Thursday, March 22, 2018

Filmmakers go to Cuba to make a film about rum being traded for debt relief and discovered a lot more than they bargained for

This is much more than about rum.

A new documentary on Cuba with a unique perspective.
 Back in 2016 news broke that Cuba wanted to pay off $276 million dollars in Czech debt with rum. "This Film Used To Be About Rum" is an interesting attempted exploration of this agreement between the Czech Republic and the Castro regime to negotiate Cuba's debt with the Central European country through the shipment of rum. It was supposed to be a puff piece.The filmmakers interviewed Tomas Zdechovsky, a Czech representative of the European Parliament who makes a shocking revelation in the film.
"I don't think we've mentioned that the whole rum industry is based on child labor. When you come out to the countryside and take a look at who's working on the fields, you'll see ten, twelve-year-old children working there.  And then we go ahead and drink the rum wth no ethical dilemmas whatsoever. We just accept it as being part of a culture.But when you think about it, when you drink Cuban rum, you're helping the Cuban regime survive."
This short documentary is not a puff piece and it bumps into some uncomfortable truths. It is also interesting to see Fulton Armstrong, CIA and avid supporter of normalization with the Cuban dictatorship at the same time, trying to spin the Castro regime's sinister nature in the most positive light possible.

After viewing this documentary you may need a drink.
The film does a fair job of explaining the historical importance of Bacardi in Cuba's rum business and how they were forced out by the Castro dictatorship. The company still maintains its liberal tradition of defending human rights.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

15 years after the "Black Spring" of Cuba

Remembering the Black Cuban Spring and the future

2003 - 2018 Spring will return
Fifteen years ago on March 18, 2003 a crackdown began in Cuba on the eve of the United States going to war in Iraq. Scores of Cuban dissidents were rounded up and subjected to political show trials. 75 were condemned to lengthy prison terms of up to 28 years in prison. This became known as the Black Cuban Spring. The majority of the imprisoned activist had participated in the Varela Project, a petition drive that called for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses. 11,020 signatures had been turned 10 months earlier on May 10, 2002. The regime had responded with its own mandatory petition drive to make the Cuban Constitution unchangeable, and with this crackdown that included the firing execution of three young black men who had tried to hijack a vessel to Cuba. 

The Economist in its December 14, 2005 issue published a conversation with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas titled "An unsilenced voice for change" that outlined what had taken place:

Between 2001 and 2004, Mr Payá's movement gathered 25,000 signatures in a vain attempt to persuade Cuba's National Assembly to change the constitution to allow multi-party democracy. Activists of his Christian Liberation Movement made up more than two-thirds of the 75 dissidents and journalists rounded up and jailed for long terms in April 2003. [...] Spain is “complaisant” with Mr Castro's regime, Mr Payá says. “We need a campaign of support and solidarity with peaceful change in Cuba” of the kind that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa and to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
It took over eight years, but the last of the group of the 75 were eventually released. Oswaldo was murdered along with the Christian Liberation Movement's youth leader Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. His successor Eduardo Cardet is a prisoner of conscience, brutally beaten, and repeatedly stabbed while under the Castro regime's custody. Nevertheless the legacy of the Varela Project continues in the campaign One Cuban, One Vote.
One Cuban, One Vote proposes to members of the National Assembly that at the time of drafting a new electoral law, the right to choose of all Cubans inside and outside Cuba, the right to return to their own country and be elected all must be recognized and guaranteed. The right of Cubans to vote directly and without the Candidacy Commissions, which are the anti-constitutional instrument of the regime to prevent it.
 Today, one of the Cuban dissidents arrested, tried and sentenced to 18 years in prison, Regis Iglesias Ramírez, wrote a reflection, in Spanish, on the 15th anniversary of the crackdown. Below is the translation.

