Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mother and son of 2015 machete attack victim receive death threat from Castro regime agent

"I am obliged to once again denounce the dictatorial regime of the Castros, this time as a mother and human rights defender." - Sirley Avila Leon, March 20, 2017

Sirley Avila Leon denounces death threats against her son and mom
Las Tunas, Cuba: Yoerlis Peña Ávila on March 15, 2017 received a death threat against him and his grandmother, Sirley Leon Aguilera, for being family (son and mother respectively) of Sirley Avila Leon, who was the victim of a May 24, 2015 machete attack carried out by a regime collaborator that left her permanently disabled. The threat is in response to her legal demand presented to recover 126,000 Cuban pesos ($4754) in damages resulting from the attack.

On March 15, 2017 he was able to send an e-mail to his mother that described what had happened that same day: "I was working and a man that I do not know told me that it was better that the legal demand not be continued because you did not know the risk in which you were exposing me and my grandmother that for you to suffer they could attack us."

Four days earlier on March 11, 2017  Sirley Avila Leon had contacted her son, and again on March 13th on both occasions they discussed the legal action being pursued, but then found it increasingly difficult to communicate. It appears that the Castro regime does not want this legal action to be pursued and is using intimidation to try to shut it down.

There is good reason to be concerned with this pattern of threats and harassment. Over a three year period (2012 - 2015) regime agents made a series of threats and took actions that culminated in the attempted murder of Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015. Another round of threats and harassment when she returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 following medical treatment in Miami  led to her decision to leave Cuba on October 28, 2016 and request asylum in the United States when death threats against her person escalated and her attacker, Osmany Carriòn, was free and bragging that he would finish the job he started.

Sirley Avila Leon is asking democratic representatives, human rights organizations, and members of international organizations and all people of goodwill to urge the Cuban government to investigate the threat made against her son and mother.

Background information
Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012 when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. The Castro regime removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a psychiatric facility.

Sirley joined the ranks of the democratic opposition and repression against her increased dramatically. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.

On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post.

Threats against Sirley's life intensified leading her to flee Cuba to the United States and request political asylum on October 28, 2016. Below is a video in Spanish explaining the circumstances that led her to leave Cuba.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Cuba should be removed from UN Human Rights Council until Castro frees Eduardo Cardet

"So long as the Castro government jails Eduardo Cardet, a prisoner of conscience, we call for the complete removal of Cuba from this Council." -  Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, addressing the UN Human Rights Council, March 20, 2017

Sentenced today to three years in prison
Eduardo Cardet Concepción, prisoner of conscience and Christian Liberation Movement national coordinator, was sentenced to three years in prison today. Meanwhile at the United Nations Human Rights Council his plight was referenced in an oral statement by Hillel Neuer of the nongovernmental organization UN Watch. Speaking out for the Cuban dissident drew an angry protest from the Castro regime's diplomats that interrupted the courageous speaker.

MCL leader Eduardo Cardet condemned to three years in prison
From the Christian Liberation Movement website:

Today Eduardo Cardet was informed of the sentence to three years in prison that was dictated by the court that tried him on March 3, 2017 in Gibara, Holguin. Eduardo Cardet told his wife, the sentence is based on manipulated data, without taking into account the testimony of defense witnesses. Cardet's family will appeal the ruling

Listen to Yaimaris Vecino's testimony in Spanish.

Eduardo Cardet has been jailed since November 30, 2016 for speaking critically of Fidel Castro following his death. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience on January 31, 2017.

Yaimaris Vecino, Eduardo Cardet and their two sons

Dictatorships at UNHRC try to silence UN Watch's Hillel Neuer

UN Human Rights Council, debate under Agenda Item 8, Vienna Declaration of Human Rights
delivered by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch

Today we ask: Is the world living up to the Vienna Declaration, which reaffirms basic human rights?
We ask the government of Turkish President Erdogan, if it cares about human rights, why did they just fire more than one hundred thousand teachers, university deans, judges, prosecutors, religious figures and public servants?

We ask Pakistan, when will they release Asia Bibi, the innocent, Christian mother of five, now on death row on the absurd charge of blasphemy?

We ask Saudi Arabia, when will you end gender apartheid? When will you stop oppressing all religious practice that is not Wahhabist Islam? When will you release Raif Badawi, serving 10 years in prison for the crime of advocating a free society?

