The Justice Department has charged ex-White House aide Felipe Sixto with theft of federal funds, according to an “Information” (document here, pdf) filed by prosecutors in U.S. District Court. The “Information” contains little information except that his spree lasted about three years, during which Sixto “embezzled, stole, obtained by fraud, and intentionally misapplied property” while working at the Center for a Free Cuba.
Yesterday’s GAO report (see below) noted that Sixto made money by ordering radios at inflated prices from “companies that he controlled,” then “pocketing the difference.”
I looked up the statute he violated, and it appears he could face a fine, jail time up to ten years, or both.
Presumably, this sad chapter will end with announcement of a plea agreement.
The Government Accountability Office has issued another report on USAID’s
The report sheds light on the case of Felipe Sixto, the White House employee who had worked at a USAID grantee, the Center for a Free Cuba. Last March, amid reports that Sixto had defrauded the program of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the White House commented that Sixto “allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds.”
Today’s report (here, pdf) explains: “According to a USAID memorandum, from late 2004 through January 2008, [Sixto] used companies that he controlled to sell shortwave radios to CFC at inflated prices, pocketing the difference.” The report says that USAID has recovered “$578,810 in project funds and interest of $67,992, which will be returned to the Department of the Treasury.” The report does not specify if all of Sixto’s apparent kickbacks derived from radio purchases, or if other kinds of transactions were involved.
A “Partnership for the Americas Commission” convened by the Brookings Institution has issued a report on
Speaking of commissions and recommendations as a new U.S. Administration prepares to take office, a new essay by Carlos Alberto Montaner calls for establishment of an advisory council on
Castro biographer Georgie Anne Geyer – no fan of Castro, and if you read her column, no fan of Bush either – argues that a “change in Cuban policy by the new administration would signal a huge change in American attitudes toward the entire world.”
Geyer might have got her wish, under the Bush Administration, according to Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland. He reports that Secretary of State Rice considered upgrading relations with
Juventud Rebelde is gathering material for its 50th anniversary coverage, and posts a question for readers who are “Cuban and have lived on this island part of your existence in the Cuban Revolution,” and asks for responses by e-mail.
The question: “Qué dejó sembrado en ti la Revolución Cubana?” or, as best I can translate it, “What has the Cuban Revolution instilled in you?”
It was a “fraternal meeting” between Chinese premier Hu Jintao and Fidel Castro, according to Granma. “Your thoughts and experience will surely guide the Cuban people to continue their march on the road of socialist construction,” Hu was quoted as saying to Fidel, according to Reuters.
In addition to cooperation agreements already signed, the visit brought concrete benefits: an $8 million donation of aid, a $70 million credit for hospital repair and reconstruction, an agreement for a five-year deferment of payment for credits extended in 1998, and an agreement to defer until 2018 payment for trade credits extended in 1994-1995.
Neither would be flattered to be in each other’s company, but the presidents of
In the case of President Bush, his 2004 regulations that tightened limits on the contents of gift parcels sent to Cuba have created a black market in package delivery services, since only food, medicine, medical supplies and equipment, receive-only radios, and batteries for radios – and now cell phones – are allowed to be sent from Cuban Americans to their relatives in Cuba, only once per month, and with a $400 limit on the content’s value. Apart from the black-market package delivery services, there are black-market remittance carriers, and there’s the flow of Cuban Americans who evade
As the Herald reports, the companies that have U.S. Treasury Department licenses to send packages legally to
Competition from the U.S. Postal Service is also hurting the licensed private companies, and one implies that the post office gains a competitive advantage because it doesn’t check contents of packages, with the result that “many people are taking advantage of the situation and are sending clothes.” (Clothes are not on the list of items the
My impression is that for Cuban Americans, restrictions on travel and remittances are more important than the gift parcel regulations. As candidate, Senator Obama promised to end travel and remittance restrictions, and was silent on the gift parcel issue, but an easing of those regulations would fit with the desire he has expressed to allow Cuban Americans to help their relatives on the island and decrease their dependence on their government.
A cryptic Fidel Castro addressed the Obama election in one of his newspaper commentaries. In the midst of a discussion of the financial crisis and the just-concluded
Many seem to dream that after a simple change of leadership in the empire, this would be more tolerant and less hostile. Apparently, contempt for the incumbent ruler makes some entertain illusions about a probable change in the system.
The innermost ideas of the citizen who will take over the issue are yet unknown. It would be extremely naïve to believe that the good will of a smart person could change what is the result of centuries of selfishness and vested interests.
This, I think, is in keeping with Cuban foreign policy in recent years, which has kept an eye on the
The Weekly Standard reports on the Republican party’s problem with Latino voters. In
According to the exit polls, Bush won Florida Hispanics by 12 percentage points (56-44) in 2004, while John McCain lost Florida Hispanics by 15 percentage points (57-42) in 2008. In other words, between 2004 and 2008, the Hispanic presidential vote in
What explains that? Among other things, a decline in the relative strength of the Cuban vote, which remains heavily Republican. An increasingly large share of
Cuban official reaction to the American election has been sparse, from what I have seen.
Before the election, Fidel Castro wrote one of his reflections in which he said he was being careful not to make an endorsement, although he did allow that Senator Obama, in his view, is “without doubt more intelligent, cultured, and level-headed than his Republican adversary.”
