Monday, October 31, 2016

Conservative and Christian Democratic Internationals Issue Joint Statement for Freedom in Venezuela

Bringing Freedom, Democracy and Prosperity back to Venezuela

Joint Statement of the International Democrat Union (IDU) and the Centrist Democrat International (CDI) by the Rt Honorable John KEY (IDU Chairman) and the Honorable Andrés PASTRANA (CDI President)
Venezuela is facing its worst political, social and economic crisis, with corruption, nepotism and the mismanagement of the Maduro regime at the heart of the failure. Despite its large oil and natural reserves the people of Venezuela are suffering terribly.
In the December 2015 elections the United Opposition of Venezuela (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática MUD) won a 2/3 majority in the National Assembly. This was a clear signal to the Venezuelan government to change their politics and take care of the basic needs of the people. But instead the crisis has worsened due to the authoritarian behaviour of the Maduro regime. Governmental institutions are constantly blocking, bypassing or ignoring legislation that would bring back freedom and democracy to Venezuela.
The ongoing dictatorial actions of the Maduro regime against the people of Venezuela will likely lead to a complete state failure. Moreover, the recent decision of the Electoral Supreme Court to unconstitutionally postpone the presidential impeachment process has seriously jeopardized the peace and stability of the nation.
IDU and CDI therefore call upon the Venezuelan government:
  • to guarantee the people of Venezuela the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom from oppression.
  • to respect the independence and immunity of the members of the National Assembly.
  • to respect the rule of law and the constitution, including the procedures that may lead to the impeachment of the country´s President.
  • to free all political prisoners in Venezuela, including Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos and Leopoldo López.
  • to ensure that police and military remain peaceful and nonviolent towards the people of Venezuela.
  • to grant access of international humanitarian aid to end life- threatening shortages of food and medicine.
IDU and CDI represent more than 150 political christian-democrat, center-right and conservative parties from all over the world. IDU Deputy Chairman The Honorable Tony Clement, MP led a delegation to Venezuela on 25-27 April 2016 in order to meet with National Assembly and civic society leaders. It was clear even then that President Maduro had no intention of respecting basic human rights and the rule of law.
The IDU and CDI both believe that a solution to this crisis can be found through dialogue from all relevant parties. As a precondition the dialog must comply with the constitutional order of Venezuela and the Government has to guarantee the sovereign right of the Venezuelan people to vote in free, transparent and fair elections. This dialogue will lead to a nonviolent transition in the political responsibility.
It will bring back Freedom, Democracy and Prosperity to Venezuela peacefully.
Issued on 28th October 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

International Religious Freedom Day in Cuba on Eve of Membership Vote for UN Human Rights Council

Catholic Laymen threatened day before Castro regime re-elected to Rights Council

Dagoberto Valdés threatened by Castro Intelligence service

October 27th is International Religious Freedom Day. This year marked the 18th anniversary of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, a law that supposedly solidified the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy.

Cuban Catholic layman Dagoberto Valdés was called to appear at State Security headquarters that same day where he was taken to an interrogation room and threatened by Lieutenant Colonel Osvaldo Labrador who warned him that from now on his life would be very difficult.  He was photographed, finger printed and his arterial pressure measured. The entire affair took place over two hours and fifteen minutes. Dagoberto believes that he was targeted specifically for being a Catholic laymen and civil society activist.

This action was carried out on the eve of the Castro regime's vote at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City for membership on the Human Rights Council based in Geneva Switzerland.

Despite a pledge that makes a mockery of both human rights and the historical record the Castro regime obtained 170 votes and will now be a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

2016 has been the worse year on record for religious repression in Cuba since 1992 when the Castro regime ended its status as an atheist regime actively suppressing religious activity.

