Saturday, December 31, 2016

This New Year they remain imprisoned for acts of conscience

Honoring the courageous

Seven years ago on Christmas day in Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Liu Xiaobo, a prominent intellectual and long time activist, to eleven years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power." His "crime"? Organizing a petition drive in China calling for democratic reforms in 2008. 2016 marks the seventh anniversary of his unjust sentencing and the sixth anniversary of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."

PEN America's case history on this courageous Chinese dissident reveals that he could have stayed in the United States where he was a visiting scholar in the United States in 1989 but returned to China after the start of the Tiananmen uprising:
"Liu Xiaobo is a renowned literary critic, writer, and political activist based in Beijing. He served as president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center from 2003 to 2007 and now serves as an honorary president. He was a professor at Beijing Normal University and was a visiting scholar at several universities outside of China, including the University of Oslo, the University of Hawaii, and Columbia University in New York City.  In the spring of 1989, Liu Xiaobo left his post at Columbia University and returned to Beijing to play a crucial role in the spreading pro-democracy movement..."
Unfortunately, the situation in China has not improved and international solidarity has receded over an economically and militarily ascendent China. Nevertheless in China activists took to the streets and risked their freedom to demand the release of Liu Xiaobo.

Cuba is a long way geographically from China but the trends in the island nation have also been in the wrong direction in terms of regime behavior and the international environment. However Cubans like the Chinese understand this and while many flee the country, some remain and risk everything for their homeland.

Last year was at the King Mango Strut with Cuban dissidents lampooning the Castro regime and the Obama administration. Among the revelers was Danilo Maldonado, also known as "El Sexto" an artist who desires to live in freedom, in Cuba. Under the Castro brothers that is not an easy feat and Danilo has already been declared an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience after a prolonged detention in December of 2014 for trying to carry out a performance art piece mocking the Castro brothers.

This Christmas finds him behind bars for tagging a wall with the phrase "Se fue" [he left] referring to the death of Fidel Castro on November 26, 2016. Beaten up and arrested Danilo has spent Christmas and New Years behind bars.

El Sexto is not alone, also arrested in the aftermath of Fidel Castro's death was Eduardo Cardet, the spokesperson of the Christian Liberation Movement. Cardet who is also a beloved medical doctor and family man respected in his community. While traveling abroad his wife was detained and warned that upon his return they would lock him up for 15 years in prison for having met the wrong people during his travels. Despite the threat Eduardo Cardet returned home to a brutal beating, incarceration and trumped up charges. He has also spent Christmas and New Years imprisoned and separated from his family.

Liu, Danilo and Eduardo could have easily stayed in the United States as political refugees, but made the courageous decision to return to their homeland and continue the struggle for freedom.

Today as we are about to celebrate the New Year and celebrated Christmas let us take a moment to reflect upon these three courageous men and their profound sacrifices for liberty

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The vote by Miami's Cuban Americans was a referendum on Obama's Cuba policy

My last word on the 2016 election

On December 16, 2016 The Miami Herald published a story with a headline reading as a question: Was vote by Miami’s Cuban community a referendum on Obama’s policy?  that was two separate articles in one. The first part contained statements by elected representatives affirming that the Cuban American vote was a referendum on Obama's Cuba policy. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican. stated it simply: “Within the Cuban-American community, the presidential election results demonstrate a direct rebuke of Obama’s Cuba policy reversal.”

The rest of the article read like a press release from the anti-Embargo lobby that ignored some essential facts contained within the polls cited. Prior to Donald Trump changing his position on September 17, 2016 from lukewarm support for Obama Cuba policy to promising to roll it back his support ranged from 35 to 37% based on two polls takes months apart. The FIU Cuba Poll was taken between July 11 and August 12, 2016 with a random sample of 1,000 Cuban Americans residing in Miami - Dade County. According to Tim Padgett in his September 15, 2016 article  "FIU Poll Of Miami Cubans Shows Strong Support For Obama Normalization Policy" only 35% of Cuban Americans were going to vote for Donald Trump according to the poll with a margin of error of 3 percent. This number tracks with the 37% support for Donald Trump in the Moreno Poll of 400 likely Miami-Dade Cuban American voters conducted between April 21 - 23, 2016 that had a three point margin of error.

