Thursday, July 19, 2018

AI Cuban prisoner of conscience José Ramón Gabriel Castillo dies at 61 from chronic illness contracted in a Cuban prison

Did the Castro regime inoculate him with the disease that claimed his life?

José Ramón Gabriel Castillo with Omar Pernet Hernandez and Pedro Pablo Álvarez
Former Cuban prisoner of conscience José Ramón Gabriel Castillo died of cirrhosis of the liver on July 16, 2018. He was just 61 years old. The disease may have been the product of a purposeful inoculation of hepatitis while he was jailed. Cuban authorities sentenced José Ramón Gabriel Castillo to a 20-year prison term in 2003 for his pro-democracy activism. He was one of 75 activists sentenced to long prison sentences in March-April of 2003 in what became known as the "Black Spring." He spent five years of his life in a Cuban prison before being exiled to Spain in 2008.

Attending the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance, and Democracy in 2009 I met José Gabriel there and after listening to Soe Aung, from the National Council of the Union of Burma speak about the situation in his country. José Gabriel turned to me and explained how reading a book by Aung San Suu Kyi in Cuba had led him to decide to become a political dissident and join the ranks of the Cuban opposition to the dictatorship. Years later he would be part of a group of former political prisoners demanding her release.

Later that same year we would meet Vaclav Havel in Prague, present him with a list of political prisoners, and obtain his support in a campaign to release them.

José Ramón Gabriel Castillo addressed the first two Geneva Summits and in 2010 spoke of the then recent and untimely death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo on February 23, 2010.  He also spoke of the tortures he had been subjected two while imprisoned in Cuba.

José Ramón, or Pepin to his friends, was from Santiago de Cuba and worked in the Universidad de Oriente (University of Oriente) where he was expelled in 1993 for founding the first human rights organization in the Eastern region of Cuba, called the Instituto Independiente Cuba y Democracia.

Requiescat in pace Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR expresses deep concern over criminal convictions for disrespect laws in Cuba

Cases of Eduardo Cardet ConcepciónAriel Ruiz Urquiola, and Martha Sánchez González, highlighted.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern over Criminal Convictions for desacato laws in Cuba
July 17, 2018
Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the application of desacato laws, followed by imprisonment, against the Doctor of Biological Sciences, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, in Cuba. The aforementioned adds to the conviction of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL, by its Spanish acronym), who has been in prison for more than a year.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur warns about the increased criminalization of scholars, journalists, artists and activists, through the application of crimes that sanction criticism of public officials in Cuba. In many of these cases, the proceedings involve the immediate deprivation of liberty of those who express opinions, information, or criticism, on topics of public interest, or that refer to government officials.
According to the information available, on May 8, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was sentenced to one year of detention by the Municipal Court of Viñales, in a summary trial, for the application of desacato laws. This decision was confirmed on May 22 on appeal by the First Criminal Chamber of the Popular Provincial Court of Pinar del Río. On July 3, the biologist was released under an "extra-penal license" for health reasons, after he went on a 16-day hunger and thirst strike to protest his situation.
According to information of public knowledge, on May 3, members of the Forest Ranger Agency, which is part of the Interior Ministry, entered the lands that Ruiz Urquiola had leased in usufruct to the State in the Viñales National Park, in order to request that he showed them the ownership of his work instruments and the legal permits for the activities that would be carried out. According to the information, the officials had refused to show official identification, reason why the biologist referred to them as "rural guards," a term that in the country would have a negative connotation. On the same day, occurred the application of desacato laws, followed by imprisonment, against Ruiz Urquiola, for allegedly insulted the Rangers.
Previously, in 2016, Ruiz Urquiola had been expelled from the Center for Marine Research (CIM, by its Spanish acronym) of the University of Havana, allegedly for his political opinions and for having denounced in an academic event in 2008, through the results of his doctoral research, that the government allowed the fishing of endangered turtles.
Moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was informed that Martha Sánchez González, a member of the group Damas de Blanco would remain in custody since March 2018, charged with disobedience and insulting the authority.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur notes with concern that in Cuba the application of desacato laws in these cases is not an isolated incident. In Cuba, criminal law and the application of desacato laws are used as mechanisms of subsequent responsibility to the detriment of people who disseminate ideas, opinions and critical information towards the government. In this regard, it was reported that Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL, by its Spanish acronym), would remain in custody following a conviction in March 2017 for the crime of attacking the authority. According to the information, Cardet Concepción was arrested on November 30, 2016, a few days after the death of Fidel Castro, after allegedly criticizing the former Cuban President in an interview, in the so-called period of national mourning imposed by the Cuban government. On February 24, 2018 [only available in Spanish], the IACHR granted precautionary measures in his favor requesting the Cuban government to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee his life and personal integrity.
Since its creation, the Office of the Rapporteur has examined the problem of desacato laws because of the danger that they could become a mechanism to stifle pluralistic and democratic debate on the government administration. In this regard, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has held on several occasions that "desacato laws are not compatible with the Inter-American Human Rights System, as they violate the freedom of thought and expression set forth in Articles IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and 13 of the American Convention. These norms lend themselves "to abuse, as a means to silence unpopular ideas and opinions, thereby restricting the debate that is critical to the effective functioning of democratic institutions."
The Office of the Special Rapporteur notes that in most of the American States, desacato laws for offenses have been eliminated from criminal legislation. Likewise, in different States laws that criminalize defamation of public officials had been repealed or modified. In this way, this Office calls on the Cuban State to adapt its legal framework to the Inter-American standards on freedom of expression.
Finally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the Cuban government that principle 11 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression establishes that "public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as ‘desacato laws,’ restrict freedom of expression and the right to information."
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