UN General Assembly in New York City votes on Human Rights Council membership

Dagoberto's full statement, in Spanish, is reproduced below:

DECLARACIÓN DE DAGOBERTO VALDÉS HERNÁNDEZ DESPUÉS DE LA CITA DEL 27 DE OCTUBRE 2016 
Hoy 27 de octubre de 2016 fui citado por dos oficiales del Ministerio del Interior en mi casa a las 10 de la mañana para comparecer hoy a la 1.00 p.m. en la Sede del Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones Criminales (Seguridad del Estado) en el km 4.5 de la carretera a San Juan. 
Llegué a ese lugar a tiempo y unos minutos después de la hora citada me recibieron el Teniente Coronel Osvaldo Labrador, jefe de la Unidad y el Mayor Joaquín. Me condujeron a un cuarto de interrogatorio en el que fue filmada toda la conversación. El Teniente Coronel Labrador, después de preguntarme por mi estado de salud, dijo que esta era una advertencia oficial ante la posibilidad de cometer delitos contra la seguridad del Estado tipificados en el Código Penal del que leyó algunas partes. Me dijo que en todos estos años yo me había mantenido como en el filo de una navaja entre ser un laico de la Iglesia y ser un contrarrevolucionario. Y que a partir de hoy mi vida sería muy difícil. Todo esto en un clima severo y respetuoso. No hubo maltratos físicos. 
El Mayor Joaquín argumentó el por qué de la advertencia diciendo, entre otras cosas, que tenían en su poder material ocupado a alguien que lo había sustraído de mi ordenador personal en mi casa hace unos años en el que aparecía mi diario personal y otros informes de proyectos de apoyo a Convivencia, y que recibía dinero de los Estados Unidos. Le contesté que no hemos recibido nunca financiamiento del gobierno de Estados Unidos. El Mayor me repetía por cuarta vez en esta misma cita que la Revolución no ganaba nada procesando y enjuiciando a Dagoberto Valdés. Que por esto era la advertencia para que yo evaluara y rectificara. Aseguré que Convivencia es y será un proyecto cívico y que todo lo que hacemos es para bien de nuestra Patria. 
Pregunté qué significaba que a partir de hoy mi vida sería difícil y el TC Labrador me explicó que eso sería en caso de que cometiera uno de los delitos advertidos. Pregunté si eso significaba una amenaza y me dijo que era una advertencia y que se levantaría un Acta de Advertencia, se me llevó a un cuarto de “la técnica” y se me tomaron las huellas digitales y palmares, la huella de olor en la pelvis y fotos de frente y de perfil. Después me llevaron a la enfermería para medirme la presión arterial, aunque manifesté al mayor Joaquín que yo me sentía muy bien de salud. Como en efecto fue comprobado en la enfermería. 
Así terminó esta cita de alrededor de dos horas y quince minutos. Reitero lo que dije ante la anterior cita que no se realizó el 19 de octubre de 2016: Estoy en las manos de Dios. Estoy seguro que mi vida de hoy en adelante seguirá en sus Manos y cualquier cosa que pudiera suceder en mi vida lo pongo igualmente en sus Manos de Padre. No tengo ninguna duda de que lo que he hecho es precisamente por ser un hombre de Iglesia, un laico católico. Ofrezco a Dios todo por el bien de Cuba, de su Iglesia y de Convivencia. Aprovecho la ocasión para agradecer de todo corazón la inmensa solidaridad recibida de amigos y hermanos de muchos países e instituciones, así como las oraciones de pastores y hermanos de diferentes confesiones religiosas. 
Dagoberto Valdés Hernández
Director del Centro de Estudios Convivencia

Why Cuba should not be on the UN Human Rights Council

What the regime claims and some of the facts in evidence not mentioned 
 
Yuri Valle Roca, arrested by Cuban police on International Human Rights Day 2015
The totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba is undertaking to return to the United Nations Human Rights Council with a campaign pledge completely at odds with the regime's human rights record. The vote will be taking place later today at the United Nations.

In light of all the falsehoods and omissions a few facts placed in historical context are needed for the sake of the historical record.

First it is important to mention that during Cuba's democratic spring that lasted from the free elections of 1940 until a 1952 coup the island nation played a historic role in advancing regional and international human rights first at the Organization of American States and later at the United Nations with the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tragically, the revolutionary communist regime of the Castro brothers over the past 57 years has done everything possible to undermine and destroy this legacy. Below is a partial accounting of the "great importance" the Castro dictatorship has attached to human rights:
The Castro regime had been one of the few voices applauding the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in China congratulating them for "defeating the counterrevolutionary acts."


On March 28, 2008 the Castro regime’s delegation together with the Organization of Islamic Congress (OIC) successfully passed resolutions undermining international freedom of expression standards at the United Nations Human Rights Council.


On February 2, 2009 during the Universal Periodic Review of China the Cuban Ambassador, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios encouraged the Chinese regime to repress human rights defenders in China with more firmness.

