Thursday, January 31, 2013

Human Rights Watch, World Report 2013: Cuba

"Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent."- Human Rights Watch, World Report 2013

 World Report 2013


Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. In 2012, the government of Raúl Castro continued to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile.

Although in 2010 and 2011 the Cuban government released dozens of political prisoners on the condition that they accept exile in exchange for their freedom, the government continues to sentence dissidents to one to four-year prison terms in closed, summary trials, and holds others for extended periods without charge. It has also relied increasingly upon arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions to restrict the basic rights of its critics, including the right to assemble and move freely.

While reforms passed in October 2012 eliminate the need for Cubans to obtain an exit visa to leave the island, they contain vague, broad provisions which could be used by authorities to continue to deny the right to travel to people who are critical of the government.

Political Prisoners

Cubans who dare to criticize the government are subject to criminal prosecution. They do not benefit from due process guarantees, such as the right to fair and public hearings by a competent and impartial tribunal. In practice, courts are “subordinated” to the executive and legislative branches, thus denying meaningful judicial independence. Political prisoners are routinely denied parole after completing the minimum required sentence as punishment for refusing to participate in ideological activities such as “reeducation” classes.

The death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2010 after his 85-day hunger strike, and the subsequent hunger strike by dissident Guillermo Fariñas, pressured the government to release the political prisoners from the “group of 75” (75 dissidents who were sentenced to long prison terms in a 2003 crackdown). Yet most were forced to choose between ongoing prison sentences and forced exile, and dozens of other dissidents have been forced abroad to avoid imprisonment.

Dozens of political prisoners remain in Cuban prisons, according to human rights groups on the island. These groups estimate there are more political prisoners whose cases they cannot document because the government does not allow independent national or international human rights groups to access its prisons.

Rogelio Tavío López—a member the Unión Patriótica de Cuba dissident group—was detained in March 2012 in Guantanamo province after organizing a protest to demand the release of political prisoners. He has since been held in detention without being brought before a judge or granted access to a lawyer.

Arbitrary Detentions and Short-Term Imprisonment

In addition to criminal prosecutions, the Cuban government has increasingly relied on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation—an independent human rights group that the government views as illegal—received reports of 2,074 arbitrary detentions by state agents in 2010, 4,123 in 2011, and 5,105 from January to September 2012.

The detentions are often used preemptively to prevent individuals from participating in events viewed as critical of the government, such as peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics. Many dissidents are subjected to beatings and threats as they are detained, even though they do not try to resist.

Security officers virtually never present arrest orders to justify the detentions and threaten detainees with criminal sentences if they continue to participate in “counterrevolutionary” activities. Victims of such arrests are held incommunicado for several hours to several days, often at police stations. In some cases, they are given an official warning, which prosecutors may later use in criminal trials to show a pattern of delinquent behavior. Dissidents said these warnings are aimed at discouraging them from participating in future activities seen as critical of the government.

In July, at least 40 people were arbitrarily detained in Havana at the funeral of dissident Oswaldo Payá, who died in a car accident. Police officers broke up the non-violent procession and beat participants. The detainees were taken to aprison encampment where they were held incommunicado for 30 hours before being released without charge.

Freedom of Expression

The government controls all media outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information, which severely limits the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny fraction of Cubans have the chance to read independently published articles and blogs because of the high cost of and limited access to the internet.

A small number of independent journalists and bloggers manage to write articles for foreign websites or independent blogs, yet those who use these outlets to criticize the government are subjected to public smear campaigns, arbitrary arrests, and abuse by security agents. The authorities often confiscate their cameras, recorders, and other equipment. According to the independent journalists’ group Hablemos Press, authorities arbitrarily detained 19 journalists in September 2012, including Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, who remained in prison without charge at this writing.

The Cuban government uses selective allocations of press credentials and visas, which are required by foreign journalists to report from the island, to control coverage of the island and punish media outlets seen as overly critical of the regime. For example, in anticipation of the March 2012 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba, the government denied visas to journalists from El Pais and El Nuevo Herald, newspapers whose reporting it has criticized as biased.

Human Rights Defenders

The Cuban government refuses to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity and denies legal status to local human rights groups. Meanwhile, government authorities harass, assault, and imprison human rights defenders who attempt to document abuses. In the weeks leading up to and during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, authorities detained, beat, and threatened scores of human rights defenders.

