Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rights violations under Fidel Castro: What Amnesty Int'l and Human Rights Watch left out

“We must say here what is a known truth, which we have always expressed before the world: firing squad executions, yes, we have executed; we are executing and we will continue to execute as long as is necessary. Our struggle is a struggle to the death." - Ernesto "Che" Guevara, UN General Assembly, 1964

Reading two press releases released by prestigious international human rights organizations on November 26, 2016 analyzing Fidel Castro's record on human rights in Cuba some glaring omissions are found in both that ignore some of the most grievous human rights violations committed by the Castro regime over the past 57 years.

37 victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre on 7/13/94

Some of what was omitted
Amnesty International released a press release titled "Fidel Castro: A progressive but deeply flawed leader" and Human Rights Watch released one that read "Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Record of Repression Misguided US Embargo Provided Pretext for Abuse". Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International address the lack of freedom of expression, harassment, intimidation and possible prison for speaking out against the Castro government but also go out of their way to praise the dictatorship with claims that are at best questionable.

However there is no mention in either report of the political show trials that fell short of international standards that sent thousands of Cubans before firing squads or that this method of execution would continue until at least 2003. Amnesty mentions that Fidel Castro's provisional government carried out "hundreds of summary executions" in 1959 but doesn't mention that thousands more followed. There is no mention of how prisoners in the 1960s had their blood extracted prior to being placed before the firing squad.  Nor is their mention that family members of the condemned had to donate blood to see their loved ones. This practice was documented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 1967 Country Report on Cuba.

There is no mention of the extrajudicial execution of opposition leaders with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012 being two high profile examples. There is no mention of the methods of torture used by the regime against prisoners of conscience including the denial of medical care. Nor the games played by the Castro regime to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in order to get positive media coverage but then not follow through. This is a curious oversight because in the past Amnesty International has reported on these practices. There is no mention of the massacre of refugees by agents of the Castro regime for the sole crime of trying to flee Cuba although Amnesty International had reported on it in the past.

When nuance crosses the line
Amnesty International made no mention of the "abysmal prisons" as Human Rights Watch did but their Americas Director, Erika Guevara-Rosa praised the departed leader while recognizing some of his flaws as follows:
"There are few more polarising political figures than Fidel Castro, a progressive but deeply flawed leader. Access to public services such as health and education for Cubans were substantially improved by the Cuban revolution and for this, his leadership must be applauded. However, despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel Castro’s 49-year reign was characterised by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression. The state of freedom of expression in Cuba, where activists continue to face arrest and harassment for speaking out against the government, is Fidel Castro’s darkest legacy. Fidel Castro’s legacy is a tale of two worlds. The question now is what human rights will look like in a future Cuba. The lives of many depend on it.”
Guevara-Rosa also mentioned "an unprecedented drive to improve literacy rates across the country" and described this as an improvement in human rights in Cuba. This ignores that Cuba had the fourth lowest illiteracy rate in Latin America in 1953 with an illiteracy rate that was 23.6%. Costa Rica's at the time was 20.6%, Chile's was 19.6%. and Argentina's was the lowest at 13.6%.  She praises the improvement in literacy as if it were something exceptional but much of the rest of Latin America would show similar or greater gains without sacrificing civil liberties as can be seen in the table below. 

The decline of Cuba's education system on Fidel Castro's watch
There are also great concerns about the Cuban educational system. First the issue of a system of education being transformed by the Castro dictatorship into a system of indoctrination and secondly following the collapse of Soviet subsidies the material decline of the entire system along with shortages of teachers.
The Slovak-based People in Peril conducted a study between 2005 and 2006 that generated a 77 page analysis, What is the future of education in Cuba?, gathers criticism,  suggestions and proposals for a future educational reform. According to Eliska Slavikova in an interview with El Nuevo Herald on October 23, 2007 observed ''Cuban education is destroyed, with grave problems like the deterioration of the schools, the predominance of ideology over teaching  and the bad preparation of teachers.'' The study made the following findings
• There's been a ''pronounced'' departure of teachers to other jobs because of low salaries and the lack of social recognition.
• Many teachers also left their jobs because of the government's growing ideological pressures. The primary objective of education is the formation of future revolutionary communists.
• The great majority of schools lack the equipment and installations needed to provide a good education.
• High school graduates have been put to teach after only an eight-month special course. But much of the teaching now is done through educational TV channels.
More recent analyses of the Cuban educational system in 2014 and 2015 arrive at the same conclusions on lack of quality, resources and continued politicization of the curriculum. 
Hospital bed in Cuba under the Castro regime

