Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas born 66 years ago on February 29, 1952

Observing the 66th anniversary of the birth of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

February 29, 1952 - July 22, 2012
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas would be sixty six years old on February 29th but according to friends and family, the Cuban human rights defender would joke that he had a birthday once every four years due to it being a leap day. 2012 was a leap year and Oswaldo celebrated his last birthday on February 29, 2012. This husband, and father of three was the victim on July 22, 2012, along with Harold Cepero Escalante, of an extra-judicial killing carried out by Cuban State Security that ended both their lives.

Payá pictured with his immediate family.
Oswaldo Payá was the founding leader of the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), and Harold Cepero its youth leader. Five and a half years later the current MCL leader, Eduardo Cardet, is a prisoner of conscience who has been repeatedly and brutally attacked while unjustly imprisoned. MCL was founded thirty years ago in 1988.

Tonight the story of what happened to Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, to make the truth known, and seek justice will be told through the eyes of his daughter Rosa María Payá, and is part of a documentary series called The Witness Project, produced by Smock Media and executive produced by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Rosa María now heads the CubaDecide initiative which seeks a binding plebiscite in Cuba.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet and the Geneva Summit for Human Rights

Remembering and giving thanks.

Exhibit of Political Prisoners at Geneva Summit 2018
Three Cuban political prisoners [Karina Gálvez Chiu, Daniel Llorente Miranda, and Eduardo Cardet Concepción] were included in an art installation at the Centre International de Conférences Genève, erected for the tenth edition of an important gathering of human rights defenders and victims of repression.

February 20, 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights. Early on a Swiss university student, Sophia Hopperger, took the stage and an image of Eduardo Cardet was projected on a huge screen behind her and she addressed the room:
"The empty chair on this panel is dedicated to Eduardo Cardet. A medical doctor who is a political prisoner in Cuba. Dr. Cardet is the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba which was founded by the late dissident Oswaldo Payá. He has led projects designed to grant the right to vote to Cuban citizens. Dr. Cardet is married with two children, and works as a family doctor in the town of Velasco. For a period he was expelled from his work in retaliation for his opposition activity. He was also detained on several occasions. The last time he was taken prisoner by the Cuban police was on November 30, 2016. Dr. Cardet was arrested for criticizing Fidel Castro, a few days after his death. He suffered a severe beating by government agents which continued while in detention. Dr. Cardet was sentenced to 3 years in prison on trumped up charges. Recently he was moved to a notorious prison in Havana and beaten brutally. Today we say to Dr. Cardet we have not forgotten you."
Image of Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet projected at Geneva Summit
A lot has happened in Cuba since the first edition in 2009, and sadly much of it not for the better. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante, of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL in Spanish), were murdered on July 22, 2012 by the Castro regime's state security agents. One of the few international venues to provide a platform to demand justice has been and continues to be the Geneva Summit.

In 2013 Regis Iglesias Ramírez, spokesman for MCL and exiled in Spain, addressed the Geneva Summit.  Rosa María Payá Acevedo, daughter of Oswaldo Payá and still living in Cuba at the time, through extraordinary efforts by organizers, was able to attend and capture the attention of the delegates there when she spoke about her dad. Rosa returned to address the Summit in 2016. A decade later, following the deaths in 2012 of Oswaldo Payá, the MCL national coordinator and its youth leader Harold Cepero, and the new national coordinator Dr. Cardet is unjustly imprisoned but thanks to the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy not forgotten.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Brothers to the Rescue shoot down 22 years later: Memory, calling for Justice, and taking action

"'Sir, I say that justice is truth in action. Truth should animate an opposition, and I hope it does animate this opposition." - Benjamin Disraeli, speech in the House of Commons (2 February 1851).

Artists rendering of the attack on February 24, 1996

 22 years ago on Saturday, February 24, 1996 at 3:21 pm and 3:27 pm in international airspace two civilian aircraft belonging to the humanitarian group Brothers to the Rescue were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by a Cuban MiG-29 killing Armando Alejandre Jr. (age 45), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29). Author Matt Lawrence translated and subtitled the audio of the Cuban MiG pilots who hunted and destroyed the two planes. The planes had been engaged in a search and rescue mission for Cuban rafters in the Florida Straits. Three planes set out only one returned.

