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SYLVIA G. IRIONDO: Fanjul debe mirar hacia el memorial cubano



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SYLVIA G. IRIONDO: Fanjul debe mirar hacia el memorial cubano

Sylvia G. Iriondo
El Nuevo Herald, February 9, 2014


Todos los que han seguido la trayectoria de M.A.R. por Cuba conocen nuestra posición política en torno al establecimiento de relaciones comerciales con el régimen de los dictadores Fidel y Raúl Castro.

En un comunicado emitido el 22 de junio de 2012, cuando respaldamos la declaración “Compromiso con la Libertad” suscrita por prominentes empresarios cubanos exiliados, declaramos lo siguiente:



“M.A.R. por Cuba (Madres y Mujeres Anti-Represión) respalda la Declaración “Compromiso con la Libertad”, recién dada a conocer por un grupo de líderes corporativos y empresariales cubanos, en rechazo a hacer negocios con Cuba mientras permanezca la dictadura totalitaria y en solidaridad con el creciente movimiento pro-democracia en la isla. En momentos en que el régimen de los hermanos Castro trata de confundir a la opinión pública internacional haciéndole creer que se producen cambios, desarrolla una ofensiva encaminada a obtener los recursos que urgentemente necesita para mantenerse a toda costa en el poder, e intensifica la represión contra los hombres y mujeres de la resistencia interna cubana, la Declaración suscrita por prominentes empresarios cubanos exiliados, reitera que “la libertad no tiene sustituto”, y su voluntad de ayudar en la reconstrucción de la República de Cuba, una vez ésta sea libre. La Declaración constituye un ejemplo de liderazgo por parte de empresarios cubanos exiliados para quiénes los principios democráticos están por encima de cualquier interés comercial, y establece las condiciones necesarias para el futuro próspero de Cuba en plena democracia y libertad”.

La posición de nuestra organización sigue siendo la misma, porque –lamentablemente– nada ha cambiado en Cuba que amerite un cambio por parte de los que defendemos las libertades y derechos fundamentales del pueblo cubano.

Es porque valoramos la justeza de nuestra causa que nos vemos obligados a escribir sobre la penosa y dañina actitud de un grupo de hombres de negocios cubanoamericanos que –arropados bajo la premisa de que la política actual no ha funcionado y que es hora de promover un acercamiento para “reunificar a la familia cubana”– vienen ya hace tiempo realizando esfuerzos encaminados a ganar adeptos dentro de la comunidad exiliada y a lograr un cambio de política por parte de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba que facilite oportunidades de negocios.

Es porque consideramos deplorables las declaraciones de Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul en el recién publicado artículo del Washington Post –donde la palabra libertad brilla por su ausencia–, el cual ha sido reproducido en medios nacionales e internacionales por la prominencia que ocupa el entrevistado en el mundo de los negocios (en particular la industria azucarera) y las más altas esferas políticas y sociales, que nos vemos precisados a cuestionarlas.

Fanjul no tiene que viajar a Cuba para evaluar la situación en la isla y mucho menos llevar a cabo una ‘reunión con el Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba’, o ‘visitas a granjas administradas por el Estado y a un ingenio azucarero junto con funcionarios agrícolas cubanos’. Fanjul debe mirar hacia el Memorial Cubano.Basta con que visite el monumento en el suroeste de Miami, que se inaugurará oficialmente el 22 de febrero, y allí lea los miles y miles de nombres de sus hermanos cubanos –mártires y víctimas de la dictadura de los Castro– que acaso fueron sus compañeros de estudios o de fiestas en la Cuba de la cual, como tantos otros de nosotros, tuvimos que partir un día a consecuencia del sistema que aún continúa sembrando dolor y es el único responsable de la separación de la familia cubana.

Duele que 28 gobernantes y representantes de América y el Caribe –la mayoría de países democráticos en nuestro Hemisferio– hayan viajado a Cuba con el propósito de legitimar a los represores de nuestro pueblo bajo el eje de la CELAC; duele que representantes de la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU) y de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) hagan caso omiso a los postulados de las instituciones que representan al abrazarse con los asesinos de nuestro pueblo; duele que la Unión Europea (UE) vote a favor de una resolución para revisar la Posición Común y establecer relaciones con los que detentan arbitrariamente el poder en Cuba en momentos en que la represión incrementa; duele todo eso… pero en el caso de Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, duele mucho más porque ¡nació cubano!

