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Daily Archives: November 23, 2009

Engaging Cuba on Human Rights

Engaging Cuba on Human RightsThe regime should be asked to release political prisoners in exchange for normal relationsby Jorge G. CastañedaPublished in:The Wall Street JournalNovember 19, 2009

The logical route to follow is the one HRW and others have suggested: The U.S. should shift from a policy of regime change to a policy of human-rights promotion. The Obama administration should approach the and the Latin American democracies and offer to lift the on the condition that these countries join the U.S. in pressuring Cuba on a single demand: the release of all political prisoners, including those incarcerated for "dangerousness." Jorge G. Castañeda, board member of Human Rights Watch

Normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba was widely seen as exactly the kind of high-value, low-hanging fruit that would be ideal for a president elected under the banner of "change." But a scathing new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, "New Castro, Same Cuba," will make lifting sanctions against the Castro regime-on , remittances, trade-more difficult for President Obama.

Sadly, the human-rights situation on the island remains dismal, despite new leadership. According to HRW, the Raúl Castro government has harassed and imprisoned dissidents using an Orwellian provision of the Cuban Criminal Code that punishes "dangerousness." Authorities can lock up individuals on the suspicion that they may commit a crime in the future, or for engaging in behavior that is "antisocial" or contrary to "socialist morality."

Among the activities the government has deemed "dangerous" are: handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, failing to attend pro-government rallies, or simply being unemployed. In its report, based on more than 60 interviews carried out in Cuba without official permission or by phone from abroad, HRW documented more than 40 cases of dissidents who have been sentenced for "dangerousness."

Cuban law is replete with laws like the "dangerousness" provision that may be used to punish anyone seen as critical of the government. Human-rights defenders, journalists, political activists and others charged with breaking such laws find themselves at the mercy of a system that violates virtually every due process right.

Political detainees are denied access to legal counsel and family visits. They are subjected to abusive interrogations, and they may be detained for months or even years without being charged. Trials are pure theater, mostly conducted behind closed doors and finished in minutes.

Once in prison, abuse is commonplace. On Dec. 10, 2008-Human Rights Day-a political tried to read aloud to fellow prisoners from a book his wife had brought him called "Your Rights." In response, a guard came into his cell and told him to eat the book. When the prisoner refused, he was beaten and later sentenced to six more years in prison for "disrespecting authority."

Dissidents are subjected to public "acts of repudiation," in which crowds gather outside of their homes, throwing stones, shouting threats, and sometimes physically assaulting them. Those labeled "counterrevolutionaries" are fired from their jobs, monitored, threatened and prevented from traveling. The beating of Yoani Sánchez by two men she says were Cuban agents in civilian clothes in Havana just two weeks ago is further proof of this regrettable state of affairs.

Without outside pressure, the human-rights situation in Cuba will not improve. But outside pressure-sadly absent today, in the case of Europe or Latin America-has proved insufficient. At the same time, the U.S. embargo policy has been a unmitigated failure.

The logical route to follow is the one HRW and others have suggested: The U.S. should shift from a policy of regime change to a policy of human-rights promotion. The Obama administration should approach the European Union and the Latin American democracies and offer to lift the embargo on the condition that these countries join the U.S. in pressuring Cuba on a single demand: the release of all political prisoners, including those incarcerated for "dangerousness."

Once the U.S. government has secured this commitment and a multilateral coalition is in place, the U.S. should end its failed embargo policy. Cuba should be given a brief and specified period-the report recommends six months-to release all of its political prisoners.

If the government of Raúl Castro complies, it will set in motion a process whose ultimate goal is the full normalization of relations with the U.S. and the , as well as compliance with the democratic standards of the Organization of American States. If it does not, this multilateral coalition should enact targeted sanctions directed at the leadership of the Castro government.

The Castro brothers know that nothing would be more threatening to their half-century monopoly on power than the end of the U.S. embargo, which they use as a justification for their ongoing abuses. Indeed, they appear to be deliberately sabotaging normalization by making the human-rights situation worse.

This is why a multilateral approach is crucial. According to the Spanish daily El País, President Obama asked Spanish Prime Minister Rodríguez three weeks ago to "Tell the Cubans we are taking steps, but if they don't take them too, it will be very difficult for us to continue." The Obama administration gets it. Now, if only we could get more Latin American countries to stop countenancing Cuba's human-rights violations and play a constructive role.

Mr. Castaneda, a professor at New York , board member of Human Rights Watch and fellow at the New America Foundation, was Mexico's foreign minister from 2000 to 2003.

