Sunday, August 31, 2014

European NGO calls for EU to pressure Cuba on human rights

The EU must put pressure on Cuba to respect human rights

The EU and Cuba held subsequent negotiations concerning the possibility of future political dialogue and assistance between the two sides. To ensure that the agreement will lead to human rights improvements in Cuba, Civil Rights Defenders, together with the Cuban Campaign, Por Otra Cuba, have developed a platform on how these negotiations should be conducted and what should be included in the agreement.

Negotiations between the EU and Cuba, to achieve a bilateral agreement on the subjects of political dialogue and assistance, began in early 2014. Cuba is currently the only country in Latin America the EU has no bilateral agreement with, the reason being the total lack of respect for human rights in the country.

When the Cuban government signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in 2008 it represented a first step towards change. But since then, no real improvements have followed as far as human rights is concerned.

Civil Rights Defenders calls on the EU to put pressure on Cuba to ratify and implement human rights conventions – before any discussion on an agreement can continue. Prior to any final agreement it is essential that the EU includes civil society in Cuba and the political opposition in the dialogue in order for it to have legitimacy amongst the population.

During the negotiations, it has also emerged, that the EU, in addition to the agreement on political dialogue and assistance, intends to initiate a trade agreement with Cuba. The platform states that no trade agreement should be entered into before Cuba ratifies and implements the two human rights conventions.

Read the full platform here

Visit Por Otra Cubas website: in english / in spanish

Categories: News.

Tags: CESCR, EU, ICCPR, and Por Otra Cuba.
Regions: Cuba.

Friday, August 29, 2014

VOC holds special screening of “Messenger of the Truth,” a documentary about Father Jerzy Popieluszko,

"A man who tells the Truth is a free man despite external slavery, imprisonment or custody." -  Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, Sermon,  October 31, 1982

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation will be holding a special screening of the award winning documentary "Messenger of the Truth about the life of Father Jerzy Popieluszko also known as the "Solidarity Priest" on September 16 at 7pm at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC. Please share the news with your friends who live in the area.  Below is their announcement:
Join us for an exclusive screening of the award-winning documentary “Messenger of the Truth,” which tells the story of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the Roman Catholic priest martyred by the Polish Communists for advocating freedom of religion and political reform. By serving as chaplain to the fledging Solidarity Movement, Fr. Jerzy helped to crystalize the anti-communist sentiment in his native Poland. His death sparked a national nonviolent reform movement that eventually dealt a mortal blow to communism’s rule of terror.

Fr. Jerzy’s life stands as a testament to the strength of conviction and the courage of conscience. The film’s Executive Producer, Gary Chartrand, will speak about the film and its importance. Mr. Maciej Pisarski, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Polish Embassy in Washington, will also attend and offer brief remarks.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the building of the International Museum on Communism. To learn more about the documentary, visit the Messenger of the Truth website.
When: September 16, 2014 7:00pm — 9:00pm
Where: E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW, Washington, DC

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is located on 300 New Jersey Avenue, NW # 900, Washington, DC 20001. It is a non-profit educational and human rights organization devoted to commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and to the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes.

 "Our Fatherland and respect of human dignity must be the common objective for reconciliation. You must unite in reconciliation in the spirit of love, but also in the spirit of justice. As the Holy Father said five years ago, no love exists without justice. Love is greater than justice and at the same time finds reassurance in justice." -Father Jerzy Popieluszko

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera returns to Cuba tomorrow and leaves a message of concern

Stay vigilant and watch over activists in Cuba.
Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera concerned about her husband
Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is worried about her husband's life and safety. Yris is a human rights defender and president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. She has spoken before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland and returned to Cuba to continue her activism. 

She recently traveled outside of the island again to attend meetings in Spain and in the United States to denounce what is taking place in Cuba while at the same time recognizing that within the Cuban populace there is an awakening underway in which many Cubans are demanding their freedom and calling for the end of the rule of the Castro brothers.

