N.J. Lawmakers Urge No Funding for Cuban Relations Until Chesimard is Returned to U.S. 2

Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (Photo: Associated Press)

Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (Photo: Associated Press)

By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, The Star-Ledger

WASHINGTON — Congress should not approve any money for restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba until convicted cop-killer Joanne Chesimard is returned to the U.S., three New Jersey Republican federal lawmakers said today.

U.S. Reps. Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.), Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.) and Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.) made the request in a letter today to fellow Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that approves spending on foreign operations, and the panel’s ranking member, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

“Any attempt by the Obama administration to normalize relations with Cuba must include the extradition of Joanne Chesimard back to New Jersey so that she can face justice and serve out her sentence,” the lawmakers wrote. “Until Cuba accepts this condition, we request all funds directed toward normalization be withheld.

Today’s letter is the latest attempt by the New Jersey congressional delegation to make Chesimard’s return a condition of resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).told Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter last month that Chesimard and other fugitives must be extradited before Cuba is removed from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In January, members of the state’s congressional delegation called on President Obama to make Chesimard’s extradition “an immediate priority,”

Chesimard escaped prison and fled to Cuba after being sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1973 murder of Trooper Werner Foerster during a gunfight. Chesimard and other members of the Black Liberation Army had been stopped by State Police on the New Jersey Turnpike. In 2013, she became the first woman on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists.

The calls for Chesimard’s extradition have grown louder since Obama in December announced a “new approach” to Cuba, which has been under a U.S. embargo for a half-century, and said he would easing economic restrictions and move toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with the communist regime.

Article continues here:  NJ Lawmakers

 

U.S. Removes Dead Cubans, Sunken Ships From Sanctions List Reply

OFACBy Daniel Trotta and Anna Yukhananov

Havana/Washington

(Reuters) – The United States removed 45 companies and individuals from a Cuba sanctions blacklist on Tuesday, most of them dead people, defunct companies or sunken ships.

Among them was Amado Padron, a Cuban executed by a firing squad 26 years ago along with Arnaldo Ochoa, a decorated army general who was sentenced to death by Cuba’s communist government after he was found to be connected to international drug trafficking.

The U.S. Treasury Department said the delisting was aimed at clearing “out-of-date” names from its list of Specially Designated Nationals.

Washington bans those designated from trading with U.S. individuals or companies, who face heavy fines if caught doing business with them.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed six people, 28 companies and 11 vessels from the list as part of an ongoing review of older cases. Four of the people are dead and two were delisted because the companies they were affiliated with were dissolved, officials said.

The ships had either sunk or were otherwise not operational.

“While these removals are not related to the recent changes to our Cuba sanctions program and rather reflect OFAC’s consistent effort to review and update its SDN list, these delistings are in line with the President’s Cuba policy,” OFAC said.

President Barack Obama rewrote longstanding Cuba policy in December, agreeing with Cuban President Raul Castro to restore diplomatic relations and seek to end more than five decades of animosity between the old Cold War rivals.

Obama has since eased the U.S. trade embargo by allowing some financial transactions and sales of computer technology and construction materials to Cuba while permitting importers to buy from Cuban independent contractors.

The Specially Designated Nationals list adds another level of sanctions, banning transactions even in fields cleared by Obama.

Feature continues here:  OFAC Update 

Berkeley Students Seek Honors For US Terrorist Harbored By Cuba Reply

Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (Photo: Associated Press)

Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (Photo: Associated Press)

Berkeley Radicals Want to Honor Cop-Killing Communist

by Matthew Vadum, FrontPage (magazine)

Disgruntled black students at the University of California at Berkeley are demanding a campus building be named after convicted cop-killing terrorist and fugitive from justice, Assata Shakur.

The reason for the demand? In the stated opinion of the school’s Black Student Union, blacks are disrespected on campus. BSU member Cori McGowens told reporters that “trying to excel academically is immensely difficult while coping with the issue of antiblackness on campus.”

“It troubles me that I have already been told countless times that antiblackness is not an issue to discuss within the context of the American political system,” said McGowens, a political science major. “My professors and graduate-student instructors have told me that I shouldn’t bring up the politics of race and the reality of my black experience.”

