Is Obama Contemplating Unilateral Action on Cuba? 3

President Obama and Raul Castro

President Obama and Raul Castro

The Spanish foreign minister’s recent statement that he would bring ‘concrete messages’ from the US government to Havana has some Republicans speculating that President Obama is looking to move further away from decades-old policy on Cuba.

By Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor

Is President Obama about to take unilateral steps to ease US relations with Cuba?

A number of recent developments – from Mr. Obama’s recourse to executive action on immigration to the Spanish foreign minister’s enigmatic statement that he would be carrying “very concrete messages” from the US government when he visits Havana this week – have some Republicans fretting that the White House aims to move even further from decades-old policy of isolating communist Cuba.

Obama last took action on Cuba in 2011, when he eased travel restrictions on Americans visiting the island. But a year ago in Florida, he raised eyebrows – and the hopes of supporters about a new US direction with Cuba – when he spoke of wanting “to continue to update our policies.”

It makes no sense, the president said, to continue with policies from 1961 “in the age of the Internet and Google and world travel.”

Some advocates of liberalized relations with Cuba are pressing the administration for concrete steps before April. That’s when Obama is slated to take part in the Summit of the Americas in Panama, which is expected to be the first such hemispheric gathering to include Cuba.

In the past, the United States has vetoed Cuba’s participation on the grounds that the gathering is limited to the hemisphere’s democracies, but a number of countries have said they would not attend next year’s summit if Cuba were once again barred.

But supporters of the status quo on relations with Cuba counter that if the US has stuck with policies from the 1960s – notably an embargo – it’s because the Castro regime that came to power in that era continues today to deny the Cuban people the democratic governance and human rights that most of the rest of the Western Hemisphere enjoys.

Last week Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio used a confirmation hearing for Antony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser and his choice to become deputy secretary of State, to grill Mr. Blinken about “chatter” in Washington that Obama intends to make “unilateral change” on US-Cuba policy.

Ending the embargo would require congressional action, but there are other steps the president could take to redirect US policy on Cuba.

Feature continues here:  Will Obama Go It Alone On Cuba?


Pro-Castro New York Times Journalist Enjoying Thanksgiving in Havana 4

Colombian journalist Ernesto Londoño

Colombian journalist Ernesto Londoño

The Reporter for The New York Times Who Writes about Cuba is Visiting Havana

Submitted by:   Camila,

Colombian journalist Ernesto Londoño, who campaign publishers (sic) of The New York Times about Cuba is attributed, is in Havana for work, as revealed on his Twitter account.

“Eager to travel to Cuba, which last visited as a college student, more than a decade,” Londoño said in the social network before departure and showed a picture of his ticket Miami-Havana flight American Airlines.

“Happy to be in Havana on a working trip”, released four hours later. “Which topics are you curious about?” he asked to his followers.

Ernesto Londono, 33, came to the Editorial Board of The New York Times last September. Previously he worked at The Washington Post.

Starting October 11, the New York daily began publishing a weekly article dedicated to defending a change in US policy toward Cuba. So far are six. “And we intend to publish more,” said Londoño. Editorials in the last six weeks have called for ending the embargo and an exchange of the three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States by the US contractor Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba. They have also criticized Washington programs to promote democracy in Cuba and the US program that helps Cuban doctors to escape from missions abroad organized by Cuban government.

Andrew Rosenthal, director of the Editorial Board of The New York Times said the series of articles on Cuba correspond to the historical stance that has had the newspaper regarding the embargo. Also with the view that supposedly the conditions for a resumption of relations between Washington and Havana are given “for the first time in over 50 years.”

Original Source: Diario de Cuba

“Former” Cuban Spy Arturo Lopez-Levy Criticizes Castro Regime Fees on US Travelers 2

People wait outside José Martí International Airport in Havana in 2009 for friends and relatives arriving from the United States. Fees levied on flights from the United States are many times higher than for any others. ASSOCAITED PRESS FILE

People wait outside José Martí International Airport in Havana in 2009 for friends and relatives arriving from the United States. Fees levied on flights from the United States are many times higher than for any others. ASSOCAITED PRESS FILE

Fees for Americans a Sore Spot in Cuba Travel

By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff

TAMPA — The battle for the Cuban charter flight business out of Tampa International Airport has landed in federal court, exposing what U.S. citizens must pay the secretive Cuban government for use of Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

The annual total is somewhere between $31 million and $62 million — more than any other nation pays, said one Cuba analyst — enough to make critics question whether the fee is covering actual costs or going to support Cuba’s ruling Castro regime.

Tampa International Airport, by comparison, received $14.6 million in landing fees during 2014 for flights from airlines based in every nation that lands here.

On a per-flight basis, the same U.S. plane that pays $275 for landing fees at Tampa International pays up to $24,000 in Havana.