 The Castro regime's healthcare claims and the dismal reality today
Totalitarian regimes often times make outlandish claims of great successes in particular areas in order to justify or rationalize repression and political terror elsewhere. It is true of North Korea and it is also true of Cuba. The only difference being that Cuba has a much more effective propaganda apparatus than their counterparts in Pyongyang and they have invested heavily in their education and healthcare claims.
Katherine Hirschfeld, an anthropologist, who wrote the book:  Health, Politics, and Revolution in Cuba Since 1898 described in it how her idealistic preconceptions about the Cuban healthcare system were dashed by 'discrepancies between rhetoric and reality,' she observed a repressive, bureaucratized and secretive system, long on 'militarization' and short on patients' rightsThere is a health care system in Cuba which is decent for regime elites in good favor and tourists with hard currency and another one for everyday Cubans that is a disaster. With regards to the public health system the priority is the good image of the dictatorship not the well being of Cubans or visitors. 

However Amnesty International should already have an institutional memory with regards to Cuba. In 1997 when a Dengue epidemic broke out in Cuba the dictatorship tried to cover it up. When a courageous doctor spoke out he was locked up on June 25, 1997 and later sentenced to 8 years in prisonAmnesty International recognized Dr. Desi Mendoza Rivero as a prisoner of conscience. He was released from prison under condition he go into exile in December of 1998. The regime eventually had to recognize that there had been a dengue epidemic. The same pattern repeated itself in 2012 with a cholera outbreak, but this time it was an independent journalist jailed for breaking the story on mishandling of medical aide by Cuban officials. Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and the organization described how: 
"He had been investigating allegations that medicine provided by the World Health Organization to fight the cholera outbreak (which began in mid-2012) was being kept at the airport instead of being distributed. Since then, he has been detained in various detention centres. He has been held at Combinado del Este prison since November 2012." 
If you have to lock up journalists and doctors to cover up problems in your healthcare system then its probably not a great healthcare system and outsiders should be a little more skeptical with official claims. 
Human Rights Watch also cites as evidence that the Castro regime has achieved much in social, economic and cultural rights that UNESCO had concluded that there was "near-universal literacy"in Cuba, but one should also recall that this UN body is terribly politicized. For example on June 18, 2013 UNESCO added “The Life and Works of Che Guevara” to the World RegistrarUNESCO is providing funds to preserve Che Guevara’s papers. Guevara in addition to promoting communist ideology, is best known as an advocate for guerrilla warfare who viewed terrorism as a legitimate method of struggle against an enemy. 
The Embargo: Otherwise known as "the elephant in the room"
The firing squads in 1959 had nothing to do with the Embargo because it did not yet exist nor with U.S. subversion because the Eisenhower Administration quickly recognized Castro's provisional government and hoped for normal relations. The repression was a classic tool to impose revolutionary terror and prepare the population for a communist dictatorship while wiping out all resistance and dissent in order to install a totalitarian regime and then export it to other countries.
Following the failures to overthrow the Castro dictatorship that Human Rights Watch quickly outlined and the dangerous nuclear confrontation in October of 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis the decision was made to push for a policy of isolation and making it more expensive for the Castro regime to export its revolutionary project to other countries, and it did work. 
However the Carter Administration's dismantling of sanctions and opening of Interests Sections in Havana and Washington DC ended the political isolation and the Castro regime was able to project itself more successfully in Latin America. The end result was the Sandinista regime taking power in 1979. Ronald Reagan enters the White House in 1981 rolling back the Carter policy changes and isolation was able to reassert itself. 
The Clinton Administration in the 1990s sought a rapprochement with the Castro regime believing that with the collapse of the Soviet Union the regime's days were numbered and by 1999 Castro ally Hugo Chavez was taking power in Venezuela and the Cuban dictatorship had a new lease on life. In 2000 despite a horrid number of human rights atrocities committed by the Castro regime Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro and a short while later opened cash and carry trade between US companies and the Castro regime. Now Obama has taken things further and the human rights situation, predictably has deteriorated and the dictatorship gotten more aggressive. Once again the tide is going out for democracy in Latin America
Furthermore, as Venezuela has demonstrated, getting rid of economic sanctions in Cuba will only mean a change in language to defend maintaining the totalitarian nature of the regime intact by whatever means necessary.

