CANTACLARO

ELGALLODECANTACLARO“De ‘naide’ sigo el ejemplo, ‘naide” a dirigirme viene, yo digo lo que conviene, y el que en tal ‘gueya’ se planta, debe cantar, cuando canta, con toda la voz que tiene”

José Hernández en “Martín Fierro”

ALDOROSADO-TUEROOTRAPor Aldo Rosado-Tuero

Hoy continuó con el tema de la diferencia de la “democracia de partidos” o partidocracia y la democracia orgánica, que no es una idea original mía, sino una perenne preocupación de muy distinguidos pensadores a través de los años, desde el Marqués René de la Tour du Pin, pasando por el ideólogo del Ejército Secreto francés (OAS), Bernard Lefevre, hasta nuestro Apóstol José Martí.

¿Para qué necesitan los pueblos de esos intermediarios políticos? ¿Por qué cada hombre, para intervenir en la vida de su nación, ha de afiliarse a un partido político, o votar las candidaturas de un partido político? Todos nacemos en una familia. Todos vivimos en un municipio. Todos trabajamos en un oficio o profesión. Pero nadie nace ni vive, naturalmente, en un partido político.

El partido político es una cosa artificial, que nos une a gentes de otros municipios y otros oficios, con los que no tenemos nada común, y nos separa de nuestros convecinos y de nuestros compañeros de trabajo, que es con quienes de veras convivimos. Un Estado verdadero, como el que propugnamos no estará asentado sobre la falsedad de los partidos políticos, ni sobre los Parlamento que ellos engendran. Debe de estar asentado sobre las auténticas realidades vitales de la vida de una nación: La familia; El municipio; El gremio o sindicato.

Así el nuevo Estado habrá de reconocer la integridad de la familia como unidad social; la autonomía del municipio como unidad territorial, y el sindicato, el gremio, la corporación, como bases auténticas de la organización total del Estado.

Nuestro José Martí fue contundente en lo relativo a la democracia orgánica natural y funcional, adaptada a la idiosincrasia y a la forma de ser de los pueblos, cuando afirmó categóricamente: “Ni de Rosseau ni de Washington debe de surgir nuestra América, sino de sí misma. La incapacidad no está en el país naciente, que pide formas que se le acomoden y grandeza útil, sino en los que quieren regir pueblos originales, de composición singular y violenta, con leyes heredadas de cuatro siglos de práctica libre en los Estados Unidos, de diecinueve siglos de monarquía en Francia. Con un decreto de Hamilton no se le para la pechada al potro del llanero. Con una frase de Sieyés no se desestanca la sangre cuajada de la raza india. A lo que es, allí donde se gobierna, hay que atender para gobernar bien; y el buen gobernante en América no es el que sabe cómo se gobierna el alemán o el francés, sino el que sabe con qué elementos está hecho su país, y cómo puede ir guiándolos en junto, para llegar, por métodos e instituciones nacidas del país mismo, a aquel estado apetecible donde cada hombre se conoce y ejerce, y disfrutan todos de la abundancia que la naturaleza puso para todos en el pueblo que fecundan con su trabajo y defienden con sus vidas. El gobierno ha de nacer del país. El espíritu del gobierno ha de ser el del país. La forma del gobierno ha de avenirse a la constitución propia del país. El gobierno no es más que el equilibrio de los elementos naturales del país.

Ni el libro europeo, ni el libro yanqui, daban la clave del enigma hispanoamericano. Se entiende que las formas de gobierno de un país han de acomodarse a sus elementos naturales; que las ideas absolutas, para no caer por un yerro de forma, han de ponerse en formas relativas; que la libertad, para ser viable, tiene que ser sincera y plena; que si la república no abre los brazos a todos y adelanta con todos, muere la república…El premio de los certámenes no ha de ser para la mejor oda, sino para el mejor estudio de los factores del país en que se vive”

Más claro no pudo ser Martí. Cuando propugnamos formas diferentes para la democracia no estamos inventando utopías, ni ensayando disparates. Insistimos en que a los que quieren dominar al mundo les interesa mantener, mientras tanto la farsa de la partidocracia y una de las avenidas para evitar que se salgan con sus propósitos es cambiar las reglas del juego; y nuestra patria tiene las condiciones óptimas para ser pionera en ese camino. Bastará con que se derribe la tiranía sin que se establezca una falsa democracia partidocrática antes.

Ese es el peligro que enfrentamos ahora con la mojiganga Obama-Raúl y “los zanjoneros” que quieren plantar la semilla maldita de la partidocracia, cuando se podrían abrir avenidas nuevas en el futuro desmonte de la actual tiranía.

3 comentario sobre “CANTACLARO

  1. De nuevo pido disculpas por colocar algo en Ingles pero me parece muy buena eata alocucion del Senador Bob Menendez:

    Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2016 19:46:37 -0400

    U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), senior member of the Senator Foreign Relations committee, delivered the following remarks on the Senate Floor ahead of President Obama’s visit to Cuba:

    I rise in memory of all Cuban dissidents who have given their lives in the hope of Cuba, one day, being free from the yoke of the Castro regime. It is that freedom I had hoped President Obama was referencing when he said: “What I’ve said to the Cuban government is – if we’re seeing more progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress. If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be there.”

