Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Coaching Loretta

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Well-rehearsed answers at the nomination hearings: Read my article here.

Cuba: Gimme, gimme, gimme Gitmo!

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Now that the murderous Communist regime in Cuba knows that to the Obama administration the word “easement” means “A deal for which the U.S. gets nothing in exchange”, they want more.

Who wouldha thunk it!

How much more?

The whole enchilada (YES, I KNOW ENCHILADAS ARE MEXICAN. Bear with me here!):

  • Ending what’s left of the embargo
  • Ending all TV and radio broadcasts to the island
  • Cutting off support to dissidents
  • Removal from the states sponsors of terror list
  • Giving Guantanamo Base to Cuba

and (drumroll please)

  • Reparations! “just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they’re suffered.”

Since Communists love slogans, Gimme, gimme, gimme Gitmo!

Lest you believe that gifting Gitmo to Russia and all of these concessions are unlikely to come about, keep in mind that Obama is obsessed with his “legacy”. Take it away, Ed!

Only if one believes that these conditions will discourage Obama. He’s desperate for a foreign-policy achievement that will allow him to claim a legacy, and Castro knows it. (So does Iran.) Castro isn’t anywhere near as desperate for normalized relations with the US; he gets plenty of hard currency from the rest of the world, and exchanges it with the near-worthless Cuban peso with which he pays Cubans. Castro wants to strengthen his regime, and humiliating Obama will raise his prestige immeasurably at home.

Gifting Gitmo already has support among some, but as Joshua Treviño commented on Facebook (emphasis added),

We need to establish a new rule of thumb: anyone arguing that major bargaining points should be ceded in exchange for unforced goodwill does not understand basic power dynamics and should be ignored in policymaking henceforth. The Cuban regime isn’t going to be any more grateful or well-disposed toward us after occupying Guantanamo than they are now. They’ll just feel, with some justification, like they’ve won — and moreover won cheaply. What good that does us, well, ask the Israelis about the goodwill garnered after leaving Lebanon and Gaza.

As for the hand-waving dismissal of the modern importance of “conventional hemispheric defense,” that is the sort of thing one writes when one’s historical horizons are confined to an exceedingly small slice of history.

The small slice of history, in this case, “is all about the O.”

Somewhere in Cuba, Fidel’s amanuensis is gloating,

(more…)

Cuba: File this one under “No sh*t, Sherlock”

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Pres. Obama gave a speech the week before Christmas, and everything was taken care of: Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality magically transformed into an age of enlightenment and human rights.

So here we go,
After First Normalization Talks With Cuba, U.S. Says Deep Divisions Remain
Human Rights, Support for Dissidents Are Main Areas of Disagreement
.

Who wouldha thunk it!

Back in the olden days enlightened despots

did not propose reforms that would undermine their sovereignty or disrupt the social order.

Nowadays there’s the Viet Nam outcome,

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely.

Same old, same old.

UPDATE,
Linked to by Pirate’s Cove. Thank you!



The easement Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, January 19th, 2015

LatinAmerThis Carnival is dedicated to the new meaning of the word easement, which, following last Friday’s U.S. Department Of Commerce and U.S Department Of The Treasury Announcement Of Regulatory Amendments To The Cuba Sanctions now includes “making a deal where one gets nothing in return.”

However, the big news of the day is Alberto Nisman’s death by a gunshot wound in his home while his bodyguards were absent. Go to this morning’s post for more.

ARGENTINA
THE LONESOME DEATH OF ALBERTO NISMAN

Oil and trouble
A prosecutor accuses the president of obstructing justice in the country’s biggest terror case

In 2013, Argentina announced that it would collaborate with Iran in a joint commission “to advance knowledge of the truth about the attack,” as Ms Fernández wrote on Twitter at the time. The country’s Jewish population, the world’s seventh largest, was puzzled and angry about the accord. Now the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, alleges that the controversial deal was reached in back-channel negotiations that Ms Fernández initiated with Iran. He claims that she offered to cover up the involvement of any Iranian officials in exchange for increased trade. Argentina would export grain to Iran, while Iran would sell oil to Argentina to ease its severe energy deficit.