Tomorrow she returns to Cuba not knowing what awaits her. 

Her husband,   Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" has written an open letter to Raul Castro denouncing the dictatorship while describing with great detail how it operates.  Yris fears for his life and the reprisals for writing his defiant letter.

In the short video below she expresses her concerns regarding Jorge Luis's health following an injection during his June 2014 detention with an unknown substance. Antúnez described the episode where he recieved the injection:
It begins and he says: "Something to Declare?" and I said, "Yes, I will not shut up, and I will not leave." The people of the Special Brigade appear and they say "bring him" and I think they are bringing someone as a witness, and a man appears in a white coat who wordlessly jumps me and places me in a choke hold. My hands are in handcuffs behind my back. “And what did you tell me?[ and he responds ] I will not shut up, and I am not leaving! ... When I came to, I was in an open air prison cell exposed to the sun, thrown on the floor, and they had given an injection "for me to be revived." That session they did to me twice. The second time they threw me against the doors of the offices, and they told me: No more magic for you!"
He has been suffering intermittent bouts of fever shortly afterwards that have persisted to the present day. Their home was attacked by state security again on August 28, 2014 in the early morning hours.

Friends of freedom and human rights please keep an eye on the plight of Yris and Jorge Luis. Their lives just might depend on it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Christian Liberation Movement statement on ongoing EU negotiations with regime in Cuba

Real changes are rights based.

 Statement of the Christian Liberation Movement

The common position maintained by the European Union in its relations with the Cuban government is under review. Tomorrow Wednesday August 27th the second round of these negotiations will be held. The most important condition has been the requirement of respect for human rights on the island, where little or nothing has changed for the good of the people in recent years. Continuing repression, arrests, lack of opportunities, and impoverishment, in other words, no real changes. Only transformations that seek to conceal a false continuity of oppression and privilege by a small group in power.

The Christian Liberation Movement does not intend to isolate Cuba and understands that the interests of organizations, businesses and citizens of the European Community be defended, but we are convinced that EU cooperation should be focused as a priority on achieving in our country a democratization process to ensure both in law and in practice the full respect of human rights for all.

We therefore hope that the representatives of the European Union are consistent and coherent with the democratic tradition of their own nations and demand a true process of change that our people want and need.

Changes are rights!

Eduardo Cardet Concepción
Coordinating Council of the MCL
August 26, 2014.

Eduardo Cardet Concepción
Original Spanish text below taken from the Christian Liberation Movement website . If you see room for improvement in the translation please comment below and will take under advisement.

Declaración del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación 

La Posición Común mantenida por la Unión Europea en las relaciones con el gobierno cubano está en proceso de revisión. Mañana miércoles 27 de agosto se efectuara el segundo encuentro de estas negociaciones. El condicionamiento más importante ha sido la exigencia del respeto a los derechos humanos en la isla, donde poco o nada ha cambiado para el bien del pueblo en los últimos años. Continua la represión, las detenciones, la falta de oportunidades el empobrecimiento. En fin, nada de verdaderos cambios. Solo falsas transformaciones que persiguen encubrir la continuidad de la opresión y los privilegios de un pequeño grupo en el poder. 

El Movimiento Cristiano Liberación no pretende el aislamiento de Cuba y entiende que se defienda los intereses de las organizaciones, empresas y ciudadanos de la Comunidad Europea, pero estamos convencidos que la cooperación de la Unión debe estar enfocada de forma prioritaria en lograr en nuestro país un proceso de democratización que garantice en la ley y en la practica el respeto pleno a los derechos humanos de todos. 

Por eso esperamos que los representantes de la Unión Europea sean consecuentes y coherentes con la tradición democrática de sus propias naciones y demanden un verdadero proceso de cambios que nuestro pueblo quiere y necesita. 

¡Cambios son derechos! 

Eduardo Cardet Concepción 
Consejo Coordinador del MCL 
26 de Agosto de 2014.


