Commentary: The State Department’s René González “Goat Rope” 1

In a story covered by the Associated Press and other media outlets (see yesterday’s posting), Castro regime officials decried their lack of access to René González. A convicted spy and paroled felon, René González was part of the Wasp Network, the largest spy ring EVER KNOWN to have operated in the United States.

So at the risk of being obtuse, why was René González – AN AMERICAN CITIZEN – ever allowed consular visits with Cuban officials in the first place? Which State Department bureaucrat, clearly asleep at the wheel, thought it was a good idea to allow a foreign government access to an American traitor? I can’t imagine any legal interpretation that would ever allow such a fiasco.

Now the State Department finds itself in a real goat rope. Having seen the errors of their ways, they are now refusing Havana’s arrogant and insane request for morale-building visits with its former spy. But having allowed it initially, the Castro brother’s minions are having a field day spinning up the propaganda machine denouncing America’s “unfairness.” Rather than continue to lose the information war to Cuba, the State Department needs to dig deep (way deep), find some intestinal courage, admit the error and remind the world that AMERICAN felons do not rate consular visits from their former spy bosses.

Born in Chicago in 1956, René González was raised in the city’s “North Side.” As a youngster, his parents took him on outings to Lake Michigan, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Riverview Amusement Park. Initially raised on the 1300 block of bustling North Ashland Avenue (a Polish neighborhood), better-paying jobs later took the family to northwest Indiana. When he was five years old, his parents left the U.S. to join the fledgling Cuban Revolution.

Havana Complains US Not Approving Consular Visits for Intelligence Agent Freed on Parole in US 1

By Peter Orsi, The Associated Press

HAVANA – The Cuban government complained Wednesday that U.S. officials are not granting consular access for an intelligence agent who walked free from prison in 2011 but was ordered to remain in the United States during his three-year parole. A Foreign Ministry statement that was emailed to reporters and published on the front page of Communist Party newspaper Granma said the Cuban Interests Section in Washington has presented “several alternatives for continuing regular consular visits,” but the U.S. State Department rejected them. It accused Washington of violating the 1963 Vienna Convention governing consular access, and called it an attempt to continue punishing Rene Gonzalez, one of the so-called Cuban Five, even after his release. “This deliberate and cruel decision also represents an additional punishment that is added to the already strict conditions of Rene‘s supervised release,” the statement read. A State Department official contacted by The Associated Press was not immediately able to comment on Gonzalez‘s case.

Cuban diplomats in Washington are generally restricted from leaving the capital without getting special permission, as are U.S. envoys to Havana. Gonzalez was released in Florida and has been living in an undisclosed location. The Cuban Foreign Ministry said consular access had been authorized for Gonzalez during his 13 years in prison and the first months of his supervised release, but that Washington stopped approving the visits in September 2012. The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later of being part of a ring that sought to spy on Florida military installations, Cuban exile groups and politicians opposed to Castro’s government. One of the agents was also convicted of murder conspiracy connected to Cuban fighter jets’ shooting down of an exile flight over the Florida Straits in 1996. Havana maintains that the men were no threat to U.S. national security and were only monitoring militant anti-Castro exiles in Florida, some of whom are blamed for a string of bombings in Cuba.

Gonzalez, a Cuban and U.S. dual citizen, was released in October 2011 after serving all but two years of a 15-year sentence. He is under a judge’s orders not to leave the country, though he was allowed a brief trip to Cuba last year to visit his ailing brother. The other four Cubans are still behind bars serving sentences ranging up to life in prison. Reviled as spies by Miami exiles, the Cuban Five are lauded as national heroes by Havana authorities, who constantly bang the drum for their repatriation.

Cuba, meanwhile, is holding American government contractor Alan Gross on a 15-year prison sentence for crimes against the state after he was caught bringing restricted communications equipment to the island as part of a USAID democracy-building program. He says he did nothing wrong and was only trying to boost the Internet capabilities of the island’s small Jewish community. Cuba considers such USAID programs a violation of its sovereignty. Cuba has expressed interest in swapping Gross for at least some of the Cuban Five.

