Via Civil Rights Defenders:
The EU must put pressure on Cuba to respect human rights
The EU and Cuba held subsequent negotiations concerning the possibility of future political dialogue and assistance between the two sides. To ensure that the agreement will lead to human rights improvements in Cuba, Civil Rights Defenders, together with the Cuban Campaign, Por Otra Cuba, have developed a platform on how these negotiations should be conducted and what should be included in the agreement.
Negotiations between the EU and Cuba, to achieve a bilateral agreement on the subjects of political dialogue and assistance, began in early 2014. Cuba is currently the only country in Latin America the EU has no bilateral agreement with, the reason being the total lack of respect for human rights in the country.
When the Cuban government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in 2008 it represented a first step towards change. But since then, no real improvements have followed as far as human rights is concerned.
Civil Rights Defenders calls on the EU to put pressure on Cuba to ratify and implement human rights conventions – before any discussion on an agreement can continue. Prior to any final agreement it is essential that the EU includes civil society in Cuba and the political opposition in the dialogue in order for it to have legitimacy amongst the population.
During the negotiations, it has also emerged, that the EU, in addition to the agreement on political dialogue and assistance, intends to initiate a trade agreement with Cuba. The platform states that no trade agreement should be entered into before Cuba ratifies and implements the two human rights conventions.
Read the full platform here
Visit Por Otra Cubas website: in english / in spanish
Via Cuba Confidential:
US Honors Sergeant For Role in Cuban Spy Case
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) awarded its Bronze Medal to Master Sergeant Tessa M. Fontaine for helping lead a counterespionage investigation that resulted in a 13-year sentence for an unidentified Cuban spy. Then assigned as the chief of NRO’s Counterintelligence and Cyber-Counterintelligence Inquiries, her spy case protected a five-billion dollar intelligence system. As part of this investigation, Fontaine also orchestrated 148 hours of spy debriefings and documented 16 hours of Cuban espionage operations. The Air Force subsequently named her Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. She now serves at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
No further information is available at this time.
(Corrected) Editor’s Note: The NRO designs, builds, launches, and maintains all US spy satellites. Cuba has no space program and its military infrastructure is grossly outdated, rendering it of little interest to NRO. As NRO poses no threat to the Castro regime, it would seem that Havana would have NO interest in NRO. Very curious….
Just when you thought Cuba's repressive (but benevolent, the media and "Cuba Experts" assure us) apartheid Castro dictatorship could not be anymore magnanimous and generous with their "reforms," here comes another one.
Can you really have too much of a good thing?
Via The Guardian:
Cuba imposes restrictions on goods in travellers' luggage
Government clamps down on large amounts of foreign-bought merchandise brought into the island
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans fly to and from the island each year thanks to the easing of travel restrictions by the US and Cuban governments over the past five years.Their Cuba-bound checked baggage has become a continuous airlift that moves nearly $2bn (£1.2bn) of products ranging from razor blades to rice cookers. The baggage carousels at Cuba's airports often look like they're disgorging the contents of an entire Wal-Mart or Target store. Many families bring special trailers to carry the bags of their returning family, which often weigh many hundreds of pounds and include items such as bicycles and flatscreen TVs.
But the Cuban government on Monday is enacting new rules sharply limiting the amount of goods people can bring into the country in their luggage, and ship by boat from abroad.
The government says the restrictions are meant to curb abuses that have turned air travel in particular into a way for professional "mules" to illegally import supplies for both black-market businesses and legal private enterprises that are supposed to buy supplies from the state.
Among ordinary Cubans, reactions have ranged from worry to outrage that their primary, and for many only, source of high-quality consumer goods may be throttled.
"People are really unhappy," said Maite Delgado, a 75-year-old retired state worker. "All the clothes and shoes that I have come from my granddaughters in Spain or my siblings in the US."
