Cuban defector attains his American dream

The privilege of United States citizenship. He’s elated.


Cuban defector Erislandy Lara, wife Yudi, earn U.S. citizenship

Junior middleweight world titleholder Erislandy Lara gave himself the nickname “The American Dream” after defecting from Cuba, where he was a star amateur.

On Thursday, Lara and his wife, Yudi, became United States citizens after completing their eligibility requirements and taking an oath of allegiance to the country.

Lara first went from Cuba to Germany, where he turned pro in 2008. He came to the United States in 2009 and has lived here since.

Ray Spencer/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
Ray Spencer/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

He was elated at becoming a citizen.

“When I arrived in the United States in 2008, my main goal was to become a citizen of this great nation,” Lara said. “It brings me great joy to know that I am now a legal citizen of the United States of America. It’s been a long journey to get where I’m at today, and I couldn’t have done it without my beautiful wife Yudi. Together, we fulfilled all the legal requirements that were mandated to become a U.S. citizen.”

The 33-year-old Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs), who settled in Houston, where he lives and trains, won a vacant interim 154-pound world title in 2013 by knocking out Alfredo Angulo and defended it by lopsided unanimous decision against former titleholder Austin Trout later that year.

Lara was later elevated to a full titleholder and has successfully defended the belt five times, most recently by fourth-round knockout of faded former titleholder Yuri Foreman on Jan. 13. He knows his success would not have been possible had he not come to America.

“Living in here in the States has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family.” Lara said. “With hard work, and the help of many good people around me, I’ve been able to provide for my loved ones. My goal is to continue my boxing career with my core team, and someday, God willing, become a boxing Hall of Famer.”

Miami lawmakers praise Trump’s new labor pick

By @PatriciaMazzei in the Miami Herald:

Miami lawmakers praise Trump’s new labor pick, a local

Even before President Donald Trump announced Alexander Acosta as his new secretary of labor pick, a Miami Republican lawmaker started singing Acosta’s praises.

NBC News reported Thursday — ahead of Trump’s White House press conference announcing his choice — that it would be Acosta, the dean of Florida International University’s law school and former U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. Acosta would be Trump’s first and only Hispanic Cabinet member.

The still-unconfirmed news prompted immediate support from U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

I am excited to learn of Alex Acosta’s nomination for Labor Secretary. He has an impressive record of achievement, having served on the National Labor Relations Board, as well as receiving presidential appointments to both U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida and Assistant Attorney General during his career. Alex has also been an exemplary Dean of one of the best law schools in the state, leading FIU to earn the highest bar passage rates in Florida for three years in a row. He is a man of great principle, integrity, and courage, and I am confident he will do an excellent job serving our nation.

Here’s the reaction from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

And from U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

Sen. Marco Rubio on the nomination of Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary

Press Release from the office of Senator Marco Rubio:

Rubio Applauds President Trump’s Nomination of Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary

FEB 16 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement today regarding President Donald Trump’s nomination of Alexander Acosta for secretary of labor:

“I know Alex Acosta well, and he is a phenomenal choice to lead the Department of Labor. Whether it was his distinguished service as U.S. attorney in Florida’s Southern District or as dean of Florida International University’s school of law, Alex has succeeded in all endeavors he has taken on, and managing the Department of Labor will be no different. I look forward to his confirmation hearing, where I’m confident he will impress my colleagues and secure the support necessary to be the next secretary of labor.”

Cuban-American Alexander Acosta nominated as Secretary of Labor

An excellent choice.

Via The Washington Examiner:


Trump taps dean Alexander Acosta, Florida law school dean, as new Labor nominee

By SEAN HIGGINS (@SEANGHIGGINS) President Trump named R. Alexander Acosta, dean of Florida International University Law, to be the next secretary of labor. He would replace fast-food businessman Andrew Puzder, who withdrew from consideration Wednesday afternoon.

