Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mourning the passing of strategic nonviolence scholar and icon Gene Sharp.

"Using violence is a stupid decision." - Dr. Gene Sharp, February 5, 2012

Gene Sharp 1928 - 2018
Today I learned of the passing of Dr. Gene Sharp. He is the theoretician of nonviolent action, that thanks to Jose Basulto, in June of 1996 was able to meet him and learn from him over a series of lectures and conversations at Florida International University. This encounter marked a before and after in my life. This blog has cited him time and time again and promoted the South Florida premiere of the documentary about his life, How to Start a Revolution, back in 2011. He taught generations that there was an alternative to bloody conflict and that it was non-violent armed conflict. He demonstrated that there was nothing passive about nonviolent resistance and that it also required strategy to increase the odds of success in a struggle. In 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston, Gene Sharp succinctly outlined his argument.
"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."
Gene Sharp listening to Coretta Scott King
Gene Sharp, who had exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, would go on to found an institution named after the physicist dedicated to studying nonviolence and providing a theoretical grounding.

Yesterday, seventy years to the day Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated, the Albert Einstein Institution issued a press release announcing the passing of their founder, Gene Sharp two days earlier on January 28 which is reproduced below.

January 30, 2018

Statement from the Albert Einstein Institution on the death of our founder Dr. Gene Sharp 

The Albert Einstein Institution is greatly saddened to announce the passing of our founder, mentor, and friend Dr. Gene Sharp, who passed away peacefully on January 28, 2018, at his home in East Boston. He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Widely recognized by scholars, practitioners, organizers, and activists worldwide as the greatest theoretician of nonviolent action since Mohandas K. Gandhi, Sharp founded the field of academic research on the theory and strategic practice of nonviolent action.

A four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the winner of the 2012 Right Livelihood Award, Sharp devoted his life to studying nonviolent struggle, deeply researching and documenting its use in human history, analyzing how the technique operates cross-culturally, and sharing the results of his research with other scholars, practitioners, organizers, government institutions, and citizens and civil - society groups on every continent. His numerous books and articles on the subject have been translated into more than 50 languages, and are disseminated worldwide. Hi s work continues to inspire and enable people engaged in struggle to wield social power by building on and learning from the experience, results, bravery, and sacrifice of those who have come before them.

Sharp is survived by a brother, nieces, nephews, and cousins, and by a large national and international family of friends and colleagues. His legacy lives on in the Albert Einstein Institution, which he founded in 1983 to advance the study and use of strategic nonviolent action as a pragmatic alternative to violence in acute conflict. He refused to retire and worked up until his death.

A rare collection of orchids on the top floor of his home were his joy and respite, along with his dogs and exploring the wild spaces of Mexico, Norway, and Canada.

He is loved and was loved, and leaves behind generations of students and adherents of his work all over the world, who are as a result of his findings better able to win political freedom and resist oppression. He has set down his pen for the last time; yet his work will live on forever.

Memorial donations in Gene Sharp’s name may be made to the Albert Einstein Institution, . A memorial service to celebrate Gene Sharp’s life and work will be held later this spring .
 On the internet one can find decades of presentations by Gene Sharp on nonviolence. Below is a sampling of some of his lectures, and the lectures and speeches of other nonviolent scholars, theoreticians and activists. Today I mourn the passing of this scholar and theoretician of strategic nonviolence. Dr. Sharp's scholarship on nonviolence will continue to inspire many around the world. Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

70 years ago today Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated

"We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." - Karl Marx, Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vi pp 503-5 (The final issue of Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 18 May 1849)

"Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Body of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi lies in state at Birla House in New Delhi.
 Tonight at Florida International University at a presentation hosted by the Cuban Research Institute "The Catholic Church in Cuba: Current Status and Challenges for the Future" with Cuban Catholic priest, Father  José Conrado Rodríguez speaking of the need for Cubans to engage in a national embrace of peace, the legacy of Mohandas Gandhi was brought up during the question and answer period. Father Conrado responded that Gandhi was an inspiration to him, that he kept a book by Gandhi next to his Bible, and that Gandhi had rejected and resisted evil with nonviolence. Furthermore that today, seventy years after his assassination, it was important to remember this nonviolent icon.