That politically correct, ultra-leftist UC Berkeley would be infected by “antiblackness” or that teachers there would tell any student of color to shut up about race is nearly impossible to believe. Viewing America through the Marxist lens of race, sex, and class, is all that today’s predominantly leftist academics spend their time doing. Professors can’t stop talking about race or any of the picayune peeves about which the Left constantly obsesses.

But the Black Student Union maintains that somehow black students on that campus are victims of oppression and feel isolated. To remedy these perceived problems the group delivered a set of 10 demands to Chancellor Nick Dirks. One of the demands is to rename Barrows Hall, home to Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies, and African American Studies, to honor communist murderer Shakur.

Dirks sent out a letter pandering to the students.

“Too many students have told us about being excluded from study groups, ignored during class discussions, verbally harassed at parties and social events, and feeling, in a general sense, vulnerable, isolated, and invisible,” he wrote. “This is something we deplore.”

He added that Berkeley’s black students “feel the least respected of any group on campus” according to a survey taken last year.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle article that actually takes the students’ bratty-sounding complaints seriously…

Feature continues here:  Students Seek Honors For Terrorist

How Obama’s Cuba Deal Is Strengthening Its Military 1

PoliticoCastro’s Real Heirs are the Generals, and They’re Going to Make a Bundle From Normalization

By James Bruno, Politico Magazine

In the hit 1992 movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s fictional Colonel Jessup famously declares: “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me.” The Cuban officers I met never gave me that impression. As the State Department’s former representative to negotiations with Cuba’s military, I can tell you that our discussions were typically convivial and constructive. And today, President Barack Obama’s initiative to normalize relations with Havana has presented the United States with a truly mind-boggling prospect: Our most reliable partner on that long-isolated island is probably going to be the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, Cuba’s military establishment.

And soon they’re going to be making a lot of money.

The Communist Party of Cuba may constitute the country’s political leadership, but it is seen increasingly as an anachronism by the population and after Fidel Castro, 88, and Raúl Castro, 83, pass from the scene, the party may too. Cuba’s legislature, the National Assembly of People’s Power, is a rubber stamp appendage of the party and likewise held in low popular esteem. Civilian agencies have proven inept and sclerotic in managing government programs. The powerful Ministry of Interior is widely feared as the blunt instrument of oppression, but it too is likely to be swept aside eventually by the tide of change. And more than a half-century of authoritarian single-party rule has stunted civil society and held the Catholic Church in check.

This leaves the FAR. Under Raúl Castro’s leadership from 1959 until he succeeded brother Fidel as president in 2006, the now 60,000-strong military has been widely considered to be Cuba’s best managed and stablest official entity. Furthermore, it has never been called upon to fire on or suppress Cuban citizens, even during the so-called Maleconazo protests in 1994, and most observers believe the FAR would refuse any orders to do so.

For years our discussions with the FAR have focused on cooperating on practical matters: avoiding tensions along Guantánamo Naval Base’s 17-mile perimeter, collaborating on firefighting and working out arrangements for the return of Cuban citizens who were picked up at sea while trying to escape their country. In contrast with our stiff exchanges with the North Koreans at Panmunjom, these monthly encounters tend to be productive, constructive and amiable.

Read more: Politico

How a Canadian Businessman Lost Everything in Cuba Reply

Sarkis Yacoubian

Sarkis Yacoubian

By Jeff Gray, The Globe and Mail [Canada]

Canadian businessman Sarkis Yacoubian only knew his Cuban interrogator – the Cubans call them “instructors” – as Major Carlito. When they first met in the dim basement of the Havana house where security agents had initially imprisoned Mr. Yacoubian in July, 2011, he says Major Carlito greeted him by grabbing his own crotch.

“If you are expecting that the Canadian embassy is going to come to your help, this is what they are going to get,” Mr. Yacoubian, 54, says his captor warned him. Then, he says, Major Carlito accused him of being a spy, an accusation that would eventually be abandoned before the Canadian was convicted by a Cuban court of corruption charges and expelled last year.

His story, and that of Toronto-area businessman Cy Tokmakjian, who was released from incarceration in Cuba last month after a similar corruption trial, are cautionary tales for would-be investors in Cuba.

