Friday, October 23, 2009
Huber Matos spoke truth to power 50 years ago and it cost him 22 years in prison
"You should remember that men fade away, while history collects their deeds and makes the final reckoning, the final judgement."
-Huber Matos letter to Fidel Castro 1959
Huber Matos, then a school teacher, declared himself in opposition to Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952 the day that Cuban democracy came under attack. Following the extrajudicial killing of some of his former students he joined the armed struggle and ended up being one of the leaders of the revolutionary insurrection that drove Batista from power on New Year’s Eve 1958.
Less than a year later he would be on trial for his life. What was his crime? Warning Fidel Castro in several private letters, where he tendered his resignation only to have it refused, that communists were infiltrating the revolutionary government. In these letters he plainly stated:"I did not want to become an obstacle to the revolution and I believe that if I am forced to choose between falling into line or withdrawing from the world so as not to do harm, the most honorable and revolutionary action is to leave."
He wrote about the aims of the revolution: the restoration of democracy and the Constitution of 1940 where in jeopardy and appealed to his former comrade in arms: "We fought in the name of Truth, for all the sound principles that bind civilization and mankind together . . . . Please, in the names of our fallen comrades, our mothers, of all the people, Fidel, do not bury the revolution."
Fidel Castro made the letters public generating the crisis and denouncing the charge that communists were infiltrating the government. He ordered Camilo Cienfuegos, another popular revolutionary leader, to go an arrest Matos. The Castro brothers began to prepare a show trial and the execution by firing squad of Huber Matos for treason.
The revolutionary tribunal was prepared. Fidel Castro spoke to Matos promising that if he confessed to everything that he would not face any prison time and could go home. Matos refused, and as the show trial began and they tried to shut him up - he refused. He went on to speak for more that three hours and concluded his testimony stating: "I consider myself neither a traitor nor a deserter. My conscience is clear. If the court should find me guilty, I shall accept its decision - even though I may be shot. I would consider it one more service for the revolution."
Revolutionary officers that had been convened at the trial to chant "to the execution wall" instead moved by his testimony rose up and applauded Matos. Instead of the firing squad the revolutionary tribunal sentenced him to 22 years in prison.
Huber Matos would serve every day of those 22 years suffering beatings and other tortures. Camilo Cienfuegos, a figure more popular then Fidel Castro, would go missing a few days later on October 28, 1959.
In 1989 another Cuban military hero Arnaldo Ochoa would be made the same offer by Fidel Castro: confess to everything you are accused of and you can go home. Ochoa accepted Castro's offer facing a long term prison sentence otherwise. After confessing everything Castro then went on television and declared the damage done to the revolution by Ochoa so great that a prison sentence was not enough and announced his execution which was carried out a short time later.
The price of speaking truth to power his high, but sometimes the price of remaining silent or going along with the lie is even higher.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The FBI busted up a Cuban spy network that infiltrated U.S. military installations, obtained home addresses of U.S. military officers, and successfully conspired to murder three US citizens and one resident in an act of state terrorism. Ten Cuban agents arrested by the FBI had infiltrated and filed detailed reports on the U.S. Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. Not to mention the case of Ana Belen Montes, the high-ranking Defense Intelligence Agency analyst arrested shortly after 9/11 who pleaded guilty to spying against America for Castro.
The four murder victims were members of Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) founded in 1991 to spot rafters in the Florida Straits and save their lives. Amnesty International's Holly Ackerman co-authored a monograph on Cuban rafters indicating that thousands have died trying to flee Castro's Cuba. On July 13, 1994, four Cuban government boats equipped with high-pressure water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people aboard.
The massacre took place seven miles off the Cuban coast. They attacked the runaway tug with their prows while at the same time spraying everyone, including women and children, with pressurized water. The old boat sank, with a toll of 37 dead, including 10 children and a further 18 youths.
This was not an isolated event. The regime has a history of committing atrocities against fleeing Cubans. One year later on July 13, 1995 a memorial flotilla for the victims was forced to turn back. At the moment that the hull of the lead boat was partially crushed, BTTR planes flew over Havana dropping bumper stickers that read, "Comrades No. Brothers." July 13, 1995, not February 24, 1996 was when Brothers to the Rescue planes flew into and out of Cuban airspace.