Travel Restrictions and Family Separation

In 2012 the Cuban government prevented the country's citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which was often denied to those who had criticized the government. For example, acclaimed blogger Yoani Sánchez, who has been critical of the government, has been denied the right to leave the island at least 19 times since 2008, including in February 2012 after the Brazilian government granted her a visa to attend a documentary screening.

Reforms to travel regulations that went into effect in January 2013 eliminate the need for an exit visa to leave the island, which had previously been used to deny the right to travel to people critical of the government and their families. However, the reform establishes that the government may restrict the right to travel on the vague grounds of “defense and national security” or “other reasons of public interest,” which could allow authorities to continue to deny people who express dissent the ability to leave Cuba.

The government restricts the movement of citizens within Cuba by enforcing a 1997 law known as Decree 217. Designed to limit migration to Havana, the decree requires Cubans to obtain government permission before moving to the country's capital. It is often used to prevent dissidents traveling to Havana to attend meetings and to harass dissidents from other parts of Cuba who live in the capital.

Prison Conditions

Prisons are overcrowded, unhygienic, and unhealthy, leading to extensive malnutrition and illness. More than 57,000 Cubans are in prisons or work camps, according to a May 2012 article in an official government newspaper. Prisoners who criticize the government, or engage in hunger strikes and other forms of protest are often subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, restrictions on family visits, and denial of medical care. Prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress, giving prison authorities total impunity.

In January 2012, Wilman Villar Mendoza, 31, died after a 50-day hunger strike in prison, which he initiated to protest his unjust trial and inhumane prison conditions. He had been detained in November 2011 after participating in a peaceful demonstration, and was sentenced to four years in prison for “contempt” in a summary trial in which he had no lawyer. After beginning his hunger strike, he was stripped naked and placed in solitary confinement in a cold cell. He was transferred to a hospital only days before he died.

Key International Actors

The United States’ economic embargo on Cuba, in place for more than half a century, continues to impose indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people, and has done nothing to improve human rights in Cuba. At the United Nations General Assembly in November, 188 of the 192 member countries voted for a resolution condemning the US embargo.

In 2009, President Barack Obama enacted reforms to eliminate limits on travel and remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba, which had been put in place during the administration of President George W. Bush. In 2011, Obama used his executive powers to ease “people-to-people” travel restrictions, allowing religious, educational, and cultural groups from the US to travel to Cuba. However, in May 2012 the Obama administration established additional requirements to obtain “people to people” licenses, which has reduced the frequency of such trips.

The European Union continues to retain its "Common Position" on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which conditions full economic cooperation with Cuba on the country's transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights.

In June, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) issued a report on Cuba in which it expressed concern about reports of inhumane prison conditions and the use of ambiguous preventive detention measures such as “social dangerousness,” among other issues for which it said the Cuban government failed to provide key information.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Season for Nonviolence: Honoring Gandhi, King and Payá through action

"A courageous man prefers death to the surrender of self-respect." - Mohandas Gandhi

"I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"They have told me that they will kill me before this regime ends, but I will not flee." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Gandhi, King and Payá: Brothers in Nonviolence and Martyrdom

One was a practicing lawyer and Hindu, the second a baptist minister and a Christian, and the third an engineer and a lay catholic. All three died under violent circumstances and many believe that conspiracies were organized against them to take their lives. All three were dedicated to making the world a better place using nonviolent means. The lawyer, Mohandas Gandhi, sought an end to colonial rule in his homeland of India. The baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr., sought to end racial segregation in the United States. The engineer, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, sought to end more than five decades of dictatorship in his homeland of Cuba. 

Arun Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi's grandson, began the Season for Non-violence in 1998 at the United Nations observing the 64 days on the calendar between the January 30, 1948 assassination of Gandhi and the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifteen years later it is still being observed and is open for all to take part. Participants are asked to take a pledge of nonviolence which involves respecting yourself and others, communicating honestly, listening, to engage in forgiveness, respecting nature, playing creatively, and to be courageous.

The Free Cuba Foundation, a student movement founded at Florida International University, observed the first and tenth Season for Non-Violence with essay contests, panel discussions and films on Gandhi, King and Jose Marti. Unfortunately, the untimely death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, on July 22, 2012 lifted him into the pantheon of martyred advocates of nonviolence.

Yesterday, we observed the 33rd anniversary of the birth of Harold Cepero Escalante, a Christian Liberation Movement activist who had been traveling with Oswaldo when both were killed. Oswaldo's birthday falls on February 29. This year we will be observing what should have been his 61st birthday.

