Saturday, October 29, 2016

Update on the Spanish Parliamentary Elections: the Conservatives Form a New Government

           Spain’s center-right acting Prime Minister won a vote of confidence today in the Spanish parliament for his minority coalition government, after King Felipe II gave him the mandate to form a government.  The premier had led a caretaker government for 10 months.

As expected, the opposition center-left Socialists abstained from the vote to allow the formation of the government to avoid a third parliamentary election in a year.   

The ruling conservatives had governed Spain since 2011 and won the parliamentary elections in December, but fell short of a majority.  They still remained short after gaining seats after Spanish voters returned to the polls in June.  A centrist pro-business party then agreed to form a coalition government with conservatives in exchange for reforms.  Without hope of winning a third election, the Socialists ousted their leader who had opposed abstention for the confidence vote.

Since Spain’s return to representative rule in 1975, the constitutional monarchy has never had a coalition government, as the conservatives and Socialists have dominated Spanish politics.  However, a minority government is not unprecedented, as the previous conservative Prime Minister did govern successfully with a minority executive.  

Spanish voters reelected the conservatives, despite the ruling center-right partys austerity policy that was necessitated by Spain’s sovereign debt crisis, which was a significant part of the debt crisis that affected the European Union, which proves that spending cuts, without tax increases, can reduce budget deficits, without unnecessarily harming the economy.  Spain is recovering from a deep recession with nearly 3% gross domestic product growth, but faces the challenge of ongoing efforts by the wealthy region of Catalonia to secede, in addition to another difficult budget.  The new Spanish Government will have to compromise with not only its coalition partners, but with opposition parties.

Foreign Digest: Updates on Turkey, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Syria the United Kingdom and Yemen

Turkey’s Purge Continues
            The purge by the Islamist authoritarian Turkish government continues after the failed military coup in July and expands into still more areas and professions.  As a result, in addition to Greece, some Turks are now seeking political asylum in Germany.

Venezuela’s Dictatorship Blocks the Democratic Opposition
            After the recent blockage by Venezuela’s Socialist dictatorship of the democratic opposition’s attempts at placing a referendum on the ballot to recall the President, in what the opposition calls a “coup d’etat,” more demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest the regime.  The opposition-led Congress is now placing the President on a political trial.  The opposition won a supermajority in the national legislature, but the regime has acted in an authoritarian manner to deny them any share of power.

Hong Kong’s Pro-China Legislature Refuses to Seat Democratic Opposition Legislators
            The Chinese Communist-appointed government of Hong Kong declined earlier this week to seat two members of the democratic opposition to the special territory’s legislature because of their objections to the oath of office that implies loyalty to Peking.  The opposition had won a majority in the elections after mass protests last year against the Chinese Communists’ efforts to strip Hong Kong of its autonomy.  The territory was promised fifty years of autonomy, liberty and free markets after reverting from British rule in 1997, but Peking has limited the number of elective seats in Hong Kong’s legislature and barred some opposition candidates from standing for office.

Syria Reportedly Uses Chemical Weapons
            A report publicized earlier this week conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and a non-proliferation organization has concluded that the Syrian dictatorship has repeatedly used chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Syrian Civil War.  Syria had pledged to give up all of its chemical weapons, but the terms of the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia did not include chlorine, one of the earliest-known chemical weapons.  The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, like that of his father, uses weapons indiscriminately against civilian residential areas where there is opposition to the dictatorship.  Such actions are crimes against humanity.  The Assad regime also sponsors terrorism and is the main ally of Iran, which is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.  Iran and Russia are backing the Syrian dictatorship.

United Kingdom’s Economy Grows, Despite Leaving the European Union
            The British economy grew more than expected last quarter, following the approval of the referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, according to a report by the British government a few days ago.  Although the British economy has suffered some adverse effects, the doomsday-type predictions of the supporters of remaining in the E.U. have not materialized.  Supporters of leaving the E.U. had expressed confidence that the U.K. would thrive if it regained its economic sovereignty and independence.  The U.K. will begin negotiations to leave the E.U. next year.