On May 28, 2009 amidst a human rights crisis in Sri Lanka the Cuban government's diplomats took the lead and successfully blocked efforts to address the wholesale slaughter there.


On August 23, 2011 the Cuban government along with China, Russia and Ecuador voted against investigating gross and systematic human rights violations in Syria. 

On March 17, 2014 the UN Human Rights Council “was divided” in its discussion of the atrocities in North Korea between those who want the case to be elevated to the International Criminal Court and those who reject outright the existence of a commission of inquiry and conclusions. The Castro regime vigorously defended the North Korean regime and denounced the inquiry.


On March 21, 2014 at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Castro dictatorship again applauded the human rights record of the People's Republic of China, and voted to block the effort of human rights defenders to hold a moment of silence for Cao Shunli. She was an activist who had tried to participate in China’s Universal Periodic Review, but was detained at the airport trying to get on a flight to attend the current session  and accused of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." Within three months in detention and being denied medical care Cao Shunli died on March 14, 2014.
 The Castro regime has worked tirelessly to undermine human rights standards worldwide and collaborated with some of the worse regimes in the world with such effectiveness that the end result has been human rights in decline for over a decade world wide.

UN Watch, a watchdog group based in Geneva Switzerland, has called attention to some of the more absurd claims made by the Castro regime to get back on the Human Rights Council such as:
  • Cuba attaches the “greatest importance” to international cooperation for the “promotion and protection” of all human rights within the United Nations
  • Cuba reaffirms its readiness to “continue working tirelessly” to achieve the shared goal of “enabling all individuals and peoples” throughout the world to “enjoy all human rights”
  • Cuban women and men have made “significant progress” in the “enjoyment of all their human rights.”
  • The Cuban people are the “masters of their political fate” and the country’s resources, exercise the “fullest power and control over the country’s life”, and “participate actively” in the “effective system of democracy” that they designed and approved in a universal plebiscite.
The campaign pledge also includes this line:
  • “In October 2007, [Cuba] received the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.”
This was a sham visit by UNHRC official Jean Ziegler, founder of the “Mummar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize,” and a notorious apologist for the Castro regime.
The Castro regime omits any mention of the invitation it extended on January 28, 2009 to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, an individual who had been extremely critical of the United States highlighting abuses in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. This invitation was reaffirmed publicly at the UN Human Rights Council in February of 2009 by Cuba's so-called "Minister of Justice." The international press ate it up. I was there and saw the propaganda circus in full swing.

However seven years later with Mr. Nowak long gone and his successor Juan Mendez there since 2010 has not been able to visit the island. Worse yet back in 2009 because of the non-invitation invitation an opportunity was lost visit another country to examine torture claims.

In his final year as Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak addressed the failure of the Cuban government to permit his visit to the island in 2010:
“I regret that in spite of its clear invitation, the Government of Cuba has not allowed me to objectively assess the situation of torture and ill-treatment in the country by collecting first-hand evidence from all available sources.”
Not only did the Castro regime deny an examination of the situation of torture in Cuba, but in occupying the rapporteur in this game another country was potentially denied a visit that would have also helped other peoples.

Even on social and economic rights the Castro regime is a mess, but thanks to an efficient propaganda apparatus and manufactured statistics it has managed to sell the lie that it is some sort of medical and educational super power to the point that the President of the United States has repeated the false narrative. The facts on the ground say otherwise.

Education in Cuba lacks resources and instructors but even in the past when massive subsidies made it more workable it was aimed more at indoctrination and purging those students who were not ideologically pure.

The same holds true with healthcare in Cuba. Medical neglect led to scores of psychiatric patients dying of exposure and hypothermia in 2010. Arresting medical doctors and independent journalists to cover up epidemics should concern not only tourists but also their respective countries. Furthermore the case of Cuban dissident Sirley Avila Leon in 2015 who was not only denied adequate medical care but was prescribed treatment worsening her condition following a machete attack ordered by state security.  This practice goes back decades and has cost the life of more than one human rights defender.

The Castro regime claims in its campaign pledge that Cubans are “masters of their political fate” and “participate actively” in an “effective system of democracy” that they designed and approved in a universal plebiscite. This ignores what Fidel Castro told Barbara Walters in 2002: "Yes they [Cubans] have the right to petition, but not to change the Constitution."Brave Cubans who pursued the objective of a plebiscite through legal channels in what is known as Project Varela ended up being subjected to Stalinist show trials in the Spring of 2003 and many years in prison. The man who led the effort Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, died together with Harold Cepero Escalante under suspicious circumstances in what appears to have been an extrajudicial killing carried out by Castro's secret police on July 22, 2012 who forced them off the road.


