Thursday, March 29, 2018

21 years without justice for Danish student gunned down in Havana by a soldier

"Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him?" - Christian Løvschall speaking about his son Joachim at the UN Human Rights Council in 2007.

Joachim Løvschall: December 7, 1970 - March 29, 1997

Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a soldier of the Castro regime in Havana, Cuba twenty one years ago today on March 29, 1997. The identity of the soldier has never been revealed to Joachim''s family. No one has been brought to justice. Joachim's family is not satisfied with the official explanation.

The last time they saw Joachim 
On March 28, 1997 Joachim Løvschall ate his last dinner with white wine in a little restaurant called Aladin, located on 21st street in Havana. He went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater. Following the performance he went to the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met up with two Swedish friends. They each drank a couple of beers, but soon left because Joachim did not like the music. At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. 

Joachim was never seen alive again. 

Joachim Løvschall gunned down in Cuba in 1997
The Castro regime's version of what happened
On September 28, 1997 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article by Kim Hundevadt titled "Dangerous Vacation" that outlined what happened to Joachim Løvschall and presented the Castro dictatorship's version of the events leading to this young man's death:

Around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in at night.
At 2:45am he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.

Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down. The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.

Eleven years ago
On June 12, 2007 Christian Løvschall, Joachim's father, at a parallel forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council spoke about his son's disappearance and the struggle to find out if Joachim was dead or alive:

"Although the killing took place on the 29th of March, we only came to know about it on the 6th of April - i.e. after 8 days were we had the feeling that the Cuban authorities were unwilling to inform anything about the incident. Only because of good relations with Spanish speaking friends in other Latin American countries did we succeed in getting into contact with the family with whom Joachim stayed and the repeated message from their side was that they could reveal nothing, but that the situation had turned out very bad and that we had to come to Cuba as soon as possible. At the same time all contacts to the responsible authorities turned out negatively... Only after continued pressure from our side on the Cuban embassy in Copenhagen, things suddenly changed and the sad information was given to us by our local police on the evening of the 6th of April. We are, however, 100% convinced that had we not made use of our own contact and had we not continued our pressure on the embassy in Copenhagen, we might have faced a situation where Joachim would have been declared a missing person, a way out the Cuban authorities have been accused of applying in similar cases."
 Eleven years later Christian Løvschall outlined what he knew concerning his son's untimely death:

We do feel we were (and still are) left with no answers except to maybe one of the following questions: Where, When, Who, Why Starting out with the where we were told that Joachim was killed by the soldiers outside the Ministry of Interior.

What we do not understand is why no fence or signs did inform that this is a restricted area? I have been on the spot myself, and the place appears exactly like a normal residential area. So you may question whether this in fact was the place of the killing? Contrary to this the authorities keep maintaining that the area was properly sealed off, and the relevant sign posts were in place.

As to when Joachim was killed we only have the information received from the police because of the delay informing one might believe that this is another forgery made up to cover the truth.

The who was in our opinion has never been answered by the Cuban authorities. We understand that a private soldier on duty was made responsible for the killing, and also it has been rumored that his officer in charge has been kept responsible. This is of course the easy way out, but why can't we get to know the whole and true story?

Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him? Was Joachim violent and did he, an unarmed individual, attack the armed soldiers? Or is it simply that the instruction to Cuban soldiers are: first you shoot and then you ask? But again: Who can explain why two shots were needed?

Despite the claims made by the travel industry there have been other travelers to Cuba who have been killed or gone missing under suspicious circumstances.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Death of Stalin: A dark comedic romp explores Stalinism

The comedy banned in Russia because Putin didn't find it funny.

Tonight saw the film, The Death of Stalin: A comedy of terrors, it covers the period from March 5, 1953 through the consolidation of power by Nikita Khrushchev on December 23, 1953. It is a dark comedy that is true to the essence of its history exposing the brutality of totalitarianism.  The New Yorker described the film as daring "to make evil funny." The Putin regime in Russia has banned it calling the film slander, denigrating and extremist. It is a must see film, and worthy of discussion. Please, if you've seen the film, add your commentary below.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Former Cuban prisoner of conscience and his mom badly beaten up.

Human rights defender was beaten and dragged handcuffed over the floor more than 50 meters in front of his mother.