Engaging Cuba on Human Rights | Human Rights Watch (20 November 2009)

Cuba offers free penis implants

Cuba offers free penis implants23rd November 2009

CUBAN government has offered its first free penis implants, part of a program set to be expanded across the communist island, an official newspaper reported.

CUBAN government has offered its first free penis implants, part of a program set to be expanded across the communist island, an official newspaper reported.

It is likely not what Karl Marx had in mind when he imagined a society transformed "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs," but Juventud Rebelde reported the silicon and silver penis implants are set to become more common.

Men in seven Cuban provinces will be eligible for the procedure, which urologist Juan Carlos Yip boasted was normally "exclusive to first world countries and at a high cost.

"It will be carried out in patients whose sexual suffering does not respond positively to traditional treatments."

Those over 40s and those with diabetes or circulation problems are set to be first in line the paper reported.

Cuba offers free penis implants | Offbeat | Weird News, Odd and Freaky Stories in Northern Rivers | Byron Shire News (23 November 2009)

Husband of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez attacked

Husband of Cuban Yoani Sanchez attackedPublished on Monday, November 23, 2009

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) — The husband of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez said he was attacked by government supporters as he waited on Friday to confront state security agents accused of detaining and beating his wife two weeks ago.

Sanchez, whose writing about the hardships of Cuban life were praised this week by Barack Obama, said men believed to be government agents forced her into a car and hit her repeatedly in a brief detention on November 6.

Reinaldo Escobar, also a blogger, said he had gone to a Havana intersection hoping that state security agents would respond to a challenge he issued earlier to meet there for a "verbal duel" about his wife's incident.

He said he was speaking to reporters when, in what appeared to be an orchestrated event, several hundred people gathered and began shouting "Viva Fidel" and "Viva la Revolucion."

About 20 of his supporters began shouting back and the situation turned violent, he said.

"They pulled my hair, hit me with a shoe, tore my shirt, pulled away my bag of books. I lost my glasses," Escobar, aged 62, told Reuters.

His wife, who was not with him at the attack, wrote on Twitter: "Until when will the language of force, of intolerance and disrespect for the opinion of others be the one that prevails in my country?"

The Cuban government responded quickly to Escobar's accusations, emailing to foreign journalists a story published in the website with the headline "The Cuban people are tired of Yoani Sanchez."

The website, which describes itself as "The free newspaper, for an informed citizenry," said state security agents saved Escobar from injury when he was surrounded by young people shouting "This street is revolutionary" and "Down with traitors" to the beat of a conga drum.

The agents took him from the scene "so he would not suffer the ire of a people that has tired of so many provocations," the website said.

Escobar said a group of men grabbed him as he was being attacked by the government supporters, put him in a car, drove him to a neighborhood on Havana's outskirts and dropped him off without saying a word. He said they did not strike him.

Cuba's government, which views its opponents as mercenaries working for the United States and other countries, has said nothing about the attack on Sanchez.

But said the "supposed aggression" against her had been "totally refuted" by comments it published earlier in the day by doctors who attended her and said they found no injuries.

Sanchez has said she considered the incident a warning from the government to quiet her criticism.

On Thursday, she published in her Generation Y ( responses by Obama to seven questions she had sent him by email.

"Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely," Obama wrote.

"The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals," Obama said.

Sanchez, 34, has won several international awards and was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Obama's response added to her international stature as Cuba's leading dissident voice, but she is little known on the island where Internet access is limited.

The Cuban government has made no secret of its distaste for her, but she is among a growing group of young Cubans who have taken to the Internet to express their desire for change on the island.

Caribbean Net News: Husband of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez attacked (23 November 2009)

Human rights are the highest form of realism

are the highest form of realismBy John McCainPublished: November 8 2009 19:17 | Last updated: November 8 2009 19:17

Two decades ago on Monday, the world watched in awe as Germans poured by the millions into the streets of Berlin, both east and west. They tore down one of history's great monuments of human enslavement, and in so doing, the German people not only reunited with their fellow brothers and sisters after 28 painful years apart; they also gave birth to the promise of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of communism that followed, was the work of many hands, eastern and western, European and American, soldiers and statesmen. But perhaps the most profound blow against totalitarianism was struck by an idea: the universal appeal of human rights – life and liberty, the protection of property, and rule by the consent of the governed. The west's support for these values, and for all who kept faith with them behind the Iron Curtain, helped to win the cold war, and 20 years later, there is much we can learn from this experience.

