Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bacardi as a Legacy and Symbol of Cuban Freedom

Bacardi is honoring its origins with a series of film shorts about Emilio Bacardi. It offers a very simplified version of Cuban history but that does have a large basis in truth.

The Bacardi family has played an important role throughout Cuba's history. Bacardis fought for Cuban independence alongside Antonio Maceo and continued to engage in public service during the Cuban  republic. Bacardi also has a tradition of resisting not only Spanish colonial rule but every dictatorship that has arisen in Cuba. Bacardis resisted Gerardo Machados's usurpation of Cuban democracy as they did Fulgencio Batista's and for half a century against the Castro dictatorship.

Enjoy the videos, but please take it upon yourself to read a history of the Bacardi family titled Bacardi and The Long Fight for Cuba :The Biography of a Cause written by Tom Gjelten, a reporter for National Public Radio.

A 2008 review of the book in The New York Times by Randy Kennedy touches on the figure of Emilio Bacardi:
Emilio Bacardi, especially, comes to life as the book’s most powerful character, though one so strange that Gabriel García Márquez might have invented him. Emilio was imprisoned twice by Spain off the coast of Morocco for his revolutionary activities. But he still managed to hold the company together, to serve as Santiago’s mayor during the unsettled years of the American occupation, to help found a salon called the Victor Hugo Freethinker Group, to practice theosophy in a predominantly Catholic country and to track down a genuine mummy on a trip to Egypt, which he bought as the centerpiece for a museum he had founded in San­tiago. (Modest he was not; he signed his revolutionary correspondence with the name Phocion, after the Athenian statesman known as “the good.”)
Friends of a free Cuba that want to celebrate Cuban independence and support Cuban liberation can do it by purchasing Bacardi rum in honor of a Cuba Libre make a toast with a Cuba Libre made with Bacardi.

What was not seen on Venezuelan television today

Mass nonviolent protest march for academic freedom and autonomy 

RCTV_CONTIGO: What you did NOT see on TV
First learned of this march in Venezuela on June 25, 2013  via the twitter feed of María Corina Machado an opposition member of the National Assembly who explained it in 140 characters that: "Great National March in defense of the FREE, PLURAL, DEMOCRATIC, and AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY Saturday 29 at 10am."

Photo from Maria Corina Machado's twitter

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans went out to march for academic autonomy and freedom in their universities. It was a remarkable demonstration of civic solidarity and resistance.

The Maduro government had called for a counter march by regime supporters in an effort to disrupt the opposition march and generate violent clashes. He failed. The opposition was able to take counter-measures and maintain its nonviolent discipline in the defense of freedom. 

Opposition activist, Roderick Navarro responded over twitter that "The "countermarch" is a sign of weakness that is so evident" and in a previous tweet said: "Don't ask me to be nice to Madurisms fanatics: who I insulted only with indifference! This regime won't last forever."

Roderick concluded on Saturday night, after the march and countermarch, over twitter: "Day of deep reflection, analysis and decision making for the future..."

As was done in Cuba over a half century ago the Maduro government is trying to do away with independent universities.

All eyes on Venezuela. The freedom of Venezuelans hang in the balance.

Photo from Maria Corina Machado's twitter

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Google satellites potentially a challenge to totalitarian rule

"Between the cable and the wall! So is the governmentt of Cuba with Google satellites to give Internet to users who do not have access." ... "Official spokesperson said we'll have Internet at home by end of 2014. I think it will be before that with Google Satellites :-)" - Yoani Sanchez, over twitter on June 26, 2013

First four google satellites launched to provide internet to remote locations
As has been the case for the past 35 years with the founding of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights inside of Castro's prisons, change is taking place in Cuba despite the best laid plans of the Castro dictatorship. The Committee to Protect Journalists in 2011 listed the Cuban totalitarian regime as one of the online oppressors that uses the denial of access as their chief mean of controlling the internet..

The latest evidence for this is to be found with regards to the internet and cell phones. Cuba has the lowest internet and cell phone coverage in the hemisphere. Nevertheless, inventive Cubans have found the way to circumvent government controls and get access, however limited , to both.

The Cuban government and its agents of influence try to blame economic sanctions for their policy of limiting and controlling information but the facts do not back them up.

President Obama on April 13, 2009 directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:
  • Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
  • License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
  • Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
It was the Cuban government that showed no interest in a fiber-optic cable linking the United States and Cuba in 2009 not the Cuban embargo. Instead it went with a fiber-optic cable linking Cuba and Venezuela. Meanwhile internet access has not improved for the average Cuban.

Now officials are announcing that this is going to change, but it is interesting to note that the news arrives at the same time that Google has launched satellites to bring inexpensive internet to people in remote areas, including Cuba.

The regime is no doubt trying to figure out how to jam the Google satellites, or restrict the content that reaches Cubans while at the same time waging a cyberwar against what it perceives as its ideological adversaries. Perhaps one way to do it is to finally allow regular Cubans to enjoy improved internet connectivity via the cable from Venezuela that they have firm control over. Although, the regime may have to abandon the its chief strategy of denying Cubans access to internet they have at least nine other tactics used by other repressive regimes to limit the internet's liberating potential: web blocking, precision censorship, infrastructure control, cyber attacks on exile run sites, malware attacks, internet kill switches, detaining bloggers, violence against online journalists, and criminalizing uncensored access to internet ( ask Alan Gross about that last one.)