    But that is obviously not the case, which is why the Boston Globe’s headline on February 25th says it all: Obama Breaks Pledge – Will Visit Cuba Despite Worsening Human Rights.

    Instead of having the free world’s leader honor Latin America’s only dictatorship with a visit, he could have visited one of the 150 countries which he has not visited, including several in Latin America that are democracies.

    The President has negotiated a deal with the Castros, and I understand his desire to make this his legacy issue, but there is still a fundamental issue of freedom and democracy at stake that goes to the underlying atmosphere in Cuba and whether or not the Cuban people – still repressed and still imprisoned – will benefit from the President’s legacy, or will it be the Castro Regime that reaps the benefits.

    Unless the Castros are compelled to change the way they govern the island and the way they exploit its people, the answer to this won’t be any different: The Castro Regime will be the beneficiary.

    At the very least the President’s first stops should be meetings with internationally-recognized dissidents: U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet; the European Union’s Sakharov prize recipients, Guillermo Farinas and Rosa Maria Paya in respect for her murdered father Oswaldo Paya who was leading the Varela Project advocating civil liberties, collecting thousands of signatures petitioning the Castro regime for democratic change as permitted under the Cuban constitution – so threatening was his peaceful petition drive that he was assassinated by Castro’s security agents.

    And he should meet with Berta Soler, at her home, in her neighborhood; With The Ladies in White, with dissidents and democracy advocates in Havana – and then that will be the front-page photograph we see next week. Only then will the message that the United States will not give-in or give-up on our commitment to a free and democratic Cuba be clear to the world and to the Cuban people.

    To leave a truly honorable mark in history, this would mean the President leaving the Castro’s cordoned-off-tourist-zone and seeing Berta Soler and her Ladies in White at their headquarters in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana, where poverty – Castro style — not opportunity, not freedom, not democracy – but poverty – created by a Stalinist state, is the umbrella under which they live.

    The President should witness their bravery, listen to their stories, feel their despair, see the fear under which they live – and stand-up with them and for them.

    He could learn of the story of Aliuska Gomez, one of The Ladies in White who was arrested this past Sunday for marching peacefully. In an article in Diario de Cuba she told her story: “‘We were subjected to a lot of violence today, said Aliuska Gomez. Many of us were dragged and beaten,’ she added pointing out that this has taken place only one week before President Obama’s visit. Aliuska…related how she was taken to a police station in Mariano where she was forcibly undressed by several uniformed female officers in plain view of some males. ‘After they had taken away all of my belongings, she said, they told me to strip naked, and I refused so they threw me down on the floor and took off all of my clothing, right in front of two men, and they dragged me completely naked into a jail cell. Aliuska was then handcuffed and thrown on the cell’s floor, naked, and left alone for forty-five minutes.’”

    Or how about the young Cuban dissident who met with Ben Rhodes and was arrested in Havana. It was reported on March 14th that ‘yesterday the Castro regime arrested Carlos Amel Oliva, head of the youth wing of the Cuban Patriotic Union, a major dissident organization. He is being accused of anti-social behavior. On Friday, Amel Oliva had participated in a meeting in Miami with Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor. He returned to Havana on Sunday.

    I guess that’s what Raul Castro thinks about those who meet with the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor.

    Notwithstanding their true stories, and the stories of thousands like them, the President first announced sweeping changes to America’s strategic approach to the Castro Regime in December 2014. In broad strokes, we learned of the forthcoming reestablishment of diplomatic relations – an exchange of symbols with the American flag flying over a United States Embassy in Havana and the Cuban flag flying over a Cuban Embassy in Washington.

    We learned about the process by which Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism would be lifted; and, we learned about the forthcoming transformative effects of a unilateral easing of sanctions to increase travel, commerce, and currency.

    For those of us who understand this regime, we cautioned for nuance, and against those broad strokes. We asked that the Administration at least require the Castros to reciprocate with certain concessions of their own, which would be as good for U.S. national interests as for the Cuban people and for U.S.-Cuban relations.

    For example, before the President ever traveled to Burma—a country with notorious human rights abuses and with which this Administration began to engage—the U.S. first demanded, and received action by the Burmese to address their human rights record. To be sure, the Burmese government agreed to meet nearly a dozen benchmarks as part of this “action for action” engagement, including granting the Red Cross access to prisons, establishing a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Office, release of political prisoners, conclusion of a cease fire in Kachin State, and ensuring international access to conflict areas.

    We asked, as the President’s Cuba policy unfolded, that they push for changes that put Cubans in control of their own political processes, economic opportunities, civil society and governance. We didn’t get them. We asked for changes that would honor America’s legacy as a champion for human rights. We didn’t get those either. We suggested changes that would ultimately bring Cuba into the community of nations, contributing to, rather than detracting from, the overall prosperity of the hemisphere. And there were none.

    But, most importantly, we asked that they remember that it is a lack of resources – not a change of heart – that slowed the Castros’ adventurism and instability-inducing support for those who would pose threats to our national interests within the Western Hemisphere.

    In essence, we were not thinking strategically. Instead, we traded strategy for tactics. And leading Cuban human rights and democracy activists have criticized U.S. policy.