Fidel Castro was humiliated and began to plot his revenge using his spies led by Gerardo Hernández to gather information, attempt to discredit and develop a conspiracy that eight months later on the afternoon of February 24, 1996 ended in a premeditated attack with Cuban MiGs blowing to bits two BTTR planes, murdering Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, and Pablo Morales. Castro personally took responsibility for the destruction of the planes.
The goal was to destroy all three planes on that mission, and then have Juan Pablo Roque appear as the lone survivor to offer his "testimony." But with one plane's survival and recordings of routine communications with Cuban government air-traffic controllers, as well as the fact that the two destroyed planes' flight paths were outside Cuban national airspace, the conspiracy unraveled and Roque's story changed.
Morality quiz: Cuban agents murder four Americans in an act of state terrorism. Fidel Castro admits prior knowledge and takes responsibility for the attack. U.S government authorities respond by tightening economic sanction; two years later uncovering an espionage network involved in the murder conspiracy; and seven years later charging Cuban military officials in absentia for the extrajudicial killings. The Cuban dictatorship launches an international campaign to release these agents. This attack planned out by Cuban officials and the early release of the agents involved in the conspiracy would be:
E) something that would lead terrorists to think it is open season on U.S. citizens
*A version of this essay was originally published in The Miami New Times on February 13, 2003
Yoani Sanchez raises the following question:
Today I have to ask: How do you sing the anthem mobilized by a people on the net, how do you broadcast this desire for change that I see in every one of the faces around me. Before, it was accomplished with the sound of bugles, galloping horses and some stanzas that summoned the Bayamese to “die for the fatherland”; but now everything is different. It occurs to me to use kilobytes, to take advantage of the cutting edge of a word that is also sharp and makes precepts grow more durable than the machete. Travel the net, then, the five points of this blog action, like the call to slaughter against control, authoritarianism and censorship:
- Freedom of opinion
- Freedom of access to the Internet
- Freedom to enter and leave Cuba
- Freedom of association
- Freedom for prisoners of conscience
- Freedom for Cuba
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Constitutional Reforms in Latin America from a Cuban Perspective
ARTICLE 62. None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to what is established in the Constitution and by law, or contrary to the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law. (1992 Cuban Constitution)
The rest of Latin America ranging from a healthy liberal democracy in Costa Rica to Venezuela where according to Human Rights Watch Chavez's willful disregard for institutional guarantees and fundamental rights that makes democratic participation possible is undermining democracy and although not yet a closed society I believe that Mr. Chavez would like to achieve that result, but unlike the Castro brothers he has had to face democratic institutions in Venezuela.
Nevertheless it is worthwhile to take a look at the Cuban Constitution and some of the specific articles and amendments that nullify its democratic planks and creates a legal base for totalitarian rule because they may be used to achieve the same ends in other Latin American constitutions. The centralization of power in the hands of the executive and the tearing down of the separation of powers: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive is a trend in Latin America in which Cuba is an extreme example. For example in addition to the structural centralization of power already mentioned in the current Cuban constitution the dictator is referred to by name in the preamble along with explicit references to specific military action such as: "the triumphant Revolution of the Moncada and of the Granma of the Sierra and of Girón under the leadership of Fidel Castro."
First it is important to place Cuba in its proper historical context beginning with Fulgencio Batista's coup de etat against Cuba's constitutional democracy followed by the struggle against the above mentioned dictator. Recalling that Fidel Castro's call for for restoring the 1940 Constitution along with the previous democracy while claiming not to be a communist and claiming to be a defender of civil and political liberties was an indication of what where popular positions among the citizenry.
The portrayal of Batista as right wing is simply false. He had legalized the communist party in the 1930s; helped communists to control labor unions in the 1930s; had prominent communists in his 1940 cabinet and when Batista accused his adversary of being a communist Castro was able to produce correspondence between the Cuban dictator and the communists demonstrating their friendly relationship while the young attorney denied the charge and denounced Batista as a hypocrite. At the same time pointing out Fulgencio Batista’s long association with the Cuban communist party: "What right does Mr. Batista have to speak of Communism? After all, in the elections of 1940 he was the candidate of the Communist Party ... his portrait hung next to Blas Roca's and Lazaro Pena's; and half a dozen ministers and confidants of his are leading members of the CP."
