Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Cuba Is Open For Business That Might Land You in Jail

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post

By Peter Kent

If word out of Havana is to believed — relayed aggressively in recent weeks by Cuban diplomats and trade emissaries to major investors in financial centers around the world — a new day of investment opportunities is dawning in the cash-strapped communist state.

The sales pitch is driven by a set of new laws passed last month by the Cuban National Assembly.

The legislation provides for steep tax cuts and tax exemptions. There are a range of new guarantees of investment security.

In short, Cuba is open for business and safe for foreign investors.

Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes of the Cuban trade officials and diplomats. One example, of many:

Since September 10, 2011 a Canadian citizen, Cy Tokmakjian, President and CEO of the Tokmakjian Group of Companies, has been detained by Cuban authorities.

He is one of dozens of Cuban and foreign business executives scooped by anti-corruption investigators of the Cuban ... Read More

Cuba’s Raul Castro receives Russian foreign minister

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Cuban President Raul Castro and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday in Havana to review bilateral relations, Cuba’s official media said.

The two men “noted with satisfaction the excellent state of their bilateral relations, in constant development and with a promising future,” state news agency AIN said.

The Cuban president and the Russian foreign minister also exchanged opinions on current international affairs.

The meeting took place after Lavrov had official talks Tuesday with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez as part of a tour of Latin America, with Cuba as its first stop.

The tour will also take him to Nicaragua, Peru and Chile.

Speaking at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Lavrov spoke of the “brotherhood” existing between Havana and Moscow, and expressed gratitude for the island’s understanding and “stout” support of Russia with regard to the crisis in Ukraine.

Besides the meetings with Cuban dignitaries, his agenda in Havana also includes a review of the bilateral ... Read More

Easter No. 3 for a Prisoner of Castro

| April 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

Bearing witness to Cuba’s political persecution costs Sonia Garro her freedom.

BY MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Christians the world over celebrated the resurrection of their savior on Sunday with worship services and family gatherings. Thirty-eight-year-old Sonia Garro shares the faith too, but she spent the holiday in a Cuban dungeon as a prisoner of conscience, just as she has for the past two years.

Ms. Garro is a member of the Christian dissident group Ladies in White, started in Havana in 2003 by sisters, wives and mothers of political prisoners to peacefully protest the unjust incarceration of their loved ones. It has since expanded to other parts of the country and added many recruits. The group’s growing popularity has worried the Castros, and they have responded with increasing brutality.

Cuba’s military government wants us to believe that the Brothers Fidel and Raul Castro are “reforming.” To buy that line you have to pretend that Ms. ... Read More

What’s been the fallout from the ‘Cuban Twitter’ revelations?

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Inter-American Dialogue

Q: The U.S. Agency for International Development created and operated “ZunZuneo,” a communications network similar to Twitter that had the aim of destabilizing the Cuban government, the Associated Press reported on April 3. USAID responded by saying the purpose of the program was “to create a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves, period,” while the White House denied that it was a covert program. How much of an impact will the revelations have on U.S.-Cuban relations? What does the controversy mean for bilateral issues such as the imprisonment in Cuba of former U.S. government contractor Alan Gross? Are social media programs such as these a good use of USAID funding and the U.S. government’s resources?

A: Roger Noriega, managing director of Vision Americas LLC, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs: “Most conversations about U.S. policy toward Cuba involve ... Read More

Cuba says ‘investors welcome,’ but the investors aren’t buying

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Global Post

With all the fanfare of the boy who cried wolf, the Cuban government has published a new foreign investment law.

It’s making good on a promise by President Raul Castro to update a 1995 law that produced more failed investments than successes, never managing to draw more than a few hundred million dollars a year to the cash-starved island’s economy.

The new law, published Wednesday after approval by parliament on March 29, promises an eight-year tax holiday to new investors and theoretically cuts in half a 30 percent tax on profits — a feature of the 1995 law blamed for the withdrawal of many foreign investors.

US investment, of course, remains banned by the Kennedy-era trade embargo that draws increasing criticism — even among some Cuban-Americans — as self-defeating. But with Florida’s Cuban community a key constituency for both Democrats and Republicans, no one’s rushing to mint a medal for the Florida politician ... Read More

Letter from Cuba: To Embargo or Not

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
World Affairs

By Michael J. Totten

Aside from the Arab boycott against Israel, American sanctions against Cuba have lasted longer than any other embargo in the modern era.

The sanctions were imposed in stages in the early 1960s after Fidel Castro began economic warfare against the United States by nationalizing private US property on the island. Cuban communism survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, so in 1993 the purpose of the embargo was modified by the Cuban Democracy Act, stating that it will not be lifted unless and until the government in Havana respects the “internationally accepted standards of human rights” and “democratic values.”

For years now, the embargo has appeared to me as outdated as it has been ineffective. The Chinese government, while less repressive nowadays than Cuba’s, likewise defies internationally accepted standards of human rights, yet it’s one of America’s biggest trading partners. And the embargo ... Read More

Latin America the World’s Most Violent Region

| April 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

BY DANIEL WISER

Latin America is now the world’s most violent region but is receiving less U.S. military and financial assistance, according to a recent report and other figures.

