Thursday, July 19, 2018

AI Cuban prisoner of conscience José Ramón Gabriel Castillo dies at 61 from chronic illness contracted in a Cuban prison

Did the Castro regime inoculate him with the disease that claimed his life?

José Ramón Gabriel Castillo with Omar Pernet Hernandez and Pedro Pablo Álvarez
Former Cuban prisoner of conscience José Ramón Gabriel Castillo died of cirrhosis of the liver on July 16, 2018. He was just 61 years old. The disease may have been the product of a purposeful inoculation of hepatitis while he was jailed. Cuban authorities sentenced José Ramón Gabriel Castillo to a 20-year prison term in 2003 for his pro-democracy activism. He was one of 75 activists sentenced to long prison sentences in March-April of 2003 in what became known as the "Black Spring." He spent five years of his life in a Cuban prison before being exiled to Spain in 2008.

Attending the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy in 2009 I met José Gabriel there and after listening to Soe Aung, from the National Council of the Union of Burma speak about the situation in his country. José Gabriel turned to me and explained how reading a book by Aung San Suu Kyi in Cuba had led him to decide to become a political dissident and join the ranks of the Cuban opposition to the dictatorship. Years later he would be part of a group of former political prisoners demanding her release.

Later that same year we would meet Vaclav Havel in Prague, present him with a list of political prisoners, and obtain his support in a campaign to release them.

José Ramón Gabriel Castillo addressed the first two Geneva Summits and in 2010 spoke of the then recent and untimely death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo on February 23, 2010.  He also spoke of the tortures he had been subjected two while imprisoned in Cuba.

José Ramón, or Pepin to his friends, was from Santiago de Cuba and worked in the Universidad de Oriente (University of Oriente) where he was expelled in 1993 for founding the first human rights organization in the Eastern region of Cuba, called the Instituto Independiente Cuba y Democracia.

Requiescat in pace Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR expresses deep concern over criminal convictions for disrespect laws in Cuba

Cases of Eduardo Cardet ConcepciónAriel Ruiz Urquiola, and Martha Sánchez González, highlighted.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern over Criminal Convictions for desacato laws in Cuba
July 17, 2018
Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the application of desacato laws, followed by imprisonment, against the Doctor of Biological Sciences, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, in Cuba. The aforementioned adds to the conviction of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL, by its Spanish acronym), who has been in prison for more than a year.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur warns about the increased criminalization of scholars, journalists, artists and activists, through the application of crimes that sanction criticism of public officials in Cuba. In many of these cases, the proceedings involve the immediate deprivation of liberty of those who express opinions, information, or criticism, on topics of public interest, or that refer to government officials.
According to the information available, on May 8, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was sentenced to one year of detention by the Municipal Court of Viñales, in a summary trial, for the application of desacato laws. This decision was confirmed on May 22 on appeal by the First Criminal Chamber of the Popular Provincial Court of Pinar del Río. On July 3, the biologist was released under an "extra-penal license" for health reasons, after he went on a 16-day hunger and thirst strike to protest his situation.
According to information of public knowledge, on May 3, members of the Forest Ranger Agency, which is part of the Interior Ministry, entered the lands that Ruiz Urquiola had leased in usufruct to the State in the Viñales National Park, in order to request that he showed them the ownership of his work instruments and the legal permits for the activities that would be carried out. According to the information, the officials had refused to show official identification, reason why the biologist referred to them as "rural guards," a term that in the country would have a negative connotation. On the same day, occurred the application of desacato laws, followed by imprisonment, against Ruiz Urquiola, for allegedly insulted the Rangers.
Previously, in 2016, Ruiz Urquiola had been expelled from the Center for Marine Research (CIM, by its Spanish acronym) of the University of Havana, allegedly for his political opinions and for having denounced in an academic event in 2008, through the results of his doctoral research, that the government allowed the fishing of endangered turtles.
Moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was informed that Martha Sánchez González, a member of the group Damas de Blanco would remain in custody since March 2018, charged with disobedience and insulting the authority.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur notes with concern that in Cuba the application of desacato laws in these cases is not an isolated incident. In Cuba, criminal law and the application of desacato laws are used as mechanisms of subsequent responsibility to the detriment of people who disseminate ideas, opinions and critical information towards the government. In this regard, it was reported that Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL, by its Spanish acronym), would remain in custody following a conviction in March 2017 for the crime of attacking the authority. According to the information, Cardet Concepción was arrested on November 30, 2016, a few days after the death of Fidel Castro, after allegedly criticizing the former Cuban President in an interview, in the so-called period of national mourning imposed by the Cuban government. On February 24, 2018 [only available in Spanish], the IACHR granted precautionary measures in his favor requesting the Cuban government to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee his life and personal integrity.
Since its creation, the Office of the Rapporteur has examined the problem of desacato laws because of the danger that they could become a mechanism to stifle pluralistic and democratic debate on the government administration. In this regard, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has held on several occasions that "desacato laws are not compatible with the Inter-American Human Rights System, as they violate the freedom of thought and expression set forth in Articles IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and 13 of the American Convention. These norms lend themselves "to abuse, as a means to silence unpopular ideas and opinions, thereby restricting the debate that is critical to the effective functioning of democratic institutions."
The Office of the Special Rapporteur notes that in most of the American States, desacato laws for offenses have been eliminated from criminal legislation. Likewise, in different States laws that criminalize defamation of public officials had been repealed or modified. In this way, this Office calls on the Cuban State to adapt its legal framework to the Inter-American standards on freedom of expression.
Finally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the Cuban government that principle 11 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression establishes that "public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as ‘desacato laws,’ restrict freedom of expression and the right to information."
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

São Paulo Forum in Havana backs Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas despite their mass slaughter of civilians.

