Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Bolivia: the battle for public opinion continues, and the restoration of democracy begins

Evo Morales committed electoral fraud in an attempted coup against Bolivian democracy.

Coup plotters: Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia
Listening now to the OAS Permanent Council as it considers the situation in Bolivia and the governments of Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela are attempting to rewrite what took place. In the case of the latter two countries the irony that they claim to be defending human rights and democracy would be grounds for satire if it were not so tragic.

Evo Morales attempted to follow the path trod by Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Both succeeded in undermining the rule of law, judicial independence, and compromised the electoral system in a slow motion coup against their respective democratic systems. Maduro and Ortega succeeded, and Morales appears to have failed in Bolivia.

There had been long term slow coup carried out by Evo Morales that sought to perpetuate his regime for another term power. Morales had already been in office for 13 years and nine months in power, and would have completed 14 years in office at the end of the current term.

Evo Morales and his regime undermined the rule of law in Bolivia, compromised the independence and integrity of the judiciary and the electoral system that violated democratic norms. Furthermore Morales tried to build a highway through a national park occupied by indigenous communities that met popular resistance in 2011 and again in 2017. Morales also ignored a 2016 referendum against scrapping presidential term limits, and the October 20th fraudulent election combined with repression of protesters was the last straw for many Bolivians.
Morales had the Latin American disease of autocrats, he didn't want to leave, and Bolivian democrats should remain vigilant. This is not over. This is why the opposition maintains mobilized and in the streets. Now is the time to focus on restoring peace, stability and organizing free and fair elections that meet international standards with full guarantees.
The Castro regime, its vassal state in Venezuela, and the rest of the Sao Paulo Forum are mobilizing to back Evo Morales, denouncing his departure, and still seek to carry out Morales's coup against Bolivia's democratic order.
Today, violent protests continue in the streets both against and in favor of Morales, and calls for civil war now by pro-Evo groups. However it is important to remember that the three killed in the protests are all members of the opposition. The democratic opposition must hold firm, and use non-violent tactics to bring order to the situation.
At the international level Cuba, Venezuela, China, North Korea and others will work with larger and informal communist networks to demonize the legitimate aspirations of Bolivians, with the aim of restoring Evo Morales in power.
The stakes are high. The tragedies unfolding in Nicaragua and Venezuela should be two cautionary examples for all Bolivian democrats.
The battle for international public opinion continues, but the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Bolivia begins, and its success will play an important role in who wins the battle for international public opinion.
Behind these efforts to destabilize democracy in the region is the Castro regime, which underscores the importance of a democratic transition in Cuba for a democratic consolidation in Latin America.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Spanish monarchs received by Castro dictatorship on state visit to Cuba amid Havana ruins

Spanish monarchs make official visit to Cuba on 500th anniversary of Havana's founding.

Spanish monarchs arrive in Cuba November 11, 2019
His Majesty King Felipe VI and Her Majesty Queen Letizia of Spain arrived in Cuba for an official visit on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Havana by representatives of Spain. The past sixty years under communist rule have been hard on the historic city, with many historic sections literally falling apart.

Sadly for animal lovers, The Miami Herald reported that the Cuban government ordered the destruction of stray dogs that are a common sight throughout Havana, in an effort to impress the royals.

Spain is a Constitutional Monarchy and His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain must do what the Spanish Prime Minister, the maximum political authority instructs. Sadly for free Cubans the current Spanish Prime Minister is Pedro Sánchez, of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). A politician that The Guardian has described as smashing Spain's "brittle politics into even smaller pieces" thanks to his "hubris."

Spain's socialist prime minister visited Cuba on November 22-23, 2018 and failed to speak out publicly for Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet, or address the murder of Spanish Cuban duel citizen Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on July 22, 2012 but pledged to pour money into the Cuban dictatorship that strengthened the military and police state that not only actively oppress the Cuban people but the people of Venezuela as well. This was the first visit by a Spanish prime minister to Cuba in 20 years. Unlike his predecessor, he refused to meet with Cuban dissidents. He has now instructed the Spanish King to do the same. This is a sad time for those of us who have great affection and empathy with the Spanish people.

The failure of this Spanish prime minister to be consistent on human rights, and his hypocrisy when dealing with the issue of memory and national reconciliation in Spain is appalling.  On October 24, 2019 Sanchez presided over the exhumation of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen.  Prime minister Sánchez at a news conference on that day said this “ends a moral affront: the exaltation of a dictator in a public place.”

The socialist prime minister's outrage did not extend to Fidel Castro's regime declaring three days of mourning when Francisco Franco died in 1975, or the special relationship between the two despots.

