Propping Up A Dictator

One America News is reporting today that two Russian air force planes landed in Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops. This is reported by a local journalist.

The article reports:

Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding that the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.

An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.

The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.

It sounds as if the Russians are attempting to duplicate what they did in Cuba many years ago, support an unpopular dictator who will be a thorn in the side of America. The Russians have another reason to want to keep Venezuela indirectly under their control.

On March 22nd The Miami Herald reported:

Cuba would have to spend nearly $2 billion a year to meet its domestic oil needs if Venezuela’s National Assembly and interim president Juan Guaidó manage to stop deliveries to the Caribbean island.

“Cuba’s demand for oil is about 130,000 barrels per day, and Cuba produces about 50,000 barrels per day, which means a deficit of about 80,000 barrels per day,” said Jorge Piñón, director of the Latin American Energy Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Piñón estimates that Cuba has fuel reserves for about 45 days. But the end of deliveries by Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company would force the government to spend nearly $5.2 million per day at the market price of $65 per barrel for the 80,000 barrels per day it would need to import to meet demand.

By the end of one year, that would add up to nearly $2 billion for an economy that economists agree has not reached 2 percent annual growth in recent years and has probably experienced a recession.

The National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, recently ordered a suspension of crude shipments to Cuba, which started under an agreement to exchange oil for medical services negotiated by the late Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.

PDVSA now ships an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 barrels per day to Cuba, not quite half of what the oil company sent before it spiraled into an unprecedented crisis under the Nicolás Maduro regime.

There is also another aspect of Venezuela’s oil shipments.

In November 2013, I reported:

On Friday the Associated Press reported that PDVSA, the government-owned oil producer in Venezuela, seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services. The company had shut down the rigs because the Venezuela oil monopoly was behind on payments.

Nicolas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez, has not taken over any industries during the six months he has been President of Venezuela. This is the first move he has made in that direction. When Hugo Chavez began taking over industries, one news analyst observed that it would be difficult for him to keep those industries running at their profit levels without the knowledge of the companies that owned them. The seizure of these two rigs, which are repair rigs, is an illustration of that point.

Like it or not, free enterprise generates more wealth for more people than socialism.

It is a safe bet that oil production is only a fraction of what it was before Maduro took over the oil industry. That adds to the financial woes of Venezuela and will also have an impact of Cuba.

Common Sense Is Slowing Arriving In America Regarding The United Nations

Yesterday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the United States will be withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Some of the current members of the Human Rights Council are Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. The Human Rights Council does not have a history or actually protecting human rights.

The following is from Wikipedia, but still is noteworthy:

Since its creation in 2006—the Council had resolved almost more resolutions condemning Israel than on the rest of the world combined. The 45 resolutions comprised almost half (45.9%) of all country-specific resolutions passed by the Council, not counting those under Agenda Item 10 (countries requiring technical assistance).[1] From 1967 to 1989 the UN Security Council adopted 131 resolutions directly addressing the Arab–Israeli conflict. In early Security Council practice, resolutions did not directly invoke Chapter VII. They made an explicit determination of a threat, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, and ordered an action in accordance with Article 39 or 40. Resolution 54 determined that a threat to peace existed within the meaning of Article 39 of the Charter, reiterated the need for a truce, and ordered a cease-fire pursuant to Article 40 of the Charter. Although the phrase “Acting under Chapter VII” was never mentioned as the basis for the action taken, the chapter’s authority was being used.

One thing to consider when looking at how the United Nations began and where it is now is the creation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1969. In 2011, this group was renamed the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. The original charter of the organization emphasized the goal of “revitalizing Islam’s pioneering role in the world.” The group consists of 57 members, including Sunni and Shia states. Its membership is not limited to Arab states. This group has become a major power bloc in the United Nations and bears much of the responsibility for the anti-democratic turn the United Nations has taken. The United Nations no longer supports freedom–it has become a place where dictators can parade as great leaders while their people are starving or imprisoned.

Leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council is the right thing to do. The next step is to leave the United Nations entirely.

Only Some Illegals Are Welcome

The  Associated Press is reporting today the President Obama is changing the policy regarding Cubans who flee to America seeking freedom.

The article reports:

President Barack Obama announced Thursday he is ending a longstanding immigration policy that allows any Cuban who makes it to U.S. soil to stay and become a legal resident.

The repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is effective immediately. The decision follows months of negotiations focused in part on getting Cuba to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S.

“Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities,” Obama said in a statement. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.”

This is from the President who has consistently refused to secure the southern border of America. This is from the President who has been trying for years to make every illegal in America a citizen.

I question the timing of this more than I question the action. I honestly don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but why is it being done a week before President Obama leaves office? Why is President Obama so willing to take Middle Eastern refugees who do not value democracy and so unwilling to take Cuban refugees who are seeking freedom?

 

Who Does This Man Represent?

