Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winning hearts and minds through sports

Total: $225,450.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting on Tuesday spent $9,500 for rights to broadcast live NBA games in 2015, records show.
The OCB has spent a total of $45,450 for rights to NBA games since May 2013.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors spent another $180,000 for the rights to broadcast Major League Baseball games from 2005 to 2007.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lawmakers try to limit travel to Cuba

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a measure to ban flights and cruises to Cuba. U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart drafted the legislation, which was tucked into a fat budget bill, according to the Miami Herald. See pages 69-70 and page 154 of the bill.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Judge denies motion to dismiss

Jason Flores-Williams
A judge rejected a New Mexico's lawyer's motion to dismiss the case against Charlie Hill, a former militant now living in Cuba.
Jason Flores-Williams said in a statement:
Based upon the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine, the Motion to Dismiss has been denied. The Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine holds that an individual who has escaped a jurisdiction may not seek justice in those courts.

§ In regard to escaped African-Americans, this doctrine has an impressive history. During slavery, an individual could not petition for their freedom until they submitted to the jurisdiction that wanted to enslave them. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. (Here, we have replaced the institution of slavery with the institution of mass incarceration, both highly profitable.) 
From recent events, we know that Americans are the subject of government surveillance (Edward Snowden, another person subject to the Fugitive Disentitlement Act); and that African-Americans are the particular subjects of police brutality. 
Charlie Hill
During the 1960’s, however, these two aspects of American life came together in an especially virulent way under the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO, which monitored, harassed and arguably killed people of color struggling for the extension of democratic principles. As an African-American political activist who was part of a group targeted by the FBI, Mr. Hill rightly feared that he would be condemned before receiving a fair trial.

We had hoped that our judicial system would consider the context in which these events occurred. It appears, however, that our system is only capable of considering context with regard to investment bankers, corporations, and other elite entities that it considers too big to fail.
Related: Lawyer: Throw out charges against Charles Hill

Saturday, April 25, 2015

USAID supports freedom of [redacted] in Cuba

Released nearly four years after FOIA submission
The Agency for International Development has released a new document about a Freedom House program called New Media Initiatives for Cuba.
Key portions of the 18-page document are redacted, so it is difficult to gain a full understanding of the project.
The document states:
The NewMIC Project is designed to enhance the [redacted] among Cuba's civil society, with a particular emphasis on supporting [redacted] through the application of [redacted]. Specifically, the Project will assist [redacted] in advancing their [redacted] including [redacted]. By providing [redacted], the Project will also foster freedom of expression among [redacted] for change, [redacted] and promote understanding of [redacted] among the general population as well as abroad.
Freedom House ran the program for a secretive USAID branch known as the Office of Transition Initiatives, or OTI. (See "USAID hides money trail" and "The [redacted] USAID shell game").
OTI operated in Cuba from September 2007 to September 2011, budget records show. I sometimes wonder if they're going back in (See "Another 'window of opportunity' for OTI?").
In October 2011, I requested further information about the New Media Initiatives program under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
In response, USAID in May 2012 released a 33-page document showing that Freedom House had operated the $1.47 million Cuba project from September 2007 to June 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BBG to discuss Cuba Broadcasting

André Mendes
The Broadcasting Board of Governors plans to meet on April 29 to discuss the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, the agency announced today.
The OCB will give a presentation on its operations and activities. The BBG will also consider a report to be submitted by Interim CEO/Director André Mendes.
A BBG announcement stated:
The public may attend any or all of these sessions in person by registering here by 12:00 p.m. (EDT) on April 28. The meeting will also be streamed live on the BBG website,
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. Additional information, including any updates or adjustments to its starting time, will be posted on the BBG website. Minutes, documents and a video recording will be available after the meeting concludes.
For more information, please contact BBG Public Affairs at (202) 203-4400 or by e-mail at

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

U.S. Interests Section: Melon farming

U.S. Interests Section spending: Contracts by date signed
The U.S. Interests Section in Havana has reported spending $14,953,224, most of it since 2004. (See interactive graphics: breakdown of $14.9 million; contracts signed by date; top 50 vendors).
The Interests Section didn't list a category for $3,538,546 in expenses. That left $11,414,678.
The 20 most entertaining, interesting or intriguing expenses included in that $11.4 million were listed under the following categories:
  1. New car dealers: $169,143
  2. Clothing accessories stores: $142,730
  3. Furniture stores: $108,107
  4. Locksmiths: $79,812
  5. Title abstract and settlement offices: $66,422
  6. Distilleries: $46,929
  7. Bus and other motor vehicle transit systems: $30,200
  8. Satellite telecommunications: $28,204
  9. Other motion picture and video industries: $23,740
  10. Temporary shelters: $18,553
  11. Other vegetable (except potato) and melon farming: $15,294