The cost estimates on U.S.-Cuba flights is based on two factors: the revelation in court documents that landing fees range as high as $148 for each U.S. passenger, coupled with the projection that two-thirds of the 635,000 Americans traveling to the island nation in 2014 are destined for the capital city of Havana.

“It is a way to get more money off the U.S. since the U.S. government blocks it from making money in other ways,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a policy analyst for the Cuban government from 1992-94 who now is an academic in Denver and an advocate for better relations between Cuba and the U.S.

Lopez-Levy said the U.S. is the only nation in the world that pays such high fees to land in Havana.

The $148 figure is included in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami pitting one company that offered flights between Tampa and Cuba against another.

Miami-based Island Travel & Tours alleges in the suit that Cypress, California-based Cuba Travel Services sets ticket prices artificially low to drive out competition, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Island Travel Tours began offering charter flights to Cuba from Tampa in October 2011. Cuba Travel Services entered the market in December.

In May, Island Travel Tours ceased flights out of Tampa. It continues to fly to Havana out of Miami.

At that time, in an interview with the Tribune, company President Bill Hauf blamed saturation of the charter flight industry from Tampa International Airport to Cuba coupled with predatory pricing by his competitor.

Now the court will take up the allegations.

In its lawsuit, Island Travel Tours lays out all fees charged to U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba in an attempt to demonstrate that Cuba Charter Services undercut prices:

♦$58.90 per passenger in United States passenger fees;

♦$148 per passenger for a José Martí International Airport landing fee;

♦$46 per passenger for a Cuba required medical insurance fee.

Story continues here:   US Tourists Fund Regime


Baltimore Sun Commentary: Maryland Delegation Should Petition for Release of Cuban Five 1

Two U.S. senators who traveled to Cuba are extremely disappointed they're returning without Maryland's Alan Gross.

Two U.S. senators who traveled to Cuba are extremely disappointed they’re returning without Maryland’s Alan Gross.

By Kurt L. Schmoke

In 1999, I accompanied the Baltimore Orioles on their historic trip to Havana, Cuba. This marked the first time since 1959 that a Major League Baseball team played in Cuba. Many of us hoped that a baseball game involving teams from the United States and Cuba might be a precursor to normalized diplomatic relations the way a ping-pong match signaled a change in U.S. relations with China. Unfortunately, those hopes were not fulfilled.

see how life had changed since the Orioles’ visit. What I learned was that, on a people-to-people basis, the citizens of Cuba and the United States desire close ties and normal business relations, but the governments of our two countries remain stuck in Cold War-era political battles. Although both Cuban and American doctors are in West Africa fighting the Ebola crisis, such cooperation remains the exception rather than the rule.

One hears statements from some government officials about a willingness to begin a new era of diplomatic relations the way a new era seemed to begin in U.S.-Soviet relations with the destruction of the Berlin Wall. However, there always seems to be a roadblock erected just as the parties move forward. The current roadblock involves the imprisonment in Cuba of Maryland resident Alan Gross and the imprisonment in the United States of a group known as the Cuban Five. I believe that the Maryland delegation to Congress may hold the key to opening the prison doors for all these men and subsequently opening a new era of diplomacy for these two countries.

Alan Gross, a 65-year-old from Montgomery County, was arrested in Cuba in 1999 while working on a contract sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase Internet access in small communities across the country. The Cuban government alleged that his work entailed acts detrimental to the Republic of Cuba (essentially labeling him a spy) and sentenced him to a term of 15 years. He has served four years. His friends and supporters indicate that he is in very poor health, having lost about 100 pounds while incarcerated.

The Cuban Five are, in fact, intelligence officers sent to Miami in the 1990s to collect information on local anti-Castro groups allegedly engaging in activities that violated U.S. law, including acts of violence designed to bring down the Castro regime. Although the U.S. government received evidence supporting those allegations, U.S. prosecutors targeted not the groups in question but instead the five Cuban intelligence officers. The government chose to prosecute the Cuban Five in — of all places — Miami.

Opinion continues here:  Schmoke

Agente Cubano Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy: La USAID y los peligros de colaborar con terroristas (II) 2

canfPor Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy

La FNCA ha sido desde su creación un instrumento para condicionar la política norteamericana hacia Cuba.

Muchos elementos evidencian cómo las diferentes administraciones norteamericanas la han empleado, indistintamente, como punta de lanza de su política agresiva, recibiendo fondos millonarios a través de sus agencias federales como la CIA y la USAID para articular en cada momento sus planes encaminados a destruir por cualquier vía posible a la Revolución.

