Sunday, January 30, 2011

63 years ago today Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated

"We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." - Karl Marx, Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vi pp 503-5 (The final issue of Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 18 May 1849)

"Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Covered with flower petals, the body of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi lies in state at Birla House in New Delhi.

The Soviet press published an article written by S.M. Vakar in 1948 following Gandhi's assassination on January 30, 1948 titled "The Class Nature of the Gandhi Doctrine" subtitled "Gandhi as a Reactionary Utopian" in the Soviet philosophy journal Voprosy filosofii (Questions of Philosophy). The Marxist Leninist argument was outlined as follows:
Although Gandhi regarded the union and independence of the Indian peoples as his goal, his reactionary-Utopian social theory and the reformist methods of struggle connected with it caused his activity to fail in facilitating overthrow of the colonial yoke [...] The social essence of the Gandhi doctrine and its fundamentally reactionary role in the history of India's national liberation movement has hardly been treated in Marxist literature. Yet this doctrine still retards the development of class awareness among the Indian masses.
What was this social essence of Gandhian thought that so troubled the Marxist Leninists in the Soviet Union? First, the reformist methods of struggle referred to in the above quote was nonviolent resistance and secondly his social theory rejected class struggle as another manifestation of destructive violence. On September 11, 1906 a new word came into existence that would give a better understanding of Gandhi's social theory and method of struggle which he described as:
'Satyagraha.' Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase 'passive resistance,' in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word 'Satyagraha' itself or some other equivalent English phrase.
The Marxist-Leninists embraced revolutionary violence and a movement led by a small vanguard of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries that would carry out the changes necessary by whatever means necessary and rejected nonviolence as naive. They followed the doctrine of Lenin as presented in his 1902 revolutionary tract What is to be done.

Over a century has passed since both sets of ideas have been set out and applied around the world. An analysis done by Maria J. Stephen and Erica Chenoweth systematically explores the strategic effectiveness of both violent and nonviolent campaigns using data on 323 campaigns carried out between 1900 and 2006.[1] There findings demonstrate that major non-violent campaigns were successful 53% of the time versus only 26% for major violent campaigns and terrorist campaigns had a dismal 7% success rate.

Today, India with all its flaws is the world's largest democracy with a growing economy that presents new competitive challenges to the developed world and Marxist-Leninism has amassed a body count of 100 million dead and counting. It would appear that Gandhi's criticisms of the communists were prescient:

"The socialists and communists say, they can do nothing to bring about economic equality today. They will just carry on propaganda in its favor and to that end they believe in generating and accentuating hatred. They say, when they get control over the State, they will enforce equality. Under my plan the State will be there to carry out the will of the people, not to dictate to them or force them to do its will." - Mohandas Gandhi

"It is my firm conviction that if the State suppressed capitalism by violence, it will be caught in the coils of violence itself, and will fail to develop non-violence at any time. The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." - Mohandas Gandhi

It is Satyagraha that is relevant today in 2011 and offers an alternative to the conflagrations suffered in the 20th century and the wars that plague the world now. Gandhi's Satyagraha is a call to principled non-violence but even pragmatists and realists looking over the historical record cannot fail to be influenced by the fact that non-violent civic resistance works and in the aggregate offers a better chance of a better life for more people.

[1]Stephan, Maria J. and Chenoweth, Erica Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. International Security, Vol. 33, No.1 (Summer 2008), pp. 7-44

[2] Gandhi, Mohandas (author) Dalton, Dennis (editor) Mahatma Gandhi: Selected Political Writings September 1996 Hackett Publishing Company

Friday, January 28, 2011

158 years after the birth of José Martí a Cuban Woman is on hunger strike demanding her husband's freedom

It is terrible to speak of you, Liberty, for one who lives without you. - José Martí

On hunger strike, Alejandrina García de la Riva

José Julián Martí Pérez was born on January 28, 1853 and will be honored by a dictatorship that is the antithesis of everything he represented and advocated. Today, on the the 158th anniversary of his birth Alejandrina García de la Riva, wife of Cuban prisoner of conscience Diosdado González Marrero and thus a Cuban Lady in White, wrote to Yoani Sanchez: "I declare myself on hunger strike for the freedom of my husband Diosdado." Shortly after midnight on January 28, 2011 the Cuban Democratic Directorate released a statement from Alejandrina.

Alejandrina has a twitter account with one entry from June 11, 2010 that reads: "To the Cuban government I say: Do not be afraid to open the gates and free the prisoners of conscience."


Alejandrina García de la Riva speaks out on February 1, 2011, the 5th day of her hunger strike (video by Yoani Sanchez)

A month later on July 7, 2010, according to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, an agreement was reached where all prisoners of conscience imprisoned during the 2003 Cuban Black Spring would be freed by November 2010 with those wanting to remain in Cuba being released last. With the exception of one prisoner of conscience, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, age 68, the only one's released have been driven to the airport and placed on a plane out of the country into exile. Eleven prisoners of conscience from 2003 remain in prison today. One of them is Alejandrina's husband, Diosdado González Marrero.

He was arrested on March 18, 2003. According to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)he was "[s]entenced to 20 years imprisonment on April 7, 2003." The IACHR also informed that he was a "[m]ember of the Peace, Democracy, and Freedom Party (Partido Paz, Democracia y Libertad) in Perico Matanzas," and that he was born on August 10, 1962.

In 2004, Amnesty International described Diosdado as having "been an activist for several years" who "has been detained on several occasions" and had been "recognised by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience in the past." According to reports presented to Amnesty International, "he suffers from high blood pressure and apparently has not received adequate medical attention for his complaint."