The Bendixen-Amandi poll with +/- 3.99 margin of error conducted between October 15 - 17, 2016 placed Trump's support among Cuban Americans at 47%. I have raised questions in the past about Bendixen - Amandi and their shilling for the anti-embargo crowd, but even here looking at a 10 to 12 point shift demonstrates that the before and after on the Trump Cuba policy shift did have an impact.

Even more telling is what the Clinton campaign did after Trump shifted on Cuba policy airing radio advertisements in early October 2016 accusing Mr. Trump of violating the Cuban embargo.  The Trump candidacy should not be simply compared with previous Republican presidential candidates because the others had supported maintaining sanctions on the Castro regime throughout the entire campaign. Another factor was that with the exception of Kerry in 2004 since 1992 the Democratic candidates for president including Obama in 2008 and 2012 have also supported sanctions. However the actions taken by the Obama Administration on Cuba in October of 2016 placed Cuba on the campaign agenda and Trump's change on Cuba policy created a stark contrast with Hillary Clinton that helped him win more Cuban American votes.

Following the election a precinct analysis looking at where Cuban Americans voted the most in the 2016 election concluded that 58% of Cuban Americans voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. There has been an effort by Cuban Americans who have vigorously supported Obama's Cuba policy to downplay the Cuban American vote and the impact of the new Cuba policy on that vote.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Throwing Israel under the bus: Secretary John Kerry's speech an exercise in anti-Israel spin

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” - Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Spin Team: President Obama, Secretary John Kerry, Ambassador Power, Ben Rhodes
With less than three weeks left in office Secretary of State John Kerry made a speech to “address" what a senior State Department official described as "some of the misleading critiques” directed at the Obama administration by the Israeli Prime Minister. What took place today was predictable because it was a continuation of the last eight years. 

Foreign policy in the Obama Administration is an exercise in spin divorced from reality that has been manufactured by a sycophantic press repeating White House talking points. Sound extreme? “We created an echo chamber,” said President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes in The New York Times on May 5, 2016 describing the national media as follows: “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” Rhodes explained in the same interview that policy is not determined by rational discussion and that “[i]n the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this." They did it in Cuba, in Iran and now with Israel developing messages and tactics that could drive public opinion whether or not they were backed up by the facts. 

This is not the path to preserving and defending the American Republic but to subverting and turning it into an Orwellian dystopia. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, understood the importance of facts and truth in a public debate and suffered greatly for his truth telling but he was and remains an American statesmen to be emulated. Secretary of State John Kerry who disgraced himself today in a speech criticizing Israel's democracy as having "extreme elements" while months earlier legitimizing General Raul Castro, calling the communist dictator "President" in Cuba is sadly the antithesis of Senator Moynihan.

Forty one years ago Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan addressed the United Nations General Assembly and defended Israel in 1975. Contrast Moynihan's speech with Secretary Kerry's today
and one understands the depths of the Secretary of State's failure. The Obama Administration's foreign policy has been a failure that oversaw the rise of ISIS, greater instability across North Africa and blood baths in Syria and Iran as instability increased in the Middle East. Now the White House wants to scapegoat Israel and blame this mess on the only democracy in the Middle East.

Moral Inversion of Obama and the UN: Vilifying Democratic Israel and Honoring Tyrant Fidel Castro

Legitimizing an enemy outlaw regime and betraying an ally

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power at the United Nations

On December 23, 2016 President Obama had Samantha Power, his Ambassador at the United Nations, fail to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that not only unfairly vilified Israel but also made more difficult the prospects for peace in the Middle East and the anti-Israel resolution passed. 

This should not have been a surprise because less than two months earlier the White House had engaged in an outrage when it failed to defend established U.S. policy on Cuba.

