Thursday, August 30, 2018

International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances: Some of the forgotten Cubans

When human rights defenders are silenced, who will stand up for the rights of all?  - Amnesty International

Today, August 30th, is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances and you won't hear much about the disappeared in Cuba. However there are cases such Omar Darío Pérez Hernández, a Cuban independent journalist who went missing in Cuba in December 2003.

There have been others that stretch back decades.  Andrew de Graux Villafana was just 19 years old when he went missing on September 18, 1962.  Andrew had fought in the Escambray hills against the Castro dictatorship, and was wounded and captured.

Andrew had a successful surgery carried out by Dr. Miguel Rodriguez Marcoleta. However when the surgeon went to visit his patient, he could not find him. He went to the morgue to try to see the body, but it was not there. Days later State Security came and asked Dr. Rodriguez Marcoleta to sign the death certificate of Graux Villafana, but he refused.  Decades later Andrew's sister, Mary de Louise de Graux Villafaña, continues to search for her brother and expresses concern for other missing youth who took up arms against the Castro dictatorship.

Less than five years later Adolfo Chamiso Sayas went missing, relatives believe he tried to leave Cuba illegally on March 5, 1967 and was gunned down by government agents.

There are other cases such as opposition activist Enrique Mustelier Turro, who was jailed for his opposition activities.  The wife of the jailed activist went to prison to visit him, she was told by prison officials that Enrique Mustelier Turro had escaped. No one has seen or heard from him since 2013. According to his son, Enrique Mustelier Sosa, he believes that his father died in the prison.  He has received threats from State Security in an effort to silence him, as have others dealing with other missing loved ones. Lawyers have warned him that if he tries to open an investigation that he could be the next to go missing. 

Francisco Chaviano: Jailed 13 years for investigating missing Cubans
There is not much documentation on the disappeared in Cuba because human rights defenders that have attempted to investigate these kind of cases have paid a high price. Francisco Chaviano González, a former mathematics teacher, and human rights defender was the president of the National Council for Civil Rights in Cuba (Consejo Nacional por los Derechos Civiles en Cuba - CNDCC), an organization that was trying to investigate the cases of a number of Cubans who had gone missing.

Francisco was  warned by state security to stop his human rights work and leave Cuba or he would be arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He refused to leave, continued to investigate cases of missing Cubans and was detained on May 7, 1994, drugged and subjected to a military trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison of which he served 13 years in terrible conditions suffering numerous beatings and the denial of healthcare which led to a wholesale decline in his health. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. He was released in August of 2007, and went into exile in 2012.

Partial estimates place the number of disappeared in Cuba for political reasons at 123, but that number needs to be placed in the context of a dictatorship that does not tolerate investigations into Cubans that have gone missing for political reasons.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling on UN and international community to take urgent, “concrete action” to address Nicaragua crisis

Will the world listen?

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called today for the UN and international community to take urgent, “concrete action” to address the human rights crisis in Nicaragua.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report today on the situation in Nicaragua titled "Human rights violations and abuses in the context of protests in Nicaragua 18 April – 18 August 2018."

The following series of tweets by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights speaks volumes.

These are a remarkable series of tweets that indicate that events in Nicaragua are reaching a desperate state. Nevertheless the number of extrajudicial killings in the tweet below are much lower than current reports that place them at over 450.

The exodus from Nicaragua is another sign of the draconian and repressive measures of the Sandinista regime led by Daniel Ortega.
One question that lingers and is cause for concern is that  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will soon leave and be replaced by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who has a track record of looking the other way on human rights abuses in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

#VigiliaMundial #WorldVigil united for the victims of repression in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." - Edmund Burke

On Sunday, August 26, 2018 at 6:00pm at St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church in Miami, Florida people of goodwill gathered together for victims of repression in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba as part of a world vigil united for the victims of repression. Hopefully this will be the beginning of new tradition to be observed annually where friends of freedom gather and network in order to collaborate in the struggle for liberty in the hemisphere.

Miami, USA

The enemies of liberty have been gathering regularly for decades at the São Paulo Forum, and its most recent addition was held in Havana back in mid July 2018. The members of the Forum backed Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista Party despite their mass slaughter of civilians.  