Despite the claims of the Castro dictatorship the reality is that Cubans who want to be "masters of their political fate" in Cuba are risking harassment, beatings, imprisonment, torture and being murdered by the state if they persist and are effective in their activism as Oswaldo Payá, Laura Pollán, and many others have discovered over the decades.

These are some of the facts that need to be placed in evidence for a serious discussion of whether Cuba should or should not be a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Sadly what will take place tomorrow is a sham.




Thursday, October 27, 2016

#WithVenezuela Mass protests across Venezuela demanding recall of Maduro held

SOS Venezuela: All eyes on Venezuela


Protests across Venezuela on October 26, 2016
Time Magazine describes the situation in Venezuela as explosive and The Washington Post reports that large anti-Maduro protests filled the streets of Caracas and other major cities across the country chanting Democracy Yes! Dictatorship No! Opposition activists placed the number of protesters in the street yesterday at 1.2 million.

CNN in Spanish revealed video of Laura Lara, Venezuelan woman dressed in White, beaten down and kicked repeatedly by Venezuelan security forces yesterday. An investigation into this assault has been requested.

Youth leader Ana Karina Garcia giving thanks to Venezuelans participating in the protests outlined over twitter the next steps the opposition will be taking: today they go to the National Assembly, on Friday a national general strike has been called and on November 3rd a march on Miraflores.

In Miami and in over 60 cities around the world protests where held in solidarity with the protesters in Venezuela using the hashtag #ConVenezuela (#WithVenezuela).

Last night Venezuelans gathered in Miami to show their support for a free Venezuela
This past weekend Venezuelan women took to the streets of their homeland in protest and despite the efforts of the Maduro regime to shut down spaces for political participation over a million Venezuelans took to the streets today in an act of defiance.

All eyes on Venezuela.



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The reason why Brigade 2506 endorsed Donald Trump

Why in a tight race in Florida the Cuban vote could be decisive


Mr. Donald Trump accepting endorsement by Brigade 2506 on October 25, 2016
The Brigade 2506 Veterans Association formally endorsed Donald Trump for President yesterday afternoon and received him at The Bay of Pigs Museum in Little Havana. This is the first endorsement for President ever made by the Brigade in its six decade long history. 

As the insults rain down from those partisans upset with the Trump endorsement a natural question arises: Why after more than a half century of formal neutrality in Presidential elections did the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association decide to endorse a candidate?

There are a number of reasons for this decision and why Cuban Americans may vote for Trump in huge percentages:

Freeing a murderer of four Cuban Americans and downplaying state terrorism
On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama announced that he was normalizing relations with the Castro regime, and he commuted the prison sentences of three Cuban spies. One of them Gerardo Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of four members of Brothers to the Rescue on February 24 1996.  To add insult to injury two days later on December 19, 2014 at a year end press conference President Obama downplayed the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down as a "tragic circumstance" and not the premeditated act of state terrorism that had been plotted weeks in advance of February 24, 1996.


Armando, Mario, Carlos and Pablo murdered on February 24, 1996
The Clintons' terrible record on Cuba policy: then and now
The Clinton Administration engaged in unilateral concessions to the Castro regime and ended up with a mass exodus in 1994, a worsening human rights situation in Cuba, four young humanitarians murdered in an act of state terrorism over international airspace ordered by Fidel and Raul Castro on February 24, 1996. Despite all of this Bill Clinton refused to enforce the law tightening sanctions in 1996 in response to the shoot down, shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened up trade with the Castro regime. In 2015 former President Clinton warmly greeted and met with Raul Castro despite his role in the murder of American citizens.

Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened trade to Cuba
Meanwhile the Obama policy that Hillary Clinton championed in 2014 and 2015 has not had the desired results.  Human rights violations are at record levels in Cuba, there is a mass exodus of Cubans fleeing the island not seeing a future there  with the U.S. legitimizing the regime and assisting in a generational succession, and the U.S. is more isolated than ever in Latin America with its embrace of the Castro regime alienating it from democrats. The Colombian peace initiative,backed by the Obama administration, mediated by Raul Castro in Havana was rejected by the Colombian people in a national vote. The situation in Venezuela has descended into crisis as Nicaragua slides into dictatorship.

