Friday, August 17, 2018

Castro regime lies to UN-CERD during examination of racism in Cuba, bars black Cubans from speaking

The Castro regime says there is no racism in Cuba. Cubans of African descent say different, but are detained and prohibited from speaking out in an international forum.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Human Rights Defender

May 15, 1967 - February 23, 2010
The UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN-CERD) met in Geneva on Wednesday, August 15 from 15:00-18:00 to examine racism in Cuba. The Castro regime representative testified before the Committee that "racial discrimination is not a generalized problem in Cuba, there has been just one complaint of discrimination. Measures were taken: the perpetrator was sanctioned and the victim seemed satisfied. There are very few isolated cases." The regime also claimed that there are no racial majorities or minorities despite recognizing that 64% of Cubans identify as white and 9% as black.

Finally, the Cuban government told the UN-CERD that human rights defenders in Cuba face no limitations to exercise their activities. The dictatorship's diplomats assured that there have been no reprisals or harassment of activists.

Cuban human rights defender impeded from attending UN-CERD Cuba review
These were self evident lies. Cuban human rights defenders Juan Antonio Madrazo and Norberto Mesa who were to attend the same session were detained arbitrarily and banned by the Castro regime from traveling there to speak on the question of racism.
Norberto Mesa was not permitted to attend
Country Rapporteur, Mr. Albuquerque, denounced at the UN-CERD examination of Cuba the travel ban faced by Juan Antonio Madrazo and Norberto Mesa who were planning to travel to the Committee. They were also prohibited to organize events to raise awareness on racial discrimination in Cuba.

Despite the claims of the dictatorship, racism remains a problem in Cuba that worsened during the Castro regime. Black nationalist Carlos Moore in his book "Pichon: Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba: A Memoir" exposed the Castro regime's deep seated racism.

Abdias Nascimento Born in the town of Franca, State of São Paulo, in March 1914, Nascimento is the grandson of enslaved Africans. His father was a cobbler and a musician; his mother made and catered sweets and candies. He received his B. A. in Economics from the University of Rio de Janeiro in 1938, and post-graduate degrees from the Higher Institute of Brazilian Studies (1957) and the Oceanography Institute (1961). Nascimento participated early in Brazil’s equivalent of the civil rights movement, the Brazilian Black Front (São Paulo, 1929-30). He led the organization of the Afro-Campineiro Congress, a meeting of Brazilian blacks to protest discrimination in the city of Campinas in 1938. This is what he said in an open letter on October 30, 2009 on racism in Cuba:
"The facts as I have come to know them indicate that we are facing a clear case of political intimidation against those, in Cuba, who raise their voices in protest against racism, discriminatory practices, and all kinds of intimidations meted out to citizens who dare call for the establishment, in their country, of a State that is respectful of Civil Rights, of the right of citizens to freely congregate and form organizations and to freely demonstrate their opposition to discriminatory practices of which they feel they are a target for one reason or another."
On January 4, 2010 the late civil libertarian Nat Hentoff wrote a column published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch titled Racism in Cuba that explores the reality the Castro regime denies:
Throughout the course of these columns on the Castro dictatorship, I have cited the chronic racial discrimination against black Cubans throughout Fidel's Revolution, a "revolution" that gladdens such visitors as celebrity documentarian Michael Moore, who never mentions Jim Crow on the island. The extensive marginalization of blacks in Cuba has failed to break through into general American consciousness; but as of the Nov. 30 release of "Statement of Conscience by African Americans," the big dirty secret of the Castro brothers has been exposed. According to the resounding news release -- which had the authoritative ring of Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" -- "60 prominent black American scholars, artists, and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime's stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country's budding civil rights movement. This statement is the first public condemnation of racial conditions in Cuba made by black Americans."
There have been martyrs of African descent who suffered at the hands of regime authorities because of the color of their skin.  Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a Cuban of African descent and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. 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...
Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a prolonged water only hunger strike in which prison authorities over the course of more than two weeks on and off refused him water. Following his death the Castro regime and its agents of influence sought to slander Orlando's memory. However, activists who knew Orlando had already spoken on the record, as had Amnesty International. On the same day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding his 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.
The slander campaign failed because people of good will paid attention and refused to remain silent. However the attempt of the Castro regime to portray this human rights defender and humble brick layer as a criminal relied on racist stereotypes.