America is a Representative Republic. Americans vote for people to go to Washington, D.C., to represent them. Lately it seems as if we might not be doing a really good job of that. Generally speaking, I am not sure who most of the people in Washington represent. However, a recent speech by President Obama really makes me wonder.

Paul Mirengoff posted an article at Power Line today about President Obama’s speech in Argentina to a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative meeting.  During the speech, President Obama explained the choice between communism and capitalism.

The article reports:

Obama instructed his young listeners that the question isn’t this system vs. that system, but rather “what works.” In Cuba, he claimed (falsely), communism is working great when it comes to health care. On the other hand, he acknowledged, the country looks like it’s stuck in the 1950s.

The lesson, said Obama, is that markets tend to generate wealth. Thus, they meet his “does it work” test, though they must be heavily regulated. Such is the wisdom imparted by this (once-thought-by many-to-be) towering intellect.

Scandalously, the only argument Obama was willing to make in favor of freedom is its tendency to generate wealth. If communism produced just as much, apparently it would be just as good or better, given the more even distribution of the wealth it purports to produce.

To argue in favor of freedom as a good in itself would, in Obama’s thinking, mean succumbing to ideology. He is much too cool for that.

I infer that during the heyday of the Soviet Union, Obama might well have been a communist. Then it was thought, based on successful propaganda of the kind some now accept when it comes to health care in Cuba, that communism was working fine.

I also infer that Obama may well be a fan of the current Chinese regime. Until recently, many thought it was working quite well.

Below is the video of the speech, as posted on YouTube:

The article at Power Line points out:

Obama’s entire speech is below. His remarks regarding capitalism vs. communism begin at around the 41:00 minute mark.

The difference between communism and capitalism is important to America. We need a President who understands that.

Our President Has Forgotten Who We Are

The Weekly Standard posted an article yesterday about President Obama’s remarks in Cuba.

The article reports:

“President Castro, I think, has pointed out that in his view making sure that everybody is getting a decent education or health care, has basic security and old age, that those things are human rights as well. I personally would not disagree with him,” Obama said.

“But it doesn’t detract from some of these other concerns. And the goal of the human rights dialogue is not for the United States to dictate to Cuba how they should govern themselves, but to make sure that we are having a frank and candid conversation around this issue. And hopefully that we can learn from each other.”

Obama made the comment at a joint press conference with the Cuban Communist dictator.

This is the video from YouTube:

Does anyone truly believe that the people in Cuba have freedom of speech,  the right to bear arms, etc.? President Obama needs to rethink his definition of human rights. It is a shame that the reestablishing of a relationship between the United States and Cuba did not include a demand for increased human rights in Cuba in exchange for the economic benefits Cuba will reap from the relationship.

Bad News For The Western Hemisphere

Russia has been flexing its muscles in the Middle East and in eastern Europe. Vladimir Putin may be ready to try his luck in the Western Hemisphere–after all, he’s gotten away with everything he has tried everywhere else.

Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial yesterday about Cuban troops fighting in Syria for Russia. According the to editorial, there are two credible sources for this claim.

The editorial asks:

If so, Cuba has done a big favor for an old ally. More importantly now, what did Russia offer in return?

Here are some suggestions from the editorial:

Russia has been seeking land bases and sea ports in this hemisphere, and Cuba may be just what it needs to project power and serve notice the U.S. no longer dominates the Caribbean.

Rents from such a base could keep Cuba’s regime afloat as it awaits U.S. tourist dollars to carry the rest. Expect new calls from Cuba to release Guantanamo; Russia may be interested in moving in.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. America has a weak President, and Russia does not. It’s that simple. Unfortunately the American people will be the ones to pay the price for the fecklessness of President Obama. If you love your country, please register to vote, and vote carefully next November.

Today’s Chutzpah Award

Yesterday Yahoo News reported that Fidel Castro celebrated his 89th birthday by declaring that the United States owes Cuba “many millions of dollars” because of the half-century-old American trade embargo. This is what happens when you begin diplomatic relations with a failing communist state–they immediately want money because communism doesn’t work.

The article reports:

The trade embargo that the United States slapped on communist Cuba in 1962, three years after Castro seized power by ousting a US-backed regime, remains in effect despite the thaw.

President Barack Obama wants Congress to lift it, although US officials say this will take time and is not an automatic part of the restoration of ties, as it requires congressional action.

Many Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, oppose the idea, insisting Cuba has to improve its human rights record and make other democratic reforms.

Fidel Castro pulled one of the most effective international deceptions in history in 1959 when he led a successful revolution and took over the government of Cuba. America supported him, believing he would bring freedom to the island nation. However, a quick review of his personal history would have revealed who he was.

Wikipedia has a few interesting notes about Fidel Castro:

Born in Birán as the son of a wealthy farmer, Castro adopted leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana.

Maybe America needs to take a closer look at its universities and see what is happening to their students.

