Monday, March 29, 2021

24 years without justice for Danish student gunned down in Havana by a soldier

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Joachim Løvschall: December 7, 1970 - March 29, 1997
Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a soldier of the Castro regime in Havana, Cuba twenty four years ago today on March 29, 1997. The identity of the soldier was never revealed to Joachim''s family. No one was brought to justice. Joachim's family is not satisfied with the official explanation.

The last time they saw Joachim
On March 28, 1997 Joachim Løvschall ate his last dinner with white wine in a little restaurant called Aladin, located on 21st street in Havana. He went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater. Following the performance he went to the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met up with two Swedish friends. They each drank a couple of beers, but soon left because Joachim did not like the music. At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. 

Joachim was never seen alive again. 

The Castro regime's version of what happened
On September 28, 1997 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article by Kim Hundevadt titled "Dangerous Vacation" that outlined what happened to Joachim Løvschall and presented the Castro dictatorship's version of the events leading to this young man's death:

Around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in at night.
At 2:45am he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.

Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down. The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.
Joachim Løvschall gunned down in Cuba in 1997
Fourteen years ago
On June 12, 2007 Christian Løvschall, Joachim's father, at a parallel forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council spoke about his son's disappearance and the struggle to find out if Joachim was dead or alive:
"Although the killing took place on the 29th of March, we only came to know about it on the 6th of April - i.e. after 8 days were we had the feeling that the Cuban authorities were unwilling to inform anything about the incident. Only because of good relations with Spanish speaking friends in other Latin American countries did we succeed in getting into contact with the family with whom Joachim stayed and the repeated message from their side was that they could reveal nothing, but that the situation had turned out very bad and that we had to come to Cuba as soon as possible. At the same time all contacts to the responsible authorities turned out negatively... Only after continued pressure from our side on the Cuban embassy in Copenhagen, things suddenly changed and the sad information was given to us by our local police on the evening of the 6th of April. We are, however, 100% convinced that had we not made use of our own contact and had we not continued our pressure on the embassy in Copenhagen, we might have faced a situation where Joachim would have been declared a missing person, a way out the Cuban authorities have been accused of applying in similar cases."
 Ten years later Christian Løvschall outlined what he knew concerning his son's untimely death:
We do feel we were (and still are) left with no answers except to maybe one of the following questions: Where, When, Who, Why Starting out with the where we were told that Joachim was killed by the soldiers outside the Ministry of Interior.
What we do not understand is why no fence or signs did inform that this is a restricted area? I have been on the spot myself, and the place appears exactly like a normal residential area. So you may question whether this in fact was the place of the killing? Contrary to this the authorities keep maintaining that the area was properly sealed off, and the relevant sign posts were in place.
As to when Joachim was killed we only have the information received from the police because of the delay informing one might believe that this is another forgery made up to cover the truth.
The who was in our opinion has never been answered by the Cuban authorities. We understand that a private soldier on duty was made responsible for the killing, and also it has been rumored that his officer in charge has been kept responsible. This is of course the easy way out, but why can't we get to know the whole and true story?   
Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him? Was Joachim violent and did he, an unarmed individual, attack the armed soldiers? Or is it simply that the instruction to Cuban soldiers are: first you shoot and then you ask? But again: Who can explain why two shots were needed?
Despite the claims made by the travel industry there have been other travelers to Cuba who have been killed or gone missing under suspicious circumstances. Others have been falsely imprisoned in legal proceedings that fall far short of international standards. Like North Korea, but with a tropical twist, Cuba suffers a dictatorship where both nationals and foreigners have no legal protections locally if they run into trouble with the regime. The ongoing plight of Benjamin Tomlin, who has spent three years in a Cuban prison, should lead others considering a holiday in Cuba to think twice. So should what happened to Joachim Løvschall on March 29, 1997 when he was gunned down by an AK-47 wielding Cuban soldier for allegedly walking on the wrong sidewalk.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Setting the record straight on Cuito Cuanavale, General Arnaldo Ochoa, and how South African democrats overcame and defeated Apartheid in 1991

Revisiting the nonviolent victory over Apartheid, Castro's genocidal crimes in Africa, and the show trial of the Cuban general that spent months battling the South African Defence forces. 

