Friday, March 29, 2019

Not everyone gets the Potemkin Village experience in Cuba: 22 years without justice for Danish student gunned down in Havana by a soldier

"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

Joachim Løvschall: December 7, 1970 - March 29, 1997
Not every foreign visitor to Cuba gets the royal reception Prince Charles and the Duchess of  Cornwall had earlier this week. Others went to Cuba expecting a fun holiday or academic exchange but never returned home after enduring terrible conditions.  This is what happened to a young Dane studying Spanish in Cuba.

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 two 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. The Løvschall 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. 

Weapon that was used to kill Joachim was an AK-47
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.
Joachim Løvschall gunned down in Cuba in 1997
 Twelve 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."
 Ten 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.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Cuba: Did they see the real Cuba or just the Potemkin Village?

Normally, travel broadens the mind but what about visiting a totalitarian state?

Photo op: Prince Charles (Left) with Comandante Ramiro Valdes (Center)
Prince Charles is pictured above with Ramiro Valdes. Commander Ramiro Valdes is "a historic leader of the revolution." He is the founder of the Castro regime's secret police and was the first head of the Ministry of the Interior between 1961 and 1968. Ramiro Valdes is an architect of the Cuban police state. This Cuban Dzerzhinsky with a bloody track record has been white washed with this royal visit.

Commander Valdes went to Venezuela in 2010 supposedly to address the then already existing electricity crisis . In February of 2010  Ramiro Valdes, then age 77, was hired "as a consultant for that country's energy crisis" but his expertise is not in energy. He is viewed by some Cuba experts as "the No. 3 man in the Cuban hierarchy."

Valdes in 2010 was the Vice President of the Council of State and Minister of Communications in the Cuban government. His role in Communications was figuring out in 2007 a way to muzzle the internet, what he called a "wild colt of new technologies." Afro-Cuban scholar Carlos Moore offered the following observation on Commander Valdes in 1961 and in 2010:

Ramiro Valdes was an inflexible, totalitarian and brutal person. He was the most feared man in Cuba. The repressive policies of the regime were crafted by him. Valdes struck fear into the hearts of Cubans (even revolutionary ones).
In 2013, Juan Juan Almeida, the son of another commander of the revolution, listed some of his nick names:  "The Master of Censorship; The Prince of Terror; The Cuban Dzerzhinsky; … and in his native district he is known as the Butcher of Artemis." This is who Prince Charles has been photographed with during his visit to Cuba. This is not an accident.

Visitors to totalitarian states become targets of both the state security service and the propaganda ministries. These regimes will pull out all the stops to show themselves in the best light possible and make sure that high profile visitors have a great time but within a reality fabricated by them. It has paid back with big dividends in the past with a partial list including: Lincoln Joseph Steffens, Charles Lindbergh, Jane Fonda, Linda Ronstadt, and Dennis Rodman that wittingly or unwittingly became agents of influence after visiting totalitarians and being photographed with them. Sadly,  Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have been added to this long list.

Prince Charles grinds sugar cane with the Duchess of Cornwall looking on.
Great mojitos, fine cuisine, and visits to the nicest part of the island while avoiding all the unpleasantness provides a skewed vision of Cuba. The reality that Cubans know on and off the island is far different, and there are also respected international human rights bodies and organizations that would also provide the royal couple with a profoundly different perspective. 

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall make their own mojitos
This is has been going on for a long time and the techniques of hospitality are so refined that one need not be an ideological fellow traveler to be converted.  These totalitarian tactics are ideologically neutral and often very successful in creating the Potemkin village experience.  They create an impressive facade or show designed to hide undesirable facts and conditions.

Totalitarians have a track record of effectively using tourism, athletic events, and academic exchanges to present their regimes in a way that historically legitimized them and covered up their hostile objectives often with disastrous results not only for their own countries but the international community as a whole. An excellent accounting of these practices and their impacts on national and international politics is found in Paul Hollander's book Political Pilgrims that should be required reading for anyone traveling to Cuba, China, North Korea, Venezuela, or Vietnam.