Children in Cuba have been murdered by the secret police for stealing small fruits off a tree. Angel Izquierdo Medina, a 14-year old child was shot and killed by Amado Interian, a retired Lieutenant Colonel from State Security, in Mantilla, Cuba because he stole some mamoncillos. This evening because 400 friends, family members and neighbors decided to attend the dead child's wake and are upset about the circumstances surrounding his death were subjected to Cuban state security agents laying siege at the dead child's wake. The reaction by the regime's security forces no longer makes this a simple indictment of one retired state security agent but of an unjust system with a total disregard for human life. In a normal society it would be Amado Interian in custody and under investigation for the use of excessive force and the murder of a minor.

The Castro regime is, among its many sins, not only a dictatorship that denies racism is a systemic problem, exploits racist stereotypes to demonize opponents of African descent, a police that operates with impunity, but also with poverty that disproportionately impacts Cubans of African descent. An issue that was raised at the CERD examination of racism in Cuba.
Finally, three Cubans to be shot by firing squad following a speedy "trial" in 2003 were all of African descent. On April 2, 2003 eleven Cubans hijacked a ferry traveling to Regla from Havana with 40 people on board with the intention of traveling to the United States of America but ran out of fuel 28 miles off the Cuban coast and were towed back to the island.  Despite verbal threats made against the safety of the passengers to maintain control of the vessel, the situation, according to the authorities, ended without violence and that “all of those who had been on board were rescued and saved without so much as a shot or a scratch.”

Lorenzo Enrique Copello, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla and Jorge Luis Martínez
The hijackers were tried by the "Court for Crimes against State Security of the People’s Court of Havana. The Court had applied the specially expedited summary proceeding contemplated in Articles 479 and 480 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The petitioners add that the trials took place from April 5 to 8, 2003." At the "end of the expedited summary trial, the alleged victims were sentenced to death for violating the 'Cuban Law against Acts of Terrorism,' of December 2001. Although the legally defined offenses committed by the hijackers, the law prescribes imprisonment, not the death penalty.  The three hijackers sentenced to death, Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, appealed against their death sentences to the Supreme People’s Court. This Court ratified the sentences in a one-day trial. In keeping with current laws in Cuba, these death sentences were submitted for consideration by the Council of State, which proceeded to ratify them, condemning them to death.

In the early morning of April 11, 2003, following the decision handed down by the Council of State, the sentences were carried out and Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac executed. Nine days after the hijacking and three days after the trial.

 On October 21, 2006 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the State of Cuba is "responsible for violating Articles XVII and XXVI of the American Declaration to the detriment of Messrs Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, by not providing them with a fair trial." Furthermore that the State of Cuba "is responsible for violating Article 1 of the American Declaration, to the detriment of Messrs. Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, by executing them on the basis of a sentence handed down in a proceeding that did not ensure due judicial guarantees."

Some of the artists who signed a letter calling on criticism of the executions to stop
The executions had created a firestorm of international criticism in quarters that usually backed the Castro regime. This led to the regime obtaining the tacit support in a statement titled "LETTER OF CUBAN INTELLECTUALS AGAINST THE ATTACKS TO THE REVOLUTION"of prominent Cuban figures asking their usual allies on the Left who were criticizing the summary executions by firing squad of these three young black men to end their criticism. The list of signers are a who's who of the Cuban arts and culture: Alicia Alonso, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Miguel Barnet, Julio García Espinosa, Leo Brouwer, Fina García Marruz, Abelardo Estorino, Harold Gramatges, Roberto Fabelo, Alfredo Guevara, Pablo Armando Fernández, Eusebio Leal, Octavio Cortázar, José Loyola, Carlos Martí, Raquel Revuelta, Nancy Morejón, Silvio Rodríguez, Senel Paz, Humberto Solás, Amaury Pérez, Marta Valdés, Graziella Pogolotti, Chucho Valdés, César Portillo de la Luz, Cintio Vitier, and Omara Portuondo. 

Many of them, like Cuban singer and dancer Omara Portuondo, and Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés of African descent themselves. There are two possibilities here. Either these artists and thinkers sincerely believed  that three young black men, who had not physically harmed anyone, should be tried and executed by firing squad in the space of 72 hours for reasons of national security or they were forced to sign the document to avoid falling out of favor with the dictatorship.

