China Bars Wife of Detained Taiwanese Activist from Visiting
Gerry Shih and Johnson Lai, WASHINGTON TIMES
The wife of a Taiwanese pro-democracy activist detained in China said Monday that she was prevented from flying to the mainland to seek a visit with her husband, whose case has inflamed tensions between the sides that have already sunk to their lowest level in years. Lee Ching-yu said airline staff told her when she tried to check in for her flight that Beijing authorities had canceled her Chinese-issued travel permit. Li was hoping to fly to China to demand information about her husband, Lee Ming-che, who has not been heard from since March 19. A Chinese official said last week that Lee was under investigation on suspicion of endangering Chinese national security and was in “good physical condition,” but offered no additional information.
Beijing Offers Cash Rewards to Unearth Foreign Spies
Christian Shepherd, REUTERS
China’s capital is stepping up a campaign against foreign espionage by offering rewards ranging from $1,500 to $73,000 to citizens who blow the whistle on suspected spies, state media said. Since taking office in 2013, Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping has overseen a raft of laws and campaigns to secure China’s national security against both domestic and foreign threats. The “pressing” need for new measures to guard against foreign spies is an unfortunate side-effect of China’s reform and opening to the world, the official Beijing Daily newspaper said. “Foreign intelligence organs and other hostile forces have also seized the opportunity to sabotage our country through political infiltration, division and subversion, stealing secrets and collusion,” it added.
UN Expert Probes Human Trafficking in Cuba in Milestone Trip
An independent expert from the United Nations was in Cuba on Monday for a four-day visit to evaluate the human trafficking situation on the island for the first time in a decade. Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro is expected to visit a school and meet parliament leader Esteban Lazo and also has scheduled trips to the provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa near the capital, Havana. Such UN visits are routine in other countries, but Cuba has generally rejected inspections by international organizations. The government has relaxed that stance somewhat in recent years, and officials welcomed Giammarinaro upon her arrival and stressed that Cuba has a zero-tolerance policy on trafficking. Giammarinaro expects to analyze what progress Cuba has made and challenges it still faces regarding trafficking, including sexual and labor exploitation. The findings will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June. Other trips to Cuba by UN experts are still pending, including one related to torture.
Facing Fuel Shortage in Cuba, Havana Diplomats Roll Up Sleeves
VOICE OF AMERICA
When they are not tending to international affairs, diplomats based in Havana can be found these days stewing in interminable queues at gas stations and concocting ways to increase the octane in fuel as Cuba’s premium gasoline shortage takes its toll. Cuba sent around an internal memo last week advising that it would restrict sales of high-octane, so-called “special fuel” in April. That is not an issue for most Cuban drivers, whose vintage American cars and Soviet-era Ladas use regular fuel. But it is for the embassies that use modern cars whose engines could be damaged by the fuel at most Havana gas stations. So the diplomats are taking a leaf out of the book of Cubans, used to such shortages, and becoming resourceful. Cuba has not announced the measure officially yet. Cuba has become increasingly reliant on its socialist ally Venezuela for refined oil products but the latter has faced its own fuel shortage in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the Communist-ruled island cannot easily replace subsidized Venezuelan supplies as it is strapped for cash.
North Korea Angers Chinese Tourists with Pushy Investment Pitch
Elizabeth Shim, UPI
North Korea is stepping up its tourism efforts, but an aggressive new policy is not making Chinese visitors happy. According to a source in North Hamgyong Province, North Korea has been mobilizing university students majoring in tourism to boost economic development, Radio Free Asia reported Monday. “Beginning in March, authorities have been instructing young female agents, disguised as tour guides, to ride in trains or buses loaded with Chinese tourists,” a source said. The source added the agents are on a mission to persuade the tourists to open their wallets and begin investing in North Korea, according to the report. Chinese tourists are becoming a major source of income for heavily sanctioned North Korea, but the pushy tactics are backfiring, the source said. “These days there are high-pitched disputes on trains and buses filled with Chinese, between the visitors and the young women guides,” the source said. “Chinese are loudly protesting the persistent promotion of North Korea investment by our propaganda agents, because they cannot tolerate it.”
The Soviet Union Fought the Cold War in Nicaragua. Now Putin’s Russia is Back.
Joshua Partlow, THE WASHINGTON POST
On the rim of a volcano with a clear view of the US Embassy, landscapers are applying the final touches to a mysterious new Russian compound. The Nicaraguan government says it’s simply a tracking site of the Russian version of a GPS satellite system. But is it also an intelligence base intended to surveil the Americans? Three decades after this tiny Central American nation became the prize in a Cold War battle with Washington, Russia is once again planting its flag in Nicaragua. Over the past two years, the Russian government has added muscle to its security partnership here, selling tanks and weapons, sending troops, and building facilities intended to train Central American forces to fight drug trafficking. Security analysts see the military moves in Central America as a possible rebuttal to the increased US military presence in Eastern Europe, showing that Russia can also strut in the United States’ back yard.
Russian Navy Activity in Europe Now at Cold-War Levels
Alexander Smith, NBC NEWS
The American warships that launched cruise missiles at Syria last week were sailing in waters experiencing levels of Russian naval activity not seen since the Cold War, a top US military official said. The USS Ross and the USS Porter fired 59 Tomahawk missiles from the Mediterranean Sea, which separates Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard said those waters, as well as other seas around Europe, have experienced a worrying spike in Russian naval activity in recent years. “We’re seeing activity that we didn’t even see when it was the Soviet Union,” Howard told Reuters in an interview late Saturday. This build-up has coincided with a rapid deterioration in Washington-Moscow relations following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and alleged backing of pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine.
McConnell “Open” To New Russia Sanctions
Jordain Carney, THE HILL
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Friday that he would be open to passing new sanctions against Russia if they get bipartisan support. “If [the administration] feel they need additional sanctions, or we can come up with something that seems to enjoy bipartisan support, I’d be open to it,” McConnell said when asked if he would support additional sanctions on Russia. McConnell added that he would “willing to talk” to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) about additional sanctions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued support for the Assad regime in Syria. “I think it’s certainly good that the administration’s not lifted any of the existing sanctions,” McConnell told reporters. “The Russians are not our friends. I think they’ve demonstrated that over and over and over again.” A bipartisan group of senators—including Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD)—introduced new sanctions against Russia earlier this year.
Venezuela’s Health Crisis Nearing Catastrophe, Government Pleads for Help
Alex Vasquez S., FOX NEWS
Several layers of dirt cover the floor. Pigeons fly about the rooms and across dim hallways where at least half of the lights are out. Sadly, the spooky scene is not from some movie but from one of Venezuela’s main hospitals, the Clinical University Hospital of Caracas (HUC). Crisis here runs so deep that in the first two weeks of March most surgeries had to be cancelled for lack of running water. Patients wait for months to get a procedure because the hospital and the entire country is increasingly out of basic medication and surgical supplies. Triple digit inflation and a decaying socialist economic model have left medications ranging from simple anti-inflammatory drugs to chemotherapy medication out of reach for most Venezuelans. Patients are asked to bring their own.