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Mar 26 12 5:57 PM
Pope Benedict and Raul Castro
A poster of Pope Benedict XVI
A woman stands near an image.
People ride a bicycle near a poster.
Just three days after saying that communism no longer works in Cuba, the pope took a softer stance as he landed in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba for a three-day trip aimed at boosting the Church's role on the island.
The 84-year-old German pope delivered a carefully worded, nuanced and balanced arrival address after he was greeted warmly by President Raul Castro, dressed in a dark suit, accompanied by a full Honor Guard and artillery gun salute.
He was less direct in his criticism of Cuba's one-party political system than he had been when speaking to reporters on Friday, although he did offer some thinly veiled phrases addressing Cuba's human rights record.
"I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be," he said, including the "sufferings" of prisoners and their families, a reference likely to be well received by political dissidents on the island as well as Cuban American exiles in the United States.
Visiting 14 years after Pope John Paul II's landmark trip to Cuba, Benedict called that trip, which was a highlight of improved Church-state relations after decades of hostility that followed the 1959 revolution, "a gentle breath of fresh air".
But he said that while great strides had been made in improving relations with the Church, "many areas remain in which greater progress can and ought to be made, especially as regards the indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society".
Benedict, who visited Mexico over the weekend, is trying to cement the Church's recent gains in Cuba and offer more help in assuring that whatever transition comes is buffered by its social programs, such as care centers for the elderly and limited after-school and adult education programs.
Raul Castro, younger brother of Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel, delivered a firm political lecture about the injustices of the United States' hostility toward Cuba, including the economic embargo, and the island's "tenacious resistance" to preserve its independence and "follow its own path."
Castro, who was raised as a Catholic, grasped both hands of the pope and briefly bowed before him as Benedict stepped onto the airport tarmac. When the wind blew the pontiff's white vestments around his head, the Cuban leader gently put them back across his shoulders.
The president later was in the front row as Benedict celebrated an open-air Mass for tens of thousands of people in Santiago's Revolution Square.
Raul Castro has used the Church as an interlocutor on issues such as political prisoners and dissidents, while moving forward with reforms to Cuba's struggling Soviet-style economy.
They include slashing a million government jobs and freeing up some sectors to small-scale private enterprise.
It has supported Castro's reforms and urged him to move farther and faster in modernizing Cuba, both economically and politically.
Benedict fired an unexpected salvo on Friday when he told reporters on his plane that communism in Cuba had failed and a new economic model was needed, adding that the Church was willing to offer its help "to avoid traumas."
The Cuban government offered a diplomatic response to the Pope's criticism, saying that Cuba would "listen with all respect" to the Pope and welcomed "the exchange of ideas."
In what appeared to be an effort to balance his remarks, Benedict made an apparent dig at capitalist greed on Monday, blaming the global economic crisis on "the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families."
Cuba is going through a key moment in its history, Benedict said, hinting that with the advancing age of the Castro brothers the island was "already looking to the future."
Echoing the words of Pope John Paul who in 1998 urged Cuba to "open itself up to the world," and "the world to open itself up to Cuba," Benedict also recognized that Cuba was making an effort to "renew and broaden its horizons."
Church officials say Benedict's schedule has not allowed for meetings with dissidents, who say Castro's government flouts human rights and suppresses their voices.
The dissident movement Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, a group of Catholic women that campaigns for the release of political prisoners, said it had been told by Cuban authorities to keep clear of the pope's Mass in Santiago.
"They are going to present the pope with a facade, not with the true Cuba," said Ana Celia Rodriguez, a 42-year-old mother of three who is planning to try to attend anyway.
"I really don't expect much change from the pope's visit. He'll see a Cuba that doesn't exist. My message for the pope is that he ought to see how things really are."
More than 70 members of the Ladies in White were detained briefly last week, fueling concerns that the government, which views opponents as mercenaries of the United States, might clamp down to prevent public demonstrations during the pope's stay.
While many Cubans complain about the socialist economy's failings, not everyone agrees with the Pope's bleak assessment of Cuban communism.
"We're so happy the Pope is coming, it makes us feel as though the world is noticing us," said Alejandro Linares, a 23-year-old university student from the eastern province of Guantanamo, a small image of revolutionary icon Ernesto 'Che' Guevara dangling around his neck.
"We want him to see our Cuba. We want him to see that we live pretty well here and that we want to be socialist, not capitalist."
