Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Russia to help Cuba with production of rifle ammunition

Russia and Cuba are planning to sign a contract on building an assembly line for production of ammunition for Kalashnikov assault rifles, Kommersant business daily reported on Wednesday.

According to a source in the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, cited by Kommersant, an assembly line for 7.62-mm rounds used in Kalashnikov assault rifles and other Russian-made rifles will be built at Cuba’s Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara military plant.

The source said that Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport had already prepared a contract, which includes the license and technology transfer.

The official did not specify the value of the contract but said Russia was hoping to receive a contract in the future on a complete overhaul of rifle ammunition production facilities in Cuba, which were built in 1970s-1980s with the help of Soviet specialists.

A Rosoboronexport source has confirmed the planned contract with Cuba but refused to provide more details on the subject, Kommersant said.

Although the Cuban leadership has repeatedly said it has no intention of resuming military cooperation with Russia after the surprise closure of the Russian electronic listening post in Lourdes in 2001, bilateral military ties seem to have been improving since 2008.

Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov said during his visit to Cuba in 2009 that modernization of the Soviet-made military equipment and training of Cuban military personnel will be the focus of Russian-Cuban military cooperation in the future.

Source: Ria Novosti

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  • Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Cuba's smoke-and-mirror reforms

    The Castro regime's announcement that for the first time Cuban citizens will be able to buy and sell their own homes has spurred an outpouring of irrational exuberance that real change is finally coming to the island-prison of Dr. Castro. "To say that it's huge is an understatement," one interested observer told the New York Times. "This is the foundation, this is how you build capitalism, by allowing the free trade of property."

    Another told Reuters, "The ability to sell houses means instant capital formation for Cuban families ... It is a big sign of the government letting go." Still another writes in the Christian Science Monitor that these are "incredibly meaningful changes."

    Such optimism is ill-founded. In fact, it is indicative only of one of two things: either it betrays a brazen political objective (Time magazine: "Why the U.S. Should Drop the Embargo and Prop Up Cuban Homeowners") or it demonstrates just how low the bar of expectation has been placed for what the Cuban people need and deserve that we must celebrate mere crumbs tossed their way by the Castro dictatorship.

    Indeed, sweep away the hype and all you see are daunting hurdles as to how this announcement will change in any way the regime's suffocating control of the Cuban population. The new order restricts people to "ownership" of one permanent residence and one vacation home (as if the average Cuban is in any position to own a second home); all transactions must be approved by the State; no explanation is given on how you grant titles to homes that either have been confiscated from their rightful owners, have been swapped multiple times in the underground economy, or which house multiple families because of the severe shortage of available housing; the construction industry remains state-controlled; and the regime itself admits this order reflects no backsliding on the preeminence of the State in controlling the country's economic and political systems.

    Beyond these challenges, however, is the fundamental fact that you cannot conjure private property rights, let alone the free trade in property, out of thin air. Those rights exist only where they are rooted in a credible, impartial, and transparent legal superstructure that can protect one's property, settle disputes, and guarantee transactions against the predations of the State. Anything less is a rigged game where the State is the dealer.

    This is how the State Department's annual Human Rights Report characterizes Cuba's judicial system: "While the constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary, the judiciary is subordinate to the imperatives of the socialist state. The National Assembly appoints all judges and can remove them at any time. Through the National Assembly, the state exerted near-total influence over the courts and their rulings ... Civil courts, like all courts in the country, lack an independent or impartial judiciary as well as effective procedural guarantees."

    Translation: Cubans' ability to "own" property, trade, or leverage their property to build capital will continue to exist at the sufferance of the State. And what the State giveth, the State can taketh away. The bottom line is that, ultimately, all Cubans will really own is a piece of paper that says they own something.

    Rather than empowering individual Cubans, the regime's goal in allowing the open trade of houses is to hopefully siphon more Cuban American money into the island's perennially bankrupt economy. With average Cubans on the island too poor to buy or improve their dilapidated dwellings, their hope is relatives in Miami and elsewhere will remit even more cash to the island attempting to improve their relations' situation. Indeed, the cynicism of relying on Cuban exiles to support the Cuban economy has never bothered the Castro brothers in the slightest.

    The Castro regime recognizes the increasing unrest among the repressed and impoverished Cuban people for fundamental change, but they are capable only of prescribing more painkillers rather than the radical surgery that is needed to restore the nation's health. Pretending to devolve more autonomy in individuals' lives is just one more cruelty inflicted on the Cuban people over five decades of dictatorship, a cruelty made worse by the cheerleading from abroad.

    By José R. Cárdenas
    Source: FP Blog

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  • Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Castro's regime battles WiFi

    Cuba recently accused the United States of enabling illegal Internet connections in its territory and said several people were arrested in April for profiting from the wireless networks. Granma newspaper said that those arrested, who were not identified, “had for some time and without any legal authorization, been installing wireless networks for profit.”
    Using satellite connections to the Internet and equipment that was either stolen or brought to the island illegally, they set up a service to receive international telephone calls that bypassed the state telephone monopoly ETECSA. “This activity is financed by the United States, which is where the necessary means and tools come from, evading the established controls,” the newspaper charged. Cuba has restricted access to the Internet, giving priority to universities, research centers, state entities and professionals like doctors and journalists.