For Cubans, February has become a month of mourning. On February 23, 2010 prisoner of conscience and human rights defender, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on hunger strike. Another painful anniversary, is on February 24, 1996 when two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down over international airspace instantly killing  Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario M. de la Peña, and Pablo Morales while engaged in a search and rescue for Cuban balseros

Therefore, for Cubans, the Season for Nonviolence has even greater meaning. It is a time of prayers, vigils, and nonviolent protests to remember these martyrs. All of these Cubans were inspired by the examples of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and they understood and demonstrated through their courage that there is nothing passive about resisting evil using nonviolent means.

Today, marks another anniversary that demonstrates the power and courage of a nonviolent stand. Martin Luther King Jr. had received a death threat in the midst of the Montgomery Bus Boycott to get out of town or they would blow his house up and blow his brains out. On January 30, 1956 his house was bombed and angry black men gathered with weapons demanding payback for the act of terrorism. Martin Luther King Jr., raised his hand asking for silence and told the crowd: “If you have weapons, take them home.  If you do not have them, please do not seek them. We cannot solve this problem through violence. We must meet violence with non-violence. Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. Remember this movement will not stop, because God is with it.” The angry crowd dispersed and the nonviolent character of the boycott and civil rights movement was preserved. 

The next 64 days present an opportunity to make a personal commitment to practice nonviolence, following Gandhi's example of making your life your message, finding value in your life by finding, as Martin Luther King Jr did, something that you are willing to die for and Oswaldo Paya's example by being able to say that the first victory that you can declare is that your heart is free of hatred.

Amnesty Recognizes Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a Cuban journalist, a prisoner of conscience

New prisoner of conscience: Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias

UA: 25/13 Index: AMR 25/001/2013 Cuba Date: 30 January 2013
Independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias has been detained since September 2012 in Cuba in relation to his work. Amnesty International believes he is a prisoner of conscience solely detained for peacefully exercising his freedom of expression. On 16 September 2012 Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a journalist working for the unofficial news agency Hablemos Press, was arrested by the Cuban Revolutionary Police (Policía Revolucionaria de Cuba) at José Martí International Airport in Havana. He had been investigating allegations that medicine provided by the World Health Organization to fight the cholera outbreak (which began in mid-2012) was being kept at the airport instead of being distributed, as the Cuban government was allegedly trying to downplay the seriousness of the outbreak. Upon his arrest, Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias was taken to the Santiago de las Vegas police station, located near the airport.
According to Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias’ relatives, when complaining in his cell at the Santiago de las Vegas police station about his detention, he was beaten and pepper-sprayed in his eyes, and then called out “down with Raúl”, “down with Fidel” (“abajo Raúl”, “abajo Fidel”). Although neither he nor his lawyer – who has not been allowed access to his casefile – have been informed of any official charges against him, Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias is reportedly being accused of “disrespect” (“desacato”) towards President Raúl Castro and Fidel Castro. The Cuban criminal code provides sentences of up to three years’ imprisonment in this case.
After being held for 10 days at the Santiago de las Vegas police station, Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias was transferred to Valle Grande prison until 10 November. Since then he has been detained at Combinado del Este prison on the outskirts of Havana. On arrival at Combinado del Este prison he went on hunger strike, apparently to protest against being forced to wear a prison uniform and having his personal belongings confiscated. The hunger strike reportedly lasted 33 days.
Amnesty International believes Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias’ detention is politically motivated and related to his peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language: 
  • Calling on the Cuban authorities to release Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias immediately and unconditionally, as he is prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;  
  • Urging them to remove unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly in Cuba.


Head of State and Government
 Raúl Castro Ruz 
Presidente de la República de Cuba 
La Habana, Cuba 
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba office in Geneva); 
+1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN) 
Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN) Salutation: Your Excellency

Attorney General 
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura 
Fiscal General de la República, 
Fiscalía General de la República, 
Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella, Centro Habana, 
La Habana, Cuba 
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

And copies to:
Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones Ministerio del Interior,
Plaza de la Revolución,
La Habana, Cuba 
Fax+1 212 779 1697       
(via Cuban Mission to UN) Email: Salutation: Your Excellency
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.


