Friday, November 24, 2017

Refusing to mourn Fidel Castro's death is punishable by prison in Cuba.

Reuters needs to take a closer look at the Cuban reality

Member of local electoral commission tests microphone in front of image of Fidel Castro
 Without any context or irony Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta of Reuters in their article "Cuba marks anniversary of Fidel death as post-Castro era nears" referring to Cuban despot Fidel Castro as a "revolutionary leader" reports that the dictator's "death last year plunged Cuba into nine days of national mourning."  The Reuters reporters also claimed that "'I am Fidel' became a nationwide chant, as many Cubans pledged to stay faithful to the revolution he led that in 1959 overthrew a U.S.-backed dictator." However there is no mention of the Cubans arrested and still in prison today for refusing to mourn Fidel Castro's death last year.

Two Cubans who refused to remain silent and spoke out on the real legacy of Fidel Castro remain in prison today. Their names are Carlos Alberto González Rodríguez and Eduardo Cardet Concepción. Seven others spent months in prison for refusing to go along or remain silent in their disdain for Castro.

 Carlos Alberto González Rodríguez
Carlos Alberto González Rodríguez, a 48 year old engineer, was sentenced to two years in prison after placing a poster that said "Down with Fidel" in Camajuaní, Santa Clara on November 26, 2016, one day after the death of the elderly tyrant. He was charged with  a "predilection to social dangerousness" and a summary judgement was rendered against him. He is currently at the "El Pre" prison in Santa Clara.

Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet Concepción
Eduardo Cardet Concepción, age 49,  has spent the last eleven months arbitrarily detained in a Cuban prison. Cardet, a medical doctor, husband and father of two has been jailed for his nonviolent activism generally and specifically for giving an honest assessment of the life and legacy of Fidel Castro. Following Castro's November 25, 2016 death, Cardet explained to a foreign journalist that "Castro was a very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our people." On November 30, 2016 when he returned home to Cuba he was beaten up in front of his wife and children by Cuban state security and jailed. Amnesty International has recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.

Eduardo Cardet is the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement. [His predecessor, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, met with a suspicious death along with  Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012.] On November 30th he will mark one year in prison.

Anairis,Adairis Miranda Leyva, Maydolis Leyva Portelles, Fidel Manuel Batista Leyva
Other seven jailed for months but no longer in prison for refusing to mourn Castro's death
Others were jailed for refusing to mourn the death of Fidel Castro in November 2016 but were released from prison over the course of 2017. Darío Pérez Rodríguez, who refused to watch the funeral ceremony on television saying that they disgusted him, was released in October 2017. Luis Andrés Domínguez Sardiñas was arrested on November 27, 2016 and accused of celebrating Fidel Castro's death, and advocating that Raul Castro be gotten rid of as well. He is currently free but faces two years in prison for disrespect to the figure of the Commander in Chief. Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado wrote, "He's Gone" on a wall and spent two months in prison without charges. A family in Holguin made up of Maydolis Leyva Portelles and her children: Fidel Batista Leyva, and the twins Adairis and Anairis Miranda Leyva, were arrested for "defamation of martyrs of the homeland."  Amnesty International recognized them as prisoners of conscience and they were released in April 2017 following a prolonged hunger strike.

Hopefully, Reuters will take these facts into account before writing such glowing appraisals of how Cubans remember Fidel Castro and his legacy. If speaking critically, or refusing to attend an event to honor the tyrant invites prison how honest are those speaking positively on the passing of the dictator?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The JFK Files: Oswald, Castro and Cuba connection to John F. Kennedy assassination

“We are prepared to fight them and answer in kind. U.S. leaders should think that if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe.”  - Fidel Castro, September 6, 1963*
President Kennedy with the First Lady in the backseat moments in Dallas.
 Fifty four years ago today on November 22, 1963 around 12:30pm the Kennedys in their convertible limousine turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. As they were passing the Texas School Book Depository, President John F. Kennedy was shot twice and slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The governor of Texas was also hit. At 1:00pm President Kennedy was pronounced dead.

Seven days later on November 29, 1963 President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover discussed the FBI investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the White House telephone. The conversation was recorded and is now part of the public record. Hoover described to Johnson the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald after the shooting. Hoover also discussed Oswald's pro-Castro and anti-American associations.