We welcome the Secretary-General’s new pledge of UN reform. That is why today, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, we call for the complete removal of Saudi Arabia from this Council.

So long as 1.3 billion people are denied their basic freedoms, we call for the removal of China. So long as human rights are abused by Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, and UAE, we call for their removal.

So long as the Maduro government imprisons democracy leaders like Mayor Antonio Ledezma of Caracas, and causes its millions of citizens to scavenge for food, we call for the removal of Venezuela.

So long as the Castro government jails Eduardo Cardet, a prisoner of conscience, we call for the complete removal of Cuba from this Council.

Mr. President, we have the right to cite the suspension provision of this council’s own charter. They can silence human rights defenders at home, but they cannot do so at the United Nations.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cuba's 2003 Black Spring 14 years later

"They are in prison only for defending human rights, which in any country are recognized as fundamental..." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, March 16, 2007

Catholic nun lays flowers before photos of the prisoners of conscience of the Black Spring
 It began 14 years ago today, the massive roundup of dissidents by the Castro regime's secret police. Their crimes? Some had organized a petition drive, legally recognized within the existing constitution; others were independent journalists or human rights activists. Over a 100 were rounded up but 75 would be subjected to political show trials and sentenced to lengthy prison terms ranging up to 28 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized them all as prisoners of conscience. The Cuban dictatorship thought it had crushed the Cuban democratic opposition, but they were wrong.

In the midst of the crackdown emerged a new and formidable force: The Ladies in White. The mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the 74 men imprisoned organized into this movement that began to march through the streets of Cuba following mass on Sundays, organizing literary teas, and strategizing how to nonviolently free their loved ones. One woman was condemned to prison in the 2003 Black Spring and she was sentenced to 20 years.

Despite the slanders, death threats, beatings, and broken bones by 2011 all of the 75 political prisoners, who became known as the "group of the 75" where out of prison. Most were sent into exile but 12 who held out to the end remain in the island and today continue the struggle and the others now outside, who still live, press on for a democratic transition in Cuba.

Looking back fourteen years ago there is a documentary The Black Spring La Primavera Negra filmed in Cuba before and after the crackdown that captures that moment in time. Filmed by Czech - Chilean journalist Carlos Gonzalez.

List of prisoners of the Black Cuban Spring
Name of the prisoner of conscience, age at the time of his arrest, and prison sentence (Source: Amnesty, 2003)

1. Nelson Alberto Aguiar Ramírez, age 57, 13 year prison sentence 
2. Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés , age 38, 18 year prison sentence.  
3. Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, age 55, 25 year prison sentence 
4. Pedro Argüelles Morán, age 55, 20 year prison sentence 
5. Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, age 52, 26 year prison sentence
6. Mijail Barzaga Lugo, age 35, 15 year prison sentence

7. Oscar Elías Biscet González, age 41, 25 year prison sentence
8. Margarito Broche Espinosa, age 45, 25 year prison sentence
9. Marcelo Cano Rodríguez , age 38, 18 year prison sentence 
10. Juan Roberto de Miranda Hernández, age 57, 20 year prison sentence
11. Carmelo Agustín Díaz Fernández, age 65,16 year prison sentence
12. Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, age 51, 21 year prison sentence.
13. Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez, age 40, 20 year prison sentence
14. Alfredo Rodolfo Domínguez Batista, age 41, 14 year prison sentence
15. Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe, age 62, 20 year prison sentence.
16. Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, age 53 26 year prison sentence.
17. Efrén Fernández Fernández, age 54, 12 year prison sentence
18. Juan Adolfo Fernández Sainz, age 54, 15 year prison sentence
19. José Daniel Ferrer García, age 32,  25 year prison sentence. (prosecution requested the death penalty)
20. Luis Enrique Ferrer García, age 27, 28 prison sentence
21. Orlando Fundora Alvarez, age 47, 18 year prison sentence

22. Próspero Gaínza Agüero (age not given), 25 year prison sentence
23. Miguel Galván Gutierrez, age 38, 26 year prison sentence
24. Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, age 58, 15 year prison sentence
25. Edel José García Díaz, age 57, 15 year prison sentence.
26. José Luis García Paneque, age 38, 24 year prison sentence
27. Ricardo Severino Gonzales Alfonso, age 53, 20 year prison sentence

