Read all about Cuba, the “Not Ready For Prime Time Civil Society” country
Panamanian authorities’ warning shot to anyone not willing to kiss Raul Castro’s ring:
Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, was briefly detained on Sunday at Panama’s airport and threatened with deportation to Cuba if she caused any public disturbances at the Summit of the Americas, according to an account she gave on Twitter.
Payá was released after being questioned and her personal items were subjected to a careful review by authorities, in what was later described by the Foreign Ministry of Panama as “a bureaucratic error.”
Big Brother’s “bureaucratic error,” that is.
“Summits are a waste of time and money for real countries,” as Mary O’Grady stated,
But this one will be useful for Cuba, which will be allowed to join the group for the first time, and on its own terms. It’s hard to put a finger on the lowest point in Obama foreign policy, but its abject submissiveness regarding this meeting in the U.S. backyard is a serious contender.
Back in 2001,
OAS members signed the “Democratic Charter,” requiring the suspension of nondemocratic governments.
That was then. Now, not only is the murderous Communist regime attending, Panama is warning dissidents to keep quiet.
What a disgrace.
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.
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,
This 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.
THE LONESOME DEATH OF ALBERTO NISMAN
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
* Obama will allow Americans to use credit cards in Cuba
* Castro will continue to prohibit private businesses from accepting credit card payments
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.
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.
Venezuelan Bishops Get Religion
The week’s posts and podcast:
Argentina: Cristina’s corrupt deals with the Ayatollahs
At Da Tech Guy Blog:
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,
— Jason Ian Poblete (@JasonPoblete) January 5, 2015
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,
— Fausta (@Fausta) December 17, 2014
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:
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?
* Note: Unusual enough that I can not recall a news item in ten years of blogging where two weeks’ research turned out nothing.
The Communist elite will profit; the Cuban people will remain oppressed.
Mary O’Grady asks, Who Benefits if the Embargo Is Lifted?
President Obama appeared to be trying to prove his own revolutionary bona fides when he announced on Wednesday new diplomatic relations with the military dictatorship and plans to make it easier for Americans to travel to the island and engage in commerce with Cubans. He repeatedly linked the isolation of the Cuban people to U.S. policy, as the regime teaches Cuban children to do. He complained that the embargo strives to keep “Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.” In a reference to the limited access that Cubans have to telecommunications, he said “our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe.”
Even the humblest Cuban peasant would split his sides laughing if he heard those statements, which none did because they do not have access to anything other than Cuban state television—speaking of isolation. Cubans know that the island is not isolated from foreigners. According to Cuban statistics in 2013 there were 2.85 million visitors to the island of 11 million inhabitants. These included European, Chinese, Latin American, Canadian and American tourists and investors. In the first six months of this year, according to The Havana Consulting Group, there were 327,000 visitors to Cuba from the U.S.
The isolation (news flash Rand Paul) is caused by the police state, which controls and surveils foreigners’ movements, herding most visitors into resort enclaves. Foreign journalists who vocally oppose the Communist Party line are not allowed into the country.
More visitors won’t do anything to reduce Cuban poverty. The regime pockets the hard currency that they leave behind and pays workers in worthless pesos. Foreigners who decide to reward good workers without state approval can face prison.
It’s true that the Cuban people lack access to technology, but Mr. Obama’s suggestion that it is because of the embargo is a howler. Carlos Slim , the Mexican telecom monopolist and global player; Telefónica , the Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider; Vietnam’s Natcom; Ireland’s Digicel and countless other companies can do business on the island. But they can’t provide Internet access in homes because the state prohibits it.
If relations are fully normalized, American tourist dollars would pour into companies owned by the Castro regime, since tourism is controlled by both the military and General Raul Castro, warns the Cuba Transition Project (CTP).
That means rum, tobacco, hotels and resorts are all owned and operated by the regime and its security forces. Cuba’s dominant company is the Grupo Gaesa, founded by Raul Castro in the nineties and controlled and operated by the Cuban military, which oversees all investments. Cuba’s Gaviota, run by the Cuban military, operates Cuba’s tourism trade, its hotels, resorts, car rentals, nightclubs, retail stores and restaurants. Gaesa is run by Raul’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.
The number of foreign companies doing business in Cuba have been cut by more than half since the 1990s, to 190 from some 400. Reasons include: Being forced to partner with army-controlled groups; hire workers through state agencies; and the freezing of bank deposits. Complaints have poured in from former senior executives at Dow Chemical, General Mills, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Bacardi, American Express Bank, PepsiCo, Warner Communications, Martin Marietta Aluminum and Amex Nickel Corporation. Iberia, Spain’s national airline which at one time accounted for 10% of foreign commerce with Cuba, killed its Havana routes because they were unprofitable.
The economic benefits of engagement are minor, while the possibility that continued sanctions could be used to engineer regime change — or at least meaningful political concessions — is far greater.
At this point, the best the Cuban people could hope for is the Viet Nam outcome.