International Young Conservatives issue statement on Castro's departure

The International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) the official youth organization of the International Democrat Union, is the global alliance of center-right and conservative youth political parties.Simon Breheny of Australia is the IYDU Chairman who wrote and published the statement below.

"This is Fidel Castro’s legacy. The man was a violent tyrant. He was a murderer, a robber, a racist, a homophobe, and a torturer. The trail of human destruction he leaves behind is worthy of nothing but obloquy."

IYDU statement on the death of Fidel Castro

Sirley Ávila León and John Suarez at IYDU council meeting in Miami
One of the most powerful stories I’ve heard this year was that of Sirley Ávila León. She’s pictured here with John Suarez of the Free Cuba Foundation, addressing International Young Democrat Union delegates at our recent council meeting in Miami.

Sirley was the victim of a brutal machete attack organized by Cuban state security on 24 May 2015. The man responsible beat and mutilated this woman, and left her for dead in her home in Havana.
This is Fidel Castro’s legacy. The man was a violent tyrant. He was a murderer, a robber, a racist, a homophobe, and a torturer. The trail of human destruction he leaves behind is worthy of nothing but obloquy.

The death of Fidel Castro is not a time to mourn. It’s an opportunity to write a new chapter for a Cuba. One that is free from oppression, and which embraces democracy, human rights and human dignity.

¡Viva Cuba libre!

Simon Breheny
IYDU Chairman

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead but the evil he did lives on

Castro's legacy and Cuba's killing fields

Executed in Santiago de Cuba by the Castro regime in 1959
Fidel Castro, the Cuban tyrant, who presided over the extrajudicial execution of thousands of his countrymen, the destruction of Cuba, twice called for a nuclear first strike on the United States, sponsored terrorism across the world, collaborated with genocidal dictators who murdered millions in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East is dead at age 90. An official statement from the Cuban Embassy in the United States said he died on November 25, 2016 at 10:29pm.

Fidel Castro with ally and war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia 1977
It is difficult to understand some of the voices coming forth to say positive things celebrating the life of Fidel Castro with all the usual cliches about education and healthcare in Cuba to justify the dictator. They ring hollow when faced with the facts on the ground in Cuba and in the rest of Latin America. Healthcare, despite the propaganda is a disaster in Cuba with a two tiered system that benefits the elite and foreigners with hard currency and a disaster for the average Cuban. Most of Latin America's leaders raised literary rates with similar or greater success than Cuba without having a communist dictatorship imposed in their respective countries along with censorship and propaganda being passed off as education. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich offered sound advice that he tweeted earlier today:
The ongoing destruction of Venezuela is a legacy of the Castro regime and the continuing systematic brutalization of women and the murder of Cuban dissidents is cause for condemnation of the late Cuban dictator.

Some of the Cuban dissidents killed during the Obama years
Not to mention Fidel Castro turning Cuba's diplomatic corps into a weapon of subversion and violence, recruiting Nazis to train his repressive apparatus in the mid 1960s and being caught up with cocaine traffickers in the 1980s in an effort to target the soft underbelly of the United States. The extreme violence against those who peacefully dissent has been well documented as recently as a 2015 machete attack against Sirley Avila Leon, a dissident who had been purged from her government post trying to keep a school open and later joined the opposition.

