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Bret Stephens: A Century of Progressive Excuses for Communism

People gathered to honor Stalin’s victims at a ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, last year. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

People gathered to honor Stalin’s victims at a ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, last year. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Communism Through Rose-Colored Glasses.

Bret Stephens writes: “In the spring of 1932 desperate officials, anxious for their jobs and even their lives, aware that a new famine might be on its way, began to collect grain wherever and however they could. Mass confiscations occurred all across the U.S.S.R. In Ukraine they took on an almost fanatical intensity.”

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I am quoting a few lines from “Red Famine,” Anne Applebaum’s brilliant new history of the deliberate policy of mass starvation inflicted on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin in the early 1930s. An estimated five million or more people perished in just a few years. Walter Duranty, The Times’s correspondent in the Soviet Union, insisted the stories of famine were false. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for reportage the paper later called “completely misleading.”

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How many readers, I wonder, are familiar with this history of atrocity and denial, except in a vague way? How many know the name of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Stalin’s principal henchmen in the famine? What about other chapters large and small in the history of Communist horror, from the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to the depredations of Peru’s Shining Path to the Brezhnev-era psychiatric wards that were used to torture and imprison political dissidents?

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Archive/Getty Images

Why is it that people who know all about the infamous prison on Robben Island in South Africa have never heard of the prison on Cuba’s Isle of Pines? Why is Marxism still taken seriously on college campuses and in the progressive press? Do the same people whoObaMao
rightly demand the removal of Confederate statues ever feel even a shiver of inner revulsion at hipsters in Lenin or Mao T-shirts?

These aren’t original questions. But they’re worth asking because so many of today’s progressives remain in a permanent and dangerous state of semi-denial about the legacy of Communism a century after its birth in Russia.

No, they are not true-believing Communists. No, they are not unaware of the toll of the Great Leap Forward or the Killing Fields. No, they are not plotting to undermine democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

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[AUDIO] Dangerous sound? What Americans heard in Cuba attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.

The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.

The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.

What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.

Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.

The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the U.S. Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analyzing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services, the AP has learned. But the recordings have not significantly advanced U.S. knowledge about what is harming diplomats.

The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.

Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”

[Read the full story here, at apnews.com]

“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.

Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.

“That’s the sound,” one of them said.

The recording being released by the AP has been digitally enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise, but has not been otherwise altered.

The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Fidel Castro Health Update


BREAKING: Important Fidel Castro Health Update


Qué Lástima! Countdown Begins a Year Out from Raúl Castro’s Retirement 

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Mimi Whitfield and Nora Gámez Torres report: A year from now — on Feb. 24 — something is expected to occur in Cuba that hasn’t happened in more than 40 years: a non-Castro will occupy the presidency.

The coming year will be one of definitions in Cuba. But right now there is only uncertainty — not only about how the transition will proceed but also about the future of Cuba’s relationship with the United States with President Donald Trump at the helm.

In 2013, Raúl Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, the parliament, that he planned to retire from the presidency of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers on Feb. 24, 2018. His heir apparent became Miguel Díaz-Canel, a party stalwart who at the time was promoted to first vice president of both councils.

File photo of then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro attending manoeuvres during the 19th anniversary of his and his fellow revolutionaries arrival on the yacht Granma, in Havana

When Castro retires as president, the Cuban Constitution also calls for him to relinquish his post of commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces. A Cuba without a khaki-clad Castro commanding the Revolutionary Armed Forces is something many younger Cubans have never experienced.

Díaz-Canel’s ascension next Feb. 24 — a date that has long had resonance in Cuba history — is not assured, but most observers believe that a new National Assembly that will be seated then will rubber stamp him as Cuba’s next president and he will replace the 85-year-old Castro.

Even with a successor, Castro is still expected to retain consider clout. He has said nothing about stepping down as chief of Cuba’s powerful Communist Party and Cuba’s military leaders are solid Raúlistas. Read the rest of this entry »


FIDEL CASTRO HEALTH UPDATE

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[VIDEO] Fernando Díaz Villanueva: How to talk to a Socialist

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BREAKING NEWS: Obama Update

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Obama Administration Ending Policy Allowing Cubans to Stay Without Visas

WASHINGTON— Carol E. Lee and Felicia Schwartz report: The White House plans to announce that President Barack Obama is undoing a longstanding policy that allows Cuban émigrés who reach U.S. soil without visas to stay in the country and apply for a green card after one year, administration officials said.

The special exception for Cuban immigrants — known as the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy — has been in place since the 1990s. It allows Cubans who make it to U.S. soil to stay, while those caught in transit are sent back.

