Friday, March 27, 2015

Second survivor in events surrounding July 22, 2012 activists' deaths confirms car was violently forced off the road

Spanish newspaper Diario YA ES published an article yesterday citing a 2013 interview in which Aron Modig reaffirmed not recollecting the events during the crash but did recognize that the SMS texts describing a second vehicle crashing into his was sent by him.

Jens Aron Modig spoke on July 22, 2012 events in Cuba
 In the Spanish newspaper DiarioYA.ES on March 26, 2015 in the article titled "Jens Aron Modig confirmed that the car was forced off the road violently" the following information was published referring to a March 14, 2013 radio interview:
The Swedish activist Jens Aron Modig who on July 22, 2012 was in the passenger seat in the car driven by the Spanish politician Angel Carromero and in which Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá  and Harold Cepero were killed has confirmed that the vehicle was forced off the road violently by another car when they had the accident. Although initially the Swedish activist claimed to have no recollection of the alleged involvement of another vehicle in the accident, thus denying the criminal nature of the event while Angel Carromero was detained in Cuba, and he obtained permission from the Cuban authorities to leave the island, recognized on National Radio of Sweden the existence of SMS (text messages) that he sent that recounts how a vehicle forced them off the road. This contradicts the version of the communist government about the crash being due to a speeding driver.
For Modig what happened "was a traumatic experience .. I could see up close how it works in a dictatorship like Cuba. I was imprisoned about a week, stripped of my belongings, I had no chance to make contact with my family or with Swedish diplomats in Cuba. All without being informed of what crime I was being accused (...). I could see the reality in which people live daily in Cuba," said the young Swede.
This account contradicts the version put forward by the Castro regime and corroborates the Spanish survivor Ángel Carromero. The SMS text messages mentioned above were copied and are a key element in understanding the events surrounding the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold on July 22, 2012.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Who represents the Castro regime in negotiations with the United States?

Negotiating with the devil?
Gustavo Machin accomplice of Aron Modig kidnapping after attack on Oswaldo Paya is Cuban counterpart of WHAAsstSecty

Today over twitter Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo revealed a worrying piece of information. The Cuban counterpart to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, who represents the United States in the negotiations with the Castro regime is Gustavo Machin. According to  Rosa he was an accomplice in the kidnapping of Aron Modig following the attack against Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas on July 22, 2012 and is linked to her father's death.

Gustavo Machin, and his sordid background, makes him an appropriate representative for the dictatorship, a reminder that this is a negotiation with the devil. The term is borrowed from a book by Robert Mnookin titled "Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight."

As a nonviolent activist "fighting" can also translate to nonviolent resistance. When dealing with highly repressive and diabolical regimes this type of approach has proven more effective than violence in achieving effective, positive and lasting change.

However, let me recommend that you read the following article available online in which he offers some past examples of when negotiation could work and when it was disastrous.

Online and real world campaign to free Cuban artist launched

Three months in jail and counting for his art.

 On March 28 at 3pm at La Paja Recold located on Ave 35 #4202 between 42 & 44 Apartment 5 in Havana, Cuba there will be a concert, expo, performance and "disrespect" all under the headline: "Freedom for Danilo." These members of civil society are testing the boundaries of what is permissible in Cuba. Increased international visibility may provide some protection.

Became aware of this event via a tweet sent by Yoani Sanchez on March 25, 2015 with the above poster.

The graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, remains imprisoned in Valle Grande prison. Today, March 26, marks three months that he has been imprisoned. Authorities rejected the habeas corpus appeal presented by independent attorney Laritza Diversent, of the NGO Cubalex .

For now, according to the independent lawyer, there is still no trial date set and she hopes that there will be a change of custody, because the events in which El Sexto is involved are a “misdemeanor.”
Also, Diversent said that she had sent information to international bodies so that they will speak out on the situation of the graffiti artist.

Fellow activists and supporters have been using the hashtag “#FreeElSexto” to promote solidarity and the immediate release of the independent Cuban artist. In addition, there is an online signature campaign underway calling for the freedom of Danilo Maldonado.

Marc Masferrer, of Uncommon Sense, broke the news on his blog that Cuban artists, including punk rocker Gorki Aguila and his band, Porno Para Ricardo, launched an online campaign on March 21, 2015 to demand that the Castro dictatorship release Danilo from jail.

