Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama’s trip to Cuba provokes strong emotions

    Obama’s trip to Cuba provokes strong emotions Obama will make the first visit by a sitting president in nearly 90 years Major issues still separate the two countries But progress has been made since rapprochement announced Dec. 17, 2014 BY MIMI WHITEFIELD Symbolic, an effort to burnish his legacy and prevent his Cuba policies […] Continue reading


    CUBA’S ‘BLACK SPRING’ STILL HAUNTS JOURNALISTS David Soler 8 February 2016 Years after their release, two Cuban journalists look back at lost years. In March 2003 the world’s attention was transfixed on Iraq as the United States prepared to launch a divisive military assault on Saddam Hussein’s government. Meanwhile just 90 miles from U.S. shores, […] Continue reading

    U.S.-Cuba relations – A year of change

    U.S.-Cuba relations: A year of change First anniversary of new relationship is Dec. 17 Symbolic and tangible changes mark the year Much work remains before there is a normal relationship BY MIMI WHITEFIELD In the year since the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement began, some things have seemed to move at warp speed, but others have smacked […] Continue reading

    The Castros’ New Friend

    The Castros’ New Friend [14-05-2015 22:57:34] James Kirchick ( Obama’s change of policy helps Cuba’s oppressive regime, not its democratic dissidents I’ve visited more than my fair share of dictatorships, but Cuba is the only one where travelers at the airport must pass through a metal detector uponentering, in addition to leaving, the country. Immediately […] Continue reading

    Sudden U.S. Thaw Worries Cuban Dissidents

    Sudden U.S. Thaw Worries Cuban Dissidents By VICTORIA BURNETT and WILLIAM NEUMANDEC. 26, 2014 HAVANA — Sitting in her brother’s spare apartment, near a blinking plastic Christmas tree, Sonia Garro was relishing her newfound freedom, happily trading her prison garb for a purple dress and flip-flops with bright pink plastic bows over the toes. Ms. […] Continue reading

    The old fossil hate begins to change

    The old fossil hate begins to change By Gabriela Esquivada NEW YORK — Granma, the official voice of the Cuban Communist Party, printed several pictures of the moment when last Friday, February 28, Fernando González stepped onto the tarmac of José Martí International Airport in Havana. He had been handcuffed during the flight; his expression […] Continue reading

    Let the Cuban regime change first

    Posted on Saturday, 02.15.14 EMBARGO Let the Cuban regime change first BY HELEN AGUIRRE FERRÉ HAGUIRREFERRE@GMAIL.COM I do not have any radical friends, although I do have friends with radically different ideas as to how to deal with Cuba. Much of the debate focuses on the embargo and how it affects making positive change in […] Continue reading

    Key West should not fete Castro regime

    Posted on Saturday, 10.19.13 Key West should not fete Castro regime BY RAFAEL PEÑALVER AND SAN CARLOS INSTITUTE BOARD MEMBERS Key West officials dropped plans last week to invite Cuban officials to the Conch Republic and hold events at the historic San Carlos Institute after a controversy erupted about the political implications of such an […] Continue reading

    Jay-Z Blasted by ’21 Jump Street’ Director Over Cuba Trip

    Jay-Z Blasted by '21 Jump Street' Director Over Cuba Trip
    By Greg Gilman | Reuters – Fri, Apr 12, 2013

    LOS ANGELES ( - Jay-Z responded to critics of his Cuba trip
    with a song called "Open Letter" and now "21 Jump Street" director Phil
    Lord has responded to the song with an open letter of his own, blasting
    the rapper for "being a bad artist."

    Although Jay-Z's Cuban excursion with his wife, Beyoncé, and both their
    mothers was approved by the U.S. Treasury Department, Lord - the son of
    a Cuban refugee - told the Huffington Post that the rapper's newest
    single upset him to the point where he had to speak his mind.

    Read the entire letter below:

    An Open Letter to Jay-Z

    Dear Mr. Z,

    I just heard your new track, "Open Letter," released today. It's got
    everything I love about your music: looping internal rhymes, an
    infectious beat, and imagery that draws me into a kind of swaggering,
    defiant fantasy.

