Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Cuban women on hunger strike outside the United Nations in New York City to draw attention to humanitarian emergency in Cuba.

 “The future depends on what we do in the present.” - Mohandas Gandhi

Photo by EFE

Three Cuban women are on hunger strike in front of the United Nations in New York City. There names are Anisley Pérez, Niurka Prestamos and Yamisderky Pelier, They are on a hunger strike until a United Nations official meets with them and recognizes that there is a humanitarian emergency underway in Cuba. They traveled from Miami to New York City and initiated the hunger strike on Saturday, August 28, 2021.

They are not alone. Seven human rights organizations on July 13, 2021 issued a call for international solidarity with Cubans and denounced violent repression on the Island.  Among the organizations are the Christian Democrat Organization of America, UN Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Victims of Communism, the International Society for Human Rights, and the Forum for Religious Freedom - Europe and among the five points agreed to, the fifth was a request for a humanitarian corridor.

"We ask for the opening of a humanitarian channel, independent of the Cuban state, which allows the arrival of food and medicines directly to the people, understanding that on numerous previous occasions the Cuban government has blocked and confiscated the aid collected and sent in the past.” 

 If you are in the New York City area, or can get up there for a few days, these women need help to maintain their hunger strike. They are exposed to the elements, and need water. Now is the time for solidarity.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The August 22, 2021 Great March in Miami organized by Cuban Freedom March: See Videos I and II by ProActivo Miami

Cuban Freedom March carried out their nonviolent action on Aug 22nd

One week ago today in
#Miami, a nonviolent protest organized by Cuban Freedom March was carried out in Miami. This video created by ProActivo Miami captured the moment. Please share it widely.

Prior to the march I reflected on its significance, and the importance and power of nonviolence. The power idea that opened the reflection was taken from the late Czech dissident Václav Havel:

"If there is to be any chance at all of success, there is only one way to strive for decency, reason, responsibility, sincerity, civility and tolerance, and this is decently, reasonably, responsibly, sincerely, civilly, and tolerantly."
Below is an earlier and shorter version of the ProActivo Miami video. Please let us know which is your favorite.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Black Ribbon Day 2021: The Hitler-Stalin Pact that started WW2 which communists would like to erase.

 "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." - Milan Kundera

Eighty two years ago on August 23, 1939 the world was shocked to learn that Communist Russia and Nazi Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. It was named after their respective foreign ministers, Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Observers would have been even more horrified had they known of the secret protocols that divided Eastern Europe between the two totalitarian regimes. What they called a "peace treaty" in reality was a war treaty.

Rolling Soviet tanks and Nazi motorcyclists in Poland (September 1939).

Nine days later on September 1, 1939 at 4:45 am Nazi Germany invaded Poland and World War II started. Sixteen days later the Soviet Union exercising its secret agreement with the Nazis invaded Poland from the East and met their German allies in the middle of Poland. 

Nazi and Soviet soldiers greet one another in Poland (1939)

On September 22, 1939 the German Nazi army joined with the Soviet Communist army in a military parade in Brest-Litovsk and the two sides celebrated together. Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov in a October 31, 1939  speech spoke candidly about the Nazi-Communist alliance, and ridiculed its victims.

"The ruling circles of Poland boasted quite a lot about the ‘stability’ of their state and the ‘might’ of their army. However, one swift blow to Poland, first by the German Army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left of this ugly offspring of the Versailles Treaty which had existed by oppressing non-Polish nationalities."

Approximately 230,000 Polish soldiers and officers and thousands of military service representatives were taken captive by the Russians. The Soviet precursor to the KGB was the NKVD. "From October 1939, the delegated NKVD officials from Moscow heard the prisoners, encouraged them to cooperate and collected data. Only a few of the prisoners agreed to collaborate. The commanding officers’ reports included opinions about hostile attitudes of the Poles and a minimal chance of them being useful to the USSR authorities."

The decision to shoot the prisoners was signed on March 5, 1940 by seven members of the All- Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) authorities: Joseph Stalin, Lavrentiy Beria (proposer), Kliment Voroshilov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Anastas Mikoyan, Mikhail Kalinin and Lazar Kaganovich.  Thousands of Polish Army officers and intellectual leaders were taken into the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union, shot in the back of the head or in the neck and buried in mass graves.

Secret protocols of the Hitler-Stalin Pact not only partitioned Poland but also divided up Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Romania into Nazi and Soviet "spheres of influence." The Soviet Union invaded and annexed the Baltic States in June 1940.  

