The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2017
Cuba Kills Another Dissident
After Obama’s detente: More tourists on the island and more repression.
by Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Score another kill for the Cuban military dictatorship: last month it eliminated Afro-Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez, an inmate of one of its most notoriously brutal prisons.
The remarkable thing was not the death of a critic. That’s routine in a police state that holds all the guns, bayonets, money and food. What’s noteworthy is that the world hardly blinked, which is to say that two years after US president Barack Obama’s detente with Raul Castro, the regime still dispatches adversaries with impunity. It also routinely blocks visitors to the island, even of the leftist stripe (more on this in a moment) to keep the population isolated. “Normalization” to the contrary, Cuba is the same totalitarian hellhole that it has been for the past 58 years.
Mas Hernandez, 45, was a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, a group working for a peaceful transition to democracy. He was healthy when he was arrested in June and sentenced to four years in prison for “disrespect for authority” — AKA failure to bow to the masters of the slave plantation. His real crime was advocating for a free Cuba while black. There are few more lethal combinations.
The black Cuban is supposed to show gratitude to the revolution to sustain the myth that he has been elevated by communism. The grim reality is the opposite, but heaven help those who dare to say so.
In November Mas Hernandez was transferred to Combinado del Este prison, a dungeon not fit for animals. There he developed a kidney infection. His wife told the independent media in Cuba that he lost almost 16kg. According to his overlords he died on February 24 of a “heart attack”. Funny, that epidemic of heart disease among those who cross Castro.
His death ought to prick the conscience of the free world. But while the island is crawling with foreign news bureaus, the story has not appeared in the English-language press. Obama may have opened Cuba to more tourists, but the regime takes pains to keep its 11 million captive souls and their misery invisible.
The Castro family is a crime syndicate and many US businesses want a piece of the action. Sheraton Four Points now runs a hotel owned by the military regime. The luggage company Tumi spent the winter promoting Cuba travel on its website. (Note to self: buy that new suitcase from someone who isn’t blind to tyranny.)
The upshot is that more US dollars flow to Cuba’s military coffers than ever before.
Obama argued that more contact with outsiders would empower Cubans. The regime agrees. It has been open to foreign tourism and investment since the end of Soviet subsidies in the early 1990s, and millions of Europeans, Latin Americans and Asians have flooded the country. But its secret police keep a tight leash on visitors.
British real estate developer Stephen Purvis, Canadian businessmen Cy Tokmakjian and Sarkis Yacoubian and US Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross all did time in Cuban jails for being too independent of the mob boss.
Last month Castro took the audacious step of refusing visas to three prominent Latin American politicians who could hardly be regarded as enemies of Cuba.
Organization of American States secretary-general Luis Almagro was invited to Cuba by Rosa Maria Paya. She is the daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who was killed in a suspicious car accident in 2012.
Almagro was slated to receive an award named for Paya’s father from the Latin America Youth Network for Democracy. But Almagro, who is a Uruguayan leftist, was denied entry to the island.
The regime also blocked Mariana Aylwin, the daughter of Patricio Aylwin, the first elected Chilean president post-Pinochet. Aylwin is a Christian Democrat and a former education minister and was to accept a posthumous award for her late father. She remains an important voice in the Chilean Christian Democrat Party, which is a member, with the Communist Party among others, of the governing coalition.
Paya also invited former Mexican president Felipe Calderon to the event. Calderon is a member of Mexico’s centre-right PAN, but as head of state he was friendly towards Cuba. One memorable moment was when he welcomed Raul at the Rio Group summit on the Mayan Riviera in 2010 at a time when Orlando Zapata, another black Cuban dissident, lay dying in a military prison. Calderon was also denied a visa.
Cuba is not reforming.
Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, March 4, 2017
President Obama’s goodbye gift to General Raul Castro: Whitewashing Cuba’s drug trafficking record
Reality check on the Castro regime’s continuing links to drug trafficking
Only ignorance of history and hemispheric realities could lead one to believe the newest and last claims by the Obama Administration with regards to Cuba and it is not the first time. For example, the Obama State Department played politics with human trafficking to portray the Cuban government in a more positive light that drew criticism from human trafficking experts that it had been politicized. They are now doing the same with drug trafficking in the just released 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) where on page 142 made the following extraordinary claim:
"Cuba Despite its proximity to the largest exporters of illegal drugs in the hemisphere and the U.S. market, Cuba is not a major consumer, producer, or transit point of illicit narcotics. Cuba’s domestic production and consumption remain low due to active policing, strict sentencing, and nationwide prevention and public information programs."
No mention made in the report or in The Miami Herald of the Panamanian police seizing more than 400 kilograms of cocaine in a Cuban ship on its way to Belgium in April of 2016.
At the same time the report recognizes that out of the world wide list of22 "major illicit drug producing and/or drug - transit countries" identified and notified to Congress by the President on September 14, 2015 includes regimes with close ties to the Castro regime, its military and intelligence services: Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua,and Venezuela. The report also identifies that out of these 22 countries "three have 'failed demonstrably' during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements" and they are "Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela."
Mimi Whitefield reports "Report: Cuba has kept drug trafficking, consumption in check" in The Miami Herald an interesting contradiction when she reports that:
William Brownfield, assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, says the United States is experiencing “perhaps the worst drug crisis that we have seen in the United States of America since the 1980s, and the worst heroin and opioids crisis that we have seen in the United States in more than 60 years.”
Drug trafficking and consumption are out of control and the regime in Cuba has a long history of being implicated in the narcotics trade not only for the hard currency but to do harm to the United States as both an existential and ideological enemy.