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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jeff Flake says President sounds like Stalin but Senator Flake backed South Africa's Apartheid Regime, backs Castro regime

Flake defends free speech in the U.S. while backing some of the worse predators of the press abroad.

Free societies need a vigorous and strong free press. Unfortunately today in the Senate, Senator Jeff Flake compared Trump's treatment of the press with Josef Stalin. Let us be clear. In Soviet Russia, under Stalin, there was no free Russian press and 25-50 million were murdered by the Russian tyrant.

Walter Duranty of The New York Times in the Soviet Union published fake news to curry the favor of Stalin's regime covering up the genocide of millions of Ukranians in the 1930s. It is ironic that Senator Flake would mention Stalin. These ethical and professional lapses of journalists do more harm to the free press then American politicians criticizing them.

Senator Flake backed the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, the Castro Regime in Cuba and claims to be motivated by conscience. These regimes have more in common with Stalin then the President.

Jeff Flake shakes hands with Castro regime VP, Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel
Sadly, Senator Flake's track record of shilling for Stalinist regimes has consequences. He is a long time friend of the Castro dictatorship, echoing regime talking points, and now in 2018 on the attacks that harmed 24 U.S. diplomats in Havana, Cuba between 2016 and 2017 with injuries that included mild brain trauma, to provide cover for the communist dictatorship, at the expense of getting at the truth of how these Americans were harmed. The Castro regime has a long track record of harming U.S. interests, including trying to smuggle war planes and missiles to North Korea in 2013. This did not deter Senator Flake's drive to embrace the communist regime in Cuba.

However the Senator's embrace of totalitarian regimes spans the ideological divide.

Think Progress reported on then Congressman Jeff Flake's defense of the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa in the late 1980s.
In 1987, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) — then a lobbyist for a Namibian uranium mine — testified before the Utah State Senate in support of a resolution backing the apartheid government in South Africa. Flake, a sixth-term GOP congressman and current Arizona senate candidate, opposed sanctions on the segregationist Botha government — largely to support U.S. interests in the mineral rich region.
Defending a free press is important, but the Arizona Senator embraced two regimes that systematically gutted the press in the pursuit of a communist agenda in Cuba and a racist agenda in South Africa. He is the last person who should talk of "conscience" while defending regimes that murder their own people and silence nonviolent dissent.

This may also explain why Senator Flake is leaving the Senate with only 18% support in his home state of Arizona.

Friday, January 12, 2018

One year ago today the Obama Administration closed the door to Cuban trafficking victims

Setting the record straight

Closing the door on Cuban victims of human trafficking.
 Florida Keys News reported on December 22, 2017 that "[f]or the second time in three months, Cuban migrants made landfall in the Florida Keys this week." This blog also documented Cubans trying to reach the United States in May of 2017. According to Elena Toledo writing in the PanAm Post 15,135 Cubans were declared “inadmissible” in the United States in 2017 and 14,037 Cubans were rejected from entering through Laredo, Texas alone. According to the Miami Herald, 15,410 Cubans entered the United States in fiscal year 2017.

These draconian measures are the result of an order issued by the Obama Administration one year ago today. The Office of the Press Secretary at The White House on January 12, 2017 released a "Statement by the President on Cuban Immigration Policy" that did two concrete things: further restricted the Cuban Adjustment Act and ended the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.

President Obama ended programs protecting Cubans to placate Castro
The Obama administration secretly negotiated with the Castro regime, and did not consult with Congress, in restricting the Cuban Adjustment Act which is US law. This is the second time that it has happened. From 1966 until 1995 The Cuban Adjustment meant that if a Cuban touched US territorial waters the Coast Guard would pick them up and take them to shore and they would obtain residency. Bill Clinton in 1995 reinterpreted the law to mean that Cubans had to touch land (dry feet) or be deported if caught in the water (wet feet). Now Obama has re-interpreted the law a step further saying that he will deport all Cubans who arrive in the US without a visa. This is a narrower interpretation of the law by the Executive branch without consulting with Congress.