The rules that come into effect Monday run to 41 pages and give a sense of the quantity and diversity of the commercial goods arriving in checked bags. Travellers will be allowed to bring in 10 kg of detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24 bras instead of 48. Four car tyres are still permitted, as are two pieces of baby furniture and two flatscreen televisions. Cuban customs also bars passengers from bringing in items worth more than $1,000. Rather than examining receipts, customs agents are given a long list assigning pre-set values to certain goods ($250 for a video-game console, for example.) Those prices rise sharply under the new rules, making it far easier to reach that $1,000 limit.
The new rules similarly increase the duties paid on goods shipped from abroad, another major source of foreign merchandise for the island.
Continue reading HERE.
Remember how her swims "had nothing to do with politics?"---just like the Juanes concert "had nothing to do with politics"?
Juanes went on to sign the letter to "Free The Cuban Five.
And now Diana Nyad swoons over an award personally pinned on her by the Castro family's eunuch (laughably nicknamed "Cuba's Vice President) Miguel Diaz-Canel:
Anyone surprised that Diana Nyad is attracted to these type of men? :
HAVANA – One year after becoming the first person confirmed to have swum from Havana to Key West, Florida without a shark cage, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad was back in Cuba to receive that country's Order of Sporting Merit award.
After a ceremony led by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday, Nyad said she dreams of uniting Cubans and Americans to walk with her the length of the island of Cuba "as good neighbors and friends."
Diaz-Canel called Nyad's feat "a symbol of the friendship between our peoples," referring to the United States and Cuba.
Between those who claimed from day one that Juanes and Nyad were propaganda tools of the Castro regime as opposed to those who claimed these celebrities were heart-warmingly well-meaning and apolitical--any guesses which the media will continue to treat as "experts?"
Garry Kasparov is considered by many to be the greatest chess Grand Master of all time.
Of course, we Cubans prefer to assign that distinction to our own José Raúl Capablanca.
Kasparov is now involved in politics and the defense of human rights, and has penned an essay for Time magazine that should be required reading for anyone who can read.
As Kasparov sees it, we are all skating on very thin ice. The so-called "free world" is ignoring Putin in ways that call to mind the late 1930's.
As we all know, ignoring the obvious back then had dire consequences for millions of people.
What does this have to do with Cuba? If you have to ask, then you haven't been paying attention to Putin's outreach to Latrine America, or to the total collapse of the U.S.A. on the world stage.
Face it, the U.S.A. is now as much of a world power as Bolivia or Lithuania.... Or Ukraine.
The party is over. We are done for. Get ready to be ruled by one of these three: China, Russia, or the Islamic State. Or maybe a lethal combination of the three. And get ready for the entire globe to resemble Castrogonia.
As Russian troops and armored columns advance in Eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian government begs for aid from the free world it hoped would receive it and protect it as one of its own. The leaders of the free world, meanwhile, are struggling to find the right terminology to free themselves from the moral responsibility to provide that protection. Putin’s bloody invasion of a sovereign European nation is an incursion, much like Crimea — remember Crimea? — was an “uncontested arrival” instead of Anschluss. A civilian airliner was blown out of the sky just six weeks ago –—remember MH17? — and with more than 100 victims still unidentified the outrage has already dissipated into polite discussions about whether it should be investigated as a crime, a war crime, or neither.
This vocabulary of cowardice emanating from Berlin and Washington today is as disgraceful as the black-is-white propaganda produced by Putin’s regime, and even more dangerous. Moscow’s smokescreens are hardly necessary in the face of so much willful blindness. Putin’s lies are obvious and expected. European leaders and the White House are even more eager than the Kremlin to pretend this conflict is local and so requires nothing more than vague promises from a very safe distance. As George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay on language right before starting work on his novel 1984 (surely not a coincidence): “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” The Western rhetoric of appeasement creates a self-reinforcing loop of mental and moral corruption. Speaking the truth now would mean confessing to many months of lies, just as it took years for Western leaders to finally admit Putin didn’t belong in the G-7 club of industrialized democracies....