Cuban dictator, then General, Raul Castro ordered the shoot down of the two planes. A fact sheet prepared earlier this month provides additional information on the months long Castro regime conspiracy to destroy Brothers to the Rescue, and murder their pilots in an act of state terrorism. It also provides a breakdown of the legal actions and decisions that followed afterwards.

Yesterday, February 23, 2018 JusticeCuba, an international commission composed of legal, civic, and political leaders from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Syria, Venezuela, Spain, Peru, China, Uruguay,and Costa Rica sent a letter to the White House calling on the President to simply follow what is in U.S. law and that is to bring the agents of the Castro Regime responsible for the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down to an international tribunal to be held accountable for this crime.

Both planes were shot down in international airspace (ICAO)

Please join me today from 3:21pm to 3:27pm wherever you are for a moment of silence at the time when the planes were attacked and shot down murdering Armando, Carlos, Marion, and Pablo. On Monday, February 26, 2018 at Florida International University friends and family will gather at the main fountain between the library and the Charles Perry building at 3:15pm until 3:27pm in a silent vigil.

Justice is truth in action. Remembering, sharing the facts with others, and continuing to demand accountability is truth in action which is justice. Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian independence leader who practiced non-violence understood that "full effort is full victory." Please join us in this effort.

Please share the videos in this blog entry over your social media. Below one of the four survivors of the plane, Jose Basulto, explains what happened and the context.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Amnesty International | Cuba 2017/2018

Cuba remained the only country in the Americas region to deny access to Amnesty International. - Amnesty International report 2017/2017

Arbitrary detentions, discriminatory dismissals from state jobs, and harassment in self-employment continued to be used to silence criticism. Advances in education were undermined by ongoing online and offline censorship. Cuba remained mostly closed to independent human rights monitors.


Lifting of travel restrictions on Cubans in 2013, removal of limits on receiving remittances, and the draw of visa-free countries continued to be important push factors for emigration. Cubans continued to leave in large numbers, despite the country’s changing international diplomacy, pushed by exceptionally low salaries and a tight web of control on freedom of expression.

In June, the administration of US President Donald Trump made an almost complete reversal of the USA’s political rhetoric towards Cuba. This reduced the chance of US Congress passing legislation to lift the economic embargo on Cuba, which continued to undermine economic, social and cultural rights.

At least 12 lawyers from the human rights organization Cubalex received asylum in the USA after being harassed, intimidated and threatened with imprisonment for their peaceful human rights work.
Cuba had not ratified the ICCPR or the ICESCR, both of which it signed in February 2008, nor the Rome Statute of the ICC.

In December the government announced that President Raúl Castro would step down in April 2018.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Human rights and political activists continued to be harassed, intimidated and arbitrarily detained in high numbers. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a Cuban NGO not officially recognized by the state, recorded 5,155 arbitrary detentions in 2017, compared to 9,940 in 2016.

The Ladies in White, a group of female relatives of prisoners detained on politically motivated grounds, remained one of the primary targets of repression by the authorities. During detention, the women were often beaten by law enforcement officials and state security agents dressed as civilians.
In January, Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as El Sexto, was released from a maximum security prison. He had been arrested in November 2016, hours after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death, for having written Se fue (“He’s gone”) on a wall in the capital, Havana.1

In August, Yulier Perez, a graffiti artist known for painting dilapidated walls in Havana, was arbitrarily detained after months of intimidation and harassment from the authorities for freely expressing himself through his art.2

Prisoners of conscience

The leader of the pro-democracy Christian Liberation Movement, Dr Eduardo Cardet Concepción, remained in prison having been handed a three-year sentence in March for publicly criticizing Fidel Castro.3

A family of four human rights defenders were detained in Holguín, southeast Cuba, for allegedly leaving their house during the period of state mourning for Fidel Castro in 2016. The three siblings were given one-year prison sentences for “defamation of institutions, organizations and heroes and martyrs of the Republic of Cuba” and “public disorder”.4 Their mother was sentenced to house arrest.