UDF boycotted elections

Communists reject nonviolence as a means to achieve lasting change, because civil disobedience to them is incompatible with Karl Marx's theory of class struggle. This is why they demonize and misrepresent Mohandas Gandhi, downplay the real events that brought an end to Apartheid in South Africa, highlight a dubious military victory in 1988 involving Cuban troops and falsely celebrate it as the agent of change.

Today the communist networks led by their Cuban allies are celebrating the "victory" at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale on March 23, 1988. This presents a great opportunity to reflect on the role played by the Castro regime in South Africa, and what happened to the Cuban general who headed the Cuban military mission in Angola and prosecuted the battles against the South African Defence Forces, and their allies.

General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez walking with Fidel Castro

General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, who organized and led Cuban troop build ups in Angola (1976) and Ethiopia (1977), led Sandinista and Cuban troops in Nicaragua against Contra forces in the early 1980s,  and distinguished himself in Southern Africa in a months long military campaign against the Apartheid regime's army in Angola from August 1987 to March 1988. Unfortunately for General Ochoa, it is believed that he had grown too popular among the troops, and had the mistaken idea that he had the right to an opinion.  

Arturo J. Cruz's article in the November 1989 issue of Commentary Magazine titled "Anatomy of an Execution" outlined what cost General Ochoa his life. 

"On Wednesday night, June 14, Raul Castro addressed the nation on radio and television. He spoke for two hours, at times almost incoherently, and his words betrayed a barely suppressed hatred for Ochoa—an envious passion toward a colleague who was a senior general officer in the fullest, most professional military sense. Raul accused Ochoa of being irreverent; he complained about Ochoa’s jokes; he derided what he called Ochoa’s “populist deviations” with the troops (referring, evidently, to the one thing which Raul himself has never enjoyed with the Cuban enlisted man—genuine popularity)."

This was in a sensitive moment for the regime. Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega, who had been involved, together with the Castro brothers, in drug trafficking has been indicted in U.S. courts and the American military invaded Panama captured him had been Others like Tony de la Guardia were executed because they could have testified to the direct involvement of the Castro brothers in the drug trade.  Bad luck for his twin brother Patricio, who ended up sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Antonio de la Guardia and Arnaldo Ochoa during their show trial in 1988. (CodigoAbierto)

Nationalist narratives tend to glorify violent narratives, at the expense of successful nonviolent initiatives. In India for example, the 3,000 nationalists who joined ranks with Hitler and the Third Reich to fight the British get credit with speeding up Indian Independence.  However the millions who took part in nonviolent actions in Gandhi's movement get short shrift as the Hindu nationalists grow in power in India.

The same holds true in South Africa. Piero Gleijeses. a professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies writing in The National Interest in 2014 gives a positive assessment of the Cuban intervention in Angola quoting Nelson Mandela that their victory “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor ... [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa ... Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid.”  For the record both sides claimed victory in the battle of Cuito Canavale.

Professor Gleijeses failed to look at the historical context, and Nelson Mandela's commitment to the violent overthrow of the Apartheid regime. In the case of South Africa the decision of the African National Congress (ANC) to adopt violence as a means to end Apartheid in 1961 may in fact have prolonged the life of the racist regime by decades. It also led to Nelson Mandela spending decades in prison refusing to renounce his violent stand.

Mandela became a symbol of resistance, and later an agent of national reconciliation, but he was not the agent of regime change in South Africa.

It was not the armed struggle of the ANC that brought the Apartheid regime to the negotiating table but the United Democratic Front (UDF).  The history of how the Apartheid regime was brought to an end is often overlooked. This is the history of the UDF and the successful nonviolent struggle it carried out that is documented in A Force More Powerful:

 In the city of Port Elizabeth, Mkhuseli Jack, a charismatic 27-year-old youth leader, understands that violence is no match for the state's awesome arsenal. Jack stresses the primacy of cohesion and coordination, forming street committees and recruiting neighborhood leaders to represent their interests and settle disputes. Nationally, a fledgling umbrella party, the United Democratic Front (UDF), asserts itself through a series of low-key acts of defiance, such as rent boycotts, labor strikes, and school stay aways. 
Advocating nonviolent action appeals to black parents who are tired of chaos in their neighborhoods. The blacks of Port Elizabeth agree to launch an economic boycott of the city's white-owned businesses. Extending the struggle to the white community is a calculated maneuver designed to sensitize white citizens to the blacks' suffering. Beneath their appeal to conscience, the blacks' underlying message is that businesses cannot operate against a backdrop of societal chaos and instability. 
Confronted by this and other resistance in the country, the government declares a state of emergency, the intent of which is to splinter black leadership through arbitrary arrests and curfews. Jack and his compatriots, however, receive an entirely different message: the country is fast becoming ungovernable. Apartheid has been cracked. 
Undaunted by government reprisals, the UDF continues to press its demands, particularly for the removal of security forces and the release of jailed African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. White retailers, whose business districts have become moribund, demand an end to the stalemate. The movement also succeeds in turning world opinion against apartheid, and more sanctions are imposed on South Africa as foreign corporations begin to pull out many investments. In June 1986, the South African government declares a second state of emergency to repress the mass action that has paralyzed the regime.
End of the Cold War coincides with End of Apartheid
The negotiations to end Apartheid began in 1990 after the collapse of the East Bloc and ended in 1991 the year the Soviet Union peacefully dissolved. The ANC no longer had the weapons and financial support provided by Havana and Soviets from the 1960s into the early 1980s. There are those in South Africa who in 1989 mourned the passing of the Berlin Wall but if not for the end of the Cold War things may not have changed. Paul Trewhela in politicsweb offered the following analysis:
On 9 November 1989, twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall cracked open, the Cold War in Europe came to an end, the Soviet empire tottered to its grave and the ANC military option lost whatever teeth it might have had. The military/security state erected by the National Party never lost a centimeter squared of its soil. Umkhonto weSizwe, the military wing of the ANC and the South African Communist Party, never won a centimeter squared of soil. True, the repeated mass mobilizations and popular uprisings within South Africa through the Seventies and the Eighties placed a colossal strain upon the regime, and, true, the economic strain upon the state - especially in conditions of attrition exercised against it by the US banking system - placed it under further serious pressures. Nevertheless, honest accounting must say that, given the continuation of the Cold War system in Africa, this nuclear-armed state at its southern tip was nowhere near collapse.

The international situation that undermined the ANC's armed struggle, combined with the successful nonviolent campaigns of the United Democratic Front (UDF) facilitated the end of Apartheid in South Africa.

In South Africa there was a older tradition going back to 1893 - 1914 with Mohandas Gandhi's experiments with nonviolence against anti-Indian racism there. It was in South Africa on September 11, 1906 that the word Satyagraha came into existence. It is this legacy of nonviolence that has endured and gives hope for the future.

Left to right: Ramiro Valdes, Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and Mengistu Haile Mariam

Unfortunately abandoning nonviolence and embracing the false and violent narrative of Castroism is a recipe for endangering South African democracy. There lies the way of mass murder and genocide. This is not conjecture. General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez was sent to Ethiopia in 1977 to build up Cuba's military presence. Fidel and Raul Castro were both deeply and personally involved in sending 17,000 Cuban troops to Eastern Africa in order to assist Mengistu Haile Mariam consolidate his rule, eliminating actual and potential opposition. 

Human Rights Watch in their 2008 report on Ethiopia titled outlined "Collective Punishment War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region" some of the practices carried out by Cuban troops sent there by Fidel and Raul Castro excerpted below

In December 1979, a new Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, “was more specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.”24 Militarily, the counter-insurgency operations succeeded in greatly weakening the insurgents or driving them across the border into Somalia.
Charles Lane of The Washington Post raised the issue of the Cuban role in Ethiopia's famine:
The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until September 1989; they were still on hand as hundreds of thousands died during the 1983-1985 famine exacerbated by Mengistu’s collectivization of agriculture. 

Cuban troops were complicit in Mengistu's engineered famine in Ethiopia. Also present was Ramiro Valdes, the founder of Castro's police state, who decades later would play an important role in Venezuela.

