CubaBrief: Cuba Independence Day 2022. WSJ on Biden’s Strange Help for Cuba. Biscet asks “As Cuba crushes democracy’s revival, where is Biden?” Cuban Freedom March in NYC

Today marks 120 years since the flag of the United States was lowered and the Cuban flag raised over Havana, and a new republic came into existence. However, Notes From the Cuban Exile Quarter asserts that “when looking at Cuba one should look back over the past 530 years and where it is situated today to gain greater understanding of the unfolding tragedy.”

On July 22, 2022, Cubans the world over will mark ten years since Cuban dissident leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were killed in Cuba. Yesterday, May 19, 2022 at 8:00pm the documentary, “The truth about the murder of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero” premiered and can now be seen online.

In an article published in Diario de Cuba on May 20, 2022, quotes Rosa María Payá when presenting the film, now available on YouTube, “We believe that it is essential that everyone knows the truth and impunity is stopped.”

This anniversary of a crime arrives with hundreds of Cubans jailed and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for taking part in nonviolent protests in July 2021 across the island, with a new draconian penal code passed, and the Biden Administration announcing measures perceived by many as benefiting the Cuban dictatorship.

The Wall Street Journal asked the question many are asking themselves “Why aid the struggling anti-American regime in Havana now?” in an editorial titled “Biden’s Strange Help for Cuba.” Cuban dissident leader and physician Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in an OpEd he authored in The Washington Times asks “Why won’t the president speak as harshly on Diaz-Canel as he does Putin?” Former CFC executive director Frank Calzon writing in the Miami Herald says “Biden’s lame new Cuba policy misses opportunity to force change on the island“, and asks more questions and makes a number of concrete suggestions.

Meanwhile a new generation of young Cubans are organizing a Cuban Freedom March that will take place in New York City on Saturday, May 21, 2022 starting at 11:00am.

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, May 20, 2022

Cuba Independence Day 2022: A reflection on the first 530 years

 Before the arrival of the totalitarian darkness

Independence Day in Havana, Cuba on May 20, 1902

One hundred and twenty years ago today at noon the flag of the United States was brought down and the Cuban flag raised over Havana as Cuba became an independent republic. However, when looking at Cuba one should look back over the past 530 years and where it is situated today to gain greater understanding of the unfolding tragedy.

Cuba is just 90 miles south of the United States with a population of approximately 11 million people. It is 780 miles long and has a land area of 40,369 square miles and is the largest island in the Caribbean and 17th-largest island in the world by land area.

Columbus’s second stop in the New World was on October 28, 1492 when he landed in Cuba. (The first place he landed on October 12 was the Bahamas). Cuba was a Spanish colony from Columbus’s landing in 1492 until 1898 when Spain lost Cuba in the Spanish-American War.

Cubans engaged in two protracted wars of independence. The first was the 10 Years War that took place between 1868 and 1878 and the second took place between 1895 and 1898 ending with U.S. intervention and a 4-year occupation that ended on May 20, 1902. Cuba’s first president was a Cuban exile named Tomas Estrada de Palma.

[ Rest of article ]

The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2022

Biden’s Strange Help for Cuba

Why aid the struggling anti-American regime in Havana now?

By The Editorial Board

May 19, 2022 6:29 pm ET

A Cuban flag is seen next to an American flag outside the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Photo: Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

Whatever the humanitarian impulse behind the Biden Administration’s Monday announcement that it will lift some sanctions on Cuba, the timing couldn’t be worse. The dictatorship is under stress, and it remains Russia’s closest ally in the Western Hemisphere. Why would Team Biden take the pressure off Havana now?

Cuba’s regime may be in the most precarious state of its 63 years in power. The economy has collapsed, and hero worship of Fidel Castro is as dead as he is. The July 11 uprising last year, when tens of thousands went to the streets and shouted for freedom, exposed the contempt Cubans have for their government.

Thousands of peaceful protesters were rounded up last summer by paramilitary and secret police, and some 750 are still in jail. This week Havana declared a new law criminalizing basic liberties. Insulting a government official is now punishable with up to five years in prison. A Cuban who engages with an international aid group not authorized by the state is headed for years behind bars.

