Saturday, January 30, 2021

73 years ago today Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated

"We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." - Karl Marx, Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vi pp 503-5 (The final issue of Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 18 May 1849)

 “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.” -  Gopal Godse,  co-conspirator in Gandhi's assassination, Time Magazine, February 2000.

"Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Body of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi lies in state at Birla House in New Delhi.
Seventy three years ago Mohandas Gandhi was shot three times in the chest and killed by a Hindu nationalist at 5:17pm. 
Gandhi despite his successful struggle for independence and the establishment of the largest democracy on the planet was felled, after repeated assassination attempts they gunned him down as he went to worship. They murdered the independence leader because they did not believe that India could survive with Gandhi promoting Satyagraha and a Muslim state next door. 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.”
The nationalists were open and transparent about their evil intent, but the communists had more guile, and their reasons for rejecting him more complex. 
The Soviet press published an article written by S.M. Vakar in 1948 following Gandhi's assassination on January 30, 1948 titled "The Class Nature of the Gandhi Doctrine" subtitled "Gandhi as a Reactionary Utopian" in the Soviet philosophy journal Voprosy filosofii (Questions of Philosophy). The Marxist Leninist argument was outlined as follows:
Although Gandhi regarded the union and independence of the Indian peoples as his goal, his reactionary-Utopian social theory and the reformist methods of struggle connected with it caused his activity to fail in facilitating overthrow of the colonial yoke [...] The social essence of the Gandhi doctrine and its fundamentally reactionary role in the history of India's national liberation movement has hardly been treated in Marxist literature. Yet this doctrine still retards the development of class awareness among the Indian masses.
What was this social essence of Gandhian thought that so troubled the Marxist Leninists in the Soviet Union? First, the reformist methods of struggle referred to in the above quote was nonviolent resistance and secondly his social theory rejected class struggle as another manifestation of destructive violence. On September 11, 1906 a new word came into existence that would give a better understanding of Gandhi's social theory and method of struggle which he described as:
'Satyagraha.' Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase 'passive resistance,' in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word 'Satyagraha' itself or some other equivalent English phrase.
The Marxist-Leninists embraced revolutionary violence and a movement led by a small vanguard of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries that would carry out the changes necessary by whatever means necessary and rejected nonviolence as naive. They followed the doctrine of Lenin as presented in his 1902 revolutionary tract What is to be done.

Over a century has passed since both sets of ideas have been set out and applied around the world. An analysis done by Maria J. Stephen and Erica Chenoweth systematically explores the strategic effectiveness of both violent and nonviolent campaigns using data on 323 campaigns carried out between 1900 and 2006.[1] There findings demonstrate that major non-violent campaigns were successful 53% of the time versus only 26% for major violent campaigns and terrorist campaigns had a dismal 7% success rate.
Today, India with all its flaws is the world's largest democracy with a growing economy that presents new competitive challenges to the developed world and Marxist-Leninism has amassed a body count of 100 million dead and counting. It would appear that Gandhi's criticisms of the communists were prescient:
"The socialists and communists say, they can do nothing to bring about economic equality today. They will just carry on propaganda in its favor and to that end they believe in generating and accentuating hatred. They say, when they get control over the State, they will enforce equality. Under my plan the State will be there to carry out the will of the people, not to dictate to them or force them to do its will." - Mohandas Gandhi

"It is my firm conviction that if the State suppressed capitalism by violence, it will be caught in the coils of violence itself, and will fail to develop non-violence at any time. The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." - Mohandas Gandhi
It is Satyagraha that is relevant today in 2021 and offers an alternative to the conflagrations suffered in the 20th century and the wars that plague the world now. Gandhi's Satyagraha is a call to principled non-violence but even pragmatists and realists looking over the historical record cannot fail to be influenced by the fact that non-violent civic resistance works and in the aggregate offers a better chance of a better life for more people.

Below is a German documentary about the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi.

