Thursday, September 30, 2021

International Day of Non-Violence 2021: Raising awareness with Satyagraha

 We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it. - Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

October 2nd has been recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence. This date was selected to reflect on this powerful idea, because on October 2, 1869 Mohandas Gandhi was born in India.  The United Nations describes Gandhi as the "leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence." 

On September 11, 1906 in South Africa, unhappy with the term passive resistance to describe nonviolence he convened a contest that led to a new word "Satyagraha" taken from Sanskrit words that Gandhi described as follows: "Truth (Satya) [that] implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force."

Saturday, October 2nd is the day to share the message of nonviolence through education and awareness. It is a powerful idea that recognizes the dignity and power inherent in each individual, while at the same time recognizing that harnessing force through disciplined, strategic and non-violent action magnifies the power of the individual and when working in concert with others can become an unstoppable force for positive change. The life and example of Congressman John Lewis, who passed away in 2020, is an example of this.

Critics often cite that both Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated, and that this demonstrates the failure of their nonviolent philosophy, but they fail to look at what they accomplished in the wider societies they inhabited, and their respective legacies decades later. Both changed their respective countries. Gandhi achieved Indian independence, and King ended official segregation, empowered African Americans with their full voting rights, and achieved much more.

Gene Sharp who also taught generations of activists that there was an alternative to bloody conflict and that it was non-violent armed conflict. He demonstrated, as both Gandhi and King understood and practiced, that there was nothing passive about nonviolent resistance and that it also required strategy to increase the odds of success in a struggle. 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."

This idea has extended to many places, and cultures around the world, but it is co-existing in conflict with ideologies like Marxism-Leninism that are based in class struggle, revenge redefined as justice, and violence elevated as a superior tool of struggle. Both Gandhi and King understood this latter approach to be profoundly counterproductive. 

Michael Nagler, a long time peace scholar, presents this idea as follows: Nonviolence sometimes “works” and always works, while by contrast, Violence sometimes “works” and never works.  Nagler offers a more detailed explanation.

The exercise of violence always has a destructive effect on human relationships even when, as sometimes happens, it accomplishes some short-term goal. The exercise of nonviolence, or Satyagraha, always brings people closer. This explains why Gandhi, after fifty years of experimentation in every walk of life, could declare that he “knew of no single case in which it had failed.” Where it seemed to fail he concluded that he or the other satyagrahis had in some way failed to live up to its steep challenge.  Taking the long view, he was able to declare that “There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence. The end of violence is surest defeat.”

 Below are several videos that introduce nonviolence and how it works.


The secret to effective nonviolent resistance | Jamila Raqib



The 20th Annual Mahatma Gandhi Lecture on Nonviolence


Groundbreaking New Study: The Role of External Support in Nonviolent Campaigns (ICNC Webinar)

Monday, September 27, 2021

Castro regime president smacked down by Uruguayan president at international summit in Mexico

Bad day for the Castro regime
President Luis Lacalle Pou smacks down the Castro regime

President Luis Lacalle Pou, the chief executive of Uruguay on September 18th at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) smacked down the Castro regime's Miguel Diaz-Canel. The Summit was held in Mexico and hosted by Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Castro ally. 
Furthermore, CELAC was created by Hugo Chavez to counter the Organization of American States. In this hostile environment President Lacalle Pou defended democracy, human rights, and called out the bad actors in the hemisphere:
“When one sees that in certain countries there is no full democracy, when the separation of powers is not respected, when the repressive apparatus is used to silence protests, when opponents are imprisoned, when human rights are not respected, we in a calm but firm voice must say with concern that we look seriously at what is happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”
Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel, appointed by Raul Castro, responded to the critique citing Uruguayans gathering signatures against a law being proposed in Uruguay, and claimed that
“The courage of the Cuban people was demonstrated for six decades. Listen to your people who collected more than 700,000 signatures against the LUC (Law of Urgent Consideration). Monroism and the OAS is what you have just defended.”

Castro regime officials are not accustomed to critical voices being able to respond to their attacks.  President Lacalle Pou's response was devastating because it underscored the reality of the existing dictatorship in Cuba, contrasting it with Uruguay's democracy.

“If there is something that is true in my country, luckily, it is that the opposition can gather signatures, in my country, luckily, the opposition has democratic resources to lodge complaints, that is the great difference with the Cuban regime.” 

The Uruguayan president then crushed it by quoting the song Patria y Vida.

 “I just want to quote, and they are not my words, it is a very beautiful song and those who sing it feel oppressed by the Government: ’No longer shall flow the blood / Of those who dare to think differently / Who told you Cuba is yours? / Indeed, Cuba is for all my people’.”  

