Friday, February 27, 2015

Mass for Oswaldo Payá Saturday, February 28 at noon at Our Lady of Charity

You can murder the man but not his moral example and legacy.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas 29 February 1952 – 22 July 2012 ✞
Tony Diaz Sanchez, Secretary General of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) announced over their official website an observance tomorrow for the life of their martyred founder: 
Next February 29th Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas  would have turned 63 years old. 
Oswaldo's family and his compatriots in the Christian Liberation Movement invite you to join us in celebrating the Holy Mass presided by Father Rumin, this Saturday at 12 noon in the Ermita de la Caridad.

After the Mass, the procession will march to the statue that reminds us of Father Felix Varela, the Cuban priest, whose life had been an example and inspiration for Oswaldo Payá.
July 22, 2015 will marks three years since the untimely death of Oswaldo but he continues to be remembered and his legacy of decency endures.  Rosa Maria Rodriguez Gil, a Christian Liberation Movement member living in Havana explained his impact on her:
When I was 9 years old they jailed my father for problems with the government and I had to go see him the El Principle prison. Later my father had leave as a former political prisoner to exile. I had the opportunity to leave but decided to stay to struggle for the freedom of my Cuba. I was always repressed because of my ideals but never had a mentor to guide me until having the happiness of knowing our leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas; he showed me how to fight nonviolently to free Cuba from this dictatorship that has given so much suffering to the whole people.
Today I remain threatened and have a son imprisoned in order to repress my way of thinking. They will not obtain it. I will continue defending the legacy that our leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas left us until the end.
Rosa Maria signed the letter "Liberty and Life ... for a peaceful transition to democracy ... The Peoples Path." The Castro regime may have murdered Oswaldo Payá but his spirit and nonviolent legacy live on and when Cuba is once again free, in part, it will be thanks to him.
What:  Mass for  Oswaldo Payá 
When: 12 noon on Saturday, February 28, 2015
Where: Ermita de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity)
              3609 South Miami Ave Miami, FL. 33133
Who:    Christian Liberation Movement and family and friends of Oswaldo Payá
Why:    To pray for his immortal soul on the 63rd anniversary of his birth
 Related links:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

President Obama's contradictory Cuba policy and cognitive dissonance

The Obama administration made two announcements on Cuba that are in dissonance with each other on the same day.

On February 25, a State Department official said that "[a] review ordered by Obama on whether to take Cuba off the blacklist was 'moving forward as quickly as we can ... but we don't think that should be linked to the restoration of diplomatic relations.'" It appears that the administration is moving as quickly possible to remove the Castro regime off the list of state sponsors of terrorism but the process does take time due to statutory requirements. This is part of its publicly stated aim of normalizing relations with the Castro regime. Voices, representing NGOs with the president's ear ridicule the Cuban dictatorship's presence on the list of terror sponsors.

Nevertheless on the same day The White House issued a notice titled "Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Cuba" which states:
On March 1, 1996, by Proclamation 6867, a national emergency was declared to address the disturbance or threatened disturbance of international relations caused by the February 24, 1996, destruction by the Cuban government of two unarmed U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba. On February 26, 2004, by Proclamation 7757, the national emergency was extended and its scope was expanded to deny monetary and material support to the Cuban government. The Cuban government has not demonstrated that it will refrain from the use of excessive force against U.S. vessels or aircraft that may engage in memorial activities or peaceful protest north of Cuba.
The Obama White House on February 25, 2015 is saying that it believes that the Castro regime is still willing to destroy unarmed, civilian aircraft or vessels in international airspace or waters north of Cuba if they "engage in memorial activities or peaceful protest." Let that sink in for a moment while at the same the State Department is defensively explaining why it can't go any faster in taking the Castro regime off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Unfortunately this malady isn't only found in government as the following exchange over twitter with Tomas Bilbao of the Cuba Study Group on June 22, 2013 illustrates. Mr. Bilbao advocates taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. At the time I had made the counter argument which you can read here.

Less than a month after this exchange on July 16, 2013 the Castro regime was discovered smuggling a ship load of weapons hidden under bags of sugar that included MiG fighter jets, rockets, and ballistic missile technology to North Korea in violation of international sanctions. 

