Friday, July 8, 2016

Shadows over Cuba in July: A Call to Remembrance and Action

"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." - Elie Wiesel

Rising violence in Cuba
Violence against Cubans has escalated with the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. The dictatorship has been legitimized by the visit of President Obama earlier this year who not only undermined objective international human rights standards, reducing them to an opinion in his March 22, 2016 address to the Cuban people. Worse yet, a day earlier, he asserted during the March 21st joint press conference with dictator Raul Castro that: 
"the goal of the human rights dialogue is not for the United States to dictate to Cuba how they should govern themselves, but to make sure that we are having a frank and candid conversation around this issue and hopefully that we can learn from each other."
 In his March 22nd address to the Cuban people President Obama also equated the ideals of the American revolution with the Communist revolution in Cuba falsely stating:
"The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution -- America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world -- those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy." 
An absurd claim
The American revolution's ideals ended British rule and established a new and more democratic order with the United States. Contrast this with the Castro revolution in Cuba that lied itself into power, claimed to be democratic, only to install a communist dictatorship that 57 years later remains in power through terror and repression enslaving an entire people and the absurdity that the ideals of July 4, 1776 in America bear any resemblance to January 1, 1959 in Cuba becomes evident.    

Many of those wanting to normalize relations with the dictatorship in Havana try to portray the gross and systematic human rights atrocities as something that occurred at the start of the Castro regime while remaining silent about recent crimes. Sadly in July there are four dates that spans six decades from 1953 to 2012 demonstrating the unchanging, violent and criminal nature of the regime in Cuba that continues to the present day. 

Dark shadows in July
These are shadows cast over Cuba in the month of July that demand remembrance and justice. Dark anniversaries observing extrajudicial executions, massacres, and bloodshed between Cubans: 
  • First, four years ago on July 22, 2012 Cuban agents rammed the car Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were traveling in on their way to Bayamo in eastern Cuba. Both bodies appeared later. It is unclear if they died in the crash or were killed afterwards. The family is demanding an international investigation.
  • Second, 22 years ago on July 13, 1994 Cuban government agents killed 37 men, women and children trying to flee Cuba on board the "13 de Marzo" tugboat. Other vessels struck the tugboat and created a whirlpool effect to drown the survivors.  
  • Third, 36 years ago on July 6, 1980 the "XX Aniversario" ferry was commandeered on the Canimar river by three teenagers who wanted to flee Cuba heading out to the open ocean. The regime's response was to send a Cuban jet to strafe the vessel leaving scores wounded and dead.  
  • Fourth, 63 years ago on July 26, 1953 Cubans shed each others blood when Fidel Castro organized an assault on the Moncada Barracks ushering in a process that brought an end to Batista's authoritarian dictatorship six years later replacing it with a totalitarian dictatorship that remains in power after 57 years. 

Canimar River Massacre in Matanzas, Cuba July 6, 1980
The duty to bear witness
Recalling the words of Holocaust survivor and human rights defender Elie Wiesel who passed away on July 2, 2016, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”Obvious questions arise within the Cuban context with regards to the victims and martyrs of the Castro dictatorship. What should one do to bear witness and demand justice for them? The temptation to do nothing, to be indifferent to these crimes, would only serve to encourage new injustices.

The drive to normalize relations with the Castro dictatorship in the 1990s saw the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and other atrocities committed leading up to it that garnered little attention led to the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down twenty years ago this year that claimed the lives of three Americans and a U.S. resident.


Taking action in 2016
This is why on July 13 at 12 noon at the main fountain between the Graham Center and the Green Library at Florida International University the Free Cuba Foundation will hold a 13 minute moment of silence for Oswaldo, Harold, and the 37 victims of the "13 de Marzo"tugboat massacre and all those murdered by the Castro regime. 

At 5:00pm the Democracy Movement will remember the "13 de Marzo"tugboat massacre at the Sea wall behind the Our Lady of Charity (la Ermita de la Caridad) with the presence of the families of the victims, crosses and flowers with images of the dead, and a Mass for children and adults who were killed.

Please let others know of these activities and let us make this a July to remember these victims and prevent their second death. 

It is the least we can do for those who can no longer speak up for themselves. 
Students and activists with July 13, 1994 massacre victim's families

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