Cuando les ha sido necesario, tal como ocurrió con el destape de las corruptelas de Adolfo Franco, han colocado en la USAID a personeros de la FNCA como José Cárdenas, ex directivo de la misma. Esta fue la salida para descongelar en el 2008 los fondos destinados para propiciar la subversión contra Cuba y tratar de mantener las emisiones de Radio y TV Martí.

La ambiciosa FNCA publicó por ese entonces un informe en el que denunció que tan solo el 17 % de los fondos eran realmente empleados para apoyar a la contrarrevolución interna. Fue una jugada maestra encaminada a lograr el malsano propósito de monopolizar el dinero de la USAID, desplazando del privilegiado papel a otras organizaciones radicadas en EE UU, tales como el Centro por una Cuba libre, el Directorio Democrático Cubano, el Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia y Acción Democrática.

No fue, sin embargo, hasta el 2011 cuando la USAID comenzó a tener en cuenta con más atención a la FNCA y a su Fundación para los Derechos Humanos en Cuba (FHRC), luego de haberle retirado su financiamiento tras los escándalos de sus vínculos con Luis Posada Carriles y la oleada terrorista en la década de los noventa, así como su participación en el secuestro del niño Elián González, lo cual provocó una seria caída de imagen para la misma. La USAID tuvo siempre la certeza de que la FNCA empleó parte de los fondos entregados a ella en actividades terroristas contra objetivos económicos, políticos y sociales dentro de Cuba, distanciándose de la misma, al menos, de forma pública.

Fue en el 2011 cuando la USAID aprobó 3.4 millones de USD para la FHRC, parte de los que fueron dirigidos hacia los grupúsculos contrarrevolucionarios por los que apostaban los directores de la FNCA. Otra parte importante de los fondos, a falta de serias auditorías, fueron a parar a los bolsillos de los propios intermediarios y unos pocos liderzuelos dentro de la Isla.

Los envíos destinados por la FHRC a sus grupúsculos seleccionados, fundamentalmente consistentes en computadoras, teléfonos celulares, cámaras, materiales impresos, soportes digitales, alimentos, medicinas, productos higiénicos y ropa, nunca han sido significativos.

Agente Cubano

Alan Gross Loses Appeal in Case Against U.S. Government 1

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

Latin American Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON – An appellate court in Washington D.C. has rejected a lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by Alan Gross, an American subcontractor who is serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba on a conviction for subversion, judicial officials said.

Gross claimed that the government had not alerted him to the risks that his work on the Communist-ruled island entailed.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday upheld a lower court’s finding that the government has sovereign immunity because the damage the plaintiff suffered occurred outside the United States.

Gross and his wife, Judy, filed the $60 million lawsuit in November 2010, accusing the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bethesda, Maryland-based contractor he worked for, Development Alternatives Inc., of negligence.

In the lawsuit, they alleged that neither DAI nor the government warned him of the risks of the Cuba mission and refused to pull him out after he expressed concerns.

The couple reached a settlement with DAI in 2013 for an undisclosed sum but a U.S. district court threw out their suit against USAID, prompting them to bring the case to the appeals court in Washington.

USAID contracted Maryland-based DAI for a project to expand Internet access and the flow of information in Cuba.

DAI hired Gross to travel to the island, where he was detained in December 2009 with satellite communications equipment he was planning to distribute among Cuba’s Jewish community. Cuban authorities said Gross was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 15 years.

Havana has suggested an exchange of Gross for three Cuban intelligence agents serving time in U.S. prisons.

The United States rejects talk of a prisoner swap, instead demanding that Cuba release Gross without conditions.

Agente Cubano Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy: La USAID y los peligros de colaborar con terroristas (I) 4

PercyPor Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy

Nada resulta casual cuando se trata de la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba y los pretendidos cambios “significativos” dentro de la USAID, tienen una clara explicación, siempre que resulten ciertos y este anuncio no sea más que una maniobra de distracción.

La primera e irrebatible verdad es que todo el diseño de la política norteamericana ha sido un rotundo fracaso desde el triunfo revolucionario de 1959. Administración tras administración, la promesa de cada estrenado presidente de revertir el proceso histórico cubano se ha convertido, a lo largo de cada mandato, en un fiasco. Esto ha sido un mal evitable si se hubiera actuado con cordura y franca diplomacia, si se hubiera respetado nuestra soberanía y no se hubieran tramado operaciones encubiertas ni otros tipos de acciones violatorias del derecho internacional. Pero ni un solo presidente USA entró en razón al respecto.

Ni el criminal y sostenido bloqueo, ni el terrorismo criminal y desmedido, ni la más tenebrosa guerra mediática, han podido con la Revolución Cubana. El no reconocer este fracaso y continuar actuando con prepotencia y tozudez, ha sido el principal error de EE UU durante décadas.

