Saturday, November 28, 2020

Holodomor Remembrance Day: Memory and witness for the victims of Stalin's Ukrainian Famine

 "In the future, there will be fewer but better Russians." - Greta Garbo, Ninotchka, 1939

The genocide in Ukraine is known as the Holodomor and took place between 1932 -1933. Millions of children died in an artificial famine. This crime was ignored by the United States as it formally recognized the Soviet Union in 1933The Economist in 2012 reported on the 80th anniversary of this man-made famine:

Holodomor literally means death by hunger. In 1932 and 1933, a vast famine in Soviet Ukraine killed three to seven million people, according to estimates. While people starved, the grain was shut away in barns for export.

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

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

Millions starved to death under brutal famine imposed by Joseph Stalin

However, to understand the nature of famine politics in communist regimes the monograph of Andrea Graziosi and Frank E. Sysyn in the East/West: Journal of Ukranian Studies titled "Communism and Hunger" is required reading. Consider the following:

"In fact, with the exception of the 1943 Bengal famine with its approximately two million victims, all of the other major famines of the twentieth century are directly connected to socialist "experiments": in 1921 and 1922 in Russia and Ukraine ( 1million - 1.5 million deaths); in 1931, 1932, and 1933 in the USSR (6.5 million - 7.5 million deaths, of which 4 million were in Ukraine and 1.3 million - 1.5 million in Kazakhstan); in 1946 and 1947 in the USSR (1 million - 1.5 million deaths); from 1958 to 1962 in China (30 million - 45 million deaths); from 1983 to 1985 in Ethiopia (0.5 million - 1.0 million deaths); and from 1994 to 1998 in North Korea ( estimates vary from a few hundred thousand to more than 2 million deaths)."

This was not due to poor central planning and socialist inefficiencies, but a deliberate policy of genocide against targeted population to consolidate political control by eliminating those who do not support their regime. The percentage of victims in the USSR and China relative to their respective overall populations were the same (5%). In the case of the USSR that meant around 7 million deaths out of a population of 160 million and in the case of China  estimates between 30 million and 45 million deaths out of a population of 600 million.


 We must also remember those who bore witness and spoke truth, and those who covered it up. 

Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist broke the story on the Ukranian famine on March 29, 1933 despite official denials. Walter Duranty of The New York Times wrote an article a day later rebutting Jones's claims that was published in the paper of record on March 31, 1933. 


Where is Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara? Secret police violently raided San Isidro Movement, removed hunger strikers and protests multiply

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” -
Frederick Douglass

Where is Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara? According to ISM spokesperson Michel Matos, both Luis Manuel and Anamely Ramos González were detained again at 6:00am by Castro's secret police. State security did not want Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara to return to his home, the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement. Anamely is now back home, and has made video declarations confirming her continuing commitment, and that she is under a de facto house arrest.

Several sources, including the San Isidro Movement Twitter, are saying that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is at the Hospital Manuel Fajardo in Havana, Cuba and still on hunger strike, but those closest to Luis Manuel have not been able to see him.

Cuban artist Denis Solís González, who was sentenced to eight months in prison for “contempt” for speaking critically of a police officer illegally searching his home, remains at Valle Grande, a maximum-security prison just outside Havana. The demands of the San Isidro Movement hunger strikers have not been met, and the hunger strike continues.

This morning over social media the University of Miguel de Cervantes in Chile held the second day of the seventh session of the International Encounter Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas to discuss the Christian Democratic thought that the martyred Cuban leader lived through action throughout his life in Cuba before being murdered by the Castro dictatorship together with Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. Medgar Evers, the American civil rights leader gunned down in his drive way on June 12, 1963 for advocating for an end to Jim Crow segregation through non-violent change, wrote prophetically that "you can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea."  Oswaldo Payá was killed, but his ideas live on both inside and outside of Cuba, and continue to do good.

Ofelia Acevedo Maura calls for solidarity with San Isidro hunger strikers

This morning Oswaldo's widow, Ofelia Acevedo Maura, closed the session at the
University of Miguel de Cervantes with an appeal for solidarity with the San Isidro Movement hunger strikers. 

