Monday, November 29, 2010

Moral Responsibility under Totalitarian Dictatorships (Pt. 1)

"[W]here there is no political alternative, there remains only the moral alternative – non-participation." - Hannah Arendt

By Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

  1. We speak about moral responsibility and not about political and about totalitarian and not just any form of dictatorship or tyranny. To be clear about the subject, let me just define in a preliminary way the difference between moral and political on one side, between totalitarian and other forms of tyranny on the other. For the question is: Is there something like moral responsibility still extant under totalitarianism? And this question came up after the war in the war crime trials. All these trials under the assumption that there were moral alternatives that conscience continued to function as before.

1. All tyrannies deprive their citizens of power, condemn them to impotence, hence take away all possibilities to organize themselves. Atomization of the body politic. They expel men from the realm of the political and tell him to go and take care of their private matters only. Whatever regards all of them, the commonwealth, will be taken care by One man and his advisors only. They are not total or totalitarian because they respect to an extent the private sphere, and the citizens, except in case of emergency, are not involved in the possible crimes. Totalitarian tyranny is “democratic”: the citizens are deprived of all power, they are carefully atomized, but they constantly appear in public, their private life is by no means respected, on the contrary no privacy exists any longer, and they [are] implicated directly in all crimes. These crimes are not just committed in their name, but they themselves are asked to do it. Hence, they act, but without any initiative. They follow the leader, and their only virtue is obedience. They are participants – and this they never were in classic tyranny. This is the reason why they could be held criminally (and morally) responsible and why they could say, on the other hand a) I did not what I wanted to do, I had no bad motives (or good ones either), I am entirely motiveless, and b) If had not done it somebody else would, it did not matter. To put it differently: All citizens had become cogs. (No Nazi could be found after the debacle, no Stalinist can be found in Russia.

2. This is the setting. And the question is: Is there still moral responsibility left and what are its criteria? Political responsibility is out of the question once the totalitarian dictatorship is established because there is no power left. If you take as the model of moral responsibility the Socratic proposition: It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, then the answer from the political side would be: Suffering and Doing wrong are both equally bad, for there should be no wrong. In other words, the accent lies entirely on the world and not on the self. “The world is out of joint”, but not your self. In moral matters on the contrary: You are concerned with your self. Politically, it is almost as wrong not to resist evil as it is to do it. But to resist evil you may be forced to do evil. This tension between the political and moral spheres is inevitable. The early Christians knew it quite well. They engaged in doing good, hence decided that they would shun the public realm and remain in the seclusion of the private. (Tertullian, the Gospels) Machiavelli still knew it quite well: How not to be good – that is, not how to be bad (evil deeds may bring power but not glory, and glory is the ultimate goal of Machiavellian politics) but how not to apply this criterion.

3. In this political sense, all people who live under a totalitarian dictatorship become guilty: Jaspers: Dass wir leben ist unsere Schld. Namely: Even those of us who did not participate did not resist. Resistance would have been suicide, and, more important, it would have been without effect. This is a political responsibility – it means you have a share by simply belonging to the group in whose name evil is being done. Napoleon when he became rule of France, said at once: I assume responsibility for everything France has done from the times of Charlemagne to the terror of Robespierre. But this did not mean that : I am guilty of what has been done. The responsibility lies on me because I am the representative of the body politic. In this sense, we are indeed held responsible for the sins of our fathers – Germany, Negroes, -- but we are not guilty of them.

II. Let us underline the distinction between responsibility and guilt: You may be politically responsible without any guilt. For guilt, it is necessary that you have done something, and even the sin of omission still implies that you could have acted and therefore your abstention is a kind of acting, only another mode. Just as silence can be a mode of speaking. To say: I am guilty of what others did – this feeling of guilt without deed is sentimentality and dangerous nonsense. Those Germans who declared after the war: We are all guilty, actually made it impossible to find who was guilty of something specific – where all are guilty no one is, practically speaking. This sentimentality was a very effective cover for the criminals. Had the Germans said: We are responsible, they would have found out those who actually were guilty and punished them. (Example the Auschwitz Trial: There were actual criminals, not desk criminals, on trial, and public opinion was clearly on their side.) And they would have found out differences in guilt in certain circumstances – guilty for obeying orders and guilty of their own initiative, for doing for instance what even in this state was not permitted. Before we proceed: You may be politically responsible without any guilt; conversely, by not being guilty you were not yet politically responsible.

