Monday, February 20, 2017

Castro regime refuses entry to President Aylwin's daughter to receive Oswaldo Payá Prize

OAS Secretary General and Chile's President Patricio Aylwin to be presented Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life Prize in Havana

Rosa María Payá with President Patricio Aylwin and Secretary General Luis Almagro
Tonight at 9:15pm Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin tweeted "I can not embark to Cuba because of a ban issued by immigration from Cuba." A short while later Rosa María Payá posted the document prohibiting Mariana from traveling to Cuba by order of the Castro dictatorship's immigration department.

"Please don't invoice or send passenger who is inadmissible in Cuba. Information issued by Cuban immigration"
 Rosa María Payá Acevedo returned to Cuba on February 15, 2017 to receive Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States at her home a week later on February 22, 2017 at 11:00am in Havana, Cuba.  The purpose of the encounter is the presentation of the annual Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life Prize to Luis Almagro also present at the ceremony will be Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin who will receive the posthumous award on behalf of her late father. Patricio Aylwin was the president who oversaw the democratic transition in Chile following General Pinochet's military rule and passed away on April 19, 2016.
Unfortunately the repressive nature of the regime was already on display with Julio Álvarez and Félix Fara two promoters of the Cuba Decide initiative, a campaign for a plebiscite led by Rosa María Payá Acevedo, were taken and have been under arrest since February 18, 2017 at 11:00am.

In addition communication has become much more difficult with the telephones out of service and all matter of obstacles to prevent that the information surrounding this event be made known inside Cuba. Despite this there is optimism that the word has gotten out and that civil society will be well represented on Wednesday.

Rosa María Payá Acevedo laying a flower at her dad's tomb

What can you do?
First sign a petition supporting this event and secondly let others know what is happening and encourage them to follow Rosa Maria over twitter, demand the release of Julio and Félix, the restoration of communications, and keep an eye out between now and February 22nd and follow the awards ceremony in real time. This event is being hosted by Cuba Decide and the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy.

The Castro dictatorship shows no indication of opening up and the denial of entry to President Patricio Aylwin's daughter is an outrage. Will it be repeated with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro? We must be vigilant and hold the regime accountable for what it does next.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy: Venezuela, Cuba Under U.N. Spotlight as Political Prisoners Gather


Venezuela, Cuba Under U.N. Spotlight as Political Prisoners Gather

Just released from Cuban prison 3 weeks ago, artist and dissident Danilo Maldonado (aka El Sexto) will be in Geneva to testify at the U.N.
Activists to address human rights in Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, Tibet, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Mauritania, Maldives

GENEVA, Feb. 14, 2017 –  A coalition of 25 non-governmental human rights groups announced today that Cuban dissident and graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (aka El Sexto) who was just released from prison, and the daughter of the jailed Mayor of Caracas will be in the United Nations to turn an international spotlight on rights abuses by Cuba and Venezuela, at the opening of the 9th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights & Democracy, which takes place on February 20-21, 2017.

El Sexto, known for his provocative performance art criticizing the Castro regime, was just released from prison after spray painting “He’s Gone” in Havana on the day of Fidel Castro’s death. El Sexto was also imprisoned two years ago for painting the names “Raul” and “Fidel” on two pigs. He recently called out Cuba for sitting on the U.N. Human Rights Council while it oppresses its own people.

Testifying on the dire situation in Venezuela—another country on the U.N. Human Rights Council—will be Antonietta Ledezma, daughter of the imprisoned Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma.

On the second anniversary of her father’s arrest, Antonietta will call for his release, and for freedom for all Venezuela’s political prisoners. As a UNHRC member, Venezuela is obliged to respect the highest standards of human rights.

Antonietta Ledezma (left), pictured with sister Oriette, will be speaking at the U.N. to mark
two years since her father, Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma, was arrested.
El Sexto and Ledezma will join some of the world’s most courageous champions of human rights: dissidents, activists, victims and relatives of political prisoners from Iran, Russia, Turkey, Tibet and Vietnam, who will be testifying on the human rights situation in their countries. A high-profile North Korean defector, and a young Yazidi woman who wrote a book about being raped by ISIS terrorists, will also speak.