Earlier on Monday, two airplanes arrived in Santiago from Miami carrying 310 mostly Cuban American faithful on a special Church-organized package to attend the papal Masses. The Miami pilgrims brought a message of reconciliation, said the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski. "It's important that we overcome the resentments and hatred of the past," he said.http://news.yahoo.com/pop...nist-cuba-164154813.html
Aug 12 12 11:48 PM
Team Freedom versus Team Fidel? MLB ‘Classic’ should include two Cuba teamsBY ROBERTO GONZALEZ ECHEVARRIA
As Major League Baseball gears up for its third “Classic,” a tournament involving “national teams” from countries where the game is played, an obvious reality imposes itself on its organizers: the need to include a Cuban team representing Cuban players who have fled the Castro regime and Team Fidel to play professionally in the United States and elsewhere.If there are two teams from China, there should be two Cuban teams. The exodus of Cuban players in the recent past has been almost massive. I count about 25 in the major leagues who would be eligible for such a team, and an equal number in the minors. There are professional Cuban players in other countries, most notably Mexico.The ill-named “Classic” (How can something that had never taken place already be one?) has been a marketing ploy to expand the reach of baseball mainly to the Pacific basin, where the potential number of fans and consumers is immense. It mimics contests in soccer and imitates the increasingly global scope of the NBA. In the first two iterations of the Classics, pathetically weak teams from mainland China and Italy were allowed to compete, and teams from the United States and the Dominican Republic, with the greatest available pool of superior players, did not do well because the games took place at the wrong moment in the dominant baseball calendar, which is that of Major League Baseball. Players were not ready to play, not to mention that they had never played together. Rules for eligibility were lax, however, to improve weaker teams.It seemed that merely proof of having eaten pasta in the past three days qualified a player to play for the Italian team. Francisco Cervelli, a Venezuelan of Italian origin belonging to the Yankees, played for Italy. But the commissioner, who sat next to Fidel Castro at a game in Havana between the Orioles and Cuba in 1999, bowed to the Castro regime’s pressure and refused to allow Liván Hernández, a Cuban resident of Puerto Rico, to play for the Puerto Rican team. Liván was a “defector.” The team from Cuba did not fare that well either, as their athletes were herded around, guarded by a heavy security detail and snitches within the squad itself to prevent escapes. Besides, they were used to beating up on national teams made up of professional rejects. They have not been winning easily even against that type of competition of late.Today’s Cuban players outside of Cuba have no team to join for the Classic, and there are quite a few excellent ones who deserve the chance to play. I name a few of the better known ones: Yunel Escobar (Blue Jays), Alexei Ramírez (White Sox), Kendry Morales (Angels), Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Yoenis Céspedes (Athletics), Yuniesky Betancourt (Royals), Dayan Viciedo (White Sox), and again Liván Hernández (Brewers).There are also quite a few players of Cuban origin who should be allowed to join such a team, certainly with much more right than Cervelli playing for Italy. I mention a few of these: Raúl Ibáñez (Yankees), Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Alex Ávila (Tigers), Gio González (Nationals), all of whom are American born but of Cuban parentage. González is from Miami, which should give him even territorial legitimacy. The Free Cuba Team, in fact, could be placed in Miami and use the Marlins Stadium as its home. I am sure that it would enjoy great popularity among the Cubans and Cuban Americans in the city (and beyond), and its games against teams whose countries are also heavily represented in the area would be sellouts. A game against the Cuban regime’s team would be a major event with political significance. The Commissioner’s Office should make, for once, an intelligent, informed and just decision that is not solely guided by greed.http://www.miamiherald.co...fidel.html#storylink=cpy
Dec 29 12 2:22 AM
Jan 2 13 6:44 AM
Mar 16 13 6:21 AM
by Humberto Fontova
“To me,” wrote Hagel in a New York Times Op-Ed just after the armed raid on the Gonzalez family’s Miami home, “this case has always been fundamentally about a father-son relationship. … the point of the raid -- to reunite Elián with his father when those housing him had repeatedly refused to hand him over….The boy is where he belongs.”
Why did this Republican Senator accept the word of a Stalinist dictator whose lifelong dream was to nuke Hagel’s homeland over that of the most loyal Republicans in modern U.S. history: (Americans of Cuban heritage)?
During the dawn of April 22, 2000 on the orders of Janet Reno-- acting on the orders of her Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton, acting under the threat of blackmail by Stalinist dictator Fidel Castro—armed INS agents maced, kicked, and gun-butted their way into Lazaro Gonzalez's Miami home, wrenched a bawling 6-year-old child from his American family at (genuine) assault weapon-point and bundled him off to Castro’s Stalinist fiefdom, leaving 102 people injured, some seriously.
Thanks to the ritual Media-Democratic-Castroite collusion most people forget (or missed) the crucial legal and ethical details of this circus/tragedy — which were mostly established during the first week after Elian’s rescue at sea, after his heroic mother’s drowning. The “son-belongs-with-his-father” crowd, for instance, “missed” that Elian’s father was initially delighted that his motherless son was in the U.S. and in the loving arms of his uncles and cousins.