In the end, for reasons that are still unclear, the negotiations failed and the deal fell apart. But Mr Nisman has marshalled evidence of the talks in a 300-page document that he filed in a Buenos Aires court. “They decided, negotiated, and assured the impunity of the fugitive Iranians in the AMIA case with the aim of faking Iran’s innocence to serve geopolitical and commercial interests,” Mr Nisman declared. The allegations against Ms Fernández, her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, and others are based on “irrefutable proof” from two years of investigations and myriad wiretaps, Mr Nisman claims.

Kirchner Accused of Covering Up 1994 Terrorist Bombing
Prosecutor: President Made Secret Deal with Iran for Cheap Oil

Fernandez Graft Cases Multiply in Argentine Electoral Year

Argentina’s Jews Reel From New Twist in Terror Probe
Prosecutor Accuses President Christina Kirchner of Conspiring to Cover Up a Probe Into a 1994 Terrorist Attack on a Jewish Center

Argentina’s Kirchner Named in Criminal Complaint
An Argentine prosecutor filed a complaint against President Cristina Kirchner, her foreign minister and others for allegedly conspiring to cover up a probe into Iran’s alleged involvement in the bombing of a Jewish community center.

A federal prosecutor in Argentina has filed a criminal complaint against President Cristina Kirchner , her foreign minister and others, accusing them of conspiring to cover up an investigation into Iran’s alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in this capital city.

The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, said on Wednesday that Mrs. Kirchner had ordered Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others to negotiate immunity for Iranian suspects in hopes this would reestablish trade ties and allow Argentina to import Iranian oil to ease a domestic energy crisis. The alleged plan didn’t come to fruition, however.

Prosecutor: Argentinian President Plotted to Cover Up Iranian Role in AMIA Bombing

ARUBA
Aruba Tops 1 Million Visitors for First Time

It also makes Aruba one of just five Caribbean destinations above the 1 million mark, along with the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Cuba’s 1 million visitors sure made a difference so far, or haven’t they?

BOLIVIA
Bolivian Peasants Urged On by Drug Traffickers Hold Hostage, Beat 4 Police

BRAZIL
Petrobras’s Lesson for Latin America
We Ignore Cronyism at Our Peril

Codenamed Lava Jato, or “car wash,” the investigation into Petrobras operations by police and public prosecutors revealed a colossal corruption scheme involving former top executives, construction companies, and prominent politicians from the governing coalition dominated by the Workers’ Party (PT). Evidence uncovered so far suggests the privileged club of racketeers pocketed billions of dollars under the cover of public contracts.

CHILE
Chile’s Penta Case Pulls Dozens Into Corruption Scandal
Officials Took Cash for Influence, Allege Prosecutors

Chile’s Landmark Electoral Reform Passes Senate Hurdle
Binomial System on the Way Out, Gender Quota on the Way In

After a marathon 20-hour session on Wednesday, January 14, the Chilean Senate approved reform to an electoral system that dates back to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The objective is to increase the number of deputies and senators, and change the voting mechanism from binomial to proportional.

COLOMBIA
Why is Colombia Smuggling Coca Base to Honduras?

Colombia’s Santos Orders Discussion of Bilateral Cease-Fire with FARC

COSTA RICA
Costa Rica’s Quakers dodged US draft, now face perils of changing world
After leaving Alabama in 1951, small group of American pacifists maintains community in Central American highlands

CUBA
U.S. eases Cuba embargo

Breaking News from the Rumor Desk: Fidel gravely ill due to “embolia” (embolism)

Via Babalu,
* Obama will allow Americans to use credit cards in Cuba
* Castro will continue to prohibit private businesses from accepting credit card payments

ECUADOR
Ecuador targets cartoonist as world rejects Paris attacks

EL SALVADOR
U.N.’s Ban Ki-Moon Worried by El Salvador Violence as Murders Soar

FALKLAND ISLANDS
Bronze bust of Margaret Thatcher unveiled in Port Stanley
A statue honouring former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who lead Britain to victory in the 1982 conflict to defend the islands the Falkland Islands, has been unveiled in Port Stanley.

HONDURAS
U.S. Seeks to Seize Properties Bought by Corrupt Honduran Officials

IMMIGRATION
CBO: ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GRANTED EXECUTIVE AMNESTY WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR CERTAIN FEDERAL BENEFITS

México: las rutas de los migrantes que no pueden viajar en La Bestia

MEXICO
DECOMPOSING BODY OF MURDERED MEXICAN ACTRESS FOUND IN WATER TANK

Mexico’s Unemployment Drop Points to Labor Market Recovery
Unemployment In Mexico Last Month Was 3.8%

MEXICO PROVIDING BIRTH CERTIFICATES TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN U.S.

