Saturday, July 31, 2021

The case for the opposition to continue nonviolent resistance in Cuba: Switching to violence will help the dictatorship

It may seem counter intuitive. 

The Castro regime is a brutal communist dictatorship that has killed thousands of Cubans, and created a police state terrorizing millions of Cubans. Fidel and Raul Castro along with thousands of their soldiers went to Ethiopia to assist  a war criminal consolidate power and commit genocide. The Castro brothers have undermined and compromised democracies in Latin America, turned Venezuela into a colony where thousands of soldiers, and spies torture, rape, and kill Venezuelan dissidents. Havana for over six decades has sponsored international terrorism on several continents and created new terrorist groups that still operate today. It is not an overstatement to say that they are experts in violence and terror.

L to R: Ramiro Valdes, Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and Mengistu Haile Mariam

It may seem counter intuitive, but due to the extreme violent and criminal nature of the Castro regime it is nonviolence not violence that has a better chance in ending the Castro dictatorship.

Maciej Bartkowski, an adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University,  where he teaches strategic nonviolent resistance, in the essay "Nonviolent strategies to defeat totalitarians such as ISIS" makes an unexpected argument for stopping the Middle East terrorist group. 

"No single action by itself can dislodge totalitarians and pave the way for more stable societies, but collective actions, like the multipronged, civilian-based, and nonviolent strategies offered in the cited cases, can prove successful against extremely violent groups" ... "These strategies consist of:    

- Containment that lets the henchmen rule and erode their own legitimacy in the eyes of locals;  

- Grassroots noncooperation against totalitarians, including acts of subtle and overt disobedience, deliberate inefficiencies, and underground solidarity networks; 


- Transnational assistance to nonviolent activists and their civil resistance actions in a violence-torn environment."

The moral rightness of the economic embargo on the Castro regime: containment

Containment is a state strategy of non-cooperation with a hostile power that also avoids complicity with bad actors.  In the context of U.S. - Cuba relations the economic embargo when tightened and enforced has constrained the bad actions of the regime. This is why when Cubans took to the streets calling for the end of the dictatorship they did not wave Canadian, Spanish or European Union flags, but the flag of the United States. 

These other countries who have maintained "normal" relations with a criminal regime that includes providing subsidies and selling weapons to the dictatorship make them complicit in the crimes of the dictatorship.

The United States has economic sanctions that exempt food and medicine. American companies, due to the Castro dictatorship's monopoly over the economy, can only sell to the regime. The dictatorship is the one exploiting Cubans. For example, American companies sell chicken to Cuba for $1 per kilo and the Castro regime turns around and sales it to Cubans in government stores at $7 per kilo pocketing the difference for the Castros.

The United States also permits millions of Cubans in the United States to send remittances back to their families in Cuba, but out of every $100 sent today, at least $40 dollars are taken by the regime, and their business allies. However, one must weigh the harm done, versus the good in maintaining links between families. 

These are not considerations made by Havana. 

When the Castro regime was receiving Soviet subsidies and riding high in the world economically they forced Cubans to cut off relations with family living abroad. It was only when the dictatorship needed hard currency from the diaspora that they stopped punishing Cubans on the island having contacts with family abroad.

The power of nonviolent resistance

Oswaldo Payá, Antonio Diaz, Regis Iglesias turn in petitions to National Assembly 5/10/02

Courageous Cubans fought with arms against the dictatorship from the earliest days of the regime well into the 1960s with untold numbers killed, and the regime consolidated. 

Beginning in the 1970s a nonviolent human rights movement emerged in the prisons and would win some battles against the dictatorship using grassroots civic resistance tactics and endure to the present day inspiring millions of Cubans on the island and around the world.

Transnational assistance to Cuban nonviolent activists have been measures of concrete solidarity with the Cuban people that draws howls from the dictatorship and their allies, but gratitude from most Cubans.

This may not seem like much, but these methods of containment, nonviolent resistance, and transnational assistance have a better track record in defeating brutal terrorist regimes than armed conflict.

This is why I have been and continue to be vocal in my opposition to calls for violent resistance in Cuba. It is also why I have been and continue to be vocal in my support for the U.S. embargo on the Castro regime and targeted sanctions against regime bad actors, and advocate for transnational assistance to nonviolent dissidents in Cuba.

The U.S. military spent much in blood and treasure waging war against ISIS, and beat them back for a while, but they have not gone away. When it comes to violence, genocidal mass murderers have the advantage. Why fight on their terrain? Force them onto the terrain of nonviolent resistance where millions can challenge the dictatorship in a civic nonviolent manner. The Cuban opposition has been doing that and on July 11th the Castro regime was placed on the defensive when Cubans across the country nonviolently called for freedom and an end to the dictatorship.