[1]Stephan, Maria J. and Chenoweth, Erica Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. International Security, Vol. 33, No.1 (Summer 2008), pp. 7-44

[2] Gandhi, Mohandas (author) Dalton, Dennis (editor) Mahatma Gandhi: Selected Political Writings September 1996 Hackett Publishing Company

Friday, January 29, 2021

Remembering Cuban martyr and dissident Harold Cepero on what would have been his 41st 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 41st birthday, but thanks to the Castro regime's secret police his life was ended eight years ago at the age of 32.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante

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 The petition demanding an international investigation into the circumstances of Harold and Oswaldo's killing on July 22, 2012 has crossed 10,000 signatures.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

José Julián Martí Pérez at 168: The heirs of José Martí and those who repress them now

"I think they kill my child every time they deprive a person of their right to think." - José Martí

On the eve of the 168th anniversary of the birth of José Julián Martí Pérez, better known as José Martí, approximately 20 artists, journalists and intellectuals gathered to read some of his works.

January 27th marked the two month anniversary of hundreds of artists and intellectuals protest at the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020 for freedom of expression following the government raid on the San Isidro Movement's headquarters in Havana hours earlier. Out of that gathering, the Vice Minister of Culture agreed to meet with 32 representatives, and out of that encounter committed to an ongoing dialogue. On that night the 27N movement was formed, and this is how they described what took place next. 

"The dialogue that began that night and to which both parties committed themselves in the meeting held between the Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas and 32 representatives of those more than 300 protesters, was abruptly broken on December 4, 2020 with the publication by the MinCult of his statement "Those who asked for dialogue break the dialogue." The institution not only broke the dialogue, but absurdly blamed its counterpart. But the 27N had already been born, and it did not die there nor has it died. It continued to demand dialogue from the only space that power has left it: social networks. A dialogue that is with power, but it is also with all of Cuba.

José Martí was born on January 28, 1853 and in addition to being a journalist, poet, and independence leader he was also a fervent defender of freedom of expression and conscience.

Cubans of all ideological stripes claim him as their own, but objectively who has maintained the spirit of his words and ideas? There is a movement in Cuba that seeks to restore human rights and liberties using nonviolent means. There are courageous men and women who risk everything standing up to dictatorship. Many have been jailed and some of them have been killed in the process and their families targeted for reprisals.

José Martí  wrote that "There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart." He also criticized the writings of Karl Marx, observing they were antithetical to his own values. Marx in 1849 had written, "We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." 

It is not a surprise that Martí saw the dangers inherent in Socialism and its doctrine of envy observing: "Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." 

Following these statements to his modern day counterpart over a century later leads one to Oswaldo Paya, addressing the European Parliament on December 17, 2002:

 "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.’"

It also leads to #27N and the San Isidro Movement, and the artists, journalists and intellectuals peacefully gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture to read the works of José Martí on January 27, 2020. They are is heirs. One of them Carolina Barrero, an art historian, led the group in the reading of the poem "Dos Patrias" which translates to English to "Two Homelands," and posted the video on Facebook. Other heirs, are to be found in Cuban diaspora, one of them is Patiño Vázquez, a self described "Cuban-American child of mambo and rock & roll." He created his own arrangement, a musical setting for this work of poetry.

Two Homelands

By José Martí

I've got two homelands: Cuba and the night.

Or are both the same? As soon as 

the sun withdraws its majesty, with long veils

and holding a carnation, silent,

Cuba, like a sad widow, appears in front of me

I know which bloody carnation trembles in her hand! 

My chest is empty, it is torn and empty where the heart used to be. 

It's time to start dying. The night is right to say good-bye. 

The light disturbs and the human word. 

The universe speaks better than (the) man.

Like a flag that invites you to battle, the red flame of the sail flatters. 

I open the windows, already tight inside of me. 

Muted, breaking the carnation's leaves, like a cloud that blurs the sky, 

Cuba, a widow, passes... 

