Summit Meeting

President Obama’s good intentions and bad outcomes

August 25th, 2015

United Press International, August 25, 2015
By Frank Calzon

President Obama was not looking to start an arms race in the Middle East when he negotiated an accord with Iran. Obama said he wanted to stop Tehran’s manufacturing of nuclear weapons. But in light of what they considered a bad agreement and afraid to rely on Washington’s assurances, if Tehran were to threaten them, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have begun looking for weapons to deter the Ayatollah’s ambitions.

The accord negotiated by the U.S., Russia, France, and Tehran offers little but a hope that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon in 15 years. But here is what we do know: It provides Tehran trillions of dollars, that Iran, the most important financier of terrorist groups, will share with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Obama also says he had good intentions when he said that Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad had to go. When that didn’t work, Obama made a threat on American television; if Assad would crossed a red line by using chemical weapons against his own people, the U.S. would act. When Damascus gassed, according to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, “hundreds of children,” the President failed to act, and the Syrian strongman was emboldened. The unintended consequence has been an estimate of 330,000 dead and 4,013,292 Syrian refugees.

The U.S. accord with Havana is not better. The President, in search of a personal legacy, wanted to normalize relations with Havana. He gave in to Havana’s blackmail in order to free an American hostage by releasing four convicted Cuban spies from American prisons, one of whom played a part in the murder of three Americans and a U.S. resident in international airspace by Cuban warplanes under the command of Cuba’s then-Minister of the Armed Forces, General Raul Castro. Obama received in exchange an American hostage languishing in a Cuban jail for the crime of distributing computers among Havana’s Jewish community.

Mr. Obama ordered removing Havana from the list of countries supporters of terrorism while American terrorists continue to enjoy the regime’s hospitality.
And because Cuba’s tourist industry is controlled by the military, American tourists are now bringing to Cuba’s security forces millions of dollars.

While the U.S.-Cuba talks were underway, the Da Dan Xia, a Chinese ship, was intercepted by Colombia with a large shipment of weapons hidden under tons of cereal. The ship was on its way to two Colombian ports and then to Havana. To maintain its deniability of Cuba’s terrorist activities, the U.S. failed to ask Cuba if the weapons were intended for the FARC, the Colombian terrorists.

In 2013, again Havana was caught, this time by Panama, in the process of smuggling war planes and war materiel on a North Korean ship to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions and Washington looked the other way.

Another unintended consequence of the deal with Havana has been the discarding, for all intents and purposes, of the Democratic Charter that limited recognition in the Americas to democratic governments freely elected and under the rule of law.
Washington may claim that it did not intend to subsidize Iranian support for terrorism or an increase of repression, suffering and abuse in Cuba, but those consequences are real and Raul Castro in Havana and the Ayatollahs in Iran have been emboldened.
As they say, the road to somewhere is paved with good intentions.

Obama administration turns a blind eye to Cuba’s transgressions

August 25th, 2015

The Miami Herald, June 1, 2015

As Gen. Raúl Castro celebrates his removal from the U.S. State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, President Obama’s finding that Havana “no longer supports international terrorism” is not one to be taken seriously in Washington.

On Feb. 28, just weeks before the U.S. president embraced the Cuban dictator in Panama, the Colombian Navy seized a Chinese freighter, the Da Dan Xia en route to Havana. The vessel’s cargo? “Around 100 tons of powder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells,” according to Colombia’s daily, El Espectador. The weapons and war materiel were hidden in the hole of the ship under 28,451 tons of cereal. Norinco, a Chinese government enterprise, was readily identified as the manufacturer.

Colombia’s defense minister told the newspaper the military “has confiscated from FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a communist insurgency), and destroyed, Norinco-manufactured rifles and pistols throughout the country.”

Given President Obama’s commitment to normalizing relations with Cuba, and Colombia’s ongoing negotiations in Havana with the FARC to end the insurgency, the Da Dan Xia was released along with its cargo.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is not a firebrand looking for a showdown with President Obama, like, say, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Santos wasn’t going to risk spoiling the summit for either the United States or Cuba. Much of Latin America faces the same dilemmas that Colombia faces.

For the sake of American security, however, the U.S. Congress should be asking more questions about Obama’s U.S.-Cuba rapprochement and whether there are any real benefits for Cubans or the United States absent any true economic or political reforms in Cuba.

The Panama Summit was an unprecedented “love fest” for Raúl Castro and President Obama. Castro flew hundreds of Cuban security agents to Panama to disrupt conferences on civil society that the Panamanian government had organized to coincide with the summit. Among those agents was Alexis Frutos Weeden, an intelligence officer stationed in Caracas who has been advising and training Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s police force on how to repress Venezuela’s democratic opposition.

Panamanian TV broadcast Col. Frutos beating up Americans trying to place a wreath at the base of a statue of Jose Martí, Cuba’s national hero. Washington officials believe the beating of Americans by Cuban intelligence agents is a “judicial” matter for the Panamanian courts.
After acquiescing to demands to delist Cuba from the list of terrorist states, the administration has little clout to steer Cuba under Raúl toward reform.

Raúl won’t get more reasonable about establishing a rule of law in Cuba, holding free elections, introducing and sustaining economic reforms. Nor is he likely to allow the United States to try the Cuban military pilots indicted for murder in the 1996 shootdown of two civilian American aircraft over the Straits of Florida that killed three Americans and one Florida resident. Raúl, who headed Cuba’s military at the time, gave the order to down the planes and gave the pilots medals for their “courage.”

