Friday, November 30, 2012

Sonia Garro and the cost of Castro's repression

Sonia Garro Alfonso arbitrarily detained since 3/18/12
Amnesty International reported on July 18, 2012 that "Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, were arrested at their home in Havana [on March 18, 2012]: around 50 police forced their way into the house and fired rubber bullets at them. According to her sister, Sonia Garro Alfonso was wounded in the foot by one of these bullets." In the same document it is revealed that "Sonia Garro Alfonso was suffering a kidney problem before her arrest that may require surgery. "

Sonia Garro Alfonso after 2010 assault
She has also been a victim of political violence at the hands of state security agents when she took part in a march on Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 23rd Avenue in Havana with a sheet with the inscription "Down With Racism & Long Live Human Rights" when she was detained by police for seven hours where she was beaten. Sonia Garro Alfonso suffered a fracture of the nasal septum among other injuries reported by the EFE newswire.

Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband should never have been arrested, much less arbitrarily detained over these past eight months. The human cost of the dictatorship is difficult to measure but take into account that Sonia and Ramón have a young daughter who has not been able to live with her parents for all this time. Her name is Elaine Muñoz Garro and she is also a victim of the Castro regime.

Elaine Muñoz Garro

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Life in a totalitarian society: A thought experiment

Empathy: n. 1. Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.

Mother and Son

 A thought experiment.

You are a human rights defender in a totalitarian country. You are also a mother, a wife, and a sister.

You have a grown son who his entire life has been mentally challenged but has a love for working on mechanical things.

One day secret policemen come to you and demand that you become an informant spying on other members of the human rights group of which you are a member. You reject their offer saying that you will not be subjected to blackmail.

They warn you that your son will pay.

Three days later he is arrested and held in custody for nine months and then subjected to a show trial and given a 12 year prison sentence.

You respond by denouncing the blackmail and demanding the immediate release of your innocent son.

Two years pass and your son is still unjustly imprisoned and international attention draws some attention to his plight.

Early one morning your sister, who is a cancer survivor, gets a phone call they ask her if she is related to you and they ask you her son's name. You answer all their questions truthfully and then they tell you to talk to your sister and take care of your son or he will wind up the same way.

Unfortunately, this "though experiment" is a reality for Rosa María Rodríguez Gil, her son Josvany Melchor Rodríguez and her sister Dalia Margarita Rodríguez. They are victims of the totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba that is now engaged in such repressive and threatening actions.

Oswaldo Payá died in a suspicious car accident on July 22, 2012 along with another member of his movement, Harold Cepero, but months earlier in an interview with the Associated Press he addressed this case:
"There are political prisoners in Cuba; the son of a member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was sentenced to 12 years in jail for the sole reason of being the son of a MCL member. His name is Yosvany Melchor Rodriguez and he was artificially condemned in Santiago de Cuba on November 30, 2010, after his mother was threatened by state security forces for not wanting to cooperate against us."
The question that should be gnawing at you after reading all this: What can I do? 
 If you want some answers than leave a comment and you will get a response.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interview with Antonio G. Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles calls on Cubans to reject violence

From an interview by Ivette Leyva Martinez in Cafe Fuerte:

After 19 days of detention in a police station in Havana, Antonio G. Rodiles was released convinced that the best path to a better Cuba is through the rejection of violence.

His violent arrest sparked an intense campaign of international solidarity.

The activist was fined 800 Cuban pesos [approximately $30 U.S.]. He will not go to trial.

CF: What do you take away from this experience?

AR: I say to my friends and others with whom I have spoken, that my main experience is that at this moment in Cuba there are a great many people who understand that the country has to change, and that people thinking differently, that people having different views of things, political, ideological, is not a reason for people to hate them or to not respect them but, sadly, there is a group of people who up to now have demonstrated that they have carte blanche to use violence, who are committed to creating situations like this one and I think, what’s more, they are committed to creating even more critical situations.

I think it’s very important that all national and international public opinion support civil society activists because these people are not the preponderance of the people in this country.

Definitely what they did to me was a vulgar beating and it was planned by them ahead of time.

CF: Your followers and the people who have followed your case insisted that there had been violence especially against you. What precisely happened that day of your arrest?

AR: An official who has become known for beating and abusing people, whose alias is “Camilo,” crossed Avenue 31 [in the Havana municipality of Diez de Octubre] with a group of people, crossed directly to beat me. He says “identification” or “ID card,” something like that, but simply to mention it. No one in uniform came, they didn’t identify themselves, and they immediately pounced on me.

When I put out my hands so they wouldn’t grab me, they rained punches down on me. They grabbed me by the neck, and threw me to the ground, there was a group of between 10 and 15 people — people who were there said it was something like 12. And when they threw me on the ground they began to kick me, to punch me, and at that moment someone punched me in the left eye, thank God their knuckle didn’t go into my eyeball, only the edge, this gave me a strong contusion in the eye which even bled. After they picked me up, they took me to the cop car, and against the car they were still hitting me, in the chest, all my ribs, it was a total beating. Thank God I didn’t have any fractures but I certainly could have.