However, some say the historic Dec. 17 announcement of Canada-brokered talks to normalize Cuba’s relations with the United States – plus recent moves by leader Raul Castro to liberalize the economy – still has Canadian investors and entrepreneurs interested in the Communist-ruled island.

Despite Major Carlito’s threat, the Canadian embassy did closely monitor’s Mr. Yacoubian’s status as he spent two years in jail before facing any formal charge. And the ambassador attended Mr. Yacoubian’s 2013 trial, which saw him sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $7-million for corruption, tax evasion and doing “economic damage” to Cuba.

Mr. Tokmakjian, 74, spent more than three years in prison. Two of his Canadian employees who had been blocked from leaving Cuba were also recently freed. His Concord, Ont.-based Tokmakjian Group reportedly had a $90-million-a-year business on the island importing vehicles and construction equipment. His assets in Cuba were seized. Mr. Yacoubian, a former employee of Mr. Tokmakjian’s who broke away from his boss to build what he said was a $20-million-a-year business in Cuba bringing in similar products, says all of his assets on the island were also seized.

Article continues here: Sarkis Yacoubian

Miami Republican Members of Congress Oppose Cuban Embassy in Washington, Citing Spies 6

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

@PatriciaMazzei, Miami Herald

Miami’s three Cuban-American Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives say they don’t want to see a Cuban embassy opened in Washington D.C. — or a Cuban consulate anywhere else in the country — because it would risk allowing Cuba to spy on the U.S.

There is already a Cuban interests section in D.C., and a Cuban mission to the United Nations.

“We are all too familiar with the Castro regime’s efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against their host countries,” the members of Congress and several colleagues wrote in a letter Thursday to the U.S. State Department. “We believe that allowing Cuba to open an embassy in Washington, D.C. or consulates will further open the door for their espionage activities.”

They also asked to be briefed in detail about the status of the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations.

Signing the letter were Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat and fellow Cuban American, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican whose father was born in Cuba. Cruz is considering a 2016 presidential candidacy.

“The Blockade Has Not Ended” Interview with Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s Top Negotiator & Foreign Ministry Head for U.S. Affairs 2

Senior Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Senior Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

By danielacmke, Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations With Cuba

Cristina Escobar – Cuba and the United States are entering a new stage of diplomatic relations. How can these relations be constructed after so many years of confrontation, and what do the recent talks between the two countries mean? These were the questions posed to Josefina Vidal, Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) Director General for the United States, in an exclusive interview with Cuban television.

Josefina, there are people on the street here in Cuba, and also in the international media saying, or asking, if the United States blockade of Cuba has ended. Is this true?

Josefina Vidal – No, no, the blockade has not ended; what has happened is that the President of the United States, making use of his executive prerogatives, which he has, announced a series of measures modifying the implementation of some aspects of the blockade. It was within this context that a series of regulations were issued – mandated by him and formulated by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce – to expand travel to Cuba, expand as well allowances for remittances, and permit some commercial transactions, still of a limited nature, in spheres such as telecommunications, for example.

Cristina Escobar - When can we say that the blockade has ended? What must happen before we can say it has ended?

Josefina Vidal – Since the blockade was first officially declared in February of 1962, until 1996 when the Helms-Burton law was approved, it was the prerogative of the President; that is, just as President Kennedy had declared the blockade in 1962, a later President could have declared an end to this policy.

In 1996 the Helms-Burton law was approved, which codified the blockade as law, which means it was established that, in the future, the President could not on his own terminate the blockade policy, but rather that it was the United States Congress which had the authority to declare an end to the policy.

Nevertheless, it is very important to point out that the Helms-Burton law itself, in an appendix following the codification of the blockade, clearly establishes that the law does not deny the President his executive prerogatives to authorize, through what is called a licensing procedure, the majority of things related to the blockade.

If this were not the case, President Clinton, in 1998 and 1999, would not have been able to modify some areas which allowed for the expansion of trips to Cuba by some categories of U.S. citizens. If this had not been the case, nor would President Clinton have been able to permit, for example, the limited sending of remittances to our country, nor would Obama, in 2009 and 2011, have been able to reestablish family visits to Cuba, restore permission to send remittances to our country, or allow a group of U.S. citizens, those within 12 categories, to visit our country. And what Obama has done now, that is, using his Presidential prerogatives he has broadened the transactions, the operations which can be done within the framework of a trip, a remittance, some commercial operations, and this means he can continue to use these [prerogatives.]”