For far too long democrats in this hemisphere have failed to join together in solidarity against those suffering under tyranny and others have fallen, one by one, failing to arouse sympathy or solidarity in far too many remaining in freedom. This is a recipe for disaster.

Berlin, Germany
However this past Sunday across the world people of goodwill gathered around the world for victims of repression in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. This was a good start.Let us pray that it is repeated in years to come.

Geneva, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway
If we do not join together to resist tyranny, support the rule of law, liberty, and the freedom of all prisoners of conscience then the list of countries succumbing to tyranny will continue to grow until freedom is extinguished in this hemisphere.

Maracay, Venezuela
Therefore it is imperative for people of goodwill to join together in networks of freedom to counter totalitarian networks that seek to enslave free peoples. Free peoples must remain vigilant and not succumb to the complacency of living in freedom, only to lose it. 

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina 🇦🇷 contó con la participación de testimonios de miembros de la Red que han padecido las dictaduras. Unidos hoy en la #VigiliaMundial #UnidosPorLasVictimas y por la causa de la libertad y la democracia.
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on December 17, 2002 addressing the European Parliament observed that  “the cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized.” The world is witnessing his prophetic vision in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. The distancing away from human rights has had dire consequences in these countries.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Witnessing these democrats and human rights defenders gathering together all over the world does give one hope for the future, but it must go beyond a symbolic act, to sustained concrete coordination and action.

Santiago, Chile
These vigils took place in many other places around the world, but there is not sufficient space to cover all of them.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Amnesty International denounces new Cuban law as dystopian attack on Cuba's artists

 "Within the Revolution, everything; outside of the Revolution, nothing." - Fidel Castro, June 30, 1961

Cuba: New administration’s Decree 349 is a dystopian prospect for Cuba’s artists

24 August 2018, By Amnesty International

In response to Decree 349, one of the first laws signed by Cuba’s new President Miguel Díaz-Canel in April 2018, which will come into force in December and has provoked protests by independent artists in Cuba, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International said:
“Amnesty International is concerned that the recent arbitrary detentions of Cuban artists protesting Decree 349, as reported by Cuban independent media, are an ominous sign of things to come. We stand in solidarity with all independent artists in Cuba that are challenging the legitimacy of the decree and standing up for a space in which they can work freely without fear of reprisals.”
“As far back as the 1980s, Amnesty International has documented the harassment and arbitrary detention of independent artists in Cuba simply for peacefully expressing their opinions through art. Instead of consolidating their control over artists perceived to overstep state-sanctioned criticism, the Cuban authorities should be making progressive changes to protect human rights.”

Signed by President Díaz-Canel in April and published in Cuba’s Official Gazette in July, Decree 349 is expected to come into force in December 2018.

Under the decree, all artists, including collectives, musicians and performers, are prohibited from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval by the Ministry of Culture. Individuals or businesses that hire artists without the authorization can be sanctioned, and artists that work without prior approval can have their materials confiscated or be substantially fined. Under the new decree, the authorities also have the power to immediately suspend a performance and to propose the cancelation of the authorization granted to carry out the artistic activity. Such decisions can only be appealed before the same Ministry of Culture (Article 10); the decree does not provide an effective remedy to appeal such a decision before an independent body, including through the courts.

Amnesty International is concerned that the decree contains vague and overly broad restrictions on artistic expression. For example, it prohibits audiovisual materials that contain, among other things: “use of patriotic symbols that contravene current legislation” (Article 3a), “sexist, vulgar or obscene language” (Article 3d), and “any other (content) that violates the legal provisions that regulate the normal development of our society in cultural matters” (Article 3g). Furthermore, it makes it an offence to “commercialize books with content harmful to ethical and cultural values” (Article 4f).

Prohibiting artistic expression based on concepts such as “obscene”, “vulgar” or “harmful to ethical and cultural values” does not meet the tests of legitimate purpose, necessity and proportionality required under international human rights law. The lack of precision in the wording of the decree opens the door for its arbitrary application to further crackdown on dissent and critical voices in a country where artists have been harassed and detained for decades. This would not only contravene the right to freedom of expression of artists in Cuba, but the right of every person in the country to seek and receive information and ideas of all kinds.

International human rights law and standards require that any restriction to the right to freedom of expression, including through art, must be provided by law and formulated with sufficient precision to avoid overly broad or arbitrary interpretation or application, and in a manner that is accessible to the public and that clearly outlines what conduct is or is not prohibited.

