Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prisoner of Conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo's triumph over totalitarian brutality

"There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. - the voice of conscience, even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more a separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all which you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being." - Mohandas Gandhi

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Cuban dissident and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, was born on May 15, 1967. He died in Havana, Cuba on February 23, 2010 at the age of 42 after more than eighty days on a water only hunger strike. During the hunger strike prison officials denied him water for more than two weeks in an effort to force him to end the strike.

Yoani Sanchez spoke with Orlando Zapata Tamayo's mother hours after her son's death on February 23. Reina Luisa Tamayo spoke through her pain thinking of those who remained behind: "I call on the world to demand the freedom of the other prisoners and brothers unfairly sentenced so that what happened to my boy, my second child, who leaves behind no physical legacy, no child or wife, does not happen again."

Who was Orlando Zapata Tamayo?

The facts about the kind of man he was can be gathered by information, provided by Amnesty International when declaring Orlando Zapata Tamayo a prisoner of conscience in January of 2004, are the following:
Date of arrest: 20 March 2003

Sentence: No trial yet, but charged with “desacato”, “desordenes publicos”, “public disorder”, and “desobediencia”.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo is a member of the Movimiento Alternativa Republicana, Alternative Republican Movement, and a member of the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica, National Civic Resistance Committee.

He has been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were reportedly arrested and later released. He was also arrested on 6 December 2002 along with Oscar Elías Biscet, but was released on 8 March 2003.

Most recently, he was arrested on the morning of 20 March 2003 whilst taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and other political prisoners. He was reportedly taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters. He has not been tried yet, but the prosecutor is reportedly asking for three years’ imprisonment for “desacato”, “desordenes publicos”, “public disorder”, and “desobediencia”.

He has reportedly been moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and most recently, Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. According to reports, on 20 October 2003 he was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations.

Before moving on it is necessary to revisit the December 6, 2002 arrest. Amnesty in an earlier report offered more details on what happened:
On 6 December 2002 Oscar Elias Biscet González, president of the unofficialFundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, Lawton Human Rights Foundation, was detained with 16 other dissidents after they attempted to meet at a home in Havana to discuss human rights.(15) This meeting was reportedly part of an effort by Dr. Biscet to form a grassroots project for the promotion of human rights called "Friends of Human Rights." When police prevented them from entering the home, Oscar Biscet and the others reportedly sat down in the street in protest and uttered slogans such as "long live human rights" and "freedom for political prisoners." They were then arrested and taken to the Tenth Unit of the National Revolutionary Police,Décima Unidad de La Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR), in Havana.
This is not the profile of what the Cuban dictatorship claims is a "common criminal" but of a courageous human rights activist standing up to a totalitarian dictatorship with non-violent resistance. It is total defiance but without violence. For example, on October 28, 2002 Orlando Zapata Tamayo was arrested along with Julia Cecilia Delgado González, Lázara Caridad Sardiñas, Justo Martínez, Miguel Maceal, Enri Saumell, Carlos Raúl Jiménez, & Juan Ramón Rivero Despaigne as they along with several dozen other activists presented a petition criticizing the government's arbitrary and excessive fines against dissidents and human rights activists.

There are over 198 nonviolent methods, one of which is the hunger strike. Orlando engaged in a number of these methods with a few outlined above related to past arrests: signed public statement, engaged in a sit-in, participated in teach-ins on human rights. The most powerful and dangerous non-violent method he engaged in was the hunger strike. It is important to take a closer look at hunger strikes.

The Hunger Strike

Start watching video at 46:38 which talks about fasts and hunger strikes in a nonviolent context.

Michael Nagler in the video above from his course an Introduction to Nonviolence filmed in the fall of 2006 offers a great analysis of fasts and hunger strikes beginning at 46 minutes 38 seconds, and is highly recommended for a deeper understanding of fasts and hunger strikes. In the video Nagler offers a word of caution: "Nonviolence is not a feel good operation its very scientific you have to know when to do what."