Paradoxically, the best way to save the dictatorship and perpetuate its rule would be to abandon nonviolent resistance, in the belief that it would speed up change on the island, but by switching to violence the opposition would be helping the Castro regime by switching to a terrain that they have extensive experience in: violence, terror, and war.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Remembering Cuban dissident leaders, Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, both murdered by Castro regime on July 22, 2012

Remembering two Cubans who paid the ultimate price for Cuba's freedom.

July 22, 2021 outside the Embassy of Cuba in Washington DC

Today paid homage to Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante, two martyrs for democracy in the Americas killed on July 22, 2012 by Castro's secret police. Had a meeting nearby the Cuban Embassy at 4:00pm, brought a large poster honoring both, and when I emerged from the gathering walked over and for nine minutes picketed in front. Gentleman passed by, and was willing to take a few photographs of this small action. He asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I said yes than asked him where he was from, and he told me "Costa Rica." We smiled and he took several pictures, and handed me back the camera and continued on his way.

Oswaldo was sixty years old at the time that he was murdered by agents of the Castro regime. He was a family man and lay Catholic from Havana, an engineer, who in September 1988 founded the Christian Liberation Movement with fellow Catholics in the neighborhood of El Cerro, and over the next 23 years would carry out important campaigns to support human rights and a transition to democracy in Cuba.

Harold Cepero was 32 years old at the time he was killed together with Oswaldo. He was from the town of Chambas in Ciego de Ávila. At age 18 he began to study at the University of Camaguey, and in 2002 together with other students Harold signed the Varela Project. It was an initiative that was legal within the existing Cuban constitution that had been authored by the Christian Liberation Movement.

On May 10, 2002 Oswaldo, along with Regis Iglesias and Tony Diaz Sanchez of the Christian Liberation Movement turned in 11,020 Varela Project petitions, and the news of the petition drive was reported worldwide.

Despite this, Harold and other students were expelled from the university for signing it and sharing it with others. The secret police would organize a mob to “judge”, scream at, insult, threaten and expel the students who had signed the Varela Project. Following his expulsion on November 13, 2002, Harold wrote a letter in which he cautioned that “those who steal the rights of others steal from themselves. Those who remove and crush freedom are the true slaves."

Regis Iglesias and Tony Diaz Sanchez were sentenced to long prison sentences in March 2003 following show trials, along with 73 other Cuban dissidents, many of them had taken part in the Varela Project and nearly eight years later were forced into exile as an alternative to completing their prison sentences.

In spite the crackdown, Oswaldo would turn in another 14,384 petition signatures on October 5, 2003. He would spend the next eight years campaigning for the release of his imprisoned compatriots, and continuing campaigns to achieve a democratic transition in Cuba.

Ten years, two months and twelve days after turning in the first Varela Project petitions while traveling in Eastern Cuba on a Sunday afternoon on July 22, 2012 with two international visitors Oswaldo and Harold were killed. Cuban state security bumped into the car they were driving, and when the vehicles stopped, with everyone still alive in the car, approached the driver striking him in the temple with the butt of a pistol. Within hours the lifeless and brutalized bodies of both men would appear.

These are somber times with a pandemic raging across the world killing millions, in part, due to the lack of transparency of the Chinese Communist Party.

Oswaldo Payá when awarded the Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought on December 17, 2002 spoke prophetically when he said: “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.”

The failure of the international community to advance human rights along with globalization that is made manifest by the West’s embrace of Communist China, ignoring its continuing dismal human rights record has created a crisis of values that has become a global economic and health crisis.

How did they not see that embracing a regime that killed over 45 million of its own people and building it up economically would not be a disaster? Have the lessons of Nazi Germany so faded from popular imagination that the world needed a reminder?

Oswaldo understood that the means are also the ends and in the same talk explained: “We now know that any method or model which purportedly aims to achieve justice, development, and efficiency but takes precedence over the individual or cancels out any of the fundamental rights leads to a form of oppression and to exclusion and is calamitous for the people.”

Oswaldo was a consistent human rights defender.

On January 12, 2002 the Cuban Communist Party's daily newspaper Granma offered the official position of the dictatorship on the United States opening a prison camp in Guantanamo: "We will not create any obstacles to the development of the [U.S. military] operation, though the transfer of foreign prisoners of war by the U.S. government to the base—located on a space in our territory upon which we have been deprived of any jurisdiction—was not part of the agreement that the base was founded upon."

