Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr was born 90 years ago today

"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals." - Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. born 90 years ago today
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was born 90 years ago today in Atlanta, Georgia but never saw his 40th birthday because he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. A little over a year before his untimely death the nonviolent icon made an important speech at Stanford University which is worth listening to and studying.
"Let me say as I've always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I'm still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve." 
Dr. King's message remains relevant today and his family continues  to work at The King Center in  training new generations in the ways of nonviolence, and sharing his writings and speeches.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a radical critique of American society. He repeatedly challenged the United States to live up to its own aspired ideals and sought through nonviolent action and democratic norms, reforms to end segregation and ensure voting rights for African Americans

Reverend King's political outlook could best be described as falling within what is called Christian Democracy. This school of thought occupies the center with parties on the center left and the center right, but like Reverend King based on a Christian view of humanity in which "every individual is considered unique and must be treated with dignity."  In his April 4, 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam gave full expression to this outlook:
"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. "
Mohandas Gandhi, who greatly influenced King, also spoke of social responsibility and trusteeship. Gandhi, a self-described socialist, was not an enthusiastic proponent of an expanded social-welfare state as commonly understood arguing
"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence. Hence I prefer the doctrine of trusteeship. [...] What I would personally prefer would be not centralization of power in the hands of the State, but an extension of the sense of trusteeship, as, in my opinion, the violence of private ownership is less injurious than the violence of the State. However, if it is unavoidable, I would support a minimum of State-ownership."
Furthermore the critique made by both King and Gandhi of a "thing-oriented" society or the state as a "soulless machine" looks to the person or the individual not an economic mechanism  or economic class. The focus is on the human person and polices that recognize and respect the uniqueness of each human being and their dignity.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice King over twitter offers a thread of tweets with a few things to consider about her dad of which an essential part was understanding that, "He was not passive. Nonviolence is not passive. It is active, principled, love-centered noncooperation with evil."

Last year, on the fiftieth anniversary of his funeral procession, on April 8, 2018 I visited the King Center in Atlanta and was a participant in the March for Humanity. There members of the King family and friends of Reverend King described having known him, and their experiences in the Civil Rights struggle and the continuing struggle for freedom and justice today.

When he was alive the civil rights leader was considered a controversial figure. The American FBI wiretapped Martin Luther King Jr., monitored the Civil Rights Movement, and carried out active measures against him. Many have heard about this, but not of the other campaign waged against the civil rights leader by Soviet intelligence, also known as the KGB. It is also important to remember that today when Russian intelligence operatives seek to sow discord, division and hatred in the United States between citizens that they did it before.

March for Humanity in Atlanta, Georgia on April 8, 2018
In 1992 a high ranking Russian intelligence officer defected to the United Kingdom and brought with him notes and transcripts compiled over the previous thirty years as he moved entire foreign intelligence archives to a new headquarters just outside of Moscow. The Russian intelligence officer’s name was Vasili Mitrokhin and the information he gathered became known as The Mitrokhin Archive.

In the book The Sword and the The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin published in 1999 details were obtained from the Mitrokhin Archive on Soviet efforts to replace Martin Luther King Jr. with a “more radical and malleable leader” such as Stokeley Carmichael to provoke a race war in the United States.

Pages 237 and 238 of The Sword and the Shield excerpted below detail elements of the campaign waged by Soviet intelligence and the active measures arrayed against the civil rights leader:

