Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Terrible Precedent Set By Congressman Joe Garcia

The past two years have been turbulent ones for Congressman Joe Garcia and his staff. An absentee ballot scandal in 2012 led his chief of staff, long time friend and confidante Jeff Garcia to a ninety day prison sentence as part of a plea agreement. Other staffers were being investigated by authorities and in order to avoid possible legal entanglements have agreed through their attorneys to extend their statute of limitations.  At the same time officials are reported to be looking into the role the 2010 Joe Garcia congressional campaign played in the placing of a tea party ringer candidate into the race in order to divide up the Republican vote. Despite all of this and Congressman Garcia hiring of a criminal defense attorney, David Markus, he claims to no longer be under investigation but news accounts say different. This is not the Florida 26th Congressional District's first rodeo, but when candidates get desperate in a heated campaign they do things sometimes that harm others and later come back to haunt them.



Joe Garcia did something on October 27, 2014 that no Cuban-American congressperson has ever done by placing a Cuban dissident in a paid political advertisement as an endorsement to advance his own candidacy. The campaign's press release was clear:  "Today, the Joe Garcia for Congress campaign announced that ... Guillermo “El Coco” Fariñas, ... had declared his support for Representative Joe Garcia. Unfortunately, it also turns out to not to be true or as one blogger declared "bogus."  Fariñas in a statement issued today stated:
"I, at no time of the advertisement in question appear asking for a vote for either of the two candidates in particular, therefore, it is clear that I am  not meddling in said elections."
Over twitter "El Coco" stated:
"The statements emitted about Joe García are a personal criteria and not a Political Campaign. The same opinion I would have said about his opponent."
At the same time another dissident, while supporting Fariñas's right to his opinion expressed grave concerns about Joe Garcia as:
"a person who is promoting what the people do not need to be free ... the policy promoted by Joe Garcia lamentably seeks closeness with the regime and not the opposition ... and that is what a great part of the Cuban people and opposition think."
Unlike other members of the Cuban-American congressional delegation Joe Garcia is the only one who has accepted campaign donations from avowed supporters of the Castro dictatorship. The FEC reports show [Francisco Aruca of Marazul] donated $5,000 to Garcia in 2012 and attorney Ira Kurzban, who legally represents Fidel Castro and his interests in the United States gave $3,700 to Garcia. There are others who on camera declare their support and sympathy for Fidel Castro and give thousands to Joe Garcia's campaign such as John Cabañas whose video appears at the top of the page.

Until October 27, 2014 no member of congress had engaged in using a dissident to advance their political campaigns in a paid political advertisement. This sets a terrible precedent that I hope is never repeated. If in the future candidates are dividing dissidents in Cuba over partisan races in the United States and relegating the cause of Cuban freedom to a talking point then historians will look back to the Joe Garcia for Congress and their actions on October 27, 2014 and say this is where it started, and it will be a great shame.

I will be voting for Carlos Curbelo in this election and recommend all fair minded people who are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, etc. to do the same and demonstrate that this course of action is a vote loser and hopefully stop this becoming a trend.
Ira Kurzban, who legally represents the abuser himself, Fidel Castro, and his interests in the United States and gave $3,700 in donations. - See more at: http://www.politicalcortadito.com/2014/07/29/what-hypocrite-joe-garcia-didnt-tell-cuban-dissident-he-met/#sthash.Ne7aUiKI.dpuf
Ira Kurzban, who legally represents the abuser himself, Fidel Castro, and his interests in the United States and gave $3,700 in donations. - See more at: http://www.politicalcortadito.com/2014/07/29/what-hypocrite-joe-garcia-didnt-tell-cuban-dissident-he-met/#sthash.Ne7aUiKI.dpufattorney Ira Kurzban, who legally represents the abuser himself, Fidel Castro, and his interests in the United States and gave $3,700 in donations.





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rosa María Payá: "Let’s not speak for the Cubans but support the right of Cubans to have a voice in Cuba."

 The debate over sanctions in Cuba is often the main conversation in Washington D.C. due to both the Castro dictatorship and the money interests that want to advance their particular agendas. Often left out of the conversation is the question: What about the rights of Cubans? Rosa María Payá of the Christian Liberation Movement raises the issue in this important letter published in The Washington Post.

Rosa María Payá

No rewarding the Cuban regime

October 27, 2014
 
Conversations with the Cuban government, which have been maintained for decades by U.S. congressmen, lobbies, nongovernmental organizations, businessmen, journalists, religious leaders, intelligence and government officers, have hardly served democracy in Cuba. Neither has the U.S. trade embargo.

What Wayne S. Smith, Cuba project director for the Center for International Policy, said in an Oct. 26 letter [“Keep the trade embargo?”] is a Cuban move “toward liberalization,” my father, Oswaldo Payá, called “fraudulent change.” The Cuban dictatorship that is supposedly changing is the one responsible for taking the life of my father and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. They refuse to allow an investigation of these deaths.

How can anyone know what “the overwhelming majority” of Cubans agree on if we have no access to mass media on the island and no citizen under the age of 80 has ever voted in free and pluralistic elections? Cubans deserve and have asked for a plebiscite to change our law so that we can choose a legitimate government and hold it accountable.

Lifting the U.S. embargo is not the solution because it is not the cause of our lack of political and economic rights. I’m in favor of coherent communication, but engagement and dialogue should not be a reward for the military elite from Havana that imposes its monologic agenda on my people while fostering intolerance and hostility with absolute impunity.