The first Cuban on the island to criticize and denounce the United States for housing Afghan prisoners in Cuba and demanding they be treated with dignity was Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on December 17, 2002 
"It's obviously a matter of shame that our land is being used for that purpose, having foreign prisoners brought to Cuba. Even if they are terrorists they deserve respect. Their human rights should be respected."
In the midst of darkness, it is important to remember these points of light that give us hope and a path to freedom and improved human rights around the world.

Six years ago on July 22, 2015 Javier El-Hage, and Roberto González of the Human Rights Foundation released a 147 page report titled The Case of Oswaldo Payá that concluded.
"Information that emerged in the months that followed and that was not at all considered by the Cuban court that convicted Carromero – consisting of witness statements, physical evidence and expert reports – suggest direct government responsibility in the deaths of Payá and Cepero. Specifically, the evidence deliberately ignored by the Cuban State strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident – as was quickly claimed by authorities in the state-owned media monopoly and later rubber – stamped by Cuba’s totalitarian court system – but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the State, acting (1) with the intent to kill Oswaldo Payá and the passengers in the vehicle he was riding, (2) with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm to them, or (3) with reckless or depraved indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to the life of the most prominent Cuban activist in the last twenty-five years and the passengers riding with him in the car."
Let there be truth and justice for Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero and the many victims of Communism around the world, and let us continue their work in defense of human dignity and in pursuit of the global solidarity that they advocated and lived for.

Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero and others living and dead have laid the groundwork that made possible the nonviolent character of the mass nationwide protests that marked a new before and after in Cuban history. However Oswaldo and Harold marked two such historic moments in Cuban history: turning in the Varela Project signatures on May 10, 2002 and their martyrdom on July 22, 2012.  

Monday, July 19, 2021

#11July: One week later and nonviolent resistance continues in Cuba

For freedom and justice.

On the streets of Cuba on July 11, 2021

One week later and the protests continue, despite the most brutal efforts of the Castro regime to silence Cubans on the island. It began on July 11, 2021 in San Antonio de los Baños, just South East of Havana when Cubans took to the streets in protest. Others saw it streaming live, and also took to the street in cities and towns across the country chanting "Freedom" and "Down with the dictatorship." 

President Miguel Diaz-Canel appeared on official television threatening: "They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything."

Cuban protesters were met with extreme violence by the dictatorship, but they have continued to take to the streets to the present day. Cubans in the diaspora around the world have taken to the street in solidarity with their counterparts in the island. On July 11th,  I was outside of the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC protesting the repression of the dictatorship, and in solidarity with Cubans on the island demanding freedom.

On July 14, 2021 the Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero appeared on television and announced that the dictatorship would "temporarily lift restrictions on the quantity of food and medicine incoming travelers could bring into Cuba."

On Saturday, July 17 the regime held their official rally, and even there they could not obtain unanimity and violently dragged out an unknown protester who screamed "Freedom."

The opposition movement to the Castro regime since the founding of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights in 1976 has been a nonviolent one, and regime brutality is an attempt to shock and outrage Cubans to embrace violence, and in turn give the regime the pretext to escalate their violence and terror against the populace.

Gene Sharp was the theoretician of nonviolent action, that thanks to Jose Basulto, in June of 1996 I was able to meet and learn from him over a series of lectures and conversations at Florida International University. This encounter marked a before and after in my life. This blog has cited him time and time again and promoted the South Florida premiere of the documentary about his life, How to Start a Revolution, back in 2011. Professor Sharp passed away on January 28, 2018 at age 90.

In 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston, Gene Sharp succinctly outlined his argument.

"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."

These weapons can be wielded by the average citizen to great effect, but also requires strategy and tactics to be successful.

Now is the time to double down on nonviolence. The Castro regime came into existence with the secret backing of the Soviet Union, the public backing of the United States, a U.S. arms embargo on Batista, then lies, terror, and mass murder to consolidate its rule. They have used violence and terrorism as state policy for 62 years. They are experts in the application of violence. 

To abandon the strategy and tactics of nonviolence that have put the regime on the defensive is the equivalent of deciding to abandon a chess match with a boxer when you have him checked on the board to decide the battle in the boxing ring.

This happened in Syria with Assad and on February 5, 2012 Professor Sharp summed it up succinctly: "using violence is a stupid decision."

University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006 and there study finds “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.”