The bottom line is that seeking to normalize relations with an abnormal regime is a recipe for failure not to mention cognitive dissonance. The Bush policy on North Korea being a recent and cautionary example.

Venezuelan human rights NGO: 14 year old shot by Bolivarian Police not an isolated event

"Killing of  Roa Kluiverth is not an isolated event, but is a consequence of the rise of repression in the country." - Provea, Venezuelan human rights organization over twitter on February 25th

Kluiverth Roa, age 14, shot in the head by BNP in Venezuela on February 24th
More students protesting the Maduro regime in Venezuela continue to be shot in the head. On February 22, 2015 this blog posted five cases between February 17 and February 21 Sadly the body count continued its increase on Tuesday, February 24.

The Venezuelan human rights NGO, Provea reported on the latest youth to be shot in the head, 14 year old Kluiverth Roa and the circumstances surrounding his untimely death:
The latest is the killing of  of 14 year old high school student Kluiverth Roa, at the hands of a member of the Bolivarian National Police of  Táchira State identified as Javier Mora. This officer shot the teenager in the head, killing him on the afternoon of February 24th.

According to witnesses, Kluiverth Roa, a student in San Agustín Codazzi school in San Critóbal, had just gotten out of school and was in the Barrio Obrero sector of the city, three blocks from the Catholic University of Táchira (UCAT) where a student protest was taking place. Witnesses said the the teenager was surprised by a couple of functionaries riding on motorcycle and one of them shot the youth in the head.
Kluiverth Roa was buried on February 25th with his Scout troop serving as pallbearers. The respected human rights organization Provea warns that the "killing of  Roa Kluiverth is not an isolated event, but is a consequence of the rise of repression in the country."


Rapper in Rapper Out: Castro's Revolving Prison Door for Dissenters

The rapper El Critico was released on January 9, 2015 and 21 days later the rapper El Dkano took his place in the revolving prison being sentenced on January 28 to a year in prison for "pre-criminal dangerousness."

Free Muse report on February 4, 2015 reported on another jailed Cuban rapper

El Dkano (real name: Maikel Oksobo)

On 28 January 2015, the rapper El Dkano (real name: Maikel Oksobo) was sentenced to a year in prison in Havana. It is generally believed he was targeted for having used music to express his dissenting political opinions.

El Dkano was sentenced under a charge known as ‘peligrosidad predelictiva’ (‘dangerousness that is likely leading to a crime’), which is used to imprison dissidents for long terms. His defense attorney told a reporter from Diario de Cuba that prosecutors wanted the judge to sentence him to five years.
The 31-year-old’s lyrics are known for criticising the Castro regime. He once described his style as that of someone who “doesn’t make concessions with a system full of liars.”

“Unjust charge”

“Cuba over the years has produced and supported many great artists, but it is appalling that the Cuban authorities continue to repress artists, who are addressing serious problems,” said Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director. “A solid state system should not fear but stimulate artistic freedom and live up to international conventions guaranteeing freedom of speech.”

American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said during a House Foreign Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., that the Castro regime is once again slapping a Cuban rapper with an unjust charge.
As part of the Obama-Castro deal of 17 December 2014, another imprisoned rapper, El Critico (real name: Ángel Yunier Remón) was recently released from prison.

Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado (‘El Sexto’) remains imprisoned since Christmas Day 2014 and is currently in poor health, battling pneumonia in the Valle Grande Prison.

» Local 10 – 4 February 2015:
Miami Republican shows concern for Cuban rappers’ lack of freedom

» AmericaTevé – 29 January 2015:
Condenan a un año de cárcel a rapero contestatario

» Capitol Hill Cubans – 28 January 2015:
Cuban Dissident Rapper Gets One-Year Prison Sentence Today

» Diario de Cuba – 28 January 2015:
Condenan a un año de cárcel al rapero contestatario Maikel Oksobo

» Diario de Cuba – 28 January 2015:
Música contestataria y corrupción judicial

#FreeElSexto 60 days and counting: The price of performance art in Cuba

Today my friend, the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, "El Sexto", marks 2 months behind bars in a provisional prison. - Sayli Navarro over twitter today

Two months and counting behind bars for an attempt at performance art
Sixty days and counting behind bars for a work of performance art that never saw the light of day. Unfortunately, dictators and tyrants by definition do not have a sense of humor. This is why totalitarian regimes are always associated with the color grey. Boldness, color, spontaneity and daring are necessary elements that bring existence to life and are often times repressed by tyrants. Laughter is especially subversive and dangerous.