Paris court upholds ‘Carlos the Jackal’ life sentence

“I have fought all my life against terrorists. We are not terrorists, we are freedom fighters!”  - Carlos the Jackal

Illich Ramirez Sanchez a.k. Carlos the Jackal
1970s and after his capture in 1997
Ilich Ramirez Sanchez,better known as Carlos the Jackal, lost his appeal today in a French Court for his 2011 conviction for masterminding a string of bombings in France in the 1980s that killed 11 and wounded many more. His life sentence has been reaffirmed.

Back in 2011,  Carlos the Jackal, at the same time that his trial was underway in France , boasted in an interview with the daily El Nacional of committing more than 100 attacks that claimed up to 2,000 lives explaining that:
With the means that I have in jail I began to make a rough account and the dead do not reach 2,000. Less than 10% of innocents suffered for it.
Later in the same interview when questioned about the attacks and asked if mistakes were made Ramírez Sánchez gave a candidly brutal answer:

Reporter - But then you, personally, believe that you were not mistaken in anything?
Ramírez Sánchez- Errors one commits all the time. President Chavez makes mistakes and thats normal, it is not a serious problem. Fidel Castro made ​​terrible mistakes.

Reporter- But people were killed in your attacks.
Ramírez Sánchez - Yes, but Fidel killed more people than me.
This was not his first life sentence. On December 24, 1997 he was also convicted of murder by a French Court and sentenced to life in prison stated at his sentencing: "I am satisfied and I am proud I chose my cause when I was 14 and I have never strayed." According to the New York Times, "His real cause was anti-Americanism, adopted when he was a student in the 1960s looking for a way of defying U.S. domination and capitalist values the way Fidel Castro and Che Guevara had done for Cuba before him."

Ramírez Sánchez, Venezuelan by birth, described by the late Venezuelan "president" Hugo Chavez as a "revolutionary fighter" in November of 2009 is an ideological soul mate of Chavez, the heir apparent to Castroism-Guevarism ideology. According to French intelligence services Carlos the Jackal is responsible for more than 80 murders.

Carlos the Jackal's life story spawned a 2010 film that was five and a half hours long that glorified the acts of terrorism he carried out in the service of Marxism-Leninism.

Regime apologists downplay the significance of the Tricontinental meeting and its relationship to the upsurge of terrorism in the late 1960s and 1970s but there are artifiacts from that time that still remain in circulation: in 1970 the Cuban government published the "Mini Manual for Revolutionaries" in the official Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO) publication Tricontinental, written by Brazilian urban terrorist Carlos Marighella, which gives precise instructions in terror tactics, kidnappings, etc. and translated into numerous languages which were distributed worldwide by the Cuban regime. 

According to Major David E. Smith USMC in his 1995 paper "The Training of Terrorist Organizations" the Cuban role in the explosion of terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s was systematic:
Although terrorism originated centuries ago, modern international terrorism orchestrated by the Soviet Union arguably began at the Tricontinental Conference conceived by Moscow and conducted in Havana, Cuba during January l966. The purpose of the conference was to devise a "global revolutionary strategy to counter the global strategy of American imperialism."[14] It resulted in the creation of an African, Asian, and Latin American Solidarity Organization based in Havana. ... Castro's terrorism schools were under the supervision of the Dirección General de Inteligencia (DGI). Students were flown into the country from connecting airports, or arrived in Cuban harbors by boat. Upon debarkation in Havana, they were segregated by nationality and moved to their individual training locations. The guerrilla courses lasted from three to six months. Subject material included "tactics, weapons training, bomb making- particularly how to blow up oil pipelines, map reading, cryptography, photography, falsification of documents, and disguise."
The glorification of mass killers such as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Carlos the Jackal, downplaying the carnage carried out, while at the same time celebrating it is a recipe for more unnecessary violence and terror.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cuban Moms Are Heroes Standing Up For Freedom

"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." - Laura Pollan, Ladies in White leader who died under suspicious circumstances

Trending over Twitter this evening was the hashtag and some courageous Cuban moms came to mind: The Ladies in White.  

Many Cuban moms are heroes standing up for freedom in Cuba using nonviolent means. Since March of 2003 a group of Cuban mothers formed the Ladies in White and began regularly demonstrating in the streets of Cuba demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience and the respect for human rights so that no new prisoners of conscience are ever again jailed in Cuba.

They have been threatened, badly beaten, and the founder of the movement, Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, died under suspicious circumstances on October 14, 2011.

The Cuban dictatorship is a totalitarian regime that is a tropical version of its ally North Korea. Despite this reality, these Cuban are risking all for a Cuba in which human rights are respected.

They are like the German housewives married to Jewish husbands in Rosenstrasse, Germany who in 1943 took to the streets to protest their loved ones being seized and taken to concentration. They managed to organize a sustained large protest movement that got them their loved ones back.

The Ladies in White got their husbands, brothers and sons back after more than seven years in prison but unlike the German women who then disbanded they have continued their campaign demanding that all Cuban prisoners of conscience be freed and human rights be respected.

