Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Franklin Brito: A Martyr for Liberty and Human Rights in Venezuela

"I’ve learned of the death of hunger striker Franklin Brito. It appears that Hugo Chavez now has his own Orlando Zapata" - Yoani Sanchez, August 31, 2010 on twitter

(Above) Franklin Brito before and after engaging in 8 hunger strikes

Hunger strikes are the ultimate recourse in the arsenal of non-violent resistance, and over the years around the world it has succeeded at times but in places like Cuba, Ireland, and now in Venezuela a human being has died on hunger strike.

In Cuba the names of Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo are remembered as is Bobby Sands of Northern Ireland (who the Cuban dictatorship built a memorial to in Cuba) and now Venezuela's Franklin Brito has joined this select grouping that demonstrates the ultimate price when engaging in a hunger strike.

Franklin Brito was a farmer and a biologist whose land was expropriated by Hugo Chavez in 2000 according to CNN. Other news agencies place the date of expropriation anywhere between 2003 and 2004. He exhausted every recourse and was driven to the final option: the hunger strike in 2005.El Universal out of Caracas offers a chronology of Brito's odyssey. In the video below taken October 5, 2009 on day 93 of a hunger strike Franklin was carrying out in which he explains how all of this began:

Despite its widespread violation there is a right to private property enshrined both in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Organization of American States' American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. It is an internationally recognized human right and clearly stated:

Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article XXIII of the American Declaration states: "Every person has a right to own such private property as meets the essential needs of decent living and helps to maintain the dignity of the individual and of the home."

When Franklin Brito's family said that he stood for "the struggle of the Venezuelan people for property rights, access to justice, for living in freedom," they were simply stating the facts of the matter. In the video below taken on November 19, 2009 Franklin Brito declares that:
"I am not doing this strike for something material or because persons have behaved badly towards me - that one could say are corrupt. I am doing this strike for dignity and justice. I believe that these are the greatest values that a human being should have."

The Venezuelan tyranny* said that Franklin Brito was mentally unstable because he had sown up his mouth and cut off one of his fingers on live television. The Red Cross, Caracas Clinical Hospital and the Venezuelan Psychologists' Association said that Franklin Brito was of sound mind.

The tactics Mr. Chavez is using in questioning the mental stability of his adversaries, and smearing them, even in death, is straight out of his Cuban mentor's repertoire. Friends and family of Franklin Brito had best organize the facts and evidence surrounding his case protect it and duplicate it so that it cannot be seized and destroyed. They should engage in speaking out anywhere and everywhere to counter the avalanche of slander and libel from regime apologists against a man who can no longer defend himself.

Hugo Chávez has nationalized 2.5 million hectares as part of a “land reform drive.” The so-called reform, combined with increased government control over the economy, has exacerbated food shortages in Venezuela with Chavez forced to step up imports despite abundant land and a tropical climate just like Cuba did years ago.

It is not madness to take extremes in the defense of liberty and justice, but it is madness to repeat the same failed policies that have bankrupted and destroyed nations the world over and expect a different outcome in your own homeland.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

*Use of the term tyranny is not a rhetorical exercise but defines what Hugo Chavez's democratically elected government has descended into a tyranny. There are two dictionary definitions of tyranny which are often related to each other. For example in the case of Cuba with Fidel Castro it is the state ruled by an absolute ruler but in the case of Venezuela it is the "arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority" that applies.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the importance of having an aggressive attitude

Combined with understanding, good will and a sense of discipline

Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested by police in Montgomery, Alabama on September 4, 1958

Richard D. Heffner of the NBC Sunday television program “The Open Mind” on February 10, 1957 interviews Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and former judge Waties Waring. It is the first extensive television interview with Reverend King.

It is interesting to note the similarity with the debate taking place today in the Cuban opposition between those that prefer a slower incremental approach and those who prefer a more aggressive approach.

“I think it’s better to be aggressive at this point. It seems to me that it is both historically and sociologically true that privileged classes do not give up their privileges voluntarily and they do not give them up without strong resistance. - Martin Luther King, Jr. (1957)

"All of the gains made that we received in the area of civil rights have come about because the Negro stood up courageously for these rights and he was willing to aggressively press on. So I would think that it would be much better in the long run to stand up and be aggressive with understanding, good will and with a sense of discipline. Yet these things should not be substitutes for pressing on and with this aggressive attitude. I believe we will bring the gains or other civil rights into being much sooner than just standing idly by waiting for these things to be given voluntarily.” - Martin Luther King, Jr. (1957)


Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:

(1.) Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage;

(2.) Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary;

(3.) Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer;

(4.) A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it;

(5.) A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence; and

(6.) Faith that justice will prevail.