Nagler's Five rules for Hunger strikes

  1. Have to be the right person for the job. Not to be used by just anybody.
  2. Right audience. (You should only fast against someone who was in sympathy with you on a very deep level. Gandhi never fasted against the British.)
  3. Doable demand
  4. Last Resort
  5. Consistent with the rest of your life

Nagler in his above lecture on nonviolence describes fasting unto the death within nonviolence:
"This is not a case of suicide. You are not killing yourself. You are risking death. What you are doing is putting your life into the hands of another person." ... "You are not killing yourself but you are saying to the person that your behavior is so unacceptable that if you continue it its going to kill me. It is an extreme case of taking on the suffering that is in a situation." ...This is different from a threat because what you are saying to the person is "I am going to exhibit to you mirror back to you the ultimate consequences of what you are doing." ... "This is an act of truth. You are killing us - you are killing our people and I'm going to show you that you are doing it to awaken your conscience."...Thats why you have to be carrying on a conversation on a nonverbal level.
Hunger Strikes in a Cuban Context

The International Committee of the Red Cross in an online essay by "Medical and Ethical Aspects of Hunger Strikes in Custody and the Issue of Torture" authored by Hernán Reyes offers the following observation about the circumstances where hunger strikes are carried out until the end. It states:
In countries where prisoners’ rights are not fully respected or even completely disregarded, and where torture is practised; hunger strikes may be a last resort for prisoners wanting to protest against their situation.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was only able to visit Cuban prisons twice over the past 51 years and has been denied entry into Cuba despite numerous requests between 1959 and 2010. There was an extensive and unannounced visit that was completed in July of 1959 and a second visit in September of 1988. International human rights organizations have also been barred from access to Cuban prisons and in many cases Cuba with the rare exception of 1988. Amnesty International in their February 24, 2010 statement following Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death stated: "The death of Orlando Zapata also underlines the urgent need for Cuba to invite international human rights experts to visit the country to verify respect for human rights, in particular obligations in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

This was a last resort. Right now there are extremely ill prisoners of conscience being subjected to the systematic denial of medical treatment and kept in conditions that are destroying their health. They are dying slowly there names are Ariel Sigler Amaya, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Librado Linares García, Jorge Luis González Tanquero, José Luis García Paneque, Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso and Normando Hernández González. This is what Orlando Zapata Tamayo was protesting against.

In the video above human rights activist Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva describes Orlando's demands, prison conditions, and the circumstances surrounding his arrest and time in prison where Orlando was savagely beaten on ten occasions for defending human rights.

Agents of the Cuban dictatorship failed to break Orlando Zapata Tamayo's spirit refusing him water for over two weeks in the midst of a water only hunger strike now they are trying to libel and slander his memory trying to portray him as a common criminal. They will fail again, even though in the past the Cuban regime has been able to sell a lie with their massive propaganda apparatus, because the outrage generated over the reality that the brutality that Cuban prisoners of conscience are subjected has led to one of them demand decent treatment and carry out a hunger strike to the death. This combined with the inhuman treatment visited on the hunger striker that became a contributing factor to his death the reality of what goes on in Cuban prisons have been exposed if only for a moment to the world. It is up to human rights activists and friends of Cuba to hold the Castro regime accountable and provide solidarity and protection to Cuba's human right defenders.

To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of the vivid knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend. There is no merit in loving an enemy when you forget him for a friend. - Mohandas Gandhi

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gorki Águila: Back in Cuba greeted at airport by daughter, PPR band members, friends, & State Security


Gorki Aguila

March 4, 2010

After bureaucratic obstacles prevented him from leaving Mexico bound for Havana, Gorki Aguila, was able to return to the island this Thursday, March 4, at 12: 30pm Havana time.

The leader of the rock band Porno Para Ricardo did not suffer any mishap at José Martí airport , but there was strong surveillance and harassment by members of state security, who remained close to Gorki Águila since he left the plane while they talked on cell phones around him and kept alert to any movements by the musician.

On his arrival they expected, apparently, journalists from foreign agencies, who upon hearing the strong statements of Gorki Aguila about the abuse and neglect regarding immigration procedures faced by Cubans, they requested he speak in a lower tone.

At the airport his daughter, members of Porno Para Ricardo, Alain Saavedra, author of the blog Reevolucion 90 and other friends turned.

Laura García Freyre

Manager, Porno Para Ricardo



Marzo 4, 2010

Después de las trabas burocráticas que le impidieron salir de México con destino a La Habana, Gorki Águila, pudo regresar a la isla este jueves 4 de marzo, a las 12: 30 hora de la capital cubana.