CF: In the dungeon, what else did they do and how did they treat you?

AR: When they took me to the detention center on Acosta Avenue, which is a center for ordinary crimes of the Police Technical Department of Investigations (DTI), on arriving there, there was still this individual Camilo with two other characters he goes around with, who were also trying to provoke me, manhandling me, trying to provoke an incident.

This individual Camilo recorded me with a video camera, everything that was going on, but there appeared a major from the police station itself and these things were stopped until they took me to the cell. And yes, the next day, the people who had charge of me in that place had a completely different attitude. It was one of total respect, both physically as well as my moral integrity. I had medical attention, the doctor was a very kind person, she checked me over completely, looked at my eye, healed the eye. And the officials there, of the police, they behaved with respect.

It’s also incredible how the prisoners identify with people who come there for political reasons and they always call you “political” and the people are in solidarity with you.

CF: Do you think the delay had to do with having you look better before they let you out?

AR: Yes, it’s possible that had some weight, evidently there was a lot of pressure from many different directions, I think. What they were trying, in my opinion, was a short detention, of a few months or something like that… but at first what they did was very rough, they made a circus out of it, including statements they made themselves that didn’t apply to the crime of “resistance” and then at the end they simply didn’t have much of a way to justify what was happening and well, they released me.

CF: The photo that was distributed showing you in the cell, is it real?

AR: As I have mentioned to several people I would have to look at it in detail, and since I got out the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. If it was taken, it was taken while I was sleeping. No one took any photo of me while I was awake, although they took a video on my arrival. But I can tell you, I have to see the photo calmly to be able to analyze it. I saw it from above, if it shows I was hit in the eye, and it was that area, I had a shirt like that, the color of the walls was similar and those things.

CF: What do you think the intentions are between the work of the police and the strategic tasks of the State Security?

AR: That’s hard to know being in a cell, is something that I can not fully distinguish, what I can tell you is that contrasting the treatment and attitude of the people of the State Security, who are clearly unscrupulous people, they strike without any restraint, and the treatment received at the DTI station, it was completely different.

CF: Will you continue Estado de Sats? What are your plans now?

AR: The project of course will continue and I would say even more forcefully. The idea of the project State of Sats, of the campaign “For Another Cuba,” has to do with respect for the rights of Cubans, with respect for the human being first and foremost, with the opportunity to debate, to openly discuss, and I think that with this beating this was the main thing they showed me: this way is the way for Cuba to change, and clearly violence is the enemy. Now more than ever I believe that the work requires total dedication.

I send a huge hug [to those who supported me], I’ve always said that in this type of situation those who most need support is the family and my elderly parents feel very very supported by everyone and this gave them tremendous strength.

Courtesy of Translating Cuba and Capitol Hill Cubans

Cuban sentenced to 2 years in prison for being a labor activist

Ulises González Moreno (photo: Ivan Hernandez Carrillo)

Iván Hernández Carrillo is reporting over his twitter account that Cuban labor union activist Ulises González Moreno was sentenced on November 28, 2012 to two years in prison for his labor organizing activities in a trial whose outcome had already been decided before it even started. The imprisoned activist's wife, Jacqueline Daly, is devastated by the news.

According to Cuba Sindical, González Moreno is 45 years old and was detained on November 15, 2012 at his home located in Concordia # 414 apartment 2 in Central Havana by two plain clothes state security agents who identified themselves as members of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT).

The following day when his wife went to where her husband was being detained she was told that he would be tried for "Peligrosidad Social" (Social Dangerousness), which indicates that the activist has a predilection to in a possible future commit a crime against the regime. This law has been used to persecute nonviolent activists.

Human Rights Watch in their 2009 report  New Castro, Same Cuba stated that the "Criminal Code offense of 'dangerousness,' which allows authorities to imprison individuals before they have committed any crime, on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offense in the future. This 'dangerousness' provision is overtly political, defining as 'dangerous' any behavior that contradicts Cuba's socialist norms." This is a thought crime and is profoundly Orwellian.

Ulises is a prisoner of conscience arrested, convicted and sentenced for what he thought and for what he might have done in the future as a labor organizer.

The following is a translation and compilation of some of the tweets sent out by Iván last night:

As customary, the tyranny rigged an arbitrary trial condemning Ulises González Moreno for being an independent unionist 

telephone of Jacqueline Daly, wife of Ulises González, condemned to 2 years in prison, is +0115358061724

Once again it is proven that in justice does not exist, here justice is blind.  