"Today in my country there is a group of brave youth that preferred to risk their lives on hunger strike than to continue living in the lies that annihilate the soul. State security assaulted the home that they were in, and took them beating them while they were locked up. We still don’t know where three of them are. Some were already very weak.   This desperate cry of freedom for these young people reaches the world through you gathered in this forum."
The Washington Post's editorial board today addressed what happened on November 26, 2020 at approximately at 8:00pm:

CUBA’S POLICE broke down the door of an artists’ collective in Old Havana on Thursday night and detained about 14 people, several of whom were on a hunger strike. Most were later released, but the raid showed just how uneasy the Cuban government is with even a hint of protest or whisper of dissent. Art must run free, but in Cuba it must obey.

The raid was directed at the San Isidro Movement, a loose collection of creative types made up of “ghetto rappers, design professors, dissident poets, art specialists, scientists and regular citizens,” as writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez, a contributor to The Post, described it.

Last week this blog highlighted the physical assault against the San Isidro Movement headquarters and posted a photo of a bloodied Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and discussed the origins of the movement in the 2018 campaign against the Castro regime's Decree 349, a law that further restricted artistic expression in Cuba.

The dictatorship tried brute violence, escalated with a forced eviction of all the activists from the home of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara that is also the San Isidro Movement's headquarters, together with an act of repudiation organized outside to shout down the protesters as they were beaten up by the secret police inside the vehicles they were spirited away.

This movement responded to each escalation of violence with a non-violent response that challenged the regime.  Restrictions on getting food, and regime contaminating the water supply with a chemical agent, okay the strongest started a hunger and thirst strike to conserve supplies for the weakest among them. Following an individual knocking down the door to the entrance with a hammer, they carried out their call for Cubans across the country to go to public parks and peacefully protest.  When they were dislodged and beaten on November 26th the following day hundreds of young people gathered outside of the Castro regime's Ministry of Culture and challenged the dictatorship.

Today at 4:00pm the San Isidro Movement will be announcing what their next steps will be. Friends of freedom please keep an eye on what is going on in Cuba they need both your witness and solidarity.

Witnessing what has taken place over the past 20 days in Cuba reminds me of the lyrics to a Peter Gabriel song from 1980 that warns repressive regimes that they cannot blow out a fire. The events of yesterday indicate that a fire is raging in Cuba that is seeking change. The crowds outside are but the tip of the iceberg, and this fire is raging in the minds of millions of Cubans striving to live in freedom.

"You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher"

 Peter Gabriel, Biko

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Huber Matos: The Cuban Comandante who remained true to his democratic convictions and paid a high price

"I think you should stop making excuses for torture and repression. The blockade does not excuse the puncturing of Huber Matos’s genitals, the imprisonment of homosexuals in labour camps, or Guevara’s mass murders." - Peter Hitchens, Twitter, March 2, 2020

Camilo Cienfuegos (missing 1959), Fidel Castro, Huber Matos (jailed and tortured 1959)

Huber Matos was born 102 years ago today on November 26, 2018, and he passed away on February 27, 2014 at the age of 95. He is a controversial figure in some quarters because with him, it is likely that Fidel Castro would have never taken power. Matos had provided the weapons that made Castro's July 26th Movement a viable fighting force and led the final attack taking the second most important city in Cuba, Santiago on January 1, 1959. These achievements have largely been erased in Stalinist fashion from the official history of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

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."

He wrote about the aims of the revolution: the restoration of democracy and the Constitution of 1940 where in jeopardy and appealed to his former comrade in arms: "We fought in the name of Truth, for all the sound principles that bind civilization and mankind together . . . . Please, in the names of our fallen comrades, our mothers, of all the people, Fidel, do not bury the revolution."

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." 


Huber Matos (on the left) being taken to political show trial in 1959

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 20 years in prison.

Huber Matos would serve every day of those 20 years suffering beatings and other tortures. Camilo Cienfuegos, a figure more popular then Fidel Castro, would go missing a few days later on October 28, 1959.