Let us consider the nature of the crimes as they appeared in the court rooms: The crimes of which people who had lived under totalitarian rule were accused were of two altogether different orders: They were either “acts of state” – the Final solution was an act of State, entirely legal in Nazi Germany, -- or as in the Auschwitz Trial, they accused of criminal acts which were criminal acts under all circumstances, which were individual acts. No moral problem is involved in the latter. We are concerned only with the former. Acts of State is an old concept; it means 1. that the State may be forced to commit acts, which, if done by an individual, would be criminal, which are clearly against the moral order. And it means 2. that these acts are outside all jurisdiction, because no other state has a right to sit in judgment. Every state is sovereign, and this means that it obeys no other law and is subject to no judge outside itself. Behind this stands the theory of a special “Reason of State”, raison d’état, which says: If the survival of the state is at stake that is, also the survival of the legal and moral order, the state may do certain unlawful things in order to keep this legal order in existence. It does not mean the abolition of legal order, but on the contrary, its existence. That is, the State or its servants commit certain moral crimes because of political responsibility. They risk, to speak Machiavelli’s language, the salvation of their soul for the sake of the secular lawful order. Those who do not do so are accused of shunning political responsibility. They are acting irresponsible. Hence, those who are morally guiltless may be politically irresponsible.

III. Let us see how this works under totalitarian circumstances. I can’t give here an analysis of this form of government, you will have to believe me. Human nature, generally speaking, is such that no totalitarian government is possible without becoming criminal itself. That is the gigantic crimes committed by these governments are not committed in order to preserve a normal legal and moral order, but they are committed for their own sake or the sake of ideology: the essence of a totalitarian order is criminality. Instead of Thou shalt not kill comes the order: Thou shalt kill and we shall tell you when and whom. Instead of: Thou shall not bear false witness, comes the order: Only by denouncing all those close to you can you prove that you have only one loyalty. And this criminality is a legal order, it is the law of the land to which you owe legal obedience just as in any other government. That is, they are immoral and criminal, but not as particular acts may be, but as an ORDER, a legal system. In other words the extermination of certain ethnic groups under Hitler and the extermination of classes under Stalin had no goal outside itself; it would not have come to a halt for instance when all Jews were dead or all members of classes. The movement was supposed to go on and on. It was not restricted to common-sense utilitarian goals, and it had in the case of Hitler nothing to do with the war. Hitler may have won it without it just as Stalin may not almost have lost it if he had not subjected the military to the same ruthless decimation process as the Peasants and the Bureaucracy. What were the alternatives to participation? The only political alternative in both cases was rebellion or revolution. But this did not happen for the simple reason that such governments, like all tyrannies, rely on mass support, and revolution is never possible without a previous loss of authority. What was feebly tried in both cases were conspiracies – and no conspiracy has ever brought about a revolution. In both cases, the change came from without – the death of Hitler, the defeat of Germany, and the death of Stalin. (If Stalin was killed the significant fact is that his assassins did not own up to their liberating deed – out of fear of the masses.) Hence, there is no political alternative, and where there is no political alternative, there remains only the moral alternative – non-participation.

Source: Arendt, Hannah “Moral Responsibility under Totalitarian Dictatorship,” The Hannah Arendt Papers, Library of Congress, Speeches and Writings File: 1923–1975

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Porno Para Ricardo members arrested, handcuffed & detained 10 hours. Concert canceled

More information in Nov. 27 and Nov. 28 press releases below from PPR

Porno Para Ricardo “I Love my CDR” Concert Canceled following Arrests and Threats Musical Instruments would be Confiscated

NOVEMBER 27, 2010.

The members of Porno Para Ricardo were arrested on Friday, when traveling toward the home of Silvio Benítez (Liberal Party President of the Republic of Cuba) in Punta Brava, to go and leave some of the instruments they were going to use for the concert "I love my CDR. " This concert was scheduled to kick off the tour of the same name.

Ciro Diaz (guitar), Hebert Dominguez (bass) and Claudio Fuentes photographer were taken to the 5th Station of Playa and Gorki Águila (vocals) and William Retureta were taken to the station of Siboney. All were handcuffed and taken in patrol cars to police stations where they were accused of "carrying instruments of dubious origin." Ten hours later they released them.

