Thursday, August 31, 2017

UN Human Rights Office on Venezuela: "Human rights violations indicate ‘policy to repress’"

“The generalized and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protestors and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the illegal or rogue acts of isolated officials...” - UN Human Rights Office

Venezuela: Human rights violations indicate ‘policy to repress’ - UN report

GENEVA (30 August 2017) – Extensive human rights violations and abuses have been committed in the context of anti-Government protests in Venezuela and point to “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations,” a report* by the UN Human Rights Office has found.
“The generalized and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protestors and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the illegal or rogue acts of isolated officials,” the report says.

The report calls on the UN Human Rights Council to consider taking measures to prevent the human rights situation in Venezuela, currently a Council member, from worsening.
Analysis by the UN Human Rights Office indicates that of the 124 deaths linked to the protests being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office as of 31 July, the security forces were reportedly responsible for 46 and pro-Government armed groups, known as armed colectivos, for 27. 

Responsibility for the remaining 51 deaths has not yet been determined.

During the period covered by the report, 1 April to 31 July, the Attorney-General’s Office opened investigations into at least 1,958 cases of reported injuries in the context of demonstrations. The report’s analysis of injuries shows the use of force progressively escalated. In the first half of April, the majority of injuries were from inhaling tear gas; by July, medical personnel were treating gunshot injuries.

“The policies pursued by the authorities in their response to the protests have been at the cost of Venezuelans’ rights and freedoms,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. 

“The Government must ensure there are prompt, independent and effective investigations of the human rights violations allegedly committed by the security forces and of the abuses involving armed colectivos or violent protesters. This includes ensuring that the investigations initiated by the Attorney General during the period covered by this report continue and are scrupulously and visibly impartial,” he stressed.  

“The right to peaceful assembly was systematically violated, with protestors and people identified as political opponents detained in great numbers. The report also identifies serious violations of due process and patterns of ill-treatment, in some cases amounting to torture,” Zeid said.

According to reliable estimates from a local NGO, more than 5,000 people were detained since 1 April, with more than 1,000 reportedly still held as of 31 July. At least 609 civilians arrested in the context of protests were presented before military tribunals. The report calls on the Government to halt arbitrary detention and the use of military courts to try civilians.

Loosely organized groups of anti-Government protestors resorted to violent means, using improvised weapons ranging from rocks and slingshots to Molotov cocktails and homemade mortars, the report says. At least four people were allegedly killed by anti-Government groups or individuals and, according to the Government, nine members of the security forces had been killed as of 31 July. The report calls on the opposition parties to condemn all acts of violence, in particular when these originated from groups of violent protesters.

The report documents attacks against journalists and media workers by security forces that were apparently aimed at preventing them from covering demonstrations. “Demonstrators and journalists were labelled by high-level authorities as ‘enemies’ and ‘terrorists’ – words that did little to counter, and may even have contributed to, the climate of violence and polarization,” the High Commissioner said.  

While acknowledging that the number of demonstrations, detentions and deaths have decreased since 1 August, Zeid expressed concern about recent measures taken by authorities to criminalize leaders of the political opposition through the Commission of Truth, Justice and Peace.

“The Commission, recently established by the Constituent Assembly, does not meet the basic requirements of transparency and impartiality, to conduct investigations that are independent and free from political motivation on human rights violations and abuses,” he said.

The High Commissioner warned that amid continuing economic and social crises and rising political tensions, there is a grave risk the situation in Venezuela will deteriorate further.

“I encourage the Venezuelan Government to follow up on the recommendations made in the report and to use its findings as guidelines to seek truth and justice for the victims of human rights violations and abuses. I once again call on the Government to renounce any measure that could increase political tension in the country and appeal to all parties to pursue meaningful dialogue to bring an end to this crisis,” Zeid said. 
*As the Venezuelan Government did not respond to requests for access, a team of human rights investigators conducted remote monitoring from 6 June to 31 July. The report is based on their analysis of the information they gathered, including through some 135 interviews with victims and their families, witnesses, civil society organizations, journalists, lawyers, doctors, first responders and the Attorney General’s Office.
Read the full report here:

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The education system in Cuba: curriculum politicized, dissent punished, and systemic censorship

Time to set the record straight on education in Cuba 
Students entering the University of Havana

