Friday, September 28, 2012

San Francisco Freedom Forum: “Many Paths, One Goal”

In her first trip to the United States in more than 20 years, Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to San Francisco on September 28, to accept the Václav Havel Award for Creative Dissent and join a range of leaders from advocacy, business, media, policy, and technology at the first U.S. Freedom Forum. The event will begin at 12:00pm PDT.

Watch live streaming video from sfff at

Those speaking alongside her include: Russian democracy activist Garry Kasparov; Saudi women’s rights pioneer Manal al-Sharif; Pussy Riot spokesman Pyotr Verzilov; Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy; Slate editor William J. Dobson; Ghanaian economist George Ayittey; drug policy reformer Ethan Nadelmann; anti-genocide artist Naomi Natale; conflict psychologist Justine Hardy; Iranian author and former prisoner of conscience Marina Nemat; and Venezuelan journalist Marcel Granier.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Amnesty International issues Urgent Action for Ladies in White Detained and Missing in Cuba

UA: 276/12 Index: AMR 25/022/2012 Cuba

Date: 25 September 2012


Members of the Ladies in White have been detained in Havana and several other places in Cuba. Some remain in detention and the authorities have failed to provide reasons for their detention or information on their whereabouts.

From 21 to 24 September the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) held several activities, including masses and marches in Havana, to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Mercy (Virgin de la Merced) and in memory of former political activists. Since 20 September, various members of the Ladies in White have received intimidating notes aimed at preventing them from taking part in activities. Reports from the group state that the headquarters in Neptuno Street, Havana have been surrounded by police officers.

Around 50 members of the group, who travelled from different provinces of Cuba to attend the activities, were arrested on their way to Havana. The majority of them were released and deported back to their provinces, however 19 remain detained and their whereabouts are unknown. On 24 September as the Ladies in White planned to attend mass, an act of repudiation (acto de repudio see background information) took place at their headquarters. Government supporters and state agents gathered in the street chanting pro-government slogans and intimidating the women. In the early morning of 25 September 18 members of the Ladies in White were arrested at the headquarters.

Amnesty International believes that the repeated use of short term detentions of members of the Ladies in White and other activists in Cuba is a tactic used to silence dissident voices in the country and prevent peaceful activities.

Furthermore the systematic arrest of activists travelling from the provinces to Havana represents an excessive limitation to freedom of movement and represents excessive control and harassments of dissidents.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
  • Calling on the authorities to reveal immediately the identity and whereabouts of all members of the Ladies in White arrested between 21-25 September;
  • Urging them to immediately release the detained members, unless there is sufficient evidence to charge them with an internationally recognizable criminal offence;
  • Urging them to immediately cease the harassment and intimidation of members of the Ladies in White and all other citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association, and immediately stop arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement of Cubans inside Cuba.

Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) are government coordinated demonstrations, usually carried out in front of the homes of political opponents, attended by government supporters, state officials and law enforcement agencies aimed at harassing and intimidating opponents and are often used to prevent them from travelling to participate in activities. During an act of repudiation, political opponents and human rights activists are subjected to verbal and physical abuse by groups of people
chanting pro-government slogans. Police are usually present but fail to intervene to stop the assaults. Such incidents frequently involve the Rapid Response Brigades (Brigadas de Respuesta Rápida), a structure set up in 1991 and composed of Communist Party volunteers whose task is to deal with any sign of ‘counter-revolution’.

Local human rights activists and others believe these incidents are orchestrated by Cuba's security services to intimidate any opposition.

The Ladies in White was formed by a group of female relatives of the 75 prisoners of conscience who were imprisoned in March 2003 for their peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government. The group would attend mass every Sunday in the capital, Havana, dressed in white, to pray for the release of their relatives. Afterwards they would take part in a procession from the church to a nearby park, carrying white flowers.

A solidarity group called the Ladies in Support (Damas de Apoyo) subsequently emerged to support and participate in activities organized by the Ladies in White. In early 2012 the two groups merged and all members are now considered to be Ladies in White. After the release of all the prisoners of conscience from the March 2003 crackdown, the Ladies in White have been campaigning for the release of political prisoners and for the lifting of restrictions on fundamental civil and political freedoms in Cuba.

The Ladies in White have repeatedly suffered harassment and intimidation as they have attempted to carry out their peaceful activities. They are frequently subject to acts of repudiation by government supporters and members of the security forces, and also to short-term arbitrary detentions in order to disrupt their activities.

