Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#NoCheNoche: Forget Che's message of death and embrace Oswaldo Payá's message of life

"Means and ends are central. If your means are corroded, your ends will be corroded." - Nat Hentoff
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Ideas have consequences and those ideas are sometimes represented by iconic images. This is the case with the image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and the philosophy of political action that he advocated and that others seek to emulate.  His claim to fame was the role he played along with Fidel and Raul Castro in installing a totalitarian communist regime in Cuba and attempting to spread this model using violent means in Africa and Latin America causing the deaths of ten of thousands of innocents.

Che Guevara, an admirer of Mao Zedong adapted his form of guerilla warfare from the Chinese communist leader. Che published influential manuals Guerrilla Warfare (1961) and Guerrilla Warfare: A Method (1963), based on his own experiences and partly Mao's writings. Guevara stated that revolution in Latin America must come through insurgent forces developed in rural areas with peasant support. His legacy of glorifying violence through an erroneous analysis of guerilla warfare led to bloodbaths in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chiapas, Congo, Angola and decades of military dictatorship and political violence.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara meets Mao Zedong
Guevara was executed on October 9, 1967 in La Higuera, Bolivia after he and his band of guerrillas were captured trying to overthrow the government to install a Castro style regime.

Guevara had been killed and just months before being assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. told his staff to combat the “romantic illusion” of Che Guevara style guerilla warfare among young radicals concluding: “We must not be intimidated by those who are laughing at nonviolence now.

However the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) doesn't agree with Dr. King and decided on June 18, 2013 to add “The Life and Works of Che Guevara” to the World Registrar. UNESCO is funding to preserve Che Guevara’s papers. Guevara in addition to promoting communist ideology, is known as an advocate for guerrilla warfare who viewed terrorism as a legitimate method of struggle against an enemy. U.S. tax dollars are paying for some of this. Perhaps one should consider some of the messages UNESCO and U.S. tax dollars are paying for promoting the writings of Mr. Guevara.

However the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) doesn't agree with Dr. King and decided on June 18, 2013 to add “The Life and Works of Che Guevara” to the World Registrar. UNESCO is providing funds to preserve Che Guevara’s papers. Guevara in addition to promoting communist ideology, is known as an advocate for guerrilla warfare who viewed terrorism as a legitimate method of struggle against an enemy. U.S. tax dollars are paying for some of this. Perhaps one should consider some of the messages UNESCO and U.S. tax dollars are paying for promoting the writings of Mr. Guevara.
“Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary.” (1967)
“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary … These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution!” (1959)
 Guevara's legacy and philosophy of hatred, war and death is a recipe for violent failure. In 2011 events in Libya were still unfolding but the images of Che Guevara on both sides indicated that regardless of the outcome the end result would a bloody and violent disaster and so it was.

UNESCO promoting these writings internationally will lead to more bloodshed and conflict. Instead of embracing this icon of violence, the world needs to learn from and emulate non violent icons such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Aung San Suu Kyi, Corazon Aquino, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King Jr.

In a world that has been torn apart by war, who offers more hope for the future, a disciple of Mao Ze Dong or Martin Luther King Jr?

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was a disciple of King, who corresponded with both Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. Unlike the Argentine revolutionary, Oswaldo’s nonviolent resistance required much more creativity and courage to confront an all powerful totalitarian state, and he offered a moral and ethical path to liberation.

In October 2002, the European Parliament awarded Oswaldo Payá the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Members of the European Union pressured the Cuban government into allowing Oswaldo to travel to Europe to collect the Sakharov Prize. In December of 2002, the Castro regime granted him permission to travel to the ceremonies in Strasbourg, France, but not before attacking Oswaldo's home and leaving death threats there. In Strasbourg on December 17, 2002, he accepted the Sakharov Prize. In the course of a twenty minute speech, Oswaldo Payá outlined his political philosophy.
The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: “You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.” This is the liberation which we are proclaiming.
On March 30, 2012 prior to his untimely death on July 22, 2012 at the hands of Castro's state security apparatus Oswaldo was warning of the fake change underway in Cuba.
"Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression.
Days prior to his death Oswaldo Payá offered a path to freedom in July of 2012 in the publication Somos Liberación.
“Already many Cubans have discovered and soon all of them will discover that this oppression, that this imposed lie, can be overcome recognizing ourselves as brothers to conquer our rights peacefully. So there is hope.”
 Che Guevara's legacy of blood and terror should be lamented not celebrated, much less promoted by international organizations subsidized by US taxpayers.  However the life and writings of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas should be and placed within the canon of nonviolence in the World Registrar. Finally, friends of freedom should celebrate this icon of Cuban freedom and nonviolent resistance with his image.

