Monday, May 30, 2011

The Tiananmen Mothers speak out for their loved ones murdered in June of 1989

Brutal tyrants learn what they can get away with from the international response to other tyrants. Muammar Gaddafi believed that he could get away with mass murder because the world looked the other way in 1989 in Beijing and he observed in 2011 that "The unity of China was more important than those people on Tiananmen Square." Between 1915 and 1917 the Ottoman Turks murdered more than 1.5 million Armenians and like the Chinese communists in 1989 got away with it. This inspired Adolph Hitler to carry out his own holocaust stating in 1939: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" The answer with regards to the June 4, 1989 massacre in China is the Tiananmen Mothers and those who wish to see their message reproduced far and wide. At the request of the Tiananmen Mothers, Human Rights in China (HRIC) has released the following essay that commemorates the victims of June Fourth on its 22nd anniversary reproduced here along with the 2006 video Tankman outlining what happened in solidarity with the Chinese people.

On the 22nd Anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre: The Souls of those Killed during June Fourth Shall Not Be Defiled; Their Families Shall Not be Dishonored

The Tiananmen Mothers

May 31, 2011

[Translation by Human Rights in China]

This year, we approach the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Democracy Movement at a time when the fight for democracy, freedom, and human rights in North Africa and the Middle East is spreading like wildfire. As relatives of those killed in the 1989 movement, our memories are still fresh and our pain is unbearable when we look back at the tragic outcome of that unparalleled disaster.

We have always firmly believed that everything that happened during the June Fourth crackdown is engraved in the people’s hearts; the Chinese people, especially Beijingers, cannot forget the events of June Fourth. They cannot forget the men and women who were shot and crushed to death by the Chinese army troops. The June Fourth Massacre will not be forgotten, even though it has been downplayed and blocked among the people in China. It shall forever exist in people’s hearts. It has been indelibly etched into history.

On that frightful night of June 3, 1989, the Chinese army troops, protected by the darkness of night and following the way opened for them by tanks and armored vehicles, moved toward Tiananmen Square from all directions, strafing and chasing people to kill them as they advanced. Wherever they went, students and civilians suffered heavy casualties. When the student demonstrators withdrew orderly and peacefully from Tiananmen Square in the early morning of June 4, the army tanks pursued them from behind and crushed them, killing and seriously injuring more than a dozen students right there. Even on June 6, the government had not stopped their military action. That day, on Fuxingmenwai Street alone, three people were killed and three were critically injured; the youngest of the injured was only 13 years old. In an instant, the sky fell and the earth sank in the whole city of Beijing. Wailing and sobbing were heard everywhere. In an instant, young faces and handsome bodies, one after another, were turned to dust and vanished from the land where they had lived.

So far, we have spent 22 years and have documented 203 victims of June Fourth. There are still many victims we have not found, or whose relatives of whom we have no information.

Among the 203 known victims, some were beaten to death when protesting against the army’s use of violence against civilians; some were shot while rescuing the wounded or carrying the dead; some were chased by martial law troops into residential alleys and streets and killed; some were shot right in their own homes by stray bullets of the martial law troops; and some were shot and killed while taking photographs at the scene. Our repeated investigation and verification show that not a single one of the victims committed any violent act. They were all peaceful demonstrators and citizens.

We have the names, genders, ages, work units, and occupations of most of these victims. We have the home addresses, school names, and grade levels of all the students. They died tragically and majestically. We cannot help but sink into despair every time we think of them.

Let us who still live — your parents, your husbands and wives, your brothers and sisters, your sons and daughters — weep for you and mourn your passing! Let those who are middle-aged, but especially those who are young, stand in silent tribute and pay you their respect!

An old saying goes, “There is no avoiding the sins committed by the heavens, nor can man escape from paying for the sins he commits.” The June Fourth massacre was by no means a casual act, but an act with the highest level decision makers and direct executors. Some have since died, others still live. The sins they committed cannot escape scrutiny under law. As creditors of this huge historic debt, we all understand the unshakable law: “It is right and proper to repay a debt owed.”

We have been steadfast in our difficult struggle over the past twenty some-odd years to restore the damaged reputations of the dead and to comfort the souls that have yet to find peace. We have written many times to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, asking them to give an earnest and responsible account of the killing of the innocent victims during June Fourth. We also urged the Standing Committee to change their attitude of indifference to the will of the people and their willful ignorance of the pleas of the families of the dead, and to open a direct and sincere dialogue about the victims of June Fourth with their families. But we have not received a reply to any of our requests.

In late February 2011, on the eve of the annual “Two Congresses” — the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) — a victim’s relatives who are among the Tiananmen Mothers group were contacted by the public security department in their district for so-called private communication and exchange of opinions. Soon after, in early April, the public security personnel had another talk with that family. The visitors did not speak of making the truth public, carrying out judicial investigations, or providing an explanation for the case of each victim. Instead, they only raised the question of how much to pay, emphasizing that this was meant for that individual case and not for the families in the group as a whole.

The Tiananmen Mothers have repeatedly appealed to the government over the past 16 years for dialogue, yet government authorities have ignored us. This year, the silence was finally broken. This should have been welcome. But what in fact does this belated response mean? If the authorities merely want to settle the June Fourth matter with money and to do it under the table, then what kind of results will this produce?

In 1995, we began making three demands to resolve the June Fourth issue: truth, compensation, and accountability. In 2006, in accordance with the circumstances at that time, we added a supplemental resolution: because resolving the June Fourth issue impartially requires a certain process, we can adopt the principle of tackling the simpler problems first. The issues with serious differences in opinion that cannot be readily agreed upon—for example, the true nature of the events of June Fourth—can be temporarily set aside. Instead, we can first settle the issues involving the basic rights and interests of the victims. There are six issues, including removing all surveillance and personal restrictions imposed upon the June Fourth victims and their families; allowing the families of the dead to mourn their loved ones without interference; and the relevant government departments’ providing pure humanitarian assistance to the victims experiencing hardships. This supplemental resolution has a basic principle and a bottom line. The bottom line is this: the souls of those killed during June Fourth shall not be defiled; their families shall not be dishonored. We hereby reiterate today: all matters can be discussed except these two.