Cuba Does Not Merit Terrorism Delisting 1

By Jose Cardenas in Foreign Policy (via Capitol Hill Cubans)

Floating policy trial balloons is longstanding Washington custom. Not so common is when that balloon gets blasted out of the sky by the “senior official” leaker’s own administration. That’s what happened last week when the Boston Globe reported that, “High-level U.S. diplomats have concluded that Cuba should no longer be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.” Yet the ink was barely dry on that report before both the White House and State Department utterly repudiated any notion that Cuba would soon be de-listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

As I have written in this space before, de-listing Cuba has been a long-sought goal of a die-hard cadre of critics of the United States’ Cuba policy. Why? Well, it seems that the Castro regime, which was born in terrorist violence, aided and abetted it across four continents over three decades, and whose training camps produced such international luminaries as Carlos the Jackal, is upset that it continues to be listed as a state-sponsor of terrorism. And, what’s more, Washington policymakers ought to be vexed by that, because it is an “obstacle” to normalized relations. It turns out that the Globe report was simple mischief-making by some apparently inconsequential U.S. official, clearly meant to provide succor to the de-listing campaign. As was noted deeper in the story, “U.S. officials emphasized that there has not been a formal assessment concluding that Cuba should be removed from the terrorism list and said serious obstacles remain to a better relationship, especially the imprisonment of [development worker Alan] Gross.”

Still, since the subject has been raised, it’s worthwhile to examine just what it has taken for other countries to be removed from the state sponsors list. In 2007, Libya was de-listed after Muammar al-Qaddafi terminated his WMD program and renounced terrorism by severing ties with radical groups, closing training camps, and extraditing terrorism suspects. He also accepted responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing and paid compensation to the victims.

In 2008, in a controversial decision, the Bush administration de-listed North Korea for progress that was being made on ending the country’s nuclear program.

Clearly, removal from the list usually follows some pro-active, game-changing actions by a country. What pro-active measures has Cuba ever adopted? The answer is none. Just being too broke to support terrorism anymore hardly merits any action on the U.S. part.

Moreover, according to the law, before de-listing, an administration must not only certify to Congress that a country has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period, but that it has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

In Cuba’s case, even if relevant U.S. agencies can conclude that the Castro regime has not provided material support for a terrorist act in the last six months — that is, apart from its terrorizing of its own people, which continues apace — where is the regime’s public renouncement of its past support for international terrorism and assurance that it will not support any acts in the future?

Is even that too much to demand? Of course, it is. The Castro regime will not issue any such statement because it doesn’t believe it has done anything wrong since 1959. They maintain that they are the victims of U.S. policy and are deserving of all the concessions, without any quid pro quo. The regime can no more renounce terrorism than renounce their totalitarian state — and that is why they belong on the terrorism list until they give the U.S. government a real reason to be taken off.

The Media’s Love Affair With Castro Collaborators Reply

The Fourth Estate’s torrid tryst with sympathizers of the Cuban Revolution continues this week with the Huffington Post again running a feature by longtime Raulista and “former” Cuban Intelligence Officer, Arturo Lopez-Levy: Cuba Under Raul Castro: Economic Reform as Priority?

Not to be outdone, the Associated Press published Cuba’s new heir apparent has work cut out for him and the Pacific Standard ran Our Guide Proves Prescient in Outlining Post-Castro Cuba. Both of these articles star “award-winning” journalist Ann Louise Bardach, who has admitted that a Cuban spy attempted to recruit her during a visit to its Interests Section in Washington. News flash: when a journalist and self-professed “Cuba Expert” is targeted for recruitment by the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), it’s safe to say that said journalist’s opinions and publications are already very pro-Castro.

Editor’s Note: At no time did any of the news outlets advise their readers of their sources’ “previous” associations with Cuban Intelligence.

Brothers to the Rescue Remembered: A Salute to the Pilots Shot Down on This Day by Cuba 1

By Miraisy Rodriguez

I was 5 years old and strapped to a tall pole across from my 3-year-old sister. The pole, a mast for a sail that was never very useful, was in the center of a raft being thrown about the Florida Straits. I don’t remember the nights, but I’m told they were so dark my mother, sitting between us, could not see us, but only feel us. I don’t remember being wet or cold, but my parents tell me the waves rolling over us were about 20 feet high. I don’t remember the sun, but after four days at sea, my skin was two shades darker than what most women would pay for at a tanning salon.