Amnesty Global Insights on August 28, 2017 reported on how the internet is controlled and censored in Cuba, but then makes an assertion on the Cuban education system that many Cubans familiar with what existed before and after the Castro Revolution of 1959 would dispute and that is that the current dictatorship has had "achievements in education" citing that "UNESCO and UNICEF have commended Cuba’s educational achievements. Students from across the Caribbean, particularly medical students, graduate from its universities yearly." The Castro regime's diplomats have been very active in both UN organizations and impacted on their reporting. Meanwhile foreign students who studied in Cuba have not been sufficiently prepared to pass their medical license exams. In Pakistan, Cuban trained doctors are demanding an exemption from medical licensing exams to practice medicine there.

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?,  that a decade a go found an educational system in ruins . Eliska Slavikova of People in Peril interviewed by 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.
A later analyses of Cuba's educational system in 2008 and more recently in 2015 arrived at the same conclusions on lack of quality, resources and continued politicization of the curriculum. Although Amnesty International mentions "people who have been expelled from university for accessing 'unapproved' information" there is no mention of students expelled and professors fired for their political views or familial ties to Cuban dissidents.

Clockwise: Harold Cepero, Sayli Navarro, David Mauri, Fếlix Yuniel, Karla Pérez,
Meanwhile at the University of Miami in the midst of a controversy where the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies was shut down, all staff fired, and the director, Professor Jaime Suchlicki, apparently forced out on August 15, 2017 because the new president of the University of Miami Julio Frenk wanted to go in a different direction which involved engaging the Castro regime and shutting down a center of academic inquiry. The controversy led UM president Frenk to backpedal and pledge that ICCAS would be reopened and that there would be no institutional relationship with the Castro regime, although they already do exist in other departments.

Inside Higher Education in an article titled "A U.S. University Cuts Itself off From Cuba" quotes "Caleb Everett, a professor and the chair of the anthropology department" who said that  "we understand the dilemma that Frenk is facing in this kind of case where he has a very vocal minority that understandably has strong opinions on the matter. Our strong belief is that to move forward with Cuba from an academic perspective we need collaborative efforts."

This ignores that collaboration with the Cuban government has led in other universities with Cuban Studies self censoring to maintain the relationship with the dictatorship to have access the island compromising academic inquiry. Furthermore students have been targets of espionage and targeted for recruitment by Castro's intelligence service.

Dr. Carlos & Elsa Alvarez: Castro spies at FIU
Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute has had such a "collaborative" relationship in the past that generated bad press for the school. FIU Psychology professor Carlos Alvarez who was the associate professor for educational leadership and policy studies, and his wife Elsa Alvarez, counselor for the psychological services department at Florida International University were arrested by the FBI on January 6, 2006. Professor Alvarez conducted trips to Cuba with young professionals in the late 1990s in what was billed a conflict resolution project.  Carlos Alvarez was sentenced to five years in prison and Elsa Alvarez to three years in prison on February 28, 2007 for conspiring to act as unregistered Cuban agents spying on FIU students.

Casa Bacardi shut down at the University of Miami
UM Professor Everett would like to frame this discussion as a "vocal minority" in the community with "strong opinions" in order to not address the substance of the irregular manner in which ICCAS was shut down and the questions of academic freedom that were raised in the subsequent dialogue along with questions about the complete lack of academic freedom in Cuba and its links to the Cuban dictatorship's spying apparatus. At a time when American and Canadian diplomats have suffered hearing loss and brain damage in Cuba, due either to an attack or espionage gone wrong, these questions have new and urgent relevance as does the need for UM's the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies to maintain its independence and ability to debunk the Castro regime's false narrative with serious scholarship. Both Amnesty International and Professor Everett should know better and not repeat the false narrative propagated by the Castro regime.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Weimar Germany had hate speech laws and Antifa: Both helped fuel rise of the Nazis

Nonviolence was not even considered as an option in Germany in the 1930s and some would repeat the error again now in dealing with Nazis.

Burning of the German Parliament: Act of property destruction consolidated Nazi rule
On MSNBC on August 26, 2017 Professor Mark Bray, a historian and lecturer at Dartmouth, and author of "Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, made the claim that fascism could only be defeated by violence and that Weimar Germany had practiced free expression against the Nazis and that passive acceptance of Hitler's movement fueled their rise to power, and that violence was the only way to defeat fascism. The historical record says otherwise.

