Saturday, April 25, 2015

Feds charge Joe Garcia's ex-chief of staff of running ringer candidate: Providing some context

"While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself." - Douglas Horton  
Joe Garcia and David Rivera face off in a debate. Both mired in scandal
Three years ago in the blog entry, "Deja Vu at The Miami Herald?" I wrote that "it will be interesting to look back six years from now and try to understand what was actually going on with the benefit of hindsight."  In half that time the picture that emerges smashes the initial press narrative from 2012.

Lit piece from alleged 2010 Garcia ringer candidate Roly Arrojo
The press, at first, portrayed Joe Garcia as an innocent victim, but what emerges now are two party nominees that played fast and loose with campaign finance laws and ethical conduct by placing ringers into political races to split their adversary's vote. At the time this blog also reported on a criminal conspiracy that was being ignored in the mainstream press:
In 2010 Roly Arrojo , a candidate billed as a Tea Party conservative candidate was a registered democrat that some say Joe Garcia placed into the general election to peel of votes from the Republican nominee because their was a business relationship between Garcia's campaign manager and the Democrat turned Tea Party candidate.
Today's news in The Miami Herald confirms the above speculation from 2012:
Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that inspired a more serious copycat case two years later.  Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as a GOP primary challenger to David Rivera.  Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.
Three years later, it now appears that David Rivera, who is accused of being behind the Lamar Sternad candidacy in the 2012 democratic primary, was retaliating against Joe Garcia for placing a "tea party" candidate in the 2010 general election to split the conservative vote.

What has been left out, so far, in the current reporting is the absentee ballot fraud committed by the Joe Garcia campaign in 2012 that led to a criminal investigation. The Rivera  campaign has not been accused or associated with ballot fraud.

Giancarlo Sopo, left, and John Estes, right
 Jeffrey Garcia, 41, Congressman Garcia's chief of staff, spent 90 days in jail as part of a plea deal he reached with the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, CBS4 reported.  Two other staffers were also implicated. "The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office served search warrants at the homes of Giancarlo Sopo, 30, Joe Garcia’s communications director; and John Estes, 26, his 2012 campaign manager seeking electronic equipment such as computers."

Jeffrey Garcia, Former Chief of Staff for Joe Garcia

South Dade Matters followed this story closely at the time and reported in greater detail on the role of Former Congressman Joe Garcia's staffers in the ballot fraud, and in the July 3, 2013 blog entry Another Garcia Shoe Drops quoted The Miami Herald:
[Giancarlo] Sopo had been placed on unpaid administrative leave last month, days after Miami-Dade prosecutors and police raided his cousin’s home in connection with the scheme to request ballots online for nearly 500 unsuspecting voters in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.
What is shocking is that former Congressman Joe Garcia, who left office under an ethical cloud, and apparently a criminal investigation, has now been hired as a senior vice president in a Miami-based bank.

Three years from now it will be interesting to look back at this story, and with the benefit of hindsight, see more clearly behind the smoke and mirrors at the underlying criminal acts in these political scandals from 2010 and 2012.  Hopefully this mess will serve as a cautionary example to others not to repeat these practices.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Armenian Genocide: 100 Years of Remembrance

 "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."- Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

 One hundred years ago today, the rounding up of Christians for the slaughter that became known as the Armenian Genocide began. An estimated one and a half million were killed between 1915 and 1923. In Hollywood, California over 130,00 marched in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of this crime. Today in the Middle East, mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing are underway again.

A century ago the world remained silent before this slaughter of Christians. The failure of the international community to condemn this crime encouraged others to repeat the crime on a greater scale afterwards.  On August 22, 1939, Adolf Hitler in a speech to his Wehrmacht commanders at his Obersalzberg home cited the events in Armenia to rationalize committing a new genocide that targeted the Jewish people:
"I have given the order – and will have everyone shot who utters but one word of criticism – that the aim of this war does not consist in reaching certain designated [geographical] lines, but in the enemies' physical elimination. Thus, for the time being only in the east, I put ready my Death's Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Only thus will we gain the living space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?"
One hundred years later the world is talking about the extermination of the Armenians, but the Turkish government remains in denial. Below is an award-winning documentary made for German public TV called, "Aghet" concerning the Armenian genocide.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's existential and nonviolent threat to the Castro regime

"Two years and nine months since the unexplained deaths of Harold and Oswaldo. We continue to demand an investigation for justice and an end to impunity."- Christian Liberation Movement over twitter on April 22, 2015

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas spoke truth to power his entire life. On March 30, 2012, speaking on behalf of the Christian Liberation Movement he warned how the dictatorship would use the resources of the Cuban diaspora to perpetuate itself in power condemning it:
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. The Diaspora does not have to "assume attitudes and policies in entering the social activity of the island." The Diaspora is a Diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to which the regime denied rights as it denies them to all Cubans. It is not in that part of oppression, without rights, and transparency that the Diaspora has to be inserted, that would be part of fraudulent change.