President Barack Obama on January 12, 2017 also shut the door on Cuban medical doctors, in third countries, victims of trafficking. Months earlier the Obama Administration  politicized the Trafficking in Persons Report of the State Department, undermining its credibility. This was done by the White House to placate long standing demands of the Castro regime and to whitewash the dictatorship's terrible record on human trafficking. Consider the following:

In 2006 the case of Cuban workers forced to work 112 hours a week for 3 cents an hour in Curaçao made the news. Workers had been unpaid; their compensation was deducted from Cuba’s debt to the Curaçao Drydock Company.

In 2008 The Miami Herald reported that "more than 31,000 Cuban health workers -- most of them doctors -- who toil in 71 countries brought in $2.3 billion last year, ..., more than any other industry, including tourism."

Medical doctors trafficked for the profit of the Castro regime.
The Obama State Department's last TIP report (2016) despite trying to minimize the Cuban governments involvement in human trafficking affirmed that "Cuba is a source and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Child sex trafficking and child sex tourism occur within Cuba." Furthermore reported on how the Castro regime "uses some high school students in rural areas to harvest crops and does not pay them for their work but claims this work is not coerced."

Not mentioned in either the 2015 or 2016 TIP reports are the killings of fleeing refugees in December of 2014 and April of 2015. On December 16, 2014 the Cuban coastguard ram and sank a boat with 32 refugees, one of them, Diosbel Díaz Bioto, was killed. Yuriniesky Martínez Reina (age 28) was shot in the back and killed by state security chief Miguel Angel Río Seco Rodríguez in the Martí municipality of Matanzas, Cuba on April 9, 2015 for peacefully trying to leave Cuba. A group of young men were building a boat near Menéndez beach to flee the island, when they were spotted trying to leave and were shot at.

Yuriniesky Martínez Reina shot and killed on April 9, 2015
Kimberly A. McCabe in her book "The Trafficking of Persons: National and International Responses" wrote the following on Cuba and human trafficking:

"Cuba is a source country for women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced child labor and has been identified as a destination for sex tourism. Cuban adults and children are also trafficked for forced labor in commercial agriculture, such as tobacco farming. There are also reported cases of Cubans being trafficked to the United States for debt bondage. Cuba's thriving sex trade caters to thousands of tourists every year from Europe, Latin America, and North America and involves not only the young boys and girls who are victims of abuse but also the state-run hotel workers, cab drivers, and police officers who may identify the commercial sex areas for those interested in participating in sexual exploitation. 

Months after the door was closed to Cuban doctors in third countries, to placate the Castro regime, The New York Times in a September 29, 2017 article titled "Cuban Doctors Revolt: ‘You Get Tired of Being a Slave’" exposed the Castro regime's trafficking in medical professionals.

"In a rare act of collective defiance, scores of Cuban doctors working overseas to make money for their families and their country are suing to break ranks with the Cuban government, demanding to be released from what one judge called a “form of slave labor.” Thousands of Cuban doctors work abroad under contracts with the Cuban authorities. Countries like Brazil pay the island’s Communist government millions of dollars every month to provide the medical services, effectively making the doctors Cuba’s most valuable export."
Closing the door on thousands of Cuban medical doctors and dooming them to be exploited by a military dictatorship so that regime elites can cash in on billions of dollars was a decision taken by the outgoing Obama Administration on January 12, 2017. It is important to remember and observe this lamentable statement by President Obama on Cuban migration one year later.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Free Cuba Foundation in solidarity with Russian human rights defender Oyub Titiev calls for his freedom

Free Oyub Titiev

Human rights defender Oyub Titiev wrongfully jailed

We learned today that Oyub Titiev, the head of the Russian human rights group Memorial in Grozny (Chechnya), was detained on fabricated charges.  Human Rights Watch provided the following background information on this wrongfully detained human rights activist.

This morning, Chechen authorities arrested activist Oyub Titiev, who works as the Chechnya office director at a leading Russian rights group, Memorial Human Rights Center.

Titiev, born 1957, took over for Memorial in Chechnya after the kidnapping and murder of his colleague, Natalia Estemirova in 2009. In recent years, he received many threats aimed at making him quit human rights work. Now, his life and safety are in jeopardy. Seven hours after his arrest, Chechnya’s interior ministry confirmed they took him into custody, allegedly on suspicion of a drug-related crime.

