Violent political arrests in Cuba precede the apartheid Castro regime’s embassy opening in the U.S.

Belen Marty in PanAm Post:

Cuba Opens Embassy in the Shadow of More Political Arrests

DC Ceremony Marks No Change in the Regime’s Human-Rights Abuses

“With or without the embassy, the Cuban government will continue to do whatever they want.” These words from Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White democratic opposition, have been echoed by dissidents across the island and abroad. As she and others have documented, the Cuban flag may now fly over the embassy in Washington, DC, but the regime has continued with heavy-handed arrests against peaceful human-rights activists.
54 years later, Cuba reopens the embassy in Washington DC. (@LunaValienteRD)

Their warnings preceded this morning, July 20, when the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations, confirmed by the opening of the Cuban embassy at the US capital. The entourage of Cuban guests included Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, pro-Castro activists, artists, and veterans of the revolution, who celebrated and sang the Cuban national anthem.

Songs such as “Alerta, alerta, aquel que camine, el ejército de Cuba por América Latina” (Alert, alert, he who is walking, the army of Cuba is in Latin America”) and “Viva Cuba, Viva Raul” could be heard by anyone near the embassy.

However, Rosa María Payá, the daughter of a political dissident likely murdered by the Castros, said that the Cuban flag “represents the Cuban people, but the people inside that embassy represent no one. Because no one chose them.”

In the days prior, General Raúl Castro said to Cubans via state television that a new stage was about to begin, “long and complex on the road to normalization.” What the Communist Party chief meant remains to be seen, since his agents arrested dozens of activists on Sunday, mere hours before the start of the diplomatic ceremony.

Daniel Ferrrer, coordinator of the Patriotic Cuban Party, confirmed with the PanAm Post that more than 70 activists, included women, were detained on Sunday. Cuban state police have been doing this, Ferrer says, for 14 consecutive Sundays, either before or after traditional mass at the Santa Rita Church in the capital.

“Most of the arrests were in Havana and included political dissidents such as Berta Soler, Antonio Rodiles, Ángel Moya, and Jorge luis ‘Antunez’ Garcia,” Ferrer explained. He added that there were other arrests reported in Guantánamo province.

Before the arrests took place, activists were marching along Fifth Avenue in Havana, and looking forward to joining rock musician Gorki Águila in Gandhi Park. He was among the crowd, along with Ángel Santiesteban, a recently released political prisoner, after two years behind bars.

“I know that if the police arrest me they will revoke my release [and send me back to jail], but I have to be here today, to give my two cents with respect to the rights and freedoms of other people imprisoned,” Santiesteban explained.

Continue reading HERE.

On eve of reopening embassy in U.S., Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship violently arrests more than 60 peaceful dissidents

If you ever wondered what Obama’s Hope and Change Cuba policy looks like, here is yet another bloody example: While the Obama administration celebrated the opening of the Cuban embassy today in Washington D.C. in its latest capitulation to the apartheid Castro dictatorship, just hours earlier, Cuban State Security celebrated another Sunday of violent repression against peaceful activists and the defenseless women of the Ladies in White.

Via Diario de Cuba (my translation):

More than 60 Ladies in White and activists arrested on the eve of embassy openings
Writer Ángel Santiesteban at the Gandhi Park together with the Ladies in White, Havana, July 19, 2015. (ÁNGEL MOYA)

More than 60 activists and Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in the Cuban capital only hours before the governments of the United States and Cuba reopened their embassies in Havana and Washington D.C. respectively.

According to information received by DIARIO DE CUBA from Ailer Gonzalez and Antonio Rodiles, members of the independent organization Estado de SATS, the arrests came after an “act of repudiation” carried out by a large group of individuals mobilized by the regime.

“The brought it a large mob. They surrounded the activists and the Ladies in White. One woman approached me violently and ripped the picture I was holding out of my hands. It was a photo of political prisoner Ernesto Borges. She started to rip up the photo while screaming ‘that’s not a political prisoner, that’s a mercenary,'” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez also said the participants in the act of repudiation carried signs that said “return our park,” in reference to the Gandhi Park where the Ladies in White meet every Sunday after attending mass at the Santa Rita church.

It appears the regime has begun a campaign to paint the activists as agitators disturbing the peace of the Miramar neighborhood. A few days earlier, a government journalist published a video showing “neighbors” complaining about the presence of dissidents on Sundays. No mention was made, however, of the dramatic deployment of State Security and police that usually takes place to arrest them.

