Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Witnessing a hero in action at the United Nations Human Rights Council: Juan Carlos González Leiva

My life is my message. - Mohandas Gandhi
Juan Carlos González Leiva with Mohandas Gandhi in Geneva
Today I was honored and humbled to witness a courageous man in action at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Juan Carlos González Leiva is an attorney and human rights activist who has spent the past 20 years defending the rights of Cubans inside the island. He has been consistently threatened with death, suffered arbitrary detention for two years without trial, received death threats and been subjected that amounts to torture. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Frontline Defenders and the Coalition of Cuban American Women have documented his plight over this time. His family has also been a target of harassment by the dictatorship in Cuba. Many have fled into exile, but Juan Carlos remains in Cuba carrying on the struggle for human rights. The Harvard Crimson in 2003 described him as the conscience of Cuba.

What is remarkable is that a man who lost his sight completely in 1986, at the age of 21 (he had suffered with vision problems since birth) would eight years later begin the life of a dissident and human rights defender in Cuba. Below is the statement that he gave today and in the video one can witness the hostility of the dictatorship towards this man and his courage confronting it. Reading the document in braille he demonstrated a far seeing vision into the reality of Cuba that many with sight refuse or are unable to see.

In a world where so many heroes are manufactured and false it is a powerful experience to see one in action. Listen to the exchange with the diplomat of the Castro regime below at 31:45.


Item 3
United Nations Human Rights Council
September 15, 2014
I am Juan Carlos González Leiva, spent 20 years as a blind lawyer defending human rights, suffering beatings, arbitrary arrests and organized mobs. From March 4, 2002 to April 26, 2004, was detained in the Police Center of Pedernales, Holguín, without trial, for celebrating a congress about human rights. There, systematically they sprayed chemical substances over me that burned my skin and occasioned hallucinations, strong headaches and allergies.

I was confined without access to the press, telephone, correspondence, or religious assistance. Murderous prisoners threatened me and prevented me from sleeping night and day. In my cell were left exposed electric cables with current.

Human rights defenders in my country are victims of a constant policy of repression.

For example: In 2014 I was beaten together with 10 activists in the street. Agents dislocated my left leg and right shoulder and I lost consciousness when they applied a choke hold. Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”and his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera were arrested, beaten and transferred to the local police headquarters where Antúnez was placed in a choke hold losing consciousness several times and was injected by state security agents with an unknown substance. His home was invaded and sacked.

Other activists arbitrarily detained and beaten were: José Daniel Ferrer García, Yusmila Reina Ferrera, Geobanis Izaguirre Hernández and Ernesto Ortiz Betancourt.

I ask the United Nations protection for me and all the activists inside Cuba because soon I will return to my country to continue defending human rights.





Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cuba: Former prisoner of conscience & journalist arrested and pressured to leave his country


 
Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, an independent journalist based in Cienfuegos, 250 km southeast of Havana, said police pressured him to leave Cuba when they arrested him on 6 September because of his reporting for the opposition newspaper El Cubano Libre, de Hoy.

Arévalo told Reporters Without Borders that the Cienfuegos police threatened him with a four-year jail sentence if he did not leave the island.

“I don't want to leave Cuba, I don't want to,” Arévalo said. “My decision is irrevocable. I would rather go to prison than leave the country. I want to die in Cuba.”

Arévalo spent six years as a political prisoner, from 1997 to 2003, after being convicted of insulting Fidel Castro and then Vice-President Carlos Lage. Between then and last weekend, he had only been detained once – for eight hours in February 2010. 
 
Bernardo Arévalo Padrón
“We condemn the pressure being placed on Arévalo,” said Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. “Cuba is reestablishing relations with the European Union and EU member countries but its treatment of independent journalists has not changed. Exile or prison, that's freedom of information in Cuba today.”

In its latest monthly report, the Havana-based Hablemos Press independent information centre said there were a total of 609 politically-motivated arrests in Cuba in August, bring the total to 6,805 since the start of the year.