El líder de la banda de rock Porno Para Ricardo no sufrió ningún percance en el aeropuerto José Martí, mas que la fuerte vigilancia y acoso por parte de miembros de la seguridad del Estado, quienes se mantuvieron cercanos a Gorki Águila desde que éste salió del avión, al mismo tiempo que hablaban por celular alrededor de él y se mantenían en estado de alerta ante cualquier movimiento del músico.

A su llegada lo esperaban, al parecer, periodistas de agencias extranjeras, los que al oír las fuertes declaraciones de Gorki Águila sobre el abuso y la negligencia respecto a los trámites migratorios que enfrentan los cubanos, le pidieron que hablara en un tono más bajo.

Al aeropuerto acudieron su hija, los miembros de Porno Para Ricardo, Alain Saavedra, autor del blog Reevolucion 90 y otros amigos.

Laura García Freyre

Manager, Porno Para Ricardo

Que tengo derecho a entrar a mi pais, coño!

Update: Cuban bureaucrats blocked him from leaving yesterday. Trying again today March 4, 2010 aboard Cubana Airlines Flight 131 at 9:30 EST arriving at 12:15pm. What is Gorki's take on this? From his twitter account Gorkiaguila in spanish he states "Que tengo derecho a entrar a mi pais, coño!" - I have the right to enter my country, Damn it!

The English translation along with minor changes is mine along with the video selected. The original press release in Spanish is at the bottom of the page. Gorki my prayers and best wishes for your safe return to the homeland.

Gorki Aguila tried to return to Cuba on March 3 & tries again on March 4
Needs your solidarity

Friday, 26 February, 2010.

Veracruz, Mexico. After an eleven-month stay in Mexico, Gorki Águila, leader of the rock band Porno Para Ricardo, returns to Cuba.

Despite having covered the requirements for entry into the country (payment of monthly renewals to maintain his legal status on the island), it is feared that Cuban authorities will not consent to his entering the country or, in carrying out reprisals against him, as in his detention.

For this reason, we ask all the communications media their attention and get the word out about Gorki Águila’s return to Cuba along with any problems that may arise. The disclosure of these events will be one of the principle defenses for Águila against any kind of violation of his individual rights.

Gorki Aguila departs from the International Airport of Mexico City on Wednesday, March 3 at 8:45 AM, on Flight 131 Cubana de Aviacion and reaches the city of Havana at terminal 3 at José Martí airport at 12:15 PM.

Laura García Freyre

Manager, Porno Para Ricardo

En castellano:



Viernes 26 de febrero, 2010.

Veracruz, México. Después de once meses de estadía en México, Gorki Águila, líder de la banda de rock Porno Para Ricardo, regresa a Cuba.

A pesar de haber cubierto los requisitos para su ingreso al país (pago de prorrogas mensuales para mantener su status legal en la isla), se teme que las autoridades cubanas no consientan su ingreso al país o bien, efectúen represalias en su contra, como su detención.

Por este motivo, pedimos a todos los medios de comunicación su atención y difusión del retorno de Gorki Águila a Cuba, así de como cualquier inconveniente que pueda sucederle. La divulgación de estos hechos será una de las principales defensas de Águila ante cualquier tipo de violación de sus derechos individuales.

Gorki Águila parte del Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México el miércoles 3 de marzo a las 8:45 AM, en el vuelo 131 de Cubana de Aviación y llega a la Ciudad de La Habana a la terminal 3 del Aeropuerto José Martí a las 12:15 PM.

Laura García Freyre

Manager, Porno Para Ricardo

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Democracy Alert: Tightening Political Space in Egypt:

Two Youth Activists Arrested in Egypt

Ahmed Maher and Amr Ali, both leaders in the April 6th Youth Movement, were arrested in the early morning on 16 February as they were driving home from a meeting regarding the welcoming reception planned for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mohamed Elbaradei, who many activists are calling on to run for presidency in Egypt's upcoming election. Maher and Ali were stopped at a security checkpoint, forced out of their car, and taken to jail. They were charged for distributing political leaflets and painting slogans on a local bridge, claims that are contested by many on the ground. Maher and Ali were able to send text messages to alert others of their detention before officers confiscated their phones. Maher and Ali were denied their right to a lawyer and were not allowed any visitors. Both men were later taken to the courthouse for prosecution. Sources on the ground reported that supporters gathered outside to protest their arrest and were beaten and attacked by security forces in retaliation to their peaceful demonstration.