In the last four months the government has arrested Ladies in White and activists every weekend. Nevertheless, Antonio Rodiles believes the operation this Sunday had a “notable” difference to the previous ones.

“I believe that the new strategy now is to provoke a confrontation with the people they are sending to carry out the act of repudiation,” said the director of Estado de SATS. “As a matter of fact,” he added, “they are allowing for physical interaction to take place with us for a few minutes. They push us, they physically attack us to rip the photos of political prisoners from our hands, they insult us. I believe it is clear they are looking for a way to provoke a situation.”

“It is designed to produce a confrontation between the supposed people and the activists,” he emphasized.

Just minutes after the act of repudiation began, “the buses packed with police to arrest us arrived,” said Ailer Gonzalez, who along with Rodiles was among those arrested.

“From the police car I saw how they took away Angel Moya and Berta Soler. I saw the extremely violent arrest of Lady in White, Maria Cristina Labrada; two police officers carried her away by pulling her arms back. Later,” she said, “they applied a choke hold on her.”

Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.

Cuban American lawmakers respond to Cuba’s apartheid regime raising the Cuban flag at its new U.S. embassy

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

“History will remember July 20, 2015 as Obama’s Capitulation Monday, the day two sworn enemies of the United States were able to out-maneuver President Obama to secure historic concessions. Monday’s events at the UN, Washington and Havana leave no doubt that we have entered the most dangerous phase of the Obama presidency in which the president is flat-out? abandoning America’s vital national security interests to cozy up to the world’s most reprehensible regimes.

“President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is a dangerous and destabilizing failure, and it is telling that he is seeking Russia and China’s seal of approval of his deal before administration officials have even briefed Congress. The stakes are far too high for America’s security to be outsourced to the United Nations.

“President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime are also deeply troubling. Cuba is not just some small island with old cars; it is a country controlled by a despotic regime that provides a safe haven and base of forward operations to Russia and China in our own hemisphere. It harbors terrorists and fugitives from justice who have killed American citizens and brutalizes peaceful pro-democracy activists. I reiterate my promise to block the confirmation of any ambassador to this despicable regime.

“July 20th will be a powerfully symbolic day for the Obama-Clinton foreign policy legacy, which will be remembered as a dark time in American history when the mullahs in Iran and the thugs in Havana celebrated at America’s expense.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL):

“In the past two weeks, President Obama has rolled out the red carpet at the White House for Vietnam’s communist party leader, negotiated a dangerous deal with the Iranian regime, and moved forward with further legitimizing the tyrannical regime in Havana.The Cuban people’s oppressors will not hesitate to use this ‘embassy’ as a spy hub, as they have done in the past to threaten our homeland. Just yesterday, Cuban State Security arrested pro-democracy members, including Ladies in White leader Berta Soler, which continues to illustrate how the Castro brothers are emboldened by Obama’s overtures. While human rights activists are imprisoned and jailed for speaking out for freedom and justice, the Obama administration is rejoicing and looking the other way today as embassies are opened.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to block funding for the expansion of a U.S. embassy in Cuba and to stop the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to the island. However, no matter the steps we are able to take, it is undeniable that today is a sad day for U.S. national security and human rights around the world.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL):

“Today, we see the completion of another step in President Obama’s failed policy of appeasing brutal dictators that threaten U.S. interests. In Cuba and elsewhere, the administration has removed human rights and America’s security from the President’s foreign policy agenda. Since the President’s December 17, 2014 announcement, there have been well over 2,500 political arrests in Cuba.  For the past fourteen consecutive Sundays, at least seventy activists have been arrested, including the courageous Ladies in White who protest on their way to mass. Instead of tightening sanctions against the Castro regime in response to continued human rights abuses and arrests, President Obama has ceded important leverage.

“A Cuban embassy in Washington will not represent the Cuban people. The Cuban people have not chosen the Castros as their leaders. A Cuban embassy will represent the Cuban military and intelligence services that perpetuate human rights abuses against them. Purportedly to help the Cuban people achieve ‘independence from Cuban authorities,’ President Obama continues to appease and channel resources to their oppressors.  The Castro regime is not the Cuban people.  If only we had a president that knew the difference.”

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ):

“While the attention may be focused today on empty ribbon-cutting ceremonies, I remain deeply concerned with ongoing human rights violations in Cuba. There have been over 2,800 political arrests on the island this year alone, and there is no sign the Castro regime is willing to begin respecting the Cuban people’s right to freedom of expression, independent journalism, or access to information.

“Diplomatic relations with the U.S. are a privilege and must be earned, yet the Cuban government refuses to make any substantial changes to uphold democratic principles and human rights since the December 17th announcement.