Three high profile instances of U.S. Cuba policy discriminating against Cubans


Protesting anti-Cuban discrimination by Carnival (2016)
It is not only civil liberties in Cuba that have taken a beating over the past two years but also in America to satisfy Castro regime demands. Below are three examples.


First, Carnival Cruise Line signed an agreement with the Castro regime on March 21, 2016 to sail to Cuba from the United States. In order to conduct their core mission Carnival had to agree to enforce General Castro's policy that bans all Cubans from traveling into the island by water. It did not matter if Cubans born on the island were now citizens of another country. Obama's Treasury Department on July 7, 2015 signed off on the Carnival Cruise Line - Castro alliance ignoring that an entire class of Americans would be discriminated against based on their national origin. Mass protests, boycotts and lawsuits led the Castro regime to blink when it became apparent that popular outrage would lead the cruise ship company to cancel its cruises.  
Second, the U.S. embassy in Cuba floated a trial balloon that announced that the United States government accepted that U.S. citizens of Cuban descent born in the United States are not recognized by the Castro regime as Americans but as Cuban nationals subject to the dictatorship's laws and regulations. Even though one was born in the United States and has never applied for dual nationality in Cuba they are treated as a Cuban born by the Castro regime in terms of responsibilities but not rights and the Obama State Department went along with it in order to have "normal relations." This also means that these U.S. citizens would be denied consular access in Cuba. The State Department had to back track in May of 2016 when this trial balloon sunk amidst negative press coverage and popular outrage.  
Third, American Airlines is pulling Cuban-American pilots and flight attendants off flights to Cuba in order to placate demands by the Castro regime. Fabiola Santiago, of The Miami Herald, obtained an American Airlines memo announcing the policy as follows: “Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crew members.

Clinton, Trump called on to denounce violence against Cuba's Ladies in White

President Obama went to Cuba earlier this year to hobnob with Raul Castro and the rest of the elite communist leadership in Cuba. However the President remained relatively silent about the Ladies in White beaten up the same Sunday he and his family. 

On the eve of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, “The Rebel Yell”, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas student newspaper published a full page ad from the Center for a Free Cuba urging them to “prod the Obama Administration to condition any future negotiations and affirmative responses to General Raul Castro’s requests to … the immediate end to beatings and abuses of peaceful dissidents by the regime’s police.” The ad “calls on all Americans to petition General Raul Castro to stop beating and abusing these women.”

There are reasons, some of them listed above, that Cuban Americans who are single issue voters on the Cuba issue would be upset with the Obama Administration's Cuba policy. 

Furthermore Mrs. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State advocated for this policy and gave a lecture at Florida International University focused on ending economic sanctions on Cuba.  The Obama administration and Clinton's running mate Senator Time Kaine have declared this policy irreversible.  

Mr. Donald Trump on the other hand has declared that he will undo it and try to reach an accommodation that improves the human rights situation of Cubans and protects U.S. interests. At the same time he praised Cuba's Ladies in White and blasted the Obama-Clinton Cuba policy.

These contrasting visions explain the decision of the Brigade to endorse Donald Trump today and reject the Obama-Clinton Cuba policy. 

In a tight race in Florida where three points separate the two candidates the Cuban American vote can play a decisive role in deciding who the next President of the United States will be. 

On November 8th we will see how Cuban Americans will vote and what impact they have in Florida. 

Meanwhile the testimony of Miriam de la Peña, whose son Mario was one of the four men murdered on February 24, 1996 who met with Donald Trump this morning, explains the behavior of the Obama administration that so outraged her.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

OAS Condemns Measures to Shut Down Spaces for Political Participation in Venezuela

 Venezuela descends into dictatorship

 

IACHR and Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Condemn Measures to Shut Down Spaces for Political Participation in Venezuela and Raise Alarm at their Impact on Democracy 

October 25, 2016

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemn the actions taken by the Venezuelan State to shut down vital space for political participation in the country and persecute those who have exercised their right to freedom of expression. The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur, raise alarm at the impact of these measures on Venezuelan democracy.

