Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Fight for Freedom in Venezuela: Time to Double Down on Non-violent Resistance

Beware the temptation to embrace violence as a short cut.

The power of nonviolence
 Exposing the terrible reality that Venezuela is in the midst of a famine, and the illegitimate and criminal Maduro regime refuses to recognize it. Worse yet, the regime sends valuable tons of humanitarian equipment to Cuba while Venezuelans are dying of hunger and lack of basic medicines.  If that was not the last straw, this same regime denies the entry of needed humanitarian assistance, and gives order to shoot those trying to bring it in to the country.

The logical result of this immoral policy is that it is creating dissension in the ranks. Defecting members of the military is a good sign. Nonviolent resistance strategy is the way to go to bring change to Venezuela and end the manufactured famine of the Maduro regime.

Revisiting the writings of Gene Sharp, the scholar of non-violent civic resistance, will lead one to a pluralistic concept of power and how regime's depend on different pillars to maintain power. One of the most important pillars is the military, another is the police, the business community, etc.

Source: Thoughtful Campaigner

The fact that there are scores of military personnel refusing to shoot their fellow citizens and abandoning their ranks is an excellent sign. 

Now is not the time to embrace violence (or violent flanks) but to double down on nonviolence and an effective strategy to bring yourself out of the crisis by speeding up the collapse of the remaining pillars of the Maduro regime. This also means expanding and maximizing your number of allies.

Source: Thoughtful Campainger

The example of Syria, where a nonviolent movement made incredible gains only to have a violent flank emerge out of defecting army units, ostensibly to defend nonviolent activists from the violent Assad regime, should serve as a warning. The belief, in some quarters, was that this was inevitable and would speed up the victory over the Syrian dictatorship. The result was just the opposite. Assad's regime was able to consolidate itself and the body count of the conflict exploded and radically violent elements overtook the violent resistance.

"Violent flanks" and the use of the so-called "diversity of tactics" reduces mobilization and decreases the probability of success for a resistance movement. Strategic thinker Gene Sharp put it succinctly when he said: "using violence is a stupid decision."
This does not mean entering into a pointless negotiation with the regime that buys it time to renew itself. Gene Sharp on the BBC program HardTalk in 2015 said it plainly: "Dictator's will not negotiate themselves out of power."  The only thing to negotiate is their exit once their pillars of power have imploded.

However it does mean identifying other effective elements of the opposition and strengthening your relationship with them operationally while trying to peel off neutral elements of the population to join your cause.

This does not signify stopping or slowing down your mobilization and activism but finding commonalities to speed up and perfect campaigns and tactics to take power away from the Maduro regime while growing your spectrum of allies. 

The friends of the Maduro dictatorship are doing everything they can to discredit Gene Sharp and his writings because they know how effective they are and how they empower the citizenry. Below is the complete 2015 Hard Talk program with Gene Sharp. Please share it widely.


Monday, February 25, 2019

The Brothers to the Rescue Shootdown: How the Castro regime sought to destroy hope

"There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love." - Martin Luther King, Jr., Holt Street Baptist Church,  Dec 5, 1955
Silent Vigil at Florida International University for Brothers to the Rescue martyrs
Today at Florida International University, as has been the case for the past 23 years, friends and family members of Armando Alejandre, Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales gathered to pay their respects and hold a silent vigil for justice.

When the long national nightmare of Castroism is finally over in Cuba there needs to time set aside to engage in a national act of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. In Argentina, the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice is a public holiday commemorating the victims of the Dirty War and it is held on March 24th.

The Castro dictatorship has caused so much harm over the past six and a half decades that Cubans will need two days of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. There are two days to consider for somber reflection on crimes against humanity in Cuba: February 24th and July 13th.  

Twenty five years ago on July 13, 1994 agents of the Castro regime carried out a massacre that claimed the lives of 37 men, women, and children fleeing Cuba on a tugboat. 