#NoCheNoche event organized by the Victims of Communism on July 19, 2017

Cuba country report: 2016 - 2017

Obama policy marginalized dissidents, legitimized regime. Fidel Castro died and Miami celebrated. Meanwhile more repression in Cuba, new prisoners of conscience, and a more aggressive posture in Venezuela. The Trump Presidency has begun the process of undoing much of the previous Administration's Cuba policy.
Cuba in 2017 continues to be a captive nation that since 1959 has been subjected to a communist regime run by the Castro family. 11 million souls there continue to have their lives coarsened by a totalitarian regime that systematically violates the human rights of each and every Cuban.   The Obama Administration's Cuba policy continued to unfold further marginalizing dissidents, legitimizing the Castro regime internationally. In the final months of his presidency three decisions cemented the Obama White House's legacy on Cuba at the expense of the lives and security of American citizens. 
  • On October 14, 2016 The White House issued a Presidential Policy Directive ( PPD) that calls for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to "support broader United States Government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with Intelligence Community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts." A former NSA official has written that "Obama just opened the door for Castro's spies."
  • On January 12, 2017 The White House released a "Statement by the President on Cuban Immigration Policy" that does two concrete things further restricts the Cuban Adjustment Act and ends the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. Once again the Obama administration secretly negotiated with the Castro regime and did not consult with Congress in restricting the Cuban Adjustment Act, which is US law.
  • On January 17, 2017 President Barack Obama granted clemency to Oscar López Rivera, a founder of the Armed Forces of National Liberation Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), who has been portrayed by leftists as a political prisoner while downplaying his violent past, but the facts demonstrate otherwise. The New York Daily News on January 17, 2017 offered the following summary:
    FALN placed more than 130 bombs in American cities — including one in New York on Jan. 24, 1975. The explosive went off in busy Fraunces Tavern during lunch hour. Four people died, including Frank Connor, a 33-year-old father. “I faced Lopez six years ago at his parole hearing ... If he had expressed any atonement, any sympathy or empathy ... we’d have recommended he be released. But he didn’t,” said Joe Connor, who was a 9-year-old when his father was killed. López got 10 years tacked onto his sentence when he and a fellow FALN member were caught plotting a prison break that included killing their guards.
     Zach Dorfman in The Wall Street Journal wrote an important analysis on June 8, 2017 of how Fidel Castro supported terrorism in America and the role played by the dictatorship in funding and training the FALN. Long time Cuban activist Frank Calzon in a June 5, 2017 oped in The Miami Herald provided a partial summary of the Castro regime's support for international terrorism including the United States:
"A summary of Havana’s support for terrorism should include the heist of $7 million from Wells Fargo in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 1983. The money was taken to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico and turned over to the regime. Castro’s Cuba has also been associated with the infamous terrorist Carlos, who in 1975 kidnapped 70 hostages in Vienna (three people were killed) at a meeting of oil ministers from OPEC. “Carlos” who committed several murders in France was, according to The Guardian, provided by Cuba “with passports, money and five apartments in Paris.” As a result, the Quai d’Orsay expelled several Cuban diplomats."

Read more here:
2016: Year of change at the top
The past year ushered in a historic change that many had awaited with great anticipation and that was the death of  Fidel Castro on November 25, 2016. Celebrations broke out in the streets of Miami where tens of thousands of Cubans and Cuban Americans went out to celebrate the tyrant's departure.
Cuban American voters played a role in ushering in another, but unexpected change, with Mr. Donald J. Trump winning the Presidency of the United States. Betting money had Hillary Clinton winning and continuing or even going further in Cuba policy than President Obama.  President elect Trump had a clearer and historically more accurate view of Fidel Castro that he expressed in a statement following the dictator's death that read in part:
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."
President Obama does the wave with Dictator Raul Castro at baseball game
Nine months after President Obama's state visit to Cuba (March 20 - 22, 2016) on January 2, 2017 Raúl Castro presided over a military parade in Havana where marching troops chanted about shooting the American President in the head: 
“Obama! Obama! with what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, to give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and send you a hat of lead to the head.”
Human Rights
In 2016 there were  9,940 politically motivated arrests in Cuba documented by the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.  There are new prisoners of conscience. Compare this with 2009, the first year of the Obama Administration, there were just 869 arbitrary detentions documented. During the eight years of the Obama White House there was more than an eleven fold increase in politically motivated arbitrary detentions with 2016 being the worse. Religious repression escalated in Cuba in 2016  with pastors beaten up, Churches confiscated, and some demolished by the dictatorship.