Yemen: Americans Intercept Iranian Weapons Shipments
           The United States reported yesterday that it has intercepted multiple Iranian shipments of weapons to the pro-Iranian Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen.  The interceptions are apparently the reason why the rebels recently attacked American warships off the Yemeni coast.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cinfici’s Letter to the Editor of the Reading Eagle Re: the Reading School Board’s Tax Increase

           The Reading Eagle published my letter to the Editor today regarding the Reading School Board of Directors’ increase of the Reading School District’s school real estate taxes for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Here is a link to the letter:

The Eagle had recently reported a study by the Berks County Planning Commission that school real estate taxes are higher in Berks County than in every neighboring county, which I believe explains why Berks has been the lead county, through its bipartisan legislators, to advocate for the elimination of school real estate taxes and replacement with an increase and broadening of sales taxes.  The article reminded me of Reading’s tax increase. 

            My letter was in direct response to the report in the Eagle in June that minimized the effects of the School Board’s tax increase by claiming the increase would only amount to about $10.00 for a home with the median value in Reading that receives the homestead exemption.  I noted most properties are not owner-occupied homes eligible for the exemption and some that are do not receive it; most properties are either commercial or are residential rental units.  Furthermore, I noted any increase in the millage increases the baseline for future tax increases, like compounding interest.  Tax increases are limited by Pennsylvania law to a certain percentage, with exceptions.  The June report had stated the increase was the third in the last 15 years, which was true, but misleading.  The Reading School Board raised the rate to the maximum amount—for the second time in the last three years and third time in the last five. 

            The Eagle’s June report also misleadingly compared Reading to other Berks County school districts by reporting Reading’s school real estate taxes as the lowest in the county, without reporting that Reading levies an additional one percent income tax to make the comparison more accurate.  In addition, I noted Reading residents pay higher municipal taxes (the City and School District are coterminous) than those of other county municipalities, meaning the overall tax burden is higher for those that reside in Reading

            In the letter, I observe the effects of a tax increase on businesses and the resultant economic harm, as well as the decrease in property values because of the increase in the cost of ownership, which, in turn, leads to lower property assessments and less taxable revenue—a point of diminishing return.  

           I had to address multiple points and squeeze some advanced tax theory into only 200 words, but am grateful to have the opportunity with this forum to expound a little.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Foreign Digest: Thailand, Yemen and Montenegro

The Death of the King of Thailand
            I offer condolences to the Thai people at the passing last week of their King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had reigned for 70 years—longer than anyone else.  The revered King was a unifying figure in Thailand, which was especially helpful whenever there were coups or other political instability, such as had occurred before the 2014 military coup that brought the current junta to power.  There remains no timetable for the restoration of civilian rule and democratic elections.  I hope the Crown Prince will be able to unite the Thais when he ascends to the throne after a lengthy period of mourning.  In the meantime, the Thai people should find unity in love for their country as they make the necessary transition back to representative civilian government. 

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Fire on Americans Warships
            Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels have recently fired repeatedly on American Naval ships off the coast of Yemen.  The United States responded in self-defense by firing missiles at Houthi military installations, the first time the U.S. has engaged the Houthis.  The Houthis are trying to take over Yemen, as is al-Qaeda, in a three-way war.  An Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been battling the Shi’ite rebels while the U.S. has been targeting al-Qaeda with occasional drone attacks during the War on Terrorism.  The Iranian support of the Houthis demonstrates that the Islamic Republic continues to engage in a proxy war with Sunni Arab states and the West in order to spread Islam by the sword.  The Islamist Iranian regime also supports Palestinian terrorists like Islamic Jihad and Hamas and the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorists, Hezbollah. 

Pro-Western Party Wins the Montenegrin Parliamentary Elections 
           Montenegro’s ruling center-left party, which has governed since independence in 2006, won the most seats in the Montenegrin parliamentary elections, together with a smaller center-left party, but fell short of a majority.  It expects to form a government together with another smaller center-left party and ethnic Bosniak, Croatian and Albanian parties.  The pro-Western ruling party defeated a coalition of pro-Russian parties which included Communists and far-right parties, some of which favor reunion with Serbia.  The opposition has refused to accept the results, despite the approval of international observers.  The ruling party has adopted a pro-Western policy, including application for membership in the European Union and accession into the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and has joined in EU sanctions against Russia, which had been the traditional ally of the former Yugoslav republic.  The Russian Federation financed the opposition, just as it has supported monetarily far-right parties throughout Europe and uses propaganda to influence European politics and is interfering in the American presidential elections through hacking and propaganda.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Happy Columbus (Not “Indigenous Peoples’”) Day!