Restrictions on the Cuban media are stringent and pervasive and clearly stop those in the country from enjoying their right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. The state maintains a total monopoly on television, radio, the press, internet service providers, and other electronic means of communication.
Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution recognizes freedom of the press but expressly prohibits private ownership of the mass media: “Citizens have freedom of speech and of the press in keeping with the objectives of socialist society. Material conditions for the exercise of that right are provided by the fact that the press, radio, television, cinema, and other mass media are state or social property and can never be private property. This assures their use at exclusive service of the working people and in the interests of society. The law regulates the exercise of those freedoms.”
Although there is no censorship law that explicitly regulates the functioning of the press or establishes what is published, journalists must join the Cuban Journalists Association (Unión de Periodistas Cubanos, UPEC) in order to practice journalism in the state-owned media. UPEC is self-governing; however, in its statutes it recognizes the Cuban Communist Party as “the highest leading force of society and of the state” and agrees to abide by Article 53 of the Constitution (see above). Compulsory membership of a professional association for the practice of journalism is an unlawful restriction on freedom of expression and a violation of the right to freedom of association. Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that, “no one may be compelled to belong to an association”. In the particular case of UPEC, whose members are employees of the government of Cuba, compulsory membership is a means of exerting political control in the field of communications. Only journalists expressing views in line with official government policies are accredited by UPEC; independent journalists are barred from joining.
The news agency Hablemos Press (Let’s Talk Press) is an unofficial Cuban news agency founded in February 2009 by independent journalists and human rights activists, “for the purpose of gathering and disseminating news within the country and for the rest of the world” according to their website. Hablemos Press journalists are regular victims of short-term arrests and harassment related to their work. Prior to his September arrest, Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias had been detained without charge on a number of occasions in 2012. On 11 September 2012 the director of Hablemos Press, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, was forced into a car and reportedly beaten as he was driven to a police station. Before being released, he was told that he had become the “number one dissident journalist” and would face imprisonment if he continued his activities.

Name: Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias Gender m/f: m

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prayers for Harold Cepero on what should have been his 33rd birthday

"Those who remove and crush freedom are the real slaves." - Harold Cepero Escalante (January 29, 1980 - July 22, 2012)

"Harold Cepero Escalante (1980-2012) In honor of his life.
Harold would have turned 33 years old today, January 29"
He was a young man of faith with great courage and conviction who was expelled from University for signing and encouraging other students to sign a petition demanding that the government respect and observe international human rights standards called the Varela Project. Rather than remain silent in the face of this act of repression, as many have done, he spoke out and denounced the expulsion along with others who had suffered the same fate and went on to become a youth leader in the Christian Liberation Movement. Below is a message he sent out to Cubans in the diaspora.

Today there are Masses being held in Cuba, Spain, and the United States to honor the life of Harold Cepero Escalante in response to a request by Ofelia Acevedo. 

Mass for Harold in Madrid, Spain on January 29, 2013
Harold should be turning 33 years old today, but due to the events on July 22, 2012 that have still to be properly investigated and the truth arrived at, remains suspicious due to the dictatorship's behavior and reports of other vehicles involved in the "accident" and the lack of medical treatment for Harold.

Harold and the Paya children holding banner:
"The truth shall set you free." - John 8,32
 Arriving at the truth of what took place on that stretch of road on July 22, 2012 will be an important step on the road to justice. Friends and relatives of Oswaldo and Harold continue to demand an independent investigation into their deaths, but after six months the motives for the dictatorship wanting them dead becomes clear: 
"The fraudulent change that Oswaldo Paya and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) denounced has three key factors: the military-economic oligarchy, the Catholic hierarchy and some Cuban exile entrepreneurs. This denouncement made by Oswaldo was what triggered the final order to end his and Harold's lives." - Christian Liberation Movement, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jose Marti on the 160th anniversary of his birth

"Freedom can not be fruitful for the peoples who have their forehead stained in blood." - Jose Marti

"La libertad no puede ser fecunda para los pueblos que tienen la frente manchada de sangre." - Jose Marti  

José Julián Martí Pérez

He organized a war of independence, but did so without resorting to dehumanizing his adversary or appealing to hatred. He was also a fierce advocate for civil liberties and especially freedom of thought and expression. Today, January 28 marks 160 years since the day José Julián Martí Pérez was born.

Cubans of all ideological stripes claim him as their own, but objectively who has maintained the spirit of his words and ideas? There is a movement in Cuba that seeks to restore human rights and liberties using nonviolent means. There are courageous men and women who risk everything standing up to dictatorship and some of them have been killed in the process and their families targeted for reprisals.