Sirley Avila Leon denounces death threats against her son and mom
Update on 2015 machete attack victim
Sirley Ávila León on May 24, 2015 was the victim of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country. The regime had been embarrassed by a campaign she organized to keep a school open. She arrived in Miami on March 8, 2017 and thanks to the Cuban exile community a team of medical doctors attended to her and by September of 2017 Sirley was walking and returned home to Cuba. She found her home occupied by strangers and went to her mother's house. A short time later a camera was set up outside to spy on her. By mid October 2016 Sirley was getting death threats from state security and feared for her life.  She fled back to the United States a couple of weeks later and sought asylum.

Rising repression during the Obama Presidency

New prisoners of conscience
Cubans had to mourn the death of Fidel Castro or else face punishment. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was the founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and when he was killed on July 22, 2012 along with the organizations youth leader, Harold Cepero Escalante a new leader was selected: Eduardo Cardet Concepción.  The new MCL leader was traveling abroad when Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016 and gave a frank assessment of the old tyrant's legacy in Cuba. When he returned to Cuba five days later he was beaten up in front of his family, jailed and in March of 2017 sentenced to three years in prison. An entire family: mother, twin sisters and a brother were taken away and detained for not mourning Fidel Castro's death and going out during the official period of mourning.

Jailed pro-democracy leader Eduardo Cardet of the Christian Liberation Movement
Dissident arrested and sent to psychiatric facility as punishment
On May Day in Cuba before the world's cameras a lone Cuban ran, down the path the parade would take, waving an American flag, was tackled down by State Security and jailed.  Daniel Llorente Miranda was charged with "public disorder and resistance" and was initially held at the Technical Department of Investigations of the Police in 100 and Aldabó. Weeks later he was transferred to the Comandante Dr. Bernabé Ordaz Ducungé Psychiatric Hospital better known by its pre-revolutionary name Mazorra. Using psychiatric facilities to torture dissidents is a practice that originated in the Soviet Union but  adopted early on by the Castro regime's intelligence services. Mazorra is a madhouse of death were patients have died by the score from exposure to the elements and neglect by hospital staff.

Students and faculty expelled for their beliefs
Fếlix Yuniel Llerena López, a 20 year-old religious freedom defender, was expelled from the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical University in Havana on May 8, 2017 following a visit to the United States. 18-year-old journalism student, Karla Pérez González, was expelled from Marta Abreu University of Santa Clara for “political reasons” on April 12, 2017 and her expulsion ratified three days later on April 15th. 24 year old David Mauri Cardoso was expelled from the University of Cienfuegos in February of 2017 after he honestly answered politically loaded questions in what was supposed to be a Spanish literature exam. If you have a relative who is a dissident, although you are not, you can still be fired from your job. Professor Dalila Rodriguez from the University of Las Villas was expelled from her job on May 9, 2017 because her father, Leonardo Rodriguez is a dissident.  These are not  new tactics. Expelling students and denying them an education for their political orientation has a long and shameful history in Cuba, too often ignored.

 In spite of pandering to the dictatorship trade between Cuba and the United States has imploded under the Obama Administration. Peak year of U.S. trade in goods with Cuba was 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration. The two worst years in trade are the ones following the new Cuba policy launch in December of 2014. All of the details are available at the U.S. Census Bureau. The Cuban economy contracted in 2016 and at the same time military control over it has expanded including the Old Havana project that until this past year had been under civilian control.  Trade peaked under Bush in 2008 with $711.5 million  and began a steady decline under Obama with just $245.5 million in 2016.

Trade with Cuba collapsed during Obama Presidenecy

Venezuela: Cuba's colonial possession
On May 15, 2016 Henry Ramos Allup, the head of the National Assembly of Venezuela complained over social media of the leadership role played by a Cuban general and 60 Cuban officers over the Venezuelan military to maintain Maduro in power and continue exploiting Venezuela's natural resources. Despite this long time reality Secretary of State John Kerry in August of 2015 reported "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis."
Mary O'Grady writing in The Wall Street Journal in an oped titled "How Cuba Runs Venezuela" explained:
"Havana doesn’t care about Venezuelan poverty or famine or whether the regime is unpopular. It has spent a half-century sowing its ideological “revolution” in South America. It needs Venezuela as a corridor to run Colombian cocaine to the U.S. and to Africa to supply Europe. It also relies heavily on cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum.  To keep its hold on Venezuela, Cuba has embedded a Soviet-style security apparatus." ... Every Venezuelan armed-forces commander has at least one Cuban minder, if not more, a source close to the military told me. Soldiers complain that if they so much as mention regime shortcomings over a beer at a bar, their superiors know about it the next day."
The Obama Administration's view that the Castro regime can be a partner in resolving the crisis in Venezuela indicates that it did not understand that it is the Cuban dictatorship that is causing the crisis and has existential reasons to continue driving the South American nation into becoming another Cuba. The new Trump Administration appears to be going in another and saner direction on both Cuba and Venezuela policy.

