Friday, February 28, 2014

Remembering Oswaldo on his Birthday and the first step on the path to change

"You are who decides, you have to make the decision to decide. You are the protagonist. The first step is to allow all that is good within you to come out and to rid yourself of grudges, of hubris, or of arrogance if you have abused power, of fears, and of that desperation that paralyzes many." - All Cubans, The Path to Change, last page of printed handout under Orientations

My father should be celebrating his 62nd birthday. Join us tonight, 7:30pm to talk about #SOSVenezuela and Cuba. -  Rosa María Payá Acevedo over twitter

Tony Diaz Sanchez,

Oswaldo Payá should be together with his family tonight in a modest neighborhood in Havana, El Cerro, celebrating his 62nd birthday. However, the totalitarian dictatorship, that tonight is overseeing the murder of students in Venezuela who want to see their homeland freed, nineteen months ago on July 22, 2012 murdered both Oswaldo and Harold Cepero, a Christian Liberation Movement youth leader.

Following these killings, of which the circumstances have not been cleared up, the Payá family saw an intensification of death threats, state security surveillance, and persecution. This led the matriarch of the family, Ofelia Acevedo to decide that before others were murdered that it was time to seek political refuge in exile. Tonight members of the Payá family held a teach-in on the situations in Venezuela and Cuba with Gisela Parra, an exiled magistrate and a member of the opposition as guest speaker.

The question arises: Why do the Castro and Maduro regimes fear those who speak the truth, and peacefully assemble? Neither Oswaldo, Harold or the Venezuelan students, murdered over the past two weeks were violent.  On the contrary they counseled against violence, and hatred. However they also counseled against being afraid, of having hope and living in truth.

This is unacceptable for a totalitarian dictatorship. Because these regime's thrive on fear and distrust which is also related to fear. However, it is difficult for such a regime to instill fear in someone who believes in God, in an afterlife and subsequently, may fear other things greater than death, such as living a lie subjected to the arbitrary whims of a cruel dictator. It is not enough just to be alive going through the motions.

It is telling that Génesis Carmona, the 22 year old student and Miss Tourism shot in the head and murdered by Maduro's agents, was carrying a sign that day that read: "God's time is perfect but if we don't go out into the streets, the time of Maduro will be ETERNAL"

The other factor is that a movement that bases itself in nonviolence and love taps into power, but one different to that wielded by a totalitarian dictatorship. Gandhi offered a reflection on different kinds of power:
"Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment."
This power does not seek to impose its will on others but to encourage self-expression and personal liberation. This self-liberation as was seen with the more than 25,000 Cubans that signed The Varela Project and the tens of thousands of Venezuelans protesting peacefully in the streets is the stuff that destabilizes regimes. It is the first, and I would dare say the biggest step, on the path to change.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Imprisoned Venezuelan Opposition Leader's letter to His Holiness Pope Francisco

"[S]pare no efforts to promote national reconciliation through mutual forgiveness and sincere dialogue, respect for truth and justice, able to address specific issues for the common good."- Pope Francisco on situation in Venezuela, February 26, 2014

 "I have taken the audacity to write these lines because I am convinced, as millions in Venezuela , that your voice , your guidance and your blessing to our people at this time can make a profound impact on the next destination of our country."- Leopoldo López Mendoza, letter dated February 17, 014



Caracas, February 17, 2014

His Holiness
Pope Francisco
Supreme Pontiff


With deep admiration and full of humility, I ask your blessings to the people of Venezuela in moments of profound difficulty for all Venezuelans hit by the most severe economic crisis, by insecurity accompanied by unleashed impunity and the loss increasingly accelerated of our freedoms for all Venezuelans, especially those of us who have contrary thoughts to those who govern today.

I am writing this letter from the underground and within a few hours of appearing before the manipulated justice of my country, which has issued an arrest warrant attributing against me the crimes of murder and terrorism, for the simple fact of having called our people to exercise our right to protest as it is protected in our Constitution and the fundamental rights of free men. This situation of persecution and criminalization of protest has affected hundreds of youth who have been detained, tortured and subjected to unfounded processes that seek to plant fear and limit the voice of millions of Venezuelans who promote change.

I have taken the audacity to write these lines because I am convinced, as millions are in Venezuela , that your voice , your guidance and your blessing to our people at this time can make a profound impact on the next destination of our country.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to talk with the Polish leader Lech Walesa, who I asked what was the most decisive event in his years long struggle that culminated with the fall of communism, his response was immediate and very precise: The visit and the message of John Paul II to Poland.
I understand that the historical circumstances are very different , but like the twilight years of communism in Europe, now in Venezuela we are living in times of deep despair and hopelessness, a word, a sentence, a message from you I'm sure could make a significant impact, the encounter of our people with peace, liberty and democracy.

Chances are when you read this letter I will already be jailed on the orders of Nicolas Maduro; a situation that I 'm willing to take on if in something it contributes to awaken our people on the need to together make a change.

With the mere fact that you read these lines and keep a place in your heart for the Venezuelan people will give us immense strength to move forward, guided by the teachings of Christ our Lord.