The evidence — frantically buried by the Media-Democratic-Castroite complex — was overwhelming. Mauricio Vicent, a reporter for Madrid newspaper El Pais, wrote that during that first week he’d visited Elian’s home town of Cardenas and talked with Elian’s father, Juan Miguel, along with other family members and friends. All confirmed that Juan Miguel had always longed for his son Elian to flee to the United State. Shortly after Elian’s rescue, his father had even applied for a U.S. visa!
Elian’s Miami uncle, Lazaro, explained it repeatedly and best: “I always said I would turn over Elian to his father, when Juan Miguel would come here and claim him. But I (along with practically everyone with experience under communism from Cambodians to Hungarians and from Lithuanians to Cubans) knew such a thing was impossible. He couldn’t do that. I knew it wasn’t Juan Miguel requesting Elian– it was Fidel.”
The legal-weasels forgot (or missed) that on Dec, 1st 1999 the INS asserted that Miami-based uncle Lazaro was indeed Elian’s legal custodian and Florida’s family court indeed the place to arbitrate further issues .
Then on Dec 5th, 1999, Castro clapped his hands and his U.S. media minions along with the Clinton administration snapped to attention.
“Bill Clinton was terrified of Castro,” later explained Dick Morris. “Clinton looked over his shoulder for rafters the way Castro is always looking over his shoulder expecting an invasion of marines.”
The Mariel exodus of Cubans in 1980, you see, had cost Bill Clinton the only electoral loss of his life. Some of the Cuban criminals Castro sent over (a small portion of the refugees, actually) had been held in Fort Chafee Arkansas, as agreed by Governor Clinton acting on Jimmy Carters request. Shortly the criminals rioted, many horrified Arkansans blamed the governor, and Bill Clinton lost the next elections.
Point is, the Clinton team who ordered the Elian raid knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes and were simply reacting to Castro’s blackmail. They knew Elian’s father wanted Elian to remain in the U.S. They knew Juan Miguel would have defected to the U.S. in a nanosecond if given half the chance. They knew Castro held a gun to Juan Miguel’s head. How could they not? Bill Clinton’s lawyer and chum Gregory Craig, who had sprung him from the Lewinsky rap, now represented Elian’s father (i.e. Fidel Castro behind the façade.) Craig even traveled to Cuba and met with the Stalinist dictator himself to batten down the details of his (Potemkin) client’s visit to the U.S.
Some of these details were uncovered during the U.S. visit by an alarmed Pedro Porro during the taping of Juan Miguel’s father 60 Minutes “interview” with Gregory Craig’s other chum, Dan Rather.
"Juan Miguel Gonzalez was surrounded by Castro security agents the entire time he was in the studio with Rather." This is an eye-witness account from Pedro Porro, who served as Dan Rather's translator during the famous 60 Minutes interview. Dan Rather would ask the question in English into Porro's earpiece whereupon Porro would translate it into Spanish for Elian's heavily-guarded father.
"Juan Miguel was never completely alone," says Porro. "He never smiled. His eyes kept shifting back and forth. It was obvious to me that he was under heavy coercion. I probably should have walked out. But I'd been hired by CBS in good faith and I didn't know exactly how the interview would be edited - how it would come across on the screen.
"The questions Dan Rather was asking Elian's father during that 60 Minutes interview were being handed to him by attorney Gregory Craig," continues Pedro Porro. "It was obvious that Craig and Rather where on very friendly terms. They were joshing and bantering back and forth, as Juan Miguel sat there petrified. Craig was stage managing the whole thing - almost like a movie director.”
So whatever else can be said, the Clintons weren’t ignorant. They were cowing to Castroite blackmail. So let’s call them something else; perhaps “ethically-challenged” and/or “cowardly.”
But how can a Republican who came of political age during the Cold War, and who actually fought Communists in Viet-Nam, have been unaware that Communist regimes can apply unseen pressure to their inmates? Can a prospective U.S. Secretary of Defense have taken at face value the word of the same Stalinist dictator who declared:
“Again I stress I am not a communist. And Communists have absolutely no influence in my nation!” (Fidel Castro, April 1959)
“Political power does interest me in the least! And I will never assume such power!” (Fidel Castro, April 1959)
“What!” Nikita Khrushchev gasped, as recalled by his son Sergei, “Is he (Fidel Castro) proposing that we start a nuclear war? That we launch missiles from Cuba?”
