Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Candidate Clinton's silence on Castro regime's beating of Cuban women answered with more violence a day later

"In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future." -  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956  

Cuban women targeted by the Castro regime's repressive forces this past Sunday
On July 23, 2016 a plane flew over the Florida International University Arena asking Hillary Clinton to help stop the beatings of Cuban women by the Castro regime and its agents. Over two thousand fliers were distributed on that day that called on Hillary Clinton to help put an end to the physical assaults on the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of Cuban political prisoners by calling on General Raul Castro to stop the systematic beatings against these women.

Unfortunately one day later, with the non-response of Secretary Clinton to this request, in Cuba once again the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of Cuban political prisoners were beaten, kicked and had stones thrown at them when they tried to peacefully assemble in Havana, Cuba on July 24, 2016.

Candidate Clinton's silence on the Castro regime's continued systematic beating of Cuban women was answered loudly with more violence. This silence brings to mind the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu,  "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Hopefully Hillary Clinton will speak out on behalf of Cuban women before the next attack.

The video below was from July 18th and reflects what happened yesterday.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cuban human rights defender and machete attack victim unable to ask Hillary Clinton a question today

The silence of good people with regards to the unfolding disaster in Cuba

Flier distributed by the Center for a Free Cuba today at FIU
 The rally today at Florida International University left a lot to be desired and follows a pattern in this presidential cycle of an election that bears a closer resemblance to World Wrestling Entertainment with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the protagonists in a cage fight. Call for the audience at FIU to be fired up and energized. Dissenters attempting to counter with a different message shouted down and their banner quickly and aggressively pulled down. At the same time the level of political discourse continues its downward spiral. Meanwhile matters of great importance get short shrift but are still impacting the political process unexpectedly. 

Waiting for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine to appear, a number of speakers warming up the crowd one of them cited an abbreviated quote by Martin Luther King Jr: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." This is what is being witnessed today in Cuba with escalating levels of repression following the normalization of relations with the Castro dictatorship that Hillary Clinton advocated for when she was Secretary of State. Now when the Castro regime murders a young activist and orders a machete attack in an attempt to kill another, the government of the United States remains silent.

Sirley Avila Leon, the human rights defender and machete attack victim, who attended the rally today at Florida International University would have liked to ask Secretary Clinton the following question: "Usted va a seguir la misma politica que tiene Obama sobre Cuba de seguir dando concesiones sin tener al menos el respeto del regimen a los derechos humanos de los cubanos? (Are you going to continue the same policy that Obama has for Cuba, of continuing to give concessions without the regime at least respecting the human rights of the Cubans?)

The Center for a Free Cuba handed out fliers at Florida International University asking "Hillary Clinton: Cuban lives matter. Stop the beatings of the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of Cuban political prisoners." A plane flying overhead with a banner put the matter more succinctly: "HILLARY, STOP BEATINGS OF CUBAN WOMEN BY RAUL CASTRO."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been on the wrong side of almost every foreign policy debate (Iraq, Libya, Haiti) over the past 15 years and also on Cuba. This can be seen in her convoluted reasoning for ending sanctions back in 2010:
"It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the U.S., because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn't happened in Cuba in the last 50 years." 
Clinton's claim ignores a pile of evidence to the contrary. The Castro regime's international campaign against the embargo, they argue is not to get rid of sanctions but to explain their failures. This also necessitates ignoring:  Castro regime's recruiting of state officials, members of congress, and corporations to lobby to end the embargo in the United States; that every Castro agent uncovered by the United States over the years infiltrated in government and academia has been working for the lifting of sanctions on the Castro dictatorship.

Badly reasoned arguments that run counter to U.S. national interests begin to be understood when the money trail is established. International Business Times reported last year on the relationship between donations to the Clinton Foundation and arm sales to countries with terrible human rights records during Hillary Clinton's tenure at the State Department.
Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure -- derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) -- represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.
 In the case of Cuba it was Bill Clinton's presidency that opened up cash and carry trade in 2000 that brought in $5.2 billion dollars in sales to the Castro regime that also generated agents of influence and lobbyists at both the state and federal level. This trade peaked in 2008 and has steadily dropped during the Obama administration reaching a fourteen year low so far in 2016. 