           I could not let today pass without celebrating Columbus Day, the anniversary of the discovery in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, on behalf of Spain, of the Western Hemisphere, with all due respect to Indigenous Americans.

            There has been a recent trend in some jurisdictions across the American Union to rename the holiday “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” or some similar name.  This slighting of Columbus is the result of a misunderstanding of the word discovery, as if honoring the European discovery of the “New World,” possibly out of too much Euro-centrism, somehow ignores the prior settlement of the Western Hemisphere by Indigenous Americans.  The misunderstanding is influenced additionally by liberal multiculturalism and political correctness.  As I have noted on other Columbus Days, discovery means the uncovering of something—from the perspective of the discoverer, which means that the discoverer need not be the first person to discover something in order to be credited with a discovery. 

For Europeans in the time of Columbus, the cover concealing the two hemispheres was the ocean.  Because of his great observational and navigational skills, Columbus, unlike anyone before him, permanently joined two worlds together.  As a result, the peoples of the two worlds have discovered each other.  Thus, there is no detraction from the first discovery of the Western Hemisphere by those adventurous Asians who bravely crossed the land bridge with Siberia to people the New World.   

            Whenever two peoples who had never, or at least minimally, been in contact with each other, do come into significant contact with each other, there is always the danger of the spread of disease because of the exposure to contagion without immunities.  Because of human nature, there is also the problem of conflict or exploitation.   Although there were good relations between some Europeans and Native Americans, all of these problems were manifested, with often tragic consequences for the First Americans.  At the same time, many Indigenous Americans were freed by the European colonizers from the dangers of conquest by other American tribes and the particular horrors of cannibalism and human sacrifice on a massive scale.  The Indigenous Americans were also freed spiritually through the evangelization of the Christian Faith and through the benefits of modern science and the development of Western political thought, such as liberty and representative government.  It is, therefore, appropriate, while acknowledging past tragedies and sins, to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of the Western Hemisphere, without any disrespect to anyone.

            In the Spanish-speaking countries of America, inhabited largely by Indigenous Americans, October 12 is celebrated as the “Day of the Races,” which acknowledges the meeting of the two peoples through Columbus’s encountering of the First Americans after landing on an island in the Caribbean.  I suppose referring to the day as “Discovery Day,” for example, would also be appropriate.  The point is to acknowledge one of the most important watershed events in human history, while respecting both Europeans and Indigenous Americans.  Continuing to call the day “Columbus Day,” does not constitute any disrespect to those who first inhabited the Western Hemisphere.  The First Americans cannot be forgotten on Columbus Day, as they are an essential part of the story, while there are other days and ways to honor them more particularly.  The United States celebrates Thanksgiving, for example, to give thanks to God for the abundance early European colonists enjoyed in the New World, which was attained through the critically-significant help of Indigenous Americans.  Other American countries reserve commemorative dates on their calendars and acknowledge their heritage in various ways, while the Church honors Indigenous American Saints with Feasts.  Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in America and around the world is most essential.  

           I wish all Americans, including those who are Indigenous, a Happy Columbus Day!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Michael Pence Proves Why Running Mates Ought Not be Selected by Presidential Nominees

Governor Michael Pence of Indiana, the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, is an example of a sycophantic vice presidential candidate produced by the quasi-unilateral nomination of a running mate by the presidential nominee, instead of by the major party’s convention delegates. 

Pence has changed many of his conservative positions to that of the GOP presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, and refrained from any significant criticisms of the Republican at the top of the ticket for the latter’s views and statements. 

A vice president, as president of the Senate, is the head of the Legislative Branch of government and, under the constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, is supposed to serve as a check on the president, who is the head of the Executive Branch of government.  However, by the relatively novel practice of the major political parties, the presidential nominee recommends a running mate, whom the parties’ convention delegates approve, usually without any debate or opposition, let alone any consideration of other candidates.  Because the vice presidential nominee effectively owes his nomination to his party’s presidential nominee, instead of to his party’s convention delegates, he seldom expresses any disagreements with him during the election campaign.  This practice continues once elected Vice President, despite the Separation of Powers, as the practice has helped to further the misconception that vice presidents are “assistant” or “deputy” presidents or “second-in-command” and part of the presidential administration instead of a legislative official who should exercise independent judgment in doing what is in the best interests of the United States and whose duty is to uphold the constitution, even when it is violated by a member of his own party. 

