Sunday, March 17, 2019

Political Prisoners in Nicaragua: the revolving door

Cuban style regime tactics in Nicaragua

Nicaraguan youth protesting for release of political prisoners
 On March 15, 2019 the Ortega regime said that it had "freed" 50 opposition leaders from prison and placed them under house arrest. The failure to release all political prisoners in Nicaragua had led to the dialogue between the government and the opposition becoming stalled.

Peaceful opposition march for the release of political prisoners was violently broken up by the government on Saturday.

Peaceful protester being taken away by security forces.
Euronews reported today that more than fifty anti-government protesters were arrested on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The protesters were demanding the release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua.
However Ryota Jonen of the World Movement for Democracy reported over twitter last night that the number was more than 80.

Euronews also reported that "[s]ince November, police have enforced a ban on streets protests that first erupted in April 2018 when the government of President Daniel Ortega moved to reduce welfare benefits. They've since escalated into a broader opposition movement."

Fifty released from prison to house arrest while another eighty or more are jailed for demanding the release of what was estimated to be 288 political prisoners in Nicaragua.

This is not progress on human rights in Nicaragua, but a revolving door with an increasing number of political prisoners.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

SOS Venezuela Worldwide Protest: Report from the streets of Washington, DC

In solidarity with free Venezuelans.

Free Venezuelans gather in front of the White House on Saturday, March 16, 2019
This morning in Washington, DC joined with Free Venezuelans in a protest next to the White House in support of Juan Guaidó, the interim president of Venezuela, and to explain the current situation in the country. Speakers called for three steps to normalization: 1) end Maduro's usurpation of the country, 2) a transition government, and 3) free and fair elections.

Free Venezuelans and their allies face off with pro-Maduro protest.
I carried a poster with the images Geraldine Moreno and Génesis Carmona, two Venezuelan martyrs killed in February 2014. They were murdered by Maduro's security forces, trained by Castro's intelligence services.

Génesis Carmona, a local beauty queen, was just 22 years old and nonviolently expressing her desire for a better Venezuela when she was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 and died a day later.

Geraldine Moreno was shot in the head with buckshot on February 19, 2014 in Tazajal, located in Naguanagua, in the state of Carabobo while taking part in a protest and in one of her last tweets on February 17th explained what motivated her to take part in the demonstrations: "No one sends me I go because I want to defend my Venezuela." She died from her injuries on Saturday, February 22, 2014. She was 23 years old.

Sadly, there have been many other young Venezuelans murdered at the hands of Maduro's security services and it is still happening.

We also peacefully faced off with supporters of the Maduro dictatorship, who had been organized by the Answer Coalition, that included violent communist revolutionaries.

During the pro-Maduro demonstration U.S.Hands Off Venezuela, a Chavista from the Answer Coalition attacked a Venezuelan who was filming in the area.  Some Venezuelan activists were surprised by the violence. They shoudn't have been. One of the organizing groups of the pro-Maduro protest is the Workers World Party (WWP), a revolutionary Marxist–Leninist political party that by definition believes in violent proletarian revolution.

Despite repeated provocations we maintained our non-violent discipline, and carried out the objectives of the protest.

We protested for a free Venezuela, supported President Juan Guaidó, called for Cuba Hands Off Venezuela, for humanitarian aide to be allowed in, and for Maduro and his criminal lackeys to be out of power.

Free Venezuelans face off with Pro-Maduro protersters

Venezuelan protesters made it clear that the goal of the democratic opposition is the completion of a democratic transition with free and fair elections that restores the rule of law and freedom for Venezuelan citizens.This means that millions of Venezuelan exiles will be able to return home, and all political prisoners will be freed.

Venezuelan activists also called on those who wanted to know more about what is transpiring in Venezuela to ask a Venezuelan.

Organizers also explained that the humanitarian crisis in the country remains grave, and the refusal of the Maduro regime to allow humanitarian assistance into Venezuela is aggravating already existing famine conditions in the Venezuelan populace.

Another important theme repeatedly heard throughout the day was "Cuba Hands Off Venezuela!"