Most important is this: governments that embody human rights must champion them in their foreign policies – in all places, for all peoples and at all times. This is not just the right thing to do; it marks a higher form of realism. The character of regimes cannot be divorced from their behaviour. Governments that abuse and lie to their own people will likely do the same to us, or worse. Conversely, states that respect the rights of their citizens are more apt to play a peaceful role in the world. For reasons of basic self-interest, then, we must lead the long, patient effort to shape a world in which human rights are more secure for more people.

There will of course be times when we supporters of human rights will fall short of our own high standards. But in those times, our true friends will demand better of us and we will change course. What matters most is that we remain confident in our principles, mindful that they are not ours alone, and supportive of all who aspire to them. This means that the US and our allies must always align ourselves on the right side of history – with the oppressed, not their oppressors.

We should certainly respect the wishes of dissidents who do not desire our support. But when demonstrators call on us by name, plea for our assistance and write their banners of protest in English, this is a good sign that they want our help. We owe it to them. When brave citizens peacefully appeal for their rights, we must encourage them to endure. When they are seized and thrown in , we must call and work for their release. And when they face and intimidation, we must condemn it and remind the perpetrators that their crimes will not be forgotten.

This is not to say that we should refuse to engage with human rights abusers when it is in our interest to do so. The world is not that simple, and we may need to deal at times with some pretty bad actors. But we should never pay for that pleasure by silencing our criticisms of how they treat their own people. Indeed, it is morally incumbent upon us to speak out for human rights in those situations – for it shows oppressed citizens that, even as we negotiate with their jailers, we have not forgotten or forsaken them. It shows that we know whose side we are really on.

I think of former US Ronald Reagan. He was always willing to engage and negotiate with the Soviets when it would advance our interests. But at the same time, he told the Soviets their empire would end up on the ash heap of history. He told Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet president, to tear down that awful wall. He used engagement as another opportunity to demand better treatment for the captives of communism. And when Reagan did temper his public criticisms of Soviet behaviour, it was in response to real progress on their part, not in exchange for engagement itself.

The fall of the Berlin Wall made history, but that history was made by countless men and women over many decades who longed for a world in which their rights would be protected too. Those impatient dreamers are still out there today, in Iran and Cuba, Zimbabwe and Burma and beyond. States like these, hostile to human dignity, may look stable, but they are actually rotting inside – for they have only fear and force to sustain them, and people will not be afraid forever.

The writer is senator for Arizona and the former Republican party presidential candidate in 2008 / In depth – Human rights are the highest form of realism (8 November 2009),dwp_uuid=3d806e42-a627-11db-937f-0000779e2340.html

Report hits at Cuban regime on human rights

Report hits at Cuban regime on By Adam Thomson in Mexico CityPublished: November 19 2009 00:25 | Last updated: November 19 2009 00:25

Cuba's regime has failed to improve its dire record on human rights under the leadership of Raúl Castro, imprisoning scores of people for exercising basic freedoms and refusing to release dozens of political prisoners, according to a report released on Wednesday.

In the first investigation into conditions under Raúl, younger brother of Fidel, the legendary revolutionary leader, Human Rights Watch found that Cubans continued to be stripped of basic rights and freedoms.EDITOR'S CHOICEIn depth: Cuba under Raúl – Dec-18Opinion: Human rights are the highest form of realism – Nov-08Cubans balk at ending of food rations – Oct-21Doubt over Chávez's cure for – Oct-15Cuba forced to rethink system of paternalism – Sep-17US and Cuba hold talks on postal links – Sep-17

Indeed, rather than dismantle Cuba's repressive machinery, the report insists Mr Castro has kept it in place. "Raúl Castro has been just as brutal as his brother," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, in Washington on Tuesday.

"Cubans who dare to criticise the government live in perpetual fear, knowing they could wind up in for merely expressing their views."

The report comes as the Obama administration has instigated a more flexible policy towards Cuba, lifting restrictions on Cuban Americans travelling to the island and sending remittances there. The US House foreign affairs committee will discuss plans on Wednesday to lift the ban on US citizens entirely. Mr Obama, US , has also authorised communications companies to do business with the country.

The findings of the 123-page report, entitled "New Castro, Same Cuba", are likely to dispel hopes among international observers that human rights conditions on the Caribbean island had improved under Mr Castro's leadership.

Mr Castro took over the day-to-day running of Cuba's communist regime in July 2006 after his elder brother began to suffer ill health. He took office officially in February last year, several days after Fidel said that he would not stand for president again.