Vice President Machado Ventura answered reporters’ questions about the American election last Sunday as he toured areas damaged by Paloma. The Obama election, he said, would be “interesting if it really demonstrates that there is change.” Regarding possible diplomatic contacts, he reiterated that Cuba “is willing to talk without conditions, on the basis of equality, we cannot accept negotiating anything with conditions…Raul has already said this three times, we’ll see if he says it a fourth time…”
Cuban media coverage has been sparse, too. The day after the election, according to El Pais, the
So far, without a doubt, the prize for the most interesting reaction goes to former government minister Armando Hart.
His essay in Granma, written just before the election, uses Lenin’s “What is to be done?” essay as a touchstone, and it gets real academic real fast. But before Hart takes that plunge, he discusses one aspect of the promised Obama
If [Obama] keeps his promise [regarding travel], a new stage in the ideological combat between the Cuban Revolution and imperialism will be born…to achieve the ideological vulnerability to which we aspire, it will be necessary to design a new theoretical and propagandistic conception regarding our ideas and their origin.
Among those who travel, there would be:
…“Cubans” who are against the Revolution or who simply left
Maybe he should have thanked President Bush for limiting travel, and keeping the need for “ideological combat” to a minimum.
The most salient fact about last week’s election and the
Data from exit polls show that Senator McCain won a clear majority of Cuban Americans. At Babalu, they are doing a zip code-by-zip code demonstration of McCain’s majority in Cuban American areas of Miami-Dade. The exit polls themselves, cited in this Herald article, show that Obama won 35 percent of Cuban Americans:
According to Bendixen’s exit polls, Obama won 35 percent of the Cuban-American vote in
Then there’s this from a LA Times story on the Obama victory and the Latino vote:
There were signs that a strong finish Tuesday by Obama did not necessarily help other Democrats down the ballot -- suggesting that this new ethnic coalition could have more to do with Obama himself than an overall shift toward Democrats.
Obama, for example, scored a dramatic win in
But the GOP’s three Cuban American members of Congress in Miami-Dade all won reelection, beating well-financed Democrats who had hoped to ride Obama’s coattails. Two of those Democratic campaigns had even coordinated with Obama’s team on the ground.
Category 4 Hurricane Paloma hit hard the southern coast of
Sun Sentinel correspondent Ray Sanchez reported on the devastation in Santa Cruz del Sur, and his article includes AP video. (And Along the Malecon posted MSNBC videos.) AP reports that infrastructure damage was not as severe as that caused by Ike or Gustav.
Fidel Castro weighed in with one of his reflections as Paloma approached, declaring that if
As everyone wonders what an Obama Administration will do in
From the 2008 Democratic Party Platform:
“And we must build ties to the people of Cuba and help advance their liberty by allowing unlimited family visits and remittances to the island, while presenting the Cuban regime with a clear choice: if it takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the unconditional release of all political prisoners, we will be prepared to take steps to begin normalizing relations.”
From a May 2008 Obama speech in
Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice in
My policy toward
Now let me be clear. John McCain’s been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I’m looking for a social gathering. That’s never what I’ve said, and John McCain knows it. After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend and foe alike, without preconditions. There will be careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda. And as President, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the
It’s time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It’s time for a new strategy. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That’s why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It’s time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.
I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations.
From an Obama op-ed,
Unfortunately, the Bush administration has made grand gestures to that end while strategically blundering when it comes to actually advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in
In the ''Cuban spring'' of the late 1990s and early years of this decade, dissidents and human-rights activists had more political space than at any time since the beginning of Castro's rule, and Cuban society experienced a small opening in advancing the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.
Cuban-American connections to family in
Another hurricane, Paloma, is headed toward
Here’s hoping it never gets there. But if it does, and if it causes damage, here’s what I hope: that the United States renews its offer of aid and picks up where the conversations left off after Ike, where the “assessment team” is no longer on the table; that Cuba plays no political games with any aspect of a U.S. offer; that Secretary Gutierrez says nothing; and that American aid finally gets through. Especially building supplies for housing reconstruction. And that American companies that have sold food to
There’s plenty of time to discuss the election’s impact on the subject of this blog. For now, here’s something off topic.
I had the opportunity to attend Senator Obama’s last campaign rally in
The event was held at an agricultural fairgrounds, in a field that stretched way up a hillside. The place eventually filled in with about 90,000 nice people, incredibly packing the entire hillside. The crowd was diverse and skewed toward younger Americans, probably because of the challenges of parking, walking to the site, and standing in an open field with no seating late into the night.
Long before the program began, I turned to a black man standing next to me and made an attempt at light humor, telling him that in about three and a half hours, the program would be starting right up.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life,” he responded.
I got the point.
We were in the Old Dominion, a former slave state that housed the seat of the 19th century Confederacy and that met 20th century integration with “massive resistance.” Two fine candidates were ending campaigns that were fundamentally about their own qualities and ideas, and about the country’s challenges. We witnessed the end of one candidacy that was not about race, but that in itself marked a milestone in our nation’s history, and would have done so regardless of which candidate won.
“A more perfect union” were the words that came to mind.
My friend in that field had been waiting his whole life, he said. So too, I suppose, had been
[Washington Post photo]
It’s treated as a sociological problem – the headline is “Those mistaken people” – and includes interviews with a psychologist and other professors who talk about confusing material well-being with accomplishment and self-worth. The “challenges for Cuban socialism in the decades to come will not be simply economic, but also, and above all, political, i.e. cultural,” the article concludes.
[Illustration from Juventud Rebelde.]