President John Kennedy and AG Robert Kennedy
 On September 15, 2015 the international media reported on a newly declassified memo from the CIA concerning presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald that reported the following:
Three days after the shooting in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 1963, Lyndon B Johnson was informed that Oswald had visited the Cuban and former Soviet Union embassies in Mexico City on 28 September 1963 to arrange visas.
The Daily Mail reported that the memo had "remained a secret until [September 15, 2015], when the CIA released 19,000 confidential documents from the 1960s." Three years later President Donald Trump announced the release of all the remaining files related to the John F. Kennedy assassination in what amounted to a dump of an additional 2,800 files.

CIA documents, released in October of 2017, speculate that Oswald's motive for killing Kennedy was that he was "enraged after reading a detailed article in his hometown newspaper in New Orleans in September suggesting that his hero Castro had been targeted for assassination by the Kennedy administration." Oswald sought vengeance on Castro's behalf.  This was an embarrassment for the CIA and the White House that had repeatedly tried to assassinate Castro, and that President Kennedy's murder was blowback.

Another declassified CIA document, released in October 17, 2017 cites Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and later U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Thomas C. Mann who said "he had a 'feeling in his guts' that Castro paid Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate the 35th president on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas." 

Oswald visited Cuban, Soviet embassies in Mexico on 9/28/63
Further linkage between Lee Harvey Oswald and the Castro regime is also found among the newly declassified files in a "transcript of a 1967 cablegram [that] recounted how a man named Angel Ronaldo Luis Salazar was interrogated at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City the year before by Ramiro Jesus Abreu Quintana, “an identified Cuban intelligence officer,” about Kennedy’s assassination. During the interrogation, Salazar claimed he remarked that Oswald must have been a good shot. According to him, Abreu replied 'Oh, he was quite good….I knew him.'"

Lee Harvey Oswald's membership card in a pro-Castro group
Furthermore who benefited the most from President Kennedy's death? Ten days prior to his assassination on November 12, 1963, in a White House memorandum, the continued commitment of the Kennedy Administration to pursue an aggressive policy to overthrow the Castro regime is clear:

(f) Support of Autonomous Anti-Castro Groups. The question was asked from where would the autonomous groups operate. Mr. FitzGerald replied that they would operate from outside U.S. territory. He mentioned two bases of the Artime group, one in Costa Rica and the other in Nicaragua. Also it was hoped that the autonomous group under Manolo Ray would soon get itself established in a working base, possibly Costa Rica. Mr. FitzGerald said that much could be accomplished by these autonomous groups once they become operational. A question was asked as to what decisions remain to be made. Mr. FitzGerald replied that we were looking for a reaffirmation of the program as presented, including sabotage and harassment. When asked what was planned in sabotage for the immediate future, he said that destruction operations should be carried out against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships. The question was also raised as to whether an air strike would be effective on some of these principal targets. The consensus was that CIA should proceed with its planning for this type of activity looking toward January.
Following the assassination of President Kennedy within a year these operations were mothballed and Fidel Castro would remain in power for the next five decades. Is there anyone else who benefited more from the events of November 22, 1963?

German documentary filmmaker Wilfried Huismann described the circumstances surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the subsequent cover up by the Johnson White House with the tacit approval of Robert Kennedy in his 2006 documentary Rendezvous with Death. At the time of the film's release he gave an interview in Deutsche Welle on January 5, 2006 titled "Castro ordered Kennedy's Assassination." Below is an excerpt from the article:
DW-WORLD: We know that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy. But who ordered his assassination and why?

Wilfried Huismann: We settled the question of why in three years of research on this documentary in Mexico, USA and Cuba. Oswald had been an agent for the Cuban intelligence services since November 1962. He was a political fanatic and allowed himself to be used by the Cuban intelligence services to kill John F. Kennedy. It was a Cuban reaction to the repeated attempts of the Kennedy brothers, above all the younger Kennedy, Robert, to get rid of Fidel Castro through political assassination -- a duel between the Kennedys and the Castros, which, like in a Greek tragedy, left one of the duelists dead.
 Alexander Haig in the documentary placed it in an electoral context explaining what it would've meant for the Democratic Party if the truth about the Kennedy assassination became known:
General Alexander Haig, for example, thinks Kennedy's successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, "was convinced Castro killed Kennedy, and he took it to his grave." Haig served as a military adviser to Johnson and later as President Reagan's Secretary of State. He tells Huismann in the film about memos from 1963 that suggested Johnson's fear of letting the Castro-assassination story get out to the American public. Johnson's attitude, said Haig, was that "we cannot allow the American people to believe that Castro ... had killed Kennedy," because "there would be a right-wing uprising in America which would keep the Democratic Party out of power for two generations."
 The Kennedy brothers plotted Fidel Castro's assassination, but the Communist dictator got them first. This is what has been covered up by the U.S. government for 54 years.