On October 26, 2016 the Obama Administration failed to defend the laws of the United States when Ambassador Samantha Power abstained in a vote on a resolution sponsored by the Castro regime before the UN General Assembly condemning the U.S. embargo. Equally regrettable was Ambassador Power echoing Castro propaganda when she said in her defense of the abstention that United States "leaders and citizens used the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights in the region to justify actions." 

I wonder if the Israeli government now regrets voting along with the  Obama Administration back in October 2016 when they also abstained on the Castro regime's resolution denouncing the U.S. embargo?

The lack of outrage with the October 2016 vote on the Cuban embargo most likely laid the groundwork for last week's vote. It also means that the White House is not done.

With less than three weeks left in office Secretary of State John Kerry will make a speech to “address" what a senior State Department official described as "some of the misleading critiques” directed at the Obama administration by the Israeli Prime Minister. 

It is important to recall that this is the same John Kerry who on August 20, 2015 in an interview made it known that "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis."  This ignores the painful truth that Venezuela has been turned into a de facto Cuban colony with Cuban troops and spies planning and executing repression strategies for the Maduro regime.

Normalizing the Castro dictatorship while demonizing Israeli democracy at the United Nations exposes not only the moral corruption of the United Nations but also exposes the moral failings of the Obama Administration.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Case for Belsat: Media Censorship in Belarus, Europe's last dictatorship

#белсатжыві #LiveBelsat!

Belarus is Europe's last dictatorship and the situation in that Eastern European country is not improving. A clear example of this is found in efforts to shut down the few remaining sources of independent news. One of these last media outposts is Belsat, and its web site provides a brief history of the channel: 
Belsat TV is the only Belarusian language independent television channel. It was formed in 2007 by a group of Belarusian and Polish journalists as part of Telewizja Polska S.A. ... The launching was done in cooperation with members of the Association of Belarusian Journalists – recipient of the prestigious Andrei Sakharov Human Rights Award of the European Parliament. Belsat TV broadcasts nearly 20 hours a day all year round. Its original content is prepared by more than 100 associates from all over Belarus supported by around 80 editors, managers and technicians in Warsaw.
The regime in Belarus is seeking to remove satellite dishes en masse that will coincidentally curtail viewing of Belsat TV in the country. However they may be wasting their time because international solidarity is ebbing for democrats resisting tyranny around the world, Europe is not immune from the trend, and Belsat TV may lose support from neighboring Poland that has helped to keep the channel broadcasting into Belarus. 

However there are efforts underway to campaign for keeping Belsat TV on the air through social media campaigns. This blog entry is my own small contribution to that effort. Long live Belsat TV! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fidel Castro and the moral corruption of the United Nations

"If we decide to carry out terrorism, it is a sure thing we would be efficient. But the mere fact that the Cuban revolution has never implemented terrorism does not mean that we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning."  - Fidel Castro, Address to the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) 1976 

Fidel Castro, the Cuban tyrant, who presided over the extrajudicial execution of thousands of his countrymen, the destruction of Cuba, twice called for a nuclear first strike on the United States, sponsored terrorism across the world, collaborated with genocidal dictators who murdered millions in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East died last month at age 90 has twice been honored at important bodies of the United Nations in the past month. 

"Mourning" Fidel Castro in Cuba, like Josef Stalin in Russia and Kim il Jong in North Korea had serious consequences for those who failed have the proper level of grief for the departed tyrant. Sadly, where the consequences are nowhere near as dire the Venezuelan delegation in Geneva and Cuban delegation in New York City was able to morally compromise to important UN bodies.