Ribbon cutting ceremony with Prince Charles and Ramiro Valdes, the Cuban Beria 
It may have been useful for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to have had a briefing about Hollander's book, and meeting with Cuban dissidents to gain a understanding of the real Cuba, and perhaps avoid being used as a prop by the Castro dictatorship.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet's lawyer addresses the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

Advocating for the freedom of Dr. Cardet.

Human rights lawyer Juan Carlos Gutierrez at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in Geneva, Switzerland on March 26, 2019 outlined the case and plight of Cuban human rights defender, medical doctor and prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet Concepción. Dr. Cardet has been unjustly imprisoned since November 30, 2016.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción is also the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement. His predecessor, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, died under what appears to have been an extrajudicial killing carried out by state security on July 22, 2012 along with the movement's youth leader Harold Cepero.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a quasi-judicial panel of five experts, upheld in full a petition filed by United Nations Watch, a leading voice for Cuban dissidents, and determined that Cuba is “arbitrarily detaining” dissident Dr. Eduardo Cardet, who has been jailed by the Castro dictatorship since November 30, 2016, for criticizing Fidel Castro.

Human rights lawyer Juan Carlos Gutierrez outlines Dr. Cardet's case.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Improper Conduct 35 years later: A portrait of Cuban communist intolerance

“We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true communist militant.” ... A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant communist should be.” - Fidel Castro, 1965

Restored film screened in Coral Gables this past Sunday
This past Sunday, on March 24, 2019 a restored version of Néstor Almendros (1930-1992) and Orlando Jiménez Leal's film Improper Conduct (Conducta Impropia) was shown at the Coral Gables Art Cinema at 1:00pm.

April 11th will mark the 35th anniversary of the release of Improper Conduct, the film that exposed communist intolerance to Gays and Lesbians in Cuba. Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Heberto Padilla, José Mario and Armando Valladares are among the writers interviewed in the documentary.  In 1984 the film was first screened in Paris. In an interview published in the Spanish publication, Faro y Vigo Jiménez Leal explained how this restored version and anniversary screening came to be:
It was restructured, the titles were changed, the colors were fixed; It is a shorter version now because they were edited out about twenty minutes. We left it at an hour and a half but it is still a feature film, "said Jiménez Leal in an interview with Efe. "A filmmaker friend, Eliecer Jiménez, and I discovered a master that was here in my office in good condition; We saw that (the discovery) coincided with the 35th anniversary and decided to make a restored version of the film," details the Cuban filmmaker of 77 years, of which, he said, he has spent 57 exiled." 
Néstor Almendros (L), Orlando Jiménez Leal (center) & editor Michel Pion work on ‘Improper Conduct’ in 1984. El Nuevo Herald.

Read more here:
Orlando Jiménez Leal explained the continuing importance of this documentary, "It's a film against intolerance. Intolerance will always exist, and therefore, Improper Conduct will always be relevant."

This documentary came into being out of an event that first inspired the filmmakers to make a fictional comedy. Ten dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba defected during a tour stop in Paris. The fillmmakers started to interview the ballet dancers, and the people who had helped them to develop the script. The interviews were so powerful that they decided to make this documentary instead.

Here is my take on the documentary from 2018 and how it fits into the Cuban context. Below is the official trailer of the restored film.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Russians Are Back: More Russian troops deployed to Venezuela to protect Maduro's dictatorship

#RussiaHandsOffVenezuela #RussiaHandsOffAmericanElections

Ilyushin IL-62M unloads Russian soldiers in Venezuela to back Maduro regme.
 On the same day Mueller investigation reveals Russian interference in US elections, news reports emerge that Russian troops are landing in Venezuela to back the Maduro dictatorship.

