Articles, Opinions, and Papers

August 2018
A witness box occupies the center of the courtroom. Five judges in long black robes listen to testimony. The defendant watches from the front row of the gallery with an armed guard at his side. There is no jury. This is how justice operates in Cuba’s socialist system. Or at least that is what Florida prosecutors gleaned from a murder trial in Havana that was groundbreaking on several fronts: The star witness was a detective from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office; the defendant was a Cuban national accused of shooting a Jupiter Farms doctor in the head before he fled to the island, and a Florida prosecutor helped prepare the Cuban prosecution team for trial.
A witness box occupies the center of the courtroom. Five judges in long black robes listen to testimony. The defendant watches from the front row of the gallery with an armed guard at his side. There is no jury. This is how justice operates in Cuba’s socialist system. Or at least that is what Florida prosecutors gleaned from a murder trial in Havana that was groundbreaking on several fronts: The star witness was a detective from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office; the defendant was a Cuban national accused of shooting a Jupiter Farms doctor in the head before he fled to the island, and a Florida prosecutor helped prepare the Cuban prosecution team for trial.
May 2018
CIENFUEGOS, CUBA It was 11:30 in the morning last Thursday when Luis Roque heard the first pleas for help. He was about to head to work when his neighbor's screams made him stop in his tracks.
March 2018
AURORA, Colo. — A Cuban immigrant’s long quest for freedom appears over.
October 2017
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, CUBA--An attorney for a man accused of helping plot the 9/11 attacks invoked the ongoing U.S.-Cuba dispute over sonic interference with American diplomats’ brains to urge a judge to take the captive’s sleep-deprivation complaints seriously.
September 2017
After Hurricane Irma’s devastating 72-hour pass through northern Cuba, the Cuban government took a novel approach to storm relief: It posted a Cuban bank account number on social media where humanitarian donations can be sent.
June 2017
Havana, Cuba (CNN)For Cuban officials on the front lines of the fight against drug trafficking, the Trump administration's threat to roll back improved relations between the United States and the communist-run island comes at a dangerous moment.
March 2017
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has again called on the federal government to have Cuba return a woman convicted in the murder of a state trooper.
Although Cuba sits in close proximity to Caribbean drug lanes and the U.S. market, the U.S. State Department’s annual narcotics control report found that it’s not a major consumer, producer or transit point for illegal narcotics, and drug consumption on the island remains low.
February 2017
Soon after the feds broke up a family-run chain of clinics that tried to steal $130 million from Miami-Dade Public Schools and a string of major U.S. companies, a trio of Cuban immigrants fled to Mexico and eventually back home to the island.
In his last month in office, former President Barack Obama preempted what could have been one of President Donald Trump’s first actions on Cuba: he suspended a section of the Helms-Burton Act that allows former owners of commercial property expropriated by Cuba to sue foreign companies “trafficking” in those confiscated holdings.
January 2017
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has agreed to drop legal proceedings against longtime pro-Cuba activist Albert A. Fox Jr. in exchange for a fine of $10,000.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Departmentsigned a new agreement on law enforcement cooperation with Cuba on Monday, seeking to further deepen ties with the communist island just four days before the end of the Obama administration.
MIAMI — They were some of the most feared people in South Florida, men who became cinematic fodder and, long before Donald J. Trump uttered the term “bad hombres,” ones who really did give some immigrants a bad name.
November 2016

Shore Up Security at Sea

November 1, 2016

The United States has long waited for – and sometimes actively aspired to – regime change in Cuba. For nearly 60 years, the United States has opposed the Castro regime's misrule at home and support of communist insurgents and dictatorships abroad. Cuba's alliances with the now-defunct U.S.S.R., and more recently with Venezuela, added to the United States' distaste for the regime.
October 2016
Oct 17 Havana's city government has temporarily suspended issuing licenses for new private restaurants in the city and warned existing ones to obey tough regulations, according to several owners of the businesses popular with foreign tourists.
September 2016
A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.
In a case that appears to represent a shift in policy, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has opened legal proceedings against a longtime pro-Cuba activist based in Tampa.
August 2016
The Obama administration “has no intention” of releasing or swapping jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes, according to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of State to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
July 2016
Sofía's living room is covered in clothes. Stacks of t-shirts and shorts line a faded plaid couch. Dresses are strewn across the counter, and an armchair cradles a small mountain of shoes. You can't see the floor.
The deputy director of Cuba’s official Granma newspaper has warned that street protests like those that erupted in Havana the summer of 1994 are possible if reports hinting at electricity blackouts this summer are true.
June 2016
HAVANA (AP) — Two American fugitives who fled to Cuba after they were accused of killing police officers said Friday that Cuban officials have assured them that detente with the United States will not lead to their extradition.
An unprecented trip to Havana on Wednesday by American officials from various security agencies, including the FBI, has raised speculation that the United States and Cuba are considering a high-profile prisoner swap: jailed Cuba spy Ana Belén Montes in exchange for longtime American fugitive Joanne Chesimard.
March 2016
Bacardi is back in court in its two-decades-long quest for the right to use the iconic Havana Club rum trademark in the United States.
MIAMI (AP) - As Washington normalizes relations with Havana, nearly 30,000 Cuban nationals convicted of crimes in the U.S. may face deportation.
For the past year, the leading Republican presidential candidates have drawn a hardline on deporting illegal immigrants — especially front-runner Donald Trump, who has promised to build a towering wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to stop others from crossing.
January 2016
A two-decades-old battle over who has the right to use the Havana Club trademark in the United States played out quietly at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week with the decision that the rightful owner is a Cuban government company.
November 2015