“In August 1967 the Centre approved an operational plan by the deputy head of Service A, Yuri Modin, former controller of the Magnificent Five, to discredit King and his chief lieutenants by placing articles in the African press, which could then be reprinted in American newspapers, portraying King as an “Uncle Tom” who was secretly receiving government subsidies to tame the civil rights movement and prevent it threatening the Johnson administration." 
"King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 was quickly followed by the violence and rioting which the KGB had earlier blamed King for trying to prevent. Within a week riots erupted in over a hundred cities, forty-six people had been killed, 3,500 injured and 20,000 arrested. To “Deke” DeLoach, it seemed that, “The nation was teetering on the brink of anarchy.”86 Henceforth, instead of dismissing King as an Uncle Tom, Service A portrayed him as a martyr of the black liberation movement and spread conspiracy theories alleging that his murder had been planned by white racists with the connivance of the authorities."
 University of Cambridge professor Christopher Andrew, who coauthored The Sword and the Shield with Vasili Mitrokhin was interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS on September 28, 1999 about the book and towards the end of the interview discussed how the Soviets celebrated when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray.  The Russians celebrated because they did not want an independent African American leader, that they could not control, who was a principled nonviolence practitioner.

Taylor Branch, in the third book of his trilogy on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, At Canaan's Edge wrote about the Reverend's views on the militant call to armed struggle in the streets of the United States in January of 1968.

“Riots just don’t pay off,” said King. He pronounced them an objective failure beyond morals or faith. “For if we say that power is the ability to effect change, or the ability to achieve purpose,” he said, “then it is not powerful to engage in an act that does not do that–no matter how loud you are, and no matter how much you burn.” Likewise, he exhorted the staff to combat the “romantic illusion” of guerrilla warfare in the style of Che Guevara. No “black” version of the Cuban revolution could succeed without widespread political sympathy, he asserted, and only a handful of the black minority itself favored insurrection. King extolled the discipline of civil disobedience instead, which he defined not as a right but a personal homage to untapped democratic energy. The staff must “bring to bear all of the power of nonviolence on the economic problem,” he urged, even though nothing in the Constitution promised a roof or a meal. “I say all of these things because I want us to know the hardness of the task,” King concluded, breaking off with his most basic plea: “We must not be intimidated by those who are laughing at nonviolence now.”
Unlike others, who were funded and supported by the Soviet Union, Martin Luther King Jr was targeted by both American and Russian intelligence agencies because he was his own man, and not controlled by anyone, save his conscience. He didn't advocate or engage in violence and changed the United States and the world.

Let us remember him today on what would have been his 90th birthday, and recommit ourselves to continuing his work "to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society."

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Venezuela is a militarized narco-dictatorship and will not be negotiated out of power

"Dictator's will not negotiate themselves out of power." - Gene Sharp, strategic nonviolence expert on BBC program HardTalk in 2015
 #MaduroIllegitimate #MaduroDictator #MaduroUsurper

Venezuela is a militarized narco-dictatorship that will not be negotiated out of power, Venezuelans are suffering greatly under the Maduro regime and it is part of a larger threat to democracy in the region. Chavista defectors such as Supreme Court Justice Christian Zerpa continue to confirmed this.

Consider the following:

On June 13, 2019 the opposition leader  Juan Guaidó was taken by Maduro's secret police while on his way to an opposition rally. Former OAS Ambassador for the United States, Roger Noriega sent out the following tweet.

NPR on January 10, 2019 reported of the suffering of Venezuelans: "Hyperinflation, widespread hunger and deaths from preventable diseases in formerly oil-rich Venezuela have sparked an exodus of more than 3 million people, from a nation with a population of just over 30 million."

Reuters reported on January 9, 2019 that "Venezuelan security forces have detained and tortured dozens of military personnel accused of plotting against the government, and in some cases their family members," made public in a study by New York-based Human Rights Watch and Venezuela’s Penal Forum, which also says forces tortured civilians. Reuters found that in "32 cases in which accused plotters detained by the intelligence service Sebin and military intelligence group DGCIM were subjected to beatings, asphyxiation and electric shocks to obtain details of alleged plots.When authorities could not find the accused, they in some cases detained and abused family members to determine their whereabouts, the report says."
Two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady were sentenced to 18 years in prison on [December 14, 2017] following their convictions in New York on U.S. drug trafficking charges." The New York State attorney reported on the conviction over twitter. The two men were arrested in Haiti in 2015 and were found guilty in December 2017 of trying "to smuggle 1,700 pounds (800kg) of cocaine into the United States." Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post reported on the Venezuela, FARC, Cuba trafficking axis on May 24, 2015 in the article "A drug cartel’s power in Venezuela":
Ever since Colombian commandos captured the laptop of a leader of the FARC organization eight years ago, it’s been known that Chávez gave the Colombian narcoguerrillas sanctuary and allowed them to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to the United States with the help of the Venezuelan army. But not until a former Chávez bodyguard [ Leamsy Salazar] defected to the United States in January did the scale of what is called the “Cartel of the Suns ” start to become publicly known. Spain’s ABC newspaper published a detailed account" ... [and] ABC reporter Emili Blasco followed up with a book [that says] ... Cuba’s communist regime and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah have been cut in on the trafficking. 