Iván Hernández Carrillo badly beaten on March 25, 2018

First learned of the beating of this human rights defender through the tweeter stream of Rosa María Payá. Translated and retweeted it in English as follows:

Marti Noticias prepared the following report on the attack: 

"Kicking, the broken mouth", so the police beat unionist Iván Hernández Carrillo

By Luis Felipe Rojas

"They started against him. They beat him, kicked him, broke his mouth, dragged him down the street and put him in the jeep like a sack: they put him in there head first, "said Asunción Carrillo, mother of trade unionist Iván Hernández Carrillo.

"Kicking, blows in the face", described Lady in White Asunción Carrillo the beating her son received, the former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, at noon this Palm Sunday in Colon, Matanzas, when he tried to defend her from police forces.

The Ladies in White women's movement tried to reach churches in Cuba, from Havana, Matanzas and other localities in the interior of the country, but since March 20, 2016 the authorities have prevented it with a strong police operative.

Asunción Carrillo told Radio Martí that the arrest occurred very close to her home. "With violence, the cops grabbed me by the neck, they squeezed me by the arms," ​s​he explained.

When her son came out to stop the brutality with which they treated her "the police arrived".The woman described the outrage: "They started against him (Ivan). They beat him, kicked him, broke his mouth, dragged him down the street and put him in the jeep like a sack: they put him in there head first. " 

Asunción denounced that even handcuffed and inside the patrol car, the military continued with physically punishing her son. "Inside the jeep, the police kept hitting him in the face, then it was when they took him to the unit of the PNR (National Revolutionary Police)." 

Once at the police station, the Lady in White explained, they were taken first to a courtyard and then to separate cells. Before announcing that they would be released, they were fined 2 thousand pesos under the supposed crime of "disrespect" to the figure of the "leader" Raul Castro.
In a video published by the opposition Yisabel Marrero, Asunción recounted what they did with the activist when they arrived at the police station:
"At four in the afternoon (we were) released after so much abuse and so much injustice," lamented Asunción Carrillo.  The beatings against the Ladies in White take place every week, both in front of the national headquarters, located in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana, where its main spokesperson, Berta Soler, resides, as well as in the municipalities of Cárdenas, Colón and Los Arabos, in the province of Matanzas.  Iván Hernández Carrillo, 46 ​​years old, is a human rights defender dedicated to promoting the activities of independent unionism. For this reason he was sentenced to 25 years in prison in the well-known Black Spring of 2003. 
Currently, Carrillo holds the position of General Secretary of the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba (ASIC).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March For Our Lives: A reflection on youth mortality

Reflection on the school shooting crisis in America and failing institutions

Followed the #MarchForOurLives event today and was impressed by the oratory and the organizing. It was a remarkable day.  Civil rights leader John Lewis and members of the Martin Luther King Jr. family spoke out for an end to gun violence. Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of the Parkland shooting gave a powerful speech with a moment of silence for the time that it took for the shooter to murder 17 of her fellow students.

The conversation around school shootings on the surface appears simple but the history, and details, reveals a level of complexity that is largely absent in the current national conversation. Unfortunately all sides in the debate are foregoing nuance in favor of sound bites. We can all agree that there is a real problem and it is getting worse. Sixteen of the 27 worse school shootings in U.S. history took place after 2000.

Something is going on but the polarized political climate makes it difficult to get a handle on.

Not a "white violence" thing
The left wing narrative, based in identity politics, would have you believe that this is a white male problem and write of "white violence." It is half true, it is predominantly a male problem, but the 2007 Virginia Tech shooter who killed 33 and injured 25 was an Asian immigrant born in South Korea and immigrated to the United States at age eight. Out of the sixteen high profile school shootings that took place since 2000, eight were white males, six involved non-white male shooters, and two were female shooters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 38.45% of the population of the United States are white males and they made up 50% of school shootings after 2000. Meanwhile Asian males make up 2.85% of the U.S. population but account for 18.75% of post 2000 mass shootings. White males are over represented among shooters but they are not the only racial grouping over represented. Percentages were arrived at by dividing White population and Asian populations in two accounting for the male/female split with data taken from the census bureau. Let me underline my utter rejection of identity politics.