If there were a soundtrack to my life, Willy Chirino’s Nuestro Día (Our Day) would be one of the first songs on the album. The first two verses always bring tears to my eyes and remind me of the danger my family was in when Brothers to the Rescue saved our lives. Brothers to the Rescue is the organization whose pilots kept a watchful, protective eye for rafters making the perilous journey from Cuba to freedom. It was 17 years ago today that four of them were ambushed in the sky and killed by Cuban MiGs.

Tired of living in a country where he was persecuted for uttering disapproval of the government’s hateful policies and tactics, my father, then 25 years old, decided it was time to leave. My mother refused to stay behind with two young girls and no future. So after hiding in a military neighborhood for most of the summer of 1992 — and six days after Hurricane Andrew had destroyed Homestead — my family left Cuba. We left just before dawn through the middle of Varadero, a popular, and hence heavily patrolled, beach. We left on a raft engineered and built by my father with the help of a few other men who left with us.

There were nine of us — although it nearly became 10. My parents tell me that a drunk who was walking the beach helped push the raft away from the shore, then begged to come with us. But our food and water supplies were carefully rationed for nine. Our vessel, if you could call it that, was full. I remember only snippets of that night. Mostly, I recall darkness, tall grass, running on the sand, and my little sister crying while my mother tried desperately to keep her quiet. Though it was four days and two more nights before we were spotted by Brothers to the Rescue, the next thing I remember is eating delicious pastelitos. A creative humanitarian in that plane fashioned a parachute, out of a cardboard box filled with Cuban pastries from Miami, and tied it to an actual message in a bottle. The sweet parachute fell to the water and bobbed around just close enough for someone in our party to reach.
My mother recalls it was the first food in almost a week that my sister and I were able to keep down. The “bottle,” a clear plastic jar with a white sticker and bold red letters that read: “Hermanos Al Rescate” — Brothers to the Rescue — held a message that had my sister and I standing and waving excitedly up at the sky: “Don’t despair. God is with you and the U.S. Coast Guard is on its way from Key West.” I am now 26, and that plastic jar has had a place of honor in our family’s kitchen for over 20 years. Today it is filled with coffee beans my aunt sent from Cuba when she heard we were alive and safe.

Since Feb. 24, 1996, these memories are tinged by sadness. That is the day I heard that two Brothers to the Rescue planes had been shot out of the sky by Cuban military planes. As a 9-year-old child, I don’t think I understood what was going on. All I knew then of Brothers to the Rescue was that we had one of their bottles in our kitchen, and that they had sent us delicious pastries when we couldn’t keep down the tinned spam my mother had tried feeding us on that raft.

Today I am a young Cuban-American about to graduate from law school. When I see the plastic jar, I think of those men who died in the shootdown and wonder if they could have been the same pilots involved in my own family’s rescue. I may not have known them personally, but they have my eternal respect: Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre Jr., Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales.

Cuba’s Designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism Reaffirms The Regime’s Long Standing Threat to U.S. National Security Interests, Says Ros-Lehtinen 1

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, released the following statement regarding Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“I am relieved that the State Department spokesman stated today that it is not true that Cuba is being considered to be taken off the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. The Castro brothers align themselves with the likes of Ahmadinejad of Iran, al-Assad of Syria, Qaddafi of Libya before his death, along with terrorist groups, such as the FARC and the ETA. Just this week, Ali Saeedlou, Vice-President for International Affairs for fellow State Sponsor of Terrorism Iran, is in Cuba visiting the Castro brothers to expand its collaboration between these pariah states.

No one can ignore the well documented threats of the Cuban Intelligence Service (CIS). CIS has a longstanding record of expanding their active espionage operation against the U.S. The WASP network was an example of Cuban spies sent to the U.S. to harm our interests and kill American citizens. The Cuban Five were convicted of trying to penetrate U.S. military installations and the Ana Belen Montes case reaffirmed the intention of the Castro regime to compromise U.S. national security operations and activities. Montes also provided highly classified information to the Cuban regime which is believed to have caused the death of U.S. servicemen operating in Latin America. The Cuban regime also harbors fugitives of the U.S. justice system, including cop killers, and continues to provide support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It is important to keep Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism because the secretive and dangerous regime conspires with extremist elements around the world and, due to its proximity to the US, poses a threat to our national security.”