The report states Raúl Castro's government uses a range of draconian laws to combat free speech, quash labour rights and criminalise all forms of association. As a result, "human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society members tried under these laws are subjected to systematic due process violations, including abusive interrogations, denial of legal counsel and sham trials".

Worse still, the Castro government has relied heavily on its criminal code offence of "dangerousness," which means individuals can be imprisoned on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offence in the future.

The report, written after a fact-finding mission to the island and more than 60 in-depth interviews, documents at least 40 cases in which Mr Castro's government has imprisoned individuals under the "dangerousness" provision for exercising their basic rights.

Mr Vivanco on Tuesday called on Washington to secure commitments from the , and Latin American allies to press for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Cuba within six months.

Mr Obama has insisted that the 47-year-old US trade embargo will stay in place until there are changes in Cuba's one-party political system.

The report on Tueday criticised that stance, arguing that the embargo had proved a costly failure.

"The embargo has inflicted severe hardship on the Cuban population as a whole, while doing nothing to improve the human rights situation in Cuba," it concluded. / In depth – Report hits at Cuban regime on human rights (19 November 2009),dwp_uuid=3d806e42-a627-11db-937f-0000779e2340.html?nclick_check=1

Former U.S. official, wife admit to 30 years of spying for Cuba

Former U.S. official, wife admit to 30 years of spying for CubaPlea deal reached for couple recruited by intelligence operativeBy Del Quentin WilberWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, November 21, 2009

A former State Department official and his wife admitted in federal court Friday that they spied for Cuba over the past three decades, receiving coded instructions over a shortwave radio and passing along information to intelligence operatives in "dead drops" and "hand-to-hand" passes.

Walter K. Myers, 72, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit espionage and wire fraud. His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, pleaded guilty to conspiring to gather and transmit national defense information.

Under the plea deal, Walter Myers faces a mandatory sentence of life in , and his wife, 6 to 7 1/2 years. Both agreed to give extensive debriefings to U.S. law enforcement officials before they are sentenced. No sentencing date was set.

The couple's attorney, Bradford Berenson, said in a statement after the hearing that the Myerses were not motivated by greed but spied "out of conscience and personal commitment."

"They always understood that they might someday be called to account for that conduct and always have been prepared to accept full responsibility for it," the statement said. "They have done so today."

The Myerses stood shoulder-to-shoulder at a podium for most of the hearing, saying little beyond yes and no to questions posed by U.S. District Court Reggie B. Walton.

In a statement, Channing Phillips, the District's acting U.S. attorney, said the plea deal helps "close the book on this couple's contemptuous betrayal of our nation."ad_icon

Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Harvey said in court that Walter Myers was working in the State Department's Foreign Service Institute in 1978 when he went on a two-week trip to Cuba. He had been invited by a Cuban government official, an intelligence operative, who wanted to assess whether Myers would make a good spy, Harvey said.

In a diary of the trip, court papers show, Myers called Cuban leader "brilliant and charismatic."

About six months later, when Myers and his wife were living in South Dakota and he was no longer a State Department employee, the Cuban official visited them, and they agreed to become spies, prosecutors have said. They were given code names for their communications with Cuba: Myers became "202" and his wife became "123."

They returned to Washington, and Myers resumed working at the State Department.

Over the years, Myers memorized secret documents or borrowed them from work and then gave copies to Cuban agents, authorities said. The couple also met their handlers during overseas trips. In 1995, they visited Cuba using false names and spent an evening with Castro, court papers allege.

They were in June during an FBI sting that included an agent posing as a Cuban spy, authorities have said.

Myers is the scion of one of Washington's most storied families. His mother, Elsie Alexandra Carol Grosvenor Myers, was the granddaughter of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Under the plea deal, the couple agreed to forfeit $1.7 million, the total of Myers's salary over the years, in cash and property to the U.S. government. That includes a prized 37-foot Malo sailboat.

Ex-U.S. official and wife admit 30 years of spying for Cuba – (20 November 2009)

Resisting carrots and sticks in Cuba

Resisting carrots and sticks in CubaMICHAEL OSBUN / Tribune Media ServicesBy THE ECONOMISTPublished: Monday, November 23, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.

Those who hoped that the arrival in power of Barack Obama and Raul Castro would bring a thaw in the continuing 50-year cold war between the United States and Cuba so far have little to cheer.

The Obama administration has lifted restrictions imposed by George W. Bush on visits and remittances to the island by Cuban-Americans and has resumed discreet talks on cooperation in practical matters such as migration, drug trafficking and postal services. But administration officials have said that they will not lift the economic embargo imposed on 's regime

in 1960 until Cuba takes steps toward political and economic freedom.

