Posts in Cuban Government
Sometimes it's enough to simply ask the question, isn't it?
Just when you think U.S.-Cuban relations couldn't get more surreal (take a look at these two videos - h/t to the Cuban Triangle - chronicling two Cuban state security agents' revelations from their collective 40 years inside the Cuban dissident community), it turns out they absolutely can, and they will. Here's a clip from The Hill's report from a Senate hearing earlier today:
"Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) grilled federal officials Wednesday about the Cuban government's possible ties to rampant Medicare fraud in south Florida.
"During the hearing, Grassley referenced a report from the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami raising questions about the involvement of Fidel Castro's regime.
The report paraphrases a "high-level former intelligence official with the Cuban Government" as saying that there are "strong indications that the Cuban Government is directing some of these Medicare frauds as part of a desperate attempt to obtain hard currency."
I worked for the Senate Finance Committee when Senator Grassley was chairman of that committee (which oversees Medicare). He took his investigative responsibilites quite seriously. So I'm a little flabbergasted to see him go out on a limb over what seems to me such slim pickins, as we say in the South. (Though, to be fair, 7 of the 10 top Medicare fraud perpetrators are Cuban American, so I can understand why he'd want to explore the subject further.)
The short document prepared by the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) and referenced today by Senator Grassley can be found, and quickly read, here. Here's a sample of the ironclad, single (unnamed) source research conducted by ICCAS on the subject, based on an interview with a former Ministry of the Interior official from Cuba:
Giving Hugo Chavez the second copy of the proposal of a new economic model for Cuba (The first was given to Fidel Castro); President Raul Castro announced two important events that will make history in Cuba during 2011. First, Raul called the VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) in April 2011 to discuss a new economic and social model; second, he announced the plan to have a National Conference of the PCC by the end of the next year to discuss internal party issues and the renewal of its leadership.
These two events would most likely conclude the long succession from Fidel Castro to his brother that began in 2006 after the older Castro got sick. The call of the two meetings as parallel tracks makes sense from the view of the Cuban Communist leaders. In the first case, there is a consensus on the need to introduce major economic reforms in Cuba. The PCC is facing the challenge of the end of Fidel Castro’s charisma as one of the pillars of its rule. As result, it is trying to build up its legitimacy through economic liberalization, increased openness and growth.
Raul Castro defined the Congress as “of all the members and all the people which will participate in the main decisions of the revolution”. But this debate is about “one unique issue”: the “updating” of the Cuban socialist model, the solution of the economic problems, “the economic battle” from which the “revolution’s preservation depends”. All these code words confirm one thing, the population would have the chance to participate actively and change the margins and shape of the economic and social model.
There is no excuse for those countries that detain citizens who try to peacefully exercise their natural rights. While Cuba has released 20 political prisoners this month, many more are still in jail. The pre-release counts range between 53 as reported by Amnesty International and 167 as reported by Cuba's foremost authority, Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission. (See this AP article for a discussion of how the different sources have come up with their counts of political prisoners held in Cuba).
Amnesty International's 2010 Report, the State of the World's Human Rights is one of the few resources available which looks at the condition of human rights in every country around the world and does not just focus on one country or region. Although it certainly may not be an exhaustive list of all the prisoners of conscious or political prisoners in each country, here are some of their findings for Cuba and elsewhere:
Cuba: "At least 53 prisoners of conscience remain jailed in the country for peacefully exercising their right to the freedom of expression, association, and assembly." (translated from an updated report from June 30)