In 2021 the heirs of Martí are repressed by the Castro dictatorship that systematically denies freedom of speech and assembly, but claims the poet as their own. Ideas expressed below by José Martí are in conflict with Castroism and cannot be reconciled. However they are in accord with the democratic Cuba that helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and struggled for a more just and democratic order, but was systematically destroyed by Fidel and Raul Castro beginning on January 1, 1959. 

"Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist."

"Freedoms, like privileges, prevail or are imperiled together You cannot harm or strive to achieve one without harming or furthering all."

"Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy."

"It is the duty of man to raise up man. One is guilty of all abjection that one does not help to relieve. Only those who spread treachery, fire, and death out of hatred for the prosperity of others are undeserving of pity."  

These views exist today in Cuba, but not in the regime, but among the dissidents defying the communist regime and embracing freedom while rejecting hatred. How did the Castro dictatorship respond to this peaceful gathering? 

Preemptive arrests, an act of repudiation against gathered artists and intellectuals, the Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso and his Vice-Minister Fernando León Jacomino, caught on camera physically assaulting nonviolent demonstrators, and the dissidents arrested and crammed into a small bus by secret police and beaten up while already detained, reported Diario de Cuba.

 The human rights organization, Cubalex, over Facebook published and compiled a list of those dissidents detained yesterday and those still missing or jailed at the time of their report.

#List of persons detained today in front of the Ministry of Culture in Cuba, after being assaulted by functionaries with violence.
*If you have information on others detained, you can leave them in the comments please.
1 Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho reporter
2 Chino Novo
3 Ulises Padrón  LGBTI activist
4 Yunier Gtiérrez, reporter La Hora de Cuba
5 Solveig Fong
6 Julio Llopiz, artist
7 Maykel Osorbo, rapper and San Isidro member
8 Nelson Julio Álvarez, reporter ADN
9 Miryorly García
10 Mijail Rodríguez
11 Camila Ramírez Lobón, artivist
12 Eliexer Márquez
13 Henry Eric Hernández
14 Víctor Alfonso
15 Carolina Barreiro
16 Celia González
17 Oscar Casanella
18 Ismario Rodríguez Pérez, photo journalist Periodismo de Barrio
19 Mauricio Mendoza, journalist Diario de Cuba
20 Sider Riverí
21 Alfredo Martínez, reporter of Tremenda Nota
Arrested and freed
1 Camila Acosta
2 Amaury Pacheco
3 Tania Bruguera
4 Katherine Bisquet
5 Oscar Casanella
1 Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara
With homes under surveillance
1 Michel Matos
2 Iliana Hernandez
3 Luz Escobar
4 Adrián Rubio
5 Anyell Valdés

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

#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, 2021 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.
Twenty one days ago on January 6, 2021 when the citadel of American democracy was laid siege by an angry mob of insurrectionists that resulted in five deaths - Nazis where there in the crowd. Robert Keith Packer, 56, was wearing a "Camp Auschwitz" t-shirt, making light of the notorious death camp. Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers. Over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives here.
 Primo Levi was right, it can happen anywhere - even here.

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. 
Four years later and Neo-Nazis were storming the U.S. Capitol threatening the peaceful transition of power in the United States. The fragility of a free society was underscored during  the events in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021, and the importance of resisting enemies of freedom  both foreign and domestic.

"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


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Remembering Winston Churchill, the greatest Briton, who was anti-Nazi, anti-Communist and pro-freedom on anniversary of his death

"Fascism was the shadow or ugly child of communism… As Fascism sprang from Communism, so Nazism developed from Fascism. Thus were set on foot those kindred movements which were destined soon to plunge the world into more hideous strife, which none can say has ended with their destruction." - Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume 1, The Gathering Storm (1948)

Sir Winston Churchill died 55 years ago on 24 January 1965 at 90 years of age. He was given a state funeral that lasted four days. 