Those who are permitted to remain also may be eligible to receive benefits the U.S. grants to refugees fleeing persecution, including cash assistance and health care coverage.

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The policy, essentially encouraging Cubans to flee their country, has long been part of the economic, immigration, and foreign policy tool kit used by Washington, and has been opposed by Havana, which considers it a drain on its resources. No other immigrants are provided similar allowances.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Mr. Obama’s decision to reverse the policy one week before he leaves office marks one of his final moves to solidify his effort begun in 2014 to restore U.S. relations with Cuba. Putting Cubans on equal footing with immigrants from other countries would be a sign of more normalized relations. But it is also a step the Cuban government has wanted the White House to take.

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The wet-foot, dry-foot policy grew out of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which gives the U.S. Attorney General discretion to treat Cuban immigrants differently than those from other countries. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the number of Cubans trying to leave the country skyrocketed, resulting in often dangerous flotilla escapes. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton spearheaded a policy change that provided that anyone caught at sea would be sent back to Cuba. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Fidel Castro Health Update

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As Socialism Shattered Venezuela, the Useful Idiots Applauded 

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Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that.

 writes: When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West’s “useful idiots” — Lenin’s term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.

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“Violent crime is out of control. Shoppers are forced to stand in lines for hours outside drugstores and supermarkets — lines that routinely lead to empty shelves, or that break down in fistfights, muggings, and mob looting. Just last week the government deployed 3,000 troops to restore order after frantic rioters rampaged through shops and homes in the southeastern state of Bolivar.”

An avowed Marxist and protégé of Fidel Castro, Chavez gradually seized control of every lever of state power in Venezuela. The constitution was rewritten to strip the legislature and judiciary of their independence, authorize censorship of the press, and allow Chavez to legislate by decree. Before long, the government acquired a stranglehold over the economy, including the huge and profitable energy sector. (Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.)

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“In the beautiful country that used to boast the highest standard of living in Latin America, patients now die in hospitals for lack of basic health care staples: soap, gloves, oxygen, drugs. In some medical wards, there isn’t even water to wash the blood from operating tables.”

With petrodollars pouring in, Chavez had free rein to put his statist prescriptions into effect. The so-called Bolivarian revolution over which he — and later his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro — presided, was an unfettered, real-world example of anticapitalist socialism in action.

[Read the full story here, at The Boston Globe]

Venezuela since at least the 1970s had been Latin America’s most affluent nation. Now it was a showpiece for command-and-control economics: price and currency controls, wealth redistribution, ramped-up government spending, expropriation of land, and the nationalization of private banks, mines, and oil companies.

And the useful idiots ate it up.

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In a Salon piece titled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,” David Sirota declared that the Venezuelan ruler, with his “full-throated advocacy of socialism,” had “racked up an economic record that . . . American president[s] could only dream of achieving.” The Guardian offered “Three cheers for Chavez.” Moviemaker Oliver Stone filmed a documentary gushing over “the positive changes that have happened economically in all of South America” because of Venezuela’s socialist government. And when Chavez died in 2013, Jimmy Carter extolled the strongman for “improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”

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In the real world, however, socialism has transformed Venezuela into a Third World dystopia.

Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Venezuelans, their economy wrecked by statism, face crippling shortages of everything from food and medicine to toilet paper and electricity. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Fidel Castro Health Update

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EXCLUSIVE: Fidel Castro Health Update

File photo of then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro attending manoeuvres during the 19th anniversary of his and his fellow revolutionaries arrival on the yacht Granma, in Havana


Crackdown in Cuba: Hammer Comes Down Hard on Dissidents After Castro Death

In the first such anti-dissident operation since Fidel Castro’s death last month, President Raul Castro seemed to indicate the Americas’ only one-party communist state was in no mood for dissent.

Havana (AFP) – Authorities across Cuba have cracked down on dissidents, arresting dozens, keeping others from marching in Havana, and detaining an American human rights lawyer, activists said Sunday.

“There was a joint operation at 6:00 am in Santiago and Palma Soriano. They searched four homes, and so far we have 42 reported arrests — 20 in Santiago, 12 in Palma and 10 in Havana…They threatened me, and said by calling the demonstration I was facilitating public disorder…. disobedience and espionage.”

— Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba

In the first such anti-dissident operation since Fidel Castro’s death last month, President Raul Castro seemed to indicate the Americas’ only one-party communist state was in no mood for dissent.

A roundup in the country’s east snared dozens and derailed street protests planned to demand that political prisoners be freed.

“There was a joint operation at 6:00 am in Santiago and Palma Soriano. They searched four homes, and so far we have 42 reported arrests — 20 in Santiago, 12 in Palma and 10 in Havana,” Jose Daniel Ferrer told AFP by phone.