A sequential process of nonviolent conflict-resolution and social change based on Dr. King’s teachings. The Six Steps of Nonviolence developed by The King Center include:

(1.) Information gathering and research to get the facts straight;

(2.) Education of adversaries and the public about the facts of the dispute;

(3.) Personal Commitment to nonviolent attitudes and action;

(4.) Negotiation with adversary in a spirit of goodwill to correct injustice;

(5.)Nonviolent direct action, such as marches, boycotts, mass demonstrations, picketing, sit-ins etc., to help persuade or compel adversary to work toward dispute-resolution;

(6.) Reconciliation of adversaries in a win-win outcome in establishing a sense of community.

Text taken from The King Center

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Juan Juan Almeida Affair: Dying to Live

A Hunger Strike for access to health care & family

Juan Juan Almeida is in Miami with his family and in the process of obtaining much needed medical care for a degenerative autoimmune/inflammatory disease: ankylosing spondylitis which the Cuban healthcare system was unable (or unwilling) to treat. Human rights activists and dissidents have been left emaciated through a process of ill treatment resulting in malnutrition and in at least one case paraplegic. To avoid their fate this son of past priviledge had to undergo a water only hunger strike and risk death to save his life and see his family again.

Although Juan Juan Almeida was the son of one of the political insiders of the Cuban dictatorship and Fidel Castro's godson he had fallen out of favor with the regime. When his father, Comandante Juan Almeida died, he was kicked out of his father's funeral. Despite a nice home and family abroad was otherwise treated not like one of the well connected but like an average Cuban. No longer able to travel freely since 2003 nor given access to state of the art health care available to the nomenklatura and foreigners. Human Rights Watch documented the travel restrictions placed on him in their 2010 report.

As years passed and the degenerative disease progressed and the risk of being physically crippled increased along with the pain. Juan Juan began to protest his situation. Escalating into new tactics over time and finally arriving at the ultimate non-violent method of protest: the water only hunger strike. Since, he was not in prison, he was able to announce his hunger strike on camera and issue his specific demands which were to be able to travel out of Cuba to see a doctor and embrace his family.

He was able to provide periodic updates like the one below given to Yoani Sanchez six days into the hunger strike.

After beginning the hunger strike he would still resort to some of his earlier high profile tactics, for example, taking to the streets demanding his right to travel. His relationship with prominent Cuban bloggers like Claudia Cadelo and Yoani Sanchez let the world know and see first hand his protests. Eventually he would begin his own blog and communicate to the world.

There are a number of factors of why his hunger strike ended with his arrival in Miami and not his death unlike the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. It is important to analyze what were the different factors and circumstances that led to the different outcomes.

Michael Nagler in 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 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.
There are no guarantees in nonviolent resistance as there are not in violent resistance but in studying the terrain and observing the strategy and tactics carried out one can gain an idea of what the likelihood is of success. In the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, imprisoned and cut off from the rest of the world with no ties to the dictatorship and years of principled non-violent opposition. This method of protest was consistent with the rest of his life. His demands were doable: stop torturing him and provide decent care to him and other prisoners. It was a last resort after nearly seven years of torture, beatings, and degradation. However, he did not have the right audience: according to Nagler you should only fast against someone who has sympathy with you on a deep level.

Now in the case of Guillermo Fariñas, he was not imprisoned therefore could communicate his strike to the world, but was also someone that the regime did not have ties of affection. On the other hand Juan Juan Almeida did have those ties, as Fidel Castro's godson and the son of one of the Comandante's of the revolution. A man without a history of violence making his protest in line with the rest of his life. Although not a guarantee that they would not let him die it increases his chances of success over both Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Guillermo Fariñas.

Nevertheless Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death shook the dictatorship and in that aftermath increased the odds for both Guillermo and Juan Juan's successful hunger strikes, but in the absence of the Zapata non-violent moment it would have been Juan Juan Almeida with the better chance to succeed.

Nevertheless, it required an escalation to a total hunger strike on August 9, 2010 and hospitalization along with the mediation of Cardinal Jaime Ortega for Juan Juan Almeida to be granted permission to travel and obtain the health care and reunification with his family that he had been asking for since 2003.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Amnesty International Urgent Action - Cuba: 5 PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS ARBITRARILY DETAINED


Five men, all members of a pro-democracy organization in Cuba have been detained in connection with their political beliefs and activities. They have been held by police since 12 August, and have not had access to a lawyer. It is unclear if they have been charged. They could be facing an unfair trial.

On 11 August, seven men, members of the organization Youth for Democracy (Jovenes por la Democracia), were holding a meeting at the home of one of their members, Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, in the town of Baracoa, in Guantánamo province. Two of them, Yordis García Fournier and Eriberto Liranza Romero, went to find out about return tickets at the bus station, but were detained by police soon after leaving the house at around midday. They were held without charge until 16 August.

When the rest of the group at Nestor Rodríguez's home found out their two colleagues had been detained, they hung banners and posters outside the house protesting against their detention. Within a few hours, a group of supporters of the authorities had gathered outside the house, shouting insults and throwing stones, some of which hit members of Youth for Democracy. At around 3 pm, four more members of the organization arrived at the house. When they saw the mob outside the house, they decided to go in through the back door. There, they were questioned by state security agents and taken into detention. They were released two days later, on 13 August.

