Breaking the status quo

Grossball coming to an end?

November 27th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Ever since Obama was reelected, Cuba-watching circles have been abuzz with rumors about talks to secure Gross’ release or pardon. The suspense may be coming to an end, as Cuba apparently has alerted foreign media that an announcement will be made tomorrow morning.

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Update: false alarm. Grossball continues.

Thankful for:

November 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


- 48%

- That hardliners are being left behind.

- Joe Garcia and Jose Javier Rodriguez (and not Cuban, but satisfying nevertheless, Patrick Murphy.)

- That our post with the most views is the one about how to send humanitarian help to Cuba.

- That reconciliation is in the horizon.

- That Capitol Hill Cubans finally has comments.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll spare you the whole diatribe this time around and just stick to the highlights:

Easing Sanctions = More Repression

at 10:16 PM Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Damien Cave of The New York Times has written an article titled “Easing of Restraints in Cuba Renews Debate on U.S. Embargo” The essence of the anti-sanctions position in the story is made by Carlos Saladrigas:
“Maintaining this embargo, maintaining this hostility, all it does is strengthen and embolden the hard-liners,” said Carlos Saladrigas, a Cuban exile and co-chairman of the Cuba Study Group in Washington, which advocates engagement with Cuba. “What we should be doing is helping the reformers.”The thesis put forth by Mr. Saladrigas is that lifting sanctions would weaken and dissuade hardliners while helping reformers. Over the past four years the Obama Administration has loosened economic sanctions in Cuba. If  Mr. Saladrigas’s argument is correct then one should see that reformist elements in the regime are asserting themselves and winning policy discussions. That has not been the case. On the human rights front the situation has deteriorated.
What have we witnessed in Cuba over the past four years? The death under suspicious circumstances of national opposition figures such as Laura Inés Pollán Toledo on October 14, 2011 and Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas on July 22, 2012. Increased violence and detentions of nonviolent activists. An American citizen arrested and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for attempting to provide internet access to the local Jewish community in Cuba. The Obama Administration has continued its policy of extending a hand to the Cuban regime and has little to show for it except more repression and the deaths of high profile activists.
OTS COMMENT:  Here, pro-embargo Washington lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone claims we haven’t seen reformist elements assert themselves over the past four years, yet this pesky list of reforms paints a very different picture.  I guess those just happened by themselves? Or maybe Fifo ordered them through one of his haikus? Anyway, there’s a reason why violence and detentions of nonviolent activists has increased in Cuba. Because there’s a lot more nonviolent activism in the streets. Mauricio ignores that the rise in grassroots activism has directly coincided with the relaxation on American travel and remittances to Cuba. I’m guessing that’s because it would tear apart his claim that isolating Cubans is the way to foment change, wouldn’t it?  Kinda like how the Miami exit polls shredded his claims that the Cuban-American community strongly backs hardliners.
Caradura-Carone goes on:
…In China and Vietnam the United States lifted sanctions unconditionally and have de-linked human rights considerations from economic considerations. The result has been a deterioration of human rights standards in both countries. On the other hand in Burma where sanctions were maintained the military junta, after years of trying to manipulate its way out from under them has had to recognize the political opposition and provide a space for them in Burma’s parliament.
OTS COMMENT: Never mind that there is more political instability in China today than at anytime since Tianamen Square.  Caradura-Carone ignores three important facts: (i) there are and have been international sanctions against Burma, its hasn’t just been the US flying solo, as is the case with Cuba; (ii) we never had a travel or export ban (except for financial services) against Burma like we do against Cuba; and (iii) our sanctions against Burma are not codified under a Helm-Burton type law that conditions their suspension on litany of preconditions that amount to Burmese ruling party having to voluntarily taking themselves out of the picture before we engage.  One must wonder if Burma’s domestic opposition would have ever made any progress had it been under as severe a sanctions regime as the one we impose on Cuba?

What’s really funny here is that a Cuban state-sponsored news agency also published a summary (of sorts) of Cave’s article, and save for calling the Embargo a “Blockade”, they didn’t inject nearly as much spin as Claver-Carone did in his blog post.