....I feel the irony in how it has quickly gone from scandal to cliché to compare Putin to Hitler, for better and for worse. Certainly Putin’s arrogance and language remind us more and more of Hitler’s, as does how well he has been rewarded for them. For this he can thank the overabundance of Chamberlains in the halls of power today — and there is no Churchill in sight.
As long as it is easy, as long as Putin moves from victory to victory without resistance, he gains more support. He took Crimea with barely a shot fired. He flooded Eastern Ukraine with agents and weaponry while Europe dithered. The oligarchs who might have pressured Putin at the start of his Ukrainian adventure are now war criminals with no way back. The pressure points now are harder to reach.
Read the whole essay HERE.
By Fernando Damaso in Translating Cuba:
In my far-off childhood, extracurricular organizations — whether public or private — were concerned principally with sponsoring weekend trips to interesting natural locations, cultural institutions or factories.
The goal was to encourage our love of nature, expand our general knowledge, provide opportunities to attend age-appropriate entertainment events, enhance participation in sports, arrange excursions to the beach, and other such activities.
We were also involved in social service activities such as participating in public health campaigns, collecting donations for the blind, cancer treatment, park improvements and other causes. We were interested in all of them. They motivated us and taught us civic and social responsibility. We were never used as tools for political or ideological ends.
I noticed that the Pioneers of Cuba* have recently announced changes for the upcoming season of activities. It will be interesting to see if these changes are intended to depoliticize the organization by prohibiting children from participating in acts of repudiation to a reggaeton beat, public protests against the “eternal enemy” with speeches written by their teachers, gatherings in support of the “eternal commander,” and similar activities which have been routine for years. I believe these changes are intended “to test the maturity, initiative and sense of responsibility of the pioneers, and their ability to discern, decide and act.”
The organization’s designated president — an official from the Young Communist Pioneers well past the age of her members — has also decreed that beginning September 1, the season’s start date, children and adolescents will be required to condemn subversive actions by U.S. government against Cuba, and participate in actions in solidarity with the Cuban Five, the children of Palestine and other peoples. Very appropriate childhood activities, I am sure.
Why not let children be children and allow them to experience their childhoods without imposing adult hatreds? From the moment you are born, you are allotted a pioneeer neckerchief in your ration book, even if neither you nor your parents want it. Most people just go along because, if they refuse, “the road to hell” awaits them. Ironically, most of those who have emigrated or are in the process of emigrating were once pioneers.
In reality there should be other changes, such as dropping the requirement that children join the Pioneers. As things stand now, the change that has been announced simply amounts to more of the same.
*Translator’s note: A communist youth organization with activities similar to those of the Boy Scouts but with an additional focus on communist ideology. Children enter into the organization in elementary school and continue until adolescence, at which point they often join the Young Communist League. In Cuba members’ uniforms include a characteristic red or blue neckerchief.
Via The Devil's Excrement:
There Is Too Much Money To Be Made In The Bolivarian Revolution I: The Gasoline Racket.
“You will never win this war when there is so much money to be made. Never”
Jhon Popeye Velasquez alias “Marino” in an interview before he was released.
To those that watched Escobar, El Patron del Mal, the character Marino is one of the worst guys in the book and series. It turns out that this week he was freed from jail after serving twenty eyars and has been in the press quite a bit. The sentence above hit me, because that is one of the things that I fear may happen in Venezuela: there is so much money to be made, that those trying to change the Government may never be able to. While “Marino” was referring to the drug war, I am referring to all of the corrupt businesses allowed and nurtured by the revolution. Everything in the rveolution has been turned into some form of business or arbitrage. From drugs, to Cadivi, to Fonden, to gas. Thus, do you really think those in control are going to give up these rackets so easily?
The basic question I want to answer is: How much money or profit are we talking about?