As the group People In Need reported last month, El Sexto was "detained on December 26, 2014 on the Malecón esplanade in Havana as he was driving towards the Central Park to make a performance with two pigs whose bodies were painted with the names of Cuban leaders: 'Fidel' and 'Raúl.'

On March 6, 2015 the punk band Porno para Ricardo released a video calling for Danilo's release that now has over 6,032 views and the lyrics translated to English are available here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Castro's Narco-Terror network gets a free pass

"Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." ... "The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up."
- Fidel Castro, University of Tehran, May 10, 2001 quoted in the Agence France Presse

 On  March 24, 2015 the government of the United States "removed 45 Cuban companies, individuals and vessels from a sanction list of entities suspected of supporting terrorism or drug-trafficking," reported the Latin American Herald Tribune. Cuba is a totalitarian regime and all those companies, vessels and individuals are agents of the dictatorship. Not mentioned by EFE or the Associated Press but reported by Reuters was that the majority of the entities removed were:
"most of them dead people, defunct companies or sunken ships. Among them was Amado Padron, a Cuban executed by a firing squad 26 years ago along with Arnaldo Ochoa, a decorated army general who was sentenced to death by Cuba’s communist government after he was found to be connected to international drug trafficking. The U.S. Treasury Department said the delisting was aimed at clearing “out-of-date” names from its list of Specially Designated Nationals."
At the same time EFE reported, in seeming contradiction to what Reuters reported above that:
More than 30 of the 45 companies, individuals and vessels are currently based in Panama despite having originated in Cuba, while one ship, the Alegria de Pio, is registered in Spain and one company, Travel Services Inc., has its headquarters in the United States.
This action ignores a pattern that stretches back decades linking the Castro regime with terrorism, drug-trafficking and rogue behavior that continues to the present day. Furthermore, it appears that the sanctions list has not been kept up to date which leads to the question: have new entities been added to the list suspected of links to terrorism and drug trafficking?

Consider the following:

On March 2, 2015 the government of Colombia had seized a shipment of ammunition bound for Cuba on a China-flagged ship that was not properly documented. The BBC reported that "Officials said about 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board. The ship's records said it was carrying grain products." First with North Korea in 2013 and now again with China in 2015 the Castro regime has been linked to scandals involving arms smuggling. Blogging by Boz reached a reasonable conclusion: "Two big shipments of weapons seized in 20 months means that this is probably a regular occurrence."

On January 27, 2015 the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that the Castro regime, in collaboration with Venezuela, was providing protection for drug traffickers traveling between Venezuela and the United States. According to news accounts the son of the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, Germán Sánchez Otero, was using PDVSA planes to smuggle drugs with the United States as the final destination.

In 2012 there were reports in the media of Cuban, Iranian and Venezuelan officials meeting in Mexico to discuss cyber attacks on U.S. soil allegedly seeking information about nuclear power plants in the United States. Supposedly the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter, but there is no mention of this in subsequent U.S. State Department reports.
This pattern of conduct by the Castro regime stretches back more than 33 years, but following the Carter administration's loosening of sanctions between 1977 and 1980, and the opening of interests sections in Havana and Washington DC the behavior of the Castro regime did not improve. It appears to have perceived these actions as signs of weakness that led to more aggressive behavior in Latin America and Africa.

The U.S. State Department on March 1, 1982 declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism whose government was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democratic government. In 2001 at Georgetown University when I questioned General Barry McCaffrey, who at the time was advocating sharing intelligence on drug trafficking with the Castro regime, about this relationship between Cuba and Colombia's drug trafficking guerrillas he recognized it and expressed his concerns
During General Manuel Noriega's 1992 trial information emerged publicly implicating the Castro regime that Sun Sentinel reported at the time:
"Federal prosecutors say Noriega traveled to Havana to ask [Fidel] Castro to mediate a potentially deadly dispute with top members of Colombia`s Medellin cocaine cartel. They say the cartel chiefs were upset because a major drug lab had been seized in Panama despite payment of millions of dollars in protection money to Noriega. According to the Noriega indictment, Castro negotiated a peace accord between the cartel and Noriega at the 1984 meeting. The allegation forms a cornerstone of the racketeering and drug trafficking charges against Noriega."
At the same time convicted cartel leader Carlos Lehder directly implicated Raul Castro and U.S. fugitive Robert Vesco "to route cocaine flights through Cuba." Capitol Hill Cubans blogged how two years later, a federal indictment listed General Raul Castro as part of a conspiracy that smuggled seven and a half tons of cocaine into the United States over a 10-year period but the Clinton administration overruled prosecutors. One of the names taken off the list on March 24, 2015 was
Amado Padron, a Cuban intelligence agent executed by a firing squad 26 years ago along with Arnaldo Ochoa, a decorated army general who was sentenced to death by the Castro regime after he was found to be connected to international drug trafficking in an effort to limit the exposure of the Castro regime to prosecution.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have declared that this action is in line with President Obama's new policy on Cuba that was unveiled on December 17, 2014 when he commuted the sentences of three Cuban spies, one of which, Gerardo Hernandez, was serving a double life sentence. One of the life sentences was for conspiracy to murder, in which four humanitarians were extrajudicially executed in an act of state terrorism on February 24, 1996. During the trial in 2000 of five Cuban spies it was also revealed that in addition to storing weapons and explosives in locations on U.S. soil that they also planned to terrorize and murder via a mail bomb an individual that they had identified as a CIA agent living in the United States.