Throughout 2016, the IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur have followed with great concern the different ways in which the State has imposed serious limitations on pluralism in the exercise of political rights and freedom of expression, both through the application of the law and outside the law. Most notable among these actions are the obstacles that have been imposed by the authorities to prevent Venezuelans from participating in free and trustworthy elections,  the gradual suspension of the constitutional powers of the majority opposition Congress, the arbitrary detention and incarceration of opponents and persons who publicly dissent from the government or express their opinions in the media, the repression and undue restriction of protests, the dismissal and threatened dismissal of public employees who make statements or express political opinions against the party in office, campaigns of stigmatization, surveillance, and harassment against human rights defenders and journalists, as well as the continual use of the criminal law and other government controls to punish or stifle the work of the critical press. 

The Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur are especially concerned over the October 20, 2016 decision of the National Electoral Board to indefinitely suspend the signature gathering process for the presidential recall referendum promoted by opposition parties and other sectors of society.  A number of Venezuelan civil society organizations have reported that five criminal courts in the States of Aragua, Bolívar, Apure, Monagas, and Carabobo invalidated—“unexpectedly” and “without any legal authority”—the act of collecting signatures from 1% of voters registered in the Venezuelan Electoral Registry in their jurisdictions. According to the information available, the judgments, which were handed down simultaneously, were almost immediately complied with by the nation’s highest electoral body. This suggests the possibility of a coordinated plan to prevent the public from being able to assess the president’s performance through the referendum mechanism. 

In the case of Rocío San Miguel et al. (Venezuela), filed with the Inter-American Court in March 2016, the Commission found that a signature in favor of convening a political participation mechanism like the presidential recall referendum not only constitutes the exercise of political rights but is also an expression of the political opinion of the signatories, protected in turn by the right to freedom of expression and the principle of nondiscrimination. As is known, this electoral process is also considered by several Member States of the OAS to be a free and democratic form of channeling the country’s social and political polarization.

All of these measures have taken place against the backdrop of a profound weakening of the separation of powers and an economic, food, and health crisis in the country that continues to affect the rights to health, life, and humane treatment of the general population, with a differentiated impact among individuals or groups in situation of high vulnerability, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with serious illnesses, and people living with HIV-AIDS.
 
The Inter-American Commission has underscored that there is a “direct relationship between the exercise of political rights and the concept of democracy as a form of State organization,” and has reiterated to Venezuela the need to guarantee the rights of citizens and organized political groups to political participation and freedom of expression without fear of retaliation, permitting and fostering a plural, broad, and robust public debate.

In the Inter-American system, the relationship between human rights and democracy is enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states that: “Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.”

The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur urgently call upon the State of Venezuela to comply with its international human rights obligations. In particular, to respect and guarantee the right to freedom of expression and the right to participation of all sectors in the country’s political life, including the duty to facilitate demonstrations and protests that have been called for as a result of this serious decision by the electoral body and to put an end to those actions that impede the exercise of the right of individuals to choose their representatives and exercise oversight over them.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Christian Liberation Movement statement on Podesta wikileak referencing Oswaldo Payá

"The truth will make them stand in solidarity with our freedom." MCL Declaration on email of John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.



By the Christian Liberation Movement

"The truth will set them in solidarity with our freedom."

In a July 2015 email disseminated by wikileaks, John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton says the phrase "Yes. Oswaldo Payá. Cuban government ran him off the road and killed him almost certainly."

That a very important person, also linked to the administration of President Obama and now the Democratic candidate, to make such a statement indicates that in the upper echelons of power in the United States they have evidence or details that allow them to make that statement.

The Christian Liberation Movement from the outset spread this message "Angel says that a vehicle forced us off the road" sent by Aron Modig, who traveled with Angel Carromero as a passenger in the vehicle that suffered the attack.

Since then we have been divulging all the details that we have known about this tragedy and called for an independent investigation to clarify what happened. Not only the United States, governments such as the Spanish, the Swedish and many foreign ministries have information about what occurred on July 22, 2012 on the road from Bayamo.

We hope that whoever wins the election demand and directly support this independent investigation into the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero and to support our demand, "One Cuban, one vote" for the freedom that Oswaldo and Harold Cuba lived and died for reach the hand of the sovereign decision of the people. This is the way for the democracies to have a relationship of total solidarity with Cuba that is also all of us Cubans who do not have rights.