The 46-year-old, who heads the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), had called the demonstrations to demand that political prisoners be set free. Castro insists there are no political prisoners, just lawbreakers.

Raul Castro, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama

Ferrer said he was detained in Santiago, Cuba‘s second biggest city, at a police unit known as Micro 9.

“They threatened me, and said by calling the demonstration I was facilitating public disorder…. disobedience and espionage,” Ferrer said.

Most arrests of dissidents in roundups are brief. Sometimes, the authorities prevent them from leaving their homes to attend a protest or march.

Ladies in White, shut in

In Havana, the award-winning Ladies in White group, which presses for the release of jailed dissidents who are their relatives, said that at least 20 of its activists were “under siege,” kept from attending their weekly march. Read the rest of this entry »


Comunismo Funciona! The Jeep with Fidel Castro’s Ashes Breaks Down, Has to be Pushed

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Incident during farewell acts dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba. The jeep carrying the ashes of the Cuban leader, who died last November 25, is broken during the official procession to Santiago de Cuba. The soldiers guarding the vehicle had to push him, creating an unusual image. [Note: Translated from Spanish, Original source here]

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The snapshot for the story is a story in acts of remembrance of former prime minister (1959-1976) and President of the Republic of Cuba (1976-2008), which will conclude on Monday with a private and family farewell at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery .

Before the funeral procession, renamed Freedom Ride, it has traveled over a thousand kilometers across the Caribbean island, including the Moncada Barracks, the starting point of the Cuban Revolution that triumphed in 1959.

funeral-fidel-2 Read the rest of this entry »


[AUDIO] Peter Hitchens on Fidel Castro

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Public Service Announcement

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[VIDEO] Cruz: A Dictator is Dead, But His Repressive Legacy Will Not Follow Him to the Grave

“Cuba’s longtime oppressive dictator Fidel Castro is dead. Let me be absolutely clear: We are not mourning the death of some revolutionary romantic, or a distinguished statesman.”

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“We’re not grieving for the protector of peace or a judicious steward of his people. Today we are thankful. We are thankful that a man who has imprisoned, and tortured, and degraded the lives of so many is no longer with us. He has departed for warmer climes.”

See more here.

 


[VIDEO] Cuba’s State-of-the-Art Universal Health Care Innovations

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[VIDEO] Media Praises Castro as ‘Reformer’

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Important Fidel Castro Health Update: Ten Out of Ten Doctors Agree, Condition Fatal

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[VIDEO] American University Students Prefer Castro Over Trump, ‘Made Endless Possibilities for the Cuban People’

Justin Holcomb reports: Some students at American University would prefer Fidel Castro over President-elect Donald Trump and were not afraid to let their voice be heard on at the liberal elite school.

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Fidel Castro’s firing squad, fatally enforcing long-term favorability

“I mean, right now I don’t think Donald Trump is very good, and I know that Fidel Castro has done some good things for the world so I’d say he’s proven himself at least in the long term to be more favorable.”

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Raud Castro, preparing a Cuban citizen for a personal introduction to Marxist utopia

“I mean, right now I don’t think Donald Trump is very good, and I know that Fidel Castro has done some good things for the world so I’d say he’s proven himself at least in the long term to be more favorable,” one student said…(read more)

Revolutionary communist leader Fidel Castro, displaying his instrument for enforcing endless possibilities.

Social justice warrior Fidel Castro, displaying his instrument for enforcing endless possibilities.

American University students. Risk of being shot by Trump firing squad: 0%

American University students. Risk of being shot by Trump firing squad: 0%

Read the rest of this entry »


Fidel Castro Health Update

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[VIDEO] Cuban-Americans Humiliated By Obama’s Comments on Castro’s Death 

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Castro, Chavez, and ‘Bad Luck’

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Castro and his ilk showed us that under socialism, the powerful grow rich — and everyone else grows poor.

Robert Heinlein once wrote:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.em

This is known as “bad luck.”

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Glenn Reynolds writes: I thought about this statement this weekend, reading two news stories. The first was about the tide of Venezuelans taking to boats to escape Venezuela’s economic collapse. As The New York Times reported, “Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.”

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“Although many among Western political and entertainment elites still think of Fidel Castro fondly, such people are, at best, what Lenin called ‘useful idiots.'”

“But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.”

[Read the full story here, at USAToday]

Now, in their absence, things have gotten worse, and it’s poorer Venezuelans — the very ones that Chavez’s revolution was allegedly intended to help — who are starving. Many are even taking to boats, echoing, as the Times notes, “an image so symbolic of the perilous journeys to escape Cuba or Haiti — but not oil-rich Venezuela.”