Below you can listen to Alejandrina García de la Riva interviewed by the Argentine journalist Débora Plager on July 10, 2010 where she talks about the circumstances surrounding her husband's arrest and their family:



In the recording below you can listen to Alejandrina as she describes an activity carried out by the Ladies in White on September 26, 2010:



"The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women. But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible." - José Martí

Cuban Ladies in White silently marching through Havana demanding their loved one's freedom. Perhaps the dictatorship is afraid to free non-violent prisoners of conscience and would prefer to confront the powerful mobilization of Cuban women because they fear 11 courageous men. They who have organized acts of repudiation; sought to sow hatred and distrust into Cuban society in order to divide it; murdered innocent men, women and children in massacres like the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down; and falsely imprisoned, tortured and murdered prisoners of conscience like Orlando Zapata Tamayo then slandered them in death and harassed their families lack all decorum.

They also know as José Martí long ago observed that "[w]hen there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity." That kind of moral strength when faced with a morally bankrupt regime can bring it down quickly.

Update: On Tuesday, February 1, 2011 Cuban prisoner of conscience Diosdado González Marrero initiated a water only hunger strike in solidarity with his wife demanding freedom of 11 prisoners of conscience imprisoned in 2003 and was joined by fellow prisoner of conscience Pedro Argüelles. Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Alejandrina had already lost 5 pounds.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Human Rights Watch World Report: Cuba

Cuba
Events of 2010

Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. In 2010 the government continued to enforce political conformity using criminal prosecutions, beatings, harassment, denial of employment, and travel restrictions.

Since inheriting control of the government from his brother Fidel Castro in 2006, Raul Castro has kept Cuba's repressive legal and institutional structures firmly in place. While Cuban law includes broad statements affirming fundamental rights, it also grants officials extraordinary authority to penalize individuals who try to exercise them.

Following the death of a political prisoner on hunger strike in February 2010 and the subsequent hunger strike of a prominent dissident, Cuba’s government has released more than 40 political prisoners, forcing most into exile. Many more journalists, human rights defenders, and dissidents remain behind bars, while the government increasingly relies on short-term, arbitrary detentions to punish its critics.

Political Prisoners, Arbitrary Detentions, and "Dangerousness"
Cubans who dare to criticize the government are subject to criminal and "pre-criminal" charges. They are exempt from due process guarantees, such as the right to a defense, and denied meaningful judicial protection because courts are "subordinated" to the executive and legislative branches.

In February 2010 political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following an 85-day hunger strike. Zapata—who was jailed during a 2003 crackdown on more than 75 human rights defenders, journalists, and dissidents—initiated his hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions in which he was being held and to demand medical treatment. Following Zapata’s death, dissident Guillermo Fariñas initiated a hunger strike to demand medical attention for political prisoners with serious health problems. In July Fariñas ended his hunger strike after 135 days when the Catholic Church announced it had reached an agreement with the Cuban government to release the 52 political prisoners still behind bars from the 2003 crackdown. By mid-November, 39 of the 52 prisoners had been released on the condition that they accept forced exile to Spain, while 12 prisoners, who refused to leave Cuba, remained in prison. One prisoner had been granted provisional freedom and allowed to stay on the island.

Scores of political prisoners remain in Cuban prisons. In October 2010 the Women in White—a respected human rights group comprised of wives, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners—issued a list of 113 prisoners whom it said were incarcerated for political reasons. According to the Damas, there are likely many more prisoners whose cases they cannot document because Cuba’s government does not allow international monitors or national groups to access its prisons.

The government continued to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals exercising their fundamental rights. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation documented 325 arbitrary detentions by security forces in 2007; from January to September of 2010, it registered more than 1,220. The detentions are often used to prevent individuals participating in meetings or events viewed as critical of the government. Security officers often offer no charge to justify the detentions—a clear violation of due process rights—but warn detainees of longer arrests if they continue participating in activities deemed critical of the government. For example, from February 23 to 25, more than 100 people were arbitrarily detained across Cuba or placed under house arrest to prevent them participating in memorial services for Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Raul Castro's government has increasingly relied on a "dangerousness" (estado peligroso) provision of the criminal code that allows the state to imprison individuals before they have committed a crime, on the suspicion that they might commit an offense in the future. Scores of individuals have been sentenced to between one and four years for "dangerous" activities including handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, staging peaceful marches, writing critical news articles, and trying to organize independent unions.

Freedom of Expression
The government maintains a media monopoly on the island, ensuring that freedom of expression is virtually nonexistent. Although a small number of independent journalists manage to write articles for foreign websites or maintain independent blogs, they must publish their work through back channels—writing from home computers, saving information on memory sticks, and uploading articles and posts through illegal internet connections. Others dictate articles to contacts abroad. The risks associated with these activities are considerable. For example, blogger Luis Felipe Rojas of Holguin has repeatedly been arbitrarily detained, interrogated, and threatened by authorities for his work. In May 2010, soldiers and police surrounded his house for six days. He was arrested in September along with five human rights defenders when he traveled to attend a pro-democracy meeting, and again in October.

The government controls all media outlets in Cuba and access to outside information is highly restricted. Only a tiny fraction of Cubans have the chance to read independently published articles and blogs because of the high cost of, and limited access to, the internet: an hour of internet use costs one-third of Cubans' monthly wages and is only available in a few government-run centers.

Human Rights Defenders
Refusing to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity, the Cuban government denies legal status to local human rights groups. The government also employs harassment, beatings, and imprisonment to punish human rights defenders who attempt to document abuses. For example, in October 2010 two members of the Women in White were detained as they marched in Havana holding a banner that read: “Down with racism and long live human rights.” Police transferred them to a police station and beat them, fracturing one woman’s nose and the other’s wrist, and held them without access to communications for seven hours.

Travel Restrictions and Family Separation
The Cuban government forbids the country's citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is often denied. For example, internationally acclaimed blogger Yoani Sanchez has been denied the right to leave the island to accept awards and participate in conferences eight times in the past three years.