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov meets with Adolf Hitler (1940)

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov in a speech delivered on August 1, 1940 while the Soviet Union was then still allied with Nazi Germany continued to describe their military alliance as a "non-aggression pact."   

 "A radical change for the better in the relations between the Soviet Union and Germany found its expression in the non-aggression pact signed last August. These new, good relations between the USSR and Germany have been tested in practice in connection with events in former Poland, and their strength has been sufficiently proved."

Another sign of Nazi-Soviet cooperation was the Soviet Union’s deportation of hundreds of refugees to Nazi authorities. Most of them were German anti-fascists, communists, and Jews who had sought asylum in the Soviet Union.

This should not have come as a complete surprise.

Communist morality has no problem with any of it because as the communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin observed in a speech to Russian communist youth on October 2, 1920:

"The class struggle is continuing and it is our task to subordinate all interests to that struggle. Our communist morality is also subordinated to that task. We say: morality is what serves to destroy the old exploiting society and to unite all the working people around the proletariat, which is building up a new, communist society."

Both ideologies sought to destroy the old existing order and replace it with a new one. The Nazis with a society based in ideas of racial purity and the Communists with the destruction of all existing class structure. On the surface these ideas are in conflict, but in practical terms both sought to destroy the existing social and political order.

The same people who would join Hitler's brown shirts were also susceptible recruits to join Antifa. Communists viewed the SA as a "proletarian-revolutionary paramilitary wing"of the Nazi movement and susceptible to being recruited to the communist cause. The case of Richard Scheringer, a supporter of Adolf Hitler and army officer who converted to communism in the early 1930s is a high profile example of this. 

Richard Scheringer: From Nazi to Communist

Harvey Klehr, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Politics and History, Emeritus, at Emory University, described how communists had mistakenly viewed the Nazis as a means to achieving power and undermining capitalist democracies. Antifa identified all political parties that were not communist as fascist. This meant that social democrats, centrist political parties, and conservative parties were together with the Nazis all labeled fascist. This was the Comintern's class against class approach and fractured any potential broad anti-Nazi coalition.

"Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1932 had been immeasurably aided by the German communists' steadfast support for the Comintern tactic of “class against class,” which demanded no cooperation with other anti-Nazi forces. German communists blithely insisted that Hitler’s triumph would be evanescent—summarized in their optimistic slogan, Nach Hitler, kommen wir ('After Hitler, us'). 

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is this strategy but on a grander scale. Let the Western democracies and the Nazis exhaust each other in the conflict and then seize everything. Victor Davis Hanson, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. reported that "Stalin shipped huge supplies of food and fuel for the German war effort against the West." 

Soviet and Nazi soldiers fraternize after conquering Poland in 1939

The Communist International (Comintern) issued new orders to their members once the non-aggression pact was made public. Professor Klehr described the new directive.

Good communists were ordered to oppose anyone intending to stand in Hitler’s way.  With Ribbentrop’s second visit to Moscow at the end of September and the signing of a German-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, the Comintern emphasized that the primary adversary was those countries that were at war with Germany, and those socialists and social democrats fighting against fascism. Germany had concluded a pact with the USSR, while “reactionary” England, at the helm of a vast colonial empire, was the “bulwark of capitalism.” Thus, communist parties in England and France were ordered to call for the defeat of their countries—ordered, in other words, to officially embrace treason. 
According to Klehr, Nazi reports confirmed that Communists were fulfilling their part of the agreement siding against Western Democracies.
 A June 1940 Gestapo report approvingly noted that the Soviet government was favorably disposed to the Third Reich and had endorsed its invasions of the Scandinavian states and Belgium and Holland “as necessary and proper.” The report went on to note that the Comintern had avoided open attacks on Germany,  and that the parties and publications allied with the Comintern were not pushing for communists to struggle against National Socialism or denounce fascism.

This alliance ended on June 22, 1941 when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, betraying his ally Josef Stalin. 

Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, and Soviet foreign minister, Molotov

"Stalin was shocked; he had received a plethora of warnings of an imminent invasion – notably from Winston Churchill, informed by British intelligence briefings. The communist dictator had refused to believe them," reported Agence France Press. Stalin preferred to rely on Hitler's assurances.  

Today, communist apologists will continue to defend Stalin and attempt to cover up this history of collaboration between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It may also explain the real reason behind attacks on the legacy of Winston Churchill. His observation on the relationship between the Communists and the Nazis in his book The Second World War, Volume 1, The Gathering Storm (1948) is damning and accurate.

