Monday, April 30, 2007

News from Mexico and Geneva...

Gonna be out most of this week, but I do plan to post any updates on the Luis Posada Carriles case. For example, late last week the Mexican Senate agreed UNANIMOUSLY to urge the Foreign Affairs Ministry "to send a diplomatic note to Washington" for Posada Carriles' extradition to Venezuela. This news has been reported so far by Cuban sources and Iranian sources. I haven't seen it in American papers yet.

I found the Senate resolution from their website, you can read it (in Spanish) here. It describes the Cubana airline bombing of 1976 as "perpetrado por" (perpetrated by) Luis Posada Carriles. It also states that according to the US government's own Patriot Act (section 412), Posada Carriles' "liberación amenaza la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos" (liberation threatens US national security). I also mentions the incarceration of the Cuban Five, and follows that the temporary release of Posada Carriles is "un insulto para el pueblo cubano y también para el propio pueblo de los Estados Unidos" (an insult to the Cuban people and also to the people of the US). They make proposed three points of agreement:

- Opposition to the temporary release of Luis Posada Carriles.
- To send a diplomatic note to the US urging them to abide by the UN resolutions against terrorism.
- To urge the US Congress to solicit the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela.

In Geneva, one month ago, the UN Human Rights Council convened their 4th Session and reported their findings on human rights in Cuba. You can find all their resolutions here, where they have the Cuban resolution (A/HRC/4/12) in PDF format.

The author of the resolution, Christine Chanet, finds that:

"The restrictions imposed by the embargo help to deprive Cuba of vital access to medicines, new scientific and medical technology, food, chemical water treatment and electricity. The disastrous effects of the embargo in terms of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Cuban people have been denounced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization"

And she also makes ten recommendations for the Cuban government, the first three being:

"(a) Halt the prosecution of citizens who are exercising the rights guaranteed under articles 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

(b) Release detained persons who have not committed acts of violence against individuals and property;

(c) Review laws which lead to criminal prosecutions of persons exercising their freedom of expression, demonstration, assembly and association, and in particular Act No. 88 and article 91 of the Criminal Code, in order to bring these provisions of the law into line with the above-mentioned provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;"

There's plenty to go over: the effects of the US Embargo towards Cuba, the repressive mechanisms of the Cuban government, and also includes a list of the still-imprisoned political prisoners from 2003.

Read at your leisure.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Bigger Picture

I also wanted to comment on two recent published articles. Yesterday, the International Herald Tribune printed the opinion of Anatol Lieven, a distinguished journalist and author, on US policy towards Cuba. His piece titled "It's Time to Trade with Cuba" makes an argument for a new US policy because he feel that the current restrictions "have damaged Washington's interests" in the Latin region. It's an excellent piece, and basically the most popular argument in favor for new engagement with Cuba within the OAS members.

Lieven also mentions Cuba's "great success in education." Today, another article printed by the San Jose Mercury News, supports this comment. Martin Carnoy from UNESCO describes research he did in 2004 comparing primary education in the Latin region. He confirms Cuba's success in education (compared with Brazil or Chile) and states that the island's system has "all features of high-quality education that could be adopted by any country in Latin America."

These two articles are very important. They support a broader effort for regional integration in the Americas, support for the larger goals of the UN Millennium Development strategy for universal primary education by 2015, and confront today's challenge where one out of three children in the world never see the inside of a classroom.

This isn't another Elian

José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, made news today on Radio Mambi. Radio Mambi read a news brief reporting that Insulza was calling for Luis Posada Carriles' extradition to Venezuela. Radio Mambi even went on to describe Insulza as a Marxist. This irrelevant characterization is most likely false, but no surprise coming from a radio station that defends Posada Carriles' violent history. According to Insulza's biography, he was part of a "moderate coalition of democratic parties" within Chile's Socialist Party. Currently, Chile's President, Michelle Bachelet also has similar political roots with Chile's Socialist Party.

The only news I could find that would explain why Radio Mambi would report this story today comes from China's "People's Daily Online." Otherwise, Insulza's comments are not really surprising. Insulza has made it clear many times that he supports Posada Carriles' extradition to Venezuela. He said it in 2005, and also said it last month.

Recently, Venezuela has petitioned the OAS and the UN to demand that both organizations support the extradition. Its very likely that both international bodies will support Venezuela's claims.

According to the UN's Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Security Council (including the US) unanimously approved a resolution (1373) the very same month of the September 11 attacks outlining specific guidelines to combat terrorism. One of those guidelines states that all nations will:

"Afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with criminal investigations or criminal proceedings relating to the financing or support of terrorist acts, including assistance in obtaining evidence in their possession necessary for the proceedings"

The OAS also has a similar committee and resolutions calling for international cooperation when in comes to investigations of criminal charges related to terrorism. In 2006, the OAS adopted a resolution called "Extradition and Denial of Safe Haven to Terrorists"[PDF]. It clearly states that OAS members will uphold:

"in particular the applicable provisions regarding the provision of mutual legal assistance and the extradition of anyone participating in the planning, preparation, financing, or commission of terrorist acts or, where appropriate, the attempted commission of said offenses."