Their arrest comes on the heels of an arrest of prominent blogger and human rights activist Wael Abbas. Abbas, who often exposes the Egyptian Government's corruption, was accused and arrested on 23 January for tampering with and damaging his neighbor's cable line. The neighbor is a brother of a police officer, and both broke into Abbas' home and assaulted him and his mother last April 2009. Following the April attack, Abbas filed a complaint with the police department resulting in further harassment and eventually leading to this false arrest. It is suspected that these assaults were motivated to respond to Abbas' efforts to expose the two police officers for torturing and raping a bus driver by publishing the torture video. Despite the severe crime, those two police officers received reduced sentences. This is one example of many attempts by the government to crackdown on bloggers who challenge the Government. Most bloggers write anonymously to avoid persecution. Abbas is one of the few who does not.

Another victim of such government restriction on the freedom of expression is Hani Nazeer, a blogger arrested in October 2008. Hani Nazeer, who is a prisoner of conscience and a Coptic Christian, has been detained since his 2008 arrest in response to residents in his city of Qina denouncing him for posting the cover of a book on his blog that they considered insulting to Muslims. Amnesty International, among others, have called for Nazeer's immediate release.

The cases of Maher, Ali, Abbas, and Nazeer demonstrate a growing trend of the Egyptian government tightening political space by targeting bloggers and civil society activists as the Presidential elections loom.

Take Action!

The Egyptian government must know people outside Egypt are watching their actions and will not tolerate injustice toward activists and bloggers who simply are exposing the truth and wish for freedom of expression.

Please send letters to your local Egyptian Embassies or Consulate demanding the immediate release of Ahmed Maher, Amr Ali, and Hani Nazeer and inquiring about Wael Abbass's charges. Please also urge Egyptian authorities to respect citizens' rights to express their opinions freely and exercise political rights.

To find Egyptian embassies: Also, please contact your local Amnesty International chapter ( to alert them of Ahmed Maher and Amr Ali's case and urge them to take action.

For more information on the April 6th Movement, go to:

For more information on Mohamed Elbaradei's return to Egypt, go to:

For more information on Wael Abbas case, go to:

For more information on Hani Nazeer's case, go to:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brothers to the Rescue & the Cuban Memory Hole

Information Recovery from the Dictatorship’s Memory Hole

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." -- Inner Party member O'Brien in George Orwell’s 1984

Fourteen years ago over the Florida Straits a brutal crime was committed by Cuban government against civilians aboard three planes who were hunted by Cuban MiGs and in the case of two of the planes were blown to bits by air-to-air missiles fired by a Cuban MiG-29 at 3:21 p.m. and 3:27 p.m., respectively, in international airspace destroying two civilian light aircraft extra-judicially killing Armando Alejandre Jr. (age 45), Carlos Alberto Costa ( age 29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (age 24), and Pablo Morales (age 29). Documents revealed in a 2009 CBS4 investigative report show that two other Cuban MIG's pursued Brothers to the Rescue founder Jose Basulto's small plane to within three minutes of Key West before breaking off pursuit.

Extra-judicially executed by agents of the Cuban government on February 24, 1996

Why the review of these facts? Every year the Free Cuba Foundation holds a moment of silence at Florida International University on February 24th between 3:21pm and 3:27pm at the main fountain on campus in remembrance of Armando, Carlos, Mario, and Pablo who gave their lives in service to others. This tradition has been maintained for 14 years. The first vigils were held the week following the shootdown in 1996, but over time memories have faded, but there is more to it.

2008 Vigil at FIU organized by the student organization Free Cuba Foundation

The Cuban regime has undertaken a systematic propaganda effort to demonize Brothers to the Rescue and take the incriminating facts against the dictatorship and throw it down a memory hole. The phrase “memory hole” first came into existence in George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four to describe a small chute leading to a large incinerator used for censorship. Today it describes a process in which inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records are altered or just outright disappear and new ones are created by the propaganda apparatus.

Therefore in the interests of preserving some of these inconvenient and embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, and other records this essay will present the historical context in which Brothers to the Rescue came into existence and the events that led to the shootdown and some of the new information discovered over the past 14 years.