Jose Marti wrote that "There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart." Following this statement to its logical conclusion leads us over a century later to:
"The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.’" - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"To love one's neighbor is also to love one's enemy. Although in reality that qualifier-'enemy' does not exist in my vocabulary. I recognize that I only have adversaries and I have acquired the capacity to love them because in this way we do away with violence, wrath, vengeance, hatred and substitute them with justice and forgiveness." - Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez (1999)

Both Oswaldo and Oscar embody the best of Jose Marti when they reject hatred and maintain their defiance to injustice while working towards both liberation and national reconciliation. 

José Martí also recognized the power of women in struggle observing that "The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women. But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible."

The Ladies in White have demonstrated this power and one of their founding leaders Laura Pollan spoke courageously about the stakes in the struggle stating in 2010"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." She went on to continue in her defiance of tyranny declaring on September 24, 2011 that "We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.”

Gandhi, King, and Marti: Brothers in Thought

Finally, what of those who claim Jose Marti as theirs in word but in practice are the antithesis of all he stood for? Today, it was learned that one of the Ladies in White had been detained by officials of the Cuban dictatorship and sexually molested. Last year this same regime had threatened to rape her five year old and this mother went on hunger strike for 19 days to demand that her child's safety be guaranteed. 

Cuba's nonviolent civic movement is making a reality out of what José Martí saw as the necessary final struggle for a truly free people: "One revolution is still necessary: the one that will not end with the rule of its leader. It will be the revolution against revolutions, the uprising of all peaceable individuals, who will become soldiers for once so that neither they nor anyone else will ever have to be a soldier again."

In 1931, Mohandas Gandhi outlined how peaceable individuals could become soldiers because they were soldiers for peace using nonviolent means founded in discipline and truth to achieve real and lasting change through pure defiance without the element of violence in it. This meant in practice that Jose Marti's formulation of a "just and necessary war" had become obsolete because the same or better results could be obtained with nonviolent resistance therefore war is no longer just or necessary. The twentieth century and its bloody tide would demonstrate the failure of bloody wars when compared with the successes of nonviolent resistance both on a small and large scale.

In January of 1998 when the Free Cuba Foundation organized a conference titled Gandhi, King and Marti: Brothers and Thought some protested because Jose Marti had died in battle, but the organization argued at the time that his views prior to his death were evolving in a direction that would find broad agreement with Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Economic Sanctions: What remains left unsaid in the debate

Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie.- George Orwell, The Prevention of Literature (1946)

Unlike totalitarian regime's that are constantly rewriting history by altering the facts of the historical record, the United States declassifies documents in order to provide a fuller picture of government policies for historians. This can also create opportunities for distortions and embarrassment for the entity doing the declassifying. However, there are times that it also offers insights into what might have been that can inform future policy discussions.

For example in the memo below from 1960 Lester D.Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, addressed to R. Roy, Jr Rubottom, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs that analyzed the situation in Cuba warning that "militant opposition" from outside of Cuba would only serve Castro's and the communist cause advocating a policy of economic sanctions in order to increase popular "disenchantment and disaffection" with the Castro regime.

Unfortunately, his memorandum although approved by Rubottom at the time was ignored and a year later the Bay of Pigs disaster took place that consolidated Castro and the communist regime as Mallory had foreseen. The earliest version of the embargo began at the end of the Eisenhower Administration on January 3, 1961 but full scale economic sanctions, involving restrictions on travel, did not take place until after the Bay of Pigs, well into the Kennedy Administration in 1962 and was due to the heavy Soviet presence there and the introduction of nuclear weapons onto Cuban soil.

If higher ups in the U.S. government had followed a policy of sanctions first then perhaps the Castro regime would have ended in the 1960s. What is interesting is that when a violent option fails such as the Bay of Pigs invasion, experts do not arise questioning the efficacy of violence in the way that they tend to do when a nonviolent effort fails to achieve policy objectives.

Economic sanctions are a nonviolent response that falls within the large arsenal of nonviolent tactics that can have a great impact without going to war. 

In the end, due to the Bay of Pigs debacle and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, economic sanctions were put in place not to eliminate the Castro regime but limit its ability to expand into the rest of the hemisphere and to force the Soviet Union to expend large sums in keeping the Castro regime afloat which ended up contributing to the USSR's demise in 1991 due to the economic dissatisfaction and hardship suffered by Russians.