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Well, Venezuela was once rich. But mismanagement and kleptocracy can make any country poor and Venezuela — as is typical with countries whose leaders promise to soak the rich for the benefit of the poor — has had plenty of both.  Read the rest of this entry »


Kim Jong-un Declares 3-Day Mourning for Death of North Korea’s ‘Close Friend and Comrade’ Fidel Castro

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North Korea and Cuba maintained close ties throughout the Cold War era. Havana has remained one of Pyongyang’s strongest international allies for over half of the century.

 reports: North Korea has declared three days of mourning beginning on Monday, 28 November to mark the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Hailing the Cuban revolutionary as a “comrade and close friend” of North Korean people, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also penned a condolence letter to President Raul Castro.

“He was the close friend and comrade of the Korean people who made all efforts to strengthen the friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties, governments and peoples of our two countries and extended firm support and encouragement to our efforts for national reunification and just cause with the invariable revolutionary principle and obligation for over half a century.”

The ruling party’s central seat of power – the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the cabinet had jointly decided that there will be a three-day mourning period – Pyongyang’s state-run mouthpieces say. According to the regime-backed Rodong Sinmun, the North Korea’s top political bodies have decided to “hoist flags at half-mast at major organisations and designated places”.

“Though he passed away, the precious feats he performed will remain forever in the hearts of the peoples of our two countries and the hearts of progressive mankind.”

The death of Castro, who came to power in 1959 ushering in a communist revolution, was announced on Friday, 25 November. Cuba had declared nine days of mourning to commemorate the 90-year-old. Read the rest of this entry »


Artista Cubano Arrested for ‘He’s Gone’ Graffiti Following Fidel Castro’s Death

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Maldonado had reportedly begun to spray-paint the words ‘he’s gone’ along the streets of Havana. Police are reportedly stationed outside his door, preventing anyone from entering the apartment. Maldonado’s mother fears police are planting evidence in his house to keep him detained on false charges.

Frances Martelcontributor-80x100-fmartel reports: Cuban secret police have abducted the anti-communist artist Danilo Maldonado, according to his mother, who told the Spain-based Diario de Cuba that he had taken to the streets late Friday to celebrate the death of dictator Fidel Castro.

“They asked the landlady for his key, they broke into his house and took him away. We don’t know where,” María Victoria Machado González said of her son, calling his arrest an “abduction.” “He went out last night to celebrate Fidel Castro’s death, to place signs all over Havana,” she noted.

“They asked the landlady for his key, they broke into his house and took him away. We don’t know where… He went out last night to celebrate Fidel Castro’s death, to place signs all over Havana.”

— María Victoria Machado González

Maldonado had reportedly begun to spray-paint the words “he’s gone” along the streets of Havana. “The images are already circulating” in Cuba, his mother alleged. Police are reportedly stationed outside his door, preventing anyone from entering the apartment. Maldonado’s mother fears police are planting evidence in his house to keep him detained on false charges.

[Read the full story here, at Breitbart ]

Even if they do not plant any evidence, Maldonado’s mother says the artist kept a collection of about 30 political works, all of which could be punishable under communist law.

Maldonado became famous in Havana for his anti-communist street art and served time in prison in 2015 following an attempted art installation in public. In October 2015, Maldonado was arrested carrying two pigs painted with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl” on their backs, in an homage to the novel 1984. He planned to set them loose in a Havana square. Read the rest of this entry »


13 Facts About Fidel Castro’s Cruelty Should Be Etched into His Tombstone

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‘Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.’

Carlos Eire writes: One of the most brutal dictators in modern history has just died. Oddly enough, some will mourn his passing, and many an obituary will praise him. Millions of Cubans who have been waiting impatiently for this moment for more than half a century will simply ponder his crimes and recall the pain and suffering he caused.

“According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind.”

Why this discrepancy? Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst findel-castro-rolex-gigarfor myths and heroes.

[Read the full text here, at the Washington Post]

His lies were beautiful, and so appealing. According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.

Many intellectuals, journalists and educated people in the First World fell for this myth, too — though they would have been among the first to be jailed or killed by Castro in his own realm — and their assumptions acquired an intensity similar to that of religious convictions.

[ALSO SEE – Fidel Castro and dead utopianism]

[What Fidel Castro Taught Me About the Radical Left]

Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.

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If this were a just world, 13 facts would be etched on Castro’s tombstone and highlighted in every obituary, as bullet points — a fitting metaphor for someone who used firing squads to murder thousands of his own people.

●He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.

●He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.

●He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.

●He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.

●He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.

[Read the full story here, at the Washington Post]

●He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.

●He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.

●He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.

●He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.