Restrictions must also be demonstrably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of protecting a specified public interest which, under international human rights law, are only national security, public order, and public health or morals, or the rights or reputations of others.

As signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Cuba is required to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty. Article 19 of the ICCPR specifically protects the right to freedom of expression, which includes the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds…” including “in the form of art”.

The rights to freedom of opinion and expression are essential for the full development of any person or society, and are key to enabling individuals to exercise other human rights. As such, under international law, states have a duty to protect the free expression of ideas and opinions of all kinds, including when deeply offensive. Laws restricting insult or disrespect of heads of state or public figures, the military or other public institutions, flags or symbols are prohibited under international human rights law.

The blanket requirement for prior authorization by the Ministry of Culture of an artist’s work to be shown in public, as set out in Article 2.1, would also impose controls over the exercise of artistic expression that may amount to prior censorship and would exceed the permissible restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.

Amnesty International is further concerned that Decree 349 is likely to have a general chilling effect on artists in Cuba, preventing them from carrying out their legitimate work for fear of reprisals.

Cuba: Transform Confrontation into Dialogue: A Human Rights Agenda for Cuba, 16 April 2018,

Cuba: “Your Mind is in Prison” – Cuba’s web of control over freedom of expression and its chilling effect on everyday life, 16 November 2017,

Urgent Action: Urban artist at risk in Cuba, 24 August 2017,

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

First International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism: Partial tally of the Castro dictatorship

Remembering and speaking truth to power.

 Today is the first International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, and it is a proper occasion to remember, continue to demand justice, and demand an end to the dehumanization and violence visited on our fellow human beings.

Victims of the Castro regime's state terrorism on February 24, 1996
Last year the United Nations General Assembly, "in its resolution 72/165 (2017), established 21 August 2017 as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism in order to honor and support the victims and survivors of terrorism and to promote and protect the full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Resolution 72/165 builds on existing efforts by the General Assembly, the Commission of Human Rights and the Human Rights Council to promote and protect the rights of victims of terrorism."
According to the United Nations this action reaffirms the "promotion and the protection of human rights and the rule of law at the national; and international levels are essential for preventing and combating terrorism."
But far too often the United Nations has honored those who have systematically violated human rights, ended the rule of law in their country, been a negative force internationally, and even sponsored and perpetrated terrorist acts. 

Victims of the Castro regime's state terrorism on July 13, 1994
On three occasions the United Nations paid homage to a dead dictator linked to terrorism and drug trafficking. First on December 1, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly held a moment of silence for Fidel Castro in New York City. Five days later on December 6, 2016 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland a moment of silence was held for Fidel Castro. Two weeks later on December 20, 2016 the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City paid tribute to the dead Cuban dictator for the third time.

NY Daily News Photo, H Hamburg. 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing by Cuban backed FALN
Worse yet, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added The Life and Works of Che Guevara” to the World RegistrarUNESCO is providing funds to preserve Che Guevara’s papers. Guevara in addition to promoting communist ideology, is best known as an advocate for guerrilla warfare who viewed terrorism as a legitimate method of struggle against an enemy.
In the first year of the revolution in Cuba (1959) Mr Guevara remarked on the mass executions taking place: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary … These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution!”  Eight years later (1967) he offered up a terrifying vision of what should drive a combatant. “Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary.” This is a recipe for war crimes.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet MD, prisoner of conscience since November 30, 2016
On December 5, 2016 delegates of the U.N. Human Rights Council opened a meeting in Geneva by standing silently after Venezuela’s delegation requested a minute of silence to “honor” the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Meanwhile in Cuba those Cubans that refused to mourn the dead tyrant were being beaten down, jailed and threatened with 15 year prison terms for speaking out.  At least 20 cases were documented and one high profile example stands out two years later, the medical doctor  beaten down in front of his family and jailed for freely expressing himself:  Dr. Eduardo Cardet. He remains in prison today as a prisoner of conscience.
It appears that the UN had forgotten that Fidel Castro presided over the extrajudicial executions of thousands of his countrymen, the destruction of Cuba, twice called for a nuclear first strike on the United States, sponsored terrorism across the world, collaborated with genocidal dictators who murdered millions in Latin AmericaAfricaAsiaEurope and the Middle East.  

