Friday, September 22, 2017

Economist and Founding member of the Center for Coexistence sentenced to three years deprivation of liberty

Cuba does not have an independent judiciary and political trials are often covered up with bogus charges to avoid international scrutiny. This appears to be the case with Karina Gálvez Chiu, a founding member of a prestigious civil society group the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) and it is the second time that a space where the groups is meeting has been confiscated by the regime.

14ymedio, Havana, 21 September 2017 — Economist Karina Gálvez Chiu was sentenced Thursday by the Municipal Court of the city of Pinar del Rio to three years of deprivation of liberty and the confiscation of her home for the crime of tax evasion, a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) confirmed 14ymedio. A court decision that she ensures did not surprise her and that she expected.

“Although after the trial, which was clearly won by the defense lawyers, we had hoped that the penalty would decrease somewhat with respect to the prosecutor’s request,” explained the economist.

Finally, “the court accepted the requests for sanctions proposed by the prosecution,” the CEC said in a statement. This does not mean, however, that the economist must go to prison, since the sentence contemplates that the sentence of deprivation of freedom can be substituted by three years of house arrest.

The trial against Gálvez began on January 11 when she was detained for a week at the province’s Technical Department of Criminal Investigation and her house was sealed.

Karina Gálvez’s house was also the headquarters of the Center for Coexistence studies (CEC) and with its seizure the independent project lost its meeting place for the second time. In 2009, the yard of the home of Galvez’s parents, where their members met, was also confiscated and closed.

The property is now at the disposition of the Municipal Housing Department, subordinate to the Council of the Administration of the Municipality of Pinar del Río.

The court ruling says that the conviction seeks to “make the defendant understand” the seriousness of the crime and also “serve to educate the people in general.”

In addition, Gálvez has been banned from exercising the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in electoral processes, as well as losing “the right to hold management positions in the organs corresponding to the political-administrative activity of the State.”

She is also prohibited “from being issued a passport and leaving from the national territory until the penalties imposed have been completed,” says the document that the court sent to her on Thursday through her defense lawyer.

The sentence states that this type of punishment is applied individually and in “its type and extent” is for the purpose of “repressing, re-educating and preventing the commission of new offenses.”

As of this Thursday Gálvez has ten days to appeal. After that time the sentence will be signed against her and she must wait for the appointment with an implementation judge.

“I still have not decided if I’m going to appeal, I’m thinking about it,” says the economist. “The person who presided over my trial is the president of the Provincial Court, so I would have to appeal to a judge who is subordinate to him,” and that “would be a formality.”

Gálvez has denounced, in recent months, an escalation of pressure by the authorities, which includes numerous interrogations in the provincial Immigration and Aliens Department, where they inquired about the motivations of her trips off the island.

Other members of the CEC have been summoned by the police and have received warnings, including the director of the publication, Dagoberto Valdés, who was told by an official last October that from that moment on his life will be “very difficult.”

The CEC organizes training courses for citizens and civil society and, in a recent public statement, its members assured that they will not leave Cuba or the Church and that they will continue to “work for the country.”

CEC sent out several tweets about Karina Gálvez's plight and the following contained a copy of the legal decision and said that  Karina Galvez, from the Center for Coexistence Studies sentenced to three years prison and the confiscation of her home, that had been the headquarters of CEC.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Did State Department downplaying attacks on diplomats in Cuba endanger others?

The plot thickens... U.S. and Canadian diplomats harmed. French now testing their diplomats in Havana to see if they have also suffered injuries.

Diplomat woke up in a Havana hotel to a grinding, blaring cacophony. Moved a few feet noise stopped
 The Daily Mail headline today declared "Damning evidence Cuba's launched a sci-fi sonic weapon at America: How 21 US diplomats were hit by hearing and memory loss - and even mild brain damage - after suspicious attack." More disturbing is the allegation raised by CBS News that the U.S. State Department hid what was going on from Congress and the American people. In the fall of 2016 U.S. diplomats began to complain of "mild" traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing and/or memory loss. In May of 2017 two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States over the matter, but it was not made known until August 9, 2017.

Now CBS says that the State Department "only admitted the attacks were occurring after CBS News Radio first reported them August 9." According to the news agency an "internal Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs document obtained by CBS News shows the State Department was fully aware of the extent of the attacks on its diplomats in Havana, Cuba, long before it was forced to acknowledge them." Now the number of American diplomats and dependents injured stands at 21. Five Canadian diplomats and their families were also harmed. Now France has tested its own diplomatic staff in Havana for potential sonic injuries.

Worse yet "experts" such as Fulton Armstrong with a track record of "minimizing Cuba’s ability to threaten U.S. interests and its continued support to terrorists" are engaged in downplaying this latest outrage. What goes unmentioned is that under international law as described below by the International Court of Justice put it in the case of US Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran (paras 38-40):
[t]here is no more fundamental prerequisite for the conduct of relations between States than the inviolability of diplomatic envoys and embassies . . . [T]he institution of diplomacy, with its concomitant privileges and immunities, has withstood the test of centuries and proved to be an instrument essential for effective co-operation in the international community, and for enabling States, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems, to achieve mutual understanding and to resolve their differences by peaceful means . . . [and] the inviolability of consular premises and archives, are similarly principles deep-rooted in international law…
The Castro regime has failed to maintain the "inviolability of diplomatic envoys and embassies" in this matter but also has a decades long history of engaging in the wholesale violation of this international norm.  Former Canadian ambassador to Cuba James Bartleman described events that occurred midway during his  (1981 – 1983) posting: “[h]is family dog was poisoned, a trade officer had a dead rat nailed to their door and the embassy started receiving threatening phone calls.”  U.S. diplomat Robin Meyers was subjected to cars being used against her as weapons in Cuba in February of 1996. In 2006 The Miami Herald reported how a high-ranking member of the U.S. mission found his mouthwash replaced with urine. In another case, after one diplomat’s family privately discussed their daughter’s susceptibility to mosquito bites, “they returned home to find all of their windows open and the house full of mosquitoes.”  American diplomats, like their Canadian counterparts, have also had pets poisoned while stationed in Cuba. 