"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." 

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the reckless strategy pursued by Stalin and the Communist International cost 22 to 28 million Russian lives alone in World War Two, and nearly led to the Nazi conquest and occupation of the Soviet Union.


It also led to Poland spending another half century under Soviet domination and Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia territories absorbed by the Soviet Union. A conquest that arose out of the Hitler-Stalin pact that endured following the end of WW2.

It was a nonviolent movement thirty two years ago that liberated the Baltic nations. The Baltic Way brought an end to this part of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact.

The Baltic Way brought an end to one key element of Molotov Ribbentrop

 On June 4, 1989 the Solidarity labor movement won in free elections and the Polish people finally regained their sovereignty after nearly 50 years under Soviet domination. They did it nonviolently. 

So did the people of the Baltic states when two million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians joined hands together in a giant human chain stretching 370 miles on August 23, 1989. Fifty years to the day after the treaty that brought them so much grief had been signed.


This history must not be forgotten. The Spanish scholar George Santayana understood that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  

Across the world in Europe and the Americas Black Ribbon Day continues to be remembered with acts of remembrance. Today at 3:00pm at the Legislative Assembly in Alberta Canada there will be a Black Ribbon Day commemoration. The Honourable Nathan Cooper, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, will host the event and made the following video.

Over social media the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry offers an overview of the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

The Polish government is also remembering this day.

Remembrance of the nonviolent action that brought the Hitler-Stalin Pact finally to an end is also being shared on social media.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Cuban Freedom March in Miami today a successful nonviolent action

Cuban Freedom March leaves Our Lady of Charity in Miami on 8/22/21

Earlier today posted a reflection on the Cuban Freedom March before it was underway, and posited why I believe it to be a significant initiative.

In the post I expressed "this is a freedom movement led by young Cubans and Cuban Americans with a presence on social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter."  This was confirmed at the end of the march when the organizing team came out onto the stage.

Cuban Freedom March organizers take a bow at the end of the march

Today's march gave me hope in the Havelian sense, and I trust that I was not alone. It was a hot, humid, and sunny day. The march began at Our Lady of Charity, known by Cubans as the Ermita de la Caridad located on 3609 S. Miami Avenue Miami, FL 33133 to Domino Park located at 801 SW 15th Ave. Miami, FL 33135 in a 2.9 mile walk along 17th Avenue.


Chants of "No to Communism", "Down with the dictatorship", "Freedom for Cuba",  "If Cuba is in the street, so are we!" and many more heard through the streets of Miami this morning and afternoon concluding with a rally at Domino Park.

A new generation of activists has responded to the events of July 11th and their call to action is a persistent one that has taken to the streets in Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Miami. However, they go beyond physical spaces to cyberspace and engaging in the realm of ideas.

Earlier I described how this gives me "hope in the Havelian sense" for the future of Cuba. Below share the definition provided by the Czech dissident leader, later president of the Czech Republic Václav Havel in his 1990 book Disturbing the Peace.

“Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpromising the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." 
Listen to the voices of the new generation pay tribute to those who came before them.

A full recording of the event is available on Youtube by Dariel Hernandez. Below are some pictures from the march today.

The event closed with a call for spiritual unity by Grecia Ordoñez and Mack Lorén singing a mashup of Guantanamera and Patria y Vida that was emotionally impacting.


Cuban Freedom March Miami today August 22nd from 10am to 1pm: A reflection on its significance

"If there is to be any chance at all of success, there is only one way to strive for decency, reason, responsibility, sincerity, civility and tolerance, and this is decently, reasonably, responsibly, sincerely, civilly, and tolerantly" - Václav Havel 

The Cuban Freedom March arrives in Miami, Florida today on August 22, 2021 with a march from la Ermita de la Caridad to Domino Park. The protest starts at 10:00am. Organizers have carried out successful marches in Washington DC, and Los Angeles.

Logistics for today's non-violent protest march in Miami

On August 11, 2021 the leader of this movement, Alian Collazo, moderated a conversation on "what's really happening in Cuba" that is necessary viewing to listen to different perspectives, from young Cuban and Cuban American voices both inside and outside of Cuba.

This is a freedom movement led by young Cubans and Cuban Americans with a presence on social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This is a means to demonstrate continued support for human rights and freedom in Cuba through the nonviolent exercise of an important and fundamental right: peaceful assembly.

