Monday, December 10, 2012

The Regime Strikes Back: International Human Rights Day in Cuba

Despite massive orchestrated regime repression combined with a propaganda offensive the opposition was able to celebrate international human rights day in Cuba with courageous defiance.
On International Human Rights Day the Castro regime engaged in a triple attack. First it shut down cell phones and home telephones of activists and independent journalists so that it was difficult if not impossible for them to communicate. (This tactic was first documented and used successfully on a national scale by the dictatorship during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba in March of 2012.) By 12 noon today activists such as Orlando Luis Pardo were tweeting that "cell phones of the majority of activists and Cuban civil society leaders including the Ladies in White were blocked."

Secondly the dictatorship organized rapid response brigades led by state security to lay siege to the homes of activists and when the activists took to the streets in nonviolent protest these government agents violently ended the demonstrations and detained the activists. At 9:24am today Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted that "independent journalist Carlos Rio Otero was impeded from leaving his home by police patrol."This repression started in the early morning and has continued throughout the day and into the night. Tonight at 9:53pm former prisoner of conscience Angel Moya tweeted that "the home of activist Eduardo Pacheco was under siege in Cardenas Matanzas" and that "repressive forces were wielding knives and shouting no one will go out."As was done yesterday, a large number of activists were arbitrarily detained to prevent them from participating in activities on International Human Rights Day. Bertha Soler, the spokesperson of the Ladies in White was beaten up and arrested yesterday then released only to suffer the same indignity again today.

Thirdly, over the internet the Cuban government and its sympathizers recycled propaganda on the non-achievements of the revolution and attacked the U.S. Embargo while claiming that news of human rights violations in Cuba were lies manufactured by counter-revolutionary elements and the Yankees. A number of the claims made about U.S. sanctions were factually inaccurate.
In reality, the human rights situation in Cuba over the past four years has gone from bad to worse. At the same time that sanctions have been loosened. The only bright spot was the product of a sustained international and national campaign for the release of Cuban prisoners of conscience arrested during the 2003 Black Cuban Spring which succeeded in getting all of them out of prison by March of 2011. Nevertheless there are new prisoners of conscience who have replaced them and the international community does not seem to have the same level awareness and commitment that it did back in 2003 generating greater impunity.

Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of this lessened solidarity and increased impunity it is feared may be the suspicious deaths of high profile activists such as Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya not to mention human rights defenders such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Wilman Villar Mendoza, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, Sergio Díaz Larrastegui and now the life of  Calixto Ramon Martinez hangs in the balance.  

The Castro regime struck back today with its arsenal of repressive tools and agents of influence abroad, but despite the dictatorship's efforts to silence the opposition it failed. Protests and marches went on, signs were posted and leaflets were distributed across the island and a national pots and pans protest was successfully carried out. International Human Rights Day in Cuba demonstrated that nonviolent and creative resistance can overpower the most sophisticated plans of the regime.

Opposition activist and former prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was able to post an important video tonight (embedded above) outlining the nonviolent nature of the Cuban civic movement's struggle for freedom in Cuba and its objectives.

The Rosa Maria Paya, of the Christian Liberation Movement was able to post an audio on the state of human rights in Cuba that demands justice for her father Oswaldo Paya in addition to freedom for Calixto Ramon Martinez and Josvany Melchor Rodriguez both unjustly imprisoned.

All of this was accomplished despite the increased repression and danger to the lives of these activists.

At the same time people of good will abroad can help reduce the level of impunity in Cuba by pressuring for increased scrutiny on the regime. Please take a few minutes of your time to visit the Free Cuba Foundation and sign three petitions in order to demand justice, freedom and an end to repression.

Amnesty International designed its symbol of a candle surrounded by barbed wire inspired by the proverb: "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness." It is important to remember the power of shining the light of truth into darkness and its great nonviolent power.

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