Widespread fear of forced family separation gives the Cuban government a powerful tool for punishing defectors and silencing critics. The government frequently bars citizens engaged in authorized travel from taking their children with them overseas, essentially holding children hostage to guarantee their parents' return.

The government restricts the movement of citizens within Cuba by enforcing a 1997 law known as Decree 217. Designed to limit migration to Havana, the decree requires Cubans to obtain government permission before moving to the country's capital. It is often used to prevent dissidents traveling to Havana to attend meetings, and to harass dissidents from other parts of Cuba who live in the capital. For example, in January 2010 authorities repeatedly threatened to remove human rights defenders Juan Carlos González and Tania Maceda Guerra from Havana. Security officers visited their home, called them "counterrevolutionaries," and warned they would be forcibly returned to their native province under Decree 217 if they did not leave Havana voluntarily.

Prison Conditions
Conditions for prisoners are overcrowded, unhygienic, and unhealthy, leading to extensive malnutrition and illness. Political prisoners who criticize the government, refuse to participate in ideological "reeducation," or engage in hunger strikes and other forms of protest are routinely subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, visit restrictions, and denial of medical care. Prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress, giving prison authorities total impunity.

Key International Actors
In October 2010 the European Union renewed its "Common Position" on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which conditions full economic cooperation with Cuba on the country's transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights. At the same time the EU dispatched its top foreign police official, Catherine Ashton, to initiate a dialogue with Cuba’s government on how to improve relations.

The United States' economic embargo on Cuba, in place for more than half a century, continues to impose indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people, and has done nothing to improve human rights in Cuba. At the United Nations General Assembly in October, 187 of the 192 member countries voted for a resolution condemning the US embargo; only the United States and Israel voted against it. In April 2009 the US government eliminated all limits on travel and remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba. Legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives in February 2010 would restore the right travel to Cuba for all Americans and remove obstacles to sales of US agricultural commodities to Cuba. It has not yet been brought to a vote.

As of October 2010 Cuba’s government had yet to ratify the core international human rights treaties—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—which it signed in February 2008. Cuba is currently serving a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council, having been reelected in May 2009.

Badfellas

Wikileaks Reveals: The Cuban Mafia Splinters

CUBA IS A STATE ON THE TAKE


The Cuban mafia was run for decades by the capo known as Fidel Castro, but as the old mafioso has lost his edge and his brother Raul Castro has failed to keep control of the family business one sees that other hands are dipping into the racket known as the Cuban regime.

In a dictatorship where the rule of law is non-existent and subjected to the whims of a small ruling elite corruption is endemic part of that system.

These are bad fellas. In the picture above from (left to right) you've got three of the old mafia guard Ramiro Valdez (a.k.a Blood Bath) , Raul Castro (a.k.a. Fredo) and Fidel Castro (a.k.a. the Horse). The cable below leaked by Wikileaks speaks volumes:

06HAVANA8986 2006-04-26 18:06 2011-01-22 21:09

CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana

[...]

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 008986

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/24/2016
TAGS: PGOV SOCI ECON CU
SUBJECT: (CUBA IS) A STATE ON THE TAKE

REF: HAVANA 8769

HAVANA 00008986 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: MICHAEL E. PARMLY FOR REASONS 1.4 b/d

¶1. (C) Summary: Castro has spent the past five months battling corruption in a country where trickery has become a way of life. Because most Cubans work for the state, the entire system - from petty officials to Castro's closest advisors - is rife with corrupt practices. Given state control over all resources, corruption and thievery have become one and the same. Corrupt practices also include bribery, misuse of state resources and accounting shenanigans. In its post-Soviet incarnation, Cuba has become a state on the take. End Summary.

From Petty to Grande
--------------------

¶2. (U) In October 2005, Castro embarked on a crusade against corruption that shows no signs of letting up (ref A). The concerted campaign has disrupted the lives of many Cubans living off their abilities to "resolver" (a word that implies everything from simply finding a creative solution to outright stealing). Fifteen years after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, "resolver" has become a way of life in Cuba. Economic desperation combined with totalitarian control has resulted in a state system riddled by corruption from top to bottom.

Bribes
------

¶3. (U) Bribes are a common means of getting around suffocating controls. For example, Cubans are only allowed to swap housing ("permutar") if both residences are of equal value. Money is not allowed to exchange hands in the transaction, but often does. If a Cuban mother swaps a small apartment for a large one in a trade that obviously involved compensation, she must also be prepared to pay a GOC housing official several hundred dollars to look the other way. An additional fee may be required to push the deal through in a timely fashion. As always, Cubans must tread carefully; accidentally propositioning a clean official - or worse, a strident revolutionary - could result in disaster.

¶4. (U) Block organizations (CDRs) have declined in prominence over the years (to the point where few Cubans have any interest in becoming CDR President), but still maintain control over the distribution of goods. On rare occasions, these goods are valuable. When televisions or refrigerators become available through the state system, CDR Officers are famous for giving preferential access to two groups: Those that maintain good revolutionary credentials... and those that can afford it.

¶5. (U) Bribes are also key to getting good jobs (good jobs being those with opportunities to "resolver"). For example, a job with access to a fuel tank (gas station or other outlet) reportedly costs thousands of dollars, while a job in tourism (with access to tips) might cost in the hundreds. An unemployed Cuban told P/E Officer that a job with elite state firm CIMEX (The Import-Export Corporation) would cost him up to 500 USD.

¶6. (U) Cuban police officers are famous for taking bribes. They pull drivers over for myriad transgressions, then describe their "sick child." An Italian tourist told P/E Officer that every time a police officer pulled him over, it was always the officer's "birthday." The police are so corrupt that the GOC regularly fills their ranks with unsullied recruits from the East. As time passes, the new crop becomes as corrupt as the old, and a fresh batch is brought in to replace them.