Our door to dialogue with the government has remained open at all times. For any endeavor, it is always the start that is most difficult. As a show of good faith, the government should dispatch or appoint an official body to be responsible for the dialogue, rather than using the public security or state security personnel who monitor and follow us every day to “talk” with us. This is improper and pointless. So as to reflect the inclusive nature of the dialogue, we hope that, rather than individual discussions, the government will seek out many victims’ families—not one, not two, but three, four, or even a dialogue team organized by the victims’ families—for talks. We hope it will not be private communications, but an open dialogue, forthright and aboveboard, with all issues on the table, with no facts concealed or differences covered up, and one that strives to fulfill our responsibilities to the dead and to history. We harbor no illusions that the issues of June Fourth can be resolved in a single step. If there are discussions, then they should be real discussions, to resolve issues point by point, so as to ultimately arrive at a unanimous or basically unanimous conclusion.

Since the start of this year, demonstrations and protests calling for freedom and democracy have erupted in countries across the Middle East and North Africa. The Chinese government has referred to these popular protest movements categorically as “turmoil”; at no point has it mentioned the calls for freedom and democracy. Why? The answer is fear. It is afraid that the situation in the Middle East and North Africa will spread to mainland China, and worried that it will give rise to events similar to the 1989 Democracy Movement. The authorities have therefore tightened control on civil society and intensified repression, resulting in a serious deterioration of human rights in China; in particular, the situation since February of this year has been the worst since June Fourth. It has been the harshest period since June 4, 1989. Silence has reigned across the country. To our surprise, it was against this grim backdrop that public security agencies have initiated private, individual conversations and dialogues with some of the families of the June Fourth victims. How can this not be strange?


熊辉 Xiong Hui 韩国刚 Han Guogang 石峰 Shi Feng
庞梅清 Pang Meiqing 黄宁 Huang Ning 王伯冬 Wang Bodong
张志强 Zhang Zhiqiang 赵金锁 Zhao Jinsuo 孔维真 Sun Weizhen
刘保东 Liu Baodong 陆玉宝 Lu Yubao 陆马生 Lu Masheng
齐志英 Qi Zhiying 方桂珍 Fang Guizhen 肖书兰 Xiao Shulan
葛桂荣 Ge Guirong 郑秀村 Zheng Xiucun 王惠蓉 Wang Huirong
邢承礼 Xing Chengli 桂德兰 Gui Delan 王运启 Wang Yunqi
黄雪芬 Huang Xuefen 王琳 Wang Lin 刘乾 Liu Qian
朱镜蓉 Zhu Jingrong 金亚喜Jin Yaxi 周国林 Zhou Guolin
杨子明 Yang Ziming 王争强 Wang Zhengqiang 吴立虹 Wu Lihong
宁书平 Ning Shuping 郭达显 Guo Daxian 曹云兰 Cao Yunlan
隋立松 Sui Lisong 王广明 Wang Guangming 冯淑兰 Feng Shulan
穆怀兰 Mu Huailan 付媛媛 Fu Yuanyuan 孙淑芳 Sun Shufang
刘建兰 Liu Jianlan 王连 Wang Lian 李春山 Li Chunshan
蒋艳琴 Jiang Yanqin 何凤亭 He Fengting 谭淑琴 Tan Shuqin
肖宗友 Xiao Zongyou 乔秀兰 Qiao Xiulan 张桂荣 Zhang Guirong
雷勇 Lei Yong (127 people)

丁子霖 Ding Zilin 张先玲 Zhang Xianling 周淑庄Zhou Shuzhuang
李雪文 Li Xuewen 徐珏 Xu Yu 尹敏 Yin Min
杜东旭 Du Dongxu 宋秀玲 Song Xiuling 于清 Yu Qing
郭丽英 Guo Liying 蒋培坤 Jiang Peikun 王范地 Wang Fandi
袁可志 Yuan Kezhi 赵廷杰 Zhao Tingjie 吴定富 Wu Dingfu
钱普泰 Qian Putai 孙承康 Sun Chengkang 尤维洁 You Weijie
黄金平 Huang Jinping 贺田凤 He Tianfeng 孟淑英 Meng Shuying
袁淑敏 Yuan Shumin 刘梅花 Liu Meihua 谢京花 Xie Jinghua
马雪琴 Ma Xueqin 邝瑞荣 Kuang Ruirong 张艳秋 Zhang Yanqiu
张树森 Zhang Shusen 杨大榕 Yang Darong 刘秀臣 Liu Xiuchen
沈桂芳 Shen Guifang 谢京荣 Xie Jingrong 孙宁 Sun Ning
王文华 Wang Wenhua 金贞玉 Jin Zhenyu 要福荣 Yao Furong
孟淑珍 Meng Shuzhen 田淑玲 Tian Shuling 邵秋风 Shao Qiufeng
王桂荣 Wang Guirong 谭汉凤 Tan Hanfeng 孙恒尧 Sun Hengyao
陈梅 Chen Mei 周燕 Zhou Yan 李桂英 Li Guiying
徐宝艳 Xu Baoyan 狄孟奇 Di Mengqi 杨银山 Yang Yinshan
管卫东 Guan Weidong 高婕 Gao Jie 索秀女 Suo Xiunü
刘淑琴 Liu Shuqin 王培靖 Wang Peijing 王双兰 Wang Shuanglan
张振霞 Zhang Zhenxia 祝枝弟 Zhu Zhidi 刘天媛 Liu Tianyuan
潘木治 Pan Muzhi 黄定英 Huang Dingying 何瑞田 He Ruitian
程淑珍 Cheng Shuzhen 轧伟林 Zha Weilin 郝义传 Hao Yichuan
萧昌宜 Xiao Changyi 任金宝 Ren Jinbao 田维炎 Tian Weiyan
杨志玉 Yang Zhiyu 齐国香 Qi Guoxiang 李显远 Li Xianyuan
张彩凤 Zhang Caifeng 王玉芹 Wang Yuqin 韩淑香 Han Shuxiang
曹长先 Cao Changxian 方政 Fang Zheng 齐志勇 Qi Zhiyong
冯友祥 Feng Youxiang 何兴才 He Xingcai 刘仁安 Liu Renan
熊辉 Xiong Hui 韩国刚 Han Guogang 石峰 Shi Feng
庞梅清 Pang Meiqing 黄宁 Huang Ning 王伯冬 Wang Bodong
张志强 Zhang Zhiqiang 赵金锁 Zhao Jinsuo 孔维真 Sun Weizhen
刘保东 Liu Baodong 陆玉宝 Lu Yubao 陆马生 Lu Masheng
齐志英 Qi Zhiying 方桂珍 Fang Guizhen 肖书兰 Xiao Shulan
葛桂荣 Ge Guirong 郑秀村 Zheng Xiucun 王惠蓉 Wang Huirong
邢承礼 Xing Chengli 桂德兰 Gui Delan 王运启 Wang Yunqi
黄雪芬 Huang Xuefen 王琳 Wang Lin 刘 乾 Liu Qian
朱镜蓉 Zhu Jingrong 金亚喜 Jin Yaxi 周国林 Zhou Guolin
杨子明 Yang Ziming 王争强 Wang Zhengqiang 吴立虹 Wu Lihong
宁书平 Ning Shuping 郭达显 Guo Daxian 曹云兰 Cao Yunlan
隋立松 Sui Lisong 王广明 Wang Guangming 冯淑兰 Feng Shulan
穆怀兰 Mu Huailan 付媛媛 Fu Yuanyuan 孙淑芳 Sun Shufang
刘建兰 Liu Jianlan 王连 Wang Lian 李春山 Li Chunshan
蒋艳琴 Jiang Yanqin 何凤亭 He Fengting 谭淑琴 Tan Shuqin
肖宗友 Xiao Zongyou 乔秀兰 Qiao Xiulan 张桂荣 Zhang Guirong
雷勇 Lei Yong
(127 names)