Claimed

November 30, 2015

When Castro took power, Americans fled Cuba and left a lot of property behind. Now the claims on these contested holdings—land, buildings, cars and more—are exciting speculators and could stand in the way of reconciliation.
October 2015
After over 50 years of trade embargoes against Cuba, the country has been starved of a lot of things. But when it comes to TV and movies, Cubans have been watching pretty much the same stuff as the rest of us.
HAVANA — There’s little question that 50-plus years of U.S. economic sanctions have taken a heavy toll on Cuba's factories, banking system and hospitals.
February 2015
The US supreme court on Monday handed victory to a state-run Cubancigar company in its long-running standoff with an American arch rival.
April 2014
(Reuters) - A former Black Panther who returned to the United States nearly 30 years after he hijacked a plane to Cuba is offering to plead guilty to kidnapping, to avoid a more serious charge of air piracy, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
March 2014
February 2014
(Reuters) - Almost 100 Cuban art works have apparently been stolen from the country's national art museum, and some are turning up in Miami, according to one of the city's leading gallery owners.
HAVANA (AP) – When Fernando González walks out of an Arizona prison next week, the "Cuban Five" will be down to three.
January 2014
MIAMI (Reuters) - A Cuban intelligence agent, jailed for 15 years for spying on Cuban-American exiles in Miami, is due to be freed next month and will be deported to the Caribbean island country, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
November 2013
HAVANA - Cuban authorities have summoned a Mexican businessman in connection with a corruption probe, echoing previous cases in which foreigners were ultimately charged in absentia and had their local businesses seized.
July 2013
HAVANA (AP) — A dispute is brewing in Cuba over the estate of a prominent intellectual and close associate of the Castro brothers after authorities carried out a surprise search of his home.
June 2013
Two British businessmen who faced corruption charges in Cuba have been released, the British Embassy has said.
An elderly Toronto man became the first Canadian convicted of sex crimes committed against children in Cuba after he pleaded guilty Friday to six counts, including little-used child sex tourism charges.
May 2013
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Should William Potts, an American fugitive living in Cuba, ever set foot in the United States again, he faces an indictment for airplane hijacking and a potentially lengthy prison term. So why is Potts now battling to return to the same country that wants to imprison him?
Canadian and British executives of three foreign businesses shut in 2011 by Cuban authorities, ostensibly for corrupt practices, have been charged after more than a year in custody and are expected to go on trial soon, sources close to the cases told Reuters.
April 2013
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Florida parents charged with kidnapping their boys from their grandparents and sailing to Cuba on a boat called "Salty" to elude authorities are facing a judge for the first time since they were forcibly returned from the island nation.
Cuba on Tuesday said it will hand over to the United States a Florida couple who allegedly kidnapped their two young sons from the mother's parents and fled by boat to Havana.
Havana, Apr 1 (EFE).- Cuba accused the U.S. of enabling the "blatant robbery" of brand names from the island following a new court verdict in a lawsuit between the Cubatabaco company and U.S.-based General Cigar Co. Inc. over the name of Cohiba cigars.
March 2013
MIAMI (AP) - The state of Florida on Thursday urged a panel of skeptical federal appeals judges to allow enforcement of a law that prohibits companies from bidding on state and local government contracts if they also do business in Cuba or Syria.
HAVANA (AP) - Teenagers dash across a six-lane thoroughfare and launch themselves into the balmy waters of the Straits of Florida.