Below is the memorandum:

499. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mallory) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1
Washington, April 6, 1960.

The Decline and Fall of Castro

Salient considerations respecting the life of the present Government of Cuba are:

1. The majority of Cubans support Castro (the lowest estimate I have seen is 50 percent).

2. There is no effective political opposition.

3. Fidel Castro and other members of the Cuban Government espouse or condone communist influence.

4. Communist influence is pervading the Government and the body politic at an amazingly fast rate.

5. Militant opposition to Castro from without Cuba would only serve his and the communist cause.

6. The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.

If the above are accepted or cannot be successfully countered, it follows that every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy is adopted, it
should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.

The principal item in our economic quiver would be flexible authority in the sugar legislation. This needs to be sought urgently. All other avenues should likewise be explored. But first, a decision is
necessary as to the line of our conduct. Would you wish to have such a proposal prepared for the Secretary?2


1 Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/4–660. Secret.
Drafted by Mallory.

2  Rubottom initialed the “yes” space provided on the source text.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CLM reiterates demand for independent investigation into deaths of Oswaldo and Harold

"Today, six months since the deaths of my father and Harold Cepero, remains the certainty of two full lives, free, dedicated to love." - Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, twitter, January 22, 2013

Oswaldo and Harold

Declaration of the Christian Liberation Movement
"We do not respond to provocations, or pressure to the victims coming from whomever it comes".
The Christian Liberation Movement reiterates its demand that the deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero be investigated independently of the Cuban government.

Witnesses with whom we have spoken, the sms that exist and the versions tested by our movement indicate that the events of that fateful July 22 on the Tunas-Bayamo road were the result of an attack.

We trust in our friends, who have all our respect and support. We do not respond to provocations, or pressure to the victims coming from whomever it comes.

The Christian Liberation Movement is one of harmony of standards and coherence in the actions of their leaders and activists inside and outside Cuba is absolute and unwavering.

On behalf of the Christian Liberation Movement;

Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo                   Regis Iglesias Ramirez

Friday January 18, 2013.

Declaración del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación

“No respondemos provocaciones, ni presiones a las victimas vengan de quien vengan”.
El Movimiento Cristiano Liberación ratifica su demanda de que sean investigados de manera independiente del gobierno cubano las muertes de Oswaldo Paya y Harold Cepero.
Los testigos con quienes hemos podido hablar, los sms que existen y las versiones contrastadas por nuestro Movimiento indican que los hechos ocurridos aquel fatal 22 de julio en la carretera Tunas-Bayamo fueron producto de un atentado.
Confiamos en nuestros amigos, quienes tienen todo nuestro respeto y respaldo. No respondemos provocaciones, ni presiones a las victimas vengan de quien vengan.
El Movimiento Cristiano Liberación es uno y la sintonía de criterios y la coherencia en los actos de sus lideres y activistas dentro y fuera de Cuba es absoluta e inquebrantable.
A nombre del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación;
Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo                   Regis Iglesias Ramirez

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Martyred Prophets of Nonviolence: Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá: Prophets and martyrs for freedom

Two important anniversaries are taking place this week: Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 21 and the 6 month anniversary of the deaths of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. However Martin and Oswaldo share a lot more in common than the proximity of dates on a calendar. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas were Christians whose nonviolent defense of human rights was informed by their faith. Both of their movements emerged out of their respective local Churches. Martin Luther King Jr. was a reverend at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas a Catholic layman at the Savior of the World Parrish in El Cerro in Havana. 

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was awarded the European Union's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002  (English translation of speech available here) and was nominated by Vaclav Havel for the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. 

On January 18, 2012 Santiago A. Cárdenas presented his book Payá: The Goat, The Man, The Prophet about the early years of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and the founding of the Christian Liberation Movement at a forum organized by the Institute of Historic Memory. It was this book presentation that generated this reflection on the parallels between Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. 

Both Martin and Oswaldo were profoundly influenced by the social doctrine of Christianity and rejected both Capitalism and Marxism as ideologies that failed in respecting the dignity of the person. 

Both men founded a movement based in nonviolence and inspired by historic figures. In the case of Martin Luther King Jr., he was greatly influenced by Mohandas Gandhi and Oswaldo Payá was greatly influenced by Lech Walesa

 Both men had several moments where they made a national impact with international ramifications but in the end were attacked and marginalized for maintaining their nonviolent posture and failing to follow up on great momentary victories in an aggressive manner. 