The case of Luis Posada Carriles is really beginning to heat up. Way beyond the Elian Gonzalez case ever could.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Truth v. Posada Carriles

Been pretty busy lately, but I am planning to write fully on the issue of cultural exchanges between the US and Cuba, given the recent news of the musical group The Police going to Cuba.

Also, I plan to write more about the Luis Posada Carriles case and its possible turn into a media circus. Just this past Monday on a local Spanish show, A Mano Limpia, host Oscar Haza described the Carriles case as "Elian II". I was very surprised to hear it, especially since I had that idea in my head since last week. Indeed, there are similar motivations in both cases because some Carriles supporters are the same ones that tried to ignore the law in the Elian Gonzalez case. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I just found a great website for Cuban news: Cuba A La Mano by the IPS News Agency. There's an English version with good reports, but the Spanish version has much better reporting. In the Spanish version, there's a great article about the Carriles case, which includes quotes from Peter Kornbluh from the National Security Archive, and the ever-determined Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo. Plenty of articles for good reading.

Or you can go to the uncompromising and informative CubaNet website, where there's an interesting article by Luis Cino in Havana, Cuba, expressing his interpretation over the "outrage" on the Carriles case, and how it finds apathy by some Cuban baseball watchers. Excellent points about how regular people perceive certain political issues, especially when they have bigger things on their minds. But, it doesn't address the plight of the innocent victims, nor issues that relate to social justice and its larger meanings. But, rather tends to find a paradox in fighting for something greater, but not knowing where to begin.

Finally, I wanted to point out that I have added links to the National Security Archive and its reports on the 1976 Cubana Airline bombing and its connections to Luis Posada Carriles. No question that the most informative report is the summary released on the 30th anniversary of the event.

Many skeptics who support Carriles, or have "no opinion", continue to avoid the evidence presented by these sources. In doing so they contradict themselves in many respects by condemning OTHER "terrorists" based on similar evidence, and also by condemning other "criminals" by the standards they refuse to apply to the Carriles case.

The most serious charge against the Cuban Five was for "conspiracy to commit murder." According to one source of reference, "Conspiracy is often a complex and controversial crime because a person can be charged with conspiracy even if the crime they helped plot did not actually take place. A person can also be charged with conspiracy even if they did not contribute to, or know that, the crime was going to be carried out."

The evidence at the National Security Archive shows clearly that Carriles was involved in a "conspiracy" with those who directly carried out the bombing. There are also affidavits that point to "conspiracy to commit."

So, the real question is: will those who condemned the Cuban Five (WASP Network) for conspiracy apply the same standards to Luis Posada Carriles? An honest person would not hesitate to answer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yeah, But He's OUR Terrorist

Miami residents are beginning to sound off on Luis Posada Carriles' arrival.

The South Florida papers, the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel are already loaded with commentary. The Sun-Sentinel's single article is counting 76 comments so far, each one a very interesting response. And, the Sentinel is mainly distributed in Broward County. The Miami Herald has done far more reporting and their article on Carriles's arrival is already loaded with 15 pages of commentary!

Local Spanish newspaper Diario Las Americas takes a whole different angle: they quote only Carriles supporters for their story. They title their article "Jubilation in the Cuban Exile for the Release of Posada Carriles." They quote Armando Perez-Roura (president of Carriles fan club), the Secretary General of Alpha 66, and of course Miguel "Bolivarian Youth Killer" Saavedra of Vigilia Mambisa.

But, today's most interesting feature comes from El Nuevo Herald (Miami Herald version aimed at Spanish speakers). Their reporter on Cuba, Wlfredo Cancio Isla, has an internet poll attached to his article. The poll asks: Is Posada Carriles a terrorist?

So far the results (from 736 votes) show that 59% say yes, and 41% say no.

[Photo by EFE/John Riley]

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Luis Posada Carriles has Arrived

As I write this I am watching live video from local news station Telemundo 51 as Luis Posada Carriles arrives and sets foot in Miami (around 5pm EST). No question that some will be celebrating tonight. Carriles just stepped off a private plane, wearing a white wrinkled suit, and led off by federal police to his newest location. Today, the weather is good, the sun is hot, and Luis Posada Carriles walks under the same sky, for now.

Carriles is scheduled to appear in court by May 11 in El Paso, Texas, on several charges of fraud. According to the US Department of Justice, Carriles "knowingly attempted to obtain naturalization as a U.S. citizen unlawfully by making false statements on his application for naturalization." In addition, "[i]f convicted, the defendant [Carriles] faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment for the naturalization fraud count and five years imprisonment for each of the false statement counts."

Carriles still has a long road ahead.