For his part, Raul Castro, who replaced his brother at the head of Cuba's government in 2006, has offered to talk to the Americans but insists that the island's communist political system is non-negotiable.

On both sides there are pressures for further change.

These are more visible in the United States. On Thursday, the foreign relations committee of the House of Representatives discussed a bill to lift the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba. Supporters of this measure claim to have close to the 218 House votes required to approve it. Its chances in the Senate look slimmer.

Public opinion favors ending the ban. More surprisingly, a recent poll found that a majority of Cuban-American respondents do, too. But most Republicans and some influential Democrats still support the embargo.

The administration has been guarded on the travel ban. But if it is lifted, the rest of the embargo might soon follow as different business lobbies press for a piece of the action in Cuba, says Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank. U.S. companies would doubtless want to be allowed to invest there, for example.

In Cuba, meanwhile, the police state remains intact.

In a report released last week, Watch, a non-governmental organization, says that Raul Castro's government has made greater use of a provision of the criminal code that allows indefinite detention for "dangerousness," defined as conduct "in manifest contradiction to the norms of socialist morality."

The report, based on an undercover investigation, states that at least 40 Cubans have recently been jailed under this provision for trying to exercise basic rights, such as staging peaceful marches or writing critical news articles. (On Nov. 6, Cuba's most prominent independent , Yoani Sanchez, was forced into an unmarked car, beaten and threatened, before being dumped on the street.) There are at least 200 political prisoners, and probably many more: Cuba is one of only eight countries in the world that denies the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons.

While Cuba justifies all this as self-defense against repeated U.S. attempts to overthrow the Castro regime, in fact it is aimed at enforcing political conformity, argues Human Rights Watch. It wants the United States, before lifting the embargo, to secure a commitment from Europe and Latin America to press for the release of political prisoners.

That looks naive. Many left-wing governments in Latin America apply a double standard when it comes to human rights: While suspending the not very repressive de facto civilian government in Honduras from the Organization of American States, they want Cuba to rejoin. (After the coup in June that toppled Manuel Zelaya, Honduras' , Raul Castro, with no apparent irony, even joined calls for an economic embargo against the country.)

The European Union has normal economic ties with Cuba, but is critical of its trampling of human rights. 's foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos, has said that he wants to use his country's six-month presidency of the from January to soften that policy.

Just as the U.S. embargo has been futile and counterproductive, there is no evidence that "engagement" by Europeans or Latin Americans has much impact in Havana.

In the end, if change comes to Cuba it will be from within. Raul Castro has launched a wide-ranging public debate on the and is taking modest steps toward more reliance on market mechanisms. The changes are aimed at preserving communist control, and their pace will be glacial as long as Fidel remains alive. But there can be little doubt that a lifting of the U.S. embargo would help those within the regime in Havana who want to move in a more liberal direction.

From the Economist magazine.

Resisting carrots and sticks in Cuba | | The Press Democrat | Santa Rosa, CA (23 November 2009)

Freedom has no double standard

Posted on Saturday, 11.21.09 has no double standardBY JOE CARDONA

Among the few things that Cubans can count on after 50 years under the rule of the Castro brothers is the subhuman, Draconian methods with which the regime lashes out against those who dare disagree.

The deafening silence from supposed freedom lovers around the globe, the United States and, yes, here in South Florida, is just as disturbing as the regime's repressive tactics.

The accusations, condemnations and punishments justly proposed and cast against totalitarian rulers on the right of the political spectrum — 's Pinochet, 's Franco and the military juntas of the 1970s in Argentina and Brazil — are hypocritically stowed away and muted when it comes to Cuba's dictatorship.

A couple of weeks ago, the regime in Havana once again harassed, threatened and beat Yoani Sánchez, an insightful 34-year-old who takes issue with the government's obtuse rule and writes about it in her well-read , Generación Y. This year, the of Columbia in New York recognized Sanchez's cry for justice by awarding her the Maria Moors Cabot prize for journalism.

Predictably, the regime denied her an exit visa to to New York to receive the distinction. Ironically, the same week, two Cuban artists — pianist Chucho Valdes and singer Omara Portuondo — were both awarded Latin Grammys at a lavish ceremony held in Las Vegas. The Cuban authorities granted both aritists the right to travel abroad, and both received visas from the American government allowing them to enter and freely travel within the United States — which I support.

But where's the parity, the fairness? Travel in and out of Cuba should be open — for people on both sides of the Florida Straits.