São Paulo Forum in Havana backs Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas despite their mass slaughter of civilians.

The communist network that transformed the Americas.
How the São Paulo Forum sees itself.
The São Paulo Forum celebrated the victory at the ballot box of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, defended Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the midst of the regime's wave of repression and extrajudicial killings against its own populace. This past weekend, pro-regime gunmen in civilian dress fired automatic weapons to clear student protesters from a church and university in Nicaragua.

Raul Castro with Nicolas Maduro, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Miguel Díaz-Canel 
The 24th edition of the Foro de São Paulo (São Paulo Forum — FSP) is being held in Havana, Cuba from July 15-17. This the third time that the Forum has been held in Cuba and it has also been hosted in Managua, Nicaragua on four occasions and São Paulo three times. The Forum is named after the Brazilian city where it was founded in 1990 by Fidel Castro, the Sandinistas and Brazil's Lula Da Silva.

First gathering of the São Paulo Forum in 1990
In 1990 following a request made by Fidel Castro to Lula Da Silva the Sao Paulo Forum was established with the goal: “To reconquer in Latin America all that we lost in East Europe.”  The FSP is a communist network comprised of over 100 left wing political parties, various social movements, and guerrilla terrorist organizations such as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Chilean Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR).

Fourth gathering of the Sao Paolo Forum was in Havana in 1993
This network helped set the course for the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela that was a game changer both regionally and internationally. Food riots have broken out in what was once one of the richest countries in South America and democracy there has been dismantled.

With the help of Venezuela's riches and the corruption of some of Nicaragua's politicians Daniel Ortega was able to return to power in Nicaragua in 2007 through the ballot box with a minority of the popular vote.  

Daniel Ortega first came to power in 1979 thanks to the active assistance of Cuban troops, and the Castro regime's intelligence service. Ortega was voted out of office after a long and bloody war in 1990.  However it is no longer just Cuba but a hemisphere wide totalitarian network that defends mass murder, and torture both in word and in action.

Today the Nicaraguan strong man is engaged in an existential struggle murdering hundreds of his countrymen and torturing thousands more, but the Sandinista's are not alone. The members of the São Paulo Forum go beyond words and take action. Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuadras on July 13, 2018 explained that "there are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.”

Four years ago it was Venezuelan students who heard Cuban accents in Caracas while being tortured. The oppressors have made progress, now there are more diverse accents heard in the torture chambers of Nicaragua.

It is important to remember that the hunger, the suffering, and deaths of thousands of Venezuelans should be laid at the feet of the Castro regime that prepared and backed Hugo Chavez with the assistance of the Cuban military and intelligence services and that are keeping Nicolas Maduro in power today

The Maduro regime and the Castro regime belong to the São Paulo Forum and both are actively assisting the Sandinista regime in Managua hang on to power by whatever means necessary at a terrible cost to Nicaraguans.

