Monday, May 22, 2017

Cuba’s Proxy War in Venezuela

Cuba's Proxy War in Venezuela
Mary Anastasia O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal

The commitment to Maduro among soldiers and police is breaking down

Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro is responding to mass demonstrations
by selectively killing civilians. If, as a result, some branch of the
military breaks with the regime, the country will descend into civil
war. But until then it's a one-sided slaughter.

It's also a Cuban proxy war. More than a dozen high-ranking Cuban
officers are said to be in Venezuela, along with thousands of Cuban
intelligence agents. Their job is to keep Venezuelan army officers under
constant surveillance to prevent the feared military uprising to restore
democracy. If the international community wants to head off disaster, a
good place to start would be in Havana.

On Thursday Miami's El Nuevo Herald reported it has a recording of
Venezuelan generals—at a meeting in Barquisimeto three weeks ago—"giving
orders to use snipers to control demonstrators." According to the Herald
they did so "with the argument that they find themselves on the
threshold of a civil war."

Maybe the generals know something not yet acknowledged publicly—that the
commitment to Mr. Maduro among the nation's soldiers and police is
breaking down.

It happened once before, in April 2002, when snipers backing the regime
picked off protesters during a demonstration in Caracas. When some
members of the army refused to help then-President Hugo Chávez crack
down on the crowd, he was forced to step aside, albeit temporarily.

Once back in power, Chávez accelerated the recruitment and arming of
paramilitaries. Thousands now show up at antigovernment protests, firing
weapons into crowds and using their motorcycles to run down
demonstrators. If the Cubans remain the power behind the throne, there
will be no one to stop these trained killers from slitting the throats
of the opposition.

The possibility of a break inside the armed forces seems to be on the
rise. As the Journal's Anatoly Kurmanaev reported on Wednesday, National
Guard riot police are worn down from taking on thousands of street
protesters almost daily since the beginning of April. Rank-and-file
soldiers also are not immune to the hardship and hunger caused by Mr.
Maduro's senseless economic policies. They say they too are underpaid
and underfed.

The dictatorship is clearly worried about this and recognizes it will
lose a war of attrition. One source in Caracas who marched in the
streets Thursday observed a noted increase in regime repression.

In recent weeks government enforcers also have launched attacks on lower
middle-class neighborhoods where Maduro critics live. They break down
gates and doors, rampage through apartment complexes, fire tear-gas
canisters through windows and loot homes.

On May 7 the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported that between
April 4 and May 5 the National Guard, together with National Bolivarian
Police and chavista militia, invaded 11 different residential areas in
Caracas. One family of four in the El Paraíso district, requesting
anonymity, told of how they cowered together in a bathroom for eight
hours to keep from being asphyxiated by the tear gas that had inundated
the rest of their apartment.

It wasn't the first blitz on the building complex known as Terrazas del
Paraíso. On April 19 pro-government thugs smashed an iron grille to get
in and rob one of the neighbors. On April 26 civilian-clothed militia
entered the complex and fired rubber bullets, injuring some residents.
"But it was to frighten us, because they didn't steal anything," one of
the victims told the newspaper.

On May 11 El Nacional reported that since this most recent wave of
protests began, state security forces and paramilitary have engaged in
similar violence and theft against 13 condominiums in six cities
including Maracay, Valencia, Barquisimeto and Merida. Forty-seven people
have been killed in the violence perpetrated by the antiriot squads and
paramilitary madmen since early April.

This is state terrorism. But it may not have its intended effect. Most
of the country is solidly against the government, and this includes
low-income Venezuelans, once the base for chavismo. Paradoxically the
repression seems to be strengthening opposition resolve. Perhaps
Venezuelans have reached a tipping point. They will get new elections
and freedom for political prisoners, or are ready to die trying.

The brutality also may be eroding the confidence of the men and women in
uniform. Many seem not to have the stomach for the cruelty their Cuban
handlers expect from their South American protégés. On May 5 opposition
leader Henrique Capriles said 85 members of the armed forces, including
some young captains and sergeants, had been detained by the regime for
criticizing the repression. On May 19 a member of the National Guard was
arrested in Táchira for having crossed over to defend protesters.

The international community has the power, through sanctions, to rein in
Cuba. If it fails to do so, the Venezuelan opposition will be massacred.

Source: Cuba's proxy war in Venezuela | Babalú Blog -

We Have Survived

We Have Survived

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2017 — Three years ago this
digital daily was just a dream, a project on paper and a desire in the
heads of several colleagues. On that 21 May 2014, the mirage took shape
on the first cover of a site that robs us of our nights, brings us
frequent moments of tension, but also puts a smile on our faces when we
publish a successful investigation or report.

