Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Message from a Cuban jail: Cuban dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara called Claudia Genlui from the maximum security prison in Guanajay today


Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara spoke with Claudia Genlui Hidalgo

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement, and his home in the San Isidro neighborhood is the headquarters of the above mentioned movement. Over the past four years, Amnesty International has on several occasions recognized Luis Manuel a prisoner of conscience. His most recent arbitrary detention began on July 11, 2021 and is ongoing. He turned 34 years old on December 2, 2021.  Claudia Genlui Hidalgo is an artist in her own right, an art curator, and girlfriend to Luis Manuel.

The following text was taken from a Twitter thread from the San Isidro Movement posted today at 6:33pm, and translated here to English to reach a wider audience.

#ATTENTION| Claudia Genlui Hidalgo: "Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara just called from the maximum security prison in Guanajay, where he has been for more than 6 months. It may be the last call he makes for a while. He called to briefly but firmly communicate that he is at his limit.
That from today he rejects all the "rights" that a prisoner has because he shouldn't be one. His body is imprisoned due to an injustice, but his mind has always been free and he wants to keep it that way.
From today, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara refuses of his own will to receive visits, food, calls. He is finished. He knows, like all of us, that being in prison is not a dignified option, that his freedom is being manipulated by State Security and that they are guarding him as currency of exchange. The path that Luis Manuel has followed is not for that, he will only leave #Cuba as a free citizen when he decides and with the availability to return when he wishes.That is a right.

He was hoping that the last request to change the measure submitted would be approved. Luis, as he says: "He has not stolen bread from any Cuban child", quite the opposite. By denying this request, the regime demonstrates that its intention is to humiliate him, treat him like a criminal when he is not. I want it to be clear that Luis Manuel's life is at the limit. THAT THERE WILL NOT BE A SECOND CHANCE TO SAVE HIM, he himself has said ENOUGH. 
It was what I felt in his brief words, but above all in the tone of his voice and even in the dense silence that surrounded him. "Tell them I love them all," he told me.
The Cuban government is slowly assassinating an artist who has only shown us light, who has constructed that hope to which we cling to today. Now more than ever he needs us, he trusts us."  
Anamely Ramos González, also of the San Isidro Movement, tweeted about Luis Manuel's call minutes earlier today at 6:08pm. She said that "Luis Manuel Otero has been unjustly imprisoned for six months. Today he said enough. He called to report that he will no longer accept visits, food delivery, or calls. His body is imprisoned but not his mind. His life is in danger and the fault lies with the Cuban State. #FreeLuisma " Below is the Tweet in the original Spanish.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr was born 93 years ago today

 "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals." - Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964 

Martin Luther King Jr. January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was born 93 years ago today in Atlanta, Georgia but never saw his 40th birthday because he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. A little over a year before his untimely death the nonviolent icon made an important speech at Stanford University which is worth listening to and studying.

"Let me say as I've always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I'm still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve." 

Dr. King's message remains relevant today and his family continues  to work at The King Center in  training new generations in the ways of nonviolence, and sharing his writings and speeches. They are introducing a new immersive, self-paced online learning experience in nonviolence.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a radical critique of American society. He repeatedly challenged the United States to live up to its own aspired ideals and sought through nonviolent action and democratic norms, reforms to end segregation and ensure voting rights for African Americans

Reverend King's political outlook could best be described as falling within what is called Christian Democracy. This school of thought occupies the center with parties on the center left and the center right, but like Reverend King based on a Christian view of humanity in which "every individual is considered unique and must be treated with dignity."  In his April 4, 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam gave full expression to this outlook:

"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. "
Mohandas Gandhi, who greatly influenced King, also spoke of social responsibility and trusteeship. Gandhi, a self-described socialist, was not an enthusiastic proponent of an expanded social-welfare state as commonly understood arguing
"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence. Hence I prefer the doctrine of trusteeship. [...] What I would personally prefer would be not centralization of power in the hands of the State, but an extension of the sense of trusteeship, as, in my opinion, the violence of private ownership is less injurious than the violence of the State. However, if it is unavoidable, I would support a minimum of State-ownership."

Furthermore the critique made by both King and Gandhi of a "thing-oriented" society or the state as a "soulless machine" looks to the person or the individual not an economic mechanism  or economic class. The focus is on the human person and polices that recognize and respect the uniqueness of each human being and their dignity.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice King  is hosting the above Beloved Community Global Summit and continuing her father's work to advance nonviolence.

When he was alive the civil rights leader was considered a controversial figure. The American FBI wiretapped Martin Luther King Jr., monitored the Civil Rights Movement, and carried out active measures against him. Many have heard about this, but not of the other campaign waged against the civil rights leader by Soviet intelligence, also known as the KGB. It is also important to remember that today when Russian intelligence operatives seek to sow discord, division and hatred in the United States between citizens that they did it before.