An open letter to General Raul Castro from a Cuban opposition leader (Part 2)

On August 20, 2014 Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" made public an open letter to Raul Castro in which he denounced fraudulent reforms, and the murders of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero in Cuba and declared that national reconciliation necessitates justice, freedom and democracy. In the video below Antúnez read aloud the letter. Below is the second part of Antúnez's letter titled: "No, no and no Raul Castro." Antúnez is a former political prisoner and currently a national opposition leader based in Placetas, Cuba.

Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez"

No, no, and no Raul Castro 

Mr. General, and now that you also self-title yourself President of the Councils of State and Ministers, I know well how many letters opponents have sent to you from inside and outside asking you to make reforms and a political opening as well as to convene elections. They ask as if you really were a president and as if in Cuba there was in power a real government and not a tyranny. We know that at any moment, you Machiavellian and opportunistic henchman will accept what they ask for and conduct a popular consultation, i.e. sham elections under your control, where as in Venezuela the totalitarian ruling party continues in power. And it is not a secret, the desperate and cunning maneuvers you and your acolytes perform to manufacture supposed opponents assuring with them the dynastic and ideological succession.

But be forewarned General, and is one of the reasons for this letter, that we, honorable and committed to the future of our country, Cubans are not going to accept that fraudulent and cosmetic change that you are concocting. Know also that the Cuban Resistance does not expect or want reforms implemented by the criminal tyranny over which you preside. The only reforms accepted by us are those that from following your ouster or abandonment of power are realized by the people from the bottom up.

Mr. dictator, enough tricks, that you will not serve a new term, that is not important to us. That you carry out reforms in the economic and immigration arena, that's a lot of lies, and it did not matter to us either. That your regime upgrade your model is another fallacy and lie. That's more of the same.
That monetary reform will come is a tremendous trick and a lie, General. We the people of Cuba, need a democratic system where a market economy prevails. One, two, three or a hundred thousand currencies do not matter, as long as there is a centralized and suffocating economy like your totalitarian system. We do not want with you Mr. dictator, reforms or openings, you are not our owners, nor should you dictate our guidelines.

We know that your time on earth is running out, and that powerful interests have shown the intention of pandering, or sharing huge profits at the cost of the pain and sacrifice of the Cuban people.
General Raul Castro, for warning about the danger of fraudulent change, you ordered the assassination of Oswaldo Payá and the young Harold Cepero. I doubt that you now have sufficient thugs to continue killing thousands and thousands who like Payá and Harold continue to denounce your tricks and continuity maneuvers.

For Laura Pollan, a defenseless woman, you sent your hired murderers to do away with her, because you could not defeat her in her Sunday marches on Fifth Avenue. It did not bother you that she was a woman and justice of her clamor. But Laura also defeated you, cowardly General, for her brave troops of the Ladies in White survived the cruel execution of their leader and is now spreading like patriotic wildfire throughout the Island.

Pedro Luis Boitel, Olegario Charlotte Pileta, Orlando Zapata, Wilman Villar, and many others, who had the courage to sacrifice themselves for the sake of freedom and respect for their dignity had already defeated you. Honor that both you and your thugs threatening to kill me in retaliation for my slogan “Neither will I fall silent nor will I leave Cuba." They themselves also just a few days ago, during one of the many arrests of those that I have been victimized, they tortured and beat me, since according to them and you, I sabotage the attempts of your tyranny to normalize relations with the United States.

Please know General Raul Castro that neither the absurd injunction of house arrest that weighs against me and the obvious threat of being killed, will make me change in my purpose that is that of thousands of Cubans. You will not be able to, Raul Castro; you cannot subdue a people who are tired of living without freedom, as you can not realize the international effort that is brewing against the cause of freedom in Cuba. That plot, Raul Castro, will not succeed, whether it comes from Havana, from Washington, from Brussels, or even from Vatican City. They won’t be able to, General, because I know that both you, your family, and that cruel and bloody Party, will be excluded from any process of democratic change as they signify the negation of democracy itself.