Wikipedia also tells us:

After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, launching a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. After a year’s imprisonment, he traveled to Mexico where he formed a revolutionary group, the 26th of July Movement, with Che Guevara and his brother Raúl Castro. Returning to Cuba, Castro took a key role in the Cuban Revolution by leading the Movement in a guerrilla war against Batista’s forces from the Sierra Maestra. After Batista’s overthrow in 1959, Castro assumed military and political power.

America realized after Castro took office who he was, but his revolution was looked upon favorably by the American government. Many college students who don’t understand the cruelty of Che Guevara still wander around with t-shirts bearing his image. Che Guevara was a cold-blooded murderer who essentially functioned as the enforcer for the Castro regime. His t-shirts are worn by students who really have no idea who he actually was.

At any rate, we don’t owe Cuba anything for the embargo. Cuba owes the world an explanation and apology for the way it has treated its people. Castro’s regime was one of fear and terror. Innocent people were arrested, tortured, and mistreated. That still continues. Until it stops, I see no reason to trade with Cuba.

At Least There Is Some Check On Releasing Prisoners From Guantanamo

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted a story today about the continuing push by President Obama to release all of the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It is quite possible that the recent ‘normalization’ of America‘s relationship to Cuba might be related to this desire in some way. However, here at home, there seems to be another roadblock in the President’s way (thank goodness).

In January of this year, NewsMax ran a story about the recidivism rate of former Guantanamo prisoners. They compared the numbers the government has released with their information. Any resemblance between the two sets of numbers was purely coincidental.

These are the government figures:

fleitz.jpg

This is what the article says about those numbers:

Republican claims of a 30 percent recidivism rate are based on combining the figures in green on all detainees confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorism.

I believe the actual recidivism rate is probably 30 percent or higher because of the time and difficulty in determining whether released Gitmo detainees have returned to terrorism.

Further complicating this determination are very strict definitions set by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to define what “confirmed” and “suspected of” reengaging in terrorist activities mean. Among other things, these definitions require evidence of direct involvement in terrorist activities and exclude communications with terrorist groups or engaging in anti-U.S. propaganda.

Meanwhile, President Obama is dealing with a familiar problem regarding the release of the prisoners.

Ed Morrissey reports:

Carter (Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter) also said that not every detainee in Guantanamo can be freed. “[W]e have to be very clear – there are people in Guantanamo Bay who cannot and should not be released because they will return to the terrorist fight,” he said. “And therefore we need a place where we can detain them in the long term. We have been forbidden to create such a place in U.S. territory.”

This is the problem that President Obama ran into with the last Secretary of Defense. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There has been speculation that our involvement with Cuba will involve the turning over of Guantanamo to Cuba. It will be interesting to see how that will be handled between now and the time that President Obama leaves office. A first-term President is not likely to want a resume that includes the release of prisoners that were later to be found killing Americans.

Something To Consider

I am posting this article simply because I doubt that the media in general will cover it. I have drawn no conclusion other than to say that if the KGB hadn’t done it, someone else would have.

On Friday, The New American posted an article reporting that a communist defector is claiming that the Soviet KGB invented “liberation theology” and was responsible for its spread through Catholic countries in Latin America in the 1970’s.

The article reports:

Liberation theology “was born in the KGB, and it had a KGB-invented name,” the former general said. During those years, the KGB had a penchant for “liberation” movements, he noted, citing as examples the “National Liberation Army of Columbia created by the KGB with help from Fidel Castro; the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created by the KGB with help from ‘Che’ Guevara; and the Palestine Liberation Organization created by the KGB with help from Yasser Arafat.”

The theological movement, Pacepa said, was born in 1960 as a “disinformation” program approved by KGB Chairman Aleksandr Shelepin, the coordinator of the Communist Party’s international policies. The program was designed to give the KGB “secret control of the World Council of Churches (WCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and use it as cover for converting liberation theology into a South American revolutionary tool,” Pacepa said. The WCC was a large and tempting target as an international ecumenical organization representing more than half a billion Christians of various denominations in 120 countries.

Whether or not the above is true, the World Council of Churches has taken some very odd stands on various quasi political issues over the years–some of which simply do not line up with the Bible.

The Catholic Church was not the only denomination taken in by liberation theology–many Protestant churches in America still preach it. The basic tenant of the theology is that salvation is achieved through correcting social and economic injustices. This is in total contradiction to what the Bible says. Jesus commands us to help the poor and do what we can to undo social injustice, but states that the poor will always be with us.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul stated,” For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” – King James Version (Cambridge Edition) 

Again, I don’t think that applies to people unable to work, but it does apply to those who are unwilling to work. Our welfare programs could accomplish a lot with that philosophy.

At any rate, the idea that the KGB started liberation theology is put forth for your consideration. Please follow the link above to read the entire article at The New American. There is a lot of interesting information there. Your are welcome to sign in and comment.

These Are Not The Actions Of A Trustworthy Government

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting today that Iran has increased its undercover activities in Latin America.