A couple skips the sidewalk and strolls down an unlit street as bulky 1950s cars with bald tires and worn brakes zip past inches away.
January 2013
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga is expected Friday to sentence members of a network who sold false Cuban birth certificates to undocumented immigrants so they could pretend to be Cubans and obtain green cards.
HAVANA (AP) - At 10 o'clock on a Saturday night, the Mariana Grajales park in downtown Havana pulses with a thumping beat. Young men in drooping trousers and women in miniskirts dance, raise their hands in the air and grind pelvis to pelvis amid whooping, clapping and coarse jokes.
December 2012
MADRID - A Spaniard sentenced in Cuba to prison for the death of a prominent dissident has arrived back in Spain to serve the rest of his four-year term after an agreement between the two governments.
MADRID (AP) - The Spanish government says a Spaniard sentenced in Cuba to prison in the death of a prominent dissident will fly back to Spain to serve the rest of his four-year term.
WASHINGTON (AP) - British bank HSBC violated the Bank Secrecy Act in connection with the laundering of money from narcotics drug traffickers in Mexico and intentionally allowed prohibited transactions with Iran and other nations that have been under sanctions, the Justice Department alleged Tuesday.
(Reuters) - HSBC Holdings Plc has agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle a multi-year U.S. criminal probe into money-laundering lapses at the British lender, the largest penalty ever paid by a bank.
November 2012
Spain's request that Cuba send home a Spaniard jailed on the island in connection with a deadly road accident "will be duly considered" on the basis of existing bilateral accords, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told Efe here Friday.
José Antonio Torres was charged after writing about mismanaged public works project.
October 2012
HAVANA - There are no flashy television ads or campaign signs spiked into front yards. And candidates definitely don't tour the island shaking hands and kissing babies.
Associated Press