Meanwhile South African medical students in Cuba join those of other African nations in protesting their treatment by both African and Cuban officials. They have more rights in their home countries, and are in a relative position of privilege, compared to the average Cuban living in Cuba. This is thanks to South Africa's legacy of civic, nonviolent resistance that drove out Apartheid, and established an imperfect democratic order, but one that is far superior to the systems of terror visited upon Cubans and Ethiopians.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Lessons from President Barack Obama's detente with Raul Castro

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

On March 22, 2016 the President of the United States did the wave with a dictator

President Barack Obama had good intentions with his outreach to Cuba, but was ill served by those who presented him a false history of U.S.-Cuba relations and the intentions of Cuba, led by a regime driven by an ideological mission that views the United States as existentially hostile. Below are some lessons from President Obama's detente with the Castro regime: :

Cuba policy is now being reviewed, and there is always room for improvement, but one must also learn from the past and recognize the nature of the regime in Havana. There are scores of brain damaged U.S. diplomats that are apparent casualties of not doing this. Doing the wave with Raul Castro, a dictator who killed Americans, at a baseball game in March 2016 legitimized his dictatorship, but did not advance U.S. interests.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Legacy of President Obama's 2016 State visit to Cuba: Appeasement's price and the whims of the Cuban dictator

The price of appeasement

President Barack Obama and his family arrived in Cuba on March 20, 2016 with high expectations. Much was made in 2016 of the shift from decades long imprisonment to shorter term detentions in the press and by U.S. officials but little was said with regards to the simultaneous escalation in knife attacks, breaking bones, machete attacks and extrajudicial killings of high profile human rights activists since 2010. Five years later and the failure of this visit and the overall policy becomes ever more evident.

The suspicious deaths of human rights defenders such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (2012), and Harold Cepero Escalante (2012) is a terrifying alternative to the long prison sentences that the Castro regime would use to take opposition leaders out of circulation, as was the case in 2003, during the Bush administration.

On May 14, 2015 Sirley Ávila León lost her left hand, had her right arm broken by a second machete blow, and her knees slashed by several more machete blows by a married couple in an attack orchestrated by Cuban state security. The husband wielding the machete and the wife throwing the severed hand into a pigsty. Cuban doctors told her that because of the contamination in the pigsty that the hand could not be reattached. She was left completely incapacitated, not even able to bend her knees. 

Human rights defender machete attacked on May 24, 2015
The reason for the attack? Sirley Ávila León had been an elected delegate of the municipal people's power assembly and taken seriously the pledge to represent her constituents. When the order came from on high to shut down schools in the country side (as a cost saving measure) and one of those schools was in her area, Sirley began to lobby first through official channel. When the official channels ignored her entreaties she went to the international media. This got her booted out of her position through a series of machinations by Castro regime officials. She responded by joining the opposition and the repression against her escalated into harassment, threats of violence, home invasion and beat down by state security, arson, and the machete attack that nearly killed her.

In an interview on March 21, 2016 with the Spanish Daily ABC the human rights activist declared: "After they began relations with Obama, the totalitarian regime tightened up against those who truly fight for the rule of law in Cuba." ... "All this" - in allusion to the trip of the US president to the island- "is a fallacy." For her, "this friendship of Obama [with Raul] will not bring anything good to the Cuban people." Five years later, and scores of U.S. diplomats with brain injuries, and a shuttered embassy indicates that Sirley was right. The attacks began in November 2016, just months after the President's historic visit.

President Barack Obama and Dictator Raul Castro at press conference
The U.S. English speaking press did not reported on this preferring to focus their questions to Raul Castro on the issue of Cuban political prisoners while going along with the lie that education and healthcare in Cuba are rights and not privileges, given and taken away on the whims of the dictator. 
On March 21, 2016 at a joint press conference with President Obama, General Raul Castro claimed not to have political prisoners and then announced that if he were provided a list of political prisoners that he would immediately free them. That same day Cuban human rights organizations presented lists to the international media in the hope that long term political prisoners would be freed. Some are now trying to spin the joint press conference as Obama laying a trap for Raul Castro. This is highly unlikely. The Castro regime has trafficked in political prisoners for over a half century. Freeing with one hand while imprisoning with another and using human beings as currency for their propaganda campaign.

However the silence by President Obama, the U.S. press corps on the escalating violence and murder of opposition activists speaks volumes on the moral failings of the Cuba policy of the United States that is assisting in a dynastic succession of the Castro regime by meeting with Alejandro Castro in the official sit down with Raul Castro while ignoring the terrible price being paid by Cubans who want to be free.

President Obama did not have a "Reagan moment" in Cuba. The image of President Obama photographed with the Ministry of the Interior in the background with Che Guevara prominently featured and used by Cuban official media as an endorsement of the violent revolutionary martyr sends an unfortunate message around the world. We need more images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi not a mass murdering and hate filled communist icon.