Father Conrado has followed the path of Gandhi speaking truth to power and challenging the dictatorship in Cuba to cease its evil ways.  As a Christian he follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, rejects violence, and has a positive view of Gandhi's legacy. Not everyone shares this positive vision of the Indian nonviolence icon.

The Soviet press published an article written by S.M. Vakar in 1948 following Gandhi's assassination on January 30, 1948 titled "The Class Nature of the Gandhi Doctrine" subtitled "Gandhi as a Reactionary Utopian" in the Soviet philosophy journal Voprosy filosofii (Questions of Philosophy). The Marxist Leninist argument was outlined as follows:
Although Gandhi regarded the union and independence of the Indian peoples as his goal, his reactionary-Utopian social theory and the reformist methods of struggle connected with it caused his activity to fail in facilitating overthrow of the colonial yoke [...] The social essence of the Gandhi doctrine and its fundamentally reactionary role in the history of India's national liberation movement has hardly been treated in Marxist literature. Yet this doctrine still retards the development of class awareness among the Indian masses.
What was this social essence of Gandhian thought that so troubled the Marxist Leninists in the Soviet Union? First, the reformist methods of struggle referred to in the above quote was nonviolent resistance and secondly his social theory rejected class struggle as another manifestation of destructive violence. On September 11, 1906 a new word came into existence that would give a better understanding of Gandhi's social theory and method of struggle which he described as:
'Satyagraha.' Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase 'passive resistance,' in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word 'Satyagraha' itself or some other equivalent English phrase.
The Marxist-Leninists embraced revolutionary violence and a movement led by a small vanguard of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries that would carry out the changes necessary by whatever means necessary and rejected nonviolence as naive. They followed the doctrine of Lenin as presented in his 1902 revolutionary tract What is to be done.

Over a century has passed since both sets of ideas have been set out and applied around the world. An analysis done by Maria J. Stephen and Erica Chenoweth systematically explores the strategic effectiveness of both violent and nonviolent campaigns using data on 323 campaigns carried out between 1900 and 2006.[1] There findings demonstrate that major non-violent campaigns were successful 53% of the time versus only 26% for major violent campaigns and terrorist campaigns had a dismal 7% success rate.

Today, India with all its flaws is the world's largest democracy with a growing economy that presents new competitive challenges to the developed world and Marxist-Leninism has amassed a body count of 100 million dead and counting. It would appear that Gandhi's criticisms of the communists were prescient:
"The socialists and communists say, they can do nothing to bring about economic equality today. They will just carry on propaganda in its favor and to that end they believe in generating and accentuating hatred. They say, when they get control over the State, they will enforce equality. Under my plan the State will be there to carry out the will of the people, not to dictate to them or force them to do its will." - Mohandas Gandhi

"It is my firm conviction that if the State suppressed capitalism by violence, it will be caught in the coils of violence itself, and will fail to develop non-violence at any time. The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." - Mohandas Gandhi
It is Satyagraha that is relevant today in 2018 and offers an alternative to the conflagrations suffered in the 20th century and the wars that plague the world now. Gandhi's Satyagraha is a call to principled non-violence but even pragmatists and realists looking over the historical record cannot fail to be influenced by the fact that non-violent civic resistance works and in the aggregate offers a better chance of a better life for more people.

[1]Stephan, Maria J. and Chenoweth, Erica Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. International Security, Vol. 33, No.1 (Summer 2008), pp. 7-44

[2] Gandhi, Mohandas (author) Dalton, Dennis (editor) Mahatma Gandhi: Selected Political Writings September 1996 Hackett Publishing Company

Update on attacks against Americans in Cuba: 19 American tourists suffered "mild brain trauma."

The mystery deepens and the Castro regime's denials continue. 

Attacks took place at the Capri Hotel in Havana, Cuba
Castro officials are complaining about a drop in tourism to Cuba.  They seek to blame the Trump Administration and Hurricane Irma, but deny that 24 American diplomats were seriously harmed in what U.S. officials have called attacks. Furthermore, according to The Miami Herald, 19 American tourists have suffered "mild brain trauma" during  their visits to the communist island, and the regime response is denial .