The Biden Administration’s new policy removes the cap on dollar remittances that Americans may send to Cuba, reopens air travel to cities across the island, and restores travel by so-called educational groups. The practical effect will be to supply the regime, which controls all commerce, with hard currency to keep its repression going.

The Administration says it wants to help the Cuban people. But like the Obama Administration, Team Biden fails to acknowledge that the cause of the island’s privation is the regime itself.

Rest of Editorial here ]

The Washington Times, May 19, 2022

As Cuba crushes democracy’s revival, where is Biden? 

Why won’t the president speak as harshly on Diaz-Canel as he does Putin?

By Oscar Biscet – – Thursday, May 19, 2022

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that we live in a “moment of reckoning for democracy worldwide” and promises that America will “step forward and bring others” with it. Those are fine words, but for many Cubans they ring hollow. For all its talk of opposing autocracy and supporting imperiled democracies, the Biden administration has done little to address the suppression of democracy’s stirrings in Cuba.

Cuban dissidents are suffering the worst persecution in decades. Yet the Biden administration, the international community at large, and the media have largely ignored this repression.

Last summer, on July 11, 2021 (11J), Cubans took to the streets to protest peacefully the government’s tyrannical practices and chronic economic mismanagement of the country. The regime of Miguel Diaz-Canel has treated this simple and peaceful act of democratic expression like a serpent to be crushed in its shell. He has authorized mass trials for hundreds of innocent protesters, including an estimated 55 minors. Some of the indicted will end up in prison for decades. According to Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, “The Cuban government has sentenced 128 people to a total of over 1,900 years in prison for demonstrating and expressing their views.”

This repressive crackdown is broader and harsher than previous ones, as it aims to scare ordinary Cubans away from supporting any such protests in the future. Far from moving past the cruelty of the Castro brothers, Mr. Diaz-Canel is returning to it. Yet how many Americans are even familiar with Mr. Diaz-Canel’s name? The complacent assumption of the press and the international community is that he is a more benign figure than his predecessors. The brutal facts on the ground in Cuba tell a different story.

If democracy is to have any chance in Cuba, the Biden administration will need to do more than just pull the travel visas of a handful of Cuban officials, and the press and international community will need to shine a relentless light on Mr. Diaz-Canel’s misdeeds.

One positive step the Biden administration could take is to support the expansion of internet access in Cuba. Mr. Diaz-Canel has restricted it in response to the peaceful protests. This is preventing the free flow of information, without which the recovery of democracy in Cuba is impossible.

Will President Biden speak as harshly about Mr. Diaz-Canel as he does about Russian President Vladimir Putin? The Marxist tyranny on Mr. Biden’s doorstep is far worse than anything in Mr. Putin’s sphere of influence. Why is the fate of Cubans of less concern to Mr. Biden than that of Ukrainians? Why is Mr. Biden not calling on the United Nations and the international community to boycott and sanction Mr. Diaz-Canel as severely as Mr. Putin?

All of this is made even more urgent by the fact that Cuba is in a dangerous alliance with Mr. Putin. The Putin regime has already revealed its willingness to install nuclear rockets in Cuba — plans the Cuban dictatorship has not denied.

The Biden administration is aware of this problem. Referring to the possibility of Russia installing these weapons in Cubaand Venezuela, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said at a press conference at the White House on Jan. 13, 2022, that “If Russia were to move in that direction, we would deal with them decisively.”

Months earlier, in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also expressed the administration’s concern about the growing role of Russia in Cuba and Venezuela. (The general of the Southern Command, Laura Richardson, attributes the instability of the Western Hemisphere in part to the interference of Cuba in Venezuela, which has contributed to a wave of transnational crime in Latin America.)

“When it comes to Cuba, the goal is democracy and freedom for its people,” Mr. Blinken has said. But where are the effective measures to promote these democratic changes?

Earlier this year, Florida legislators introduced a bill calling on Mr. Biden to enact Article 54 of the U.N. Charter. The bill is still pending. It says that Article 54, if enacted, would allow the U.N. Security Council to take action against Mr. Diaz-Canel, who presides over an autocracy that “is using torture, violence and intimidation, and withholding food, water, medicine, electricity, education and communication to the outside world in order to strangle the population into submission.”

