Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The reason why Brigade 2506 endorsed Donald Trump

Why in a tight race in Florida the Cuban vote could be decisive

Mr. Donald Trump accepting endorsement by Brigade 2506 on October 25, 2016
The Brigade 2506 Veterans Association formally endorsed Donald Trump for President yesterday afternoon and received him at The Bay of Pigs Museum in Little Havana. This is the first endorsement for President ever made by the Brigade in its six decade long history. 

As the insults rain down from those partisans upset with the Trump endorsement a natural question arises: Why after more than a half century of formal neutrality in Presidential elections did the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association decide to endorse a candidate?

There are a number of reasons for this decision and why Cuban Americans may vote for Trump in huge percentages:

Freeing a murderer of four Cuban Americans and downplaying state terrorism
On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama announced that he was normalizing relations with the Castro regime, and he commuted the prison sentences of three Cuban spies. One of them Gerardo Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of four members of Brothers to the Rescue on February 24 1996.  To add insult to injury two days later on December 19, 2014 at a year end press conference President Obama downplayed the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down as a "tragic circumstance" and not the premeditated act of state terrorism that had been plotted weeks in advance of February 24, 1996.

Armando, Mario, Carlos and Pablo murdered on February 24, 1996
The Clintons' terrible record on Cuba policy: then and now
The Clinton Administration engaged in unilateral concessions to the Castro regime and ended up with a mass exodus in 1994, a worsening human rights situation in Cuba, four young humanitarians murdered in an act of state terrorism over international airspace ordered by Fidel and Raul Castro on February 24, 1996. Despite all of this Bill Clinton refused to enforce the law tightening sanctions in 1996 in response to the shoot down, shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened up trade with the Castro regime. In 2015 former President Clinton warmly greeted and met with Raul Castro despite his role in the murder of American citizens.

Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened trade to Cuba
Meanwhile the Obama policy that Hillary Clinton championed in 2014 and 2015 has not had the desired results.  Human rights violations are at record levels in Cuba, there is a mass exodus of Cubans fleeing the island not seeing a future there  with the U.S. legitimizing the regime and assisting in a generational succession, and the U.S. is more isolated than ever in Latin America with its embrace of the Castro regime alienating it from democrats. The Colombian peace initiative,backed by the Obama administration, mediated by Raul Castro in Havana was rejected by the Colombian people in a national vote. The situation in Venezuela has descended into crisis as Nicaragua slides into dictatorship.

Three high profile instances of U.S. Cuba policy discriminating against Cubans

Protesting anti-Cuban discrimination by Carnival (2016)
It is not only civil liberties in Cuba that have taken a beating over the past two years but also in America to satisfy Castro regime demands. Below are three examples.

First, Carnival Cruise Line signed an agreement with the Castro regime on March 21, 2016 to sail to Cuba from the United States. In order to conduct their core mission Carnival had to agree to enforce General Castro's policy that bans all Cubans from traveling into the island by water. It did not matter if Cubans born on the island were now citizens of another country. Obama's Treasury Department on July 7, 2015 signed off on the Carnival Cruise Line - Castro alliance ignoring that an entire class of Americans would be discriminated against based on their national origin. Mass protests, boycotts and lawsuits led the Castro regime to blink when it became apparent that popular outrage would lead the cruise ship company to cancel its cruises.  
Second, the U.S. embassy in Cuba floated a trial balloon that announced that the United States government accepted that U.S. citizens of Cuban descent born in the United States are not recognized by the Castro regime as Americans but as Cuban nationals subject to the dictatorship's laws and regulations. Even though one was born in the United States and has never applied for dual nationality in Cuba they are treated as a Cuban born by the Castro regime in terms of responsibilities but not rights and the Obama State Department went along with it in order to have "normal relations." This also means that these U.S. citizens would be denied consular access in Cuba. The State Department had to back track in May of 2016 when this trial balloon sunk amidst negative press coverage and popular outrage.  
Third, American Airlines is pulling Cuban-American pilots and flight attendants off flights to Cuba in order to placate demands by the Castro regime. Fabiola Santiago, of The Miami Herald, obtained an American Airlines memo announcing the policy as follows: “Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crew members.

Clinton, Trump called on to denounce violence against Cuba's Ladies in White

President Obama went to Cuba earlier this year to hobnob with Raul Castro and the rest of the elite communist leadership in Cuba. However the President remained relatively silent about the Ladies in White beaten up the same Sunday he and his family. 