This reality that 33 Americans, both diplomats and visiting tourists, have suffered "mild brain trauma" and some of the attacks took place in hotels. What sane person wants to risk brain damage in the tropical equivalent of North Korea?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Harold Cepero, a former Catholic seminarian

"Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world." - Mishnah  (1135-1204)
Harold Cepero Escalante
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism.

The fourteenth entry remembers a young martyr: a former seminarian, who became a nonviolent human rights defender in a movement founded by lay Catholics, and was killed together with the movement's founding leader on July 22, 2012. He was just 32 years old.

Previous entries in this series were about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently, Cubans who tried to leave the island, a student shot to death for walking down the wrong sidewalk in Havana, a young Ethiopian woman murdered in a red terror in her homeland for unknown reasons in 1978, and the eleventh entry three young black men executed by firing squad in 2003 for having hijacked a ferry in an effort to reach the United States. The thirteenth entry remembered two young men shot by firing squad in La Cabaña on April 18, 1961. They had been arrested on March 27, 1961 by Cuban secret police when they were found with weapons.

In this entry one explores how a Catholic youth, inspired by his faith defended human rights and dignity, took part in a national petition drive for the reform of the Cuban regime only to be killed under suspicious circumstances, involving Cuban state security.

Harold Cepero Escalante was born in the town of Chambas, then in the province of Ciego de Ávila ( but had been Camaguey until 1977), on January 29, 1980. He was drawn to his local Catholic Church in Chambas while in High School. In 1998 at age 18 he moved to Cuba's third largest city, Camaguey, and began his studies at the University of Camaguey. He also began, along with other university students, to take part in informal conversations with Father Alberto Reyes Pías.

In 2002 Harold together with other university students signed the Varela Project.

The Varela Project, named after the 19th century Cuban Catholic Priest Felix Varela who resisted Spanish colonialism, was a citizen initiative that gathered signatures to hold a referendum to change existing laws in order to reform the Cuban legal system to bring it in line with international human rights standards. The Christian Liberation Movement (CLM) had followed the letter of the law in organizing the campaign.

 On May 10, 2002, after CLM turned in 11,020 signatures exceeding the 10,000 required by the regime,  the dictatorship's response to the nonviolent citizen's initiative was to first coerce Cubans into signing another petition declaring the Constitution unchangeable.

Harold knew that this regime pushed petition drive was a direct reaction to the Varela Project and refused to sign it. He also began to explain this among students at the university in the dormitories and hallways without fear. This is when the threats of expulsion from the university began.

The dictatorship's "petition" quickly passed through the rubber stamp legislature without debating the Varela Project, which according to the Cuban law drafted by the regime meant that it should have been debated by the National Assembly.

On November 13, 2002 State Security organized a mob to judge and expel Harold Cepero and Yoan Columbié, another youth who signed the Varela Project. They were screamed at, insulted, threatened and finally expelled.

This is the letter that Harold wrote in protest following his expulsion from the University.

 With all due respect and the sincerity that they deserve, I think the arguments abound for our defense. Apparently the motive for this act, or I do not know how to call it, is our bad attitude towards the politics that prevail in our country today. The other, our approval of the Varela Project.I will start by saying that said project is a project of law signed by over eleven thousand Cubans (electors) and gathers up the fundamental needs of our people. I do not know why they are attempting (you who are now in a privileged situation with respect to us and those who think like us) to repress something that is not motivated by, nor has its origin in the hatred of the people, but rather in  openness, mutual respect, and dialogue.

They from their condition as: students, professors, PCC, UJC, etc., are breaking the law of the Republic. They are trying to trample on our dignity, that is of equal worth to theirs, a recognition and legal status to develop fully. Therefore, I think it totally unfair what they are attempting to do. This is a violation of international law, the Constitution and above all against our people.

The Varela Project is totally legal and recognized publicly by Fidel Castro. Also, if we support it because we believe it is just and so I would like them to consider it. The things we ask for do not exclude anyone, we simply want a space (which belongs to us) in the social life of Cuba.

Expelling us is not the solution neither for them or for us, it would be better to ask yourself why are there young people who are filled with concern and worry for the welfare of the country. It would be good that they explain to the students and to the people what the Varela Project is, what does it ask, and so give everyone the right to think and choose.