In accordance with suggestions by our friends, we’re also including the following names of our fellow signers from previous years who have passed away so as to respect their wishes:

吴学汉 Wu Xuehan 苏冰娴 Su Bingxian 姚瑞生 Yao Ruisheng
杨世鈺 Yang Shiyu 袁长录 Yuan Changlu 周淑珍 Zhou Shuzhen
王国先 Wang Guoxian 包玉田 Bao Yutian 林景培 Lin Jingpei
寇玉生 Kou Yusheng 孟金秀 Meng Jinxiu 张俊生 Zhang Junsheng
吴守琴 Wu Shouqin 周治刚 Zhou Zhigang 孙秀芝 Sun Xiuzhi
罗让 Luo Rang 严光汉 Yan Guanghan 李贞英 Li Zhenying
邝涤清 Kuang Diqing 段宏炳 Duan Hongbing 刘春林 Liu Chunlin
张耀祖 Zhang Yaozu 李淑娟 Li Shujuan (23 people)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Remembering the 1989 Beijing massacre and demanding justice

Around the world activities are planned to remember the Chinese people massacred by Chinese communist troops on June 4, 1989 following demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Online you can demonstrate your solidarity with the Tiananmen Mothers by signing a petition at Fill the Square. In London a flash mob and vigil are being organized for the 22nd Anniversary Remembrance of the 1989 Beijing massacre. The Laogai Research Foundation in Washington D.C. is organizing In Memory of Tiananmen a commemoration and film screening of the documentary "Tankman" on June 3 at 6:30pm and in New York City on June 4 beginning at 12 noon E.S.T. Initiatives for China is organizing an event at the United Nations. More information on the activity at the United Nations below.

Victims and Families to Attend Commemoration of June 4th Movement at the United Nations.

Reporting from the office of Initiatives for China – On June 4th, 2011, Madam Xu Liping, widow of victim of the June 4th Movement, Yu Di, will join in the commemoration for the 22nd anniversary of the June 4th Movement, that will take place at the United Nations in New York. Bullets extracted from late Mr Yu Di will also be exhibited.

Born January 1st, 1957, in the city of Jixi, Heilongjiang Province, Yu Di was an assistant engineer at the Beijing Solar Energy Research Institute, a military veteran, member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a university graduate with several awards for his research. At 2am in the morning, on June 4th, 1989, the military troops confronted civilians between the areas of Nan Chi Zi to the Museum of History, and opened fire four times. In the first round of fire, bullets penetrated Yu Di’s his lower left rib through his upper right. The bullets shot through eight of his major organs, including liver, kidneys, lungs and spine. He was sent to Peking Union Medical College Hospital and operated on four times. He lost one kidney and had part of his liver removed. In the end, the severity of the injuries caused widespread infection. He died of multiple organ failure on June 30th, at the age of 32.

After Yu Di passed, his wife, Madam Xu Liping was left with their four year-old son. Life was difficult for Madam Xu and her son, who had only each other. However, she always took part in public events providing aid to victims of the June 4th Movement.

Recently, Madam Xu arrived in the United States. After she saw drafts of open letters – regarding the Chinese government’s serious and on-going human rights violations – to the Secretary-General of the United Nations by Dr. Yang Jianli, Madam Xu decided to join in the June 4th memorial event at the UN.

It is known that after Yu Di’s passing, Madam Xu Liping preserved the bullets extracted from her husband’s body. These bullets will be displayed at the June 4th memorial event, to honor those who lost their lives at the Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing.

With regards to the June 4th Massacre and the question of human rights, Madam Xu Liping has this to say, ‘Is mere appealing, reason for death? Is mere difference of political opinion, reason to be silenced? Is investigating the truth, reason to be imprisoned? Even more astonishing, not long ago, at the crackdown of civilians, Libyan leader Gaddafi cites June 4th as a model…” Madam Xu hopes the international community will pay attention to the question of human rights in China.

With regards to the question of the United Nations’ investigation and sanction of people responsible for June 4th violation of human rights in China, Madam Xu asks, “ When the citizens’ lives are insecure or regarded as valueless, where is the “responsibility” in the proclamation to the world of being a “large and responsible nation”? Where is the “air of a large nation” that is being shown to the world? As a member of the UN Security Council, with the audacity to declare and pledge the “security of humanity”, shouldn’t one reflect on one’s contribution and role to the security of humanity over the past 22 years?”

According to information from spokesperson of Initiative for China, Dr Yang Jianli, Mr Fang Zheng, who was disabled as a result of the June 4th Movement, will also participate in the event on June 4th, 2011, that will begin in the afternoon at the United Nations. In 1989, Fang Zheng saved a schoolmate as he was withdrawing from Tiananmen Square. A tank from the martial troop ran over Fang Zheng’s legs and as a result, both his legs had to be amputated. After the June 4th Movement, he was under long-term surveillance. In early 2009, with help from a human rights organization – Humanitarian China, Fang Zheng arrived in the United States.

Dr Yang Jianli said that this commemoration would be attended by the media, as well as international human rights organizations. All are welcomed to join, to commemorate those who lost their lives in the June 4th Movement, and to express their wish that the Chinese government will improve on human rights. The event will begin at noon on June 4th, 2011. – Zhao Guoyu

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Amnesty International at 50: Change Minds. Change Laws. Change Lives.

One man’s outrage at the imprisonment of two students for raising a toast to freedom changed the world for the better.