In 1990 many believed that the Cold War was over. Fidel Castro and a handful of radical left wing political parties and terrorist organizations believed otherwise and began plotting their comeback. Twenty eight years later the hemisphere hangs in the balance as bloody conflicts play out in a background of hunger and scarcity, but the misery is not caused by the capitalist imperialists but by the communist revolutionaries.  This should not be a surprise to anyone who has studied history. Revolutionary violence and provoked famines were instruments used in Russia, Ukraine, China, Cambodia, Ethiopia, North Korea and many other places to consolidate totalitarian control.

The members of  the Sao Paolo Forum see themselves as a bloody fist emerging out of South America with its tendrils spreading everywhere. The best way to battle this threat is to recognize it and educate others on the consequences of members of this network taking power and the great difficulty in removing them once they are entrenched.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thanksgiving Masses for the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante.

Remembering and giving thanks for the lives of Oswaldo and Harold. 

In Miami, FL and Madrid, Spain there will be Masses given to give thanks for the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante marking the day six years ago that their lives were cruelly taken by agents of the Castro regime. The families of Oswaldo and Harold have chosen to celebrate their lives and their example for all of us.

In Miami the Mass will be held at La Ermita de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity) located on 3609 South Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33133 on July 22, 2018 at 6:00pm.

In Madrid the Mass will be held at Parroquia San Fermin de los Navarros (Parish of San Fermin de los Navarros) located on Paseo de Eduardo Dato 10, Madrid  Metro Ruben Dario on July 22, 2018 at 8:00pm.

In celebrating the lives of  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante let us revisit some of their powerful ideas.
"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."
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Strasbourg France, December 17, 2002
"Expelling us is not the solution neither for them or for us, it would be better to ask yourself why are there young people who are filled with concern and worry for the welfare of the country. It would be good that they explain to the students and to the people what the Varela Project is, what does it ask, and so give everyone the right to think and choose." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
"How close you and "Solidarity" have been to us in these years. Receive our fraternal greetings. I write on behalf of the Christian "Liberation" Movement. We are a Christian and patriotic movement that by peaceful means are working for freedom and democracy in our nation. ... I hope this gets to you and that the Poles might know of our struggle inspired by the Gospel. I cannot conclude without expressing our gratitude to you, the Movement "Solidarity" and all the Polish people that knew how to open the path of freedom for subject peoples. As Catholics we feel that we are in communion with you and that overcomes the difficulties of communication." 
- Oswaldo Payá, October 1, 1990   

"Today we are kicked out of the university for this. Tomorrow it could be one of you for just being different, for permitting yourself to think."
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
 "A few days ago, bombs exploded in two hotels in Havana. Neither the perpetrators nor the objectives of these terrorist acts have identified themselves. But in any case, such acts are reprehensible. We reject them and they should not serve to confuse Cubans. When defending their human rights, proclaiming the truth and proposing a peaceful transition to democracy, many of our fellow countrymen have endured threats, discrimination, acts of harassment, arbitrary incarcerations, beatings and cruel treatment by repressive agents, and political and judicial authorities. However, neither we nor any of our brothers have renounced a peaceful transition through civic means." 
- Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, July 22, 1997

"They are wanting to perpetuate something that it is not even known if it is fair, and in this manner they are denying the progress of a society that wants something new, something that really guarantees a dignified place for every Cuban. They are pressuring people or preventing them from expressing their true feelings, they are cultivating fear in the nation." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
 "Furthermore, those who in the prisons receive serious mistreatment have not voiced words of hatred against their abusers, because for us the peaceful approach is not a tactic but something that arises out of a spirit of reconciliation and liberation which has prompted us to begin our struggle. No one can justify terroristic violence and attacks on defenseless human beings with any kind of reasoning, and much less by pretending to defend freedom and justice. Anyone who hides cynically to make attempts against human life violates the dignity of the human being and conspires against freedom and justice. The end does not justify the means. Lies and terror lead to death and fear. Truth and love produce freedom and life." 
- Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, July 22, 1997  
"Under the pretext of defending freedom they are attacking it. Martí would say it like this: "The knife that is stabbed in the name of freedom is plunged into the chest of freedom". They should think if at the bottom of this attitude there is a real respect for freedom, because to say freedom, to be free, is not to snatch the freedom of others. I therefore ask that before they expel us ask themselves how long can they keep silent the mourning and the reality of Cuba, and remind them that the damage they can do to us is damage that they do to themselves. And more: it is a direct threat to every Cuban." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002
"The cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized." 
- Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"Those who steal the rights of others steal from themselves. Those who remove and crush freedom are the true slaves." 
Harold Cepero Escalante, November 3, 2002 


