba: Another circus act

By Fernando Damaso in Translating Cuba:

Another Circus Act

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Cuban authorities surrounded the flag-raising ceremony at the Cuban Embassy in Washington with a circus act of clowns, magicians, and jugglers, part of a large delegation that traveled to the city to participate in the affair. They were joined by Americans friendly to the government, “patriotic” Cuban emigrants, and Latin American “brethren” invited for the occasion. As expected, there was no lack of jingoistic gibberish incorporating the words “victory,” “independence,” “freedom,” “sovereignty,” and others that for years have comprised the rhetorical arsenal of the authorities of the island.

The Cuban Foreign Minister’s speech, as gray as he is, could not have been more repetitive and lacking in originality and freshness. As usual, he was stuck in the past, repeating the same old story, exalting the role of the Cuban historical leaders in the action and minimizing that of the President of the United States, who was actually the leading figure.

Moreover, he repeated the same intolerant approaches about a possible political opening and respect for different opinions. You would have to be deluded to expect anything different.

Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies, it will be very difficult for the Cuban authorities to abandon their totalitarian concepts that, at least in politics, though not in the economy, have yielded them a few results. They will continue clinging to them until the end of their days, simply because they don’t know anything else.

The show was colored with a performance of the “national painter,” portraying the red and black flag of the July 26th Movement across from the White House. That’s their way of achieving fame, because if they stop talking, you would need an interpreter to understand it. There were also some musical numbers, dances, and abundant slogans.

After Obama’s surrender to Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship, other bad agents in region expect the same

The Editorial Board of The Washington Post:

Tricky negotiations in the wake of the Cuba thaw

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AS THE Obama administration has pursued normalization with Cuba, it has been drawn into lower-profile but thorny dialogues with two of Havana’s long-standing clients: the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro and Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). The diplomacy has reinforced President Obama’s doctrine of engagement with U.S. adversaries; the Maduro government has repeatedly claimed that the United States is plotting its overthrow, while the FARC has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department. As in the case of Cuba, however, the results of the dialogues so far have been meager.

In both instances, U.S. officials say, the initiative did not originate in Washington. Mr. Maduro, facing an economic catastrophe, reached out to what he usually calls “the imperium,” while Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a close U.S. ally, asked that an American envoy join his government’s ongoing peace talks with the FARC. The administration responded by naming a veteran former diplomat, Bernard Aronson, to attend the Colombian negotiations, which are held being in Havana. Mr. Aronson and a senior State Department counselor, Thomas Shannon, separately visited Caracas to meet Mr. Maduro. Last month, Mr.?Shannon went a step further, sitting down with Venezuela’s national assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, even though he is the target of a U.S. criminal investigation into drug trafficking by senior Venezuelan officials.

Such contacts can be useful, if they do not lead to one-sided and unwarranted U.S. concessions — the result, in our view, of the administration’s diplomacy with Cuba. The administration’s aims with respect to the FARC and the Maduro regime are the right ones: to push the militants in Colombia to accept the steps needed to complete a peace deal that has been under negotiation for two-and-a-half years, and to induce Caracas to release political prisoners and hold fair elections to its national assembly later this year.

After Mr. Shannon’s meeting with Mr. Cabello, the Maduro government announced a date for elections and released a couple of prisoners — enough for jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López to end a hunger strike that had endangered his life. But the regime still holds Mr. López and scores of other prisoners and has not accepted the international monitoring needed to ensure a fair vote. It appears to hope its half-measures will induce Mr.?Obama to name a new ambassador to Venezuela and lift sanctions recently imposed on senior officials.

Mr. Santos’s negotiations with the FARC, meanwhile, have gone backward. The insurgents broke a unilateral cease-fire in April and have since carried out a host of attacks that have infuriated Colombians; 9 out of 10 say in polls that FARC leaders should be tried for their crimes. This month it announced a new cease-fire, Yet, rather than agree on a plan for transitional justice, the main sticking point in the talks, the FARC is demanding that the United States release a top leader serving a sentence in a U.S. prison. Mr. Obama’s agreement to free Cuban spies held in the United States probably encouraged that bid.

Therein lies the problem: With one eye on Havana, the FARC and the Maduro regime appear to regard the Obama administration as a potential source of easy favors. Unless they are disabused, U.S. diplomacy is unlikely to do much good.

Odebrecht’s corruption probe is widening, and Miami-Dade politicians should hang their heads in shame

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

As Odebrecht’s Corruption Probe Widens, So Should Some Politicians’ Shame

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For years, we have been making the case against the Brazilian conglomerate, Odebrecht.

Its close alliance with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba; the Chavez government in Venezuela; its human trafficking activities; slave labor practices; and corruption.