Benediction,
Leopoldo López Mendoza

Original handwritten text in Spanish:



Caracas, 17 de Febrero 2014

Su Santidad
Papa Francisco
Sumo Pontífice


Con profunda admiración y lleno de humildad, quiero pedirle sus bendiciones al pueblo de Venezuela en momentos de profunda dificultad para todos los venezolano, azotados por la más grave crisis económica, una inseguridad acompañada de impunidad desatada y una perdida cada vez más acelerada de nuestras libertades para todos los Venezolanos, especialmente para quienes tenemos un pensamiento contrario a quienes hoy gobiernan.

 Le escribo esta carta desde la clandestinidad y a pocas horas de presentarme ante la justicia manipulada de mi país, que ha emitido una orden de captura en mi contra atribuyéndome delitos de homicidio y terrorismo, por el simple hecho de haber convocado a nuestro pueblo a ejercer nuestro derecho a la protesta como lo ampara nuestra Constitución y los derechos fundamentales del hombre libre. Esta situación de persecución y criminalización de la protesta ha afectado a cientos de jóvenes que han sido detenidos, torturados y sometidos a procesos infundados que buscan sembrar el miedo y limitar la voz de millones de venezolanos que promueven un cambio.

Me he tomado el atrevimiento de escribirte estas líneas porque estoy convencido, como millones en Venezuela, que su voz, su guía y su bendición a nuestro pueblo en este momento puede marcar un profundo impacto en el destino próximo de nuestro país.

Hace unos años tuve la oportunidad de conversar con el líder Polaco Lech Walesa, a quien le pregunte cual fue el evento más determinante, en su lucha de años, que culminó con la caída del comunismo, su respuesta fue inmediata y muy precisa: La visita y el mensaje de Juan Pablo II a Polonia.

Entiendo que la circunstancia histórica es muy distinta, pero al igual que los años del ocaso del comunismo en Europa, hoy en Venezuela estamos viviendo momentos de profunda desolación y desesperanza; una palabra, una oración, un mensaje de usted estoy seguro podría impactar de manera muy significativa el encuentro de nuestro pueblo con la paz, la libertad y la democracia.

Es probable que cuando lea esta carta ya esté encarcelado bajo los órdenes de Nicolas Maduro; situación que estoy dispuesto a asumir si en algo contribuye al despertar de nuestro pueblo sobre la necesidad de construir juntos un cambio.

Con el solo hecho de que usted lea estas líneas y guarde en su corazón un lugar para el pueblo venezolano nos dará una inmensa fortaleza para seguir adelante, guiados por las enseñanzas de Cristo nuestro Señor.

Bendición,
Leopoldo López Mendoza







Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Youth and Students address the Venezuelan Nation: Now is the time for Resistance

#Resistance


PRESS RELEASE 2: The Student Movement and youth to the Nation 02/24/2014

The undersigned hold that:

"Foreign military forces have laid siege to Venezuela. Their mercenaries attack us in a vile and savage manner. Their goal is to enslave us and to be the conductors of our existence, dishonoring the flags that have kept us in the street and that we will defend to the death.

We want our Freedom. It is vital to defend the sovereignty of the nation, expelling Pro-Castro Cubans who are usurping the government and the Armed Forces.

We do not accept nor will we accept the criminal policy promoted by the regime, impunity, repression and persecution. It is unacceptable that this regime continues to promote the impoverishment of the people, enough of humiliating Venezuelans and reducing them to subsistence levels. We are not and never will be your slaves. Censorship is unacceptable as is the siege on the Freedom of expression.

We are outraged and it makes us our blood boil that Cubans are intervening in our affairs as a Nation.

We demand the deposition of the usurper Nicolás Maduro and his entire cabinet, in addition, the Freedom for all our political prisoners and the disarmament of the collectives.

You cannot dialogue with those who have tortured and sexually abused comrades in the struggle. You cannot talk to murderers. Our principles do not allow us to dialogue with who protect irregular groups firing against the defenseless population to instill fear.

We will protest until our demands are met. We will conquer the Freedom of Venezuela and expel the Castro- communists from the homeland! The street should remain ours. Our will to be free is unwavering, which is why, as repression intensifies, grows the courage of a country that aspires to be reborn and to be great.

To all Venezuelans,

The regime declared war on all civilians who did not join with their ideology. Our call is to defense: not to allow the invaders and the repressive bodies to profane your street, your avenue or your property. Impede them access so that they do not shoot at your neighborhood, so that they do not destroy your properties, so that they do not injure yours and, above all, to know that there are embattled Venezuelans, who will not be enslaved by the use of force.

The Student and Youth Movement is the spearhead of this great Venezuelan awakening. What guides us are our hearts: we are neither with the government nor with those who falsely oppose, we do not respond to any particular political interest or respond to any economic interest. We are with the Venezuelan people; we are the sons and daughters of the people. That people who suffer daily in order to get food, the people that when sick cannot heal properly because it cannot obtain medicines, these people who every day are victims of a group of thugs allied to the regime that steals and kills with impunity. That people who long for a decent job where their salary will be enough for them to live with dignity. People of Venezuela: all your sons and daughters have taken the first step.