Remembering and honoring Celia Cruz 15 years after her passing, except in Cuba.

Celia Cruz should not be an unperson in Cuba

Cuban music icon Celia Cruz still banned in Cuba
Celia Cruz passed away on July 16, 2003 after a battle with cancer. She was 77 years old. The world over mourned her death, except in Cuba where the official media printed a small note on her passing recognizing Cruz as an “important Cuban performer who popularized our country’s music in the United States,” it went on to say that “during the last four decades, she was systematically active in campaigns against the Cuban revolution generated in the United States.”

15 years later her music is still banned in Cuba, and in death she remains an unperson in official circles.

Her real crime? Choosing to live in freedom and continue her career as a musician. Because she had decided to continue to play her music, as a free woman, outside of Cuba the Castro brothers barred Celia from returning to Cuba in 1962 to bury her mother who had just died. This fueled her distaste for the Cuban dictatorship. When she went to the Guantanamo Naval Base three decades later she picked up some Cuban soil, a piece of home, to take back with her into exile.  

This 1990 trip to the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base would not be forgotten in official circles.

Celia Cruz picks up some Cuban soil to take a piece of home back to exile

On August 8, 2012 BBC News reported that Cuba's ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted and on August 10 the BBC correspondent in Cuba, Sarah Rainsford, tweeted that she had been given names of forbidden artists by the central committee and the internet was a buzz that the ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted. Others soon followed reporting on the news. The stories specifically mentioned Celia Cruz as one of the artists whose music would return to Cuban radio.

There is only one problem. It is not true. Diario de Cuba reported on August 21, 2012 that Tony Pinelli, a well known musician and radio producer, distributed an e-mail in which Rolando Álvarez, the national director of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión (ICRT) confirmed that the music of the late Celia Cruz would continue to be banned. The e-mail clearly stated: "All those who had allied with the enemy, who acted against our families, like Celia Cruz, who went to sing at the Guantanamo Base, the ICRT arrogated to itself the right, quite properly, not to disseminate them on Cuban radio "

According to the 2004 book Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe there is increasing concern that post-revolution generations in Cuba are growing up without knowing or hearing censored musicians such as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations. This process has been described as a  Cuban cultural genocide that is depriving generations of Cubans of their heritage.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Nicaragua 2018: Daniel Ortega with help from Venezuelans and Cubans has killed 350 Nicaraguans and tortured many more

"Castro copied his recipe for repression and harassment in Venezuela, and now they are doing it in Nicaragua. There are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.” - Víctor Cuadras, Nicaraguan student leader, July 13, 2018

The Sandinista regime in Nicaragua led by Daniel Ortega is engaged in a campaign of extrajudicial killings to hang on to power. 350 Nicaraguans have been killed, 169 disappeared and 3,000 have been wounded by police agents since the protests began on April 18th reports Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuardas. At least 20 people were killed on July 8, the Economist reported, and reports of new killings flood social media every day.
However one aspect that is not being widely reported is that Nicaraguan torture victims have reported hearing Venezuelan and Cuban accents in the regime's secret prisons. The Miami Herald quoted Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuadras on July 13, 2018:
“Castro copied his recipe for repression and harassment in Venezuela, and now they are doing it in Nicaragua. There are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.”
Victor is right to cite Venezuela. Beginning in February of 2014 the high profile torture and killing of Venezuelan student opposition activists were carried out to terrorize the student pro-democracy movement. Reports in the media at the time described individuals with Cuban accents involved in the brutality. Protests erupted in Venezuela with Cuban flags being burned while denouncing the Castro regime’s role in the repression. The pattern is being repeated today in Nicaragua.