First Brothers to the Rescue formed in 1991 on account of the rafter (balsero) crisis. The specific event was the February 1991 death of fifteen year old adolescent named Gregorio Perez Ricardo, who fleeing Castro's Cuba on a raft, perished of severe dehydration in the hands of U.S. Coast Guard officers who were attempting to save his life. The organization was founded on May 13, 1991 as a non-profit corporation with the goal of conducting humanitarian search and rescue missions for rafters in the Florida Straits. It initially organized community fundraisers and marathons to obtain the funds to get started. A core group of 70 pilots and observers are made up of volunteers from many countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, England, France, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, the United States, Venezuela and former Cuban rafters. In December of 1993 Brothers to the Rescue inaugurated their hangar naming it after Gregorio. Brothers to the Rescue saved as many as 6,000 rafters.

The Cuban government likes to throw around the term terrorist, but does not want to accept when it has committed acts of state terrorism. The rafter crisis like the Germans fleeing over the Berlin Wall was an embarrassment to the dictatorship and like the East Germans there response was brutal. On July 6, 1993 according to The Miami Herald the Clinton Administration denounced the practice of Cuban marine patrols, seeking to stop refugees from reaching the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base by tossing grenades and shooting at defenseless fleeing swimmers then recovering some of the bodies with gaff hooks reporting that:
A State Department aide called the use of gaffs, usually used to pull gamefish into boats, to pull bodies from the water "an act of extreme cruelty." According to the U.S. protest, U.S. military guards surveying the bay have witnessed five separate incidents:
* On June 19 at 2 p.m., U.S. guards, startled by the sounds of detonations, saw Cuban troops aboard patrol boats dropping grenades in the paths of several swimmers headed for the U.S. base.
* On June 20 at 1:30 p.m., Cuban troops repeated the action, then strafed the water with machine-gun fire.
* On June 26 at 11 a.m., three patrol boats surrounded a group of swimmers, lobbing grenades and spraying them with automatic weapons fire. At least three corpses were lifted out of the water with gaffs.
* On June 27 at 11:30 a.m., guards aboard patrol boats lobbed two grenades into the water.
* The same day, just before 3 p.m., a patrol boat opened automatic fire on a group of swimmers, who were later seen being pulled from the water. The swimmers' status was unknown.

This brutality against fleeing emigrants by the Castro regime would be exposed to the world on July 13, 1994 with the attack and sinking of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat an episode which cost the lives of the 37 men, women, and children whose names and ages are all accounted four. Some estimate that four more unidentified lost their lives bringing the total number to 41, but until the day that the remains are recovered. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights prepared an extensive report on the merits which begins:
In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, four boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, opposite the port of Havana. The complaint also indicates that the Cuban State boats attacked the runaway tug with their prows with the intention of sinking it, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas of the women and children to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat--named "13 de Marzo"--sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten minors.
This outrage reported around the world and filtered back into Cuba led to one of the largest uprisings against the dictatorship in Cuba on August 5, 1994 known as the Maleconazo. Extended footage below:

Time Magazine reported the dictator's reaction to the crisis which was to turn an internal crisis of control into an immigration crisis:
Angered by a massive anti-government demonstration on the Havana waterfront, Cuban President Fidel Castro warned that unless the U.S. stops offering asylum to fleeing Cubans, he will allow the free departure of those who want to leave the country. That could trigger a repeat of the 1980 Mariel exodus, which saw some 125,000 Cubans arrive in Florida within a few months, overwhelming U.S. officials. Said Castro: "We cannot continue to guard the coasts of the U.S."
Fidel Castro takes responsibility for the shoot down in an interview shortly afterward
Transcripts of both the pilots in the Cuban MiGs and the Brothers to the Rescue pilots communicating with Cuban air traffic control are available online along with compelling audio recordings. Jose Basulto, a survivor the attack, has a chronology of the circumstances surrounding the shootdown. Fidel Castro's claim that the shoot down of both planes was something "very fast" that took place in a matter of minutes does not hold up to further scrutiny and disclosed information. In addition to Juan Pablo Roque. On September 14, 1998 ten people were charged in the largest Cuban spy ring ever exposed in the United States. They called themselves "la red avispa" - "the wasp network" and among them was Rene Gonzalez, formerly affiliated with Brothers to the Rescue and at the time of his arrest a member of the Democracy Movement.
Five of the ten cut deals with the prosecution and pled out to reduced sentences in exchange for their cooperation they were: Alejandro Alonso (7 years), Linda Hernandez (7 years), Nilo Hernandez Mederos (7 years), Joseph Santos Cecilia (4 years ) and Amarylis Silverio Garcia de Santos (3 1/2 years). The remaining five would refuse to cooperate and went to trial. On June 9, 2001 they were found guilty of conspiring to spy on the United States and the leader of the group Gerardo Hernandez was found guilty of contributing to the deaths of the four members of Brothers to the Rescue and sentenced to life in prison . The FBI had intercepted coded communications between the spies and the Cuban government that indicated that the February 24, 1996 shootdown had been planned well ahead of time. The portion of the coded intercept that attracted the most attention with regards to Brothers to the Rescue was written by Eduardo Delgado Rodriguez, a.k.a."MX," a Cuban general who headed the Interior Ministry's Directorate of Intelligence (DI)
"MX instructs that under no circumstances should German nor Castor fly with Brothers to the Rescue or another organization on days 24, 25, 26 and 27, coinciding with celebration of Concilio Cubano [a planned national conference of dissident groups in Havana], in order to avoid any incident of provocation that they may carry out and our response to it."
On February 27, 1996 three days after the shoot down then Congressman (now Senator ) Bob Menendez addressing the Congress outlined what had taken place the video is still available on C-Span:
It is now interesting to note that yesterday the Cuban Government openly bragged about a pilot who they sent to infiltrate Brothers to the Rescue and returned to Cuba the day before the incident. It is now apparent that that individual, Juan Pablo Roque, transmitted information to the Castro regime about the Brothers to the Rescue's flight plans for Saturday, and so we have here the facts developing of why I say that this act was premeditated murder and it is in fact an act of state terrorism.

You have an infiltrator pilot who tells the regime, Brothers to the Rescue are flying, they are flying one of their search-and-rescue missions, they will be in international airspace but near Cuban airspace, and therefore sets them up as clay pigeons. And you have a situation in which Castro's regime itself was thinking about the possibility of shooting down innocent civilians, asking a former retired general who was in Cuba about the United States reaction to such an event. Hence, the premeditation.
A couple of weeks after the shoot down on March 4, 1996 in a segment aired on PBS Jose Basulto representing Brothers to the Rescue maintained the organization's commitment to civic nonviolent resistance and Betty Ann Browser the journalist gave an analysis of the significance of Brothers to the Rescue nonviolent approach:
JOSE BASULTO, Brothers to the Rescue: We must not waver in our effort to bring assistance and support to those who struggle through non-violent means inside the island. It is there where our first priority lies.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Basulto supports a third approach to the Cuban question, based on the peaceful, non-violent principles of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Basulto and other Cuban-American leaders believe that organizing flotillas, that by flying close to Cuban air space, and holding demonstrations in a non-violent manner will keep Cuban issues alive in the international arena. Over the weekend Basulto and the Brothers flew near Cuba to memorialize the four dead pilots. In the waters below, a flotilla braved eight-foot seas to remember the young Cuban-Americans. The television pictures were broadcast around the world...
Another fact that was not known in 1996 is that at some point during the Clinton Administration the United States and the Cuban dictatorship began holding joint military exercises. This went on during the George W. Bush years as well despite stronger rhetoric between both governments, and the Bush Administration forbade disclosure of the exercises for over a decade, and were only made public now during the Obama Administration.

US State Department official spied for Communist Cuba for 30 years

The 2009 CBS4 report raises troubling questions: US military jets had scrambled to intercept Cuban MIG's since at least 1992 and even had scrambled earlier the same day of the shoot down, no jets ever took off from Homestead Air Force base or any other base:
Despite the fact that military officials watched the shootdown on several different radar installations around the country, even as far away as California, and despite the fact two more MIG's chased Basulto's plane to within 3 minutes downtown Key West, the records show that no United States military jets ever scrambled to intercept the Cubans.
According to the CBS4 report "orders came from unknown people in Washington. The F-15's were ordered to stay on the ground. And they were not allowed to intercept the Cuban MIG's." Probably by someone like a Walter Kendall Meyers at the US State Department shown in the video above or Ana Belen Montes at the Pentagon.