At about 10:30 a.m. a witness saw five to six police officials stop and search Titiev’s car by the Khumyk river bridge, not far from the town of Kurchaloi. The officials then took Titiev to the Kurchaloi district police department. When a lawyer from Memorial arrived at the police department that afternoon, an officer refused to let him in, claiming Titiev wasn’t on the premises. Another police officer, however, admitted off the record that they had Titiev in custody. At about 5 p.m., Chechnya’s deputy interior minister informed Russia’s federal ombudsperson, in response to her inquiry, that Kurchaoi police had detained Titiev. Around that time, Titiev’s lawyer was admitted to the station, and local police told him his client was being charged with unlawful drug possession.

Framing people for drug crimes has become an increasingly frequent tactic used by Chechnya’s authorities to punish and discredit their critics in the eyes of conservative Chechen society. In summer 2014, a court in Chechnya sentenced local activist Ruslan Kutaev to four years in jail on fabricated, politically motivated drug charges after he criticized and disobeyed an order by Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. In fall 2016, another Chechen court sentenced journalist Zhalaudi Geriev to three years in prison on similarly fraudulent drug charges. Geriev worked for the Caucasian Knot, a Russian media portal which was critical of Chechnya’s leadership and had covered Kutaev’s case. Both men were tortured in police custody. Kutaev was released on parole at the end of 2017. Geriev remains behind bars.
The Free Cuba Foundation owes a debt to Russian human rights groups who back on September 22, 1997 demonstrated their solidarity with Cuban political prisoners. Xavier Utset, president of the Free Cuba Foundation, traveled to Russia and successfully obtained support from Russian organizations and political leaders for Cuban prisoners of conscience.

Members of Russian civil society addressed letters to the Cuban Minister of the Interior requesting that "any charges brought in connection with attempts to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression and travel be dropped, and that they be released immediately." This letter is signed by Anatoly Shabad, Deputy of the 5th State Duma Russian Federation. A. Smirnov, Director, of the Moscow Research Center for Human Rights requested that "proper medical attention be given." I.L. Ponomarev, Co-chairman of the movement "Democratic Russia" stated that "access to a lawyer of their choice be granted. "The support of Memorial and the Radical party (principally), has been crucial for the massive expansion in Russia of interest for Cuban political prisoners."

The Memorial Human Rights Foundation has a long track record of defending human rights in an increasingly dangerous environment.  The authorities in Chechnya have a pattern of politically motivated prosecutions, using criminal charges as a cover to lock up human rights defenders. Based on the above facts, we demand that Oyub Titiev be immediately freed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

FCF Coordinator debates "Have Obama's Cuba gains unravelled?" on TRT World's The Newsmakers

"There are genuinely few times that I can say I debated an unapologetic supporter of the Castro regime. This is one of them." - John Suarez

FCF's John Suarez debates Robert Miller of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign
On Monday October 9, 2017 The Newsmakers, the "flagship current affairs programme, featuring in-depth reports and interviews with the drivers of the biggest stories of the week" for TRT World taped a program on the ongoing diplomatic crisis in Cuba. The two guests were John Suarez, of the Free Cuba Foundation and Robert Miller, of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign's unapologetic claims that Cuba is a democracy are even more troubling when one takes into account that Jeremy Corbyn is a long time member. Following the debate John shared the following observation: "There are genuinely few times that I can say I debated an unapologetic supporter of the Castro regime. This is one of them."

Please share with friends and encourage them to comment. Mr. Miller claims that a majority of Americans and Cuban Americans favor the former Obama Administration's Cuba policy.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Remembering Omar Pernet Hernández: Interview on medical mistreatment that he suffered in Cuba

Omar Pernet Hernández passed away in Louisville, Kentucky on October 7, 2017. In 2009 the Free Cuba Foundation interviewed this former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience at his apartment in Madrid, Spain. Below is a transcript of the interview provided by HopeforAmerika.