On 12 August, state security officials entered the house and detained all five members of Youth for Democracy who were there: Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina and his brother Rolando, Enyor Díaz Allen, Roberto González Pelegrín and Francisco Manzanet. They are still in detention and have not had access to a lawyer. They have been told that they will be charged with "public disorder" (“desorden público”), but it is not clear if charges have yet been filed against them. Once they are charged, they could be tried within hours. It appears their detention is politically motivated.

Roberto González Pelegrín and Francisco Manzanet have been on hunger strike since 12 August in protest at their detention, and are held at the provincial hospital in Guantánamo. According to relatives of Nestor Rodríguez, at 7 am on 13 August, state security officials returned to the house and searched it, even though they did not have a warrant to do so. They confiscated items including books, laptops and mobile phones. They spent 12 hours in the house.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Spanish or your own language:
  • urging the government to release Nestor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Enyor Díaz Allen, Roberto González Pelegrín and Francisco Manzanet immediately and unconditionally, unless they are to be charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence and tried according to international standards for fair trial;
  • calling on the authorities to cease the harassment, intimidation and persecution of citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.


Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry); +1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

And copies to:
Mr José Luis Robaina García
Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, Wellington
PO Box 3294,
Wellington 6140
Fax: (04) 473 2958
Email: embajada@xtra.co.nz
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please check with the Urgent Action Team if sending appeals after the above date.

Freedom of assembly, association and expression in Cuba continues to be severely restricted and many arrests have taken place around commemorations of past events and demonstrations. The detentions last usually for few hours after which the detainee is released with a warning not to take part in any dissenting activities, or would otherwise face charges. Short term detention is commonly used by Cuban authorities as a method to intimidate citizens and to deter them from peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

For more information see:

- Restrictions on freedom of expression in Cuba, Report, Index Number: AMR 25/005/2010, 30 June 2010, at: http://bit.ly/9xnktZ

- Rock and repression in Cuba, Video, 7 July 2010, at:http://bit.ly/c5rtpl

UA: 186/10 Index: AMR 25/013/2010 Issue Date: 25 August 2010


Monday, August 23, 2010

Six Months Later: Orlando Zapata Vive! Orlando Zapata Lives!

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

"The Cuban regime murdered my friend and brother, Orlando Zapata Tamayo. It did so in a vile, cowardly, premeditated and deliberate manner. They underestimated the stature of this man, who was tried and sentenced to death for the color of his skin and the color of his ideas. Orlando Zapata has loomed large. He has marked a before and an after. I think it is a light that was turned on in the midst of a dark tunnel." -Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, prisoner of conscience deported to Spain

Six months since Orlando Zapata Tamayo lost his life in his years long struggle with a brutal dictatorship that sought to deny him his human rights and dignity. Following his death the regime released video tapes secretly taped of Orlando in his cell and his mother Reina Luisa Zapata Tamayo Danger as she sought to save her son's life. The heavily edited tapes were the regime's desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for the atrocity, but the terrible truth could not be covered up because Reina refused to remain silent despite the death threats and physical assaults she continued to speak out.

The knowledge of many activists about the real Orlando Zapata Tamayo exposed the Castro dictatorship's slanderous campaign for what it is: a vile attempt to smear the memory of a good man locked up for non-violently protesting his friends unjust arrest. The details of what constitutes a hunger strike and how it is carried out were carefully examined and debated.

Video tributes appeared for Orlando Zapata Tamayo and artists got together to project Orlando's image on buildings around the world with a healthy number of them on Cuban diplomatic missions.

Today, prayers are said for Orlando Zapata Tamayo and on twitter people of goodwill the world over proclaim with hash marks #ZapataVive , #OZT , and #Zapata . Over the past six months on the 23rd of each month activists the world over have gathered to remember his passing and demand justice and freedom for Cuba. The world is paying attention, and the dictatorship is terrified by the attention.

Six months later the world knows much more about Orlando Zapata Tamayo and his sacrifice and of the civic non-violent movement that he represented. His mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, will not allow him to be forgotten.

One year ago today this blog first came on-line never suspecting that six months later it would be one of the many sites to bear witness to the life and death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Below are additional video tributes and testimonies on the life and death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Our prayers are with him and his family.

Marc Masferrer's video tribute to Orlando Zapata Tamayo posted today on his site Uncommon Sense to remember this tragic 6-month anniversary.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mons. Eduardo Boza Masvidal: "La Iglesia en Cuba merece nuestro apoyo"

Mons. Eduardo Boza Masvidal

Diario Las Americas, 18 de febrero de 1996

La Iglesia en Cuba merece nuestro apoyo

Por: Mons. Eduardo Boza Masvidal

En esta etapa dura que estamos viviendo en la que todos deberíamos dar el mas cálido apoyo a nuestra Iglesia en Cuba y mantener la mas estrecha unidad, me resulta profundamente doloroso ver la campaña que algunos sectores del exilio, ciertamente minoritarios pero con gran poder en los medios comunicación, hacen especialmente en Miami y New Jersey, contra nuestros obispos y especialmente contra nuestro Cardenal cubano, Mons. Jaime Ortega, haciéndose inconscientemente compañeros de ruta de los comunistas que deben estar muy contentos al ver que no están solos en su posición contra la jerarquía de la Iglesia.