●He censored all means of expression and communication.

●He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.

●He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.

●He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.

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“This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.”

This Kafkaesque moral disequilibrium had a touch of magical realism, for sure, as outrageously implausible as anything that Castro’s close friend Gabriel García Márquez could dream up. For instance, in 1998, around the same time that Chile’s ruler Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London for his crimes against humanity, Cuba’s self-anointed “maximum leader” visited Spain with ample fanfare, unmolested, even though his human rights abuses dwarfed those of Pinochet.
Read the rest of this entry »


DO-OVER? Trudeau Humiliated for Statement of Condolences in Which He called Mass Murderer Fidel Castro a ‘Remarkable Leader’

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Fidel Castro was a dictator and he did not intend to minimize the former Cuban leader’s human rights abuses…but then goes on to double down on his statements of heartfelt sympathy and enduring affection for Cuba’s murderous totalitarian dictator.

The prime minister came under fire Saturday after issuing a statement of condolences for Castro in which he described the former president as “a remarkable leader” and family friend.  Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, as well as a number of Conservative leadership hopefuls and U.S. Republican senators, lambasted Trudeau for his choice of words.

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“On the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba.”

— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Trudeau did not back down from the statement when pressed by reporters Sunday in Madagascar, where he is attending la Francophonie summit of French-speaking nations.

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“Yes, his accomplishments will be in various tones of grey — some white, some black — but historians will have to decide this. I see no controversy in describing him as a giant of the 20th century.”

— Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard

“There are people who have many memories and who experienced a great deal of difficulty because of what happened in Cuba, and I am not minimizing any of that,” Trudeau said.

Asked by CBC News senior parliamentary reporter Catherine Cullen whether he believes Castro was a dictator, Trudeau replied: “Yes.”

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“The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people. He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were concerns around human rights. That’s something that I’m open about and that I’ve highlighted,” he added.

“But on the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who is also at the summit, defended Trudeau, calling his statement about Castro’s death “well-balanced.” Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: Fidel Castro is Still Dead

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[VIDEO] UPDATE: Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is Still Dead

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Michael J. Totten: A Visit to the Dystopian Havana that Tourists Never See

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Michael J. Totten continues:

…I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba—not because I’m nostalgic for a botched utopian fantasy but because I wanted to experience Communism firsthand. When I finally got my chance several months ago, I was startled to discover how much the Cuban reality lines up with Blomkamp’s dystopia. In Cuba, as in Elysium, a small group of economic and political elites live in a rarefied world high above the impoverished masses. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of The 51cayyoticl-_sl250_Communist Manifesto, would be appalled by the misery endured by Cuba’s ordinary citizens and shocked by the relatively luxurious lifestyles of those who keep the poor down by force

[Order Cuban exile Humberto Fontova’s bookExposing the Real Che Guevara: And the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him” from Amazon.com

Many tourists return home convinced that the Cuban model succeeds where the Soviet model failed. But that’s because they never left Cuba’s Elysium.

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“Outside its small tourist sector, the rest of the city looks as though it suffered a catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the Indonesian tsunami. Roofs have collapsed. Walls are splitting apart. Window glass is missing. Paint has long vanished. It’s eerily dark at night, almost entirely free of automobile traffic.”

had to lie to get into the country. Customs and immigration officials at Havana’s tiny, dreary José Martí International Airport would have evicted me had they known I was a journalist. But not even a total-surveillance police state can keep track of everything and everyone all the time, so I slipped through. It felt like a victory. Havana, the capital, is clean and safe, but there’s nothing to buy.

[Read the full story here, at City Journal]

It feels less natural and organic than any city I’ve ever visited. Initially, I found Havana pleasant, partly because I wasn’t supposed to be there and partly because I felt as though I had journeyed backward in time. But the city wasn’t pleasant for long, and it certainly isn’t pleasant for the people living there. It hasn’t been so for decades.

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“The revolutionaries promised liberal democracy, but Castro secured absolute power and flattened the country with a Marxist-Leninist battering ram. The objectives were total equality and the abolition of money; the methods were total surveillance and political prisons. The state slogan, then and now, is ‘socialism or death.'”

Outside its small tourist sector, the rest of the city looks as though it suffered a catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the Indonesian tsunami. Roofs have collapsed. Walls are splitting apart. Window glass is missing. Paint has long vanished. It’s eerily dark at night, almost entirely free of automobile traffic. I walked for miles through an enormous swath of destruction without seeing a single tourist. Most foreigners don’t know that this other Havana exists, though it makes up most of the city—tourist buses avoid it, as do taxis arriving from the airport. It is filled with people struggling to eke out a life in the ruins.