In this post I make a very rough estimate of one the biggest businesses (Billion dollar plus) where the boliburgoise and Government officials, civilians or not, have gotten rich, filthy rich. I make many assumptions, attempting in the best case to be under the correct amount, rather than over. I will try to make a series out of this. Today, gasoline
1) The gasoline racket.
When did it become such a big business to take gasoline out of Venezuela? Since Chavez became President in 1998, the price has been frozen. When he got to power, a liter of gas was about Bs. 90 (0.09 of today’s Bolivars) and a dollar was about Bs. 600 (Bs. 0.6 of Bolivares Fuerte). Even at that level it was a good deal to send gas to Colombia. But it did not become such an organized activity until the difference was so large, that the cost of gas was irrelevant. Let’s say a factor of 50, that is, when the parallel market rate became Bs. 5. I am going to assume that this is when the racket began to become massive. We are talking around 2007. And I assume it reached the current massification when the factor became 100. This happened in 2012.
Continue reading HERE.
Following declarations from Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) clearly show why he is a breath of fresh air in foreign policy discussions. He is one of those rare politicians who calls a spade a spade – regardless of the political ramifications.
Here he is telling CNN Anchor Candy Crowley on August 31, 2014, what the U.S. Government needs to do to deal effectively with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His blunt talk explains why rogue states like the Cuban Government want to discredit him and remove him from his current, powerful position as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
See CNN interview at http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2014/08/31/senator-menendez-on-cnns-state-of-the-union-russia-in-ukraine-is-clearly-an-invasion/
Frank Calzon in Democracy Digest:
Cuba: religious freedom violations continue to rise
Pastor Esmir Torreblanca standing in the ruins of his church and home. Photo: CSW.
The Cuban government continues to repress religious believers and its Office of Religious Affairs, responsible for official permits to worship, continues to monitors and harasses churches, according to a new report from the widely-respected, UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The well-documented report, which covers a period of 19 months ending in July of this year, includes details of the destruction of churches and notes that the Office of Religious Affairs is an official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, writes Frank Calzon, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.
Religious leaders say that if there is a need for supervision of the churches, it should be done by the government, and not by an arm of the ruling Party. This unique situation was alluded to by Pope John Paul II when he visited Cuba and called on the authorities to set aside “antiquated structures.”
The report calls on the European Union, the United States government, and other governments around the world not to ignore both religious repression in Cuba and the fact that “over the past decades the Castro regime has proved adept at sleight of hand tricks to convince the international community that it is committed to improvements in the human rights situation. Its approach to religious freedom has been no different.”
“Despite government claims of increased respect for religious freedom, reported violation of religious freedom in Cuba continued to increase dramatically,” CSW says. The report entitled “Cuba: Religious Freedom” says that “government agents continued to employ more brutal and public tactics than witnessed in the first decade of the millennium.” Christians in Cuba continue to report varying levels of discrimination in educational institutions and in their places of employment,” CSW says.
The scarcity of Bibles and other religious literature is due to “harsh government restrictions on the import of Bibles and other religious materials and a lack of access to printing infrastructure in the island.” The organization says that it has received “sporadic reports of violent beatings of Protestant Pastors and lay workers in different parts of the country.”
“Week after week, scores of women were physically and violently dragged away from Sunday morning services by state security agents,” and in many parts of the island, particularly in rural areas “the government has destroyed church properties.”
“On 2 July 2014 Cuban government agents including state security and Cuban Communist Party officials, destroyed a church and home affiliated with the Apostolic Movement in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The unannounced demolition of the Establishing the Kingdom of God Church began at 6am while the owners of the home and their young children were sleeping inside.”
“They arrived and violently broke down the front door which was locked, the police entered with batons alongside a group of men carrying machetes. They began to destroy and occupy the properties of the pastor and the church,” according to Pastor Marcos A. Perdomo Silva, a church leader.
“Photos taken at the scene show uniformed officers directing a bulldozer leveling the area where the church and home stood… Pastor Esmir Torreblanca, his wife, and his two children aged two and seven were left homeless…The following Sunday, members of the church met at the site for open air worship.”