In Venezuela, the Maduro regime calls those who oppose the regime: worms, and fascists. In the past sectors of the political opposition in Venezuela sat down to dialogue with a government whose leadership rejects the legitimacy of the opposition but used the process for tactical purposes to slow the imposition of international sanctions while they continue to engage in systematic human rights violations.  In Venezuela the purpose of the Constituent Assembly that was brought into existence on July 30, 2017 with escalating repression, including government snipers shooting unarmed demonstrators in the head, and tampering with voting machines in a massive fraud is to make the opposition illegal. This turned Venezuela into a second Cuba.

On May 18, 2017 The Miami Herald reported that it had a secret recording of a Venezuelan general advocating for the use of snipers against street demonstrators. Beginning in February of 2014 the phenomenon of young Venezuelans being shot in the head while peacefully protesting was first widely documented and has continued over the years

Snipers in Venezuela targeting government opponents.
The role of the Castro regime in Venezuela is under reported in The New York Times, and other mains stream media outlets. The Cuban dictatorship beginning in 1959 had strategic designs on taking over Venezuela to exploit its natural resources in order to magnify its regional impact. Nevertheless the United States Southern Command military in 2018 recognized this relationship:
"Cuba’s negative influence in Venezuela—notably through its intelligence service and Armed Forces, which play key advisory roles shaping Venezuelan domestic policy —is evident in the Maduro regime’s increasingly authoritarian tactics and human rights abuses. This relationship is symbiotic, as Cuba receives oil and financial support in exchange for keeping the Maduro regime afloat." ... " The continued assault on democratic institutions provides increased space for illicit actors to operate with impunity, and for Russia, China, and Cuba to expand their influence over the corrupt Maduro regime."
Venezuela has been a full blown dictatorship since the Maduro regime on October 20, 2016 illegally suspended a recall referendum because the dictatorship knew that it could not obtain a favorable result. 

The International community is now aware of the threat of Venezuela to democracy in the region and the Maduro regime has lost all legitimacy. The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States resolved among other things "to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s new term as of the 10th of January of 2019," and "to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. The European Union has called for new elections and does not recognize the May 2018 elections as legitimate."

However it is still too narrow a focus. Bolivian attorney and former government minister, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín in an important January 9, 2019 article, "Democracy is not regained without clearly identifying it's enemy" identifies four countries (Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia) that are "under a common group of dictatorships" and that they are "integrated into a group controlled by Cuba." Sánchez Berzaín understands that "to regain democracy, it is vital to clearly identify its enemy that is not just a single one local dictator"  but a “transnational organized group.”

Worse yet, the new government of Mexico is led by a Castro regime ally and has broken away from the Lima Group and recognized the Maduro regime. This development should not just concern Venezuelans, but also Mexicans, and democrats the world over. The democratically elected government of Mexico, like Venezuela's 20 years ago, needs to be watched closely and democratic institutions defended.