It now appears that Venezuelans, trained by the Cubans, are joining their Havana counterparts in the torture and killing in Nicaragua to preserve the communist revolutionary project in the Central American country. Venezuelans are starving in large numbers, and despite the economic implosion and political crisis continues to sending subsidized oil to Cuba.

Few are talking about this as the situation in the Western hemisphere worsens.

Early on in the crackdown against protesters there was also a crackdown on news media and one of the early victims was a reporter shot in the head while reporting the news over Facebook. This is an attempt to implant terror to silence dissenting voices and those who would report on what is going on. In Nicaragua, so far, it has not worked as planned and the killings, torture, and state terrorism continue.

The images and the reporting continue to emerge. Follow freelance journalist Ismael Lopez who is risking all to report what is happening on the ground in Nicaragua. As was the case in Venezuela, students are being shot in the head by snipers. Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post , who was also trapped there, reported on students, journalists, and priests trapped in a Church surrounded by pro-government militias firing heavy caliber bullets.

Meanwhile in Mexico a left wing populist with strong ties to Havana, Cuba prepares to assume power on December 1, 2018. The Castro regime now feels empowered, believing that it will have a dramatically expanded economic lifeline from their ideological soulmate in the Presidential Palace in Los Pinos, Mexico City.

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 13th now has a double significance for victims of communism in China and Cuba

Free Cubans and Chinese share a day to mourn victims of communism.

Over the past 24 years Cubans have mourned the 37 men, women, and children who were extrajudicially executed by agents of the Cuban government on July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat was attacked and sunk.

Tragically, Chinese are mourning Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo who died last year on July 13, 2017 at the First Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, China after being unjustly imprisoned from December 8, 2008 until his untimely death. It is likely that he died of a cancer made terminal by politically motivated neglect. Today marks the one year of his passing. After eight years in "unofficial detention" his widow Liu Xia was finally allowed to leave China three days ago on July 10, 2018.

Liu Xiaobo  was one of the authors of Charter 08 and signed it along with more than three hundred Chinese citizens. The Charter is a manifesto that was released on December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It calls for more freedom of expression, human rights, more democratic elections, the privatization of state enterprises and economic liberalization and would collect over 10,000 signatures.

Charter 08 is reminiscent of the Varela Project that was initially signed by 11,020 Cubans in May of 2002 calling on the Cuban government to respect international human rights norms and engage in the same kind of reforms. Both were inspired by Vaclav Havel and Charter 77. Lamentably one of the authors of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and a youth leader of the same movement, Harold Cepero Escalante were both extrajudicially executed six years ago on July 22, 2012 in a crash engineered by the Cuban dictatorship's agents.

The demand for justice remains unfulfilled in all these cases, but we must not despair.

We must bear witness embracing truth and memory in defiance of the attempt to whitewash and forget. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained the importance of doing this in his 1986 Nobel Lecture on why it is important to remember:  
"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." 
Last year I was present at a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC on Monday, July 17th organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to pay my respects for Liu Xiaobo and demonstrate my solidarity with Chinese human rights defenders.

Today at 12 noon I will be in front of the Cuban embassy in a silent protest for 13 minutes for the 37 victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and will send this brief essay to the new Liu Xiaobo website, light a candle and say a prayer for these victims of communism, their loved ones, and for justice.

We will continue to remember.

July 13, 2017
Liu Xiaobo, Age: 61

July 22, 2012
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Age: 60
Harold Cepero Escalante, Age: 32