  Ulises González Moreno's wife very tense, disgusted, sad for her husband's unjust penalty of 2 years in prison

Ulises González Moreno and his wife Jacqueline Daly (photo: Ivan Hernandez Carrillo)
 One day after independent journalist and human rights defender Antonio Rodiles was released after 19 days in prison another activist, Ulises González Moreno, is unjustly sentenced to two years in prison for being an independent labor union activist and human rights defender. The repression in Cuba by a half-century old totalitarian dictatorship continues as does the need to resist it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Antonio Rodiles, Nonviolence and the Solidarity of the Shaken

"Now we must continue, of course, with greater strength. The moral is that things have to change and the violence has to end."- Antonio Rodiles

 "Until the day Cubans unite to impede that another is repressed, until that day they will continue to repress us. It is that day, this is already the day." - Father. Jose Conrado

Antonio Rodiles released from prison today (photo Yoani Sanchez)
 Antonio Rodiles was arrested on November 7, 2012 for inquiring about a colleague, independent lawyer and journalist Yaremis Flores, who had been imprisoned earlier that same day. He was beaten up, given a black eye and bruised all over he was then charged with "resisting authority" and threatened with remaining in his cell until the show trial ( in which it is understood that sentence is dictated by the dictatorship prior to the start of the trial). Thirty seven activists in total would be arrested over the course of November 7 and 8th, 2012. Yesterday afternoon we learned that Antonio Rodiles, the last of the 37 detained in the crackdown, had been freed after 19 days in a prison cell.

Picture smuggled out of detention of Antonio Rodiles
 There had been a national and international campaign for this activist's release and Amnesty International had issued a timely urgent action. Pictures had been smuggled out of the prison showing the black eye before it had completely healed. One of the reasons Rodiles was held for all this time was for the bruises and damage done by the beating to heal and not have is bloodied, bruised visage broadcast all over the world.

In addition to the important program of interviews he has conducted called State of SATS the testimony he offers in the Al Jazeera program People and Power below on the Cuban reality is powerful and accurate. It is this type of truth telling that unnerves totalitarian regimes.

Thankfully for the time being the solidarity of the shaken has been sufficient to free this courageous person.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Al Jazeera Reports on Nonviolent Opposition in Cuba

  Al Jazeera reporter with a hidden camera reports for the program People and Power on the nonviolent opposition in Cuba. The text below is taken from the youtube page where the video report has been posted.

After 53 years of revolution, Cubans are increasingly exasperated by the restrictions imposed on them by the country's change-averse communist regime. In spite of, or perhaps because of, recent modest economic reforms, activism is growing as the government's opponents overcome their fear of arrest and take to the streets. But it is not easy. Today, even the church based Ladies in White -- a group of women relatives of imprisoned activists - say they are routinely spied on and arrested. Nevertheless, inspired by the Arab Spring, the Ladies are determined to keep up their protests, sensing that the regime's grip on power is fading and that sooner rather than later it will be forced to give way.

Filmmaker view: Filming undercover in Cuba

Following the 2011 economic reforms announced by the Cuban government for the 52nd anniversary of the country's revolution, there was widespread speculation about the possibility of comparable political reforms that would end the persecution of dissidents and the Communist Party's grip on power.
But it took a courageous Cuban journalist to make an insightful current affairs programme about it. Today, that journalist, Ivan Hernandez, is in hiding.

My first ever attempt to meet up with Ivan in a Havana bar, back in September 2011, failed for fear of being arrested by the political police on his tail.

I was on a tourist visa and aware that any encounter with political dissidents could mean immediate expulsion from the country and a permanent ban from returning.

To Fidel Castro, Ivan is a "counter-revolutionary" working for the American right-wing Cuban lobby. In reality, Ivan is just an independent freelance journalist, albeit one with a very critical view of the Cuban Revolution.
But in 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring against the government and publishing "false information". He was sent to a high security compound, isolated in an individual cell and deprived of contact with anyone other than his guards for months on end. His crime was merely to write reports about how difficult life was for the ordinary Cuban.

In 2011, Ivan was freed as a gesture of good will on the part of Fidel Castro towards Pope Benedict, ahead of his 2012 visit to Cuba. The released prisoners were given the option of leaving the island. Most of them did. But not Ivan.

"This is my country," he told me when I asked him about his decision, "why would I leave? This is my calling, my mission - to tell the truth. Life is terrible here. There's a US blockade against Cuba, and inside Cuba there's a blockade of the government against the people."

I was impressed by Ivan's determination. I thought that following him undercover as we contacted other political dissidents and victims of state-sponsored violence could illustrate what it is like to be critical of Fidel Castro in Cuba today.

Ivan liked the idea and we worked out a way to make it happen without being arrested. First, the programme had to be anonymous to protect everybody connected with me in Cuba who was unaware of what I was doing. We feared reprisals against my landlord for renting out a room to me, or my friends and colleagues who live and work in Cuba. Any suspicion against them could end their careers and seriously affect their daily lives.

From the start, Ivan warned me that one-out-of-every-five Cubans is suspected of being a police informer and that few people can be absolutely trusted. He said we needed to film with mini hidden cameras and concoct a plausible cover story for me, the foreigner in the team.

In successive trips we took cameras into Cuba without raising any suspicions and in May 2012 we started shooting. The very first challenge was to portray the lives of dissidents under surveillance without being detected. We decided that giving the activists cameras to record their own video diaries was the best option.

We established a security protocol by which if the dissident with the camera did not report back to one of us within a specified period of time, we had to assume that he had been detained. We had a network of pre-determined "safe houses" and arrangements to call each other using public phones at a given time.
I taught Ivan some counter-surveillance techniques learned by covering other conflicts but he was well used to this himself.

