Tag Archives: Cuba

Companies Ban Confederate Flag Sales, But Keep Nazi And Che Guevara Merchandise

Several major retailers have banned sales of the Confederate flag, after it was seen in photos being held by Dylann Roof, the suspect in the shooting that left nine people dead at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last week.

The major companies, which include Walmart, Amazon, eBay, Sears, Target and Etsy have cited similar reasons for the removal of Confederate flag merchandise, along the lines that it is “offensive” and is a “symbol of racism and slavery.”

While Walmart carried products that included the Confederate flag’s design up until Monday, it discontinued that merchandise after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the flag from the state capitol grounds.

Haley said that although many people in the state view the flag as a “symbol of respect, integrity and duty,” and a way “to honor the ancestors who came to the service of their state during time of conflict,” others see it as a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”

Brian Nick, a spokesperson for Walmart, released a statement saying that the retailer intends to avoid carrying items that are offensive.

“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site,” Nick said. “We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly — this is one of those instances.”

The Gateway Pundit noted that while Walmart has committed to halting the sales of Confederate flags, it still sells posters glorifying Che Guevara, the “notorious anti-Black racist from Argentina who murdered hungry children and became an icon for leftists around the world for his role in the 1959 communist takeover of Cuba.”


In all, Walmart.com carries seventeen different posters and prints commemorating Guevara, ranging from $12.50 for a 24 x 36 Guevara print to $339.99 for a Guevara canvas.

The Blaze noted that Guevara “murdered Cubans because of their supposed affiliation with the U.S.” and said things such as “the Negro is indolent and spends his money on frivolities and drink,” “the Negro has maintained his racial purity by his well known habit of avoiding baths,” and “The U.S. is the great enemy of mankind!”

Johnna Hoff, a spokesperson for eBay, released a statement saying that the online retailer is banning merchandise containing the Confederate flag because it has “become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.”

However, eBay also allows sales of merchandise commemorating Che Guevara, from T-Shirts to posters.


CNN reported that on Amazon, sales of three versions of the Confederate flag were “up 1,670% to 2,305% over a period of 24 hours,” and that one of the flags, which was priced at $1.80 plus shipping, is both “the ninth best-selling item in the Patio, Lawn & Garden department,” and “the top-selling item among all outdoor flags and banners sold on Amazon.”

Despite the sudden rise in sales, Amazon joined the group of retailers banning Confederate flag merchandise on Tuesday.

However, while it banned the material for being “offensive,” it still carries several products commemorating Nazi Germany, including a Swatika-themed iPhone 5 case for $5.99, a “#hitler” mug for $20.99, Playstation 4 Swastika-themed Console and Remote Controller skins for $21.99 and Hitler’s Nazi SS Flag for $7.35.


Cuba Frees 53 as Part of US Rapprochement Deal

Sen. Rubio Insists Releases Are ‘Minimal Change’

by Jason Ditz, January 12, 2015

The Obama Administration has confirmed that Cuba is complying with the terms of their largely secret deal on rapprochement, and has released all 53 “prisoners of conscience” the US wanted released.

The 53 included members of several opposition groups, including the Ladies in White. Jose Daniel Ferrer, the head of one such opposition group, thanked the US for securing the releases, but said there were other political prisoners still being held.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R – FL), an outspoken opponent of rapprochement with Cuba, termed the releases a “minimal change,” and said Cuba was getting everything it wanted from the US in return.

The deal included the US and Cuba trading prisoners, and will reportedly lead to an end to over half a century of embargo on the Caribbean island nation, though officials say that the long-standing travel ban may only be partially lifted.

Rand Paul Calls Marco Rubio an ‘Isolationist’

Senator Marco Rubio appearing on Fox News on Thursday night said Senator Rand Paul is off base with his view on opening relations with Cuba.

“And I’ll tell you why; number one, the embargo on Cuba is an embargo that frankly has a bunch of holes in it. To give you an example, the United States is still one of Cuba’s largest trading partners, even now with the embargo,” Rubio said.