Good person can stop a bad guy with a gun
The National Rifle Association narrative adopted by many on the right is that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Recent history has demonstrated that is not necessarily true.  In August 2013 a school teacher calmed down a 20-year-old male gunman who had stormed the school with an AK-47 assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition. No one was hurt and the assailant was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On September 20, 2017 another school teacher saw a student with his finger on a semi-automatic pistol about to shoot a young girl. The school teacher tackled the young man and although the gun went off, and one student was wounded, the other shots went into the ceiling and she managed to hold him down until the police arrived and arrested him.

There have been times when a "good guy with a gun" has stopped a "bad guy," but emphasizing on the use of deadly force first, when other options are available, is a dangerous disservice. A good person with or without a gun can stop a "bad guy with a gun." In either case one is risking their life and things can go wrong, but the alternative of doing nothing is often times worse. However nonviolent strategies need to be prioritized.

Gun control hasn't worked in the countries with the worse gun violence
CNN has produced a chart that shows in red the countries with the worse gun-homicide rates in the world, and it centers in Latin America. Many of these countries have strict gun control laws but they have failed to reduce gun violence. Insight Crime, a foundation dedicated to the study of organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, reported some disturbing facts relevant to the United States
Latin America has some of the highest gun homicide rates in the world, despite certain countries having relatively strict gun control laws, raising the question: to what extent, if any, does tighter legislation help to lower homicide rates and violent crime in the region?
The short answer to this question is that there is no clear correlation. A look at six countries with widely differing gun legislation and gun homicide statistics — Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Chile and Uruguay — shows that gun legislation, on its own, means little in terms of gun violence. Understanding gun violence seems more predicated on understanding the dynamics of crime in a country, and the weaknesses of state institutions, than on studying the laws in place.
Other complicating factors are that there is conflicting data and claims on whether overall the number of school shootings have gone down, but large scale shootings seem to have multiplied in the United States but others claim that it has not. Despite Latin America having a much higher rate of gun homicides they have much lower numbers of school shootings. On the other hand  Germany, which has a much lower number of overall gun homicides than the United states, has still suffered mass shootings in their schools. In 2009 a frustrated 17-year old killed sixteen and wounded nine in Baden-Württemberg in South Western Germany. In 2002 in Erfurt, Germany another gunman, a 19-year-old expelled student shot and killed 16 people: 13 staff members, two students, one police officer and one person was wounded. Germany has strict gun control laws. Nevertheless they have had school shootings. It is important to point out that the numbers have been higher in the United States.

George Mason University Professor of Economics Walter Williams makes the case of long term moral failings having unforeseen consequences in American society. Could it be, as was seen in Parkland, that federal, and local institutions are weakening. Laws are not being enforced leading to failures that create openings for these massacres. If crime data and reporting were faked at Parkland to under report crimes and threats then how much under reporting is taking place elsewhere? If that is the case then the school shootings are a symptom of a crisis of American democracy and governance.  It will not be enough to make reforms, but to ensure that U.S. institutions enforce the law and get serious about school safety.

Memorial to victims
Take a simple step to reduce the leading cause of death among teenagers
This is not just an issue of guns, but of young lives lost. The stories of the makeshift memorials with flowers and balloons for shooting victims moved me and reminded me of the many memorials around Miami to young victims of traffic accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "[m]otor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accident death among teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths to teenagers." There is a debate underway to raise the age for gun ownership to 21 because younger people can't be trusted with guns or alcohol. This leads to an obvious question. Should the age to drive also be raised to 21 considering that they are the leading cause of death for teenagers.

If we are going to march for the lives of America's youth shouldn't we focus on all areas that can prevent their untimely deaths? Costa Rica is considering raising the minimum age for a driver’s license to 21 "in an effort to reduce road-related injuries and fatalities." The president of the Costa Rican Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO, Rocío Solís, "made the case that neurological studies have shown that 18-year-olds still do not have the brain maturity necessary to effectively prevent the risks involved with driving." Driving is a privilege and not a right in U.S. law and the age could be easily raised to 21 saving many young lives.

Let us get serious about school safety and saving young lives by targeting gun violence with preventive and nonviolent solutions and also address the top killer of our youth, motor vehicle fatalities. U.S. vehicle deaths topped 40,000 in 2017, and 38,658 gun deaths were reported in 2016.