Cuba, National Security and the war on terror.
U.S. Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee in his written submission on May 23, 2017:
Russia and China are preeminent among the foreign intelligence threats to DoD and U.S. national security through their robust use of traditional and nontraditional collection efforts against U.S. personnel, operations, and capabilities. Iran and Cuba also pose persistent foreign intelligence threats to the United States. Cuba’s intelligence apparatus, for example, maintains a robust capability and an intent to give priority to collection on the United States.
The previous Administration's director of national intelligence had reported similar information in February of 2016 to the same committee that highlighted Cuba as one of four main threats.
Undeclared military cargo Cuba tried to smuggle to North Korea
Smuggling heavy weapons to North Korea (2013)
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli tweeted the above photo with the following text on July 15, 2013: “Panama captured North Korean-flagged ship from Cuba with undeclared military cargo.” On March 6, 2014 a panel of UN experts reported that in the  the shipment of smuggled weapons sent by Cuba to North Korea, hidden under bags of sugar, what was found, in part, was: "A total of 25 standard shipping containers (16 forty-foot and 9 twenty-foot) and 6 trailers were found, for a total of about 240 tons of arms and related materiel." 

The Cubans were caught trying to provide the North Koreans with surface to air missile systems (SA-2 (C-75 Volga) and SA-3 (C-125 Pechora), two MiG 21 jet fighters, and 15 MiG-21 engines, eight 73 mm rocket propelled projectiles (PG-9/PG-15 anti-tank and OG-9/OG-15 fragmentation projectiles) to be fired with recoil-less rifles, as well as a single PG-7VR round, a high explosive antitank tandem charge to penetrate explosive reactive armor, were also in the shipment. 

The Panel noted "that some of the SA-2 and SA-3 parts could also meet the criteria defined in the list of items, materials, equipment, goods and technology related to ballistic missile programmes (S/2012/947), whose export and import by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are prohibited."

Colombian government seizes smuggled weapons shipment bound for Cuba (2015)
On March 2, 2015 news broke that the government of Colombia had seized a shipment of ammunition bound for Cuba on a China-flagged ship due to a lack of proper documentation. The BBC reported that "Officials said about 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board. The ship's records said it was carrying grain products." Blogging by Boz, founder of Hxagon, a consulting and technology company that provides risk assessments and predictive analysis in emerging markets, reached a reasonable conclusion: "Two big shipments of weapons seized in 20 months means that this is probably a regular occurrence."

U.S. Hellfire missile ends up in Cuba (2014 - 2016)
A U.S. Hellfire missile, used in NATO exercises in Europe, on its way back to the United States ended up in Cuba by June of 2014. Despite repeated requests from the Obama Administration, Cuba refused to return it until it became a public embarrassment over a year later in February of 2016. This took place while the White House was secretly negotiating with the Castro regime to normalize relations.

Harboring cop killers and terrorists
Cuban diplomats for more than 50 years have plotted and facilitated terrorist attacks, beaten up peaceful protesters, threatened and bitten protesters using homophobic language, and participated in the cover up of extrajudicial killings. The case of escaped cop killer Joanne Chesimard harbored by the Castro regime is often mentioned in the press but there are many others.

Guillermo Morales who according to The Washington Post, "escaped from a hospital in New York while under police custody. He has admitted he was planting a bomb at a New York military installation when the bomb blew up, taking nearly all his fingers. He was facing 89 years in prison when he escaped. He is still believed to be living in Cuba." The New York Times reported on June 29, 2017 that Ishmael LaBeet (today goes by the name Ishmael Muslim Ali) who in 1973 "was convicted along with four other men of murdering eight people in a shooting at the Fountain Valley Golf Course in St. Croix, V.I., in 1972"and "in 1984, as he was being transferred from a court in the Virgin Islands back to prison on an American Airlines flight, he hijacked the plane and redirected it to Cuba, where he has lived ever since."

On July 8, 2017 The New York Times reported that there are an estimated 70 other fugitives from U.S. justice being harbored by the Castro regime. The Obama Administration removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism but if the Castro regime today continues to harbor and host terrorists in Cuba shouldn't they return this terrorists and killers to face justice in the United States or failing to do that be returned to the list of terror sponsors?