Obama Urged to Take Lead on Easing Cuba Policy 1

By Guy Taylor, The Washington Times

The Obama administration should — and has the legal authority to — use its executive power to begin lifting the decades-old embargo on trade with Cuba, according to two papers this week issued by an influential Latin America think tank and a leading Cuban exile group. The New York-based Council on the Americas and the Washington-based Cuba Study Group both call on the White House to ease the 60-year-old embargo in order to promote free market activity on the communist island. The State Department so far has declined to comment on the documents, but one official described the Council on the Americas as “influential” and told The Washington Times that the State Department does “appreciate their views.”

Circulation of the white papers came the same week that a delegation of U.S. lawmakers, headed by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, met with Cuban President Raul Castro in an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of Maryland contractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009. Mr. Gross is accused of illegally bringing communications equipment to Cuba as part of a democracy-building program supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. His detention remains a source of friction between Washington and Havana.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland categorically denied a Boston Globe report Thursday which suggested that newly confirmed Secretary of State John F. Kerry may be seriously considering removing Havana from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism as a first step to improved relations. Citing interviews with “a series of top administration officials and members of Congress,” the newspaper reported that “there is a growing consensus in policy and intelligence circles that Cuba’s support for terrorist groups has been terminated and the country should be removed from the list — much like the George W. Bush administration did with North Korea in 2008.” Ms. Nuland said The Globe piece was “incorrect,” telling reporters at Thursday’s briefing that “this department has no current plans to remove Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list.” She added, however, that officials review the list annually and will do so during 2013.

Questions about Cuba’s status coincide with growing speculation in Washington that Mr. Kerry — a former Democratic senator from Massachusetts — may be eager to push the White House toward an easing of relations with the communist island. Mr. Kerry did not single out Cuba during his wide-ranging foreign policy address Wednesday at the University of Virginia, but he did publish an article in 2009 in The St. Petersburg Times calling for a lifting of all restrictions to travel to the island.

The white papers circulated this week argue that Mr. Obama should do just that despite a law preventing the restoration of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations without congressional approval.
The 1996 Helms-Burton Act also blocks the lifting of the embargo on trade unless significant democratic reforms are implemented and a functional democratic government is established on the island. The Cuba Study Group called on Congress to repeal the 1996 law, saying it would allow the White House to “adopt more efficient, targeted policies necessary for pressuring the Cuban leadership to respect human rights and implement political reforms, while simultaneously empowering all other sectors of society to purse their economic well-being and become the authors of their own futures.”

The Council on the Americas paper argues that Mr. Obama could work around restrictions associated with Cuba’s current status as a state sponsor of terrorism. The White House, according to the paper, should “grant exceptions” for “sales and imports” of goods for businesses in Cuba that can prove they are not working for the Castro regime, as well as allowing for the “sale of telecommunications hardware” such as cellphone towers and satellite dishes in Cuba.

On Eve of Cuba’s 1996 Terrorist Attack on Four Americans, Washington Considers Delisting Havana as State Sponsor of Terror 1

Talk Grows of Taking Cuba off Terror List: Kerry reviewing policy that could pave way for renewed relations

By Bryan Bender, (Boston) Globe Staff

WASHINGTON — High-level US diplomats have concluded that Cuba should no longer be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, raising the prospect that Secretary of State John F. Kerry could remove a major obstacle to restoring relations with the Cold War-era foe, government officials said. Cuba no longer actively supports terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, or former members of Spain’s Basque Fatherland and Liberty, also known as the ETA, according to State Department findings. And interviews with a series of top administration officials and members of Congress indicate there is a growing consensus in policy and intelligence circles that Cuba’s support for terrorist groups has been terminated and the country should be removed from the list — much like the George W. Bush administration did with North Korea in 2008.