Martin Luther King Jr.'s great triumphs were: the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery and are well known. What is now forgotten is his failure to follow up on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott; not participating in the 1961 Freedom Riders; the challenge of the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement campaign, or the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign — cut short by his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s victories and remaining challenges are well known but Oswaldo Payá's with the exception of the Varela Project are relatively unknown and therefore require greater explanation.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's great triumphs were: Founding the Christian Liberation Movement on September 8, 1988, in a country where independent organizations are outlawed by the dictatorship, and had it become a national movement despite all the obstacles it faced. Announcing his intention to run for office in 1992 as an independent candidate to the rubber stamp National Assembly of People's Power exercising his constitutional right run for office. Two days prior to the meeting to accept applications he is publicly arrested at home and publicly paraded through the neighborhood to intimidate his neighbors. Communist party members threaten him that "blood will flow if he presents [his candidacy] at the meeting." Communist party members hold a meeting under guard with only a few of their followers. The inability of the Cuban regime to respect its own laws as established in the Constitution was dramatically exposed.

On October 10, 1995 as one of the organizers of the Cuban Council that sought to unify the opposition around a nonviolent program of national reconciliation and an official request to the Cuban authorities to hold a national dialogue on the future of Cuba on February 24, 1996. The regime's response was a massive crackdown on the days leading up to February 24 and the shoot down of two civilian planes on that day over international airspace.

Despite these challenges Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas carried on and in 1997 collected signatures and presented them to run for a seat in the National Assembly. The Election Commission refused to accept his candidacy.  Oswaldo responded by declaring that the election law did not respect the sovereignty of the people, that it was unconstitutional and demanded that it be scrapped in favor of a democratic election law. The regime's response was to slander Oswaldo Payá in the official media.

On January 22, 1998 the Christian Liberation Movement makes public the Varela Project and begins gathering signatures for a referendum to reform Cuban laws and bring it in line with the respect of fundamental human rights using a clause in Cuban law that citizen's can propose laws via a petition with 10,000 signatures.

In 1999 he drafts the declaration "All United" that seeks to carry out the goals that had already been proposed by the Cuban Council back in 1995 and on this occasion despite repression and harassment he is successful and the democratic opposition is able to hold its first national assembly.

In 2001 this united front "All United" relaunches the Varela Project and on May 10, 2002 members of the coalition led by Oswaldo present it with 11,020 confirmed signatures.  According to the 1992 Cuban Constitution the National Assembly had to publicly discuss the Varela Project and vote for it or against it and the government was obliged by law to encourage a public discussion of the Varela Project in the mass media it controls. Instead the regime ignored its own fundamental laws and launched its own petition drive to make the "socialist" nature of the constitution untouchable. This bill took precedence over the Varela Project in violation of its own rules and was voted on then on July 5, 2002 the National Assembly "indefinitely" suspended its meeting to avoid discussing the Varela Project. This led to an outpouring of international support for Oswaldo and the Varela Project.

On March 18, 2003 the Castro regime carries out a massive crackdown in which 75 Cuban dissidents are arrested to prison sentences of up to 28 years in prison. The majority of these new prisoners of conscience are members of the Christian Liberation Movement and / or involved in the Varela Project. Despite the repression the "All United" coalition continues to gather signatures for the Varela Project. Seven months after the massive crackdown on October 3, 2003 Oswaldo Payá personally delivers another 14,000 signatures for the Varela Project demanding a referendum.

He faces criticism from some quarters of the opposition for first operating within the confines of the current constitutional system, because Cubans did not have an opportunity to accept it in a free and fair vote but under one controlled by the dictatorship. Secondly, that instead of continuing to gather signatures for the Varela Project that he should've mobilized the opposition into taking to the streets and demanding the immediate release of all Cuban prisoners of conscience.

On December 12, 2003 Oswaldo Payá launched a national dialogue that in the end involved over 12,000 Cubans in 3,000 discussion groups in and out of Cuba to obtain a consensus on how to transition from the current system to a democratic one via concrete, nonviolent and legal means while also discussing the challenges that would be faced by a transitional government in governing this led in 2005 to the document: "All Cubans Program" and a pledge to continue the dialogue.

On December 18, 2007 he launched the Heredia Project which demanded that the right of Cubans to enter and exit their homeland be recognized and respected, a right systematically denied them by the Cuban regime.