July 13, 1994
Hellen Martínez Enriquez. Age: 5 Months
Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández. Age: 2
Angel René Abreu Ruíz. Age: 3
José Carlos Niclas Anaya. Age: 3
Giselle Borges Alvarez. Age: 4
Caridad Leyva Tacoronte. Age: 5
Juan Mario Gutiérrez García. Age: 10
Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte. Age: 11
Yasser Perodín Almanza. Age: 11
Eliécer Suárez Plasencia. Age: 12
Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte. Age: 17
Miladys Sanabria Leal. Age: 19
Joel García Suárez. Age: 20
Odalys Muñoz García. Age: 21
Yalta Mila Anaya Carrasco. Age: 22
Luliana Enríquez Carrazana. Age: 22
Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo. Age: 24
Lissett María Alvarez Guerra. Age: 24
Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro. Age: 25
María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez. Age: 27
Leonardo Notario Góngora. Age: 28
Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores. Age: 28
Pilar Almanza Romero. Age: 31
Rigoberto Feu González. Age: 31
Omar Rodríguez Suárez. Age: 33
Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel. Age: 34
Julia Caridad Ruíz Blanco. Age: 35
Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega. Age: 35
Eduardo Suárez Esquivel. Age: 38
Martha Mirella Carrasco Sanabria. Age: 45
Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez. Age: 45
Rosa María Alcalde Puig. Age: 47
Estrella Suárez Esquivel. Age: 48
Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo. Age: 48
Amado González Raices. Age: 50
Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández. Age: 51
Manuel Cayol. Age: 56

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Justice for the Forgotten: Remembering Oswaldo, Harold and 37 tugboat massacre victims

“In Cuba there are missing and it is known who has disappeared them, the latter are heroes for the government….There are more than 20 murdered children waiting to be claimed and mothers and grandmothers who were not allowed to look for them when they were killed off the coast of Havana” – Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, El Nuevo Herald, March 18, 2005*

24 years ago on July 13, 1994 in the early morning hours, a few miles off the coast of Havana several families risked all to get to freedom on board the "13 de Marzo" tugboat and paid the ultimate price. Castro's state security agents had learned of their plans, rather than preempt and stop the journey before it started, the repressive apparatus opted to make an example of them in an act of state terror that will never be forgotten by those touched by this crime. 37 men, women and children were killed.

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas denounced the crime, demanding justice and years after he continued to hold the Castro regime accountable. He also called on Cubans to exercise their freedoms. This desire for freedom was intolerable for the dictatorship.

Six years ago on July 22, 2012 in Eastern Cuba two human rights and pro-democracy leaders who had organized a petition drive 16 years ago that shook the dictatorship to its very core were murdered in a successful effort by Cuban state security to silence and stop those who could not be intimidated by threats of prison, violence or even death. Cuba remains a totalitarian, communist dictatorship where human rights have and continue to be systematically violated, and dissent is not tolerated.

Truth and memory in defiance of the attempt to whitewash and forget. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained in his 1986 Nobel Lecture why it is important to remember:  "To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

It is our duty to continue the call for justice for the 37 victims of the "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre and for Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante. On Friday, July 13th at 12 noon wherever you are hold a copy of the image at the top of the page and hold a 13 minute moment of silence, take a picture at the end of your demonstration and post it on social media.

The dictatorship killed the dreamers, but the dream lives on.

"You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher."
Peter Gabriel, Biko

Murdered Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's book to be presented at Our Lady of Charity

"This book is a beacon for the future of Cuba, a vision of the precious freedom for which Oswaldo Payá fought all his life, and this will inspire new generations." - David Hoffman of The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize winner

The long awaited book by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas is available today on Amazon and published by Editorial Hypermedia Inc. 

On July 2, 2018 over social media Rosa María Payá announced that the book titled "The night will not be eternal" Unpublished book my dad wrote for all of us is about to be released. Cuba: The legacy of Oswaldo Payá. At the moment of greatest validity. This is the way, you can't miss it. We're very happy and grateful." 

There will be a formal book presentation on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 7:30pm in the Varela room at Our Lady of Charity (La Ermita de la Caridad) in Miami, Florida. This is the the place where the Cuban exile received her father in January of 2003, after he had been awarded the Sakharov Prize in Europe. 14yMedio reported on July 3rd:
The book, subtitled “Dangers and Hopes for Cuba,” has a preface by Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose, as explained by its author, is none other than “to help to discover that we can, indeed, live through the process of liberation and reconciliation and move into the future in peace.”