Let’s not speak for the Cubans but support the right of Cubans to have a voice in Cuba.

Rosa María Payá, Miami
The writer is a member of the coordinating council of the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Protests for the freedom of Sonia Garro in Cuba and New York City

"Opponents of freedom would like us to believe that our choices when facing conflict are to use violence in which they have superior capacity or do nothing, history shows there is a more powerful alternative." - Jamila Raqib in the Oslo Freedom Forum 2014

Protest in front of the Cuba mission in New York City

The Cuban dictatorship had scheduled a trial for Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González for October 21, 2014 and for the third time suspended it. This may have had to do with the mobilization of activists inside and outside of Cuba.  Dozens of Ladies in White were arrested to prevent them attending demonstrations in support of Sonia Garro, but the demonstrations went on any way. In New York City, Sara Marta Fonseca organized a demonstration outside of the Cuban mission demanding Sonia's release.


Ladies in White demonstrating their support for Sonia Garro and her husband

Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, have been imprisoned since March 18, 2012 when 50 police officers forced their way into their home firing rubber bullets at them and wounding Sonia in the foot with one of the bullets. This attack and arrest took place around the time Pope Benedict was visiting Cuba.

Less than two years earlier while taking part in a march on October 7, 2010 at 23rd Avenue in Havana with a makeshift banner that read: "Down With Racism and Long Live Human Rights" she was detained by police for seven hours and badly beaten. Sonia Garro Alfonso suffered a fracture of the nasal septum and other injuries reported by EFE.
  
Sonia Garro Alfonso jailed since March 18, 2012

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cuban prisoner of conscience Iván Fernández Depestre beaten up and threatened with death by prison official

"Attention, I've just been informed that prisoner of conscience Iván Fernández Depestre was brutally beaten in prison..." - Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera over twitter on October 23, 2014 at 10:43am
Iván Fernández Depestre: Prisoner of Conscience & Art Icon
Iván Fernández Depestre should not be spending one moment in prison for exercising his rights as a person.. According to Amnesty International:
 Mr Depestre was charged with “dangerousness”, a pre-emptive measure defined as the “special proclivity of a person to commit crimes” after he was accused of “meeting with antisocial persons”. He had no access to a lawyer during his trial and was sentenced to three years in jail on 2 August [2013]. 
Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience on September 11, 2013 and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has an image of him on display in an exhibition in Alcatraz that opened. Below you can judge for yourself what the Cuban government describes as "dangerous."


Jailed unjustly since July 30, 2013 for nonviolently participating in a public event to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Cuban national hero Frank País in the central province of Villa Clara. In the video above are the images taken that day leading up to his arrest.

Iván Fernández Depestre (Primavera Digital)
Today Iván was brutally beaten up by and recieved a death threat from the lieutenant 2nd chief in Guamajal prison in Cuba. Below (in Spanish)Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera gives a report of what took place.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two years + three months later the demand for truth and justice for Oswaldo and Harold continues

"The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits 'atrocities' but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future." - George Orwell


Two years, and three months ago today Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed in Cuba. The Christian Liberation Movement continues to gather signatures for a petition demanding an international investigation. International dignitaries are already demanding an investigation among them Nobel Peace Laureates Lech Walesa (1983) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984).

One of the survivors of the incident on July 22, 2012, Ángel Carromero, has spoken on the record and last week visited Miami to give his testimony at the University of Miami, Radio República, Voces de Cuba and other media outlets.

On October 20, 2014 The Washington Post published an editorial challenging the Cuban dictatorship's version and lack of a proper and thorough investigation into the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold below is an excerpt pertinent to their case:
THE OTHER day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He lavished praise on an editorial in the New York Times that called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr. Castro had one complaint: The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo Payá, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.
The assertion that Cuba’s authoritarian government had yet to explain the deaths was “slanderous and [a] cheap accusation,” Mr. Castro sputtered.
So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what happened on an isolated Cuban road on July 22, 2012. So far, there has been only a crude attempt at cover-up and denial.
We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of the rental car that was carrying Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero to a meeting with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Payá as they traveled were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Payá’s courageous 2002 petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr. Payá’s supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned. 

After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates. Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a credible investigation. Mr. Payá’s family has sought one for two years, without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case, they got no answer. Nothing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A conversation with human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva at Florida International University

Jorge Duany, Director of  CRI and Juan Carlos González Leiva
Tonight at the Green Library at Florida International University the Cuban human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva spoke about his experiences as an activist in Cuba at an event organized by the Cuban Research Institute (CRI).The conversation was in Spanish and excerpts are available in the video playlist below. He is an attorney who has spent the past twenty years in Cuba defending human rights in an atmosphere that is hostile.

Juan Carlos has been a prisoner of conscience and been subjected to cruel and unusual treatment while in captivity amounting to torture. The sound in the recording is muffled by the air conditioning in the room but it is worthwhile to listen closely to what he has to say especially on the subject of extrajudicial killings in Cuba where he engages in an overview of a number of well known and not so well known cases.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Remembering the Messenger of Truth 30 Years Later: Father Jerzy Popiełuszko

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

Crowd in Warsaw pay its respects for Jerzy Popiełuszko (photo: Mario F Lleonart)
Thirty years ago today on October 19, 1984 the communist regime in Poland murdered a saint in the expectation that they could hang on to power. They had murdered Father Jerzy Popiełuszko for being the chaplain to the fledging Solidarity Movement. They had thought killing a symbol of freedom and terrorizing the Polish people would silence the opposition. They counted wrong. Less than five years later on June 4, 1989 Poland would be the first country in Eastern Europe to hold free elections and sweep the communists from power nonviolently.


