Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CELAC 2014: What would José Martí do?

"I am especially pleased to be visiting Cuba as you mark the anniversary of the great Cuban and Latin American hero, José Martí." - Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, January 27, 2014

To witness a crime in silence is to commit it. - José Martí  

CELAC is underway today in Havana, Cuba on the birthday of José Martí and it is taking place in the midst of a nationwide crackdown on nonviolent dissidents. Furthermore, Gabriel Salvia, an Argentine national was stopped at the airport upon his arrival in Cuba and declared "persona non grata." He had planned to attend a parallel summit organized by dissidents. The main organizer of the gathering Cuesta Morua has been detained since Sunday and held by the political police. Dozens of other activists have been detained and others have had their homes laid siege and are effectively under house arrest.

From Cuba, the opposition activist Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina tweeted blindly: "The day of Marti for Cubans ends up an affront to the wave of repression unleashed by the regime against the peaceful resistance."

Regime agents beat Cuban woman with blunt object in 2012. UNSG Ki-Moon meets regime officials now
Unfortunately, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, met with the oppressors and praised them for their work on violence against women.
Cuba is a leader on many development issues, including expanding opportunity for women and girls.  It has battled stereotypes and worked through its institutions to advance equality and prevent and end all forms of violence. [...] Since this threat is rooted in discrimination, impunity and complacency, we need to change attitudes and behavior – and we need to change laws and make sure they are enforced just like you are doing in Cuba.
The Secretary General is ignoring the well documented regular beatings visited on Cuban women who dissent from the official government line such as the Ladies in White and the Rosa Parks Women's Movement. On July 9, 2013 two dissident Cuban attorneys, Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent presented their report to Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as it examined Cuba, that touches on the institutional violence against women:
The brutality of the police and state security agents, including women members of these bodies, against women dissidents, is supported by the state, which exemplifies the institutionalized violence as a means to repress women opposition activists. Arbitrary detention is one of the methods to prevent them from exercising their rights to speak, associate and demonstrate. In detention centers agents use violence, sexual assault and insults as means of repression. The cells enclosed in unsanitary and sometimes sanitary services have no privacy or are not appropriate for women, even having them share prison cells with men. In some cases, they forced to strip naked or forcibly stripped, obliging them to squat to see if they have items in their genitals and claims that have been reported that they have introduced a pen into the vagina, under the justification of seeking recording objects.
The government organizes in workplaces the so called Rapid Response Brigades (BRR) to suppress even with the use of violence women dissidents. It is the absolute government inaction regarding those involved in rallies of repudiation against the Ladies in White and other women opposition activists, acts against the public order, groups that gather to promote hatred against opponents of the government and advocate for socialist revolution, to which are added the media with smear campaigns against these women, who have no opportunity to exercise their right to reply.
This is not the vision of Cuba José Martí had in mind when he fought for Cuban independence over a century ago. In his work "Nuestra América" he warned against the rise of caudillo governments in Latin America that would perpetuate autocratic regimes in Latin America. Nor is the passive and silent acquiescence of international figures and Latin American leaders before massive human rights violations and a decades old tyranny perversely called a democracy the vision that the Cuban national hero had of Latin American unity.

José Julián Martí Pérez was born in Cuba 161 years ago today on January 28, 1853.  Fifty five years into a Stalinist dictatorship installed by the Castro brothers. Ironically, the Castros, who claim José Julián Martí as a revolutionary inspiration, are sons of a Spanish peninsular who came to Cuba to fight to preserve colonial rule, and later became a rich landowner.

If José Martí had been born and grown up under the Castro regime then he'd either be a martyr, such as Pedro Luis Boitel or Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died on hunger strike defending human dignity or an opposition leader murdered under suspicious circumstances such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas or Laura Inés Pollán. José Martí with his passion for freedom, justice and human dignity would have been a dissident protesting the totalitarian regime in Cuba. As a writer, poet, and orator who could appeal to large numbers of people who would have been perceived by the Castro brothers as a threat. 

His vision of the Cuba and the Americas he wanted to see and the critique of the CELAC Summit that he would have made are reflected in the words of Yoani Sanchez: An important challenge for the CELAC Summit is that respect for diversity not be "tolerance for authoritarians or human rights violations."

He would not remain silent. José Martí understood the importance of speaking out and the complicity of remaining silent before a crime. 

Amnesty International condemned the ongoing crackdown against nonviolent activists, including many women, by the Cuban government and called on the UN Secretary General and other dignitaries to address it:
It is outrageous that those who disagree with the Cuban government are not allowed to express themselves in a public and collective manner.  The heads of state of the CELAC member countries and the high officials of regional and international organizations, such as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, should not ignore the fact that as they arrive in Havana to participate in the summit, Cuban activists are being repressed by their government.
Like Amnesty International Martí would've called on leaders to hold tyrants and dictators accountable and to make them uncomfortable in their repression.

 Instead UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon failed to address the crackdown publicly but instead met with Raul Castro to discuss in part how the US embargo impacts on human rights in Cuba and later his daughter, Mariela, where he celebrated the regime's treatment of women and finally met with Fidel Castro for 55 minutes.

Its enough, that if he were alive, it would bring José Martí  to tears.

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