Produced by Award winning documentary film maker, Jeff Dupre and Show of Force, this powerful film captures 50 years of Amnesty International's work.

On the 28th of May 1961 an article appeared in The Observer that captured the imagination of ordinary men and women around the world.

Written by London lawyer Peter Benenson, The Forgotten Prisoners called for an international campaign for the release of thousands of people who had been jailed because of their political or religious beliefs. They were given the name ‘prisoners of conscience.’That call for justice a half decade ago was the birth of Amnesty International, a human rights group which has since grown into a global organisation with over three million supporters in 150 countries. In recognition of our human rights campaigning, in 1977 we were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


Peter Benenson said that the impetus for The Forgotten Prisoners was a newspaper article he read about two students jailed for seven years in dictator Antonio Salazar’s Portugal simply for raising their glasses and toasting freedom. At the time he said he wanted to “mobilise world opinion” about the human rights abuses being committed by governments around the world against those citizens whose opinions differed to theirs.

Amnesty International at 50: Global call to action aims to tip scales against repression and injustice

Amnesty International is marking its 50th anniversary with the launch of a Global Call to Action designed to help tip the scales against repression and injustice, with events held in almost 60 countries in every region of the world.

The anniversary comes against the backdrop of a changing human rights landscape, as people across the Middle East and North Africa courageously confront oppression, tyranny and corruption – often in the face of bloodshed and state violence.

With these protests dramatically demonstrating the need for international solidarity on human rights, Amnesty International’s new Global Call to Action includes a digital “Earth Candle” – a significant online breakthrough that allows activists for the first time to see an overview of the organization’s worldwide actions, and how their own actions add to this force for change.

This is accompanied by a new drive – “Be one more, ask one more, act once more” – that aims to achieve a huge collective impact worldwide. It urges everyone – including Amnesty International’s three million members and supporters in more than 150 countries and territories – to encourage at least one other person to take action for human rights.

The launch of the global initiative will see, dozens of countries from Argentina to Ghana to Turkey to New Zealand holding a symbolic toast to freedom. This global event pays tribute to the tale of two Portuguese students imprisoned for raising their glasses to liberty – an injustice that so outraged British lawyer Peter Benenson that he launched Amnesty International on 28 May 1961.

“Since the Amnesty International candle first shone a light on the world’s hellholes, there has been a human rights revolution. The call for freedom, justice and dignity has moved from the margins and is now a truly global demand,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

But despite progress, human rights violations are at the heart of key challenges facing the world today.

Governments are failing to uphold the promises of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and are fuelling or ignoring violations. Almost two-thirds of humanity lacks access to justice; abuses are driving and deepening poverty; discrimination against women is rife; and in the last year alone Amnesty International has documented torture and ill-treatment in at least 98 countries.

Salil Shetty said that activism is a powerful force for change, as shown by the brave protestors in the Arab Spring.

“We can offer something that the forces of repression can never contain or silence: people united in common action; the sharp and powerful rallying of public opinion; the lighting of one candle at a time until millions of candles expose injustice, and create pressure for change,” he said.

Amnesty International will this year focus on six areas where people power can create real improvements: freedom of expression, abolition of the death penalty, reproductive rights for women and girls in Nicaragua, ensuring international justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo, corporate accountability in the Niger Delta, and ending injustice and oppression in the Middle East and North Africa.

For half a century Amnesty International – the world’s largest human rights organization – has borne witness to abuses and atrocities, has offered hope to the oppressed and forgotten, and has campaigned with innovation and determination for justice.

It has played a leading role in making torturers international outlaws, in ending the untouchable status of leaders accused of human rights crimes, in the creation of the International Criminal Court and in achieving unstoppable momentum towards a death penalty-free world.

In 1977, Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Throughout its history, Amnesty International has evolved and adapted to meet the challenges presented by a rapidly changing world. Its on-going work for prisoners of conscience – tens of thousands of whom have been released since 1961 – is now accompanied by action to uphold the whole spectrum of rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Today people worldwide are increasingly expressing their desire for both political and economic rights – showing that despite the claims of some governments, rights cannot be ranked or traded. All rights – whether socio-economic or political – must be respected together if we are to achieve freedom from fear and want,” said Salil Shetty.

The challenge remains above all to hold states – which have ultimate responsibility for delivering human rights – accountable. But corporations and armed groups must also fully respect human rights and be held accountable for their actions.

“50 years of standing up to tyranny and injustice has shown that change is possible and that people united in common action across borders and beliefs can achieve extraordinary things. Every individual can make a difference, but millions standing together and uniting against injustice can change the world,” said Salil Shetty.

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Adolfo Rivero Caro: Human Rights Pioneer & A Prisoner to His Conscience

Remembering my friend Adolfo Rivero Caro on the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of Amnesty International

I am saddened to announce that Adolfo Rivero Caro has passed away. He was one of the founders of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, a former prisoner of conscience, a newspaper columnist, author and a friend I'd known since the early 1990s. He was a man of firm convictions and the courage to both debate them and live them out in the public arena. He was an intellectual.

Adolfo Rivero Caro born into a life of privilege, son of a journalist, sent to the best schools absorbed and analyzed the information about him and despite the personal consequences embraced Marxist-Leninist ideas in his youth and joined the revolutionary underground against the then Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s.

When the Communist revolution achieved power in Cuba and displayed its arbitrary and dictatorial characteristics, despite a comfortable post as a professor of Marxist philosophy at the University of Havana in 1968 he was one of the authors of a profound left wing critique of the Cuban revolution. It was the first substantial break with the communist party from its own ranks. Once again Adolfo Rivero's conscience demanded that he denounce injustices and challenge them.

Others that joined him in this endeavor such as Modesto Arocha and Ricardo Bofill would face detentions and prison but would also become lifelong friends and found a human rights movement. Later he would write about the forgotten right: the right to property.