"Los líderes norteamericanos deben pensar que si están cooperando con los planes terroristas para eliminar a líderes cubanos, ellos mismos no estarán seguros" -Fidel Castro

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez

"When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." - Josef Stalin

Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez: Brutally murdered at age 23 in 2014
 Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on the small corner of Cuba and on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism. 

The seventh entry focuses on a young woman who tried to warn a friend who was being targeted by the secret police for a violent end. They went to the authorities to make a formal complaint, but nothing happened. Four months later she was murdered in front of her children stabbed 18 times. Eight months later her friend was the victim of a brutal machete attack and nearly killed.

Previous entries in this series were about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently. The first entry concerned Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a humble bricklayer turned courageous human rights defender who paid the ultimate price in 2010 for speaking truth to power.  The second entry focused on Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, a Catholic lay activist, nonviolence icon, husband, father of three and the founder of a Cuban opposition movement that shook up the Castro regime with a petition drive demanding that human rights be respected and recognized in Cuba. This action and speaking truth to power led to his extrajudicial killing in 2012. The third entry focused on one of the great crimes of the Castro regime that has been well documented by international human rights organizations and reported on ABC News Nightline that claimed the lives of 37 men, women, and children. They were trying to flee the despotism in Cuba to live in freedom and were extrajudicially executed. In the fourth focused on an act of state terrorism when two planes were shot down on a Saturday afternoon at 3:21 and 3:27 on February 24, 1996 over international airspace while engaged in a search and rescue flight for Cuban rafters killing four humanitarians. Their planes were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by a Cuban MiG-29 aircraft on the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro.  

In the fifth focused on Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Wilman Villar Mendoza who died on hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment on January 19, 2012 at the age of 31 left behind two little girls, a young wife and grieving mother. The sixth entry focused on one of the many non-Cuban victims of Cuban communism. Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a soldier of the Castro regime in Havana, Cuba twenty years ago. The identity of the soldier was never revealed to Joachim's family. No one was ever brought to justice.  

Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez was just 23 years old, the mother of two small children and she lived in Vista Alegre, in the Municipality of Majabiquoa in Las Tunas, Cuba. She had suffered harassment, state security agents had wanted to evict her and her children from their home for her activism in the Civics and Truth movement.

Yunisledy found out that her then current boyfriend "Ruber" had been given the order to kill Cuban dissident Sirley Avila Leon by state security. Yunisledy immediately informed Sirley Avila Leon of the danger and on May 21,  2014 when Sirley's home was set on fire formally complained to the police. She reported that her partner had told her that he would murder Sirley and that through the above action had attempted to carry it out. The police never made a pronouncement on the matter and did nothing. Afterwards "Ruber" threatened Yunisledy and told her that if she did not want to be killed that she should join him in Camaguey where he had been given the possibility to work as a "cuenta propista"  as a reward for carrying out his murder attempt against Sirley Avila Leon and to give the impression that he was in a prison elsewhere. [This is an aspect of the job sector opportunities that Amnesty missed in their recent report.]

She  denounced the new threat to the police but no action was taken against him and he went away. After two months approximately September 20-21, 2014 the father of her young son appears at her home and tells her that he'll kill her. But instead rapes her in front of her children and leaves.

Immediately she went to the police and made a complaint because was supposedly a prison escapee, but the police take no action. They tell her not to worry that he is already back in prison. Yunisledy calls Sirley on September 24, 2014 and tells her that they both knew why he was being sent to kill her. Yunisledy asks Sirley to please care for her children because she had no police protection.

On September 26, 2014 while preparing food for her children the individual known as "El Tejon" entered the house and stabbed her 18 times in front of her two children. This was done to give the appearance of a crime of passion.

Cuban human rights defender, Sirley Avila Leon, was the target of a brutal machete attack on May 24, 2015 that she miraculously survived  in order to provide the information about what happened to her and to this young woman, mother of two orphans. 

Cuban state security engineered machete attack against Sirley Ávila León in 2015

Monday, November 20, 2017

President Trump announces return of North Korea to list of state terror sponsors. Is Cuba next?

"Today, the United States is designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. It should have happened a long time ago. It should have happened years ago. In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil." - President Donald Trump, November 20, 2017

North Korea is a state sponsor of terror
North Korea should have never been taken off the list of state terror sponsors. Boneheaded political calculations are a bipartisan affair. 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. The Reagan Administration designated North Korea a terror sponsor in 1988 after it was implicated in the 1987 bombing of  a South Korean airliner, in which more than 100 died.