This SOS Venezuela protest in Washington DC was but one of many that took place around the world today in more than 200 cities and in Venezuela itself with hundreds of thousands participating.

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Reflection on Terrorism and Evil: Mosques attacked by terrorist in New Zealand

"Evil is an anti-life force and if we start going out to kill it, exterminate it we then become contaminated by it because we become killers." - M. Scott Peck , The Open Mind, PBS 1983

Christchurch shootings: 49 are dead, 39 injured
Places of worship have been targeted by terrorists in recent years: a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; churches in Alexandria, Egypt and  Charleston, South Carolina, and today mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. People gunned down while engaged in prayer.

Terrorism is the "calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)."

What took place in New Zealand was an act of terrorism carried out by Brenton Tarrant, a self described terrorist. He was inspired by the evil done by other mass murderers, and embraced an ideology that viewed the other as evil. This was also the case with those who targeted other places of worship mentioned earlier.

These were evil acts and worthy of both condemnation and deeper reflection.

Christian apologist C.S. Lewis in his 1952 book Mere Christianity made the following observation: “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. ...“For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” One could add that it would also apply to those who have replaced a religious life with a secular/ideological substitute.

American psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck, who wrote People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil, interviewed in this 1983 video about the book on PBS in the program The Open Mind observed that: "Evil is an anti-life force and if we start going out to kill it, exterminate it we then become contaminated by it because we become killers."

According to Peck, an evil person:
  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets, scapegoating others while appearing normal with everyone else ("their insensitivity toward him was selective") [10]
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
  • Abuses political (emotional) power ("the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion") [11]
  • Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury
Evil people exist, but the question is how to combat them without becoming an evil person in the process? All too often those consumed by the evil done by other terrorists and mass-murderers can be led to commit such acts themselves and as M. Scott Peck would say cross the line and slide into evil.

There is a way to fight evil and that is to be able to spot it in yourself and struggle against it to be a better person and externally use nonviolence to combat it. Mohandas Gandhi issued a challenge when he said that "Nonviolence does not signify that man must not fight against the enemy, and by enemy is meant the evil which men do, not the human beings themselves." 

The aim is not to destroy the evil doer, but stop them from doing evil, while seeking where possible not to do them harm by recognizing their humanity. I say this today about Brenton Tarrant as I did about  Omar Saddiqui Mateen in 2016. 

Requiescat in pace to those murdered today in the Mosque attacks.

إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Truth Matters: Meet the Castro regime's architect who built the totalitarian cage to house Venezuela

"Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela." - U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, March 11, 2019

Cuban Comandant Ramiro Valdes and President Hugo Chavez
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo  on March 11, 2019 addressed the role played by agents of the Castro regime in Venezuela:
"Yet it’s Cuba that’s trained Venezuelans’ secret police and torture tactics, domestic spying techniques, and mechanisms of repression the Cuban authorities have wielded against their own people for decades. Members of the Cuban military and intelligence services are deeply entrenched in the Venezuelan state. Cuban security forces have displaced Venezuelan security forces in a clear violation of Venezuelan sovereignty. I even hear that Maduro has no Venezuelans around him. Many of his personal security and closest advisors are acting not at the direction of the Venezuelan people, and frankly, perhaps not even at the direction of Maduro, but rather at the direction of the Cuban regime. They provide physical protection and other critical material and political support to Maduro and to those around him. So when there’s no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering. When there’s no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba. When there’s no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords"
This led to official denials and complaints by officials of the Castro regime. Bruno Rodríguez, the Castro regime's Foreign Minister rejected and denounced Secretary Pompeo's assessment of the role played by the Castro regime in Venezuela over twitter.
 "Cuba categorically rejects lies by US government that Cuba has "between 20 and 25 thousand troops in Venezuela" and any insinuation that there is some level of political subordination." ... "Cuba doesn't interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs just as Veneszuela doesn't interfere in Cuba’s. It is absolutely not true that Cuba is engaged in FANB (the Venezuelan armed forces) or Venezuela Security Services operations. These are slanderous rumors disseminated by US government with aggressive political purposes."
On March 8, 2010 in Geneva, Switzerland giving the opening address at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy discussed the deteriorating human rights situation around the world and focused on what was then happening in Venezuela.