Losing marijuana business, Mexican cartels push heroin and meth

PANAMA
Obama to Meet With Cuban Dictator Raul Castro in Panama

PERU
Peru’s Entire Economy Is Threatened By Anchovies

Peru Currency Drops to Lowest Since 2009 After Surprise Rate Cut

PUERTO RICO
Google to Launch ‘Modular’ Smartphone
Google plans to launch a ‘modular’ smartphone in Puerto Rico, part of an audacious and risky effort by the Internet giant to upend the way mobile devices are designed, built and sold.

Sony to Withdraw from Puerto Rico after 25 Years, Web Site Says

URUGUAY
Uruguay Offshore Bidding Plans Hinge on Oil Recovery

VENEZUELA
Venezuelan Bishops Get Religion

Venezuela’s Bishops Have A Message For Pope Francis on Communism

Wow! Venezuela bishops tell Pope Francis the downside of socialism and communism

Report: Coup Plot Possible Against Socialist Venezuelan President. Not quite yet.

Venezuelan oil basket down to USD 39.19 per barrel

The week’s posts and podcast:
Argentina: Cristina’s corrupt deals with the Ayatollahs

Starting the day with Smart Diplomacy

Cuba: Effective Friday UPDATED

Charlie Hebdo: 5 million

Venezuela: Qatar gives a band-aid

Who’s publishing the new Charlie Hebdo cartoon? UPDATED

Cuba: Finally, the list of the 53 UPDATED

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
Film: Boyhood

Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality

Podcast



Cuba: Effective Friday UPDATED

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

What this country doesn’t need is a good $2 Cuban cigar.

Alberto de la Cruz predicted it, Obama may release his new Cuba sanctions policy tomorrow against the apartheid Castro regime

Today, the Administration announces new regulations for Cuba travel, trade

Here’s the White House Statement by the Press Secretary on the Publication of Regulatory Changes regarding Cuba (emphasis added)

Last month, President Obama announced historic changes to our Cuba policy, beginning the process of normalization between our countries, and announcing his commitment to ease restrictions on American citizens and businesses. Today, the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Commerce took a significant step forward in delivering on the President’s new direction by publishing regulatory amendments to existing Cuba sanctions. These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people.

We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans. The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation. The United States remains committed to our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a more prosperous Cuba that respects the universal rights of all its citizens.

So, no, not effective Friday, effective immediately? The NYT says

a set of new regulations to take effect on Friday easing decades-old restrictions on travel, business and remittances

so let’s not split hairs over the date; after all, everyone knew something like this was coming.

UPDATE:
Read it and weep, Fact Sheet: U.S. Department Of Commerce and U.S Department Of The Treasury Announcement Of Regulatory Amendments To The Cuba Sanctions

Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Since the next round of US-Cuban discussions is scheduled for January 21 and 22 (a week from today) in Havana, it’s worth taking a look at Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality.

Read my article here.

Image from Comrade Šterpin at The People’s Cube.

Cuba: Finally, the list of the 53 UPDATED

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

UPDATE, January 16,
Castro Re-Arrests Cuban Dissidents From the List of 53

—————————–

Marc Masferrer explains, on Facebook,

For more than nine years, I have tried to make my blog a repository of information, in English, about Cuban political prisoners. It rarely is an easy task — it’s not like the Cuban government provides an up-to-date list — but a major goal of my blogging has been to report the prisoners’ names and their stories so that they, and their captors, know they are not forgotten.

I wish the release of 53 political prisoners was a more joyful moment, that maybe I could retire this function of my blog. But there is nothing in recent developments that suggests that the released prisoners’ places in the Castro gulag won’t later be filled by others. And then there are those prisoners who apparently didn’t make the list of 53.