Misuse of State Resources
-------------------------

¶7. (U) Cash is not abundant in Cuba, such that bribes sometimes take a back seat to bartering, exchanging favors, and "tit for tat" deals. A Cuban might not enjoy control over anything easily stolen or sold on the black market, but putting resources to other uses can be lucrative. Transportation is a prime example. As every Cuban knows, anyone behind the wheel of a state vehicle (whether truck, bus, car or train) earns two incomes: a
HAVANA 00008986 002.2 OF 003
pittance from the state, plus additional income transporting people or goods on the side. In another example, a Cuban woman told P/E officer how she finally managed to get her tooth capped successfully by paying hard currency at an underground dental clinic, staffed by health ministry dentists and outfitted with equipment stolen from the state.

¶8. (U) Certain sectors, including shipping, tourism, construction and food are notorious for generalized theft and corruption. For example, there is a thriving black market in cement, paint and wood. Or as one Cuban commented (in response to Vice President Carlos Lage's 2005 promise to build 10,000 new housing units), "the GOC can't build anything because it is simply impossible to collect enough supplies in one place." The ration system, which leaves bulk foods under the supervision of bodega employees, is also notorious for theft and corruption. As mentioned above, the housing office, or "Vivienda," is also famous for corruption.

¶9. (U) In Cuba's so-called "productive" sectors, much wheeling and dealing goes on behind the scenes as state managers swap goods, concoct inventories, fabricate receipts, and deal in imaginary resources. They are aided by an accounting system that equates the Cuban Peso (CP) with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) on paper, though the real exchange rate is 26 to 1. (For example, some official state purchases are made in CUCs while others are made in CPs.) To aid in the confusion, Cuban managers and accountants still track their accounts with paper and pencils. The resulting morass of numbers is so incomprehensible that even "clean" managers are forced to play accounting tricks in order to do their jobs.

¶10. (U) Some state installations are run by de facto "mafias." One Cuban told P/E officer about the manager of a bread distribution center who put his friends in key jobs. He eventually came to control an entire chain of state bakeries.

Power and Position
------------------

¶11. (C) The GOC stopped giving licenses to new paladars (home-based restaurants) several years ago, raising questions as to what the remaining operations had done to stay open. An American specialist on the topic posited that all upscale paladars were in some way "connected." For example, a USINT officer outside the XXXXXXXXXXXX paladar XXXXXXXXXXXX spotted the supposedly "self-employed" owner drive up in a car with Ministry of the Interior (MININT) plates. A one-table paladar in the Santa Fe neighborhood (known as the "fish paladar") reportedly enjoys an elite clientele - Raul Castro. In these days of heightened state control, merely bribing inspectors is not enough to stay open.

¶12. (U) The benefits of holding a position of power within the GOC can be lucrative. A Swiss businessman told P/E officer that Cuban managers take kickbacks for awarding large contracts to foreign companies and then deposit those kickbacks in banks abroad. "Just like everywhere in the world, a million dollar contract gets you 100,000 in the bank," he commented. These state managers are not so much members of the revolutionary elite, but rather pragmatists who have carved out a space for themselves within an otherwise rigid system. The former head of the Tourism Ministry might serve as an example - he was dismissed in 2004 due to "serious mistakes relating to control" and replaced with a military general.

¶13. (C) Separate from this elite crowd of entrepreneurs stand Castro's cadres of regime faithfuls, some of whom are widely rumored to be corrupt (such as Castro clan insider General Julio Casas Regueiro). Last year, Battle of Ideas Head Otto Rivero (a Castro protege) almost lost his job due to a corruption scandal. Battle of Ideas personnel were rumored to be dipping into the pie at all levels, from accounting shenanigans to making off with food and television sets destined for the "Free the Five" campaign.

Comment
-------

¶14. (C) Because the state controls - or tries to control -
HAVANA 00008986 003.2 OF 003
all aspects of life in Cuba, theft and corruption have become one and the same. The hotel manager who appropriates foodstuffs is both corrupt (he uses his state job for personal gain) and a thief (he steals). The more corruption grows, the more Castro tightens control, and the more Cubans turn to corruption to get what they want. The GOC leadership is well aware of the problem, but Castro can't seem to make peace with it. As one local diplomat ruminated, "Castro leads a saintly life, but saints are special because they are rare." And so the Comandante continues his struggle to wipe out corruption, seemingly oblivious to its irreversibility as long as profitable activity is illegal, individual success is cause for suspicion, and old-fashioned hard work gets you nowhere.

PARMLY

Sunday, January 23, 2011

11 months after the death of Orlando Zapata

Repression continues and a call to action

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, before and after the Cuban regime's prison industrial complex.


The news from Cuba is predictable, the repression continues against the family of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and those who want to demonstrate their solidarity. Twitter confirmed early today with tweets from Yoani Sanchez:

TR @yoanisanchez #Cuba #GY RT @alambradas Dissidents in San German, Holguin, now under total persecution by G2 #ozt (G2 = State Security)

TR @yoanisanchez #Cuba #GY Police and security block entrance to Embarcadero, Banes to impede solidarity with family of #OZT 11 months after his death.



At the same the Free Cuba Foundation issued a worldwide call to action today for the one year anniversay of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the 15th anniversary of the extrajudicial executions of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña and Armando Alejandre Jr. on February 24, 1996 in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.

11 months following his extrajudicial death it is important to remember who is Orlando Zapata Tamayo because as long as we remember him and his sacrifice he will live on. Zapata Vive!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

USA and China normalized relations in 1979: How have human rights fared?

“I want to suggest that there has been an evolution in China over the last 30 years since the first normalization of relations between the United States and China. “And my expectation is that 30 years from now we will have seen further evolution and further change.” - President Barack Obama, January 19, 2010

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” - Martin Luther King Jr.