Nine years after taking Kim Jong Un’s regime off the list of terror sponsors, North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and is now threatening to attack the United States with its new nukes.

The lessons from the Bush Administration’s cozying up to North Korea should have given any reasonable person second thoughts about pursuing a similar path with Cuba. Unfortunately, that was not the case and on May 29, 2015 the Obama Administration took Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

On February 13, 2015 Vice News reported that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been warned that the Lebanese Islamist militant group Hezbollah was setting up an operational base in Cuba to carry out attacks in Latin America that might also involve attacks on American diplomatic posts or banks there was revealed in an e-mail from September 9, 2011 that stated the following:
The Hezbollah office in Cuba is being established under direct orders from the current General  Secretary Hasan Nasrallah, who replaced Musawi in 1992. According to the information  available to this source, in preparation for establishment of the base, Nasrallah, working from  inside of Lebanon, carried out secret negotiations with representatives of the Cuban Government,  particularly the Cuban Intelligence Service (General Intelligence Directorate — DGI), agreeing to  , maintain a very low profile inside of Cuba. Nasrallah also promised to take measures to avoid any trail of evidence that could lead back to Cuba in the event of a Hezbollah attack in Latin  America.
 Ronald Reagan placed Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1982 because of the dictatorship's involvement in Cocaine trafficking and arms smuggling to communist guerrilla  groups in Colombia. Today the Castro regime is engaged in narcotics trafficking in Venezuela, has been caught trying to smuggle heavy weapons in violation of international sanctions to North Korea, and providing refuge for cop killers convicted of homicide who fled the United States.

Furthermore, a new and disturbing pattern of attacks on 24 U.S. diplomats and their dependents based in Havana, Cuba raises great concerns. Appeasing North Korea in 2008 worsened its behavior. It appears that appeasing Cuba has also worsened its behavior against Cubans and the national interests of the United States.

Taking North Korea off the list of state sponsors was a mistake, but it is now being remedied by the Administration. Taking Cuba off the list was also mistake, the question arises: "Will Cuba be next?"

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Don’t tell us we’re not Cuban: The Real Havana Club

#ForeverCuban #TheRealHavanaClub

The Bacardi family is the antithesis of the Castro family in Cuban history through to the present day.

Consider for a moment that Angel Castro, Fidel and Raul Castro's father fought for the Spanish crown against Cuban independence. The Castro brothers emerged out of the worse elements of political gangsterism to impose a dictatorship that has lasted 58 years.

In contrast two generations of the Bacardi family fought for Cuban independence with one family member fighting alongside General Antonio Maceo. During the Republic the family not only had enlightened business practices but also engaged in civic activities that promoted a democratic culture. Each time that dictatorship arose in Cuba under Machado, Batista and Castro the Bacardis joined the democratic resistance. They have recognized the work of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and earlier this year that of his daughter, Rosa María Payá and they are supporting the Cuba Decide initiative to push for a democratic transition.

Now they are setting the record straight and defending the legacy of Havana Club with a challenge: Don’t tell us we’re not Cuban.
"The Arechabala Family started their rum-making business in 1878 in Cuba and first registered the original Havana Club trademark in 1934. It wasn’t long before Havana Club Rum became a beloved and iconic Cuban brand – becoming a favorite amongst locals as well as American and European tourists.

Then everything changed. On January 1st, 1960, at gunpoint, the Cuban regime unrightfully seized the company’s assets without compensation. The Arechabala family lost everything and was forced to flee the homeland they loved, with a scant few of their remaining possessions – the precious Havana Club recipe being one of them. Meanwhile, the Cuban Government started to sell their stolen version of Havana Club, and continues to do so to this day.

It wasn’t until 1995 – after decades of rebuilding, the Arechabala family finally joined forces with another Cuban family in exile: Bacardi. The latter acquired the Havana Club brand and began producing rum based on the original Havana Club recipe and selling it in the one country that didn’t recognise the Cuban Government’s 1960 illegal expropriation, the United States.

The Havana Club brand is an example of how, despite the circumstances, Cubans in exile have never accepted their fate. Havana Club rum holds onto its rich Cuban culture." 
Let us look forward to the day that both Bacardi and the real Havana Club can return to Cuba and make the rum on their home turf and not in exile. But that necessitates the return of freedom that also means private property rights, freedom of expression and freedom of association.