Mohamed Nasheed, the veteran human rights activist who was elected president of the Maldives only to be arrested and jailed as a political prisoner, will be one of the keynote speakers. Amal Clooney, his lawyer, has received death threats for defending Nasheed. See selected presenters below.

The acclaimed annual conference is timed to take place in Geneva days before foreign ministers gather to open the 2017 U.N. Human Rights Council session.

“It’s a focal point for dissidents worldwide,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, which for the ninth year in a row will be organizing the annual event together with a cross-regional coalition of 25 other human rights groups.

The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet front-line human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.

“The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will aim to stir the conscience of the U.N. to address critical human rights situations around the world,” said Neuer.

Subjects on the program this year include discrimination against women, jailing of journalists, prison camps, Internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.
Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at

Admission to this year’s February 21, 2017 summit is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory. For accreditation, program and schedule information, visit The conference will also be available via live webcast.

For media inquiries or to request interviews, please email

9th Annual Geneva Summit Agenda

February 2017
9:15  Welcome
  • Hillel Neuer    (@HillelNeuer)
    Executive Director of UN Watch
9:25  Opening Address
  • Irwin Cotler    (@IrwinCotler)
    Chair, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
9:45  The Return of Authoritarianism 
Moderator: Jakub Klepal    
Executive Director, Forum 2000
  • Can Dündar    (@candundaradasi)
    Exiled former editor of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet
  • Zhanna Nemtsova    (@ZhannaNemstova)
    Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom
  • Anastasia Zotova
    Human rights activist, wife of jailed Russian dissident Ildar Dadin
10:45  Presentation of Geneva Summit 2017 Women’s Rights Award
Presenter: Tamara Dancheva
Liberal International
  • Shirin
    Freed Yazidi sex slave of the Islamic State, author of “I Remain a Daughter of the Light”
11:15  Fighting Oppression, Defending Human Rights
Moderator: Jared Genser    (@JaredGenser)
Perseus Strategies
  • Antonietta Ledezma    (@anleca15)
    Human rights activist, daughter of imprisoned Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma
  • Chito Gascon
    Chair, Philippines Human Rights Commission
  • Taghi Rahmani
    Journalist, former Iranian political prisoner, husband of jailed human rights activist Narges Mohammadi
12:15  Do Human Rights Matter?
  • Ambassador Alfred H. Moses
    Chair of UN Watch
———————— 12:30   Networking Lunch ————————
13:00  Side Event – Youth, the Media and Human Rights Activism: Uses and challenges
With: Zhanna Nemtsova
Journalist, founder of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom
14:00  Art for Human Rights
  • El Sexto
    Cuban graffiti artist, dissident, jailed for criticizing Castro, just released from prison four weeks ago
14:20  The Fight for Freedom and Democracy
Moderator: Maria Alejandra Aristeguieta
Coordinator, Iniciativa por Venezuela
  • Nyima Lhamo
    Escaped Tibetan activist, niece of Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who died in Chinese prison
  • Biram Dah Abeid
    Leader of anti-slavery fight in Mauritania
15:00  Presentation of Geneva Summit 2017 Courage Award
Presenter: Astrid Thors    (@AstridThors)
Former OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Finnish Minister, MP & MEP
  • Mohamed Nasheed    (@MohamadNasheed)
    Former President of the Maldives, country’s leading human rights activist, former political prisoner
15:30  Voices for the Voiceless
Moderator: Médard Mulangala    (@medardmulanala)
Opposition leader in DRC
  • James Jones    (@jamesjonestv)
    Producer of film “Saudi Arabia Uncovered”
  • North Korean Defector
    (Identity concealed for security purposes)
  • Dang Xuan Dieu
    Vietnamese human rights activist, political prisoner for 6 years, just released last month
———————— 16:30   End of Summit  ————————

Venezuela: Remembering Génesis Carmona three years after Maduro's gangs killed her

Remembering a young woman who died for her country.