Sir Churchill was the man who twice saved democracy from Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism.  In 1940, the Battle of Britain's most decisive clash saw the Royal Air Force repel the largest Luftwaffe air strike against the United Kingdom. Months earlier on June 18, 1940 in a speech in The House of Commons titled "Their Finest Hour" Prime Minister Churchill explained the stakes of World War II and the start of the existential clash for Great Britain: 

I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The apologists for international communism  like to extol their so-called "antifascist"credentials while remaining silent or finding bizarre revisionist explanations to downplay or ignore the connections between fascism and communism. Sir. Churchill succinctly outlined this relationship in the quote at the top of the page. 

Of even greater concern is the attempt to deny the fact that Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin signed a pact in August of 1939, that secretly included the division of Central and Eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, that started World War II.

This alliance lasted until the summer of 1941 when Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet union. 

Consider for a moment that it was Britain and France who honoring their alliance declared war on Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939 when Poland was invaded by Hitler's Third Reich.  Churchill did not equivocate and in a radio address on October 1, 1939 described the Russian's role as invaders along with the Nazis days after.

 "Poland has been again overrun by two of the great Powers which held her in bondage for 150 years, but were unable to quench the spirit of the Polish nation. The heroic defense of Warsaw shows that the soul of Poland is indestructible, and that she will rise again like a rock, which may for a spell be submerged by a tidal wave, but which remains a rock."

Britain and France were convinced that Russia and Germany were allies and plans were drawn up to attack Russian oil fields in order to deny them to the Nazis in what became known in the planning stages as Operation Pike.  Months later the reversals continued for Christendom. The Fall of France to the Nazi war machine took place between May 10 and June 25, 1940 over the span of 46 days ending in the evacuation of Dunkirk. This disaster is what led to Operation Pike being scrapped.

 Britain stood alone, while the United States remained neutral, and the Soviet Union actively aided the Nazi war machine.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the greatest Briton

The British Empire was alone for almost a year between June 25, 1940 through June 22, 1941 as the sole main resistance to Nazi Germany. The United States would remain neutral until Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the Soviet Union was a de facto ally of Nazi Germany until Hitler invaded communist Russia on June 22, 1941 in Operation Barbarossa. The United Kingdom was all that stood between the survival of Christian civilization and a new Dark Age that Adolf Hitler called the Thousand Year Reich. If one is truly Anti-Nazi then one must celebrate and honor the legacy of Winston Churchill, who early on identified the Nazi threat and issued calls to to resistance with one of the most important in a radio address to London and the United States on October 16, 1938.

"Dictatorship – the fetish worship of one man – is a passing phase. A state of society where men may not speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, where a business man or small shopkeeper ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions; such a state of society cannot long endure if brought into contact with the healthy outside world. The light of civilised progress with its tolerances and co-operation, with its dignities and joys, has often in the past been blotted out. But I hold the belief that we have now at last got far enough ahead of barbarism to control it, and to avert it, if only we realise what is afoot and make up our minds in time. We shall do it in the end. But how much harder our toil for every day’s delay! Is this a call to war? Does anyone pretend that preparation for resistance to aggression is unleashing war? I declare it to be the sole guarantee of peace. We need the swift gathering of forces to confront not only military but moral aggression; the resolute and sober acceptance of their duty by the English-speaking peoples and by all the nations, great and small, who wish to walk with them."
Four years earlier on November 16, 1934, after the Nazis had just been in power a little over two years Winston Churchill warned of their threat to peace:
There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which, with all its strength and virtue, is in the grip of a group of ruthless men, preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride, unrestrained by law, by parliament, or by public opinion. In that country all pacifist speeches, all morbid war books are forbidden or suppressed, and their authors rigorously imprisoned. From their new table of commandments they have omitted “thou shall not kill.”

Sadly the world did not listen to Churchill until it was too late to avoid a major conflict, but at least it was not too late to stop the Nazi war machine although it came at great cost and suffering. Churchill understood that to defeat Hitler the Soviet Union would have to change sides and when the Nazis invaded Russia the British Prime Minister joked, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.” The price of ending Hitler was cozying up to Josef Stalin, another genocidal totalitarian monster.