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“Communism destroyed Cuba’s prosperity, but the country experienced unprecedented pain and deprivation when Moscow cut off its subsidies after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

Marxists have ruled Cuba for more than a half-century now. Fidel Castro, Argentine guerrilla 51sbtklpshl-_sl250_Che Guevara, and their 26th of July Movement forced Fulgencio Batista from power in 1959 and replaced his standard-issue authoritarian regime with a Communist one.

[Order Humberto Fontova’s book The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro” from Amazon.com

The revolutionaries promised liberal democracy, but Castro secured absolute power and flattened the country with a Marxist-Leninist battering ram. The objectives were total equality and the abolition of money; the methods were total surveillance and political prisons. The state slogan, then and now, is “socialism or death.”

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“Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of The Communist Manifesto, would be appalled by the misery endured by Cuba’s ordinary citizens and shocked by the relatively luxurious lifestyles of those who keep the poor down by force.”

Cuba was one of the world’s richest countries before Castro destroyed it—and the wealth wasn’t just in the hands of a tiny elite. “Contrary to the myth spread by the revolution,” wrote Alfred Cuzan, a professor of political science at the University of West Florida, “Cuba’s wealth before 1959 was not the purview of a privileged few. . . . Cuban society was as much of a middle-class society as Argentina and Chile.” In 1958, Cuba had a higher per-capita income than much of Europe. “More Americans lived in Cuba prior to Castro than Cubans lived in the United States,” Cuban exile Humberto Fontova, author of a series of books about Castro and Guevara, tells me.

[Read the full text here, at City Journal]

“This was at a time when Cubans were perfectly free to leave the country with all their property. In the 1940s and 1950s, my parents could get a visa for the United States just by asking. They visited the United States and voluntarily returned to Cuba. More Cubans vacationed in the U.S. in 1955 than Americans vacationed in Cuba. Americans considered Cuba a tourist playground, but even more Cubans considered the U.S. a tourist playground.” Havana was home to a lot of that prosperity, as is evident in the extraordinary classical European architecture that still fills the city. Poor nations do not—cannot—build such grand or elegant cities.

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“Between 1960 and 1976, Cuba’s per capita GNP in constant dollars declined at an average annual rate of almost half a percent. The country thus has the tragic distinction of being the only one in Latin America to have experienced a drop in living standards over the period.”

But rather than raise the poor up, Castro and Guevara shoved the rich and the middle class down. The result was collapse. “Between 1960 and 1976,” Cuzan says, “Cuba’s per capita GNP in constant dollars declined at an average annual rate of almost half a percent. The country thus has the tragic distinction of being the only one in Latin America to have experienced a drop in living standards over the period.”

“By the 1990s, Cuba needed economic reform as much as a gunshot victim needs an ambulance. Castro wasn’t about to reform himself and his ideology out of existence, but he had to open up at least a small piece of the country to the global economy. “

Communism destroyed Cuba’s prosperity, but the country experienced unprecedented pain and deprivation when Moscow cut off its subsidies after the fall of the Soviet Union. Journalist and 51pumxdqs8l-_sl250_longtime Cuba resident Mark Frank writes vividly about this period in his book Cuban Revelations.

[Order Mark Frank’s bookCuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana” from Amazon.com]

“The lights were off more than they were on, and so too was the water. . . . Food was scarce and other consumer goods almost nonexistent. . . . Doctors set broken bones without anesthesia. . . . Worm dung was the only fertilizer.” He quotes a nurse who tells him that Cubans “used to make hamburgers out of grapefruit rinds and banana peels; we cleaned with lime and bitter orange and used the black powder in batteries for hair dye and makeup.” “It was a haunting time,” Frank wrote, “that still sends shivers down Cubans’ collective spines.”

By the 1990s, Cuba needed economic reform as much as a gunshot victim needs an ambulance. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] REWIND: SNL Chevy Chase Classic ‘Generalissimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead’ 

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Heartache for the Global Left: The Great Man Progressives Loved to Love 

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CNN mourns: Fidel Castro Ruz, the political personality, has died. Fidel Castro, the historical persona, has been born. He passes from the present into the past, to serve as an enduring historical subject of debate and dispute, about whom dispassion will be impossible for years to come. Fidel Castro was not a man about whom one is likely to be neutral.

NRO‘s Andrew Stuttaford writes:

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Fidel is a metaphor. He is a Rorschach blot upon which to project fears or hopes. A prism in which the spectrum of colors refracted out has to do with light that went in. He is a point of view, loaded with ideological purport and political meaning. A David who survived Goliath. A symbol of Third World intransigence against First World domination.