And tell your subordinates, General, I'm here and will be here in my beloved homeland of Placetas from which you will not take me out neither your repressive forces or you yourself, or anyone, and that my humble abode, though desecrated, vandalized and looted by your entourage will remain a bastion of resistance, struggle, shelter and sanctuary for my countrymen who fight against you and in favor of freedom and justice. And tell them also General, your promoters and cronies, your spokesmen be they in Miami, in Washington, in Brussels, in Havana, or the Vatican itself not to continue rubbing their hands. We say no to continuity because here in Cuba there will not be reconciliation without there first being justice, freedom and democracy.

And as presentiment also tell some governments that call themselves democratic and which are within the plot, that they are wasting their time General, that the fact that Cubans need and hope for international solidarity, that does not mean that one country or foreign power, no matter how powerful or influential will be part of our process of change, because Cubans, those inside and those outside, are convinced that the solution of Cuba must and should be resolved between Cubans, exempting you and yours of course General, that for the damage you and yours have done to our nation, do not even deserve to be called Cubans.

Raúl Castro Ruz, on behalf of the people of Cuba, my fellow prisoners, and the victims of your dictatorship, I tell you no, no and no.

From Placetas, in the center of Cuba Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”, who “Neither will I fall silent nor will I leave Cuba." 20 de agosto de 2014.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Solidarity and the Baltic Way: How nonviolence buried the last vestiges of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Baltic Way brought an end to one key element of Molotov Ribbentrop

History weighs heavily in August of 2014: the centenary of the start of World War 1; seventy fifth anniversary of the signing of Molotov Ribbentrop, the treaty that triggered World War 2 by splitting Poland between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; thirty five years later, leaders of the Khmer Rouge are finally brought to face justice before an international tribunal; 34 years on the 31 of August 1980 the Polish Solidarity union came into existence; and Cubans observed the 20th anniversary of a mass uprising in Havana known as the Maleconazo that sparked another huge exodus of tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing to freedom.

Within this somber month of needed reflection on what not to do there is an incident that took place that needs to be remembered on what needs to be done. In addition to dismembering Poland, the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact placed the Baltic States under Soviet control. A nonviolent moment twenty five years ago that ended up liberating Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia brought an end to this part of Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact and it was called the Baltic Way. On June 4, 1989 the Solidarity labor movement won in free elections and the Polish people finally regained their sovereignty after nearly 50 years under totalitarian oppression. They did it nonviolently. So did the people of the Baltic states when two million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians joined hands together in a giant human chain stretching 370 miles on August 23, 1994. Fifty years to the day after the treaty that brought them so much grief had been signed.

A number of excellent and well sourced websites describe and show with images and videos what happened on August 23, 1989. This is how the UNESCO website described it:

On 23 August 1939 foreign ministers of the USSR and Germany - Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, as ordered by their superiors Stalin and Hitler, signed a treaty which affected the fate of Europe and the entire world. This pact, and the secret clauses it contained, divided the spheres of influence of the USSR and Germany and led to World War II, and to the occupation of the three Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. 

50 years later, on 23 August 1989, the three nations living by the Baltic Sea surprised the world by taking hold of each other's hands and jointly demanding recognition of the secret clauses in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the re-establishment of the independence of the Baltic States. More than a million people joined hands to create a 600 km long human chain from the foot of Toompea in Tallinn to the foot of the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, crossing Riga and the River Daugava on its way, creating a synergy in the drive for freedom that united the three countries.The Baltic Way was organized by the national movements of each of the Baltic States: the Popular Front of Estonia Rahvarinne, the Popular Front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis.