“Acosta … has had a tremendous career,” Trump said in an afternoon press conference. “He has been a member of the National Labor Relations board and he has been through Senate confirmation three times.” Acosta did not attend the press conference, reflecting the whirlwind speed with which the administration turned to him.

Trump’s stressing that Acosta had previously been through Senate confirmation illustrated his frustration over the failure of Puzder’s nomination and the president’s desire to avoid the same fate with Acosta.

It was a theme echoed by his Senate allies. “Mr. Acosta’s nomination is off to a good start because he’s already been confirmed by the Senate three times. He has an impressive work and academic background. We will schedule a hearing promptly after his nomination papers arrive in the Senate, and I look forward to exploring his views on how American workers can best adjust to the rapidly changing workplace,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Acosta would bring a wealth of legal experience to the job. He was an assistant attorney general for civil rights during President George W. Bush’s administration and was a U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida. He served on the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003. He also was a law clerk for Samuel Alito before Alito was named to the Supreme Court.

As a U.S. attorney, Acosta prosecuted several high-profile cases including those of notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff for fraud, terrorist Jose Padilla and members of the Cali drug cartel. He participated in a case against Swiss bank UBS that resulted in $780 billion in fines for helping its clients evade taxes. The case resulted in the first-ever incidence of a Swiss bank turning over the names of its clients.

Continue reading HERE.

There are few things more “America First” than fixing what Obama broke in Cuba

The current U.S. relationship with the unlawful dictatorship that seized power in Cuban fifty-eight years ago is an aberration, a break from the nature of our historical friendship with Cuba.

Spain and Cuba in the Independence of the United States via Amigospais-guaracabuya:

“Because of its geographic situation and its safe harbors, even before 1776, the island had legal and illegal commercial relations with the thirteen colonies. But from that year on it became the Spanish strategic center for operations on the continent against England. For that reason the Cuban merchant from Havana, Juan de Miralles, was the first Spanish representative to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Appointed by the governor of Cuba, don Diego José Navarro, Miralles developed very close relationships with some of the members of the Congress and with George Washington.”

Cuba militia fought for our independence in Florida an Louisiana, and and helped finance our War of Independence.

It is time for the U.S. to put the well-being of the Cuban people before financial interests, or the hope of some utopian daydream that supports a murderous tyrannical dictatorship.

By Ana Quintana in the Ripon Forum:

Continuing Unilateral Concessions Towards Cuba is not in the U.S. Interest

President Obama spent the last two years of his administration attempting to convince the American people that a new course for Cuba policy was in order. In spite ofQuintana_Ana-2-268x300 the Cuban government’s continued crackdowns against peaceful dissidents and hostility against the United States interests, he argued that it was time for America — not Cuba — to change its behavior. That is exactly what President Obama did. Via executive orders and without significant congressional support, his administration embarked on a new policy aimed at legitimizing the Castro regime.

From lobbying Congress to lift the embargo to increasing commercial opportunities for the Castro regime, the Obama Administration’s Cuba policy overwhelmingly benefited the Cuban government at the expense of the Cuban people. Arguably, it was designed that way from the beginning. Indeed, President Obama’s announcement on December 17, 2014, made no mention of tens of thousands of dissidents imprisoned, the political opponents murdered, or the catastrophic repression of the past half century.

Diplomacy is dependent on the right words, and the immediate results of Obama’s words were the clear impression of his capitulation. While Cuba received the diplomatic recognition, the promise to be removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, the promise for increased commercial opportunities, and the return of their three convicted spies, the U.S. was left empty-handed.

America got nothing in return for its decision to normalize relations with Cuba, and the human rights situation on the island has not improved.