    Speaking of defiant fantasies, I've been following news of your recent
    trip to the island nation of Cuba. As the son of a Cuban refugee, and
    cousin and nephew to many Cubans on the island, I cringe when Americans
    visit Cuba for a fun island vacation. For one thing it's illegal (which
    nobody seems to care about), but more importantly, it's either ignorant
    of or calloused to the struggles of Cubans on the island. I actually
    encourage my friends to travel to Cuba, to bear witness to one of the
    great tragedies of our time, to learn about the real Cuba, to put a
    human face on the caricature of Americans that the Castros propagate.
    Exchange and travel between our two nations should be a catalyst for
    change, as it has been even in my own family. But for me, Cuba is not
    the place to have a fun, sexy, vacation. Because for Cubans on the
    island and living elsewhere, it's not.

    So when I heard of your visit, I thought to myself, Jay Z seems like a
    smart, thoughtful guy. He doesn't realize what he's walking into. He
    probably just thinks Cuba is a chic place to relax with the family. He
    probably just doesn't know the things I know.

    He likely doesn't know that the Cuban tourism industry is run by the
    Cuban military, so when he spends money at an officially sanctioned
    hotel, or restaurant, he is directly funding the oppressors of the Cuban

    He doesn't know that most Cubans have poor access to independent news
    sources, the internet, books, and food.

    He doesn't know that Cuba has two health systems, one for the
    well-connected, and one for everyone else.

    He doesn't know that before Castro, the Cuban peso traded one-to-one
    with the dollar, and that since then, the Castros have raided the
    nation's coffers and introduced widespread poverty to a once prosperous

    He doesn't know that my ancestors fought to free Cuba from Spain, and to
    set up a democracy to ensure that they would always be free.

    He doesn't know that in spite of those dreams, my mother and her family
    fled for their lives from this regime way back in 1960, as did *two
    million* other Cubans.

    He doesn't know about the thousands of people executed by firing squads
    led by sexy t-shirt icon Che Guevara.

    He doesn't know about the dissidents, artists, and librarians that
    currently rot in Cuba's prisons, and the thousands more who live in fear.

    He doesn't know about Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an Afro-Cuban dissident who
    died in a Cuban prison in 2010 after an 80-day hunger strike.

    He doesn't know that a U.S. Citizen, Alan Gross, is currently serving a
    15-year sentence in a Cuban prison for providing phones and computers to
    the members of the Cuban Jewish community.

    He doesn't know that all attempts by our government and private citizens
    to secure his release have been scoffed at.

    He has likely forgotten about all those who have died in the Florida
    Straits, trying to float on makeshift boats to freedom.

    He doesn't know that contrary to popular understanding, Amnesty
    International reports that repression of dissidents in Cuba is actually
    on the rise.

    He doesn't know that when an international music luminary shows up in
    Cuba, his presence is unwittingly used as propaganda to support the regime.

    He doesn't know that artists in Cuba, with whom he was supposedly having
    a cultural exchange, serve under the close supervision of the
    government, and don't enjoy the freedom to defiantly name check the
    President, call out a few senators, threaten to buy a kilo of cocaine
    just to spite the government, or suggest that they will follow up their
    purchase with a shooting spree, as rapped about in "Open Letter."

    He doesn't know that just because our country applies a different, some
    say hypocritical policy to China, it doesn't make either regime any less
    oppressive, or any more acceptable.

    He doesn't know that when people say "I've got to visit Cuba before it
    gets ruined," I think to myself, "It's already ruined. And by the way,
    ruined by what? freedom of speech? walls that don't crumble? shoes? Do
    you mean ruin Cuba? Or ruin your fashionable vacation in Cuba?"

    He doesn't know that when I really start to think about all this, I get
    so mad I can't sleep.

    He doesn't know that when he's wearing that hat, smoking that coveted
    contraband cigar, he looks like a dupe.

    He doesn't know how much good he could be doing in Cuba, for Cubans,
    instead. Bearing witness, supporting artistic freedom, listening.

    He doesn't realize that as someone privileged to be born in a free
    society, one in which someone could come from nothing and become a
    celebrated music, sports, fashion, business and political mogul, it's
    not only his good luck to be able to bring to light the needs of the
    less fortunate, it's his obligation.

    But then, Jay-Z, I heard your new song, and paid attention to the lyrics.