The values expressed by this youth movement thus far are in agreement with the values expressed by the San Isidro Movement, the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the Ladies in White and the Liberation Christian Movement in Cuba.
The pro-democracy movement in Cuba is a nonviolent movement, and within the spectrum of nonviolent actions there are at least 198 identified by the nonviolence theoretician Gene Sharp.
These freedom marches fall under the category of processions by Professor Sharp. Marches are identified as the 38th of 198 identified nonviolent actions by Gene Sharp.  
Strategic nonviolence takes a pragmatic approach that is based on being more effective then violence, especially when confronting brutal dictatorships, like the Castro regime
Non-violent resistance is an armed struggle but its weapons are not deployed to do violence or kill. These arms are  psychological, social, economic and political weapons.  Gene Sharp argues with much evidence "that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence. Historical studies are cited that demonstrate the higher success rates of nonviolent movements when compared against violent ones:

University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns. Finally there study also suggests “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.”
Therefore, if you want to help Cubans on the island than you owe it to them and to yourself to listen to them, review what they have done in the past, are doing today, the repression suffered, and learn as much as you can about the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence they have embraced for decades.

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. 

Below are some presentations, documentaries, and historic clips that can be of use as an introduction to nonviolence. 
Many are also available in Spanish to circulate among Cubans on the island that until now have not been directly connected to the national civic resistance movement there.  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Castro dictatorship passes regulations further criminalizing online content, further restricting internet access

Less than two years ago the Castro regime was already criminalizing online content.

Committee to Protect Journalists, August 19, 2021

Cuba passes regulations criminalizing online content, further restricting internet access

Police officers in Havana on July 12, 2021. Govt passed new restrictions on internet content. (Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini) 

Miami, August 19, 2021 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the enactment of new telecommunications regulations in Cuba that will further censor information on the island, and called for their immediate repeal.

On August 17, the Cuban government enacted new regulations that criminalize the sharing of “false” and “offensive” information online, and grant authorities expanded powers to restrict online speech, according to the text of the regulations and press reports.

“With this new set of vaguely defined internet regulations, Cuban authorities are clearly seeking to bar the country’s citizens from expressing their discontent and accessing information freely online,” said CPJ Latin America and Caribbean Senior Researcher Ana Cristina Núñez. “No matter how many new laws and decrees Cuban authorities pass, however, Cubans have the right to unfiltered and unbiased news. These regulations should be repealed immediately.”

The director of cybersecurity for the Cuban Ministry of Communications, Pablo Domínguez Vásquez, said in a press conference that the new rules empowered the government to document cybersecurity breaches, and said that “when these people [perpetrators] are identified and they are in the country, penalties will be imposed,” according to press reports.

The regulations include Decree 35 on “Telecommunications, Information and Communication Technologies and the Use of the Radioelectric Spectrum,” Resolutions 105, 107, and 108, pertaining to cybersecurity and network usage, and Decree 42, relating to information and communications technologies.

Article 69 of Decree 35 empowers the state telecom monopoly ETECSA to shut down networks and services that transmit information that is false; offensive or harmful to human dignity; against personal and family privacy; against collective safety, general welfare, public morality, or respect for public order; or which constitutes “a means to commit illicit acts.”

Article 53(b) of Decree 42 obliges internet service providers to suspend, in coordination with authorities, the service or terminate the contract of users who transmit such information.

The regulations do not define “false information” or terms such as “collective safety, general welfare and public morality.” The regulations state that they may be applied regardless of other criminal, civil, or administrative actions against suspects for those actions.

Resolution 105 lists online offenses including the “dissemination of false news” and “defamation with an impact on the country’s prestige,” as well as “harmful diffusion,” which it defines as the dissemination of content that “incites demonstrations or other acts that can affect public order.”

That resolution also covers “cyberterrorism,” which it says includes actions whose purpose is to subvert the constitutional order; suppress or seriously destabilize the operation of political institutions, economic, and social structures of the state; or to compel public institutions to do so.

Resolution 105 does not enumerate any specific penalties for those offenses.

“With these rules, the Cuban regime is legalizing internet blackouts, and the possibility of cutting off access to the internet and mobile phone services in a personalized way,” Norges Rodríguez, director of the Cuban digital rights project YucaByte, told CPJ in a phone interview.

Cuban authorities have previously interrupted internet service for the entire island and for specific users, as CPJ has documented. The new regulations follow anti-government protests in July, during which protestors shared videos of the demonstrations online, and the government interrupted access to the internet and social media platforms, as CPJ documented at the time. Authorities have imprisoned people for sharing those videos, according to media reports.