La labor que esta haciendo nuestra Iglesia Católica en Cuba es extraordinaria a pesar de carecer de medios económicos y de trabajar con grandes limitaciones y en circunstancias muy adversas. Sin plegarse al gobierno, no cae en adulaciones para conseguir ventajas. No promueve la violencia, pero si mantiene posiciones fuertemente criticas cuando es necesario.

Baste recordar la Carta Pastoral "El Amor todo lo espera" y otros documentos del episcopado y los artículos de Mons. Jaime Ortega en el Boletin del Arzobispado de La Habana, Aquí, la Iglesia" sobre las Brigadas de Acción Rápida, sobre el crimen del remolcador 13 de Marzo, y muchos otros. La Iglesia tiene que llamar a superar los odios y las venganzas, como es obligación de todo cristiano porque son fuerzas destructoras que no nos llevarían nunca a la libertad ni a la paz. El odio sirve para destruir pero solo el amor construye.

El pueblo que esta dentro de Cuba se siente interpretado por la Iglesia, como lo demostró cuando recibió con masivo apoyo la Carta "El amor todo lo espera", y como lo sigue demostrando también con el gran acercamiento a los templos y a los sacerdotes, con la gran cantidad de jóvenes que piden el bautismo, con el magno recibimiento que hicieron al Cardenal Ortega cuando regreso de su investidura en Roma, y en mil otras ocasiones.

Ellos saben que la Iglesia esta con el pueblo, que los ama, que los defiende, que promueve la vigencia de los valores morales y espirituales que el comunismo destruye, que hace cuanto puede para promover los derechos humanos, y que aun en el orden material hace lo indecible a través de las Caritas Nacional y Diocesanas para conseguirles medicinas, alimentos, ayuda a los minusvalidos, a los ancianos, en fin, muchas cosas que seria largo enumerar, pero sobre lo cual podrían contarse testimonios muy hermosos y hasta heroicos.

Como cubano y como obispo, yo quiero invitar fraternalmente a todos a una sincera reflexión. Todos los que queremos una Cuba libre y justa hemos de estar unidos, y yo les aseguro que los obispos de Cuba y personalmente el Cardenal Ortega, lo quieren mas que nadie. Tenemos que aprender a respetar las opciones y los criterios de cada uno sobre como llegar a esa meta. No tenemos derecho a ofender ni a tachar a nadie de traidor porque no piense exactamente como nosotros, no podemos suponer calumniosamente que favorezca la continuación del marxismo.

Nadie puede arrogarse el monopolio del amar a Cuba ni del acierto en los mejores caminos para su libertad. La mayoría del pueblo dentro de Cuba y quizás también la mayoría del exilio piensa que se debe llegar; esa libertad por un cambio pacifico, y por ello luchan los grupos disidentes en Cuba.

Tampoco hemos de interpretar mal las palabras. La palabra "reconciliación" tiene un hondo contenido cristiano, y la necesitamos muchos: reconciliación con Dios, con nosotros mismos y con los demás.

Amenazando con allanar casas y cortar cabezas no vamos a lograr la libertad de Cuba, solo haremos que los pocos que por convicción estén con el régimen y los muchos que lo están solo en apariencia por la necesidad de sobrevivir, se afiancen mas en su posición porque en ello les va la vida.

Tenemos que hacer llegar a nuestros hermanos de Cuba un mensaje positivo y que no tienen que temer a un cambio porque lo que se busca no es echarlos de sus casas ni acabar con ellos, sino construir una Cuba "con todos y para todos". Ese es el mensaje que daban José Marti y Maximo Gomez a los españoles en el Manifiesto de Montecristi. Unidos es como somos fuertes.
Es un llamado que hago a todos pensando en el bien de la patria que sufre y con el más sincero deseo de abrir horizontes de esperanzas. Ojala que no caiga en el vació.

In defense of the Church and the Democratic Opposition in Cuba

Sanctions, Catholic Social Doctrine, and Cuba’s Democratic Opposition

“The violent and tragic events that led to the sinking of a ship where many of our brothers lost their lives are, according to survivor accounts, of a rawness that can hardly be imagined. The sinking of the boat, which was also carrying women and children, and the difficulties of the rescue of the survivors do not seem in any way to be by chance, and this adds to the pain a sense of stupor and a demand of transparency and those responsible identified." […] That the facts are clarified, to establish the truth with justice, but that hate result the loser ... Love and justice are not opposed, but hatred and injustice can go hand in hand."

- Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, in July 1994 speaks on "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre

Ladies in White going to attend mass

Fifty years of totalitarianism preceded by seven years of an authoritarian left-wing dictatorship have left profound scars on Cuba’s political culture. The monopolization of politics over culture under the Castro regime means that damage has been done over the entire culture including profound harm to the basic social unit of society in Cuba: the family. The regime also marginalized the greatest defender of the family which historically has been the Catholic Church, but the Cuban Church did not go down without a struggle.

The Catholic Church in Cuba was attacked; many of its clergy and religious figures exiled or sent to work camps such as Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino. Being a practicing Catholic would mean being blacklisted from certain professions such as teaching. Christmas was ended as a national holiday in 1970 and replaced with holidays celebrating the 1959 communist revolution. This means that the ability to separate the political from the personal and the religious has been undermined and atrophied under the dictatorship of the Castro brothers. Therefore the charge made in a recent letter that the Cuban Church over a half century has collaborated with the totalitarian dictatorship, that until 1992 was officially atheist, is not true.

One can disagree with specific actions of the Catholic Church in Cuba in its dealings with the dictatorship trying to create a space for Cuban Catholics and at the same time maintain its humanitarian tradition with the Cuban people. The Church in Cuba has suffered greatly over 50 years of communism and at key moments has spoken out for the victims of the regime. That cannot and should not be ignored. Cuba is at a crossroads either Cuba’s democratic opposition begins the long road of healing these scars; restoring the natural relationship between politics, culture, and religion or one can expect another half century of more of the same. Recognizing that in a healthy society politics does not monopolize culture or matters of the faith is an important first step on the path, and the ability not to demonize those who you have disagreements with but share the same end goal is another important step towards a free society.

The Cuban Catholic Church is not perfect, no institution composed of human beings can be, but over the past fifty years it has stood up time and time again for the dignity of the Cuban people and paid for it with prison, exile, and repression. The Church is not a political organization nor should it be held to political standards. Its purpose is to spread the message of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life for those who follow his path, and to alleviate human suffering.

That said the Church does have a profound impact on political life, despite its apolitical nature, and it has steadfastly opposed worldwide all economic sanctions that impact entire populations. This is a different position than that taken by the dictatorship in Havana that just recently with its allies in Caracas attempted to strangle the people of Honduras with sanctions in an effort to coerce the Honduran government. The Catholic Church was against that embargo as it was against the embargo on South Africa during Apartheid, and against sanctions on the people of Iraq during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. It is a position that is part of the compendium of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and should be respected although not accepted as dogma. It states:

Sanctions, in the forms prescribed by the contemporary international order, seek to correct the behavior of the government of a country that violates the rules of peaceful and ordered international coexistence or that practices serious forms of oppression with regard to its population. The purpose of these sanctions must be clearly defined and the measures adopted must from time to time be objectively evaluated by the competent bodies of the international community as to their effectiveness and their real impact on the civilian population. The true objective of such measures is open to the way to negotiation and dialogue. Sanctions must never be used as a means for the direct punishment of an entire population: it is not licit that entire populations, and above all their most vulnerable members, be made to suffer because of such sanctions. Economic sanctions in particular are an instrument to be used with great discernment and must be subjected to strict legal and ethical criteria.[1066] An economic embargo must be of limited duration and cannot be justified when the resulting effects are indiscriminate.[1]

The Holy See is opposed to unilateral sanctions in principle and argues against international sanctions that target entire populations. Its opposition to US sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship is not a special case, but one of many. Nevertheless, there is a reasonable case to be made on behalf of economic sanctions on the Cuban regime.

First, the Castro regime since 1959 has violated the rules of peaceful and ordered co-existence with its attempts to subvert other governments sponsoring and training guerrillas and terrorists around the world. The Tricontinental meetings in Havana, Cuba plunged a whole continent into generations of political violence and terrorism. Producing and translating urban guerrilla manuals with a chapter on terrorism with the aim of overthrowing governments around the world and taking part in genocide. The United States considers the Cuban regime to be a state sponsor of terrorism in 2010. Secondly, Fidel Castro ended private enterprise in Cuba and placed the economy and civil society under control of the dictatorship. At the same time international human rights standards have been systematically violated both in practice and after 1976 in the Cuban Constitution. Freedom of religion, speech and association were banned whenever it came in conflict with the aims of building a communist state. Dissent was and remains outlawed.

On the other hand the economic sanctions placed on Cuba beginning with the Eisenhower Administration in 1959 have not been static and have been subject to both evaluation and debate within the United States Congress and at times such as these in national debates. The dictatorship speaks of a “blockade” but that term can only apply to a brief period of time during the Kennedy Administration when a naval blockade was placed on Cuba during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Since 2000 the United States government changed its sanctions policy and the U.S. became the top seller of food and agricultural products to the Cuban dictatorship. Pharmaceutical goods are also available for sale. Cuban exiles, since the Cuban dictatorship allowed it, have sent annually hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances to their families on the island making it one of the main sources of income.