First on December 1, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly held a moment of silence for Fidel Castro in New York City. Five days later on December 6, 2016 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland a moment of silence was held for Fidel Castro. Two weeks later on December 20, 2016 the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City paid tribute to the dead Cuban dictator for the third time.
Both of these actions are not only depraved but point to a deep lack of moral discernment at the United Nations. Fidel Castro's record is well documented. The Castro regime broadcast its mass executions at the start of the dictatorship in 1959 to terrorize the populace. The broadcasts of the executions ended but the firing squads continued  until at least 2003. There have also been extrajudicial killings of nonviolent opposition leaders over the past five decades with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero in 2012 being two recent examples. Dissidents have been the targets of violence, including brutal machete attacks in order to silence them. The case of Sirley Ávila León in 2015 is a sobering example.

2012 funeral of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas following his extrajudicial killing
The United Nations Human Rights Council should hold a moment of silence for the victims of Castroism not their mass murdering dictator. The UN General Assembly should pay tribute to Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas not the tyrant who ordered his murder

The late Czech dissident, poet and former president Václav Havel understood and warned of the dangers of making small, moral  compromises in October of 2009"There arises a question as to whether those large, serious compromises do not have their origin and roots in precisely these tiny and very often more or less logical compromises." 

Those who know the facts of what has gone on in Cuba over the past six decades need to continue tell the whole truth to the world despite the moral failings of international bodies and organizations such as the United Nations. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Remembering Havel: An Unfinished Dialogue Between Oswaldo Payá and Václav Havel

"A human action becomes genuinely important when it springs from the soil of a clear-sighted awareness of the temporality and the ephemerally of everything human. It is only this awareness that can breathe any greatness into an action." - Vaclav Havel

 Václav Havel 5 October 1936 – 18 December 2011
Five years ago on December 18, 2011 Vaclav Havel passed away but his legacy and memory live on today with activities commemorating his life. Charter 77 the document that initiated a call for change in 1977 still reverberates in Czech society today. Prague's Archbishop Cardinal Dominik Duka celebrated a requiem mass for Havel in St Vitus Cathedral on fifth anniversary of his passing. Streets are still being named after the late Czech dissident. Forum 2000 is a living legacy that gathers together politicians, artists and intellectuals to focus on particular problems threatening the world today and seeking solutions. There is also a tradition that celebrates Vaclav Havel's humor and sense of the absurd called the "Short Trousers for Vaclav Havel" initiative. 

 Havel is held in high esteem by free Cubans everywhere who remember his message to the Cuban people and his unfinished dialogue with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. Earlier this month the FIU’s Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy unveiled a documentary that featured this friendship.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cuba: El Sexto’s International Lawyer Expelled from Cuba After False Detention and Interrogation

"Considering the overt lack of an independent judicial system in Cuba, international public awareness and pressure is the best hope for El Sexto’s release." - Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF

NEW YORK (December 19, 2016) - Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest, harassing interrogations, and forcible deportation of American attorney Kimberley Motley from Havana, Cuba. Motley was in Cuba for three days as the international attorney for political prisoner Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, a celebrated Cuban artist imprisoned since Castro’s death more than twenty-one days ago. 