“In this book my father reflects on how and why we Cubans have come to this point in history and how we can emerge from it,” says Rosa Maria Paya, director of the Cuba Decides movement which promotes holding a plebiscite so that the Cuban people can decide what political system they want for their country.  “A process of liberation is possible,” says the dissident about what her father left in writing before being “assasinated,” in her words.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) published a legal report on July 22, 2015 highlighting the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of the official government investigation following Payá’s death in 2012. HRF documented numerous due process violations, including damning witness accounts, a grossly inadequate autopsy examination, and other key pieces of evidence that were overlooked by the Cuban judicial system. HRF’s report concludes that the “evidence, which was deliberately ignored, strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident, but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state.”

Six long years will have passed this upcoming July 22, 2018 and the silent complicity of many governments in the world is deafening, and further proof of the international decline in human rights standards, but the friends and family of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante continue to demand justice for their loved ones murdered on July 22, 2012.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Two Cuban Political Prisoners: Ariel Ruiz is free on parole but Eduardo Cardet remains in prison, isolated, and in poor health

Update on two Cuban prisoners of conscience

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola and  Eduardo Cardet Concepción

Reuters reports that the Castro regime has freed Ariel Ruiz Urquiola on parole from his unjust imprisonment in Cuba. He had engaged in a hunger and thirst strike placing his life at risk. A hunger and thirst strike is a brutal protest that will leave the health of the striker scarred. I pray that Ariel was freed in time and makes a full recovery.

Sadly Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción remains jailed in Cuba. He is also a prisoner of conscience. Furthermore he may be suffering from cancer. Regime officials refuse to tell him, or his loved ones, the medical test results following an examination of a possible malignant tumor or allow him to receive visitors. He was also stabbed in prison in late December 2017 in an attack engineered by regime agents. He has been unjustly imprisoned since November 30, 2016.

Last week the U.S. State Department called for the freedom of Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, Dr. Eduardo Cardet, and the rest of Cuba's political prisoners.

Amnesty International recognized both as prisoners of conscience and continues to campaign for the release of Dr. Eduardo Cardet. Amnesty has also denounced that Dr. Eduardo Cardet's family has been denied visits to see him.
There are at least 120 identified political prisoners in Cuba. The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported in June 2018 that there were 120 political prisoners in Cuba with some the longest serving in the Western Hemisphere. Twenty one of them have served between 15 and 27 years in prison.This does not take into account the far larger number of Cubans arrested for social dangerousness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture: Cuban victims of the Castro regime

Torture is a mortal sin! Christian communities must commit themselves to helping victims of torture. - Pope Francis

June 26th is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and sadly there are many in Cuba who are torture victims. The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), defines "torture" as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."  

The International Center for Transitional Justice explains on its website that "truth can help victims to find closure by revealing the details of the events they suffered, such as the fate of forcibly disappeared loved ones or why certain people were targeted for abuse. Moreover, knowing the truth about past events enables proper mourning practices, essential to most cultures, helping to achieve personal and communal healing."

Most Cuban victims of torture remain unknown, but there are high profile cases that are the tip of the iceberg. Below is a partial sampling of some of those cases. Others are mentioned in the 1987 documentary Nobody Listened (Nadie Escuchaba).

This is due in part because prisoners of conscience are denied family visits leaving them at the mercy of prison officials with no one from the outside to be able to vouch for their condition. This leads to extreme cases were family members must demand proof of life, unsure whether their loved one is still alive.  This still goes on today.

There are other cases that are well documented outside of the prisons.

In March 2018 mother and son were beaten up by Cuban secret police for exercising their fundamental rights. Asunción Carrillo is a Lady in White who had spent years campaigning for her son's freedom. Trade unionist Iván Hernández Carrillo, a former prisoner of conscience is Asunción's son. When she tried to go to Church she was grabbed and mistreated by the secret police and when her son tried to intervene on her behalf they beat him down, kicked him, dragged him down the street, handcuffed him and continued to beat him in the jeep where he had been thrown like a sack.

This is Cuba in 2018, but it has been going on for a long time. Other well documented cases hit at the dark underbelly of the dictatorship in Cuba and its intolerance for all kinds of dissent.

Sirley Avila Leon following May 2015 machete attack ordered by secret police
Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012 when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. The Castro regime removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a psychiatric facility.

Sirley joined the ranks of the democratic opposition and repression against her increased dramatically. On May 24, 2015 she 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. This attack was done on the orders of the secret police. 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.

On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post.