First let us examine the impact of Washington’s engagement with the Chinese government and how it has changed the United States for the worse. On January 1, 1979 the United States normalized relations with China. That same year the one-child policy was instituted. A decade later on June 4, 1989 the Chinese dictatorship engaged in a massive crackdown killing 3,000 Chinese students and workers who had been non-violently protesting in Tiananmen Square. One month later on July 4, 1989 George H.W. Bush sent a secret high level delegation to meet with the Chinese regime and join with them in celebrating American Independence while downplaying any pro-forma criticisms made by the Administration. Candidate Bill Clinton would critique this de-linkage of human rights and commercial interests only to continue the practice during his own administration. This reached a symbolic low point in 1996 when the General responsible for the 1989 massacre was received at the White House with an honor guard.

Twenty years later on July 20, 1999 the Chinese Communist regime banned the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control after deeming them to be illegal. Those who refused to renounce their faith were dealt with brutally. In April 2000, Ian Johnson reported on the fate of one of the practitioners:

The day before Chen Zixiu died, her captors again demanded that she renounce her faith in Falun Dafa. Barely conscious after repeated jolts from a cattle prod, the 58-year-old stubbornly shook her head. Enraged, the local officials ordered Ms. Chen to run barefoot in the snow. Two days of torture had left her legs bruised and her short black hair matted with pus and blood, said cellmates and other prisoners who witnessed the incident. She crawled outside, vomited and collapsed. She never regained consciousness, and died on Feb. 21.
Since then thousands more have been tortured and killed while many more have been sent into forced labor camps. These practices continue to the present day.

In 2011, Women's Rights Without Frontiers is denouncing forced abortions, sterilizations and sexual slavery in China. This policy that began 32 years ago in 1979 has not improved, but in fact gotten worse:




China’s One Child Policy began in 1979 and continues to the present day. Amnesty International has monitored how it operates in practice and in 1996 published the report China: No one is safe and presented details and specific cases:

Birth control policy in China

The official line
Family planning is “voluntary”, although birth control has been compulsory since 1979. Government demographers recommend stabilization of the population at 1.3 billion by the year 2000, which they say can only be achieved through “strict measures”. “Coercion is not permitted”, according to the State Family Planning Commission.

Some facts
-Women pregnant outside the plan have been abducted and forced to have abortions or undergo sterilization.
-Pregnant women have been detained and threatened until they agree to have abortions.
-People who refuse to comply with the policy have been harassed and some have been ill-treated by officials.
-“Above-quota” new-born babies have reportedly been killed by doctors under pressure from officials.
-The homes of couples who refuse to obey the child quotas have been demolished.
-Relatives of those who cannot pay fines imposed for having had too many children have been held hostage until the money was paid.
-Those helping families to have “above quota” children have been severely punished.
-Those committing human rights violations while enforcing the birth control policy often go unpunished.

A victim
An unmarried woman in Hebei province who had adopted one of her brother’s children was detained several times in an attempt to force her brother to pay fines for having had too many children. In November 1994 she was held for seven days with a dozen other men and women. She was reportedly blindfolded, stripped naked, tied and beaten with an electric baton.
Quote: ‘It was part of my work to force women...to have abortions. In the evening, when the couple was likely to be at home, we would go to their houses and drag the woman out. If the woman was not at home, we would take her husband or another member along and keep them in custody until the woman turned herself in.’ - A former family planning official, 1993

In April of 2010, Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director said:"Forced sterilizations carried out by officials amount to torture and the haste of the procedures raises questions about their safety and possible health impacts."
Is it normal to embrace a mass murdering genocidal regime and treat it as an equal partner and proclaim that things have improved when they have in fact gotten worse? As to the Chinese leadership talking the talk on human rights? They've been doing that since 2000 without improvements on the ground. On the other hand corporate America has sold its soul in the effort to win market share in communist China and even the victims of Chinese repression may have been used for entertainment in BODIES...The Exhibition. This has generated debate in Canada over the exhibition.

This may be change but it is in the wrong direction and it is the United States and other countries that are compromising their moral and ethical traditions and undermining their own societies. Martin Luther King Jr. in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963 observed that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." That also applies to China.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cuban Communist Party official admits persecution of Protestant group


Back in 2010, Christian Solidarity Worldwide released an extensive report on religious freedom in Cuba. This past Friday they released a smoking gun that demonstrates that religious liberty in Cuba is under assault on the island. Below is the video with English translation and the press release:



Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has released a video in which a Cuban Communist Party official openly confirms a government strategy to target churches affiliated with the fast growing Apostolic Movement, a protestant network.

The short film, recorded clandestinely early in 2010 and smuggled out of the country, shows Caridad Diego Bello, the head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, explaining the government’s strategy to crackdown on the Apostolic Movement.

For years, church leaders of all denominations have complained of difficulties with Diego, particularly in receiving permission to repair old church buildings or build new facilities. This is the first time, however, that video evidence has been published, showing Diego publicly admitting that the government is working to eradicate the Apostolic Movement.

In the video, Diego states “…we are taking measures and will continue to take measures, the hands of our authorities will not waver, and I don’t do this in a manner of warning but rather to inform, so that the illegalities that groups like these are committing can be countered in every province and in every territory... there are some would-be leaders of these type of organizations that have had been relocated from their homes, that have lost their temple. There are people that visit us that will no longer be able to enter the country again, there are people that have been fined for facilitating the violation of immigration status by foreigners in Cuba, we have confiscated literature because it has not entered the country via the appropriate channels, but rather under the table.”

Churches affiliated with the Apostolic Movement have documented consistent religious liberty violations over the past few years, including numerous cases of arbitrary detention of church leaders and the destruction of church buildings. CSW has also released a second video showing the site of the demolition of one of the largest churches linked to the Apostolic Movement in Santiago de Cuba.