Filming with Berta Soller, the leader of the Ladies in White protest movement, was one of our first tasks. Aware that her apartment was under constant surveillance we used a key-fob camera to get shots as we walked up to her building, although as it turned out, our work was made easier by the fact that too many policemen and "local informers" could be persuaded to look the other way for $5.

We managed to film five interviews without being followed. Then we took the decision to meet Antonio Rodiles, a 40-year-old with a degree in Physics who had left Cuba for work and had chosen to return to defy the government's censorship from within.

In 2010, Antonio founded Estado de SATS, or State of SATS. "SATS" is a Scandinavian word that refers to the instant just before the actor has to face the audience or the runner hears the bang. The moment of greatest concentration, the adrenaline rush that precedes an explosion. State of SATS is "an initiative of young artists, intellectuals and professionals in search of a better reality". The best known work of SATS are the film-debates, produced in Antonio's own home, that circulate with great success on Cuba's alternative information networks.

But Antonio's home was surrounded by CCTV cameras. Once inside the house, we went to check the backyard, which overlooks the sea, and as we were unpacking Antonio pointed out the CCTV cameras that could possibly be filming us.

"Come on, I'll show you." We followed him and filmed him pointing at the cameras. We had to assume from that point on that we might have been spotted. But we filmed the interview anyway and left looking over our shoulders. Once in the car, we decided to lay low for a day.

Our next mission was rather ambitious: to attempt to film a one-man protest against the government in Revolution Square. Ivan had advanced knowledge of the event through a contact and we had a couple of days to plan it.

We assigned a second crew, two European-looking Cubans, to film in the area in the guise of tourists at the time the protest was to take place. I would be covering the opposite end of the square to film the protest from afar. The protester, a rickshaw driver, had not even started holding up a sign that said "Down with Repression", when three policemen surrounded and handcuffed him.

I caught the moment on camera, but my colleagues, who were supposed to be closer to the action, were nowhere to be seen. I just did not know what had happened to them.

The police saw me. I turned off the camera. One of the agents who had just arrested the protester came up to me and grabbed the camera. He started flicking through the images, thinking they were stills. He could not see anything wrong but questioned me for 10 minutes, then warned me "be careful with what you film" and let me go.

I walked away from the square pretty fast. An hour later I met Ivan. Our second crew had been detained. That night, my landlord got a call from state security inquiring about me. He came to tell me with a worried look on his face. "What’s going on?" I bluffed my way out of it, but when he left, I took all my belongings and drove for two hours out of Havana.

Ivan continued filming on his own until July 22. That day, Oswaldo Paya, one of the most prominent dissidents, was killed in a car crash that his daughter claimed was "not an accident".

Ivan and I met. He wanted to film the funeral. He said it could turn into a demonstration. Knowing that I was now suspected we realised that if I went there after what happened, we risked losing everything we had filmed. So Ivan volunteered.

"I'll go and film it. I'll send you the footage in two weeks." He left in a hurry. I did not have time to even shake his hand.

Two weeks later, I got the footage from a colleague who had gone to Cuba as a tourist to pick it up. I emailed Ivan to confirm that I had received it. But he did not reply. His phone was permanently "out of range". I can only assume he is still in hiding.

Then on November 8, Antonio Rodiles, one of our main interviewees, was arrested and detained. This film, which will probably go to air as Antonio is in a cell for daring to speak his mind, will no doubt confirm the government's suspicions of him  - but like all the dissidents we spoke to in our film, he would not have had it any other way. Only by speaking out, they say, will Cubans bring change to their country.

There are some indications that Cuba may decide to allow emigration from January next year. Perhaps it is a sign that the government is finally acknowledging that economic reforms need to be followed by deep political reforms and a transition to democracy.

For the sake of Ivan, Berta Soller, Antonio and all the other dissidents, one can only hope so.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23: International Day to End Impunity

"The greatest incitement to guilt is the hope of sinning with impunity."- Cicero

Cuba is a country in which the culture of impunity has ruled over an entire people for over 53 years. Nonviolent human rights defenders such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, Laura Pollan, Wilman Villar Mendoza, Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero were all threatened at various times over their human rights and pro-democracy activism and all died under suspicious circumstances in which the dictatorship was clearly implicated.

Large scale massacres such as the July 13, 1994 tugboat massacre in which 37 men, women, and children were killed by agents of the Cuban government when the tug they were on was surrounded, attacked and sunk as they tried to flee Havana. None of the individuals responsible for this crime have ever been held accountable for their actions.

Four members of the humanitarian organization, Brothers to the Rescue, were shot down by Cuban MiGs while flying in two civilian airplanes while performing search and rescue for Cuban rafters on February 24, 1996 in international airspace. Justice has still been denied the victim's families.

One way to combat impunity is to remember the victims while gathering as much truthful information as possible in order to learn the truth and continue to seek justice.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange network (IFEX) has designated November 23 the Day to End Impunity. This presents an excellent opportunity for all people of good will to learn more about the nature of impunity and the every day actions they can take to combat it. 

The text below is reproduced from the webpage hosting this event and is an excellent overview. Highly recommended to also visit the Day to End Impunity site.