Esa es la principal causa del replanteamiento de la labor de la USAID con respecto a Cuba, notificado por Asociated Press en los último días, según la cual se estarían preparando nuevas “normas internas” que prohibirían el empleo de acciones y programas encubiertos para subvertir nuestro orden constitucional.

Otra de las causas a tener en cuenta sobre la necesidad de un cambio en la política USA con respecto a Cuba lo ha sido la lenta toma de conciencia por parte de algunos medios de comunicación –entiéndase AP y The New York Times-, así como el impacto provocado por las recientes denuncias de estos medios no solo sobre los programas subversivos implementados por la USAID, sino sobre la necesidad de un cambio total en la vieja y añeja política norteamericana hacia nuestra patria.

Uno de los más absurdos errores de la USAID es manejar equivocadamente el concepto de sociedad civil al referirse a una insignificante contrarrevolución interna, cuando la sociedad civil cubana apoya mayoritariamente a la Revolución, por cuanto sus programas comienzan con un fallo de raíz al ser concebidos e implementados.

El escandaloso empleo del dinero de los contribuyentes norteamericanos en programas secretos como ZunZuneo, remedo de Twitter encaminado a influir en nuestra juventud con matrices de opinión preestablecidas desde el exterior, así como otros planes desestabilizadores, cuya eficacia ha sido puesta en entredicho, también ha sido motivo de críticas en los últimos tiempos.

La USAID y los peligros de colaborar con terroristas (I)

Cuba’s Slave Trade in Doctors: Havana Earns Almost $8 Billion a Year Off the Backs of the Health Workers it Sends to Poor Countries 1

Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Mary Anastasia O’Grady

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal

Western cultures don’t approve of human trafficking, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited.” Yet it’s hard to find any journalist, politician, development bureaucrat or labor activist anywhere in the world who has so much as batted an eye at the extensive human-trafficking racket now being run out of Havana. This is worth more attention as Cuban doctors are being celebrated for their work in Africa during the Ebola crisis.

Cuba is winning accolades for its international “doctor diplomacy,” in which it sends temporary medical professionals abroad—ostensibly to help poor countries battle disease and improve health care. But the doctors are not a gift from Cuba. Havana is paid for its medical missions by either the host country, in the case of Venezuela, or by donor countries that send funds to the World Health Organization. The money is supposed to go to Cuban workers’ salaries. But neither the WHO nor any host country pays Cuban workers directly. Instead the funds are credited to the account of the dictatorship, which by all accounts keeps the lion’s share of the payment and gives the worker a stipend to live on with a promise of a bit more upon return to Cuba.

It’s the perfect crime: By shipping its subjects abroad to help poor people, the regime earns the image of a selfless contributor to the global community even while it exploits workers and gets rich off their backs. According to DW, Germany’s international broadcaster, Havana earns some $7.6 billion annually from its export of health-care workers.

This is big business, which if it weren’t being carried out by gangster Marxists would surely offend journalists. Instead they lap it up. In an Oct. 24 interview with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour lighted up when she talked about Cuba’s health-care workers in Africa. “Cuba clearly has something to teach the world in its rapid response, doesn’t it,” Ms. Amanpour gushed. Mr. Kim agreed, calling it “a wonderful gesture.”

What the Cuban workers in the line of the Ebola fire are being paid remains a state secret. But human trafficking is not new for Havana nor is it limited to the medical profession. In October 2008 a federal judge in Miami ruled in favor of three Cuban workers who claimed they, along with some 100 others, had been sent by the regime to Curaçao to work off Cuban debt to the Curaçao Drydock Company. The plaintiffs described horrific working conditions for which they were paid three cents an hour.

Feature continues here: Medical Slave Trade 


Could a U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap break the ice? 1

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Ray Sanchez, Elise Labott and Patrick Oppmann, CNN (CNN) — Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba for smuggling satellite equipment onto the island, is being held at Havana’s Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital.

With peeling canary-yellow walls and hordes of people coming and going, the aging building doesn’t look like a place where Cuba would hold its most valuable prisoner.

But police officers and soldiers surround the hospital. Inside, Cuban special forces guard the 65-year-old U.S. citizen, emotionally and physically frail and approaching his fifth year in confinement.

North of the Florida Straits, Gross’ imprisonment is seen as the major impediment to better relations with Havana.

Now, however, midway through the second term of President Barack Obama, several signs of possible change have emerged. Senior administration officials and Cuba observers say reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations.

The signs include the admission this week by senior administration officials that talks about a swap between Gross and three imprisoned Cuban agents — part of group originally known as the Cuban Five — have taken place. In addition, recent editorials in The New York Times have recommended an end to the longstanding U.S. embargo against Cuba and even a prisoner swap for Gross.

Video with article continues here:  CNN