Génesis Carmona: 20 September 1991 – 19 February 2014
 She was just 22 years old and nonviolently expressing her desire for a better Venezuela when she was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 and died a day later on February 19, 2014. Her name was Génesis Carmona. Three years have passed and those responsible for her murder have yet to be punished.

The headline in the February 20, 2014 edition of People Magazine read " Venezuelan Beauty Pageant Winner Killed in Anti-Government Protest." She was a model who had won the Miss Tourism Carabobo beauty pageant in 2013. On her Twitter account Génesis described herself as “friendly, but not stupid!” and “passionate about life.” She was studying marketing at Center Technological University (UNITEC) and was in her last year of study. 

Genesis Carmona is evacuated on a motorcycle after being shot.

What happened
Génesis Carmona was marching at approximately 4:00 pm on Tuesday February 18, 2014, near Cedeño Avenue and the intersection of Carabobo, when  a group of masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the demonstrators. Génesis was shot in the head in the left occipital region. She was with her sister Alejandra Carmona at the moment it happened. Alejandra in a radio interview said "I was with her, when the motorized units (of the Government), we fled running. We were stopped on a street corner, looking up and then suddenly she fell."   

According to VOXXI the "22-year-old was rushed in a motorcycle to the Medical Center Guerra Mendez in Valencia, where she was operated and kept in intensive care. Less than 24 hours later on 12:14 p.m., the doctors announced that she had died from her injury. 

Ms. Carmona was one of many young Venezuelan victims killed while peacefully protesting against the Maduro regime.  43 young Venezuelans were killed during the 2014 protests.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Leopoldo Lopez's full victory in Venezuela

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” - Mohandas Gandhi

It was a Tuesday in Caracas with the sun showing brightly down Leopoldo Lopez stood next to a statue of Jose Marti addressing a multitude of Venezuelans calling on them to nonviolently resist the dictatorship in Venezuela. At the same time this courageous man announced that although knowing that he did not expect justice from the legal system controlled by the Maduro regime that he would turn himself in to demonstrate the dictatorial nature of that regime.

Tens of thousands gathered to support Leopoldo Lopez and many shouted that he not turn himself in and would have defended him with violence, but the opposition leader counseled self-restraint, discipline, nonviolence and before he turned himself in to regime security forces addressed his supporters:
"Well brothers and sisters I ask you to continue in this fight and do not leave the street, to assume our right to protest, but to do it in peace and without violence, I ask that us, all of us that are here, all of the Venezuelans that want a change, to get informed, educated, organized, and to execute non-violent protests, the protests of masses, and the will of souls and hearts that want to change, but without hurting your neighbor. "  [...] "I am now about to proceed to go towards the squad where the National Guard is to turn myself in. (One of the reporters yells: " COME ON MAN DON'T TURN YOURSELF IN") I am going to do it. I thought about it a lot. I'd like to let you know that these past few days, I had a lot of time to think, analyze, listen to the radio, watch TV or read what I haven’t for a while, speak with my family, and the option I had was to leave the country, but I will never leave, never. The other option, was to stay hidden in secrecy, but that choice could leave doubts among some, including some who are here now that we have something to hide. We have nothing to hide, I have not committed any crimes, I am not a criminal, I do not have to hide, then the other option is to turn my self in, and I ask you, and beg you with my heart, that when I pass by and turn myself in, that you keep calm, we have no other option. I do not want any more violence or confrontation, so I ask for your understanding, for your organization and your discipline."
One year 6 months 24 days after his arrest and all that time spent behind bars Leopoldo Lopez was subjected to a political show trial and sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison on September 10, 2015 in what can only be described as a mockery of justice.  On August 18, 2016 
the appeal was rejected by the regime controlled court. and the imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader went on to make a number of observations regarding his case:
Only in a dictatorship can it be considered a crime being committed to achieve the best Venezuela. It has always been clear to me that there will be no judge or any court of this dictatorship that will grant me freedom. With our case the unjust justice has been laid bare in front of Venezuelans and the world ...  Ironic. One of the judges today executioner, Jimai Montiel, was that boy who sang to Pope John Paul II in 1985. Brothers, Venezuelans, I ask that we turn all our indignation into action and mobilization! They can't break our fighting spirit! They can't force Venezuelans to submit! Let us go forth to conquer change and democracy. At this time, the solidarity that I ask is with our beloved Venezuela!