Shockingly this moral blindness has extended across the political spectrum, but Prime Minister Sanchez has reached new lows. One would only know what the Spanish King thinks when he has abdicated or in a moment of frustration with a difficult leader.

 It is also important to set the record straight and point out that the so-called "special relationship" between Castro and Franco, that saw Che Guevara attending a bull fight with members of Franco's secret police, was not so special on the Cuban side. Manuel Sánchez and Manuela Simón in their 2017 book, History of a challenge five decades of relentless struggle of the Civil Guard against ETA (Historia de un desafío: Cinco décadas de lucha sin cuartel de la Guardia Civil contra ETA) reveal that "in the spring of 1964 ETA militants received training in Cuba with lessons on kidnappings, subversion, and sabotage. Thus began the ideological and terrorist training that would later be a constant in the history of the terrorist band.

The Cuban communist dictatorship has a long history of sponsoring and engaging in terrorism around the world, and Spain was not exempt.The Castro regime was never a friend of Spain, but has plunged the dagger deep while hiding its authorship.

Finally with regard to Havana. The old great city deserves to be honored and celebrated especially on its 500th anniversary we should remember its origins and that for 383 years of its history a Spanish flag flew over the city.

On August 25, 1515 Spanish Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded  San Cristóbal de La Habana, on the southern coast of Cuba, near what is today the town of Surgidero de Batabanó in Mayabeque province. Four years later on November 16, 1519, La Habana (Havana) was founded at its present location. Havana would thrive and flourish for centuries, but the arrival of the Castro regime in 1959 would usher in six decades of decay and destruction that continue. Havana is literally crumbling away. This dictatorship has developed an art for creating ruins that inspired a documentary by that name.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Extrajudicial killings at the Berlin Wall (1961-89)

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” - Elie Wiesel, Night

Conrad Schumann defects to West Berlin, 1961 others were not so lucky.
On the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall being torn down, we remember those who were murdered trying to escape to freedom over it. At least 140 were killed. The East German communist dictatorship had shoot to kill orders for those trying to cross the Berlin Wall. A copy of an Order to Border Guards dated October 1, 1973 was discovered that is both clear and chilling.
"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.” 
Let us never forget the victims.

Ida, Siekmann (1961)
Siekmann, Ida
Litfin, Günter
Hoff, Roland
Urban, Rudolf
Segler, Olga
Lünser, Bernd
Düllick, Udo
Probst, Werner
Lehmann, Lothar
Wohlfahrt, Dieter
Krüger, Ingo
Feldhahn, Georg

Peter Fechter (1962
Schmiel, Dorit
Jercha, Heinz
Held, Philipp
Schmidtchen, Jörgen (Border Guard)
Böhme, Peter
Brueske, Klaus
Frank, Horst
Göring, Peter (Border Guard)
Haberlandt, Lutz
Hannemann, Axel
Glöde, Wolfgang
Kelm, Erna
Huhn, Reinhold (Border Guard)
Noffke, Siegfried
Fechter, Peter
Wesa, Hans-Dieter
Mundt, Ernst
Seling, Günter (Border Guard)
Walzer, Anton
Plischke, Horst
Reck, Ottfried
Wiedenhöft, Günter

Räwel, Hans
Kutscher, Horst
Kreitlow, Peter
Muszynski, Wolf-Olaf
Mädler, Peter
Widera, Siegfried (Border Guard)
Schröter, Klaus
Schulz, Dietmar
Berger, Dieter
Schultz, Paul

Hayn, Walter
Philipp, Adolf
Heike, Walter
Gneiser, Rainer
Wolscht, Norbert
Trabant, Hildegard
Mispelhorn, Wernhard
Schultz, Egon (Border Guard)
Wolf, Hans-Joachim
Mehr, Joachim

Unknown (N.N.)
Buttkus, Christian
Krzemien, Ulrich
Hauptmann, Hans-Peter
Döbler, Hermann
Kratzel, Klaus
Garten, Klaus
Kittel, Walter
Cyrius, Heinz
Sokolowski, Heinz
Kühn, Erich
Schöneberger, Heinz

Brandes, Dieter
Block, Willi
Schleusener, Lothar
Hartmann, Jörg
Marzahn, Willi
Schulze, Eberhard
Kollender, Michael
Stretz, Paul
Wroblewski, Eduard
Schmidt, Heinz
Senk, Andreas
Kube, Karl-Heinz

Sahmland, Max Willi
Piesik, Franciszek

Weckeiser, Elke
Weckeiser, Dieter
Mende, Herbert
Lehmann, Bernd
Krug, Siegfried
Körner, Horst
Henninger, Rolf (Border Guard)