Motley was taken by plainclothes security agents as she was trying to hold a press conference outside of the National Capitol Building in Havana. Motley was arrested along with dissident punk rock artist Gorki Águila and democracy activist Luis Alberto Mariño from the civil society group Cuba Decide (an organization devoted to the holding of free elections in Cuba). Motley was arrested without any explanation and interrogated for hours at an unknown police station, after which she was allowed to go to her Havana hotel. At midnight on Friday, police officers appeared at Motley’s hotel, and interrogated her again for around an hour. She was threatened with a new arrest if she failed to board a flight on Saturday morning.
“After being arrested and detained for several hours, I underwent a new round of interrogation at my hotel after midnight. The police knew I was scheduled to depart at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, and told me I better get on the plane or else I would be imprisoned,” said Kimberley Motley in a phone interview with HRF. “Once at the airport, however, they again took my passport for several hours, forcing me to miss my flight. While they did not allow me to see Danilo, I believe my three days there and the abusive arrest I was the victim of, allowed me to have a fuller understanding as to what dissidents like Gorki or Tito, who volunteered to be my translators, suffer on a regular basis, and to reinforce my will to help imprisoned artists like Danilo. I will continue to represent Danilo internationally, and, since I’m an American citizen and Cuba has normalized relations with my country, I will continue to push for his release and, if necessary, will attempt to visit him at the Combinado del Este prison again soon,” she added.
“When she volunteered to go to Havana, Motley, was fully aware that the judicial system of a totalitarian country where the Code of Ethics for lawyers calls on them to ‘follow the example of Fidel Castro Ruz’ would not be friendly. Nevertheless, Motley courageously risked her freedom to try to see El Sexto and to learn about his case,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “While Motley’s ambitious purpose of having El Sexto freed has not yet been achieved, her arbitrary detention along with prodemocracy activists Gorki and Tito for trying to see El Sexto, helps make his case more widely known, and, as a result, may contribute greatly to his liberation. Considering the overt lack of an independent judicial system in Cuba, international public awareness and pressure is the best hope for El Sexto’s release,” he said.
Kimberley Motley is an international litigator who currently works on commercial, criminal, and human rights issues in every continent except Antarctica including in countries such as Afghanistan, Malaysia, and the U.S. Motley is the founder of Motley Legal Services and the co-founder of Motley Consulting International. In 2009, she became the first and only foreigner to litigate cases in Afghanistan's criminal and commercial courts. In 2015, the award-winning documentary "Motley's Law" premiered at film festivals across the world. On a pro bono basis, Motley collaborates with HRF’s legal team based in New York to provide international legal representation and seek the release prisoners of conscience worldwide.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
Contact: Contact: (212) 246-8486,
TAKE ACTION! Sign a petition for the release of prisoner of conscience Danilo Maldonado Machado and help to expose and denounce the crimes of the Cuban regime:
CONTACT Cuban officials and ask them for the release of Maldonado:
Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Ambassador, Cuban Permanent Mission at the United Nations. Address: 315 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 10016. Telephone: (212) 689-7215. Fax: (212) 689 9073. Email:
Please let us know if you took action. CC your communication to:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Obama's Cuba Legacy: Legitimizing tyranny, marginalizing dissidents & deteriorating human rights

An old, discredited policy repackaged as new delivers same failed results

President Obama leaves office while General Raul Castro stays on in power
The White House claimed in a tweet on December 16, 2016 that they had "opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba." There is nothing new in what the Obama administration has done in Cuba because it is a retread off the old, discredited approach of embracing dictators while focusing on narrow economic interests. Google is now partnering with ETECSA, the Castro regime's telecommunications monopoly that engages in systematic censorship. Other companies have engaged in discrimination based on national origin in the United States in order to satisfy regime demands.

Meanwhile Cubans continue to be jailed for what they think and the press has picked up on three high profile cases of a medical doctor, a lawyer and an artist. The two year anniversary of the new Cuba policy also coincided with the arrest of a U.S. citizen, Kimberley Motley, an international attorney who wanted to hold a press conference to discuss the case of Danilo Maldonado, the jailed Cuban artist.

Ben Rhodes published a blog entry claiming "two years of progress" citing progress in the private sector in Cuba but failed to mention that the Cuban military has expanded its control of the economy in the island since 2014. The White House has also been shy about mentioning the collapse in trade between U.S. companies and Cuba over the past two years. Nor does anyone want to mention that the peak year of trade was 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration. Instead the focus is on the latest celebrity visiting the island for a photo opportunity.

Cuba may have become a celebrity magnet over the past two years but Cubans began to flee the island in huge numbers that had not been seen since the Clinton Administration. The reason for the exodus can be seen in the dramatic increase in politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Cuba during the Obama Administration that has coincided with the Castro regime's heightened violence against Cubans who dissent.

Human rights have worsened in Cuba as the dictatorship has been legitimized internationally by the Obama Administration's new Cuba policy. The consequences have gone beyond the symbolic moment of silence for Fidel Castro at the United Nations Human Rights Council but to the European Union's delinkage of human rights from its common position on Cuba to engage with the Castro regime. This was a policy that had been in place for 20 years.