Latin America surpassed Africa as the region with the most murders per 100,000 people, according to the new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Several countries in the Western Hemisphere had murder rates that eclipsed 25 per 100,000 people in 2012, compared to the global average of about six.

The report said 30 percent of the homicides in the Americas could be attributed to a proliferation of organized crime and gang-related violence.

For example, Honduras had one of the world’s highest murder rates with 90.4 per 100,000 people. Mexican drug cartels and transnational criminal groups such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street gangs have infiltrated the country in recent years.

Some of the violence is fueled by those groups’ drug smuggling operations into the United States. ... Read More

Cat-and-mouse secrecy game plays out daily in Cuba

| April 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

Cuban dissident Berta Soler says she and other members of the Ladies in White were handing out toys to children at Trillo Park in Havana when a State Security officer detained them and seized the 60 to 70 toys.

Soler said she protested that the women bought the toys legally in Havana with money received legally from supporters abroad. But the agent told her, “Berta, don’t play the fool, because you know those toys come from Miami, the terrorists.”

The March 15 incident reflected the cat-and-mouse game played almost daily by dissidents, supporters abroad who send them assistance and the security agents of a communist government that views most such aid — even toys — as “subversive.”

That’s why, several of the foreign supporters argue, they must use a measure of discretion when sending aid to democracy, human rights or Internet freedom activists in Cuba — enough to ensure it ... Read More

Cuba – French minister must not ignore freedom of information during Cuba visit

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders has sent a letter about freedom of information in Cuba to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who is about to make the first official visit to the Caribbean island by a member of the French government since 1983.

Cuba’s violations of freedom of information must not be ignored during this visit. Improvement in relations between the European Union and Cuba must not be at the expense of Cuba’s journalists and bloggers.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Ministry of Foreign Affairs 37 Quai d’Orsay 75351 Paris

Paris, 10 April 2014

Dear Foreign Minister,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to draw your attention to the plight of professional and non-professional journalists in Cuba.

All independent media, both traditional and online, are censored in Cuba, which is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in our 2014 press freedom index. Even defending the right to information is obstructed by President ... Read More

Sending Ideas to Cuba

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
National Review

BY MIKE GONZALEZ

Cubans have lived on an information desert island for more than 50 years. Ten million people, once a vibrant part of the world — in tune with it and contributing to it, receiving information and even immigrants — were cut off soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959. That the world has done nothing to help them after five decades of oppression is an outrage.

What is not an outrage is that the United States Agency for International Development tried four years ago to circumvent Communist censorship in Cuba by setting up a text-messaging network that Cubans could access. This “Cuban Twitter” was a ray of hope that should be celebrated.

Not apparently by the Associated Press and others who have cried foul. The news agency exposed the program last week under the headline “US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest.” This week the U.S. Senate got in on the ... Read More

Cuba Social Media Project Was No Plot, Agency Says

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY RON NIXON

A Twitter-like social media site created and financed by the United States Agency for International Development for use in Cuba was an attempt to promote open communications among citizens on the island nation, not a covert attempt to overthrow the government, the agency’s top official told members of Congress during a hearing on Tuesday.

Appearing before both the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees, Rajiv Shah, U.S.A.I.D.’s administrator, told members that the program was similar to others that the agency has financed in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“These programs are part of our mission to promote open communications,” he said.

Dr. Shah said he did not know who had created the Cuban program, as it was conceived before his appointment as administrator. He insisted, however, that “there was no covert activity that took place.”

But Senator Patrick ... Read More

Alan Gross, U.S. contractor held in Cuba, goes on hunger strike

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY KAREN DEYOUNG

Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years, began a hunger strike last week to protest his treatment by both the Cuban and U.S. governments, his lawyer said Tuesday.

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal,” Gross said in a telephoned statement to his legal team.

As he has many times before, Gross called on President Obama to become personally involved in efforts to free him from “inhumane treatment” in a Cuban prison.

Gross was arrested in 2009 for distributing Internet and other communications materials in Cuba under a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the Cuban ... Read More

The buzz in Cuba

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

The Obama administration’s recently exposed program to provide a text-messaging service for ordinary citizens in Cuba is a commendable effort to break the Castro government’s information monopoly. We hope they don’t quit trying. Critics of the program like Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called it “dumb, dumb, dumb” as soon as the Associated Press published a report last week on the short-lived Twitter-like program that ran out of funding in 2012. What would be really dumb, though, is to sit back silently and do nothing while Cuba’s 11 million people are kept from hearing or reading any information except what bears the government’s stamp of approval.

Keep in mind that among the most successful programs of the Cold War were those like Radio Free Europe and communications support for groups like Solidarity in Poland that gave citizens of Soviet bloc countries vital information they could not get elsewhere.