The gradual approach makes sense only if there are transparent prospects of freedom and rights. We Cubans have a right to our rights. Why not rights? It's time. That is the peaceful change that we promote and claim. Changes that signifies freedom, reconciliation, political pluralism and free elections. Then the Diaspora will cease being a Diaspora, because all Cubans will have rights in their own free and sovereign country. That is why we fight.
Less than four months later he was killed, along with Christian Liberation Movement youth leader Harold Cepero in what now appears to have been an extrajudicial killing carried out by Cuban state security.

The key to liberation in a nonviolent struggle was first formulated theoretically in 1548 and today over twitter Rosa María Payá quoted a key passage from that important work on strategic nonviolence: 
"I don't ask that you push or topple  the tyrant, but simply that you support him no longer." - Etienne de La Boetie, 1548
Etienne de La Boetie's call from 1548 was echoed by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas when he denounced the attempt "to make victims participate in their own oppression." Change occurs not by fighting or resisting the dictatorship, but by ending one's participation in one's own oppression. This is a powerful and nonviolent idea that poises an existential threat to the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.

Committee to Protect Journalists designates Cuba as the 10th most censored country on Earth

A top ten list you do not want to be on.
A Cuban sells newspapers in Havana. All media in Cuba is controlled by the Communist regime, leaving little space for independent reporting. (AFP/Adalberto Roque)

10. Cuba

Leadership: Raúl Castro, who took over the presidency from his brother, Fidel, in 2008.

How censorship works:Despite significant improvements in the past few years-such as the elimination of exit visas that had prohibited most foreign travel for decades-Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be "in accordance with the goals of the socialist society." Although the Internet has opened up some space for critical reporting, service providers are ordered to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers who work online use websites that are hosted overseas and must go to foreign embassies or hotels to upload content and get an unfiltered connection to the Internet. These critical blogs and online news platforms are largely inaccessible to the average Cuban, who still has not benefited from a high-speed Internet connection financed by Venezuela. Most Cubans do not have Internet at home. The government continues to target critical journalists through harassment, surveillance, and short-term detentions. Juliet Michelena Díaz, a contributor to a network of local citizen journalists, was imprisoned for seven months on anti-state charges after photographing an incident between residents and police in Havana. She was later declared innocent and freed. Visas for international journalists are granted selectively by officials.

Lowlight: Though the government has for the most part done away with long-term detentions of journalists, author-turned-critical blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been imprisoned since February 2013 on allegations of domestic violence. The writer and other local independent journalists maintain that he was targeted in retaliation for writing critically about the government on his blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted.)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Christian Genocide in the Middle East and the Silent Complicity of the West

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions while the road to Heaven with good works

 American policy in the Middle East is accelerating the extinction of the oldest Christian communities in the world in what today can legitimately be described as a genocide. It would not be the first one in this part of the world that has targeted Christians.  Earlier this month Pope Francis observed the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Christians. Today at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale listened to the powerful testimony of Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council on the plight of Christians in Iraq over the past 1,400 years and the present crisis with the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Christians are being slaughtered, Church's burned and destroyed, and entire communities displaced. In a decade there may be no Christians left in Iraq. Western governments have, for the most part, been indifferent to their plight. This is a humanitarian crisis that you can do your part to remedy with solidarity. What do Assyrian Christians want?
  • Urgent and continuous prayer
  • Urgent and direct humanitarian aid 
  • International protection for Assyrian and others in the Nineveh Plain 
  • Establishment of local protection units with help from International community
During her presentation, Juliana, screened the short film, Sing a Little Louder, that reenacts what happened when a train shipping human beings to the death camps in Nazi, Germany stops near a Church while Mass is being held and the cries from the cattle cars are ignored as the pastor calls on those attending mass to sing louder to drown out the cries of help and how decades later, an old man remains haunted by the indifference shown that day to human suffering. A powerful film that is extremely relevant with past and ongoing genocides.On this same day videos were released showing two groups of Ethiopian Christians were executed in Libya by ISIS.