“What’s hurting the Cuban people is not the embargo. What’s hurting the Cuban people is the Cuban government,” he added.

And then Paul fired back on Facebook. He wrote:

“Senator Marco Rubio believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies. After 50 years of conflict, why not try a new approach? The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change.

“Seems to me, Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism. Finally, let’s be clear that Senator Rubio does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans. A recent poll demonstrates that a large majority of Cuban-Americans actually support normalizing relations between our countries,” he wrote.

Cuban Prisoner Swap Scandal: Feds Paid Reporters to Publish Propaganda Against Cuban Five

President Obama took historic steps recently to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, bringing an end to leftover tensions from the Cold War and ending hostilities with a nation that once served as Russia’s potential launch pad for attacks on US soil. In so doing, he negotiated a prisoner swap, trading the three still-incarcerated members of a Cuban intelligence cell called the “Cuban Five” for two Americans, US Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross and Central Intelligence Agency spy Rolando “Rollie” Sarraff Trujillo, who had been incarcerated in Cuba. However, one story that the mainstream media outlets missed regarding the Cuban Five unfolded a few years ago beneath the headlines.

Russia Today noted back in 2010 that a group called the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five obtained evidence via a Freedom of Information Act request which the group says shows that, in the period leading up to the trial that convicted the Cuban Five, the US government paid reporters to produce propaganda condemning the accused spies. The above-embedded video by Russia Today, which dates back to 2010, prior to Obama’s Cuban relations reset, features an interview with National Committee to Free the Cuban Five coordinator Gloria La Riva in which she explains in great detail the government’s effort to systematically smear defendants in a criminal trial.

Cuban Five supporters claim that the group of five Cuban intelligence agents, Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González, were not in the United States to spy on the government, but were instead investigating a terrorist ring, in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that had taken hold among Cuban refugee camps in Miami and launched a series of bombings in Havana. Notorious terrorist and sometimes-CIA-operative Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro radical, was accused by the Cuban government of masterminding the attacks. Opponents of the Cuban Five believe that the group attempted to spy on the US military and that one of them in particular, Gerardo Hernández, had provided intelligence to the Cuban government that led to the downing of two planes that killed four American pilots back in 1996.

Gloria La Riva said that, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the Cuban Five in 1998, US officials secretly paid journalists working in Miami, where the alleged spies were set to stand trial, to saturate the market with media condemning the group, allegedly in an effort to influence potential jurors. She claimed that the payments were issued through two obscure US agencies, the Broadcasting Board of Governors for Radio and TV Martí and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Manipulating public opinion by disseminating state-sponsored propaganda to influence a criminal trial violates US law.

Cuban Five member René González, who had the lightest punishment of the group, was released in 2011 after finishing his sentence. A second member, Fernando González, was released in February of 2014, also at the end of his prison term. The three remaining members, who were released in President Obama’s prison swap, had been sentenced to spend life in prison, with Gerardo Hernández having been sentenced to two life terms.

Are Cuban Cigars Worth All The Excitement?


As you’ve probably heard, the U.S. and Cuba are friends again. Well sort of.

Travelers will be able to bring back $100 worth of Cuban cigars, which is pretty cool. But, what’s so special about Cuban cigars?

First off, as Vox reports, they’re just better. Some say that cigars made in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua are better. But in Cigar Aficionado polls, a cigar produced by Habanos, the cigar arm of Cuba’s government-owned tobacco company, was picked as the No. 1 cigar in the magazine’s yearly Top 25 in 2013.

Experts also say that Cuban cigars just taste better. “Columbia professor and Cuba expert Alan Dye tells Fox that Cuba’s soil is uniquely well-suited to tobacco cultivation, in particular tobacco used for cigar wrappers, the component responsible for much of a cigar’s flavor,” reported Vox.

