Thursday, June 30, 2011

U2 Rocks Miami: Bono's love song for a free Cuba and shout out to Oscar Elias Biscet

Oscar Elias Biscet and U2 Concert in Miami on June 29, 2011

"Now I would like you to do something we've never done before. A beautiful man, a doctor who has spent his time in the prisons of Cuba. He is also released. His name is Dr. Biscet. I want you to hold him up. Let everyone in Cuba know that he is special to us and we are watching WE ARE WATCHING. Hold him in your thoughts. Hold him in your prayers." - Bono at Sun Life Stadium on June 29, 2011

“As you read me what he said, I was shaking with happiness because it showed it’s good when one is chosen as a symbol of his people. He’s praising not me but all my people, all Cubans, and I agree that Cuba will be free, if people like Bono join the cause” of human rights on the island. - Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Havana, Cuba on June 30, 2011 to
El Nuevo Herald, which first told him of Bono’s comments.

There wearing this Biscet t-shirt preparing to toss a spare one brought for if the opportunity presented itself during the show at the Sun Life Stadium and progressing steadily to the front row in the outer ring of the field area. All of a sudden Bono begins talking about a free Cuba and dedicates a song from their 2009 album No Line on the Horizon with the title "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" which contains the following lyrics :
Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Pity the nation that won't listen to your boys and girls
Cos the sweetest melody is the one we haven't heard
Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear?
The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear
Oh, but a change of heart comes slow
Further on in the song "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight":
It's not a hill, it's a mountain
As we start out the climb
Listen for me, I'll be shouting
Shouting to the darkness, squeeze out sparks of light

"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" with intro

The song pleads for the nation to listen to the new generations and about the power of love to drive out fear. Towards the end of the song the words indicate the height of the challenge and the need to speak up to denounce the darkness and struggle for light. A beautiful anthem and a love song for a free Cuba.

This was followed by "Sunday Bloody Sunday", a song originally about the troubles in Northern Ireland but relevant today too so many places where people struggle in the midst of conflict. The color green dominated during the song in honor of the Green Movement in Iran. The song is a rejection of violence.

Last part of If I go Crazy followed by Sunday Bloody Sunday

From previous encounters with U2 any fan would know that the song "Walk On" was written for and dedicated to former prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. It also meant that there was a second opportunity for the band to make a statement on Cuba. They did not disappoint. U2 began playing "Scarlet" which lyrically is the word "rejoice" repeated and on this evening was dedicated in honor of Suu Kyi's recent release from prison. The band transitioned into "Walk On" with Bono giving a shout out to Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who was also recently freed, when Amnesty International walked around the stage with the glowing symbol of the organization. At that moment realized whether or not the spare t-shirt reached the stage the message had been given. The words of "Walk On" are powerful and apply to all prisoners of conscience:
You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

"Walk On" from the U2 concert in Miami on June 29, 2011 at Sun Life Stadium

U2 ended Walk On with a snippet of "You'll Never Walk Alone" a 1945 show tune from Rogers and Hammerstein that has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Doris Day. An excerpt of the lyrics reveal words of inspiration and encouragement for anyone facing adversity:
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone.
An excerpt from's report on the Miami show North Star Over Miami:

A shout- out to Lebron James - who is here and gets a mighty reception - and also to Carl Willner, the father of producer Hal, a longtime friend of the band. Carl has recently published a remarkable book, Carl's Story; The Persistence of Hope, a memoir of how as a teenager he survived the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau.

'Unos, dos, tres...'

'Are you ready to take the roof off... if we had a roof?' By Vertigo everyone was ready and the roof we didn't have was duly removed. 'Crazy' became ' a love song to Cuba - one day Cuba will be free' and as Walk On arrived, Bono invited everyone to remember Cuban human rights activist Dr Oscar Elias Biscet. Dr Biscet endured many years in prison in Cuba for opposing the government and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush in 2007. 'Let everyone in Cuba know he is special to us and we are watching... we are watching.'

After four decades U2 is still on top form musically and still manages to do the unexpected. Looking forward both to their next album and concert.

The Miami Herald has a good breakdown of the concert. The Associated Press has more information about the shout-out in Miami to Cuban human rights activist Dr. Biscet. Below is the song set list (hyperlinks are to original or concert videos of the songs) :

Even Better Then the Real Thing

The Fly

Mysterious Ways

Until the End of the World

I Will Follow

Get on Your Boots

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For/ The Promised Land (snippet)

North Star

Beautiful Day/Space Oddity (snippet)


Pride (In the Name of Love)

Miss Sarajevo


City of Blinding Lights


I’ll Go Crazy / Discotheque / Psycho killer (snippet)

Sunday Bloody Sunday


Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)

One/Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (snippet)

Where The Streets Have No Name


Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

With or Without You

Moment of Surrender/Jungleland (snippet)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pink card given to Raul Castro at Rock festival for blocking 3 Porno para Ricardo members from playing concert

Cafe Fuerte reported today that The international festival United Islands of Prague punished Cuban dictator Raul Castro with a "pink card" for having prevented the participation of three members of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, invited by the organizers of the event.