In 1976 Fidel Castro addressed the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and declared: "If we decide to carry out terrorism, it is a sure thing we would be efficient. But the mere fact that the Cuban revolution has never implemented terrorism does not mean that we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning."  What Castro failed to mention was that his revolutionary movement came to power not only through a guerrilla struggle in the hills but also widespread urban terrorism and the placing of a huge number of bombs.

On New Year’s Eve in 1956 members of Castro's 26th of July movement set off bombs in the Tropicana nightclub, blowing off the arm of a seventeen-year-old girl. From bombings, killings, and arson in 1957 to a botched plane hijacking to smuggle weapons to the Cuban guerrillas that led to 14 dead and the night of the 100 bombs in 1958 . The organizer of the bombing campaign Sergio González López nicknamed “El Curita” and the terrorist action itself are remembered fondly by the dictatorship.  A park is named in his honor along with a plaque pictured below.

The Castro regime views terrorism as a legitimate tactic to advance its revolutionary objectives. In 1970 the Cuban government published the "Mini Manual for Revolutionaries" in the official Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO), a publication  of the Tricontinentaland translated it into many languages. The manual is written by Brazilian urban terrorist Carlos Marighella, and it gives precise instructions in terror tactics, kidnappings, etc. and distributed worldwide by the Cuban dictatorship. There is a chapter on terrorism that declares, "Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never relinquish." This manual is still circulating today.

Plaque erected by Castro regime to honor bomber Sergio González López “El Curita”
Apologists for the Castro regime hide behind the propaganda claims of healthcare and education, but that too has been a failure. Costa Rica, Chile, and Colombia have better healthcare than Cuba and did not have to sacrifice their freedoms to achieve it.
On this first International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism people of goodwill should call the United Nations to task for its hypocrisy in honoring terrorists with moments of silence and disseminating the writings of another in the world registrar. Let us remember, pay tribute to the victims of terrorism, and show our solidarity but let us also honor them by demanding justice, the rule of law, and the defense of human dignity.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Castro regime lies to UN-CERD during examination of racism in Cuba, bars black Cubans from speaking

The Castro regime says there is no racism in Cuba. Cubans of African descent say different, but are detained and prohibited from speaking out in an international forum.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Human Rights Defender

May 15, 1967 - February 23, 2010
The UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN-CERD) met in Geneva on Wednesday, August 15 from 15:00-18:00 to examine racism in Cuba. The Castro regime representative testified before the Committee that "racial discrimination is not a generalized problem in Cuba, there has been just one complaint of discrimination. Measures were taken: the perpetrator was sanctioned and the victim seemed satisfied. There are very few isolated cases." The regime also claimed that there are no racial majorities or minorities despite recognizing that 64% of Cubans identify as white and 9% as black.

Finally, the Cuban government told the UN-CERD that human rights defenders in Cuba face no limitations to exercise their activities. The dictatorship's diplomats assured that there have been no reprisals or harassment of activists.

Cuban human rights defender impeded from attending UN-CERD Cuba review
These were self evident lies. Cuban human rights defenders Juan Antonio Madrazo and Norberto Mesa who were to attend the same session were detained arbitrarily and banned by the Castro regime from traveling there to speak on the question of racism.
Norberto Mesa was not permitted to attend
Country Rapporteur, Mr. Albuquerque, denounced at the UN-CERD examination of Cuba the travel ban faced by Juan Antonio Madrazo and Norberto Mesa who were planning to travel to the Committee. They were also prohibited to organize events to raise awareness on racial discrimination in Cuba.

Despite the claims of the dictatorship, racism remains a problem in Cuba that worsened during the Castro regime. Black nationalist Carlos Moore in his book "Pichon: Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba: A Memoir" exposed the Castro regime's deep seated racism.