One of the latest victims, independent journalist Miguel Guerra Pérez, was released on 1 September after being held for a week. Several Hablemos Press reporters have been the targets of threats. They include José Leonel Silva Guerrero, who was briefly detained and threatened with reprisals against his family if he did not stop working as the Hablemos Press correspondent in Holguín.

After the Hablemos Press monthly report was slammed by a recent “Mesa Redonda” programme on state television, the centre's director, Roberto de Jesús Guerra García, demanded the right to respond to the criticism on 1 September without holding out any hope of his request being granted.

Four journalists are currently detained in Cuba. One of them, Juliet Michelena Díaz, is still waiting for a court decision. Cuba is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index – the lowest position of any country in the Americas. 
 
https://www.ifex.org/cuba/2014/09/10/padron_arrested/

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cachita's Feast Day and the Christian Liberation Movement's Founding

"Lift up your heart and do not succumb in the face of adversities, persevere in the way of good; tirelessly helping those oppressed by sorrows and afflictions: these are the important lessons taught to us by Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre." - Pope Francis

Former prisoner of conscience and MCL member Jesús Mustafa
 September 8, 2014 marked the feast day of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba's patron saint known affectionately as Cachita and the 26th anniversary of the founding of the Christian Liberation Movement. Today the Christian Liberation Movement released an important statement recalling their founding and principled nonviolent position stating:
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 presenting the Varela Project before Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre (MCL)
Since 1961 in Miami the feast day is also celebrated on this day. Tonight  at the University of Miami's Bank United Center, Archbishop Wenski presided over the Mass. However at the beginning of the Mass Father Rumin of  Ermita de la Caridad (Chapel of Charity) said "Hear this: You can not be a devotee of the Virgin of Charity Charity live without," reported Rosa Maria Payá over twitter.

Celebrating the Feast Day of Our Lady of Charity in Miami

Over twitter Rosa Maria Payá observed: "the Church looks again at Cuba, Pope Francis sends letter to Cuba for Cobre Virgen of Charity celebration." In a second tweet she summarizes: "The Pope tells us we can not remain arms drooping bemoaning or passing the buck to others to do what is our own responsibility."

Pope Francis on Monday sent a letter to Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago, Cuba encouraging Cuban Catholics to remain steadfast in their devotion to the Virgin Mary and highlighted three virtues: joy, service and perseverance.


 It appears that what Pope Francis is calling for came into existence in a neighborhood of the Cerro 26 years ago and continues to steadfastly follow the way of love and nonviolence in confronting injustice.

Regis Iglesias, a former prisoner of conscience and movement spokesman, posted the above Christian Liberation Movement logo along with the following message: "Happy XXVI Anniversary to all our brothers and sisters of the Christian Liberation Movement !!! We continue on with our Love of Cuba and our commitment to our Martyrs !!!"


The full text of Pope Francis' letter is reproduced below.  

His Excellency Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez
Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba
President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Cuba

Vatican, 8 September 2014

Dear Brother:

A few days ago, the venerated image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre was placed in the Vatican Gardens. Its presence constitutes a moving reminder of the affection and vitality of the pilgrim Church of those luminous lands of the Carribbean which, for mor than four centuries, has addressed the Mother of God with that beautiful title. From the mountains of El Cobre, and now from the See of Peter, that small and blessed figure of Mary magnifies the souls of those who invoke her with devotion, as She leads us to Jesus, her divine Son.

Today as we fervently celebrate the feast of Mary Most Holy, la Virgen Mambisa¸ I join all Cubans who set their eyes on her Immaculate Heart to pray for favors, to commend to her their loved ones and to imitate her in her humility and devotion to Christ, of whose disciples she was the first and greatest.

Every time I read the Sacred Scriptures in the passages that speak of Our Lady, three words stand out to me. I would like to focus on them in order to invite the pastors and faithful of Cuba to put them into practice.

