Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29, 1997: Day a family's world ended in Cuba

"Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world." -The Talmud Mishna Sanhedrin 37a
Joachim Løvschall
Imagine for a moment that you go out to dinner, have a little white wine, head on to the theater then join a couple of friends in the theater's cafe for a couple of beers. You take off around 11:30pm because you are not into the music being played at the place and you say goodbye to your friends.

You are never heard from again.

Four days later your two friends go to the police to declare you missing. Three days later they are called to the morgue to identify your body and a day and a half later your family is finally contacted. You have been shot to death by an AK-47 wielding soldier of the Cuban government for walking on the wrong side of the street in Havana.

Sound unlikely? This is the official version given by the Cuban government in 1997 to explain the shooting death of Joachim Løvschall, a Danish student studying Spanish at the University of Havana who was killed on March 29, 1997.

On the 10th anniversary of Joachim's killing his father addressed a parallel forum at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland and raised the following questions:
We do feel we were (and still are) left with no answers except to maybe one of the following questions: Where, When, Who, Why. Starting out with the where we were told that Joachim was killed by the soldiers outside the Ministry of Interior.

What we do not understand is why no fence or signs did inform that this is a restricted area? I have been on the spot myself, and the place appears exactly like a normal residential area. So you may question whether this in fact was the place of the killing? Contrary to this the authorities keep maintaining that the area was properly sealed off, and the relevant sign posts were in place.

As to when Joachim was killed we only have the information received from the police because of the delay informing one might believe that this is another forgery made up to cover the truth.
The who was in our opinion has never been answered by the Cuban authorities. We understand that a private soldier on duty was made responsible for the killing, and also it has been rumored that his officer in charge has been kept responsible. This is of course the easy way out, but why can't we get to know the whole and true story? 
Finally the why? Why would somebody kill a fine young man who was serious about his studies and without absolutely and criminal record whatsoever?
Why is it that you are left with the terrible feeling that the truth has never been told, and why is it that the authorities are backing out and covering up?
Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him? Was Joachim violent and did he, an unarmed individual, attack the armed soldiers? Or is it simply that the instruction to Cuban soldiers are: first you shoot and then you ask? But again: Who can explain why two shots were needed?
Seventeen years have passed and his family and friends still mourn his loss. The questions remain unanswered and the person or persons responsible remain at large. Unfortunately, others have also died in Cuba or gone missing under suspicious circumstances over the past 17 years.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ángel's Courage: Telling the truth in the Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killings

"Proverbs about truth are well-loved in Russian. They give steady and sometimes striking expression to the not inconsiderable harsh national experience: 'One word of truth outweighs the world.'" - Aleksandr Solzhenitsy, 1970 Nobel Lecture

Ofelia Acevedo and Ángel Carromero in Madrid, Spain
The book's title: Muerte Bajo Sospecha translates to "Death under suspicion" is subtitled "all the truth about the Ángel Carromero case." Ángel Carromero, the author of the book, is one of two survivors of the circumstances that on July 22, 2012 resulted in the deaths of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante and here narrates the odyssey of that day along with what he has traversed since then. Rosa María Payá Acevedo, the daughter of Oswaldo Payá wrote the prologue.  The book was presented in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 and in addition to Ángel, Esperanza Aguirre and Ofelia Acevedo joined him in the presentation. Ángel spoke clearly and to the point as he has done before:
"The reality is that neither Oswaldo nor Harold died at the time, the reality is that there was no collision with any tree, the reality is that we were taken off the road and they got rid of the two Cuban dissidents, which why the two Europeans are unharmed."
Now there is a book that provides greater and more complete details on what happened and serves the important purpose of placing the case of Oswaldo and Harold back in the media spotlight. Carromero has received death threats in Spain and taking this stand of telling the truth makes him a target of the Castro regime and its infamous state security services.