Yes, we are now at a point where our pro-embargo lobbyists are outshining the Cuban regime in the falsehoods and propaganda game.

Before I go to bed, here’s one last example of the unabashed hypocrisy over at Capitol Hill Cubans:

Quote of the Day

at 9:02 AM Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I think the overwhelming majority of the opposition is against giving more space to the Castro tyranny. This mandate can be seen as a betrayal of Cuba’s citizenry and peaceful opposition.

– Guillermo Fariñas, Cuban pro-democracy leader and past recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award, on the European Union’s decision to explore an agreement to “normalize” relations with the Castro regime, El Nuevo Herald, 11/20/12
OTS COMMENT:  Claver-Carone only quotes dissidents when they say something that advances his false narratives. But when they say something that doesn’t, like when Mr. Fariñas signed a letter calling on the U.S. to immediately lift the travel ban against Cuba…let’s just say they don’t get the “Quote of the Day” honors on such occasions.


Free Fall

November 20th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Hard-line hijinks - (0 Comments)

Rafael del Pino, ex general of the Cuban Air Force who defected, calling out the usual suspects on the faux controversy about Castro’s grandaughter. In Spanish, great read. I’m translating what he says about the hardliners trafficking in fake outrage:

“This new brouhaha about the visits of relatives of Cuban officials is only a reflection of how they continue to be static, paralyzed and clutching to a rhetoric that nobody supports anymore.

When I see them playing the roles of besiegers, building barricades and stockades in our own backyard, I wonder how far are they willing to go in their political inefficacy. It’s evident they don’t even realize it’s the Republican Party itself that will get rid of them. In the upcoming restructuring, they are at the forefront of those who will be retired based on expediency. The truth is that, at least when it comes to the Hispanic electorate, they have saddled that institution with the most obstinate and irrelevant rhetoric.”

A choir of hardliners – the same cinco gatos really: Ileana, Mauricio, Elliott Abrams, Zen Master Frank Calzon, and the “brainy” one over at Babalu - are getting their granny-panties in a bunch over the U.S. granting a visa to Vilma Rodriguez Castro so she could travel to New York City for her boyfriend’s art exhibition.

Honestly, who gives a crap? Is little Vilmita a murderous thug? Did she take your property? Is it her fault that her grandpa and uncle are ruthless, communist dictators? Are we going to deny her a visa just because Raul and Fidel denied them to Cubans for 50 years? And wouldn’t that make us no better than them?

I’m all in favor of Vilmita visiting New York City.  Let her enjoy a Broadway show, pose for a picture with the Naked Cowboy, take stroll through Central Park, pay $15 for a pack a cigarrettes, and dance the night away in Williamsburg. Hopefully she’ll pick up a thing or two while livin’ it up in the Land of the Free and go back with a message for her viejo, “Oye puro, esto que tu tienes aqui es una mierda. O lo arreglas o me mudo pa’ la Yuma.”  Maybe the trip to will inspire her to take up politics and advocate for reforms in her own country.

But even if she’s a clueless, self-absorbed brat who just wanted to get drunk with the cast of Girls, so what?

Hardliners, if you’re disgusted that members of the Cuban ruling class can party in NYC while millions of others suffer back home, then criticize the regime leadership and the system they’ve put in place. Criticize the American embargo that has only succeeded in keeping them in power. Denying a young girl the right to visit the United States simply because of the family she was born into achieves absolutely squat. Unless you have proof that she’s here to finance terrorist activities, you are only embarrassing yourselves. Vilmita probably grew up hearing that Cuban exiles are bunch of unhinged lunatics, and congratulations, you just confirmed it for her. Pick your battles, people.

***UPDATE: Or don’t pick them at all! Still smarting after two weeks of exit poll-induced heartburn, the Mauricio Claver-Carone desperation derby rolls on. Now he’s using the recent Rodiles beating at the hands of Cuban officials to attack the State Department for allowing Vilma into the U.S.. His argument: allowing Vilma into the U.S. serves to “demoralize young pro-democracy leaders” (someone please connect those dots for me because I get dizzy trying). His agenda: stay relevant (and employed) by grasping at any dubious straw within reach to lobby for tighter sanctions against the regime, even if it means exploiting the suffering of dissidents in the island. Shameless.