This is why these women, now led by Berta Soler, are heroes standing up for the freedom of the Cuban people. Al Jazeera in their program People and Power broadcast the above story on these courageous Cuban moms in November of 2012.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

NSA Whistle blower Edward Snowden on way to Cuba, final stop Ecuador

Cubans and Chinese are also listening in on your phone calls 

Cuban listening post in Bejucal

Early this morning got a phone call from Fox and Friends to comment on breaking news that Edward Snowden was possibly on his way to Cuba. Below is a more extended version of what I had to say. 

The CIA's first defector was Philip Agee who died in Cuba in 2008 at the age of 72. He had defected to Cuba in 1973 and made public the identity of 250 alleged CIA officers and agents.  It was the Cubans and not the KGB who had successfully recruited him. Beyond the intelligence damage the Cuban dictatorship used him as a propaganda tool publishing books under his name and engaging in campaigns to discredit the international image of the United States  

Edward Snowden’s disclosures that the United States spies on the phone conversations and internet communications of tens of millions Americans all the time is a less aggressive version of what is standard operating procedure for Cuba’s totalitarian regime, and this disclosure provides an opportunity for Cuba's propaganda machinery to counter critics of their own inexcusable behavior on the subject. 

What the international news media fails to mention is that the Chinese and Cubans have also been systematically spying on the phone conversations of tens of millions of Americans. It began in the 1960s with the Lourdes spy base in Cuba that was first operated by the Russians and kept running with the help of the Chinese until it closed some time in the 2000s . Another important base run by a well-trained Cuban electronic intelligence battalion working together with the Chinese is the base in Bejucal.  There is also an understanding with the regime in Havana to share intelligence with the Russians.

Americans should not be shocked that Snowden would be traveling through, or staying in Cuba. There have been many other fugitives from the United States that have been hiding out in Cuba, including one designated a terrorist by the FBI.

The Castro regime has a history of harboring U.S. fugitives from justice such as FBI designated American terrorist Joanna Chesimard a.k.a. Assata Shakur who has been granted political asylum in Cuba and has a website that promotes international terrorism with a manual published by the Cubans.

The question arises how dangerous is the information that Edward Snowden has acquired as an independent contractor with classified status? Its more embarrassing than it is dangerous. Suspect its no where near the damaging information high ranking U.S. officials with secret clearance that worked for the Castro regime for decades had as were the cases of Ana Belen Montes at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Kendall Myers at the U.S. State Department and Marta Rita Velazquez at the Agency for International Development, (she was also the woman who recruited Ana Belen Montes for the Cubans). Velazquez fled to Sweden, a neutral country, where she married a Swedish Foreign Ministry insider.

As recently as 2012 there were reports in the media of Cuban, Iranian and Venezuelan officials meeting in Mexico to discuss cyber attacks on U.S. soil allegedly seeking information about nuclear power plants in the United States. Supposedly the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter, but there was no mention of this in the State Department's 2012 report.

This has been going on for a long time.

The Cuban government infiltrated a network of spies into the United States that it called the WASP network with the objective of spying on U.S. military installations, spying on Cuban exiles, identifying locations to store weapons and explosives on U.S. territory and planned to first terrorize then assassinate a man they identified as a CIA agent living in Bal Harbour, Florida using a mail bomb. 

This network engaged in measures that cost lives.

The Cuban WASP network had a role in the February 24, 1996 shoot down in which U.S. citizens were killed in international airspace and the head of the spy network was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder for his role in the death of the four men killed. The Cubans want them back and have been holding Alan Gross as a de facto hostage since December 2009. The spy network was broken up by the U.S. government in 1998 and according to newspaper accounts in 2008 the Castro regime had rebuilt its spy network.

It is unlikely but the Castro regime could also use Snowden as a bargaining chip to get back their four agents and like North Korea, who was taken off the list of terror sponsors by blackmailing the United States, engage in a similar tactic here. This is also why it is unlikely that Snowden would remain in Cuba as a final destination. 

Since Julian Assange of Wikileaks is involved, who has received political asylum in Ecuador, therefore Ecuador would be my bet for where he winds up, if not Iceland.Otherwise if he is foolish enough to stay in Cuba or ends up in Venezuela he could find himself traded back to the United States or in an even worse situation.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Eleven Months After a Terrible Day for Cuba

"Its been 11 months without my father Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. They were intentionally rammed and taken off the road..." - Rosa Maria Payá, over twitter June 22, 2013 at 10:07am

"And now freedom." Image by Rolando Pulido

 Eleven months seem so long ago and at the same time just like yesterday. Yes, its a contradiction but nevertheless true. It was a Sunday, and got the phone call leaving the movie theater..."They killed him. Oswaldo is dead."  Feels just like yesterday, that hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach at the horror of what had just happened. At the same time it seems so long ago. 

The vigils, masses, and funerals of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante. The painful losses suffered by two families who had already sacrificed much for Cuban dignity and freedom. The battle to get at the truth of what happened on that Sunday afternoon in Bayamo, Cuba. The survivors of the crash detained, drugged and threatened. The sordid bilateral agreements between states to cover up a crime in the favor of expediency and commercial interests.  