In 1992 a high ranking Russian intelligence officer defected to the United Kingdom and brought with him notes and transcripts compiled over the previous thirty years as he moved entire foreign intelligence archives to a new headquarters just outside of Moscow. The Russian intelligence officer’s name was Vasili Mitrokhin and the information he gathered became known as The Mitrokhin Archive.

In the book The Sword and the The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin published in 1999 details were obtained from the Mitrokhin Archive on Soviet efforts to replace Martin Luther King Jr. with a “more radical and malleable leader” such as Stokeley Carmichael to provoke a race war in the United States.

 KGB targeted Martin Luther King Jr. for active measures.

Pages 237 and 238 of The Sword and the Shield excerpted below detail elements of the campaign waged by Soviet intelligence and the active measures arrayed against the civil rights leader:

“In August 1967 the Centre approved an operational plan by the deputy head of Service A, Yuri Modin, former controller of the Magnificent Five, to discredit King and his chief lieutenants by placing articles in the African press, which could then be reprinted in American newspapers, portraying King as an “Uncle Tom” who was secretly receiving government subsidies to tame the civil rights movement and prevent it threatening the Johnson administration." [...]  "King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 was quickly followed by the violence and rioting which the KGB had earlier blamed King for trying to prevent. Within a week riots erupted in over a hundred cities, forty-six people had been killed, 3,500 injured and 20,000 arrested. To “Deke” DeLoach, it seemed that, “The nation was teetering on the brink of anarchy.”86 Henceforth, instead of dismissing King as an Uncle Tom, Service A portrayed him as a martyr of the black liberation movement and spread conspiracy theories alleging that his murder had been planned by white racists with the connivance of the authorities."
 University of Cambridge professor Christopher Andrew, who coauthored The Sword and the Shield with Vasili Mitrokhin was interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS on September 28, 1999 about the book and towards the end of the interview discussed how the Soviets celebrated when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray.  The Russians celebrated because they did not want an independent African American leader, that they could not control, who was a principled nonviolence practitioner.

Taylor Branch, in the third book of his trilogy on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, At Canaan's Edge wrote about the Reverend's views on the militant call to armed struggle in the streets of the United States in January of 1968.
“Riots just don’t pay off,” said King. He pronounced them an objective failure beyond morals or faith. “For if we say that power is the ability to effect change, or the ability to achieve purpose,” he said, “then it is not powerful to engage in an act that does not do that–no matter how loud you are, and no matter how much you burn.” Likewise, he exhorted the staff to combat the “romantic illusion” of guerrilla warfare in the style of Che Guevara. No “black” version of the Cuban revolution could succeed without widespread political sympathy, he asserted, and only a handful of the black minority itself favored insurrection. King extolled the discipline of civil disobedience instead, which he defined not as a right but a personal homage to untapped democratic energy. The staff must “bring to bear all of the power of nonviolence on the economic problem,” he urged, even though nothing in the Constitution promised a roof or a meal. “I say all of these things because I want us to know the hardness of the task,” King concluded, breaking off with his most basic plea: “We must not be intimidated by those who are laughing at nonviolence now.”

These words remain as true today as when he uttered them a half century ago. Reverend King's legacy continues to inspire activists from around the world. This Baptist minister who risked all for the freedom of all African Americans and the redemption of the United States through the fulfillment of its creed that all men are created equal.

Unlike others, who were funded and supported by the Soviet Union, Martin Luther King Jr was targeted by both American and Russian intelligence agencies because he was his own man, and not controlled by anyone, save his conscience. He didn't advocate or engage in violence and changed the United States and the world for the better.

Let us remember him today on what would have been his 93rd birthday, and recommit ourselves to continuing his work "to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society."


Thursday, January 13, 2022

January 13th is Freedom Defenders' Day in Lithuania: Remembering the successful nonviolent defense of Vilnius from Soviet tanks, and the 14 who died

 Remembering Lithuania's Freedom Defenders.

Group of Lithuanians block a Russian tank outside of Press House in Vilnius two days prior to attack by Russian forces on the TV tower during which 14 people died, January 1991. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

Lithuania has a long and important history. Today is one of those days that require remembrance. Vilnius has designated January 13th as Freedom Defenders' Day, in honor of the Lithuanian civilians who stood down Soviet forces in Vilnius. This was a non-violent victory over brute force that Putin, and other dictators would like to rewrite and disappear from the history books. This is why it is so important to remember.

On January 11, 1991 Soviet tanks had stormed Vilnius to stop Lithuanian independence taking the National Defense Department and the Press House. Crowds of Lithuanians gathered around important national institutions to block the advance of the Russian tanks. On January 13th the Soviet invaders attacked the Vilnius TV tower killing 14 Lithuanians and wounding many more. It did not have the desired effect. 