I wonder where all the civil libertarians were when it came to defending Sanchez's right to not to be physically beaten for her beliefs and to travel abroad to collect her award.

Where's the outcry to this injustice from the participants of the unprecedented Juanes concert that played in Havana Sept. 20? Where are the vigorous demands for the beleaguered blogger's rights from the many that so vehemently promoted the jam at Havana's revolutionary plaza?

Since Fidel Castro's announcement that he was stepping down and ceding power to his brother Raúl, Cubanologists, those so-called “experts,'' have wishfully written about how much of a reformist little brother Raúl is. Unfortunately for the Cuban people and for the revisionist scholars' credibility, the record shows a rather alarming yet consistent trend.

Repression is still Cuba's modus operandi under Raul's reign, as noted in this week's report by Watch. Most of the 75 independent journalists summarily jailed in the repressive wave of 2003, known as Cuba's “Black Spring,'' are still imprisoned and facing long sentences.

As world leaders, particularly Latin American presidents — along with U.S. congressmen and senators — plead Cuba's case against the U.S. to the Obama administration, the cries of the island's jailed and repressed opposition seem to not fit the anti-embargo crowd's narrow and myopic political agenda.

The plight of 39-year-old Darsi Ferrer, a doctor who recently ended an 18-day hunger strike protesting the miserable conditions in which he is unjustly detained doesn't much matter to Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona or to Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt, a Democrat. Both adamantly argue in favor of the unrestricted lifting of U.S. sanctions against Cuba.

Obviously, the struggle of Yoani Sánchez and the thousands of Cubans who have paid a steep price for demanding the most fundamental freedoms, seemingly aren't seen or heard by those who energetically and shamelessly ignore Cuba's human-rights reality. A common, kitchen table saying passed on for generations perfectly sums up the indifference: No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver o sordo que el que no quiera oír – There is no worse blind person than one who refuses to see or deaf person who refuses to hear.

Thanks to Sánchez's courage, the darkness is lifting, and Cuba's youthful voices are rising.

Freedom has no double standard – Other Views – (21 November 2009)

Couple plead guilty to Cuba spying, will go to prison

Posted on Friday, 11.20.09Couple plead guilty to Cuba spying, will go to By LESLEY CLARKMcClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A retired State Department employee will spend life in prison without parole after he and his wife pleaded guilty Friday to serving as covert agents for Cuba for three decades.

Walter Kendall Myers, 72 – known to his Cuban handlers as "Agent 202" – agreed to a life sentence without parole and to cooperate with the federal government. His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71 – known as "Agent 123" and "Agent E-634" – agreed to a sentence of between six years and 71/2 years in prison, and also will continue to cooperate with the government.

Prosecutors said the tough sentences – which will be imposed in April after the couple brief government investigators – should send a warning to others looking to divulge state secrets.

"Today's guilty plea and impending sentence close the book on this couple's contemptuous betrayal of our nation," said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips. "Thanks to a well-planned and executed counterintelligence investigation that included unprecedented cooperation among multiple U.S. agencies, the Myerses' serious transgressions of compromising our nation's classified secrets will now be appropriately addressed with significant prison sentences."

The pair also agreed to pay the government $1.7 million – the salary Walter Kendall Myers made while working at the State Department. They'll forfeit their Washington apartment, a 37-foot sailboat and various bank and accounts.

Clad in dark blue jail jumpsuits and long-sleeved shirts, they appeared to be in good spirits, with Walter Kendall Myers smiling broadly to a group of relatives sitting in the front row of the courtroom. Gwendolyn Myers joked to U.S. District Court Reggie B. Walton that she was "only 71" to her husband's 72, and Walter Kendall Myers complimented their legal representation as "thorough and balanced."

Then Walton asked if they were pleading guilty because they were guilty. "Yes," they each answered.

Through their lawyer, Bradford Berenson, the Myerses said they pleaded guilty to conduct they undertook "not out of selfish motive or hope of personal gain, but out of conscience and personal commitment."

"They always understood that they might someday be called to account for that conduct and always have been prepared to accept full responsibility for it," the statement said. "They have done so today. They stand ready to accept the punishment the court will impose with grace and dignity. In the meantime, they have agreed to continue their efforts to cooperate with the United States law enforcement and intelligence communities."

The case presented by prosecutors was something out of spy novel, complete with code names, messages delivered via shortwave radio and shopping carts in the local supermarket.

Prosecutors say the Myerses first agreed to serve as clandestine agents for Cuba in 1979, with Walter Kendall Myers securing a job at the State Department to pass along information he obtained on the job.