Omar Pernet Hernández August 15, 1945 - October 7, 2017

"Then, they realized I would never submit. The times I was incarcerated they were never able to make me submit. They hit me, punishment in solitary confinement, I went on hunger strikes."  - Omar Pernet Hernández, 2009  

Interview with Omar Pernet Hernández in February of 2009 in Madrid, Spain.

Omar Pernet: Look, the meaning of this, is that this type of boot that you see here....I will show it to you again. This boot was fitted for me in Cuba and it began to damage my hips because one, the left, is longer than the right. Then, one hip went like this 0:30 (shows the way hip is going up). Then, here in Spain, they said I couldn't go on wearing those boots, and they asked me to cut them down, and told me to make the ones I'm wearing. These I'm wearing now are stabilizing my hips.

INT: "How is it possible, since the Cuban doctors are so excellent normally, at least that's what the Cubans say, and promote throughout the world. That they should be so wrong? And hurt you so much? How many months did you stay that way in Cuba?"

OP: Well, in 2005, on the 5th of April, I began to wear these boots until the 17-18. I stayed like that until the 3rd of March of 2008 using those boots. These I'm wearing now are different, from Spain. " Stands up, 2:06, shows. "The only thing they did was to slap a cast on. They had me on a cast from the tips of my toes up to my neck for 18 months. The doctors here [in Spain] say they don't find any logic to it. That it was intolerable, the amount of time I spent in those conditions. The cast was removed twice, and each time it was to break my leg again." "I always said I didn't want to do it, because it was gambling with health to demand health, so I gambled with my health, risked my life. Including 2006-2007. I had to go on hunger strikes several times to demand medical attention, for my leg and collar bone. 8:01. Look at my collar bone. Look at the way it is."

INT: "What's it like? We see it, but what does it mean?"

OP: "That was broken in the accident as well."

INT: "It didn't heal properly."

OP: "No. It's crossed over like this 2:20"

OP: "Then, they realized I would never submit. The times I was incarcerated they were never able to make me submit. They hit me, punishment in solitary confinement, I went on hunger strikes."

INT: "Why the hunger strikes? People ask themselves what that's about."

OP: "Look, whenever I went on a hunger strike, it was to defend the rights of another prisoner, or to defend my own rights. To demand respect for my own rights. They didn't, and I went on hunger strikes."

OP: "He broke my leg twice again."

 INT: "Do you think the orders came from the higher-ups? Or from the doctor himself?"

OP: "I think, in my opinion, independent orientation of the Cuban Security, maybe a little higher, the government. They were the ones who were trying to harm me."

INT: "The Cuban Security would be who? The Dept. of Interior?"

OP: "The Security of State, which is National Security, the one for crimes against the Security of the State, against political crimes."

INT: "What is your opinion about the mistake of the Cuban doctors? After all, they could see that your condition was getting worse."

OP: "Look, in regard to that question, I'm going to tell you that maybe I don't have anything against Cuban medicine. And that, that man, that doctor, he wanted to cause me harm. It's not that he is a bad specialist, because I can't say if he is good or bad. With me he was bad, because he tried to harm me, at all times. He did not operate me."

OP: "Don't you see? Now my hip is stabilized. Because it is the same length as my normal leg. That other boot was raising my hip. Like this." (3:51)

 INT: "This was obviously causing harm."

OP: "Of course, Dr. Verduga, here in Madrid, was the one who did x-rays, and an MRI, and then they could see that my hip was losing position, that it was raising, and that my left leg was longer than the right. Then he forbid me to use those boots, gave me a prescription to use these I'm wearing."

OP: "See? They're different. This here is, you see, 2:16 (shows) here is my heel, and from there on, the work they did to stabilize my hips."

INT: "What was the impact on your hip, because we're talking 2, 3 yrs."

OP: "It's the accident. All this was because of the accident, but after the accident, I was not operated. They said my blood contained a virus, and that my blood could not touch my bone. That was Dr. Hector, Chief of Orthopedics of the Military Hospital in Marianao, in Cuba."

INT: "Is Hector his first, or last name?"

OP: "No, his first name, I don't remember his last name."

 INT: "You say the cause was the accident. But this boot damaged your hip, right?"

OP: "Yes, he was the one who had the boots made."