On July 13, 2011 he announced a petition drive called "The People's Path" that once again generated a broad based coalition of support in the island and set out a path for change. The campaign is still underway.

In the final months before his untimely death on July 22, 2012, Oswaldo Payá, was denouncing the fraudulent change taking place in Cuba as the underlying nature of the regime remained unchanged while cosmetic efforts were made to improve its international image.

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas died, martyred, for their work in the defense of human rights and dignity. Their work is still unfinished. Neither King or Payá achieved their end goal but both were prophets in their own land with local and global perspectives that continue to shake the establishments of their respective countries and remain a hopeful challenge to the civilizational order that it can do better.

Their nonviolent example has transcended their deaths and has left a legacy that continues to impact both their respective countries thus their words and deeds need to be studied: 

World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built. – Martin Luther King, Jr. March 1965

The cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized. - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"There are two types of laws: there are just laws and there are unjust laws...What is the difference between the two?...An unjust law is a man-made code that is out of harmony with the moral law...Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?" – Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963

Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression.  - Oswaldo Payá, March 30, 2012

"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals." - Martin Luther King Jr. 1964
How close you and "Solidarity" have been to us in these years. Receive our fraternal greetings. I write on behalf of the Christian "Liberation" Movement. We are a Christian and patriotic movement that by peaceful means are working for freedom and democracy in our nation. ... I hope this gets to you and that the Poles might know of our struggle inspired by the Gospel. I cannot conclude without expressing our gratitude to you, the Movement "Solidarity" and all the Polish people that knew how to open the path of freedom for subject peoples. As Catholics we feel that we are in communion with you and that overcomes the difficulties of communication. - Oswaldo Payá, October 1, 1990 

"Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation." - Martin Luther King Jr.

We now know that any method or model which purportedly aims to achieve justice, development, and efficiency but takes precedence over the individual or cancels out any of the fundamental rights leads to a form of oppression and to exclusion and is calamitous for the people. - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

"Today the choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." - Martin Luther King Jr. 1964
We wish to express our solidarity with all those who suffer from any form of oppression and injustice, and with those in the world who have been silenced or marginalized. - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. -
Martin Luther King Jr. December 11, 1964 

It's obviously a matter of shame that our land is being used for that purpose, having foreign prisoners brought to Cuba. Even if they are terrorists they deserve respect. Their human rights should be respected. - Oswaldo Paya, December 18, 2002 (on arrival of Taliban prisoners to Guantanamo )

Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.  - Martin Luther King Jr. December 11, 1964

There is a real “moral inversion,” in what the foreign media, intellectual circles, ecclesiastical circles, diplomats and politicians are doing against the people of Cuba and against the dissident right now. They judge the persecuted, the poor, those who are silenced, but they do not dare to judge the government. - Oswaldo Paya, October 3, 2011

Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau "Improved means to an unimproved end". - Martin Luther King Jr. December 11, 1964

"We thank all those heroes who on one day were abducted from their homes unjustly imprisoned solely for defending human rights. The people of Cuba and all who love justice must be grateful to those Cubans who have been symbols of dignity and hope shining from the shadows."  - Oswaldo Paya, October 7, 2010

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. - Martin Luther King Jr. December 10, 1964

"It's difficult to say exactly what the offences are but it can be just for being critical of Fidel Castro. More than 20 leaders of our movement [the Christian Liberation Movement] are in prison and many other activists from other movements. The repression against the Varela Project [named after Felix Varela, a nineteenth-century Cuban independence advocate] is because they understood that people had lost their fear so we became a symbol of hope." - Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006

I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome! - Martin Luther King Jr., December 10, 1964

"Many Cubans see powerful things in this regime or are concerned that they will be trapped. The solution cannot be a violent one because that will only bring more violence."  - Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006

"Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land." - Martin Luther King Jr. April 3, 1968 Memphis, Tennessee

"I have been told that I am going to be killed before the regime is over but I am not going to run away."- Oswaldo Payá, August 4, 2006   
"Truth is not to be found either in traditional capitalism or in Marxism. Each represents a partial truth. Historically, capitalism failed to discern the truth in collective enterprise and Marxism failed to see the truth in individual enterprise." - Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love1963  
"We don't want savage capitalism; we already have savage communism. Please, no more savage things." - Oswaldo Payá, November 20, 2010 
Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love1963  
The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together’. - Oswaldo Paya, December 17, 2002