Friday, December 16, 2011

Must-See: Rubio Slams Obama Travel Policy...

Thursday, December 15, 2011


In Very Poor Form

Yesterday, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) posthumously honored the founder of Cuba's Ladies in White, Laura Pollan, with the organization's prestigious Democracy Service Medal.

Past recipients of this award are transformational figures, such as Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and the Dalai Lama.

The event included Members of Congress from both parties; a direct link from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, where Laura's husband, daughter and the new leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, addressed the attendees; and Cuban singer Amaury Gutierrez unveiled his beautiful new song, "Laura."

During his remarks, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) -- a staunch critic of sanctions towards Cuba -- correctly noted that yesterday's gathering was not about politics or policies. It was about putting differences aside and honoring the trajectory of Laura Pollan.

Congressman Berman was right. Yet sadly, President Obama failed to take note.

Instead, President Obama decided to engage in pithy politicking and sent a statement to the event addressing a provision being considered in the FY'12 Omnibus Appropriations bills:

"I remain committed to supporting civil society in Cuba, including by protecting the ability of Cuban Americans to support their families in Cuba through unrestricted family visits and remittances."

Thus, the official statement by the President of the United States honoring Laura Pollan will now go down in history with Obama's political nuance.

Both Laura Pollan and the sentiments of the American people (that the President represents) deserved better.

U.S. Troubled by Increased Cuban Repression

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
From the U.S. Department of State:

The Cuban Government Should Respect Human Rights Week

We are deeply troubled by reports of increased repression by the Government of Cuba against Cuban citizens peacefully expressing themselves. Of particular concern are reports that government officials and government-organized groups detained, harassed, and assaulted dozens of human rights activists, journalists, and others to prevent them from marking Human Rights Day on December 10. President Obama has declared Human Rights Week from December 10 to December 17.

Members of the Damas de Blanco, winners of the Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award, faced harassment by government officials and pro-government groups over the past week and were arrested after attending Mass on Sunday December 4. Several activists, including one detained November 30 for demonstrating peacefully in a Havana park, have been held without charges or judicial review. Over the last month, dozens of other activists have faced repression throughout the island. Reports put the number of detentions in December at more than 300.

At a time when citizens around the world are marking Human Rights Week, we call for an immediate end to the harassment and violence against Cuban citizens who are peaceful critics of the government.

President Obama has focused our policy toward Cuba on increased engagement with the Cuban people to promote democratic ideals and improve human rights conditions on the island. As he said during his March address in Chile, “Cuban authorities must take some meaningful actions to respect the basic rights of their own people – not because the United States insists upon it, but because this is what the people of Cuba deserve.” We call on the Cuban government to respect all peaceful activities related to the commemoration of Human Rights Week.

Fidel Castro's niece in Twitter row with Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez...LPP Archive...

Mariela Castro – daughter of president Raúl – calls dissidents 'despicable parasites' hours after joining Twitter
  • Mariela Castro
    Mariela Castro implied that Cuban dissidents on Twitter were receiving orders from their 'employers' – the US. Photograph: Javier Galeano/AP
    Within hours of signing up to Twitter, the daughter of the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, has got into the online equivalent of a shouting match with a prominent dissident blogger, Yoani Sánchez. Mariela Castro called Sánchez and her supporters "despicable parasites" in a brief exchange that may have been the first direct confrontation, verbal or otherwise, between dissidents and a member of the Castro family after years of mutual animosity. Sánchez, who regularly criticises the lack of freedoms in communist Cuba in her Generation Y blog, touched off the dispute by sending tweets that welcomed Mariela Castro to the "plurality of Twitter" where "no one can shut me up, deny me permission to travel or block entrance". "When will we Cubans be able to come out of other closets?" she asked, alluding to Mariela Castro's championing of gay rights as head of Cuba's national centre for sex education. "Tolerance is total or is it not?" Sánchez tweeted. Castro, 49, replied coolly: "Your focus of tolerance reproduces the old mechanisms of power. To improve your 'services' you need to study." But later, after apparently receiving a number of tweets from other dissidents, Castro lashed out. "Despicable parasites: did you receive the order from your employers to respond to me in unison and with the same predetermined script? Be creative," she wrote, reflecting the contempt Cuban leaders have for dissidents. This is fuelled by the belief that the protesters work for their longtime enemy, the United States. Cuba's leaders can barely hide their rancour toward Sánchez in particular, but do not mention her or other dissidents by name. Despite having an international following, Sánchez is little known in Cuba, where internet access is limited. Mariela Castro, who is at the vanguard in Cuba in supporting gay rights, also appears to be the first in the Castro family to publicly and directly engage in tweeting. Her father, who is 80, and her uncle, the former leader Fidel Castro, 85, have Twitter accounts but these are used only to post stories and columns from Cuba's state-run media. After her exchange with Sánchez, she posted a link to an interview about her recent trip to the Netherlands, where she toured Amsterdam's red light district. She raised eyebrows by saying there that she knew of Cubans who would prostitute themselves with labourers just so they could take a bath. In a tweet, Mariela Castro said there had been "manipulations, like always" of her comments.