The Baltic Way brought important changes to the history of the world. This was achieved through social unity and through the joint commitment and confidence manifested by every individual in pursuing the common goal. This impressive act of non-violent protest and solidarity whilst keeping sovereignty was a living example of the culture of peace, opening up access to information and leading to the acknowledgement of the secret treaty and its hideous consequences for the whole world. It increased the opportunity for the national self-determination of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and encouraged democratic movements throughout the Soviet Union. The three Baltic States succeeded in gaining their freedom in a peaceful way, creating a precedent that was, and hopefully will be, followed by a number of countries all over- the triumph of humanity over totalitarianism.
Its a powerful testament that the liberation of Poland and the Baltic states from totalitarian occupation was achieved after fifty years through nonviolent resistance. Now in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia August 23rd has a double significance.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Molotov-Ribbentrop: The Orwellian non-aggression treaty that started World War 2

"Russia and Germany have signed a cooperation pact. War now inevitable. Went for a stroll." - Evelyn Waugh
German Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, & his foreign minister, Molotov
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the Nazi German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, officially called the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was signed 75 years ago today. Made public on August 23, 1939 the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact was a Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact with secret protocols setting out how the two regimes would divide Poland and the Baltic States.  World War 2 would begin with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939. The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the East on September 17, 1939. The double invasion is dramatized in Andrzej Wajda's 2007 film Katyn. This important date in history and cautionary tale for democrats is largely ignored.

German and Soviet Union soldiers greet one another in Poland (1939)

The Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact, 1939
Text of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

The Government of the German Reich and The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics desirous of strengthening the cause of peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R., and proceeding from the fundamental provisions of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in April, 1926 between Germany and the U.S.S.R., have reached the following Agreement:

Article I.
Both High Contracting Parties obligate themselves to desist from any act of violence, any aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other Powers.

Article II.
Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third Power.

Article III.
The Governments of the two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to exchange information on problems affecting their common interests.

Article IV.
Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties shall participate in any grouping of Powers whatsoever that is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party.

Article V.
Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.

Article VI.
The present Treaty is concluded for a period of ten years, with the proviso that, in so far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not advance it one year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this Treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years.

Article VII.
The present treaty shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement shall enter into force as soon as it is signed.

[The section below was not published at the time the above was announced.]

Secret Additional Protocol.

Article I.
 In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.

Article II.
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments. In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.

Article III.
With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinteredness in these areas.

Article IV.

This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.

Moscow, August 23, 1939.

For the Government of the German Reich v. Ribbentrop

Plenipotentiary of the Government of the U.S.S.R. V. Molotov

Copy of the Non-Aggression Pact signed on August 23, 1939

Friday, August 22, 2014

Historical Lessons from Engaging Totalitarians: Tourism

Normally, travel broadens the mind but what about visiting a totalitarian state?
Jane Fonda visiting North Vietnam in July of 1972
 Over the past few months there has been a vigorous debate around whether or not to continue economic sanctions on the dictatorship in Cuba and a series of manufactured controversies surrounding democracy promotion programs directed at the island has led to a conversation about their effectiveness. However, a couple of other issues that emerged but that have gone  unaddressed are the conceits that American tourists, business, and high technology would somehow be game changers in Cuba and that "evolutionary change" would take place within Cuba. In this second installment will briefly explore some high profile examples of the impact of tourism on totalitarian states.

What has happened in the past when tourists take the lead in public diplomacy? Well it depends on what kind of tourist is visiting a totalitarian regime. Basically divide them into four general groups: bargain travelers, political pilgrims, celebrities, and informed travelers that know how totalitarian states function and know what they are getting into. The last group is almost always a very small number.

Bargain travelers will go to a totalitarian regime because often times it is a cheap holiday in an exotic location. Depending on the regime they will be kept in areas geared to tourists providing them a Potemkin village experience. However that does not mean that information on health and security will be accurate and it can place tourists at risk. In the case of both Cuba and North Korea, businessmen who have engaged the regime in business ventures are rotting in prison. There is also an ethical question providing hard currency to a system that is actively repressing its own populace and no matter how little it may be it is helping a totalitarian state.