The international solidarity from people of good will around the world. Rosa Maria Payá and Regis Iglesias Ramírez speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council to demand justice and truth for Oswaldo and Harold while at the same time calling for freedom of Cuba's political prisoner and for Cubans to follow the People's Path to an authentic nonviolent transition. This in the midst of death threats called into the Payá home and other members attacked with machetes. It all seems so long ago but in fact its been less than a year, and all I can say is that you are all in my prayers and my condolences for your loss. 

July 22, 2012 was not just a terrible day for Oswaldo, Harold and their families, friends and colleagues it was also a terrible day for Cuba. Two leaders that offered a way forward for Cuba without hatred and violence were cruelly taken away.


Thankfully, there is much that one can do. Letting others know about the life and work of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. Following Rosa Maria Payá, Regis Iglesias and the Christian Liberation Movement over twitter and supporting the People's Path. Lastly, and just as importantly adding ones name to the growing list of signatures demanding an international and transparent investigation into the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold.

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero

The Case to Keep Cuba on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism

"Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." ... "The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up."
- Fidel Castro, University of Tehran, May 10, 2001 quoted in the Agence France Presse


On June 11, 2013 the Center for Strategic and International Studies held an event with  Tomás Bilbao, executive director of the Cuba Study Group and attorney Robert Muse, who is a legal expert on Cuba sanctions in which both made the case to remove Cuba from the terrorist list

Bilbao gave a presentation that focused on the political calculations for removing Cuba from the list and about the political obstacles that have prevented this and strategies to achieve the policy goals of the Cuba Study Group (although Bilbao distanced the Cuba Study Group from his presentation stating that these were his own views).

Unfortunately, the event only presented one side of the argument and Muse based his rebuttal on the U.S. State Department's report which offer, according to him, “3 purported reasons” that are weak. (Wikileaks offers more details about the relationship between the Cuban government and these terrorist groups given safe harbor in the island.) The attorney went on to conclude that it was an "arbitrary and capricious act to keep Cuba on the list." The only item in the State Department report that he conceded had some substance is the harboring of fugitives and specifically raised Joanne Chesimard (a.k.a Assata Shakur), who had been designated a terrorist by the FBI, which Muse then went on to dispute. However, the crux of the argument for keeping or removing Cuba from the list of terror sponsors was succinctly explained by Robert Muse as follows:
“The list. Cuba on the terror sponsoring list. Arises from a statute, a 1979 statute that gives the Secretary of State the authority to determine that a country has repeatedly provided support for international terrorism and. International terrorism is defined under other statutes to be, to involve acts involving the citizens of the territory of more than one country.”
The State Department's report on Cuba is underwhelming and leaves a lot out and is reminiscent of another report. In 1997 the Defense Intelligence Agency prepared a report that Secretary of Defense William Cohen sent to Congress that claimed that "Cuba does not pose a significant military threat to the U.S." and that "Cuba has little motivation to engage in military activity beyond defense of its territory and political system."   The report also acknowledged that "Cuba has a limited capability to engage in some military and intelligence activities which would be detrimental to U.S. interests." Reading the full report at the time (as the State Department report now) was shocking because it didn't accord with what was available in the press. Years later, it turned out that the threat assessment had been prepared by a top Defense Intelligence Analyst, Ana Belen Montes ,who in reality had been working as a spy for Cuban intelligence for 15 years. She was arrested days after September 11, 2001 out of fear that the information she was providing to the Cubans would wind up in the hands of Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

For the sake of brevity, below are three fundamental reasons why Cuba should be kept on the list of state sponsors of terrorism:

First, the Cuban government has a long history of sponsoring terrorism beginning in the 1960s with the Tricontinental meetings where terrorism was viewed as a legitimate tactic. The University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies in 2004 published a chronology of Cuban government involvement in terrorism covering between 1959 and 2003. For example, their report lists how in 1970 the Cuban government published the "Mini Manual for Revolutionaries" in the official Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO) publication Tricontinental, written by Brazilian urban terrorist Carlos Marighella, which gives precise instructions in terror tactics, kidnappings, etc. and translated into numerous languages which were distributed worldwide by the Cuban dictatorship. There is a chapter on terrorism:
Terrorism is an action, usually involving the placement of an explosive or firebomb of great destructive power, which is capable of effecting irreparable loss against the enemy. Terrorism requires that the urban guerrilla should have adequate theoretical and practical knowledge of how to make explosives. The terrorist act, apart from the apparent ease with which it can be carried out, is no different from other guerrilla acts and actions whose success depends on planning and determination. It is an action which the urban guerrilla must execute with the greatest calmness and determination. Although terrorism generally involves an explosion, there are cases in which it may be carried out through executions or the systematic burning of installations, properties, plantations, etc. It is essential to point out the importance of fires and the construction of incendiary devices such as gasoline bombs in the technique of guerrilla terrorism. Another thing is the importance of the material the urban guerrilla can persuade the people to expropriate in the moments of hunger and scarcity brought about by the greed of the big commercial interests. Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never relinquish.
Incidentally an online copy of the above mentioned text is displayed on the website of fugitive Assata Shakur who fled to Cuba in 1984 for the murder of a police officer and has been given political asylum by the Cuban government.