We can do better. We must do better. This slaughter of innocence must end. This can be done and at the same time protect Constitutional liberties.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Filmmakers go to Cuba to make a film about rum being traded for debt relief and discovered a lot more than they bargained for

This is much more than about rum.

A new documentary on Cuba with a unique perspective.
 Back in 2016 news broke that Cuba wanted to pay off $276 million dollars in Czech debt with rum. "This Film Used To Be About Rum" is an interesting attempted exploration of this agreement between the Czech Republic and the Castro regime to negotiate Cuba's debt with the Central European country through the shipment of rum. It was supposed to be a puff piece.The filmmakers interviewed Tomas Zdechovsky, a Czech representative of the European Parliament who makes a shocking revelation in the film.
"I don't think we've mentioned that the whole rum industry is based on child labor. When you come out to the countryside and take a look at who's working on the fields, you'll see ten, twelve-year-old children working there.  And then we go ahead and drink the rum wth no ethical dilemmas whatsoever. We just accept it as being part of a culture.But when you think about it, when you drink Cuban rum, you're helping the Cuban regime survive."
This short documentary is not a puff piece and it bumps into some uncomfortable truths. It is also interesting to see Fulton Armstrong, CIA and avid supporter of normalization with the Cuban dictatorship at the same time, trying to spin the Castro regime's sinister nature in the most positive light possible.

After viewing this documentary you may need a drink.
The film does a fair job of explaining the historical importance of Bacardi in Cuba's rum business and how they were forced out by the Castro dictatorship. The company still maintains its liberal tradition of defending human rights.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

15 years after the "Black Spring" of Cuba

Remembering the Black Cuban Spring and the future

2003 - 2018 Spring will return
Fifteen years ago on March 18, 2003 a crackdown began in Cuba on the eve of the United States going to war in Iraq. Scores of Cuban dissidents were rounded up and subjected to political show trials. 75 were condemned to lengthy prison terms of up to 28 years in prison. This became known as the Black Cuban Spring. The majority of the imprisoned activist had participated in the Varela Project, a petition drive that called for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses. 11,020 signatures had been turned 10 months earlier on May 10, 2002. The regime had responded with its own mandatory petition drive to make the Cuban Constitution unchangeable, and with this crackdown that included the firing execution of three young black men who had tried to hijack a vessel to Cuba. 

The Economist in its December 14, 2005 issue published a conversation with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas titled "An unsilenced voice for change" that outlined what had taken place:

Between 2001 and 2004, Mr Payá's movement gathered 25,000 signatures in a vain attempt to persuade Cuba's National Assembly to change the constitution to allow multi-party democracy. Activists of his Christian Liberation Movement made up more than two-thirds of the 75 dissidents and journalists rounded up and jailed for long terms in April 2003. [...] Spain is “complaisant” with Mr Castro's regime, Mr Payá says. “We need a campaign of support and solidarity with peaceful change in Cuba” of the kind that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa and to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
It took over eight years, but the last of the group of the 75 were eventually released. Oswaldo was murdered along with the Christian Liberation Movement's youth leader Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. His successor Eduardo Cardet is a prisoner of conscience, brutally beaten, and repeatedly stabbed while under the Castro regime's custody. Nevertheless the legacy of the Varela Project continues in the campaign One Cuban, One Vote.
One Cuban, One Vote proposes to members of the National Assembly that at the time of drafting a new electoral law, the right to choose of all Cubans inside and outside Cuba, the right to return to their own country and be elected all must be recognized and guaranteed. The right of Cubans to vote directly and without the Candidacy Commissions, which are the anti-constitutional instrument of the regime to prevent it.
 Today, one of the Cuban dissidents arrested, tried and sentenced to 18 years in prison, Regis Iglesias Ramírez, wrote a reflection, in Spanish, on the 15th anniversary of the crackdown. Below is the translation.