Mr. Biden should heed the words of this bill. Why hasn’t he? Why has an administration ostensibly dedicated to the global rebirth of democracy offered such tepid support to Cuba’s disciples of it? Cuba is a test of Mr. Biden’s sincerity. Will he stand with its persecuted people or ignore the abuses of their tormentors?

This is no time for “normalization,” as some counsel Mr. Biden, but rather a moment that cries out for a robust defense of the Cuban people’s democratic rights.  Nine years ago, I helped establish the Emilia Project to defend those rights. The project’s purpose is as important today as it was then. We cried out for “a legal order of our homeland has as its basis the democratic principles that prevail in other nations of the civilized world.” But our plea remains unheard. As the mass trials against peaceful Cubans of 11J vividly illustrate, Cuba is still an appalling communist tyranny.

I commend Mr. Biden for holding a “summit on democracy,” as he did in the first year of his presidency. But what good is the lofty rhetoric at that summit if it is not met by action? This is, indeed, a moment of reckoning for democracy worldwide, as Mr. Blinken says. But history will judge Mr. Biden to have failed if he continues to overlook the crushing of democracy’s revival in Cuba.

• Dr. Oscar Biscet is a physician and human-rights advocate 

Miami Herald, May 18, 2022

Biden’s lame new Cuba policy misses opportunity to force change on the island | Opinion

Frank Calzón, Miami Herald – 7h ago

In her classic book “The March of Folly,” noted historian Barbara W. Tuchman wrote about nations pursuing policies inimical to their interests “despite the availability of feasible alternatives.”

It would be wise for those advising President Biden on Cuba policy to read this book — especially now that the administration says its new policies aim to “support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom.”

Still, several questions are in order: Does the new Cuba policy advance American interests? Does it help the people of Cuba? Were alternatives available and, if so, were they presented to the president?

In the absence of congressional hearings, we may have to wait for a high-level Biden adviser’s memoir to find out.

In the meantime, consider the following:

The State Department says that the policy shift is needed to provide Cubans “greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home.” But Cuba’s misfortunes are not because of the U.S. embargo or other policies. The Cuban tragedy results from the regime’s repression and its economic policies, which have brought similar results in every country in which they were tried, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and others under communist rule — and even North Korea and North Vietnam today.

If the administration wants to see the end of widespread hunger and food shortages in Cuba, it should convince Raúl Castro to end the internal blockade, the monopoly the regime holds on economic activity and the imprisonment of farmers who attempt to sell their products to other Cubans.

Providing resources to the Cuban government delays the inevitable: the day when it’s forced to discard its current economic system. To continue exporting frozen American chicken to Cuba, paid by remittances from Cuban Americans, doesn’t make sense. When Cuban farmers’ productive capacity is liberated, Cuba will need little food imports.

Cuba’s significant development before Castro was made possible by its sugar industry, a considerable export. Today, sugar is negligible to the economy, and the embargo had nothing to do with it. In a historic speech in 1970, Fidel Castro acknowledged his responsibility for the disaster.

Under a free-market system, Cuba could feed its own people. It could export food products.

It is admirable that the administration wants to reunite Cuban families. But why didn’t it include in its concerns the plight of Cuban doctors, athletes and others who escape abroad, while the regime prohibits their going home to visit their families for seven years?

Biden could have conditioned the flow of millions of dollars that the regime wants to the reunification of more than 1,000 political prisoners with their families. The president could have asked Raúl Castro to decree a political amnesty, like the one that freed him and his brother Fidel, after serving less than three years of a 15-year sentence for an attack on an army garrison where many Cubans died.

Instead, Washington politely called “on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures.” Lame.

Why give concessions to Havana when the regime has yet to condemn Moscow’s threats to deploy military forces in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as a response to a greater U.S. presence in Europe in light of Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine? When is Raúl Castro going to go on the record, objecting to Putin’s statements about the use of nuclear weapons?

Shouldn’t the withdrawal of what Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, has denounced as “a Cuban Army of occupation in Venezuela” have been a precondition?

Why not demand that Cuba allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit its political jails, when the IRC has visited the detainees at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo?

Perhaps many of these matters would have been handled differently had the administration kept its pledge to consult with the Cuban-American community and with congressional committees on these issues.

And Biden still has promises to keep. He did say in 2021 that the United States would provide free internet access to the Cuban people.

We’re waiting.

Frank Calzon is a Cuban political scientist.

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