Culture of impunity - What does it mean?

A culture of impunity exists when those who seek to control the freedom of expression of others do so knowing that it is unlikely they will be held accountable for their actions.

Why a day?

Every day around the world artists, journalists, musicians, writers and free expression advocates are being silenced, often with no investigation or consequences to their perpetrators. The International Day to End Impunity, launched on 23 November 2011, marks the anniversary of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre in the Philippines, when 32 journalists and media workers were murdered. The goal of the Day is to achieve justice for those persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression by drawing global attention to the issue of impunity. The Day not only raises public awareness about what creates and sustains a culture of impunity, it also prompts concerned citizens world-wide to take action, make their voices heard and demand justice.

Who is IFEX?

International Freedom of Expression Exchange network (IFEX) is the global network of organisations committed to defending and promoting the right to freedom of expression. The International Day to End Impunity highlights the ways IFEX members are working to combat impunity.

For more information visit

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Easing Restraints on Castro Dictatorship Has Meant More Repression

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo and Aung San Suu Kyi

Damien Cave of The New York Times has written an article titled "Easing of Restraints in Cuba Renews Debate on U.S. Embargo" The essence of the anti-sanctions position in the story is made by Carlos Saladrigas:
“Maintaining this embargo, maintaining this hostility, all it does is strengthen and embolden the hard-liners,” said Carlos Saladrigas, a Cuban exile and co-chairman of the Cuba Study Group in Washington, which advocates engagement with Cuba. “What we should be doing is helping the reformers.” 
 The thesis put forth by Mr. Saladrigas is that lifting sanctions would weaken and dissuade hardliners while helping reformers. Over the past four years the Obama Administration has loosened economic sanctions in Cuba. If  Mr. Saladrigas's argument is correct then one should see that reformist elements in the regime are asserting themselves and winning policy discussions. That has not been the case. On the human rights front the situation has deteriorated.

Furthermore looking beyond Cuba to China, Vietnam and Burma one is presented with a cautionary tale on lifting sanctions unconditionally. In China and Vietnam the United States lifted sanctions unconditionally and have de-linked human rights considerations from economic considerations. The result has been a deterioration of human rights standards in both countries. On the other hand in Burma where sanctions were maintained the military junta, after years of trying to manipulate its way out from under them has had to recognize the political opposition and provide a space for them in Burma's parliament. Things are still far from perfect but there is hope that serious and permanent reforms are underway. The ability of Aung San Suu Kyi to travel in and out of her country and run for public office is a positive sign. The ability for an independent press to begin to operate in Burma following decades of systematic censorship and control is another positive sign.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been clear about the importance of sanctions and of confronting those that would engage the dictatorship of Burma at the expense of the human rights of the Burmese people:
Investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward égalité and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy. I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours.

What have we witnessed in Cuba over the past four years? The death under suspicious circumstances of national opposition figures such as Laura Inés Pollán Toledo on October 14, 2011 and Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas on July 22, 2012. Increased violence and detentions of nonviolent activists. An American citizen arrested and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for attempting to provide internet access to the local Jewish community in Cuba. The Obama Administration has continued its policy of extending a hand to the Cuban regime and has little to show for it except more repression and the deaths of high profile activists. There is no reason to suppose that further unilateral concessions will lead to a different outcome.

Prominent Cuban American businessmen have spoken out against unconditionally lifting sanctions in Cuba stating "that, absent the dismantling of the totalitarian apparatus on the island, along with the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the restoration of fundamental human rights, there should be no U.S. unilateral concessions to the Castro regime." They share the same position as Aung San Suu Kyi which is that it is unprincipled for companies to do business with a dictatorship. Things are improving in Burma on the human rights front while worsening in China and Vietnam. Linking human rights with economic engagement has been a winning formula in Burma and can be so as well in Cuba.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Europe-Cuba NGO Network calls on EU to support democracy and human rights promotion in Cuba

At a time when there are concerns that the European Common Position on Cuba may be watered down or eliminated Cuban dissidents and members of the Europe-Cuba NGO network are calling on maintaining and strengthening support for democracy and human rights in Cuba.


November 2012 - The Europe-Cuba NGO Network calls upon the European Union to officially support the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba. The Network is deeply concerned about the increase in human rights abuses in Cuba. On the occasion of the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 19/11/2012 we would like to draw the attention to the ongoing problems and human rights abuses still taking place on the island and we feel it necessary to make an appeal on the EUs rather indecisive position.

For decades the Cuban government has repressed all forms of political dissent. Even though the Cuban government has implemented some economic reforms in the recent years, the human rights records remain dire. Prohibition of freedom of expression, forced exile, persecution of human rights-defenders, short-term detentions, harassments, “actos de repudio”, brutal physical attacks remain the main strategy of the government to keep the opposition under control. In the period of January to May 2012 there were 3 227 documented detentions. In 2011 there were over 3 500 and in 2010 more than 2 000 detentions. The government increasingly relies on arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions in order to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights, including the right to assemble and move about freely. Dissidents are being detained for hours in order to prevent them from attending oppositional activities.