Here is Marc’s list with links; I cannot emphasize enough that these are not the only political prisoners in Cuba:

1. Alcibiades Guerra Marín

2. Alexander Fernández Rico

3. Alexander Otero Rodríguez

4. Alexeis Vargas Martín

5. Ángel Figueredo Castellón

6. Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga

7. Anoy Almeida Pérez

8. Aracelio Ribeaux Noa

9. Bianko Vargas Martín

10. Carlos Manuel Figueredo Álvarez

11. César Andrés Sánchez Pérez

12. Daniel Enrique Quesada Chaveco

13. David Bustamante Rodríguez

14. David Piloto Barceló

15. Diango Vargas Martín

16. Eider Frometa Allen

17. Eliso Castillo González

18. Emilio Plana Robert

19. Enrique Figuerola Miranda

20. Ernesto Riverí Gascón

21. Ernesto Tamayo Guerra

22. Eugenio Hernández Hernández 

23. Haydée Gallardo Salázar

24. Iván Fernández Depestre

25. Jorge Cervantes García

26. Jorge Ramírez Calderón

27. José Leiva Díaz

28. José Lino Ascencio López

29. José M. Rodríguez Navarro

30. Juan Carlos Vásquez Osoria

31. Juliet Michelena Díaz

32. Julio César Vegas Santiesteban

33. Lázaro Romero Hurtado

34. Leonardo Paumier Ramírez

35. Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz

36. Madeline Lazara Caraballo Betancourt

37. Marcelino Abreu Bonora

38. Mario Alberto Hernández Leiva

39. Miguel Alberto Ulloa

40. Miguel Ángel Tamayo Frías

41. Miguel Guerra Astie

42. Ramón Alejandro Muñoz

43. Reiner Mulet Levis

44. Roberto Hernández Barrio

45. Rolando Reyes Rabanal

46. Ruberlandis Maine Villalón

47. Rubisney Villavicencio Figueredo

48. Sonia Garro Alfonso

49. Vladimir Morera Bacallao

50. Vladimir Ortiz Suárez

51. Wilberto Parada Milán

52. Yohanne Arce Sarmientos

53. Yordenis Mendoza Cobas

When Will Cuba’s Remaining Political Prisoners be Released?

Why didn’t it release the list on December 17th?

Here are a few clues:

The list includes over a dozen prisoners who were released prior to the December 17th announcement, such as Sonia Garro, Ramon Alejandro Munoz, Eugenio Hernandez Hernandez, Juliet Muechelena Diaz Vladimir Morera Bacallao, Alcibiades Guerra Marin, Eider Frometa Allen, Madeline Lazara Caraballo Betancourt, Jorge Cervantes García, Juan Carlos Vasquez Osoria and Niorvis Rivera Guerra.

The Administration insists that they were also part of the Obama-Castro deal. Of course, since they kept the list secret all this time, we’ll never know. So much for accountability and transparency.

One of the prisoners on the list, who was also released prior to December 17th, Marcelino Abreu Bonora, had been out of prison since October 24th. He was then re-arrested on December 26th (after the Obama-Castro deal), brutally beaten (click here to see evidence) and kept in a punishment cell for nearly two weeks before being re-released on January 7th.

Abreu Bonora’s case proves how fungible and fickle this deal is.

What’s clear is that the Obama Administration didn’t want to travel to Havana next week for further talks, while questions lingered about the unknown fate of these 53 prisoners.

Thus, after sitting on their hands for four weeks, they ratcheted the pressure on the Castro regime. Imagine that, pressure works.

Or they simply got creative with the list.

(Additionally, most of the political prisoners were released on the “condition” they don’t renew their democracy activism — or face re-arrest — while many were at the tail-end of their sentences.)

But wait! There’s more!
Expelled Castro spy most likely to lead talks with U.S. in Cuba. Details at Cuba Confidential:

The Cuban delegation is expected to be led by Josefina Vidal, director of the North American Affairs Division within Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vidal led the previous round of migration talks last July in Washington, D.C. A member of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee, Vidal was thrown out of the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Havana’s spy-diplomats. For five years, her office also played a central role in the negotiations regarding the return of USAID contractor Alan Gross.

Cuba: What are the names of the 53 prisoners?

Monday, January 5th, 2015

On December 17, Pres. Obama read his Statement on Cuba Policy Changes. In it, he mentioned,

In addition to the return of Alan Gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.

No specifics, just “a substantial number of prisoners.”

Later it was revealed by the White House that, out of the untold number of political prisoners in Cuba (where in 2014 the number of arrests totaled 8,012), 53 were to be released as part of the deal. As Jason Poblete points out,

The 53 are part of a deal that included impregnating (through artificial insemination by having his sperm collected at prison in the U.S. and then flown to Cuba at U.S. taxpayers’ expense) the wife of a spy serving two life sentences for murder. U.S. taxpayers also paid to fly the spy to Cuba, where he was received as a hero, and the U.S. government paid about $3.2 million to Alan Gross.