Proponents of the Obama Cuba policy point to the increasing numbers of American visitors and his three-day trip to the island as markers of success. While tourists sipping mojitos and staged photo ops may make for good headlines, it makes for terrible policy. Despite the promises of change, the Cuban government has not loosened its grip on power. In 2016, nearly 10,000 politically motivated arrests occurred. Nearly 500 alone occurred during the 72 hours that Obama and his family spent on the island. A few of those arrested even had appointments to meet with the American President. Religious persecution also increased tenfold from 2014 to 2015, going from 220 cases to 2,300 particular violations occurring. In the meantime, the concessions for Havana kept churning out of Washington over the past two years.

A well-funded lobbying campaign of corporate interests has supported these efforts. The agriculture lobby has been particularly keen on seeing the embargo lifted so they can secure financing for their exports. What they fail to mention is Cuba’s long history of failing to repay its debts. Despite being close Cold War allies, Russia was forced to waive over $35 billion of Cuba’s debt. Mexico waived almost $500 million, and Cuba still owes the Paris Club $15 billion. This does not include the close to $8 billion Americans are owed as part of the 5,913 claims certified by the Department of Justice. Since the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act was approved in 2000, American businesses have been able to sell agricultural products to Cuba as long as they are paid for with cash. Any reasonable person can see the logic behind requiring cash upfront from a country that is unwilling to pay its debts.

When looking at the future of our Cuba policy, timing is everything, Cuban leadership is physically fragile. Nearly three months after the death of Fidel Castro, questions are increasing about the future of Cuba after 85-year old Raul Castro steps down in early 2018. A power struggle is occurring within the incoming leadership, and it is unknown as to who will take over.

The Cuban government has not improved its behavior towards the United States either.

President Donald Trump’s position on Cuba is quite clear. In November, he said “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the deal.” His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, also promised to “press Cuba to meet its pledge to become more democratic and consider placing conditions on trade or travel policies to motivate the release of political prisoners.”

Needless to say, the leverage is fully on the side of the Trump Administration. It must capitalize on the momentum and the Cuban government’s need for continued relations with the U.S. Cuba’s sole benefactor, Venezuela, can barely afford to feed its people, let alone continue pumping oil money onto the island. President Trump should start by reverting regulations that overstretched the law. Low-hanging fruit in this regard are regulations that allowed U.S. companies to override the law and go into business with the Cuban government. He should rescind the regulations allowing for licensing deals, financing, and banking transactions with state and military entities. There are specific criteria governing the nature of our relationship with Cuba, and we must comply with those statutory requirements. The executive orders and directives issued by former President Obama are inconsistent with U.S. law.

America got nothing in return for its decision to normalize relations with Cuba, and the human rights situation on the island has not improved. The Cuban government has not improved its behavior towards the United States either. We must pursue a Cuba policy that enables and fosters a democratic transition and ends the rule of the Castro regime. There are few things more “America First” than fixing what Obama broke in Cuba.

Specializing in Latin American issues, Ana Quintana is a policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy.

President Trump’s focus on Human Rights a welcome change

Human Rights were front and center at yesterday’s meeting at the White House, hopefully this change from the Obama years will be a hallmark of the Trump administration.

By John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Some Observations: Venezuela, Cuba and the Trump Administration

Venezuela’s slide into Cuban totalitarianism needs to be confronted

The Maduro regime in Caracas on February 15, 2017 ordered cable providers to take CNN in Spanish off the air, days after CNN aired an investigation into the fraudulent issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas. Minutes later, reported Hannah Dreier over twitter “it’s already gone from all cable channels” in Venezuela.

Freedom House had already declared Venezuela “not free” in its annual world report and removing CNN in Spanish from all cable channels in the country only underlines and confirms that this South American nations is no longer free.

The Trump Administration’s press spokesman announced on February 3, 2017 that the White House was conducting a review of U.S. – Cuba policy with a human rights focus. Ten days later on February 13, 2017 the Treasury Department announced sanctions against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami who has been linked to drug trafficking. These items are connected because Venezuela is a de facto colony of Cuba. Cuban intelligence officers and generals are operating on the ground training the Maduro regime in totalitarian tactics to repeat the Cuban model there.