Over the 75 years of his life he evolved politically from a Marxist-Leninist in his youth to a founder of the Cuban human rights movement in his middle age and into a Cuban neoconservative and public intellectual in his later years. Towards the end of his life he began to focus on the Gramscian cultural war in the United States and went beyond neoconservatism. However, he always remained a vigilant defender and activist for Cuba's freedom movement. In an essay titled "Cuba: The Unnecessary Revolution" he offered the following analysis:
It is very difficult to overthrow a totalitarian dictatorship. Nobody has ever done it. Cubans have fought. Thousands have died in front of the firing squads and hundreds of thousands have languished in the Cuban gulag for resisting Castro's regime. Mario Chanes de Armas, Fidel Castro's companion in the assault on the Moncada Barracks, became the longest-standing political prisoner in the world, at thirty years in jail, for opposing Castro's dictatorship.
Despite the above pessimism, Adolfo Rivero Caro stood up and defied the totalitarian system in 1968 when that meant losing your job, imprisonment, your family destroyed and the possibility of an extrajudicial death. Within Cuba's prisons Adolfo founded along with Ricardo Bofill and others in 1976 the Cuban Committee for Human Rights. In 2006 on the thirtieth anniversary of its founding in the essay Anniversary he described the precarious beginnings of the movement:
Our human rights movement emerged as a strictly Cuban initiative that for a long time lacked almost all sympathy or solidarity abroad. Everyone had a hard time believing that open defiance of the regime itself could only be a clever provocation. Gradually, however, Ricardo Bofill's suicidal stubbornness convinced a few supporters of the importance of the utility of the human rights issue as a weapon in the struggle against the totalitarian dictatorship of Fidel Castro.
Adolfo beginning in 1968 would struggle on for 20 years departing Cuba in 1988 for exile in France arriving in Miami in 1989 but he never forgot those who stayed behind to carry on the struggle:
Today there are hundreds of dissidents who struggle within the country despite being fired from work, jailed, beaten and constantly harassed. There are independent journalists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, librarians, and even political parties. You can ask for their names, their addresses. [...] Dissidents in Cuba show the way of the future. All of them should be released immediately and unconditionally. While Castro and its communist dictatorship remains in power, there is no hope for real change.
Adolfo recognized that the struggle to overthrow a totalitarian dictatorship was difficult but that as long as the regime and the Castros endured there would be no change. It was the dissident movement he helped to found that challenged the dictatorship and its totalitarian nature by merely existing. He also observed the importance of the Cuban exile community stating:
Outside Cuba, the Cuban Exile Community has not forgotten its homeland and simply melted with the population of the greatest country in the world, the United States of America. Though that would be a natural option and though probably very few will ever return to Cuba, it would also mean to turn its back on their homeland and its noble people. That will never happen. They need us. One day, Cuba will be free. Communism has already lost. The future belongs to democracy.
Over the past few years we met a handful of times, often when a mutual friend David Landau was visiting him in town, and we vigorously debated US foreign policy. ( Adolfo was a supporter of President George W. Bush's policies whereas I tended more towards Ron Paul's policies prescriptions with some notable exceptions). Let me also say for the record that Adolfo reproduced a couple of my essays on his website: Abandoned Battlefield(2001) and The Final Chapter (2003). He encouraged young activists to engage in the battle of ideas giving his time and challenging underlying assumptions in debate and dialogue.

In 1996 Adolfo Rivero Caro provided a detailed lecture on the origins and development of the Cuban Communist Party to the Free Cuba Foundation, an FIU student group, and described his own role in the communist underground and participation in the early days of the Revolution. He also told us about his brother Emilio-Adolfo Rivero Caro who had also been involved in the struggle against Fulgencio Batista but was part of the anti-communist resistance to the dictatorship. Emilio-Adolfo left Cuba, returned and was captured during the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Adolfo Rivero described how he was approached by "comrades" within the regime and asked what should be done with his captured brother Emilio-Adolfo and he told us that he had asked them to have his brother executed by firing squad believing that it was more humane then 30 years in one of the Castro regime's prisons. Courageous, truthful and disregarding the consequences of what others might say or think he provided a group of students a deep understanding of the kind of system operating in Cuba and its brutal nature.

I regret that I hadn't spoken with Adolfo in months and although I knew that he had health troubles did not appreciate the full gravity of his condition. Until very near the end he kept writing and his opinion pieces appeared in El Nuevo Herald and on his website Neoliberalismo. Adolfo's passing has taught me a vital lesson: Do not take your friends for granted nor believe that maintaining contact through cyberspace is a suitable measure of keeping up to date.

Today, there will be a wake for Adolfo Rivero Caro at 4:00pm that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of Amnesty International. It was Amnesty that coined the term "prisoner of conscience" in 1961. Adolfo Rivero Caro was a prisoner of conscience in Cuba together with other members of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights among them: Ricardo Bofill, Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, and Gustavo Arcos Bergnes all imprisoned for defending human rights and dignity.

Agree or disagree with Adolfo Rivero Caro's positions over the years but never doubt that in addition to having been a prisoner of conscience under the Castro regime that he was a prisoner to his conscience throughout his life and always spoke truth to power no matter how unpopular or dangerous. He will be greatly missed. Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cuba: A place where asking questions can lead you to prison

"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." -Rosa Parks

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera

Update #3:
SOS from Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" on twitter on June 16, 2011: Regime police brutally beat Yris in the head a few days ago. She has not recovered. Needs protection and a medical doctor urgently. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández on twitter today reported: "State Security prevented Antunez from taking his wife, recently hit in the head, for a medical consultation to a hospital in Havana."

Update #2:
SOS from Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" on twitter on Saturday May 28, 2011 : "Yris my wife with headaches and numbness in right cheek. I hold Castro brothers responsible for what happens to Yris as a result of police brutality she suffered. What was Yris's crime? Go outside peacefully to the streets with clothes inside out in protest? Caridad Caballero Batista, whereabouts continue to be unknown. We fear for her life."

Yris is accounted for and back with her family as of Friday, May 27, 2011. Bloodied, bruised and disoriented from the beating suffered at the hand of Cuban state security but thankfully alive according to an early afternoon tweet from her husband.

In Cuba, marching nonviolently to remember victims of the dictatorship such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Pedro Luis Boitel can have dire consequences even for a mother. Scores of Cuban human rights defenders and activists were detained, roughed up, and in at least one case both their whereabouts and health status remain unknown.

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, heads the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, a human rights movement in Cuba, named after Rosa Parks. She's suffered repression at the hands of the dictatorship before when she spoke out on behalf of a young man abused by the police and was the victim of racial epithets hurled at her by regime officials. There is a case to be made that the regime in Cuba has issues with racism.

Her husband, arrested along with her and still detained (but his location and health status are known) is Jorge Luis García Pérez, an opposition leader in the locality of Placetas, who was imprisoned on March 15, 1990 for "oral enemy propaganda" when he spoke out in favor of Eastern European style reforms in Cuba. García Pérez, known as "Antunez", was finally released more than 17 years later on April 22, 2007, having served one of the longest sentences for the present generation of political prisoners on the island. While in prison he founded along with others, an organization called the Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoner’s Movement. In November of 2009 he founded the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front.adding the name after the Front's founding in honor of a prisoner of conscience who died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010.