HAVANA - A Cuban court sentenced a Spanish man to four years in prison for his role in a car crash that killed prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent, authorities announced Monday.
HAVANA - A Cuban court sentenced a Spanish man to four years in prison for his role in a car crash that killed prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent, authorities announced Monday.
HAVANA (Reuters) - A Spanish political activist has been sentenced to four years in prison for the deaths of prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya and a colleague in a July car wreck, a Cuban government website said on Monday.
HAVANA (Reuters) - Executives of three foreign businesses shut in 2011 ostensibly for corrupt practices have been held by Cuban authorities for a year or more and still have not been charged with a crime, sources with knowledge of the cases said this week.
September 2012
Cuba has a long-established zero tolerance policy on drugs, and now Havana is helping US officials stop the flow of narcotics from South America.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford joined officers patrolling the coast and waters of the island to find out more about Cuba's war on drugs.
Cuba has a long-established zero tolerance policy on drugs, and now Havana is helping US officials stop the flow of narcotics from South America.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford joined officers patrolling the coast and waters of the island to find out more about Cuba's war on drugs.
September 2011
Mr Richardson said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told him "it was not possible" to see Mr Gross, who is said to be in poor health.
HAVANA (AP) — A leading human rights worker said Friday that authorities have detained two former political prisoners in eastern Cuba, the first arrests involving members of a group of 75 intellectuals and social commentators since they were freed after a 2003 crackdown on dissent.
HAVANA (AP) — Hopes that a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba might soon be freed were dashed when former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the Cuban government refused to let him meet with the prisoner.
A lawyer for Alan Gross, who is serving 15 years for illegally bringing communications equipment to the island, said Richardson came Wednesday at Havana's invitation. The former governor would not confirm that in comments to The Associated Press, nor say what he hoped to accomplish on the trip.
The Cuban government has denied entry to a French news agency correspondent who had been assigned to Havana, part of what other journalists on the island describe as a severe tightening of controls on their work under Raúl Castro’s rule.
The Cuban government has denied it ordered violent repressions of the dissident Ladies in White, according to a Catholic Church statement Monday that added that any violence “against defenseless people has no justification.”
HAVANA (AP) — A USAID subcontractor sentenced to 15 years in jail in Cuba told an American diplomat soon after his arrest that authorities had interrogated him for two hours a day and were well aware of his activities on the island even before the questioning, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from Havana.
August 2011
MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida judge ordered Cuba to pay $2.8 billion (1.7 billion pounds) to a former CIA agent who helped hunt down revolutionary leader Che Guevara, an award lawyers called the biggest ever in a civil suit against the communist government.
Cuban dissidents complained that security forces blocked about 20 supporters of the Ladies in White from reaching a church service Sunday in the eastern city of Santiago, including nine women who were beaten and humiliated.
July 2011
Cuba's highest court Friday heard the final leg of the appeal by Alan P. Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor whose 15-year prison sentence has stalled Obama administration efforts to improve ties with Havana.
HAVANA -- An American government contractor imprisoned in Cuba made a final appeal Friday to have his 15-year prison sentence reduced or dismissed, and a senior U.S. diplomat said Washington hopes he eventually will be released.
HAVANA — Cuba’s Supreme Court has set a July 22 date to consider an appeal by U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of illegally importing communications equipment, state television said Thursday.
June 2011
After an unprecedented battle that went all the way up to Cuba’s highest court, a group of independent lawyers has overcome the first hurdle in registering an organization that provides legal advice to civil society, including dissidents.
April 2011
Cuba’s top court has issued a relatively positive ruling in an unprecedented lawsuit by a dissident lawyer against the Minister of Justice, saying he filed a document in the wrong place but allowing the suit to proceed, according to the lawyer.
February 2011
While not hopeful his case will be successful, a dissident Cuban lawyer won a surprise hearing at Havana's Supreme People's Tribunal.
August 2009
A cigar may be just a cigar sometimes, but when's a Cohiba a Cohiba? Any devotee of the leaf is aware of the existence of parallel brands. A Montecristo in Manhattan is not the same as a Montecristo in Havana. Nearly five decades of isolation have led to two separate worlds, and an end to the Cuban embargo could lead to trademark mayhem for the decades to follow. And, it's not just cigars. Many products, including rum and coffee, may wind up in some combination of confusion and litigation in a post-embargo marketplace. In the case of Havana Club, which exists in different form inside and outside Cuba, this is already in the works, with more than 10 years of legal sparring. For Bacardi, which claims the Havana Club brand outside Cuba, there is clearly a lot at stake. The company bought the name and recipe from the Arechabala family in 1997. Meanwhile, Cuba claims to have registered the trademark in the United States in 1976, when the Arechabalas let their claim to it expire. Bacardi says that the Cuban government took the name. In the United States, Bacardi has been supported by a law that prevents the registration or renewal of trademarks related to companies that were nationalized by the Cuban government. But Cuba is having more luck in the rest of the world. In a suit in Spain, Bacardi's case against Cuba and Pernod Ricard (OTC: PDRDY) was tossed (Bacardi has since appealed, and it's now in front of the Spanish Supreme Court). The stakes are high for liquor manufacturers. The United States has 40 percent of the world's rum drinkers, and Cuba's Havana Club has sustained a 13 percent increase in sales to 3.4 million cases. Bacardi has more than 200 brands, with 20 million cases of liquor sold in 150 countries. For the cigar market, the numbers are considerably smaller, but the fight could be incredibly fierce. The strength of the domestic brand could be overshadowed by the fact that the competing Cuban product will have its own recognition, simply because of the fact that it's from Cuba. Even if trademark struggles favor companies currently operating in the United States, cigar smokers, always eager to get their hands on the illicit fare from just south of Florida, could wind up equating changed brand names with their predecessors – whatever the Cuban brand is named, it would always be "the old Cohiba" to them. The strength of Cuban product brand recognition among cigar smokers in the United States makes many parallel-brand manufacturers incredibly nervous. Swedish Match North America's executives are losing sleep, according to the Associated Press, over the prospect of competing with Cuban cigar manufacturers. Swedish Match (OTC: SWMAF) owns General Cigar, which sells Dominican-made Cohibas. The other Cohiba company is Habanos, a joint venture between the Cuban government and Altadis, which was acquired by Imperial Tobacco Group (OTC: ITYBY) last year. Habanos has 27 premium brands but never registered its claim to Cohiba in the United States. Nonetheless, the company sued General Cigar, but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the domestic company. In addition to Cohiba, General Cigar produces Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey, Bolivar and Punch – all of which have Cuban counterparts. So, not only would General Cigar face a brutal battle over trademark, it probably wouldn't benefit fully from a victory. The fight is further complicated by access to materials. In a post-embargo market, demand for Cuban cigars (and thus Cuban tobacco to make them) would prompt non-Cuban companies to tap the island for product in order to compete, and current supply is unlikely to support such need. There is always the possibility that access to Cuban fare would put downward pressure on demand. Once they are legal, people aren't likely to want them as much, some believe. An estimated 85 million Cuban cigars would be imported post-embargo into a market in which 255 million premium cigars are sold every year. Yet, it would probably take several years for the market to sort itself out, as domestic companies would have to contend with the spike in supply, curiosity factor and trademark mayhem. The ultimate outcome is impossible to forecast. Whether the rum, cigar and coffee manufacturers – along with everyone else – start to push this issue before or after the embargo is lifted (if ever), the outcome will be hard-fought and probably be universally painful. You know it's fair when nobody wins.