CSW’s Director of Advocacy, Andrew Johnston said, “Religious leaders of all denominations told CSW earlier this year that the Apostolic Movement has been singled out for intense persecution. This video is confirmation, from the very mouth of the top official in charge of religious affairs in the country that the government is working to stamp out the group. Just a few months ago, leaders of the Apostolic Movement publicly asked that the government enact legislation on religious activity. We join with them in calling on the government to cease immediately its harassment of these churches and to establish a clear legal framework for all religious groups to operate in the country.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit http://www.csw.org.uk.

CSW is the UK’s leading human rights advocacy organization specializing in religious freedom, working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promoting religious liberty for all.

Taken from: Cuban Communist Party official admits persecution of Protestant group 14/01/2011
http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=press&id=1083&search=

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Follow Martin Luther King, Jr.'s example and raise your voice against injustice

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law.
- Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963

Here, in this dark jail where they force me to live, I will be resisting until the freedom of my people is obtained." - Oscar Elias Biscet, August 25, 2006


Martin Luther King, Jr. would've been 82 today but never saw 40 because an assassin shot the 39 year old Baptist minister in the head on April 4, 1968 at 6:01pm in the midst of the final campaign before his death: the support of a strike by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. On the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday where a monument is being erected to honor the man in the nation's capitol it is an important moment to reflect on the man and his legacy. There are numerous entries in this blog about the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., but until now not placed in a Cuban context.

Fernando Delgado, a Cuban on hunger strike in Vienna, Austria because the Cuban regime has denied him entry to his own country without explanation. He has said that he will remain on hunger strike until the Cuban embassy explains the reason for banning him from returning to his homeland. As of January 15, 2010 he has lost 17.6 pounds.

According to Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, nine hours ago
in Banes, Cuba a new repudiation rally was carried out against the family of Orlando Zapata Tamayo including his grieving mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, subjected to a hate rally organized by the Cuban dictatorship. Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience who died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010 demanding an end to the torture and mistreatment of political prisoners. Orlando Zapata following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. in nonviolent resistance exposed the evil nature of the dictatorship in Cuba during both his life and even in death. Martin Luther King Jr., in a speech he gave in Detroit, Michigan on June 23, 1963 declared: "I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live." Orlando Zapata Tamayo has proven in Cuba the power of the above statement.

For the past half century human rights have been systematically violated and dismissed as "bourgeois" by a dictatorship that has murdered thousands of Cuban nationals and engaged in state terrorism both domestically and internationally.

Now 12 men have refused exile in exchange for freedom preferring to remain in prison then abandon their homeland. Meanwhile another Cuban dissident Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, imprisoned on December 9, 2010 to prevent him from holding an activity on International Human Rights Day has spent his third day on hunger strike demanding his freedom.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5kTKcaRQMYM/TSPs96XwJGI/AAAAAAAABPE/onONeYBUTwA/s1600/nestor-rodriguez-lobaina_350.jpg

One of the most well known Cuban prisoners of conscience is also a disciple of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi his name is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez. From the bowels of a Cuban prison on June 1, 2003 Dr. Biscet's message to the world referenced Rev. King: My inspiration is alive: God and the great teachers of nonviolence, present today now more than ever. As Martin Luther King said: "If a people can find among their ranks a 5% of men willing to voluntarily go to prison for a cause they consider just then there is no obstacle that can stop them."

Martin Luther King Jr. observed that "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." In a Cuban context the question arises what are you doing or at least saying to denounce these and many more injustices?


You have an opportunity to do something this Sunday
, January 16, 2010 at Our Lady of Charity [La Ermita de la Caridad] located at 3609 South Miami Avenue Miami, FL at 2:00pm EST Winnie Biscet, the daughter of Oscar Elias Biscet is organizing a vigil for the freedom of her father and other Cuban prisoners of conscience followed by a special Mass at 3:00pm. She is asking that those in attendance wear black and carry a white flower.

It would also be a good idea to bring posters with the image of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and the 11 prisoners of conscience
from the 2003 Black Cuban Spring who remain imprisoned refusing exile along with the image of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina. 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


The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Friday, January 14, 2011

One Year After Mazorra

Negligence, Indifference & A Madhouse of Death in Cuba

Fernando Comas one of the patients who died at Cuba's
National Psychiatric Hospital "Mazorra" in 2010
(Photo BBC Mundo)

Today marks one year since the world learned about the deaths of 26 psychiatric patients at the Cuban Psychiatric Hospital in Havana known as Mazorra. Yoani Sanchez denounced this atrocity last year along with other dissidents, but today on her twitter account provided an update on what has and hasn't happened since then:
They are trying to hide during these days the first anniversary of the deaths of dozens of patients at a psychiatric hospital because of starvation and cold. The results of the police investigation into the deaths at Mazorra were never made public. Official figures spoke of 26 dead, but it is clear to everyone now that the number of dead exceeded 40 victims. After that various twitterers created the tag #despidanabalaguer (#firebalaguer) calling for the minister of Public Health to be fired. Although Balaguer was removed he was never prosecuted for negligence. He was the minister and had to know what was occurring. Autopsy pictures of the dead patients were leaked. More than 300 lurid photos of emaciated skeletal bodies.
Nelly López, mother of Fernando Comas, one of the victims (Photo BBC Mundo)

BBC World in Spanish reported on the fact that a large number of Cubans are demanding accountability surrounding this crime and fear that it will not be forthcoming ending the article with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: "All suppressed truths become poisonous." In the same article Nelly López, the mother of one of the victims, Fernando Comas, explains that she has been waiting for a year for an official explanation that she has asked everyone but no official replies just rumors.