A violent assault

A State Security agent who goes by the nickname “ the weightlifter” on the morning of May 25, 2011 at the end of an activity in remembrance of both
Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Pedro Luis Boitel beat up Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera so badly that according to Cuban activist, Donaida Pérez Paseiro, she lost consciousness and when Yris came to she was suffering from nausea, a headache, dizziness and her hands were numb. She was arrested and jailed then taken to the hospital only to be returned to a cell but here whereabouts have been unaccounted for since then.

Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and her husband, Jorge Luis García Pérez

When activists
Donaida Pérez Paseiro and Yaimara Reyes Mesa went to the General Hospital in Placetas to ask about Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera's condition following the beating and loss of consciousness the two activists were arrested, beaten and held until 11pm on the evening of May 25th when they were released. They said that at that moment they saw a handcuffed Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera in a patrol car. Since then her whereabouts are unknown and neither friends nor family have seen her or learned about her location when questioning the authorities.

More arrests

Today, activists were detained as they walked towards State Security headquarters to try and find out the whereabouts of
Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and what had been done to the young activist as well as to request the release of all the detained activists. The march was led by Librado Linares, one of the prisoners of conscience released this past spring after more than 7 years in prison, who was the one designated to speak to the State Security agents representing the group. Víctor Castillo Ortega, José Lino Ascencio López, Mayda Conlledo García, Yanisbel Valido Pérez, Alberto Reyes Morales, Michel Oliva López, Félix Reyes Gutiérrez, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández (the 2011 Sakharov Prize winner), Guillermo Del Sol Pérez, Ana Alfonso Arteaga, Chichi Bernal Serpa and Librado Linares García were all arrested and at this hour remain in detention.

Video above is from a February 2011 arrest of Yris

This is not the first time that state security agents have beaten up women exercising their freedom of expression. For example
Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda on October 7, 2010 marching with a banner that read "Down With Racism & Long Live Human Rights" were detained by police and badly beaten. According to Garro and Fresneda they were detained at the police station for seven hours where they were beaten. Sonia Garro suffered a fracture of the nasal septum and Mercedes Fresneda a broken left wrist among other injuries according to the EFE newswire.

However, this time it seems to be a coordinated effort to terrorize and repress at all levels. Today, Marcos Maikel (age 33) and Antonio Michel Lima Cruz (age 28), were sentenced to three and two years in prison (respectively) for "disrespect of patriotic symbols."

A slow motion crackdown

There is slow motion crackdown underway in Cuba. Some questions that arise: How long are the detentions and prison sentences and how violent are the Cuban State Security beat downs of nonviolent activists going to be?
The death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia three days after a beat down by the political police of the Cuban dictatorship along with beat downs of Angel Moya Acosta and Sara Marta Fonseca indicate this is policy, not an isolated incident by over enthusiastic police.

In Cuba asking these questions and requesting the freedom of innocent nonviolent activists can get you arrested and beaten up. Celebrate the courage of those willing to risk all for their fellow citizens and at the same time living in the free world please take a moment and speak out for them.

What better way to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Amnesty International?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Basque terrorists and their shifting fortunes in Cuba

Cuba is on the United States State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism and has been since 1982. There is a long history dating back to the Castro brothers using terrorist tactics in the struggle against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s and perhaps even before that. The organizing of an international guerrilla and terrorist front at the Tricontinental meeting in Havana and the training of individuals such as Abu Nidal whose terrorist tactics would be adopted a generation later by Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network offers a demonstration of the fruits born from meetings held in Cuba in 1966 and 1967. Terrorism has long existed in human history but in 1966 and 1967 for the first time it was organized internationally in a systematic fashion. Now in 2011 part of that history is again surfacing with the shifting fortunes of members of the Basque terrorist group known as E.T.A. residing in Cuba. Below is an English translation of an essay by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez that offers a first hand account and reflection.

From Hosts to Jailers

by Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y

I was eight months pregnant when I met two Basque radicals living in Cuba, Rosa and Carlos, or at least that’s what they called themselves then. They invited us to their Miramar mansion for a party with troubadours and chorizos. They had some sources for Serrano ham and dried fruit, foods we only knew of from the movies. But not even the aromas and flavors could dispel our rising doubts as we observed them. How did these people manage to live in a such a place, with a car with private plates and such a well-stocked pantry? What had they done to access privileges unthinkable for nationals?

My son was born a month later, the Serrano ham didn’t reappear in my life for many years and a decade later I ran into Carlos in the street. I called him by name but he didn’t answer. He jumped as fast as he could into a car and lost himself in the bustle of Avenue Reina. Of Rosa, I knew that she had moved and was now introducing herself as Daniela. Her new facade was distributing tour packages. But, as happens in Havana, stories were rife, gossip circulated, secrets made the rounds, and I learned that they were wanted by Spanish justice and the mansion to which they’d been assigned functioned as an official guest house. The two of them could not return–under their real identities–to Spain.

Nonetheless, their pampered refuge came to an end. Today their hosts have become their jailers. The same government that one day sheltered and provided them resources has refused, for months now, to falsify new passports so they can go to France or some other place. I don’t know under what new names Rosa and Carlos are known, where they are living, or how many of their previous privileges they have now lost. I imagine they have ended up confined to this Island, distrustful of those around them, cursing their fellow travelers who gave them shelter, those “generous” protectors of earlier days, who ended up imprisoning them here.

The real score on Cuban healthcare and prenatal care

Over the past couple of years this blog has had several posts on the myths about the healthcare system in Cuba outlining both the horrors committed against patients in places like Mazorra; the lack of decent facilities and the systematic effort by the regime to cover up these realities despite exposure by wikileaks. On Saturday, May 21, 2011 a blog post by Claudia Cadelo of Octavo Cerco titled One More Number in Statistics (Un número en la estadística) succinctly exposes the reality lived by a Cuban woman undergoing a pregnancy on the island. Below the English translation is reproduced and the original Spanish can be found here.

One More Number in the Statistics

by Claudia Cadelo

Breakfast 7:00am: 1 C. coffee with milk, 1 tsp sugar, 1 fruit, 1 bread, 1 tsp. butter or mayonnaise. Lunch 1:00pm: 3 large spoons rice; 1/2 C. vegetables; 1/2 C. squash, beets, or carrots; meat, chicken, fish, egg or liver; salad, eat freely; 4 tsps. jam. Dinner 7:00pm ( same as lunch). Snacks 10:00am; 4:00pm; 10:30pm: 1 C milk or yogurt, 1 tsp sugar, fruit.