It’s all Obama’s fault!

November 19th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

BlahBlahLoser Alberto de la Cruz, never one to pass an opportunity to trod out the “Obama is Castro’s friend” failed meme, spews one alarming headline:

Visagate: Obama administration continues granting visas to the Cuban dictatorship’s nefarious characters

But from the article he links to (and apparently didn’t read, in his haste to blame Obama of extending the red carpet to former Cuban repressors):

Marcela Sánchez said she warned U.S. diplomats in Havana that three of her Caamaño neighbors had obtained U.S. visas and were preparing to leave. They settled in Miami in 2000 or 2001.

Uh, who was president in 2000/2001? Could it be the same guy that BlahBlahLoser in Chief Val Prieto once termed “the First Cuban American President”?

Cuban activist and Estato de SATS founder Antonio González Rodiles will soon be tried on a bogus charge of “resisting authority” and will most likely end up spending anywhere from 3 months to a year in jail.  He was detained and savagely beaten in a wave of arrests after Cuban officials broke up a peaceful demonstration for the release of  fellow activist, Yaremis Flores. 27 opposition leaders were detained as a result of the event, including Yoani Sanchez and Guillermo Fariñas. All have been freed except for Rodiles, a brilliant man and rising star among democracy advocates in the island, who the Cuban regime clearly sees as a threat and wants to silence.

We pray for Antonio and his family and join the international community in condemning his continued detention and demand his immediate release.

For more about Rodiles and his courageous efforts, read this moving profile piece by his sister, Galdys Rodiles-Haney.

Also, please sign the petition For Another Cubalaunched by Rodiles in June of this year, which calls on the Cuban government to ratify and implement the two Human Rights Pacts it signed at the UN in 2008 (and has so far chosen to ignore).




Carromero / Gross

The short and simple answer: a country of origin with normalized relations with Cuba.

Spain has open economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba. It also actively and directly supports opposition leaders and civil society in the island.  It is part of the EU’s Common Position on Cuba which has a stated objective ”to encourage a process of transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people”. When Cuba released 52 political prisoners in 2010 that had been held captive since 2003, it was Spanish diplomats working with the Catholic Church who brokered the deal.

So it’s no great surprise that when it came time to negotiate the release of a Angel Carromero -a Spanish ruling party official sentenced to four years for the negligent homicide of Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero – the Spanish are actually making some headway. From the EFE news agency (my translation):

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, said today in an interview with Efe that the request to transfer Angel Carromero to Spanish territory “will be duly considered,” based on bilateral agreements of both countries in this area.

Rodriguez noted however that Carromero “was no mere tourist” as are tens of thousands of Spanish who visit Cuba, but his trip “was a political operation organized by groups that want to harm his country’s relations with Spain.”

“Political interests cause spurious circumstances cloud the bilateral atmosphere,” he said.

The Cuban foreign minister also stressed that the Spanish Government has recognized the “flawless” trial in the case Carromero and said that “it is in the best interest of both governments to continue a slow and respectful bilateral relationship that is not subject to the sectors who want to torpedo it.”

See that? It’s called diplomacy. The Spanish stroke some egos with their “flawless” talk and are actually making progress toward getting Carromero on a flight back to la madre patria. There’s already a precedent for this. Last January, the Spanish secured the release of Sebastián Martínez Ferraté – who received a 7 year sentence for corruption of minors and bribery of officials – after he serving 17 months in prison. I have little doubt they’ll also get Carromero out.

Meanwhile, here’s the state of our online chat with the Cuban government to release Alan Gross, via the Miami Herald:

“An essential element in this agenda,” the foreign minister added, is the release of the five Cubans convicted of spying-related charges in Miami. Havana claims they were trying to avert possible terrorist acts by exiles.

“An act of justice, or at least a humanitarian solution, will arouse the gratitude of my people and a response by our government,” Rodriguez noted, not mentioning Gross by name but clearly indicating a possible swap.