"In Venezuela, the government response to those Venezuelan citizens protesting against the Chavez regime shutting down independent media outlets is to denounce those using twitter and text message as terrorists; police firing tear gas at students and a call for government supporters to prepare for battle.

In the midst of all this President Hugo Chavez continues to demonize the opposition and welcomes into his ranks a high ranking Cuban official: Commander Ramiro Valdes, "a historic leader of the revolution" to address the energy crisis in Venezuela currently suffering power outages.

Valdes is the Vice President of the Council of State and Minister of Communications in the Cuban government. He doesn’t know much about electricity but knows how to set up the repressive apparatus of a totalitarian police state which is what he did in Cuba.

Ironically, the man Hugo Chavez does not want to visit Venezuela with much experience in electricity is Lech Walesa who he has barred from entering the country.

In addition to being an electrician Lech Walesa knows a thing or two about defending human rights and democracy. A skills set that Mr. Chavez views as a threat.

At the same time a Spanish court offers an insight into terrorism in Venezuela but twitter/text messages sent by students are not the object of the inquiry but Mr. Chavez’s ties with terrorist groups ETA and the Colombian FARC and apparent plans to assassinate the Colombian head of state."
Nine years later and the Geneva Summit for Human Rights is still gathering annually, Hugo Chavez is dead, replaced by Nicolas Maduro and the Castro regime continues to dominate Venezuela.  This leads to an obvious question.
Nicolas Maduro and electricity expert Ramiro Valdes
Who is Ramiro Valdes and what was he really doing in Venezuela?

Commander Ramiro Valdes is "a historic leader of the revolution." He is the founder of the Castro regime's feared Ministry of the Interior and was the head of the organization between 1961 and 1968. Ramiro Valdes is an architect of Cuban totalitarianism's repressive apparatus of control.

He went to Venezuela in 2010 supposedly to address the then already existing electricity crisis . In February of 2010  Ramiro Valdes, then age 77, was hired "as a consultant for that country's energy crisis" but his expertise is not in energy. He is viewed by some Cuba experts as "the No. 3 man in the Cuban hierarchy."

Valdes in 2010 was the Vice President of the Council of State and Minister of Communications in the Cuban government. His role in Communications was figuring out in 2007 a way to muzzle the internet, what he called a "wild colt of new technologies." Afro-Cuban scholar Carlos Moore offered the following observation on Commander Valdes in 1961 and in 2010:
Ramiro Valdes was an inflexible, totalitarian and brutal person. He was the most feared man in Cuba. The repressive policies of the regime were crafted by him. Valdes struck fear into the hearts of Cubans (even revolutionary ones). Today, he apparently continues to be the same dogmatic, sectarian and brutal person he was at the height of his power, but he is no longer the powerful figure that he used to be.
In 2013, Juan Juan Almeida, the son of another commander of the revolution, listed some of his nick names:  "The Master of Censorship; The Prince of Terror; The Cuban Dzerzhinsky; … and in his native district he is known as the Butcher of Artemis."

Despite the claims made by the Castro regime's Foreign Minister, the communist regime beginning in 1959 spent years trying to violently overthrow Venezuela's social democracy, and finally succeeded with Hugo Chavez.

Fidel Castro greets Hugo Chavez in Cuba on December 13, 1994
In 1992 Hugo Chavez was involved in a failed coup against the Andres Perez government. Pardoned by Andres Perez's successor, Rafael Caldera, in March 1994 Hugo Chavez made his way to Cuba later that same year where he was received by Fidel Castro as a hero not a failed coup plotter.

Four years later, in a reaction to generalized disgust with the corruption endemic to the Venezuelan democratic order epitomized by the Carlos Andres Perez administration the former coup plotter was elected president.

President Caldera, who had pardoned Chavez, handed power over to him in 1999. Together with Fidel Castro, as a mentor, Chavez began the process of turning a flawed democratic order into the totalitarian regime it is today.

In 2007 Chávez had declared that Cuba and Venezuela were a single nation. “Deep down,” he said, “we are one single government.”  