INT: "What was the impact of that boot? And how are things after the change here in Spain? What's the difference between them?"

OP: "Well, with that boot I showed you in the newspaper it looked like this because 3:34 (shows newspaper) with that boot my hip rose."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

FCF co-founder addresses travel industry's reckless disregard for tourists visiting Cuba

Same travel industry that flew tourists into Cuba, while it was under Hurricane Watch for Irma (a deadly category five storm), now wish to disregard a State Department warning on travel to Cuba.

24 hrs before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba, travel agencies were still flying tourists in.

 Sun Sentinel, October 4, 2017

Don't rush to call Cuba 'a safe destination' | Letters

On Sept. 29, news organizations published the article "Travel industry sticking with trips to Cuba from U.S." In the article Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours says, "We continue to believe that Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers, and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes."

The Cuba travel industry insists travel to Cuba is safe and dismisses the travel warning issued on Sept. 29 by the State Department that described how "numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks. These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks."

Press accounts report "mild traumatic brain injuries, hearing loss, severe headaches, cognitive disruption, and brain swelling." Over the past 10 months they have not been able to identify the source of the attacks but did report that the attacks occurred both at "U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens." At least 21 Americans have been harmed.

The travel industry's claim that "Cuba is a safe destination" should be placed in context. Earlier in September when Hurricane Irma, a deadly category five storm with 180 mile per hour winds was bearing down on Cuba and a hurricane watch issued, tourists were still being flown into the island by British and Canadian travel agencies.

The British travel agency "Thomas Cook has defended itself saying the company followed the Cuban government's emergency instructions to the letter," BBC News reported. Cayo Coco suffered the full impact of Hurricane Irma and was destroyed by the storm. They were flying tourists into Cuba to Cayo Coco a day prior to the storm's arrival, as reported by The Independent (United Kingdom).

CBC News (Toronto) reported that Canadian tour operator Sunwing had elderly tourists flying into Cuba 24 hours before the deadly Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma, smashed into Cuba , forcing them to flee for their lives. Hundreds of foreign tourists didn't make it and were left stranded to face a hurricane that according to official Cuban government figures claimed ten lives and injured many more, but these travel agencies were just following regime orders.

Now this same travel industry tells tourists Cuba is safe and to ignore "targeted attacks" that took place at hotels frequented by tourists that can cause serious harm. This is an outrage.

John Suarez, coordinator, Free Cuba Foundation in Miami

Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel


Thursday, September 21, 2017

FCF co-founder addresses attack on U.S. diplomats in Cuba in The Miami Herald

 "The types of injuries suffered by diplomats since November 2016 are new but Cuba’s outlaw behavior towards them is not." - John Suarez

Letter to the Editor published today in the Miami Herald on page 16A


The Miami Herald’s September 19, 2017 editorial “Unless Cuba comes clean about the embassy attacks on U.S. diplomats, it will put renewed ties at risk” offers an overview of the “strange case” of American diplomats and their dependents harmed in Cuba.

But three points should be considered.

First, Raul Castro lies, and there are two recent examples. Castro on March 21, 2016 in the joint press conference with President Obama said that there were no political prisoners in Cuba, and if any were identified they would be released immediately.  A list of current Cuban political prisoners was provided, but they were not freed. In July 2013, Cuban officials were caught trying to smuggle war planes, missiles and technology related to ballistic missile programs hidden under 220,000 bags of sugar to North Korea and lied about it. This was in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Second, Obama did not achieve an end to the Cold War with Cuba. On Jan. 2, 2017 Cuban troops marched in a parade over which Castro presided chanting that they would repeatedly shoot the first African American President in the head so many times that they would make a “hat of lead to the head.” Considering that American diplomats in Havana were already suffering brain trauma since November 2016 perhaps this should be looked at in a new light.

Third, the statement by the Cuban embassy in Washington on September 19, 2017 that "Cuba strictly observes its obligations to protect foreign diplomats on its soil" is not true. There is a decades old pattern of hostility

The types of injuries suffered by diplomats since November 2016 are new but Cuba’s outlaw behavior towards them is not.

- John Suarez
 Free Cuba Foundation