The usual counter argument is that nonviolence would not have worked against the Nazis but history says otherwise with the successful nonviolent action of the Rosenstrasse protest carried out by German wives who successfully got their Jewish husbands back from the concentration camps in 1943. Nor does one consider the scores of violent actions that failed to dislodge the Nazi regime but only consolidated their rule despite two close calls that nearly got Adolph Hitler in 1939 and 1944.

This dictatorship, I believe, has killed many this last week, and is continuing to kill Cubans and we may never have a full accounting. Thousands have been jailed or disappeared, and the oppressors responsible need to be identified and sanctioned by the international community. The Global Magnitsky Act holds torturers and kleptocrats accountable nonviolently through targeted sanctions, and needs to be applied now in Cuba. This is one of the weapons in the nonviolent arsenal described by Professor Sharp above.

Gene Sharp provides below a holistic look at how nonviolence works:

In a great variety of situations, across centuries and cultural barriers, another technique of struggle has at times been applied.  This other technique has not been based on turning the other cheek, but on the ability to be stubborn and to resist powerful opponents powerfully. Throughout human history, in a multitude of conflicts one side has fought - not by violence, but - by psychological, social, economic, or political methods, or a combination of these.  This type of conflict has been waged not only when the issues were relatively limited and the opponents relatively decent.  Many times this alter- native form of struggle has been applied when fundamental  issues have been at stake and when ruthless opponents have been willing and able to apply extreme repression.  That repression has included executions, beatings, arrests, imprisonments, and mass slaughters. Despite such repression, when the resisters have persisted in fighting with only their chosen nonviolent weapons, they have some- times triumphed. This technique is called nonviolent action or nonviolent struggle.  This is “the other ultimate sanction.”  In acute conflicts it potentially can serve as an alternative to war and other violence.

We have witnessed it in Cuba over the years with a number if initiatives. The Cuban Committee for Human Rights and its ability to document human rights abuses in the island to expose the brutality of the regime in the 1980s and 1990s to the international community. The Christian Liberation Movement in the 1990s and 2000s that through the Varela Project non-violently petitioned the Cuban government to reform and respect international human rights standards, and gathered over 25,000 signatures of Cuban citizens in the island who knew what the cost would be to say they wanted change. The San Isidro Movement formed in 2018 by artists protesting Decree 349, a further tightening of restrictions on artistic freedom in Cuba, has carried out nonviolent campaigns that on November 27, 2020 shook the dictatorship when hundreds of artists and intellectuals engaged in a non-violent intervention outside the Ministry of Culture in Havana, Cuba.

Violent resistance to the regime was tried early on by courageous Cuban men and women, but was crushed by the Castro regime with the aid of Soviet counter-insurgency forces. Today, not only the Russians are there, but so are the Chinese. 

Non-violent resistance remains the most effective option to achieve a democratic transition in Cuba, and restore Cuba's positive human rights legacy.

The documentary "A Force More Powerful" is about non-violence, and its power to change the world over the past century. It is worth noticing that faith and belief played a major role in these movements that achieved positive and lasting change. We will need a lot of both in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

AMIA: 27 years later still no justice for victims of Hezbollah terrorist attack that killed 85 people and the Castro regime's links to this terrorist group

27 years of impunity in Argentina and the Castro regime's links to the terrorist group responsible

AMIA cultural center bombed in Buenos Aires in 1994

Within the span of a week in July of 1994 two acts of terrorism murdered 122 Hispanics. Thirty seven Cubans were murdered by agents of the Cuban government on July 13, 1994 in what amounted to an act of state terrorism and eighty five Argentinians, many but not all Jewish, in an act of terrorism carried out by Hezbollah  five days later on July 18, 1994. 


Relationship between Hezbollah and the Castro regime

Hezbollah, the terrorist group based out of Lebanon, also backed by Iran, was established in 1985, opened an office in Havana in 2011 and since then has dug tunnels from Beirut to within 3 kilometers of Israel’s border to enable the covert movement of forces. The Castro regime has an extensive history of cooperating with and training Middle East terrorists.

Over the past week much has been written about the victims of the "13 de Marzo" massacre but today on the eve of the 27th anniversary of the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association  (AMIA ) building in Buenos Aires the fact that justice has still not been achieved requires speaking out. 

What happened?
A siren sounded at the precise time the bomb exploded on July 18, 1994 at 9:53am (1253 GMT) and reduced the seven-story Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) community centre in Buenos Aires to rubble reported the BBC.

85 people were murdered ranging in age from 5 years old to 67 years old and more than 300 hundred wounded. 27 years later those responsible for this act of terrorism remain at large. A movement to pay homage to the victims of this crime continues to remember and demand justice twenty seven years later.