This was due in no small part to the teachings of the martyred priest Jerzy Popieluszko who called for an authentic reconciliation:
"Our Fatherland and respect of human dignity must be the common objective for reconciliation. You must unite in reconciliation in the spirit of love, but also in the spirit of justice. As the Holy Father said five years ago, no love exists without justice. Love is greater than justice and at the same time finds reassurance in justice."
Thirty years after his murder and twenty five years during which Poland has emerged as a successful and free nation thousands of Poles gathered to pay their respects and visiting from Cuba Mario Felix Lleonart reported over twitter:
"This Sunday was very special in Warsaw for 30th anniversary of the murder of Jercy Popieluzko, and in the night the multitude still surrounded the tomb of the martyr Jercy Popieluzko."
Crowds at the tomb ofFather Jercy Popieluzko tonight (photo: Mario Felix Lleonart)

2014 Oslo Freedom Forum: Defeating Dictators October 20 - October 22, 2014


Talks at the Oslo Freedom Forum will be livestreamed on oslofreedomforum.com, beginning at 9:30am CET on October 21.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

9:45 CET  Ideas for Empowerment – Oslo Nye Theater  
The sixth annual Oslo Freedom Forum kicks off with a session featuring individuals advocating for human rights from unorthodox perspectives.
Musical performance: The Honey Trees
Keynote Speaker:
Bassem Youssef
Speakers:Yulia Marushevska I Am a Ukrainian
Suleiman Bakhit Superheroes Against Extremism 
Yeonmi Park North Korea's Black Market Generation
Jeffrey Wright Mining in Africa for the 21st Century

12:00 CET Tyrants and Technology – Oslo Nye Theater
Panelists will focus on how advances in communication technologies are continually changing the struggle between dissidents and dictators.
Moderator: Philippa Thomas
Panel: Nico Sell Escape the Internet
Michael Anti China's Information War
Mac-Jordan Degadjor Africa's Tech Frontier
CJ Adams Shielding Free Speech Online

15:00 CET Defying the Establishment – Oslo Nye Theater
The first day of the forum concludes with a session on disrupting political and social norms across the globe.
Speakers:
Tanele Maseko Greetings from Cell G4
Marcela Turati Muñoz The Price of Mexico's Drug War
Ti-Anna Wang Fighting For My Father's Freedom
Erdem Gunduz The Standing Man
 Jon Callas The Revolution Will Be Encrypted 
 Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova A Conversation with Pussy Riot

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

9:30 CET Journeys to Freedom – Oslo Nye Theater
The second day opens with speakers sharing the struggles and challenges they have faced on the path to freedom.
Speakers:Mikhail Khodorkovsky For Your and Our Freedom. 1968-2014
Hyeonseo Lee A North Korean Rescue Story
Shorna Shahida Akter Wedding Busters
Fatou Jaw Manneh The Gambia's Silenced Dissent
 Janet Hinostroza Rise of an Elected Autocrat >

11:45 CET Dangerous Words – Oslo Nye Theater 
Remarks by Bård Glad Pedersen, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway.
Panelists will discuss why and how free expression is constantly at risk in today’s world.
Moderator: Michael Moynihan
Speakers:Emily Parker Voices from the Internet Underground
Frederica Jansz Sri Lanka's Deadly Profession
Flemming Rose Free Speech in a Globalized World
Ian Birrell Sticks, Stones, and Broken Bones


14:30 CET The Hope of Peaceful Resistance – Oslo Nye Theater
The conference closes with stories about the power and theory behind nonviolent action. 
Speakers:Garry Kasparov Banks Not Tanks
Yoani Sánchez Cuba's Underground Revolution
Jamila Raqib The Success of Nonviolent Struggle
Steven Pinker The Better Angels of Our Nature 

16:00 CET 2014 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent – Oslo Nye Theater 

Laureates:

Erdem Gunduz
Pussy Riot
Dhondup Wangchen
Musical performance: Lissie

Cuban rapper sentenced to six years in prison for his critical songs

"Art is inherently political. It is always political. It has always been political.It has political aspects. And that which we term political art only enhances that political aspect of art. It is taking up political themes and makes these themes its own." - Petr Motyčka, Art, Society, and Politics: Artists or Activists?, Forum 2000
Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga sentenced to 6 years
Cuban dissident and rapper Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, whose stage name is "el Critico del Arte" (the 'Art Critic'), on October 15, 2014 was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment in a judicial process that fell far short of international standards. Angel was tear gassed and arrested on March 21, 2013, for criticizing the Castro regime and jailed since that time in conditions that can only be described as inhumane.  El Critico, is a member of the rap duo: Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso (The Children that no one wanted). Other members of the group were targeted by regime agents.

One of them Rodolfo Ramirez, known by his rapping name as El Primario, member of the hip-hop duo El Primario y Julito, was the victim of a brutal beating which left him with memory loss and serious injuries on his head. The attack occurred on July 21, 2013 at the Malecon (Sea wall) of Havana.