First, Weimar Germany had modern like hate speech laws and vigorously enforced them but it did not have the desired effect. Making the Nazis hate speech illegal and outlawing their publications raised their profile and gathered more support. The New Yorker on February 14, 2015 in the article "Copenhagen, Speech and Violence" interviewed Flemming Rose, the foreign editor of the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten who set the record straight:
"Weimar Germany did have hate-speech laws, and they were applied quite frequently. The assertion that Nazi propaganda played a significant role in mobilizing anti-Jewish sentiment is, of course, irrefutable. But to claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only anti-Semitic speech and Nazi propaganda had been banned has little basis in reality. Leading Nazis such as Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch, and Julius Streicher were all prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech. Streicher served two prison sentences."
The outcome of silencing hate speech is not what those who advocate for it would expect as Rose continued to explain:
"Rather than deterring the Nazis and countering anti-Semitism, the many court cases served as effective public-relations machinery, affording Streicher the kind of attention he would never have found in a climate of a free and open debate. In the years from 1923 to 1933, Der Stürmer [Streicher's newspaper] was either confiscated or editors taken to court on no fewer than thirty-six occasions. The more charges Streicher faced, the greater became the admiration of his supporters. The courts became an important platform for Streicher's campaign against the Jews. In the words of a present-day civil-rights campaigner, pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the anti-hate laws of today, and they were enforced with some vigor."
Antifa (Anti Fascist Action) arose for the first time in violent opposition to the Nazis in a united front in 1932. However the Communist Party (KPD) in Germany viewed the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the main center left party, as "fascists painted red" because they supported the existing market system.  The SPD believed that they could use the apparatus of the state to pursue the Nazis in the courts and through hate speech legislation. Meanwhile the Communists actively fought the Nazi brownshirts in the streets, and that they alone, with their violence, could dismantle the Nazi movement.

Anti Fascist Action conference in Germany (1932)
Both approaches raised the profile of the National Socialists (Nazis) and the physical violence, and destruction of property created uncertainty in the populace that played to the Nazis favor. Of course there were other factors two that are often highlighted are the humiliating terms for Germany in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 following their defeat in World War One, and the Great Depression in 1929 were major factors that also contributed to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

When Adolf Hitler enters office as Chancellor in January of 1933, the German parliament (Reichstag) was burned to the ground on February 27, 1933, the Nazis were able to blame the Communists, and use this act of violence to justify the enabling laws that consolidated Hitler's dictatorial powers. Decades later and there is still controversy about who actually set the fire, but the violent record of Antifa in fighting the Nazis made claims by the Nazis that they had set the fire plausible. Add to this that the Soviet Union and international communist movement would ally with Nazi Germany on August 28, 1939 until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

Meanwhile Gandhi's call for nonviolent resistance to the rising Nazi movement was rejected and ridiculed, and even as late as 1940  the Indian independence leaders was engaged in the conversation of applying nonviolence to resisting the National Socialists. In August 6, 1940 Mohandas Gandhi published a letter from “a Dutch friend” in which his friend argued that:
“Through Nazism, the German youth has lost all individuality of thought and feeling. The great mass of young people has lost its heart and is degraded to the level of a machine. … A friend of mine, whose work it is to cross-examine German prisoners of war in England, was deeply shocked by the spiritual narrowness and heartlessness of these young men, and agreed with me that non-violence could not be applied with any success against such robots...”
Gandhi responded to the letter pointing out that the author had sent his name and address but that he (Gandhi) withheld both out of fear that harm would come to him if they were made public. Gandhi responded:
“Non-violent action, if it is adequate, must influence Hitler and easily the duped Germans. No man can be turned into a permanent machine. Immediately the dead weight of authority is lifted from his head, he begins to function normally. To lay down any such general proposition as my friend has, betrays ignorance of the working of non-violence.”
University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns. Finally there study also suggests “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.”