"In sports yellow and red cards awarded. We showed a symbolic pink card to Raul Castro to leave the artists alone in peace, "said David Gaydečka, one of the promoters of the festival, which ended Saturday in the Czech capital.

Porno para Ricardo went on stage Saturday (June 25) at 7:30pm (Prague Time) and played for an hour.

Prague Daily Monitor reported on June 7, 2011 that the Castro regime had not permitted three members of the Porno Para Ricardo punk rock band to travel to the Czech Republic to perform at the United Islands International Music Festival, but over the weekend of June 23-25 they were able to listen to the Cuban band's songs as the band's front man, Gorki Aguila, visiting relatives in Mexico, was accompanied by Czech musicians at the Prague concert, Aguila's first in Europe.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hugo Chavez Death Rumor: Another Bad Copy from the Castro tyrant handbook?

"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr

Update June 29, 2011: Reuters reports images of Hugo Chavez shown to dispel rumors
It is always dangerous to make predictions because the odds are that you'll likely get it wrong but trends and patterns makes it difficult to fight off the temptation. In the case of the present rumors and speculations surrounding the health and possible death of Hugo Chavez Frías a couple of factors lead me to venture that he is not dead.

1) Hugo Chavez Frías is a bad remake of Fidel Castro. His tenure as President in Venezuela has been marked by the transformation of a democratic Venezuela with flaws into a Venezuela transitioning into a totalitarian regime. Like Fidel Castro, after a failed coup attempt, repackaged himself a democrat but unlike Castro (who faced an authoritarian dictator) he was elected to office. Since then he has used all his means at his disposal to chart a course for Venezuela to become another Cuba.

2) Fidel Castro in Cuba has floated death rumors for decades. In 2009, 1997, 1994, 1986, 1964, and at other times the press reported that Fidel Castro was dead or that there were rumors circulating that he was dead.

The late free market economist Milton Friedman once observed that "The only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis is comparison of prediction with experience.” The numerous times in the past that these rumors circulated about Fidel Castro offers an opportunity to test the validity of the above hypothesis that Hugo Chavez is not dead.

There are a number of reasons that both Castro and Chavez would float such rumors. First, it is an opportunity to see how both one's political enemies and supposed friends react at a perceived moment of weakness. Afterwards purges, summary trials and maneuvering to make ones political opposition look foolish can consolidate the regime. Second, it shifts attention from other news that could be even more damaging than a fictitious death watch were the strong man miraculously recovers or claims never to have been deathly ill with the bonus of discrediting political enemies. Third, it creates enough disinformation when repeated numerous times then when the individual is indeed on deaths door the previous false flags will give news gatherers, adversaries and enemies pause before trying to report or capitalize on the situation.

Yoani Sanchez tweeting today described the regime response when Fidel Castro's life hung in the balance gripped with a serious illness in 2006:
"When Fidel Castro got sick they lied to us for months saying that he was well and that he would return to his functions quickly."
It was only two years later, Yoani went on to tweet, that Fidel Castro in one of his reflections finally admitted that he had been between life & death.As Venezuela continues its sad spiral down into the abyss of Cubazuela, a Castro-style totalitarianism, one would expect this type of tactic by Chavez as he continues to emulate his mentor and ideological guide: Fidel Castro. This is the behavior of a totalitarian despot not a democratically elected leader.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Burma's Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Video Testimony to the U.S. Congress

Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been detained for 15 years by Burma's ruling military junta, testified before a Congressional committee via videotape Wednesday on the recent sham elections and current conditions in the Southeast Asia nation. U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL), who chaired the hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, arranged for Ms. Suu Kyi's first-ever Congressional testimony and posted it on his YouTube site for all to see.

Transcript below taken from U.S. Campaign for Burma's website:

U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Hearing on Burma:
“Piercing Burma’s Veil of Secrecy: The Truth Behind the Sham Election and the Difficult Road Ahead”
June 22, 2011
12:30 PM, Rayburn House Office Building Room 2172
Transcript of Video Message from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
General Secretary, National League for Democracy, Rangoon, Burma

Any statement made before a committee of the United States Congress must start with a few words, however brief; of appreciation for all that you and your colleagues have done for the cause of democracy in Burma over the last two decades. We are very appreciative and we believe that you will continue to do whatever you can to help us in the future as well.

I understand that the purpose of this committee is to find out what has really been happening in Burma since the elections of November 2010. To, as I understand it, pierce the veil of secrecy and to find out the truth of the situation in Burma. I’m sure you will be receiving a lot of information from very many different sources that will enable you to assess the situation correctly.