    The simple truth is – deals with the Devil require the Devil to deal. Opening channels of communication controlled by the regime means nothing unless we are going to communicate our values. It means nothing if we do not champion the material changes that the Cuban people seek. It means nothing if we do not speak the language that the Castros understand – that the communist revolution has failed miserably, and it’s time to let the Cuban people decide their future.

    The Castros know it, but it’s the antiquated hallmark of the revolution and the iron-fisted rule that came from it that keeps them in power. And, until that power is truly challenged, we can expect to witness the further weakening of our leverage.

    In the meantime, the regime is already moving forward, already breathing new life into its existing repressive state systems: Cubans are being beaten, arrested, and otherwise muzzled at higher rates than ever before. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 1,141 political arrests by the Castro regime in Cuba during the short month of February 2016. In January 2016, the CCHR documented 1,447 political arrests. As such, these 2,588 political arrests — thus far — represent the highest tally to begin a year in decades.

    This is what happens when President Obama first announces he won’t visit Cuba unless there are tangible improvements in the respect for human rights — then crosses his own ‘red-line.’ And these are only political arrests that have been thoroughly documented. Many more are suspected.

    U.S. fugitives and members of foreign terrorist organizations still enjoy safe harbor on the island – like Joanne Chesimard, the convicted killer of New Jersey State Trooper, Werner Foerster – or Charlie Hill who killed New Mexico State Trooper, Robert Rosenbloom.

    Not a penny of the $6 billion in outstanding claims by American citizens and businesses for properties confiscated by the Castros has been repaid. Unrelenting censorship and oppression of Cuban journalists continues unscathed; and the Cuban path to liberty doesn’t include the United States Embassy.

    So what do we learn? We learn that, despite the Obama Administration’s engagement with the Castro dictatorship and increased travel to the island, repression on the island is exponentially rising. Why? Because the Castro regime, one of the most astute observers of the American political system, is rushing to take advantage of the permissive environment created by the President’s hunger for legacy and the relaxation of restrictions.

    Mr. President, legacy is not more important than lives. For years we’ve heard how an improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations, an easing of sanctions and an increase in travel to the island would benefit the Cuban people. A benefit not realized despite the visits and investments of millions of Europeans, Canadians, Mexicans, and South Americans.

    These assumptions are wrong. And since December 17, 2014, the President has engaged the Castro regime, offering unilateral concessions that the Castros are more than happy to accept.

    And, if that is not enough for us to at least question our Cuba policy, we are now facing a new unfolding Cuban migration crisis. The United States is faced with the largest migration of Cuban immigrants since the rafters of 1994. The number of Cubans entering the United States in 2015 was nearly twice that of 2014, some 51,000; and tens of thousands more are desperately trying to make the journey, via South and Central America. Why would Cubans flee if the promise of a better life in Cuba were on the horizon? When President Obama took office, the numbers were less than 7,000 annually.

    We hear that “self-employment” – such as it is in Cuba – is growing. But the number of ‘self-employed’ workers in Cuba has actually decreased. The Cuban government today is licensing 10,000 fewer ‘self-employed’ workers than it did in 2014. In contrast, Castro’s military monopolies are expanding at record pace. Even the limited spaces in which ‘self-employed’ workers previously operated are being squeezed as the Cuban military expands its control of the island’s travel, retail and financial sectors of the economy.

    While speaking recently to a business gathering in Washington, D.C., President Obama argued how he believes this new policy is “creating the environment in which a generational change and transition will take place in that country.” But the key questions is, “a generational change and transition” towards what and by whom? Cuban democracy leader, Antonio Rodiles, has concisely expressed this concern – “legitimizing the [Castro] regime is the path contrary to a transition.”

    CNN has revealed that the Cuban delegation in the secret talks that began in mid-2013 with U.S. officials in Ottawa, Toronto and Rome, and which led to the December 17th policy announcement, was headed by Colonel Alejandro Castro Espin. Colonel Castro Espin is the 49-year old son of Cuban dictator Raul Castro.

    In both face-to-face meetings between President Obama and Raul Castro this year — first at April’s Summit of the Americas in Panama City and just last month at the United Nations General Assembly in New York — Alejandro was seated (with a wide grin) next to his father. Alejandro holds the rank of Colonel in Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, with his hand on the pulse and trigger of the island’s intelligence services and repressive organs. It’s no secret that Raul Castro is grooming Alejandro for a position of power.

    Sadly, his role as interlocutor with the Obama Administration seeks to further their goal of an intra-family generational transition within the Castro clan similar to the Assad’s in Syria and the Kim’s in North Korea. And we know how well those have worked out. To give you an idea of how Colonel Alejandro Castro views the United States, he describes its leaders as ‘those who seek to subjugate humanity to satisfy their interests and hegemonic goals.

    But, of course, it also takes money to run a totalitarian dictatorship, which is why Raul Castro named his son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas, as head of GAESA, which stands for Grupo de Administracion Empresarial, S.A or translated Business Administrative Group. GAESA is the holding company of Cuba’s Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, Cuba’s military.

    It is the dominant driving force of the island’s economy. Established in the 1990s by Raul Castro, it controls tourism companies, ranging from the very profitable Gaviota S.A., which runs Cuba’s hotels, restaurants, car rentals and nightclubs, to TRD Caribe S.A., which runs the island’s retail stores. GAESA controls virtually all economic transactions in Cuba.

