Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Three weeks after Cuba accord, why haven’t more political prisoners been freed

| January 9th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

IN ANNOUNCING the normalization of relations with Cuba last month,President Obama violated two pledges he had made: to link such a liberalization to “significant steps toward democracy,” including the freeing of all political prisoners; and to consult with Cuban civil society, including pro-democracy activists, on the change. In what looked at the time like a partial recompense, the White House announced that the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 detainees — or about half the number of political prisoners identified by Cuban human rights activists.

Now it’s becoming clear that Mr. Obama chose not to make even that half-step a condition for the broad relaxation of travel and economic restrictions he is granting to Havana along with the normalization of relations. As of Wednesday, three weeks after the U.S.-Cuba accord, Cuban human rights activists had reported only five released prisoners. On Thursday, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted that the number had risen to 26. Meanwhile, however, ... Read More

Kerry aides deny White House cut him out of loop on Cuba shift

| January 9th, 2015 | No Comments »
FoxNews.com

By James Rosen

Aides to Secretary of State John Kerry rejected speculation that America’s top diplomat had been cut out of the loop when the Obama administration negotiated last month’s historic policy shift on Cuba.

“This was a process the secretary was comfortable with,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing on Thursday.

Psaki said the White House kept Kerry informed at every stage of the secret negotiations that were held over the course of a year-and-a-half between Cuban emissaries and key officials on the National Security Council. The talks climaxed in coordinated statements by the Castro regime and President Obama last month, announcing prisoner swaps and plans for each country to reopen embassies on the other’s soil, following normalization talks set to commence later this month in Havana.

Speculation that Kerry had been sidelined by back-channel diplomacy conducted directly by the White House ... Read More

Obama’s Cuba Policy Lifts Dictatorship, Not Citizens

| January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »
World Affairs

The trade of Cuban spies for American aid worker Alan Gross and a Cuban intelligence agent working for the US was a trade worth making, but the rest of the deal announced on December 17th showed that President Obama is more interested in changing US policy than changing Cuba.

Havana has taken no steps toward elections or political freedoms for the country’s 11 million people. Even the White House claim that 53 political prisoners will be released is murky; Cuban human rights activists believe the number of actual political prisoners could be more than 100. Some have expressed bitter disappointment that the US would make such changes without getting concessions from the Castro regime, or consulting with Cuba’s democracy and human rights activists.

The White House has expressed concern about arrests and detentions that have taken place in the days after the president’s announcement, but apparently, in the president’s view, now it’s up to American tourists and businesses ... Read More

Cuba: More Political Prisoners, But the New U.S. Policy Marches Onward

| January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »
Council on Foreign Relations

By Elliott Abrams 

There are more Cuban political prisoners  today than on the day President Obama announced his deal with the Castro brothers, December 17.

Part of that deal was supposed to see 53 Cuban political prisoners released, but now it’s three weeks later and they have not been released. Nor have they even been identified. As the Washington Post put it in a headline, “Mystery surrounds 53 Cuban political prisoners supposed to be set free.” Instead of releasing them, the Cuban regime has in fact arrested more dissidents, two weeks after the Obama speech and just before New Year’s.

How are we to know if the regime is ever going to meet its commitment to the Obama White House? How can we track the liberation of these prisoners?

We can’t. Nor will Cuban refusal to release them slow down the Obama policy. The next step is for our ... Read More

Obama says he’ll press Cuba on human rights

| January 7th, 2015 | No Comments »
McClatchy

BY LESLEY CLARK

The U.S. will enter into talks with Cuba even if it hasn’t released all of the 53 political prisoners it pledged it would when President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize relations with the island.

The White House said Tuesday that Cuba has released “some” of the prisoners, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he couldn’t discuss specific numbers.

“We’ve been careful about talking about the number of prisoners and who they are because we don’t want to put an even bigger target on their back as political dissidents,” Earnest said, noting that the White House hopes to see all the prisoners released “in the near future.”

He said the Cuban government made the pledge not only to the U.S., but to the Vatican, which played a role in brokering talks between the U.S. and Cuba after more than 50 years of icy relations.

“The expectation right now is that ... Read More

Don’t expect rapid change

| January 7th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JERRY HAAR

Curb your enthusiasm. That’s my advice, inspired by the HBO series of the same name, for wishful thinkers across the globe who have manifested unbridled euphoria ever since President Obama announced the normalization of diplomatic ties with Cuba.

It is just a matter of time now before the embargo will be lifted in its entirety, they conjecture. Not likely.

Within hours of the president’s announcement, Raúl Castro asserted that the country will continue to adhere to its socialist economic model and political system. The other slap in the face to President Obama came just before the new year when Cuba arrested and detained activists who planned to take up a microphone and individually share their thoughts and concerns about Cuba’s future.

Recognizably, embargoes make a strong moral statement, but economically they do not work. They are porous. Only blockades work.