11,020 Varela Project signatures turned in on May 20, 2002
15 years after the "Black Spring" of Cuba 
by Regis Iglesias Ramírez
There is no need for a pretext, the mere fact of dissent and work so that in Cuba the people take back the reins of their own destiny is enough for the gangster regime of Havana to repress with all the violent forces of power those that challenge it even by exercising the rights that a draconian Constitution in force recognizes.
On May 10, 2002, the world learned that Cubans not only expressed their disapproval with more than half a century of totalitarianism by setting up rustic and fragile boats or taking refuge in embassies to try to escape from the suffocating lack of freedom and economic hardship. On that day, the Varela Project initiative of law was presented to the National Assembly with the support of 11,020 citizen signatures as established in article 88, paragraph g of the Cuban Constitution.
The collection and revision of that vote was made by a handful of leaders and activists of the opposition, also citizens who without belonging to any organization joined and in the midst of persecution, without material resources, with betrayals, manipulations, repression, and violence crossed the whole country to find the Cubans who were tired of their own fatigue and wanted to tell the regime "we have the right to rights."
The Project had been announced to the public in January 1998, then, in 2000, more than 140 opposition and human rights groups, under the unifying initiative All United Todos Unidos, promoted, led by Oswaldo Payá, an appeal to the population to join the initiative. In 2001, when it was already evident that some from All United dedicated themselves to giving us false signatures, discouraging the liberating attempt and deceiving about the objectives and mobilizing methodology of the Varela Project, the Citizens' Committee were founded that saved and achieved the objective of collecting the signatures but also that of extending to every corner of the country the civic action and began to be the minimum social base capable of being the reference in the fight against totalitarianism.
This was what really triggered the alarms of the dictatorship, many Cubans inside the island began to organize themselves in a civic way to demand their rights. When the first 11,020 citizen signatures validating the bill demanding the referendum were presented to the National Assembly on May 10, 2002, the Spring of Cuba began.
Therefore, on March 18, 2003, the regime unleashed a repressive escalation that lasted several days and more than forty national managers of the referendum lawsuit, seventy-five opponents in all, were kidnapped and sentenced in summary trials to long prison sentences.
The 15th anniversary of those events that were known as "The Black Spring" has been celebrated, but the repressive vortex against those in Cuba or exile remains coherently committed to returning popular sovereignty to the Cubans.

In 2010 most of the managers of the Varela Project in prison were exiled to Spain, after the regime left to die in prison after a prolonged hunger strike in which potable water was removed during a critical time, to Orlando Zapata Tamayo. A few months later, the regime was in negotiated with Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the Spanish Socialist government of José Luis Zapatero for the exile of most of the prisoners of that Black Spring.
Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, the latter a young man who had been expelled from the University for collecting signatures backing Varela in 2003 and joined the Christian Liberation Movement, were murdered in 2012 while traveling to the east of the island to meet with activists and leaders of the Citizens Committee. Laura Pollán, leader of the Ladies in White, the group of mothers, wives, daughters and relatives of the opponents imprisoned in 2003, which was founded to demand the freedom of their own, had died due to medical complications still not fully clarified. We, the Referendum Managers on the Varela Project, banished, do not have the right to return to our own country.
The regime managed to get the democracies of the old continent to lift the Common European Position, which was an instrument in solidarity with the rights of the Cuban people. It restored its relations with the United States. But it continues to imprison opponents such as the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Dr. Eduardo Cardet. They also tried to murder him a few months ago in the prison where they keep him kidnapped. The regime maintains the segregation, the oppression, the Black Spring has not ended, the rights demanded in the Varela Project have not yet been recognized and guaranteed.
But no one can prevent spring from coming, that the Cuban people will be reborn after more than half a century of darkness and oppression. The spring that made possible 11,020 citizens who have been joined over these years with tens of thousands more in the demand for freedom

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Update on Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet: health worsening, not being provided religious assistance

One year and three months unjustly imprisoned, Eduardo Cardet, finds his health worsening and not being provided religious assistance following a brutal attack on December 19, 2017.

Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet Concepción
 Yesterday the Christian Liberation Movement, a democratic opposition movement based in Cuba, posted in an update on the condition of their imprisoned national coordinator Dr. Eduardo Cardet. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who has been subjected to brutal beatings and attacks by regime officials and prison inmates (most likely on orders of prison officials). Dr. Cardet, who is also a medical doctor, husband, and father of two faces a worsening health situation, according to his wife, Dr. Yaimaris Vecino who visited him on March 16, 2018, with a poor prognosis and due to bureaucratic hurdles from both the Catholic Church and the Castro regime is not receiving religious attendance. 