 Ofelia Acevedo Maura, the widow of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, stood beside Ángel Carromero and defended the young man's courage while at the same time reporting on the lack of support of the Spanish authorities in investigating the circumstances of her husband's and Harold Cepero's deaths on July 22, 2012 and continued the families call for an international investigation:
If he had accepted what the Cuban government wanted him to accept I would not know today what really happened. I would not know with all the details that I know today what happened.  We are grateful to Angel and we've said it to him many times. That he had the courage, with how young he is, and in a world today where personal interests are generally above the dignity of persons. That he has been able to write this book and give his testimony. We have not received, it has been null, the support of judicial institutions of this country, of Spain . We filed a complaint with the national audience. All we wanted was to open an investigation. We had enough evidence for this to have happened and it did not happen. We just want to say that we will continue to explore opportunities to open an international investigation, it is our right . We now have the more explicit testimony of Angel. I know the argument of the Court, the trial judge , or the prosecutor , is that they have the trial in Cuba. It's almost a perfect crime. It is a total trap. You get out, but your exit is modified by a trial which we all know does not have any guarantees. That trials in Cuba where the Cuban government where it controls all power: judicial, administrative, and all others. The fact is that they [The Spanish government] accepted to ventilate this matter, as if it where any consular case, to use the treaty between the two countries , and not as what it was, a political case. ...  It is a known fact by the Spanish government and the rest of the world. The way to get  Ángel out was that one. Possibly otherwise at this point  Ángel would have followed the same path of Oswaldo and Harold or would be rotting in a cell in Cuba.
Ofelia went on to explain the significance of Oswaldo Payá and his life's work and the intransigence of the military dictatorship in her country:
He had finalized a project for a political alternative to the government; he had prepared a transition program precisely inspired by the Spanish transition, ...I take this opportunity to convey my condolences to the family of Adolfo Suárez who masterfully lead this transition and thanks to him and a group of generous people who put aside their personal projects to work together for the common project of democracy for the Spanish people. Spain lives a democracy now and has for many years. That has still to happen in my country. Oswaldo Payá led that transition project that the government of Cuba does not want. The military dictatorship that has been in my country for 55 years does not want this. It does not want to talk about rights. It does not want to talk of free elections. It does not want to talk of  my people being consulted to choose freely their future in Cuba. There have not been free elections in 62 years.
During the book presentation Ángel Carromero raised an important question that was tweeted at the time: " "I don't understand how one can believe the dictatorship's version against version of the deceased's families."  Thankfully, many people of good will are siding with the families of Oswaldo and Harold.  Sadly, the death threats of the Cuban dictatorship have forced the Payá family into exile providing them an opportunity to directly engage the international community.

Oswaldo's daughter Rosa on twitter posted these photos and hashtag: #NoMoreImpunity

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24 is the International Day for the Right to the Truth: Help Venezuela

"I have frequently been threatened with death I must tell you that as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people." - Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez

"Truth never damages a cause that is just." - Mohandas Gandhi

13 of the 37 killed in Venezuela since February 12 in protests
 The body count continues to rise in Venezuela along with the charges and counter-charges between the government of Maduro, opposition political parties and a democratic resistance led by university students. The United Nations recognizes March 24 as the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. This day is set aside in rememberance of El Salvador's Archbishop Romero assassinated on March 24, 1980. Today is also an important day to remember victims of political violence such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero Escalante murdered in Cuba on July 22, 2012 and the Venezuelans killed since February 12, 2014. According to DeutscheWelle: "Venezuela's national guard has been firing tear gas and live ammunition at demonstrators. Protestors resort to stones and the burning of cars." The national guard has also raided the home of journalists, detaining them and searched through their belongings as was the case with Mildred Manrique

The great English writer and poet Samuel Johnson observed that "Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages." There is a fog of war in which rumors take on a life of their own and need to be put down with the slower moving facts, but then there is also propaganda, ( information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view). An extreme example of this was on display in print and in television with Mark Weisbrot, and Oliver Stone in the Boston Globe.

Mark Weisbrot in a February 20, 2014 interview with Abby Martin on RT's "Breaking the Set" claimed at 20 minutes and 58 seconds that the protests "started out from the beginning demanding that the president resign." That statement is a lie. The protests initially were not about Maduro. What sparked this round of demonstrations began in Táchira on February 4, 2014 when a student at the University of Los Andes in the Botanical Garden of the University was the victim of an attempted rape. Students protested that "insecurity had taken over the campus." The protest was repressed and a number of students arrested and physically mistreated by the authorities. The news of the abuse by government officials sparked additional protests

However, if you read the February 10th open letter tweeted by student leader Juan Requesens, who has more than 528,000 followers the message is one that is open to dialogue with the government on two conditions 1) that students who were arrested exercising their legitimate right to protest be freed and 2) that calling them "coup plotters" or "terrorists" for engaging in nonviolent protests to demand their rights is unacceptable.