“Of course I knew the missiles were nuclear- armed,” responded Fidel Castro to Robert McNamara during a meeting in 1992. “That’s precisely WHY I urged Khrushchev to launch them.”
But it appears that we’ll soon entrust our nation’s security to a U.S. Secretary of Defense who wholeheartedly trusted Fidel Castro.http://townhall.com/columnists/humbertofontova/2013/02/01/is-chuck-hagel-simply-ignorant-or-worse-n1503296/page/full/
Apr 22 13 3:24 PM
by Humberto Fontova
On April 22nd, 2000 the U.S. Dept. of Justice violated the U.S. constitution at the whim and behest of a Stalinist dictator that the very U.S. Dept. of State officially condemns as a “State Sponsor of Terror.”
Naturally this delighted many liberals. “Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elián González warmed my heart.” (Thomas Friedman, the New York Times April 23, 2000.)
But not all liberals rejoiced. Alan Dershowitz and Harvard’s Laurence Tribe both recoiled at the Clinton justice department’s legal swindle.
Thanks to the ritual MSM-Castroite collusion most people forget (or missed) the crucial legal and ethical details of this swindle — which were mostly established during the first week after Elian’s rescue at sea, after his heroic mother’s drowning. The “son-belongs-with-his-father” crowd, for instance, “missed” (with the help of the MSM-Democratic complex) that Elian’s father was initially delighted that his motherless son was in the U.S. and in the loving arms of his uncles and cousins.
Mauricio Vicent, a reporter for Madrid newspaper El Pais, wrote that during that first week after Elian’s rescue he’d visited Elian’s home town of Cardenas and talked with Elian’s father, Juan Miguel, along with other family members and friends. All confirmed that Juan Miguel had always longed for his son Elian to flee to the United States. Shortly after Elian’s rescue, his father had even applied for a U.S. visa!
Elian’s Miami uncle, Lazaro, explained it repeatedly and best: “I always said I would turn over Elian to his father, when Juan Miguel would come here and claim him. But I (along with practically everyone with experience under communism from Cambodians to Hungarians and from Lithuanians to Cubans) knew such a thing was impossible. He couldn’t do that. I knew it wasn’t Juan Miguel requesting Elian–it was Fidel.”
The legal-eagles forgot (or missed) that--as David Limbaugh meticulously documents in his book Absolute Power--on Dec. 1, 1999 the INS asserted that Miami-based uncle Lazaro was indeed Elian’s legal custodian and Florida’s family court indeed the place to arbitrate further issues.
But by January 5 the identical INS ruled that state courts had no authority in these matters, that neither Elian, nor Lazaro on his behalf, could apply for political asylum, and that Elian had to return to Cuba by January 14.
Within months this same INS was kicking down the door to Lazaro Gonzalez’ home, pummeling camera men and elderly ladies to the ground with jackboots and wrenching a screaming Elian from his legal custodians in a blaze of pepper gas and machine guns. When asked for the legal authority for this, they brandished either a search warrant to seize evidence that didn’t exist (and would not have been hidden anyway) or an arrest warrant to seize someone who no one claimed was a criminal or even a lawbreaker.
“They never made it clear just what kind of warrant” it was. And neither would it have been legal,” patiently explained Alan Dershowitz (no less).
So what happened?
Well, on Dec. 5 of that year Fidel Castro suddenly whistled, clapped his hands -- and his U.S. media and Democratic minions snapped to attention. Then he handed them his talking points and walking orders. In his family fiefdom, Fidel Castro’s KGB-trained police also paid a visit to Juan Miguel Gonzales and apparently made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The rest is history.
All that stomping and macing and firepower in the dawn hours of April 22, 2000 horrified and enraged many people for sure – it also amazed. Why such overkill? Why such “Shock and Awe,” many wondered?
Well, it appears that those INS agents genuinely feared that they were on a mission fraught with deadly peril from massive firepower. Fidel Castro himself, you see, had confided to his friend Bill Clinton via his lawyer friend Gregory Craig that Lazaro Gonzalez’ house was crammed with typical Cuban-American right-wing maniacs, all heavily armed, foaming at the mouth, and ready to rumble. The Gonzalez home could well start spewing the same firepower against American freedom-fighters as did the monastery atop Monte Cassino Italy in 1944.
Given that American liberals pretty much share Castro’s view of Americans citizens of Cuban heritage, the Stalinist dictator’s warning was warmly received –and scrupulously acted-upon.
But it turned out that the only blasting that morning came from mace and tear gas into the faces of ladies holding infants and rosaries.