Threats against Sirley's life intensified leading her to flee Cuba to the United States and request political asylum on October 28, 2016. 

There have been other cases were medical mistreatment was apparently prescribed by the political police.

Omar Pernet Hernández August 15, 1945 - October 7, 2017
Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience Omar Pernet Hernández passed away in Louisville, Kentucky on October 7, 2017. Beginning in 1965 at age 18 he was imprisoned for the first time in Cuba for political reasons. Years later in an interview he would sum up his life in Cuba: "I was tortured in Castros' jails in four processes since 1965, when I was going to turn 19 years old."
 During his last imprisonment he described how doctors engaged in malpractice against him following a car accident while he was being transferred from one prison to another that left him crippled.
Omar Pernet: Look, the meaning of this, is that this type of boot that you see here....I will show it to you again. This boot was fitted for me in Cuba and it began to damage my hips because one, the left, is longer than the right. Then, one hip went like this 0:30 (shows the way hip is going up). Then, here in Spain, they said I couldn't go on wearing those boots, and they asked me to cut them down, and told me to make the ones I'm wearing. These I'm wearing now are stabilizing my hips.
INT: "How is it possible, since the Cuban doctors are so excellent normally, at least that's what the Cubans say, and promote throughout the world. That they should be so wrong? And hurt you so much? How many months did you stay that way in Cuba?"
OP: Well, in 2005, on the 5th of April, I began to wear these boots until the 17-18. I stayed like that until the 3rd of March of 2008 using those boots. These I'm wearing now are different, from Spain. " Stands up, 2:06, shows. "The only thing they did was to slap a cast on. They had me on a cast from the tips of my toes up to my neck for 18 months. The doctors here [in Spain] say they don't find any logic to it. That it was intolerable, the amount of time I spent in those conditions. The cast was removed twice, and each time it was to break my leg again." 
Omar Pernet Hernández was 72 years old when he passed away, a victim of cancer. He had spent 22 years in Castro's prisons for defying the communist regime and lived in forced exile for the final nine years of his life. He had been jailed in four different instances beginning with being sent to a forced labor camp for refusing military service, then jailed for trying to first leave Cuba, then jailed again for "enemy propaganda" when he denounced prison conditions, and finally sentenced to 25 years in prison for gathering signatures for Project Varela, a petition drive to reform Cuban laws to bring it in line with international human rights standards.

Physical and psychological torture and the denial of medical care or even water as punishment has proven fatal in the past.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Victim of prolonged torture
 Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after years of torture, and a prolonged water only hunger strike.Prison authorities, in an effort to break him, denied him water over the course of more than two weeks on and off
On the day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding the Cuban human rights defender's untimely death: 

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.
He was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Where according to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:
My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to... 
There have been other cases were medical treatment was denied as punishment with fatal results.

Sebastián Arcos Bergnes in front of his home on May 31, 1995 following his release
 In 1992 Sebastian Arcos Bergnes was charged with "enemy propaganda" and "inciting rebellion," he was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. 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 a prolonged international campaign 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.
 Sebastián Arcos Bergnes died in Miami surrounded by relatives on December 22, 1997.

Cuban torture survivor Amado Rodriguez
These practices began in the first years of the Castro regime. The case of Amado Rodriguez who was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1943 illustrates this. At 13, he joined the 26th of July Movement against the Batista regime and was later sent into exile to save his life. At the height of the revolution, he returned and became an activist against the Castro regime.

He was arrested and spent a total of 23 years as a political prisoner during two different terms. He was 18 years old when he was first arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 30 years, of which he served 18. Four years later, Amado was arrested and sentenced to 15 years. He was released in 1989 and sent directly to the United States after serving five years, four of which he spent in solitary confinement.

Amado Rodriguez was considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. His release was the result of personal visits and petitions to the Cuban government from representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross International, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a US Senator.

Amado described how by June of 1985 he was the only "plantado" prisoner at Boniato prison in jail cell #2 a small sealed punishment cell. He was only in underwear isolated without knowing whether it was day or night. Nine months later he was moved to a sealed cell within the Boniato prison were prison officials placed him on a new minimal caloric consumption diet but by October of 1986 since he refused to break he was subjected to the use of handcuffs and placed in a stress position.