This trade was never sustainable but part of a regime strategy to obtain credits and financing to shift the burden to U.S. taxpayers as was the case with other countries doing business in Cuba. James Prevor, President and Editor in Chief of the publication Produce Business in October of 2002 in the article, Cuba Caution, reported on how Cuba "had exhausted all its credit lines and, at best, was simply rotating the accounts. When the opportunity came to buy from the United States, Cuba simply abandoned all those suppliers who supported the country for 40 years and began buying from us."  The suppliers were not the ones impacted by Cuba's failure to pay its debts, the taxpayers of the suppliers' home countries were the one's left holding the tab.  

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce touts the virtues of free trade, free markets and free enterprise in its advocacy for lifting economic sanctions on Cuba what it is actually pursuing is trade with the Cuban government that passes the risk of not getting paid on to taxpayers.  Darío Fernández-Morera an associate professor at North Western University in the May 1, 2014 issue of Chronicles in the article The Cost of Normalization reports that the Small Business Exporters Association announced 

"since March 2009, a select group of commercial banks now will be able to offer terms of 180 days to five years on federally-guaranteed loans to the foreign buyers of U.S. exports without having to obtain prior federal approval.  ... Because of the foreign risks involved  in export lending, most commercial banks through-out the world do not make these loans without government guarantees. In the U.S., the guarantees are provided by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), a federal agency.
This will mean that the Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture lobby will sell to the Cuban dictatorship and have the taxpayers pick up the tab if anything goes wrong.  The record with other countries over the past half century indicates that the Castro regime will default on what it owes.

Hillary Clinton's track record does not inspire confidence and is another reason why she should not be entrusted with The White House.  Unfortunately, Donald Trump on normalizing relations with the Castro regime is but an echo of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton only adding that he would have negotiated something better. 

Cuban-Americans at FIU Ask Hillary Clinton to Stop Beatings of Cuban Women by Raul Castro’s Police

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cuban-Americans Ask Hillary Clinton to Stop Beatings of Cuban Women by Raul Castro’s Police

Text taken and adapted from Center for a Free Cuba press release

Today, Saturday, July 23, 2016, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate for president visited Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, FL in her first joint public address with her vice-presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine. The Center for a Free Cuba distributed fliers asking Mrs. Clinton to bring an end to the systematic beatings of Cuban mothers, wives, and sisters of political prisoners that continue to take place on the island. 

The Center for a Free Cuba is a non-partisan human rights organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cuba. The Center’s president is Ambassador James C. Cason, former Chief of the American Mission in Havana. The Center’s Board of Directors and Research Counsel brings together several former American ambassadors, professors, business and community leaders. The Center repeats its call on President Barack Obama to condition any concessions to Raul Castro’s government on stopping the beatings of the Ladies in White, the abuse of political prisoners, and to allow Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Cuban jails.

The Ladies in White is a group of peaceful women dissidents who were honored in 2005 by the European Parliament with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The founder of the group Laura Pollan died under mysterious circumstances in a Cuban hospital in 2011, at a time when Raul Castro and Barack Obama where Heads of State.

Four years ago today, one of the most prominent opposition leaders, Christian- democrat Oswaldo Paya was murdered on a Cuban highway when Cuban political police forced his car off the road. Together with Paya, human rights activist Harold Cepero was also murdered. The regime has not provided a timeline from the moment that they were forced off the road, when they allegedly were taken to the hospital, when they were given medical attention, what type of attention, and when they died. Oswaldo Paya’s family continues to request the release of the autopsy report.

There are more human rights activists that have been killed by Raul Castro’s regime, and to date, while other issues have been dealt with, the United States has not made these murders a high priority in its relations with Havana.

When the announcement of the re-establishment of an American embassy was announced, Amnesty International noted that if only a few political prisoners were to be released, and the repressive decrees remained in place, then the rapprochement between the two governments would be but a “smokescreen.”