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killed on July 22, 2012

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Remembering the 1956 Hungarian uprising

Courageous but failed anti-communist uprising


Huge statue of Josef Stalin torn down during the 1956 Hungarian uprising
Sixty years ago today on October 23, 1956 the Hungarian anti-communist revolt began and nineteen days later it was finally crushed by Soviet troops on November 10, 1956 that had invaded six days before. 3,000 Hungarian anti-communists were killed as opposed to 772 Soviets. The free world stood by and watched without lifting a finger. Time Magazine recognized the Hungarian freedom fighter as the 1956 Man of the Year.



It would be another 33 years before Hungary would achieve freedom through a nonviolent uprising and the Soviet statues would be torn down permanently. Nevertheless today we remember those brave men and women who risked all for freedom and in many cases lost their lives.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

All eyes on Venezuela: Mass civil disobedience underway

Venezuelan women take to the streets demanding change

We did it Venezuela, told the dictatorship recall will be this year. - Ana Karina Garcia
Venezuela is in the news again with The Washington Post declaring Maduro's regime a dictatorship because it is ignoring its own constitutional laws in blocking a referendum on his continued rule.

Today, Venezuelan women are protesting by the thousands met in Miranda Park and took to the highway demanding the law be respected and the referendum on Maduro's rule to be held this year.


However it is important to remember that Venezuela has been a dictatorship for far longer than this past week. Students have been shot, killed and tortured for their nonviolent opposition to the regime. Cuban state security is assisting the Maduro regime to repress Venezuela's democrats along with Cuban soldiers. Workers are being stripped of their rights in Venezuela. Opposition leaders have been subjected to show trials and sentenced to long prison terms. The 2012 presidential election in Venezuela fell far short of international standards and was stolen from the opposition.

Secretary of State John Kerry in  August of 2015 ignoring the above reality and believing that the relationship between the U.S. government and the Castro regime had been fundamentally changed said "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis." 

Meanwhile members of the Maduro regime hide billions in overseas bank accounts, traffic in narcotics, while Venezuelans go hungry in Venezuela and do not have access to the most minimal healthcare.

The international environment and the Obama Administration's outreach to the Castro regime leaves the Venezuelan democratic opposition in a more isolated and vulnerable position. This was easily predicted when the new Cuba policy was announced and is now a reality with Latin America imploding. The only option for the democratic opposition in Venezuela is to resist nonviolently and to develop a well thought out strategy of non-violent civic resistance.

Venezuelans have been standing up for freedom and need the solidarity of all people of good will. These are difficult times when international leadership on human rights is absent to a large degree.

All eyes on Venezuela this week because the democratic opposition needs your solidarity. 

Update October 23, 2016: Opposition National Assembly votes to place Nicolas Maduro on trial for violating Democracy.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Crackdown on journalists in Cuba denounced by Reporters Without Borders

In addition to the individuals named below by Reporters Without Borders, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina and Manuel Alejandro León were also detained for seven hours on October 14, 2016 and threatened with prison for trying to provide reporting on the impact of Hurricane Matthew.

Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina (left) Manuel Alejandro León detained (Right)
Crackdown on media includes ban on Hurricane Matthew coverage



The arrests of journalists trying to inform fellow citizens about the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Matthew’s passage over eastern Cuba on 4 October are the latest example of how the Cuban government continues its harassment of independent journalism. Their reporting clearly did not please the authorities .

Maykel González Vivero, a journalist working for the Diario de Cuba news website, was arrested in the eastern city of Baracoa on 10 October while interviewing people about hurricane damage and was held for three days. He had just been fired from state-owned Radio Sagua for working for independent media.

On 11 October, it was the turn of six members of the Havana-based Periodismo de Barrio news website, include its director, Elaine Díaz, to be arrested while visiting Baracoa to cover the aftermath of the hurricane. Their equipment was confiscated for several hours.

The team of Periodismo de Barrio heading to Baracoa, Guantánamo. via Facebook

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article107930822.html#storylink=cpy
According to the authorities, the journalists were arrested under the state of emergency proclaimed by President Raúl Castro on 4 October, which supposedly prohibited journalistic reporting without special authorization. But for the state of emergency to be valid, it should have been accompanied by a resolution defining how and in what regions of the country it was to be applied. No such resolution was ever formally issued by the authorities.