Over on BabaluBlog, the guys are getting ready for the "self-righteous 'outrage'" by the media. I say: Let's wait and see if there is outrage. Over on Radio Mambi's website, there's the first video of Carriles leaving for Miami. The coming days are gonna be loaded with happy callers, and several demands for his freedom.

Over on the other side of reality, the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is calling for protests in El Paso, Texas on the 11th of May, and you can also help organize, and spread the word about this demonstration and call for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles.

Many have argued that Carriles is actually innocent and has been acquitted twice for his crimes. This is false. Carriles has not been tried for anything. I have already written about Carriles' false "veil of innocence." You can read my post where I cite what is Carriles' actual status for extradition to Venezuela, and also read my post about the declassified evidence that is linked there (and below).

Luis Posada Carriles has been extensively interviewed by Ann Louise Bardach and you can find her articles here: The Posada Files.

From the National Security Archive:
Luis Posada Carriles: The Declassified Record
The Posada File: Part 2


Local news stations, CBS4 and Noticias 23, have video online of Luis Posada Carriles arriving at his family's house. Noticias 23 has raw footage and the reporter (Mario Vallejo) asking Carriles: How do you feel about the Cuban Exile community fighting for your release? This question was followed up by: Are you satisfied?

For a hero's welcome, they sure make him feel guilty.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What's a Polisario? (Part 9)

It seems that many have been suffering from a stupor when it comes to the Polisario.

Its clearly evident that Tew-Cardenas LLP are not interested in who the Polisario Front really are. Their main interest, shared by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS), is to continue and strengthen their anti-Castro position at the expense of the facts. The allegations of the Moroccan government and the Moroccan American Center for Policy are baseless. And, it is unacceptable that an academic organization like the ICCAS should repeat those false accusations.

It is also the height of hypocrisy that members of Tew-Cardenas LLP (Al Cardenas and Roger Noriega), who are vehemently opposed to totalitarian regimes, "develop positive messages" for a nation whose King rules with "ultimate authority" over the government with the power to appoint his own prime ministers and "rule by decree" if he so wishes.

As for Oscar Corral of the Miami Herald and his decision that "it would be a good time to revisit the story of some of the victims" of the Polisario Front, Corral forgot to mention a very important fact in his "Special Report." The same month Corral wrote his article in September 2005, the UN Refugee Agency released a brief report on their recent monitoring mission of Sahrawi children in Cuba and their student scholarship program. They specifically gave "special attention" to the allegations of abuse from a 2004 Moroccan delegation. The UN mission found that "this [Cuban] scholarship programme meets the standards of treatment and care required by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, notably in the following areas:

* minors are protected from all forms of discrimination while in Cuba, and enjoy equal educational opportunities as well as slightly more advantageous treatment in terms of material and health support provided in Cuban schools;

* the rights of the students are fully respected and guaranteed in regard to health, nutrition, culture, personal liberty and security;

* the children are not subjected to any form of abuse or exploitation of any type whatsoever. This also covers military recruitment and training and child labour activities that would qualify as exploitative as defined by the CRC;

* all information gathered during the mission affirms the voluntary nature of participation in the programme of the children, the direct role of the parents in determining whether their child would participate, and the opportunity for the children who do not wish to continue the programme, to abandon it and return home."

This scholarship program is no longer planned for extension with the UN Refugee Agency once all Sahrawis who entered in 1994 have graduated. The Polisario Front is hoping that the Moroccan government will accept their peace plan at the UN later this month, with obligation to a 1991 UN mandated referendum for independence. Polisario's struggle at the UN since 1991 is summarized well by Stephen Zunes and Ian Williams.

The Polisario Front is a legitimate movement of self-determination and independence of the Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara. Their real name is "Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro." That's what Polisario means.

[For those interested in updates on the Western Sahara/Morocco stalemate, check out these excellent Bloggers : One Hump or Two, Western Sahara Endgame, Sahara Views, and W-Sahara.]

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8]

What's a Polisario? (Part 8)

After Al Cardenas "inked" the extension of the MACP contract last month, Tew-Cardenas partner Roger Noriega now "works on the MACP account."

With "more than two decades of public policy experience," Roger F. Noriega joined Tew-Cardenas LLP by 2006 to direct Advocacy and Government Affairs, and also recently joined Al Cardenas as policy adviser to the Presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (notice both couldn't stop Romney from making an embarrassing blunder in front of Cuban exiles last month). Yet, before Tew-Cardenas, Noriega spent his most controversial years as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2003 to 2005.

By early February 2004, a political crisis in Haiti was unleashed into the streets of Port-au-Prince ending in the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by the 29th. In the aftermath, some have described the culmination of events as the coup d' etat of 2004, with Aristide himself claiming he was kidnapped by US forces, and Roger Noriega calling it "nonsense." Nevertheless, Aristide supporters believe "Noriega was the chief architect of the coup d'etat." They also refer to him as the Architect of the Rule of Terror in Haiti.