What I would like to urge is that you look at what is happening in Burma in the light of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution—the recent one, which came out in March. This resolution covers all the needs of Burma today, all the political needs, let me say, of Burma today.

The requests, the urgings, the demands of this resolution are very much in line with what we in Burma think is needed to start Burma along the genuine process of democratization. So, if you were to consider the resolution very very closely, and then if you were to look at the present situation in Burma, you would have a very good idea of how far we are along the path to democracy, if we have started on that path at all.

The resolution includes such very important issues as political prisoners, freedom of association and information, independence of the judiciary, and the right of Professor Quintana, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur, to visit Burma whenever he thinks it is necessary. It also includes the need for an inclusive political process in Burma, that we may have the kind of situation where there can be a negotiated settlement leading to national reconciliation.

All these that the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution has called for are essential if Burma is to enjoy constitutional liberalism and democratic institutions.

It is going to be a long road; it already has been a long road and a difficult one, and no doubt the road ahead will have its difficulties as well. But, we are confident that with the help and support of those who share our values, those like you who are true friends because true friends are those who share your values and understand why you hold on to these values in spite of all the difficulties that you have to face. With the help and support of true friends, I’m sure we will be able to tread the path of democracy, not easily and perhaps not as quickly as we would like, but surely and steadily. This is why I would like to request you to do whatever you can to ensure that the requests and demands of the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution are met as broadly, as sincerely, and as quickly as possible by the present government of Burma.

The resolution among other things calls for the independence of the judiciary, I mentioned this earlier. This is one of the most important needs in our country today, because without an independent judiciary we cannot have the rule of law, and without the rule of law none of our people can be secure and there can be no true progress towards democracy.

Then, the case of political prisoners - why are they still in prison if this government is really intent on making good progress towards democracy? If it is sincere in its claims that it wishes to bring democracy into Burma, there is no need for any prisoners of conscious to exist in this country.

Surely, democracy means that we all have the right to our own beliefs, that we all have the right to try to live in accordance with our conscience. Because of that, the case of prisoners of consciences is crucial in deciding whether or not the present government is sincere about its democratic aspirations.

Professor Quintana has spoken of the need for a commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Burma. I support his call for such a commission, making it quite clear that a commission of inquiry is not a tribunal. It is simply a commission of inquiry to find out what human rights violations have taken place and what we can do to ensure that such violations do not take place in the future. I would appreciate everything that is done to help Professor Quintana in his work. Because, unless we respect the work of the Human Rights Rapporteur, I do not think we will be able to make much progress towards the implementation of the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

I’ve never made a statement before a committee of the United States Congress, so I’m not quite sure how to go about it. I would simply like to use this occasion to request that you do whatever you can to help us implement the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution, because that will open up the real road to democracy for all of us.

And I would also like to take the opportunity to repeat once again how much we appreciate all that you have done, and that what you have done for us has meant a great deal. And I know that you will continue to study the situation and to review what has been done in the past and to inquire into what should be done in the future. Sometimes we all have to guess at what is necessary because Burma is not an open society.

But, I think because we truly believe in democratic values and we are all sincere in our respect for human rights and constitutional liberalism, our guesses will not be far wrong. So, I would like to ask you to continue with your work with confidence in what you are doing, and with confidence and the fact that your work is much appreciated.

Thank you.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to Blog by Yoani Sanchez

@yoanisanchez #Cuba #GY Concerned girl that is Yoani Sanchez misbehaved before her visit. Papa State punishes her with not allowing her to travel :-(

Presentación de mi libro "Un blog para hablar al mundo" from Yoani Sanchez on Vimeo.

Presentation of my book, “A Blog to Speak to the World.”

Translator’s note: In this video Yoani is speaking to a presentation of her book taking place in Madrid, which she is currently participating in via Twitter and telephone. [as of 3:00 PM Havana time, 21 June]

(Above text and video taken from Generation Y and original Spanish text available here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

SOS: Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera on hunger strike in Cuba

"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." -Rosa Parks

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera

There are days when the 140 characters contained in a single tweet can leave a profound impact. Today was such a day when I read the following from the twitter account of Cuban democratic opposition leader Jorge Garcia Perez "Antunez":
antunezcuba A las 4pm, mi esposa Yris comenzó huelga de hambre exigiendo atención médica con dignidad y libertad de movimiento.#cuba

That translates into English as follows:
antunezcuba At 4pm, my wife Yris began a hunger strike demanding medical attention with dignity and freedom of movement. #Cuba

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Jorge Garcia Perez "Antunez"

Antunez is referring to his wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera who back on May 25 was detained by Cuban state security while engaged in a peaceful demonstrations then brutalized by a state security agent nicknamed the weightlifter and held incommunicado until protests and international scrutiny obtained her reappearance bruised, battered and incoherent on May 27. The days have passed into weeks but the symptoms persist and state security is now interfering with her ability to obtain proper medical attention.