Second, the Cuban government had sent instructions to its WASP network agents to engage in acts of terrorism on U.S. soil during the Clinton Administration. The Cuban "WASP" spies arrested in 1998 used coded material on computer disks to communicate with other members of the spy network. Below are two excerpts from the 1,300 pages taken from those diskettes translated and used during the spy trial that demonstrate the criminal nature of the Cuban regime's operation in South Florida. In the first excerpt it declares that their primary objective was "penetrating and obtaining information on the naval station located in that city." In the next excerpt intelligence operatives communicated about "burning down the warehouse" and sabotaging Brothers to the Rescue equipment. Also requested that they attempt to identify who would be flying at certain times.

In the final excerpt operatives discuss plans to prepare a "book bomb" so that it evades post office security while at the same time phoning death threats to a man they describe as a CIA agent and then having him killed via the mail bomb.

The seriousness of these planned action items would be confirmed by the February 24, 1996 shoot down where two MiGs hunted Brothers to the Rescue planes in international airspace and used air to air missiles to destroy two of the planes killing two pilots and two passengers based on intelligence supplied by the WASP network.  International organizations recognized that Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales were murdered by agents of the Cuban government on February 24, 1996 in international airspace. The first of the participants in the conspiracy to be held accountable for his actions was Gerardo Hernandez who was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder

Taking the above into account the April 7, 2002 statement by Richard Nuccio, President Clinton's former special adviser on Cuba referenced by attorney Robert L. Muse is extremely troubling:
"Frankly, I don't know anyone in or outside of government who believes in private that Cuba belongs on the terrorist list. People who defend it know it is a political calculation. It keeps a certain part of the voting public in Florida happy, and it doesn't cost anything."
Third, as recently as 2012 there were reports in the media of Cuban, Iranian and Venezuelan officials meeting in Mexico to discuss cyber attacks on U.S. soil allegedly seeking information about nuclear power plants in the United States. Supposedly the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter, but there is no mention of this in the State Department's 2012 report.

Cuban intelligence having been trained and prepared by the East German intelligence service known as the STASI have been highly successful in penetrating the U.S. government and at high levels. Ana Belen Montes was a high ranking analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military version of the CIA, who drafted the report that provided an assessment of the threat that Cuba poises to the United States. She also had access to intelligence on Latin America that she passed along to her Cuban handlers that led to the death of at least one American on March 31, 1987 and his name was Gregory A. Fronius. The FBI arrested her on September 20, 2001 before they could identify and capture her Cuban handlers because in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks they feared that the intelligence that she would provide Cuba could end up in the hands of the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Montes had been a spy for the Cuban government since 1984. She had drawn attention to herself during the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown and that prompted the investigation that led to her downfall. 

Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn spent thirty years spying against the United States for Fidel Castro. Kendall Myers was a high-ranking analyst for the U.S. State Department with top-secret clearance who had been recruited in 1978 by Cuban intelligence.  His wife would pass her husband's acquired information on to their Cuban contacts. Kendall Myers was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison and his wife got a shorter sentence. The CIA's first defector was Philip Agee who died in Cuba in 2008 at the age of 72. He had defected to Cuba in 1973 and made public the identity of 250 alleged CIA officers and agents.  It was the Cubans and not the KGB who had successfully recruited him.

The facts say it should be on the list. What about the politics?

Cuba, like North Korea, is a sponsor of terrorism and both are brutal totalitarian communist dictatorships ruled by small circles of strong men. On the merits both should be on the list. However, in Washington D.C. the facts can take a back seat to political and strategic interests. Nevertheless, taking all of this into account Tomás Bilbao's claim that taking Cuba off the list of terror sponsors would be in the national security interests of the United States doesn't add up. It makes about as much sense as the Bush Administration taking North Korea off the list in 2008 which did not slow down its drive to obtain and test nuclear weapons and today finds that government threatening to rain down nuclear weapons on American cities.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Standing up for Dignity: Power of Creative Nonviolence on Display in Turkey

Individuals standing up to overwhelming force with silence and dignity in Turkey

A man’s single act of nonviolent defiance has turned into a growing group of people’s silent struggle for the right to protest in Taksim Square. His name Erdem Gündüz, a dancer and a performance artist. Around the world the hashtag began trending.

Erdem began standing after police conducted a bag search six hours ago, and he was still standing in the same place staring at the flag of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which is hung on the Atatürk Culture Center (AKM) when he was detained by the police. He was shortly released afterwards and this is what he had to say
"Maybe the media and people will learn something from this silent standing, this resistance," Gunduz said in an interview with Hurriyet TV. "Maybe they will feel some empathy. I am just an ordinary citizen of this country. We want our voices to be heard."Gunduz said he was protesting in solidarity with demonstrators who were evicted at the weekend from Gezi Park adjoining Taksim, an intervention by police that triggered some of the most violent clashes to date.
About 300 others that had joined him in the silent protest of which 10 were also detained. There whereabouts remain at this moment unknown.  Taksim square has been ground zero in the struggle between the police and protesters over the past three weeks.

There are other people standing up in Turkey, we now have a "standing woman" in Ankara silently protesting where the police shot and killed Ethem Sarisuluk, a young man of 26 years of age. Now the hashtag has also appeared.

