Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category

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 Obama gave a speech the week before Christmas, and everything was taken care of: Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality magically transformed into an age of enlightenment and human rights.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



Cuba: For Rangel, “there’s always pain”

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) took time off from not paying his taxes to insult Cubans suffering under the island-prison’s Communist oppression,

“How would you explain the president’s plan to normalize relations to Americans, like the ones in the audience tonight, that have lost everything, that have lost family members to the Castro regime?” asked MSNBC anchor Ronan Farrow.

“Well there’s always pain when people have suffered under a Communist regime,” said Rangel. The career politician believes that relaxing restrictions on Cuba will eventually help to “ease the pain” that the Cuban people are feeling.

Grok the empathy here, if you can stand it,

(more…)

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.

Venezuela: Qatar gives a band-aid

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

No specifics, though:
Qatar Helps Venezuela Weather Oil Crisis
Venezuela Will Receive ‘Several Billion Dollars’ in Financing From Qatari banks, President Nicolás Maduro said, as Opposition Members Criticized the Leader’s Economic Stewardship.

“They’re giving us enough oxygen to cover the fall in crude prices,” he said in remarks carried on Venezuelan state television.

An untold amount, in an untold date, by unnamed banks.

Sounds like a deal!

Meanwhile, Venezuelan authorities are doing what they do best:
Over 1.5 Million Diapers Seized from Venezuela Warehouse

A government raid on a warehouse in western Venezuela has resulted in the confiscation of more than 1.5 million diapers along with over 360 tons of detergent and thousands of pounds of food which were being illegally hoarded.

Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on state television Monday that during the raid, 1,523,776 diapers, 360 tons of detergent powder, as well as conditioners, razors and towels, were found.

In the warehouse, situated in Zulia province, there were also 15,000 units with thousands of liters (gallons) of infant milk substitute, 17,076 kilograms (37,646 pounds) of beans, 11,176 liters (2,952 gallons) of milk, 40,250 kilograms (88,736 pounds) of maize flour and 30,000 kilograms (66,139 pounds) of rice, Arreaza said.

They also found sanitary napkins, shampoos of different brands, soap powder, toothpastes, batteries, napkins, food supplements, milk powder, salsas and pet food.

No band-aids there.

And people who photograph the long lines and empty shelves are sent to jail.

Juan Cristobal Nagel posted videos of folks Overcoming capitalist savagery at Farmatodo Bella Vista:

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: Spoof?

Monday, January 12th, 2015

This popped up today:

Color me skeptical:

Like I said before, I won’t believe it until CSI releases the post-mortem report.

Cuba: Is Fidel dead yet?

Friday, January 9th, 2015

It’s that time of the year again!

Read all about it, Cuba: Is Fidel dead yet?


This is what he looked like a quarter century ago.

Venezuela: Maduro wants a Puerto Rican out jail

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

. . . who didn’t want to be pardoned.

Taking a cue from the U.S.-Cuba sweet deal (sweet for Cuba, that is), Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro wants to make a deal:
Venezuela’s Maduro would free Lopez if U.S. freed Puerto Rican

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday he would only seek the release of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez if the United States agreed to release a Puerto Rican nationalist currently held in a U.S. prison.

The man in question, Oscar Lopez Rivera, is serving

70 years for seditious conspiracy and a variety of weapons charges as well as the second thwarted escape attempt (which included plans for the use of violence)

in Leavenworth, and,

he is a dangerous terrorist as well as a sociopath, and has never been known to express any regret or remorse. He was a co-founder of a deadly terrorist group, who constructed bombs (their weapon of choice) and trained others in both how to build them and how to use them. He twice attempted to escape from prison, and the latter attempt included plans of violence and murder.

Lopez-Rivera was offered clemency by Bill Clinton in August of 1999 (in a move that was engineered by then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder) but refused to show remorse.

So, not only is Maduro meddling into Puerto Rican politics again – where he clearly is not wanted, he’s offering to exchange Leopoldo Lopez, an innocent man, for a sociopath terrorist:

“The only way I would use (presidential) powers would be to put (Leopoldo Lopez) on a plane, so he can go to the United States and stay there, and they would give me Oscar Lopez Rivera – man for man,” Maduro said during a televised broadcast.

After his offer, Maduro headed overseas – in a Cuban jet – in search of money, since at home the shelves are empty and oil hit $50/barrel as of the writing of this post.

He bundled up for the occasion:

First Russia, where Putin couldn’t fit him in his schedule. After that, China, where he has a date with

Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit and take part in a meeting between China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Jan. 8-9 in Beijing.

Busy, busy.

UPDATE:
Regarding China, read today’s post by David Goldman.

China will be more active in Latin America.



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.