Presidenta de M.A.R. por Cuba.

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Should the Cuban Government Be Removed from the State Department’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism?

Consider the following items among those pertaining to this issue:



  • Just last year, the FBI placed Joanne Chesimard on the Most Wanted Terrorists list. She murdered a New Jersey State Trooper and was sentenced to prison. She escaped and is enjoying safe haven provided by the Castro brothers.



  • There is no statute of limitations for murder. Cuban MIG pilots murdered 3 Americans and a legal Resident in international airspace in the Florida Straights in 1996. The U.S. government said that the murderers would be brought to justice. General Raul Castro was then Cuba’s Minister of the Armed Forces and gave them medals.



  • In the summer of 2013, Havana was caught smuggling warplanes and missiles in the Panama Canal. Havana claimed that the North Korean cargo ship carried only sugar. The shipment of weapons to North Korea is a violation of UN sanctions.


  • Colombian FARC terrorists living in Cuba were indicted a few weeks ago by a federal court in Virginia issued an indictment against two of these terrorists. The Castro brothers are using the “peace talks” taking place in Havana for terrorists to avoid justice by travelling to Cuba.



  • Early this year, the BBC uncovered that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s hit squads were based in Cuba.

Since 1982, when Havana was placed on the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have reviewed the State Department list every year. The last time, in 2014, the Obama administration, after going over the evidence, concluded that the Castro dynasty should remain on that infamous list.

  1. Panama Seizes Korean Ship coming from Cuba, and Sugar-Coated Arms


It started with a tip: that a rusty North Korean freighter, which had not plied the Caribbean in years, was carrying drugs or arms amid more than 200,000 sacks of Cuban brown sugar.

It ended with a five-day, eventually violent standoff between Panamanian marines and 35 North Korean crew members, armed largely with sticks, who were subdued and arrested while their captain, claiming he was having a heart attack, tried to commit suicide. Underneath all that sugar, it turned out, were parts for what appeared to be elements of an antiquated Soviet-era missile radar system that was headed, evidently, to North Korea — a country that usually exports missile technology around the world, rather than bringing it in.



Alejandro Bolivar/European Pressphoto Agency

The North Korean-flagged cargo ship Chong Chon Gang docked at a pier in Colon, Panama, on Tuesday.

By RICK GLADSTONE and DAVID E. SANGER

Late Tuesday night, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying the cargo stashed in the vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, consisted of “240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons” bound for North Korea, where it was to be repaired and then sent back to Cuba.

But American and Panamanian officials were still trying to understand why the ship’s crew had fought so hard to repel a boarding party as the ship tried to traverse the Panama Canal. After all, the equipment they were protecting would make a nice exhibit in a museum of cold war military artifacts. “We’re talking old,” one official briefed on the episode said. “When this stuff was new, Castro was plotting revolutions.”

The Cuban Ministry did not seem to be offended, describing the equipment to be repaired as “two antiaircraft missile complexes, Volga and Pechora; nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21bis and 15 motors for this type of airplane, all of it manufactured in the mid-20th century.”

The episode also offered a window on the desperate measures North Korea is taking to keep hard currency and goods flowing at a time when its ships are tracked everywhere, old customers like Syria and Iran are facing sanctions and scrutiny of their own, and its partners have dwindled to a few outliers.



Still, Cuba’s role was puzzling — at a time when Washington has talked of relaxing restrictions and Cuba’s leadership has seemed more eager to improve its ties with the West than to strengthen relations with cold war-era partners. Even by the measure of bizarre stories about North Korea’s black-market dealings, the events of the past five days in Panama set some records. In recent times North Korean shipments to Myanmar and the Middle East have been tracked and in some cases intercepted, a testament to how closely American spy satellites follow the country’s aging cargo fleet.


Rodrigo Arangua/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sugar sacks in the hold of the North Korean freighter A handout picture taken by President Ricardo Martinelli

Chong Chon Gang, held in the Panamanian port.of Manzanillo.