    I heard you bragging about your "White House clearance."

    I heard you talk about how much you enjoy Cuban cigars.

    And I heard you tell the President I voted for, "You don't need this
    shit anyway, chill with me on the beach."

    You reject the responsibility to speak up for an oppressed people, even
    while you take up your own cause with gusto.

    Then I figured it out.

    You actually know all of this stuff, you just don't care.

    That's not just being a bad citizen, or a bad neighbor.

    It's being a bad artist.

    It's Nihilism with a beat.

    -Phil Lord;_ylt=A2KJ2PZacWpRjHwAcrjQtDMD Continue reading

    Bill Nelson: U.N. must investigate Oswaldo Payá’s death

    Posted on Sunday, 03.24.13

    Bill Nelson: U.N. must investigate Oswaldo Payá's death

    Like so many of her followers, we've been watching Yoani Sánchez's
    international speaking tour. Just this month, the well-known Cuban
    opposition blogger came at my invitation to our nation's capital, where,
    in a rare appearance, she shared her views on life inside today's Cuba.
    During her hour-long visit, she met with members of Congress from both
    sides of the political aisle.

    And her message was bell-clear: The Cuban people are still struggling
    for freedom and democracy — and, they need our help.

    Despite Cuba's incredibly restrictive laws governing free speech and
    freedom of the press, Yoani has found a way to stay connected with the
    world, via the Internet. Millions of people now follow her on Twitter
    and read her blog, Generation Y.

    She's illustrative of how the social media are slowly overtaking the
    repression and control of authoritarian regimes everywhere, including
    communist Cuba. Sánchez fittingly summarized the situation last week,
    saying: "It took me a full 10 years to see images from the fall of the
    Berlin Wall. But my son was able to witness the images from Tahrir
    Square almost exactly as they were happening."

    Still, we must remember that some of her fellow dissidents have been
    silenced — some forever.

    It was just 10 years ago this month that the regime conducted one of its
    severest crackdowns of democracy activists and journalists, known as
    Cuba's "Black Spring."

    And, of course, there's still one of our own — Maryland native [and
    USAID worker] Alan Gross — languishing in a Cuban jail for nearly four
    and a half years now. We must remain unrelenting in our calls for his
    release and safe return home.

    More recently, new details emerged in The Washington Post regarding the
    death last summer of popular Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá. From
    the safety of his native Spain, Ángel Carromero, the driver of Payá's
    car the day Payá died, finally gave his version of events leading up to
    the mysterious crash that killed Payá and fellow Cuban activist Harold

    Their vehicle, according to Carromero, was being followed by another car
    with government plates, before it was suddenly hit with a "thunderous
    impact from behind" and run off the road. Payá, the man who had
    orchestrated the largest democratic petition drive in Cuban history, was
    killed. Carromero's detailed account of the July 22 crash matches that
    of other witnesses.

    Given this new information, and my discussion with Yoani Sánchez, I have
    now asked the head of the United Nations to direct a thorough
    independent investigation of the events leading up to Payá's death. Such
    an investigation should begin immediately.

    Payá will forever be remembered as one of Cuba's best known dissidents.
    But the causes that he championed — freedom of speech, press and
    enterprise — continue to elude the Cuban people. That's why this
    investigation is critical. Without it, further reform is easily
    undermined or avoided, altogether.

    Meantime, Yoani's visit to the United States is a welcome development
    that indicates some seeds of change are beginning to take root on the

    On an 80-day world tour of a dozen countries, after a decade of being
    barred from leaving Cuba, Sánchez next plans to visit Miami. On April 1,
    she'll speak at the iconic Freedom Tower — significant because that's
    the site where many Cuban exiles were processed upon their arrival in
    the United States.

    I'm planning to join her there in support of her call for democratic
    reforms in Cuba. These, I believe, must include the release of Gross and
    the investigation into Payá's death.

    Bill Nelson is Florida's senior U.S. senator. Continue reading

    US to Cuba: Relations Depend on Freedoms

    US to Cuba: Relations Depend on Freedoms July 30, 2012 Washington is willing to talk with Havana about ensuring political rights of expression if Cuba wants to improve U.S. relations, the State Department said. The Obama administration is prepared ...

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