The communist network that transformed the Americas.
How the São Paulo Forum sees itself.
The São Paulo Forum celebrated the victory at the ballot box of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, defended Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the midst of the regime's wave of repression and extrajudicial killings against its own populace. This past weekend, pro-regime gunmen in civilian dress fired automatic weapons to clear student protesters from a church and university in Nicaragua.

Raul Castro with Nicolas Maduro, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Miguel Díaz-Canel 
The 24th edition of the Foro de São Paulo (São Paulo Forum — FSP) is being held in Havana, Cuba from July 15-17. This the third time that the Forum has been held in Cuba and it has also been hosted in Managua, Nicaragua on four occasions and São Paulo three times. The Forum is named after the Brazilian city where it was founded in 1990 by Fidel Castro, the Sandinistas and Brazil's Lula Da Silva.

First gathering of the São Paulo Forum in 1990
In 1990 following a request made by Fidel Castro to Lula Da Silva the Sao Paulo Forum was established with the goal: “To reconquer in Latin America all that we lost in East Europe.”  The FSP is a communist network comprised of over 100 left wing political parties, various social movements, and guerrilla terrorist organizations such as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Chilean Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR).

Fourth gathering of the Sao Paolo Forum was in Havana in 1993
This network helped set the course for the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela that was a game changer both regionally and internationally. Food riots have broken out in what was once one of the richest countries in South America and democracy there has been dismantled.

With the help of Venezuela's riches and the corruption of some of Nicaragua's politicians Daniel Ortega was able to return to power in Nicaragua in 2007 through the ballot box with a minority of the popular vote.  

Daniel Ortega first came to power in 1979 thanks to the active assistance of Cuban troops, and the Castro regime's intelligence service. Ortega was voted out of office after a long and bloody war in 1990.  However it is no longer just Cuba but a hemisphere wide totalitarian network that defends mass murder, and torture both in word and in action.

Today the Nicaraguan strong man is engaged in an existential struggle murdering hundreds of his countrymen and torturing thousands more, but the Sandinista's are not alone. The members of the São Paulo Forum go beyond words and take action. Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuadras on July 13, 2018 explained that "there are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.”

Four years ago it was Venezuelan students who heard Cuban accents in Caracas while being tortured. The oppressors have made progress, now there are more diverse accents heard in the torture chambers of Nicaragua.

It is important to remember that the hunger, the suffering, and deaths of thousands of Venezuelans should be laid at the feet of the Castro regime that prepared and backed Hugo Chavez with the assistance of the Cuban military and intelligence services and that are keeping Nicolas Maduro in power today

The Maduro regime and the Castro regime belong to the São Paulo Forum and both are actively assisting the Sandinista regime in Managua hang on to power by whatever means necessary at a terrible cost to Nicaraguans.

In 1990 many believed that the Cold War was over. Fidel Castro and a handful of radical left wing political parties and terrorist organizations believed otherwise and began plotting their comeback. Twenty eight years later the hemisphere hangs in the balance as bloody conflicts play out in a background of hunger and scarcity, but the misery is not caused by the capitalist imperialists but by the communist revolutionaries.  This should not be a surprise to anyone who has studied history. Revolutionary violence and provoked famines were instruments used in Russia, Ukraine, China, Cambodia, Ethiopia, North Korea and many other places to consolidate totalitarian control.

The members of  the Sao Paolo Forum see themselves as a bloody fist emerging out of South America with its tendrils spreading everywhere. The best way to battle this threat is to recognize it and educate others on the consequences of members of this network taking power and the great difficulty in removing them once they are entrenched.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thanksgiving Masses for the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante.

Remembering and giving thanks for the lives of Oswaldo and Harold. 

In Miami, FL and Madrid, Spain there will be Masses given to give thanks for the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante marking the day six years ago that their lives were cruelly taken by agents of the Castro regime. The families of Oswaldo and Harold have chosen to celebrate their lives and their example for all of us.

In Miami the Mass will be held at La Ermita de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity) located on 3609 South Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33133 on July 22, 2018 at 6:00pm.

In Madrid the Mass will be held at Parroquia San Fermin de los Navarros (Parish of San Fermin de los Navarros) located on Paseo de Eduardo Dato 10, Madrid  Metro Ruben Dario on July 22, 2018 at 8:00pm.