11,020 Varela Project signatures turned in on May 20, 2002
15 years after the "Black Spring" of Cuba 
by Regis Iglesias Ramírez
There is no need for a pretext, the mere fact of dissent and work so that in Cuba the people take back the reins of their own destiny is enough for the gangster regime of Havana to repress with all the violent forces of power those that challenge it even by exercising the rights that a draconian Constitution in force recognizes.
On May 10, 2002, the world learned that Cubans not only expressed their disapproval with more than half a century of totalitarianism by setting up rustic and fragile boats or taking refuge in embassies to try to escape from the suffocating lack of freedom and economic hardship. On that day, the Varela Project initiative of law was presented to the National Assembly with the support of 11,020 citizen signatures as established in article 88, paragraph g of the Cuban Constitution.
The collection and revision of that vote was made by a handful of leaders and activists of the opposition, also citizens who without belonging to any organization joined and in the midst of persecution, without material resources, with betrayals, manipulations, repression, and violence crossed the whole country to find the Cubans who were tired of their own fatigue and wanted to tell the regime "we have the right to rights."
The Project had been announced to the public in January 1998, then, in 2000, more than 140 opposition and human rights groups, under the unifying initiative All United Todos Unidos, promoted, led by Oswaldo Payá, an appeal to the population to join the initiative. In 2001, when it was already evident that some from All United dedicated themselves to giving us false signatures, discouraging the liberating attempt and deceiving about the objectives and mobilizing methodology of the Varela Project, the Citizens' Committee were founded that saved and achieved the objective of collecting the signatures but also that of extending to every corner of the country the civic action and began to be the minimum social base capable of being the reference in the fight against totalitarianism.
This was what really triggered the alarms of the dictatorship, many Cubans inside the island began to organize themselves in a civic way to demand their rights. When the first 11,020 citizen signatures validating the bill demanding the referendum were presented to the National Assembly on May 10, 2002, the Spring of Cuba began.
Therefore, on March 18, 2003, the regime unleashed a repressive escalation that lasted several days and more than forty national managers of the referendum lawsuit, seventy-five opponents in all, were kidnapped and sentenced in summary trials to long prison sentences.
The 15th anniversary of those events that were known as "The Black Spring" has been celebrated, but the repressive vortex against those in Cuba or exile remains coherently committed to returning popular sovereignty to the Cubans.

In 2010 most of the managers of the Varela Project in prison were exiled to Spain, after the regime left to die in prison after a prolonged hunger strike in which potable water was removed during a critical time, to Orlando Zapata Tamayo. A few months later, the regime was in negotiated with Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the Spanish Socialist government of José Luis Zapatero for the exile of most of the prisoners of that Black Spring.
Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, the latter a young man who had been expelled from the University for collecting signatures backing Varela in 2003 and joined the Christian Liberation Movement, were murdered in 2012 while traveling to the east of the island to meet with activists and leaders of the Citizens Committee. Laura Pollán, leader of the Ladies in White, the group of mothers, wives, daughters and relatives of the opponents imprisoned in 2003, which was founded to demand the freedom of their own, had died due to medical complications still not fully clarified. We, the Referendum Managers on the Varela Project, banished, do not have the right to return to our own country.
The regime managed to get the democracies of the old continent to lift the Common European Position, which was an instrument in solidarity with the rights of the Cuban people. It restored its relations with the United States. But it continues to imprison opponents such as the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Dr. Eduardo Cardet. They also tried to murder him a few months ago in the prison where they keep him kidnapped. The regime maintains the segregation, the oppression, the Black Spring has not ended, the rights demanded in the Varela Project have not yet been recognized and guaranteed.
But no one can prevent spring from coming, that the Cuban people will be reborn after more than half a century of darkness and oppression. The spring that made possible 11,020 citizens who have been joined over these years with tens of thousands more in the demand for freedom

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Update on Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet: health worsening, not being provided religious assistance

One year and three months unjustly imprisoned, Eduardo Cardet, finds his health worsening and not being provided religious assistance following a brutal attack on December 19, 2017.

Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet Concepción
 Yesterday the Christian Liberation Movement, a democratic opposition movement based in Cuba, posted in an update on the condition of their imprisoned national coordinator Dr. Eduardo Cardet. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who has been subjected to brutal beatings and attacks by regime officials and prison inmates (most likely on orders of prison officials). Dr. Cardet, who is also a medical doctor, husband, and father of two faces a worsening health situation, according to his wife, Dr. Yaimaris Vecino who visited him on March 16, 2018, with a poor prognosis and due to bureaucratic hurdles from both the Catholic Church and the Castro regime is not receiving religious attendance. 