However, the notion that normalizing diplomatic relations with an authoritarian nation and removing trade and travel embargoes will hasten the fall of Castro’s communist ... Read More

Cuban Human Rights Group Says Short Detentions on the Rise

| January 6th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

The Cuban government carried out a record number of detentions of dissidents and political activists last year, an independent Cuban human rights group said Monday.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation recorded 8,899 short-term detentions of dissidents and activists in 2014. That was about 2,000 more than the previous year and four times as many as in 2010, said the group’s head, Elizardo Sanchez.

The detentions can last for a few hours or a few days, but do not lead to prison time. Some people have been detained several times in a month, so the total number of people detained is lower.

Sanchez said his group counts about 90 people held in prison for political reasons ? less than half the figure five years ago.

The report also said dissidents inside Cuba did not know who was on the list of 53 whom the U.S. asked Cuba to release as ... Read More

Obama Will Ask Mexico to Pressure Cuba for Democracy

| January 6th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Angela Greiling Keane

U.S. President Barack Obama is counting on Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to pressure Cuba to make democratic reforms, now that the White House has moved toward normalizing relations with the island nation, a White House official said.

Cuba will be one of the main topics on the agenda when Obama and Pena Nieto meet Tuesday at the White House.

Improving relations with Cuba removes a point of friction in U.S. relations with Mexico and other Latin American countries that have normal diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba, according to the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to preview the talks.

The U.S. plans to discuss Cuba with other allies as well, the official said, without giving details.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, plans to travel this month to Havana for talks on U.S.-Cuba migration and to begin talks about ... Read More

Where Are Cuba’s Political Prisoners?

| January 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

Fifty-three of those jailed by the Castros were supposed to have been freed in the Obama deal.

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Who and where are the 53 Cuban political prisoners that President Obama promised would be freed by Havana as part of a deal to liberate three convicted Cuban spies serving lengthy sentences in the U.S.?

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.

A government official told me that keeping the names of the 53 quiet will give ... Read More

Sen. Menendez: “very difficult to get an ambassador confirmed” for Cuba

| January 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
From CNN

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez, joined Dana Bash to discuss US negotiations with Cuba and additional sanctions on North Korea.

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

On establishing formal diplomatic relations with Cuba: “We already have an operating interests section, which the administration could easily convert to an embassy. An ambassador, I would think it would be very difficult to get an ambassador confirmed.”

​On the Obama Administration’s ‘secret diplomacy’: “And this is a problem not only as it relates to Cuba, but Iran, this secret diplomacy in which witnesses come before the committee and you ask them questions about what’s happening, whether it be about Iran or Cuba, and you don’t get a straight answer. And now you find out that there was in one case a year-and-a-half, in another case over ... Read More

Jackson Diehl: Obama is overlooking deep trouble in Venezuela

| January 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Jackson Diehl

An enduring characteristic of Barack Obama’s presidency has been his determination to implement the ideological agenda with which he arrived in office without regard for conditions in the real world. He imposed timetables for “ending the wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq unlinked to military progress. He insisted on pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, even though the leaders of both sides were manifestly unwilling. He began his second term by seeking a new nuclear arms deal with Vladi­mir Putin, despite abundant evidence that Putin was preparing for confrontation with the West.

Now, six years into his presidency, Obama has launched, as his first significant initiative in Latin America, detente with Cuba. It’s a torch that many liberals have carried for decades. Once again, however, the president has acted with willful disregard for current events.

In particular, two salient facts were ignored. The first is that the regime of Raúl Castro was desperate ... Read More

Nylons for nothing in Cuba

| January 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Charles Krauthammer

There’s an old Cold War joke — pre-pantyhose — that to defeat communism we should empty our B-52 bombers of nuclear weapons and instead drop nylons over the Soviet Union. Flood the Russians with the soft consumer culture of capitalism, seduce them with Western contact and commerce, love-bomb them into freedom.

We did win the Cold War, but differently. We contained, constrained, squeezed and eventually exhausted the Soviets into giving up. The dissidents inside subsequently told us how much they were sustained by our support for them and our implacable pressure on their oppressors.

The logic behind President Obama’s Cuba normalization, assuming there is one, is the nylon strategy. We tried 50 years of containment and that didn’t bring democracy. So let’s try inundating them with American goods, visitors, culture, contact, commerce.

It’s not a crazy argument. But it does have its weaknesses. Normalization has not advanced democracy in China or Vietnam. Indeed, it ... Read More

Cuba ‘normalization’: Euphoria meets reality

| December 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Hill

By Gardner Peckham

Media reports last week trumpeted the “normalization” of US-Cuba relations but in the light of day this widespread euphoria crashes headlong into the reality of the limited running room available to the Obama administration and it supporters in Congress.

