Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Castro regime in Cuba demonstrates the relationship between human rights and property rights

"Human rights are property rights." - Foundation for Economic Education
The decision by the Trump Administration to enforce Title III of the LIBERTAD Act, that became effective on May 2, 2019, is good news. This has meant a chance for justice in the courts for property owners who had everything stolen from them by the Castro dictatorship. This is a triumph for human rights, a challenge to the erosion of private property rights, and a right ordering of human rights standards.
Human rights have a conservative pedigree that stretches back to the Middle Ages and to the Catholic Church. The first time in human history that a universal concept of human rights were applied to all living beings on the planet emerged out of a debate concerning the Spanish conquest of the Americas that took place in 1550-51 and is known as the Valladolid debate.
It is important to remember that property rights are human rights. Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."
Universal human rights, and the rule of law, exist in order to protect those without power from the abuse of those who have it and exercise it with impunity. The importance of the protection of private property rights can be seen in the December 29, 2019 OpED by Mary O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal that provides a historical context that also looks at the present day in Cuba.
Thanks to the Trump administration, Americans whose property in Cuba was expropriated by the military dictatorship of Fidel Castro may finally have their day in court. New Year’s Day marks the 61st anniversary of the fall of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. A week later, on Jan. 8, 1959, Castro triumphantly entered Havana. Many Cubans had risked all to unseat Batista with the goal of restoring constitutional government. But Castro sought absolute power. He refused to hold elections and instead launched a purge. There were firing squads, dungeons and exile. Whole communities of peasants in central Cuba—where resistance to the tyranny was strongest—were displaced and sent to concentration camps on the western end of the island. To lock down power, Castro stripped citizens and foreigners alike of their property. State terrorism explains how the regime has survived.
What began to take place in Cuba in 1959 and over the next six decades, was also predicted on a theoretical basis that same year. The end of private property rights coincided with the systematic violation of all human rights, ending in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being considered a subversive document by the Castro regime. Murray Rothbard in his 1959 essay "Human Rights are Property Rights" explained how rights would disappear in a society that did not respect private property rights.
"The human right of every man to his own life implies the right to find and transform resources: to produce that which sustains and advances life. That product is a man’s property. That is why prop­erty rights are foremost among human rights and why any loss of one endangers the others.
For ex­ample, how can the human right of freedom of the press be pre­served if the government owns all the newsprint and has the power to decide who may use it and how much? The human right of a free press depends on the human right of private property in newsprint and in the other es­sentials for newspaper production. In short, there is no conflict of rights here because property rights are themselves human rights. What is more, human rights are also property rights!"
Time, and the courts, will tell but the enforcement of Title III of the LIBERTAD Act will empower and provide those who were expropriated with a chance at justice and the restoration of their private property rights. However, if it does work it will be a game changer in Cuba.
This may turn out to be the most important story about Cuba in 2019.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Hanukkah 2019 in Cuba: Educational authorities bar Jewish children from wearing yarmulkes at school.

Is the Castro regime antisemitic?
We are still in the midst of Hanukkah, and in Cuba today, Jewish children are being assaulted for displaying their Jewishness, and ordered by regime authorities to conceal their identity or be punished.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on December 23, 2019 reported that Liusdan Martínez Lescaille, a twelve year-old Jewish boy has been forbidden by Cuban educational authorities from entering his school while wearing a kippah ( also known as a yarmulke) since December 11, 2019 with the result that he has been prevented from continuing his education. His younger brother, Daniel Moises, has also been subjected to the ban and government authorities threatened to open legal proceedings against his parents, jailing them and taking their children away for "threatening the children’s normal development."
Cuban Jewish family targeted by the Castro regime for being Jewish.
CSW documented that Liusdan was regularly beaten up at school since the family moved to the Nuevitas municipality in 2016, and that the situation worsened in September 2019.
"According to his parents, Olainis Tejada Beltrán and Yeliney Lescaille Prebal, members of the Sephardic Bnei Anusim community, their son was singled out for ridicule soon after he started classes in September 2019 at the Latin America Urban Basic Secondary School in Nuevitas. Since then he has been subjected to four severe beatings instigated by a classmate who is the son of a military captain, along with other students. Despite multiple complaints by the parents to Martínez Lescaille’s teacher, who is head of the grade and the school director, no action was taken to protect the child.
After Tejada Beltrán publicly denounced the treatment of his son in the independent media, the Cuban educational authorities created a commission to review his son’s situation. However, during this period, he was pressured by school administrators on multiple occasions to retract his complaints. At one point there was an attempt by the school director to expel his son for supposed acts of violence, however, five teachers stepped in to defend Martínez Lescaille and the expulsion did not take place. On 11 December the commission announced its findings, holding a school guard responsible for failing to stop the attacks on Martínez Lescaille. However, rather than sanctioning the guard, a kippah ban was put in place instead. Tejada Beltrán has called for the ban to be revoked, pointing out that it effectively prohibits his son from entering the school grounds and that there are no other educational alternatives.
The Castro regime has a long history of anti-semitism. Seth J. Frantzman, a Jewish academic based in Jerusalem, following the death of Fidel Castro in November 2016 wrote an analysis of the tyrant's antisemitism.
"Most Jews fled Cuba when Castro came to power, dwindling from 15,000 to around 1,500 by 2014. One Castro entered the Soviet orbit the official anti-Zionist and anti-Israel line became common in Cuba, but most writers argue it did not flow over into anti-semitism. Only one anti-semitic incident, stone throwing at a synagogue during the 1973 war, was recorded in decades."
Religious repression was widespread in Cuba, beginning in the 1960s, and that also included Judaism. The 1973 attack on the synagogue coincided with Fidel Castro breaking diplomatic relations with Israel on September 10, 1973.
Seth J. Frantzman
The lack of reported anti-semitic incidents had more to do with the end of independent civil society, shuttering of the free press, and the outlawing of human rights groups under Castro. Frantzman exposes the duplicity of Fidel Castro, highlighting how he prevented the importation of kosher meat.
The reality is revealed in an interesting report was revealed regarding an episode in 1994 in which Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau attempted to get Castro to allow kosher meat into Cuba. An Israeli diplomat named Joel Barromi told Haaaretz writer Adi Schwartz in a 2006 interview surprising details.  The Cuban leader had initially rejected Lau’s request to bring in kosher meat. “I told you that I am fighting against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in my country…do you want to make my people anti-Semitic,” Castro asked. “We have the practice of allocating 150 grams of bread a day, but the Jews in Cuba would have meat? [The people] will have a horrible hatred for them, envy them tremendously and loot their homes if under such conditions you see to import kosher meat for the Jews, you yourself create the anti-Semitism that I have been stopping.” 
This is the example of supposedly stopping anti-semitism, to threaten Jews that if they should want to eat kosher meat that they would “create” anti-semitism. Castro was at first admitting that he had starved his country by putting it on bread rations, but surely Cubans eat some meat. So why would some meat for Jewish people “make” them anti-Semitic?  One wonders whether “envy” for Muslims eating Halal would create the same excuse for Islamophobia just because Muslims celebrate Eid by eating a sheep?  According to articles the same Cuba that feared meat would force people to be anti-semitic, was welcoming to Halal food.
Digging deeper one finds disturbing patterns in the actions carried out by the Castro regime over the past six decades.
Otto-Ernst Remer was a German Wehrmacht officer who played a major role in stopping the July 20 plot in 1944 against Adolf Hitler, and established a Neo-Nazi political party in post-war Germany, before fleeing to the Middle East where he served as an advisor to Arab nationalists. In the early 1960s Otto-Ernst Remer had contacts with and assisted Fidel Castro in Cuba with the purchase of weapons. Ernst-Remer along with Ernst Wilhelm Springer sold the Cuban dictator 4,000 pistols. Castro also contracted former Nazi SS officers to train Cuban troops. German foreign intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) reported: "Evidently, the Cuban revolutionary army did not fear contagion from personal links to Nazism, so long as it served its objectives." Until the end of his life Remer remained an unrepentant Nazi who engaged in holocaust denial.
The Castro regime aided, trained, and armed terrorist groups that targeted Israel for destruction. Cuban troops were sent by Castro to the Middle East to fight against Israel, with the Yom Kippur war being a high profile example. Focus on Cuba,  an information service of the Cuba Transition Project of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami in their Issue 57 published  staff report on July 29, 2004 titled "Castro and Terrorism: A Chronology" that summarized this hostility to Israel.
Cuban military and intelligence personnel aided Middle Eastern groups and regimes in their struggle against Israel, and Cuban troops fought on the side of Arab States, particularly Syria, during the Yom Kippur war. Castro sent military instructors and advisors into Palestinian bases; cooperated with Libya in the founding of World Mathaba, a terrorist movement; and established close military cooperation and exchanges with Iraq, Libya, Southern Yemen, the Polisario Front for the Liberation of Western Sahara, the PLO and others in the Middle East.
Nan Robertson in a special to The New York Times on July 11, 1975 published the article "FRANCE EXPELLING 3 CUBAN OFFICIALS" that reports on the link between Cuban diplomats and Carlos the Jackal.
"France expelled three high‐ranking Cuban diplomats today in connection with the worldwide search for a man called Carlos, who is believed to be an important link in an international terrorist network." [...] "The French Interior Ministry said that investigators were convinced that the terrorist network had been helped significantly by the intelligence services of “certain nations.” The Cubans, according to the ministry, had been “constant visitors” to the Paris hideout of Carlos. André Mousset, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, added that the Carlos affair was looking more and more like an “international terrorist plot.” [...] French authorities have also said that Carlos may have been directly involved with a siege at the French Embassy in The Hague last September and a grenade attack the same month on Le Drugstore on the Left Bank here, in which three persons were killed and 22 wounded. The Cuban diplomats on whom expulsion orders were served today were Raul Rodriguez Sainz, 32 years old, first secretary for cultural affairs; Pedro Lara Zamora, 33, deputy cultural attache, and Ernesto Reyes Herrera, 32, the chief of protocol.
In January 1966 the Castro regime hosted the first Tricontinental Conference in Havana. This was the first major forum where both Cuba and the PLO participate. Author Claire Sterling wrote in 1981 that "the roots of the terrorist network can be traced directly to the Tricontinental Congress held in Havana in January 1966."

Castro regime met and planned with PLO in 1966
Less than a year later, in 1967, according to David J. Kopilow, more than a dozen training camps for guerrillas are established in  Cuba, under the direction of KGB Colonel Vadim Kotchergine. Palestinians were among the terrorist groups trained.

Carlos the Jackal received training in Cuba, and obtained assistance from Cuban diplomats in Europe. He had detailed knowledge of the operation to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Chevy Chase, Maryland and contacts with the terrorists who carried out the political killing in July 1973. Carlos was also credited with being the man behind the seizure of 70 hostages at the OPEC oil ministers' meeting in Vienna in 1975 and the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes.
Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat met in Havana in 1974
In the 1970s the Cubans started arriving in the Middle East in large numbers to train guerrillas, but they would go beyond terrorism into full military action against the Jewish people.
In the August 1988 issue of The Atlantic in the article "Cuba: Havana's Military Machine" by John Hoyt Williams provided more detail on Cuban involvement in the Yom Kippur War against Israel.
In 1973, probably at Moscow's behest, Castro dispatched 500 Cuban tank commanders to Syria. These men performed well and died well in the Yom Kippur War with Israel. Not long after their debut in Syria, Cuban military personnel were training, arming, and advising Polisario guerrillas who were fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara.
The Castro regime closely followed the example of their Arab counterparts in referring to Israel in terms previously reserved for Nazis. For example, Bruno Rodriguez, now Cuba's Foreign Minister, but in 1978, when he was a leader of Cuba's Union of Young Communists, he told a gathering at the University of Havana "that the attitude of the Zionist authorities was similar to Hitler's hordes who massacred millions of European Jews during World War II." The occasion of Rodriguez's speech was the 30th anniversary of Israel's founding, an event referred to by him as the"usurpation of Palestinian territory by Zionism to convert it into the state of Israel."

Israeli athletes were tortured and murdered by terrorists linked to the Castro regime in 1972
Myles Kantor's November 12, 2003 article in National Review, "Who’s Afraid of 'Uncle Fidel'?" exposed the underreporting of anti-semitism by the Anti-Defamation League with regards to Cuba and detailed some of the Castro regime's anti-Israel and anti-Jewish history.
“I am assaulted by the anti-Israel propaganda,” Cuban Jew Ricardo Behar remarks. “It is a constant nightmare over our minds.” Cuban Jew Tony Fune refers to the regime’s “persistent Judeophobia” that manifests itself in the media’s “endless hours of hatred against Israel.”Foxman writes of the U.N.’s 1975 resolution that equated Zionism with racism:Thankfully, the “Zionism is racism” resolution was revoked in 1991 by a U.N. vote of 87 to 25–although this vote of course indicates that, as of 1991, at least twenty-five states were still willing to openly maintain the position that Zionism is a form of racism, thereby seeking to delegitimize Israel and threaten the Jewish right of self-determination.Cuba cosponsored the resolution and was one of the 25 countries that opposed its revocation.
Scholar Irving Louis Horowitz in his 2007 paper, “Cuba, Castro and Anti-Semitism” observed that “the remnants of the Jewish community in Havana, not-withstanding, Cuba is one more nation where anti-Semitism without Jews is a core belief.”  
This is underscored by the actions of the dictatorship in Cuba over the past six decades.
Castro regime officials in 2019 barred Jewish children from wearing the kippah to school, decades earlier barred the importation of kosher meat into Cuba, while importing Halal food, broke relations with Israel in 1973, trained terrorists who murdered Israelis, sent Cuban troops to Syria to fight against Israel during the Yom Kippur War, and backed the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism. This accumulation of facts should lead reasonable people to conclude that the Castro regime is antisemitic.
Poster for the PLO in 1972 denies existence of Israel
This blog is based on a December 27, 2091 CubaBrief by the Center for a Free Cuba.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Case of Xiomara Cruz in Cuba: Systemic medical malpractice or a slow motion political murder?

The mystery surrounding Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz's illness.

Medical mystery? The plight of Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz
If Cuba is a medical super power as Castro regime apologists claim, then why can it not diagnose and treat what ails Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz? Over social media today the news about the Lady in White and prisoner of conscience was dire.

According to the Ladies in White today over Twitter, the Lady in White Xiomara Cruz lost consciousness early this morning, is currently in intensive care, and according to the Doctor who took her in, she should be receiving medication intravenously.
Family, friends and activists have reason to be concerned about her plight and that a political agenda is behind her not receiving a correct diagnosis and treatment.

Other Ladies in White accompany Xiomara today at the hospital.
Xiomara was arrested on April 16, 2016 for speaking out during a human rights demonstration in Havana's Central park. She was placed on parole in January of 2018. She was re-arrested in mid-September 2018 under the charge of being "threatening." On September 19, 2018 she was tried and sentenced to one year and four months in prison. She was sent to a prison 400 kilometers from her home. This was an added hardship for her family to visit her, and keep an eye on her well being.

Xiomara was sent to a punishment cell for at least 10 days for speaking to her daughter over the phone.

Over the course of one year in custody of the Castro regime her health radically declined. Rashes that appeared on her body in June 2019 that Cuban medical doctors in Ciego de Ávila claimed to be unable to diagnose. In mid-July she was returned to Havana to La Covadonga hospital

On August 8, 2019 she was transferred to intensive care. Cuban dissident Angel Juan Moya posted videos of interviews from August 6th and August 7th with doctors at the hospital. Family members complained that they are receiving differing diagnoses and her situation continues to worsen. Xiomara was in intensive care and doctors were saying that it could be lung cancer. A doctor refused to update the family saying: "that he did not want to see those people."

There is cause for great concern. Xiomara's condition is deteriorating, and one of the doctors raised the issue of a "political" question. Cuban healthcare has a long history of being subordinated to political considerations. The patient's health is not the top priority.

Tonight, Lady in White Xiomara Cruz is in the infectious diseases ward of the Miguel Enrique Hospital 5th floor, room 4, bed 3, and the doctor who attends her says his name is Dayron. The above statement is based on the information provided by the Ladies in White in the Tweet below.
Xiomara Cruz needs a humanitarian visa to be able to determine and treat what ails her. The medical system in Cuba is either too incompetent or the Castro regime is engaged in a slow motion political murder of this Lady in White.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Castro continues to carry out repression in Cuba on Christmas

"Merry Christmas, Cubans." - Cuban Liberation Movement, Christmas Message, December 24, 2019

Eduardo Cardet Concepcion (2019)
 The Castro regime outlawed Christmas from 1969 through 1997, but the dictatorship still fears the liberating message of Christmas today. The Christian Liberation Movement, a non-violent movement founded in Cuba in 1988 by lay Catholics, issued a Christmas message on December 24, 2019 that was read over Radio Marti that states, in part:
Christmas is the memory of his arrival, of his sacrifice for us, but also the memory of his hope in us. We pray, as Cubans, as Christians, that this Christmas renew hearts, enlighten minds and sow in each of us the responsibility to present to the Father and our brothers, a nation of love, reconciliation and forgiveness, where humility flourishes above hatred, where law and freedom bury arrogance and imposition.  May the arrival of the child God inspire us to renew hope in him and in ourselves.
That same day two police officers appeared at the home of Eduardo Cardet, the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement,and gave him a summons to appear before the Revolutionary National Police (PNR) in Holguin at 9:30am on Christmas day without further details.

Cardet went as instructed on Christmas morning and "a state security officer warned him that they would not allow any expansion of the Christian Liberation Movement and that they would have zero tolerance with the opposition."

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante killed by Castro
It is important to recall that during the Obama thaw with Raul Castro (2009 - 2017) the founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and its youth leader, Harold Cepero Escalante, were killed in an operation carried out by State Security on July 22, 2012.

Four years later, Payá Sardiñas's elected successor, Dr. Eduardo Cardet, was arrested and beaten in front of his family on November 30, 2016 for providing a critical assessment of Fidel Castro's legacy, following the tyrant's death on November 25, 2016. Cardet would suffer beatings, stabbings, and arbitrary detention over the next two years and ten months.

This is the same Eduardo Cardet that was called to a police station, where he was delivered a threat by Castro's secret police on Christmas morning, instead of spending that precious time with his wife and children.

This is Cuba at the end of 2019.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Liu Xiaobo and Christmas's enduring victory

"It's up to all of us to try, and those that say that individuals are not capable of changing anything are only looking for excuses." - Vaclav Havel, Interview with Amnesty International in 2011  

Oswaldo Payá, Liu Xiaobo and their call for freedom
Ten years ago on Christmas morning in Beijing the nonviolent dissident, scholar and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the crime of speaking truth to power. He had already been jailed for more than a year for being one of the authors of Charter 08, an initiative that gathered signatures in a petition calling on the Chinese regime to gradually shift toward democracy.

The speech he delivered at his trial on December 23, 2009 remains relevant today and more so on Christmas. In a key passage of his final statement Liu Xiaobo said the following:

But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my "June Second Hunger Strike Declaration" twenty years ago ‑ I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.
Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.
This decision to battle hatred with love combined with the firmness and courage to reject and defy the injustices committed is not only a core principle of nonviolence but also of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus commands us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. When one says the Lord's prayer how many understand and internalize that "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." Liu Xiaobo in his final statement is doing just that.

In the 1990 Christmas Message delivered by the Christian Liberation Movement and written by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, although 19 years earlier and separated by great distance and a different culture, the same message is found:
Let us not turn to violence and force, but we will not submit or allow ourselves to be intimidated by them. Yes, we want change, changes in all of society, because the heart of Cuba has already changed, and we have renovated it in hope, work, suffering and sorrow. We have renovated ourselves and do not want Cuba to sink and our children with her. That violence not explode, that repression not explode, that the truth break out, and let there be an outbreak of Peace and Freedom.
No one in Cuba wants to submit to a foreign power, or return to other forms of injustice. Let us not fool ourselves any more, Cubans know what we want: we want reconciliation among all, we want a reunion with our distant brothers in exile, we want to work for our Country and our families, with boundless generosity to our hard work and positive creativity, we want dialogue, we want to solve this juncture of our history together, with love, we want freedom. We know it is possible and we will achieve it, it will be everyone’s victory.
Oswaldo Payá was murdered by the Cuban regime's state security agents along with Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012 but he lived the above creed until the end, and the movement, he helped to found, continues to embrace these nonviolent principles.

On July 13, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo died of "multiple organ failure" while still under the custody of the Chinese communists. Friends and family expressed concern that he was not receiving proper medical care. Cuban human rights defenders have observed this type of death induced by medical neglect against dissidents before. 

Four days later in Washington DC, Chinese dissident Yang Jianli mourned the passing of this human rights icon and briefly reviewed his decades long activism.

Liu Xiaobo was not only the best known freedom and democracy fighter of China, but, in life as well as in death, he represents the best of what China can ever be. In April 1989, when the Tiananmen democracy movement just broke out, he returned to Beijing from New York and became the most important intellectual leader of the movement. After the Tiananmen Massacre, he shouldered both moral and political responsibilities and continued to fight from inside China while many others left the country and even abandoned the movement. He was in and out prison and spent half of the past 28 years after the Tiananmen Massacre in incarceration. Never wavering in spirit, he shared the sufferings of his compatriots and gave his life for them. He is a martyr and saint.
Yes. Liu Xiaobo is a martyr and saint who possesses a moral authority that his persecutors can only envy. His legacy of love, justice, peace and sacrifice will surely far outlive the deeds of those who persecuted him.
The Communist regimes in China and Cuba fear those who speak truth to power and have sought to silence them by murdering those who freely express themselves, but they will fail.

Thirty years after the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Benjamin Hooks, the former head of the NAACP, remarking on the holiday designated after the martyred civil rights leader addressed an audience in 1998 and explained: "You can kill the dreamer, but you can't kill the dream."

This holds true today for Martin Luther King Jr., Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Liu Xiaobo. Their dreams and examples live on because they embraced love and not hate. Communist dictators in Cuba and in China have failed to kill the dream of freedom.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on Christmas day 1990 proclaimed this message of freedom found in Christmas stating: "Yes, Jesus is coming, he who was also a victim of violence, victim of the mob and its repudiation, victim of the pride of the powerful and of the slaves of the lie. Jesus is coming and he brings the victory of life over death, of love over hatred. He is the only one who brings true Liberation. That is Christmas."

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Succession Watch: Castro's new Prime Minister and remembering Cuba's last PM not named Castro

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Raul Castro celebrates selection of his new prime minister Manuel Marrero Cruz

Manuel Marrero Cruz is the new prime minister of Cuba. Fidel Castro had named Mr Marrero  tourism minister in 2004 and since then overseen tourism to the island. Now Raul Castro has promoted him to prime minister.

Once again many in the news media are claiming that the Castro regime is decentralizing with the re-emergence of the prime minister's post. They are repeating the dictatorship's talking points, and ignoring the facts on the ground recognized by officials. Raul Castro, 86, remains Cuba's ultimate political power as head of the Communist Party. 

The post of prime minister in Cuba had existed from 1940 through 1976, and the position was initially created with the ratification of the 1940 Constitution during Cuba's democratic era. The prime minister's position continued during the Batista dictatorship (1952 - 1959) and during the Castro dictatorship (1959 - 1976).  During the Castro era, the prime minister for the first 39 days was José Miró Cardona

Miró Cardona embracing Fidel Castro in 1959
This is the only prime minister under the Castro era who was an independent actor, not named Castro.
Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at his trajectory in Cuban politics.

Miró Cardona was a lawyer and professor at the University of Havana, who led the civic opposition to dictator Fulgencio Batista, and was selected prime minister on January 5, 1959.  Fidel Castro took over the post of Prime Minister on February 16, 1959 and designated Miró Cardona ambassador to Spain in May 1960. However two months later he had resigned his post and fled to the Argentine Embassy. Miró Cardona entered the United States as an exile in 1960 and  within months became the head of Cuban Revolutionary Council which became a principal exile committee working to invade Cuba in 1961. On the eve of the Bay of Pigs invasion José Miró Cardona issued a call to action that correctly predicted the cost of failure.
To arms, Cubans! We must conquer or we shall die choked by slavery. In the name of God we assure you all that after the victory we will have peace, human solidarity, general well-being and absolute respect for the dignity of all Cubans without exception.
The Bay of Pigs was a fiasco that consolidated the Castro regime, and Miró Cardona lived out the rest of his life in exile, dying in Puerto Rico in 1974.

Fidel Castro would hold the post of Prime Minister from February 16, 1959 until the 1976 Constitution abolished the position and Fidel Castro took the role of president from Osvaldo Dorticos. The position has now been restored in a new Constitution that was drafted in 2018 with Raul Castro presiding over the process and ratified in 2019.
For the record: Raul Castro handed over the office of the presidency to his hand picked successor Miguel Díaz-Canel on April 19, 2018. The Castro regime used this to give the impression that there is a transition underway in Cuba. This is not the case. General Raul Castro remains head of the communist party and controls the military. General Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul's son-in-law, runs the Cuban economy. Raul Castro's son, Colonel Alexandro Castro, who negotiated the normalization of relations with the Obama Administration is an intelligence officer with close ties to the secret police. 

Diaz-Canel, like Osvaldo Dorticos who was president of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, is a puppet controlled by Raul Castro. The same holds true for Manuel Marrero Cruz as prime minister.

The succession is not to make Miguel Díaz-Canel or Manuel Marrero Cruz the new dictator, but to maintain the Castro dynasty in control of Cuba.

Lamentably, Cuba will have to wait for another with the courage and audacity of a José Miró Cardona to be prime minister of the island nation. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Remembering Havel: Eight years after his passing

"Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect of the miracle of Being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence." - Vaclav Havel, Independence Hall, July 4, 1994

Remembering Havel
Eight years ago on December 18, 2011 Václav Havel passed away. Victims of repression the world over were heartbroken because they had lost a steadfast friend.

Eight years later Forum 2000 remains a living legacy that gathers together politicians, victims of repression, human rights defenders, artists and intellectuals to focus on particular problems threatening the world today and seeking solutions. 

There is also a tradition that continues to be observed that celebrates Vaclav Havel's humor and sense of the absurd that is called the "Short Trousers for Vaclav Havel" initiative.

Havel continues to be held in high esteem by free Cubans who remember his 2004 message to the Cuban people and his unfinished 2003 dialogue with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. In December 2016, FIU’s Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy unveiled a documentary that explored this friendship between these two human rights icons.

Eight years later and the example and writings of Vaclav Havel live on and serve as an example to democrats and friends of freedom everywhere.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

World listens to free Cubans: Oswaldo Payá addressed the European Parliament on this day in 2002

"17 years since the historic speech of Oswaldo Payá, National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, in the European parliament upon being recognized with the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights for his efforts to achieve unity." - Regis Iglesias Ramirez, over Twitter on December 17, 2019
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Pat Cox, European Parliament President
The visit of the Spanish monarchs to Cuba in 2019 and the Spanish Prime Minister's visit to the island in 2018 were both regrettable for the cause of Cuban freedom.  They embraced the dictatorship and refused to meet with Cuban dissidents. The Spanish King gave advice to the regime promoting human rights, but also sat down with Raul Castro, in what amounted to a recognition of the Castro dynasty that continues to rule Cuba. It is important to remember that the Spanish monarchy is subject to the maximum political authority in Spain which is the Prime Minister, who is a Socialist, and behind the drive to improve relations with the Castro regime.

This is a far cry from 17 years ago when another Spanish Prime Minister demonstrated his solidarity with Cuban democrats by meeting with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and supporting his nomination for the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights.

It was 17 years ago today that Oswaldo Payá addressed the European Parliament and weeks later returned to Cuba to continue his struggle for the liberation of the Cuban people. It was seven years ago that the Castro dictatorship's repressive forces took his life.

However, today we remember this moment when the world listened to this Cuban democrat and that Cubans were not represented by the Castro dictatorship, but had their own voice.


Strasbourg, 17 December 2002

English translation below:

First of all, I should like to express my thanks to Mr. Pat Cox, President, and to this Parliament in which the many peoples of Europe are represented.

You have awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize to the people of Cuba. I say “the people of Cuba” because they are the ones who so richly deserve such an award. I say it without excluding any of my fellow countrymen, irrespective of their political stance, because rights have no political, racial or cultural hue. Nor have dictatorships any political color: they are neither right-wing nor left-wing, they are merely dictatorships. In my country there are thousands of men and women who are fighting in the midst of persecution for the rights of all Cubans. Hundreds of them have been imprisoned solely for having proclaimed and stood up for those rights, and this is why I am receiving this award on their behalf.

I say that this prize is for all Cubans because I believe that, in awarding it, Europe wishes to say to them: “You too are entitled to rights.”

This is something which we have always firmly believed, but there are times when this truth has seemed to be less than self-evident to many of the world’s people.

I have not come here to ask you to support those who oppose the Cuban Government or to condemn those who persecute us. It is of no help to Cuba that some people in the world side with the country’s government or with the latter’s opponents on the basis of an ideological standpoint. We want others to side with the Cuban people - with all Cubans – and this means upholding all their rights, supporting openness, supporting our demand that our people should be consulted via the ballot box regarding the changes we are calling for. We are asking for solidarity so that our people can be given an opportunity to speak through the ballot box, as proposed in the Varela Project.

Many people have linked this prize to the Varela Project, and rightly so, since the thousands of Cubans who, in the midst of repression, have signed the petition calling for a referendum are making a decisive contribution to bringing about the changes which Cuba needs. Those changes would mean involvement in cultural and economic life, civil and political rights, and national reconciliation. That would constitute a genuine exercise in self-determination by our people. We must reject the myth that we Cubans have to live without rights in order to support our country’s independence and sovereignty.

Father Felix Varela has taught us that independence and national sovereignty are inseparable from the exercise of basic rights. We Cubans – whether we live in Cuba or in the diaspora – are a single people and we have both the determination and the ability to build a just, free and democratic society, without hatred and without the desire for revenge. In the words of José Marti, ‘With everyone and for everyone’s benefit’.

We have not chosen the path of peace as a tactic, but because it is inseparable from the goal for which our people are striving. Experience teaches us that violence begets more violence and that when political change is brought about by such means, new forms of oppression and injustice arise. It is our wish that violence and force should never be used as ways of overcoming crises or toppling unjust governments. This time we shall bring about change by means of this civic movement which is already opening a new chapter in Cuba’s history, in which dialogue, democratic involvement, and solidarity will prevail. In such a way we shall foster genuine peace. Cuba’s civic combatant heroes – the ordinary people who have signed the Varela Project – carry no weapons. Not a single hand is armed. We walk with both arms outstretched, offering our hands to all Cubans as brothers and sisters, and to all peoples of the world.

The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together’. THIS IS THE LIBERATION WHICH WE ARE PROCLAIMING.

There are still those who perpetuate the myth that the exercising of political and civil rights is an alternative to a society’s ability to achieve social justice and development. They are not mutually exclusive. The absence of any civil and political rights in Cuba has had serious consequences such as inequality, the poverty of the majority and privileges of a minority and the deterioration of certain services, even though these were conceived as a positive system to benefit the people. In this way, although many Cubans have for years worked out of love and in good faith, the situation as regards civil and political rights is now serious, quite apart from a widening inequality and the deterioration in the quality of life of the majority of the population. Among other things, the freedom of action of the citizens of Cuba has been limited, which has neutralized their huge potential for creativity and productiveness and is the main reason for the country’s poverty.

This state of affairs cannot be justified by saying that the Cuban people have adopted this system out of choice. You all know that none of the peoples represented in this Parliament, and no people in the world, would ever give up the right to exercise their fundamental freedoms.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that well-being and economic and social progress are the fruits of being able to exercise one’s rights. In the same way, a democracy is not genuine and complete if it cannot initiate and sustain a process that raises the quality of life of all its citizens, because no people would freely vote for the kind of poverty and inequality that results in the masses becoming disadvantaged and marginalized. The peoples of Latin America are calling for a genuine democracy which will enable justice to be established. It is scandalous that methods intended to overcome a crisis and end poverty can be applied in the name of efficiency when in reality they threaten to obliterate the poor. I cannot claim to herald new positions or propose new models, but the people of Cuba have lived and suffered under various political and economic systems.

We now know that any method or model which purportedly aims to achieve justice, development, and efficiency but takes precedence over the individual or cancels out any of the fundamental rights leads to a form of oppression and to exclusion and is calamitous for the people. We wish to express our solidarity with all those who suffer from any form of oppression and injustice, and with those in the world who have been silenced or marginalized.

The cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized. If there is no solidarity between people we will be unable to preserve a fair world in which it is possible to continue living as human beings. I therefore humbly believe that rather than new models, both for societies and for relations between countries, what we need is a new spirit.

This new spirit, which should find expression in solidarity, cooperation, and justice in the relations between countries, will not impede development, because if policies and models are made secondary to personal realization and the establishment of justice and democracy, and if policies are humanized, we will bridge the gulfs that divide peoples and will become a true human family.

We bring from Cuba a message of peace and solidarity for all peoples. The people of Cuba accept this prize with dignity and in the hope that we can rebuild our society with love for all, as brothers, and as children of God. Cubans are straightforward people and want nothing more than to live in peace and progress in our work, but WE CANNOT, WE DO NOT KNOW HOW TO, AND WE DO NOT WANT TO LIVE WITHOUT FREEDOM.

We dedicate this prize and our hopes to the Lord Jesus, born in a lowly manger.

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2019

British Elections 2019: Dodging a Pro-Castro bullet

"Let’s get this thing done – and then let’s get ready to make our case to the country against the fratricidal anti-Semitic Marxists who were in Brighton last week." - Prime Minister Boris Johnson, October 2019
Boris Johnson versus Jeremy Corbyn: Hard Brexit or State Socialism?
Good news for the United Kingdom. Jeremy Corbyn will not be the Prime Minister. Corbyn caught well deserved criticism for praising Fidel Castro upon his death in November 2016. This is part of a larger pro-communist complex that includes support for Maduro in Venezuela, covering for Russia's poisonings, and Assad's gassings. In May 2017, Corbyn defended Karl Marx as a "great economist."

Over two years ago on October 9, 2017 on the TRT World program "The News Makers" I participated in a contentious conversation on US-Cuba relations that ended up turning into a debate that hopefully generated more light than heat on the important subject of the diplomatic crisis taking place between the United States and Cuba. A crisis that involved U.S. diplomats suffering brain damage under circumstances that have yet to be cleared up more than two years later.

My adversary on this program was Robert Miller, director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC). The organization's name is a misnomer in reality it should be called the Castro Dictatorship Support Campaign. Douglas Dowell, a self described "liberal-minded social democrat" observed that CSC was a group of "apologists for a repressive dictatorship."

CSC claims that Cuba is a democracy are even more troubling when one takes into account that Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition , and candidate for Prime Minister in 2019, is a long time supporter.

Towards the end of our debate Mr. Miller not only tried to legitimize the Castro dictatorship but also attempted to make the case that North Korea is a democracy.

The choice on election day was between a Hard Brexit and State Socialism in the United Kingdom. The subjects of the United Kingdom voted Conservative and against State Socialism by a landslide.

They dodged a bullet.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Resisting tyranny and the liberator becoming a tyrant

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you." - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

My first encounter with Jorge Valls was in the 1987 documentary Nobody Listened. Janet Maslin of The New York Times in 1988 reviewed this film and highlighted the formerly imprisoned poet:
Jorge Valls, a writer, on the other hand, points out that at least ''free thinking dwelt behind prison walls; it was truly the free territory of Cuba.'' As for public free expression at the time of the revolution, Mr. Valls says: ''None of that in 1959! Just extraordinary exaltation, fanatical idolatry of the victorious warrior, and rampant folly that made everything acceptable.'' 
Jorge in this documentary on the human rights situation in Cuba in the first three decades of the Castro dictatorship gave a powerful testimony in defense of freedom of expression and human dignity that remains relevant today.

Nobody Listened was the work of two filmmakers with strong ties to Cuba. Jorge Ulla, who was born in Cuba and had also made Guaguasi in 1983 and following the above mentioned documentary made Navidades en familia in 1993.
Jorge Ulla (left) and Nestor Almendros (right)
Nestor Almendros was born in Barcelona, Spain on October 30, 1930 into what would become an anti-Franco family. 18 years later they moved to Cuba. During the years of his stay in the Cuban Republic and the 1952 coup by Batista Almendros travels to study film making in Rome and New York City.

When Fidel Castro takes power in 1959 promising the restoration of democracy, Nestor Almendros returns to Cuba. However when the revolutionary government censors two of his film shorts: Gente en la Playa and La Tumba Francesa, he goes into exile in Paris. While in France he begins to collaborate with filmmakers Erich Rohmer and Francois Truffaut.

In 1970 he does the cinematography for Truffaut's 1970 film, The Wild Child.  American filmmaker Terrence Malick impressed by his work on The Wild Child hires him as cinematographer in the 1978 film Days of Heaven Almendros continues his career in Hollywood as a cinematographer in important films such as: Kramer vs Kramer (1979), The Blue Lagoon (1980), and Sophie's Choice (1982). In 1979, Almendros won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Days of Heaven.

Towards the end of his life he directs two documentaries on human rights in Cuba. In 1984 he directs Improper Conduct that explores the discrimination and repression of homosexuals in Cuba under Castro. In 1987 he also directs Nobody Listened that interviews former comrades of Fidel Castro and other anti-Batista revolutionaries who were arrested, tortured and imprisoned after Castro took power in Cuba. 
Poet, former prisoner of conscience Jorge Valls
Former Cuban prisoner of conscience Jorge Valls presents a powerful testimony in Nobody Listened.  He also wrote an OpEd published in The New York Times on April 7, 2000 that remains important today for those resisting tyranny.
One day in 1952, there was a coup in my country against the legitimate government, and I thought -- and still believe -- that it was a real catastrophe for Cuba.
I went to fight against the Batista regime. That evening I was put in jail and badly beaten. After seven years of revolutionary struggle, in 1959, that spurious government was substituted amid a civil war by a new one, led by Fidel Castro, which from the very beginning didn't offer any guarantee that the fundamentals of law would be enforced.
Like Mr. Castro, I wanted a radical change in Cuban society, but I also knew that authority would never become legitimate unless the pure power of violence was submitted to reason, and strict respect for individual rights was guaranteed.
Without civil rights, the best intentions turn into a trap, and societies become prisons and asylums. There is a danger that we become as alienated and as fierce as the evil we think we are fighting.
That is what happened in Cuba under the Castro regime. In 1964, I was convicted of "conspiracy against the state," because I testified against the Castro government in a political trial, and I spent 20 years and 40 days in jail. I don't regret my time there, because I was defending this essential respectability of the human person.
 Below is the video Nobody Listened that is available on YouTube and in Amazon. It is highly recommended for those who want to know about the real Cuba.