Kerry has met in recent days with officials to review the Cuba policy. The pressure to de-list Cuba as a terrorism sponsor comes as a bipartisan congressional delegation traveled to Cuba this week to discuss how the two estranged nations might find ways to lift a US embargo in place for five decades and cooperate on a host of economic, agricultural, and security matters. But the delegation, which included Representative James P. McGovern of Worcester, left Cuba on Wednesday after failing in its immediate goal: to win the release of an American prisoner, Alan Gross. The nearly four-year standoff over Gross is among a number of matters holding up efforts to improve relations.

But despite that failure, the meetings were constructive, and the tone promising, McGovern said in a phone interview, after meeting with President Raul Castro in Havana on Tuesday. “They are interested in improving relations because it is in their interest. I feel they are really interested in sitting down and engaging, where everything is on the table — the embargo, the travel restrictions, migration, everything,” McGovern said. The Gross case, he said, can be resolved, but it is “going to take some negotiations.” Gross is an American contractor who was arrested in 2009 while providing communications technology to Cuba’s Jewish community as part of a US-financed democracy-building program.

A major impediment to normalizing relations with Cuba, according to McGovern and others, is that Cuba has been listed by the State Department each year since 1982 as a sponsor of terrorist groups. Yet that is a view no longer held by a number of senior US officials. Even North Korea, which the Obama administration has criticized for conducting nuclear tests and making threatening comments toward the United States, is not listed as a terrorism sponsor. That contrast is one reason for calls within the State Department to consider taking Cuba off the list.

“There is a pretty clear case . . . that they don’t really meet the standard anymore,” said a senior administration official with direct knowledge regarding US-Cuba policy who was not authorized to speak publicly. “They have neither the wherewithal nor are they doing much.” In addition to Cuba, the list of terrorist sponsors includes Syria, Sudan, and Iran. Inclusion imposes strict sanctions. For example, it prohibits the United States from selling arms, providing economic assistance, and restricts financial transactions between citizens. Countries that were removed from the list in recent years include North Korea, Libya, and Iraq.

The United States initially cut off diplomatic relations in 1961, and later put in place a trade embargo. Cuba served as a satellite for the Soviet Union and flash point of the Cold War, most famously in 1962 when Russia placed nuclear missiles on the island. The Cuban government also armed and trained Marxist revolutionaries across Latin America and Africa during the 1970s and 1980s.

US officials emphasized that there has not been a formal assessment concluding that Cuba should be removed from the terrorism list and said serious obstacles remain to a better relationship, especially the imprisonment of Gross.

Cuba has said it would release the 63-year-old in exchange for the so-called Cuban Five, convicted Cuban intelligence operatives being held by the United States. The Obama administration, however, has publicly refused to entertain such a trade, and officials said there is unlikely to be significant improvement in the relationship until Gross is released. But Kerry, who played a key role in normalizing relations with communist Vietnam in the early 1990s, is seen as particularly receptive to new ways to change a relationship many believe to be a relic of the Cold War. Recalling his work on Vietnam, Kerry published an article in 2009 in the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, where the Cuba issue remains politically charged. His article called for a lifting of all travel restrictions.

The result of normalized relations with Vietnam has produced a former foe “that is less isolated, more market-oriented, and, yes, freer. . . . Yet when it comes to a small impoverished island 90 miles off the coast of Florida, we cling to a policy that has manifestly failed for nearly 50 years. “While our Cuba policy has largely stood still, reality has changed dramatically. Today, the Cuban “threat” is a faint shadow, change is afoot in the Cuban leadership, and — importantly — Cuban-Americans increasingly seek broad, far-reaching interaction across the Florida Straits,” Kerry wrote. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2011, Kerry also temporarily held up US funding for the democracy-building programs in Cuba, similar to the one Gross was associated with, out of concern that they were not effective and unnecessarily confrontational.

The Obama administration cannot fully restore diplomatic relations with the Castro regime without the approval of Congress because a 1996 law stipulates that the trade embargo cannot be lifted until the nation makes democratic reforms. But Obama could remove Cuba from the terrorist list without congressional approval. “Clearly [the Cubans] are agitated by that and they have been for some time,” said McGovern, who said the issue of the terror designation was raised by the Cubans this week. “That is something the administration could do on its own and they should.”