The article reports:

Iran is becoming increasingly open about its presence in Latin America and providing its officials with passports from Venezuela and other countries, giving them free rein to travel throughout South America.

Iran has forged close ties with countries such as Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, among others.

Luis Heber, a member of the Uruguayan senate, said that Iranian agents—who some suspect are members of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—have been spotted in his country holding Venezuelan passports.

Officials have determined that there is “a clear penetration of Iran in our country,” Heber said during remarks Sunday before U.S. lawmakers and other Latin American officials.

“We’ve also seen Venezuelan passports in the hands of Iranians,” he revealed. “The penetration of Venezuela by Iran is clear. There is overwhelming information on this.”

Heber said Uruguayan officials have spotted at least 10 Iranians carrying Venezuelan passports.

They “can enter anywhere in Latin America because the passports are legal,” he explained.

Iran’s goal, in part, is to establish deep ties in these countries in order to influence their policies toward America, Israel, and other Western allies, officials said.

“The threat level has increased, it’s more open,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), vice-chair of the House’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

“The Iranian threat comes not from espionage as much, but from influencing the ideology of their host country,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “That’s what they’re aiming for and penetrating [these countries] so they have a presence in Latin America right at the foothold of the U.S.”

And we are negotiating a nuclear treaty with these people?

Broken Promises Before The Ink Is Dry

Fox News is reporting today that no one seems to know the status of the 53 political dissidents in Cuba who were supposed to be freed as part of the deal to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

The article reports:

“We are very concerned,” Francisco Hernandez, co-founder and president of the Cuban American National Foundation, told FoxNews.com. “The problem with the agreement [between Cuba and the U.S.] is that there is no agreement. There are no guarantees. This has been a tremendous victory for the Cuban government.”

Hernandez’s Miami-based organization has contacted the White House and pressed officials to publicly identify the dissidents scheduled for release. He hasn’t had much luck and says the push for transparency has been widely ignored and in turn is fueling suspicion over Cuba’s intentions. He and others question whether the Cubans supposedly set for release are even political prisoners. 

“We wonder why there has not been any indication – especially on the part of the White House – who is on the list,” Hernandez said. “We want to confirm that those on the list are political prisoners and not common criminals, but we have not been able to.”

This agreement seems to be falling apart before it is even agreed to.

The Friday Night News Dump

While the rest of us were recovering from Christmas, Hugh Hewitt was working. Today he posted an article at HughHewitt.com about some news the White House released on the day after Christmas (Friday) at 5 pm. The news was about President Obama’s desire to close Guantanamo.

Mr. Hewitt quotes a CNN New Story:

Once a detainee is deemed no longer a risk, they are either transferred back to their country of origin, or a third country that is willing to take them.

Sixty-four of the 132 remaining detainees have been ruled eligible for transfer.

Of the 64 eligible, 54 are from Yemen. But the United States is not willing, at this point, to send them back to Yemen because of concerns that the government — under pressure from al Qaeda and Houthi militants — cannot ensure they do not join al Qaeda elements there. The administration for the last several months has been trying to find a country that will take the Yemenis and provide security and human rights assurances for them.

If the sixty-four are not dangerous, why would there be a problem sending them to Yemen? (Because they actually are dangerous–there is a game being played here).

The article lists President Obama’s reasons for wanting to close Guantanamo:

“It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held,” Obama said. “It is contrary to our values and it is wildly expensive. We’re spending millions for each individual there. And we have drawn down the population there significantly.”

Guantanamo is not the problem in creating jihadists. Our values do include locking up people who are dangerous to society. Guantanamo may be expensive, but how much is an American life worth? A large percentage of prisoners released have returned to the battlefield and killed Americans. The fact that we have drawn down the population does not mean that we have done the right thing,

On December 24, Hot Air posted an article with the headline, “U.S. offering $5 million reward for Al Qaeda capo…who was released from Gitmo in 2006.” Unfortunately, that story is not unique.

Mr. Hewitt’s article concludes:

In short, an absurd, serial set of non-sequitors, about par for this president’s command of logic and persuasive argument. Windy and without logic or fact to back it up.  The new Congress should block him not only from closing Gitmo, but from expending money to relocate prisoners –a classic appropriations’ rider.  Given the way the world is going, we are going to need the facility for decades into the future, and a full throated defense of the necessity as well.

I hope we have someone in Washington who has that much wisdom.

 

Timing Is Everything

Yesterday the big news item was the opening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. There is, however, a part of the story that is not being widely reported.

Bill Gertz posted an article yesterday at the Washington Times about an agreement signed between Russia and Cuba in May.

The article reports:

Months before President Obama announced on Wednesday that he is seeking to do away with decades of U.S. economic sanctions against the communist regime in Cuba, Russia concluded a security deal with Havana aimed at bolstering intelligence and military ties to the island dictatorship.