    According to Hotels Magazine, a leading industry publication, GAESA (through its subsidiaries) is by far the largest regional hotel conglomerate in Latin America. It controls more hotel rooms than The Walt Disney Company. As McLatchy News explained a few years back, “Tourists who sleep in some of Cuba’s hotels, drive rental cars, fill up their gas tanks, and even those riding in taxis have something in common: They are contributing to the [Cuban] Revolutionary Armed Forces’ bottom line.”

    GAESA became this business powerhouse thanks to the millions of Canadian and European tourists that have and continue to visit Cuba each year. The Cuban military-owned tourism company, Gaviota Tourism Group, S.A., averaged 12 percent growth in 2015 and expects to double its hotel business this year.

    These tourists have done absolutely nothing to promote freedom and democracy in Cuba. To the contrary, they have directly financed a system of control and repression over the Cuban people all while enjoying cigars made by Cuban workers paid in worthless pesos, and having a Cuba Libre, which is an oxymoron, on the beaches of Varadero.

    Yet, despite the clear evidence, President Obama wants American tourists to now double GAESA’s bonanza – and, through GAESA, strengthen the regime.

    An insightful report by Bloomberg Business also explained how, “[Raul’s son-in-law, General Rodriguez] is the gatekeeper for most foreign investors, requiring them to do business with his organization if they wish to set up shop on the island…If and when the U.S. finally removes its half-century embargo on Cuba, it will be this man who decides which investors get the best deals.” In other words, all of the talking points about how lifting the embargo and tourism restrictions would somehow benefit the Cuban people are empty and misleading rhetoric.

    In addition, internet “connectivity ranking” has dropped. The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Measuring the Information Society Report for 2015, the most reliable source of data and analysis on global access to information and communication. ITU has dropped Cuba’s ranking to 129 from 119. The island fares much worse than some of the world’s most infamous suppressors, including Syria (117), Iran (91), China (82) and Venezuela (72).

    In Cuba, religious freedom violations have increased. According to the London-based NGO, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, last year 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition by the Castro regime. Altogether, CSW documented 2,300 separate violations of religious freedom in 2015 compared to 220 in 2014.

    And, if that is not enough, Castro reneged on the release of political prisoners and visits by international monitors. Most of the 53 political prisoners released in the months prior and after Obama’s December 2014 announcement have since been re-arrested on multiple occasions. Five have been handed new long-term prison sentences.

    Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch noted in its new 2016 report, “Cuba has yet to allow visits to the island by the International Committee of the Red Cross or by U.N. human rights monitors, as stipulated in the December 2014 agreement with the United States.” These were the conditions that prompted Congress, over the course of our long history with Cuba, to pass successive laws to build on — not detract from — Executive Orders that created the embargo.

    I stand with thousands of Cuba’s civil society leaders, dissidents, journalists, and everyday men and women who long for the day when the freedom we enjoy in our great country extends to theirs. As long as I have a voice, they will have an ally to speak truth to power against this dictatorship, and against any effort to legitimize it or reward it.

    We must realize the nature of the Castro regime won’t be altered by capitulating on our demands for basic human and civil rights. If the United States is to give away its leverage, it should be in exchange for one thing, and one thing only, a true transition in Cuba.

    And, as for the latest announcements from the Administration, I stand against any rollback of the statutory provisions that codified Cuba sanctions. We learned this week that the Administration has cleared the way for individual travel to Cuba outside the auspices of a group or organization. This is tourism, plain and simple.

    We learned this week that the Administration has cleared the way for Cubans – athletes, artists, performers, and others – to earn salaries in the United States. Unfortunately, much if not all of those salaries will go back to the regime as they must pay the regime most of their earnings.

    We learned that Americans may purchase Cuban origin products and services in third countries – the cigars, alcohol, and basic products produced by a system of slave labor that funnels proceeds to one place – the regime’s pockets. When it comes to banking and financial services, we will now permit the U.S. financial system to facilitate the flow of these and other proceeds directly to the regime.

    The Administration will allow the Cuban government, which profits from the sale of intelligence, to export Cuban-origin software to the United States – never mind that the Cuban government aggressively monitors the internet activity of Cuban dissidents and sensors users on the island – and permit direct shipping by Cuban vessels.

    These “significant amendments” to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) – cornerstones of implementation of United States sanctions against the Castro regime — announced on Tuesday create new opportunities for abuse of permitted travel. They authorize trade and commerce with Castro monopolies, and permit the regime to use United States dollars to conduct its business.

    They are unilateral concessions, requiring no changes from the Castro regime to the political and economic system under which the Castros exploit the lives and labor of Cuban nationals. In meetings late last week, I warned officials at the Department of Treasury that these changes come up to the line and in some cases cross it with respect to statutory authority.

    Their actions are inconsistent with existing statutes and incompatible with the intent of Congress as expressed through those statutes. I should know as I was one of the authors of the “Libertad Act” when I served in the House of Representatives. In my view, at the end of the day, this is a unilateral transfer of the little remaining leverage that the Administration hadn’t given away prior to this week’s announcement.