February 12 in Venezuela is a national youth day and students across the country organized nonviolent mass demonstrations in response to the earlier repression and were met with violence by regime officials working in coordination with paramilitary groups known as "colectivos." Students were shot in the head and killed. This escalated the protests and as the violence increased the demands expanded and began to focus on Maduro.

March 22, 2014 opposition protests
 The article also presents a false picture of the protests as "small groups of protesters [who] engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas"and contrasting it with the "... the crowd that showed up for the March 5 ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Chávez’s death, it was a sea of working-class Venezuelans, tens of thousands of them." The opposition to Maduro since February 12th has repeatedly mobilized tens of thousands of protesters from across Venezuela in anti-government protests. In this article there are photos of just three isolated pictures on three different dates with massive numbers of demonstrators.

March 2, 2014 opposition protests
Since February 12, 2014 tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest against the Maduro regime and its excesses. The response of the government: escalating violence and the use of snipers to shoot demonstrators in the head has driven the demands from issues of security and  concerns of scarcity into a call for his resignation.

February 12, 2014 opposition protests
Furthermore, the killings by snipers shooting demonstrators and passersby in the head along with the collaboration of the national guard with paramilitary units on motorcycles is reminiscent of the tactics used by the Iranians in crushing mass student protests in 2009. The targeting  and murder of young women by sniper fire was also a practice captured on video with the death of Neda Agha-Soltan that captured international attention in June of 2009 much the same way that  Génesis Carmona's murder did last month.  The role of the Cubans in the Venezuelan military and intelligence apparatus has been much commented on over the past month, but the relationship with Iran and the presence of Iranians in Venezuela has not drawn as much attention, but it should.

Weisbrot, who has collaborated with Chávez on initiatives such as the Bank of the South, in his Boston Globe piece writes about Washington "funding opposition groups" but doesn't touch on charges made by the Panamanian president that the Maduro government is funding the opposition in Panama. Weisbrot also fails to mention that Hugo Chávez engaged in a massive Chavista foreign aid program with ideological considerations for more than a decade:
 "began providing oil assistance to Cuba in 2000. In June 2005, he launched Petrocaribe to offer discounted oil to an expanding list of member nations. Currently, 19 Caribbean and Central American nations benefit from Petrocaribe. Members consume about 300,000 barrels per day, roughly 10 percent of Venezuela's daily output on concessionary terms. While payment terms vary according to rises and falls in the price of oil, the standard Petrocaribe mechanism requires payments of 40 to 50 percent in the first 90 days, and the balance over 20 years at 1 percent interest." 
 Weisbrot has made claims about the success of the Venezuelan government in reducing poverty rates that have been questioned for their veracity. Also not mentioned in Wesibrot's analysis of poverty reduction is that the region as a whole has achieved as much or more poverty reduction, then claimed by the Chavista's without the drastic measures that bode ill for Venezuela in the long run.

The victims and their loved ones have a right to the truth and while many remain silent or worse defend the Maduro regime as it murders unarmed demonstrators, people of good will need to help. Please share the video below in which a Venezuelan student explains the reasons for their protests.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Imprisoned Opposition Leader Gathers Tens of Thousands of Venezuelans and Calls on Maduro to Resign

"Who Tires Loses"-  Leopoldo López 

Leopoldo's wife, Lilian Tintori reads his letter at Saturday rally

 On March 19, 2014 Leopoldo López called on Venezuelans to take to the streets on Saturday, March 22, 2014 to increase their nonviolent defiance of the Maduro dictatorship and in doing so break it. On Saturday tens upon tens of thousands of Venezuelans went into the street across Venezuela. At an open air rally surrounded by tens of thousands, his wife, Lilian Tintori read a letter Leopoldo had written for that day in which he called on Maduro to resign in order to save the country or be forced out by the Venezuelan people. Video of the event is embedded below along with pictures of the mass protest. Leopoldo López has been unjustly imprisoned since February 18, 2014 the same day that Génesis Carmona was shot in the head by agents of the Maduro government. She died a day later. The torture and killing of students by government forces continues and the number of dead , due to regime repression of nonviolent dissent, stands at 34.