This has led this woman, a disciple of Rosa Parks, to begin a hunger strike demanding that the Cuban regime respect her dignity as a human being and her right to freedom of movement to visit a medical doctor and obtain care.

The bottom line is that the dictatorship in Cuba does not care about the life of Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera but it does care about both national and international reaction with regards to her plight. Unfortunately there have been other cases were women of African descent have been beaten up by agents of the Cuban regime. Without international media attention the dictatorship has not had to pay a political price and encouraged has increased its brutality.

The fact that Yris is of African descent and that the dictatorship in Cuba has come under increased scrutiny for its mistreatment of Cubans of African descent means that attention to her plight can make a difference. In a real sense her life is in all of our hands. Speak out for Yris. Tell your friends and family about her. Write a letter to the editor. Write a letter to the dictatorship in Cuba. Call in to a radio talk show. Please do something her life depends on it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Human Rights Defender & Russian Dissident Elena Bonner : Requiescat in pace

"Today, summing up my life ... I can do so in three words. My life was typical, tragic & beautiful," Elena Bonner, Oslo Freedom Forum 2009

Elena G. Bonner 15 February 1923 – 18 June 2011

Elena G. Bonner, the Soviet dissident and human-rights campaigner died on Saturday at the age of 88 after years of ill health.

Elena Bonner's father was one of Stalin's victims executed in 1937. She described herself as one of "the strange orphans of 1937."

She was also a great friend of Cuban dissidents and a defender of human rights in Cuba. She was a director of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and had issued declarations denouncing executions in Cuba at a time when much of the world refused to listen. In 1999 when Cuban opposition activist Maritza Lugo was imprisoned at the women's prison Manto Negro and went on a hunger strike, she gained the support of Elena Bonner. In 2000 Elena Bonner sent a letter to the board of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba that read:
Dear Friends

It gives us cause for joy to address you to congratulate a new anniversary, the twelfth, of the founding within the Island of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba.

Truly, the perseverance and decorum of your dissident institution, like all of the Cuban Human Rights Movement, represents a source of inspiration and glory for activism on behalf of the legitimate rights of citizens in the world.

We consider that the arrogance and atrocities of Fidel Castro against all of you and the inability to liquidate these Cuban civil society groups, is one of the worst defeats of the many he has faced in his long trajectory.

So I want to reiterate our sincere admiration and support. Through the friend and board member of our Sakharov Foundation, Ricardo Bofill, I extend this note and I assure you that I will be with you in this struggle until Cuba is free.

Yours sincerely

Elena Bonner

At the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2009 Tatiana Yankelevich, Director of the Sakharov Program on Human Rights at Harvard University, introduced remarks by Elena Bonner, her mother and the widow of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Andrei Sakharov.

Cubans have lost a steadfast friend. Elena Bonner was a giant on the human rights scene and the world is now a poorer place with her passing. Requiescat in pace

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Help Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday wish come true for Burma's political prisoners

Aung San Suu Kyi is 66 today. Her first birthday free from arrest in 7 years.

In Burma it is Sunday, June 19, 2011 and the celebrations have begun observing an important birthday. Unfortunately, it is taking place in the midst of the outbreak of violence in Burma.

An exemplar of nonviolent resistance turns 66 years old today. The word "icon" is not here because she does not consider herself to be one. Aung San Suu Kyi has demonstrated throughout her life a commitment to a free and democratic Burma putting her own life on the line.

On her birthday she has sent a message to the women of India to join her in a campaign for a Burma "free from fear" asking for help in ending human rights abuses in Burma and obtaining freedom for the political prisoners imprisoned there. She understands what it means to live in a country without freedom and asks for international solidarity to assist in freeing her homeland Burma.

At the same time she proclaims the superiority of nonviolent resistance over violence and recognizes Gandhi’s legacy. Rejecting hatred and revenge as legitimate tools of resistance in favor of dialogue combined with nonviolent resistance to injustice and repression.

She also has the courage to speak out for human rights and greater freedoms for the Chinese people.

Her example has inspired people around the world, including activists in Cuba such as Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo “Pepin” a Cuban pro-democracy activist and former Amnesty prisoner of conscience now exiled in Spain. Today, Cuba's Ladies in White wished Suu Kyi a happy birthday on their Twitter account,hours after conducting a successful nonviolent demonstration of their own on Father's Day demanding freedom, stating: "Happy Birthday to Aung San Suu Kyi of from all the Ladies in White."

Take a moment today and help Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday wish become a reality: a Burma without political prisoners or human rights abuses. Please join with Amnesty International and take action now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Questions for Hugo Chavez on the Health Care System in Cuba

José Daniel Ferrer García

Earlier today on his twitter account former Cuban prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García, who was unjustly imprisoned from March 2003 through March 2011, and continues his vocation as a Cuban human rights defender
and pro-democracy activist asked a number of open questions to Hugo
Chavez, of Venezuela, currently in Cuba recovering from surgery:
"Chavez recently said Cuba has one of the world's best health systems. I wonder what he'd say if he were an ordinary Cuban?"