Drug trafficking
Ermal Hoxha (age 42), the grandson of former Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha, was found guilty earlier this month of belonging to a "criminal group involved in cocaine trafficking from Cuba" was arrested in January 2015 and 264 pounds of cocaine confiscated.  In another case not involving Hoxha, but involving the Cuban government, Panamanian police seizing more than 880 pounds of cocaine in a Cuban ship on its way to Belgium in April of 2016.  There is  a long history of collaboration between international drug cartels and the Castro regime stretching back at least to the early 1980s where cocaine trafficking profits were used to fund communist guerilla movements in South America.  Despite all this under the Obama Administration the Drug Enforcement Agency publicized how it was sharing intelligence on drug trafficking with the Castro regime, and one still wonders why cocaine is flooding America and deadly overdoses are at record highs?

Ending a failed policy
The Trump Administration took a first step to address the previous Cuba policy's shortcomings on June 16, 2017 releasing the "National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba" that begins by defining what will guide this new policy:

My Administration's policy will be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, as well as solidarity with the Cuban people.  I will seek to promote a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people.  To that end, we must channel funds toward the Cuban people and away from a regime that has failed to meet the most basic requirements of a free and just society.
The previous US Cuba policy was drawn up in secret, excluding Congressmen, Senators and even the State Department but included high ranking members of the Castro regime, among them Raul Castro's son, Alejandro Castro, with a small group of Administration officials led by an individual with a degree in creative writing, and does not serve the just interests of the United States.

President Trump begins to undo predecessor's Cuba policy

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dr. Yang Jianli’s Speech at “Remembering The Legacy Of Liu Xiaobo”

Vigil in Washington D.C. for Chinese dissident, human rights defender and Nobel Laureate who died after prolonged imprisonment in China for nonviolently advocating for freedom in China. Yang Jianli spoke during the event organized by Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Marion Smith (VOC), Dr. Yang Jianli (Initiatives for China), John Suarez (FCF)
Dr. Yang Jianli’s Speech at “Remembering The Legacy Of Liu Xiaobo” 
Hosted by Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
Monday, July 17th, 2017 at Victims of Communism Memorial

 By Yang Jianli

Tonight we mourn the tragic passing of Liu Xiaobo, a great loss to the people of China, indeed, to the entire humanity.

Liu Xiaobo was not only the best known freedom and democracy fighter of China, but, in life as well as in death, he represents the best of what China can ever be.

In April 1989, when the Tiananmen democracy movement just broke out, he returned to Beijing from New York and became the most important intellectual leader of the movement. After the Tiananmen Massacre, he shouldered both moral and political responsibilities and continued to fight from inside China while many others left the country and even abandoned the movement. He was in and out prison and spent half of the past 28 years after the Tiananmen Massacre in incarceration. Never wavering in spirit, he shared the sufferings of his compatriots and gave his life for them. He is a martyr and saint.

Yes. Liu Xiaobo is a martyr and saint who possesses a moral authority that his persecutors can only envy. His legacy of love, justice, peace and sacrifice will surely far outlive the deeds of those who persecuted him.

That is exactly why the leaders of China are so afraid of him, so afraid of his words and deeds, and so afraid of his legacy. They are afraid of the inevitable comparison between Liu Xiaobo’s Chinese dream and Xi Jinping’s; they are afraid of the unavoidable likening of the Chinese Communist regime to the Nazis regime because Liu Xiaobo has been the first Nobel Peace Prize winner who died under confinement since Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist and an opponent of the Nazis, who died in 1938.

The CCP regime took pains to show the world it was strong and not afraid of Liu Xiaobo, yet its actions suggested otherwise. The CCP regime took pains to show the world that China is rising as a great civilized nation, yet its actions suggested otherwise. No nation that routinely persecutes, tortures and murders its best people can ever be described as strong, as great; no nation that does not allow a man such as Liu Xiaobo to die as a freeman is going to rise as a respected world power. Never.

In death, Liu Xiaobo has overcome the limits of time and space. The leaders of China wanted to bury him, trying make him disappear all together. But these cowards failed to understand that Liu Xiaobo is a seed. Where you bury him, there he grows. He is everywhere and forever.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Rosa Maria Paya in Cuba to honor legacy of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero on fifth anniversary of attack that killed them.

Advisory from Cuba Decide that has been modified to reflect that Rosa is already in the island. 

Returned to Cuba to honor memory of her dad and friend both killed on July 22, 2012

Rosa Maria Paya returned to Cuba today, to honor the legacy of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero on the 5th anniversary of the attack which killed them both.

Today July 17, 2017, Rosa Maria Paya returned to Cuba to honor the legacy of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero on the 5th anniversary of the attack which killed them both.
[The tweet above reads: "From Havana we remember the crime of the Cuban State against & on 7/22/2012. There will not be impunity!"]