Party loyalty, especially during an election campaign, is understandable, but it can be excessive, especially when the vice presidential nominee is effectively selected by the presidential nominee and the lack of independent judgment and the fulfillment of constitutional duty can be exacerbated, once in office, by being beholden to the president for the election to the office of vice president. 

I had warned about this problem in my post in July, The Quasi-Unilateral Selection of Vice Presidential Nominees by Leading Presidential Candidates Is Contrary to the Constitutional Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, and in my article that month based upon that post in The Federalist, Presidential Candidates Shouldn’t Get to Pick their Veeps,  

Alas, Pence is being sycophantic as a vice presidential nominee, even beyond the usual party loyalty which would be expected, before Trump yet holds power.  Pence’s sycophancy during the campaign is a warning sign that he would not disagree publicly with the president should the Republican nominee be elected or even serve as a check on constitutional matters if Trump would violate the Constitution by exhibiting authoritarianism.  

The process by which major parties nominate vice presidential candidates should be changed.  Regardless of whether they are, it is necessary to nominate and elect those with more principle and courage in the first place.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Fifteenth Anniversary of the War on Terrorism

           Friday was the fifteenth anniversary of the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, which was the start of the American-led global War on Terrorism against militant Islamists. 

The war was caused by the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks on New York, Washington and over Pennsylvania, which killed nearly 3,000 people, by the al-Qaeda Islamist terrorist organization, based in Afghanistan.  The U.S. and its allies launched the war to overthrow the Taliban, the de facto Afghan regime that was harboring al-Qaeda, to deny the terrorists a safe haven and to destroy them.  The Taliban was overthrown within months and many terrorists captured or killed in 13 years of fighting, although some of them fled to neighboring Pakistan

The initiation of the U.S. military response to the September 11 Attacks was on the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto.  That naval battle in 1571 off of Greece, in which an international force of Christians known as “the Holy League” defeated the Ottoman Turks before the Muslim empire could conquer Rome and the rest of Europe, was a turning point for Christendom against the Turks’ long campaign of conquest.  See also my post from April of 2009, Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton,, in which I elaborate on a chapter I wrote in a similarly-named book about a poem written about Lepanto.  A link to the book appears on the left-hand column of my blog.

The War on Terrorism has been fought by American military and intelligence services not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but in the Philippines, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria, at least as is publicly known.  In addition, allies have engaged Islamist terrorists throughout Asia, Africa and Europe.  Although its combat role has been significantly reduced, the U.S. continues to support the Afghan government in various ways to prevent the Taliban from returning to power, and American forces engaged militarily, at least to some degree, in most of those theaters of operation.

Islamists have continued their terrorist and other attacks against Americans both in the U.S. homeland and abroad and there remains a threat of further large-scale attacks, but the American and allied military and intelligence officers who have fought the War on Terrorism have helped prevent any attack of a similar scale to September 11, as have other civil servants who have assisted in the comprehensive counterterrorism strategy.  Political leaders, private institutions and citizens, voters and taxpayers have all contributed to the cause.  All of these efforts deserve gratitude.  

May the American and allied forces be safe and victorious.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Nobel Peace Prize: A Liberal Popularity Contest

           The Nobel Peace Prize Committee once again proved, as I have posted before, that it regards the awarding of the prize as little more than a liberal popularity contest. 

The Committee, which is made up of members of the Norwegian Parliament, awarded the prize to the Colombian President for his peace deal with the Marxist narco-terrorists that was rejected earlier this week in a referendum by the people of Colombia, as I noted in my last post.  The deal includes impunity for the terrorists, which is hardly in keeping with the spirit of advancing peace.  It is uncertain whether the prize winner will attempt to renegotiate the deal or resign.

            If any individual deserves credit for the war ending in Colombia, it was the previous President of Colombia, conservative Alvaro Uribe, whose military campaign, aided by the United States, succeeded in striking major blows to the narco-terrorists and forcing them to negotiate after a half-century of guerilla warfare, financed by cocaine and kidnappings for ransom, and backed by the Socialist dictatorship of Venezuela, but the liberal Committee never honors leaders who end wars by militarily defeating enemies.  