“With the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, the Obama administration continues to validate the Castro regime’s brutal behavior, doubling down on a one-sided deal that wasn’t able to guarantee full staffing and freedom of movement for all diplomats required for a fully functioning embassy in Havana. There may be a flag raising over the embassy of a dictatorship, but the real goal is a flag raising where the Cuban people are free, have their human rights respected and where we do not accept dictatorial conditions on our embassy and its people.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL):

“While today in Washington many are toasting to a new era in US-Cuba relations – an era in which the President of the United States confers legitimacy on Cuba’s military dictatorship and glances over the regime’s anti-American conduct and grotesque human rights abuses – in South Florida we remember the any victims of the Castro dictatorship. The men in power of Cuba today are the same men who had nuclear missiles pointed at the United States in the Cold War, ordered the murder of American citizens, have destroyed Venezuela, financed and trained guerrilla forces throughout the hemisphere, and were recently caught shipping arms illegally to North Korea. For all of this and for holding an American hostage for five years, the Obama Administration has insisted on recklessly affording the dictators an endless list of unilateral, undeserved concessions.”

Reports from Cuba: Cuba and the Vatican: the miracle that never arrives

Miriam Celaya in Translating Cuba:

Cuba and the Vatican: the Miracle that Never Arrives

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 7 July 2015 — It’s been 17 years since a head of Vatican State visited the Island for the first time. John Paul II arrived in Cuba in 1998, preceded by his well-deserved reputation. He had played an important role in the Polish transition – his native country — where democracy was finally achieved after decades of subordination to Soviet communism.

Such credentials of the Pilgrim Pope aroused expectations among many Cubans still being hit by the deepest economic crisis in its history, and also hopeful about the possibility of an eventual transition derived from some “easing” of the rigid centralism of the economy and politics in the Island. They reasonably assumed that after so many shortages and scraping out a living, all that was left was for things to improve. In addition, it was unusual for a pope to honor us with his presence. National vanity reached unprecedented levels, and optimists of the day hoped that Jozef Wojtyla’s appeal would positively influence the goodwill of the Cuban government towards openness.

For even more reverie, the discourse of John Paul II before a square filled with a mixture of the faithful and the dilettante, and facing Che Guevara’s gigantic image, made an overt reference to the need to break the isolation endured by Cubans as a consequence of our political system: “Open Cuba to the world”, he said in his inspired homily to the delirious crowd listening, captivated and hopeful, as if, just by the Pope’s suggestion, the miracle of freedom and democracy for Cuba were to happen by osmosis.

The crowd, however, had their own reasons to believe in miracles. All in all, the government, which barely a decade before the Pope’s arrival had proclaimed itself as communist and atheist and had harassed the faithful of any religious denomination for 30 years, marginalizing and excluding them in what was a crusade in reverse — against the faithful to God — had carried out the spell from circulating the most intense hatred of everything that represented religion to legitimizing all faiths, and even blessing the entry of the religious into the ranks of the Communist Party. And it had accomplished this without gradations, without raising suspicion and, most importantly, without anyone asking for an explanation, since one of the most ineffable native virtues consists of confusing justice with amnesia.

Without a doubt, placing Marx and God on the same altar was the Revolution’s spiritual contribution that is yet to be properly recognized. Thus, a new specimen in the socialist fauna was born: the mystical Communist. Suddenly, being a believer became almost a stylish ornament. Christian crucifixes and Santería necklaces of African heritage proliferated happily among us, often mixed together as naturally as if they had never been banned, as if dozens of young Christians had not been shot at the La Cabaña Fortress, the concentration camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) had never existed, or as if the religious spirituality that had always been an essential part of the national culture had not been deeply hurt.

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The opening of embassies in Cuba and the U.S.: Obama’s tragic diplomatic failure

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Statement on the Opening of U.S. and Cuban Embassies

The terms and conditions for tomorrow’s opening of U.S. and Cuban Embassies, in Havana and Washington, D.C., represent a tragic failure by the Obama Administration in diplomacy, the rule of law, democratic solidarity and U.S. regional interests.

Failure in diplomacy. The July 1st agreement between the Obama Administration and the Castro dictatorship for the opening of Embassies accepts unprecedented violations of international law in the Western Hemisphere. Despite major concessions made by the Obama Administration, including the removal of Cuba from the “state-sponsors of terrorism” list, the overwhelming majority of U.S. diplomats in Havana will continue to be subject to travel restrictions. Moreover, the Castro regime has refused to respect the inviolability of U.S. diplomatic pouches. Both of these restrictions are in direct contravention of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Failure to respect the rule of law. It remains the official policy of the United States, as codified in law, that diplomatic recognition is to be considered “when the President determines that a there exists a democratically elected government in Cuba.” Thus, the Obama Administration’s agreement with the Castro dictatorship represents an affront to the will of the U.S. Congress.