The Russia-Cuba agreement was announced May 16 when a memorandum was signed in Moscow establishing a joint working group between Russia’s Security Council and the Cuban Commission for National Security and Defense.

The security agreement comes amid fresh U.S. intelligence agency concerns that Russia is taking steps to follow through on plans to conduct strategic nuclear bomber flights over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, possibly with the help of Cuba and Venezuela.

Sometimes it just feels like Putin is playing chess while Obama is playing checkers.

Russia has been increasing its presence in the southern half of the Western Hemisphere for years. Russia has close ties to Venezuela. At the present time, however, both countries are in dire straits due to falling oil prices and are really not able to help each other very much. But in recent years, Venezuela has been extending the runway at Maiquetia international airport near Caracas. Some American officials believe that the extended runway will be able to accommodate the Russian Bear Hs, possibly equipped with nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The article further reports:

The Russia-Cuba security agreement reached in May was announced by Nikolai Patrushev, former director of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, and currently secretary of the Security Council, the key arm of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The situation in the world is changing fast and it is dynamic. That’s why we will need the ability to react to it promptly,” Mr. Patrushev told reporters May 16 in Moscow.

The Cuban delegation to Moscow at the time was headed by Col. Alejandro Castro, an Interior Ministry officer and son of current Cuban leader Raul Castro.

In July, Russian news outlets reported that Cuba had agreed to re-open the Soviet-era electronic listening post at Lourdes, Cuba. The facility, which spied on U.S. communications in the southern United States, was closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Mr. Putin later denied the spy post was being reopened.

Mr. Patrushev is Moscow’s point man for relations with Latin American states. In 2008, he traveled to Venezuela for talks with then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the time Russian and Venezuelan navy ships conducted joint exercises. Russia has supplied military equipment to the Venezuelan military.

This is not the time to do anything to bolster Cuba’s economy or standing in the world. All we are doing is propping up Cuba as its former sources of revenue, Venezuela and Russia, run out of money. This should have been the time for tough negotiations–not caving into anything the Cuban government wanted. President Obama has just made America less safe.

Our President Does Not Know How To Negotiate

The Daily Caller posted an article today stating that the United States is about to end diplomatic, travel and trade sanctions against Cuba. This is good news for Cuba–the deal will allow unlimited U.S. investment in Cuba, including payments to the ruling government and its supporters. U.S. banks will also be allowed to provide credit-card services and investments in Cuba. Businessmen like the deal.

So what did we actually get in return? The article reports:

The deal doesn’t require any political changes by Cuba’s oligarchy, officials said.

…The agreement will be complicated by political fights over the ownership of Cuba’s valuable real estate, especially its beachfront. That property was stolen by the fascist government after it took power in 1959.

Many of the property owners, or their descendants, are living in the United States.

…However, the (Cuban) government has maintained tight control over politics and periodically beats up members of pro-democracy groups.

…Cuba’s fascist government released an pro-American Cuban held in jail for 20 years, and a prisoner, Alan Gross.

Gross was arrested in Cuba where he was working for the federal government’s U.S. Agency for International Development.

…In exchange, the U.S. is released three Cuban spies.

One of the jailed Cubans worked as an “intelligence asset” for the U.S., said the White House official. He provided information that resulted in the convictions of at least three American spies for Cuba, and the arrest of five Cuba operatives in Florida.

The article reports that secret negotiations have been going on since 2013. American used to stand against countries that routinely violated human rights. I guess that doesn’t happen anymore. And I guess the Cuban ex-patriots in Florida will not be reimbursed for the property that was taken from them.

Wandering Away From Your Stated Purpose

Anyone who reads this site regularly knows that I am not a fan of the United Nations (U.N.). I think they have been taken over by a bunch of tin-horned dictators and need to be shut down and kicked out of New York City. Just the uncollected parking ticket revenue could reinvigorate the New York City budget! The current members list of the U.N. Human Rights Commission illustrates how far the U.N. has fallen from its original noble purpose ( to prevent further “generations from the scourge of war”, “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights” (“equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”), “establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained” and “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.). The current members of the U.N. Human Rights Commission include Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Cuba and Venezuela are run by dictators who routinely ignore human rights, and Saudi Arabia does not allow religious freedom.

A website promoting a petition to remove the U.N. from all Israeli territory points out:

Furthermore, a notable subgroup UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) has been a) found to be storing weaponry for an internationally recognized terrorist organization and b) time and again shows that it does not treat various groups equally or respect international law despite these two things being at the core of the UN’s founding charter.

The amazing part of the story is that they gave the weapons back to Hamas:

Here is the UNRWA’s “apology” for allowing rockets to be stored in one of their schools in Gaza and here is a follow-up article stating that they did not turn said weapons over for destruction to UN forces or some other legal body that respects human rights but rather gave them back to Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that has to date committed numerous war crimes and various human rights violations according to the fourth Geneva Conventions.

It really is time to send the U.N. packing. They are not aiding the cause of peace.