People of Venezuela: It is necessary that you actively join this protest and national mobilization. If we do not overcome, the death of our comrades would have been in vain, and the problems will not be solved. If we do not overcome, death will overtake us as well. 200 years ago, we won our independence; let's do it again all together, doing honor to the blood of young patriots who have given everything for Venezuela. We are not opposition: it is the hour of the Resistance, that's who we are.

Without freedom, nothing "

José Vicente García, Roderick Navarro, Gaby Arellano, Juan Urdaneta, Julio Cesar Rivas, Eduardo Bittar, Lorent Saleh, Josmir Gutiérrez, Ana Karina García, Villca Fernández, Iván Uzcategui, Liliana Guerrero, José Martínez, Víctor Uribe, Juan Flores, Raúl Rodríguez, Aimara Rivas, Luis Octavio Rivas y Gabriel Boscán.

IF YOU ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH THIS POSITION, SPREAD THE MESSAGE AND ADD YOUR NAME.

Original Spanish text available online here.












Venezuela: Repression and Death versus Freedom and Life

Women protesting outside the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela
 Today marks two weeks since the Youth Day in Venezuela began on February 12 sparking a series of nonviolent demonstrations that were met with deadly force by President Maduro's security forces and paramilitaries. The response to Maduro's repression has been two weeks of massive protests across the country. Maduros and his Cuban allies have responded by escalating repression by what has now revealed itself to be for all purposes to be a dictatorship operating in Venezuela. Alessandra Solini who produced a video explaining the reasons for the protests on February 16, 2014 has produced another video showing compelling images of what is taking place across Venezuela which is embedded below.



Opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, unjustly jailed on February 18th continues imprisoned and is a prisoner of conscience. His wife  Lilian Tintori and a National Assembly Deputy, María Corina Machado, are calling on "mothers, grandmothers, and sisters" at 10:00am today February 26, 2014 to protest in the streets of Venezuela "for the fallen, the tortured, for the prisoners" under the name "women for LIFE" asking women to dress in white and to march silently with white flowers.


 The number of deaths, and equally disturbing the number of students who are being disappeared, are escalating. The picture below has the names and images of nine of the victims of the Maduro regime's brutality but the number of known murder victims is now at 16 as of five hours ago.


Meanwhile in Cuba activists have taken to the streets in solidarity with their Venezuelan counterparts and have been subjected to threats, brutal beatings, and detentions. Last week Cubans and Venezuelans came together in Miami announcing a coalition.

Today will have the women of Venezuela in my thoughts as ten in the morning approaches and they begin their silent protest dressed in white carrying white flowers. The tactics of repression of the Castro regime are duplicated in Venezuela by Maduro but also the democratic opposition, in this case women dressed in white silently carrying white flowers demanding an end to repression, are following a path laid down by Cuba's Ladies in White.

Prayers and solidarity for the student movement in Venezuela seeking to be the authors of their destiny and to rescue their country from the totalitarian abyss and to the women of Venezuela who are demanding an end to repression and risking their own lives in the process.

The choice is clear in Venezuela: Maduro government offers violence, repression and death versus a student movement nonviolently fighting for freedom and life.

What is taking place in Venezuela is an example of civic courage that will be remembered through the ages.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Silent Vigil for Justice on Brothers to the Rescue Shootdown Anniversary for victims in Cuba and Venezuela

"Nonviolence is not an instrument of convenience, but a way of living in which one has to believe." - Mario Manuel de la Peña , murdered on February 24, 1996
 
"God's time is perfect but if we don't go out into the streets, the time of Maduro will be ETERNAL" - Génesis Carmona ( written on the poster she carried the day she was shot in the head by a Maduro government agent.), murdered on February 18, 2014
 
Silent Vigil at FIU on February 24, 2014
 Today the families and friends of Armando, Carlos, Mario and Pablo, the four men blown out of the sky while engaged in a search and rescue for rafters in the Florida Straits by air-to-air missile launched by a Cuban MiG, gathered as they have for the past 18 years in a silent vigil to mark the time when each plane was shot down: 3:21pm and 3:27pm on February 24, 1996.

As the years have passed the vigil has come to have added meaning, in 2010 on February 23 after years of torture and humiliation, prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, denied water on and off for 18 days died while on a hunger strike. The next day when the vigil was held prayers were included for this brave human rights defenders.

Venezuelan woman: "I'm tired of being 'at least alive'"
Now, after two weeks of Venezuelan students shot in the head, run over, and tortured for nonviolently standing up and protesting for democracy in Venezuela they were also in our thoughts today. Génesis, Bassil, Roberto, José Ernesto and the other eight victims we know about and the many more that we don't know about are in our thoughts and prayers. Large numbers of Venezuelan youths have been disappeared since February 12, 2014.