No dictatorship has ever negotiated itself out of power, and the Maduro regime is no different. They have used and will continue to use dialogue as a tactic to delay and distract the opposition. However, nonviolent strategy remains the best option for restoring democracy in Venezuela. "Violent flanks" and the use of the so-called "diversity of tactics" reduces mobilization and decreases the probability of success for a resistance movement. Strategic thinker Gene Sharper put it succinctly when he said: "using violence is a stupid decision." Violent resistance is not a short cut to ending the regime but prolonging its time and power while undermining the international legitimacy of the opposition.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Nicaragua at the crossroads: OAS examines Central American nation's slide into dictatorship under the Ortega regime

The end of democracy in Nicaragua examined by the Organization of American States.

Special Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council to “Consider the situation in Nicaragua”
 On Friday, January 11, 2019 the Organization of American States began the Inter-American Democratic Charter process regarding Nicaragua.  Representatives from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and the usual suspects howled in protest, but events in the Central American country under the regime of Daniel Ortega indicate that something must be done.

The Nicaraguan magazine Confidencial reported that the "Mothers of April Association of Nicaragua, formed by women who have lost their children or relatives in the demonstrations against President Ortega, demanded on Thursday ( January 10, 2019) to the OAS member countries to apply the Democratic Charter to the Government of Nicaragua."

Articles 20 and 21, of the the Inter-American Democratic Charter provides the procedures against a member State that is no longer a democracy and suspending its participation in the programs of the organization.

There is ample reason to suspend Nicaragua from the Organization of American States.

On April 18, 2018 long standing frustrations with the Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega erupted across Managua in response to a "reform" of the pension system that reduced them for current recipients while raising the amount taken from salaries of current workers. At 5:00pm "Sandinista youth" and national police attacked protesters, destroyed commercial establishments and took over the Central American University.This is how crackdown on the remnants of Nicaraguan democracy began and have continued over the past eight months.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets demanding an end to the repression. Peaceful protesters and journalists were shot and killed by government forces. The São Paulo Forum, a network of communists, radical leftists, and terrorists groups met in Havana to back Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas' actions in Nicaragua.

Reporter Ángel Eduardo Gahona, shot and killed while reporting protests
 The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported "325 deaths and over 2000 injuries, 550 arrests and prosecutions, the dismissal of 300 health professionals, and the expulsion of at least 144 students from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN)." Furthermore that the Ortega regime has created a climate of impunity "with the de facto implementation of a state of exception that is characterized by the abusive use of public forces to repress dissidents, raids, the closure and censorship of media outlets, the imprisonment or exile of journalists and social leaders, and interference by the office of the president in other branches of government."  

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.

Medical student Amaya Coppens arbitrarily detained in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, student activists are facing prison sentences in excess of 30 years, torture, and rape. Amaya Coppens, reported on in this blog back in September of 2018, remains in prison and faces a political show trial with a Sandinista judge in February of 2019. She was just 23 years old at the time of her arrest. Human Rights organizations report that there are currently 576 political prisoners in Nicaragua.

Journalists have been the targets of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions in Nicaragua over the past eight months. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued an open letter that highlighted some of the more egregious incidents during the Ortega crackdown.
We strongly condemn the December raids on the offices of two major independent news outlets, and the detention of Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau, journalists from independent cable and digital channel 100% Noticias, on multiple anti-state charges. These latest anti-press actions occurred shortly before the Christmas holiday, when many in the international community might typically be distracted; however, they did not go unnoticed.
Mora and Pineda, arrested during a December 21 police raid on the 100% Noticias offices in Managua and rushed through court appearances with no access to legal representation, stand accused of crimes including "inciting violence and hate" and "promoting terrorism." The government has not presented any evidence to date to support the charges against these journalists, who took a lead role in their channel's critical reporting over the last eight months. More than two weeks after their arrest, both journalists remain in pre-trial detention, and their channel is still banned from broadcasting.
Just a week before the raid on 100% Noticias, riot police ransacked the Managua offices of independent news website Confidencial and two affiliated television programs, all led by renowned journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and confiscated equipment and documents.
These are just the latest hostile acts capping off a year that saw dozens of attacks on the media, including the April 20 arson attack on Radio Darío in León and the April 21 death of reporter Ángel Eduardo Gahona, who was shot and killed on camera while reporting on protests in Bluefields.
The failure of the international community to call out the Ortega regime for its decade long assault on democratic institutions led to the conditions that made the April 2018 crackdown possible. According to a defecting Sandinista Supreme Court justice the possibility of civil war  and economic chaos in Nicaragua is closer now than every before.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Venezuela: A cautionary tale