Activists in Cuba and in the international community is following his plight:

On February 4, 2015 Free Muse reported that "Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado (‘El Sexto’) remains imprisoned since Christmas Day 2014 and is currently in poor health, battling pneumonia in the Valle Grande Prison."

On January 28, 2015 the Dutch NGO Justice & Peace outlined the circumstances surrounding his arrest. Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, bought two pigs for an art project and wrote on them "Fidel" and "Raul" and was on his way to a public park to release them when he was arrested on December 26, 2014 before his work could be performed. Still jailed El Sexto has been indicted for "disrespect" that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

The Czech NGO, People in Need revealed that, "[i]n the beginning of this year, the Cuban authorities refused his application for habeas corpus submitted by Laritza Diversent, an attorney who denounced his arbitrary detention."

From behind bars he wrote the poem below on a piece of notebook paper that was posted over twitter today:
I'm trying to decipher this 
enigma to decipher each symbol.
to examine minutely the code that opens the door
to the sensitivity of hard hearts
the riddle that dilutes
the spell of the ignorance of the soul

- Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto
  Artist imprisoned in Cuba since December 26, 2014

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One day after a silent protest demanding justice for Brothers to the Rescue, President Obama arrives at FIU

Will the President answer a mother's question about her murdered son?

Silent vigil at FIU on February 24, 2015 broadcast over CBS 4
President Barack Obama will be at Florida International University today at an event that has been
billed as a "Town Hall" but is a closed event. Those who will be attending have most likely been "selected."

This is just a day after a silent protest for justice was held at FIU by family members of the four men murdered on February 24, 1996 in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.  The university community, including Mark Rosenberg the President of FIU, took part in the silent vigil.

Following the vigil the families of Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario Manuel de la Peña, and Pablo Morales laid flowers at a tree dedicated to the four men on March 7, 1997.  Miriam de la Peña, whose son Mario was killed on February 24, 1996, spoke on camera summarizing the events that led to her son's death and concluded by asking President Obama why did he free her son's murderer who was serving a double life sentence?

Mass for Brothers to the Rescue at Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove
 The families held a Mass at 8:00pm at Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove where the officiating priest gave a masterful homily on truth and justice as necessary conditions for authentic reconciliation while at the same time analyzing the Lord's Prayer and its command to forgive in order to be forgiven.

Freeing an unrepentant criminal who is then celebrated as a hero by an unrepentant dictatorship are not grounds for reconciliation and peace. This action is the definition of an injustice.The president's decision to commute the sentences of three Cuban spies including Gerardo Hernandez serving a life sentence for conspiracy to commit four murders will not be seriously addressed by him today. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail wrote "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The rising violence against democratic activists now in Venezuela is connected to the Castro regime and the U.S. policy of appeasing the Cuban dictatorship will only make things worse.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fact Sheet on Brothers to the Rescue Shoot down

Distributed today in Florida International University during silent vigil

February 24, 1996 shoot down was an act of state terrorism that blew two civilian aircraft out of the sky with air to air missiles while in international airspace after regime planned the act months beforehand with its espionage network in the United States.

 FACT 1: By definition: Terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)  

FACT 2: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to life (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, who died as a result of the direct actions of its agents on the afternoon of 24 February 1996 while flying through international airspace.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits

FACT 3: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to a fair trial (Article XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of the relatives of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, in that to date the Cuban authorities have not conducted an exhaustive investigation with a view toward prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and have not indemnified those same relatives for the damage they suffered as a result of those illicit acts.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits

FACT 4: In Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F.Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997), a federal district court awarded the families of three of the four occupants of the “ Brothers to the Rescue” planes shot down by Cuba in 1996 a total of $187.7 million in damages against Cuba.

Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview by Jennifer K. Elsea

FACT 5: WASP spy network was involved. One of the “illegal officers” (Gerardo Hernandez) was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder based on his role in the February 24, 1996, shoot-down of two unarmed civilian aircraft in international airspace by Cuban Air Force jet fighters, which resulted in the deaths of four people, three of them U.S. citizens.