A number of other big obstacles also block a new approach in US-Cuban relations. A primary one is the Cuban government’s continued crackdown on political dissidents. US officials maintain that while Cuba has liberalized some aspects of its economy and recently lifted restrictions on Cubans’ ability to travel outside the country; it still does not tolerate opposition to its one-party system. As a result, there remain deep divisions over US-Cuba policy. Roger Noriega, who served as assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs in the Bush administration, said “the fact that the Cuban people are systematically denied human rights remains the single biggest obstacle. It is not about us. It is not about Alan Gross. It is not about the terror designation. It is the reality on the ground. Until they dismantle the police state and free political prisoners no unilateral steps should be taken.”

Even the State Department’s most recent reports to Congress have downplayed Cuba’s role in terrorism. Last year, the State Department reported that “there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training for either ETA or the FARC.”

Editor’s Note: In February 1996, the Castro government murdered four Americans in international airspace over the Straits of Florida. The intelligence component of the mission — codenamed Operation Scorpion — was executed by the Wasp Network, a massive spy ring which spread from Key West north to New York City and then west to Louisiana and Mexico City. The Wasp Network was run by the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) in partnership with the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM). All aspects of the downing of the two unarmed civilian aircraft were personally approved by both Raul and Fidel Castro.

Blogger Yoani Sánchez Says Comment on ‘Cuban Five’ Was Ironic, Misunderstood Reply

By Juan Carlos Chávez,

Opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez stirred controversy in Brazil on Wednesday when she made a ironic comment about the Cuban government’s misuses of money, time and resources in an international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies. She had said that if that they were freed, the Cuban government would save millions of dollars. Hours later, Sánchez clarified her position through several messages sent through social media.

The five men were convicted in 2000 of spying on anti-Castro groups in Miami. As part of a spy ring called the Wasp Network, they were linked to the Cuban government’s 1996 shoot-down over the Florida Straits of two planes carrying members of the exile group Brothers to the Rescue. Four South Florida men were killed. Cuba has waged a relentless campaign for the release of the men known as the “Cuban Five.’’ “The amount of money that my country’s government is spending on this worldwide campaign, on [ad] space of international media by the Interior Ministry, the number of hours spent in schools talking about those five people, in order to bring that campaign to an end, they should free them,’’ said Sánchez, 37. “I’m worried about my country’s coffers and would prefer their release to see if they save more [money] because there are more issues on the table.”

Hours after the story was published in El Nuevo Herald, she sent posted this comment on the paper’s home page: “At no moment in Brazil did I ask for the five members of the Cuban Interior Ministry to be free. I was using irony to express my views that if they’re free right now, the government would save millions of dollars that it is now paying in this campaign that has lasted for 15 years. “If the irony didn’t work, if the words that I used weren’t the right ones, I apologize. My position is the same: They’re not innocent.” Sanchez also Tweeted several messages that underscored this view.

Sánchez is the creator of the blog Generación Y, a columnist for foreign newspapers, and a prolific user of social media to shed light on life in Cuba. She made her remarks Wednesday during a visit to the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia. Her initial comments spread quickly on the Internet and in South Florida after they appeared on the Viewpoint blog of journalist Joan Antonio Guerrero Vall, a collaborator of Martí Noticias. In her meeting with Brazilian lawmakers, Sánchez also had criticized the U.S. trade embargo, saying it was “interventionist” and has not worked. “As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and not in order of importance, it should end as soon as possible is that it is used by the Cuban government as the fundamental reason to explain its economic failure and political and social repression,” she said.

Sánchez had been denied permission to travel abroad for a decade by the Cuban government, but under a new travel and migration policy Cuba enacted last month, Cubans no longer need an exit visit to leave the island. The blogger quickly took advantage of the new policy and accepted invitations to speak in Latin America, Europe, and the U.S.

She is scheduled to speak at Miami’s Freedom Tower, a former processing center for Cuba refugees, on April 1 and receive the Miami Dade College Presidential Medal for championing human rights. Asked if the college had a response to the future honoree’s remarks in Brazil, Juan Mendieta, MDC’s director of communications, said, “We’re focused on our event. We’re not going to get into this debate.’’

Miami Herald reporters Mimi Whitefield and Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.