This deteriorating human rights situation, evaporating international solidarity with Cuban democrats along with the legitimization of the dictatorship is consolidating the dictatorship and prolonging its rule. Ben Rhodes claims that the "goal" of the new Cuba policy "was clear: to help the Cuban people live a better life", but the reality is that things have gotten worse on all fronts in Cuba. By this measure Obama Administration's Cuba policy is a failure.

The nonviolent legacy of Stephen Biko

Remembering South African Civic Non-Violent Anti Apartheid leader on 70th anniversary of his birth.

Stephen Bantu Biko born on September 18, 1947
Anti-Apartheid leader and non-violent icon Stephen Bantu Biko was born 70 years ago today in Eastern Cape, South Africa. Steve Biko was murdered by South African security forces on September 12, 1977 in Pretoria, South Africa. He was a founder of a black consciousness movement that challenged Apartheid's white supremacy awakening and mobilizing many black South Africans. It was his nonviolent approach carried on by others that brought freedom to South Africa. His ideas concerning how oppressed peoples can resist domination remain relevant today.

"The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic dignity." 
*I write what I like  
"Change the way people think and things will never be the same." *I write what I like

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."*From White Racism and Black Consciousness

"The system concedes nothing without demand, for it formulates its very method of operation on the basis that the ignorant will learn to know, the child will grow into an adult and therefore demands will begin to be made. It gears itself to resist demands in whatever way it sees fit."* The Quest for a True Humanity

Google that has its own issues with embracing dictators, nevertheless honored the memory of Steve Biko on its main page with a Google Doodle. However this is not a difficult thing to do when the Apartheid regime no longer exists and cannot be a potential business partner.

Friday, December 16, 2016

International lawyer arrested in Havana, Cuba while trying to hold a press conference

Obama's Presidency ends as it began with an innocent American arbitrarily arrested by the Castro regime. The results of The White House Cuba policy become evident.

International lawyer Kimberly Motley arrested in Cuba


NEW YORK (December 16, 2016) — Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of American attorney Kimberley Motley in Havana, Cuba, at 4:09 Motley is in Cuba as the international attorney for political prisoner Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, a celebrated Cuban artist imprisoned since Castro’s death twenty-one days ago.

Motley was taken by plainclothes security agents as she was trying to hold a press conference outside of the National Capitol Building in Havana. According to witnesses, Motley was arrested along with dissident punk rock artist Gorki Águila and democracy activist Luis Alberto Mariño from the civil society group Cuba Decide (an organization devoted to the holding of free elections in Cuba).

“This outrageous abuse is the sad reality of Cuba’s ongoing totalitarianism. They first arrest pro-democracy activist El Sexto for criticizing and mocking the deceased dictator, and now they arrest the lawyer that has traveled to Cuba to defend him,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “We call on Raúl Castro to order the release of Motley, Águila, and Mariño’s unconditionally and immediately,” he added.

Kimberley Motley is an international litigator who currently works on commercial, criminal, and human rights issues in Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Uganda, and the United States. Motley is the founder of Motley Legal Services and the co-founder of Motley Consulting International. In 2009, she became the first and only foreigner to litigate cases in Afghanistan's criminal and commercial courts. In 2015, the documentary "Motley's Law" premiered at film festivals across the world.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

Contact: Contact: (212)

TAKE ACTION! Sign a petition for the release of prisoner of conscience Danilo Maldonado Machado and help to expose and denounce the crimes of the Cuban regime:                     

CONTACT Cuban officials and ask them for the release of Motley and Maldonado:
Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Ambassador, Cuban Permanent Mission at the United Nations. Address: 315 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 10016. Telephone: (212) 689-7215. Fax: (212) 689 9073. Email:



Please let HRF know if you took action. CC your communication to:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Google's new tech partner in Cuba blocks Ladies in White e-mails

