Tuesday, April 28, 2009

R.I.P. Sarvelio del Valle

One of my earliest memories of Radio Mambi is hearing the musical introduction to their sports program which was hosted by Sarvelio del Valle. I doubt anyone could miss it, living in Miami among the biggest fans of Baseball, surely all Cubans would anticipate the scores read out by del Valle during lunch.

Sarvelio del Valle was perhaps the happiest man on Radio Mambi. Over the years, listening to del Valle report on the Miami Heat, the Marlins, or boxing history from Cuba, you could aways sense the smile on his face, and the joy provided over the airwaves. Never would his daily program go without a good laugh.

How did he maintain this merriment working inside Radio Mambi, perhaps the most confrontational and controversial radio station in Miami?

He didn't talk about politics.

Whenever a caller to his show would inject some politics into their comments, de Valle would either avoid making a direct response to the subject, or cut the call immediately. But, over the years most callers already knew that his half-hour sports program was not the forum for politics. Therefore, del Valle's sports program was a peaceful island in the sea of Radio Mambi.

Nevertheless, Sarvelio del Valle had great admiration for Armando Perez Roura, the programming director for Radio Mambi, and the leading voice of Cuban exile militancy. In a short Univision profile (which is no longer available) del Valle names Perez Roura as one of his biggest influences. And, in a recent article by Diario las Americas, Perez Roura is named as Sarvelio's guide and someone to whom he owed his life to.

Yesterday, Perez Roura dedicated his daily radio commentary to memories of Sarvelio del Valle. He described de Valle as more than just a brother, but someone who was "quiet, simple and when he had to prove himself, he did." According to Perez Roura, del Valle exhibited a "quiet and effective patriotism."

Rest in Peace, Sarvelio del Valle.

[More from El Nuevo Herald and Diario las Americas. Photo by Univision.]

Monday, April 20, 2009

No Changes for Unidad Cubana

Almost every Monday evening, Ramon Bonachea (pictured above) sits down with Armando Perez Roura on Radio Mambi for at least one hour to discuss the latest news about Cuba. Bonachea is a Cuban historian who has authored at least one book (as far as I know) and writes a weekly column on Cuban history for Libre magazine, a local publication. Bonachea also belongs to Unidad Cubana, a militant Cuban exile organization whose members include Miguel Saavedra from Vigilia Mambisa and Rodolfo Frometa from the F4 Commandos. Bonachea plays a very important role for Unidad Cubana as the director of the "Analysis Group," which makes their plans for a future "free Cuba."

[Unidad Cubana got some attention in 2007 when they announced their "Miami Declaration" which I wrote about here, and the Cuban Triangle mentioned here and here.]

Last Monday, upon the announcement of new US policy allowing Cuban families unlimited travel and sending of remittances to Cuba, Ramon Bonachea was ready that evening to respond on Radio Mambi to these new changes. Days before, members of the Foro Patriotico Cubano (Cuban Patriotic Council, an umbrella group of several militant Cuban exile organizations), gathered and voted unanimously on a declaration which was sent to their Congressional representatives, and other officials, rejecting and denouncing the idea of unlimited travel and remittances to Cuba.

Since the new policy, it seems that Cuban exile militants have taken a defensive and patient position. They foresee more political repression inside Cuba, but cannot know for certain that it will be any different than before. Most likely they will now be vigilant of any changes that will vindicate their warnings of "unilateral concessions" to the Cuban government. In the meantime, it seems that they are also looking for someone to blame for these changes.

In the comments expressed last Monday by Ramon Bonachea (video above), it seems that Cubans who have recently migrated to the US are to blame for these changes. While a 2007 FIU Cuba poll showed that a large majority of Cuban migrants who arrived after 1985 favored ending travel restrictions to Cuba from the US, many others within the exile community, regardless of the time of their arrival to the US, also favored ending the travel restrictions, the most prominent being members of the Cuban American National Foundation.

But, this didn't stop Ramon Bonachea from unfairly and irresponsibly attacking recent Cuban immigrants.

"Now, they can freely return [to Cuba]... all these who have come recently looking for a better material life, which the Cuban regime, who they undoubtedly supported, was able to give them. Now they can return [to Cuba] to meet with the jinetaras and jineteros that populate the capital of Havana, [go] to their parties, simply because they are accustomed to bowing their heads before the [Cuban] tyranny, to be compliant with the first 'sicario' (terrorist or assassin) that greets them, to sympathize with the [Castro] regime until the end because that way they don't have to think."


"They will return to the island, as humiliated and complaisant as they were when they lived there, without caring at all about the suffering of the people."

