Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Transfering some political prisoners to their home provinces is a first step

They can either kills us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens. - Laura Pollán, Lady in White marching in Cuba, March 2010

Orlando Zapata Tamayo did not die in vain and Cuba's Ladies in White's courageous resistance to government organized mobs and violent intimidation did not go unnoticed. The current hunger strikers demanding improved conditions and the release of sick political prisoners are being heard not only in Cuba but around the world. Thanks to human rights activists like Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva the facts are getting out there.

Amnesty International is calling on the Cuban dictatorship to reform itself by revoking its repressive laws and releasing its prisoners of conscience.

This has led the dictatorship to reach out to the Cuban Catholic Church and for the first time in half a century ask it to serve as a mediator between the democratic opposition and the regime in power.

Cuba's Catholic Church said in a statement today that six men, [Felix Navarro, Jose Luis Garcia, Ivan Adolfo Hernandez Carrillo, Diosdado Gonzalez, Arnaldo Ramos and Antonio Ramon Diaz ] who were among 75 government opponents jailed in a 2003 crackdown, were in the process of being transferred to prisons nearer their families. The statement by the Archbishop of Havana is signed by Orlando Márquez Hidalgo in Havana, dated June 1, 2010 and contains the following list of transfers:

1- FÉLIX NAVARRO RODRÍGUEZ, from Ciego de Ávila to Matanzas
2- JOSÉ LUIS GARCÍA PANEQUE, from Granma to Las Tunas
3- IVÁN ADOLFO HERNÁNEZ CARRILLO, from Villa Clara to Matanzas
4- DIOSDADO GONZÁLEZ MARRERO, from Pinar del Río to Matanzas
5- ARNALDO RAMOS LAUZURIQUE, from Sancti Spíritus to City of Havana
6- ANTONIO RAMÓN DÍAZ SÁNCHEZ, from Ciego de Ávila to City of Havana

Amnesty International recognizes all these men as prisoners of conscience but the dictatorship continues to refer to them as mercenaries. The 2010 Amnesty International report found that in Cuba there were 55 prisoners of conscience detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights prison conditions in Cuba are harsh and run afoul of international standards.

Human rights reporting; the weekly public marches; the hunger strikes; fasts; protests; strikes; and public displays of dissent fall under non-violent resistance. The dictatorship in Cuba is heavily armed with all the instruments of repression at the disposal of a totalitarian state, but it cannot survive when confronted by an adversary committed to speaking truth to power and armed with the moral authority endowed by the courage and cleverness in carrying out a disciplined non-violent struggle. The Ladies in White demonstrated this over seven years and with great courage in March of 2010 facing down violent and aggressive government mobs. Orlando Zapata Tamayo demonstrated it carrying out a 83-day water only hunger strike and when prison officials tried to break him by denying him water for more than two weeks. They failed, but only succeeded in being complicit in his death. Both actions required courage, discipline, and determination.

Non-violent discipline as described by Gandhi is essential to achieving victory in a struggle against a powerful adversary. "For non-co-operation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice and it demands patience and respect for opposite views. And unless we are able to evolve a spirit of mutual toleration for diametrically opposite views, non-co-operation is an impossibility. I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so, our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world."

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