Department of Justice on Obama Commutations

FACT 6: Brothers to the Rescue had spotted and saved thousands of rafters in the Florida Straits and was engaged in such a mission on that day. The one plane that skirted the boundary briefly was the only one to return. The other two were shotdown miles away from Cuba’s boundary having never entered or touched it on that day and the planes had been in contact with the Cuban tower throughout the flight.

ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown,,UNSC,,CUB,4562d94e2,3b00f1522b,0.html

FACT 7: On July 26, 1996 the United Nations Security Council: "Noting that the unlawful downing of two civil aircraft on 24 February by the Cuban Air Force violated the principle that States must refrain from using weapons against airborne civil aircraft, the Security Council this afternoon condemned such use as being incompatible with the rules of customary international law "

ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown,,UNSC,,CUB,4562d94e2,3b00f1522b,0.html

FACT 8: Ana Belen Montes, the US intelligence community's top analyst on Cuban affairs had throughout a sixteen-year career at the Defense Intelligence Agency sent the Cuba intelligence service sensitive and secret information and helped to shape US opinion on Cuba. Investigation against her was triggered by her odd behavior before and after the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. On September 21 2001 Ana Belen Montes was arrested and subsequently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage for the government of Cuba. Montes eventually pleaded guilty to spying, and in October, 2002, she was sentenced to a 25-year prison term followed by 5 years of probation.

True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy

FACT 9: On December 27, 2010 and again in a January 19, 2011 clarification the defense of Cuban spy-master Gerardo Hernandez acknowledged that "there was overwhelming evidence that the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes occurred in international airspace, not Cuban territory."

The Miami Herald: Cuban spymaster now claims Brothers to the Rescue shooting was outside Cuban airspace by Jay Weaver December 27, 2010

FACT 10: On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama commuted Gerardo Hernandez’s two life sentences and returned him along with two other spies jailed for crimes in the United States to Cuba where they were received with a hero’s welcome in what is an immense propaganda victory for the Castro regime.

Department of Justice on Obama Commutations 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Five years ago on February 23, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"I am convinced that publicity is the sole effective means of combating the evil and lawlessness which is rampant in my country today." - Anatoli Marchenko

Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Human Rights Defender

May 15, 1967 - February 23, 2010
 Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a prolonged water only hunger strike in which prison authorities over the course of more than two weeks on and off refused him water. Following his death the Castro regime and its agents of influence sought to slander Orlando's memory. However, activists who knew Orlando had already spoken on the record as had Amnesty International.

For example, on the same day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding his untimely death:
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.
The slander campaign, so far, has failed because people of good will paid attention and refused to remain silent. In Canada, a punk rock band composed and played a song titled Orlando Zapata that placed his death in context. A video accompanying the song was edited by the Free Cuba Foundation. Orlando's death focused attention on Cuban prisoners of conscience and was a factor in their release between 2010 and early 2011.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was born in Santiago, Cuba on May 15, 1967. He was by vocation a brick layer and also a human rights activist, a member of the Movimiento Alternativa Republicana, Alternative Republican Movement, and of the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica, National Civic Resistance Committee. Orlando gathered signatures for the Varela Project, a citizen initiative to amend the Cuban constitution using legal means with the aim of bringing Cuba in line with international human rights standards.

Amnesty International had documented how Orlando had been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November of 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were arrested and later released. He was also arrested on December 6, 2002 along with fellow prisoners of conscience Oscar Elías Biscet and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo.  

Dr. Biscet just released from prison a month earlier had sought to form a grassroots project for the promotion of human rights called "Friends of Human Rights." State security prevented them from entering the home of Raúl Arencibia Fajardo, Oscar Biscet, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes and 12 others held a sit-in in the street in protest and chanted "long live human rights" and "freedom for political prisoners." They were then arrested and taken to the Tenth Unit of the National Revolutionary Police, Décima Unidad de La Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR), in Havana.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was released three months later on March 8, 2003, but Oscar Elias Biscet, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo remained imprisoned. On the morning of March 20, 2003 whilst taking part in a fast at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and the other political prisoners. Orlando was taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters. 