Tonight in Turkey we have witnessed the power of nonviolence to resist brute force and to bring people together in defense of human dignity.

Lets remain vigilant and continue to support the nonviolent demonstrators in Turkey and their just demands by signing this petition from Amnesty International an end to the abuse and an accounting of the extent of the injuries suffered.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Oslo Freedom Forum 2013 Challenging Power: Voices from Cuba and China

Oslo Freedom Forum Logo

"When I was 14, I was at a barrio meeting, organized by the Cuban communist party. The delegate was saying that "we should be grateful with the revolution for the food they sell us monthly through the rationing card." I got back to him complaining that "5 pounds of rice and 10 ounces of beans were not enough to live." Days later I was convicted for pre-criminal social dangerousness, along with 196 other teenagers in the region. I was sentenced to a year and a half of forced labor in a government sugar cane plantation. My story was never published in the media." -Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, Oslo Freedom Forum 2013

Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez

Reporting from an Island Prison

Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez is a Cuban independent journalist and founder of the Hablemos Press news agency. He currently directs the agency, the same group for which journalist and former prisoner of conscience Calixto Martinez reported before his arrest in 2012. In 2005, Guerra was arrested while on hunger strike to protest the Cuban government’s harassment of independent journalists. Guerra was sentenced to a year and ten months in prison for “public disorderliness." He was released in 2007, and has continued with his work as a journalist, despite ongoing beatings, harassment, and detentions.

 Two years ago on this day, my family and I were living under house arrest and brutal torment. One year ago, we were at the hospital in Beijing, extremely anxious and fearful. Today, I stand here freely, speaking before you. Although we have no sure answers about what the future will bring next year on this day or perhaps years from now, one thing is sure: the wheel of history turns unhindered, whether the oppressors will it or not. ... However, these truths are immutable: all authoritarian regimes crumble and all empires founder in the tides of history. -Chen Guangcheng, Oslo Freedom Forum 2013

Chen Guangcheng

China's Inevitable Transformation

Chen Guangcheng is a blind Chinese civil rights activist who has worked on human rights issues in rural areas of China. A self-taught legal worker, Chen faced a series of prison sentences and periods of house arrest after organizing a landmark class-action lawsuit in 2005 against Chinese authorities for excessive enforcement—including forced sterilizations and abortions—of the country’s one-child policy. After a trial in which his attorneys were prevented from entering the court, Chen was charged with “damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic" in retaliation for his advocacy. In April 2012, Chen escaped from house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He now lives with his family in the U.S. and is a visiting scholar at the New York University School of Law.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cubazuela: The hunger strikes of Franklin Brito and Luis Enrique Santos

Former Cuban political prisoner Luis Enrique Santos Caballero evicted, humiliated and left homeless along with the rest of his family for political reasons in Cuba by State Security is slowly dying.  Luis Enrique began a hunger strike on May 24, 2013 demanding housing for him and his family. His health was compromised to begin with, he has only one kidney. He lost consciousness today and is said to be near death.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that such a case has drawn international attention. In Cuba the names of Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo are remembered as is Bobby Sands of Northern Ireland (who the Cuban dictatorship built a memorial to in Cuba) and Venezuela's Franklin Brito joined this select grouping that paid the ultimate price when engaging in a hunger strike on August 31, 2010. Unlike the other men mentioned above, Franklin was not in prison at the time of his hunger strike.

Franklin Brito was a farmer and a biologist whose land was expropriated by Hugo Chavez in 2000 according to CNN. Other news agencies place the date of expropriation anywhere between 2003 and 2004. He exhausted every recourse and was driven to the final option: the hunger strike in 2005
Brito began a series of hunger strikes that resulted in his death five years later.

On November 19, 2009 Franklin Brito in the midst of one of these hunger strikes, he explained what motivated him:
"I am not doing this strike for something material or because persons have behaved badly towards me - that one could say are corrupt. I am doing this strike for dignity and justice. I believe that these are the greatest values that a human being should have."
 Luis Enrique Santos Caballero like Franklin Brito is engaged in a hunger strike to defend his dignity and to demand justice for himself and his family. Both men are confronting regimes that claim to champion social and economic rights but in practice violate them as much as they violate civil and political rights. 

Sadly, as time passes the plight of the Cuban and Venezuelan peoples appears to become one. Let us pray that the struggle for dignity in the face of tyranny does not claim another casualty with Luis Enrique today as it did with Franklin Brito on August 31, 2010. 

Rights defender speaks out about machete attack in Cuba

"That person was prepared. He knew who I was, how I think and how to identify me. His goal was to end my life. Deprive me of my life. Why? Simply because I have demonstrated to the people that I know and where I live that Cuba needs freedom it is the time for people to be free." - Werlando Leyva Batista
Human rights defender Werlando Leyva Batista attacked

A video has emerged of Werlando Leyva Batista, member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) who was attacked with a machete by a paramilitary agent on June 8, 2013 in Holguin, Cuba. The video was sent to Pedazos de la Isla by independent journalist Alexei Jimenez Almarales. In the video, we see Werlando in the hospital, with a cast on his arm, explaining what happened to him at the hands of his attacker, “Amauri”.


What is known so far... 