Nicolas Maduro and Cuban General Ramiro Valdez in Venezuela
Nicolas Maduro and Cuban General Ramiro Valdez in Venezuela

On the same day that the Maduro regime pulled CNN in Spanish off the air in Venezuela President Trump met with Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and according to Senator Marco Rubio’s communication’s director Alex Burgos over twitter she spoke to him and Vice President Pence “about human rights abuses by [the] Maduro dictatorship and the 109 political prisoners behind bars.”

This meeting was important because the Obama Administration had sought to marginalize her, refusing to receive her and today she is in The White House briefing both the President and the Vice President on the situation in Venezuela. Following the meeting President Donald Trump tweeted that Leopoldo Lopez was a political prisoner who should be immediately freed.

President Trump is right that Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is a prisoner of conscience who should be immediately released.

Hopefully Cuban democratic opposition leaders will have the same opportunity and the bad days of the Obama Administration bending over backwards for the Castro dictatorship including threatening to forcefully eject the daughter of martyred Cuban human rights icon if she dared ask a question in the Kerry State Department.

Continue reading HERE.

Cuba’s brutal dictator disappears dissident’s son

Another example of the brutality of Cuba’s dictatorship – kidnapping the children of dissidents.

Via Twitter:

Cuba’s hotel problem

No doubt one of the reasons U.S. Airlines are reducing the number of their Cuba bound flights.

Via Yahoo News:

Five-star prices, without the service: Cuba’s hotel problem

Waiting for service at state-owned cafe  (AFP Photo/YAMIL LAGE)
Waiting for service at state-owned cafe (AFP Photo/YAMIL LAGE)

Rigoberto DIAZ Agence France-Presse•February 14, 2017 Havana (AFP) – Could anything be better than a winter getaway to Cuba, complete with a stay in one of the Caribbean island’s five-star luxury hotels?

Actually, yes, say many of the tourists flocking to the Caribbean’s new “it” destination, who complain the state-owned hotel industry is underwhelming and overpriced.

Tourists have been flooding Cuba ever since its historic rapprochement with the United States was announced in December 2014.

A record four million visited the communist-ruled island — population 11 million — last year, an increase of 13 percent from 2015.

That has sent prices soaring.

But, in a country where limited supply and years of underinvestment are hallmarks of the hotel industry, price doesn’t necessarily mean quality.

Jean Orsini, a French tourist, found his room had a rust-stained shower, and spent so long waiting for his dinner that he nearly gave up.

“At the travel agency in Marseille, they told us they were sending us to the best hotel. But you pay 175 euros a night, and you just know it’s not worth the price,” said the 82-year-old retiree.

Spanish tourist Pilar Esteras was appalled by the staff’s nonchalance at her hotel. Maria Teresa Gutierrez of Colombia had no running water at times and found her $250 a night room was less than clean.

Yet all three tourists stayed in four- and five-star hotels.

Their experiences are an indication of the industry’s problems in Cuba, even though the state now co-manages many hotels with foreign companies such as Accor of France, Iberostar of Spain and Blue Diamond of Canada.

In fact, 17 private companies operate two-thirds of the hotels in Cuba.

But they have little control over things like infrastructure maintenance and the availability of good staff in a country where hospitality training is scarce and wages are meager — less than $30 a month.

Orsini said his Cuba trip reminded him of traveling in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s.

“You spent three hours waiting to eat,” he said. “Since they were state restaurants, the staff could have cared less.”

Continue reading HERE.

Cuban refugees stranded in Serbia

Cubans stranded in freezing Serbia, mixed among refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria — you can imagine the cultural discomfort, the feelings of isolation and despair.

One family’s story By Lin Taylor via Reuters:

168 Cubans living in Serbian reception centres, stranded after below-freezing temperatures and closed borders halted their journeys

ADAŠEVCI, Serbia, Feb 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As snow falls outside a migrant centre along a highway near the Serbian town of Adaševci, a large Cuban family huddles together in their bedroom, idly playing with their mobile phones to pass the time.