Failure in democratic solidarity. The Obama Administration’s decision to formally recognize Castro’s brutal, totalitarian dictatorship is a betrayal of the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people. The United States has historically stood as a symbol of freedom and hope for the Cuban people. Today, it risks becoming a symbol of collaboration with the Cuban people’s oppressors.

Failure for U.S. regional interests. The Obama Administration’s decision to formally recognize the sole remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere risks setting back the near-universal acceptance of democracy in the region. The message being sent is that the United States is sadly — once again — open for business with dictators in the Americas. Wanna-be authoritarians throughout the region, namely in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, are closely taking note.

Finally, it serves as a reminder of the coercive tactics that culminated in this process. As Gerardo Hernandez, the Cuban spy who was sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court for the murder conspiracy of Americans, and thereafter commuted by President Obama as part of his deal for the release of an American hostage held by Raul Castro, boasted this weekend:

We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.”

Meanwhile, the United States has ceded plenty.

Catastrophic deal with Iran will have repercussions in Latin America


For those who think that the major concessions just made to Iran have nothing to do with Cuba or Latin America:  Think again.  Think hard.

The policies of the current occupant of the White House  — which amount to nothing more than giving enemies everything they want — spell disaster for our hemisphere, not just the Middle East.

As always, Mary O’Grady sheds light on current events as no one else ever does in the mainstream news media.


Mary Anastasia O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal:

A Richer Iran Will Target the Americas
Last October police in Lima found detonators and TNT in the home of a Hezbollah operative.

In the foreword to the 2014 book “Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America,” former Colombian Defense Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez wrote that Venezuela’s “ ‘axis of unity’ with Iran embodies Latin America’s growing distance” from the U.S. “This is not to distract from the many conflicts the U.S. is engaging in the Middle East or elsewhere,” she noted. But she wanted “to remind our northern neighbors of the kind of disengagement in Latin America that led to a nuclear standoff in 1962.”

Now the Obama administration has agreed to phase out many economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for its promises to disable parts of its nuclear program. The deal provides for winding down international restrictions on trade and investment with Iran. It is also expected to gradually liberate more than $100 billion in Iranian assets frozen by the U.S. and other countries.

This means that even if the agreement prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, it will make the world less safe. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, admitted as much last Wednesday when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked if “support [for] international terrorism” might be one use for the liberated assets. “In fact,” Ms. Rice said, “we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.”

And not only in the Mideast. One likely destination for some of that money will be the Islamic Republic’s military, ideological and terrorist activities in the U.S. backyard. As Joseph Humire, executive director of the Washington-based Center for a Secure Free Society, put it to me last week, “if Iran gets access to the global financial system, they’re going to double down in Latin America.”

Iran has targeted Latin America since the mid-1980s by establishing mosques and cultural centers to spread the revolution. An arm of Hezbollah, Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist proxy, took responsibility for the 1992 terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Argentine prosecutors named Iran as the mastermind behind the 1994 terrorist attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in the same city.

Iran has “observer” status in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a coalition of pro-Castro governments in the hemisphere launched during the Venezuelan presidency of Hugo Chávez. ALBA’s members include Cuba, six other Caribbean countries, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The alliance relationships with Iran mean Iranian and Hezbollah operatives now move about the Americas easily. A 2014 paper published by Mr. Humire’s center notes that intelligence officials in the region believe Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela’s interior minister from 2008-12, provided new identities to 173 Middle Easterners.

In 2013 Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who was investigating the AMIA case, released a 500-page report about the extensive Iranian terrorism network in the hemisphere. One of his more chilling findings was that the foiled 2007 plot to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was an Iranian operation, run by a Guyanese recruit. In January Nisman was found in his Buenos Aires apartment with a bullet through his head.

One argument for lifting the sanctions is that Iranians are suffering economically. But their hardships have done nothing to diminish the Islamic Republic’s Latin American adventures.

Iranian investment in the region is not about securing food or economic growth but rather about meeting strategic goals. There is solid evidence that since 2007 Iran has invested in uranium exploration—presumably tied to its nuclear interests—in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Iranian military has at least one joint venture with Venezuela, located in the state of Aragua, where Mr. El Aissami is now governor.