The Cuban government saw Roger Noriega in the same light as 2003 saw the creation of the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC), a plan seen by the Cuban government as an annexation operation. By May 2004, the Commission had released its first report, with Roger Noriega as the Commission Coordinator. Noriega spoke proudly of the more than 400-page report calling it "unprecedented" and part of a general "commitment to freedom in the Americas." In 2004, before a USAID seminar, Noriega insisted that the CAFC report was aimed "to help ensure that the hangover after a 45-year dictatorship does not interfere with [the democratic] transition." It seems that Noriega believes some Cubans, and other oppositional groups, must be under a drunken stupor.

By 2005, Noriega seemed to unravel. Amidst the rising suspense of the Venezuelan referendum to recall President Hugo Chavez, Noriega was becoming impatient at the pace of the Venezuelan government to confirm the recall petition. Noriega had already alleged that there was a "worrisome spread in Castro's infiltration of Venezuela." Now, Noriega was threatening "dire consequences" if the recall referendum did not proceed. This comment not only infuriated the Venezuelan government, it upset other US officials who "were trying to improve relations" with Venezuela. During Noriega's term, other South American diplomats had become frustrated with him, and eventually it caused Noriega to be overlooked as Caleb McCarry was appointed as the new Cuba Transition Coordinator for the CAFC.

Shortly afterwards, Noriega resigned and left the US State Department. The following year he joined Tew-Cardenas LLP to be in charge of the Moroccan American Center for Policy account.

[Part 9]

What's a Polisario? (Part 7)


Making Hispanic Business Magazine's "100 Influentials" list last year, Emilio Gonzalez also has remained committed throughout his long political career to the Cuban exile cause. Within the first years of the Revolution, his family left Cuba when he was 4 years old. In 1997, Gonzalez authored a study titled "The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking and the Castro Regime." The study was published by the ICCAS at the University of Miami. Gonzalez's political career spans from being "a key National Security and Foreign Policy advisor to President George W. Bush" to the current Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of Homeland Security. According to his USCIS bio, Gonzalez also belonged to Tew-Cardenas LLP. In 2003, Gonzalez represented Tew-Cardenas as "Senior Managing Director of Global Government Affairs" before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations regarding the issue of US policy towards Cuba. Consequently, the Cuban government views Emilio Gonzalez in a very different light.

According Granma (Cuba's State-owned newspaper), Emilio Gonzalez is considered "public enemy No. 4 of the top 10 'anti-Cuban Miami Mafiosi'" and also part of a powerful Cuban-American "triumvirate" that includes Otto Reich and US Senator Mel Martinez.


In 2004, a Cuban group performing in Las Vegas, named Havana Night Club: The Show, made some headlines when their immigration status became a heated political issue. The group eventually got help from the Cuban American National Foundation and Tew-Cardenas LLP, specifically Dennis Hays.

During the Clinton Administration, Dennis Hays became Coordinator for Cuban Affairs for the State Department. He has been described as being a "staunch opponent of liberalizing trade with [Cuba] or changing U.S. immigration policy [for Cubans]." So, when the Clinton administration left him out of high level negotiations with Cuba for the Migration Accords of 1995, he resigned from the Cuba assignment. In 2000, Hays finally left the US State Department altogether after 24 years of service and found a new home with the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) where he served as Executive Vice President until 2003. As Executive VP, Hays was one of the strongest supporters of the US embargo towards Cuba. He has written that the embargo has served as an "excellent 'defense'" against "Castro’s ambitions for regional and global mischief." During his political career, Hays befriended Al Cardenas and Emilio Gonzalez, and in 2003 made a smooth transition into the partnership of Tew-Cardenas LLP.

Hays (representing Tew-Cardenas) and CANF together lobbied the US government to secure visas for the Havana Night Show group, after tight restrictions historically left many other Cuban artists out of the country. Once in the US, the Cuban performers eventually asked for asylum after the Cuban government threatened to retaliate against the performers for having sought the help of hard-line Cuban exiles, and other official enemies.

Emilio Gonzalez and Dennis Hays no longer appear on Tew-Cardenas' professional roster. But, Gonzalez appears to have been a partner until 2005, and Hays until 2006. Nevertheless, Tew-Cardenas LLP currently has one of America's most controversial political figures handling the case of the Moroccan American Center for Policy.

[Part 8]

Friday, April 13, 2007

What's a Polisario? (Part 6)

Last month it was reported that the local law firm Tew-Cardenas LLP had signed a lobbying deal with the Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP). According to the news, the law firm "inked a $15K a-month pact... to develop 'positive messages' of the African Sunni Muslim state for U.S. opinion-makers and government officials." The ICCAS report released this month bases parts of its summary on information from the MACP. According to one source, Tew-Cardenas has been lobbying for the MACP since 2005.

Tew-Cardenas LLP is a growing law firm with offices in Miami, Tallahassee and Washington D.C., and considered as one of the "sharpest shooters on K street" as a lobbying firm. In fact, Tew-Cardenas lobbies for the City of Coral Gables, the City of Doral, and Miami-Dade County (to name just a few). To many others, the name of Cardenas should be very familiar.

