Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cuban artist initiates hunger strike after 8 months jailed without a trial


"El Sexto" jailed for 8 months without trial and now on hunger strike

Cuban performance artist, Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto", has been arbitrarily detained since December 25, 2014 for attempting to carry out a performance art piece.  Two weeks ago he had been told that he would be released on August 24, 2015. The day came and went and on the eighth month of his detention without trial "El Sexto" initiated a hunger strike at Valle Grande prison in Havana.

He is not the only young artist imprisoned in Cuba. Others have been jailed for what can only be called an Orwellian thought crime.

The rapper Maikel Oksobo "El Dkano" was sentenced on January 28, 2015 to a year in prison for "pre-criminal social dangerousness" and is currently serving out this unjust sentence.

The human rights situation in Cuba continues to deteriorate and there is a correlation with the new Cuba policy that through its actions send a clear message to the dictatorship that trade not human rights is the new priority. 674 detentions were documented in the month of July 2015 alone. On August 21, 2015 two young activists, Jordys Manuel Dosil Fong (age 30) and Reinier Rodriguez Mendoza (age37) were subjected to a political show trial in Cuba and sentenced to prison for "pre-criminal social dangerousness." Jordys Manuel was sentenced to three years in prison and Renier was sentenced to two years in prison.

Other artists and musicians organized a concert last week demanding freedom for "El Sexto" with friends and family of the imprisoned artist. Below is a video clip.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What the New York Times omitted from its latest article on Cuba

Addressing distortions, inaccuracies and omissions in The New York Times reporting on Cuba
Day after meeting Secretary Kerry, Dr. Biscet questioned legality of new relations

The New York Times has a terrible track record in reporting on left wing totalitarian regimes in general and Cuba in particular. The latest example was to be found in the opinion piece on August 24, 2015 by pro-Castro New York Times journalist Ernesto Londoño.

Londoño quotes some of the dissidents who met with Secretary Kerry at an informal cocktail following the official event to which they were not invited.  He fails to mention the presence of Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, who is a former prisoner of conscience who has been the subject of an hour long documentary "Oscar's Cuba" and 2007 Medal of Freedom Recipient. U2's Bono also gave a shout out to Dr. Biscet during their 2011 tour. This is a high profile and internationally recognized pro-democracy activist but he supports U.S. sanctions on the Castro regime and over twitter the day after meeting Secretary Kerry called the normalization of relations a violation of law:
Diplomatic links between USA and Cuba violates Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton): Title II, Section 201(13-14); 202; 203; 204; ; 205 and 206.
Is this not newsworthy? Or the fact that on August 24, 2015 state security (G2) detained Oscar Elías Biscet and released him 20 km from his home in order to prevent him giving the presentation: Why is it that U.S. - Cuba relations violate the Libertad Act?

Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet
Even among those The New York Times reporter chooses to quote he fails to provide context. For example, he quotes Yoani Sanchez and 14 y Medio but fails to mention how she took him to task on December 6, 2014 for his editorials in The New York Times describing them as "really pitiful."  Miriam Celaya, raised a question in the same article that many Cubans who read his editorials asked themselves:
What is going on with these editorials? They are still giving prominence to a distorted, biased view, composed of half-truths and lies about what the Cuban reality is. They are still giving prominence to what a government says, and Cuba is not a government. Cuba's government today is a small group of old men, and when I say "old" it's because of their way of thinking, of individuals who have remained anchored in discourse rooted in a cold war and belligerence. The Cuban people are not represented in that government.
Both Yoani Sanchez and Miriam Celaya are Cuban dissidents who are advocates of lifting sanctions but even they have publicly questioned the work of Mr. Londoño because it does not reflect the reality in Cuba.

Finally, in the Cuban diaspora there are five Cuban American congressman and three Cuban American U.S. Senators currently in office and all of them support maintaining the embargo on Cuba and have been sharply critical of the Obama administration's Cuba policy.  