“Excessive force” by U.S. Government agents is frightening for sure. But often it’s simply a consequence of too many federal employees with too little to do. All those Terminators and all that Rambo hardware costs money to upkeep. Can’t let it all “rust in the scabbard.” So let’s roll it all out, even to rescue a kitten caught in a tree. After all, many media cameras will be rolling! Many of us notice much the same thing locally from many overstaffed and bored police departments.
But a U.S. Justice Dept. that accepted the word of a State Sponsor of Terror whose lifelong dream is to nuke the U.S. (Fidel Castro) over that of lawful U.S. citizens (Cuban-Americans who claimed that from day one Fidel Castro was the one orchestrating Elian’s return)—such action by a federal agency should really give more U.S. citizens more pause.http://townhall.com/columnists/humbertofontova/2013/04/22/welcome-tamerlan-tsarnaevbut-youre-outta-here-elian-gonzalez-n1575249/page/full/
Jun 3 13 11:32 PM
This week the FBI announced a $1 million reward for "information leading to the apprehension" of Joanne Chesimard also known as Assata Shakur who they named a "Most Wanted Terrorist." Chesimard is the first woman to make the FBI’s list. The New Jersey State Police Dept., who also wants her, added another $1 million to the pot.
Convicted cop-killer (of a New Jersey State-Trooper) and "domestic terrorist" Chesimard has been living in Cuba since 1984 as a Castro-coddled celebrity of sorts. And it’s not like bounty hunters can operate freely in a Stalinist country. So the $2 million may be symbolic. As in the U.S. Justice dept. putting on a game face and saying: "Look Castro, we’re serious here!"
In the early 1970’s Chesimard belonged to a Black Panther offshoot known as the Black Liberation Army. "This case is just as important today as it was when it happened 40 years ago," according to a recent press release from Mike Rinaldi, of the New Jersey State Police. "Chesimard was a member of the Black Liberation Army, a "radical left wing terror group that felt justified killing law enforcement officers...This group conducted assaults on police stations and murdered police officers."
More than a mere member of these domestic terrorists, Chesimard was described by former assistant FBI director John Miller, as "the soul of the Black Liberation Army."
In 1973, while wanted for multiple crimes from bank robbery to murder, Chesimard and two accomplices were pulled over for a tail-light violation on the New Jersey Turnpike. As the troopers were routinely questioning them, Chesimard in the passenger seat, and her pals opened up on the lawmen with semi-auto pistols (no word on whether these were properly registered.)
As trooper Werner Foerster grappled with the driver, Chesimard shot him twice--then her gun apparently jammed. As lay Foerster lay on the ground wounded and helpless, Chesimard grabbed the troopers own gun and blasted two shots into his head, much in the manner of her Cuban idols Che Guevara and Raul Castro murdering hundreds of their own (always defenseless at the time) "counter-revolutionary" enemies.
"This crime was always considered an act of domestic terrorism," stresses Mike Rinaldi.
She escaped but was captured in 1977, convicted of murder and sentenced to life plus 33 years. Then in 1979 she escaped from prison--with some ultra-professional help, probably by Cuban or Cuban-trained terrorists. "Two men smuggled into the prison, took guards hostages and broke her out," explained John Miller to CBS News.
Chesimard’s 1979 escape from prison was well planned, Rinaldi explained. "Armed domestic terrorists gained entry into the facility, neutralized the guards, broke her free, and turned her over to a nearby getaway team."
"In 1984, they smuggled her to Mexico. Using a network of Cuban intelligence officers who worked with American radical groups, they got her into Cuba," adds former Asst. FBI Director John Miller.
In 1984 Since then, according to New Jersey State Police Col. Rick Fuentes, Chesimard "flaunts her freedom....To this day from her safe haven in Cuba Chesimard has been given a pulpit (by Castro) to preach and profess, stirring supporters and groups to mobilize against the United States by any means necessary. She has been used by the Castro regime to greet foreign delegations visiting Cuba."
"Joanne Chesimard is a domestic terrorist," declared FBI agent Aaron T. Ford, during a recent news conference. "She absolutely is a threat to America."
Along with Chesimard’s, Castro’s fiefdom provides haven for over 70 fugitives from U.S. law, including several on the FBI’s most wanted listed. Cuba also harbors convicted cop-killers Michael Finney and Charlie Hill, along with Victor Gerena, responsible for a $7 million heist of a Wells Fargo truck in Connecticut in 1983, as a member of the Puerto Rican terrorist group, Los Macheteros. All requests by U.S. authorities for these criminals’ extradition have been rebuffed, often cheekily by Fidel Castro himself: "They want to portray her as a terrorist, something that was an injustice, a brutality, an infamous lie!" Castro answered a U.S. request for Chesimard on May 3, 2005.