Lange, Johannes
Kluge, Klaus-Jürgen
Lis, Leo

Wehhage, Eckhardt
Wehhage, Christel
Müller, Heinz
Born, Willi
Ehrlich, Friedhelm
Thiem, Gerald
Kliem, Helmut
Friese, Christian-Peter

Kabelitz, Rolf-Dieter
Hoffmann, Wolfgang
Kühl, Werner
Beilig, Dieter

Kullack, Horst
Weylandt, Manfred
Schulze, Klaus
Katranci, Cengaver

H., Holger
Frommann, Volker
Einsiedel, Horst
Gertzki, Manfred
Krobot, Siegfried

Niering, Burkhard
Sprenger, Johannes
Savoca, Guiseppe

Halli, Herbert
Mert, Cetin
Kiebler, Herbert
Hennig, Lothar


Schwietzer, Dietmar
Weise, Henri

1978 and 1979

Steinhauer, Ulrich (Border Guard)
Jirkowski, Marinetta

Muschol, Dr. Johannes
Starrost, Hans-Jürgen
Taubmann, Thomas

Freie, Lothar Fritz

Proksch, Silvio

Schmidt, Michael-Horst


Liebeke, Rainer
Groß, René
Mäder, Manfred
Bittner, Michael

Schmidt, Lutz


Chris Gueffroy (1989)


Diederichs, Ingolf
Freudenberg, Winfried
Gueffroy, Chris

Friday, November 8, 2019

30 years ago on November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall did not fall, it was torn down by free Germans

"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.” Order to Border Guards October 1, 1973.

"If we get shot, will you write about us?" - E. German Student, demonstrating against GDR regime 

Tearing down the Berlin Wall in November 1989
30 years ago today the Berlin Wall began to be physically torn down. It was a great day for freedom and the triumph of long years of nonviolent resistance throughout Eastern Europe.

The Berlin Wall had been constructed beginning on August 13, 1961 with barbed wire fence followed by a 100 mile wall and more than 300 watch towers to spot and shoot escapees and the East German communists called it the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart." Minefields were laid in some sectors.

The destruction of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 was not inevitable. It did not fall down. It was torn down.

Tearing down the Berlin Wall in November 1989
Remember that between 1961 and the very year it was torn down at least 136 Germans were extrajudicially executed by the East German border guards for trying to cross the Berlin Wall to freedom. There is The Berlin Wall Museum that offers a complete listing of the 136 known victims with details about them and their deaths.

We should also remember those who celebrated or ignored this scar that ran through the heart of Germany for 28 years and defended or rationalized the murder of unarmed civilians while hobnobbing with the East German leadership. What is their moral responsibility for these horrors?

Fidel Castro on the Berlin Wall in 1972
Fidel Castro's first visit to Berlin began on June 13, 1972 and at various points the Cuban dictator addressed the border guards that policed the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from escaping to the West. At Brandenburg gate on June 14 in the afternoon (pictured above) he addressed the men charged with shooting East Germans fleeing to West Germany as "the courageous and self-denying border guards of the GDR People's Army who stand guard in the front line of the entire-socialist community." Later in the evening Premier Castro addressed the Nikolay Bezarin Barracks in East Berlin:
It is very important to know that the people of the GDR have great confidence in you, that they are truly proud of you. The comrades of the party and the citizens of socialist Berlin have told us with great satisfaction about the activity of the border troops, speaking with great admiration for you and for your services.
Later on in the same speech Mr. Castro offered his take on what he saw there and prospects for the future:
We have no doubt that a great political and revolutionary victory has been won in the GDR. You have created the foundations for the future, a truly revolutionary state, a border state to whom the future belongs. You are the new generation, which will continue this work.
He spent most of his visit accompanied by Erich Honecker, who as Central Committee secretary for security matters in 1961 was the individual in charge of building the Berlin Wall, and by 1971 via a power struggle and Soviet support had become the de facto head of state.

Erich Honecker and Angela Davis in 1972
Angela Davis also paid visits to East Germany (in 1965 and 1972).  During her 1972 visit she was received by Erich Honecker. She celebrated the East German communist regime and refused to criticize, or recognize their short comings on human rights. She refused to make references to the Berlin Wall in her autobiography.

This practice extended beyond East Germany.

Angela Davis also visited Cuba in 1972 and Fidel Castro made her an honorary member of the infamous Committee in the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). Neighborhood committees that spied on Cubans to ensure their loyalty to the dictatorship.

Innocent people were being killed in Germany until 1989.