"What would Chavez say of the Cuban health system if he were family of one of the patients who died in Mazorra?"

"Continuing with Chavez. What would he say of Cuban health care if he were a widower of one of the women who died in the Palma Soriano maternity hospital?"

Jose Daniel then concludes with a tweet that placed the above questions into the proper context: "The Cuban health system, like so many other things, works very well, yes, for foreigners and the nomenklatura."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Reflection on Violence & Non-Violence: In a Better World

It is my firm conviction that nothing enduring can be built on violence. - Mohandas Gandhi

Tonight I saw the Danish film In a Better World directed and written by Susanne Bier at the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami. It won the 2011 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It is a profound meditation on the role of violence and nonviolence in an imperfect world.

The Miami International Film Festival honored Susannne Bier on March 6, 2011 with a special Career Achievement Tribute at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts then screened the film IN A BETTER WORLD (HÆVEN). Unfortunately, I was unable to see it at the time but a person knowledgeable about film, Ernesto Rodriguez, did and insisted that as someone interested in nonviolence that I had to see the film. How right he was.

Susanne Bier, in the video above, discusses the illusion of safety and explores its fragility in the film. She also explores the unexpected consequences of violent action and the power of nonviolent resistance.

In addition there are no squeaky clean characters but a "hero" who is a human being with flaws and regrets but trying to do better. It is playing now in Miami, Florida for only a few days. Don't miss it and tell your friends to go see it as well.

In a Better World is playing on Sunday, June 12, 2011 at the following locations:

Bill Cosford Cinema
University of Miami - Memorial Building, Coral Gables, FL
3:30 8:00pm

Tower Theater
1508 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL

Cinema Paradiso - FL
503 S.E. 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL

June 17 update: The film is now only showing at the Tower Theater in the South Florida area.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bittersweet: Reina Luisa Tamayo & Orlando Zapata Tamayo's Ashes Arrive in Miami

I have loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore I die in exile. - Pope Gregory VII

From Cuba into Exile in Miami

Reina Luisa Tamayo suffered death threats, beatings, and the murder of her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo. She was then vilified and smeared along with her family by the dictatorship in Cuba's propaganda apparatus both in and outside of the island.

Amnesty International had to emit urgent actions on more than one occasion pleading with the Cuban regime to not harass this mother when she wanted to visit the grave of her martyred son. In addition to that her other children were also harassed and threatened by the dictatorship.

Her well-grounded fears of the Castro regime were so powerful that she even refused to leave Orlando Zapata Tamayo preferring to have him exhumed and cremated. Leaving Cuba without her son's remains and with no one left to guard his tomb she believed that they would desecrate his remains and disappear him.

Safe from the ruthless regime in Cuba but now exiled from her homeland along with the ashes of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Bittersweet is defined as pleasure alloyed with pain. In this case it is the pain of a murdered son and exile from your homeland mitigated by arrival in a free country where Reina Luisa Tamayo no longer need fear harassment from a cruel dictatorship. It is more bitter than sweet, but the price of liberty and human dignity is often steep.

Welcome to Miami and let us all hope that one day soon Reina along with many other Cubans are able to return to a free and democratic homeland where Orlando Zapata Tamayo and not Che Guevara will be the subject of study in Cuban high school students textbooks. Let us hope that when that day arrives that Orlando Zapata Tamayo's ashes may finally rest in Cuban soil.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Amnesty International Health Professional Action for Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia

Today marks one month since Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia died three days after being assaulted by agents of Cuban State Security. 12 former prisoners of conscience have petitioned the Cuban government to allow a neutral international investigation of the death. Currently another Cuban activist is on a hunger and thirst strike calling for an investigation and an end to the violence against dissidents. Below is an Amnesty International call to action for health care professionals that requests appeals be sent before July 6.

To: Health professionals

From: Amnesty international


RE: death following ALLEGED police assault in Cuba

Amnesty International is seriously concerned over the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto García, who died in hospital on 8 May 2011 in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, three days after he was reportedly beaten during his arrest by police officers in a public park.

Juan Wilfredo Soto García, 46, belonged to the unrecognized opposition organization Foro Antitotalitario Unido, (United Anti-totalitarian Forum) and he had previously been imprisoned for 12 years for his political activities. According to testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, on Thursday 5 May 2011 at approximately 9am, two national police officers reportedly approached Soto García in Leoncio Vidal Park, asked him for his ID and then asked him to leave the park. After refusing to comply and protesting verbally against the expulsion, he was allegedly cuffed with his hands behind his back then beaten with batons.