Celebrities visiting totalitarian states become targets of both the state security service and the propaganda ministries. These regime will pull out all the stops to show themselves in the best light possible and make sure that celebrities have a great time but within a reality fabricated by the totalitarians. It has paid back with big dividends in the past.

Lincoln Joseph Steffens
Soviet Union
For example in 1919 Lincoln Joseph Steffens, a respected journalist, spent three weeks visiting the Soviet Union and wrote "Soviet Russia was a revolutionary government with an evolutionary plan", enduring "a temporary condition of evil, which is made tolerable by hope and a plan." When he returned to the United States he campaigned for U.S. food aid for the Soviet Union saying repeatedly: "I have seen the future, and it works." Remember that in January of 1919 the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin had already been carrying out the systematic and mass extermination of entire social classes. By 1931 Steffens had grown disillusioned but for over a decade people heard from this journalist about the wonders of the Soviet Union.

Charles Lindbergh in Nazi Germany with Hermann Göring
Charles Lindbergh, the heroic emblem of aviation’s glamorous present and brilliant future. Lindbergh, who had moved his family to Europe following the kidnapping and murder of his eldest child, visited Germany five times between 1936 and 1939. Officially lionized, taken on tours of airfields and factories, lavishly entertained by Air Marshal Hermann Göring, and awarded one of the country’s highest civilian honors, Lindbergh made no effort to distance himself from Nazism. Hitler, he wrote to the banker Harry Davison, “is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe he has done much for the German people.” - See more at:
Charles Lindbergh, the heroic emblem of aviation’s glamorous present and brilliant future. Lindbergh, who had moved his family to Europe following the kidnapping and murder of his eldest child, visited Germany five times between 1936 and 1939. Officially lionized, taken on tours of airfields and factories, lavishly entertained by Air Marshal Hermann Göring, and awarded one of the country’s highest civilian honors, Lindbergh made no effort to distance himself from Nazism. Hitler, he wrote to the banker Harry Davison, “is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe he has done much for the German people.” - See more at: Lindbergh, visited Nazi Germany five times between 1936 and 1939. Lindbergh was taken on tours of airfields and factories, lavishly entertained by Air Marshal Hermann Göring, and awarded one of Third Reich’s highest civilian honors. Lindbergh made no efforts to distance himself from Nazism. Writing to the banker Harry Davison, he said that Hitler “is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe he has done much for the German people."
Nazi Germany
On June 23, 1933 Adolph Hitler signed a law creating the "Reich Committee for Tourism" and according to Kristen Semmens marked the first step in the Nazis thorough coordination of German commercial tourism. Semmens explains how "normal" experiences--such as taking a tour, visiting a popular sightseeing attraction, reading a guidebook or sending a postcard--Seeing Hitler's Germany deepens our understanding of the popular legitimization of Nazi rule not only in Germany but internationally.  This also explains, in part, the inaction of other democratic states in reacting to the consolidation of Nazi rule and its re-armament. Today, in Cuba for example, the tourism industry is run by the military with input by the regime's intelligence service.

Charles Lindbergh, visited Germany five times between 1936 and 1939. Lindbergh was taken on tours of airfields and factories, lavishly entertained by Air Marshal Hermann Göring, and awarded one of the Third Reich’s highest civilian honors. Lindbergh wrote to the banker Harry Davison, “With all the things we criticize, he [Hitler] is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe has done much for the German people. He is fanatic in many ways, and any one can see that there is a certain amount of fanaticism in Germany today. It is less than I expected, but it is there. On the other hand, Hitler has accomplished results ( good in addition to bad ) which could hardly have been accomplished without some fanaticism.”