Free Cubans and Venezuelans are joined together in resistance to the Castro and Maduro monstrosity that is emerging rapidly into existence and is known as Cubazuela. Venezuela is being merged into the Cuban totalitarian state where freedom is non-existent and all is fear, humiliation, shame, and terror.

Jorge Planas over Facebook has described the situation with chilling candor:

In Venezuela, the murderous regime, attacks churches and priests, murders women, students and men, more than 500 tortured, there are disappeared, and who appear, do so without life. This is not a myth as Dalmacio del Negro would say, this is the struggle of good against evil. I appreciate all your support and sharing this with others. 
It is is this reality that has led Venezuelan youths into the streets and 22 year old beauty queen Génesis Carmona to hold up a poster that said "God's time is perfect but if we don't go out into the streets, the time of Maduro will be ETERNAL" and for her sister at her funeral to say that she will continue

Last photo of Génesis Carmona (On the right)
 This is not a suicidal impulse born of grief but the lesser of two evils. As the wife of a Cuban pastor, Yoaxis Marcheco, in the island put it:"Better to risk your life then to live dying everyday as Cubans living inside Cuba do. Please show your solidarity with the peoples of Venezuela and Cuba in their struggle for freedom.


Flier distributed at FIU today for the Vigil


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the continuing struggle for freedom


"Orlando Zapata Tamayo, dear brother: we will continue the fight, without hatred, but determined until Cuba is free and Cubans no longer suffer this painful humiliation that is to live subjugated a lie by fear." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Havana, Cuba, February 23, 2010
 
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas holds up image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Orlando Zapata Tamayo gathered signatures for the Varela Project and was a human rights defender who gave his life in the struggle for human rights in Cuba. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas had campaigned to save the life of Orlando Zapata making a plea over Spanish television for his life and months beforehand recording a plea from Orlando's mom for her son. Despite this the Castro regime continued to torture Orlando Zapata and on February 23, 2010 he died.

Two years, four months, and 30 days after Orlando Zapata Tamayo's untimely death Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was killed together with youth leader Harold Cepero Escalante in what appears now to have been a premeditated murder by State Security. Oswaldo's family has been calling for an international investigation for the past 19 months.

Some ask what is the point of all of this sacrifice and exposing oneself to the deadly practices of the Cuban government? It's been 55 years and they are still there in power. The answer is not an easy one but it is a simple one.

When children look back on this period in Cuban history and ask why did no one stand up to the cruel genocidal dictatorship that did so much harm to Cuba and to other countries such as Argentina, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Sri Lanka, China, Spain, Syria, Ethiopia, and elsewhere there will be an answer that will not be shameful.

As we witness today in Venezuela were tens of thousands of young people are in the street protesting the imposition of totalitarian rule in their country. In the first years of the Castro regime thousands of youths fought the imposition of totalitarianism in Cuba and were subjected to firing squads, summary extrajudicial executions, torture, and decades in prison

On February 24, 1996 Cuban exiles and the children of Cuban exiles flying civilian planes in search of rafters to rescue in the Florida Straits were shot down by Cuban MiGs on Castro's orders. They knew the risks and took them because Brothers to the Rescue was saving thousands of lives. Most of them Cubans.

Thousands upon thousands of Cubans defied the dictatorship, and with the Varela Project more than 44 years after the imposition of the dictatorship more than 25,000 Cubans gave their names, identification numbers and home addresses demanding human rights reforms and a plebiscite. 

Each signer risked not only losing their jobs, being expelled from school (many where), their children being targeted for harassment but also prison as well. During the March 2003 crackdown the majority of the activists arrested had collected signatures for the Varela Project and were sentenced in summary show trials to prison sentences as high as 28 years for gathering signatures.

The regime thought it had crushed the opposition in Cuba, but instead the Ladies in White came into existence and challenged the dictatorship on the streets of Havana and across the island. 

Having the courage not to live subjugated to a lie imposed through state terror can have dramatic consequences. Both Orlando and Oswaldo paid the ultimate price with their lives, but the alternative was to have never lived to exist in a living death obeying and collaborating with an evil system.

More importantly without those acts of defiance and opposition projects there is no chance of democratic change. These types of regimes do not reform themselves. They need to be pushed from outside. Each act of defiance and resistance to the Cuban dictatorship is not only to free the country but also an act of courage that recovers not only one's dignity but the dignity of a nation. Oswaldo Payá explained it in his public statement on the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2010: 
"We have not sought martyrs because we do not use the deaths of others, but Zapata, a simple man of the people, already a hero in life, gave of himself, until dying for the freedom, rights and dignity of all Cubans."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

#22F Protests for Venezuela 19 months after killings of Oswaldo and Harold in Cuba

Castro tyranny sends thugs to Venezuela, we send them the L of Liberation   - Christian Liberation Movement, over twitter February 16, 2014.

Christian Liberation Movement:We send the L of Liberation to Venezuela
19 months later, in the middle of terrible human rights violations being committed in Venezuela with the evidence of Castro regime involvement, another anniversary is marked and the call for solidarity and an end to impunity in the suspicious deaths of human rights defenders Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante continues. 