Meanwhile, Angel's plight has been documented by Free Muse, an organization that advocates freedom of expression for musicians and the Czech NGO, People in Need. An example of the lyrics that got the Art Critic into trouble can be found in the song "Mi Delito" (My Crime) were provided by People in Need and are excerpted below:
I did not invent the acts of repudiation
I did not sink the 13 de Marzo tug
I was not the one who killed Boitel 
I am not guilty for Mariel
I do not repress those who think differently
I did not lock up 75 innocent people
Look how many offenses you have kept hidden under lock and key
Yes this is my crime
To talk about what you have not.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cafe Tacvba in Miami: 25 years later and still rocking

Amazing show last night at the Gusman Theater with Cafe Tacvba

Café Tacvba at Olympia Theater at the Gusman on October 16, 2014
Its been twenty years since I ran into Cafe Tacvba outside of WQBA before they went to do an interview and was able to congratulate them on what was already their amazing sound. Never thought that two decades later the band would still be making great music with a 25 year back catalog of rich experimentation in music. 



On the opening night in Miami of the iconic Mexican rock band Cafe Tacvba tour celebrating 25 years since its founding the audience displayed a banner throughout the concert that ended up on stage that read "We are all Ayotzinapa - 43 WITH LIFE - Florida is with you AYOTZINAPA" in solidarity with a large group of students disappeared in Mexico and which Amnesty International has declared an urgent action on their behalf.


The tour continued tonight in Atlanta, Georgia and will be in Washington DC on the 18th of October and New York City on 19th of October. Visit their website for a full breakdown of their tour. If you can try to catch them live. Its a great show.

Below is the set list from last night with links to videos of their music.

Café Tacvba 
Setlist at Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts
Miami, FL, USA
  1. Pez
  2. (Leo Dan cover)

Conversations between two men who changed the world: Vaclav Havel & Adam Michnik

"I believe that a man can only be useful to his country when he can look at it clearly." - Pyotr Chaadayev, Russian cultural figure
Adam Michnik, Elzbieta Matynia and Martin Palouš at FIU on 10/15/14
The School of International and Public Affairs at FIU on October 15, 2014 hosted an event of great importance for democracy activists the world over. Beginning in the 1970s following the signing of the Helsinki Accords East German dissidents would meet and discuss human rights, the power of the powerless, and how to confront totalitarianism using nonviolent means.

Two of the intellectual heavy weights at these gatherings were Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik who also engaged in a conversation via correspondence that is the subject of the book  An Uncanny Era: Conversations between Václav Havel and Adam Michnik edited, translated, and introduced by Elzbieta Matynia.

Two books that I would also highly recommend to any pro-democracy activist are Letters from Prison and other essays by Adam Michnik and The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel. Together they will open your eyes and hearts to the opportunities in defending human dignity and resisting tyranny with the power of the powerless that is living in truth.


Adam Michnik is editor-in-chief of the Warsaw daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. Writer and dramatist Václav Havel (1936–2011) was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Elzbieta Matynia is professor of sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York City and at the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, Poland. Martin Palouš was the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations. He was also a founding member of the Civic Forum and one of the first signers of Charter 77. He is President of the Václav Havel Library Foundation in New York and has a close relationship with Florida International University.

Below are video excerpts of the event which touched on advice to Cuban democrats, Eastern European transitions, Lukashenko, Putin and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine:

AI Urgent Action for 43 disappeared Mexican Students and Miami shows it solidarity at Cafe Tacvba Concert

"Where are the 57 students missing after confronting police in Guerrero, Mexico?" -  Rosa María Payá over twitter on September 30, 2014

Tonight in Miami at the launch of Cafe Tacvba's tour the missing students are remembered



Rosa María Payá asked the question back on September 30, 2014 and the news is grim 28 bodies have been found in unmarked graves but have not been identified and Amnesty International has an urgent action underway for 43 missing students. On the opening night in Miami of the iconic Mexican rock band Cafe Tacvba tour celebrating 25 years since its founding the audience displayed a banner throughout the concert that ended up on stage that read "We are all Ayotzinapa - 43 WITH LIFE - Florida is with you AYOTZINAPA."  

Students at the Attorney General Office in D.F. over 43 students missing in Mexico

 Below is the latest Urgent Action from Amnesty that outlines what has happened and calls people of good will to action. The students have been missing since September 26, 2014.


Document - Mexico: Further information: Disappeared students still missing in Mexico
Further information UA: 246/14 Index: AMR 41/039/2014 Mexico Date: 7 October 2014
 
URGENT ACTION 
 
disappeared students still missing in mexico

The 43 disappeared students are still missing after being fired at by police and later attacked by unknown individuals in Iguala, Guerrero state. Twenty-eight bodies have been found in unmarked mass graves near Iguala, but their identities remain unclear and the search for those abducted continues.

The 43 students remain disappeared since 26 September in the city of Iguala, Guerrero state, southern Mexico. Around 25 of them had been arrested by municipal police, while those remaining were abducted by unidentified armed men operating with the acquiescence of local authorities, a few hours later. All missing students are victims of enforced disappearances. On 5 October Guerrero state officials found six unmarked mass graves near Iguala, apparently as a result of information provided by some of the 22 municipal police presently under arrest. At least 28 bodies have been exhumed, but forensic tests will have to be carried out in order to identify the remains. It is not yet clear if the bodies are those of the abducted students. On the basis of a petition from representatives of relatives of victims, independent international forensic experts are assisting with the identification process.

The Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) has taken up the investigation into the unmarked graves and the identification of the dead bodies. However, the investigation into the enforced disappearances and murder of six others on 26 September, including establishing the whereabouts of the 43 students, remains with the Guerrero state Attorney General’s Office despite allegations of possible links with criminal groups and its repeated failure to carry out effective investigations into grave human rights violations. The seriousness of these enforced disappearances and killings couple with the involvement of organized criminal groups are grounds for the PGR to claim jurisdiction in the cases, but so far it has stopped short of doing so.
 
Please write immediately in Spanish, English or your own language:

Urging the Federal Attorney General (PGR) to assume full responsibility for the investigation into the enforced disappearance of 43 students in order to establish their whereabouts promptly, ensure their physical and mental safety and bring those responsible to justice;

Urging the PGR to carry out a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the killing of six people on 26 September and the wounding of many others at the hands of Iguala municipal police and unidentified armed men;

Calling on the authorities to keep the relatives of all victims adequately informed and give them support and protection in accordance with their wishes, including supporting the work of international forensic experts;

Calling for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attack and abduction of students on 26 September, including the repeated failure of state and federal authorities to investigate frequent reports of collusion between local public officials and criminal gangs.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 18 NOVEMBER 2014 TO:

Minister of Interior
Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong
Secretario de Gobernación
Bucareli 99, col. Juárez, C.P. 6600, México D.F., México
Fax: +52 55 5093 3414 (keep trying)
Email: secretario@segob.gob.mx
Twitter: @osoriochong
Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Ministro

Attorney General
Jesús Murillo Karam
Procuraduría General de la República
Reforma 211-213, Col. Cuauhtémoc, C.P. 06500, Mexico City, Mexico
Fax: +52 55 5346 0908
Email: ofproc@pgr.gob.mx or click here
Twitter: @PGR_mx
 Salutation: Dear Attorney General / Estimado Señor Procurador
 
And copies to:
Local human rights organization
Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña “Tlachinollan”
Email: accion.urgente@tlachinollan.org

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 246/14. Further information: www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR41/038/2014/en
URGENT ACTION
disappeared students still missing in mexico

Additional Information

Some 500 students attend the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College (Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos) in the town of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, some 300km south of Mexico City. They receive training to become primary school teachers in rural communities. Some of the local inhabitants are of Indigenous origin. In general, these communities – and the students themselves – are poor and suffer from high levels of discrimination, marginalization and lack of access to basic services.

The students at the rural training college are also politically active and they have staged many demonstrations in relation to rural teachers, education policy and other political issues. Acts of violence have been reported in some of these demonstrations, and public authorities have frequently blamed the student teachers. The training colleges have frequently been starved of resources in recent years as rural education has not been a priority.

In December 2011 Ayotzinapa students who were protesting on the main highway outside Chilpancingo, the state capital, were attacked by state and federal police resulting in three deaths, two of them students. At least 24 people suffered torture and other ill-treatment. Those police and superiors responsible for the abuses against students have never been held to account, encouraging a climate of impunity. Amnesty International has highlighted this case many times, most recently in its report Out of control: Torture and other ill-treatment in Mexico (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR41/020/2014/en).

Arbitrary detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment are widespread and persistent across Mexico. Most cases take place in the context of criminal investigations in which those arrested are tortured in order to extract “confessions” or “information”. Those implicated in torture, including police, army and navy, are very rarely brought to justice, with just seven convictions recorded to date at the federal level. Torture victims frequently face insurmountable challenges to prove their cases, including official forensic examinations which are rarely applied in time and in line with international human rights standards.

Abduction and disappearances remain routine in Mexico with public officials often acting in collusion with criminal gangs. The 43 students who have been forcibly disappeared since 26 September are part of the more than 22,000 cases of people who are missing or disappeared in Mexico and whose whereabouts remain unknown, according to government figures released in August 2014. The government has repeatedly failed to explain how they have calculated this figure, as well as any further information about those cases. It is unknown how many of those people have been victims of enforced disappearances in which public officials are directly or indirectly involved. 

In 2013 the Federal Attorney General’s Office set up a specialized unit to investigate cases of abductions and disappearances and establish the whereabouts of victims. To date, they have not released any detailed information regarding its effectiveness. For further information see Confronting a nightmare: Disappearances in Mexico (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR41/025/2013/en).

Further information on UA: 246/14 Index: AMR 41/039/2014 Issue Date: 7 October 2014

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR41/039/2014/en/1b6e7cf9-e962-43fc-8d47-05748682d65a/amr410392014en.html

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Remembering and Honoring Laura Inés Pollán Toledo

“I have read somewhere that in a totalitarian system martyrdom does better than thought.” - Václav Havel

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (1948 - 2011)
Three years later and the forces of repression still tremble before the memory of the 65 year old wife, mother and school teacher. Watching Laura Inés Pollán Toledo in the video below and one begins to understand the existential threat she and the Ladies in White represent to the totalitarians in Cuba.

She was a former school teacher turned human rights defender and international pro-democracy figure who courageously and nonviolently confronted Castro's half century old totalitarian dictatorship and paid for it with her life.

Today at 12 noon at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity (Ermita de la Caridad) located at 3609 South Miami Ave. Miami, Fl. 33133 will have a special Mass for Laura Inés Pollán Toledo and one can expect activities around Cuba in her honor.