Thursday, April 16, 2015

OFAC updates Cuba Q&A

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Cuba
Updated April 16, 2015

This document is explanatory only, does not have the force of law, and does not supplement or modify the Executive Orders, statutes, or regulations relating to Cuba. Where specific questions arise about applicability, scope, impact, or any other aspects of these sanctions, it is the responsibility of individuals or entities seeking guidance to review the relevant statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders, and, if appropriate, consult with legal counsel.

I. Embargo

1. Where can I find the amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR)?
Please see the Federal Register.

2. When is the amendment to the CACR effective?
The amendment became effective when published in the Federal Register on January 16, 2015.

3. Are sanctions on Cuba still in place following the President’s announcement on December 17, 2014?
Yes, the Cuba embargo remains in place. Most transactions between the United States, or persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and Cuba continue to be prohibited, and OFAC continues to enforce the prohibitions of the CACR. These changes are targeted to further engage and empower the Cuban people by facilitating authorized travel to Cuba by U.S. persons, certain authorized commerce, and the flow of information to, from, and within Cuba.

Background briefing on Cuba

Background Briefing on Discussions With Cuba
Special BriefingSenior State Department Official
Via Teleconference
March 13, 2015

MODERATOR: Thank you, Tony, and thank you to all of the
participants who have called in today. This is a background call
on Cuba. I think you all have seen the statements that have come
out just recently from the White House and from the State
Department. This call will be on background, so no names or
titles, please. But just for your information, we have with us
three speakers. They are [names and titles withheld]. Henceforth
they will be senior Administration officials one, two, and three.
We also have two colleagues from [titles withheld] to respond to
questions, but they won’t be making introductory

So with that, we will also be taking questions at the end.
We’ll try to get to as many as we can. And without further
ado, let me pass it over to our first speaker.

very much. I’m going to be very brief here because
you’ll have seen the announcements and so forth and have
seen some of the background. So just to recap very quickly, as
part of his December 17th announcement on policy changes towards
Cuba, President Obama asked the Department of State to undertake
a review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wanted: Manager for journalists in Cuba

See interactive graphic
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is looking for a contractor to recruit, hire and manage a network of journalists throughout Cuba.
The contractor announcement states:
Stories regarding politics and economics are of particular interest as are those of the dissident movement.
The deadline for proposals is May 11.
The contractor will work from the date of the award to Oct. 31. The contract may be extended for four additional one-year periods if the BBG desires.
To be eligible for an award, companies must be registered with the government under NAICS code 512110, reserved for firms doing motion picture and video production.
The BBG paid such companies $12,384,935.45 from April 15, 2002, to April 1, 2015, records show.
Jeff Kline - who leads both Canyon Communications and the Pinyon Foundation - has received $2,249,503 for such work, records show. That's more than any other single individual.
Kline once ran a radio programming contest in Cuba without telling participants that it was funded by the U.S. government. The contest was aborted and no one was awarded any prizes after Cuban authorities arrested development worker Alan Gross in December 2009. (See "Taxpayer Contest Aborted").

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Raul Castro to Obama: Gracias

Raul Castro said he has thanked President Obama for his "brave decision to engage the U.S. Congress in a debate to put an end" to economic sanctions targeting Cuba.
He said the Cuban government will "continue working to update the Cuban economic model with the purpose of improving our socialism..."
And he reiterated the “inalienable right" of governments to choose their own political system.
See below for more from Castro's speech at the Summit of the Americas:
His Excellency Juan Carlos Varela, President of the Republic of Panama;
Presidents and Prime Ministers;
Distinguished guests;

I appreciate the solidarity of all Latin American and Caribbean countries that made possible Cuba’s participation in this hemispheric forum on equal footing, andI thank the President of the Republic of Panama for the kind invitation extended to us. I bring a fraternal embrace to the Panamanian people and to the peoples of all nations represented here.
The establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on December 2-3, 2011, in Caracas, opened the way to a new era in the history of Our America, which made clear its well-earned right to live in peace and develop as their peoples freely decide, and chart the course to a future of peace, development and integration based on cooperation, solidarity and the common will to preserve their independence, sovereignty and identity.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

