Monday, April 14, 2014

New Boss Same As The Old Boss: Castroism's International Projection 1959 - 2014

Presented at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami on April 14, 2014
Fidel Castro lounging with war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam, in Ethiopia in 1977
The dictatorship in Cuba has been in power for 55 years. Despite being an island just 90 miles south of the United States it has projected itself internationally to undermine democratic and international human rights standards over that time working through international institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council. 

In the 1960s the Castro regime organized meetings in Havana, Cuba gathering guerrillas and terrorists from around the world with a common aim to destabilize governments by means of armed struggle and terrorism was viewed as a legitimate tactic. They were called gatherings of the Tricontinental.

Many focus on the Castro regime’s involvement in Angola in the 1970s backing a Marxist regime in battles against anti-communist guerrillas and the South African regime but fail to mention another important incursion in Africa.  In Ethiopia the Castro regime backed Mengistu Haile Mariam with advice, troops and high level visits by both Fidel and Raul Castro.  War crimes such as a provoked famine and the targeting of ideologically suspect children for mass killings led to downplaying the role of the Castro regime in the whole affair.  

In the 1970s in addition to supporting guerrillas and terrorists the Castro regime also began an unusual relationship with the military dictatorship in Argentina helping to block efforts to condemn it at the United Nations Human Rights Commission for thousands of leftists disappeared by the regime.

Fidel Castro conversing with Argentine military dictator and ally
 Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone Ramayón, brutal military dictator of Argentina between 1982 and 1983 (in the picture above with Fidel Castro). On April 20, 2010, the Argentine despot was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of 56 people in a concentration camp.

In 1979 the Castro regime found success with the ouster of the Somoza regime and the entrance of Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas into Nicaragua. In the early 1980s Cubans had made inroads into Grenada in the Caribbean.

By the late 1980s with the collapse of their main subsidizer, the Soviet Union, and the Warsaw Pact the Castro regime was temporarily on the defensive. For the first time since 1959 they felt forced to allow the International Red Cross to visit prisons, allowed Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to enter Cuba in a formal visit as well as the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

The Castro regime had been one of the few voices applauding the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in China congratulating them for "defeating the counterrevolutionary acts.".

These trends would change dramatically by the end of the 1990s with the warming relations with Mainland China throughout the 1990s and the arrival of Hugo Chavez to power in Venezuela in 1999.

For sake of brevity will highlight here some of the outrages perpetrated by the Castro regime within the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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

The non-invitation invitation of Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, by the Cuban Ambassador and the Cuban Minister of Justice in January of 2009 to visit Cuba later that same year. Only to be put off without notice again and again through 2009 and 2010 leading to this expert missing opportunities to visit other countries and on June 9, 2010, making the following statement:
“I regret that in spite of its clear invitation, the Government of Cuba has not allowed me to objectively assess the situation of torture and ill-treatment in the country by collecting first-hand evidence from all available sources.”
On February 2, 2009 during the Universal Periodic Review of China the Cuban Ambassador, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios encouraged the Chinese regime to repress human rights defenders in China with more firmness.

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

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

On February 5, 2012 ALBA Countries reiterated rejection of "foreign interference" in Syria's internal affairs, expressing support for President Bashar al-Assad and confidence that he would resolve the Syrian crisis. ALBA Countries include Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Meanwhile in Syria President al-Assad  engaged in massacres throughout the country

On June 1, 2012 at a Special Session on the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria with a special focus on the massacre in El-Houleh the Cuban regime and its allies took a stand against holding the Assad regime accountable for its gross and systematic human rights abuses.

Raul Castro with North Korea's Army Chief, General Kim Kyok-sik
On July 15, 2013: “Panama captured North Korean-flagged ship from Cuba with undeclared military cargo.”  On March 6, 2014 the United Nations released a report indicating that the Castro regime was in violation of international sanctions placed on North Korea and had not cooperated with the investigation.

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

On March 21, 2014 at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Castro dictatorship again applauded the human rights record of the People's Republic of China, and voted to block the effort of human rights defenders to hold a moment of silence for Cao Shunli. She was an activist who had tried to participate in China’s Universal Periodic Review, but was detained at the airport trying to get on a flight to attend the current session  and accused of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." Within three months in detention and being denied medical care Cao Shunli died on March 14, 2014.