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But it is also possible to discuss the historical “essences” of Fidel Castro. He emerged out of a history shaped by a century of Cuban national frustration, heir to a legacy of unfulfilled hopes for national sovereignty and self-determination, aspirations that put Cuba on a collision course with the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


Miami’s Little Havana Honors Fidel Castro

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Cuba’s Fidel Castro Dies

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Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former Dictator and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90.

Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost 50 years before Raul took over in 2008.

Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, his brother Raul has announced.

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The Washington Examiner‘s Daniel Chaitin writes:

…The U.S. was among the first to formally recognize his government, cautiously trusting Castro’s early assurances he merely wanted to restore democracy, not install socialism.

Within months, Castro was imposing radical economic reforms. Members of the old government went before summary courts, and at least 582 were shot by firing squads over two years. Independent newspapers were closed and in the early years, homosexuals were herded into camps for “re-education.”

In 1964, Castro acknowledged holding 15,000 political prisoners. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled, including Castro’s daughter Alina Fernandez Revuelta and his younger sister Juana.

Still, the revolution thrilled millions in Cuba and across Latin America who saw it as an example of how the seemingly arrogant Yankees could be defied. And many on the island were happy to see the seizure of property of the landed class, the expulsion of American gangsters and the closure of their casinos.

Castro’s speeches, lasting up to six hours, became the soundtrack of Cuban life and his 269-minute speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 1960 set the world body’s record for length that still stood more than five decades later.

As Castro moved into the Soviet bloc, Washington began working to oust him, cutting U.S. purchases of sugar, the island’s economic mainstay. Castro, in turn, confiscated $1 billion in U.S. assets…(read more)

“The commander in chief of the Cuban revolution died at 22:29 hours this evening,” President Raul Castro said.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Betrayed Cuba’s Dissidents

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Is this what Obama Calls Normalization?

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Fidel Castro turned 90 years old on Saturday, adding plausibility to the popular Cuban theory that even hell doesn’t want him. Meanwhile Cuba’s military dictatorship, now headed by his 83-year-old brother Raúl, is cracking down with renewed brutality on anyone who dares not conform to its totalitarian rule.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

If President Obama’s December 2014 softening of U.S. policy toward Cuba was supposed to elicit some quid pro quo on human rights from Havana, it has so far failed. Independent groups that monitor civil liberties on the island say conditions have deteriorated in the 20 months since the Obama decision to normalize relations and ease Cuba trade and travel restrictions for Americans. Many dissident groups opposed any U.S. thaw without human-rights conditions attached and say they feel abandoned by the U.S., which they had long relied on for moral support.

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“If President Obama’s December 2014 softening of U.S. policy toward Cuba was supposed to elicit some quid pro quo on human rights from Havana, it has so far failed.”

Guillermo Fariñas, a 54-year-old psychologist and winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize, is one such disappointed Cuban.

“Independent groups that monitor civil liberties on the island say conditions have deteriorated in the 20 months since the Obama decision to normalize relations and ease Cuba trade and travel restrictions for Americans.”

In a July 20 letter to Gen. Castro, Mr. Fariñas announced “a hunger and thirst strike” until Castro “designate[s]” a vice president to meet with the opposition and declares an end to the state policy of torturing and arresting dissidents and confiscating their property. Mr. Fariñas has been taken to the local hospital in the city of Santa Clara twice for rehydration, but is now at home. He is gravely ill.

Raul Castro, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama

Mr. Amel, who was arrested in July, also sought an end to the state’s policy of beating and arresting dissidents. In his letter to Raúl Castro, Mr. Fariñas wrote that when he went to the police to inquire about charges against the hunger-striking Mr. Amel and another dissident, he was handcuffed and tortured.

Flirting with death is a sign of desperation and it is difficult not to see a connection between that and Mr. Obama’s decision to drop the longstanding U.S. commitment to the democracy movement on the island so that he can be on better terms with the despots. Mr. Fariñas also has personal reasons for feeling betrayed. Read the rest of this entry »


The FDA’s Cigar Fascism

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Consider this sequence of events.

During the Cold War, the Cuban government becomes communist and aligns with the Soviet Union, and many of that country’s productive citizens flee to the United States where property rights are more secure and government is more constrained. Cuba’s economy predictably fails and is kept afloat for years by foreign aid provided mostly by the Soviets. Meanwhile, Cuban businesses first take root, then flourish in the US, particularly in Miami, including a cigar industry based in Little Havana.

“The FDA’s policies — fascist in the sense that they allow for private ownership but government control — mean that, at the end of the day, the portion of the US cigar industry that escaped Cuba simply traded one repressive regime for another.”