The concert scheduled for tonight at 7, will be canceled because the instruments and sound equipment may not be transported and run the risk of being confiscated by the authorities. Gorki Aguila has reported the harassment of a patrol car that follows him everywhere since the announcement of the concert.

Today, Saturday, November 27, Gorki has been cited by authorities at the Immigration Offices, the reasons are still unknown, but it is feared that the subpoena is related to the invitation that the group has received to travel to Los Angeles, California, to a cultural event that will have Polish leader Lech Walesa and Patty Smith scheduled to be present.

Porno Para Ricardo Havana,

November 27, 2010.

(original press release in Spanish)

Gorki Águila (center) wearing Dr. Biscet t-shirt

Porno para Ricardo’s Gorki Águila asks Immigration Police during interrogation: "Why are you so concerned about a small rock group? … It's only rock and roll."

NOVEMBER 28, 2010

After the arrests suffered by the members of Porno Para Ricardo on Friday, November 26, Gorki Águila (singer and guitarist) was requested to appear on Saturday afternoon at the immigration office for questioning about his music, the concert in Punta Brava and an interview he recently gave to Radio Martí, the questioning was intended to intimidate him with refusing to allow him to leave the country, where the group is in the midst of the process to attend a cultural event in Los Angeles, which will be attended by Lech Walesa and Patty Smith.

When the members of Porno Para Ricardo were arrested, all their belongings were temporarily confiscated. The police erased the footage that the musicians had made of the police harassment and the lyrics of the songs that were in the guitar case of Gorki Aguila.

On the night of November 27, 2010, there was a major operation outside the house of the musician Gorki Águila, in the municipality of Playa. From the balcony of his apartment, you can see the presence of police, state security, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and the Rapid Response Brigades. All these elements have maintained a permanent surveillance and harassment along with open confrontation.

In the interview with the Immigration Police, Gorki Aguila said:

"Why are you so concerned about a small rock group that only plays a few songs to which you have removed all artistic value; why give it so much importance if we are not up in arms? It's only rock and roll."

Porno Para Ricardo
Laura García Freyre, Manager, 28 November 2010

(original press release in Spanish)

Russian State Duma: Stalin & Soviet Leaders guilty of Katyn mass murder

Memory is the mother of all wisdom. - Samuel Johnson

The Russian parliament, the State Duma, on Friday, November 26, 2010 took an important step forward in finally acknowledging something the entire world already knows: “the Katyn crime was committed on direct orders from Stalin and other Soviet leaders.

The Guardian summed up the crime as follows: "Joseph Stalin ordered his secret police to execute 22,000 Polish army officers and civilians in 1940, in one of the greatest mass murders of the 20th century."

Katyn deniers
have been dealt an important blow and this acknowledgment should provide support to the families of the victims in their pursuit of justice. The Communist party in Russia continues to deny Soviet responsibility in the crime and bitterly denounced the parliamentary declaration.

Perhaps their reticence in denying Soviet responsibility is because the Russian Communist party must recognize their predecessor's responsibility. Currently in the United States there is a traveling exhibition on Katyn organized by the Polish Consulate General which describes how in addition to Stalin: "In the spring of 1940, the Soviet Communist Party Politburo ordered the execution of some 22,000 of those prisoners."

According to Richard Boudreaux in The Wall Street Journal the "parliament's move was the first formal assertion by an official Russian body that linked the wartime leader to the killings."

Katyn memorial in Ukraine

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former prime minister and leader of Poland's conservative opposition in an interview with AFP cautiously welcomed the resolution adding: "It's a question of drawing the final conclusions, recognizing guilt, asking for forgiveness and paying reparations."

This should be the beginning of a process not its end. "Speaking of Stalin's guilt is a positive step, but there's a danger it will stop there—that the resolution will be a substitute for legal steps," said Alexander Guryanov, a Katyn specialist at Memorial, a Russian human-rights group in the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles invites anyone in the area to visit the special exhibition entitled Katyn: Massacre, Politics, Morality presented by the Hoover Institution between November 30, 2010 and January 29, 2011.

2010 has been a terrible year for Poland as new victims were claimed by the blood soaked soil of Katyn this past April. The least that people of good will can do is to learn about this dark chapter of Polish-Russian history while demonstrating their solidarity with Poland by learning about Katyn and in joining in the call for justice.