Silent vigil for justice for victims of Castroism in front of the Cuban Embassy
Today, will focus on what took place 23 years ago on February 24, 1996 because it is the day that the Castro regime used a Mikoyan MiG-29UB to launch two missiles that blew to pieces two Brothers to the Rescue Cessna Skymasters in international airspace at 3:21pm and 3:27pm, then took credit for it. Killed during the attack were Armando Alejandre, Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales.

Brothers to the Rescue, beginning in 1991, had engaged in a search and rescue mission that saved thousands of lives of Cuban rafters in the Florida Straits.  Viewing humanitarian assistance as an existential threat, now on display in the actions of the emerging totalitarian regime in Venezuela, is what led the Castro regime to order a risky act of state terrorism 23 years ago. 

Hope is not allowed to flourish in this kind of regime, because it can mobilize and expand dissidence. This is how a mass non-violent movement can erupt and sweep old tyrants from power. In addition to hope, two other things these regimes cannot abide are truth and memory. These are necessary preconditions for justice, and something that with a simple and nonviolent act of remembrance defies forgetfulness and the re-writing of history.

Yesterday, we gathered at the Cuban Embassy at 3:00pm with posters of Armando Alejandre, Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales killed on February 24, 1996. We also had posters of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the Cuban human rights defender who died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010 following years of torture in Cuba's prisons, and of Venezuelan martyrs Geraldine Moreno and Génesis Carmona shot in the head by Maduro's security forces trained by Castro's intelligence services.

Brothers to the Rescue members remember their brethren at Opa-locka airport
Earlier in the day at Opa-locka airport, members of Brothers to the Rescue gathered to remember their fallen brethren, where the airplanes had flown out on their final mission that fateful Saturday afternoon.

Twenty three years later the silent vigil for justice continues.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Brothers to the Rescue shoot down 23 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
23 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 today 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.

Murdered by the Castro regime on February 24, 1996

Last year on 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 Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00pm sharp we will gather at the sidewalk in front of the Cuban Embassy located  at 2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC to protest the crimes of the Castro regime against Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. From 3:21pm to 3:27pm we will join hands together in a silent vigil for justice in their remembrance.

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.

Fact Sheet on February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue Shoot down

 “There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends.” – John 15:13 

Murdered on Raul Castro's orders on February 24, 1996
February 24, 1996 shoot down was an act of state terrorism that blew two civilian aircraft out of the sky with air to air missiles while in international airspace after regime planned the act months beforehand with its espionage network in the United States.
 FACT 1: By definition: Terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)

FACT 2: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to life (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, who died as a result of the direct actions of its agents on the afternoon of 24 February 1996 while flying through international airspace.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/99eng/Merits/Cuba11.589.htm

FACT 3: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to a fair trial (Article XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of the relatives of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, in that to date the Cuban authorities have not conducted an exhaustive investigation with a view toward prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and have not indemnified those same relatives for the damage they suffered as a result of those illicit acts.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/99eng/Merits/Cuba11.589.htm

FACT 4: In Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F.Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997), a federal district court awarded the families of three of the four occupants of the “ Brothers to the Rescue” planes shot down by Cuba in 1996 a total of $187.7 million in damages against Cuba.

Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview by Jennifer K. Elsea  

FACT 5: WASP spy network was involved. One of the “illegal officers” (Gerardo Hernandez) was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder based on his role in the February 24, 1996, shoot-down of two unarmed civilian aircraft in international airspace by Cuban Air Force jet fighters, which resulted in the deaths of four people, three of them U.S. citizens.

Department of Justice on Obama Commutations

FACT 6: Brothers to the Rescue had spotted and saved thousands of rafters in the Florida Straits and was engaged in such a mission on that day. The one plane that skirted the boundary briefly was the only one to return. The other two were shotdown miles away from Cuba’s boundary having never entered or touched it on that day and the planes had been in contact with the Cuban tower throughout the flight.

ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown 

FACT 7: On July 26, 1996 the United Nations Security Council: "Noting that the unlawful downing of two civil aircraft on 24 February by the Cuban Air Force violated the principle that States must refrain from using weapons against airborne civil aircraft, the Security Council this afternoon condemned such use as being incompatible with the rules of customary international law "

ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown 

FACT 8: Ana Belen Montes, the US intelligence community's top analyst on Cuban affairs had throughout a sixteen-year career at the Defense Intelligence Agency sent the Cuba intelligence service sensitive and secret information and helped to shape US opinion on Cuba. Investigation against her was triggered by her odd behavior before and after the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. On September 21 2001 Ana Belen Montes was arrested and subsequently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage for the government of Cuba. Montes eventually pleaded guilty to spying, and in October, 2002, she was sentenced to a 25-year prison term followed by 5 years of probation.

True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy http://www.amazon.com/True-Believer-Inside-Investigation-Capture/dp/1591141001

FACT 9: On December 27, 2010 and again in a January 19, 2011 clarification the defense of Cuban spy-master Gerardo Hernandez acknowledged that "there was overwhelming evidence that the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes occurred in international airspace, not Cuban territory."

The Miami Herald: Cuban spymaster now claims Brothers to the Rescue shooting was outside Cuban airspace by Jay Weaver December 27, 2010 http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-12-27/news/fl-cuba-spy-20101227_1_cuban-government-gerardo-hernandez-jose-basulto

FACT 10: On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama commuted Gerardo Hernandez’s two life sentences and returned him along with two other spies jailed for crimes in the United States to Cuba where they were received with a hero’s welcome in what is an immense propaganda victory for the Castro regime.

Department of Justice on Obama Commutations

Saturday, February 23, 2019

How Humanitarian Assistance is an Existential Threat to Maduro's and Castro's Project to Build Communism in Venezuela

"In the future, there will be fewer but better Russians." - Greta Garbo, Ninotchka, 1939
Maduro's forces set fire to humanitarian aide
Nicolas Maduro, the former president of Venezuela, is ordering troops to burn humanitarian aid. The usurper claims that humanitarian assistance is an existential threat and provocation to his regime. This claim is also backed by the Castro regime. However, they are not being honest about the real nature of the threat.

Venezuelan Jean Pierre Planchart, a year old, weighs 11 pounds.
Maduro, along with the Castro regime, are attempting to install a communist dictatorship in Venezuela. One of the instruments that communist regimes have used to subjugate populations is famine and rationing food to those who are loyal and denying it to those who are not.

Famine is a tool communists have traditionally used to remake societies. 

The deadliest famines in the 20th century were not in Africa but in Europe (Ukraine) and China.
Social science research has demonstrated that famines "happen only with some degree of human complicity."  Human decisions "determine whether a crisis deteriorates into a full-blown famine."

Jean Pierre Planchart malnourished inVenezuela. Pic: Dr. Livia Machado
 In the case of Venezuela, Chávez and Maduro destroyed the market in food by imposing price controls "that resulted in underproduction when the official prices did not meet costs of production. Their governments expropriated farms, ranches, and even food distributors such as butchers. There’s very little if anything produced on these expropriated territories." Rhoda Howard-Hassmann's article "Famine in Venezuela" published on August 21, 2018 in the World Peace Foundation reports:
"By 2017 malnutrition was confirmed in Venezuela, precipitating the political unrest now roiling the country. According to Antulio Rosales (“Weaponizing Hunger is a New Low for the Venezuelan President,” Globe and Mail, March 12, 2018, p.A11) and Enrique Krauze (“Hell of a Fiesta,” New York Review of Books, March 8, 2018, pp. 4-7), by early 2018 more than half of all Venezuelans had lost between 19 and 24 pounds, and 90 per cent said they do not have enough money for food."
 TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan reporting from Caracas on December 30, 2018 published the article "Child malnutrition on the rise in Venezuela" that reveals that levels of hunger in Venezuela are that of a famine.
"The World Health Organisation says, a country with 10% of its children with malnutrition is at risk, at 12% it's considered famine. In Venezuela, a recent study conducted in five different states shows that we're at 14.8%," says Huniades Urbina, President of Venezuela's Childcare and Pediatrics Society.
Despite this reality, on February 4, 2018 Maduro shipped 100 tons of aid to Cuba and on February 6, 2018 Maduro, once again, ordered humanitarian shipments of aid to be blocked from entering Venezuela. Maduro continues to double down and block aid, or actually destroy it when it enters Venezuela.