From the early 1960’s until the 1990’s, nearly all U.S. economic sanctions aimed at Cuba were imposed by Executive Order under the “Cuban Assets Control Regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. But, with enactment of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and even more so with the “Helms/Burton” legislation in 1996, the economic embargo was strengthened and codified into legal statute, that is law. As a result, the only way the economic embargo on Cuba can be meaningfully lifted is with the advent of Jeffersonian democracy in Cuba or, in lieu of that, Congress repealing or changing the law. Since the Administration’s negotiators appear to have ... Read More

Obama’s Cuba mistake: A Q&A with Roger Noriega

| December 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
AEI

By Roger F. Noriega

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that he would take steps to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, reversing a policy of isolation that has stood for over a half-century and through 10 presidential administrations. Below, AEI scholar Roger Noriega answers several important questions that have arisen in the wake of Obama’s dramatic move.

People refer to the Cuba sanctions as an anachronism.  After all, we trade and work with many dictatorships. For example, what’s the difference between Cuba and Communist China?

Cuba is in our neighborhood—in a region whose governments have committed themselves to representative democracy and respect for human rights. Yes, we should expect more from that government, particularly in justifying a dramatic policy change. By relaxing these standards to accommodate a totalitarian regime, other governments will find it easier to justify undemocratic behavior that hurts their people and undermines stability in the region.

... Read More

Cuba Says It Has a Right to Grant Asylum to US Fugitives

| December 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press

Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has urged President Barack Obama to demand the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard before restoring full relations under a historic detente announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro last week.

Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press that “every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to ... Read More

Obama’s Grand Reset

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article appeared in The Weekly Standard

By LEE SMITH

Last week’s announcement that the White House intends to restore normal diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is part of Barack Obama’s larger project to overturn what he perceives to be wrongheaded, or at least outdated, foreign policies. From Obama’s perspective, the Cold War ended nearly a quarter of a century ago, so let’s catch up to the new reality.

For President Obama, amelioriating this country’s relations with Russia, Iran, and now Cuba amounts to a Grand Reset, a reevaluation of America’s position in a post-Cold War world. However, it’s not clear that either the president or his administration really understands what the Cold War was all about.

According to the White House press release last week: “Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country.” That is true, ... Read More

Cuba’s Castro On The Ropes, Obama Throws Him A Lifeline

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN

The celebrations in Havana and the sullen silence in Miami tell you all you need to know about who won this round with Castro’s Cuba. In JFK’s metaphor, Obama traded a horse for a rabbit.

We got back Alan Gross before his Communist jailers killed him, along with an American spy, in exchange for three members of a Cuban espionage ring. Had we left it at that, the deal would have been fine.

But Obama threw in an admission that all nine presidents before him pursued a “failed policy.” Calling for recognition of the Castro regime as the legitimate government of Cuba, Obama said, “Isolation has not worked.”

“Not worked”? What’s he talking about? Isolating Cuba the last 30 years of the Cold War helped bankrupt and bring down the Soviet Empire, which had to carry Cuba on its back.

Obama’s admission is being seen in Cuba as vindication of half a ... Read More

Who Benefits if the Embargo Is Lifted?

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

On a trip to Havana in the late 1990s, I toured the restoration of a 17th century convent with a Cuban architect. He told me the project was having trouble getting replacement floor tiles because of the U.S. embargo. I smiled and told him there was no blockade of the island and that the tiles could be sourced in Mexico. He grinned back at me.

“Well, OK,” he said. “The real problem is that we don’t have any money to buy them.”

Cubans are programmed from an early age to complain to anyone who will listen that “el bloqueo” is the cause of the island’s dire poverty. They know it’s a lie. But obediently repeating it is a survival skill. It raises the odds that the demented dictator won’t suspect you of having counterrevolutionary thoughts, boot you from your job, kick your children out of school and haul you off ... Read More

Obama’s faulty logic on Cuba

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Jackson Diehl

The most revealing sentence in President Obama’s explanation of his radical revision of U.S. Cuba policy last week was his admonition to Americans, and Cubans, that they should not seek the “collapse” of the Castro regime. “Even if that worked,” the president asserted, “we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.”

Embedded in that short remark is the essential logic behind Obama’s decision to lift — or seek to lift — all U.S. sanctions on Cuba without requiring the “significant steps towards democracy” he once said would be needed for such a normalization. It is also the organizing principle of much of his foreign policy. If regime collapse is not a desirable outcome in Cuba — or, for that matter, in Syria, Iran and other dictatorships — it follows that the correct policy is U.S. “engagement” or “direct ... Read More

Cuban migrant missing after Cuban coast guard sinks boat

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor

Cuba’s Coast Guard sank a boat carrying 32 Cubans who were trying to reach the Florida coast, according to a woman who survived and whose husband is missing.Masiel González Castellano told reporters in a telephone conversation from Matanzas, Cuba, that her husband, Leosbel Díaz Beoto, is missing after falling from the boat that was repeatedly charged and hit by a boat manned by the Cuban Coast Guard.

“We were screaming and crying for help as the boat was sinking. But they ignored us. Instead, they continued charging against our boat. Some people dove in the water and others stayed aboard as the boat sank,” said González, who was contacted during a press conference hosted in Miami by the Democracy Movement. “They knew there were children aboard, but continued to charge against us. They didn’t care.”

The boat, said González, was carrying 32 people, including seven women and ... Read More

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