31 years ago on January 13, 1991, Lithuania declared its intention to be an independent state. Decades later the courage and sacrifice of those who were killed and wounded, nonviolently defending the Vilnius TV tower continue to be remembered and honored.

The President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda today paid homage to Freedom Defenders that "stood unarmed against Soviet tanks defending independence and freedom."

Lithuania's history stretches back many centuries, and its people are distinct and separate from their Russian neighbors.  

The present day territory of Lithuania has been populated all the way back to 12,000 BC.  Between the 5th and 8th centuries tribal groups arrived, among them were the Lithuanians. The name Lithuania first appeared in 1009 in a written account of the St. Bruno Mission. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Magnus Ducatus Lithuaniae) appeared in world maps, on July 6, 1253 with the coronation of Mindaugas, ruler of  a unified Lithuania. Over the next five hundred years Lithuania would prosper and achieve great things, but in 1795 this Baltic state was occupied by Tsarist Russia, and would reappear on the map of Europe 123 years later on February 16, 1918.  Restored Lithuania 100 described the events  that led to this Baltic country rejoining the family of nations in the midst of World War One.

On 16 February 1918, 20 courageous, determined and trusted representatives of the Lithuanian nation signed the Act of Independence of Lithuania “re-establishing an independent state, based on democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital city, severing all previous links with other states.” Having withstood the fight for independence against Bolsheviks and Polish invaders, Lithuania sealed its parliamentary democracy in the Constituent Assembly (Steigiamasis Seimas) in 1920.

This new period of freedom would be short lived. On June 15, 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in the midst of the Second World War. The Soviet Union had allied with Nazi Germany on August 23, 1939 in a "non-aggression pact" that plotted the conquest and division of Poland and carved up spheres of influence that placed Lithuania in the Soviet sphere.  

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945 the Soviet Union consolidated its Eastern European empire and reaffirmed its annexation of the Baltic states, including Lithuania. Forty four years later the nonviolent movement that had emerged years earlier in Poland at the Gdansk shipyards, along with new Soviet leadership reluctant to engage in new blood baths to maintain its rule, led to the beginning of the unraveling of the Soviet empire that on August 23, 1989 resulted in mass nonviolent protests across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that became known as the Baltic Way.

However, Soviet designs on the Baltic states did not end in 1989, and if not for those Lithuanians who defended freedom 31 years ago on January 13, 1991 the world would not be observing three decades of Baltic independence. These nonviolent moments in 1989 and 1991 changed world history and these freedom defenders are rightfully remembered and celebrated.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

#SixMonths after #11J protests in #Cuba: Fact checking the Associated Press report on the 11J protests and "collective trials."

"Caution foreign news agencies! Your representatives in these lands are always in danger of becoming hostages, first, and then collaborators of the rulers." - Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, August 12, 2014

"Be careful what you wish for." - Aesop's Fable

Today marks six months since Cubans across the island took to the streets in over 50 cities and towns calling for freedom and an end to the Castro dictatorship on July 11, 2021.

Regime officials are doing everything possible to terrorize Cubans with long and unjust prison sentences, and a continued militarized presence on Cuba's streets.   

Family members of Cubans jailed on the island for taking part in the July 2021 protests have been calling on news bureaus to report on the political show trials underway. 

International news services had been silent on the matter. This campaign began with EFE, but expanded to include Reuters, the Associated Press, and Agence France Presse. Above is a graphic by Michael Lima Cuadra, of Democratic Spaces calling for news bureaus to "make their plight visible cover the trials."

Cubans march under a banner declaring "Down with dictatorship" and "Patria y Vida"

This is due to a history of the Castro regime ejecting journalists, and entire news bureaus when they report the news accurately. Chicago Tribune's Gary Marx, the BBC's Stephen Gibbs and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of Mexico's El Universal were all expelled in 2007 from Cuba for offering reporting, that although bending over backwards not to offend, still ran afoul of the regime.  

Fear is not unique to Cubans, and regime officials have spent decades intimidating foreign journalists.

The Associated Press  was expelled from Cuba in 1969. CNN was the first American outfit to return to the island in 1997, and AP soon followed in 1998.

A cursory Google search find that Andrea Rodriguez has been filing stories from Cuba for the AP since 2003. Over the past 19 years she has witnessed many of her colleagues expelled from Cuba, and has had to adapt to survive. This was not lost on opposition activists

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, months before his July 22, 2012 murder by the secret police,on September 20, 2011 videotaped his interview with Andrea Rodriguez of the Associated Press and released it because he believed that what he had told her was not fairly reflected in the article she had written.  In the interview he described how victims in Cuba are criticized because no one dare criticize the executioner and offered the following critique that Ms. Rodriguez did not publish:

"There is a real “moral inversion,” in what the foreign media, intellectual circles, ecclesiastical circles, diplomats and politicians are doing against the people of Cuba and against the dissident right now. They judge the persecuted, the poor, those who are silenced, but they do not dare to judge the government."