{think} Cuba summit revisited

Still no answer
This week's Summit of the Americas stirred memories of a very different summit held in Panama in 2011.
It was called {think} Cuba and the organizer was a California woman named Stephanie Rudat.
Her blog declared: "Ask me anything." So I asked if she was getting any U.S. government money to put on the summit.
Stephanie Rudat
I never got an answer, so I went to Panama in April 2011 to try to talk to organizers of the three-day event.
Rudat had promised to bring together some of the world's most effective technology-driven activists to jump-start the process of change in Cuba.
The {think} Cuba website stated:
This international task force will collectively support efforts of Cuba’s leading activists and have the opportunity to present initiatives that put their ideas into action. Together, with combined expertise and a global perspective, they will push the pursuit of freedom and improvement of circumstance for Cubans.
Rudat had organized summits before. She was co-founder of the Alliance for Youth Movements, which received $225,690 in State Department funds to gather a group of activists and entrepreneurs in Mexico City from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16, 2009, records show.
In November 2009, the Huffington Post called Rudat one of "11 Twitter Activists You Should Be Following."
She was on the advisory board of Team Rubicon, an innovative disaster-response team made up of doctors, firefighters, medics, military veterans and others. Team Rubicon President Jake Wood wrote of Rudat:
I guess I can’t really pin down what it is that she does, other than run the Alliance of Youth Movements and serve on the boards of a gabillion organizations. She basically identifies young, powerful movements and ensures that they have the tools and mentoring necessary to ensure their success. I’d say she’s good at what she does. Oh, and Oscar calls her the Madonna of nonprofits. I’m just saying…

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cuba spending hovers around $1 billion

The State Department, the Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy have spent $304,300,000 on Cuba-related democracy programs since 1996.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Radio & TV Martí, has spent another $700 million or so. That brings the total to around $1 billion.
USAID and the State Department have spent nearly 90 percent of the Cuba money since 2004. That was a year after then-President George W. Bush created the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and declared that he was ready for "the happy day when the Castro regime is no more."
George W. Bush
Fidel Castro was president of Cuba back then. Roger Noriega, then assistant secretary of state, said, "The United States.....will not accept a succession scenario."
More than a decade later, the democracy programs endure.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cuban hip hop in Panama

Concert line-up
Cuban and Venezuelan hip-hop artists plan to perform in Panama on April 9, the eve of the Seventh Summit of the Americas.
La Asociación Pro Arte Libre is presenting the concert. It will feature Maikel Extremo, Bárbaro Vargas, Raudel (S4dron Patriota), David D Omni, Silvito El Libre, Soandry (Hermanos De Causa), and Macabro Doce from Venezuela.
News of the concert appears on the Cuban Soul Foundation website. The foundation received $75,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy, according to the NED's 2014 annual report.

April 4: Miembros de la sociedad civil cubana fijan su agenda para la Cumbre de las Américas
March 4: Tania Bruguera se suma a la Asociación Pro Arte Libre

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Menéndez indictment

Corruption case
Sen. Bob Menéndez really knows how to take care his pals, especially his wealthy doctor friend Salomon Melgen, according to a 68-page indictment.
The indictment states:
Melgen offered and gave, and Menéndez solicited and accepted from Melgen, things of value, including domestic and international flights on private jets, first-class domestic airfare, use of a Caribbean villa, access to an exclusive Dominican resort, a stay at a luxury hotel in Paris, expensive meals, golf outings, and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund.
Melgen offered and gave, and Menéndez solicited and accepted from Melgen, hundreds of thousands of dollars of contributions to entities that benefitted Menéndez's 2012 Senate campaign, in exchange for requested exercises of Menéndez's offcial authority.
The indictment says Menéndez helped Melgen get a visa for his Brazilian girlfriend, and Melgen helped pay her expenses at the University in Miami through his foundation, aimed at meeting the educational needs of "disadvantaged persons."
The Menéndez File

Woodward, Bernstein - and Yoani

Yoani Sánchez
Investigative Reporters & Editors says Yoani Sánchez will be a featured speaker at this year's IRE Conference in Philadelphia.
From the IRE announcement:
Sanchez started as a blogger and now runs an independent media website, 14ymedio, Cuba’s first independent daily digital news outlet.
A University of Havana graduate in Philology, Sánchez emigrated to Switzerland in 2002 to build a new life for herself and her family. Two years later, she returned to Havana, promising herself to live there as a free person. In 2007, she began Generation Y, her personal blog about daily life in Cuba. She has been arrested and detained by the Cuban government for starting her activities.