Alberto "Al" Cardenas is a big name in Florida politics, and recently considered as one of the "100 most influential hispanics in the United States." Al Cardenas has been reported as the one who "inked the open-ended pact with the MACP." But, most will know him as the first Hispanic (and Cuban-American) Chairman who headed the Republican Party of Florida from 1999 to 2003. Cardenas has a long and influential political history dating back to the Reagan administration in the eighties, the Cuban American National Foundation in the nineties, and currently as one of Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign advisers.

Throughout his career Cardenas has always showed his commitment to the Cuban exile cause. In 2000, as the Florida GOP Chairman, headlines where made when he authored a fund-raising letter that some felt "exploited the Elian Gonzalez standoff." The office of Governor Jeb Bush felt the attempt was "inappropriate to use Elian Gonzalez for political purposes." The letter was distributed to 10,000 South Floridians, but the English version was never mailed out. Always loyal, Al Cardenas also made sure to include a line about Fidel Castro, calling him a "hysterical lunatic and loose tyrant."

Other partners at Tew-Cardenas LLP shared equal sentiments.

[Part 7]

What's a Polisario? (Part 5)

But, it seems that ICCAS has no interest in knowing what the Polisario Front really is: a movement for self-determination and independence. Instead they want to simply label them as terrorists along side with the Cuban government. Unfortunately, without interest in the facts, ICCAS's sources seem to contradict each other.

Polisario doesn't share any ideological beliefs with Al-Qaeda groups at all. The ICCAS report specifically repeats Moroccan government allegations of a link between Polisario and a group called the GSPC (The Salafist Groups for Call and Combat). According to the SITE Institute, the GSPC, who now go by the name of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, originate from a "group of veteran Algerian fighters from the civil war [of 1992]." Their main target is Algeria, and "disenfranchised Algerian youth in Europe's cities, especially in France." The West and European cities have been additionally targeted. The new Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has clearly stated:

"As for the evil alliance that is led by America militarily, by France culturally, and backed by NATO, the joining of Algeria [alongside it] and the deceleration of allegiance to you [Osama bin Laden] has become a lump in their throats and heartache in their chests."

Why would the Polisario Front unite with a group that attacks Algeria? According to the Moroccan American Center for Policy, "[t]oday, Algeria is the primary financial, political and military supporter of the Polisario Front." Obviously, the facts about the GSPC don't really matter to the Moroccan government and ICCAS. Both groups are merely trying to discredit the Polisario Front and its Cuban connection through false allegations.

Nevertheless, there are some who are committed to such behavior, and they are very powerful people in Miami.

[Part 6]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What's a Polisario? (Part 4)

Just this week both Morocco and the Polisario Front presented their new peace plans to the United Nations. These are plans that have been revised and debated since the 1991 ceasefire. The US has given "praise" to the Moroccan plan. The Polisario Front believes the Moroccan plan is "inadequate." It was known since the start of April that both presentations would clash at the UN.

And coincidentally, last week Oscar Corral thought it was a "good time to revisit the story of some of the victims" of the Polisario Front, in conjunction with the release of a new report by the ICCAS at the University of Miami. Unfortunately for us, both Corral and ICCAS unknowingly seem to be doing the PR work for the Moroccan government. A lucky strike for Morocco and their peace plan at the UN.

Oscar Corral's 2005 article makes a brave attempt to accurately describe the history of the Polisario/Moroccan conflict, but his real story is the plight of the former Polisario refugees and their "firsthand accusations of human-rights abuses and corruption" as victims in the camps controlled by the Polisario Front. But, this is only one side of the story. Corral acknowledges this by writing that the visit by the former refugees was "sponsored by the Moroccan government" through a group called the Moroccan American Center for Policy. And, to top it all off, our favorite Cuban-American US Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart were present at the news conference of the former Polisario refugee victims.

Corral quotes Lincoln Diaz-Balart saying: "The fact that there is an armed group such as the Polisario Front seeking power as an independent nation state in the Western Sahara, supported by terrorist regimes such as the Cuban regime is a concern."

Well, the new ICCAS report just adds more hot air. Actually, ICCAS brings no new evidence at all, just new allegations made by the Moroccan government against the Polisario Front. Since a 2001 report by ICCAS titled "Castro and Terrorism: A Chronology," the Polisario Front has already been labeled a terrorist organization along with Cuba. Now, ICCAS is basically repeating allegations by the Moroccan government saying that the Polisario Front conducts "coordination and cooperation" with an Al-Qaeda related group in North Africa. The ICCAS report sources the allegation from an AFP article from March 2007. The very same day those allegation were reported by the AFP, the Polisario Front issued a press statement calling them "grotesque lies."

[Part 5]

What's a Polisario? (Part 3)

King Hassan II, for 38 years, ruled the throne of Morocco's Constitutional Monarchy. In 1999, he suffered a fatal heart attack and passed the crown to his son, Prince Sidi Mohammed VI, who currently rules the Kingdom.

