Bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers call on Trump to revoke Cuba’s stolen trademark for Havana Club rum

Not only do advocates for trade with Cuba’s corrupt dictatorship ignore the apartheid regime’s murderous repression, they also ignore the fact that the Castro dictatorship is a lawless criminal enterprise that traffics in stolen property.

Nora Gamez Torres in The Miami Herald:

Florida lawmakers ask Trump administration to revoke Havana Club trademark license

Cuba_US_Rum_Wars

A bipartisan Florida Congressional delegation is asking the Trump administration to revoke a license granted to a Cuban company to register the Havana Club rum trademark in the United States as part of a Cuba policy review now under way.

The 25 House representatives, led by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, issued a letter asking the departments of State and Treasury to revise the February 2016 decision, when the Treasury’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) — following a State Department recommendation — broke a long-standing position and granted a license to the Cubaexport company that allowed it to register the Havana Club rum brand in the U.S.

“We believe that OFAC’s decision to depart from precedent is untenable and that the Executive branch must continue to honor our nation’s intellectual property laws and policies,” the letter said.

The lawmakers specifically asked for explanations about why OFAC did not apply section 211 — in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1998 — which stipulates that OFAC should investigate whether the trademark in question is linked to confiscated property, and whether the party seeking registration has obtained permission from the original owners of the stolen mark.

The Congress members said they are worried about the precedent set by the decision, which could affect other cases and weaken protection against the expropriation of U.S. intellectual property by foreign governments. Also, they rejected the argument made by the State Department — under former President Barack Obama — that the granting of the license was consistent with the new foreign policy toward Cuba.

“It was a decision made for political expedience that ignored standing U.S. law and potentially opened a Pandora’s box that could see U.S. intellectual property rights holders subject to unlawful and unjust foreign confiscations,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Wasserman Schultz also urged OFAC to “reverse this misguided decision and send a loud and clear message to the international community that the United States has been and always will be a global leader on intellectual property rights.”

Continue reading HERE.

SHOCKING!: Cuba’s totalitarian apartheid dictatorship fails to carry out promised reforms

The truth is that no one is really shocked that Cuba’s corrupt totalitarian dictatorship has failed to carry out the so-called reforms promised just a few years ago. Not even the regime’s supporters in the U.S. who so gleefully touted the promised reforms are shocked. They knew then as well as they know now that “Raul the Reformer” is not at all a reformer. What they really expected and hoped for was that the dictator would “play along” and pretend to make reforms so as to make it easier for them to pretend Cuba is not a repressive apartheid hellhole.

Unfortunately for them — but infinitely more unfortunate for the Cuban people — Cuban dictator Raul Castro and his military junta who own and run everything in Cuba are not interested in playing games. Neither are they interested in giving up one iota of power nor giving the false impression they are giving up one iota of power.

Via The Financial Times:

Cuba’s communists dig in as Castro’s reform drive hits the sand

Islanders mystified as ‘economic tsar’ Marino Murillo not heard in public for a year

Reforms initiated by Raúl Castro have failed to meet popular expectations
Reforms initiated by Raúl Castro have failed to meet popular expectations

Cuban president Raúl Castro is preparing to step down next year, Venezuela has cut millions of dollars in aid and Donald Trump’s election has cast a shadow over the nascent US-Cuba detente. Unnerved by the changes, Havana has allowed its domestic reform drive to grind to a halt as the Communist party battens down the hatches.

Marino Murillo, the senior official leading Cuba’s reforms, has not been heard in public for almost a year. His absence has mystified Cubans and dented the high expectations Mr Castro’s liberalising drive once fomented, both at home and abroad.

“There are three reasons for the pause in the reforms — and I say pause, because inevitably reforms will continue at some point,” says Richard Feinberg, a Cuba scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Senior leadership is focused on managing austerity and preparing the succession as Raúl steps down?.?.?.?They are also managing a backlash over emerging inequality, low state wages and inflation.”

Mr Castro made reform the hallmark of his presidency when he formally took over from his elder brother Fidel Castro in 2008. He sought to decentralise the economy and boost productivity by allowing self-employment, slashing state bureaucracy, welcoming foreign investment and unifying Cuba’s dual currency system.