Name: Members of The Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) and other opposition activists in Cuba
Gender m/f: both
UA: 276/12 Index: AMR 25/022/2012 Issue Date: 25 September 2012


Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana,
Fax: +53 7 83 33 085 (via Foreign
Ministry); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban
Mission to UN)
Email: (c/o Cuban
Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior,
Plaza de la Revolución,
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +537 85 56 621; +1 212 779 1697
(via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:

Attorney General
Dr Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República,
Fiscalía General de la República,
Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella, Centro
Habana, La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

Deja Vu at The Miami Herald?

The media circus returns to town and the question arises who benefits?

The Miami Herald has had some unfortunate episodes that have damaged its reputation as the newspaper of record. It appears that it maybe in the midst of suffering the indignity once again in the 2012 election cycle in which the stakes are a congressional seat.  The feeding frenzy over Congressman David Rivera, political consultant Ana Alliegro and candidate of Lamar Sternad in the August 2012 democratic primary had a certain troubling deja vu in terms of reporting quality. At the same time the bomb shell that the democratic nominee Joe Garcia has received thousands of dollars from pro-Castro figures is only mentioned in a few lines of a Herald story dealing with Cuba related donations being down in the 2012 elections:
The FEC reports show [Francisco Aruca of Marazul] also donated $5,000 to the current campaign of Garcia, a Miami Democrat who is running against Rep. David Rivera, R-Fl., an anti-Castro hardliner. [Maria Aral of ABC] gave $2,000 to Garcia and $10,000 to the Obama reelection campaign.

Read more here:
The current controversy all over the news generates a number of questions. Lamar Sternad, one of the candidates in the democratic primary filed to run on November 4, 2011. In the 9/25/12 article the campaign consultant is quoted at what appears to be their first meeting in the Spring of 2012: “I asked a million times. Why are you running for Congress? Why don’t you run for something local?”

Read more here:
This implies that someone else may have "manufactured" the candidacy of Justin Lamar Sternad if he didn't decide on it himself. Who was it? In 2010 Roly Arrojo , a candidate billed as a Tea Party conservative candidate was a registered democrat that some say Joe Garcia placed into the general election to peel of votes from the Republican nominee because their was a business relationship between Garcia's campaign manager and the Democrat turned Tea Party candidate. Another question is the aggressive reporting on political consultant Ana Alliegro and her family. Why so aggressive?

Back in 2006 The Miami Herald smeared 10 journalists in a flawed story
 Being right in the middle of the current media storm it is difficult to offer a clear analysis of what is going on, in part because all the facts are not in. Therefore it is important to look back at a previous high profile episode that also became national news that was broke by The Miami Herald. In this case extensive and sloppy reporting targeting individuals with hyperbolic accusations and charges that in the end did not pan out was a horrible example of "gotcha journalism" that led to a black eye for the The Miami Herald but it did serve a political agenda.

It was six years ago this past September 8 that The Miami Herald published a story accusing 10 Miami journalists of violating ethical standards , including some who worked at the newspaper because they had freelanced or worked at Radio and TV Marti as reporters. They featured the reporters on the front page of The Miami Herald and the publisher fired two reporters based on the story and then had to hire them back and resigned when it became known that there had been a policy in place at El Nuevo Herald permitting journalists to moonlight at Radio / TV Marti.

One of the targets of the Herald story, Carlos Alberto Montaner offered the following breakdown of the objections raised with regards to the story:
(1) It contained ethnic prejudices. Everyone accused was Hispanic, even though there were Anglo journalists in the Herald's newsroom who collaborated with PBS and other public media, something that, besides, was frequent in American journalism.

(2) The El Nuevo Herald journalists who were accused of breaking the rule had permission from their supervisors, and it was a habitual practice, known for the previous 20 years, that had even been mentioned in the newspaper itself.

(3) The other journalists mentioned in the report, who were not Herald employees, worked in media where that peculiar rule did not exist and, therefore, should not have been included.

(4) The reporters who wrote the report did not bother to phone some of the people they were accusing, thus violating a basic rule of journalism.

(5) They maliciously insinuated that it was a band of corrupt journalists who had violated ethical standards, a message that was conveyed not only in words but also in the use of photographs.

(6) Suspiciously, before the report was published in The Herald, the Cuban government boasted on television of knowing the exact contents of the report that would soon be published. The authors, who had some direct or indirect contact with the Cuban government, didn't have the decency to communicate to their colleagues the type of investigation they were doing, mindless of the consequences of the moral lynching they were carrying out.