The greatest argument against economic sanctions on Cuba is that they have been maintained over half a century without achieving the end of the dictatorship, but that is not why they were imposed in the first place. The aim was containment limiting the spread of communism via armed guerrilla movements in the hemisphere, and with the exception of Nicaragua and the Sandinistas this was a success. The path to power for “socialists of the 21st century” has been through the ballot box although Cuban officials have never, despite these successes, discarded armed struggle.

Finally, the greatest argument in favor of maintaining economic sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship is what has happened in China. Unlike other regimes, communist dictatorships that maintain monopoly control over the economy and civil society has led to democracies that trade with them collaborating with them as part of the price of doing business. Economic engagement with communist regimes has meant in practice assisting in the repression of entire populations. Principled and targeted sanctions offer greater hopes of opening up these regimes to negotiation and dialogue despite the dictatorship’s howls to the contrary.

The issue of economic sanctions is part of an overall debate and dialogue on how best to achieve a non-violent democratic transition in Cuba. The democratic opposition has an overall consensus on non-violent means seeking a democratic end in which human rights and freedoms are restored in Cuba. Although it maybe counter-intuitive it is important to reflect on Mohandas Gandhi’s principle that the “means are the ends,” because democracy is a process not a fixed endpoint. The manner in which the opposition is able to reconcile different tactics and ideas or agree to disagree but still work together in service of a common objective without demonizing the other will greatly determine when democracy will finally return to Cuba.

The Catholic Church, although not a political entity, has offered its services as a mediator and has a positive track record around the world and has now facilitated the transfer of 26 prisoner of conscience rotting in Cuban prisons for over seven years into exile. Is this a victory of the opposition? Yes, it is. Did the dictatorship prefer dealing with the Church than recognize the opposition? Yes. Without the Church’s participation there were only two options open: keep the prisoners locked up and continue beating up the Ladies in White or engage the opposition. The record over the past 50 years is that the regime would let the prisoners rot and would continue to terrorize the women in Havana as they were still doing to Reina Luisa Tamayo in Banes, but the Church offers a face saving alternative.

The Church intervened on Reina's behalf and today after many months she was a able to march without a mob of government agents blocking her path to attend mass and visit her son's grave. Reina Luisa Tamayo gave thanks today to the Catholic Church's intervention on her behalf.

When the opposition makes the case for these prisoners of conscience to be freed in their homeland and not exiled they are engaged in a sacred duty of the opposition, but that does not necessitate attacking or defaming the Cuban Catholic Church. You can disagree with specific actions without demonizing the institution, and engage it in dialogue to try to persuade it.

[1] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Catholic Church. Pontificium Consilium de Iustitia et Pace Compendium of the social doctrine of the church Chapter 11 The Promotion of Peace. 507d. Measures against those who threaten peace.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Degrading abuse against pregnant wife of Cuban opposition leader leaves her hospitalized & in danger of a miscarriage

Updated information on Daneysi Gálvez Pereira and a call to action

Pregnant woman at 8 months

Woman eight months pregnant strip searched and vaginally probed with a speculum by Cuban state security twice now faces danger of a miscarriage.

Guantánamo. August 20, 2010.
The young activist and wife of jailed opposition leader Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, Daneysi Gálvez Pereira is in danger of a miscarriage after being subjected by Cuban state security agents by two forced vaginal cavity examinations during the process of repression initiated in Baracoa on August 12.

Eight months pregnant she was forced to undress and they introduced a speculum into her vaginal cavity on two occasions after Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, his brother Rolando and three other activists were arrested at the home located in Apartment F on Calle Martí #434, in the neighborhood of Reforma Urbana in the above mentioned city. Three female police, one dressed as a doctor carried out this violation.

"They took my fingerprints and searched my body. They fully undressed me, another woman, and the girls too ... Afterwards came from Baracoa to my house [in Guantanamo] and at the terminal, I was detained and they took me to the barracks again. They completely searched me again ... When I arrived at Guantanamo, I had still not ridden on the bus and they placed me into a little car and took me to the headquarters here in Guantánamo, to Park 24 and they repeated the act. They won’t leave me in peace. They have constant surveillance in front of my house. They won’t stop bothering me ... I am outraged. I am at a loss for words,” denounced Daneysi, who had to be taken to the hospital on August 18th.

"The doctor who examined me, Beltran, told me that the cervix had shortened and was dilated three centimeters caused by the introduction of the speculum twice by the Baracoa Police Unit. This caused a loss of fluid,” affirmed the young women to the Directorate via telephone on August 20.

At present, Daneysi Gálvez Pereira is on bed rest at her home in Guantánamo.

Her husband, Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, opposition leader of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy remains arbitrarily detained at State Security headquarters in Guantanamo with
Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, Roberto González Pelegrín and Enyor Díaz Allen. Police officers have informed them that they will be prosecuted under the crime of "public disorder" after the above mentioned protested on the balcony of Nestor’s home the arbitrary arrest and deportation of two opponents.

