‘Traitors, Spies and Terrorists’: a report from the field

I attended a lecture by Babalú Blog contributor Humberto Fontova on June 28, 2011, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  Humberto’s presentation was part of an all-day conference sponsored by America’s Survival, Inc. – a 501 (C) 3 educational organization that specializes in exposing extremist movements.  Its website address is http://www.usasurvival.org.

I wanted to ensure that if Humberto faced an unfriendly audience, he had at least one supporter available to provide some balance.  It’s been my experience that Castro sympathizers are well organized, and they go out of their comfort zones to attack detractors of the Cuban Revolution.  As Cuban neurosurgeon Hilda Molina found out – after she left Havana to join her son and grandchildren in Argentina in 2009 – she was harassed by pro-Castro mobs during a visit to the Argentine Congress after putting down the Cuban authorities and its health care system.

Following are some of the notes that I took from Humberto’s remarks:

Cuba has agents of influence throughout the world, but, especially, in the United States.  Lately, they have been lobbying the White House and Congress aggressively to lift the U.S. embargo and to free the Cuban Five (who are five Cuban intelligence officers convicted in federal court of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder, and other illegal activities in the United States).

The trigger for the U.S. embargo was the nationalization by the Castro regime in October 1960 of all properties owned by U.S. citizens and corporations in Cuba– without offering any compensation for them to this date.  However, in response to immense pressure from some American farmers and agribusinesses, the embargo was relaxed by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which President Clinton signed in 2000. The one condition that the U.S. Government imposed on the sale of goods to Cuba was that the Cuban authorities had to pay for them in cash.  Nevertheless, the sale of agricultural goods and medicines soared to the extent that in 2007, the US was the largest food supplier of Cuba and its fifth largest trading partner.

Consequently, the latest lobbying efforts are about one thing only – getting the U.S. companies to extend credit to their Cuban clients.  But, it is important to keep in mind that the Cuban Government defaulted on most of its international debt since 1986 and lacks access to credit from international financial institutions like the World Bank.  In 2002, citing chronic delinquencies and mounting short-term debts, Moody’s lowered Cuba’s credit rating to Caa1 — “speculative grade, very poor.” Dunn and Bradstreet rate Cuba as one of the riskiest economies in the world.

Humberto said that it makes no sense to bail out the Cuban economy at its worst moment.  He asked why would the U.S. Government lift an embargo that was triggered when the Cuban authorities stole the private properties of U.S. citizens and corporations, and pass the bill to the American taxpayers at a time of a dire fiscal crisis if the Cubans default on their credit sales.  Moreover, the State Department continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, and classifies Cuba as one of the worst nations in the area of human and sex trafficking. This is why, Humberto said, those who love this country have a moral obligation to expose and counteract the propaganda that is aired daily by most TV networks, as well as ensure that the U.S. embargo is kept in place.

Humberto also discussed the inequity perpetrated by some recent Cuban immigrants who are granted political refugee status when they land on U.S. soil, receive federal financial assistance that comes from American taxpayers, and, within a year of their stay in the U.S., go back to spend the federal funds by travelling to Cuba – instead of spending them in the U.S. and helping the U.S. economy.  He opined that they should be given a 1-way ticket to Havana.

Complimentary copies of Humberto’s book Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, and Cuban-American Filmmaker Agustin Blazquez’s DVD Covering Cuba 7 –Che,  The Other Side of an Icon, were handed out.