With old photos dotting her walls and laundry hanging by her frosty windows, Tania Hernandez’s tiny room – which she shares with six family members – is a far cry from sunny Havana, the Caribbean island capital she left behind in August last year.

But living in these cramped conditions is nothing compared to the political repression Hernandez said she had to endure.

“We decided to leave because in Cuba there’s no freedom. We were very tired of so much repression upon our shoulders, it was too much,” the Spanish-speaking mother of three said through a translator.

The family is part of a small but growing number of Cubans travelling through the Balkans towards Spain, the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

The unlikely migrant route from Cuba to Spain via Russia and the Balkans became apparent at the height of the European migration crisis in 2015, said IOM’s Western Balkans coordinator Peter Van der Auweraert.

“The route is attractive because they don’t need a visa to go to Russia,” he said in a telephone interview. “So at least they can get close to the (European Union) without any visa issues.”

Around 7,700 migrants live in Serbia, the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR) reports, with around 6,500 people housed in government-run camps, most of whom have fled conflicts and poverty in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

As of Jan. 25, there were 168 Cubans living in Serbian reception centres, according to IOM, stranded after below-freezing temperatures and closed borders halted their journeys.


While the “Cuban dream” was to get to the United States, which is geographically closer and where some of her relatives are, Hernandez said it was easier to travel to Europe.

Plagued by chronic economic problems, Cuba’s population of 11 million has endured decades of hardship, although not the deep poverty, violent crime and government neglect of many other developing countries.

Communist leader Fidel Castro, who died last November, swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among the exiles in Miami in the United States, who saw him as a ruthless tyrant.

Hernandez and her husband said they sold their house to fund the family’s flight to Moscow, where they could freely access the internet to plan their journey to Spain.

“It was divine. For me, just being at the airport was glorious. We couldn’t wait to leave Cuba,” the 46-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


But having spent five months with more than 1,000 other migrants at this converted motel in western Serbia, the family’s initial enthusiasm has started to fade.

“Day to day life here is disheartening. People don’t treat us badly, they give us a roof and food … but the problem is the despair,” said the short-fringed Hernandez.

“We’ve been here for five months and no one ever gives us any information. They only tell us, ‘You have to wait, you have to wait, you have to wait,'” she said.

Since her family only speaks Spanish, Hernandez said she won’t seek asylum in Serbia, given the language barriers, preferring Spain over popular destinations like Germany, where most migrants apply for asylum.

In 2016, there were 80 Cuban asylum seekers in Spain, and 44 cases the year before, but no Cubans have been officially resettled in Spain since 2010, according to the UNHCR.

Once the weather improves, IOM’s Van der Auweraert said he expects more Cubans to continue their journey, but warned there was “no legal way” to get to Spain from Serbia.

Continue reading HERE.

The end of freedom in Cuba

Here in the United States of America, we once again witnessed the peaceful transition of power from the sitting president to the newly elected president. The inaugural ceremony is not a celebration of victory, but of our democracy.

According to the Freedom House 2016 Freedom in The World Report, only 86 out of 195 countries measured are free. Sadly Cuba is not one of them.

November 3, 1958 was the last election in Cuba.

Cuba 1952-1959:

(L to R) Rodolfo Laucirica; Jose Hernandez Cata; Uva Hernandez Cata de Márquez-Sterling; Carlos Márquez-Sterling; Patricio Estevez; Osvaldo Ruiz Aguilera. Nov 3, 1958
(L to R) Rodolfo Laucirica; Jose Hernandez Cata; Uva Hernandez Cata de Márquez-Sterling; Carlos Márquez-Sterling; Patricio Estevez; Osvaldo Ruiz Aguilera. Nov 3, 1958

On 3 Nov 1958 the most critical elections in Cuban history were held. The three major presidential candidates were: Carlos Márquez-Sterling for the Partido del Pueblo Libre; Ramón Grau San Martín for his faction of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, Auténtico; and Andrés Rivero Agüero for a coalition of government parties. There was also a minor party candidate on the ballot, Alberto Salas Amaro for the Union Cubana party.