Below is the video of the response.

 14ymedio, September 18, 2021

Uruguay’s President Denounces the Imprisonment of Opponents in Cuba

Uruguay’s president Lacalle Pou speaking at the VI Summit of the  Celac. (@PPT_CELAC)

14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 18 September 2021 — The president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the Cuban leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel, staged an exchange of accusations this Saturday at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), in Mexico. The discussion began when the Uruguayan showed his concern because on the island, and in Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is not a full democracy” and opponents are imprisoned.

Lacalle’s speech began by recognizing that two principles promoted by Celac are “self-determination and non-intervention” but he also described democracy as “the best system that individuals have to be free” and that, for that reason, “participating in this forum does not mean being complacent.”

After that introduction, his criticisms were even more direct: “When one sees that in certain countries there is no full democracy, when the separation of powers is not respected, when the repressive apparatus is used to silence protests, when opponents are imprisoned, when human rights are not respected, we in a calm but firm voice must say with concern that we look seriously at what is happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

Lacalle’s statements gave rise to a strong exchange of words between the two leaders, which was only partially broadcast on Cuban television, but which is already generating comments in support of the Uruguayan on social networks for his direct comments to the President and First Secretary of the Communist Party on the island.

Visibly annoyed, Díaz-Canel responded to Lacalle saying that with his words he was showing a lack of knowledge of the Cuban reality. “The courage of the Cuban people was demonstrated for six decades. Listen to your people who collected more than 700,000 signatures against the LUC (Law of Urgent Consideration). Monroism and the OAS is what you have just defended,” he said.

The Uruguayan asked for the floor again and addressed Díaz-Canel: “If there is something that is true in my country, luckily, it is that the opposition can gather signatures, in my country, luckily, the opposition has democratic resources to lodge complaints, that is the great difference with the Cuban regime,” he added.

Lacalle went further and added: “I just want to quote, and they are not my words, it is a very beautiful song and those who sing it feel oppressed by the Government: ’No longer shall flow the blood / Of those who dare to think differently / Who told you Cuba is yours? / Indeed, Cuba is for all my people’,” he added, quoting the song Patria y Vida.


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Arbitrarily detained 68-year old Cuban dissident with Covid-19 on day 26 of hunger strike

We fear for his life, and demand his freedom.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez (age 68) jailed for inquiring about detainees has been on hunger strike 26 days

Dr. Omar Vento tonight demanded the release of Cuban dissident Félix Navarro who is unjustly imprisoned, tortured, ill, and has been on hunger strike for 26 days.
In poor health, his life is in danger and Dr. Vento holds the Castro regime responsible for what may happen to him.

68-year-old Felix Navarro Rodriguez was arrested and charged with public disorder while inquiring about detainees the day after the protests in the city of Matanzas, 55 miles east of Havana. 

Mr. Navarro Rodriguez is a Cuban human rights defender, and the Castro regime does not recognize that category as legal. Protesting his unjust imprisonment,  Felix initiated a hunger strike on August 23rd and has maintained it to the present day. On September 11th he was weighing in at 132 pounds

He is a husband and father.

Felix Navarro with his daughter Sayli

On September 17, 2021 the State Department spokesperson tweeted about his concern for Felix Navarro.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Rolling Stone Magazine lists at #439 Celia Cruz, 'La Vida Es un Carnaval' among "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time "

 Celia Cruz had a voice that combined opulent, operatic tones with the Afro-Cuban call-and-response style of pregón — and her legendary roar was at its most august and powerful extolling the joy of being alive on 1998’s triumphant “La Vida Es un Carnaval.” The song was especially potent coming from Cruz, who came to New York and helped shape the salsa movement following a painful exile from Cuba in the Sixties. “La Vida Es un Carnaval” became a life-giving anthem for audiences and marked a stunning final act of her formidable career.

They mention "a painful exile from Cuba in the Sixties," but it is worth exploring this chapter of her life, and mean spiritedness of the Castro dictatorship following her death on July 16, 2003. She laid in state at the Freedom Tower in Miami where some 200,000 Cubans paid their respects.

The mourning for Celia was nearly universal, except in her homeland Cuba where the official media printed a small note on her passing recognizing Celia as an “important Cuban performer who popularized our country’s music in the United States,” it went on to say that “during the last four decades, she was systematically active in campaigns against the Cuban revolution generated in the United States.” 

It is necessary to revisit an early episode that illuminates the clash between Celia and Fidel in the early days of the Cuban Revolution, and the manipulative character of Castro, and the brilliance of the Cuban artist to recognize it when many others did not.