Abdias Nascimento Born in the town of Franca, State of São Paulo, in March 1914, Nascimento is the grandson of enslaved Africans. His father was a cobbler and a musician; his mother made and catered sweets and candies. He received his B. A. in Economics from the University of Rio de Janeiro in 1938, and post-graduate degrees from the Higher Institute of Brazilian Studies (1957) and the Oceanography Institute (1961). Nascimento participated early in Brazil’s equivalent of the civil rights movement, the Brazilian Black Front (São Paulo, 1929-30). He led the organization of the Afro-Campineiro Congress, a meeting of Brazilian blacks to protest discrimination in the city of Campinas in 1938. This is what he said in an open letter on October 30, 2009 on racism in Cuba:
"The facts as I have come to know them indicate that we are facing a clear case of political intimidation against those, in Cuba, who raise their voices in protest against racism, discriminatory practices, and all kinds of intimidations meted out to citizens who dare call for the establishment, in their country, of a State that is respectful of Civil Rights, of the right of citizens to freely congregate and form organizations and to freely demonstrate their opposition to discriminatory practices of which they feel they are a target for one reason or another."
On January 4, 2010 the late civil libertarian Nat Hentoff wrote a column published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch titled Racism in Cuba that explores the reality the Castro regime denies:
Throughout the course of these columns on the Castro dictatorship, I have cited the chronic racial discrimination against black Cubans throughout Fidel's Revolution, a "revolution" that gladdens such visitors as celebrity documentarian Michael Moore, who never mentions Jim Crow on the island. The extensive marginalization of blacks in Cuba has failed to break through into general American consciousness; but as of the Nov. 30 release of "Statement of Conscience by African Americans," the big dirty secret of the Castro brothers has been exposed. According to the resounding news release -- which had the authoritative ring of Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" -- "60 prominent black American scholars, artists, and professionals have condemned the Cuban regime's stepped-up harassment and apparent crackdown on the country's budding civil rights movement. This statement is the first public condemnation of racial conditions in Cuba made by black Americans."
There have been martyrs of African descent who suffered at the hands of regime authorities because of the color of their skin.  Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a Cuban of African descent and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. 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...
Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a prolonged water only hunger strike in which prison authorities over the course of more than two weeks on and off refused him water. Following his death the Castro regime and its agents of influence sought to slander Orlando's memory. However, activists who knew Orlando had already spoken on the record, as had Amnesty International. On the same day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding his untimely death:
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on 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.
The slander campaign failed because people of good will paid attention and refused to remain silent. However the attempt of the Castro regime to portray this human rights defender and humble brick layer as a criminal relied on racist stereotypes.

Children in Cuba have been murdered by the secret police for stealing small fruits off a tree. Angel Izquierdo Medina, a 14-year old child was shot and killed by Amado Interian, a retired Lieutenant Colonel from State Security, in Mantilla, Cuba because he stole some mamoncillos. This evening because 400 friends, family members and neighbors decided to attend the dead child's wake and are upset about the circumstances surrounding his death were subjected to Cuban state security agents laying siege at the dead child's wake. The reaction by the regime's security forces no longer makes this a simple indictment of one retired state security agent but of an unjust system with a total disregard for human life. In a normal society it would be Amado Interian in custody and under investigation for the use of excessive force and the murder of a minor.

The Castro regime is, among its many sins, not only a dictatorship that denies racism is a systemic problem, exploits racist stereotypes to demonize opponents of African descent, a police that operates with impunity, but also with poverty that disproportionately impacts Cubans of African descent. An issue that was raised at the CERD examination of racism in Cuba.
Finally, three Cubans to be shot by firing squad following a speedy "trial" in 2003 were all of African descent. On April 2, 2003 eleven Cubans hijacked a ferry traveling to Regla from Havana with 40 people on board with the intention of traveling to the United States of America but ran out of fuel 28 miles off the Cuban coast and were towed back to the island.  Despite verbal threats made against the safety of the passengers to maintain control of the vessel, the situation, according to the authorities, ended without violence and that “all of those who had been on board were rescued and saved without so much as a shot or a scratch.”

Lorenzo Enrique Copello, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla and Jorge Luis Martínez
The hijackers were tried by the "Court for Crimes against State Security of the People’s Court of Havana. The Court had applied the specially expedited summary proceeding contemplated in Articles 479 and 480 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The petitioners add that the trials took place from April 5 to 8, 2003." At the "end of the expedited summary trial, the alleged victims were sentenced to death for violating the 'Cuban Law against Acts of Terrorism,' of December 2001. Although the legally defined offenses committed by the hijackers, the law prescribes imprisonment, not the death penalty.  The three hijackers sentenced to death, Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, appealed against their death sentences to the Supreme People’s Court. This Court ratified the sentences in a one-day trial. In keeping with current laws in Cuba, these death sentences were submitted for consideration by the Council of State, which proceeded to ratify them, condemning them to death.