We feel it necessary to draw the attention to the following issues:

1. Growing number of arrests and arbitrary detentions and the frequent use of short-term imprisonment in the past year.
2. The fact that the undertaken reforms have not been resulted in any real improvement of the situation of human rights and democracy in Cuba.
3. The EU must actively support human right principals in order to guarantee greater respect for human rights and political openness on the island.
4. The difficulties of obtaining EU support in the sphere of human rights and democracy for civil society organisations.
5. The ratification of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, was recently demanded by Cubans in the „Demanda ciudadana por otra Cuba“, which resulted in brutal arrests on November 7th and 8th. The leading person of this campaign Antonio Rodiles is still in custody.

Therefore we suggest:

1. The EU should support human rights principals in order to guarantee greater respect for human rights and political openness on the island.
2. The EU should reconsider its policy for grants, which usually require the receiving NGOs to be registered in Cuba. In reality this means working with or for the government (for example: “Agentes No Estatales y Autoridades Locales en el Desarrollo”).
3. The EU should demand that the Cuban government ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed in 2008.
4. EU should remain committed to its common position on Cuba in order to achieve improvement of the respect for human rights in Cuba. However, if the EU decides to open negotiations regarding a bilateral agreement, the mandate for such negotiations should include strong writings in order to protect human rights; especially freedom of association, speech and expression.

The Network calls upon the member states of the European Union to formally adopt necessary measures, like the ones mentioned above. The European Union must take a united, clear and principled stand in support of human rights and democratisation in Cuba.

This statement has been endorsed by the following organisations: People in Need, Czech Republic Christian Solidarity Worldwide, United Kingdom and Belgium Christian Democratic International Centre, Sweden Nadacia Pontis/Pontis Foundation, Slovakia Solidaridad Espanola Con Cuba, Spain Fundación Hispano Cubana, Spain International Society for Human Rights, Germany Cuba Futuro, Netherlands

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Obama Administration's apparent failure with Cuban human rights violators

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice" -Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 4, 2011 the Obama Administration announced a ban on visas for people who the State Department finds have been involved in human rights violations. Nevertheless, Juan O. Tamayo reported in the The Miami Herald on November 18, 2012 that human rights violators from Cuba are not only getting visas but residency in the United States:
"Former Cuban provincial prisons chief Crescencio Marino Rivero made headlines over the past month amid allegations that he abused some prisoners and ordered guards to abuse others before he moved to Miami two years ago.
But uncounted hundreds of other Cubans with nasty pasts are also living here, including State Security officers, snitches and collaborators, judges, policemen and members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the neighborhood watch groups."
 The presidential directive signed on August 4, 2011 by President Barack Obama reads in part as follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.  I therefore hereby proclaim that:
Section 1.  The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of the following persons is hereby suspended:
(a)  Any alien who planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, widespread or systematic violence against any civilian population based in whole or in part on race; color; descent; sex; disability; membership in an indigenous group; language; religion; political opinion; national origin; ethnicity; membership in a particular social group; birth; or sexual orientation or gender identity, or who attempted or conspired to do so.
(b)  Any alien who planned, ordered, assisted, aided and abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of human rights, or who attempted or conspired to do so.
It appears that the presidential directive has not been vigorously enforced because it would as Human Rights Watch observed "strengthen the US government’s commitment and capacity to prevent mass atrocities and other grave human rights violations around the world" and Miami would not be filled with henchman of the Castro regime. The directive signed by the President is clear. Now the question remains when will it be vigorously enforced?

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter Featured on 2SER's Razors Edge

Interview with journalist based in Sydney, Australia about Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter and some of the more recent entries with reference to crackdown in Cuba and the overall human rights situation there.

Castro regime arrests human rights activists

In Cuba last week, 37 nonviolent protesters, among them journalists and intellectuals, were arrested by authorities in Cuba for lobbying the government to ratify United Nations Human Rights protocols.

John Suarez, a human rights activist based in Miami, Florida, has for the past four years run a blog called “Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter”.

Having previously worked with the UN Human Rights Council, he is passionate about highlighting the human rights issues in his country of descent, from which he has been barred from entering since he was a child.

Reporter Eliza Goetze spoke to him about the recent arrests, the international climate and the current situation in Cuba.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cuban poets announce their event and denounce repression

Another sign of the Crackdown in Cuba now impacting artists 

OmniZonaFranca calls for solidarity with their Poetry Without End Festival and denounce repression in Cuba with an S.O.S. message.

Poetry Without End Festival 12/10-12/30/12
Below is their press release translated to English followed by the original Spanish text. Their is much more in the video above with English subtitles.

Letter of the Year 2012

OMNI-ZONAFRANCA warns of dark threats,
issue a call to pray for the country,
for the cruelty among Cubans to diminish,
for it to trigger a deep peace in hearts,
in defense of the Cuban Alternativity
because repression strategies are woven
to dis-articulate it definitely.