Chris Gueffroy shot dead at the Berlin Wall on February 5, 1989
One of the last victims, Chris Gueffroy, was born on June 21, 1968 and shot dead by East German border guards on February 5, 1989 trying to cross on the Britzer Zweigkanal, near the small garden colonies “Harmonie“ and “Sorgenfrei” on the sector border between Berlin-Treptow and Berlin-Neukölln. Dead at 20 years of age for the crime of wanting to live in freedom. A memorial column in memory of Chris Gueffroy was erected at Britzer Zweigkanal in Berlin-Treptow in 2003 in honor of his 35th birthday. A biography and account of the circumstances that led to his death and the aftermath are available online.

Memorial Column for Chris Gueffroy
The process of the Berlin Wall being torn down was both a struggle of ideas, of nonviolent resistance, and international solidarity. Germans crossed the wall seeking freedom in an act of nonviolent defiance. Many escaped but others paid the ultimate price for freedom. The Order to Border Guards from the East German regime was clear:
"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.”
Thirty years have passed and the words of the late Czech dissident Vaclav Havel remain relevant for our times, and in defiance of the inhumanity represented by the Berlin Wall. In 2003 he addressed a gathering at Florida International University that was prescient.
"Our world, as a whole, is not in the best of shape and the direction it is headed in may well be quite ambivalent. But this does not mean that we are permitted to give up on free and cultivated thinking and to replace it with a set of utopian clichés. That would not make the world a better place, it would only make it worse. On the contrary, it means that we must do more for our own freedom, and that of others."
The Berlin Wall reverberates strongly among Cubans, because since 1959 the Florida Straits have been turned into a killing zone by the communist regime in Cuba, along with border with the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base.  Less than five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall on July 13, 1994 thirty seven Cubans were massacred for trying to flee Cuba. This scar demands that we do more for our own and others freedoms.

Nevertheless, we must celebrate the great days of freedom that unfolded in the heart of Europe in 1989, the winds of change that brought an end to the Berlin Wall, liberated tens of millions of people and that these free societies continue to endure and prosper after thirty years.

Tonight I will be celebrating and remembering, but tomorrow the struggle for freedom continues.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Protest against new wave of repression in Cuba to take place Nov. 8th outside Cuban embassy in DC

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Protest for the freedom of all Cuban political prisoners will be held on Friday, November 8, 2019 at 12 noon in front of the Cuban Embassy (2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009).

Cuba Decide, a citizen initiative to change the political and economic system in Cuba via a nonviolent process of transition towards democracy, is circulating the following images, calling for the protest, and highlighting the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) members who have been detained since October 1, 2019. The most high profile of the four arbitrarily detained is José Daniel Ferrer García, the leader of the organization. UNPACU was formed in 2011 and describes itself as a non-violent political organization.

Amnesty International on October 8, 2019 issued an Urgent Action titled Opposition Leader Detained (CUBA: UA 134.19) for Cuban opposition activist José Daniel Ferrer García. In the Urgent Action the human rights organization outlines the basis for this campaign:
"On 1 October 2019, Cuban authorities detained José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of the unofficial political opposition group “Patriotic Union of Cuba” (Unión Patriótica de Cuba - UNPACU) in Santiago de Cuba. He was held incommunicado for 72 hours and remains in detention without charges. Ferrer García should be informed of the charges against him or should otherwise be released, have access to lawyers of his choosing and to his family, as well as access to medical care."
This detention, along with three other members of the UNPACU group, coincides with Amnesty International’s naming of six Cuban prisoners of conscience in in August and September of 2019. The Urgent Action for José Daniel will continue through November 19, 2019, and all are welcome to take part.

There are systemic and profound problems with the Cuban legal system. On September 11, 2019 the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights released an important report analyzing the new Cuban constitution and the overall administration of the legal system in Cuba and concluded, in part, that:
"We have found that Cuban laws lack the necessary protections to ensure respect for due process and other human rights of persons accused of committing crimes. The guarantees that do exist are not respected by authorities in the majority of cases of independent activists."
The Castro regime has a long history of slandering and libeling opponents of the regime. The 2012 book Ready, Aim, Fire! Character Assassination in Cuba by Rafael Rojas analyses how the Cuban dictatorship systematically destroys reputations with a sustained mix of falsehoods, and exaggerations. Carlos Alberto Montaner in a 2011 presentation on the topic described how it is an intrinsic part of totalitarian regimes and its language of exclusion.

Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the presumption of innocence as a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial. However in a regime where the prosecution, judge and defense attorney must respond to the demands of the dictator how can the legal burden of proof be met, and triers of fact recognized as legitimate?

This is why on Friday, November 8, 2019 at 12 noon in front of the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC. (2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009) people in good faith will peacefully gather to protest for the freedom of all of Cuba's political prisoners on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.