Oswaldo and Harold murdered by State Security on July 22, 2012
 Sadly, there are new victims of dictatorship, but now they are Venezuelans: Bassil Da Costa (age 24), Roberto Redman (age 31), Génesis Carmona (age 22) all three shot in the head and José Ernesto Méndez (age 17) run over. All three killed by agents of the Maduro regime. There have been other Venezuelans killed for nonviolently protesting the Maduro regime.

Today free Cubans and free Venezuelans are joined together in a struggle against tyranny. The Venezuelan student movement has been publicly backed by the Cuban democratic opposition in the island. The Christian Liberation Movement issued formal declaration of support and has been re-publishing images and videos of events in Venezuela and joining in the demonstrations.  Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" of the National Civic Resistance Front "Orlando Zapata Tamayo" ended a hunger strike on its tenth day to join in supporting the students with a series of demonstrations across Cuba.

Both movements are nonviolent. The question arises how to confront those who are engaged in torture, killing and other acts of mayhem? The answer with justice and moral courage.  This translates into a number of alternatives.

However, one that should be seriously considered is that democratic countries set up targeted sanctions prohibiting those engaged in gross and systematic human rights violations, whether it be giving the order, transmitting it, or carrying out be barred from travel to free countries and if they have ill gotten wealth, as is know to be going on in Venezuela, freezing their bank accounts  as well. It is a concrete, targeted and effective means of holding rights violators accountable.

Over the past few days some U.S. congressmen have floated the idea of broader sanctions on Venezuelan oil. That may be too ambitious a goal in a country were people want cheap gas and already import it from horrible human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia.

However, the Obama Administration already has a presidential policy in place of denying entry visas to the United States of gross human rights violators. A version of this policy could be put in place by Congress with an emphasis on Venezuela.

Human rights defenders should now be compiling a list of  individuals identified as involved in gross human rights violations in Venezuela. The government could then use such a list, after having it properly vetted to bar gross human rights violators from entering the United States and if they have been enriched by the Maduro regime for their bad acts, have their bank accounts in the United States frozen.

This is a nonviolent action with teeth that will rip the veil of impunity from bad actors. It will not effect the average Venezuelan but will impact those engaged in wrongdoing. In the meantime activists should also pursue justice through the Venezuelan courts, if they fail to follow through because they been politicized by the Chavistas, then continue onto the international level. This is what Cuban human rights defenders are doing for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The student movement's "magic" weapon in Venezuela.

"Hate cannot triumph over hate only love can defeat it." - Venezuelan student movement 


The student movement in Venezuela is wielding a magical weapon that cuts without wounding, heals as it is applied and exalts them who use it. Maduro in Caracas and Raul Castro in Havana are desperately trying to destroy the weapon before it removes both Maduro and Castro's agents there from power. The paradox is that it is also a weapon that cannot be taken from the students. Maduro and Castro can only persuade them through appeals to emotion and the illusion of a short cut to victory for them to put down this "magic" weapon dramatically reducing their chances of success.

The word "magic" is used here in the terms as a power that is able to shape events through a mysterious force. This mysterious force that has great power is nonviolence. Nonviolence is the force and in practice it becomes nonviolent resistance to evil actions and systems.

In the video above the spokesman for the Venezuelan student movement makes a powerful observation: "Hate cannot triumph over hate only love can defeat it."

Their movement is civic and nonviolent. This is asymmetrical warfare and in that war, nonviolence is the opposition's magical weapon that gives it a strategic advantage over Maduro and Castro's tanks, fighter jets, and snipers.

Maduro and Castro's dictatorships understands this and tries repeatedly to break the nonviolent character of this movement by engaging in heinous acts against the innocent to strike terror in the populace and hatred in the opposition then infiltrating the opposition with provocateurs claiming that if they would only shift to violence that victory would be more quickly achieved.

It is a lie.

In abandoning nonviolence the opposition loses its asymmetric advantage and has little chance of success without the assistance of outside powers in an armed struggle. Even with outside support it only rises to 26%. On the other hand maintaining a nonviolent posture increases ones chances for victory to 53%  according to studies by Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth studying conflicts both violent and nonviolent over the past one hundred years. 

Why is the chance for victory only 53%? Because nonviolence is a powerful weapon but to defeat an adversary with any weapon you need to have both a big picture strategic vision of how to arrive at your goal and the tactics to carry them out. If the student movement in Venezuela has those two elements then their odds of success are even greater.

The temptation to self-defense to justify violence is another tool of tyrants. We have seen several nonviolent student protesters shot in the head by regime snipers while others have been tortured and raped. The purpose of these outrages are to appeal to emotion as mentioned previously.