Following the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union the 1976 constitution got an overhaul in 1992. The reference in the preamble to the fraternal friendship and cooperation of the Soviet Union was removed but the totalitarian nature of the regime remain unchanged and in 2002 following the success of the Varela Project which used a plank of the constitution that democrats could exploit to seek reforms led to a constitutional amendment to make the Communist Constitution untouchable.
The current system recognizes only one legal political party in Article 5 of the current constitution which is the Communist Party of Cuba and is described as "the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society."
Freedom of speech and of the press is confined in Article 53 of the constitution to "the objectives of socialist society," and "the press, radio, television, cinema, and other mass media are state or social property and can never be private property." In practice this "social property" unlike the public television in democratic countries is at the service of the one party dictatorship and for years Fidel Castro would appear on newscasts providing commentary.
It is important to point out that Article 62 of the constitution explicitly states that "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to ... the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law." Cuban citizens can either support socialism and communism or suffer the consequences.
Legal Basis for the Varela Project
ARTICLE 88. The proposal of laws is the responsibility of: a) the deputies to the National of People’s Power; b) the Council of State; c) the Council of Ministers; d) the commissions of the National Assembly of People’s Power; e) the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions and the national offices of the other social and mass organizations; f) the People’s Supreme Court, in matters related to the administration of justice; g) the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, in matters within its jurisdiction; h) the citizens. In this case it is an indispensable prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10 000 citizens who are eligible to vote.
Attempts by Cubans to exercise their fundamental rights within the existing legal system to petition the Cuban government to reform itself based in Article 88 of the constitution have met with repression. For example, the Varela Project with 25,404 Cuban citizens’ signatures presented in 2002-2003 to the government petitioning for political and human rights reforms and [for a new electoral law in accord with international standards] was attacked by the regime both at a systematic and at an individual level.
In the Cuban case the dictatorship’s initial response to the request for reform was to announce its own petition drive to amend the constitution and declare it “untouchable” in a referendum equally as undemocratic as the system which the Varela Project seeks to reform. One needed to sign the government’s “petition” or risk losing their jobs or their children’s educational opportunities. On the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 the dictatorship organized a nationwide crackdown arrested and condemned 75 Cuban dissidents many of them Project Varela coordinators to up to 28 years in prison, which was the sentence handed down in a show trial to Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, a Varela Project coordinator; or 25 years in prison to his brother José Daniel Ferrer García, another local coordinator of the Varela Project and an independent journalist.
In this essay the focus has been on the Constitution and its totalitarian characteristics, but as referred to above with the Varela Project these constitutional articles have shaped Cuba's penal code. There are numerous laws that trample the fundamental human rights of all Cubans, but for the sake of brevity there will be a focus on three laws:
Oral and Written Enemy Propaganda
Article 103 of the Cuban criminal code states:
1. Any person who: a) incites against the social order, international solidarity or the communist State, by means of oral or written propaganda or in any other way; b) prepares, distributes or possesses propaganda of the type referred to in paragraph (a) preceding; shall be punished with one to eight years imprisonment. [...] 3. If mass communication media are used for performance of the acts referred to in (1) and (2) of this article, the penalty shall be seven to fifteen years imprisonment. [...]The writer and poet Reinaldo Arenas observed that “The difference between the communist and capitalist systems is that, although both give you a kick in the cojones, in the communist system you have to applaud, while in the capitalist system you can scream. And I came here to scream.” Some might argue that this is a subtle difference, but I think it an important one. The ability to protest injustice is the first step to being able to remedy it. Freedom of speech and expression to express grievances is an essential feature of a free society.
Article 72. A dangerous state is defined as the special predisposition of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly inconsistent with the norms of socialist ethics.