Photos of AMIA victims

The names of the 85 victims:

Silvana Alguea de Rodríguez, Jorge Antúnez, Moisés Gabriel Arazi, Carlos Avendaño Bobadilla, Yanina Averbuch, Naum Band, Sebastián Barreiros, David Barriga, Hugo Norberto Basiglio, Rebeca Violeta Behar de Jurín, Dora Belgorosky, Favio Enrique Bermúdez, Romina Ambar Luján Boland, Emiliano Gastón Brikman, Gabriel Buttini, Viviana Adela Casabé, Paola Sara Czyzewski, Jacobo Chemauel, Cristian Adrián Degtiar, Diego De Pirro, Ramón Nolberto Díaz, Norberto Ariel Dubin, Faiwel Dyjament, Mónica Feldman de Goldfeder, Alberto Fernández, Martín Figueroa, Ingrid Finkelchtein, Leonor Gutman de Finkelchtein, Fabián Marcelo Furman, Guillermo Benigno Galarraga, Erwin García Tenorio, José Enrique Ginsberg (Kuky), Cynthia Verónica Goldenberg, Andrea Judith Guterman, Silvia Leonor Hersalis, Carlos Hilú, Emilia Jakubiec de Lewczuk, María Luisa Jaworski, Analía Verónica Josch, Carla Andrea Josch, Elena Sofía Kastika, Esther Klin, León Gregorio Knorpel, Berta Kozuk de Losz, Luis Fernando Kupchik, Agustín Diego Lew, Jesús María Lourdes, Andrés Gustavo Malamud, Gregorio Melman, Ileana Mercovich, Naón Bernardo Mirochnik (Buby), Mónica Nudel, Elías Alberto Palti, Germán Parsons, Rosa Perelmuter, Fernando Roberto Pérez, Abraham Jaime Plaksin, Silvia Inés Portnoy, Olegario Ramírez, Noemí Graciela Reisfeld, Félix Roberto Roisman, Marisa Raquel Said, Ricardo Said, Rimar Salazar Mendoza, Fabián Schalit, Pablo Schalit, Mauricio Schiber, Néstor Américo Serena, Mirta Strier, Liliana Edith Szwimer, Naum Javier Tenenbaum, Juan Carlos Terranova, Emilia Graciela Berelejis de Toer, Mariela Toer, Marta Treibman, Angel Claudio Ubfal, Eugenio Vela Ramos, Juan Vela Ramos, Gustavo Daniel Velázquez, Isabel Victoria Núñez de Velázquez, Danilo Villaverde, Julia Susana Wolinski de Kreiman, Rita Worona, Adehemar Zárate Loayza.

Over the past twenty seven years much has been written about this crime and on the 27th anniversary interviews, articles and events have and will be carried out to recall that terrible day on July 18, 1994 and the need for truth and justice. Below is a playlist of videos related to the July 18, 1994 AMIA terror attacks.

Please share this with others and join in remembering and demanding justice.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Open letter to Black Lives Matter (the organization not the movement) on their Cuba Statement

 Dear @Blklivesmatter

Your statement on Cuba published on Facebook on July 14, 2021 is wrong. In the video above a militarized police are caught on video firing on unarmed Cubans.

First, please do not confuse Cuba, and its people, with the Castro dictatorship. They did not vote the Castros into power, nor did Cubans in 1959 support the imposition of a communist system. Fidel Castro lied about it, and used political terror and firing squads to set up the police state that has endured for 62 years jailing and killing many Cubans, with a disproportionate number being black Cubans.  There are also questions of systemic racism in Cuba with a predominantly elderly, white, and male dictatorship. 

What is causing the troubles in Cuba is the internal blockade that the Castro regime has placed on Cubans and a 62 year old dictatorship. This is why Cubans are protesting against the regime and the Cuban Communist Party. 

Cubans are not out in front of the U.S. Embassy protesting the embargo. They're protesting the Castro dictatorship because they know who's responsible for what they're suffering. 

In the past they have been forced to go there in protests organized by the dictatorship or face losing their job and their children

It's not an accident. In the spirit of dialogue wish to share the following facts:  

Cuba, prior to the arrival of the Castro in 1959, was able to feed itself from its own domestic production. Like both the USSR and Mao's China that ended with the imposition of communist centralized planning applied to agriculture.  

Today, 80% of Cuba's food is imported, and much of it from the United States. In the first five months of 2021 the Castro regime purchased $132.7 million in U.S. exports with the top export being chicken and other poultry. Over the past 20 years U.S. agriculture has sold and exported $6,632,400,000 worth of goods to Cuba. This does not include remittances sent by Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans to family in Cuba.