In the streets of Miami the victims of the Castro regime are celebrating the tyrant's death and are happy and hopeful that the end of the dictatorship is near. For over 57 years Fidel Castro has been a symbol of the communist tyranny in Cuba. The crowds celebrating his death have believed for a long time that the dictatorship in Cuba will somehow disappear when Castro is gone.

Tragically that may not be the case because the international community led by President Barack Obama has sought to bury the past, ignoring and downplaying past crimes, while trying to legitimize the Castro regime. This approach is evident in the statement issued by the Obama White House earlier today in which not one negative thing was written about Fidel Castro. The words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to mind while reading the White House statement: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Sadly the brutal totalitarian dictatorship that Fidel Castro founded in Cuba in 1959 lives on with his brother Raul Castro in charge and another generation of Castros preparing to take over in a generational succession. However after 57 years of the same people in power there maybe enough pent up frustration in the population that has given the dictatorship cause for concern. This could explain all the lights on in the early morning hours at the Ministry of the Armed Forces in Havana.

"The lights in the Armed Forces Ministry reveal rare activity in the AM" - Yoani Sanchez
Predictably over the next few weeks inside Cuba the world will see spectacles organized by the totalitarian dictatorship to "mourn the great leader." The regime has already started with nine days set aside for official mourning. This will not be the first time that monsters are mourned by an oppressed people through different methods of command, control and manipulation. The world has witnessed it before in the Soviet Union in 1953 and more recently in North Korea with the Kim dynasty. The death of Stalin as dramatized in the film "The Inner Circle" is recommended viewing for those about to follow the circus in Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro's death.

 Meanwhile in Cuba as the regime prepares its state funeral the Castro dictatorship's secret police begin to make threats, round up and take dissidents to undisclosed location and commit acts of violence. Let us not forget that is many celebrate the departure of Fidel Castro it is his brother Raul who personally carried out the firing squads in Cuba in 1959. Furthermore it has been on Raul Castro's watch since 2006 that violence and extrajudicial executions have escalated, especially during the Obama Presidency, against nonviolent opponents such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero, Laura Pollán, and many others.

Hopefully the international media will now take notice, but whether they do or not this blog will be following developments closely.

Cuban Americans celebrating the death of Fidel Castro in Miami 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Syria and Iraq: Civil War and Genocide

A silent genocide in the Middle East
British Parliament and other buildings went red to protest religious repression  
There has been a civil war underway in Syria that emerged out of the 2011 Arab Spring and continues to the present day and is a humanitarian catastrophe. However at the same time religious minorities have been systematically targeted in Syria and also in Iraq in the aftermath of the U.S. intervention, 

On March 17, 2016 the U.S. State Department finally recognized that religious minorities are being targeted for genocide in Iraq and Syria. Three religious minority groups: Yazidis, Shia Muslims, and Christians have suffered and continue to face systematic ethnic cleansing. The Media Research Center has criticized news media for under reporting this story.

The United Nations issued a report on June 16, 2016 stating that "Islamic State fighters are committing genocide against Yazidis in Syria and Iraq by seeking to destroy the group through murder, sexual slavery, gang rape, torture and humiliation" with the ominous objective to erase their identity.” 

Christians are also facing genocide in the Middle East and despite the under reporting there is some coverage and CNN on November 21, 2016 reported the following:

ISIS marked Christian houses with the Arabic equivalent of the letter "N" for the derogatory term Nazarene. The militants blared ultimatums from the loudspeakers of Mosul mosques: Leave by July 19 to avoid death or forced conversion to Islam. The terror-driven exodus emptied the city of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. A decade ago, 35,000 Christians lived in Mosul. Now maybe 20 or 30 remain.
There is a serious discussion underway that contemplates the possibility of the end of a Christian presence in the Middle East after more than 2,000 years beginning with the ministry of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of all this there is great concern that something unusual is taking place with the pattern of refugees entering the United States not reflecting the population of Syria or those most currently impacted. Judge Daniel Manion of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in mid-October of his "concern about the apparent lack of Syrian Christians as a part of immigrants from that country" and detailed it in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit appeal:
"It is well‐documented that refugees to the United States are not representative of that war‐torn area of the world. Perhaps 10 percent of the population of Syria is Christian, and yet less than one‐half of one percent of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States this year are Christian. Recognizing the crisis in Syria, the President in 2015 set a goal of resettling 10,000 refugees in the United States. And in August the government reached this laudable goal. And yet, of the nearly 11,000 refugees admitted by mid‐September, only 56 were Christian. To date, there has not been a good explanation for this perplexing discrepancy."  
Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations provided some context to the above question in an OpEd in Newsweek:
The BBC says that 10 percent of all Syrians are Christian, which would mean 2.2 million Christians. It is quite obvious, and President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry have acknowledged it, that Middle Eastern Christians are an especially persecuted group.So how is it that one-half of 1 percent of the Syrian refugees we’ve admitted are Christian, or 56, instead of about 1,000 out of 10,801—or far more, given that they certainly meet the legal definition?
Abrams concludes that in a de facto manner the United States is barring Christians, not Muslims from the United States and goes on to explain how to solve this problem with some common sense reforms that the current Administration has failed to implement.

However it is not only Christians but also Yazidis, mentioned above, with only 24 granted refuge in the United States in 2016 out of an estimated population of up to 700,000.

Refugees fleeing a war zone should be granted refuge, but refugees targeted by a regime for genocidal extermination should be given priority. The fact that the United States has done the opposite is a shameful failure of historic consequence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Case of brutalized and raped Venezuelan woman goes to Inter-American Court

Human rights violations worsen in Venezuela

Press Release 168/16

IACHR Takes Case involving Venezuela to the Inter-American Court

November 17, 2016

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12.797, Linda Loaiza López Soto and Family, regarding Venezuela.

The case concerns the State of Venezuela’s international responsibility for the grave violations of the rights to personal integrity, personal liberty, privacy, dignity, and autonomy, and the right to live a life free of violence and discrimination suffered by Linda Loaiza López Soto, then 19 years old, between March 27 and July 19, 2001. For nearly four months, Linda Loaiza López Soto was deprived of liberty against her will and was a victim of terrible acts of violence inflicted with extreme cruelty, including mutilation, severe physical and psychological damage, and repeated forms of sexual violence and rape, all of which had a profound and irreversible impact on her life. All this violence was motivated by and an expression of brutality toward the victim as a woman, and therefore constituted gender-based violence, in this case of an extreme intensity.

The Commission determined that the Venezuelan State was or should have been aware of the situation of real and imminent risk faced by Linda Loaiza López Soto, given her sister’s repeated attempts to report her disappearance. Starting from when it should have been aware to the moment the victim was rescued, the State failed to take any measures to protect her from the risk she was facing or prevent it from materializing. The Commission also established that the State’s failure to comply with its duty to prevent violence against women, in this case, suggests a situation of State acquiescence. Therefore, the grave acts of physical, psychological, and sexual violence suffered by Linda Loaiza López Soto constituted a failure to comply with State obligations regarding the absolute ban on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

The case also involves violations of the rights to judicial guarantees and judicial protection in the context of the investigation and criminal proceeding brought in response to what occurred. The Commission determined that the Venezuelan State failed to comply with its obligation to investigate with due diligence, based on omissions in the initial identification and procedural steps taken, given that this was a case of violence against women, including sexual violence; the authorities’ actions and omissions throughout the entire investigation; and the failure to investigate alleged irregularities throughout the investigation and criminal proceedings, as well as the threats and harassment reported by Linda Loaiza López Soto and her family. The Commission also established that the Venezuelan State failed to comply with its obligation to investigate within a reasonable period of time.