Yordis García Fournier and Eriberto Liranza Linares were arbitrarily detained on August 11, 2010 at 2:15pm by Cuban State Security under the pretext that Eriberto was visiting Baracoa from Havana and was in violation of the 1997 Cuban National Assembly Decree 217 which restricts internal migration in Cuba. This “law” is a violation of international human rights standards specifically Article 13. (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Cuba is a signatory which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.”

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Spanish or your own language:

Calling on the authorities to ensure an immediate halt to the harassment, intimidation and physical assaults against Roberto González Pelegrín, Enyor Díaz Allen, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, Oscar Savon Pantoja, Yuliesky Sánchez Rodríguez and Daneisy Gálvez Pereira by government agents and supporters.

Calling on the authorities to immediately release from detention Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Enyor Díaz Allen, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz and Roberto González Pelegrín.

Calling on the authorities to cease and desist from harassing and physically molesting Daneysi Gálvez Pereira who is eight months pregnant and on two occasions was strip searched and vaginally probed with a speculum which according to a doctor has placed her pregnancy in danger of a miscarriage. Furthermore to investigate the officials responsible for this harassment.


Head of State and Government

Raúl Castro Ruz Presidente

La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry); +1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)

Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Interior Minister

General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra

Ministro del Interior y Prisiones

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

Information taken from Directorio Democrático Cubano report in Spanish

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy Members Request International Solidarity

Violent crackdown on Cuban youth activists in Baracoa, Cuba by Cuban State Security. A woman 8 months pregnant is strip searched and abused.

Brothers Néstor & Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina are 2 of the 5 detained activists.

Activists began hunger strike on August 12. There number will increase on Monday, August 23, the 6 month anniversary of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death

The anatomy of a crackdown in six parts:

Part I: Activists harassed and detained

Yordis García Fournier and Eriberto Liranza Linares, young activists of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (MCJD), were arbitrarily detained on August 11, 2010 at 2:15pm by Castro regime State Security. Eriberto was visiting Baracoa from Havana. Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, a leading activist in the Cuban resistance who heads the MCJD and witnessed the detention, insisted on accompanying the activists to where they were to be held.

"Several police officers intercepted us on the street when we were going to arrange Eriberto’s return to the capital. The two were grabbed off of the street... They were deposited in a cell in the [political police] barracks," described Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina.

Part II: Members of their movement gather to protest arbitrary detention and are attacked

Later on the evening of the same day, opposition activists gathered at the home of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, located at Calle Martí # 434, Apartment F, to protest the detention of Yordis and Eriberto. They unfurled a Cuban flag and anti-dictatorship posters on the balcony. In response, State Security and National Revolutionary Police called its officers and members of the paramilitary Rapid Response Brigades to counter the demonstration. Cuban State Security organized a mob to carry out an act of repudiation against the activists. Shouting obscenities and insults against the nonviolent activists, the regime agents escalated the attack and slung rocks and beer bottles at Nestor’s home, breaking windows. The Cuban flag was torn down.

“They’re attacking us with rocks that weigh more than two pounds and glass bottles. They’ve filled my house with glass. Two are injured,” said Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina.

Opposition activists Roberto González Pelegrín and Enyor Díaz Allen suffered the most bruises and cuts from the mob. Enyor suffered an injury to his chest. Also present at the protest were Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, Oscar Savon Pantoja, Yuliesky Sánchez Rodríguez and Daneisy Gálvez Pereira. Daniesy is eight months pregnant.

Part III: Dictatorship rewards most aggressive rock and bottle throwers

"They attacked with stones and all sorts of objects at the home of nonviolent opposition activist Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, causing me and other activists who were there bumps and serious bruises, along with severe damage to the house and broken blinds. Down on the street the famous Rapid Response Brigades, together with State Security and police officers, were waiting for an order from the Ministry of Interior to lynch the peaceful activists who responded with slogans against the regime. The actions of Mijailé and of Evangelio del Pino, the first sentenced to two years imprisonment for prostitution and the second a former police officer. […] Both were rewarded for their 'courageous and outstanding' participation in the act of repudiation by the Department of State Security with cheese, ham and cooking oil," stated activist Randy Caballero Suarez from Baracoa, condemning the attack.

Part IV: 5 Opposition activists detained for protesting detentions; a pregnant woman left traumatized

Activists Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Enyor Díaz Allen, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz and Roberto González Pelegrín were detained for “disturbing the peace.” “At this moment they are detained (in Guantánamo) at the Operations Unit. […] They told me that the charges have been passed on to the Prosecutor’s office and are accused of public disorder and that the prosecutor’s office would respond the day after tomorrow. This Thursday they said they would receive a response as to whether they would take measures of preventive imprisonment or some other precautionary measure,” informed Yanet Mosquera Cayón, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina’s wife.

The Communist mob invaded and ransacked the home of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, located at Calle Martí # 434, Apartment F and strip searched his wife. Daneisy Gálvez Pereira is eight months pregnant and State Security agents performed a vaginal cavity search on her in the course of their strip search. The trauma of the event has placed her pregnancy in danger of miscarriage.