Following the 1936 Olympics in Berlin that further legitimized the Nazis, Lindbergh's wife offered the following perspective on Hitler to her mother in a August 5, 1936 letter:
"Hitler, I am beginning to feel, is a very great man, like an inspired religious leader -- and as such rather fanatical -- but not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power, but a mystic, a visionary who really wants the best for his country and, on the whole, has a rather broad view."
Needless to say the Lindbergh's analysis was profoundly mistaken. The tyrant who many at the time thought wanted "the best for his country" when Germany failed to achieve the Thousand Year Reich Hitler had wanted he issued the Nero Decree on March 19, 1945 ordering the infrastructure of the country to be destroyed effectively also sentencing the German people to death. Not only did Nazi Germany order the extermination of the Jewish race at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942 but three years later the German people.

 Kim Jong-Un & Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang 2013 Photo: KCNA/AFP/Getty Images
North Korea
The totalitarian state in North Korea is not as expert as their counterpart in Cuba, but nevertheless hosted NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman in four visits to the peninsula between 2013 and early 2014.  The brutal communist dictatorship was trying to obtain positive media. Rodman played an exhibition basket ball game in North Korea in January 2014, singing Happy Birthday to dictator Kim Jong Un, said the young leader was a friend and also "a very good guy." Weeks earlier Kim Jong Un had purged and executed his own uncle. According to NBC news the uncle was stripped naked and fed to a pack of ravenous dogs. Official North Korean media has reported the execution of the Uncle but has not specified the method used. However, the NBA star claims that the uncle was not executed. Rodman also attempted to justify the imprisonment of an American citizen, Kenneth Bae, implying in a CNN interview that he had done something to deserve being jailed there since 2012. Kenneth Bae had a tour company organizing tours to North Korea since 2006. He was arrested on November 3, 2012. Despite Rodman's claims international human rights organizations and bodies identify North Korea as one of the most extreme and systematic human rights violators on the planet.

Beyonce and Jay-Z in Havana in April 2013
However at times for the sake of shifting unwanted attention these kind of regimes are more than capable of placing celebrities in the spotlight as was done with Beyonce and Jay-Z back in April of 2013. It was the Cuban totalitarian state that first released footage and news of the Jay-Z and Beyonce trip describing it as tourism. The Castro regime wanted to create a media storm to take attention away from three Cuban women, then exposing the brutal reality in Cuba as they traveled around the world, shifting it back to a debate over restrictions in U.S. law on travel to Cuba. A year later the Treasury Department confirmed that the couple had not violated U.S. laws during the trip.

Singer Linda Ronstadt visited Cuba and got the Potemkin Village tour
 Linda Ronstadt in a AZCentral interview on August 18, 2014 questioning the Cuban Adjustment Act she revealed that she had traveled to the island:
"We allow Cubans to come in and say that they're refugees. Well, in Cuba — I've been there, you know — people are fed, people are housed, people are clothed. There isn't violence in the streets. 
She had spoken more extensively about her impressions of Cuba in a 2003 interview in City Pulse:
  It’s an amazing country. I’ve been all over Latin America. And it’s the only Latin American country I’ve been in that didn’t have armed troops on the street, there weren’t homeless people everywhere, and kids had school uniforms and had schoolbooks paid for and had their health paid for. There’s things going on in Cuba that we don’t know about, and that’s mainly because of the Miami Cubans, they just absolutely won’t – they are absolutely closed-minded. They hate Fidel Castro, they won’t even hear about some of the good things he’s done, and they don’t want anyone else to know about it, either. It’s a total propaganda device and they’ve blanketed this country with propaganda about Cuba, huge amounts of which are untrue.
The reality that Cubans know on and off the island is far different, but also there are respected international human rights bodies and organizations that would dispute everything in the above statement. Sadly, the unwitting "propaganda device" is a talented and legendary singer who had The Eagles as a backup band.