Hopefully, the Obama Administration will learn from a mistake of the George W. Bush administration in its North Korea foreign policy and not repeat it in Cuba. In October of 2008, the Bush Administration took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the hopes that it would “salvage a fragile nuclear deal” with the totalitarian regime.  Seven years after taking Kim Jong Un’s regime off the list of terror sponsors, North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, threatens to attack the United States with its new nukes, and has engaged in a cyber attack on a private company in the United States.

The negative lessons from the Bush administration’s cozying up to the North Korean tyrant and the Carter administration's cozying up to the Cuban one should give any reasonable person second thoughts about pursuing a similar path again with Cuba under the Castro regime.

"Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong–these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”- Winston Churchill, May 2, 1935

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims

"Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty." -Archbishop Oscar Romero

 IACHR Urges Countries in the Americas to Respect and Guarantee the Right to Truth

Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, March 24th, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the States of the Americas to respect and guarantee the right to the truth concerning grave human rights violations.

“The region’s democracies have inherited the responsibility of investigating human rights violations that occurred in times of dictatorships and authoritarian governments, and to punish those responsible,” said IACHR President Rose-Marie Antoine. “The path to truth and justice for these types of crimes of the past has been extremely long and difficult, but it is an outstanding obligation and a responsibility the States cannot avoid. It is impossible to build a democratic future without first shedding light on the grave violations of the past and achieving justice and reparation,” she added.

Investigations to identify and punish those responsible for the region’s serious human violations of the past have been seriously flawed. For example, some States continue to apply the military criminal justice system, and there are still amnesty laws in effect, known by different names, which ensure that these crimes remain unpunished. In many cases, there are major obstacles or it is even impossible to gain access to information about what transpired. In some countries, the concealment of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, acts of torture, and sexual violence, along with other serious human rights violations, was a deliberate State policy and even a tactic of war. There has been important and significant progress in many areas and across different countries. However, gaining access to the full record of what transpired continues to be a major challenge.

The right to truth has two dimensions. The first is that victims and their family members have the right to know the truth and the identity of those who played a role in the violations, which means that States must investigate the facts, prosecute and punish those responsible, and guarantee access to the information available in State facilities and files. Secondly, society as a whole has the right to know the truth about past events, as well as the motives and circumstances in which the crimes were committed, in order to prevent recurrence of such acts in the future.

Consequently, the right to the truth should be a priority on States’ agendas. This means carrying out reforms or adopting legislative, judicial, and practical measures that recognize the rights of victims and their family members to know the truth about what happened, as well as ensuring access to information available in State facilities and files concerning serious human rights violations.

“States should declassify all documents that could be of use in judicial investigations, and in the case of serious human rights violations in a transnational or regional context, States should cooperate in turning over official information to other States seeking to investigate, prosecute, and punish such violations,” the IACHR President said.

In November of last year, the IACHR published the report “The Right to Truth in the Americas,” which provides tools for States that seek to guarantee the right to truth. The report identifies positive contributions in close to ten countries made by victims, family members, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations to document, verify, and spread the truth about human rights violations.

Such efforts include establishing unofficial truth commissions, conducting investigations, preparing studies and reports, and implementing initiatives to bring pressure to bear for these violations to be recognized by society and the public.

“This report provides a useful guide for the States by compiling the case law of the inter-American system on what their obligations are with regard to justice and reparation for victims of grave human rights violations and society as a whole, in order to guarantee the right to the truth,” the IACHR President said.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.