Frank Calzon is Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.
A video on the sad state of Cuba's capital, Havana, from dissident blogger and photographer Yusnaby Perez.
Watch it HERE.
International tourism to Cuba, the Caribbean's island slave plantation, is down for 2014. This keeps the illegal sale of slave labor to foreign countries and companies as the top source of revenue for the Castro slave masters in Havana.
Via EFE in Fox News Latino:
Slowdown Of Tourist Arrivals To Cuba Continued In July
Havana – The arrival of visiting foreigners to Cuba, where tourism is the second largest source of revenue, continued its slowdown in July with a drop of 0.5 percent compared with the same month in 2013, according to official figures released Saturday.
The National Statistics and Information Office, or ONEI, said the island received during the month of July a total of 211,456 tourists, some 1,055 fewer than in that month last year.
ONEI had already recorded in June a decline of 1.4 percent compared with 2013.
Nonetheless, statistics show that in the first seven months of the year, tourist arrivals grew 3.4 percent over the same period the year before.
In 2013 Cuba welcomed a total of 2,852,572 travelers, a modest growth of 0.5 percent more than in 2012, while for this year the country set the goal of attracting 3 million visitors.
The official daily Juventud Rebelde noted Saturday that to reach that goal the sector would have to achieve, between August and December, a growth of 8.1 percent.
Canada, Germany, Britain, Italy and France remain the leading sources of travelers to Cuba, where tourism is the second largest source of foreign currency after the export of services.
Via Venezuela News & Views:
Chavismo promoting CITGO sale tells us more than what we care to know
Of course, I could regale you with further tales of corruption and economic failure. But this blog is not that much about information these days, rather about the wonderment of being the deer in the headlights while been aware of it. My personal and my work situations are such that adequate information search is a luxurious time element I cannot afford anymore. Besides, where to look for reliable information, numbers? With El Universal gone, Tal Cual with resources too limited for investigative journalism and EL Nacional a near paperless semi shrill...
Then again Miguel has published two superb posts, one about the $$$$ magnitude of the racket of gasoline at the border which explains why so many are "against" a gasoline price increase; and another one about how the regime is unable to decide anything, not even starting to print paper money with numbers according to inflation.
Of course my dearest friend does not have to stand in line for medicine or food like I do, so he can mine for this valuable data. But what he may miss is the realization that the political personnel of the regime may be worse than what we may have thought all along. Such epiphany can only be reached when after one hour or two of line under the sun you reach the shelves only to realize that the items finally run out, no matter what was the rationing imposed by the store.
Here I am not talking about the latest luminary, a certain Mendez who has taken upon himself the task of promoting finger printing as the solution to food scarcity. He is a mere idiot used as a mouth piece, too young to have done much damage yet but with, oh, so much potential for dereliction.
No, no. Reading a piece form El Mundo on CITGO was quite an eye opener even for someone as blasé as I am. The journalist was reporting on Venezuelan officials finding it a good idea to sell CITGO before Venezuela loses lawsuits that may result in CITGO being embargoed (1). Of course, the astute readers of this blog will notice that if CITGO is an easy embargo to do in the US, there are plenty of other ways in which the winners of the law suit will be able to recover their due, if anything by blocking Venezuela's ability to raise money for further debt. Thus already you know that the people that I am going to name next are outright scum and/or idiots.
The first one to give his opinion was Jesus Faria, a true communist, that saw inside the PSUV more opportunities to express his true self than in the Venezuelan Communist party, which, believe it it or not, is more serious than the PSUV. For him, who is the vice president of the parliamentary committee on finances and economic development, the US will seek revenge by taking CITGO after the trial is decided. That is, for him, separation of powers is a non concept in the US, the tribunals will merely decide what OBAMA and Wall Street want.