According to the latest US State Department Country Report on Human Rights, "ultimate authority over all branches of government rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the council of ministers and appoints or approves members of the government. The king may dismiss ministers, dissolve the parliament, call for new elections, and rule by decree." Furthermore, its current human rights record is summarized as:

"Citizens did not have the right to change fully their form of government. Reports of torture by various branches of the security forces persisted. Prison conditions remained below international standards. Reports of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and police and security force impunity continued. Judicial independence from the executive branch of the government remained a problem. The government restricted freedoms of speech, press, and religion. Trafficking in persons continued, and child labor, particularly in the unregulated informal sector, remained a problem."

King Hassan II himself had a problem with human rights. In 2005, Human Rights Watch released a report on Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (ERC) that was initiated by King Mohammed VI. It reveals a dark timeline where King Hassan II finally began releasing political prisoners in 1991 belonging to "about 270 persons whom the security services had 'disappeared' as long as nineteen years earlier." At the time, King Hassan still had about 400 political prisoners, whom he eventually released in 1994. By this time, outrage continued escalating with allegations that King Hassan's "security services crushed suspected opponents, including leftists, Islamists, advocates of independence for the Western Sahara, and suspected coup plotters. They described how the secret police 'disappeared' hundreds of men and women." When a royally-appointed human rights council investigation found that King Hassan had "disappeared" 112 suspects, independent human rights groups protested saying the actual number was closer to 600 "disappeared."

His son and new monarch, King Mohammed VI has since acknowledged the state's responsibility for the "disappearances" and presented himself as a new leader in addressing many other human rights abuses. The latest World Report by Human Rights Watch describes the Kingdom of Morocco as a "mixed picture on human rights." Morocco still has many domestic issues to confront, and also the issue of the Polisario Front. But, recent news may prove to be hopeful for Western Sahara, despite some who wish further conflict.

[Part 4]

What's a Polisario? (Part 2)

The month following the release of the 404 POWs by the Polisario Front, Oscar Corral writes his piece for the Miami Herald when former refugees of the Polisario Front-controlled camps visit Miami. Oscar mentions that this visit is "part of an effort by the Moroccan government to discredit the Polisario Front." Oscar also attempts to summarize the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario, but concedes that "the story of the the Sahawari [sic] plight is complex." All historical conflicts are complex, so we must look at the facts.

In 1975, Spain was prepared to hand over the Western Sahara to the Sahrawi people after the International Court of Justice decided that the territory belonged to no one, and a UN mission had found that the majority of the Sahrawis wanted independence and self-determination. Those two decisions were ignored as the Moroccan government (with full support of the US and France) invaded Western Sahara with a "peaceful" Green March of about 350,000 unarmed Moroccan citizens. But, this "peaceful" invasion was secretly arranged with the Spanish government as they had a hand in the administrative authority for the new Western territory. UN Security Council resolutions were passed in order to call for the withdrawal of the Moroccan government, but these calls were ignored.

According to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) and the Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP), the Moroccan government was merely "reclaiming" their sovereignty over the Western Sahara (which they really had no legal claim to), of which they felt was based on "loyalty" to the Moroccan sultan as spiritual leader and ruler. And thus the Polisario Front was a "challenge" to that "loyalty" that had to be crushed. Well, a long war ensued throughout the eighties.

By 1982, the Polisario Front was near the brink of victory and independence until the US stepped in with military aid to the Kingdom of Morocco. The Reagan administration slapped the Polisario Front with the communist name-tag, and increased military funding from $30 million to $100 million for 1983. The US would be in total support of the Moroccan government and its King who was considered "one of Washington's best friends in the Arab world."

[Part 3]

What's a Polisario? (Part 1)

So one day I was glancing over Oscar Corral's blog (Miami's Cuban Connection) and he mentions that he's going to highlight a story he wrote back in 2005 in conjunction with the release of a new report from the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami. Oscar writes: "Now that UM is trying to link Cuba with Al Qaeda through their Polisario connection, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the story of some of the victims."

I, just like Oscar Corral, had not heard about the Polisario Front in Morocco. So, after a little research I found not only a "Cuban connection" with Polisario, but also "Miami's Cuban connection" with the "constitutional monarchy" of Morocco. It seems that the story is much larger than what Oscar presents. Furthermore, the conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front involves many international actors, and has left countless victims, not just a few that happened to visit Miami in 2005. Let's go over the story.

On September 19, 2005, Oscar Corral wrote a piece for the Miami Herald about refugees from the Polisario Front who had been sent to Cuba as children. The ever-resourceful CubaNet has the whole story here (second article). But, Corral's story was second to an earlier Miami Herald piece by David Ovalle, printed in May 21, 2005. Ovalle interviewed men who were former POWs in the camps of the Polisario Front. According to the article, the former POWs just happened to be in Miami and "sat in a circle with exile leaders and Cuban ex-prisoners at the Miami office of the Civil Society of Cuba." Ovalle quotes only one of those leaders, Ana Carbonell, the chief of staff of US Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart's office.