In a search of the Myerses' home, investigators say they found a shortwave radio, sailing charts for Cuban waters, a guide to Cuba and a book titled "On Becoming Cuban."

Prosecutors also say that in 2006 and 2007, Walter Kendall Myers used his State Department computer to view more than 200 intelligence documents relating to Cuba, though Myers' area of expertise at the department was Western Europe.

The Myerses were charged in June with wire fraud, serving as agents for Cuba and conspiring to deliver classified information.

On Friday, Walter Kendall Myers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and two counts of wire fraud. The espionage charge could carry a death sentence, but prosecutors hadn't sought one.

Gwendolyn Myers pleaded guilty to conspiring to gather and transmit national defense information. She'd faced more than 17 years in prison.

They asked Judge Walton to ask the federal Bureau of Prisons to incarcerate them as close together as possible.

Couple plead guilty to Cuba spying, will go to prison – Politics AP – (20 November 2009)

Pánfilo vuelve a la carga

Publicado el lunes, 11.23.09Pánfilo vuelve a la carga

Juan Carlos González Marcos, alias Pánfilo, vuelve a salir en cámara para decir que en Cuba hay mucha hambre, que quiere jama () y que quiere salir de la isla aunque sea en una balsa, una tabla o lo que sea. Según él, allá no hay futuro y no le queda otro remedio que buscar mejores oportunidades en otra parte, en este caso, en “la Yuma'' (EEUU).

Pánfilo fue condenado recientemente por el gobierno cubano por las mismas razones, pero por todos es sabido que en un sistema totalitario como el de los hermanos Castro las palabras hambre, , democracia y están prohibidas. Debido a la presión impuesta por organizaciones de cubanos en el exilio, Pánfilo fue trasladado de la cárcel a una institución psiquiátrica.

No es la primera ni la última vez que el gobierno comunista cubano le da tratamiento psiquiátrico a personas que se manifiestan públicamente, pero son tantas las calamidades y miserias que se viven en la isla que a veces las personas no aguantan más y dan riendas sueltas a sus frustraciones expresando lo que realmente piensan y sienten.

A partir de ahora debemos mantenernos alertas por lo que le pueda suceder a Juan Carlos. A veces unos traguitos de más nos meten en problemas, pero las mejores verdades se dicen cuando se está embriagado, y Pánfilo no es la excepción. La historia se repite y este personaje cómico y ocurrente vuelve nuevamente a la carga.

Juan Carlos León

Pánfilo vuelve a la carga – Cartas sobre Cuba – (23 November 2009)

Fracasos del socialismo

Publicado el lunes, 11.23.09Fracasos del socialismoBy CARLOS BALL

Chávez y Obama no parecían tener mucho en común: el venezolano es vulgar y sufre de múltiples complejos mientras que el norteamericano se expresa muy bien, es amable y tiene títulos universitarios de Columbia y Harvard. Pero ambos han dado un vuelco marcadamente intervencionista a los gobiernos de sus países y las consecuencias negativas ya están afectando gravemente a toda la ciudadanía.

Los venezolanos no se podían imaginar peores gobernantes que los copeyanos socialcristianos y los adecos socialdemócratas de las últimas décadas del siglo pasado, pero bajo Chávez cualquier tiempo anterior luce tanto mejor.

Los norteamericanos no podían esperar salir del maniático George W. Bush, quien se creía encomendado de Dios para salvar no solamente a su país, sino al mundo entero del terrorismo y de las drogas. Pero Obama ha gastado más en nuevos programas en sus primeros nueve meses de lo que gastó Bill Clinton a lo largo de ocho años en la Casa Blanca y de esa manera le ha dado la espalda a los principios fundamentales de la individual, enumerados y defendidos por los padres fundadores de la patria. Hoy no sólo Bolívar y Sucre deben estar dando vueltas en sus tumbas con lo que sucede en su amada , sino que algo parecido debe estarle sucediendo a Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison y Hamilton con el desempleo, la desconfianza de los inversionistas, creciente dificultad para la obtención de financiamiento, dramática caída del valor de las viviendas, pérdida del poder adquisitivo del dólar y la creciente inseguridad personal.

Los gobiernos de países libres no fueron concebidos para redistribuir ingresos, regalar servicios médicos, lavar los cerebros de los jóvenes ni utilizar los ahorros de la ciudadanía con fines netamente políticos, dentro ni fuera de la nación. La verdadera función del gobierno es proteger los derechos individuales y la propiedad de cada uno, de manera que el más fuerte no se aproveche de la debilidad de otros. La igualdad ante la ley es lo que nos hace libres, mientras que la creciente intervención gubernamental nos esclaviza bajo el engaño de que así se está protegiendo a los pobres.