In the early morning of April 11, 2003, following the decision handed down by the Council of State, the sentences were carried out and Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac executed. Nine days after the hijacking and three days after the trial.

 On October 21, 2006 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the State of Cuba is "responsible for violating Articles XVII and XXVI of the American Declaration to the detriment of Messrs Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, by not providing them with a fair trial." Furthermore that the State of Cuba "is responsible for violating Article 1 of the American Declaration, to the detriment of Messrs. Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, by executing them on the basis of a sentence handed down in a proceeding that did not ensure due judicial guarantees."

Some of the artists who signed a letter calling on criticism of the executions to stop
The executions had created a firestorm of international criticism in quarters that usually backed the Castro regime. This led to the regime obtaining the tacit support in a statement titled "LETTER OF CUBAN INTELLECTUALS AGAINST THE ATTACKS TO THE REVOLUTION"of prominent Cuban figures asking their usual allies on the Left who were criticizing the summary executions by firing squad of these three young black men to end their criticism. The list of signers are a who's who of the Cuban arts and culture: Alicia Alonso, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Miguel Barnet, Julio García Espinosa, Leo Brouwer, Fina García Marruz, Abelardo Estorino, Harold Gramatges, Roberto Fabelo, Alfredo Guevara, Pablo Armando Fernández, Eusebio Leal, Octavio Cortázar, José Loyola, Carlos Martí, Raquel Revuelta, Nancy Morejón, Silvio Rodríguez, Senel Paz, Humberto Solás, Amaury Pérez, Marta Valdés, Graziella Pogolotti, Chucho Valdés, César Portillo de la Luz, Cintio Vitier, and Omara Portuondo. 

Many of them, like Cuban singer and dancer Omara Portuondo, and Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés of African descent themselves. There are two possibilities here. Either these artists and thinkers sincerely believed  that three young black men, who had not physically harmed anyone, should be tried and executed by firing squad in the space of 72 hours for reasons of national security or they were forced to sign the document to avoid falling out of favor with the dictatorship.

At the time the question of anti-black racism was raised surrounding the executions. “By executing [three young blacks], Castro was sending a clear message to the Afro-Cuban population” that dissent will not be tolerated, said Jaime Suchlicki, director of Cuban studies at the University of Miami, in a report on Cuban racism in June of 2003. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

#FreeCardet: The Via-Crucis of Eduardo Cardet Concepción

Update on the plight of a courageous dissident, medical doctor, and family man.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción MD: Prisoner of conscience since November 30, 2016
Some good news: Ebert Hidalgo Cruz, and Jose Daniel Ferrer are back with their loved ones but the bad news continues, Eduardo Cardet Concepción remains unjustly imprisoned and no one has heard from him since July 28, 2018. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and there are more than 100 other known political prisoners in Cuba. 

Yesterday the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) over social media reported that "because for more than two weeks nothing is known about Eduardo Cardet and that some time ago he was able to send a note saying 'I am in danger,' his family traveled to the jail where he is held to appeal, despite having their visits suspended by regime authorities, for his freedom."

Hours later MCL reported: "Continued cruelty against Eduardo Cardet, calls are suspended for two months (in addition to having visits suspended). His family tried to see him today, they did not allow it."
Wife and husband: Yaimaris Vecino and Eduardo Cardet

Eduardo Cardet Concepción is married with two children, is a medical doctor at the health center in the town of Velasco in Holguín province, focusing on family care. In 2013 he was expelled from his work in retaliation for his opposition activity. However, protests over this punishment and popular support led to Eduardo Cardet's reinstatement to his old job.

Following the extrajudicial killing of Oswaldo Payá  and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, the Christian Liberation Movement restructured its leadership and Eduardo Cardet was appointed national coordinator of the movement in November of 2014.

The repression ramped up against Doctor Cardet when he succeeded Oswaldo Payá as head of the Christian Liberation Movement.

Dr. Cardet was arrested on November 30, 2016, beaten up by the secret police in front of his wife and two small children. Since that day he has suffered, beatings, a stabbing, the denial of family visits and has not been heard from since July 28, 2018. 20 days without a phone call or physical visit.