Economic sanctions on the Castro regime target the dictatorship not the people.

Havana does not like to talk about it, but the chicken eaten by Cubans in the island comes from the United States. Please check out the packaging in this Tweet below:

A quick search of the packaging found that Hudson Midwest Foods, Inc. is a subsidiary of the American company Tysons foods. This chicken sold in Cuba is an American export. 

The truth of this is found in the announcement by the Castro dictatorship on July 14, 2021 that "it was temporarily lifting restrictions on the amount of food and medicine travelers could bring into the country." Agence France Press described it as "an apparent small concession to demands by protesters who took to the street last weekend."  

This was not the embargo, but the Cuban government placing restrictions on bringing food and medicine into Cuba.

Worse yet, you mention how Cuban doctors being sent overseas but fail to say anything about the shortages of doctors in Cuba, or how the dictatorship profits from the practice in what has been described as human trafficking.

Once again this was not the embargo but the dictatorship, and its policies that hurt Cubans to profit the elite in the dictatorship.

Hansel E. Hernández killed by Cuban police on June 24, 2020

We understand the Castro regime lies and obfuscates, and confusion is understandable, but we are concerned that Black Lives Matter did not call the Castro regime to account when a young unarmed black man was shot in the back and killed by Cuban revolutionary police a few days after George Floyd.

On June 24, 2020 in Guanabacoa, Cuba 27 year old Hansel E. Hernández was shot in the back and killed by the Revolutionary National Police.  He was quickly cremated to avoid an autopsy, and accountability.

Hansel E. Hernández was quickly cremated before an autopsy.

On June 28, 2020 independent Jorge Enrique Rodríguez was arrested and charged with "Fake news" for his reporting on this police killing of a black youth.

Demonstrations were announced for June 30, 2020 to protest the killing of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano. Secret police began shutting off internet connections, cell phones and started arresting those who they suspected would take part in protests.  

The Castro dictatorship launched a campaign that it called the Heroes of the Blue (#HeroesDeAzul ) that celebrated their police in response.

Ramiro Valdez, Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and Mengistu Mariam

Your claims about the Castro regime's role in Africa does not past muster. Violent guerilla and terrorist movements sponsored and trained by Castro harmed more than helped across Africa.

Cuban troops in May 1977 took part in a massacre not long after independence following a split in the governing Communist MPLA party. Amnesty International says 30,000 died in the purge others say as many as 90,000 killed.

The Castros took part in a genocide in Ethiopia with their ally and convicted war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam. Fidel and Raul Castro sent 17,000 Cuban troops to Eastern Africa in order to assist Mengistu in consolidating his rule and eliminating actual and potential opposition. Mengistu was backed by the Castros throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until 1989 and were present and complicit in the war crimes and engineered famine that took place there. 

Fidel Castro and Mengistu Mariam reviewing  troops.

Conservative estimate by Tufts University places number of Ethiopians killed by Mengistu and his Castro allies are between 225,000 and 317,000.

Finally, the credit given by many to Castro for the end of Apartheid in South Africa is problematic. Non-violent movements, general strikes, boycotts, and sanctions had more to do with the end of the Afrikaner dictatorship then the guerilla groups that carried out terrorist attacks with backing from Havana.  

The embrace of political violence, terrorism, and guerilla warfare as something positive is a counterproductive approach. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

July 13th now has a double significance for victims of communism in China and Cuba

Free Cubans and Chinese share a common day to mourn victims of communism.

Over the past 27 years Cubans have mourned the 37 men, women, and children who were extrajudicially executed by agents of the Cuban government on July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat was attacked and sunk.

Tragically, Chinese are mourning Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo who died four years ago on July 13, 2017 at the First Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, China after being unjustly imprisoned from December 8, 2008 until his untimely death. It is likely that he died of a cancer made terminal by politically motivated neglect. Today marks the one year of his passing. After eight years in "unofficial detention" his widow Liu Xia was finally allowed to leave China on July 10, 2018.

Liu Xiaobo  was one of the authors of Charter 08 and signed it along with more than three hundred Chinese citizens. The Charter is a manifesto that was released on December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It calls for more freedom of expression, human rights, more democratic elections, the privatization of state enterprises and economic liberalization and would collect over 10,000 signatures.

Charter 08 is reminiscent of the Varela Project that was initially signed by 11,020 Cubans in May of 2002 calling on the Cuban government to respect international human rights norms and engage in the same kind of reforms. Both were inspired by Vaclav Havel and Charter 77. Lamentably one of the authors of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and a youth leader of the same movement, Harold Cepero Escalante were both extrajudicially executed nine years ago on July 22, 2012 in a crash engineered by the Cuban dictatorship's agents.