The Commission concluded that the victim did not have equal access to justice. On the contrary, from the moment she was rescued and thereafter Linda Loaiza López Soto did not receive care and treatment appropriate to her status as a victim of violence against women, including sexual violence and rape. Moreover, the grave acts of violence she suffered were investigated and brought to trial in a legal framework that was discriminatory and incompatible with the American Convention; this allowed the oral arguments to focus on speculations about the victim’s life and not on clearing up what happened and determining who was responsible. The Commission analyzed the almost total lack of merit given to the testimony of Linda Loaiza López Soto, as well as the various indications of bias when it came to following up lines of investigation and collecting and weighing evidence. Not only did all these situations violate her right to access to justice, but they constituted forms of revictimization that affected both her privacy and dignity as well as her psychological and moral integrity.

Finally, the Commission found that the gravity of what took place, plus the absence of a timely and adequate judicial response, led to effects that extend beyond the direct victim to her relatives.
In its Merits Report on the case, the Commission recommended that Venezuela investigate effectively, with due diligence and within a reasonable time, the sexual violence suffered by Linda Loaiza López Soto and carry out the corresponding investigations and judicial proceedings in accordance with the standards the IACHR described in its report. The Commission further recommended that the State order the appropriate administrative, disciplinary, or criminal measures that correspond to the actions or omissions of the State officials who contributed to the different factors involved in denial of justice identified in the Merits Report. The IACHR also recommended that the State provide for full reparation to Linda Loaiza López Soto and her relatives for the human rights violations against her. This reparation must include monetary compensation and measures of satisfaction to redress both the material and moral damage. The IACHR also determined that the measures of satisfaction should include an act of public apology to Linda Loaiza López Soto and her relatives; campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women; and a scholarship for Linda Loaiza López Soto’s professional development, arranged in coordination with her. Further, the Commission recommended that the State provide free and immediate medical and psychological or psychiatric care as needed, and for as long as necessary, to the victims in this case per their request and in coordination with them.

Finally, the Commission recommended that Venezuela provide non-repetition mechanisms that include adopting legislative, administrative, or other measures to guarantee access to justice for women who are victims of violence; designing and implementing a national policy on prevention of violence against women and gender-based violence, one that includes effective supervision and oversight mechanisms; and strengthening the institutional capacity for responding to the structural problems identified in this case as factors of impunity in cases of violence against women in Venezuela. The Commission also recommended that Venezuela design and implement adequate and accessible reporting mechanisms for women victims of violence in Venezuela, including sexual violence, pursuant to the standards established in the report; design and implement multidisciplinary healthcare services for women victims of sexual violence to address the specific needs of these victims for recovery and rehabilitation; and design protocols that facilitate and foster effective, uniform, and transparent investigation of acts of physical, sexual, and psychological violence that includes a description of the complexity of the evidence and details the minimum evidence that must be collected to have an adequate evidentiary basis, taking into account the international standards set forth in the Istanbul Protocol. The Commission also recommended designing training programs for all justice system officials who come in contact with or are in charge of investigating cases of violence against women, including sexual violence.

The Inter-American Commission submitted this case to the Court’s jurisdiction on November 2, 2016, because it found that the State of Venezuela had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report. The State of Venezuela did not respond at all to the Merits Report. The Commission submitted the entirety of the facts in that report to the Court.

This case will allow the Inter-American Court to develop its case law on the circumstances in which a State can be held responsible for grave acts of violence against women, including rape, committed by non-State actors. Specifically, the Inter-American Court will be able to address the refusal to receive a report of a woman’s disappearance in light of the duty to prevent violence against women. In addition, the Court will be able to examine the possibility of categorizing as torture severe acts of physical, psychological, and sexual violence against a woman committed by a non-State actor when the State deliberately fails to adopt protection measures in the face of a risk that such violations could occur. In addition, the Court will be able to further develop its case law on the obligation to investigate with due diligence acts of violence against women, including sexual violence, with a gender perspective, adopting all necessary measures to prevent any form of revictimization. On this last point, the case raises the issue of a criminal law framework that made it possible for the oral arguments in the case to be centered on speculations about the victim’s life and not on clearing up the case and conducting a thorough investigation into who committed the grave acts of physical, psychological, and sexual violence she suffered.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Amnesty International issues urgent action for human rights lawyers in Cuba "under threat"