On the eve of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, “The Rebel Yell”, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas student newspaper published a full page ad from the Center for a Free Cuba urging them to “prod the Obama Administration to condition any future negotiations and affirmative responses to General Raul Castro’s requests to … the immediate end to beatings and abuses of peaceful dissidents by the regime’s police.” The ad “calls on all Americans to petition General Raul Castro to stop beating and abusing these women.”

There are reasons, some of them listed above, that Cuban Americans who are single issue voters on the Cuba issue would be upset with the Obama Administration's Cuba policy. 

Furthermore Mrs. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State advocated for this policy and gave a lecture at Florida International University focused on ending economic sanctions on Cuba.  The Obama administration and Clinton's running mate Senator Time Kaine have declared this policy irreversible.  

Mr. Donald Trump on the other hand has declared that he will undo it and try to reach an accommodation that improves the human rights situation of Cubans and protects U.S. interests. At the same time he praised Cuba's Ladies in White and blasted the Obama-Clinton Cuba policy.

These contrasting visions explain the decision of the Brigade to endorse Donald Trump today and reject the Obama-Clinton Cuba policy. 

In a tight race in Florida where three points separate the two candidates the Cuban American vote can play a decisive role in deciding who the next President of the United States will be. 

On November 8th we will see how Cuban Americans will vote and what impact they have in Florida. 

Meanwhile the testimony of Miriam de la Peña, whose son Mario was one of the four men murdered on February 24, 1996 who met with Donald Trump this morning, explains the behavior of the Obama administration that so outraged her.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

OAS Condemns Measures to Shut Down Spaces for Political Participation in Venezuela

 Venezuela descends into dictatorship


IACHR and Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Condemn Measures to Shut Down Spaces for Political Participation in Venezuela and Raise Alarm at their Impact on Democracy 

October 25, 2016

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemn the actions taken by the Venezuelan State to shut down vital space for political participation in the country and persecute those who have exercised their right to freedom of expression. The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur, raise alarm at the impact of these measures on Venezuelan democracy.

Throughout 2016, the IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur have followed with great concern the different ways in which the State has imposed serious limitations on pluralism in the exercise of political rights and freedom of expression, both through the application of the law and outside the law. Most notable among these actions are the obstacles that have been imposed by the authorities to prevent Venezuelans from participating in free and trustworthy elections,  the gradual suspension of the constitutional powers of the majority opposition Congress, the arbitrary detention and incarceration of opponents and persons who publicly dissent from the government or express their opinions in the media, the repression and undue restriction of protests, the dismissal and threatened dismissal of public employees who make statements or express political opinions against the party in office, campaigns of stigmatization, surveillance, and harassment against human rights defenders and journalists, as well as the continual use of the criminal law and other government controls to punish or stifle the work of the critical press. 

The Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur are especially concerned over the October 20, 2016 decision of the National Electoral Board to indefinitely suspend the signature gathering process for the presidential recall referendum promoted by opposition parties and other sectors of society.  A number of Venezuelan civil society organizations have reported that five criminal courts in the States of Aragua, Bolívar, Apure, Monagas, and Carabobo invalidated—“unexpectedly” and “without any legal authority”—the act of collecting signatures from 1% of voters registered in the Venezuelan Electoral Registry in their jurisdictions. According to the information available, the judgments, which were handed down simultaneously, were almost immediately complied with by the nation’s highest electoral body. This suggests the possibility of a coordinated plan to prevent the public from being able to assess the president’s performance through the referendum mechanism. 

In the case of Rocío San Miguel et al. (Venezuela), filed with the Inter-American Court in March 2016, the Commission found that a signature in favor of convening a political participation mechanism like the presidential recall referendum not only constitutes the exercise of political rights but is also an expression of the political opinion of the signatories, protected in turn by the right to freedom of expression and the principle of nondiscrimination. As is known, this electoral process is also considered by several Member States of the OAS to be a free and democratic form of channeling the country’s social and political polarization.

All of these measures have taken place against the backdrop of a profound weakening of the separation of powers and an economic, food, and health crisis in the country that continues to affect the rights to health, life, and humane treatment of the general population, with a differentiated impact among individuals or groups in situation of high vulnerability, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with serious illnesses, and people living with HIV-AIDS.
The Inter-American Commission has underscored that there is a “direct relationship between the exercise of political rights and the concept of democracy as a form of State organization,” and has reiterated to Venezuela the need to guarantee the rights of citizens and organized political groups to political participation and freedom of expression without fear of retaliation, permitting and fostering a plural, broad, and robust public debate.

In the Inter-American system, the relationship between human rights and democracy is enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states that: “Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.”