Jane Fonda positioned by North Vietnamese into a photo op
Underestimating the ability of these totalitarian states to manipulate individuals both the average traveler and high profile celebrities has been demonstrated time and time again to be a losing proposition. At the top of this blog entry is a photo of Jane Fonda in 1972 in North Vietnam. In a 2012 Oprah interview reported on the Huffington Post, she described how she ended up on the anti-aircraft gun:
In the clip, Fonda explains that she was taken to a North Vietnam military site on the last day of her visit, even though she did not want to go. "I was an emotional wreck by [then]," she remembers. "I don't know if I was set up or not. I was an adult. I take responsibility for my actions."
That's when a small ceremony began. "These soldiers sang a song; I sang a song in feeble Vietnamese," she says. "Everyone was laughing. I was led to a gun site and I sat down. And I was laughing and clapping, and there were pictures taken."
As Fonda walked away from the site, she suddenly realized how those pictures would look to the rest of the world. "I understand the anger about that," she admits.
The North Vietnam regime that she was visiting came into power through terror campaigns and mass executions. According to the International Business Times as early as 1956 at a Communist  Party conference Vietnam's "Red Napoleon", Senior General Vo Nguyen Giap in a moment of candor told delegates that in carrying out their "anti-feudal task":  
"...we indiscriminately attacked all families owning land.  Many thousands were executed.  We saw enemies everywhere and resorted to widespread violence and terror...There were grave errors..."  
On other occasions General Giap explained: "We executed too many honest people...", "...We resorted to terror, disciplinary punishments and torture..."  Revenge squads organized by the Communist Vietnamese government may have executed up to 200,000, forced the eviction of over a million South Vietnamese to the North as prisoners, and killed no one knows how many more through deliberate exposure to disease and malnutrition. A million and a half fled Vietnam primarily by sea and became known as the boat people. The human rights situation today in Vietnam remains dire.

Countering the Propaganda
Years ago, at a youth gathering at Harvard University , I had the opportunity to engage a bright young student who had just returned from a semester in Cuba and she was spouting Cuban government propaganda. My response to her was to give her a list of links to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission on the human rights situation on the island and past atrocities. She came back a couple of hours later in tears of anger for having been lied to and manipulated while in Cuba.
Iran's Ahmadinejad with Communist Fidel Castro and Neo-Nazi David Duke
Political Pilgrims and Iran
Political pilgrims are people who share an ideological sympathy with the regime and will go there on vacation to reinforce their political beliefs and provide the totalitarian regime with concrete material support. Some of them will take part in political rallies and events while a smaller subset will also engage in trainings to promote their ideology elsewhere. Years ago at the University of Miami met a small group of American students who had returned from such an event in Cuba. They were openly Stalinist and said that those imprisoned in Cuba for their ideas were getting what they deserved. They also volunteered that they were against the death penalty in the United States today because the wrong people were in power but when the revolution arrived they wanted the death penalty to get rid of the "right people." It was a chilling encounter. These youths are part of a totalitarian network that operates internationally with the assistance of state actors. These young totalitarians are found both within Communist and Nazi networks. As one marks the 75 years since Communists and Nazis joined together in the Molotov Ribbentrop pact in 1939 it is interesting to note where they link today on issues such as Israel and in alliances with the regime in Iran. David Duke would fit the bill of a political pilgrim in his 2006 trip to Iran. The human rights situation in Iran remains dire.

Ethical travel to totalitarian states
The smallest group visiting these types of regimes are informed travelers that know how totalitarian states function, understand the dangers and know what they are getting into but decide to risk all and meet with dissidents and human rights defenders demonstrating their solidarity. These travelers are in my opinion the only ones making a positive contribution visiting totalitarian states, but must weigh what they plan to do with how much hard currency they'll be leaving the dictatorship to continue its machinery of repression.

The conceit that "opening up" Cuba to mass American tourism will be a game changer endangering the totalitarian state on the island is not tenable. The dictatorship in my opinion will continue to control through its totalitarian mechanisms who can and cannot enter and with increased travel receive hard currency for the military and intelligence apparatus that run the tourism industry.  What to do you think?