Following the debacle Clark Hoyt conducted a review of the whole affair that was published in Editor & Publisher and arrived at some conclusions partially excerpted below on what he described as a flawed story:
Its placement at the top of Page One, its hard and accusatory tone and the large and breathless headline suggested something more sinister than the story actually reported. The subjects of the story said they felt treated as though they were criminals. Some especially objected to a set of "rogues' gallery'' photographs that appeared on Page 2A with the continuation of the story.

Finally, with more time, the Herald might have broadened the perspective of the story to report, as El Nuevo Herald and then the Herald later did, that journalists in Washington have taken money from other U.S. government broadcasting outlets, such as the Voice of America.

Although it was a flawed and hyperbolic story the Castro regime and its allies are still using it by periodically re-publishing it and further distorting it to serve its own propaganda aims in trying to release five Cuban spies that were convicted of spying and in the case of one of them conspiracy to commit murder in the Brothers to the Rescue case.

Oscar Corral while at The Miami Herald
Incidentally Oscar Corral, the Herald reporter who wrote the story and continued to write similar exposes that coincidentally benefited the dictatorship in Cuba ended up being boycotted by Cuban exile activists. A year later he was arrested trying to solicit sexual favors from an underage prostitute in Flagami. Needless to say his arrest did not receive the substantial coverage his colleagues had gotten a year earlier. Although initially claiming his innocence, and backed by the Editor of  The Miami Herald, he later pled out to a pre-trial diversion. Defending Corral was the official Cuban communist newspaper Granma.

Fast forward six years later and things have not improved at The Miami Herald. Six years ago it was an in house reporter generating the content now one of the main stories was broken on a blog then material used from it in a story published in the The Miami Herald without attribution. Also the author of the blog has his own issues that also go unmentioned.

As in the case of the 2006 story involving ten journalists it will be interesting to look back six years from now and try to understand what was actually going on with the benefit of hindsight. Will another Herald executive be writing about another flawed story?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Time to overcome revolutionary icons of violence and hatred

We need to nonviolently confront them and take the offensive.

MLK Jr. poster on sale at

 Thor Halvorssen, the founder of The Human Rights Foundation, has written an open letter to Ted Marlow, the CEO of Urban Outfitters regarding their Che Guevara merchandise. It is an excellent analysis of why it is not only a bad marketing strategy but also immoral.

Aung San Suu Kyi T-Shirt by Cafe Press on Amazon

However, it is not only the promotion of a deceased mass killer who never renounced violence that is disturbing but the absence of positive icons such as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Vaclav Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi and many others who made the world a better place using nonviolent means, respecting and defending human rights and dignity. It is troubling that some around the world want to celebrate a man who committed acts of mass violence that did not make things better but fail in honoring those did.

Mohandas Gandhi t-shirt on sale at Amazon
What kind of message is Urban Outfitters sending to the youth market?  Celebrating icons of violence while ignoring those who made contributions to humanity using nonviolent resistance is a disservice to the future.

Symbol of Polish Solidarity Movement
 In addition to boycotting Urban Outfitters which is a necessary but negative action one should also encourage taking positive action and purchasing posters and t-shirts to celebrate and market those heroes who have made the world a better place. Above and below are t-shirts and posters that can be purchased online that do just that. Time to go on the offensive with nonviolence. There are powerful icons of nonviolence that need to be remembered, honored and taught to new generations.

Hopefully, Urban Outfitters will reconsider promoting a hateful symbol and join in marketing icons who made a difference for the better. In the meantime the following are already available online.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hunger Strike underway in Cuba raises moral and ethical considerations

"After feeling how my health has worsened due to spending several days on hunger strike, and reacting to what appeared in various media about the start date and the demand of the protest I want to clarify the following.
First: I started the hunger strike on Friday, September 7 at 6 pm and not on Monday, 10 as did other opposition activists after giving a press conference.
Second: My demand is the release of political prisoner Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, or failing that to give a satisfactory solution acceptable to him.  I am also protesting for the deplorable human rights situation in Cuba that passes through the policy of systematic persecution against my person which means in practice house arrest.
Third: For reasons of principle and not confiding on the existing health care system, controlled by the political police, I do not accept medical attention. From what follows above only in a state of unconsciousness, relatives and countrymen by their own initiative, motivated by humanitarian feelings, will surely transfer me to a health center." - Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" Message to Cubans inside and outside of Cuba

Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" on hunger strike

"We respect any person who goes on a hunger strike. That method of struggle is not ours. We're women who are never going to do it, and although we disapprove of it, we're going to give them all the moral and spiritual support we can." - Berta Soler, Leader of the Ladies in White Movement

This evening Bertha Antunez sat down and explained the reasons that a large group of Cubans have decided to take the unprecedented action of going on hunger strike to demand the freedom of an unjustly imprisoned compatriot. Among the activists who are now risking their lives is her brother, Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez". She is extremely worried about her brother and the others who have resorted to this course of action.

