Monday, May 14, 2007

Fake Cuban Cigars (Part 4)

"Altadis es Fidel," Penton tells the Miami New Times in Spanish. He recalls the day he was arrested, just ten days before Christmas in 2005: "It felt like I was back in Cuba." In fact, back in Cuba, Penton belonged to a human rights group called Alianza Democrática Popular (ADEPO), People's Democratic Alliance. Penton admits that he was often detained because of his participation with ADEPO. Now, 90 miles away, he believed once again that Fidel was still behind it all.

Many in Miami blame Fidel Castro for a lot of things. But, like it or not, Fidel and Raul Castro are official enemies of the US thanks to laws like the Helms-Burton Act that specifically requires that "a transition government in Cuba is a government that... does not include Fidel Castro or Raul Castro"[sec.205(a)(7)]. Due to this official position (part of a disastrous US policy), people like Juan Penton now hide behind such laws as absolution for their illegalities, and find comfort that the real enemy lies in the Cuban government.

"Cuba owns no patents in the U.S.A. — everybody knows there's an embargo!" cries out Penton. "Did you see on the news, that they are manufacturing biological weapons [in Cuba]?" asks Penton to the New Times. "I'm telling you, this is how Fidel operates," says Penton, sounding eerily like a top US administration official.

Penton believes he did nothing wrong, and plans to appeal in court to confirm his innocence. "[I]f there is justice in this country, I will be found innocent," he says. Unfortunately, Penton plans to base his main argument on the controversial (and internationally condemned) laws of the US embargo, specifically those that deny the Cuban government the right to register their trademarks in the US "if it was previously abandoned by a trademark owner whose business and assets have been confiscated under Cuban law."

This is a dispute that the US government has undertaken since 1999, attempting to deny Cuba trademark rights through official measures of the US embargo, but seems to be losing their credibility in the process. Like Penton, the US refuses to admit any mistake, absolving their errors in exchange for condemnation of the official enemy.

[Part 5]

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