When we joined together around that initial idea of ​​creating a
newspaper from within Cuba, we had at least two pillars on which to
build this informational edifice: to engage in quality journalism and to
maintain our economic independence. Fulfilling those initial goals has
been a difficult challenge, but we are pleased and proud to have
succeeded in most cases.

For three years this newspaper has privileged opinion, has made
reporting its flagship content and has opted for well written stories,
carefully prepared and anchored to reality. We have managed to address
opposing worlds: opposition and officialdom; ecology and
industry; emigration and local entrepreneurship.

We have avoided adjectives to focus on the facts and to distinguish
ourselves from activism journalism. Our compass seeks to maintain
seriousness and rigor in the simplest and most complex articles. In this
newsroom we repeat some phrases that reveal this premise: "it is better
to be late than wrong," "we do not work for the hits but for the
information," "being a reporter is not a good profession for making
friends," "a good journalist will always end up annoying someone"… and
many others.

In this time, we have rejected all offers of economic support from
foreign governments, political parties, foundations linked to power
groups and figures with a marked ideological position. Instead we have
chosen to "make a living" through journalism, something so distressing
and difficult in these times it has put us constantly on the verge of
material indigence. However, this tension has been the best incentive to
produce high quality content that we can offer to media and agencies in
other parts of the world.

Our editorial team is the best family you can imagine. Like all
relatives, it has its headaches: there are severe parents, hypercritical
uncles, grumpy grandparents, unkind brothers and fast-paced cousins when
it's time to click the button to "publish" to information. But in
general it is a team united by the best possible glue: the search for
journalistic quality.

Our main obstacles remain obtaining information in a country where
institutions practice secrecy, the official press gilds reality and most
citizens are afraid to speak with an independent newspaper. They are not
insurmountable difficulties, but they demand an enormous amount of
energy and patience from us every day.

The blocking of our digital site, the stigmatizing of our name and the
harassment of reporters have also negatively affected the scope of our
work, but we are not discouraged. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

The most important thing we are going to keep in mind today, when we
blow out the three tiny candles on our digital cake, is that "we have
survived." Against all the predictions of friends and enemies, we are
here, we have made a space in Cuban journalism and we will continue to
work to improve the quality of this newspaper.

Source: We Have Survived – Translating Cuba -

In a first, Cuba loses patience with Trump’s “ridiculous” statements

In a first, Cuba loses patience with Trump's "ridiculous" statements
US president criticizes regime on Independence Day; Havana chides
Miami 22 MAY 2017 - 17:36 CEST

For the first time, the Cuban government has responded to US President
Donald Trump in an exasperated tone. On Saturday, when the island nation
was observing the anniversary of the creation of the Republic of Cuba on
May 20, 1902, the White House released a statement from Trump "to the
Cuban-American community and to the people of Cuba" stating that
historical figures such as the Cuban patriot José Martí "remind us that
cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of

Cuba se crispa por primera vez con Trump y lo califica de "ridículo"
"The Cuban people deserve a government that peacefully upholds
democratic values, economic liberties, religious freedoms, and human
rights, and my Administration is committed to achieving that vision,"
reads the statement.

Just hours later, Cuban television aired a reply that derided Trump's
message as "ridiculous" and "ill-advised." Cuban authorities criticized
"the contradictory, blundering statements by the
millionaire-magnate-turned-president on matters of foreign and domestic

This recent verbal scuffle could set the tone for a future relationship
defined by an ill-humored pragmatism

Up until now, the Raúl Castro administration had exercised
self-restraint in the face of Trump's criticism. This verbal clash is
the first direct falling out between both countries since the new US
president took office, and it represents a harsh change of tone in
bilateral relations following the diplomatic normalization that began in
December 2014 under then-president Barack Obama.

Under Trump, who has spoken – both before and after his election victory
– of the possibility of backtracking on his predecessor's overtures to
Cuba if Havana did not respect civil liberties, bilateral relations have
entered a period of unease until the White House defines its Cuba policy.

Cuban-American political power, which remains loyal to Miami exiles'
traditional demands for Washington to be tough on Havana, is pressuring
the president in this direction, although his administration is not
expected to go much further than verbal political denunciation and the
odd minor corrective measure. This is because half of all Cuban-American
voters support a normalization of relations, and because there is
significant US business interest in continuing with the thaw.