[Warning the video below contains graphic images of the victims]



Unfortunately this tragedy should not have come as a surprise to human rights observers of Cuba. Amnesty International had raised the issue first in their report Psychiatry: A Human Rights Perspective in 1995:
In Cuba, there have been allegations in recent years that not only the criminally insane but also political prisoners have been sent to forensic wards of state psychiatric institutions where they are kept in unhygienic and dangerous conditions and where they are exposed to ill-treatment either at the hands of staff or fellow inmates. In 1988 Amnesty International visited the Havana Psychiatric (Mazorra) Hospital in Havana. The delegation was permitted to visit one of the forensic wards - the Sala Carbó Serviá. However, the existence of a second forensic ward, the Sala Castellanos, was denied by a hospital official. It was this ward which was alleged to present harsh conditions and to be used for the punishment of prisoners.
Amnesty International reported how prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet was sent to Mazorra on November 29, 1999 to Mazorra. He was sent to Mazorra by State Security agents and forced to undergo psychiatric examinations on several occasions including November 29th.
Cuba's National Psychiatric Hospital "Mazorra"

Amnesty also reported how on December 4, 1998 Cuban dissident Milagros Cruz Cano, who is blind, was detained by State Security agents while waiting for a bus. She was initially held at the Maria Luisa police station in Havana where she was: "beaten by police officers which resulted in a swollen cheek and a bruise and scab below her eye. She was then transferred to Mazorra psychiatric hospital in Havana where she was held in an isolated cell called Córdoba. The conditions of detention were said to be degrading as she was held in a cell with iron bars which other patients and guards could see into and where she had to carry out all personal hygiene. She was released on December 14, 1998 without charge."

Observers need to take into account that in addition to negligence and indifference to human suffering that led to a situation in which more than 40 patients died of malnutrition and exposure to cold in a tropical country that this psychiatric hospital was also employed in the mistreatment and torture of Cuban dissidents and human rights activists.

Earlier today Yoani Sanchez concluded her tweets on Mazorra calling for the publication of the report of this crime stating:
I dare to venture a label to require the publication of the results of the investigation into Mazorra #muertosmazorra (#mazorrasdead)
Its easy for someone writing from abroad to second this call to action because, unlike in Cuba under the current regime, living in a part of the world were freedom of expression is respected means not having to contemplate the consequences of being harassed and prosecuted by the state for denouncing a crime. Nevertheless, there are brave people in countries like Belarus, Cuba, China and Vietnam that risk everything to do just that. Those who don't face those dangers and are people of good will could at least assist them in relaying their message to the rest of the world and not let their calls for justice remain unanswered.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Femicide in Juárez

The hope of impunity is the greatest inducement to do wrong. - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz

Hundreds of women have been brutally raped, tortured and murdered in Juárez, Mexico since 1993 without their murderers being brought to justice. Most of the victims have been young women between ages 17 and 22. The murder of women is defined in the dictionary as femicide and that is what has been going on in Juarez over the past 18 years.

On May 28, 2008 Amnesty International released a document titled: Further Information on Fear for Safety/Death threats that stated:
Members of an organization set up to fight for justice for women abducted and murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, have received threats apparently linked to the opening of the film “Bordertown”, which is loosely based on the stories of the murdered women. Members of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Our Daughters Return Home) have supported the film’s release as a way of raising awareness of the killings of women in Ciudad Juárez.
Over the past two years a half dozen activists have been added to the body count. The latest two victims: Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, the mother of 16-year-old murder victim Rubi Marisol, and the poet Susana Chavez, a fierce critic of the authorities' failure to halt the killings, whose remains were identified on January 11, 2011. The latest victims were both members of Our Daughters Return Home.




Marisela Escobedo Ortiz was shot in the head on December 16, 2010 following the release from prison of Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, who allegedly killed her 16-year-old daughter Rubi, leaving her burned and dismembered in a rubbish bin, in June 2009. Marisela was gunned down outside the governor's office in the northern city of Chihuahua while holding a vigil for her murdered daughter. Security footage shows masked men pulling up in a car exchanging words with Marisela Escobedo, chasing her into traffic shooting her in the head as she tried to flee, and the killers jumping into a waiting car that sped off.


Footage of the assassination of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her background as an activist.

Less than a month later, Susana Chavez, a poet, who coined the phrase “Ni una más,’’ (Not one more) back in the 1990s and wrote the book Song to a City in the Desert with the poem "Sangre" Blood included written from the perspective of one of the victims was found strangled and mutilated. The official narrative from the authorities seem to be an attempt to blame the victim nor has their been time for a thorough investigation.

Susana Chavez

The individuals responsible for these horrendous crimes must be brought to justice and the officials who for too long have looked the other way or have been complicit in these crimes need to be held accountable. Radio program below brings up her background as an activist.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Join the Continuing Call to Nonviolent Action

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


They were born 32 years and 748 miles apart. The man born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929 would grow up to be a Baptist minister and civil rights leader. While the man born in Havana, Cuba on July 20, 1961 would grow up to be a medical doctor and human rights leader. They never met because an assassin shot the 39 year old Baptist minister in the head on April 4, 1968 at 6:01pm. The older of the two grew up in the Jim Crow South while the younger grew up in communist Cuba under the dictatorship of the Castro brothers. Despite the distance in both time, geography, and language they are brothers. Both are Christians and disciples of Mohandas Gandhi's teachings on nonviolence.