Fidel Castro had tried to create a situation that forced the salsa singer to pay him homage, but she refused. Salserísimo Perú, a Youtube site created in Peru by three journalists to share information on salsa and tropical music offers a history of Celia Cruz's first "encounter" with Fidel Castro.

"In the early months of 1959, Celia Cruz was hired to sing with a pianist at the house of the Cuban businessman Miguel Angel Quevedo.  Quevedo owned the magazine Bohemia, the most influential in Cuba and who had supported the revolution in the last few years.  The guerrilla movement with a certain Fidel Castro in front proclaimed in Santiago the beginning of the revolution. At that moment Celia enjoyed great popularity for "Yebero Moderno", "Tu voz" and "Burundanga" songs she had recorded with the Sonora Matancera. As a guest artist of Rogelio Martinez's group the Guarachera (Celia) was free to accept other contracts as a soloist. This allowed her to show her talent on different radio stations in Havana, and perform in Mexico, Venezuela, and Peru. Since the regime of Fidel took power, it had begun to systematically seize businesses, radio and television stations. [Fidel Castro speaking: 'The revolution was something like a hope and that joy, possibly, prevented us from thinking all that we still had to do.' For the Guarechera, Fidel was ending free expression and the arts in her country.  The night of the show in the home of Quevedo, Celia was singing standing next to the pianist,  when suddenly the guests started to run to the front door of the house. Fidel Castro had arrived.  Neither she nor the pianist moved and continued singing. Suddenly, Quevedo approached Celia and told her that Fidel wanted to meet her because in his guerrilla days, when he cleaned his rifle he was listening to Burundanga. Celia replied that she had been hired to sing next to the piano, and that was her place. If Fidel wanted to meet her, he would have to come to her.  But the commandant did not do that."

Since Celia Cruz refused to bow to the new dictator, and wanted to continue to live the life of a free artist, she had to leave Cuba. However, when her mom was ill she tried to return to see her in 1962, but was barred from entering the country by Fidel Castro. When her mother died Celia was again blocked by the dictatorship from attending her funeral. Because she was not an active supporter of the regime, her music was banned in Cuba.

The Cuban government and its agents of influence have attempted to pretend that things have changed with regards to artistic freedom in Cuba, but the reality of the blacklist continues.

On August 8, 2012 BBC News reported that Cuba's ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted and on August 10 the BBC correspondent in Cuba, Sarah Rainsford, tweeted that she had been given names of forbidden artists by the central committee and the internet was a buzz that the ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted. Others soon followed reporting on the news. The stories specifically mentioned Celia Cruz as one of the artists whose music would return to Cuban radio.

There was only one problem. It was not true. Diario de Cuba reported on August 21, 2012 that Tony Pinelli, a well known musician and radio producer, distributed an e-mail in which Rolando Álvarez, the national director of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión (ICRT) confirmed that the music of the late Celia Cruz would continue to be banned. The e-mail clearly stated: "All those who had allied with the enemy, who acted against our families, like Celia Cruz, who went to sing at the Guantanamo Base, the ICRT arrogated to itself the right, quite properly, not to disseminate them on Cuban radio."

Celia Cruz picks up Cuban soil to take back home to exile in 1990

Take that in for a moment. The dictatorship that would not let her return to her homeland for her mother's funeral in 1962 attacked her for returning to the only part of Cuba the dictatorship does not have control over, the U.S. Guantanamo Naval Base where she bent down and collected Cuban soil to take back into exile.

She remains on the Castro regime's blacklist 18 years after her death, but she is not alone.  

Celia  is in good company. Other major Cuban artists who have had their music banned by the Castro regime are Olga Guillot, Rolando Lecuona, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval,  Israel Cachao López, Ramón "Mongo" Santamaría, Mario Bauza, Arsenio Rodríguez, Willy Chirino, and Gloria Estefan.

According to the 2004 book, Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe there is increasing concern that post-revolution generations in Cuba are growing up without knowing or hearing censored musicians such as Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, and the long list above, and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations. This process has been described as a Cuban cultural genocide that is depriving generations of Cubans their heritage. 

Thankfully, the rest of the world celebrates the greatness of her music, and with the internet and software to evade regime censorship Cubans on the island are listening to her too. 

Cuban music icon Celia Cruz still banned in Cuba


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

In defense of Cuba's first democratic era. (May 20, 1902 - March 10, 1952)

In 1952 the young Republic issued commemorative coins to celebrate 50 years of liberty and independence of the Cuban Republic. Sadly, democracy was attacked and destroyed on March 10, 1952 by Fulgencio Batista, one of the architects of that system, with both lights and shadows, and the half century mark was not reached. 49 years, 9 months and 20 days of democracy in Cuba, but yet much was accomplished that is worth remembering.   