Article 75. A person who, though not in one of the dangerous states specified in Article 73, by virtue of links or dealings with persons potentially dangerous to society, to others, and to the social, economic, and political order of the socialist state may be predisposed to crime shall be warned by the competent police authority as to prevent him or her from engaging in activities that are dangerous to society or criminal in nature.
Dangerousness is applied against poor and socially marginal persons as well as political dissidents. A recent victim of this law that drew international attention was a hungry and inebriated Cuban man who said on camera that he was hungry and that there is hunger in Cuba. His name is Juan Carlos Gonzalez Marcos but his friends know him as Pánfilo. He later retracted his statement out of fear, but it was too little too late and was charged with dangerousness and sentenced to two years in prison. Thanks to an international internet campaign he was released, but there are scores like him presently behind bars.
Law 88 "The Gag Law"
Human Rights Watch in their important analysis of Cuba's legal system in 1999: Cuba's Repressive Machinery analyzed the 1996 Law 88 which expanded restrictions on freedom of expression and association and increased prison sentences to 20-years. Many of the independent journalists, Varela project activists, and independent librarians arrested during the March 2003 crackdown were tried and sentenced under this law. All of them were identified by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. In 1997 the government organized a "forced" petition drive in which children who did not sign supporting this new law were harassed and in at least one documented case on April 7, 1997 a father who supported his child's refusal to sign the government petition was detained by State Security.
Freeing all of Cuba's political prisoners is a good first step, but unless these laws are changed and the constitution amended or set aside so that one without totalitarian elements can be the law of the land the prisons will once again be filled with prisoners of conscience.
This paper was first presented on October 13, 2009 at a public discussion on Constitutional Reforms and Democracy in Latin America at 1 p.m. at the Goethe-Institut in the Large Hall, Masarykovo nabrezi 32, Praha 1
Saturday, October 10, 2009
From Nobody to Everybody Listening
Cuba's political prisons and the importance of International Solidarity
History has demonstrated that one cannot remain silent in the face of such injustices without catastrophic results. Tens of thousands of Cubans have suffered inside of Castro's prisons for political reasons. For the past half century
Jorge Valls a poet and writer served 20 years and 40 days of an unjust prison sentence for speaking out in defense of a friend undergoing a Stalinist show trial. Jorge was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He has written both a chronicle of his imprisonment 20 years and 40 days and a book of poems Where I am there is not light and it is barred. His description of his years in prison involves the sounds of firing squads in
One need not be a political or human rights activist to suffer dire consequences when you express what you think. Earlier this year Juan Carlos González Marcos, known better as “Pánfilo,” appeared on camera saying that he was hungry and that there was hunger in
Another case is that of Maikel Bencomo Rojas detained on May 7, 2008 brutally beaten by State Security agents and in a summary trial sentenced two years in prison for having a tattoo on his back that says “Abajo Fidel” [Down with Fidel]. 26 years old married with a small daughter he was not part of any organized opposition but merely wanted to express himself.
However, out of these prisons there has been a rebirth of spirit and hope amid all the misery and torture. The Cuban Committee for Human Rights and much of the democratic opposition were forged in prison and tempered by its brutality to confront a totalitarian system. A musician like Gorki Aguila of the Cuban punk rock band imprisoned because of lyrics critical of the dictatorship in a sham trial would meet Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and emerge years later from prison fearless and challenging the dictatorship with scathing lyrics with no room for misinterpretation.
A medical doctor Oscar Elias Biscet in the mid 1990s began to follow the path of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Beginning in 1999 Dr. Biscet first served a three year sentence for holding a press conference and defending human rights. Less than a month after his release in 2002 he was rearrested for organizing teach-ins on how Cubans could nonviolently exercise their rights and sentenced in March of 2003 to 25 years in prison along with scored of other non-violent civic activists and independent journalists. Earlier this year on the eve of his 48th birthday he managed to get the following message to his wife Elsa Morejon: “When you ask me how I am doing, and I tell you that I am resisting, it is because the environment I find myself in is too brutal for any civilized man imprisoned for promoting ideas of love, the respect for human rights and the defense of life. Yet, I thank God as I awake every day, for in this dark and lonely cell, I know He is with me.”