           I am certain there were numerous others more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize this year than the current awardee.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Foreign Digest: Turkey, Spain, Colombia

Turkish Purge Continues and Expands
The Islamist authoritarian government of Turkey continues its purge as a result of the failed military coup in July.  The state of emergency it declared has been extended, while the types of institutions and people targeted by purge has expanded in order to eliminate viable opposition to the regime, with the excuse of preventing another coup.  The purge has been targeted especially the cleric’s followers.  Tens of thousands of Turks have been fired or imprisoned from the military, police and civil servants to judges and even to academia because of alleged involvement in the coup. 

The United States continues to decline to extradite a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania in exile, whom the Turkish government blames for coordinating the coup, even though the cleric had condemned the coup and promotes peaceful democratic transition, as Turkey has not provided convincing evidence of his complicity. 

Update on the Spanish parliamentary elections
            The Socialist Party has ousted its leader because of his refusal to accept a conservative-led minority coalition government to avoid a third parliamentary ballot in the divided kingdom of Spain.  It is hoped the ouster will facilitate the formation of Spain’s first coalition government between the ruling center-right party, which won the most seats, and a centrist pro-business party.  The Socialists would not govern in any grand coalition with their longtime political rivals, but are expected to abstain in the vote of confidence, which would allow the acting Prime Minister to form a government, with the assent of King Felipe VI, who has been urging the parties to reach a compromise for the sake of national unity. 

Because the conservatives and the Socialists have dominated Spanish politics since the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in 1975, Spain has never had a coalition government, let alone a minority government.  The kingdom has been without an effective government since December.  The conservatives had increased their vote totals in the June voting while the Socialists suffered defeats recently in regional elections.  

Colombians Reject the Peace Deal with Marxist Narco-Terrorists
            A referendum for a peace deal with the Marxist narco-terrorists was rejected by Colombians.  There was a low turnout for the vote.  The deal would have set aside congressional seats for the rebels and provided them amnesty for crimes in exchange for laying down their arms.  The five-decade rebellion has killed over 200,000 people.  Colombians were particularly opposed to impunity for the narco-terrorists. 

            A military campaign by the previous conservative government, backed by the United States, had caused major blows to the rebels and forced them to negotiate.  The terrorists had received some support from the Socialist dictatorship of Venezuela.  A smaller leftist rebel group continues to operate in Colombia, but has also expressed readiness to lay down arms, pending the result of the peace deal with the larger group.  

           It is unclear if the current conservative Government would renegotiate the deal or stand down, which could allow the return of the popular former conservative President who initiated the victorious military campaign.  

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Obama Administration’s Unnecessary and Misleading Classifications of Terrorists

           The Obama Administration had come up with several unnecessary and misleading classifications of terrorists, including “terrorist-inspired,” “terrorist-enabled,” etc., to classify those who do not act in conspiracy with others, but who may or may not be inspired or encouraged by others.

            Terrorism is not a conspiracy per se, but a strategy of committing a war crime by targeting innocent civilians for intimidation to force the populace to accept the demands of the terrorist.  Therefore, a terrorist is a terrorist, whether he acts in a conspiracy with others or alone, whether he is inspired by others or not.  An act of terrorism is no less terrorism, regardless of whether it is committed by one person or more.  In other words, an act of terrorism committed by a sole terrorist does not qualify the word terrorism

The Unabomber was an example of a terrorist who acted alone.  Another example would be a militant Islamist who commits a terrorist act alone as an act of violent jihad (Islamic holy war).  Whether he were inspired by someone else’s writing or preaching or even encouraged by someone else is irrelevant as to whether he were a terrorist or his action were an act of terrorism.  

The Administration’s classifications are not helpful toward understanding terrorism and seem to minimize the threat of those who commit terrorism alone by focusing too much only on terrorist organizations or cells.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Foreign Digest: "The Filipino Trump," Venezuelan Presidential Recall Update, Russian Complicity in Ukraine's Civil War, Syrian Genocide

The “Filipino Trump” compares himself to Hitler
            The anti-American President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, “the Filipino Trump,” who says he emulates American presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, compared his policy of encouraging private citizens to murder suspected drug dealers favorably with Adolph Hitler’s Holocaust.  Thousands have been killed.  

Duterte, known for a similar policy when he was mayor of a large Filipino city, has made a deal with communist terrorists to bring them into government, and threatens to expel American military advisors  assisting the Philippines in the War on Terrorism against Islamist terrorists, while turning toward Communist China’s orbit.  As mayor, the uncouth Duterte had insulted Pope Francis and the Church and expressed his desire to rape women.   