Mr Murillo, who became known as Cuba’s “economic reform tsar” when he was appointed minister of planning and the economy in 2009, was the technocrat in charge of implementing the changes. In some ways, he and Mr Castro made up a tag team that repeatedly cajoled Cuba’s stolid bureaucracy to reform.

While Mr Castro’s revolutionary stature provided moral cover, Mr Murillo gave lengthy PowerPoint presentations to party and government members that explained the changes. His talks, usually an hour long, were later broadcast on state television, sometimes more than once.

By contrast, Mr Murillo has not uttered a word in public since last July. At the same time, price controls have been slapped on burgeoning private sector businesses in agriculture and transport.

Continue reading HERE.

Reports from Cuba: Health worsening for three siblings on hunger strike in Cuba

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

Health Of Three Siblings On Hunger Strike In Cuba Worsens

Forming the sign “L” for “Libertad” are siblings Adairis Miranda, Maidolis Leyva Portelles (the siblings’ mother), Anairis Miranda and Fidel Batista Leyva.
Forming the sign “L” for “Libertad” are siblings Adairis Miranda, Maidolis Leyva Portelles (the siblings’ mother), Anairis Miranda and Fidel Batista Leyva.

The health of the siblings Fidel Batista Leyva, and Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva is worsening, as Monday marked their 21 days on a hunger strike, according to their mother, Maydolis Leyva Portelles, who spoke with 14ymedio.

Members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, the three siblings are experiencing “a serious deterioration” of their health.

In a telephone conversation, Leyva denounced the “cruel and inhuman” treatment she has received from the political police who will not allow her to see her twin daughters, one of them admitted to the Vladimir Ilich Lenin University General Hospital of Holguin and the other in Lucía Iñiguez Landín Clinical Surgical Hospital.

“All patients have the right to see their relatives at two in the afternoon but I have been told that until my daughters stop the strike I cannot see them,” says the mother.

14ymedio contacted the Lenin Hospital by telephone and was able to confirm with the information desk that Anairis Miranda has been admitted to the intermediate therapy care room in bed 2. Medical sources report her condition as “serious.”

The nurse on duty in the intermediate therapy room explained that Adairis Miranda, sister of Anairis, “is not reported to be in as serious a condition,” but continues in “voluntary starvation.”

Leyva explains that her son is being held in the Cuba Sí Holguin Prison where as of Monday he has been a hunger strike for 21 days, with five days of that also on a thirst strike.

“Despite the prolonged strike they keep him in a punishment cell sleeping on the ground,” says his mother.

The three siblings were serving sentences of one year accused of the crimes of public disorder and of defamation of heroes and martyrs. The authorities accuse them of having “made a provocation” last November 27, during the days of national mourning over the death of former President Fidel Castro, an accusation that the three deny.

Later the activists were victims of an act of repudiation; their homes were raided, they were beaten and their personal property was stolen, concluding in the arrest of the three siblings

The Miranda Leyva twins were held in the Provincial Women’s Prison, while Batista Leyva was a prisoner at La Ladrillera Work Camp, from where he was transferred to Cuba Sí, a penitentiary with a more severe regime.

The strikers demand the “unconditional freedom for the 10 political prisoners of the Cuban Reflection Movement” and the “acquittal” of Dr. Eduardo Cardet of the Christian Liberation Movement.

The regime opponent Librado Linares who heads the Cuban Reflection Movement told14ymedio that the siblings are being held prisoner “unjustly.”

“Those responsible for their lives are placed at the highest level, from Raul Castro to the authorities of the Interior Ministry in the province, for having thrown them into this situation,” said Linares.

Learning to speak without Castroist propaganda

Francisco Almagro Dominguez in Diario de Cuba:

No bandits, scum, or mercenaries (bandidos, escoria, mercenarios): learning to speak without the keywords of Castroist propaganda

1980. Cuban refugees wait to disembark in Key West, Florida.
1980. Cuban refugees wait to disembark in Key West, Florida.

On March 11 Cuban television aired The Other War (La otra guerra) a series on the civil conflict (1960-1966) that took place in the center of the Island and produced thousands of victims. As is typical of political propaganda, the series seems to lack the essential balance between good and evil, and exhibits a substantial detachment from historical truth: the “bandits” (bandidos) remain those who rose up against the Communist regime; the civil war is still called “clean-up of Escambray,” (limpia del Escambray) as if it just involved cleansing some pestilent redoubt.

