23 March 2009

Center for a Free Cuba

At least one recipient of the millions the US spends on subverting Cuba has now been convicted stealing taxpayers money.

He thought he deserved a better lifestyle:

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A former Bush White House aide was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday for stealing nearly $600,000 from a government-funded program that promotes democracy in Cuba.

Felipe Sixto apologized for stealing from the Center for a Free Cuba, telling U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that in addition to his own greed and selfishness, he "wanted to provide a lifestyle for my family I could not afford."

That argument from Mr. Sixto didn't sway Judge Walton, who compared him to Bernie Madoff, who has pleaded guilty to ripping off thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

While the situations are different, Judge Walton said Mr. Sixto, like Mr. Madoff, wanted a lifestyle "far above" what he deserved.

"The mentality that brings you before this court is the same," Judge Walton said.

Judge Walton sentenced him to 30 months in prison, three years supervised release and fined him $10,000. Mr. Sixto had asked for home confinement or probation.

Mr. Sixto pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to theft. He acknowledged overcharging the organization more than $579,000 when purchasing radios and flashlights with federal funds. His lawyer said 90% of the money had been paid back to the center, with some of it coming from a mortgage that Mr. Sixto's parents took out on their house.

Judge Walton also criticized Mr. Sixto for accepting a job in the White House, knowing that he had been stealing from the center, an independent institution that receives millions of dollars in USAID funds for rent, travel and equipment such as shortwave radios and laptops.

Mr. Sixto quit his job as a special assistant to President George W. Bush for intergovernmental affairs almost a year ago after learning that the center was beginning legal action against him.

Judge Walton said having employees like Mr. Sixto inside the White House makes people question the honesty and integrity of government officials.

Copyright © 2009 Associated Press

14 March 2009

Balkinization Commentators on the Lease of Lands.

In my effort to sort out the elements of a claim that the U.S. Government breached the terms of its Guantanamo lease--call me old-fashioned, but I think landlords ought to be able to evict tenants who torture people--I put the following question to the commentators on the law blog Balkinization.com:

Can anyone explain to me (a non-lawyer) why the DoD would not have to consider the terms of the lease to build a detention facility, let alone to interrogate combatants captured by non-Naval forces?

To read the replies, click here. My post is about 30 comments down. Balkinization is a monitored website, but the commentators squeeze in some healthy insults nonetheless. And Hank, Joe, and Shaq from Brookline, especially, raise some interesting points.

Russian long range bombers in Cuba?

Russia continues to extract pounds of flesh following Condi's wretched diplomacy:

Zhikharev said Chavez had offered "a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers," the agency reported. "If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island ... by the Russian Air Force is possible."

Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes.

Two Russian bombers landed in Venezuela last year in what experts said was the first Western Hemisphere touchdown of Russian military craft since the end of the Cold War.

Cuba has never permanently hosted Russian or Soviet strategic aircraft. But Soviet short-range bombers often made stopovers there during the Cold War.

Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus.

Independent military analyst Alexander Golts said from a strategic point of view there was nothing for Russia to gain from basing long-range craft within relatively short range of U.S. shores.

"It has no military sense. The bombers don't need any base. This is just a retaliatory gesture," Golts said, saying Russia wanted to hit back after U.S. ships patrolled Black Sea waters.

More angles from Two Weeks Notice

11 March 2009

SEC. 621, the new travel rule

once again, Cuban-Americans get what they want from the U.S. Congress:

SEC. 620. Section 910(a) of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7209(a)) is amended to read as follows:

`(a) AUTHORIZATION OF TRAVEL RELATING TO COMMERCIAL SALES OF AGRICULTURAL AND MEDICAL GOODS- The Secretary of the Treasury shall promulgate regulations under which the travel-related transactions listed in paragraph (c) of section 515.560 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, are authorized by general license for travel to, from, or within Cuba for the marketing and sale of agricultural and medical goods pursuant to the provisions of this title.'.

SEC. 621. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to administer, implement, or enforce the amendments made to section 515.560 and section 515.561 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, related to travel to visit relatives in Cuba, that were published in the Federal Register on June 16, 2004.

SEC. 622. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to administer, implement, or enforce the amendment made to section 515.533 of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, that was published in the Federal Register on February 25, 2005.

04 March 2009

Senator Robert Menendez

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported that in protest of language favorable to thawing relations with Cuba, New Jersy (small state) Senator Robert Menendez was blocking the nominations of the new bosses for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

I trust that you've heard that the planet is undergoing a climate change, a change that is knocking-off plants and animals left and right. These two offices play a critical role in sorting out the facts of what many scientist believe is a critical problem.

To be sure, people are free to weigh the relative importance of the day's issues according to her/his own conscience.

But, if a Senator is going to stall what is widely regarded as critical work, one would think that whatever issue he feels is more important would be listed on his website, at least under his own assertion of important issues & legislation, no?

As of 4 march 2009, though, I found only two pages on his site mentioning the word Cuba, both over a year old, one dead, and other says nothing about about trade or travel :


One can only conclude the Menendez blocking stunt is intended to pander for dollars to the Anti-Castro lobby.

Let it be known, then, that Senator Robert Menendez is the first Democrat out of the block to return to the politics of no-change.

and surprise, surprise: it's about Cuba.

03 March 2009

Miami Herald reporting

The most important reason US audiences are generally so clueless about Cuba and the reason our government keeps getting out maneuvered by the Cuban government is that we listen to "experts" whose only aim is to smear the Cuban government.

And the Miami Herald is nothing but a conduit for the smears:

The Cuban American National Foundation said the moves were reminiscent of Russian Communist leader Joseph Stalin and are ``demonstrative of the regime's desire to place additional control of the government in the hands of the Cuban military.''

''I think this is Raúl definitely trying to put his own stamp on the government,'' said Sandy Acosta Cox, a political analyst at ECHO-Cuba, a Miami nonprofit that offers aid to evangelical churches on the island. ``I think this demonstrates that there were factions within the government: Fidelistas and Raulistas. . . . Positioning key Raulistas in place, especially before the major announcement everyone is anticipating -- Fidel's death -- ensures that there won't be a power struggle between the two factions.''

First of all, everything Raul does puts his stamp on the action, so that tells us nothing.

And everything one Communist government does is going to resemble the next. But CANF wants to make sure we associate the Cuban government with the worst of the worst.

I was in Cuba days before the elections that put Raul in power. At the time, there was a very small chance that the National Assembly might not pick Raul. So I asked people what they thought of Carlos Lage. I heard one cab driver describe Carlos Lage as harsh and undiplomatic.

And I've known that Felipe Perez Roque was a little over the top. So I'm wondering if these two men were replaced to put a softer, more empathetic face on the government.

But don't expect to get much deeper than that from the Miami Herald.

02 March 2009

Changes in high level positions

The BBC reports
that a decision to appoint (presumably) a new cabinet secretary and foriegn minister "...was [according to the Cubans] in line with the president's plan to improve efficiency."

Mr Lage, 57, was replaced as cabinet secretary by Gen Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra - although he kept his job as one of Cuba's vice-presidents.

Mr Perez Roque, 43, who had been foreign minister for 10 years, was replaced by his deputy Bruno Rodriguez.

Other ousted officials include Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez, Finance Minister Georgina Barreiro Fajardo and Labour Minister Alfredo Morales Cartaya.

Four ministries were merged in the reshuffle.