28. Diosdado González Marrero age 40,  20 year prison sentence
29. Léster González Pentón, age 26, 20 year prison sentence
30. Alejandro González Raga age 45, 14 year prison sentence
31. Jorge Luis González Tanquero, age 32, 20 year prison sentence
32. Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares age 27, 20 year prison sentence
33. Iván Hernández Carrillo age 32, 25 year prison sentence
34. Normando Hernández González, age 32,
25 year prison sentence
35. Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, age 36, 20 year prison sentence
36. Regis Iglesias Ramírez, age 33, 18 year prison sentence
37. José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, age 37,  16 year prison sentence
38. Reinaldo Miguel Labrada Peña, age 40, six year prison sentence
39. Librado Ricardo Linares García, age 42,
20 year prison sentence 
40. Marcelo Manuel López Bañobre, age 39, 15 year prison sentence
41. Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutierrez, age 60, 20 years prison sentence

42. José Miguel Martínez Hernández, age 39, 13 years prison sentence
43. Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández, age 38, 20 year prison sentence 

44. Luis Milán Fernández, age 33, 13 year prison sentence
45. Nelson Moliné Espino, age 38, 20 year prison sentence
46. Angel Juan Moya Acosta, age 38, 20 year prison sentence

47. Jesús Miguel Mustafa Felipe, age 58, 25 year prison sentence
48. Félix Navarro Rodríguez, age 49, 25 year prison sentence
49. Jorge Olivera Castillo, age 41, 18 year prison sentence
50. Pablo Pacheco Avila, age 31, 20 year prison sentence
51. Héctor Palacios Ruiz, age 61, 25 year prison sentence

52. Arturo Pérez de Alejo Rodríguez, age 52, 20 year prison sentence.
53. Omar Pernet Hernández, age 57, 25 year prison sentence

54. Horacio Julio Piña Borrego, age 36, 20 year prison sentence  

55. Fabio Prieto Llorente, age 40, 20 year prison sentence
56. Alfredo Manuel Pulido López, age 42, 14 year prison sentence
57. José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, [not available] 20 year prison sentence
58. Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique, age 60, 18 year prison sentence
59. Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez, age 46, 25 year prison sentence.
60. Raúl Rivero Castañeda, age 57, 20 year prison sentence
61. Alexis Rodríguez Fernández, age 33, 15 year prison sentence
62. Omar Rodríguez Saludes, age 37, 27 year prison sentence
63. Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, age 57,
20 year prison sentence

64. Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández, age 56, 18 year prison sentence
65. Claro Sánchez Altarriba, age 49, 15 year prison sentence
Ariel Sigler Amaya, age 39, 20 year prison sentence
67. Guido Sigler Amaya, age 46, 20 year prison sentence
68. Ricardo Silva Gual, age 30, 10 year prison sentence
69. Fidel Suárez Cruz, age 33, 20 year prison sentence.
70. Manuel Ubals González, age 34, 20 year prison sentence
71. Julio Antonio Valdés Guevara, age 52, 20 year prison sentence
72. Miguel Valdés Tamayo, age 46, 15 year prison sentence
73. Héctor Raúl Valle Hernández, age 35, 12 year prison sentence
74. Manuel Vázquez Portal, age 51, 18 year prison sentence
75. Antonio Augusto Villareal Acosta, age 52, 15 year prison sentence

Amnesty International in their 2003 report "Essential Measures" also expressed concern over the following additional arrests:

A number of additional dissidents were reportedly arrested during or around the time of the crackdown. The organisation is currently gathering information on their activities, the circumstances of their arrest and their current legal status, in order to determine if they too should be considered prisoners of conscience. They include Rafael Ernesto Avila Pérez, Javier García Pérez, Félix Jaime González Martínez, Rolando Jimenes Posada, Rafael Millet Leyva, Miguel Sigler Amaya, Pablo Solis Cubilla and Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Fourteen years later and the founder of the Ladies in White died under suspicious circumstances in 2011 and  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who many asked at the time why he was not jailed in 2003, was killed in what appears to have been a state security engineered "accident." In two days the individual who was elected to head the Christian Liberation Movement, Eduardo Cardet, who has been jailed since November 30, 2016 is expected to have his three year prison sentence confirmed by the Castro regime.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Totalitarianism in Cuba 2017 revealed: Documentary exposes how Castro regime targets dissidents' families

Why the Cuban government in 2017 is still a totalitarian dictatorship.

