Cuban Intelligence Imprisons Activist, Threatens to Destroy Opposition Movement 3

The Cuban activist is detained despite her precarious health condition. (Twitter)

By: Karina Martín PanAm Post

Tension between Cuban activists and the island’s law enforcement spiked this week after a State Security agent allegedly threatened to destroy a prominent opposition movement.

Cuban activist Joanna Columbié said a State Security agent threatened to “destroy” the Cuban opposition group she is associated with, “Somos +“ (We Are More). The agent, identified only as “Leandro,” said Saturday, May 27 that he would ensure the organization’s demise with the next few days.

Leader of Somos+ Eliécer Ávila said the agent told Columbié that she would be “processed” because the government is tired of the organization and its participation in #Otro18, a platform that organizes citizen proposals for new electoral laws.

Columbié, who is currently a political prisoner, undergoes frequent interrogation, according to Roxana Arias, another member of the organization. She said Columbié was taken to an infirmary last Sunday, May 28 due to pain in her kidneys. Despite the pain, she received no medical treatment.

Arias also said during her visits, she noticed that Columbié “was not eating much” and that “the heat in the prison was horrible.”

According to local media, Columbié suffers from diabetes, asthma and hypertension, and when her mother, who lives in Santiago, called the prison to verify her health, she was told that everyone had the right to have family members call “except her,” which was as a consequence of “not having educated her daughter properly.”

Somos has already released a statement saying that the regime will not be able to defeat the opposition movement building steam on the island, or crush Columbié’s spirit.

Sources: Cubanet; 14ymedio.

Karina Martín is a Venezuelan reporter with the PanAm Post based in Valencia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages from the Arturo Michelena University.

Informers Approved by the Cuban Government Reply

CDR Billboard in every neighborhood: CDR 8th Congress - United, Vigilant & Fighting

CDR Billboard in every neighborhood: CDR 8th Congress – United, Vigilant & Fighting

By Ivan Garcia in Translating Cuba

Seven years ago, when the roar of the winds of a hurricane devastated Havana and the water filtered through the unglazed living room door of Lisvan, a private worker living in an apartment of blackened walls which urgently needed comprehensive repairs, his housing conditions did not interest the snitches on the block where he lives.

“When I began to be successful in my business and I could renovate the apartment, from doing the electrical system, plumbing, new flooring, painting the rooms to putting grills on the windows and the balcony, the complaints began. What is, in any other country, a source of pride that a citizen can leave his poverty behind and improve his quality of life, is, in Cuba, something that, for more than a few neighbours, arouses both resentment and envy so that it leads them to make anonymous denunciations”, says Lisvan.

So many years of social control by the regime has transformed some Cubans into hung-up people with double standards. “And shameless too,” adds Lisvan. And he tells me that “two years ago, when I was putting in a new floor, my wife brought me the ceramic tiles in a truck from her work, authorized by her boss. But a neighbor, now in a wheelchair and almost blind, called the DTI to denounce me, accusing me of trafficking in construction materials.”

Luckily, Lisvan had the documents for the tiles, bought in convertible pesos at a state “hard currency collection store” — as such establishments are formally called. But the complaint led to them taking away the car his wife was driving. In the last few days, while he was having railings put across his balcony, to guard against robberies, a neighbor called Servilio complained to the Housing Office that he was altering the façade of the building, and to the electric company for allegedly using the public electricity supply. Lisvan ended by telling me that “It all backfired on him, because everything was in order, and the inspectors involved gave me the phone number of the complainant, who, being a coward, had done it anonymously.”

According to Fernando, a police instructor, anonymous complaints are common in the investigation department where he works. “Thanks to these allegations we started to embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in the United States.

“People report anything — a party that seems lavish, someone who bought beef on the black market or a person who drinks beer every day and doesn’t work. It’s crazy. Snitching in Cuba is sometimes taken to extremes.”

When you ask him what is behind the reports, he avoids the question.

“Because of envy or just a habit of denouncing. These people are almost always resentful and frustrated and tend to be hard up and short of lots of things. And not infrequently the complainant also commits illegal acts,” admits the police instructor.

Carlos, a sociologist, believes that large scale reporting, as has happened for decades in Cuba, is a good subject for specialist study. “But lately, with widespread apathy because of the inefficiency of the system, the long drawn-out economic crisis and the lack of economic and political freedoms, as compared to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, informing has decreased.”

Article continues here (courtesy of Babalu Blog):  Informant State

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: President Obama Posed In Front of The Ministry of the Interior, From Where All Repression in Cuba is Orchestrated 2

President Obama Enjoys a Photo Op in front the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)

President Obama Enjoys a Photo Op in front the Ministry of the Interior (MININT)

Obama’s Photo Op With Che Guevara Wasn’t The Worst Thing About The Picture

By Hank Berrien, The Daily Wire

After President Obama posed for a picture in Cuba in front of a giant mural honoring the murderous Che Guevara, outrage erupted in the Twittersphere.

But it’s worse than that.