Friends, relatives, members of the opposition and Cubans in general will be honoring their lives and legacy at a Mass in Havana. Oswaldo Paya, Cuban opposition leader, winner of the Sahkarov award and youth leader Harold Cepero lost their lives on July 22, 2012 in an attack provoked by officers of the Castro regime.

Rosa María Payá, along with other members of the opposition and Cuban citizens, promotes the Cuba Decide initiative that gives continuity to the campaign initiated by her father Oswaldo Payá before dying to change the system in Cuba through the realization of a plebiscite with the participation of all Cubans.

Cuba Decide's Vision:
We want Cuba to be a prosperous and happy nation of free citizens.
A nation open to the world that you can always decide to return to.
A home where everyone counts and we are accepted without fears or hypocrisies.
A place where  Cubans can realize our dreams with our work, creativity and own effort.
It's possible, Cuba Decide.

To monitor developments in Cuba during this visit please follow Cuba Decide on our websiteTwitter and Facebook.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

UN Human Rights expert in Cuba exposes systemic failure of the UN Human Rights Council

Human rights crises in Cuba and Venezuela and the failure of UN Human Rights experts. The case for removing outlaw regimes from the UN Human Rights Council.

UN expert didn't meet with human rights defenders but did meet Cuban spy
 The visit to Cuba of Virginia B. Dandan, the United Nations "independent" expert on human rights and international solidarity serves as evidence that the argument made by some that having repressive governments on the UN Human Rights Council would lead those regimes to improve their behavior is disastrously false.

On the contrary it has led to the gutting of international human rights standards and hobbled independent UN officials with a Code of Conduct in 2007 that provides leverage to outlaw regimes in the UN Human Rights Council.  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. 

Leading to the spectacle of a human rights expert who visits a totalitarian dictatorship and at a press conference states: "I do not know what you mean by opposition. I honestly do not know who is in the opposition." This led an opposition publication to publish an oped titled: "Virginia Dandan, the expert who does not ask questions."

Ms. Dandan claimed that such questions were outside of the scope of her mandate.  The human rights expert than explained what she was going to do during her visit: "I am in Cuba with the purpose of observing the activities of international solidarity of the Government and the international organizations with headquarters here." Recognizing that the focus is on what the Cuban government is doing in other countries under the auspices of "international solidarity" and that this expert recognizes that human rights conventions should be respected within that context, the question of Venezuela immediately arises to any casual observer of events there. The following tweet was sent to Ms. Dandan while still on her visit to Cuba.

Although the United Nations Human Rights Council has remained silent on the developing human rights crisis in the South American nation. The role of Cuban government agents training and assisting repressive forces, including paramilitary groups, involved in torture and the murder of students has been well documented and led to widespread revulsion in the Venezuelan populace. The New Yorker in November of 2016 reported:
"After Chávez barely survived a 2002 coup attempt, the Cubans also sent teams of military and intelligence advisers who taught their Venezuelan counterparts how to surveil and disrupt the political opposition Cuban-style, with close monitoring, harassment, and strategic arrests."
More ominously was the appearance of Commander Ramiro Valdez, the architect of Cuba's police state, in Venezuela in 2010.

Architect of Cuba's police state Ramiro Valdez with Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro
Estimates place the number of Cubans in Venezuela at 210,000  According to a 2014 article in The Guardian: "Cubans have computerized Venezuela's public records, giving them control over the issue of identity papers and voter registration. They have representatives in the ports and airports, as well as supervising foreign nationals." In short, Venezuela is Cuban occupied territory and under the control of the Castro regime. Young Venezuelans are being gunned down in an effort to impose control through terror.

Young Venezuelans gunned down by Maduro's Cuban trained repressors
The United Nations Human Rights Council has failed to address the disaster unfolding in Venezuela and the role the Cuban government has played in that human rights crisis. Nevertheless this is not an argument for withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, but to fully engage diplomatically while making it clear that funding will be cut back for failing to live up to established standards.

Countries that have decent human rights records need to hold the UN Human Rights Council and office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights accountable. Human rights have been in decline for over a decade with disastrous consequences. To turn that around drastic measures are needed.
Furthermore conservatives need to return to the conversation and the battle of ideas.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher schooled the French on human rights and didn't allow Bastille Day celebrations off the hook by reminding all of The Terror that came with it in the French Revolution.
At the same time she reminded the world of Magna Carta, British liberties and the full breadth of history regarding human rights. Margaret Thatcher on page 249 of her book State Craft could not have stated it more clearly.
 “Conservatives have excellent credentials to speak about human rights. By our efforts, and with precious little help from self-styled liberals, we were largely responsible for securing liberty for a substantial share of the world’s population and defending it for most of the rest.”  
Conservatives need to carry on this legacy today and not cede human rights to those that all too often were its historic enemies. At the same time Virginia B. Dandan, the United Nations "independent" expert on human rights and international solidarity should do her job and question the Cuban government's involvement in getting scores of young Venezuelans killed by repressive forces they have trained. This sort of "international solidarity" needs to be called out and denounced.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

China's Liu Xiaobo and Cuba's Sebastián Arcos Bergnes: Parallel lives that ended in politically motivated medical neglect

"I hope that I will be the last victim of China's endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech." - Liu Xiaobo, I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement 2009
Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia

Today when news broke that Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo had died of "multiple organ failure" while still under the custody of the Chinese communists. Friends and family had expressed concern that he was not receiving proper medical care.

