Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two years + three months later the demand for truth and justice for Oswaldo and Harold Continues

"The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits 'atrocities' but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future." - George Orwell

Two years, and three months ago today Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed in Cuba. The Christian Liberation Movement continues to gather signatures for a petition demanding an international investigation. International dignitaries are already demanding an investigation among them Nobel Peace Laureates Lech Walesa (1983) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984).

One of the survivors of the incident on July 22, 2012, Ángel Carromero, has spoken on the record and last week visited Miami to give his testimony at the University of Miami, Radio República, Voces de Cuba and other media outlets.

On October 20, 2014 The Washington Post published an editorial challenging the Cuban dictatorship's version and lack of a proper and thorough investigation into the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold below is an excerpt pertinent to their case:
THE OTHER day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He lavished praise on an editorial in the New York Times that called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr. Castro had one complaint: The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo Payá, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.
The assertion that Cuba’s authoritarian government had yet to explain the deaths was “slanderous and [a] cheap accusation,” Mr. Castro sputtered.
So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what happened on an isolated Cuban road on July 22, 2012. So far, there has been only a crude attempt at cover-up and denial.
We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of the rental car that was carrying Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero to a meeting with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Payá as they traveled were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Payá’s courageous 2002 petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr. Payá’s supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned. 

After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates. Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a credible investigation. Mr. Payá’s family has sought one for two years, without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case, they got no answer. Nothing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Conversation with human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva at Florida International University

Jorge Duany, Director of  CRI and Juan Carlos González Leiva
Tonight at the Green Library at Florida International University the Cuban human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva spoke about his experiences as an activist in Cuba at an event organized by the Cuban Research Institute (CRI).The conversation was in Spanish and excerpts are available in the video playlist below. He is an attorney who has spent the past twenty years in Cuba defending human rights in an atmosphere that is hostile.

Juan Carlos has been a prisoner of conscience and been subjected to cruel and unusual treatment while in captivity amounting to torture. The sound in the recording is muffled by the air conditioning in the room but it is worthwhile to listen closely to what he has to say especially on the subject of extrajudicial killings in Cuba where he engages in an overview of a number of well known and not so well known cases.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Remembering the Messenger of Truth 30 Years Later: Father Jerzy Popiełuszko

"A man who tells the Truth is a free man despite external slavery, imprisonment or custody." -  Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, Sermon,  October 31, 1982  

Crowd in Warsaw pay its respects for Jerzy Popiełuszko (photo: Mario F Lleonart)
Thirty years ago today on October 19, 1984 the communist regime in Poland murdered a saint in the expectation that they could hang on to power. They had murdered Father Jerzy Popiełuszko for being the chaplain to the fledging Solidarity Movement. They had thought killing a symbol of freedom and terrorizing the Polish people would silence the opposition. They counted wrong. Less than five years later on June 4, 1989 Poland would be the first country in Eastern Europe to hold free elections and sweep the communists from power nonviolently.

This was due in no small part to the teachings of the martyred priest Jerzy Popieluszko who called for an authentic reconciliation:
"Our Fatherland and respect of human dignity must be the common objective for reconciliation. You must unite in reconciliation in the spirit of love, but also in the spirit of justice. As the Holy Father said five years ago, no love exists without justice. Love is greater than justice and at the same time finds reassurance in justice."
Thirty years after his murder and twenty five years during which Poland has emerged as a successful and free nation thousands of Poles gathered to pay their respects and visiting from Cuba Mario Felix Lleonart reported over twitter:
"This Sunday was very special in Warsaw for 30th anniversary of the murder of Jercy Popieluzko, and in the night the multitude still surrounded the tomb of the martyr Jercy Popieluzko."
Crowds at the tomb ofFather Jercy Popieluzko tonight (photo: Mario Felix Lleonart)

2014 Oslo Freedom Forum: Defeating Dictators October 20 - October 22, 2014

Talks at the Oslo Freedom Forum will be livestreamed on, beginning at 9:30am CET on October 21.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