The demand for justice remains unfulfilled in all these cases, but we must not despair.

We bear witness embracing truth and memory in defiance of the attempt to whitewash and forget. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained the importance of doing this in his 1986 Nobel Lecture on why it is important to remember:  

"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." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." 

In 2017, I was present at a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC on July 17th organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to pay my respects for Liu Xiaobo and demonstrate my solidarity with Chinese human rights defenders.

On Sunday, July 11, 2021 I was in front of the Cuban embassy in a vigil for the 37 victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and in solidarity with Cubans that had taken to the streets of over 50 towns and cities across Cuba. Together with scores of others we lit candles and said prayers for these victims of communism, their loved ones, and for justice.

We continue to remember.


July 13, 2017
Liu Xiaobo, Age: 61

July 22, 2012
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Age: 60
Harold Cepero Escalante, Age: 32

July 13, 1994
Hellen Martínez Enriquez. Age: 5 Months
Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández. Age: 2
Angel René Abreu Ruíz. Age: 3
José Carlos Niclas Anaya. Age: 3
Giselle Borges Alvarez. Age: 4
Caridad Leyva Tacoronte. Age: 5
Juan Mario Gutiérrez García. Age: 10
Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte. Age: 11
Yasser Perodín Almanza. Age: 11
Eliécer Suárez Plasencia. Age: 12
Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte. Age: 17
Miladys Sanabria Leal. Age: 19
Joel García Suárez. Age: 20
Odalys Muñoz García. Age: 21
Yalta Mila Anaya Carrasco. Age: 22
Luliana Enríquez Carrazana. Age: 22
Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo. Age: 24
Lissett María Alvarez Guerra. Age: 24
Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro. Age: 25
María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez. Age: 27
Leonardo Notario Góngora. Age: 28
Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores. Age: 28
Pilar Almanza Romero. Age: 31
Rigoberto Feu González. Age: 31
Omar Rodríguez Suárez. Age: 33
Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel. Age: 34
Julia Caridad Ruíz Blanco. Age: 35
Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega. Age: 35
Eduardo Suárez Esquivel. Age: 38
Martha Mirella Carrasco Sanabria. Age: 45
Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez. Age: 45
Rosa María Alcalde Puig. Age: 47
Estrella Suárez Esquivel. Age: 48
Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo. Age: 48
Amado González Raices. Age: 50
Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández. Age: 51
Manuel Cayol. Age: 56

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The "13 de Marzo" tugboat sinking, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, and the Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killings: The importance of remembering Castroism's crimes

The importance of remembering.

Wednesday, July 13, 1994 at three in the morning three extended Cuban families set out for a better life aboard the "13 de Marzo" tugboat from Havana, Cuba and were massacred by Cuban government agents.

The most extensive international report on what took place is by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and is available on-line. Fifteen years later human rights defender Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, reflected on what had happened:
Behind the Christ of Havana, about seven miles from the coast, "volunteers" of the Communist regime committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba. In the morning, a group of seventy people in all, fled on a tugboat, led by the ship's own crew; none was kidnapped, or there against their will. They came out of the mouth of the Bay of Havana. They were pursued by other similar ships. When the runaway ship and its occupants stopped to surrender, the ships that had been chasing them started ramming to sink it. Meanwhile, on the deck, women with children in their arms begging for mercy, but the answer of their captors was to project high pressure water cannons against them. Some saw their children fall overboard under the murderous jets of water amid shrieks of horror. They behaved brutally until their perverse mission was fulfilled: Sink the fleeing ship and annihilate many of its occupants.
The man who denounced the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre would himself become a martyr of the same dictatorship along with Harold Cepero, a youth leader from the Christian Liberation Movement.
Nine years ago on July 22, 2012 on a stretch of road in Eastern Cuba, State Security agents rammed the car Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were traveling in. Both bodies appeared later that same day.

July 13th will mark 27 years since 37 Cubans were killed for wanting to live in freedom. Eleven of them were children, and nine days later we will remember two men killed nine years ago for non-violently advocating for freedom in Cuba.