Eduardo Cardet Concepción of the Christian Liberation Movement, said that Leyva Batista had to have surgery as a result of machete wounds on his right forearm. “They yelled insults calling Werlando a worm, a counterrevolutionary, an opposition member [...] and then using a machete they attacked him,” said Cardet in a telephone message released by MCL.” Cardet later reported on June 10, 2013 that Leiva Werlando was "improving, today they changed his dressing, but until they remove the cast in a month they will not know if he regains all the mobility of the hand.

State security ensures that the individual who assaulted Werlando is detained (his name is Amaury Diaz Hernandez)" The attack is not an isolated incident but fits into an overall pattern of heightened repression that has targeted a number of Christian Liberation Movement activists.

In an interview with Radio Republica, the activist said that the worse blows with the machete were received in one hand and on one thigh, "the goal of the attacker was to end his life because he had taken it upon himself to provide training and do public activism in favor of freedom." In a declaration published by the Christian Liberation Movement, Werlando also described his work on "The Peoples Path" initiative.

 Independent journalist and Holguin native Alexei Jimenez Almarales sent the following report from the island to Pedazos de la Isla:  “More than 10 dissidents were threatened on the morning of June 12th for standing in front of the Lenin Hospital in the city of Holguin.  These human rights activists were showing solidarity with MCL activist Werlando Leyva Batista who received two machete blows three days ago.  They are at the Hospital under threats of being detained, as authorities have said they will call the police.   Those present are:  Yoel Ordeñe Garrotiza, Yonis Leon Abarta, Osnai Pérez Matinés, Luis Quintana, Julio Cesar Ramos Cúrvelo, Juan Carlos Iznaga Santisteban, Denis Pino Basulto, Liliana Campos Buzón, Robier Cruz Campo, Madelaine Escobar Barseló, Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña, Jorge Taylor y Daniel Rodrigué Osorio”.

Early this morning the Christian Liberation Movement tweeted that State Security was trying to eject MCL activists from hospital in Holguin where they were visiting their colleage Werlando Leyva Batista and machete attack victim.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rising repression against the Christian Liberation Movement: May - June 2013

 Repression against the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL)
May-June 2013 Summary

1-Werlando Leyva Batista: Member of the Christian Liberation Movement and manager of The People’s Path in La Yuraguana (Holguin province). Suffered on May 3 a raid on his home by three members of the police forces of the Castro regime, as Eduardo Cardet, Member of the Coordinating Council of the MCL denounced. Sector Chief of Police, Carlos Gonzalez, in addition to participating in the raid, threatened Leyva Batista so that he would leave his activism on behalf of human rights. Werlando Leyva Batista was assaulted by a paramilitary officer with a machete and suffered injuries this June 8 for which he was hospitalized.

2-Luis Manuel Rodriguez: Christian Liberation Movement member and manager of The Peoples Path in Santiago de Cuba. According to the report by Andres Adolis, member of the Coordinating Council of the MCL from Santiago de Cuba denounced that on May 8 state security agents threatened Luis Manuel Rodriguez in the street with death while he was walking with his children around the corner from his home.

3-Alexander Peña Tamayo: Member of the Christian Liberation Movement in the town of San Agustin (Holguin) was arrested, reported by telephone Eduardo Cardet, MCL leader in Holguin and member of the Coordinating Council of the Movement. Peña Tamayo worked actively in the collection of signatures in support of Project Heredia and the dissemination of The People’s Path initiative. Alexander Tamayo Peña, 28 years old, had been sanctioned by the figure of "pre-criminal dangerousness", although the sentence had been commuted to correctional work. On May 22, during his monthly visit to the station for the renewal of penal substitution, the latter was revoked without notice and he was held in Holguín Provincial Prison. Peña Tamayo's family was not informed of his new penal status. Since the authorities refused to provide any information on the activist, the wife of the MCL activist did not know until three days after that he had been imprisoned. During this period, she did not have any news of his whereabouts.

4 - Rigoberto Rodriguez, Member of the Christian Liberation Movement in the town of Buenaventura (Camagüey Province). MCL leader in Holguin and member of the Coordinating Council of the Movement. A local government representative and a high ranking member of State Security have launched a campaign from the first days of May against Rigoberto Rodriguez, a member of the MCL in the town of Buenaventura (Camagüey Province) to disqualify and socially isolate him. Rodriguez working intensively in distributing the Heredia Project, as well as collecting signatures in support of the same, and the dissemination of The Peoples Path initiative and the petition for a referendum on reforms in Cuba. Responsible for heading the campaig is the Delegate of the Judiciary, Julio Molina, with the official support of the State Security official Leonel Vázquez.

5-Elieser Porto. Member of the Christian Liberation Movement in Palma Soriano (Santiago de Cuba). On May 20, a member of the Communist Party of Cuba in the city of Palma Soriano who refused to identify himself threatened Eliezer with arresting (send him to jail) his child if he continued in his activities as a manager of the Bill known as Project Heredia. The wife of the local leader of MCL was also visited by state security threatening her the same way about their 16 year old son.