Realization: Luis Eligio of Omni
Wednesday November 14, 2012

Letra del Año 2012

OMNI-ZONAFRANCA advierte sobre amenzas oscuras,
llama a orar por la Patria, porque disminuya la crueldad entre los cubanos,
porque se active una paz profunda en los corazones,
en defensa de la Alternatividad Cubana,
porque se tejen estrategias de represión para desarticularla definitivamente.

Realización: Luis Eligio D Omni
Miércoles 14 de Noviembre 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Crackdown and its Aftermath in Havana and Placetas

Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez (detained 11/13) Antonio Rodiles (detained 11/7)
The crackdown on nonviolent activists that began in Havana and spread to Camaguey on November 7 and 8, 2012 with 37 arrests spread to Placetas on November 13, 2012 with another 10 activists detained. Now a Cuban intellectual and communicator based in Havana, Antonio Rodiles, finds himself badly beaten with a black left eye along with several other bruises, the product of an unprovoked attack by state security agents in plainclothes and awaiting trial in a Cuban jail on the charge of "Resistance." He has been locked up now since November 7, 2012. On November 13, 2012 members of the Central Opposition Coalition in Placetas, Cuba marched to ratify a Declaration of Principles for the coalition. Ten of the marchers were arrested but most were released afterwards but Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez continues to be held in a Cuban jail. Below is a list of the ten arrested on November 13, 2012.

1.Yaite Cruz Sosa
2. Yanisbel Valido Pérez,
3. Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez
4. Yris Pérez Aguilera
5. Yolaine García Naranjo
6. Yenny Barallobre Columbié
7. Santa González Pedrosa
8. Damaris Moya Portieles
9. Arturo Conde Zamora
10. Yanoisi Contreras Aguilar.

The response of Cuban civil society inside and outside of the island has been to organize campaigns for the release of those still detained and to denounce the violence visited upon the activists. Below is a video of Cuban civil society members gathered on November 11, 2012 to outline what happened on November 7-8, 2012.

On November 14, 2012 in Placetas, Cuba Yris Pérez Aguilera joined together to march to the place her husband Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez was being arbitrarily detained demanding that he be released or that they arrest her. She was arrested by State Security and continues to be held in detention on November 15, 2012, but she managed to get out a audio recording of the march and her arrest.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Crackdown on nonviolence in Cuba

37 nonviolent activists detained over the course of two days in Cuba.

According to sources in Cuba this is the shirt Angel Santiesteban Prats  was wearing when he was arrested.

Scores of activists were detained in Cuba on November 7 and 8, 2012 and two of them are being threatened with long prison sentences. Antonio Rodiles is still being held and is accused of allegedly "resisting arrest", the number of his case file is 62886. Yoani Sanchez reported that the first arrest in the ongoing crackdown occurred on the morning of Wednesday, November 7, 2012 with attorney Yaremis Flores followed by the arrests of Antonio Rodiles and Laritza Diversant.Other activists were detained as they went to the police station to demand the release of those arrested and were themselves arrested.

How and why did this wave of repression in Cuba begin? According to pastor and blogger Mario Félix Leonard Barroso in a statement made to the Cuban Democratic Directorate the aim of the crackdown was to prevent the peaceful gathering of various individuals involved in a project to lobby the regime to ratify its human rights commitments with the United Nations:
"I signed the Citizens Demand for Another Cuba and also I promote it. This afternoon, November 8, a meeting was to be held at the home of Antonio Rodiles, of State of SATS, with several people that promote the Demand in the provinces. It was an unannounced meeting, it was for the promoters of the Demand. But since yesterday, they started arrests of people who were going to participate."
Some background information is necessary here on two important projects of Cuban civil society. The first is the State of SATS, a project led by Antonio Rodiles that has its objective, "to create a plural space for participation and debate, where open and frank debate is exchanged. The project sponsors panel discussions, forums and other events that are filmed and broadcasted on the Internet." The second is a petition initiative signed by hundreds of Cubans inside and outside of the island and submitted to the National Assembly of People's Power on June 20, 2012 which in part states:

That immediately put into practice the necessary legal safeguards and policies conceived in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it ratify the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, signed by the Government of Cuba on February 28, 2008 in New York City. This would ensure full respect for citizens no matter what their ideas or their political-social outlook and that the rights of everyone to their opinions who disagree with the government to have them restored. We consider these essential rights in the formation of a modern, free and plural Cuba, that welcomes everyone equally and inserts our sovereignty into a dynamic and increasingly global world. We are committed to a democratic transformation, where everyone can present their views and contribute to its realization.