Assuming that the democratization of information, and the passage of time, have enabled those living on the island to harbor a more balanced understanding of those days can be a critical mistake. There may be no little glasses of milk, or free bread, as had been promised by the regime, but a steady diet of anti-history and political manicheism is and will be guaranteed. Most of our compatriots have a skewed view of the past, and, as a consequence, of the future. As with the psychotic, their views are impervious to the logic of evidence.

Perhaps for this and many other reasons it is necessary to explain to newcomers, before any legal process, or job application, that there are words and concepts that on this side of the water are not used, or are understood in a completely different way, or are even offensive. Fernando Ortiz conceived the term catauro, a kind of rustic basket used in fields, as a dictionary to “translate” Cuban terminology that is difficult to understand for other Spanish speakers, or those speaking other languages.

A generous humanitarian gesture would be to read to each new Cuban immigrant this new catauro,  a kind of lexical primer. For example, those who live in this country and in this city are not gusanos (worms). We are people. Those arriving probably still call escoria (scum) those who left from the Port of Mariela; as in, “He came with the scum.” We should talk about the thousands of Cubans who arrived 50 years ago with nothing but the shirts on their backs, or those who, 40 ago, crammed into boats full of madmen and criminals. They are the ones who have built this beautiful and vibrant city.

Cuba was no pseudocolony of the US. In 1959 almost 70% of Cuban industry and commerce were in the hands of nationals. It was a republic whose independence was recognized on May 20, 1902, and not on January 1. Cuba was a country that had several presidents (some true heroes in the War of Independence), a Senate, House, and Supreme Court, with their highs and lows, but more good than bad, allowing it to became one of the most advanced republics in the Americas in the 50s.

Among the ranks of the strong opposition to the Batista regime there were rich people, merchants, professionals, workers, peasants and students. It was not a “class struggle”. No senior leader of the armed opposition to Batista was a worker or a peasant.  And in the early months of the effort there was little talk of Communism, Lenin or Marx. In fact, the Cuban people were thoroughly anti-Communist. Unfortunately for the propagandists, there are reels and reels of film and hundreds of yellowed pages constituting incontrovertible evidence of this.

The catauro of terms should include a chapter dedicated to the Bay of Pigs. The so-called “mercenaries” were young Cubans who did not fight under the US flag, but rather that of their homeland, Cuba. They did receive US financial support and training. But, as history would have it, there has not been a single strike against an oppressor in Cuba that has not been funded by and supported from the US territory, whether actively or passively. Here in Miami they respect and revere the “invaders” of the Bay of Pigs. To say otherwise is an insult to the memory of nearly 100 Cubans killed in combat, or who ended up in prison.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba, not Muslim nations, has the highest rate of U.S. visa refusals

Notwithstanding the unhinged hysterics of the American left over President Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” the facts show that Cubans fare worse than Muslims when it comes to being awarded visas to enter the U.S. By an almost 10-point margin over the second spot, Cuba sits atop the list of countries with the highest refusal rate for U.S. visas.

Of course, the left will not utter a word of protest over this because only an insane person would want to leave the Castro-communist paradise of Cuba.

Via Forbes:

The Countries With The Highest Refusal Rates For U.S. Visas

If you’re a Cuban seeking a visa to enter the United States, it’s more than likely going to be a case of “close but no cigar”. Despite the thawing in relations between the two countries, Cuba has the distinction of having the highest rate of U.S. B Visa (tourism or business) refusals of any country worldwide. According to U.S. State Department data, 81.9 percent of all Cuban applications were denied in fiscal year 2016.

Elsewhere, the highest rates of refusal were recorded in countries across Africa with Mauritania and Liberia in particular having refusal rates in excess of 70 percent. Afghanistan was second only to Cuba in terms of application denials with its refusal rate 73.8 percent. 38 countries are part of a visa waiver program and even though their citizens don’t have to run the gauntlet of applying for a visa, they still have to provide the U.S. government with substantial personal information before they are admitted.