From Amnesty International:

Take Action! - Human Rights Lawyers Face Intimidation By Authorities (Cuba: UA 261/16)

Members of Cubalex, a Havana-based organization of human rights lawyers, have been subjected to months of harassment and intimidation by the Cuban authorities for their work.

Progressively since September, Cuban authorities have intimidated members of Cubalex (Legal Information Center), a non-government organization, not recognized by the Cuban authorities, which provides free legal and human rights advice in Havana, the capital.

On 23 Septemberaccording to its Director, Laritza Diversent, authorities searched Cubalex’s centre of operation without warrant, confiscated a number of laptops and documents, and forced at least one woman to undress. The provincial prosecutor in Havana provided notice to Cubalex that it was under a tax investigation.

According to Cubalex, since then, state prosecutors have summoned at least two members of the organization for questioning. Cubalex stated that the interviews, which reportedly lasted up to one hour and 45 minutes, were filmed, leading members to believe that the authorities were seeking information to criminalize activities of the organization. According to Cubalex, authorities have also questioned people who received advice and information from their centre.

Cubalex’s Director reported that she has been stopped and questioned a number of times at the airport during her recent trips. She believes her home, which provides a base for Cubalex’s activities, is under surveillance. One of Cubalex’s members, Julio Ferrer Tamayo, reported being strip searched and detained during the search of Cubalex on 23 September and remains in custody. 

Please write immediately in English or Spanish or your own language:

n  Calling on the Cuban authorities to allow members of Cubalex and all other human rights lawyers and activists to operate freely without harassment and intimidation;
n  Urging them to ensure that the criminal justice system or civil litigation is not misused to target or harass human rights defenders;
n  Calling on them to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which it is possible to defend and promote human rights without fear of punishment, reprisal or intimidation.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Calling on the Cuban authorities to allow members of Cubalex and all other human rights lawyers and activists to operate freely without harassment and intimidation;
  • Urging them to ensure that the criminal justice system or civil litigation is not misused to target or harass human rights defenders;
  • Calling on them to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which it is possible to defend and promote human rights without fear of punishment, reprisal or intimidation.
Contact these two officials by 30 December, 2016:

President of the Republic
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Twitter: @RaulCastroR
Salutation: Your Excellency
Ambassador Jose Cabanas
Embassy of Cuba
2630 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
Tel: (202) 797 8518 I Fax: (202) 797 0606
Salutation: Dear Ambassador  
Here’s why it is so important to report your actions: we record the number of actions taken on each case and use that information in our advocacy. Either email with “UA 261/16” in the subject line or click this link.
DOWNLOAD the full Urgent Action in PDF or Word format below
GET INSPIRED: Read about the people you have helped
READ TIPS for writing effective letters and emails
PDF version: 
Word version: 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cuban American vote in the 2016 Presidential Elections: Just the facts please.

'Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Update: Accused of being sloppy here and reviewed this blog entry to tighten things up a bit and provide some more links as back up. Appreciate critiques because it is a way to learn.

Update #2 11/18/16: Both Capitol Hill Cubans and Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation shared data on actual votes counted in 30+ precincts with the highest concentration of Cubans in Miami - Dade Country and found on average that they voted 58% for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 general election.

National press has recognized that Cuban Americans played a decisive role in Florida going Republican in the 2016 Presidential election. The Pew Research Center that is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization that gathers data and conducts analysis on the issues looked at exit polls with 3,997 respondents and found that 54% to 41% Cuban Americans voted for Trump and Hillary respectively.

These results were predictable to close observers of the Cuban American scene in South Florida. In May of 2016 I predicted that if Mr. Trump contrasted himself from Secretary Clinton and President Obama that the New York businessman would win 56% of the Cuban American vote.