His crime: speaking negatively of the legacy of Fidel Castro in Cuba and advocating for Cubans reclaiming their sovereignty in a restored democratic order through nonviolent means.

It has been a lengthy and distressing journey through the repressive apparatus of the Castro regime. A via-crucis that the Cardet family has been suffering through for the past 625 days.

Please ask the Castro regime over social media English, Spanish and whatever language you find appropriate: #WhereIsEduardoCardet? and #WhenCanEduardoSeeHisFamily  

End the impunity, denounce this crime and hold the regime accountable.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Next month Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement will observe the third decade since its founding

"Without tradition, originality cannot exist: for it is only against a tradition that it becomes perceivable."  - Roger Scruton

 Cuba's most important opposition group, the Christian Liberation Movement, will be observing an important anniversary next month. Thirty years ago on September 8, 1988 on the feast day of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba, a movement was born inspired by Christian teachings and the desire to be free. On September 8, 2014 Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement released a statement recalling their founding:
We were born there in the parish of the Cerro, one of the many neighborhoods of Havana. The background: The Circle of the Cerro. Then something more formal, The Circle of Cuban Christian Thought. This was banned and dissolved when it launched the first free Cuban publication, also prohibited, titled "People of God", proclaiming the source of liberation: when we said, "We must obey God before men", "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's, "But if God gives you Freedom, who is Cesar to take it away? "All men and women are my brothers and sisters." "We will not act violently or submit to violence," "You are my brother, I do not hate you, but I am not afraid of you."
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas described how the Christian Liberation Movement, a democratic opposition movement, came into existence and explained how it was related to the birth of his first child, Oswaldo José.
“When our first child was going to be born, we have three children, we said that our children cannot live in a country without liberty and we are not going to another country to seek freedom. Therefore we have to fight for our children to live free here in Cuba and everyone else's children and their parents too.”    
Oswaldo José was born on February 17, 1988 and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was founded that same year.  Oswaldo Payá was killed on July 22, 2012 along with the movement's youth leader Harold Cepero Despite the killings, the movement re-organized and elected a new national coordinator, Eduardo Cardet MD.  Dr. Cardet was arrested on November 30, 2016 and has suffered, beatings, a stabbing, the denial of family visits and has not been heard from since July 28, 2018. 18 days without a phone call or physical visit.

Following the extrajudicial killing of Oswaldo Payá  and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, the Christian Liberation Movement restructured its leadership and Eduardo Cardet was appointed national coordinator of the movement in November of 2014.

Eduardo Cardet is married with two children, works as a family doctor at the health center in the town of Velasco in Holguín province, where he lives. One year before his appointment as leader of the Christian Liberation Movement he was expelled from his work in retaliation for his opposition activity. However, protests over this punishment measure and popular support led to Eduardo Cardet's reinstatement to his old job.

Christian Liberation Movement: Regis Iglesias, Tony Díaz Sánchez, Eduardo Cardet
 The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) is campaigning for Eduardo Cardet's release. At the same time they are observing this important anniversary on social media.

Regis Iglesias on the 16th anniversary of turning in 11,020 signatures for a democratic change in Cuba reflected on the importance of the Varela Project in AlgoritmoMag.
It was the first time that Cubans voted or demanded to do so after almost half a century of dictatorship that May 10, 2002, when Oswaldo Paya, Tony Diaz and I crossed the threshold of the offices of the National Assembly of People's Power and presented their officials the signatures that legitimized our demand for a referendum.Eleven thousand twenty Cubans with the right to vote, protected by among other articles 1, 3, and fundamentally 88, paragraph g of the draconian socialist constitution in force, took the step and with their personal data supported the demand for a referendum on the Varela Project, so that the law will guarantee the right to "political freedom", "popular sovereignty", the freedom of political prisoners and the economic freedoms of Cubans.More than a civic and legal exercise the initiative of the Christian Liberation Movement and its founder Oswaldo Paya, finally found a methodology to create the minimum social base in the middle of a totalitarian and repressive state in which the opposition is not recognized and dissidence is considered treason.
 This is why this 30 year old organization remains the most important opposition movement in Cuba, under the Castro dictatorship.