Juan Wilfredo Soto García was arrested and detained at a police station, then hospitalised later that day. He was released from hospital the same afternoon only to return the following day, complaining of severe back pain. He was then admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and died in the early hours of Sunday morning, 8 May.

A local source told Amnesty International that, by chance, he met Soto García as he was going to the hospital on 5 May. According to the source, Soto García said “I just got a beating in the park with batons and I’ve got a very sore back. These people killed me.” Hospital sources have reportedly stated he died from acute pancreatitis, a condition which can be triggered by abdominal trauma and commonly causes severe back pain. Juan Wilfredo Soto García is known to have had several pre-existing medical conditions, including gout, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular problems and it is unclear whether his death was directly linked to beatings sustained while in police custody.

Amnesty International has received contradictory information regarding the incidents that led to Juan Wilfredo Soto García’s death and therefore is calling for a thorough investigation to determine what happened to him in the park, at the police station, and at the hospital.

Amnesty International is calling on the Cuban authorities to account for the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto García and to investigate the role of police officers during this detention in Leoncio Vidal Park.


  • Explaining that you are a health professional concerned about human rights;

  • Calling on Cuban authorities to immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances and cause of Juan Wilfredo Soto García’s death;

  • Urging the authorities to ensure that investigations are undertaken in accordance with international standards on unexpected deaths such as the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, 1989.

Please Send Appeals BEFORE 06 July 2011 TO:

Head of State and Government

Raúl Castro Ruz


La Habana, Cuba


Salutation: Su Excelencia/ Your Excellency

Ministry of Foreign affairs

Bruno Rodríguez Parilla

Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores

Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores

La Habana


Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry);)


Copy to:

Representatives of Cuba at the UN,

In New York:

Fax: +1 212 779 1697

In Geneva:

Fax: +41 22 758 9431

If you receive no reply within six weeks of sending your letter, please send a follow-up letter seeking a response. Please send copies of any letters you receive to the International Secretariat, attention of THE Health Team, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW or e-mail:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Declaration of El Roque

12 former Cuban prisoners of conscience from the 2003 Black Cuban Spring met on Saturday, June 4, 2011 and petitioned the Cuban regime for an independent investigation into the May 8, 2011 death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia.

Juan Wilfredo Soto

El Roque, Perico, Matanzas, Saturday June 4, 2011

Petition to the Cuban government

Given the high centralization of power and decisions that exist in our country, we hold responsible the Cuban president and Army General Raul Castro Ruz, in fulfillment of the three following aspects that are reported below:

1 That an International Multidisciplinary Team be immediately allowed to exhume and examine the corpse of the peaceful activist Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia and impartially rule on the actual causes of death.

2 To prevent the imminent death of the peaceful activist and Andrei Sakharov prize winner, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, as a result of the hunger strike that he is carrying out.

3 With the cessation of repression, beatings, acts of repudiation and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against peaceful pro-democratic activists and Cuban society.

Awaiting for a proper response according to the present circumstances, the undersigned endorse this DOCUMENT

Pedro Argüelles Morán

Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

Iván Hernández Carrillo

Librado Linares García

Angel J. Moya Acosta

Guido Sigler Amaya

Oscar Elías Biscet González

Diosdado González Marrero

Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique

Hector M. Maceda Gutiérrez

Félix Navarro Rodríguez

José Daniel Ferrer García

Orlando Zapata Tamayo's example continues to empower Cuban resistance

The Associated Press reported today that the remains of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban dissident and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who died on February 23, 2010 following an 83-day hunger strike, were exhumed for cremation Tuesday as his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger, prepared to travel with the ashes and 12 family members to exile in Florida. His death ignited protests throughout the island and increased international scrutiny on the dictatorship in Cuba and marked a before and an after in the Cuban civic resistance movement.

Today Orlando Zapata Tamayo's body was exhumed for cremation and tomorrow marks one month since Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia died just three days after being beaten up by Cuban state security. Guillermo Fariñas is now in the midst of another life threatening hunger strike demanding that those responsible for the death of Wilfredo Soto be brought to justice.

There are twelve Cuban prisoners of conscience of the Black Spring now free in Cuba thanks in large part to the sacrifice of Orlando Zapata Tamayo; a hunger strike carried out by Guillermo Fariñas' and the courageous and persistent Ladies in White brutalized and beaten by regime mobs as they silently marched demanding their loved ones freedom. These twelve Cuban patriots met and issued the Declaration of Roque, a petition demanding an independent investigation into the death last month of Cuban dissident and former political prisoner Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia. The document was signed on Saturday, June 4, 2011 and delivered to the Cuban regime on Monday, June 6, 2011. They are carrying on the spirit of Orlando Zapata Tamayo with their courageous example. The original text is on the page of the Ladies in White and a translation to English follows below:

El Roque, Perico, Matanzas, Saturday June 4, 2011

Petition to the Cuban government

Given the high centralization of power and decisions that exist in our country, we hold responsible the Cuban president and Army General Raul Castro Ruz, in fulfillment of the three following aspects that are reported below:

1 That an International Multidisciplinary Team be immediately allowed to exhume and examine the corpse of the peaceful activist Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia and impartially rule on the actual causes of death.