Maduro's regime invited Russian mercenaries to protect him in Venezuela.  Reports indicate that there are already 2,000 Russian nationals working in intelligence roles and reporting to the Ministry of Defense, and their numbers are increasing.

The Russians have been operating in the Western Hemisphere for years. They pulled out of Cuba at the end of the Cold War, but returned following a disastrous reset during the Obama years.

On March 26, 2012 President Obama was caught on a hot mike telling then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility." President Medvedev replied, "I understand. I transmit this (inaudible) to Vladimir." President Obama went on to win re-election.

By 2014 Vladimir Putin responded to President Obama's promise of "flexibility" by militarily taking part of Ukraine, backing Assad in Syria, and floating the idea of opening Russian military bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Everyone knows about Cuba, but not so many know about the Russian presence in Nicaragua.

Despite normal relations and high level outreach early in the Obama Administration the Ortega regime pursued closer relations with Russia and China. In April 2016 Nicaragua purchased 50 Russian battle tanks at a cost of $80 million. Vladimir Putin signed a new security agreement with Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega in 2016.

Ana Quintana is right when she says that their needs to be a refocus on what Russia is doing in Venezuela, but policy makers should also look at they are doing in Cuba and Nicaragua too.

Nicolas Maduro and Vladimir Putin: Alliance of Repression


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Shadow Human Rights Summit: A Voice for the Voiceless

Speaking truth to power. In 2010 I opened the 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy addressing human rights challenges around the world and the words on Venezuela are all to prescient. Sadly, things have not gotten better, but the victims of repression refuse to be silenced.

UN Watch's Shadow Rights Summit to Turn Tables on Tyrants

Human rights heroes to spotlight China, Cuba, Turkey, Venezuela, Burundi, Vietnam, after UNHRC session turned blind eye. Watch it live on March 26, 2019 in the live stream video below.

GENEVA, March 24, 2019 — Dissidents and political prisoners' families from around the globe have gathered in Geneva for a summit that opens to the public on Tuesday, at the Palexpo conference center, aimed at giving a voice to victims of the world’s worst human rights abuses. The event is organized by an international coalition of 25 human rights NGOs, led by UN Watch.
Human rights defenders gather in Switzerland for the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
 The 11th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy opens on the heels of the UN Human Rights Council's main 2019 session, which wrapped up on Friday without adopting resolutions on most of the countries represented by the activists, including China, Cuba, Turkey, Venezuela, Burundi and Vietnam.

The summit organizers say they will focus on issues the UN session—under pressure by its powerful members—omitted from its agenda.

Former political prisoners from China, Tibet, Turkey, Vietnam will join the family members of existing political prisoners in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries that will be announced only at the session.
The teenage children of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who live in Canada, will speak for the first time.
Richard Ratcliffe, whose British-Iranian wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has been detained in Tehran for three years on trumped-up spying charges, will speak publicly for the first time since UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that he was granting her diplomatic protection—a highly rare move that elevated Nazanin’s case from a consular matter to a formal legal dispute between Britain and the one in which she remains prisoner.
In separate ceremonies on Tuesday, the summit will give its 2019 Courage Award to Tibetan filmmaker and former political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen,  and its 2019 International Women's Rights Award to Nimco Ali, a Somali-born campaigner against female genital mutilation.
Diego Arria, one of the leading Venezuelan opponents to the Maduro regime and the former president of the UN Security Council, will be one of the keynote speakers, along with Michael Levitt, chair of the Canadian Parliament's foreign affairs committee. See list of presenters here.
With numerous diplomats attending, the acclaimed annual conference is timed to take place in Geneva days after the UN Human Rights Council ended its main annual session, to ensure the world does not forget critical human rights situations.
"The annual Geneva Summit, founded in 2009, has become a focal point for dissidents worldwide," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch, which for the 11th year in a row will be organizing the annual event as part of a cross-regional coalition of 25 other human rights groups.
The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet front-line human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.
"The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will aim to stir the conscience of the U.N. to address critical human rights situations around the world," said Neuer.
Subjects on the program this year include political prisoners, discrimination against women, jailing of journalists, prison camps, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.
Videos of past speaker testimonies are available here.
Admission to this year’s main session on March 26, 2019 is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory.
For accreditation, program and schedule information, click here.
The main event on Tuesday, starting at 9:30 am Geneva time, will be live webcast at

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Judge Afiuni sentenced to five years in prison nearly 10 years after show trial that demonstrated the rule of law had died in Venezuela.