In 1969 in a letter to Alexander Dubček Václav Havel enunciated a profound truth: “Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.” Following the March 2003 crackdown in
Moral acts by average citizens have had unforeseen effects such as when the musician Gorki Aguila was rearrested and threatened with four years in prison for “predilection to social dangerousness” an international campaign quickly mobilized involving all sectors of civil society inside and outside of Cuba and the dictatorship released him with a fine and a lesser charge to avoid the avalanche of international attention and public criticism. A similar mobilization around the case of Juan Carlos González Marcos “Pánfilo” led to his release from prison.
Real change in
Eternal vigilance is not only the price for preserving liberty in free societies but also for saving lives and defending pockets of freedom in unfree societies and speaking out for those imprisoned for speaking their minds.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Aung San Suu Kyi on Importance of Freedom songs
As I post this videos Aung San Suu Kyi is meeting with diplomats as she continues to serve an unjust prison sentence. There has been an effective international campaign for Burma that has probably saved her life and the lives of many of her countrymen who face a genocidal military junta with a horrific human rights record.
Below she outlines the importance of "freedom songs" to the Free Burma movement and I think that it can be applied to other freedom movements as well.
"Lack of freedom does a lot of terrible things to people. It's only when your deprived of your freedom that you realize how precious it is." - Aung San Suu Kyi
"I think that musicians and artists anywhere in the world are in a position to draw public attention to our cause in a way in which others cannot. Because one good freedom song can go a lot further than several long speeches - well several interviews like this - or a number of interviews like this is nothing compared to a really catchy freedom song for Burma . If somebody would really come up with it. It could spread all over the world that would help us a great deal."
Both Jane Birkin and U2 have crafted songs dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi and have used her image in their work to highlight her plight and the plight of Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi - Jane Birkin Music Video
Walk On - U2 Official Music Video & Concert Video below
Aung San Suu Kyi: Ambassador of Conscience Award from AI at U2 Concert
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Damas de Blanco
Un documental del Ciro Díaz y Claudio Fuentes
Música: Eric Sánchez
This short documentary has a cinema verite quality which interviews the Ladies in White in the midst of their weekly walk to Santa Rita Church in which they call for their loved one's freedom from unjust imprisonment. Clocking in at 10 minutes 54 seconds there is no fluff or padding but direct interviews in real time as the action takes place, and filming the surrounding environment.
Although not a political film but rather a human rights film it documents a slice of life and is worthy of a larger audience.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
To commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR, and to remind the world that violations of Human Rights are unacceptable anywhere, at any time, Link TV has produced a video, "The Price of Silence" for Amnesty International.
More information available here
LYRICS FOR “THE PRICE OF SILENCE”
Prologue (Laurence Fishburne):
These are not just words tattooed on paper
No prison cell, no border fence, no torture well will stop our plea
No stone, no stain will mar the river of our dignity
My child, for you today our voice befriends the winds-
Verse (Stephen Marley & Natalie Merchant)
This is for the orphan children
And for all the refugees
The disappeared, the bombing victims
Don’t get ratings on TV
Verse (Spanish: Julieta Venegas & Andrea Ecehverri)
Contra los arma-guerras
Contra las discriminaciones
Contral los violadores
Contra la malas vibras
We are all in this together
Brothers and sister, we can do better!
Raise your voices to the sky
The Price of Silence is much too high
Yungchen Lhamo (Sings part of a Tibetan prayer for peace)
Verse (Angelique Kidjo)
We say no to the war makers
Going on a killing spree
We say no to all dictators
Speaking their hypocrisy
Chorus (Spanish: Julieta, Andrea, Cucu Duamantes and Perdro Martinez)
Todos los seres humanos
nacemos libres, nacemos hermanos
no hablenmos mas- es tiempo de armar
un mejor mundo de amor e egualdad
Pedro and Cucu sing first Yoruban Chant
"To OBATALA, who with his white mantel walks the world in search of peace and love"
Chiwoniso overlaps in Shona:
Raise your fist with strength
Raise your leg and dance
Raise your voice and speak
Those are things of strength
Rachid Taha & Kiran Ahulwalia (Bridge to rap section, sung in Arabic & Urdu)
This song speaks of freedom
This song speaks of love
This song speaks of peace (2X)
Kiran: Leave hatred behind
Emmanuel Jal (Rap):
Does the human right law apply for the Blacks?