Leopoldo López to Maduro: Resign to save Venezuela 

Lilian Tintori: I will read this letter that is Leopoldo’s message today:

"This letter that I write from my cell in Ramo Verde is addressed to Nicolás Maduro who no one doubts has become the dictator of Venezuela. The serious crisis facing our country today is not the fault of the people, or of those who support the regime, or those of us whom oppose it. The blame Maduro is yours and of the inefficient, corrupt and undemocratic system you lead.

I invite you from the solitude of power, of one who does not have the ability to lead the destinies of the nation and who has only repression and violence remaining, to think: How you would save Venezuela if you would resign:

If you resign we could advance towards a system of justice respectful of human rights and fair to all without exclusions or privileges;

If you resign we would have a chance to bury impunity thus reaping the security, peace and tranquility we Venezuelans so desire;

If you resign the whole country could get to work on building a strong economy, made in Venezuela and for Venezuelans, the source of prosperity and progress for all and thus overcome inequality and poverty in peace and democracy.

The first solution you have in your hands but it should be clear, very clear, that you are not the owner of Venezuela. We are not afraid of you, your tanks, your unjust justice, or your lies. The people remain in the streets because the constitution indicates it. The people have lost so much that they have lost fear.

For Venezuela, for our children, Strength and Faith!
Leopoldo López

#22M Protest in Chacao, Venezuela

Spanish text of the speech as delivered:

 Leopoldo López a Maduro: renuncia para salvar a Venezuela

Lilian Tintori: Voy a leer esta carta que es el mensaje de Leopoldo el día de hoy:

“Esta carta que escribo de mi celda de Ramo Verde va dirigida a Nicolás Maduro quien ya nadie duda se ha convertido en el dictador de Venezuela. La grave crisis por la que hoy atraviesa nuestro país no es culpa del pueblo ni de los quien apoyan al régimen ni de los quien nos oponemos. La culpa, Maduro, es tuya y del sistema ineficiente, corrupto y antidemocrático que diriges.

Te invito a que desde la soledad del poder, de quien no tiene la capacidad de conducir los destinos de la nación y solo le ha quedado la represión y la violencia, a que pienses: cómo salvarías a Venezuela si tú renunciaras:

Si tu renuncias pudríamos avanzar hacia un sistema de justicia respetoso de los derechos humanos y justo para todos sin exclusión ni privilegios;

Si tu renuncias tendríamos la oportunidad de enterrar la impunidad para así cosechar la seguridad, la paz y la tranquilidad que tanto deseamos los venezolanos;

Si tu renuncias el país entero podría ponerse a trabajar en la construcción de una economía fuerte, hecha en Venezuela y para los venezolanos, fuente de prosperidad y progreso para todos y poder así superar la desigualdad y la pobreza en paz y en democracia.

La primera solución la tienes en tus manos pero debe estar claro, muy claro, que no eres el dueño de Venezuela. No te tenemos miedo, ni a ti, ni a tus tanquetas, ni a tu justicia injusta, ni a tus mentiras. El pueblo seguirá en las calles porque así lo indica la constitución. El pueblo ha perdido tanto que a perdido el miedo.

Por Venezuela, por nuestros hijos, ¡Fuerza y fe!”

Leopoldo López

#22M protest in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Venezuela and Cuba: From Bad to Worse

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King Jr.

The Venezuelan opposition knows that if they do not succeed in altering the course of the Maduro regime what awaits the people of that country is to become an extension of Cuba. International organizations and many governments are refusing to even listen to the voices of the victims of Venezuelan dictatorship's repression. The international media has not been providing sufficient coverage on events in Venezuela due to extensive government censorship and pressure.  The evidence since February 12, 2014 is that the Maduro regime seeks to impose a one party state through the use of political terror that includes the murder and torture of high school and college students. Meanwhile democrats are mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to take nonviolent action. As of March 22, 2014 the death toll stood at 34. Today marks one month since Geraldine Moreno Orozco, age 23, was killed, a victim of repression.

11 of the 34 victims killed since February 12, 2014 associated with protests
This is not a surprise for Cubans but for those old enough to remember how the Castro regime installed itself, first with rhetoric of respecting freedom of expression, human rights, denying they were communists while  claiming to be democratic and the entire time erecting a totalitarian apparatus beginning with mass executions to impose a terror that has subjected millions of Cubans to a half century of tyranny and oppression and today have extended their reach into Venezuela. The terror being visited upon Venezuelans is just the beginning.