In celebrating the lives of  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante let us revisit some of their powerful ideas.
"The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: 'You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.' This is the liberation which we are proclaiming."
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Strasbourg France, December 17, 2002
"Expelling us is not the solution neither for them or for us, it would be better to ask yourself why are there young people who are filled with concern and worry for the welfare of the country. It would be good that they explain to the students and to the people what the Varela Project is, what does it ask, and so give everyone the right to think and choose." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
"How close you and "Solidarity" have been to us in these years. Receive our fraternal greetings. I write on behalf of the Christian "Liberation" Movement. We are a Christian and patriotic movement that by peaceful means are working for freedom and democracy in our nation. ... I hope this gets to you and that the Poles might know of our struggle inspired by the Gospel. I cannot conclude without expressing our gratitude to you, the Movement "Solidarity" and all the Polish people that knew how to open the path of freedom for subject peoples. As Catholics we feel that we are in communion with you and that overcomes the difficulties of communication." 
- Oswaldo Payá, October 1, 1990   

"Today we are kicked out of the university for this. Tomorrow it could be one of you for just being different, for permitting yourself to think."
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
 "A few days ago, bombs exploded in two hotels in Havana. Neither the perpetrators nor the objectives of these terrorist acts have identified themselves. But in any case, such acts are reprehensible. We reject them and they should not serve to confuse Cubans. When defending their human rights, proclaiming the truth and proposing a peaceful transition to democracy, many of our fellow countrymen have endured threats, discrimination, acts of harassment, arbitrary incarcerations, beatings and cruel treatment by repressive agents, and political and judicial authorities. However, neither we nor any of our brothers have renounced a peaceful transition through civic means." 
- Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, July 22, 1997

"They are wanting to perpetuate something that it is not even known if it is fair, and in this manner they are denying the progress of a society that wants something new, something that really guarantees a dignified place for every Cuban. They are pressuring people or preventing them from expressing their true feelings, they are cultivating fear in the nation." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
 "Furthermore, those who in the prisons receive serious mistreatment have not voiced words of hatred against their abusers, because for us the peaceful approach is not a tactic but something that arises out of a spirit of reconciliation and liberation which has prompted us to begin our struggle. No one can justify terroristic violence and attacks on defenseless human beings with any kind of reasoning, and much less by pretending to defend freedom and justice. Anyone who hides cynically to make attempts against human life violates the dignity of the human being and conspires against freedom and justice. The end does not justify the means. Lies and terror lead to death and fear. Truth and love produce freedom and life." 
- Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, July 22, 1997  
"Under the pretext of defending freedom they are attacking it. Martí would say it like this: "The knife that is stabbed in the name of freedom is plunged into the chest of freedom". They should think if at the bottom of this attitude there is a real respect for freedom, because to say freedom, to be free, is not to snatch the freedom of others. I therefore ask that before they expel us ask themselves how long can they keep silent the mourning and the reality of Cuba, and remind them that the damage they can do to us is damage that they do to themselves. And more: it is a direct threat to every Cuban." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
"The cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized." 
- Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"Those who steal the rights of others steal from themselves. Those who remove and crush freedom are the true slaves." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002 


Remembering and honoring Celia Cruz 15 years after her passing, except in Cuba.

Celia Cruz should not be an unperson in Cuba

Cuban music icon Celia Cruz still banned in Cuba
Celia Cruz passed away on July 16, 2003 after a battle with cancer. She was 77 years old. The world over mourned her death, except in Cuba where the official media printed a small note on her passing recognizing Cruz as an “important Cuban performer who popularized our country’s music in the United States,” it went on to say that “during the last four decades, she was systematically active in campaigns against the Cuban revolution generated in the United States.”

15 years later her music is still banned in Cuba, and in death she remains an unperson in official circles.

Her real crime? Choosing to live in freedom and continue her career as a musician. Because she had decided to continue to play her music, as a free woman, outside of Cuba the Castro brothers barred Celia from returning to Cuba in 1962 to bury her mother who had just died. This fueled her distaste for the Cuban dictatorship. When she went to the Guantanamo Naval Base three decades later she picked up some Cuban soil, a piece of home, to take back with her into exile.  

This 1990 trip to the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base would not be forgotten in official circles.

Celia Cruz picks up some Cuban soil to take a piece of home back to exile

On August 8, 2012 BBC News reported that Cuba's ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted and on August 10 the BBC correspondent in Cuba, Sarah Rainsford, tweeted that she had been given names of forbidden artists by the central committee and the internet was a buzz that the ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted. Others soon followed reporting on the news. The stories specifically mentioned Celia Cruz as one of the artists whose music would return to Cuban radio.

There is only one problem. It is not true. Diario de Cuba reported on August 21, 2012 that Tony Pinelli, a well known musician and radio producer, distributed an e-mail in which Rolando Álvarez, the national director of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión (ICRT) confirmed that the music of the late Celia Cruz would continue to be banned. The e-mail clearly stated: "All those who had allied with the enemy, who acted against our families, like Celia Cruz, who went to sing at the Guantanamo Base, the ICRT arrogated to itself the right, quite properly, not to disseminate them on Cuban radio "

According to the 2004 book Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe there is increasing concern that post-revolution generations in Cuba are growing up without knowing or hearing censored musicians such as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations. This process has been described as a  Cuban cultural genocide that is depriving generations of Cubans of their heritage.