"Eduardo was severely beaten in prison while being held with his hands tied."

Update 03/16 The state of health of #EduardoCardet worsens. His wife, Dr. Yaimaris Vecino (who visited him today) reports that his asthma is worsening as well as another illness that does not have a good prognosis.

On the other hand, Eduardo only receives evasions from the authorities when he tries to find out the status of his prison situation. [He is being housed with the same prisoners who brutally beat him and repeatedly stabbed him with a sharp object on December 19, 2017.]

Update 03/14 Eduardo Cardet with intense asthma attacks.

Update 03/07 Eduardo Cardet with health problems due to worsening of his asthma

On March 8, 2018 Cubanet reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had issued precautionary measures for Eduardo Cardet and on February 12, 2018 requested information from the State on what had happened with a span of five days of not receiving any response to date."
Due to the events, the IACHR has requested that the Cuban Government "adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of Mr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción" and that he "have adequate medical access, according to his needs," according to the memorandum that has been sent to the Cuban authorities.

The text also requests that the Cuban government "arrange the measures to be implemented with the beneficiary (Cardet) and his representatives", as well as "report on the actions taken in order to investigate the alleged facts that led to the adoption of this resolution and thus avoid its repetition."

The Commission "requests the Government of Cuba to report, within a period of 15 days, counted as of the date of this resolution, on the adoption of the required precautionary measures and update said information periodically."
On another front the Christian Liberation Movement reported on March 6, 2018 of the bureaucratic hurdles encountered by Eduardo Cardet to receive religious assistance.
Religious assistance in prison to Eduardo Cardet, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, pending bureaucratic procedures  

Religious assistance to Eduardo Cardet in prison, pending bureaucratic procedures of the Church and later, whatever the regime decides.

The family of Eduardo Cardet is still waiting to receive the form of Penitentiary Pastoral to take it to the jail where Eduardo Cardet is unjustly held, that he must fill out and deliver it to the "re-educator." 

Once this procedure is completed, the authorization for a priest to visit Eduardo would depend on what state security decides, because even though Cardet is convicted of a common crime, his case is "attended" directly by the officer of state security who detained him and beat him up. Eduardo has been in prison for a year and three months We hope that, God willing, the first phase of this religious-bureaucratic process will be streamlined as much as possible.

As for the regime, as one would expect, we continue demanding his immediate release.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were murdered on July 22, 2012 and Rosa María Payá is in Havana seeking justice for them

"...[W]hile others remain silent we will not be silenced, and we will not stop seeking the truth even if it means remaining alone." - Rosa María Payá, August 1, 2012 

Every time Rosa María Payá returns to Cuba I find it difficult to sleep and worry about her safety, and admire her courage. Yesterday she was told to report to the Ministry of Justice to receive a response to the appeal she introduced last November concerning the murder of her dad Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. In the tweet below Rosa stated, "Judith, Director of Criminal Matters @ the Ministry of Justice (she refused to give me her last name), cited me today to return tomorrow to MinJus to receive a response to the claim I filed last November, about the murder of my dad Oswaldo Payá in Cuba on 7/22/2012."

In a second tweet yesterday, the daughter of the martyred Cuban opposition leader reported, "I have an appointment tomorrow, Thursday 10:00am, with Dr. Jorge Bodes of Criminal Matters, Cuban Ministry of Justice to respond to my claim for review of the sentence, for the farce of a trial carried out for murder of my dad Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. Be attentive please."

This morning she went to the Ministry of Justice and described the scene that she observed upon arrival. "Great presence of agents of the political police while I now enter the Ministry of Justice to receive a response for the review of sentence in the case of the murder of my dad Oswaldo Payá in Cuba, on Sunday, July 22, 2012 in a state attack."

She exited the Ministry of Justice and delivered the difficult but not surprising news that the "Department of Criminal Matters of the Ministry of Justice becomes an accomplice of my father's assassins refusing to review the sentence to analyze the forensic evidence of the car of the accused that was not presented at trial," and ended with the hashtag #EnoughOfImpunity.