Arms seized on a North Korean Cargo ship.
“What I can say for sure is that looking at illicit North Korea trade, their ships in particular, these guys are stumped for money, they are incredibly poor,” said Hugh Griffiths, an arms trafficking specialist at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “Business deals that might look silly to us don’t look ridiculous to them.”

Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, announced the discovery in a radio broadcast on Monday night, making it clear that the North Korean ship was in blatant violation of numerous United Nations sanctions. He even posted a photograph of the contraband on his Twitter account.

Based on that picture, IHS Jane’s Intelligence, a defense consultancy, identified it as an SNR-75 “Fan Song” fire control radar for the SA-2 family of surface-to-air missiles. The component is important for guiding a missile to its target; the Soviets began building similar systems in the mid-1950s, well ahead of the Cuban missile crisis.

In a statement, IHS Jane’s speculated that the system was headed to North Korea for an upgrade, and that “the cargo of sugar could be a payment for the services.” But it also said the radar equipment could have been en route to North Korea to augment that country’s air defense network, which it said was based on obsolete weapons, missiles and radars.

That raised the possibility that other elements of the shipment were aboard, or on other ships. “We’re going to keep unloading the ship and figure out exactly what was inside,” Mr. Martinelli said. “You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal.” There was no comment on Tuesday from North Korea on the vessel’s seizure.

The Chong Chon Gang, a 36-year-old freighter, has its own peculiar history, and this was not the first time the vessel had encountered run-ins with maritime authorities. It was stopped in 2010 for carrying narcotics and ammunition, Mr. Griffiths said. He also said it had been attacked by Somali pirates.

According to IHS Fairplay, a London-based vessel-monitoring service, the freighter had not traveled the Western Hemisphere in at least four years. The monitoring data shows that it visited Panama in 2008 and Brazil in 2009.

Mr. Griffiths noted that its reappearance, even with the cover of a Cuban cargo of sugar, was bound to attract attention. He said interest in the vessel’s itinerary in recent weeks, which included a stopover in Havana, might have been heightened because of the July 3 visit to Cuba of North Korea’s top military commander, who conferred with President Raúl Castro. Cuban and North Korean news media publicized the trip.

“There are very few states where the North Korean chief of staff is welcomed for a high-level meeting,” Mr. Griffiths said.American spy satellites regularly track North Korean vessels — but usually to stop weapons proliferation, not drugs. And as the intelligence agencies discovered several years ago, failure to monitor can lead to other lapses: the United States missed the construction of a North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria until Israeli officials brought evidence of it to Washington in 2007. Israel destroyed the reactor later that year.

Matthew Godsey, editor of the Risk Report, a publication of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a proliferation research group in Washington that follows North Korean behavior, said the Chong Chon Gang might have also been able to travel in the region undetected in the past by turning off its satellite transponder, used by tracking services to monitor vessels for their own safety. “I think North Korean vessels have been known to do that,” he said.

“It’s dangerous, but when you’re carrying dangerous stuff it can happen. When you have a captain willing to kill himself, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Mr. Martinelli and other Panamanian officials said the vessel’s 35 crew members were taken into custody on Sunday after they violently resisted efforts to redirect the vessel to the Panamanian port of Manzanillo, at the Atlantic end of the canal. He did not explain how the captain sought to commit suicide, and the captain’s condition was unknown.

José Raúl Mulino, Panama’s minister of security, said in a telephone interview that the entire crew had been detained at a naval base after committing what he called an act of “rebellion and sabotage” in trying to resist the boarding of the vessel. It was unclear whether they would face criminal prosecution or be sent back to North Korea.

Mr. Mulino said that the suspect cargo was hidden in two containers behind the sugar, and that all 220,000 to 230,000 sugar sacks aboard would be removed before the ship could be completely investigated. The process can take a while, he said, because the crew had disabled the unloading cranes, forcing the Panamanians to remove the bags by hand.

Reporting was contributed by Anne-Sophie Bolon from London; Raphael Minder from Paris; Gerry Mullany from Hong Kong; Choe Sang-hun from Seoul, South Korea; and Karla Zabludovsky from Mexico City. A version of this article appeared in print on July 17, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Panama Seizes Korean Ship, And Sugar-Coated Arms Parts.

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