"Antúnez" began the hunger strike at 6pm on September 7, 2012 and today marks nine days on hunger strike with his health in decline. There are several reasons that led Jorge Luis to take this drastic course of action and for so many others to join him:
An ongoing crackdown in which scores of activists have been harassed, terrorized, beaten and detained that his been intensifying along with a failure of the international press to report on it. In the month of August alone there were over 500 documented politically motivated arrests. In addition opposition leaders such as Oswaldo Paya and Laura Pollan have died under suspicious circumstances.

The escalation of violence led to the destruction of the home of nonviolent activist Misahel Valdés Díaz, who was also detained by State Security agents. His wife and child were also terrorized during the attack.

Finally, Jorge Vázquez Chaviano who was unjustly imprisoned while traveling to Havana to attend the Mass of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and sentenced to prison until September 9, 2012 was not released.

Jorge Vázquez Chaviano began his own hunger strike as September 9 gave way to September 10 and he had not been released. More than 20 others joined in during the following days including the dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque. 

The Cuban Catholic Church has expressed its concerns regarding the hunger strikers stating that they are following events closely and praying for them. At the same time the Church spokesman has stated that the Church opposes hunger strikes as a form of auto-aggression even when it is in the defense of the right to that very life. This position was also held by the Church in Ireland with IRA hunger strikers in 1981. The Ladies in White also appear to hold this position.

The Cuban Church's position raises a logical question. It appears that hunger strikes are unacceptable under any circumstances even when it is in the defense of one's own life.  Now the Cathecism of the Catholic Church has a doctrine of "legitimate defense which states in part:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.[...]
 If one's life is in danger, or that of a compatriot, and undertaking a hunger strike as a means to defend one's own life or the life of another although causing measurable harm to avoid a greater harm not morally justifiable? This is not to say that all hunger strikes are morally justifiable or well thought out but that at least in principle under certain circumstances some of them constitute a legitimate defense.

Nonviolence expert, Michael Nagler in an Introduction to Nonviolence filmed at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 2006 offered the following analysis on hunger strikes within a nonviolent context in the video above starting at 46 minutes and 38 seconds stating:
"This is not a case of suicide. You are not killing yourself. You are risking death. What you are doing is putting your life into the hands of another person." ... "You are not killing yourself but you are saying to the person that your behavior is so unacceptable that if you continue it its going to kill me. It is an extreme case of taking on the suffering that is in a situation." ...This is different from a threat because what you are saying to the person is "I am going to exhibit to you mirror back to you the ultimate consequences of what you are doing." ... "This is an act of truth. You are killing us - you are killing our people and I'm going to show you that you are doing it to awaken your conscience."...Thats why you have to be carrying on a conversation on a nonverbal level.

There are several questions that any individual contemplating the extreme action of going on hunger strike should contemplate. First, are there any other out of the over 198 nonviolent actions that can be taken that should be tried before resorting to this life risking action? Secondly, who are you trying to persuade into changing their behavior?  Do they care whether you live or die? Third, is this a life or death situation that requires placing your life on the line? Finally, can you succeed in achieving your objective.

Others have tried and failed whereas others have succeeded in using this tactic in Cuba under the current regime.  It is of utmost importance that activists considering this course of action to analyze their particular situation to determine the moral, ethical, and strategic soundness of such an extreme course of action. At the same time those who wish to question the soundness of their decisions must also take into account the circumstances that these human rights defenders confront in a totalitarian communist dictatorship that systematically violates human rights and dignity.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Amnesty International calls on Castro regime to explain itself

Cuban dissidents on hunger strike © ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/GettyImages
Cuba must say why they are holding Jorge Vázquez Chaviano or release him

by Amnesty International 

The Cuban authorities must either explain why they failed to release detainee Jorge Vázquez Chaviano as scheduled on 9 September or let him go immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said amid an ongoing hunger strike by 26 dissidents in solidarity with their colleague.

Vázquez Chaviano, who is a member of the organization “Central Opposition Coalition” (Coalición Central Opositora), was charged with “unlawful economic activities” and sentenced to 18 months “correctional work without internment” in March 2011.