Maduro blocks aide to Venezuela while sending it to Cuba as Venezuelans go hungry
This is not incompetence, but a sinister political and military strategy that has been successfully played out elsewhere.

Maduro's regime issued ration cards for food in a country were mass hunger is an ever present reality and it is understood by many that following regime instructions, such as going to vote in the last sham election, was necessary to be eligible for rations.  The electoral calculus was clear: "Everyone who has this card must vote," said Nicolas Maduro and continued, "I give and you give." 

This is a very old playbook.

According to Felix Wemheuer, professor of Modern China Studies at the University of Cologne, in his book Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union," during the twentieth century, 80 percent of all famine victims worldwide died in China and the Soviet Union." 

Millions starved to death under brutal famine imposed by Joseph Stalin
However, to understand the nature of famine politics in communist regimes the monograph of Andrea Graziosi and Frank E. Sysyn in the East/West: Journal of Ukranian Studies titled "Communism and Hunger" is required reading. Consider the following:
"In fact, with the exception of the 1943 Bengal famine with its approximately two million victims, all of the other major famines of the twentieth century are directly connected to socialist "experiments": in 1921 and 1922 in Russia and Ukraine ( 1million - 1.5 million deaths); in 1931, 1932, and 1933 in the USSR (6.5 million - 7.5 million deaths, of which 4 million were in Ukraine and 1.3 million - 1.5 million in Kazakhstan); in 1946 and 1947 in the USSR (1 million - 1.5 million deaths); from 1958 to 1962 in China (30 million - 45 million deaths); from 1983 to 1985 in Ethiopia (0.5 million - 1.0 million deaths); and from 1994 to 1998 in North Korea ( estimates vary from a few hundred thousand to more than 2 million deaths)."
This was not due to poor central planning and socialist inefficiencies, but a deliberate policy of genocide against targeted population to consolidate political control by eliminating those who do not support their regime. The percentage of victims in the USSR and China relative to their respective overall populations were the same (5%). In the case of the USSR that meant around 7 million deaths out of a population of 160 million and in the case of China  estimates between 30 million and 45 million deaths out of a population of 600 million.

Famine victim in China
According to Graziosi and Sysyn, "most of Ukraine's four million deaths - more than sixty percent of all the famine victims in the USSR - were concentrated in the few weeks between the beginning of April and the the end of June 1933. This points to a political decision to use famine as a weapon to solve a specific "national" problem.  

Starving mom holds her child at height of Holodomor. USSR.1933.
Furthermore, according  to Andreas Graziosi in her 2016 monograph Stalin and Mao's Famines: Similarities and Differences,  outlines the role played by "ideology; planning; the dynamics of the famines; the relationship among harvest, state procurements and peasant behaviour; the role of local cadres; life and death in the villages; the situation in the cities vis-à-vis the countryside, and the production of an official lie for the outside world."

Maduro, and his Cuban allies issued denials about the extent of the problem of hunger in Venezuela. The rejection and destruction of humanitarian assistance combined with images of tons of humanitarian assistance shipped from Venezuela to Cuba appears bizarre, but it needs to be placed in the context of previous episodes involving other communist regimes.

Both the USSR and China used Western journalists, such as Walter Duranty in Moscow and Edgar Snow in Beijing to deny that a famine was taking place and to defend the official lies of the regime. This practice continues today in Cuba, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Fidel Castro lounging with Mengistu Haile Mariam, in Ethiopia in 1977
In Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam's regime, reproduced Soviet and Chinese practices when he blacked out communications, and refused access to aid agencies. 

In December 1979, during an Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, it “was more specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.”

Worse yet, as starvation took hold in Ethiopia, Mengistu ordered planeloads of whisky to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his taking power. Denying that a famine was taking place. Once that could no longer be denied he then used the famine as a cover for ethnic cleansing and removing opponents.