The first is rejoice. It was the first word the Archangel Gabriel addressed to the Virgin. “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The life of she who has discovered Jesus is filled with such great interior joy that nothing or no one can take it from her. Christ gives to his own the necessary strength to not be sad or overwhelmed by thinking about the problems that cannot be solved. Sustained by this truth, the Christian does not doubt that that which is done with love engenders serene joy, the sister of that hope which breaks the wall of fear and opens the doors to a future of promise. “I am Our Lady of Charity,” was what the three Johns read on the tablet that was floating in the Bay of Nipe. How beautiful it would be if all Cubans, especially the young, could say the same: ‘I am a man or woman of charity:” I live to truly love, and thus not be trapped in the toxic spiral of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. What joy is felt by one who authentically loves, through daily acts, and who is not among those who are full of empty words that are carried away by the wind.

The second word is arise. With Jesus in her womb, St. Luke says Mary arose and went with haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth, who in her old age was with child (cf. Lk 1:39-45). She fulfilled the will of God placing herself at the disposition of whoever needed her. She did not think of herself, she overcame all setbacks and gave of herself to others. The victory is for those who arise again and again without being discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot just do nothing and merely complain, or perhaps pass the buck on to others for something that is our responsibility. Its not about doing great things but about doing them with tenderness and mercy. Mary was always with her people looking out for the little ones. She knew loneliness, poverty and exile, and she learned to create fraternity and to make her home in whatever place good would germinate. We implore her to make us poor in spirit, free of all pride, and to grant us a pure heart that sees God in the faces of the disadvantaged and patience that does not shrink from the difficulties of life.

The third word is persevere. Mary, who had experienced God’s goodness, proclaimed the great things He had done for her (cf Lk 1:46-55). She did not trust in her own strength, but in God, whose love has no end. For this reason she remained with her Son, whom everyone had abandoned; she prayed without failing together with the apostles and the other disciples, lest they lose their soul (cf. Acts 1:14). We too are called to persevere in the love of God and to persevere in loving the others. In this world, in which eternal values are discarded and all is mutable, in which triumphs are used and thrown away, in which people seem to have a fear of lifelong commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and women constant in good works, maintaining his words, which are always faithful. And this is because we trust in God and we place in Him the center of our live and of those whom we love.

We are to have joy, and share it with those around us. Lift up your heart and do not succumb in the face of adversities, persevere in the way of good; tirelessly helping those oppressed by sorrows and afflictions: these are the important lessons taught to us by Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, useful both for today and for tomorrow. In her maternal hands I place the pastors, religious communities, and faithful of Cuba, so that She might encourage you in your evangelizing commitments and in your will to make love the foundation of society. Thus you will not be lacking in a joy for life, a soul for service, and perseverance in good works.

To the children of the Church in Cuba I ask, please, pray for me, as I am in need of it.

May Jesus bless you, and the Blessed Virgin care for you forever.

Fraternally,

Francis


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gustavo Cerati: Gracias Totales ( Thanks Totally)

"To be able to say 'goodbye' is to grow." — Gustavo Cerati (lyric from Adiós)

Photo from Sony Music released over twitter today
Early today the news arrived from his family that Gustavo Cerati had passed away at the age of 55. On 14 May 2010, Cerati suffered a stroke after a concert in Caracas, Venezuela during his Fuerza Natural tour and never recovered consciousness. A month later in downtown Miami Luis Alberto Spinetta dedicated his concert to Gustavo Cerati. Seven months later he announced he had lung cancer and passed away on February 8, 2012. 

"El Flaco" and Gus jamming on stage
One imagines that "El Flaco" and Gus will be jamming in the afterlife as they did he here on Earth.

Gustavo Cerati and his legacy are a treasure for the world that emerged from Argentina that will live on in his music and the countless rock bands that he inspired. Fourteen studio albums and four live albums ensure that his music will be heard for generations to come.
 

In Argentinatwo days of national mourning were officially decreed for Cerati's passing.