Google and lost innocence

Former prisoner of conscience and opposition leader Angel Moya tweeted in frustration how Google's Cuban partners worked in complicity with the secret police in blocking e-mails of the nonviolent opposition movement known as the Ladies in White. Below is an embedded copy of the tweet which reads in English as follows "#Havana #Cuba #ETECSA in complicity with State Security Dept blocks e-mails in Lawton when operating against Ladies in White headquarters."
The Free Cuba Foundation released a statement today on the new relationship between Google and ETECSA, the Castro regime's telecommunications monopoly: 
"Google has signed an Internet deal with the Castro regime placing its technology in the hands of the dictatorship's telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. This is the latest bit of bad news coming out of Cuba." 
This is also part of Obama's Cuba legacy that on the surface claims to be about empowering the Cuban people but in reality has legitimized the dictatorship and empowered it with new technologies to repress Cubans.

Reflecting on Obama's Cuba Policy Legacy

"The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized." - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

The President and the dictator address their respective countries on 12/17/14

Obama Cuba policy: Abandoning containment to embrace appeasement

By John Suarez

The Obama Administration's new Cuba policy marks two years on December 17th and with just 35 days left in this Presidency this is a good moment to reflect on what The White House has achieved over the past eight years. President Obama announced his new Cuba policy on December 17, 2014 to great fanfare but downplayed commuting the sentences of three Cuban spies, including Gerardo Hernandez who was serving a life sentence for his role in a murder conspiracy that claimed four innocent lives in 1996. 

However the change, not only in tone but in action, began not in 2014 but in 2009 first with the meeting with Hugo Chavez, second snubbing Cuban dissidents, followed by the repeated unilateral loosening of economic sanctions despite the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizen Alan Gross. Gross would go on to spend the next five years in a Cuban prison cell as a bargaining chip for the Castro regime that demanded the return of the above mentioned spies. 

President Obama shaking hands with President Hugo Chavez (2009)
Unfortunately despite President Obama's claims, the fact of the matter is that the previous Cuba policy did not fail and secondly that U.S. policy towards Cuba over the previous half century was not static. The U.S. after failing to overthrow the Castro regime in the early 1960s along with the risk of a nuclear conflagration in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis pursued a policy of containment combining economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. This was a successful policy that raised the cost and limited the expansion of the Castro regime abroad.

Lamentably, both during the Carter (1977 - 1981) and Clinton (1993 - 2001) Administrations the policy of containment was twice weakened and partially dismantled in favor of one of engagement with the dictatorship. On both occasions this legitimized the regime, provided it with more resources that allowed it to project further internationally. This approach coincided with the rise of the Sandinista regime in 1979 in Nicaragua with the assistance of the Cuban intelligence service and the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1999.  Internally human rights violations and levels of violence spiked during both periods coinciding with the Mariel mass exodus of 1980 and the rafter crisis of 1994. 

This pattern has been repeated during the Obama Administration but the third time may prove to be the worse for a number of reasons. This is not a new policy but a very old one that empowers dictators but has no apparent benefit for the United States. It also did not begin on December 17, 2014 although the drive towards embracing the Castro dictatorship was intensified after this date. 

Some of the Cubans killed by the Castro regime over the past eight years
Beginning in 2009 the Obama Administration marginalized Cuban dissidents and the Castro regime understood this and Cuban opposition leaders began dying under suspicious circumstances with their international visibility rising over time as the previous dead activist would generate some international media attention but otherwise zero consequences: Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (2012), and Harold Cepero (2012).

Despite Cuba under Castro continuing its pattern of outlaw behavior: smuggling tons of weapons  into North Korea in 2013 and getting hold of a U.S. Hellfire missile in 2014 that had been used in European NATO military exercises that afterward ended up in Havana, the negotiations continued.  Four months after President Obama announced this new relationship,  in Colombia another smuggled arms shipment involving Cuba was uncovered in March of 2015. On May 29, 2015 Secretary of State John Kerry, ignoring all the above, rescinded Cuba's designation as a state terror sponsor.