Why such sharp criticism? Because the policy has marginalized the democratic opposition while raising up narrow economic interests at the expense of the freedom of the Cuban people; it has led to a worsening human rights situation in Cuba; and the extrajudicial killings of prominent opposition leaders who were viewed as a threat by the regime because they could oversee a democratic transition. On the international front the Obama administration's policies will further endanger democracy in Latin America and U.S. national security

Inside of Cuba, a large number of opposition leaders support maintaining sanctions on the dictatorship. Unlike the anti-embargo lobby fair minded democrats recognize that there is a legitimate difference of opinion on this topic, but not on the underlying nature of the dictatorship and the need for real change. This is something that Mr. Londoño has not reflected in his reporting.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Countering Russian Propaganda on the 76th anniversary of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

 Why we must remember.

Nazi and Soviet soldiers greet one another in Poland (1939)

Sputnik News is trying to spin the story of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by re-focusing on its public portions which were ostensibly a non-aggression pact but leaving out the secret additional protocol which outlined how the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany would divide up the countries of Central and Eastern Europe between them. The invasion of Poland in September of 1939 led to the partition of the country into Nazi and Soviet spheres with the troops from both sides meeting up in the middle to fraternize as allies.
Secret Additional Protocol. (August 23, 1939 Non-aggression pact)

Article I.
 In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.

Article II.
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments. In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.

Article III.
With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinterestedness in these areas.
It is important to recall that between 1933 and 1939 American tourists who went to see the "real" Nazi Germany came back with stories of how wonderful the Third Reich was and the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin further legitimized the regime. 

The famous American aviator, Charles Lindbergh, visited Germany five times between 1936 and 1939. Lindbergh was taken on tours of airfields and factories, lavishly entertained by Air Marshal Hermann Göring, and awarded one of the Third Reich’s highest civilian honors. Lindbergh wrote to the banker Harry Davison, “With all the things we criticize, he [Hitler] is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe has done much for the German people."

Seventy six years later one finds that totalitarian propaganda is still effective in misrepresenting itself and the threat to others. The fact that Sputnik News is still peddling the Soviet propaganda cover story used back in the late 1930s is evidence of this and a reminder of the wisdom of George Santayana who observed:
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 
Therefore, August 23rd is designated a day of remembrance for victims of totalitarianism. 76 years ago Nazis and Communists came together on August 23, 1939 and signed a pact to divide Poland and plunged Europe into the Second World War. 


Friday, August 21, 2015

To Secretary Kerry, Venezuela is already a failed state thanks in part to the Castro regime in Cuba

American diplomat meets with head of  national assembly who allegedly moonlights as a drug dealer.

State Department's Thomas Shannon (far left) & Diosdado Cabello (far right)
Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview with journalist Andres Oppenheimer made it known that "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis." Despite the decision of Venezuela's leadership to adopt the Cuban model contributing to the failure of Venezuela the United States is reaching out to the Castro regime in the belief that it can make a positive contribution. According to Secretary Kerry if the current Maduro regime fails Venezuela will become a refuge for terrorists and drug traffickers

This approach ignores some inconvenient facts.

First the Castro regime has been involved in drug trafficking for decades in the service of its ideological mission to undermine the United States with drugs and use the profits to fund guerrilla and terrorist movements. Raul Castro faced a federal indictment for drug trafficking in the 1990s but the Clinton administration quashed it. Despite ample evidence of continued bad acts the Obama administration took Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Second Venezuela under both Chavez and Maduro has become a refuge for terrorists and drug traffickers with the aid of Cuban state security agents. A high profile example is Diosdado Cabello, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly and suspected by U.S. prosecutors of being in charge of the infamous drug-trafficking organization, "Cartel de los Soles". In spite of this Thomas Shannon, counselor to Secretary of State John Kerry met with Diosdado Cabello.

Taking the above into consideration leads to an unpleasant conclusion. Secretary John Kerry asking the Castro regime in Cuba to help in Venezuela today is like asking Jack the Ripper to help stop knife violence in London in 1888.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Why the Cuban Adjustment Act needs to be fully restored

 A closer look at the wet foot, dry foot policy
Cuban Patrol Boat near Guantanamo Naval Base
On December 16, 2014, the eve of the announcement of a new relationship between the United States and the Castro regime, Cuban Patrol Boat sank a boatload of 32 Cuban refugees and one of them Diosbel Díaz Bioto went missing and is assumed drowned the others were detained. 
Diosbel Díaz Bioto: Died December 16, 2014
Four months later Yuriniesky Martínez Reina was shot in the back and killed by state security chief Miguel Angel Río Seco Rodríguez in the Martí municipality of Matanzas, Cuba on April 9, 2015 for peacefully trying to leave Cuba. A group of young men were building a boat near Menéndez beach to flee the island, when they were spotted trying to leave and were shot at by state security.  If they had made it to dry land they would be free, but if caught at sea the U.S. coastguard then would have returned them to the Castro dictatorship. This is a violation of the spirit of the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966 law that granted refugee status to those fleeing Cuba from 1966 until 1994.
Yuriniesky Martínez Reina  killed April 9, 2015
At the same time many Cuban athletes continue to defect to the United States. This is something Mexican, Jamaican, or Dominican athletes do not have to do because they are free to enter and exit their own countries. Additionally their governments do not limit their right to live and work abroad. In the case of Mexico some Americans are upset because the Mexican government provides aid and assistance to Mexican migrants in the United States.  Cuba is the only country in this hemisphere, although Venezuela is trending in the same direction, in which the regime does not recognize the rights of Cuban nationals to enter and exit their own country. Cuba is different from the rest of the countries in the hemisphere.

Meanwhile there is also an additional security concern. Author and journalist Fabiola Santiago brought up the concerns of exiled opposition activist Yoan David Gonzalez in her August 12, 2015 column "Pro-Castro there, but now here?" on Cuban repressor Jenny Freire Rosabal who engaged in acts of repudiation in Cuba and rallied for Chavez in Venezuela who is now living here in Miami with her husband who is slandering democratic opposition activists from the island.

Unfortunately, these are not new problems but the result of the Clinton administration's immigration accord with the Castro regime in 1995 that violated the spirit of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act deporting Cuban refugees back to the Castro regime. Carl McGill, Professor of Criminal Justice at University of Phoenix in 2000 compared "Clinton's policy to return 'rafters' to Cuba" was "like returning a slave in pre-Civil War America back to his enslaver. This would have condoned civil rights violations and slavery, as returning a 'rafter' to Cuba condones human rights violations and communism." The Dred Scott Decision is a historical abomination as is President Clinton's wet foot, dry foot policy that circumvented the intent of the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that
"for over 30 years, fleeing Cubans had been welcomed to the United States; however, the U.S. government reversed this policy on August 19, 1994, when President Clinton announced that Cuban rafters interdicted at sea would no longer be brought to the United States." Wet foot, dry foot" was a massive set back for Cuban refugees.
At the same time the 1995 agreement called on the Castro regime to register Cubans for a lottery and up to 20,000 "immigrants" would be eligible to enter the United States annually. This is what has led to the South Florida being filled with regime repressors and who knows how many spies. Rosabel is not the first to be called out. 

In November 2012 The Miami Herald reported on former Cuban provincial prisons chief Crescencio Marino Rivero who abused prisoners and ordered guards to abuse others before he moved to Miami. 

Cresencio Marino Rivero, Cuban prison chief found in Miami
This is in spite of the August 4, 2011 Obama Administration ban on visas for people who the State Department finds have been involved in human rights violations. Cuban human rights violators continue to get a free pass to enter the United States and when identified by their victims, nothing happens. 

The 1995 Clinton - Castro Immigration Accord needs to be repealed and the lottery controlled by the dictatorship ended and the Cuban Adjustment Act restored to its original intent. Otherwise the legacy of the Obama years will not be tearing down the Cuban version of the Berlin Wall which are the Florida Straits but by ending the Cuban Adjustment act closing off the path to freedom for those fleeing the dictatorship and assisting the brutal agents of the Castro regime in the murder of refugees and enslavement of Cubans.