Thursday, January 30, 2020

Remembering how Gandhi lived on the 72nd anniversary of his assassination

"My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realising Him. " - Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi
72 years ago today Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated but his nonviolent legacy remains intact and continues to inspire others

Gandhi was gunned down on January 30, 1948 while on a walk at Birla Bhavan by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse.  The Indian independence leader was 78 years old at the time of his death.  

However, it is more important to remember how he lived and not how he died. 

Mohandas Gandhi, the middle class British educated Indian lawyer was transformed into a principled strategic non-violent activist in South Africa at the end of the 19th century struggling against racist laws and policies of the colonial authorities. 

The most important theoretical result of the South African campaign was the development of Satyagraha. Gandhi announced on September 11, 1906 in his newspaper Indian Opinion a contest to submit names to describe this movement. The final name was the fusion of two words as explained by Gandhi: “Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force…the Force which is born of Truth and love or nonviolence.”

The documentary series "A Force More Powerful" studies Gandhi the nonviolent strategist in his struggle for Indian Independence, but an interview with Fox Movietone News in 1931 shows us Gandhi's personality and sense of humor:

Gandhi despite his successful revolution and the establishment of the largest democracy on the planet was felled, after repeated assassination attempts gunned down as he went to worship. They murdered him because they did not believe that India could survive with Gandhi promoting Satyagraha. 

Gopal Godse, a co-conspirator and brother of the assassin Nathuram Godse, argued as late as February 2000 in a Time magazine interview that: “In politics you cannot follow nonviolence. You cannot follow honesty. Every moment you have to give a lie. Every moment you have to take a bullet in hand and kill someone.”

Body of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi lies in state at Birla House in New Delhi.
The choice is clear on one side, the force which is born of truth and love, or on the other, the force that is born of lies and hatred. Satyagraha saved India and Pakistan from a genocidal civil war, and Gandhi’s death at the hands of Hindu radicals led to Indians rejecting the assassins toxic approach to exercising force. 

The ends justifying the means which was espoused by Niccolo Machiavelli in the 15th Century in his political treatise The Prince dealt with using amoral means to achieve "moral" ends such as destroying your adversary utilizing violence and lies. 

Gandhi took the opposite approach, his autobiography was subtitled "my experiments with truth" and he sought to convert the enemy into a friend using truth and nonviolence to reject injustice and oppression stating that, “real non-cooperation is non-cooperation with evil and not with the evil doer.” 
Below are ten quotes to read and reflect on from this practitioner of nonviolence:
"No people have risen who thought only of rights. Only those did so who thought of duties."
"Appeasement has become a word of bad odor. In no case can there be any appeasement at the cost of honour. Real appeasement is to shed all fear and do what is right at any cost."
"I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson toconserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world." - Young India Journal, September 1920
"It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.
"Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak."
"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
"A saint who considers himself superior to a sinner forfeits his sainthood and becomes worse than the sinner, who unlike the proud saint, knows not what he is doing."
"Centralization as a system is inconsistent with non-violent structure of society."
They say, 'means are, after all, means'. I would say, 'means are, after all, everything'. As the means so the end.
"The truth is that cowardice itself is violence of a subtle type and therefore dangerous and far more difficult to eradicate than the habit of physical violence."

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Remembering Cuban martyr and dissident Harold Cepero on what would have been his 40th birthday

"Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world." - Mishnah  (1135-1204)
Harold Cepero Escalante
Harold Cepero Escalante was born in Ciego de Avila on January 29, 1980 and was murdered by the Cuban dictatorship together with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in Bayamo, Granma on July 22, 2012. Harold was a member of the Christian Liberation Movement and a youth leader. Harold understood that those who engaged in repression were also not free stating "[t]hose who remove and crush freedom are the real slaves." 

Today would have been his 40th birthday, but thanks to the Castro regime's secret police his life was ended eight years ago at the age of 32.

Harold understood the dangers of advocating for freedom in Cuba under the Castro dictatorship. In 2012, shortly before his death he explained the cost of resistance:"Christians and non-Christians who have the courage and the freedom to consider the peaceful political option for their lives, know they are exposing themselves to slightly less than absolute solitude, to work exclusion, to persecution, to prison or death."

This courageous young man is remembered and the demand for justice continues

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Reflection on José Martí, Racism, and the Castro Regime

"Slavery does not imply inferiority in the enslaved race, since Gauls with blue eyes and blond hair were sold as serfs with shackles around their necks in the markets of Rome. This example helps make ignorant whites less prejudiced."  - José Martí "My Race" Patria, April 16 1893

Standing, left to right: Manuel de la Cruz, Jose Maceo,
Guillermo Moncada. Seated: Juan Gualberto Gomez,
Marti, Jose D. Poyo. Key West, Florida.
Reviewing José Martí on the subject of racism within the Cuban context is depressing, and especially the above statement on slavery. Fidel Castro's revolution over six decades enslaved an entire people. Regardless of one's race, religion, or class all were forced to be subservient to the Castro family or face exile, prison, torture, extrajudicial killings or firing squads. 

Reading The New York Times one must parse it in the same way than one does Granma, when reading anything they write or publish on Cuba. The Gray Lady recently published an opinion piece by French journalist and essayist Jean François Fogel that reports that Cuba under the Castro dictatorship is "a segregated society: 70 percent of black and mixed-race Cubans said they didn’t have access to the internet, compared with 25 percent of white Cubans. The racial wealth gap was also vast: While 50 percent of white Cubans had a banking account, only 11 percent of black Cubans said they had one. Moreover, white Cubans received 78 percent of remittances to Cuba, and they controlled 98 percent of private companies."

These numbers are questionable, but the underlying sentiment is that there is a racial divide in Cuba today. Worse yet the writer claims that selecting a white prime minister was a betrayal of racial equality in Cuba. This ignores the reality that both the president and the prime minister are puppets controlled by the Castro family.  

In order to justify the present sorry condition of Cubans, Fogel rewrites history claiming that "the dominance of the white political leader and the disenfranchisement of black Cubans have always been a part of the island’s history." This ignores the role played by strong black leaders that changed things for the better in the wars of independence and in the first half century of the Republic. It also ignores the mixed raced strong man who dominated Cuban political life for two decades. He was first elected president democratically in 1940 and later returned to destroy the democratic order taking power as dictator in 1952..  

This blog entry is an attempt to challenge François Fogel's false narrative highlighting some important historic figures.

Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer
Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer (July 12, 1854 – March 5, 1933) who together with José Martí conspired to revolt against Spain. In 1892 he founded the Central Directory of Societies of Color, a network that would spend the next sixty seven years pushing for Black advancement in Cuba.  Gómez Ferrer was captured on February 28, 1895 and imprisoned by the Spanish for three years. Upon his release he went to New York and continued the struggle for Cuban independence from exile. "In December 1898, he accompanied Major General Calixto García to Washington, D.C. as a member of the commission sent to negotiate for the funds necessary for the Cuban Liberation Army and recognition of the rebels."  In 1900 he was elected to represent Oriente in the Constituent Assembly. 

Following independence Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer  was deeply critical of "the Platt Amendment" stating that it had "reduced the independence and sovereignty of the Cuban Republic to a myth." He held seats in the Cuban House of Representatives (1914–1917) and Senate (1917–1925), representing the province of Havana.  Gómez Ferrer consistently campaigned to defend Black Cubans from discrimination, oppression, and violence. He wrote extensively, and books about him were published in Cuba on the centenary of his birth in 1954. 

Martín Morúa Delgado
contemporary figure to Juan Gualberto was Martín Morúa Delgado (1856-1910). He published newspapers, magazines, and novels that opposed slavery and racism while advocating integration and independence for Cuba from Spanish rule. Morúa Delgado was Cuba’s first black Senator following Cuba's independence from Spain while still under U.S. occupation in 1901. He would go on to be Cuba's first black Senate President in 1909, and passed away in 1910 in the position of Minister of Agriculture. 

Cubanidad, the ideology of a Cuban identity that transcends races, was first put forward by Jose Marti in the independence struggle, would continue in the Republic, and by the 1930s embracing African culture as intrinsically part of Cuban identity was seen as a way to resist American imperialism by most Cubans, regardless of their racial origins. 

In the 1940s concrete successes were finally seen by many Cuban blacks on the political front. The network of mutual aid associations that Juan Gualberto Gómez had established in 1892 and their constituent parts would play an important role in obtaining anti-discrimination planks in the 1940 Constitution, and additional reforms against racism in the workplacce in 1950.

Fulgencio Batista
Unlike Fidel Castro, Fulgencio Batista had been elected president of Cuba in free and competitive elections in 1940. He served out his presidential term from 1940 through 1944. President Batista had been discriminated against and denied membership in the Havana Yacht Club on account of his being of mixed race, despite being President of Cuba at the time. He left Cuba in 1944 and returned in 1948 when he was elected to the Cuban Senate, and in 1952 staged a coup that returned him to power as dictator. This opened the way to Fidel Castro's violent take over in 1959. Nevertheless, a non-white president had been elected to hold real political power in 1940 by a free people. Batista is a tragic figure that first helped to build up a democratic order only to tear it down 12 years later.

Nevertheless, challenges persisted through the prism of race relations leading to more radical solutions being proposed in the 1950s.

A more radical critique of how to confront race problems in Cuba would be made by Juan René Betancourt. Betancourt was a lawyer by profession and member of the Sociedad "Victoria" in Camaguey and cultural secretary of the Provincial Federation of Black Societies of Camaguey. He was politically active from 1940 through 1959 and pushed for black consciousness and economic uplift through black solidarity and pushed for a more radical approach.  Like many, he initially joined the 1959 revolution, but quickly became disenchanted and critical with the communist takeover in Cuba.

Black civil society, that had played an important role in empowering black Cubans over the first six decades of the 20th century, was systematically dismantled by the Castro regime. This was a disaster for black empowerment in Cuba. Today, the results can be seen in the numbers presented by Jean François Fogel. However, Cuba watchers should be aware that this legacy has not been completely disappeared, but is to be found among those hounded and persecuted by the Castro dictatorship.

Juan René Betancourt
In exile Juan René Betancourt would criticize Cuban exile for not having a political vision that included black empowerment, but he did cite one exception, and that was the Cuban Christian Democrats. Their ideological descendants in Cuba today are the Christian Liberation Movement.

Erneido Andres Oliva Gonzalez presents Brigade Flag to President Kennedy
The deputy commander of the Brigade 2506 land forces that invaded Cuba in an effort to oust the Castro dictatorship in April of 1961 was Erneido Andres Oliva Gonzalez, a black Cuban. On December 29, 1962 he presented President John F. Kennedy the Brigade Flag during a ceremony at the Orange Bowl. President Kennedy pledged ""Commander I assure you that this flag will be returned to this Brigade in a free Havana."  Erneido worked closely with Attorney General Robert Kennedy in Operation Mongoose that staged commando raids on the Castro regime's military installations. Following the assassination of President Kennedy by Castro sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald in November 1963 the new President, Lyndon Johnson, shutdown Operation Mongoose.

Oliva Gonzalez participated in the U.S. intervention of the Dominican Republic in 1965 where he served over a year, and helped prevent the rise of another communist dictatorship in Latin America. He ended his career in the U.S. military with the rank of Major General. He continued to yearn for a free Cuba.

Furthermore, black leadership would continue to advocate for freedom in Cuba. Manuel Cuesta Morúa ( born 1962 ), a Cuban dissident leader, claims ancestry from Martín Morúa Delgado, on his mother’s side, Mercedes Morúa.  He is part of the movement seeking a restoration of democracy and human rights in Cuba, has spoken at international gatherings, and carried out campaigns to empower Cubans in the island.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa
These individuals outlined above are not puppets put into power by a dictator, as is the case of Miguel Díaz-Canel, and others identified by Fogelin in his opinion piece, but free individuals that sought and are seeking a Cuba where black Cubans are full citizens with equal rights and opportunities along with their fellow country men and women of different races. 

The Castro regime claims José Martí  as the intellectual author of their ideological project, and that is a lie. The regime in Cuba is the anti-thesis of what the Cuban poet advocated. 

The true legacy of Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer and José Martí lives on in the democratic opposition in Cuba, and the Cuban diaspora around the world that continue to resist the Castro tyranny..  

Friday, January 24, 2020

#WeRemember: International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27th

"It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere." - Primo Levi, 1986 The Drowned and the Saved


Today, January 27, 2020 is recognized by the United Nations as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and is observed around the world
We must never forget what happened and remain vigilant now and in the future to battle against the mass destruction of innocent human beings.   

Unfortunately the international community has failed more than once since 1945 to prevent another mass slaughter. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge murdered between one fourth and one third of its population between 1975 and 1979, civil libertarian Nat Hentoff pointed to another genocide that could have been stopped in Rwanda in 1994, and now we are witnessing another in Syria where religious minorities, including Christians are being targeted.

It is also important to remember that antisemitism is on the rise world wide and people of the Jewish faith need our solidarity and support in confronting rising hatred and intolerance to ensure that what Nazi Germany did never be repeated. 

At the same time it is important to remember and honor the martyrs and heroes who resisted the Nazis.  Including Raoul Wallenberg, who saved 140,000 Jewish people, and was disappeared by the Soviets in January 1945. 
They are exemplars in moral courage that are much needed today. 

In 2017 in the United States we saw Neo-Nazis on the march in Charlottesville, North Carolina first in a torchlight parade chanting anti-Semitic rants that the following day turned deadly in violent clashes that claimed an innocent life. We must remain vigilant and denounce this evil ideology wherever and whenever it arises. 

"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." - Elie Wiesel


Thursday, January 23, 2020

How Castro killed Orlando Zapata Tamayo and then sought to obliterate his memory.

"Since for the Communist there is no divine government, no absolute moral order, there are no fixed, immutable principles; consequently almost anything—force, violence, murder, lying—is a justifiable means to the “millennial” end. This type of relativism was abhorrent to me." - Martin Luther King Jr. (1958)

Recovering facts from the memory hole
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was tortured from 2003 until his death on February 23, 2010 but following his death the Castro regime continued the campaign to obliterate his memory in death. The Cuban dictatorship and their agents of influence continue to employee these tactics today. What was done to Orlando should be a cautionary tale to all who want to give Raul Castro, and his dictatorship, the benefit of the doubt.

Orlando's mom, Reina Luisa Tamayo, holds up son's bloodied shirt
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Amnesty International reported that on October 20, 2003 Orlando "was dragged along the floor of the Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after he requested medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations." Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating that was published by Cubanet in April of 2004:

"My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]."*
This type of mistreatment went on for years. Orlando Zapata Tamayo was pushed into undergoing hunger strikes as a last measure to try to save his own life, and dignity as a human being.

Orlando began his last hunger strike on December 3, 2009 refusing to wear the uniform of a common prisoner. His books and food had been confiscated when he was transferred as punishment to Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey. 

Never for one moment were demands responded to by either his jailers or the political police. During the water only hunger strike in an effort to break his spirit officials denied him water for more than two weeks. 

He was also taken to the Amalia Simoni Hospital and left exposed in a room with the air conditioning set very cold which caused him to contract pneumonia which worsened his already critical condition. Orlando Zapata Tamayo died 82 days later on February 23, 2010.

Orlando died after seven years of beatings, torture and lengthening prison terms for continuing his human rights activism while imprisoned. The dictatorship than began its systematic aim to obliterate and denigrate him.

Cuban human rights defender and martyr Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Trivializing the aim of his hunger strike
The Castro regime's official media misrepresented what Orlando Zapata Tamayo had demanded claiming that he had died for: “a television, a personal kitchen, and a cell phone to call his family in order to end his hunger strike and regime sympathizers without citing the source repeat the claim.”1,2

Cuban political prisoner Abel Lopez Perez on December 3, 2009 was transferred to the same prison in Camaguey where Orlando Zapata Tamayo.  Abel briefly saw him and heard from other prisoners “that a few days before being taken away, Zapata stood up and shouted, ‘People, don’t let yourselves be lied to. Don’t believe anything that they tell you. I’m not demanding a kitchen or any of the things they took away from me. I’m demanding an improvement of treatment for all prisoners, and so you all know, I am going to die for it.’”3

When weighing the claims of the Castro regime, the official media, and agents of influence against a former Cuban political prisoner one should look at Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s background. This is a man who was arrested while on a hunger strike protesting the imprisonment of other prisoners of conscience who had been arrested with him in a December 2002 sit-in just days after he himself was released from prison in March of 2003. This fact, along with the rest of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s trajectory as an activist would give more weight to Abel Lopez’s version of events than the dictatorship's.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo photographed with prominent Cuban dissidents.

Claimed that Orlando Zapata Tamayo was not a dissident despite having claimed so in the past
The Castro regime claimed that he was a common criminal and that he had never been a Cuban dissident. This necessitated ignoring that Orlando Zapata Tamayo had appeared photographed in the Cuban government’s own publication Los Disidentes, in photos prior to his 2003 arrest where he was recognized by officials as a dissident. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo carried a photo the day after the Cuban regime announced the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo with prominent Cuban dissidents. On January 29, 2004 Amnesty International outlined Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s past arrests:
“He has been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were reportedly arrested and later released. He was also arrested on 6 December 2002 along with Oscar Elías Biscet, but was released on 8 March 2003. Most recently, he was arrested on the morning of 20 March 2003 whilst taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and other political prisoners.”4
Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Before and after
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was murdered
Both Abel Lopez Perez and Reina Luisa Tamayo (Orlando's mother) charge that Cuban prison officials denied Orlando Zapata Tamayo water in an effort to break him. Reina Luisa Tamayo in an interview with Yoani Sanchez, hours after her son’s death denounced that officials had denied him water.5

Abel Lopez corroborates the charge describing what went on: “Before Zapata was checked into the hospital, he was regularly taking some vitamins. He was in a weak state of health. A military chief known as ‘Gordo’, who was the one responsible for ordering all of Zapata’s things to be taken out of the cell and to stop giving him water, also took his bottle of vitamins and poured all the pills down a drain. He told him, ‘Those who are in protest here don’t drink vitamins. I think those are pills sent to you by the Yankees so you can continue your hunger strike.’ Those were the exact words said to him, I verified them. His vitamins were taken away, as were any other medications. And they stopped giving him water for a while.”6

This type of practice was also documented in the 1966 death of Roberto López Chávez.7, 8 Denying water to a man on a water only hunger strike is cruel treatment that contributed to his death.

Libeling Orlando Zapata Tamayo outside of Cuba
Professor Salim Lamrani in his November 23, 2010 article “Cuba, the Corporate Media and the Suicide of Orlando Zapata Tamayo” in The Huffington Post libeled not only the late Orlando Zapata Tamayo but 75 Cuban prisoners of conscience as criminals while challenging the integrity of Amnesty International (AI). 

In his attack on Amnesty and these Cubans he fails to mention that the imprisoned activists were locked up allegedly for “publishing articles or giving interviews to US-funded media, communicating with international human rights organizations and having contact with entities or individuals viewed to be hostile.”9

International standards, outlined in The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, provide guide posts as to what is a legitimate charge and what is illegitimate. The charges made against the 75 Cubans by the Cuban dictatorship, and repeated by Lamrani, fall far short. 

Other human rights organizations found that Cuba's state security laws violate these principles, illegitimately restricting fundamental rights and unjustly imprisoning Cubans.10

Fake News
It is a sad state of affairs that much of the international media in Cuba have not caught on to these practices and regurgitate the Castro regime's position without underlining the skepticism it merits. Instead some hedge their language rather than get at the facts of the matter.

  1. Weissert, Will “Cuba TV Report Denies Gov't Let Hunger Striker Die” Associated Press March 1, 2010
  2. Parenti, Michael Parenti and Jrapko, Alicia “Cuban Prisoners, Here and There” MRZINE 4/15/2010 republished by the Cuban Foreign Ministry at on 4/19/2010
  3. Felipe Rojas, Luis “Abel Remembers the Last Days of Zapata in a Prison of Camaguey” Crossing the Barbed Wire November 24, 2010 
  4. Amnesty International “CUBA Newly declared prisoners of conscience” January 29, 2004 
  5. Sanchez, Yoani “Orlando Zapata Tamayo's Mother Speaks After Her Son's Death” The Huffington Post February 24, 2010
  6. Felipe Rojas, Luis “Abel Remembers the Last Days of Zapata in a Prison of Camaguey” Crossing the Barbed Wire November 24, 2010
  7. Valladares, Armando Against All Hope: The Prison Memoirs of Armando Valladares (1st edition Knopf April 12, 1986) quote taken from (1st Edition Encounter Books April 1, 2001) pg. 379
  8. Glazov, Jamie United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror WND Books, 2009 Pg 48
  9. Amnesty International “Cuba: Five years too many, new government must release jailed dissidents” Amnesty International March 18, 2008
  10. Human Rights Watch New Castro, Same Cuba: Political Prisoners in the Post-Fidel Era November 18, 2009 HRW

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Ten years ago on February 23, 2010 prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike in Cuba

"Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]" - Orlando Zapata Tamayo, letter smuggled out April of 2004*

Orlando Zapata Tamayo 1967 - 2010
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a human rights defender who was unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003 and was tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. He died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards refusing him water in an effort to break his spirit. He is a victim of Cuban communism.

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012, issued a statement the same day that Orlando died and appeared in a photograph holding up a photocopy of the martyred human rights defender name and image.

"Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison." 
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with photocopy image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo
 Remembering Orlando Zapata
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was born in Santiago, Cuba on May 15, 1967. He was by vocation a brick layer and also a human rights activist, a member of the Movimiento Alternativa Republicana, Alternative Republican Movement, and of the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica, National Civic Resistance Committee. Orlando gathered signatures for the Varela Project, a citizen initiative to amend the Cuban constitution using legal means with the aim of bringing Cuba in line with international human rights standards.
Amnesty International had documented how Orlando had been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November of 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were arrested and later released. He was also arrested on December 6, 2002 along with fellow prisoners of conscience Oscar Elías Biscet and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo.  
Dr. Biscet just released from prison a month earlier had sought to form a grassroots project for the promotion of human rights called "Friends of Human Rights." State security prevented them from entering the home of Raúl Arencibia Fajardo, Oscar Biscet, Orlando Zapata Tamayo,Virgilio Marante Güelmes and 12 others held a sit-in in the street in protest and chanted "long live human rights" and "freedom for political prisoners." They were then arrested and taken to the Tenth Unit of the National Revolutionary Police, Décima Unidad de La Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR)

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was released three months later on March 8, 2003, but Oscar Elias Biscet, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo remained imprisoned. On the morning of March 20, 2003 whilst taking part in a fast at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and the other political prisoners. Orlando was taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters.

He was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Where according to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:
"My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]."*
On May 18, 2004 Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo were each sentenced to three years in prison for contempt for authority, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in a one-day trial. Orlando Zapata Tamayo would continue his rebelliousness and his non-violent resistance posture while in prison and suffer numerous beatings and new charges of disobedience and disrespect leading to decades added to his prison sentence in eight additional trials.

Protests for Orlando Zapata Tamayo continue
Ten years have passed but the martyred Cuban human rights defender has not been forgotten. From the beginning the regime sought to put down and silence protests and acts of remembrance for him, but failed. In March of 2010 at the second Geneva Summit for Human Rights former prisoner of conscience Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo testified to what had happened to Orlando Zapata. In Norway, regime agents became violent and created international controversy after a Cuban diplomat bit a young Norwegian-Cuban woman for trying to record her mom engaged in a protest remembering Orlando Zapata Tamayo in front of the Cuban Embassy in Oslo in May of 2010.

On September 30, 2010 the Canadian punk rock band I.H.A.D. released a song linking what happened to Orlando Zapata Tamayo to the indifference of Canadian tourists visiting Cuba asking the question: Where were you the day Orlando Zapata died? On May 10, 2012 the Free Cuba Foundation published a video accompanying the song, after receiving the band's permission, with images and song lyrics.
Rosa María Payá Acevedo remembers Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2016.
On February 23, 2016 at the 8th edition of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy Rosa María Payá gave the last presentation in which she remembered and honored the memory of Orlando Zapata Tamayo on the sixth anniversary of his passing. 

On 2/19/2018 twenty activists remember Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Four days prior to marking eight years to the day that Orlando Zapata died, activists inside Cuba took to protest in the streets with banners remembering the courageous and martyred human rights activist.
The Castro regime did all it could to eliminate the memory of this humble and good man. The dictatorship failed.

Next month let us once again honor and remember the brick layer and human rights defender by writing about him, organizing vigils and protests, and continuing his work for human rights in Cuba.

*Source: "Queridos hermanos míos de la oposición interna de Cuba", escribió Zapata en su misiva, "tengo muchas cosas que decirles, pero no he querido hacerlo por papel y tinta, pues espero ir a ustedes un día cuando nuestra patria sea libre y sin dictadura castrista. Vivan los derechos humanos, con mi sangre les escribí, para que la guarden como parte del salvajismo de que somos víctima el presidio político Pedro Luis Boitel". - "Golpiza y celda tapiada para Orlando Zapata"  La Habana, 22 de abril 2004 (María López, Lux Info Press /