On 2 April, after a prolonged hunger strike, the three siblings were freed under conditional release, but they continued to be intimidated by the authorities.

Jorge Cervantes, a member of the political opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was detained for approximately three months between May and August. Weeks before, UNPACU had published on its YouTube channel a video called “Horrors in jail” in which Jorge Cervantes interviewed a man who had allegedly been ill-treated in a Cuban prison, and a series of videos which alleged corruption by public officials.5

The authorities continued to present trumped-up charges for common crimes as a way to harass and detain political opponents, meaning there were likely many more prisoners of conscience than documented.

Workers’ rights

The state continued to use its control – as the biggest employer in the country, and as a regulator of the private sector – as a way to stifle even the most subtle criticism of the government.6 Politically motivated and discriminatory dismissals continued to be used against those who criticized the government’s economic or political model. Workers pushed out of employment in the public sector for freely expressing themselves were often further harassed after entering the emerging but highly regulated self-employment sector.

The de facto prohibition on independent trade unions limited workers’ ability to independently organize and appeal against discriminatory dismissals. The executive’s strong influence over the judiciary and lawyers limited effective recourse through the courts.

Right to education

Undue restrictions in access to information and freedom of expression online followed decades of offline censorship, undermining Cuba’s advances in education.

Between May and mid-June, the Open Observatory of Network Interference conducted testing on a sample of websites in Cuba and found 41 sites blocked by the authorities. All the blocked sites expressed criticism of the Cuban government, reported on human rights issues, or discussed techniques to bypass censorship.

While the government continued to expand access to the internet, it prioritized access to the highly censored, government-curated national intranet. Access to the global internet remained prohibitively expensive for most Cubans.7

International scrutiny

In April, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons conducted a visit to Cuba, and in July the country received the UN independent expert on human rights and international solidarity.
Most independent human rights organizations continued to be denied access to the country and to its prisons. Cuba remained the only country in the Americas region to deny access to Amnesty International.
  1. Cuban graffiti artist released (AMR 25/5545/2017)
  2. Urban artist at risk in Cuba (AMR 25/7000/2017)
  3. Cuba: Activist sentenced to three years in jail after criticizing Fidel Castro (News story, 21 March)
  4. Cuba: Prisoners of conscience on hunger strike (AMR 25/6001/2017)
  5. Cuba: Opposition activist in maximum security prison (AMR 25/6671/2017)
  6. Cuba: “Your mind is in prison” – Cuba’s web of control over free expression and its chilling effect on everyday life (AMR 25/7299/2017)
  7. Cuba’s internet paradox: How controlled and censored internet risks Cuba’s achievements in education (News story, 29 August)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Génesis Carmona, Venezuelan fashion model, beauty queen, and college student

"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)
Génesis Cristina Carmona Tovar, September 20, 1991 –  February 19, 2014
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 fifteenth entry remembers a young martyr: a Venezuelan fashion model, beauty queen, and college student who was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 while nonviolently protesting the Maduro regime in Venezuela and died of her injury on February 19, 2014.

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 fourteenth entry remembered 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

22 year old fashion model, beauty queen, and college student shot in the head.
 In this entry one explores how a 22 year old woman engaged in peaceful protest in her country was shot in the head and killed by pro-regime forces and how her death is linked to the Castro regime. 

Génesis Cristina Carmona Tovar was marching at approximately 4:00 pm on Tuesday February 18, 2014, near Cedeño Avenue and the intersection of Carabobo, when  a group of masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the demonstrators. Génesis was shot in the head in the left occipital region. She was with her sister Alejandra Carmona at the moment it happened. Alejandra in a radio interview said "I was with her, when the motorized units (of the Government arrived), we fled running. We were stopped on a street corner, looking up and then suddenly she fell."  