Sir Winston Churchill, the war time prime minister, was voted out of office within weeks of the victory in Europe in 1945. The Labour Party left the national unity government and snap elections were held on July 5, 1945 and they won by a landslide.

When King George VI offered Churchill "the country’s highest honor, The Order of the Garter, Churchill declined, saying that he couldn’t possibly accept such an honor, as the British voters had given him the 'order of the boot.'" 

But in opposition he continued to speak out on matters of great importance.

Churchill was not blind to the nature of his Russian wartime ally and understood the threat of Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union and thankfully his warnings on March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri were listened to this time and may have avoided World War III, albeit with a cold peace.

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow." 
He then went on to make a remarkable statement about the circumstances that led to World War II and how it was completely avoidable:
Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe. It could have been prevented in my belief without the firing of a single shot, and Germany might be powerful, prosperous and honoured to-day; but no one would listen and one by one we were all sucked into the awful whirlpool. We surely must not let that happen again.
Churchill was not only an Anti-Nazi but also an Anti-Communist and a conservative who on May 24, 1948 observed: "Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy." He also understood and celebrated the importance of free speech. In the midst of the war in 1943 he observed: "Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage."  Today let us remember this great statesman, democrat, and conservative and call on all people of good will to learn form this greatest of Britons.

Six years after his 1945 defeat, in 1951, Sir Winston Churchill and the Conservatives would win a snap election and return to Downing Street  as Prime Minister.  He had a close relationship with Queen Elisabeth II, and resigned from the Prime Ministership due to health issues in 1955 and retired from public life.

Attempts to cancel him posthumously need to be resisted, and this greatest of Britons remembered and honored for his service to country and the world.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Panelists at International conference on police oversight in Latin America and the Caribbean asked: What about police killings in Cuba?

In a police state who provides oversight of police abuse?

An international conference looking at police oversight in Latin America and the Caribbean between January 18-22, 2021 organized by Amnesty International Américas, Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), and the Human Rights Centre University of Essex. It is called Police in the Spotlight. Hopefully, the conference took a look at the lack of police oversight in Cuba.

Cubalex, a human rights NGO founded in Cuba now in the diaspora, reported that "Luis Alberto Sánchez Valdés (alias Lilipi) died on the night of January 2, 2021 at the Abel Santamaría Cuadrado clinical teaching hospital, in the province of Pinar del Río, after an "exchange" with police officers. Various versions circulated about the cause of his death. An official version claims it was an accident and another claims it was due to the use of force and police violence. On January 5, 2021, the weekly El Guerrillero de Pinar del Río published an official note from the Ministry of the Interior on its website stating that Luis Alberto suddenly fell off his feet and hit his head on the pavement."

Luis Alberto Sánchez Valdés (alias Lilipi)

Cubalex shared information in the official note with Yasser Rojas who collaborates with an organization specialized in medical research. Regarding the injuries, he affirmed that a fall by Luis Alberto's own feet is not enough to cause the injuries that are described in the government's version of events.

Rojas "assures that from a kinematic or biomechanical point of view it is unlikely that a hemorrhage at the subarachnoid level of such severity would occur due to a fall of his own feet, taking into account the height of the deceased (approximately two meters) and the impact speed." The fluid-filled space around the brain between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater, through which major blood vessels pass is called the subarachnoid.

Dr. Alexander Raúl Pupo Casas also commented on the injuries at the request of Cubalex. "He assures that the MININT version is not credible. He agrees that it is possible to kill a person in a few seconds from a fall, if he receives a blow to the head or the upper vertebrae of the spine (cervical). He adds that an injury to the skull of the middle meningeal artery could still cause death within minutes from an epidural hematoma. However, he considers that it is not common for the injuries detailed in the official note to be the result of a fall to the floor."

A pro-regime Youtube channel presented testimonies backing up the official version alleging that Luis Alberto Sánchez Valdés had fallen due to an epileptic seizure on the morning of December 8, 2020, and that the questions raised about his death were a smear job against the dictatorship.

However there have been other deaths that the regime has found more challenging to obfuscate.

Hansel E. Hernández

For example, on June 24, 2020 in Guanabacoa, Cuba 27 year old unarmed Black Cuban, Hansel E. Hernández was shot in the back and killed by the police. The official version claims that he was stealing pieces and accessories from a bus stop when he was spotted by two Revolutionary National Police (PNR in Spanish). Upon seeing the police Hansel ran away and the officers pursued him nearly two kilometers. PNR claimed that during the pursuit Hansel threw rocks at the officers. Police fired two warning shots and a third in his back killing him. Hansel's body was quickly cremated. This prevented an independent autopsy to verify official claims.

Hansel E. Hernández

On June 25, 2020 a woman, identifying as the young man's aunt, posted on Facebook a photo of the dead youth who, she said, had been the victim of the national revolutionary police a day earlier.

"I feel deep pain for the murder of my nephew Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano committed yesterday morning in La Lima, Guanabacoa (in eastern Havana), by two patrolmen (police)," she wrote. "We, the family members, ask for mercy that this cruel act at the hands of our supposed national security does not go unpunished in any way. Because a police officer, a uniform, does not give the right to murder anyone in such a way. If we know very well that they are trained with personal defense, they must carry spray, tonfas, etc. Why then did they have to resort to their firearm and take a son from a mother, a father, a nephew from their aunt, a brother from their younger sister ... Noting that he was NEVER armed, please, justice."

On June 28, 2020 independent journalist Jorge Enrique Rodríguez was arrested and charged with "Fake news" for reporting on this police killing. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for Jorge Enrique's immediate release.

Jorge Enrique Rodríguez

Over social media demonstrations were announced for June 30 to protest the killing of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano. Other journalists in the lead up to the June 30th planned protests were detained or their homes laid siege to in order to stop them reporting on Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano's killing and reactions to his extrajudicial execution.

Secret police began shutting off internet connections, cell phones and arbitrarily detaining those they suspected would take part in peaceful protests. Activists recorded or expressed on social media their intention to take part in protest actions. Some were able to message out when they were grabbed by the police, or their homes surrounded and laid siege by state security and placed under house arrest. Over seventy Cubans were successfully targeted "preventing" the non-violent action.

Meanwhile, the Castro regime launched the equivalent of a #BlueLivesMatter campaign that it called Heroes of the Blue ( #HeroesDeAzul ), but instead of something spontaneous from civil society or a police association this was a systematic campaign of the dictatorship at the national level in Cuba. 

"Heroes of the Blue"

Human Rights Watch nearly a month later on July 28th reported that "Cuban authorities committed numerous rights violations in June 2020 against people organizing a protest over police violence, effectively suppressing the demonstration." 

Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros died on August 7, 2020 in Cuba while in police custody following a 40 day hunger strike. He had been jailed on false charges in the Kilo 8 prison of Camagüey. His body was quickly cremated by the dictatorship.

Yosvany Aróstegui Armenteros

Yale professor and author Carlos Eire writing in Babalu Blog highlighted Yosvany's untimely passing and placed it in context:

It’s happened again. Another Cuban dissident has died in prison. Strangely, unlike previous hunger-striking political prisoners who received international attention, Yosvany Arostegui was barely noticed in social media and totally ignored by the world’s news outlets. He joins a long list of hunger-strikers who have been pushed to their deaths by the Castro regime. May his self-immolation in prison be the last, and may he rest in peace and eternal freedom.

Exiled Cuban lawyer and human rights defender Laritza Diversent over Facebook wrote:

I feel deep sadness and pain. I imagine how lonely he felt and how convinced he was that he preferred to exhaust his body until it was turned off. His death reminds me of the thousands of people who, in Cuban prisons, use their body to protest against unjust criminal proceedings. It makes me more aware of all the activists who, like Silverio Portal, are locked up as punishment for exercising their rights to free expression, criticize, protest, meet and associate.