By the way, just this week Raul Castro’s daughter (Fidel’s niece, Che’s god-daughter) Mariela Castro was a granted a U.S. visa to attend the "Equality Forum’s annual conference on civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people." In brief, this apparatchik of the Stalinist regime and of the same "State Sponsor of Terrorism" that fetes U.S. cop-killers-- indeed that helps them escape from U.S. jails-- will headline a sort of gay rights-palooza in Philadelphia were she’ll be honored with an award for her tireless contributions on behalf of Human Rights.
In brief, an outfit (Equality Forum) headed by Malcolm Lazin and dedicated to criminalizing "anti-gay bullying" (in the U.S.) and ferociously dedicated to prosecuting such "bullies" to the fullest extent of (U.S.) law and sending them to jails cells (in the U.S.)--this SAME outfit is honoring a high-ranking apparatchik of the only regime in the history of the Western Hemisphere to herd thousands of men and boys at Soviet gun-point into forced labor camps surrounded by barbed wire and machine gun posts for the crime of fluttering their eyelashes, flapping their hands and talking with a lisp.
And we wonder why Fidel, Raul and their guest Joanne Chesimard are all laughing heartily from Cuba?http://townhall.com/columnists/humbertofontova/2013/05/03/fbis-mostwanted-terrorist-laughs-at-us-justice-from-cuba-n1586649/page/full
Nov 30 13 8:06 PM
The Unreported Tragedy of Cuba's Repressive Communist Regime
by Mike Gonzalez
November 10, 2011
Cuba—to listen to, watch or read some of the media—is a place that has remained unbowed in the face of impoverishment by the U.S. embargo. Lately what you hear is that it is attempting to make bold reforms not just in the economy, but socially as well (it just allowed gays to marry!) The people still dance.
Only that the reality of Cuba bears little resemblance to the plucky little island narrative. Cuba’s penury has nothing to do with the U.S. decision not to trade with the communist island, but with the fact that the island is communist in the first place. If communism produced misery in Europe and Asia (where one half of Germany and Korea stagnated under repression while the capitalist halves of those countries thrived in economic and political freedom) why would the result be different in the Caribbean?
Communism is a human tragedy, enslaving the soul while failing to produce enough goods for the people trudging under it. Communist countries are large prisons; the borders must be closed lest the people escape. And within that hell there are smaller circles where the repression is intensified. It’s the Gulag, the re-education camp or, in Cuba’s case today, public beatings by government mobs for those who dare to speak their minds.
One would think a journalist would want report on that, especially when—as is the case in Cuba today—the people have finally decided to risk it all and take to the streets to voice their opposition. Reality, however, is again otherwise.
In Cuba today there’s a growing and vibrant protestor movement, headed by a group of women called Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White). Originally organized by the wives of political prisoners, it has now galvanized others to lose their fear and voice their anti-communist sentiments in public.
Their acts are dignified. They march to Mass on Sunday bearing flowers; sometimes they stand in squares and chant slogans or meet in each other’s houses.
The repression that Cuba’s communist regime has unleashed against these poor ladies is anything but dignified. They have been seized by government goons bused in for the occasion, pushed, scratched and beaten. In one case, in the city of Santiago de Cuba, these ladies were stripped to their waist and dragged through the streets. In another instance they were bitten. The founder of the movement, 63-year-old Laura Pollan, died in a state hospital where she was hospitalized after a brutal and public beating the week before.
We understand—though it still rankles—why journalists posted in Havana are reluctant file stories or broadcast on these events or on the overall mind-numbing reality of communism. If they do, they will be put on the next plane out (a fate any Cuban would relish, of course). As blogger Yoani Sanchez—a rare Cuban allowed to speak her mind, with only the occasional beating—posted last month at Foreign Policy:
"The dilemma of foreign correspondents — popularly called ‘foreign collaborators’ — is whether to make concessions in reporting in order to stay in the country, or to narrate the reality and face expulsion. The major international media want to be here when the long-awaited ‘zero day’ arrives — the day the Castro regime finally makes its exit from history. For years, journalists have worked to keep their positions so they will be here to file their reports with two pages of photos, testimonies from emotional people, and reports of colored flags flapping all over the place.
"But the elusive day has been postponed time and again. Meanwhile, the same news agencies that reported on the events of Tahrir Square or the fighting in Libya downplay the impacts of specific events in Cuba or simply keep quiet to preserve their permission to reside in the country. This gag is most dramatic among those foreign journalists with family on the island, whom they would have to leave or uproot if their accreditation were revoked. The grim officials of the CPI understand well the delicate strings of emotional blackmail and play them over and over again."
It’s unfair to single out the press, however. The Obama Administration has failed, too, to bring the plight of Cubans to the forefront, even during the current wave of repression against the Ladies in White.