This recent verbal scuffle could set the tone for a future relationship
defined by an ill-humored pragmatism under which both governments would
direct barbs at one another but make no politically significant moves –
or it could herald a regression to the days of open hostility that could
eventually have real political repercussions.

English version by Susana Urra.

Source: Cuban thaw: In a first, Cuba loses patience with Trump's
"ridiculous" statements | In English | EL PAÍS -

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence Day

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence Day

On Cuban Independence Day, I extend my warmest wishes to the Cuban
American community and the people of Cuba as our whole Nation joins you
in celebrating the anniversary of Cuban Independence.

Americans and Cubans share allegiance to the principles of
self-governance, dignity, and freedom. Today, we remember patriots like
José Martí, who devoted himself to making Cuba an economically
competitive and politically autonomous nation. He reminds us that cruel
despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of
Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for
their children to live free from oppression. The Cuban people deserve a
government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic
liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my Administration
is committed to achieving that vision.

Today, we also honor the generations of Cuban Americans who have made
outstanding contributions to our country by sharing their culture and
talents. Cuban Americans have distinguished themselves in literature,
the arts, business, sports, the courts, Congress, and within my
Administration. We are especially thankful to the Cuban Americans who
serve in our military and who have sacrificed in defense of our freedom.

Melania and I send our best wishes on this important day in history for
the Americas. God bless the people of Cuba and our Cuban American
friends who call the United States home.

Source: Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence
Day | -

Havana lashes out against Trump’s May 20 message to the Cuban people

Havana lashes out against Trump's May 20 message to the Cuban people

Havana has reacted strongly to a statement issued by President Donald
Trump to the Cuban people over the weekend to mark the 115th anniversary
of the birth of the Republic of Cuba.

A statement read on Cuban state television on Saturday described Trump's
message as "controversial" and "ridiculous."

"...the Miami Herald on Saturday published a controversial and
ridiculous message from the ill-advised U.S. President Donald Trump to
the people of Cuba about May 20, a date that the United States considers
as the emergence of the Republic of Cuba, when we actually know that
what was born that day was a Yankee neo-colony, which lived until on
January 1, 1959," says the statement, referencing the date when Fidel
Castro seized control of the island.

The statement, which was also published on the Cuban TV website, is
signed only as "Official Note" and it is unclear whether it corresponds
to a change of position by the Cuban government, which had been careful
in its statements on the new U.S. president, who has ordered a review of
Cuba policy.

On several occasions, the Cuban government has offered to maintain a
dialogue with the United States.

Official notes from Havana are usually signed by "the Revolutionary
Government" or the governmental entity issuing it. Cuban Television
responds directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a
conservative bastion within the government of Raúl Castro.

The Cuban Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.

The statement also references a wire story published in el Nuevo Herald
that focused on "Trump's slips in state affairs."

"Even within in the U.S. government there is knowledge of the
contradictory and clumsy pronouncements of the millionaire tycoon turned
president, on issues of politics, both exterior and interior," the
statement says.

On Sunday, state television continued to lash out with commentator
Oliver Zamora stating in the noon newscast:

"..Now we must really worry about the future of bilateral relations
after this letter from the president-magnate, because he can only
respond to two initial positions, or part of the cynicism, or at best

Trump's message, which triggered Havana's reaction, highlighted "that
cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of
Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for
their children to live free from oppression."

Trump also promised that he will work for Cubans on the island to have a
government that respects democracy and civil liberties.

During his campaign, Trump promised to change Cuba policy, and a State
Department official recently said that the United States would seek to
put more pressure on the Cuban government regarding its human rights
record. It was anticipated that an announcement about these changes
would come by Saturday, but it was postponed because of the president's
trip to the Middle East and because the Cuba policy review has not been
completed, a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.


Source: Havana reacts to Trump's May 20 message to Cubans | Miami Herald

Offutt airman who spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba inducted into Strategic Air Command Hall of Fame

Offutt airman who spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba inducted into
Strategic Air Command Hall of Fame
May 22, 2017

Deep in the basement of the Strategic Air Command's headquarters at
Offutt Air Force Base, Airman 1st Class Michael Davis studied the
black-and-white film squares through a magnifying lens on that October
day in 1962.

Hunched over the light table, he noticed some cigar-shaped objects. He
knew they were out of the ordinary; though only 24, he had been studying
aerial reconnaissance photos like these, from a U-2 flight over Cuba,
for three years.