Today we are kicked out of the university for this. Tomorrow it could be one of you for just being different, for permitting yourself to think.

They are wanting to perpetuate something that it is not even known if it is fair, and in this manner they are denying the progress of a society that wants something new, something that really guarantees a dignified place for every Cuban. They are pressuring people or preventing them from expressing their true feelings, they are cultivating fear in the nation.

Under the pretext of defending freedom they are attacking it. Martí would say it like this: "The knife that is stabbed in the name of freedom is plunged into the chest of freedom". They should think if at the bottom of this attitude there is a real respect for freedom, because to say freedom, to be free, is not to snatch the freedom of others. I therefore ask that before they expel us ask themselves how long can they keep silent the mourning and the reality of Cuba, and remind them that the damage they can do to us is damage that they do to themselves. And more: it is a direct threat to every Cuban.

Those who steal the rights of others steal from themselves. Those who remove and crush freedom are the true slaves.
Scores of Varela Project activists were arrested less than a year later in a crackdown that started on March 18, 2003 and became known as the Cuban Black Spring. Within days 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and Varela Project organizers were sentenced to long prison terms and recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Other Varela Project petitioners were threatened with the death penalty.  

In 2003 Harold entered  the Seminary of the City of Camaguey and spent the next two years there. In 2005 he is transferred to the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Havana. In 2009 Harold leaves the seminary and joins the Christian Liberation Movement and begins to coordinate its youth group and became a member of the Coordinating Council of the CLM.  He organized workshops on leadership training.

Three years later on July 22, 2012 Harold Cepero Escalante was killed along with Oswaldo Payá, the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante
On February 23, 2016 at the 8th edition of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy Rosa María Payá  addressed what happened to her dad Oswaldo Payá and friend Harold Cepero, on July 22, 2012: 
"On July 22, 2012, my father was extrajudicially  executed by agents of the political police, together with my dear friend Harold Cepero, staging a car crash that never took place, in a location of Cuba that remains to be  determined. Not satisfied with this double crime, my family was threatened with death..."In the summer of 2015 a special report was released by Human Rights Foundation, where all  evidences indicate that this was a crime against humanity, with the involvement of Cuban  authorities.  We’ll never give up on justice, because there can be no reconciliation without the recognition  of the whole truth. A nation that pretends to forget the violence against its innocent people  will remain a captive nation. And it will be a nation condemned to suffer such violence over  and over again."
In 2013 Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for the Democracy when posthumously awarding the 2013 Democracy Award addressed the character of Harold Cepero Escalante:
"A friend of Harold’s recalls that on an organizing trip for his Movement, the two of them were once at a bus station when a hungry man asked for money to buy food. Although they themselves had very little, Harold not only gave him his own spending money but also brought the man to the table to sit and eat with them. Such was his compassion and generosity of spirit."
Harold Cepero understood the dangers of advocating for freedom in Cuba under the Castro regime. In 2012, shortly before his death he explained the cost of resistance:"Christians and non-Christians who have the courage and the freedom to consider the peaceful political option for their lives, know they are exposing themselves to slightly less than absolute solitude, to work exclusion, to persecution, to prison or death."

Harold Cepero Escalante

Friday, January 26, 2018

#WeRemember: International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27th

"It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere." - Primo Levi, 1986 The Drowned and the Saved

"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." - Elie Wiesel

Tomorrow, January 27th is recognized by the United Nations as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and is observed around the world

We must never forget what happened and remain vigilant now and in the future to battle against the mass destruction of innocent human beings.  Unfortunately the international community has failed more than once since 1945 to prevent another mass slaughter. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge murdered between one fourth and one third of its population between 1975 and 1979, civil libertarian Nat Hentoff pointed to another genocide that could have been stopped in Rwanda in 1994, and now we are witnessing another in Syria where religious minorities, including Christians are being targeted.

Holocaust memorial on Miami Beach
It is also important to remember that antisemitism is on the rise world wide and people of the Jewish faith need our solidarity and support in confronting rising hatred and intolerance to ensure that what Nazi Germany did never be repeated. 

At the same time it is important to remember and honor the martyrs and heroes who resisted the Nazis.  They are exemplars in moral courage that are much needed today. In 2017 in the United States we saw Neo-Nazis on the march in Charlottesville, North Carolina first in a torchlight parade chanting anti-Semitic rants that the following day turned deadly in violent clashes that claimed an innocent life. We must remain vigilant and denounce this evil ideology wherever and whenever it arises.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Cuban Catholic Priests in a letter to Raul Castro: Time for peaceful change is running out

Cubanet published an important letter by three Cuban Catholic priests, dated January 24, 2018, that says that Cubans are living in fear and calls on the Cuban dictator to open to peaceful change now to avoid a violent conflagration later. Below is a translation taken, in part, from one prepared by the Center for a Free Cuba.


To Raul Castro Ruz, on the 20th anniversary of the Mass for the Homeland presided by Saint John Paul II and the words of Mons. Pedro Meurice in the Plaza Antonio Maceo, Santiago de Cuba, on 24 January of 1998.

This past  January 1st marked the 59th anniversary of the triumph of a Revolution. A Revolution that was necessary because of all the atrocities committed with impunity by a government that had turned against this people. Many fought and many died to give their children a Cuba where they could live in liberty, in peace and prosperity.

Today, nearly six decades later, we have sufficient arguments to evaluate what we have lived through in our land.

Since the institutionalization of the Communist Party as the only party authorized to exist, this people have never been allowed to raise a different voice, and every different voice that tried to make itself heard has been silenced.

 This totalitarian style has permeated every level of society. Cubans know they don't have freedom of expression. They are cautious when they talk about what they believe and feel because they live with fear, often even fear of those in their daily lives: school and work mates, neighbors, friends and relatives. We live together in a latticework of lies that reaches from the home to the highest levels.

We say and do what we don't believe or feel, knowing that our interlocutors do the same. We lie to survive, hoping that this game will end some day or that some way of escaping to a foreign land will appear. Jesus Christ said, “the truth will make you free.” We want to live in truth.

The monopoly and control of the mass media means no one can freely access the public means of communication. In the same way, there is no alternative education. All Cuban children are required to go to school, but it is only one school model, one sole ideology, an education in only one way of thinking. Cubans have a right to education alternatives, to options for different teachings on ways to think. Cuban parents have the right to elect what kind of education they want for their children.

It's deplorable that our people live in economic abandonment, forced by circumstances to beg for help from relatives who managed to go abroad or foreigners who visit us; or to steal anything we can, while renaming thievery with delicate words that keep our consciences at bay. Many families lack a minimally stable income that allows them to calmly obtain the basic items they need to live. Eating, dressing and buying shoes for the children is a daily problem. Public transportation is a problem, and even obtaining many medicines is a problem.
And in the middle of these people who struggle to survive lies the hidden suffering of the elderly, often silently abandoned. How can one say that the money belongs to the people, when the people don't decide what to do with it? How can needed public institutions be kept up when the required resources are not available? Why are foreigners invited to invest  with their money, while barring Cubans investing their money in equality of opportunities? Cubans have the right to participate as investors in the economy and in the negotiations of our country.

And to all of that is added the lack of religious freedom. The church is tolerated, but is still monitored and controlled. Freedom of religion is restricted by a system of permits to worship. Christians can gather to share their faith, but they are not allowed to build a church. The church can celebrate open-air masses and processions, but only with a permit issued by authorities who can deny them without explanation or appeal. The church can raise its voice inside the temples, but does not have free access to the mass media. And in the few cases where it does have access, it is always under censorship. Lay people are sanctioned when they apply their faith to political and social practices.

This social dynamic that has emerged in Cuba has forgotten the person, the person's dignity as sons of God and their inalienable rights. It's nearly 60 years since Cubans first believed in an ideal that is always postponed and never realized. When anyone raises a question, when anyone raises their voice, they find vulnerability and exclusion.

We want a country where life is more respected from its conception to a natural death, where family ties are strengthened and the marriage between a man and a woman is nurtured; where retirement pensions are enough to allow our elderly to survive; where professionals can live on their salaries with dignity; where citizens can become entrepreneurs and there's more freedom of labor and hiring for sports figures and artists. Young Cubans should be able to fiind opportunities for jobs that allow them to develop their talents and skills here, instead of leaving Cuba as their only option.

We have a legal system subordinated to a power, not the “rule of law.” It is imperative to clearly establish the separation and independence of the three powers: executive, legislative and judicial. We want that our judges not be pressured, that the law be order, that illegality not be a means of subsistence or a weapon of control. That our Capitol be filled with lawmakers who have the power to represent the interests of their voters.

Our people are dispirited and tired. There is a stagnation that can be summed up in two words: survive or escape. Cubans need to experience the joy of “thinking and speaking without hypocrisy” with different political criteria. We are tired of waiting, tired of fleeing, tired of hiding. We want to live our own lives.
This letter also has a goal, which is a right: We want to be able to freely elect. In Cuba we have votes, not elections. We urgently need elections where we can decide not only our future but also our present. Now we are invited to “vote” and say “yes” to something that already exists. There is no option for change. To elect implies, by definition, different options. To elect implies the possibility of taking different paths.

We write this letter because we want to avoid that some day, for some circumstance, Cuba is plunged into violent changes that would only add to more pointless suffering. We still have time to make progress towards a plurality of options that allow for changes favorable to all.

But time is running out. It is critical to open the door.

It's useless to hide the truth. It's useless to make believe that nothing is going on. It's useless to cling to power. Our Teacher Jesus Christ says to us Cubans today, “What's the use of winning the whole world if it ruins your life?” We still have time to construct a different reality. We still have time to make the kind of Cuba that Marti wanted “with all, and for the good of all.”

We commend ourselves to the intercession of the Virgin of Charity, Patron Saint of Cuba. We beg her, mother of all Cubans, to intercede with the Lord, who as His Holiness Benedict XVI said during his visit to Cuba, “God not only respects human freedom but appears to need it” so that we can always choose the greater good for all.

Father Castor José Álvarez de Devesa, Priest of Modelo, Camagüey.
Father José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, Parish Priest of San Francisco de Paula,Trinidad, Cienfuegos.
Father Roque Nelvis Morales Fonseca, Parish Parish of Cueto, Holguín.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Milada Horáková: Film about a powerful woman who faced a death sentence for her democractic convictions

Film on the life of the Czech Democratic icon Milada Horáková is now screening on Netflix

Biopic of the life of Milada Horáková now on Netflix
Wrote about this Czech democrat back in 2014, and her refusal to go along with the political show trial organized against her. She had been a member of the Czech resistance to the Nazi occupation of her homeland and survived a Nazi prison. After Czechoslovakia was liberated from the Nazis in 1945 by the Soviets she became a member of parliament in 1946 but resigned her seat after the Communist coup of 1948. However she refused to abandon her country. Sixty eight years after Milada Horakova addressed the court in the final day of her show trial on June 8, 1950 her words ring true and strong:

"I have declared to the State Police that I remain faithful to my convictions, and that the reason I remain faithful to them is because I adhere to the ideas, the opinions and the beliefs of those who are figures of authority to me. And among them are two people who remain the most important figures to me, two people who made an enormous impression on me throughout my life. Those people are Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and Eduard Benes. And I want to say something to those who were also inspired by those two men when forming their own convictions and their own ideas. I want to say this: no-one in this country should be made to die for their beliefs. And no-one should go to prison for them."
Her life story was brought to big screen last year and since January 12, 2018 has been available on Netflix. Below is an English trailer for this important film.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cuba: Further information: Prisoner of conscience attacked in prison: Dr Eduardo Cardet Concepción

Late last night posted information on the plight of Eduardo Cardet, including a brief statement by the spokesman of his organization, the Christian Liberation Movement. Saw good news today that Amnesty International had updated his case. Reproducing it below.


On 19 December 2017, after being transferred from the Provisional Prison of Holguín to Cuba SI prison, three other prisoners attacked Eduardo Cardet, according to his wife. He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally. 