Campaign rallies of Batista’s opponents were frequently sabotaged not by the Batista government, but by Castro and the revolutionaries. Under constant death threats by Castro forces the electoralist candidates were unable to visit many parts of the country. Their only practical recourse was effective use of radio, television and the printed word. As Time contemporaneously reported:

Where Batista’s mailed gauntlet was absent, Castro’s brass knuckles took over. […] In the backlands where rebel bands roam more or less at will, candidates were terrorized. They could not make campaign speeches, shake hands, or get before the people in any fashion, except from the safety of heavily guarded TV stations. A few were shot down. In Oriente province, balloting was virtually impossible. In a frenzy of rage, Castro laid ambushes along the major highways. Burnt-out cars and buses studded the roads, and Santiago, capital of Oriente, was virtually cut off. To make his point clear, Castro got on the rebel radio and warned: “The orders to the people for Nov. 3 are: Do not go outside. The people must show their rejection of the elections by remaining at home.”

It was generally accepted that if the elections were conducted fairly and the votes counted honestly a Márquez-Sterling victory was assured. Surveys conducted by CMQ and the American Embassy predicted Márquez-Sterling would win by a landslide.

Castro and his rebels all through September and October had threatened to bomb polling places and machine gun the voters waiting in line. Since Castro thugs had already assassinated a number of candidates during the campaign, this threat kept many away from the polls. In the provinces of Pinar del Río, Havana, Matanzas, and Camaguey polling though light went on almost undisturbed. In Las Villas and Oriente, where vast zones were under Castro’s guerillas’ sway hardly any voting took place. First electoral reports indicated that in the provinces where voting was done without any major disturbances Márquez-Sterling had obtained a clear victory over the government candidate Dr. Andres Rivero Agüero, and the other major candidate, oppositionist Ramón Grau San Martín. In Las Villas and Oriente provinces the government took the absence of voters as an opportunity for ballot-stuffing on a large scale.

On election night after the poll closing, the results were announced. Márquez-Sterling had won the provinces of Havana, Camagüey, Matanzas and Pinar del Río. Batista’s candidate was arbitrarily declared the winner in Las Villas and Oriente and the government declared that he had in these two provinces more votes than Márquez-Sterling in the other four and so was the winner. This result was a travesty since in the provinces “won” by Rivero Agüero, Castro’s terrorists kept voters away from polling places. The government simply stuffed the empty ballot boxes with forged ballots, which had been previously printed and marked.

In a memoir published in 2009 Batista’s top military commander, Army Chief of Staff General Francisco Tabernilla, confirmed that military officers orchestrated a massive fraud to ensure that Batista’s candidate was declared the winner of the 1958 elections. In these declarations Tabernilla acknowledged that Márquez-Sterling won:
If the fraud had not been perpetrated, Dr. Carlos Márquez-Sterling would have been the winner. The political picture would have radically changed. Fidel Castro would have had no alternative but to negotiate or lay down arms and pursue political avenues if he aspired to be President.

One of Castro’s first acts after his victory in January 1st, was to order all ballots and electoral documentation from the November election destroyed. In 1959 Castro confided in the Argentinean ambassador at that time that had Batista recognized Márquez-Sterling’s victory, Castro would not have come to power. The US Ambassador arrived at the same conclusion and so declared in testimony before congressional committees.

That was the end of freedom in Cuba, and the beginning of a long nightmare of imprisonments, executions, repression, slavery, enforced poverty, family separations, and exile.

For fifty-eight years the Cuban people have endured the horrors of the apartheid dictatorship controlling their lives, and with little sympathy or assistance from world. In spite of that harsh boot heel on their necks, thousands of Cubans have fought and struggled for their nations freedom, for libertad. That fight continues today, please, get on social media and support their struggle. It matters.