Being taken to hearing where he is appeal was rejected

The Indian nonviolent independence leader Mohandas Gandhi wrote that "Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil."  This is what Leopoldo Lopez did on February 18, 2017 in Venezuela and has continued to do so for the past three years behind bars.

On the eve of marking three years unjustly imprisoned Leopoldo Lopez was able to get a message out over twitter calling on his fellow Venezuelans to continue non-violently resisting the dictatorship in Venezuela:
Tomorrow 18F, we return to the streets, without violence, but firm. Worker, student, housewife, businessman all together! Let us begin a new stage of democratic resistance. Restoring freedom and democracy depends on our commitment. Brothers and sisters, I invite you to resist, to fight and to conquer our rights, our freedom and our progress. Strength Venezuela, Strength and Faith.
1,579,680 minutes have ticked by for Leopoldo Lopez over the past three years imprisoned and separated from his family but with his continuing nonviolent defiance and call to action these past three years are an ongoing full victory that has exposed the dictatorial nature of the Maduro regime and inspired friends of freedom everywhere.

Cuban dissidents march for Leopoldo Lopez's freedom in Cuba in 2014
 Despite the dangers today across Venezuela there are many citizens taking to the streets demanding freedom for Leopoldo Lopez and for Venezuela. The trending topic in Venezuela is  #NoMasDictaduraEnVzla [ No More Dictatorship in Venezuela].

Protests for Leopoldo and a free Venezuela today

Today let us raise our voices and demand freedom for Leopoldo Lopez and for Venezuela.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Open letter to President of Ireland Michael D Higgins on his visit to Cuba

February 17, 2017

President Michael D Higgins
Áras an Uachtaráin
Phoenix Park
Dublin 8

Dear President Higgins,

Mr. President I have followed your visit to Cuba with great interest upon learning that human rights would be part of the dialogue during your stay. Only to be disappointed by what appeared in the press and your past praise for Fidel Castro. Cuba has suffered under a totalitarian communist dictatorship for 58 years. The Castro regime has demonstrated over that time a complete disdain for human rights including conditioning both access to healthcare and education to loyalty for the dictatorship.

Amnesty Int'l designated Eduardo Cardet a prisoner of conscience on January 31, 2017

I would hope that in your continuing conversations with General Raul Castro that you request that physician, family man, Christian Democrat and Amnesty International designated prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet Concepción be freed. Even outside of political considerations both education and healthcare leave a lot to be desired in Cuba despite the government propaganda.

David Mauri Cardoso expelled from University of Cienfuegos for political reasons
I would also hope that you raise the plight of 24 year old David Mauri Cardoso, a student expelled from the University of Cienfuegos in Cuba a few days ago after he honestly answered politically loaded questions in what was supposed to be a Spanish literature exam.

Next week February 24th marks 21 years since the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down when two civilian planes were blown out of international airspace by Cuban MiGs on Fidel Castro's and General Raul Castro's orders in an act of state terrorism. Four men were killed and two of them were friends of mine and the day still resonates with me.

Extrajudicially executed on orders of the Castro brothers on February 24, 1996
There are thousands of other cases of extrajudicial executions carried out by the Cuban dictatorship. They still go on and within that context to claim that the Castro dictatorship has a "commitment" to human rights falsely legitimizes the regime while ignoring the victims.

President Michael D Higgins with General Raul Castro
Please speak up for David and Edward they can still be helped.


John Suarez