List of 37 Cuban activists arrested on 7 and 8 of November 2012 compiled by the Cuban Democratic Directorate:

Activists detained in Havana
1. Yaremis Flores Julián 
2. Laritza Diversent 
3. Antonio Rodiles 
4. José Díaz Silva 
5. Yoani Sánchez 
6. Claudio Fuentes Madán 
7. Arabel Villafuentes 
8. Mario Alberto Hernández 
9. Julio Aleaga Pesant 
10. Ailer González 
11. Andrés Pérez 
12. Mario Morago 
13. Vladimir Torres 
14. Rolando Rabanal 
15. Luis Fumero 
16. Veisant Boloy 
17. Angel Santiesteban Prats 
18. Mario Morales 
19. Reinaldo Escobar 
20. Agustín López 
21. Angel Moya Acosta 
22. Librado Linares García 
23. Eduardo Díaz Fleitas 
24. Iván Hernández Carrillo 
25. Félix Navarro 
26. Guillermo Fariñas 
27. Eugenio Leal 

Activists detained in Camagüey 
28. Virgilio Mantilla Arango 
29. Humberto Galindo Moya 
30. Elicardo Freire Jiménez 
31. Angelo Guillermo Alvarez Olazábal 
32. Pablo Jiménez Santarrosa 
33. Fautino Calá Rodríguez 
34. Jeiser Torres Morales 
35. Santos Manuel Hernández 
36. Luis Alberto Alvarez 
37. Isbel Freire Jiménez 

Friday, November 9, 2012

23 years ago today the Berlin Wall was torn down

Tearing down the Berlin Wall
Twenty three years ago today the Berlin Wall was torn down and today Germany is the most powerful nation in a peaceful and democratic Europe. If some would have had there way that wall would still be there today.

Nonviolent demonstrations throughout East Germany in the months preceding the announcement in the video below laid the groundwork for a nonviolent transition:
Protest demonstrations broke out all over East Germany in September 1989. Initially, protesters were mostly people wanting to leave to the West, chanting "Wir wollen raus!" ("We want out!"). Then protestors began to chant "Wir bleiben hier", ("We're staying here!"). This was the start of what East Germans generally call the "Peaceful Revolution" of late 1989.[70] The protest demonstrations grew considerably by early November. The movement neared its height on 4 November when half a million people gathered at the Alexanderplatz demonstration, a rally for change in East Berlin's large public square and transportation hub.

The announcement by Günter Schabowski, the Communist party boss in East Berlin and the spokesman for the SED Politburo, that Germans would be able to leave their country via border crossing points is anti-climactic but nonetheless historic marking the day the Berlin Wall began to be physically torn down.

Scores of Germans died trying to cross the Berlin Wall from the totalitarian East to the democratic West all the way through 1989.

One of the last victims, Chris Gueffroy was just 19 years old when he was shot dead on February 5, 1989 trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Not even twenty years old and murdered for wanting to live in freedom. 

The end of the Berlin Wall was not inevitable and it took the courage and persistence of many Eastern Europeans to achieve it. Even today in places like Cuba there are Walls that have been built that need to be torn down. It is for this reason that November 9, 1989 is a date that friends of freedom should always remember.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fact Checking the Romney Campaign's Chávez For Obama Ad

President Barack Obama and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez

The Chavez for Obama political advertisement released by the Romney Campaign links together Hugo Chavez, Mariela Castro, and the image of Che Guevara in a thirty second spot which states the following (translation below courtesy of The Miami Herald):

NARRATOR: Who supports Barack Obama?
CHAVEZ: “If I were American, I’d vote for Obama.”
NARRATOR: Raúl Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, would vote for Obama.
CASTRO: “I would vote for President Obama.”
NARRATOR: And to top it off, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency sent e-mails for Hispanic Heritage month with a photo of Che Guevara.
CHAVEZ: “If Obama were from Barlovento (a Venezuelan town), he’d vote for Chávez.”
ROMNEY: I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.
Below is the actual advertisement:

Supporters of the President have attacked it and the media has reported on the debate over the advertisement describing its content as controversial and incendiary, but the question remains, is it accurate? Is it true?

Three claims are made:

1) Hugo Chavez would vote for Obama if he were an American citizen.

Reuters reported on September 30, 2012 that Hugo Chavez had endorsed President Obama quoting the Venezuelan strongman saying: "I hope this doesn't harm Obama, but if I was from the United States, I'd vote for Obama,"  ... "Obama is a good guy ... I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or some Caracas neighborhood, he'd vote for Chavez". The video in the advert does not represent or take out of context what Hugo Chavez is saying. The claim is accurate and true.

2) Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro said as a citizen of the world she would vote for Obama.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on June 4, 2012, Mariela Castro: "As a citizen of the world, I would like him to win," Castro told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview set to air Monday. "Seeing the candidates, I prefer Obama." ... "If Obama counted on the full support of the American people, then we can normalize the relationships; we can have better relations than what we had under President Carter". The claim is accurate and true.

3)  President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent e-mails for Hispanic Heritage month with a photo of Che Guevara.

The Washington Post reported on September 14, 2012 that the EPA sent an e-mail out that "contained passages about Hispanic culture apparently copied word-for-word from And as icing on the oopsie-cake, it also featured a photo of a horse and buggy — no doubt meant to illustrate the picturesque elements of the culture — passing a painted billboard of Che Guevara." It was widely covered in the media. The claim is accurate and true.

The claims made in the advertisement are accurate and not taken out of context. It is not the advertisement that is incendiary or controversial but the affinity of a authoritarian despot, and the daughter of a dictator for President Obama and EPA circulating an image of Che Guevara, a mass murdering advocate for totalitarian dictatorship and a symbol for violent political action.