Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Senator calls for tougher sanctions against Cuba

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said Tuesday he'll oppose the nominations of Roberta S. Jacobson to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mari Carmen Aponte to be Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador and Adam E. Namm to be Ambassador to the Republic of Ecuador. Rubio said:
Rather than stand up to tyrants and promote democracy, this Administration’s policy towards Latin America has been defined by appeasement, weakness and the alienation of our allies.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cuban journalist: Radio Martí falls short

A Cuban journalist who was part of the Group of 75 imprisoned during the 2003 crackdown has quit his job at Radio Martí after nearly six years.

In a letter of resignation addressed to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and others, Manuel Vázquez Portal said Radio Martí doesn't do enough to defend democracy activists in Cuba. He wrote:
...the current administration has turned the institution into an instrument of entertainment, frivolity and forgetting the purpose for which it was created... 
The station gives too much attention to "popular music programs, obsolete soap operas, futile and divorced from the reality of Cuba today," Vázquez wrote on Nov. 21.
See YouTube video of his resignation announcement below.

Monday, November 21, 2011

GDP higher than $1.5 trillion? No aid for you

U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon. Photo: Bucshon's Flickr page
House Resolution 3488 would ban foreign assistance to countries with a gross domestic product of $1.5 trillion or more.
Cuba is safe. Its GDP was $114.1 billion in 2010, according to the CIA's World Factbook.
The bill's sponsor is Larry Bucshon, a heart surgeon-turned congressman in Indiana.

Interview with Antonio Rodiles

Just posted on the Cuba Money Project Vimeo channel: An interview with Antonio Rodiles, director of the Havana-based Estado de SATS project. Among his goals: To promote dialogue among all Cubans, including democracy activists and intellectuals who support the Cuban government's official line. See summary of interview.

Secret agents, plots, money - the usual stuff

New on the Cuba Money Project:
  • An interview with Raúl Capote, also known as Agent Daniel. He says he was involved in a plot to create a secret foundation that would produce young leaders who would take charge after the collapse of Cuba’s socialist government. 
  • A story on the issue of how much democracy aid reaches Cuba. In the case of Miami's Plantados hasta la Libertad y la Democracia en Cuba, quite a bit, nearly $800,000 from 2008 to 2010. 
  • An interview with Manuel Lagarde, a controversial pro-government blogger and journalist.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Interview with Jesús Arboleya

Just posted on the Cuba Money Project's Vimeo channel: An interview with Jesús Arboleya. He is an author, professor and former Cuban diplomat. See part 1 and part 2.

Report: U.S. policy "trapped in the traumas" of Castro revolution

Brookings, a public policy institution in Washington, D.C., plans to release a report this morning that will recommend that the international community engage Cuba to support the socialist government's economic reform efforts.
Cuba has shown resilience since the break up of its chief sponsor, the Soviet Union, and appears to be on a path toward gradual change, not sudden regime collapse, the 109-page report says.
Richard E. Feinberg
But there will be "another cycle of disappointment and recrimination" unless Cuba deepens economic reform on the island, warns the report's author, Richard E. Feinberg.
He suggests that the international development community work with "pro-reform factions" in Cuba rather than the the "orthodox planners" who "remain entrenched in still-powerful ministries and the conservative factions inside the Communist Party." He writes:
Now is the time for the international development community to engage in Cuba, to support the incipient economic reform process.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with Frank Carlos Vázquez

This morning I posted an interview with Frank Carlos Vázquez. To American officials he was a cultural promoter, but to Cuban State Security he was Agent Robin.
He informed on U.S. government efforts to cultivate Cuban artists that he said were most likely to produce work that cast the Cuban revolution in a bad light.
A summary of the interview is here. See part 1 and part 2 of the interview on the Cuba Money Project's Vimeo channel.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interview with José Manuel Collera

This morning I posted an interview with José Manuel Collera Vento, also known as Agente Gerardo.
A summary of the interview is here. See part 1 and part 2 of the interview the Cuba Money Project's Vimeo channel.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New campaign: Alan Gross Day