At the time the question of anti-black racism was raised surrounding the executions. “By executing [three young blacks], Castro was sending a clear message to the Afro-Cuban population” that dissent will not be tolerated, said Jaime Suchlicki, director of Cuban studies at the University of Miami, in a report on Cuban racism in June of 2003. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#FreeCardet: The Via-Crucis of Eduardo Cardet Concepción

Update on the plight of a courageous dissident, medical doctor, and family man.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción MD: Prisoner of conscience since November 30, 2016
Some good news: Ebert Hidalgo Cruz, and Jose Daniel Ferrer are back with their loved ones but the bad news continues, Eduardo Cardet Concepción remains unjustly imprisoned and no one has heard from him since July 28, 2018. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and there are more than 100 other known political prisoners in Cuba. 

Yesterday the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) over social media reported that "because for more than two weeks nothing is known about Eduardo Cardet and that some time ago he was able to send a note saying 'I am in danger,' his family traveled to the jail where he is held to appeal, despite having their visits suspended by regime authorities, for his freedom."

Hours later MCL reported: "Continued cruelty against Eduardo Cardet, calls are suspended for two months (in addition to having visits suspended). His family tried to see him today, they did not allow it."
Wife and husband: Yaimaris Vecino and Eduardo Cardet

Eduardo Cardet Concepción is married with two children, is a medical doctor at the health center in the town of Velasco in Holguín province, focusing on family care. In 2013 he was expelled from his work in retaliation for his opposition activity. However, protests over this punishment and popular support led to Eduardo Cardet's reinstatement to his old job.

Following the extrajudicial killing of Oswaldo Payá  and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, the Christian Liberation Movement restructured its leadership and Eduardo Cardet was appointed national coordinator of the movement in November of 2014.

The repression ramped up against Doctor Cardet when he succeeded Oswaldo Payá as head of the Christian Liberation Movement.

Dr. Cardet was arrested on November 30, 2016, beaten up by the secret police in front of his wife and two small children. Since that day he has suffered, beatings, a stabbing, the denial of family visits and has not been heard from since July 28, 2018. 20 days without a phone call or physical visit.

His crime: speaking negatively of the legacy of Fidel Castro in Cuba and advocating for Cubans reclaiming their sovereignty in a restored democratic order through nonviolent means.

It has been a lengthy and distressing journey through the repressive apparatus of the Castro regime. A via-crucis that the Cardet family has been suffering through for the past 625 days.

Please ask the Castro regime over social media English, Spanish and whatever language you find appropriate: #WhereIsEduardoCardet? and #WhenCanEduardoSeeHisFamily  

End the impunity, denounce this crime and hold the regime accountable.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Next month Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement will observe the third decade since its founding

"Without tradition, originality cannot exist: for it is only against a tradition that it becomes perceivable."  - Roger Scruton

 Cuba's most important opposition group, the Christian Liberation Movement, will be observing an important anniversary next month. Thirty years ago on September 8, 1988 on the feast day of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba, a movement was born inspired by Christian teachings and the desire to be free. On September 8, 2014 Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement released a statement recalling their founding:
We were born there in the parish of the Cerro, one of the many neighborhoods of Havana. The background: The Circle of the Cerro. Then something more formal, The Circle of Cuban Christian Thought. This was banned and dissolved when it launched the first free Cuban publication, also prohibited, titled "People of God", proclaiming the source of liberation: when we said, "We must obey God before men", "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's, "But if God gives you Freedom, who is Cesar to take it away? "All men and women are my brothers and sisters." "We will not act violently or submit to violence," "You are my brother, I do not hate you, but I am not afraid of you."
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas described how the Christian Liberation Movement, a democratic opposition movement, came into existence and explained how it was related to the birth of his first child, Oswaldo José.
“When our first child was going to be born, we have three children, we said that our children cannot live in a country without liberty and we are not going to another country to seek freedom. Therefore we have to fight for our children to live free here in Cuba and everyone else's children and their parents too.”    
Oswaldo José was born on February 17, 1988 and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was founded that same year.  Oswaldo Payá was killed on July 22, 2012 along with the movement's youth leader Harold Cepero Despite the killings, the movement re-organized and elected a new national coordinator, Eduardo Cardet MD.  Dr. Cardet was arrested on November 30, 2016 and has suffered, beatings, a stabbing, the denial of family visits and has not been heard from since July 28, 2018. 18 days without a phone call or physical visit.