One way is to purchase the 2007 film Katyn directed by Andrzej Wajda, son of one of the officers murdered on Stalin's orders at the Katyn forest and watch it with friends and family. A trailer of the film is available below.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cuba, the Dictatorship’s agents of influence and the Murder of Orlando Zapata Tamayo

“When Ideology is placed above objective information, truth and ethics are the first victims.” - Salim Lamrani, Lecturer, Paris Sorbonne Paris IV University

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” -Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister, Nazi Germany

There is a campaign underway by the Cuban dictatorship, its agents of influence and sympathizers to cover up its brutal treatment and murder of Orlando Zapata Tamayo while creating a false biography of this human rights defender to diminish his moral stature. The main reason that the world knows about the torture all too common in Cuban prisons that led to Orlando Zapata to go on hunger strike and the continued mistreatment that contributed to his death is because of his mother Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger. She is now the target of a campaign of defamation, character assassination abroad and physical violence perpetrated against her by agents of the Cuban regime. Meanwhile the press has apparently lost interest in the story leaving Reina to the mercy of Cuban state security.

Sloppy reporting overlooked prior victims

The media got one important element of the story wrong from the beginning when it made the claim that the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo was the first such incident since Pedro Luis Boitel who died on May 25, 1972. First, since 1959 the International Red Cross has only been able to obtain access to examine Cuban prisons only once over a small window of time in 1989 out of over a half century of the current regime in power nor are the numbers of deaths on hunger strike accounted for by the Cuban regime. Amnesty International has not been able to visit Cuba since 1990.

Secondly, as in the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo the world knows about Pedro Luis Boitel because his mother, Clara Abrahante Boitel, fought to save her son and make known the atrocities committed against Pedro Luis regardless of the threats visited upon her. However in addition to Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has documented additional Cuban political prisoners who have died on hunger strike both before and after Pedro Luis Boitel:

  1. Roberto López Chávez, 25 years old, died on December 11, 1966 in Isla de Pinos prison on hunger strike without medical assistance. Armando Valladares, in his prison memoir, Against All Hope described the circumstances surrounding his death: “When Roberto López Chávez, went on a hunger strike to protest the abuses in the prison, the guards withheld water from him until he became delirious, twisting on the floor and begging for something to drink. [...] He died the next day.”
  2. Carmelo Cuadra Hernández, died in La Cabaña prison in April of 1969 on hunger strike, after suffering mistreatment and torture over eight and a half months, without receiving medical care and was the third political prisoner that has died on a hunger strike.
  3. Olegario Charlot Pileta, died in the infamous "Escaleras" (staircase) of the Boniato prison, in of January 1973 during a hunger strike, without medical assistance and is described in documents as a “black youth.”
  4. Enrique García Cuevas died on a hunger strike, without receiving medical care, in cell No. 4 of the new Provincial Jail of Santa Clara, on June 24, 1973.

Two of the four outlined above died on hunger strikes after Pedro Luis Boitel and there are partial estimates that place the number identified to have died while on hunger strike at twelve including both Boitel and Zapata. Since Pedro Luis Boitel died there are partial lists of six political prisoners dead on hunger strikes between May 25, 1972 and February 23, 2010. This does not mean that there is a conspiracy afoot but human error product of deadlines combined with staff and budget cutbacks in newspapers.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo photographed with prominent leaders of the opposition in 2003

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Prisoner of Conscience

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was recognized as an Amnesty International (AI) prisoner of conscience on January 29, 2004 a designation given only to nonviolent activists after careful examination.

The claim that Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a violent criminal in prison for a violent crime is a lie manufactured by the Cuban regime. Furthermore the claim that “AI has never mentioned the alleged political activities that landed Zapata in prison” is untrue. On January 29, 2004 Amnesty International outlined Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s past arrests:

“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.”

Orlando Zapata Tamayo appeared photographed in the Cuban government’s own publication Los Disidentes, in photos prior to his 2003 arrest and was then recognized by Cuban officials as a dissident. The Spanish publication El Mundo carried a photo the day after the Cuban regime announced the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo with prominent Cuban dissidents. Even in death Orlando continues to be a victim of regime attacks libeling his good name.