Following the Statement, I have been trying to find the list of the 53 names. I set out right away, even asking on Twitter after my (failed) initial search,

The names, as far as I could see, are nowhere to be found. I thought perhaps I could not find them due to the fact that I have very limited resources through which I can conduct research. However, none of the dozens of Latin American or Spanish news sources I constantly consult had any information at all on the names, which is very unusual.*

As it turns out, I am in good company:

Reuters reports,
In U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap, mystery surrounds the unnamed 53

Cuba’s most prominent dissidents say they have been kept in the dark by U.S. officials over a list of 53 political prisoners who will be released from jail as part of a deal to end decades of hostility between the United States and Cuba.

For years, dissident leaders have told the United States which opponents of Cuba’s communist government were being jailed or harassed, but they say they were not consulted when the list of prisoners to be freed was drawn up or even told who is on it.

The lack of information has stoked concern and frustration among the dissidents, who worry that the secret list is flawed and that genuine political prisoners who should be on it will be left to languish.

“We’re concerned because we don’t agree with the silence, because we have a right to know who they are. Who are they?” said Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White dissident group, which marches in Havana on Sundays to demand the release of prisoners.

“There are not just 53 political prisoners, there are more, and we are concerned that the U.S. list might have common criminals on it,” she told Reuters in Havana.

Reuters also brings up another interesting question, in view of Obama’s wording “a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team,”

It also is not clear if some prisoners were kept off the list because the Cuban government refused to release them.

Mary O’Grady is also asking, Where Are Cuba’s Political Prisoners?
Fifty-three of those jailed by the Castros were supposed to have been freed in the Obama deal.
She couldn’t even get an answer from the State Department:

I asked the State Department this last week. State referred me to the White House. White House officials declined to provide the list of names citing “concern that publicizing it would make it more difficult to ensure that Cuba follows through, and continues with further steps in the future.”

Bottom line: The U.S. government cannot confirm that they have been released and is not certain they’re going to be released, even though the three Cuban spies have already been returned.

O’Grady points out,

If Mr. Obama is serious about selling U.S.-Cuba detente, a little less obfuscation would be nice. The U.S. has not confirmed the identity of the intelligence asset who it says had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years and was also traded for the Cuban spies. Mr. Obama said the Cuban, before his arrest, had supplied key information to the U.S. that led to the nabbing of those spies, as well as three others.

Press reports and intel experts I talked to say the “asset” is Rolando Sarraff. But a debate is raging in the intelligence community about whether Mr. Sarraff, who has not been heard from since his arrival on U.S. soil, is all he’s cracked up to be by Mr. Obama. Another possibility is that his résumé was embellished to cover up for what was essentially a trade of the convicted spies for Alan Gross, the U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who was arrested by Cuban state security in Havana in 2009.

Considering how the Communist regime has a history of touting the release of prisoners for propaganda purposes, this secrecy around the names of 53 people is extraordinary enough that, by now, my question is, is there a list?

The lack of transparency equals lack of accountability. Just what one would expect from the Obama administration.

* Note: Unusual enough that I can not recall a news item in ten years of blogging where two weeks’ research turned out nothing.

Venezuela: Biden asks for release of political prisoners

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

Joe Biden was attending Dilma’s inauguration, and he made sure to run into Maduro?
Biden urged Venezuelan to free political prisoners, U.S. says

No, it was Maduro’s people who wanted to approach Joe:

One of Maduro’s aides initiated the contact, approaching the U.S. delegation during the reception that followed the swearing-in of President Dilma Rousseff for a second term.

Maduro told Biden that Venezuela wants “a better relationship with the United States” and the vice president assured him President Barack Obama’s administration was also interested in improving ties.

Biden told Maduro that the most important thing Venezuela needs to do to lay the basis for better relations is to release political prisoners, the U.S. official said.

Of course, by now Maduro knows all he needs to do in these days of smart diplomacy is to take an American hostage, hold him/her for a few years, have the Vatican intervene, and things will go his way no matter what.



The top Latin American story of 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Without a doubt, Pres. Obama’s December 17 Statement on Cuba Policy Changes was the top news of 2014 on Latin America.

Read the rest of my article at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Cuban dissidents meeting at the 14ymedio office, the online newspaper of blogger Yoani Sanchez (fourth from right)