Following the extrajudicial killing of Oswaldo Payá  and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, the Christian Liberation Movement restructured its leadership and Eduardo Cardet was appointed national coordinator of the movement in November of 2014.

Eduardo Cardet is married with two children, works as a family doctor at the health center in the town of Velasco in Holguín province, where he lives. One year before his appointment as leader of the Christian Liberation Movement he was expelled from his work in retaliation for his opposition activity. However, protests over this punishment measure and popular support led to Eduardo Cardet's reinstatement to his old job.

Christian Liberation Movement: Regis Iglesias, Tony Díaz Sánchez, Eduardo Cardet
 The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) is campaigning for Eduardo Cardet's release. At the same time they are observing this important anniversary on social media.

Regis Iglesias on the 16th anniversary of turning in 11,020 signatures for a democratic change in Cuba reflected on the importance of the Varela Project in AlgoritmoMag.
It was the first time that Cubans voted or demanded to do so after almost half a century of dictatorship that May 10, 2002, when Oswaldo Paya, Tony Diaz and I crossed the threshold of the offices of the National Assembly of People's Power and presented their officials the signatures that legitimized our demand for a referendum.Eleven thousand twenty Cubans with the right to vote, protected by among other articles 1, 3, and fundamentally 88, paragraph g of the draconian socialist constitution in force, took the step and with their personal data supported the demand for a referendum on the Varela Project, so that the law will guarantee the right to "political freedom", "popular sovereignty", the freedom of political prisoners and the economic freedoms of Cubans.More than a civic and legal exercise the initiative of the Christian Liberation Movement and its founder Oswaldo Paya, finally found a methodology to create the minimum social base in the middle of a totalitarian and repressive state in which the opposition is not recognized and dissidence is considered treason.
 This is why this 30 year old organization remains the most important opposition movement in Cuba, under the Castro dictatorship. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Extrajudicial killing in Cuba: 46-year old badly beaten by members of Castro's Revolutionary National Police dies

Extrajudicial killing in Cuba

Jorge Luis García Pérez (better known as “Antúnez”) reported over Facebook the extrajudicial killing of Alejandro Pupo Echemendía, a 46 year old Cuban national by the Revolutionary National Police on August 9, 2018. Antúnez also posted the testimony of Elizama Mujica Cabrera, the wife of the victim.
On the night of this Thursday, August 9, the walls of the cells of the police unit in Placetas, Villa Clara, were sprayed with the innocent blood of 46-year-old Alejandro Pupo Echemendía, who died as a result of the beating of clubs. batons, blows of night sticks, kicks, thrown to the ground that gave him the police there, while Pupo Echemendia convulsed product of a nervous breakdown that he suffered as a result of being the victim of an unfair accusation.
This moving testimony is from his wife Elizama Mujica Cabrera given within a few hours of the horrendous crime. In the next few hours we will publish important proofs of the murder, such as images and testimonies during the funeral, and the most shocking still, the overwhelming testimony given to us by one of the people who claimed to have witnessed the events, that is, from having seen how, when, why and who murdered Alejandro Pupo Echemendía.
Photos show Alejandro's body covered in bruises and eyewitness accounts hold the agents of the Castro regime responsible.

Below is another photo revealing the physical harm visited on Alejandro Pupo Echemendía by regime officials.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Family of jailed Cuban human rights defender denounces that he is being tortured

"Children, I will endure everything they are doing to me." - Ebert Hidalgo Cruz

Ebert Hidalgo Cruz  with his wife and children in happier times
Cuban opposition activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz, who was detained together with José Daniel Ferrer Garcia on Friday, August 3, 2018, following a traffic incident in Palmarito de Cauto that involved a State Security agent, is being mistreated by Cuban officials. 

Ebert was seen five days later on August 8th for ten minutes by his family. They were threatened and told not to speak of what they saw, but they refused to be silent. They saw their father with a blood stain on his shirt, injuries to his head, his hands and feet trembled, and he teared up. He told them to remain united and said: "Children, I will endure everything they are doing to me." Ferrer has still not been seen.  Ebert's daughter Haydeé Hidalgo posted a video denouncing, in Spanish, the torture of her dad.