The nonviolent dissident, scholar and prisoner of conscience was arrested on June 23, 2009 and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China. Still imprisoned from the June 2009 arrest he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009 following a political show trial. 

Liu Xiaobo was told by prison authorities on October 9, 2010 that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. When his wife Liu Xia visited him in prison the prisoner of conscience told her: “This is for the lost souls of June 4th.” Dedicating the prize to the demonstrators killed in Tiananmen Square  on June 4, 1989. Liu Xia was placed under house arrest after returning home from visiting her jailed husband Liu Xiaobo, and communications and visitors curtailed. Activists that wanted to gather and celebrate Liu Xiaobo’s award were also detained.

Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia in happier times
 Less than a month ago Chinese communist authorities made public that he had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer but his access and movement continue to be restricted. His wife, Liu Xia said that her husband, according to The Guardian, "cannot be given surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy," allegedly "because the cancer is so advanced." Chinese Human Rights Defenders had reported that individuals in custody, like Liu Xiaobo, have been denied medical treatment and that this is a life threatening form of torture. The NGO called for him to be freed and allowed to choose doctors and treatment. Liu Xiaobo had wanted to obtain medical care for his cancer outside of China but his request was denied by regime officials.

Upon hearing the news of the late cancer diagnosis and the possible use of the denial of medical treatment as punishment for dissent the case of Cuban human rights defender Sebastián Arcos Bergnes came to mind. Although Beijing is 7,913 miles from Havana with a very different language, culture and history both share something in common: they are communist dictatorships. Both Liu Xiaobo and Arcos Bergnes were nonviolent dissidents, the Cuban activist had also played a historic role in the Cuban revolution but quickly grown disillusioned with the failure to restore democracy following the end of the Batista regime.

In 1982 at the Combinado de Este prison Gustavo Arcos Bergnes and his younger brother, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, joined the Cuban Committee for Human Rights. The brothers had been imprisoned in 1981 for trying to leave the country illegally. The two brothers had fought alongside Fidel Castro in the 1950s against the Batista dictatorship. Gustavo had participated in the July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada military barracks and was wounded during the assault, an injury that plagued him for the rest of his long life. Shortly after his release from prison in 1988, Gustavo Arcos succeeded the committee’s founding executive director, Dr. Bofill, who was forced into exile in 1987.

On January 13, 1992 the executive board of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights again issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to nonviolence and calling for dialogue: "Violence is not and cannot be the solution to our problems... We will not tire from insisting that the only possible solution is civilized discussion of our differences. This is an appeal to Cubans for wisdom and common sense... No act of violence is justified... Let us say no to violence and learn to live in peace."

Sebastián Arcos Bergnes in front of his home on May 31, 1995 following his release
Two days later, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, his brother Gustavo and another Cuban Committee for Human Rights activists were arrested at their homes in Havana. The others were released after approximately 24 hours. Sebastian Arcos Bergnes was charged with "enemy propaganda" and "inciting rebellion," he was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. Sebastian was transferred to Ariza Prison in  Cienfuegos Province,  more than 130 miles from Havana, where he was imprisoned alongside dangerous criminals and systematically denied medical attention. In 1993 the regime offered Sebastian a deal: He would be released immediately if he only agreed to leave the island for good. Sebastian rejected the deal, choosing prison in Cuba over freedom in exile.