But, the most important message that Ramon Bonachea had was directed to the loyal and militant listeners of Radio Mambi. Bonachea told them not to feel defeated because this would be a victory of psychological warfare waged by Cuban government spies in Miami. Cuban militants must continue to be "vertically opposed" to any changes in their position, and remain "intransigent" against the Castro regime. Bonachea states:

"With the enemy you do not negotiate... Against the enemy [you use] rebellion and insurrection [to achieve] the total cleansing of, from all levels of our homeland, those social parasites and invertebrate sociopaths that have bloodied Cuba from one end to the other. That is the position of the real fighters in Cuba, the position of the intransigent exile community and certainly the position that reflects the work of Unidad Cubana.

"We accept no less than total and absolute freedom. No less than implementing justice so that the crime will not repeat itself."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Diego Suarez: Mass Cuban Exodus Coming

I was watching the show "Ultima Palabra" (Last Word) last night. Ultima Palabra is an hour-long political talk show on local Spanish-language station GentTV. The show is hosted by Ninoska Perez-Castellon, radio host of Radio Mambi and member of the Cuban Liberty Council.

In the last few days, Perez-Castellon and her guests have talked about the recent lifting of the Cuban-American travel and remittance restrictions. Yesterday, she had Diego Suarez (photo above) and Jose Azel on her show. All guests agreed that Obama had made an error in his recent Cuba policy decision, which amounted to nothing more than a "unilateral concession."

Jose Azel is a senior research associate at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS). Azel has recently appeared prominently on the local Spanish news outlets as a Cuba expert. He's actually more of a business man, and heads ICCAS's "Cuba Business Roundtable" (CBR) along with former-US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez (also a long-time business man, and opposed to lifting of travel and remittance restrictions). The goal of the CBR is to provide "businesses [with] a comprehensive menu of services and professional advice on how to prepare for conducting business in a future Cuba." The future Cuba they envision of course is post-Castro, and most likely a democratic Cuba. Why ICCAS has created a CBR is beyond me. Except that it does make sense when one recalls that ICCAS was (and may continue to be) funded by the US government to "undertake [US] preparations for a free and democratic Cuba" as outlined similarly by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba of 2004.

(By the way, is CAFC still in effect with this administration?)

Anyway, Diego Suarez is another business man (and one of the founders of the Cuban Liberty Council). Last time I checked he was a successful CEO of several companies, two of which were Reynolds International and Vanguard Technologies, both of which manufacture the kind of large machinery one would need to reconstruct a future "free Cuba." So, Suarez was on Ultima Palabra and said that the Obama administration made a big error with the lifting of travel and remittance restrictions, and added that because of this decision a large Cuban exodus will happen within months. I missed the exact reasons he stated this, but they may be premised on the fact that Cubans on the island may now be more motivated to migrate north and take advantage of the economic benefits of unlimited travel and sending of remittances back home.

He may have a point. But, further normalization of US-Cuba relations could prevent that. But, that's a solution that Diego Suarez would never consider. In fact, Suarez is a militant on par with Armando Perez-Roura of Radio Mambi. His solution would be something like a naval blockade on Cuba, like Perez-Roura once mentioned.

[Photo of Diego Suarez from Libre Magazine. Suarez is also a big campaign contributor to Reps. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Policy that "Jumped the Shark"

The last two days has been total information overload with the lifting of the Cuban-American travel and remittance restrictions. I've been reading as many reports and articles as I can, and I'm beat. Which I'm sure you are too. So, I've decided to let David Rothkopf, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and writer for Foreign Policy, to sum up my thoughts.

In the video excerpt above, from a New America Foundation conference on Latin America held on Tuesday, Rothkopf uses the proper (and honest) context in which to view US-Cuba relations, namely the US embargo towards Cuba:

"When there is economic downturn, we have immigration problems, crime problems, security problems, border problems. It is self-interested of the United States to engage in the big issues of the region, just like it is self-interested for the United States to disengage from this absurd anachronism, and to take it and to move it to where it exactly belongs: next to the Fonzi's jacket in the Smithsonian Institute as an example of bad American foreign policy of the late twentieth century."

I personally believe that the policy decision by the Obama administration to lift Cuban-American travel and remittance restrictions will become the catalyst for the eventual normalization of US-Cuba relations.

So, mark April 13th, 2009 as an important date in the long (long) history of US-Cuba relations, and remember that it was the Obama administration which was brave enough to promise such a move (despite it being politically risky), and it being a small step in the right direction.

[Also, I've allowed comments for now. So, speak your mind.]