These visiting POWs were part of a larger media campaign that began around May of 2005. The two Herald articles were just a few among many headlines that year. The final headline was a celebration of success that came on August 18, 2005, when 404 POWs of the Polisario Front were finally released. The campaign had worked. But some would decide to continue their fight against the Polisario and their Cuban connection nonetheless.

[Part 2]

Monday, April 9, 2007

About Intelligence...

Today's Miami Herald publishes an article by Pablo Bachelet which describes that "Washington... is now largely ignorant of what is happening within the inner circles in Havana." You don't say!

Bachelet's article seems to be supported by interviews with about a dozen people who are closely familiar with US intelligence gathering on Cuba. While these anonymous persons state that US intelligence on Cuba is ''pretty good'' in general, they also believe the US has "little credible information on events at the top levels" of the Cuban government.

The article basically mentions three US reports that were "off the mark." One was the 2002 allegation by the ever-belligerent John Bolton of a biological weapons "program" in Cuba. These "serious" allegations have since been dismissed by people who are well aware of Cuba's biological capabilities, and the current administration. The Center for Defense Information believes that this allegation was politically driven and lacked strong evidence.

The second "off the mark" intelligence report mentioned is Fidel's diagnosis of Parkinson's disease by the CIA. But, I don't think this is really "intelligence" since it is based on public (not secret) information. The CIA basically examined Fidel's public speeches. Otherwise, there's no strong evidence to consider.

And, the final "intelligence" report mentioned by Bachelet is last year's allegation by John D. Negroponte, director of US National Intelligence (term used loosely), stating that "[e]verything we see indicates it will not be much longer . . . months, not years [for Fidel]." Its been months John.

One of the definitions of "intelligence" is the capacity to APPLY knowledge. Those who are aware of the long diplomatic history between Cuba and the US know well that this definition of knowledge is not being applied. There is ample evidence to show that US policy will not succeed, but that knowledge is ignored. There is sufficient findings that indicate that Americans disagree with US policy towards Cuba, but that is also ignored. There is also good reason to believe that the majority of Cuban dissidents are opposed to current US policy towards Cuba, but they too are ignored.

It seems Washington is largely ignorant of many important things that are related to Cuba.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Ten Foot Poll (Part 2)

And then there are the deniers. When you cannot dispute the findings on how people feel, then you make sure you reduce the strength of the results. NewsMax reports the findings of the new Cuba Poll with a Reuters article. Oddly, its the only news article I could find that quotes Daniel Erikson, a senior associate at the "independent" think-tank Inter-American Dialogue, a group whose members include the "Corporate Circle" (no surprise, its a long list of US and foreign corporations) . Daniel Erikson is quoted as saying: "Many of them (the people surveyed) aren't citizens and if they are citizens they are not big campaign contributors, so their voice doesn't matter as much as the voice of the hard-liners." Welcome to America, where if you don't vote, then you ain't squat!

Also, not surprisingly, Mr. Gomez from BabaluBlog, and Humberto Fontova's favorite poll analyst, comes to the SAME conclusion. He says: "
the reality is that what's important is what registered voters and likely voters think." Of course, the rest of you (working folks who still pay their taxes) don't matter.

Mr. Gomez has a very peculiar way of interpreting polls. He was ecstatic when he found out that an Ipsos poll this past February confirmed his dreams: that the "next time they tell you that the majority of Americans want to end the embargo you can tell them that's hogwash." According to Mr. Gomez' calculations of that poll "a solid majority of 54.5 [percent] want to continue the embargo vs. 45.5." But, I had to break the news [in the comments section] to Mr. Gomez that this poll was but a few that showed support for the US embargo, while many other polls over the years showed opposition. You can check out our classic exchange here. But, I have been banned since then because such exchanges are forbidden on BabaluBlog.

Mr. Gomez has new peculiar interpretations about this new Cuba Poll, but they clearly miss the point. The most important fact about this new poll is its comparison with prior results which Mr. Gomez conveniently ignores. Since 1997, support for the embargo has reduced from 78.2% (valid percent), to 57.4% in 2007. Support for a national dialogue among Cuban exiles, Cuban dissidents, and representatives of the Cuban government has increased from 29.7% (1997) to 50.3% (2007) in "strong favor." Mr. Gomez points out that "most Cubans don't want American companies or the taxpayers to get duped into paying deadbeat castro's bills" when he sees that only 34.1% of respondents favor expanding the Agricultural trade with Cuba. But, what Mr. Gomez misses is that this percentage is actually higher from the 2004 Cuba Poll, where only 26% percent were in favor of expansion. Mr. Gomez' interpretations are obviously faulty.