Did Castro manipulate Obama into this photo-op or did White House want it?
President Obama did not lay a flower at Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's tomb in Havana, Cuba that would have honored the request made by Oswaldo's daughter, Rosa María Payá. He failed to honor the memory of a man who nonviolently struggled for a free Cuba and was killed on July 22, 2012 along with Harold Cepero for empowering Cubans to be free with the Varela Project

Murdered dissidents was part of the price of appeasement with Castro

Three days prior to the visit the true significance of the visit was tweeted by Chile's former Minister of Culture and former Ambassador to Mexico tweeted in Spanish: "Paradoxes: After decades backing right wing dictatorships in Latin America, now the United States could end up backing a left wing dictatorship."
This is the trouble, rather than abandon a bad practice, supporting right wing dictatorships - such as Saudi Arabia, the Obama Administration expanded this practice to include dictatorships hostile to the United States. The policy was not a step forward, but back to an era of backing dictators in Latin America. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Black Cuban Spring prisoner speaks out about COVID-19, the economic crisis, and the failure of the elites in Cuba to address the present challenge

Honoring a courageous man.

From the 2011 campaign for his release

Earlier today this blog published a reflection on the nationwide crackdown on Cuban dissidents that took place on March 18, 2003, and the execution of three young black men by firing squad on April 12, 2003 for hijacking a ferry to flee Cuba (no one was harmed during the incident that took place on April 2, 2003). This became known as Cuba's Black Spring.

75 of these Cuban dissidents were recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, spent years in prison, and the last were released eight years later in 2011. One of the last freed was Librado Linares, because he refused to go into exile.

This evening saw a video by Librado. This courageous man is speaking out about COVID-19, the economic crisis, and the failure of the elites in Cuba. 

Below is the video ( in Spanish) of him speaking on these issues:

Remembering the Black Cuban Spring, the failure of the UN Human Rights Council, and the legacy today

 Remembering the Black Cuban Spring, the long winter, and the future spring

2003 - 2021 Spring will return
Eighteen years ago on March 18, 2003 a crackdown began in Cuba on the eve of the United States going to war in Iraq. Scores of Cuban dissidents were rounded up and subjected to political show trials. 75 were condemned to lengthy prison terms of up to 28 years in prison. This became known as the Black Cuban Spring
The majority of the imprisoned activists had participated in the Varela Project, a petition drive that called for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses. 11,020 signatures had been turned in 10 months earlier on May 10, 2002. 
The regime responded with its own mandatory petition drive to make the Cuban Constitution unchangeable. 
The Economist in its December 14, 2005 issue published a conversation with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas titled "An unsilenced voice for change" that outlined what had taken place:
Between 2001 and 2004, Mr Payá's movement gathered 25,000 signatures in a vain attempt to persuade Cuba's National Assembly to change the constitution to allow multi-party democracy. Activists of his Christian Liberation Movement made up more than two-thirds of the 75 dissidents and journalists rounded up and jailed for long terms in April 2003. [...] Spain is “complaisant” with Mr Castro's regime, Mr Payá says. “We need a campaign of support and solidarity with peaceful change in Cuba” of the kind that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa and to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
It took over eight years, but the last of the group of the 75 were eventually released. Oswaldo was murdered along with the Christian Liberation Movement's youth leader Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. His successor Eduardo Cardet was a prisoner of conscience from November 30, 2016 through September 3, 2019. He was jailed for giving a frank assessment of Fidel Castro's legacy following his death on November 25, 2016.

11,020 Varela Project signatures turned in on May 20, 2002

On April 2, 2003 three young black men were arrested, tried and executed by firing squad nine days later on April 11, 2003 for trying to flee the island in a hijacked ferry, in which no one had been physically harmed. This drew worldwide condemnation at the time, and became known as Cuba's Black Spring, but it did not prevent the end of the mandate for monitoring human rights violations in Cuba in a backroom deal for the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council on March 15, 2006.

Fifteen years ago the United Nations Human Rights Council was founded on a small moral compromise that sacrificed human rights oversight in Belarus and Cuba in what U.N. officials called the dawn of a new era. Special rapporteurs with mandates to specifically monitor the human rights situation in those two countries were formally gotten rid of in 2007 and a code of conduct established that undermined the independence of all special rapporteurs.