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Oscar Elias Biscet would spend time in prison defending human rights and human dignity accepting imprisonment as a necessary sacrifice to expose and challenge injustice with the goal of ending it through nonviolent means and loving their enemies. In a speech he gave in St. Augustine in 1964 the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described both this kind of love and the impracticability of violence:
"Its difficult advice and in some quarters it isn't too popular to say it...Let us recognize that violence is not the answer. I must say to you tonight that violence is impractical...We have another method that is much more powerful and much more effective than the weapon of violence...Hate isn't our weapon either...I am not talking now about a weak love it would be nonsense for an oppressed people to love their oppressor in an affectionate sense I'm not talking about that too many people confuse the meaning of love when they go to criticizing the love ethic. ...I am talking about a love that is so strong that it becomes a demanding love. A love that is so strong that it organizes itself into a mass movement and says somehow I am my brothers keeper and he is so wrong that I am willing to suffer and die to get him right and to see that he is on the wrong road."
In July of 1999 Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet ending a 40-day fast in Havana at a residence in Tamarindo 34 spoke to other activists who had joined him in the fast and international media gathered explained:
“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.”
They are neither willing to idly stand by as injustice is being committed nor are they willing to commit new injustices to remedy the old and both suffered and in Dr. Biscet's case continues to suffer the consequences. Imprisoned in harsh conditions since November 1999, save for a month in 2002, Oscar Elias Biscet continues to denounce injustice and advocate nonviolence for example in an open letter to all Cubans in August of 2006:
“The people of Cuba have been suffering the scorn of a totalitarian tyranny, Communism, throughout four decades. Due to this inhumane treatment whereby the decorum of a people is violated, many Cubans are indignant and have risen up to pray and fast, beseeching the God of the Bible,…we must expedite the achievement of these basic rights through civil disobedience and by putting into practice all methods to obtain our humanitarian aim. Here, in this dark jail where they force me to live, I will be resisting until the freedom of my people is obtained."
There are those who view this kind of approach as noble but ineffective preferring violence. They are profoundly mistaken. Oscar Elias Biscet in a letter to his wife in July of 2009 reflected on those who ridiculed his adherence to Gandhian principles of non-violence:
"I remember when I started preaching about Gandhi and Thoreau some said I would walk through the streets of Havana with a loin cloth like Gandhi. When I learned of these words spoken about me in a derogatory manner I just smiled because I knew I would be in these conditions but not in the streets of Havana. Rather in the infinite captivity that I would have through suffering. They had not been mistaken those who had made the joke to humiliate me. Because from the humiliation of a man in loincloth highlights the reflection of human dignity over barbarism."
Martin Luther King Jr. while imprisoned in a Birmingham jail wrote an open letter on April 16, 1963 to moderate clergy men who had criticized his non-violent approach. Rev. King outlined the context in which this struggle was carried out which has numerous parallels to Cuba in 2011:
"I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible 'devil.' I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest."
Reverend King's insight that both doing nothing to resist the evil of segregation and embracing the hatred and despair of the black nationalist would not achieve the end of the system. In the United States the disciples of Martin Luther King Jr. ended up in Congress; leading non-governmental organizations; and created the terrain in which an African American could be elected president. On the other hand many of the black nationalists embraced political violence and killed people. Some of them are still fugitives from justice today and share a measure of responsibility in the culture of violence that gripped segments of the African American Community and which is still a problem today. On the other side those who criticized the sit-ins and actually profited from institutionalized racism would argue that passivity and polite negotiations was the way to gradually end the system of segregation. Those voices are also heard in 2011 in the debate over how to deal with the Cuban regime. Reverend King's response in 1963 reverberates today in the Cuban context:
" 'Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension.' I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth."
If you are up against a regime that refuses to negotiate because it believes that it has no reason to engage in dialogue then non-violent direct action creates the "constructive, nonviolent tension" that Rev. King refers to above and forces dialogue. This was done in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s ushering in a Civil Rights era. In Cuba, since 1976 with the founding of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, a nonviolent movement for human rights and democratic change has emerged and grown. In 2010 the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the marches of the Ladies in White and the hunger strike of Guillermo Fariñas combined with international scrutiny to create a non-violent moment that exposed the injustice of the Cuban regime.

These moments put the oppressor on the defensive and as in the case of the racial segregationists in the 1950s and 1960s and the communist dictatorship in the 1990s and 2000s forced them to resort to moments of restraint and nonviolent tactics and propaganda to discredit their adversaries. Reverend King described the practice in in 1963:
"Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."


In the Cuban context today it is seen in the cynical practice of coercing prisoners of conscience imprisoned since 2003 ( or before) with the choice of immediate exile or continue to rot in prisons where torture and mistreatment are commonplace and describing this process as "freeing political prisoners." Doctor Oscar Elias Biscet speaking on the phone from prison in December of 2010 after having spent over a decade in prison, in which he has lost many of his teeth, declared:
“I've always refused to leave the country permanently, because I believe that I must cooperate in the welfare of my people and that welfare can only be achieved when we live in freedom, because only freedom leads to peace … This is a government plan to try to crush it the opposition and that no voice be raised by the vanguard, but they made a mistake, because there are at least 12 of us that are willing to stay here in prison, that want to stay here in Cuba, to live in Cuba, together with our relatives here in Cuba and with our friends and brothers.”
Doctor Biscet has referred to Martin Luther King Jr. on numerous occasions as a great teacher of nonviolence and in June 2003 described what motivated him and kept his morale high while in prison:
"My inspiration is alive: God and the great teachers of nonviolence, present today now more than ever. As Martin Luther King said: "If a people can find among their ranks a 5% of men willing to voluntarily go to prison for a cause they consider just then there is no obstacle that can stop them."
Although you reading this most likely are not in Cuba there is still much that you can do to support this continuing call to nonviolent action in defense of human rights and dignity. On January 15, 2010 the world will observe the 82nd birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and on Sunday, January 16, 2010 at Our Lady of Charity [La Ermita de la Caridad] located at 3609 South Miami Avenue Miami, FL at 2:00pm EST Winnie Biscet, the daughter of Oscar Elias Biscet is organizing a vigil for the freedom of her father and other Cuban prisoners of conscience followed by a special Mass at 3:00pm. She is asking that those in attendance wear black and carry a white flower.


You have heard that it was said, 'Love (agape) your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love (agape) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Matthew 5:42-44