Judge Afiuni is innocent and was imprisoned for following the law and not the whims of a dictator.

Judge Afiuni jailed for exercising her judicial independence and respecting the rule of law.
Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was imprisoned on December 10, 2009 for doing her job. She observed the rule of law and followed both the laws of Venezuela and international law. This is why Hugo Chavez slandered, imprisoned and tortured her. Despite the horrors visited upon her she refused to be silent and continued to speak for human rights and the rule of law. This is why today in a mockery of justice she was condemned by a "judge" following the orders of Nicolas Maduro and his Cuban handlers to five years in prison.

It is important to remember what happened nearly a decade ago, and how this criminal regime attacked, imprisoned and terrorized this good and courageous judge.

Judge María Lourdes Afiuni ruled that a near three year pretrial detention of Eligio Cedeño, a banker accused of corruption, ran afoul of the two year limit prescribed in Venezuelan law and authorized his conditional liberty on December 10, 2009.  The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions had already declared Cedeño's detention arbitrary. 

The judge was detained the same day, ironically on human rights day, and jailed.

The next day President Hugo Chávez in an appearance before government officials, broadcast on national television and radio, he called Judge Afiuni a "bandit"who should be imprisoned for thirty years, "even if new legislation was required to achieve that result." He instructed the Attorney General and the President of the Supreme Court to punish Judge Afiuni as severely as possible to prevent similar actions by other judges.

Days later Chávez reaffirmed that Judge Afiuni was "correctly jailed" and advocated that she be sentenced to 35 years in prison. 

On December 16, 2009 decrying what they termed “a blow by President Hugo Chávez to the independence of judges and lawyers in the country,” three independent United Nations human rights experts "called for the immediate release of a Venezuelan judge arrested after ordering the conditional release of a prisoner held for almost three years without trial." The experts warned that “[r]eprisals for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed functions and creating a climate of fear among the judiciary and lawyers’ profession serve no purpose except to undermine the rule of law and obstruct justice.”   The UN experts also said that the "immediate and unconditional release of Judge Afiuni is imperative.” 

This did not happen. The Chavez regime doubled down and subjected her to a political show trial.

Judge María Lourdes Afiuni imprisoned 2009 - 2013
Judge Afiuni was charged by prosecutors in January of 2010 with "corruption, abuse of authority, and “favoring evasion of justice.” Prosecutors provided no credible evidence to substantiate the charges." She was held for over a year in prison during which "Judge Afiuni was raped and suffered physical and psychological violence, including death threats from other inmates." She was then transferred to house arrest.  

In 2011 Noam Chomsky, a Chavez ally, lobbied for the Judge's release and criticized Hugo Chavez for having her arrested, but to no avail.

In a 2011 interview with The Guardian Judge Afiuni spoke plainly:  "There is no judicial independence. I'm here as the president's prisoner. I'm an example to other judges of what happens if you step out of line."  She was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and in February 2011, following cancer surgery, placed under house arrest.

