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.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Nicaragua 2018: Daniel Ortega with help from Venezuelans and Cubans has killed 350 Nicaraguans and tortured many more

"Castro copied his recipe for repression and harassment in Venezuela, and now they are doing it in Nicaragua. There are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.” - Víctor Cuadras, Nicaraguan student leader, July 13, 2018

The Sandinista regime in Nicaragua led by Daniel Ortega is engaged in a campaign of extrajudicial killings to hang on to power. 350 Nicaraguans have been killed, 169 disappeared and 3,000 have been wounded by police agents since the protests began on April 18th reports Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuardas. At least 20 people were killed on July 8, the Economist reported, and reports of new killings flood social media every day.
However one aspect that is not being widely reported is that Nicaraguan torture victims have reported hearing Venezuelan and Cuban accents in the regime's secret prisons. The Miami Herald quoted Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuadras on July 13, 2018:
“Castro copied his recipe for repression and harassment in Venezuela, and now they are doing it in Nicaragua. There are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.”
Victor is right to cite Venezuela. Beginning in February of 2014 the high profile torture and killing of Venezuelan student opposition activists were carried out to terrorize the student pro-democracy movement. Reports in the media at the time described individuals with Cuban accents involved in the brutality. Protests erupted in Venezuela with Cuban flags being burned while denouncing the Castro regime’s role in the repression. The pattern is being repeated today in Nicaragua.

It now appears that Venezuelans, trained by the Cubans, are joining their Havana counterparts in the torture and killing in Nicaragua to preserve the communist revolutionary project in the Central American country. Venezuelans are starving in large numbers, and despite the economic implosion and political crisis continues to sending subsidized oil to Cuba.

Few are talking about this as the situation in the Western hemisphere worsens.

Early on in the crackdown against protesters there was also a crackdown on news media and one of the early victims was a reporter shot in the head while reporting the news over Facebook. This is an attempt to implant terror to silence dissenting voices and those who would report on what is going on. In Nicaragua, so far, it has not worked as planned and the killings, torture, and state terrorism continue.

The images and the reporting continue to emerge. Follow freelance journalist Ismael Lopez who is risking all to report what is happening on the ground in Nicaragua. As was the case in Venezuela, students are being shot in the head by snipers. Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post , who was also trapped there, reported on students, journalists, and priests trapped in a Church surrounded by pro-government militias firing heavy caliber bullets.

Meanwhile in Mexico a left wing populist with strong ties to Havana, Cuba prepares to assume power on December 1, 2018. The Castro regime now feels empowered, believing that it will have a dramatically expanded economic lifeline from their ideological soulmate in the Presidential Palace in Los Pinos, Mexico City.

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 13th now has a double significance for victims of communism in China and Cuba

Free Cubans and Chinese share a day to mourn victims of communism.

Over the past 24 years Cubans have mourned the 37 men, women, and children who were extrajudicially executed by agents of the Cuban government on July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat was attacked and sunk.

Tragically, Chinese are mourning Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo who died last year on July 13, 2017 at the First Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, China after being unjustly imprisoned from December 8, 2008 until his untimely death. It is likely that he died of a cancer made terminal by politically motivated neglect. Today marks the one year of his passing. After eight years in "unofficial detention" his widow Liu Xia was finally allowed to leave China three days ago on July 10, 2018.

Liu Xiaobo  was one of the authors of Charter 08 and signed it along with more than three hundred Chinese citizens. The Charter is a manifesto that was released on December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It calls for more freedom of expression, human rights, more democratic elections, the privatization of state enterprises and economic liberalization and would collect over 10,000 signatures.

Charter 08 is reminiscent of the Varela Project that was initially signed by 11,020 Cubans in May of 2002 calling on the Cuban government to respect international human rights norms and engage in the same kind of reforms. Both were inspired by Vaclav Havel and Charter 77. Lamentably one of the authors of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and a youth leader of the same movement, Harold Cepero Escalante were both extrajudicially executed six years ago on July 22, 2012 in a crash engineered by the Cuban dictatorship's agents.

The demand for justice remains unfulfilled in all these cases, but we must not despair.