This is an outlaw regime with a track record that should not be ignored, especially when doing so is leading to diplomats and their families being seriously physically harmed.   The logical question that arises is a disturbing one: Did State Department lack of response and downplaying of attacks on US diplomats and their families in Cuba lead to more being harmed?

The State Department knew since November 2016 that American diplomats were being harmed in these attacks, but didn't make it public until August 9, 2017 when CBS News broke the story. On December 7, 2016 the United States and Cuba held their fifth Bilateral Commission meeting where they celebrated progress on U.S.-Cuba relations, and according to the Miami Herald signed "11 non-binding agreements on health, the environment, counter-narcotics, and other areas of cooperation." No word on attacks against diplomats. They would continue until August 2017. Cuban officials say they don't know whats going on. This matter should have been raised earlier.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Remarks by President Trump on Cuba and Venezuela today at the UN General Assembly

"From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure." - Donald Trump at the UNGA

President Donald Trump addresses the UN General Assembly
The Office of the Press Secretary at the White House released President Donald Trump's full speech to the United Nations General Assembly this morning. Below is the excerpt that relates to Cuba and Venezuela. There is no mention either of the ongoing crisis involving U.S. diplomats physically harmed in Cuba that could lead to shuttering the U.S. Embassy in Havana or the thousands of Cuban soldiers in Venezuela that have been described as an occupying force by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. Nevertheless it is a remarkable statement that exposes the terrible record of communism generally and specifically analyses what is taking place in the two Latin American countries.
In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution's noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them.  For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more.  In fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes.  The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but, to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it.

Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell.  But the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems.

The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world.  In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially.  Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own regions.

That is why in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has stood against the corrupt and destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom.  My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.

We have also imposed tough, calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.

The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country.  This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried.  To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.
The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing.  Their democratic institutions are being destroyed.  This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch.

As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal.  That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy.  I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people.

The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable.  We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.
We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today.  Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbors.

I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis.  We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela. (Applause.)

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.  (Applause.)  From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.

America stands with every person living under a brutal regime.  Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action.  All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their well being, including their prosperity.

Monday, September 18, 2017

UM shutdown ICCAS and Dr. Suchlicki opens the Cuban Studies Institute

UM's Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies shutdown while Suchlicki's Cuban Studies Institute opens.

Back on July 10, 2017 this blog first raised the call that the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) was under threat. The University of Miami claimed otherwise that only Dr. Suchlicki was going to retire and ICCAS would continue, but facts demonstrated otherwise. All staff at ICCAS were let go and by August 15, 2017 Casa Bacardi where ICCAS was located had been shut down. Dr. Suchlicki resigned from the University of Miami and has now announced that he, many of the former staff and other distinguished scholars are forming the Cuban Studies Institute which basically continues the mission that had been pursued before at ICCAS. Today received the following e-mail reproduced below and look forward to reading CSI's research and attending their events. 

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your support of ICCAS for the past two decades and for your continuing support now during a difficult time.

We have organized a new research, non-profit center, the Cuban Studies Institute (Instituto de Estudios Cubanos), and will continue the work of disseminating the reality about Cuba and its foreign policy.

Following is the Cuban Studies Institute staff:

Director: Jaime Suchlick, Ph.D. International Relations
Executive Director: Pedro Roig, J.D., Legal Issues
Program Coordinator/Office Manager: Maria Urizar
Research Coordinator: Jennifer Hernandez

The following colleagues are also joining us as Senior Research Associates of the new institute:

Alvaro Alba, Journalist
Jose Azel, Ph.D., International Business
Robert Cruz, Ph.D., Economist
Ignacio Uria, Ph.D., International Relations
Mario Gonzalez Corzo, Ph.D., Economist
Carlos Alberto Montaner, Author, Columnist
Sherri Porcelain, Ph.D., Public Health
Marco Antonio Ramos, Ph.D., History
Ambassador Otto Reich, American Foreign Policy

Research and Administrative Offices:
1500 South Dixie Highway (corner of Madruga)
Bank of America Building, 2nd floor
Coral Gables, FL 33146

Activities and Programs:
American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora
1200 Coral Way
Miami, FL 33145

We look forward to seeing you in our new offices and in our programs and activities.

Un fuerte abrazo,

Jaime Suchlicki

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Constitution Day 2017: 230 years after signing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution

In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American. - Antonin Scalia, Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta, 534 U.S. 103 (1995).

Constitutional Convention completed ratification on September 17, 1787
 230 years ago 35 of the founders of the United States signed and ratified the Constitution of the United States. First recognized by Iowa schools in 1911, Sons of the American Revolution in 1917, and finally by  September 17th is set aside as Constitution Day in observance of this important day that established the U.S. Constitution. 
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Today some will revere the Constitution as a sacred text but how did one of the actual signers view it at the time? Benjamin Franklin, during a speech in the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (September 17, 1787); reported in James Madison, Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott (1893), p. 742:
In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. 
 The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, observed in a fair copy of the drafts of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798:
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Today is a good day to re-read the Constitution and remind ourselves as citizens that we must hold the politicians accountable in order to preserve liberty and avoid despotism. Furthermore that over time amendments have been necessary to cautiously improve on the original document.