"What's past is prologue" - William Shakespeare
Venezuelan President-elect Rómulo Betancourt meets Fidel Castro in 1959
The Castro regime's interest in Venezuela began from the earliest days of the dictatorship.  Rómulo Betancourt, was a man of the left, the first democratically elected president of Venezuela following the fall of the military dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958. He had met Castro in 1948, and at the time both agreed that Latin America had to change. One of the first things that Fidel Castro did when taking power in 1959 was to visit Betancourt in Venezuela on January 23rd, assuming that he would find an ally.

But Castro met a Venezuelan leader who, over the years, had become critical of communism, a leader who even in the 1930s had said that he "did not agree with the interference of the Soviet Union in European countries. " 

During the above mentioned visit in 1959, Betancourt recommended that Cuba not fall into the hands of the Soviet Union and that Cuba hold free elections.  

In 1960 Ernesto "Che" Guevara was giving unsolicited advice calling for Betancourt to use the firing squad against his "rightist opponents." In 1963, the Congressional Quarterly reported how:
"Riots led by Communists and other pro-Castro elements in Caracas [in the autumn of 1960] took the lives of 13 persons and injured 100. Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Cuba, and Betancourt ordered out the army to end the rioting, which he termed an attempt to “install a regime similar to that in Cuba.”
The Venezuelan president "believed that trade and diplomatic relations should be broken with the governments that came to power through coups, regardless of whether they were left or right.  Thus, in 1961, Venezuela broke relations with Cuba and became one of the promoters of the exclusion of the island from the OAS, which was achieved in January 1962."

President John Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy in Venezuela with President Betancourt in 1961
 However, the Castro regime continued to agitate for the overthrow of democracy in Venezuela with a strategic aim.

Cuban Communist leader Blas Roca, told a Havana rally on January 23, 1963 that when the communists gained full control and “make themselves owners of the great riches in oil, aluminum and everything their earth imprisons, then all of America shall burn.”  A cache of three tons of weapons was found on a Venezuelan beach in November 1963 that was to be used to disrupt the democratic elections there. 

Fidel Castro would continue to agitate for revolution in Venezuela. A well documented incident occurred on May 8, 1967 and was reported by Francisco Toro in The Washington Post who described how: "two small boats carrying a dozen heavily armed fighters made landfall near Machurucuto, a tiny fishing village 100 miles east of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Their plan was to march inland and recruit Venezuelan peasants to the cause of socialist revolution." An all night gun battle with the Venezuelan military led to nine guerrillas dead, two captured, and one who had escaped.

President Betancourt understood that the Castro regime was an existential threat to democracy in the Americas. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 he mobilized two Venezuelan destroyers and a submarine to take part in the quarantine of Cuba.

Betancourt's successor in the presidency, Raúl Leoni Otero, took over in 1964 and remained in office until 1969 and pursued the policy of containment and isolation. Failing to violently overthrow Venezuela's democracy, Fidel Castro publicly renounced the exportation of revolution (although he continued the practice -- see Nicaragua) and began making overtures to the Venezuelan government.

Venezuelan democrats forgot the nature of the Castro regime.

Carlos Andres Perez invited Fidel Castro to his second presidential inaugural
Diplomatic relations were restored between Venezuela and Cuba in December of 1974, oil deliveries resumed, and the democratic government of Venezuela under Carlos Andres Perez's first presidency advocated Cuba's readmission to the Organization of American States. 

At the start of his second presidency (1988 - 1993), Carlos Andres Perez invited Fidel Castro to his inauguration. 