    Because of the US embargo, Cuba cannot connect to the underwater fiber optic cables that pass near the island, leaving satellite connections with high rates and narrow bandwidths as the main option available to Cuban Internet users. To overcome those limitations, a Cuban-Venezuelan company laid an underwater cable between the two countries in February. It was supposed to have been activated in July, but it has been delayed for reasons the government has yet to explain.

    Cuban authorities have previously accused the United States of illegally introducing technology in the island to enable the creation of wireless networks outside state control. One such case was that of US government contractor Alan Gross, who was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years prison for bringing IT equipment into the country and delivering it to various people.

    “Cuba has every right to safeguard its radio-electronic sovereignty. Those who try to evade it will bear the weight of the corresponding administrative rules and criminal law,” Granma said.

    Source: Repeating Islands

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  • Friday, November 11, 2011

    The Unreported Tragedy of Cuba’s Repressive Communist Regime

    Cuba—to listen to, watch or read some of the media—is a place that has remained unbowed in the face of impoverishment by the U.S. embargo. Lately what you hear is that it is attempting to make bold reforms not just in the economy, but socially as well (it just allowed gays to marry!) The people still dance.

    Only that the reality of Cuba bears little resemblance to the plucky little island narrative. Cuba’s penury has nothing to do with the U.S. decision not to trade with the communist island, but with the fact that the island is communist in the first place. If communism produced misery in Europe and Asia (where one half of Germany and Korea stagnated under repression while the capitalist halves of those countries thrived in economic and political freedom) why would the result be different in the Caribbean?

    Communism is a human tragedy, enslaving the soul while failing to produce enough goods for the people trudging under it. Communist countries are large prisons; the borders must be closed lest the people escape. And within that hell there are smaller circles where the repression is intensified. It’s the Gulag, the re-education camp or, in Cuba’s case today, public beatings by government mobs for who speak up their minds.

    One would think a journalist would want report on that, especially when—as is the case in Cuba today—the people have finally decided to risk it all and take to the streets to voice their opposition. Reality, however, is again otherwise.

    In Cuba today there’s a growing and vibrant protestor movement, headed by a group of women called Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White). Originally organized by the wives of political prisoners, it has now galvanized others to lose their fear and voice their anti-communist sentiments in public.

    Their acts are dignified.  They march to Mass on Sunday bearing flowers; sometimes they stand in squares and chant slogans or meet in each other’s houses.

    The repression that Cuba’s communist regime has unleashed against these poor ladies is anything but dignified. They have been seized by government goons bused in for the occasion, pushed, scratched and beaten. In one case, in the city of Santiago de Cuba, these ladies were stripped to their waist and dragged through the streets.  In another instance they were bitten. The founder of the movement, 63-year-old Laura Pollan, died last month and her remains were returned to her family only after she was cremated..

    We understand—though it still rankles—why journalists posted in Havana are reluctant file stories or broadcast on these events or on the overall mind-numbing reality of communism. If they do, they will be put on the next plane out (a fate any Cuban would relish, of course). As blogger Yoani Sanchez—a rare Cuban allowed to speak her mind, with only the occasional beating—posted last month at Foreign Policy:
    “The dilemma of foreign correspondents — popularly called ‘foreign collaborators’ — is whether to make concessions in reporting in order to stay in the country, or to narrate the reality and face expulsion. The major international media want to be here when the long-awaited ‘zero day’ arrives — the day the Castro regime finally makes its exit from history. For years, journalists have worked to keep their positions so they will be here to file their reports with two pages of photos, testimonies from emotional people, and reports of colored flags flapping all over the place.

    “But the elusive day has been postponed time and again. Meanwhile, the same news agencies that reported on the events of Tahrir Square or the fighting in Libya downplay the impacts of specific events in Cuba or simply keep quiet to preserve their permission to reside in the country. This gag is most dramatic among those foreign journalists with family on the island, whom they would have to leave or uproot if their accreditation were revoked. The grim officials of the CPI understand well the delicate strings of emotional blackmail and play them over and over again.”
    It’s unfair to single out the press, however. The Obama Administration has failed, too, to bring the plight of Cubans to the forefront, even during the current wave of repression against the Ladies in White.

    Two reasons are given for the soft approach. President Obama may not want to complicate the case of Alan Gross, a Marylander Cuba has taken hostage. Gross was sent to Cuba in 2009 by the U.S. Agency for International Development to set up internet connectivity for Cuba’s dwindling Jewish community.  He was arrested in December of 2009 and has been sentenced to 15 years for the crime of bringing satellite phones and laptops into Cuba. President Obama also wants to reach out to the Castro brothers.

    We at The Heritage Foundation agree with Churchill and Reagan that tyranny cannot be appeased. We have a proud record of standing up to communism, including its Caribbean variety, an effort led by decades by such giants as Lee Edward, the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

    That’s why next week, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, we will have two events on these subjects; the first devoted to Cuba and the second to communism.

    At the first event, at 10 am, we will feature a key note address by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., FLA), the Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as a panel on the latest from Cuba.

    In the second event, which follows at 11 am, we’ll look back at the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the USSR, Cuba’s former patron, in a panel featuring Heritage experts and the distinguished scholar of the Soviet Union, Professor Richard Pipes.

    The collapse of the Soviet Union was a tremendous victory, but the survival of the Castro regime, and the rising tide of authoritarianism in Russia, should remind us that not all the achievements of 1991 are secure. So in addition to celebrating the return of freedom to Eastern Europe, we’ll look at how the lessons and concerns of two decades ago are relevant to today.

    By Mike Gonzalez

    Source:  The Foundry

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