Ironically, many of these cigar manufacturers succeed due to government intervention in the form of the Cuban trade embargo, enforced by the US government. Meanwhile, American demand for Cuban-grown and rolled cigars remains high, and many purchase them in extra-legal markets or on trips abroad — often when “abroad” translates to Mexico or Canada. I once met a man who smoked a Cuban cigar in the 1980s. It was such a profoundly pleasurable experience that he vowed to never smoke another cigar again.

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So it went until the Cuban embargo was lifted by the US government last year and questions arose about whether Miami-based cigar manufacturers would survive competition from los cigarros cubanos. Unfortunately, a threat bigger than competition emerged in the form of new rules for cigar manufacturers announced last week by the Food and Drug Administration.

[Read the full story here, at Mises Wire]

Based on the “duty to protect public health,” the FDA is requiring cigar manufacturers to comply with rules drawn up last year for the electronic cigarette market. These include the requirement of so-called “pre-authorization” applications and fees before being allowed to sell their product. These aren’t one-time tariffs either, as any decision to change tobacco blends in the future — a common practice in a premium cigar market responsive to consumer tastes and preferences — requires FDA permission involving new rounds of applications and fees.

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The costs are enormous and they especially affect the small business, as explained in a recent Miami Herald article:

“I mean I get it — you have to do what Uncle Sam says,” said Sandy Cobas, owner of El Titan, one of the 119 Miami businesses that Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado says depend on hand-rolled cigars. “But how are we going to be able to afford this?”

She isn’t alone, say industry experts like Marvin Shanken, founder, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine.

“Miami, and South Florida in general, is the heart of the cigar industry,” Shanken said. “The impact will be most visible there, without a doubt.”

The FDA estimates that small businesses like El Titan, which produces 250,000 to 300,000 cigars per year, will pay $278,000 to $397,000 in application fees and other costs during the initial compliance period. While El Titan will be able to pass some of those fees on to the companies that hire it to make private-label smokes, it will still need to raise prices.

The new rules will have the greatest impact on companies less than a decade old, which will be required to apply for pre-market approval at an average cost of $6,560 per application, according to FDA estimates.

Fourth generation cigar roller, Jose Blanco, who opened Los Cumbres Tabaco in Doral in 2014, figures he will have to submit between 25 and 30 applications, which likely will cost more than $100,000. “For companies starting off in this business, you’re lucky to be breaking even like we are,” Blanco said.

Cigars sold prior to Feb. 15, 2007 — an estimated 60 percent of all cigars sold in the U.S., according to the FDA — are grandfathered in.

Though Tamarac-based Gurkha Cigars was incorporated in 1989 (the brand was first established in 1887), the company estimates it will pay $500,000 in legal costs on top of fees for 800 individual applications.

It’s a lot of money that harms small manufacturers to benefit large ones. In fact, it’s likely the large ones championed the FDA rules to provide them with more market power in a post-embargo world. It also reflects the first rule of government regulation of business, that regulation always causes secondary effects that are sometimes anticipated, and sometimes not. Read the rest of this entry »


Finca Vigia: Hemingway’s Cuban House

One fan’s trip to author Ernest Hemingway’s newly accessible Cuban abode leads her to a new appreciation of humble furnishings.

Antonia Van Der Meer writes: I love to look at homes as places of inspiration, especially those of famous authors. The Holy Grail for me was Ernest Hemingway’s house in Cuba, known as Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm). There he wrote the Pulitzer-Prize winning “The Old Man and the Sea,” as well as “Islands in the Stream” and “A Moveable Feast.”

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

I’d heard about the house for years because my brother, William Dupont, a professor of architecture at the University of Texas San Antonio, leads the Finca Vigia Foundation’s U.S. technical team. He works with Cuban colleagues on the restoration and maintenance of the house, which is now a museum. In May, I accompanied him to Havana.

A long driveway separates the farm from the small homes that dot the area around it in San Francisco de Paula, a working class suburb about 20 minutes outside Havana. Read the rest of this entry »


Adorar a la Reina! Michelle Obama’s Floral Outfits Cost 23x Annual Salary in Cuba

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 reports: The two floral dresses that first lady Michelle Obama sported in Cuba this week would not be affordable for the wide majority of individuals living in the repressive country.

[Read the full story here, at freebeacon.com]

US Weekly recently spotlighted two outfits that Obama wore during appearances in Havana on Sunday and Monday that, according to a Free Beacon analysis, together cost more than 23 times the average annual state salary in Cuba recorded in 2014.

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When the president and his family landed in Cuba Sunday, the first lady descended Air Force One wearing a sleeveless, rose-print dress made by designer Carolina Herrera. The dress is currently sold for $2,190 at Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale department store. Read the rest of this entry »