But that superior taste and quality will cost you. Yes, travelers can bring home $100 worth of cigars, but that won’t get you much. One cigar can cost up to $25, reported NPR.

All of this excitement was lulled by an article in the Washington Post, which countered that Cuban cigars aren’t really that special.

“Just because a cigar is Cuban doesn’t mean it will be a high-quality cigar,” David Savona, executive editor of Cigar Aficionado said to the Post. “There are good cigars and bad cigars from Cuba, as with other cigar producing countries.”

So is the mystique surrounding Cuban cigars was because of the ban?

“The reason people want Cuban cigars is because they’re looked upon as a forbidden fruit,” said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newmand Cigar Company, the oldest cigar company in the U.S.

David Zeplowitz, aka Cigar Dave, made a good point on Twitter this week. “Now is a good time to reiterate that Cubans do make the best #cigars—the Cubans that now live in the DR, Nicaragua, Honduras and the USA,” he noted.


Despite what experts say, smoking a Cuban for the first is a subjective experience.

I confess I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these fantastic sticks. Maybe even enjoy some real Cuban rum for the first time too…


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United Nations General Assembly condemns U.S. Cuba embargo

UNITED NATIONS, October 31, 2014 – On Tuesday, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the 23rd year in a row to condemn the United States’ embargo of Cuba. The vote passed at a margin of 188-2 with only the U.S. and Israel voting against it.

The resolutions of the General Assembly are unenforceable and largely symbolic, but the annual vote has given Cuba a global stage to remind the world of the effects of the 42 year old embargo by the United States. After 42 years, many U.S. citizens have demonstrated a marked shift in attitude towards the embargo, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has voiced support for ending it.

Ronald D. Godard, a senior U.S. adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs defended the U.S. embargo and stated, “the Cuban government uses this annual resolution in an attempt to shift blame for the island’s economic problems away from its own policy failures.”

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki brushed off the vote and stated, “the U.S. has a right to make its own decisions about its economic relations with other countries.” Psaki also stated, “the U.S. doesn’t think this annual U.N. debate does anything to advance a constructive discussion about the issue.”

According to Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla the embargo has cost Cuba over 1.1 trillion since its inception in 1960.


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US-Backed Secret “Cuban Twitter” Comes Under Criticism

The Associated Press has reported that the United States government created a secret Twitter-type communication program for Cuban citizens to fuel sentiments of political dissent and sidestep the Cuban government’s stronghold over social media. The program, created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was specifically designed to be hidden from the Cuban government by using shell corporations and funding through Cayman Islands bank accounts to cover its tracks.

The network was called ZunZuneo, Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s sound, and was introduced to Cuban users in 2010. According to documents and interviews, the US government built a base of subscribers within ZunZuneo by offering uncontroversial news topics such as weather, music and sports. As the base of users grew, the government began pumping ZunZuneo with political posts geared toward promoting dissent, such as calling for “smart mobs”- impromptu protests to “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society”. The social network had about 40,000 users at its peak.

Unbeknownst to its users, the US government was collecting their personal data from ZunZuneo for “political purposes”. Users of ZunZuneo were also completely unaware that the entire program was being funded and operated by the US government.

The project ended in 2012 when funding was dissolved, but now controversy is buzzing as congressional hearings on the subject begin next week. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he was never briefed on the operation. “If I had been, I would’ve said, ‘What in Heaven’s name are you thinking? This is dumb, dumb, dumb’…If you’re going to do a covert operation like this for a regime change, assuming it ever makes any sense, it’s not something that should be done through USAID.” 

The Obama Administration defends the operation as a method of humanitarian aid to Cuban citizens. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “The whole purpose of our democracy programs, whether it be in Cuba or other parts of the world, is in part to create a free flow of information in closed societies.”

Not surprisingly, the Cuban government disapproves of the ZunZuneo operation. In a statement by Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, she said,“The government of the United States must respect international law and the goals and principles of the United Nations charter and, therefore, cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion.”

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