Gene Sharp an expert in nonviolence offered the following analysis on the danger of violence overtaking a nonviolent movement:
Frequently in revolutionary groups there will be people inside of the movement who may offer opinions that are their genuine opinions. They may be the mouthpiece of your opponent -they may be actual employees of the intelligence services assigned to wreck this movement. To not only urge the opposition movement to use violence and create dissension within the resisters, but also to actually carry out violence in the midst of otherwise peaceful demonstrations. Or in extreme cases even to carry out the violence on a larger scale like political assassinations. Then blame it on the revolutionary movement and then have a rational and so-called justification for rounding up revolutionaries and jailing many people who had nothing to do with these activities. The people who are always pushing for violence and acts of sabotage really need to be isolated and because they well may be the agents of your opponent. Don't fall for that. The nonviolent struggle has to be continued on a nonviolent basis. Otherwise you destroy your own power capacity and with that the capacity to achieve your objectives."
Sharp has also spoken out about the short sightedness of appeals to international military support:
I think it is an unfortunate choice that people make. It is predictable that your opponent will have the means of violence, the means of oppression. If you get someone else to come and help you, they will come with their interests, and potentially turn your country into a battlefield. Even if they help defeat the oppressor, it will not result in empowerment. People will not be ready to fight the next oppressor who tries to take over the country.    
The future of Venezuela is being decided and the ability of the student movement to remain nonviolent while carrying out their strategic vision for the change they seek using civic non violent means will be an important factor in the final outcome.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Student Movement presents the motives for their protests

"Without Freedom, nothing." - Venezuelan Student Movement


Student and civil protests that are taking place in Venezuela are the result of the systematic destruction of our country at the hands of a communist regime and the complicity of those who benefit from the system. Impoverishment , insecurity , shortages and all the problems that beset the country, not derived from the inefficiency of the government, they are the typical policies of these regimes. Its main objective is the spiritual ruin and slavery of peoples.

On Youth Day, glorious anniversary for all
Venezuelan students, we raised the volume of our protest and several compatriots gave their lives for it. Today we reclaim the patriotism of these young people, the hundreds arrested and tortured, unifying the entire Nation around Liberty. In such historical circumstances, responsibility calls us all: we call on all the Venezuelan people to remain in the streets, it is necessary to restore the constitutional order.

Being this the nature of our goals, the Student Movement considers, as a first step, the resignation of Nicolas Maduro and his entire cabinet. Likewise, our State can not continue under the direction of castro communism: We demand the immediate expulsion of all Cuban agents from our institutions.

Our resistance is legitimate, no ruler has the right to assume the reins of the lives of those he is governing. The government is simply delegated the administration of the public: never to be lighthouses of the existence of citizenship. This
that we describe occurs in a legitimate government, our disobedience is justified even more so with an illegitimate government like this. It is absolutely impossible to dialogue with leaders who have usurped functions that do not belong to them.

The Student Movement does not recognize institutions that attempt against the life of its citizens. That is why we do not dialogue or negotiate Freedom with communists; that would mean a betrayal of Venezuela and ourselves as free and independent beings. That is why our call extends to all Venezuelans, at stake the future of us all. Together we can reverse the process of political, economic, social and cultural decay that this regime has led us into. It is vital to overcome, otherwise, we will not be the masters of our fate.

Without Liberty, nothing. 


"When a law is unjust, the correct thing is to disobey"
Las protestas estudiantiles y civiles que se están desarrollando en Venezuela son producto de la destrucción sistemática de nuestro país por obra de un régimen comunista y la mirada cómplice de aquellos que se benefician del sistema. El empobrecimiento, la inseguridad, la escasez y todos los problemas que agobian al país, no derivan de la ineficiencia del gobierno; son políticas típicas de estos regímenes. Su principal objetivo es la ruina espiritual y la esclavitud de los pueblos.

En el Día de la Juventud, aniversario glorioso para todos los estudiantes venezolanos, elevamos el volumen de nuestra protesta; varios compañeros dieron la vida por ello. Hoy reivindicamos el patriotismo de estos jóvenes, los cientos de detenidos y torturados, unificando a toda la Nación en torno a la Libertad. En tan históricas circunstancias, la responsabilidad nos convoca a todos: llamamos a toda la población venezolana a mantenerse en las calles, es necesaria la restitución del orden constitucional.

Siendo de esta naturaleza nuestros objetivos, el Movimiento Estudiantil considera como primer paso la renuncia de Nicolás Maduro y todo su gabinete. De la misma forma, nuestro Estado no puede continuar bajo la dirección del castro comunismo: exigimos la inmediata expulsión de todos los agentes cubanos de nuestras instituciones.

Nuestra resistencia es legítima; ningún gobernante tiene el derecho de asumir las riendas de la vida de los seres que gobierna. El gobierno es un simple delegado en la administración de lo público: jamás serán faros del existir de la ciudadanía. Esto que describimos ocurre con un gobierno legítimo; nuestra desobediencia se justifica aún más con un gobierno ilegítimo como éste. Es absolutamente imposible el diálogo con gobernantes que han usurpado funciones que no le pertenecen.