He believed the sentence to be politically motivated and a means of punishing his dissident activities.

“The justice system in Cuba is highly arbitrary and unfair for those deemed to be dissidents, but the failure to release prisoners on completion of their sentence is unusual and this is a worrying development,” said Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty International's Cuba researcher.

“Unless the authorities are able to immediately explain on what grounds they have refused to release Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, Amnesty International calls on them to immediately and unconditionally release him, and to cease the harassment of his family.”

Vázquez Chaviano was arrested on 27 March this year when he tried to travel from his home in the province of Villa Clara to attend an open air mass said by Pope Benedict XVI in Havana, and was forced to serve the remaining six months of his sentence behind bars.

Since 9 September came and went, he is not believed to have been charged with a new offence or have been re-sentenced, nor has any reason been given by the authorities as to why he has not been released after completing his sentence. He is imprisoned at “Alambradas de Manacas” prison in Villa Clara Province.
Jorge’s wife and mother were detained along with several supporters on 10 September in their hometown of Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara Province, when they demonstrated for his release. His wife was held for 24 hours before being released and warned not to speak out publicly again.
Vázquez Chaviano began a hunger strike after hearing he would remain incarcerated and 26 other people across the island have since joined him, calling for his release and for greater civil and political freedoms in Cuba.

The group includes 67 year-old Martha Beatriz Pérez Roque, head of the Cuban Network of Community Communicators (Red Cubana de Comunicadores Comunitarios) and a former prisoner of conscience, who is reported to be seriously ill.

“Given the government’s control of the justice system and media, and the repression of public protest, the only recourse dissidents feel they have to make their voice heard is to go on hunger strike,” said Gerardo Ducos

Since 2010, two prisoners of conscience, Wilman Villar Mendoza and Orlando Zapata Tamayo have died in custody while on hunger strike, protesting their unfair incarceration.

International Justice 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hugo Chavez shows his true colors: Venezuela’s break with regional human rights organizations

"This move is an affront to the victims of human rights violations and to future generations of Venezuelans who will no longer be able to access this regional body when their rights are not respected in their own country." - Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International

Venezuela has denounced the American Convention on Human Rights,
blocking victims access to the Inter-American Court. © Zoë Tryon

Venezuela’s break with regional human rights court ‘an affront to victims’

by Amnesty International

The Venezuelan government’s decision to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights and therefore pull out of the Inter-American Court constitutes an affront to the victims of human rights violations, Amnesty International said. 

On Tuesday, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza confirmed having received the Venezuelan government’s request to withdraw from the Convention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights – which the OAS oversees – within a year. 

The move means victims of human rights violations in Venezuela will be barred from bringing complaints before the regional court. 

“This move is an affront to the victims of human rights violations and to future generations of Venezuelans who will no longer be able to access this regional body when their rights are not respected in their own country,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International. 

“Having access to an international body like the Inter-American Court is a right that all Venezuelans had up until now, but the government has decided to cut off that important lifeline.”

Leaving the Court

Promoting and protecting the human rights of all without discrimination is the cornerstone of the rule of law and allows states to ensure that all people can live with dignity, regardless of their gender, race, ethnic origin or any other condition. 

Regional and national human rights systems were created to guarantee everyone a route to pursue justice and reparation for human rights abuses when national justice systems have failed them. 

The regional human rights system – made up of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights – is a necessary complement to national protection measures throughout the Americas. Over the years, thousands of victims and their relatives across the continent have seen it as their only chance to obtain justice after national justice systems have failed them. 

Venezuela’s Constitution currently guarantees all people the right to access to international bodies, but once the current government’s decision takes effect within a year, this route to justice will be blocked.  They will no longer have access to the Inter-American Court – the highest human rights body in the Americas. 

Amnesty International joins the OAS Secretary General and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in calling on Venezuela’s government to reconsider its decision. 

“The Venezuelan government must immediately review its decision to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights and show that it is truly committed to human rights,” said Marengo.

The organization notes that since Venezuela will remain a member of the OAS, it will still be subject to monitoring by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.


In December 2008 Venezuela’s Constitutional Court declared that a judgement of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights could not be implemented and requested that the executive withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights.  

Since then, there have been several announcements by authorities on withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court. Amnesty International has repeatedly called upon Venezuela to honour its international and regional human rights obligations, and to remain as a signatory of the American Convention of Human Rights. 