Cuba’s Old Republic Outshines Colonialism and Castroism

The island’s democratic period (1902-1952) saw impressive achievements.

Commemorative issue:  50th Anniversary of the Republic of Cuba

Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s review of “Cuba: An American History” by Ada Ferrer (Bookshelf, Sept. 4) offers insights into Cuba’s history under colonialism and Castroism, but it does a disservice to Cuba’s democratic period (1902-1952). During the Cuban Republic, the island’s leaders negotiated the return of the Isle of Pines and reduced the U.S. military presence from four bases to two and then to one. The Platt Amendment was the price for ending the four-year American occupation following the Spanish-American War, and ending Platt in 1934 ended formal U.S. interference in Cuban affairs.

Over 50 years, Cuba developed a multiparty system, competitive elections, a free press, a modern public health system and a strong labor movement. This translated to social achievements placing pre-1959 Cuba at the top of Latin American indexes, outperforming Castro’s Cuba.

Cuba even led in proposing, drafting and lobbying for the passage of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Language in the declaration was selected from Cuba’s 1940 constitution. Cuban diplomats presented nine proposals, five of which are in the UDHR.

The Cuban Republic wasn’t perfect, but its achievements over a half-century delivered for all Cubans. It offers a powerful contrast to Cuba today.

John Suarez

Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Va.

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the September 14, 2021, print edition of The Wall Street Journal as 'Cuba’s Republic Outshines Colonialism and Castroism.'


Saturday, September 11, 2021

11J Two Months Later: A reflection and a look back

Down with the dictatorship. Homeland and Life.

Cubans on the streets of Cuba July 11, 2021

Today marks two months since Cubans across the island took to the streets in over 50 cities and towns calling for freedom and an end to the Castro dictatorship on July 11, 2021.

A protester from San Antonio de los Baños told BBC Mundo that the initial protest was organized on Saturday[July 10, 2021] through social networks for Sunday [July 11, 2021] at 11:30 AM (local time). Reuters on August 9th reported in more detail on the social network used, and its background confirming the initial reporting by the BBC. On Sunday July 11, 2021 in the late morning hundreds of Cubans took to the streets of San Antonio de los Baños and were soon joined by thousands more.

Thinking that this would be a replay of the August 5, 1994 Maleconazo the Castro regime sent out its repressive forces to quell the protest in in San Antonio de los Baños, and President Diaz-Canel arrived to the protest site to claim that all had been returned to normal, but it was too late the protests had been seen through social media and multiplied across Cuba.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in San Antonio de los Baños , Cuba, on July 11, 2021. [ YAMIL LAGE/AFP | AFP ]

The non-violent protests continued and spread across Cuba with Cubans chanting "the streets belong to the people", "Homeland and Life", "Freedom", "We are not afraid", and "Down with Communism". Tens of thousands of Cubans marched in over 50 cities and towns in the island nation beginning on July 11, 2021 and were met with threats, violence, mass arrests, and deadly force.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel, in a public address the same day threatened: "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.  What did Cuba's top official mean by this? Diaz-Canel did not mince words: "We are calling on all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to take place today from now on, and in all these days and face it decisively, firmly, with courage." The Castro regime's president concluded declaring "the order of combat is given, revolutionaries take to the streets."


Videos emerged of Cuban officials firing on fleeing unarmed protesters in Cuban neighborhoods, and other footage emerged of Cuban protesters showing where the bullets had passed through their bodies.

Regime officials went into work places and required workers to agree to get on buses to go and beat up demonstrators. Images emerged of buses filled with workers handed sticks and baseball bats before being sent into the fray. 

Following the start of the protests on July 11th the military presence increased across the island, along with paramilitaries carrying out house to house searches for protesters, and beating them down in the street.

A Cuban priest was beaten up, and arrested by secret police on July 11th for peacefully assembling, but lived to tell his story. Others were not so lucky. 

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) shot in the back by regime officials on July 12, 2021.

Havana officially recognized one Cuban killed during on July 12th during the protests, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36). He was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba. NGOs placed the number at five, but the total number remains unknown. Reports have been received that family members of those killed have been threatened to remain silent. This coincided with press reports that
Laurencio Tejeda's mother, distraught over her son's death, had committed suicide. Video emerged on July 15th of the aftermath of Diubis being shot in the back and posted over Twitter.

Massive protests would continue through July 13th. Many Cubans in the island and the diaspora remember and observe the sinking of the "13 de marzo" tugboat on July 13, 1994 by Cuban government agents killing 37 men, women, and children. July 13th holds a great resonance for many Cubans on the criminal nature of the Castro regime.