Ending oversight of Belarus and Cuba not only left the victims of these dictatorships exposed to more repression, with impunity by their oppressors, but emboldened these dictatorships not only to worsen their practices at home but to undermine human rights abroad. Worse yet, both would be elected to serve on the UN Human Rights Council with other outlaw regimes.

These failings have real world consequences.

Cuba led the charge to back up China's new security law for Hong Kong that strips citizens of Hong Kong of their human rights last year. On July 1, 2020 the Cuban dictatorship introduced a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council praising China for passing the Hong Kong National Security Law, also known as the 66 article law. 53 governments backed this resolution, endorsing the death of a free Hong Kong. Official Chinese media "celebrated" their victory at the human rights body. Belarus has also continued to back the new security law at international forums.

In spite of Cuba's terrible human rights record at home, and leading the charge to back China stripping Hong Kongers of their rights the Castro regime was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council on October 12, 2020 with 170 out of a possible 192 votes at the General Assembly.

This did not improve Havana's behavior.

"Cuba, speaking on behalf of 64 countries including China [on March 12, 2021], said Xinjiang is 'an inseparable part of China' and urged states to 'stop interfering in China’s internal affairs by manipulating Xinjiang-related issues, (and) refrain from making unfounded allegations against China out of political motivations'." These countries led by the Castro regime are defending an ongoing genocide

Over the past 15 years the world has entered a long winter when it comes to human rights.

Spring will return to Cuba, but the struggle continues today in 2021 and the failures of solidarity by the international community with free Cuban is having a negative impact on human rights globally as the Castro regime backs the end of a free Hong Kong, and defends genocide in Xinjiang.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cost of holding up a poster in Cuba: 100 days in prison and counting

100 days and counting for carrying a poster calling for Denis Solis's freedom, and an end to dictatorship.  

Earlier today the Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung tweeted that it has been a hundred days since a young Cuban was jailed for holding up a poster in central Havana.

One hundred days in prison and counting since Luis Robles Elizastigui walked along the San Rafael Boulevard in central Havana on December 4, 2020 with a piece of cardboard converted into a poster calling for the freedom of Denis Solis, an end to repression, and freedom. Videos were taken by passersby and uploaded to the internet. 

He was arrested without resistance by the police, and charged "with 'acts against state security.' According to Diario de Cuba the charge was filed by First-Lieutenant Roberto Batista, who issued an order for 'temporary detention.'"

14ymedio identified the "young man as 28-year-old Luis Robles Elizastigui, originally from Guantanamo, who is the father of one son. Bystanders rushed to his defense when police tried to arrest him for holding up a cardboard sign that read, “Freedom, no more repression.” The sign also included the hashtag '#FreeDenis,' a reference to the rapper Denis Solis, who was sentenced to eight months in jail for alleged contempt."

Luis Robles with his son

A Habeus Corpus motion filed on December 14, 2020 was rejected by Popular Provincial Tribunal of Havana and he remained held at the headquarters of the secret police in Villa Marista. He was transferred to the maximum security prison of Combinado del Este in Havana. Activists reported that a prison official has instructed other prisoners to repeatedly physically assault him, and expressed their concerns for his safety.

The Castro regime declared war against human rights in 1959, and freedom of expression was one of its first victims, and continues to the present day. It got worse in 1996 with Law 88, also known as the gag law, when restrictions on freedom of expression and association were expanded increasing prison sentences to 20-years.

There are currently 180 identified political prisoners in Cuba. According to a January 13, 2020 article in The New York Times a former high-ranking judge in Cuba provided documents showing that there are nearly 4,000 Cubans every year accused of being “antisocial” or “dangerous,” terms the Castro regime uses to jail people who pose a risk to the status quo, without having committed a crime." Furthermore, the article says that "records show that Cuba’s prison system holds more than 90,000 prisoners. The Cuban government only publicly released the figure once, in 2012, when it claimed that 57,000 people were jailed."

EuropaPress, reported on January 13, 2020 that Cuba today has the largest per capita prison population in the world according to the ranking method of the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research. 

Before getting lost in the statistics it is important to remember that among the thousands jailed for challenging the status quo are Luis Robles Elizastigui and Denis Solís Gonzalez. They are jailed for simple defending human rights, and there are many others like them behind bars in Cuba.

Denis Solís Gonzalez: "People of Cuba decide your future."