On March 28, 2014 at the United Nations Human Rights Council a resolution for “The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, tried to safeguard this right” passed but with the narrow defeat of amendments that would have watered it down led by South Africa with the backing of Algeria, Belarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Out of that list of countries the one with the closest relationship with South Africa is Cuba.  

Incidentally in the present crisis in Ukraine it is North Korea, Syria, and Cuba backing the Russian incursion into Crimea.

UN experts in the past justified the presence of outlaw regimes such as Cuba and North Korea in the UN Human Rights Council arguing that it would temper their behavior. Looking at the Cuban dictatorship’s track record and its successful undermining of international human rights standards one hopes that these experts will re-examine their assumptions.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Venezuela's Non-Violent Resistance 60 Days Later: #12F - #12A

"Today, we citizens went out massively and peacefully into the street in Caracas to once more find a brutal regime crackdown." - Maria Corina Machado, April 12, 2014 over twitter

Some of the Venezuelans killed since February 12, 2014
 Sixty Days later and Venezuelans by the tens of thousands are out in the streets marching on April12, 2014 for the future that they want. The march was organized by the student movement. What sparked these protests that have gone on for two months: violence and insecurity in Venezuelan society and the government's response which has involved shooting and torturing students.

Mildred Manrique: "Opposition march to Plaza Venezuela 1:06pm"

Remembering Day 1: 
On February 12, 2014 a national youth day in Venezuela student protesters were shot in the head and killed by government agents. Robert Redman, Juan Montoya (Juancho) and Bassil Alejandro Da Costa were all extra-judicially executed by collectives and officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) in an effort, apparently to use terror,  to shutdown the nonviolent student marches. Juancho, a member of a collective was caught in crossfire and killed by a government functionary. Others were tortured and one of the young detainees was raped with an assault rifle. The death toll now in the political protests is above 40 and scores of Venezuelan students have been detained and some disappeared.
Robert Redman (in circle) carrying shooting victim Bassil Dacosta on February 12
What did you do?
Sixty days later and the question raised by Robert Redman still moves many Venezuelans. Robert Redman, in the picture above carrying shooting victim, Bassil Alejandro Dacosta on February 12, 2014 was himself shot in the head and killed later that same day in Caracas but not before tweeting: "Today I was hit with a rock in the back, a helmet in my nose. I swallowed tear-gas, Carried the kid who died, and what did you do?" He was 31 years old.

The struggle for freedom and justice continues in Venezuela using nonviolent means. History has demonstrated how effective this method can be and Venezuelans are writing a new chapter today. Please take a moment to do your part and sign this petition.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Solidarity of the Shaken: Cuban, Ukranian & Venezuelan Activists Join Together in Solidarity

Democratic Resistance from Cuba, Ukraine and Venezuela

We members of the nonviolent resistance in Cuba, Venezuela and Ukraine recognizing that:

 Over the past 42 years the overwhelming majority of democratic transitions were the result of democratic civil society organizations utilizing civic action and other forms of civil resistance, such as strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and mass protests;

Ours is a struggle for fundamental freedoms recognized the world over:  the freedom to dissent; freedom of speech; freedom of association; freedom to protest peacefully; and freedom to elect our leaders in free and fair multiparty elections;

Anti-Democratic regimes are sharing experiences and worse practices to combat nonviolent civic movements and hang on to power;

Dictatorships are collaborating internationally and through international institutions to undermine human rights and democratic norms.

We condemn the occupation of Ukraine by the neo-Soviet regime in Russia.

We call on civil society in the regimes that support aggression against Ukraine to join forces and help achieve freedom.

We demand respect for human rights and the unconditional release of political prisoners in Venezuela and Cuba.

We demand an end to repression against Venezuelan youth who peacefully demand freedom and justice.

We demand an end to repression and torture practices against civic resistance in Cuba.

We demand an end to the presence and action of military and intelligence forces of the Havana regime in Venezuela.

We ask that international organizations open investigations into the killings of the following human rights defenders in Cuba:
Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero, Laura Pollán, Juan Soto Garcia, Wilman Villar and Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Therefore we resolve to:

Learn from each other’s experiences in order to achieve a democratic transition and consolidation in our respective countries.