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."

Summary trials began to be carried out jailing hundreds of protesters. In many of the trials lawyers were not provided. Independent media sources in the island estimated that over 5,000 Cubans had been detained or disappeared.

On July 16th, Maria Ferreiro expressed concern that “her son, Henry Constantin Ferreiro, was among those taken into custody. ‘They are journalists, not criminals,’ she said. Ferreiro said her son has been charged with public disorder and incitement, and she hasn’t been able to speak to him,” reported WSVN .

Diaz-Canel and General Raul Castro at pro-regime rally on July 17. (EFE)

General Raul Castro reappeared in the official media when the protests erupted, and was reported attending high level meetings and was present at the pro-regime rally organized on July 17, 2021 where anti-government protester briefly appeared, was beaten down, and taken away. 

On July 21, 2021, CFC invited media to listen to and ask questions of Katiuska Mustelier, sister of detained Cuban protester Enrique Mustelier.  Her brother was brutally beaten and arrested in the city of Guantanamo during the July protests in Cuba and remains jailed in isolation.

On July 27th the Christian Liberation Movement announced a campaign to isolate the Castro regime internationally with eleven concrete measures, including economic sanctions.

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

Journalist Frances Robles reporting in The New York Times on August 17th 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.”

On August 18, 2021 the Cuban dictatorship brought Decree-Law 35 into force to stop dissenters from harming "the prestige of the country", and in practice trying to silence Cubans. One of the first to be targeted was Yoel Acosta, of PalenqueVision, was fined more than a months wages (2000 pesos), and threatened with prison if he didn't pay.

On August 19, 2021 Amnesty International named six new Cuban prisoners of conscience. They are jailed for their political beliefs. This was a symbolic act, because there are many more such as Virgillio Mantilla Arango, and Yandier García Labrada who have yet to be recognized as prisoners of conscience

Cuban human rights defenders attempting to document the situation on the island face threats not only against themselves, but against their families. On August 23, 2021 it was also demonstrated that living in the diaspora does not protect you from these threats. State Security visited the mother of exiled Cubalex executive director Laritza Diversent and telling her "that she could end paying for her daughter’s work."  Her daughter has been compiling information on Cubans detained and disappeared during the July 2021 protests, and has worked on these human rights issues for years in Cuba, but was forced to seek refuge abroad in 2017.

Laritza Diversent, exiled in Philadelphia, continues to receive threats from Castro secret police.

Pablo Moya Delá died on August 26, 2021 at the Clinical Surgical Hospital in Santiago de Cuba. He was jailed on October 23, 2020 for protesting socioeconomic conditions and overall repression. Beaten, mistreated for months, weakened following a hunger strike and after destroying his health released on probation earlier this month near death. This is a practice the dictatorship has used in the past. 

Pablo Moya Delá died after months of mistreatment by regime officials on August 26th

68-year-old Felix Navarro Rodriguez was arrested and charged with public disorder while inquiring about detainees the day after the protests in the city of Matanzas, 55 miles east of Havana. Full disclosure, Mr. Navarro Rodriguez is a Cuban human rights defender, and the Castro regime does not recognize that category as legal. Protesting his unjust imprisonment,  Felix initiated a hunger strike on August 23rd and has maintained it to the present day. He is currently weighing in at 132 pounds. We fear for his life.


Felix Navarro Rodriguez (age 68) jailed for inquiring about detainees

Hundreds, arrested during and after the July 2021 protests remain behind bars.  Human rights defender Sebastian Arcos Cazabon
wrote an important article published in 14ymedio today that analyzes the present moment the dictatorship finds itself in.

"The academic literature identifies an evolutionary course that most totalitarian regimes followed (Mark R. Thompson, Totalitarian and post-totalitarian regimes in transition and non-transition from communism, 2002). According to this model, Cuba could be moving from a "frozen post-totalitarianism" to a "decomposing post-totalitarianism" right now. The characteristics of this last stage include: intransigent and paralyzed leadership, total ideological decadence, lack of political and economic legitimacy, generalized cynicism in the population and a repression that is beginning to be counterproductive. Sound familiar?"

Twenty years after 9/11: Remembering a horrible day

"Are you ready? Okay. Let's roll."—Todd Morgan Beamer, November 24, 1968–September 11, 2001

2,977 men, women and children were murdered on September 11, 2001 over the course of a few hours on a sunny Tuesday morning in three different states. The victims were distributed as follows: 246 on the four planes converted into flying missiles. Two of the planes flew into the Twin Towers which collapsed and led to the deaths of 2,606 human beings in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and a third struck the Pentagon taking 125 lives. The fourth plane, heading to Washington D.C., never arrived and crashed into an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania as the passengers of the flight fought the terrorists over control of the flight.