Professor Bray is wrong. Non-violence could and was carried out successfully against the Nazis on at least two occasions that are well documented. Between 1940 and 1945 under the Nazi occupation of Denmark many Danes were able to organize an effective and completely nonviolent resistance that undermined German war fighting capability and successfully blocked efforts to deport and exterminate its Jewish population to the Nazi death camps by first hiding Danish Jews then ferrying them out to neutral Sweden. An equally dramatic case took place in Germany in February and March of 1943 when German (non-Jewish) wives married to Jewish men and their relatives organized mass demonstrations in Rosenstrasse Street in Berlin to protest their husband’s arrest and deportation escalating until the men were released and returned home.

The idea that one could only resist the Nazis violently with guns, bombs and explosives because they were so evil led to two outcomes: 1) acts of violent resistance which the Nazis used to escalate their violence against those populations that resisted and 2) that millions who did not have a "weapon" cooperated believing they had no other choice and marched to their deaths.

This happened in part because a the third option was not considered: refusing to cooperate, nonviolent resistance as a realistic alternative to dealing with the fascists. Even more shocking that in 2017 the lie that only violence works against fascists is still being peddled in our news media when the examples of Denmark and Rosenstrasse are so well documented.

The Nazi threat today should not be underestimated and law enforcement agencies should remain vigilant in dealing with whatever violent actions they carry out and hold them accountable before the law. However history has demonstrated that Antifa, hate speech laws and labeling mainstream political parties fascist did not stop the Nazis but as a matter of fact helped fuel their rise to power and the later consolidation of Hitler's rule. Repeating those tactics today is madness.

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana

Monday, August 28, 2017

Amnesty International Urgent Action Cuba: Urban artist at risk in Cuba

 Artist threatened with being imprisoned again

Yulier Rodriguez Perez with shirt that reads in Spanish "Respect for Urban Art"

Urban artist at risk in Cuba:Yulier Rodriguez Perez

After being arbitrarily detained on 17 August, Yulier Perez, a graffiti artist known for painting dilapidated walls in Havana, is at risk of being imprisoned again, after months of intimidation and harassment from authorities.

State officials arbitrarily detained Yulier Rodriguez Perez, or Yulier P., known for his art work on the ruined walls of Havana, the capital, on 17 August in Central Havana. He told Amnesty International that he was released on the evening of 18 August on the condition that he remove all his artwork from the walls of Havana by 25 August.

Amnesty International has followed the case of Yulier Perez since early 2017, when he told the organization he had been forced out of his art studio. His international profile has increasingly grown. In 2016, he told newspaper 14 y medio, “My pictures are like fables, a portrait of people’s experiences…They are like souls, because at some point we stop being people and now we are souls in a purgatory called Cuba.” In April 2017, police summoned and questioned him about his interviews with the international press and his opinions about his art. Yulier Perez said that state security officials threatened to charge him with “dangerousness” (peligrosidad), or a range of other provisions of the Penal Code. In July, Yulier Perez travelled to the USA to participate in an art exhibition. On his return, police summoned him again. Subsequently, he hand-delivered letters to the Minister of Culture and Minister of External Relations, asking for their intervention in the frequent police harassment.

Decree No. 272 (20 February 2001) establishes administrative penalties for infringements on public adornments and monuments, and establishes that any alteration of walls or external parts of buildings is a fineable offence. Such an offence is not contemplated in the Penal Code. Yulier Perez is at risk of being criminally charged with “dangerousness” solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression. Cuban authorities have frequently used this vague and overly broad provision against human rights defenders and any others who appear to contradict the “norms of socialist morals”.

Provisions foreseeing the punishment of individuals not because of their actions or attitudes, but because of the likelihood of potential, future and uncertain actions breach the principle of legality.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language: Urging the Cuban authorities to ensure that law enforcement officials do not arbitrarily detain Yulier Rodriguez Perez as an attempt to restrict the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression; Calling on them to make sure that free artistic expression is adequately protected, and to repeal all legislation which unduly limits the right to freedom of expression; Calling on them to amend provisions of the Penal Code, such as the provision on “peligrosidad”, that are so vague that they lend themselves to abuse by state officials to restrict freedom of expression.


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: (via Cuban mission to UN)
Twitter: @RaulCastroR
Salutation: Your Excellency

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

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

Additional Information

Amnesty International has documented harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of artists in Cuba for decades. In the late 1980s, members of artistic organizations were detained in their homes and charged with “illegal association”.