Hugo Chavez died of cancer on March 5, 2013 and Judge Afiuni was released from house arrest on June 14, 2013. Foreign Policy, in a 2013 article, described the conditions set forth for her release from house arrest. 
"Even though she has never been tried or convicted for any offense, and in spite of the prosecutor’s lack of any evidence against her, she will have to appear in court every fifteen days. She is also banned from traveling abroad or speaking to the media."
Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was called to attend a sentencing hearing on March 20, 2019 and is still being harassed and threatened by the Maduro regime. This afternoon she was informed by her attorney that she had been sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Nearly a decade later it can be said that December 10, 2009 was the day the rule of law died in Venezuela. Since then judges and legal professionals know what the consequences are of exercising their constitutionally guaranteed functions and respecting the rule of law: being publicly slandered, imprisoned, and subjected to torture.
The Venezuelan Attorney General who slandered Judge Afiuni's good name and took part in her persecution fled into exile and denounced the Maduro regime in 2017.  A Venezuelan supreme court justice defected in January of 2019. They know what are the consequences of exercising independence of thought, much less action.

Please share the hashtags: #AfuiniIsInnocent and #AfiuniEsInocente over social media. Visibility and attention can offer her some protection from this cruel regime.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Political Prisoners in Nicaragua: the revolving door

Cuban style regime tactics in Nicaragua

Nicaraguan youth protesting for release of political prisoners
 On March 15, 2019 the Ortega regime said that it had "freed" 50 opposition leaders from prison and placed them under house arrest. The failure to release all political prisoners in Nicaragua had led to the dialogue between the government and the opposition becoming stalled.

Peaceful opposition march for the release of political prisoners was violently broken up by the government on Saturday.

Peaceful protester being taken away by security forces.
Euronews reported today that more than fifty anti-government protesters were arrested on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The protesters were demanding the release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua.
However Ryota Jonen of the World Movement for Democracy reported over twitter last night that the number was more than 80.

Euronews also reported that "[s]ince November, police have enforced a ban on streets protests that first erupted in April 2018 when the government of President Daniel Ortega moved to reduce welfare benefits. They've since escalated into a broader opposition movement."

Fifty released from prison to house arrest while another eighty or more are jailed for demanding the release of what was estimated to be 288 political prisoners in Nicaragua.

This is not progress on human rights in Nicaragua, but a revolving door with an increasing number of political prisoners.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

SOS Venezuela Worldwide Protest: Report from the streets of Washington, DC

In solidarity with free Venezuelans.

Free Venezuelans gather in front of the White House on Saturday, March 16, 2019
This morning in Washington, DC joined with Free Venezuelans in a protest next to the White House in support of Juan Guaidó, the interim president of Venezuela, and to explain the current situation in the country. Speakers called for three steps to normalization: 1) end Maduro's usurpation of the country, 2) a transition government, and 3) free and fair elections.

Free Venezuelans and their allies face off with pro-Maduro protest.
I carried a poster with the images Geraldine Moreno and Génesis Carmona, two Venezuelan martyrs killed in February 2014. They were murdered by Maduro's security forces, trained by Castro's intelligence services.

Génesis Carmona, a local beauty queen, was just 22 years old and nonviolently expressing her desire for a better Venezuela when she was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 and died a day later.

Geraldine Moreno was shot in the head with buckshot on February 19, 2014 in Tazajal, located in Naguanagua, in the state of Carabobo while taking part in a protest and in one of her last tweets on February 17th explained what motivated her to take part in the demonstrations: "No one sends me I go because I want to defend my Venezuela." She died from her injuries on Saturday, February 22, 2014. She was 23 years old.

Sadly, there have been many other young Venezuelans murdered at the hands of Maduro's security services and it is still happening.

We also peacefully faced off with supporters of the Maduro dictatorship, who had been organized by the Answer Coalition, that included violent communist revolutionaries.

During the pro-Maduro demonstration U.S.Hands Off Venezuela, a Chavista from the Answer Coalition attacked a Venezuelan who was filming in the area.  Some Venezuelan activists were surprised by the violence. They shoudn't have been. One of the organizing groups of the pro-Maduro protest is the Workers World Party (WWP), a revolutionary Marxist–Leninist political party that by definition believes in violent proletarian revolution.

Despite repeated provocations we maintained our non-violent discipline, and carried out the objectives of the protest.