All lives matter—all American lives matter, including the lives of Cuban Americans. Mrs. Clinton has yet to speak about several American terrorists enjoying the hospitality of Raul Castro in Havana after they killed American police officers and fled to Cuba. Mrs. Clinton has said that she supports Mr. Obama’s policy and remains silent to this day about the return to Cuba by President Obama of a Cuban spy who was serving two life sentences in an American prison for his role in planning the murder of three American citizens and one Florida resident by Cuban war planes that obliterated their two single-engine airplanes in international airspace while they were searching for refugees fleeing Cuba.

Mrs. Hillary has said nothing about current Washing speculation that an American spy who worked for the Castros for years while serving at the Defense Intelligence Agency would be freed and returned to Havana. Ms. Ana Belen Montes’ treason resulted in the death of several individuals, friends of the United States.

Today, an aircraft towed a banner over Florida International University with this message: HILLARY, STOP BEATINGS OF CUBAN WOMEN BY RAUL CASTRO

Mrs. Clinton spoke months ago at FIU, but she took no questions. We urged students and faculty at FIU to ask Mrs. Clinton earlier today to call on Raul Castro to stop the beatings of innocent women.

Sadly once again today she did not take questions and her vice-presidential candidate mentioned learning Spanish in Honduras but made no mention of ongoing crises in Cuba or Venezuela.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Remembering Cuba's martyred democrats Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero four years later

Remembering the words of Cuba's martyred human rights defenders Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante

Christian Liberation announces month in memory of Oswaldo and Harold
Today, July 22, 2016 marks four years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed in Cuba under suspicious circumstances that have led to demands for an international investigation, a report that points to the involvement of state security, and survivor testimony that points to murder. Today family, friends and admirers will celebrate their lives while praying for them as we continue to mourn their passing. The Christian Liberation Movement a month ago requested those who knew the two men to write an article or chronicle about them.

Although I have been blessed to meet Oswaldo's and Harold's friends and family members over the years, fate did not allow me to meet them but on a couple of occasions speak with them over the phone. Nevertheless the words and actions of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement captured my imagination and admiration when I first heard of him in 1990. The Christian Liberation Movement's nonviolent vision of change is a radical rejection of the violence and hatred that define the ideology and political vision embraced by the Castro brothers and the dictatorship's iconic figure Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The violence visited on Werlando Leyva Batista, a 30 year old member of the Christian Liberation Movement in Holguin, Cuba attacked with multiple machete blows by one of the Castro regime's paramilitary on June 8, 2013 has been part of a pattern of worsening violence by the dictatorship that continues to be defied nonviolently.

In remembering both martyred activists the words of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante must be remembered and their nonviolent legacy and example shared with others.
"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   

"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

"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  
"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
"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
"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
"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

"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 
"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

"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’." - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"We now know that any method or model which purportedly aims to achieve justice, development, and efficiency but takes precedence over the individual or cancels out any of the fundamental rights leads to a form of oppression and to exclusion and is calamitous for the people." - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"We wish to express our solidarity with all those who suffer from any form of oppression and injustice, and with those in the world who have been silenced or marginalized." - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"It's obviously a matter of shame that our land is being used for that purpose, having foreign prisoners brought to Cuba. Even if they are terrorists they deserve respect. Their human rights should be respected." - Oswaldo Paya, December 18, 2002 (on arrival of Taliban prisoners to Guantanamo )

"It's difficult to say exactly what the offences are but it can be just for being critical of Fidel Castro. More than 20 leaders of our movement [the Christian Liberation Movement] are in prison and many other activists from other movements. The repression against the Varela Project [named after Felix Varela, a nineteenth-century Cuban independence advocate] is because they understood that people had lost their fear so we became a symbol of hope." - Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006

"Many Cubans see powerful things in this regime or are concerned that they will be trapped. The solution cannot be a violent one because that will only bring more violence."  - Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006

"I have been told that I am going to be killed before the regime is over but I am not going to run away."- Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006  

"We thank all those heroes who on one day were abducted from their homes unjustly imprisoned solely for defending human rights. The people of Cuba and all who love justice must be grateful to those Cubans who have been symbols of dignity and hope shining from the shadows."  - Oswaldo Paya, October 7, 2010
"We don't want savage capitalism; we already have savage communism. Please, no more savage things." - Oswaldo Payá, November 20, 2010 