On 19 December 2017, the afternoon after authorities transferred Dr Eduardo Cardet Concepción from the Provisional Prison of Holguín to Cuba SI prison in the same province, three other prisoners allegedly attacked him, according to his wife, Yaimaris Vecino. Prison authorities only informed his wife and family that same day that they would be transferring Eduardo Cardet to a different prison. They only permitted his family to see him for several minutes and did not provide the family with reasons for the transfer.

Yaimaris Vecino told Amnesty International that prison officials did not permit her to visit her husband after the attack until 15 January 2018, when she observed two circular scars to Eduardo Cardet’s abdomen. She stated that her husband told her that he had not received medical attention since the attack and was experiencing headaches and dizziness.

On 9 January, Eduardo Cardet’s sister lodged a complaint regarding the alleged attack with the Public Prosecutor in Havana, the capital. As of 19 January the family had not received a response, according to Yaimaris Vecino.

Eduardo Cardet is the leader of the pro-democracy movement Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL). He has been imprisoned in Holguín since his arrest on 30 November 2016, five days after the death of the former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Prior to his arrest, Eduardo Cardet gave a number of interviews published in international media in which he was critical of the Cuban government.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
  • Calling on the authorities to release human rights defender Dr Eduardo Cardet immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;
  • Urging them to ensure that, pending his release, he is provided with any medical care of his choosing; that he is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated; and that he is granted regular access to family and lawyers of his choosing;
  • Calling on them to investigate the alleged attack of Eduardo Cardet and to ensure that effective measures are put in place to ensure his safety and the security of prisoners at all times.


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

Attorney General  
Dr. Darío 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

Minister of Justice
María Esther Reus
Ministerio de Justicia
Calle O # 216 E/ 23 y 25 Vdo. Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba
Twitter: @CubaMinjus
Salutation: Dear Minister

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. This is the third update of UA 32/17. Further information:

prisoner of conscience attacked in prison

Additional Information

According to five witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International by telephone on the condition of anonymity, Eduardo Cardet was pushed off his bicycle and violently detained in the early evening of 30 November 2016 by at least four plain clothed and one uniformed police officer as he returned home after visiting his mother. According to his wife, who witnessed her husband’s detention with their two children, Eduardo Cardet is charged with attacking an official of the state (atentado). This offence is covered under Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code. One officer is alleging that Eduardo Cardet pushed him during his arrest. All witnesses who spoke with Amnesty International counter this allegation, and state that Eduardo Cardet was quickly and violently restrained by plain clothed officials, placed in handcuffs, and beaten, and had no opportunity for self-defence. The witnesses believe that Eduardo Cardet was arrested for his beliefs and ideas. Amnesty International was able to review a copy of the sentence at appeal emitted by the provincial court of Holguin. The sentence makes no mention of the original grounds for the arrest, suggesting the arrest was arbitrary. On 17 May, the Popular Provincial Court of Holguín (Tribunal Provincial Popular de Holguín) ratified in appeal the judgement handed down on 20 March sentencing Dr Eduardo Cardet Concepción to three years in prison.

The Christian Liberation Movement (Movimento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) is a prominent actor in the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. According to its website, it is a movement for peaceful and democratic change and respect for human dignity. It was founded in 1988 by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who became a visible figure of the Cuban political opposition, and four other activists. Amnesty International has documented harassment and intimidation of members of the MCL for decades. In 1991, after Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas presented a petition calling for a national referendum relating to constitutional reform, he had his home destroyed by over 200 people, said to be members of a Rapid Response Brigade. After Oswaldo Payá announced his intention to put himself forward as a candidate for deputy to the National Assembly for the municipality of Cerro, Havana, members of his organization were reportedly subjected to frequent questioning and short-term detention.

In an interview published on 16 September 2016 by ABC International, Eduardo Cardet stated: “Political activities are passed off as criminal offences such as inciting public scandal, contempt of or offences against the authorities, and the political police use these classifications to lock up dissidents" (Se disfraza la actividad política con hechos delictivos comunes, por ejemplo, escándalo público, desacato, atentado, figuras que utiliza la policía política para encarcelar a los disidentes).
Cuba is closed to Amnesty International and nearly all independent international human rights monitors.

Name: Dr Eduardo Cardet Concepción
Gender m/f: m

Further information on UA: 32/17 Index: AMR 25/7759/2018 Issue Date: 22 January 2018