Friday, April 10, 2009

"An Act of Justice"

America TeVe, a local Spanish-language station, yesterday took an online poll [available here] asking viewers to complete this sentence: "The accusation towards Luis Posada Carriles for the bombings in Havana is a(n):

a) act of justice
b) concession to Cuba
c) false accusation

The video above shows the results that were broadcast on television where approximately 53% of respondents said the accusations were an "act of justice." About 32% thought it was a "concession to Cuba" and about 16% said it was a "false accusation.

But, when I checked the results in the evening [screenshot] the percentage that thought the accusations were an "act of justice" went up to 65%. "Concession to Cuba" fell to 21% and "false accusation" to 14%.

The video above also has an interview with Cuban exile militant Osvaldo Mitat saying that the charges against Posada in the U.S. are really a "plot made by the Latin American nations, namely Venezuela." In 2006, Mitat was sentenced to 24 months in jail when he pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to possess prohibited firearms." A 2005 federal investigation discovered Mitat had recieved a delivery of "three live grenades, a grenade launcher, four fully automatic machine guns, a silencer and other weapons, some with the serial numbers obliterated."

Mitat later served an additional 8 months after he refused to testify before a Texas grand jury investigating the immigration case of Luis Posada Carriles. Mitat was finally freed last December and now works as a car salesman. Upon his release, Mitat was interviewed by Univision 23 and said that the U.S. government was making an error in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, and that it made no sense to charge someone that the government itself had trained in the past.

In the Univision interview, Mitat also admits that Posada and himself were both trained by the U.S. government, and that the U.S. gave them no problem in the past when they were in Central America, or even when they had been intercepted at sea.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Charges Against Posada

It's being reported that a Texas grand jury has entered additional charges against Luis Posada Carriles, including one charge for obstructing an investigation on "international terrorism."

Total charges against Posada are now up to 11, from an original 7-count indictment.

According to the Miami Herald, the obstruction charge is based on Posada lying about his association with Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, a man found guilty in Cuba for a bombing campaign that targeted Cuban hotels in 1997. Posada told authorities: "I have never seen nor met Raul Cruz, and I have not done any arrangement to send him to another place."

But, in a 1998 interview concerning the bombing campaign, Posada admitted that Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon was among several people that were working for him.

Also, during that period, several others were arrested in relation to the bombings, some who identified Posada as part of the conspiracy.

El Nuevo Herald columnist Alejandro Armengol writes in his blog that these new charges show "great willingness, on the part of federal prosecutors and the grand jury, to resolve this case."

And, the Cuba Journal blog is taking a poll asking readers what they think about these new charges.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

News and Discussion


The trial of Luis Posada Carriles, charged with several counts of fraud and making false statements during his naturalization process, has been re-scheduled for August 10th after last month's rejection from the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. federal prosecutors asked Judge Kathleen Cardone today to impose the same conditions of release on Posada Carriles from two years ago: a bond of $350,000, and electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet. For several months, Posada Carriles has lived freely in Miami, exhibiting his artwork in several locations (fundraising for his legal costs) with (according to this report) certain levels of supervision from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


For unknown reasons, Spanish blog Penultimos Dias is happy to see Secretary of State for Ibero-American Affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, leave her post after Spain's recent Cabinet shuffle. Jiménez played an important part in supporting a policy of dialogue between Spain, the EU and Cuba as the best way to bring reforms, rejecting an isolationist policy. Last January, she foresaw a "change of attitude" in the Obama administration with regard to Cuba, and recommended a policy of normalization with Cuba based on "great respect, of not imposing any position and not pressuring publicly." She also supported the eventual end to the U.S. embargo.

Penultimos Dias has simply responded to Jiménez's positions by calling her a "babosa inepta" (like saying "inept moron") and describing her comments as "tonterias" (or "nonsense").

In 2007, Jiménez met with some Cuban exile organizations in Miami where members of the Cuban Liberty Council (CLC) unfairly criticized Spain's support for Cuban dissidents such as Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz. Contrary to the CLC's contempt for some dissidents, Jiménez once described all Cuban dissidents as "people for whom we have a profound respect, who we support, and for whom we feel solidarity."


Otto Reich, from Otto Reich Associates, LLC, was interviewed today with Katrin Hansing, from the Cuban Research Institute, for NPR's Talk of the Nation. Both speakers had starkly opposed viewpoints on U.S. policy towards Cuba, but Reich's memory of history was very interesting. Reich told listeners:

"The embargo was established in the early sixties because of the Cuban government's support for violent revolution in Latin America."

That's not entirely true. The U.S. embargo placed in the sixties was initially in response to Cuban nationalization of U.S. properties, and trade deals made with the Soviet Union, the major U.S. enemy during the Cold War. And, by January 1960, aside from economic sanctions, the U.S. government was already planning a full overthrow of Fidel Castro. Cuba's public support for other revolutions came around the late sixties, and into the seventies.

Reich's convenient use of facts (or what he calls "exploitable information" [PDF]) should come as no surprise.

[Timeline of U.S. aggression against Cuba in the sixties.]
[Timeline of U.S. sanctions against Cuba.]

[Photo above by EFE]

Monday, April 6, 2009

Contact Your Representative

The organization Witness for Peace has a webpage that allows you to send an e-mail to your district House Representative in support for H.R. 874, legislation aimed at ending all U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

Witness for Peace also has a Cuba program with excellent material opposed to the U.S. embargo, and recently sent a delegation of health professionals to observe some health clinics in Cuba. The Brattleboro Reformer has the story:

From farmers to lawyers, young school children to elderly hospital patients, [Judy] Greenburg and the delegation was able to hear the voices of Cuban people and not the political party reigning over the small island. Part of the Witness for Peace mission is to learn of the embargo effects on the people and take that knowledge back home, said Greenburg.

"We have the privilege of going down here and hearing their stories," she said. "Hopefully this delegation lit a fire under those people who were on it to take action for the people we met."

Cuba is certainly not a utopia, said Greenburg, but all the health care and education services are free to anyone, including a number of American medical students studying at the Latin American School of Medicine.

Friday, April 3, 2009

WSJ Reports...

"President Barack Obama plans to lift longstanding U.S. restrictions on Cuba, a senior administration official said, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit families there as often as they like and to send them unlimited funds.

"The gesture, which could herald more openness with the Castro regime, will fulfill a campaign promise and follows more modest action in Congress this year to loosen travel rules."

[Full story at the Wall Street Journal]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Ignorance of Sen. Mel Martinez

Legislation in the House and Senate is ready to remove travel restrictions for Americans who want to visit Cuba. Both Rep. Bill Delahunt and Sen. Byron Dorgan have respectively introduced identical bills in the House and Senate that would prevent the President from regulating travel to Cuba, except in cases of immediate danger. Sen. Delahunt's bill has 121 co-sponsors so far, 93 more co-sponsors than in a similar bill from 2007.

Yesterday, Senators Byron Dorgan, Mike Enzi, and Chris Dodd held a press conference addressing the recent bill to remove travel restrictions [video available here].

Sen. Dorgan said that a travel ban to Cuba "is a failed policy that has failed for 50 years and its long past the time to change the policy... Punishing the American people in our effort to somehow deal a blow to the Castro government has not made any sense at all."

Sen. Dodd said: "Our goal is obviously to bring change to Cuba, democratic change to Cuba. I happen to believe that for 40 years this [travel restriction] policy has done just the opposite. I think it has perpetuated the situation."

In rebuttal to the bill, the AP quotes Sen. Mel Martinez saying: "This is the time to support pro-democracy activists in Cuba, not provide the Castro regime with a resource windfall."

The Miami Herald also quotes Sen. Martinez saying: "We should be siding with the oppressed, not with the oppressors."

Well, if Sen. Martinez is on the side of the oppressed pro-democracy activists in Cuba, then he should know that these activists are already opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba. I'm talking about well-known Cuban dissidents like Oswaldo Paya, Marta Beatriz Roque and Dr. Darsi Ferrer.

In fact, this should make people wonder about who's side Sen. Martinez is really on because, in the case of US travel to Cuba, Sen. Martinez is not on the side of the oppressed pro-democracy Cuban activists.

On the other hand, Sen. Dorgan does recognize that Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya is opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba, namely those that restrict Cuban-Americans to travel. Read the very wise words of Paya concerning this matter:

"All of us within the Christian Liberation Movement have defended, and will continue to defend, the right of all Cubans to travel to any country and to enter and exit Cuba freely. We are therefore against any restriction that prevents Cubans from coming to Cuba whenever they desire, without conditions.

"Respecting the right of Cubans who live outside of Cuba to come to Cuba should not be conditioned on change in Cuba; this would inflict double punishment on the same victim. But Cubans living outside of Cuba must act in solidarity with their brothers and demand all the rights of Cubans living in Cuba, for in doing so, they are demanding their own rights."

This principle of universality also suggests that in defending your own freedoms, you set the example for the defense of freedom for others. The right of freedom of movement is expressed in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[Photo above from the AP]