Tens of thousands of Cubans have been killed for trying to exercise their rights over the past half century. Saving the lives of Cuban rafters and advocating for nonviolent change led to the murder of four members of Brothers to the Rescue on February 24, 1996 shot down by rockets launched by Cuban MiGs. In four months Cubans will mark 20 years since 37 men, women, and children were massacred by Castro regime agents for wanting to leave Cuba on July 13, 1994. Most of the world ignored this latter crime because it only involved Cubans. Today, March 22, 2014 marks 20 months since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were extra-judicially executed by agents of the Castro regime but still neither the IACHR or UNHRC has issued a report on the merits involving the murder of a lifelong and consistent human rights defender.

20 years ago this July 13, 1994 murdered by Castro for wanting to be free

The President of the United States shook hands with Raul Castro in December of 2003 as have many other president's of the Americas have also done so with Raul and his brother Fidel Castro ignoring their status as murderous tyrants. In the case of Venezuela Carlos Andres Perez had a public friendship with Fidel Castro. Only to see his country's democracy gutted and destroyed by the Castro regime years later. We witnessed earlier this year at CELAC how not only Latin American leaders but the Secretary Generals of the United Nations and the Organization of American States met with the Castro tyrants and refused to criticize them and in the case of the UN Secretary General praised the dictatorship's treatment of women. Ignoring the well documented pattern of brutalizing and killing women who dissent from the dictatorship's official line.

Months later, on March 21, 2014,  the Organization of American States refuses first to listen to the testimony of Maria Corina Machado, an elected representative of the Venezuelan people, and when the government of Panama demonstrates its solidarity, a majority of the rest of the countries led by the Maduro government (and their Castroite advisors) closed the audience so that what is said by Venezuelan democrat would not be carried by the media and engaged in additional maneuvers not to have to hear aout the worsening situation in Venezuela. Furthermore a video providing evidence of  government violence was not shown. At the top of the page is the embedded video which is available on youtube.

The violence in Venezuela perpetrated by the Maduro regime is escalating. The question that arises is will the nonviolent democratic resistance be able to bring what is for all purposes a dictatorship to back down from the path it is set on to install the Cuban model in Venezuela? The next few days, weeks and months may prove decisive. Time to pray for Venezuela and to be in solidarity with Venezuelan democrats. It will likely go from bad to worse before it gets better.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Castro Incorporated: Undermining Human Rights, Dignity and Freedom Worldwide Since 1959

Proposed flag for Castro Incorporated.
 Over the past few weeks many, especially in Venezuela, have focused on the role of the Castro regime and its intelligence service in shoring up the Maduro regime and speculated about its protagonism in the killing and torture of Venezuelan students. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to protest the Castros' interventions in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The harm done by this dictatorship is not limited to Latin America but spans across the globe undermining human rights, dignity and freedom since 1959.

NGO moment of silence for CaoShunli  HRC25
Meanwhile today at the United Nations Human Rights Council the Castro dictatorship applauded the human rights record of the People's Republic of China, and voted to block the effort of human rights defenders to hold a moment of silence for Cao Shunli. She was an activist who had tried to participate in China’s Universal Periodic Review, but was detained at the airport trying to get on a flight to attend the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and accused of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." Within three months in detention and being denied medical care Cao Shunli died on March 14, 2014.

 Denied medical treatment while in detention Cao Shunli died. © Private
The behavior of the Cuban government is not a surprise. Their is a long track record going back decades. During the first Universal Periodic Review of the People's Republic of China in 2009 the Castro regime recommended that China take a harder line against human rights defenders. Representatives of the Castro regime also defended North Korea against a critical United Nations human rights report claiming that it harmed prospects for dialogue. At the same time the close relationship between Cuba and North Korea and the smuggling of arms in violation of international sanctions has also been in the news. The Castro regime also involved itself in Ethiopia with a close ally, Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is now a convicted war criminal who they guided in a red terror that killed scores of children considered ideologically suspect in Ethiopia. Cuban diplomats for the dictatorship played a crucial role in blocking a UN investigation of atrocities in Sri Lanka.

Despite being in charge of a small country that often talks about the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples facing a great empire (i.e. The United States) the plight of the people of Tibet does not interest the Castro brothers. (Nor did the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Afghanistan in 1979.  The Cuban dictatorship openly applauded the massacre of Chinese students in  Tiananmen Square in 1989 commending Chinese authorities for "defeating the counterrevolutionary acts." This should answer the question about their possible involvement or advocacy of such practices in Venezuela.

However, ideological litmus tests have not limited the Castro brothers embrace of gross and systematic human rights violators. Formerly classified documents made public by the German intelligence service in November of 2012 reveal that Fidel Castro in the 1960s personally recruited former Nazi SS Waffen members to train Cuban troops and also reached out to Nazi operativesOtto Ernst Remer and Ernst-Wilhelm Springer, in Germany's extreme right to purchase weapons. In the 1970s the Castro regime developed a close relationship with right wing military junta in Argentina that had disappeared, according to some estimates, as many as 30,000 Argentinians many of whom were leftists. The Castro brothers have also defended the Assad regime for years at the United Nations, and looked the other way when the United States set up its prison camp in Guantanamo. The one Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who first criticized the presence and treatment of inmates at Guantanamo was murdered by agents of the Castro regime on July 22, 2012.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Venezuelan Students Initially asked for on February 10 (Historical document)

Document # UCV FCU addressed to the Minister @ RodriguezT_MIJP #FreeTheStudentsNOW tweeted by Juan Requesens 12:24 PM - 10 Feb 2014

In the communication below to a representative of the Maduro government, student leader Juan Requesens laid out on February 10, 2014 the conditions for a dialogue with the government which focused on two areas: 1) release of students who had engaged in protests as is their constitutional rights and 2) For the government to stop accusing them of being "coup plotters" and "terrorists" for holding nonviolent demonstrations.  The Maduro government's response was the extrajudicial execution of students, more arrests and the continued use of extreme language against students who are peacefully protesting.

Juan Requesens, President FCU UCV
February 10, 2014

Mr. Rodríguez Torres.
Minister of Popular Power for the Interior , Justice and Peace .

Through this communication we are writing to you in order to reject categorically, on behalf of the national student community, the arrest of our classmates in Tachira and the mistreatment of high school students and transfer to Coro for thir eventual imputation. Also the repression suffered by students in various houses of study . Students exercising the legitimate right to protest and are now treated as criminals . Every call to dialogue , is useless to the extent that students are detained , and the student movement that has been consistent with the recognition , the depolarization and the call for joint work between state bodies and bodies representing students can not accept the detention of students.

This student movement , stands apart completely from a violent agenda , it is not our nature and we have demonstrated in all the mobilizaitons and protests that have taken place, what we can not accept is the blackmail of being labeled as "coup plotters" or " terrorists " if we use our main tool for demanding our rights .

Finally, we demand likewise, the response presently about those detained , their release and the immediate formation of working groups to address issues related to insecurity and violence in our home campuses.

Juan Requesens
President FCU UCV

Sr. Rodríguez Torres.
Ministro del Poder Popular para las Relaciones Interiores, Justicia y Paz.

Por medio de la presente nos dirigimos a usted con la finalidad de rechazar categóricamente, de parte de la comunidad estudiantil nacional, la detención de nuestros compañeros de estudio del Táchira, así como los maltratos sufridos por los bachilleres, y el traslado a Coro para su eventual imputación. Así mismo la represión sufrida por los estudiantes en diversas casas de estudio. Estudiantes que ejercían el legítimo derecho a la protesta y que hoy son tratados como criminales. Todo llamado a dialogo, es inútil en la medida en que los estudiantes permanezcan detenidos, y este movimiento estudiantil que ha sido consecuente con el reconocimiento, la despolarización y el llamado a trabajo conjunto entre los órganos del Estado y las instancias de representación estudiantil no puede aceptar, la detención de estudiantes.

Este movimiento estudiantil, se desmarca absolutamente de la agenda violenta, no es nuestra naturaleza y lo hemos demostrado en todas la movilizaciones y protestas que hemos llevado a cabo, lo que si no podemos aceptar es el chantaje de ser calificados como “golpistas” o “terroristas” si usamos nuestra principal herramienta para exigir derechos.

Para terminar exigimos asi mismo, la respuesta del presente sobre los detenidos, su liberación y la inmediata conformación de mesas de trabajo para tratar los temas relacionados a la inseguridad y la violencia en nuestras casas de estudio.