Two reasons are given for the soft approach. President Obama may not want to complicate the case of Alan Gross, a Marylander Cuba has taken hostage. Gross was sent to Cuba in 2009 by the U.S. Agency for International Development to set up internet connectivity for Cuba’s dwindling Jewish community. He was arrested in December of 2009 and has been sentenced to 15 years for the crime of bringing satellite phones and laptops into Cuba. President Obama also wants to reach out to the Castro brothers.
Feb 26 14 2:24 AM
Sep 11 14 8:49 AM
Russia has struck a deal with its old communist ally Cuba to reopen a Cold War-era listening post that was once its largest spy outpost just 150 miles from the US mainland.
The agreement, a further sign of deteriorating relations between Moscow and the US, was reached during a visit to Havana by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, military sources told the newspaper Kommersant.
At its peak, the base was manned by 3,000 Soviet military and intelligence personnel, whose task was to intercept US communications and provide intelligence to Moscow's ships and submarines in the Western hemisphere.
The listening post in the Havana suburb of Lourdes was closed in late-2001, partly due to Russia's financial problems but also under pressure from Washington at a time of improving cooperation between the two countries.
Vyacheslav Trubnikov, a leading Russian foreign ministry officials and former director of foreign intelligence service, said that reopening base would strengthen Moscow's international position.
"Lourdes gave the Soviet Union eyes in the whole of the western hemisphere," he said. "For Russia, which is fighting for its lawful rights and place in the international community, it would be no less valuable than for the USSR." Moscow set up what was to become its largest covert military outpost in 1964 to spy on the US in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis. The staff monitored US radio signals including those from submarines, ships and satellites.
The base was reduced in scale after the collapse of the Soviet Union and closed in 2001. But, in the words of a military source cited by Kommersant, the US "did not appreciate our gesture of goodwill".
In 1993, Raúl Castro, then defence minister of Cuba, claimed that Russia received 75 per cent of signal intelligence on America through Lourdes.
Sep 18 14 2:44 AM
In 2010 and 2011, Cuba’s government released dozens of political prisoners on condition they accept exile in exchange for freedom. Since then, it has relied less on long-term prison sentences to punish dissent and has relaxed draconian travel restrictions that divided families and prevented its critics from leaving and returning to the island.
Nevertheless, the Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts of shaming, termination of employment, and threats of long-term imprisonment. Short-term arbitrary arrests have increased dramatically in recent years and routinely prevent human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others from gathering or moving about freely.
The government continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation—an independent human rights group the government views as illegal—received over 3,600 reports of arbitrary detentions from January through September 2013, compared to approximately 2,100 in 2010.
The detentions are often used preemptively to prevent individuals from participating in events viewed as critical of the government, such as peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics. Many dissidents are beaten and threatened when detained, even if they do not try to resist.
Security officers virtually never present arrest orders to justify detentions and threaten detainees with criminal sentences if they continue to participate in “counterrevolutionary” activities. In some cases, detainees receive official warnings, which prosecutors may later use in criminal trials to show a pattern of delinquent behavior. Dissidents said these warnings aim to discourage them from participating in activities seen as critical of the government.
Victims of such arrests may be held incommunicado for several hours to several days. Some are held at police stations, while others are driven to remote areas far from their homes where they are interrogated, threatened, and abandoned.
On August 25, 2013, more than 30 women from the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White)—a group founded by the wives, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners and which the government considers illegal—were detained after attending Sunday mass at a church in Santiago, beaten, forced onto a bus, and left at various isolated locations on the city’s outskirts. The same day, eight members of the group in Havana and seven more in Holguín were arbitrarily detained as they marched peacefully to attend mass.
Cubans who criticize the government may face criminal prosecution. They do not benefit from due process guarantees, such as the right to fair and public hearings by a competent and impartial tribunal. In practice, courts are “subordinated” to the executive and legislative branches, denying meaningful judicial independence. Political prisoners are routinely denied parole after completing the minimum required sentence as punishment for refusing to participate in ideological activities, such as “reeducation” classes.
The death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2010 after his 85-day hunger strike and the subsequent hunger strike by dissident Guillermo Fariñas pressured the government to release the remaining political prisoners from the “group of 75” (75 dissidents sentenced to long prison terms in a 2003 crackdown). Yet most were forced to choose between ongoing prison sentences and forced exile. The overwhelming majority accepted relocation to Spain in exchange for their freedom.
Dozens of political prisoners remain in Cuban prisons according to local human rights groups, which estimate that there are more political prisoners whose cases they cannot document because the government prevents independent national or international human rights groups from accessing its prisons.