These programs managed to foil ... Read More

USAID Defends ‘Cuban Twitter’ Program

| April 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

Former and current U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officials are defending the agency’s controversial social media program in Cuba as a legitimate tool for promoting freedom of expression in the communist country.

The Associated Press reported last week that USAID oversaw the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” known as ZunZuneo—slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

The program was designed to facilitate “non-controversial” conversations before eventually organizing “smart mobs” against the government, according to documents quoted by the Associated Press.

The social media platform gained more than 40,000 subscribers between 2010 and 2012 before running out of funding.

The report raised an outcry from some lawmakers who said they were not briefed on the social networking program.

However, both former and current USAID officials say the program was not covert. Lawmakers had the opportunity to receive briefings on the program, which was reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Jose Cardenas, former USAID acting assistant administrator for Latin ... Read More

EDITORIAL: A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

EDITORIAL

Human Rights Watch’s 2014 annual report paints a somber picture of political life in Cuba. “The Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights,” the report notes. “The government controls all media outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information, severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny fraction of Cubans are able to read independent websites and blogs because of the high cost of and limited access to the Internet.”

It is worse than scandalous that Cuba’s 11 million people are still trapped under these conditions some 55 years after Fidel and Raul Castro came to power on a promise of national liberation. Yet a recent story in the U.S. press and comments by certain U.S. politicians about it imply that Americans should be terribly upset about the Obama administration’s efforts to relieve the Cuban nightmare.

We refer to ... Read More

US Secretly Created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Stir Unrest

| April 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY DESMOND BUTLER

In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with ... Read More

Cuba’s past raises skepticism about new foreign investment law

| April 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY DANIEL TROTTA

Cuba has declared itself open for business with a new foreign investment law but faces deep skepticism given a history that includes jailing foreign executives and attempting to seize greater control of businesses once they prove successful.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a law on Saturday that embraces foreign capital as crucial to Cuba’s development, while disappointing those who had hoped for even more changes, such as allowing foreign ventures to hire Cuban labor freely instead of through the government.

Cut off from U.S. investment by Washington’s comprehensive trade embargo, Cuba says it needs $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year in foreign direct investment (FDI) to help reach its target of 7 percent growth a year. Economists estimate current FDI at a few hundred million, and the economy is expected to grow just 2.2 percent this year.

The new law, which will take effect within 90 days, is most notable for cutting the tax on profits in ... Read More

Skepticism as Cuba OKs law to lure foreign investors

| April 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
USA TODAY

BY ALAN GOMEZ

A new law approved by the Cuban National Assembly on Saturday designed to lure more foreign investment to the island nation has many wondering what it will mean.

The new law has Cuba observers wondering whether it will energize the country’s struggling economy, whether it represents a step from the county’s centrally planned economy to a more capitalist one, and whether the success of foreign companies there will prompt American businesses to push for a change in the U.S embargo on the Communist country.

For some, the question is far simpler.

“Would you put your money in Cuba?” says Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. “It’s a system that’s not transparent, there’s no legal system that protects foreign investment.”

“They can change the law,” he adds, “but they have to change the system for people to jump in and invest.”

That skepticism is ... Read More

BERMAN: Russia pivots toward Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

| March 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

BY ILLAN BERMAN

With all eyes on Ukraine, where Russia’s neo-imperial efforts have raised the specter of a new Cold War between Moscow and the West, another alarming facet of the Kremlin’s contemporary foreign policy has gone largely unnoticed; namely, its growing military presence in, and strategic designs on, the Western Hemisphere.

On Feb. 26, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu formally announced his government’s plan to expand its overseas military presence. Russia, Mr. Shoigu outlined, intends to establish new military bases in eight foreign countries. The candidates include five Asian nations and three Latin American ones: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Negotiations are underway to allow port visits to each, and to open refueling sites there for Russian long-range aircraft.

Just one day later, in a throwback to Cold War military cooperation between the Soviet Union and client state Cuba, a Russian warship docked in Havana. As of yet, neither Moscow nor Havana has issued a formal explanation as to why the Viktor Leonov, a Meridian-class intelligence vessel, ... Read More

Protesting in Venezuela, With Antipathy Toward Cuba’s Government

| March 26th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY VICTORIA BURNETT & WILLIAM NEUMAN

Enraged as they are by their nation’s leaders, many of the protesters who have spilled onto Venezuela’s streets have their eyes fixed on another government altogether, one they resent perhaps just as bitterly as their own: Cuba’s.

The Cuban government and its president, Raúl Castro, they contend, have leeched off Venezuela’s oil wealth, grafted Cuba’s rigid brand of socialism onto their country and helped choreograph a broad crackdown on dissent.

Their rancor is echoed by the Cuban opposition, which has thrown itself behind the Venezuelan protesters’ cause with gusto, sharing photos and videos of protests and police abuse on Twitter, urging Venezuelans to resist and even rapping an apology for what they call Cuba’s meddling.

The fixation with the influence of Cuba in Venezuela’s affairs reflects how meshed the two countries’ economic and political realities remain a ... Read More

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