Carlos Andres Perez, Fidel Castro, and Felipe Gonzalez of Spain
In 1992 Hugo Chavez was involved in a failed coup against the Andres Perez government. Pardoned by Andres Perez's successor, Rafael Caldera, in March 1994 Hugo Chavez made his way to Cuba later that same year where he was received by Fidel Castro as a hero not a failed coup plotter. 

Fidel Castro greets Hugo Chavez in Cuba on December 13, 1994
Four years later, in a reaction to generalized disgust with the corruption endemic to the Venezuelan democratic order epitomized by the Carlos Andres Perez administration the former coup plotter was elected president. 

President Rafael Caldera with Dictator Fidel Castro in Colombia in 1994
 President Caldera, who had pardoned Chavez, handed power over to him in 1999. Together with Fidel Castro, as a mentor, Chavez began the process of turning a flawed democratic order into the totalitarian regime it is today.

Official channels announced that Hugo Chavez died on March 5, 2013 and was replaced by Nicolas Maduro, a hardcore communist, an individual who spent a lot of time in his early 20s in Cuba being trained by the Union of Young Communists and Pedro Miret, an official close to Fidel Castro. 

Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro in their military fatigues.
 Over the past six years Maduro has proven himself to be Havana's man, and Venezuela has been turned into a second Cuba. Complete with fake elections that only underscore that democracy has departed that South American country.

Nicolas Maduro and Raul Castro
On July 19, 2017 the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro testified before US lawmakers that “[t]here are currently about 15,000 Cubans in Venezuela ... It’s like an occupation army from Cuba in Venezuela.”
Venezuela had a strong and vibrant democracy for forty years, that successfully defended itself from Castroism, promoted democracy in the region, but when it bought into the enemy's lies and mistook the Castro regime for a friend the die was cast for the tragedy currently unfolding. Young Venezuelans are today paying with their lives for the mistakes made by Venezuelan politicians a generation ago.

What can we outside of Venezuela do? Let others know what is taking place, demand the freedom of over 288 Venezuelan political prisoners, and tomorrow when the Maduro regime attempts to legitimize his dictatorial rule join Venezuelans in protest.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Scientist reports: "Cuba failed to report thousands of Zika virus cases in 2017"

“I willingly accept Cassandra's fate To speak the truth, although believed too late.”- Anne Killigrew  (1685)

Fake news in Cuba? This is a PAHO chart from 2016 (Source: PAHO/WHO)
New Scientist reports today: "Cuba failed to report thousands of Zika virus cases in 2017" … Forgot to mention that the Castro regime in the recent past failed to report Dengue (1997) and Cholera (2012) outbreaks in Cuba. Jailing those who warned the world of the threat.

The publication New Scientist reported today in an exclusive report that "thousands of Zika virus cases went unreported in Cuba in 2017, according to an analysis of data on travelers to the Caribbean island. Veiling them may have led to many other cases that year." Founded in 1956, New Scientist is the world’s most popular weekly science and technology magazine.  The article should raise concerns for travelers to the island.
The analysis suggests that Zika infections peaked in Cuba in the second half of 2017, at a time when the virus was waning in mainland North and South America. Cuban authorities didn’t follow the agreed practice of notifying the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the outbreak. Cuba’s first case of Zika occurred in March 2016. A PAHO report says the country stopped providing updates on Zika in January 2017. In press reports in May 2017, Cuba said that nearly 1900 infections had been detected up to that point. But Nathan Grubaugh at the Yale School of Public Health and his colleagues estimate that the total cases in 2017 alone would have been more than double that at 5700.
Meanwhile, Cubanet published an interview today with Cuban independent journalist, Vladimir Turró, who was detained and threatened for attempting to investigate a case of medical negligence in which a baby died in a Cuban hospital. He was arrested Friday at 6:00pm and held until Sunday morning. He was interrogated and threatened constantly to abandon the story.