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OAS finally calls on Venezuela’s dictatorship to free political prisoners, hold elections

Since Cuba took de facto control of Venezuela years ago, the OAS has been a toothless tiger unable and mostly unwilling to enforce its Democratic Charter as that country’s government transformed into a repressive and corrupt dictatorship. Now, with Venezuela on the verge of collapse as the people starve and the prisons are filled with political prisoners, the OAS is finally addressing the Castro cancer metastasizing in South America. Better late than never…

Via the AP in Local10 News:

Organization of American States weighs punishing Venezuela

U.S. joined 13 other governments in pushing Venezuela to hold elections

OAS venezuela elections

CARACAS – Diplomats from across the Western Hemisphere met Tuesday to determine whether to punish Venezuela’s socialist government for violating the country’s democratic order.

The special meeting at the Organization of American States came as the U.S. joined 13 other regional governments in pushing President Nicolas Maduro to hold elections as soon as possible to resolve a power struggle that is taking place against the backdrop of widespread shortages and triple-digit inflation.

While OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has urged Venezuela be suspended for alleged repeated violations of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, many nations are urging dialogue to prod Maduro into freeing “political prisoners,” recognize the legitimacy of the opposition-controlled legislature and holding regional elections that were originally slated for last year.

Maduro, who is expected to address thousands of supporters gathered Tuesday at a government-promoted “anti-imperialist” rally in Caracas, has denounced the OAS move as part of an opposition-backed attempt to remove him from office.

“He’s a liar, dishonest, bad actor, mercenary and traitor,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said of Almagro on Monday while speaking to the OAS’ permanent council. “He’s a dark figure intent on intervening in Venezuela.”

Maduro’s government has largely ignored Congress since a landslide loss to the opposition in legislative elections in 2015, and suspended a recall campaign aimed at forcing him from office before the 2018 election.

As the unpopular Maduro has struggled to maintain his grip on power, he’s jailed around 100 government opponents, accusing them of inciting violence.

The OAS has in the past suspended Cuba, following the triumph of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, and Honduras, after a 2009 military coup, for breaking with democracy.

See video HERE.

Reports from Cuba: The Cuban regime survives by fear

By Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba:

The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear

Black berets with dogs patrolling the center of Havana.
Black berets with dogs patrolling the center of Havana.

In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or bricks recovered from demolished buildings, “apartments” have appeared where a dozen families reside, living on the razor’s edge.

Among the blasting Reggaeton music and illegal businesses, cane alcohol, stolen the night before from a state distillery, is sold and later used in the preparation of home-made rum; or clothing with pirated labels, bought in bulk from stalls in Colón, a stone’s throw from the Panama Canal. A while back, when cattle were slaughtered in the Lawton or Virgen del Camino slaughterhouses, you could get beef at the wholesale price.

These overpopulated townships in the capital are cradles of prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling. Lawton, like no other neighborhood in Havana, is the “model” for marginalization and crime. People live from robbing state institutions, selling junk or whatever falls from a truck.

But don’t talk to them about political reforms, ask them to endorse a dissident party or protest about the brutal beatings that the political police give a few blocks away to the Ladies in White, who every Sunday speak about political prisoners and democracy in Cuba.

Let’s call him Miguel, a guy who earns money selling marijuana, psychotropic substances or cambolo, a lethal mix of cocaine with a small dose of bicarbonate. He’s been in prison almost a third of his life. He had plans to emigrate to the United States but interrupted them after Obama’s repeal of the “wet foot-dry foot” policy.

Miguel has few topics of conversation. Women, sports, under-the-table businesses. His life is a fixed portrait: alcohol, sex and “flying,” with reddened eyes from smoking marijuana.

When you ask his opinion about the dissident movement and the continued repression against the Ladies in White, he coughs slightly, scratches his chin, and says: “Man, get off that channel. Those women are crazy. This government of sons of bitches that we have, you aren’t going to bring it down with marches or speeches. If they don’t grab a gun, the security forces will always kick them down. They’re brave, but it’s not going to change this shitty country.”

Most of the neighbors in the converted bunkhouse think the same way. They’re capable of jumping the fence of a State factory to rob two gallons of alcohol, but don’t talk to them about politics, human rights or freedom of expression.

“Mi amor, who wants to get into trouble? The police have gone nuts with the businesses and prostitution. But when you go down the path of human rights, you’re in trouble for life,” comments Denia, a matron.