Imagine if there was a genocide in Spain or somewhere in Bahrain?
I see too many papers getting signed and nothing getting done
Young children in the battlefields firing guns
I, Emmanuel Jal, war child born in war-torn Sudan
Lost my childhood, was it really God's plan?
Yani di Gany Yani di Gany (who is to blame,
Who is to blame) I blame the Man
My heart goes for little Mohammed
Who lost both his mom and dad
In a bomb blast in Baghdad
Stephen Marley (Rap)
No more words and pretty phrases,
No more speeches and delay
While you talk the world is waiting
Gotta act on what you say!
Hugh Masekela (Rap)
If you’re not jealous of your freedom
You’re going to find yourself in serfdom
If you’re not jealous of your liberty
You’re going to find yourself in slavery,
Fight for your rights!
Chali 2na (Rap)
Raise ya fist up
We use music
To make a difference
If you don’t agree then
Keep your distance.
Dedicated to disaster victims
Poor people of vast descriptions
The faces you won't
Rid the world of the killin' and the genocide
Spanish Verse (Andrea Echeverri & Julieta Venegas)
A favor de los derechos
A favor de la dignidad
A favor de los humanos
A favor de la verdad
We are all in this together
Brothers and sister, we can do better!
Raise your voices to the sky
The Price of Silence is much too high
ROLL CALL (Various artists)
A world of peace
A world of freedom
With no disease
and no starvation
A world of peace
A world of freedom
free from fear
A world of peace
A world of freedom
with time for love
A world of peace
A world of freedom
where justice rules
in every nation!
Buy on Itunes proceeds go to Amnesty International
Saturday, October 3, 2009
United Nations, Oct 3 (IANS) The United Nations has released a one-dollar colourful postal stamp of Mahatma Gandhi to commemorate the 140th birth anniversary of the apostle of peace observed Friday as the International Day of Non-violence.
The stamp, released here Friday by the UN Postal Administration, the world body’s postal agency, has been designed by Miami-based artist Ferdie Pacheco, with the Father of the Nation in red, blue and gold. A long time Miami resident Dr. Pacheco arrived here "as a young doctor, transplanted from his native Ybor City in Tampa , he set up his practice on South West Eighth Street the year the early Cuban exiles began streaming into the city. In their stories, he found echoes of his own family's immigrant roots, as his father was the Cuban-born son of a Spanish consul on the island."
Ferdie Pacheco , MD has been called a Renaissance Man because of his prolific career. He has been successful as a pharmacist, medical doctor, Fight Doctor in boxing, including working as a corner man for twelve world champions, including Muhammad Ali for seventeen years.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Time Magazine back in 1999 published The Children of Gandhi some of the names featured in the article appear below but there are others who have followed Mohandas Gandhi's path and on the 140th anniversary of his birth it seems appropriate to highlight "Gandhi's children."
They span different continents and decades confronting injustice wherever it appears and are arranged below in no particular order and is incomplete:
Aung San Suu Kyi: Military Junta in Burma
"What is there to be discouraged about? Gandhi said the victory is in the struggle itself. The struggle itself is the most important thing. I tell our followers that when we achieve democracy, we will look back with nostalgia on the struggle and how pure we were." -Aung San Suu Kyi
"I think this is the case in the great majority of authoritarian states: on the surface, because of repression, everything seems frozen, but when the sun comes out and the ice melts, you find that there was a lot of life underneath all along." -Aung San Suu Kyi
"Please use your liberty to promote ours." -Aung San Suu Kyi
Taken from http://uscampaignforburma.
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
*From White Racism and Black Consciousness
"The system concedes nothing without demand, for it formulates its very method of operation on the basis that the ignorant will learn to know, the child will grow into an adult and therefore demands will begin to be made. It gears itself to resist demands in whatever way it sees fit."