El Movimiento Estudiantil no reconoce instituciones que atenten en contra de la vida de sus ciudadanos. Es por ello que no dialogamos ni negociamos la Libertad con comunistas; esto significaría una traición a Venezuela y a nosotros mismos, como seres libres e independientes. Es por ello que nuestra convocatoria se extiende a todos los venezolanos, está en juego el futuro de todos nosotros. Juntos lograremos revertir el proceso de descomposición política, económica, social y cultural al que este régimen nos ha llevado. Es vital vencer, de lo contrario, no seremos dueños de nuestro destino.

Sin Libertad, nada.

"Mom, went to fight for Venezuela. If I don't return I left with her."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Leopoldo López Mendoza and Venezuela's defining nonviolent moment

"Well brothers and sisters I ask you to continue in this fight and do not leave the street, to assume our right to protest, but to do it in peace and without violence, I ask that us, all of us that are here, all of the Venezuelans that want a change, to get informed, educated, organized, and to execute non-violent protests, the protests of masses, and the will of souls and hearts that want to change, but without hurting your neighbor. " - Leopoldo López Mendoza on February 18, 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo López Mendoza
English Translation by Daniel Aponte @DanielSSTV with changes by the author of this blog

Before turning himself over to the Maduro regime for encouraging nonviolent protests Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López Mendoza addressed a gathering of tens of thousands in Caracas:


Perhaps there was a silence for a time. Leaving unclear the why of this whole fight. This fight is indeed for our youth, this fight is indeed for the students and for those who have been repressed, this fight is indeed for those who have been imprisoned, but this fight brothers and sisters, is for all the people of Venezuela, that is suffering today, is suffering making lines, is suffering scarcity, the youth have no employment, they have no future, because of the wrong model, for a model that is not implemented, but exported from other countries, that has nothing to do with the brave people of Venezuela, and that we together brother and sisters, have to be clear that we have to build an exit to this disaster. That exit brothers and sisters must be nonviolent, it must be within the constitution but it also has to be on the streets. Because we no longer have in Venezuela, we no longer have in Venezuela, a free media to express ourselves. If the media is silenced let the street speak loudly. Let the people speak, and may the streets speak with peace and with democracy.

I am now about to proceed to go towards the squad where the National Guard is to turn myself in.
(One of the reporters yells: " COME ON MAN DON'T TURN YOURSELF IN")

I am going to do it. I thought about it a lot. I'd like to let you know that these past few days, I had a lot of time to think, analyze, listen to the radio, watch TV or read what I haven’t for a while, speak with my family, and the option I had was to leave the country, but I will never leave, never. The other option, was to stay hidden in secrecy, but that choice could leave doubts among some, including some who are here now that we have something to hide. We have nothing to hide, I have not committed any crimes, I am not a criminal, I do not have to hide, then the other option is to turn my self in, and I ask you, and beg you with my heart, that when I pass by and turn myself in, that you keep calm, we have no other option. I do not want any more violence or confrontation, so I ask for your understanding, for your organization and your discipline.

I would like to thank everyone, but especially someone who has given me strength, a person that today represents my strongest pillar to be here with you, my wife Lilian who is here.

Well brothers and sisters I ask you to continue in this fight and do not leave the street, to assume our right to protest, but to do it in peace and without violence, I ask that us, all of us that are here, all of the Venezuelans that want a change, to get informed, educated, organized, and to execute non-violent protests, the protests of masses, and the will of souls and hearts that want to change, but without hurting your neighbor. I ask you not to lose faith, and I am sure in the name of my children, my daughter Manuela, my son Leopoldo, and like Luis Eloy Blanco once said, who is the father of one child is the father of all the children. In the name of all the children of Venezuela, I swear we will prevail and that soon we will have a Free and Democratic Venezuela.

Monday, February 17, 2014

#SOSVenezuela Update: Maduro Regime Strikes Back Against Nonviolent Students

“We are not going to give in or kneel. We are going to continue in the streets, fighting for Venezuelans and the youths who want a democratic country, with free media that aren’t censored or self-censored, with justice and equity.” - Juan Requesen, student leader at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.



Over the past 24 hours the news of violence, brutality, torture, and killing of students has increased to disturbing proportions.  This is a strategic decision of the Maduro government and their Cuban handlers. The successful mass mobilization of millions of Venezuelans to take to the streets in Venezuela and join mass protests led and organized by students is due to their independent and nonviolent character. It has also captured the imagination of activists all over the world and solidarity demonstrations have been held in different cities. I attended one yesterday afternoon in Miami. Videos are appearing of students from around the world demonstrating their solidarity with student protesters in Venezuela.



This is not to say that demonstrators are unaware of the danger of violence against their persons, but they know that they do not need to engage in acts of violence to take part in these demonstrations. What the regime is doing with the violent provocations that involve beatings, anally raping a student with a rifle butt, disappearing students, and shooting students in the head seeks to turn the nonviolent movement violent.

Victims of the Maduro regime in Venezuela
There are infiltrators in the movement, sent by the government, seeking to fan the flames of violence. Until now the student movement has maintained its nonviolent discipline and that is why it is succeeding and the Maduro regime and their Cuban allies are nervous and engaging in acts of terror and humiliation to reduce participation and to obtain a violent reaction from the student movement. At the same time that the "government" organizes mobs and military to fire on unarmed nonviolent students to disperse their peaceful demonstrations they call the students fascists engaged in a coup when it is the Maduro regime that has criminalized nonviolent dissent. The evidence is well documented on film.