A partial list of dissident groups in Cuba:

Las Damas de Blanco
Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)
Cuban Democratic Directorate
Movimiento Cristiano Liberación
Emilia Project-Lawton Foundation for Human Rights

“No man can long exist without a country, nor can any country exist for long without liberty.” – Jose Martí

Catholic church to intercede with Panama on behalf of Cuban migrants

By María Fernanda Muñóz in Cubanos por el Mundo (My translation)

Catholic Church will move “heaven and Earth” to prevent deportation of Cubans in Panama

Cubanos en una iglesia en Panama
Cubanos en una iglesia en Panama

After a meeting for a possible agreement between the Government of Panama and the Cuban regime to deport the Cubans stranded in that country, the Catholic Church said that they will mediate with the Panamanian President to prevent the deportation of the migrants.

At the offices of Caritas Panama, operating as a hostel for more than 300 Cubans, the director of that organization, Deacon Victor Berrío, said that the Panamanian bishops will seek a special immigration status for the Cubans.

“Me preocupó un poco lo del convenio con Cuba y vamos a averiguar un poco de que se trata”.

Berrio ensures that to send the Cubans back to Cuba would be a “disaster” for each of them.

It was also reported that on Monday, the Panamanian bishops will meet to ask President Juan Carlos Varela for the non-deportation of the islanders.

Continue reading the article in Spanish HERE.

Obama ends much as he began, in the news with a terrorist

Ending his presidency with more concessions to the Cuban dictator seems fitting, after all, his good neighbor terrorist Bill Ayers launched his political career.


Since then it’s been a long eight years apologizing for what he views as America’s injustice to the world, while bypassing congress and the constitution to “change” America—we, and our allies are all worse off.


Goodbye and good riddance, you won’t be missed.

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Cuba's  (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Brazil’s scandals and Latin America’s corruption battle

Socialism and corruption, inseparable.

By Roger F. Noriega in AEI:

Brazilian graft scandal reveals Latin America’s uphill battle against corruption

More than two years after initial revelations of corruption involving Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, and the construction firm, Odebrecht, the scandal continues to roil the country and its trading partners in Latin America, demonstrating once again that corruption remains a fundamental challenge for the region. The corruption revealed by the investigation dubbed “Operation Car Wash” has contributed to a deep recession, implicated some of the country’s economic elite, and helped topple President Dilma Rousseff and elected leaders from across the political spectrum.

REUTERS/Mariana Bazo.
REUTERS/Mariana Bazo.

More recent revelations have shown the extent of Odebrecht’s corrupt activities abroad. The multi-billion dollar Brazilian construction company has admitted to participating in corrupt activities in at least 11 other countries, including Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Angola, Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. These revelations threaten to undermine the political agendas of Latin American leaders, forcing them to react and confront the realities of corruption in their own countries and governments.

In Peru, under the new leadership of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, anti-corruption officials are investigating the country’s three most recent ex-presidents for corruption related to Odebrecht contracts. The government of Panama has announced that it will cancel a $1 billion contract with the Brazilian firm for the construction of a hydroelectric project in response to revelations that the company paid over $59 million in bribes over a four-year period.

Learn more: Behind Brazil’s corruption crisis is a deeper socialist disaster

The scandal has also impacted Colombia as it embarks on the monumental task of implementing a peace agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which will require a massive expansion in the government’s presence and services. Over the weekend, Colombian authorities arrested a former senator on charges of “bribery and illicit enrichment” related to a government contract awarded to Odebrecht. This comes in the midst of other Odebrecht-related arrests in Colombia, including that of a former vice minister of transport.

Regional integration can be a great boon for economic growth in Latin America. But as the Odebrecht scandal shows, it can also serve as a vehicle for corruption. The region’s leaders and people must invest in judicial institutions that will ferret out and punish corruption and criminality.