* The Quest for a True Humanity
"To love one's neighbor is also to love one's enemy. Although in reality that qualifier-"enemy" does not exist in my vocabulary. I recognize that I only have adversaries and I have acquired the capacity to love them because in this way we do away with violence, wrath, vengeance, hatred and substitute them with justice and forgiveness."
- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez,
upon completing 40 day fast in 1999 to protest 40 years of dictatorship
His Holiness The Dalai Lama: Chinese Occupation of Tibet
"Many ancient Indian masters have preached nonviolence as a philosophy. That was a more spiritual understanding of it. Mahatma Gandhi, in this twentieth century, produced a very sophisticated approach because he implemented that very noble philosophy of nonviolence in modern politics, and he succeeded. That is a very great thing. It has represented an evolutionary leap in political consciousness, his experimentation with truth."
-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in an interview with Catherine Ingram, from "The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness", published by Snow Lion Publications.
Jorge Valls: Castroite and Batista Cuba
"Without civil rights, the best intentions turn into a trap, and societies become prisons and asylums. There is a danger that we become as alienated and as fierce as the evil we think we are fighting.That is what happened in Cuba under the Castro regime. In 1964, I was convicted of 'conspiracy against the state,' because I testified against the Castro government in a political trial, and I spent 20 years and 40 days in jail. I don't regret my time there, because I was defending this essential respectability of the human person."
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.: Racist & Segregationist United States of America
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
- Martin Luther King Jr. Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas: Castroite Cuba
"There are still those who perpetuate the myth that the exercising of political and civil rights is an alternative to a society’s ability to achieve social justice and development. They are not mutually exclusive. The absence of any civil and political rights in Cuba has had serious consequences such as inequality, the poverty of the majority and privileges of a minority and the deterioration of certain services, even though these were conceived as a positive system to benefit to the people."
Taken from: http://www.cartadecuba.org
"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’."
Taken from: http://www.cartadecuba.org
Vaclav Havel: Communist Czechoslovakia
“The spiritual ethos that came to fruition in the work of Gandhi was a thousand years in the making on the great Indian subcontinent. This work is one of the major contributions of your country to modern history. It is an inspiring contribution, the impact of which can be observed again and again in all corners of the globe.”
“I am one of Mahatma Gandhi's admirers, and, if I may be so bold, I believe that a reflection of his life's work might even be seen in the attempt my friends and I made, in Charter 77, to create a nonviolent opposition to the totalitarian regime in our country. This aspect of our activity later had a positive influence on the course of our anti-totalitarian revolution in 1989.”
“If I were to say what fascinated me most about Gandhi's life, I would have to mention his stance immediately after your country gained independence, when, entirely alone, he placed himself in the path of the bloody battles between the Hindus and the Moslems and was able in Calcutta, for example, but later here in Delhi as well to stop those merciless conflicts and compel the warring factions to shake hands.” […]Gandhi's act was a triumph of human charisma over mob passions. It was a great victory for the ideas of nonviolence, tolerance, coexistence, and understanding. It was a great victory for what I would call the moral minimum, which links people of all cultures, over mutual antipathy springing from differences of faith and cultural traditions.
Lech Walesa: Communist Poland
"When I recall my own path of life I cannot but speak of the violence, hatred and lies. A lesson drawn from such experiences, however, was that we can effectively oppose violence only if we ourselves do not resort to it."
Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture 1983
"The defense of our rights and our dignity, as well as efforts never to let ourselves to be overcome by the feeling of hatred - this is the road we have chosen."
Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture 1983
Lech Walesa's Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1983
Benigno and Cory Aquino: Marcos Dictatorship in Philippines
"In a revolution there can really be no victors, only victims. We do not have to destroy in order to build." -Benigno Servillano Aquino
“Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn't be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.”
- Corazon Aquino
"According to Gandhi, the willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God and man." -Benigno Servillano Aquino
“It is true you cannot eat freedom and you cannot power machinery with democracy. But then neither can political prisoners turn on the light in the cells of a dictatorship.”
- Corazon Aquino
"I have returned to join the ranks of those struggling to restore our rights and freedom through nonviolence. I seek no confrontation." - Benigno Servillano Aquino