Standing For Something

Yesterday Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted an article about two contrasting speeches given in the Senate that tell a lot about politics in America. The first speech was given by Senator Tom Harkin, who recently returned from a trip to Cuba. Senator Harkin offered a rosy view of Cuba’s efforts on literacy and health care.  Senator Harkin made no mention of the oppression of the Cuban people or the poverty of the vast majority of Cuban people. Senator Marco Rubio, who parents were Cuban exiles, was not impressed.

Here are Senator Rubio’s remarks, quoted from the article at Hot Air:

A few moments ago, the body was treated to a report from the senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. Sounded like he had a wonderful trip visiting, what he described as, a real paradise. He bragged about a number of things that he learned on his trip to Cuba that I’d like to address briefly. He bragged about their health care system, medical school is free, doctors are free, clinics are free, their infant mortality rate may be even lower than ours. I wonder if the senator, however, was informed, number one, that the infant mortality rate of Cuba is completely calculated on figures provided by the Cuban government. And, by the way, totalitarian communist regimes don’t have the best history of accurately reporting things. I wonder if he was informed that before Castro, Cuba, by the way, was 13th in the whole world in infant mortality. I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they’re not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore don’t count against the mortality rate.

I wonder if our visitors to Cuba were informed that in Cuba, any time there is any sort of problem with the child in utero they are strongly encouraged to undergo abortions, and that’s why they have an abortion rate that skyrockets, and some say, is perhaps the highest the world. I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba. I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States because they defected. Because in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population.

I also heard him speak about baseball and I know that Cubans love baseball, since my parents were from there and I grew up in a community surrounded by it. He talked about these great baseball players that are coming from Cuba — and they are. But I wonder if they informed him — in fact, I bet you they didn’t talk about those players to him because every single one of those guys playing in the Major Leagues defected. They left Cuba to play here.

He also talked about how people would come up to him in the streets and not a single person said anything negative about America. Nobody came up to him wagging their fingers saying, ‘You Americans and your embargo is hurting us.’ I’m glad to hear that. Because everyone who wants to lift the embargo is constantly telling us that the Castros use that to turn the people against us. So obviously, that’s not true. So I’m glad to hear confirmation of what I already knew to be true. I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government.

I wish that someone on that trip would have asked the average Cuban, ‘With your wonderful literacy skills, are you allowed to read The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any blog, for that matter?’ Because the answer’s, ‘No.’ So it’s great to have literacy, but if you don’t have access to the information, what’s the point of it? So I wish somebody would have asked about that on that trip. We heard about Mr. Gross, who is not in jail. He’s not a prisoner. He is a hostage. He is a hostage. And in the speech I heard a moment ago, I heard allusions to the idea that maybe we should — he didn’t say it, but I know the language, I know the code in this — that maybe there should be a spy swap. Here’s the problem: Mr. Gross was not a spy. You know what his crime was, if that’s what you can call it? He went to Cuba to hand out satellite radios to the Jewish community. But, we’re glad to hear that the Cubans are so nice to him that they let him walk 10,000 steps a day and do pull-ups and they let him build a necklace out of bottle cap tops. Very nice of them to allow him to do those things. How generous.

I wonder if anybody asked about terrorism, because Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. I wonder if anybody asked about the fact that, just a few months ago, a North Korean ship going from Cuba to North Korea was stopped in the Panama Canal and it contained items in violation of international sanctions against a government in North Korea that, a report just came out confirming what we already knew, has death camps and prison camps. And the Cubans are allowing them to evade these sanctions. Did that come up in any of the wonderful conversations in this socialist paradise in the Caribbean? I bet you it didn’t.

Let me tell you what the Cubans are really good at, because they don’t know how to run their economy, they don’t know how to build, they don’t know how to govern a people. What they are really good at is repression. What they are really good at is shutting off information to the Internet and to radio and television and social media. That’s what they’re really good at. And they’re not just good at it domestically, they’re good exporters of these things. And you want to see exhibit A, B, C and D? I’m going to show them to you right now. They have exported repression in real-time, in our hemisphere, right now.

Let me show you the first slide here. This gentleman here is the former mayor of a municipality in Caracas. His name is Leopoldo Lopez. And this is the National Guard of Venezuela pulling him into an armored truck last week. You know why? Because he’s protesting against the government. He’s protesting against the government of Venezuela, which are puppets of Havana, completely infiltrated by Cubans and agents from Havana. Not agents, openly, foreign military affairs officials involved in Venezuela. You know why? Because the Venezuela government is giving them cheap oil and free oil, in exchange for help during these sorts of repressions. So here he is, he’s sitting in jail right now because he’s protesting against the government. He’s sitting in jail right now.