Read more

Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship is more reliant on the U.S. than ever before

Roberto Alvarez Quiñones in Diario de Cuba:

Cuba: more reliant on the US than ever

cuba us flags ddc

The best way to appreciate how that Cuba’s economy today depends on the US more than ever before in its history is to engage in a very simple mental exercise: imagine that Washington banned travel, remittances and packages to the island, except for medicines and special visits by Cubans to see very sick relatives.

What would happen? Can anyone even make a coherent assessment of a scenario like this?  Many shudder at even the notion. This is not going to happen, but the mere thought places many’s hair on end – especially that of the Castroist political and military elite. Political science also encompasses possible situations and potential scenarios.

For 60 years the regime’s propaganda has been vociferously claiming that before 1959 Cuba was a pseudo-colony of the US. Of course, media and academic centers on the island have been prohibited from researching or publishing anything about how, in fact, “revolutionary” Cuba was much more dependent on the USSR than “bourgeois” Cuba ever was on the US. And, what’s worse, now it depends more than ever on American cash, especially in the wake of the devastating economic crisis in Venezuela.

Hypocrisy in the regime’s realpolitik and its two-faced policies are evident. On the one hand, it waves the flag and stirs up enmity against the “Empire” and the “criminal blockade”, while simultaneously supplicating, wheeling and dealing, and spreading its tentacles behind the scenes, both in political circles on the left, and within the US business community, to encourage travel and commercial flights to Cuba, and for Congress to lift the embargo so that they can obtain access to international loans and foreign investment.

The latter, getting loans, cash and investments, is vital to the dictator and his military junta. The plans of the Government and elite of the Communist Party (PCC) to pass power to a new generation of leaders, military and civilians, starting in 2018, call for stabilizing financial support that they currently lack.

More American money than ever

Between remittances, packages and trips to Cuba from the US, in 2016 Cuba brought in more than 7 billion dollars. According to experts that figure has already surpassed the amount from Venezuelan subsidies. It is triple the revenue from the Cuban tourist industry, almost double the value of Cuban exports in 2016, which did not reach 4 billion, and 15 times the value of sugar exports. Incidentally, this last harvest in 2016 yielded only one third of the sugar produced back in 1925 (5.1 million tons).

From 1902 to 1958, although nearly 80% of Cuban sugar was exported to the US (at rates higher than those on the world market) and the rest of the Island’s trade was largely with its northern neighbor, there were two big differences to the situation today:

  1. There were not, as there are today, almost 2,000,000 Cubans in the US, furnishing the country with more money than all of Cuba’s exports, including sugar, nickel, tobacco, rum and pharmaceutical products, combined. The funds obtained from goods exported from the island in 2016 came to half of total monies received from the US.
  2. There were private enterprises in Cuba that generated the bulk of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for a per capita GDP higher than Spain’s and almost equal to that of Italy.

Continue reading HERE.

Sister of ruthless Cuban dictators Fidel and Raul Castro dies in Cuba at 78

Another member of the diabolical Castro clan has gone on to the Final Judgment. Agustina Castro, the sister of dictators Fidel and Raul Castro, died at 78 after complications from hip surgery.

Via the Daily Mail:

Fidel Castro’s sister dies in Cuba aged 78 following complications from recent hip surgery

Fidel Castro (second left ), his brother Ramon (left), his sisters Angelina (second right) and Agustina Castro (right)
Fidel Castro (second left ), his brother Ramon (left), his sisters Angelina (second right) and Agustina Castro (right)

Agustina del Carmen Castro Ruz, the youngest sibling of Fidel and Raul Castro, died in Cuba Sunday at the age of 78.

Agustina Castro died at a hospital in Havana due to complications from a recent surgery following a fractured hip, sister Juanita Castro said.

She told The Associated Press that Agustina had been in poor health for more than a year.

Agustina Castro was the youngest of seven siblings that included Fidel and Raul. She never served in the Cuban government and kept a low profile, unlike her brothers, who collectively have run the country for nearly 60 years, and Juanita, who is a prominent member of the Cuban-American activist community in South Florida.

Her cremated remains were taken to a crypt at a family home in eastern Cuba, joining those of eldest siblings Ramon and Angelita.

Fidel died in November at age 90, a little over a decade after severe illness forced him from power. Raul, who succeeded his brother as Cuban president, turns 86 in June.