The aim of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s hunger strike

No one disputes that Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on a hunger strike. However, the Cuban regime claims that Orlando Zapata Tamayo had demanded: “a television, a personal kitchen, and a cell phone to call his family in order to end his hunger strike and regime sympathizers without citing the source repeat the claim.” Cuban political prisoner Abel Lopez Perez transferred to the same prison in Camaguey as Orlando Zapata Tamayo on December 3, 2009 and briefly saw him and heard from other prisoners “that a few days before being taken away, Zapata stood up and shouted, ‘People, don’t let yourselves be lied to. Don’t believe anything that they tell you. I’m not demanding a kitchen or any of the things they took away from me. I’m demanding an improvement of treatment for all prisoners, and so you all know, I am going to die for it.’”

When weighing the claims of the Cuban regime and a former Cuban political prisoner one should look at Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s background. This is a man who was arrested while on a hunger strike protesting the imprisonment of other prisoners of conscience who had been arrested with him in a sit-in in December of 2002 just days after he himself was released from prison in March of 2003. This fact, along with the rest of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s trajectory as an activist would give more weight to Abel Lopez’s version of events.

Basis for the claim that Orlando Zapata Tamayo was murdered

Both Abel Lopez Perez and Reina Luisa Tamayo charge that Cuban prison officials denied Orlando Zapata Tamayo water in an effort to break him. Reina Luisa Tamayo in an interview with Yoani Sanchez, hours after her son’s death denounced that officials had denied him water. Abel Lopez corroborates the charge describing what went on: “Before Zapata was checked into the hospital, he was regularly taking some vitamins. He was in a weak state of health. A military chief known as ‘Gordo’, who was the one responsible for ordering all of Zapata’s things to be taken out of the cell and to stop giving him water, also took his bottle of vitamins and poured all the pills down a drain. He told him, ‘Those who are in protest here don’t drink vitamins. I think those are pills sent to you by the Yankees so you can continue your hunger strike.’ Those were the exact words said to him, I verified them. His vitamins were taken away, as were any other medications. And they stopped giving him water for a while.” This type of practice was also documented in the 1966 death of Roberto López Chávez. Denying water to a man on a water only hunger strike is cruel treatment and most likely contributed to his death.

Zapata's mother holds up Orlando's blood stained shirt a product of a beating by prison guards

Finally, the campaign to equate engaging in a hunger strike with suicide is at best mistaken.
Nonviolence expert, Michael Nagler in an Introduction to Nonviolence filmed at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 2006 offered the following analysis on hunger strikes within a nonviolent context:

"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.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo had been beaten and tortured on more than one occasion by prison guards and state security along with other prisoners. His body was scarred and his health in decline. For example AI reported that, on "October 20, 2003 [Orlando Zapata] was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations." The case of Ariel Sigler Amaya is instructive. He had to threaten a hunger strike, although already emaciated and crippled, to obtain medical treatment to save his life. The hunger strike was not an act of suicide but rather self defense within the arsenal of nonviolent weapons.

Ariel Sigler Amaya (Physical deterioration while not on hunger strike)

Attacking Amnesty International and 75 Cuban Prisoners of Conscience

Apologists of the dictatorship in their attack on AI and 75 Cuban prisoners of conscience point to an Amnesty International 2008 report and its observation that: “because [some of the 75] received funds and/or materials from the United States government in order to engage in activities the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba” that this is a contradiction describing it as a “serious crime.” But they fail to reproduce the quote in its entirety leaving out that “activities included publishing articles or giving interviews to US-funded media, communicating with international human rights organizations and having contact with entities or individuals viewed to be hostile.”

There are international standards that indicate what a legitimate claim of treason is and what is illegitimate and the charges made against the 75 fall far short. At a 1995 international conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, a set of principles that provide guidance regarding permissible justifications for restricting rights known today as the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information was drafted. These principles invoke legitimate reasons to invoke national security interests which are: "protecting a country's existence or its territorial integrity against the use or threat of force, or its capacity to respond to the threat or use of force, whether from an external source, such as a military threat, or an internal source, such as incitement to violent overthrow of the government."

The Johannesburg Principles also outline illegitimate justifications for invoking national security interests which are: "protecting the government from embarrassment or exposure of wrongdoing, or to entrench a particular ideology, or to conceal information about the functioning of its public institutions, or to suppress industrial action."

Finally the Johannesburg Principles specify that certain types of expression should always be protected, including criticizing or insulting the government and its symbols; advocating nonviolent change of the government or policies of the government; and communicating human rights information to the outside world. Human Rights Watch in their 1999 report Cuba's Repressive Machinery and in their 2009 report New Castro, Same Cuba find that Cuba's state security laws violate these principles, illegitimately restricting fundamental rights both in the phrasing of the laws themselves and in their application against nonviolent dissidents.