Cristina Escobar – Has he used them all?

Josefina Vidal – He has not.

Interview continues here:  Josefina Vidal

 

North Korea, Cuba in ‘Same Trench’ Against US: Minister Reply

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-Yong (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez upon arriving at the Foreign Ministry in Havana, on March 16, 2015

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-Yong (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez upon arriving at the Foreign Ministry in Havana, on March 16, 2015

By AFP

North Korea and Cuba share the same struggle against US aggression, Pyongyang’s foreign minister said Monday as Washington and Havana held new talks on restoring diplomatic ties.

In a visit to Havana that coincided with the latest round of talks on normalizing US-Cuban relations, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-Yong played up the two communist regimes’ history of enmity toward the United States.

North Korea and Cuba “share a history of fighting together in the same trench against American imperialism, which continues to exert economic pressure on our countries to this day,” Ri was quoted as saying by Cuba’s state-run news agency Prensa Latina.

Ri also “highlighted the excellent relations” between the two communist countries and gave his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez “a message from leader Kim Jong-Un expressing his wish to broaden and strengthen (relations) even more,” said the news agency.

Rodriguez reiterated Cuba’s commitment to peacefully reuniting North and South Korea “without foreign interference,” Prensa Latina said.

The visit came as US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson met her Cuban counterpart Josefina Vidal, Havana’s top diplomat for US affairs, for a third round of talks to advance a possible US-Cuban rapprochement announced on December 17.

The thaw threatens to leave North Korea as the last country still ostracized by the United States over Cold War-era grudges.

Ri’s visit, the first by a North Korean official since the US-Cuba talks, came amid heightened tensions with South Korea and the United States over their annual joint military drills, which Pyongyang condemns as rehearsals for invasion.

North Korea responded last week by firing surface-to-air missiles into the sea off its coast.

US, Cuba to Continue Talks on Restoring Diplomatic Ties Monday Reply

By Global Times (China)

The United States and Cuba will hold a new round of talks on re-establishing diplomatic relations and re-opening embassies Monday, the State Department said Friday.

Roberta Jacobson, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, will travel to the Cuban capital of Havana Sunday for talks with Josefina Vidal, Director General of the US Division of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The two sides have been in communication since last meeting held in Washington in February, the State Department said in a statement, adding that “it is in the interest of both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies.”

“A US Embassy in Havana will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values, and increase engagement with the Cuban people,” it said.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December that they have agreed to restore diplomatic relations, in a move to end more than half a century of estrangement between the two countries.

The two sides have held two rounds of talks in hopes of reopening embassies before a regional summit in April.

On Friday, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call that the US still hopes that the embassies could be reopened before the Summit of the Americas slated for April 10-11.

One sticking point of the talks is Cuba’s inclusion in the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982. In announcing the policy shift toward Cuba in December, President Obama instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s designation in the blacklist.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that the US is still reviewing whether Cuba can be removed from the blacklist and will “complete that as quickly as we can.” “We have always said that that should not be linked to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations or opening of embassies,” said the official, who dismissed that Cuba’s support for Venezuela following US sanctions would affect talks between Washington and Havana.

“Cuba has been, obviously, an ally of Venezuela’s for quite a while. Venezuela’s been an ally of Cuba in the past,” the official said. “But what I will say, and I want to be very clear about this, is, it will not have an impact on these conversations moving forward.”

US Sanctions Disrupt Venezuelan Money-Launderers Reply

BPAThe U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) yesterday named Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) as a foreign “money laundering concern.”  FinCEN’s notice also said a senior BPA manager accepted exorbitant commissions to process transactions related to Venezuelan third–party money launderers. “This activity involved the development of shell companies and complex financial products to siphon off funds from Venezuela’s public oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). BPA processed approximately $2 billion in transactions related to this money laundering scheme,” reported FinCEN. Reuters subsequently reported that the government of Andorra has taken control of BPA.