Luis Enrique Labrador Diaz was one of four people detained in January 2011 for distributing leaflets in Havana with slogans such as “Down with the Castros” and was subsequently convicted in May 2011 for contempt and public disorder in a closed, summary trial. He was still in prison at time of writing.
The government controls all media outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information, severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny fraction of Cubans are able to read independent websites and blogs because of the high cost of and limited access to the Internet. A May 2013 government decree directed at expanding Internet access stipulates that it cannot be used for activities that undermine “public security, the integrity, the economy, independence, and national security” of Cuba—broad conditions that could be used to impede access to government critics.
A small number of independent journalists and bloggers manage to write articles for websites or blogs, or publish tweets. Yet those who publish information considered critical of the government are sometimes subject to smear campaigns, attacks, and arbitrary arrests, as are artists and academics who demand greater freedoms.
After jazz musician Roberto Carcasses called for direct elections and freedom of information in a nationally televised concert in Havana in September 2013, officials told him that his words benefitted “the enemy” and that he would be barred from performing in state-run venues. The government lifted the ban—widely reported in the international press—a week later. In May, the director of the government-run Casa de las Americas cultural institute, Roberto Zurbano, published an article in the New York Times highlighting persistent inequality and prejudice affecting Afro-Cubans. He was subsequently attacked in the government-controlled press and demoted to a lesser job at the institute.
The Cuban government refuses to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity and denies legal status to local human rights groups. Meanwhile, government authorities harass, assault, and imprison human rights defenders who attempt to document abuses.
Reforms to travel regulations that went into effect in January 2013 eliminate the need for an exit visa to leave the island, which had previously been used to deny the right to travel to people critical of the government and their families. Nearly 183,000 people traveled abroad from January to September 2013, according to the government. These included human rights defenders, journalists, and bloggers who previously had been denied permission to leave the island despite repeated requests, such as blogger Yoani Sanchez.
Nonetheless, the reform establishes that the government may restrict the right to travel on the vague grounds of “defense and national security” or “other reasons of public interest,” which could allow the authorities to deny people who express dissent the ability to leave Cuba. The government also continues to arbitrarily deny Cubans living abroad the right to visit the island. In August, the Cuban government denied Blanca Reyes, a Damas de Blanco member living in exile in Spain, permission to travel to Cuba to visit her ailing 93-year-old father, who died in October before she could visit him.
The government restricts the movement of citizens within Cuba through a 1997 law known as Decree 217. Designed to limit migration to Havana, the decree requires that Cubans obtain government permission before moving to the country's capital. It is often used to prevent dissidents traveling there to attend meetings and to harass dissidents from other parts of Cuba who live in the capital.
Prisons are overcrowded, unhygienic, and unhealthy, leading to extensive malnutrition and illness. More than 57,000 Cubans are in prisons or work camps, according to a May 2012 article in an official government newspaper. Prisoners who criticize the government or engage in hunger strikes and other forms of protest are subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, restrictions on family visits, and denial of medical care. Prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress.
While the government allowed select members of the foreign press to conduct controlled visits to a handful of prisons in April, it continued to deny international human rights groups and independent Cuban organizations access to its prisons.
The United States’ economic embargo of Cuba, in place for more than half a century, continues to impose indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people and has done nothing to improve the country’s human rights. At the United Nations General Assembly in October, 188 of the 192 member countries voted for a resolution condemning the US embargo.
In 2009, President Barack Obama enacted reforms to eliminate restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba put in place during the administration of President George W. Bush in 2004. In 2011, Obama used his executive powers to ease “people-to-people” travel restrictions, allowing religious, educational, and cultural groups from the US to travel to Cuba.
The European Union continues to retain its “Common Position" on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which conditions full economic cooperation with Cuba on the country’s transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights.
Former US Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross remained in prison despite a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention report in November 2012 that called for his immediate release. Gross was detained in Cuba in December 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years in prison for distributing telecommunications equipment to religious groups. The working group said Gross’s detention was arbitrary and that Cuba’s government had failed to provide sufficient evidence of the charges against him.
In May, Cuba underwent its second Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. Several countries expressed concern with repression of human rights defenders, increased arbitrary detentions, and lack of freedom of expression. Cuba rejected many of these recommendations on the grounds that they were “politically biased and built on false premises, resulting from efforts to discredit Cuba on the part of those who, with their hegemonic ambitions, refuse to accept the diversity and the right to freedom of determination of the Cuban people.”
In November, Cuba was re-elected to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, defeating Uruguay for a regional position despite its poor human rights record and consistent efforts to undermine the council’s work to respond to human rights violators.
Sep 26 14 3:01 AM
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