EFE's reporting on the trials and the 11J protests has its weaknesses. "On July 11, the largest anti-government protests in decades took place in Cuba, spontaneous and massive demonstrations linked to the serious economic crisis that the country went through." They failed to mention that many of the protesters were calling for an end to the dictatorship, and were singing the lyrics of "Patria y Vida" as they marched in the streets.

However, their reporting ends with a telling note that refers to EFE bureau members losing their accreditation. 

"NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: The decisions of the Cuban authorities in recent months have decimated the team of the Efe delegation in Havana, where currently only two journalists can continue to carry out their work. Efe hopes to be able to recover its information capacity on the island in the coming days."

 Andrea Rodriguez of the Associated Press demonstrates how she has survived in Cuba all these years. The AP reported gives the following description of 11J.

"Officials initially appeared to be caught off-guard when thousands of Cubans took to the street in cities across the island on July 11 and 12 to protest shortages of goods, power blackouts and economic hardship — with some also calling for a change in government."

The above description does not match with the videos that emerged of the protests in Cuba with the crowd chanting "libertad", "Patria y Vida" and calls for an end to the dictatorship.

However, the most egregious omission by the AP journalist is leaving out the statements by Miguel Diaz-Canel inciting violence and the regime police and paramilitaries firing on unarmed protesters. This is how she described it.

"At least one person died and several shops and vehicles were vandalized or burned."

It began on July 11, 2021 in San Antonio de los Baños, just South East of Havana when Cubans took to the streets in protest. Others saw it streaming live, and also took to the street in cities and towns across the country chanting "Freedom" and "Down with the dictatorship." 

President Miguel Diaz-Canel appeared on official television threatening: "They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything."

 Cuban protesters were met with extreme violence by the dictatorship, but they continued to take to the streets over three days before the extreme repression shut them down.

On July 14, 2021 the Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero appeared on television and announced that the dictatorship would "temporarily lift restrictions on the quantity of food and medicine incoming travelers could bring into Cuba."

This revealed the lie that the protests were caused by U.S. sanctions. Cubans were protesting the lack of freedom, and the internal blockade imposed on them by the Castro dictatorship. 

It is likely that more than one person died, but officials only recognized one death. The AP report omits that the overwhelming violence, and the one person killed, was unarmed and gun down by regime agents.

Havana officially recognized one Cuban killed during on July 12th during the protests, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36). He was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba. Reports have been received that family members of those killed have been threatened to remain silent. 

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) shot in the back by regime officials on July 12, 2021.

 Six months later, and many are asking themselves what can be done?  There is a petition circulating, and still gathering signatures, that calls for international action, and also informs the reader on the nature of the Cuban dictatorship.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Music video by Cuban singer Descemer Bueno, ft Maykel Castillo Pérez (El Osorbo) and Isabella Castillo shows Cuba's history of repression

Let us no longer shout "Homeland and Death" but "Homeland and Life" - Patria y Vida (2021)


Cuban singer Descemer Bueno premiered this week the song "Tears of Blood" [Lagrimas de Sangre], a denunciation of the totalitarian system in Cuba, that features prisoner of conscience Maykel Castillo Pérez (El Osorbo), and Isabella Castillo. An image of jailed Cuban journalist, Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López appears in the music video. He was forcibly exiled a day after the video's release.

Video is directed and edited by Ernesto García and with photography by Sisy Gómez and Erick Delgado. The video that accompanies the song brings together images of the nonviolent demonstrations of 11J, repressive actions by the dictatorship over the past  63 years, Operation Pedro Pan, and the exodus of Cubans who fled to the sea to escape the Island in the 1980 Mariel boatlift, and the 1994 rafter crisis

The video highlights three little girls killed in 2020. On January 27, 2020 three school girls died when a balcony collapsed on them in Old Havana. María Karla Fuentes and Lisnavy Valdés Rodríguez, both 12 years old, and Rocío García Nápoles, 11 years old were killed.

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) shot in the back by regime officials on July 12, 2021.

Music video also shows a photo of Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) who was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of the 11J nationwide protests in Cuba. 

Prisoner of conscience Maykel Castillo Pérez, "El Osorbo"

When Maykel Castillo begins to rap images of him appear in the music video. There are concerns that Maykel Castillo Pérez (El Osorbo) is suffering from a serious health condition, not receiving adequate care and is being pressured to go into exile by the Castro regime.

The music video shows images from the the funeral of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, murdered together with Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012 by agents of the Castro regime.

The video also shows images of prisoner of conscience Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the San Isidro Movement, and street protests inside and outside of Cuba.

This is a powerful music video that deserves a large audience.