There are a few moments that are burned into my memory: the moment on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger blew up, the February 24, 1996 shoot down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes by Cuban MiGs, the murders of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012, and the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 that brought down the Twin Towers, and damaged the Pentagon. 

The last marked a before and after not only in America history, but in my own life, and the lives of countless other Americans.

Today is a day to pray, remember the victims, honor those who risked their lives to save others and also remember and process what happened and the response

We owe it not only to those who died on September 11, 2001 but to the long departed and those yet to be born what kind of country will be passed on to the next generation. 

This is why it is important to remember those courageous Americans who fought the terrorists over the skies of Shanksville, Pennsylvania battling to commandeer United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and frustrated the plans of the evil doers. Fighting evil, in an effort to save lives, including their own.

It is that American can-do spirit that confronted evil with courage not for martyrdom, but to go home, and that should be reflected on today.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

In Defense of Cuba's "Infernal Little Republic": A brief overview of some of the Cuban Republic's successes 1902 - 1952

In defense of Cuba's first democratic period.

U.S. Flag lowered and Cuban Flag raised in Havana on May 20, 1902

Read the book review by Felipe Fernández-Armesto titled ‘Cuba: An American History’ Review: That Infernal Little Republic published in The Wall Street Journal on September 4, 2021.  He was reviewing the 576 page book Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer which is a best seller in Amazon. Hopefully, the book review by Mr. Fernández-Armesto does not reflect the content of what Professor Ferre wrote in her book on the Cuban Republic. Here is what he wrote:

The jaws stayed menacingly open. The U.S. kept its Guantánamo base and imposed a settlement that conferred a right—formally, an obligation—to intervene, in effect, at will. This was a prerogative, as Ms. Ferrer says, “to exercise permanent, indirect rule.” Foreigners took over most rural property and almost the entire sugar industry. The arrangement favored corrupt and sometimes criminal elites.

This was most glaring in the 1950s, the era of Mambo italiano, when the Mafia ran the island. While U.S. settlers held “church bake sales and youth dances,” Ms. Ferrer tells us, there were 338 brothels in Havana. In 1952 Fulgencio Batista seized Cuba in a coup and ruled it as a fief. Seven years later, in revulsion from U.S. tutelage, Cubans welcomed Fidel Castro from the “mountain kingdom,” where he ruled as theatrically as the Bandolero.

This historical shorthand does a disservice to the actual history of the Cuban Republic (1902- 1952), its democratic character, and its achievements for Cubans over a half century that overshadow the failures of Castroism. This is the reason that the Castro regime has sought to erase it, and replace it with a series of myths to justify its totalitarian rule. 

Mr. Fernández-Armesto in his review recognized that Hugh Thomas has written the best history of the island, called  Cuba : The Pursuit of Freedom (1971) that was updated in a paperback edition in 1998 titled Cuba Or The Pursuit Of Freedom that recognizes both the lights and shadows of the Cuban Republic.

Cuban Presidents: 1902 to 1952 and dictator Batista 1952-1959

Hugh Thomas is not alone in his assessment of the Cuban Republic.

Mary Speck, of the The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program, wrote a chapter for the book Cuba Future Series: Historical Perspectives by The Cuba Project published in 2011 by the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies titled "Democracy in Cuba:  Principles and Practice,  1902–1952"

Ms. Speck found that Cuba during the Republican period had competitive democratic elections, and achieved social progress for all Cubans.

Pre-1959 social indicators place Cuba among the top tier of Latin America. The infant mortality rate in Cuba in the mid-1950s (33 per 1,000 live births) was roughly equal to rates in Europe and a third of the Latin American average (105 deaths per 1,000). Life expectancy at birth in Cuba (64) was also far higher than in Latin America as a whole (50).51 James W. McGuire and Laura B. Frankel have shown that between 1900 and 1959 Cuba outperformed other Latin American countries at raising longevity and reducing infant mortality.52 That may reflect the strength of Cuba’s health care system. The island had 10 doctors per 10,000 people (10), nearly as many as Europe (11) and the United States (13). Latin America lagged far behind with only 4 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants.53

A review of the historical record finds Cuban political leadership that did not permit the United States to exercise indirect rule in Cuba, but rather found ways to exploit the American presence for their own interests while reducing it over the short, medium, and long term when and where possible.