These new regulations add to the government’s control over social media content under Decree 370 of 2019, which bans disseminating “information contrary to the social interest, morals, good manners and integrity of people” on public networks, and which has been used to persecute journalists, as CPJ has documented.

“These new regulations are now being integrated into the strategy of the Cuban regime regarding the internet: on the one hand it opens access to the web, but on the other it accompanies it with legal and technical mechanisms that allow for the implementation of censorship,” Rodríguez said. “This is a farce.”

CPJ emailed the Cuban Ministry of Communications for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Will Castro regime use new internet censorship law to target Cuban doctors who spoke out on public health system collapse in Cuba?

 Providing some context to a troubling question.

Castro's PM Marrero tried to scapegoat Cuban doctors, but they pushed back

Earlier version found here.

Frances Robles reporting in The New York Times described how "after Cuba’s prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, said that Cubans were complaining more about doctors and their poor service than they were about the shortages ... nearly two dozen young physicians and medical students took to social media to state, one by one: “I am publicly declaring that doctors are not to blame for the collapse of the public health system.”

Sarah Marsh of Reuters described it as a "rare public denunciation of conditions in the island's hallowed health care system" and made reference to consequences for speaking out critically, but did not provide a specific example. 

There are more than one. Here are three well documented cases of doctors who spoke out. The first being abroad didn't suffer consequences. Two others were not so lucky.

that "scores of Cuban doctors working overseas to make money for their families and their country are suing to break ranks with the Cuban government, demanding to be released from what one judge called a 'form of slave labor.'" Further on in the same article appears the following powerful quote. “When you leave Cuba for the first time, you discover many things that you had been blind to,” said Yaili Jiménez Gutierrez, one of the doctors who filed suit. “There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave.” 

Dr. Omar del Pozo

Dr Omar del Pozo, a 47-year-old physician and prisoner of conscience, was imprisoned in 1992 and sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence in Combinado del Este Prison for “revealing state secrets”. Amnesty International in 1997 expressed "concern that according to the latest reports his health has deteriorated and in addition to suffering from high blood pressure, apical abscesses, a stomach ulcer and heart and kidney problems, he is also suffering from malnutrition. He is reported to have received harsh treatment and lack of medical treatment in prison."  

Desi Mendoza Rivero, a 43-year-old doctor and father of four children, was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in connection with his critique of the authorities' handling of a dengue fever epidemic in Cuba in 1997. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience, and eventually he was able to leave prison for forced exile in Spain.

Doctors speaking out today, like Dr. del Pozo, and Dr. Mendoza Rivero in the past, risk prison sentences for what they have done.  

Giving voice to "fake news" in Cuba, disseminating it, publishing offensive messages or defamations that harm "the prestige of the country" are now a crime. The Castro regime with its own history of propagating fake news decides who is "guilty" of it over social media. This new decree issued by the dictatorship entered into force today, Wednesday, August 18, 2021. Decree-Law 35 penalizes "ethical and social" harm done "or incidents of aggression " on social media, reported 14ymedio yesterday. The text entering into force was approved back on April 13, 2021, but the content was not known until Tuesday, August 17, 2021 noted 14ymedio.

Among its novelties, this ministerial decree contains the "classification of incidents of cybersecurity and their level of dangerousness", such as the "dissemination of false news, offensive messages, defamation with an impact on the prestige of the country." The level of dangerousness is classified as "high" in Annex II taken from the regime's Gaceta Oficial and reproduced below.

The claims made in the media that Decree-Law 35 is the first cybersecurity law passed in Cuba are wrong. This is the latest Decree passed to restrict speech on the internet, with some new elements but not the first. Decree 370 issued by the Cuban government on July 4, 2019 threatens fines and imprisonment for any Cubans expressing themselves over the internet in a manner that the authorities find objectionable. The decree also prohibits foreign web hosting while law existing prior to Decree 370 already prohibited critical content on domestic servers. Less than a year later on May 6, 2020 over forty national and international NGOs signed a joint statement denouncing the consequences of Decree 370.

Although repression of freedom of expression and freedom of press has been long-standing and systematic, the current wave of repression has been intensified by the application of Legal Decree 370 “ON THE COMPUTERIZATION OF CUBAN SOCIETY,” in force since July 4, 2019. At least 30 people have been subjected to interrogation, threats, and seizure of work equipment (especially that of journalists) for broadcasting their opinions on social media, 20 have been victims of 3,000-peso fines (120 US dollars), an amount triple the average monthly salary. Failure to pay these fines constitutes a crime punishable by six months in prison, a systematic approach that has enabled the Cuban State to sentence 7 civil society actors who are currently in prison.