We protested for a free Venezuela, supported President Juan Guaidó, called for Cuba Hands Off Venezuela, for humanitarian aide to be allowed in, and for Maduro and his criminal lackeys to be out of power.

Free Venezuelans face off with Pro-Maduro protersters

Venezuelan protesters made it clear that the goal of the democratic opposition is the completion of a democratic transition with free and fair elections that restores the rule of law and freedom for Venezuelan citizens.This means that millions of Venezuelan exiles will be able to return home, and all political prisoners will be freed.

Venezuelan activists also called on those who wanted to know more about what is transpiring in Venezuela to ask a Venezuelan.

Organizers also explained that the humanitarian crisis in the country remains grave, and the refusal of the Maduro regime to allow humanitarian assistance into Venezuela is aggravating already existing famine conditions in the Venezuelan populace.

Another important theme repeatedly heard throughout the day was "Cuba Hands Off Venezuela!"

This SOS Venezuela protest in Washington DC was but one of many that took place around the world today in more than 200 cities and in Venezuela itself with hundreds of thousands participating.

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Reflection on Terrorism and Evil: Mosques attacked by terrorist in New Zealand

"Evil is an anti-life force and if we start going out to kill it, exterminate it we then become contaminated by it because we become killers." - M. Scott Peck , The Open Mind, PBS 1983

Christchurch shootings: 49 are dead, 39 injured
Places of worship have been targeted by terrorists in recent years: a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; churches in Alexandria, Egypt and  Charleston, South Carolina, and today mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. People gunned down while engaged in prayer.

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)."

What took place in New Zealand was an act of terrorism carried out by Brenton Tarrant, a self described terrorist. He was inspired by the evil done by other mass murderers, and embraced an ideology that viewed the other as evil. This was also the case with those who targeted other places of worship mentioned earlier.

These were evil acts and worthy of both condemnation and deeper reflection.

Christian apologist C.S. Lewis in his 1952 book Mere Christianity made the following observation: “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. ...“For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” One could add that it would also apply to those who have replaced a religious life with a secular/ideological substitute.

American psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck, who wrote People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil, interviewed in this 1983 video about the book on PBS in the program The Open Mind observed that: "Evil is an anti-life force and if we start going out to kill it, exterminate it we then become contaminated by it because we become killers."

According to Peck, an evil person:
  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets, scapegoating others while appearing normal with everyone else ("their insensitivity toward him was selective") [10]
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
  • Abuses political (emotional) power ("the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion") [11]
  • Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury
Evil people exist, but the question is how to combat them without becoming an evil person in the process? All too often those consumed by the evil done by other terrorists and mass-murderers can be led to commit such acts themselves and as M. Scott Peck would say cross the line and slide into evil.

There is a way to fight evil and that is to be able to spot it in yourself and struggle against it to be a better person and externally use nonviolence to combat it. Mohandas Gandhi issued a challenge when he said that "Nonviolence does not signify that man must not fight against the enemy, and by enemy is meant the evil which men do, not the human beings themselves." 

The aim is not to destroy the evil doer, but stop them from doing evil, while seeking where possible not to do them harm by recognizing their humanity. I say this today about Brenton Tarrant as I did about  Omar Saddiqui Mateen in 2016. 

Requiescat in pace to those murdered today in the Mosque attacks.

إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Truth Matters: Meet the Castro regime's architect who built the totalitarian cage to house Venezuela

"Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela." - U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, March 11, 2019

Cuban Comandant Ramiro Valdes and President Hugo Chavez
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo  on March 11, 2019 addressed the role played by agents of the Castro regime in Venezuela:
"Yet it’s Cuba that’s trained Venezuelans’ secret police and torture tactics, domestic spying techniques, and mechanisms of repression the Cuban authorities have wielded against their own people for decades. Members of the Cuban military and intelligence services are deeply entrenched in the Venezuelan state. Cuban security forces have displaced Venezuelan security forces in a clear violation of Venezuelan sovereignty. I even hear that Maduro has no Venezuelans around him. Many of his personal security and closest advisors are acting not at the direction of the Venezuelan people, and frankly, perhaps not even at the direction of Maduro, but rather at the direction of the Cuban regime. They provide physical protection and other critical material and political support to Maduro and to those around him. So when there’s no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering. When there’s no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba. When there’s no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords"
This led to official denials and complaints by officials of the Castro regime. Bruno Rodríguez, the Castro regime's Foreign Minister rejected and denounced Secretary Pompeo's assessment of the role played by the Castro regime in Venezuela over twitter.
 "Cuba categorically rejects lies by US government that Cuba has "between 20 and 25 thousand troops in Venezuela" and any insinuation that there is some level of political subordination." ... "Cuba doesn't interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs just as Veneszuela doesn't interfere in Cuba’s. It is absolutely not true that Cuba is engaged in FANB (the Venezuelan armed forces) or Venezuela Security Services operations. These are slanderous rumors disseminated by US government with aggressive political purposes."
On March 8, 2010 in Geneva, Switzerland giving the opening address at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy discussed the deteriorating human rights situation around the world and focused on what was then happening in Venezuela.

"In Venezuela, the government response to those Venezuelan citizens protesting against the Chavez regime shutting down independent media outlets is to denounce those using twitter and text message as terrorists; police firing tear gas at students and a call for government supporters to prepare for battle.

In the midst of all this President Hugo Chavez continues to demonize the opposition and welcomes into his ranks a high ranking Cuban official: Commander Ramiro Valdes, "a historic leader of the revolution" to address the energy crisis in Venezuela currently suffering power outages.

Valdes is the Vice President of the Council of State and Minister of Communications in the Cuban government. He doesn’t know much about electricity but knows how to set up the repressive apparatus of a totalitarian police state which is what he did in Cuba.

Ironically, the man Hugo Chavez does not want to visit Venezuela with much experience in electricity is Lech Walesa who he has barred from entering the country.

In addition to being an electrician Lech Walesa knows a thing or two about defending human rights and democracy. A skills set that Mr. Chavez views as a threat.

At the same time a Spanish court offers an insight into terrorism in Venezuela but twitter/text messages sent by students are not the object of the inquiry but Mr. Chavez’s ties with terrorist groups ETA and the Colombian FARC and apparent plans to assassinate the Colombian head of state."
Nine years later and the Geneva Summit for Human Rights is still gathering annually, Hugo Chavez is dead, replaced by Nicolas Maduro and the Castro regime continues to dominate Venezuela.  This leads to an obvious question.
Nicolas Maduro and electricity expert Ramiro Valdes
Who is Ramiro Valdes and what was he really doing in Venezuela?

Commander Ramiro Valdes is "a historic leader of the revolution." He is the founder of the Castro regime's feared Ministry of the Interior and was the head of the organization between 1961 and 1968. Ramiro Valdes is an architect of Cuban totalitarianism's repressive apparatus of control.

He went to Venezuela in 2010 supposedly to address the then already existing electricity crisis . In February of 2010  Ramiro Valdes, then age 77, was hired "as a consultant for that country's energy crisis" but his expertise is not in energy. He is viewed by some Cuba experts as "the No. 3 man in the Cuban hierarchy."

Valdes in 2010 was the Vice President of the Council of State and Minister of Communications in the Cuban government. His role in Communications was figuring out in 2007 a way to muzzle the internet, what he called a "wild colt of new technologies." Afro-Cuban scholar Carlos Moore offered the following observation on Commander Valdes in 1961 and in 2010:
Ramiro Valdes was an inflexible, totalitarian and brutal person. He was the most feared man in Cuba. The repressive policies of the regime were crafted by him. Valdes struck fear into the hearts of Cubans (even revolutionary ones). Today, he apparently continues to be the same dogmatic, sectarian and brutal person he was at the height of his power, but he is no longer the powerful figure that he used to be.
In 2013, Juan Juan Almeida, the son of another commander of the revolution, listed some of his nick names:  "The Master of Censorship; The Prince of Terror; The Cuban Dzerzhinsky; … and in his native district he is known as the Butcher of Artemis."