6-Erlan Driggs Batta. Member of the Christian Liberation Movement in Ojo de Agua, Holguin Province is a target of attacks and destruction of his crops by vandals in the service of state security, report MCL activists in the eastern province this May 24

7-Madeleine Escobar. Christian Liberation Movement activist in the city of Holguin. She had to turn in this day May 3 her license to sell snacks and fast food in the cafeteria, due to the harassment of State Security. Escobar Barceló was the victim of harassment and threats by the Cuban political police for months. In February of this year the regime's security forces used supposed food inspectors to start a provocation accusing her falsely of committing irregularities with her son selling products. When Madeleine denied it and firmly demonstrated the slanderous nature of the accusation, inspectors called the police who immediately appeared at the scene taking Liberation activist to police headquarters.

After that vulgar and grotesque provocation, the political police intervened to start threatening and attempting to blackmail the MCL activist and her son interrogating them for the work of the MCL in the province and the number of activists involved in it. Madeleine Escobar responded then and now firmly to her interrogators that she did not have to answer those questions to them and in any case she was there to denounce the administrative arbitrariness committed against them by the inspectors that unjustly denounced them. She and her son were released in February, but the threats and harassment to the small family business have not stopped.

8 - Manuel Robles Villamarin: Member of the Christian Liberation Movement (Havana): He was called from this number +5372053912 to his mobile . When he called back and asked who they were they replied asking if his mobile phone "is that of the dead man..." and said before hanging up suddenly his name: "Manuel Robles Villamarin".

9 - Last May 29, State security arrested Felipe Abreu and Miguel Lázaro, members of the MCL in Las Tunas province. Political police agents intimidated and threatened them for hours for their work in the Heredia Project.

10 - MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE CASE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT ACTIVIST ROSA MARIA RODRIGUEZ AND HER JAILED SON YOSVANI MELCHOR RODRIGUEZ: Harassing phone calls to Rosa Maria Rodriguez, of the MCL continue The Christian Liberation Movement activist, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, remains a victim of telephone harassment by the Cuban State Security. Rosa María Rodríguez is the mother of Yosvany Melchor Rodríguez, who was convicted in a judicial farce orchestrated by the political police to 12 years in prison and remains imprisoned for the past three years as a means of blackmail and pressure to his mother. You can listen to the audio here in Spanish: The Cuban government violates its own law to keep this young man with a general learning disability in prison

Original text in Spanish:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nonviolent Dissident assaulted by paramilitary wielding a machete wounded and hospitalized

Changes in Cuba: From Bad to Worse
How Raul Castro responds to dissent in Cuba

Werlando Leyva Batista, 30 years old,  a member of the Christian Liberation Movement in Holguin, Cuba was attacked with multiple machete blows yesterday, Saturday,  June 8, 2013 by one of the Cuban government's paramilitary. He is apparently hospitalized in Holguin.Werlando had been previously threatened in May of 2013.

Eduardo Cardet Concepción of the Christian Liberation Movement, said that Leyva Batista had to have surgery as a result of machete wounds on his right forearm. “They yelled insults calling Werlando a worm, a counterrevolutionary, an opposition member [...] and then using a machete they attacked him,” said Cardet in a telephone message released by MCL.”

Read more here:
Cardet reported on June 10, 2013 that Leiva Werlando is improving, today they changed his dressing, but until they remove the cast in a month they will not know if he regains all the mobility of the hand. State security ensures that the individual who assaulted Werlando is detained (his name is Amaury Diaz Hermandez)

Details about the attack and its severity are still unfolding and will be updated here as the news emerges about the attack on Werlando Leyva Batista. For more information about his plight the following phone number has been made public: +53024255102

May 2013 incident

According to Eduardo Cardet, a member of the coordinating council of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in ACI press the May 2013 threats were in response to his work in gathering signatures for Christian Liberation Movement initiatives launched by the late Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas called "The Heredia Project" and "The People's Path."

The previous incident occurred Friday [May 3, 2013] at the Yuraguana (Holguin). Cardet said these threats, combined with the search of the home of Leyva Batista are in response to "this young man's pretty intense activism in that area and they (the police) are trying to reduce the influence he is actually exercising, particularly in collecting signatures for the Heredia Project and making known The People's Path.

Leyva Batista was also threatened with relation to the "economic activity carried out by the young man-he's winding-electric motors, old stuff that he has there. Threatening him that  had to get rid of all that he had there, and that he should quit his activism on behalf of human rights."

From Bad to Worse

On May 10, 2002 Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Tony Díaz Sánchez, and Regis Iglesias Ramírez turned in 11,020 signatures for the Project Varela. Both Tony and Regis would be arrested less than a year later during the March 18, 2003 Cuban Black Spring and sentenced to 20 years and 18 years in prison respectively. They would spend more than seven years in prison recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Other Varela Project petitioners were threatened with the death penalty.  

Oswaldo Payá appears to have been killed in an "accident" staged or provoked by State Security on July 22, 2012 along with Christian Liberation Movement youth leader Harold Cepero. Violence against nonviolent activists has been escalating over the past four years. Women have not been exempt from regime brutality. Death threats, physical assaults and the targeting of their children have been tactics carried out by State Security. Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo denounced death threats against her and her entire family. Add to this now a nonviolent activist attacked with a machete by one of Castro's paramilitary. The trend is clear.

There are changes taking place in Cuba. Things are going from bad to worse.