The Obama Cuba policy had deeply outraged Cuban Americans and the repeated unilateral concessions in an environment where human rights on the island are deteriorating led to a profound rejection of the policy.

Furthermore that this policy gave a green light to discrimination of Cuban Americans by U.S. corporations to satisfy the demands of their new business partners, the Castro dictatorship provoked protests and law suits in 2016.

Nevertheless we find the usual crowd that produce misleading polls that may have cost Secretary Hillary Clinton the White House continue to double down using partisan push polls to try and blot out the sun with their thumb.

Recalling another Democratic U.S. Senator for the State of New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan let me make a plea for a civil discourse and to agree on the facts in evidence. Otherwise there is a danger of falling into historical negationism that serves no one. 

It was not only President Elect Donald Trump who benefited from opposition to Obama's Cuba policy but so did Senator Marco Rubio and Congressional candidates in South Florida in all the races where there was a contrast on Cuba policy between the two candidates.  

The argument I made and am making is that if President Elect Trump had not shifted his position on US - Cuba policy to contrast himself from President Obama and Secretary Clinton he would have remained in the 33 -37% range and possibly even lose the Cuban American vote to Hillary Clinton and that in a tight statewide Florida race it would have cost him the win. This is what happened with the Chinese American vote when Republicans abandoned the anti-communist issue on China. It wasn't the immigration issue that was hurting him with Cuban Americans.

The math below is taken from a Free Cuba Foundation entry and is added to this blog update to strengthen the case made above:

 If as some claim 570,878 Cuban Americans voted in the 2016 election and Mr. Trump saw a 21 point shift in support that correlates with his announced change in Cuba policy this translated to 119,884 additional votes. A total of  308,274 Cuban Americans voted for Mr. Donald Trump. Now Mauricio Claver-Carone makes the case that the actual percentage maybe above 60%.

Not only does that overall number increase to 342,527 but also the number of Cuban Americans that switched their vote in favor of the New York businessman after he rejected Obama's Cuba policy is also higher at 154,137 votes.

Considering that President Elect Trump's margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in Florida was just 119,970 votes and the argument is not just that Cuban Americans were critical to the New York businessman's victory but that the dramatic increase in support was linked to U.S. Cuba policy and its rejection by a large number of Cuban American voters according to exit polls. At the low range the shift in that vote alone, possibly Cuba policy single issue voters, was at a minimum 86 votes short of providing the margin for taking Florida or at the higher end exceeded it by 34,167 votes.

Latino Decisions Poll being cited to counter election day exit polls is a push poll.

The Latino Decisions poll used by those making the claim that Cuban Americans did not impact on Secretary Clinton's prospects is problematic for a number of reasons such as: it being sponsored by the National Council of La Raza that has a vested interest in pushing a particular narrative, it is a push poll with questions that provide information that would negatively impact the Latino vote for Republicans and finally there are no questions were asked about Obama's Cuba policy and how it would impact the vote. 

According to the online dictionary push polls are "a seemingly unbiased telephone survey that is actually conducted by supporters of a particular candidate and disseminates negative information about an opponent." This is precisely what Latino Decisions had done with the poll being used to argue that the exit polls are wrong.

Some examples of push poll questions in their survery are provided above and can be clicked on the image to read the full text where Latino Decisions asked two back to back questions (42 and 43) that highlight President Obama's 2012 executive order on immigration providing "undocumented youth" with legal work permits and temporary relief from deportation and then follow it up with how GOP office holders sued the Obama Administration to stop some of these policies.

On question 48 Latino Decisions asked if the person agreed with the following statement: "The Republican Party has now become so anti-immigrant, and anti-Latino that it would be hard for me to consider supporting them in the future." No mention that the U.S. President who has deported the most immigrants is President Barack Obama.

Welcome all those who would like to continue to engage in a fact based argument without ad hominem attacks on the Cuban American vote in the 2016 election.