The Cuban government's attack on foreign funding by either government or non-governmental funding of domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is not unique the Russians and Venezuelans are passing or trying to pass laws to cut off outside funding streams to civil society. While in the Cuban case dissenting from the official government line means in most cases losing your job and in some cases also being kicked out of your home it is easy to see that the policy is to only permit the existence of pro-government voices. Another example, similar to Cuba, is Burma where the opposition faces brutal repression and the cutting off of domestic resources and thus needs to look for support from abroad.

Regimes, like the ones in Cuba and Burma, are desperate to suffocate all voices of dissent by demonizing, imprisoning, exiling, or killing them. Amnesty International's identification of prisoners of conscience is an important indicator of the presence or absence of basic freedoms in a country. The Johannesburg Principles exposes regimes, that hide behind the national security facade to impose a climate of fear, for what they are brutal dictatorships that systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens.

There is a big chasm between an individual advocating the violent overthrow of a government and using the force of arms to lash out against representatives of those in power and individuals exercising their fundamental human rights to achieve nonviolent change. The first is a political prisoner and the second is a prisoner of conscience.

The Campaign to Destroy Reina Luisa Tamayo

The murder of Orlando Zapata Tamayo calls for justice. However, right now Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo faces a campaign to destroy her both physically and psychologically carried out by a ruthless dictatorship with an international reach. Regime officials have physically assaulted and terrorized her when she has tried to visit Zapata’s grave and attend Mass. Her remaining children and grandchildren are harassed and mistreated.

At the same time because of the outcry over Orlando Zapata’s death and brutal attacks on the Ladies in White a large number of prisoners of conscience, along with their families, have been sent into exile but there are a group of prisoners of conscience who have rejected exile in Europe declaring that they wish to live free in Cuba. They are still in prison despite an agreement reached with the Ladies in White by the regime through mediation with the Cuban Catholic Church that said they would be free by November 7, 2010. Please do not allow ideology to blind you to the great injustices being committed in Cuba and speak up for Reina Luisa Tamayo and these prisoners of conscience seeking to remain in the island.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Orlando Zapata Tamayo & the Nonviolent Uprising in Cuba

"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

"We will never give up our protest. The authorities have three options — free our husbands, imprison us or kill us. - Laura Pollan, spokeswoman for Ladies in White

Nine months ago today on February 23, 2010 Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after a prolonged water only hunger strike during which prison officials denied him water for 18 days contributing to his death. The death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo marked a nonviolent moment that shook the dictatorship and exposed its brutality to the world.

A lot has happened since then, and the video above attempts to place it in context. One can debate the analysis or what may or may not have been left out in nine minutes, but the facts remain that the brutal treatment of Cuban prisoners which amounted to torture led Orlando Zapata to respond with the only nonviolent means at his disposal: the hunger strike.

The dictatorship's response which was to try to break Orlando denying him water for 18 days exposed the regime's sadistic nature to an international audience. This combined with the public and violent mistreatment of the Ladies in White generated a public outcry that caught the Cuban regime by surprise and eventually forced them to the negotiating table in an effort to white wash their tarnished image. Nine months later Zapata's legacy continues to challenge injustice in Cuba and leads to the observation that Orlando Zapata Tamayo Vive!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Did Fidel Castro Kill John F. Kennedy?

A German Filmmaker says yes and explains why

Lee Harvey Oswald's local membership card in a pro-Castro group

"The principals of thought of the Fair Play for Cuba consist of restoration of diplomatic trade and tourist relations with Cuba. That is one of our main points. We are for that. I disagree that this situation regarding American-Cuban relations is very unpopular. We are in the minority surely. We are not particularly interested in what Cuban exiles or rightists members of rightist organizations have to say. We are primarily interested in the attitude of the U.S. government toward Cuba." - Lee Harvey Oswald, On August 12, 1963, The "Bill Stuckey Radio Show"

On Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding with his wife Jacqueline in a Presidential motorcade. Seven days later on November 29, 1963 President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover discussed the FBI investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on the White House telephone. The conversation was recorded and is now part of the public record. In the recording above Hoover describes to Johnson the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald after the shooting. Hoover also discusses Oswald's pro-Castro and anti-American associations.