E. is 38 and pregnant. She feels like one more number in the statistics. The other day she called me when she was leaving the polyclinic to say she was coming over. They couldn’t do any more. Half the tests couldn’t be done because they didn’t have the reagents, even though they sent the prescription paper back smeared with someone else’s blood. She’d been up since five in the morning and at ten still hadn’t had breakfast, and to top it off the doctor asked her, “Honey, why did you wait so long to give birth? Now I have to do an electrocardiogram.”

The first thing she said when she saw me was, “I thought the state of education was bad, but now that I’ve come up against the public health system...” E. is like me, very small, but much skinnier. Before her pregnancy she weighed 89 pounds and now, at two months, she weighs 113 and her hemoglobin count is 12.5. Still, the nutritionist thinks she is underweight and has recommended “moving into a maternal home.” She gave her a copy of a diet to follow to the letter. When she showed it to me I started to laugh, but to her there was nothing funny about it.

She has to get up at seven in the morning to have breakfast and this first meal of the day includes a tablespoon of mayonnaise, whose nutritive properties are unknown to me. Throughout the day she must must meet the standard of six large spoons of rice and two ladles of beans (half at lunch and half at dinner, every day until the baby comes). Meat is not defined by quantity and she must eat a half cup of guava jam every day.

I wonder if the diet is to nurture her or to fatten her up. Probably the doctor isn’t authorized to recommend eating certain products like meat or much fish, but at least they should have the decency not to put pregnant women on diets designed to fatten turkeys to make foie gras. In response to the psychologist’s long awaited, “How do you feel?” E. answered, “Fine, but I’d feel better if I didn’t have to come to this polyclinic any more.”

Yang Jianli addresses UN briefing on improving Human Rights Council membership

Former Chinese prisoner of conscience Yang Jianli of Initiatives for China addresses luncheon conference briefing on Thursday, May 19, 2011 to lobby for an improved membership on the UN Human Rights Council. Current members of concern include China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia, Bahrain and Pakistan. He outlined practices by the Chinese government that should disqualify it from membership on the Council.

Three days before the UN chooses 15 new member states to its Human Rights Council, human rights groups today said Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua failed to meet the membership criteria, while the qualifications of India, Indonesia, Philippines and Burkina Faso were "questionable."

Voting recommendations were submitted on May 17, 2011 to the New York missions of UN member states by the Geneva-based UN Watch, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Directorio Democratico Cubano, and Initiatives for China.

Congo and Kuwait, despite horrible human rights records were elected to the UN Human Rights Council but Nicaragua was not elected.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saving the United Nations Human Rights Council

Geneva-based UN Watch, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Cuban Democratic Directorate, and Initiatives for China, which is headed by former Chinese prisoner of conscience Yang Jianli presented recommendations on elections for candidates to the UN Human Rights Council and held a luncheon at the United Nations in New York on May 19, 2011. The following is the brief address I made at the luncheon.

United Nations Building in New York City in 2011

What are the consequences of a country with questionable credentials having a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)? The answer is found in Cuba's tenure on the Council which ends in 2012. In addition to membership on the UNHRC one of the vice-presidents is Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez, the ambassador of the Cuban dictatorship.

The Castro regime's tenure on the Human Rights Council has harmed the Council. A few high profile incidents will dramatize some of the damage done:

The non-invitation invitation of Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, by the Cuban Ambassador and the Cuban Minister of Justice in January of 2009 to visit Cuba later that same year. Only to be put off without notice again and again through 2009 and 2010 leading to this expert missing opportunities to visit other countries caught. Incidentally, the last time the Cuban government permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Cuban prisons was 1989. The previous time was 1959.

On February 2, 2009 during the Universal Periodic Review of China the then Cuban Ambassador, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios encouraged the Chinese regime to repress human rights defenders in China with more firmness.

On May 28, 2009 the amidst a human rights crisis in Sri Lanka the Cuban government's diplomats took the lead and successfully blocked efforts to address the wholesale slaughter there.

United Nations Building, New York City 2011

Now the argument made by some UN officials is that having countries with systematic human rights violations on the Council offers them an exposure to human rights that changes them for the better. In practice, the opposite appears to be the case. The Human Rights Council did not change these regimes. They've changed the Human Rights Council for the worse.

In the case of Cuba during their tenure on the Council human rights continue to be systematically violated. On February 23, 2010 Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a human rights defender, died after a long hunger strike during which over a period of 18 days he was denied water by prison officials contributing to his death. On May 5, 2011 human rights defender Juan Wilfredo Soto was beaten up in a public park by the political police and died three days later on May 8, 2011.

Acts of repudiation organized by Cuban State Security and physical assaults against dissidents remains standard practice and have increased both in frequency and brutality.

In 2004 in the old UN Human Rights Commission after losing a vote, a young Cuban diplomat physically assaulted a 60 year old man - who was part of the American delegation - attacking him from behind in front of numerous eyewitnesses. Despite this the Cuban dictatorship was elected as a member on the new UN Human Rights Council.

As Katrina Lantos Swett citing Adlai Stevenson stated earlier: "Solutions begin by telling the truth." Many do not take the UN Human Rights Council seriously because it lacks an enforcement mechanism, but nevertheless telling the truth is important in and of itself and is powerful.

Saving the Human Rights Council by at least naming and shaming serious human rights violators and demanding that States in the General Assembly take seriously the importance of voting new members onto the UN Human Rights Council who respect human rights would be two important first steps. This is why it is so important that Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua not be voted onto the Human Rights Council. The alternative which has been observed over the past five years is a trivialization of the Human Rights Council by those regimes that have a vested interest in its failure.

United Nations Building, New York City 2011

Update: The news of the defeat of Nicaragua is good news for the Latin American region and the Council but the election of Congo and Kuwait along with votes for Syria, who'd pulled out because of the mass human rights violations being committed shamed it off the list is troubling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Freedom riders demonstrate both the power and triumph of nonviolence

Our triumph consists again in being imprisoned for no wrong whatsoever. - Mohandas Gandhi

John Lewis in 1961

"Boarding that Greyhound bus to travel through the heart of the Deep South I felt good. I felt happy. I felt liberated. I was like a soldier in a nonviolent army" - Representative John Lewis, Freedom Riders trailer, American Experience, 2011

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland in 1961

"They can cause change for good. That they have the power and I hope that they will learn from our experience ways of looking at things -- thinking outside the box daring to do things that most people wouldn't. I hope they get ideas of how to tackle the problems of today." - Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, PBS Newshour May 13, 2011

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Imagine for a moment hundreds of young Americans threatened, attacked, imprisoned and responding with nonviolent resistance. This happened in the Freedom Rides initiated by the Congress of Racial Equality on May 16, 1961. Fifty years later they still gather to remember what happened and to tell new generations that they too can make a difference for the better.