Despite the claims made by the Castro regime's Foreign Minister, the communist regime beginning in 1959 spent years trying to violently overthrow Venezuela's social democracy, and finally succeeded with Hugo Chavez.

Fidel Castro greets Hugo Chavez in Cuba on December 13, 1994
In 1992 Hugo Chavez was involved in a failed coup against the Andres Perez government. Pardoned by Andres Perez's successor, Rafael Caldera, in March 1994 Hugo Chavez made his way to Cuba later that same year where he was received by Fidel Castro as a hero not a failed coup plotter.

Four years later, in a reaction to generalized disgust with the corruption endemic to the Venezuelan democratic order epitomized by the Carlos Andres Perez administration the former coup plotter was elected president.

President Caldera, who had pardoned Chavez, handed power over to him in 1999. Together with Fidel Castro, as a mentor, Chavez began the process of turning a flawed democratic order into the totalitarian regime it is today.

In 2007 Chávez had declared that Cuba and Venezuela were a single nation. “Deep down,” he said, “we are one single government.”  

Ramiro Valdes was busy at work in Venezuela by 2010 to address the "electricity crisis". The crisis in Energy did not improve but the descent of Venezuela into totalitarianism did accelerate.

When Hugo Chavez died in 2013 the succession was planned in Havana.

Official channels announced that Hugo Chavez died on March 5, 2013 and that he would be succeeded by Nicolas Maduro, a hardcore communist, an individual who spent a lot of time in his early 20s in Cuba being trained by the Union of Young Communists and Pedro Miret, an official close to Fidel Castro.  

Nicolas Maduro and Raul Castro
In addition to domestic repressive forces there is a foreign presence heavily embedded in the Venezuelan military and intelligence services. The head of the opposition National Assembly of Venezuela on May 15, 2016 complained, over social media, of the presence of 60 Cuban officers. This included a Cuban general, who he identified by the last name Gregorich, who had a leadership role that included issuing orders to Venezuelan troops. Capitol Hill Cubans identified the Cuban General as Raul Acosta Gregorich. 

On July 19, 2017 the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro testified before US lawmakers that “[t]here are currently about 15,000 Cubans in Venezuela ... It’s like an occupation army from Cuba in Venezuela.” 

This is Cubazuela, a term that has been used by mainstream press publications such as The Wall Street Journal. The consequences for the people of Venezuela are now well known. Violence has escalated during the Chavez-Maduro era to levels never seen before. There is widespread hunger now in Venezuela. Civil liberties and the rule of law are rapidly disappearing, replaced by the Cuban model. 

(Left) Tons of aid blocked from Venezuelans. (Right) Tons of aid sent by Maduro to Cuba

Meanwhile, Maduro continues to ship oil and humanitarian assistance to Cuba while Venezuelans are in the midst of a famine.  On  February 4, 2018 Maduro shipped 100 tons of aid to Cuba while Venezuelan children are dying of hunger and on February 6, 2018 Maduro, once again, ordered humanitarian shipments of aid to be blocked from entering Venezuela.

Finally, the country has been plunged into darkness in a five day black out due to a collapsing power grid. Commandant Valdes's stay in Venezuela did not solve the energy crisis, but the police state is rounding up journalists to blame for the black out, there are at least 288 political prisoners, many Venezuelan protesters killed and Venezuelans are living in fear.

This is the Venezuelan regime that Ramiro Valdes helped to build and it looks remarkably similar to the dystopian regime he helped to create in Cuba.

Down with Cuban imperialism in Venezuela. Cubans go home!