CubaBrief: The House of Representatives “”overwhelmingly backs intelligence Bill, according to an Associated Press storypublished Friday (July 28) by The New York Times: “The bill states that it's the sense of Congress that agencies should submit prompt, written notification to the intelligence committees after becoming aware that an individual in the executive branch has disclosed classified information outside established channels to an official of North Korea, Iran, China, Russia or Cuba.” It is reassuring that the House realizes the Castros regime hostile to American interests. President Obama’s Cuba policy increased the number of Cuban diplomats (and intelligence officers) in the United States while the number of FBI and other counterspy agents apparently was not increased.
Speaking about Cuban intelligence and disinformation, Reuters reports that “Cuba Denounces International Plot to Silence Venezuelan People.” The story published July 31 by the New York Times says that “Cuba praised the election in Venezuela of a new legislative super body and denounced what it called an international plot… in the wake of U.S. sanctions on its key ally.” Cuba’s state-run media said that Havana “denounces the initiation of a well-orchestrated international operation, directed in Washington ... “Many foreign governments condemned President Maduro’s efforts to close the Venezuelan Congress. Recently the Secretary General of the Organization of American States said that thousands of Cuban military officers in Venezuela are “an occupation army.” The United States called Sunday’s “election,” a “sham.”
In this CubaBrief, the following:
· The New York Times, August 2, 2017 “Venezuela Reported False Election Turnout, Voting Company Says”
· The Miami Herald, July 31, 2017 ”Cuba reins in entrepreneurs who take free enterprise too far”
· The Hill, August 2, 2017 “Trump will reverse Obama's dreadful Cuban appeasement”
· The Washington Post, August 1, 2017 “Court says 2 Venezuela opposition leaders back to prison”
· The Miami Herald, July 28, 2017 “More than 1,300 Cuban migrants are being held in detention centers across the U.S.”
The New York Times, August 2, 2017
Venezuela Reported False Election Turnout, Voting Company Says
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The Venezuelan government reported false turnout figures for its contentious election over the weekend, announcing a tally that had been altered by at least one million votes, a software company involved in setting up voting systems for the country said on Wednesday.
“We know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated,” the company, Smartmatic, said in a statement.
The vote was part of an ambitious plan by the government to consolidate power. President Nicolás Maduro instructed Venezuelans to select from a list of trusted allies of the governing party — including his wife — who will rewrite the nation’s Constitution and rule Venezuela with virtually unlimited authority until they finish their work.
Voters were not given the option of rejecting the plan. Venezuela’s new governing body, known as the constituent assembly, will soon take charge of the country with the power to dismiss any branch of government, including the opposition-controlled legislature.
The National Electoral Council said on Sunday that nearly 8.1 million people had turned out to vote, just over 40 percent of eligible voters. But many Venezuelans rejected those figures as unrealistically high, pointing to the absence of lines or crowds at polling places. And no major monitoring missions that are typical during elections of this kind watched over the vote on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Smartmatic said that although Venezuela’s election process includes “a series of auditing systems” that “are impossible to circumvent,” no election monitors from the opposition were present to watch for evidence as it came in. Opposition parties had boycotted the vote, declining to participate in the election or review the returns on Sunday evening. [More]
The Miami Herald, July 31, 2017
Cuba reins in entrepreneurs who take free enterprise too far
By Mimi Whitefield
July 31, 2017 12:25 PM
A Coral Gables business consultant watched one day in June as Cuban authorities carried out chairs, tables, plates, sound systems and bottles of imported liquor from a popular private restaurant near the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
“They took everything except the drywall and loaded it into a green truck,” said Saul Cimbler, president of U.S.-Cuba Business Advisory. He happened upon the scene outside El Litoral — a stylish paladar known for its high-end cuisine and customers — just as officers from the Technical Department of Investigations were carting off its fixtures.
Neighboring business owners told him the restaurant got in hot water because of money-laundering allegations. Also problematic, they said, was that the liquor didn’t seem to come through official government channels and the restaurant was paying some of its employees off the books. El Litoral diners also noticed that the restaurant seemed to play a little loose with the rules. Servers sometimes told them: If you don’t have CUCs (Cuban convertible pesos), we’ll take dollars. Greenbacks aren’t legal tender in Cuba.
Two other private restaurants — the nearby Dolce Vita, an Italian restaurant with water views, and Lungo Mare, another Italian restaurant a little further along the seaside Malecón — also were cleared and shut down in an apparent crackdown on entrepreneurs who have taken the definition of free enterprise too far. [More]
The Hill, August 2, 2017
Trump will reverse Obama's dreadful Cuban appeasement
By Adolfo Franco, opinion contributor - 08/02/17 12:20 PM EDT
The recent op-ed by former Obama administration official Mark Feierstein underscores the moral failure of the previous administration and its misguided appeasement policy regarding Cuba.
As Feierstein’s piece makes clear, that policy was devoid of any support or concern for Cuba’s long-suffering dissidents and pro-democracy advocates, the majority of whom have endorsed President Trump’s rollback of Obama policies and applaud the president’s restatement of the importance of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
The conditions President Trump has laid out for improving relations with the Castro regime are simple: Cuba must hold free elections, allow freedom of speech, release its many political prisoners and end its support of terrorists.
The Obama administration’s abandonment of these core principles of freedom — as well as the Cuban people themselves — in favor of accommodation with a brutal, repressive dictatorship is the tragic result of Obama’s ill-considered “legacy-building” in the late stages of his presidency. The argument that “commercial and people-to-people” exchanges, all of which are on Cuba’s terms, can bring about change and democracy on the island is ludicrous.
Freedom and democracy triumphed in Eastern Europe because of America's and the West’s unwavering support of dissident and civil-society movements, such as those inspired and led by Lech Walesa in Poland and Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia. [More]
The Washington Post, August 1, 2017
Court says 2 Venezuela opposition leaders back to prison
By Michael Weissenstein | AP August 1 at 10:39 AM
CARACAS, Venezuela — Two of Venezuela’s leading opposition figures were taken from their homes in the middle of the night by state security agents on Tuesday in President Nicolas Maduro’s government’s first moves against prominent enemies since a widely denounced vote granting the ruling party nearly unlimited powers.
The Venezuelan Supreme Court said in a statement that Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma had violated the terms of their house arrest by criticizing the government in messages released on social media in recent days.
The court, which is controlled by Maduro allies, also said that it had received “reports from official intelligence sources” that the two men had been planning to flee.
Relatives and allies of Lopez and former Caracas Mayor Ledezma earlier reported on social media that both had been detained. Lopez’s wife posted what appeared to be video of him being taken from their home after midnight.
“They’ve just taken Leopoldo from the house,” Lilian Tintori wrote on Twitter. “We don’t know where he is or where they’re taking him.” [More]
The Miami Herald, July 28, 2017
More than 1,300 Cuban migrants are being held in detention centers across the U.S.
By Nora Gámez Torres
They are teachers, engineers or farmers, all seeking freedom in the United States. But after an unexpected policy change and an end to special treatment that allowed the majority of Cuban migrants to remain legally in the country, more than 1,300 are now being held at detention centers across the country waiting for their fate to be decided by immigration judges.
“What I heard were stories of people who felt that they literally could not live in Cuba anymore,” said Wendi Adelson, executive director of the Immigration Partnership & Coalition (IMPAC) Fund, a Florida-based organization that raises funds for the defense of undocumented residents without criminal convictions.
“Many say that not even in their wildest dreams would they have imagined that the United States would treat them this way,” she said. “They thought that this was a country of freedom and this was what they came for, to live without the government having its boots on their necks — and now this?” [More]