One year after the massacre on July 13, 1995, Cuban exiles gathered together and set out in a flotilla that peacefully invaded Cuban national territory to travel to the spot where the "13 de Marzo" tugboat sank and where the human remains of the 37 victims still reside never returned to their families to this day to hold religious services for them. Ramón Saúl Sánchez organized and led the flotilla aboard the boat christened "Democracia". Upon entering Cuban waters the Castro regime sent their patrol boats, helicopters, and MiGs to surround and intimidate the flotilla, but it continued until the lead boat's hull was crushed by two patrol boats, and people onboard were hurt. Responding to the attack, Brothers to the Rescue planes overflew Havana dropping leaflets that read "Comrades No. Brothers" in Spanish.  It was on that day that the Democracy Movement came into existence. It was also on that day that the Castro regime began planning its reprisal against Brothers to the Rescue, enlisting members of the WASP spy network to provide intelligence that led to the deaths of four innocents. 
This is how it was outlined in a legal document presented to the United States Department of Justice in Falls Church, Virginia.

On July 13, 1995, two BTTR aircraft over flew Havana. The Cuban government charged that Basulto publicly, openly and patently endeavored to provoke air incidents and violate Cuban territorial sovereignty. On that flight, Hank Tester, a news reporter from Miami, flew aboard Basulto's plane filming as "fighters were in the area." Basulto claimed his intrusion was an act of civil disobedience. (App. Exh.60) The purpose of the July 13 over-flight was to create a diversion for Cuban fighters that were at the time threatening a freedom flotilla off the territorial waters of Cuba. The flotilla in turn was lawfully commemorating the sinking of the tugboat "13 de Marzo" and the tragic loss of forty lives caused by Cuban gunboats ramming the defenseless vessel. (App. Exh.8 and 60) On July 14, 1995, the day after the over flight, the Cuban government first declared its intention to shoot down even peaceful intruders. Cuba would not govern itself by international standards of engagement when dealing with non-military intrusions.

 25 years ago on February 24, 1996 a Cuban MiG-29UB Fulcrum and a MiG-23ML intercepted three US civilian registered Cessna 337s (N2456S, N5485S and N2506), operated by the Brothers to the Rescue while they were engaged on a humanitarian search and rescue mission over the Florida Straits for Cuban rafters in international airspace.

At 3:21 pm EST the Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N2456S) was destroyed by an air-to-air missile fired by the Cuban MiG-29 military aircraft.

At 3:27 pm EST the Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N5485S) was destroyed by an air-to-air missile fired by a Cuban MiG-29 military aircraft.

Immediately killed were Armando Alejandre Jr.,45 years old, Carlos Alberto Costa, age 29, Mario Manuel de la Peña, age 24, and Pablo Morales, age 29. This was a premeditated act of state terrorism carried out by Havana on the orders of both Fidel and Raul Castro.

The third Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N2506) was able to escape and the survivors Jose Basulto, Arnaldo Iglesias, Silvia Iriondo and Andres Iriondo were able to set the record straight on the propaganda offensive already underway from Havana to misrepresent what had happened.

On Sunday, July 11th at 7:00pm free Cubans, and friends of freedom, will gather outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC [ 2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009] for a silent vigil to remember the victims of the "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre, those murdered outside of Cuba for peacefully protesting this crime, and the martyred leader who denounced the crime inside Cuba.

On Tuesday, July 13th at  4:00pm at the Cuban Memorial located at Tamiami Park in Miami, FL [11201 SW 24 Street, Miami, FL] the community is invited to remember the "13 de marzo" tugboat sinking with survivors, relatives of the victims, and with Ramón Saúl Sánchez of the Democracy Movement. This gathering will be presided over by Kiele Alessandra, the young woman whose protest in the baseball game between Cuba and Venezuela in West Palm Beach drew international attention.  

The Castro regime has spent much in the way of resources on misinformation campaigns to cover up this history. The facts, when known, have led some who had a hard left upbringing to break with the regime.

German-born Anna Veltfort spent her formative years in Cuba and was traumatized by the  "treatment of gay people, especially starting in 1965 when [her] university was bombarded with antigay rhetoric by the government and by the UJC (the Young Communist Union)." However it was what came later that she says led to her horror with the Castro regime. "In subsequent years, her disillusionment grew as she saw 'the ever increasing militarization of daily life and of the life of the country; the Cuban government’s rejection of Glasnost (the political liberalization policies of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union); the show trial and execution of General Ochoa; and the deliberate sinking of the Tugboat “13 de marzo” in July 1994, with 70 people aboard who had hijacked the boat in their attempt to flee Cuba—37 men, women, and children drowned,' she said, in an interview with the University of Miami's UNews@TheU last month.

Truth and memory are necessary elements to change hearts, and minds to achieve positive change, but this is not the most important reason to remember. Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel in his important work Night  explained the importance of remembering: "To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”