Under the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, state parties can opt to withdraw from the regional Court by denouncing the Convention, but such decisions take one year to take effect. Two other OAS members – Trinidad and Tobago and Peru – have made such a move, but Peru subsequently reconsidered and today is subject to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction.

En castellano.

Friday, September 7, 2012

President Jimmy Carter's Tragic Legacy

"Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions." - Ronald Wilson Reagan

Carter's normalization of  relations with Communist China is a tragic legacy

President Jimmy Carter has repeated his long standing position of arguing in favor of normalized relations with the dictatorship in Cuba that began during his presidency. Ironically when President Carter took steps to normalize relations with the dictatorship in Cuba while at the same time isolating the military junta in Argentina, it was Fidel Castro who responded by embracing the Argentine regime. Afterwards as a private citizen he has visited Cuba twice, first in 2002 and a second time in 2011. The former president has continued to seek normalized relations between the United States and the Castro regime. Until now he has failed in achieving that policy objective, but he did "succeed" in China. The case for maintaining economic sanctions on the Castro regime is sound of its own accord and the results of the Carter policy on China only serve to reinforce it.
President Carter normalized relations between Washington and Beijing on January 1, 1979. China's one child policy that systematically violates the reproductive rights of all Chinese was first applied in 1979. The conventional belief then with regards to the Soviet Union and China, as with Cuba now, was that normal relations would lead to a greater opening for human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy. The opposite has been the case. In the Soviet Union confrontation and economic isolation led to a peaceful implosion of the regime. In China the policy of trade and political engagement has led to a thriving economic system under Communist party control and modernization and expansion of both the military and police state to continue repressing the Chinese people.

Ten years after Carter succeeded in normalizing relations with the communist dictatorship in China that same regime on June 4, 1989 engaged in a massive crackdown killing thousands of Chinese students and workers who had been non-violently protesting in what became known as the Tiananmen Square massacre. 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 pro-forma criticisms made by the Administration. Candidate Bill Clinton would critique this de-linkage of human rights and commercial interests only to intensify the practice during his own presidency. This reached a symbolic low point in 1996 when the General responsible for the 1989 massacre was received at the Clinton White House with a 19 gun salute. The bipartisan consensus on China is one that all Americans should be ashamed of. It has not aided freedom in China but conspired against it.

On the same day that President Jimmy Carter was widely quoted on his desire to see improved relations with the dictatorship in Cuba the fruits of his normalized relations with communist China policy once again also made the news. Chinese students were forced to "intern" on an i-Phone production line six-days a week, 12 hours a day. Involuntary forced labor used to be called slavery but in today's Orwellian environment it is called an "internship" in China.

The result of engagement with China has not been the transformation of the Chinese dictatorship to democracy. Amnesty International’s 2012 report states: "Executions were estimated to number in the thousands. However, statistics on death sentences and executions remained classified." The same report further stated that "Fearful of a protest movement inspired by events in the Middle East and North Africa, in February the authorities unleashed one of the harshest crackdowns on political activists, human rights defenders and online activists since the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Harassment, intimidation, arbitrary and illegal detention, and enforced disappearances intensified against government critics." Finally, Amnesty International reported that "China’s economic strength during the global financial crisis increased the country’s leverage in the domain of global human rights – mostly for the worse."

The events of June 1989 when thousands of students were butchered by Chinese troops for peacefully demonstrating for democracy, human rights, and an end to government corruption dramatically revealed the failure of the policy of engagement. Surprisingly, economic engagement with the butchers of Beijing was not even suspended but intensified. Twenty three years have passed since the Tiananmen Square massacre but according to Amnesty International, China continues its systemic suppression of dissent, which includes arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trials, religious repression, and executions." 

Nevertheless former President Carter in his trip report on his December 6-15, 2011 visit to communist China stated "In general, we were impressed with the enormous vitality of the Chinese economy, rapid improvements in commerce, transportation, education, and international influence, concern about election year 'China bashing' from 2012 U.S. candidates, pride in 40 years of peaceful engagement with their neighbors, and quiet self-assurance about China's future role in global affairs."

Recalling that President Jimmy Carter's made human rights a cornerstone of his foreign policy the aftermath of his normalization of relations with China and his continued blindness towards the harm it has and continues to do not only in China but around the world is a tragic legacy.

It is not the policy on Cuba that needs to be overhauled but U.S. foreign policy in China that has been disastrous both for the Chinese people and the United States.

Carter is advocating normalizing relations with the Castro regime