    With these steps, I believe Commerce and Treasury have set the stage for legal action against the Administration. Congress has authorized categories of travel to Cuba, but none of the categories were tourism or commerce-for-commerce’s-sake with the regime.

    The President has said that his Cuba policy “helps promote the people’s independence from Cuban authorities.” But it does not.

    And yet, this week, in what would seem to contravene the letter and spirit of U.S. law – the Administration will reportedly allow the regime to use U.S. dollars in international financial transactions and a U.S. hotel company to partner with a Cuban military conglomerate run by the Castro family. Let’s be clear, it’s not the Cuban people who are eager and willing to shuffle dollars through BNP Paribas, INB Group, and HSBC Bank. Only the regime is willing and eager to do so.

    As for the reports that Starwood-Marriott is looking for arrangement with the regime – with the blessing of the Administration – it would be an agreement with a subsidiary of GAESA, the Cuban military conglomerate run by Raul Castro’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas. It would be an agreement to manage a hotel for the Cuban military. Among those considered is Havana’s swanky hotel Saratoga, which has been twice confiscated by the Castro regime – an agreement by which employees are hired by the regime’s state employment agency in violation of international labor laws.

    So I ask – How does allowing U.S. companies to do business with the Castro regime – let alone the Castro family itself – ‘promote the Cuban people’s independence from the authorities,” as the President has said? This breathes new life into the Castro’s repressive state systems. That new life means one thing – the repressive system will continue without changes.

    Mr. President, next week, when we anticipate that we will see a photograph of the President of the United States laughing and shaking hands with the only dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, I will be thinking of Berta Soler of The Ladies in White and her fellow human rights and democracy advocates, when she testified before Congress last year. She said in her testimony: “Our demands are quite concrete; freedom for political prisoners, recognition of civil society, the elimination of criminal dispositions that penalize freedom of expression and association and the right of the Cuban people to choose their future through free, multiparty elections.”

    Those are the words of freedom. That is the legacy we should work toward until the Cuban people are finally free.

  2. Subject: Congressional Testimony: The Reality of Trade With Cuba
    Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2016 11:59:32 -0400

    Testimony of Mauricio Claver-Carone during yesterday’s hearing (“Trade With Cuba: Growth and Opportunities”) before the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives:

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member and Members of the Committee.

    It’s truly a privilege to join you here today to discuss important and consequential issues surrounding U.S. trade policy towards Cuba. I particularly appreciate being given the opportunity to be the sole dissenting voice in this panel, as free expression is a right enjoyed by 34-of-35 nations in this Western Hemisphere, with only one exception – Cuba.

    My name is Mauricio Claver-Carone and I’m the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

    Obama’s Policy Changes Have Proven Counter-Productive

    As you are aware, pursuant to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (‘TSREEA’), the sale of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices to the Castro regime in Cuba was authorized by Congress, with one important caveat – these sales must be for cash-in-advance. Prior to that, the export of food, medicine and medical devices to the Cuban people had been authorized under the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 (‘CDA’). I, for one, have no problem with taking cash away from the Castro regime. That is not a point of contention in this hearing. It’s the consequences of expanding cash-in-advance sales to bilateral trade, financing and investment – in other words, flushing the Castro regime with cash – that should concern us all.

    For years we’ve heard how an improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations, an easing of sanctions and an increase in travel to the island, would benefit U.S. farmers. Well, since December 17th, 2014, the Obama Administration has engaged the Castro regime and has provided a litany of unilateral policy concessions.

    As part of these concessions, the Obama Administration eased payment terms for agricultural sales; American travel to Cuba increased by over 50%; Cuba’s GDP grew by over 4%; diplomatic relations were established; and endless U.S. business and trade delegations have visited Havana.

    Thus, surely U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba would have grown exponentially, right? Wrong.

    U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba plummeted by nearly 40% in 2015. In August alone, the value of U.S. agricultural exports dropped 84% to $2.25 million from $14.30 million in 2014. That’s one of the lowest numbers since the United States authorized agricultural exports to the Castro regime in 2000.

    And that’s not the only counter-productive result of President Obama’s policy of unilateral easing sanctions in December 2014. Additionally:

    • Political arrests have intensified. Throughout 2015, there were more than 8,616 documented political arrests in Cuba. In November alone there were more than 1,447 documented political arrests, the highest monthly tally in decades. Those numbers compare to 2,074 arrests in 2010 and 4,123 in 2011.

    • A new Cuban migration crisis is unfolding. The United States is faced with the largest migration of Cuban immigrants since the rafters of 1994. The number of Cubans entering the United States in 2015 was nearly twice that of 2014. Some 51,000 Cubans last year entered the United States; tens of thousands more are desperately trying to make the journey, via Ecuador and other South and Central American countries. When President Obama took office, the numbers were less than 7,000 annually.

    • The number of “self-employed” workers in Cuba has decreased. The Cuban government today is licensing 10,000 fewer “self-employed” workers than it did in 2014. In contrast, Castro’s military monopolies are expanding at record pace. The Cuban military-owned tourism company, Gaviota S.A., announced 12% growth in 2015 and expects to double its hotel business this year. Even the limited spaces in which “self-employed” workers previously operated are being squeezed as the Cuban military expands its control of the island’s travel, retail and financial sectors of the economy.