So here’s the next slide. This is Genesis Carmona. She’s a beauty queen and a student in a city called Valencia. She’s on that motorcycle because the government in Venezuela and the thug, these so-called civilian groups that they’ve armed — another export from Cuba, a model the Cubans follow — they shot her in the head. She died last week. This is the government that the Cubans support. Not just verbally, not just emotionally, but with training and tactics. This is who they export — this is what they do. And she’s dead. And this is her being taken on a motorcycle to the hospital where they were unable to save her life because she was shot in the head by Venezuelan security forces.

Here’s another slide. Remember I showed you Mr. Lopez? These are his supporters being hit with water cannons — by water cannons in the street because they’re protesting against the government. This has been going on now for two weeks. This is the allies of Cuba, Venezuela, the puppets of Cuba. And this is what they do to their own people. Water cannons knocking people to the ground. Why? Because they’re protesting the government.

Let me show you the next slide. Here’s a demonstrator detained by police. Look how they drag him through the streets. This is in Caracas, Venezuela.

Let me show you another demonstrator. This is a student — by the way, these are all students in the street. You see this young man here? He was also shot in the head by security forces and pro-government groups in Caracas. This happened on February 11. This is what they do in Venezuela. This is what the allies of the Castro regime does, this is what they export. This is what they teach. This is what they support. And it doesn’t stop here.

Who are Cuba’s allies in the world? North Korea. Before he fell, the dictator in Libya, the dictator in Syria, the tyrant in Moscow. This is who they line up with. This is this wonderful paradise? By the way, this in and of itself deserves attention, what’s happening in Venezuela, in our own hemisphere. It is shameful that only three heads of state in this hemisphere have spoken out forcefully against what’s happening. It is shameful that many members of Congress who traveled to Venezuela and were friendly with Chavez, some even went to his funeral, sit by saying nothing while this is happening in our own hemisphere. And this wonderful Cuban paradise government that we heard about? This is what they support. Just this morning, the dictator that calls himself a president — never been elected to anything, Raul Castro — announced he is there for whatever they need to help them do this.

I listen to this stuff about Cuba and I listen to what’s happening in Venezuela, they’re very similar. Not just in the repression part, but the economics part. You know Venezuela’s an oil-rich country with hardworking people? They have a shortage — we don’t have an embargo against Venezuela. They have a shortage of toilet paper and tooth paste. Why? Because they are incompetent. Because communism doesn’t work. They look more and more like Cuba economically and politically every single day.

What’s the first thing the Venezuelan government did when these broke out? They cut off access to Twitter and Facebook and the Internet. They ran CNN out of there. They closed down the only Colombian station. Years before, they had closed down all the independent media outlets that criticized the government. Where did they learn that from? From Cuba. And yet we have to listen to what a paradise Cuba is. Well, I wonder how come I never read about boatloads of American refugees going to Cuba? Why have close to one and a half million people left Cuba to come here? But the only people that leave here to move there, are fugitives from the law and people that steal money from Medicare that go there to hide? Why? How come no American baseball players defect to Cuba? Why don’t any American doctors defect to Cuba if it’s such a paradise?

He cited a poll, ‘More Americans want normal relations with Cuba.’ So do I — a democratic and free Cuba. But you want us to reach out and develop friendly relationships with a serial violator of human rights, who supports what’s going on in Venezuela and every other atrocity on the planet? On issue after issue, they are always on the side of the tyrants. Look it up. And this is who we should be opening up to? Why don’t they change? Why doesn’t the Cuban government change? Why doesn’t the Venezuelan government change?

Throughout this week, I will be outlining proposals and ideas about what we need to do, the sanctions we should be pursuing against the individuals responsible for these atrocities. So with North Korea, we have sanctions. Why? Because they’re a terrorist government and an illegitimate one. Against Iran we have sanctions. Why? Because they support terrorism and they’re an illegitimate government. And against the Cubans we have sanctions. Why? Well, you just saw why. Sanctions are a tool in our foreign policy toolbox, and we, as the freest nation on Earth, are looked to by people in this country, and all around the world, to stand by them in their moment of need when they clamor for freedom and liberty and human rights. They look for America to be on their side, not for America to be cutting geopolitical deals or making it easier to sell tractors to the government there. We should be clear about these things.

But here’s the great news. I don’t know if they get C-SPAN in Cuba. I bet you the government people do. I hope you see that in America, we’re a free society. You’re allowed to come on the floor and you’re allowed to say and spread whatever you want. You think Cuba’s a paradise? You think it’s an example and a model that we should be following? You’re free to say that, here, in the press and anywhere you want. But we’re also free to come here and tell the truth. We’re also free to come here and denounce the violations of human rights and brutality. And I would suggest to my colleagues, the next time they go to Cuba, ask to meet with the Ladies in White. Ask to meet with the Yoani Sanchez. Ask to meet with the dissidents and the human rights activists that are jailed and repressed and exiled. Ask to meet with them. I bet you’re going to hear something very different than what you got from your hosts on your last trip to the wonderful Cuba, this extraordinary socialist paradise. Because it’s a joke. It’s a farce.