"Major, take a look at this," Davis told an officer. "I think you'd
better call the colonel."

The Cuban "cigars" were actually Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles
on the backs of transport trucks. The SAC commander, Gen. Thomas Power,
looked over the photos. The next day, the president was briefed. For the
next two weeks, the United States and the Soviet Union stood toe-to-toe
in what came to be known as the Cuban missile crisis.

Davis couldn't share his secret discovery, of course, but he was named
Offutt's "Airman of the Month" and received a three-day pass, he told
The World-Herald in a 2002 interview.

On Saturday, Davis received additional recognition when he was named to
the SAC Hall of Fame, one of four members of its second class of
inductees. The ceremony was held on Saturday — Armed Forces Day — at the
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum near Ashland.

The inductees were selected for their "significant impact in service to
SAC or to its mission," according to a press release from the museum.
Nominees were selected by a committee of six community leaders who are
knowledgeable about the military and about SAC history.

» Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, a World War II veteran who was SAC's eighth
commander, from 1974 to '77, described by the SAC Museum as a
"transformational leader" who "positively impacted the quality of life
for those serving in SAC." He died in 2007 at age 86 and is buried at
Arlington National Cemetery.

» Gen. Larry D. Welch, 82, who headed SAC in 1985 and 1986 before
stepping up to become Air Force chief of staff. He is credited by the
museum with raising SAC's readiness through "tough, realistic training,
modernization, and improving efficiency." In retirement, he continues to
serve on the Defense Policy Board and U.S. Strategic Command's Strategic
Advisory Board.

» Ed Wells, longtime chief engineer at Boeing Co., who was involved in
the design of aircraft from the B-17 to the 747, and was responsible for
designing or improving many SAC aircraft platforms, including the B-29
Superfortress, B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress. He died in 1986
at age 75.

The museum also inducted three supporters to its own Hall of Fame: Bruce
Rohde, Lee Seemann and Clarence Werner., 402-444-1186

Source: Offutt airman who spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba inducted into
Strategic Air Command Hall of Fame | Military | -

Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century

Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century

REPORT from European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil
Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Published on 22 May 2017
By Hilaire Avril, Regional Information Officer, EU Humanitarian Aid.

Cuba has been fighting one of the toughest droughts in a century for the
past three years. Declining and erratic rainfall, increasingly long
periods between rainy seasons and dry spells caused by the El Niño
phenomenon, have affected more than 50% of the island's territory. "The
frequency and severity of droughts in the Caribbean region have been
increasing steadily in the past years, and - like other hazards such as
hurricanes; one needs to prepare for and address these recurrent
events," says Virginie André, who coordinates EU Humanitarian Aid
programmes for the Caribbean.

The situation has a direct impact on the water level of the dams -
throughout the country dam levels are below 50% of capacity. Although a
staggering 141 of Cuba's 168 municipalities have been affected, Central
and Eastern Cuba have been hit particularly hard.

"More than 1 million Cubans have been affected," Virginie explains.

Even the land is parched: 75% of Cuba's soils are dry which means that
crop growth and agricultural production is limited. The lack of water is
persistent throughout the nation and the country's efforts to mitigate
the effects of this phenomenon focus on saving - and investing - in
order to ensure an adequate supply to people and crops.

But proper disaster risk management requires intervention prior to a
disaster (prevention), during the impact itself (response) as well as
after the event.

This is why the EU is funding a €600 000 drought resilience initiative
through two projects implemented by partners the World Food Program
(WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Movimiento por la
Paz (MPDL) to strengthen preparedness, early warning, response and
adaptation as well as to build up the technical capacity of
meteorological and hydrological networks.

"We aim to bring assistance to those who need it most, but also to
prevent the worst impacts of future droughts by reducing vulnerabilities
and strengthening the resilience of municipalities and local authorities
in Cuba's eastern provinces," says Virginie André. This includes
sustainable community access to water in the most vulnerable
neighbourhoods of Santiago de Cuba (Cuba's second largest city after
Havana, the capital), for 69 300 residents.

The project addresses priorities identified in consultation with
national and local authorities, with the support of all institutions,
based on risk assessments carried out at local levels.

"EU support has been focused on adapting measures to the current drought
and helping communities to prepare for the next drought, before it hits
the country again, as we can unfortunately expect," Virginie concludes.

To learn more about resilience and disaster risk management, register
for the World Reconstruction Conference which takes place in Brussels on
6-8th June. For more details click here.

Last updated 22/05/2017

Source: Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century - Cuba |
ReliefWeb -