He was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Where according to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:
My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to...
On May 18, 2004 Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo were each sentenced to three years in prison for contempt for authority, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in a one-day trial. Orlando Zapata Tamayo would continue his rebelliousness and his non-violent resistance posture while in prison and suffer numerous beatings and new charges of disobedience and disrespect leading to decades added to his prison sentence in eight additional trials.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with picture of Orlando Zapata Tamayo
The importance of remembrance
 Friends of freedom all too often are on the defensive explaining who and what they are against. The lives of courageous nonviolent activists such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero Escalante, Laura Inés Pollán Toledo and the four men murdered in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down who were martyred by the Castro dictatorship should be remembered and told to others. The enemies of freedom do not like to have such heroes remembered and honored.  For example on May 24, 2010 in Oslo, Norway a Cuban diplomat attacked and bit a 19 year old Cuban-Norwegian girl who was filming her mother's protest on behalf of Orlando Zapata Tamayo outside of the Cuban embassy. The whole episode was a public relations disaster for the Castro dictatorship in Norway.

Take action
People of good will around the world who wish to remember can join in a 24-hour water-only fast starting at 3 p.m. on Feb. 23, the day and time that Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike followed by a silent vigil the following day from 3:21 p.m. to 3:27 p.m. to correspond with the times Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña and Armando Alejandre Jr. were shot down on February 24th. 

Fasting for 24 hours is a limited way to step, albeit briefly and incompletely, into Orlando Zapata Tamayo's shoes. Beginning the fast at 3:00pm on February 23 and completing it on February 24 at 3:00pm just in time to honor and remember the four members of Brothers to the Rescue seems an appropriate way to pay homage.

They all demonstrated with the lives they led and by how they died that the Bible passage, John 15:13 is as relevant as ever: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." Please use all the means at your disposal through social media and word of mouth to let others know about them.

The price of indifference
The failure of solidarity with Cubans in the island has led to the Castro regime not only increasing repression at home but also projecting itself elsewhere in the Americas and sadly now Venezuelans are also dying or being killed for defending freedom in their country.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Five more young protestors in Venezuela found dead, shot in the head

Pattern of student protesters being shot in the head continues
Yasmir Tovar (L) and Arianyi Garcia (R) found shot in the head
Luis Arianyi García and Yamir Tovar were found dead and gagged in Catia by the BNP Saturday morning at 2:00am according to Mildred Manrique.

 Beatriz Adrián reported that the families of Yasmir Tovar and Arianyi Garcia confirmed that they are in the Morgue. Two students appeared dead in Catia. They were "Resistance" youth. Yasmir Tovar was seen by friends Friday in Plaza Brion. Confirmed that he said he was going to a gathering in Altamira.

Yasmir Tovar and Arianyi Garcia were friends say their families that according to the case file were found dead in Catia. The mother of Arianyi and the brother of Tovar went to look for them at SEBIN they were told to bring clothes and mattress. When they returned SEBIN told them it was a mistake. That there was no Yasmir Tovar. They went to the morgue and found both of them.

Spoke with Arianyi's mother and with Yasmir's brother in the morgue tonight. They say they do not know what happened.

Mildred Manrique reported over twitter that Luis Arianyi Garcia was with Yasmir Tovar and that both died from bullets to the head. They were both opposition protesters. Yamir also had a bullet in the back. Both youth (Yamir and Luis Arianyi) had their hands tied and were found next to each other.

Manrique cleared up some rumors circulating when she reported that Yasmir Tovar and Luis Arianyi Garcia were not arrested by the PBN and neither were they in Helicoide, that is false.

Jhon Barreto Ramírez (21) found dead shot in the head
On February 19th the body of Jhon Barreto Ramírez (21) was found in an advance state of decomposition in the state of Táchira. The youth studied at the National Experimental University of  Táchira (UNET). Barreto had a bullet wound in the head reported La Patilla.

José Daniel Frías Pinto (20) and Julio Alejandro García Adonis (22)

 La Patilla also reported that this past February 17 students José Daniel Frías Pinto (20) and Julio Alejandro García Adonis (22) of the University of Los Andes (ULA) were found dead in a thicket in Zulia state. Both were handcuffed with signs of torture and were shot in the head.

This troubling pattern of shots to the head of student opposition activists was first observed in February of 2014.

Leaders of Hong Kong Democracy Protests to Headline Geneva Human Rights Summit on Eve of UNHRC Session

Summit live streamed from Geneva. Register here.