    • Internet “connectivity ranking” has dropped. The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Measuring the Information Society Report for 2015, the world’s most reliable source of data and analysis on global access to information and communication. ITU has dropped Cuba’s ranking to 129 from 119. The island fares much worse than some of the world’s most infamous suppressors of the Internet suppressors, including Zimbabwe (127), Syria (117), Iran (91), China (82) and Venezuela (72).

    • Religious freedom violations have increased tenfold. According to the London-based NGO, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (‘CSW’), last year 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition by the Castro regime. Altogether, CSW documented 2,300 separate violations of religious freedom in 2015 compared to 220 in 2014.

    • Castro reneged on the release of political prisoners and visits by international monitors. Most of the 53 political prisoners released in the months prior and after Obama’s December 2014 announcement have since been re-arrested on multiple occasions. Five were handed new long-term prison sentences. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch noted in its new 2016 report, “Cuba has yet to allow visits to the island by the International Committee of the Red Cross or by U.N. human rights monitors, as stipulated in the December 2014 agreement with the United States.”

    You may ask – what do these facts and figures on political, civil and economic rights have to do with trade with Cuba? The answer is: Everything — because the Castro regime is the only client/business partner for foreign companies in Cuba.

    The Reality of Doing Business in Cuba

    In order to have an honest debate about trade and tourism sanctions on Cuba, it’s important to understand how that totalitarian regime conducts business.

    First and foremost, from an economic perspective, the very concept of trade and investment in Cuba is grounded in a misconception about how “business” takes place on the island. In most of the world, trade and investment means dealing with privately-owned or operated corporations. That’s not the case in Cuba. In Cuba, foreign trade and investment is the exclusive domain of the state, i.e. Fidel and Raul Castro. There are no “exceptions.”

    Here’s a notable fact: In the last five decades, every single “foreign trade” transaction with Cuba has been with a state entity, or individual acting on behalf of the state. The state’s exclusivity regarding trade and investment was enshrined in Article 18 of Castro’s 1976 Constitution.

    The state’s exclusivity extends also to what the rest of the world considers to be “humanitarian” transactions. Since the passage of TSREEA in 2000, nearly $5 billion in U.S. agricultural and medical products have been sold to Cuba. It is an unpleasant fact, however, that all those sales by more than 250 privately-owned U.S. companies were made to only one Cuban buyer, the Castro government.

    As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own report on Cuba notes, “The key difference in exporting to Cuba, compared to other countries in the region, is that all U.S. agricultural exports must be channeled through one Cuban government agency, ALIMPORT.”

    Therefore, it should be no surprise then that these U.S. products end up with huge price mark-ups, on the shelves of the stores set up by the Castro regime that only accept “hard currencies,” such as the U.S. dollar or Euro. These are stores where mostly tourists shop. Little of the food or medicine is made available to Cuba’s general population.

    This being the case with the sale of U.S. food and medicine, try imagining the disproportionate benefit the Cuban regime has derived from three decades of unfettered trade with the Soviet bloc, or the billions in European and Canadian trade and investment in the Cuban state since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest any of the benefits got beyond the Castro regime.

    Hence we already know what lifting sanctions towards Cuba would look like. TSREEA sales from the U.S. and business ventures with other nations exhibit the model: A mercantilist system whereby commerce is simply a tool to benefit and strengthen Cuba’s totalitarian regime.

    The dominant force in Cuba’s economy is the armed forces’ holding company, called GAESA. Founded by Raul Castro in the 1990s, GAESA controls a wide array of companies, ranging from the very profitable Gaviota S.A., which runs the island’s tourist hotels, restaurants, car rentals and nightclubs, to TRD Caribe S.A., which runs all retail operations. In plain words: GAESA controls virtually every economic transaction in Cuba, making it — by far — the most powerful company in Cuba’s totalitarian-command economy. It is run by Raul’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez Lopez- Callejas.

    GAESA is the largest hotel company in Latin America. It controls more hotel rooms that the The Walt Disney Company. Thus, every tourist that stays at Cuba’s famed Hotel Nacional, drinks a mojito at El Floridita and catches a show at The Tropicana, has one thing in common — contributing to the Cuban military and security services bottom line.

    These are the same Cuban armed forces that held a stolen U.S. Hellfire missile for nearly two years; that have recently been caught twice internationally-smuggling heavy weaponry, including the worst sanctions violations ever to North Korea; that oversee the most egregious abuses of human rights in the Western Hemisphere; that are subverting democracy in Venezuela and exporting surveillance systems and technology to other countries in the region; that welcome Russian military intelligence ships to dock in their ports; that share intelligence with the world’s most dangerous anti-American regimes; and of which three senior Cuban military officers remain indicted in the United States for the murder of four Americans.