First showing of POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA Avatars of the Family
This morning Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina founding member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance and founder of the audio visual project Palenque Visión unveiled the documentary POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA Avatars of the Family PRISIONEROS POLITICOS EN CUBA Avatares de la Familia at the Bacardi House at the University of Miami co-hosted by the Center for a Free Cuba and the Institute for Cuban Cuban American Studies.  There was a brief introduction, followed by a showing of the 29 minute 16 second documentary and a discussion after the documentary between Rolando and the audience.

The importance of this documentary is that it reveals the Castro regime's apparatus of repression targeting friends, family and neighbors of dissidents with the aim of isolating all that dissent from the official line with escalating consequences that can end in prison or death. These consequences are not restricted to the individual dissident but target his or her entire social network. This documentary is an important work that exposes the existing totalitarian nature of the Castro regime in 2017.

Rolando has been detained by Cuban State Security over a 100 times over the past 31 years as an opposition activist and also spent a total of six years and two months in prison on three separate occasions. At the same time the documentary filmmaker explained how state security had opened a case file against his nine year old son and was already targeting him at school. Harassment and exclusion are a starting point in a sinister strategy that seeks to destroy socially, and some times physically, those who disagree with you.

The full documentary is now available online to all. Hopefully an English subtitled version will be available to reach a greater audience.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The legacy of the March 13, 1957 assault on Batista's presidential palace

"If you fight with violence, you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon and you may be a brave but dead hero."- Gene Sharp

Student leader José Antonio Echeverría (center)
  Sixty years ago today in the afternoon, a group of young men took up arms and charged into the presidential palace in Havana to assassinate the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and were all gunned down. Nearby at the same time in Radio Reloj not knowing that the assault had failed student leader José Antonio Echeverría declared the dictator dead only to be himself killed in a skirmish after leaving the radio station. It was described as the day that Cuba lost its future.

Six decades later both sides in the ongoing struggle declare José Antonio Echeverría as one of their own. However, his democratic credentials and history as an elected student leader and practicing catholic would place him at odds with the Castro dictatorship.

Jose Antonio's sister Lucy Echeverría  on August 27, 2014 spoke at a panel discussion, "The Urban Insurrection Against Batista: The Life and Times of Jose Antonio Echeverria" at Florida International University about her brother's leadership at the University of Havana: "My brother held the presidency of the Federation of University Students (FEU) four times elected by overwhelmingly majorities. There the troubles began with Castro. As he never became president, he always kept that inside." 

Not mentioned in the Castro regime's official press is how the Echeverria family rejected the Castro regime's totalitarian turn to dictatorship and ended up in exile by 1961. According to Lucy, objects found in the Birthplace Museum of  José Antonio Echeverría in Cárdenas do not belong to her brother. She also explained how a televised tribute by the dictatorship in Cuba, had imposters play the supposed parents of the martyred leader, while the real ones were already exiled in the United States.

Nevertheless, the legacy of the "13 de Marzo" action to overthrow Fulgencio Batista by violent means ended with the deaths of many good and brave Cuban democrats, José Antonio among them, opening the way for Fidel Castro and in hindsight can be seen to have been a disastrous idea.

Michael Nagler, a long time peace scholar, presents the theorem as follows: Nonviolence sometimes “works” and always works, while by contrast, Violence sometimes “works” and never works.  Nagler offers a more detailed explanation.

The exercise of violence always has a destructive effect on human relationships even when, as sometimes happens, it accomplishes some short-term goal. The exercise of nonviolence, or Satyagraha, always brings people closer. This explains why Gandhi, after fifty years of experimentation in every walk of life, could declare that he “knew of no single case in which it had failed.” Where it seemed to fail he concluded that he or the other satyagrahis had in some way failed to live up to its steep challenge.  Taking the long view, he was able to declare that “There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence. The end of violence is surest defeat.”
Unfortunately, the "13 de Marzo" also has another and related significance in Cuban history. Twenty three years ago this upcoming July 13, 1994 a tugboat named the  "13 de Marzo", in honor of that violent anniversary, carrying Cuban families seeking to flee the Castro dictatorship, that replaced Fulgencio Batista in 1959, was attacked by agents of the current dictatorship and 37 were killed among them 10 children.

Victims of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre