Monday, September 30, 2019

Eduardo Cardet's unjust prison sentence ended today

"Today ends the unjust and arbitrary sanction imposed by the Cuban totalitarian regime." - Eduardo Cardet

He was allowed to go home back in May 2019, but he was still restricted due to the prison sentence.  Today was the last day. The Cardet family has suffered greatly over the last two years and ten months, but the activist courageously continues to speak out. It is also important to remember how many campaigned for his release over the years. It is even more important to remember that he was beaten up, stabbed, and jailed for nearly three years for exercising his right to think and speak freely.

Eduardo Cardet's unjust prison sentence ended today.
Source: MCL
"Today ends the unjust and arbitrary sanction imposed by the Cuban totalitarian regime. I was the victim of a premeditated imprisonment for exercising my right to think and speak freely.

Freedom for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

Freedom and Life. "

Eduardo Cardet Concepción.
National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement

"Hoy finaliza la injusta y arbitraria condena que me impuso el régimen cubano. " - Eduardo Cardet. Coordinador Nacional MCL
La injusta sentencia de prisión de Eduardo Cardet terminó hoy.

Fuente: MCL

"En el día de hoy finaliza la injusta y arbitraria sanción que me impusiera el régimen totalitario cubano. Fui víctima de un encarcelamiento premeditado por ejercer mi derecho a pensar y hablar libremente.

Libertad para los presos políticos y de conciencia.

Libertad y Vida."

Eduardo Cardet Concepción.
Coordinador Nacional del Movimiento Cristiano Liberación

Saturday, September 28, 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

On May 11, 2019 the political police in Cuba beat down and arrested Cuban gay rights activists who carried out an independent gay pride march in Havana. Today, Saturday, September 28, 2019 a restored version of Néstor Almendros (1930-1992) and Orlando Jiménez Leal's film Improper Conduct (Conducta Impropia) was shown at 2:30pm at the Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street. The screening was followed by a lively Q&A with the director of the film, Orlando Jiménez Leal.  

Exterior of the New York Public Library where the film was screened today.
Caribbean Connections in partnership with the Cuban Cultural Center of New York cohosted the film retrospective. CARIBBEAN CONNECTIONS is a program, of the New York Public Library, "celebrating the history and culture of people of Caribbean descent, exploring their contributions in the performing and visual arts, literature, politics, and more." The Cuban Cultural Center of New York was founded in 1972 with the objectives "to rescue, preserve and promote Cuban and Cuban-American culture in a framework of freedom without any type of censorship and also to foster new developments in the arts with Cuban, Cuban American artists or other artists who are interested in Cuban culture."
Perla Rozencvaig, (CCC NY), Orlando Jiménez Leal, Librarian Alison Quammie
April 11th marked the 35th anniversary of the release of Improper Conduct, the film that exposed communist intolerance to gays and lesbians in Cuba. Reinaldo Arenas, Heberto Padilla, Caracol, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Susan Sontag, Armando Valladares, Ana Maria Simo, Juan Goytisolo, Carlos Franqui, Martha Frayde, and René Ariza are among the well known figures 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." 
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."

Néstor Almendros (L), Orlando Jiménez Leal (ctr) & Michel Pion work on ‘Improper Conduct’.  El Nuevo Herald.
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.

Over 70 persons attended the 35th anniversary screening of Improper Conduct.
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. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

UNHRC condemns Maduro regime, fact finding mission called for Venezuela, but wider context needed

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.” - Elie Wiesel

UN Human Rights Council in Geneva condemns Maduro regime.
CubaBrief, September 28, 2019

Good news today from Geneva. The UN Human Rights Council by a vote of 19 in favor, 7 against, and 21 abstentions earlier this afternoon passed a resolution that strongly condemned human rights violations in Venezuela and called for the creation of a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations and crimes against humanity that are taking place in Venezuela. Non-governmental organizations had spent years advocating for these measures.

Amnesty calls for looking at Venezuela in a wider context. 
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International welcomed the passage of the resolution. Ms. Guevara-Rosas also urged that "the UN Fact-Finding mission will need to address the wider context in which the policy of state repression takes place."

However both the UN Human Rights Council resolution and the Amnesty International statement fail to mention the negative role Cuban authorities are playing in Venezuela, and this must be taken into account when addressing the "wider context" of what is taking place in Caracas, and in the wider region.

Angus Berwick in the August 22, 2019 Reuters, "Special Report: How Cuba taught Venezuela to quash military dissent" reported that Havana and Caracas signed two agreements in May 2008, that gave Cuba’s armed forces and intelligence services wide latitude in the South American country to:
  • Train soldiers in Venezuela 
  • Review and restructure parts of the Venezuelan military 
  • Train Venezuelan intelligence agents in Havana 
  • And change the intelligence service’s mission from spying on foreign rivals to surveilling the country’s own soldiers, officers, and even senior commanders.
Havana Times reported on December 8, 2018 that the Organization of American States Secretary General, Luis Almagro, "assured that there has been a 'Cuban presence' in tortures committed in Venezuela. 'It is estimated that the Cuban presence in Venezuela is 46,000 people, an occupation force that teaches to torture, to repress, to do intelligence tasks, civil documentation, migration.'"

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro says Cubans in Venezuela are an occupation force.
One cannot analyze the "wider context" in Venezuela without taking the disproportionate and negative role of Havana into account. It is also important to take into consideration the practices of the Castro regime in Cuba with respect to human rights because those practices are being implemented in Venezuela.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists in their 2019 report, Cuba is the tenth most censored country in the world. Over the past sixty years the Castro dictatorship has had hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, and there are still prisoners of conscience in Cuba today. In six decades of absolute rule the communist regime only permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Cuban prisons over the course of a few months in 1988-1989. There have been no visits in the past thirty years.

The human rights crisis in Venezuela today is the result of the international community's tolerance,  of the Castro dictatorship, the grave human rights situation in Cuba, and the delusion that Havana can play a constructive role in resolving the crisis. Havana is not part of the solution in Venezuela, but has been deeply involved in creating the human rights crisis there. The international community should call for Cuban troops and spies to leave Venezuela as a positive step to resolving the situation.

Below is the debate over the resolution on Venezuela that was held at the UN Human Rights Council earlier today.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

#FreeChina #FreeHongKong: Join Global Anti-Totalitarianism Rallies around the world on September 29th

The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits 'atrocities' but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future. - George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune (4 February 1944)

Twenty NGOs are planning a human chain rally around the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Sep 29th, to protest against the 70 years of the #CHINAZI regime, and also to support a #FreeHongKong. This is one of a series of Global Anti-Totalitarianism Rallies being held around the world on September 29, 2019 at 2:30pm.
Human Chain Rally at the Chinese Embassy
When: Sunday, September 29, 2019
Rally: 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: The Chinese Embassy
3505 International Place NW
Washington, DC 20008
The communist regime in China wants to celebrate 70 years in power on October 1, 1949.  However on September 29, 2019 around the world free Chinese and friends of a free China will gather to protest this brutal regime that costs tens of millions of lives in Mainland China and today poses a threat to the free world.

Like their Soviet comrades the Chinese communists have attempted to rewrite their shameful role in World War II in the fight against Imperial Japan that was led and won by the Nationalists.

People of goodwill will not forget that 30 years ago on June 4, 1989 this regime murdered thousands of Chinese who wanted to be free. 

We will also not forget the other horrors carried out by Mao Ze Dong in the first decades of the communist revolution in China.

We are in solidarity with a #FreeChina and join the #929GlobalAntiTotalitarianism effort.

The International Campaign for Tibet has the following statement surrounding the event that places it into context:

Since the launch of the Anti-Extradition Legislation Protests in Hong Kong on June 9, the people of Hong Kong have waged a three-month struggle for freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Their courage, endurance and wisdom have earned the world’s admiration. However, the struggle is still ongoing.
#HongKongProtests have created #Chinnazi, a wordplay hashtag of “China” and “Nazism,” which is trending on Twitter across the globe. The protesters have also displayed a flag, which they designed by re-arranging the red stars in the CCP’s national flag to form Nazi swastika, naming it the “Red Nazi (Chinazi) Flag,” symbolizing that the totalitarian state under the CCP is the “Nazism of the 21st century” and “fascism with Chinese characteristics.”

On October 1, 2019, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will hold an unprecedented grand military parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the party state, and to show off its military muscle to the world.
This CCP National Day is also a critical time for Hong Kong’s protesters, because they could face unprecedented suppression. Human rights organizations in Washington DC plan to jointly hold a human chain rally to encircle the Chinese Embassy to protest against 70 years of #Chinazi rule in China and support a free Hong Kong.
We will display and stamp on the #Chinazi red flag during the rally. We call for all ethnic and religious groups, human rights activists and any other people who oppose the CCP’s Red Nazi Empire, support Hong Kong’s freedom, and support the Chinese people by ending the one-party dictatorship and achieving constitutional democracy, to join us in this rally, with your own homemade #Chinazi flags, banners and placards.

We also urge our friends who love freedom and democracy from all over the world, especially those who live in cities that have Chinese embassies and consulates, to hold similar human chain rallies to protest against #Chinazi’s 70 year rule in China, and support free Hong Kong during #Chinazi’s national day.

Let us roar for justice!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

BBC reports Thomas Cook holidaymakers and crew 'trapped' in Cuba

Tourists trapped in Cuba. Prevented from leaving hotel by security guards.

Text messages say Cuba is the "worst place to be stranded" and ask for help.
 Thomas Cook, a 178-year-old British travel company and airline, declared bankruptcy on September 23, 2019, suspending operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded worldwide. It also exposes how tourist industries in different countries respond to this mess.

Cuba has proven to not be a normal country, and their hospitality industry has more in common with a military command style then with the service industry.  BBC News reported today in the article "Thomas Cook holidaymakers and crew 'trapped' in Cuba" reported how the Cuba tourist industry operates in a military like fashion:
"There are security guards at the hotel the crew are at to prevent them from leaving. They haven't even been guaranteed rooms for tonight, so it could be a case of sleeping on the reception floor," a colleague of the staff affected told the BBC. She urged action to get the staff home, saying 'they've already been through more than enough'. Another holidaymaker, Shaun Woods, said his flight was due to depart on Wednesday, but the hotel said it would not let them get on the bus to the airport until they paid."
Tourists have consistently been warned of the dangers of traveling to Cuba, and the failure of the travel industry to accurately inform their clients. Travel agencies have been sued by their clients for misrepresenting conditions in Cuba. 

Tourism in Cuba is run by the Cuban military conglomerate GAESA. On September 9, 2016 the Associated Press in the article “Cuban military expands its economic empire under détente” reported:
“The military’s long-standing business wing, GAESA (Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group), assumed a higher profile after Gen. Raul Castro became president in 2008, positioning the armed forces as perhaps the prime beneficiary of a post-detente boom in tourism. Gaviota, the military’s tourism arm, (a subsidiary of GAESA) is in the midst of a hotel building spree that outpaces projects under control of nominally civilian agencies like the Ministry of Tourism.” The same article also reported that “Gaviota has 62 hotels with 26,752 rooms across Cuba, pulling in some $700 million a year from more than 40 percent of the tourists who visit Cuba.”
The military general in charge of GAESA is Luis Alberto Rodriguez, is General Raul Castro’s son in law.  Obtaining hard currency for the dictatorship is GAESA's chief objective.  This includes covering up epidemics to ensure that tourists continue visiting the island.

On January 8, 2019 New Scientist reported, "Cuba failed to report thousands of Zika virus cases in 2017." Havana also failed to report outbreaks of Dengue (1997) and Cholera (2012). Jailing those who warned the world of the threat. 

In the case of Spain that translated into 42 imported cases of the Zika virus in travelers to Cuba.     While travelers had visited other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, "the Zika cases were only identified in those who visited Cuba."

It is important to inform prospective tourists both on the risks and also on how to engage in purposeful travel to Cuba. This includes how to avoid becoming a mouthpiece for the dictatorship. The bottom line is that Cuba has a lot more in common with North Korea than with Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, and tourists should take that into account.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Remembering the 75th Anniversary of the Great Refugee Flight of 1944

"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." - Milan Kundera

Tens of thousands of Estonians fled the approaching Red Army in 1944.
Yesterday afternoon, on the 80th anniversary of the joint Communist-Nazi parade in Brest, also coincided with the observance of the 75th Anniversary of the Great Refugee Flight of 1944 at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, DC.
Estonians gathered to tell their stories of seeking refuge as the Soviet Red Army returned to impose their tyrannical rule until real liberation was achieved finally in 1991.
In 1944 80,000 people fled from Estonia in fear of the advancing Red Army, the terror of the first Soviet occupation was still fresh. Many who left then never saw their homeland again.

Friends of freedom need to listen, remember and share these stories to combat the lies of communist propaganda.

Cuban dissident leader, prisoner of conscience in Cuba denounces EU support for Castro regime

"The agreements and declarations resulting from the visit to the Cuban regime of the high representative of the European Union for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, are not consistent with the democratic principles of the countries it represents." - Eduardo Cardet Concepción, September 10, 2019

Eduardo Cardet Concepción is a courageous man. He is the Christian Liberation Movement's national coordinator, a medical doctor, a family man, and a prisoner of conscience.  He has been on "conditional release" since May 4, 2019. He was unjustly imprisoned on November 30, 2016 after being beaten up in front of his wife and children by the political police. Subjected to a show trial, stabbed by inmates, and denied proper medical care over the two years, five months and four days of his arbitrary imprisonment.

Despite this he continues to speak out and is calling the European Union to account for their support of the totalitarian regime in Cuba.

This is not the first time he has spoken out on this matter. Two months prior to his arrest in 2016, Eduardo Cardet tweeted on September 19, 2016, "I regret that the EU does not require Cuba to stop being a totalitarian regime." 

According to Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy,  “the EU is Cuba’s top commercial partner and investor, and we have tripled cooperation in the last two years.”  The European Union claims to be the top trading partner with Cuba, supplanting Venezuela.

Below is Eduardo Cardet's September 19, 2019 statement translated to English, and the Spanish original text below it.

Mogherini's visit: A business visit to a totalitarian regime.

The agreements and declarations resulting from the visit to the Cuban regime of the high representative of the European Union for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, are not consistent with the democratic principles of the countries it represents.

The support for the Cuban totalitarian regime only demonstrates the interest of the European Union in obtaining guarantees for doing business and that are very advantageous to them, to the detriment of the legitimate interests and needs of the Cuban people.

It is the blockade of freedoms that truly prevents the progress of our country, because as Oswaldo Payá said, "Cubans have the right to their rights."

Eduardo Cardet Concepción 

 La visita de Mogherini: Una visita de negocios a un régimen totalitario. 

Por Eduardo Cardet

Los acuerdos y declaraciones  resultantes de la visita al régimen cubano de la alta representante de la Unión Europea para la política exterior, Federica Mogherini, no son coherentes con los principios democráticos de los países que representa.

El apoyo al  régimen totalitario cubano solo  demuestra el interés de la Unión Europea en obtener garantías para hacer negocios y que  les sean muy ventajosos, en detrimento de los intereses y necesidades legítimas del pueblo cubano.

Es el bloqueo de las libertades  lo que verdaderamente impide el progreso de nuestro país, pues como dijo Oswaldo Payá, “los cubanos tenemos derecho a los derechos”.

Eduardo Cardet Concepción 

Published, September 10, 2019


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Joint Soviet-Nazi military parade held 80 years ago today in Poland

"A radical change for the better in the relations between the Soviet Union and Germany found its expression in the non-aggression pact signed last August. These new, good relations between the USSR and Germany have been tested in practice in connection with events in former Poland, and their strength has been sufficiently proved." - Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet Foreign Minister,  Speech Delivered on 1 August 1940

Soviet and Nazi soldiers fraternize after conquering Poland in 1939
Eighty years ago on September 22, 1939 a joint Nazi–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk was held to celebrate the successful invasion of Poland.

Soviet troops paid their respects as the Swastika flag was lowered, and Germans moved west to their agreed upon line of partition.  

German and Soviet soldiers salute lowering of the Nazi flag on September 22, 1939 in Poland
Russian chess master and human rights defender, Garry Kasparov, described the event and its significance.
"On September 22, 1939, conquering Soviet and German forces held a joint victory parade in the Polish city of Brest-Litovsk, before the German military withdrew back behind the line agreed by Molotov-Ribbentrop. Less than a year later, the Baltic states were next to be occupied and annexed by the USSR. People who wanted only independence were trapped between two evil superior forces trying to destroy and enslave them."
One day earlier on September 21, 1939 Soviet Commander Vladimir Yulianovich Borovitsky and Nazi General Heinz Guderian in Brest, Poland (now Brest, Belarus) work out the Nazi-Soviet boundary demarcation of occupied Poland.
Soviet Commander Yulianovich Borovitsky and German General Guderian in Brest, Poland
Six days earlier, in the early morning hours of September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the East. 

21 days earlier at 4:45am on September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west. This marked the start of World War II.

On August 23, 1939 the Hitler-Stalin Pact (formal name the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) was signed that publicly proclaimed a non-aggression treaty, but had secret protocols that divided up Central Europe and partitioned Poland.

This was not the first time Nazis and Communists would collaborate nor would it be the last.  This history calls for a deeper reflection on the two ideologies and their commonalities.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Six decades of prisoners of conscience in communist Cuba: Where is the outrage?

“Never allow the government – or anyone else – to tell you what you can or cannot believe or what you can and cannot say or what your conscience tells you to have to do or not do.” - Armando Valladares, former prisoner of conscience and Ambassador to the UNHRC

Huber Matos fought alongside Fidel Castro and spent 22 years jailed for his nonviolent dissent
Cuban prisoners of conscience have been a reality in Cuba since 1959. Some of them had participated in the struggle against Batista, and made Fidel Castro's rise to power possible.
Huber Matos, a school teacher, declared himself in opposition to Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952 the day that Cuban democracy came under attack. Following the extrajudicial killing of some of his former students he joined the armed struggle and ended up being one of the leaders of the revolutionary insurrection that drove Batista from power on New Year’s Eve 1958.
Less than a year later he would be on trial for his life. What was his crime? Warning Fidel Castro in several private letters, where he tendered his resignation only to have it refused, that communists were infiltrating the revolutionary government. In these letters he plainly stated:
"I did not want to become an obstacle to the revolution and I believe that if I am forced to choose between falling into line or withdrawing from the world so as not to do harm, the most honorable and revolutionary action is to leave."
Fidel Castro made the letters public generating the crisis and denouncing the charge that communists were infiltrating the government. He ordered Camilo Cienfuegos, another popular revolutionary leader, to go an arrest Matos. The Castro brothers began to prepare a show trial and the execution by firing squad of Huber Matos for treason.
The revolutionary tribunal was prepared. Fidel Castro spoke to Matos promising that if he confessed to everything that he would not face any prison time and could go home. Matos refused, and as the show trial began and they tried to shut him up - he refused. He went on to speak for more that three hours and concluded his testimony stating: 
"I consider myself neither a traitor nor a deserter. My conscience is clear. If the court should find me guilty, I shall accept its decision - even though I may be shot. I would consider it one more service for the revolution."  
Revolutionary officers that had been convened at the trial to chant "to the execution wall" instead moved by his testimony rose up and applauded Matos. Instead of the firing squad the revolutionary tribunal sentenced him to 22 years in prison in December 1959.
Huber Matos would serve every day of those 22 years suffering beatings and other tortures. 

Mario Chanes fought against Batista, was jailed with Castro, and later jailed by Castro 30 years
Mario Chanes de Armas, a labor organizer, survived the Moncada barracks attack on July 26, 1953 together with Fidel Castro. The two served time in prison together, trained in Mexico and returned to Cuba on the Granma yacht to defeat Batista.
Chanes could have had any position in the new regime, but opted to return to his brewery job. After two years of watching Castro betray their movement, Chanes spoke out against the communist influence in the revolutionary government. Chanes was tried as a counterrevolutionary and in 1961 imprisoned for 30 years.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have been and continue to be jailed in Castro's prisons for their political dissent.
Over the past sixty years the international community has become accustomed to the systemic injustices perpetrated by the Castro dictatorship. During these past six decades there have been prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Cuba. Between 1959 and 1988 no international organizations were allowed to visit prisons in Cuba. This included the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Independent human rights organizations in Cuba have not been legally recognized by the Castro regime. The Cuban Committee for Human Rights was formally established on January 28, 1976 but did not become fully active until 1983 because State Security arrested everyone shortly after it was founded.
Ricardo Bofill: human rights defender and prisoner of conscience
Seven years later, in October of 1983, in the Combinado del Este prison, several prisoners of conscience who had similar aspirations met. Paradoxically, what the regime did was to join together many of those who were already marching along similar paths, and the Cuban Committee for Human Rights eventually re-emerged where many political conspiracies usually end. In truth, there were only seven: Ricardo Bofill, Gustavo Arcos Bergnes (then incommunicado on the ground floor and with whom the others could only speak when they took them out to the prison yard), Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz (who was already in the Boniato prison, but kept in contact with the others through family members), the former director of Pabellón Cuba, Teodoro del Valle, the poet René Díaz Almeyda, the diplomat Edmigio López Castillo and Ariel Hidalgo.

In 1987 the documentary "Nobody Listened" captured the human rights reality in Cuba with interviews with former political prisoners, archival footage of firing squads and other instances of repression. Former prisoners described show trials, extajudicial executions, and cruel and unusual punishment that rose to the level of torture. This in an environment were the international community was not listening.
 However things were about to change on the international front.
The Cuban Committee for Human Rights was able to document human rights abuses and smuggle these reports out of the prisons and out of Cuba reaching the international community. It was their work combined with the diplomatic pressure of the Reagan Administration, and their Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, former prisoner of conscience, Dr. Armando Valladares that on March 8, 1988 the Cuban government was finally called to account for systematically denying access to Cuba's prisons. 

U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC Armando Valladares
On March 11, 1988 Havana invited the United Nations Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights in Cuba. Over the course of the next year not only the UN Human Rights Commission, but also the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were able to enter Cuba and document the human rights violations in the island.
This was the first and last time these organizations were allowed into Cuba to visit Castro's prisons. The lack of outrage turned into a permanent acceptance of injustice in Cuba.
Thirty years have passed since the last time the International Committee of the Red Cross was able to visit Cuban prisons. Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the U.S. Guantanamo detention facility over 100 times since 2001.
During the Cuban Black Spring in 2003 over a 100 activists were arrested and 75 of them were subjected to political show trials and condemned to prison terms ranging from 15 to 25 years in prison. A Czech film crew in Cuba filmed and interviewed activists before the crackdown and then interviewed their friends and family members after the show trials.

Out of this crackdown the wives, daughters, and sisters of these activists formed the Ladies in White and began organizing for their freedom. Regular marches, literary teas, and lobbying both the Cuban government and the international community. Some have been jailed, others beaten, and one of the founding leaders, Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, died under suspicious circumstances on October 14, 2011. There are still extrajudicial executions in Cuba by Castro's secret police. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero died in what appears to have been state security engineered killings on July 22, 2012.
There are still prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Prisoners of conscience have died in Castro's prisons while protesting mistreatment at the hands of Cuban officials. This has gone on for decades. Some of the high profile cases stretch out over a half century: student leader Pedro Luis Boitel (1972), Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010), and Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012) have been documented on this blog.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. issued a prophetic warning in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" when he observed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The international community has paid a price for its acceptance of these continuing injustices. Venezuela is now suffering a human rights crisis, product of a Cuban occupation and the imposition of these systemic injustices on a new and larger population.
The newest prisoner of conscience is independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones.  Below is an Amnesty International call to action for the latest Cuban prisoner of action and following it a photograph and description from 1988 in Life magazine describing conditions in the prisons. Six decades and ongoing of prisoners of conscience in Cuba, many of them human rights defenders jailed for their work, is an outrage that must be denounced more vigorously by the international community.
Amnesty International, September 12, 2019