Human rights trends in Cuba remain troubling with violence against activists on the increase. Women in Cuba continue to be targeted with violence for expressing their opinions and often times around the world, people who should know better, are unaware of what is taking place and celebrate the regime's treatment of women.

The third anniversary of Laura's passing coincides with the Forum 2000 gathering in Prague and listening to the voices of courageous activists from China, Cuba, Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela and elsewhere demonstrates that her cause of freedom spans the world.

At the same time tonight at Casa Bacardi at 7pm Ángel Carromero will be presenting a book on the events surrounding the deaths of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ángel Carromero in Miami declares that Cuban dissidents were killed in an attack

“What happened on July 22 [2012] wasn’t an accident, it was an assault.” -  Ángel Carromero
Angel Carromero holds up car crash photos from July 22, 2012 in Cuba. (Pedro Portal)
 Ángel Carromero arrived in Miami last week to give his testimony on what happened on July 22, 2012 when Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed. This is not the first time that he has spoken on what took place. He has spoken to The Washington Post, in Geneva, in Spain and written a book. The family of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas has defended his innocence and were barred from attending the show trial that Ángel was subjected to by the dictatorship in Cuba. Others have come forward to say that Oswaldo and Harold were extrajudicially executed. International figures, Lech Walesa and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among them have called for an international investigation into the two deaths. The complete interview on video  is available in Spanish from El Nuevo Herald.


Below is what was published in the interview with The Miami Herald Editorial Board.

Question and Answer session:

What arguments were presented at trial to sentence you?
The formula used to sentence me and to calculate the speed at which the car supposedly traveled has no validity, it's the one of rectilinear motion uniformly accelerated.
This movement doesn't exist and doesn’t account for the acceleration made when you brake, the friction. ..l The international experts contacted by my lawyers broke all of this down. Experts from the CUJAE (Cuba’s University of Engineering) said it was nonsense.

Did those experts go to the trial?
In Cuba, if they accuse you, you’re sentenced. Cuban legislation doesn’t allow for experts to come and testify. This doesn't happen in countries which are not dictatorships.

Did you have access to documents relating to your case?
I never saw the report of my case. They didn't give my defense lawyer a copy. The lawyers has to travel from Havana to Bayamo to transcribe 800 documents by hand. Why didn't they give them a copy the way it's done in all cases? Because they knew that when they copied it that the documents would make it out of Cuba and the case would be read. The drawings of the supposed tests which they had done to me to accuse me had to be done by hand too, like children. You can laugh, but it's not a joke.

When did you send that text message stating, “Help! We're surrounded by military men”?
They let us keep our cellphones at the beginning of our stay in the hospital in Bayamo but later on they took them from us. I sent that text when I was in my hospital bed surrounded by military men. In that moment, they had obligated me to change my version of the story and were filming me with a handycam and I knew it was going to end badly.

The first thing he said was that they had run us off the road and had hit us. This made them nervous, and they hit me. Later on a Cuban official who introduced himself as an expert told me the version that I was to repeat: that I pressed the brake pedal and “fell in an embankment.” In Spain this has another meaning and the phrasing of the words is different too.

Was Modig sleeping when the accident happened as he has alleged in interviews?
There were times when he was asleep but he was the copilot. If he chose to remain quiet and turn the page, well I don't share in that sentiment. I respect it but I've chosen a more complicated road and one with worse consequences for me but I couldn't stay silent.

Has it been a long time since you last spoke to him?
Yes. The last time he came to Spain he simply told me he didn't remember anything.

How did you find out about the deaths of Payá and Cepero?
I asked in the hospital and in the interrogation in Bayamo they told me about it again.

At what speed where you traveling when all this happened?
Well, I don't remember the speed, but whoever has been in Cuba knows that on the main highway, even if you want to, you can't go too fast because it's full of potholes. Also it was a rental car and didn't work so well. I was with Rosa Maria [Payá] yesterday and we remembered that the day before the trip we were about to cancel it because the car didn't accelerate well.

At the time you traveled to Cuba was your driver's license in good standing?
Yes. Not even my family or my friends could defend me in Spain because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to return. The leftist party and the Cuban government took advantage of that silence to try to destroy my credibility. So, I took the heat from the media on my own.

In the book you're very blunt about why you filmed those videos in which you take the blame ...
There's something very clear here, I was surrounded by soldiers, in a loathsome dungeon-like cell without access to lawyers and without being able to call anybody. I was alone and at the mercy of what the soldiers wanted to do to me. This is in Cuba, not a country with rights, and so they told me that if I collaborate, that they'll let me go.

What were you afraid of the most?
Of them killing me. They can do with you whatever they want. You have no cellphone, no outside contact, you're in a dictatorship. It was collaborate and do what I'm told or I wouldn't be here with you today. It's like a video from al-Qaida, my face was swollen and I could barely speak. ...

In which jails were you?
I was in Bayamo and later I was moved to Cien and Aldabo, it's an instructional jail. They stick you in there until you confess, and if not, they won't let you out. I was there until November in a cell in which they'd take me out once a day every two or three weeks. It was psychologically trying and I clung on to the fact that I wanted to go back and that if I did, I wanted to be well and I did it.

What did you do in jail?
Think. Think about my family and friends. Try to keep feeling alive, part of my life. Think about what I'd be doing if I was with my loved ones. I tried to not let the isolation they imposed on me affect me. I don't know if it's mental tricks or what but it helped me.