The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur urgently call upon the State of Venezuela to comply with its international human rights obligations. In particular, to respect and guarantee the right to freedom of expression and the right to participation of all sectors in the country’s political life, including the duty to facilitate demonstrations and protests that have been called for as a result of this serious decision by the electoral body and to put an end to those actions that impede the exercise of the right of individuals to choose their representatives and exercise oversight over them.

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.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Christian Liberation Movement statement on Podesta wikileak referencing Oswaldo Payá

"The truth will make them stand in solidarity with our freedom." MCL Declaration on email of John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.

By the Christian Liberation Movement

"The truth will set them in solidarity with our freedom."

In a July 2015 email disseminated by wikileaks, John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton says the phrase "Yes. Oswaldo Payá. Cuban government ran him off the road and killed him almost certainly."

That a very important person, also linked to the administration of President Obama and now the Democratic candidate, to make such a statement indicates that in the upper echelons of power in the United States they have evidence or details that allow them to make that statement.

The Christian Liberation Movement from the outset spread this message "Angel says that a vehicle forced us off the road" sent by Aron Modig, who traveled with Angel Carromero as a passenger in the vehicle that suffered the attack.

Since then we have been divulging all the details that we have known about this tragedy and called for an independent investigation to clarify what happened. Not only the United States, governments such as the Spanish, the Swedish and many foreign ministries have information about what occurred on July 22, 2012 on the road from Bayamo.

We hope that whoever wins the election demand and directly support this independent investigation into the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero and to support our demand, "One Cuban, one vote" for the freedom that Oswaldo and Harold Cuba lived and died for reach the hand of the sovereign decision of the people. This is the way for the democracies to have a relationship of total solidarity with Cuba that is also all of us Cubans who do not have rights.

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killed on July 22, 2012

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Remembering the 1956 Hungarian uprising

Courageous but failed anti-communist uprising

Huge statue of Josef Stalin torn down during the 1956 Hungarian uprising
Sixty years ago today on October 23, 1956 the Hungarian anti-communist revolt began and nineteen days later it was finally crushed by Soviet troops on November 10, 1956 that had invaded six days before. 3,000 Hungarian anti-communists were killed as opposed to 772 Soviets. The free world stood by and watched without lifting a finger. Time Magazine recognized the Hungarian freedom fighter as the 1956 Man of the Year.

It would be another 33 years before Hungary would achieve freedom through a nonviolent uprising and the Soviet statues would be torn down permanently. Nevertheless today we remember those brave men and women who risked all for freedom and in many cases lost their lives.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

All eyes on Venezuela: Mass civil disobedience underway

Venezuelan women take to the streets demanding change

We did it Venezuela, told the dictatorship recall will be this year. - Ana Karina Garcia
Venezuela is in the news again with The Washington Post declaring Maduro's regime a dictatorship because it is ignoring its own constitutional laws in blocking a referendum on his continued rule.

Today, Venezuelan women are protesting by the thousands met in Miranda Park and took to the highway demanding the law be respected and the referendum on Maduro's rule to be held this year.

However it is important to remember that Venezuela has been a dictatorship for far longer than this past week. Students have been shot, killed and tortured for their nonviolent opposition to the regime. Cuban state security is assisting the Maduro regime to repress Venezuela's democrats along with Cuban soldiers. Workers are being stripped of their rights in Venezuela. Opposition leaders have been subjected to show trials and sentenced to long prison terms. The 2012 presidential election in Venezuela fell far short of international standards and was stolen from the opposition.

Secretary of State John Kerry in  August of 2015 ignoring the above reality and believing that the relationship between the U.S. government and the Castro regime had been fundamentally changed said "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis." 

Meanwhile members of the Maduro regime hide billions in overseas bank accounts, traffic in narcotics, while Venezuelans go hungry in Venezuela and do not have access to the most minimal healthcare.

The international environment and the Obama Administration's outreach to the Castro regime leaves the Venezuelan democratic opposition in a more isolated and vulnerable position. This was easily predicted when the new Cuba policy was announced and is now a reality with Latin America imploding. The only option for the democratic opposition in Venezuela is to resist nonviolently and to develop a well thought out strategy of non-violent civic resistance.

Venezuelans have been standing up for freedom and need the solidarity of all people of good will. These are difficult times when international leadership on human rights is absent to a large degree.

All eyes on Venezuela this week because the democratic opposition needs your solidarity. 

Update October 23, 2016: Opposition National Assembly votes to place Nicolas Maduro on trial for violating Democracy.