American Experience offers a powerful image with an interesting question: "Could you get on the bus?" I think the more provocative question is "Would you get on the bus?" Knowing what awaited the riders as they traveled further into segregationist territory.

Freedom Riders bus firebombed by racists in 1961

Buses were burned and people were hurt. Its a miracle that no one died on the Freedom Rides but we know that other nonviolent civil rights activists were indeed murdered. The students who participated in the last portion of the freedom rides had written their last wills and testaments. Would you get on the bus knowing all of this?

John Lewis and James Zwerg after being attacked in Montgomery, AL in 1961

This movement, along with the American Civil Rights movement in general was inspired by the nonviolent teachings and philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi. The struggle for freedom requires full effort. The Freedom Riders demonstrated that in 1961 and changed the United States of America for the better. Below is a featured excerpt that describes the link between the Civil Rights Movement and Gandhi:

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Fifty years later let us remember and honor the hundreds of young and courageous men and women who not only could get on the bus but decided that they would risk everything to take a ride for freedom.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Amnesty International: Cuba must investigate beating and death of dissident

10 May 2011

Cuba must immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into the death of a dissident that followed a public police beating, Amnesty International said today.

Former political prisoner Juan Wilfredo Soto died in hospital on Sunday in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, three days after he reported being beaten following his arrest by police officers in a park.

“The Cuban authorities need to immediately establish an independent inquiry into the causes of Juan Wilfredo Soto’s death. If he ultimately died as a result of a police beating in Park Vidal, those responsible must face justice,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

The Cuban government has strongly denied its security forces played any role in Soto’s death. Hospital sources have reportedly stated he died from “acute pancreatitis”, a condition which can be triggered by abdominal trauma among other things.

Soto belonged to Foro Antitotalitario Unido, an organization led by prominent dissident Guillermo Fariñas, serving as the Secretary for Political Prisoners in Santa Clara. He had previously been imprisoned for 12 years for his dissenting activities.

According to Fariñas, on 5 May at around 9am, two national police officers approached Soto in Park Vidal, asked him for his ID and then asked him to leave the park. He refused to comply and protested verbally against the expulsion. He was allegedly cuffed with his hands behind his back, then beaten with batons because he continued to protest his arrest.

Soto was detained at a police station, then hospitalised that day. He was released from hospital the same afternoon only to return a day later to the intensive care unit, complaining of severe back pain. He died at the hospital on the night of Saturday to Sunday.

A local source told Amnesty International that he bumped into Soto as he was going to the hospital on 5 May. According to the source, upon meeting him, Soto said “I just got a beating in the park with batons and I’ve got a very sore back. These people killed me.” Soto’s pre-existing medical conditions included gout, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

“There are too many unanswered questions. There needs to be a thorough investigation of what happened to Juan Wilfredo Soto in the park, at the police station, and at the hospital,” said Javier Zuñiga.

“We are particularly concerned by this case because it takes place against a backdrop of ongoing harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest of dissidents over the past few months, and increasing reports of beatings of dissidents by police.”

The Cuban authorities are continuing to stifle freedom of expression on the island in spite of a much-publicised recent wave of releases of prominent dissidents.

Soto engaged in street trading in and around the park Vidal, because his political activism had resulted in him losing his job as a construction worker according to Guillermo Fariñas. It is unclear whether the police officers initially asked him to leave the park because of his activism or his trading activities.

Read More

Repression of Cuban dissidents persists despite releases (News, 16 March 2011)
Cuba must release prisoner of conscience on hunger strike (News story, 11 March 2011)
Cuba urged to release jailed activists (News story, 7 February 2011)

International Reaction to the Extrajudicial Killing of Juan Wilfredo Soto García

Juan Wilfredo Soto García beaten and arrested by Cuban regime police on Thursday, May 5, 2011 while protesting the dictatorship died early on Sunday May 8, 2011. He was buried on Sunday on Mother's Day. The response of the international community and the calls for an investigation offer hope that justice will be done in this case.

On May 12, 2011, Representative Albio Sires of New Jersey spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to condemn the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto in Cuba.

Minister of State Hoyer calls for clarification of the circumstances surrounding the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto in Cuba


After the death of Cuban dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto, Minister of State Werner Hoyer today issued the following statement:

"I am deeply saddened by the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto and would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to his next of kin.
The German Government urges the Cuban Government to investigate and clarify the circumstances that led to the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto. Reports on the maltreatment of Mr Soto by Cuban police officers stands in sharp contrast to the positive signal sent out by the release of political prisoners during recent months and may thwart the related hope for a fundamental improvement of the human rights situation in Cuba.”

The Cuban dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto died on Sunday in his hometown of Santa Clara. The opposition claims he was beaten up by the police in a public park. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights linked Mr Soto’s death directly to the violence used by the police.

According to Guillermo Fariñas, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, his co-worker Juan Wilfredo Soto suffered from a number of chronic conditions. As a result of his critical stance towards the Cuban Government Mr Soto had spent twelve years in detention.

Foreign Ministry Statement on the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto García

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland expresses sadness and grief at the death of Cuban government opponent Juan Wilfredo Soto García on 8 May 2011. We wish to offer our deepest sympathies to the family of the late dissident.Poland expresses profound concern over the circumstances of Juan Wilfredo Soto García’s death. According to witnesses' admission, three days before, i.e. on 5 May 2011, Juan Wilfredo Soto García had been severely beaten by police. Poland calls on the Cuban authorities to explain all circumstances behind his death and reiterates its appeal to Cuba’s authorities to stop all activities that abuse human rights.

Marcin Bosacki
Press Spokesman

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on death of Cuban dissident and political prisoner Juan Wilfred Soto García

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic received with great concern the sad news of the unfortunate death of the Cuban dissident and former political prisoner Mr. Juan Wilfredo Soto García. We are especially concerned with the unclear circumstances of his death. We would like to express our sincere condolences to family and friends.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic urges the Cuban Authorities to perform a thorough investigation leading to full clarification of causes of Mr. Juan Wilfredo Soto García’s death.