2 Of the imminent death of the peaceful activist and Andrei Sakharov prize laureate, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, as a result of the hunger strike that he is carrying out.

3 With the cessation of repression, beatings, acts of repudiation and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against peaceful pro-democratic activists and Cuban society.

Awaiting for a proper response according to the present circumstances, the undersigned endorse this DOCUMENT

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

Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique

Guido Sigler Amaya

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Communist China's VP Arrives in Cuba Today, June 4 to sign cooperation agreements

Chinese regime gets its money's worth from the Castro regime.

Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping and Raul Castro

Yoani Sanchez twittered today that the Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping, will sign with Raul Castro new cooperation agreements, and begin his visit to Cuba today. The vice-president of the communist dictatorship of China Xi Jinping arrives today (June 4, 2011) on an official visit to Cuba which includes signing "cooperation agreements" i.e. providing financial aide to sustain the communist dictatorship in Cuba. This leads to an obvious question: What are the Chinese communists getting for their money?

In September 22, 2006 edition of Hemisphere Daniel Erickson and Adam Minson wrote about the relationship between China and Cuba offering two extremely interesting nuggets of information. Twenty two years ago it was the Cuban regime in Havana that expressed support for Beijing's brutal repression of protesters in Tiananmen Square with the Cuban foreign minister commending Chinese authorities for "defeating the counterrevolutionary acts." This arrangement goes beyond diplomacy and economics into the world of espionage where some analysts suspect that China is using its telecommunications involvement in Cuba as cover for espionage against the US. There is also speculation that Beijing took over the Lourdes spy base after Russia ended its lease in 2001 and is operating another base, Bejucal, near Santiago de Cuba. But the question is what has the Cuban regime done lately for their Chinese paymasters?

The answer at the United Nations Human Rights Council is plenty. The only member to recommend that China increase its repression on human rights defenders during its first universal periodic review in February of 2009 was the Cuban dictatorship. But that was 2009 and this is now. On March 15, 2011 a former Chinese political prisoner and participant in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest, Yang Jianli, was addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council about the systematic human rights abuses in China and about Tiananmen Square and the June 4, 1989 Beijing Massacre when the representative of the Chinese regime tried to shut him down. At 2:48 in the video below provided by UNWATCH the representative of the Cuban dictatorship backs the efforts of the Chinese regime. Thankfully they both failed but the Castro regime was the only member of the Human Rights Council to back the Chinese.

Below is the full statement in English along with the interruptions by the various parties:
UN Watch Oral Statement

Delivered by Dr. Yang Jianli
UN Human Rights Council, 16th Session
Agenda Item 4: “Human Rights Situations that require the council’s attention”

Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Yang Jianli. I am the president of Initiatives for China and a Harvard Fellow. In 1989, I was in Tiananmen Square, where I witnessed the massacre of thousands by the guns and tanks of the Chinese army. In 2002, I was arrested by the Chinese government for helping the peaceful labor movement. I served five years in prison.

I have come here today because this council is supposed to be the world’s protector of human rights. And so I ask this august body:

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded three months ago to Liu Xiaobo, a writer who is serving an 11-year jail sentence for having called for freedom—and the human rights situation in China rose to the top of the world headlines—why did you not speak out?

Why have you adopted no resolutions urging the Chinese government to respect the rights that are guaranteed under China’s constitution—the very rights it violated in imprisoning Liu Xiaobo?

Where were you when his wife, Liu Xia, cried out desperately for help a few weeks ago, because her life has become unbearable?

Where were you, when –

UNHRC President: Sorry. Sorry. We have a point of order by China — please.

China: Mr. President, China heard earlier the statement by this non-governmental organization, and this statement has nothing to do with the current agenda. According to the general procedures of our council, the president must take a decision to stop such a statement. And I also have a question about his status as a member of this organization, which is something that seriously undermines the credibility of this council. I hope that the council will check into his status.

President: Thank you. We take note of your concern. And I ask… — the United States.

USA: Thank you, Mr. President. We would like to highlight that we firmly believe that NGOs (non-governmental organizations) must be permitted to speak. Though member states including the US may occasionally disagree with the content of their statements, we are of the opinion that the intervention we are hearing was addressed to the subject matter at hand under (Agenda) Item 4. We would therefore ask that you rule that the speaker be allowed to end his presentation. Thank you, Mr. President.

President: Thank you. I take note of the concerns… — Cuba, please.

Cuba: Thank you, Mr President. I am sorry to be taking the floor at this time, but I would like to support the statement made by China, and also support the request that he put forward. Thank you.