Lee Harvey Oswald's national membership card in a pro-Castro group

German documentary filmmaker Wilfried Huismann described the circumstances surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the subsequent cover up by the Johnson White House with the tacit approval of Robert Kennedy in his 2006 documentary Rendezvous with Death. At the time of the film's release he gave an interview in Deutsche Welle on January 5, 2006 titled "Castro ordered Kennedy's Assassination." Below is an excerpt from the article:

DW-WORLD: We know that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy. But who ordered his assassination and why?

Wilfried Huismann: We settled the question of why in three years of research on this documentary in Mexico, USA and Cuba. Oswald had been an agent for the Cuban intelligence services since November 1962. He was a political fanatic and allowed himself to be used by the Cuban intelligence services to kill John F. Kennedy. It was a Cuban reaction to the repeated attempts of the Kennedy brothers, above all the younger Kennedy, Robert, to get rid of Fidel Castro through political assassination -- a duel between the Kennedys and the Castros, which, like in a Greek tragedy, left one of the duelists dead.

Wilfried Huismann

DW-WORLD: One of the most important leads pointed to Mexico. Why do you think the US didn't pursue it?

Huismann: After Kennedy's death on Nov. 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson found out that the US had a secret, illegal murder program focused on Fidel Castro. He hadn't been informed before that. He knew that Castro knew, and he was afraid that the discovery of these mutual assassination attempts could force him to carry out an invasion of Cuba, which he believed could result in a third -- nuclear -- world war. And as a conservative pragmatist, he decided within a few hours, in agreement with Robert Kennedy, to drop the whole thing and to ban FBI and CIA officials from pursuing the trail leading to Cuba.

Alexander Haig in the documentary placed it in an electoral context explaining what it would've meant for the Democratic Party if the truth about the Kennedy assassination became known:
General Alexander Haig, for example, thinks Kennedy's successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, "was convinced Castro killed Kennedy, and he took it to his grave." Haig served as a military adviser to Johnson and later as President Reagan's Secretary of State. He tells Huismann in the film about memos from 1963 that suggested Johnson's fear of letting the Castro-assassination story get out to the American public. Johnson's attitude, said Haig, was that "we cannot allow the American people to believe that Castro ... had killed Kennedy," because "there would be a right-wing uprising in America which would keep the Democratic Party out of power for two generations."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reina Luisa Tamayo & the Cuban 12

How to brutalize the mother of a murdered prisoner of conscience, increase repression while deporting human rights defenders and cover it up with good press

Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger with photo of her son Orlando Zapata Tamayo

First they unjustly imprisoned her son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. They beat him and tortured him to such an extreme that his only defense was the hunger strike. While on a water only hunger strike prison officials cut off his water for 18 days contributing to his death. As she tried to save her son’s life they secretly videotaped her and recorded her telephone conversations which they heavily edited in a pathetic attempt to white wash the Cuban dictatorship’s role in this atrocity.

Now the regime slanders, intimidates, beats and detains the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo as she attempts to attend mass and visit her son’s grave while trying to again white wash their image by inviting her to go into exile. In early November the Miami Herald reported that Reina Luisa Tamayo "was repeatedly hit on the head, thrown to the ground and gagged with a smelly rag that left her breathless," by Cuban state security agents, one of which told her to "Shut up, you lousy black."

Nine months after the untimely death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo followed by the brutal beatings of the Ladies in White the regime has used the forced exile of dozens of unjustly imprisoned prisoners of conscience to clean up its international image and distract press attention.

Nevertheless there remained 12 Cuban prisoners of conscience imprisoned from the March 2003 crackdown that wanted to stay in Cuba as of November 7, 2010. Under threats of an intensification of demonstrations and new hunger strikes agents of the regime bought some time stating that within 15 days to a month of the November 7th deadline these prisoners would be released. One of these 12 has been released and returned home since then: 68 year old Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique.

At the same time other activists are beaten and detained as repression increases around the island but the international community remains focused on prisoner "releases" into forced exile.

It is an effective strategy that needs to be challenged for the sake of Cuban civil society, the remaining prisoners of conscience and the nonviolent opposition. Now is the time for all persons of good will to spread the word on what is happening in Cuba and not allow themselves to be distracted. The dictatorship in Cuba for over half a century have been masters at the art of distraction. It is time for Cuban democrats and those in solidarity with them to look beyond the distractions and remain focused on the human rights situation on the island.