Did councilmen come see you at your jail cell?
Of course, they didn't let me out but a slew of military men passed by there. They talked to me and told me that Cuba was gorgeous. Of course, I had to act docile towards them because they were my captors and the ones who brought me food. It's difficult. I also fought with myself over that.

But on trial, despite having been docile, you decided to say you were innocent.
Of course, because the regime created a friction and did so in such a bad way that there were elements to defend myself from their version of the facts. My lawyers told me to declare myself innocent because even with their version they had proof to show that I was innocent. It was also an act of rebellion on my part, even though later I regretted it because an official threatened me. It's complicated to act without consulting anyone. One day they told me that I hadn't support from my party and my government. I lived in a contradiction, without knowing, and making decisions blindly is very hard.

When did you have that initial contact with the Spanish embassy?
When I was in Bayamo, the Swedish ambassador and the auxiliary consul from Spain. The ambassador manages to have her national sent home with her and the Spanish consulate just asks me how I'm doing and doesn't provide me with any further instruction.

It's also strange that they sent an auxiliary consul.
They told me that they tried to treat it as a case between consulates, but from that first moment, they didn't send an ambassador and only sent an auxiliary consul.

Why did the National Court in Spain disregard a petition to investigate the death of Oswaldo Payá, who was a Spanish citizen?
My return to Spain wasn't free. The Cuban government isn't stupid and got a lot out of my return. One of the conditions they put was that the Spanish government has to accept the validity of my sentence and can't revise my case. This was part of a prisoner extradition treaty that both governments signed.

Can Spanish authorities pardon you?
Yes, but they have to communicate that to Cuba first.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article2674868.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, October 11, 2014

An open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Umbrella Movement

The Umbrella movement was officially launched at 1.45am on Sunday, September 28, 2014 because Mainland China is not honoring its treaty obligations regarding Hong Kong maintaining its democratic system. International actions in solidarity with the Hong Kong demonstrators have been taking place. Mercedes Mack of the Metta Center offers context to this current round of protests in the article: Not Just Umbrellas. The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism published an open letter today on "Hong Kong People's Well Being" that is reproduced below.
 


President Xi Jinping,

According to the International Monetary Fund, China will soon become the world’s greatest economy. For many, they will take pride in this extraordinary economic success of China. You proclaimed to pursue “The China dream” – the dream of all people, which shall therefore be realized by the people, and for the people. We presume you would agree that real accomplishment can only be achieved from a bottom-up approach by the people. Now, Hong Kong people have made clear that the same dream for the previous 30 years: the implementation of genuine universal suffrage and the establishment of a system which respects equal rights and guards the well-being of Hong Kong people in the generations to come.

You once said, “We shall always listen to the people, respond to their expectations and ensure equal rights of participation and development, so as to maintain social justice.” Don’t Hong Kong people’s persistence for an equal system echoes with your thought? Hong Kong people’s  proposal of the abolition of Functional Constituencies and Civil Nomination within the Chief Executive electoral framework or the nominating committee aims at guaranteeing equal participation and rights, with a view to achieve an equal development and protect social fairness and justice.

Sadly, at this very moment, our Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is acting exactly contrary to your vision. 700 thousand Hong Kong people vowed explicitly their support for the practice of civil nomination as the direction of political reform. Nevertheless, Leung’s report to NPCSC failed to account faithfully Hong Kong people’s wishes. It is an outrage to witness how he manipulated our view to “Hong Kong people’s disagreement with the Legislative Council reform and abolition of the functional constituencies”. It is a complete disregard of public opinion and denial to Hong Kong people’s expectation. The framework of the political reform issued by the NPCSC is a result of the government’s untrue report. If the Hong Kong government had been honest about public opinion, they would have confessed to their fault, rectify and, most importantly, include Hong Kong people’s genuine wishes in the direction of electoral reform. In mainland China, voters can nominate their local governments. Civil nomination, therefore, has its legal ground. There can be no reasons for the Hong Kong government to fear practicing civil nomination.

It is an agreed fact that the current Chief Executive election system is not capable of bettering Hong Kong any further. While anti-corruption campaigns are under way in mainland China, CY Leung, who has been keeping $50M in secrecy, remains unfettered. There will only be more citizens, disillusioned with our corrupted institutions, marching and protesting, as long as no genuine democracy is practiced in this place. It is our profound hope that none of our future generations shall repeat our path, but enjoy genuine freedom and democracy, and pursue their dreams.

The occupy movement today at Hong Kong is definitely not a colour revolution or its alike, but rather a movement for democracy. The class boycott initiated by students and occupy movements across the city are our response to CY’s aversion towards public opinions. We demonstrated peacefully, but were confronted by violence; we howled, but were made silent by pepper spray and full-geared police. Yet the choking gas lingered in Central could not scare the citizens, but only triggered more to stand against this unscrupulous government and affirm justice. A genuine universal suffrage should never be drawn equivalent as subversion. It rather serves to exhibit the high degree of autonomy embodied in Basic Law. National defence and diplomatic matters have always been administered by the Central Government. If the Central Government is confident of her governance, she need not be fearful of a Chief Executive elected by Hong Kong citizens. Genuine universal suffrage will only reaffirm such autonomy and be another exemplar of yours.