The totalitarian nature of repression in Cuba has not changed in decades nor the efforts of the dictatorship to ever perfect their panopticon on a national scale. What changed was the spontaneous protest of tens of thousands of Cubans across more than 50 cities and towns, knowing what awaited them, shouting that they were not afraid, down with the dictatorship, down with communism and homeland and life. The brutal and violent response by the dictatorship that still continues and is reflected in this new legislation is not new, but the widespread resistance to it is.

The future of these Cuban doctors who spoke out will depend in large part to the vigilance of the international community, and the response of Cubans on the island.

Repression is not new, but the refusal of Cubans to continue tolerating it is. Witnessing the events across Cuba that began on July 11, 2021 with a national cry of defiance that brought to mind the words of Frederick Douglass: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

Friday, August 13, 2021

Remembering when the Berlin Wall went up 60 years ago. Castro's visit in 1972 and how the Florida Straits were turned into a watery Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall and the Florida Straits: Deadly barriers to freedom

Sixty years ago today, in the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall went up and divided the old German capital city in two.  Western manufacturers provided the 150 tons of coiled barb wire to imprison East Germans behind the Berlin Wall for an entire generation.

Nighttime wall-building on Aug. 13, 1961.  Photo: Rue des Archives/GRANGER

In East Germany there are 136 documented cases of German civilians killed by East German border guards between 1961 and 1989 with their names provided. An estimated 1,000 were killed trying to cross.  The East German government had given a clear Order to Border Guards on October 1, 1973 that left no doubt to their criminal nature:

"It is your duty to use your combat … skills in such a way as to overcome the cunning of the border breacher, to challenge or liquidate him in order to thwart the planned border breach... Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.”

Fidel Castro visited Berlin in 1972 and addressed the border guards that policed the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from escaping to the West. 

Castro encouraged East German border guards in their deadly work

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

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

The state security apparatus in Cuba was trained by the East German intelligence service, known as the Stasi, the most brutal security apparatus behind the Iron Curtain rivaling the Soviet KGB in brutality and surpassing it in its espionage capabilities.  

The Castro regime and the East German communist regime had a close relationship for three decades. John O. Koehler on page 297 of his book Stasi: the untold story of the East German secret police outlined the relationship between the Cuban and East German intelligence services.

"The Stasi's first major task abroad was in Cuba, after Fidel Castro and Vice Premier Anastas Mikoyan signed the Soviet-Cuban pact on February 13, 1960, officially placing Cuba in the Soviet bloc. As Soviet arms shipments began, Mielke sent a number of Stasi officers of General Wolf's HVA to Havana. Led by Colonel Siegfried Fiedler, they assisted in setting up what became a first-rate intelligence service and an oppressive secret police. As a result Cuba's relations with East Germany developed as closely as those with the Soviet Union. Intelligence gathered in the United States by the Cubans was routinely shared with the Stasi. Much of the information contained in the dossier the Stasi maintained on President Ronald Reagan, for example, originated with the Cubans."

The Stasi enforced control at the Berlin Wall, and the Cubans who were trained by them, applied these skills in the Florida Straits and on the border with the Guantanamo Naval base killing many Cubans.

The actions of Cuban border patrols on July 13, 1994, and instances such as the June 1993 use of machine gun fire and hand grenades on defenseless swimmers trying to reach the U.S. Guantanamo Naval base are not aberrations. 

These were not isolated incidents, talking to Cubans randomly in Miami one hears accounts of others who died in the same manner trying to flee the island over the past six decades. It just happened to be one of the few times when it was properly documented and an official complaint lodged.

The men responsible for the July 13, 1994 tugboat massacre where given medals and described as heroes by Fidel Castro. This should not be a surprise when considering that he had praised the East German border guards that carried out orders to kill men, women, and children whose sole “crime” was trying to reach freedom on the other side of the Berlin Wall. 

Chris Gueffroy born 1968 and killed at the Berlin Wall 1989

Killings at the Berlin Wall continued until it was torn down in 1989. One of the last victims, Chris Gueffroy was born on June 21, 1968 and shot dead on February 5, 1989 trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Murdered at 20 years of age for the crime of wanting to live in freedom. 

The killings in Cuba continue to the present day, and like in East Germany, to end the homicides will require a change of system.