CFR’s Julia Sweig Continues Role as Havana Spokeswoman 3

In her story on Wednesday’s wrap-up of the second Summit of the Latin America and Caribbean Economic Community (CELAC), Portia Siegelbaum of CBS News included these offerings from Julia Sweig::

“I can’t imagine a return to the old pattern of Washington dominating the Inter-American system. I’d like to imagine that the Obama administration has the imagination and creativity and confidence to adjust to the new Latin America of foreign policy independence and vastly less deference to Washington. The White House has a choice: throw up its hands and opt for a focus on its bilateral relations with individual countries in the region, or try to accommodate the region’s new multilateralism — one that emphatically includes Cuba.”

Siegelbaum also noted Sweig’s claim that during her latest two-week visit to Cuba, she “heard a clear and explicitly stated interest in cooperation with the United States.”

Editor’s Note: For an excellent summary of the role of Cuban Intelligence Officers in forming Julia Sweig’s opinion, see Humberto Fontova’s September 2010 article, Latin-America “Expert” – or Castro Agent?

Cuban Authorities Harass Dissidents Before Havana Summit 1

By Juan O. Tamayo,

The Cuban government has unleashed “a large wave of political repression” against dissidents, detaining or threatening at least 60 to keep them from tarnishing a meeting of hemispheric leaders in Havana, a human rights group reported Monday.

The II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on Tuesday and Wednesday will focus mostly on efforts at economic integration among the 33 member nations. CELAC excludes the United States and Canada.

Cuba also has proposed declaring the region as a “zone of peace” and other nations have proposed addressing issues such as poverty, climate change, the peace talks between Colombia and FARC rebels and the U.S. embargo against the Cuban government.

But attempts by the Cuban opposition to voice their complaints to the foreign visitors and grab part of their media spotlight by holding two small “parallel summits” have been met with tough measures by security officials on the island.

Police briefly detained at least 40 dissidents, threatened or harassed another 18 and ordered five more to stay home “until the end of the summit,” said a report Monday by the illegal Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Those numbers are preliminary because of government controls on communications within the island, but they already amount to “a large wave of political repression against peaceful dissidents,” the report said, to “muzzle” them during the two-day summit.

Other dissidents have reported nearly 150 brief detentions and blocks on the cell phones of several pro-democracy activists.

Read more here: Cuban authorities harass dissidents before Havana summit

Famed Castro Apologist Hypes “Rise” of CELAC Reply

OAS head at Cuba Summit in Unusual Encounter

By Associated Press

HAVANA — The secretary-general of the Organization of American States arrived in Cuba on Monday to attend a regional summit, in an unusual encounter 52 years after Cuba was kicked out of the regional bloc.

Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean, was attending as an observer, so there was no official access to his arrival as was the case with visiting foreign ministers and heads of state. But Cuban officials confirmed his presence on the island to The Associated Press.

Hugo Zela, Insulza’s chief of staff, said the OAS, which was formed in 1948, has no record of a secretary-general visiting Cuba.

Tensions between Cuba and the OAS began shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, when Washington put pressure on Fidel Castro’s nascent Communist government through the organization.

Cuba was suspended from the bloc in 1962 at the height of the Cold War and many other nations turned their backs on Havana, with Mexico a notable exception.

By the dawn of the 21st century and with the Cold War nearly two decades in the rear-view mirror, some countries — particularly Venezuela under the late President Hugo Chavez, who called Castro a friend and mentor — began pushing for Cuba’s reintegration into the hemispheric community.

In 2009 the OAS ended Cuba’s suspension with the consent of Washington, which had been hesitant at first. But Havana balked at rejoining the bloc it sees as obeying U.S. interests.

“Cuba’s position toward the OAS remains the same: We will not return,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at the summit. “It has negative historical baggage as an instrument of domination by the United States that cannot be resolved through any reform.”

Nonetheless, Rodriguez said inviting Insulza to the CELAC summit was done out of “courtesy.”

The CELAC was formed in 2011 and includes all the Western Hemisphere’s nations except Canada and the United States.

“It should replace within a short time the OAS, that institution that did so much harm to integration,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Roberto Patino said Monday.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba analyst and lecturer at the University of Denver, said the CELAC’s creation puts pressure on the OAS to remain relevant.

“The problems of the OAS are due to the fact that inter-American multilateralism has not been updated in respect to the changes in politics and balance of power that have taken place in (the region) and beyond as part of the rise of the global south,” Lopez-Levy said. “The second summit of the CELAC in Havana pours salt on that wound,” he added.

For decades the argument for excluding Cuba from the OAS was its closed, single-party system. Havana has little tolerance for internal opposition and routinely harasses dissidents whom it officially labels treasonous “mercenaries.”

Insulza has come under criticism particularly from the Cuban exile community for not scheduling meetings with island dissidents during the trip, in order to avoid making the summit hosts uncomfortable.

“It’s startling,” said Elizardo Sanchez, a nongovernmental human rights monitor in Cuba. “It’s a little surprising because the OAS usually recognizes the human rights NGOs.”