Unlike the Castro regime the Cuban Republic achieved concrete successes in reducing U.S. influence in Cuba while improving living standards for Cubans, and made a positive mark on the international stage following WW2. Cuba's healthcare system was world class throughout the Cuban Republic with two Cuban physicians nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

America Arias Maternity Hospital Building (Havana, Cuba 1930s)

Despite U.S. occupation of Cuba the Cuban Republic obtained independence through protracted diplomatic efforts.

Cubans through political intrigue managed to avoid the fate of Puerto Rico and the Philippines during the Spanish - American War. The United States military had occupied Cuba from 1898 to 1902, and the bitter price of independence was accepting the Platt Amendment, which permitted U.S. interference in Cuban internal affairs to preserve order and protect American interests, put into question the status of Cuba's Isle of Pines as a possible U.S. possession. 

Cuban nationalists elected in 1900 during U.S. occupation 

Cuba's first elections were held in June 1900 under the U.S. occupation for local officials, and pro-U.S. candidates did not fare well losing to nationalist candidates, and the pattern was repeated again in August 1900 to elect candidates to the constitutional convention. The majority elected were war veterans, Mambises, who fiercely opposed the U.S. occupation, and Juan Gualberto Gómez, a black intellectual, he had been a close ally of José  Martí in the war of independence, who spent the rest of his life opposing the Platt Amendment, and advocating for racial equality representing his constituency in Havana.  In 1892 the black Cuban journalist and future statesman founded the Central Directory of Societies of Color, a network that would spend the next sixty seven years pushing for Black advancement in Cuba.

Reclaiming Cuban territory, and reducing American military presence.

The Cuban Republic formally came into existence on May 20, 1902 and it began to achieve concrete results. American speculators had bought up land on what was then called the Isle of Pines, and renamed the Isle of Youth during the Castro regime, following the U.S. occupation of Cuba and the island had been settled by American settlers, and its status as a U.S. territory a political question, according to American courts. 

Isle of Youth ( used to be Isle of Pines)

Cubans successfully negotiated the maintenance of the Isle of Pines as part of Cuba on July 2, 1903 in the Hay-Quesada Treaty that was negotiated between U.S. Secretary of State John Hay and Gonzalo de Quesada, the Cuban Ambassador to the United States, and the treaty was finally ratified on March 13, 1925 following years of pressure from economic and political interests wishing otherwise.

The United States had wanted to build four military bases in Cuba, but the Cuban government successfully negotiated this down to two in 1903, those being Guantanamo and Bahia Honda.  Bahia was given back to Cuba in 1912 for more land for the Guantanamo military base. By 1912 there was only one U.S. military base operating in the island. 

President Ramón Grau San Martín waves to crowd in 1933.

Platt Amendment ended in 1934

On September 12, 1933 The Madera Tribune carried an editorial titled "America Will Never Consent to Removal Of Platt Amendment."  Cuba was in the midst of a crisis caused by President Gerardo Machado. He was democratically elected, but had made changes the constitution to perpetuate his presidency, and along with the arrival of the Great Depression in 1929, a period of political and economic crisis led to the end of Machado's presidency in a revolutionary environment in 1933.  On September 10, 1933 Ramón Grau San Martín,  assumed the presidency of Cuba, but due to his opposition to the Platt Amendment, refused to take the oath of office before the Supreme Court or to the Cuban Constitution of 1901 but pledged his fidelity to the Cuban people. His government lasted for 127 days, but the Platt Amendment was abrogated on May 29, 1934 when the United States and Cuba signed a new treaty of relations that canceled the treaties that enforced the Platt Amendment. There was no Platt Amendment in the 1940 Constitution.

Republican Cuba makes it mark on the international stage.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an initiative led by Latin Americans, and Cubans in particular. Some of the language placed in the Declaration was taken from the 1940 Cuban Constitution. 

Cuba's last democratic president, Carlos Prio Socarras, was elected by Cubans in free and fair elections on July 1, 1948 and assumed office on October 10, 1948. He was a democrat who respected civil liberties and presided over years of prosperity and freedom for Cubans. 

President Carlos Prio Socarras (l) and President Harry S. Truman (r)  December 8, 1948

President Prio belonged to the Autentico Party and was succeeding Ramon Grau San Martin, another member of the same political party, in the Cuban presidency who had completed his four year term (1944-48). Both men respected human rights, and this was reflected by the actions taken by their diplomats at the founding of the United Nations, and in the Organization of American States.

Beginning in 1945 Cuba took part in lobbying for and participating in the drafting of the declaration and submitted nine proposals of which five made it into the final document. The first meetings of the General Assembly and the Security Council took place in London starting on January 10, 1946.