There is a real “moral inversion,” in what the foreign media, intellectual circles, ecclesiastical circles, diplomats and politicians are doing against the people of Cuba and against the dissident right now. They judge the persecuted, the poor, those who are silenced, but they do not dare to judge the government. - Oswaldo Paya, October 3, 2011

Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression.  - Oswaldo Payá, March 30, 2012
“Already many Cubans have discovered and soon all of them will discover that this oppression, that this imposed lie, can be overcome recognizing ourselves as brothers to conquer our rights peacefully. So there is hope.” - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas,  Somos Liberación Havana, Cuba, July  2012.
The extrajudicial killings of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012 was not only the murder of two good men but the Castro regime's attempt to murder the future of a free and democratic Cuba. Today is a day that all friends of freedom should say a prayer for these two activists, their friends, families, and for Cubans in general. Tonight at 8:00pm at Our Lady of Charity (Ermita de la Caridad) located at 3609 South Miami Ave Miami, FL. 33133 a Mass to give thanks for the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante who sacrificed so much for Cuba's freedom will be held.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

One year after changing U.S. - Cuba Policy course to the wrong direction: Marginalizing democrats; embracing dictatorship

Changing course to go in the wrong direction is not progress.

From meeting with opposition leaders (2003) to shunning them (2015)
Today the White House tweeted "One year ago, we changed course in Cuba" and claimed to have achieved "progress." Over the past year human rights have worsened in Cuba and overall situation has deteriorated. Unfortunately, the Obama administration's passivity before regime demands is partly to blame.

One year ago today the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. was formally re-designated the Cuba Embassy with Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance.  Later on that same day the significance of this new relationship with the Castro regime was made evident in the treatment accorded to Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo.

On  July 20, 2015 at the State Department, Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo attended a press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry and Castro's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez. Rosa Maria had proper accreditation as a member of the press. She has had articles published in news publications such as The PanAm Post and her own blog. This did not stop Rear Admiral John Kirby, who was transferred from the Pentagon and in May of 2015 became the new State Department spokesman, from taking Rosa Maria aside and warning her that she would be physically removed if she asked any questions or caused any kind of disturbance.

Cecilia Bradley of NBC6 captured a blurry image of when Rosa Maria Payá was taken aside. The young activist tweeted a photo of Rear Admiral Kirby with the following text: "John Kirby kindly told me if I caused disturbances during the conference security would remove me." In a later tweet Rosa Maria reported that "Mr. Kirby asks me not to ask questions at John Kerry's press briefing or they would use force to expel me."

The United States Department of State in the space of  twelve years has gone from Secretary of State Colin Powell receiving Cuban democratic opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas to threatening his daughter with force if she dared to ask a question at a press conference in which Secretary of State John Kerry took questions with the Cuban dictatorship's Foreign Minister. The same dictatorship that martyred her father three years earlier.

Is this what is now celebrated as progress by the Obama administration?

A day later when  Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo attempted to present a letter to the Cuban embassy requesting her father's autopsy report she was not allowed to turn in the letter and a patrol car was called. Since 2012 the Payá family has been requesting Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's autopsy report from the dictatorship and has yet to be given a copy as they are entitled by law. This is not how the embassy of a country behaves, but it is how a totalitarian dictatorship does. This is why South Florida residents protested placing a Cuban Consulate here earlier this year.

President Obama changed course on Cuba from Secretary of State Powell receiving a Cuban democratic opposition member in 2003 following a petition drive signed by more than 20,000 Cuban nationals demanding democratic reforms to the Secretary of State's spokesman threatening an accredited reporter with physical removal from the State Department because her father was martyred by the dictatorship (this administration normalized relations with) to prevent her asking a question at a press conference to the foreign minister of that regime.

Diminishing the moral stature of the United States government is the opposite of progress. Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo in a tweet summed up this new reality perfectly:  "I didn't think I would receive in the State Dept the same kind of coercive warning security at the Panama airport gave me."

Neither did I.