Vladimir, and potentially his family, are in a dangerous situation. Other journalists have been jailed for months for reporting on health threats in Cuba. Independent journalist, Calixto Martinez, who reported on a cholera outbreak in Cuba on July 13, 2012, was imprisoned in September of 2012 in horrible conditions and only released in April of 2013 after Amnesty International had declared him a prisoner of conscience in January of 2013 and campaigned for his release. His offense? Informing the public about the Cholera threat and the poor government response.

Calixto Martinez jailed for 7 months for report on Cholera outbreak
However the silencing of voices reporting on healthcare threats is not limited to journalists. A Cuban doctor was sentenced to eight years in prison for warning about a deadly dengue epidemic in 1997. Dr Desi Mendoza Rivero, married with four children at the time, was arrested on June 25, 1997. On November 28, 1997 he was sentenced to eight years in prison for "enemy propaganda." Amnesty International declared Desi a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his freedom. He was released on November 20, 1998 due to health reasons following the visit of the Spanish Foreign Minister,  under the condition that he leave the country and was exiled to Spain.

Official press announces no dengue epidemic in Cuba
None of this should be a surprise, but this reality is not often reported in the press. In August of 2016, this blog raised questions about the Cuban government's reporting of Zika cases and their economic motivation for not doing so in the midst of an outbreak.
"Consider that 3.5 million people visited Cuba in 2015 and tourism to the island in 2016 so far is 15 percent higher than last year. The crisis in Venezuela is impacting Cuba economically making tourism a priority source of hard income. In the past the regime has demonstrated a resistance to reporting or it has under-reported on the outbreaks of diseases in the island. The trouble is that the lack of transparency and the spread of the virus will pose a danger to tourists visiting the island who not being advised of the danger may return home as asymptomatic carriers of the virus spreading it in their country unknowingly."
On September 2, 2016 the Associated Press in the article "Cuba reports remarkable success in containing Zika virus," said that "six months after President Raul Castro declared war on the Zika virus in Cuba, a militarized nationwide campaign of intensive mosquito spraying, monitoring and quarantine appears to be working. Cuba is among the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that have so far prevented significant spread of the disease blamed for birth defects in thousands of children."

Now we know that the spread of Zika in Cuba peaked in the second half of 2017 and that the outbreak in Cuba was similar to other countries of similar size in 2016.  How did they find out, while the Castro regime failed to report?
"The team looked at the travel logs of 184 people who had contracted Zika while abroad and found that 95 per cent had been to Cuba. Such “hidden” outbreaks can spread epidemics to other countries because travelers and health authorities are unaware of the heightened risk of infection, the authors write (bioRxiv, doi.org/czdk)."
 Tragically, the consequences of this obfuscation of a health threat will become evident as babies, exposed to Zika during pregnancy,  are born "with an abnormally small head, a condition known as microcephaly."

Cholera patients in Cuba (CNN)
 On November 29, 2018 The New York Times reported that the  Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO) "made about $75 million off the work of up to 10,000 Cuban doctors who earned substandard wages in Brazil." A group of these Cuban medical doctors are now suing PAHO for the organization's alleged role in human trafficking.

This may also raise new questions on the relationship between PAHO, Cuba and reporting not only on outbreaks but the healthcare statistics that present the regime in a positive light.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Reforms to Castro's Constitution seek to crush any attempts to offer a legal alternative to the existing regime

"It is clear that tested by the Constitution of the Sovet Union as revised and enacted in 1936, the USSR is the most inclusive and equalized democracy in the world." - Sidney and Beatrice Webb, 1937

Stalin and Castro presided over constitutional reforms in their respective regimes.
Those who claim that "Cuba could have a new government soon if draft Constitution takes effect" are not only ignoring history, but also current events. The 2019 constitution will be Cuba's third revision of a constitution patterned after the Soviet Constitution. The Constitution was drafted and "voted" on in 1976 and copied the Soviet constitution proclaiming "socialist legality" and rejecting the rule of law that is based in custom and tradition. Due to references to the Soviet Union, following the USSR's dissolution in 1991, it became necessary for the regime to update it in 1992. Due to the Project Varela initiative in 2002 where dissidents gathered 11,020 signatures for the reform of the system, the Castro regime revised it making its socialist character "permanent and irrevocable." Now Raul Castro, head of the Cuban Communist Party, is presiding over the revision of the current one.