Our respect towards the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” is the precise reason to put forward that Hong Kong shall resolve Hong Kong’s problems and citizens’ opinion must be given heavy weight. This is precisely the reason why HKSAR government should be guilty of misunderstanding us, and shall help to rectify the political reform by urging NPC to withdraw her decision. The current situation catches attention not only from Hong Kong, but also China, Taiwan and even the rest of the world. We have high hope for you to take this matter closely. It is by no means worthy letting a corrupted official jeopardizes “One Country Two System” and blemish the grand “China Dream”.

For the sake of a democratic political system, fellow students are willing to give up their studies or even risk their lives. Only at this moment can we realise how disgraceful our city is and how terrifying she has been suppressing us. It is only when a generation is sacrificing all of their time and efforts on street protest can we notice how CY Leung has antagonised this very generation. Some twenty or thirty years later, students fighting for democracy today will then become the pillars of the city. As 2047 approaches, any decisions today will cast a significant influence in our pathway towards democracy. We believe that nobody is eager to see his succeeding generation bet their lives for democracy and a better Hong Kong.

We, as students, urge to settle these issues of Hong Kong:

1) The HKSAR government must bear the sole responsibility, be accountable to Hong Kong citizens and rectify herself

2) To establish a democratic system that affirms equal rights

3) To uphold the principle of “One Country, Two Systems”: Hong Kong problems be settled in Hong Kong; Politics to be settled by Politics

Yours sincerely,

Hong Kong Federation of Students
Scholarism

11 October, 2014

Forum 2000: Democracy and Its Discontents A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen

"I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions." - Václav Havel, Speech of October 1989


Tomorrow begins the 18th Forum 2000 Conference in Prague which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe and the brutal crackdown in China that killed scores of nonviolent demonstrators. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the title of this conference is "Democracy and Its Discontents A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen."

Delegates meet Forum 2000 co-founders Oldřich Černý and Václav Havel in 2009
Having physically been present at Forum 2000 as a presenter in 2009 and later as an attendee in 2013 I can affirm that it is a gathering and program worth attending and supporting. In addition to engaging in the great exchange of ideas there are also opportunities for activists to obtain support for causes from the international dignitaries in attendance. At the same time when not able to travel to Prague following it over the internet on a live video stream has also been incredibly worthwhile and highly recommend it to others.

Forum 2000 delegates in Prague in 2013 at H.H. Dalai Lama event
Please consider becoming a friend of Forum 2000 with concrete and regular support by following Forum 2000 on Twitter, watching the Forum 2000 events between October 12th through the 15th, and letting others know about this treasure trove of accumulated wisdom. Forum 2000 is one of the many positive legacies of  Václav Havel and Oldřich Černý.

Below is the video program for 2014 of Forum 2000 reproduced from their web page.

Watch the Forum 2000 Conference, “Democracy and Its Discontents,” Live Online

Venezuelan prisoner of conscience Leopoldo Lopez at Forum 2000
We invite you to watch the live video broadcast of the panel discussions held during this year’s Forum 2000 Conference, “Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen,” which takes place October 12–15, 2014 in Prague and 12 other Central European cities.
 
On Sunday, October 12 you can watch a live stream of the Opening Ceremony at Prague Crossroads with the keynote speech by Russian businessman and former prisoner of conscience Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

On Monday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 14 you can follow the live broadcast of the sessions held in the main hall of Žofín Palace (Forum Hall). Speakers include Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Belarusian writer and activist Ales Bialiatski, Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay, Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq Falah Mustafa Bakir, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, and former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar.

You can watch these proceedings in the Video section of our website. Recordings of these discussions as well as other events will be posted there shortly after the conference. The live broadcast will be held in English.
Online reporting from the entire conference can be followed on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ via #Forum2000.

More information about the conference and its program can be found here.
  

Broadcast Program

Sunday, October 12

19.00–21.00
Opening Ceremony
Jakub Klepal, Ivan M. Havel, Jürgen Hoffmeister, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Igor Blaževič
  
Monday, October 13

09.30–11.00
Democracy and Its Discontents
Jacques Rupnik, Iveta Radičová, Karel Schwarzenberg, Zhang Qianfan, Ramin Jahanbegloo, Michael Novak

11.15–12.45
The Significance of Václav Havel’s Value Based Foreign Policy
John Shattuck, Lobsang Sangay, Carl Gershman, Ales Bialiatski, Andrew Schapiro, Yoani Sánchez

14.00–15.30
Is Democracy in Decline? Reflections from the Fall of the Berlin Wall to the Euromaidan
Christopher Walker, Marc Plattner, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Tarek Osman, Yoani Sánchez, Yevhen Hlibovytsky

15.45–17.15
Russia: A Non-Democratic Power on the World Stage?
Petr Kolář, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vytautas Landsbergis, Andrey Zubov, Daniel Baer

17.30–19.00
Systemic Change, Economic Reforms, and Democracy: What Have We Learned? What Lessons for the Future?
Danilo Türk, Jan Švejnar, Grigory Yavlinsky, Ivan Mikloš, Mauricio Pozo 
  
Tuesday, October 14

10.00–11.30
3 Years After Arab Spring: Middle East at a Crossroads
Shlomo Avineri, Salam Fayyad, Falah Mustafa Bakir, Tarek Osman, Youssef Amrani, Gilles Kepel
 
11.45–13.15
Priorities and Aspirations for Democracy in the 21st Century
Jiří Schneider, José María Aznar, Yogendra Yadav, Murong Xuecun, Juan Requesens, Šimon Pánek