George Orwell would have a field day with the Maduro regime's Newspeak.

This is a war, albeit with one side using nonviolent methods that give it an asymmetrical advantage over the government and its allies who are trying to maintain power through brute force and terror. If for some reason the student movement would give up their nonviolent stance provoked by whatever hostile action it would benefit the dictatorship because the movement's assymmetrical advantage would be lost. People are less likely to turn out if they know that they have to hurt or kill someone then attend a march, rally, or a sit-in. A turn to violence would mean that the movement would no longer be adding as many supporters as it is now. It would be a decision led by a justified and humane reaction to regime provocations but nevertheless the turn to violence would be a stupid choice.


The best response to the desperate and evil outrages committed by government agents and their allies is to document them as best as possible, identify the perpetrators of the human rights violations committed and pass on on the information to the press, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organization Against Torture, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. In the short term there are urgent action mechanisms that can quickly call attention to the Maduro regime that the world is watching. The reports presented can also later be used to prepare the ground work for future prosecutions of the perpetrators for crimes against humanity and/or war crimes.


Making this known will have a chilling effect on the obedience of repressors to act if they know that they will be identified and at some future time be held accountable in a court of law for the atrocities they committed for "President" Maduro and the Castro regime. Instead of threatening repressors with violence challenge them with international instruments that are recognized as legal and legitimate the world over.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

#SOSVenezuela: Non-violent National Student Movement versus Maduro, the Castros and their security apparatus

Students in Venezuela practicing the power of nonviolence defending truth and love of country confront a government that uses brute violence, lies and instigation to hatred to preserve their power.

Student nonviolently faces off with a security vehicle holding up a flag
On February 12, 2014 Venezuela's National Youth Day millions of young students took to the streets to nonviolently protest "the social and economic crisis caused by the illegitimate government that Venezuela has today."  Young Venezuelans inside and outside of the country have mobilized in a coherent and sustained effort to expose the anti-democratic nature of the government. A full and brief explanation is offered by Andreina Nash in the video titled: What's going on in Venezuela in a nutshell.


These students are facing a government that over the past fourteen years has been stripping Venezuela's democracy of all its constitutional and institutional democratic safeguards in order to consolidate power into the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and in the presidency. At the same time the presence of both Cuban state security and military officials in the country who have presided over the building of a totalitarian apparatus is cause for great concern. They have used technological tools to censor images over twitter. Over the past 14 years independent television press outlets have been taken over or shutdown by the government. Only the social media remain and outside media sources. Both have been blocked by the Maduro government during these demonstrations.

Students marching in Venezuela for their freedom
In Venezuela nonviolent public protests are being criminalized and government agents directing armed pro-government groups known as "colectivos", or what are known in Cuba as "rapid response brigades", have been set up to terrorize public demonstrators critical of the government. On February 11, 2014 Roderick Navarro and Guido Mercado reported over twitter the names of a few of the students wounded by gunshots that same day who had been identified: Jorge Monsalve 20 years old, Franco Perez 15 years old (Thorax), Pedro Alison 24 years old (Left arm), Anny Paredes 36 years old (Abdomen).  A day later on February 12, 2014, National Youth Day in Venezuela, the repression escalated and Robert Redman, Neyder Arellano Sierra y Bassil Alejandro Da Costa were all shot in the head and killed. All extra-judicially executed by collectives and officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) against the nonviolent student marches. Sebin agents are trained by the Cubans.Their is an effort underway by the Maduro government to criminalize nonviolent dissent in Venezuela.

Brutal repression against students in Venezuela
Cuban state security thrives on the creative use of lies and violence to sow division in opposition movements and discredit them with the use of infiltrators into the movement. This can be seen now by provocateurs engaging in violent acts that are seized on by the Maduro government to portray the student movement as violent. Wisely, the student movement in Venezuela is nonviolent and condemns violence and has called on its members to record and document any acts of violence and for members of the movement to expel anyone engaged in violence. This is an example of what is known as nonviolent discipline and is a demonstration of maturity and strategic vision by the student movement.

Their best chance of success in achieving their goals is maintaining the nonviolent character of their movement along with coherent tactics and an overall strategy that will take them to where they want to go. Gene Sharp, a scholar of nonviolent resistance asserts that nonviolence is not an unarmed struggle but one that relies on different tools than those used in violence:

"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."
Sharp also observes that "using violence is a stupid decision." This is because paradoxically the more brutal the regime the more successful nonviolent movements are in confronting them when compared to violent movements. Furthermore nonviolent movements can succeed without the aide of outside powers, states or interests but violent movements depend on outside support to succeed. When comparing rates of success over the past century nonviolence comes out on top.

My prayers, solidarity, thoughts and best wishes are with the student movement in Venezuela.