There is no shortage of subjects that are off-limits for unauthorized media outlets. Reinaldo Escobar, a journalist with the 14ymedio website, was unable to cover the inauguration of the first regular flight between the United States and Cuba. He was arrested in Santa Clara on 31 august for doing “enemy journalism” and was forcibly escorted back to Havana.

Oscar Sánchez Madan, a reporter for the Hablemos Press independent news agency, was arrested by three members of the National evolutionary Police (PNR) in the municipality of Cárdenas on 18 August while interviewing Leticia Ramos Herrería, a representative of the Ladies in White, a movement formed by the wives of political prisoners.

We deplore the Cuban government’s growing hostility towards the country’s independent media,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk.
The recent attempts to censor ‘unofficial’ media, especially during a natural disaster, are completely unproductive and reinforce self-censorship, which is very harmful for the entire country. The Cuban government should drop its ideological postures and help the independent media to develop instead of systematically opposing them.

There have been many cases of harassment in recent months, making independent reporting impossible. RSF has learned that four Hablemos Press members – director Roberto Jesús Guerra Pérez, deputy director Eduardo Herrera, executive director Magalay Otero Suárez and reporter Arian Guerra – had no choice but to leave Cuba at the end of September after repeated threats.

Hablemos Press has been the target of harassment and arbitrary arrests for 13 years. Guerra Pérez told RSF he had been constantly harassed by the government in recent weeks in the form of comments by state employees in the street, telephone death threats or being repeatedly prevented from working. Now that he is in exile, he fears an illegal raid on the news agency’s headquarters in the coming weeks.

The Centro de Información Legal (Cubalex), a Cuban NGO that defends media freedom, has been subjected to various forms of harassment –including searches, disconnected phone lines and humiliating interrogations – since it issued a report on free speech in Cuba and presented it to the United Nations in Geneva. The level of persecution of Cubalex got to the point that the office of the special rapporteur on freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued an alert on 13 October condemning the harassment.

14ymedio, the website found by Yoani Sánchez (an RSF media freedom heroine in 2014), revealed in an investigative report in September that Cuba’s state-owned telephone company Etecsa was blocking text messages containing the terms “human rights” or “hunger strike,” the name of the opposition magazine Convivencia, or the names of certain government opponents.

At the same time, the list of websites that are blocked or are the target of cyber-attacks has lengthened this year and now includes such sites as Cubaencuentro and Martinoticias.

Cuba is ranked 171st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index – the lowest position in Latin America.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cuban plea to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Please tell Castro to stop ordering the beating of women and harboring of terrorists


Online advertisement in The Rebel Yell
On the eve of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, “The Rebel Yell”, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas student newspaper published a full page ad urging them to “prod the Obama Administration to condition any future negotiations and affirmative responses to General Raul Castro’s requests to … the immediate end to beatings and abuses of peaceful dissidents by the regime’s police.”

The ad “calls on all Americans to petition General Raul Castro to stop beating and abusing these women.”

The petition, issued by the Center for a Free Cuba, an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights in Cuba, says that “despite President Obama’s hopes since December 17, 2014 when he announced [his Cuba outreach], political repression including the beatings resulting in bone fractures and the dragging of the Ladies in White, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of political prisoners have increased.”

The ad includes five photographs of Cuban police assaulting the women, including two photographs showing them with broken arms. Among them in the photos is Laura  Pollán, the founder of the “Ladies in White” with a broken arm and her hand showing the “L” sign for liberty. Ms. Pollán died under suspicious circumstances at a Cuban hospital. The autopsy report has yet to be released.

Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Mari Carmen Aponte and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Tom Malinowski carried out diplomatic negotiations last week with Cuban officials. It is not known if the death of peaceful dissidents was discussed.

The petition asks Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump to urge General “Raul Castro [to permit] the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International to visit Cuba’s political prisoners.”

Further negotiations with Havana should be incumbent “on the return by General Castro of American terrorists, killers of U.S. police officers to face American justice. They are wanted by the FBI and President Obama withdrew Cuba from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. Now out of the list Cuba should act accordingly,” the Center for a Free Cuba says.

“We call on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to pledge to base U.S. policy toward Cuba on an immediate cessation of these outrages,” Ambassador James Cason, president of the Center for a Free Cuba said. Ambassador Cason a career diplomat served as Ambassador to Paraguay and Chief of Mission in Havana for three years. [Ad follows]


The Center for a Free Cuba based in Washington DC is an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights in Cuba.