Many believe Obama has granted Raúl impunity now and forever for that crime or others, but having put away the U.S. “stick” he’s certainly come close to being Raúl’s enabler.


Obama administration ignores ‘fugitive issue’

April 27th, 2015

The Miami Herald, April 26, 2015

President Obama’s actions to remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of terrorist states is stripping the United States of its leverage to achieve economic and political reform in Cuba.

Cuba’s removal from the list has been the Castro brothers’ No. 1 goal, facilitating Cuba’s access to international financial institutions and trade credits. To remove the designation is to ignore their engagement with terrorist organizations and their provision of safe haven to convicted felons and fugitive terrorists.

During the Obama administration, the same State Department that just recommended to the president to remove Cuba from the list had conducted five annual reviews concluding that Havana’s ties to international terrorism were still relevant. The U.S. Congress might want to ask Secretary of State John Kerry what has changed since April 2014 when the the department made its last such determination.

Read the rest of this entry »

US Cuba Relations C SPAN

April 8th, 2015

Cuba Debate at the University of Kansas Dole Institute

April 7th, 2015

Frank Calzon and FIU professor Marifeli Perez-Stable

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Debate on Cuba

April 7th, 2015

Frank Cazlon, Alberto Coll, Luis Martinez-Fernandez, Marcelino Miyares, Ted Piccone, Julissa Reynoso

Es Lamentable Que EE UU Este Conversando Con Cuba Mientras Hay Un Aumento En El Numero De Presos P

April 6th, 2015

Squaring Cuba’s Terror Designation in the Circle of the Law

March 20th, 2015

By Mauricio Claver-Carone in World Affairs Journal:

Cuba’s Castro regime has made it clear in recent weeks that “normalizing” relations with the United States hinges on removing the designation of that island nation from the US list of “state-sponsors of terrorism.” Iran, Sudan, and Syria are the only other nations currently on the list, which is compiled by the State Department.

Last December, as President Obama announced his intent to re-establish formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, he also publicly instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s status. The review, the president added, should be “guided by the facts and the law.” In the weeks since, there have been reports of the White House pressuring the State Department and intelligence community to accelerate the review so that the president and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, can shake hands at the April “Summit of the Americas,” in Panama City, Panama. Read the rest of this entry »

Cuba’s wrongdoing goes unchallenged

March 10th, 2015

Miami Herald


A few days after American negotiators met with Cuban officials to continue talks to reestablish formal diplomatic relations, a Chinese ship bound for Cuba was intercepted near Colombia’s Port of Cartagena carrying 100 tons of gunpowder, almost 3 million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells to Cuba.

On Monday, a Colombian judge ordered that the Chinese captain of the Hong Kong-registered Da Dan Xia be placed under house arrest.

It’s not yet known whether President Obama has been alerted to Havana’s arms purchase. If he has, he’s not likely to say anything in this new era of aggressive niceness. He didn’t say anything about Cuba’s attempt in 2013 to smuggle two warplanes, missile parts and 240 metric tons of war materiél from Cuba into North Korea. Certainly, he wouldn’t say anything resembling his negative response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Read the rest of this entry »

Does Cuba still belong on the sponsor of terrorism list?

February 24th, 2015

SunSentinel, Feburary 24, 2015

By Frank Calzon

While President Barack Obama recently “instructed” Secretary of State John Kerry to review whether Cuba belongs on the State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a reward of “up to $1 million for information directly leading to the apprehension of Joanne Chesimard,” a terrorist living in Cuba after escaping from prison in 1979, where she was serving a life sentence for killing a New Jersey policeman.

Chesimard was a member of “a revolutionary extremist organization,” which used robberies to fund its activities, according to the FBI. Stopped by New Jersey troopers, she and her accomplices opened fire. One trooper was wounded, another shot and killed “execution-style at point-blank range,” the FBI said.

Cuba is the only government that appears on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism to publicly acknowledge providing safe haven to one listed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists. Cuba is also the only government on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism that has several officers under indictment for murder and terrorism by an American federal grand jury: the Cuban Air Force officers who murdered three Americans and a Florida resident on an afternoon in 1996, in the Florida Straits, in international airspace.

They were helping to rescue refugees. The killings were ordered by Raul Castro, who awarded medals to the murderers.

Cuba also provides safe haven for common criminals, such as Robert Vesco, who was wanted in the U.S. for crimes ranging from securities fraud and drug trafficking to political bribery. After difficulties with the Castro brothers, he died in a Cuban prison.

Presumably, the millions of dollars stolen by Vesco ended up in Castro’s coffers. There is no record of any effort by Washington to recover those funds.

The Sun Sentinel has reported on “Cuban nationals in various frauds and thefts including Medicare,” revealing that hundreds of millions of dollars from American taxpayers have been deposited in Cuba’s National Bank; deposits that had to be approved by Raul Castro. There is no record of U.S. demands for those funds to be returned.

Cuba is also the only nation to be caught red-handed shipping 240 tons of heavy weapons, including war planes, beneath bags of sugar to North Korea in violation of United Nations’ sanctions. Additionally the Cuban government has trained and equipped Venezuela’s repressive forces and offered Russia’s Vladimir Putin an espionage “listening post” in Cuba.
If President Obama removes Cuba from the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist states, he will not only have rewarded the Castro regime for its crimes but encourage more of the same.

It is hard to imagine President Obama reversing any of his concessions to Havana but fortunately for the American people, the Founding Fathers — in their wisdom — created a government of checks and balances. Congress still has a role to play in shaping U.S. policy at home and abroad.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.


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