Genesis Carmona is evacuated on a motorcycle after being shot on February 18, 2014.
According to VOXXI the "22-year-old was rushed in a motorcycle to the Medical Center Guerra Mendez in Valencia, where she was operated and kept in intensive care. Less than 24 hours later on 12:14 p.m., the doctors announced that she had died from her injury. 

The headline in the February 20, 2014 edition of People Magazine read " Venezuelan Beauty Pageant Winner Killed in Anti-Government Protest." She was a model who had won the Miss Tourism Carabobo beauty pageant in 2013. On her Twitter account Génesis described herself as “friendly, but not stupid!” and “passionate about life.” She was studying marketing at Center Technological University (UNITEC) and was in her last year of study.   

Jorge Ramos of Univision interviewed Gabriel Cegarra,  the young man who was holding Génesis on the back of the motorcycle as they hurried to get her to the hospital. Below courtesy of John Sexton of Breitbart is a translation of an excerpt of the interview:

Ramos: The images of the students that have lost their lives in the protests in Venezuela are impressive because, in the majority of cases, they have been shot at and they have no way of defending themselves. To these images we add this impressive photo: beauty queen Genesis Carmona being carried away as she was dying. The student is named Gabriel Cegarra, who had her in his arms to try to save her life. He joins us now via satellite from Valencia, Carabobo state. Gabriel, thank you for speaking with us. What happened that day? Where were you?
Gabriel Cegarra: We were in Cedeño Ave, Valencia. We were protesting there– the protest concentration was there. There was a large group of us there protesting normally, peacefully. All of a sudden we began to see motorcycles on the north side of Cedeño Ave. That is a steep street, and at the top of the street we saw motorcycles with, um, they were armed and over there. At first they were not doing anything, they were just there
concentrated, and we were concentrated in our part and we took note of each other. Then, all of the sudden, there were gunshots, there were three rounds of gunshots. In the third, unfortunately, a bullet hit her in the head.
Ramos: The government said, without proof, that the shots came from the opposition group itself. Do you think the shots came from an armed Chavista group?
GC: Yes, because they were the only ones who were armed. We
do our protesting with a simple tricolor hat, a white shirt– which was what we
organized for that day—
Ramos: So the official version from the government is not true from your point of view? The bullets came from Chavista groups, not the opposition? This is very important.
GC: Not from the opposition, because among ourselves, I don’t think we are there to kill each other. We were just there peacefully protesting. The motorcycles that were shooting, you could see they were armed and they had red shirts, some were black striped, but there were people with red shirts.
Ramos: You already knew Genesis. At what time did you see her get shot through the head?
GC: Yes, I knew Genesis, she is my– was my “buddy” for all life. She was my friend for five years. I realized that she was shot in the head when… I heard the gunshots from where I was, I ducked, and then when I see that she is leaning on a friend’s arms.
The friend brought her to me– it was a short route, about 5 meters, something like that– and I see that when I touch her with her left arm, which I put behind my neck, I started to feel something cold on my arm, and a doctor who was there at the protests also told me, “get on your bike and get help, she’s been shot in the head.”
Ramos: That is precisely what you did. That image and that photograph traveled the world. When you were carrying her with you on the motorcycle, she was still alive, right?
GC: Yes, she was conscious.
Ramos: She was conscious. Could she talk? Did she say something?
GC: No, she didn’t speak to me but her eyes were open. With her right hand she was pulling my shirt, as you can see in the image, and with the left hand she was pulling the shirt of the motorcycle driver.
Ramos: What did you tell her?
GC: Stay still, everything will be fine, I would do everything possible I could to arrive quickly so they could treat her, not to worry, that nothing was going to happen.
Ramos: Then you arrived at the hospital. When did you find out she had died?
GC: I found out yesterday, Wednesday, around 12:50– I was making some declarations and was not at the clinic at the moment, but I got a message simply saying she had died. It was really very sad, that moment; reading that message was nothing good. I didn’t expect that to happen.
Génesis Carmona's aunt, Martha Baron, who lives in Calgary spoke out in English concerning her nieces death on February 24, 2014 to the Calgary CBC: "I would like her to be remembered as a brave girl that died for her country. That's the only way I want her to be remembered." 
Her last four tweets were re-tweets from others but give an insight into this young woman's state of mind and are reproduced below:

The first RT is from Leopoldo Lopez announcing that he would be on CNN in Spanish and asking for a RT which she obliged. The second from VVSincensura said that "the opposition united should defend Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado before the intention of the government to jail them. The third from Reinaldo dos Santos gave technical advise stating "If they drop Twitter for Venezuela use a "hotspot shield" which is private navigation without restrictions. Spread the word." The last retweet from Evo Morales (not the president of Bolivia) said: "Stay with the one who tells the best stories. One day they will tell yours."  