June 26, 2002, Fidel Castro votes in favor of Cuban Constitution's modification
Stalin's Constitution, copied by the Cubans in 1976, guaranteed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. However all of these freedoms were conditioned on pursuing the objectives of the regime to build communism. The only legal political party in Cuba is the communist party.

Evidence that the newest version of the Constitution will be a continuation of the existing system, or worse, can be seen not only in the text of the new draft, but also in laws drafted and enacted in 2018 such as Decree 349. Censorship had already existed in Cuba since 1959 but now with Decree 349 artists are specifically targeted and radically restricted from their work. Cuban artist Coco Fusco in Frieze magazine outlines the full breadth of this law.
Decree 349, was made public last summer and went into effect on 7 December. It criminalizes independent cultural activity that is not authorized by the state. It entails the creation of a cadre of roving inspectors that will be empowered to shut down activities in private recording studios, home-based galleries and clubs. Sanctions range from stiff fines to confiscation of privately-owned equipment to the seizure of homes. Artists on the island see the law as a return to the repressive cultural policies of the 1970s. Before it became law, Amnesty International called Decree 349 a ‘dystopian prospect’ for Cuba’s artists.
Fabian Socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb in 1937 believed Stalin's Soviet Constitution was a democratic example to be emulated by progressives and that the Soviet Union, under Josef Stalin was an inclusive democracy. The tens of millions of dead under Stalin, and the secret alliance with Hitler in 1939 to divide Poland that erupted into World War II led many progressives to grow disillusioned with the Soviet Union. The Webbs managed to continue defending the Soviet Union as a "new civilization" despite these unpleasant facts.

The favorable coverage today of the Cuban government, that ignores its efforts to consolidate the Castro family dynasty with a revised constitution and puppet leadership, is reminiscent of the coverage Stalin received at a time that his regime was engaged in crimes against humanity while unveiling a new constitution. Today, tens of thousands of Cuban troops serve as an occupation force in Venezuela, and Cuban officials are assisting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua as it violently crushes dissent killing hundreds.

Finally, the fact that both Raul Castro and Josef Stalin served as head of their respective constitutional commissions, and personally invested great time rewriting their respective constitutions should be a cautionary reminder of the nature of the regime in Cuba for those now making optimistic assessments. Historian J. Arch Getty's words with regards to those who lauded Stalin's constitutional reforms should haunt many Cubanologists today:  
 Many who lauded Stalin's Soviet Union as the most democratic country on earth lived to regret their words. After all, the Soviet Constitution of 1936 was adopted on the eve of the Great Terror of the late 1930s; the "thoroughly democratic" elections to the first Supreme Soviet permitted only uncontested candidates and took place at the height of the savage violence in 1937. The civil rights, personal freedoms, and democratic forms promised in the Stalin constitution were trampled almost immediately and remained dead letters until long after Stalin's death.
Raul Castro's reform of the Cuban Constitution seeks to advance socialist legality which means being more effective at crushing any attempts to offer a non-violent and legal alternative to the existing Communist regime.  Considering the prominent role played by General Castro, one should call this newest charter of the Cuban regime, Castro's Constitution.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Top 12 Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter tweets of 2018

"History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory." - George Santayana 

These are the top tweets for each month of 2018 arranged in chronological order. George Santayana understood the importance of remembering the past in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes and injustices. This was the year of the Cuba UPR and victims of the regime speaking truth to power as it sought to carry out its fraudulent change. It was the year that the steady work of completely undermining democracy in Nicaragua finally brought forth the murderous assault of the regime as it clamped down its totalitarian cage on the people of Nicaragua. The year ended with a campaign to release political prisoners in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

January 2018

 February 2018
March 2018

April 2018

May 2018

June 2018

July 2018
August 2018

September 2018

October 2018

November 2018
December 2018