During the Obama Presidency the human rights situation has deteriorated with over 54,838 politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Cuba and escalating violence against activists. Currently there are three high profile cases of a doctor, lawyer and artist separately imprisoned in Cuba for their political beliefs.However the case of extrajudicial violence remains a concern.The case of dissident Sirley Avila Leon the victim of a government engineered machete attack that crippled the 57 year old with machete blows to both legs, arms and the loss of her left hand in May of 2015 is a powerful and disturbing example. Rafters and fleeing refugees continue to be attacked and in some cases shot in the back for trying to leave Cuba as was the case of Yuriniesky Martínez on April 9, 2015. Meanwhile the State Department watered down its report on human trafficking in Cuba.

On February 3, 2015, Rosa María Payá, in testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicted the indifference of the US government and the international community: 
On 22 July 2012, Cuban State Security detained the car in which my father, Oswaldo Payá, and my friend Harold Cepero, along with two young European politicians, were traveling. All of them survived, but my father disappeared for hours only to reappear dead, in the hospital in which Harold would die without medical attention. The Cuban government wouldn’t have dared to carry out its death threats against my father if the U.S. government and the democratic world had been showing solidarity. If you turn your face, impunity rages. While you slept, the regime was conceiving their cleansing of the pro-democracy leaders to come. While you sleep, a second generation of dictators is planning with impunity their next crimes.
Two months later Rosa María Payá, and other activists were harassed first at the airport by Panamanian officials and later at the VII Summit of the Americas because the United States, along with the democracies of the region, invited Raul Castro to the summit. Castro arrived with a huge entourage of state security agents, then proceeded to interrupt and shut down official civil society gatherings at the summit to silence dissent. Cuban pro-democracy activists were physically assaulted in a public park when they tried to lay a wreath before a bust of Jose Marti suffering broken bones and black eyes.

Throughout the past two years alone over 89,789 visaless Cubans entered the United States in a huge exodus not seen since the Carter and Clinton years with even more Cubans fleeing to South and Central America.

President Obama and General Castro attended a baseball game together in 2016

Despite all of this President Obama visited Cuba on an official state visit in March 2016 of this year elevating Raul Castro's international stature along with his 51 year old son Alejandro Castro Espin who is being groomed for a leadership role and possible generational succession in Cuba.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration's Cuba policy is having an impact internationally that is negatively impacting human rights in Cuba internally. The latest being the decision of the European Union to "open a new chapter" on relations with Cuba that drops human rights as a condition for normalization and will be the end of a European Common Position adopted in 1996. This arrangement was formalized in a signing ceremony on December 12, 2016.

Furthermore the loosening of sanctions on the Castro regime has coincided with further tightening of economic controls by General Raul Castro and the military over the Cuban economy. Despite the claims that engaging with the dictatorship would lead to more trade the facts say otherwise. Trade between Cuba and the United States has collapsed during the Obama Administration.

There is much more but for the sake of brevity will conclude with President Obama's October 14, 2016 Presidential Policy Directive on Cuba that some credit with costing Secretary Hillary Clinton the 2016 election in Florida by driving up the Cuban American vote for Donald Trump.

All should be concerned that The White House in its October policy directive instructed US intelligence agencies to share information with Castro's spy agency. This is a regime that not only engages in systematic human rights violations, but also has a long track record with international terrorism.

The new Administration should first follow the law and repeal all of Obama's Executive Orders that run afoul of the law or the US Constitution. In the case of Cuba, President Trump has an opportunity to turn a disastrous policy around and work to defend American interests and also speed up a democratic transition that would benefit the region.

Sadly the Obama legacy in Cuba will be remembered as one of appeasing and extending the life of the Castro dictatorship, while paying lip service to human rights and a missed opportunity with the death of Fidel Castro. The embargo policy is a policy of containment that protects vital U.S. interests but is not a policy that frees the Cuban people, but worse yet the Obama Cuba policy is a step in the wrong direction siding with the oppressor while marginalizing the oppressed.

Some victims of Castro regime violence since 2012