She explained over another tweet how, "Jorge Bodes, Head of the Department of Criminal Matters of the Ministry of Justice, denies that its necessary to review expert evidence because he didn't see in photos that the car "was impacted by another vehicle." She posts it with a photo of the car that shows it was hit from behind by another vehicle. She concludes that " [Bodes] becomes an accomplice who hides evidence."

The Payá family has refused to be silent and continues in their efforts for justice for Oswaldo. They have remained true to their commitment made on August 1, 2012 when Rosa María Payá Acevedo read a statement that sadly remains relevant today.
My father faced the power of a state, a totalitarian state with 53 years experience. And that state is dropping all its force against a family, my family for many years now. Once more I fear for the lives of my brothers, my mother and my whole family. I reiterate that I hold the government responsible for the physical integrity of the members of my family.

We have the support of many within and outside Cuba, we thank you deeply. On the other hand, we know that these events have become a matter of state and we know that sometimes between states there are pacts and silence, but while others remain silent we will not be silenced, and we will not stop seeking the truth even if it means remaining alone.
Six long years will have passed this upcoming July 22, 2018 and the silent complicity of many of the governments in the world is deafening, and further proof of the international decline in human rights standards, but the steadfast effort by friends and family of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante continue to demand justice for their loved ones murdered on July 22, 2012.

Last year Rosa and a network of Latin American youth organized the first edition of the Oswaldo Payá Prize and held the award ceremony in Havana, but the Castro regime engaged in a crackdown and refused entry to Latin American world leaders.

This year the cycle of repression was repeated with new Latin American leaders denied entry to participate in the Oswaldo Payá Prize. Last year Rosa María Payá placed a plaque on the wall of her home in remembrance of her dad. It was quickly torn down by regime agents. This year she placed the plaque behind iron bars on the window of her home.

It is also important to recall that Dr. Eduardo Cardet, the man who was elected to succeed Oswaldo Payá as the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement has been falsely imprisoned since November 30, 2016 and will serve out a three year sentence as a prisoner of conscience. However he has been brutally assaulted by state security and by inmates, most likely also on the orders of prison officials.

People of good conscience must accompany the Payá, the Cepero, and Cardet families in their struggle for justice and freedom.  We must show them our solidarity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fidelandia Documentary Film screening at Broward College: Wednesday March 21 at 7:00pm

Documentary of the Castro regime from a progressive and critical perspective.

Flier for the March 21, 2018 event
The web site for the documentary Fidelandia asks the question "What did the Revolution conceal from you?" I have not seen it, but was contacted by one of the Broward College organizers of the screening, and agreed to share it with others. This is part of a Musical Film Literature Arts Festival, called the "Crossing Borders 2018 Festival." Below is a synopsis of the film.
When Cuba’s former dictator “ Fulgencio Batista” was overthrown from power by Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries in the late 1950’s.  The people of Cuba were promised a better Cuba.  They were promised the opportunity to rise to a higher standard of living, but according to many struggling to survive within the population, Fidel Castro failed to deliver his promise, delivering instead a growing stagnation of an aging economy
Fidelandia takes a look at the country’s current culture post Fidel’s fifty-year reign.  The film explores how the youth deals with the influence of Western culture impacting the country by way of tourism, and the use of illegal Internet and television.
 This promises to be an interesting film seen through the fresh eyes of a young filmmaker. The totalitarian nature of the Castro regime has so warped Cuba that the film renames the island "Fidelandia." Pragda has the following biography of the filmmaker.
Isaias Castañeda is an American filmmaker, born in Chicago, IL. In 2005, Castañeda directed and produced the controversial documentary film Season of Death: Chasing The American Dream. The filmmaker follows several migrants on their journey towards the U.S., capturing the harsh reality of some who attempt to cross into the United States of America illegally. After the completion of Season of Death, he attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Film and Television Production. He is currently in pre-production of Playing Gods, Finding John Doe, and Santan’s Nightmare.
Check out the trailer for the film. Hope to see you at the Performing Cultural Arts Theater at Broward College, 7200 Pines Blvd Pembroke Pines, FL 33024, Wednesday March 21 at 7:00pm. The film will be screened followed by a Question and Answer session with the director. Admission is free.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

These are not elections: Reflections on the electoral farce in Cuba

Poll watching a non-election in Cuba

Raul Castro at ballot box in Cuba
The Castro regime is seeking to spin a non-vote into a democratic election, but there is a basic fact that exposes the true nature of what is going on. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez explained it succinctly over twitter, "#TheseAreNotElections Did you know that today Cubans do not elect parliamentarians but can only ratify 605 names written on the ballots for the 605 seats in the National Assembly? They do not select or discard because "selection" was already made by 'up there'."