And I don’t think we should stand by here with our arms crossed, watching these things happen in our hemisphere and say nothing about them. I can close by saying this: Over the last week, I have tweeted about these issues. I get thousands of retweets from students and young people, until they shut them out, in Venezuela who are encouraged by the fact that we are on their side. What they want is what we have, the freedom and the liberty. That’s what all people want. And if America and its policy-makers are not going to be firmly on the side of freedom and liberty, who in the world is? Who on this planet will? If this nation is not firmly on the side of human rights and freedom and the dignity of all people, what nation on the Earth will? And if we’re prepared to walk away from that, then I submit to you that this century is going to be a dangerous and dark one. But I don’t believe that’s what the American people want from us. Nor the majority of my colleagues.

A man with an argument never has a chance against a man with an experience!

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What Happens In Cuba Stays In Cuba

Scott Johnson at Power Line posted an article today reminding us of the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.” If you remember the movie, it dealt with a pair of party animals throwing a party at their dead boss’ house and trying to convince their guests that their boss was still alive. That seems to be where we are in the story of Hugo Chavez.

Meanwhile, the U. K Daily Mail reported yesterday:

Sources at the hospital in Cuba where he is being treated this week told a Spanish newspaper  in an induced coma being kept alive by life support he was showing ‘very weak’ vital signs, adding that doctors could decide to switch off the machines ‘at any moment’.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez last month designated as his heir apparent, said in an interview from Havana that Chavez had recognized the complexity of his post-operative condition.

Maduro said he was returning to Venezuela after several days visiting with Chavez and his relatives, which may quell rumors his trip to Cuba signaled the president was in his final days.

So what happens when Hugo Chavez dies? Ramon Aveledo, head of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition, has stated  if Chavez cannot make it back in time, he should hand power over to the president of Congress – who would temporarily run the country while elections are called.
Congress, controlled by Chavez allies, on Saturday elects a new president. Current Congress chief Diosdado Cabello, a close Chavez ally who could be reelected to head the legislature, has at times been considered a rival of Maduro (Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez last month designated as his heir apparent). The two have taken great pains in recent weeks to publicly deny this.

It really does sound like “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

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Using The American Judicial System Against America

Yesterday’s New York Daily News posted an article about the circus that the trial of the 9/11 conspirators at Guantanamo has become. As you remember, one of the female defense lawyers had demanded that all female lawyers in the court wear Muslim dress. Other antics of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow defendants are detailed in a May 5th article in the U.K. Daily Mail. These antics include such things are refusing to answer the judge’s questions, delaying the trial by kneeling in prayer, removing their headphones (for translation) and reading magazines. Generally, the defendants have done anything they could to turn the proceedings into a circus. The only reason their antics are not on the front page of every newspaper is that the trial is taking place in Cuba in a military tribunal–thus illustrating the wisdom of a military trial in Cuba rather than a civlian trial in New York City.

The Daily News reports the latest antic:

As shown by their past offensive behavior, including at their all-day, long-into-the-night arraignment, the intent is to make as much of a joke of the proceedings as possible.

Their enablers now include Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz and four fellow defense lawyers who have demanded that President Obama, former President George W. Bush and other top officials be compelled to testify.

The petition has about as much chance of success as a snowball in the Cuban heat. It is designed to undermine the credibility of the proceedings in those precincts where KSM has fans. The insinuation is that the tribunal judge is prejudiced against the defendants by virtue of harsh presidential statements made about them in the past.

In the past America has upheld some measure of decorum at military tribunals. I am hoping we will not be manipulated into abandoning that decorum during this trial (although it seems that we already have). We already have confessions from the men on trial, the questions should be, “Do we execute them and let them become martyrs or do we let them live out their lives enjoying a lifestyle they would never achieve in their home countries–electricity, running water, beautiful weather, etc.?” It’s an interesting dilemma.

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One More Reason To Make Sure Our Borders Are Secure

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera is reporting that Hezbollah has opened a center of operations in Cuba. This was reported on Thursday by YNET News. The article states that a Cuban operations base is being set up in order to expand terrorist activity in South America and to facilitate an attack on an Israeli target in South America.

According to the article at YNET News:

The operation, titled “The Caribbean Case,” was reportedly allocated a budget of $1.5 million. The Cuba base is to be initially used for logistics purposes, including intelligence collection, networking and document forgery.

The attack being planned on an Israeli target is said to be in retaliation for the death of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, which Hezbollah claims Israel is responsible for.

The article in the Italian newspapers reports that Hezbollah has been active in South America for some time, mainly in Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela.

We need to remember that right now there is a large part of the world that is simply not friendly to the idea of democracy or freedom. There are leaders in foreign countries that would like to take away the freedom of Americans rather than granting freedom to their own citizens.

The problem with a Hezbollah base in Cuba is the ease of crossing America’s southern border. This is a link to a response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request showing the native countries of people arrested for trying to enter America illegally. We need to keep track of who is entering our country.

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