After an international campaign that included his designation as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and a request by France Libertés, the organization founded by former French first lady Danielle Mitterrand, Sebastian Arcos was released in 1995. A few weeks after his release, Arcos was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in the rectum, for which he had previously been denied medical care in prison. After a Cuban doctor was fired from his post for diagnosing Arcos, he traveled to Miami for further care. In 1996, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes testified before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland:
My name is Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, and I am the Vice-president of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization founded in Cuba in 1976 to observe the respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the island.
On the 15 of January 1992 I was arrested in my home by the Cuban political police; the second time in ten years. On October of that year I was sentenced to 4 years and eight months in prison for the sole crime of reporting to this Commission the violations of human rights committed by the government of my country. The labor of those volunteers of this Commission inside of Cuba are considered by the government as "enemy propaganda."
I will not enter into the details concerning the multiple irregularities of the judicial process always against me, nor about the conditions that I had to tolerate for more than three years. I will refer solely to one aspect of this my last experience in Cuban prisons.
When I was arrested in January of 1992, I enjoyed excellent general health for a man my age, 60 years then. I weighed around 170 pounds, and ran 5 to 6 kilometers every morning. Eight months later, when after a campaign of denunciations of my family I was transferred finally to a military hospital, I'd lost over 30 pounds and suffered from multiple ailments.
My stay in the hospital was not long. In December of 1992 I was transferred to the Prison of Ariza in the Province of Cienfuegos, over 300 km from my home and my relatives. All of the medical treatments indicated by specialists of the military hospital were immediately suspended. During the next 30 months that I spent in Ariza my state of health worsened considerably, and I was systematically denied access to the medications that my family sent me.
During those 30 months only occasionally did I see inexperienced doctors that gave me incomplete medical exams and additionally lacked the medication to prescribe me. I have in my possession a detailed chronology of my repeated denunciations concerning the abandonment of my health by the Cuban authorities.
In February of 1994, in an attempt to refute my denunciations, the Cuban government presented before this Commission a strip of video filmed without my knowledge, in which I appeared to be undergoing a medical exam. That was the second and last time that I was taken to the hospital, that time for a cardiological exam which had been ordered with urgency on three previous occasions.
In mid - 1994 I commenced to suffer pains in my left leg, which later spread to the rest of my extremities. After a rapid examination, a doctor in the prison determined that I suffered from polineutritis -a deficiency illness very common in the Cuban jails, and he prescribed treatment with vitamins. The pain continued with me for nearly a year later when I was liberated as a result of a gesture of the humanitarian organization France Liberte.
A few days after being liberated the pain worsened suddenly. Many weeks later I had to be urgently admitted to the hospital, were a doctor (friend) discovered that I had a malignant tumor in the rectum. Finally I had to leave Cuba to receive medical treatment in Miami, where my children live. The medical team which examined me in Mercy Hospital diagnosed a rectal tumor of 8 cm of diameter, with more than a year and a half of growth, with metastasis in the bones of the pelvis. At only 4 cm from the anal sphincter, the tumor could have been easily detectable with a simple feel of the area which is included in a basic medical exam for any man over 50 years old. Attached here are medical diagnosis which confirm what I've been saying.
These conclusions put the Cuban government in a difficult juncture. Or the Cuban government didn't know of the existence of the tumor, and in that case they recognize that they did not give me adequate medical assistance; or I'm lying and the Cuban government did know about the tumor and hid that knowledge for more than a year.Or the Cuban government recognizes itself guilty of criminal negligence in my case, or it recognizes itself guilty of an attempted premeditated homicide against my person.
Mr. President:
Before I finish, I would like to make clear that mine is not an isolated case, but only an example of the regular practice of Cuban authorities in their treatment of prisoners of conscience. Out of the group of 6 political prisoners liberated by the Cuban government after the requests of France Liberte, only two enjoyed good health. In addition to my own case, Reinaldo Figueredo has cancer in his vocal chords, Luis Enrique Gonzalez Ogra has pancreatic cancer, and Ismael Salvia Ricardo is nearly blind. Terrible nutrition, crowded and unsanitary cells, housing with common violent criminals, violent repression, and reluctant medical assistance - if any- are the norm and not the exception in Cuban prisons.
Because of all this, Mr. President, it is urgent that this Commission demand of the Cuban government that it permit without restriction the International Red Cross to all the Cuban prisons, and that Cuba comply with the international statutes about prisoners and the treatment of prisoners. This is the least we can do in the short run to avoid that cases like mine be repeated, in which medical assistance came-tragically-when it was already far too late.

Thank you very much,
Sebastián Arcos Bergnes
Sebastián Arcos Bergnes died in Miami surrounded by relatives on December 22, 1997, but in the two years he lived abroad, his life prolonged thanks to state of the art medical care at the time, he was able to give his testimony and expose the criminal nature of the Castro regime and document it on the record. It is known that Cuba and China have a close working relationship and share "worse practices" and it would not be a surprise that the lessons learned from the Arcos Bergnes episode would have led Chinese commissars to decide against his release, preferring the short term bad press to having the possibility of Liu Xiaobo traveling the world for a couple of years, or more, with all measures taken to prolong his life and providing testimony as the Cuban human rights defender did between 1995 and 1997, while battling a terminal cancer. Nevertheless both men were victims of politically motivated medical neglect, a despicable practice shared by these two communist regimes.