Also featuring: Leaders of protest movements and dissidents from Iran, Ukraine, Turkey, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea, and more

GENEVA, Feb. 10, 2014 - The Hong Kong pro-democracy protests that have captured the world's attention will be spotlighted at the seat of the U.N. Human Rights Council, when two of its leaders -- Alex Chow and Lester Shum, president and vice-president of the Hong Kong Federation of Students -- will speak out in Geneva for the first time, joining top-name dissidents from Iran, Russia, North Korea, Turkey, Cuba, Venezuela and Ukraine, for the 7th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, on February 24, 2015.

The acclaimed annual conference is timed to take place in Geneva days before foreign ministers gather to open the 2015 U.N. Human Rights Council session, chaired this year by Germany.

"It's a focal point for dissidents worldwide," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, which for the seventh year in a row will be organizing the annual event together with a cross-regional coalition of 20 other human rights groups.

The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet front-line human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.

"The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will seek to stir the conscience of the U.N. to address critical human rights situations around the world," said Neuer.

Subjects on the program include discrimination against women, jailing of journalists, prison camps, Internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.

Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at

Admission to this year’s February 24, 2015 summit is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory.

For accreditation, program and schedule information, visit The conference will also be available via live webcast.

7th Annual Geneva Summit
Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Draft Program
9:30 Opening Speech
Speaker: Markus Loening, Chair of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International, former Human Rights Commissioner, Germany

10:00 Confronting Authoritarianism
Moderator: Jakub Klepal, Executive Director, Forum 2000
Yavuz Baydar, Turkish journalist
• Mustafa Nayyem, Ukrainian MP, journalist, initiator of Maydan protests
• Maria Baronova, Russian human rights activist
• Tamara Suju, Venezuelan human rights lawyer
Yeon-Mi Park, 21-year-old North Korean defector

11:15 Kidnapped by Boko Haram and ISIS
Moderator: Tom Gross, journalist
Saa, Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram
• Emmanuel Ogebe, International Human rights lawyer
• Pierre Torres, French Journalist held hostage by ISIS for 10 months

12:00 Pakistan: On Death Row for Blasphemy
Moderator: Philippe Robinet, CEO Editions Kero
Speaker: Ashiq Masih, Husband of Asia Bibi, on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy

12:30 Networking Lunch

14:00 Presentation of Geneva Summit Awards
• Women’s Rights Award to Masih Alinejad, Iranian freelance journalist
Presentation of Award: Geneva Summit partners

• Courage Award to Raif Badawi, Saudi blogger, recently condemned to 1,000 lashes
Presentation of Award: Ambassador Alfred Moses, Chair of UN Watch
To be accepted by Dr. Elham Manea, Professor at the University of Zurich
Video message by Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi

14:45 Fighting Oppression, Defending Human Rights
Moderator: Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, member of Steering Committee of World Movement for Democracy
Dicki Chhoyang, Central Tibetan Administration
Ibrahem Al-Idelbi, Syrian journalist and activist (video message)
• Il Lim, North Korean defector and former slave laborer
• Maria Corina Machado, Venezuelan opposition leader (video message), presented by Maria-Alejandra Aristeguieta, Iniciativas Por Venezuela

15:45 Can Communist Regimes Reform?
Part 1: The Case of China and the Hong Kong Protests for Democracy
Moderator: Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, former political prisoner, survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre, president of Initiatives for China
• Alex Chow, Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students
• Lester Shum, Deputy Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students

Part 2: The Case of Cuba: Road to Reform?
Moderator: Amanda Alvarez, People in Need, Czech Republic
• Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, Cuban human rights activist
• Manuel Cuesta Morua, Cuban dissident leader

17:00 Concluding Panel: The Future of Liberal Democracy
Moderator: Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch
• Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation
Fouzia Elbayed, MP, Morocco, Member of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International
• Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, former political prisoner, survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre, president of Initiatives for China
Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, member of Steering Committee of World Movement for Democracy
Subhas Gujadhur, Director, Universal Rights Group

18:00 End of Summit

Killing the future in Cuba and Venezuela

Remembering Harold and Geraldine
Victims of Repression: Harold Cepero and Geraldine Moreno
The regimes in Cuba and Venezuela are so focused on preserving power and the repressive status quo that they are willing to kill future leaders that represent a nonviolent alternative to them. The untimely deaths of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and  Laura Inés Pollán Toledo in Cuba and the threats to the lives of  Leopoldo López Mendoza and Maria Corina Machado in Venezuela are ever present reminders of this harsh reality.