President: Thank you. I take note of the concerns of the delegations. This agenda item is about situations that require the attention of the council. So I ask that the speaker address his remarks in the context of the agenda item which is: situations that require the attention of the council. So please go ahead.

UN Watch (Yang Jianli): Thank you, Mr. President.

Where were you, when police and hired thugs brutally beat Mr. Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights defender, and have since surrounded his house, 24 hours a day, since his release from prison last September?

Mr. President, I ask this council: Do you hear the cries of the Tiananmen Mothers?

When will you address the recent, brutal crackdown on Chinese citizens, who peacefully gathered for walks around Chinese cities, after hearing about the uprisings in the Middle East? Many have been arrested or disappeared.

When will you demand accountability from the individuals responsible for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and for other gross and systematic violations of human rights in China? When will these perpetrators be subjected to a travel ban, an asset freeze, and a reference to the International Criminal Court?

Mr. President, three weeks ago Colonel Qaddafi justified his bloody actions by pointing to what China did to “those people on Tiananmen Square.” Does this not show how ignoring crimes in one place only encourages them to spread elsewhere? And can the millions of Chinese victims ask why this council suspended Libya for killing its own people, yet allows the Chinese government to continue to sit here as a member?

Thank you, Mr. President.

It is for this reason that it is so important to take seriously who is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and that they not be gross and systematic human rights violators in order to save the Council from irrelevance. At the same time as the world remembers that 22 years ago the communist dictatorship in China ordered the troops of the "People's Liberation Army" to open fire on students and workers murdering thousands that on this date the vice-president of that regime is being received by Raul Castro and Machado Ventura. They are more than just their ideological comrades but part of a regime that does the hard work of defending the indefensible human rights record of the Chinese regime. Then again the Cuban regime has had a lot of practice defending its own horrible record.

Tiananmen Square Crackdown & June 4, 1989 Beijing Massacre: It was 22 years ago today

In memory of those who stood up for their rights, lost their lives and for those still unjustly imprisoned today in China.

Students peacefully demonstrating

Reuters reported yesterday that twenty two years after Tiananmen Square at least five individuals who took part in the demonstration remain imprisoned. There names are Jiang Yaqun, 75, Miao Deshun, 48, and Yang Pu, 47, Chang Jingqiang, 43, and Li Yujun, 48.

Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate, is currently imprisoned for his continued non-violent activism but had already served a prison sentence for his participation in the Tiananmen student protest.

Others participants like Yang Jianli are currently in exile but continue to speak out and demand justice. In an open letter that he will deliver later today to the UN Secretary General he states:
Twenty-two years ago today, Chinese Communist dictators, responding to student-led pro-democracy protests, called out tens of thousands of troops to “crush a counter-revolutionary riot." In a spasm of unimaginable violence, heavily armed soldiers and tanks attacked peaceful protesters. They shot at unarmed Chinese in and near Tiananmen Square, resulting in the death and maiming of thousands of their own citizens.

Young men and women vanished beneath tank tracks or lost their limbs. Others perished in a hail of gunfire from soldiers using assault rifles. Mothers lost their only sons and daughters. Children were orphaned, left to forever miss their parent’s love and warm embrace. Families were shattered. This was the single most tragic day in the history of modern China.
In 2011 Muammar Gaddafi believed that he could get away with mass murder because the world looked the other way in June of 1989 in Beijing and said it plainly: "The unity of China was more important than those people on Tiananmen Square." Its not the first time impunity in one bloody deed has encouraged another. Between 1915 and 1917 the Ottoman Turks murdered more than 1.5 million Armenians and like the Chinese communists in 1989 got away with it. This inspired Adolph Hitler to carry out his own holocaust stating in 1939: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel has denounced indifference and silence before injustice stating that: "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

It is in that spirit that this blog post is published today along with the time line below.

Abbreviated Time line of the June 4, 1989 massacre

30 May 1989 - The Goddess of Democracy is unveiled.

2 June 1989 - Liu Xiaobo and others start a hunger strike at 5 pm
- Communist party elders approve plan to put down the protests by force

The Goddess of Democracy

3 June 1989 - Troops are ordered to reclaim Tiananmen Square at all cost. They begin to open fire upon people blocking the advancement of the army and also on people who are just shouting at the troops. Tanks and armored vehicles move towards the center of the city.

Victims of the massacre

4 June 1989 - 1 am, troops surround Tiananmen Square and wait for orders

4 am, Liu Xiaobo and the other three men who began the second hunger strike negotiate with the troops to allow the students to leave the Square.

5 am, thousands of students, teachers and supporters leave the Square at gunpoint.
During this period of time, troops shoot two waves of fire.

5 June 1989 - Final act of defiance. An unarmed men blocks a column of tanks as they rolled towards Tiananmen Square. He's taken away by men in plainclothes. 22 years later his identity remains unknown.