Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cuban prisoners of conscience: A call to action on their behalf

"Action for one’s own self binds, action for the sake of others delivers from bondage." - Mohandas Gandhi

Eleven Cuban prisoners of conscience, who should have never been imprisoned in the first place and that the Cuban regime pledged to free a month ago remain imprisoned apparently because they have refused to go into exile and want to remain in their homeland.

When the original November 7, 2010 deadline passed [it had been announced following the Catholic Church's mediation between the Ladies in White and the Cuban regime for the release of the remaining prisoners of conscience unjustly imprisoned during the March 2003 Black Cuban Spring ] the opposition vowed to intensify its protests and on the same day Diosdado González Marrero announced he would begin a hunger strike.

On November 10, 2010 Yoani Sanchez spoke with Alejandrina García de la Riva , the wife of Cuban prisoner of conscience Diosdado González Marrero and announced to the world that he had postponed his hunger strike after "Diosdado Gonzalez was visited by an official from security that promised they would be freed 'between 15 days and one month."

One month has passed and only two prisoners have been freed
68 year old Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique who was able to return home and Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, who agreed to go into exile "if the title to his house could be transferred to family members and if he was allowed to return to the island to visit a brother still in jail." The agreement reached back in July was not conditioned on prisoners agreeing to go into exile.

Eleven Cuban prisoners of conscience from the 2003 Black Cuban Spring remain imprisoned today that were supposed to be released on November 7, 2010. There names and faces are listed below:

Pedro Argüelles Morán

Oscar Biscet González

Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

José Daniel Ferrer García

Diosdado González Marrero

Iván Hernández Carrillo

Librado Linares García

Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez

Angel Moya Acosta

Félix Navarro Rodríguez

Guido Sigler Amaya

Today is December 7, 2010 the 114th anniversary of the death of Cuban Independence hero Antonio Maceo and a symbol of courage in resistance in Cuban history. These men in refusing exile and continuing to suffer in prison conditions that are inhumane and amount to torture are writing a new chapter of resistance to tyranny but unlike Maceo who took up arms against the enemy they are doing so nonviolently.

This is a profound break with Cuba's violent political history. It has been a decision taken by Cuba's national civic movement since the founding of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights in 1976.

In three days the world will observe International Human Rights Day which marks the 62nd Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Cuban diplomats representing a democratic Cuba wrote one of the early drafts of this human rights charter.

December 10, 2010 will also coincide with the one month deadline for the release of the 11 prisoners of conscience listed above as a representative of the dictatorship pledged to Diosdado González Marrero on November 10.

Now the dictatorship has engaged in a three pronged attack to divert attention from the plight of these human rights defenders. First the regime has engaged in a campaign to attack the international press for paying attention to their plight. Secondly, the Cuban government has sought to distract attention with commuting death sentences of two El Salvadoreans accused of terror bombings in 1997. Finally, the announcement of the first Communist Party congress in the past 14 years for April of 2011 along with a discussion of economic reforms along the China model has shifted attention away from human rights and democratic reforms in the international press. The Castro brothers are masters of distraction.

It is up to people of good will with access to the internet to remind the world that there are Cuban prisoners of conscience unjustly imprisoned that were supposed to have been freed on November 7, 2010. This is a time for quick and concrete action that requires a minimum of effort but will make an impact. Here are three suggestions:

1) Operation Cubans have a Right to their Rights focusing on Article XIX of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
Article 19.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The human rights defenders imprisoned since 2003 were imprisoned for seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas to other Cubans and the international community. Name each one of the 11 imprisoned activists. All have been recognized by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. They can be listed together or separately. Post their names on facebook, twitter, in blogs and any other social media that is appropriate.

2) Organize flash mobs beginning on December 10 to generate awareness outside of cyberspace and in the real world. By definition its quick and can be organized quickly through social media tools. Go out and gather signatures petitioning the Cuban regime for their release. Norwegian students in November 2010 gathered over 400 signatures calling for the release of Cuban prisoner of conscience Librado Linares and made the newspapers raising awareness.

3) Record and post video messages of solidarity on youtube directed at these prisoners of conscience and their families by name demanding their freedom along with what human rights mean to you. Make a poster with a photo of the prisoner and their name. For example the image at the top of the page with the phrase: "I Stand with Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet." Take your picture holding up the poster or a message of solidarity and e-mail it to us at freecubanow@hotmail.com

These are just three concrete ideas for action. They've been tried in other places where prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned and have worked.

No doubt there are many more that people of good will can brainstorm and generate in short order. Be bold. Be creative. Be inspired by the nonviolent example set by these human rights defenders and others practicing civic resistance around the world and take constructive action.

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