Update on the Venezuelan presidential recall referendum
            As the democratic opposition feared, the Socialist dictatorship has effectively blocked the referendum on recalling the President, as the delay will leave less than two years remaining on his term, which means the recall cannot be effectuated.  The referendum had gathered the necessary signatures, but the electoral commission controlled by the government held up its approval in order to miss the deadline.       

A Russian missile was used to shoot down a civilian airliner over Ukraine
            A study conducted by the Dutch government has concluded that the Malaysian civilian airline that was shot down over Ukraine last year was downed by a missile supplied from the Russian Federation to the pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, which refutes the denials by the Russians and the rebels of responsibility. Indeed, the Russian dictatorship has denied any complicity in Ukraine's civil war, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  The jet had taken off from the Netherlands.  All aboard were killed.

            The Russian Federation invaded Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and annexed it, in violation of a treaty it had signed with Ukraine to respect the latter’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Russian forces have also infiltrated into eastern Ukraine in support of the separatists.  The war has claimed 10,000 lives.

Syrian genocide
            With the Baathist Syrian regime of Dictator Bashar Assad’s latest indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, it is increasingly clear the regime’s policy is genocide.  Bashar Assad’s strategy is the same as his father, Hafez Assad, who indiscriminately shelled major cities that had risen up against his tyranny, slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent civlians.  The Assad genocide is backed militarily by Iran and Russia, as well as by the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorists, Hezbollah, who are sponsored by both Iran and Syria and are being trained by Russia.  Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization, except al-Qaeda.

In addition to killing civilians, instead of focusing strictly on killing other Islamist terrorists, such as al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State,” Russia is helping the Syrian dictatorship by killing American-backed non-Islamist rebels.  Over a quarter million people have been killed in the Syrian Civil War.  The war has created the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.    

The United States Senate Should Block the Confirmation of an American Ambassador to Communist Cuba

           A bipartisan group of three Cuban-American United States Senators are sponsoring a resolution declaring the Obama Administration’s diplomatic recognition of the Communist Cuban dictatorship a failure, noting the Castro regime’s continued violations of human rights, and expressing American solidarity with a prominent Cuban dissident. 

The two Republican Senators are also vowing to block senatorial confirmation of President Barack Obama’s recent nominee who would be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba since relations were severed in 1961.  An American embassy was opened several months ago in Havana.

The Castro dictatorship has not liberalized in any significant way in exchange for winning American diplomatic recognition, which legitimizes the regime, thus providing it a propaganda victory, while lowering the morale of pro-democratic dissidents.  In fact, the Communists have since cracked down on dissent, with more frequent arrests and violent interrogations of anyone who criticizes the dictatorship.  The Cuban people lack most basic freedoms.  The Castro regime continues to harbor American fugitives, including terrorists, among other hostile actions against the U.S. and others and it refuses to return millions of dollars worth of property stolen from Americans. 

As I noted previously, the Obama Administration has made concessions to Communist Cuba, without gaining anything significant in return from the economically-weakened socialist state, either for the Cuban people, or American interests.  See my posts United States President Barack Obama Legitimatizes, Rewards and Props Up the Cuban Castro Communist Dictatorship, from December of 2012,, Foreign Updates: Cuba, Ukraine, Tunisia and France, from January of 2015,, United States President Barack Obama Legitimatizes the Iranian and Cuban Dictatorships, from June of 2015,, and Recent Communist Repression, Aggression and Anti-American Militancy, from September of 2015,

See also The United States Department of States’s Designation of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and Freedom House’s Listing of Cuba as “Not Free” in December of 2014,  

Although Obama removed Cuba from the list of terrorist-sponsoring states and was able to loosen some restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, the Republican-led Congress has been successful in blocking his proposal to end the economic embargo.  Nevertheless, it is important to deprive the Castro Communist Cuban dictatorship of any further legitimacy that it would receive were a U.S. ambassador confirmed, unless the regime liberalizes and holds free elections.  A moral stand for liberty, instead of granting more unilateral concessions, is necessary to force the regime to free Cuba.  The Senate should reject the confirmation of any American ambassador to the Communist Castro dictatorship until Cubans are free.