    Surely you will hear from my fellow panelists today about Cuba’s so-called “self-employment” sector, which some will refer to as the “private sector.” First of all, the “self-employment” sector represents a very small part of the island’s economy and it is important to understand its nature and limits. During economic crises, the Castro regime typically authorizes a host of services that Cubans can be licensed to provide, keeping at least a portion of what they may be paid. “Private enterprise” implies “private ownership.” Yet Cuba’s “self-employed” licensees have no ownership rights whatsoever – be it to their artistic or “intellectual” outputs, commodity they produce, or personal service they offer. Licensees have no legal entity (hence business) to transfer, sell or leverage. They don’t even own the equipment essential to their self-employment. More to the point, licensees have no right to engage in foreign trade, seek or receive foreign investments. Effectually licensees continue to work for the state — and when the state decides such jobs are no longer needed, licensees are shut down without recourse.

    A central tenet of capitalism is recognition of property rights and it’s precisely such rights that the Castro regime avoids through its distorted, licensing model. It’s also why, despite these “self-employment” licenses, Cuba remains ranked 177 out of 178 nations in the world in the Index of Economic Freedom, a yearly joint compilation of The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation. Only North Korea is considered less economically free. It is not by coincidence that the Magna Carta preceded Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations – not vice-versa.

    In sum, Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship, where all business decisions are based on the political and control-based calculations of the Castro regime — not on market forces. If the Cuban people enjoyed property rights to establish their businesses and were allowed to freely partake in foreign trade and investment – my testimony today would be very different.

    Protect American Victims of Stolen Property

    According to the Inter-American Law Review, the Castro regime’s confiscation of U.S. assets was the “largest uncompensated taking of American property by a foreign government in history.” Unfortunately, President Obama’s policy of expanding business transactions with the Castro regime is already encouraging American companies to traffic and exploit properties stolen from other fellow Americans. Any expansion of such transactions by the U.S. Congress allowing bilateral trade, financing and investments with the Castro regime would further expose American victims. The Castro regime would be all-too-happy to “lease back” property stolen from one group of Americans to another group of Americans. But that would be a miscarriage of justice.

    Meanwhile, President Obama is denying any recourse, through his waiver of Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (‘Libertad’), to Americans who are seeing their property rights trampled upon. If the Obama Administration is unwilling to protect the rights of grieved Americans, then a private right of action should allow for the victims to do so directly through the rule of law.

    As such, I would urge the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to end the President’s waiver authority over Title III of the Libertad Act and grant Americans the legal standing to pursue justice. Moreover, any effort in the U.S. Congress tied to expanding business transactions with Castro regime — beyond those currently authorized by statute – should have a mandatory Title III right of action attached to it.

    Uphold U.S. Law and International Labor Norms

    Lifting U.S. sanctions toward Cuba would also imply foreign investment. All foreign investment in Cuba must be done through minority joint ventures with Castro’s military monopolies. Moreover, all workers in Cuba must be hired through the Castro regime’s state-employment agency (Grupo Palco, S.A.), which in turn, pockets upwards of 92% of those workers’ salaries. Recently, the Obama Administration issued a specific license to an Alabama tractor company (that has never built a tractor), Cleber LLC, to set up operations in the Cuban military’s Mariel economic zone. This week, it also reportedly plans to allow Starwood Hotels to partner with the Cuban military to manage previously confiscated hotel properties. These deals are in direct contravention of the letter, spirit and intent of current U.S. law, as codified by statute. Regardless of your view of U.S. policy towards Cuba, the Congress should challenge such outright distortions of current U.S. law by the Obama Administration. Moreover, these deals violate a myriad of international labor covenants, including:

    • Freedom of Association and Protection to Organize Convention (No. 87) – Article 1(g) of Cuba’s Labor Code grants workers “the right to associate themselves voluntarily and establish Unions.” In practice, it is not allowed.

    • Protection of Wages Convention (No. 05) – Cuba violates this Convention that prohibits deductions from wages with a view to insuring a direct or indirect payment for obtaining or retaining employment made to a state intermediary agency.

    • Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98) – Collective bargaining is non-existent in Cuba.

    • Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. 111) – By the Castro regime selecting the workers to supply to foreign investors, Cuba does not follow the mandate of equality of opportunity or treatment in employment and occupation.

    • Employment Policy Convention (No. 122) – Cuba’s policy of selecting who works where, regardless of skills or endowments, and transfers are not the result of the will of the worker.

    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23) – Nonexistent in Cuba are: the right to work; free choice of employment; just and favorable working conditions; protection against unemployment; the right to equal pay for equal work; just and favorable remuneration; and the right to form and join trade unions.

    Conclusion

    There are many theories and estimates about how much more money one sector or another can make from conducting business with the Castro regime, if U.S. sanctions towards Cuba were further eased or lifted. Today, you’ll surely hear many of those theories and estimates. However, as we’ve learned from the drastic drop in agricultural sales figures over the last year — despite the Obama Administration easing sanctions and establishing diplomatic relations with the Castro regime — that is hardly guaranteed. Moreover, any such theories must be weighed by serious factual considerations regarding the troubling structure of Cuba’s business entities (military-run monopolies), its beneficiaries (the Castro family and regime cronies), the rights of its victims (both Cubans and Americans), and whether such practices are in the U.S.’s national interests.

  3. Letter from a Democrat to his two Democrat Senators
    Friday, March 18, 2016

    This is a letter from a Democrat to his two Democrat Senators. My belief is that it applies to virtually all Senators of both parties and probably the House also. Caution this is political but also bipartisan.