Sadly, these regimes are also targeting the next generation of democratic leaders as well.

In Venezuela, Geraldine Moreno Orozco, (age 23 year) was shot repeatedly in the face by members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) on February 19, 2014 and died from these injuries three days later on February 22nd one year ago today. Today at 6pm in Geraldine Moreno Park in Venezuela United Friends Tazajal and Victims Against Repression will paying homage to Geraldine Moreno Orozco and Génesis Carmona.

Two years and seven months ago today Harold Cepero Escalante (age 32) and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas were killed in Cuba. This was done so that with impunity the Castro regime would carry out the fraudulent change that both of them had denounced. Oswaldo was a founder and leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and Harold was its youth leader. The Christian Liberation Movement is circulating a petition calling for an international investigation into their untimely deaths.

Democracy and human rights are in decline in the Americas. Part of the reason is the coordination of resources and repression techniques between authoritarians and totalitarians throughout the region. If the fortunes of democracy and human rights are to be turned around for the better in this hemisphere then democrats need to join together and coordinate resources and best practices. Learning how to be more effective in denouncing the murder, unjust imprisonment and terrorizing of democrats, human rights defenders and journalists in the hemisphere and coordinating efforts to campaign against these practices is a necessary part of the puzzle for making things better.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Castro regime releases Canadian executive but keeps $100 million in company assets

Profits for me and high risks for you
Cy Tokmakjian: Left Canadian taxpayers holding a 100 million tab
Reuters, AP, and CBC are reporting that Canadian automobile executive Cy Tokmakjian is back home in Canada after spending three years unjustly imprisoned in Cuba and following a show trial on September 28, 2014 in which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. (He is not the only Western executive to undergo the experience). 

Reuters also reported that:
[the Castro regime] seized about $100 million worth of company assets including bank accounts, inventory and office supplies, a ruling the company was challenging in international arbitration.
No immediate reason was given for the sudden release of Tokmakjian, whom Cuba had previously hailed as a model business partner over 20 years for supplying crucial transportation equipment during a severe economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
 According to the Associated Press:
Tokmakjian family says his prosecution was an excuse to seize his Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group's $100 million in assets in Cuba.
Taxpayer dollars underwrite Canada's trade with Cuba. Peter Foster in The Financial Post on September 30, 2014 concluded his OpEd stating, "let’s also stop taxpayer backing for Cuban trade and investment. And let’s hope all those Canadian tourists who flock to Cuba every year give a passing thought to what their dollars are supporting."

The Tokmakjian reaped took the risk and reaped the benefits for 20 years and when the Castro regime pulled the plug, its Canadian taxpayers assuming the risk and left holding the bag.

This is the formula agri-business and the Chamber of Commerce want for US companies involved in US-Cuba trade but prefer that US taxpayers learn about it after the fact.

The February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown and national reconciliation

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 will mark 19 years since Fidel and Raul Castro ordered Cuban MiGs to hunt and shoot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes that at the time were in international airspace killing Armando Alejandre Jr. (45 years old), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29). A thorough international investigation carried out by the Inter-American Commission on the merits made public in 1999 concluded:
"Cuba is responsible for violating the right to life (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, who died as a result of the direct actions of its agents on the afternoon of 24 February 1996 while flying through international airspace."
Furthermore with the issue of justice for the four victims and their families the IACHR report stated:
"Cuba is responsible for violating the right to a fair trial (Article XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of the relatives of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, in that to date the Cuban authorities have not conducted an exhaustive investigation with a view toward prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and have not indemnified those same relatives for the damage they suffered as a result of those illicit acts."
Beginning the week following the Saturday, February 24, 1996 shoot down the Free Cuba Foundation, a student movement founded at Florida International University in 1993 at the time with a second chapter at the University of Miami Holds Candlelight vigils at both universities. On Saturday, March 2, 1996 members of the Free Cuba Foundation participated in a flotilla that sought to journey to the spot both planes were shot down and hold a memorial service. 

FCF members in flotilla on March 2, 1996

On December 12, 2001 the leader of the Cuban spy ring, Gerardo Hernandez, was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. President Barack Obama on December 17, 2014 commuted his life sentence and returned Mr. Hernandez to Cuba. 