"Eduardo was severely beaten in prison while being held with his hands tied."

Update 03/16 The state of health of #EduardoCardet worsens. His wife, Dr. Yaimaris Vecino (who visited him today) reports that his asthma is worsening as well as another illness that does not have a good prognosis.

On the other hand, Eduardo only receives evasions from the authorities when he tries to find out the status of his prison situation. [He is being housed with the same prisoners who brutally beat him and repeatedly stabbed him with a sharp object on December 19, 2017.]

Update 03/14 Eduardo Cardet with intense asthma attacks.

Update 03/07 Eduardo Cardet with health problems due to worsening of his asthma

On March 8, 2018 Cubanet reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had issued precautionary measures for Eduardo Cardet and on February 12, 2018 requested information from the State on what had happened with a span of five days of not receiving any response to date."
Due to the events, the IACHR has requested that the Cuban Government "adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of Mr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción" and that he "have adequate medical access, according to his needs," according to the memorandum that has been sent to the Cuban authorities.

The text also requests that the Cuban government "arrange the measures to be implemented with the beneficiary (Cardet) and his representatives", as well as "report on the actions taken in order to investigate the alleged facts that led to the adoption of this resolution and thus avoid its repetition."

The Commission "requests the Government of Cuba to report, within a period of 15 days, counted as of the date of this resolution, on the adoption of the required precautionary measures and update said information periodically."
On another front the Christian Liberation Movement reported on March 6, 2018 of the bureaucratic hurdles encountered by Eduardo Cardet to receive religious assistance.
Religious assistance in prison to Eduardo Cardet, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, pending bureaucratic procedures  

Religious assistance to Eduardo Cardet in prison, pending bureaucratic procedures of the Church and later, whatever the regime decides.

The family of Eduardo Cardet is still waiting to receive the form of Penitentiary Pastoral to take it to the jail where Eduardo Cardet is unjustly held, that he must fill out and deliver it to the "re-educator." 

Once this procedure is completed, the authorization for a priest to visit Eduardo would depend on what state security decides, because even though Cardet is convicted of a common crime, his case is "attended" directly by the officer of state security who detained him and beat him up. Eduardo has been in prison for a year and three months We hope that, God willing, the first phase of this religious-bureaucratic process will be streamlined as much as possible.

As for the regime, as one would expect, we continue demanding his immediate release.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were murdered on July 22, 2012 and Rosa María Payá is in Havana seeking justice for them

"...[W]hile others remain silent we will not be silenced, and we will not stop seeking the truth even if it means remaining alone." - Rosa María Payá, August 1, 2012 

Every time Rosa María Payá returns to Cuba I find it difficult to sleep and worry about her safety, and admire her courage. Yesterday she was told to report to the Ministry of Justice to receive a response to the appeal she introduced last November concerning the murder of her dad Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. In the tweet below Rosa stated, "Judith, Director of Criminal Matters @ the Ministry of Justice (she refused to give me her last name), cited me today to return tomorrow to MinJus to receive a response to the claim I filed last November, about the murder of my dad Oswaldo Payá in Cuba on 7/22/2012."

In a second tweet yesterday, the daughter of the martyred Cuban opposition leader reported, "I have an appointment tomorrow, Thursday 10:00am, with Dr. Jorge Bodes of Criminal Matters, Cuban Ministry of Justice to respond to my claim for review of the sentence, for the farce of a trial carried out for murder of my dad Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. Be attentive please."

This morning she went to the Ministry of Justice and described the scene that she observed upon arrival. "Great presence of agents of the political police while I now enter the Ministry of Justice to receive a response for the review of sentence in the case of the murder of my dad Oswaldo Payá in Cuba, on Sunday, July 22, 2012 in a state attack."

She exited the Ministry of Justice and delivered the difficult but not surprising news that the "Department of Criminal Matters of the Ministry of Justice becomes an accomplice of my father's assassins refusing to review the sentence to analyze the forensic evidence of the car of the accused that was not presented at trial," and ended with the hashtag #EnoughOfImpunity.