The U.S. State Department said it had no comment on the Rodriguez proposal.

Of course not. They were too busy defending their Cuba policy after the UN voted for the 21st year in a row, by a margin of 188-3, that the Embargo is a “crappy policy” (do click on the link, it’s a kicker).

What’s the lesson here? The Spanish are using diplomatic relations to get their guy released. We use our guy’s release as a precondition to diplomatic relations. Ours is a backward-ass policy and theirs isn’t. Even Gross’s wife has recognized her husband is a pawn in a stupid game.

Once again, because I can’t get over how moronic this is: one gets 4 years for accidentally killing two Cuban citizens, the other gets 15 years for installing a small telecom network. One will likely be released, the other will likely continue to waste away in jail. The only significant difference between the two cases…DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS.

When we wanted China to release political activist Chen Guangcheng, we sent Hillary. And surprise, it worked! We didn’t even have to interrupt trade with the largest communist country in the planet.

Cuba is no more special than China, and it behooves us – if for no other reason, so we can cease looking like a bunch of lunkheads in the eyes of the world – to stop treating as if it were.

Can we please stop this lunacy and bring Alan home?


**UPDATE:  Alan Gross’s attorney has just filed suit against U.S. government and the contractor that hired him to work in Cuba for $60 million, on the grounds that they didn’t “adequately train him or disclose risks he was undertaking by doing development work on the Communist island.” So now even Alan Gross is crapping on U.S.-Cuba policy, essentially saying USAID programs are poorly managed and expose americans to dangerous conditions. I hope he takes them to the cleaners.


…is that she’s a hack, and she’s done pretending otherwise.

I’m not trying to be crass, just read her latest “op-ed” for the Wall Street Journal, entitled “The Truth about the Cuban-American Vote”, and see for yourself.  It’s not the “truth”, nor does it try to search for it.  Hell, it’s not even an op-ed.  It’s O’Grady using her column to dump everything written on the subject by a paid Washington lobbyist (our dear friend Mauricio Claver-Carone).  Six paragraphs long, and each one consists of either a direct quote from Mauricio or paraphrases something he already wrote.  Then Mauricio goes and re-posts O’Grady’s entire piece on his blog.

It’s like an infinity loop of hardliner horseshit.

I’m not surprised O’Grady would slum it so shamelessly.  What I can’t believe is that the Wall Street Journal continues to publish her lazy claptrap.

We couldn’t have said it any better.  Here’s the latest from Yoani Sanchez as published on The Huffington Post:

The Embargo: Both Sides Are Still Living Out the Cold War

Posted: 11/14/2012 2:38 pm

Year after year the issue of the U.S. embargo against Cuba is presented in the United Nations. Year after year, the majority of countries votes against this fossil of the Cold War. But even though the existence of such economic sanctions has been condemned 21 times, they remain in force. On both sides of the Florida Straits there are too many interests who want to perpetuate the situation, even though the political discourse says otherwise.

On one side are the many who believe that financially strangling the Cuban government will produce democratic change in Cuba. These are the people who hold the view of the “pressure cooker” on which they just have to put greater and greater pressure until it explodes. For these defenders of the embargo, if daily life on the island becomes ever more miserable due to lack of material goods, Cubans will finally throw themselves into the streets to overthrow the current system. This theory has demonstrated its failure over five decades. What has actually happened is that when the economy hits bottom, people prefer to escape from the Island, legally or illegally — in some cases to literally throw themselves into the sea — rather than confront the powers-that-be.

The others who dream of continuing the embargo are all those ideologues of the Cuban government who have run out of arguments to explain the dysfunction of this system. They are those who need, as in a child’s fairy tale, a big bad wolf to blame for everything. They say it is because of the “blockade” that we can’t enjoy the Internet, that we can’t freely associate with others who share our ideas, that we can’t even travel freely. They try to justify everything based on the existence of this mistaken policy of Washington. Trapped in the middle of these two positions are eleven million Cubans, caught between the absurd restrictions of some and the implausible justifications of others.