In 1989 another Cuban military hero Arnaldo Ochoa would be made the same offer by Fidel Castro: confess to everything you are accused of and you can go home. Ochoa accepted Castro's offer facing a long term prison sentence otherwise. After confessing everything Castro then went on television and declared the damage done to the revolution by Ochoa so great that a prison sentence was not enough and announced his execution which was carried out a short time later.

The price of speaking truth to power his high, but sometimes the price of remaining silent or going along with the lie is even higher. This also made Huber Matos, one of the first dissidents of the Cuban Revolution.

However, he was prior to that a democrat who fought against the Batista dictatorship, and when he realized that Fidel Castro was forming a new dictatorship did all that he could to warn of the danger, and to resist it. 

The democratic opposition in Cuba predates the Castro dictatorship. It came into being on March 10, 1952 in reaction to General Fulgencio Batista's coup d'état against Cuba's democracy.

Cuba's last democratically elected president, Carlos Prio Socarras backed both armed struggle and dialogue efforts to restore democracy. He too was fooled by Castro's promise to restore democracy, and like Huber Matos carried on the struggle for democratic restoration when it was realized that Fidel Castro had removed an authoritarian tyrant, replacing Batista, with himself as a totalitarian dictator in a communist regime consolidated with the assistance of the Soviet KGB, East German Stasi, and Soviet counterinsurgency forces that put down an uprising in the Escambray.

Huber Matos interviewed in 2009 by college students

The democratic resistance to communism in Cuba would continue over the next six decades and to the present day. Huber Matos spent the rest of his life speaking truth to power, and aiding those opposed to the Castro dictatorship. In one of his letters to Castro in 1959 he spoke of a final judgement.

"You should remember that men fade away, while history collects their deeds and makes the final reckoning, the final judgement." 

He was warning Castro, but this final judgement would also be visited upon Huber Matos. The men he killed in combat to overthrow the Batista dictatorship, his courage in speaking out against the course of the revolution in 1959, the 20 years in prison subjected to torture, and 35 years in exile leading campaigns against the Castro dictatorship. History has collected his deeds, and will render a final judgement, and I dare say that it  will be a far better one than the one that awaits Fidel Castro

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

First Secretary, President, Prime Minister, and Secretary-General, Comandante Fidel Castro is still dead 1,461 days later

“How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.” - Ronald Reagan

Fidel Castro: Absolute dictator turned power over to his brother

First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, President of the Council of State of Cuba, President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Prime Minister, and Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, Comandante Fidel Castro is still dead. 

The Cuban autocrat was friendly with his Spanish counterpart Francisco Franco, and declared days of mourning when the Generalissimo, Prime Minister, Head of State, and Caudillo died on November 20, 1975.  

Four years ago, on a Black Friday that fell on November 25, 2016, Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro died at the age of 90 never having had to answer for his many crimes against humanity both in and out of Cuba. From Nicaragua, to Ethiopia, to Venezuela, and in many other places the Castro regime assisted tyrants and dictators to hold on to and consolidate their power.  One day later in a blog post I predicted what would come next.

"Predictably over the next few weeks inside Cuba the world will see spectacles organized by the totalitarian dictatorship to "mourn the great leader." The regime has already started with nine days set aside for official mourning. This will not be the first time that monsters are mourned by an oppressed people through different methods of command, control and manipulation. The world has witnessed it before in the Soviet Union in 1953 and more recently in North Korea with the Kim dynasty. The death of Stalin as dramatized in the film "The Inner Circle" is recommended viewing for those about to follow the circus in Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro's death.  Meanwhile in Cuba as the regime prepares its state funeral the Castro dictatorship's secret police begin to make threats, round up and take dissidents to undisclosed location and commit acts of violence." 

Four years later the fans of the late Cuban dictator are out trying to defend his legacy and repeating the lies to put him in a positive light. These apologists of the dictator need to hide and misrepresent the role played by the United States government and The New York Times in undermining Fulgencio Batista's rule and bringing Fidel Castro to power. There are other inconvenient truths that are well documented and available for those seeking facts about the Cuba that existed prior to 1959 with warts and all, and what came after.

On this fourth anniversary of the dictator's death it is a good time to remember some of his more memorable statements:

Relationship with the truth


Fidel Castro in the 1950s repeatedly claimed that he was not a communist because he knew that advocating a communist revolution would lead Cubans to abandon him. On December 2, 1961 he explained his reasoning.
"If we had paused to tell the people that we were Marxist-Leninists while we were on Pico Turquino and not yet strong, it is possible that we would never have been able to descend to the plains."
On March 26, 1964, after announcing that he had always been a Marxist Leninist, Castro explained: 
"I conceive the truth in terms of a just and noble end, and that is when the truth is truly true. If it does not serve a just, noble and positive end, truth, as an abstract entity, philosophical category, in my opinion, does not exist."  
Jose Ignacio Rasco, who knew Fidel Castro from school and afterwards concluded that the Cuban revolutionary had been a committed communist by 1950.
Social and cultural questions

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

Not only did he not like Gays, but he also did not like rock n rollers and questioned their sexual orientations.

On March 13, 1963 Fidel Castro gave a speech were he openly attacked “long-haired layabouts, the children of bourgeois families,” roaming the streets wearing “trousers that are too tight,” carrying guitars to look like Elvis Presley, who took “their licentious behavior to the extreme” of organizing “effeminate shows” in public places. The Cuban dictator warned: “They should not confuse the Revolution’s serenity and tranquility with weaknesses in the Revolution. Our society cannot accept these degenerates.”

Walls and border controls

Castro encouraged East German border guards in their deadly work

Fidel Castro visited Berlin in 1972 and encouraged the border guards to continue shooting Germans trying to flee to freedom by crossing the Berlin Wall. At Brandenburg gate on June 14, 1972 in the afternoon (pictured above) he addressed the men charged with shooting East Germans fleeing to West Germany as "the courageous and self-denying border guards of the GDR People's Army who stand guard in the front line of the entire-socialist community." Castro addressed the Nikolay Bezarin Barracks in East Berlin:

"It is very important to know that the people of the GDR have great confidence in you, that they are truly proud of you. The comrades of the party and the citizens of socialist Berlin have told us with great satisfaction about the activity of the border troops, speaking with great admiration for you and for your services."

Helping a genocidal war criminal create a man made famine in Ethiopia

Fidel Castro with ally and war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia 1977

Fidel Castro on April 3, 1977 met in East Berlin with Erich Honecker about the need to help the revolution in Ethiopia and talked up Mengistu Haile Mariam, a then emerging new Marxist-Leninist leader. Fidel Castro celebrated the initiation of the Red Terror on February 3, 1977 in Ethiopia: 

"Mengistu strikes me as a quiet, serious, and sincere leader who is aware of the power of the masses. He is an intellectual personality who showed his wisdom on February 3. [] The prelude to this was an exuberant speech by the Ethiopian president in favor of nationalism. Mengistu preempted this coup. He called the meeting of the Revolutionary Council one hour early and had the rightist leaders arrested and shot. A very consequential decision was taken on February 3 in Ethiopia. []Before it was only possible to support the leftist forces indirectly, now we can do so without any constraints."
Fidel Castro took part in mass murder in Eastern Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1977-78, a conservative estimate of over 30,000 Africans perished as a result of a Red Terror unleashed in Ethiopia by the Mengistu and his Cuban allies.
Ramiro Valdez, Raul Castro and Fidel Castro with Mengistu Haile Mariam
Amnesty International concluded that "this campaign resulted in several thousand to perhaps tens of thousands of men, women, and children killed, tortured, and imprisoned." Sweden's Save the Children Fund lodged a formal protest in early 1978 denouncing the execution of 1,000 children, many below the age of thirteen, whom the communist government had labeled "liaison agents of the counter revolutionaries."
 Advocating for and actively trying to start a nuclear holocaust

On October 27, 1962, the same day that Fidel Castro ordered artillery to fire on American reconnaissance aircraft, successfully knocking one down ,Khrushchev received a letter from the Cuban dictator, that historians call the Armageddon letter, in which he called for a Soviet first strike on the United States, in the event of a US invasion of Cuba.

If an aggression of the second variant occurs, and the imperialists attack Cuba with the aim of occupying it, then the danger posed by such an aggressive measure will be so immense for all humanity that the Soviet Union will in circumstances be able to allow it, or to permit the creation of conditions in which the imperialists might initiate a nuclear strike against the USSR as well.

Thankfully, Kennedy and Khrushchev reached a peaceful outcome, but the Castro regime continued to protest and was unhappy with their Soviet allies for not launching the intercontinental ballistic missiles and starting a thermonuclear war.
Castro freaked out Khrushchev with his call for a first strike

Comandante Castro ordered students to the streets to chant "Nikita, mariquita, lo que se da no se quita" ("Nikita, little queer, what you give you don't take away").

First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, President of the Council of State of Cuba, President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Prime Minister, and Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, Comandante Fidel Castro is still dead, and good riddance.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of John F. Kennedy: Cui Bono?

“We are prepared to fight them and answer in kind. U.S. leaders should think that if they are aiding terrorist plans to eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe.”  - Fidel Castro, September 6, 1963

John F. Kennedy was assassinated 57 years ago. Cui bono?

Fifty seven years ago on November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At 12:30pm Central Standard Time the Kennedys in their convertible limousine turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. As they were passing the Texas School Book Depository, President John F. Kennedy was shot twice and slumped over toward First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The governor of Texas was also hit. At 1:00pm President Kennedy was pronounced dead.

On the 57th anniversary of this political assassination the spin doctors and agents of influence continue to cloud the circumstances leading up to the murder of America's 35th president. However, the question that needs to be asked looking back to that fateful day: who benefited most from his death? Cui bono?

Following the Bay of Pigs debacle in April of 1961 the Kennedy brothers initiated Operation Mongoose. President Kennedy's brother and Attorney General of the United States, Robert Kennedy, headed up the sustained effort to topple the Castro regime and this included the assassination of Fidel Castro. 

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy addressed Brigade 2506 at the Orange Bowl in Miami on December 29, 1962 where he was given a flag of the Brigade and President Kennedy pledged that their flag would be returned to them in a free Havana.

The Kennedy Administration was committed to regime change in Cuba by whatever means necessary. 
Ten days prior to President Kennedy's assassination on November 12, 1963, in a White House memorandum, the continued commitment of the Kennedy Administration to pursue an aggressive policy to overthrow the Castro regime is clear:
(f) Support of Autonomous Anti-Castro Groups. The question was asked from where would the autonomous groups operate. Mr. FitzGerald replied that they would operate from outside U.S. territory. He mentioned two bases of the Artime group, one in Costa Rica and the other in Nicaragua. Also it was hoped that the autonomous group under Manolo Ray would soon get itself established in a working base, possibly Costa Rica. Mr. FitzGerald said that much could be accomplished by these autonomous groups once they become operational. A question was asked as to what decisions remain to be made. Mr. FitzGerald replied that we were looking for a reaffirmation of the program as presented, including sabotage and harassment. When asked what was planned in sabotage for the immediate future, he said that destruction operations should be carried out against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships. The question was also raised as to whether an air strike would be effective on some of these principal targets. The consensus was that CIA should proceed with its planning for this type of activity looking toward January.
Following the President's assassination within a year these operations were mothballed and Fidel Castro would remain in power until 2006, then replaced by his brother Raul in a dynastic succession following a health crisis. General Raul Castro remains the maximum authority in Cuba today as head of the Cuban Communist Party.

Operation Mongoose was a Kennedy project.

German journalist and documentary filmmaker Wilfried Huismann described the circumstances surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the subsequent cover up by the Johnson White House with the tacit approval of Robert Kennedy in his 2006 documentary Rendezvous with Death. At the time of the film's release Huismann gave an interview in Deutsche Welle on January 5, 2006 titled "Castro ordered Kennedy's Assassination." Below is an excerpt:
DW-WORLD: We know that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy. But who ordered his assassination and why? 
Wilfried Huismann: We settled the question of why in three years of research on this documentary in Mexico, USA and Cuba. Oswald had been an agent for the Cuban intelligence services since November 1962. He was a political fanatic and allowed himself to be used by the Cuban intelligence services to kill John F. Kennedy. It was a Cuban reaction to the repeated attempts of the Kennedy brothers, above all the younger Kennedy, Robert, to get rid of Fidel Castro through political assassination -- a duel between the Kennedys and the Castros, which, like in a Greek tragedy, left one of the duelists dead.
Declassified records in recent years corroborate Huismann's argument.

CIA documents, released in October of 2017, speculate that Oswald's motive for killing Kennedy was that he was "enraged after reading a detailed article in his hometown newspaper in New Orleans in September suggesting that his hero Castro had been targeted for assassination by the Kennedy administration." Oswald sought vengeance on Castro's behalf.  This was an embarrassment for the CIA and the White House that had repeatedly tried to assassinate Castro, and that President Kennedy's murder was blowback.

Another declassified CIA document, released in October 17, 2017 cites Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and later U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Thomas C. Mann who said "he had a 'feeling in his guts' that Castro paid Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate the 35th president on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas." 

Pedro Roig, of the Cuban Studies Institute has outlined the information available on Lee Harvey Oswald and his links to the Castro regime from documented sources.

Cui bono?  Operation Mongoose operations were phased out after the assassination of President Kennedy and the departure of Robert Kennedy from his position as Attorney General in September of 1964. Regime change operations in Cuba came to an end and the Castro regime would remain in power to the present day.

Below is the 2006 German documentary Rendezvous with Death by Wilfried Huismann.

Police send thug with hammer to attack artists under seige and on hunger strike

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” -  Frederick Douglass
Luis M. Alcantara attacked with a hammer
Just learned that Luis Manuel Alcantara, a visual artist and human rights activist, was attacked with a hammer by an unidentified man who broke into the San Isidro Movement's headquarters tonight. This is particularly suspicious because the secret police have blocked neighbors, friends, and family members from reaching them since November 18th.

A group of artists and intellectuals have been surrounded by the secret police in Havana at the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement since November 15, 2020. They were protesting the arrest on November 9th, and summary trial on  November 11th of their colleague Denis Solís González who was sentenced to eight months in prison for “contempt” (desacato), for speaking critically of a police officer searching his home. Denis is now serving his sentence at Valle Grande, a maximum-security prison just  outside Havana.” Below is a 2018 music video that contains political themes.

On November 18th when it became clear that officials would not allow anyone to deliver them food, and in the early morning hours of that day had used a chemical agent to poison their water supply that nine of them decided to go on hunger strike, and four of them took the additional step to also start a thirst strike. This was done to conserve food and water for those among them in a more vulnerable situation.

Cuban artist Coco Fusco has written an important essay titled "The Sound of Silence" (in Spanish) that asks the critical question: "Where are the Reuters and Associated Press journalists? Why do foreign correspondents seem to ignore the situation?" She adds that "these are extremely relevant questions that deserve serious consideration, and it is high time Cubans asked them publicly."

The San Isidro Movement is a collective of artists created in Old Havana in 2018 in reaction to Decree 349 that obliged artists to formally affiliate with the Ministry of Culture, and to obtain government permission for any of their activities.

Decree 349, signed into law in 2018, further censors artistic expression and according to Cuban artists Tania Bruguera, Coco Fusco, Enrique Risco, Yanelys Nuñez  and human rights defender Laritza Diversent in an open letter restricts "the creativity of the Cuban people and criminalizes independently produced art, limiting the ability to determine who can be an artist to a state institution." Amnesty International issued a report that described this new law as "dystopian."

This blog post closes with a recent music video by one of the hunger strikers and a former prisoner of conscience Maykel "Osorbo" Castillo that translates into English as "What are they going to talk to me about." Indeed, what are the agents of the Castro regime going to talk about when they send in a thug with a hammer to attack an artist on a hunger strike?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Powerful message on China resonates with free Cubans

“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.” - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, December 17, 2002, Strasbourg, France


Oswaldo Payá spoke prophetically 18 years ago and unfortunately was murdered by the Castro regime eight years ago, together with a youth leader in his movement, for speaking truth to power and advocating non-violent change. He was right about the need for global solidarity, and this truth did not die with him, but continues to be expressed by others of good will, but too often ignored by those motivated by narrow self-interest and greed.

Westerners had been warned for years that if Communist China did not change, the rest of the world would be changed, but cheap labor and big profits dulled the conscience of those who should have known better. This has now come to pass with the COVID-19 pandemic, and although it took the shut down of the world economy, it appears that finally a new bipartisan consensus has emerged that recognizes the threat to life and liberty by the Chinese Communist Party. This is why on November 4th the following tweet was sent out.

However it appears that my optimism about the new bipartisan consensus on China was premature. In The Hill today, Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han, wrote an OpEd titled "Why Biden must beware of accommodating China again." It is a must read, and it resonated with Cuban pro-democracy activists confronting another totalitarian dictatorship with a long reach, the Castro regime in Cuba. "China is working to change — not embrace — the status quo in international politics." 

This also true of Cuba under the Castro brothers that have remade parts of Latin America in its image with the ongoing horror shows in Venezuela and Nicaragua as powerful reminders. The two regimes have also worked together at the United Nations to undermine international human rights standards with much success.

Below we reprint the opening remarks at the 15th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference of Dr. Jianli Yang, of Citizen Power Initiative for China, a Chinese dissident who has spent years advocating for human rights and freedom in China, and Tibet. His call to solidarity becoming a verb resonates with free Cubans, and also join his call.


Opening Remarks at the 15th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference

By Dr. Jianli Yang

Washington, D.C.

Dear Friends from around the world,

Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening!

I cordially welcome all of you to participate in the 15th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference.
China has been one of the campaign issues in the 2020 US election, but we have found a remarkable degree of consensus among the candidates. 

It was a bipartisan fantasy to believe that, as the PRC integrated into the global economy, the CCP would naturally loosen its grip on power. Both parties rightly recognize this as a problem, and there has been little partisan disagreement over, for example, targeted sanctions relating to CCP abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet. 

Nor have prominent Democrats criticized the current administration’s aggressive responses to the threats to national security posed by the success of PRC-based technology companies beholden to the CCP. 

By now, the need for principled solidarity should be obvious. Regardless of the election’s outcome, we should urge everyone who cares about democratic values to deepen that sense of solidarity in the months and years to come.

Standing alone, even the United States has difficulty preventing the PRC from eroding democratic values. Dependence on the PRC, combined with financial incentives, bends everything – from domestic policymaking, to the behavior of private institutions like Disney or the NBA, to the tenor of discussions occurring in American universities – away from democratic principles.

In response to economically coercive statecraft the CCP is practicing, a new kind of alliance, like NATO, marrying economics with democratic principles, is needed. It is the best response to the CCP’s own pursuit of a decades-long strategy of maintaining a united front with its allies and dividing-and-conquering its opponents.

What should members of a united, democratic front commit to doing? At a minimum, among many other things which I do not have time now to enumerate, they should credibly promise to assist each other economically if any member is retaliated against by the PRC — or any other country, frankly — for mere non-violent advocacy.

Regardless of whether one favors Trump or Biden, regardless of whether a particular democracy leans center-left or center-right, so long as one claims to believe in ideals like the rule of law, human rights, and free speech, one should recognize that advancing those ideals requires putting aside our lesser differences. 

The CCP and other autocratic regimes would like nothing more than to continue dividing us along ethnic, religious, partisan, national, or various other solidarity-weakening lines. If we fall for it, those who will suffer most in the long run are the citizens of those regimes, few, if any, of whom really want to live in societies dominated by lies, fear, and violence. 

And, while lasting democratic change ultimately depends on the organic efforts of those citizens, those of us lucky enough to live  in freedom would do well to not undermine such efforts by letting increasingly powerful dictators play us against each other, to the detriment of democratic values everywhere.

Our solidarity must become a verb.