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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Le RRRONCA!!!”

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

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Rodriguez and Kerry at “news conference”

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

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

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

Read it and weep.

From Capitol Hill Cubans:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

14yMedio via Translating Cuba:

The Cuban Government Unveils Its Version of Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by José Badué

New look coming

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

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

Your patience is greatly appreciated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So can we please cut the crap and talk?

Why I refuse to acknowledge the US embassy in Havana

Ana Quintana in The Daily Signal:

Why I Refuse to Acknowledge the US Embassy in Havana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t waste your time on “Cuban Chrome”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maduro and Aznar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Editorial Board of The Miami Herald:

New beginning, old script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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