Ramiro Valdes was busy at work in Venezuela by 2010 to address the "electricity crisis". The crisis in Energy did not improve but the descent of Venezuela into totalitarianism did accelerate.

When Hugo Chavez died in 2013 the succession was planned in Havana.

Official channels announced that Hugo Chavez died on March 5, 2013 and that he would be succeeded by Nicolas Maduro, a hardcore communist, an individual who spent a lot of time in his early 20s in Cuba being trained by the Union of Young Communists and Pedro Miret, an official close to Fidel Castro.  

Nicolas Maduro and Raul Castro
In addition to domestic repressive forces there is a foreign presence heavily embedded in the Venezuelan military and intelligence services. The head of the opposition National Assembly of Venezuela on May 15, 2016 complained, over social media, of the presence of 60 Cuban officers. This included a Cuban general, who he identified by the last name Gregorich, who had a leadership role that included issuing orders to Venezuelan troops. Capitol Hill Cubans identified the Cuban General as Raul Acosta Gregorich. 

On July 19, 2017 the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro testified before US lawmakers that “[t]here are currently about 15,000 Cubans in Venezuela ... It’s like an occupation army from Cuba in Venezuela.” 

This is Cubazuela, a term that has been used by mainstream press publications such as The Wall Street Journal. The consequences for the people of Venezuela are now well known. Violence has escalated during the Chavez-Maduro era to levels never seen before. There is widespread hunger now in Venezuela. Civil liberties and the rule of law are rapidly disappearing, replaced by the Cuban model. 

(Left) Tons of aid blocked from Venezuelans. (Right) Tons of aid sent by Maduro to Cuba

Meanwhile, Maduro continues to ship oil and humanitarian assistance to Cuba while Venezuelans are in the midst of a famine.  On  February 4, 2018 Maduro shipped 100 tons of aid to Cuba while Venezuelan children are dying of hunger and on February 6, 2018 Maduro, once again, ordered humanitarian shipments of aid to be blocked from entering Venezuela.

Finally, the country has been plunged into darkness in a five day black out due to a collapsing power grid. Commandant Valdes's stay in Venezuela did not solve the energy crisis, but the police state is rounding up journalists to blame for the black out, there are at least 288 political prisoners, many Venezuelan protesters killed and Venezuelans are living in fear.

This is the Venezuelan regime that Ramiro Valdes helped to build and it looks remarkably similar to the dystopian regime he helped to create in Cuba.

Down with Cuban imperialism in Venezuela. Cubans go home!  


Monday, March 11, 2019

Truth Matters: When Fidel Castro asked and got the United States to place an embargo on Fulgencio Batista

Castro's July 26th movement successfully lobbied the U.S. to place arms embargo on Batista regime.

Fidel Castro in 1958 interrogating a "bandit."
Castro regime officials and agents have been active on social media on the 60th anniversary of the dictatorship and observing historical dates. Yesterday, March 10th was the anniversary of the coup led by Fulgencio Batista that ended Cuban democracy in 1952.

However, although they claim truth matters, important facts of have been left out or falsehoods repeated. Nevertheless, because the truth does matter and we too have memory, a few facts will be set straight.

First, the United States did not back the coup against Carlos Prio in 1952, and diplomatic communications following Batista's take over indicate this. In a Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Cuba (Beaulac) with Dr. Miguel Angel de la Campa, Minister of State datelined Habana, March 22, 1952 and marked secret The American Ambassador indicated that according to Dr. Campa:
 “ Cuba intended to restore normal relations with countries toward which the former Cuban Government had had an attitude of hostility. He mentioned Spain and the Dominican Republic in particular. He said he thought the United States should recognize promptly; that it was in our interest that the situation should develop in an orderly way. I reminded Dr. Campa that our Government had not been consulted about the coup d'etat and that Cuba could not expect automatic recognition from us.” 
State Department had concerns about Batista's previous flirtations with communists in the 1940s, but recognized that he had control of the country following the coup, and that delaying recognition any further would damage relations with Cuba. The coup had taken place on March 10th and recognition was granted by President Truman, seventeen days later, on March 27, 1952. (By comparison Fidel Castro's revolutionary regime was recognized six days after Batista fled on January 7, 1959).

