Saturday, October 25, 2014

Protests for the freedom of Sonia Garro in Cuba and New York City

"Opponents of freedom would like us to believe that our choices when facing conflict are to use violence in which they have superior capacity or do nothing, history shows there is a more powerful alternative." - Jamila Raqib in the Oslo Freedom Forum 2014

Protest in front of the Cuba mission in New York City

The Cuban dictatorship had scheduled a trial for Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González for October 21, 2014 and for the third time suspended it. This may have had to do with the mobilization of activists inside and outside of Cuba.  Dozens of Ladies in White were arrested to prevent them attending demonstrations in support of Sonia Garro, but the demonstrations went on any way. In New York City, Sara Marta Fonseca organized a demonstration outside of the Cuban mission demanding Sonia's release.


Ladies in White demonstrating their support for Sonia Garro and her husband

Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, have been imprisoned since March 18, 2012 when 50 police forced their way into their home firing rubber bullets at them and wounding Sonia in the foot with one of the bullets. This attack and arrest took place around the time Pope Benedict was visiting Cuba.

Less than two years earlier while taking part in a march on October 7, 2010 at 23rd Avenue in Havana with a makeshift banner that read: "Down With Racism and Long Live Human Rights" she was detained by police for seven hours and badly beaten. Sonia Garro Alfonso suffered a fracture of the nasal septum and other injuries reported by EFE.
  
Sonia Garro Alfonso jailed since March 18, 2012

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cuban prisoner of conscience Iván Fernández Depestre beaten up and threatened with death by prison official

"Attention, I've just been informed that prisoner of conscience Iván Fernández Depestre was brutally beaten in prison..." - Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera over twitter on October 23, 2014 at 10:43am
Iván Fernández Depestre: Prisoner of Conscience & Art Icon
Iván Fernández Depestre should not be spending one moment in prison for exercising his rights as a person.. According to Amnesty International:
 Mr Depestre was charged with “dangerousness”, a pre-emptive measure defined as the “special proclivity of a person to commit crimes” after he was accused of “meeting with antisocial persons”. He had no access to a lawyer during his trial and was sentenced to three years in jail on 2 August [2013]. 
Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience on September 11, 2013 and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has an image of him on display in an exhibition in Alcatraz that opened. Below you can judge for yourself what the Cuban government describes as "dangerous."


Jailed unjustly since July 30, 2013 for nonviolently participating in a public event to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Cuban national hero Frank País in the central province of Villa Clara. In the video above are the images taken that day leading up to his arrest.

Iván Fernández Depestre (Primavera Digital)
Today Iván was brutally beaten up by and recieved a death threat from the lieutenant 2nd chief in Guamajal prison in Cuba. Below (in Spanish)Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera gives a report of what took place.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two years + three months later the demand for truth and justice for Oswaldo and Harold continues

"The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits 'atrocities' but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future." - George Orwell


Two years, and three months ago today Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed in Cuba. The Christian Liberation Movement continues to gather signatures for a petition demanding an international investigation. International dignitaries are already demanding an investigation among them Nobel Peace Laureates Lech Walesa (1983) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984).

One of the survivors of the incident on July 22, 2012, Ángel Carromero, has spoken on the record and last week visited Miami to give his testimony at the University of Miami, Radio República, Voces de Cuba and other media outlets.

On October 20, 2014 The Washington Post published an editorial challenging the Cuban dictatorship's version and lack of a proper and thorough investigation into the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold below is an excerpt pertinent to their case:
THE OTHER day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He lavished praise on an editorial in the New York Times that called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr. Castro had one complaint: The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo Payá, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.
The assertion that Cuba’s authoritarian government had yet to explain the deaths was “slanderous and [a] cheap accusation,” Mr. Castro sputtered.
So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what happened on an isolated Cuban road on July 22, 2012. So far, there has been only a crude attempt at cover-up and denial.
We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of the rental car that was carrying Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero to a meeting with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Payá as they traveled were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Payá’s courageous 2002 petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr. Payá’s supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned. 

After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates. Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a credible investigation. Mr. Payá’s family has sought one for two years, without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case, they got no answer. Nothing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A conversation with human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva at Florida International University

Jorge Duany, Director of  CRI and Juan Carlos González Leiva
Tonight at the Green Library at Florida International University the Cuban human rights defender Juan Carlos González Leiva spoke about his experiences as an activist in Cuba at an event organized by the Cuban Research Institute (CRI).The conversation was in Spanish and excerpts are available in the video playlist below. He is an attorney who has spent the past twenty years in Cuba defending human rights in an atmosphere that is hostile.

Juan Carlos has been a prisoner of conscience and been subjected to cruel and unusual treatment while in captivity amounting to torture. The sound in the recording is muffled by the air conditioning in the room but it is worthwhile to listen closely to what he has to say especially on the subject of extrajudicial killings in Cuba where he engages in an overview of a number of well known and not so well known cases.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Remembering the Messenger of Truth 30 Years Later: Father Jerzy Popiełuszko

"A man who tells the Truth is a free man despite external slavery, imprisonment or custody." -  Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, Sermon,  October 31, 1982  

Crowd in Warsaw pay its respects for Jerzy Popiełuszko (photo: Mario F Lleonart)
Thirty years ago today on October 19, 1984 the communist regime in Poland murdered a saint in the expectation that they could hang on to power. They had murdered Father Jerzy Popiełuszko for being the chaplain to the fledging Solidarity Movement. They had thought killing a symbol of freedom and terrorizing the Polish people would silence the opposition. They counted wrong. Less than five years later on June 4, 1989 Poland would be the first country in Eastern Europe to hold free elections and sweep the communists from power nonviolently.


This was due in no small part to the teachings of the martyred priest Jerzy Popieluszko who called for an authentic reconciliation:
"Our Fatherland and respect of human dignity must be the common objective for reconciliation. You must unite in reconciliation in the spirit of love, but also in the spirit of justice. As the Holy Father said five years ago, no love exists without justice. Love is greater than justice and at the same time finds reassurance in justice."
Thirty years after his murder and twenty five years during which Poland has emerged as a successful and free nation thousands of Poles gathered to pay their respects and visiting from Cuba Mario Felix Lleonart reported over twitter:
"This Sunday was very special in Warsaw for 30th anniversary of the murder of Jercy Popieluzko, and in the night the multitude still surrounded the tomb of the martyr Jercy Popieluzko."
Crowds at the tomb ofFather Jercy Popieluzko tonight (photo: Mario Felix Lleonart)