Collaborate to defend human rights and democratic norms in our respective countries and through international institutions.

Report and bring to justice the criminals that against our peoples have committed acts against humanity.

Leave this declaration open for other countries fighting for their rights to join it.

April 8, 2014

Dmytro Potekhin                                                        
Expert in Nonviolent Resistance                  
Kennedy Bolívar   
Representative of the Junta Patriótica Estudiantil Popular  
Bertha Antúnez  
Representative of  Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antúnez”  
Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica OZT y Asamblea de la Resistencia Cubana  


En castellano

Amnesty petition calls on Venezuelan Govt to investigate/prevent further human rights violations

Amnesty: 37 dead, 500 injured and 2,000 detained - Venezuela must put the rights of the people first. 

Venezuelan Protests: human rights at risk, people at risk

By Amnesty International

Sign this petition to call on the Venezuelan government to investigate and prevent further human rights violations and abuses in the context of protests and open a dialogue with all parties to find an agreed solution.

Since the beginning of February 2014, Venezuela has been shaken up by violence triggered by demonstrations against and in favour of the government. The unrest has already resulted in the death of over 37 people, including at least six members of the security forces. More than 500 people have been injured and over 2,000 have been detained. Most people arrested have been conditionally released pending investigations but they face charges that could lead to years in prison.
There are indications of excessive use of force by the security forces, as well as reports of violence by armed pro government groups and by anti government protesters. Some detainees have reported ill-treatment and torture.

Over the last decade, Venezuelan society has been increasingly divided by polarization. The current political crisis risks undermining any progress made in recent years in standing up for the rights of those most marginalized in the country. This must be a wake-up call for the government.
The answer to this crisis is the unconditional respect for the human rights, and the strengthening of the institutions that underpin the rule of law. The time to act is now.

Please sign petition here:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Message from Venezuelan Opposition Leader to Castro and Maduro: Get Out and Resign

@MariaCorinaYA Here I send you my article today in "Resign" 
Maria Corina: "Direct from airport, join students protesting in tents in front of UN in Ccs!"
by María Corina Machado / El Universal

I leave the Congress of Brazil, emotionally moved for exercising the duty and the honor of speaking as a member, on behalf of all Venezuelans. It coincided with a tribute to parliamentarians that 50 years ago were expelled by the dictatorship from the Congress, accused of  "treason to the nation for criticizing their country abroad ." This could have influenced the enthusiasm with which the deputies, standing, shouted: "Venezuela", "democracy", "brave" and "freedom" as I withdraw from the plenary.

The operation of the regime to prevent the world knowing about their cruel violations of human rights, popular sovereignty and freedom of expression, has been costly and useless. Parliaments, newspapers and homes from every continent call the Venezuelan regime for what it is: a dictatorship.

Until two months ago, the regime led to believe that we had resigned ourselves. Venezuela awoke. The Cuban orders to suppress every "little candle " with the fury of paramilitary criminal gangs, PNB (The Bolivarian National Police) and the  GNB (Bolivarian National Guard) provoked more outrage and energy for the deepest and most widespread civic movement in our history. The regime crossed a red line and now for foreign actors, indifference is complicity.

A people is in the street, decided to advance irreversibly and without delay in the transition to democracy. A country that demands a change, not just of policy or rulers, but in the values, ​​in the model of society, and that are determined to do so through democratic means under the Constitution. For them we won't accept a new deception with a call for dialogue that seeks to demobilize protests or give the semblance of legitimacy. As for the public powers, we declined the offer of cosmetic quotas. Imposing a total restructuring of the CNE , the Attorney General, the Ombudsman and the Comptroller, just for starters.

Two years ago , in a public letter to Fidel Castro, I told him, "Cmdr Castro, stop interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela. Do it willingly or the democratic forces in Venezuela will make him understand as was done 50 years ago" The Castros already understood that Venezuelans will fight to win democracy, national sovereignty and freedom. As a member of the National Assembly and citizen, I say, Mr. Maduro:  the time has arrived for you also to understand: Resign.

Original en Castellano