9:45 CET  Ideas for Empowerment – Oslo Nye Theater  
The sixth annual Oslo Freedom Forum kicks off with a session featuring individuals advocating for human rights from unorthodox perspectives.
Musical performance: The Honey Trees
Keynote Speaker:
Bassem Youssef
Speakers:Yulia Marushevska I Am a Ukrainian
Suleiman Bakhit Superheroes Against Extremism 
Yeonmi Park North Korea's Black Market Generation
Jeffrey Wright Mining in Africa for the 21st Century

12:00 CET Tyrants and Technology – Oslo Nye Theater
Panelists will focus on how advances in communication technologies are continually changing the struggle between dissidents and dictators.
Moderator: Philippa Thomas
Panel: Nico Sell Escape the Internet
Michael Anti China's Information War
Mac-Jordan Degadjor Africa's Tech Frontier
CJ Adams Shielding Free Speech Online

15:00 CET Defying the Establishment – Oslo Nye Theater
The first day of the forum concludes with a session on disrupting political and social norms across the globe.
Tanele Maseko Greetings from Cell G4
Marcela Turati Muñoz The Price of Mexico's Drug War
Ti-Anna Wang Fighting For My Father's Freedom
Erdem Gunduz The Standing Man
 Jon Callas The Revolution Will Be Encrypted 
 Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova A Conversation with Pussy Riot

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

9:30 CET Journeys to Freedom – Oslo Nye Theater
The second day opens with speakers sharing the struggles and challenges they have faced on the path to freedom.
Speakers:Mikhail Khodorkovsky For Your and Our Freedom. 1968-2014
Hyeonseo Lee A North Korean Rescue Story
Shorna Shahida Akter Wedding Busters
Fatou Jaw Manneh The Gambia's Silenced Dissent
 Janet Hinostroza Rise of an Elected Autocrat >

11:45 CET Dangerous Words – Oslo Nye Theater 
Remarks by Bård Glad Pedersen, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway.
Panelists will discuss why and how free expression is constantly at risk in today’s world.
Moderator: Michael Moynihan
Speakers:Emily Parker Voices from the Internet Underground
Frederica Jansz Sri Lanka's Deadly Profession
Flemming Rose Free Speech in a Globalized World
Ian Birrell Sticks, Stones, and Broken Bones

14:30 CET The Hope of Peaceful Resistance – Oslo Nye Theater
The conference closes with stories about the power and theory behind nonviolent action. 
Speakers:Garry Kasparov Banks Not Tanks
Yoani Sánchez Cuba's Underground Revolution
Jamila Raqib The Success of Nonviolent Struggle
Steven Pinker The Better Angels of Our Nature 

16:00 CET 2014 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent – Oslo Nye Theater 


Erdem Gunduz
Pussy Riot
Dhondup Wangchen
Musical performance: Lissie

Cuban rapper sentenced to six years in prison for his critical songs

"Art is inherently political. It is always political. It has always been political.It has political aspects. And that which we term political art only enhances that political aspect of art. It is taking up political themes and makes these themes its own." - Petr Motyčka, Art, Society, and Politics: Artists or Activists?, Forum 2000
Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga sentenced to 6 years
Cuban dissident and rapper Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, whose stage name is "el Critico del Arte" (the 'Art Critic'), on October 15, 2014 was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment in a judicial process that fell far short of international standards. Angel was tear gassed and arrested on March 21, 2013, for criticizing the Castro regime and jailed since that time in conditions that can only be described as inhumane.  El Critico, is a member of the rap duo: Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso (The Children that no one wanted). Other members of the group were targeted by regime agents.

One of them Rodolfo Ramirez, known by his rapping name as El Primario, member of the hip-hop duo El Primario y Julito, was the victim of a brutal beating which left him with memory loss and serious injuries on his head. The attack occurred on July 21, 2013 at the Malecon (Sea wall) of Havana.

Meanwhile, Angel's plight has been documented by Free Muse, an organization that advocates freedom of expression for musicians and the Czech NGO, People in Need. An example of the lyrics that got the Art Critic into trouble can be found in the song "Mi Delito" (My Crime) were provided by People in Need and are excerpted below:
I did not invent the acts of repudiation
I did not sink the 13 de Marzo tug
I was not the one who killed Boitel 
I am not guilty for Mariel
I do not repress those who think differently
I did not lock up 75 innocent people
Look how many offenses you have kept hidden under lock and key
Yes this is my crime
To talk about what you have not.