Secondly, the United States did back Fidel Castro and undermined the rule of Fulgencio Batista.
In January of 1958 the United States was pressuring Batista to restore Constitutional guarantees in exchange for the sale of arms.

On March 14, 1958 the State Department in a telegram to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba  requested that the export license for 1,950 M-1 rifles for the Cuban Army awaiting shipment be suspended. This was done because State felt that the Cuban government had failed to "create conditions for fair elections."

On March 17, 1958 Fidel Castro's candidate for provisional president Manuel Urrutia, along with a delegation of other supporters in exile of the future Cuban dictator's July 26th movement, met with officials at the State Department. They lobbied the U.S. government and argued that arms shipments to Cuba were for hemispheric defense, and they claimed that Batista using them against Cuban nationals was in violation of the conditions agreed to between the two countries.

"President" Manuel Urrutia and Fidel Castro in 1959

On the same day the Cuban Government presented to the U.S. Embassy in Havana a formal note protesting the delay in the shipment of M-1 rifles to the Cuban Army, and warned that it would weaken  the Cuban government and lead to its possible downfall.  
On March 26, 1958 in another telegram from the State Department to the U.S. Embassy in Havana the view was expressed how the arms embargo could lead to the fall of Batista's regime:
“Department has considered possibility its actions could have an adverse psychological effect GOC and could unintentionally contribute to or accelerate eventual Batista downfall. On other hand, shipment US combat arms at this time would probably invite increased resentment against US and associate it with Batista strong arm methods, especially following so closely on heels of following developments:
  1. Government publicly desisted from peace efforts.
  2. Government suspended guarantees again.
  3. Batista expressed confidence Government will win elections with his candidate and insists they will be held despite suspension guarantees but has made no real effort to satisfy public opinion on their fairness and effectiveness as possible means achieve fair and acceptable solution.
  4. Batista announced would increase size arms and informed you he would again undertake mass population shift Oriente, and otherwise acted in manner to discourage those who supported or could be brought to support peaceful settlement by constructive negotiations. "
News of the arms embargo on the Batista regime broke in The New York Times on April 3, 1958, the psychological blow was delivered and the days of the Batista regime were numbered.

Twenty one years later as another Marxist Leninist regime took power in Nicaragua, the former U.S. ambassador to Cuba in 1958, Earl E. T. Smith wrote a letter to the editor published in The New York Times were he addressed the myth that the U.S. had been a steadfast supporter of the Batista dictatorship:
"To the contrary, Castro could not have seized power in Cuba without the aid of the United States. American Government agencies and the United States press played a major role in bringing Castro to power. I so testified before a Senate committee. As the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba during the Castro‐Communist revolution 1957‐59, I had first‐hand knowledge of the facts which brought about the rise of Fidel Castro."

Because of my briefing in Washington, my sympathies leaned toward Castro when I first arrived in Cuba. After a few months as chief of mission, it became more and more obvious to me that the Castro‐led 26th of July movement embraced every element of radical political thought and terrorist inclination In Cuba. The State Department consistently intervened ‐ positively, negatively and by innuendo to bring about the downfall of President Fulgencio Batista, thereby making It possible for Fidel Castro to take over the Government of Cuba.

The final coup in favor of Castro came on Dec. 17, 1958. On that date, in accordance with my instructions from the State Department, I personally conveyed to President Batista that the Department of State would view with skepticism any plan on his part, or any intention on his part, to remain in Cuba indefinitely. I had dealt him a mortal blow. He said in substance: “You have intervened in behalf of the Castros, but I know it is not your doing and that you are only following out your instructions.” Fourteen days later, on Jan. 1, 1959, the Government of Cuba fell.
The historical truth matters, and must not be left to the Castro regime and its agents of influence to rewrite the past with lies and half truths. The fact of the matter is that the United States did not approve of the 1952 coup against a democratic Cuba, and was working behind the scenes to pressure the Batista regime to restore Cuba's democratic order. Fidel Castro promised Cubans and the world that he would restore the old democratic order, but he lied and installed a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship instead.