Castro regime's man in Venezuela, Ramiro Valdez with Chavez and Maduro

Castro regime's repressive role in Venezuela
In 2007 Chávez had declared that Cuba and Venezuela were a single nation. “Deep down,” he said, “we are one single government.”  When Hugo Chavez died in 2013 the succession to Nicolas Maduro was planned in Havana. The Maduro regime is a puppet regime controlled by Havana.

The name of this "single nation" is Cubazuela and is a term that has been used by mainstream press publications such as The Wall Street Journal. The consequences to the people of Venezuela are well known. Violence has escalated during the Chavez-Maduro era to levels never seen before. There is widespread hunger now in Venezuela. Civil liberties and the rule of law are rapidly disappearing, replaced by the Cuban model.
In addition to domestic repressive forces there is a foreign presence heavily embedded in the Venezuelan military and intelligence services. The head of the opposition National Assembly of Venezuela on May 15, 2016 complained, over social media, of the presence of 60 Cuban officers. This included a Cuban general, who he identified by the last name Gregorich, who had a leadership role that included issuing orders to Venezuelan troops. Capitol Hill Cubans identified the Cuban General as Raul Acosta Gregorich. 

Cuban involvement in Venezuela reaches into the highest levels of the military and intelligence apparatus. In February of 2010  Ramiro Valdes, then age 77, was hired "as a consultant for that country's energy crisis" but his expertise is not in energy. He is viewed by some Cuba experts as "the No. 3 man in the Cuban hierarchy" and the architect of Cuba's repressive machinery. Afro-Cuban scholar Carlos Moore offers the following background information on Commander Valdez :

"Ramiro Valdez was an inflexible, totalitarian and brutal person. He was the most feared man in Cuba. The repressive policies of the regime were crafted by him. Valdez struck fear into the hearts of Cubans (even revolutionary ones). Today, he apparently continues to be the same dogmatic, sectarian and brutal person he was at the height of his power."
 The use of political terror to impose totalitarian control is straight out of the Castro regime's playbook, and the Cuban dictatorship, if not the material authors of the murder of a high profile figure such as Génesis Cristina Carmona Tovar, are the intellectual authors of this extrajudicial execution.

Four years later, those responsible for her killing remain at large, and her mother, María Eugenia Tovar, as well as her sister, Alejandra Carmona fled to the United States in December of 2014 and remain there to the present day.

Meanwhile the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate and Cuba is making it worse.

Nicolas Maduro and Raul Castro


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eight years ago on February 23, 2010 prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike in Cuba

"Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]" - Orlando Zapata Tamayo, letter smuggled out April of 2004*

Orlando Zapata Tamayo 1967 - 2010
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a human rights defender who was unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003 and was tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. He died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards refusing him water in an effort to break his spirit. He is a victim of Cuban communism

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012, issued a statement the same day that Orlando died and appeared in a photograph holding up a photocopy of the martyred human rights defender name and image. 
"Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison." 
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with photocopy image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Remembering Orlando Zapata
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was born in Santiago, Cuba on May 15, 1967. He was by vocation a brick layer and also a human rights activist, a member of the Movimiento Alternativa Republicana, Alternative Republican Movement, and of the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica, National Civic Resistance Committee. Orlando gathered signatures for the Varela Project, a citizen initiative to amend the Cuban constitution using legal means with the aim of bringing Cuba in line with international human rights standards.