    This is really a great letter. I am most impressed by the fact the gentleman that wrote it signed his name and address to it. Snopes.Com confirmed this letter to be true.

    This came from a democrat. I read it.Google has the letter posted on their web site.

    This is well written…….and should be read by everyone in these United States!

    It will be well worth the three minutes it requires to read this. It is quite impressive.

    You can be Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Independent or Libertarian and I bet this will hit a nerve. Our country is in real trouble.

    This gentleman is obviously quite smarter than the two senators he sent it to. All I can say is amen to everything he said. A very articulate letter sent to the two U.S. Senators from WashingtonState.

    Senator Patty Murray
    Senator Maria Cantwell
    Washington, DC , 20510

    Dear Senators:

    I have tried to live by the rules my entire life. My father was a Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army, who died of combat related stresses shortly after his retirement. It was he who instilled in me those virtues he felt important – honesty, duty, patriotism and obeying the laws of God and of our various governments. I have served my country, paid my taxes, worked hard, volunteered and donated my fair share of money, time and artifacts.

    Today, as I approach my 79th birthday, I am heart-broken when I look at my country and my government. I shall only point out a very few things abysmally wrong which you can multiply by a thousand fold. I have calculated that all the money I have paid in income taxes my entire life cannot even keep the Senate barbershop open for one year! Only Heaven and a few
    tight-lipped actuarial types know what the Senate dining room costs the taxpayers. So please, enjoy your haircuts and meals on us.

    Last year, the president spent an estimated $1.4 billion on himself and his family. The vice president spends $ millions on hotels. They have had 8 vacations so far this year! And our House of Representatives and Senate have become America’s answer to the Saudi royal family. You have become the “perfumed princes and princesses” of our country.

    In the middle of the night, you voted in the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” a bill which no more than a handful of senators or representatives read more than several paragraphs, crammed it down our throats, and then promptly exempted yourselves from it substituting your own taxpayer-subsidized golden health care insurance.

    You live exceedingly well, eat and drink as well as the “one percenters,” consistently vote yourselves perks and pay raises while making 3.5 times the average U.S. individual income, and give up nothing while you (as well as the president and veep) ask us to sacrifice due to sequestration (for which, of course, you plan to blame the Republicans, anyway).

    You understand very well the only two rules you need to know – (1) How to get elected, and (2) How to get re-elected. And you do this with the aid of an eagerly willing and partisan press, speeches permeated with a certain economy of truth, and by buying the votes of the greedy, the ill-informed and under-educated citizens (and non-citizens, too, many of whom do vote) who are looking for a handout rather than a job. Your so-called “safety net”
    has become a hammock for the lazy. And, what is it now, about 49 or 50 million on food stamps – pretty much all Democrat voters – and the program is absolutely rife with fraud and absolutely no congressional oversight?

    I would offer that you are not entirely to blame. What changed you is the seductive environment of power in which you have immersed yourselves. It is the nature of both houses of Congress which requires you to subordinate your virtue in order to get anything done until you have achieved a leadership role. To paraphrase President Reagan, it appears that the second
    oldest profession (politics), bears a remarkably strong resemblance to the oldest.

    As the hirsute first Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834 – 1902), English historian and moralist, so aptly and accurately stated, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” I’m only guessing that this applies to the female sex as well. Tell me, is there a more corrupt entity in this country than Congress?

    While we middle class people continue to struggle, our government becomes less and less transparent, more and more bureaucratic, and ever so much more dictatorial, using Czars and Secretaries to tell us (just to mention a very few) what kind of light bulbs we must purchase, how much soda or hamburgers we can eat, what cars we can drive, gasoline to use, and what health care we must buy. Countless thousands of pages of regulations strangle our businesses costing the consumer more and more every day.

    As I face my final year, or so, with cancer, my president and my
    government tell me “You’ll just have to take a pill,” while you, Senator, your colleagues, the president, and other exulted government officials and their families will get the best possible health care on our tax dollars until you are called home by your Creator while also enjoying a retirement beyond my wildest dreams, which of course, you voted for yourselves and we pay for.

    The chances of you reading this letter are practically zero as your staff will not pass it on, but with a little luck, a form letter response might be generated by them with an auto signature applied, hoping we will believe that you, our senator or representative, has heard us and actually cares.
    This letter will, however, go on line where many others will have the chance to read one person’s opinion, rightly or wrongly, about this government, its administration and its senators and representatives.

    I only hope that occasionally you might quietly thank the taxpayer for all the generous entitlements which you have voted yourselves, for which, by law, we must pay, unless, of course, it just goes on the $19 trillion national debt for which your children and ours, and your grandchildren and ours, ad infinitum, must eventually try to pick up the tab.

    My final thoughts are that it must take a person who has either lost his or her soul, or conscience, or both, to seek re-election and continue to destroy the country that I deeply love. You have put it so far in debt that we will never pay it off while your lot improves by the minute, because of your power.

    For you, Senator, will never stand up to the rascals in your House who constantly deceive the American people. And that, my dear Senator, is how power has corrupted you and the entire Congress. The only answer to clean up this cesspool is term limits. This, of course, will kill the goose that lays your golden eggs.
    And woe be to him (or her) who would dare to bring it up.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Schoonover
    3096 Angela Lane
    Oak Harbor, WA

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