Cuban Ambassador Willy De Blanc in December 1945 hosts former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at a lunch in the Cuban Embassy in London with other Cuban diplomats (including delegates to the U.N. Preparatory Commission Dr. Guy Pérez-Cisneros y Bonnel and Cuban jurist Dr. Ernesto Dihigo y López Trigo) where they requested his assistance in the creation of a human rights commission for the United Nations. Churchill recommended that the Cubans lobby Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, and they followed his advice. Eventually the former First Lady was selected as chairwoman to the Human Rights Commission. 

Sir Winston Churchill visited Cuba in February 1946. He had been invited to visit Cuba as a private citizen by President Ramon Grau San Martin who received the former British Prime Minister together with Cuba's next president, Carlos Prio.

Cuba, Panama, and Chile were the first three countries to submit full drafts of human rights charters to the Commission. The Cuban draft contained references to rights to education, food, and health care, and other social security. Latin American delegations, especially Mexico, Cuba, and Chile inserted language about the right to justice into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in what would become Article 8. 

Guy Pérez-Cisneros and Ernesto Dihigo

Cuban delegate Guy Pérez-Cisneros in his speech on December 10, 1948 proposing to vote for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before the third General Assembly of the United Nations in addition to highlighting the importance of the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and how it inspired the Third Committee’s work on this document also addressed the importance of the rule of law:

My delegation had the honor of inspiring the final text, which finds it essential that the rights of man be protected by the rule of law, so that man will not be compelled to exercise the extreme recourse of rebellion against tyranny and oppression.
The Cuban delegate also celebrated that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights condemned racism and sexism.
"My country and my people are highly satisfied to see that the odious racial discrimination and the unfair differences between men and women have been condemned forever."

Thanks to the legacy of Juan Gualberto Gómez and  the Central Directory of Societies of Color he had created black civil society in Cuba advanced through out the years of the Republic, and their efforts were made manifest in the 1940 Constitution in a democratic Cuba.

End of the first period of democracy in the Cuban Republic

This democratic Cuba was overthrown on March 10, 1952, by a relatively bloodless military coup led by Fulgencio Batista because he did not have a chance to win the presidential elections that were taking place in a few weeks time. The last democratic president Carlos Prio and his first lady went into exile.   

 Guy Pérez-Cisneros died suddenly of natural causes in 1953 trying to establish a Christian Democrat Party in Cuba in the early years of the Batista regime. 

Over the next seven years a corrupt and authoritarian dictatorship ruled Cuba becoming increasingly unpopular.

The refusal of Batista to peacefully give up power through a process of dialogue opened the path to Fidel and Raul Castro to violently seize it.  

With the help of the Communist International, The New York Times, an arms embargo placed on Batista in March 1958 by the United States, and pressure from the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in December 1958 Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba in the early morning hours of January 1, 1959.

Ernesto Dihigo, like Pérez-Cisneros, left the diplomatic corps following the 1952 coup, but returned in 1959 as Cuba’s Ambassador to the United States in January of 1959 but retired in 1960. No longer a diplomat or a college professor, he dedicated the next forty years of his life to private study focused on philology. He left Cuba, with his wife Caridad Larrondo in 1989 and died in Miami in 1991.  

Cuba is suffering under sixty nine years of dictatorship.

The Castro brothers had pledged a democratic restoration since the start of their struggle in 1953, but had planned a Marxist-Leninist takeover and the imposition of a communist dictatorship killing tens of thousands of Cubans. They systematically denied human rights to all Cubans while exporting their repressive model to Africa and Latin America helping to create misery for millions more.

The Castro dictatorship rewrote history creating myths to justify its tyrannical rule. The reality is that between 1902 and 1952 there existed a democratic system in Cuba that had overseen rising living standards for five decades, created a system of world class healthcare for all Cubans, and had been on the cutting edge of advancing international human rights standards.

The continuing question of the Guantanamo Naval Base

If Cuba had returned to democracy in 1959 would the United States have a military base in Guantanamo today? Recall that the US wanted to have four military bases in Cuba, and had a claim to the Isle of Pines in 1903, but a democratic Cuba had been able through diplomacy to reduce the number of bases down to one, and gain sovereignty over the Isle of Pines.

The Castro regime despite its violent rhetoric has not been able to get the United States to leave the military base in Guantanamo.

At the same time, although still a colony, Puerto Rico through nonviolent means has been able to shut down all the U.S. military basis on its territory. The highest profile example of this was the campaign to demilitarize the U.S. military base in Vieques that was successfully carried out between 1999 and 2003.

Would an independent and democratic Cuba have been less successful than their Puerto Rican brethren?

The legacy of Cuba's Republic and its democratic period are worth remembering and defending.