La economía venezolana se contrajo 4.5 por ciento en el tercer trimestre del 2009, en comparación con el mismo período del año pasado, y la producción petrolera cayó más del doble (en 9.5%), mientras la inflación que este año alcanzará 26% es la más alta de América Latina. Pero ante tan infames resultados el remedio que el gobierno de Chávez adelanta es cambiar la manera de calcular esas estadísticas, para supuestamente “adecuarlas'' a la economía socialista. Y para el año 2010 reducirá los presupuestos de educación y , mientras aumenta los gastos militares y en 600% el presupuesto del presidente.

El total abandono de los trabajos de mantenimiento tras la total estatización de la energía eléctrica y en los acueductos provocan frecuentes apagones en Caracas e instrucciones presidenciales de que los venezolanos se deben bañar menos frecuentemente, utilizando “totumas'' y poncheras en lugar de regaderas.

Según el recién publicado Indice de Libertad Económica 2009, Estados Unidos ocupa el puesto número 6 en el mundo, detrás de Hong Kong, Singapur, Australia, Irlanda y Nueva Zelanda, mientras que Venezuela cayó al puesto número 174, junto al Congo, Cuba, Corea del Norte y Zimbabue.

Director de la agencia AIPE.

CARLOS BALL: Fracasos del socialismo – Opinión – (23 November 2009)

Chávez actúa como subvencionador de Cuba

"Chávez actúa como subvencionador de Cuba"

La cubana Yoani Sánchez dialogó con Radio 10 sobre la situación presente y futura de la isla, los vínculos entre el régimen castrista y el gobierno del bolivariano, y su visión de ObamaVer galerias de imagenes

"La situación en Cuba ahora te la puedo defiinir con una palabara: desilución", dijo la autora del "Generación Y". "Muchas personas que apostaron a que con vendrían algunos cambios económicos, algunas libertades ciudadanas, están en estos momentos sencillamente frustrados ante el poco avance de la situación", agregó.

Además se refirió al sistema educativo de la isla: "Se deterioró mucho porque nadie quiere ser maestro por los bajos salarios. Está constantemente bombardeada por imágenes ideológicas, contenido politico, referente al gobierno y las figuras principales en él. También se le pide a los estudiantes muestras constantes de fidelidad ideológica, de activismo político".

La ganadora del premio español Ortega y Gasset de 2008, contó que el de los , Barack Obama, respondió a siete preguntas que le hizo en torno al fin del diferendo de Cuba y su país, porque considera ese "es un tema capital, un tema super importante para el futuro y presente de esta nación".

Cree que Obama "tiene la voluntad de flexibilizar muchos puntos tirantes en estos 50 años", pero a ella le preocupa que los jóvenes cubanos estén perdiendo la oportunidad de tener "relaciones fluídas de un lado y de otro del estrecho de la Florida, donde hay prácticamente dos modelos de cubanos".

Calificó a la crisis económica como "muy drámatica", y agregó que "afecta particularmente a esta isla, donde no hay productividad, donde no hay un mercado interno realmente fuerte. (…) Los pronósticos para a partir de enero de 2010 son tétricos: muchos apagones, cortes eléctricos, reducción del , prácticamente la vida pública se va a reducir al 50%".

En referencia a la prohibición que tienen los cubanos para salir de Cuba, la misma que no le permitió viajar para recibir un premio en los EEUU, dijo: "Somos como niños pequeños que necesitamos la autorización de papá para salir de casa. La inquieta niña de Yoani sanchez se portó mal al decir su opinión libremente en y el castigo es no poder viajar".

Sanchez opinó también sobre los ya evidentes vínculos entre el régimen castrista y el gobierno del caudillo venezolano Hugo Chávez: "Cuba estuvo casi siempre pendiente de un país, y ahora vino a reemplazar ese apoyo económico sin el cual el gobierno cubano no hubiera podido sobrevivir, porque la economía interior de la isla está colapsada, la productividad es prácticamente nula".

Aseguró que "Chávez actúa como garante y subvencionador de muchas de las cosas que todavia ocurren en esta isla".

Por último, concluyó: "Soy muy pesimista a corto plazo, vienen unos años muy difíciles".

"Chávez actúa como subvencionador de Cuba" – (21 November 2009)

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