   
In December of 2007 had the opportunity to see him twice in concert at the American Airlines Arena during the Soda Stereo tour. If one had the opportunity to be there they could only say "gracias totales" in English that translates to "thanks totally." A great musician, song writer, and rock n roll front man Gustavo Cerati has and will continue to be greatly missed.

There are two important links to Miami. Never forgetting that Soda Stereo is the iconic rock band of Argentina and Latin America. However, one should also remember that the group's most popular album ( considered one of the best albums in the history of Latin rock) Canción Animal was made in Miami, Florida at Criteria Studios. in 1996 Soda Stereo also recorded an unplugged album for MTV in Miami titled "Comfort y Música Para Volar".

A big regret is not having been able to attend the Fuerza Natural concert on May 7, 2010 which was the last time Gustavo Cerati performed in Miami. Listening to his music through out the day with sadness for him and his family and at the same time with gratitude for the music he made for the world:
 

Gracias totales Gustavo Cerati! En paz descanse. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Home of feminist human rights defender raided and under siege in Cuba



 Update: Cuba – Raid and siege at home of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles

Damaris Moya Portieles addressed the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
On 26 August 2014, the house of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles was raided by state security agents. Since 30 August 2014, the house has been under surveillance. This is the most recent in a series of break-ins, raids and attacks on the human rights defender and her family at their home.
Damaris Moya Portieles is an activist and member of the Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights) and is Vice-President of the Coalición Central Opositora (Central Opposition Coalition), which works to protect the well-being of children and the elderly and has protested against unjust evictions carried out by government forces.
The raid at her house took place after state security agents learned that ex-political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero wanted to take refuge at the human rights defender's house. On 26 August 2014, a state security agent forcibly entered her home and physically attacked Damaris Moya Portieles' daughter. The state security agent also threatened the human rights defender and her son.
On 13 March 2014, the women human rights defender was detained within the vicinity of the headquarters of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo – Frente OZT (the 'Orlando Zapata Tamayo' National Front of Civic Resistance) in order to prevent her participation in the weekly meeting of the Frente OZT committee. On 25 February 2014, Damaris Moya Portieles participated in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy by presenting a speech on her human rights work in Cuba.
The repression against the human rights defender and her children has been constant. Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal on 7 January 2014 after her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were assaulted by state security agents in Santa Clara, and required medical treatment. Furthermore, on 10 October 2013 Damaris Moya Portieles was beaten unconscious and arrested by Cuban police while at home with her two young children. Front Line Defenders remains gravely concerned by the risk of physical attack facing Damaris Moya Portieles and her family, especially in light of her international advocacy in Geneva earlier in 2014.
To read more about the attacks against Damaris Moya Portieles, please visit her Front Line Defenders page here.
- See more at: http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/27025#sthash.CksZx2oO.dpuf

On 26 August 2014, the house of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles was raided by state security agents. Since 30 August 2014, the house has been under surveillance. This is the most recent in a series of break-ins, raids and attacks on the human rights defender and her family at their home.
Damaris Moya Portieles is an activist and member of the Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights) and is Vice-President of the Coalición Central Opositora (Central Opposition Coalition), which works to protect the well-being of children and the elderly and has protested against unjust evictions carried out by government forces.
The raid at her house took place after state security agents learned that ex-political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero wanted to take refuge at the human rights defender's house. On 26 August 2014, a state security agent forcibly entered her home and physically attacked Damaris Moya Portieles' daughter. The state security agent also threatened the human rights defender and her son.
On 13 March 2014, the women human rights defender was detained within the vicinity of the headquarters of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo – Frente OZT (the 'Orlando Zapata Tamayo' National Front of Civic Resistance) in order to prevent her participation in the weekly meeting of the Frente OZT committee. On 25 February 2014, Damaris Moya Portieles participated in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy by presenting a speech on her human rights work in Cuba.
The repression against the human rights defender and her children has been constant. Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal on 7 January 2014 after her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were assaulted by state security agents in Santa Clara, and required medical treatment. Furthermore, on 10 October 2013 Damaris Moya Portieles was beaten unconscious and arrested by Cuban police while at home with her two young children. Front Line Defenders remains gravely concerned by the risk of physical attack facing Damaris Moya Portieles and her family, especially in light of her international advocacy in Geneva earlier in 2014.
To read more about the attacks against Damaris Moya Portieles, please visit her Front Line Defenders page here.
- See more at: http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/27025#sthash.CksZx2oO.dpuf
 On 26 August 2014, the house of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles was raided by state security agents. Since 30 August 2014, the house has been under surveillance. This is the most recent in a series of break-ins, raids and attacks on the human rights defender and her family at their home.