But, most importantly, the new Cuba Poll shows that a strong majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami want an end to the family travel restrictions of 2004. Hopefully, hard-liners and politicians will give these findings some consideration and decide what is best for the greater community. And, hopefully, in the future, everyone will consider the polls that show strong opposition to current US policy towards Cuba altogether.

A Ten Foot Poll

Well, the poll finally came out, and the hard-liners are scrambling like it was a Godzilla. Yesterday, the Florida International University (FIU) publicly released its occasional Cuba Poll, and some of its findings indicate a growing and unbearable trend: Cuban-Americans are beginning to oppose US policy towards Cuba!

FIU has been polling Cuban-Americans in the Miami area since 1991. And, every once in while they release the most comprehensive polling data about the Cuban exile community, and the results have always been revealing and enlightening. The Cuba Poll, since 1997, has been headed by the Institute for Public Opinion Research at FIU, led by Dr. Guillermo J. Grenier, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Dr. Hugh Gladwin, Director of the Institute for Public Opinion Research. As the principle investigators, they have led the way to find out the current attitudes about Cubans in Miami. But, there are some people that wouldn't touch the findings with a ten-foot pole.

Ana Carbonell, from the office of US Representative (District 21) Lincoln Diaz-Balart, has described this poll as a "propaganda tool used by those who want to ease sanctions and normalize relations with the regime." It seems that Ana Carbonell is not aware that many polls show that Americans oppose current policy towards Cuba. But, since Lincoln Diaz-Balart favors current US policy, and the 2004 travel restrictions as "part of an important means" against Cuba, he will most likely avoid this poll as much as possible. Also, upon the release of the new poll, Ninoska Perez-Castellon from Radio Mambi was prepared to discredit the findings on her radio program at 3pm.

But, no one has yet to directly challenge the findings, and most likely no one will. Yet yesterday, Ninoska Perez-Castellon made an embarrassing challenge against the findings. Her argument was not based on the content of the Cuba Poll, but rather on the credibility of Carlos Saladrigas, co-chairman of the the Cuba Study Group (CSG), which funded the poll. Ninoska went off on a tangent about what Saladrigas said in the late 90's and how its doesn't jive with his current posture. I have no idea how this has anything to do with the new Cuba Poll. The funding of the CSG has not altered in any way the basic framework of the Cuba Poll. Since 1997, way before the formation of the Cuba Study Group, the Cuba Poll has asked the same basic questions, with small variations in order to address current political issues. This is also the first time the Cuba Poll is funded by the CSG, yet the principle questions are the same ones from 1997, 2000, and 2004.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The So-Called "Debate"

"PASSIONS GLOW AT TRAVEL BAN DEBATE" said the headline in the local section of the Miami Herald (not online). The Herald's Laura Morales continues to write that it was "tense, heartfelt and often loud" as "[t]empers flared here and there" and that "several panel members had to remind the crowd to keep calm." And, to top it off, Morales includes that "[d]uring the question-and-answer period two audience members became so angry and disruptive they had to be escorted out by police." A local blogger (Stuck on the Palmetto) writes that some at the event "engaged in screaming fits, heckling and disruption," and yelling out "[t]he usual favorites: 'Communist!', 'Go live in Cuba if you like it so much!'"

Welcome to Miami.

This past Saturday "marked a first" for some in Little Havana's Tower Theater as an actual debate took place in the heart of the Cuban exile community ('bout time really). Days prior to this event, Ninoska Perez-Castellon from local Spanish radio (Radio Mambi) was describing the event as a "provocation." She was upset because the debate was coordinated by the ACLU (she hates them) and included Arizona congressman Jeff Flake (hates him too). But, more importantly, she acknowledges that many "proud intransigents," that she helps to inspire, cannot hold back their emotions during civil discussion (thanks to encouragement from Radio Mambi) and thus any event that voices dissenting opinions will be poor publicity, but also (god forbid) allow people to make up their own minds on a particular subject.

Its actually a sad commentary for the local paper to write that this debate on US policy towards Cuba marks a first for Little Havana. Also, it's especially disappointing because the so-called debate on Cuba is virtually over.

For many years, its been shown that the majority of Americans favor re-established relations with Cuba, and an end to failed US policy towards the island. Even the newest Cuba Poll (2007), conducted regularly by the Florida International University, shows that the majority of Cubans are starting to reveal similar tendencies. According to the poll, there is a growing majority of Cuban-Americans that want unrestricted travel to Cuba and an end to the US embargo. Support for the US embargo has dropped since 2004, from 66% to 57%. The majority of Cubans also oppose the new family travel restrictions of 2004. The Miami Herald (Pablo Bachelet) and the Sun-Sentinel (Vanessa Bauza) summarize the other findings.

A local blogger (Cuban American Pundits) recalls from the debate on Saturday that a panel member opposing current US policy towards Cuba used a "debating trick." The "trick" shifted the burden of proof towards the supporters of US policy. Honestly, with the continued growth of opposition towards a failed US policy (even within the Cuban exile community), the burden of proof lies justly on those who support it.