Latin America’s leaders can use the Odebrecht scandal as an opportunity to rally support for anti-corruption activities and the establishment of independent watchdogs, the likes of which set new standards of accountability in countries like Guatemala.

Tourist posters that challenge Cuba’s “revolutionary” image

Imagine if tourists planning or on their way to Cuba were confronted with graphic images depicting brutal acts of repression on the island instead of sunny beaches, classic cars, and dancing natives.


That’s the dream of two talented young Cuban women, graphic designer Annelys PM Casanova (@JirilibreLA), and visual artist Ana Olema (@analema), and the reason for their #VistCubaProject.

In this March 2015 Diario De Cuba article, (Spanish), by Joan Antoni Guerrero Vall, Casanova explained that the goal of the two activists was to “create awareness about the reality of a society subject to a 56-year dictatorship”.

From the article: (loosely translated)

The idea for this project – says Casanova – emerged in conversations between the two creators about the “new fashion” of future trips to Cuba, rather than measures of the US President, Barack Obama, who will provide for the re-establishment of relations with the regime.

Both worked on the project within the framework of Chancleta Power, a creative umbrella that the two maintain for their artistic campaigns, as well as their work on social networks focused on the denunciation of the systematic violation of human rights on the island.

“Chancleta Power is our working group, where we use viral images and create tools”, explains the designer. #VisitCubaProject started with three pilot posters that have raced like wildfire on social networks.

Their desire is not only informative: “is not intended to say ‘don’t go to Cuba,’ but if, look at the reality of the Cubans there, and of the opposition’.” “To remind them [the tourists], that they are stepping on a ground where there are a people living in an apartheid, to show the other side of the coin, which is quite serious”.

The #VisitCubaProject project aims to go further and give the campaign “the structure of a travel agent”, explains Casanova.

In this sense, the creator says, “for example, to create a guidebook that shows the location of dissident’s houses, Cuban prisons, and the site of the March 13 Tugboat crime, among others. We even want to operate in conjunction with some tourism companies”.

Their #CubaRomanticism vs. Reality campaign consists of a series of actual viral images of repression in #Cuba juxtaposed into vintage travel posters from the 40’s and 50’s.

Here are three examples of their fantastic work and the photos of the repressive acts that inspired them.


VisitCubaSaraFoncescaphotoimages (3)


Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles reacts to Cuba policy change

By Hatzel Vela in Miami Local 10 News:

Cuban dissident reacts to Trump, ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy ending

Dissident believes Donald Trump needs to re-evaluate Cuban policy

HAVANA – The “wet foot, dry foot” policy remains the topic of conversation in Cuban households throughout the island.

Antonio Rodiles, who heads Estado Sats, a group highly critical of the Cuban government, is no exception. In fact, this is one of the rare cases when Rodiles and the Castro government are in agreement.

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“Well, I think for sure that law need to change,” he said. “We have seen a lot of abuse about the law.”

Rodiles remains surprised about the way outgoing President Barack Obama went about getting rid of the U.S. policy last week in a surprise announcement.

He is critical of Obama for not consulting with the exile community or dissidents on the communist Caribbean island.

“The Obama administration was taking as the only official counterpart — the Cuban regime and I think that this is really a bad signal for what it happening in Cuba right now,” he said.

He feels President-elect Donald Trump needs to re-evaluate American policies toward Cuba.

“The situation with the respect of the human rights, also the economic aspect needs to be changed, in order that some companies can come here to make real business in Cuba,” he said.

Rodiles hopes Trump does not forget about human rights and the opposition, which has been criticized for being fractured.

But when it comes to Cuba, it’s not bad to have differences in opinions and approach, according to Rodiles, who believes Cuba is at a crossroads since the Cuban government has been vocal about looming economic woes.

Trump, who is consulting hard-line exiles on Cuba, could play a major factor.

For now, everything is on the sidelines until Trump takes office Friday.