Ethiopian Christians purportedly executed by ISIS in Ethiopia
 Taking into account the indifference of Western governments and the extreme and genocidal nature of ISIS there is an opportunity to confront this challenge nonviolently ( not to be confused with passivity) and achieve better results against the most ruthless and violent regimes. A systematic study of  nonviolent resistance and its successful application has been provided by scholars such as Gene Sharp and Erica Chenoweth. Chenoweth's quantitative analysis comparing nonviolent action over the past century with violent action against different types of regimes finds that nonviolent resistance is more effective against the most extreme and violent regimes than violent resistance. Furthermore a review of what has led to the present state of affairs in the Middle East finds that the cycle of escalating violence with foreign interventions has led to the present predicament. In extreme situations such as Syria nonviolence was able to frustrate even the most brutal and violent dictators, but violent resistance only empowered them.

Greasing the path to genocide
In early 2003 prior to the start of the Second Persian Gulf War on March 19 of that same year a debate raged over the consequences of invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein's cruel dictatorship. Wayne Allensworth, a contributor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, outlined the dangers of an American invasion to the Christian communities in Iraq:
Iraq's Christians fear that they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember the country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that "If the United States goes to war against our country . . . [t]he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community, and declare Iraq an Islamic nation!" If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern: The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the Gulf War-encouraged and then abandoned by Washington-targeted Christians. 
Senator Barack Obama wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on September 11, 2007 expressing concern "for Iraq's Christian and other non-Muslim religious minorities who appear to be targeted by Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish militants." The then Senator from Illinois and future President continued writing: "The severe violations of religious freedom faced by members of these indigenous communities, and their potential  extinction from their ancient homeland, is deeply alarming in light of our mission to bring freedom to the Iraqi people." Under the "democracy" erected by the Bush administration in Iraq, Christians who had been present there since the time of Christ faced extinction.

 On January 11, 2008, Senator Obama received a response from the State Department to the concerns raised in his letter of Christians being targeted in Iraq which downplayed the plight of Christians in Iraq:
Iraqis from all ethnic and religious communities suffer from the sectarian and general violence in Iraq. While it is true that in some cases religious minorities, such as Christians, are targeted due to their religion, the threat to Iraq's religious minorities is not unique to them; Shi'a in Sunni majority areas face much the same situation, and vice versa. In fact, Muslim citizens generally who do not support the actions of militants within their region are subject to similar threats. The assassination in Anbar of Sunni Sheikh Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi, who rejected extremist ideologies and sectarianism, and the murders of associates of the Shi'a Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are recent examples of how violence impacts all of Iraq's communities, not just Christians or other non-Muslims.
In the same letter the State Department cited the "difficulty of compiling accurate data in Iraq" as an explanation as to why it could not determine if there was disproportionate violence against a particular population. In 2009 Human Rights Watch provided detailed information on the persecution and murder of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.  By 2010 columnist Patrick J. Buchanan, a critic of the Iraq war, in an essay titled "The Murderers of Christianity" provided the following data:
Estimates of the number of Christians in Iraq in 2003 vary from 800,000 to 1.5 million. But hundreds of thousands have fled since the invasion. Seven of the 14 churches in Baghdad have closed, and two-thirds of the city’s 500,000 Christians are gone.
Calls in 2008 for the protection of the Christian remnant in Iraq went unheeded. Unfortunately, President Obama upon entering office in 2009 adopted the Bush administration's inattention to Iraqi Christians.  During the Bush presidency nearly a million Christians fled Iraq. The number under the Obama presidency has risen to more than 1.26 million.

Will you stand up and speak for persecuted Christians?


Juliana Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, will be speaking in South Florida this week:
  • Monday, April 20, 11 a.m.-noon, St. Thomas University, O’Mailia Hall 2. Contact: Mary Carter Waren,, 305-628-6653.
  • Tuesday, April 21, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Msgr. Edward Pace High School, Dante Navarro Chapel. Contact: David Masters,, 786-859-2117
  • Tuesday, April 21, 4-8 p.m., Barry University. Contact Luis de Prada,, 305-510-8945.