She explained over another tweet how, "Jorge Bodes, Head of the Department of Criminal Matters of the Ministry of Justice, denies that its necessary to review expert evidence because he didn't see in photos that the car "was impacted by another vehicle." She posts it with a photo of the car that shows it was hit from behind by another vehicle. She concludes that " [Bodes] becomes an accomplice who hides evidence."

The Payá family has refused to be silent and continues in their efforts for justice for Oswaldo. They have remained true to their commitment made on August 1, 2012 when Rosa María Payá Acevedo read a statement that sadly remains relevant today.
My father faced the power of a state, a totalitarian state with 53 years experience. And that state is dropping all its force against a family, my family for many years now. Once more I fear for the lives of my brothers, my mother and my whole family. I reiterate that I hold the government responsible for the physical integrity of the members of my family.

We have the support of many within and outside Cuba, we thank you deeply. On the other hand, we know that these events have become a matter of state and we know that sometimes between states there are pacts and silence, but while others remain silent we will not be silenced, and we will not stop seeking the truth even if it means remaining alone.
Six long years will have passed this upcoming July 22, 2018 and the silent complicity of many of the governments in the world is deafening, and further proof of the international decline in human rights standards, but the steadfast effort by friends and family of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante continue to demand justice for their loved ones murdered on July 22, 2012.

Last year Rosa and a network of Latin American youth organized the first edition of the Oswaldo Payá Prize and held the award ceremony in Havana, but the Castro regime engaged in a crackdown and refused entry to Latin American world leaders.

This year the cycle of repression was repeated with new Latin American leaders denied entry to participate in the Oswaldo Payá Prize. Last year Rosa María Payá placed a plaque on the wall of her home in remembrance of her dad. It was quickly torn down by regime agents. This year she placed the plaque behind iron bars on the window of her home.

It is also important to recall that Dr. Eduardo Cardet, the man who was elected to succeed Oswaldo Payá as the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement has been falsely imprisoned since November 30, 2016 and will serve out a three year sentence as a prisoner of conscience. However he has been brutally assaulted by state security and by inmates, most likely also on the orders of prison officials.

People of good conscience must accompany the Payá, the Cepero, and Cardet families in their struggle for justice and freedom.  We must show them our solidarity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fidelandia Documentary Film screening at Broward College: Wednesday March 21 at 7:00pm

Documentary of the Castro regime from a progressive and critical perspective.

Flier for the March 21, 2018 event
The web site for the documentary Fidelandia asks the question "What did the Revolution conceal from you?" I have not seen it, but was contacted by one of the Broward College organizers of the screening, and agreed to share it with others. This is part of a Musical Film Literature Arts Festival, called the "Crossing Borders 2018 Festival." Below is a synopsis of the film.
When Cuba’s former dictator “ Fulgencio Batista” was overthrown from power by Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries in the late 1950’s.  The people of Cuba were promised a better Cuba.  They were promised the opportunity to rise to a higher standard of living, but according to many struggling to survive within the population, Fidel Castro failed to deliver his promise, delivering instead a growing stagnation of an aging economy
Fidelandia takes a look at the country’s current culture post Fidel’s fifty-year reign.  The film explores how the youth deals with the influence of Western culture impacting the country by way of tourism, and the use of illegal Internet and television.
 This promises to be an interesting film seen through the fresh eyes of a young filmmaker. The totalitarian nature of the Castro regime has so warped Cuba that the film renames the island "Fidelandia." Pragda has the following biography of the filmmaker.
Isaias Castañeda is an American filmmaker, born in Chicago, IL. In 2005, Castañeda directed and produced the controversial documentary film Season of Death: Chasing The American Dream. The filmmaker follows several migrants on their journey towards the U.S., capturing the harsh reality of some who attempt to cross into the United States of America illegally. After the completion of Season of Death, he attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Film and Television Production. He is currently in pre-production of Playing Gods, Finding John Doe, and Santan’s Nightmare.
Check out the trailer for the film. Hope to see you at the Performing Cultural Arts Theater at Broward College, 7200 Pines Blvd Pembroke Pines, FL 33024, Wednesday March 21 at 7:00pm. The film will be screened followed by a Question and Answer session with the director. Admission is free.