Rosa María Payá reported from Havana that in polling stations where they could observe the counting of votes, an average of 37% of Cuban citizens had the courage to show their rejection of the electoral system and the government. In a tweet she gave a more detailed breakdown. "In all polling stations where we were able to carry out the independent observation of the vote count, percentage of rejection of the regime and support for the Plebiscite CUBADECIDE ranged from 18% in Río Cauto, Granma, up to 90% in Songo La Maya, Santiago de Cuba."
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted this morning, "[d]id you know that all possible independent candidates who tried to be nominated in their neighborhoods were subject to arrests, acts of repudiation, house arrest and even legal irregularities in the assemblies to prevent their candidacy?" She was referring to the campaign Otro18 (Another 18), organized by social democrat Manuel Cuesta Morua and Candidates for Change organized by Julio Antonio Aleaga Pesant. Both initiatives sought to field candidates for 2018.

Annulled ballots in Cuba earlier today
 Press accounts of the "vote" in Cuba on Sunday claimed that this was the beginning of a post-Castro era and France 24 reported that it was "a key step in a process leading to the elevation of a new president, the first in nearly 60 years from outside the Castro family."  This is incorrect for two reasons because the last President without the last name Castro was 42 years ago and his name was Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado and he held that title from July 17, 1959 through December 2, 1976. Cubans called him "president spoon" (because he neither pricks nor cuts). It was their way of saying he had no real power because it resided with Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. Secondly, Miguel Díaz-Canel, the named successor to Raul Castro for the presidency of Cuba in all probability will be another Dorticós Torrado, a figure head without any power. Raul Castro will remain head of the Communist Party and de facto head of the military.

Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado and Miguel Díaz-Canel
The CubaDecide campaign on March 10th announced that they were organizing a poll watching effort today across Cuba and presented their results this evening. Over the course of the day irregularities were reported by poll watchers, and citizens attempting to vote.  Rosa María Payá Acevedo tweeted below on measures taken by State Security to shut down the poll watchers and block dissident voters from going to the polls. "Agents of the Cuban political police persecute sympathizers and promoters of the Plebiscite CUBADECIDE while we go to the polling stations to annul our ballots. It is not only an electoral farce, but one that violates its own rules."

Rosa María Payá also tweeted that "MININT - PNR police forces in Havana show the observers of @CUBADECIDE handcuffs as a threat so that we do not go to the polling stations to exercise our right, according to the law. Zero transparency in the Cuban Electoral farce." 

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1923 commented the following about elections,“I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this - who will count the votes, and how.” 

The effort to stop the poll watchers, though poll watching is permitted under current electoral law in Cuba, hearkens back to that principle of control alluded to by Stalin 95 years ago. Reports of mistreatment also appeared on social media. Ladies in White leader Berta Soler tweeted that Cuban State Security "tortured Lady in White Aymara Nieto [placing her] under the sun, handcuffed inside a patrol car."
Rosa María Payá described how "Cuban political police assaulted with electric current Abel Melcochini in Manzanillo, Granma, observer and activist of CUBADECIDE  and UNPACU, to coerce him and prohibit him from going to vote."
Rosa María reported that the following activists were arrested and or disappeared today by the Cuban regime to prevent them from reaching the polling stations: José Díaz Silva, Lourdes Esquivel, Adonis Milan, Zaqueo Báez, Sonia de la Caridad, Roberto Pérez, Aimara Muñoz, Abdel Estévez, Lázaro González Matamoros, Dairon, Alberto de la Caridad, among others.

Cubans "get" to approve the 605 pre-selected candidates with no other option. Poll watching, although legal, led to poll watchers being threatened, harassed and detained. Cubans are dissatisfied and a significant percentage engage in protest votes or refuse to take part. Despite the media hype, Raul Castro will maintain control from his position as head of the Cuban Communist Party and other Castro family members are in key regime posts.