As Ethan Epstein of The Weekly Standard points out, the mural in the Plaza de la Revolucion is painted on the wall of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior, which runs the National Revolutionary Police, Cuba’s version of the secret police. Britannica.com writes, “The Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT), which was modeled on the Soviet KGB, rivaled the East German Stasi for effectiveness and ruthlessness.”

Former Cuban Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra has been described by the Miami Herald as “one of the island’s most powerful and feared figures.” As Yoani Sanchez, the publisher of 14ymedio, an independent newspaper in Cuba, wrote in The Huffington Post, “How can a citizen protect himself from a State that has the police, the courts, the rapid response brigades, the mass media, the capacity to defame and lie, the power to socially lynch him and turn him into someone defeated and apologetic?” Sanchez has written that she has been kidnaped and beaten by plainclothes State Security agents.

Human Rights Watch offered a report on the Cuban government’s repression. It stated:

The Interior Ministry has principal responsibility for monitoring the Cuban population for signs of dissent. Reportedly, the ministry employs two central offices for this purpose: the General Directorate of Counter-Intelligence (sic) and the General Directorate of Internal Order. The former supervises ……

Feature Continues Here:  How to Crush a Dissent’s Hope With One Photo

 

‘A Series of Razors Waiting to Cut You’: The High Cost of Doing Business in Cuba 2

The Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, one of the hotels in which Starwood is investing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, one of the hotels in which Starwood is investing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Justin Rohrlich, Vice News

March 25, 2016 | 11:50 am

Sarkis Yacoubian swore he was just a businessman, but the state security agents holding him in a Havana interrogation room called him a spy.

It was July 2011, and Yacoubian, then 51, had been working in Cuba for nearly two decades. An Armenian-Canadian born in Beirut, he owned a trading company called Tri-Star Caribbean, which imported emergency vehicles, mining equipment, and auto parts for Cuba’s state-run industries.

About eight months before his arrest, Yacoubian says, a regime official visited Tri-Star’s Havana offices a handful of times — “Let’s call him ‘the Colonel,'” says Yacoubian, who claims not to recall the man’s name. The Colonel said that Cuba wanted to buy a fleet of BMWs, and asked Yacoubian to arrange it. The government’s wish list: sixteen 5-series sedans for the rental market and diplomatic use, and an armored X5 SUV for Cuban president Raul Castro’s personal motorcade. Yacoubian, knowing the contract could lead to many more, agreed to deliver the cars to Tecnotex, a state-owned conglomerate under the purview of the military run by Castro’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez.

The problems, however, started almost immediately. The government had previously been working with Eric Soulavy, a BMW dealer based in Venezuela who had run into financing problems. Yacoubian says a BMW rep got in touch with him and said that he needed to buy out Soulavy’s contract with BMW, which still had one year remaining. (A spokeswoman for the auto company said it does not comment “on the behavior of third parties as a matter of principle.”)

Yacoubian says he was at that point contractually obligated to deliver the vehicles to the Cubans, so with his “back to the wall,” he began negotiating with Soulavy. Yacoubian says they agreed to $800,000, with an initial transfer of $100,000. Soulavy, who is now a real-estate developer in Key Biscayne, Florida, says he doesn’t recall the exact amount he received from Yacoubian, but remembers charging him “something for the tools and parts we had invested in that business.”

Yacoubian says the buyers at Tecnotex were also asking him to take a $1,000 loss on each car, but “you don’t tell Raul Castro no.” Still, Yacoubian wasn’t doing the deal out of fear — he estimated the foothold the deal was gaining him could one day be worth up to $250 million.

Instead, he was accused of plotting to kill Castro.

Feature continues here: “A Series of Razors”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Castros Just Want the Embargo Lifted 4

FidelTranslated by Capitol Hill Cubans

Roberto Alvarez Quinones is a Cuban journalist who spent over 25-years in Castro’s state-run Granma newspaper, as an economic commentator. He also served stints at the Cuban Central Bank and the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

By Roberto Alvarez Quinones in Diario de Cuba

The Castros do not want normalization, just the embargo lifted

The Castro brothers have always understood U.S. presidents and the intricacies of political power better than the Americans have comprehended the Cubans. In Washington they still can’t fathom why the two brothers and their military junta don’t want friendly and harmonious relations with the U.S., but rather for the embargo to be lifted, and to receive loans and tourists from the north with bulging wallets. Simple as that.

With the Venezuelan crisis deteriorating by the minute, an end to the embargo has become urgent for the Castro regime. But having politically cordial and normal relations with Washington is not in their best interest. Hence, they will do everything possible to prevent them, or to sabotage them, even if the “blockade” (a military term that has nothing to do with a unilateral trade embargo placed by one country on another) is lifted.

The dictatorial elite’s view is that “too much” rapprochement with the US would generate great internal and external trouble, as it would mean “betraying” its history as an anti-American leftist leader in Latin America. But, above all, it could undermine the regime’s Orwellian control over all of Cuban society. People on the island feel would be less fearful of demanding more freedoms if the “Empire” were a strong ally.

The gerontocracy of “historical” commanders is not prepared – nor do they want to be – to grapple in a civilized way with the political, ideological, economic, cultural and psychological “contamination” that could spring from a close relationship with the U.S. The training of the Castro regime’s nomenklatura has always been based on the opposite: visceral confrontation with the “imperialist enemy.”

Castro’s Manifest Destiny

In reaction to U.S.-made rockets fired at a farmer’s house in the Sierra Maestra by Batista dictatorship aircraft on June 5, 1958, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Celia Sánchez setting forth the Manifest Destiny of his revolution: “When this war is over, for me a much longer and greater war shall begin: that which I will wage against them. I realize that this will be my true destiny. ”

That war did not end with the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington. And it will not end as long as the island is ruled by Castro and the commanders who joined the anti-U.S. crusade conceived by their leader. There will be no close relationship between Cuba and the United States until there is a new “de-ideologized” political leadership on the island.

Feature continues here: Castros Despise Normalization

 

Take Cuba Off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List? 7

 FARC and government negotiators at a news conference in Havana on 16 May, 2014


FARC and government negotiators at a news conference in Havana on 16 May, 2014

By George Phillips, InterAmerican Security Watch

Let us not give Castro the resources he needs to continue his regime’s 56-year reign of terror on his own people, and his continued support for terrorists and terrorist states.

To enrich and solidify that dictatorship at this time only prevents the Cuban people from being able to forge a better life through elections in a few years, now that they are finally “on the one-yard line,” when the Castro brothers, now in their eighties, could simply be left to their natural, un-bankrolled, ends. In a dictatorship such as this, only the dictators benefit.

As Sonia Alvarez Campillo was leaving Catholic Mass on July 14, 2013 with fellow members of Ladies in White, her pro-democracy organization, she was assaulted by Raul Castro’s agents.

These “security” agents broke Alvarez Campillo’s wrist as well as her husband’s ribs in their attack on her and other members of her group.

Sunday after Sunday in Cuba, the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) — members of a movement started in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents in Cuba — have peacefully demonstrated for freedom and human rights in cities across Cuba. They have continually been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned in Raul Castro’s Cuba.

In an attack just two months ago, Lady in White member Digna Rodriquez Ibañez was pelted with tar by agents of the regime.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation – an organization of Cuban dissidents that the Castro regime claims is illegal — reported that in 2014 alone, 1,810 members of the Ladies in White were detained. The detentions of these extraordinary women are among the total of 8,899 detentions evidently designed to crush political dissent. That figure represents a 27% rise from the previous year.

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement, a political party opposed to Castro’s Communist Party.

In July of 2012, Cuban state security agents allegedly murdered Paya and Cepero by ramming into their car and running them off the road, where they crashed and died.

The Cuban government officially claims the crash was an accident. But, as documented in the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2013, when David Gonzalez Peres, another leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, was arrested, Cuban officials at the jail warned him about what happened to Paya.

Paya and Cepero were most likely murdered for trying to change a system in which all 612 candidates in a recent Cuban election were members of the Communist Party and ran unopposed, and in which all other candidates had been rejected by the regime.

Article continues here:  Terror List

 

 

 

 

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Alan Gross Appeal in Lawsuit Against U.S. Government 1

Alan Gross speaks on the phone with President Barack Obama after his release from Cuban prison on Dec. 17, 2014. (White House, public domain)

Alan Gross speaks on the phone with President Barack Obama after his release from Cuban prison on Dec. 17, 2014. (White House, public domain)

by Dusty Christensen, Latin America News Dispatch

NEW YORK — The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal on Monday by former government subcontractor Alan Gross, who filed a $60 million lawsuit in 2012 alleging negligence on the part of the U.S. government over the five years he spent in a Cuban prison.

The decision upholds a November 2014 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which dismissed the case on the grounds that the United States is not liable for “claims arising in a foreign country.”

“We are certainly disappointed, but not surprised by the court’s decision,” said Gross’ lawyer Scott Gilbert in a statement to Latin America News Dispatch.

In 2009, Gross was arrested while working as a government subcontractor in Cuba, where he was distributing satellite phones and computer equipment to the island’s Jewish community as part of a USAID democracy promotion program. Cuban authorities

accused him of being a U.S. intelligence agent, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for participating in “a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the Revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of authorities.”

In the lawsuit, Gross and his wife Judy say that Gross wasn’t properly informed of the perils of his work, which the “United States negligently directed, organized, and oversaw.” The case was dismissed in federal court, however, just one month before Gross was released from prison in December as part of the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Gross received $3.2 million in a separate case in December, when USAID reached a settlement with the subcontractor he was working with in Cuba, Development Alternatives, Inc.

As in the most recent ruling, however, the U.S. government denied any liability for Gross’ imprisonment. In a statement released in December, USAID said, “The settlement avoids the cost, delay and risks of further proceedings, and does not constitute an admission of liability by either party.”

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