From Raul Castro, “We won the war.”
Little known fact:
During the administration of Gerald Ford, a remarkable two-year diplomatic initiative was undertaken by secretary of state Henry Kissinger and his assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, William P Rogers, to normalise relations with Cuba. Had the talks succeeded, the US embargo would have been eliminated, with diplomatic relations between the two countries fully restored as early as 1976. If nothing else, Kissinger wanted to add the notch of Cuba to his diplomatic belt. After China, Kissinger assumed Cuba would be a cakewalk. “Little did we know,” sighed the late Rogers when I interviewed him.
But the potentially historic talks sputtered in December 1975 when Castro decided to intervene in the Angolan civil war. To their everlasting shock, the US team came to the inescapable conclusion that Castro was ready to sacrifice a rapprochement with his most important neighbour to pursue a bizarre military adventure halfway across the globe.
From that arm of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy . . . The Guardian.
Linked to by The Devil’s Excrement. Thank you!
Well, we all heard Obama’s speech yesterday. Some of us also listened to Raul Castro’s speech, which took place at the same time as Obama’s.
It was a study in contrasts.
As The Diplomad puts it (emphasis added),
It [Obama’s speech] was a clever speech designed for people who don’t know the full history of Cuba since 1959 or the nature of US-Cuban relations. The speech gave away the leftist bias of its drafters with the nonsense equating “colonialism” and “Communism.” What colonialism was Castro Communism fighting? Cuba had been independent for sixty years when they took over, and one of their first acts was to turn the country into a colony of the Soviets. Communism and colonialism went hand-in-hand, no opposition, no clash. Obama’s speech sought “balance” by blaming both Cuba and the US for the state of relations. Nonsense. The Castros were and are murdering thugs who have never hesitated to kill anybody in their way whether at home or abroad. Castroite firing squads were operating at full speed even during the honeymoon period with the USA, when the NY Times was writing fawning pieces about Fidel Castro.
My first thought on hearing Obama talk about the need to get past colonialism and Communism was that he was channeling his father’s anti-British obsessions. Cuba as Kenya. Much like Obama’s immigration speech, it is not at all clear what we are getting. Alan Gross, who should never have been detained has been released as has a long-imprisioned intel asset. In exchange we freed the Cuban agents who helped set up the murder of American citizens. There is a further loosening of currency and travel restrictions. The speech, of course, will upend years of established American positions and lead, for example, to the entry of Cuba into the OAS without meeting any of the requirements laboriously worked out, e.g., a functioning democracy with full respect for human rights.
Raul Castro’s speech was very short and to the point. None of the flowery phrases that his older brother would have used. Very business-like. No discussions of colonialism and Communism, and no promises to do anything in particular except to keep talking to the US.
My friend Jazz Shaw mentions my objections to easing up on Cuba, countering with,
I could take the above paragraph and substitute the word China for Cuba and it would remain precisely as true. The major differences between the two are that China is vastly more powerful, more dangerous and more influential. Their human rights record is, if anything, worse than Cuba’s. They can threaten the entire globe with a single move, where the Castros are generally limited to smaller evils and mischief in South America. And yet somehow we have established relations with China. This doesn’t excuse either country for their evil, but only serves to point out some of the harsh realities of foreign policy in the modern era.
But comparisons with China policy fall short on a vital aspect:
I have friends who have operated profitable businesses in China in the past 20 years. Their corporations paid their Chinese employees directly. However, anyone employing Cuban citizens does not pay the employee; they pay the Cuban government a stipulated (by the government) amount per person. The communist regime then pays the employee an amount no higher than the maximum salary (yes, Cuba has maximum salary laws), which is approximately 10% of the amount the communist regime received from the business.
That is the case with any of the hundreds of multinationals that have done business with Cuba in the country, and with the thousands of “doctors” Cuba sends to places like Venezuela and Brazil.
Cuba has defaulted on its obligations to multinationals time and time again.
Additionally, foreign businessmen who have tried to collect monies due by Cuba have been thrown in jail, most recently Alejandro Abood, Cy Tokmakjian, Krikor Bayassalian, Nessin Abadi, Sarkis Yacoubian, and Stephen Purvis.
N-O-T-H-I-N-G, not a thing the USA does is going to change that.
However, as things stand right now, the odds have vastly improved for Cuba to “transition” into a profitable Communist regime, like China’s. Or perhaps, even more likely, 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.
As I said yesterday, Obama is trying to cement his legacy. Human rights (and true democracy) be damned.
As an added bonus, OBAMA’S MOVE TO STRENGTHEN CUBA WILL ALSO HELP RUSSIA, IRAN, NORTH KOREA AND VENEZUELA by
providing them with a more economically robust trading partner, a better source of illicit arms, and, most important, naval bases and intelligence outposts just miles from our shores.
What could possibly go wrong?
[Post redacted to include missing paragraphs]
UPDATE, Saturday, December 20
Noah Rothman explains the context of China and Viet Nam “normalization.”