Cuban authorities have previously arbitrarily detained graffiti artists for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In 2015, Danilo Maldonado Machado (also known as ‘El Sexto’) spent almost 10 months in prison without trial following accusations of “aggravated contempt” after being arrested on 25 December 2014 for transporting two pigs with the names “Raúl” and “Fidel” painted on them, which he intended to release in an art show in Havana’s Central Park. He was never formally charged nor brought before a court during the almost 10 months he spent in detention. Danilo Maldonado Machado was again arrested at his home in Havana the morning of 26 November 2016, hours after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death. That same day, Cuba-based newspaper 14 y medio reported that he had graffitied the words “He’s gone” (Se fue) on a wall in Havana. He was detained for almost two months, according to his family, without formal charges.

Article 75.1 of the Penal Code provides that any police officer can issue a warning (acta de advertencia) for “dangerousness”. A warning can also be issued for associating with a “dangerous person.” Municipal tribunals have the authority to declare someone to be in a dangerous pre-criminal state. They can do so summarily within pre-set timeframes which are so short – less than 11 days from charge to sentence – that they effectively “deprive the accused of the possibility of mounting an adequate legal defence”.

Security measures are imposed on those found to have a “dangerous disposition” by a municipal tribunal. These measures may include therapy, police surveillance or “re-education”. The latter may consist of internment in a specialized work or study establishment for a period of between one and four years. In most cases, internment is changed to imprisonment, even though in the Penal Code “dangerousness” is not punishable by imprisonment.

Name: Yulier Rodriguez Perez

Gender m/f: male

UA: 189/17 Index: AMR 25/7000/2017 Issue Date: 24 August 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Google's complicity with the Castro regime exposed in The Wall Street Journal

"You can make money without doing evil." - ( #6 of Ten things we know to be true by Google)

Google executive Eric Schmidt signs agreement with Castro regime in December 2016
Mary Anastasia O'Grady today in her column in The Wall Street Journal, "Google’s Broken Promise to Cubans" sets the record straight on a controversy that began in late July.

Last month on July 22, 2017 Rosa María Payá Acevedo tweeted that CubaDecide was banned in Cuba, describing it as "the error with which Google joins censorship in Cuba." This led to a flurry of tweets about the question of censorship and Google in Cuba. Mary O'Grady of The Wall Street Journal tweeted "Google bows to Cuban censorship."  

Rosa María Payá criticized Google censorship of CubaDecide
 Michael Weissenstein of the Associated Press replied that it wasn't Cuba but U.S. regulations and Google's Brett Perlmutter doubled down in a tweet blaming the U.S. embargo.  Former Bush Administration official Jose Cardenas contested both Weissenstein's and Perlmutter's claims tweeting "that is simply NOT true. No US regs block websites in Cuba."

Ms O'Grady finally set the record straight on Sunday in her column after following up with Google and the ISP:
Mr. Perlmutter did not cite any provision of the U.S. embargo that requires the blocking of a nonprofit citizens’ initiative—because there is no such provision. On Wednesday a Google spokesperson told me “we can’t say for sure what’s causing the issue with that site but it isn’t something we’re doing on our end . . . If you want more details, I recommend you check with the ISP.”
By Friday the company was no longer blaming the ISP. Instead, Google told me—in a paradox that must be delicious for Castro—that it is Cuba Decide’s use of Google’s Project Shield that is causing the problem. The shield is offered at no charge for “news sites and free expression” against “distributed denial-of-service” attacks. When it is used, it triggers the use of Google’s App Engine even if Google is not the website’s host—which it isn’t in this case—and Cubans cannot access the site.
Google has distanced itself from Mr Perlmutter's statements saying they “do not represent an official Google position” and that the content of his tweet was made “before all the facts of the specific situation were known,” they told Mary O'Grady.  

According to their blog "the Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet." On August 28, 2017 the Tor Blog revealed that Google is blocking Cuban websites:
Cuba’s ISP isn’t the only one blocking access to services. OONI’s Network Diagnostic Test (NDT) relies on M-Lab servers, which in turn rely on Google App Engine. Initially, we weren’t able to run NDT tests in Cuba. Once we manually specified the test servers, not only were we able to run NDT, but it also became evident that Google is blocking access to Google App Engine from Cuba.
This confirms Rosa María Payá Acevedo's charge that Google was censoring Cuba Decide in Cuba.
Furthermore it raises the question when will Google lifts its blockade on Cuban dissident websites?