Damaris Moya Portieles is an activist and member of the Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights) and is Vice-President of the Coalición Central Opositora (Central Opposition Coalition), which works to protect the well-being of children and the elderly and has protested against unjust evictions carried out by government forces.

The raid at her house took place after state security agents learned that ex-political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero wanted to take refuge at the human rights defender's house. On 26 August 2014, a state security agent forcibly entered her home and physically attacked Damaris Moya Portieles' daughter. The state security agent also threatened the human rights defender and her son.

On 13 March 2014, the women human rights defender was detained within the vicinity of the headquarters of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo – Frente OZT (the 'Orlando Zapata Tamayo' National Front of Civic Resistance) in order to prevent her participation in the weekly meeting of the Frente OZT committee. On 25 February 2014, Damaris Moya Portieles participated in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy by presenting a speech on her human rights work in Cuba.

The repression against the human rights defender and her children has been constant. Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal on 7 January 2014 after her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were assaulted by state security agents in Santa Clara, and required medical treatment. Furthermore, on 10 October 2013 Damaris Moya Portieles was beaten unconscious and arrested by Cuban police while at home with her two young children. Front Line Defenders remains gravely concerned by the risk of physical attack facing Damaris Moya Portieles and her family, especially in light of her international advocacy in Geneva earlier in 2014.

To read more about the attacks against Damaris Moya Portieles, please visit her Front Line Defenders page here.     


On 26 August 2014, the house of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles was raided by state security agents. Since 30 August 2014, the house has been under surveillance. This is the most recent in a series of break-ins, raids and attacks on the human rights defender and her family at their home.
Damaris Moya Portieles is an activist and member of the Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights) and is Vice-President of the Coalición Central Opositora (Central Opposition Coalition), which works to protect the well-being of children and the elderly and has protested against unjust evictions carried out by government forces.
The raid at her house took place after state security agents learned that ex-political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero wanted to take refuge at the human rights defender's house. On 26 August 2014, a state security agent forcibly entered her home and physically attacked Damaris Moya Portieles' daughter. The state security agent also threatened the human rights defender and her son.
On 13 March 2014, the women human rights defender was detained within the vicinity of the headquarters of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo – Frente OZT (the 'Orlando Zapata Tamayo' National Front of Civic Resistance) in order to prevent her participation in the weekly meeting of the Frente OZT committee. On 25 February 2014, Damaris Moya Portieles participated in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy by presenting a speech on her human rights work in Cuba.
The repression against the human rights defender and her children has been constant. Front Line Defenders issued an Urgent Appeal on 7 January 2014 after her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter were assaulted by state security agents in Santa Clara, and required medical treatment. Furthermore, on 10 October 2013 Damaris Moya Portieles was beaten unconscious and arrested by Cuban police while at home with her two young children. Front Line Defenders remains gravely concerned by the risk of physical attack facing Damaris Moya Portieles and her family, especially in light of her international advocacy in Geneva earlier in 2014.
To read more about the attacks against Damaris Moya Portieles, please visit her Front Line Defenders page here.
- See more at: http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/27025#sthash.CksZx2oO.dpuf
Update: Cuba – Raid and siege at home of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles - See more at: http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/27025#sthash.CksZx2oO.dpuf
Update: Cuba – Raid and siege at home of human rights defender Ms Damaris Moya Portieles - See more at: http://frontlinedefenders.org/node/27025#sthash.CksZx2oO.dpuf