 This history, and the role played by the Cubans, Russians, and Chinese needs to be taken into account when looking at the situation unfolding in Venezuela now.

From Maduro's twitter on September 9, 2018

The population of Venezuela today is approximately 32 million of which 1.6 million is 5%. Based on 90 years experience of communist regimes is that the number that needs to be killed through hunger to successfully terrorize and subjugate a people?

If that is the case then the efforts of the United States and other countries to deliver tons of humanitarian aid to Venezuela and break the death grip of an emerging famine in that country is in and of itself an existential threat to Maduro and his Cuban allies project of imposing communism on  Venezuelans.

It is no coincidence that Nicolas Maduro admires and celebrates the legacy of Mao Tse Tung. 

This is the real reason why humanitarian aid is considered a great provocation by the Maduro regime and his Cuban allies. It takes control from their ongoing effort to kill a lot of Venezuelans to impos their political model.

Furthermore, it is why it is important to hold those responsible for carrying out this policy accountable and brought to justice.

Nine years ago on February 23, 2010 prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike in Cuba after years of racist taunts and torture by prison officials

"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, human rights defender

Born: May 15, 1967 -  Died: February 23, 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. 
Orlando's mom, Reina Luisa Tamayo, holds up son's bloodstained shirt
     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.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo in better days.

Protests for Orlando Zapata Tamayo continue
Nine 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 in Cuba.
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.

The importance of remembrance
Friends of freedom all too often are on the defensive explaining who and what they are against. The lives of courageous nonviolent activists such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero Escalante, Laura Inés Pollán Toledo and the four men murdered in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down who were martyred by the Castro dictatorship should be remembered and told to others. 

The enemies of freedom do not like to have such heroes remembered and honored.  For example on May 24, 2010 in Oslo, Norway a Cuban diplomat attacked and bit a 19 year old Cuban-Norwegian girl who was filming her mother's protest on behalf of Orlando Zapata Tamayo outside of the Cuban embassy. The whole episode was a public relations disaster for the Castro dictatorship in Norway.

Take action on Sunday
On Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00pm sharp join us at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC to protest this and other crimes of the Castro regime. If you are not in the area then make your own poster and take a selfie holding it up in protest. Ni1Mas! Not1More. Elie Wiesel is right: "To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death."

*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 / www.cubanet.org  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Remembering Génesis Carmona five years after Maduro's colectivos shot her in the head

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Génesis Carmona: 20 September 1991 – 19 February 2014
The headline in the February 20, 2014 edition of People Magazine read " Venezuelan Beauty Pageant Winner Killed in Anti-Government Protest." The beauty pageant winner's name was Génesis Carmona and she was 22 years old. 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. Her alma mater has announced a special service in her memory marking the one year of her untimely death in 2015:
UNITEC will officiate a Mass in memory of the student Génesis Carmona. Center Technological University will officiate a Mass in memory of the student Génesis Carmona on Thursday February 19 at 9:30 am at the Guacara Campus, after a year of her untimely death when she was overtaken by gunshots during a march in Valencia. The UNITEC authorities invite the entire university community to attend Mass to remember our alumn, who lost her life following some acts of violence.
What happened
Génesis Carmona 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), 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.
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. 

Jorge Ramos of Univsion 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 and friend posing with cover of her modeling.
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." 

Génesis Carmona's 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 retweet (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."  

Génesis Carmona's mother, María Eugenia Tovar, and sister left Venezuela and on December 10, 2014 revealed that they are seeking political asylum and continue to demand justice for Génesis. All evidence points to the Maduro regime and its agents being responsible for this young woman's death Maria Eugenia Tovar, emphasized on February 12, 2015 in a sentence what that day signified for her: "Forbidden to forget our children, forbidden to forget so much pain."

Five years later and her killers have not been brought to justice. In Venezuela she has not been forgotten. Yesterday at Florida International University Génesis's mom was interviewed and spoke about what had happened to her 22 year old daughter five years ago and she continues to demand justice.