Propaganda is an Iranian priority. HispanTV, launched in 2011, is a Spanish-language channel run by Iran. It has partnership agreements with state-run television in a number of ALBA countries. In his 2014 book, “Remote Control,” the respected Bolivian journalist Raúl Peñaranda alleged that Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad donated $3 million to President Evo Morales to finance and equip Bolivia’s state-owned television station Abya Yala.

Gen. Douglas Fraser , former head of the United States Southern Command, testified to Congress three years ago that Iran was backing at least 36 Shiite Islamic cultural centers in Central America, the Caribbean and South America. This year Gen. John Kelly, who now runs Southern Command, testified that there are more than 80.

Last October a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Lima on suspicion of plotting terrorism in Peru. Press reports said that police discovered detonators and TNT in his home, and evidence that he may have been scouting out the Jorge Chávez International Airport for a possible attack.

President Obama is boasting that his deal is Reaganesque. But Reagan did not abandon Latin America to enemies of liberty.


The high price of diplomatic relations with Cuba’s Castro regime

By John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

The high price of diplomatic relations with the Castro regime
“We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.” Gerardo Hernandez, Cuban spy sentenced to life in prison for murder conspiracy freed by Obama as part of his deal with Raul Castro. (Capitol Hill Cubans)
Castro and Obama (April 2015) Sirley Ávila machete attacked (May 2015)

The Obama administration has had to bend over backwards in order to arrive at the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations because since 1977 the Carter administration established de facto diplomatic relations with the opening of interests sections in both countries. Join military exercises began to be carried out in 1994 during the Clinton administration. Therefore in reality what remained to be done was more symbolism than substance, and easier for the Castro regime to drag its feet knowing that the pressure for a breakthrough weighed more heavily on President Obama and his legacy. They were not disappointed:

  • Releasing the three remaining WASP network spies, including Gerardo Hernandez — who was serving two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to murder four members of Brothers to the Rescue.
  • Ignoring the Castro regime’s continuing sponsorship of terrorism and smuggling of weapons to sanctioned countries in order to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
  • Delinking the pursuit of full diplomatic relations from the rise in human rights violations in Cuba and in the region by Cuban state security.
  • Commitment from President Obama at the State of the Union address to work for the lifting of economic sanctions on the dictatorship.

Never has so much been sacrificed with regards to Cuba policy to obtain so little in return purposefully.

Continue reading HERE.

New diplomatic ties between U.S. and Cuba has taken its toll on the Cuban people

Marc Masferrer in Uncommon Sense:

Re-establishing of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties has been no good for the Cuban people

UrlRaul Castro and Barack Obama are all smiles as Cuban people continue to suffer under one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

After a break of more than 50 years, the United States and Cuba on Monday will reopen their embassies in each other’s capital, completing a remarkable seven months of rapprochement that hasn’t meant a damn thing for the Cuban people. They still live and suffer but somehow survive under one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Here are some specifics:

— As of June 30, the dictatorship’s secret police this year had made at least 2,822 politically motivated arrests of opposition activists across the island, bringing to more than 3,000 the number of arrests since President Barack Obama on Dec. 17 announced the re-establishing of relations. Most of the arrests have amounted to short-term detentions, but dictator Raul Castro’s message is clear: Relations with the U.S. won’t loosen my regime’s grip on power or my tolerance for dissent.

— Leading up to and after the Dec. 17 announcement, the dictatorship released more than 50 political prisoners. But in June, the unofficial Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said there remained at least 71 political prisoners in Castro’s jails. Other groups and individuals say there are many more.

— In April, Committee to Protect Journalists named Cuba the 10th-most censored country in the world. For those who think it’s only right and consistent for the the United States to do business with Cuba because we already do business with fellow communist countries China and Vietnam, conditions there for journalists — Vietnam is No. 6 and China is No. 8 — are even worse, according to CPJ.

— The dictatorship this year also has been cracking down on religious liberties, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. “The number of violations of freedom of religion or belief held steady, while the violations themselves grew in severity, in the first half of 2015. For the first time since 2011, to CSW’s knowledge, a church leader has been imprisoned; while the government also apparently modified their tactics to target the property of religiousorganisations as a means to control these groups.”

Obama and Castro have gotten plenty in the months leading up to Monday’s embassy openings. Castro has scored a diplomatic coup and more importantly, a potential economic lifeline more valuable than anything his unreliable clients in Venezuela could provide.

Obama has scored a legacy point. Hope in change!

The Cuban people are only getting more of the same.