     Amnesty International had documented how Orlando had been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November of 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were arrested and later released. He was also arrested on December 6, 2002 along with fellow prisoners of conscience Oscar Elías Biscet and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo.  
     Dr. Biscet just released from prison a month earlier had sought to form a grassroots project for the promotion of human rights called "Friends of Human Rights." State security prevented them from entering the home of Raúl Arencibia Fajardo, Oscar Biscet, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes and 12 others held a sit-in in the street in protest and chanted "long live human rights" and "freedom for political prisoners." They were then arrested and taken to the Tenth Unit of the National Revolutionary Police, Décima Unidad de La Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR), in Havana.
    Orlando Zapata Tamayo was released three months later on March 8, 2003, but Oscar Elias Biscet, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo remained imprisoned. On the morning of March 20, 2003 whilst taking part in a fast at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and the other political prisoners. Orlando was taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters. 
     He was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Where according to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:
"My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]."*
On May 18, 2004 Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo were each sentenced to three years in prison for contempt for authority, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in a one-day trial. Orlando Zapata Tamayo would continue his rebelliousness and his non-violent resistance posture while in prison and suffer numerous beatings and new charges of disobedience and disrespect leading to decades added to his prison sentence in eight additional trials.

 Protests for Orlando Zapata Tamayo continue

Eight years have passed but the martyred Cuban human rights defender has not been forgotten. From the beginning the regime sought to put down and silence protests and acts of remembrance for him, but failed. In March of 2010 at the second Geneva Summit for Human Rights former prisoner of conscience Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo testified to what had happened to Orlando Zapata. In Norway, regime agents became violent and created international controversy after a Cuban diplomat bit a young Norwegian-Cuban woman for trying to record her mom engaged in a protest remembering Orlando Zapata Tamayo in front of the Cuban Embassy in Oslo in May of 2010.

On September 30, 2010 the Canadian punk rock band released a song linking what happened to Orlando Zapata Tamayo to the indifference of Canadian tourists visiting Cuba asking the question: Where were you the day Orlando Zapata died? On May 10, 2012 the Free Cuba Foundation published a video accompanying the song, after receiving the band's permission, with images and song lyrics.

On 2/19/2018 twenty activists remember Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Four days prior to marking eight years to the day that Orlando Zapata died, activists inside Cuba took to protest in the streets with banners remembering the courageous and martyred human rights activist.
The Castro regime did all it could to eliminate the memory of this humble and good man. The dictatorship failed.

*Source: "Queridos hermanos míos de la oposición interna de Cuba", escribió Zapata en su misiva, "tengo muchas cosas que decirles, pero no he querido hacerlo por papel y tinta, pues espero ir a ustedes un día cuando nuestra patria sea libre y sin dictadura castrista. Vivan los derechos humanos, con mi sangre les escribí, para que la guarden como parte del salvajismo de que somos víctima el presidio político Pedro Luis Boitel". - "Golpiza y celda tapiada para Orlando Zapata"  La Habana, 22 de abril 2004 (María López, Lux Info Press /

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Watch the 10th edition of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy over live stream

"Truth-tellers arrive at the United Nations, unite to confront dictatorships." - The Geneva Summit

Geneva Summit for Democracy and Human Rights 2018
Yesterday at the United Nations Human Rights Council a group of human rights defenders and victims of repression gathered to denounces what is going on in their respective countries. Today, beginning at 9:00am and for entire day these activists will be gathered along with hundreds of registered participants to attend and participate in the 10th edition of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Watch it here over live stream, and get involved providing your commentary, questions and hashtags over social media. Please use the hashtag #GS18 and #GenevaSummit so that your comments can be readily found and share the live stream link with others.

Over the past couple of days have taken a look back to the beginning when the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy came into existence and also speculate on its future.  Today will look at some of the highlights from yesterday, from around the world and look forward to commenting over twitter during the event. Former Venezuelan prisoner of conscience Antonio Ledezma tweeted: "Three years ago I was forcibly abducted for thinking differently from the narco-regime of Venezuela. I will not stop my struggle to defend the freedom and human rights of our Venezuelan brothers." UN Watch highlighted the plight of Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet.