CUBA BRIEF: Rosa María Payá and Castroism’s fear, Cuba: Not Such a Hot Destination, Armando Correa’s Novel Seized In Cuba, Cuba is stifling international human rights dialogue

Diario de Cuba, February 23, 2017

Rosa María Payá and Castroism’s fear

DDC | Madrid | 23 de Febrero de 2017 – 12:37 CET. | 0
In Havana, Rosa María Payá, President of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, was going to bestow the Oswaldo Payá Freedom and Life Award on Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, and to honor late Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, represented by his daughter, former minister and ex-representative Mariana Aylwin.

In 2002 Oswaldo Payá submitted 11,020 signatures to the Cuban National Assembly and, in 2004, 14,000 additional ones demanding the freedom of association, the freedom of speech and press, free elections, and amnesty for political prisoners. Securing the support of such a large number of people under circumstances like Cuba’s entailed a complex mobilization effort headed up by the leader of the Varela Project, the largest undertaken by the democratic opposition in Cuba.

The response of the National Assembly to this request resulted in a modification of the Constitution, with socialism being described as “irreversible” in Cuba.

Oswaldo Payá perished on July 22, 2012 on a road near Bayamo. His family reported that the car he was traveling in was hit by a State Security vehicle. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. The regime has never allowed an investigation by international experts, and sought to close the case with a farcical trial.

Thereafter, while upholding her father and his legacy, Rosa María Payá has continued her struggle for the democratization of Cuba, framing it in a continental context. This has helped to overturn the tendency to approach Cuba separately, as unique exception, in the region. Payá has shown solidarity with the causes and challenges facing youth and activists from other countries, obtaining the same in return.



The Washington Post, February 21, 2017

On Venezuela, a surprise stand from Trump

By Editorial Board February 21 at 7:32 PM

PRESIDENT TRUMP so far has exhibited a deep disinterest in — and even some contempt for — U.S. human rights advocacy. His secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, pointedly declined to acknowledge major offenses by U.S. allies such as the Philippines and Saudi Arabia during his confirmation hearing, or even the well-documented war crimes committed by Russia and Syria in Aleppo. So it was encouraging that the president and the State Department acted last week in support of political prisoners and democracy in a country where both badly need outside support: Venezuela.

Mr. Trump met at the White House with Lilian Tintori, the wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López, and sent out a tweet saying he should be “out of prison immediately.” State, meanwhile, finally cleared the way for the sanctioning of two senior Venezuelan officials accused of drug trafficking, including recently appointed Vice President Tareck El Aissami. On Saturday, the third anniversary of Mr. López’s arrest, a State Department statement expressed “dismay and concern” about more than 100 political prisoners, including Mr. López and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, and called for “respect for the rule of law, the freedom of the press . . . and the restoration of a democratic process that reflects the will of the Venezuelan people.”

Punishing corrupt Venezuelan leaders and standing up for moderate, nonviolent opponents such as Mr. López ought to be a no-brainer for the United States, given Venezuela’s catastrophic decline, anti-American agenda and increasing isolation in the region. But the Obama administration shied from taking action, citing ongoing negotiations between the regime of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition. In fact, it has been obvious for months that the talks were going nowhere. The administration’s caution may have had more to do with avoiding offense to the regime’s last supporter — the Castro regime in Cuba — with which President Barack Obama was pursuing what he saw as a legacy-making detente.

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Mr. Trump, who has promised a tougher line toward Havana, suffers from no such constraint; nor does Mr. Tillerson, who led ExxonMobil when it severed its once-extensive relationship with the oil-rich country. Last week’s long-overdue sanctions were easy to justify: Mr. El Aissami has been implicated in the trafficking of cocaine from Venezuelan military air bases, and his installation as vice president positions him to take over the country if Mr. Maduro is ousted. It’s no wonder a bipartisan group of 34 members of Congress urged Mr. Trump this month to act against Mr. El Aissami and other senior officials, who are vulnerable to U.S. action because of their holdings of U.S. real estate and bank accounts.


The Weekly Standard, Feb 23, 2017 

Cuba: Not Such a Hot Destination After All

By Charlotte Allen

Airlines are cutting back on their once-vaunted plethora of flights to Cuba because … it turns out that hardly anyone wants to go to Cuba. As Bloomberg News reported in late 2016:

U.S. airlines rejoiced earlier this year when it was announced that commercial flights would resume to Cuba after more than a half century, with one executive at a major carrier calling it almost a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Yet as service begins this week to Havana, the long-awaited travel surge to the island is already in doubt.…

Citing weak demand, American Airlines Group Inc. trimmed plans for almost a quarter of its trips to Cuba early next year.…


Publishers Weekly, Feb 23, 2017 

Armando Correa’s Debut Novel Seized In Cuba

By Calvin Reid

Although the recent U.S. Publishing Mission to Cuba—held February 10 to February 15 in conjunction with the Havana Book Fair—drew high praise from both its Cuban and American participants, the event was marred by a case of literary censorship that illustrated the reality of political and cultural life in Cuba.

On the eve of a February 13 conference on U.S. and Cuban publishing, the Book Institute of Cuba, the government agency that oversees the Cuban publishing industry, confiscated copies of The German Girl, a recent novel by Armando Correa, a Cuban-born exile and novelist as well as editor in chief of People En Espanol, the Spanish-language version of People magazine.
Copies of the book were seized and the Book Institute of Cuba delegation threatened to walk out of the conference if Correa’s name or the book were mentioned. “I was in the middle of a nightmare,” Correa said in an interview with PW after his return to New York City.

Correa, who left Cuba in 1991 and went on to become an award-winning Spanish-language journalist in the U.S., returned to Cuba for the first time in 2016 as part of the first U.S. Publishing Mission to Cuba. During that visit he promoted his forthcoming debut novel, The German Girl, with no problems. The book was published in October 2016 by the Atria Publishing Group.

Although a request to sign copies of The German Girl in the USA Pavillion at the Havana Book Fair was rejected ahead of the visit, Correa believed that the book would go on display and that it could be given away. About 100 copies of The German Girl were shipped along with nearly 400 copies of a variety of American titles that were to go on display at the Havana Book Fair. Although the shipment of American titles were delayed at Cuban customs, the books were eventually released, and put on display in the USA Pavillion. Only copies of The German Girl were confiscated.


American Enterprise Institute, February 23, 2017

Cuba is stifling international dialogue on human rights

By Roger F. Noriega @rogernoriegaUSA

Foreign and Defense Policy, Latin America

The Cuban government recently denied a visa request by the Secretary-General of Organization of American States Luis Almagro, blocking his planned trip to the island to receive an award from a Cuban human rights group. Over two years into President Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba, the decision to block Almagro’s visit highlights Cuba’s continued refusal to meet or advance toward the hemisphere’s basic standards for human rights and political freedoms.

In a letter to Rosa Maria Payá, chair of Cuba Decide and the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy and daughter of slain dissident Oswaldo Payá, Almagro wrote, “please be informed of my inability to attend because my visa application for the official OAS passport was denied by the Cuban Consulate in Washington, while I was also denied the possibility of entry with a Uruguayan document, which does not require a visa.” Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and a former Chilean minister of education were also invited to attend the awards ceremony but revealed that they too were denied visas.

According to Almagro, Cuban embassy officials responded to the visa request in “astonishment” that he would travel to Cuba to accept the human rights group’s award, and called the planned visit “an unacceptable provocation.”

The award was meant to honor the Secretary-General’s laudable record of work in support of democracy and human rights. Almagro has been a stalwart and unbiased champion for human rights throughout Latin America, highlighting the threats and violence faced by environmental activists in Honduras, bringing regional attention to the humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela, and advocating for basic rights for the Cuban people.



The Miami Herald, February 23, 2017 7:28 PM 

Exile initiative aims to help hundreds of Cubans stranded in Mexico

By Abel Fernández

A group of exile organizations and volunteers are trying to help hundreds of Cubans who are stranded in Mexico following the end of the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy on Jan. 12.

Vigilia Mambisa, Democracy Movement, WWFE La Poderosa radio station and other organizations and volunteers have set up a tent on Miami’s Calle Ocho at Southwest 13th Avenue, next to a monument dedicated to the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

More than 4,000 pounds of food, personal hygiene products and other donations have been collected so far. But much more is needed to fill a tractor trailer headed to Mexico on Sunday.

“It’s the people of the community who are mainly helping,” said Ramón Saúl Sánchez of the Democracy Movement. “They are arriving with clothes, food, bedspreads, toiletries.”