Google's Eric Schmidt signed agreement with Castro regime telecom monopoly
The Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter blog over the past four years has reported on Google's relationship with Cuba. Sadly it is a series of blog entries beginning with optimism, tempered in later entries by pessimism following Google's engagement with the dictatorship, and finally outrage as Google's collaboration with the Castro regime became evident.


Friday, August 25, 2017

American diplomats under attack in Cuba? Did 2014-2017 concessions worsen Castro regime's behavior?

 Keep an eye on this disturbing story.

Are U.S. diplomats under attack in Cuba?
 The results, of the attempt to normalize relations with an abnormal regime in Cuba, according to The Washington Post editorial this evening, "have been dismal" and now "there's another sinister cost to tally" beyond the worsening human rights situation for Cubans since 2014 now apparently U.S. diplomats at the embassy in Havana have been severely harmed.. CBS News reported on August 24, 2017 that they had obtained and reviewed medical records "showing mild traumatic brain injuries and possible damage to the central nervous system as a result of the attacks." Furthermore, the number of injured diplomats identified had risen from an initial five to 16.

On August 9, 2017 State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in a briefing revealed that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States on May 23, 2017 in response to "incidents in Cuba."  U.S. officials reported initially that five U.S. diplomats were targeted by a "sonic weapon" that led to "severe hearing loss" that led to some of them canceling their tours and returning early to the United States.
A day later the Associated Press reported that the Canadian government had reported that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba has also been treated for hearing loss.

The attacks began in November of 2016 during the previous Administration which apparently had no knowledge of what was going on or downplayed it out of fear that it would tarnish President Obama's Cuba normalization legacy.

Back on December 17, 2014 this blog made the following observation: "Rewarding the hardline and rogue elements in the Castro regime is unlikely to improve the dictatorship's behavior to the contrary it may worsen."

Congress should hold hearings to find out what happened and if it is still happening and get to the bottom of what happened to 16 U.S. diplomats based in Cuba.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Black Ribbon Day 2017: Remembering some of the new victims of Communist and Nazi totalitarianism

 "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

78 years ago on August 23, 1939 Josef Stalin and Adolph Hitler signed a treaty that was called a non-aggression treaty but it had a secret additional protocol that divided up Eastern Europe. It was a an aggression treaty were Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia plotted against their neighbors leading to the outbreak of WW2 on September 1, 1939 when Poland was invaded and occupied.

Today in Europe, Canada and the United States many observe Black Ribbon Day in remembrance for victims of totalitarian regimes. Sadly, this body count continues to rise in 2017. Even in democracies totalitarian movements attempt to sow chaos and try to destabilize and undermine free societies.

Germany recognizes the evil of the Nazi regime and has sought to pursue reconciliation through truth, memory, and justice. Sadly, in Russia today the Putin regime has backtracked and denied Soviet complicity with the Nazis in the start of WW2. This is dangerous because communist regimes continue to ally with fascist regimes and engage in systemic racism when it suits them.

Neo-Nazis are not in power at the national level but their movements wreak havoc around the world. Communists remain in power in 2017 in China, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, Cuba, and in Venezuela with a rising body count of victims.

Susan Bro holds up photo of murdered daughter Heather Heyer
Last week I heard the heart breaking testimony of Susan Bro whose daughter Heather Heyer, age 32, was run over and murdered by a white supremacist on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia while 19 others were badly in the attack.

Earlier today I listened to the heart breaking testimony of Venezuelan exile Maria Eugenia Tovar whose daughter Génesis Carmona, age 22, was shot in the head and killed in Venezuela in 2014 by the Maduro regime and talked about her loss. 

Maria Eugenia Tovar holds up photo of murdered daughter Génesis Carmona
In light of events over the past few months more citizens of good will should organize events on Black Ribbon Day, write letters to the editor, and opinion pieces reminding the world of the need to remember what happened on August 23, 1939 and to denounce totalitarianism of all stripes. I hope that next year there will be a high profile Black Ribbon Day event in Miami.

Read more here:

Fidel Castro's strategic alliance with the Nazis

Fidel Castro is dead but his terrible legacy lives on

Fidel Castro recruited Nazi Death Squad leaders during Missile Crisis
Today marks the 78th anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin Pact when on August 23, 1939 the Nazi regime in Germany and the Communist regime in Russia joined together in a "non-aggression pact" with a secret protocol to divide up Poland, the Baltic States, Finland, and Romania after coordinating to wage aggressive wars against their neighbors. This flirtation between Communists and Nazis did not end until June 22, 1941 when three million German troops invaded Russia abrogating the non-aggression pact.

In 2012 formerly classified documents by the German intelligence service were released to the world revealing that Fidel Castro personally recruited former Nazi SS Waffen members to train Cuban troops in 1962 and that he also reached out to Otto Ernst Remer and Ernst-Wilhelm Springer, in Germany's extreme right to purchase weapons. Did Che Guevara receive security training from Nazis? The Argentine revolutionary did not leave Cuba to spread revolution elsewhere until 1965.

Bodo Hechelhammer, historical investigations director at the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)—the German foreign-intelligence agency, in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt said: “Evidently, the Cuban revolutionary army did not fear contagion from personal links to Nazism, so long as it served its their own objectives.”

This is not the only racist or fascist ideological regime that the communist dictatorship in Cuba has collaborated with.

Argentina's military dictator Benito Bignone and Fidel Castro chatting
"President" Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone Ramayón who, like Fidel Castro then and Raul Castro today , was"President" in name only, but in reality a brutal military dictator in Argentina on April 20, 2010, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of 56 people in a concentration camp.

The Castro regime had a strategic relationship with this Argentine military junta that disappeared 30,000 leftists in 1970s and early 1980s should be viewed as not being an aberration but part of a pattern of embracing and seeking to learn from the worse human rights violators on the planet. Furthermore that the Castro dictatorship's hostility to religious belief in general and Judaism in particular may not only stem from its communist roots but other evil associations.
Furthermore the Castro regime and groups like the Workers World Party should be called into question when both support North Korea despite its racist screed against President Obama.

 78 years later the August 23, 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact remains a specter over the international communist movement exposing its hypocrisy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Black Ribbon Day 2017: Remembering the victims of Soviet Communism and Nazi Tyranny

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

Seventy eight years ago on August 23, 1939 Josef Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, the first communist regime, signed a treaty with Adolph Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany it was initially named after their respective foreign ministers, V.M. Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. However it also became known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact. It was publicly described by both parties as a non-aggression treaty but it had a secret additional protocol that divided up Poland and the Baltic states. In reality it was a an aggression treaty in which the two aggressors Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia agreed before hand how to divide up the spoils as follows:
Article I.
 In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.

Article II.
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments. In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.  ...

Nine days later on September 1, 1939 at 4:45 am Nazi Germany invaded Poland and World War II started. Sixteen days later the Soviet Union exercising its secret agreement with the Nazis invaded Poland from the East and met their German allies in the middle of Poland and on September 22, 1939 the German Nazi army joined with the Soviet Communist army in a military parade in Brest-Litovsk and the two sides celebrated together.

Rolling Soviet tanks and Nazi motorcyclists in Poland (September 1939).
Each year on August 23rd beginning in 2009 there is a day of remembrance for the victims of Soviet Communism and Nazi Tyranny across Europe, Canada and the United States. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation will hold a Black Ribbon Day on Wednesday from 5:00pm to 6:00pm at the Victims of Communism Memorial located at the intersection of New Jersey Avenue NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW, in Washington, DC. If you plan to attend please RSVP.

Soviet soldier and Nazi soldiers fraternize after conquering Poland in 1939
This is an important moment to hold such a ceremony here in the United States when far too many Americans have openly marched in 2017 with Nazi Swastika flags and Soviet hammer and sickle flags there is a heightened need for acts of remembrance at the horrors unleashed by these twin symbols of hate and how the bloodiest and most brutal war in human history was unleashed on the world when these two evil systems conspired together under a banner of peace and non-aggression that was a lie. Between 1939 and 1945 an estimated 50 to 85 million people were killed in this conflict.  Furthermore the anti-racist credentials of the Workers World Party should be called into question when they support North Korea despite its racist screed against President Obama.

Marching with Communist and Nazi flags in Charlottesville, Virginia
In times of great moral confusion it is important to recall past errors to avoid committing them again in the future. The ongoing debate in the United States of how to confront the menace of violent Neo-Nazism finds far too many Americans looking to AntiFa, a violent fringe group, linked to the Communist Party, to violently counter the white supremacists. The belief is that countering a violent and hateful ideologically motivated movement with another violent and hateful ideologically motivated movement will lead to at least the destruction of one or of both.

Hitler and Stalin salute each other over the corpse of Poland in this 1939 caricature
 In the 1920s and 1930s in Germany groups with the same names and carrying the same flags fought in the streets, with each creating their own heroic narratives, in their decade long violent skirmishes. Fires were set, businesses trashed, and brawls carried out with each side portraying the other as dangerous terrorists, but in reality their radical movements fed off one another while weakening German democratic institutions as mob rule co-opted Weimar Germany, eventually it was taken over by Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party, consolidating power by blaming the communists for burning down of the German Parliament building on February 27, 1933 with the Enabling Laws.

Source: Library of Congress
There were other factors that fueled the rise of Nazism: the Great Depression, the punishing Treaty of Versailles, and the later appeasement of the West but the violent dynamic between the Communist Party and AntiFa against the Nazis in the 1930s helped the rise of Hitler more than impede it.

Nazism and Communism are two ideologies that together have claimed more than 160 million lives and remain a threat to civilization. They should not be underestimated, their histories remembered and condemned. This is why it is so important to observe Black Ribbon Day on August 23rd.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Citizen Power for China statement on the imprisonment of three young Hong Kong student leaders

"They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hong Kongers". - Joshua Wong

Citizen Power for China statement on the imprisonment of Alex Chow, Nathan Law, and Joshua Wong 

 Joshua Wong,  Nathan Law and Alex Chow arbitrarily detained

On August 17, 2017, an appeal by the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong prosecution officially imprisoned three young student leaders, Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong, for their leadership in the 2014 umbrella movement. They were on the forefront of the Umbrella Movement, and were present during the only dialogue with the Hong Kong Government. The grim ending to their case gravely saddens us, and we express our solemn protest against the evil intentions of Chinese authorities.

It has now been three years since the protests that saw millions of young Hong Kong citizens flood to the streets and take up the fight for democracy, and against the meddling hands of the Chinese Communist Party. Citizen Power, and other Pro-democracy activists will never forget the continuing efforts of the organizers on the front lines, but the Chinese Communist Party is not willing to forget either.

At almost the same time two years ago, the trio had been convicted for taking part in or inciting an "illegal assembly", and sentenced to community service for their ideals. Through the guise of Hong Kong's Department of Justice, Beijing's heavy hand has worked maliciously to make a cautionary tale out of these young men.

They want to send a message to the people of Hong Kong that to rebel, and to express one's own thoughts is tantamount to committing a serious crime. A community service charge was never strong enough to send that message.

Judge Wally Yeung, who presided over the case, accused the call for democracy as "arrogant and self-righteous thinking", and a "sick trend" of anti-government protest. The message was sent. Alex, Nathan, and Joshua will spend seven months, eight months, and six months behind bars, respectively.
We are saddened by this abhorrent and transparent act of political imprisonment by the Chinese-backed government, and the setback it has caused for a peaceful transition to democracy in Hong Kong. Not only have the freedoms of the trio been stolen, but their ability to assume to office in the next five years has been unjustly taken as well -- in accordance with Hong Kong's laws prohibiting individuals jailed for more than 3 months to run for office within 5 years.

Chow, Law, and Wong may be behind bars, but we share their plea to other Hong Kongers to continue to fight for democracy in Hong Kong, which is now more important than ever. Xi Jinping's ambition to return to fundamental Marxist principles has seen him flex military might in Hong Kong, threatening to topple the rule of law.

They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hong Kongers. - Joshua Wong

We wish Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong a safe 2017, and promise not to take their sacrifices for granted.

Initiatives for China (a.k.a. Citizen Power for China) is dedicated to a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, and cooperative action.

I stand in solidarity with Joshua, Nathan, Alex and the free people of Hong Kong in their struggle to remain free. I had the honor of meeting Alex and Nathan in 2015 at a gathering organized by Citizen Power for China.

With Nathan Law at Initiatives for China event in 2015