Cuban dissidents have complained about increased harassment and detentions in the days leading up to and during the summit. Some said they were prevented from holding an alternative forum, while others claimed to be under effective house arrest.

Editor’s Note: Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is a long-term doctoral student in Denver.

The US Would be Crazy to Re-establish Ties With Cuba 2

By Juan Williams
Published February 05, 2013

Get ready for the U.S. to make a big mistake on Cuba. Sixty percent of Americans favor re-establishing ties with Cuba, in the last Gallup poll on the issue and that was four years ago. Meanwhile, more Americans are traveling to Cuba — erasing memories of Fidel Castro confiscating property and wealth while working with Russia to threaten the U.S. with missiles.
And now President Obama’s new Secretary of State is on the record calling for the U.S. to end cold war sanctions against Cuba’s communist regime. It will be a mistake for President Obama to end any part of the U.S. embargo against Cuba without insisting on a full slate of democratic freedoms, human rights and property rights in the country.

John Kerry, the new boss at the State Department, has criticized the “power of the Cuban-American lobby” and a half-century of hatred of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro. As a senator, Kerry voted against the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which tightened trade restrictions on Cuba. Back in 2000, Kerry said: “We have a frozen, stalemated counterproductive policy [on Cuba]… There’s just a complete and total contradiction between the way we deal with China, the way we deal with Russia, the way we have been dealing with Cuba. … The only reason we don’t re-evaluate the policy is the politics of Florida.” Secretary Kerry is not alone.

Chuck Hagel, the president’s choice to become Secretary of Defense, has been an out-spoken critic of the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and restrictions on travel to the Caribbean nation. The former Nebraska senator has called on the U.S. to “engage” with Cuba just as we have with communist countries like Vietnam and China. President Obama’s decision to elevate two such vocal advocates for rapprochement with Cuba has attracted little press attention. But it is just the latest in a string of signals that big changes are imminent.

As a matter of politics, the Democrat in the White House did surprisingly well with Florida’s Cuban American voters in winning Florida in the 2012 election. Older Cubans who traditionally support anti-Castro Republicans largely stayed with the GOP but younger Cubans voted for President Obama. And the young voices are becoming more vocal about the need for a new era of U.S. policies that bring change to Cuba through closer ties to the U.S.

In addition, Fidel Castro is now 86 and in poor health. His brother, Raul, Cuba’s current leader, is 81. And despite the official ban on Americans traveling to Cuba there is a large loophole allowing academics and cultural leaders to go there. Those tourists generally romanticize Cuba’s revolutionary past. And American business is also anxious to see the doors open to investment in an island 90 miles from Miami and ready for an economic boom once trade with the U.S. resumes.

President Obama has been sending signals, too. In his inaugural address last month, he said he wants to “resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”
For President Obama, a man looking to make history as part of his second term legacy, that policy makes Cuba a tempting target.

Several Latin countries are joining the chorus of calls for the U.S. to change its attitude toward Cuba. They are pushing the U.S. to allow Cuba to join regional economic groups. On January 28th, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States [CELAC] even passed its rotating presidency to Cuba’s current leader, Raul Castro. CELAC’s charter mission is to promote democracy and human rights in the region and they are trusting Cuba’s dictators. With so many signs pointing in one direction – resumption of U.S. ties to Cuba – it is time to call for a STOP sign.

For example, CELAC’s decision is tragically wrong given Cuba’s awful history on human rights and democracy. Cuba continues to jail political opponents and suppress free speech. That is a fact. Independent observers can see it. José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch said Castro’s selection as CELAC president “sends a message [that Latin governments] couldn’t care less about the poor human rights record and the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.” And it will be a mistake for President Obama to end any part of the U.S. embargo without insisting on a full slate of democratic freedoms, human rights and property rights in Cuba.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal last year, I expressed my disagreement with those who have suggested cozying up to Latin American dictators like the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It is personal with me. My family fled Panama in the early 1950’s to escape the poverty and open the door to education and opportunity. Those doors were shut by a Latin strong man — Panama’s Arnulfo Arias. I wrote: “My life’s major turn away from poverty came thanks to my father’s vision of his children escaping a despot like Arias. That dream of a better life is alive throughout Latin America. To romanticize any dictator is to kill those dreams by condemning poor kids in Latin America, like me, to tyrants and the burden of limited education and economic opportunity.”

Congressional Republicans remain largely united in their opposition to normalizing relations with Castro’s Cuba. They are led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethnien, both Cuban Americans. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a Cuban American, supports continuing tight restrictions to isolate the Castro regime and promote democracy and human rights for the Cuban people. He is scheduled to become chair of the Senate Foreign Relations panel. It will be up to Rubio, Ros-Lethnien and Menendez to stop President Obama from making a big mistake and turning away from a freedom agenda for America’s neighbors in Latin America. STOP!

Juan Williams is a Fox News political analyst. He is the author of several books including “Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It” and “Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate.”