Juan Requesens
Presidente FCU UCV

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Remembering and praying for Génesis Carmona: One Month Later

Génesis Carmona
She was just 22 years old and nonviolently expressing her desire for a better Venezuela when she was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 and died a day later on February 19, 2014. Her name was Génesis Carmona. Today across Venezuela people gathered to remember her. Flowers laid at the spot were she was shot and her life cruelly taken away.

In the space of a month a street has been named after her and art work created recalling her final moments being carried away on a bicycle to emergency care.

Whats most disturbing is that a month later others have joined her in martyrdom for either peacefully dissenting from the government or just being at the wrong place at the wrong time when a bullet flew by. Each day the list of dead grows longer.

The Jewish religious tradition in the Mishna says that "that whoever destroys a single soul, Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a full world." How many worlds have been destroyed in Venezuela?

Yesterday, Dania Manzano Uribe, 29 years of age, and a mother was shot and killed. How long will this go on before the Maduro regime disarms its paramilitaries?

Let us pray for Génesis Carmona and the other innocents whose lives have been cruelly taken away but at the same time demand that the perpetrators of these killings be identified and brought to justice in a court of law to answer for their crimes.

Maduro reaches out to students in Venezuela

 Paramilitaries attack 2 student assemblies wounding 11 at the Central University of Venezuela
Central University of Venezuela attacked by pro-government armed groups
 Today, university students gathered on Universidad Central de Venezuela (Central University of Venezuela) campuses in faculties of architecture and chemical engineering gathered in two assemblies to discuss the unfolding situation in Venezuela were physically assaulted by armed groups called "collectivos." Ten students were injured and one member of the university staff.  The armed gangs carried pipes and firearms. They attacked two student assemblies and went up to the eight floor to destroy a mural made by students that read in part:  Liberty, Justice, Respect.

Carlos Benedito, merited 10 stitches after assault by groups in the Universities Architecture Faculty:

Carlos Benedito needed 10 stitches following attack
 Venezuelan student of medicine Stephy Plaza tweeted the following picture of a wounded UCV Architecture student:

The university students responded by calling for students to take to the street in a nonviolent demonstration to protest the attack in Banesco city at 11:00am tomorrow March 20, 2014. Student leader, Hilda Rubí González , over twitter explained the reasons for the protest in two tweets:
"In one week we have been victims of four attacks at our house of study that has left a balance of dozens of wounded. So tomorrow will take to the streets again. See you in Banesco City at 11am.The UCV is still fighting!"
Between February 12, 2014 and the present day the leadership of the democratic opposition and resistance to the Maduro regime has advocated and practiced nonviolent resistance. There have been massive mobilizations of tens and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans that have been completely nonviolent. At the same time the Maduro government has been using armed paramilitaries known as "colectivos" working together with the Bolivarian National Guard to attack nonviolent demonstrators. There has also been evidence of the government sending in armed infiltrators to create violence within opposition ranks.

Anthony Rojas, 18 years old, a mechanical engineering student died from a bullet wound on Wednesday, May 19, 2014.

 Also killed yesterday was Dania Manzano Uribe, age 29, who was also a mother. Her cousin, Andrea E Zurita V, tweeted that Dania was killed in the same incident that took the life of Anthony Rojas.

What do the students want who are protesting?  The students are calling for the Maduro regime to free all the detained students, end the criminalization of nonviolent protest, stop the torture and human rights violations, disarm the paramilitary groups, end the censorship of mass media and re-legitimize and renovate public powers.So far the response of the Maduro regime are to send armed thugs to either a) hit students in the head with pipes or b) shoot students in the head.  This is state terror with a concrete objective to silence nonviolent dissent.

Leopoldo López Mendoza call to action on #22M

Tonight over the course of a half an hour, imprisoned opposition leader, Leopoldo López Mendoza, denounced the latest actions by the Maduro regime, issued a call to action and asked Venezuelans to remain strong in their resistance and firm in their nonviolence. Below is a copy of this twitter page and tonight's tweets followed by a translation of the text. The big news is the call for a massive demonstration on March 22, 2014.

TR Dictatorship shows it's cowardice. Its days are numbered. Today it kidnapped my brother San Cristobal Mayor

T Dictatorship thinks it saw protests in Tachira, it's mistaken. Nonviolence & firmness, now is when tachirenses will be felt

T Solidarity with , know you aren't going to get tired fighting the dictatorship. You will fight until you win

TR I summon you Saturday to a new stage: show the world, how many of us are willing to fight for Venezuela's liberation

T Call on you to send a message to those who accompany Maduro in power to understand there are not as many bullets as free minds

TR The path is clear: we double the nonviolent force & transform the spontaneity in organization & action to conquer Freedom

T Call on country to keep and raise the pressure to break the dictatorship, for it to know that it is impossible to force a false peace with bullets

TR Strength Venezuela! We are on the right side of history!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Venezuela and Leopoldo Lopez one month later: Democratic resistance continues

Unjustly imprisoned since February 18, 2014
Over the past month the student movement and the democratic opposition in Venezuela have demonstrated the power of nonviolent resistance before a regime that is attempting to establish a totalitarian dictatorship. Leopoldo Lopez has described what is taking place as "Maduro's coup against democracy."

Chacao demands freedom for her son Leopoldo Lopez
 The Maduro government has demonstrated its dictatorial tendencies utilizing paramilitary groups known as "colectivos"in collaboration with the Bolivarian National Guard to beat, torture, shoot and kill students in an effort to impose control through terror or at the very least provoke a violent response from the student movement in order to justify its own heightened repression. Maduro and his Castro allies have failed. They have only succeeded in turning greater parts of the Venezuelan population against them.  
10 of the 30 killed since #12F in Venezuela protests
In a non-violent struggle there are moments that highlight the power of nonviolence and are both historic and emblematic. One such moment took place a month ago when Leopoldo Lopez leading a mass demonstration of hundreds of thousands proclaimed his innocence, the illegitimacy of the Maduro regime, and its politicized legal system then turned himself over to the authorities. 
But before that he laid out the case for the ongoing fight for freedom in Venezuela:
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.
Leopoldo also explained the reasoning behind turning himself over to a regime whose legal system he views as illegitimate:
I am now about to proceed to go towards the squad where the National Guard is to turn myself 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.
The imprisoned democratic opposition leader issued a Resistance manifesto that begins with the recognition that: 
"Today no one can say that what there is in Venezuela is a democracy. The authoritarian, repressive, and criminal reaction to the protests have been a blow to freedom that leaves no doubt that we live in a dictatorship. A dictatorship that has been incubating for years, that no one can fail to see and recognize."

Leopoldo began a public dialogue with Pope Francisco in a letter sent to His Holiness a day prior to the Venezuelan democrats imprisonment which stated:
"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."
Over the course of the past month from his prison cell Leopoldo  has called on Venezuelans to take to the street nonviolently to exercise their civic freedoms in nonviolently protesting the unacceptable practices of the Maduro government.

Tonight despite a heavy military presence and continued violence by the "colectivos" Venezuelans are peacefully in the street exercising their rights.

Demonstration in Venezuela on #18M

March 18: A day of historic significance in Cuba

"Eleven years since the Cuban Spring and the witch hunt by state security against the heroes of the Varela Project." - Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, March 18, 2014

"Cuba also marks 11 years of the 2003 Black Spring. My thoughts today are with those who paid the ultimate price: their lives." - Iván Hernández Carrillo, March 18, 2014

As Venezuelan democrats observe the one month mark of the imprisonment of Leopoldo Lopez and denounce the murder of students such as Anthony Rojas, their Cuban counterparts are also observing today March 18, an important date for a number of reasons.

Democrats the world over should also take into account the importance of  March 18 inside of Cuba. It was 11 years ago today that 100 activists were arbitrarily detained and sentenced up to 28 years in prison for their nonviolent dissent. Many of them were Project Varela activists. The crackdown became known as the Black Cuban Spring.

Imprisoned arbitrarily since March 18, 2012
 At the same time, today marks two years that Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz have been arbitrarily detained in Cuba. They are political prisoners. In Cuba nonviolent dissent is punishable by up to 28 years in prison as was demonstrated in the Cuban Black Spring. Amnesty International recognized the individuals rounded up in March of 2003 as prisoners of conscience. What saved this activists from serving out their sentence was the emergence of the Ladies in White, Cuban women who took to the streets in protest demanding their loved ones freedom.

If the people of Venezuela fail to restore their civil liberties and fundamental freedoms this is what they have to look forward to.