On 11 September 2019,authorities arrested independent Cuban journalist Mr Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces in Cuba, after he was convicted of resistance and disobedience in August 2019.He is a prisoner of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Miguel Díaz Canel
President of the Republic of Cuba
Hidalgo, Esquina 6. Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, CP 10400 Cuba
Twitter: @DiazCanelBDear
President Díaz-Canel,

I write to you to condemn the imprisonment of Mr Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, a Cuban independent journalist at Cubanet, arrested on 11 September, after being convicted of resistance and disobedience and sentenced to one-year in prison in August2019.

Over decades, Amnesty International has documented how criminal code provisions such as “resistance” to public officials carrying out their duties and “disobedience” have been used to stifle the rights to freedom of expression in Cuba. This imprisonment is yet another example of a tired trend that has continued under your administration.

I therefore demand the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces. Pending his release, he should be allowed access to his family and not be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

Yours sincerely,

According to information available to Amnesty International, Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, a lawyer and independent journalist at the news website Cubanet, was arrested on 11 September 2019 in Cuba after being convicted in August 2019by the Municipal Court in the city of Guantanamo for resistance and disobedience.

According to the journalist, in April national police had detained and beaten him. As a result, he had made a formal complaint against them. On August 23, an appeal court upheld his conviction, without granting him a further oral hearing.

Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces also alleges that he was arbitrarily detained on previous occasions, as early as 2015. On 20 August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Office of the Special Rapporteur condemned the prison sentence against journalist Roberto Quiñones and expressed concern about the persistence of criminalization and harassment against communicators and human rights defenders in Cuba. The Office of the Special Rapporteur in a recent report on Cuba, found that state agents are the “main source of threats and attacks against the press” and called on this practice to be “dismantled and sanctioned.”

Amnesty International has found that the disproportionate and arbitrary use of the criminal law, and campaigns of state-sponsored discrimination against those who dare to speak out, coupled with discriminatory dismissals from state-employment, and the lack of an independent judiciary to challenge this, has created a profound climate of fear in Cuba.

In August, Amnesty International named five prisoners of conscience in Cuba, likely representing only a tiny fraction of those behind bars for peacefully expressing their views. Those five prisoners of conscience belong to political and pro-democracy groups not recognized by the state –all of whom have been imprisoned for crimes that are either inconsistent with international law or that have been used for decades in Cuba to silence critical voices.

The dominant official media remains heavily censored and limited in Cuba. While an increasing range of autonomous digital media projects have emerged in recent years, alternative online news sources operate within a legal limbo that exposes journalists and media workers to the risk of harassment and arbitrary detention. Moreover, their webpages are often blocked by the authorities in Cuba.

Cuba remains the only country in the Americas which Amnesty International is not permitted to enter for human rights monitoring work.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE UNTIL: 24 September 2019 NAME AND PREFERRED PRONOUN: Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces (He, his, him)

LIFE, April 1988
THE BIG PICTURE: The Next Move in Cuba
His bread and water left aside, an inmate in Boniato prison, 460 miles from Havana, prepares to push a hand-drawn chessboard across the hall to his opponent, likewise in solitary confinement. This is the first time photographs have been published of the notorious cell block. Political prisoners were held there until 1987, but after international pressure mounted, Fidel Castro's government moved them to a showcase high-security facility. Common criminals remained. At this month's meetings of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the United States is supporting a resolution recommending that outside observers be allowed to investigate reports of unduly harsh conditions in Cuba's jails. And amid rumors that some 350 inmates would be freed, largely as a public relations countermove, those in Boniato's six-and-a-half-by-four-foot isolation cells passed their time as best they could.