Can we blame Faria to think that way? After all, it is exactly the way justice operates in Venezuela today when Maduro or Cabello announce publicly the expected judicial decisions for a given trial. Never mind that there is even legal "justification" coming from nothing less but the mother in law of Ramirez, oil minister now for years. Hildegard Rondon for all practical purposes said that it could be considered criminal for a Venezuelan lawyer to defend a US company being expropriated in Venezuela. Since that expectoration the ex justice of a democratic Venezuela has gone further to caution the regime's judicial aberrations by uttering bigoted comments about the "anglo saxon" judicial system, and that state should prevail against individual, a basic tenet of totalitarianism. Of course, she is on PDVSA payroll.
And it turns out that Ramirez was the second official quoted in El Mundo. And that quote deserves transcription: "assets outside the country are virtually hostage of other jurisdiction and pay taxes in the US". Huh? Is Ramirez saying that US assets in Venezuela should be hostage to Venezuela's system? That US assets in Venezuela should not be paying taxes in Venezuela? Please...
Continue reading HERE.
By Rosa Lopez in Translating Cuba:
You Can’t Come In
This venue reserves the right of admission
“You can’t come in,” a young doorkeeper emphatically tells a young man, while gesturing for him to move away from the door. When the target protests, he receives the explanation that in this crowded Havana club, “you can’t enter wearing shorts.” A sign posted at the entrance warns that the place, “reserves the right of admission.”
The story is repeated in many other places in Havana. The Charles Chaplin Cinema downtown posts a sign with entry restrictions. When you ask an employee if the rules are dictated by higher body, she says, “No, no. Management is in charge, there’s no law. We are the ones who decide.” And she adds, “We don’t allow people without shirts, or wearing flipflops, or behaving inappropriately.” It’s not unusual to see, however, flexible rules for foreigners. An Italian in short shorts—which could be confused with a bathing suit—passed through the lobby without being ejected.
In 2010, the Chaplin Cinema refused entry to a group of people trying to attend the premier of the documentary Revolution about the hip-hop group Los Aldeanos. Some of these citizens drafted a legal demand against the entity, charging that the segregation was based on ideological reasons, because they were activists, bloggers and musicians from the dissident scene, but it was unsuccessful in court. Years later, the downtown movie theater still sports a sign with restrictions on entry.
Welcome Cubans, but…
In 2008, one of the first steps taken by Raul Castro on assuming power was to allow Cubans access to hotels. According to the General President, that decision was meant to avoid the emergence of “new inequalities.” Nevertheless, native Cubans still can’t enjoy all the recreational areas of the country. The boats that run along the coast, the marine enclaves along stretches of the coast, and some keys still do not allow Cubans residing on the Island where they were born.
By the Bay of Cienfuegos a pleasure boat sails which doesn’t allow any Cubans to enjoy the excursion.
By the Bay of Cienfuegos a pleasure boat sails which doesn’t allow any Cubans to enjoy the excursion. The reason, according to several dock workers, is fear that that the boat could be hijacked in an illegal attempt to leave the country. The argument reveals the drama of emigration, but also the continuing existence of an apartheid that makes those born in this land second-class citizens. The measure also violates the Cuban Constitution which guarantees, in Article 43, that all Cubans have the right to use, “without segregation, maritime, rail, air and road transport.”
So far, there are no national guidelines that justify such segregation procedures, especially in State facilities, where it is established that they are projected by law. Outside Pepitos Bar, located on 26th Avenue downtown, there is a sign that shows the use and abuse of the right admission “They are rules imposed by the administration,” says a worker at the center who didn’t want his name revealed.
Continue reading Reports from Cuba: You can’t come in
Garrincha in Martí Noticias:
"The UMAP* camps were just camping trips."
*UMAP concentration camps were used by the Castro dictatorship to hold and reeducate gay Cubans rounded up by the regime for their "counterrevolutionary" orientation. The victims were forced to do hard labor and reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps, signs were placed at the entrances of the UMAP facilities declaring "Work will make you into men."