Over the last decade, Odebrecht has become the Castro dictatorship’s biggest and most trusted business partner — spanning ports, airports and sugar mills.

Yet, it sadly remained Miami-Dade County’s largest recipient of taxpayer funds.

When the Florida legislature stepped-in to take action, Odebrecht hired an army of lawyers and lobbyists to challenge it.

And throughout, Odebrecht’s political allies and beneficiaries in Miami-Dade County criticized us.

Odebrecht’s crowning glory in Miami-Dade County would have been the Airport City project, whereby it was set to be handed nearly 35 acres of the most valuable land in the county — to run as it pleases for nearly half-a-century — and pay MIA some “rent.”

Some Miami-Dade politicians fought tooth-and-nail for Odebrecht, despite mounting evidence of its shameful activities.

Today, Odebrecht’s Chairman, Marcelo Odebrecht (below), remains in prison as part of a major corruption probe.

To add some extra shadiness — while in prison, Brazilian police intercepted a note from Odebrecht telling his lawyers to “destroy emails.”

This week, Swiss authorities began a formal investigation of Odebrecht’s corrupt activities.

Inquiries have also been made in Peru, Panama, Ecuador and Colombia.

Meanwhile, Brazilian investigators have been working with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Imagine how embarrassing and shameful it would have been for the most valuable land in Miami-Dade County to have been run — essentially as a fiefdom — by a company whose Chairman is in prison and facing a major international corruption probe.

It came close. But hopefully, lesson learned.

“Gimme Gitmo” song getting louder and louder

Los Viejucos: Saxophonist
Los Viejucos, with Machado Ventura in the middle

Here we go: now that the Cuban flag is flying outside the Castro spy nest in Washington D.C., the time has come for Raul and his band  “El Conjunto De Los Viejucos” to turn up the volume every time they sing their “Gimme Gitmo” song.

They did it yesterday.  They will most certainly do it again, and keep turning up the volume until they get what they want.

They know that the present occupant of the White House really, really wants to give them the naval station but is stymied by ridiculous formalities such as congressional approval.

And they also know that if they play the song loudly enough those ridiculous formalities are bound to fall through the cracks of the “normalization” circus, along with the so-called “blockade.”

Pretty soon we can expect the same American and European useful idiots who pushed for the release of “The Cuban Five” to sing “Gimme Gitmo” even louder than than Raul’s band ….

Get ready for the noise.  And get ready for a spectacular ceremony when the base is handed over.

From Granma Lite (Associated Press) — please notice they’ve changed the name of the barracks attacked by Fidel’s fools from Moncada to Moncado.

King Raul and Minister Machado Ventura
King Raul and Minister Machado Ventura

Cubans call for Guantanamo closure as they remember start of 1953 revolution

SANTIAGO, CUBA – A week after reopening its embassy in Washington, Cuba is marking the anniversary of its 1953 revolution with a celebration and a call for the U.S. to end its embargo and close its naval base at Guantanamo.

Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, a leader of the Communist Party, said Sunday that lifting the embargo and returning the military base to Cuba must be part of the “long road” toward normalized relations.

Machado Ventura’s comments came as he sat in front of Raul Castro. The Cuban leader, wearing a military uniform, did not speak to the crowd.

The ceremony marked the 62nd anniversary of the assault on the Moncado barracks, considered the start of the revolution that was led by Raul and Fidel Castro and toppled the government of Fulgencio Batista.

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Obama’s new Cuba policy has U.S. officials ignoring the island’s dissidents

Daniel Allott in The Washington Examiner:

U.S. officials dissing Cuba’s dissidents

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Of the more than 20 U.S. lawmakers who have visited Cuba since February, not one has visited with Cuba’s dissident community. (AP Photo)

Until recently, American politicians visiting Cuba would regularly stop off to meet with members of the island nation’s dissident community, as a gesture of respect and solidarity.

According to an Associated Press report Thursday, in the seven months since the relationship between the United States and Cuba began to thaw, “American politicians have flooded Havana to see the sights, meet the country’s new entrepreneurs and discuss the possible end of the U.S. trade embargo with leaders of the communist government.”

But of the more than 20 U.S. lawmakers who have visited Cuba since February, not one has visited with Cuba’s dissident community. This is in part because Cuban officials have made dissing the dissidents, many of whom have spent years or decades in prisons for nonviolently advocating for democracy, a condition for obtaining access to high-ranking Cuban officials.

Of course, while Cuba’s democracy advocates have long counted on the support and goodwill of allies in the U.S., most also realize that true political change in Cuba cannot come from the outside. As leading Cuban dissident Dr. Oscar Biscet wrote in an op-ed for the Examiner last month, “Ultimately … it is the Cuban people who must claim our liberty and establish our democracy. Only then will Cuba be free.”