In September of 2001 top Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes was arrested for espionage. She had been spying for the Cuban dictatorship since 1985 and had prepared a military threat assessment of the Cuban regime in May of 1998 that said Cuba was no longer a threat. Montes first caught the attention of the counterintelligence service in her response to the shoot down. Scott W. Carmichael in his book True Believer described what happened. First her role in facilitating a meeting with U.S. government representatives with retired U.S. Navy admiral Eugene Carroll on February 23, 1996 to relay recent threats by the regime and that provided Admiral Carroll a lot of television interview time on February 25 to place the Cuban government in a more favorable light and blame Brothers to the Rescue. Carmichael describes how they thought this was an "influence operation" - a covert attempt to influence public opinion. This could also be a coincidence except for two other minor but important details.

Ana Belen Montes was the senior intelligence expert on the Cuban military in the United States when the shootdown occurred she was called into the Pentagon to provide intelligence support. She received a personal call at the Pentagon in the midst of a crisis situation and announced that she would have to leave at 8:00pm and she did. Two rules at the Pentagon in the midst of a crisis: no personal calls and during the crisis you are suppose to stay at your post until your superior deems that you are no longer needed. Both these flags led to the investigation that uncovered a high ranking Cuban mole in the heart of the Pentagon.
Brothers to the Rescue founder, Jose Basulto in a 1998 interview held "the U.S. government culpable by neglect" and the Cuban dictator responsible demanding his indictment for murder adding "Castro can kill me, I'm living on spare time. I have been dead since 1996. They were like my own sons."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reflection 50 Years After Sit-Ins: The Civil Rights Movement vs. The Black Power Movement

The lunch counter sit-in campaign (although called a movement) began on February 1, 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina by the end of March 1960 the movement had spread to more than 55 cities in 13 states. The 1960 documentary Integration Report set down on film the mood of the country and the courage of the activists who had set out to put an end to Jim Crow segregation.

People were beaten, imprisoned, and killed in this struggle to bring an end to segregation but despite great sacrifices and hardship achieved this goal via non-violent means. The end of segregation and the passage of the 1965 National Voting Rights Act were achieved through non-violent means, and were the high water mark for the Civil Rights movement.

Unfortunately the unfounded belief that violence could achieve more led to the emergence of the Black Power movement, the black panthers, and the sidelining of the non-violent movement for the sterile and impotent riots that would destroy inner cities and wreak economic havoc.

Diane Nash, a great pioneer of nonviolence from the sit-ins to the Selma march, rejected nonviolence and took up with the siren call of Black Power. Nash described her reasoning:
"If we've done all this through nonviolence, think what we could do if we were just willing to be urban guerrillas and knock over a few banks. [...] "Of course, ten years later I looked up and I hadn't knocked over any banks and I hadn't been a guerilla. I hadn't even been to the rifle range. But I had withdrawn from this painful, creative engagement with nonviolence and democracy behind a big smokescreen of noise."
In addition to deactivating serious activists the lure of violence and urban guerrilla warfare would exact a terrible cost. According to Virginia Postrel, from 1964 to 1971, there were more than 750 riots, killing 228 people and injuring 12,741 others. After more than 15,000 separate incidents of arson, many black urban neighborhoods were in ruins. The end results were ruined neighborhoods; an explosion in crime; and increased poverty.

Malcolm X, one of the leaders of the black power movement, in the video above accuses Martin Luther King Jr. of being paid and subsidized by the white man to maintain African Americans defenseless. He went on to accuse Rev. King of being an "Uncle Tom." Reverend King in the video below responds to the charges laid out by Malcolm X arguing that he has confused non-resistance with non-violent resistance.

Fifty years later with an African American president in the White House thanks in large part to the legacy of the nonviolent civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and on the other hand the legacy of riots and violence encouraged and fueled by the Malcolm X's and Stokely Carmichael's of the black power movement has left a legacy of economic and social ruin in the inner city and an explosion in crime.

Anyone suffering from injustice and oppression should take a long hard look at the fruits of these two movements and choose nonviolence. A strategic approach to nonviolence taken as seriously as so many others take violence have and could yield positive results which leads to the final video below which deals with non-violent simulations and developing a non-violent strategy.