Enyor was attacked and beaten with a heavy rock to force him to let go of the Cuban flag hanging on the balcony as members of the mob sought to drag it down from the floor below. The heavy blow from the rock to his chest caused him to release the flag. Gonzalez Pelegrin was injured by one of the flying projectiles.

Part V: Three of the detained activists have been on hunger strike for seven days.

Pelegrin was transferred from his prison cell to the Guantanamo provincial hospital on Wednesday August 18, 2010 suffering from dehydration. Roberto González Pelegrín, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, y Enyor Díaz Allen have been on hunger strike since Thursday, August 12, 2010.

Part VI: Activist leaders set August 23 as the date to launch a hunger strike demanding freedom

Yordis García Fournier and Eriberto Liranza Linares, whose detention sparked the protest that led to the detention of the others, were themselves released days later. Eriberto Liranza Linares was taken from the Guantanamo Operations Unit to Havana on Saturday, August 14, 2010 and released there. The police confiscated all his belongings, his cell phone among them, and never returned them.

Yordis García Fournier was present in the prison cells at State Security headquarters when the newly detained activists were being held and upon his release on Monday, August 16, 2010 and reported the decision of the activists to initiate a hunger strike on August 23 if they are not freed by that date.

“While I was detained, I communicated with the leader of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement (Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina) and he himself told me that if on Monday he were not freed as a State Security official had personally told him, they would go on an indefinite hunger strike and that he was seconded by his brother Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina and the others that are still hostages of the Havana regime. I emphasize this and at the same time I issue a call for solidarity with the Rodríguez Lobaina brothers and the other brothers-in-the-struggle held in that unfortunate situation.

The Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, the Eastern Democratic Alliance and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance & Civil Disobedience Front demand that the Cuban government and State Security release them immediately,” stated Yordis García Fournier.

Text and information provided by the Cuban Democratic Directorate

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Amnesty International calls on Cuban regime to end harassment of Reina Luisa Tamayo

Cuba urged to end campaign against mother of dead hunger striker

Loudspeakers were used to shout slogans against Reina Luisa and the Ladies in White

17 August 2010

The Cuban authorities must act to end the harassment of the mother of a prisoner of conscience who died following a hunger strike to push for the release of other prisoners, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Reina Luisa Tamayo, whose son Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February this year, told Amnesty International she has been repeatedly harassed by the authorities and government supporters during the regular marches she carries out in the town of Banes, in memory of her son.

"Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities," said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International's Americas Deputy Director.

Every Sunday Reina Luisa Tamayo, who is usually accompanied by relatives and friends, walks from her home to the church of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, to attend mass, from where they march to the cemetery, where Orlando is buried.

On Sunday, government supporters arrived early in the morning and surrounded her house, Reina Luisa Tamayo told Amnesty International, preventing her and her relatives and friends from marching and attending mass at the church.

Ahead of the march, Cuban security forces also allegedly detained some of the women due to attend in their homes for up to 48 hours, without any explanation being given for the measure.

Reina Luisa told Amnesty International that six loudspeakers were installed near her house and were used to shout slogans against her and the Ladies in White, an organization of female relatives of prisoners of conscience campaigning for their release.

On 8 August, Reina Luisa Tamayo was confronted by government supporters, who blocked her path and, according to her recount, beat relatives and friends of the family. She said a police patrol was parked nearby watching the events, but failed to intervene.

Amnesty International has also expressed its concern at a series of recent detentions by the police of independent journalists and dissidents.

Writer Luis Felipe Rojas Rozabal was detained by the police at 7am on Monday, at his home in the town of San Germán, province of Holguín.

Luis Felipe's family is unaware of the reasons of his arrest, but they have said they suspect this might be related to his criticism of the government. He has been arbitrarily detained on several previous occasions in similar circumstances.

Several members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, a network of political dissident organizations, have also been detained.

"At a time when the Cuban government has begun to release prisoners of conscience, the campaign of harassment against Reina Luisa Tamayo and the arbitrary detention of journalists and dissident figures shows that the authorities are yet to make significant progress on human rights," said Kerrie Howard.

In March 2003, Orlando Zapata Tamayo was arrested and, a year later, sentenced to three years in prison for "disrespect", "public disorder" and "resistance".

This was the first of a series of convictions for "disobedience" and "disorder in a penal establishment".

Orlando was one of dozens of prisoners of conscience adopted by Amnesty International in Cuba at the time. The majority were among the 75 people arrested as part of the massive March 2003 crackdown by authorities against political activists.

In early December 2009, Orlando started a hunger strike to campaign for the release of prisoners of conscience held in Cuba. He died on 23 February 2010.

Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba's jails. Amnesty international calls for their immediate and unconditional release.


This is the 200th blog entry of Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter and is only fitting that it be a re-post of an Amnesty International press release for Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger and Cuban dissidents harassed by the regime on the island.