On Nov. 8, Judy Gross announced her wish that Dec. 1 be declared "Alan Gross Day" as part of her campaign to free her husband from a Cuban jail.
Gross was arrested in December 2009 while on a USAID mission in Cuba and later convicted of crimes against the Cuban state and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Judy Gross told the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly that she was at the couple's home in Maryland on Dec. 3, 2009, when he failed to come home from the airport. She said at first she thought his flight was delayed, but was startled to find out that his plane had already landed.
She said she began to have a sinking feeling, and after a few phone calls, she found out he hadn't made it onto his flight.
Later that night, Gross said she learned that her husband had been arrested on unknown charges and was being held at a maximum security prison in Cuba.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A teen-ager's wish: Shoes that light up

PUMA Speeder Illuminescent
A teen-ager gave this impromptu performance at sundown along the Malecón: (feel free to improve upon my translation):
Look, look. Multiply, subtract and add.
I’m doing a video for la Yuma, you know.
Look, send me some PUMAs that have the little light.
Kicking back with the girl so she sees how the black guy explains things. Walk.
See more videos at Along the Malecón's Vimeo channel.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Senator worries American travelers are propping up Cuban government

Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday expressed worry that Americans traveling to Cuba do nothing more than spend money that helps finance the socialist government. He asked diplomat Roberta Jacobson if the U.S. government was making sure that authorized travelers were somehow promoting democracy while on the island.

Jacobson, who is President Obama's nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said she would have to review who's going to Cuba and what they're doing on the island.

I've asked the Office of Foreign Assets Control to release its current database of authorized travelers. OFAC says it is processing my request. See details here.

Obama nominee: U.S. wants Cubans to "freely determine their own future"

Screenshot from video posted on Capitol Hill Cubans blog
Roberta Jacobson testified Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She is President Obama's nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Here's what she said about Cuba:
In Cuba, we are working to expand the connections between U.S. and Cuban society and open the way for meaningful support of Cubans who are striking their own path, while we keep faith with human rights activists and dissidents who have fought for basic rights for years.
With our efforts, more Cubans have access to information and independent connections to the American citizens who are the best ambassadors of our values.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Interviews with La Joven Cuba bloggers

Harold Cárdenas
Today I posted two interviews with co-founders of La Joven Cuba, a blog based in Matanzas. See the interviews on the Cuba Money Project's Vimeo channel. In the coming weeks, I hope to post more interviews with a wide range of characters, including some people who support the Cuban government, and some who don't.

Roberto González

Will OFAC release Cuba license database?

Another kind of Cuba license
On Oct. 10, I sent the Office of Foreign Assets Control a letter asking for a copy of OFAC's current Licensing Database of Individuals and Companies.
A 2009 version of the database is posted on the Treasury Department's website. It's an Excel file that anyone can download. I requested the latest version of the same information under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
OFAC responded on Oct. 17, saying the agency was working on my request.
Freelance journalists are eligible for fee waivers under FOIA. OFAC denied my request for a waiver. I appealed that decision in a letter I am mailing Nov. 7.
I gave OFAC three reasons why publication of the material would add to the public's understanding of government operations and activities:
  1. Information on license approvals and denials allows the public to understand the basis for OFAC's application of the regulations and guidelines. It also helps potential applicants anticipate whether they are qualified, or what might make them more qualified. 
  2. The information allows the public to evaluate OFAC's implementation of President Obama's Jan. 14, 2011, request that the Treasury Department and other federal agencies make changes to regulations and policies governing "purposeful travel." Knowing who has gotten licenses makes it easier to understand whether OFAC is a bottleneck or a facilitator when it comes to “purposeful travel.” 
  3. The information may provide insight into whether decision-making at OFAC is objective and consistent, or subjective and politicized.
Larry Luxner, editor of CubaNews, plans to publish any stories that result from the OFAC material. He wrote a letter of support.
What do you think? Any reason why the Cuba license database should be secret? Or, if you believe the public has a right to see it, what can we learn from it? How can its disclosure contribute to the public knowledge of OFAC operations?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A British farmer in Cuba

Ex-pats from the United States and England lived on Cuba's Isle of Youth before the Cuban revolution. About a decade ago, I went there looking for the children or grandchildren of any of the settlers. I didn't find any Americans, but there was a blue-eyed British man living on the island and working as a farmer. He spoke Spanish like a Cuban native and English like a Brit. My impression was that he had to work hard to make a living.