On Friday, August 7, State Security contacted the family of prisoner Yosvany Aróstegui Armenteros to inform them that he had died during a hunger strike that he had carried out for 40 days.

Aróstegui Armenteros had been arrested a year earlier and prosecuted for two common crimes for which he pleaded not guilty from the beginning. Before this last strike he had carried out others with the same objective: to demand his freedom.

His brother, Yaudel Aróstegui Armenteros was not allowed to see him.

“Ten days before he died, they called my brother Yaudel Arostegui Armenteros, at the hospital to appear there, when he arrived at Amalia Simoni they told him that my brother was very ill. My brother couldn't see him. A doctor who was there told my brother that the next call they were going to make would not be good, it was because he was going to die. And so it was,” Raidel Aróstegui Armenteros, who lives in exile in the state of Washington, United States, told the Center for a Free Cuba.

According to Raidel, his brother always said he was innocent of the crimes he was accused of. The family hired an attorney who conducted investigations into the case, but a week before the trial, the attorney mysteriously died in a traffic accident.

His brother thought he would be released, but upon receiving the 15-year prison sentence he began a series of hunger strikes."My brother Yosvany Arostegui was a human rights activist. He was always confronting the political police. In Camagüey his actions bothered the political police. He always told me that the day something happened to him that he was going to plant himself in protest. That the day they did something to him, he was going to be planted and that the second Zapata in Camagüey was going to be him. And so it happened. Look how his death was,” he added.

Below is the interview with the Yaudel's brother.

Hopefully, the international conference on police oversight in Latin America and the Caribbean sought creative ways to report on policing in Cuba and the deaths of young black men in their custody. Leaving Cubans to the mercy of a police state now in its seventh decade in power is a human rights failure of the first order.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr. rejected the cult of violence. Will you?

On riots, and rebellion in the United States

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. at Grosse Point High School

Despite the successes of the civil rights movement in the United States by 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. found his nonviolent posture challenged by a black power movement that instead of accelerating change in areas of social and economic justice brought it to a halt. Less than a month before his assassination on April 4, 1968 Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech at  Grosse Pointe High School on March 14, 1968 "The Other America" where he addressed, among other things, riots.

"Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."

A year earlier in 1967 Reverend King had warned black activists not to take the way of the Castros and Che Guevara:

“Riots just don’t pay off,” said King. He pronounced them an objective failure beyond morals or faith. “For if we say that power is the ability to effect change, or the ability to achieve purpose,” he said, “then it is not powerful to engage in an act that does not do that–no matter how loud you are, and no matter how much you burn.” Likewise, he exhorted the staff to combat the “romantic illusion” of guerrilla warfare in the style of Che Guevara. No “black” version of the Cuban revolution could succeed without widespread political sympathy, he asserted, and only a handful of the black minority itself favored insurrection. King extolled the discipline of civil disobedience instead, which he defined not as a right but a personal homage to untapped democratic energy. The staff must “bring to bear all of the power of nonviolence on the economic problem,” he urged, even though nothing in the Constitution promised a roof or a meal. “I say all of these things because I want us to know the hardness of the task,” King concluded, breaking off with his most basic plea: “We must not be intimidated by those who are laughing at nonviolence now.”

In a 60 Minutes interview around the same time he re-stated his position on riots to Mike Wallace.

Today, all sides want to claim Martin Luther King Jr., and his family has fought to keep his real memory alive. 

When riots sparked last year with the death of George Floyd a partial quote by Reverend King circulated widely, but misrepresented the totality of his view on the subject. The second half of the quote at the top of the page was included, but left out his condemnation of riots. It happened again now with the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

That is unacceptable, and his full message needs to be shared. Not edited and misleading partial quotes. The fact is that until his dying day Martin Luther King Jr. embraced nonviolence. He rejected the cult of violence. Will you?