Remember the 11 prisoners of conscience from the Cuban Black Spring still imprisoned that were supposed to be released on November 7, 2010 according to agreement reached between the Catholic Church, the Spanish government and the Cuban regime:

Pedro Argüelles Morán

Oscar Biscet González

Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

José Daniel Ferrer García

Diosdado González Marrero

Iván Hernández Carrillo

Librado Linares García

Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez

Angel Moya Acosta

Félix Navarro Rodríguez

Guido Sigler Amaya

These men are heroes in the mould of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. refusing exile after seven years in brutal conditions that have destroyed their health and led to the death of one of their brothers in the struggle: Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

However at the same time that the campaign for their release and that of the other political prisoners that remain incarcerated continues there remains the fact that as long as the laws are not changed or revoked that these freed prisoners will only make room for a new crop of prisoners of conscience.

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, a grouping of Cuban human rights and pro-democracy groups in the East of the island, reports that Raudel Avila Lozada,Yoandri Montoya Aviles, Lester Mora Carbonell in Santiago de Cuba, Jorge Corrales, Rogelio Tavìo Jr., Gerardo Rodriguez, Yoandri Beltràn, Isael Poveda, Francisco Manzanet and Roberto Gonzales have all been detained by Cuban state security and were in custody as of November 20, 2010.

Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia
, the latest Cuban prisoner of conscience to arrive in exile in Spain, sick and physically run down expressed his sadness that there was no real political opening in Cuba but a "political white wash operation." The first winner of the Sakharov Prize, Anatoli Marchenko offered great wisdom when he observed: "I am convinced that publicity is the sole effective means of combating the evil and lawlessness which is rampant in my country today."

Today it is up to you to assist Cuba's Marchenko's in bringing attention to the systematic violation of human rights in the island. Two things that you can do immediately that will only take a moment is to sign petitions for the freedom of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

Defending a Fundamental Right: the Freedom to Return to Your Homeland

Article 13.
• (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
• (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

International treaties recognize the freedom to leave any country and to return to your homeland as a fundamental right, but regime’s like those operating in Burma and Cuba see this “right” as a “privilege” to be granted or withheld depending on the whims of the ruling junta.

Yoani Sanchez

For example, on nine occasions over the past three years Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has been denied permission to travel outside of Cuba to attend a conference and return home.

Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina

In March of 2010 Cuban opposition activist Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina was denied permission to attend a human rights conference in Switzerland to which he had been invited to attend as a speaker. Juan Juan Almeida had to engage in a prolonged hunger strike to be able to travel outside of Cuba to obtain much needed medical treatment. Cuban prisoners of conscience released into forced exile are denied the right of return to their country. These are but just four examples of a systematic pattern where Cubans are denied the right to leave Cuba and to later return to their homeland.

This practice angers many and the dictatorship cannot respond with a convincing argument. In 2008 Ricardo Alarcon attempted to explain why Cubans are not free to travel like other peoples from around the world only to draw ridicule.

In addition to not being able to travel freely outside of Cuba, Cubans are also subjected to restrictions from traveling and residing in different parts of Cuba itself.

Both types of restrictions are in violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reproduced at the top of the page of which Cuba is a signatory.

Jose Maria Heredia

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas has launched a petition drive to obtain passage of the National Reunion Project Heredia Bill named in honor of Jose Maria Heredia, poet and Cuban patriot exiled from Cuba during the Spanish colonial period. It is described as a campaign for the right of Cubans to travel freely and for the elimination of humiliating discrimination against Cubans in their own country.

Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas

This trampling of the fundamental right to travel has not just been carried out against Cubans but in the past against East Germans trying to cross into West Germany and more recently with the sad plight of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma (Myanmar). Fearing that she would not be allowed to return home to Burma Suu Kyi was unable to visit her husband as he died from cancer or see her children. In addition the military junta would not allow her husband into the country to visit his wife nor even today allow her children to visit their mother.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her late husband, Michael Aris

Other regimes today such as the People’s Republic of China and North Korea also ignore this fundamental right of its citizenry. In the case of communist China the wife and relatives of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo are barred from traveling to Oslo to accept the award on the Chinese dissident's behalf. In the case of North Korea "illegally exiting" the country can lead to execution.

Exposing this trampling of fundamental human rights and campaigns to address this injustice is a small step to take in solidarity with people denied this basic right.