We must bear witness embracing truth and memory in defiance of the attempt to whitewash and forget. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained the importance of doing this in his 1986 Nobel Lecture on why it is important to remember:  
"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." 
Last year I was present at a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC on Monday, July 17th organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to pay my respects for Liu Xiaobo and demonstrate my solidarity with Chinese human rights defenders.

Today at 12 noon I will be in front of the Cuban embassy in a silent protest for 13 minutes for the 37 victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and will send this brief essay to the new Liu Xiaobo website, light a candle and say a prayer for these victims of communism, their loved ones, and for justice.

We will continue to remember.

July 13, 2017
Liu Xiaobo, Age: 61

July 22, 2012
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Age: 60
Harold Cepero Escalante, Age: 32

July 13, 1994
Hellen Martínez Enriquez. Age: 5 Months
Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández. Age: 2
Angel René Abreu Ruíz. Age: 3
José Carlos Niclas Anaya. Age: 3
Giselle Borges Alvarez. Age: 4
Caridad Leyva Tacoronte. Age: 5
Juan Mario Gutiérrez García. Age: 10
Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte. Age: 11
Yasser Perodín Almanza. Age: 11
Eliécer Suárez Plasencia. Age: 12
Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte. Age: 17
Miladys Sanabria Leal. Age: 19
Joel García Suárez. Age: 20
Odalys Muñoz García. Age: 21
Yalta Mila Anaya Carrasco. Age: 22
Luliana Enríquez Carrazana. Age: 22
Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo. Age: 24
Lissett María Alvarez Guerra. Age: 24
Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro. Age: 25
María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez. Age: 27
Leonardo Notario Góngora. Age: 28
Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores. Age: 28
Pilar Almanza Romero. Age: 31
Rigoberto Feu González. Age: 31
Omar Rodríguez Suárez. Age: 33
Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel. Age: 34
Julia Caridad Ruíz Blanco. Age: 35
Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega. Age: 35
Eduardo Suárez Esquivel. Age: 38
Martha Mirella Carrasco Sanabria. Age: 45
Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez. Age: 45
Rosa María Alcalde Puig. Age: 47
Estrella Suárez Esquivel. Age: 48
Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo. Age: 48
Amado González Raices. Age: 50
Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández. Age: 51
Manuel Cayol. Age: 56

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Justice for the Forgotten: Remembering Oswaldo, Harold and 37 tugboat massacre victims

“In Cuba there are missing and it is known who has disappeared them, the latter are heroes for the government….There are more than 20 murdered children waiting to be claimed and mothers and grandmothers who were not allowed to look for them when they were killed off the coast of Havana” – Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, El Nuevo Herald, March 18, 2005*

24 years ago on July 13, 1994 in the early morning hours, a few miles off the coast of Havana several families risked all to get to freedom on board the "13 de Marzo" tugboat and paid the ultimate price. Castro's state security agents had learned of their plans, rather than preempt and stop the journey before it started, the repressive apparatus opted to make an example of them in an act of state terror that will never be forgotten by those touched by this crime. 37 men, women and children were killed.

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas denounced the crime, demanding justice and years after he continued to hold the Castro regime accountable. He also called on Cubans to exercise their freedoms. This desire for freedom was intolerable for the dictatorship.

Six years ago on July 22, 2012 in Eastern Cuba two human rights and pro-democracy leaders who had organized a petition drive 16 years ago that shook the dictatorship to its very core were murdered in a successful effort by Cuban state security to silence and stop those who could not be intimidated by threats of prison, violence or even death. Cuba remains a totalitarian, communist dictatorship where human rights have and continue to be systematically violated, and dissent is not tolerated.

Truth and memory in defiance of the attempt to whitewash and forget. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained in his 1986 Nobel Lecture why it is important to remember:  "To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

It is our duty to continue the call for justice for the 37 victims of the "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre and for Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante. On Friday, July 13th at 12 noon wherever you are hold a copy of the image at the top of the page and hold a 13 minute moment of silence, take a picture at the end of your demonstration and post it on social media.

The dictatorship killed the dreamers, but the dream lives on.

"You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher."
Peter Gabriel, Biko