For the past 18 years members of the Free Cuba Foundation have gathered at the main fountain at Florida International University beginning at 3:21pm, the time the first plane was shot down, in a silent vigil until 3:27pm, the time the second plane was shot down. Carlos Costa and Pablo Morales were on the first plane.  Mario de la Peña and Armando Alejandre Jr. were on the second plane.

Since 1996 silent vigils held at FIU for justice for Brothers to the Rescue

 Next Tuesday, February 24 at 3:21pm sharp FIU students, members of the FIU community and the families of the four men murdered in 1996 will for the nineteenth time gather at the main fountain at Florida International University in a silent vigil for justice.

This silent vigil seeks to remember the facts in the service of truth while demanding justice. Truth, memory and justice are necessary elements for a real and lasting national reconciliation. 

Join the hundreds of FIU students who since 1996 have done their small part standing up for national reconciliation in Cuba by demanding truth and justice in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hundreds of thousands of Argentines march for truth and justice in the Nisman case

 Silent protest for truth and justice in Argentina

Silent protest in Buenos Aires on February 18
The case of Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor found dead hours before testifying on the 1994 AMIA bombing on January 18, is shaking up not only the political establishment with an investigation that reaches into the office of the presidency but the entire country. Panam Post provided a breakdown of who's who in the Nisman case. On the one month anniversary of his death a quarter of a million Argentines took to the streets in a silent march carrying signs that read: "Verdad" and "Justicia" (Truth and Justice in Spanish). The protest was called by federal prosecutors and attended by the prosecutor's family and opposition politicians. The prosecutors organizing the event called for a silent march to elevate from the hustle and bustle of normal political protests and it succeeded.

Reuters/Enrique Marcarian
The motive for killing Nisman was apparently in order to avoid implicating President Kirchner in a criminal conspiracy to cover up the 1994 AMIA bombing, the  greatest terrorist act in Argentine history. Below is an advert for the February 18, 2015 protest.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Geraldine Moreno shot repeatedly with iron pellets at close range by the Bolivarian National Guard

23 year old college student standing in her doorway attacked by National Guard died three days later

Geraldine Moreno (23 years old) before and after the attack
Brutal February 19 attack destroys 23 year old women's face

Liseth Madía, cousin of Geraldine Moreno Orozco, recounted to El Universal that the 23 year old university student and athlete from Carabobo was shot repeatedly in the face by members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) on February 19, 2014 during a demonstration in the area of the Naguanagua municipality in the Tazajal sector. "That was around 8:00 pm in front of her house in Bayona Country I residences, she was assaulted in a cowardly manner with a weapon that fires pellets, which were not plastic but of iron."

Geraldine Moreno who was in her fifth semester of Cytotechnology at Arturo Michelena University, was with four friends and from her residence they watched the persons protesting on the corner of the street where there was a barricade when six members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) on motorcycles arrived on site to disperse the demonstration.

Everyone present ran. "She (running) turned when the persons behind her came and she fell because they shot at her and fired near the face, then when she tried to stand up they fired again into her face and that is when they destroyed all her visage," said Geraldine's cousin Madia .

She died three days later from her injuries

At 12:43pm on February 22, 2014 the student from Valencia, Geraldine Moreno, died.  She died from the wounds generated by the pellets fired at close range into her face by members of the National Guard who destroyed her face and one eye.

One year later

Geraldine's mom Rosa Orozco seeks justice for her daughter
According to the Panam Post four military functionaries have been arrested and are on trial for the killing of the 23 year old studis no longer independentent. On January 8 the hearing for the functionaries implicated in this murder was deferred for the sixth time. Unfortunately, the judiciary in Venezuela is no longer independent and is subject to the whims and designs of the executive which means in practice Nicolas Maduro. 

Geraldine's mother, Rosa Orozco in a February 5, 2015 interview with NTN24 denounced the judicial delays and recalled the circumstances of her daughter's murder: "Those GNB fired into Geraldine's face, she was peacefully standing in the door way of her home and some GNB arrived shooting." ... "Finally she asked the Ombudsman to dedicate himself to all the victims"and work to resolve the cases of the 43 victims of the violent protests that took place between February and June 2014."